Third Alien Shore

In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

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The quinquagenarian goes back to school!

Holy cow, shit got real. I feel like a different person. A very busy person, among other things. You may know that I started school two weeks ago. I’m now a student at The Willowbank School of Restoration Arts. At least I think that’s the name, but no one ever uses it. It’s just Willowbank. Technically it’s a private career college, but there’s only one program offered. After three years, I’ll get a diploma in Heritage Conservation.

Basically, I’m starting the process of learning how to repair and conserve heritage structures. At the two week mark, the only hands-on we’ve had is with glass, but coming is an array of hands on learning. I’m particularly looking forward to stone carving and blacksmithing.

Willowbank upper campus. This is where I go to school!

I’m not a rich person so I have to keep my part time job, and with full time classes, it’s a challenge. School is 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and two consecutive days this coming week I’ll also be working from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm. I can have dinner in the 30 minute span that I can spend at home before I have to leave for work. I’m certain that people have far busier lives, but this is busy for me! The last day off I had with no school and no work was September 4. I don’t see that changing for a while and I have no complaints.

Things were pretty sedate before school but it seems I have less time for everything else now. It just means that I go to bed earlier and feel more tired, more often. But the advantage is that I’m doing something that I really enjoy and it may continue after I graduate. I’m not sure I’ve ever in my life thought, “I’m looking forward to Monday. Why? Because I get to go to school!” With this school, how they teach, and what they teach, I am looking forward to Monday.

This week we’re building a drystone (mortar-free stone) wall!

A classmate in Bright Parlour, a lecture space in the upper campus.

Class sizes are small. My year has six students, myself included, so we’ve already started to form into a cohesive group. And there’s no sign from the other students that they’re somehow better or superior because they’ve been around longer. We’re all just students at various levels of experience. Everyone’s been so terrific, including the instructors. They’re all people in the field who agree to come and teach us for a number of days, either once or a number of times. Some are Willowbank graduates so they know us because they have been us.

With the upper campus being so gorgeous, I park there in the morning, get out of the car and take a moment to myself. I breathe the fresh air, listen to the sounds of the insects and the trees, take in the beauty of the grounds through the thick morning air, and be glad because I have the good fortune to be able to attend such an amazing school.

Unwelcome interest

One day last summer I was driving home from my workplace. I had worked the evening shift so it was nearly 10:30 pm. I was stopped at a red light turning right onto a four lane road. Looking to my left, I could see a pickup approaching in the left lane, and a car behind it. Since the right lane was free, I made the turn and proceeded on my way. As a habit, I tend to practice a more moderate acceleration because of the increased fuel economy. Since my lane was clear, I felt no reason to change my habit.

As the truck pulled up beside me, there was a flurry of noise and light behind me. The car that was behind the truck had pulled into the right lane behind me. As my acceleration brought me up to speed, the pickup truck came up beside me as I matched its speed. Had the driver in the car simply changed lanes, he would have been behind me with ample space just as he was behind the truck previously. But no, he pulled out and accelerated knowing full well I was there. He didn’t hit me so I wasn’t concerned. If he wants to demonstrate that he’s an ass, that’s his prerogative.

As we continued on, I moved past the truck and the car dropped back. To my surprise, the car made no move to pass. It didn’t feel right. Instead of my usual left turn, I took the next right into an older subdivision. The car followed. I then took the first left. The car followed. I made another half-dozen turns and the car stuck with me, with a few flashes of his high-beams for good measure. As I reached the edge of the sub-division, I turned right, away from my home. The car turned left, to get back to the main road we were on, apparently giving up on me.

I wasn’t afraid because I was in my car and safe. At the same time however, I didn’t want to lead an interested stranger to my home when I have no idea what form their interest took. I’m not that interesting, so when I find a car has been with me for a time, I’ll throw an extra turn into my route to see if it’s more than a coincidence. I’m far more likely to do this as l near home, as where I live is no one’s business.

Be aware of what’s around you. Not only to prevent collisions, but to prevent someone following you, especially if you think another driver may be upset for whatever reason.

Cinema Strangiato: R40+

So Julie and I attended a show this evening.

It was terrific. No recording is like being at a live show but this was pretty darn good, having much of the live R40 concert. Not only was it better than any seats I’ve ever had, but it was more than enough to remind me of the good times I’ve had at their shows. The mix of live performance, interviews with other musicians, and the band’s goofiness was ideal. With all of the Rush-related ads at he beginning (the ad for Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass alone must have been 15 minutes long), it was 2½ hours in length. I thought it was great but I felt bad for Julie. She wanted to come with me not because she likes Rush, but because she likes me! Although I’m pretty sure she doesn’t dislike Rush, I can understand that it could have been a lot to take since she knows little about them and their music.

They’re not touring any more but it was a lovely walk down memory lane. Recommended!


I don’t know who owns the copyright on the marquee poster. Probably Anthem Entertainment, but who knows.

Snake on a bus!

The Copenhagen zoo wanted an effective advertising campaign without paying a fortune. The advertising firm Bates Y&R came though in spades.†

Note that this is not a drawing or a mock-up. It’s a photo of the bus on a city street. It’s a fantastic piece of work, and has the advertising awards to prove it.


† Lesley Ciarula Taylor, “Copenhagen commuters get a big, slithering surprise,” The Toronto Star. December 2, 2010.

Chiropractic indoctrination

A friend from high-school is a chiropractor. He’s got a page on Facebook that’s lousy with ridiculous claims. I investigated one and wrote him about it. The article he linked, “Anti-Vaccine Japan Has World’s Lowest Child Death Rate & Highest Life Expectancy,” is from a web site that claims to be about health and well-being. They’ll even take donations to remain ad-free! The problem is their reporting. It took me no time at all to look up Japan’s vaccination rates and they’re one of the highest in the world, and far above the point required for herd immunity.

I wrote my friend and suggested he look closer into the links he posted because this one is pure click-bait and two minutes of investigation entirely disproved the headline. He thanked me for the concern over his reputation and said he’d be more careful.

Not only did he continue as before, he didn’t even change the link to the article we discussed. After a few days I posted a comment detailing my findings. I thought at least someone should know the truth.

Another link that shows that he’s clearly chasing headlines to win customers is an article titled, “Scientist Explains How Cow’s Milk Leeches Calcium From Your Bones & Makes Them Weaker.” The article links a study, and right there in the study’s conclusion it states,

Given the observational study designs with the inherent possibility of residual confounding and reverse causation phenomena, a cautious interpretation of the results is recommended

The study said nothing at all about anything leeching calcium from one’s bones. Rather than the cautious interpretation the study called for, the article author went in the entirely opposite direction.

His page is a collection of the worst junk science and he’s comfortable in providing what he surely thinks is healthcare. I don’t know how he sleeps at night.

When one of his sympathizers, who I believe is also a Chiropractor, posted about his frustration with the reputation Chiropractors have, I went ahead and described what Chiropractic would need to do to prove itself to me:

I was hoping for a real discussion. I’m exactly the type of person Glen should want to convince. I told him how he could convince me. The result? I was blocked from the page. I’m not entirely surprised, but I was hoping Glen was genuine in his wanting things to change, and hearing a suggestion from someone who has yet to be convinced.

Even now, more than two months after I wrote my comment, there’s no reply. My friend is still happily parroting that vaccines are bad and spinal adjustments to babies are beneficial.

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