Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Remember a day before today

From David McIntee, via Dan Kukwa.

Look up your birthday in Wikipedia, and pick the following: 4 events, 3 births, 2 deaths, and 1 holiday.

Ok, for February 2, here's what we find:


1653 - New York City is born. I wonder if the first settlers ever thought it would turn out as it has.

1925 - Serum run to Nome. Cool story.

1974 - The F-16 flies. I'm an aviation fan, what can I say?

1990 - The beginning of the end for Apartheid. I still remember the day Nelson Mandela walked out of prison.


1882 - James Joyce.

1905 - Ayn Rand.

1963 - Eva Cassidy. A wonderful voice, especially covering Sting's "Fields of Gold".


672 - Saint Chad. It doesn't appear as if his death was by hanging (sorry, couldn't let that one go by).

1979 - Sid Vicious. Sid and Nancy is a great, albeit disturbing, movie.


Why, it's Groundhog Day, of course.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Try to keep up with the turning of the wheel

Life spins faster starting this week. The kids will be up early every day, struggling to get into the school day rhythm. My wife is back to school this week. Even this past weekend was a blur, with a soccer tournament and a baptism.

Let me tell you, a Russian Orthodox baptism is something else. Think in threes. Everything happens three times, most alarmingly the full-body dunking of the baby. This one was a little more humane than the first one I saw, ten years ago, when my new niece's older sister was the dunkee. That was a "dunk, one steamboat, lift", and repeat twice more.

I found it odd that the ceremony was in the backyard instead of the church, until someone filled me in. The mother is considered "unclean" until six weeks after the baby is born, so either the mother skips the ceremony or it's held elsewhere. There's even a term for the post-six-week ban - it's called "churching the mother".

If I ever get baptised, you can bet it won't be in a bucket in the backyard...

More patent insanity

Microsoft patents "Page Up" and "Page Down".

I guess I have to pry those keys off my keyboard now... although I'm afraid of what cruft might be living under there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Virtualization takes the fun away

We've been using continuous integration to build our products for a few years now. By and large, it works great. I can commit some code and within a short period of time a build starts. I know within an hour, at the most, if I've broken the build.

This usually works without human intervention, but every now and then something goes wrong with one of the build servers, and it fails to grunt out the build. This almost always seems to happen late on a Friday afternoon, when we're trying to get a build out for our testers to pick up at 8:00am on Monday. Or it will happen when someone is trying to build a hotfix, that needs to be installed in a hospital within hours.

These build servers (I have no idea how many there are, but I think it's in the 'dozens' range) are all virtual machines, running on some big server somewhere in the bowels of the building.

This virtualization has made it easy to set up a new build server. It's cheaper than having dozens of real machines sucking electricity and hardware and administrative resources.

It's also taken all the fun away.

When something goes horribly wrong with a build server, the only recourse I have is to reboot it, or start over with a clean VM image. I can't go over to the physical box and kick the shit out of it anymore.

Sometimes a little 'percussive maintenance' is all it takes to get things working again, or at least to make you feel better.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just one man beneath the sky

I've noticed quite a few Canada geese in the air this week, out the SuperMegaCorp window by my desk. And at last night's soccer game, the fans were left staring straight into the shining sun as it set behind the houses on the West side of the field.

That can only mean one thing - fall is almost upon us. One more camping trip, on the long weekend, then the kids are back in school, and curling starts up. Next thing you know I'll be bundling up for the 6:00am dog walks.

But don't let go of summer just yet - those geese were in more of scraggly Y or W shape, rather than the traditional V. They won't be going anywhere for a while.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

From "very good taste" comes The Omnivore's Hundred.

I've bolded the ones I've tried.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Algonquin Provincial Park - Pog Lake

Just back from eight days at Algonquin Provincial Park. We stayed at the Pog Lake campground this time. Pog Lake is near the East end of the park, with the Visitor Centre, Outdoor Theatre, Logging Museum and several trails all within a short drive. The weather was unseasonably cool, and we had a ton of rain during the night a couple of nights, but it was still warm enough to swim.

Pog Lake is fairly small, but there is a river at each end of the lake that goes one way to Lake of Two Rivers and the other way to Whitefish Lake. Lake of Two Rivers is a wide, long lake that would be hard to paddle through in the wind, but Whitefish Lake is narrower. It's also long, but not as hard a paddle. There's a short portage (50m) over a dam going to Whitefish Lake.

The Pog Lake campground is about halfway along an old railway bike trail. The trail is packed gravel and runs along Lake of Two Rivers and Whitefish lake. It's a pleasant ride through the forest and alongside the shores of the two lakes and the rivers that join them. You can stop at the dam to watch people humping canoes and kayaks across.

We saw lots of wildlife this time. Several times we followed loons around Pog Lake, and we saw a mink on the river. Leaving the campground one afternoon we saw a moose with 2 calves at the side of the road. We stopped and watched them for about fifteen minutes.

We also saw a bear one morning, right in the campground. It was just across the road, sniffling around under a couple of trailers. It didn't hang around long enough for me to get a photo, but my daughter was able to get a quick look as it lumbered down the road. She was impressed that we both saw our first "wild" bear together.

We hiked a few trails:

Two Rivers - a fairly easy climb to a nice cliff-top lookout.

Lookout - rated "difficult" in the park guide, but my seven- and four-year-old girls had no problem scampering around it. There are a couple of steep climbs, and one steep descent, but if you're wearing running shoes you'll have no problem with it. The view from the top is fantastic.

Spruce Bog Boardwalk - the girls ran around this one. Most of the trail is boardwalk, and it's pretty short. It's almost directly across from the Visitor Centre, so it's worth taking 30-45 minutes to walk if you're already there.

Beaver Pond - part beaver meadow, part hilly climb. This trail took us about an hour to do, and gives a great closeup look at several beaver lodges and one big beaver dam.

One really neat thing we did this time was a Wolf Howl. The park naturalists scout the park on Tuesday night, looking for wolves. They go back on Wednesday night to see if the wolves are in the same location, and then on Thursday night 2000 people show up at the outdoor theatre in 500 cars. The naturalists present a slide show on Algonquin's wolves, and some of the research that's being done, and then everyone drives out to the wolf location. The highway is closed, and when you can hear a pin drop, the naturalist howls. If all goes well, the wolves howl back. Unfortunately, we didn't hear any howling, but it was still a fantastic experience.

Lots more Algonquin photos here:


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Signal? We don't need no stinking signal

Has anyone else noticed that Phillip Street is a "no turn signal" zone?

Must be everyone rushing to their RIM-job...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An exercise for the reader

Complete this sentence:

I shouldn't have eaten that...

I'll get you started:
  • fifth burrito
  • gray baloney
  • leftover chili for lunch, four days in a row
  • unrecognizable "meat" off the dim sum cart

Presqu'ile Provincial Park

Just back from a week at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, near Brighton. The park has a fantastic one-way road around the perimeter, with a generous bike lane.

The kids biked from the campground down to the nature centre or the lighthouse every day, and we spent most afternoons enjoying the warm water at the long, sandy beach. My seven-year-old and I went "goggling" on the rocky beach next to the campground and came up with a bucket full of colourful stones.

The staff at Presqu'ile are extremely motivated, and the kids loved the programs. Especially the one where the snakes came out. Both kids were wearing a corn snake around their neck.

Not too much wildlife on this trip, just plenty of garter snakes, and we rescued a couple of salamanders that we found when packing up to leave.

Photos here:


Grand Bend to London MS bike ride

Driving the back way through the London area at the end of July, we came across a few hundred bicycle riders. They were participating in the Grand Bend to London MS bike ride.

I've never seen a more ignorant or dangerous group of bicyclists. They were riding four or five across the road, weaving all over the place, causing cars to dodge them at the last second. The support van that was with them was stopping straddling the centre line on the highway, and that almost caused two head-on crashes in the ten minutes it took us to get through the pack of riders. Luckily the riders were all through by the time we were headed back in the other direction.

Scratch that charity off the list...