Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lots of swimming - just not me.

Saturday is the day the kids go swimming and today was an important day in the lesson cycle - report day.  My older son passed the current level after one go - something he hasn't done before.  He went through several lesson cycles pretty much acclimatizing to the whole "water" thing.  I was worried at first, until I was informed how much time I spent at the early badge levels.  Now he seems to be picking up on some of the important pieces and so is making more rapid progress.

Talking with my older son today before his lesson, I found out he went swimming on Friday with his class from school.  I forgot about it, but I thought it was an excellent idea to give a few lessons to all children of a certain age.  Some quick exposure and a few basic concepts should do wonders to help kids that run into water-related troubles.  There always seemed to be a clear division between swimmers and non-swimmers when I was a kid, largely economic.  Some families had pools, so those kids swam.  Some families thought it was important that children swim (like my parents) so they had lessons.

What made today be "lots of swimming" rather than a "Saturday amount" of swimming was the party my oldest son attended in the afternoon.  Turns out a pool in Ingersoll (the Victoria  Community Centre) has the facilities and staff to run events in and around the pool.  The kids had an hour in the pool and then adjourned to a room for pizza and cake.  It certainly looked like a good time.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Friday at work

Post 177 - not prime, but at least the product of two primes: 59 and 3.  Had a pretty good at work, especially at lunch hour.  The last Friday of every month some people bring in their Rock Band and have at it over lunch - but must be done by 1pm.  Anyway, it's a pretty good time - there are quite a few people that are really good with the various instruments, especially a couple of incredible drummers.  Always impressive.

More interesting was the initial reports of some investigations into using Maven.  Maven is a development tool, used to compile/package and generally create a piece of software.  Other similar tools are "make" and "ant", with ant being more closely related.  Currently we use ant to manage our builds, but there will be a move to maven for the next release.  Given some of the problems encountered testing it out, I wanted to find out what has been motivating the move.  Especially when I found out how easy it was to retrieve libraries from Internet sources.  For an open source project, this is a tremendous feature, but for a proprietary embedded system, I'd be more comfortable with a rigidly contained system.  By that I mean one that will not attempt to search for data beyond a specified file system area.  So I went to talk to the person who has been working on this initiative for the longest and he had all the "goods", so to speak.

The reason for the move had two main motivations - the first being the default mode that Maven operates in.  Maven expects projects to be structured as a series of modules.  This encourages projects which have lots of pieces with well defined boundaries.  This is something that our company wants to promote internally, so Maven promotes it by making it the simplest choice.  Maven's strength comes in the way it describes dependencies between modules, with the simplest configurations being when most configuration files only contain the dependencies.  The second motivator was that modules can describe a dependency on an old version, so development could continue in place without breaking other modules.

After my conversation, I was pretty happy with the discussion.  The tool doesn't eliminate problems, but steps will be taken to minimize the likelihood of certain problems.  I wanted to convince myself that we won't be walking into a new set of pitfalls without enough forethought.  I believe if certain configurations are used, the future project will have fewer potential problems.

Ah well, I guess that's a first cut at that discussion.  My brain is tired and trying to get me to sleep, so it won't let me continue heavy thinking.  Tomorrow then...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Scout bowling

The cubs got invited by the scouts to go bowling tonight.  Worked out pretty well - we took over a nice 5-pin alley, the Fairmont Lanes.  The kids seemed to have a good time - they were definitely loud enough to seem like they were having fun.  My elder son, who is currently in cubs, bowled without the bumpers and used his unorthodox style to reach 96 for the first game.  He went into the 10th frame with 94 and I thought he'd be able to break 100.  It's pretty good considering the best game he had a few weeks back was 103 with the bumpers.  And he'd like to go back, but I suspect it's the "claw" machine that's more interesting.  He really wanted to play so I gave him some money.  He managed to win a monkey on his 4th try.  A stuffed monkey, which I'm calling Curly.  Because of the Three Stooges.  It's a bowling themed name.  Whatever.

I'm trying to be a little more proactive at work, although its a detestable word.  I have to use a different phrase, or generate some clever euphemism...  Self-starter isn't better.  Self-motivated is as bad as self-starter, while auto-motivated just sounds wrong.  Maybe I could say "I'll eat it like a duck" because ducks don't chew their food...  Nah - "on like stink on a dog"? Too negative - implies I keep forgetting my deodorant.  Hmm - "on it like killer bees on everyone?"  Nope.  "Like bankers on a bailout?" Bingo!  I'll be more banker-on-bailout at work - seizing the cash, er, opportunities that present themselves.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


It's review time at work.  That usually means it's time to try and figure out what happened in the past year and how to phrase it just - communicate what makes yourself stand out.  Hopefully you stand above.  Now review time means all the rehashing and debating is done and the explaining begins.  I sense that most of the managers dread this time of year, but I don't think they should be too worried.  I think they're worried about all the questions that arise from the reviews, but it's pretty much what it is and I don't think there will be too many questions about how - more about what comes next.  One of the things mentioned by my manager was that I have to improve my communication.

It's interesting that I decided to do some writing every day to improve my communication skills and that it's something to work on.  I think the idea was that I'm not a bad communicator now, but I could be so much better.  Potential and all that rot.  So I endeavor to be a more nuanced communicator.

Which brings me to this post over at Kimota94's Place.  I find it petty that someone would expunge all comments by a particular person.  I suppose in the blog system the comment removal would be hidden from the wider audience, so once the decision is made to decline comments from a particular source, it can be accomplished in secret.  The thing is, if someone disagrees or displeases you that much, it shows more character to leave the comments there.  It's one thing if someone is being belligerent, but in general the comments speak for themselves.  If the comment is that contrary or disagreeable, it should be evident to everyone.  Then such irritation reflects back on the poster rather than the blogger.

Sentences make sense not.  Sleep must obtain.  Cease communication.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No hockey!?!

Just found out that hockey for tomorrow is cancelled due to rink troubles.  Both pads are having trouble with the chillers apparently.  Which sucks because we had enough people committed to have a few people sitting on each bench!  Wow!  That hasn't happened for some time.  I hope people get the email before the head out tomorrow.  Maybe I ought to get to the gym instead then - my paunch is getting unruly.  I need to drop a bunch of weight and I haven't been controlling my eating the way I should.  Which is to act like some kind of adult and demonstrate some restraint.  Crazy I know, but there it is.  Actually doing physical activity helps out, but whatever.

Did a little research into RMI and IxC at work today.  Don't really get a chance to explore new stuff there, but this important for our upcoming projects.  RMI is "Remote Method Invocation", a system to run code in a "remote" Java Virtual Machine (JVM).  Depending on the environment, the word "remote" can mean different things.  It could represent a distant machine on the Internet or an app running in a logically separate sandbox (or context).  IxC is "InterXlet Communication", and is part of some of the mobile Java profiles (J2ME, PBP, CLDC and lots of other acronyms).  You can look at JSR-217, which is Personal Basis Profile (PBP) 1.1, looking for the package javax.microedition.xlet.ixc.  What I've discovered so far is that IxC removes the generic portion of RMI by eliminating the registry and replacing with the IxcRegistry.  Not really very much, but we spent a bunch of time trying to work out if it was possible to replace RMI registry with something of our own devising.  So far, we have to say "no" if the objects to be exported were written to use IxC.  

Before you get all huffy and add comments to illuminate my idiocy, the code in question has two parts - simple calls and callback registration.  The first part can be done without much difficulty, but callbacks are tricky.  The callbacks originate in the object to be exported.  Let's say there are two app contexts, A and B.  Class Foo is registered in context A and sometime later app Woogle in context B uses RMI to get a reference to Foo.  Class Foo was written to be used over RMI, so it can marshal data and so forth.  All we need to do is create the registry and setup the communication path between context A and context B.  Now let's say Foo.addListener(Remote listener) is used by Woogle to pass an instance of MyListener.  So when class Foo wants to invoke the listener, the instance resides in context B.  The only way to make the invocation is to use RMI from context A to invoke a method in an object in context B.

Such is my work.  Maybe I'll have more interesting (read: concrete) details in the next few days.  That way I can accomplish the task of learning something new at work.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mmm... Blizzard cake...

Monday again.  On the way to work, I had that little light go off.  Not the shining beacon of creativity, but the ominous amber glow of potential problem.  My wife and I went to a birthday bash on Saturday for some friends who have birthdays around the same time we do, and she made the off-hand comment about where her cake was.  At the time, it was a playful jest, directed at not-me, so who would remember such a trifle.  On the way to work I put somethings together and realized I failed in my ice-cream-cake-retrieval duties as a husband.  Please, don't let it happen to you - buy three or four and store them in your secret chest freezers to have ready-to-serve on a moments notice.  You will be surprised when such dates spring out from the corners at you!  Prepare the cakes with "Happy 21st Birthday" or keep a fresh tube of icing in the cupboard if you can trust your sugar-messaging abilities.  Remember - keep that tube of icing fresh!  Check it every few weeks by consuming the 2cm of sweet, sweet frosting nearest the cap.  It is the only way to ensure that the icing has gone stale!  Also, it's fun to eat sugar.  So at least you'll be happy until your Islets of Langerhans pack it in - but the icing will be fresh!  Small price for edible writing.

As for me, I was able to procure a Blizzard-cake to complement the fine meal to be had this evening.  I think it was appreciated and unexpected - a good sign!  Plus the fact I survived the weekend meant that I didn't miss too badly in the first place.  The ice-cream cake was pretty good and I think I will get one again.  I also think that it will serve more than 8-10 people.  Maybe 12-16, but then again, that's what I see based on how much we've had tonight.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ah, Sunday

It's the day after curling day in London.  Not to be confused with Hockey Day in Canada, which happened to be the same day.  Coincidence.  Seriously.  Curling is fun, it turns out, and I am eager to engage in it again.  My technique sucks, but that's what practice is for.  There was talk of making this event annual or semi-annual and I expressed my eagerness for such an undertaking.  I don't believe my brief post from yesterday indicated how I was the only person to put rocks in play on the very first end - one actually in the house!  After that, I was too heavy, too left or way too light.  So all over the map.  An hour of practice by myself would be nice, but that's for another time.  I'll have to contact someone I work with who curls - maybe I can arrange for more ice time.  Might be difficult if I can't convince my wife though...

Today was also the end of a cub camp for my eldest son - I think he had a pretty good time.  He actually managed to pack most of his stuff the way it arrived.  Even more impressive if you saw how the various sacks were bulging dangerously on the way in.  Camps can be pretty chaotic, but they also provide time to play with fire.  Campfire, out in the snow, with sticks and no accelerants.  So the good kind of playing.  All his clothes smell like smoke, so either the camp burned down, or he enjoyed the campfires.  The buildings were all there when I picked him up, so there you go.  Pretty good setup for winter camping - they had modestly heated buildings to camp in.  I've been winter camping - once - and it was okay as a scout.  As a cub, not so much.  You have to keep your coat on inside your sleeping bag and basically figure out how to stay snug without fire.  Inside your sleeping bag - no flaming tents or the like.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bar blog!

Well, I'm at the Black Shire, enjoying a post curling brew. It's my friends Kim and Sinclair. Like my wife and I, they have birthdays in Feb and March. Of course I'm enjoying a post-curling-appropriate Labatt 50 and listening to stories about Chuck Norris. The curling went well I threw the winning stone in the first end. All subsequent rocks went out of play, but our team managed to win 2 of 4 ends. We played a new pair of teams for everyend to keep things moving. Anyhoo, time to get more 50.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dollhouse, Episode 2

I don't know how rabid a fan of this show is, so I'd like to warn the reader that I may leak some spoilers below, so read at own risk.  It's my speculation however.

I admit it - I am a fan of Joss Whedon.  Not forever, not of everything he does, but definitely since Firefly.  Just finished watching Episode 2 of Dollhouse, which revealed more back story, particularly about Alpha.  They are still setting up the parameters of the show, so it is hardly time to make judgements about how good it will be overall.  The surface stuff is all good - action, character interactions, the layering.  However it struck me what the central idea of the series is, and it seems to me that it comes from the Dune series by Frank Herbert.

Not to be petulant, but only from the Frank Herbert stretch - particularly the volumes after God Emperor of Dune.  What has been revealed about Alpha is that he was somehow able to access multiple imprints and escaped the Dollhouse.  A central theme in the later Dune novels was that it was possible to awaken a clone's memory to give it access to every copy of itself that existed in the past.  Don't worry about time travel and so on, but the suggestion was that there is something that binds the mind to something that persists longer than the living body.  One could use the label "soul" for this - the soul is eternal and persists beyond one lifetime and represents everything that a particular body/mind set learned.  In Dune it was an important step to be able to access these old mind/body pairings, suddenly acquiring memories and skills that the current mind/body pair haven't directly experienced.

Sounds vaguely like the Dollhouse premise of "imprinting".  On one side, there is the operators of the Dollhouse that are using science and technology to wipe clean the dolls.  On the other side is Alpha who was able, eventually, to access the wiped information.  This ability seems to be rare, so Alpha has achieved it and it also appears that Echo is close to achieving this. 

The other thing is that Echo appears to be able to learn across imprints and almost instantaneously.  Watch episode two carefully to pick up on this evidence.

So far, excellent TV.  At least for me.

Friday? Day Off??

Feels weird tonight - taking a Friday off work makes it seem like Saturday, so tomorrow will be some wonderful end to the weekend, with another day off coming!   Went into a Futureshop and a Best Buy, dangerous propositions for me, but I'm approaching my birthday so I decided I could splurge a bit.  And by splurge I mean by some DVDs!  I tried to get bundles to increase my number of DVDs-per-dollar.  I bought a box of Bruce Lee movies for $15, a set I've wanted for awhile called "Zatoichi" - The Blind Swordsman.  That was 4 movies for $35.  Picked up "Shuan of the Dead" for $7.  The only non-deal was "The Dark Knight", but it's worth it.  I really liked the Dark Knight and I thought it followed "Batman Begins" well - consistent and better.

One other reason for heading to these places was to pick more rechargeable batteries.  I invested in some nice Panasonic NiMH a few years back, but don't have too many because they are pretty expensive.  I bought some Energizer rechargeable for my eldest son for some of his toys and things.  He got a new RC car for Christmas, but it needs 4 AAs.  I simply couldn't find more Energizer AAs - lots of AAAs and AAs in a kit with a charger, but what for?  Ah well - I guess I have to check again another time.  He really can't use the car inside so no rush to get that going yet.

I just watched the second episode of "Dollhouse" and I was going to write about my thoughts here, but I think it makes more sense to create a separate post for it.  When I described my ideas to my wife, she wondered who would be put to sleep by my ramblings.  I replied that I since I'm so good at that, I should figure out how to profit from this amazing ability.  So please let me know how I can turn rambling, Abe Simpson-like rants that remove the ability for the listener to focus into a money-making business.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ahh, Thursday!

End of the week for me, although there's the whole unpleasant lingering chest cold putting a damper on things for me.  

I thought I'd take the time to respond to a comment from mikem.  Life insurance is something that you don't really think about until you have kids.  The advice I follow with life insurance is from The Wealthy Barber.  David Chilton recommends to purchase term life insurance and advises to look ahead when picking the size of the benefit.  Avoid insurance with a savings or investment component - term life will give the most bang-for-the-buck.  I too purchased life insurance just before my first son was born, right from a bank.  When my second son was on his way, I talked to an insurance broker to explore some options and boy was I happy I did that!  I got a 10-year term-life policy with a higher benefit than before and for less money each year.  That was my first encounter with bank furnished insurance and the more I learned the more I disliked it.

The term life policy from the bank was done online and completed instantly.  My current policy required a visit from a registered nurse, but it was well worth the cost decrease.  This difference was something that struck me as odd - I thought that any institution that provides insurance would have to follow similar procedures and this was validated by news articles a few years back - 2005 or 2006 I believe.  At that time, several Canadian news organizations published articles about the insurance provided by banks on mortgages and lines of credit.  Let's use a line of credit as an example - for x cents per hundred dollars every month, the bank will insure that you never miss a payment.  Sounds like a safe thing to do.  The aforementioned articles told the story of some mortgage holders that got sick and were not able to make payments, but weren't worried because they had the insurance from the bank for this situation.  You know where I'm going - the bank wouldn't cover the payments and they lost their house.  Turns out that banks have different rules governing them, so they don't have check if purchaser of the insurance qualifies until they make a claim against the insurance.  The money payed out every month for the insurance was not refunded.  Insurance companies have to check if you are qualified before they give you the policy, so a standard insurance company wouldn't have this problem.  The one that bugs me is the line of credit insurance - the more money you have borrowed, the more you pay in "insurance".  Some versions cover loss-of-job problems, but I think it is most typically there in the event the holder dies.  This is where a good term-life insurance comes in - it can cover all your debt costs in the event you pass away.  Once you hold the policy, you are covered and you can drop all those little insurance "options" offered by banks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Post 167

Well, 167 is odd, so not a multiple of 2.  And it's not a multiple of 3, 5, 7 or 11.  Looking to 13, we can see that 13*13 is 169, so we are done.  Another primal posting.  At least writing some little thing every night has been something I can stick to.  I wrote a couple of days ago about going to the gym - didn't happen.  Wrote several times about the Canada Writes contest held by the CBC, but again nothing.  It's not so much the curse of the blank page but the shear lack of enthusiasm I suppose.  Self improvement is something that is best done in small doses then?  I wonder.

My son came home yesterday with the news that a classmate of his had his father pass away suddenly over the long weekend.  Freaked out my wife a bit, although the first thing she thought of was "I hope he had good insurance."  I hadn't met him, but she had taken our son over to his friend's house over the Christmas holidays and met the person who passed away.  It was a family with two young kids - I hope they will be able to continue.  I hope they pull though and know there are people willing to help them out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday's grey

No prize for who ever can place today's title quote.  I was going to reveal yesterday's reference here, but I'll add a comment on the post instead.  Not much happened today - I didn't make it to the gym but my throat is scratchy, so it kinda... Well I thought I'd pay down some bills today and maybe some debt, but didn't.  The debt didn't increase or decrease so it's an "unlose" situation, double-plus unlose in fact, according to my wife.  Not me though - I think it's pretty good.

The annoying thing related to paying bills were the polite letter I got for my line of credit.  Interest is charged to this line of credit by taking the bank prime rate plus some amount.  In recent months, the Bank of Canada overnight rate, the rate that banks are charged when they borrow money, has been falling.  As of this writing, this rate is at the historic low of 1%, while the bank prime rates are at 3%.  Well, according to this letter, the part that is added to the prime rate to determine the interest charged, is increasing.  I guess the banks really need to get a particular rate of return for their investments, so they can just nudge the rates up in such a way that the total interest that I'm charged remains constant.  So much for falling interest rates.  I probably shouldn't complain - if this was 1989 they'd probably be calling in the entire line instead of bumping the rates up a bit.  But still, it 'tis annoying.

An interesting article that I finally got some time to read was over at Geek In A Suit, the blog by Christian Gruber.  I talked with Christian a few times in his role as Agile consultant at my place of work.  The entry about testability and Object-Oriented development really hit some good points.  Especially how we, as developers, forgot all our O-O design education when we started working.  I remember one of the early classes (early in the morning, early in my university career, etc) on the software life cycle where the prof went out of his way to show that maintenance was by far the largest part of the cycle.  That initial development was small and that testing and what followed would dominate.  And that was the waterfall model.  So, over the past few years, my company has been exploring Agile methods and it's given me time to consider how we develop software and what I should be doing to create the best software.  It has shown me that testing, writing testable code, documentation, automation, KISS design are all very important.  One thing my feature team has discovered is that writing tests should take at least as much time as writing the code, especially given that there are two or three types of testing that have to be done.  Also, we cannot consider test code to be throw-away, second class or ignored.  We have one coding standard, which includes guidelines for design and documentation, and it applies to all code created.  Code reviews are done for all code.  Since tests are code, they are part of this process.

Something else that Christian touches on is the role of design in an agile process.  It's touched on a little bit, but not enough.  The emphasis in Agile is on iterative design, on incremental things, on people over process and I think people follow the buzzwords instead of doing "what's right".  Design is an important consideration, as I think many jump into the work because that seems like the right thing to do.  I believe what Agile is trying to impart is that design should be as simple and minimal as possible - that's the only way to have robust, flexible code.  The design should be map of what to do in a project.  It should be the five lines on a napkin map, not the satellite photo map.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A lazy, dog-dangling afternoon.

A quick search will show that I am not the first person to quote a certain show or "...commit certain deeds."  The reference is so obvious I don't think I can even grant a no-prize to whoever identifies it.  Or the name of Homer's new best friend.  Or the wattage of the bulb highlighted.  Anyway, it was a pretty lazy day, given that pretty much every store was closed on account of Family Day.  Apparently, going out with the family to spend money isn't a family-enough activity.  The idea was okay - another statutory holiday - but the legislation drafted has some flaws.  First, it's supposed to be a new holiday for all, but if you already get a certain number of paid days off in a year, you can't take this one.  Police fall into this category I believe.  Next, no stores are open, kind of a difficult thing, given that Alberta, which had Family Day on the books long ago, lets stores open.  I guess I'm just complaining because I kinda wanted to go to the store.  Plus we have very little food here, and I was all ready to go out and stock up.  Lucky for me, the local Chinese restaurant was open for dinner tonight and I did my part to support the local economy.  Plus you can really tell that people expected things to be open when the variety store at the gas station only had 2 bags of homogenized milk  left.  There was clearly room for 4 bags of skim, 1% and 2% plus 1 and 2 litre cartons.  Just barren shelves with bags of homogenized or cartons of half and half.

Ah well, back to work tomorrow.  I am going to try and start back at another habit tomorrow - going to the gym.  My middle really requires a workout and I think it will be good all around.  Weak joke, but still I need to go to the gym more.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nice Sunday

Pretty nice day all around.  Relaxed pace, a long nap, lunch with family - very good.  Had lunch with my parents and brother-in-law again - second time since Friday we've shared a meal.  Managed to use my iPhone to show him Rowan Atkinson's sketch "Welcome to Hell".  That and a bunch of Arrogant Worms tunes he didn't know, so a very hilarious lunch with lots of Canadian content.  Well, Canadian musical content anyway.  

Well, I wanted to rant, er discuss, er.. well rant was right I guess.  Kimota94 has a post about non-interviews that I really relate to.  Many times there are pseudo-articles, elaborate advertisements, that try to focus the reader on particular aspects of a product, but miss the point entirely.  I have to remind myself to be wary of such things and try to apply some basic reason, but I can almost forgive them because it is their job to sell things.  Another more serious version of the same issue is when a complex technical issue is being addressed and the emphasis is placed on the wrong aspect of the item.  For example, the idea of fully online applications, ones that reside entirely on the Internet.  When mentioned, what is stressed is that all you need is a browser and an Internet connect and you can have 24-7 access, implicit upgrades, no hassle, etc etc.  It leaves out things like who is maintaining the infrastructure?  Where does the work take place, locally or on a server?  Who has access to the server?  How can I be sure that my private information isn't processed through several servers in different places?  What happens if that company disappears?  What happens if the servers have a problem - where is my data?  These are items that I'd be worried about, because I'd want control over my data, not just access.  

The same sort of pattern happens around programming languages, where some esoteric feature in one language is hailed as the new "right way", ignoring the fact that many paradigms have come before and more will come.  That just means that one solution doesn't fit all problem, one paradigm doesn't describe the perfect framework.  Anyway, enough ranting for this evening - I'd like to increase my internal relaxation level and decrease the rant level.  For now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Long day

It has been a long day today - a rich day, full of cajoling, taking away, threats and chocolate.  I spent the early part of the day at the local Shopper's Drug Mart standing in front of a wall of Valentine's Day cards with 8 other men.  Each took their turn examining the 5 different card types that were left, with one particularly sappy one spread across 27 different slots.  Each came away satisfied that they have done something to avoid... whatever unpleasantness greeted the realization that Valentine's Day dawned without a card.  I also bought some nice Lindt Mint Chocolates for my wife.  Then another box for good measure.  Later, I made another special trip to buy my own box because they just looked so darn good.  Plus they were on sale.  Win-win!

The afternoon grew towards my nap, er, our trip to the bowling alley.  My nephew, sons, mom, dad, and I went 5-pin bowling at a location that I know I've been to before, but have not set foot in for years.  My mom was chatting with the proprietor on the way out and mentioned that she used to bowl there - in the 1960's, so it's been a while.  Plus she was a better bowler then.  No kidding - it's been quite the layoff.  The boys did really well with bumpers, although I suspect that they started to throw for the rails to get banked shots near the end.  I started to get some more accuracy after the second game, but I really need to practice some more and I think I could improve greatly.  I bowled more often as a kid, especially 5 pin, but never seriously.  My cousin bowled in a league for a few years and he was pretty good, but I don't think his back would stand for that kind of shenanigans now.  By the time the kids had their McDonald's and we were home, everyone was pretty much done for the day.

Nine o'clock pm had me watching Space and Fringe.  I really love how Space is showing some current series with a 1/2 week delay - Fringe being one and Chuck the other.  Chuck hasn't been showing new episodes for so long now, I can't remember if Space still carries it.  Anyway, I was able to watch the most recent Fringe episode tonight and I'm really glad I did.  They decided to reveal the huge left-turn in the series, namely the multiverse aspect, with Walter and Olivia being particularly important players.  I'm sure Peter will be revealed as a linchpin later.  I like the characters, Walter and Peter, enough to keep watching.  I like the actress Anna Torv, but her character seems too predictable or perhaps lead at times.  Maybe we are travel with her in this story, so they don't want her too opaque or too smart.  Lots of character archetypes appear in the show - pure villans, mysterious powerbroker (Nina Sharp), heels (Olivia's boss's boss), unrequited love interest (Peter), font of knowledge (Walter), and so on.  Production values are good so hopefully the story will remain interesting for some time.  So far, I like.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Well, today is my youngest son's birthday - he was born on a Friday.  We had Spongebob Squarepants cake and it was good.  I saw my brother-in-law and my nephew, my aunt and uncle, and had a good meal.  We discussed insurance, the kids played with Darth Vader.  A pleasant evening all round.  I watched most of the first episode of Dollhouse, but I missed the first few minutes of it.  So far, I like the setup - the world building that is going on.  I hope that Fox doesn't bugger it up like the last show I liked on their network (Firefly).  Joss Whedon is excellent at blending an interesting setting with human characters, or in this case, parts of human characters.

I don't really have much more for this evening - I'm just gonna kick back and relax with some online gaming.  After all, according to Reading Digest: "Brevity is... wit."

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Got to be careful not to go into deep-rant mode tonight.  Don't really want to spend a long time going on and on about some topic, probably because it could take all night and there is more than one thing to rant on about.  We're getting closer to that time at work where we discuss money and goals and the coming year.  Since many things have happened between evaluation time and epic monetary meltdown, er, now, this will be an interesting set of discussions.  It also has me thinking about my current financial state and getting my income tax done.  One of those yearly chores that needs to get done, but I simply haven't got to yet.  I'm hoping that I get a bit of a refund this year - I usually do get a little something.  The question of what to do with it weighs though.  The simple answer is always "pay down debts", which I cultivate through a line of credit.  Whenever I think of money like this, I realize I could do better and I should really get to where I can save by default instead of reduce debt by default.  I'm still pining for a nice big TV, but it doesn't make sense right now.  Anyway, money is a never-ending rant, so I'm going to move on.

Today was mail day on The Current, so I listened to people rant on about the things they heard this week.  Some mail was about a piece on fertility, centered around the 60-year-old woman who recently gave birth to twins.  Some of the letters line up with my personal opinions - people over a certain age will find it difficult to raise young children because they don't have energy for it.  One letter in particular noted that they were considered strange by other parents when they had a child in their 40's, but now it is far more common.  I think it's not a great idea, personally.  If having children is that important, why can't you sacrifice a little when you can handle things best.  Put another way, you should have kids before you're old enough to realize how much work it is.  The older the parents are when the process begins, the more likely they will have a single child that is coddled/treasured/bubbled.  If it took until you were in your 50s before you could have a child, that represents a huge effort and you'd like to protect that effort.  How will you ever be able to let go?  How will you be able to give the child the distance to let them grown on their own?  When you're younger, I think it is easier.  Bill Cosby would say that when he got in trouble, his father would say "I brought you into this world, I can take you out.  And don't think I won't because I make another just like you."  Good detachment, little be too heavy on the discipline, but you get the idea.

That is only the warm-up rant on the assisted fertility topic however.  The letter that got to me was from someone who pointed out that fertility treatments are a for-pay enterprise that costs a good deal of money.  A single course of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) treatment costs about $10,000.00.  The author of the letter thought that the government health plans should cover it, comparing this to knee replacement surgery.  The comparison was "If someone can get a knee replaced so they can go running, I should be able to get IVF."  That's paraphrased - I'm working from memory here.  First of all, the analogy is very, very poor - it implies that a person selfishly gets knee replacement surgery to continue doing something that will damage their knee and IVF is less selfish and less burdensome on the healthcare system.  Each successful IVF treatement brings additional load on the healthcare system - a new person.  There are no guarantees that the treatment will work, so often several treatments are necessary to achieve a successful birth, another large load.  The knee surgery person is hurting only themself.   The next part of my argument is a not as fully worked out, so I apologize for any incoherency.  Maybe there is a system reason why a particular couple can't conceive - systemic in the natural system sense.  Maybe there is something about those two people, the time, the place etc that makes it impossible for them to conceive in the regular (fun?) fashion.  Considering how important new life is to species, that says something.  I don't mean that IVF technologies are inherently wrong and I don't believe that it is "fate".  What I mean is that we do not know very much of how our bodies operate on the whole, so the living whole may be sensitive to things we don't currently understand or recognize now.  What bothered me the most about this letter was not the suggestion that fertility issues should be covered by our Canadian public health care system, but the insistent tone of entitlement.  The author implied their right to proper life were violated because the gov't won't pay for them to special treatments to conceive.  Why do they need to have the same life as all their friends?  Does their best friend having a child mean they need a child to complete them?

Now I'm getting petulant, so I'll move on.  I can't know what motivates their need for a child, so I'll continue on and say that I think it would be a good idea for the public health care system to support fertility treatments in some way.  An expert came on to help talk about the issues in the letter and he indicated that some treatments are covered by the system now, but IVF is not covered.  He mentioned that some countries in Europe will cover IVF for the implantation of 1 embryo, and will not do it for women past a certain age.  This tied back to the 60 year old woman who had IVF treatment and birthed twins - she had the treatment done in India.  I think IVF should be covered, but it should be provided in a system like the organ doaner system - patients are triaged and served in the order of some list.  Devising the rules for ranking of that list would be difficult.  I would use age as a factor, but there is obviously more parameters to consider.  However I don't think that the private option should be removed - if you have the money to pay for the treatments, have as many kids as you like.  Obviously you have money to support all these treatments.  Free-market thinking has huge holes, as octo-mom in California proved (my wife's term).  The woman who recently gave birth to octuplets in California is single, no job, has several kids already but somehow afforded the treatments that resulted in the octuplets.  Anyway, I suspect we'll find in the future that the natural methods are the best - most robust, safest, most reliable.  We shall have to wait and see.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random thoughts for a Wednesday

Seems to be the season for illness - two people were out at work today from my group.  The talk was all about who would be next, although I don't think that anyone wants to be that one.  We're also hoping it isn't exponential growth - 1, 2, 4, 8, ...  However, now that I think about it, it could be Fibonacci growth - 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, ...  Oh well.  Made it to Wink's for lunch - they have a special on this month.  Anyone from our company gets 25% off lunches.  An excellent idea on their part - I think it will keep people there all month.

Listening to the CBC this morning, there was a bit on the Current that suggested that general health improved during the Great Depression.  I talked to my dad about this point and he said that he has noticed that people seem happier during a recession.  He couldn't figure out why, but I thought it made sense to me.  Actually, he said two things - people were more productive and were happier.  Increased productivity could originate from fear, or from happiness.  Fear is a simple motivator to identify during tough economic times.  I think people would also be more happy in general because they can focus on fewer things (like doing their job) and can be happy with what they have.  When times are good, people search for happiness in material goods, social status - a myriad of ways.  When times are bad, just having a job is a weight off your shoulders and you forget about superficial diversions.  Simply doing your job well is all you can do, but getting paid validates that you are doing something right.  It's a zen argument - cast off the distractions and focus on the now.  Quiet the competing thoughts and focus on silent truth.

Now that you can see my carefully raked white pebbles, let me talk about stupid flat-panel tv mounting systems.  I don't have a flat-panel TV, but I'd like to get one when I can afford it.  To figure out when the time is right for that, I've been exploring the various technologies, prices and  so on.  One critical piece of the puzzle is a wall-mount system that allows the panel to be swivelled.  I have not seen a suitable mounting system for less than $400.  I paid ~$250 for a portable basketball net that I guarantee has more metal and supports more weight than those stupid brackets.  It is ridiculous to have to pay so much for a stupid piece of steel (or aluminum) that probably costs $30 to manufacture.  For instance, one retailer is offering a 52" TV, with a tilt-swivel wall-mount, including installation for $1899.  The TV by itself costs $1899, so the entire cost of the wall mount and the cost of the installation is discounted.  I don't know where the profit margin hides in this equation, but I suspect that it is a combination of the TV being overpriced and the tremendous margin on the wall mount.  What I really want to do is talk to the guys I know in the tool-and-die business and get them to create a mount for me.  I would pay them the same - or more - just for the satisfaction of having specified it myself.  I don't think my wife would wait for me get that made after having bought such a TV.  Oh well - it's still a fun thought.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Piku - The Chemical Brothers

That's just what I'm listening to right now.  The Chemical Brothers were the first electronic group that I listened to and really got me hooked on the genre.  What has kept my interest wasn't the high bpm or the "dancibility" - it was the layering of sound, the variability of the rhythms and the fact that everything is part of the part of the rhythm.  Lyrics, tone, melody aren't important - all the sounds are about percussion.  That's what separates the best electronic from ten minutes with a drum machine and a sample deck.  It's complexity, layers and rhythm.  

I wanted to start with something about prime numbers and the posts, but I realize that I've screwed up the last few postings.  At least the number of the post - the last post was 159, not 158 like I noted.  159 has a nice prime factorization, like 158, it's the product of a small prime (3) and a larger one (53).  This post, however, is actually post 160.   That's 2^4 * 10 or 2^5 * 5.   It's always nice to be able to express values as powers of 2.  Guess I have to be more careful about counting blog posts.  No biggie there.

We got our piano tuned today - well, my wife's piano.  I found out that it's been in her family for sometime.  Her maternal great-grandmother bought it new in 1890 and apparently my father-in-law still has the original bill of sale.  My wife is trying to get me to use the word "provenance", but I don't wanna.  I shouldn't be resistant to new words, but whatever.  The tuning is done now, but more work is necessary.  The key and hammer actions need to be tightened and it was suggested that the bass strings be replaced to give the lower notes a more modern sound.  Maybe we shouldn't, considering the piano was made in the 19th century.  I'm sure people in Europe or China are laughing at 119 years being "old", but this is still a relatively young country and that's pretty good.

The piano tuner also offers digital pianos for sale and my wife is really taken with the idea of being able to practice silently.  More specifically, the kids practicing silently.  This particular store offers Kurzwiel pianos, which look really nice.  They seemed to be reasonably priced, but  I'm still looking for a good comparison.  I finally found the Yamaha site for the Clavinova line, a pretty reputable brand as well.  I'm looking at the CLP-320, which has some great specs, but no prices.  Seems that no one is allowed to publish the MSRP for these items which is frustrating.  Whatever - I still don't want to invest in an instrument like this unless I get a chance to use some different examples personally.  Hopefully I can make it out to a few stores this week - the guy who tuned our piano has offices near my work, so I'll have to check it out.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Another Monday

Oh well - I messed up a tiny bit with the whole prime number thing.  It was pointed out in a comment that 1 is not a prime number.  I'm struggling to remember where I heard the definition that included 1, but after looking around at a few references it is simpler to leave 1 out.  This is post 158 - obviously not prime, but it is the product of two primes - 2 and 79.  Pretty nice.  Prime factorizations are interesting too.  I found it very interesting that people still insisted on bringing calculators with them to class or exams at Waterloo, particularly the Math faculty.  I think most people who made it past second year simply lost their calculators - they were pointless to the curriculum.  Much more interesting to work out things in an abstract way and supply concrete values later.

That reminds me of something that I have to introduce at work - the idea of doing complexity analysis on our code.  Complexity in the form of big-O notation.  Since we create software that runs on a variety of hardware and operating systems, we need to ensure that it is as efficient as possible.  Every time the topic of performance comes up, everything is described in wall-clock terms - methods evaluated and user-visible tasks timed.  Such things are specific to a particular instance - a particular lab environment, a particular device, a particular firmware version etc.  If we could prove the quality of our code through big-O (and related) analysis, we could prove that we are running well.  I created an internal blog posting about the use of local variables to store the results of system calls.  I think there would be more agreement with this idea if I had included a big-O analysis of both cases.

On the home front, we are getting our piano tuned soon - tomorrow I think.  It is horribly out of tune and it is in need of some repairs.  My wife suggested we consider an electronic piano, partly because the repairs might be expensive and partly because an electronic piano can be used with headphones for quiet practicing.  So I had a look online at what is available.  I'm sure that the current state-of-the-art has improved from when I last tried them, and back then it wasn't horrible.  I've read there are electronic pianos that have hammer-action keys.  This adds some of the mechanics of a real piano into the electronic version so that it feels more authentic.  That would be worthwhile, as I can tell the difference between a decent piano and a good piano.  Maybe not anymore, but at one time I could.  Anyway, it's something I'm curious about now - the electronic part is intriguing because of the silent play.  Plus there are lots of directions to move in with MIDI and so on.  I think I really need to get into a store and see the difference between the different brands and judge for myself what is good.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Prime post alert!

Well, this is post 157 - another prime posting!  Prime numbered that is.  Not that it's terribly exciting for most people, but it's pretty fun.  A little tip - you only have to check the primes less than or equal to the square root of the number being checked.  So for 157, the square root is +/-12.52... (I'm not writing out all those values).  Or, for all those without a calculator handy, 10^2 == 100, 11^2 == 121, 12^2 == 144, 13^2 == 169 so between 12^2 and 13^2.  Discrete math is fun!  So, let's review the prime numbers, excluding 1: 
  • 2: 157 is not even, so not a divisor
  • 3: 157/3 == 52, remainder 1 so no good.  
  • 5: 157 doesn't end in 0 or 5, so not a divisor
  • 7: 157/7 == 22, remainder 3
  • 11: 157/11 == 14, remainder 3
So, there you have it - 157 is prime.  Next time, I may have to run through the proof of why we only have to look at the primes <= square root of the value - although "simple symmetry" is a good hand-wavy version of the proof.

Today wasn't all prime numbers and other values - the real interesting bits were in the people interactions.  One was my parents, back from vacation.  My dad's comment, and I'm sure I'm going to hear it again after every trip, is his shock at the size of the other people he saw there.  Not the locals, but other vacationers.  I guess the people that can best afford such a vacation show their wealth in many ways - how well fed they are being one of them.  I know there have been stories and documentaries that show how developed countries have increasing incidents of obesity and this is how I'd expect it to demonstrate itself.  Also, they got me a t-shirt as a souvenir and it is size "L", but I think I could camp under it.  I mean, it is really wide - like "Large Tent", not "Large shirt".  And I am not slim.  I have never, ever, been accused of being slim, so this is puzzling and scary.  Maybe I can look forward to fitting into "small" because they'll base it on height not girth.  Whatever - they had a good time.

The other human interaction thing is my oldest son.  He had some kind of day today - couldn't seem to get requests to change his behaviour through.  It was immensely frustrating and I tried to deal with it in a calm fashion, but sometimes it is very difficult.  I think I'll have to try a completely new approach, which is to remove him from stimulus until he understands why my wife and I aren't happy.  He'd get louder and louder (as he got more into whatever he was doing) and it would become unbearable.  I kept trying to point out what was happening, but that wasn't enough.  Just being told that he was escalating was not registering with him.  I also think it would be good to have a time where I could shove him out the door and say "be as loud as you want out there, just don't come back in for an hour."  That ain't gonna happen 'cause he needs more assistance to figure out what to do outside.  Plus there's that whole parental-paranoia that can't let well enough alone, er, let kids out without exact coordinates.  Ah well - I'll figure out.  Probably when he's off to university, but hopefully I'll still take comfort in the pure knowledge, rather than be sad that the time for the knowledge has past.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A good day's work

I was supposed to call a service to clean the end of parent's driveway - they arrive home today after travelling to warmer climes - but I forgot yesterday.  I also kinda missed shovelling snow over the past few weeks - just a little, and the end of a drive seemed like the perfect amount.  Enough to feel like something was accomplished, but not so much that you give up in sweaty heap with half to go.  I was able to wake up early enough to get there and shovel snow, buy some salt and kitty litter (not related with snow shovelling), buy some food and get the kids to swimming without killing myself.  Or anyone else.  Always a plus.  Later in the day I discovered that a sign that described hours lied to me.  I thought the guy who sharpens my skates was open until 5pm on Saturdays.  So when I went by at 3:30, I figured I was getting there in good time.  The place was empty, no note on the door.  So I decided to give him a call and I find out that he changed his hours to close at 3pm.  The sign had the correct hours on one side but not the other - he figured someone wiped off the adjustment on one side.  Very annoying.   With all this stuff going on, I think it will be a pleasant sleep tonight however.

I've been invited, via Facebook, to an event in a few weeks - a curling event!  I've thrown a couple of rocks before and I'm eager to throw more.  My wife isn't too keen on the curling part, but I think the camaraderie and fellowship and space heaters will be more her style.  Anyway, I didn't realize there was still a curling club in my area, but this event will be at the London Curling Club.  And this club is the old east downtown area - something I never would have suspected!  I have been near this building many times, but never knew it was there.  Oh well.   So hopefully I'll be able to do some curling and have a few drinks - hopefully at the same time.  I understand that out west the bar is right at the end of the sheets, so no need to wander far to get that calming finger of rye before letting fly with the hammer.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Struggling on

The struggle continues - the struggle to stay awake long enough to post that is.  I had a pretty good day - played hockey, scored a nice goal, put in a decent day's work, but now I'm beat.  I thought I was a bit tired at 8 o'clock and that I'd have no problem writing this later, but I was wrong.  Sat down with my wife to watch the Office special from the Superbowl but I wasn't awake for that either.  I stayed up then and saw the intro; or at least the fire drill before the opening credits.  That rocked.  It was some of the funniest TV I've seen in a while.  And I fell asleep right after it tonight.  And then come to think of it.  Maybe it's so funny, it left me physically exhausted.  Maybe not.  But it was pretty darn good.  Maybe I'm so tired because of the post office.  Yes - that must be it.  They must also be to blame for why watching a show over VOD causes regular TV to have no sound.  Which is how I managed to escape long enough to write this.  I wrote "read" the first time, but that would imply that I planned far enough ahead in my own mind to simple transcribe a finished work.  That's not the way it is for me.  Except being tired - that is very real.  I'm going to go collapse on the couch, or in bed or something.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Postal woes continued

Got another bill today - I know, I know, you're all shocked.  It's hard to believe that I still get bills, but there you are.  Anyway, this was for the 407 toll road - something I use maybe once a year.  I did use it in 2008 - twice in fact.  Travelled the whole length, first one way then another.  For a wedding.  At the end of August.  This is the first bill I have received.  I have not contacted the 407etr corporation nor changed my address.  This bill was for February.  The previous billing period was Jan 1, 2009 to Jan 31, 2009.  So I believe I have not received 4 months worth of bills.  And so the toll road may come and collect their $37.69.    All because THE POST OFFICE CAN'T DELIVER MY BILLS!

It is very frustrating to discover that a government agency is destroy my credit rating, at the exact time the economy is imploding.  It boggles the mind how accurately they predicted the downturn so they could "forget" to deliver key pieces of may for several months.  Such timing - I wish I could achieve a similar finesse in any activity.

Thankfully, I was able to watch "The Office" and "30 Rock" before continuing, so I don't feel so angry.  It turns out that I am the Generalissimo and that Lehman Brothers is reopening under the direction of Tracy Jordan.  Actually, maybe Liz Lemon has been getting our mail - I'll have to ask Canada Post if there is a PO Box in New York they've been secretly forwarding it to.  It never hurts to ask.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Not yet happy feet

Got back to Pete's Sports today, finally, to see if they could help me with my one boot.  I have been trying to adjust how I tie my one skate so I don't hurt my foot, but I really don't have much leeway.  Went through another oven-cycle and I'm hopeful that will make a difference.  If not, I'll have to talk to a guy I play hockey with who works at a different sports store.  He said he has the equipment to do a proper stretch of the boot.  I think that's what will ultimately be needed.

Hockey was pretty good this morning - only slight hiccups.  We had two goalies, eventually, and they both got going within about 10 minutes of the regular start time.  Everyone left right at the end though.  Usually we can play for a bit longer because there is no one before or after us, but if people start to leave, the game peters out.  We did get 5 on 5 plus a sub, two goalies, so that's the main thing.  I think I did okay, but I didn't get that many chances on net and I did let some weak plays past me.  But I also halted my share of rushes, so it's all good.

I guess I must be more tired than I thought because I just can't put anything together here today.  Well, other than simple stuff.  The only interesting thing was the confirmation of some rumours I heard at work.  One of the companies we partner with had some layoffs, which explains why we are seeing different reactions from them lately.  There could have been a number of reasons for the differences, such as increased pressure from our parent company, but this makes more sense to me.  I believe they have seen this coming for a few months and that's not a pressure that is easy to live with.  I hope things work out for them.  Opposite news for Nintendo though - they've been selling millions of things - things that cost tens or hundreds of dollars each.  I think they are one of the few bright spots in the gaming/entertainment industry.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

That's aaaallll evverybody!

Guess today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, so the title's a decidedly weak play on a Simpson's joke (the gravestone of the Big Bopper).  Just a random item - not something I'm commemorating or celebrating in any particular fashion.  What I did just do was watch Scrubs, and it's still going strong.  I like its simple formula - consistent, straight-forward comedy with an ongoing story to tie everything together.  I have a real hankering for some gium and tonic though... Don't really want the gium-legs though.  I haven't seen all the episodes for this season, but the ones I have seen I've really liked.

Got a new Spectrum today and I was surprised to find an article that strikes a chord with where I'd like to head at work.  It gives some handy points on how to make the jump from being a heads-down techie to someone that can talk with management and be helpful.  Fortunately for me, I do some of the items naturally - speaking with candor (is there any other way?), real-time ideas (again - is there any other way?).  The other items - "what-next ideas" and "management mind-set" are things I have to approach.  The "what-next ideas" is looking forward to next steps - something that developers/engineers/techies don't really get a chance to do because they're too busy making things work now.  The "management mind-set" is the hardest of all because it includes items like:
4. Can you learn to tolerate the fact that some decisions are based on politics? Can you accept that the technically right solution isn’t always the right organizational solution?
I'd judge this to be one of the most difficult for the engineer/developer/techie/{label} to adapt to because part of their job is to make the right thing happen, where "right" is measurable in an objective manner.  I've heard this described as "picking your battles".  The purpose is clear - you can't oppose every item, can't fight every little thing because nothing would get done.  This was something that I started on the road to since about grade 7.  I was doing a special project with a partner - group projects weren't really done in grade school.  I had an idea of what I wanted, and I just kept sticking to them until they were all that was left.  It took a few years to realize all the levels of wrong that was - ignoring the opinions of my partner, letting my opinions spill all over their ideas until it was clear to my partner it they shouldn't try.  Not my finest moment, but that's what we all need - mistakes to show a better way.  If I was truly enlightened, I'd be able to predict mistakes and correct them ahead of time, but I don't think that happens much.  

What I realized much later was that it was best to gather everyone together and try to verbalize ideas.  At least, that's what helps me the most.  What I have been refining is how to guide such a discussion without leading it.  I've come across as trying to lead (or herd?) and that isn't a collaborative  method, shutting down disagreement and taking things in one direction.  What I am really doing is working through all the ideas by approaching them from different angles.  So I have to be more finessed (subtle) with this technique, so I can keep people participating and collaborating while I still get value out of it.  Very complicated, but whatever - it's a new skill and it's good to develop new skills.  Much like writing and blogging.  Blogging helps me to express myself quickly in print (in bits?).  Probably should do some review and editing to get any real benefit out of these efforts, but whatever.  I'm typing onwards, no backwards! Upwards not forwards!  And always whirling, whirling, twirling towards freedom!

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a good hockey day and this cold will get a little better before then.  Hopefully both goalies show up.  It's a time for hope and I have to keep hoping I guess.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cold-ward ho!

Nothing like a good cold to knock you down in the middle of winter.  I have been much sicker than this before, but it's always a bother.  At least it's getting better - last night I had to take some Tylenol to get to sleep, but tonight probably not.  And the day at work went just fine - unlike Sunday where I had trouble concentrating all day.  So it was good that I didn't really get much done on Sunday.  Now I'm just trying to get to bed reasonably early and fight this cold in a decent fashion.

Listened to some mayors this morning on The Current.  They were discussing this last budget and I think they bring up some interesting points.  They were carefully grateful for any monies in the budget, but were critical of how the money had to be obtained.  Seems there aren't many details yet, but they would like to see less red-tape involved with the infrastructure-related issues.  They would prefer something structured like the gasoline tax that the federal government gives directly to municipalities.  In these times of "stimulus" and "fast action", I'd have to agree.  Various ministers went around the country asking about "shovel-ready" projects, and it seems the cities can apply if they are ready to go.  But applications take months and require several levels of approval.  I can see why they wish to go the gas-tax route.  I just hope that all the money that is being spent actually ends up in infrastructure projects quickly, while the workers are still available.  Otherwise the construction workers may look else where as the companies close up, leaving no one available when the budget is approved.  Also, the idea of "matching funds" isn't really help the average taxpayer - we'll have a huge federal debt and then our municipal taxes rise to "match funds"?  Doesn't sound like stimulus - sounds like passing the buck.

Anyway, enough ranting for today - I must get off to sleep.  Those sinus don't drain on their own...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A new month

Well, it's post 32 for the year (2^8) and post 150 for the entire blog.  Not really impressive, but still pretty fine, as far as I'm concerned.  And since I'm the only one who likely reads this, I'm the only one who needs to be impressed.

Not a fantastic day so far - real up and down, but in the makes-good-small-talk way, not the never-be-the-same way.  My cold is in full force, so I'm using some fun medication to get rid of the sinus pressure.  Other than that, it's fine.  I actually made it outside this morning, as my neighbours were busy with their snowblowers, but not in their own lanes.  I haven't had to do any serious shovelling for weeks - my neighbours have gotten out and applied snowblower to my driveway before I can react.  Usually when I'm at work.  Anyhoo, my western neighbour complained about phonebook delivery.  I agreed along with her - even the part about wanting to jump them in a back alley somewhere and go all Russel Peter's dad on them.  Seems the deliveries happened while it was snowing, so these delivery-people decided they didn't have to get out of their vehicle.  Which meant the phone book was left somewhere in the last 2' of the driveway.  And then it snowed 6".  So when my neighbour pulled our her trusty snowblower...   She said it took hours with a small knife to cut the pieces out of the blower.  Which is why I found mine on the porch - she moved it there!  Both the neighbour to the east and the west were busy plowing lanes, I was able to finally deliver the small tokens of my appreciation - cookies and chocolates.  They both tried to politely turn me down, but I wouldn't have it!  They deserve a small token of appreciation and since neither of them drinks, delectables it is!

So that's one down and one up - here's another down.  I was organizing my mail, and found a Union gas bill I hadn't opened from a few days back.  I was pretty surprised at the bill - more than twice what I expected.  I was shocked when it said I was going to be disconnected!  After combing my records, I didn't find any trace of my gas bill for the previous month.  My wife and I agreed that the mail delivery quality has gone down since the retirement of the old one a while back.  I can't even recall how far back that was, but I've been getting a magazine for the same number, but a different street.  The street names are not close - don't have the same pattern, starting letter, etc.  I suspect that my bill got misplaced.  I think I finally have a reason why I should move to electronic billing - maybe I won't miss anything that way.  I also realize that I've become too reliant on simply paying the bills that show up.  I need to create a list of the bills I should be paying and their schedule.  Kinda like the garbage pickup schedule.

These are the things that are making my head hurt today.  That or the cold - whichever: the end result is still headache.