Friday, April 24, 2009
Not really keeping up with this whole blogging thing recently, have I? I was doing quite well for a long time, but then it kinda slipped away from me here. Oh well - not that tremendous a loss and frankly I can still keep doing this. Lots of neat stuff happening in non-computer ways so I can't complain.
Hockey today was excellent - benches were 3 deep and the game was fast. I feel good about the game because I got a goal (from the point no less) and we had the strong-defense team. So we peppered the other goalie and you know what that means. More goals, in case you didn't know what it means. Anyway it was a good thing.
Work has been interesting as well, but I should probably leave some of those thoughts for another post - one where I have my thoughts arranged in a coherent fashion. Not this night time jumble. Meetings all over, process and tool changes. Interesting times one might say. Lots of changes to accommodate I'd say. I guess it's one of those philosophy things - the tool is less important than using it. That's why I learned to use edlin, notepad, vi, emacs, edt, visual studio, eclipse and other editor/development environments. They all can edit source code, but each has an appropriate time and place for their use.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Don't seem to be posting every day like I want to. I blame the tired. Or maybe The Tired. Ness. The Tiredness. Whatever it is, I have it again tonight. That and the playoffs - they result in me watching more hockey (good) and not posting (not as good). But I did watch Vancouver advance in 4 straight after the overtime goal in St. Louis. Tonight, however, Calgary got my hopes up and Chicago brought them back down again. Calgary went on a tear with 3 straight goals. Then Chicago did the same. And now it's almost time for the third period. I'll have to watch that - at least part of it, until I canna watch no morrrrre. You know - sleep.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Not gonna spend much time tonight writing, but I should get something down. I've been watching the Calgary-Chicago game and it is good. Western conference teams are just so durn fast - fun to watch. End of the second and Calgary is ahead - let's hope they can continue with the lead through the third. I've got to get to bed relatively soon as I have to be in to work early tomorrow - before 8am. I have been invited to a meeting with some of the more senior leaders. Don't worry - I'm nothing special. They've been having these meetings every week (maybe) and inviting all employees to this. Gives a chance to talk to people in charge more directly than normal. I've been trying to figure out what I should ask I think I know - I'm curious about the plans to bring in new tools. I feel we should have more process defined, and maybe more clear statements from the top as to where things are headed. We'll see what will be said about that.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I simply stayed away from the computer most of the weekend, so no update yesterday. No update Friday because, well the same reason, but slightly different. In both cases I was busy and by the time the end of the day rolled around, I was so entirely beat I simply had to fall into bed.
Friday I played pool with a friend after work. That was nice, but a little too expensive to do very often. I think maybe once a month with a little less food would probably fit the budget okay. Have not played pool in a long time, but I still managed to "not lose" using my patented 'clog-the-table' strategy. By allowing my opponent ample opportunities to scratch on the 8-ball, I would avoid losing. I was beaten twice however - but I can't not-lose every time. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to try this again relatively soon and improve my skills. My fine-touch shots were much better than I recall.
Yesterday was a long day, which involved my lawn mostly. I mentioned to my dad that I wanted to top dress my lawn, and he said that April was a good month to do that. He called me early and said he was heading out to get some top soil, was I ready? I said sure because if I didn't do it then, it probably wouldn't get done. Or I would have to order some soil, which would mean the cost of the dirt (~ $30/cubic yard) plus delivery charges ($50-$100 I'm guessing). In other words, delivery is at least as much as the soil itself, and seeing as I need only a few yards, the delivery would be the majority cost. I believe that most places will waive the delivery fee if you order enough, but "enough" is usually "a truckload" and that's > 10 cubic yards. That would be enough to choke my entire lawn and create flower beds around the whole house and represents a lot of work to haul. Considering topsoil weighs about 2400 lbs (1.2 tons) per cubic yard, I don't think I'd have the energy to move that much dirty. In one day anyway.
Anyway, my dad was able to fit about 2.5 cubic yards in his pickup and we spread that over the front lawn and made some piles in the back. Then it was lunch - a fine steak lunch - and then resting, followed by spreading the dirt in the back yard, mixing fertilizer and grass seed, spreading that over the front and back lawns, followed by racking everything with a metal fan-rake. That was enough for one day, but I think that I did what I needed to. We'll see how everything turns out in a few weeks. I'm pretty sure my lawn is in good shape, as it looks a bit better than most of my neighbour's lawns. I don't like to water my lawn, mainly because I'm I think that I shouldn't really have to do that, plus it's a bit of a waste of water. Several neighbours have sprinklers built into their lawns, and one adjacent neighbour waters consistently all summer. I think that after 3 years of non-watering, my lawn has developed a deeper root system and that is why it looks better now. Their lawns will remain very good during the summer while they water them, but I'm hopeful that my lawn will remain thick and non-dead even if I don't water it much. I'd rather have a lawn suited to the climate (read: I don't have to water) . My dad has mentioned that all the grasses he's seen growing native near his house (out in fields and such) are much more robust and remain green and full all summer, no matter how wet or dry it becomes.
Anyway, enough lawn talk - that was a long day's work. I tried to catch up with my playoff watching, but I simply could not. That combined with the scheduled power-outage meant that I had to go to bed before I passed out, although that nearly happened three or four times... I didn't really need to unplug anything, although I turned off one power bar - it was more to turn off my UPSs. I have one on my main computer and one on my cordless phone. The cordless phone one is most annoying - it has no buttons except on/off and it beeps every few minutes when the power is off to indicate it is using battery power. I cannot think of anything more annoying that sitting in the dark with a UPS beeping at me. It's not like I don't know the power is out - I understand the battery is being used. In fact, that's why I bought it! Can't it just do it's job quietly??? Even if it had a blinky light to show it was on battery, that would be okay because you can't see it if you're asleep or in a different room. But anyway, that's the way it is. Everything seems to be okay today, so I don't think anything went "kablamo".
Today it was simple chores around the house and Rock Band. The perennial favorite. I tried to arrange a session with my almost-brother-in-law, but I just wasn't persistent enough. He was interested, but I didn't get him on the phone until late in the day. Oh well - a couple of weeks and we'll be good to go. I have to make sure I have some beer and vittles so we can arrange things. It will be good.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Busy day today - workin' away at stuff that wasn't scheduled, but necessary. Gotta get that stuff done so that the new work can be done. Made it to the gym. Again. Twice this week - that's pretty good for me, at least lately. Hopefully I can keep it up 'cause I really needed it. Before I went on Tuesday I had a weird ache in my elbow and an arm workout cleared that up. Guess I needed some good arm stretching to work things out. Got hockey tomorrow so we'll see how things hold up. Maybe I won't be quite so winded, but I suppose that also means I need to get the heck to bed.
My eldest son seems to be enjoying Rock Band quite a bit. He appears to be getting better at the guitar at a rapid pace. Not surprising really, given his age. After a week of regular play he is vastly improved. He tried moving up a difficulty level and had some moderate success, so hopefully he will try some more. He probably doesn't see that if he spends three or four days working at the harder level he'll achieve the same success he has now at the easy level. That remains to be seen. Anyhoo, I must go and sleep now so I will be ready for hockey tomorrow.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Saw this report on the cbc.ca website today and I was intrigued. I'm kinda torn between both aspects of this report. The first point is the origin of the report - "The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives". It's a left-leaning institute, which gives with the summary of the report. The summary being that cutting taxes hurts more people than it helps because of all the government programs that get cut along with the taxes.
I'm torn because I understand the conclusion of the report, but I'm not sure that I agree with what it represents. I think that more people lose benefits when taxes are cut, but I'm not sure that is such a bad thing in the first place. The whole left-vs-right internal division causes me political stomach cramps. Wow, that's an awkward analogy, but let's move on. I believe that we, as a country, need to have programs that we collectively pay for to benefit society as a whole. One of those is health care, and another is education. Collecting money from everyone's pay to help people that have lost their job is a good thing as well. Plus there are some situations where money needs to be given out so that people can survive. Then there is infrastructure, the military and policing. After that... I'm not so sure. I'd like to see less bureaucracy and less reliance on the government for day-to-day survival. However that's what the report talks about - cutting taxes reduces programs that people rely on every day.
I think the "every day" part gets to me. I have no problem paying taxes so that we (as a country) can do bigger things than me, my town or county etc could do alone. Cutting the GST was always a bad idea - taxing things as they're consumed is pretty fair. You have a bigger car, you pay more taxes on gas and upkeep. You like to eat at fancy restaurants, you pay more tax. It's pretty fair. Cutting that tax was a bad idea. It looks even worse now that we hit an economic downturn - people spend less so the GST collected will be less than ever.
In conclusion, I've complained and I don't know what my point was. I guess I need to go find more chocolate eggs to fuel a potential response... But I'm not really going to do that now.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Tuesday night, before the game. We've got two goalies, although one is a fill-in. Borrowing equipment so that we have two live bodies. I'll have to ask someone at work if we can borrow his equipment somehow. I know there are at least 2 people that are willing to play net as needed, although only one has actually done it before. I'm hopeful that at least 4 more people show up tomorrow so that we can have 4v4 or 5v5. 3v3 is kinda, well, tiring. But that is for tomorrow.
Today is Lemon Jell-o Appreciation Day, although I sadly did not appreciate it enough as I did not make any. Still, I thought about lemon Jell-o and appreciated it. Greatly.
Got a chance to play some more Rock Band this evening and I'm pretty happy with the new pedal. I think that I was doing pretty good - with more regular practice I seem to be improving pretty well. I'd like to see if I can beat the drums on hard, but some of the tour sessions require more time than I can string together (normally). Seven song sets are all well and good, but it's like watching the extended Lord of the Rings - I like watching them all together, but when do I have the time for it? Maybe I'll get lucky and meet up with someone on the weekend for some good ole Rock Band action. That's pretty far away though.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I totally forgot about writing blog posts for a couple of days there... I'm actually kinda surprised - but not that much really. First off, Saturday was a big day in that we went out shopping. The whole family. Does not happen much, so it stood out. My wife needed to get another Wii Balance Board because our original one stopped work. I think it may have died of loneliness, but that's just a suspicion. It was weird because it hadn't been used for some time and then it ceased to work. So we had to get that, and I had to get some drum pad silencers for my Rock Band drums after Friday's Rock Band at my sister's. Next we went to Best Buy and I got Rock Band 2, after convincing myself that it would work with the Rock Band instruments. Then the whole family got inline skates.
I'd had a look at some inline skates a few weekends back, as my wife has a growing interest in skating. I thought would be nice for everyone to get them so we could go out all together. Plus I never owned any and it looks like fun. Apparently I shouldn't go out when it is even a little damp as that gums up the bearings. So far, that isn't an issue as I haven't even attempted to go about yet. I got some hockey inline skates, ending up with Nike Bauer's because the toe box for the Mission's are way too narrow. The Bauer's have a huge square thing, matching my need for a small skate but with adult toes. Or something to that effect.
Anyway, we headed home and I had to try out Rock Band 2 to see if I'd wasted my money or what. Turns out that no, I had not. I proceed to play for the next 4 hours or so, with my oldest son joining me on guitar. It was an excellent time. The Rock Band 2 port for the Wii brings it more in line with what is done on the Xbox 360 and PS3 with customizable characters, online play and downloadable content. Needless to say, I was quite pleased. And then there was Sunday morning...
Sunday morning dawned and we had some time where we could play Rock Band until it was time to go for the family lunch at my aunt's. We went for lunch and got back around 5:30pm. My eldest son and I sat down, picked a set of 3 songs to do and off we went. I broke the bass pedal on the third note. Because I'd been given one of the older Rock Band original pedals, this one didn't crack or weaken - it snapped cleanly in the exact spot my original weakened. It was pretty tough, but I played for a couple more hours. The pedal worked if you weren't too energetic and held your foot in the right place.
This brings us to today. I needed to get a better replacement for the pedal, so I started calling around to some of the gaming stores. I found what I wanted at one and got them to hold it for me. Seems the Rock Band 2 pedal has a metal reinforcing plate and otherwise is the same. Well, that's what I wanted, give the way the first two pedals were damaged. And only $25 to boot! I picked that up and a second guitar so that we could get a full four-person band going. Rushed home and I was able to put the new pedal to the test. It worked really well for me - the metal plate made things really solid and movement easier. It makes less noise because it is more solid - the spring doesn't bend funny when you move it faster. The other neat thing is that this pedal came with a double-bass aggregator, which allows you to plug two pedals into the drum kit. Don't really need that yet, but the possibility is now there for me.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Today is Friday and it was good. Played hockey this morning with 5 subs on each bench - pretty nice. Teams were a smidge lopsided (all the good puckhandlers were on one side) but it was a good skate. I think I got a goal even! But it dribbled in strangely, so it's hard to say. Spent the rest of the day at my sister's house having lunch and the playing Rock Band. Definitely a good time - haven't done the online part of Rock Band before and that was pretty fun. I'm sorely tempted to get a PS/3 so I have an excuse to buy Rock Band 2 and then I'll be able to play online. A good day.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
It was a long time getting here, but now it is. And here we are! Regular slate of meetings and what-not at work, followed by a trip to Wonder Sushi. I tried to remain calm and not go nuts with the selected delights I normally gorge on. This turned out to be a good thing because I ended up eating my share and then my share again in crispy spicy rolls. They were extra spicy today and that means extra good, at least in my book. Kinda scuppered the rest of the day though, as it takes a while to produce 120 pieces of crispy spicy tuna.
Not much else to talk about, except this Slashdot article on CFL bulbs. Turns out that there is a gap between "real power" and "apparent power" used by these lights, something called the "power factor." Basically it means that the utility (the grid) has to have more power available than is used by the bulbs to make them work properly. I only went through some of the comments, but they make many interesting points about LEDs and CFLs and other options. I have always disliked the bans of incandescent bulbs - they are very useful and well understood. They have their uses, especially in the cold. The heat factor has been brought up recently - some people think that a house full of incandescents would provide extra heating in the winter. I personally don't think it makes a huge difference, but whatever. Incandescents produce a very nice quality of light. We got all CFLs for our house when we moved in 3 year ago, and I've had to replace several recently. The suspicion is that these are older, cheaper and less reliable than the bulbs we can buy today, but I haven't seen a 7 year life, or even a 5 year life. We'll wait and see.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Just staring blankly at the empty, uh, text box, trying to determine a topic. I seem to recall saying I should write about how the "grapefruit punch" has no vitamin C, even though it supposedly has grapefruit juice in it... It also 150 calories in 300 mL, making it more calorie dense than Barq's (160 calories in 355 mL). That's interesting, but in a very limited way - much like this entire enterprise. Oh well. I did win 3 games in a row at foosball - that never happens. Doesn't qualify as terribly interesting either. Tomorrow is the last day in this week and we'll be heading out to Wonder Sushi for lunch. One of those traditional jaunts, on very specific occasions. The specifics is that one of my co-workers has a spouse (only one spouse, I just couldn't think of a better way to write this) who is extremely allergic to shellfish. That means he can't go for sushi if he's going to be in the same building as his wife. Ergo (Latin is cool) we all go for sushi when this guy's wife goes somewhere without him. Lucky for us because it's all you can eat and we usually do. Actually we treat more like the Futurama episode on the cruise ship: "All you can eat. Plus a whole chicken." Except with fish. And less exploding. Still good though.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I keep forgetting that it's a short week. Well, it's not the forgetting that makes such an impression but rather the remembering. Kinda like that found-the-keys-in-the-last-place-I-looked way. Anyway, I keep forgetting (then remembering) that Friday is a holiday, so there is much more urgency around everything. Not sure why, but there you are. I guess it doesn't help that "Idol" ran long and Fringe had to start late. That certainly adds to my urgency. I liked the episode, at least what I saw of it, and the story continues nicely. Next week's installment looks most exciting. Yes, yes - I look forward most verily. Like most things related to Fox, it would be nicer if they would just run the shows on a consistent weekly basis. You know - a schedule or season. Not this 4 episodes followed by hiatus, followed by 4 episodes and a break, the a re-tooling, a pause and a cancellation. You'd think they were parliament or something!
Speaking of parliament, I actually heard some rumblings from our (Canadian federal) government today. They decided to do something that the US did weeks ago - guarantee the new car warranties for GM and Chrysler. Good news because it looks like GM is gearing for bankruptcy Oh well - looking for the upswing in the economy, but that won't be in Canada for a while. We definitely lag behind the US in the effects of the economic downturn. The US has been suffering economically for more than a year, so we are probably a year behind. Typical in previous downturns, and I don't expect anything to change. Each downturn has a ripple effect within different sectors of the economy and the trickle-down is pretty clear. Hopefully we'll be back to vigorous sales soon.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Yesterday was a nice day out of doors - intense sun, but not too hot. Today was not like that, not at all. I heard the inevitable "this is so unusual" comments, but I disagree. I went to the Canadian Weather Office and looked up this day in the historical data. I wasn't sure where to start so I picked a random year: 1982. That year's been in the news a lot, where the interest, inflation and unemployment numbers were compared against. Apparently, those values are doing better now than 1982 and so is the weather. I'm starting to wonder if the climate is related to the economic downturn... I'll have my auguries perform some haruspicy and try to establish a correlation. Anyway, here's the historical data for April 1982.
There are many interesting things to note there. The first is that we've had some pretty windy, gusty days, but no where near the > 100 km/h gusts recorded on April 3, 1982. April 5 and April 6 were both cold, with April 6 not getting above -7 C. The temperatures for April 6, 2009 show a maximum temperature of 4 C and minimum of -5. The day isn't done, so it may fall a few degrees, but this illustrates the difference. April 5, 1982 saw 5 cm of snow fall, with 3 cm on the ground, 10 cm on the ground by April 6, 1982. So even though the weather isn't great today, it's been much worse "in living memory". Although I wouldn't be able to remember that specific day, the inter-weeb helped by being my external brain pack.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
That certainly turned into a much nicer day than the morning suggested. The sun was intense - especially in the car. After 3pm, the wind died down and I went out without a jacket. One of my neighbours went for a walk with his shorts on, but apparently he wears shorts during the winter too so he isn't a really good gauge. I did manage to get to major chores done, which I'm pretty happy about. Got all the Christmas lights down, which I didn't expect because of the powerful, gusty wind and rain Friday and Saturday. A few weeks back it was really nice and calm - good for being up on a ladder - but the ground was too soft. This turned out to be a good day for it and I managed to get it done. Taking them down definitely takes less time than going up. The other chore was finally cleaning that reusable furnace filter. Did it every need attention! I pulled it out during the week because it was feeling stuffy in the house. I was pretty surprised at the fine dust that fell off when I did that. The filter itself is pretty coarse so fine dust is counter-intuitive. Anyway, got those major things done and that makes this a good weekend for house-chores.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Went to bed late (well, early today) so didn't do much this morning. Can't exactly stay in bed, but wasn't awake enough to be useful, so I'm not sure where that leaves me. Kinda dazed, but not in an important situation. Not like I was driving or anything. The house seemed to survive that tremendous wind, which carried on through most of the day. I finally made it outside after 5pm and the wind had died down quite a bit and the sun was even out for awhile there. It was quiet chilly though. Managed a little bit of cleaning, typical stuff. The big cleaning came in the laundry room, which is also where we keep the cat's litter box. Thing is, when the cat gets annoyed about her litter box she doesn't send us a note or start barking, she apparently would pee on the carpets near the litter box. But not always on them, sometimes beside and ultimately under them. I finally checked what was going on under all these rugs, which have nice solid rubber bottoms, and I didn't like what I saw. And so there was a very thorough cleaning job done there. Hopefully I won't have to do that again any time soon. Maybe I can teach the cat to write those notes...
I did manage to get caught up with a series I've been watching on tv - Life. I really like Damian Lewis and especially his character, Det. Crews. I was able to use the "Rogers On Demand" (heh heh - ROD - heh heh) to see the missing episodes. Even though you can't do trickplay, being able to catch the most current 3 episodes for a series is great. Especially a show like Life where the (now typical) two-level story takes place. Level one is the episode - you can watch one episode for the mystery presented. Level two is the story involving the characters and drawn out over a long period of time. This series does the multi-level thing quite well. I can't really think of a series before the X-Files that used this pattern effectively, but I'm also pretty sure that I don't know enough tv to state that with any certainty. Anyway, Life is good and hopefully it'll continue. Hopefully we'll see what's going to happen to Reese.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Friday. Again. At least Dollhouse was on and I caught it. I liked the structure and I liked the ideas presented - nice to work through some thorny social issues with some good sci-fi structure. Not that Joss Whedon is presenting novel ideas - erasing memory to avoid painful ones, dealing with psychological issues, etc etc. It's just that Dollhouse is a good way of presenting the ideas.
Yesterday it was really nice outside. Today, not so much. Rained steadily all morning through to I went out for my lunch. Wasn't raining as much when I was headed home, but it was windy! I haven't seen persistent wind like this in a very long time. I hope my basketball net survives... So we spent the evening indoors. Not that you'd notice either way, just if the weather is nice we try and force the kids out of doors for a while.
Hockey was pretty good, although I couldn't seem to do anything right for awhile. Then I was doing a bit better, but then not so well. But it was a good skate and I did have fun even if I wasn't playing as well as I could.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
It was a very fine day out there, beyond the computer room and the car window. Positively warm at times! Got one son outside running around for a bit anyway - lots of the kids on the street congregating and running around. A good thing.
Work was weird today - two of our six team members left for another team. Personnel changes always make things different, although it isn't a problem, just different. It will be weirder when the four of us move in with the three others to form a larger team. What I really learned today at work was that I have to plan out meetings much better than I have been.
I organized a meeting earlier in the week because we have three different teams collaborating on a set of features. We have had meetings on and off over the last couple of months, just to get things off the ground. We still have 2 deliverables between now and the project this collaboration is for. One of the participating teams has been able to spare a person to work ahead, which is a great way to take advantage of these weird times between projects. I wanted to have a meeting to go over our coding standards and talk about some patterns I'd seen in code reviews. I booked an hour and said the meeting was about coding standards, but I knew that we probably wouldn't fill the time with just coding standard talk. We spent the first half talking about coding standards and then the rest talking about the work being done and what we should keep a look out for. I left pleased that we were able to discuss all the concerns I had going in, plus we were able to talk about planning future work as well. What I found out today was that some, but not all, the other attendees disagreed. One person in particular left feeling like something unspecified was imposed and that work that was entirely premature was being demanded.
This happened because of a break down in meeting structure. A good meeting would start with an agenda established ahead of time, a facilitator keeping everyone to the agenda and time reserved at the end to make sure everyone is agreeing to the same things. Specifically, the meeting had a single item on the agenda and it was vague. Deep and unrelated topics were raised during the meeting. No summary was proposed at the end. To resolve this issue, I talked individually with a few participants to find out what they took away and to tell them what I took away. This worked well - we all wanted the same things, so it was easy to get agreement with a little clarification. I also learned some important information that completed changed my opinions about planning for the project - pieces of information that were known before the meeting by half the attendees.
Next time, I will create a more specific agenda, save time at the end to tell everyone what happened, and make sure to ask everyone about any project news at the beginning. That should save at least a half-hour for each person and keep things moving smoothly.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Apparently, I'm distantly related to Barak Obama. Like so many others on Facebook. Guess I should look into that...
An interesting day work, in that two long-standing members of our team are moving on. To another team within the company, but things will not be the same. Plans were to merge our team of 4 with 3 others in a nicer part of the office, but so far we haven't been able to schedule the move. So far our new team wouldn't be that different as we would be working on distinct pieces of work, but that will change - hopefully. At the very least, we'll all sit together and that will help our manager.
Found out my kids had fun at school, what with all the pranks being pulled! My youngest (in JK) found his teacher's chair was stolen! By the other kindergarten class. My oldest (in grade 3) discovered all the kids chairs removed from their room with the culprit leaving a message in mirror-writing on the blackboard. More fun than I remember having on April Fool's day! I think they enjoyed it.