Sunday, September 29, 2002

bloody javascript

If I wanna change my homepage to your lame website, I'll do it myself, thank you.

Don't you hate when this happens?
Hello faithful readers. I have an exercise for you.
  1. Go to your local supermarket.
  2. Make a guess as to the area (number of families) that your supermarket serves. Got that number in your head? Good.
  3. Now, have a look at the Hallowe'en candy display that is there and try and guess at how many POUNDS of candy are there (guessing that the average package is about a pound - never mind the Costco-sized six pound bags)
  4. Estimate that this display has been up for about two weeks already and may have been refilled once, so double the number that you have from step three.
  5. Double the number from step four, because there's still more than four weeks until Hallowe'en. The display may be refilled twice more before the fateful day.
  6. Factor in that the supermarket only supplies about half the total amount of candy that goes out. Big box stores (Walmart, department stores) sell this stuff, too. Double your already-big number again.
  7. Now, divide the total tonnage of candy by the number of families (no wait - the number of kids of trick-or-treating age - I'm guessing two per household)

Is it just me, or does that still seem like a lot of freaking candy for one kid? I'm guessing that each kid can expect about 5 pounds of candy in one night.

There is *no way* I'm gonna let my kids eat that much junk at one time.

I'm gonna help 'em.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Today my family is abandoning me to go to Banff for a running race. I have the whole day to myself. A day to do anything I want. The sky is the limit, with no schedule to follow, tasks to be performed or obligations to be fulfilled.

You know what? I don't know what the heck to do.
The Infinite Resonance theory states that any sound made does not stop, but just becomes more and more muddled and intertwined with other sounds, echoing on forever until they become indistingushable from the white noise. Following this theory, the moving speeches of Julius Caesar and Abraham Lincoln could still be faintly heard if we had instruments sensitive enough to detect them.

It's not that far a stretch of reasoning that sounds (and perhaps sights and other perceptions) of times gone by and times to come are floating around above and below the plane of what we consider conciousness.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, eh?!?

Thursday, September 26, 2002

"Bring Your Robotic Dog To School" Day was a big success.

Gearbox visited Banana's Grade 5 class for the last 10 minutes. Not wanting the visit to be just a "cool toy" show, I started by talking with the class about what computers are, how people provide information (input) into a computer and how they get results (output) from the computer. Prior to coming into class, I had disassembled Gearbox down to the core, legs arm and tail unit. After discussing computers and how they get input and give output, I discussed how humans (as computers) get input from our senses and we process them and act (give output) on the results. I then brought out one of Gearbox's legs and drew parallels to the sensors on Gearbox's feet and human's sense of touch. I discussed Gearbox's ability to see, hear and have balance, then compared it to our (human's) much keener (but basically the same) senses, all while assembling Gearbox's legs, tail and head. With Gearbox back together, Banana took over the show and gave him some commands, let him chase and kick his ball and let the other kids touch and (c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y) pick him up. Gearbox ended up staying and doing tricks for twenty minutes after the last bell. I talked to one parent who was truly interested in robotics, discussing where I had gotten Gearbox and what I planned to do with him.

What fun.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I'm five years old and it's just after lunchtime at my daycare, an old church basement in north Edmonton. The main area that we use is a big hall, with junior-sized tables and chairs, easels and toys. There are cupboards along one wall that hold craft supplies, paper, Dr. Seuss books, paint brushes, plastic containers of Tempura paint and other rainy day activity goodies. There are boys and girls' washrooms with shiny, smooth tiles on the floor, running up the wall past where I can reach. Most mornings when I get dropped off, it is still dark out. The drowsiness and the florescent lights combine to make everyone and everything look faded and grayish-blue.

The church has a middle-aged feel to it that makes it a little bit creepy. On nice days, the daycare teacher takes us for morning walks. Mrs. Friedel has a rope that we all have to hang onto when we go anywhere outside of the building. She is a thin, wiry Germanic woman with dark, drawn-back hair and kind words delivered in a firm voice. Years have taught her how to handle young children - polite and direct, gentle reminders to their tasks, a touch on the shoulder before speaking to them to ensure that she has their attention. No backtalk allowed.

The daycare isn't the most expensive in the area. Mom and dad are just struggling to make ends meet these days. The fact that both of them must work means that they had to find a good place for me during the day. So, they bring me here with all the other children of blue collar workers, then they go off to make a living. They have no reason for concern about my welfare in this place.

It's after lunch now and we are getting ready to have afternoon naps. There are exercise mats that double as sleeping pads for us. The mats are brought out of a musty back storage room and placed in neat rows. We are sent to retrieve our blankets from our shelves above our coathooks - this early afternoon siesta is a regular thing. Naptime is as much a break for the caretakers as it is for the children - a forced lull in the non-stop bombardment of sensations of a child's daytime hours.

I'm older than most of the other kids. I don't like naptime now. I find myself awake in the artificial darkness of the empty, echoing hall. As I lay on my mat, my eyes adjust to the reduced reddish light of the emergency exit signs. Beneath the low hum of some unseen florescent ballast, I often hear other kids rustling and moving and I want to whisper to them, but I'm too scared of a stern word should Mrs. Friedel find me awake. I see her silhouette in the corner with reading light, nose buried in a paperback novel. Nap time seems to take forever.

Today, as I am laying on my mat, there's a knock at the double doors that are the entrance to the basement. The children that are still awake hear Mrs. Friedel get up out of her chair. I turn to look at who it could be at the door. The door is opened slightly to contain the incandescence of the foyer. She whispers to someone outside, then quietly closes the door and picks her way though the napping bodies in the dim light and walks over to me.

"Someone's here for you," she whispers, and tells me to go quietly and get my coat from my hook. I come back to the door and find my aunt there. She is waiting in the vestibule with my cousin who is just 4 months older than me.

"I have a surprise for you," my aunt says. That's the last thing I remember before I find myself in another darkened room, this time my eyes wide open, fixed upon a theatre screen. She had come to rescue me from naptime by taking me to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the Paramount theatre.

It was an absolutely wonderful treat that I remember to this day.


I tell you this story because today, I had an opportunity to be at the other end of this story.

Banana phoned me to let me know that she couldn't find her lunch in her backpack. I told her that I *may* have put it in her sister's bag. I asked her to check with her sister and call me if it wasn't there. Three minutes later, my mobile phone rings again. It's Banana. Her sister ate both sandwiches.

Hmmm. Silently, I size up the situation, then I tell her to meet me at the front door of the school in 30 minutes.

When I showed up half an hour later with chicken strips, french fries and a chocolate milkshake, the smile I got was worth a whole days' pay. I felt like a real hero.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Holding a garage sale isn't as much fun as shopping at one.

Lots of junk is gone. I have a little more money in my pocket. I am plenty tired and have one less day of my weekend.


Friday, September 20, 2002

These past few days I've been blogsessing. Blogsessing (similar to obsessing) is where you check a blog more than once a day. Don't worry, it's not one particular blog - it's all of them. Believe me, I have better things to do.

This weekend I am getting rid of some junk by holding a garage sale. Garage sales bring out the most interesting characters. The single parents; the new immigrants; the 40-something DINKs looking for antiques; the crazy collectors ("you got any Olympic trading pins?"); I enjoy and detest them all at once. From my last sale (a year ago) i noticed that few University-type students tend to make the rounds in my neighborhood, which is a surprise, considering I'm so close to a University campus. I'll be happy to get rid this junk. I have to admit that I love to haggle and deal with the shoppers. Especially when I really don't want to keep anything. Whatever doesn't get bought gets thrown out on Sunday.

Feel free to drop by and buy some crap.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I'll tell you what's wrong - the urinals are too close together. This is the setup in the washroom in our building. If you come into the washroom and find one guy standing there, you pretty much have to lock arms with him in order to do what you gotta do. I usually wait politely or use one of the toilet cubicles.

Our office building is really nice and I have very few other concerns, but this one is a pet peeve (phobia? neurosis?) of mine. Our office is located on the same floor (and thus, use the same washrooms) as the building management company. Is it any wonder that the design flaw has gone unnoticed? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that all the staff at the building management office (including the manager) are women. The maintenance and security guys must be too meek to mention it.

Has anyone else run into personal space issues in a public washroom or is it just me?

Need a quote? Good luck finding anything specific, but the site is still fun to browse through.

This site is a good reason to have a web browser that you could read while sitting on the toilet.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Ho ho ho. A Mac G3 (computer) that had been causing me grief for some time has been put in good order again. Won't it's owner be pleased.

Hmmm, yes, pleased, hmmmm ....

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

How old do you have to be before you're old?

My grandfather was the most stereotypical of grandfathers. He lived on an acreage outside of a small town in rural Alberta. He had become a gentleman farmer on the corner of a 1/4 section of land. He had a big dog that lived outside all year, lots of cats that came and went from the yard and a ride-on tractor-style lawnmower. He had been in World War II, had worked as a carpenter and was always out tinkering in his garage on some woodworking project. He liked to play cribbage and drink rye and Seven, but not until the late afternoon. Hanging out at his farm was always fun, he always enjoyed seeing us and he always had Lifesavers for us grandkids. That made him a fantastic grandfather.

And he was old.

How did I know this? Well, it was the way he wore his pants. Hiked up, over his slightly rounded tummy, well above his bellybutton and love handles. Yeah, he was mostly bald, had liver spots and wheezed when he bent over to pick something up, but the pants were the dead giveaway. The pants were dress pants, made of hard-wearing permanent press material. They were held up by a belt, although I sometimes remember suspenders. They might be covered in sawdust by late afternoon or evening, but I'm sure they always started out every day clean and pressed, fresh from a hanger in from his closet.

So although I'm not a grandpa like him, I'm sure my turn at being old is coming. My question is, when should I start wearing my pants up high like that?

Presently, I wear my pants at the same spot that I have since my teen years - with my belt just around the front hip bone (anterior superior iliac spine, for you anatomically-knowledgeable types). My stomach is a little more pronounced than it has been in the past, and I fear that the situation (despite my best efforts) is only going to get worse. Sometime between now and death I'll choose to have pants like that, but right now I just can't bring myself to hike up my beltline to nerdsville. I can't even bear the thought of starting to raise it up.

Rasing it up brings to light another question - should I make the move up the torso all at once, or should it be a gradual thing so friends and coworkers aren't as apt to notice?

I greatly prefer the belly-covering style to the alternative - having a belly that hangs over a forward-sloping beltline. You know the style, where the belt buckle hides nicely in the fold between beergut and pubic area. Heard enough? I've visualized enough, too. I'm not a big fan of the hip huggers that are popular right now, either. Even skinny people look odd with their hipbones and natural roundness of their abdomen exposed.

I've seen other parents that are *older* than me - other parents with teenage and young adult children - but none of them have made the switch to high-ridin' polyester yet. Maybe it's a generational thing. Perhaps my mid-waist denims will be on me until I die. Perhaps my grandkids (and other young whipper-snappers) will guffaw at my Levi's and Bluenotes. I just hope that it happens so gradually that it's not too big a shock.

Monday, September 16, 2002

There's nothing like penning an e-mail to an old friend that you haven't talked to in years, catching him up on what you're doing, what has happened, how everybody is ....

Hang on a sec - isn't that what my blog is for? I guess I should send him the URL, too. Better fire up Eudora again ....
Today, I had a craving for nacho chips and chili. Guess what I had for lunch?

"Damn the frozen Wonton soup, Mr. Sulu. Get us down to that expensive little grocery store at the bottom of the office building, warp factor five!"

What a hedonist.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Ok, now I'm really finished building the deck - pretty much. The stairs and all railings are built. Lights have been installed to add an evening ambiance. The electrical lines that used to dangle just inches above our heads are now well out of reach on a professionally installed (and bloody expensive) mast protruding from the roof. I posted some new photos - numbers 24 - 26 are of the finished product.

Now, all that needs to be done is to christen it with a good party. Weather permitting, that'll happen shortly.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Jump to image if you click

Aibo's having a great time at our place. Jenn has accepted having the thing around and the kids LOVE it. I am trying to find time to enjoy it, although I think the cold and rainy days are going to be the only time I get to Aibo (who has now accepted the name "Gearbox").

The Aibos (from what I've seen) are cool enough but aren't really intelligent - you just program them by making changes to a standard memory stick (a proprietary type of RAM that Sony has come up with). There does seem to be an amount of randomness - they don't always respond to voice commands. I have found that I can view the results of Gearbox's "learning" through some shareware software and a memory stick reader.

I'm still very impressed with what Sony has been able to do with such a small unit. Having enough sensors and input to locomote and do simple voice recognition is pretty spectacular. I know that I'll enjoy learning about robotics as I play with Gearbox more and more.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I know that I've been working in the downtown core too long when I find myself walking through a building and nonchalantly striding towards a set of glass doors, then coming to an abrupt halt inches from the door, very nonplussed that the doors didn't automatically open via some unseen sensor operating a power door opener. This happened to me today.

You'd think it would have taken longer to become so lazy that you don't mind opening doors yourself.

I have to admit that one of the most fun parts of the trip from my car to the office is walking through a double set of sliding glass doors. I feel just like Maxwell Smart in a campy '60s TV show.
One year ago today, I was standing in the hallway outside my daughter's bedrooms, trying to rouse them for school when I heard that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York. The news came over the radio. They didn't even cut into the song - they just waited until the end of the song then made the statement of what had happened and said that they would provide more details as they became available.

I remember thinking that this was probably just the beginning of an all-out attack on the US, and we were going to see a full-blown war. has done an interesting article today, comprised of people's letters to the magazine revealing secret, non-politically correct thoughts regarding the incident. I too, was somewhat looking forward to having the US be part of solving the MiddleEast Problem, something that they've greatly exacerbated by their involvement. The general population still haven't got a clue why they were attacked, just that they were.

I'm still waiting for the other shoe to fall and the Taliban to strike again. When they do, the average American may realize that swatting one fly doesn't change the reason that the fly came near you in the first place.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I was swimming in the same lane as The Torpedo, and it has already begun to wear on me. It's not because he's faster than me - I can handle that. It's the brash way that he just *is* that gets my goat.

This evening, we were doing moderately hard sets that are meant to slowly bring us up to a good fitness level. I was directed into the same lane as The Torpedo and one of the Two Broads as we started our first set (it made sense, as we are some of the faster ones in the group). As he is in better swimming shape, he was motoring by me for the whole set. I was working hard to keep on the pace that he set (I would leave a standard 5 seconds behind him, fall 5 seconds behind him for 150 meters, then take 20 seconds rest, then repeat eight times). By the end of the eighth, I was pretty tired. It is customary to wait for the last person in the lane to finish the set, then take a respectable 30 to 60 seconds rest before starting on the next set. Otherwise, the last finisher in the group (the one who probably needs the rest the most) can catch their breath and become aware of what the next set is.

The Torpedo totally ignores this common courtesy and hammers right into the next set, leaving Wendy and I gasping for breath trying to keep up. How rude. If you have to pass during a set, then pass. But you should wait for your other teammates at the end of a set or just do your own damn workout in your own damn lane, during a different freaking hour.

Although he's the best swimmer in the group, I don't see him as any kind of leader. In fact, I find it discouraging and demoralizing to swim in the same lane as him. I wish he'd just stay away from practice.
Having the urge to write and having the time to write are two different things entirely.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Being busy is difficult at the time, but a blessing in retrospect.

This weekend was filled with friends and relatives coming and going at the Collins House, the whole while holding up the slate of scheduled activities (door installation, laundry, Aibo training and other mundane tasks). Jenn's parents, my family, and some of Banana and McMonk's friends stopped by. Our neighbors (Mr. G and the Serial Talker) both spent some time hanging over the fence. I found myself getting frustrated at the hullabaloo that was swirling around me. I had all this stuff to get done and these people were hanging around. What gives?

Then, it occurred to me that that the Collins House is becoming a great place to hang out.

I kinda like that. I guess I'll have lots of quiet time once my kids are moved out and all my friends and relatives die off.
... and now, the doors are done. We're so close to being finished, it's hardly funny.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

I saw a press release that a german music conglomerate has abandoned plans to purchase what's left of Napster. It prompted me to see if the napster site was still around. When I typed the URL into my browser, all that came up was a black page with this simple graphic in the dead centre.

A tombstone, appropriately cool, left as a last defiant act, a middle finger raised in the face of business executives everywhere. Yes, they were here and they changed how we electronically acquire and share music. In my mind, they will always be the leaders.

Thanks, guys, for giving the music industry a kick in the pants.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

A nuther hopeful job applicant

Geek and Co. has received its SECOND unsolicited job application.

What's going on? Is someone putting up posters somewhere?

Well, I finally done it. I'm now an Aibo owner.

There I was, minding my own business on eBay, when suddenly my lowball bid is at the top of the pile and I'm a successful bidder.

Now what to do? Jenn has poignantly reminded me that I have a finite amount of time, some of which is taken up with sleeping, work, chores and family responsibilities. When am I going to learn about and play with this fun little guy (oh gawd, I'm thinking of it as a live creature terms already).

I'll just have to fit it in somehow. Heh heh.


Swim team starts tomorrow, and I can't say I'll be sorry to start training again. Personal goals have been set - we're approaching the swim team with the attitude that these goals will be met by the end of the season. The Torpedo and the Two Broads should be back this year (along with a whole fresh cast, I'm sure) to make the whole experience entertaining. I can't wait.

We'll see if my muscles are singing that same song tomorrow at this time.
For today's delicous pun you'll have to go to the caption on this photo.
Back again at work, with the keyboard under my hands and a nice, full "In" basket. I feel needed here.

Monday, September 02, 2002

An infinite number of monkeys working with an infinite number of power tools with a finite supply of lumber and two months will eventually produce a deck.

And that's just what happened. It's 90% finished.

Next, we install the double-opening doors into the gaping hole in the dining room wall. After that, we party.
Our children have already begun to discipline us.

This morning, as Jenn sat outside on the deck enjoying a freshly reheated cup of coffee, McMonkey came outside and stood in front of her.

"Mom, do you know what time it is?" she asked sweetly.

Jenn replied, " No sweetie, what time is it?"

In her best drill sargeant voice she barked out, "It's 55. You FORGOT to clear your leftover time on the microwave!" and then stomped away. This is obviously a pet peeve of McMonk's. It's nice to know your not the only one with things like that.

Sunday, September 01, 2002