Awesomeness waits for no man

February 21, 2007

I had some thoughts to explore, but I’ve been too, um, preoccupied lately to find time to post. So to buy myself some more time, I present you more awesomeness:

1. I spent a good chunk of Sunday evening writing software to implement a cool idea I had, namely, to show all the words between any two given words in a thesaurus. I wanted to use the tool to help understand semantic relationships between concepts, such as “Grace” and “Serenity”. Well after about three hours of programming, I chanced upon the Lexical Freenet, which does everything I wanted to do, and more. So I don’t get to be the next “Roget”, but I did find a cool tool. BTW Grace ← order → tranquility → serenity.

2. I never believed in the idea that Graffiti was a kind of tranformational urban artform, but the folks at Graffiti Research Labs make a pretty good case with their Giant Laser Spray Paint

3. Finally, to continue my electronic music obsession, check out How to Get Musical in the Kitchen. Impress your guests with this simple recipe.

4. Theo Jansen and his wind-powered kinetic sculptures “Strandbeest”. His work is the height of engineering art. I have a strong urge to build one and set it loose on the upwind side of the Sahara.


I feel like an old man

February 18, 2007

This morning I finished seven games of Ultimate in HUC‘s third annual all-nighter tourney. We didn’t do so well, but I surprised myself by maintaining a reasonable standard of play. It turns out that most of the hot-shot young sprinters couldn’t keep running after 4am, so by the end I was playing just as well or better than some top-seed players. It’s nice to know all those all-nighters in undergrad paid off.

Also cool: walking home at 8am and feeling every muscle in my leg strain with effort. I can’t really describe the feeling, but the pain, the satisfaction of accomplished work, and the interesting little anatomy lesson made me feel pretty special.

Some Pics: (Not mine. My little digicam couldn’t hack it in the dim light)
ultimate allnighter 1
Ultimate Allnighter 3
Ultimate Allnighter 2


February 15, 2007

Yesterday Hamilton got dumped on by about 2 feet of snow. These kinds of opportunities don’t come very often, so I called in to book the day off. Then Grace, Rachel, Kevin & I went sledding! I haven’t had that much fun in months (even though my well-engineered cardboard & garbage-bag sleds didn’t last very long). Afterwards we made up big bowls of hot-chocolate (with chilli-powder) and Grace & I went out for a spectacular Valentine’s dinner. All-in-all a pretty life-affirming day. I’ll have to remember it when I go into work on Sunday to make up the time 🙂

Techno Music Technology

February 7, 2007

Where art meets engineering, cool things happen:

My Contribution to Science

February 6, 2007

While researching for the post below, I found the “paper” I wrote in 2001 calculating the forces on a Concrete Toboggan. What’s a concrete toboggan? Why it’s fun incarnate!

On Blogging

February 6, 2007

I started this site with the notion that it would contain everything that I was thinking about – A kind of clearing house for my highly-overstocked head. I wasn’t too worried about signing my real name since, with the breakup of my marriage, I no longer felt the need to justify my opinions to anyone. Indeed, to some extent I blamed my taciturn tendencies for the difficulties with Sarah, and saw this blog as an opportunity to get out of the habit. In that sense, the separation has been somewhat liberating. I haven’t been this ideologically independent since first year university (which, incidentally, was the last time I posted anything so personal on the internet – a sardonic little grocery list for the “perfect girl” which has thankfully expired from engsoc webspace)

I used to be a lot more cautious about this media. The web has a dangerous way of making your off-the-cuff remarks permanent (the aforementioned grocery list is available on for the dedicated). Any inconstancies in your historical opinions are easily cross-referenced and discredited. For example, Micheal Ignatieff arguably lost his chance to be PM because of the opinions he wrote favouring the invasion of Iraq. Prime Minister Harper meanwhile lost his party’s credibility in the environment portfolio thanks to a damning 2002 letter now posted on the liberal party’s website. One might argue that, as public figures, they were right to be held accountable to their published opinions. The difficulty arises when all opinions become published, regardless of their original intended audience. Take the example of the Delta airlines flight attendant who was fired for publishing a semi-fictional diary of her job as entertainment for friends. Though she took due care to protect anonymity by using pseudonyms for companies and people, A few photos of her in uniform were enough to convince Delta that she was harming their corporate image. To give a less malicious, personal example, I removed a section of a comment I made criticizing my boss because, while a legitimate “Thought Dropping”, our relationship might be harmed were he ever to discover it. Likewise, it wouldn’t be appropriate to post intimate details about my recent dating experience without permission from the lady in question. Though I would love to explore some of the revelations I’ve had.

On the other hand, I hold out some naive idealism that we ought to be able to freely share our ideas without fear of judgement or reprisal. My friend Sunir puts it eloquently: “It is the definition of oppressive to live in a world where you cannot fully express your own identity out of fear“. One may argue that complaints about one’s day at work don’t warrant the same protection as artistic creations or academic ideas, but where do you draw the line? I’m not trying to argue for any one extreme – I would honestly like to know where the line might be.

I’m tired, so I’m concluding without much resolution. It’s absolutely fantastic that the internet has given schmucks like me a chance to be published. But the freedom to publish also confers the freedom to be judged, and that’s a pretty big barrier. I wonder if society will change the way it reacts to published thoughts thoughts now that we’re all “public figures”.

Tuesday addendum: I can’t believe I forgot to cite ex-conservative MP Garth Turner, who was kicked out his party because the PMO didn’t like the political opinions he posted to his blog. I don’t think he regrets the outcome though, since today he was offered a plum spot on the Liberal side. It’s a good example of how the blogs are changing power structures by eliminating the ability to control information. I wish all politicians felt free to communicate so openly with their constituents. Unfortunately that won’t happen until attitudes change – We still prefer our politicians (and corporations) to have packaged opinions. From the last link: “[MP Turner] keeps jumping around,” said Karen Sinden, of Milton. “I have no idea what he stands for”. So much for Blog-Power.

I hope they can see this, because I’m doing it as hard as I can

January 31, 2007

mooninites-attack.jpg Re the shockingly hilarious Homeland Security overreaction today, which had Boston police shut down parts of the city because of the threat of…wait for it… light-up cartoon ads (that had been up for weeks). I think yhbc on Metafilter said it best:

If we’re really lucky, this will become one of those cultural watershed moments – yeah, yeah, 9-11 Changed Everything, but maybe, just maybe, the Day the Boston Police Blew up Fucking Mooninites can start changing everything back.


Unfortunately, after an evening of news coverage, I’m inclined to think this incident won’t change anyone’s mind. All the news sites keep using the word “hoax”, despite the fact that no one intended for the signs to be mistaken as bombs. And now I read that a man has been arrested! Instead of admitting their mistake, the politicos are using every press and police tactic they have to frame the advertisers as reckless hoodlums, and themselves as sympathetic heroes, when it’s plainly obvious who’s gaining advantage from the climate of fear. It’s like watching the Wizard of Oz feverishly operate the monster head after his curtain has been pulled back. Be afraid! Trust our power! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

On Dating

January 29, 2007

Last week I had this big debate with Jeff about internet dating. Years of stories and movies have taught me that I should meet my “True Love” accidentally, fatefully. Running a parametrized search for someone compatible with my chosen criteria seems a little robotic. I complained to Jeff that people who turn to these services were frustrated geeks with little appreciation for romance who spend all their time on the internet. When he stopped laughing, I realized I had just described myself. Sigh. Moreover the stereotype hasn’t been true for years. These days, everyone is on the internet, and even non-geeks appreciate the downright practical advantages of online dating.

So I gave in and put up a profile on Lavalife. My first week on the market has been a rollercoaster ride. For someone who values control over his emotions, I’ve been all over the place:

Last Thursday: Signed up for Lavalife. Holy hell this is nerve-wracking. I get worked up about a blog post, so imagine the state I was in trying to write a paragraph to describe/sell myself to potential dates. I finish in the wee-hours without enough energy to actually search for anyone.

Last Friday: Ran a search of women about my age in Hamilton. Hey, there’s a couple of cool looking people here! I’ll send them a quick email. Wait, how do I articulate what I want in a partner? How do I describe myself honestly without appearing too rigid? How do I approach subjects like being separated? Cripes I suck. it’s taking me hours to write a few paragraphs again.

Last Saturday: Nothing. OK, this dating thing is doing nothing for my ego. Bleh.

Last Sunday: Hey, check out all the smiles! I got replies to my letters too! OMG there’s a message on the telephone from that post-doc I met (outside lavalife) – she wants to go out sometime! People love me! They really love me!

Thursday: First date with post-doc. Lots in common, and lots to exlore. We had sushi, walked the dog in -30 weather, and planned a second date. It’s too early to tell how far it will go, but I did have a great time. My ego has also reached it’s highest level in months. So much for emotional control.

Saturday: Went to visit Sunir in Toronto. He decided he needed to go to a fancy club so he could live vicariously through me. Why do I keep forgetting how much I hate this scene: Pay cover to join a crowd of narcissists, in a room so dark and full of noise it seems designed to prevent you from getting to know anyone. What was I thinking glorifying this?

So yeah – dating again. It’s early days yet, but so far I’ve been pretty successful. I haven’t done this in many (many) years, so I’m actively working to stay light-hearted about the process in order to fight off the anxiety. The next date is tomorrow. She agreed to go to meditation class with me, despite my warnings that there would be a high risk of flakiness. Eager. I like that.

More Awesomeness

January 22, 2007

I was going to post something thoughtful tonight, but I went running after work, and now I can’t keep my eyes open. So instead, here’s a few links that made me smile this weekend:

Mr Fortune by Eric Lerner, at the AniBOOM animation awards

Where The Hell Is Matt? Doesn’t matter where. He’s dancing and it makes me happy.

Max Headroom and the last great pirate broadcast from

Tupper’s Self-Referential Formula which, as Peter and I debated in all seriousness, may be alive

a run of five fantastic xkcd comics.

These first hand accounts of visits to North Korea (translation here) freaked the crap out of me. But I was able to laugh some of it off with the help of the hilarious Chinese send-up “North Korea’s 007”.

**OMG, Tuesday night emergency addition**: Ridiculously Dangerous/Awesome Human Slingshot.

Repairing a Busted iBook Power Connector

January 21, 2007

Busted iBook Power Connector My iBook power cord is broken! This has happened to every one of my power adaptors (three times in three years, always just out of the warranty period.) Lets just say Apple’s design standards are not always what they get credit for. Take this piece of crap for example.

1) The Body of the plug sticks out over an inch from the computer, giving the cord plenty of leverage.

2) The flimsy little plastic spring is all that’s holding the cord to the plug. Because they made the cord come straight out of the plug (instead of out the side like most other designs), the spring is constantly being bent back and forth. From my experience, it takes about a year for the spring to fatigue and fail, just in time for the warranty to expire.

3) The cord is a coaxial design. So the electricity is partly carried by lots of tiny little wires just under the outer insulation. Without the support of the insulation, these wires break one by one until there isn’t enough connections to carry the current safely, and it starts to spark. Sparks flying from the side of your computer is guaranteed to scare the crap out of anyone.

4) Instead of using an industry-standard power connection, Apple decided to use their own crappy interface. Replacements cost $100, and don’t get me started on the availability of aircraft & car adaptors.

Note that Apple has resolved many (but not all) of these issues with their new “Mag Safe” power cord. But they refuse to acknowledge the mistake they made and won’t replace my broken cords.

Busted iBook Power Connector Being someone who refuses to submit to bad design, and also a cheapskate, I’ve come up with a way to repair these shoddy sockets for a lot less than $100 that looks much better than a ball of electrical tape (my first attempt). I’ve posted the instructions to Flickr. All the typical disclaimers apply – I’m not responsible if you break the connector (any more than it was) or hurt yourself.