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July 31, 2002

Literature 101

If you're an American (or just mildly interested in world events), read this. Really, I mean it.

July 29, 2002

Web design

This is why good web design is important. There are no longer many good reasons to saddle a site with hard-coded font sizes and table widths, much less use graphics as text buttons. Check your site at least at a few different windows sizes, resolutions, and with several browsers. Need inspiration? Look at this list of minimalist websites (though I personally would prefer HTML over Flash for a long list of reasons that I'll post someday in my soapbox section).

July 28, 2002

I'm a professional lighting tech

It's 0930 and I have been up for 28 hours. I just got back from going my first paid lighting gig, and when I finish typing this, I think I will fall asleep for a very, very long time.

The gig was The Fables at the Glovertown Folk Festival. Eastern audio had their mobile stage out for the festival, and added six Mac500s, I think because the headliners requested intelligent lighting. There are only a few lighting techs around who are familiar with operating moving heads, and especially the Leprecon LP3000. Tommy was busy but he recommended me since I've been with him on a few of his shows, and spent some time with him bashing my head against the LP3000. It was a fun day to finally have the opportunity to program a show from scratch on my own. The downside was the strike at 1 AM that lasted until the mobile stage rolled out at 4:00 and the 5-ton truck was loaded at 4:30. Not to mention the joy of having a Soundcraft 8000 roadcase rolled over my hand on the loading ramp. My own stupid fault.

It was a long, LONG day, but at the end I had postive comments all round. I feel like I did an OK job considering my inexperience. I took a few pictures for posterity which I will post as I have the opportunity.

Apartment-hunting blues, Part II

There is no sequel to the apartment-hunting blues, because Kerry has got a really nice bachelor apartment downtown. A little pricey, but it's a new building, the location is great, and it has a dishwasher!

July 23, 2002

Blogging Blues

It's easy to let the blogging slide when you've got a lot of things going on. It would be a little more fun keeping up with it if I had a digital camera, or at least some more cool graphs from my research to post. Oh well.

MLP

Apartment-hunting Blues

Kerry had a disappointing setback with her moving plans yesterday. She had a great apartment lined up and in the bag (so we thought) but because of various problems associated with apartment hunting long distance, the apartment was rented to somebody else before she could let the landlord know about her decision. Now we're back to square one, so if you know of any apartment leads in Halifax, let me know. We would love to know about any affordable 1-bedroom or bachelor apartments near Dal. We would appreciate being hooked up with anybody in the metro area who could offer advice or recommendations. Kerry is a clean, quiet, non-smoking, non-drinking, graduate student with no pets - an ideal tenant. She only needs basic appliances (fridge, stove, laundry), but no furnishings, parking or extras like cable are required. If emailing me isn't quick enough for you, call my cell at (709)682-7414 anytime and leave a message.

July 19, 2002

Civil Liberties

The FAQ about John Gilmore's lawsuit challenging ID requirements for air travel raises quite a few interesting points about freedoms in the US and in general. I have to say that I strongly agree with him.

July 18, 2002

Digital Rights Management

I have a hard time explaining what DRM is and why it can potentially be a bad thing for me as a citizen and the public as a whole. I don't mind giving authors some legal authority over how their ideas and creations are distributed, in return for giving them an incentive to create new artistic artifact. What I object to is large corporations and monopolistic industry organizations lobbying to enlarge their private profits at the expense of my freedom to do what I choose with books, music and videos that I purchase or create myself.

I'm going to write a little bit on DRM and also copyright law for my (long-neglected) soapbox section soon, to air my opinions. In the meantime, my irritation about this subject was renewed by some articles I read on the web, and I want to give those articles front page coverage here:

Movie madness

Crocodile Hunter was an enjoyable break on Tuesday, and last night was a good game of Risk 2210. This morning I ran some very long calculations in MATLAB, and while that was running I added IMdB links to all the movies on my movies page. It was surprisingly easy with a fast network connection and a good text editor. I also found out that there are sequels planned to X-Men, Shrek, Indiana Jones, in addition to the sequels that I was already aware of: LoTR, Star wars, the Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions.

Last evening my dad had a mini-family reunion: all 5 of his brothers and sisters are visiting my grandfather on the occasion of his 80th birthday, and we all went out to dinner. I have almost finished another 40-exposure roll of film, so maybe I'll post some pictures again soon.

Tonight is going to be a full evening as well, so I've got to make the most of the school day. My mother is hosting an open house for the aforementioned 80th birthday party, which Kerry and I'll will drop in on in the late afternoon. Early this evening, Lynette Winsor is have some people over for a barbeque.

July 16, 2002

Crikey...

is a word I'll probably overuse for the next few days. I'm going to see Crocodile Hunter tonight with Kerry and a couple others.

A little music

I did bring a few CDs to school to put on my computer here so I'd have some tunes to work to. Somehow I now have 56 albums on this computer. I guess I could probably take that list and put it on my 'favorite music' webpage. Maybe later.

I just ripped 2 albums that I recorded myself, too. One was the demo I did in 2000 for RDP, a local Christian band, and the other was a live recording of a concert at my church. Just after YC 2000, Capstone was around town and we did a spur of the moment concert. Just for kicks, I recorded it, and it turned out surprisingly well. It's interesting listening to that stuff after a few years.

Nothing much new

Just trying to keep productive at school, and stay rested otherwise.

July 12, 2002

Congratulations, Christiane!

My sister just received the call this afternoon: she's been accepted into Med School, here at Memorial.

I'm really happy for her, and I know she was really hoping for this. Med school starts around 21 August, so I guess she's going to have to get packed to move back to St. John's real soon.

Blogchalking

Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, Canada, St.John's, Cowan Heights, Christopher, Male, 21-25!

July 11, 2002

Education can be humbling

A graph out speaker array model output

Well, at least I learned something today. The sad part is that I had to do it by discovering that I didn't understand something as well as I thought I did. The suspicion I alluded to earlier was right: the model I've been using to simulate loudspeaker arrays has had an error in it since the beginning. I'm so embarassed I'm not going to say what the error was, but it's fixed now. This graph proves that the results are right, or at least that they match previously published results. Double yay!

This still doesn't mean it's correct

symmetrical 3d graph

Yay! As you can see, I found the cause of the asymmetry in my research results that I talked about yesterday. This doesn't mean that the graph shown here is actually the correct result, but at least it's symmetrical when it should be. It'll still take me some careful thought and maybe a few pencil sketches of some array geometries to convince myself that what I have now is actually correct.

Kerry Walker

picture of Kerry Walker

The real Kerry Walker is a smart, successful, and beautiful neuroscientist starting her M.Sc. this fall at Dalhousie Univeristy. She's also my girlfriend.

Some imposters:

  • KW, Internet Developer "...expert in all flavors of Microsoft, server development, systems analysis..." and a he. Bzzt.
  • KJW, Assistant Intern Supervisor at the University of Albany or something. Wrong again.
  • KW, Actress, though I don't recall ever noticing her in any of her movies. Seeing as she was acting before the real Kerry Walker was born, we'll strike her off the list.
  • KW, Value Engineering Officer- whatever that is - in the US Army, apparently. "Worked for over 25 years in the areas of research arctic engineering, facilities construction, and environmental engineering." Nope, that doesn't sound right.
  • KW, Assistant Restaurant Manager, scientologist, gender indeterminate. Wants to be an auditor for the Church of Scientology. About the only right thing is the age: 22.
  • KW, freshman, business major and midfielder for the Northern Illinois University soccer team. Well, at least she's a girl of about the right age, but the real Kerry is prettier. No offense intended to the other Kerrys.

July 10, 2002

Grrr

Ok, here's the problem. Does this look symmetrical to you?

A simple three dimensional graph

If so, try this reverse angle view of the same graph:

A reverse angle of the preceeding graph

This side view of the graph clearly shows that one side is curve up, the other is curve down. Now to find out why, and where I made my sign error...

Another angle showing the assymetry of the preceeding graph

Brain exercise is good for you

A complicated three dimensional graph This graph is proof that I'm working my research, but I'm not even going to try to explain it. It's enough to say that it should be symmetrical, but it isn't. I was really proud of myself for vectorizing my MATLAB code, but now I'm learning that I find it hard to debug vectorized code. Specifically, I find it very hard to visualize the physical signifance of intermediate variables. Especially when those intermediate variables are large matrices. Which way is up? Should it be symmetrical or antisymmetrical along that axis?

Perhaps my code isn't as well written as I'd like to think, or maybe I just don't understand my problem well enough. All I know is the afternoon has flown by and now my brain hurts.

blogChalking

Someday soon I'll have to go through the trouble of blogChalking my site. On second thought, perhaps I should hold off until after I finish my degree and get a job (which will likely be in Halifax).

July 09, 2002

I gotta start real backups...

Yeah, I'm a computer engineer and I should know better. I have two hard drives in my computer and I keep a duplicate copy of all my files on the older, smaller of the two drives. I've just not wanted to spend the money on a CD burner so I could make proper backups.

Well, last night while I was trying to update those duplicate files and remove some redundant or out of date files, I accidentally deleted the only current copy of my music folder (a gig or two of MP3s). It would have only taken a few hours to rip them all from the original CDs again, but it was still a stupid operator error.

Of course, being a minor cheapskate, I didn't want to fork out $30 or more for a shareware file recovery program, so I went hunting a found Drive Rescue, a freeware undelete package for win32. It's not that stable, but it saved my pride, and the hassle of re-encoding a couple gigs of music. Lesson learned and all that... I'm saving my pennies for that nice CDRW/DVD combo drive soon!

The reality of the music industry

Here is an insider's view of the music industry the shows just how much the music distribution companies are screwing the bands and artists, not just the music-listening public. If you read some online sites like slashdot you'll already be familiar with the anti-RIAA rhetoric, but this is a real good read with a concrete dollars and cents example.

July 06, 2002

Nuclear testing

I didn't realize that the US conducted above ground and underwater nuclear tests until 1962 and underground nuclear tests until 1992. In total there were over 1000 nuclear tests conducted by the US alone! After the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was passed by the UN in 1996, the US still continued with "subcritical nuclear tests involving hundreds of pounds of high explosives but not enough nuclear materials to start a full chain reaction.

July 04, 2002

Learn something new everyday...

Since I've started this weblog, and since my girlfriend makes fun of me for spending so much time on the net, I've been thinking of ways to make my time spent on line more clearly useful. I mean, I think it's useful, it's just not obvious to others that it is.

So, my proposed solution is a game: everyday think of some useful, but perhaps obscure thing that you don't know, and find the answer online.

Up until now, I haven't often done this intentionally. Usually I just follow my nose and read whatever I find that's interesting, starting for a few familiar starting points like slashdot or dmoz. I've also started reading a few other weblogs lately that I find clue me in to some interesting online tidbits.

This all fits in to my pet theory of the internet as the new form of encyclopedia. Not very accurate, I know, but maybe a useful metaphor for some. The post yesterday about surviving bear attacks is my first entry in the game. It occurred to me when Kerry and I saw the bear by the road on Saturday how often I say to myself "I'd like to know that - I should look it up online".

Today's entry: Everything you ever wanted to know about RAID. Jon A, are you listening? I actually already knew a fair bit of that from some of my undergrad computer engineering courses, but it was a good refresher. The author is really thorough, so readers that just want the conclusions can look at the summary table.

If you happen to have a weblog and want to partake in my little game, email me and I'll mention your site here. More likely than not I'll also follow your progress and then I'll be learning two things everyday.

For now, it's back to (school-)work...

July 03, 2002

Happy (belated) Canada Day

A while since my last update. The wedding was very nice. On the way back to St. John's we saw a bald Eagle, a black bear and a moose along the highway. If I had a digital camera I would probably be able to post some cool, blurry, through-the-car-window pics, but I don't so I can't.

All weekend there was a series of concerts for Canada Day. Tommy Dunphy did the lighting design and programming and I hung out with him and got to see most of the shows, which was fun. I also worked for a couple of hours yesterday on the Tragically Hip concert at Mile One Stadium. I could have stayed for the show, but I left and took Kerry to see Minority Report instead. I very much enjoyed the movie.

Surviving a bear attack?

After seeing the bear on the drive home on Saturday, I was thinking about meeting a bear in the wild. I have heard that a bear can run faster than a human, so if one was ever attacked it would be quite frightening. A quick google search yields a few sources that confirm that bears can reach top speeds of up to 50 km/h almost immediately, so running is never an option. A maker of bear repellant spray seemed to have the best information on avoiding bear attacks of the few google hits I looked at, but beware the bias towards using their product. Oh wait, I found a more concise article from the CBC

Sometimes climbing on top of a boulder may work. Not all grizzlies can climb trees, but black bears can, and any bear can reach 8 or 10 feet up a tree even from the ground, so trees are riskier. If attacked by a grizzly, some sources recommend curling up in the fetal position with your hands behind your neck and playing dead, just before the bear reaches you. The idea is to make the bear not think of you as a threat.

Most sources focus on avoiding surprise encounters by following bear reports, avoiding narrow woods trails with sharp turns and steep inclines, speaking or singing softly to alert bears of your approach and paying attention near rivers or other noisy places where you could accidently surprise a bear. If you do encounter a bear don't appear threatening to them, and don't act like prey and panic or run away. A bear may sometimes bluff charge. As a last resort use anything at your disposal to intimidate the bear or scare it off (flashlights, camera flashes, metallic noises, air horns) or fight it off (aim for the head, eyes or nostrils).