Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Am Walter's Father: The Illusion of Growth

At 10:00 on October 30, 2007, Walter weighed 45 lb / 20.4 kg.

Although it feels like his growth is slowing, Walter is still putting on at least 5 oz a day. He peaked in September, at 5.5 oz/day; now he's down to 5.1 oz/day.

I think the reason we feel like his growth is slowing is perceptual: he's putting on a pound every three days, but it's harder to see on a bigger dog.

___

Note: I was going to call this post "Walter takes his foot off the gas" as an allusion to our illusory perception of deceleration. Unfortunately, this is not an appropriate metaphor.

Future: Control, Chaos and a Faster Internet

John Doyle, a CalTech researcher, has been studying and developing theories to describe the way complex systems maintain stability and control. For Doyle, the interesting questions are the deep questions: what are the common controls that all complex systems have? He cares about the nature of the system because he cares about real world impacts, but it is the deeper identity that drives him.

Real world, you ask? Right now he's investigating bacterial metabolism, but Doyle and his team have developed technologies that shatter current Internet speed records without requiring new infrastructure. Impressive.

I read about this on Digg. For a general introduction to the man, the theory and some applications, see this Discover article; for more detail, visit the CalTech press release page.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Life: It's Midnight, Devil's Night

...and I'm officially 37. The actual time of birth was 03:40h or so, but for our purposes, midnight will do.

 

Woooooooooooohoooo!

 

*ahem*

 

Now, to bed.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Review: So I Like Comics, Okay?

Several years ago, I started reading daily comics online. I became frustrated with the services offered by comics.com and ucomics.com and others pretty quickly; I don't want to sort through emails to find my comics, and I don't want to be online flicking through page after page after page.

The first solution I built was an excel sheet that generated an HTML document - a web page generator. Each line on the spreadsheet created a link to a different comic. As long as I opened the page while online, I could read the comics at my leisure.

After a few months, I discovered that my desire for offline reading had grown, and that there were some comics I was saving frequently. As a result, the Excel sheet was not a satisfying solution.

The next version - which I still use - is an Access database. I could have written something from scratch  using Visual Basic or .NET, but the database solution seemed simplest. Since February 24, 2005, I have used it to download around 150000 comics. I have a big stack of editorials (a great way to zero in on the important news without being overwhelmed with hopelessness and jaded by sensationalistic reporting), and a few that I save to read again (as the mood strikes me). The long and the short of it? I like comics, okay?

___

My list of favourites:

From Ucomics.com

Ballard Street Strangeness. One of my all time favourites.
Big Top A Boy, His Clown, and the Talking Animals Of The Circus. (rerun)
Calvin and Hobbes Brilliant. They are running the series from start to finish, one a day. (rerun)
Doonsbury Political satire, with a Liberal Democratic perspective.
For Better For Worse On par with Peanuts in it's heyday.
Foxtrot Now a Sunday strip only.
Natural Selection Really Strangeness.
Non Sequitur Quasi-political observational strangeness.
Red Meat Awful strangeness. I mean it. Not for everyone. Sick. Really.

From Comics.com

9 Chickweed Lane Weird wordplay, romance, odd characters. Very imaginative.
Big Nate The stories of a boy with many flaws.
Cow and Boy Sort of Calvin and Hobbes-ish, but the Cow is real, and she talks.
Dilbert Best. Workplace. Comic. Ever.
F Minus Strange observational oddities.
Frazz Brilliant story of a janitor at an elementary school. Sort of 'Calvin when he grows up'.
Get Fuzzy Dogs, cats, weasels and humans can talk. But they're still dogs, cats, weasels and humans.
Pearls Before Swine Animals that talk. Predators live beside Prey. Few humans. Horrible puns.
Tiny Sepuku Weekly dose of twisted advice.

From Slagoon.com

Sherman's Lagoon Sherman is a shark - a big, dumb eating machine. Thankfully, he's allergic to crabs and turtles, so a few other characters survive.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tech: Using a new tool to blog

I've only been blogging for a little while; already I find the idiosyncrasies of the Blogger / Blogspot interface frustrating.

imageEnter Windows Live Writer, one of the new onlineish  applications from Microsoft. It's pretty slick. It gives me a WYSIWYG editing pane for my blog, and simplifies the placement of pictures, text and tags. In fact, I added the picture in this post by hitting ALT-PrintScreen (to get the active window only), and CTRL-V (to paste it into the blog).

Easy!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Work: Teaching about Blogs

This is a blog about blogging.

I am the Chief Architect of the IIBA.

That was a link.

---

Okay, that inscrutable post was used to demonstrate the creation of a post with a link to the fine ladies and gentlemen at this learning day.

See, that made all kinds of sense. Right?

Work: Whither blogging? (from my table)

Gilles is talking about innovation - I need to tell him about Phil McKinney and the Killer Innovations podcast.

You think the title is misleading? Not at all. One value of a personal blog is that it forms what I call public memory. Many of my peers already think of the internet as "external memory"; when I can't recall that actor's name, I check google.

Work: Thinking at the Liberty Grand

The Liberty Grand is a beautiful place to have breakfast. I'm here for a work event on Web 2.0 - I'm going to help people I work with understand the power of blogging.



Monday, October 22, 2007

I Am Walter's Father: The Continued Growth

Walter is, as you know, too damn good looking for his own good. Even in dog years he's only three! Much too young to be posing for billboard glam-shots.

(Hey baby, you lookin' goooood!)

I shouldn't worry. Most of the time he has this expression. Look at that face!

(Play! Play! Want play!)

Hannah, on the other hand, is occasionally jealous of her little brother. There are occasions where I fear for my life - the glowing green death-ray eyes might get me!

(Soon I Will Be Invincible!)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Unbecredible: Canadian Mint Sues City of Toronto

I actually needed a new header for this one. 'Life' didn't seem to cover it.

Stunning. I am amazed that the federal government - through the Mint - is demanding royalties for the use of the "copyrighted" image of a Canadian penny and the phrase "one cent."

Really.

UNBELIEVABLE.

What, now that our dollar is worth as much or more than the US dollar, we've turned into lawsuit-happy Americans?

Politics: Track those pesky politicians

PoliticalBase.com is a new site run by the former CEO of CNET. It is a wiki-based site, allowing you to add information to the encyclopedia of information about the people who want to rule the world. There are interactive maps showing the money donated to politicians going back to the '80s. It's US only - for now.

Fascinating.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Technology: Today is a Work Interuption

...courtesy, your friendly neighbourhood Windows / Intel / IBM / Office PC.

*sigh*

The trouble with technology, of course, is that it is so powerful. Without it, there are so many things I can't do, I feel emasculated.


Ok, that's too strong a word, and ignores about half of humanity, but you get the picture.

For a brilliant rant - the most recent on technology - check out http://logicallycritical.com. Very, very funny. Very, very astute.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Life: One Ring to Rule Them All

No, not LoTR. I'm a fan, don't get me wrong. I think Tolkein is perhaps the single most powerful creative writer in a century. I don't think he was very good at telling stories, mind you, but a potent creative force. I think the movies were much better than the books from that perspective.

But I digress.

On the weekend - thanksgiving up here, to you Upper Mexicans - my mom told several stories of the past; family history stuff. It was interesting, not least because almost all the stories had a new audience.

Then mom showed us a little ring, that she thought would fit on my pinkie. It is platinum, with three little white diamonds. It was my grandmother's engagement ring, which she accepted in 1931 and didn't take off for 60 years.

I'm wearing it now, and every time my pinkie hits a key (an 'a', usually) I feel it, and think of my mother, and grandmother, and grampa (as we called him) and I smile.

Thanks, mom. I know you were going to wait for my birthday to give me this ring, and that it was hard for you to do. It means a lot to me.

Oh, and for those who care, a gratuitous picture of the pups.

Life: Having a Turkey Baby

This year, Kath and I hosted Thanksgiving - that is, her sister and my parents joined us for very yummy ham and turkey.* It was an adventurous meal - the turkey must have been in my grade ten chemistry class when Mr. Lafleur told us that cooking is a physical state change, not a chemical.**

Thermodynamics aside, the turkey didn't finish cooking when it was supposed to. Dinner was a casual affair - no big ceremony of carving or such - so it wasn't a big deal. I opened another bottle of wine, cut the drumsticks, wings and thighs off to cook in a separate pot, and we put it back in the oven.

I don't know that turkey's name, but she was very tasty.

___

*We will host American Thanksgiving too. There are advantages to a mixed relationship.
**Note for the non-geeks: Physical reactions are reversible in a trivial way; chemical reactions are not. The physical change of state from ice to liquid water is just a matter of temperature; wood won't unburn when it cools down - and turkey won't get raw in the fridge.