Where Did The Time Go
This is the last day of May (Thanks Brian). Five months have already slid by this year. Where did the time go? (Well besides by the sink hole that is my crack like TV series addiction...)
This is the last day of May (Thanks Brian). Five months have already slid by this year. Where did the time go? (Well besides by the sink hole that is my crack like TV series addiction...)
I'm very fortunate that I have the luxury of free time. There are many points during the week were I really don't have to be doing anything. I could sit as a lump in the middle of the room and nothing that bad would come of it. You could maybe argue something about long term health effects but you could also counter that sitting like a lump might be akin to meditation which could be good for you. The point is I'm not putting off something else to just sit like a lump. There are many shades of grey about what one really has to do, but that is getting to philosophical for me.
The point being is I have free time. One could maybe even argue free will but that gets back into philosophy. The end result is that it all comes down to choices. What has got me thinking is what am I doing with that free time? As of late it has been primarily falling into two buckets: leisure and learning. I've already mentioned my crack like addiction to TV series on DVD multiple times which has been the primary leisure outlet. The learning outlet has been that I've finally started reading again since being underemployed.
But to return to yesterday's post, I'm having trouble being happy with this relaxed state of affairs. Maybe it's my constant drive to do more with my life (as I waste a few minutes searching for an old post that I would swear touched on this theme of greatness). Alas, an unfinished thought and time for bed...
Today I listened to a webcast of a program that was held at MIT awhile ago called The Ceaseless Society. The primary speaker was Jon Kabat Zinn who spoke on a wide range of topics around the state of society today. Some of the points that stuck in my mind included:
He has a book out called Coming to Our Senses which explores these and many more topics in detail. I'm going to add it to my to read list as I found his way of approaching the topic spot on.
Most of Gilman Manor along with some of our family went for hike up Mount Monadnock today. Since I had recently been up I didn't take as many pictures. We took a much more varied set of trails this time which I enjoyed a lot more. The 300 feet of gain over just under 0.2 miles on the Spellman Trail is a blast. The Red Spot Trail also made for a good descent even if longer than the white trails.
It was almost a great trip except I somehow managed to get some nasty sunburn on the back of my neck. I'm really pissed off about this since I know I put sunblock on, both at the base of the mountain and right after lunch, before the descent. Granted I didn't have a hat on, but no other part of me got sun as bad, and I don't remember a burn like this from biking where the back of neck is just as exposed. I can only think that I must have gotten some sun on the way up in the car, but even that wouldn't completely account for the extent of the burn. It's one thing when I know I'm being stupid and not using any protection and I get a burn. But when I'm taking reasonable precautions and it still happens that just pisses me off. Fair warning, I'll probably be bitchy the next few days until this burn passes.
Today I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. It's a quick read, but very good. One aspect of the book that I found most interesting was the random inclusion of various math and physics concepts. Having read about most of the random tidbits mentioned in the book it was neat to see how they were woven into the book. As a work of fiction I can't say that I got that much out of the book besides a few hours of enjoyment. I didn't feel that attached to any of the characters and didn't feel that they evolved that much throughout the book. The most engaging aspect of the book is its writing style and a unique protagonist.
I so thought yesterday was Friday. That was part of the reason that I just vegged out in front of the TV watching way too much 4400. Alas it wasn't Friday, because well today was. My time sense this entire week was just off. I think I was looking forward to this long weekend too much and just wishing it would get here quicker. I don't have anything major planned for this weekend, but given how busy I was all last week and weekend I don't mind the rest. If only I could find some happy medium of doldrums and crazy super busy.
I can't get enough of 4400. It's like a drug. Well maybe it's like any TV show I've gotten on DVD. I want some more.
The MBTA is planning to do another fare increase. Some people are unhappy about it. If you are one of those people, you will be interested in the upcoming T Boycott.
Growing up in Maine with a mother that liked to garden and try new dishes I got to experience a wide variety of foods. Not all of these culinary experiences ended well. I developed a reflexive hate of eggplant and still don't care for raw tomatoes. I don't think these had anything to with my mother's cooking but more likely my own personal quirks :) In any case I've had scrumptious brussle sprouts, eatable lima beans, and many other vegetables that when done wrong more than earn their stereotype of nobody liking them.
One of the very seasonal items I remember growing up were fiddleheads. They are young coiled fern leaves (about an inch in diameter) of the ostrich fern. The season for them is usually just April and May. Luckily while in one of the local grocery stores over the past couple of weeks, they had a bin of them for sale. I snatched up a bunch and finally got around to cooking them tonight. I did a stir-fry with oil, garlic, chili sauce, and oyster sauce. Very yummy.
For other recipes and facts about fiddleheads swing by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension's page about them.
Lately I've been playing with what can be done with my DVR and my Mac. It turns out the firewire port on the back of my Motorola DCT6412 III can be easily used to pipe video to the Mac. There is a great step-by-step manual at macteens. The only problem is that I can't seem to find a way to capture a program that I've already recorded. I start the playback and see the traffic on the Mac but nothing gets recorded. I suspect that some special flag is being set that prevents recording the program. Which is a bummer since I wanted to extract a news segment that a friend asked me to record. If you have any ideas, let me know.
I picked up vast quantities of meat from Blood Farm for a BBQ we had at Gilman Manor today. It was all very good. For other New England Smokehouses, check out Yankee's List.
I sent most of today out on a scavenger hunt. The hunt started in Harvard Square and ended up down in Quincy Market, with stops around Park Street. It was a combination of finding particular items (like green yarn), taking photos of various things (like different ice cream shops), and also having some group photos taken (like on the ducks at the Boston Common). The team that I was on placed second! Not bad for a heat of ten teams. The worst part was about two-thirds of the way through the battery in my camera died. This was right when I was trying to take a picture of a cop who had hand-cuffed my two teammates together. It wasn't until five minutes afterwards that we realized my other teammate had a camera phone we could have used.
While I've ranted about my phone in the past the fact that it couldn't even keep a charge for less than a hundred pictures is just sucky. The fact that I was also recently playing with a digital SLR kind of made me think more seriously about a new camera. I don't think I'd really be able to use all of the features of a high end SLR, but the flexibility you get with a camera like that is just awesome. Although considering I probably ran about three miles today, I don't know if I would really have wanted the bulk of an SLR camera. I'll also not recommend running that kind of distance in sandals. I think I got about three blisters on each foot.
I went to see The Da Vinci Code tonight. Good movie. They did a good job of translating the book to the screen. Since I had read the book almost two years ago I couldn't really tell if they left that much out. There were some details that had been changed, but overall everything important got translated to the screen. The pacing of the movie didn't feel right though. It all felt a bit off. One of the best parts though was seeing all of the protests outside on the street across from the movie theatre. Nuns, priests, and others all holding up signs and singing.
Just explore: http://tokyoplastic.com/
I met up with some friends at Phoenix Landing to wish yet another friend off to LA. What is it with Boston people heading to LA?! Anyway got to hear some great tunes spun by Circuit Breaker. I was also reminded why I don't usually hit the clubs as I get a wicked case of tinnitus.
Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich is a quick read. It's also a fluffy read. The book leaves many questions unanswered including some surrounding the main character, such as if and when he ever told his family what he did, which could have been answered. It also ends on too clean of a climax, with the purple poker chip on the table, making me think that certain aspects of the book were over embellished. The mystery of who sold the team out is only touched on and never explores the opinions of the characters. Having also read "John Magic and the Card Shark Kids" by David Kushner both books follow a similar vein. New team blackjack system that works for awhile in Vegas, he casinos catch on and they end up exploring other casinos which leads to trouble and the operation basically goes belly up. Neither book I felt did a good job of really exploring the subject, instead both were light treatments of the characters involved. Both are good plane reading material but nothing that great.
I got a nice message today saying "Not all who embark on the Quest can succeed and you have NOT qualified as one of the 10,000 finalists." No prize for me in the Da Vinci Code Quest. I thought I might have had a chance since I completed the final quest in about five minutes, but alas nothing for me. The one bad thing is that the consolation prize is a PC game which I can't use anyway.
How optimistic my words from last night seem now. The rain did come back, with a vengeance I might add. I woke up this morning to a basement that had about three times as much water as there was yesterday. Since the sump pump we picked up yesterday wasn't doing the trick (we later learned it really needs to be in four inches of water to prevent overheating) we got a wet/dry vac. It helped but given that you can only suck so much water out before needing to drain it after a half dozen trips out to the street we started looking for better options. I tried to rig up something to the drain on the wet/dry vac drum, but we quickly realized it needed a sealed container to get the suction going. In retrospect it makes sense but I can't say I've been thinking clearly the entire time.
After the three of us contemplated various ideas, I suggested using a hole we already had in the ground. We have this hole in the basement that used to be the foundation for an old school style ceramic furnace. It had since been filled in by the time we bought the house. I took a shovel and started digging. There was enough room to create a flat surface a few inches below the rest of the basement floor. I threw in a flat slab on concrete that had come lose from another part of the floor. This was deep enough for the sump pump to operate. Once on we shoveled the remaining water towards the hole and quickly got the water out. Some hand cleanup using the wet/dry vac got things mostly back to normal. Been a "fun" weekend.
Today the rain reached critical mass. It rained long enough and hard enough that the basement of Gilman Manor started to seep water. It was kind of cool to watch the little air bubbles pop as they came through the water that had already seeped through. All in all it wasn't that bad of a situation versus a friend who has been completely flooded out of his apartment. All we had to do was mop up the water and the problem has mostly not returned. We'll have to see what happens if the rain get really bad again.
The rain was kind enough to stop long enough for Gilman Manor to get another Friday night grill session in. This made us all happy since the rain that has been coming down all week is getting very old. A little grilling made it seem like it wasn't all bad. Yummy fresh swordfish steaks.
The number of shows I watch on TV is about to be cut in half. This year marks the series finale for both the West Wing and That 70's Show. Hard to believe that I've been watching them for eight years. It's one of those moments when I could "do the right thing". Instead of finding a new show to take up some of that time, I could put it to good use. Netflix is convinced that I'll like The Sopranos and I think it also recently recommended The L Word (maybe since that show was mentioned on this week's episode of House). Given the ratings that House has been getting I'm sure that will be around for a couple more seasons and 24 is already setup for a few more days. Like M*A*S*H, while I'm sad that these shows are ending, I'd rather see these shows go out on a relatively high note instead of continuing the decline after jumping the shark (since they both have).
I've recently been having issues sending mail to various domains from NeoPhi since it is currently on an RCN static IP. It seems various email blacklist sites have started adding cable modem IPs. RCN technical support was no help in trying to resolve the issues. In the end I decided to use RCN's mail server as my outgoing relay in the hopes that at least that RCN machine isn't blacklisted.
For anyone following Flex, beta 3 is now available.
From my experience, Flex Builder is much improved but there are still many quirks with it. There were quite a few Actionscript 3 language changes, but the documentation on them is good. My biggest complaint so far is that many MXML files in a Flex library project are not being handled properly by the MXML Editor which results in a complete lack of code assist. The same MXML file in a Flex Application works fine. I've not completely figured out why some of the files are so broken, especially when they seem to work fine on another user's system.
I've been playing around with OpenID a bit tonight. It started off as a rant about a lack of standards from LiveJournal for a way to access protected or friends-only posts as someone who doesn't actually want a LiveJournal account. It was at that point that I stumbled upon some new features that LJ is adding for OpenID only accounts. Once logged in with an OpenID account you can read protected friend posts and the like. I'll have to see what can be done with the RSS reader that I use.
Today the backyard of Gilman Manor was attacked by three motivated people. We managed to till the plot of land that has previously been used for a garden and replanted it as our own garden. Hopefully in a couple of months we'll have some corn, green beens, tomatoes, and other yummy stuff. A large portion of the backyard was also raked to make room for what hopefully will be a new lawn. I'm trying the old school lawn by seeding method. I'm not that hopeful given how rocky our backyard is and I don't know if I got the soil turned deep enough to really have the new grass take. In any case it was a great way to spend an afternoon in the sun. We also got the windows fixed on the front porch which meant bye-bye to the plastic wrap. This all makes me very happy.
While playing with the new tags feature I started with adding it to the main page of my site. The problem is that my older posts don't have any tags associated with them. The naive approach would just attach an empty "Tags: " line to each of those old posts. But even for my unskilled UI hacking skills that would be lame. There doesn't seem to be any kind of way to get the count of the number of tags associated with an entry in the Tags.app API. Doing some digging I did run across the MTIfNonEmpty template tag. I figured I could use that along with the MTTagsList widget to determine if a post had any tags.
Alas, it didn't work. Looking at the generated HTML there was a lot of excess whitespace. Thankfully I stumbled onto the trim filter. The documentation seems to indicate that the trim filter applied to the MTIfNonEmpty template tag would solve my problem.
Alas, it didn't work. After adding some debugging output to the MTIfNonEmpty template tag and the trim filter it looks to evaluate the value returned by the tag before applying the filters to the value. As a result the whitespace isn't getting trimmed correctly. Instead of trying to figure out why the call order looks to be out of order, I decided to take the easier approach and modify the definition of the MTIfNonEmpty test. The diff is below:
In short the template tag now considers any value that is only whitespace as being empty. I think given the nature of HTML (or XHTML) and optional whitespace, that this is a reasonable interpretation. Now to add the tags to other pages on the site, tag some of my older posts, and then see what my tag cloud starts to look like.
It looks like the FireFox 220.127.116.11 upgrade has broken submitting comments on Movable Type 3.2? I've opened a trouble ticket with Six Apart and I'll see what that gets me. In the meantime IE, Lynx, and pretty much anything else can submit comments fine.
I'm trying out a tagging plug-in for MT. I've not decided how good it is, but I figured I'd give it a try. It's called Tags.App. They have a nominal donation request, which is why I'm interested in trying it before spending any money. My first issue, like I've complained about in the past, is that the documentation for the product is pretty bad. I'm not an MT hacker by any means and the minimal documentation left me out in the cold. I'll have to see if I can figure out enough to make it work.
Tonight I attended the BFPUG Patterns Meeting. It was a small group of about a dozen people. The topic was the Factory pattern. An overview of the pattern and a few conceptual examples were given. Another participant and I then each gave an example of the pattern in code we are currently working on. When I got home I realized that my old roommate actually owned the copy of the Design Patterns book that I've referenced in the past. I wanted to reread the differences between the Abstract Factory Pattern and the Factory Method Pattern. Time to pick that up. Next month's pattern is tentatively the Decorator Pattern.
It seems RCN has lost my static IP. As a result NeoPhi is off the net, so you can't read this. You can try if you happen to know the IP that it is currently listening to, but that seems to keep changing so that won't do either of us much good. Hopefully the problem will be fixed in the near future, but I don't have my hopes set very high, the people I talked to on the phone weren't really sure what was going on.
Tonight the MoS held an event called Face-to-Face Digital: Fusing the Physical World with the Digital World. The event centered around the nTag Wave produced by nTag. It is an intelligent badge that lets you optionally track other event attendees that you talked with and additionally exchange contact information. This is the second time that nTag has sponsored such a program at the MoS, the first being three years ago at the 2003 S-Games.
Based on pictures that I saw from the previous event the physical design of the system has changed dramatically from a puck based block to a more candy bar phone like format. The PDF linked to above has an example shot of the device. You track who you have talked with by holding the two devices up next to each other at which point you get a visual indication that they are exchanging information. Optionally during this process you can also hold down a button on the base of the unit which will initiate an exchange of contact information. This process requires both parties to be holding down the button. I found that to be a nice aspect. Requiring active participation from both users prevents accidental contact sharing.
During a presentation at the end the devices were also able to be used in an active poll of the audience with the results being reflected on the projection in real time. Additionally the device had a pre-canned survey and the ability to select other about me information like your favorite cuisine, city, sports team etc. If you synced up with another attendee and had a shared interest the devices would reflect that information on the screen.
Overall I was mostly disappointed with the device. The first device I got had a faulty screen which prevented using the included pick (aka stylist) to type on the virtual keyboard. The only way to enter information on the device for things like the name of the company you work for. My second unit worked better until it froze while trying to vote in one of the polls during the presentation.
When it was working, the device responded extremely sluggishly taking multiple seconds to move up and down the simple menu trees. The screen had constant display artifacts appear on it while refreshing the screen. The visual indicators for navigation were very subtle and sometimes misleading, along the lines of a bar at the bottom of the screen indicating that there was more information when in fact all that was there was a blank line. I couldn't get the pick to work in all situations. It only seemed to be active on the virtual keyboard, preventing me (when I already had it in hand) of using it to select an option in a menu.
The UI for menus didn't give any indication that some were for selecting only a single item while others allowed the selection of multiple items. When you aren't holding the device up it goes to sleep. If you happen to be in the middle of something when it goes to sleep, your current location and work are lost. This was most annoying when I was 4 or 5 levels deep in menus. Lastly the device seems to be WiFi based and was extremely slow. After I got my second unit it took a good 10 minutes for it to synchronize and even show the most basic menus that would let me finish filling out my interests. Ignoring the fact that the questions I had already filled out on the other unit were not saved.
While this technology is still in the development stages, I'm shocked to think that in three years a more stable product couldn't have been developed. I'd estimate 90% of the features of this device could be easily implemented on a standard Palm device. The overall form factor is about the same. While such an implementation would have a higher per unit cost, I'd rather see a product that worked fast and reliably and then focus on reducing the per unit cost.