Imablog Perspectives of a Canadian in the Old/Deep/New/Geographic South: This is where I ramble on about nothing in particular and post a few nice pictures.

Posts from September 2003

Pleasant weekend

Labour day, and I'm taking the day off. Weekend was pretty decent. We were up at my wife's parents' again this weekend. This time her aunt and uncle (and associated horde of 6) were visiting, on their way back to NYC from their Florida vacation. It was an entertaining weekend. The first time in a long time there were that many people in the house. We ended up doing a bunch of cooking again, but it wasn't too bad. At least there was no barbequing for me. We left that for my wife's brother this time.

Truly ridiculous lawsuits

One of the few email newsletters I subscribe to is one called True Stella Awards. The weekly newsletter highlights a truly ridiculous lawsuit that someone's filed. The lawsuit for this week was some kid who got a conditional acceptance to UNC, slacked off his senior year and failed a bunch of classes. So, not surprisingly, UNC rescinded their acceptance offer. So the kid decides to sue.

After reading a few back issues, I'm sure you'll find the things some people will do to avoid taking responsibility for their own stupidity can be astounding.

7 donations?

A few weeks ago, the people that run the blood donor room at work held a little party to celebrate and thank people that donated blood over the past year. I got a small award for having 6 donations, which I thought was the most anyone could donate in a year.

So, much to my surprise, they were also honouring a small group who managed to squeeze in a 7th donation. Kudos to them, but I'm still trying to figure out how they got in a 7th donation. Donating every 8 weeks, the math says that 6 is as many as you can squeeze into a calendar year. Maybe their 'year' is longer than everyone elses...

Anyway, go donate blood and help someone out after you finish reading this.

Motorbikes

My brother-in-law is planning on getting a Yamaha FJR1300 sometime next spring. He's trying to convince me to get a motorbike too. I doubt I'd get one like he's planning on getting, but the new Honda Silverwing scooter looks pretty cool, and is a little more my speed (no shifting to deal with). My father-in-law already has a 1987 Honda Helix that I've ridden. It's a fun little bike to ride.

I doubt I'll be getting a bike anytime soon, although a Trek 2300 would be pretty sweet. For the type of riding I do, it's probably overkill, so I'll settle for a Trek 2000.

Since we're saving for a house now, any big purchases will have to be carefully scrutinized. I don't think I'll be getting any of these for a while yet. Besides, I have nowhere to store them until we do get a house.

What Matrix Persona Are You?

You are Morpheus-
You are Morpheus, from "The Matrix." You
have strong faith in yourself and those around
you. A true leader, you are relentless in your
persuit.


What Matrix Persona Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

That spider

Well, after a little bit of Google searching, I managed to figure out what that spider was.

First I started at the International Society for Arachnology page. The web was kind of orb-ish, so I clicked on the Orb web spiders page. Lo and behold, there was a picture of the spider, Argiope aurantia. This spider apparently goes by several aliases: Yellow Garden Spider, Black-And-Yellow Argiope, Golden Orb Weaver, Yellow Argiope, Writing Spider, Golden Garden Spider. According to this page, the spider should be mostly harmless. Sure doesn't look it.

So there you are. Yet another illustration of the power of the Internet :).

Friday Five

1. What housekeeping chore(s) do you hate doing the most?
Cleaning

2. Are there any that you like or don't mind doing?
Laundry

3. Do you have a routine throughout the week or just clean as it's needed?
I usually try to tidy up on weekends. I try to vacuum weekly, but more often than not, it ends up being every 3 or 4 weeks. The wife usually makes us go on a cleaning binge whenever someone's coming over.

4. Do you have any odd cleaning/housekeeping quirks or rules?
Not really

5. What was the last thing you cleaned?
The mess that got made when I accidentally dropped a jar of applesauce on the kitchen floor.

Computer security

This article (found at Slashdot.org) goes to show that your computer can be as secure and uncrackable as possible, but if you don't have physical security, then you might as well not have any security.

Talk about balls.

Additions to the photo gallery

Added a new Bugs album to my photo gallery to show off some of my pictures of the more interesting insects I run across. Also added a couple of new flower pictures that I snapped last weekend. Go check them out.

New book

Just bought the new Terry Goodkind book, Naked Empire. Book 8 of the Sword of Truth series. Looking forward to giving this one a read.

Lazy Sundays, Rainy Sundays

Spent a lazy sunday afternoon watching another one of my favourite Audrey Hepburn movies, Roman Holiday. I like these lazy afternoons. I've got an Excel programming project I really should be working on, but nothing beats a good Audrey Hepburn movie.

It's been a pretty rainy weekend, because of Tropical Depression Henri. But at least it's been nice and relatively cool. In a few more days, we'll see what Hurricane Irene has in store for the area.

Observations of drivers

Ok, show of hands, who really likes driving?

Me, I hate driving. Especially city driving. Well, at the very least, it's not very high on my list of preferred activities.

Why is it that some people turn into ignorant inconsiderate boobs when the seal themselves into their cars/SUVs/trucks?

After driving around here for a while, I've decided that while the roads are decidedly better than they were in Detroit, the drivers are not.

A few things I've observed in my four years of driving around here. Some of these are probably not unique to here, but I've noticed them more than other places.

1. Most people don't use turn signals. Apparently, this area has a large population of people who become telepathic once they get into their cars. So instead of using turn signals, they just transmit their thoughts to other drivers around them. Or else they think everyone else becomes telepathic in their cars, and should be able to read their mind to find out when they're turning.

2. When *you* use your turn signal, the person behind you in the lane you're changing into seems to take it as a personal offense and speeds up so you can't change lanes. They seem to think you're trying to move in on their territory, or that you're trying to get ahead of them in a race.

3. The minimum speed is usually around 5-15 mph over the posted speed limit. A lot of times, this usually ends up in the speeders making it to the red light a couple of seconds before I do. It's not like they're getting to their destination any faster.

4. Tailgaters. Plenty of those around here. Even though I might be cruising down the interstate at 70 (10 mph over the posted limit), it's still not fast enough for a lot of people around here. So they run up behind you and stay there until you have to slow down for the traffic ahead, or move over. Then they zoom ahead at 80, only to have to slow down for the slower traffic ahead. Sometimes I think people around here all think they're NASCAR drivers or something.

5. People around here always seem to be in a rush. Once they get into their car, it's like they *have* to get to their destination yesterday. So they weave in and out of traffic, flip back and forth between lanes so that they're closest to the light.

6. Accidents. Every day, there's always an accident. And usually they happen in the same place or the same area. Pay attention people!

7. The mistaken belief that other drivers are telepathic also leads to the problem that very few people do shoulder checks before changing lanes. More than a few times I've almost been broadsided by someone who didn't bother to check if anyone was beside them before changing lanes. Oh, but I forgot...I'm supposed to be telepathic, so I should have read the other person's mind to know that he was going to change lanes.

8. There are a lot of on and off-ramps on the interstate here where people are merging. People already on the interstate apparently think that those trying to merge on don't deserve to be there, so they don't let anybody merge, forcing prospective highway drivers to slow down or stop and wait for a long enough break to get on. Of course this causes traffic to back up behind the prospective highway driver. The new highway driver, once on the interstate, takes a while to accelerate to highway speeds, so the person barreling down behind him is forced to slow down, causing the rest of highway traffic to slow down.

9. Usually when it rains here, it *really* rains. Sheets of rain. Buckets and buckets. Plenty of roads flood, and there are plenty of areas where water pools pretty deep. I frequently get passed by people going way over the speed limit, while I've slowed down because rain has reduced visibility to less than 2 car lengths. Apparently in the world they live in it's not raining like it is in my world.

Ok, I guess that's enough ranting for now.

How Old is Your Inner Child?

My inner child is ten years old today

My inner child is ten years old!


The adult world is pretty irrelevant to me. Whether
I'm off on my bicycle (or pony) exploring, lost
in a good book, or giggling with my best
friend, I live in a world apart, one full of
adventure and wonder and other stuff adults
don't understand.


How Old is Your Inner Child?
brought to you by Quizilla

My wife is always complaining that I do silly things and never act my age. :)

Found at geekgrrl.com

Stick figures

Go check out the Stick Figure Death Theatre site. There are some hilariously funny animations of stick figures getting disposed of in all sorts of ways. Some are Flash movies, others are animated GIFs. Some are a riot to watch, others are rather cheesy. But all in all, it's an amusing place to check out if you have time to kill.

Productive day

After being busy with other things the past couple of months, time for me to start whittling down the list of x-ray equipment I need to get tested by the end of the year. Spend a couple of months doing pretty much nothing except testing, then take the next couple of months to work on other projects. I do this maybe 4 or 5 times throughout the year to break up the monotony of doing all the annual surveys. With all the side projects I keep coming up for me to do, I find this works out better for me instead of spacing out all the testing evenly through the year. The breaks between equipment testing give me some time to work on projects and research. Makes getting back to testing easier too, after taking a break.

What were you doing September 11, 2001?

September 11, 2001. It's one of those infamous days in human history where just about everyone can tell you exactly what they were doing when it happened or when they heard the news. Just like the Challenger disaster (January 28, 1986), or Columbia (February 1, 2003), or JFK (November 22, 1963). I wasn't around for JFK though.

I remember vividly what I was doing that day. It started off as a normal routine day, as it probably would have for anyone else. I had a couple of bone density units to survey that morning. I recall walking around the department, making my daily rounds. As I was finishing up, I happened to walk by one of the waiting rooms where for some reason everyone was clustered around the TV. It was a news report about how a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. My first thoughts were "Holy crap. Bad bad accident".

It wasn't a terrorist event yet. Just a tragic accident, a plane gone out of control and hitting the WTC. Went back down to my office to grab my equipment to start my surveys. Sent my wife a text message to her cell phone saying a plane had crashed into the WTC. She was in class at the time, but being from NYC I knew she'd want to hear about it. Then headed back up to Ultrasound where the bone density unit was.

There were even more people clustered around the TV now, and more events had unfolded. I remember telling the bone density tech asking me what was going on. Told her about the plane crashing into the WTC. Everyone was glued to the TV, but I had work to get done, so I set up the scanner. While I was waiting for it to start up, the news came that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. It was certainly shaping up to be a very odd day. What are the chances that two planes would crash into buildings on the same day...the same morning even.

Then, while I was testing, reports of the second plane hitting the other WTC tower were broadcast, and I started thinking that these were no accidents. After I finished, I went back down to my office, unloaded my stuff and went back upstairs to the TV. Watched the news for a little while longer and then headed off to see what other people were saying.

I didn't see the towers collapse until I saw the news after I got home. Everyone was buzzing that day. I don't remember what happened with the rest of my afternoon. I think I spent it talking with other people about what happened. All the news sites on the web were slow, or not responding, so there wasn't any info there.

My wife took the rest of the day off after she received my message. The rest of our evening was spent glued to various news stations watching the aftermath of the disaster. For several days after, the news was about all we watched. There was much speculation about who was behind the attack and why. The rest I guess is history.

What D&D character are you?

I Am A: Chaotic Good Elf Druid Ranger

Alignment:
Chaotic Good characters are independent types with a strong belief in the value of goodness. They have little use for governments and other forces of order, and will generally do their own things, without heed to such groups.

Race:
Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.

Primary Class:
Druids are a special variety of Cleric who serves the Earth, and can call upon the power in the earth to accomplish their goals. They tend to be somewhat fanatical about defending natural settings.

Secondary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Deity:
Rillifane Rallathil is the Chaotic Good elven god of woodlands and nature. He is also known as the Leaflord, the Wild One, and the Great Oak. He is appears as a huge oak tree. His followers believe that everyone should be free to spend their lives doing what nature has meant them to, and they protect the forests from those who would abuse them. Their preferred weapon is the quarterstaff. Rillifane Rallathil's symbol is an oak tree.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy of NeppyMan

Found at allysongarrick.com

Friday Five

Time for another Friday Five to distract me from continually monitoring Hurricane Isabel...

1. Is the name you have now the same name that's on your birth certificate? If not, what's changed?
Yes

2. If you could change your name (first, middle and/or last), what would it be?
Why would I want to change it?

3. Why were you named what you were? (Is there a story behind it? Who specifically was responsible for naming you?)
No story that I'm aware of, aside from possibly my parents wanting to give me a Western kind of name so I would fit in better.

4. Are there any names you really hate or love? What are they and why?
Not particularly.

5. Is the analysis of your name at kabalarians.com accurate? How or how isn't it?

Brief Analysis

Your name of Eugene gives you a very happy-go-lucky, spontaneous nature. You see the humorous side of many situations and can laugh at yourself as well as at others. This name gives you a musical, artistic nature and you would do well in any occupation in the entertainment field. You have many friends because of your generous, happy nature, but if crossed you have a quick temper, although your annoyance does not last too long. You do enjoy an argument and will at times say things just to get others going and then you sit back and enjoy the debate. You lack system and order and find it very difficult to budget and save money. This name creates a nature that can be the life of the party, but many times you can become involved in emotional situations against your better judgment. Your compassionate nature causes you to be too generous and you often give more than you can afford to.

Hmm, I'd have to say about 1/3 to 1/2 accurate. Gets a some things right. I'm a little musical only because of having played the viola for 10 years (I don't play anymore), definitely not artistic, hate arguments, have never been the life of any party and don't have a quick temper at all. The rest of it I suppose could more or less describe me.

Hurricane Isabel

Aside from September 11, much of the discussion around here is centered on where Hurricane Isabel will go. The current forecast path is not encouraging, even though it's still a few days away from any sort of reliable forecast about impact in this area.

According to the National Hurricane Center's 5 AM 12-SEP-2003 discussion,

THE GFDL WHICH HAS BEEN PERFORMING QUITE WELL...TURNS THE HURRICANE MORE TO THE NORTHWEST AND NORTH-NORTHWEST...AND DEPENDING UPON THE RUN YOU PICK...THE TURN OCCURS FARTHER TO THE WEST OR FARTHER TO THE EAST. ON THE OTHER HAND...THE UK MODEL WHICH HAS HAS BEEN MORE CONSISTENT ...MOVES THE HURRICANE FASTER AND BRING ISABEL DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO THE U.S. COAST IN 5 DAYS. THE GFS WHICH HAS BEEN CHANGING ITS TUNE FROM RUN TO RUN...IS MUCH SLOWER AND IN 5 DAYS PLACES THE HURRICANE ABOUT 450 N MI FROM THE U.S COAST. THE GFS EVENTUALLY BRINGS THE CENTER NEAR THE COAST OF NORTH CAROLINA IN SEVERAL MORE DAYS. FINALLY...THE NOGAPS IS VERY SIMILAR TO THE GFS UP TO 5 DAYS.

In short, I think it's time to start assembling our hurricane kit. Even if it turns out to miss us, it's better to be prepared than to be trying to scramble at the last minute (which everyone else is bound to be doing).

Multi-function Camcorder

This is pretty cool. DVStreamer turns your DV camcorder into a tape drive and lets you back up 8.7GB of stuff off your computer. There were still a few bugs and glitches with the software according to the Tom's Hardware Guide review, but it seems like it could be a really cool bit of software once the problems get worked out. And with DV tapes being relatively cheap, it could become an easy (albeit slow) way to backup your computer.

Changing looks with stylesheets

I've taken the 7 default style sheets that come with MovableType and added them in as alternate stylesheets to the template for my main page.

So, those of you with browsers that can deal with alternate style sheets like Mozilla or Firebird (don't know if IE or NS do alt style sheets) can use the little Style button at the bottom right of your status bar (Firebird) or the View/Use Style menu (Mozilla) to switch between the different styles and see what the different CSS styles look like.

One of these days I'll get around to learning enough CSS to create my own styles.

Getting ready

I figure by the end of the weekend, we should have a pretty good idea if Hurricane Isabel will be a problem or not. So this evening, my wife and I decided to avoid the rush and start assembling our hurricane kit. I think a lot of other people had the same idea, but earlier. The Walmart down the road was cleaned out of water, D batteries, and mostly cleaned out of flashlights. But we managed to get most of the things on our list (except water and D batteries).

Next, back up the road to the grocery store before they closed. They had all the food items we were after, but they were pretty much cleaned out of water too. One of the employees told us "They were even grabbing the expensive stuff", but that they would be getting some more in the morning. At least they still had some D batteries in stock.

Pleasant morning at the Aquarium

Had a pleasant morning at the Aquarium. Today was the first chance we had to go there in a while, so there were a few new exhibits to check out. Spent a nice relaxing hour and a half cruising around checking out the fish and animals. Much fun. I love going to the Aquarium just to hang out.

This is a lionfish that was hanging out in one of the tanks in the Unidentified Floating Objects display.
A lionfish at the aquarium

In other news, the 5 day track from the NHC shows Isabel turning more towards the North Carolina coast. Better for us if it stays on that track, but that means it's headed to where my wife's parents live. Still not good.

Dodged another one

Looks like another hurricane bullet will pass us by. Won't breathe easy until it's gone by and is no longer an issue. But that means it will have impacted someone else. Preparations continue...the season's not over yet.

Blog Spam

Good grief. Spam touting cheap viagra is bad enough in my email. now i'm getting it in my blog. Spammers need to be taken somewhere out back and shot. Many times. With large calibre bullets. Large cannons would be even better.

10 worst jobs in science

A posting at Slashdot.org led me to Popular Science's list of Worst Jobs in Science.

It's a pretty interesting read, and with some jobs that, frankly, I never imagined anybody ever wanting to do. I'm sure they're all jobs that need to be done, but definitely not by me.

I have to say though, I'm kind of surprised Postdoc only made it to number 10. Even though I've never been a Postdoc (yet), I've known plenty of them. I think I'd have put it at around 6 or 7.

Friday Five

This week's Friday Five.

1. Who is your favorite singer/musician? Why?
Hmm, there are several. Stevie Nicks, Gloria Estefan, Amy Grant, Sting...hard to choose between them. I love Stevie Nicks' voice, Gloria Estefan's music, Sting because he's just cool, and Amy Grant because I find her music very inspiring.

2. What one singer/musician can you not stand? Why?
Marilyn Manson...He just strikes me as such an act and poseur. I dunno why.

3. If your favorite singer wasn't in the music business, do you think you would still like him/her as a person?
If they weren't in the music business, it's likely I would never have heard of them. But if their non-music star personality would have been anything like their music star personality (at least what personality comes filtered through the media), then I probably would still like them.

4. Have you been to any concerts? If yes, who put on the best show?
I've only been to one concert, an Amy Grant concert sometime back in the mid 80s. It was a good show.

5. What are your thoughts on downloading free music online vs. purchasing albums? Do you feel the RIAA is right in its pursuit to stop people from dowloading free music?
I'm generally against downloading pirated music online. All of my music has been purchased, either new or used. Lately most of it has been used, because new CDs are so horribly overpriced. I'm definitely against RIAA's strong arm tactics against music downloaders. I don't think it does anything except polarize people against the RIAA and the music companies they represent.

Talk like a Pirate Day

My friend Rick emailed me and told me it was Talk like a Pirate Day. Aaarrr, matey!

And NASA has a very cool satellite picture of Hurricane Isabel. It shows very nicely just how large a storm it was, even if it didn't pack as big a punch as it did swirling over the ocean.

Eye Exams

I have to touch type this because I can barely see what's on my monitor, so forgive the typos. Had my routine eye exam today. I usually go see my optometrist every other year. Getting my pupils dilated for eye exams always remind me just how useful my irises are at making the outside world viewable. There's nothing like sitting in the exam room with all the lights dimmed, and then walking out to have your eyes seared out of your head by the noonday sun. It's like someone cranked up the wattage of the sun or something. Now I know how Gollum felt about having to roam around with those hobbits during the daylight.

Kitchen Cautions

I rediscovered an important tip about cooking today. Anytime you're searing something covered with Scotch Bonnet peppers (or any other hot pepper for that matter), always, always, always make sure your kitchen is well vented first.

Excuse me while I go tend to my leaking nose...

At least my sinuses are clear now.

No, really, that's not me.

My friends at work have decided the US Army Muslim chaplain that was arrested over the weekend looks like me. I don't really see it, but I guess I'm under arrest now at the Naval Brig in Charleston, SC.

At least I'm not far from home.

Slow news week

It's been quiet lately. One of those slow news weeks where nothing notable really happens. I like these periods. Gives me some time to unwind and focus on other things.

Finally finished Naked Empire by Terry Goodkind. The 8th book in that epic Sword of Truth series. I thought this book was better than the last one. I think it wrapped up nicely, and seems to be starting to set the stage for the endgame. Now I have to go back and re-read the series again.

The last few books (6, 7 and 8) in the series have been rather interesting. The more I think about them, the more they seem like a philosophical treatise on the nature of people, free will and the morality of the choices people make, disguised as a fantasy novel. Perhaps this is what the author is trying to do. Some of it is very thought provoking. I'll have to read the series all over again to try to collect them all in my head for further analysis.

In the meantime, I leave you with Wolf_Gal's collection of the Wizard's Rules from the Sword of Truth Series.

Wizard's First Rule: People are stupid.
Wizard's Second Rule: The greatest harm can result from the best intentions.
Wizard's Third Rule: Passion rules reason.
Wizard's Fourth Rule: There is magic in sincere forgiveness.
Wizard's Fifth Rule: Mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will betray a lie.
Wizard's Sixth Rule: The only soverign we can allow to rule us is reason.
Wizard's Seventh Rule: Life is the future, not the past.

And from the latest book,
Wizard's Eighth Rule: Deserve victory

Autumn's here

Yesterday was the autumnal equinox. Soon, the weather will be cooling down, and leaves are supposed to be turning colour. Around here though, the weather changes from really really hot to just hot. And leaves don't turn colour. The live oaks and palm trees stay green, and all the other trees just turn brown and drop their leaves. No brilliant display of colour, no brisk chill in the air. None of what I'm used to. Aside from the weather cooling down enough to make going outside enjoyable again, fall around here is a pretty dull season (hurricane excitement notwithstanding).

I miss having different seasons.

Bones, bones, bones

I have a skeleton.

No, not the one inside my body holding me up and not the ones in my closet either. It's one of those display skeletons you might find in your doctor's office, or an anatomy lab. It's not one of those cheesy plastic ones either. This is an actual skeleton, with real bones.

I was walking through our department mail area, and there it was propped up next to the photocopier with a sign saying "I'm headless and homeless. Find me a home".

It's not in the greatest shape, and it's definitely seen better days. It's been decapitated. The arms have been lopped off and the legs have been amputated below the knees. So I guess it's just a torso with dangly bits. Some of the nuts, bolts and springs holding the joints together are missing or damaged, so some of the bones bend quite unnaturally. But aside from that, it's largely intact.

I think it'll make an interesting decoration for my office, once I find a place for it. Unless of course my wife decides to nab it so she can review her anatomy.

Matrix: Reloaded

Went to see Matrix: Reloaded yesterday at the IMAX theatre. In a word, awesome. In the words of the person next to us, "Holy Crap". Seems it was his first IMAX experience.

Seeing it on the big IMAX screen and with the big IMAX sound was awesome. There was a glitch with the audio sync in the last 30 minutes of the movie that was mildly annoying, and halfway through the movie an automatic timer brought up the screen lights. The lights were soon turned back off though.

An excellent and highly recommended experience. I'm really looking forward to Matrix: Revolutions on IMAX now.

Clever microwave tricks

Hey physics profs and teachers. Want a neat microwave trick for your students to try out? Measure the speed of light using a microwave and chocolate. It's a simple experiment using a line of chocolate chips and a microwave. The principles are discussed in the article and according to the article, gets pretty close to the answer. And when you're finished with the experiment, you can eat it!

Fount at Slashdot.org