It was a good year. Definitely the most expensive year of my life to date. Also, it was the most traveled, probably the most successful overall. I bid thee farewell.
Welcome, two thousand and nine.
Wed, 31 Dec 2008
Welcome, two thousand and nine.
 | posted @ 23:45 | link
Tue, 30 Dec 2008
Mandatory Time Off
So, what to do with all of this time? I've been catching up on all of the episodes I possibly can of Top Gear, a British car show I got into last month. When the BBC does an hour-long program, it's actually an hour long, meaning it takes a while to get through the twelve "series."
Additinoally, aside from doing significant work on the RC boats, the plan was to do something quite simply insane this Christmas break: join Facebook. Maybe it's not so insane anymore, but I have become very pessimistic toward new sites, especially ones that take personal information. I still don't like the very concept Gmail. At this point, Facebook has matured to a level where it's as likely here for good as YouTube and others. Nonetheless, there is a certain "waste of time" stigma in my head as it relates to Facebook. But, then, if I have to find out through a friend that another friend is suddenly single because his online profile has changed, that leaves me feeling a little out of the loop as well. So, there you have it. I'm on Facebook. Now, back to Top Gear.
 | posted @ 13:34 | link
Mon, 24 Nov 2008
Winter Is Here
Tonight, after only two centimetres of snow, I had to come back home from class, and it was quite terrifying. I've never driven rear-wheel drive in snow, and my summer tires are what you might call "bald."
Naturally, before leaving Algonquin College, I tried out handling on the empty-ish parking lot. Not impressive. At a minimal speed of 10km/h, it took well over a car length to stop, with ABS firing off on every wheel.
Definitely putting on the winter tires this weekend...
 | posted @ 23:26 | link
Wed, 22 Oct 2008
So Someone Doesn't Like Me...
Seriously, what kind of a poor excuse of a human does hundreds of dollars of cowardly damage to your property while you're in a grocery store for six minutes rather than confronting you directly? Are you happy, fucker?
Update: Pricetag: $700.
 | posted @ 23:38 | link
Tue, 21 Oct 2008
Before I knew it, I was fiberglassing a hull, tearing apart a badly built (not by me) superstructure, pulling out boxes of parts that were bought but never used, redesigning running gear, gluing, sanding, and soldering. It takes very little to jumpstart a hobby and remember why you were involved in it in the first place.
It's been like that for the last week. Every night I would come home from work, start something, and stay up working at it until two, three, or four o'clock. Last night I completely reworked the running gear in my little balsa tugboat, I added white LEDs for interior lighting, and basically finished what should have been finished three years ago. The only remaining touches are to paint the funnels and add some sort of rudimentary mast, but at four in the morning I just had to turn in. I think that will be my first fully completed boat ever?
Having re-ignited the flame, I plan to finish three more boats this winter.
 | posted @ 21:30 | link
Sat, 27 Sep 2008
Suwalski Private Reserve
I went all-out with the decals. They are a completely original design, printed by colour laser printer on Magna Carta Parchment, lacquered with Future Floor Finish, cut out by hand, and carefully applied with wallpaper paste. They add the little touch that makes this whole project fun.
The wine itself was made with minimal contribution from me. Starting with a kit, I mixed all of the ingredients in a sealed bucket and that was the last I saw of it until last night. Still, it has a decent taste, and the price was fair. Did I mention it was a fun experience.
Next, perhaps I'll attempt a merlot?
 | posted @ 21:36 | link
Fri, 26 Sep 2008
A New Chapter...
In all of the rush of life, I decided to take a night course in Chinese Mandarin. I normally pick up languages very easily: everything makes sense when I can look something up in the dictionary based on how it's pronounced, or otherwise pronounce a word found in the dictionary. Chinese has a complete separation of written and spoken language that prevents that. It's not phonetic. Without that ability, there really wasn't much point making anything of the several words picked up over the last several visits to Taiwan. Formal lessons seem like the way to go.
I don't expect to be fluent with Mandarin by the end of this, but I do expect to get a grasp of syntax and be able to pronounce Pinyin properly. The latter is actually quite easy. As it turns out, I picked much of it up on the subway in Taipei, where the text is shown in Traditional Chinese, Pinyin, and then pronounced over the speakers. There is a certain logic once the basic sounds are understood.
Nonetheless, it is a daunting task when the first sentence on page 2 of the Integrated Chinese textbook says this of the Pinyin letter "b": "b is a bilabial unaspirated plosive," and that "f is a labio-dental fricative." A what-now? That's alright, since apparently "d is a toungue tip alveolar unaspirated plosive." Yep, I've got a ways to go...
 | posted @ 23:20 | link
Sat, 16 Aug 2008
Travel is coming my way once again this week. I'll be attending the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. I've visited that city twice in the last year or so. However, this will be the first time I'll be lodging downtown. Perhaps I can experience some of the night life. Should be a good time.
 | posted @ 23:55 | link
Sun, 03 Aug 2008
11990 Kilometres from Home
Rummaging through my suitcase, I found the GPS I completely forgot was with me. It took a good few minutes to track satellites ("Have you moved hundreds of kilometres?"... "Uh, yeah!"), and in the end it still couldn't tell me the distance to home. Garmin only does that for distances that fit four digits. I guess I could have switched to imperial units. Instead, I just plugged the coordinates into some web site. It told me what I already knew; it's far. But, with a twelve hour time difference I expected that to be closer to 20,000 km. Being some distance North of the equator makes for significantly shorter distances.
I spent the entire weekend at the Maokong mountain. This was my first time in South Taipei, and I clearly should have gone there sooner! There is a gondola there that takes people up on a 25 minute ride. As usual over here, the price and service are fair, as it's linked to the metro system. The entire mountain seems dedicated to tea production. At the top station, there are many tea venues, a tea promotion center, and most enjoyably, hiking trails. Hiking steep mountains is no easy task with the kind of humidity Taipei experiences. Nonetheless, I took a path down and then up (through a valley) to the next gondola station, Zhinan Temple Station.
There were several temples there, but Linxiaobao had the best view of the city. I waited around and read a book until sunset, then let the camera off its leash. Looking back at the photos, they don't quite capture the feeling of the actual sunset. It is impossible to capture in a photo the full sensation of watching the sun go down on a breezy mountain, at the front steps of a large temple, with the smell of burning incense.
So it was an alright weekend. It's August already. Time flies, and I'm missing my whole Canadian summer. I'll have to come back here when it's winter.
 | posted @ 13:34 | link
Thu, 31 Jul 2008
Before I knew it, I was spending my lunch hour working with red-hot, molten glass, blowing myself a pretty juice glass.
What can I say? My life gets less predictable by the day. We'll see how the glass turns out after it exits the kiln in the morning. Maybe it'll warrant a comment along the lines of, "Hey, man, were you stoned when you made that thing?"
 | posted @ 11:54 | link
Mon, 28 Jul 2008
High Speed Trains and Linux Symposium
There is nothing like a high-speed new experience to cheer me up. This weekend I went on a trip halfway down the country, to Taichung. By normal train, this is almost a three hour trip. The high speed rail (HSR) got me there in 45 minutes. The train sped down the track at over 300 km/h, which is the fastest I've ever moved in a land-based vehicle. Good service and a fair price makes this train very practical. North America could learn from this.
Taichung is a nice city, significantly less busy than Taipei. The plan for the day was to start by exploring the Confuscius Temple. Next came the National Museum of Fine Arts. When I was all "moderned out" it was time for dinner and the train back to Taipei. A decent day excursion.
Today we didn't go to work; the whole city is closed because of typhoon. After what happened in the south end of the country last week when a typhoon struck there, no one is taking chances. While working from the hotel is somewhat boring, it is quite relaxing.
 | posted @ 02:22 | link
Mon, 21 Jul 2008
First of all, I think I generally prefer the Taiwan's winter climate. In January, it was a nice average of 18°C. This past week has been pretty much like this:
I can attest to the line that mentions it "feels like" 45 degrees. I can see why the nightlife is vibrant here; it drops off a couple of degrees when the sun goes down, from "melting" to "moist". Not that I'm complaining. Returning to Ottawa should make me appreciate the temperate northern climate.
Anyway, back to Taipei. I think this is the first trip where I took advantage of the metro system. I have to say that it is definitely one of the best out there. It's smaller than London's, but much, much smoother. The fact that trains are spaced less than two minutes apart makes it very appealing. And the price? Just over a dollar will get you from one end of town to the other.
The newly-discovered joys of the train system have made exploring all that much more fun, even if the heat hasn't. Lots of photography. Of course, some dimwit (who happens to bear a striking resemblance to me) managed to bump the camera's exposure setting to +1. As a result, most of the photos before today look like they were shot in the middle of a desert. To make up for it, I went out tonight and got some half-decent photos of the enormous Chiang Kai Shek Memorial by night.
So far it's been a rewarding, if busy, trip. I hope the remaining half continues this way. Taipei is starting to feel like a second home.
 | posted @ 13:22 | link
Thu, 10 Jul 2008
BSG Still Going Strong
To make things interesting, the stop-over is in Vancouver this time. With an evening to kill, it was the perfect opportunity to and see how Battlestar Galactica is doing.
I half-expected the show to be over. This season is supposed to be the last one, and the episodes that are airing right now are about half way through the year. I thought the sets might have been struck by now. I was wrong. Through the door that revealed the Viper to me three years ago, I now saw what is clearly the set of Colonial One. From the other side of the lot, the opened door of the next building down showed what appeared to be the CIC set.
Later, Grace Park, Boomer herself, walked down to her trailer:
Clearly, the show is still on. And the paparazzi in me is temporarily satisfied.
Other shows currently filming at Vancouver Film Studios include The 4400, Smallville, and a few smaller shows. Interestingly, across the street, at The Bridge Studios, they are much more flamboyant in showing off their current productions:
Vancouver: what a neat place.
 | posted @ 04:19 | link
Fri, 04 Jul 2008
The family vacation carried us to a wonderful beach house in the perfect small community of Salvo, North Carolina. This is my second time here, and my opinion is that North Carolina's Outer Banks is about as good as it gets for a North American summer get-away.
The highlight of the week might have been losing my watch in the ocean. A combination of keeping the cellphone away from sight and not having the convenience of knowing the time, made the trip more laid back. This open access point a few houses down, which I'm using right now, did not help things. But then, my cellphone actually had three GSM networks to latch onto in the States. Both of these are signs of the times, I guess. My one redeeming action (or inaction) is that I stayed away from eMail. Otherwise, the title of this entry could have been "How the Internet Ruined My Vacation." Seriously, it's hard to just disconnect completely.
The second highlight of the week was going Sea-Dooing. Actually, Waverunnering. Twice. The first time was on a good old two-stroke Yamaha. The second time was on one of these "newfangled" four-stroke Yamaha beasts. Something about the two-stroke units was more exilharating. I'm pretty sure it's not the top speed, where both machines were about the same. The vibration? Acceleration, maybe? Those older units just felt more fun.
Anyway, last night of vacation. Tomorrow we drive home. Did I mention I'm feeling homesick for my new car? I really am...
 | posted @ 23:38 | link
Tue, 24 Jun 2008
Not much to say. It's a metallic blue 2002 330i with sport package. Saw it. Tried it. Liked it. Bought it.
With its 225 horse-power engine, the real challenge will be to learn some restraint and not collect too many speeding tickets. The acceleration on it is rather awesome.
 | posted @ 23:42 | link
Sun, 22 Jun 2008
Over a Month...
The apartment is still a good thing. There is something to be said for independence. I don't believe it's the "best thing ever," as many first-year university students would say. Actually, it seems pretty normal to me, though I'm not a first-year student by any means. Nonetheless, for as drastic a change as it was, it didn't feel that way. Maybe all of the travel around the world in the last year prepared me. I'm not quite settled in yet; still furnishing the apartment.
Or maybe I just don't have the time to notice. If two years ago I was asked just how busy work can keep me, and someone mentioned the current workload, I don't think it would seem possible. Yet it is. "Keeps me out of trouble" indeed.
Thankfully, at this time next week, I should be in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on a family vacation. That ought to be refreshing. My last proper vacation was to Europe, and was, frankly, hectic. Beach time might be a pleasant change of pace.
There, now all of that is out of my system. I expect to be writing more later this week.
 | posted @ 23:15 | link
Sun, 04 May 2008
On My Own
The apartment is a two-bedroom unit right on Carling Avenue. The view is great, since the location is on a hill and the floor is 15 storeys above ground (twelfth floor, strange numbering). There is a lot of glass, which results in spectacular panoramic scenery, especially in the dining room, which is on a corner, and which has large windows on two sides of the building.
Details about moving the various stuff accumulated over the last 26 years of my life are proceeding slowly. At the moment, I have everything needed for living here. My current bed is the futon I've slept on for the last few years; it will eventually become the living room couch once my new bed arrives. The bed I ordered is a queen-sized unit, with leather covering all around. The crowning jewel is a Tempur-Pedic mattress. As soon as I tried one of those in the store, I was pretty much sold. I expect pleasant sleep on it.
This entry could go on for many more paragraphs, but suffice it to say that the freedom of having my own place is exciting. Now, to figure out that whole "cooking" thing... only time will tell how well I get on with life...
 | posted @ 23:49 | link
Sun, 27 Apr 2008
On the other hand, during the day, they are cute and playful creatures. One came to visit us today. He scrambled up the tree when we walked up to him. He came down when we offered him a half-eaten yogurt. A scavenger indeed, the container was licked clean and dry.
 | posted @ 23:51 | link
Sun, 20 Apr 2008
This morning I asked him about it:
Anyway, we took it apart. A capacitor had been rolling around in the case; it apparently caught fire and desoldered itself. Looking at the damage, there was definitely a full-fledged fire inside that thing. The damage on the underside of the optical drive says it all.
I guess Soul Caliber 2 is a pretty hot game.
 | posted @ 22:33 | link
Sun, 06 Apr 2008
Another Day in Taipei
As luck would have it, my flight back was on a Saturday evening after an unexpected Friday holiday. That effectively meant two whole days of being a tourist; what a concept! There was also a little bit of revisiting San Francisco on the way there, what with a six hour layover. That kind of time just demands a BART trip to downtown, an 8km walk in and around Fisherman's Wharf, and a train trip back. I've never actually walked around San-Fran, so it was a new experience. It also made me appreciate sitting on the 12 hour flight that much more.
The time off in Taipei was spent visiting sights previously unvisited. There were also some new sights. Friday I indulged in a very upscale hotspring experience; I had no idea 45 degree water could feel that hot, nor that sulphur could be that soothing. Since the last time I slept in a bed, we made a trip to Yangmingshan Mountain to the North of Taipei. A really hot and humid day, a walk around very nice and shady mountain trails in the National Park was, simply, awesome before a long flight. I think that once one gets outside of the normal tourist areas, one also gets outside of the stereotypes associated with a given area; it really helps with appreciating the little things in cultures that one might otherwise be sheltered from in a large city.
Back in the city I got to go to Nova Computer Centre, a four-floor shopping mall all full of small- to medium-sized vendor stalls. It was like a flea market for your inner nerd. Great place to pick up gadgets.
A few hours back, near Denver, we hit major turbulence. At first it felt like the plane was going to flip. Many spilled drinks. Fun times. It was a good trip.
 | posted @ 07:54 | link
Sun, 09 Mar 2008
While coming home from swimming in the middle of a major storm last night, I decided to start exploring the TVs. The store was bound to be empty, which would give me quick access to a lot of helpful employees.
The plan was to compare various brands and start aiming for a specific size and price range. Yes, that was the plan. In reality, as soon as I saw the 37" Sharp Aquos I now own, it was basically sold. It's a 37" 1080p LCD TV for the price of any other brands' 720. I further managed to talk the guy down to a great deal. It all happened much more quickly than I had envisioned.
After a whole day of use, it seems to be a solid unit. When I get to the apartment, I may decide to get a digital antenna and try to pick up some broadcast HDTV. Paying for cable really does not sound appealing at the moment.
 | posted @ 23:45 | link
Thu, 21 Feb 2008
Another New Lens!
In reading some reviews, I can see that reviewers mention the same points I raised, but the verdict is also that the optical qualities of this unit are great. Some say it's comparable to an equivalent Canon L-series lens. I'm a little skeptical about that, but I'm happy to read that the corners stay bright and sharp.
I first tried this lens at a bowling alley lit only by blacklight. I was very impressed by how much light it took in, with the range of tone and colour. As someone who avoids flash at all costs, I'm glad to own this lens now.
 | posted @ 23:47 | link
Thu, 14 Feb 2008
Family Van, 1993-2008
Technically, the vehicle is still drivable, at least for short distances. During the last week of extreme cold, the head gasket gave way, and the engine started losing a lot of coolant. In recent years, little things like ball joints and relays have worn out, but the decision was made that any major engine trouble would not be worth the cost.
And yet, it seems like everything is still alright. I took the van out for one last spin, revving it strongly and enjoying the beautiful, powerful purr of the 6-cylinder 3800cc V90 engine. Amazingly, it still has the original muffler and even one of the factory wiper blades; there is no question in my mind that OEM parts are superior.
I get attached to things, so I'll miss this car. It took us everywhere. The photo is from Utah in 1999. Because the body is plastic, it looks every bit as shiny and perfect now as it did then. Maybe it's just cosmetics, but it really doesn't feel like it's time for this old friend to go.
They just don't build them like they used to...
 | posted @ 23:57 | link
Mon, 28 Jan 2008
In Taipei Again
So, I'm in Taipei again, but the real story is about the trip over here. For the longest time, I considered myself lucky in not having a bad Air Canada story; well, things just changed.
First of all, none of my comments are directed at on-plane staff. I've never gotten anything but stellar service from the people on the front line.
The flight from Ottawa to Toronto was uneventful. It even took off right on time. Of course, that was after Air Canada downgraded the flight from a larger jet to a Bombardier Regional Jet. That effectively meant that I was downgraded from Business Class to whatever it is that Jazz has.
Toronto is where the real problems began. Toronto is where the problems always begin. This time, the problems began when the boarding started 25 minutes late. Then, the captain came on and mentioned we need de-icing, because they're getting snow in Toronto (how very unusual). Ten minutes of taxiing to the de-icing spot, and 20 minutes of de-icing later, we finally take the 10 minute trip to the end of the runway. Only we're stuck in traffic for 15 minutes, at which point the co-pilot comes out and looks at the wings, and states "we need to go back to de-icing." So, another 10 minute trip back, 15 minutes of de-icing, and 10 minutes back to the now-empty runway. We ended up leaving almost two hours late.
If that were the end of it, it would be just fine. We had a three hour window in LAX, after all. Somewhere over Colorado, the captain came on again, "If there is a doctor on the plane, your assistance is required..." Apparently someone was rather sick, so the decision was made to make an emergency landing in Las Vegas. Fine, it was an emergency. But not really. I heard the paramedic ask the guy while they were walking out, "How are you feeling?" to which the patient responded, "Oh, I'm fine." Then, the "patient" asked the head steward "What about my luggage?" Anyway, after this "emergency" it took another 35 minutes or so to get clearance to take of from LV to LAX, and another 15 mintues to get underway.
The trip from LV to LAX was uneventful, except for the sudden turbulance that actually managed to spill my cup. We got to LAX 3:10 minutes late. In fact, it was the exact time the connection was taxiing on the runway. We went to pick up our baggage as quickly as possible, only to wait 35 minutes as our priority-marked baggage was amongst the last dozen bags to come out on the carousel.
Meeting with the local LAX Air Canada staff is where the worst trouble started. They were kind enough to rebook our connection, but they couldn't understand that at 01:30 in an foreign city, we had nowhere to go, and really needed some guidance. They weren't going to compensate us for a hotel or otherwise recommend one. At that point, my traveling companion described the situation as "fucking bullshit," and they asked us to leave.
This is the point where EVA came to our rescue. This airline knows how to treat people right. Even though the airport was closed, they waited for everyone who had a problem, verified the rebooking, recommended a hotel and gave 50% off vouchers for distressed customers, and even walked us to the shuttle. It still meant 14 hours in LA, but I got the feeling that they did all they could, unlike Air Canada.
After a fantastic flight to Taipei, things went downhill again when we got to the hotel. Some missing link between two passengers and the number of rooms...
 | posted @ 15:06 | link
Wed, 16 Jan 2008
Strange Changeroom Experience
Of course there were naked men in the guys' locker room.
Then she came in. And she was just standing there talking with them in the men's changeroom, with guys changing all around her. No one seemed to care. Weird, eh?
 | posted @ 23:35 | link
Mon, 14 Jan 2008
Police Quest III
Out came the 5¼" floppy drive. For some reason, modern motherboards can still use these. I was pleased that I could just "dd" each of the six diskettes without any problems whatsoever. Experience has shown that these hold data way better than the 3½" disks.
The game ran fine under DosBox. I only needed to address the Hints file once or twice. The game only took two evenings to complete. However, there were several annoying bugs in the game. The most annoying bug was that my wife did not recover from her coma, even though I think she should have. Oh well.
 | posted @ 00:58 | link
Tue, 01 Jan 2008
2007 really was a good year. I got to travel a lot, to California, Europe, and Taiwan. I learned a lot along my travels and between them. I think it gives me more of an appreciation for cultural elements I hadn't known anything about. That, in turn, filled a lot of gaps in my understanding of this world. Hopefully there will be more of the same in this coming year.
Last night, we took a family trip out to see the 17 minute firework show commemorating 150 years of Ottawa as the capital of Canada. I took along my tripod and got a bunch of colourful photos. But it also allowed me to finally get a few decent night shots of Parliament and how it looks all lit up.
New Year's was at Markus' during a very good 6-player game of Settlers of Catan.
 | posted @ 16:33 | link
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