Older blog entries for dcoombs (starting at number 80)

Dear United States of America,

I thought you might appreciate knowing that your border security is still a bit spotty. After waiting in line for over two and a half hours to enter your country, I had the following conversation with one of your border guards:

Guard: Where are you from?
Me: Montréal.
Guard: Where are you going?
Me: North Hero State Park, in Vermont.
Guard: Good idea. It's nice there. I hope you haven't been too troubled by this delay.
Me: OK.

And that was it. After waiting in a hot car for that long, it was actually a little disappointing.

Also, we do not have accents. You do. And they're funny. Furthermore, your mosquito population is extraordinarily impressive.

and so on.

[photos from trip]

Meanwhile, in Canada

Parliament has decided that gay marriage will be legal. Good stuff. My brother went out to celebrate in Ottawa last night, and he sure picked the right place to go, as he wound up schmoozing with Jack Layton, Ed Broadbent, Pierre Pettigrew, Anne MacLellan, Carolyn Parrish, Belinda Stronach, etc. That, I daresay, is awesome.


I'll be in Ottawa on Friday, and then Washington DC for a week. If anybody in DC would like to eat, drink, and talk about linuxy things, please email me.

An Important Note About Grains

Thanks to Rachel Lejeune for supplying me with an informative description of the difference between burghul and cracked wheat. One of these days, Rachel Lejeune, I shall figure out who you are. One of these days.

30 May 2005 (updated 30 May 2005 at 21:35 UTC) »

It is raining. This is a turkey.

Furthermore, it is utterly disgusting that a USB-to-DB9 serial converter cable costs $80. I mean really. Yes, I guess there's some twiddling involved, but yeesh.

I'm not going to mention the big honking expensive shiny brand-new server that only has an RS-232 port to configure it, nor will I mention that ordinary people's laptops haven't had such ports in nearly a decade and rely on USB instead, because it's ever so much saner. Really, I'm not. The juxtaposition hurts too much.

It has been a 19200 8N1 kind of day.

At least it's blue. The cable that is. And see-through. Ooh.

26 May 2005 (updated 27 May 2005 at 13:23 UTC) »

We came. We got wet. We bought cheese. (Translating this to Latin and founding an educational institution with corresponding motto is left as an exercise to the reader. nymia?)

[random photos]

Upcoming Travel

In approximately chronological order, the next few months will likely see me in Toronto, Waterloo, North Carolina, Washington D.C., Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, possibly Seattle, and Thunder Bay.

If you are in these places and I know you, or if you think I should like to know you, then send me an email and maybe we can meet up, talk about $things, and consume $beverages.

Abuse of Telephone Privileges

So, I guess I wasn't really sure if people like this actually existed. Evidently they do, which is rather unsettling, although perhaps not entirely surprising.

Phone rang last night. F answered. It was a guy, asking if she remembered him. Nope. He gave his name, and said that they had crossed paths at a mall a few months ago and chatted for a while, and that she had given him her phone number. She remembers none of this. He said he just found the paper with her number ("in your handwriting"), but without her name on it, underneath his microwave. Said he recognized her voice and remembered having met her. He wanted to chit chat, possibly get together, blah blah whatever.

F remembers none of this, told him so, and politely got rid of him. But this is weird, and what does it mean? Could this have actually happened and she just forgot? Could it have happened longer ago than he thought, because she hadn't been to that mall lately? But she wouldn't have given her number without writing her name on it... Did he, perhaps, meet someone three months ago who gave him a fake phone number that happened to be hers? But wait, how could he say he remembered meeting at the mall before plausibly being able to figure out who she was?


A quick call to the police this morning confirmed that there has been a spate of reports lately of guys phoning random women, claiming to have met them somewhere at some point, and trying to convince them to meet them. Lovely.

He sounded like a perfectly nice guy, too. I wonder if he is. But I hope not to actually find out.

My Poor Fragile Psyche

So as of today, not one, not two, but three separate people have now told me that before they found out I was a computer engineer, they assumed I was a ballet dancer. A ballet dancer!

I don't know what to make of this.

Perhaps nobody else can fall on their face with the same kind of grace and poise that I can. I injured my face with a zipper this morning, I did. I've hurt my shoulder on a light switch. I am forever accidentally whacking my elbows on things.

A ballet dancer indeed.

19 Apr 2005 (updated 19 Apr 2005 at 16:07 UTC) »

I just discovered that Google Maps now covers the United Kingdom, and practically wet my pants. Their map of London is very, very, very nice. Note the prominence given to Tube stations.

sfllaw and I decided that it would be cooler still if, in addition to map and satellite, they added some sort of transit view for major urban centres, which would show subway and bus routes. (Bonus points if they can do transit directions showing transfer points and whatnot!) We've submitted a feature request.

24 Mar 2005 (updated 25 Mar 2005 at 00:05 UTC) »
Rapid Prototyping Contest

Well, I ask you: why shouldn't we stick a bunch of PHP code into a UniConf tree, eval() it in weird ways, use the same tree for storing meta-information and state, and call it a webconfig GUI? Is that so despicable?

That's exactly what Peter and I did with Mich and Adam the last couple days, and how did people react to our technological marvel? They called us names. Bad names.


I think it was a pretty successful contest, though. We removed much of the competitive nature this time, and I think it was a good idea. All the groups churned out some impressive stuff in a pretty short time. And even the horrifying stuff that Peter and I produced at least worked.


What does one do while eating a falafel with NITI friends on St. Patrick's Day before heading to a pub for a couple drinks? I don't quite remember why, but pmccurdy, wlach and I decided to determine how many times you would have to fold a piece of paper in half for it to reach the sun.

We were quite sure the sun is eight light-minutes away, and assuming the sheet of paper is 1 mm thick (unlikely, yes, but it made it easier), we figured in our heads that 47 folds ought to do it.

Challenges included: (a) a magnitude error that rendered the sun somewhere in between the earth and the moon, and (b) eventually having to estimate the base-2 log of 144 trillion.

But we succeeded, and then made plans to win lots of bets with drunk people.

If one were to actually do this, I imagine amusing things would happen to the earth's centre of gravity, and things would start falling slightly sideways.

Also, upon reaching the sun, your paper would catch fire.

19 Feb 2005 (updated 19 Feb 2005 at 00:23 UTC) »
In memory of Deniz Sarikaya

Take care of yourselves and your friends, everyone.

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