Monday, September 26, 2005


At work, we use the services of SpamShark to filter our email spam. Every now and again, I log in to their web site and peruse the spam I've received, on the off-chance that some useful piece of email was accidentally marked as spam. The top four types of spam I receive seem to be:

  1. Cheap drugs (Viagra, Cialis, et al)
  2. Porn
  3. Stock tips
  4. Watches

The first three I can understand - sex, drugs and money - but watches? Who the fuck cares? For me, a watch is a tool that tells you the time. If it's got the date too, alarms, stopwatches, etc. that's great, but the time is the important thing. My watch is a cheap Timex Expedition - $40 at Wal-Mart, and I've had it for years. If I were in a different line of work where I had to deal with customers face-to-face, and wear suits and stuff, then sure, I'd probably get myself a nicer watch. But are there really that many people who are dying for a Rolex or a Rolex clone? If I see someone wearing a Rolex, I think that either (a) he bought a cheap knock-off to try to impress people, or (b) he's got more money than brains. Either way, I'm not terribly impressed.

It's the same with wheels on cars - when I was picking out stuff for my car, upgrading the wheels is about the last thing I'd spend money on. I simply do not care one iota what the wheels on my car look like.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Castle on a Cloud

We went to see Les Misérables last night in Toronto. I really like that show; this was my fourth time seeing it, and Gail's third. Most of it is not especially upbeat or happy (as Gail mentioned to Kerri last night, Mamma Mia this ain't), but it's a very powerful story, and is all about love - Fantine's love for Cosette, Valjean's for Cosette, Eponine's for Marius, Cosette's for Marius, Marius' for Cosette, and eventually even Marius' for Valjean. The actors playing Valjean and Javert were both excellent (I saw Michael Burgess playing Valjean a few years ago, and he was amazing - this guy was about as good). Cosette was more of a soprano than I'm used to (my parents used to play the soundtrack CD a lot when I lived at home, so I'm very familiar with the music), but I wasn't that thrilled with Eponine. She was pretty good, but not at the same level as the rest of the cast.

The title of this post refers to a song sung by the young Cosette. It, along with Hold On by Sarah McLachlan, is one of the saddest songs ever:

There is a castle on a cloud
I like to go there in my sleep
Aren't any floors for me to sweep
Not in my castle on a cloud

There is a room that's full of toys
There are a hundred boys and girls
Nobody shouts or talks too loud
Not in my castle on a cloud

There is a lady all in white*
Holds me and sings me a lullaby
She's nice to see and she's soft to touch
She says "Cosette, I love you very much"

I know a place where no one's lost
I know a place where no one cries
Crying at all is not allowed
Not in my castle on a cloud

Call me a wuss, but I get choked up whenever I hear that song. No child should ever have to feel that much depair.

* This song is sung shortly after Fantine (Cosette's mother) dies - during her death scene, she wears a white gown, and has a bright white spotlight shone on her.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Deiter's Love Golf Tournament

I played in the Deiter's Love Golf Tournament this past weekend - this is the one that I'm doing the web site for. There were well over 100 golfers, so it was by far the largest tournament I've been in. I was in a group with my friends Jeff, Steve, and Doug, all of whom are better golfers than I am - though Jeff hasn't golfed much in the past few years, so his game has dropped off a little. I couldn't hit anything off the tee most of the day, but my short game and putting were pretty good. I did come within about an inch of a natural birdie on a par 4 -- we used my tee shot, then my chip pitch onto the green (I learned the difference between a chip and a pitch as well), and then I almost sank the birdie putt. Luckily, someone else sank the putt, and we birdie'd the hole. We played pretty well overall - no bogies at all, and four birdies, so we ended up 4 under, which was good enough for 5th overall. Note that this is the 5th best score overall - there were at least 4 teams with lower scores than us. Could be that 5 teams tied at 5 under, putting us 9th, not 5th.

After the tournament, there was a dinner and a silent auction of hundreds of items ranging from toys to gift baskets, golf equipment to crafty things. There was even a big bag of dog food and a can of ceiling paint. My friend Wendy got the ceiling paint - doesn't seem that exciting, but she paid less than half of what she would have at a store. Hey, if you need it anyway, may as well.

I bought a couple of things at the auction - a putter and dozen golf balls for about $55 (the golf balls are normally about $25, so I got a pretty nice putter for $30), and a picnic set, which consists of a big cooler bag, and another bag (that attaches to the first one) containing plastic plates, cups, cutlery, a little cutting board and bread knife, and some other stuff. Not bad for about $50.

I'm not really sure why I decided to bid on the putter - maybe just because I golf left-handed, and it was a lefty putter. The thing is, I already have a pretty good putter, which I'm perfectly happy with (used it to sink a long nasty putt on our last hole, thankyouverymuch). I'm probably done golfing for this year, so I'll have to wait until next spring to figure out which putter to use.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Published again!

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Flamborough Review last week, and it was published in today's edition. There was a column last week suggesting the possibility of a "gas-out", i.e. a day where everyone doesn't buy gas, forcing the gas companies to lower prices. I pointed out that if you don't buy gas on that day, when you normally would, you'd have to buy it the day before or the day after, and so demand over that three day period wouldn't change. If gas prices drop at all, they'll climb right back up the next day.

This is the second time I've been published in the paper -- I had a letter to the editor of the Hamilton Spectator published a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Creating gradient images

So I'm working on this web site I mentioned before, and it's got a purple gradient image down the left side -- i.e. it's purple right at the edge, and then it gradually fades to white, like this:

I like it, so I put it on the new site. Stacy also likes it, but says she'd rather have it green, not purple. Well, I'm not a graphic designer, I just know HTML, CSS, PHP, stuff like that, so I have no idea how to change it from purple to green, or to create one from scratch. I do some googling and asked Gail, and she suggested that Microsoft Word has a thing called WordArt which does this sort of thing. So I played with Word until I found it. I managed to create the green gradient following these steps:

  1. Used WordArt to create a word that changes from green to white. It can only do this in the background of the word, so I made the word "WWWWWW", just as wide as the old image. (I figured that W takes up more room than any other letter, so I would have the least amount of playing to do. Thinking about it later, I think using "IIIIII" would work better.)
  2. Save the document as an HTML page. Word saved the document as a gif.
  3. Load the gif into Microsoft Paint, and copy pixel colours until I have a single line of pixels that goes from green to white. Save as a png, otherwise Paint messes the colours up.
  4. Create an html file that contains the style "background: url(images/greengradient.png); background-repeat: repeat-y;", so that the image is repeated down the left side of the page.
  5. Load this html file in a browser, maximize the browser, and use the PrtScrn key to copy the desktop onto the clipboard.
  6. Chop up the image until I have an image that's the size of the gradient on the original image (with the heart logo and the purple gradient), then copy it to the clipboard.
  7. Load the original image in IrfanView, select the old gradient, and paste the new one on top.
  8. Save the new image as a new gif.

Whew! Lots of steps, but it ended up looking pretty good. Unfortunately, Gail thinks the green at the left is too bright, which means I'll have to do the whole thing again, starting with a different green. Groan.

A Special Day

Today is a special day for two reasons: First, it's Ryan's 6th birthday today, and second, it's the first day of school. Ryan started Grade One this morning, though wasn't sure how he felt about it. I guess Adam told him on the weekend that there's no playing in grade one (though Adam is himself starting grade one, so maybe Liam told him). We tried to assure him that there was indeed playing in grade one, though perhaps not as much, or maybe a different kind of playing than in SK. We went to see his classroom when we dropped him off this morning, and his teacher happened to be there, so Ryan confirmed with her that they do get play time. After that, and after seeing his SK friends in the YMCA before-school program, he was fine.

Jeff had his annual golf tournament this past weekend, and Gail and I both played in it. There were only 16 golfers playing - I'm sure Jeff's had a lot more in previous years. Our team included Steve and Laura, both of whom golf a lot more than Gail or I do. Gail only golfs once a year, but she had her worst day ever - she was hitting the ball a lot better at the driving range than on the course. Steve reassured her that everybody hits better at the driving range than on the course. She did rebound on one hole though, and almost got herself a natural par. We used her drive and her chip, and then she left her putt maybe one inch short of the hole. I had a pretty good day - and even got my first-ever birdie. Our team did pretty well - we shot 1-over for the day, placing us second, Steve won the men's closest to the pin award, and Laura won the women's longest drive award.