Saturday, December 30, 2006

Superheroes and Supervillains

I took a quiz to discover which superhero I'm most like, and found:

Your results:
You are Superman
Iron Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test
Should I be worried that I'm more like Supergirl and Catwoman than Batman?

There was another one to see which super-villain you're most like:

Your results:
You are Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
Mr. Freeze
The Joker
Lex Luthor
Green Goblin
Dark Phoenix
Poison Ivy
Blessed with smarts and power but burdened by vanity.
Click here to take the "Which Super Villain are you?" quiz...
I'm not even sure I know who Dr. Doom is.

Lacrosse season is back!

I'm watching the first NLL game of the season, broadcast live over the intertubes. Mike Accursi just scored for Rochester, and the Knighthawks now lead the reigning NLL champion Colorado Mammoth 11-10 in the second quarter.

My friend Mike has a nephew, Shawn Williams, who is a great lacrosse player. He was signed by the Toronto Rock in 1999, and Mike got Rock season tickets to watch Shawn. He brought some other friends to a couple of games, and they started to really enjoy the game. In early 2000, they decided to head to a Buffalo-Philadelphia game in Buffalo, and Mike asked if I wanted to go and check it out. I tagged along, though I knew nothing about lacrosse. I was instantly hooked, and when Mike said they were considering expanding their four season tickets to eight for the next season, I told them to count me in. Since then:

  • I have missed only one Toronto home game (because I was on a Caribbean cruise at the time)
  • I've also seen a number of games in Buffalo and a couple in Rochester
  • I run a lacrosse pool for my friends
  • I've edited hundreds of pages on lacrosse (and created about 50) on Wikipedia

I don't think you could say I'm obsessed with lacrosse, but I'm certainly a fan.

Colin Doyle was traded from the Toronto Rock to San Jose the other day, which took the lacrosse world by storm, since Doyle has been one of the top scorers in the league over the last few years, has been named championship game MVP three times, and was league MVP in 2005. (Incidentally, Doyle's page on Wikipedia was one of the ones that I created.) Doyle was traded with another guy (who the Rock acquired in a trade last month) and a draft pick for three young players and a couple of draft picks. One of the players the Rock got was Ryan Benesch, who was the first overall draft pick last year, so the Rock have essentially traded a proven scorer (who's only 29 — likely lots of good years left in his career) for an unproven rookie, though one with lots of potential. I didn't care much for Doyle for the first few years, because he was a bit of a hothead, and tended to dive now and again. Over the last two years or so, however, he's calmed down a lot, and my respect for him has really grown. He also stands perfectly still for the national anthems, and even sings along with O Canada, which impressed the hell out of me the first time I saw it. Long story short, I'm not really sure how I feel about this trade. It's nice to bring some young blood into the team, and the draft picks in 2008 and 2009 may set the Rock up nicely for the next decade. But Colin Doyle was the anchor of the Rock's offense and a bona fide superstar player. If Benesch's potential doesn't pan out (does the name Nik Antropov ring any bells?) this could be the beginning of a number of "rebuilding" years for the Rock.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Perfect Day

Merry Christmas to all! Christmas at the Perrow household was quite stress-free this year. We always travel to the grandparents' places around Christmas, but we always wake up Christmas morning in our own house. In previous years, we would wake up Christmas morning, open our presents as fast as possible, then pack the kids in the van with one or two of their new toys and head 3-4 hours north to either my parents' place or Gail's dad's place, to be there in time for Christmas dinner. Then we'd do Christmas all over again there, and a day or two later leave that set of grandparents and drive the hour to the other set. A day or two after yet another Christmas, we'd come home to the huge mess that we left.

We only made one change to that schedule this year, but it made a huge difference. We decided not to go north for Christmas dinner, but leave later in the day. As a result, we took our time opening presents, and if the kids wanted to play with something for 10 minutes before opening the next one, no problem. This small change completely killed any time pressure that we felt, and made Christmas Day very enjoyable. However, that's not the perfect day I referred to in the title of this entry. Boxing Day we spent at my in-laws place, and the 27th at my parents' place, and both days were very relaxing and enjoyable, but neither of them was the perfect day either. The perfect day was yesterday, the 28th.

The boys slept until about 7:30, and I got up with them while Gail slept in. Ryan had already made himself a waffle, and I got Nicky some breakfast as well. They watched some TV while I got their clothes and swimming stuff ready, then I drove them over to the YMCA for a "Kitchen Chemistry" class followed by a swim. While they were there, Gail and I cleaned up the family room — moved new toys to the play room or the boys' rooms, collected all the wrapping paper and boxes for recycling, stuff like that. Then I got the boys, and they played happily until lunch time. Lunch was something simple, and then we played a game or two as a family. I got the Scene It: Harry Potter DVD game, and we played that a couple of times. Ryan's seen the first movie once but not the rest, and Nicky hasn't seen any of them, but they enjoyed watching the clips and stuff. After that, Ryan wanted to do one of the puzzles he got for Christmas, and I helped him until he got bored and went to watch TV with Nicholas. Gail and I continued the puzzle until dinner time. We had dinner (leftover turkey, believe it or not), and then watched a TV show on UFOs, aliens and the whole Roswell thing which we all enjoyed (though Gail said the boys were a little freaked out later), and then I went to my friend Jeff's place for an evening of Texas Hold'em poker. The last time I played poker at Jeff's I didn't win a single hand all night. This time I did win some hands (some with fairly big pots) and I came 4th out of 9 people, so I was pretty happy with that.

It wasn't a great day because we got a lot done, or because of any one event, or because the meal was great, or anything like that. It just seemed like the perfect family day — the boys had fun doing things by themselves, with each other, and with us, and we had fun doing stuff with them as well. There was a minimum of fighting, squealing, and yelling (though with our boys, some of that is inevitable), nobody got sent to their room, nobody had to go to bed early because they weren't behaving, it was just a great day all around. The Perfect Day.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Spam Zen

I received this piece of spam email today:

Subject: I speak?A most harsh one and not.

In a lawful deedAnd lawful.

Where are my other men monsieur?. I have butlittle more to.

Our houseBequeathed down.

I'm sure it means something deep and philosophical, but I can't figure out what.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Harvey Danger rocks

I blogged before about Harvey Danger and their free-as-in-beer CD download. I downloaded the album, liked it, and attempted to buy it, but they charged my credit card without sending my anything. I emailed them about it and they reversed the charge, so I tried again. Once again, they charged my credit card but nothing got sent. I emailed them about it today, and they said that not only would they reverse the second charge, but now they're going to send me a free copy of the CD.

So: I paid nothing to download their album. I liked their idea of releasing the album on the internet (plus I liked the album itself), so I wanted to make sure that the band actually makes a profit from me. But because I had trouble buying the CD, I'm getting a free copy. The end result is that the band will still make no monetary profit from me. How's that for irony?

The best I can do now is to promote the living hell out of the band, so that's what I'm doing here. I will probably buy their other albums as well, but if I do, it'll be from, not from their web site!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Useless spam

Well, spam is useless anyway, but I seem to be getting a lot of spam recently that has no links, no images, no URLs, nothing. People who send spam, I thought, were generally trying to sell you something - buy my stolen / copied watches, buy my illegal drugs, buy penny stocks (that have already peaked) in my company, check out my porn web site, stuff like that. But if the message contains no way for you to get to their web site, how do they make money off of it?

My family web site has a guest book. Every couple of weeks or so, I get a couple of spam postings, which I promptly delete. This morning I got one from "Bill" (uh-huh) which said (this was the entire text of the message): "Hello, nice site look this:".

Bill, if you're reading this blog, I assure you that I really wanted to "look this", but there was no "this" to "look". My interest was piqued, and then disappointment washed over me like I was a Senators fan during the playoffs. Most of the people who visit are my family, so in order to spare them that level of despair, I deleted your message. I'm sorry, but I have to do what's best for my family.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Raptors game #3

I went to the Raptors game against the New Jersey Nets tonight, my third Raptor game this season. In the first game, the Raptors led 2-0, then Atlanta tied it up and went ahead, and never lost the lead again. In the second game, they had a 2-point lead around 24-22 or so, but then lost the lead and never got it back again. So when the Raptors had a five point lead early in the game, I was pumped. Sure it was only 10-5 maybe 2 minutes in, and sure, this is basketball, where a 10-point lead can vanish within a minute, but still. I was kind of right - the Raps had 12-14 point leads several times, and almost every time, the Nets clawed back to within 1 or 2; they even tied it up at least once. The Raptors persevered (even without CB4), and came out on top, 90-78. Their defence was much better in this game than in the previous two, and I thought (being the basketball novice that I am) that T.J. Ford played really well.

Ex-Raptor Vince Carter was booed every time he touched the ball, and whenever he took a shot and missed, the cheers were louder than when the Raptors scored. One time, Vince even attempted a three-pointer and missed the net, rim, and backboard entirely; the crowd went nuts. Vince — an air ball? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Vince ended up with a positively mediocre 12 points. Fans were yelling "Carter sucks", and a couple of years ago, I would have been right there with them, but tonight I just didn't feel the hate. He's no longer the slimy bastard who admitted that he gave less than his all for the last year or so of his stay in Toronto, now he's just a guy who used to play here. It's not like he's Roger Clemens or anything. Oh, and Alonzo Mourning, who was traded to the Raptors as part of the Carter deal but told them he would not play, and forced them to buy him out for $10 million, is still a scum-sucking dirtbag.

This was the third major sporting event that I've been to where something exciting happened to the person next to me:

  1. A bunch of years ago, I was sitting in the 500-level of SkyDome during a Jays game with Gail and another couple we knew, Mark and Kathy. We were way out (and I mean way the fuck out) in right field, just inside the foul pole. Mark jokingly mentioned the remote possibility of someone hitting a ball to us and I swear to God, the next batter hit a long foul ball that landed in the empty seat in front of Mark, who grabbed the ball.
  2. At a Rock game a few years ago, my buddy Jeff (with whom I went to the Raptors game tonight) was sitting next to me, and caught a t-shirt thrown from the field.
  3. At every Raptors game (and every Leafs and Rock game too), they pick two fans at random from the upper section and move them down to the front row (it's the "Move of the Game", sponsored by a moving company). Tonight, the chosen two people were sitting right next to me. Man, that would have been suh-weet.

Friday, December 08, 2006

No Lilly, no Meche, now what?

What, exactly, is J.P. Ricciardi thinking? We all knew that the Jays' biggest problem last year was inconsistent pitching. We also knew that other needs were a catcher (both Zaun and Molina are free agents), and help in the middle infield. So what moves has he made? Two good ones (well, not horrible at least), and two bad ones. He resigned Zaun (needed to be done, but we still need a backup and Molina is too expensive) and signed shortstop Royce Clayton, so we're OK up the middle. But he also signed Frank Thomas and Matt Stairs. Great, now our good-hitting lineup is even better, but wasn't pitching the problem in the first place? Is he hoping we will win lots of 9-7 games and just pound our way into the playoffs? Memo to J.P.: you need pitching to win. End of story.

The Jays were not able to re-sign Ted Lilly, and Spier is gone, so the pitching staff is weaker than before, and we've spent something like $9 million on Thomas (Stairs and Clayton were cheap). We were willing to go up to near $10 million for Lilly ($10 million for Ted Lilly? Yeesh), so now we have that money available. They were looking at Gil Meche, but he's said no. Even if they did sign him, they'd have been at best no better than last year. Does J.P.'s plan for getting to the World Series this year really include "Hope that Chacin bounces back, and that Towers, Taubenheim, Janssen, and McGowan suddenly find a way to win 12 games each"?

Couldn't the Lilly money plus the Thomas money have been better used on someone like Barry Zito, or even Andy Pettitte? Maybe he's looking at trading Vernon Wells for a front-line pitcher, but a stud pitcher is worth more than a stud outfielder, so we'd have to throw in prospects as well, and we just ain't got any. In general, I like what Ricciardi has done with the Jays, but these moves have me shaking my head. Then again, the offseason isn't over yet, so maybe it's too early to judge, but so far, next year's team is not looking any better than last year's.

Update: Read in the paper this morning: What's the difference between J.P. Ricciardi and Lindsay Lohan at a bar? Lindsay Lohan can buy pitchers.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Graeme the inventor

While sitting in line at the Tim Horton's drive-thru a couple of weeks ago, getting ready to order the exact same thing that I always order when I don't have breakfast at home ("Sesame seed bagel toasted with butter, large steeped tea, one milk, one sugar, double cup please"), I thought of an idea. It's unlikely to ever happen, but it's cool anyway. The idea is for Tim Horton's to create a small device, something that could hang on a key chain, that functions as a remote control. I'll call it the TimFob. The TimFob could have several buttons on it, and each button could be programmed to a different order — when you get to the drive-thru, you point your TimFob at the ordering window and press one of the buttons. The order is transmitted and placed, and the total immediately appears on the screen. Then you can drive up to the window and pay.

Each TimFob would have a unique ID number, and when a button is pressed, it simply transmits its ID number and which button was pressed, and the computer inside the store checks its database for the order corresponding to that TimFob and button. Customers could set and change their favourite orders on a web site. If they want, customers could also tie their credit card number to the TimFob so that their purchase is automatically paid for. You'd have to make the TimFob easily removable so that people could hang it on their key chains and then use it while their keys are still in the ignition, and then replace it once they've ordered.


  • Obviously, this would speed up ordering, and cut down on errors in data entry (i.e. 1 milk 2 sugars, or was that 2 milk 1 sugar?). One of the Timmy's near us almost always screws up some part of our order. Either Gail's tea isn't decaf (in which case she'll have a headache all day), or my tea has too much / not enough sugar, or the sesame seed bagel has cream cheese and the whole wheat bagel has butter instead of the other way around, or...
  • If the TimFob handled multiple buttons on the same order (and why wouldn't it?), the whole family could place their standard order with a couple of button pushes.
  • You could also grab someone else's TimFob when running to Timmy's for a group and make sure you get what they want.
  • If you wanted something other than one of the preprogrammed orders, the standard drive-thru procedure still works.
  • Tim Horton's could implement some kind of reward program (i.e. buy 10 coffees and get a free donut) without having to have stamp cards or things like that
  • Handy for people who have strong foreign accents!

There are some drawbacks too:

  • Timmy's could then track people's purchases, as well as locations and purchasing habits, and some people may not like this idea (but in that case, don't use the TimFob)
  • If the payment thing is implemented, they'd have to make sure the system is fast — Timmy's currently does not accept credit or debit cards since they frequently have long lines, and credit/debit transactions take longer. I cannot think of any other company that could get away with only accepting cash in this day and age.
  • There are the obvious security issues with having your credit card tied to something that could easily be stolen and then used with absolutely no authentication, but Esso already has that issue with their Speedpass.

Of course, creation of the TimFob would cost Tim Horton's money, and it's not likely that people would pay to use it (though maybe they would if Timmy's offered a discount, or perhaps the aforementioned reward program — people pay for the 407 transponder after all). Their biggest expense might be to pay me for the idea and use of the term "TimFob" which I invented today. (This blog posting and all contents are copyright © 2006, Graeme Perrow. All rights reserved.) Since this idea doesn't really help the company much, just the customer, it's unlikely that they'll do it (call me a cynic). But if they ever do, remember, you read it here first.

Note: No, I am not so arrogant as to believe that I am the first person ever to think of this idea. I'm sure many other people have thought about the same thing — this is my own original idea inasmuch as I've never heard or read anyone else talking about such an idea.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Blue Man Group

We went to see Blue Man Group in Toronto on Saturday night. In a word, wow. Absolutely undescribably amazing. "Undescribable" is an understatement — it was funny, it was musical, it was percussive, it was interactive, it was messy (for those in the first few rows, called "the poncho section"), it was without a doubt the weirdest experience I've ever had in a theatre. The three Blue Men never break a smile, never speak or make vocal noises of any kind, and yet still manage to convey their messages, which is important when they bring audience members up on stage and want them to do stuff. It's a multimedia extravaganza, with not only music, but everything from paint to marshmallows, Twinkies to Cap'n Crunch, as well as computer animation, pixelboards, laser effects, and multi-coloured PVC tubes all over the place.

I guess it's not for everybody, but everybody we went with loved it. Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fa la la la la

I'm a fan of rock music — everything from Sarah McLachlan to Metallica, Elton John to Tool. There are other kinds of music I sometimes listen to: I don't mind some country now and again, some blues, and I even have a couple of musical theatre soundtracks - yes, I admit it, I listen to show tunes. I'm not a fan of hip-hop / rap, and adult contemporary (Celine Dion, Michael Bolton) puts me to sleep. I don't listen to jazz either, but I can appreciate their talent — jazz guitarists and drummers are among the best musicians around. I just can't get into the electronic stuff either; generally, if there isn't a real guitarist or real drummer in your band, I'm not interested. If your "band" consists of three keyboardists, a DJ, and a drum machine, I'm not even going to listen.

One form of music I've never been a fan of is Christmas music. I think it's because after 30-some years, Christmas songs all start to sound the same. It's like there are a bunch of Christmas songs available (some religious and some not), and if you want to record a Christmas song, you must pick one of them. God forbid you write a new one. That's not always true; every couple of years I hear a Christmas song I've never heard before, but usually when someone releases a Christmas song, it's just their version of existing song that has already been done to death. Just yesterday, I heard a "new" version of the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick" (I don't know if they wrote it, but the only version I know is by them), but the "new" version was an almost note-for-note copy. Why bother?

Two of my least favourites are "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Jingle Bell Rock". Both have "rock" in the title, and that's part of what makes me not like them — neither has anything to do with "rock". What does Brenda Lee know about "Rockin'", anyway? And what the hell is the "new old-fashioned way"? "Jingle Bell Rock" isn't as bad, and I have nothing against Randy Travis (I just can't say his name without dropping into a southern drawl - Rrrrrandy Travis), but if he can cover a song without (a) changing his style or (b) changing the song's style, it ain't rock.

I suppose I have been mellowing in the last few years. I like the Barenaked Ladies' version of Jingle Bells (it starts off very slow and lounge-y, then suddenly blasts into this high-energy fun song). Tom Petty has a pretty good one ("Christmas All Over Again"), and Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" is OK. Now that I think about it, John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" is a really good Christmas song. I'm even learning Silent Night on the guitar. I'm not going out to actually buy any of these (for myself, anyway, I've bought some Christmas music for Gail), but I don't cringe whenever I hear them.

Strangely, it doesn't seem that there have been many attempts to write a hard rock Christmas song. AC/DC did a song called "Mistress for Christmas", which was just dumb. And there are NO death metal Christmas songs. I guess I won't hold my breath waiting for Cannibal Corpse's version of "What Child is This?" or "A Very Slayer Christmas".

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Musings on McGwire

Mark McGwire is on the ballot for the baseball Hall of Fame. A lot of people are saying he should not get in because of steroid use. Now, I'm a strong believer that steroid use in pro sports is cheating. I think it goes against the principles of sport in general; athletes are supposed to compete against each other physically, and in many cases mentally, but not chemically. Also, it teaches our young athletes that becoming the best you can be is not good enough on your own, you need drugs as well. Not only does this damage their self-esteem, but it puts them at risk because steroids can be dangerous, even deadly. So on that basis, I think McGwire should not be in the Hall.

On the other hand, it has never been proven that McGwire took steroids, nor has he ever admitted to it. Also, steroids were perfectly legal in baseball until after McGwire retired, so even if he did take them, technically, he never did anything wrong. His stats are unquestionably worthy, and his home-run race with Sammy Sosa in the late 90's gave baseball a much-needed boost in interest (only a few years after the interest-killing strike), so maybe he should be in the Hall.

On the other hand, the criteria for being in the Hall includes your conduct off the field, and McGwire has repeatedly refused to answer any questions regarding steroids, including questions in front of a Congressional inquiry. This refusal could be seen as an admission of guilt, or at least qualifies as detrimental behaviour, so maybe he shouldn't be in the Hall.

On the other hand, baseball has far worse people in the Hall of Fame. Ty Cobb was a racist who once fought with an umpire (after a game), and stabbed a man to death during another fight. Kirby Puckett was arrested for groping a woman and was accused of other "lewd acts" (according to Wikipedia). Those are just two examples, but given that, does taking legal (at the time) "supplements" qualify as detrimental enough? Maybe he should be in the Hall.

Should McGwire be in the Hall of Fame? I dunno. I'll let the baseball writers decide. I'm happy sitting here on the fence.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Post" of the "day"

Here is a Flickr photoset containing images of signs containing unnecessary quotation marks. This is something that's always bugged me. In a previous job, I walked to work every day, and I passed a gardening business. On the side of their trucks, they had the phrase A "cut" above the "rest". I never figured out why "cut" and "rest" were in quotes. I just chalked it up to bad grammar — people who had never figured out when to use punctuation properly. I, on the other hand, have always been anal pedantic about such things.

If I see Breakfast "burrito" on a menu, I read that as "It's not really a burrito, but it's kind of the same, so we're calling it one anyway". Generally, I just ignore the quotes, but you never know — it could be that they really do know what they're talking about, and it's really not a burrito. Just make sure that you use the little "finger quotes" signals when you order it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Gives new meaning to "Bad customer service"

I just read a story on about a guy who got seriously screwed over by the Bank of America. To sum it up, this guys sold a couple of bikes online for $600, and the guy who bought them sent a cheque for $2000, telling him that the extra $1400 was to cover shipping costs and his "trouble". He was suspicious, so when he went to the bank to cash the cheque, he told the teller that he wasn't sure if the cheque was real. She checked it out, the cheque was not real, and the guy was arrested and thrown in jail. Note that he did not write the cheque, he received it from someone else and tried to warn the bank about it. He's since been forced to spend over $14,000, in bail and, presumably, legal costs. The Bank of America refuses to apologize or reimburse him.

Since then, many people have closed BofA accounts in protest of this, totalling over $50 million. I don't have a BofA account, and I suspect the majority of people reading this are Canadian, but if you happen to have a BofA account, please consider closing it, and make absolutely sure to tell the branch manager why you're doing this.

Free-as-in-beer music redux

About a year ago, a Seattle-based band named Harvey Danger released their latest album, "Little By Little", and made headlines by making the entire album available in MP3 format on their website for free. I'd never heard of the band, but I figured the price was right, and I could just delete the files if I decided it sucked. (I even blogged about it.) Well, it didn't suck, and I grew to quite like the album. A month ago, I decided that I liked it enough to actually purchase it, since I felt kind of guilty that I was enjoying listening to this album, while the band was getting no benefit from my enjoyment. So I went to the web site, entered my address and credit card number, and got an error, saying that my zip code was in the wrong format. Well, Canadian addresses don't have a zip code, they have a postal code, in a different format than US zip codes. Yet another US-based web site that doesn't know that people exist outside of the US. Sigh.

Anyway, I emailed the "webstore" address asking if they could confirm that either (a) my credit card was not charged, or (b) it was, but the CD will be sent to me. I never heard back, and promptly forgot all about it.

Yesterday, I received my credit card bill, and lo and behold, there is a charge for US$19, and I have no CD. I emailed them again, stating that I was charged, so could they please send the CD? This morning I got a reply, saying that the CD was sent last weekend, and if I don't receive it soon to let them know. The funny part was that the email was sent by Jeff J. Lin (Note: inactive blog), who happens to be the guitar player for Harvey Danger. You know you're not dealing with a big-name band when the guitar player is also responsible for shipping. You wouldn't send email to and expect to get a reply from After reading some of the stuff on his rather sparsely-populated blog, it looks like he's a geek like me (he specifically mentioned "my CS profs" in one entry), so he's probably "the website guy" as well as the guitar player.

Anyway, I thought that was cool. I encourage you to go and check out this album, if you like their style of music. I'm not sure how to describe "their style of music" though, other than to say that they have been described as "college/alternative". You can hear short clips of a couple of their songs from their Wikipedia page.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Star Wars - comparing the trilogies

Wil Wheaton (who I'm beginning to think of less as an actor and more of a writer and blogger) wrote a blog entry as well as an article (SFW) at (NSFW - I only read it for the articles) about Star Wars, what it means to "my generation" (I'm only a year or two older than Wil) and why the fact that the new trilogy "sucked so hard" made him not just disappointed, but downright angry.

I didn't hate the second trilogy (I'm going to refer to the trilogies in the order in which they were released, i.e. the first trilogy is episodes 4, 5, and 6, and the second trilogy is episodes 1, 2, and 3), but it certainly didn't mean the same thing to me as the first one did. I'm sure that part of it was the fact that I was 8 when Star Wars came out, and my friends and I were all into playing with the action figures and such. I think part of it is also that there had never really been a movie like Star Wars - the effects were state of the art, and unlike Star Trek, the aliens were truly alien, not just humans with different coloured skin or bumps on their foreheads. It created a whole new generation of science fiction fans, and paved the way for innumerable other space movies. It was also one of the first movies to really cash in on the toys and merchandising - I wonder if Lucas made more money fom that then from the movies themselves. Basically, the first three movies were not just great movies, they were groundbreaking in the world of cinema.

Then, 16 years later, along comes "The Phantom Menace". The special effects were, once again, state of the art, and zillions of people (myself included) were excited to be entering the world of Star Wars once again. They even had big name actors like Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor involved - how could it fail? Well, it didn't, financially, it made zillions. But the movie itself wasn't up to what I expected:

  • First and foremost was Jar Jar Binks, the most annoying movie character since ... well, since the beginning of time.
  • There were the obvious comparisons between Darth Vader and Darth Maul, and while Maul looked menacing and was really slick with the very cool double-ended light saber, he had maybe two lines in the whole movie, and ended up being nothing more than a hitman. Vader, on the other hand, was the very personification of evil in the first trilogy.
  • The dialogue was bad. Really bad. Anakin asking if Padme was an angel made me cringe, especially once we realized that the two of them would, (ahem), "get together" in the second or third movie - that was kind of creepy. Another classic bad line: "Let's try spinning, that's a good trick".
  • Qui-Gon insisting that Jar Jar (ugh) accompany them because of his life debt seemed like a desperation ploy to keep Jar Jar in the movie. Qui-Gon telling Obi-Wan "we may need a guide" was just laughable. Also, Jar Jar had no idea who these Jedi were, and yet immediately led them to the "hidden" Gungan city. Later, he led them to a special (also hidden) place that Gungans go when in trouble. If they have a hidden city, why would they need another hidden "special place"? And after telling them that Gungans don't like outsiders, why would he lead outsiders to these hidden places twice?
  • The midichlorians were these microscopic life forms that live within our cells and give us knowledge of the force. Why, George, why? The midichlorians served exactly one purpose: Lucas wanted a way to quantify how strong Anakin was in the Force. It wasn't enough to just say "this kid is really strong", he needed to prove that the kid had potential beyond that of any known Jedi. But without an actual number to quantify that, there was no way to make that point, so he came up with the midichlorians. Now he could give an actual number and specifically say that Anakin's number was higher than that of Yoda. I didn't like this idea, but I can't say why. The best I can do is to say that making the midichlorians some kind of intermediary between people and the Force seemed to reduce the coolness factor somewhat.

It did have some good points too - the lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon and Darth Maul and the pod race were both good, though I suppose that's mainly because of the visual effects (and sound during the pod race).

I really wanted to love the movie - like I said, I was (am!) a huge Star Wars fan, and was really excited about it. I remember leaving the movie feeling like I was "betraying" Lucas by not loving it. It never occurred to me at the time that Lucas was actually betraying us, the fans, by making it. I'm still not sure that I feel that way about it, but I know some, like Wil, do.

I'll post my thoughts on Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith later on.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Squeak squeak swish

I went to my first Raptors game in about 10 years last night - Raptors vs. the Atlanta Hawks. Last time I went to a Raptor game was around '96 or '97 with my old company - we went to a Raptors-Celtics game (fitting, considering the amount of time we spent in Boston) at the SkyDome. They, of course, play at the ACC now, and I know a little more about the game than I did then, which was precisely nothing.

I'm still no basketball expert by any stretch, but I can recognize bad defence when I see it, and the Raps were brutal in the first half. Chris Bosh couldn't hit anything, and I think he might have had 4 points at halftime. He did have a bunch of rebounds though, but that doesn't matter much if you miss the follow-up. The Raps quickly took a 2-0 lead in the first, then Atlanta tied it, went ahead, and never lost the lead for the rest of the game. The Raptors played better in the second half, and got to within 2 points of the Hawks a couple of times, but no closer.

I'm going to two more Raptors games next month - one with Ryan, and one with my friend Jeff. Jeff co-owns season tickets to the Leafs, and he's taken me to a number of Leaf games, and never lets me pay for the ticket, so I think a Raptors game is the least I can do!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Breaking News

Attention all single men! The news you have all been waiting for has arrived: Britney Spears is filing for divorce! This means that Britney is available! For those of you who are on the prowl for a rich and famous woman who is stunningly beautiful (when she's not skanky-looking), marginally talented, and has the IQ of molasses, this is your lucky day. I'm happily married, so this news has no effect on me.

On the other hand, Halle Berry is also single...

Update: So is the über-cute Reese Witherspoon.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Movie Review: Nacho Libre

Gail is away for the weekend, so it's just me and the boys. We rented a couple of movies: The Wild (which the boys liked, I thought the other-movie-with-the-same-plot Madagascar was better. I did like Don Cherry's cameo though) and Scooby-Doo for the boys, and I decided to get something for myself that Gail would have little interest in seeing. I decided on Nacho Libre, since I like Jack Black. Well, let me say this: Nacho Libre is easily — easily — the best Mexican wrestling movie I've ever seen.

Comparing it to non-Mexican-wresting movies, however, is not so favourable. There were some funny moments, but in general, it was kind of boring. The cinematography was weird (like a Mexican movie? I dunno), as was the soundtrack. It seemed to me that both would have been less grating if I were more familiar with Mexican culture, but watching a parody of something that you're not familiar with is just not funny.

What is it with studios that they release movies with very similar plots around the same time? The Wild and Madagascar were released about a year apart, and both dealt with New York zoo animals escaping and making it to their natural habitat, with which they are unfamiliar. Antz and A Bug's Life were released around the same time, both dealt with computer-generated ants. Armageddon and Deep Impact, both about meteor strikes. Volcano and Dante's Peak, both about (you guessed it) volcanoes. Especially weird were The Truman Show and EdTV, both of which had what I would normally have considered a very unique plot. It would seem to me that one studio gets wind of an idea that the other studio is working on, and rushes to get their own "version" out first. Come on, writers, this is why you get paid the big bucks — write your own damn movie.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Top Ten Signs That You Edit On Wikipedia Too Much

  1. Whenever you find a spelling or factual mistake on any web page, you immediately look for the "edit this page" button
  2. When you see a spelling mistake on your own web site, you immediately look for the "history" button to find out what moron added it
  3. Putting hyperlinks in HTML documents is such a pain because typing [[whatever|link]] is so much easier than <a href="http://whatever">link</a>
  4. When writing plain-text email, you try to emphasize a word using '''word'''
  5. You wish your email client supported categories: being able to add multiple categories to an email would be so cool (All joking aside, this would be quite a cool feature*)
  6. You see a short web page lacking in content and want to add {{stub}}
  7. You see something on a web site that doesn't seem right, and you want to leave a message on the talk page asking about it
  8. You eye your kids' toys, wondering if they really play with them anymore, whether they'd notice if they vanished, and how much you could get for them. Oops, wrong list — that should be on the Top Ten Signs You Use eBay Too Much
  9. You wish the web had a "watchlist" so you could find out which web pages have changed recently without having to actually visit those pages (though I suppose that's what RSS is for)
  10. You click on a hyperlink that takes you to a 404 error page, and you wonder why the original link wasn't red

* I have frequently been looking for a particular email and cannot remember what folder I saved it in. Wouldn't it be great to be able to "save" it to multiple folders without replicating the message numerous times? If I'm looking for a message from my boss regarding IPv6 in SuSE Linux, did I save it in a folder called "Mark"? OK, so that would probably have been dumb, but was it "IPv6" or "Linux" or "SuSE"? If I could mark the message with a bunch of different tags (eg. "Mark IPv6 SuSE Linux"), then I could look in any one of those folders and find it. just added this feature for blog articles, and I love it; it's also similar to the way you can save bookmarks at Are you listening Thunderbird or Outlook people?

I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out

Don Cherry was on the radio this morning, talking about how fighting is required in hockey, and he was going to convince me, the listener, why this is true. I'm not a fan of fighting in hockey (or lacrosse), so I waited to be astonished by his insight. He proceeded to tell stories about how so-and-so star player (Gretzky et al) were "untouchable" and if anyone "looked sideways" at them, someone would take them out. He called this "protection". As I've stated before, I don't have a problem with sending your resident goon out after someone if he hits your star player with a cheap shot. But what Cherry and Kypreos and others who advocate fighting don't seem to "get" is that Wayne Gretzky and other star players are not just stars, they're hockey players, and part of hockey is getting checked. If you're a star player like Crosby or Malkin or Nash and you're heading towards the offensive zone with the puck, you better expect to get hit. If that's too much for you and you need this much "protection" (not from cheap shots but from legal checks), then you have no business being in the NHL. This notion of having "untouchable" players is just silly.

Cherry even told one story he told about someone who bumped his star player accidentally (and Cherry agreed it was accidental), and got beaten up anyway. He actually laughed when he said that his goon grabbed the other player by the hair (no helmets in those days) and slammed his head into the boards. Yo Don, does the name "Steve Moore" mean anything to you? Cherry's entertaining and all, but what an idiot.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dumb lyrics and new stuff

One of the advantages of working at home, which I do every Friday, is that I can put music on actual speakers, rather than use headphones, which I sometimes do in the office. Plus, my selection of music is bigger at home than at work, because I haven't ripped my entire CD collection yet. For example, right now I'm listening to Tom Cochrane's excellent live album The Symphony Sessions, which I haven't listened to in ages. But every time I hear the Tom Cochrane song "Good Times", I have to shake my head at the following lyric:

Oh, good times we had
Wouldn't worry about tomorrow 'cause tonight was all we had, yeah
Oh, good times we knew
I'd tell you about them baby, but you were there
you were with me too

"I'd tell you about them, but you were there"? C'mon Tom, surely you could have done better than that.

I got a couple of new things this week: one available to everyone, and one specific to me. Mozilla Firefox 2.0 was released a couple of days ago, and I've already upgraded both my home and work machines. Honestly, I haven't noticed much of a difference. Everything I use pretty much works as it did before — seamlessly. One difference is that there's a spell-checker built-in, so hopefully my blog postings won't contain any speling mistaiks spelling mistakes. Strange how the word "blog" is marked as being spelled wrong, and it doesn't like html tags either...

The other new thing I got this week was a new radio for my car. My old radio was a JVC MP3 player that I got a few years ago, which served me very well, but was starting to get flaky. First off, one of the letters on the display was broken (probably because I dropped the faceplate one too many times), and more importantly, the CD player stopped working reliably. If there was no CD in the player, it would complain a lot, with some cryptic error message, beeping, and cutting the radio out for a couple of seconds. If you tried to put a CD in, it would frequently complain about it and spit it back out, or accept it, spend 10-15 seconds reading the disk, and then spit it out. I'd spend 10-15 minutes trying to get the damn disk in the player, and then I'd have to keep that disk in for the next couple of weeks, because taking it out and trying to put another one in was just too much work.

The new one is made by a company called "Dual", which I've never heard of, but the radio was cheap at Wal-Mart (sorry Tom). Mine doesn't seem to be shown on the Dual web site, but this one looks exactly the same and has the same features, though I think mine has less power. It has all the features of my old one, I think, plus it will play WMA files, which the old one wouldn't. There are a few things that annoy me about the new one, though:

  • You can't see the radio station / CD track name and the clock at the same time. However, powering on and off is much faster, and it shows the clock when the power is off, which the old one did not (unless you pressed the "Display" button).
  • The old radio would let you name radio stations, so if I was listening to Q107, the display would say "Q107" (once I programmed that in) rather than "107.1". This one just shows frequencies.
  • The new one takes a long time to decode MP3 tracks — when I switch from radio to a CD (even one that I was listening to before I put the radio on), it takes upwards of 15 seconds before a track starts playing. Surely the computer in the radio is advanced enough that it can pre-read the CD so that it has the next, say, 30 seconds of music in memory and ready to play once I switch to CD mode.
  • When playing MP3 tracks, my old one would display the album name once at the beginning of the album, and then display the track name, and leave the track name on during the song. The new one shows whatever you ask for (track name for me), but nothing else unless you cycle through the viewing options.
  • When navigating through songs and albums, they've decided that the most useful thing to show is the track number, rather than the song or album name. To jump ahead to another album or track, I need to: (1) let the song play long enough to identify it, (2) wait for 5-10 seconds until it decides to show me the track name, or (3) start clicking buttons until it shows me the track name. Of course, this is a car stereo, so it would have been nice for the designers to give a little bit of extra thought to the usability factor; if I'm futzing with the radio while driving, I want to be able to do stuff as quickly as possible.

All in all, it'll be fine. I'll get used to the limitations quickly I'm sure, and it no longer takes 15 minutes to change CDs, so that's a plus.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Angels and Demons

A guy at Gail's work has been married for over 20 years. A couple of years after he got married, his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; since then, she's needed constant care. He's hired a nurse to care for her while he's at work, and he does it the rest of the time. He hasn't been on a vacation in 20 years, and has no social life to speak of. Gail once told me that because of his devotion to his wife, he's a wonderful man; she actually referred to him as an "angel". But it occurred to me — what choice did he have? His only real alternatives are to put her in a home of some kind, or leave her. Either way, what are people going to say then? "He dumped her in a home so he could go off on a vacation? What a selfish bastard." So if he gives up everything to care for his wife, he's an angel, but if he doesn't, he's a scum-sucking dirtbag.

What if he's neither? What if he's just a regular guy?

My wife does a lot of volunteering. She is the chair of the school council for Ryan and Nicholas' school (this is Ryan's fourth year of school; Gail's been chair or co-chair of the council for three of them), and she's on the YMCA School Age Child Care parent committee (though they only meet a couple of times a year). Both of us also volunteer a half-day a month in our kids classrooms, and we have since Ryan was in JK. Ryan's in grade two now, and his teacher doesn't take volunteers (she says she's too much of a perfectionist, wanting to do everything herself and I can understand that), but Nicky's JK teacher does.

This year, Gail has become a Beaver leader. Last week, we were talking about the fact that Ryan is in his last year of Beavers; next year, Ryan will be a Wolf Cub, and Nicky will start Beavers. I asked Gail if she'd move up to be a Cub leader with Ryan, or stay with Beavers. She said "Maybe I'll stay with Beavers, and you can be a Cub leader". I have no idea if she was serious or not, but I have no interest in being a Cub (or Beaver) leader. I like the program, Ryan seems to enjoy it and I think Nicholas will too, but I simply have no interest in being a leader.

Here's where the relation to the previous story comes in. Does the fact that I don't want to volunteer for Beavers make me a bad parent? It seems that if I volunteer, I'm a great guy who gives up his own time to help children. If I don't, I don't care about children — and that's just not the case. It's not like I want to dump my kid at Beavers so I can go drinking, or so I can have an hour's peace without the little brat around, nothing like that. I just don't think I'd be a very good leader. I also think it's important to have the kids do something without us around. If Ryan goes to extra-curricular events at the school, Gail is always there, since she's usually the one organizing them. She knows more teachers at his school than he does. We're on a first-name basis with the YMCA people who run the child care program. Now, Gail's going to be at every Beaver meeting and event. I suppose we're not in the pool with him at swimming lessons every Saturday, but that's about it.

Now that I think about it, though, I was considering volunteering to coach his baseball team next summer, because I love baseball. So maybe it is selfish after all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

De Do Do Do De Da Da Da

On my way to work the other day, I heard two different songs by The Police on two different radio stations. It occurred to me that I hadn't listened to The Police in a while, and that they were a really good band. They're all really good musicians, and Sting wrote some really good rock songs, before he went all adult-comtemporary and lame. I don't mind some of his solo stuff, but his work with The Police was orders of magnitude better. Spirits In The Material World, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da (not the cleverest song title ever, but a great song), Don't Stand So Close To Me, King Of Pain, Can't Stand Losing You, Message in a Bottle, Roxanne, Every Breath You Take — they only released five albums, but they had so many great songs. It's too bad they broke up when they did (actually, I believe they never officially broke up, they just went on "hiatus", but after more than 20 years, I think it's safe to say they broke up).

I "restarted" my guitar lessons last Thursday. I've been taking lessons for a little over a year, and I've learned a lot, but I wanted to do more music theory than my teacher (John) can do. He suggested I switch over to the other guy (Terry) that teaches at the same place I go, since Terry knows music theory better and can teach it better. We started out going over basic stuff like the string names, major scales, and major chords (root, 3rd, and 5th), and by the end of the half-hour, we'd also talked about minor chords (root, flat 3rd, 5th), 7th chords (major or minor chord plus the 7th), and he mentioned diminished and augmented chords, though I don't know exactly how they're defined. I even have homework. I think the next few months are going to be challenging, and I probably won't get any better as a guitar player, but having the theory background will eventually make me a better player.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cool Tool: Mozy

I discovered a cool new web site last week, called Mozy is a web backup tool — you install some client software on your Windows machine (only XP and 2003 are supported), and set a schedule, and it backs up whatever data you want to their site, using https and blowfish encryption. It's smart enough to not back up files that haven't changed since the last backup, and you can store up to 2 GB of data for free. If you need more space, you can pay for it, but I'm only using a small fraction of my quota so far.

I installed it and backed up some stuff, and it's worked like a charm so far. It's certainly easier than remembering to burn a CD now and again. I keep some copies of personal stuff (like my family web site and a spreadsheet containing my weight loss information, for example) on my work machine, and it occurred to me recently (when someone at Gail's work was let go) that if something happened to my job (which I think is unlikely, but you never know), I doubt that they'd let me burn a CD with a bunch of stuff from my laptop before leaving. Obviously in the case of the web site, I could simply download everything, but there are other files that I'd lose. Now I have a copy of all that stuff online, and I don't have to think about backing it up.

The best part, other than the fact that it's free, is that there is no spyware or other crap installed with it, and no advertising either. Now, I haven't tried restoring any data yet, so perhaps that part is painful. I should probably try that, but so far, Mozy is a really cool tool.

Note: If you click on the link above and install and start using Mozy, you and I will each get an extra 256MB of free backup space. So if you decide to start using it, use that link instead of going there yourself, and we both benefit! Alternatively, you can use my referral code EN5GHI or my email address gperrow AT ianywhere DOT com when you register.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Questions for People Over 30

Got this from cahwyguy.

1. Do you prefer solicitors and service staff to address you by first name or by title+last (e.g. "Ms. Smith", "Dr. Adams", etc.)? Title unless I know them outside of their job, or have dealt with them numerous times in the past. I was at the bank the other day, and the guy I met with came out and said "Hi Graeme" although I'd never met him before. I didn't like that.

2. How many careers have you had? Just one – software developer.

3. How many jobs? How many employers? 6 co-op terms at three employers: 3 at IBM in Toronto, 2 at Sears Canada in Toronto, 1 at Microsoft in Redmond, WA. After graduation, a year and half at Corel in Ottawa. After grad school, three years at Comnetix in Mississauga, and just over nine years at iAnywhere Solutions/Sybase in Waterloo.

4. What was the best employer you worked for? iAnywhere, of course!

5. What was your favorite job? Some of the work I was doing at Comnetix was really cool, but the company itself had problems. I love what I do at iAnywhere.

6. How many companies, businesses or incorporated organizations have you founded? None.

7. Did you grow up to be what you wanted to be when you were 5? When you were 10? When you were 15? When you were 20? My parents tell me that I wanted to be a baker when I was a kid. Apart from the standard fireman, policeman, etc., I never really had any career plans. I didn't even know what I wanted to major in at university; I was in the math faculty, but was "non-specialist" until I picked computer science in 2nd year.

8. Have you published any books or academic papers? How many? A couple of technical articles at UWO, and an article in the proceedings of the Third International Symposium on Integrated Network Management back in 1994.

9. Do you hold any patents? How many? iAnywhere has applied for a patent for our web-server-in-the-database-server technology, and my name is one of four on the patent application.

10. Are you licensed or certified to practice a profession(s)? If so, what? Nope.

11. Ever served in the military? What branch and how long? Nope.

12. What's the largest number of employees you have ever managed at a time? I've supervised several co-op students, and I think I had two at the same time once or twice. None in the past, oh, five years or so though. I have no interest in being a manager.

13. How many countries have you lived in? Canada my whole life, except for four months (September to December 1991), when I lived in Redmond, WA, USA, while working for Microsoft.

14. How many times have you been married? Once.

15. How many kids do you have? How many grandkids? Two sons, born 1999 and 2002. No grandkids for at least another 15-20 years, hopefully.

16. Whom do you observe Thanksgiving with? Usually my parents and Gail's parents (on different days). This year, we had some non-Thanksgiving-related things to do that weekend, so we stayed home.

17. How many parents have you had? Just the two...

18. How many of your parents are still alive? How close are/were you to them? Both are still kicking. I talk to them a few times a month, and we see them maybe every other month or so. My sister talks to them almost daily.

19. What's one way you were surprised to find out you turned out like one of your parents? Can't think of anything. I'm more like my dad than my mom, but not in any way that surprises me.

20. What's one way you expected to turn out like your parent(s) and were surprised not to? Again, nothing comes to mind.

21. Do you own or rent your home? If the former, how many years on your mortgage, if any? Own. We bought in 1997, so we have 16 years left.

22. Do you have roommates (i.e. non-family adults living with you)? If not, how long has it been since you had roommates? No. I lived with three other grad students in 1994 at Western, and moved in with Gail right after that, and we got married the next year.

23. Have you ever sat on a jury? Yep, though it resulted in a mistrial, so we never really got to do anything. Details are here (Day one), here (Day two), and here (Day three).

24. Have you ever run for office? Held office? Nope.

25. Are you a member of a political party? Do you volunteer with it? Do you donate money to it? No, no, and no.

26. What's the nicest restaurant you've been to in the past year? We've been to Milestone's in Burlington a couple of times, including last Saturday for our 11th anniversary.

27. What's the nicest item of furniture you've bought? (Gifts don't count!) Our entertainment center. Holds our 36" TV and all the stereo equipment. The only problem with it that if we ever decide to go plasma, it's useless.

28. What kitchen appliance are you most happy you bought? (Gifts don't count!) Our side-by-side fridge, though the water dispenser does not have a pump in it. It uses the water pressure from the pipes, which isn't very good, so it takes forever to fill up a glass of water, and the ice cubes it makes are hollow. We don't use it (the water dispenser) anymore because of that.

29. Do you have a preferred airline? How many frequent flyer miles do you have? Air Canada. We have a few hundred thousand Aeroplan points, which we may use next year for a trip to the Big Apple, or we may save them for a couple more years and go to Hawaii.

30. Where do you like to go to vacation? Our trip to Fern Resort is always fun, and we've been to the Carribbean twice (once to Sandals Ocho Rios on our honeymoon, and once on a cruise. I would love to go to Hawaii or Australia. Gail wants to go to Paris for her 40th birthday in a couple of years.

31. Women: Do you wear skirts or trousers on the job? N/A

32. Men: Do you currently have facial hair? No. I've had both a full beard and a goatee in years past, but Gail's not too fond of them.

33. Do you have grey hair yet? If so, do you try to hide it? Yes, around my temples. Never tried to hide it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Battlestar Galactica

I've heard in a number of places about what a great show Battlestar Galactica is, so I finally rented the pilot mini-series last weekend. Gail and I have been watching it over the last couple of days (and we're not done yet), and I'm very impressed. We both remember watching the original show back in the late '70s; it only played for one season (1978 — thanks Wikipedia), but we both remember Starbuck, Apollo, Commander Adama, and Boxie (annoying little kid and his weird robot dog), plus the Cylons (with the cool red light bouncing back and forth across their face). The new series is different but cool — Starbuck and Boomer are now female characters (though Starbuck is still a cocky bastard; that I remember from the original series), and some Cylons are human-looking, and the special effects are obviously better. There are a few familiaries in the show — the scientist Dr. Baltar looks and sounds a lot like Dr. Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Colonel Tigh used to be on Cold Squad, a cop show set in Vancouver that we used to watch. Also, one of the early scenes on Caprica is shot at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver; I visited there when I was living in Redmond back in '91.

Now all I need to do is find someone who owns the first season on DVD and borrow it! I could probably find them on the internet and download them, but that would be illegal. Then again, if I were to download them, watch them once, and then erase the files, how would that be different from borrowing the DVD from someone?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Even More Separated at Birth

Tie Domi's ex-girlfriend (from cover of Maclean's) and ex-boss:

Belinda StronachJohn Ferguson, Jr.

Lots of article changes

I changed my blog over to the new blogger format today. Visually, there isn't much difference, but it makes it very easy to change the layout and stuff. One new thing is the addition of "labels", which you can assign to each article. Down the side of the blog, there's a list of all the labels, and you can see all the articles with that label. So if you want to see all the lacrosse articles, you can click on Lacrosse. Kinda handy, so this morning I went back and tagged a whole bunch of older articles. I didn't do all of them (I've posted almost 200 articles to this blog since I started it a year and a half ago!), but quite a few. If you have an RSS subscription to this blog, you might notice a whole bunch of new articles - that's why.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Do you KNOW what your kids are watching?

There's a kids show called Go, Diego, Go! — a spin-off of Dora the Explorer. It occurred to me the other day that if you add a space and some punctuation, you could rename the show "Go Die! Go! Go!"

Does Jerry Falwell know about this?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

URL changed

OK, the URL for this blog is now officially I've created a new blog over at the old address, and I changed the feed. Turns out that the LiveJournal syndication user was using the feedburner feed anyway, so I didn't have to do anything with that. The only other thing I've done is edit some old postings on this blog that contained links to other postings — I updated the URLs in the links.

If you notice anything weird, please let me know!

Friday, October 06, 2006

A magical visitor

The tooth fairy will hopefully be making her first visit to our house tonight! Ryan lost his first tooth this morning. He told us a couple of weeks ago that his two front bottom teeth were loose, and he's been wiggling them ever since. This morning while brushing his teeth, one of them came out. The other one is really loose as well, so it probably won't be long before it comes out as well.

Ryan was very excited by this event, and while Nicholas was excited for Ryan, he was quite upset when we told him that he probably won't lose any for another two or three years. In his words, "Why does Ryyyyyyyyan's tooth fall out and not meeeeeeeeeeeee?"

When Gail was a kid, only one of her teeth fell out by itself. The rest all had to be extracted, and to this day, Gail is not a big fan of dentists. When Ryan told us his teeth were loose, she was as excited as he was, and she was positively thrilled this morning when it fell out. She's very glad (as we all are!) that he won't have to go through the same dental nightmares that Gail did.

Saturday night update: Ryan's second tooth fell out today! We forgot (!) to put the first tooth under his pillow last night, so he's got two teeth under his pillow tonight!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Change to blog URL

I've decided to change my blog's URL from to I've never liked the original URL (boooooring), I just created it because I couldn't think of anything more clever. "Cut the Chatter" wasn't even the original name of the blog, but I like that name, so I'm going to change the URL. Bonus points for you if you know where the phrase "Cut the Chatter, Red Two" comes from.

If you're using the feedburner RSS feed (, I'll change that as well, so hopefully you won't see any difference. If you are using the regular RSS feed, that will vanish, so you should switch over to using the feedburner one. There's a LiveJournal feed as well, but I'm not sure how to change it — hopefully that's not too difficult. I'll probably create a new blog on the old address that just contains a link to the new address.

I'll probably do this tomorrow, or sometime on the weekend; I'm just my readership giving some advance notice now. Hopefully I don't lose too many readers by doing this, but if you've been looking for an excuse to stop reading this blog, here's your chance!

How Are We Going to Get These Dogs Back In?

McSweenys is a site that contains hilarious lists of stuff. Things like:

My favourite: Possible Follow-up Songs for One-Hit Wonders. "(Won't You Give Me A Ride Home From) Funkytown" is the best.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Man of the House?

The doorbell rang last night just before dinner. Our visitor was a teenage kid, trying to get me to subscribe to the Toronto Sun. I said no (more on that below) and he left, but I just had to laugh at the first thing he asked me: "Are you the man of the house?" I said yes, but thinking back, I'm not quite sure what he meant. Did he perhaps think that I lived with my parents, and he should be talking to them? Maybe he was standing at such an angle that he couldn't see the gray in my hair. In reality, I should have just said "I don't know — hold on, let me ask my wife."

About a year ago, I did get the Sunday Sun for a few months, thanks to a similar offer — something like $12 for 20 weeks. It's such crap. The sports section is good, but I don't like the way the paper reports the actual news. I currently get the Hamilton Spectator every day, and one of the things I enjoy reading is the letters to the editor section (I've even had a letter published). With the Sun, each letter has an editor's comment after it, and they're usually snarky unless you agree with them; this just seems childish to me.

The thing that bugs me the most is that the paper is so anti-Liberal, it's not even funny. Shortly before the last election, they ran a front-page headline that read something like "100 Reasons Not To Vote Liberal". It's not that I'm pro-Liberal so I disagree with their position (I have no particular political leanings at all, actually), but what bothers me is the fact that the paper has a position. When I read the news, I want just the news. It want it presented to me in an honest unbiased way, so that I can read the facts and make up my own mind. Maybe that's naïve, but when reading the Sun, I have no confidence that what I'm reading doesn't have their own little (or not-so-little) spin on it. How do I know that some facts that might present the Liberals in a positive light aren't missing, or distorted, or spun somehow to make it look more negative?

There's also the fact that it's a Toronto paper, and the Toronto papers all hate Hamilton. I'll stick with the Spec, thanks.

Monday, October 02, 2006

On the radio again

On my drive home, I phoned into the FAN 590 during Bob McCown's show. He was talking about an incident during a football game the other day where one of the players got his helmet knocked off and once the play was over, one of the opposing players walking off the field stepped on his head. The player has been suspended 5 games by the NFL for this moronic, blatant attempt to injure. I called in and told Bob about a similar play in a lacrosse game I saw a couple of years ago -- Rock vs. Bandits. John Tavares hit Patrick Merrill and knocked him down (perfectly legal hit), but then after the play ended, he stepped on Merrill's back on his way back to the bench. JT was given a 2-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but no other punishment. It was different though, JT didn't intend to hurt Merrill, just humiliate him a little. It was certainly unsportsmanlike, but not as bad as the football play.

It wasn't the first time I've seen JT do some dirty stuff either. He's an amazing player — one of the best ever, no question — but in addition to this incident, I remember another nasty play in Toronto. JT had the ball when the whistle was blown, with the ref signalling a Buffalo penalty. He waited a couple of seconds and then fired a blistering shot directly at the goalie. It hit him square in the chest protector, but the shot was way after the whistle. Pissed me off, and I'm sure the Rock players weren't too happy about it, but no penalty to JT.

This was my second time on the radio; I called in to the same show about a year and a half ago and blogged about it. I was just a young blogger then — it was only about my 6th blog enrty.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Run for the Cure

We participated in our third Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Run for the Cure in Burlington this morning. We walked the full 5 km — well, just like last year, Gail and I walked the full 5 km, while the boys rode in the wagon most of the way. We did make them walk some of the way; Ryan walked about 1½ km, while Nicholas split his kilometre between walking (and whining about the fact that he had to walk) and being carried on Gail's back. Maybe next year we'll get them to actually walk — as I told Ryan, it ain't the "Ride in the Wagon for the Cure".

We raised $400 ourselves, which beat our total from last year (I think we had $350 last year). I'm pretty sure you can still make donations after the event, so if you want to sponsor us, please click here. Great reasons for doing this are twofold: not only will you be helping out a great cause, but you also get to see a nice (two-year-old) picture of my family, taken at the Whispering Canyon Café restaurant at Disney World's Wilderness Lodge Resort. Thanks for your support!

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Crossing Jordan premiere bumped

From TV Squad:

Sorry, Crossing Jordan fans. NBC has pushed back the season premiere, in favor of a new game show hosted by Bob Saget. The game show is called 1 vs 100 and it's a game where one contestant battles 100 other people to win $1 million. It's the American version of a game show that is already popular in Europe. The series premiere is at 8 pm on October 20th, as a lead-in to the season premiere of Las Vegas.

NBC hasn't announced a new premiere date for Crossing Jordan.

Question: Why is Bob Saget still on TV? Has he ever been funny?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Comnetix redux

Stuff I remembered about Comnetix after publishing the last article:

  • We decided to get a 1-800 number for Boston police officers to call if they were having technical problems with our system. We tried during one meeting to come up with an easy-to-remember number -- 1-800-CALL-BOB was our first choice (Bob was a retired RCMP officer and our head salescritter). A couple of suggestions, 1-800-DUMB-COP and 1-800-NO-DONUT, were nixed by management. We eventually got a number that didn't correspond to any words.
  • On reflection, I think calling Joan (the VP) useless was a little unfair. She had zero technical knowledge, and occasionally asked some dumb questions, but it wasn't her job — she did HR and accounting stuff. I didn't much like her personally, but I did get paid every month, so maybe she was really good at what she did. Joan, if you're reading this, my apologies.
  • One of the guys I worked with at Comnetix (Henri) is the brother of one of the guys I work with at Sybase (Jack).
  • One of the guys I worked with at Comnetix (Greg) left Comnetix about a year before I did and came to work for Sybase, though in the Mississauga office. His brother (Tim) used to work at Watcom (which eventually became Sybase).
  • Security in the Boston Police Department headquarters was a joke. I routinely just walked in the front door and either upstairs to where the IT people were, or downstairs to the server room, and the officer by the front door didn't even look up. The code to by the door lock to the server room was '154', which was the address of the building (154 Berkeley Street). I'm safe in posting this since the BPD headquarters has since moved to a brand new building, presumably with better security.
  • We also had a system in at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (i.e. the Boston subway / bus cops) — they were far more concerned with security than BPD.
  • We went to a restaurant in Boston for dinner one night, and one of the guys asked for vinegar for his french fries. The waiter looked at him weird, then went away and came back with balsamic vinegar. Americans just don't get it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Of fingerprint scanners and Elroy Jetson

Before I started at my current job, I worked at a small company in Mississauga called Comnetix. (Well, it was a small company when I worked there. When I left in 1997, there were less than 15 employees, but they've since grown a fair bit.) We made custom software for law enforcement agencies and the like — when I was there, customers included the Insurance Crime Prevention Bureau (of Canada), the RCMP, the Boston Police Department, the Metro Toronto Police, the Spanish National Police, and the Rochester Police Department. By the time I left, I was the team leader of the Boston police system; the system was quite cool. Whenever a person was arrested and booked in Boston, their personal, physical, and crime information was entered into the system, their mugshots were taken with a digital camera, and their fingerprints were scanned using a digital fingerprint scanner (I wrote the driver for that puppy), and everything was stored in a database. They could also take pictures of any scars, tattoos, or other distinguishing marks. The system would then make the information available to the Central Identification unit, who would classify the fingerprints (storing the classification data in the database too), and then perform searches on the classification to see if this person had ever been arrested before. If so, they could update the record to let the people at the booking station know who this person was. This could all happen within minutes.

Once the classification was done, the fingerprint images could be sent electronically to the FBI, and they would be stored in their database as well. (I wrote the code to do that, and BPD was the first police department in the world to be able to do this.) In fact, when this part of the system went live in August of 1995, they made a big deal of sending the first set of real prints to the FBI. Within a couple of hours, the FBI had received the prints, done a search, and determined that the suspect had been arrested several times before, including once for assault with intent to kill, in another state — something the BPD wouldn't have found out for weeks, if not months, with the old system.

We had other cool features in this app, like the ability to create a "lineup" — you chose a particular person in the database, then chose which physical attributes (height, weight, hair/eye colour, race, etc.) you wanted included in the search, and we would find other people in the database that matched (or matched closely) on the criteria you selected. You could then drag and drop the pictures into a photo array and print it off, and you'd have a bunch of pictures of people who look similar, which the officers could then show to witnesses, without having to get your suspect and witness into the police station at the same time.

I once installed a viewing station at the Secret Service office in Boston, so the Secret Service could do searches on the BPD database. While setting stuff up, I was sharing a room with an agent who was looking over a big stack of bills ($20's or $50's I think), checking which were counterfeit and which were real. One particular bill was giving him trouble, and he flagged down another agent who happened to be walking by. He showed her the bill and asked "This is real, isn't it?". The other agent looked at the bill for maybe three seconds before telling him that it was indeed real. I expressed my amazement, and he confirmed to me that she really can tell real money from fake that quickly. I was impressed.

The funniest story from that part of my career was when we were doing some on-site training. We had a test database set up, and during the training as well as testing, we could book ourselves and insert the records into the test database whenever we wanted. One day, I accidentally set the app to talk to the live database, and forgot to reset it back. Then we booked ourselves a few more times. It wasn't long before we realized that these bookings weren't showing up on the other test machines — that's when I figured out what I had done. We had to confess our sin to the Deputy Superintendent of the BPD, and he allowed us to delete the records from the BPD database. There was no mechanism for doing this (once a booking is entered it's supposed to be permanent), so I had to connect to the database directly and enter the SQL manually. However, the FBI link was up at the time, so one of my colleagues had her fingerprints sent to the FBI under the name "Elroy Jetson". (Luckily, only one booking submitted during this time had fingerprints attached to it.) Once we figured that out, we had to get the Deputy Superintendent to issue a court order to get the records expunged from the FBI database. I guess there were some problems with this process, because I got a call from this colleague a number of years later (long after I had left Comnetix), saying that she was now living in the US, and had applied for something (don't remember what) that required an FBI check, and one of these test records popped up in a search. She had to jump through a few hoops, but I think it all got straightened out in the end.

I have to say, I really enjoyed that job, mostly. Not only was the application itself really cool, and working with the police, FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP was cool as well, but we were using NeXTstep, which was just the coolest operating system I've ever used, with an amazingly powerful development environment. I've seen and used Mac OS X a couple of times, and it's quite cool too, which is not surprising, considering it's basically the next generation of NeXTstep.

But the job wasn't perfect. Not only was I a project leader and developer, I was part of the testing team, the documentation team, the technical support team (carried a pager every other week for the better part of three years), the end-user training team, I set up demos for our head salescritter at a couple of sales conferences (on-site -- New York City, Florida, Ottawa), and I was also the company sysadmin. Bonuses we were promised never showed up. The company was privately owned, so stock options were nonexistent. The VP was the president's wife; he was technically savvy as well as a pretty good business man, while she was useless. She once gave me crap for leaving at noon on a Friday without permission — given the amount of unpaid overtime I had put in over the previous couple of years (including staying until 9 or 10 the night before this happened), I figured she could have given me some slack (and I'm still bitter about that 9 years later). And I had one raise in three years. All things considered, I'm perfectly happy in my current job, where I get to the do the stuff I love to do (development), and not the stuff I don't want to do (support). Oh yeah, and my salary is more than double now what it was then.

Funny - I just realized that today I'm wearing the Hard Rock Cafe shirt that I bought on one of my many trips to Boston during my Comnetix years.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


True love is the greatest thing in the world — except for a nice MLT, mutton, lettuce and tomato, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe — they're so perky, I love that.
Miracle Max, The Princess Bride

We had pancakes and peameal bacon for dinner the other day, and had a few pieces of peameal left over. When making my lunch this morning, I put the peameal in a ziplock and made myself two sandwiches with tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise. At lunch time, I planned on nuking the peameal to warm it up, then putting it on the sandwiches. All morning, I found myself looking forward to lunch time. I just finished my lunch, and I must say, I was not disappointed.

I think I'll change the tagline for this blog to something like: "Cut the Chatter — a blog that touches on the important issues of the day". Or maybe that should be "important issues of my day."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Golf tournament

I played in the Deiter's Love Memorial Golf Tournament this past weekend in Strathroy (west of London). I played in it last year as well, and also designed and built the website. The tournament is in memory of Deiter Rombouts, who was born prematurely and needed a liver and bowel transplant, and possibly a stomach and pancreas transplant as well. Deiter passed away at the age of six months while still on the transplant waiting list. These are the same four organs that our friend Sarah received when she was six months old, and that was over nine years ago. While Sarah was in the hospital in London for one of her many surgeries, her mom Cindy met Deiter's parents (Stacy and John) and became friends, and we met them through Cindy. Stacy and John started running this golf tournament and silent auction to raise money and awareness for organ donation, and I am proud to be part of it. <blatant plug>I've signed my organ donation card -- have you?</blatant plug>

I played with my friends Steve, Jeff, and Doug, and we finished the day with a 2 under par 69. I got to use my new driver, and actually hit it pretty well a couple of times. One of those times, I hit it too far, and we used Steve's drive (it's a best-ball tournament) because it was further back and gave us a better shot at the green. (Of course, he used a 5-iron, and I only outdrove him with my big-ass driver by about 30 yards, but still.) The winning team shot 10 under, so we didn't come close to winning (not that we expected to), but we had fun.

Didn't buy anything at the auction this year. I bid on a few items (Tiger-Cat tickets, some outdoor speakers for my dad, and I can't remember what else), but was outbid on all of them. Not true - I actually bid on and won a little green ribbon (for organ donation) charm for Gail, but found out later that she already had one. Silly mistake, but not very expensive ($10), and Gail said it was a very sweet thing to do, so it won me some husband points. Gail got a couple of crafty things, and the boys each got some toys. I bid on and won a putter last year, but I haven't touched it since, since I like the putter I have. I should have called Stacy and donated it back so they could auction it off again this year, but I didn't think about it until a day or two before the tournament. I'll probably donate it to the school silent auction in February.

Coincidence of the week: At last year's tournament, I bought one of those bracelets that everyone is wearing (like the Livestrong ones). This one was green and said "Donate Life". I didn't wear it much during the winter, but other than that, I've worn it almost every day since. I wore it again at the golf tournament, and then when taking it off yesterday, the day after this year's tournament, it broke.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

My Obi-Wan has no head

Wil Wheaton, already one of my favourite bloggers / writers, posted this article yesterday. Man, did it bring back memories for me. It's all about how Wil went through a phase during his childhood when he played with Star Wars figures, as I did. He remembers to this day which ones he had, which ones he had that were broken (and what was broken about them), and which ones he wanted, as I do.

My first SW figure was Obi-Wan Kenobi. Eventually, his head broke off, and despite several efforts to glue it back on, it ended up just rolling around in the box where I kept the figures. I also had:

I always thought Hammerhead was the coolest, even though he was only in the first movie for a couple of scenes. That was it for figures, and the only vehicle I had was a landspeeder (and Wil has a great story about one of those), but I was jealous of my friend Jody who had the an X-Wing Fighter (the wings open up when you press down on R2-D2!) and Darth Vader's TIE Fighter. Spoiled rotten, that kid was.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

In 15 years, I'll be 52

Warning: Hockey article ahead. See you later, John.

So Rick DiPietro signed a 15 year $67.5 million contract with the Islanders the other day. This means he's getting $4.5 million per year until 2021. There is even a clause in there that says that if he gets injured (hockey-related injury) and has to retire, he still gets paid. If he decides to retire for any other reason, the deal is null and void, but why would he? Great deal for Rick, but why in hell would the Islanders do this? He's now on contract until he's 40, and very few NHL goalies are still playing, let alone competitive, at age 40. If he doesn't pan out as a top level goalie, you're still paying him that whole time, since this contract makes him untradeable. No other team would want to take that contract on — especially if the Islanders want to trade him because he didn't pan out.

You could argue that DiPietro might still be a competitive goalie in 10 years when he's 35, which may be true, so maybe the Islanders are thinking of it as a 10-year deal "amortized" over 15 years. If he happens to play the last 5 years as well, then that's a bonus for them. Looking at it that way, he's getting $6.75 million per year for 10 years (paid out over 15). The highest paid goalie in the league, Nikolai Khabibulin, currently makes $6.75 million per year (coincidence?). Is DiPietro the same caliber goalie as Khabibulin? No, so this way of thinking doesn't make much sense either.

Granted, the $4.5 million a year is not a huge amount by NHL standards, so if the cap goes down, it shouldn't affect them too much (it's not like it's A-Rod's "$250 million over 10 years" albatross), but I think it's still a big risk for the Islanders to take on an unproven goalie.

Update: A-Rod's contract is actually $252 million over 10 years, but hey, what's another $2 million?

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