Thursday, January 26, 2006

To ski or not to ski, that is the question

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of -- oops, sorry, high school English flashback.

Have I mentioned that being sick sucks? My boss (actually my boss' boss, but he used to be my boss) Dave has a chalet at Devil's Glen Country Club near Collingwood, and every year, they have "Men's Day", where male members of the club can bring as many male guests as they want (for ~$120 each), and they get an all-day lift ticket, free breakfast, lunch, snacks, and beer (!), plus there are lots of prize giveaways. I've been two or three times before, and it's lots of fun. Well, men's day is tomorrow, and because I've been sick all week, I've decided not to go - the last thing I need is to be sick for another week because I spent a day outside in the cold, exerting my just-recovering body more than it's used to. The really sucky thing is that today, I feel almost normal. The dizziness and light-headedness are both gone, and my throat is still sore but much better than yesterday. If the recovery continues, I'll feel totally fine tomorrow, and yet I'm still not skiing. Sometimes I can be a risk-taker, with a kind of a "ah, what the fuck!" attitude, but when it comes to my health, I'm usually more of a "play it safe" kind of person. Dave sent around an email today saying that Devil's Glen has gotten 12 inches of fresh snow in the last couple of days and it's still snowing, so the conditions will be amazing. That's certainly not making my decision any easier.

I used to ski all the time in high school, but then decided that buying groceries and mini-pitchers of rye-and-coke on Wednesday nights at the Bombshelter were better uses of my limited money during university. Gail doesn't like skiing, and none of my friends ski much anymore either, so Men's Day has been my only opportunity to ski in the last, well, many years. Ryan has shown some interest the few times we've watched skiing on TV, so maybe sometime this winter, I'll take him out to Glen Eden or Chicopee or something, rent some skis and teach him everything I know about skiing. Shouldn't take long.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Movie quote of the day

One good thing about being sick - it's allowing me to catch up on my watching of movies I've seen before, because getting off the couch to change DVDs once every couple of hours is about as much energy as I've had for the past couple of days. Today's quote comes from Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) from Pirates of the Carribbean:

I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Means "no".

Being sick sucks

I missed work yesterday and I'm staying home again today. Monday at work, my throat was a bit sore, and then on the drive home, I started to get kind of light-headed and dizzy. Luckily it wasn't too bad and didn't affect my driving, but after dinner it got worse. Monday night I didn't get much sleep, and I lay on the couch or in bed most of yesterday. I slept better last night, and the dizziness is mostly gone, but my throat is still sore. Someone at work suggested I get swabbed for strep, but I've had strep a couple of times before, and this feels different. With strep, my throat felt all cut up - like I had swallowed razor blades. This feels more like swelling. Plus, Gail was off work a couple of weeks ago with similar symptoms (not sure why it took 2 weeks to get to me), and she was swabbed for strep, but the test came back negative. If this continues into tomorrow, however, I'm going to the doctor and getting a swab.

We were at Jeff & Kerri's place on the weekend celebrating Lynda's birthday, and then on Monday, Kerri sent out an email saying that Lynda was sick with, um, let's just say various gastrointestinal issues. Then on Tuesday, two other people who were at the party also got sick. I think it's a little weird that I'm also sick, but not with the same thing, though I think I'd take a sore throat over what they have any day.

At least I got a lot of reading done yesterday - I finally finished The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. The Dark Tower consists of seven books, the first of which (The Gunslinger) was published in 1982, and the last of which (The Dark Tower) was published 22 years later. It's a really interesting series - one of the most interesting things about it is that Stephen King himself shows up in the story as a relatively major character - and it's the real Stephen King, not just a guy with that name. So you have a book by Stephen King called The Dark Tower, and in that book, there's a character named Stephen King who's writing a book called The Dark Tower. I won't explain any more about that here - it would take too long - but suffice it to say that the story in the seventh book kind of explains why it took 17 years to write the first four books and only 2 years to write the last three.

Say thankya.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mama, I'm comin' home

Once again, I'm writing this on a plane, this time flying back from Washington. As I look out the window, I see what I think might be Andrews Air Force Base, judging by the google map I looked at yesterday. We just entered the clouds, so now I can't see anything. I still don't know what caused the nervousness I felt before the flight down, but I was fine before today's flight.

The testing didn't go well on Tuesday, and I was working until 10:45pm to fix all my tests up. Wednesday went much better -- all four of my test suites had run to completion with no failures by about 9:30am, so the rest of that day was spent working on unrelated stuff and answering questions from the validation team and the evaluator. The evaluator, Daniel, was an interesting guy - lives in a suburb of LA, and seemed quite proud of being Californian. Dude loves to talk about himself, and is very open with personal stuff - like the fact that the gyro sandwich he had for lunch on Tuesday kept repeating on him all afternoon. Thanks for sharing that. It's one thing to talk to relative strangers about your kids (we all did), but did I really need to know that his 11-year-old daughter weighs over 100 pounds ("chunky but solid"), and has started "developing" already? Apparently she's into a B-cup now. Now, I don't have daughters so maybe I just don't get it, but do other fathers of pre-pubescent girls go around talking about the size of their daughter's boobs?

He also dropped a couple of names here and there - mainly people that I'd never heard of but that the validation team had. He did once refer to himself as "the godfather of perl", and that "Larry" (presumably he meant Larry Wall, the creator of perl) was a good friend of his. "Haven't seen Larry since his in-law's 50th wedding anniversary" he says. Okay, so you know Larry Wall, we're all very impressed. Sheesh.

We're flying over St. Catharines now (just saw Niagara Falls from my window a couple of minutes ago -- cooooool), so I'm going to end there. No, it didn't take me the full hour flight just to type the stuff above - in the middle I wrote up a detailed report on the testing. That's probably all confidential stuff, so I won't post it here.

Yup, the fasten-seat-belts sign just came on. Time to go.

Update: Flight time on the way back was one hour, 7 minutes and 4 seconds.

Another update: If a girl is "developing", is she still considered "pre-pubescent"?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Extortion in the skies?

We got all the testing done today, so I was back in the hotel by 5:00. I took a quick look online to see if there was an Air Canada flight tonight -- there's one at 8:00, and as long as I packed quickly, I should be able to get there on time. I called Air Canada to see how much it would cost to switch the ticket - there's a $10 fee for this, a $32 fee for that, which I would have been happy to pay if it got me home tonight instead of tomorrow. Then he said that the ticket price was higher, so I'd have to pay the difference -- $350. The original return ticket cost $491, or just under $250 each way. I didn't ask the guy, but I should have -- why would the price of a ticket on this flight be more than double that of the one tomorrow morning? Is it on a nicer plane? Better food? Free lap dances by the flight attendants? There's gotta be some major difference, right? Nope -- it's a time-honoured airline tactic called "fucking the customer over whenever possible". I just checked for flights from Toronto to Vancouver tomorrow (Jan 19) -- there are 13 direct flights. Tango ranges from $168 to $426. "Latitude" costs $626 for every flight, and the only advantages over Tango are things like more Aeroplan miles, no charge for same-day ticket changes, and the ability to select your seat without paying for it. For "Latitude Plus", $1260 allows you to sit in the Maple Leaf lounge before the flight, and you get an upgrade to first class if a seat is available. This means that if first class is full, flight 103 from Toronto to Vancouver tomorrow morning will have some people sitting in coach who paid $168, while others also sitting in coach who paid $1260. Does this make sense to anyone other than Air Canada?

BTW, the flying time on the flight down here (from wheels-up to touchdown) was exactly 59 minutes and 30 seconds. I'll write again after I get back and post the flying time for the return flight.

Monday, January 16, 2006

In-flight entertainment

I'm writing this on my laptop while flying over the blackness that is Lake Ontario at night. Through the clouds, I can occasionally see some lights off to our left, which must be the east end of Toronto, or possibly even further east, like Pickering or Whitby. I'm on Air Canada flight 310, flying down to Reagan airport in Washington DC. Tomorrow and Wednesday, I'll be meeting with some contractors who are doing a security evaluation of the database product that I work on, Adaptive Server Anywhere (ASA). This evaluation is required before a software product can be used by the US government and its agencies, so getting the evaluation done opens a bunch of doors for our sales people. I'm the technical lead on the project, so over the past three years, I've put together lots of documents describing the product and how it works, and written lots of tests and documentation about these tests. It's been a long and ardous project, but for the most part, it's been part time - a few hours here and there, rather than 8 hours a day every day. I will be glad when it's all over though.

Starting this morning when I got up, I've been very nervous about this trip. Not because of what will be happening when I get there, but the flights themselves. I can't explain why - I've flown many times, and I've never been the least bit nervous about it. In my previous job, I flew down to Boston all the time - probably averaging every other month over three years, as well as a couple of trips to San Francisco, one to Naples, Florida, once to DC, and once to New York City. And that's just work trips with Comnetix - I've flown to Baltimore three times with Sybase (though not for over 5 years), and many times on various vacations. I've never been nervous flying, but I had butterflies in my stomach all day, and they got worse as the day went on.

My only guess as to the reason is that it's the first trip I've taken away from my family since Ryan was a baby. The most obvious fear is that the plane will go down and Gail will be left to raise the boys on her own, and they will grow up without a father, and that idea scares the hell out of me. I have every confidence in Gail's parental abilities, and I'm sure she'd do fine, I just don't want her to have to. The weird thing is that Gail and I flew down to Las Vegas back in October without the kids, and I had no qualms about that. If there was, um, an incident during that flight, the kids would grow up without either parent, and would be raised by my sister. With all due respect to her, that would be far, far worse, and yet, I felt no nervousness about that flight. I don't get it.

Looking out the window, I can still see lights off to the left. We must be far beyond the lake now, over New York state somewhere. For some bizarre reason, I felt this urge to time the flight, so I started my stopwatch as soon as the wheels left the ground - 29 minutes and 30 seconds ago. Actually, flying time is supposed to be about an hour, so we're probably at our cruising altitude of 25,000 feet, and roughly halfway there.

We started boarding the flight around 5:45, and just before then, I realized that Gail had already picked up the boys, and was probably at home fixing dinner. The boys would be in the family room, glued to today's episode of What's New, Scooby Doo? which we tape every morning. I thought of calling just to tell them that I love them, but this would be weird for me (telling them that I love them wouldn't be weird, I do that all the time, just calling from the airport specifically to tell them). I know that Gail would immediately ask me what was wrong, and I don't want her to worry about me, so I didn't call. I hope I get to the hotel in time to call before bed - I'd really like to talk to Ryan and ask how his day went - he had a test on owls, which they've been studying for a few weeks now. Did you know that an owl will eat pretty much anything smaller than itself, including bats, rabbits, and even other owls? I did not.

Sometimes talking to Nicholas on the phone is fun too - he's too young to have any real concept of how far away I am or when I'll be back. Ryan, simply because of his age, has a much better understanding of the concepts of time and distance. I keep forgetting how much younger Nicky is - almost three years. Nicky sometimes talks about Figgy and the fact that he died -- and then asks when he's coming back. When we tell him that Figgy's not coming back, he never gets sad, he just sort of says "oh, right", as if he simply forgot. Ryan, on the other hand, started to sniff and almost cry when we drove by the vet's a few weeks ago, because he remembered that that's where we took Figgy when he died.

The captain is talking now - we're at about 15,000 feet, and we'll be touching down in about 10 minutes, so I'll have to shut the machine down now. I'll probably write more on the return flight.

b2 and 0-3

I tried the b2 thing on Saturday night to watch the Toronto Rock game in Rochester. More on the actual game later. b2 basically takes whatever video feed is available (local TV or whatever) and streams it out onto the 'net for $6 a game. For some games, the only video available is the video shown on the scoreboard, complete with crowd shots, "kiss-cam", and whatnot. In this case, the game was being shown on a local Rochester channel, so we got the feed for that, including commercials. I streamed it to my laptop and plugged the laptop into the TV, so I didn't have to watch it on the laptop screen. It was OK, in the sense that I could watch a game that I couldn't otherwise watch, but the video quality kind of sucked. It was sometimes possible to read the names on the back of players' jerseys, but not always. Following the ball was next to impossible, though.

There's another thing out there now called lacrossetv -- for $10 US/month, you get a box that you have to plug into your broadband connection, and then you get lots of games - live games as well as older ones available on-demand. Sounds pretty cool, but (a) I don't know where we'd put the box, and (b) I don't know when I'd have time to watch older games anyway.

Anyway, onto the game itself, which the Rock lost 14-9. I only saw about half of it, since it started at 7:30, and by the time the boys went to bed and I read them their stories and such, it was into the 3rd quarter. The Rock gave up 12 goals in the first half, and were losing 12-4 at one point. The 12 goals were the most the Rock have ever given up in a half, and after 10, Watson was pulled for backup goalie Phil Wetherup. He only let in 4 goals the rest of the way, so he did a great job in a backup role, but the Toronto offense couldn't get anything going. Manning had another frustrating game, only getting 2 assists, where Josh Sanderson had 2-and-3.

Shawn Williams had a great game for the KHawks - 4 goals and 3 assists. Shawn is my buddy Mike's nephew, so we all like to see him do well. I'm sure he especially enjoys playing well against the Rock, since he was once a member of the Rock (won a championship with them in 1999), but was then traded to Buffalo for nothing but a draft pick -- and the guy they chose with that pick never played a game. Don't know why that trade was made, but Shawn spent one productive year in Buffalo before being traded to Rochester in a blockbuster deal the next season, where he's played really well ever since. On any team not featuring John Grant or John Tavares, Shawn would probably be the number one forward.

So the Rock are now 0-3, and are off to the worst start in franchise history. However, 4 of the 5 teams in the east make the playoffs, and the playoffs are all one-game things, not the best-of-5 or best-of-7 you see in the NHL or MLB, so as long as we get into the playoffs, it's still quite possible for the Rock to repeat as Champs. Either way though, I just want to see the Rock playing the way we know they can.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Another close one

The Rock lost their second game of the season to the Buffalo Bandits last night, 13-11. Other than the outcome, it was a great game - kind of chippy in the 1st half though. It seemed for a while that we wouldn't have 5-on-5 lacrosse at all - there would always be someone (or two or three) in the box. Josh Sanderson, who didn't show up in game 1, came out guns-a-blazing last night, and ended up with 4 goals and 3 assists. Blaine Manning, who had a great game 1, got no goals and a single assist. If this trend continues, both Manning and Shooter will have a great game tonight, and Doyle will do nothing.

The defense played pretty well, though stopping Mark Steenhuis on transition is next to impossible. Man, that guy's good. He's one of those annoying little pricks that you hate to play against, but you'd give your left nut to have on your team. He ended up with 5 goals and 4 assists. Chugger put on a clinic, although a lot of shots seemed to hit him square in the chest. Watson made some really nice saves, but also let in 12 goals on only 44 shots.

The most interesting part of the game was a fight (well, sort of) that I actually agreed with. Normally, I don't much like fighting in lacrosse or hockey; most of the time, it's seems pointless. But when Chris White gave Toronto MVP Colin Doyle a cross-check to the head after the whistle was blown, Toronto enforcer Tim "The Surgeon" O'Brien went after White and started pounding him. White immediately turtled, dropping to the floor and covering his face. Since White never threw a punch, he didn't get a fighting penalty, and O'Brien got 5 for roughing. (White did get 5 minutes for cross-checking.) Like I said, I don't generally like fighting, but when someone hits your star player with such a cheap shot, I have no problem with sending someone after him.

Toronto plays in Rochester tonight, trying to avoid starting the season 0-3. Winning in Rochester, however, has never been easy for the Rock - I think they've only done it once ever. (Of course, that once was the 2004 NLL Championship.) The game is on b2, which is some live video streaming thing that I've never tried, but I've heard good things about it, so I think I'll give it a shot tonight.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I'm Rich!

I got an email today saying that Sir Dennis Thatcher, late husband of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, passed away and left me $750,000! That's right, a famous rich guy that I've never met left me a fortune! All I have to do is send an email to this guy in England (he's a reverend, so you know you can trust him).

Strange that an English guy left me a nice round number of American dollars, but like I said, if you can't trust an English reverend, who can you trust?

Drinks are on me, boys...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When hot ain't so hot

I got one of those HotWash things for Christmas - you know, the thing from Canadian Tire that you hook into your windshield washer system and it heats up the fluid before it gets squirted onto your windshield. Supposed to clean it better, and melt ice and snow faster, and get rid of bugs better in the summer, all that good stuff.

Well, it's supposed to be easy to install, but I'm no mechanic (anything requiring more skill than changing the air filter is beyond my capabilities), so I brought it into the Canadian Tire in Burlington to get installed. The installation cost me $45, so big whoop. So then we have the warmest January ever, and I never get to try it on ice and snow. Just to make sure it works, I wash the windshield and feel the fluid temperature. Cold.

So I take it into Canadian Tire in Waterloo (near work), and tell them it doesn't work. They fix it, then I come home and try it again. Cold. (Stupidly, I decided to wait until I'm home before trying it again, instead of trying it in the CT parking lot.)

I took it back in again this morning, and they told me that the fluid is only heated to about 70°F, so it's not going to be super-hot, and that the unit is indeed working. So I check the manual and it says "...allowing the windshield washer fluid to be heated to 60°C (90°F)." Well, first off, 60°C is not 90°F, it's actually 140°F. Secondly, if the thing only heats the fluid up to 70°F, then both numbers in the manual are wrong anyway. Good to see Canadian Tire's quality control department is working overtime.

The Great Debate

Read an interesting article on the Dilbert blog today, regarding the whole Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate. The article itself was mildly interesting, but the comments are the cool part. Everything from atheists like myself who believe in evolution to religious extremists who believe that people and dinosaurs existed at the same time, and everything in between, including God-fearing scientists who believe a bit of both.

I find these kind of debates interesting. I get a kick out of some (not all) of the creationist points of view that end up reducing to "God must exist because it says so in the Bible. The Bible must be true because it was written by God." This is the quintessential example of circular logic. Maybe God exists and maybe not, but you can't assume the existence of God in order to prove the existence of God. You just can't.

I once saw a bumper sticker that I found intriguing - "Spiritual people enlighten me. Religious people frighten me." I'm not anti-religion, despite my atheism. I have friends of many different religions, and I don't think any of them are delusional or stupid. If you feel that religion gives your life purpose or meaning, or you just find it fun, then as Bob McCown might say, giddy-up. Go to town. Have a ball. Just don't try to push your beliefs on me, and we're good.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Rock lose in OT and Wireless G

Cool - a rhyming title. Gotta like that.

Lacrosse season is back! The Rock played their first game of the season on Saturday night, and lost to the Arizona Sting 14-13 in OT. It was a rematch of last year's final, where the Rock won something like 19-13, but this time, the Sting were the dominant team. They had a 9-3 lead at one point (after an absolutely awful 2nd quarter), but the Rock battled back and tied it at 11, then 12, and then again at 13 with 36 seconds left in regulation. But 2 minutes into overtime, Andrew Guindon put a shot past Whipper to end it. The Rock were rather rusty - lots of dropped balls, passes that went nowhere, and even shots that missed the net by miles. Josh Sanderson looked like a rookie - taking a stupid penalty less than a minute in, and only ending up with 3 assists. Other than the 2nd, Whipper played pretty well, and Brad MacDonald, who came over in a trade with Calgary, made an amazing play to save a goal late in the game.

Arizona started Mike Miron in net, which kind of surprised me, considering they acquired Rob Blasdell in the off-season. I assumed Blazer would be the starting goalie, with Miron as a solid backup, but perhaps it's the other way around, or maybe they'll platoon, as Whipper and Cosmo did a couple of years ago in Toronto. Miron played a pretty good game though, so it's possible that the Arizona GM and coaches know more about lacrosse than I do.

On an unrelated note, I finally managed to get my new wireless G router set up the way I want it - all of my machines can connect to the 'net and each other, and no other machines can use it (using MAC filtering). I had to download a firmware upgrade and reset the router to factory defaults at least four times before I got this done, but it eventually worked. It's kind of a waste though - the old wireless B router gave us 11 Mbs, while the new one gives 54 Mbs. Sounds great, except that the 2 machines upstairs only have 11 Mbs cards in them, so they don't notice any difference, only our laptops (both from work) do. However, the cable modem coming into the house only gives about 3 1/2 Mbs, so the laptops don't notice any difference either, unless they're copying files between each other, which has never happened. Long story short - the new router gives exactly the same performance as the old router. I'll have to look for cheap wireless G cards on eBay or Factory Direct.

Luckily, the router was on sale - after the $20 mail-in rebate, it only cost me $10. The mail-in rebate should come in 8-10 weeks - if it doesn't, I'll probably have long forgotten about it by then, and even if I haven't, it's not like there's anything I can do. I was promised a mail-in rebate (something like $60) when I bought 3 seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD, which I did (I eventually bought all 7), but 8-10 weeks later, I received a letter saying that I hadn't included proof of purchase from each DVD package, which I had. But of course, I had no proof of that, so I was SOL.