A humourous little tidbit from the Quote Of The Day mailing list:

[In regard to the varying effectiveness of different kinds of placebos], capsules containing colored beads are more effective than colored tablets, which are superior to white tablets with corners, which are better than round white tablets. Beyond this, intramuscular saline injections are superior to any tablet but inferior to intravenous injections. Tablets taken from a bottle labeled with a well-known brand name are superior to the same tablets taken from a bottle with a typed label. My favorite is a doctor who always handled placebo tablets with forceps, assuring the patient that they were too powerful to be touched by hand.”

— British physiologist Patrick Wall, one of the world’s leading experts on the use of the placebo. (From “The Science of Consciousness”, edited by Max Velmans, p. 168.)

I believe in magic and the power of conciousness, and yet it still sometimes amazes me that this works

posted at 4:16 pm on Saturday, November 30, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Placebos

There are strange things done

Turn of a Friendly Die is fun, but I was looking for other Rolemaster related websites, and for various reasons tripped over:

  • The Complete Guide to Unlawful Carnal Knowledge for Fantasy Role-Playing Games. Our current rolemaster campaign happens to have a soon-to-be-pregnant character, so I suppose some of this could come in handy. Still, this smacks of munchkinism; real role players would just, well, role-play
  • Google results for “rolemaster blog” gives my weblog as the first hit. Very strange.
  • I found an answer to Ginger’s WISH #20 by HWRNMNBSOL particularly amusing:

    NIGHTOWL: Nodonn! how many orcs are coming from your direction?
    NODONN: Four.
    NIGHTOWL: Er….a big four or a small four?
    NODONN: Four.

    Go read the whole page; the entries below are thoughtful and amusing also.

    1. Stay Alert!
    2. Trust No-one!
    3. Keep your Laser Handy!

posted at 5:30 pm on Friday, November 29, 2002 in General | Comments Off on There are strange things done

Toronto Island Airport

So Toronto City Council voted last night to allow a bridge between the Toronto Island Airport and the mainland. Existing access is via a ferry across the western gap; a (possibly small and vocal) group has been arguing for at least 20 years that building a bridge would improve utilisation of the airport and revitalise our city.

Personally, I’m skeptical on that particular rationalisation. This only works if you can fly to other downtown airports in nearby cities; so far that’s New York, Boston, and Chicago (Ottawa and Montreal don’t really have downtown airports, but I guess we could count them too.

The Toronto Board of Trade apparently surveyed their members on this topic, and concluded that they don’t really care about the Island Airport; what they want is fast access to Pearson International Airport (preferrably via train from downtown). I think this is the right answer; many other international cities have direct rail links from outlying airports to downtown; in my experience that’s a wonderful way to travel.

But that’s not really why I’m ranting this morning. The part of the debate that makes me gag is this:

The anti-airport faction is mostly downtown residents, who are annoyed by the noise and pollution caused by the airport. I’m sorry, but the airport was there long before most of the residents involved moved in. They knew the airport was there, and they bought houses and condominiums downtown (and especially on the waterfront) anyway. At the time that most of those condo towers were under construction, airport traffic was about five times what it is now (400,000 passengers per year vs. 80,000 today).

It’s generally a good thing for airports to reduce their noise and pollution, but
I don’t believe that people have a right to move into an area with an existing, functioning airport, and then start complaining about that airport. People have been buying houses near airports and then complaining about it for decades. There is a reason those houses are cheap! Don’t buy a residence near an operating airport, you morons!

posted at 12:02 pm on Friday, November 29, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. Mike says:

    As you may know our Mayor, Saddam Daley, recently shut down our lake front airport, Meigs, by attacking at night with bulldozers which have ripped large “X’s” into the concrete runway.

Oooh! Canadian Controversy!

But George bush is a moron

I find it fascinating that the story was originally reported in the National Post, owned by the Asper family, who are Paul Martin supporters and have been actively trying to discredit Jean Chrétien.

Puts a whole new spin on the story, doesn’t it?

posted at 9:26 am on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. michaela says:

    Unfortunately we need to be more careful about sharing our opinions in front of the kids. Now, everytime Gareth hears the words “George Bush” he shouts “But George Bush IS a moron” at whomever or whatever said his name.

    One of the late night talk shows in Florida was discussing this issue and an Ex-Patriate Canuck asked “Why is it Canada’s fault that American’s elected a President who is so ignorant of the world around him?” When the host challenged her by saying that “W” is one of the most popular presidents in history she countered with “I didn’t comment on his popularity. My comment was about his intelligence.”

    For a different spin: How many Canadians would have repeated the comment with as much relish if Francie had said “Al Gore is a moron.”

    Poor Al. Won the popular vote, is intelligent, yet still NOT President.

    As far as the ethics of the National Post reporter who broke the story – He had a choice to make and he made it.

    AND given the restrictions of civil liberties that have been facing our southern neighbours since 9-11 – I think that Francie held this opionion, spoke this opinion and our Prime Minister stood by her right to both is marvellous. Regardless of his motivation, that reporter sparked discussions on the television, radio and in coffee shops that made Canadians speak their minds. Hip Hip


Sunday was my birthday.

On Saturday, several friends came over, and we had a fajitas party. 9 people; a large bowl of chicken; a smaller one of beef; two large bowls of veggies; about a pound of cheese; a half litre each of sour cream and salsa; and almost a half-litre of guacamole. Some wine and lots of candles to complete the mix.

Wow, that was fun. We stayed up until almost 2 in the morning drinking (various combinations of scotch, brandy, grand marnier, martinis, and other liver-damaging substances), and watching the candles burn out one by one.

We really have to do this more often :-)

[ I’ve been busy the last couple of days setting up the rolemaster website for the campaign I’m in. Movable Type is good for more than just weblogs!!! ]

posted at 3:06 pm on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. Debbie says:

    Sorry I missed your birthday!

    The fajitas party sounds like fun.


The Ultimate Boy Scout

Here is a story about The human Swiss Army Knife. He’s got the ultimate presentation of the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”. He carries 12 kg of stuff around with him in various pockets and folds. He’s even got the Guinness record; 1300 different items!

I carry a MagLite, Leatherman, cell phone, and pedomter on my belt. This guy definitely out-geeks me. (Interestingly, he ditched his pedometer…)

[ Thanks to both David and Terry Labach for the link! ]

posted at 12:21 pm on Saturday, November 23, 2002 in General | Comments Off on The Ultimate Boy Scout


Earlier this week I linked to a story about a 72 mile WLAN link run by SDSC. There’s been an update (the quote is from Edupage):


A story in Computerworld prompted complaints that the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) was operating an illegal configuration on its 72-mile WLAN link between the San Diego Supercomputer Center and San Clemente Island. In response, HPWREN reduced a power amplifier it uses from 1 watt to 250 milliwatts to stay within Federal Communications Commission regulations for power levels on the 2.4-GHz band. HPWREN principal investigator Hans Werner-Braun said any violation of the power limits was unintentional. Data throughput has dropped to about 300 kilobits per second, but the link has been maintained at the reduced power level.

That was a minor oops. I guess there is such thing as “bad press”…

posted at 10:26 am on Friday, November 22, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Oops!

Heart Monitor

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, and experiencing what are probably stress related symptoms (e.g. sporadic chest pain and palpitations). I had the worst attack while in Dublin two weeks back (naturally I’d have scary health trouble while travelling!). I’ve had a cardiac stress test (which was normal), and my doctor says my resting EKG looks marvelous. My subconcious is not convinced, and likes to respond to symptoms with anxiety attacks. Whee!

So today (and tonight :-) I’m wearing a Holter Heart Monitor; basically EKG leads attached to a tape recorder that saves 24 hours worth of data. Tomorrow I’ll take it back to the hospital, and some poor overworked doctor will have to stare at the data and pronounce me “fit” or “unfit”.

The wires are all taped to my skin, and they’re uncomfortable. Other than that, the thing is suprisingly unobtrusive! I’m not allowed to sweat (or the electrodes will come off); we’ll see how sleeping goes.

The hospital sells the used batteries (and the used cassette tapes) for $0.25 each; so even if I get nothing else out of this experience, I’ll get some cheap (slightly used) batteries…

posted at 5:28 pm on Thursday, November 21, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. David Brake says:

    Hey Harald! Chill out ;) Hope the doc deems you fit.

Cappuccino, anyone?

The Cappuccino TX-3 Mini PC is substantially more powerful than anything I have at home, and is the size of a CD-ROM drive.

It’s not for those without cash to burn, however; They start at $950US. At that price, the Shuttle mini-boxes are cheaper.

Still, it does have that alpha-geek appeal…

posted at 7:10 pm on Wednesday, November 20, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. Dave says:

    I’ve got one they kick butt especially with DVD unit!

Implosions, anyone?

Welcome to the explosive demolition industry’s worldwide source for news and information on building implosions, blowdowns and all other types of structural blasting projects.

This site is just plain cool. I’ve always loved watching building demolitions (who doesn’t?). Don’t try this at home, though…

There is no problem that cannot be solved by a suitable application of high explosives.
— Leo Graf, USS LaFarge, 2298

posted at 11:52 am on Wednesday, November 20, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Implosions, anyone?

Roll Out the Gun Barrels

Roll Out The Gun Barrels

So, your RPG has run into a situation where there’s going to be some sort of large scale battle. Sure, the players can be involved in their corner of the way, but they’d really like to have some control over the whole fight. What do you do? Pull out that copy of Advanced Squad Leader and put the RPG on hold for a few years?

Well, here’s a very cheapass way to simulate large battles without having to deal with maps and counters and fifteen hours per turn.

Those wacky guys at Cheap Ass Games have done it again. I love this company; they have a great concept (make interesting games cheaply), and they’ve managed to come up with a whole bunch of interesting games (arguably the hardest part). Excellent!

posted at 10:08 am on Tuesday, November 19, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Roll Out the Gun Barrels

Long-range Wireless

People are making some interesting advances in long-range wireless networking.

The San Diego Supercomputer Center “routinely” sets up multi-mile wireless links, and currently has a 72-mile link from San Diego to San Clemente Island.
They’re using maximum power links with 2 foot, high-gain parabolic antennas at both ends. The range apparently cuts the bandwidth to 1Mb/sec (aw shucks :-). Read more about it in this Computerworld article.

In not unrelated news, Vivato Inc. has introduced a wireless LAN switch that uses a planar phased-array antenna to boost range to about four miles (outdoors; 1 mile indoors). I’ve always loved electroncally steerable antennas; this is certainly an interesting application, though! Again, read more about it in Computerworld.

(Thanks to Irving for the article links.)

posted at 4:44 pm on Monday, November 18, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Long-range Wireless

Paying Forward (redux) from David Brake, UK-based Internet journalist, consultant and virtual community builder

David’s just updated to use Movable Type‘s TrackBack support. Here’s a ping, David!

(Full Disclosure <grin> the DNS for is hosted by

posted at 4:30 pm on Monday, November 18, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. David Brake says:

    Thanks, Harald. If you are lucky Santa might let you buy yourself one of those flash disk devices… ;-)

    I know I don’t need one but it is such a cool use of the technology I don’t know I can resist!

tin-foil hats

Finally, a stylish tin-foil hat! They may claim that they protect you from cellphone radio emissions, but we all know that they’re really to protect from the Orbital Mind Control Lasers.

‘Mobile Cap’ to Combat Phone Health Worries

As an aside, why is the first Google hit for “orbital mind control lasers” a bridge workup?

posted at 1:04 pm on Monday, November 18, 2002 in General | Comments Off on tin-foil hats


In case my adoring public was wondering where I went, this has been My Week:

  • Modifying the code to handle more than 1024 simultaneous clients. Seems that Apache’s process-per-connection model means, in turn, that each Apache webserver makes up to 1500 connections to the validator. This naturally involves rebuilding most of the support libraries, as well as the main application, and then finding a machine capable of *generating* that many simultaneous connections.
  • Hunting down an obscure memory leak (which turned out to be something we had fixed a couple of years ago; *sigh).
  • Hunting down crashes in the XML parser (still haven’t found that one).
  • Managing various other customer problems along the way…
  • Moving the blog
  • A late curl
  • Mild asthma, as a result of my cold from last week
  • Finding time and energy to spend with the munchkins :-)

And my weekend:

  • 8AM hockey on Saturday
  • IMAX Space Station, then day at the science centre
  • The TKF Chili Bash
  • Santa Claus Parade
  • Birthday celebrations at my dad’s house
  • somewhere in there, laundry

So I plead “guilty with an explanation” for the lack of recent updates. I have a whole pile of stuff to filter through, and a couple of rants brewing (including one on the state of Ontario’s electricity supply). Stay tuned…

posted at 10:14 am on Saturday, November 16, 2002 in General | Comments Off on THUD

Slight reorganisation

This weblog has moved from to, mainly to allow the creation of weblogs for other people in something pretending to be a secure environment. Apache’s suEXEC requires separate CGI directories for each user, but I’ve managed to tweak Movable Type so that all of the code and static data is shared amongst all users.

Old links will still work, thanks to some RewriteRules on Hopefully I won’t have to do this again.

[ Man, it’s been a busy week. updates eventually. ]

posted at 12:17 am on Saturday, November 16, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. meg says:

    You should update more often! I miss the old site!


60’s goodness

Leonard Nimoy did a music video for a song called “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”.

I’m speechless.

(URLs are constantly changing; Search Google! for a copy.

posted at 3:00 pm on Friday, November 08, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Bilbo!

We’re still getting fatter

The CDC says that Weight Gain in US Continues Upward Trend.

I’m not sure how you conclude that “children 2 to 5 years old” are overweight. But the study confirms what we already know, that generally speaking, the whole population is getting fatter, from a combination of too much to eat and too little exercise. This in turn is greatly increasing the prevalence of Type-II diabetes and heart disease, particularly among younger adults and adolescents where the problem didn’t exist before.

I’m slowing doing something about it. My recent trip to Ireland may have set me back a couple of weeks; A combination of airplane food, Irish breakfasts, and a few pints of Guiness… We’ll see on Tuesday, I guess.

posted at 9:18 am on Friday, November 08, 2002 in General | Comments Off on We’re still getting fatter

David Suzuki: Nature Challenge

David Suzuki Foundation: Nature Challenge

The challenge is simple: pick three of the top 10 ways to conserve nature, and do them over the next year. The website contains resources, including a mailing list, to help you meet these goals.

An interesting idea, and you’ll probably learn alot even if you don’t meet any of these goals…

posted at 7:28 am on Wednesday, November 06, 2002 in General | Comments Off on David Suzuki: Nature Challenge


I’m off to Dublin for a few days; business, unfortunately. I may or may not be adding entries while I’m gone. Enjoy my absence :-)

posted at 11:27 am on Friday, November 01, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Hiatus?