Matrimony Mod

I’m not entirely sure what to think of this:

* [H]ard|Forum – Matrimony Mod

He built a computer to propose to his girlfriend; the case (and interior!) are decorated in a bridal theme. It’s actually pretty cool as a craft project, but a _computer_? I dunno…

I guess the important part is that she said yes :-)

posted at 10:05 am on Tuesday, January 27, 2004 in Odd | Comments (1)
  1. Debbie says:

    swoon, talk about technonerdboy romance! :-)

Sugar controversy in the news

As usual, “Chuq nails it”:

bq. Why the US is heavily subsidizing sugar growers while artificially limiting access to global sugar to prop up prices, while at the same time planning to heavily spend on new programs to fight obesity, caused in at least way by too much sugar in the typical US diet?

This in response to a “plastic article”:;sid=04/01/22/07233695 . It seems the WHO is trying to reduce world sugar consumption, as we learn that it is a contributor to obesity. The US response seems to be the same as their response to global warming: “There’s no evidence!”. William Steiger writes:

bq. that there is no robust evidence linking sugar consumption to rising obesity levels and that diet has to be a matter of personal choice. Steiger wrote ‘There is also an unsubstantiated focus on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, and a conclusion that specific foods are linked to non-communicable diseases. The assertion that the heavy marketing of energy-dense foods or fast food outlets increases the risk of obesity is supported by almost no data.’

I always thought that this is exactly the kind of thing that governments should be meddling in. Sadly, people do need to be protected from themselves (with education, if nothing else), and goverments are in a unique position to do that. And, after all, the same governments tax revenue is paying all the health costs of obesity, so you think there’d be a bottom-line incentive too. (Well, ok, there is, but it involves re-election, not tax dollars.)

I guess I’d make a lousy libertarian :-)

posted at 2:49 pm on Sunday, January 25, 2004 in General | Comments Off on Sugar controversy in the news

Live-CDs are proliferating…

“Extreme Tech”: recently published “a review of four Linux LiveCDs”:,3998,a=117223,00.asp, which was linked to by “slashdot”:

The distributions were:

* “Knoppix”: – daddy of ’em all
* “Feather Linux”: – very small, light, and minimalist.
* “Gnoppix”: Gnome-only version of Knoppix (which is KDE-based).
* “Mepis”:

The reviewers liked Knoppix best, with Mepis a close second. They had trouble with Gnoppix (and I have to agree; I did too when I tried it), and Feather is too minimalist for casual users (but might be great for power users).

I cary a Knoppix live-CD around with me, and I’ve used it for a couple of emergency rescues already, as well as for repartitioning an evil Win2K box a while back.

The slashdot comments add pointers to others:

* “Damn Small Linux”: it’s specialty is to fit on a 50mb business card CD.
* “MandrakeMove”: implements USB keys for storing configuration and profiles, so that you can quickly turn any bootable PC into your personal desktop.
* And of course: “Linux Live”: allows you to create a LiveCD from any linux distribution…

I might make a DSL business card CD, just for the fun of it…

posted at 10:44 am on Sunday, January 25, 2004 in Links | Comments (1)
  1. ReidNews says:

    Live CDs
    My main problem with them so far is that none I have tried (including Knoppix and Morphix) support a USB mouse and keyboard.

waterless urinals

I find toilets that flush themselves very annoying. I suppose it’s good when you work with inconsiderate louts that are incapable of flushing for themselves, but my experience with them is that they flush when I don’t want them to, a cold experience…

Automatic faucets, on the other hand, are good; there’s a sanitation advantage, in that you don’t have to touch dirty tap handles with your freshly cleaned hands. They’re much better than the old push-button, temporary flow kind. Those old ones accomplished the goal of saving water, at the expense of convenience.

Anyway, we have yet another new WC innovation: waterless urinals. Even better, it’s a very simple, low maintenance design, with no moving parts…

Falcon WaterFree Technologies | How does it work?

posted at 6:11 pm on Friday, January 23, 2004 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on waterless urinals

BSE causes classical CJD also?

Health – network

bq. New research suggests that the human form of mad cow disease is a lot more complicated than originally thought, and, potentially, much scarier.

bq. Scientists have long agreed that eating cattle tissue infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy – mad cow disease – can cause the human form of the disease, known as variant Creutzfeld-Jacob disease.

bq. But recent animal tests indicate that eating infected beef may also cause another form of the disease, classical CJD, forcing scientists to re-examine assumptions about the nature of the deadly disease and raising fears that it may be more widespread than previously thought.

bq. The accepted wisdom has been that classical CJD has nothing to do with mad cows. It affects older people, those over 55, and generally occurs spontaneously at the rate of about one person per million per year.

bq. It has been confused with Alzheimer’s disease and there is some concern that because of misdiagnosis, it may be more widespread than the confirmed numbers indicate.

CJD may be going undetected because budget cutbacks mean fewer autopsies, and in many cases that’s the only way to diagnose CJD. Still, I think you’re more likely to get hit by a beef delivery truck than contract CJD from beef, at least here…

posted at 12:06 pm on Friday, January 23, 2004 in Current Events | Comments Off on BSE causes classical CJD also?

Eat Less. Exercise More.

Ignore fad diets. Weight loss is a simple concept: Eat Less, Exercise More.

Yahoo! News – Study Tells Overweight Adults to Walk

bq. Participants who got no exercise during the eight-month study gained an average of almost 2.5 pounds. But 73 percent of those who briskly walked 11 miles a week, or about 30 minutes a day, were able to maintain their weight or even lose a few pounds.

bq. The study […] involved 120 overweight or mildly obese adults who were instructed not to diet during the research.

bq. The study confirms that exercise without cutting calories is not the most effective way to lose weight, said Dr. Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

bq. But demonstrating that small amounts of exercise alone can prevent weight gain is significant, given the nation’s growing obesity epidemic, Klein said.

It is reassuring to know that if you really are a couch potato, you’re hosed; while even a little exercise (such as lunchtime walks, or the walk to/from commuter transit) can make a difference…

(via “Teal Sunglasses”:

posted at 12:05 pm on Friday, January 23, 2004 in Science and Technology | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    Your weight-watcher’s experience (and now mine — 1 week and going strong) tells us that it’s not quite so cut and dry. I never knew that a double whopper with cheese was more than a day’s supply of food [for some people], and yet a nice small oatmeal breakfast, a 0-point vegetable soup for lunch, diet drinks and a decent amount of a properly prepared stew for dinner, which I’m sure is more mass than the whopper, comes in as a weight-reduction diet. So it’s *less*, but not food, rather *points* [I use the word points, because WW uses a formula for fiber+calories+fat to calc. points]. In fact, if I budget my day right, I can still go to a restaurant for dinner. Oh and just as another example, if I like the taste of KFC, I can get it, but I have to drink a diet drink and give the salad to the kids — at least according to the points system. I did not know that I should not go below a certain amount of points in one day either — no crash diets. Can you tell us what your experience with “flex points” was?

Disk Space Utilities

A couple of good packages for monitoring the disk space usage on your computer.

JDiskReport: creates pie and ring charts of space usage, and lets you navigate up and down through the directory hierarchy, looking at the relative sizes of files and directories.

“SpaceMonger”: has an interesting interface. Each file or folder on a given drive is displayed in a box in the main window whose size is a relative comparison to all the other files in your system.

I find both displays useful, for different reasons. SpaceMonger is a better “at-a-glance” tool, but the display can sometimes be cluttered and confusing; it’s hard to tell what level of the filesystem things are at, sometimes. JDiskReport has some useful reports, like the Top 100 and size histograms, but only lets you see detail on one level at a time.

Anyway, I use them both; I thought I’d share…

posted at 11:25 am on Friday, January 23, 2004 in Links | Comments (1)
  1. says:

    Two useful PC disk managment utilities
    My friend Harald shares info on a pair of different ways to visualise your overall disk use.

Sprit ‘Anomaly’

I think the Martian Planetary Defense Forces sent out the infantry this time:

Scientific American: Mars Rover Stops Sending Data

posted at 3:11 pm on Thursday, January 22, 2004 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on Sprit ‘Anomaly’

Mars Scorecard

The Mars Planetary Defense Forces are winning, “20:16”: …

posted at 1:43 pm on Friday, January 16, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on Mars Scorecard


Ok, it’s -22°C right now, colder than it was before sunrise. This is getting silly…

I’m working from home today. After last night’s ugly commute, I couldn’t face another day of slippery conditions and idiot drivers. The plows have been by, but it’s so cold that the salt we normally dump on the roads isn’t working. They’re trying sand, but they’re only really doing the highways right now; city streets (especially side streets) are treacherous.

Anyway, it’s cold. I’m sitting in my dining room, with the bulk of the house to my left and a window to my right. I’m pretty sure there’s a 3-4° temperature differential on opposite sides of my body right now…

Fortunately my laptop is keeping my hands warm. I knew all that excess heat would eventually come in handy!

posted at 10:54 am on Thursday, January 15, 2004 in Personal | Comments (2)
  1. Jeff K says:

    -22? Hah, you can call that summer! It’ll be -45C with the wind chill tonight. I too decided to work from home, but I had to go out and buy an electric heater for my office here, the cold draft coming off the windows was a bit annoying (well, I was noodling over ActiveX crap, so I don’t think I could have been more annoyed). Hopefully we don’t blow the province’s power grid tonight! A record 25GW and counting. Speaking of which, there’s a nice chart in the Star today of how we’ll be 20GW short on the supply side in 17 years. Oh well, with no plants planned we’ve got 2 years before the lights go out… permanently.

    Personally, I’d like one of those “smart meters”. I can handle doing the laundry after 8pm. Oh well, off to juice the brain with ER in HD.

  2. Harald says:

    I’m ignoring wind chill, because my house is reasonabl y well sheltered from the wind, and so doesn’t suffer too badly. For that matter, wind chill as a temperature makes less and less sense the colder it gets, because the effects aren’t really the same; watts/m^2 is a better measure.

    It is supposed to drop to -25°C tonight. My thermostat says that the furnace has run for 15 hours (since midnight).

    Electricity is an entire other rant (sitting in Draft status right now), which I’m sure you’ll comment on when it finally comes out :-) But yes, I’d love to have a time-of-day meter also…

Ugly Commute

So it snowed all day yesterday. Not a whole lot (between 5 and 10 cm), but it was also cold (around -15°C), so the usual remedy of salting the roads wasn’t working. Apparently I wasn’t paying attention to the weather forecast, because if I had known, I would have stayed home.

It took me an hour to get from work (well, the CNE grounds) to Thorncliffe. That’s almost 16 km/h. Then it took me 30 minutes to get to Lawrence; that’s about 6 km/h. Then it took another 45 minutes to get to the school; less than 3 km/h. No accidents or anything; just traffic volume, slippery roads, and small hills. I felt like I was in Zeno’s paradox; the closer I was to my destination, the slower I was driving…

There were the usual idiots pretending that their SUVs made them invulnerable; passing on the right (in the snow banks), trying (and sometimes failing :-) to corner at speed, tailgating, and similar stupidity. I drove slowly and carefully, and let all of the stupid people get _way_ ahead of me.

The staff at the school were very nice. Apparently so few people actually _call_ when they’re delayed that those of us who _do_ call are treated well :-)

posted at 10:52 am on Thursday, January 15, 2004 in Personal | Comments Off on Ugly Commute

Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder

My wife and I are sitting downstairs in front of the TV. We’re watching CSI off tape (no TIVO here yet), and working on our laptops. I come across this amusing article on Rands In Repose: N.A.D.D. (Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder), in which I read:

bq. The presence of NADD in your life is directly related to how you’ve dealt with the media deluge of the new millennium. You’ve likely gone one of three ways:

bq. 3) You enjoy the content fire hose. Give me tabbed browsing, tabbed instant messaging, music all the time, and TIVO TIVO TIVO. Welcome to NADD.

Sounds like us, eh? So earlier he writes:

bq. Stop reading right now and take a look at your desktop. How many things are you doing right now in addition to reading this column?

So I check (webmail, reading blogs, writing my blog, ICQ and Jabber). I was reading parts of the article to Michaéla ,and she ‘fessed up: 12 windows! 3 email, 2 MS word documents, a file browser, 2 different versions of the same powerpoint file, Google, and a pop-up ad, MS clip-art, and an online clipart page. All dedicated to the same project, but still a busy desktop.

Now the clincher:

bq. Here’s a tip: If the building you are currently in is burning to the ground, go find the person with NADD on your floor. Not only will they know where the fire escape is, they’ll probably have some helpful tips about how to avoid smoke inhalation as well likely probabilities regarding the likelihood you’ll survive.

The prosecution rests; we’re afflicted….

posted at 10:36 pm on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 in Links | Comments (2)
  1. Jeff K says:

    TiVo? Tape? CSI? Ack, CSI is a High-Definition program! You can’t watch that on tape or TiVo! That’s an abomination! (Well, unless you buy one of those $1000 pre-obsoleted D-VHS recorders and you’ve got a U.S. feed). [oh okay, my cable HDTV has a .3s drop out every 10 mins. I’ll have to get them over to fix it.] ..and don’t tell me you’re watching it on a VHS tape. 240x480i res when 1024x720p (approx) is available? You’re living on 1/6th the content presented to you! It’s a wonder a NADD person doesn’t turn blue and expire on the living room floor with a content choke like that in there.

  2. Jeff K says:

    Btw, in the vaporware awards on Wired:,1282,61935-2,00.html?tw=wn_story_page_next1
    TiVo HDTV got mentioned for 2003, but I think that means it’s almost ready. Hang in there!

The Commute: an update

So the week before Christmas I drove once and took the subway once, and did a hybrid once (I drove down with my wife, then hopped the streetcar over to the office). It was about 40 minutes to drive; the expected 1:20 on the TTC.

This week I’m picking up the kids, so I leave the house around 7:15, and leave work by 16:20 or so. Commute times (door to door, where the afternoon door is Bayview Glen) were:

| |_ Morning |_ Evening |
| Monday | 1 hour | 20 minutes |
| Tuesday | 30 minutes | 35 minutes |
| Wednesday | 40 minutes | unknown |
| Thursday | 45 minutes | 30 minutes |
| Friday | 35 minutes | 35 minutes |

Hardly a large sample set, but it is supporting my hypothesis that driving is much faster than TTC. Sure it’s expensive, and environmentally sucks rotten eggs. But I’d rather spend extra time with my family…

Maybe I’ll pick one day a week to TTC, so that I can get some reading done. :-)

posted at 6:05 pm on Monday, January 12, 2004 in Personal | Comments (2)
  1. Jeff K says:

    Well according to:
    you can get to Union station in 24 minutes from your place via Go Train.

    I forget the rates, but as I recall the GO train is only cheaper than the car if you include (some) parking.

  2. Harald says:

    Yes, I know; I used to take the GO train most days. It’s the getting from Union station to King & Strachan that makes that option less palatable; there’s either TTC it (20-30 minutes, plus an extra $2.00 fee) or walk it (35-40 minutes in good weather only). I’m supposed to be able to catch a second GO train from Union to the CNE, but in practice the Richmond Hill train is always late enough that I’d miss the connection.

No soap bubbles required

Spaceflight Now | Breaking News | Space station’s mystery leak may be resolved

bq. Space station commander Michael Foale today found a braided flexible hose with an apparent leak in it that may explain the slight loss of air pressure station engineers have been struggling to resolve over the past week.

bq. The hose is part of a system that evacuates air between two of the six panes making up an optically-clear window in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

Once they switched off equipment in the Destiny lab, they could apparently hear the leak…

posted at 2:57 pm on Monday, January 12, 2004 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on No soap bubbles required

Too much time fixing computers…

In Marshall Brain’s Blog, we see that Marshall spent 11 hours and 20 minutes fixing and dealing with computer problems in the month of December. I remember reading this and thinking that it sounded about normal.

Today, I went downstairs to discover my old laptop had blue-screened. It turns out that there’s a bad block in the _directory_ WINNT\SYSTEM32\CONFIG. Now the system cannot boot. (The brain-dead recovery process on the Win2K install disk can’t fix this, because this is apparently the directory it looks for when locating a system to repair :-)

Fortunately, I was planning on scraping that system anyway; the cable connecting the screen to the base has an intermittent fault, and the power switch is broken. I was going to take it back to Acer to get those fixed, then re-install. So I had most of my important data backed up already.

But the one thing I was still using that computer for was Quicken…

I tried installing Quicken on a different computer today, but it wouldn’t go. My guess is that I’m triggering anti-piracy code; activation requires connecting to a license server on the Internet, which is probably refusing to activate because those codes are already in use on another system. Of course, Intuit’s tech support is closed on Sundays…

If this continues, I’ll be over 11:20 by the end of the month :-) But I have to agree with Marshall; why does it always have to be this difficult?

posted at 9:05 pm on Sunday, January 11, 2004 in Rants | Comments Off on Too much time fixing computers…


In The Space Station has a leak… Chuq writes:

bq. Can we just admit [ISS] was a complete and absolute mistake, cut our losses, and hope it doesn’t hit someone when it falls out of orbit and lands somewhere? The Space station isn’t a scientific expedition, but a political one, and one aimed more at pork barrel funding than scientific advances.

Sadly, I’m beginning to adopt this opinion myself. ISS-the-dream was really cool; ISS-the-reality, not so much. The program has been cut back too far; there really isn’t much useful science being done, and I suspect much of it could be done more cheaply in other forms. Short duration experiments were working just fine in the Shuttle microgravity missions. Our robotics are getting good enough that many other experiments could be launched in small, un-manned capsules.

I’m just thinking off the top of my head here. I think a manned presence in space is important; but maybe it’s time to separate _that_ from space science, and do each one separately in a slightly more cost-effective manner…

posted at 12:28 pm on Sunday, January 11, 2004 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on The ISS

Documentation is never accurate…

In a wide ranging discussion about Genesis, M. comes up with:

bq. that doesn’t mean God didn’t _create_ gravity, it just means He didn’t _document_ it!

posted at 8:36 pm on Thursday, January 08, 2004 in Odd | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    Genesis 1:2 “And the spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. I guess you didn’t make it past the 2nd sentence in the Bible? ..because the 3rd sentence of the bible says there was morning the first day, so therefore God must have then been sitting somewhere on the Earth otherwise there would be no point of reference, and therefore between sentence 2 & 3 in Genesis, gravity was created.

    Oh okay, so I tried. It’s not much of a techincal reference, it is true.

    However, I like that bit about God saying “Let us create man in *our* image”. Now *there’s* a point of discussion.

Space Station Leaks

My friend “Greg”: tells me that there is actually a simple way to detect small leaks in space structures. Google tells me that the station even has one: “a portable mass spectrometer”: This can be used to detect gas leaks with larger holes, but can also be used to detect extremely slow leaks like the one “I mentioned earlier”:. As humidified air leaks out, water ice forms on the surface of the station close to the leak; the spectrometer can easily detect that ice, pinpointing the leak.

There’s also a trick: “watching the station’s orientation”: that can be used to detect relatively small leaks (any outgassing will act as a rocket, changing the station’s position in space; by monitoring that position, leaks can be pinpointed).

There are others; google has zillions of links…

posted at 7:40 pm on Thursday, January 08, 2004 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on Space Station Leaks

Open Source vs. the executives

In “Challenge to Open Source”:, Jim Fawcette writes:

bq. I was originally excited by the idea of open source, collaborative development. But the direction open source is headed seems like a waste. Creating clones of commercial software isn’t impressive creatively. But more importantly, what does it contribute? Why would anyone with excellent computer skills want to work long hours to create code so that millionaire executives at IBM can use it to sell expensive mainframe computers and middleware with six-figure licenses? All for no compensation and little recognition.

I found this perspective interesting and amusing, and there are many areas where it applies. There are organisations that extensively use open source without “giving back” to the community. There are others that aggressively release projects as open source, even when they don’t have to and don’t gain any (tangible) benefits.

I don’t think IBM is fair game in this case. The article is missing a critical piece: all of the coding that is done by IBM employees (and those of other large organisations), which is then released as open source. The obvious example is Eclipse, which represents thousands of man hours of development paid for by IBM, and is now available to any software developer. I’m sure there are many others.

“Chuq has a rebuttal”: that is worth reading too.

posted at 2:00 pm on Thursday, January 08, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on Open Source vs. the executives

Keep Microwaves Away

Now this is a _cool_ practical joke.

Friends foil Olympia man’s home

bq. nearly everything else in Chris Kirk’s downtown Olympia apartment was encased in aluminum foil when he returned home Monday night from a trip to Los Angeles.

bq. The walls, ceiling, cabinets and everything in between now shimmer with a metallic glow, thanks to a prank by Kirk’s longtime friend, Olympia native Luke Trerice.

They foiled the walls, the furniture, the stuff on the furniture, the bookshelves, the _books_, all the kitchen appliances; basically everything except for a single book (Penn & Teller’s Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends), a picture of his girlfriend, the bed, and a bath mat. They even _individually_ wrapped his loose change.

Amazing attention to detail:

bq. Trerice and his friends unrolled the toilet paper in the bathroom, enveloped the bath tissue in aluminum foil and rolled it back up again. They covered Kirk’s book and compact disc collections but made sure each CD case could open and shut normally.

All of the enfoiled kitchen appliances still work…

posted at 1:01 pm on Thursday, January 08, 2004 in Links | Comments Off on Keep Microwaves Away
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