Monday, December 29, 2008

Credit cards

Apparently someone swiped my credit card number and tried to go on a $500 shopping spree at Walmart. The CC company phoned me this morning to let me know, and automatically cancelled the charges.

I think the number probably got stolen when I was having lunch at Subway across from the U of W back during exams. The transaction didn't complete the first try, and the machine spit out an error message with the full card number on it, and I didn't think to take that receipt. There were some seedy people there that day (trying to steal potato chips of all things); they probably picked it up off the counter when nobody was looking.

Oh well, it's no bother. They've already mailed out a new card.

Loot

Christmas has come and gone, and I find myself newly in possession of a new rug, a cycling backpack, a compact bike pump, a paper shredder and various other goodies and doo-dads.

A decent haul, but nothing crazy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Damnit, Jim!

I'm a mathematician, not a mechanic!

Well ok, I'm a perfectly decent mechanic too, just not when it's -30c outside. My car was also sharing my distaste for the cold weather, so I took it in for a service to discover that the battery was only putting out 228 of its rated 575 CCA. $178 later ($110 for the battery, plus misc labour) and it's all good as new again.

I also changed the end on the extension cord for my car, and installed the interior car warmer. The former task was made more interesting by the fact that the outlet tester I had grabbed to double-check the wiring was actually broken, and the latter task was made more interesting by the fact that the cord inside my car was an absolute bitch to plug the warmer into. Took a good 5 minutes of wrestling before I managed to cram it in.

I probably should have done all this in October. Oh well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Exams are Over

I'm a winner!

Also I need to get my car serviced so it actually starts in -30 weather.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The failure of 3D

It seems like not a year can pass without half a dozen people trying to reinvent the failure of 3D computer interfaces, and it's the same story every time: Some sunless nerd watches a downloaded copy of Minority Report in their cavement, and as soon as they see the computers they jump up and shout "This is UNIX, I know this!" before rushing to their computer and loosing yet another half-baked UI abomination upon the world.

Tycho at Penny Arcade summed it up well at the end of this rant about Playstation Home:
This is the terrible secret that roils beneath their false universe: it is nothing more than a cumbersome menu, a rampart over which you must hoist yourself to accomplish the most basic tasks.

Next year I'm sure someone will do it all over again...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hippity-hop

Today I learned to hop on my unicycle. Hooray! Yet another skill to cross off the list.

Yes, I'm also studying for my exams...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pigs do fly

So this isn't the first time that some big event in the spamming community has promised to reduce the levels of crap being filtered out of my email every day. Sometimes it's a botnet getting shut down, other times it's some spam king finally getting put behind bars.

Usually the net result is a whole lot of nothing. Just more spam clogging up my server.

This time is different; I'm actually seeing considerably less spam this week.

Now if only we could so something about the *rest* of the spam...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The day the batteries died

Well, it had to happen eventually, the batteries in my keyboard finally got low enough to trigger the "low battery" warning on my computer. For the record, I charged this set on March 11th 2008, and the keyboard has been running continuously from that day until today, October 19 2008.

And in 30 minutes, I'll be starting the cycle all over again.

Speaking of batteries, on Friday I had to replace the batteries in my UPS again. Every 3 years like clockwork. It reminds me that I need to buy another few UPSes to cover the rest of my gear, like my server. When I have more money...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Horrible, terrible freedom

I did a bit of poking around this evening, and I finally managed to get my prism54 card working with WPA in Linux. Hooray! No longer will I have to suffer with the blight of windows just to securely connect to the internets while on the go, and I didn't even have to use the ndiswrapper windows drivers.

I think I'm going to try dragging my lovely black boatanchor to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can surf the web without having to deal with the filthy lab computers. We'll see how long it takes before I get sick of the extra weight.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Just what the doctor ordered

This morning I went out to the Memory Express grand-opening in Winnipeg and picked up a new power supply for my old desktop slash new server. Got a Crucial 550 watt one, and after wrestling it into place I'm happy to say that my system is now alive and well.

Installing Debian onto the 4-drive RAID was fairly straightforward, though the process could be streamlined a bit.

The server is actually impressively quiet, even with all four drives thrashing away. I'd almost be tempted to keep it up here, but I don't need the extra heat.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oh fiddlesticks

Today I finally got my SATA card, which is the last piece I need to be able to assemble my old desktop into my new server.

At least, I thought it was.

Unfortunately, it turns out that with all the goodies and gubbins I've crammed into my poor little Antec case a 350 watt power supply just isn't quite enough to spin things up. In fact, it apparently isn't even enough to spin 1/4 of things up. (despite the fact that an online PSU calculator claims that a 250w supply should be ample)

So, now I face the lovely task of either spending $100-$150 on a new case, or $50-$100 on a new power supply. I sure wouldn't mind one of these.

I knew that I was going to have to get a new case/psu eventually, but I was hoping to put that off until I upgraded the rest of my server.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fixing things

I fixed my alarm clock this weekend. It is yet another example of the long list of dead electronics, cut short in their prime by the capacitor plague.

The replacement operation was simple enough. It was only a single filter capacitor. I did have a bit of an issue finding a replacement, as Active has a pretty limited selection. I ended up having to buy a 220µf 50v instead of the original 220µf 10v. This meant the replacement part was about 3x the size, and I had to mount it off to the side of the board so as not to interfere with the reassembly of the clock.

Of course, I only discovered the component interference after installing one and attempting to reassemble the clock. And, since I had already trimmed the leads, there wasn't enough lead left to reposition the capacitor, so I had to unsolder it and solder in a second one. Thankfully I got a 4-pack so that wasn't an issue.

On the bright side, the 50v capacitor has a lot larger electrolyte volume than the 10v one, so even if it's got bad electrolyte too it probably won't fail for a good long time. It's also a 105c rather than 85c rated one, so that should help things too.

Before you ask: yes, it probably would have been cheaper and easier just buying a new alarm clock. But if you have to ask, you've already missed the point.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

To be more specific

Now that I've got my stock slips I can tell you exactly what I've bought and sold, just in case you're so desperate to know what I'm throwing my money away on.

I sold 100 shares of Apple for 173.253, and 70 of Bombardier for 7.93. With these mad moneys I bought 460 shares of Palm at 8.439, 315 of AMD at 6.2082, 80 of Intel at 23.54, and 145 of nVidia at 13.139, then to diversify a bit I picked up 80 of Bank of Nova Scotia at 48.97, and 60 of CIBC at 62.88.

Of course, if you add up all those numbers you probably won't get a zero sum, the remainder has evaporated in commissions. A small price to pay for the gains to be had. That said, if I start trading a bit more I'll probably open up an account at some online brokerage with really cheap fees, but with the volume I'm doing now it doesn't really bother me.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shuffling moneys

I finally decided it was time to trim back my holdings in Apple to something a bit more reasonable. I rode the stock up through about 1000% of gains and it was starting to completely dominate my portfolio, so today I went in and had a chat with my investment advisor.

I sold down about 90% of my Apple and bought up some Palm, Intel, nVidia and AMD, as well as a few financial company stocks to round things out. My portfolio still isn't the picture of balance and diversity, but it's at least a bit more spread out.

More balancing will have to wait until I have more money to invest.

Home sw... well, home.

I'm home. I've actually been home since Monday evening, but I've been too busy to blog. The final day of driving was boring, windy, and mercifully short. The border crossing was equally quick and uneventful.

Rather than bore you with a final travelogue, I present to you Alice tripping balls:

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's not something you just throw something on

Today was rather boring. Drove from Twin Falls to Glendive. I didn't get snowed on like I did on the way out, and I only passed one accident (luckily on the opposite side of the road).

For the morbidly curious among you, it was a rather crumpled Big Truck that had spilled a Series of Tubes all over the Super-Highway that is the interstate. Somewhere deep in Alaska, Ted Stevens must be having an aneurysm.

Map later.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One point Twenty-one Jiggawatts

Not one to waste time, I hit the road with a vengeance this morning. I managed to get everything loaded up and ready to go by 9:30 pacific and I was on my way.

Things went fairly smoothly until I got to Sacramento for lunch. The lunch itself was fine, but when I got back out onto I-80 the traffic had ground to a halt. A few miles up I finally passed the burnt-out husk of what was once a very nice Class-A RV, sitting rather sadly charred at the side of the road.

The traffic didn't ease for long, though. Things slowed down again pretty quickly as I got toward the mountains, and this time I passed a wrecked box-van that had ran over what looked like a good 1 ton boulder that had fallen onto the road, and to make matters worse the van then collected a car with its rear-end.

So that's 3 people so far who have had a rather upsetting start to their weekend.

Luckily things went much better for me, and after I passed Reno the traffic pretty much disappeared. I set the cruise control for 88 miles an hour, and arrived at Twin Falls at about 10pm pacific (11 local), in the year 1958. ;)

I kid, of course, but there actually is a pretty fancy looking olde-tyme hotrod parked at the Motel 6 I'm staying at.

I should take a moment to digress; there's a few things one should know about Nevada that make it quite distinct from the Californian experience I've been getting used to all summer.

First, it's full of bugs. I must have got over 100 huge bug-splats on my windshield crossing the state. It was disgusting! By the time I got into Idaho I could barely see, and that was after scrubbing the windshield clean in Elko.

Second, the sky really is full of little fluffy clouds, and the sunsets are gorgeous. The little fluffy clouds also rain every now and then, which makes for the first precipitation I've seen since my trip out in April.

Third, Nevada knows how to make interstates. They really do. Best roads around to rack up the miles.

And lastly: Nevada has insufficient air density for my poor little jellybean. Really saps the power.

Hopefully I'll make it to Glendive tomorrow. We'll see what the day brings.

I'll paste a map in here later, Google Maps is being a pain in the ass.

All good things must come to an end

And yesterday was my last day working at Palm this summer. Thankfully I had managed to finish up my work on Wednesday and Thursday so I didn't have much to do but chill out and wait to see if anything huge blew up that would need my attention (and luckily not).

Lunch was of course provided. We were originally going to go to Tied House, but when we got there we discovered they had a sewer backup and wouldn't be open for another hour, so we all walked over to Temptations instead for some chinese/indian fusion cuisine. Good times were had by all.

At the end of the day I was sad to leave and everyone there was sad to see me go, but on the whole it was a really great experience, and one I plan to repeat next year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Have you no sense of awe?

In here, you *whisper*.

Well, actually you yell, since you can't hear anything over the roar of cooling fans sucking heat away from the over 14 thousand CPUs in one system alone.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be shown around the Ames supercomputing/visualization center. I got to see the Columbia supercomputer, a few other systems, a few petabytes of tape robot, and the really awesome hyperwall.

I also got a chance to take a few pictures of the afore mentioned items, though they really don't capture the full experience. The only thing I couldn't take pictures of were the army's Cray systems (I think an X1 and an XT5) even though they were completely standard off-the-shelf crays. I'll be putting the pictures up on my site as soon as I get things back up and running properly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Big wheel keep on turnin'

Rode my unicycle in to work today (the 29). Got kind of sweaty from the effort so it was a good thing I packed a clean change of clothes in my bag.

Folks around the office were very entertained, and Johan even gave it a test-spin. He has a 24" KH unicycle back in Sweden, so he managed to make a fairly good show of it.

As for the commute itself, I managed to make fairly good time (though much slower than biking) and I only fell off once; on the way home.

Lots of fun.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The countdown begins

In less than a week I'll be hitting the road like a man on a mission, and thus the final countdown begins.

I've really had an awesome time being here in California and I'm really looking forward to coming here again next year. What I'm not looking forward to is spending another few winters in Winnipeg, but this is the cross I bear.

I should also take the time to mention that I have successfully passed on the torch^Wunicycle to Candy and Ryan, though they couldn't give it a try right away as Candy was having some trouble with her foot and Ryan had sprained something the week previous. That said, I do have confidence that by the time I return next year at least one of them should be able to ride it, or at least have made a good effort.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The miracles of technology

So this evening I was playing around with my Centro, mostly checking what part of the world is in shadow in the nifty world clock app, when suddenly my computer made this bizarre noise and an icon popped up in the task bar saying "A computer is near by, would you like to transfer files?".

This came as a bit of a shock to me, to say the least. I wondered if I had fallen victim to some form of malware or trojan, so I quickly googled the error code and discovered that it was windows itself popping up the message, in response to a successful connection via IRDA.

It then occured to me that both my laptop and my phone have IR ports on them, a fact that I had up until this point completely and utterly ignored (and/or forgotten).

After a little bit of fiddling around, I managed to get the palm hotsync to sync my Centro over the IRDA connection. I've never done that before.

It's funny to think about IR port: a barely noticed flash in the pan of technology that had come and gone almost ten years ago, nowadays completely and utterly replaced by bluetooth and other RF technologies. Now, all these years later, almost entirely forgotten and on the eve of its final demise, the dusty corpse reanimates like a silicon zombie to wirelessly fling my bits of contact information back and forth over an invisible link.

I wonder: if technologies were really alive, what they would think of their passing... For me, it just makes me feel old.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My luck finally ran out

This morning I noticed something a little odd when I unlocked my bike; the rear seemed to bounce a little oddly on the ground when I moved it around. Upon closer examination I discovered, to my dismay, that the rear tire had gone flat overnight, under the influence of a rather large thorn wedged through the tread.

Thus I had to go back inside, change my shoes, and sadly drive to work.

I picked up a new tube on the way home (though annoyingly the first bike shop I visited was closed), and installed it without too much trouble.

Up until today I had never had a flat on this bike from a puncture. (I've had one or two from valve separations before, but those don't really count)

It's a good thing tubes are cheap.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Through BOB and back again

Well, this Saturday I took another stab at Bohlman - On Orbit - Bohlman, and in 1 hour and 35 minutes I made it from the bottom all the way up to the top (with the aid of a second bottle of gatorade I bought at the bottom).

Then in 10 minutes I made it from the top all the way to the bottom.

That works out to about 4.4 kph (2.7 mph) on the way up and 41.5 kph (25.8 mph) on the way down.

I have conquered the beast!


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Up and down and up and down

My car window works again. Total damage was about the same as estimated, about $275. Got a free car wash out of it too, which is good 'cause there was some bird shit on the side that I was meaning to clean off.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Well bugger

The power window on my car broke, and in a very inconvenient way. It seems that it ate the worm gear so now my window won't stay up.

Needless to say I'm not pleased by this turn of events, but I've located a Hyundai dealership near by and I'll be dropping it off to get fixed early tomorrow morning.

I'm glad it didn't break the day before I left or something, though. That would have been much more annoying.

At least there's a fairly good chance of finding a replacement part quickly, what with this being a reasonably large metro area and all.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The deepest shade of blue

Previously I've made unhappy noises about the sky in California not being quite exactly blue. It's not entirely hazy, but it's just been a smidgen of a shade away from the crystal clear skies of the prairies.

Today that all changed, as some exceptionally clear air blew in and made the sky a perfect blue.

It also made it unexpectedly hot, which cut short my usual biking up Page Mill. It's not so fun when the temperature is 30+. (It was only supposed to be 23c today)

I saw a pair of deer along the road as I was biking along, and flipped out my cameraphone to snap a picture of them... My cameraphone takes really, really shitty pictures.



Thankfully it takes slightly better pictures of the construction equipment that's in the process of setting up a bike/ped overpass right near where I'm staying.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wikiality

I decided to give the MoinMoin wiki software a whirl on my server for managing the static content on my web site. It's closed off so only I can edit it, so it's not exactly collaborative or anything, but I can't imagine I'd want anyone else editing the content anyway.

I've stuck it on my server at wiki.ubb.ca. So far it's just got the welcome page and a highly abridged version of my xmas list.

I'll still be using Gallery2 for my photos and I'll probably get phpicalendar up in a more official capacity for my calendar, etc, but I figured this would be a nifty way to deal with all the detritus that used to just be stuck in static html files that I loathed editing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Courses for Horses

It will soon be time for me to register for my courses for the coming 08-09 academic year, and once again I'm having difficulty filling up my calendar with the appropriate number of credit hours.

For fall I've got: Math-3101 Advanced Calculus and Analysis, Math-3202 Group Theory, and Math 3402 Combinatorics. For winter I have: Math-3101 Advanced Calculus and Analysis, Math 4202 Rings and Fields, Math-2202 Applied Algebra and Math-2501 Number Theory.

So far I've managed to schedule things so I don't have any classes on Friday, and I don't have any that start before 10:00am, and I'd like to keep things this way.

I'm already running out of courses that are required for my degree, and I certainly have more than enough math courses for the year, so I'd like to fill in with some courses from other areas to help fill up my humanities requirement (need another 6c-hr) or the distribution requirement (need 3c-hr from at least 5 diff departments, currently I've got 4).

Basically what I'm looking for is suggestions as to what courses to use as filler. I want something that's vaguely interesting, not especially challenging, doesn't involve a mammoth quantity of reading and writing, etc. If you have any ideas, post a comment.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hell, thy name is Bob

No, not that Bob; this Bob.

I decided to change up my weekend cycling by going for a climb with a bit more challenge, and managed to pick one of the most challenging climbs in the entire bay area, the Bohlman-On Orbit-Bohlman route... which also happens to start 13 miles away, making for quite a lengthy warm-up ride.

Now the average grade for the section I rode is 11%. This can only be described as "horrible, terrible lies", seeing as some sections are upwards of 24%. That's a lot of percent. It translates to roughly 14 degrees, give or take. Hold the end of a ruler a little less than 3 inches off your desk, and that'll be roughly the slope we're talking about.

It should additionally be noted that the slope doesn't let up any until you've ridden 2.4 miles and climbed 1500 feet, unlike Page Mill which has a number of flat or short downhill sections. There's none of that here.

Anyway, I made it to the bottom of the hill at 3:15 and started climbing. By 4:00 I had gone a total of 1.75 miles (setting a blistering pace of 2.3 miles per hour) and two things happened:

  1. I hit a small rock with my front tire. Normally this wouldn't be any big deal, but due to the slope and the amount of force I had to pedal with, it lifted the wheel quite a ways off course, which caused me to struggle somewhat to stay upright, which then resulted in my left calf locking up in a spasm. This was rather uncomfortable, and took a few minutes to stretch back out.
  2. I ran out of water.

Thus, at the lower intersection of Bohlman and On Orbit, I was forced to give up and turn around. I did quite enjoy the ride, though, and perhaps next year when I have a lighter bike I might try it again.


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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bills, bills, bills

Yesterday I got the bill from my hospital stay. They want $2200 from me. At least, that's what they claim they want. In reality, there's a 75% cash discount if I contact them within 25 days or so.

I'll be calling them with my insurance info on Monday to get things settled up.

I have no creativity

Went up Page Mill again, had a fun time. 1:15 up and 0:20 down.

I'm gonna miss this when I go back home.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Didn't quite make it

So today I took another stab at Page Mill, but I didn't quite make it to the top before I had to give up and turn around.

Not because I was tired, mind you. Quite the opposite; I had plenty of energy left, but the hot weather and resulting profuse sweating had me running out of water about 2 miles from the end and the last thing I wanted to do was drive myself into dehydration on a hot day half way up the side of a mountain.

In all reality I probably could have made it to the top and got some more water at the park there, but I didn't want to push my luck, especially considering last week's brush with vertigo. I was going quite well, though, keeping up a good pace without having to stop anywhere, not even at the top of Moody Rd.


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Friday, July 4, 2008

SSL can be so... cryptic

Setting things back up on my server today, and having a puzzling time of it when it comes to my SSL certificates.

I started out by getting my jabber server back up and running and puzzling over why it wouldn't talk to the Google Talk servers. Scrounging around the net a little, I discovered that I needed to have SSL set up on my server to satisfy the peculiar tastes of The Goog.

Except that didn't work, and it took quite a bit more puzzling to determine that it didn't like my self-signed certificate, but substituting it with a certificate that I signed with a self-generated CA key would work. Go fig.

Then, while I was on an SSL kick, I decided to enable https on Apache, so I dutifully cooked up a key and crt, signed it with the CA key I just generated and... Firefox refused to trust it. Not only did it refuse to trust it, but it went so far as to even refuse to let me set an exception, and the errors it gave were utterly vague and generic.

It took me a few more hours of generating keys, searching the net, and screaming at the utterly useless documentation to figure out that I needed to use a self-signed cert instead of one signed by my fake CA.

What a pain in the ass.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I'm not dead yet!

On Saturday evening I was just sitting at home surfing some porn wholesome family-oriented websites and suddenly with no warning whatsoever the room started spinning.

I wobbled my way over to bed to lay down for a bit, but that didn't help things any, so I unsteadily made my way to the bathroom to respond to the urge to empty the contents of my stomach. That didn't help much either.

I had my landlord take me to the hospital ER, and after waiting around for an hour they finally got me in a room and gave me an IV bag and some anti-dizzyness and anti-nausea medication.

The doctor explained that episodes of vertigo can sometimes follow an infection such as a cold, and I did have a cold the previous weekend, so after I was done absorbing the IV he sent me home with a prescription for some more happypills.

By this time it was 3am, and when we got to the 24 hr pharmacy we found that the pharmacist had gone off to eat lunch, leaving us to wait around for another half hour before I could get my medication.

The good news is that the vertigo is slowly clearing itself up, and is now barely noticeable. I expect by the end of the week it will be completely gone and I'll be back to normal.

All in all the service in this hospital was pretty much identical to what I've experienced in Canada, so god only knows what Americans are paying so much more money for. Speaking of which, I haven't yet got the bill for my quick stay...

Page Mill again

So on Saturday afternoon I took my bike out on Page Mill for a climb and managed to do quite well. Not only did I shave 5 minutes off my time, but I also managed to make it up the entire climb only stopping once (at the top of the 17% grade at Moody Road and Page Mill).

I also made it down the hill in 15 minutes, which I'll blame on doing better on the uphill bits rather than going twice as fast on the downhill bits.

Down, down, down in a burning ring of fire

My server went down with a hardware failure yesterday afternoon, probably from overheating. I won't be anywhere near it to fix it until the end of August.

If you need to email me, I have a mac.com email address that I can send to you. Just reply to this post if you need it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

E.T. Phone Home

Yesterday marks the arrival of two new toys to my ever-growing collection of stuff. The first is a Palm Centro that I got free from work, and the second is a data cable for my Samsung Stripe.

I have combined the joy of these two devices into one magical experience: a photo of my centro taken with my stripe, and copied over the data cable.

I still need to unlock my Centro so I can actually use it with T-Mobile or Rogers/Fido, but it's still neat to have, as useless as it is. I hardly need one cellphone, god only knows what I'm going to do with two of them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Scratch one off the bucket list

Today I unicycled across the Golden Gate Bridge.

One less thing to do before I die (not that I'm running low on time, but it never hurts to get a head start on these kinds of things).

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shabuway

Had dinner with Mother and Bob this evening at Shabuway, a restaurant that specializes in Shabu-Shabu. I almost managed to teach Bob to use chopsticks.

We then walked around downtown Mountain View a bit, and enjoyed the evening air and a little gelato.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Page Mill Road, Part 2

So today I decided to give Page Mill Road another run. I took a slightly different route (went up Altamont Rd instead of Moody Rd) but it ended up being about the same.

I did it in the same time as last week, 1:45 going up and 0:30 coming down, though I had fewer near-death experiences on this descent.

I figured rather than paste in the same map as the previous blog post I'd do some interesting calculations instead.

Assuming a 210lb combined weight for me and my bicycle and 2200 vertical feet of climbing and ignoring wind resistance (I really wish I could ignore wind resistance), I would have to have output a minimum of 150 kilocalories to reach the top, and I would have output this energy at an average of 100 watts; if I could get that up to 250 watts I could get to the top in just over 40 minutes and go ride the Tour de France. More realistically, if I dropped about 25lb of weight I could cut the time down to 1:30 with the same power output.

On the way back down, all that energy was returned to me at an average of 350 watts, or roughly ½ horsepower.

And now you know.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Page Mill Road

Today I decided I felt like a challenge, so I got on my bike and rode up the side of a very large hill.


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That's 8.7 miles and 2200 vertical feet.

It took me roughly 1:45 to go from A to B, and 0:30 to go from B to A. My ears popped on the way down.

Going up was pure hell, but when I turned around to go back down again it was all worth it. The speed was incredible, slicing through the curves, passing cars, the wail of the wind in my face. I did manage to goof up one corner and ended up going off the road a little bit, but luckily it was just up the side of a hill and I didn't even fall off.

I think I might even do it again next weekend... or whenever my legs start working again.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Good thing I got the three-pack

Today the weather was kind of gloomy (the first gloomy day I've seen since I got here. It even drizzled a little!), so I decided to do a little shopping rather than go out and about as I have on previous weekends.

My first stop was at the local bike shop to pick up a set of spoke wrenches and a bicycle multi-tool. I got the 3-pack of spoke wrenches that cover all the common sizes, and it's a good thing I did because between my unicycles and my bike I need all three! The multi-tool proved its worth in helping me adjust the rear brake on my bike.

The next stop was the Target (or "Tarjay" as it's called around here) to shop for some clothes. I was entirely unimpressed with their prices and selection, so I headed across the street to Sears and got 3 shirts and 4 shorts for only $110 thanks to the memorial weekend sale. Not too shabby.

I also drove my car through a carwash, though I don't suppose that's very exciting. It's nice and clean now, though.

Friday, May 23, 2008

We're gonna need more marshmallows

The south bay area is covered in smoke this morning from the fires up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was also rather brisk outside this morning.

These factors combined to make my bike into work a little less pleasant than usual.

Such trials I must endure... ;)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Over the hills and through the woods

On friday I decided to escape the heat after work and head over the hills to visit Santa Cruz and take in a little bit of the cool sea breeze on the wharf.

I planned out a scenic little route through the hills:


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Of course, nobody bothered to tell me that Skyline (hwy 35) gets a little narrower and twistier down toward the southern end. Narrower and twistier as in "single-lane asphalt spaghetti", which is all fine and dandy until you meet a car coming in the other direction and the road is only 15 feet wide. Thankfully I avoided any scrapes or bumps.

People also forgot to inform me that things get a little more rustic when you get to the other side of the hills. Once you get one valley over all the BMWs and triple lattes are replaced with pickup trucks and inbreeding, as far as the eye can see. Still a nice place to drive through, though.

Santa Cruz itself was suitably breezy and cool, though somewhat overrun with touristyismsm. I took a few photos including a nice big panorama of the beach, because nobody's ever done that before.

On Saturday I took the train up to San Francisco and biked around a bit. Unfortunately my route didn't account for hills, of which there are apparently many in San Fran (go fig). Also, my bike lock fell off its wussy mounting clip and was lost to me forever, so I had to fork over $20 to buy a new one with a better mounting clip once I got back to Mountain View.

I do intend to soon return to the lumpy city, armed with detailed reconnaissance, to conquer its fearsome streets.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Goofing off in San Fran

Took the opportunity today to finally get up to San Francisco and take a little look around. Quite a nice city all told.

I took the scenic route, and snapped a few photos.

I've found I greatly enjoy driving in the hills, especially when I start to get the tires squealing. Eats gas though. Oh well.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Head for the hills!

Google maps is being a pain in the ass, so no embedded map today.

So Tyler and Angela (and the wee poop machine Erica) stopped in on their whirlwind tour last night and dragged me out to dinner at the King of Krung Siam restaurant, where we had many tasty eats. Afterwards we decided to take a little cruise through the hills, as illustrated in the above map.

I now understand why people buy Ferraris. A Ford Fusion rental car really doesn't cut it.

Today Tyler and Angela (and the wee poop machine again) dropped in at the office and got a schmooze tour from Chris, and we had lunch at some bbq place that I forget the name of. Things went quite well there too.

All in all a good visit.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I am Iron Man

So today I had a very important meeting with the entire development team, from 11:00am to 2:30pm. We all got together and met at the local theatre to watch Iron Man, on the company's dime.

Good way to round out the week, I think. I'm feeling fairly good with my progress in settling in; I think on Monday I should actually be starting to chew on some code.

Tyler should be magically appearing sometime next week for a visit. Good times will be in store I'm sure.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wheeling around Stevens Creek Trail

Took my 29" unicycle out for a spin this afternoon and collected a nice sunburn on my arms.

This is the route I took.


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Had a nice lunch at Michael's Restaurant in the middle.

I think I'll stick to shorter routes in the future though, this was quite a distance!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The price tag

Gas mileage for the trip. Dollar values in american.

Winnipeg to Fargo: 386km, 240 miles
8.287 Gallons, $3.499/gal, $29.00. 31.37 Liters.
28.94 mpg, 8.13 l/100k
12.1c/mi, 7.51c/km

Fargo to Bismarck: 314km, 195 miles
6.672 Gallons, $3.479/gal, $23.21. 25.26 Liters.
29.24 mpg, 8.04 l/100k
11.9c/mi, 7.39c/km

Bismarck to Glendive: 317km, 197 miles
5.509 Gallons, $3.449/gal, $19.00. 20.85 Liters.
35.76 mpg, 6.58 l/100k
9.65c/mi, 5.99c/km

Glendive to Billings: 381km, 236.74 miles
9.014 Gallons, $3.439/gal, $31.00. 34.12 Liters
26.26 mpg, 8.96 l/100k
13.09c/mi, 8.14c/km

Billings to Livingston: 185km, 114.95 miles
4.945 Gallons, $3.439/gal, $17.01. 18.72 Liters.
23.25 mpg, 10.12 l/100k
14.80c/mi, 9.19c/km

Livingston to Dillon: 227km, 141.05 miles
4.573 Gallons, $3.499/gal, $16.00. 17.31 Liters.
30.844 mpg, 7.63 l/100k
11.34c/mi, 7.05c/km

Dillon to Pocatello: 326km, 202.57 miles
6.981 Gallons, $3.299/gal, $23.03. 26.43 Liters.
29.02 mpg, 8.11 l/100k
11.37c/mi, 7.06c/km

Pocatello to Twin Falls: 188km, 116.82 miles
5.004 Gallons, $3.399/gal, $17.01. 18.94 Liters.
23.34 mpg, 10.08 l/100k
14.56c/mi, 9.05c/km

Twin Falls to Battle Mountain (incomplete fill): 401km, 249.17 miles
5.527 Gallons, $3.799/gal, $21.00. 20.92 Liters.

Battle Mountain to Valmy (top off): 24km, 14.91 miles
3.577 Gallons, $4.199/gal, $15.02. 13.54 Liters.

Twin Falls to Valmy: 425km, 264.08 miles
9.104 Gallons, $3.957/gal, $36.02. 34.46 Liters.
29.01 mpg, 8.11 l/100k
13.64c/mi, 8.48c/km

Valmy to Sparks: 324km, 201.32 miles
6.586 Gallons, $3.799/gal, $25.02. 24.93 Liters.
30.57 mpg, 7.69 l/100k
12.43c/mi, 7.72c/km

Sparks to Mountain View: 435km, 270.30 miles
8.463 Gallons, $3.899/gal, $33.00. 32.04 Liters.
31.94 mpg, 7.36 l/100k
12.21c/mi, 7.59c/km


Winnipeg to Mountain View: 3508km, 2179.77 miles
75.138 Gallons, $3.584/gal, $269.30. 284.43 Liters.
29.01 mpg, 8.11 l/100k
12.35c/mi, 7.68c/km

Tomorrow is a bit behind schedule

Ok, so I'm a bit late on this blog post. It turns out that the place I rented wasn't nearly up to my expectations with regards to cleanliness and clutter in the common areas, and it really bummed me out. Also, I've been having difficulty accessing my money at home in a useful way that translates into paying rent.

Things are kind of slowly working themselves out on both counts, but it's still a work in progress.

Back to the travelogue though. The drive through Nevada was fairly uneventful, though a tad bit on the cool side. There was a thin dusting of snow to be seen in the ditches most of the way, but nothing like the weather problems of the day before.

I also picked up and/or just noticed another stone chip, over on the right hand side of the windshield again. Oh woe and despair, my poor windshield, how scarred you've become in such a short time on this verdant jellybean.

I really can't overstate how uneventful driving through Nevada was, especially considering what happened when I hit Reno, right next to the California border. You see, something strange happened here; all the cars grew California licence plates, and all the drivers turned around in their seats and started driving with their ass with a cinderblock on the gas pedal.

This transformation was not alone. The road itself even changed its nature. Gone was the freshly sealcoated asphault and carefully doweled concrete of the I-80 in Nevada, replaced by (I swear I'm not lying) *rutted* concrete absolutely riddled with cracks. Arnie very much hasn't been wasting any taxpayer money on road repairs.

I also had the lovely misfortune of passing through Sacramento right at the peak of rush hour... Here's a hint: don't do that.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Oh I've seen fire and I've seen rain...

I lie of course, all I saw today was snow. Miserable, mucky snow. When it wasn't blinding me in a curtain of white, it was melting on the road, then spraying up on my car and freezing on contact, turning every vehicle on the road into an ugly brown icecube.. and if it wasn't doing that, it was melting and evaporating with such vigour that it created a nice layer of fog just on the highway.

Also I got a small stone chip in the upper right of my brand new windshield.

Had Arbys for lunch, a delicious Reuben with a side of curly fries.

I had to take a detour through Rigby before going through Idaho Falls, since the interstate was closed for some reason.

Staying in a Motel 6 tonight in Twin Falls, ID. They charge $3 for internet! The nerve.


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Tomorrow I'll hopefully roll into Mountain View.

Edit: Forgot to mention this: Twin Falls is really beautiful. They've got this big canyon thing and all, definitely worth taking pictures if you're the picture-taking type (I'm not).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'm in ur country, stealing ur jobs!

So, I'm in Glendive, MT for the evening. Customs went very smoothly, the border official that issued my Visa seemed more concerned about filling out the forms correctly than figuring out if I was a terrorist or not.

Some things of note:
  1. I passed someone riding a bike down Pembina Highway that looked an awful lot like Tyler. I'm not sure why Tyler would be riding his bike down Pembina on a Saturday morning, so I'll just assume it was his evil twin.
  2. The Hardees Jalapeno Thickburger is divine bliss, though not quite as good as the chili cheeseburgers I had with Bob on Friday.
  3. The curbs at gas station entrances have a sneaky way of hiding in shadows when you're tired from driving. No damage done, thankfuly.
  4. Someone west of here is making a whole lot of money selling boom lifts to someone east of here.
  5. The Theodore Roosevelt park looks like it would be really pretty at sunset. Sadly it was mostly cloudy by the time I got there.
  6. Strong tailwinds make for awesome gas mileage.
Today's journey:


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I think tomorrow I'll try for Twin Falls, Idaho. It's a few more hours driving than I did today, but I'll be on the road earlier and I won't have to spend an hour waiting at the border.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Good things come in threes?

So today I get an email from my Calc prof telling me that he changed how he's calculating the marks to match the other prof, and is subsequently bumping my B+ up to an A-.

Next I got an email from AIPT informing me that my DS-2019 has been issued, which is the last piece of paper I need to take to the border in order to get my J-1 Visa.

Lastly I get an email from Tyler telling me that he won the lottery, so everyone make sure to email him and shake him down for some cash! (never mind that his share is only $2500)

Good news all around.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Well that was close

It was windy yesterday, very windy indeed: Gusts up to 70kph.

As it turns out, that's slightly above the rated wind speed of one of the neighbour's trees. I'm just glad it didn't fall on my car.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I can see clearly now

My lovely jellybean now has a new windshield, and all is right with the world... except it's supposed to snow on Friday: I'm not terribly thrilled about that.

Can you hear me now?

Yes, but only if you stand to the left of me.

So this morning I decided to remount the tire on my 29, since it had been installed backwards. It wasn't a big deal, since the tire is mostly slick, but the tread was technically directional so I wanted to flip it while I had some spare time.

I deflated it, popped it off, popped it back on again, and went to re-inflate it. I didn't bother turning the compressor on since I had been using it yesterday and it hadn't completely run down yet. I filled the tire, and it felt mostly hard, but I figured it could use a bit more. I looked at the gauge and it only showed 60lbs, so I flipped the compressor on to jack it up to 100lb since I was pretty sure I remembered it being rated for that much.

BOOOOOM!

Re-reading the sidewall, I noticed that it was in fact only rated for 60lb. Oops.

So while my right ear was figuring out how to hear things again, I took a trip down to Bikes and Beyond and got a new tube and tire as well as some proper rim tape instead of the silly rubber rim strips that always seem to slide around uselessly. My poor Big Apple tire had snapped the bead cord so there was no saving it, so I got a somewhat smaller Bontrager tire instead (which I carefully noted was rated for 80lbs).

I installed it all, paid my money, and went back home to reassemble my uni, only to discover that the tire exploded with enough force to bend the rim! Back again I went to Bikes and Beyond and they were nice enough to true the wheel for me while I waited rather than having to leave it with them until Tuesday - for some reason this time of year is really busy for them.

So now my lovely uni is as good as new again, with a slightly slimmer tire (which honestly suits me just fine). I took a picture of the new setup, so you can compare with the old.

Monday, April 7, 2008

It's a monster!

I just got my new Torker AX29, and it's sure big! I took a picture of it next to my Nimbus 20 and another of it standing all alone.

It was a bit of a bear trying to get it assembled, since both the frame and the seat post are aluminum I ran into a bit of galling when I first tried to insert it. A bit of sanding, filing, cutting the seat post a bit shorter (I have short legs, sue me) and it was all good.

It's very different to ride compared to my 20s, especially since I ordered it with the shorter cranks (same size as my 20s, but it usually comes with ones an inch longer). It takes a lot more force on the pedals to mount or when things get a bit out of sorts.

All in all, though, I love it!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More car fun

I managed to get a stone chip in my windshield the other day. I was driving down Gateway when I heard the ominous "thwack" of a stone hitting the windshield. I took a quick look to see if I could see a chip anywhere, but none was to be found.

So today I'm out grocery shopping and I pull into the superstore parking lot, and I see this odd glint on the windshield. I get out to take a closer look, and I finally see a stone chip right on the shaded part of the windshield just behind the rear-view mirror, and a nice big crack going half way down.

Oh well, good thing I got the low deductable with the cheap windshield replacement option. It was getting kind of sandblasted anyway. I'm going to see if I can get the body shop to do a few rust touchups around the windshield while they're replacing it too.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wheels, wheels, wheels

So my lovely jellybean was giving me some trouble this past week, ever since I got the tires rotated. Basically I was getting a pretty heavy shimmy coming though the steering wheel, leading me to believe that one of the wheels was bent.

But, as it turns out, they weren't! I dropped of my car at Winnipeg Wheel Works with instructions to check, straighten and paint all four wheels, and when they were done they informed me that all my wheels were straight, but due to some balance and tire wear issues, the tires just needed to be remounted in a different position to straighten things out.

So only $120 later (for the paint, balancing, etc) I've got a smooth rolling car once more. I'm happy.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Unicyclerey

I just put in an order for a 29 inch unicycle! I'm so excited!

It's the Torker AX 29, a lightweight aluminum cycle. I'm really looking forward to getting it, as it'll make it much easier to unicycle for longer distances than I can on a 20 inch (though not quite the same distances I'd go on a bike).

I just hope it gets here quick, I'm going to be heading for California soon!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Well that wasn't fun

Blew chunks out both ends for about 2-3 hours last night. No idea why, didn't have any other symptoms. I guess it must have been some food poisoning or something.

I'm feeling mostly better this morning... well, afternoon. I didn't get to sleep until 5am.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pictures of stuff

I got the first shipment of computer gubbins in today, and took the time to snap a few photos while I was bubbling with glee. I'll add more photos as more parts come in (still to come: laptop battery and harddrive).

I also took the opportunity of having my camera out to take a picture of my new unicycle, which I love to death.

All in all it's been a good day.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spending the government's money

So I sent in my tax return this afternoon, and I should be getting about $2500 back, which is about what I was expecting.

To celebrate this, I put in an order for a new laptop battery, a new laptop hard drive (Seagate 5400 RPM 160GB), a box of rechargeable batteries (low self-discharge), a new mouse (Logitech G5), and a 50-pack of CD blanks (For $16 why not).

The whole pile came out to $315 including all the shipping, taxes, etc. Money well spent, with plenty left over for living and whatnot.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Stupid Smarch Weather

-32c this morning, -21c this afternoon, and that's not even counting the windchill. Where the hell is spring?

I can't wait until I'm soaking up the sun in California.

Monday, March 3, 2008

New Wheel!

My shiny new unicycle came today! I'm so happy, it's much better than my old one. I haven't taken any pictures of it yet because I'm feeling a bit under the weather, but I'll have some posted soon enough.

Only bummer, though, is that I accidentally stripped one of the bolts in the seat post clamp when I was adjusting the seat to fit. The other bolt is holding ok, but all the same I dropped them an email to ask them to send out a new clamp.

I'm still very happy, though!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

No Wallace, Just Grommets

So I finally made it over to Mitchell's Fabrics on Main and picked up a package of lovely silver grommets to repair my shoes.

I had a bit of trouble with them since they weren't quite designed to go through as much material as is present on the sides of my shoes, but after a little trimming and cursing it all came together quite nicely. Hopefully this will stop the shoelaces from slowly sawing their way through the sides of my shoes.

I've posted pictures on my gallery.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Less stringy, more fuzzy

So I decided today that I was starting to look a bit too much like a chernobyl survivor, so I used my trimmer to buzz my hair down to about 1/4 inch. I was considering going back to 100% shaved, but it's a lot of work to maintain when my hair is actually growing, and this is enough of an improvement to satisfy me for now.

I'm still waiting to see if my hair is going to grow in properly this time, or fall out again.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Grommets

So I went out to Michaels today to try to find some grommets, and it turns out they don't sell them.

Now I'm wondering where I'm going to find some...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Face-stuffing time

So yesterday I decided to pay Tyler a visit and do a little generic hanging out. We went out for some Indian food and had a couple samosas and a big pile of rice with butter chicken, beef vindaloo and a side of nan bread. It was so good that I managed to pop the button right off my pants! Luckily by that time we were back at Tyler's house and I borrowed a needle and some thread to re-secure it.

After dinner was taken care of, we watched the movie "Shoot 'em Up", which was a nice accompaniment to a cup of freshly brewed after-dinner tea.

All in all a splendid way to spend a Friday evening and kick off Reading Week in style.

Life at -35

So I discovered on Thursday that my lovely little Jellybean doesn't like starting when it's been left out all night in -35c weather. It didn't even like starting when I had it on the booster cables with father's truck, which makes me think that synthetic oil might be in its future next winter.

Thankfully it's warmed up considerably since then, and promises to be reasonably mild for reading week, which will see me relaxing in blissful peace until the 25th.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hell^WWinnipeg has frozen over

Temps this week were almost down to -40c with some wicked wind chills. I bussed it on Monday and Tuesday, but after almost losing a few limbs to frostbite I decided to drive on Wednesday and Thursday.

I did at least discover that my car will start just fine at -30c without being plugged in, which is a good thing.

Thankfully the cold snap has unsnapped now; I just hope the relative warmth lasts a little while this time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Xenophobia

Sent off my paperwork for my J-1 visa. Whee. We'll see how it works this time.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Slow month

It's been a pretty slow month, not much news to tell.

I found out that I got an A+ in my Atmospheric Science last term, and was offered a TA position for the class. I declined, though, as I'm rather busy just keeping up with my regular schoolwork.

With all the new features announced at MacWorld, I'm really starting to itch for an iPod Touch, especially with the addition of mail and google maps. I'll have to rope in one of my Apple friends when I'm down in California this summer so I can get the employee discount at the corporate store. At the same time, though, I'm also somewhat tempted by the Eee and the MacBook Air. While both are considerably larger than the iPod Touch (and in the case of the Air, much more expensive), they do come with the benefit of a real keyboard and a normal-ish sized screen.

I suppose I'll just have to see. Any option would beat having to use the filthy lab computers at school.

Speaking of California, I've started the visa process with Palm and it at least hasn't burst into flames yet. I suppose that's a good sign.

It's going down to -36c tonight, while Mom and Bob are away in Portugal soaking up the sun. Life is so unfair!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Palm it is!

So it looks like Apple won't be giving me an offer for the iCal position, so rather than wait around for some other department to show some interest I've decided to just go with Palm for this summer.

I'm really looking forward to making it to California (providing the Visa doesn't fall through), and I'm certainly looking forward to the dump trucks full of money they're promising me!

More hardware failure

My 21" Sony monitor has been showing signs of death ever since I got back from Vancouver last fall, and today it showed enough signs to cause it to go into an error mode that required me to unplug it for about 30 seconds to reset.

it's still basically alive, but I'm very much looking forward to picking up a few shiny (well, not shiny actually, I prefer the matte ones) 24" LCDs this fall after I get back from California.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Deep hatred for my amp

My amp/receiver thing is crapping out on me again. It was a hand-me-down originally and the switches on it kind of suck, so it occasionally drops one or the other channel in an annoying series of crackling pops.

One of these days I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and buy a new one. Preferably one that's just an amp, without any switches or fancy do-dads to wear out and fail.