Archive for December, 2006

Birthday Celebration – On Ice and In Chinese

December 30, 2006

Our Almost-Five year old finally turned Five today. 🙂

We went to see Disney on Ice at the SkyDome Rogers Centre today to celebrate. The show was a lot of fun (although I’m miles away and no closer to being a figure-skating fan than I was before).

We got monetarily raped in the process of getting a couple of souvenirs for our sweetheart. This (pointless) spinning glow-in-the-dark Tinkerbell contraption was the only thing worth getting really. It was funny when a mother in the next seat asked me how much it cost, I told her “twenty bucks … about 17 bucks more than it should have!”. Such is the Disney empire.

After that we did a late lunch at a nice Chinese restaurant. This was the absolute highlight of the day since the restaurant was nearly empty and upon bringing Em a chocolate sundae, two employees fully versed in the karaoke experience, along with microphones and accompanying backing track, sang Happy Birthday to our daughter in both English and Chinese. Very very nice.

It kind of reminded me of the scene in A Christmas Story when the family goes out for Chinese food on Christmas Day. 🙂

Please Indulge Me For A Moment

December 30, 2006

Please indulge me for a moment. As you can see on the top of this page (unless you’re reading through an aggregator) I’ve toyed about with a new blog header image and finally came up with something I kind of like. Let me know if it works for you – or not.

I created it in Inkscape and it kind of came about as I was creating my three entries for the Inkscape 0.45 About dialog box contest over on deviantArt (which I posted about a short time ago). You can check out my three entries right here. You’ll notice that my new blog header image is similar in concept to my third deviantArt entry.

Inkscape 0.45 (which is about to be released shortly) has a new blur feature which I’ve put to use here in moving those small tiddlywinks to the background. I’ve gone away from the shiny floor reflection since it’s oh so 2006. (psst – actually I still like that effect but don’t go telling anyone).

Anyways, I toyed with the thought of revamping the look of the blog completely for the start of the new year, but actually decided I still quite like the blue background. I will however make it my mission to update my blogroll and add my Flickr zeitgeist widget over on the right when I have time.

Let me know what you think.

My Christmas Battle 2006

December 29, 2006

Sitting here nimbly typing away, I notice my fingers slightly trembling. I’ve developed a subtle but unmistakable throbbing in the back of my head, just above the nape of my neck. I’m also noticing a discrete nerve causing an intermittent twitch under my left eye.

Too much Christmas cider? Nah, can’t stand the stuff. Too much coffee? Nah, can never get enough.

What I am describing is much more hideous than that. It is the result of the parent-hating, sadist who thought up the idea of the 15,000 piece bead kit (and my in-laws who decided to buy it for my daughter).

Sure, it looks like a great idea. Heck, I’m no crafty crafter, but some beads and string matched up with an almost 5 year old seems like a safe bet… Just don’t try to unpack it.

The box it came in has a nice clear front panel that displays all 15,000 beads (it might as well be 150,000,000) in neat little compartmentalized cavities. My in-laws had the awesome idea of giving us a small plastic Rubbermaid-type 4-drawer cabinet along with it to keep little one organized.

The transfer of beads from original package to 4-drawer plasti-chest proves my undoing. Of course the large bead thingys are a piece of cake. Being the engineer I am, I sat and scratched my chin for a moment before getting a small teaspoon to aid in the material transfer operation. Making great strides with the compartments containing larger beads, I thought pretty highly of myself.

Did you know that they can make beads that are almost microscopic in size? Did you know that square shaped compartments made of thin vacuum formed plastic can act as minature trampoline-like launchpads for said tiny beads?

With every slight snap of the oil-canning compartment bottoms (think the bottom of the classic Trouble board game’s pop-o-matic bubble), came the shower of untold hundreds of micro-beads. With every dip of the spoon, every surgically gentle extraction attempt, came flying micro beads.

Every flying bead took with it a shred of my dignity and a whole whack of my patience.

Ninety minutes later, the transfer is done (unbeknownst to my daughter, at least 200 micro-beads remained in the package and were headed for the trash) and we are stringing beads.

One final humiliating realization came to me while trying to thread some of the smaller beads. Daddy needs glasses.


Okay… then why?

December 28, 2006

Robert Scoble writes:

“But, I’m not going to write a lot about John Edwards.”

Sorry if this is a stupid question Robert, but why exactly did they invite you along then? Maybe I’m missing the point.

[Edit: Maybe for ScobleShow video coverage?]

It’s Over… or at least partially…

December 27, 2006

Hopefully everyone enjoyed (or is still enjoying) their holiday time. Myself, I feel kinda relieved it’s over once again for another year. It’s such a mad rush at the end of the year. As you can see from the photo above, our dog Jessie was as beat as we were by the end of it all.

It’s not completely over since our little one has her birthday a couple of days from now and New Years is just next weekend. If holidays are supposed to be restful, then these don’t qualify as holidays.

Among the nice shirts, belts and ties, I snagged a nice gift certificate to a local camera store. Right now it’s a toss-up between a new lens and a new printer. I’ve been pining for the Epson R800 printer for over a year now, but the price never seems to drop ($449-499 CDN). I feel guilty for paying that much for an inkjet, although I have seen the output and it is quite nice.

So it may be that I’m leaning towards a Canon 85mm f1.8 lens. It’s a little more than the printer, but it’s fast and relatively cheap. On my 350D it will work like a 135mm lens and since I love available light photography (witness most of my nicer photographs) that nice wide aperture is very very appealing. So we’ll see in a few days if I change my mind.

For now, my absolute favourite shooting is done with the 50mm f1.8 cheapy that I bought a while back. While you still have to fight with moving subjects under typical indoor lighting, sleeping dogs turn out rather well. 🙂

Freefall… positively…

December 23, 2006

Talk about a positive outlook. Here’s an extremely entertaining and well-written guide to surviving a 35,000 ft freefall. If you do manage to exit the aircraft at 600mph, at least you can be prepared. Here’s a small excerpt of the greatness that is this article:

Snow is good—soft, deep, drifted snow. Snow is lovely. Remember that you are the pilot and your body is the aircraft. By tilting forward and putting your hands at your side, you can modify your pitch and make progress not just vertically but horizontally as well. As you go down 15,000 feet, you can also go sideways two-thirds of that distance—that’s two miles! Choose your landing zone. You be the boss.

At least somebody is thinking ahead. 😉

Bubbling Up

December 21, 2006

Ahh the holidays. When you couple the Christmas, New Year (and in our case birthday) season hurtling towards you with a ridiculous amount of work as every Tom, Dick and Sally comes out of the woodwork wanting projects finished and permit applications submitted before the new year, you end up with time for little else.

It’s truly amazing how life can get so busy that you simply have little time to ponder anything at all (and that includes potential blogging topics). You forget how valuable those (these) spare moments are to your sanity.

A couple of things that *have* managed to bubble up:

The next version of Inkscape, 0.45, is upcoming. The Inkscapers group on Deviantart is soliciting entries for the “About Inkscape” dialog box. I managed to create a DeviantArt account (a long time fan of the site, but never a member, until now) and posted a couple of entries. Lots of very talented and creative people there, so I’m not sure I stand any chance although as of yet, there are not many entries. What the heck though, worth a shot.

My daughter has taken a real shine to TuxPaint as of late. While the resulting canvases (sp?) will likely only win rave reviews from Daddy and Mommy, it has done absolute wonders for her mousing and keyboard skills in a very short time. Don’t be fooled by its overly simplistic look (this is not a Disney creation). It struck just the right balance between providing fun painting tools with good sound feedback and appropriately sized buttons and controls. Although typically thought of as a Linux app, it is available for both Windows and OSX as well.

Finally a quick note or two just to piss off those people who always harp and complain about political correctness during the holidays.

1. Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings and [insert other generic holiday term wishing well to people of all faiths from the athiest to the agnostic to the devoutly spiritual]. Why should we be ashamed for wanting to include all people in our best wishes? Get over it.

2. My daughter is learning about a multitude of cultural and religious celebrations at school right now. She brought home a little craft that outlined the meaning of Kwanzaa. Ahh Kwanzaa, I used to laugh at that – in some way, the butt of jokes. The principles of Kwanzaa outlined on that little craft sounded more profound and reasoned to me than anything I’d gotten out of Christmas celebrations in the past.

See, even an almost-five year old can expand your horizons.

Shopping is done. Presents are bought. Two more days of the daily grind until we coast to Christmas. It couldn’t come at a better time.

Some good news in the news for a change

December 15, 2006

I think we’ve all become somewhat used to hearing about medical progress in terms of identifying problems, treatments to mitigate symptoms or preventative measures. Not every day you read about the reversal of a disease.

Of course it’s not quite “there” yet, but “Canadian scientists reverse diabetes in mice“.

Some good news in the news for a change.

Early Gift From Flickr!

December 13, 2006

Looks like Flickr has given an early Christmas present to its users! Free account holders get their upload limits increased 5X to 100MB/month! And even better still Pro account holders (of which I am one) now get unlimited uploads!

Now I’ve really got to get my arse in gear. I’ve yet to run up against the old 2GB/month limit. Sounds like I’m not taking or uploading nearly enough photos. 😉

Ho Ho Holiday Flickr Fun with Photos

December 13, 2006

Lifehacker has a post up about a neat little Flickr easter egg which lets you put a Santa hat or beard on a photo.

But why do that when you can do the real thing! Here’s a shot of my lovely niece Sarah from this past weekend: