2011-12-28

Hobbit Wisdom

Last year I watched Lord of the Rings in a marathon, and this year I played LotR Trivial Pursuit. My friend Ariel just shared this, quoting Sam, which is a favourite babbling of mine, which makes my heart hiccup.

It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

I really like that Tolkien's work is relatively pervasive.

2011-12-27

Transient Thought

The road to Sudbury looks sweet in its white dress.

2011-12-26

Transient Thought

Sometimes I just never want to go to sleep.

2011-12-25

Transient Thought

This is my favourite 404 page of the now:
https://path.com/somethinginvalid/

Transient Thought

The Christmas movie Blizzard has some of the best speech writing for a Santa Claus ever, which is good, because Christopher Plummer makes a great Santa Claus.

"Great balls of tinsel, you can be annoying sometimes."

Solitude

Today is a soft day.  I've spent a couple hours skimming through Project4Awesome videos.  Project4Awesome is a charity project organised by the VlogBrothers, a popular fraternal pair of bloggers.  I'm alone in my quiet home listening to the gentle humm of the artificial tree (it has fibre optic needles that glow).  I'm not bored, but I don't know whether I want to do anything on this Christmas, except sit and think quietly.

If you never visit my blog itself and just read this through an RSS reader, you might consider dropping by, as I made a seasonal change.  Hehe.

Merry Christmas, you.

It's a white Christmas, at least on my blog

So, please let me know if you experience any technical difficulties reading my blog.  I just made a few changes. :)

Transient Thought

Feet are neat. :D

2011-12-24

Christmas Cheer

My father put up the Christmas tree ... this morning. Yah, home is rife with the spirit :) My father is doing well and is in good spirits. Next year, I'll deck the halls with garland and tinsel and litter the tree with presents. This year, I'll try to catch up in my Masters and finish on time. :)

We're off to visit my brother this evening for Christmas supper, the new de facto centre of the family. I'm not sure if my brother was expecting that, the festive seat of Schwartings Ontario. It's nice going up to a cottage, though. Next year will be different, though. There will be quite the coup. A wild, vegan Christmas dinner, und du wirst es mögen!

Boxing day should be spent in the wild woods howling like wolves, assuming the snow stays. (Wow, what a white wintry lawn we have!) And then back on the "bus", continuing my annual tradition of visiting Shamanda. It will be different this year, in part because there is even less I can eat there. :D

Blades of steel

And when I get back?

Yah, that's right. I totally own skates now, $12 courtesy of Bibles for Missions thrift store in Guelph. I'm amazed that I've never visited it before. It's right next to Eggcetera and the Lens Mill Store. I started pricing out new skates, and was dismayed to find them ranging from $80 up. Now that I've kind of learned how to move on ice, I don't want to forget it. Also, the outdoor rink at city hall, a block from my apartment, has just opened!


I think I might try to have a skating party for my birthday, with dinner at the Cornerstone :D.

The new year

Thanks to school, I haven't been in Flesherton as much as I'd like this winter, so I'm going to try to spend more of the start of January down here with my father. I have some psychological changes I'm going to be pursuing in the new year that are scary, and some habitual changes. I don't do resolutions, but not being too fond of 2011, I think a new number will help. Yee haw.

Apology

Sorry, readers, for the recent increase in melancholic posts.  My thoughts have been heavily preoccupied by reluctantly having to push away one of my best friends recently.  I'm sorry my writing betrays this, but I think I'll just keep such thoughts to myself going forward. :D  Thank you for your patience.  Unless you already quit reading, in which case, -wait, in which case I won't have thanked you - HA.  Whatever!  MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Melodies of Life, another musical interlude

Here is a favourite song of mine, from a favourite game of mine, that I've been singing to myself and dancing to lately. I used to really enjoy the melody, but now I'm lost in its lyrics.

Alone for a while, I've been searching through the dark
For traces of the love you left inside my lonely heart.
To weave, by picking up the pieces that remain,
Melodies of life, love's lost refrain.

Our paths they did cross, though I cannot say just why.
We met, we laughed, we held on fast, and then we said goodbye.
And who'll hear the echoes of stories never told?
Let them ring out loud till they unfold.

In my dearest memories, 
I see you reaching out to me.
Though you're gone, 
I still believe that you can call out my name.

A voice from the past, joining yours and mine,
Adding up the layers of harmony.
And so it goes, on and on, melodies of life,
To the sky beyond the flying birds, forever and beyond.



So far and away, see the bird as it flies by,
Gliding through the shadows of the clouds up in the sky.
I've laid my memories and dreams upon those wings.
Leave them now and see what tomorrow brings.

In your dearest memories, 
Do you remember loving me?
Was it fate that brought us close
And now leaves me behind?

A voice from the past, joining yours and mine,
Adding up the layers of harmony.
And so it goes, on and on, melodies of life,
To the sky beyond the flying bird, forever and on.

If I should leave this lonely world behind,
Your voice will still remember our melody.
Now I know we'll carry on, melodies of life,
Come circle round and grow deep in our hearts, 
as long as we remember.

Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/n/nobuo_uematsu/melodies_of_life.html

Transient Thought

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies BAKED.

Transient Thought

Con-G pre-registration complete. :D

My Goal

I share with you The Big Picture's "50 Best Photos of the Natural World", courtesy of the Boston Globe.  (#37 is my favourite.)

This is what I want in life.  This is how I want to spend the next half of my life.  I don't want to sit in front of a desk forty hours a week living in a big urban city.  I can imagine a life like that that would be tolerable.  But I want to be in the world before die.  I want to feel it and feel it overwhelm me.  I want to see a bit of what's been around for millenia.

I've gotten closer.  One of the most moving experiences was assisting a Masters' student in New Zealand studying birds.  I developed my own plans for an all-natural Wizard's lore walking to and fro nesting sites.  Living in New Zealand in itself was great for this.  Regrettably, I didn't get far away from Dunedin as much as I would have liked, if I'd known my stay there was going to be as short as it was, but I did a bit, and that was a treasure.  It beats in my memories and my dreams.  So do adventures out in British Columbia and busing across Canada, visiting northern Ontario and the east coast, with family and friends, over my decades.

There is something distinct about natural splendor, like I catch in the above, and the human wonders I encountered in, say, Germany.  There is a lot of overlap, but I suppose I want to see things that are less manicured and directed by human interests.

So, why am I a computer scientist?  Why am I working on a Masters even when motivation drags?  Mostly because it seems like a path to the freedom I want.  I didn't have the heart for biology in high school (and not because dissections made me queasy) and my mathematical mind probably would have found me stuck in genetics anyway.  Computing is kind of special, though.  I think it's the profession with the greatest freedom to work from home and define your own schedule.  It's relatively in demand, portable, and pays well enough to cover travel, I think.  I mostly need that mobility and control.  I need to not be anchored to a desk.  Sure, I can give 35 hours a week, dedicate it to solving problems to help someone in exchange from money, but from a mobile connection, anywhere on the planet, next to my tea pot steeping, in my well-insulated camper, as the sun rises outside the window on barren tundra.

That's for me.

Furthest east I've ever been (on this continent)

2011-12-23

Christmas Miracle Part 1

The radio has said ALL WEEK how it was going to be a GREEN CHRISTMAS.  HA!  They should move up to Grey County.  Part 1 of the Christmas Miracle: obtained.

Christmas Miracle Part 1: White Christmas

More about numbers and nature with vihart

A friend once lent me a book on Chaos theory, which was fascinating. This video is a bit fascinating for many of the same reasons:

The spirals in your pinehead are Fibonacciac.

2011-12-22

An Edible Tradition

This happens weekly, but I've discovered another traditional food that I'll forego as long as I remain vegan: Goodfella's Pizza over a winter break in Flesherton.  A few years ago it started, dropping in one late New Year's Eve to get a fresh vegetarian pizza made for us, and I've tried to keep it up since.  Perhaps they can make one without cheese, though?

Transient Thought

I've been driven through Fergus hundreds of times, and to-day was the first day I was driven through its downtown.  There are old stone buildings, a waterfall, a gorge, bridges.  It was pretty neat, and worth exploring with a friend some day.  I marvel that I can be so close and yet so far from wonderful things for so long before I take the time to act and investigate.  Weird.

Seeing through friends

Something I've become interested in of late is seeing my friends in less flattering conditions.  I mean when they're tired, exhausted, empty.  How do they react when their patience runs low, when they can't think quickly anymore, when their minds go blank.

I think it's kind of important.  Most of my new friends only know me as up-beat, optimistic, bouncy, and sometimes a bit witty.  I'm not comfortable being less with them.  They get a nice, fun facade and are politely barred from things that trouble me, my fears, me when I just want to give up.  I don't want to bother them.  I don't want to tax them.  I don't want to bore them.  I don't want to exhaust them.  I don't want to share the lows, but I want to see them in others.

There was a while where I showed too much to some people, perhaps.  When I was drained, I drained them too.  My patience tired, and it did not tire gracefully.  It's catastrophic letting that happen, so I don't any more.  I don't abuse old friends who I expose myself to now.   I'm inspired a bit by the persistent interest from a few friends in my well-being even despite reported lows.  I think my presentation of and perspective on them helps make it more palatable, more something normal, that a friend can actually care about.  Not a helpless situation.

It helps having a lazier perspective about a lot of stuff, giving up on things that don't matter, and giggling at scary things.  I want to see how other people handle that state, whether they get short like I used to, whether they shut down, or whether they flop mentally and physically.  Experiments, commence!

Transient Thought

I am amused that, even without watching TV for a while, the concept of the Christmas Miracle finds its way into my dreams.  I don't mean the birth of the baby Jesus, but just the notion in media of the improbable happening because it's Christmas.  But in reality, my life isn't really horrible, my father is doing fine, I am scratching by in school, and my credit is not exhausted.  I suppose I can hope for good company and warm smiles?   Hehe.

Homeward bound

Finally off to Flesherton for a week.


2011-12-21

Transient Thought

What with Blockbuster gone and Rogers closing 40% of its video rental stores, perhaps now is the time for me to start opening my arcade + game rental business!  Leave video to Netflix and friends and bring back the arcade, mwahaha.

Transient Thought

I used to like the unpredictable, uncontrollable nature of dreams.  Now that I find them more and more haunting, I think I can respect them a bit more, even when I don't want to have them or don't want to wake from them.  Dreaming is a potent reminder of what my mind is thinking, even if I don't want it to.

There and back again

2011-12-20

Muffin Films!

Here is a 1m24s stop-motion animation on growing muffins.

In my first blog, I wrote a couple posts extolling the wonders of Amy Winfrey's Muffin Films. She's still making muffin-based animations, and I'm now following her YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/fancymeats.

Learned how to skate

2011-12-19

Transient Thought

When you feel comfortable doing whatever with a person and when you just can't tell what to do: the distinguishing factor in human teddy bears.

Transient Thought

Escalators, dirty streets, grey buildings, sour people.  Cities want for a friend to be truly enjoyed

Pack only what's necessary

I travel lightly.  I am portable.  I aspire to go many places, dragging relatively little with me.  I dislike accumulating lots of useless items, as they limit my mobility.  I am going to see a lot of places, man.  Just me, my shoulder bag, and a change of clothes.  Some things are too important to leave at home, and one of those things is tea.

Going to a cottage this past weekend, I opted not to bring my laptop or video games, but instead to bring tea!  I brought my common flask, three teas, and a teaspoon.  Thanks yoghurt container!

The flask,and two visible tea sacks
a teaspoon
I brought Keemun Congou Deluxe (my favourite), Earl Grey Cream, and China Gunpowder (awful once cold and oversteeped).

I also brought my old writing book, so I could get away from my computer.
There are stories between its pages
It even contained an old letter from the last time I used it, which sure was something.

Transient Thought

I suddenly felt like a grown child in the winter of my youth, swinging on these at a wintry beach.
I should just grow up and stop day dreaming

Star, star, teach me how to sparkle

The original lyric requests "shine", but I think I already talked about that Frames song.  I'm actually referring to sparklers

I spent the weekend with friends at a cottage, and one of them at the bon fire wished she had sparklers.  Naturally, I had sparklers.  Fun was had, and sparklers thrown into a fire aren't super spectacular, but they do sparkle out really fast!
The fire was quite bon.
Sparklers mean a lot to me, and have been a big part of my life.  First, one of my favourite things in the world is light.  I remember being in a van with a youth group and one of the adults asking me what I was staring at out the window and I just said "the lights". 

In particular, I have incredibly fond memories of being outside, on the sidewalks of Flesherton, with my mother and sister, playing with sparklers.  They were amazing.  They weren't as cheap as they are today, as we had to get them from a convenience store and the rise of the Dollar Store had not quite begun, so they were a rare occurrence.  In retrospect, I find it awesome that my mother who struggled with things could still pull together fun evenings for us kids with something as simple as sparklers.  We'd use those and the "worms" that burn up on the sidewalk to celebrate events that other people used fireworks for.  I don't think I missed the big bangs and ka-booms (we saw those in Priceville once a year).  I just loved watching that intense light live out its short life wild and free.  I think I found it a little scary too, as I'm often wary of the chance of fire (did I mention I watched a neighbour's house burn down in New Zealand? :o), but I suppose I felt safe with my mother around, and never did manage to burn myself.  Like everyone else, I loved writing things in the air.  Back then, I wrote things I wished would stick so everyone could read them in their brilliant fiery strokes.  Last night, I rather hoped people couldn't make out the embarrassing message I scrawled as quickly as I could to fit in all the words, and was a little glad it faded invisibly into time.  Getting back to the past, my mother was cool.  I wonder whether others have such strong associations from their youth with sparklers?

Another notable incident was also on the mean streets of Flesherton, years later, when I was perhaps freshly out of high school.  I was celebrating something on a summer's night with two friends, and we were twirling around like kids with our sparklers, when a police officer pulled up, and insisted we let them extinguish and refrain from doing it further.  It's sadly not the most ridiculous thing a police officer has asked of me in Flesherton, but in general I have a positive opinion of them.

I have lots of other strong sparkler memories and associations and am always pleased to discover another enjoys sparklers as much as me.  They're now more a part of silly play than pure celebration.  I guess I'd like to learn how to sparkle as memorably, but hopefully more permanently, than my favourite crackling stick of fire.  (Oh, I love their fizzling sound!)

2011-12-18

Losher Cookie Recipe

My friend Lauren has special dietary restrictions that makes baking for her special.  Losher food needs to avoid refined sugars and wheat gluten and a bunch of other things.  Here is a recipe for losher cookies; it's actually just my 3-2-1 cookie recipe with ingredients switched to ones she can take:

Ingredients
  • fat (½ cup vegan margarine)
  • binder and sweetness (one banana)
  • sweetness (1 or 2 tablespoons honey (I would skip this if I was going to partake, as I'm current avoiding honey for vegan reasons, but the left over honey should go somewhere!))
  • flour (¾ cup kamut flour, ¾ cup barley flour) 
  • flavour (1 teaspoon vanilla)
  • goo (¾ cup carab chips)
 Steps
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°C.
  2. "Cream" the banana and the margarine
  3. Mix in half of each flour.
  4. Mix in honey.
  5. Mix in the remaining flour.
  6. Add vanilla (bonus moisture) and 
  7. Then the carab chips.  Add more or fewer to your preference.
  8. Mix, mix, mix, and hopefully it will become a gooey, muffin-mix-like clump in your mixing bowl with a thousand chocolatey eyes. 
  9. Apply to baking pan in glops.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes (this is for my oven) for gritty, delicious cookies
  11. Let cool to allow them to solidify a little.  

This is a photo of another batch of cookies I took that day,
only because I forgot to take a photo of the losher ones :D

2011-12-15

Transient Thought

What do you do when your neighbours are incessantly hammering away while you're trying to concentrate? Get annoyed? No! Jive to the beat!

Transient Thought

The clouds are moving faster than the birds today.

Transient Thought

Highlight of my day: having a towel fall over my face. Like living in a blanket fort.

2011-12-14

Transient Thought

I demand that the world stop spinning right this instant!

2011-12-13

Transient Thought

Owie.

Shivering

The Frames are weird.  They've been my favourite band for years, but it's hard to say why.  I don't understand a lot of their songs, not that understanding is a pre-requisite.  I've heard music that I thought had better vocals, better concepts, better instruments, better stories.  But here I am, listening to them for a stupid reason and letting them eat me alive.

2011-12-12

Transient Thought

I just want to spend Christmas with sparklers in the snow making animal noises at the moon.

Transient Thought

My 2013 tramp through the NZ wilderness with nothing buy my backpack just got a little more real. :D

2011-12-11

As Mr. Gaiman says,

If the wolves come out of the wall, then it is all over.

Liking Sad Songs

"I will follow you into the dark" by Death Cab for Cutie:

One of my favourite songs ever came up when talking to a friend last night about depressing songs. I got acquainted with this one while I lived in Victoria in 2006 on a co-op work term and it was on the radio a lot. (So was Kasabian's Empire.) The song has a sad aspect to it, but I'm not sure if there's anything to actually be sad about. Fate and finality and companionship and a strong bond. She sometimes sings Gary Jules' "Mad World", too; how cheerful :)

Transient Thought

Amazing people are found in the strangest places.

2011-12-08

What a wonderful natural world

David Attenborough speaks "What a wonderful world".

I really enjoy his narration across documentaries and how effortlessly he draws me into natural worlds.

Normal people

What do normal people talk about?  What is a normal conversation?  I used to wonder that all the time.  I would be riddled with anxiety when I sat next to someone normal, and would be expected to communicate.  It often resulted in me trying to literally act normal.  Act, taking on a persona, making up stories even.  I'm better now.

Now I wonder: what do normal people think?  How did I think once?  What occupied my thoughts after waking up, while washing dishes, while cooking food, while showering, while walking home with groceries?  I know what I think about now, and I don't think it's quite normal.  I can't really remember what I used to think about, even a year ago in those private times.  What was the private dialogue about?  Does anyone know?

Transient Thought

Every time I go over my resume, I marvel at all the small errors I missed the previous time and wonder how I get by. :)

Quiet Thrill

Getting to use "Super Hyper Random Graph" in a research seminar's title. Serious Business.

2011-12-07

"And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights."

Hillary Clinton spoke to the United Nations in Geneva on behalf of the United States strongly in favour of gay rights.  Hooray!

A video of the speech and the transcript can be found here:
http://news.advocate.com/post/13844217337/watch-the-speech-youve-been-waiting-for

Transient Thought

To the devil with reality, live like I dream!

Feeling dumb, and feeling good about it

When I practise jodo, iaido, and kendo, I feel dumb.  I am surrounded by much more competent people.  My jodo and iaido sensei makes what I'm doing wrong seem obvious.  I am definitively inferior in these situations, without a grey area or the need for any Pareto frontiers.  And it feels really good.

I constantly walk around with a sense of inferiority in many things I attempt, of relative inadequacy, and that has sometimes motivated me to try very hard, to sometimes be relentless, and to live up to expectations.  Often I've just wanted to give up and have people stop expecting things from me.  But that's incredibly hard when the people you admire most keep encouraging you, supporting you, cheering you on, reassuring you.  I've sometimes pushed myself beyond reasonable limits to try to live up to their expectations, even if it's not what anyone wanted.

This semester has been a lot better in that regard.  I didn't want the stress anymore, so I traded it in for some disappointment.  I think my research supervisor is a bit disappointed with my thesis progress.  I think my TA supervisor is a bit disappointed with the lag time in marking assignments.  I think a couple friends are disappointed with my reduced availability, and others with my lack of apparent cheer: I'm not always as happy or energetic as I seem.

Best have been jodo and iaido, I think.  Because there, I do not even feel actual disappointment.  I welcome cutting remarks because they're always constructive, supportive in a way that doesn't set unreasonable expectations.  And no matter how poorly I do, I'm always welcome back.  I like going there, and I like getting to feel dumb.  It's not that I try less; perhaps I end up caring more?

Anyway, I'm not a prodigy in academia, at programming, at kendo.  I don't know everything, I'm not certain about all my beliefs, and I don't want to understand everything.  I just want to try and be happy.  (But hopefully not completely fail out!)

Transient Thought

I wish that every evening could have something like Iaido, Jodo, or Kendo.  They're a great distraction. :D

2011-12-06

The Strangest Dream

It was a bit of a nightmare.  I went to visit friends for the weekend, a family I know too well.  They were involved in exploratory digging out in the woods, so I was there helping and exploring the caverns.  However, it turned out that an old friend was doing other research in their own nearby caves and we ran into each and started blaming one another for all the problems in the world and stubbornly neither of us listened to the other, and it got worse and worse.  I never want to argue like that again.  Finally, my first friend's sister offered to just drive me home.

I had a nice e-mail waiting for me when I woke up, though. :)

2011-12-05

Transient Thoughts

For iaido, I've had trouble with my swings due to my kendo technique (which isn't perfect anyway).  I've been working on it for the last little while and today I sort of discovered the 'sound' and accompanying feeling that I should get when I swing, and I was like "woah".

Transient Thought

It's oddly satisfying finishing off food belonging to my temporary housemate.  I think it's because of the "I didn't pay for it, suckers!" perspective, though I guess I should return the yoghurt to her.

2011-12-04

A new season and a new style

Hello!  I am soliciting suggestions or help for a new ghetto apartment decor for the winter!  (My apartment is not in a ghetto, but I am cheap and wish to spend less than $10.)

Wanted: I'm interested in hearing themes (e.g. an older Japanese aesthetic) or specific ideas (like black stars to go on my creamy white walls). Most new supplies will come from Value Village and Dollarama.

The space: there is one large, main room with a tall stucco ceiling, all white. The carpet is a flat (not fluffy) grey. The furniture is mostly light and dark wood.

The past: I've sometimes gone through magazines and cut out interesting pictures and advertisements and posted them in grids on my wall, or I've used chalk on dark walls to draw cool things, or dangled paper snow flakes from the ceiling, or cut out leaves in construction paper to give an autumnal feel.

Also, if you are near Guelph, you are welcome to come over and help me do it (e.g. cut out shapes from construction paper or draw things) and enjoy hot chocolate, cookies, music, etc.  Just don't eat the materials.

A Dialogue* On Moss

*soon to be a dialogue


A friend bemoaned the dearth of meaningful and interesting conversation today.  I've had a couple friends who have complained about the nature of common conversation and expressed a preference for deeper banter rich with meaning.   To be sure, in daily life I've felt that the abundance of casual, friendly communication sometimes a little shallow, and have missed having friends around with whom I could explore any topic at any time and really share myself (with the exception of this past week and a few occasions with the odd new friend :D).  However, we make do.  (The preceding reads a little pretentiously, mwahaha, but just wait!)  So, this:

My friend
I have been having the same 10 safe discussions about the same 10 controversial but sad things for over 10 years now and I am so sick and tired of them.  I would rather have a frank conversation about what someone else thinks about moss than to talk about God or politics again.
Me:  
I like reading beatnik literature sometimes because it rambles and dwells deeply on otherwise mundane things. I'm not sure why people don't discuss moss more. It does mean a lot to me. It's a favourite life form of mine but I don't Google Image search it much. It's obviously comfortable and adds a rich visual complexity to rocks. I suppose I'd kind of like to have moss in my house, but then there's the concern of ants or other bugs. I wouldn't like fake moss because of the modern revolt against tacky indoor synthetic nature replicas. Having living homes would be a delight, but it's easy for me to say that without specifying how to make maintenance sufficiently light so I'd still have time and energy to pursue irrelevant matters like school.  Instead, I just dream about it and Better Worlds without worrying about their feasibility.
    But back to the ants, it's a bit weird that if we're just animals, we've gone to such great lengths to isolate ourselves from other animals. It's nice. It simplifies and enables other things. Living in homes where nature has been excluded or controlled (in plant potters and with mouse traps in our cupboards). Should I just grow moss and not worry about it? Have a stream trickle through my living room and let squirrels naw on my clementines? It would bring another meaning to the lyric in the Beatle's song "I am the Walrus" "sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun to shine." Perhaps fake moss that was suitably stylised (like clearly two-dimensional paper cut out and pencil coloured green and then layered on the wall for fake depth) would be amenable to me.
    Do you like moss? Would you mind if it was done away with, or would you like it promoted in more public places? (Grown on buildings in downtown Toronto say.)
I suppose that might be trite to you, assuming you're a moss expert, tired of hearing the same thoughts on moss all the time, wondering whether any of the 7 billion people near you have a remotely novel or irregular insight to squeal.  And yes, there are more words on moss that I could share, but they're a bit personal, and a trust has to develop before I can really comfortable reveal my innermost mossy feelings to another.  But at least I didn't go "Derp."  I miss having random and meandering conversations on silly topics.  (Side note: I love the relationship between depth and meaning and mundanity of topics; some of the best conversation I've held have been on the matter of crates of mandarins and the eating thereof.)

(Oh, and the questions at the end are open to all.)

Transient Thought

Lovely December rain wets my face and feet.

Sombre Days

The 3rd of December is usually a sombre day for me, but others kept me distracted the whole time and I didn't have time to dwell on it.  :)

2011-12-03

Transient Thought

My father is cute.  He filled my inbox with empty voice mail while I was away.  I suppose he cares. :)

Here, there, and everywhere

I may have finally secured a stationary base of operations for the future.  As an aspiring globe trotter, owning a home of my own may not be sensible.  Even now, most of my money goes towards visiting friends, with myself currently in St. Johns, and plans for Toronto, Sudbury, Timmins, and New York (!) now underway.  (If you'd like to engineer serendipity, let me know.)  It's kind of rough being on the move a lot, but people matter a lot to me, so I go to special lengths to make sure I get to spend a little time each year with them.  (If I've missed you, I'm sorry!  Try to coordinate with me for late winter!) 

Visiting friends usually constitutes an adventure for me, and y'all know how I love my 'ventures.  Long rides on buses, ghetto food, dirty subways, sleeping out of a shoulder bag.  Couches are some of my best friends.  I've always prided myself on being mobile, portable, easy.  I know some people feel compelled to plan all the details of a trip, but I generally require broad strokes and flexibility enough to adapt and flow.  I think that's what helps keep it an adventure instead of an ordeal.

I'm kind of proud of myself making my sojourn in Germany with nothing more than a carry-on roller packed tightly with a few days clothes, and my standard shoulder bag (lightened of everything slightly superfluous).   This past week fit inside my shoulder bag (though a suitcase mostly full of someone else's gifts was ultimately required).

All that remains in annexing my newest territory is to create a suitable sign reading "The Richard's Room" (others are welcome to stay therein, but they should really know it's name).  And perhaps pay cookie-rent.   Mmm, cookies.

Transient Thought

I've at last discovered the voice for my novel, right after the month of NaNoWriMo and the accompanying several thousands of words.  Rewriting just means perfecting earlier drafts, right? :)

There be treasure at the VV Boutique

I have now visited 11 Value Villages.  It's momentous.  Guelph, Victoria, Vancouver, Vancouver again, Vancouver yet again, Windsor, Timmins, Ottawa, London, London again, and most recently St. John's.  It could actually be more.  I'm not sure whether I've visited ones in the GTA or K-W anymore.  And maybe I ran over to one on a Greyhound trip across Canada once?  I remember passing several, and I vaguely recall a snowy day and running across the highway to what might have been a VV?  Ah well.

It's a magical, romantic place, and today I introduced a couple of friends to it.  For an upcoming formal I found a spectacular and well-fitting vest but still no tailcoat, the only piece of coveted fancy wear that still eludes me.   It will be mine, some day!

2011-12-02

Charming

I was left charmed.  There was so much beauty.  I was delighted by the magic.  I was moved.

That's my way of saying I found the film Hugo charming, beautiful, magical, and moving.  Those sound so trite.  They get recycled a lot across many things.  So, I apply them to my reaction instead of the source itself.  Does that make my reaction more real?

Obviously, I was delighted.  It's never a good idea for me to reflect on a film the night I see it, so I'll refrain from suggesting it could be a favourite in the future.  I last dared to predict a new favourite to a friend immediately after seeing Scott Pilgrim, and that was right, but that was exceptional!  I can just say that Hugo did have some aspects that reminded me of one of my favourite films, Amélie.

It was another ideal viewing circumstance.  I actually had never heard of it before my friend Tammy suggested it, and the only second clue I had about it was when my friend Frank and she noted the poster on the way in to the theatre, and even that was just a photo of a single obscure item.  I like entering films and stories in complete ignorance of what might transpire.  I sabotage attempts by trailers and advertisements to spoil plots for me.  (I shut my eyes tight and hum to myself.)  I know the first 15 seconds of the new Tin Tin film's trailer, which is too much to start with, but I've preserved the mystery of the rest.  Shh. 

The world of the film was quite real and quite wondrous.  It had so many elements I adore, where high technology was still defined by mechanical clockwork and silver nitrate film.  Oh, and old people!  Old people that mattered!  And sweet kids!  Kids who aren't inherently selfish.  It makes me dizzy. 

Two points of the night out are being asked to not put my feet up on the seats ahead (could I ask them to give me more leg room?) and the distinct absence of popcorn in the theatre.  I was still full on vegan pepperoni pizza and a couple Japanese dishes, and half a crate of mandarins.  Nom nom nom.

What do you want?

Hello anonymous goon. 

What do you want with your comments?

______,
    Richard

2011-12-01

Hugo

Now dear planet, if you'll give me a moment or two, I would like to remember you, as you'll always be to me.   Magical.

Holy Guacamole!

I have a rough time with avocados, but my friend's guacamole!  Wow!

Transient Thought

To deprive yourself of sleep sometimes requires motivation to do so, motivation to work late or to wake early.  I wonder if I lack the will or the focus.  Some mornings I just want to return to my dreams.   Even my nightmares are pretty awesome. :)

Sleep deprivation

I used to glamourise it, but it's really not for me, I guess.  At least when other's rely on me.  I've avoided it very well for months now, except this past week.  A familiar pattern as time gets tighter of shorter and shorter nights, including a one hour nap the other Wednesday.  The sensation is a bit amusing, but running empty on mental energy does not work well for me.  Attempts at conversations with people where I had to think or consider something new end up hitting walls.  I can't think.  I can't consider that right now.  Please ask me later.  I even managed to sleep through three alarms and miss a couple obligations.  I quite regret disappointing a friend that morning, and the class I TA, but they both seem very understanding. :D

It's a situation I'm not willing to entertain anymore.  In many ways, my Masters has slowed down a great deal as I refuse to accept unreasonable deadlines and insist on full sleep.  Accomplishments don't feel quite as epic when they're not at 7AM in the morning, an hour before a due date, but life is much sweeter and my brain, my happy brain!  It's nice not working on a burn-out-and-recovery cycle.

And my mood.  The change was gradual since the summer, but getting to exhaust myself again for a couple days last week helped me see its affect on my ability to tolerate the unusual, new stimuli, and little inconveniences.  I'm more aware of my reactions these days and better able to manage them, but having the initial urge is still uncomfortable, and a good argument for proper sleep.

And now a fond good night from a borrowed bed,

Can I stay just a little longer?

2011-11-29

Firefox 8: Faster, by delaying tab loading

Short version: Preferences -> General -> "Don't load tabs until selected", now you can have hundreds of tabs "open" without slowing down your computer.
I like to keep many tabs "open" in Firefox.  I use a tree-based tab manager (Tree Style Tab view) that lets me build collapsible trees of tabs, built around a common theme.  Yay.  But having a tab open takes up memory and sometimes CPU (with Javascript in the background).  Bookmarks don't work for me, because they're an extra layer of management and "out of sight-out of mind" applies.  I just bookmark and forget forever, so instead I leave the tabs open until I have time to deal with each one.  Some are open forever, for good reason.

I used to use an extension called BarTab, which would allow me to delay the loading of a tab until I actually clicked it to visit it.  So, when I'd start my browser and it would restore all my tabs from my last sessions, they wouldn't load and thus save me a lot of memory.  Once I clicked on a tab, the page would actually load.  This was wonderful, but BarTab hasn't officially supported a version of Firefox since 3.x, and today we're on 8.  (I've been editing the extension to alter the version it supports, but that's fragile and not a good long term solution.)

Good news though!  Firefox 8 now supports on-demand tab loading!  I would post screenshots, but my interface is in German, so just follow these instructions if you need detail.  Elsewise, just go to Preferences, General, and with "restore tabs from last session" selected as your default home page, check the "Don't load tabs until selected" box.  Yay!

Transient Thought

The towel with which I dried my hair this morning smelled sweetly of B.C. Ferries and greasy White Spot fries, the lone protest again an expensive menu.

Transient Thought

I hadn't sent a someecards.com ecard in a while and had forgot why they're the only cards I recommend and send.

Transient Thought

It's strange how visiting friends far from home can make you feel more at home in some ways.  I suppose from how things were, actual homes change, but friends retain strong associations.  Waking up to the Fleet Foxes booming through the walls is nostalgic.

2011-11-28

It's an art

One of the nice things about involving myself in clubs and activities are the opportunities to practise skills outside of my regular domain of computer science.

GSETA organised a button-making workshop in the campus University Centre this past week and I got to touch up the existing logo and design a couple new buttons for the event.

With the logo,  I just converted it into an SVG to ensure smoother lines (unlike the rougher one I carry on my shoulder bag).
GSETA logo
With my first design, I figured "People love flowers!" but what do flowers have to do with animals?  Bees!  They're like totally important to our very existence!  They're necessary for large scale crop pollination that feeds so many millions.  However, they're treated a lot like dispensable tools, so let's feature them (and have an excuse to draw a flower!)  I wanted it to look hand drawn so I played with the textures of the petals and kept a rough line look to it (rather than crafting perfect, repeated petals with nice solid colours).  I also hand drew the letters rather than curving text in a normal font.  However, the effect when printed on paper for the buttons was more of a "my ink cartridge is running low" colouring. :D
the beautiful bee!
The second design I did I wanted to put some emphasis on the environment, so I wanted to show the sky and the Earth.  However, the A in GSETA does stand for animals, so what better an animal to situate in a landscape than the noble, tall-standing chicken!  I also wanted to make one that appealed to a slightly different audience than the pretty flower, so following a personal interest, I made it an 8-bit chicken.  Chasing cuckoos in Zelda recently might have contributed.   Behold, a truly free ranging fowl! 
cuckoo!
I was concerned that they might not translate well onto paper, but I was quite satisfied and they were quite popular!

buttons 7 and 8 on my shoulder bag!
Using Linux, I used Inkscape to vectorise an old GIF of the GSETA logo.  (It had previously been in vector form but the original vector file has since been lost.)  For the two new designs, I worked in the Gimp using my convertible tablet PC.  I do like drawing on paper, but I've been migrating away from paper steadily for a while now and have started enjoying what I can create on a tablet.  I like that the Gimp as Free Software can still provide the rich functionality I need to do cool stuff.  Creating art digitally is also very satisfying in how organised it can be, particulate in the use of multiple layers.  The bee image has 9 layers in it, covering lines, the green background, the two layers of petals, the yellow, the writing, the bee frame, and two layers for the bee's colours.  They made changes really simple.  :)

Have a good night!

Transient Thought

What motivates someone to sit there and smile while another talks for hours about something so completely mundane?  Like phone conversations about software philosophy, and all I can think about is "How can they not be bored?  Can this conversation possibly end well?"  It's strange, trying to decide whether someone is just polite or sincere.

2011-11-26

Transient Thought

Good bye land dwellers!

Transient Transient Thought

I am interminably cheerful in aeroports, even if I cannot get aeroport sushi or garden burgers before dawn.   They're romantically grand and peaceful in the early morning.  

Regularity of the World

Another week has gone by, with greater disasters than usual, but also great smiles and fun.  I'm preparing for another aeroflight adventure, starting in 30 minutes.  Whee!

2011-11-24

Transient Thought

My temporary housemate has to return home leaving me with a spare Timber Timbre seat to fill for Friday: any takers?

Teach me how to shine (another musical interlude)

Yesterday I discovered that an Irish friend of mine actually knows the Frames and I was elated.  She apparently has performed some of their songs, but not my favourite, so I thought I'd share that with you:


It's one of the few songs whose lyrics I can actually remember and that I enjoy reciting.  It always seems to mean something new to me.

Lyrics:
Star, star, teach me how to shine, shine,
Teach me so I know what's going on in your mind.
'Cause I don't understand these people
Saying the hill's to steep.
Well they talk and talk forever
But they just never climb.

Falling down into situations
Bringing out the best in you.
You're flat on your back, again, yeah.
And star, you're every word I'm heeding,
Can you help me to see?
I'm lost in the marsh, yeah.

Star, star, teach me how to shine, shine,
Teach me so I know what's going on in your mind,
'Cause I don't understand these people
Saying the world's asleep,
They'll toss and turn forever
But no rest will they find.
                                                 The Frames

Transient Thought

I got to play with a friend's Nintendo 3DS yesterday and I have a hard time understanding why everyone does not want one.  (Hehe, at least the technology worked for me :D)

2011-11-23

The Legend of Play!

I like to play.  I like to have fun with the world.  I like staring at road kill, photographing litter, climbing posts, trespassing train tracks, taking detours, getting my shoes wet in tall grass, running in the rain, sliding on ice, working next to concert bands, instigating pillow fights, having friends over after midnight to play video games, experimenting with food, listening to weird music, making up music on the piano, running, playing in parks, it never ends.

I'm going on an adventure this next week.  There will be a lot of work over that time, what with jodo grading coming up, and having a Lot of School Work to do.  However, there will be a lot of play.  In particular, video games.

Video games are art to me.  They're educational.  They're entertaining.  They connect people in ways different to other activities.  Or they can.  I wouldn't know about when they don't, as I'm a life-long Nintendork and don't dabble in other silly excuses for maturity and reality.  :D  (I tease, Sony fans, I tease.)  Anyway, when I started my undergraduate, I took a hiatus from gaming.  It used to be my core activity, and then I quit it over night.  I told myself I'd resume once my undergraduate was complete.  It came, but I went, did a little bit of globe trotting.  While abroad, I thought about restarting with a Nintendo DSi but didn't.  Eventually I acquired a Wii and did play a couple games, but disappeared again to school, where the Wii became more a conduit to high culture in film (i.e. Netflix).

Well, now's as good a time as any.  My Wii has finally become a venue for social interaction as I once hoped it would be.  It's wonderful to watch someone's face delight at Mario in 3D again, and it's exhilarating looking forward to a new era of Link and Zelda.
Boo!  My collection of Nintendo attire expands.
 This past week saw the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and in time for Christmas comes a special Legend of Zelda anniversary edition 3DS accompanied by The Ocarina of Time 3D.  I wear Triforce gauntlets.  I still remember walking and sometimes running through a little forested hill in New Zealand at the end of their summer (around Easter) imagining it was part of Hyrule and myself an elfish hero questing to save his princess.  I still remember finding my brother's old bow and arrows and going to my elementary school to send the missiles as far afield as they would fly, almost hitting a new friend.  I still remember going over to an old friend's smelly house and playing their golden cartridge on the NES and feeling overwhelmed by the world's scope and majesty (in only 8 bits!).

I hope to die before I stop playing, and I hope to let video games be a larger part of my play, though not at the complete expense of the real world.  I'm hoping to acquire at least one Hyrulian gem for Christmas, and then I can invite y'all over for a classic adventure, though it be accompanied by tall snowbanks, flying snow balls, and seasonal nostalgia.

Transient Thought

Apparently happiness is screaming and swinging sticks for 4 hours late into the night.

2011-11-19

Something Stupid

I have trust issues when it comes to software, especially on my phone.   That said, I just installed SwiftKey, which is a replacement keyboard.   I finally satisfied myself with the idea that it is probably not logging my key strokes for criminal purposes.  That said, it is doing a worse job at distinguishing my space bar strokes from periods.   The default keyboard always thinks I am trying to hit v or b.  I really hope it can learn when I mean add a space.   It is fairly painful so far.   As is trying to use its gestures for deleting words.  Oi.

Go Veggie Go

I rediscovered Blogger's Comments manager tonight and an old comment reminded me of the following video. Veggies are green, turtles are green. Therefore,

Anon Asks: Why the facefuzz?


That's kind of a big question.  I don't usually reply to anons because I figure they will never come back to  find the response, but perhaps the motivations behind something so superficial (superfacial?) would be of deep interest to my friends. :)

There are lots of reasons.  Especially given that I'm not a great fan of facial hair.  Especially on younger people.  Sometimes it seems pretentiously hippy or hipsterishness: especially on skinny guys like me.  There's something about it that makes your head seem larger than the rest of you, almost oversized.  I've enjoyed a smooth face and the energy I associate with its reflection of youth for a while.

Halloween
The primary surface reason: I grew it for my Halloween costume.  I'd been trying to decide whether to go Trick or Eating as my favourite video game character (wants long, blue-dyed hair) or movie/comic character, Scott Pilgrim.  Both costumes have strong associations I'd like to not be reminded of right now, and I'd been playing with swords a lot lately, so, the obvious solution was suggested by a friend: Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi!  :D  Due to a mix-up in bags when visiting my father, though, I ended up leaving my robes there, and had to improvise a wandering samurai costume using my kendo attire at the last moment, which was also awesome and proved quite popular.  Someone even made the connection between me and Blackthorne from Shōgun (about a European stranded in feudal Japan).

"Maturity"
There are many supporting reasons, such as to look my age.  I'm 27 now on a campus of littered with 19 and 20 year olds, and I was being regularly confused for an undergraduate.  People don't look surprised when I tell them I'm a Masters student with my beard. :)  It's flattering to have a girl flirt with you, but not when it's because they mistake you for someone 7 years younger. :D  I guess I also feel more adult than I previously did, which is a little regrettable, but alright.  I don't want to remain artificially young or grasp after youth, and I still refrain from coffee. :D

Schwarting Suitability
It suits Schwartings, male and female alike.  I visited Germany this summer (which was amazing!) and didn't have regular access to shaving materials.  I used a razor for the first few days while I was there, but then decided to just let it be.  By the end, I was surprised to like the appearance.  People responded well.  And there's also family history involved.  My father has the most amazing beard.  My father is amazing.  Having this beard makes me feel a bit closer to him.  My uncle even has a nifty beard.  I have a strange habit of plucking chin hairs, so it came out a little weird then, but I think that habit was associated with stress and overcoming that has allowed my chin to be a rich forest. :)
Father Beard
Sentimentality
There's a bizarre sentimental component which I won't go deeply into, but I once had a friend who always liked the idea of me having a beard.  I used to tease the idea of it, and took for granted that they'd always be around to actually do it in the future.  It's too late now, but now is when I have it, so it's a bit sad and a little ironic.   It's a rare sentiment I probably shouldn't indulge, but ah well.

Popularity
Last and certainly least, there's been an overwhelmingly positive response.  Guys respect it.  Ladies love it!  I've done a couple surveys, and some of the responses have made me blush.  One friend threatened to cry if I shaved it off.  My face is a democracy and the consensus is clear: let there be beard!
Me at Fair November after making a couple dozen
captain's hats for my lab and friends.  One Fair November
staffer got reprimanded for wearing hers all day. :D

2011-11-17

Transient Thought

All Students:  Please be aware that anything left in the hallways, including hockey bags, any bags, fridges, bicycles, boxes or any other unauthorized item will be put in the dumpster outside.
I am very amused by the idea of full-sized refrigerators loitering in the halls.

Bearded Thoughts

Two things I have not expected:
  • looking around the GSA board meeting and realising I am the fellow with the fullest beard
  • having a friend tell me they don't remember what I looked like without a beard
angled for exaggeration

2011-11-16

Transient Thought

I just realised that all my friends who no longer IM now text.

"Space is like paradise spread out with a butter knife"

I enjoy the conversational nature of the lyrics of this song.

Warning: contains profanity.



I like how he initially refrains from sharing a secret but then does after prodding.  It's an interesting lack of resolve.

I like how casually he articulates some popular fears.  I like how he says "Yeah,"
Them: Tell me your fears.
Him: Okay, it's everyone here.
Them: You mean just all of the people?
Him: Yeah, and all of their peers, and all of their pets, and their chandeliers.
I really like their exchange on space, which plays at profundity.
Them: Talk about space.
Him: Well it's a beautiful place.
Them: But it's so damn cold.
Him: Just for the human race, but for the planets and the stars and everything else and Mars.
Them: It's like paradise, spread out with a butter knife
I also like the xylophone.

Transient Thought

November Faïre!  There are Christmas Carols playing through the University Centre as booths set up for Fair November, a craft-heavy vendor market.

2011-11-15

Guerilla gardening

I'm pretty doomed to continue living in apartments for the next little while, I fear, but as I've developed more control over my schedule, I'm looking forward to attempting something like this.  I just want for an accomplice. :)


2011-11-12

Transient Thought

The file is out of control!


Transient Thought

I've now joined the the Nerdfighters team on the Kiva microfinancing site so my future loans will be recognised as going to fight world suck.  Hooray!

2011-11-11

Transient Thoughts

And then there was but one

11/11/11 11:11:11

It's just like New Years. :)

Transient Thought

Three full buses induce me to walk home in the light snow under a full moon in my kendo attire.  Winter is magic.

2011-11-10

Fedora 16: Nice new features

Deliciously in Deutsch

Tablet support
One of my favourite new features in Fedora 16 and GNOME 3.2 is improved tablet support, complete with some programmability, under the System Settings menu.  There are more features to support, but at least the basic ones don't require text file editing anymore. :)

On-screen keyboard
There is even a nice on-screen keyboard under the accessibility menu, which is great if you have touch on your tablet PC.  :)  It even hides neatly in the notification tray.

Online accounts and privacy concerns
Something I'm wary of is the new Online Accounts manager, found in the user menu (top right).  Basically, you can log in once with GNOME to a web service provider like Google and it will share access to applications that request it.  A bit simpler than giving your login credentials to a dozen different programmes.  A bit safer in that respect.

But then there doesn't seem to be a facility to control which applications have access to that. I'd like to log in through GNOME, and then give permission to Evolution to just access my E-mail and Calendar, and give permission to Empathy to just access my contacts.  Perhaps this is restricted, and I have to find out before I use it, because I don't want just any application to go accessing my private data.

The Old Nightmare and such

It's relatively recent but there's a recurring nightmare: at least I got to defend a friend from bullies this time.  And then it was followed by the most amazing dream: my father was Dumbledore and my father is already awesome but now I know how awesome a wizard he is too.

3-2-1 Cookies!

Update 2014-03-20: Canonical page for my recipes is now here:
http://kosmokaryote.org/wiki/recipes

Update 2013-12-29: Christmas Variant

Hello, cookie
I think I blogged about my cookie recipe before, but that was before, and now is now!  People have asked for it, so I am posting it here.  They are called 3-2-1 cookies, because that is how I remember the half-cup quantities of the core ingredients.

It's most recent evolution of ingredients are:
  • 3 half-cups of whole wheat flour (or split with rolled oats),
    • to make it double-chocolate, use 2 half-cups of flour and 1 half-cup cocoa.
  • 2 half-cups of brown sugar,
  • 1 half-cup of vegan margarine (Becel Vegan brand, or Earth Balance),
  • Egg substitute
    • 2 tablespoons of flax meal mixed well with 5 tablespoons of water,
    • or ½ cup of apple sauce, or a banana, or ½ cup of pumpkin purée
  • 2 half-cups of chocolate chips (Selection brand has no dairy component. Having a copious amount is Important),
  • 1 cap-full of vanilla extract (like one teaspoon).
Steps:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
  2. (For flax meal: Mix with water and let it sit separately until step 5.)
  3. Cream the sugar and the margarine (mix them until creamish).
  4. Mix in half the flour.
  5. Mix in the egg substitute to add moisture (allegedly binds)
  6. Mix in the remaining flour.
  7. Add vanilla (bonus moisture) and then the chocolate chips.
  8. Mix, mix, mix, and hopefully it will become a big shiny clump in your mixing bowl with a thousand chocolatey eyes.  Don't leave a chip unattached!
  9. Apply to baking pan (potentially greased; I use a pizza pan and bake one Giant Cookie)
  10. Bake for 8 minutes (this is for my oven, my father's oven with a similar recipe takes like 15 minutes!) for soft, delicious cookie.  
  11. Let cool to allow them to solidify a little.
In New Zealand, I had preparation time down to 7 minutes from opening the pantry door to sliding the tray into the oven.  I was aiming for 0 minutes so I could call them instacookies.

Bonus: Cookie Cups

So, the other day I tried to make cookie cups:  you bake cookies with a muffin pan so you can scoop ice cream into them!  Patrick Beja of the Internet even suggests setting the dough around the outside of the muffin pits (on the bottom of the muffin sheet) so that they cup around the metal to get cookie bowls.

I had a couple with my dark chocolate coconut bliss ice cream and I'm thinking of designing my next dietary change around it. :D 

Update: 2012-02-21
Added notes about egg substitutes other than flax meal, and added point on how to make the recipe "double chocolate".

2011-11-09

Fedora 16: "Oh no!" failure at log in (solution within)

I've just upgraded to Fedora 16, and it was an almost perfect upgrade except for one ugly problem.

Unlike my upgrade to Fedora 16 Beta, this upgrade of packages went well.  I used the preupgrade tool to download all the packages and let them update after a reboot: almost no input required.  However, when I went to log in to my system, I saw a useless error message:

"Oh no!  Something has gone wrong."
It then asks me to log out.  I quickly realised that nothing really seemed wrong.  I clicked on the full-screen error message and pressed alt-F4 to close it and continue working.  I didn't want to deal with this every time, so I figured out the source (method documented below):

The culprit is installed colour profiles from Fedora 15 causing a key component to crash invisibly in the background due to security policy issues.  Ugh.

Solution
On a terminal,
restorecon -r ~/.local/share/icc 
An idea situation would be to have random ICC colour profiles not cause this.

Problem Solving Method
  • test a fresh account: does it have the problem?  No, so it must be my user's configuration.
  • back up my configuration and then try resetting various parts to default until I can find the source of the problem.   
  • With .config and .gnome2 reset, the problem persisted, so it must be something else
  • Try resetting all configuration directories (/home/user/.somecfgdirname)
    • alright, that worked, so it is in one of the . directories.
  • I have 189 of them, so bisect my original configuration to narrow down its location
    • Alright, a-m reset resolves the problem, so it's in there
  • A quick scan and I see .local which seems relevant, as lots of applications store information in there.
    • Testing my original configuration without my .local resolves the problem. 
    • I don't want to get rid of everything in my .local
  • Try removing .local/lib: problem still there
  • Try removing .local/share: problem fixed
  • Alright, which application is storing problematic files in .local/share?
    • bisect again, it's in a-m
    • bisect again, it's in h-m
    • take a look, and icc, the colour profile configuration seems like a possible candidate
  • Reset icc and bingo!  
Then feel stupid because I actually read about this very problem in Fedora 16's common bugs page (it's a wiki that has things added with work arounds until they are resolved).   However, I didn't think it was my problem because there it says that GNOME Shell fails, and I unfortunately knew that my GNOME Shell was still running, but just giving me an error message inexplicably. 

From the Fedora Project's common bugs page:

Starting GNOME Shell fails after upgrade from Fedora 15 with color profile installed

link to this item - Bugzilla: #741549
If you used the Package-x-generic-16.pnggnome-color-manager tool to install a color profile for any of your hardware in Fedora 15, then after upgrading to Fedora 16, you may not be able to log in to GNOME Shell with SELinux enabled. Login will fail with the "Oh no! Something has gone wrong" error screen that GNOME pops up if a component is crashing repeatedly.

The issue is caused by gnome-settings-daemon crashing when it encounters a color profile with an incorrect SELinux context: the correct context for color profiles changed between Fedora 15 and Fedora 16, but the upgrade process does not re-label existing profiles.


To resolve the issue, boot to a different desktop or to a console and run the command restorecon -r ~/.local/share/icc. After doing this, GNOME login should work correctly.
Problem solving

I like hunting and solving problems.   I like narrowing down causes, and combining bisection with intuition and existing knowledge to understand the source of such things.

Sadly, many users don't have the same knowledge.  They might not know where to start.  My Fedora 16 Beta installation problem, where it trashed my system partition, was potentially catastrophic but ultimately not a big deal because I could handle myself.  This ICC colour profile permissions problem is relatively simple, but thanks to an oblique error message, what could a "normal" user do?  It's stuff like this that prevents me from recommending an otherwise wonderful system to my friends.  I fear the problem is systemic.

2011-11-08

The Veggie Challenge, Veganism, and Me

disclaimer: this is a tad long but the bulk has been sitting as a draft for long enough.  At least enjoy the cute pictures!


Veggie Challenge
So, the first day of the Veggie Challenge has passed!  We had a few short of 300 participants register for the Veggie Challenge on campus.   That's more than double last year.  The sign-up table was pretty constantly busy both afternoons it was out, and we repeatedly had to run off to go print more sign up sheets and tracking ballots.
my infamous poster :)

I was pleased by the number of vegetarians that also signed up to do their own Vegan Challenge, and the vegans that signed up to do their own raw/organic/local food challenge.  Two of my typically omnivorous friends surprised me by opting to go straight for veganism for a whole week!  I'm giving them some tips. :)

Vegan challenge, and having help, and challenges
Having help is handy.  I'm not sure I'd have been able to adapt to veganism since September if not for friends like Sylvia.  I was originally just going to learn how to make some vegan dishes and desserts for entertaining friends.  It quickly evolved into running a vegan household to keep things simple.  Then I finally realised I could actually reconcile the inconsistency in my vegetarian ethics and just practise veganism all the time.  Sylvia, who had authored Vegan Advantage (now gone), helped point out many ways in which I could have a healthy and straightforward vegan diet.  Straightforward and simple is key to success!

One hard thing was the transition: my eating habits had been pretty strongly tied to dairy and egg consumption.  The other hard thing was my wants: ice cream has been my favourite food and greasy eggs my favourite breakfast.  Another hard thing is social: how far to accommodate others when eating out or being hosted.  I'll discuss these three challenges more in sections below :)

It was pretty necessary for me, though.  One of the several reason I became a vegetarian was because I'm not comfortable with obliging animals to spend their lives for my pleasure.  At this point, it's certainly not for survival anymore.  However, dairy and even free range eggs in Canada still drive undesirable treatment and unnecessary death of living animals.  You impregnate a cow to get it to lactate, and then you take away the resulting calf and turn it into veal, into a beef steer, or into another lactating cow.  After five years when a cow's output is suboptimal, you cull it.  Free range chickens still live in densely packed situations with dirty environments and can suffer lovely practises like debeaking.  When they're output is no longer profitable, you cull them.  I'm not an abolitionist: I'm not opposed to humans and animals interacting, and I don't think it's always exploitative.  If I owned my own cow and chickens, or could be confident that they were treated well and their lives respected, I would probably be fine consuming their dairy and eggs.  But that's not the case right now, and it's an awkward position to be in, to have ethical reasons for vegetarianism but still consume dairy when you know what must happen to the cows and their calves.
my uncle's chickens, next door to my cousin's abattoir

But it's still hard.  The inconsistency has been on my mind for a year until I finally felt able to do something about it.  Pursuing veganism right now has been a little isolating: it definitely removes me from the world of Food at large: dairy components exist in so many things, even when it's not necessary.  Egg too.  But it's not hard to actually do.  I'm eating more healthily now and feeling better: I make more of my own food so I save money.  I don't eat as much junk food, as most sold in stores isn't vegan.  I'm paying more attention to my B12, protein, calcium, and iron intake.

Challenge 1: Initial transition: conceptual change and shopping
One of the hard parts was the initial conceptual change: accepting that I have to operate out of normal social eating habits.   Most restaurants have vegetarian options other than salads, but not so for vegans.   However, in a modest town the size of Guelph and on its campus, there are a number of places that do cater (that is, have many delicious items, even if not all) to vegans: The Cornerstone, Zen Garden, the University's "Nature's Best" and the Bullring.   In Toronto it's even easier: there are dozens and dozens within walking distance of the downtown.  Grocery shopping can seem difficult at first, as I'm used to just shopping for a lot of prepared things at No Frills.  (I already get most of my produce from the Farmer's Market for social reasons.)  However, once you know what places sell vegan-friendly supplies, it's not bad.  I still get to eat ice cream with the fantastic coconut-based varieties sold at the Stone Store in Guelph, and the Metro and Zehrs carry a nice selection of fake meats (need to get my B12 from somewhere! (just ask where they get the B12 from, though!)) and non-dairy cheeses.  In fact, as far as home cooking goes, life carries on, minus egg breakfasts.
niece's dairy-laced birthday-cake, declined :(
Challenge 2: Giving up what I don't deserve: favourite foods that obliged others' livesIce cream, cheese, chocolate milk, egg breakfasts.  These have been some of my most favourite things.  Salami and ham were too once.  But as I could no longer let myself enjoy eating the flesh of animals killed for my pleasure, I can't really continue with dairy and eggs and like myself.  (I may seriously acquire pet chickens at some point, though!  What respectable lives they will lead!  All in monocles and top hats.)  Substitutes have helped.  They're not the same.  Sometimes, they're not as good to me (soy cheese's flavour (the texture is great)).  Sometimes, they're better (coconut milk ice cream!).  But like veggie dogs, they let me continue to enjoy much of what I liked about the food it replaces.  I can also continue to eat cookies, cake, pie, brownies, cupcakes, and muffins using vegan-friendly ingredients, and honestly in these cases, I can't tell a meaningful difference: dairy and egg are not necessary for legitimately great desserts (though I'm sure some variants aren't quite possible without them).  
respectable chicken, suitable clip-art
found via St. Peters United Church
So, on one hand, I've given up eating conventional variants.   I've turned down birthday cake (sorry K), lemon loaf (sorry S), and losher cookies (sorry L) made by friends.  But on the other, I'm not missing out on so much, as I've baked like a devil, the oven has been kept so hot, and it's been great, save for one disastrous batch of brownies (greasy and crispy, just like bacon) which were a hit at a bake sale anyway (what?).  And I finally don't have to wonder about the living cost of my cookies. :)

Challenge 3: Society
This is the reason why I'm writing this post.   Whereas friends had been very understanding about my vegetarianism, many have been less so about my recent veganism.  There's friendly chiding, which I don't mind at all.  But then some have been actually offended and sought to argue with me about it in unconstructive ways.  I really don't want to offend people.  I don't want to debate your diet (though I'd gladly discuss it friendlily :D).  I'm sorry each time I disappoint a friend by declining to sample their hard kitchen work.  I'm sorry for the hassle as I delay orders by asking a waitress a dozen questions about a menu.  (If it was neatly marked everywhere, I could be imperceptible!)

The hardest person to tell was my father.  He took my vegetarianism seven years ago so hard.  I didn't even tell him that this Thanksgiving was intentionally vegan.  It was awkward sitting in our regular breakfast seats or at Eggcetera and not ordering my meatless egg breakfast and coming up with excuses over the past few weeks.  However, he took it surprisingly well and thoughtfully when I finally told him last weekend.  He enquired about the health consequences, and I let him know that I was taking that seriously (more seriously than I did with vegetarianism!), and I was very delicate about explaining the ethical motivations (I never want him to feel like I disapprove of him, even if I don't agree with his lifestyle (heavy on the meat and he hunts!, but I love him, traditional habits die out gradually)).  He quickly understood my ordering decisions going back a few weeks and then he was happy and surprisingly supportive.  My father is amazing.

I hope friends of mine reading this can respect this.  Please continue to invite me over for meals or invite me out.  I'm really happy to enjoy a beverage and a light salad in a restaurant if it means I can socialise with you!  If you're hosting, I'll bring delicious dishes and cookies!  It's in your best interest to support me :D  I will try to not be difficult!  I will not be offended.
Yes, it is a vegan ice-cream sandwich! 
Freshly baked vegan cookie + coconut ice cream = love
This is actually one of the reasons I started practising veganism, as noted above.  I've made a lot of vegan friends this past summer (K, L, D, S, C, A, and A!) all over the place, and I felt bad that I wasn't able to accommodate them easily.  I didn't know how.  I could see how often they could not partake in something because it the standard was not vegan-friendly.  I don't mind that for myself, but hopefully I can make their days a little brighter.  (So many cookies... :|)

My Benefits: health, money, environment, conscience
I mentioned earlier the effect on my own health: for some people, it can be tricky, especially if they're naturally deficient of something harder to obtain from a vegan diet.  But I'm fortunate to have a pretty sound body with no known natural deficiencies (or allergies :D), and some minimal attention has left me feeling confident that I'm not becoming malnourished.  This has left me cooking more at home and eating less junk food, and in general feeling quite good.  I even have maintained the energy and strength to pursue a variety of sports. :D  My sister-in-law has teased my brother that he'll put him on a vegan diet if it would make him more like me. :D  At this rate, I'll never be obese. :(  Also, after acquainting myself with where I could get ingredients and what dishes I still wanted to make in the first couple of weeks, cooking has been easy. :)

Some things cost a bit more, like buying soy milk cartons and coconut-milk ice cream (4x the price of dairy ice cream per millilitre!), but eating out costs a lot more than making your own food.  And habits of buying snacks make it still worse. 

Something I didn't elaborate on above was the impact on the environment.  Raising animals for meat is a very inefficient way to produce food and meet nutritional requirements.  Keeping cattle around to produce dairy also doesn't help.  The consequences of current activities on the environment is somewhat controversial, but at least the appeal of efficient food production should be obvious given accepted food insecurity problems across the world, and if you accept that there is some limit to what activity the world can sustain, any trends that help keep us keep away from such limits is probably good.  (Global population is now estimated at seven billion!)

And yah, my personal conscience.  Some people are happy taking the lives of animals, they even like to do it themselves, hiding in a bush and waiting with a gun to kill a deer as it wanders by.  It's traditional, it's historical, it's natural.  For me, it's unnecessary, superfluously for pleasure, and regardless of how awesome it tastes (I do recall the sensations of eating my favourite salamis), I can't justify requiring their lives, no matter how comparatively "stupid" or instinctual an animal's existence is.  (Note how I still happily eat plants for survival despite plant-psychology, so sufficiently different than my own that I'll accept their sacrifice for my survival ahead of creatures whose sense of suffering I glimpse directly.  This leads into a tangent, though!)

Tangent on animal welfare versus human welfare and doing what you can
On a tangent, someone recently tried to suggest that caring about animals so was flawed in part because I still owned used shoes and a coat that had been manufactured by comparatively poorly paid workers in China.  Besides the notable flaw that such an argument suggests "if you can't do everything right you'd like to, you shouldn't bother with anything," I don't think the Chinese workers had their hides skinned for my (synthetic) shoes, Chinese economics are complicated and having western money flow into China helps improve the situation, many Chinese labourers want the poor jobs we wouldn't tolerate so they can have some income to support their family, and the situation is reportedly improving.  Having fair trade economics in all purchasing would be great, and it would be nice for people to pay the full price for their luxuries (smart phones and electronics especially included, even if this would slow civilisation's progress), but it's not like supporting animal welfare directly with my diet makes human welfare worse.  I mean, I'm already buying most things second hand (reducing consumerism and slowing the new-goods economy (which isn't that bad, as money is still moving, which is important)) and supporting local business where possible.  Fascinatingly, my relative poverty as a student does prevent me from doing of the things I'd like to do: many local alternatives I simply cannot afford.

Good night!
Ha, I'm surprised if you made it this far!  Why did you read this?!  Anyway, I'm not going to write much about veganism or use this blog to try to convert people.  I'll probably mention the odd GSETA (Guelph Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) activity that I'm involved in.  But there you are.  I've been vegan for a while now and it's working well for me.  Here's a partial list of first names that have been influential and supportive of me:
  • Kelsey, Danny, Laura, Anna, Kathryn, Amanda, Ariel, Ashley, Chad, Chani, Sylvia, my dad (ha!), Terri, and GSETA.
my oft-shared sentiment,
as borrowed from a CD cases

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.