Fun in Agony

Having a bruised chest is actually a lot of fun.  Little melodramas play out in my head all the time.  If you recall, I bruised it after colliding with another chaser during a Quidditch match on Sunday, and it's still sore. 

Some examples of fun include
  • feeling like you've just rent your chest in twain after throwing base balls as hard as you can at 3-Pitch, and wondering, if you die here in the outfield, will anyone notice?
  • when you stretch to reach for your phone from your bed and speculate that the searing pain in your chest is heart-related and that you've only minutes left to live.
  • running to a destination very vigorously with a heavy shoulder bag pulling across your chest, and stopping at the end, breathing heavingly, certain that a chestburster is about to pop out.  (Gory demonstration)
  • imagining during kendo drills that the pain is just a flesh wound imposed upon you by a samurai's live katana across the chest.
Today I realised I've had a bruised chest once before, which was actually the result of severe coughing due to a cold.  Then I had the pleasure of lying in bed, feeling quite sick and miserable and wondering whether the pain would be the last thing I felt before my certainly imminent hacking demise.

I'm not sure why this amuses me so.  I suppose it's a fun experience given the probability that nothing's actually broken or permanent, and helps improve my appreciation for good health.  Yay!  Ouch!


Transient Thought

Guelph in the hazy morning

Transient Thought

I really love waiting at bus stops with trees in the morning as the birds give lovely company.  I can't help grinning.

Transient Thought


Transient Thought

Neat!  Netflix now has Xena: Warrior Princess and SeaQuest: DSV!  Now to find time to watch!


#Development and GXml

(Wow, I really do like the new Blogger interface!)

I'm creating another category on this blog via labels, and it's #Development.  This will include a stream of minor thoughts and problems.  I don't want to put them in #General anymore, as I want that to feature posts that aren't technical, and I can't #GNOME minor things, or I'd be spamming the planet.

With GXml, I'm now getting the libgdata picasaweb test suite to pass.  Hooray!   A lot of my issues were in how I chose to replicate libxml2's old behaviour, and there weren't many bugs in GXml itself at this point!  Hooray!

Next, to add introspection support to GXml.

Macbooks for sale!

A friend of mine is selling his Macbooks.  Go go go, buy buy buy!


Boredom is something I haven't felt in a long while, and still don't.  It is kind of nice:  I have a stack of approximately 3 million things I'd like to do, half of which are fun, so I never end up in that paradoxical state of not wanting to do anything and wondering what to do. 

I was concerned that, with course work over, I might become bored.  Not so!  My time is like a vacuum that sucks up activities to fill it.  Here is a list of activities, that go from those taking the least time, to those taking the most.
  • Dodgeball: what, sports and Richard?!  Oh yes, the physical sport will just keep on coming!  We lost our first game, but I'm impressed at our ability to follow the rules.  *cough otherteamcheatedofcourse cough* :D
  • 3-Pitch: baseball, oh my.  In 2006, I attended a game between my sister's then-law firm and some other law firms.  One of them was short a player and drafted me.  We then went on to CRUSH my sister's team, with me catching a player out, throwing a player out, and batting in two runs.  It was momentous.  In our first game of 3-pitch, it was also momentous!  I missed a ball in the out field, I failed to throw it to second, and I batted the ball right into someone's mitt.  Things got better in the last half of the match, though :)  Despite losing in runs batted in, we still won, by virtue of the other team having insufficient females.  Mwahaha.
  • Trivia Club: because my memory is awful, I thought practising trivia would exercise it.  After two practises, my memory is no better, but I have improved my sense of worthlessness when it comes to retaining knowledge.  :D  The club's members are also quite fun and relaxed, so it never feels socially awkward.
  • GSETA: after a discussion with some friends, I felt obliged to join GSETA to help improve my and others' understanding of what they do.  It turns out, they're a radical left-wing paramilitary organisation plotting to turn every cow at UoG into an ecospy and- and- and they do bake sales and run educational campaigns and disseminate information and promote diets that spare animals from being raised poorly and slaughtered.  None of the vegans have exhibited their vegan powers, yet.
  • Quidditch: yes, you read that correctly.  I now play Quidditch twice a week.  Sadly, as Muggles, we more run around like fools with brooms between our legs (one person had a vacuum handle, which I think is cheating) but it is amazing fun and I sustained a traumatic chest injury when colliding with another chaser trying to grab the Quaffle.  Ouch!
  • Kendo!  I've been internally dying to resume kendo practise for the last year.  I hate that it's one of the things I often defer when school gets out of control, or when costs become excessive.  Again, another sensei with another style, but at least I'll get to whack people with bamboo again.  That's the important part, right?  I actually enjoy kendo more for the technique and exercise than for the violence.
  • GXml and libgdata: yes, open source projects!   It's kind of my dream work to be doing, and I give a bit of time each day to figure out existing bugs and push these forward.  Steady as she goes.  I blog about these under the #Development label (more mundane details) and #GNOME label (more public updates). 
  • Thesis Work: the most important thing I have to do.  I am going to start writing a lot more about this under #School once I have more finished items to share ;D
I'm not usually one for clubs and sports, but with potentially my last year in University ahead of me, I'd like to be more active rather than spending over 12 hours a day working and feeling mentally exhausted all the time.  There is still more I'd like to be doing: I am terribly behind in cultural consumption: book reading (Adam Bede plods along slowly), video gaming (I am acquiring games faster than completing them!), and anime watching (my poorly underused Netflix!).

Ah well!  I think the reason I'm currently playing sports is because I love to Play, and my access to that has been limited for a while.  Hooray for silly fun!


Transient Thought

To my friend the banana from first year: Hastings has returned for a day, and is as bad as ever.  What fond memories!

Transient Thought

At some point, I will be drowning in so much purple, I'll need a mass purplectomy.


Transient Thought

Does revelling in the scents of dying, decaying plant matter make me morbidly evil?  Hooray for Autumn!

Transient Thought

Oreos.  They taste good in your mouth, so why can't I dress like one?  What's so wrong with white socks between black shoes and slacks?  People wear white blouses between black dinner jackets and slacks, so why not socks?  Viva Oreos!


GXml, libgdata, and introspection


During the summer, to exercise the GXml API, I wrote a series of patches for libgdata, which uses libxml2 nodes a lot.  I ran into an issue where libgdata's test suite requires Internet access to communicate with Google's servers, and while in Germany, I didn't have reliable Internet access, making testing my patches difficult.  However, now that the start of this school semester is behind me and things are settling into a routine, I've finally been able to investigate issues I had with my patches.  Here are some related thoughts.
  • memory management changes: libxml2 often returned allocated strings that it wanted the user to free.  GXml often returns allocated strings that it does not want the user to free, as the relevant object (e.g. an Attr) owns it (e.g. the Attr's value).  After directly substituting APIs, this was causing random memory corruption, where I was freeing data prematurely or twice.  I still need to go through and identify all the free statements to be removed, but for now, I'm using g_strdup () to wastefully create a copy that the pre-existing code can act upon as it used to.
  • longer function names: because GXml is written in Vala and uses namespaces and less cryptic naming in general, the function names are longer than in libxml2, like gxml_dom_element_get_attribute as opposed to xmlGetProp.  So, clearer functions, but more typing.
  • NULL return values: libxml2 often returned NULL, like when an attribute wasn't set, but the DOM Level 1 Core spec wants an empty string "" to be returned instead.  Currently, I have a couple libgdata wrapper functions for situations like this that return NULL if they can determine that an attribute wasn't set in GXml, rather than "" itself, but taking another look at how libgdata handles unset attributes and such will be worth while.
The work so far (from the summer, and resuming from this past week) is now available in the libgdata repository in a branch "gxml".  There shouldn't be any real need to use that right now, and there's actually a small increase in the total lines of code after porting, due to trying to preserve assumptions from libxml2 to minimise changes to behaviour for now. 

Once libgdata is fine, I'll be releasing a porting guide with advice for those interested in using GXml in the future

introspection and javascript

I've received some questions about using GXml with JavaScript already, so I'm going to work on introspection this week before I'm done with libgdata.  Then I can provide some examples.

new release?

The last official release has no name space support (git does) and is lacking recent bug fixes.  I'll try to push a new release out this weekend for people wanting to play with it now.  If that goes well, I might do a small release every other week.


GXml: an obstacle.


After looking at the auto-generated code more closely, I realised it wasn't a Vala-to-C issue I had to work around, but actually an issue with existing assumptions in the libgdata code regarding responsibility over memory.  Where libxml2 APIs would return allocated memory for its users to free, GXml (in at least the case of accessing an attribute or node's value) often returns "const gchar*" because GXml is retaining a reference to the returned data and intends on managing it itself, and doesn't want its users to try freeing it.  Checking the libgdata compile messages verifies my failure to account for this earlier, with warnings about ignoring const when freeing pointers.  Fixed :)


The above problem went away with the same solution at another location.  I've made a note to go forth and make sure in Vala code that all private string members are initialised to "", because the resulting C code tries to free private string members before assigning a new value to them, even if it wasn't allocated yet.  I think :D

*** glibc detected *** /home/richard/mine/development/gnome/gdom/libgdata/gdata/tests/.libs/picasaweb: double free or corruption (!prev): 0x00000000006a3580 ***
======= Backtrace: =========


Explicitly initialising a string gets us past that occasional issue, but now we encounter this:

*** glibc detected *** /home/richard/mine/development/gnome/gdom/libgdata/gdata/tests/.libs/picasaweb: corrupted double-linked list: 0x0000000000c2fb20 ***
Dun dun dun!


Not labelling this, as I don't want it to end up on Planet GNOME :D

Current obstacle of the day to GXml:

*** glibc detected *** /home/richard/mine/development/gnome/gdom/libgdata/gdata/tests/.libs/picasaweb: free(): invalid pointer: 0x0000000000adf110 ***
======= Backtrace: =========

Fun fun fun :D

Transient Thoughts

Why is it that every time I buy soy milk in the last two weeks, it's already gone chunky?  I suspect foul play.



From my WIND Mobile powered phone :)


Atom Zombie Smasher

A while ago I paid for the Humble Indie Bundle, which is a bundle of several indie games.  I like games, but I haven't much time to play them, so finally after a few months, I start one.  It was called Atom Zombie Smasher and was fun for the half an hour I gave it.  You basically coordinate from above a few different types of mercenaries against zombies as you try to evacuate cities.  Your mercenaries are a helicopter, and you can acquire new ones like a marine squad, a sniper squad, land mines, dynamite, blockades, etc.  However, the infestation was pretty rapid.  I was scared.

All My Children

I'm sitting here working on a couch while my father watches the family favourite 1PM show: All My Children.  It's a long running soap opera that ends this month that  started in 1970.   When I was young, I used to watch it during the afternoon with my mother, and later with my father.  Now I see it a few times a year when I visit my father on a weekday.  However, I still remember most of the characters and a lot of their history.  To end the series after 41 years, a lot of loose ends are tying up, a lot of old characters are returning, and a lot of happiness is being spread around (so much misery have these characters suffered over the years!).

I'm mentioning this because a mature couple with several grown children in the story just had a very happy moment, and they showed flash backs from the couple's youth, and the show used actual footage that was over 30 years old, of the couple when they were teenage sweet hearts, when they got married, had their first child, when the husband almost died and then went missing and then the reunion years later, and so much more. 

That was amazing.  I suppose not many TV shows can do that.  In the future, I suppose more people will have photographic and videographic histories.    I hope the future will be nice. :)


Snakes and Lattes

Yesterday evening I went to Toronto after school to go meet a new friend at Snakes and Lattes.  Riding the bus was actually somewhat exciting: I was reading a good book ("Adam Bede") on my Nexus One and listened as a very drunk party goer bemoaned the physics of motions and their causal relationship to vomiting.

I've been looking forward to visiting Snakes and Lattes in Toronto for a long time now, and it's nice to finally have time and someone to go with.  It's conveniently tucked away at Bathurst and Bloor, near Honest Ed's.  Normally I would walk from the Toronto Coach Terminal there, but given that my bus was 20 minutes late, I ran and it was Olympic.

I have said a lot of negative things about Toronto and cities in general, but I actually do enjoy a lot about Toronto.  I don't enjoy the drabness of the downtown core as a routine, but I enjoy the whole of Toronto as a visitor.  I enjoy the rusty old houses squeezed together in bloody red brick with thin black fencing and well shaded narrow streets.  I enjoy the interminable stretches of shops, rich with personality and a touch of decay.  I like the weirdos, mostly harmless, seek medical attention if bit.  I would have photographed all of these (the weirdos most discreetly) except I was running really fast.

Snakes and Lattes is a definite victim of its own awesome.  The first level was completely full with hip people all around, and expensive hot chocolates to be self-stirred after long waits.  Walls are littered with more games than any one person has ever played or dared to count (inventory must be an impossible task here).   The cashier is a charming man who earned his eventual tip well.

I got a slice of vegan quiche, served cold, intended hot, and a cup of soy hot dark chocolate: the novelty is that the chocolate is served as a cube at the end of a stick, which you stir in a hundred circuits until its fully dissolved into the hot milkish brew.  The hot chocolate was great and frothy.  The quiche was cold.

Soy hot dark chocolate at Snakes and Lattes
For its massive selection of games, I exhibited the TRUE SIGN of a come-againer: we only selected games we already knew (leaving so many to be explored in future visits, mwahaha!).  I even brought mine: Dutch Blitz.  Even with just the two of us, she seemed to find it fun. I regularly recommend 4 players.  (I'm on my 4th deck of the summer, having gifted away another 3: players are now everywhere!)  Her choice was Trivial Pursuit, which for me is often a vain pursuit!  There is no activity to better display my stark ignorance of the world around me.  That's not to say I do not enjoy it, though: my favourite part is making up answers when you don't know right from wrong.  "Skience, please!"  "Wash closet, please!"  After mistaking snakes for invertebrates, and only building up half our pies of topical slices, we finally surrendered.

Quick Quotation

"Until you have confidence, it's hard to be charming, and it's really hard to be confident when... no one likes you." - John Green

Transient Thoughts

The cool, damp air, the steady rain and black mood under the night's clouds, the wet concrete and the squishy feel of my moistened shoes, made me want to hurry down the street to catch the 22 Knight bus at Davie and Burrard back home.

Litmus Stress Tests

So, related to my previous post about school, I've been monitoring my stress so I don't snap and destroy the planet, or despair into a hovel. Things have been going smooth for 3 months, with one exception.

Since a trip to Ottawa where a friend expressed concerns over my stress, I have been paying attention to situations that act as indicators for my stress handling, and I thought I'd share some of them.  (Check means I passed it positively :D)
  • Travel to a foreign city where (at first) you feel like you can't understand anything: check!
  • Sit on a bus with a crying baby and remain calm and pleasant, even internally: check!
  • Realise you have no Internet access the day you have to submit a major final assignment for your course and take it in stride: check!
  • Help comfort an old lady (a relative) as a close friend of hers dies of terminal cancer over three days: check!
  • Miss a bus and have to wait for 30 more minutes, in the rain, without an umbrella, and remain happy, and enjoy the rain: check!  (especially important if you usually claim to enjoy the rain)
  • Be desperately short on money and not know how to make ends meet, and just be productive instead of terrified: check! (things worked out anyway, for your information)
  • Realise the burger you've just bitten into is not the veggie burger you requested, and remain polite about it as you find a non-digestive way to dispose of the meat in your mouth: check!
  • Try to find your way to the Arboretum Plant Sale without signs and follow multiple people's directions and end up on the wrong side of the arboretum and then RUN across it: che-, er, partial fail.  My initial reaction was growing frustration that there simply weren't any signs, and that people were volunteering directions that were wrong; detecting it, though, I resorted to appreciating the exercise and the beautiful scene :D
  • Wake up and realise you've been kidnapped by Bolivian terrorists who want access to source code you never wrote so they can seize control of a microwaves across the world: check!
Anyway, if any of the above situations leave you intensely frustrated or angry, you might want to take a break or re-evaluate what matters.  I was likely to fail all of those in the first two semesters of my Masters because I was kind of perpetually exhausted and felt helpless to manage everything plus my work.


Transient Thoughts

Look what I can draw!

Transient Thoughts

"Is that blue in your hair?"
- the question of the day
- the answer of the day

To B+, or not to B+

So, school has been unsatisfying in how much of my life it has consumed, and what it had been doing to me as a person, and for the last 9 months, I've been often heard to say "I just want to give up."  (Yah, 3 months in and I already had second-thoughts!)

It was just taking up all my time and leaving me psychologically exhausted.  After four years of an undergraduate, I've grown a little tired of submitting half-finished works, so I've put a lot of work into assignments this past year at the expense of my life and sanity.  I've also been TAing regularly and, though CUPE3913 (my union) would hate to hear me say it, I've definitely been investing more time than is healthy.  It's been very important to me that what I do I do very well this past year, rather than OK, and it had left me exhausted and constantly stressed out, continuously. 

Last fall, I was commuting from London, and things were going well until I encountered The Project That Would Never End in Natural Language Processing, which saw me in tears some nights and perpetually underslept, and in constant isolation.   This January was better, living in Guelph, but I probably spent too much time early on TAing for CIS*2750, an important course here, and while my students generally appreciated my effort and labs (though perhaps not the automarker test suites I produced!), I ended up falling behind in reading for one course, and to catch up had to drop a less important one.   Finally, though, this summer started off well, and part way through I adopted a new approach to obviate stress completely (kekeke), though there was some uncertainty near the end when I found myself in Germany for three weeks without reliable Internet access and at my first real conference.  (The Desktop Summit in Berlin this year, which I'll write about more later!)  There are some time and life management issues there, but that's why I've made a point of utilising the wonderful counselling services provided on campus :D

At its worst parts, I basically shut down for all functions outside of school.  I didn't attend to my social life or personal life at all, and some great people had to pick up the slack for me, dealing with things like moving to Guelph, or helping my dad, or cooking me food, or driving me places, or keeping up my spirits and talking to me when I felt empty and hollow, etc.  I continued with it, because people kept telling me that it would soon be over, and that it would be worth it.  I'm not sure that it will be worth it, but I'm continuing with school. 

I'm continuing with school because the next year isn't like the last year: rather than courses with topics that only peripherally interest me, I'll be focusing on my main area of interest, on my thesis, that which I originally signed up for.  Deadlines are different: they're more self-imposed, a bit less arbitrary, and hopefully flexible enough to allow me to continue doing excellent work without killing myself in the effort.  There are real benefits to having a Masters, and I feel like if I follow through for the next year and obtain those, then all the me I sacrificed last year might be a little worth it.  I also enjoy the school atmosphere.  I enjoy the community.  I enjoy Guelph.  I like Guelph more than Toronto, which is where I'd probably end up working.  I like academia a lot.  Interesting problems being chased all over the place.  I like my friends here: yes, in the last few weeks, I've actually made more friends here, than in the year previous I spent exhausting myself for courses.

So, wish me luck.  I won't need it, but it's nice to think you all care. :)

Turning up the Radio


I have been a little silent lately, as I've been incredibly busy.  After returning from Germany, I had a big back-log of obligations to meet, a belated school project to finish (I have professors that are wonderfully understanding of my excursion to Germany and the Desktop Summit conference there), I had sublet my apartment and then unsublet it, I ended up volunteering with Graduate orientation at school as well as a bit of O-Week with OCUS, and I helped my father out around the house.  Then there were other distractions, but I assure supervisors for all domains (school and software) that I have been dutiful in my time allocation!

Anyway, to those who still read this, be afeared, as I intend on updating daily, with more than just what I did.  Oh ho ho!

  the author


Canadian cellular services

Progress!  Real progress!   Canada finally has some decent options for cell phones! New entrant WIND Mobile has expanded to Kitchener-Waterloo, and is expanding to Guelph.  I expect I'll surrender my 6-year old phone number with Vonage (which I took across the country and to New Zealand) and switch to WIND.  But, almost more exciting, is that they've helped effect real change!

Koodo, a Telus property, is now offering Canada-wide calling, and a plan that has unlimited  minutes.  So, no long distance or roaming charges anywhere in Canada.  In Toronto, call a friend in Calgary.  Then go to Vancouver and call a friend in Guelph.  WHEE!  Unfortunately, the unlimited anytime minutes is $45, without unlimited texts, without caller ID, and without voicemail.  (At least WIND Mobile has those, and an unlimited data plan for $10, if you live in a WIND area.) Cheaper Koodo plans still have abysmal limited day time minutes, too.  However, hooray for real progress!  No longer visit your brother out of town and make a call and get charged 3 rates at once: day time, long distance, and roaming.  No more!


The leaves are still green

Fresh autumn air, chilly and crisp, makes me feel at home.  The leaves are all still green, but this morning I was lightly chilled at 13°C and glad.  The cool air reminds me of the coasts, too, as it's still largely absent of leaves' sweet decay.  I have vivid memories of waiting for ferries in Tsawwassen by Vancouver, and walking in sand at St. Kilda and St. Clair by Dunedin, the water always too cold to go in for long.   I have a new light jacket, of German origin, that makes me feel cool while keeping me warm.  It floats in the breeze around me and is breezy.  Like every season when it starts, autumn is my favourite.


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