November 2, 2010

Qt Developer Days

Filed under: On Just Being There — bregma @ 9:49

I spent a week in Orlando at UDS, flew home for Hallowe’en, then turned around and flew out again to attend Qt Developer Days in San Francisco. It’s kind of nice to just be a passive participant for a change, but it would be even nicer if I could just stay home and hack. On the other hand, I may be accumulating air miles faster than I can spend them.

October 25, 2010

Ubuntu Developer Summit

Filed under: Software Development, The Future Is Now — bregma @ 8:13

A few months ago I took a contract wit ha company called Canonical to provide some expertise on programming interfaces for a new development effort they were working on. I don’t like contract work (with 3 kids and a mortgage to support, I prefer the reliability of full-time permanent employment) but considering my current employer missed payroll regularly and owed me more in back pay than I could earn on EI I took the job.

Last week they converted my into a permanent employee, and I’m now at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando, Florida with 3 or 4 hundred other geeks talking about gestural input in Linux for a week. It would be cool if Tom Cruise showed up.

March 22, 2010

It’s here at last.

Filed under: Life in the Back Woods, The Future Is Now — bregma @ 18:39

I’m sitting here in my log cabin in the woods east back of nowhere. There is a 48″ jack frame loom on one side of me, a spinning wheel in use on the other side, and high speed on my lap.

Yes, that’s right, high speed internet has finally landed here in the back woods. After dancing with Storm for well over a year, they finally said they could bring 2 Mbs to me if i would put up a 50′ tower. Then I noticed Rogers has extended 3G (that’s the network technology the iPhone uses) coverage from a tower just across the way and they offer this nifty wireless 3G hub. I picked one up, plugged it in, turned it on, and it just works.

Okay, not only does it just work, but it gives me 5.4 Mbs download speed at exactly half the price Storm was asking for 2 Mbs. Without a tower.

And that, my friends, is sweeter than the maple syrup boiling away over on the woodstove.

May 26, 2009

Wildlife sightings

Filed under: Life in the Back Woods — bregma @ 8:29

We live on the glint line, where the Canadian Shield meets the flat bottom of the pleistocene Champlain sea. We get a mixture of wildlife native to both biomes. This can make for interesting and frequent encounters.

Sunday we were out for a bike ride and came across a black rat snake trying to cross the road. It appeared to be a fairly young specimen, about a meter long, that reared and lunged at me as I passed by. I was unaware that these snakes rear and lunge like a rattlesnake: everything I read says they don’t. I guess this one couldn’t read. It sure could move fast, unlike the turtle I ran over with the car earlier in the day on the same road.

Last night we went out for another ride down a different road. We believe we saw a bear with a cub cross the road in front of us. We did not try to verify our sighting. Perhaps it was just a big lanky dog followed by a smaller dog running loose. After all, it was garbage pickup day and many of our neightbours like to treat their dogs to something special once a week.

We also frequently encounter a colony of turkey vultures that live up the Scotch Corners way. There used to be two, now there are five to seven. Sometimes they sit lined up on consecutive fenceposts. Mostly you see them crowded around roadkill or riding thermals. After the end of days I expect there will be plenty of well-fed vultures and cockroaches.

The mosquitos are also back in full force. The dragonflies are just coming back to try to keep everything under control.

May 9, 2009


Filed under: On Just Being There — bregma @ 8:27

I’m sitting in the San Diego airport. It’s about 0630 local time. The bar behind me is crowded. Most of the patrons seem to have coffee (there’s a Starbuck’s opposite in the boarding lounge. There are a significant proportion of people with beer. It’s 0630 for frak’s sake.

The weather here is cool (19 C) and foggy. There are supposed to be a lot of thunderstorms between here and Washington DC. My flight boards at 0730 and I’m scheduled to reach my final destination of Ottawa at about 1900. Granted, there’s a 3 hour timezone difference but it’s still another long day of travelling. At leat I don’t have to put in another full day’s work when I arrive.

May 6, 2009

The small world

Filed under: On Just Being There, The New Economy — bregma @ 22:20

Monday morning, first thing, I get an email telling me I need to go to San Diego on Tuesday for some “integration work” (the meaning of which is unclear and neerose.dn’t be clarified for the purposes of this post). I needed to get a passport.

Yes, yes, I was supposed to get that passport, um, months ago just in case this situation arose. Blah blah blah. I got a passport in less that 24 hours: the officer was calling all my references before I had even left 240 Sparks.

I got a flight out booked for 0600 Wednesday. I managed to get a hotel booked and a flight home by EOB on Tuesday. I scrabbled together what I thought I would need for the trip. My flight out got changed to 0615. Bonus.

So, Wednedsay morning I got up at 0300 without effectively having slept at all. I was at the airport by 0400, checked in by about 4:10. The security gates don’t open until 0430. US Homeland Security doesn’t open until 0500. Massive line ups in the wee hours. A quick flight to O’Hare (Chicago), an hour wait, then off to San Diego.

The flight to southern California is always great. It’s about 4 air hours from Chicago, and the scenery is spectacular. Snow-covered mountains, deserts, mesas, prarie. You really need to get a window seat.

Arrived in San Diego at 1100 local time — I had been up for 10 hours already internal time. My work day was about to begin. Unfortunately, my ride was over an hour late. I wasn’t concerned. Unlike Ottawa or Chicago, San Diego provides free unlimited wireless at their airport. The temperature was 21 C and sunny. I had no problem waiting.

I got to our San Diego office and discovered it was two blocks from the vendor site I was going to visit. Convenient. It would have been even more convenient if the powers that be had sent someone from our San Diego office. Feh.

I worked with the vendor until 2000 local time. That’s 2300 internal time. That’s a long day. I’m turning in for the night.

March 12, 2009

The schist up with which I must put

The house in which I live was randomly renovated over the years by a tribe of do-no-good piskies. These wee folk managed to rearrange the waste pipes that run between the main stack and the outlet to the septic in such a way that it actuall runs up hill for about 5 metres. As you can imagine, this roguish trick is the root cause of some number of problems.

February 20, 2009


The time has come to tell a little story about one of my pasttimes over the last few months.

A few months ago I got a call from the bank telling me my debit card had been locked because someone had been detected as defrauding my account. Fair enough, I needed a new card anyways since the little magnetic strip thingie doesn’t last forever.

So I go into the bank to get a new card. Banks are not fun places and I have never not had a problem with a bank. This time was no different. See, I opened an account a quarted century or so ago n downtown Toronto when I was working there, and haven’t bothered to move the account since because of all the automated withdrawals and associations with other accounts amd well, ‘cos I’m lazy. Problem is, the branch where my account was held no longer exists: in fact, the building was torn down. Then, the branch that took over the account was moved. Along the way, the bank lost all the physical records proving my account exists. In short, I have an account that does not really exist according to the bank.

Well, to get a new card, I have to prove to the bank to their satisfaction that I was who I was. That meant several pieces of photo ID (any of which may be obtained fraudulently, but a single point of failure is better than multiple points, right?). I produced my drivers license. They would not accept it because it had expired. Regrdless of the fact that it did in fact identify me as being who I am even without a laminated piece of plastic, they could not accept it. The logic was lost on me. The big surprise came then: my drivers license had expired 6 years previously. After enough wheedling with the bank and calls to my financial advisor at another branch, I got a new debit card, but I was now an outlaw.

I had been driving without a license for six years.

The surprising this is that I had never been caught. A few years ago I was trapped along highway 7 doing 95 km/h in an 80 zone (note to those unfamiliar with this highway: the speed of traffic is generally 100 km/h except for the police, who usually do 120 to 140). Unfortunately for me, a week later I broke my leg and didn’t get around to paying the fine (what did I care — I couldn’t walk let alone get the full-leg cast into a car). Eventually, I received notice that my (non-existent) license was suspended for non-payment of fines. A few weeks later, I paid the fine and received notice that the (non-existent) license was reinstated. Party on.

So now I was an outlaw.

I needed a drivers license not just to avoid hefty fines when caught (or so I hear) but also because I needed the photo ID to get a new passport so I could travel on business. So, off to the MTO (Ontario ministry of transportation) licensing office I go. I turns out that because I had not been a licensed driver for over 3 years (which meant, in bureaucratese, that I had not been behind the wheel of a car for at least that long) I was going to have to go through the entire graduated licensing system to get relicensed. The good news was that I could forgo the required two-year waiting period (that kicks in after 10 years). The only catch was that I needed photo ID to apply. It seems that the Terrorists are trying to destroy Our Way Of Life by driving without Ministry approval and I had to prove I was not One Of Them. I could use either my passport (which I didn;t have, see above) or my student card. Dudes, back when I had a student card they didn’t have photo ID. So, I had to find a Reputable Citizen Who Was Not A Terrorist to sign an affadavit saying I was who I was.

If you’re familiar with the story of the old lady who had a pig that wouldn’t jump over the stile, you will be familiar with my story at this point. If you’re not familiar wit hthe story, just ask me to recite it. It will not be long before you wish you hadn’t asked me to.

So, I got the affadavit, which let me apply for my license. I took the first test, a written exam that focussed on the rules regarding waiting periods between taking drivers tests in the graduated system. I passed. That meant that I could now drive as long as it was daylight hours, not on a freeway, with no more than one passenger under the age of 19 and with a fully licensed driver in the front passenger seat who had more than 4 years of experience. Oh, and I wasn’t allowed to drink or not use a seatbelt. I immediately booked my first road test. I continued to drive myself to work and elsewhere. I was a rebel outlaw.

My first road test was December 23rd in Smiths Falls. Smiths Falls, aka “dogpatch,” is a place best driven through and not stopped in (although they have a nice music store on Main Street). The 23rd was also the last day the Hershey factory store was opened to the public. Not an auspicious day. The municipality saves money by not plowing the streets, and it being December there was a considerable accumulation such that it was impossible to see things like stop lines. I failed the driving test on the grounds that I did not stop at stop lines (even though you couldn’t see them — rules is rules), I shiftware in intersections and at corners or curves, and I completely borked the parallel parking (I have no excuse other than I was nervous).

I booked another test a week or so later. I drove in first and second (driveways count as intersections and most of the roads are not straight), I drove through the town during fairer weather and memorized the stop lines, and, well, I did my parallel parking as if I had been driving for 30 years. I passed. The clerk offered to schedule my final test later the same day but I had to get to work so I booked one later in the week.

After passing this ‘G1 exit test’ I was then allowed to drive like a grown-up except I still could have not more than one passenger under the age of 18 (unless they were an immediate relative) and was still not allowed to drink. I could legally drive myself home, as opposed to the way I arrived.

Before taking the ‘G2 exit test’ I had to swear an affadavit stating I had more than 40 hours driving experience on roads where the speed limit is over 80 km/h. Not a problem: I calculated the number of hours experience I have on freeways (every inch of every freeway in Ontario except for the E.C Row expressway in Windsor, most freeways in Quebec, every freeway between here and New Orlean and between here and Miami, most freeways in Los Angeles, mostly in rush hour) at well over 12,000.

My final test went fine. I still lost some points for not doing shoulder checks when entering the deceleration lane on a bridge, just in case a car jumped up out of the river, crossed the concrete barrier, and entered the same lane through my blind spot, and I lost points for not slowing down at railway crossings to check up and down the tracks before proceeding just in case the signals were not working, but it seems I had finally learned how to drive the Ministry Approved way.

I am no longer a rebel outlaw.

Now, onward to complete that passport application….

December 3, 2008

The Harlot on Harper

Filed under: Social Organization — bregma @ 16:41

This is the best summary of what’s going on on Parliament Hill I have yet to find.

October 20, 2008


Filed under: On Just Being There — Tags: , — bregma @ 9:21

Last Thursday I spent the day at a knitting workshop led by Brandon Mably, including lunch and an evening with Kaffe Fassett. These two men have a wonderful (or, in their words: glorious, exciting, delicious) sense of colour and of the benefits of simplicity. I am a big fan of simplicity (or as mathematicians like to say, elegance) and an appreciation of the aesthetics of everyday things. It was interesting hearing what Brandon had to say about choosing and integrating colours into his works, because it was (almost) word for word what I’ve heard many musicians say in general about constructing melodies and in particular, constructing jazz solos. I found the synaesthetic (sensory cross-over) aspect intriguing.

It was also interesting to be able to spend 6 hours just knitting. Nothing else. Very zen. I’m not a big knitter (unlike some) but I enjoy both the tactility of the process and the end result. It was a little weird being the only straight guy in a house filled mostly with women past a certain age but not that big a deal, and I did win a nice door prize that included some nice hand-turned rosewood needles and I did get to model one of Brandon’s sweaters on stage with Kaffe in the evening.

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