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06/20/07

  08:31:40 pm, by Nimble   , 657 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People

Maternity Benefits

We attended a surprisingly informative and interesting session about maternity benefits, presented by Dick Hehr (no, really). Dick is a pretty good champion for teacher's rights, a good listener by all accounts, and I really liked his no-nonsense, unapologetic yet friendly style.

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  12:31:11 am, by Nimble   , 323 words  
Categories: Reviews, Games

Wii Title Roundup

Well, with Adam getting in so many Wii comments, I thought I might as well share a bit of a survey of the titles that we have picked up, and re-review a couple that we had already:

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06/05/07

  03:28:09 am, by Nimble   , 1622 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People, Religion

Rediscovering Robert Ingersoll

Every now and again, you come across something written decades ago that says a lot about a subject, and you realize that the writer had a surprisingly modern outlook on the subject as well. It is in this frame of mind I found myself after running across Robert Ingersoll's "Some Mistakes of Moses". This was a treatise on the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. While humour is present throughout, he takes umbrage to the idea that the first five books were inspired, accurate and to be used as a moral guide.

That the arguments he uses ring true over a hundred years later is partly due to the skill and craft of a good orator and writer, and partly due to the disappointing backslides towards literal readings.

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05/31/07

  07:47:30 pm, by Nimble   , 332 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People, Science

Natural Moral Fiber

Shankar Vedantam brings us news that doing good makes us feel good:

"You gotta see this!" Jorge Moll had written to his colleague. Moll and Jordan Grafman, neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., had been scanning the brains of volunteers as they were asked to think about a scenario involving either donating a sum of money to charity or keeping it for themselves.

The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable.

This is not surprising. I guess in many ways I would be surprised at those who would find it surprising.

We must not drift into the awful attitude, of course, of seeing all good behaviour as inherently selfish and therefore to be glossed over or dismissed. Understanding does not belittle us. Remember here, too, that the pleasurable response was recorded for those volunteers who placed others before themselves. How a person gets to a point where altruism is pleasurable enough to overcome greed or anger says a lot about them.

It always instructive, too, to look at those where the response is broken or totally absent:

When confronted with moral dilemmas, the brain-damaged patients coldly came up with "end-justifies-the-means" answers. Damasio said the point was not that they reached immoral conclusions, but that when confronted by a difficult issue -- such as whether to shoot down a passenger plane hijacked by terrorists before it hits a major city -- these patients appear to reach decisions without the anguish that afflicts those with normally functioning brains.

At some point in the future, we may have the ability to fix sociopathic defects. If the alternative was throwing these people away, would we not be morally obligated to fix them?

05/27/07

  11:05:07 pm, by Nimble   , 1321 words  
Categories: Distractions

A Wii Adventure

Right at the end of the day at work on Friday, visiting the QA department netted me some "inside information" on where to get a Wii. One of them had been watching forums on occasion to see where and when Wiis show up, and Westbook Mall got a shipment of them in. There were 8 left around noon (I think), and they asked me if I'd be interested in tagging along to go get one.

Well... yes...

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05/25/07

  02:21:16 pm, by Nimble   , 494 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Programming

Remember the XSL Default Rule

XSL or Extensible Stylesheet Language can be a bit mind-bending. I have essentially come up to speed on it in a week to use it in the generation of migration scripts. It is essentially a big list of rules, calls and writing commands for matching XML. It can seem a bit "backwards" to normal programming, but you can figure it out.

Starting with...

<?xml-stylesheet?>
<xsl:stylesheet
version='1.0'
xmlns:xsl='http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform'>
<xsl:template match="/">
</xsl:template>
<!-- Do stuff here -->
</xsl:stylesheet>

...can give you a pretty good start in playing around with XSL, since that template matches the root of the XML file, and you can then apply-templates or call-template... or even just say "screw that" and put in text instead:

<xsl:text>Meaningless drivel</xsl:text>

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05/21/07

  06:47:05 pm, by Nimble   , 291 words  
Categories: Distractions

Who The Hell Is Mo Henry?

We just watched Spider-Man 3 a day after watching Shrek 3, and we're credit-watchers (though I must say that we have been very disappointed in the lack of after-credit easter eggs these days), and one name keeps cropping up as recognizable: the negative cutter, Mo Henry.

I've no idea who Mo Henry is, but the name is familiar for, it turns out, good reason. IMDb lists over 320 movies for which Mo Henry was the negative cutter, everything from Apocalypse Now to Twister to Sin City to Serenity to Shrek 3.

The enigma and ubiquity of Mo Henry has started a very small fan page and a Yahoo! fan club

It takes a little bit of digging to find out that Mo Henry is the daughter of the late Mike Henry, MGM's chief negative cutter, from a blurb in Los Angeles Magazine:

LAST NOVEMBER, WHEN MO Henry, perhaps the most respected negative cutter in Hollywood, pried open a canister holding How the West Was Won, she discovered a family connection. "There was some old paperwork inside it," she says, "and I saw my dad's handwriting." Mo couldn't remember her late father, Mike Henry; who was MGM's chief negative cutter, having worked on the 1962 blockbuster. But a call to her mother confirmed it. "Here I was," says Henry; "basically getting ready to dismantle the work that my dad did 40 years ago."

Warner Bros., which now owns How the West Was Won, had retained Henry to restore it. The movie was the last spectacular filmed in Cinerama, the grandiose, unwieldy film format...

It's hard to remember repeats in the names of many of the credited jobs, so in that sense, Mo is highly unusual.

I think I'll make a point of Mo-watching at the end of movies :)

05/14/07

  05:23:17 am, by Nimble   , 136 words  
Categories: Distractions

Singin' in Korean

I get such a damned kick out of Stephen Colbert. He has made a marvelous career out of parodying the right, but some of my favourite clips of his are when he indulges in over-the-top geekery (like the Green Screen Challenge) and some of his other miscellaneous segments.

So when he got knocked off a top 100 spot to #2 by Korean R&B singer Rain, he fought back... with a video of his own.

Dena taught in South Korea for almost four years, so she got a particular kick out of this. He is singing in Korean here. "Rain, I'm going to be all over you like egg on a bowl of bibimbap".

I like it when people do their homework, so to speak.

As internet-crazy as South Koreans are, I can't wait for the reactions :)

05/09/07

  07:41:34 pm, by Nimble   , 543 words  
Categories: Distractions

The Colin and Brad Show

We went down to the Jack Singer on Sunday to see the Just For Laughs tour of Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood.

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05/06/07

  02:10:38 pm, by Nimble   , 106 words  
Categories: Distractions

Lampoonesque Picture of the Day

I used to love the photo sections of National Lampoon with signs that, intentionally or not, sounded really funny. This one's a bit politically incorrect, but we stayed across from it once when we were in Edmonton, and it gave us a giggle each time we went outside. I had been kicking myself for not bringing a camera, but my father-in-law obliged last time he was out there:

Chin Kee

By way of recompensing for the guilty chuckles, I must inform you, using what skills I have looking up things in Chinese dictionaries (there is a method to it!) that the restaurant's name translates as "Golden Memories Restaurant" :)

05/05/07

  01:03:58 pm, by Nimble   , 1594 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Politics, Religion

The Great Theft : Khaled Abou El Fadl

The tagline for the book, "Wrestling Islam from the Extremists", caught my eye, as did a quick flip through the book. We don't tend to hear a lot from moderate Muslims in the public square here, so there are a lot of questions that run through our minds. I was quite frankly curious as to how "legitimate" the extremists are: what makes them think they're espousing a "truer" Islam?

When I think moderate Islam, I think of portrayals of the wise, unassuming Egyptian, ready with wisdom, but not with force. I have heard tell that Muslims preserved science and writings during the European Dark Ages and were purveyors of the best human rights for women at the time.

This book goes a long way to helping describe what the extremists, which he refers to in the book as "puritans", are on about and how they "legitimize" themselves, and how the Islam world, in a way, lost the power of moderation.

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04/26/07

  08:12:54 pm, by Nimble   , 437 words  
Categories: Distractions

Marvelous Minerals

On a little trip to Banff with the in-laws, after having visited the place on and off over the years, I decided to actually buy something at the Rocks & Gems Canada store. This place is filled to the gunwales with rocks, minerals, jewelery, gems and fossils. I bought three things for myself, and some presents for Dena. I was a little disappointed to find out that the quartz was artificial (in that the titanium is deposited on it), but it is beautiful all the same.

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04/22/07

  01:58:29 pm, by Nimble   , 320 words  
Categories: Reviews, Movies

Hot Fuzz

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425112/

Even if you're not a B-movie fanatic like my wife or father-in-law, if you've ever seen Shawn of the Dead, it's hard not to have a soft spot for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The duo is back again in a unique entry into the overlapping genres of mystery and comedy, and buddy cop.

Simon Pegg stars as a London policeman - no, police officer - Nicholas Angel, who excels at his job. This turns out to be a bit problematic (I won't give it away), and he ends up assigned to a post in a small town, much to his dismay. The small town seems to have what can only be generously described as a casual attitude to law enforcement, as you start realizing when you see the pub patrons.

Nick Frost is the son, Danny Butterman, of the police chief in this village, punished for his light indiscretions by having to buy everyone cake. He is a likable lug who is just basically following in his father's footsteps, and from his penchant for cop movies, wonders whether in the line of duty Angel has ever gotten to fire guns akimbo while fighting crime.

Nick Angel tries to bring a little bit of rule of law to the place while showing Danny a few of the ropes. His penchant for paperwork and processing people come in handy, but ultimately, many of his attempts are frustrated.

In this sleepy little town, though, a string of accidents start to happen...

It really is a fantastic movie; I was surprised. From the appropriately exaggerated camera techniques that move the story along to the quirky characters to the story to the inappropriately laugh-generating gore (oh, the poor journalist), it all fits rather nicely together.

If you want to see a comedy a bit higher-brow than Police Academy and a bit lighter than Snatch with some good writing, I highly recommend giving Hot Fuzz a try.

04/17/07

  08:00:40 pm, by Nimble   , 732 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, People

Oh Great - Squeegee Kids

I hate squeegee kids.

It wasn't even that I had really met any before. Living in a 19th Avenue apartment and walking to and from work each day, I had my fill of panhandlers. I had my fill of natives trying to pass off funny stories for a buck or two whenever I tried to go anywhere in my neighbourhood. The guy with a sign about his starving kids who turned out not to have kids... at least, not in his care, and my favourite, Mr. "Allergic to Soup" guy who, upon me trying to give a bit of charity with a good meal, refused it with the claim that he was allergic to soup.

I guess I'd just heard all the stories.

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04/07/07

  08:40:47 pm, by Nimble   , 221 words  
Categories: Distractions

Pretzelbet

Ever been on a long flight, and they give you one of those little packages of pretzels, and you desperately need just a little more amusement than merely eating the pretzels?

Well, perhaps you haven't, but I have, and with all the connecting flights, I did figure out that I could spell just about anything with those tiny pretzels, just by nibbling off just the right pieces. Now granted, there had to be a certain amount of license taken, but some of the letters come out okay. For example, the X:

X
(dim rectangles of course indicating the parts you need to eat!)

So, for crazy people's enjoyment, here is my whole sample alphabet in preztels, or "pretzelbet", as nobody in their right mind would call it: the full pretzelbet.

You will notice that there are actually more ways to make the letters than these. Yes, yes there are! Perhaps a lowercase r would be more recognizable, or the M and W could actually be based on the same bites. Go wild! Some letters are definitely more challenging than others. Airplane mini-pretzels seem to be a very good challenge, and you might have to practice to get the full letter "G" I list.

Yes, I miss the span of time when they actually came out with pretzel letter snacks, thanks for asking :)

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