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04/23/06

  12:21:10 am, by Nimble   , 1737 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Journal

I Am Lasered

After watching my wife enjoy a year and a half of good glasses-free and contact-lens-free vision from laser eye surgery, I decided to take the plunge myself.

I went to the same outfit my wife did, Lasik MD.

I had the consultation on Thursday. It's a little like moving through all the stations at a science fair, only you have to wait in between. It's a pretty thorough optometric checkup - they look for eye shape, condition of your retina, and they numb your eye and dilate your pupils for some of the later tests.

They warned me that with the dilation test, my vision would get blurry, and in about 10 minutes, I probably wouldn't be able to read. I think it's a testament to how little light true blue eyes' irises actually block that I could still read just fine with my pupils wide, wide open.

They indicated that I was a candidate - I had pretty thick corneas, though pretty large pupils (the sole 'contraindication'), and they gave me the rundown on risk factors of the various procedures. Regular LASIK was an option, but had some increased risk of after-effects, so I decided to go with the ZyOptix instead.

They do the occasional Saturday, and it just so happened that they were doing some this Saturday, so I signed myself up.

Full story »

04/21/06

  11:57:24 pm, by Nimble   , 988 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Politics

The Truth (With Jokes) : Al Franken

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0452287677/thecerealkill-20

This is a much angrier, more serious book, only lightly seasoned with humour this time around. There's not so much focus on the right-wing hacks this time, though they are still present, but this focuses more on the upper echelons of the US government.

He's obviously in a bit of shock that George Junior managed to get re-elected. He's in more of a shock that just because George "actually" got elected this time, that not only is George claiming that gives him a "mandate", but that this is being parrotted not only by the usual suspects, but by the mainstream media as well.

This book covers quite a few things in the current and recent political landscape of the present-day leadership. There's a fairly long treatment of DeLay and Abramoff, including scandals and scandalous behaviour in relation to Saipan, the Terry Schiavo case (you can have fun with the nitpickers over at frankenlies.com on why Tom DeLay "pulling the plug" on his own father wasn't hypocrisy), ripping off/having irregular dealings with native casinos (Abramoff and Scanlon).

There's a great deal near the front of the book on the "fears, smears and queers" tactics that seem to come dramatically to a head before elections, like the strangely-raised orange alerts that subsided after the election. Keeping people on their toes, and deathly afraid for their lives.

Full story »

04/18/06

  10:25:51 pm, by Nimble   , 697 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Programming

Invalid Floating Point Operation in Embedded Internet Explorer

Ran across some trouble the other day. We've allowed embedding Internet Explorer windows in our solutions, which is great for linked portals, intro pages, etc. Things were going great guns, but on some particular web pages, things would go into a tailspin. I was tapped on the shoulder to help figure this out, and it turns out to be a bit interesting. I'm posting this so that if anyone else encounters something like this, no, you're not crazy :)

We made a local not-quite-live copy of the web pages in question to test things out. When I ran them, I got an Invalid Floating Point Operation. The call stack said that the error was being thrown in jscript.dll, Microsoft's library for running Javascript (aka ECMA Script).

If you don't know the debugging technique of binary searching, also known as "divide and conquer", and you do debugging, you really must learn. You divide the area to check for bugs in two. You either set a breakpoint before the halfway point, or comment out or remove everything after the halfway point. If you still get the problem, then the problem is in the first half; if you don't, it's in the second half. Pick the half that the problem is in, and divide it in half again.

On to dissecting the problem...

Full story »

04/12/06

  12:57:50 am, by Nimble   , 903 words  
Categories: Reviews, Movies

V For Vendetta

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0434409/

Set in a future Britain, this is one of the better dystopian flicks I think I've seen in a long time. Not as "extreme" as The Matrix, or 1984, the story has that slight chilling "it could happen here" edge (we've seen what people will do and give up out of fear), but with a more colourful protagonist than any you would ever see in real life.

I've been impressed so far with comic book movie renditions of this past decade. This is only the second in the line of Vertigo movie renditions (the previous one was Constantine, which I also enjoyed very much)

There's a little bit of this movie wrapped up with Guy Fawkes lore. Guy Fawkes Night I remember being celebrated in Scotland more quite a while ago.

(I didn't know at the time that it was to celebrate Guy Fawkes' downfall, but such are the vagaries of childhood. My relatives still seem to get a chuckle out of remembering saying "a penny for the guy" - I sometimes wonder if they ran around with effigies :) )

While some of the plot is a straight line, what makes this movie are the twists, character development, and some of the fine, horrible elements of a government gone wrong.

Highly recommended, although I still don't think homemade explosives ought to go up like pretty fireworks :)

Comment by Adam:

# I have the original Alan Moore version of this. Apparently he was rather disappointed with the movie so I'm rather curious to see how they differ.

"Remember, remember, the 5th of November, with gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
should ever be forgot"

Catchy rhyme, and I imagine almost any school kid in the UK can remember the whole thing, even if they have absolutely no idea what it's about. On the other hand the fireworks, bonfires and toffee apples were always good, even if I could never figure out at the time why we were burning a "guy" in effigy (whatever an "effigy" was.)

Comment by Ritchie:

It saddens me that, once I moved away from Scotland as a young child, I never really did get back during that particular season, so my relatives have good memories of it, but I don't. Dang it :)

I'd love to see the comic. I imagine it was there in stores when we go on our occasional graphic novel hunts, but I'll be darned if I can remember seeing it :)

I'm trying desperately to imagine what on Earth they would do for the others in the Vertigo series. I could imagine Preacher would be pretty dangerous to make into a movie, and the Invisibles would be... spectacularly strange. Books of Magic has been a little bit usurped by the very Timothy Hunter-esque renditions of Harry Potter.

I think most people would be scared to try putting Sandman into film. They'd be scared of getting a translation of Neil Gaiman's seminal work wrong :)

Comment by Adam:

Next time you're over at my place, I'm sure Dena will be able to find it almost immediately given that she's memorized the layout of the bookshelves with the trade paperbacks :)

"The Invisibles" would probably be a very good one to make into a movie given that they'd need to chop out an awful lot. It would certainly make the narrative a whole bunch clearer. I do pity the actors when they find out what they have to wear though... Agreed on the "TBOM" movie as you're entirely right that any attempt to make it will be derided as derivative. "Preacher" just wouldn't be made: too gory, too sacreligeous, too flipping odd. There's a lot more in the Vertigo lineup that can be mined though and some of it may even be properly done.

Comment by Ritchie:

I will let her loose amongst your tomes - I'm sure she could find it in rather short order :)

The Invisibles certainly could be a good one to make - it has some great characters and an interesting universe to play in. The Archons and the Outer Church make for some fabulous larger-than-life sick and twisted authoritarians which nicely compliments the money, sex scandal, authoritarian, fundamentalist themes in the news these days.

Reading about it in Wikipedia, there were options picked up to make a TV show and a movie out of it, but neither materialized.

*laugh* Oh dear, what would they wear? Please, just don't let Hugo Weaving be Lord Fanny :)

*sigh* I guess I'll have to do without a Preacher movie :)

That said, it's interesting to come across tidbits like this:

For several years, a film adaptation was in the works, with James Marsden attached to play the lead. The project never materialized, although production got so far as to begin make up tests for the Arseface character, gruesome pictures of which can be found online. At one point, Samuel L. Jackson, a comicbook fan, expressed interest in playing the Saint of Killers.

I haven't read a lot of the other titles in the series. Transmetropolitan hasn't caught my interest just yet. Neither has 100 Bullets (though the premise lends itself better to a series). Y: The Last Man could be a lot of fun, especially if it reflects some of the smart/cheeky writing style. Lucifer would make for a very colourful, mythical world - it could make it as a movie, but it would need a pretty special screenplay for a screen adaptation.

04/06/06

  11:47:29 pm, by Nimble   , 973 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense, People

The "Good Old Days"

I was on the LRT yesterday and didn't quite bear witness to an altercation between some "punk-ass kids". One older guy on the LRT chased them off, for which I was quite happy. However, once they were gone, he started spouting the same old sort of drivel that just drives me insane.

"It's all those violent videogames; they should ban those." "It all started when they stopped using the strap in school"

Wait a damned minute.

These are just part of the same damned old "good old days" reminiscing that I've seen online and infrequently encountered in person, but based on how people vote and to how much of a head some issues come, a lot of people actually believe this tripe.

So, in I weigh with my own rant...

Full story »

  12:38:58 am, by Nimble   , 99 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Religion

The Gospel of Judas

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Judas

After just having read "Misquoting Jesus", it's interesting that another manuscript discovery, though it has been around for a while, is being revealed right around now. It is the Gospel of Judas, and implies in this Gnostic text that Judas was fully aware of and encouraged by Jesus to betray him.

It's a third or fourth century document, and it may not tell us much more about the actual history of events, but it does go to show how many Christian traditions and stories had sprung up.

The National Geographic Channel will have a special on it on April 9, 2006.

04/01/06

  10:58:29 pm, by Nimble   , 176 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Ethics

Bad Driver Database

Link: http://roadragers.com/

We encounter our share of bad, weird, drunk, inexperienced, inattentive, cell phone-using, extremely impatient and just plain dangerous drivers.

I had it in mind that I would love to start up a communal database of bad drivers - their license plates and what they did, as a communal warning system, and just to feel like I'm "doing something", even though I can do precious little about the drivers themselves, who generally evade police scrutiny. If we got repeats in the database, that would be a clue for high avoidance of said people, or perhaps actually getting on the phone and calling into the police when you encounter them yet again pulling the same crap, instead of just swearing and leaving them be.

I thought the disclaimer would have to be pretty interesting in order to do something like this. It would have to have no legal force.

As with many good ideas, somebody's already done it.

(Although, also, as with many good ideas, you don't know somebody's done it until you get the idea in your head :) )

  10:08:45 pm, by Nimble   , 339 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Travel

Getting Your Shots

There are a few needles and such that you need to get stuck with before going to Africa. Yellow fever is the only "mandatory" one, but there are few others you are advised to get.

Hepatitis A vaccination proper is relatively recent (since I went to China, anyhow) - you used to have to rely on Immune Globulin. Typhoid comes in an oral "live vaccine" form now: take one pill of four every second day, and you're good for seven years. Those have quite alarming stickers on them, and need to be refrigerated. You can have the shot instead, which lasts for three years. Both of these diseases can be food-borne, which is why it's a good idea to get them.

I was a little surprised to find out that they now have available a rabies vaccine. It's pricy (I can't remember if it was $225 or $275 a pop), but impressive that it's available.

The yellow fever vaccination is also a live vaccine, and is injected into the fat, not the muscle, of your arm. If we feel woozy and tired in 1-2 weeks, it's apparently very likely from this.

If you have food allergies, vaccination can be tricky. The oral typhoid vaccine contains lactose, and one of the shots contained egg, but they're very good about going over all of this.

If you're a Calgarian travelling overseas, especially to somewhere "interesting" (e.g. Mexico, Asia, Africa), contact the Travel Clinic. It's located by City Hall. Make sure to do this well in advance of your trip, by a few months or maybe more, since they are occasionally heavily booked. Expect it to take about an hour, or a little longer if you have concerns.

There's one more vaccine we might book in for, that for meningococcus. It's generally limited to sub-Saharan Africa, but we'll be watching for other reports, especially since we'll be at Jinja near an orphanage. It's a bit pricy, though, and the risk is still pretty low for the location and amount of contact we will be having.

03/29/06

  11:00:01 am, by Nimble   , 956 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Religion

Misquoting Jesus : Bart D. Ehrman

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060738170//thecerealkill-20

The subtitle on this book: "The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why".

This is an extremely interesting book, all about the changes, intentional or otherwise, that occurred in the New Testament and in the source materials for the New Testament, how we know this, and how textual critics decide what's changed, why, and what may or may not have been in the "original".

The author himself had a pretty interesting journey to this point. Starting from a relatively "normal" Christian background, he joined the ranks of the "born again" as a high school sophomore. He was convinced by a charismatic fellow to take his Christianity to the "next level" and study at the Moody Bible Institute.

One thing about the "born again", which is exemplified at Moody, is to treat the Bible as the inerrant, inspired word of God. What distinguished Bart here is that he was disturbed by the fact that we don't have the originals, a question which did not interest his classmates in the slightest. When he decided to look into this further, he got wind of textual criticism, and wanted to take it up, but to be the highly religious emissary in this slightly more secular world.

Moving to Wheaton (where Billy Graham graduated from) and finding it awfully liberal (!), he moved on to Princeton Theological Seminary. There he learned to read the Gospel of Mark in the original Greek. His paper for this at the end was the cause of his first realization... well, it's best in his own words:

My argument was based on the meaning of the Greek words [relating to the contradiction of whether Abiathar or his father was the high priest] involved and was a bit convoluted. I was pretty sure Professor Story would appreciate the argument, since I knew him as a good Christian scholar who obviously (like me) would never think there could be anything like a genuine error in the Bible. But at the end of my paper he made a simple one-line comment that for some reason went straight through me. He wrote: "Maybe Mark just made a mistake."

...and so began the rest of his journey into textual criticism.

Full story »

03/28/06

  10:53:38 am, by Nimble   , 243 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Languages

Language Exchange and The Kamusi Project

Link: http://www.mylanguageexchange.com

Here's an interesting little site, essentially the modern-day equivalent of seeking out pen pals in other countries, but with an eye to learning languages. There are a lot of people online, with varying levels of skill in varying languages. I'm learning Swahili, so I paid for a membership to write (the Classmates model - that you can read and be sent anything for free, but you must pay if you want to initiate contact), and got a pen pal already: a tech support guy in Nairobi. It's pretty interesting.

There are actually an astounding number of people on there. One very handy feature that they have is that you can search for people by what they're learning, what their primary language is, and by last login date, so people who logged in more recently are at the front of the list. That makes it a lot easier to identify people likely to respond. Nifty.

The interface is a bit rough, but workable. The most annoying bit: posting doesn't work well in Mozilla Firefox. I'm a bit annoyed at having to switch over to IE for that one very important function.


Yale's Kamusi Project is a very, very handy resource for Swahili learning - the word lookup alone grabs phrases and colloquialisms as well, which gives you more means to say things than plain online dictionaries do, and there are songs, poetry, grammar, etc.

It's on hold pending donations, though, but the resource itself remains up.

  12:41:56 am, by Nimble   , 161 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

Evolution For Teachers

Link: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evohome.html

Berkeley has a great, simple, straightforward site for teachers on evolution. In the wake of the recent expansion of fundamentalist (at its core) attacks on evolution despite a century and a half of solid science behind it, it's especially heartening to see some outward-facing educational and mythbusting programs about evolution, pro-evolution instead of merely anti-anti-evolution.

Most appreciated are the decent and occasionally funny cartoons and pictures that are sprinkled liberally throughout the pages. This one showing that evolution doesn't involve creatures "trying" to evolve something is cute, but I must say this one is my favourite, especially since the church down from where I used to live posted the pithy inanity on their sign, "Does evolution rob our children of hope?"

The site may be intended for teachers, but quite frankly, this is a great resource for anybody, just as good or better than their evolution site for everyone.

Way to go, Berkeley, and especially the folks who worked on it!

  12:08:28 am, by Nimble   , 77 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

Trying To Sneak Intelligent Design into New York State

Of all places that should be relatively immune to Intelligent Design Conjecture, but there's work afoot trying to get a bill through again that would make Intelligent Design part of the curriculum.

That these bills come up so often and get so far is disturbing.

I've seen some of the course materials that the forces behind bills like this have come up before, and they're entirely based on old, misrepresentative creationist arguments. Expect dishonesty masquerading as "fairness".

03/27/06

  12:43:41 am, by Nimble   , 60 words  
Categories: Distractions

Clothing In A Can

Link: http://www.fabricanltd.com/

Clothing in a can, who'd've thunk?

I mean, you can make clothing of a sort out of silly string, but it's not all that practical.

Mind you, this company is early days, but it's fun to think about. Insta-turban. The Modesty Patrol. The next level of skintight wear.

I can see cans of this stuff being owned more than used.

03/26/06

  10:49:51 pm, by Nimble   , 162 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Internet, Spamming

Adding Insult to Jailery

Link: http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/14163258.htm

After having suffered through a lot of comment spam this past week (not just on my blogs, but on the gardening forums as well), it was nice to reflect on the Secret Service catching Adam Vitale and Todd Moeler, but it's been more interesting to watch what's been going on with Christopher William Smith, a.k.a "Rizler".

He turned out to be the owner of an internet pharmacy involved in spamming, not surprising given his earlier activities, prosecutors looked for and got a preliminary injunction.

He then got caught coming back from the Dominican Republic on forged documents and in violation of his pre-trial conditions.

Now, for the icing on the cake... well, maybe the filling, since the icing will likely be any sentencing involved, that he was caught calling from jail trying to arrange intimidation and/or a hit on witnesses. Wow.

Sometimes, we're amazed, but not often surprised. Who knew that spamvertised pharmaceuticals could be linked to criminal behaviour?

  12:44:20 am, by Nimble   , 222 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Science

Animal Experiments I'd Like to See

A while back, when we were chatting to someone who works for the Calgary Zoo, we heard tales of the extremely tame porcupine that alarmingly wanted up on peoples' laps. That led me to thinking, in addition to Dena telling me that there's now a surprisingly adorable porcupine baby at the Zoo now... there are some animals that are right on the verge of tameness, or other interesting characteristics, that have some characteristic that would prevent them from being good pets.

Here are things I'd like to see:

  • Popcupines without needles would be great
  • Skunks without muskiness
  • Beavers without their wood-gnawing habits (I got to pet a rescue animal once - oh my god, their pelts are soft)

I've seen some very smart dog behaviour as well. One experiment I'd like to see done is to breed dogs almost purely for intelligence. How intelligent could they go? Would there be some unexpected findings?

How about birds?

I'm also a little inspired by the fox-taming study done in Russia (I'd LOVE a tame pet fox!). Amazing what was able to be done in 45 years.

(A more thorough look at the study can be found here. It's ironic that his direction was caused because he committed to genetics, which could have had him executed in the early days of Lysenkoism.)

So how about it, Science? :)

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