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

Adding Insult to Jailery


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? :)


  10:29:36 pm, by Nimble   , 275 words  
Categories: Reviews, Cooking

Jamie Oliver Cookware


These pots and pans seem to have been T-Fal coming up with minor modifications on their line for Jamie Oliver. We had this on our gift registry at the Bay when it was half off, and by their registry rules, we got it at the sale price even months after our wedding.

It's a nice set of pans. We went for the anodized set. It's all T-Fal, which has the "hot spot" technology on their frying pans. Now mind you, the "hot spot" isn't as futuristic as I was hoping. The pattern disappears at the right temperature, it doesn't glow or blink or anything ;)

The thing that strikes us most about this set is the much lower heat you use them at on your stovetop. We can boil and fry things on medium heat. You're not supposed to use these on maximum heat on the stove. We're a little worried about one of the pans we left on heat 7; we'll see how it recovers from the layer of carbon on it.

You get a pretty good workout from these. The pans are pretty heavy, the handle stays pretty cool, and though we haven't tried this yet, you can put the pans from stovetop to oven or vice versa - there's silicone in the handles, and everything will tolerate oven heat. It's a pretty nice-looking set, fairly scratch-resistant, and came with a nifty set of tongs.

Now we can throw away and/or give away some of our bachelorware! At long last! :)

UPDATE: Saw four brands go head-to-head on The Shopping Bags, and was most gratified to see that they preferred the Jamie Oliver set as well :)


  12:50:35 am, by Nimble   , 432 words  
Categories: Reviews, Movies

The Aristocrats

We rented this one on DVD, along with Deuce Bigalo: European Gigolo (even for light-hearted entertainment, Deuce Bigalo II was somewhat of a stinker).

You know what? We couldn't even watch the first ten minutes. We skipped through the rest of the sections trying to find something watchable, but never found it. We have never done that with a DVD. We even toughed out our previous vote for stinkiest movie ever, "2001: A Space Travesty".

It's not that we can't take a dirty joke. We engage in our own "gross-out" contests every now and again (and I usually win - I'm not sure that's proper to brag about, though *grin*). It's that it's not particularly surprising or novel in all its forms. Everyone seems to be trying to simply out-disgust one another, and the name of the movie is always the punchline.

The editing is choppy - in most spots, it just goes from comic to comic to comic - the joke is simply disgusting, and repeated over and over again, and a lot of the time, they're just talking about the joke. Talking and talking and talking. Cripes, I don't come home to my wife and natter on "oh god, I'm trying to break apart this particular hierarchy of classes that are tightly coupled and removing the event handlers into the new shared context so that I can make them peers but there were tricks that were being used to bla bla bla bla bla bla bla" for minutes on end.

It seems to be a movie by comics for other comics and for pretentious newspaper movie reviewers. I cannot believed that the Tomatometer Rating of this movie is so high. Then again, I can't remember the last time a movie critic apart from Roger Ebert consistently ever gave unpretentious movie reviews ;)

If there's some meat in this documentary, it takes a while to get to it. Its sin in my eyes is making it too boring to get there. I'd give it a miss, unless you're drunk.

Fortunately, when we switched the DVD off, there was a most peculiar Mad TV episode with John Cho from Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle tormenting Bobby Lee. In addition to having Bobby Lee dance around in his undies in a Power Rangers mask with a robot, he gets him to prepare for his interview by merrily flossing his teeth, which when he spits spews out a gusher of blood, after which he smiles. A guilty chuckle, but it sure saved us from a bad "we rented two stinkers from New Releases!" mood. Thanks, Bobby Lee :)

  12:46:46 am, by Nimble   , 738 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

On The Eyeway

Well, I've got off and gotten myself a pair of glasses, my first in years upon years. I've been a contact lens wearer since the end of high school, and I sat on and destroyed my last pair of glasses some time ago. I don't remember when.

This is so that I can go ahead and get myself laser eye surgery. My eyes have taken a fair bit of abuse from contact lens wearing, and I'd like to be vision-correction free by the time I go to Africa.

I must admit that I let my wife go first - she's had the surgery for well over a year now, and let me in on the details, at least with Lasik MD:

You're not supposed to have worn contact lenses in the past little while (I heard 'three weeks' bandied about, but it could vary from that) so that your eye is its natural shape. There's a lot of waiting around on the initial checkup day and the surgery day, so bring what entertainment you can. On the initial checkup day, they will put dilating drops in your eyes. So, ummm, don't drive on that day. Or at least don't expect to drive back home :)

The procedure itself, from what Dena says, takes practically no time at all. The cornea cut is pretty quick, they laser under where the flap was and then put it back. There is some recovery time afterwards in the office. You must wear Terminator-style sunglasses (provided) for the first while afterwards, and put eyeguards on to sleep. If you can sleep right away, that will get you over a lot of the uncomfortable time after surgery, because there will be some pain and itchiness.

Keep refreshing eyedrops around and use liberally. The pain and itchiness will decrease. You'll have visual halos for the first few months, which will disappear. Then you'll wonder how you did without it. If you've been wearing glasses for most of your life, you will be pushing a pair of phantom glasses up your nose for a while.

I'll give them a shout on Monday to see when scheduling is possible. It's possible that I'm not a candidate for LASIK - I might have too-wide pupils, or too little cornea to work with, but I'll find that out.

Ought to be interesting. I'll tell you how it goes :)

Comment by Adam:

Good luck with the lasik. Having gone through it myself, I concur with what you said, both in terms of process and recovery. For me as a regular glasses wearer (I couldn't handle contacts in the Alberta dry air) there was the relief of not having constant irritation on the bridge of my nose of on my ears from where the glasses rested, as well as no longer needing to worry about them constantly fogging and freezing during winter. On the downside, it meant that nice sheltered area behind the frames was gone which makes walking in the wind a bit more uncomfortable... You won't keep the incredibly sharp vision you get immediately (or within a couple of weeks) of surgery but it does stay good for, well, dunno really, but it's now 8 years since I had it and the eyesight is still fine.

Comment by Ritchie:

I've been wearing contacts for a long, long time, so the "sheltering" effect will not be something I notice and miss, hopefully :)

One thing, though, with the contacts out of my eyes for a couple of days now, my eyesight has taken a definite downturn. Not a lot, but enough to make some things turn a bit blurry with these glasses. I guess the contact lenses were holding my eyes in shape. Ugh, I'd almost forgotten how horrible my eyesight is.

I've been getting motion sick from having the refraction point so far in front of my eyes and nearly took a tumble down the stairs the other day.

I guess that all in all, this makes me look forward to the surgery a lot more than I would be had I still been wearing contact lenses.

I filled out their online appointment form, and they got back to me pretty freaking fast. It was amusing the spots at which they were surprised that I was very well-prepared information-wise ;) So, I've got an appointment on April 20. Hopefully, my eye won't still be recovering its shape (unless it's to get better eyesight) by that point.


  11:38:43 am, by Nimble   , 83 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Gardening

Seedy Saturday


The University of Calgary Community Garden is holding a Seedy Saturday this year on March 25 at the Montgomery Community Centre. It seems to be some sort of deal where folks sell and exchange open-pollinated seed, with an eye towards foodstuffs.

There's a community garden up at the University of Calgary (well, now!) with an open invitation to visit throughout the year.

Ought to be fun - maybe I can drag along the in-laws and perhaps look for something for the tomato-growers in the crowd :)


  09:27:11 pm, by Nimble   , 40 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Thoughts, Travel

Europe 2005 Trip - Part I


This is going to take a while to put it together - I've barely covered the Geneva part of the trip, but I thought I might as well get a start on it.

See the first part of the adventure here :)


  11:19:54 pm, by Nimble   , 199 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Internet, Spamming

Comment Spammers Redux

Got comment-spammed this morning. Thirty-one comment spams between 4:53 AM and 5:00 AM. I get the sense that my web space provider was been doing some maintenance this morning. I think... I might be pretty thankful for that. Just semi-random crap from templates to accompany their web link.

The sad thing is, of course, they can post their link into the entry field for the comment, but I'm the only one who can see it. Google doesn't.

The spammers were taking advantage of the guestbook services over at the guestbook dot com (I have the actual link name banned for now) - the links all pointed to guest accounts over there, and each page had a small piece of Javascript to cobble together a redirection to search adv dot com (I will not do them the favour of linking to them).

Fortunately for me, since they used the same web page for all their spam, I just banned the guestbook dot com from being posted as a link, and managed to scoop out all the comments in one fell swoop.

Sad as it may be, banning Javascript from free accounts may be the only decent way to help control things like this.

  11:28:14 am, by Nimble   , 156 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

Prize Number Seven

I got a letter a while back from the people running the contest for International Truck & Engine, to the effect that I had won fourth prize in their contest, which was a remote-controlled vehicle. How cute, I thought.

This makes my seventh win in online contests:

  1. Delenn doll from B5
  2. Manchurian Candidate movie premiere tickets
  3. Coupons for free Olivieri pasta and sauces
  4. Dock Rock 4 CD
  5. Trip to Switzerland
  6. Quip It! game
  7. Remote controlled truck

Well, the remote controlled vehicle arrived a while later. It's... big. Have a look:

Full story »

  12:52:33 am, by Nimble   , 126 words  
Categories: Distractions

Odd Male Quail

Button quails. Nice ground dwelling-birds. We've got two, and a new canary. Nice ground-dwelling birds sitting on the ground.

So what goes through a quail's head when he decides to do this:

Full story »


  12:55:04 am, by Nimble   , 526 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

Optical SETI

The Planetary Society sponsors an odd variety of space activities, like the Earth Dials and the Huygens microphone that let us hear the sounds of Titan. Their solar sail program suffered a major setback last year when the Volna launch vehicle failed while carrying their solar sail vehicle, the Cosmos I.

They're just about ready on their Optical SETI Search program. We've seen a lot about radio-based SETI, popularized by the movie Contact, and the distributed computing project by Berkeley, SETI@Home.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, SETI is the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. It's a search far in the heavens for signs of communication. No UFOs, no aliens in Roswell.

The idea being that if intelligence arose here, it may have arisen elsewhere. We simply do not know the odds of that, despite things like the Drake Equation. It's like a lottery winner trying to figure out what the odds are that they won, without hardly any benefit of knowing how the odds came to be.

Full story »


  11:42:35 am, by Nimble   , 582 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Science

Struck By Lightning : Jeffrey S, Rosenthal


This is a very entertaining, easy-to-digest (don't eat it) book all about, as the subtitle of the book says, "The Curious World of Probabilities".

The reading is brisk, and he goes over a number of pretty practical subjects. The Law of Large Numbers figures large in this tome. That is, the more times a probability event happens, the closer it gets to the calculated odds. So, you may flip three heads in a row, but flip the coin 50 times, and you'll get 23-27 heads almost guaranteed...

Full story »


  10:52:07 am, by Nimble   , 863 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Languages

Kiswahili, Msingi Wa Kusema... : Hinnebusch, Mirza & Stein


I'm getting prepared to go to Africa this year. True to my nature, I've got books on Swahili, the major language of East Africa, on my reading list in preparation.

I first ran across the Swahili language in a used book called "Jifunze Kiingereza", or "Learning English" (for Swahili speakers). It's amazing what you can get out of a foreign English-learning book, though you certainly can't get everything.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Swahili. It sounds quintessentially "African" with phrases like "Hujambo, bwana" (Hello, mister/guy/sir), "Simba!" (lion) and "Mimi ni mwanafunzi" (I am a student). There are some rather odd spots to the grammar, but it's by and large pretty regular, and it's mostly pronounceable by the average North American Joe, unlike things like Russian, Arabic and Chinese (assuming those are not your native languages :) )

This is a pretty good textbook on Swahili.

Full story »


  01:05:02 am, by Nimble   , 88 words  
Categories: Reviews, Movies

The 40-Year Old Virgin

I didn't understand what all the kafuffle was about until I saw the movie. Steve Carrell does an absolutely outstanding job as the main character. The main character, Andy, is charming, obviously a little bit naive, but is not a flat caricature of a geek. He doesn't always stay in when invited out, or not "get" the jokes or sarcasm flung his way. Watch for how he backs up his co-worker on the discovered date card thing, and how he handles the daughter later on. You'll enjoy it :)

  01:04:16 am, by Nimble   , 140 words  
Categories: Reviews, Movies

War of the Worlds (The Modern Remake)

It's got Tom Cruise in it, and follows him, but he doesn't take over the show. This is a Spielberg spectacular, and if you're looking for an utterly horrifying, as-realistic-looking-as-you-can-get version of the War of the Worlds story, this is definitely it.

I was surprised at the way the movie is set up. It's all very "eyewitnessy" - as an audience member you don't get inside information about what's going on except for what the protagonist sees. That makes it all the more creepy. (It's like being in Half Life 2, except nobody's yelling "Striders", and you have no weapons at your disposal.)

The movie ends somewhat... abruptly, although not unsatisfyingly. It does leave you wishing for additional material before the ending, but it's a movie, not a miniseries.

Fun to watch if you like being creeped out, in a good way.

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