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Sat, 31 May 2008

Another reason cycling through winter is hard for non cyclists - 18:14
On Thursday when I arrived at work I happened to give some thought to the clothing I had been wearing to go out cycling that morning with the temperature around 2 degrees Celsius and stay comfortable. People living in Sydney do not have it so hard as people living in Canberra, however Sydney has other problems, such as horrendous traffic and not much cycling friendly infrastructure.

On Thursday morning I was wearing the following items (with original purchase costs) CORC cycling socks ($10) and Ground Effect wind proof fleece socks ($25), Ground Effect tights with wind proof fleece from knees down ($99), knicks (a cheap pair I got at the Mont sale for $49), a poly propylene thermal (Kathmandu sale item for $19), Short Sleeve cycle jersey (Alpine Classic jersey, $70), arm warmers ($20 back in 2002), long sleeve fleecy lined winter top (A Netti top I bought in 2002 for $90 (or so)), Mont wind proof cycle vest (one of my favourite pieces of kit, $80 at the sale), Ground Effect fleece beanie with wind proof material over the ears ($19), helmet (not counting this in the price as all cyclists in Australia wear one in theory and you do not need one as expensive as mine), Ground Effect winter gloves ($39) over poly propylene glove liners ($8 at Kathmandu).

As it gets colder (down to -7 some mornings) I will also have neoprene booties ($80) over my cycling shoes, an extra poly pro thermal, and a full length sleeve Mont (or similar) wind proof jacket ($130) oh and often fleece gloves under the wind proof gloves. However if we simply add up the costs of what I was wearing this Thursday morning it comes to a rather staggering AUD $528. Considering I was riding in the dark that ignores the cost of lighting and also ignores how much I spend on bikes. Sure you can ride slowly not working up much of a sweat or exposing yourself to the wind as much in cheaper gear and be comfortable enough. However to actively enjoy cycling in cold temperatures and be able to do it a lot it helps having all the warm comfortable gear that protects you from the elements.

Of course clothing gets smelly quickly when you sweat in it a lot so I have more than one item of most of that gear to enable me to get out most days a week even in winter and stay active. Fortunately lots of it lasts a long time, however the cost of getting into cycling in winter is somewhat prohibitive when you first start doing it (such as the Bilbys novice program participants who keep going through the following winter).

I guess to counter balance this you can look at how much many people spend on petrol, when you consider I filled my car up with a tank of petrol for AUD $60 last week, it was the first time I had filled my cars petrol tank since March (I filled it in Sydney to get back to Canberra following the kayak race I did up there). I can comfortably get around by bike all through Canberra in winter, get my groceries often by bike, do other things by bike and can avoid using my car a lot.

However the point I guess I am getting at in the title is, most non Cyclists think $500 is about as much as they could conceivably justify spending on a bicycle. If they then find out to cycle through winter they may need to spend almost as much on clothing it is quite likely to put them off.

[/mtb/gear] link

Thu, 29 May 2008

La Muerte, my little black boat - 21:30

La Muerte - Time Bandit (fullsize)
So I finally got around to naming my Time Bandit Multi Sport Kayak. La Muerte, the Spanish word for death, however as it is a feminine word and I am a fan of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, the goth girl style Death from the series seemed like a good name. I have been told many a time that boats need female names, and though this could be seen as macabre or tempting fate I decided I liked it enough to go ahead and do the naming.

For more photos of La Muerte I have a photo page up now.

[/mtb/gear] link

Some system config updates - 15:39
So I have been using xterm as my default terminal for years, however on Wednesday morning when Tony noticed this he suggested I should look at gnome-terminal as it has some advantages such as ctrl click url loading. I could not however get my font (the default system fixed size 10) to look right or be sized correctly in gnome-terminal, even though in xterms it looked fine.

After lots of mucking around with fontconfig and other things trying to track down the issue, Tony suggested I look at the resolution for fonts in GNOME System -> Preferences -> Appearance :: Fonts :: Details wondering what my DPI for fonts was set to. His was set to 96, mine however was at 112. So I changed this and all of a sudden the font in gnome-terminal could look identical to my xterm fixed font. Rock on, something I should share with the world here in case it comes up for others. Getting the font size right in the terminal application is important as my brain is so used to a certain look there.

On another note I should probably stop bagging the nvidia setup as much as I have been, sure it is a pain I can not use xrandr commands to automatically do funky stuff in a scripted environment, however I can at least use the gooey tool nvidia-settings to do the stuff I want, even if it is not as nice as doing things automatically. Still it sure would be nice if nvidia opened up and allowed open source development with full specs to the hardware. If this laptop had been available with the Intel chipset I would have specced it with that for sure.

[/comp/linux] link

Wed, 28 May 2008

The Donnas live (oh and some Melbourne Bands) - 18:58
Last night at the ANU Bar The Donnas played as support for Kisschasy, the first support act of the night was The Getaway Plan. As you may already be able to tell, I like The Donnas, they put together some great modern catchy rock tunes. The Donnas set really did rock out the venue in my opinion, however The Getaway Plan were a bit heavy and a bit grungy sounding and not something I would listen to more of. The same sort of applies to Kisschasy, I had not knowingly listened to them until last night. After the gig was over I realised I have heard some of their songs on JJJ and around the place.

Still it was a reasonably good evening out and it is healthy for me to expand my music horizons from time to time. On an entertainment note I am however looking forward to next Tuesday night a lot more, I am going to see Keating the Musical, which should be highly entertaining and a lot of fun.

The worst thing about the entire evening was how late it ran and how slow things moved between sets. In the past I have been to gigs in Sydney and other places where the doors open at a given time, I thought I could leave it a little while and still see the first act. This has caught me out some times, and I have missed half sets or entire sets a few times. Thus with the tickets saying the doors opened at 7pm, I was worried last night we would miss something when we rocked up at 7:40pm. This did not happen, instead they had us all outside in the thick cigarette smoke (alas people are still allowed to smoke outside in crowds) until the line started moving a little bit at 8pm. The first act played at 8:30pm, finished by 9pm and then there was over half an hour of getting bored (or drunk in many cases there it seems) until The Donnas came on just before 9:40pm. There was another really long break between before Kisschasy also, we ended up going over and sitting down near the pool tables while we waited.

[/leisure/music] link

Yet another sign I may work with computers - 18:26
how many lcds is too many?
How many lcds is too many? (Full Size)
I noticed this is likely a sure sign I work with computers or am a geek today, in my office I had 5 lcds displaying something. Admittedly the two on the right are showing the same thing on a dual head computer doing an install without configuring the dual heads.

Sort of reminiscent of Jon's experiment in the office a while back (though not as cool). On a side note I am writing this post on the new laptop, the first time I have written a post on it. I must say the keyboard is awfully nice to type on.

On the whole most things work really well, which is impressive, not much configuring or mucking around and things just work, Linux really is improving all the time toward a better desktop experience. I am trialling using a normal default Gnome environment and so far it seems to be going well.

My biggest annoyance is probably the nvidia graphics card, that I can not yet use xrandr 1.2 stuff to do funky things with x output from within X and a few other problems (apart from the most basic problem of it being closed source crap). Next I need to work out how to enable vga output to projectors to be on all the time and a 1600x1050 output to a screen at home to watch dvds and such on.

When I tried to set up a 32 bit chroot yesterday debootstrap failed so I need to hunt down the reason for that if I want to be able to see flash (more closed source crap) videos. Still I like this new toy, infact I will be leaving my old laptop at work when I go home in a few minutes as this seems capable of doing everything I need in a laptop configuration wise already.

[/comp/hardware] link

Tue, 27 May 2008

Vista removal injuries - 16:19
So it would be funnier to be able to say software removal injuries, however that is not entirely accurate. Yesterday when I was removing the vista sticker from the palm rest of my new laptop, the sticker came off and there was sticky gunk underneath that was a bit harder to get rid of. I carefully tried to slice most of it away, which worked well except for two small scratches, however the last little bit was still there. So I got a wet cloth and rubbed at it vigorously with my right thumb knuckle.

I did notice at the time, however around 20 minutes later I felt a burn sort of feel on my knuckle, I looked at it and realised I had a vista removal injury, a bit of skin that had been rubbed away and burnt a bit in he process of removing the gunk. Oops, I wonder if I should not admit publicly I did something this silly. However the concept was too funny to pass up, I have a vista removal injury, more proof that Microsoft products are dangerous and we should stay away.

[/various/ilmiwac] link

Mon, 26 May 2008

It arrived - 15:09
two laptops, new and old
Two laptops, old oneiros left, new shiva right (Full Size)
two laptops, new and old
Lids open (Full Size)
So the new laptop I mentioned arrived this morning, I took the photos you can see on the left before I had even turned it on. Though I had already scratched the palm rest area slightly getting the vista sticker off and then I put a penguin sticker on the lid. The colour is really spot on, a metallic pink very similar to my mountain bike, I can sort of, in my head justify this as being race related gear as I download my GPS and HR training data to my laptop, and also do some CORC or Bilbys stuff on my laptop.

Anyway I have booted into a Debian Lenny daily amd64 build iso and installed Debian from that, still pretty bog standard. I will probably have to use the Nvidia closed source drivers as the NV driver though it is driving the screen nicely and appears to handle xrandr for using a projector nicely will not to DRI yet.

As choosing the name of the new machine is important I was a little worried about what to call the new laptop. However as I no longer had the machine shiva I was able to reuse that as a laptop name.

[/comp/hardware] link

Sat, 24 May 2008

2008 Ride of Silence, Canberra, ACT, Australia - 17:41
Today in Canberra the first local Ride of Silence was held, the aim is

The Ride of Silence is held yearly in cities across the world. For the first time in Canberra, join other cyclists in a silent ride at a slow pace to promote safer roads for all road users. Riders are encouraged to wear armbands: black for everyone, or red for those who have been injured by motorists.

The 2008 Canberra Ride of Silence aims to:

  • remember those killed or injured whilst cycling on roads.
  • raise awareness of the need for all road users to respect one another and to use roads in a considerate manner.
  • promote the importance for cyclists and motorists to obey the road rules.
  • remind the community that cyclists are ordinary people who have a right to safety on our roads.

Along with a number of Bilbys I went along and rode with everyone else around the short loop. I think on the whole it was a positive experience, everyone riding behaved well, we had a lot of media coverage/exposure that seemed positive (though we need to wait for the articles to be published to be sure), there was a number of MLA's there speaking so it had ACT government notice.

I know a lot of the ride was to promote cross awareness between road user groups and that we should all behave well with each other. One aspect I found strange is that most of the speakers (the MLA people in particular) mentioned they were motor bike riders and that it helped them understand cyclists. Sure I understand that they are also a minority group that most motorists somehow ignore or fail to see, however I found the constant motor biking mentions during the speeches a bit jarring.

I also went along today as the ride has a special interest to me and my family, I have never explicitly mentioned on this diary previously that my father was killed while riding his bicycle to work back in 1985. I was five years old, Jane was three, obviously neither of us have good memories of him (Jane probably has none), all I can really remember are images. Things I know about Dad are mostly imparted upon me by stories other people have told me. Dad was riding to work as a teacher out at a high school in Weston creek, he was running late so rather than ride along the bike paths he was riding on the Tuggeranong parkway, as he was crossing molonglo river (there is less than a 1 foot wide verge on the bridge there) a person in a car behind him was looking in their rear view mirror and swerved into him.

So all of our family has been touched heavily by driver inattention and someone forgetting to stay fully aware while in control of a 2 tonne weapon on the roads. Anything that can help promote awareness of road rules and all road users is a good thing.

The recent crash into a bunch of cyclists in Sydney where a driver deliberately ran into the back of a cycling bunch, then overtook them and slammed his brakes on causing them to run into his car, and subsequently driving away. Is an even worse example than simple inattention, however one of the things that was raised yet again in the radio and newspaper responses to this incident is the dislike so many road users seem to have of cyclists and how little they understand the people who ride bikes.

One complaint you often hear from drivers is that cyclists should get off the roads as they are not paying road use fees and often there is even the claim they are not paying taxes. How this computes in the heads of those people making the complaints is beyond me. In a bunch of cyclists everyone (well those over 18) will pay as much tax as others, and most adults cycling also own cars and choose not to use them if they can ride instead, which means we are paying as much for the roads as anyone else and yet are creating far less wear and pollution.

I hope the ride of silence and other events in moderation can continue to raise awareness of cycling as a mode of transport, exercise or fun in Australia.

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Thu, 22 May 2008

Typo Eradication Advancement League - 18:18
This is fantastic, though I almost feel it should not be in /amusing. I have not even read the articles or website yet, just saw the links on Metafilter. The quote on Mefi was enough to get a laugh out of me.

Immediately, Herson spotted an offense - a second - floor awning outside a tarot shop that advertised "Energy Stone's." They climbed the stairs to the second floor and approached a middle-age women with a quizzical expression. "We happened to notice the sign for energy stones," Deck said, "and there happens to be an extra apostrophe. 'Stone's' doesn't need the apostrophe."

"And?" she asked, her voice flat with annoyance.

"And we wanted to bring it to your attention," Deck said.

A look inside the daring lives of Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, vanguards of the Typo Eradication Advancement League.

A Chicago Tribune article and their website are linked. Okay so sure I am not exactly the person who should laugh at typos, however as one of the comments points out, this is not exactly typos they are getting stuck into.

Also I should note it is pretty sad I have just effectively duplicated a Mefi post here.

[/amusing] link

Wed, 21 May 2008

Oooohhh funny - 17:29
So I read Kottke, Dooce, BoingBoing, Metafilter and other stuff, I would normally expect to have heard of long running bloggers that are hell funny and well known. Strangely today on BoingBoing I found a link (that is day 1, also day 2 and day 3 are up) to some guy taking his family to Disney World, and his write up is hilarious. Looking on wikipedia I find out James Lileks has one of the oldest personal blogs still updated and has done all manner of other things.

I read through one or two other bleats and he really is consistently good, there does not appear to be a feed link, but it could be worth the effort to remember to visit sometimes. The description of eating at a place called O'Hungrys due to it being suitably Simpsonesque is a good example. I like it. It comes as no surprise after reading some of his stuff that he is a professional writer and obviosuly enjoys the craft enough to do it in his own time (blogging), do anything enough and you improve in your practice of that craft.

As a side note, I could even use the first day report for another Annual May Zombie Post, what with the Zombie Thumpers he photographed at Disney.

[/amusing] link

Tue, 20 May 2008

Break into song - 16:28
On BoingBoing Cory put up a link to another HOWTO talking about how to do something people in his latest book Little Brother do. In this case it is HOWTO Lie to authority figures. I have not read the entire HOWTO he links to, however the last line quoted amused me greatly.

I like to stay relaxed by singing Irish folk songs to myself. The kind of song that goes on and on and on.

In the context of using this when lying to throw people off the fact you are learning I was mentally thinking how out of place it is (of course I also removed the "myself" from the quote). It is sort of like a Bollywood movie surrounded by figures of authority. Anyone breaking into an Irish folk song spontaneously is either lying or who knows what.

Of course the mention of Irish Folk songs reminds me of the fantastic thread on makinglight a while back pointing out things learnt from British folk ballads. The Doleful ghosts and the rest of it are all hilarious.

[/amusing] link

Mon, 19 May 2008

Little laptops that can - 18:15
With apologies to Walty Piper I must say the power available in modern laptops is staggering. I am getting a new work laptop sometime this week (or maybe next). The laptop I have been using since August 2004 is a lovely Dell X300, a small, light portable laptop that I still find remarkably powerful and useful. Specs are "Intel(R) Pentium(R) M processor 1.40GHz, 640 MB RAM, 60 GB HDD". The laptop I chose to replace this is a Dell XPS M1330 (they come with pink lids, how could I pass that up). This will have a T9300 CPU (Dual core 2.5 GHZ, 6 MB of L2 Cache), 4 GB of RAM, 320 GB HDD, built in dvd burner, a host of other things, a pink lid (I may have already mentioned this, but I am excited about that) and still only weigh around 1.8 KG (thus still be portable).

All this in such a small package is mind boggling to pretty much anyone who has been around computers since 486 or earlier model chips powered most PCs. I doubt I will be getting any Heidelberg Scars now.

[/comp/hardware] link

A a kde/gnome/kernel developer attraction? - 18:07
I wonder if the projects I mention above should try a new avenue to attract more developers to their projects rather than something with only a few thousand lines of code. Point out that you will have much more time for sword fighting if you work on one of these projects. I guess that is one of the problems with new hardware, modern it are so powerful you have hardly picked up your sword and the compile is finished.

Though Anton with his kernel compile speed metric of kernels compiled per second may never have time to get his sword fighting practice. Of course he probably does not need to practice, after all he is Anton Blanchard.

[/various] link

Throwing off those childhood lies - 16:52
I saw a link to a new Paul Graham essay so had a read of it, this is titled Lies We Tell Kids. Like most of his essays it is an interesting read, I like that he mentioned none of his beta readers agreed with all of the content.

I used to wonder somewhat simply about the Santa Claus thing, I thought why are parents not honest about it all. This essay touches on this but fortunately focuses on bigger and more important aspects of the wool society pulls over the eyes of the youth. As for the Santa Claus thing, it may be part of the helplessness Graham discusses, friends with children tell me they love to see their kids eyes light up at all the Christmas stuff and you do not want to see that light disappear from them.

I rang one of my friends who sends his daughter to a religious school, yet both he and his partner are not that way inclined, I was wondering how he dealt with this. For his daughter he had the response that his upbringing was deeply religious and yet he got past it, thus he hopes the same will happen to his daughter.

On the whole question of lies I think one element to keep in mind that for kids at least if they manage to lie it is an impressive intellectual feat (well in the very young). Some research Schneier linked to in February is interesting in that it points out lying is a more advanced skill then telling the truth as you have to conceive of an alternate reality and convincingly sell that reality. Of course as Paul Graham points out almost every adult in a given society is in on the alternate reality being presented to some extent.

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Sun, 18 May 2008

My photos from a rogaine yesterday - 08:54
Yesterday Amanda and I competed in the ACT Champs 8 hour rogaine. Matt was doing the 24 hour (as were other friends such as Dave and Julie, or Mark and Selina). Even with rain or sleet most of the day and bitterly cold temperatures it was a fun day out. I love Tallaganda, though I ride there sometimes, that sometimes is never often and I think it is an underused National Park. Anyway I took some photos and put them up where I usually do.

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Fri, 16 May 2008

An xkcd update - 15:37
Since the last time I put a list of some funny xkcd comics up there have been more. And what do you know, for a geek this is still consistently the funniest web comic available (well I think so).

So I thought I should throw a few of the links to some that have appeared in intervening time, if for no other reason than so I have more easily available ammunition in my on going argument with Jane about what is actually the funniest web comic. My deluded sister seems to think it is Cyanide and Happiness (well hey they have met in real life (Randall and the C&H people (see the side bar comment from Jeph)) when obviously it is xkcd. Anyway some of the newer really funny strips follow. Of course, when reading xkcd remember the alt text is often as funny as the comic.

Give me a pointer can you, Nacho cycles, Messing with pronunciation, sudo Sandwich, more raptor humour, a combined megatokyo and xkcd piss take, Ask Knuth, misusing slang, Pokemon dismissal, a new ip datagram transmission format (like the tanks or orbital vehicles, or avian carriers), dont go into linux internals on a date (the alt comment goes along with the JWZ quote about software design for college guys), I know regular expressions, Kayak future not so much funny but it suits me, more hammer time, Tree houses and raptors on the brain, The problem with wikipedia (oh so true), Random Number, Lisp or perl, RMS Ninjas, Cat Proximity, The difference between scientists and others, Keeping yourself entertained with numbers, LOLcats in real life, Online package tracking Danielle said I was a geek the other day, all geeks understand though, Another zepplin joke, Raptor attacks goto programmer, programmers slacking off, Head out for an interesting life shows one of the lovely things seen in xkcd sometimes, Don't take two nerds shopping, A real big budget action movie for firefly fans, Strange night thoughts (this sets of my amusement at the quirky and strange), Bobby Tables sql injection in a name, plus the alt text is wonderfully amusing, Python, import antigavity, Nerd sniping, Fighting back against annoying music, sane build environment?, real programmers, Someone is wrong on the internet, Summer Glau blog venting, Overzealous wireless autoconfig, Spork genetics and a raptor joke, Making hash browns (sporks again too, read the alt text).

[/amusing] link

Wed, 14 May 2008

Neat saddle bag feature - 11:00
Another thing that broke in my big road crash was my saddle bag, it broke in the same place as the last time however as this was in a crash I did not think they would repair it again. So I ordered myself a new one from T7. Road bikes are often about clean lines and minimalism, thus having a hulking great big bag filled with tools, tubes, clothing, white goods, etc is not the norm (unlike on the mountain bike, or worse the contents of mountain biker's camel backs after a few years (I knew I would find that air compressor if I looked everywhere...)).

Thus this is a small saddle bag, as was the one that broke on my road bike. There is a problem with such a small saddle bag, I carry two spare tubes and a multi tool on the road bike for flats and repairs. This should be enough, and it was always one heck of a squeeze to fit it all inside. However there have been occasions when I have had more than 2 flats while out riding by myself. Last time it happened was a work day, well before any bike shops opened and I was out past Tuggeranong, I got my mother to come over from Gunghalin and pick me up that day. After that experience I taped or somehow attached a small patch kit to the bottom of the saddle bag so I could fix more than two flats. This did not stay attached easily and was in harms way a lot.

So after this long winded story I can get to the really neat feature of the new bag, it has a small zip up compartment underneath, in which there is a water proof cover, however as I see no need to carry a water proof saddle bag cover it is the perfect location to stash a small patch kit with glue, patches, sand paper and wet wipes. What a fantastic addition, it does not increase the size of the bag too much so you can still look like a roadie, yet it gets me out of the more than two flats problem in a neat manner. Good design T7.

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Mon, 12 May 2008

Cheap babies - 15:09
Maybe I need to stop my sense of humour grabbing me by the scruff and ensuring I find things like this amusing, however I could not help myself this time. When I see the Baby on Board signs on the back of many cars the thought always crosses my mind, it would be more fun if you could get "Baby in Boot" signs, sort of like those fake hands poking out of a boot, but far more horrifying for most people to consider. Thus when I saw an ad on Woolworths website saying something about Down go the prices on baby care with a cute little baby in the picture. I could not help but think it would be more amusing if it said something else. (the drop shaddow on my text is a bit dark and slightly off colour, but on the whole the change worked)

Down go the prices on babies

[/various/ilmiwac] link

Replacement Helmet - 13:39

Pink Giro Animas
Pink Giro Animas (Full Size)

For years now I have worn a Giro E2 as my primary bike helmet. When I first started wearing it Bell helmets were rare in Australia (previously I found Bell helmets fit well), after trying out a number of helmets (including cheaper Giro models) the E2 was the only one I found that fit well at the time. Since using it I have also come to love the adjustable height visor and generally found it a really good helmet to wear.

When I broke my helmet last month I sent it off to the Australian Giro importer as they have a crash replacement policy, they will sell you a replacement at 40% of RRP. Once you include postage this would have put my new E2 at around AUD $170 to 180. I had already made use of this policy last year so all seemed fine. However the Giro importers rang back to say they would have no E2 helmets in stock until June sometime. So I started to look around online, a number of friends have bought their helmets that way and it was likely to be cheaper. I could have bought a new E2 for around AUD $160 including postage, however I happened to notice the Giro Animas mountain bike helmet model came in a really good pink flames colour. How could I resist getting more pink race gear, even though it will forever clash with anything red. So I ordered this (a model not available in Australia) and it arrived today.

I and I suspect many other customers love the ability to track packages being shipped, Danielle suggested I had too much time on my hands and am obviously a geek when I mentioned I knew my helmet had arrived in Sydney on Friday morning. However I could not help but look once a day or so and see the progress of the shipment until it arrived here. Anyway though I like my lilac spare helmet, this new helmet is far more comfortable, has an adjustable visor and comes with the added bonus that the flamingos I hide amongst do not even have to be painted lilac.

Date  	Time  	Location  	Event Details
May 12, 2008  	06:58:00 AM  	CANBERRA AUSTRALIA  	Out for delivery
May 12, 2008 	05:56:00 AM 	CANBERRA AUSTRALIA 	Arrival Scan
May 12, 2008 	04:11:00 AM 	SYDNEY AUSTRALIA 	Departure Scan
May 9, 2008 	08:55:00 AM 	SYDNEY AUSTRALIA 	Completed customs clearance process
May 9, 2008 	08:39:00 AM 	SYDNEY AUSTRALIA 	Arrival Scan
May 7, 2008 	11:10:00 AM 	JAMAICA NY UNITED STATES 	Departure Scan
May 7, 2008 	06:11:00 AM 	JAMAICA NY UNITED STATES 	Arrival Scan
May 7, 2008 	01:04:00 AM 	WILMINGTON OH UNITED STATES 	In transit
May 7, 2008 	12:56:00 AM 	WILMINGTON OH UNITED STATES 	Arrival Scan
May 7, 2008 	12:01:00 AM 	WILMINGTON OH UNITED STATES 	Departure Scan
May 6, 2008 	10:52:00 PM 	LOUISVILLE KY UNITED STATES 	Departure Scan
May 6, 2008 	08:05:00 PM 	LOUISVILLE KY UNITED STATES 	Departure Scan
May 6, 2008 	03:45:00 PM 	--- 	Shipment picked up from seller's facility

[/mtb/gear] link

Sun, 11 May 2008

An unflappable trust of our intelligence - 22:13
The title to this post pretty much sums up the over riding experience I have of my relationship with my mother. To put it more obviously, Jane and I have always found mum to be almost unflappable, to the extent that for years Jane made all manner of statements and claims in an attempt to get a rise out of her. However along with this calm demeanour our mum has always trusted Jane and I to have intelligence and think things through ourselves. Even from a young age she would not often outright tell us not to do stupid things, instead she would suggest that in her opinion it was ill considered (or stupid), however she would let us make our own choices and decisions about our behaviour.

I like to think this trust she has put in our intelligence has gone a long way to making Jane and I the people we are. I like to think we are both well adjusted sensible individuals in this modern society, and so much of this is thanks to mum. I love you mum, and look forward to many more years of seeing if Jane or I will ever get a rise out of you :)

[/various] link

The Annual May Zombie post - 21:43
I missed out on this tradition last year, however after a year off from making a zombie related post in May (tough schedule that...) I was sitting reading the Sunday life (sun herald magazine) in the kitchen, listening to best of James, waiting for the cookies I am baking to come out of the oven and I stumble across Zombie News.

It appears Sega has released an English teaching game for some Nintendo platform, English of the Dead. You fight off waves of zombies by spelling out words, of course maybe the zombies are just trying to enlarge their next meals...

On the same page of Sunday life I was entertained to see something about Slacker Yoga, you practice this suspended on some form of webbing just above the ground. The guy who created the concept is described as a "ultra-endurance yogi athlete". As much as I enjoy stretching and yoga style activities I think I am happy to refer to myself as a professional geek, or I guess in sports terms as a mountain biker, cyclist, kayaker or adventure racer.

[/various] link

Another ad, still a shame about the product - 10:47
Last July I commented on the fantastic Carlton Beer ads (linking to those I liked (I do not like the Flash Dance ad)). A few days ago a friend mentioned she had seen a new Carlton ad with some sky diving in it.

Though in my opinion this is no where near as funny as the Canoe ad or the More horses/Metal ad, it has a scale and amusement value on par with the Big Ad, this definitely an ad you should watch. Strangely one of my housemates went skydiving yesterday, it must be a theme for the weekend.

[/amusing] link

Thu, 08 May 2008

Yet Another Cycling Jersey - feeding the addiction - 16:33
google cycling jersey
My very own google cycling jersey (Full Size)
Yes I have a Cycle Jersey Addiction (though the number decreased by one when my CORC jersey was cut off me at the hospital. (though I will probably replace it as I like my current CORC clothing, I still have two of the old style jerseys, fortunately the jersey that was damaged was not one of my irreplaceable jerseys (out of print or small print run))

Anyway as can be seen to the left I have acquired another cycle jersey, one that I suspect will be somewhat rare in Canberra, though to some extent this is obviously a corporate looking jersey, I think it is a rather good design and will be rare enough here I will enjoy wearing it. Thanks Mikal.

[/mtb/gear] link

Move a little thing to python - 13:44
At ANU there is an online (web page) searchable phone database for all ANU phone numbers. A few years ago (July 2002, according to the version control dates) I spent an hour or two writing a command line program in perl that queries this and prints the results. I find it much easier to use a command line application than open a tab in a web browser and find the appropriate page and enter a query when all I want is a simple bit of information back. I suspect most of the staff in this department are similar (Computer Science).

Sometime last year I realised that though the URL I was using on the ANU Internal Web still worked it seemed not to interface with the latest phone database for the uni so it sometimes did not match people I knew worked on campus, other times it contained out of date numbers for people. However there were other important uses for my time so I did not bother looking too closely into updating it when most of the time the old results were still good enough.

Finally this week Bob noticed there were no matches coming back, it seems the old interface no longer connected to the database correctly. Thus I opened the program and had a look at updating it. The old program used LWP to fetch the page with a GET request. The newer interface now on ANU Web works properly with a POST request. Also the result page is more complex to parse than the old one (more complex regular expressions, or maybe a small state machine needed). Still it did not look too hard to spend an hour or so fixing the old perl code up to get the new page and parse it properly for the desired results.

However I hit a snag when for some reason LWP did not fetch the entire result from the web server that was returning the data in chunks. A tcpdump session showed it simply closed the request rather then fetch all the data. At this point I could have debugged the perl code and fixed, after all there is no good reason LWP should not work. However I thought to myself, I have been keen to write python a bit for a while. Bob bought the Mark Lutz Programming Python book for my office and I read through about half of it. So why not rewrite the program in python. See how a perl hacker can transfer to using python at least for a small program.

I am happy to say that the page fetching in python even made perl look complex, the code that did the job (and worked, doing a post request fine) was

   name = ' '.join(sys.argv[1:])
   params = urllib.urlencode({'stype': 'Staff Directory', 'button': 'Search', 'querytext': name})
   f = urllib.urlopen(searchuri, params)
   r =

Cool I thought, this is hell easy, what a fantastic language, I will forever give up my perl ways if everything is this easy and obvious. Obviously this was not going to last, I guess partly because my brain meshes with perl well after so many years, and I am used to perl associative arrays, classes, modules, and regular expressions. Anyway I now had my result from the search and all I had to do was parse it and extract a form that can be printed on a terminal nicely.

First I tried using the python regular expression matching and needed to create some hideous regexp to match the data returned. I also discovered that when a search matches more than about 2 people the data is returned in a different format. Fortunately in this second case the format is really easy to match against with a regexp. Even though the regexp language is similar/identical to perl I was still getting my head around the documentation for all of what I was doing and could not at first construct a regexp that made sense to parse the first sort of data. So I decided to get a HTMLParser and extract the data I wanted without the crap in the tags.

My first attempt was to use the HTMLParser module, however I soon found that this threw an exception when ever I fed it the page from the uni with the matches in it. I tried except: pass in the hopes it would keep on going, however it stopped there and did not process the rest of the page. So I had to change to using the htmllib.HTMLParser which was almost identically easy to use and managed to process the entire page.

Next I wanted to store the data until all matches were found, in perl this would be trivial using a multiple level hash or an array of hashes. Of course the most obvious way to do this in python now I think about it is using a list of dicts. However I had my brain stuck on using a multi level hash. I found this was most difficult in python as you need to initialise dict entries and can not simply assign arbitrarily into them when you need. I needed to use the following construct.

if (D.has_key (key1) == 0):
   (D[key1]) = {}

if ((D[key1]).has_key (key2) == 0):
   D[key1][key2] = ''

s = D[key1][key2]
D[key1][key2] = s + data

Which is obviously a bit more verbose than the perl vernacular of $H{key1}{key2} = $s; I think that dicts do not yet work this easily is a problem, however someone has assured me that future python releases will have dicts that can work as easily as a perl hacker would expect. Anyway rather than next go on to the now obvious that I thought about it list of dicts I was still stuck on the idea of using a pair of keys to access some value, thus a tuple seemed obvious to store the data in a dict still. However this meant that when I extract the values from the dict I can not simply use len on the dict collection as it does not accurately reflect the number of records.

Which of course was the perfect chance to go and learn how to use map and lambda in python, after all I use map in perl often and it really is lovely to have functional capabilities in a language you program in. Using a number as one of the record keys I was then able to have constructs such as (after refactoring to list of dicts I did not need the high = expression and modified the second expression slightly)

high = max (map (lambda k: k[0], D.keys()))
name, phone, address = map (lambda k: D[(i,k)],['Name', 'Phone', 'Address'])

The first to find the number of records from the numeric key and the second to extract the information I was interested in printing. The second especially is often used in perl to extract matches with a [0..N] or range(N) sort of thing when you get things with multiple function calls into a list. Such as the perl expression

my @emails = map { $res->getvalue ($_,0); } (0..$res->ntuples-1);

The final problem I had was when printing the data, in perl and c I can do

printf ("%-20s %-12s %46s", name, phone, address)
However in python the string formatting in print did not justify or cut off arguments as expected. Also string.rjust and string.ljust did not limit the size of strings if they were larger than the field size. So I needed to do the following.

   print "%s %s %s" % (name[0:30].ljust(30), \
                       phone.rjust(12), \

That final concern is not really a problem, and arguably clearer as to what is going on than using printf formatting as a c programmer is used to. Anyway if anyone who works at ANU wants to use this from a command line or anyone wants to see it I have it online for download/viewing. There may be a few places I can clean this up better, and the version online is stripped of comments. I can understand how people like the way python works, the code really is almost like pseudo code in many ways, it does most of the time work the way you expect it to, it is a little hard to wrap my perl oriented brain around, however that does not take long to work around I expect. Also anyone complaining about whitespace formatting in python, IMO you are deranged, it really is not an issue needing to use whitespace for program layout.

[/comp/prog] link

Tue, 06 May 2008

Something different at Stromlo - 22:02
The ARNuts run this evening was from Matt and Amanda's place over to Stromlo and on to the purpose built running track. Matt, Keith and I ran back early after a lap and a half on the new track and I think the others (Mark, Susie, Heather and Selina) headed up to the summit then back through Duffy. For me this was the first time I had been on the running track.

I have been out at Stromlo helping build the mountain bike trails since CORC started work on them and it has been great to see the mountain biking side of Stromlo Forest Park come together. As for the running track, Keith said he thought it was a bit boring, and considering we all tend to prefer trail runs I can see where he is coming from, however I personally thought it was really good. There are a few different possible short cuts to make the loop shorter for different training purposes. On the whole it was much more interesting than running around an oval, especially if you are running by yourself, oval track sessions are generally only fun in groups in my experience.

Anyway I had fun and the soft surface of the track was much nicer on my shoulder and upper arm muscles than the other surfaces we ran on tonight.

[/mtb] link

Fun music - 12:59
I just wandered down to the pickle to grab a coffee, they have recently installed a flat panel tv screen on the wall and keep it playing channel v music videos. (though we offered them a purple pickle peddlers slide show, they did not want it, no idea why <g>). Anyway the song playing when I walked in was the Foo Fighters, Learn To Fly which I think on top of being a catchy tune is a hilarious video clip. Seeing Dave do all the different characters and the others also in there with the humorous somewhat cliched (think Airplane movies) movements and story line. Lots of fun that clip.

This of course reminded me of another highly entertaining Foo Fighters clip, their Footos (Mentos style) Candy that appeared in the Big Me music video was also a highly amusing romp to a good tune. Speaking of the Foo Fighters, Danielle and Ben went to their concert in Sydney on Friday night. Both said it was a very good gig, it sounds like the audience got their moneys worth as they played a two and half hour set. Speaking of amusing video clips, I still wish I could remember the name of the Cruel Sea clip from around 1999 in which Tex Perkins and the rest of them did a fantastic piss take of boy bands, wandering around in white linen suits singing in harmony.

[/leisure/music] link

Sun, 04 May 2008

Hitting the wall like a champion - 21:00
The other week when the Fat Cyclist was talking about preparing for his upcoming 100 Mile desert ride on a single speed commenters suggested one of the things he was sure to do with that plan was bonk (hit the wall) spectacularly. I had a good ol' laugh at Fatty's response to the suggestion he would bonk in one of the comments.

i intend to bonk in a manner most spectacular. see, if you're slow, people just say you're slow. if you bonk so bad that you're barfing and pale and hallucinating and talking to Elvis in Norwegian, people revere you. that's what i'm shooting for.

Most endurance sports people have experienced something akin to this in the past, heck a recent one I recall happening to Crash was a rather spectacular lack of energy almost causing him to call for a lift home with in 1 KM of his house. I guess I should ask him if Elvis can speak Scandinavian tounges when I talk with him next.

Interestingly Fatty got through his ride easier than ever before it seems.

Considering I put this in my mtb category I guess I should at least mention what I am up to. As I said previously I am running again, this week past I have been using my right hand and arm on the handle bars again while riding, so I picked up my road bike from the shop yesterday and did some riding on it. I can once more ride on the road, I am still a little while away from mountain biking due to the need to be able to move quickly and lift the front of the bike smoothly. Also yesterday Danielle and I headed out in Matilda to see if I was at all able to paddle yet. The good news is I can once more paddle, not fast and it will definitely be a while before I can do so at a competitive pace and not have my muscles tire, however I am once more able to do most of the sports in which I participate. Good news that.

[/mtb] link

Another good comic adaptation - 20:32
Last night I went to see the movie Iron Man with a friend. I am somewhat a comics fan and in the past collected some DC titles, hence I loved the movie Batman Begins as they stuck closely to the original material and had characters that mostly worked extremely well in that context (though I still have to admit Stardust is my favourite movie in recent years) (probably closely followed by Amelie, though I do not know if I can count that as recent any more, 7 years ago). Enough with the tangents, I am attempting to point out I like comics and yet know very little about any Marvel titles. (which is why I think Batman Begins is the best super hero movie filmed yet, simply because I discount or ignore Spiderman 1 or X-Men 1 as I know very little about the source material)

I had thought the Iron Man movie was produced as part of the new independant Marvel Studios setup, however reading the appropriate wikipedia page and the Iron Man page linked at the top I learnt this was not the case. Though it is interesting to see the discussion about script writing and letting the action flow around a credible story "There was much improvisation in dialogue scenes, because the script was not done when filming began (the filmmakers had focused on the story making sense and planning the action)." Which I think came through well. The movie as a whole was entertaining, appropriate humour, showed a sense of how horrible war is and was a good action flick. I liked it.

[/leisure/screen] link

Thu, 01 May 2008

People who really get the strange humour - 23:15
So I have mentioned from time to time how funny Fafblog can be. Today I have once more been reminded why we need posts from Fafnir in the world. Though I try to come up with strange stuff at times I can never seem to do it with such polish and style and such a well thought out voice as Faf. Sure there is some political bent to Fafblog, however at times like today there is no obvious hint of political content and still the humour is there. On that note I am out of time for today.

[/amusing] link

Another Ubuntu annoyance - 22:03
I was bitten once more today by Ubuntu forcing the use of UUIDs for disk labels (in grub and other places). We have a lot of systems at work (student labs) where we update or synchronise them with rsync rather than some install mechanism such as cfengine and fai. Thus if a grub menu.lst or an fstab is copied over and not automatically modified a machine will not boot if it uses uuid for a disk label.

Unfortunately in Ubuntu there is no way to disable this in grub, the uuid change is hard coded into update-grub in /usr/sbin. At least in Debian it is still optional. Anyway I had forgotten to modify update-grub to remove the uuid stuff and had installed a new kernel on a student server, then reboot the machine and hey presto it did not come back online.

If it were not for the need to run this server on Ubuntu to be similar to the lab image and easy environment for a student to duplicate at home it would be so much easier to run Debian on it again. Of course to compound the issue this was a server I had to wait until after normal hours to take offline so I was messing around with after 7pm.

[/comp/linux] link

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