Four things make a post

Icky story: Near the beginning of February, some automated system broke into my gmail account and sent spam to a small set of people in my address-book. Which it could do, because my stoopid password was only seven characters and contained a dictionary word. Not good! Fortunately, one of the recipients was my other email account, so I saw it almost immediately, and I was able to log in and immediately change my password. Unfortunately, two recipients were mailing-lists, which was fairly embarrassing. The email was your standard spam, links to some russian pill site.

Story over? I had a new password (MUCH stronger- a full sentence, with punctuation...) and more info about how gmail protects account-owners. NOT QUITE STORY OVER. This Saturday, I got more spam "From" my gmail account. As did some select members of my address book, including the same two mailing lists. A quick check of gmail proved to me that it wasn't actually coming from me; they were merely spoofing it, using an open relay (via a German ISP, sending to hotmail, which accepted the sender).

So, by this point, I set my own email to "moderated" on one mailing list, as did the manager of the other list, and I sent around apologies, and damned if the jokers didn't try to resend more spam to the mailing lists.

And (after submitting the spammer info to, now I wait; either they will keep trying, or try with different parts of my mailing list, or I'll decide to bite the bullet and tell everyone to block mail from 'dada.da at gmail', or I'll just sit here and be embarrassed about getting my account cracked because I wanted a convenient password instead of a nice long password. (Yes, sometimes my purpose in life is to be an object-lesson for others. That's mostly OK, even though I was pretty grumpy about this on the weekend.)


Tasty story: My Saturday breakfast was leftover pancakes that melted_snowball made a friend for lunch the day before. Lunch was amazing brioche french-toast made by halfwitted. Dinner was chili with ground turkey, made by my sweetie. Sunday breakfast was a bagel made by d. the day before (he's getting quite good at bagels! I will pay close attention with the next batch, because I want to learn these! (Requires being comfortable with using lye! DANGER! But MMMM that crust.)) Sunday afternoon snack was a cannoli from a batch made by melted_snowball and the_infamous_j. Aaaand dinner was pad thai, also made by d., with a leftover cannoli for desert. All of this made me less grumpy! (thanks guys!)


Good things come by courier: My macbook pro has gotten progressively creakier over the last few years. There is a problem with its graphics; this particular graphics card is apparently prone to a data-corruption that somehow corrupts the graphics memory, so I get weird visual artifacts on the screen: horizontal bands of background showing through windows; occasional triangles of warped screen... Weird stuff. I've gotten accustomed to it, though lately it's been getting worse- I can barely open iPhoto without it crashing. At one point I tried resetting everything and reloading my configs, but that didn't help; apparently a complete reinitialization may fix it, but I decided last summer when Apple redid their Macbook Pro that I'd wait until this year to replace it, since the hardware is now 5 years old. And lo, they released their update last week, instead of the anticipated April or May. So, for the first time, I ordered a computer on its first day of sale, and I have a fancy new machine winging its way to me. 5 , no 10 models newer than my early-2006 laptop, according to wikipedia. Same weight, slightly wider screen, 130% pixel-density, a gazillion times faster, and hopefully equipped to last another five years.


And some things go by Air Canada: Last weekend (Family Day weekend, here in Canada) was amazing. I was in North Carolina, for the mid-winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. I don't feel equipped to describe it, other than being happy that I got to hang out with so many awesome people. It was one intensely packed four-day weekend.

I'm a lucky guy, ya know?

And that's why my gym shorts smell like smoked salmon

Yesterday, I woke up a bit early, determined that Snowpocalypse had not closed our university, got ready for work and spent some time with d., who was leaving for a conference [1], hiked through the snow to the nearest express bus, with a quick detour to pick up a chunk of smoked salmon for my breakfast bagels, just caught the bus, and made it to work in excellent time.

At which point I discovered that the salmon, which I had already noticed smelling awesome, also transferred some of that awesome smell to my gloves and the coat-pocket I had briefly put the salmon bag into.

Which happened to also contain my gym shorts, because on Wednesday I had a physio appointment and she wanted me to wear shorts.

And after work, I bussed downtown to the Art Gallery, which was hosting a Groundhog Day party [2], and in answering email from someone suggesting I pack earplugs for Thursday night's concert, I was pleased to reply that I did have earplugs on me; in fact they were in the pocket containing the smoked salmon, not the pocket with my gym shorts (as I had put the salmon in the other pocket, while I was putting on my gloves).

[1] in Florida, and I'm happy he made it, because it would be awful and ironic to miss a February trip to Florida because of a snowstorm. [3]

[2] Have you ever gone to a Groundhog Day party? Me neither, figured I would check it out. Plus, catered reception, and free visit to the art gallery, which I hadn't visited in a few years.

[3] even a work trip.

20 year appliances

We're replacing two of the last original appliances in the house ("original" in the sense they were here when we moved in.)

The water-softener is failing; it is 20+ years old, according to the repair guy. It's being replaced on Monday. This was the cause of what we thought was a problem with the dishwasher: no matter how much or little soap we used, there was a film left on the dishes. Well, in fact, the water-softener hadn't been regenerating or using ANY salt in possibly six months.

The garage-door opener is failing- it doesn't recognize the top or bottom limits, so it always reverses at the top and bottom of its cycle. It, too, is 20+ years old: hard to say how old, but that's when Stanley got out of the Garage Door Business. Both the opener and the door are in sad shape. At the top of the cycle, the opener is trying to commit hari-kari as the L-bar rams into the front cover for the motor-assembly. There are knobs, which are supposed to adjust the limits, and I took off the chain to see how far it would naturally go before stopping, but neither knob seems to do anything. the_infamous_j and I will be taking a look at it again this afternoon; and probably then we're going to at least replace the opener.

Sort of a shame to me that both replacements will probably last less than 20 years. Butwhatchagonnado.
18 musicians

Concert review: Battle of the Bands, Pendrecki String Quartet vs. Ebony Tower Trio, NUMUS


I wasn't going to bother reviewing this, but in part I wanted to record that I don't always like the concerts I go to...

We went to see Pendrecki String Quartet sharing a concert with "Ebony Tower Trio", a jazz group including Glen Buhr, the new director of NUMUS. d. and I conclude that Buhr is much more interested in playing his own pieces than Jesse Stewart was, which is a shame; we used to like NUMUS concerts. This opened and closed with pieces of Buhr's composition, as well as the next-to-closing piece.

Much of the audience seemed to like them, though the house (the old King Street Theatre) was barely half full.

The second piece was a setting of Poe's "The Raven" to string quartet, read by the trio's singer, who made really odd gestures throughout. It was preceded by 15 or so minutes of exposition by the composer, who nearly went line-by-line through the piece, having the players demonstrate the musical phrasing. (For goodness sakes- this isn't a workshop!) She said "I don't know what I should say about this part, but..." and went on to do so, for minutes.

There was a Beethoven piece, Grosse Fugue, which was described as being excised from his Quartet No. 13 in B♭ major upon its premiere, when the audience applauded the preceding movements but not the conclusion. I can see why. It seemed as if it were strung together from the bits and pieces of a dozen other fugues. I was really amused for the first five minutes. And it went from "OK, he's playing with us" to "why is this still going?" I'm intrigued that wikipedia says it's considered among Beethoven's greatest achievements. Maybe it was that we were already coloured by the first pieces. It was technically very good, as far as I could tell.

And there's no law I need to like all Beethoven.


And the first half concluded with an instrumental Radiohead piece, "Like Spinning Plates." Which I sort of liked, but not as much as the studio version.

The second half started with Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues, done by the trio. The vandals took the handles, alright. More odd gestures and expressions from the lead singer.

The string quartet played one piece I really liked: String Quartet by Erkki-Swen Tüür, a modern Estonian composer who was apparently a popular Estonian rock-star in the 80s.

And, after the closing Glen Buhr pieces, they did a collective encore with Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne", which was, um, under-rehearsed.


Things that are making me happy right now

I just got a package in the mail, from Cat and Girl. I am now the owner of the original sketch/ink artwork for Birds of America and this makes me really happy.

Meet the Robinsons is a really charming science-fiction movie, sort of a cross between "Up," "Back to the Future," and "The Addams Family." I now have the DVD, and it stands up to a 2nd viewing, which I wasn't sure of since I first saw it on a tiny airplane seat-back screen with crappy headphones. But yeah. Recommended.

I'm busy, and that feels good, and not like burnout.

Yesterday I co-led a visioning session in the Quaker Meeting, and we accomplished a lot in 90 minutes. The theme was the needs of each of us and all of us together; what should we focus our attentions on in the Meeting. The conversation included a number of areas we've needed to talk about more, if we're going to be a strong community. I see this as a very good step. It was draining but also energizing. Ya know?

Today at work, I had three items on my plate I really wanted to get done, and I did. And then I went to the gym, which was a much better use of that 45 minutes than staying at work.

And then dan and I went home for dinner, and dan dropped me off on his way to chorus rehearsal, and I did an evening of Quaker work with 6 people I like a lot. 90 minutes later, I was very much ready to come home again, but not feeling burned out or stressed. Even though I have 9 new things on my to-do list.

In which I complain about the cold in Florida

Today was a pretty great day, weather notwithstanding.  (Seriously: cold snap in Florida. We got here on the 24th; It dropped 20 degrees F on Christmas day. It's going up 20 degrees tomorrow, just in time for us to leave.)

We spent three nights in Tom's very comfy guest-house in Tampa, hung out with him and had some really great food [1] and drink [2] and basically had a laid-back Christmas.

Yesterday, he drove us down to Sarasota, to our beach-front hotel, where we're spending two nights.  Two gorgeous sunsets in a row. Wonderful white sand beach. Mid-40s temperature. 

No kidding, it's going to be upper 70s Thursday and Friday. OK, I'm done complaining about the weather. (Except that: dan notes that the nightly lows aren't really different from home right now. Sigh. OK, now I'm really done).

Today we had breakfast at a Cafe recommended by Tom, packed with locals as well as tourists; I watched the  waitress flirting with a regular as I tried to finish my home-fries. Then we caught a bus downtown to Sarasota; and decided to press onward to the  Barnum and Bailey Museum, which was well recommended.  

Sarasota used to be the wintering grounds for the Barnums, on a 28-acre homestead. Huge museum. There's a building just for the 1:30 scale model circus (covering some 2,000 square feet); also a building for life-size ephemera including Barnum's custom Pullman railcar (very pretty), and a truck/cannon for a Human Cannonball act; which might be the coolest thing we saw. There was the Barnum museum, which includes some great Renaissance works, and also a sculpture-garden with a replica bronze David (which just looked out of place).  There were gardens with some great Banyan trees; There was also Barnum's house, which was so overwhelmingly big we didn't even go into it.

Back to the hotel for naps and relaxing; dinner was in Sarasota at a surprisingly cheap and tasty tex-mex restaurant. Then we wandered and got desert at a busy bar/cafe, where dan had a tart and I got a chocolate/nut meringue that made me happy.

Just now we took a taxi from downtown Sarasota back to Lido Key. The driver sounded like your basic laid-back Floridian; he was chilling with Voyage of the Dawn Treader when we showed up, and told us the story of how he inherited his ex's copy of the Narnia series and Bun-Bun the Rabbit. 

Tomorrow, we have until mid-afternoon before we have to catch our flight from Sarasota airport. I'm curious how tiny this airport will be... and I'm looking forward to the rest of my vacation, at home, through the next week...

This, my friends, does not suck.

[1] Food: SideBerns restaurant; 7-course tasting menu. Yum. Details to follow, I hope, when I get around to looking at my photo of the menu.  Favorite course: the deconstructed Creme Brûlée, based around a cold creamy layer that definitely wasn't ice-cream, and definitely wasn't Creme Brûlée.  Also: dan cooked us a whole chicken and cranberry sauce and Tom grilled asparagus. Also: tapas at a local Spanish restaurant, which was just a little too much heavy stuff, but we persevered!

[2] Drink: this was a good holiday to not be driving.  Cocktails and wine-pairings at SideBerns, followed by a chaser of Pine Liquour, tasting amazingly like a Christmas tree in a glass... We had egg-nog and wine at his place for Christmas day dinner; then a big pitcher of sangria at the tapas place. We've kept the drinking more low-key in Sarasota. :)

Snuggies for Trees

melted_snowball, on reporting that Tampa is under windchill warning because it will feel like 35ºF, says he thinks this is cute.

I say, what is *really* cute, is all the workers I imagine out there rushing to put Snuggies™ on the fruit trees.

On reflection, wouldn't that make an amazing Christo-like art piece? A field of trees, each with a leopard- or zebra-patterned Snuggie™ flapping in the breeze?

Googling the subject tells me of course the Japanese already thought of it, at least with straw wraps and windblocks.

One of the photos on that page, the entirely wrapped trees, look suspiciously like some of the Chihuly sculptures that dan, Tom, and I saw this afternoon in St. Pete.

On an airplane

December 24, 2pm: Somewhere over northern Florida-

dan and I on our way for three days in Tampa with our friend Tom, then two in Sarasota. As usual, the University is closed between Christmas and New Years, so we're taking the time for vacation. Somewhere warm(ish): Tampa temperatures are mid-teens Celsius (60ish F) for the next few days, but it's due to go down to freezing overnight on Saturday through Wednesday. Ah well; It will be warmish.

I just watched an episode from Treme, season one, which I've been hoping to check out for a while. It's gritty and depressing, and makes me want to visit New Orleans. Some other vacation.

It's been a while since I've had energy for writing. I might say I've been too busy living life, to record it; or I might say I've felt too boring to write. It sort of feels like both.

I'm curious if this week will find me less busy and/or less boring-feeling.

It's... only Wednesday?

The week so far has been fairly full.

Today I went for an all-day Emergency First Aid training. I'm curious how many of my friends are CPR trained? Either current, or lapsed? (I'd also be curious how many of you have ever used it? I know at least two of my friends have. What's that like for you?)

My training was led by an ex-US Marine, ex-firefighter, with just about as much authority on the subject as I might hope for. It was a really intense day. Hopefully I'll sleep OK tonight; I've been to the gym and had a strong drink, which I think has helped calm my mind down. :)

I wonder how the day's tone would be different with, dunno, a more "boring" instructor. He shared a lot of his macabre sense of humor. One story; he was working as an EMT in Atlanta at the Braves stadium for a big home game. They got the call about a man who collapsed; they got within a few hundred yards and started humping their equipment through the press of crowds, many clustered around the guy who was down. As they got there, they discovered two "good ol' boys" (as he called them) running a jumper-cable from their big truck, engine racing, just about to make contact with the old guy on the ground. Fortunately, they got there just in time; turns out he fainted from the heat, his heart was beating fine, though it wouldn't have if the two dudes had worked faster!

A few things I learned:

1) if someone feels faint, *don't* tell them to put their head between their knees, unless you're holding on to the back of their shirt. If they go unconscious, their head will hit the ground and then they might have spine/head trauma to deal with as well. According to Ian, slouching with head back is perfectly fine.

2) AED's, Automated External Defibrillators, are some really cool technology. The modern ones are designed so anybody can use them (though you can get going a bit faster if you're trained). They will talk to the user, flashing lights to tell them what to connect to the patient and where. They will detect a weak heartbeat and if necessary, send the shock to try and restart their pulse; but if they don't detect any pulse, they will guide the user through CPR steps, including sounding out the beat for chest-compressions.

3) The "First Aid Recovery Position" is the same as it was when I learned it at Cornell when I volunteered at Slope Day, a booze-fest on the last day of classes. Preventing someone from choking on their own vomit is timeless.

On that classy note, what about yesterday?...

Yesterday was the annual campus conference. I gave a talk, on one cross-campus collaboration project I'm involved with. It went ok; the best part was finishing and having lots of leftover time for conversations with people. I saw good talks and so-so talks, and ended on a great note with some students very energetically talking through some mobile dev projects they are working on in spare time. They made me, personally, feel completely not-cutting-edge, but that's fine. Sometimes other people get to be the sharpest knives in the drawer.

After work, I had a fairly difficult phone-call to make relating to some stuff that happened after Quaker Meeting on Sunday, but you know what? It was fine; and it was entirely the right thing to do, and I felt supported by a bunch of people in the Meeting in the process.

Just beforehand, I shoveled snow for the first time this year, and a bunny came over from a few lawns over and sat just across the street, sort of under a bush, watching me the entire time. It was still keeping watch when I went inside. And it helped me stay grounded as I went inside to make that phone-call.

And in the evening, dan took me out for all-you-can-eat tapas, using the thank-you gift-certificate from the talk that he gave yesterday, to a bunch of high-schoolers. (Next year? I think the school will try and avoid having a CS conference for some hundred students on the very same day that most of the technical staff are at their own conference. The combination went OK, but that took a lot of work from lots of dedicated people!)

Bike Log

Monday, I rolled over 600km on the ride home from work. Which was in the dark, and actually not that great weather. Anyway, the odometer said 600km.

So, I think I'm done for the season.
Making 1743km since March.