Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Things on my desk:
  • Giant Tim Horton's Mug
  • Coffee Mug from this morning
  • Apple water bottle
  • Paper cup from the new coffee machine

if a martian landed in this office he'd probably think my primary duty was consumption of liqueds.


By al - 3:31 p.m. | (3) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon

I finally got a Ubuntu 7.10 CD I burned to verify, using a brand new CD instead of scrounging for unused ones at the bottoms of boxes really is a better way to go if you want reliable recordable media. Before I took it to my parents' house to upgrade my old laptop on which I installed Ubuntu 7.04 before letting them use it, I decided to pop it into my iMac on a lark to see what would happen. I didn't even expect the thing to be recognized as a bootable media but lo and behold..

Ubuntu on iMac

The boot sequence was lasting an excruciatingly long time, and I figured it had choked, but wouldn't you know it..

Ubuntu on iMac

I still hate this whole brownish-orange theme that the Ubuntu people have going on, but props to them for at least being the one organization not adopting pastal blue as their colour scheme of choice. I just wish it was a colour set that didn't bring back memories of an evening mixing too much Guinness with chicken korma.

The above pictures of my messy desk popped right up on the screen when I plugged the camera into the iMac's USB 2 port. The photo management program loaded so fast I thought it was a USB error before the pictures started appearing. I would have uploaded them straight to Flickr from there but the system didn't detect my Airport wireless card. Too bad. Also I didn't really investigate it but I wasn't seeing any fancy 3D Compiz Fusion effects among the icons or the windows on the desktop, so I assume that it wasn't detecting the Radeon graphics card buried inside m iMac somewhere. (Sorry PC users, those of us who don't pay more for graphics cards than for XBoxes don't tend to remember the exact model they have installed at all times.)

But I was pretty happy that the thing just booted. It's not like I was going to install it or anything, especially since my name is already on the Little Mac Shoppe's handy dandy Leopard list, and even in my 'gotta try every new Linux distro there is' days of the late 90s / early 2000s I didn't do 2 OS installs in 4 days. It's just as well, too, since booting back into OS X and getting a fully-functional desktop took less time than any single bootup phase on a fresh Ubuntu install. The Linux people really need to look into concurrent booting. It does wonders.

So that little adventure concluded, I moseyed on over to the parents' place and began the upgrade fun. Except, that upgrading was not an obviously easy thing to do. I put the CD in and it wanted to guide me through wiping out the whole hard drive. This was the default option. BAD THING.

Instead I had to manually edit the partition tables.. and it wouldn't let me do things the intuitive way, instead I got to hold the answer to "what's 16007 - 1024" in my head so I had enough partition space left to make properly-sized a swap partition. The long-standing user-friendly Linux problem that as soon as you stumble off the easy default path they laid out for you you're back in the jungle is rearing its head again. But after that it just nicely went about its business copying itself onto the partition I laid out for it.. And the neatest thing about installing from a Live CD was that I was able to surf the web while the new OS was installing itself. Now, I know I'll be too giddy watching the shiny bubbly progress bar go on its merry way while I spend my Friday evening installing Leopard to think 'gee I wonder if there's a new Slashdot post up yet?' it's still damn impressive that Ubuntu lets you do this, point for Ubuntu.

Now, after rebooting is where I notice the fatal mistake I made. Back when I installed Feisty on the Laptop, it very helpfully asked if I wanted to migrate the user profiles and documents folders from the Windows XP partition into Ubuntu. This worked great, and al lthe documents and usernames were in Ubuntu just as they appeared in Windows. Now, here's where the fatal mistake comes in: I didn't realize that instead of just pointing to the Documents folder on the Windows partition, it just copied the whole thing over. SO when I backed up the Evolution e-mail folder to what I thought was the documents folder on the Windows partition that I was going to leave alone, I was actually just copying it to the NEW documents folder on the Linux partition that I was about to obliterate. BAD BAD BAD THING. MINUS MANY POINTS FOR UBUNTU. I know I should have been more diligent and backed it up to an external drive, but I left that at home, and I was just so taken with Ubuntu's otherwise quite intuitive nature that I figured it was intuiting the same mental path I was, that why would you copy a users' documents when you can point to their old documents folder, and then he can have his most up-to-date changes in his Windows partition if he boots back into Windows and wants to do some work. Sadly, this wasn't the case, and a few weeks' worth of work and e-mails are now gone forever.

Fortunately it wasn't too bad in any real sense, since a lot of the e-mails were still sitting on the ISP's servers, but I am still bitter that Ubuntu pulled a rather obnoxious user lock-in move like that - effectively making work you do in Ubuntu invisible to Windows, at least for users who don't know how mount points work - supposedly Ubuntu's intended audience.

Anyway, all that said, the fact that in 40 minutes I was sitting in front of a fully-functional operating system that was more than adequately secured against viruses and spyware, had perfectly working installs of OpenOffice, FireFox and Evolution, and which didn't require a single driver CD for a camera or scanner or printer, is absolutely amazing. If it weren't for the partition thing then my parents certainly could have swung the Ubuntu install. There's no way I'd say the same leaving them with a Windows XP CD and a pile of driver discs and the final "oh, I hope you burned your network card driver to a CD before your system crashed" farewell.

Windows is very nearly completely irrelevant to my computing universe. And Ubuntu is starting to play as big a role in this as OS X is.

I still hate their colour scheme, though.

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By al - 9:17 p.m. | (5) comments | Post a Comment

Handy-dandy Business Writing Pointer of the Day

Anytime you think to use the word "Action" as a verb, as in "I'll action this item immediately" you can replace it with "act on", and save yourself a letter while preserving our beloved English language from turning into a pidgin cesspool quite so quickly.

Don't Verb Nouns!TM


By al - 10:18 a.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kim Barlow Saturday Oct 20 @ Baba's

Wow, am I ever glad I still check the front page of, on a whim I was wondering what to do tonight and did a double take when I saw that Kim Barlow was playing here.

I first heard her music when CBC Radio's Morning Edition had her on back in about 2001, interviewing her about living in the Yukon and how she writes her music. They played her song "Goodbye to a Boy" and it was so upbeat and humourous and witty and the music was uniquely melodic, her skilled musicianship was pretty obvious but understated - she uses a banjo as a proper country folk/music instrument, not an indie rock cliché. Her lyrics were playful and personal, the kind that make you feel like you're really able to put yourself in the shoes of the person singing them. As soon as the song ended I immediately went online and searched for how to order her CD. I ended up getting her first 2 CDs, Huminah and Gingerbread, directly from Caribou Records. When they arrived there was a hand-written note thanking me for my order. It was very interesting how ordering something online actually ended up being a more personal experience than just going into a store and buying something.

Anyway, I know this is short notice, and that only about 5 or 6 people even read this site, but if you are in Charlottetown tonight you should absolutely try and make it to the show at Baba's tonight. Also Tim Vesely formerly of the Rheostatics will be doing a set and local singer Nikkie will start things off. I'll be parked in my usual music appreciation seat probably looking like I don't want to talk to anyone just because I'm listening intently. This isn't true, please say hello :)

Update: The show was a good one, but Kim Barlow's set was a little disappointingly short. It was very cool how Great Aunt Ida, Tim and Kim all changed instruments around and played on each others' sets. I bought her new CD, Champ but haven't gotten a chance to listen to it yet. There are only a handful of singers/bands that I own more than 2 albums by, and she's now one of them.

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By al - 6:03 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bogart is Famous

My roommate's cat, Bogart, is in the latest PEI Humane Society newsletter, so I figured I'd let him show off a bit.

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By al - 4:20 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Originally uploaded by Alejandro the Great.

So apparently someone likes my conert photos, since this picture that I took at Shoreline 2005 has made it onto the Wikipedia page for Slowcoaster as of Tuesday Oct 16th 2007.

I think that's pretty sweet, especially since I only ever took pictures to give myself a visual memory of a concert that I wouldn't normally have had. Anyway, we'll see how long this stays up.

I just think it's neat.


By al - 11:01 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

More Michael Hlinka Drivel on My Radio

A good motivation for me to get to work early is to avoid hearing this radio columnist's voice even for a second.

Yesterday's bit of warmed-over Reaganomics was about how we should all stop complaining that we don't get enough vacation time. He starts with the old saw about how if you really loved your job it wouldn't feel like work. Well, I like my job as much as any other, but I like sleeping in and travelling and going to the beach a hell of a lot more. And people with families like to spend time with them, if they're good parents, anyway. Sorry, sir, but cutesy clichés are not getting this week's column off to a good start. And it gets worse.

Hlinka's points:

- The US has the lowest number of vacation days but the highest "standard of living". He doesn't say where this rating comes from or what it even measures. I suspect he's making use of the misleading way extremes on the high-end skew up "average" numbers to make the 'average' person feel like they're better off than they are. Sure the US's GDP per capita is higher than other countries', but how much of that is actually allocated to your particular capita? Not as much as an 'average' would seem to indicate.

But then, the faint hope that he might say something sensible..

- European countries, which have the most vacation days for workers, have a higher quality of life than the United States, but says this is not related to vacation time - does not explain why. At all. It's just a hand-waving 'please ignore this inconvenient fact' kind of dismissal.

He concludes this tax-payer funded waste of my time by saying that success is not given by government, it's something you go and get for yourself. But you don't get it by letting your boss pressure you into giving up your family's trip so he can make his bogus time estimates. That makes you a slave. On the other hand, if I have 5 weeks of paid vacation in a year, I might use that time to get the gears moving on a small business I might want to start. That's real freedom and opportunity, wringing every waking moment out of your workers is not.

Christ, what an asshole.

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By al - 9:55 a.m. | (3) comments | Post a Comment

Rockin' the 8-Bit Tie

Rockin' the 8-Bit Tie
Originally uploaded by Alejandro the Great.

Rockin' the 8-Bit Tie


By al - 8:26 a.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thinking About Baseball

I'm still sort of adrift in the baseball world, ever since the Expos were decimated and eventually moved to Washington I've had no team to call my own. But this Summer I started watching a few Braves games on TBS, just because it was more interesting than anything else on TV on a given night. And I am finding that I still enjoy baseball a lot even when I'm not emotionally invested in a single team.

It's the same right now as I'm sitting here back watching the Cleveland Indians leading the Boston Red Sox 4-2 in the 8th inning of tonight's game. Instead I seem to be, at the gut-level, cheering against whoever is batting at the time. I have always appreciated good fielding, and an exceptionally good pitcher would become the complete hilight of any team or series. A hit feels like the pitcher lost the duel, and since I'm watching the pitcher do his work all game, from his perspective, facing the batter, I seem to identify with him more than with the batter. A no-hitter would be much more exciting for me to watch than a blowout.

Watching Matsuzaka pitch with his huge repertoire of pitches he can throw is like watching a hero face down a series of challengers. (Though I'd still rather see Cleveland win and go on to the World Series, a good pitcher is my favourite part of the game.)

This reminds me of the old question I used to ponder in times past: If you could build robots and teach them to play perfect baseball, who would have the advantage, the pitcher or the batter? My guess would be the batter, where any robot that could accurately judge if a pitch was a ball or a strike should be perfectly capable of hitting the ball in such a way as to get a hit, if not a home run. So this makes the position of pitcher a little more daunting and more of a heroic fight against the inevitability that the batter will eventually learn how to hit whatever you throw at him. You have to fight the edge of physics to get a certain rotation or change in speed, and all he has to do is swing the club at the right time to beat you.

Of course there are other nights where I would be writing a post romanticizing the relationship between baserunners and coaches and the cat and mouse game of trying to steal a base, but tonight I'm particularly admiring good defence.

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By al - 11:05 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, October 12, 2007

Eagle vs. Shark

It was nice to get out and do something that's been an off-and-on comfort for me since I've moved back to Charlottetown. I went to City Cinema by myself, got my coffee and dark chocolate Zero bar, and took up my obligatory spot in the front row on the right to see a movie I'm sure most people would resent me for getting them to come with me to see.

Eagle vs. Shark on Wikipedia: Link. Coles Notes version of the plot is that Lily, an awkward and whimsical fast food employee has a crush on a customer who comes in at the same time every day and gets the same thing, and is just as short and unconversational with her as every other customer. But she paints all sorts of qualities onto him to the point that she can seem to put up with any amount of rudeness and selfish behaviour as they meet at a dress-up party and start a relationship. She then follows him to his home town and meets his strange family as he prepares to get revenge on a school bully using his martial arts skills.

This film is taking an analogous place in my mind to the film Napoleon Dynamite as the British version of The Office has to the American version. Where Michael Scott is as socially myopic as David Brent, him and Napoleon Dynamite are still portrayed as sympathetic characters whom you want things to turn out well for in the end. But in this film Jarrod is the worst kind of dork. Not a 'nerd', because as Milhouse put so well, "nerds are smart". The actor, Jemaine Clement, captures the petulant, self-absorbed, pathologically lying and completely un-empathetic social outcast that doesn't have the redeeming qualities of the stereotypical late-blooming hard-working geek.

Something else the film hits on very acutely is the unaspirant service industry class that many twenty-somethings fall into, where their social eccentricities are tolerated much more than in the corporate world, and who get by at their jobs in video game stores and fast food restaurants and come home to try and make a go at finding a life outside of work, but the lack of focus that hampers their working life leaves them floundering at hobbies like Lilly's songwriting and Jarrod's bizarre obsessions with candle-making and revenge. You see similar stories of people around here in call centres and other entry-level jobs. Not the traditional working class who could make a go at getting a decent manufacturing job and eventually support a family and take up a respected role in society. This emerging generation has no pre-set plan laid out for them. And I think the film captures the essence of young people facing a life in a world that doesn't seem to have anything to offer them eerily well.

The important progression of the story has Jarrod getting perpetually colder to Lilly to try and push her away before she rejects him, but she stubbornly keeps on believing that there's someone worth being with inside there. And what makes this movie distinct from what you'd expect from an American movie is the fact that there may in fact not be a likeable person under there. The viewer spends the whole film wishing the prick would just go away and that the poor girl would find someone who was nicer to her. It does end on a nice note, though, so don't let me leave you with the impression that this movie wasn't enjoyable, it was. But in the most awkward way of getting around to it as I can imagine.

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By al - 6:14 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, October 01, 2007

Remember that commercial...

OK, so I'm coming to the realization that some of my most cherished memories as a kid were watching commercials on TV. Like, the thrill of seeing a toy advertized, and then actually getting that Starcom or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.. that was a real tangible pleasure. (If anyone else remembers Starcom toys I'll be seriously impressed. They were the ones that had space ships with a moving part gadget that used magnets, so you didn't need batteries. Greatest thing ever.)

Anyway this morning I suddenly got a song in my head, it was kind of a chant with no words at all.. just "Oh way oh way oh way oh waaayy oh oh .. " and I was thinking it had somehting to do with a jungle setting. Then I was picturing a bottle of some sort, swinging on a vine. OK, this has to be from an ad for something, and yep, I remembered it was an ad for Cool Mint Listerine. But since the song it used didn't have lyrics, I was afraid I'd never be able to find it. And in this age of Google and the Youtubes, it is an absolute requirement that any whim or thought MUST be satisfied, no matter how ridiculous. Fortunately a google search for "listerine commerical song" brought me to the exact right answer, "Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora.

Man the 80s were an exciting time for music. You could be bombastic and not be embarrassed about it.

Also, an interesting thing about Listerine. Scope came in a rounded bottle, but Listerine came in a bottle that has an indent in the middle. Apparently this is suppsed to make it look like a barbell, to give the appearance of toughness, while Scope was meant to appeal to people who found Listerine too harsh, so that was why Listerine came out with the Cool Mint version. That's your marketing lesson for the day.

Man, they just don't make ads like this anymore. Good times.

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By al - 10:30 a.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

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