Monday, November 19, 2012

Trying Out a New Blogging Platform

I like Calepin's super simple interface, and I really like writing in MarkDown, so I've written a few posts at . One about music, two about programming.


By al - 12:41 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, October 04, 2010

Out on a Tuna Boat

There's a lot of controversy about tuna fishing these days, but there's also some hope for a future in the form of ca catch-and-release sport fishery on Prince Edward Island. A couple of weeks ago I went out on the water as a guest participant for one day of the Canada Tuna Cup tournament and I learned a lot about how tuna fishing works and really gained an admiration for the people who are good at it. Here's what I wrote in an e-mai describing how the day went.

had a fantastic day yesterday out on the water. We got to North Lake just at around sunrise. Not quite a proper fisherman's hour but close enough to feel authentic. All the fishermen had this air about them, you could tell they were more excited to be able to catch tuna again than the structure of the actual tournament. We grabbed a copy of the rule sheet at the very last minute as we were heading out the door of the little restaurant where they serviced us breakfast and handed us these huge home made boxed lunches to eat out on the water.

My dad and I were invited as guests on one of the 6 boats entered into the tournament, along with a guy from the ministry of fisheries. We did our best to help out the three real fishermen with all the stuff that needed to happen on the boat, but tried to stay out of their way at the same time. Once we got out of the harbour the boat's pilot said 'hold on to something!' and engaged the engine and we just blasted off, faster than I had any idea a boat like that could go. I've never been out on a fishing boat before when it wasn't just a quiet tour of a harbour or something so this was totally unexpected but quite a thrill. I didn't even mind the water coming over the bow, over top of teh cabin and down on top of me on the deck, that's how rough the water gets when you're a normal-shaped fishing boat with that much power under the hood.

Our first stop was to fish for bait to catch the tuna with later. That means mackerel. Before I knew what we were doing someone threw a fishing pole into my hands and gave me the 20 second version of a "how to catch fish" lesson. Release the catch on the right here, guide out the line with your left thumb. One second is about a foot of depth. The mackerel are about 30 feet down according to the sonar. When you get to the depth you want, engage the catch, and start jigging the rod up and down to get their attention. If you don't feel one grab on after half a minute try a different depth. When you reel it in bring it up fairly quickly; don't let a seagull grab it off the hook on you, chances are he'll get caught in the line and then we'll have to untangle a pissed-off bird. Grab the fish as you swing it overboard, pull it off the hook upwards, then throw it in the bucket. If it slips out of your hand just slide it over with your foot and we'll throw it in.

I was the first one to catch something, unfortunately it was a too-small herring and we had to throw it back. After that, though, I got the hang of it really quite quickly. The fish are pretty small and the line goes down quite deep, so it's hard to tell at first if it's just the current or the movement of the boat that's causing your rod to pull one way or another, but as soon as you feel a real fish fighting on the other end you know right away. Granted, mackerel travel in schools and are pretty easy to catch, it's still a lot of fun to be good at something right away, and to be helping the rest of the crew get all the bait we need.

After a few minutes of plentiful fishing and one close encounter with a gannet - a crazy enormous sea bird with a frightening-looking long bill and wings that make a swan look diminutive, we pulled our lines up and were on our way again. Now we were off looking for the bluefin. One was watching the radar, looking for some arrangement of waves and lines on the screen that translate to "giant fish on the hunt for food". We sped along, even faster than before it seemed, and with the deck now wet and slippery I was doing a full-time job of trying to stay balanced, while next to me one of the other fishermen was solidly planted by the soide of the boat cutting up some of the bait with what must be a monster of a knife. I consider my 'staying out of the way' skill a pretty valuable one at this point.

That's the most excite we'll have for the next few hours. We had to try three different locations in all. They worked so efficiently you barely knew what was happening until you see the four long rods and heavy lines attached opposite sides of the deck and there's a discussion about how to launch the kite. Apparently the way to keep a live bait near the surface where you want him splashing around and drawing attention to itself is by suspending it from a kite. This also draws it away from the side of the boat so the bluefin isn't right under you when you hook it. It looked surprisingly tricky to launch the kite despite all the wind out on the water. The air blowing off of the cabin would get sucked down and cause a force of wind towards the deck and the water, Despite this they were able to get it launched and out over the side to do its thing, and we wait.

Aside: I used to be indifferent to country music. The XM satellite station that was going the whole while we waited for the mark on the radar that caused us to stop to come back was the distillation of all that is commercial and crass about Nashville country music. Lyrics that enforced fatalism, heros of songs that just had stuff happen to them instead of about _doing things_ was a common theme. It seems that for the target audience of pop country life was something that happened to you, and as bad as it gets that's how things just are. I think I was the only one who had nothing to really do that could help with the fish-finding effort or had calls to make - mobile phone reception when you're halfway to Cape Breton was apparently not all that surprising. So I was left to just sit and listen to this whole new world of music I had ignored before.

We hear over the radio that one of the other boats had a catch. a 750lb. fish, so they're done for the day. That this is now a catch-and-release tournament didn't seem to take away any amount of enthusiasm on the part of the fishermen. Our guys were thrilled that someone else had a catch already. That meant that fish were around and they weren't guarding their location or trying to be secretive at all. So we pulled down the kite, pulled up the lines and headed to one, then another spot to try to come up on a fish. Everyone was in it together and the more successful we all were the better case it will make to build a proper sports fishing industry here on the island.

We had the best mark yet on our last stop and the ones who knew how to tell the difference were keeping up the hopes of those of us who were along for the ride. The little water bottle that we used in lieu of something fancy to mark where the line with the bait was bobbing below the kite was well beyond my ability to see, but as soon as we got a bite the rest of the crew came alive to they knew how to do better than just about anyone else in the world, I'm sure. 'Get those otehr lines up' 'Bring in that kite'. To the pilot 'he's gone under the boat, get us clear!'

At this point I realized something I hadn't even considered before - to get the fish where you want him, when the fish is that big, you turn and move your whole boat. The whole time you have to keep the line from going slack, without jerking it or doing any number of things you might do wrong that I have no idea about that the fishermen knew in their muscle memory. That said, I still had the chance to man the reel for a couple of minutes. Big thick glove on my left hand to keep a huge on the tightness of the line, and massively difficult-to-turn reel to bring him in whenever he gives you any chance at all. Apparently they move through the water with only their tale in motion, which makes their already powerful bodies even more efficient at transforming strength into movement through the water. All I knew was I had to keep this line coming in and it involved more physical hard work in short but controlled bursts than I remember doing in my life. It took a pretty sadly short amount of time before I felt like my arm was going to give out and I passed control to someone else. Getting that reel around was a full-body exercise as you directly pulled against the something so massively more powerful than you, and your only advantage is classical mechanics.

The boat scores points for various achievements while the fish is on the hook. At minimum you have to fight him for fifteen minutes for it to count. You get bonus points for getting it up beside the boat, for getting a picture, and for touching it. You also have to have all of the bits that involve the fish out of water done within 30 seconds or you're disqualified from the tournament. They take the catch-and-release part very seriously and seem to respect the intent behind the rules fully. We didn't get it up out of the water but we managed to claim three points in total, which kept our boat in the running going into the next two days, which I unfortunately won't be participating in.

By al - 9:33 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm back

Okay not that I have really left, but with life as it is I have not really been blogging, but I thought I would interupt Al's long run here. Just for fun!!!
I have many things out there that I would like to comment on. Like this new swine flu, the idea of biofuels, and possibly a nice long rant about service providers that can't take your payment method, and some how make it your fault....It is 2009, get past your self. I am the customer and i am always right.....okay not really, always right, but my issues should not be yours.
But for now i just thought I would reintroduce Binnie.

By Sabrina - 1:25 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, April 26, 2009

+1 to Tweetie support

This is why I love indie Mac developers. I just got this reply to a feature request I sent to atebits, who make Tweetie for Mac:

On 26-Apr-09, at 11:35 AM, atebits support wrote:

Hey Alex We're going to add an option to do just this in a coming version.


atebits support

-----Original Message-----
From: Alexander O'Neill
Reply-To: Alexander O'Neill
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 2009 07:01:19 -0300
Subject: Allow option to hide menu bar icon in Mac Tweetie


I think it would be a welcome feature to add a preferences option in
tweetie to hide the menu bar icon. Most Mac users are quite picky
about what software does to their systems, and forcing the menu bar
icon seems out of place on the Mac.


-- Alexander /
Tweetie for Mac is just as good as Tweetie for iPhone, which I paid for and am very happy with.

Labels: , , ,

By al - 11:44 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dear UPEI Library Coffee Shop

Dear UPEI Library Coffee Shop
Originally uploaded by Alexander O'Neill.

Cream Cheese is not a precious commodity. Be a little more generous
with it, please.

By al - 10:11 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Evergreen Patch Accepted

I love when this happens.

From: Dan Scott
Subject: Thanks UPEI! Google Book Preview patch integrated into trunk
Date: March 8, 2009 1:55:22 AM AST
To: Evergreen Discussion List
Cc: Alexander O'Neill, Mark Leggott


Thanks to Alexander O'Neill and the University of Prince Edward Island
for posting their patch for integrating the Google Book Preview
feature directly into the record details page and making the code
available under the GPL v2.

I just committed a variation of the patch to Evergreen trunk
( - it needs a bit of
internationalization work before it's ready for prime-time, but it is
a great feature.

Dan Scott
Laurentian University
+1 to Evergreen. I haven't been able to work on Evergreen since changing my focus to Fedora-commons for now, but hope to get back to it when I can. It's a great project and it has absolutely the best-written and best use of JavaScript code I've seen.

God it feels awesome to have your work included into the main repository.

Labels: , , ,

By al - 1:59 a.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, February 02, 2009

Earbuds after a trip through the dryer.

Earbuds after a trip through the dryer. RIP.
Originally uploaded by Alexander O'Neill.

Update: Holy Jebus, they actually still work! Even the microphone. Amazing. Buying Apple stock immediately.


By al - 1:15 a.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Twitter Confluence

This was part of my Twitter feed this morning. Funny example of Twitter reflecting events in real time from different perspectives..
K.G. Schneider
kgs Late start to the day. Turned on NPR and guy with squeaky voice was swishing wine in his mouth and spitting it out. Outlaw that sound.
Gary Vaynerchuk
garyvee u can listen hear!!!!!
Gary Vaynerchuk
garyvee I am on NPR's @weekendedition in 2 minutes anyone have a link to a website where I can hear it? tune into NPR now!!!!!

By al - 11:20 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, January 25, 2009

IslandScholar, UPEI's Institutional Repository

One of the things I appreciate about working in an environment where we use and create open source software is that I have the opportunity to talk about what I do outside of work. Unfortunately I just haven't had the blogging spirit much in general lately, so there are a lot of things I haven't gotten to write about yet.

Fortunately Mark Leggott, our university librarian, who directs all the projects I work on, just posted a great write-up about IslandScholar, which was launched in December. The post is here: Link. Mark outlines exactly what the repository is for and what we used to build it, in particular it is our most polished and customized use of the Islandora front-end to the Fedora repository system, written as a module for Drupal.

Mark's post describes it better than I would, but the gist is that IslandScholar will be a central location to show the research output of the entire UPEI faculty and related bodies, with as many as possible containing links to full-text versions of the published articles. We are using a form of crowd sourcing in that faculty can go to the site and view their own citations, and are able to upload the referenced documents directly to the site, with the rights from their journal publisher shown to them right on the page via SHERPA/RoMEO, and the system will automatically convert their documents to PDF format and ingest them into the repository.

Here's an example record with a full-text document included: Relationship between objective measures of physical activity and weather: a longitudinal study.

I really like the idea that we are helping to make information more readily available to the rest of the world. Getting to not only work on and create open source software, but to be furthering the philosophy of open access to information is quite a thrill as a software developer.

More big news to come, hopefully. But either way I'll try and be more informative about what I am working on on this blog.

Labels: , ,

By al - 9:26 a.m. | (3) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, January 16, 2009

Before webcrawler there really wasn't even a web. You had to basically know an address of a site and then type it in to get there, and to find that address you had to see it on TV, where the announcer would awkwardly enunciate "h t t p, colon, slash slash, double-you double-you double-you...." There was Archie for FTP and Veronica for Gopher (don't worry, kids, there won't be a test.) And of course 80%+ of your time online was spent on USENET anyway, so the web was more of a minor curiousity.

Then along came webcralwer and changed everything.

Which is why it's really incredibly sad that webcrawler is so crammed with ads that it can't even find itself on the frigging internets.

At least they don't force good old Spidey into appearing on this abomination of a zombie web search engine.

Rest in peace, little guy.

More history here.

Labels: , , ,

By al - 9:48 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bash has C-like for loops?!

My life just got a lot easier finding this out.

We have an OCR package and 65 directories of tiffs we want to extract the text of, and we want to run a few jobs in parallel to get the work done faster and take advantage of all this multi-core business, but obviously we don't want to run all 65 processes at once, just 5 or so.

The poor bastard who runs our scanners had a script where he had just copied and pasted the command line over and over with the different directory names.

Here's a script that does the same thing in a nested 'for' loop.


for ((i=1; i <= LIMIT ; i = i + 5)) # Double parentheses, and "LIMIT" with no "$".
  for ((j=0; j < 5; j++))
    imageList=" "
    for image in islmagfull/$[i + j]/*; do
      # Get all the files in the directory and build the image list to pass to the command line.
      imageList="$imageList -if $image"

    ./CLI $imageList -f PDF -pem ImageOnText -pfpf Automatic -pfq 85 -pfpr 200 -of "/usr/local/fedora/abbyy/${image%.*}.pdf" & # Ampersand means run the process in the background.
  wait # 'wait' is awesome, it just pauses until all child processes are done. I love Unix.
done # A construct borrowed from 'ksh93'.

I should start a wiki to store code snipits, just using the blog as a scratch pad for now.

Labels: , , ,

By al - 11:32 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, January 11, 2009

1x09: The Battle

I still love how the old Ferengi ships looked like angry cartoon characters with gritted teeth and red eyes.

In the future they don't get headaches, according to Dr. Crusher.

And here we present the debut of Wesley's stupid outfit. Mostly I just feel sorry for Wil Wheaton , who is an awesome blogger and honestly came out of this as well as anyone could have.

This is still where they were trying to position the Ferengi as the series erstwhile villains, before audiences overwhelmingly found them hilarious.

Ahh, this is the episode where they mention the "Picard manoeuvre". The Adama Manoeuvre, where he took the Galactica and brought it into the atmosphere to bomb the crap out of a planet, is a total rip-off of that.

The best part about this shot is that they had computers with colour displays in 1989 when the show was made, but chose to go back to green-on-black for something to look "computer-y".

"Data, reading picard's log file from the USS Stargazer: "'we are forced to abandon our starship, may she find our way without us.' Apparently she did, sir. So Data can't figure out that "do" and "not" can be contracted to "don't" but he can make jokes anthropomorphizing starthips.

"As you humans say 'I'm all ears'." LOLOLOLOL.

Apparently the Ferengi have the power to project thoughts into Picard's mind. Somehow they forgot how to do this in their transition to comic relief. Quark could have used that power to fuck with Odo in supremely awesome ways.

The ending to this episode: Picarad shoots the mind control device with a phaser. Yep.

The good:
  • The Picard manoeuvre is frigging awesome.
  • Yarr didn't say very much
  • Worf didn't say very much
  • Troi didn't say very much
The bad:
  • The Ferengi still trying to be the villains
  • The ending was basically "SNAP OUT OF IT, CAPTAIN". *sigh*
The ugly:
  • Wesley's gay pride stripes
  • Yarr's haircut. This will be applicable for all episodes with her in it.
  • Riker without a beard still bothers me. WRONG WRONG WRONG.


By al - 11:00 p.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

1x08: Justice

Justice. Usually I have a pretty good recollection of what an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is about from the season it's in and the episode name, but this one is eluding me right now. The nitro is that they have stumbled on yet another previously unknown Class M planet while out ferrying passengers about and getting milk from the store. Won't the inhabitants of this planet be thrilled to hear they've been under Federation jurisdiction all this time and didn't even know it.

The director told Gates McFadden to cross her arms to contrast with Troi's soft demeanor.

There are two things wrong with this frame:

1. They forgot to turn on the fake computer wall panels, so they just look like closets.
2. Wesley Crusher not being eaten by wolves.

Geordi: "They make love at the drop of a hat." Yarr: "Any hat." These people on this planet sound very pleasant and therefore annoying. Please please please let this episode be about the crystaline entity coming to suck their planet dry. *fingers crossed*

Oh shit they're sending Wesley down to the surface first. This is that one where he almost gets the death penalty but doesn't. Worst tease of an episode ever. I almost want to just stop watching now.

Ahh the planet full of attractive Aryans. This was a good week for perpetual Hollywood extras. At least Worf knows they must be evil. Yes we get that Riker is supposed to be a horn dog, the 'we need to establish character' moments the writers are throwing in are getting old.

They need to work this guy into the plot line where Yarr has a secret half-Romulan daughter a few seasons from now. He can be the godmother and hairstyle moral support.

Is there a website that just collects pictures of Wesley looking baffled? I smell a meme.

He only gets a hug from the alien whore, poor Wesley.

Prime directive question: We are supposed to believe these people developed warp drive? Really?

I'm pretty sure they kept this episode from being shown in syndication out of sheer embarrassment.

Why is Data shaking his head while not looking at anyone in particular? He can display subtle physical signs of confusion but can't get that "do not" can be shortened to "don't"?

This soap bubble is capable of rocking the entire ship. Once again: Inside federation space, and no one noticed before, or thougth of mentioning it afterwards. I love these old episodes for this reason.

I think it's great that even Worf is offended by the idea of capital punishment. Oh Star Trek, you secret socialist fifth column, keep it up.

Ugh, the bubble thing is "God" for the aryan rule freaks. There's some message about human exceptionalism in here but I'm not sure what it is exactly.

Aaaannnd the climax to this episode is Riker saying "When has justice ever been as simple as a rule book?". He says that, they get transported off the evil planet of love and peace, and all is well. Endings were always the worst part of this series.


By al - 11:13 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, January 05, 2009

Neat pattern

Wasn't expecting to see any sort of pattern when testing range operations in Python, this is super cool:

>>> sum(num * num
for num in xrange(1, 10))
>>> sum(num * num
for num in xrange(1, 100))
>>> sum(num * num
for num in xrange(1, 1000))
>>> sum(num * num
for num in xrange(1, 10000))
>>> sum(num * num
for num in xrange(1, 100000))
>>> sum(num * num
for num in xrange(1, 1000000))
>>> sum(num * num
for num in xrange(1, 10000000))

After that it started to take a long time to compute so I gave up.

Labels: , , ,

By al - 12:50 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The grilled cheese secret

This seems to blow people's minds when I tell them so maybe it's not as well-known as I would have guessed. Anyway, for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, don't put the sandwich together first and then throw it on the frying pan.

Instead, let the pan get nice and hot, throw in a healthy portion of butter and when that melts, lay two pieces of bread on to the hot frying pan and let them get toasty for half a minute. Then turn slice one over, put the slices of cheese (sharp cheddar, for god's sake) onto the now hot and buttery bread. Then quickly left the other piece and put the hot side down on top of the cheese.

This lets your cheese fully melt without having to overcook the outside of the sandwich, and your bread is evenly toasted on both sides.


By al - 11:22 a.m. | (3) comments | Post a Comment

    follow me on Twitter

    al's Links

      This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from dragonofsea. Make you own badge here.
    • (al)

    • Powered by Blogger