Sunday, December 16, 2012

A touch of nerdery.

Mild to moderate nerdiness follows.

I decided I was going to build my own PVR using a computer and Mythbuntu, a Linux distro specifically geared towards such an endeavour. Problem is, the spare desktop I had kicking around wasn't going to be fast enough to adequately handle HD video... so I shopped around and found a refurbished HP at Factory Direct for a cool 129 bones; decent processor, 2 GB of RAM, smallish hard drive (but that's easily remedied).

I went out and got it, but when I brought it home I felt like an idiot: the expansion slots weren't tall enough to accommodate my TV tuner card or the video card I have with an HDMI output. JEEZ.

Faced with this dilemma, I had the semi-brilliant idea of making the HP my regular desktop comp and using my former desktop box as the PVR, swapping hard drives in the process. But if you yank a hard drive out of one comp and throw it into another, it's going to freak out on me because all the hardware is different, right?

Wrong.

With much trepidation, I pulled the hard drive out of my old desktop, put it in the new one, plugged everything in, and hit the power button. I fully expected there to be beeps and bloops and error messages and possibly smoke flying out of the thing, but here's what actually happened:
  1. "Hey, you have a different video card. Start in safe graphics mode this time?" (Clicked OK, logged in fine.)
  2. Started up the video card utility... "Hey, you don't have an Nvidia video card anymore. Type the following and restart your machine." (Typed the thing, restarted.)
  3. Absolutely everything works fine now.
There's no way this goes well with Windows... so, thank the powers above that Linux (specifically Ubuntu) is so goddamn smart: it found all my new hardware, didn't complain much, and life carried on as normal.

And that's my story.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Things teenagers say, and ask.

I have a grade 10 science class which is actually one of the most reasonable groups of people I've ever dealt with. (Mind you, there are people that show up once or twice a week, or others I haven't seen in a month despite calling their parents' house... and occasionally getting the ol' "caller ID says it's the school, so I'll pick up the phone and hang it right back up" treatment. Yes, that happens.)

The deal with a class is this: it takes a while to get to know them, and they take a while to get to know you. Depending on your comfort level with them, and with students in general, they may get to know you really well, or barely at all. As such, they'll be able to eventually gauge what sorts of questions they can ask about you... or so the theory goes.

(I kid, I kid. I'm friendly, but I'm not their friend. I'm professional, but I'm still a person. I try to be authentic, but at the same time I'm still have to keep some distance.)

At any rate, we had a little time to kill after a fun day of talking about light and then getting acquainted with some equipment we're going to be using for the next few weeks, by using prisms to make rainbows. I'm not entirely sure how the conversation turned this way, but it did:

"Hey sir, if you could take one teacher in the school out on a date, who would it be?"

And then it got weird.

First off, you'd better believe I didn't say a god damn thing in response to that question. And so then, there was a discussion, also not involving me -- kept mostly-appropriate, but with deviations into (further) ridiculousness -- about teachers sleeping with students. One of my (male) not-quite-rocket-scientists:

"Yo, if it's a guy teacher and a girl student, that ain't right. But if it's a girl teacher and a guy student... I don't know, man. I don't know."

But things swerved back to me, and the question I'd been posed. All I had for them was a piece of advice in the form of a single phrase that I would only say once, and I told them I wanted them to unpack the meaning of it:

"You don't shit where you eat."

Whadda ya know, they eventually figured it out.

We may not be doomed after all, folks.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

So, a nurse killed herself.

You've probably heard it by now:
  • Australian radio DJs make a crank call to the hospital where Sexy Duchess Kate was convalescing, impersonating the Queen.
  • Everyone had a good laugh.
  • The nurse killed herself, presumably from all the attention.
Look, it's a shame this woman is no longer. Don't get me wrong. Anytime that anyone goes too soon, well, that shouldn't be.

But now you've got people freaking out about DJs making crank calls. Should they still be made? What did we do to this poor woman? Are we a horrible species? (Actually, we are, but for totally different reasons.)

When a country makes up laws, unfortunately the way it goes sometimes is that you have to legislate down to the dumbest people in said country. That's why we have to have a law telling us to wear our seat belts; obviously they'll help to save your life in a car crash, but some idiots out there don't bother to put theirs on, so we have to provide a financial disincentive to do something which is clearly a stupid thing to do.

If this nurse couldn't take a joke, and was clearly mentally unstable enough to commit suicide in this situation -- did any media reports mention her name, when this all initially came about? I don't think they did -- does that mean we have to pass a law saying you can't make a crank call, because it might cause some harm to someone who is already very, very predisposed to harming themselves in a serious way? (Or does this fall under the recently-fashionable, and yet very-worthwhile, rubric of "bullying awareness?" Just playing devil's advocate here.)

Anyway, the moral of the story is that this woman wasn't right in the first place, someone made a joke at her (relatively anonymous) expense, and she overreacted. I just hope morning radio DJs can still be wacky after all this.

Monday, November 26, 2012

An experiment to determine the effect of spicy foodstuffs on nasal congestion.

Preamble

Having suffered several days with a common cold, JTL (hereafter referred to as "Subject") wondered if the effects of a helping of spicy food could relieve him of his nasal congestion. Subject has been coping with nasal congestion and sneezing most of the day; previous days' symptoms have included sore throat and coughing.

Subject also has very spicy Cashew Chicken leftovers in his refrigerator.

Research Question

Will the consumption of spicy foodstuffs help alleviate nasal congestion in a common-cold sufferer?

Hypothesis

Many tissues will be used, but there will be no overall net effect on the congestion itself.

Materials

  • 1 serving of Cashew Chicken, spiced medium (albeit with abundant dried chili peppers, perhaps more than Subject originally bargained for), from Satay on the Road
  • 1 mid-30s adult male, suffering from a cold (day 4)
  • 1 cup water (approx. 500 mL)

Procedure

  1. Leftovers were reheated in a microwave oven. Approximate serving size: "enough."
  2. Reheated leftovers were consumed. Despite Subject knowing water has absolutely no healing powers on the effects of spicy foods on the mouth, Subject consumed water as he ate. Thus, Subject is a dumbass.
Observations
  • Subject experienced moderate to severe oral discomfort while eating.
  • More peppers were consumed than Subject would normally ever contemplate in a single sitting.
  • Subject questioned his sanity more than once during the process.
  • Much mucous was expunged from the nasal cavity during the consumption, and Subject's eyes watered slightly.
  • After initial increase in mucous output due to the consumption of spicy food, and the removal thereof via tissue, Subject's nasal congestion returned within ten (10) minutes.
Conclusion

There appeared to be a temporary effect on congestion, but this was short-lived and Subject is back to sniffling. Sources of error include inconsistency in the type and size of dried chili pepper, lack of an experimental control, and an overall incompetence on the part of the experimenter.* Subject also wanted to note his concern for the overall state of his gastrointestinal tract in the coming hours.
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* I used to put this as the final source of error in every one of my university physics labs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A collection of little things.

Frequent-former-commenter ECB hand-delivered some kickass homemade chocolate-chip scones to me yesterday. I may have eaten them all in a single sitting today.

Last night a bunch of us got together for a pretty big party, partly in honour of my upcoming birthday, and partly in honour of the just-past birthday of one of the hosts. It was a grand time: cake, booze and deep conversations about the role of race in education abounded.

The Canadian Tire at Leslie and Lakeshore has a Starbucks beside it. This seems like it should not be.

At said Crappy Tire, I went in to pick up a power bar for the office at work, but ended up finding out (a.) they were sold out, (b.) it didn't have surge protection, a necessity for computers, and (c.) there was a differet surge-protected power bar on sale, but not in the flyer, for a similarly good deal. Sometimes you find a little serendipity in the home-electrical section of a store, you know?

This city is in the grips of Grey Cup Fever. I, however, am in the grips of a cold. I hope I infected a lot of people at the aforementioned party.

Speaking of parties, a couple of members of the regular drinkin'-gang (they're housemates) are having a Masquerade Party in a couple of weeks, and masks are suggested. They also live next door to a member of legendary Canadian-rock band Sloan, and I swear if I ever meet him, I will very likely turn into a giggling little fanboy and ask to pose for a picture with him. (I'm normally pretty stoic when it comes to meeting celebrities, but for this one, all bets are off.)

Low-carb beer? C'mon, asshole, accept the fact that you are both an alcoholic and you're fat.

Speaking of beer, I tried Innis & Gunn's "rum finish" beer last night. Honestly, I haven't found an alternate version of their beer which is better than the original, which is next to heavenly.

And that's all for now.

Cough, cough.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Slayin' them dragons.

I'm a bit of a nomad at work: I teach three classes in three separate rooms. (I took one for the team, what can I say.) It's alright, though -- sure, there's a bit of moving-around, but it actually helps me mentally separate my classes from each other.

(Last year I taught two different physics classes in the same room, and I'll be damned if I didn't consistently confuse them. "Wait, did we already cover this? I can't remember," was a particularly frequent refrain.)

Today, my third-period class worked on some ancient computers that we roll from room to room (soon to be replaced with some slick-yet-slightly-used laptops). I was struggling to get my USB thumbdrive to be recognized by one of them, so I had to hang back in the room for the first few minutes of fourth period, which I had off anyway, to try to get the thing to work. (Never did.)

One of the kids in that class, grade 12 biology, must've known I taught physics and posed a question to me.

Her: "Hey, could you answer a question I have about physics?"
Me: "Sure, fire away."
Her: "Well, I take a dance class outside school, and our dance teacher keeps talking about two different kinds of energy -- like, the energy inside you, save your energy for later, and so on, plus he also talks about the energy in the building, in the environment."
Me: "You mean, like some sort of cosmic type of energy that's all around everywhere? And then, talking about the sort of energy you get from your food?"
Her: "Yeah. He talks about them like they're one and the same. He says he did some physics in university, but us in the class, we can't decide if he's crazy or not."
Me: "He sounds pretty crazy to me. Anytime anyone talks about the flow of energy through your body, energy fields in your body --"
Another kid: "You mean like chakras?"
Me: "Yeah, that sort of thing. Anytime they start talking about that, there's your sign that they're nuts."
Her: "We sorta thought so."

A minute later:

Another student: "How about those energy-bracelet things? My aunt gave me one for Christmas last year."
Me: "Total scam. They don't do anything; they've been tested."
Her: "How do they do that?"
Me: "Well, you do a double-blind study: you get two groups of similar people, give one the real thing, and give the other a fake version of that, and you don't tell either group which one they're in. It's like accupuncture: some people reported pain relief from 'real' accupuncture. But the same number of people reported it from 'fake' accupuncture, too. Conclusion? It's all in your head, and accupuncture doesn't do anything. Jabbing needles into our skin makes you think you're better."
Different kid: "Could you be our teacher?"
Kid #4, to kid #5: "I have him for physics next semester."
Me: "Yeah, come take physics. I'll let you in on whether or not the Easter Bunny is real."

It's a tough gig, being this awesome.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Could this BE any more '90s?

(And yes, that's a Friends reference. You'll see why that's appropriate.)

(Oh, Matthew Perry, where have you gone?)

I have an iPod, which means I can store a hell of a lot of music on a little box smaller than my wallet. However, this morning, I got a little more nostalgic for honest-to-goodness music-on-a-medium, so I rooted through my CD collection and found a compilation CD from 1998 which was, oddly enough, given away as part of a Clearnet PCS promotion back in university. (Clearnet was eventually bought by Telus.)

And, holy hell, this thing screams 1990s. Check out the track listing.
  1. Tonic -- Open Up Your Eyes
  2. Pulp -- Common People
  3. James -- Destiny Calling
  4. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones -- The Rascal King
  5. Rusty -- Soul For Sale
  6. Zuckerbaby -- Andromeda
  7. Matthew Good Band -- Everything Is Automatic
  8. Big Sugar -- If I Had My Way
  9. Ashley MacIsaac -- Brenda Stubbert
Seriously... when was the last time you thought about Zuckerbaby? Or Ashley MacIsaac? Or, frankly, any sort of '90s ska-pop like the Bosstones?

Damn. I miss the '90s.

Here we go (again).

If you're reading this, chances are I know you. And I'm fine with that.

I started a blog in 2004, and wrote (more or less) anonymously; people I knew read it, of course, but I didn't go to any great lengths to publicly link my name to the site. I kept it going until 2012, but as that project wound down recently, I figured I should at least have some way to express a thought which wouldn't fit in a Facebook status update.

So, here I am.

I can't say what exactly this will all be about. But if I had to guess, it'll probably be mostly about politics and music, with some extremely vague stories about teaching thrown in there too. It may well veer into the mundane -- for example, I just totally had an amazing banana, hot damn, I think I'll have another!* -- but we'll see, I suppose. The first post, as you can see, deals with music.

I also can't say how often I'll put something here. Every few days? Every couple of weeks? Once every three months? Whenever I feel the need, I'll throw something up here, then probably link to it through my Facebook status.

I also can't promise it'll be amusing. But then again, stranger things have happened: I mean, Julia Roberts was once married to Lyle Lovett, for crying out loud. So I suppose anything's possible.
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* This is entirely true. It was a little riper than I'd hoped for, but it totally turned out fantastic. The moral of the story here is that you should never judge a banana by its cover.