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Musings of Unayok — LiveJournal

2009 Aug 23

01:10Furp's BBQ 

Last Saturday in Wisconsin, I attended evil_dwagon's BBQ memorial. Just shy of 6 months since he was killed in February, his family and friends gathered to enjoy each others' company and memories of him. Contrary to the funeral, this was not a sad ocassion. He'd certainly not have wanted it to be; there had been many other BBQs in the past and none of them sad occasions.

There was food aplenty, company galore. Even wine for unclekage to enjoy.

Security provided by Hunter. As you might expect, I managed to take some pictures.

Furp's fursuit (Zeblong) has found a good home; so has some of his other things -- others will find their new homes soon.

Lynne, Hank and their whole family are amazing people and the way that they are moving forward is an inspiration. It's quite difficult at times, I know.

There's still a lot I have to work through myself, but this gathering was a very good and powerful thing. Thanks to everyone I met (and met again) for contributing to it!

(There was a lot more I might have said, but it doesn't seem so important right now...)

2009 Jul 25


A week ago, I picked up a new camera. After years of point and shoots. In years gone by I had used a Minolta SLR with a small assortment of lenses. When the digital age arrived I opted for easily portable Point and Shoot style cameras, especially given the expense (and initial unavailability) of proper Digital SLRs. Since the field has matured much over the last few years, it seemed about time to get back into it (and given that prices have become much more reasonable).

With the legacy glass, the obvious choice was Sony. In the end I decided on the A350, which is a nice compromise between affordability and power. A sweet spot. And, as it is "last year's model", it's being marked down. I find this amusing as I found the A350 much more appropriate to me than either of its possible replacements in the mid-level consumer DSLR market (A330 and A380).

Of course, I now need to relearn (and learn the first time in some cases) how to work with (D)SLRs and take Real Pictures. A new twist of course is the "workflow". I'm only taking RAW format images so I can have some fine control over results. I'm not making any claim to greatness, but I'm enjoying the learning experience and having a few fairly respectable images, even in this teething period.

Now, if I can only remember to reset *all* the camera settings correctly after I mess around with them. And find willing subjects...

2009 Jul 22

16:11The Sun! 

Last week saw an interesting development: the installation of 1.75kW of solar PV panels on the house. It took a bit longer than the plan was, but that was okay. I learned a lot from the installers, and they were cool guys. They've been very busy this summer. Ontario has instituted a feed-in tariff for residential (and small commercial) PV that's very attractive -- 80.2 cents per kWh -- basic rates for electricity run around 11 cents (once you add in Ontario Hydro debt retirement and all the other extras on a hydro bill).

While I'm fairly sure that the structure of society will be significantly different at the other end of the 20 year contract that the rate is good for, it's a good deal for now and helped to drive this preparation -- such as it is. Better to have a little electricity than none. Of course, the tariff is only for grid tie, so there's no storage at the moment. But that can be added later.

It's already gotten some questions, and some semi-serious inquiries from a couple of neighbours. The more that get installations, the happier I'll be. (Plug for the buying group near me: R.I.S.E. Again.)

The only disappointing part is that even though the panels are up and tested, they're not yet connected to the grid. This requires an inspection from the Electrical Safety Authority... and their primary inspector for my area is on vacation, doubling the workload on his backup. Could take a couple of weeks for the inspection. Then comes the connect order and the installation of the new meter... probably another week. Every day lost is sunshine wasted!

In any case, there are some pics here.

2009 Jun 22

20:30Net Energy 

The following graphic is a simple, clear and unpleasant sample of the future. It simplifies things somewhat. But the simplification is illustrative.

The linked article describes the intent behind the graph better than I will here. Building from the basic Hubbert principles:

  • An individual [fossil fuel] field (well, mine, tar sands project) has a bell-shaped production curve
  • As you combine fields within a "province", a bell-shaped production curve arises for the province.
  • This can be extrapolated to the fossil energy supply for the world.

This is (broadly) how the Hubbert principle works. Building on that:
  • Resource exploitation generally follows a "best first" exploitation pattern. The easiest/cheapest finds are exploited first, and as exploitation continues, harder and more difficult finds are progressively exploited.
  • In the US, oil has moved from a roughly 100-to-1 return on energy investment in the early heady days to 11-to-1 return now. This is going to continue as development continues to harder and more difficult fields
  • It follows that world production of oil-equivalents (including NGL and tar sands, super heavy oil) will follow the same pattern.

By calculating (extrapolating) the declining energy input required to extract oil-equivalents, we can describe the "net energy" available to society. This is the graph above. It is an idealized curve. It does not follow directly the historical data (see the excellent comments in the linked article for more). It does not include the oil dramas of the 70s and early 80s. But the concept holds.

Detractors and technocopians (disclaimer: at one point I fell into that camp) will argue that this is too simple, that economics will magically cause new reserves or subsitutes to appear. However, given the last two years, I'd have to disagree. For each of their points that make the graph cheerier, there are ones to make it gloomier again.

We already see signs that critical investment in extraction equipment is being deferred due to economic issues. Experts in the required fields are set to retire. As the rate of return becomes worse future extraction efforts may not even be funded as "uneconomic". (It's a variant of this line of reasoning that makes me think that we won't get $1000/barrel oil. Things will go bad before that and fossil fuel usage will no longer be an economic issue but a political/military one. There won't be enough of it).

Mining of hydrocarbons will increasingly become a political problem, and it will not matter one bit what scientifically is (not) possible. It is a nice hobby... but the endgame will be determined by soldiers and not scientists.


2009 Jun 07


I've just pushed the first commits to my newest (public) coding project: genosha (no apologies for the name at all ;> ). A pretty small one, but it's been kind of fun to do. While the other project I've opened up to all comers (terbium) has application for general computer users (despite its lack of point-and-droolness, it's actually reasonable easy to use), genosha is a lower-level tool. So I won't be upset if this post causes much glazing-of-the-eyes for those on my friends-list.

This increase in publicly visible coding is intentional. I have started many projects that have never gone very far. Some times this is for obvious and good reasons. Others for just plain inertia. This way, there's at least some sense of completion and progress.

In putting together genosha, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. A very geeky one. Which source control system would I use? There are a fair number out there. From the beginning, it was obvious it would be a DVCS (Distributed Version Control System). That limited it to a handful of contenders. In fact, though, it comes down to a choice between two: Mercurial and git. A quick look at some of the others (bazaar, monotone, arch, darcs, etc.) and how they were being used disuaded me from them quickly.

Both Mercurial and git stem from the same period: the Internet/Linux drama around BitKeeper that ended in the owners of that proprietary software withdrawing the gratis version that allowed the Linux kernel developers to use it. Mercurial and git were primarily responses to this.

In many respects, they are quite similar. If I were to get involved in a project that used either system, I'd be quite content to work along. But this was about choosing ones for my own use.

External hosting options exist for both. Git has github, gitorious, and a myriad of others. Mercurial has Bitbucket, code.google.com (Real Soon Now), and others. Likewise, both have significant projects using them. Git has the Linux kernel, WINE, x.org, and many others. Mercurial has Mozilla, Xen, and (when they get the migration from SVN figured out) Python. Mercurial is written in Python (with some use of C where important), git in C and Perl. This might give Mercurial a slight advantage; its internal structure is cleaner, and (to my Pythonic eyes) more readable/understandable. However, I don't want to futz with the thing; just use it to manage my own projects.

As I said, they both are fairly similar. Well. At the higher levels I'm looking at. They are, however, not identical. In the end, I (obviously from the genosha link at the top) settled on git.

There are two main differences that tipped the scales. The first is that Mercurial does not natively support "local branching". I've found this immensely handy in git; not needing to manage separate working directories for very lightweight, temporary branches. There is a Mercurial extension for local branches. To me it seems... a little hack-y.

The other difference that weighs in git's favour is its concept of staging. Files/changes to be committed in a changeset must be added to the staging area (it's a simple command, or an option when you do your commit) prior to being committed. I find this very useful as I like (to try at least) to keep my commits geared to one task. However, when actually doing that, sometimes other little changes creep in. Staging allows me to keep them separate without a lot of extra bookkeeping. Mercurial doesn't have this concept.

Now I know that there are workarounds for both of those. However, I don't like the workarounds, and feel that the more non-mainline the installation is, the more likely I'm not using the tool in the Proper Way (as it was intended). To be sure, there are a few other minor differences but I considered those mostly noise.

I expect I'll probably end up working with Mercurial eventually. This would not be a bad thing. It's a good DVCS, and I would recommend it, certainly over something as painful as SVN. It's just not quite right for me.

2009 Jun 05

21:29Random update 

Another gap. But not much has been happening of note. Well, some things, but nothing earth shattering.

Had some gut trouble last week; put it down to something I ate, though usually that doesn't last for more than a day or so. I took notes and will be letting my GI specialist know when I see him in a couple of weeks.

Contract's wending on in a truly unexciting and uninspiring way. I've let my resume go out on a couple of non-local postings (Vancouver and Saskatoon). No real hopes for either of them, but they both have a certain interesting quality to them.

Cycling to work's been decent; times are remarkably consistent, even though some days feel like a much harder slog than others. Gym is likewise. In some cases I'm actually above the weight I was pushing before the surgery. Not that this is a massive win, but it means I'm making some progress there, I guess.

Garden grows. Hudson lounges. Neighbourhood cats make forays into my front door when Hudson's not paying attention.

Met up with a mate of mine I hadn't seen in a few years. Many stories were swapped; a good evening.

I many rant inscrutably about tech stuff in a while, but first a few drinks.

2009 May 02

18:48Jane's Walk: The Other Danforth 

Today I took an excursion around the part of town I live in (or near enough). Today was the first day of the two days of Jane's Walk, an annual event to get people in the modern lifestyle to reconnect with their locality (or discover new ones).

I went on the "Other Danforth" which describes the section of one of the major streets near my place. The Danforth that most people know is the section to the west, centred on what is/was Greektown and so on. But, midway between Toronto (which ended in the day somewhat to the west of me) and the towns of the beaches and East York (somewhat to east), the Danforth struck out, eventually bringing streetcars (and development) over the many ravines of the area. Ravines that got filled in to level the path of the street, or got used as informal garbage dumps by the area residents in the days that the area was unincorporated and not part of any municipality.

Midway (as it was known) gained somewhat of a reputation for being a fair bit looser on the moral scale than highly socially conservative and very un-fun Toronto. Movie houses and massage parlours sprang up in the area. As the area developed, and eventually became annexed by either Toronto or East York, other industries and businesses moved in as well. There are some odd gaps in the buildings that line the street. Where they aren't rubbish tips cum parks, they were sites of former car dealer ships. Not monstrous ones like they have now up at Eglinton, but still car dealerships for those newfangled automobiles.

Well, okay, not so new-fangled. But they were much less common before World War 2 than after. As cars proliferated after the War, the Danforth was filled in out past East York. Shopping malls developed and started to pull shoppers away from the street whose treble-wide sidewalks had always been thronged with punters at Saturday. The replacement of the streetcars with subways helped power this relocation to the malls by separating the stops; the shops right near the subway stations did the best, others further between... less so.

As awareness of the importance of localization and the various stressors making driving less attractive becoming more prevalent, the Other Danforth is slowly seeing some signs of rejuvenation. Hopefully not gentrification and hypertrendiness as has happened to other locations. But locally-owned, locally-populated shops, restaurants and services.

The walk was a good one with about 20 people in attendance at this one; just about the right size, I think. It was good to share conversation with others, pointing things out, or sharing a bit of information here or there. Watching the architecture change from the late teens (1919) through the 20's and 30's to the 50's was quite something.

Among the stories were such interesting tales as that of the quarry that became a garbage dump (with constant fires), then a WW2 POW camp, and finally the TTC subway yard. The body found under the car dealership that was cleared to make way for a little park. The explosion that lifted manhole covers for blocks after a fuel truck cut off a streetcar. The rendering plant whose working conditions were so atrocious that they would offer to cut the sentences of convicts at a local jail in half if they worked there. Lots more as well.

I took a few pictures. Tomorrow I'm going to go on another walk. Highly recommended.

You've got to get out and walk.

(and yes, there is a picture of McDonald's. Showing just how much room it actually takes up, most of it centred on the automobile, in an area that really shouldn't be.)

2009 Apr 29


The contract work continues apace. Somewhat less organized than it was supposed to be, but due to the dispersed stakeholders (geographically) this is hardly surprising and it's all going about according to plan.

I've ridden my bike in on two days this week now. Considering I've been away from it for six months, the rides have been pretty respectable. I think my bike computer needs a new battery though; it thinks the ride is longer than it was last year. Or maybe the Earth is getting larger!

In other news... I came across some old Hyborian War (play by post) turns, and got to thinking. Then got to tinkering. I'm implementing a PBEM (play by e-mail, but really could have a web interface thrown in front of it too) version of a strategy game I co-designed a decade ago. I'd tried a couple times before, but got bogged down. This time I've made more progress in the last weekend than I had before. I credit the flexibility of Python.

Maybe after another couple weekends of work, I may need to start looking for some very understanding early alpha testers.

2009 Apr 14


I've slacked on updating again. Mind, there have been updates at Facebook, so I'm not being completely hermit-like.

The last couple of weeks I've had some work on. It's a short term contract with my former employer. It's an isolated but somewhat interesting project. It's interesting to be back there. The atmosphere has changed a fair bit. Not for the better. But that doesn't really affect my work as it's mostly being done for another office.

Working back there has meant I get excuses to be near (and in) the gym again. Definitely good to be back at it. Somewhat embarrassing to find how far back I'd fallen in the five months I was away. But motivational as well.

Garden and cycling time are coming up too. Should have been already but it has been a variable April.

2009 Apr 02


Remember that Friday is Talk Like a Dalek Day (date selected in honour of Peter Hawkins, the original voice of the Daleks. His birthday was April 3rd). So get out there, SEEK, LOCATE, EXTERMINATE!

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