Monthly Archives: December 2002

Archive Journal Entry: 20021231

New Year’s Eve.

We’re having a great time here at my dad’s. Today my dad took the kids (Benja, Micah, Haifa, Justice and I) to his studio. The young ones painted bird houses. Haifa did a really great job 🙂 I sat beside her and helped her get paint. We used some really neet little tubes of watercolors. After the painting was done, dad pulled out his bow and showed Justice how it worked. Dad shot at a target in the studio only about 5meters away. He got the quarter sized bulls-eye on his eighth shot. Justice was really impressed.

Yesterday was Haifa’s birthday. We had a small party. Klee Rogers and the Konopakies came by. Haifa got some gifts and we had a Dairy Queen icecream cake. I took lots of photos and they will eventually get put up on Melanie’s site. Yesterday was the first day that Haifa really seemed to be doing better. We have discovered that decongestant really helps her feel good as she is getting rid of her sickness.

We bought a whole bunch more movies including the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Iron Monkey” and others. I loved “Iron Monkey” just for the fight scenes.

Archive Journal Entry: 20021225

I finally finished the "Liveship Traders" series… WOW! That is one cool series, and it is really neet how it ties in with Robin Hobb‘s previous series. I don’t think I have been so affected so many times by a work of fiction.

I bought a few DVD’s: "Lilo & Stitch", "Monsters, Inc.", "Ice Age", "Monster’s Ball" and "Amelie". I haven’t watched any of them yet on DVD, but I have seen both "Ice Age" and "Monsters, Inc.". My brother recommended "Lilo & Stitch" and I heard from a magazine article about Netflix that "Monster’s Ball" was very well regarded. "Amelie" just intrigues me… I watched "Lilo & Stitch" I loved it. It’s quite the tear-jerker, but then I’m a real sucker for loyalty movies.

Melanie, Justice, Haifa, Alexei and I are all visiting my dad’s family in Fort McMurray, Alberta. We got here on the 20th. We arrived at the Edmonton airport. My dad picked us up at the airport in his Suburban. That was at midnight Ontario time. We then drove for five more hours north of Edmonton to get to Fort McMurray. Suffice it to say, we didn’t get much sleep. Melanie and Haifa both got sicker. Haifa actually has had a pretty bad fever for the last three days (around 39 degrees Celsius). It was mostly better today, but this evening it came back. If it stays bad much longer, we’ll probably take her in to a doctor since she also isn’t drinking as much as she should be.

I’ve looked all over Fort McMurray for a hard drive enclosure. I want to get an enclosure that has both Firewire and USB2.0 so that I can transport a small hard drive between Toronto and Jersey City instead of a heavy laptop. I found one at Staples for CA$149 that is decent, but it is just USB2.0. Still, maybe I’ll get it.

I’m hoping that Melanie, Alexei and dad (Garry) will make an agreement so that Melanie will do work to promote Lex and dad’s careers. Alexei and dad don’t know too much about promotion, and they are particularly blind to the methods when they try to apply them to themselves. I’m hoping that Melanie can spend a couple hours each week for both of them to help do some basic stuff. I’ve got some ideas: apply for grants, look for speaking/exhibition opportunities, work on websites and other marketing materials, do cold-call promotion to corporations, etc. The problem seems to be that Melanie also has no sense of what to do for them. Personally, I don’t think it really matters: an extra few hours a week of almost anything will help 🙂 I hope that I can get involved a little as well. I also hope that she will be able to spend some time working on my business needs such as a web site, looking for side contracts, doing taxes and other paperwork and working on financial management (investing a float).

Archive Journal Entry: 20021218

Here are two interesting online questionnaires: about philosophy and politics – very thought provoking, about religion and belief – this one got me pegged.

Here’s a diary entry I posted on kuro5hin:

I love movies. A movie can be inspiring, enjoyable, challenging, funny, instructive… or it can be depressing, unpleasant, meaningless, boring or deceptive. But either way, a movie can still be “good”. So what makes a good movie? Poll and discussion…

I have personal preferences regarding the genre of movies I like (action, sci-fi, romantic comedy) and don’t like (horror, suspense, most drama, mystery). I have some favorites that don’t really fall into those categories (“Run
Lola, Run
“, “The Last Emperor“, “Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon
“, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover“). Please add your own favorites to the discussion. Why did you like them?

But what about qualities? I tend to like films that have good music and sound effects. For example, “Run Lola, Run”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “The Cook…” all have music and sound effects that turn good, cool movies into hair-raising excellent movies that I will watch over and over and over again.

My younger brother is a film-maker (no-one famous, yet). He has sensitized me to many other aspects of a film. For example, every good film rests on a good script. If the dialog and story structure suck, or even are just mediocre, then it is difficult to become fully immersed in the story. An excellent script can even make a good movie out of poor actors. Acting quality is important, but lets face it: most Hollywood actors are… actually quite good! Sure some of them have a limited repertoire, but within that range, they are well-honed.

Now plot… one of the interesting things about plot is that it is usually all exactly the same: one character goes through the “hero’s journey” (do a google search) either literally or symbolically. I personally find that I am more affected by a movie when that hero’s journey is represented in a movie at more than one level.

Other factors: I tend to like any movie with cool special effects. But special effects can be over-done (“Attack of the Clones” springs to mind). On the other hand, “Spiderman” was the perfect mix of special effects and story (I absolutely loved how the everyboy’s dream of becoming a super-hero was presented). I really dislike visually dark movies. The darkness (for example in “The
“) seems to detract from my ability to become caught up in the movie. It annoys me and I keep noticing that I’m watching a movie instead of being enthralled by the plot and characters and imagery. Despite its other excellent features, “Blade Runner” is also like this for me.

I also love the pure escapism of romantic comedy, but I’m getting pickier. I still love “Forget Paris“, but some of the others are starting to annoy me. I tend to like the things Steve Martin does but they tend to focus more on the comedy than the romance. FWIW, I tend to watch only Hollywood movies.

So what do you think?

Here are some of the things I would do to clean up the story:

1. Work on the implied hypothesis in the intro (movies can be good even if they are "negative") and emphasize it more in the body
2. A more interesting poll perhaps about the most important qualities of a movie
3. More clearly separate my own personal tastes vs. a discussion of the hypothesis

I was partly inspired to write this because I re-watched much of "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" last night.

Archive Journal Entry: 20021211

O for a good UML modelling tool!!! I’ve tried the three common ones: Rational Rose, Together Control Center, and Microsoft Visio. They all basically suck (and that’s why I’m not linking to them). Time to start looking around for a better one… I’ve been busy creating the mother of all sequence diagrams at work. I’m using Visio for it. Visio is okay for most things, but if you need to resize the activation bar on a lifeline, everything gets screwed up. Additionally, Visio’s UML capabilities don’t seem to support conditional messages. There’s smaller irritants as well: resizing of UML diagram components is limited or non-existant (even with the update from M$), the attachement points are hard to use, the message arrow lines cannot be easily routed manually, and if a message arrow gets disconnected, it forgets what message it was calling. And that’s all just a rant about sequence diagrams!!!

Another work note: I’m trying to get Eclipse (my absolute most favorite Java IDE ever) to work with C and C++ on Windows. I installed Cygwin to see if that would help, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to get it to build a simple HelloWorld app. If I can get it working well with C and C++ it becomes a candidate to be the standard IDE here.

Last night I made a mistake when I bought supplemental groceries and the pharmacy: I got bread and honey. I’ve eaten 14 slices of bread with butter and honey in the last 24 hours. I think that’s about equivalent to 2000 Calories by itself. It’s just that it’s so darn yummy!!!

Melanie and Haifa are sick 🙁 I hope they feel better soon, but if they don’t, I kinda look forward to helping out at home this weekend. Melanie will get a couple meals in bed at least. She’s been reading the stories from the books of short stories I got her. One is a Philip K. Dick collection which includes the now well-known “Minority Report”. The other is a multi-author collection with selections from Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Anne McCaffery, and others. I think she’s read two stories now. I wrote a card with the gift basically saying I hoped that she would be able to have a bit of a fantasy life. She’s so busy that she doesn’t have time really to read novels: they end up taking way too long. So short stories… we’ll see how it goes. If Melanie says the stories are good, I’ll put links to the books here.

Archive Journal Entry: 20021210

Now here’s a neat backup system: HD Rosetta. On a similar topic, I would love to build a cheap backup server using an old full-height tower case, a P133 (or thereabouts), software RAID 5 and a bunch of inexpensive disks. I think I could probably put something together for about US$800 that would last several years. Most of that price would be for the disks. I would probably go for 80 or 100 GB disks and put 6 of them in a machine (giving 400 to 500 GB of

I’ve been reading a great series of books called the “Liveship Traders” by Robin Hobb (also known as Megan Lindholm). “Ship of Magic” is the first title in the three book series. I highly recommend it to everyone. It’s a hefty series. The characters are believable and heroic at the same time, and the action is continuous. They are not the typical quest-style of fantasy that I have grown very tired of. Rather, they are more like hundreds of small stories seamlessly woven together into an epic adventure that explores the limits of both the characters and the fantasy world itself. Robin Hobb is catching up quickly to Orson Scott Card as my favorite author.

Jersey City in my area (Newport) is barren of good places to eat. The Japanese and Indian restaurants are way over-priced for their quality. But there is an interesting grocery store called International Foodmart (mentioned in the link). I lost about 8 pounds when I was sick a couple weeks ago. I have gained back one or two of those, but I am trying to moderate my eating and increase my exercise. I want to get to 180 pounds by Jan. 19th, my 31st birthday. I started my six-month-old weight loss attempt at about 210 pounds. I am now at about 195. Losing another 15 pounds in a month, particularly the Christmas/new years season is going to be tough! I’ve become very moderate in my breakfasts, and usually very moderate in my suppers, but I’m still having trouble with lunches. There’s a food court nearby my Jersey City apartment that has a Panda Express – I love orange chicken way too much 🙂 Well, tonight I’m going to go to the gym and do some running so I’ll burn a few Calories there, but I need to do more, more regularly to get my metabolism going faster. Let me know if you have any good tips…

One last thing. I write this using Macromedia‘s Dreamweaver MX. I’ve tried lots of html/website tools and this is the nicest by far. I even bought myself a copy 🙂

Archive Journal Entry: 20021209

Another brief update… Melanie and I have been worried about the kids. Their behavior has been terrible. Justice in particular is throwing things, angry, yelling, and frequently disobedient. Melanie and I consulted about it and decided that while I am away during the week, Melanie will spend most of her time just playing with the kids. This is tough for her partly because she never really played as a child (too much time in lessons)! Her habit is to always take care of responsibilities and never have fun, even with the kids. I have tried to play with them too. With Justice, I play with Lego, wrestle a little bit, read stories and tell stories that I make up. Lately I have been telling a continuing story about Tahnok and Tahnok Va (Lego Bionical characters) and their adventures with many colored masks. With Haifa, it is a little more difficult, but I try to read her stories, play with stuffed animals and just spend time holding her and showing her things. So today, Monday, Melanie tried this plan out and aparently it worked very very well… both Justice and Haifa were happy and well behaved. Justice even started singing a love song about how he loves God, Mama, Dada, himself, and Haifa and how he has to help everyone feel love and the Baha’i spirit (not in exactly those words – but close :-). When Melanie told me about this I got a little teary-eyed. This evening Justice sang the song to me over the phone.

Archive Journal Entry: 20021203

Hmm… It’s been quite a while since I have had time to update my story here. I’ve been very busy. I found an apartment in Jersey City, applied, and I am now living in it. It is not yet comfortable: I just got a thin foamy to sleep on, and a small lamp for lighting in the living room. It’s a nice one-bedroom on the 15th floor. It has parquet (sp?) hardwood floors. It is also line-of-sight to a Starbucks so I’m hoping to set up an antenna and connect to their wireless T-Mobile service. Tonight will be my second night here.

We also moved from San Francisco to Toronto last weekend! Melanie did all the packing (even tho the movers were going to do it). We met in the Toronto airport on Thursday afternoon, rented a car (actually we got upgraded to a Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4), and drove to our new place in Markham. It is brand new and really big (for us). It’s about 3000 sq ft finished on two floors with an unfinished basement. We now live very close to our good friends Chris and Jeanne. We are very happy to be back in Canada, and near to family (Alexei and Kristine) and friends. Today all our stuff came – Melanie has unpacked the kitchen so far (plus a few other things). I’m hoping that she leaves some for me to do when I get home on Friday 🙂

So I’ve still got a lingering cough from my flu two weeks ago. Justice also was quite sick with a slight fever and a bad cough this weekend. And of course Haifa is getting a little sick too. I feel very sorry for Melanie and the kids… It’s very hard to take care of sick kicks/be sick.

So I will end this entry with some more links: more about voting systems, someone designed a hobbit hole, some thoughts about Baha’i economics, and a good collection of links about unit testing and other XP stuff.