Monday, September 28, 2009

Buzzard Pre-Flight Check

Jim G and I went for a run on Saturday. Neither of us were elegant or fast, though he has a better excuse, having suffered the motorbike wreck 10 months ago.

At about 9 am, we finished. The early fall air was still crisp and a bit dew-ey from the evening before. We looked up and saw a large buzzard perched in a tree. We watched it for awhile... and then it opened it wings and just hung out for 5-10 minutes.

We realized that it was drying its wings from the dew. One doesn't think of this word often for the species, but it was majestic.

Here is a similar pic of what we saw, though this is in North Carolina on a random Flickr account. It is the very same pose.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Netflix Is Serious About Fun

Here is a great quote from this article on Netflix:

"When people connect with a movie, it really makes them happy, and that's fundamentally what we're trying to do," he says. "Today you love one out of three movies that you watch. If we can raise that to two out of three, we can completely transform the market and increase human happiness."

Alas, Netflix doesn't serve Canada, but for those in the US -- Netflix is one serious company. The amount of engineering that they put into their recommendation system is on par with Google's indexing algorithm, in that they hire PhDs in computer science and math, and go all out towards improving the system.

They famously offered a prize for a recommendation algorithm that could beat their stated benchmark (it has been awarded, and I'm sure that the winners could write a doctoral thesis on the work).

For years, I had no interest in Netflix, but having been on it for a couple of years, I really enjoy it. It is a convenient, cheap way to catch up on some great shows (I'm currently devouring The Big Bang Theory at every opportunity).


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Baseball Revisited

I didn't see the first-pitch by Ann G (wife of Jim G), but I heard about it from Jim and loved the story.

Recall that she was honoured with the first-pitch at a sellout Cards-Cubs game, as part of recognition for being Teacher of the Year in her district.

As it turned out, she completely hammed it up. After being announced, she used exaggerated motions to place the ball in her glove, and leaned into read the sign from the catcher. With a big shake of her head, she called off the first sign, which was echoed by the stadium announcer and delighted the crowd. She nodded to the second signal, and slinged one homeward.

Apparently the place just loved it. We are trying to locate some video (there is a clip but it is in an internal section of the school district's website).


Monday, September 21, 2009

Geek Technique in the NY Times

Here is a neat story in the NY Times about pair-programming. This is a technique for software development that has come to the fore in the last 5-10 years or so. Alas, not everywhere uses it, as it controversial to managers and some developers (everyone is terrified by it, at first). We use it at my current gig, though not exclusively.

This quote from the article sums it up nicely, especially if you consider that software was once finished, printed out, and then reviewed by a team in a boardroom, looking for bugs:

Consider the game “Where’s Waldo,” in which a cartoon character is hidden in an intricate design. Most people can eventually find Waldo after poring over the drawing. Similarly, when programmers check code for errors, it takes time to examine the logic and find mistakes.

Now imagine if someone sat next to the artist from the very beginning. Obviously, the onlooker should be able to find Waldo more easily. The character would stand out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big Day at the Ballgame

If you are in St Louis, this might be interesting: Jim G's wife, Anne, will be throwing out the first pitch at the Cards-Cubs game on Friday night!

She is a teacher and won a major prize last year for her efforts. Part of the recognition is throwing out the pitch. She has known about it for months, and from what I hear, has been practicing. (I have been urging her to throw a 'slurve' but no word on her mechanics.)

For those not into baseball, this is quite a peach: the Cardinals - Cubs rivalry is huge, and so it will easily be a sell-out at the stadium and high on TV ratings.

Good luck, Anne!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hedging the Food Gamble

Many readers know T (from AZ-IL-MO-CO) and her parents.

Her father made the news with this hedge bet (click here). As someone who hates waiting in line, I love it!

The photo is probably feigned irritation. He is a hilarious, funny man with a great smile and outlook (not unlike his offspring).


Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Maritimes Win Again

Readers will recall that my coworker, B, had a daughter who was married on PEI in Sept 08.

This year, a coworker named C, went to the Maritimes with her husband for a wedding anniversary. She consulted with me (and B) on places to go.

We both recommended Cape Breton. I'm always a little nervous to push PEI, but B wasn't shy. B especially suggested a meal at Inn at Fortune Bay, which hosted the wedding.

Well, C and her man had lovely weather and were blown away. Upon her return, she exclaimed that the Maritimes "just has to be the prettiest place in the whole world". They did love Cape Breton and PEI. I think they found the Inn to be a bit stuffy compared to the B&B's, but they had a good time.

I enjoyed the photos they brought back. It was good to see good red soil, the way God intended. In Ontario and elsewhere in North America, the soil looks sickly to me.


ps. Interestingly, C didn't really understand the differences in locales. She assumed that I had been to Cape Breton many times, since it is so close. I think I've been there twice!

pps. Weird fact... A few people in St Louis call PEI by the name "Prince Edward". e.g. "When was the last time you were back to Prince Edward?"

I guess many people call an island by its first name, but this is highly weird for me because no one in the Maritimes would ever say that. It is either the full name, "The Island", or most commonly, "PEI".

Monday, September 07, 2009

In Recognition

I'm a bit behind on all the news, but wanted to echo some news on my father. Last week, he was invited to Government House and presented with the Firefighter's Exemplary Service Medal. This was in honour of 28 years of service with a local fire department.

Along with many other fine people, he sacrificed a lot during those years. Imagine getting out of bed at 3 am in the dead of winter because someone's house is on fire. Or losing a Sunday afternoon of R&R because a farmer let a grass fire get out of control. It was like that all the time.

Though not as dramatic, Dad kept the books for years, and fixed a lot of stuff up at the venerable fire hall.

Congrats, Dad!

Saturday, September 05, 2009


I received 2 postcards from Action Girl and Super Girl (protagonists on Binky's blog).

I was utterly delighted!

In other news, I met 2 babies that are new to the gang in St Louis. Adorable...

Finally, a military helicopter landed (part of a planned PR event) in a field next to work on Friday. It was very cool. If you are interested in pics, send me an email.