Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Inelegant Complexities Simplified / Kibble Hockey

After parking the car this morning, I walked up 10 stories to my job. I do this about 3 or 4 times a week.

I will try to do it every day.

Realizing how much work I have to do this next couple of weeks now that I am having some clients transferred over to me and am starting on some account management (which I've never formally done before - I mainly do project management) I spent some today organizing my work.

I have been storing - like many folks do - my 'action' items in several kinds of storage areas:
  • Flagged e-mails in Microsoft Outlook - keeps a tab on incoming messages.
  • Issue Logs for specific projects - helps run project status meetings, and is useful to send to the clients.
  • My black book work notes - I push my to-do's forward each day so I have a current, running list of action items - a little star next to each 'actionable' item.
  • Printed-out papers, each with a signifying Post-It note briefly summarizing actions needed to complete the issue. I really don't like to have many of these, but I'll have a small stack of about 10 at a time...
  • A text file for each major client (about 5) on my desktop - I use this as a scribble-file while on conference calls, etc...

So after realizing the inelegant complexities of this system, I decided to convert these all to a single Excel action sheet - sortable by ID, ticket ID (our project docket system), client, item title and item description and finally - status (open/closed). Sounds complicated but it really isn't. I use something similar to project issue logs, and introduced this for our company's quality of service iterative project issue feedback system. Data/Auto-Filter is great. Once I've completed or resolved an issue/action item, I just put it to status 'Closed' and with the auto-sort, only the 'open' items remain showing on the list.

So I got to work: I converted each of my flagged e-mails, black book work notes, printed out papers with summary note, and text files on major clients into this master file.

I will still use my black book for meeting note taking, flag e-mails, maintain issue logs (for clients), print out papers and summarize actions for each, and maintain a text file for phone calls (maybe just use a single one)... but... at the end of couple of days or week I will transfer outstanding black book items into this action list, transfer flagged e-mail issues, printed out papers and text notes into this document.

And then I'll have a running list of everything in one place, categorized, deduped, and clarified.

I will try to do this management of issues/action-items every week.

By the way, remember I mentioned the game of kibble-hockey I had been trained in by Monty? Well you can see a little bit of a game here. Monty hops for his kibble bits. Or rather - I throw his kibble bits for him.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Monty Snuffling About

I can't figure anything to tie the following comments together

I poured some orange juice on my cereal this morning - my next planned step was to pour a glass of milk. That's getting the order wrong.

Monty likes to watch the park across the road from the balcony
(video) - or on a cold day, from the door looking out onto the balcony, sitting on his pillows, surrounded by various stuffed toys. That's a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I took some photos photo yesterday while driving near Cherry beach and the Leslie Street Spit - more of these high dynamic range photos... I have to use a tripod to stabilize the mount. All the other 50 I took were mangled. That's a nice way to spend a Saturday morning:

Other than cleaning and doing laundry, I am going to read American Scientist, the Magazine of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. I love it when my copy arrives in the post every 2 months. In this March-April 2006 issue there are some fine articles:

  • How Gecko Toes Stick - Nanostiff, microsquishy hairs engage tiny forces to create a powerful adhesive
  • The Cognitive Psychology of Belief in the Supernatural - A by-product of the ability to reason about the minds of others may offer evolutionary advantage
  • Filaments of Light - Pulsed terawatt lasers produce surprises when shone through air
  • Knot Theory's Odd Origins - Modern knot theory grew out of a 19th-century attempt to explain fundamentals of the universe

That's a nice way to enrich my impoverished mind.

Friday, February 24, 2006

My First High Dynamic Range photograph

Here's my first High Dynamic Range photo - HDR.

I took 3 bracketed aperature photographs (on a stable mount), then tone blended the 3 images. You end up getting a rich looking image that moderates for extreme lighting and tonal gradient differentials.

This isn't the best example - it was late when I took this first one last night... this weekend I might take some cool shots and then you'll really see how cool they can look.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mungo's Bushcraft Lessons

What? How to make binding material in the woods.
How's that? Sometimes you don't have any rope.
How so? Obtain some thin spruce roots (hint - look for an overturned, but still living tree - less digging that way). Split a thin stick halfway to create a kind of pliers/scraper. Remove the spruce root bark by drawing it carefully through the scraper. Make an incision through the center of the root tip - peel the halves apart. When the split threatens to leave one half thicker than the other, bend out the thicker end to control the split (don't let the split 'run out'). Loop lengths of the split root to the diameter of a cooking pot. Fill the pot 2/3 with water, heat it to boiling over a fire. Fill the pot until full with the ashes of a cooking fire. Immerse the loops of split de-barked root into the pot and leave it to simmer for an hour. The ashes contain caustic substances (lye, etc...) that affect the lignin). Then take it out, straighten it out and dry out over the boughs of a tree. This binding material will remain supple and strong for years. Weave into a weir for catching fish, use to bind lean-to boughs, use to make fish-spears, and much more.

What? How to use an arrangment of sticks to cook a fish over a fire.
How's that? Sometimes you don't have enough cooking pots or you have none at all.
How so? Catch a fish. Use a fishing line. Or use an arrangment of sticks pressed into the shoreline so that a narrow entry permits a fish to enter the fenced in area, drawn by the smell of bait, but so that the narrow entry restricts exit. Or spear one. Anyway, gut and bone the fish - and make 6 holes in the edges of the skin. Thread 3 thin, de-barked sticks to splay out the fish. Partially split a long stick, and wedge the meat into the split - and then tie the end closed with the binding material you made earlier... Rest the long stick against a stone and lean it over a low fire. After a while your dinner will be ready.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I get really annoyed when:

Folks forward me e-mail messages with the single line above them reading "FYI". They expect me to wrap my limited brain capacity around what the e-mail trail is all about, and the reason as to why they're sending it to me in the first place. I wish instead that they would take the 20 seconds it takes to write something like "FYI - the materials are arriving next Mon - no action required." or "FYI - the materials have arrived - immediate action required."

Folks smoke in the doorway outside my place of work. I am sometimes tempted to stand in the doorway outside my place of work with a nasty cheap can of air freshener ($1.00 at the Dollar Store) and empty the cannister while they're standing around. How do like it when I stink up your hair and clothes you inconsiderate idiots - does nicotine dampen your ability to imagine that some people don't want your disgusting smoke all over them?

I'm having a good day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dumb things I've done with objects and substances.

30 years ago - Sharp objects.

Decorated a shiny apple with colored-pushpins and took a bite. Complained shyly to my mother that I had a tummy ache and told her I’d decorated my apple and taken a bite. Ended up at hospital. X-rays revealed nothing.

18 years ago - Highly pressurized objects.

Filling my car tire at a gas station in South Dakota, decided to walk into the gas station office and ask why the air pump wasn't going 'ping - ping - ping' once my tire was inflated. The attendant told me I was using a motorbike pump. I'd inflated my tire about 10 times the correct pressure. Tapping my tire, it sounded like a teak-drum. It could have exploded and removed my head.

14 years ago - Moving objects.

Held an electric drill with the chuck pressed into the drill-shaft up to my eyes to examine it one drunken evening in university. I had long hair in at the beginning of university. A large clump of hair was pulled from my head in about 1/20th of a second. I flushed the slightly-bloody damp clump of hair down the toilet, the whirling sound of which drowned out the mocking laughter of the strangers in my living room who claimed to be my friends only moments earlier.

12 years ago - Aerosolized substances.

Decided to clean my friend's electric kettle by pouring in CLR (phosphoric acid, etc...), and turning on the switch. And then we went out to the store. Coming back, we couldn't breathe and it took 30 minutes before the house was aired out enough to get into the kitchen and turn off the kettle.

11 years ago – Firearms.

Held a penny against a stone wall in a basement and told my friend's girlfriend to shoot it out of my fingers with a .177 caliber pellet rifle. My back was turned to her and she promptly shot me in the lumbar region of my back. It felt like she'd hit me with a baseball bat. I had a welt the size of Arizona on my spine for a week.

10 years ago - More aerosolized substances.

Decided to make homemade hot sauce in my work's kitchen. Made a frying pan really hot, diced up hot peppers and placed them in hot oil and then poured vinegar into the pan. Caused the evacuation of my workplace due to the capsaicin pepper-spray that infiltrated the ventilation system.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Christine (Grasshopper) and Arne (Arne) are in Germany today. At 2:00 PM EST they were sitting down to eat a big dinner of Sauerkraut and Bratwurst.

Spokespeople for Sauerkraut and Bratwurst were unavailable for comment.

Okay. That wasn't all that funny.


Anyhow - check out Christine's blog. She met Arne while they were both in Malawi - he was doing his Ph.D. on cultural interpretations (or something) of mental illness, she was working at an NGO.

Her dad has a big gun collection.

Spring and I went out to Picton once to see this gun collection. And to see Picton.

That is all.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Jump Through Time With Me, then Tell Me Where You Were Born.

On Thursday, Philogynist and I had lunch. The lunch consisted of triangles with circles of processed ruminent and porcine vertebrates and layers of semi-liquid heat-treated acidic vegetation, along with a protein-matrix interspersed with lipids both extracted from a set of glands from a ruminent on a semi-solid layer of protein and polysacharides derived from a thin vertical life-form with roots in the soil.

Speaking of triangles, I bought a Beef Triangle Kimbab from the little Korean convenience store in my building at work. It is seaweed wrapping containing something like sushi-rice and beef and onions and kim-chi. You can also get Tuna Triangle Kimbabs. I asked the nice lady if it actually should be refridgerated as it was sitting on a shelf. And contained beef and rice. She said no but looked worried. So I bought it and ate it.

It seriously was the tastiest triangular thing I'd had in weeks. Other than the triangle food that Philogynist and I ate. And I had no ill effects. I'm going to get another next week.

Today Spring and I are driving to get Turkish pizza with her folks. Her dad has flown in from Montreal and is jonesing for some lahmacun.

Last evening I made potato and cheese perogies. From frozen. I boiled 'em up. Slowly browned some onions. Set the onions aside. Fried up the perogies in light oil. Added pepper and salt. Plopped them on plates, added sour cream and we ate 'em. Nothing is quite so fulfilling as perogies on a Friday night. A beer helped them through my alimentary tract.

Now that we're finished jumping back and forth in time, let me take you to NOW. Now I know exactly where I was born - in that I have a nice little map of it. Now - go find where you were born. And report back using the comments section below please.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

No good deed goes unpunished.

So, my brother decided to tell me that he decided to pee blood on a flight to Montreal. He claims he decided to do this in protest of his recent lithotripsy on a horrific kidney stone he decided to grow in his kidney (please note that my use of the word ‘decided’ is a decidedly pathetic literary device far removed from the truth). He then decided to take a pain medicine tablet containing oxycodone and decided to get drowsy and decided to stop chatting on his newly installed Google chat.

And so I’ve decided to stop waiting in front of Google chat, expecting him to tell me more about his kidney stone and stent. In fact, I’ve decided to take Monty out for a walk behind the building so Monty can decide to pee and poop in the snow that seems to have decided to appear in Toronto.

I decided to play kibble hockey with Monty earlier this evening. We have a new game. Kibble hockey started with me feeding him by hand because he'd started on diet kibble to reduce his weight because he couldn't walk his weight off because of the surgery on his knee. He didn't like his new diet kibble and refused to eat it. He just sat by his dish giving us dirty looks. Well, so I started by hand-feeding him, but then I thought I’d make it exciting and throw a piece of kibble down the hallway towards him as he sat in aloof judgment of the kibble. After a few tosses, he took the bait and crunched the kibble. Well, once he crunches one, as they say, he can't stop. Just like Pringles.

So we do this for a few evenings. He seems to enjoy it. After a while I progress to throwing a few pieces at once, just to see him dance about in sheer excitement and giddy happiness. He likes that. He really enjoys that. Well, so while he's standing around scooping up and crunching down on all those kibble pieces, I decided to return to my office just around the wall from the hallway.

And then a few nights ago, a minute or so after the crunching had stopped, and I'd returned to my office, it was dead quiet in the hallway. And then suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, came a singular, resounding, impetuous squeak. A loud, irritated squeak. I jumped up from my chair to see what had happened. Kibble-had-stopped was what happened. He was sitting at the end of the hall looking quite put-out. So I threw a few more pieces and he joyfully started chomping down again. Well, that's repeated itself over the last few evenings. He won't eat unless we play kibble hockey. That’s what happens when you get sneaky and try to trick your dog into eating.

No good deed goes unpunished.

All your chat belong to us - Mungo says chat

Now Google is adding Gtalk to Gmail - you can search all your past chats (MSN Messenger be warned) - and in a couple of weeks you get to chat within Gmail... Wahoo!

In other news, Microsoft released I.E. 7 as a beta... I've installed it and like it but many sites look bad on it. The Globe and Mail have launched a redesign... but it is totally mangled in I.E. 7...

Soon I will likely move to Firefox as my main browser... I think I just need a firm push.

Please read more Mungo says Bah.

Friday, February 3, 2006

RIM, my skills and Al-Zawahiri

At work my main client is Research In Motion - I'm enjoying my project very much.

In other news, some debate out there whether Al-Zawahiri's latest taunt is bluster or a head's up. I bet on a head's up - my prediction is there will be a major strike in the next 4-6 weeks - either oil, or shopping mall, or someting more shocking. If I'm wrong then I won't make such silly predictions for a while.

In other news, here are some of my proven and past-implemented skills:

  • making apple doll heads
  • butchering the carcass of a steer, a deer, a moose and ostrich
  • cooking a nice crown roast of lamb
  • appreciating the poetry of herman hesse but only in English
  • rolling and interpreting the I Ching
  • taking a car engine apart and being able to mostly put it back together again
  • singing karaoke in a biker bar and gaining the applause of bikers
  • eating softback novels
  • verbally de-escalating suicide attempts
  • physically and verbally de-escalating assault attempts
  • running quickly
  • constructing pine furniture
  • constructing and sewing stuffed toy bears
  • clapping in time with songs
  • skipping stones
  • picking deadbolt locks with a pair of non-corrugated paperclips
  • climbing dangerously high bridge scaffolding
  • developing intricate and comprehensive process diagrams in Visio
  • managing software and web application implementations
  • whistling higher than anyone i've ever met except the guy who taught me it in grade 10
  • playing the violin - when I was 7
  • making fire with a spark
  • making gunpowder from drugstore ingredients
  • making mild but amusing sublimating explosives out of grocery store ingredients
  • walking backwards to occlude my tracks in the snow
  • juggling with one hand
  • juggling with two hands
  • waving with one hand
  • waving with two hands
  • using a double boiler to melt chocolate
  • making a papier-mache mask
  • coding in visual basic and visual basic script
  • tapping out my name in morse code