Geek Smithology

October 19, 2008

7×5=35, or Another Update

Filed under: Grab Bag,Personal by Nathan @ 7:59 pm

It occurred to me that when I am 35 my sons will be 7 and 5, which is the kind of coincidence from which I derive tiny amounts of pleasure.

It also occurred to me that as good as Mr. Howard was as Rhodey in Iron Man, wouldn’t Don Cheadle have been even better? Actually, that didn’t occur to me at all, until my buddies over at The Movie Blog reported that that is exactly what is happening.. Remember kids, nobody’s irreplaceable[1].

So how is the great sleeping experiment going? Not bad, if a bit difficult to adjust to because it can be hard to fall asleep when you know you have to. So the first night was find, the second was really horrible – slept about 4 hours. The night after that was pretty average, and I even managed to wake up at my normal wake-up time on Saturday (5:20 – yeah, my wife says I’m insane too) and make it through the day. Today was crash day, a new concept I came up with while the experiment was beginning. Basically, I believe in the concept of a sleep deficit. While I don’t necessarily believe that you can “catch up” on sleep in any holistic sense, I think that it’s a valid concept day-to-day or even week-to-week, so that’s the day where I sleep as long as my body “thinks” it should. This was about nine hours (as opposed to six, which is “the number”).

Going forward, if I find that crash day is consistently far out of touch with my “number”, I will increase the number by some reasonably meaningful amount without going overboard – likely 20 – 30 minutes. Although it will be the harder way to go, I plan to keep the time I wake up as static as possible and start going to be earlier to “create” this extra time. That said, I don’t want to read too much into crash day the first few weeks, since there is so much difficulty just getting into the rhythm of things that it doesn’t really make a difference.

What I can already tell is that I feel much better waking up at a certain time, even on Saturday, then I do just sleeping in. It’s entirely possible that this is due to that when sleeping in I often wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, which always makes one feel worse. I’ve managed to avoid naps for the most part, although I always get drowsy on the bus home, regardless of schedule.

Scientifically speaking, given that we often feel the same way (sleepy, hungry, etc.) at certain times every day, it occurs to me that sleeping the same time every day would lead to a more efficient sleep cycle, and there is vast literature proclaiming that to be the proverbial good thing. That number might not be six (I just really hope it isn’t something like 8.5, which would be difficult to achieve – I’d pretty much need to be in bed already!)

Hope everyone had a cool weekend. I know I did – checked out Wall-E again yesterday at the cheap theatres and not only does it stand up, I actually enjoyed it better the second time around. My wife, who didn’t see it last time really liked it, but bemoaned the fact that most people won’t get the message. I argue that they’ll get it, they just won’t care or change anything about there lives as a result. Welcome to Earth, right? And then today we took the boys to a Halloween party at the house of crazy Bill Davis, whose garage-based haunted house is truly a marvel of technology.

[1] That does not mean that some people aren’t harder to replace than others.

October 14, 2008

An Experiment (and Random Thoughts)

Filed under: Grab Bag,Personal,Sound by Nathan @ 9:31 pm

After a horrific run-in with energy drinks at the end of last week (Thursday and Friday are a blur – it was no longer my skeletal system that was supporting my weight so much as my taurine-thickened blood) I’ve decided to do what any programmer would in this situation – start hacking.

My first “experiment”, which was to just go to bed at some pseudo-random (but often way too late) time and then wake up horrifically early during the weekday and horrifically late (for relatively small values of late according to foo, who at three months and three days my junior occasionally calls me “dad”.[1] This was followed up by liberal (and I mean libertine – at one time I could be seen wandering wide-eyed and drooling, cradling seven empty cans of delicious Sobe Arush Blue (aka Fresca for men), all of which had been consumed earlier that day. As mentioned before, I believe there was some kind of caffeine/taurine blackout.

My next experiment will be to get the same amount of sleep every night (this will, of course, be hard on weekends) at the same time and see how this pans out. I figure it will take a few weeks to even itself out. I will settle on the arbitrary number of six, because that seems achievable and useful. I will try to contain my slavering devotion of beverages whose main concern is artificially providing mental focus via chemicals with little to no long-term study as to their safety to some amount that will allow me to be asleep in time to get my precious six hours.

You might think that because this is a blog, results would follow. While this might be true, since it’s my blog, we may never speak of this again.

In other news, Canada had its federal election today. I, of course, did my part by voting and hope you do to whenever fine votes are being given. Looks like I owe the Ront a coffee – while we both predicted a conservative win (although in the current Canadian political climate, “predicting” a Conservative win is quite the euphemism) I thought Harper would get the majority. He did not. Well played, sir.

In other, even more exciting news, while playing Rock Band tonight I totally grooved on Bowie and threw down a 100% on Moonage Daydream, on guitar, on hard. Now that was sweet. Then we scored 376K on More Than a Feeling[2], which has me absolutely convinced that we can take that sucker to 400K with only drums and guitar. (Medium on drums, Hard on guitar). Let me know if it’s been done. This isn’t my first 100% on hard in Rock Band – I previously did it with Should I Stay or Should I Go by the Clash, but that practically doesn’t count.

What I really want is some Elvis Costello.

[1] He should be thankful I’m not his dad, ’cause I’d make him take his pocketknife and find me a switch the size of my thumb so I could beat him to within an inch of his life, because that’s how it was done in the old-timey days)
[2] Check out the video, seriously – can you believe these guys?

August 9, 2006

Nerdy News About My DVD Collection

Filed under: Personal,Sight by Nathan @ 9:53 pm

Well, I recently picked up Young Guns on DVD (you know you like it) and with it I noticed that I now have at least 1 DVD for each letter of the alphabet, and some that start with numbers. So, in no particular order (well, okay, alphabetical order), a sampling:

2001: A Space Odyssey, Almost Famous, Bubba Ho-Tep, Chinatown, Donnie Darko, Ed Wood, Fight Club, Grave of the Fireflies, High Fidelity, Idle Hands, Jaws, Kill Bill, LA Confidential, M, Napolean Dynamite, Oldboy, Pi, Quills, Rashomon, Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity[1], This is Spinal Tap[2], Unforgiven, Videodrome, Walk the Line, X-Men, Young Guns, Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman.

Whew! Now that I got that out, feel free to get on with your day.

[1] Yes, it’s a real movie, I’m just checking to see if you’re still reading.
[2] I have many other T’s if you want to say this starts with “S”…Taps, The Thing, Three Kings, Time Bandits, Titus, Tombstone, etc.

August 4, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 8:25 pm

Well, I’ve just spent another year getting older. As of today I’m a power of 2. Despite how tired I look these days, that power is not 64, but 32. I will console myself with the fact that in my good friend hexadecimal I am only 20. This year was somewhat less eventful than the last, but I did learn (and learn to hate, ha ha) C# and .NET I also drastically changed my lifestyle (just how drastic will be explained at a later date, but those who are close to me already know all about it), and managed to do a couple technical presentations. Who knows what’s going to happen on the way to the double triple multiple of 11 waiting just 365 days away. Bring it on!

PS – sorry I haven’t been posting much — like everyone I’ve been pretty busy and my spare time has been used for working out or Rubying. I’m trying to get back into working on my Pragmatic Improvement Plan (as per Dave Thomas), and part of what I want to work on is this blog. My lack of posting sure hasn’t slowed down the spam – just cleaned out 4400 messages. On the one hand, my filters have never let through spam, on the other AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!

June 18, 2006

Happy Father’s Day

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 8:33 pm

Hey All,

Just wishing all you fathers out there a happy father’s day (and for all of you who aren’t fathers, I hope your fathers who are around had a good one!) We did the brunch thing, because my dad just loves that stuff. I can’t complain — I enjoyed myself quite, er, heartily. I consumed what could fairly be noted as “a day and a half worth of food”, but almost three hours of blading and tennis put any potential guilt out the window. My boys are still too young to really grok the whole father’s day concept, so Mommy is still buying the presents, and I looove presents (who doesn’t?)

In addition to all the wonderful clothes, I (finally) got a copy Thomas Keller’s incomparable The French Laundry Cookbook, a tome I’ve practically lusted after for a few years now. Thomas Keller is in my own personal pantheon of geek gods (along with such diverse compadres as Anthony Bourdain, Roger Ebert, and John Carmack). Software Developers (or anyone creative for that matter) who want to delight in the “food porn” of a man who is so far ahead of everyone else the words “in a class of his own” feel trite and weightless owe it to themselves to browse this book.

So I’ve got a book to drool over before I hit the sack – hope everyone had a great day.

June 1, 2006

Bow Down Before teh Wid0wM4ker

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 9:10 pm

So I go to my office to sync my iPod when I notice that my ‘puter ain’t running. No matter, my son Xander enjoys switches and lights (who doesn’t?) power bars are a veritable cornucopia of digitally manipulatable delights, so I just figured that he had gone ahead and killed the power.


But it turns out that my power supply was shot.


I am like some sort of eater of worlds in the realm of power supplies, the king at the head of some pantheon of cruel Elder Gods, combing the cosmos for 450 watt cubes o’ goodness. The burned out husks left in my horrible red wake form a sad line to infinity; a trail of tears, if you will. To try and thwart myself, this time I splurged for a true beast: 550 ever-loving, environment-destroying watts o’ doom. Unfortunately, I had to install the damn thing.

Now, I love my Antec case. Many a time I’ve immortalized it in song, singing sweet ballads to the ease with which I’ve installed drives and cards (is anyone else with a high end video card slightly nervous that your PCI Express bad boy has it’s own power cable?). Installing a power supply was hell, tho’ We’re talking naught but burning hot coals and burning hot cola.

It probably doesn’t help that I’ve got a ridiculously huge (we’re talking the mouth of a yelling anime character huge) fan, which I had to remove. Unlike the old days (ah, nostalgia), there is no simple lever, but power leads and nipples and clips and screws, oh my![1] The rest is a long story that doesn’t really need to be told right now, but after much heaving, ho-ing, and raking I finally got ‘er installed. Which brings me to the next part of my story.

I got a new monitor.

Not just any new monitor, but a 20.1″ (yes, the .1 does matter, so shut up) widescreen monitor. Despite some wags saying I should hold off (Eskimo Bill was heard to quip “You’ll get a 20″ widescreen for free with your iMac.” Yeah, you’re right, it is pretty funny) recent events (which I may or may not get into one day) convinced me that it was time for a present, so I got the monitor. And all I can say is


I used to have twin 19″ beasts, and I don’t for a second miss them – this thing is so clear and crisp and not weighing 200 pounds that it’s not even funny. And get this – I have a desk! It seems like crazy talk, but you can’t make this stuff up folks. So I played some Tomb Raider and some Half-Life and all I can say is


Yeah, colleagues chide me about my lack of a console, but I don’t care. I love my ridiculously hard to maintain PC with its ridiculously-expensive-at-the-time-but-now-more-depreciated-than-a-Sunfire video card. And I love writing this blog entry on a 20.1″ widescreen LCD while listening to phat beats through my 4.1 (anything else is overkill {wink , wink, nudge, nudge, say no more!}) system. I will totally throw up an mp3 this weekend. So yeah, life’s a pretty sweet fruit.

’cause even Skeletor, spawn of the Hell-Beast[2] must sometimes set aside his thirst for galactic dominance (and power supplies) and just chill out. All I can say is


[1] Hmmm…that last sentence, out of context, could fit right into the lighter works of the Marquis de Sade. I bet he never had to install a power supply.
[2] for power supplies

September 12, 2005

2001/09/11 + (4*(365d)) + 1d

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 1:18 am

Just read the 9/11 anniversary memories of another Canadian over on the Bliss Blog, and while I am not capable of that sort of evocative emotion or eloquence, I’ll twiddle the keys for a bit to eke out a quick memoir of my own. It rambles a bit, and arguably gets off point, but I promise there will be no haikus.

To answer the obligitory (and obvious) question “where were you?”, I was at my desk in my home office in Forest Lawn. For some reason, I decided not to go into work that day. Of course, at the time, “work” consisted of going in to flog the dead horse that was for a tiny paycheque and promises of beaucoup de stock. Despite solid enough business acumen to see that the shares (and the company) were worth nothing, I stuck with it. I loved getting paid for being Just Another Perl Hacker, and we are a dying breed. Sometime in midmorning, as I happily hacked away at Hephaestus[1], the Ront came onto MSN and after the usual pleasantries, I got this:

The Ront: the world trade centre fell

I didn’t know what he meant. I figured maybe it was a stock market crash or some other relatively innocuous event; the events that were transpiring never once crossed my mind. At some point, one of our fellow coworkers got on the horn; he picked up the Ront and they came to my house. As I made some coffee I dimly recalled that the last time Trever had visited my horrid abode of teal shag and orange wood panelling, it had been to watch the Avs win Ray Bourque’s first and only Stanley Cup.

They turned on the TV and it was on almost every channel. So we sat quietly, mostly dumbfounded. There were remarks on how good the coffee was, nervous pitch black humour about not working downtown anymore, and the occasional theory as to what the fuck was going on.

And the unspoken but unbearably heavy “why?”

I watched a retrospective documentary this afternoon: stories of victims and heroes and life and death. And while a part of me applauds the indominable human spirit, another part of me is sickened at how pathetic it is that only tragedy makes people care about each other; how pathetic it is that I am as guilty as anyone.

Am I changed person because of 9/11? Perhaps, in some imperceptible and unconscious way, yes I am. Have I changed how I live my life or how I relate to people because of 9/11? No. And while for a time people agreed that security was important, now all the airport check points are an inconvenience and an annoyance. We live in an impossibly impatient society. Everyone is in a hurry and noone considers the consequences.

A few years ago, a man died while trying to get around a tractor-trailer on an exit ramp. The driver of the semi never saw the car and ran it off the road. The car did a few flips, and the man was probably dead before it stopped rolling. Just within the last couple weeks, a couple of women died while making an illegal u-turn using a service lane.

Whenever this sort of senseless and completely and utterly avoidable death happens, my thoughts are always “What were that person’s last thoughts? What put them in such a rush that they just had to push in that last straw?” And while we can never know the truth, I’d wager that the reasons were mundane: wanting to get home quickly, not wanting to miss the next exit, or maybe just daydreaming.

I don’t think there’s any way to slow down our society. That could only happen if people could find some peace and some serenity, and not have to play the game to get ahead. But there is such drive to get ahead, and such drive to play. I’ve had times where I know for a fact that my family is upset with how many hours I work and how distant I can be in the middle of a project. It’s so easy to space out and think about logical problems – things I can prove correct or incorrect. And my worth to the society as a consumer grows. I get better positions, I get more money, and I keep running on that rat race treadmill.

When all you think about is getting ahead, you forget what’s really important. It’s easy to forget that my son’s laugh while flying a kite is worth a million times more than the most elegant algorithm. It’s easy to forget that holding my wife is worth more than staying late to score a few points with boss only to come home and sleep on the couch so I don’t disturb anyone. It’s easy to forget that my family cares more about whether or not I’m home for supper than whether I’m a Team Lead or a Manager. And even so, money’s tight. I see it as a failure that my wife has to work to help out[2]. And the cycle, the vicious cycle, repeats.

There have been times where burning the candle at both ends wasn’t enough – I had to break it in half and touch the flame to those ends to get a little more light. But I’m getting older, and after an all-nighter it now takes days, not hours, to recover. The truth is, I need to sort some things out before I’m finally forced to decide, once and for all, which is better: to burn out? Or to fade away…

[1] Shopplex’s online website editor that was going to change the face of the Interweb (to be fair it was pretty cool, and was based on code written by the impecable Chris Scott)
[2] Just to make this ABUNDANTLY CLEAR, I’m not some neanderthal ass who doesn’t let his wife work. She would rather stay home with the boys for a few years, but that’s just not possible right now.

August 22, 2005

The Cuz comes to Town

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 10:22 pm

Yeah, this is already a week old, but sometimes I’m lazy. My cousin, who I hadn’t seen in about a year (since his bro tied the knot. One cousin was the groom, another cousin was the best man, and my brother was the minister. It was surreal.) Anyway, we’ve been friends since, I don’t know, the dawn of time or something like that – I dimly recall trying to start a band called Hungarian Priest but our hit song You’re Gonna Do Time just didn’t resonate with the kids. He’s a fellow Deadhead and gave me a pretty kick ass bootleg from May 1973. As for my part, I grilled up a metric ton of burgers and provided some brewskies.

To prove I have absolutely no vanity, I’m posting this picture that my wife took. If I look like I haven’t slept or showered and seem a little hungover, well, you do the math.

August 20, 2005

Perfect Day

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 6:03 pm

Yeah, I know the Lou Reed song is about heroin (you’re going to reap what you sow…), but the post is about feeling normal for a little while. Doesn’t happen to me very often, but I’m getting a little better at it over time as I slowly transition from managing a dev team in charge of a scary expanse of legacy to being on a consulting team to enhance a much smaller bit o’ legacy. After doing a bit of design in the morning, the wife and I packed the boys into their massive stroller and walked down the “ice cream park” (so named since they have some playground equipment that looks like an ice cream stand. Gabriel will sell you a virtual chocolate chip ice cream cone for the low, low price of 6 fins. Luckily the 30 clams are also virtual.) In no particular order, here’s what we did:

  • I pushed Gabriel on the swing, even completing the vaunted “underduck” – something he was convinced could only be done by his grandparents. Heh.
  • We played some beach ball soccer.
  • Marie found a frog. Xander was suitably fascinated.
  • Much climbing and sliding, followed by going home and setting up the sprinkler.

After this I fed the boys (Xander somehow put away a peanut butter sandwich, 6 strawberries, and most of my bowl of cereal. That’s crazy talk) and then we all had a nap. All in all, it was a really good afternoon, and has me starting to think about what we should do when I take holidays next (probably in the Fall.) Marie always wants to go to her mom’s place in Regina, but I both hate Regina and agree with Eskimo Bill.

Who knows what will happen; it was just nice to feel mundane (in the absolute best sense of the word) for a few hours.

August 4, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

Filed under: Personal by Nathan @ 9:46 pm

So give me a stage
Where this bull here could rage
And though I could fight
I’d much rather recite
That’s entertainment

So today is my birthday. I turned the big three-one. 3-1. XXX-I.

As it turns out, it’s a lot like turning 30, but without all the existential angst. Age creeps up on you, I don’t feel any older than I did when I was 30, but feel a hell of a lot older than I did when I was 20. There were a few things I wanted to do before I was 30, and I made it on all counts, even if a couple of them were by mere months. For some reason, I didn’t set forth any goals to achieve before I turned 31 — that’s either a failure or a triumph, depending on how you look at it.

Still, goals or not, it was a very good year. We bought our first house, and I quit the job I needed to quit before I got bitter and cynical (well, before I got more bitter and cynical.) Made some friends, made some enemies, and drank a ton.

Here’s to year 32.

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