Curling... Freaking Sweet

Sunday was a day of adventure. After a bit of cajoling from the local gang, I tagged along to the curling open house at the Norfolk Curling Club, which was about a 1.5 hour trek from Poughkeepsie.

We arrived at 1:30, a bit before the open house officially started, and soon found ourselves in an incredibly crowded lodge, as apparently more than a few people got the Curling fever during the recent Olympics.

The first hour on the ice was mostly doing little drills, which was interesting, but got repetitive quickly. We eventually left the ice so that others could have a change. However, after being inside for about 10 minutes Pyg aptly noticed that part of the court had freed up, and maybe we could get some more time out there.

After a few rounds of throwing stones, I decided to grab a broom and see if I could manage this sweeping thing. That presented a couple of new challenges. There was the challenge of running the whole court after the stone without falling on your butt, the challenge of sweeping with great vigor, without falling, and the challenge of hearing the difference between the words "sweep" and "up" from the skip at the far end while the din of stones moving across the ice, and while concentrating hard on the not falling part. I only screwed up the not falling part once, but that can be excused, as while I was managing running on the ice, and sweeping hard pretty well, the addition of trying to avoid stepping on the kid that fell in front of me was the straw that broke the camel's back. Anyway, after about 30 minutes of that I'd had quite a nice aerobic workout.

And then, the really cool part happened. It was about 4:15, and people kept peeling off the ice (I was about ready to hang up my broom after tiring from sweeping). One of the guys from the club noticed that there we 6 of us left out there, Jay, Pyg, and I, plus 3 high school kids that seemed to know each other, so he asked if we wanted to play a real game.

All I can say is... FREAKING AWESOME. My lack of throwing practice clearly showed itself, however the fact that I actually spent time learning sweeping technique helped a bit. We played 2 ends, with the guy from the club playing skip for both of us and giving us advice. In the end we lost 2 to 1, through a nice knockout on the hammer by the other team.

All in all, a very fun experience. If you ever have a chance to try it, do!

Funny Grading Stories

I came across this on Science Blogs.

A question from yesterday's final exam, paraphrased slightly:

Element X decays into Element Y with a half-life of 30 minutes. You are given a sample containing three times as many atoms of Y as X. If the initial sample was pure X, how long ago was it prepared?

One student wrote:

It seems like a lifetime ago...

All hail the super earth!

A new planet has been discovered, and it turns out that "these icy super-Earths are pretty common. Roughly 35 percent of all stars have them."

Wow! 1/3 of all stars have super earths. I still remember the utter amazement when in high school the first extra solar planet was found, even though it was around a pulsar, so any life would have been blasted off of it long ago. Now we're over 170 extra solar planets found.

Just awesome.

Yet more fun with RSS, rssbot

More and more IRC has has basically become a dashboard for me. Most of what I need to know goes on in it, and most of the technical conversations I have are based in there. Especially given that the 2 main tools I use, mercurial and moinmoin, have rss feeds, it becomes even more sensible to have that information feed right into IRC as well.

So after spending a couple hours understanding POE (which is an event model for Perl much like Twisted is for Python), and the IRC and RSS sample code that goes along with it, I created a simple rssbot for the mhvlug IRC channel. It's mostly working at this point, though I'm going to clean it up a bit and add a config file over the next few days before publishing it.

POE is definitely a much better place to start experimenting with IRC bits that I was thinking about before. And it was fun to write an IRC bot from scratch in 3 hours. 🙂

Gnome Sort

While search the NIST Algorithms Dictionary for a simple sort algorithm that would be easy to write in CUSP asm, I came across gnome sort, which I'd never seen before.

Gnome Sort is based on the technique used by the standard Dutch Garden Gnome (Du.: tuinkabouter). Here is how a garden gnome sorts a line of flower pots. Basically, he looks at the flower pot next to him and the previous one; if they are in the right order he steps one pot forward, otherwise he swaps them and steps one pot backwards. Boundary conditions: if there is no previous pot, he steps forwards; if there is no pot next to him, he is done.

Awesome! The implementation is 23 instructions in CUSP asm for an arbitrary segment of continous memory.

Friends Abroad

One of the great things about going to school at a place like Wesleyan, is that your friends end up in very interesting, very different parts of the world. For instance, Jehan randomly IMed me this morning with news of his sold out show in the UK. Unfortunately the site is just one big flash application, so links within it aren't very useful, but here is a review.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Ben posted about this over the weekend, and it made me think a bit. When I was just graduating college, and was asked the question, I had a few answers I thought I could give to that.

In 5 years I

  • Would not be working for IBM (false)
  • Would hopefully have gotten to the Olympics (true)
  • Would be married to my then girl friend (false)
  • Would have moved out of the Hudson Valley (false)
  • Would never consider going back to grad school (false)

The most surprising things that happened in that same 5 years were

  • Getting the job in the Linux Technology Center at IBM (the reason I stayed)
  • Starting the LUG, and meeting lots of friends through it
  • Meeting Susan, and all that has happened since
  • Learning to Sail
  • That the Olympics thing actually panned out 🙂

MoinMoin, what a wonderful wiki application

I recently upgraded the MHVLUG website to MoinMoin version 1.5.2, after a long evening of redoing my Moin MHVLUG Theme (requiring some python hacking as well as css changes). The new version features a GUI Editor, which, while not perfect, is really impressive. It is a piece of JavaScript code that formats graphically in the edit buffer when you edit the wiki page. The most impressive part of this is the table support, which has full key bindings that you'd expect from a spreadsheet application. Again, there are still bugs (I reported one today), but what an amazing lowering of the barrier to entry in using Wikis this is.

from trac to moin

I finally decided that I had enough of Trac, the integrated wiki / tracker / scm site, after it appears there are no longer any working versions in svn that support mercurial as the back end source management system. That wasn't the only reason that I decided to leave trac behind, it was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I know if I pinged the developers, it would probably be fixed in a short while, but after a month of Trac at work testing things out, I've decided that I just like MoinMoin better for a wiki, and the other benefits weren't something I was really using.

There are a bunch of reasons for this:

  • MoinMoin supports Templates for pages, this makes creating similar content pages (like interview forms for interns) much easier. In Trac I had to cut and past a lot.
  • While it shouldn't be a big deal, the double click page to edit preference is so nice from a usability point of view
  • I was doing other MoinMoin work on an official wiki where it was convenient to have my own test wiki to toy with, write new Parsers and Macros
  • The benefits of the RSS feed for Trac is heavily mitigated by Mercurial having it's own RSS feed built in. I also found the RSS that Trac generated to be less than useful, and will probably even make some enhancements to the Mercurial feed as well.
  • There were just enough format differences from Trac to MoinMoin, that it was frustrating me in moving from one to the other.
  • I'm already maintaining MoinMoin for MHVLUG, so one less app to maintain myself is much better.
  • MoinMoin 1.5 just feels slick. The built in styles get everything you don't need out of the way, and the GUI editor is a good addition to get new people using the wiki.

So has been retired, and is where I'll be putting all my bits now.

Exploring and discovering how things are more complicated, with a focus on climate and software