Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kemono no Souja Erin 50

I finally finished Kemono no Souja Erin and it is without doubt one of the most enjoyable anime series I seen for a long time. The last few episodes were the best of the entire series as each of the secondary character's stories is properly completed. There are no lose ends in this series.

As I noted in previous posts on this series, the story focuses on the life of the title character, Erin, at three turning points in her life at age 10, 14, and 18. The third part turns considerably darker as sinister people finally discover Erin's ability to control beast-lords. She loses her bond with Lilan, the beast-lord Erin befriended, when she is forced to subdue Lilan with a mute whistle, an act which was necessary but nevertheless goes against the core of Erin's beliefs. However, the final episode leaves no doubt that the bond was never completely lost, when Lilan saves Erin in a most remarkable manner.

Its hard to find anything wrong with the series. There are a pair of annoying sidekicks who provide the only comedic moments in the story. There are a few filler episodes but not as many as one might expect for such a long series.

The series is incredibly consistent. From the fantasy world to the beliefs of the character, everything is developed in such a way that your disbelief is never challenged.

Jumping Off The CN Tower

Here's a little bit of Toronto history from the torontoist blog about stuntman Dar Robinson's jump off the CN tower in 1980. Actually, he had already performed the stunt once before for a movie, but he used a parachute that time.

The second time was far more dangerous with only a single wire attached to an experimental braking system to break his fall. Bad weather and the wind vortexes around the Tower were other factors that he had to contend with. Both these risks are graphically demonstrated in the video using a test dummy. Dar had good reason to be nervous when he finally took the plunge on August 12, 1980.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Admin-ing Embarrassment

Woah! I upgraded the kernel to 2.6.32 (yeah, I'm a little behind) on my ancient server, which uses an ASUS P2B-DS dual CPU motherboard, and noticed Linux is only using one CPU! Here's the embarrassing part. It appears this problem was introduced in 2.6.28 which means the server has been running on one CPU for months. Obviously I dropped the ball on that one. ;_;

At least I'm not the only one. It seems nobody else noticed until now either. The regression has only just been fixed in 2.6.33, which was only released a few days ago. It has not been packaged on Debian yet, but the server ran this long without my noticing the problem, so I guess I can live with it for a few more days.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What Is Time?

Time travel stories have been a around long before the science fiction genre was conceived. But what is time exactly? Here's an interview in Wired with Sean Carroll, a physicist who is trying to find the answer. It's a great read but I liked his answer as to whether time travel is possible. He doesn't rule it out but it isn't likely either. In other words, we just don't know.

Of course, it depends on how you define time travel. I time travel into the future at a rate of one second per second. Perhaps others travel at a different rate? ^_^

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Messy Jobs

So, when someone approaches you (being a Debian guy) looking for an admin for a CentOS 5.0 production server that hasn't had any security updates, that has never been backed up, and that is about to be reinitialize by the hosting provider due to some "audit problem", my advice would be to run like hell.

One day I'll learn to take my own advice. ^_^

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Drive-By-Wire Systems

With Toyota's reputation for quality now sullied beyond repair, the "accelerator sticking" problem started as a loose floor mat issue, then turned into a mechanical problem, and is now a possible software bug in the drive-by-wire system. Of course that makes it even harder to investigate since you need good programmers to to do that kind of work. And it doesn't help when the safety authority apparently doesn't employ any software engineers. Let me guess, they'll probably out source the investigation. Perhaps even to the same people who wrote the code in first place!

OK, I'm just made up that last part, but it isn't completely impossible.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Wave In Toronto

It's a little known fact that Toronto was one of the few places in North America where punk and new wave music took root in the late 1970s. Most of the British new wave bands considered it worthwhile to play gigs here, which was significant because usually the only other place they played was New York City. Here are a few photographs, part of larger exhibit opening in March, that were taken by a couple of talented amateurs between 1979 and 1981. Strangely enough, I've heard the music of every band shown in the pictures.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

TekSavvy Testing IPv6

My ISP, TekSavvy Solutions, is beta testing native IPv6. I'm almost sure that they will be the first Canadian ISP to make IPv6 available to the end user. One benefit is that Bell apparently can't throttle IPv6 (yet). So, apart from the obvious PR benefits of offering IPv6, Teksavvy is giving its users yet another way of sticking it to the man. Really, do I need any other reason to want IPv6? ^_^

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Command Line Arguments

I've switched to argparse, an awesome replacement for optparse, the standard Python library for parsing command line arguments. Here is a feature comparison.

Subcommand support was the feature that sold me on argparse. It is now common practice to break a complex command line utility into subcommands that are invoked by the first positional argument. argparse handles this out of the box and even provides a way to store a function name, so you don't even have to figure out which subcommand was invoked.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Missing The Obvious

I recently wrote about a problem in pip which was annoying me. Since then, I've looked for a work around but couldn't find one. At the last PyGTA meeting, I talked to Myles about it. When I explained how I used
pip install -e .
to install the application under development into the virtualenv, he noted that it was just like "development mode" in setuptools:
python devel
*facepalm* (which isn't easy when you wear glasses. ^^)

I don't know how I missed such an obvious answer. Thanks Myles.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Last Veteran

Canada's last veteran of World War I has died. He was 109. RIP.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WRC 2010 Sweden

Mikko Hirvonen threw down the gauntlet in the opening rally of the 2010 WRC season. When Loeb admits defeat and settles for second place, that tells you everything about how well Hirvonen drove to score the first win of the season. Hirvonen has to keep it up, though, as Loeb is driving like he wants another title.

Sordo's early pace was a big surprise as ice and snow is not his best rally surface, but it shows how much he has improved. Latvala eventually claimed third from Sordo after he had a wild moment on day two, narrowly missing some trees. Sordo admitted that he was very lucky to get away with it.

My favourite driver, Petter Solberg had a very disappointing rally with several costly mistakes, include running into the back of Mark Wilson when they both over shot the same right hander. Solberg managed to claw himself back to ninth place which wasn't bad considering he was obviously not at his best.

The man having the most fun, was Kimi Raikkonen. As expected from a rookie, he made several errors and only finished 30th. Should be interesting to see how much he improves over the season.

PyCon Rehearsals

This month at the PyGTA meeting, Leigh Honeywell and Mike Fletcher each had rehearsals for their PyCon presentations. Leigh talked about her experience teaching Python to diverse users at hacklab. Mike discussed how PyGTA keeps things fun.

Hacklab is primarily a hardware hacking group that happens to use Python as its standard programming language. Leigh setup a weekly session to teach Python to the hacklab. Leigh shared some of successes and failures of running these sessions.

PyGTA isn't like most user groups. The topics are sometimes a little of the wall but we always have fun. Mike's talk reminds us that most Python development depends unpaid volunteers who only do it because they enjoy it. If you take the fun out of it, the best you can hope for is a dull, incompatible rewrite of the core language. That's a sign people are not having fun.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mimas And Calypso

NASA's Cassini probe continues to send amazing images from Saturn's neighbourhood. These images are valuable because they may be the only way we have to inspire some future, as yet unborn, generation to actually go and see the these vistas for themselves. It will require a people with a different out look about themselves and their place in the universe, because our insignificance will become much more apparent as we travel further and further from this little rock we call home. We, that is the present generations, aren't ready for that kind of revelation yet.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lazy Long Weekend

Now that was one lazy long weekend. After spending time with my sister on Saturday, I got serious about getting nothing done. I even skipped writing a post yesterday so now I'm behind in my goal of one post per day for the whole year. On the other hand there was nothing important to get done anyway. I've managed to avoid letting stuff like paperwork pile up so maybe a lazy long weekend was deserved. Nah, who am I kidding? There is always something that needs to be done.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Family Day 2010

It's a holiday weekend in Ontario so I arranged to spend some time at my sister Jean's home. In other words, I invited myself over. ^_^ My other sister was supposed to join us but couldn't make it. My nephew was home for a change as Winter halted his photo surveying work. We enjoyed yummy curry and rice for supper, followed by a quiet evening catching up while we watched some of the Olympic coverage. (Which is likely to be all the Olympics I will see at all.)

Next get together will likely be on Easter with the entire family (the Canadian contingent), which provides an entirely different kind of entertainment experience.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Olympic Post

Oh wow, there's Olympics this year? And it's in Vancouver? Like, that's in Canada, eh? Since its Winter, it must be the Winter Olympics, right?

Seriously, I can't remember the last time when I paid any attention to the Olympics but the tragic death of the Georgian luger during training caught my attention. He was estimated to be doing 140 km/h when he left the track. That's bloody fast for what is basically an unprotected human missile with almost no control, sliding down a twisty sheet of ice. This guys are seriously brave.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

CRTC Is Concerned

The Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) released a report which confirms that telephone and TV costs are rising out of control. Well, duh! is all I can say. This situation was inevitable in a deregulated market with a grand total only four suppliers, who do not even compete with each other in every region of the country. Of course, it doesn't help that the CRTC agrees to almost everything that Bell, Rogers, Telus, and Shaw wants.

It is possible to get out of this mess but it requires the Federal government to change the regulations. Fortunately, Minister Of Industry Tony Clement understands the need for changes. Unfortunately, we have a minority government that is acting like yahoos, so those changes are not going to happen before the next election.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Wackiest Law

This has got to be the wackiest law I ever seen. South Carolina now requires "subversives" to register or face fines!? Yes, it is an actual law, covered here and here. I shall refrain from making any further comment since it may require me to register. ^_^


Khalid Baheyeldin of 2bits presented an overview of the Linux Apache MySQL PHP (LAMP) stack at this month's GTALUG meeting. This is a lot to cover in a couple of hours but he managed to get to all the main points nicely. This is not surprising since Khalid deploys LAMP systems professionally so he is very knowledgeable. He even found time to point out alternatives to the various components and still managed to avoid stirring up any preference wars, especially around the choice of programming languages.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Project Humour

Every project starts with some sort of specification. This is one of favourites: "You did project A and project B for us a few years ago. We have a new project C which combines A and B and adds a few more features. Should be easy, right?" Er, no, not really. Then there is the famous, "This just an abstract, high level design for now." OK, then can I give an abstract estimate? No, I thought not. Ah, the lighter side of custom software projects. ^^

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Robotic Warfare

This BBC article on robotic warfare misses one interesting point. If we can go to war without endangering our own soldiers, there is one less incentive for avoiding war. At least once a month, Canada loses a soldier in Afghanistan. Without that human face, the war would likely go unnoticed by almost all Canadians and the politicians would not be under pressure to withdraw our troops. If the military brass get their robot soldiers, we would actually have more wars than ever before, assuming the machines can be mass produced cheaply, which is likely the only sticking point for having full robotic armies.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Milk In Bags

Oh, no! Ontarian's drink milk from plastic bags! This dirty little secret was exposed when this video was posted on YouTube. I've lived in Ontario long enough that I take bagged milk for granted, but for most of world it is a very strange way to buy milk. This Toronto Star article mentions a few places that switching to bagged milk, including South Africa where I was born. Perhaps bagged milk is the future and us folk in Eastern Canada are just ahead of the curve. Or maybe we are just weird. ^^

Friday, February 5, 2010

H.R. Giger

H.R. Giger turned 70 today and Wired ran a couple of articles (some NSFW, here and here) to commemorate his birthday. Giger's work is as instantly recognizable as it is intriguing and disturbing. Like most people, I first became aware of Giger after seeing Ridley Scott's Alien, but of course his body of work far exceeds that. There is even a Giger museum which looks like a most interesting destination for the non-tourist like me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

F1 Points System

The new Formula One points system means this season will likely have the highest points scores ever. One goal was to encourage a race-to-win attitude but I don't see how this works. The top teams and drivers are always striving to win so I doubt further encouragement is needed. Consistency has always been more important and the new system still rewards that, albeit to a lesser degree than before. I doubt the new system will have any effect on the racing so I expect it will be changed again next year.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Common Sense Down Under

A group of copyright holders sued Australian ISP iiNET, claiming that they were liable for the infringement activities of their users. In a sudden outbreak of common sense, the court ruled against the rights holders. More importantly, the ruling clearly explains why cutting off Internet access as punishment for copyright infringement is unjust. Hopefully this common sense will leak into other Commonwealth countries. Micheal Geist and Howard Knopf offer differing opinions on the ruling.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Touch Tone Fee

Bell Canada introduced touch tone in the 1970s and added a charge on everyone's phone bill to cover the cost of the upgrades. Here we are, forty years later, and the fee is still on everyone's phone bill. Apparently the charge pays for "other" upgrades now. Yeah, it's more like an upgrade to their profits. Just a small example of why monopolies are bad.

Monday, February 1, 2010


The more I read about the Nokia N900, the more I like it. There are lots of reviews all over the 'net for the curious. This is my kind hand held device: a computer that just happens to be a phone, not the other way around. Unfortunately, I'm just window shopping as I can't seriously consider buying one at the moment.