Welcome To The Party South Sudan!

Today, South Sudan became the newest country to be recognized by the United Nations.

Congratulations! And good luck!

You are going to need that luck; what with being in one of the least developed places of the world and having been ravaged by 50 years of fighting. I hope that you can sort yourself out and show the rest of the nations in the area how it’s done.

Way To Go New York!

Congratulations to the state of New York for civilizing the United States just a bit further. They are the sixth (and the largest) state to legalize gay marriage.

I rather like what Republican Senator Roy McDonald had to say on the topic:

You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, [bleep] it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it.

Absolutely right! And from a Republican no less.

It is long, slow climb out of the abyss of ignorance; but we’ll get there one day. Future generations will enjoy the true equality rights regardless of gender, race or sexual preference. The archaic notions and rituals that keep the myth that marriage has to be between a man and a woman is on life-support – we will pull the plug eventually.

Bicycling Around The World–The End (Of Posting About It…)

Like my dearth of recent blog posts in general, I have not provided an update on my cycling since December.

One big problem is that the bike computer I was using fell apart a few months back. I was using Excel to track my weekly progress. The last entry I had made was on February 22, 2011 for 2871.5 kilometers (for those of you who refuse to learn metric; 1784.267 miles). My last Streets & Trips check was for 1440 miles, so I’m quite sure that I easily exceeded the crow’s flight distance from Dallas to Seattle.finalCyclingChart

Another reason to stop tracking the distance is that I could easily see that I was making very linear progress. There was very little variation in my week to week distance. So tracking this began to feel redundant.

The large plateau here was my month-long vacation to Australia. The smaller taper at the end was the trip to the Dominican Republic combined with some inclement winter weather that forced me to take a bus to work a few times.

Still, this was a mildly interesting experiment.

I recently had to replace the tires on my bike and I was stunned that I had worn the tread away to nothing! That really drove the point home for me of just how much I ride and how dependent on the bike I am.

threadbareOf course, I had to take a picture of the old tires!

I wonder if I’ll ride my new tires to this point of destruction too?

Sprinting To Re-Blog

Phew! It has been more than a month since I wrote anything! Sometimes time seems to get away from you.

I had a rather nice, if too short, vacation back in Ontario. Spent some time with mom and a few friends and more than a few drinks at Chester’s Beers Of The World. Since the only major trip for me this year was the hop down to the Dominican Republic in February; I will make another swing back up to Canada in early October.

I’ll coincide that last trip with the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s convention in Hartford, Connecticut as well as swing through Charlotte, North Carolina to see some colleagues there.

Of course, this trip will happen before Harold Camping’s revised date for the End Of The World (I get the sense that line should be trademarked) on October 21. SPOILER ALERT: Nothing of the sort will happen on October 21st.

What else has been going on in my life? Well, the biggest change is that I have left the Developer Support Database team after over 7 years and switched to the Office team. Specifically, I will be supporting SharePoint. DSD often collaborates with the SPS crew since SharePoint stores everything in SQL Server. I began a temporary ambassadorship with SPS to help give them some autonomy from DSD.

I quickly realized that I should probably stick around longer than a few months. I have a lot planned for this and I hope that the SharePoint team is strengthened by my efforts.

Flying During The Rapture

Tomorrow I am flying up to Canada for a short vacation.

A tiny minority of people seem to think that Jesus will come again sometime during my flight. Of course, I have every confidence that I’ll land safely in Toronto.

I can hardly wait to check out the www.wecanknow.com website on Sunday!

Benny Gets It Wrong…Again

"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," he said. "But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason."

CBC News : Pope’s Easter eve message keys on divine creation

No Benny. Bad Benny! You are wrong, very wrong.

A little bit earlier, Benny confirmed for everyone that he had never read the Bible! In an Italian TV broadcast he told a Muslim woman in Ivory Coast:

"Violence never comes from God…

Wow! Violence abounds in the Bible. Much of that comes directly from g_d’s own hand.

I completely agree with Bill Maher’s speech at the end of Religulous:

The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having in key decisions made by religious people. By irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken.

Science and Anti-Science

Last week, the wonderful Hubble Space Telescope helped provide fresh evidence for the expanding universe. Very cool stuff! Once more, observed data refutes supernatural claims about our existence.

Of course the ignoramuses in the Texas government introduce a bill to protect supernatural claims about our existence.

the_data_so_far

The ever-awesome xkcd comics displayed the following comic when I was clicking the random link. It is so true.

No wonder Texas feels the need to file meaningless bills.

Bad Astronomy

For the past couple of months, I have been following Dr. Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog.

This is one of those blogs that you end up wishing you had been reading since the very first day. BA posts regular news updates and some stunning pictures from the world of astronomy (in particular) and science (in general). Plait also writes about the importance of skepticism and the abuse of the scientific method in areas such as homeopathy and the anti-vaccinations movement.

It is almost always interesting and well worth subscribing to the RSS feed.

Exiting The Deep Freeze

Phew! It is melting! The glorious upward tick in temperature started yesterday and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Microsoft’s office was closed most of the week; but since this weather shouldn’t keep someone who spent three decades in Canada down, I came in anyway. I was late a couple of days since I could not ride my bicycle and had to be dependent on taxis and buses.

My workouts were cancelled too. Funny, sometimes you don’t miss something until it is gone. I’ll be heading into the gym a bit later today to re-acquaint myself with the treadmill.

Being Canadian did not protect from slipping and falling either. Although minor, the ribs on my left side are still complaining to me about the damnable ice.

Dallas simply cannot handle this sort of thing. The city shuts down. I still laugh at them (sorry, but it is kind of funny) – I also empathize with them. I moved to Texas to get away from this sort of weather.

Time to get life back on track now. Laundry, groceries, workouts and more ray tracing await!

Ray Traces On Flickr

As previously mentioned, I have experimenting further with ray tracing graphics. It is a fun blending of both art and programming.

When I create an image that I really like and want to keep, I will upload it to my Flickr set.

If you have any questions about how a particular image was created, feel free to leave a comment and I will share the Scene Description Language file(s) with you (if it is a POV-Ray image).

Glass & Tiling Experiments

This image is one of my newest and also took the longest time to render – over 300 minutes. It looks deceptively simple but I I put a light source behind every piece of "glass."

This meant that POV-Ray had to compute many millions of rays and all their refraction and reflection angles.

I have also purchased Leveller from Daylon Graphics. This should help me render some interesting landscape features and bump maps for base objects.

If this hobby keeps up, I may very well have to build a dedicated rendering computer!

Two Years Of Working Out

Somewhere between the middle and the end of January 2009, I walked into the local Gold’s Gym that was a few blocks from my apartment. The management had big plans for the place and I can barely remember what the old gym looked like back then.

I had a fitness assessment with a trainer named Patrick. I had no idea that this would be the start of something awesome.

The sales pressure (not from Patrick) to buy personal training sessions on top of the membership was a bit on the hard side. But I did it and bought some sessions – and have not looked back since. I keep renewing sessions with Patrick – who has since been promoted to Fitness Director – and my life has been completely changed by it.

It was tough at first. My diet was terrible (it still needs work). I used to get breakfasts at IHOP on my way to work 3 or 4 times a week. It took time to wean me off of that addiction; now I will go to IHOP 3 or 4 times a year. Perseverance has paid off and I do not doubt that I am in the best shape of my life now.

The time has come to take the next big step. Gold’s is starting their annual Transform Your Life contest and Patrick convinced me to sign-up for it. I am also trying to convince my friend Mark to join this too; the personal competition will be helpful to us both.

The last remaining challenge for me (like a lot of guys) is my belly. This means another big correction to my diet and Patrick will be guiding that very carefully for the duration of the contest. Hopefully, it will turn into a lifestyle change that I stick with for the remainder of my days.

Later today, I’ll be having some "before" photos taken for the contest. I’m anxious to see what the next 12 weeks holds for me and my body.

Bring it on!

Australian Flooding

I have been following the stories of the flooding in Queensland with interest and concern.

This morning, the stories took a personal turn as my hometown of Brisbane is now affected. The dam protecting the city has held back what it can and now must allow flood waters into the city to prevent it from bursting.

To think it was only about 7 months ago that I walked by the 1974 flood marker!

I hope my friends are alright.

Quick edit to the original post; my friend Mark pointed me to this video from the town of Toowoomba. This is intense!

Diving Into 2011

I intentionally delayed my first post of 2011 so that I would not get caught up in the hype of summarizing 2010 (though my hero Paul Randal did make an excellent summary of the books that he read during 2010) or making silly resolutions.

I have a few things planned for the first half of this year – yes, this are dangerously close to being called "resolutions." I think they are different though.

More Ray Tracing

I am really enjoying experimenting with this. It is fun to see what can arise visually from one’s "programming" efforts. I’ll be exploring POV-Ray’s color_map feature as it is something that I see used quite often but didn’t grasp. A shout-out must go to Friedrich Lohmueller again for helping to explain color_map in an approachable way.

I am going to be purchasing Daylon Graphic’s terrain editor Leveller program in the very near future. I am excited to see what I can create with this. One of the key reasons that I chose this program is that much of what it produces can be exported to POV-Ray.

Work With The SharePoint Team

I have proposed to my manager that I leave the DSD team for the last quarter of our fiscal year and incubate with the SharePoint CSS team. We help that team a great deal since SQL Server is the back-end storage support for it and few SharePoint engineers really understand the nuances of that.

My goal is to be the first point of contact for all things SQL Server related. After directly assisting with their cases; I will be producing training and exploring ways to improve our data collection and analysis tools. I am hoping that ultimately both CSS teams will benefit from this in the long run.

Improve The House

This coming May will mark two years of house ownership. It is time that I make my mark with this place and turn it into my home instead of just a place to store my stuff. This goal is still very fuzzy on details and I am open to ideas in the comments (Oh! That could be a mistake…).

Keep Working Out

back workout 12-22-2010It is around this time that my second anniversary of hiring Patrick as a personal trainer is due. I have made a lot of progress. I have no doubt that I am at the healthiest that I have been in at least 20 years.

This picture was taken by Patrick on December 21. He says that my back is getting into great shape and now has some clear definition. Of course, I cannot see my own back so I’ll try taking some pictures here at home (I’ll spare the global community the horror of that and keep them for my eyes only!).

My last body fat percentage was 17.3%. I’d like to get just below 15%. My diet is the toughest obstacle there, I have always known that. The fact is, I dislike a great deal many vegetables; I find that their flavours are unpalatable. I also dislike cooking; so I am often consuming quick and dirty options like frozen dinners (even brands like Healthy Choice probably do not stack up to doing it yourself).

There are new tools that are helping me. Gold’s Gym now has an online food journal that can total calories, fat and other dietary statistics. This is giving me quick visual feedback – especially when I slip and consume some fast food or make a poor snack choice. I also bought a Polaris watch to monitor my heart rate and compute calories burned.

Read More Books On Religion

Last night I finished Bart Ehrman’s excellent Misquoting Jesus. The subtitle, "The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" drew me in right from the start. I have a certain conservative, Christian friend who immediately rolled his eyes upon hearing the title. It is sad that people dismiss things out-of-hand without first seeing what the subject is really about.

Textual criticism is a fascinating subject and it is a shame that our children do not learn about in school.

I need to finish Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures too.

He has a superior style of writing that takes a complex subject and makes it accessible to the lay-person.

Sam Harris (another hero of mine) recently blogged the Afterword that he wrote for his Letter To A Christian Nation. Both are excellent reads. I was very glad that my father read Letter twice while I was visiting him in Australia last year. I will definitely be reading Harris’ newest book The Moral Landscape very soon.

To be fair to my former Christian beliefs, last year I read Patrick Glynn’s God: The Evidence. This was, unfortunately, pitifully written. It was unconvincing on all levels. To me, it felt like just about every chapter stopped short. Almost as though Glynn believed that he had presented his "evidence" sufficiently for anybody to connect the "obvious" dots together. He failed. Badly.

I have many others in my ever-growing queue thanks to Amazon constantly recommending purchases.

Bring It On 2011!

In one month, I’ll be heading to the Dominican Republic for a week to attend a friend’s wedding. All the old crew from my Proctor & Gamble slumming days will be there and we’re all looking forward to ensuing mayhem we’ll cause. A vacation is a great way to start a year!

So now, we’ll see what the next 50 weeks bring!

Re-Entering The Matrix

Another (irrelevant) Christmas Day has passed by and along with it a double-shift. Ouch. Winter weather over Europe stranded the engineer who was to cover the early morning hours so I jumped in for him. Equal parts generosity and stupidity.

It was not that bad really. I have worked several Christmas Day shifts; they are typically very quiet and yesterday was no exception. I spent a few hours helping out a Qatari customer who let an unchecked transaction log fill up his drive space. After that, it was little more than a waiting game for the next engineer to relieve me.

Now that I am rested again, I decided to watch the Matrix Trilogy again.