Mikey’s Got A Gun

Alright, not really. Yet, I could not resist the word play on the Aerosmith tune.

This afternoon was a first for me. I shot my first guns. As a teenager, I briefly owned a pellet gun. Mom didn’t want me to buy it, but I did anyway…so it did not last. In my 20s I fired off about four paint gun rounds – a rather underwhelming 5 seconds of my life.

060910163209 My good friend Mark suggested that after work today, we would head over to Bass Pro Shops and use their shooting range. I shot Mark’s .22 target pistol (a Ruger MK III) and a .22 holdout pistol (a Beretta 21 Bobcat). I also fired a few rounds from his 9mm (a Bersa Thunder 9 Ultra Compact) but did not like the accuracy loss that comes with that extra kick.

Target #1 was the .22s from a distance of 10 feet.

Target #2 was the .22 target pistol and one clip from the 9mm; also from 10 feet.

Target #3 was the .22 target pistol from 21 and 32 feet.

060910164522 From my first week in Texas, many Canadian friends have been asking, "So have you bought a gun yet?" All kidding aside, the answer remains an emphatic, "No." I just do not see myself succumbing to this crazy notion about gun ownership as a right (besides, I am not a US citizen so my rights here are curtailed).

To me, gun ownership is a privilege not a right. Privileges can be taken away if necessary.

However, I do see myself target practicing again some time.

It Is About Time!

I have been waiting for President Obama to ask, "Whose ass do I kick?" for weeks now!

Until now, just about every news report that I have read regarding the Deepwater Horizon disaster features a penitent president accepting responsibility for this catastrophe. I don’t get it. This is not his fault. This is entirely the fault of BP and their vendors.

The government should be there with resources to help affected states clean-up. But the true culprits should be ultimately footing 100% of the costs.

Columnist Mark Morford phrased it the best way:

Truly, BP is behaving no better or worse than any other corporate spawn of Satan would in a similar situation. What’s more, if you don’t think every oil company on earth is right now kneeling before Beelzebub in gratitude that it wasn’t one of their own wells that exploded, you haven’t been paying attention.

Morford rightly continues, stating that this is not Obama’s Katrina (frankly, the comparisons made between the two events sicken me). Rather, it is Big Oil’s Chernobyl.

I hope that something good can come from this mess…

A Week Without Facebook

I quit Facebook over privacy concerns.

My email inbox in considerably quieter, I like that. There were some people I was keeping in touch with only through Facebook, I do miss that.

Overall, this has been a good decision I think. Even setting aside the privacy issues, Facebook was becoming a noisy, spamming headache that demanded constant attention. This was even not playing all the insipid games that tried to further encroach on your personal data!

I hope that the people who really want to stay in touch with me will do so through this blog.

Bicycling Around The World – Part 3

Yesterday marked two months of using my bicycle computer to track the total distance that I bike ride.

th_bikeDistance_All_Week_8 In eight weeks I have covered just over 585 kilometres (363.5 miles for my American friends). This means that from my house in Irving, Texas I have now:

  • crossed into the state of Mississippi to the east
  • passed Wichita, Kansas to the north
  • am just inside the New Mexico border to the west
  • am in Mexico to the south-west

I figure that in a month or so my two radii will intersect. Well, not quite, because I am taking a month-long vacation to Australia next week (keep reading this blog for updates).

From my old apartment in Etobicoke, Ontario; I have travelled past Montreal, Quebec, Washington D.C. and Timmins, Ontario. I am approaching Cincinnati, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois.

Windows Live Writer

This is my first post on this new blog with Windows Live Writer. It is a great tool for blogging and is much faster than the web-based interface. This should help me blog more prolifically.

I had hoped that I could use Live Writer to include images in my posts. However, there seems to be a problem with that – both the web-based WordPress editor and Live Writer have problems creating posts with images in them. Very strange.

The best clue that I have is that Live Writer reported an HTTP 500 error. This suggests that the problem is server-side (although it is generic). I’ll check with my provider; hopefully they can search the server logs and help me pinpoint where the problem is.

Cycling Setback

Last Sunday, I noticed that my bike computer was no longer working. It had been fine on Saturday when I rode home from work; but the next day it no longer showed my speed or accumulated my distance.

The last reading I had on the odometer was 465.9 kilometers. I tried replacing the battery (though it obviously was not a power problem). No joy. I haven’t had a chance to take the bike in for repairs either. Maybe on Tuesday.

I hope that I don’t have to give up the “Cycling Around The World” project. It has been rather fun watching my radii grow each week.

Update: June 1, 2010

I took the bike into Bicycles Plus – anybody living in Irving or Coppell should go here for all their cycling needs! They replaced the bike computer under warranty.

Since the bike is my primary method of transportation, it is basically going to work, to the gym or to Wal-Mart for groceries; the weekly distances I had been tracking in an Excel spreadsheet were very linear. Adding a trendline to the chart shows that it is reasonable mark 552.4 kilometers today.

I’ll update the Streets & Trips data when I get to work tomorrow morning.

Quitting Facebook?

To quit or not to quit?

That is the question…

I, like tens of thousands around me, have become very concerned about my personal information and Facebook’s blatant abuse of it. What really started this for me was the visualization of Facebook’s privacy changes. This really got me thinking. I read the Quit Facebook Day site and announced my intentions to quit on my status.

 My good friend Mike then posted the following rant on his FB status:

I see people saying they’re quitting FB due to FB’s privacy policies. I don’t particularly care who quits FB for any reason but why are people complaining about this? It’s not a bank or credit card company. They are under no obligation to protect you any more than Google is. If you want to use the service you agree to their terms.

These settings can be manged. Admittedly, they continually change making it very annoying but it can be done. Alternatively, you can simply change your name to say Mike D. and remove personal information from your profile. This is a fun way of keeping in touch with people, not some high security web site for storing all your personal info. Quit being retards and lighten up.

Evil Interfaces

This started an interesting conversation between several of us. The best piece of information from this was the Reclaim Privacy site. If you use Facebook, use this site to check on your privacy settings. I took minor exception to the “retard” comment and referenced the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s essay on “evil interfaces.”

James used the analogy, “complaining about a lack of privacy on Facebook is like walking around naked and then calling people perverts if they look at your wiener.” That was rather funny but I felt it was also a bit flawed:

First; when we signed up to FB, we had clothes on. Sure, they were skimpy and revealing … but clothes nonetheless. Over time, FB has been stripping us naked. Most didn’t even know it … the few that did found it next to impossible to do anything about it. The so-called controls changed nearly weekly (see the “evil interfaces” essay I mentioned).

Second and possibly more important. I don’t care if you guys make fun of my weiner. We’re friends. It is practically a prerequisite! What bothers me is when your friends whom I don’t know – or worse yet, some unknown app or “Liked” group that one of you happens to load/click – now gets to see my weiner without me knowing about it.

Mike still wasn’t buying my argument:

…it still boils down to this…FB is not a medium for securing your personal info. It’s simply a way for us to keep in touch in a common forum. Like I said, change your name to M.A.G. and don’t post personal info like place of work, contact info, etc. You really have no valid complaint. FB is, and should be, allowed to modify the app in any way they see fit. If you were somehow under the impression that FB is the e-version of Fort Knox you were misled.

Rest assured, I do not think that Facebook is Fort Knox. I removed as much personal information as I could – interests, political opinions, quotes that I liked, my education. Today I discovered (a bit naive given that I am in the database field) that once Facebook “knows” something about you, it won’t forget.


I am quitting Facebook. Early on, it was my addiction to Facebook updates that killed my first blog. I want this blog to be the interface for my friends and family to follow my life.

Social networking is an interesting new application. I may return to it when it gets better. Diaspora offers some hope. In the mean time, here are some useful links to consider:

Three Years In Texas!

Last Wednesday marked the third anniversary of my arrival in Texas. The only other time I had been in Texas was 3 months earlier when I interviewed for my Blue Badge (i.e. full-time employee) position. What a ride it has been!

Microsoft CSS has a tradition – not everyone follows it fortunately – of bringing in one pound of M&Ms for each year you have worked. Naturally, I had to bring in 1.360 kilograms of candy since I enjoy promoting the metric system in the only nation whose citizens have yet to adopt it. I mention that it is fortunate not everyone follows this tradition since some of my colleagues would cause organization-wide diabetic comas on their anniversaries.

Why Texas? Honestly, my first choice was Washington and the support site at Issaquah. I spoke with my mentor Jerome (who is now a SQL Server developer) and he convinced me that Texas was the better choice. The cost of living is cheaper here and for SQL Server support, Bob Ward and Bob Dorr are here.

I certainly never expected to own a house so quickly – the real estate slump helped with that. The next biggest hurdle would be to stop procrastinating getting my driver’s license (still no plans in that department since I enjoy riding my bike too much).

Bicycling Around The World – Part 2

At the five week mark I had put 331 kilometers on the odometer. I was well past Oklahoma City to the north, Austin to the south and Shreveport to the east. On the Toronto map, I was just at Sudbury to the north, just past Detroit to the southwest and closing in on Ottawa to the northeast.

As of this post, the odometer sits at 416 kilometers. I’ll update the Streets & Trips maps when I start my work week on Wednesday. You can see the current maps on my Flickr site here and here.

Catching Up With Posts

That cold was more persistent than I first gave it credit for! I had to consume copious amounts of medicine to sleep through coughing fits; but I believe that I really do have it defeated now.

Right now, I am focused on my upcoming vacation to Australia. I fly out of Dallas on June 15th and won’t be back until July 11th. This will be the second time that I have been back Down Under since my family moved back to Canada when I was five years old. My dad and sister have since moved back permanently.

I will spend more time tomorrow getting caught up with blog entries.

Still Under The Weather…

I have had a persistent but minor cold for over a week now. It has been the primary force keeping from posting recently.

My shift at work is reverting back to the early morning. So I am awake in an effort to adjust my body and brain to the new schedule. I am part of the “CritSit Rotation” team. High severity cases with a major business impact to our customers are called “Critical Situations” but this gets chopped down to “CritSit.” Usually, these cases are solved in a single day. Occasionally, they will last several days. To minimize case ownership changes (especially to engineers unfamiliar with the case), we rotate ownership through a small dedicated team.

From Wednesday through Saturday, 5am to 2pm, your CritSit will be owned by your’s truly.

Hopefully, by tomorrow morning, this cold will be completely defeated and I’ll be back to my usual self.

Ray tracing; my new hobby

I have renewed my interest in ray tracing. My first taste of it came from C# MVP Ryan Lamansky; he let me play with his abortive attempt to convert POV-Ray into a .NET application.

The computer graphics creation that most people are familiar with are from programs that try to mimic the real-world creation of art. So you have brushes and pencils and powerful algorithms that can make your strokes and lines look like oil paint or charcoal or watercolour. Very neat stuff if you are creative to begin with – I am not. Ray tracing appeals to me because it is actually much closer to programming than it is to painting. You describe a scene to the ray tracing program and it renders an image from that description. Here is one of my early renders from several years ago.

Rest assured, that I am still very much in the cliché section of the graphics that I create. Although one can learn a great deal from the sample code that comes with POV-Ray, I thought that I would use some of the posts on this blog as tutorials for people starting out with ray tracing themselves.

Leave a comment. Let me know what you think of the tutorial idea.

590 Pound Leg Press

I never would have thought earlier in my life that I would be capable of leg pressing 590 pounds. Thanks to the amazing work of an amazing trainer; I acheived this back in February 2010.

The sights are now set on managing to do this with 720 pounds – that would be eight plates on either side.

Bicycling Around The World

Alright, I am not really bicycling around the world. I thought that would be obvious. But, I do cycle a lot. That is a side-effect of not having learned to drive or acquire a vehicle license (yet). Nearly two weeks ago, I bought a bike computer so I could track my speed, time and distance. I’m not racing; I’m just curious.

So I am going to check the odometer every week to see my total distance travelled. Just the first week surprised me – I had ridden 87.8 kilometers. So I mapped it out on Streets & Trips 2010.

From my house in Irving, 87 kilometers puts me just shy of the Oklahoma border. From my old apartment in Etobicoke, I could ride into Niagara Falls, New York or north past Barrie, Ontario. I am curious what a month or a year of riding will look like on the maps. My original plan was to update these images weekly; but that seems excessive. I’ll post new links if I hit a major milestone on the maps (passing a major city or landmark).

Maybe bicycling around the world is not that far a stretch in a figurative sense.

Caution: Man At Work II

Strides Forward

Many of the link problems with the tags, categories, post calendar and the comments appear to be fixed now.

The correction was in the Permalink settings for WordPress – I set them back to default and things started working. I am not sure how that lead to breaking things in the first place; however, for the time being I will be satisfied with a working blog.

Still To Do

  • Setup RSS feed(s)
  • Display my Flickr images
  • Minor visual tweaks

Caution: Man At Work

Construction Needed

It is obvious that I need to commit some additional time today to getting this blog looking just the way I want it to. Right now, the thorn in my side are the four columns in the footer of the page. Although I did manage to figure out how to edit the Blogroll, I cannot seem to remove the original default columns to add my own. This might require rolling up my sleeves and digging into the HTML and CSS code myself.

Later today, I’ll put real blog links into the Blogroll – at the moment, they are merely pointing to other websites. It is likely that most of blogs will point to SQL Server material; hopefully I can tweak that up further though and categorize.

The next big thing to do will be getting the RSS feed(s) to work properly.

Lastly, the “About” page doesn’t point anywhere! You will get the dreaded HTTP 404 error if you click that link. With a bit of luck, I can get that to link back to my website.