Archive for December, 2006

Now, this I like!

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

One of my favorite Christmas traditions … fruitcake!

Snow day 2

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Yesterday’s post with this title disappeared; I don’t know where. I ended up with 20-26″ of snow in my front yard. I had shoveled my walk when I arrived home Wednesday afternoon, and you couldn’t tell that anything had been done by the time I got up yesterday.

After shoveling the walk, I broke out the X-C skis and wandered around for a while. Learned a couple things about urban Nordic skiing in the process. First, even if your skis are a “back country” model, two feet of soft snow isn’t the easiest thing to get around in. Second, while the packed tracks where vehicles have passed are similar to groomed paths, the fact that the road is cambered makes your feet want to slide out from under you to the side. Apart from that, it was pretty enjoyable, and I found tracks from others who had gone around the lake in the local park before me.

When I came back from that, I dug out my car. I went in to work for a little while this morning, but the office wasn’t officially open – too many people were snowed in, and, if we’d made arrangements to have the lot plowed, it hadn’t happened. I had to park across the street at a 4WD aftermarket parts store. Not much trouble getting around, though, apart from getting stuck for a few minutes because I was a nice guy and backed up to let someone by. It’s a good thing I have a snow shovel, kitty litter, and a manual transmission in my car.

I may post some pictures if I can find the cable for my camera – I have a tendency to mislay such things.

Snow day!

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

When I woke up this morning, the snow had started to accumulate on the street. It was probably only 2″ in depth or so, but the roads were pretty slick.

The office shut down around 1pm. By that time, I-70 east of Denver was closed, as was I-25 south of town. What amused us, though, was that the mall near us had already shut down. Given the importance of the Christmas shopping season to retailers, it’s not what we expected.

I ran a few errands on the way home – I topped off the gas in my car, and bought cat litter and a new snow shovel. I wanted to see if I could find a small one for the car, but I couldn’t. So I bought a new one for the house, and put my old one in the car.

Currently, the snow is 8″ to 11″ deep in my front yard. I can believe that if this runs into tomorrow afternoon, there’ll be two feet or more here. I may have to pull out my cross-country skis if I want to go anywhere in the next couple days. That would be good exercise, certainly. Maybe I’ll ski the local parks this afternoon.

I’m hearing of a White Christmas

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

The weather forecast is for snow starting tonight (this morning, actually, since it’s after midnight) and continuing into Thursday. We’re expected to receive between ten and twenty inches. They say it’s the heaviest expected snowfall since the “Blizzard of 2003” (their words). Currently, the skies are partly cloudy above me, but the television late news is reporting that it’s already falling on the south side of town.

In other news, in today’s mail, I got a recall notice for my CPAP. Not for the whole machine, but I need to get a replacement for part of it. Luckily, I have a fallback plan available after my trip to Australia earlier this year.

I like languages

Monday, December 11th, 2006

And I got to find out something interesting about Armenian over the weekend. We have an Armenian contractor who happened to be visiting the US, and was interested in a site visit while he was here. I spent most of Saturday driving him around in the mountains for sightseeing, after we finished our business meeting.

Toward the end of the day, as I was returning him to the airport, I asked if he was interested in having dinner before I dropped him off, or if perhaps he wanted to get some good food to take on the flight with him. He started to answer, then stopped and looked in his Armenian-English dictionary. He then said that he was not hungry, and asked, “Not hungry is negative; how do you say positive?”

I told him that “not hungry” was the normal way of saying it in English, but, really, that’s an interesting point. Apparently, in Armenian, the normal way of saying it is the equivalent of something like, “My hunger is satisfied.” In English, though, if that were used at all, it would be at or shortly after the prior meal, to indicate that you are finished.

It’s just a different way of looking at things, which is one of the reasons I like languages. I don’t speak anything other than English and a little Japanese, really, but I’ve acquired bits and pieces in and about various other languages.

I have a book that gives a few interesting examples of the way languages can differ. For one, the Hopi language doesn’t “bind time” the way that most languages do – it doesn’t really have tenses the way we know them. For another, the language of the Tobriand Islands doesn’t separate out individual things; it deals with them in aggregate. Where we would say, “That is a book,” their equivalent would have more the sense of, “That is an instance of EveryBook.”

An interesting place to start looking for more about languages is Tenser, said the Tensor and its linked sites.

My patent story

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

Seeing this reminds me of the time some years ago when a customer wanted to patent something we developed for him. I had to sign away my patent rights for $1.00, which must have been included in my standard pay, because I never saw it.

In any case, while there were a few things about the project that perhaps could have been worthy of patent protection, the lawyers involved basically copied the engineering design documents as the patent application. If the patent had made it through the process and been granted (and I’ve never checked to see if it was granted), then our customer would have had a patent that included as a claim Euclid’s algorithm for calculating GCD.

We had to go through the application and comment on it for the lawyers. I don’t think I made any friends there when I described the application as ignoring the big picture and concentrating on irrelevant details, similar to trying to patent a spoon using detailed descriptions primarily about the exact curvature of the bowl and the filigree on the handle.

I’ll have to go through my old website now, so I can find and re-post the poem I wrote in honor of the patent for playing with a cat using a laser pointer.

UPDATE: Ah, here it is!

A couple from MeFi

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

The skyline would certainly be distinctive.

I myself was raised by pigeons after being abandoned in Trafalgar Square as a young nipper. (Be sure to read the letters to the editor.)

And that reminds me …

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

I rewrote part of the last post to make things easier for myself – one sentence needed some tricky punctuation to be correct, and I wasn’t certain whether I needed two or three commas within the span of seven words, so I rewrote it.

That put me in mind of two different things. The phrase in question was reminiscent of the punchline of an Ogden Nash poem (you can find it here, among other places), and the question of correct punctuation reminded me of a puzzle from when I was in high school.

Punctuate the following:

john while james had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher

I think I’ll see what kind of responses I receive (and whether I receive any) before posting the answer.

It being that time of year …

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

I find myself reminded of the Bob Hope Christmas specials. One sketch I recall (from the late 1960s or early 1970s, I think) had him and Dyan Cannon portraying an unhappily married couple. His character was a sot, and hers was a shrew.

At one point in the sketch, as he was fixing himself a drink, she asked, “Isn’t it a little early for that?” His response was, “Whaddya mean, early? It’s December, isn’t it?”

I suppose I’ve remembered that in hopes that I’d be able to use the line in something other than a reference to the sketch. I further suppose that I’d have more chance of success if I drank more. Ah, the sacrifices we make (or don’t) for our art!

UPDATE: Something went wrong with the link I had to a website about the Bob Hope Christmas specials, and it took some of the text with it. I’ve rewritten that part of the post.

I enjoyed that

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Yesterday, that is. A relaxing morning, followed by Navy taking the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy again with a win over Army.

My daughter came along with me, and we joined the local Annapolis and West Point alumni chapters for the game. To my surprise and delight, not only was one of my classmates there, but he was someone I’d actually known (you really can’t know everyone in a class of 736). We hadn’t seen each other since graduation, so we spent some time catching up and reminiscing. Cheryl got to hear several stories she hadn’t heard before (mostly about activities at the 1973 Army-Navy game, as I recall).

In any case, we exchanged contact information, and I’ll try to keep in touch with him – I’m not in touch with too many of my classmates, and I regret that.

In the evening, Marion and I had dinner with a couple of her friends – they’re retired professors who are co-authors of what is, apparently, one of the texts in their field. Nice people.

As I said, a good day. Would that they were all such.