Friday, December 04, 2015

Corolla 100k

An important milestone recently passed on my car. My 2010 Toyota Corolla just passed the 100,000 kilometres mark on the odometer. I got the car a bit over a year ago. It's run pretty well. There was a thing I got fixed during the summer with brake caliper is the biggest thing I've had done. For the most part it's run well with few problems.

I took it to Rust Check today. At 5 years old it's probably about that time. They were good there. Friendly and finished fast despite it being a busy day there at the shop. I hadn't been there before but would go back. If the weather is dry tomorrow I'll put the winter tires on. I've got my own rims now and can do it yourself on the winter tires change. Not sure why I didn't figure that out years ago, oh well.

So 5 years old and 100,000 km. About 20,000 a year. That's the same rate I had on the old Honda Civic which got up to 200,000. That was a good car that 2005 Civic. At this rate if the Corolla goes 3 more years it will be 8 years old and 160,000 and I would be pleased with it. Anything from there is bonus. That's very reachable for a Corolla from what I hear, and I've tried to take care of the car so it will last, not drive it too hard.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

I finished another book. It was The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I really liked this book.

It's the story of Allan Karlsson. He's a Swede born in 1905. On the day of his 100th birthday in 2005 Allan climbs out the window of his nursing home and goes on an eventful bus trip. Along the way Allan meets some interesting and funny characters. light fingered ne'er do wells and loafers provide spontaneous company and accompany Allan on this ad hoc journey late in his life. Along the way they have to stay a step ahead of the dangerous criminal gang Never Again who Allan has run afoul of. Also there is a police inspector who likes his drink, and an ambitious prosecutor who are trying to locate Allan and his new friends.

Through the book it tells Alan's remarkable life story. Allan early on develops a skill with dynamite. This proves useful through the 20th century. Later by chance Allan ends up at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project years and gains some useful insight while working as a steward there. Allan goes on a wild ride meeting famous world leaders from Franco in Spain to Lyndon Johnson and many in between.

It's a well written book. Pretty believable despite Allan's unbelievable life. Also quite amusing in parts. I can understand why this book is so popular. I'm glad I read it and recommend.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I finished another book. It was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It took me a long time to read it, many years overall. I'd got it at the library years ago and got about half through it. Then I had to return it and never got back to it, though I'd never forgotten the book.

I saw it out on the display at the library recently and I grabbed it. I quickly realized I'd forgotten much of what I'd covered years ago so I started from the beginning. Thanks to the Internet I was able to renew the loan a couple of times and with a final push finish it this time.

It was a good book. A charming, enjoyable read. The March family are likeable and the book is targeted to a younger audience so it was an easy read. There was a difference between volume I and volume II you can see the second part was a bit contrived and didn't have quite the cadence of volume I.

I know there's a movie about it. Was interesting because it was written long before films were around. Yet reading it it has the feel of a screenplay we see in many modern books. I know there are a number of books around the March family but this is fine. I'm glad to have finished this book after all these years.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Numbers 22

I recently came across a remarkable chapter in the Bible. Check out Numbers 22. Featuring Moab, a talking donkey, and an angel with sword drawn. awesome!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tell All by Chck Palahnuik

I recently read Tell All by Chck Palahnuik. It was pretty good. A compelling read, it was a book where you always want to find out what's next.

The book is the story of the aging movie star Katherine Kenton. Kenton is from the old Grace Kelly/Joan Crawford Hollywood era. It's told from the perspective of her long time live-in companion Hazie Coogan. Hazie has made it her life's work to guide Katherine to success and avoid career, financial and relationship disasters along the way for Katherine as best she can.

Per the title, it's a book about "tell all" books. Using Crawford and Mommie Dearest as the posthumous pitfall that Hazie is trying to avoid. The catch about these tell all revelation books is that the subject must be dead for the tell all to be published. That creates some pressure on Katherine as she meets a charming young gold digger named Webster Carlton Westward III. The book itself is laid out as a kind of screenplay/script with chapter titles like "ACT I, SCENE EIGHT"

Typical of Palahnuik there are crazy twists. Also as in Survivor, the author explores celebrity and some of the manufactured steps taken to maintain a certain public look and image. There's the same kind of cynicism in parts of the arbitrariness and managed element of fame.

It's a good book. A fast read. I still have a few Palahniuk to read and I will continue reading them.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Plague of the Undead by Joe McKinney

I finished another zombie book. It was Plague of the Undead by Joe McKinney.

In this book McKinney takes a different line about the origin of the zombie apocalypse. It's no longer Houston in the aftermath of a slew of hurricanes. This time it's a chemical food additive CDHL. It was realized too late that massive CDHL exposure causes the zombie state, and that everyone reanimates after they die.

The book is set in a town on the Mississippi river called Arbella. It's set 30 years into the ruined future. The residents of Arbella have survived and set up an agrarian pre-industrial society. The community has done well. The population has increased to 10,000 and is looking to expand beyond its walls.

An expedition team is assembled to venture out, see what's out there, and determine potential sites to expand Arbella. The book is about the expedition team and their encounters out in the wilds.

It was a good book. It felt a bit derivative of the later Walking Dead in that the zombie problem is largely under control, and a lot of the dangers are in the people they meet along the way. It's not McKinney's best zombie work. The Houston series is better, especially Apocalypse of the Dead. The book isn't really long and he ends it with a collection of zombie apocalypse short stories tacked on at the end. Some of those stories are strange, world war Z style, but a good read.

Maybe the zombie thing has run its course and I'm ready to move on. Still this was a good book. If I happen to see any more McKinney at the library I would grab it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

+1 for the Halifax Gecko Bus

I'll use this space to put in a good word for the Gecko Bus. I've gone there a couple of times now. The food is tasty. The people are friendly it has a nice vibe there. Prices are good. They seem to be doing well there's always others coming or going when I've been in there.

I've had tacos and a burrito bowl when I've been there. They are usually up by the Kent in Bayers Lake. They have an app, and their website it's good to check. Once we just went up and they were somewhere else that day.

I'd been meaning to go for a while and now I'm glad that I've gone. I will plan to go back.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

ATV 6 o clock news sucks

I frequently have the occasion to watch the ATV 6 o clock news aka CTV News at Six. That program is painful to watch. It's so boring. I don't control the controller so I'm stuck with it which sucks.

The basic problem is that it's too long and they struggle to come up with an hour of content. I don't even watch live at 5, and the 6 o clock is mind numbing. How can people sit through 2 hours of that every day?

The ATV 6 o clock news is filled with junk and filler. It would be so much better if they just deleted so much of the crud

  • lifeline (please end this terrible segment)
  • webpoll (put this out of its misery)
  • second weather forecast
  • just for last
  • weather could easily be made shorter and more to the point. grandma says has run its course
  • interview segment could be made shorter easily with no loss in value
  • financial markets
  • filler fluff pieces
It would be so much better if the 6 o clock cut out the junk. If that makes it a 30, 40 or 45 minute show then great. Live at 5 could be left pretty much as is and just go with a 90 minute segment with far more value to the audience for time spent and a much more useful and entertaining news product.

Monday, July 06, 2015

my will be done

I have now done the long neglected task of getting a will done. I used the employee assistance from work to recommend a lawyer. They referred me to Teryl Scott. The law office was nice. The lawyer Shawn Scott and the paralegal were easy to work with. It all got done start to finish in one day.

There was no special reason to get it done. As far as I know at the time of this writing the end isn't near and there is nothing unusual or different. It's just something that should be done by my age and in general you just don't know when your last day is.

Since it was from eap referral there was a discount so that was good. Well I'm glad to have this done now. It's an important step along the way. There are still let's say some other matters to sort out. This gives me some momentum and I plan to continue to get these affairs in order.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson

I finished another book recently. It was Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson.

It was a good book. A fast and compelling read. It seems like some time since I've read non-fiction. The book is the story of Yahoo, and their photogenic tech celebrity CEO Marissa Mayer. She took over as Yahoo CEO in 2012 after being a senior executive at Google where she was a wealthy early Googler.

Carlson takes an interesting approach. He spends quite a few pages discussing the history of Yahoo, its founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, and the succession of CEOs during its dizzying rise in the 1990s tech boom, crash, recovery in the 2000s, and subsequent attempts to recapture the excitement of the early years. From about the mid-2000s on Yahoo is dogged by disruptive activist shareholder campaigns, intense competition in search from Google, and the near-acquisition by Microsoft. Yahoo is blessed with a trump card, an extremely wise $1 billion investment in the yearly 2000s that Yang made for a large stake in Chinese portal Alibaba. The Chinese investment turned out to be incredibly profitable and as the fall 2014 Alibaba IPO nears it makes the Yahoo CEO a very desirable job.

Then Carlson discusses Mayer's early life and rise at Google, her first real job out of the distinguished symbolic linguistics program at Stanford. Mayer is highly intelligent, very hard driving and confident. She rose very high up at Google before taking the top job at Yahoo.

That left not too much pages for Mayer's actual time at Yahoo. Still it was a good read and we understand that the Mayer Yahoo narrative is a work in progress. At the time the book closes there is yet another new shareholder activist campaign from yet another hedge fund, this time putting pressure on Mayer.

I've been a fan of Yahoo. I've used Yahoo Mail, Yahoo home page, Yahoo poker, Yahoo chat, Yahoo domains, Yahoo briefcase, Yahoo notes, Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Store over the years. I even just added the Yahoo most emailed RSS to my protopage home page after reading this book.

It was a good book. I'd recommend for anyone interested in the histories of Yahoo, Google and Mayer.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

shuffle a deck of cards with one random number

the other day at work a guy was talking about a site that had a flawed method for shuffling a deck of cards. although it used a random number generator, the algorithm was flawed and it was possible in some cases to determine what cards your opponents had.

this got me thinking a bit about shuffling a deck of 52 cards. I was slightly surprised when I realized it is possible to shuffle a deck of 52 cards using only one number from a random number generator. it's not too difficult. it's something that could be a high school math problem. let's define the random number generator as a device that will produce a uniformly-distributed random number R in the range [0, 1).

I'll let it sit for a couple of days then post an answer


here's the solution.

there are 52! ways to arrange a deck of cards, about 1068 or 80,658,175,170,943,900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. the important thing is that it is a finite set.

first enumerate the 52! permutations into a fixed ordered list L.

then using the random number R, let list_index = 1 + floor(R * 52!).

list_index will be an integer in the range [1, 52!]. the item in L at position list_index will be the sorted deck. qed.

so basically this is the same as arranging [0, 1) into 52! equal size partitions, and returning the piece that R lands in.


this solution also leads to another high school math/computer science problem. it would not be practical to create a list of 52! elements of size 52 bytes each.

here is the problem. describe a way to arrange L such at, given list_index, you can determine what the ordered 52 cards are for that list_index without having to do a lookup into L.

here is a sketch of a solution. arrange an original deck of cards in some specific fixed way such as { Ace of diamonds, King of diamonds, ... 3 of clubs, 2 of clubs }

now given any first card in the shuffled deck, there will be 51! ways to arrange the remaining cards. so if list_index is between [1, 51!] then the first card must be the Ace of diamonds, if between [51! + 1, 2 * 51!] then the first card is the King of diamonds, and so on

after determining the first card, remove that card from the original deck of cards, leaving the remaining 51 cards. now, use div and mod functions on list_index to similarly determine your "path" through list_index, removing the chosen card from your list at each stage. after 52 such iterations you will have the unique shuffled deck that corresponds to list_index.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Mathematics of sudoku

I've been doing the Metro News sudoku lately. I got thinking about the math in sudoku and the sudoku problem space. There's enough in there to make a high school level math problem or two.

Now the sudoku puzzles promise there's no math involved. And that's true. Although it's a 9x9 grid of numbers, the use of 1-9 is a convenience. Any set of 9 distinct symbols would work. You could use 9 Egyptian hieroglyphs, or the first 9 letters of the Greek alphabet and it would work the same and still be a sudoku.

I got thinking about the total problem space. How many ways are there to arrange 9 rows of the numbers 1-9. well that's not too hard to calculate. there are 9 factorial, 9! ways to arrange any row. so 362,880 ways a set of 9 symbols can be arranged.

Now in the total problem space each row is independent, so the total number of 9x9 grids is 9!9. which is 109,110,688,415,571,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or about 1050.

Now within this space only some of the arrangements will be valid sudoku. I was thinking how many sudoku are there, and how sparse within the total problem space are arrangements which are valid sudoku. I knew it would be sparse. Think about it this way. Working from the bottom row up, suppose you have 8 rows filled in. Then for the final top row there is just one way out of 362,880 to arrange the top numbers so that the result is a sudoku. This is because at each point along the top row the 8 numbers "below" will be filled, leaving only one possible number that can go into each of the 9 slots along the top, thus there is only 1 way to build the top row given 8 sudoku compliant rows below.

I was able to work out an upper bound on the number of sudoku there can be. I used the method of going left to right, bottom to top. At each point I determined the optimistic maximum number of available numbers there could be, based on how many numbers were filled in to the left, below, or within the 3x3 subgrid. For example in the third row up, 7 numbers in, there are two numbers below filled, 6 numbers to the left filled, 0 within the 3x3 grid filled. so there are optimistically 3 numbers available that can go into this slot.

Now this is optimistic counting as it assumes that the smaller sets of numbers are proper subsets of the larger set used to determine the size of available numbers. Again this is an upper bound ballpark calculation. so filling it in the grid ended up looking like this

when you multiply the number from each row together it comes out to 15,284,122,844,890,200,000,000,000,000,000 or about 1031.

dividing the numbers we can see how sparse the sudoku solutions are within the total space, only 1 in 7,138,825,663,917,590,000  arrangements of the 9x9 number grid is a sudoku. so 7 x 1018, or 1 in 7 billion billion. so it's pretty sparse.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Metro News Halifax sudoku

I was visiting someone at the hospital about a month ago. I ended up waiting in the family sitting room on the ward. There happened to be a Metro News Halifax there. I noticed there was a sudoku puzzle on the last page. With time to fill, I worked on the puzzle. It took a little while as I was rusty but I was able to finish it.

I hadn't done a sudoku in quite a while. At least 6 years or more. Years ago I got a sudoku book for Christmas and on my own I figured out some techniques for solving the puzzles.

Since that time at the hospital I've been grabbing the Metro News each day and doing the sudoku. Metro News is free yay. It's hard to imagine ever paying for a newspaper but that's for another post.

The Metro News sudoku are not difficult. On a scale of 1 to 3 difficulty the puzzles are usually at most 1 star. about once a week there will be a two star where I have to think a bit to finish it. I'm always able to finish the puzzle without getting stuck or having to guess.

To put it another way, more mathematically, at any point in the Metro News sudoku I can always uncover a number. I've got a bit more to say about some math around sudoku but I'll save that for a later post.

Now I was a little surprised talking to someone recently about the daily puzzle. I'm told that her coworker seldom is able to do the sudoku and ends up getting frustrated and throwing the Metro newspaper lol. So apparently many people are unable to finish the puzzle and can only complete the very easiest ones which they run 1-2 times a week.

So I'm offering a service here to people in Halifax. I can solve the Metro News sudoku 100% of the time. For a fee I'll meet with you at some convenient public place like a library. I can show you enough techniques so that you too will be able to solve the Metro sudoku every time.

I can see some use for this service. After all I would think there is some personal satisfaction in going from unable to solve, to being able to solve every time. That would seem to have some value. Maybe you are among a group of people, none of whom can solve it every time. if you suddenly leaped ahead and were able to 100% solve then you may then be seen as smarter than your former equals in this area. is that worth anything? meh, maybe. anyway my email is to the right so drop me a line.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To Heaven and Back by Mary Neal

Another book read. To Heaven and Back by Mary Neal. This was an account of a medical doctor who drowns while kayaking in Peru. She is dead for several minutes before being revived. While dead she is met by spirits and guided to Heaven. In the book she tells her account of being dead and her time in Heaven.

Interestingly, the Heaven part is only a short passage in the middle of the book. The author writes about her life up to the accident, then the accident when she dies, then another major section of her recovery from the accident and her life in the years after.

It was a very good book. The author writes in an accessible style with short chapters and nice spacing between lines and paragraphs. I was impressed by how spiritual the author is even before her experience with Jesus and angels. I would recommend this book even for those who are skeptical or unsure if God is real.

Neal makes an interesting observation that angels can come in different forms, such as through animals. In her case it was an owl. others report crows carrying messages. a mysterious out of place person who comes seemingly unexpectedly out of nowhere at an opportune time may actually be an angel.

It was a good read for me. I grew up going to church and felt I was religious. sometime around after high school it fell away with me and I've been pretty much disconnected ever since. I still go to church a few times a year but I've never gotten back to the connection I had when I was young. This book was good it got me thinking about spiritual things some.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 is come to pass

taking a day off work today. using some of the banked overtime from the death march project that ended 2014. nice relaxing day here.

so 2015 is well begun. for new years I was feeling pretty crummy and sick for over a week before I went back to work. bummer being sick during my time off. oh well darn. so I didn't have much energy. I went to a movie for new years, something I've never done before. I went to see the Hobbit. It was pretty good. I'm not really into the lord of the rings stuff but it was fine. stayed up long enough for the countdown and to bed shortly after.

and 2014 is now in the books. 2015, like 2014 and every previous year, is come to pass. to use the Bible term. it's an important and powerful concept. whatever 2015 brings will end. good or bad, expected or unexpected, good fortune or bad luck. I was told on very good authority to expect change in 2015. so whatever happens will happen. change can be bad but can also be very good. and then there will be a reset and another at least calendar fresh start.

a lot happened in 2014. in the year up to Christmas time, I owned four cars. I had two cars destroyed in accidents by reckless and irresponsible drivers in June and July 2014. driving is still pretty skittish but this current 2010 Corolla I got in July has fortunately been running well. I'm hoping it will get me through 2015 safely and with minimal drama. I'm pleased to be a Corolla driver, that car suits me and my personality.

I also lost my job in 2014. In June my time at RIM was terminated after 6 years there. It's never a true surprise to anyone to get laid off from RIM, still it was an unplanned and abrupt and disruptive life change. Luckily I found work a little over a month later with CGI so it was a relief to get back to work and resume the flow of paycheques. So who would have known in January I'd be working at the site of the former Zellers Bayers Road as December wound down. and so it goes, so much happens during a year and ends up being important that you may have been unaware of or only very vaguely even aware of.

Finally my mother died in December. She had been sick for a long time so it wasn't a shocking or sudden thing. Still back in new years January 2014 I would not have thought at the time this would be Mom's final year.

so all in all I'm glad 2014 ended and now 2015 is begun. and better or worse or in between 2015 will also inescapably come to an end. who knows what this year will bring? what will end up being central this time next year that I'm not even aware of at this time. only time will tell. I can just try to do the right things based on my knowledge and experience, try to be a good person, and hope that positive results will flow from consistently making good life decisions and having a positive attitude.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mutated by Joe McKinney

I've got through a few books of late. I finished another Joe McKinney Deadworld book. Mutated is pretty good. This picks up the story eight years after Apocalypse of the Dead. He picks up with the Apocalypse characters Nate and Ben. Nate is somehow immune to the zombie infection. As long as they don't tear him to pieces he can take some bites and scratches.

There are some new characters introduced Sylvia, Avery and Niki. At this point 8 years on some survivor settlements have been established. There's also some trade among the settlements along the Mississippi river. Which makes sense since the McKinney zombies drown in deep enough water so that would more likely emerge in the post apocalypse.

A new sinister force has emerged among the zombies. A terrifying Red Man who gets both the zombies and some human black shirt soldiers to work for him. He's overrun 4 of the 5 major survivor compounds. In the story Niki and Nate want to reach a mysterious Dr. Fisher who may be able to turn the tide on the zombies. The Red Man wants to find and eliminate the doctor and wants to use Niki to get to him.

It's a pretty good book. Not as great as Apocalypse of the Dead, but it was satisfying to see Nate again. The new characters are pretty solid. McKinney still captures the terror of the undead well. It's a fast paced read I got through most of it when home sick for a weekend over new years.

I think I have two more Deadworld books to read to complete this series. I'll look for them at the library.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Influx by Daniel Suarez

I've finished another book. It was Influx by Daniel Suarez. It was pretty good. The author is back in form after a disappointing Kill Decision. It's not quite as good as the Daemon, but a fast paced and satisfying read.

The author tackles the question of why there has been so little innovation since the moon landing in 1969. Suarez angle is that there has been plenty of innovation, it's just almost all been suppressed. There is a super secretive Bureau of Technology Control (BTC) that has been controlling the introduction of fantastic innovations such as cold fusion, cure for cancer, human cloning, strong AI, quantum computers. Their justification is that these innovations would be so disruptive that they would cause more harm than good.

The book is about an inventor Jon Grady who invents a device to deflect the force of gravity. a gravity mirror. so the familiar notion of "down" can be inverted within some area and objects will "fall up". Working in a startup, this invention is seized by the BTC and they blow up Grady's lab under the cover of an extremist anti-techology group the winnowers.

Grady is invited to join the BTC as a researcher to continue to work on his gravity mirror for BTC use only. Jon declines and the BTC sends him to a prison known as Hibernity along with other dissenting inventors.

From there lots of things happen and it's a fast paced read as Jon joins some dissenters in BTC to attempt to release the Hibernity prisoners and make their fantastic discoveries public and bring down the BTC. All the while in the crisis the BTC leadership becomes increasingly heavy handed and militant to protect the inventions they have seized.

I could see this being made into a movie. The book was written in a way that would be adaptable to a movie treatment. Such as the golem monster and some fantastic scenes at the climax that would translate very smoothly to a big special effects film.

All in all a good effort by Suarez. I'll continue to watch for this author's titles.