Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Archive for August, 2008

My Last Post about Generation Kill

Three separate people (two men, one woman) all noticed me reading “Generation Kill” on the TTC this morning and asked if I was enjoying it.  All had heard of the HBO miniseries and were interested to hear what it was like.  I’ve got about two pages of epilogue left and I’m frankly kind of sad that it’s over.  What a great read.

I told them all the same thing… if you’re at all interested in the war in Iraq, for its policies, follies, mistakes and good intentions… or even thinking that it’s fulfilling a need in the Middle East, read the book and watch the miniseries… in that order.  I watched a few episodes of the series, but opted to hold off until I finished the book as the events aren’t quite in the same order and I didn’t want to ruin anything I hadn’t read.

The book is a great companion piece too.  So many terms and actions are explained in much greater detail, as are character quirks, that it adds a richness to the shows that I normally would have missed.  Thank God the folks invovled in the show didn’t try to include all that as each episode would have been four times longer, probably with a narrator and would have made for slow and boring TV.  The book is anything but.

So, this is my last plea that you go out and pick up the book and then ‘rent’ the miniseries and watch it a BIT at a time, rather than all in one TORRENT.

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The Long Weekend Approacheth

Sweet fancy Moses!  I could hardly believe my eyes when I checked the weather report for our campground this weekend and it showed that it’s going to be sunny with highs in the mid 20s and a ZERO PERCENT CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION!  I haven’t seen that on Environment Canada in a long time.

This weekend will see the inaugural trip for our new tent and sleeping bag, so we’ll see how they fare with some chilly nights and cool breezes courtesy of Nottawasaga Bay.  We’ll be camping at Craigleith Provincial Park, which unfortunately requires driving up the 400 after work on Friday along with everyone else headed north for the long weekend.  We’ll have to make sure that car is fully loaded with fuel, a charged iPod and enough snacks to feed a small army.

I’m looking forward to a couple of good night’s sleep in the great outdoors after a pretty hectic week.  How is everyone else planning to enjoy a sunny and dry long weekend?

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FireFox is Smoldering

Like a good little FireFox fan, I upgraded both my home and office computers to the newest wide release version (3.0.1) yesterday after being prompted by the browser to updgrade.  What did I get for my trouble?  A much snazzier looking interface and a whole boatload of lag.  All my clicks and pages hang.  It’s like every little task I’m asking FireFox to do takes all the memory in my computer to do it.

Is anyone else having this problem?  A few other people have commented that 3.0.1 is running faster and cleaner on their machines than previous installs.

To give you an idea of how much this sucks, it took me nearly 10 minutes to write this post  (so far) thanks to the browser window hanging, changing randomly to another open tab and ghosting my text  input.  It’s awesome.  It’s like I went back 10 years in time and I’m surfing the net through an old school dial-up modem.

I’m not willing to badmouth the fine folks at the Mozilla Project (or Foundation, or whatever it is… I can’t look it up right now), so for now I’ll assume it’s a bug, or a bad install… on two machines.

** UPDATE (1:30pm)**

I received some helpful feedback on improving FireFox’s performance, and it helped A TON!  I’m now screaming through cyberspace at light speed on my way to Alderaan.  If you want to make yours run a little faster, try these tricks:

Disable Anti-Phishing: Click Tools – Options and then select the Security tab. Uncheck the box next to “Tell me if the site I’m visiting is a suspected forgery” and then click OK. The anti-phishing filter is now off.

Disable Session Restore / Undo Close Tab:

  1. In Firefox’s address bar, type in about:config and then hit enter
  2. Right-click on any entry and select New – Boolean
  3. For the name, enter browser.sessionstore.enabled and click OK
  4. Select false and then click OK

When you restart Firefox, session restore (and undo close tab) will be disabled.

All of these tricks (and more) are courtesy of Portable Apps, a full operating system that you can run off a USB key (which is what I use here at work).  I’ve been using it for a while now and I’m really happy with it, and I think you will be too.

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The SOP for the ROE is to BSU

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you might remember that I’m a pretty big into war movies and TV shows.  Not for the gore or the glorification of violence, but more from an historical perspective.  Back in 2005, HBO aired a show about the US invasion of Iraq called ‘Over There’ that I was really excited about, and then really disappointed by, so now I’ve learned my lesson about getting my hopes up.

So after hearing about a writer for Rolling Stone named Evan Wright who was embedded with an elite group of Recon Marines during the initial invasion of  Iraq, then finding his serial he wrote afterwards for the magazine and loving it, I was even more pleased to find out that he had turned those stories into a book.  It’s a great book called ‘Generation Kill‘ and it really delves into all the problems in the Iraq war, the mindset of the men fighting it and how much can wrong when everyone is trying to do what they think is the right thing.  I’m having trouble putting this book down and I’ve only had it for a few days.

Imagine my excitement when I heard HBO was making a miniseries based on the book!  Well, I didn’t let my hopes get too high, but the miniseries has now aired, the reviews are in and it’s awesome.  I’ve seen a few episodes and it’s well written, well shot and the characters and acting are great.  Bottom line, if you like war movies, you’ll love this show.  Ditto for the book.

That being said, both the book and the series have some of the most shocking language I’ve ever seen or heard, so this isn’t for the faint of heart.  Check out this trailer on YouTube, and visit the official site for the miniseries if you want more info.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an actor in this series that you can name from previous work, although a handful are barely recognizable from bit-parts in other series’, but that adds to the feeling of realism.  There’s also a LOT of military technical jargon that is explained in greater detail in the book, but would be really boring to explain in a TV show.  Just ignore it and treat it as though you’re watching people from another world, which you are.  Check it out.

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Woodland Vampires and Other Monsters

A late summer weekend at the cottage is usually one of the best times to hang out in the great outdoors and soak up sun as the summer mosquitoes have all died off and the fall mosquitoes have yet to hatch and begin their feast.  Days are still plenty warm and the evenings are cool, but not cold.  Well, yet again this summer turns the norm on its head and we had a strange weekend up at the cottage.

First off, the fall mosquitoes are alive and well.  Smaller than their summer brethren, these little buggers are some of the most aggressive blood-suckers I’ve ever seen.  Repellent, citronella and pick had so effect on them, and they can seemingly find even the tiniest hole in a screen through which to invade a home.  They don’t buzz very loudly, so they’re hard to hear and being so small makes them hard to spot until you feel the sharp sting of their probiscus in your skin.  Nasty little buggers.

Second, the cool nights were extremely cool, which is no surprise this summer, but even in the heat of the day, brisk winds keep things quite cool.  Despite all that, there was no rain.  Woo hoo!  Even some spots on the property that have been pools all summer were dry, which meant fewer frogs hopping around and more snakes and grasshoppers.

One of the greatest moments this weekend came when we bought corn off the back of a pickup in town.  We bought six ears and there was no sign saying what it would cost, so I pulled out my wallet preparing to grab a big bill when the total came in at a whopping $2.50!  I paid in change.  My mouth is watering right now just thinking about the corn.  Mmmm.

For those of you who were out in the country this weekend, you might have noticed the trees have already started changing colour.  Apparently with all the wet weather and cold temperatures, the trees think that fall is upon us and arborists are worried that having hit their fall cycle early, we might get some slightly warmer temperatures and the trees will bud thinking it’s spring.

Which brings me to the ‘other monsters’ in the blog post title… us.  We’ve actually broken nature.  Tsk tsk, mankind.

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Bring on the Venemous Rage!

If it weren’t for coffee, I don’t know that I would even get out of bed on a weekday morning.  I realize how sad that is as I type it, but it’s the truth.  Given that a few people around me at work have decided to give up coffee for various reasons (political, perceived health benefits, pregnancy, etc) I’m surrounded by the standard pro-quitting rhetoric that comes with giving up a vice.  They all claim to feel more energetic and have more focus and are now enjoying smoothies, shakes or various decaffeinated hot drinks instead of the nectar of the gods.

What they don’t realize is that I see and interact with them all the time and I know that those claims just aren’t true.  Even weeks after giving it up, they’re more irritable, tired and generally grumpy then they once were, and are often caught yawning.  They’re also frequently overheard talking about “hitting the wall” at around 2pm and end up compensating with chocolate or sugar.

In the face of this propaganda (which really only serves to make them feel better about giving up something they love), I’ve decided that I’m going to go out of my way to REALLY enjoy every cup of coffee I drink around them.  Each cup will have the appearance of having been roasted on a Columbian mountaintop and then ground gently between the hands of a supermodel before being percolated (or dripped over) by some of the finest spring water to be harvested from an ancient glacier.  That can be a tough sell for a cup of Tim Hortons coffee, but I’m assuming these guys are jonesing already, so they’re prepped to hear it.

Actually, I won’t inflict this on anyone who’s pregnant, because:
a) they’re giving up caffiene for the good of their unborn child, which is something that should be lauded, and
b) pregnant women are prone to violent mood swings and no court in this country would convict one of murdering me for taunting her with coffee.

I’m sure this tactic will make me a very popular person indeed.


From the Midway to the Pitch

Thanks to a pair of tickets from Jared, Danielle and I were able to check out the Canada vs. Jamaica World Cup Qualifying Soccer game at BMO Field last night.  Even better, a ticket to the game was also a pass to get into the CNE for free, so going to the CNE is one of our few traditions (our third year in a row!).

The CNE was its usual hustle and bustle of sweaty carnies, overstimulated children, horny teenagers and tired adults.  There were the usual sights and sounds out on the midway, and the smells of the various foods (I’ve never heard of a pretzel coated frankfurter, but now I regret not getting one).  I fought the urge to overeat, and we went on some awesome rides; two variants of the rotating swings (one went REALLY high in the air), a spinning ride in a hinged car and one of those ones where you’re in a train that goes around in a upward loop, first forwards and then backwards.  The latter was the scariest as the shoulder harnesses were pretty sketchy and at numerous points, were the only things keeping us from falling 50 feet onto pavement.  That would have been bad as I strongly believe that I’m allergic to falling 50 feet onto pavement.  I’ll break out into hives.

The game was no less entertaining.  Although Canada drew a tie against a Jamaican team it should have been able to beat, it was a lively and entertaining game thanks to a spirited crowd of mostly Canadian supporters (but with lots of vocal Jamaicans).  There were dizzying highs as Canada had some great chances and blew some easy shots, and stunning lows as the ref tried his hardest to make sure Jamaica always had the ball.  There were more than a few questionable calls, and even the Jamaican fans behind us (nice folks who we chatted quite a bit with) were starting to feel badly for us.

Aside from a few tasteless chants coming from a VERY small (and VERY drunk) minority of Canadian fans in a nearby supporter section, everyone was very civil, which was both a relief and a disappointment, but more a relief.  We enjoyed a great game, I lost my voice yelling and we got into the CNE for free.  Seriously… what a great night.  If only Canada could have pulled out a win, I’d eaten the pretzel-dog and we’d waited in line for the Zipper. There’s always a ‘next time’.


And…. We’re Back!

If you tried to get in here earlier today and were met with weird error talking about databases and other such cryptic nonsense, and you were worried that my blog was completely borked, you were not alone.  After some frantic scrambling (and a change of pants), we’re back up and running and everything is as it was.

You see, there are some exciting things afoot on my webserver and some recent changes kind of confused some complicated settings, but my ever-present and always-awesome friend Steve got us back up in fine form.

What are these changes?  Well, I don’t want to say too much, so I won’t.  Some of you are already in the know, and the rest of you will be shortly.  How’s that for a cliffhanger?  Huh?  HUH?!?


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