You know you go to SFU when…

March 19th, 2007, 10:29 pm PDT by Greg

I have seen several of these on Facebook. “You know you go to UBC when…” “You know you’re from BC when…” “You know you’re Indian when…”

I can’t find an SFU one. So, I’m taking suggestions.

You know you go to SFU (Burnaby) when…

  • you know how to get between any two points on campus on a rainy day without getting wet.
  • you know that “a rainy day” is synonymous with “a day”.
  • the people at Renaissance know your drink order before you say it.
  • Parminder at Renaissance knows you by name.
  • you longer wonder where floors 1-6 are.
  • you can actually find the first floor in the AQ.
  • you have even been stuck on the hill because of 1 inch of snow.
  • you notice when people you don’t even know are studying in the wrong place, because they usually study over there [points].
  • you have an opinion about the CFS… a STRONG opinion.
  • heading for the bus stop, you look at your watch: if it’s 20 after, you kill ten minutes to wait out the bus rush.
  • you have found yourself unable to remember significant parts of a Pub Night (or GIC Social).
  • you have used a cafeteria tray to slide down the slopes near the gym after it snowed.
  • “Purple Library Guy” doesn’t make you think of a lame superhero.
  • … you know Purple Library Guy’s story.
  • you can talk about “the Clan” without thinking about white hoods and torches.
  • you are surprised when you meet your TA and they speak English.
  • you ever decided not to take a course so you wouldn’t have to come to campus on Tuesdays.
  • you know every takeout place that delivers to campus.
  • you know several people that ride up the hill but would never do it yourself–that’s crazy.
  • you have had an argument on the various merits of study locations on campus.
  • you’d go to your prof’s office hours, if you could only find their office.
  • you can walk from the Skytrain to the 145 stop with your eyes closed.
  • it would never occur to you to ask “which one” when somebody refers to a “pub”.
  • it’s going to take you seven years to finish your undergrad, but you’re okay with that.
  • you have “gone swimming” in the pond in the AQ. Once. Never again.
  • you have spent five minutes looking for your car in the parking lot before realizing you’re on the wrong level.

Okay, I’m out. Please add more in comments. More for inspiration.

Scalloped Potatoes

March 19th, 2007, 12:00 am PDT by Greg

Scalloped potatoes definitely a comfort food for me. As many know, potatoes were the unchallenged starch in my house. Pasta or rice could occasionally be served, as long as they were accompanied by potatoes in some form. At some point, I realized that it was conceptually possible to have an evening meal without a potato component. Somewhere in my heart, I still don’t feel it.

Kat’s family seems to be about the same way with rice. Noodles or potatoes? Fine, but get yourself some of the steamed rice to go with it.

Anyway… I had the foresight to have my mother write down her scalloped potato recipe at some point (from memory, naturally and it’s exactly what I remember). I made it for myself tonight.

  • 4 baking potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • butter
  • flour
  • salt & pepper
  • milk

Most scalloped potato recipes call for first making a roux. Totally unnecessary. Cheese? Interferes with the potato flavour.

  1. Set your oven to 325°F. Find a casserole dish somewhere in the 1.5–2 litre range. Butter the casserole dish generously (i.e. smear butter around with your fingers; there should be a few little butter goobers left around).
  2. Lay down a layer of potato slices in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle about 2 tbsp of flour. Salt and pepper.
  3. Repeat until you get near the top of the dish. (Throw in a little more butter or some chopped onions if you feel the urge.) Finish with an un-topped potato layer. Give it a bit of a push down so everything settles.
  4. Pour on milk until you can just see it around the edges (maybe 3/4 of the way up the dish).
  5. Cover and throw in the oven. It can bubble-over: consider sliding a baking sheet under it.
  6. Stir the whole thing around after an hour. (If it looks too wet, only half-cover it.) Cook until tender, 1.5–2 hours (total).

Eat it while it’s still screeching hot. Mmmmm… childhood.

My new toy

March 13th, 2007, 10:57 am PDT by Greg

I recently acquired a KingPANO panoramic tripod head. For those who don’t know, a panoramic head is a jig that forces your camera to rotate around the len’s nodal point, so you can rotate your camera and get images that can be stitched together nicely.

Basically, panoramas of far-away things are easy, since an inch or two of movement isn’t a big deal, but close-up panoramas are impossible without such a device. Have a look at the panorama I did at UNC. The far-away buildings are just fine, but the flowerbeds closer to the camera have awkward seams because of camera movement.

My first project with the pano head was a full 360×180° panorama in my office.

Since a few people have asked, and I have the pictures around, I thought I’d show what happens. First, the camera goes on the tripod, exposure, focus, and white-balance are set to manual (so they stay the same for all images). Then, I take a bunch of pictures (about 60 in this case, but that’s probably more overlap than necessary) like this:

A1.jpg A2.jpg

Then, into a panorama-stitching program (Hugin for me). I usually scale everything 50% before hitting Hugin. I didn’t this time and my poor computer groaned under the stress.

Then comes the long (but somehow relaxing) process of identifying corresponding points in the pictures. That lets the program figure out each picture’s correct place in the panorama. Once that’s done, each picture is morphed into the right “shape” for the finished panorama:

B1.jpg B2.jpg

Now, the individual images just have to be piled on top of each other for the finished panorama:


Finally, I get the finished panorama of my office (after some pain to remove the tripod and fill in the floor properly).

If I had kept the full resolution all the way though, the finished panorama would have been about 162 megapixels. The one you see on the link above is about 3.5% of that.

Lunch with Cory Doctorow

March 9th, 2007, 6:04 pm PST by Greg

As many of you know, Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing editor, and sci-fi author, among other things) was at SFU today to give a talk. As it happened, it was under the guise of the Leonardo lecture series which is run by the Faculty of Applied Science.

As a Boing Boing fan, I poked around a little and found out Barry Shell was organizing it. I asked him about it, and he invited me to come to a small session with grad students earlier in the day. When I went to that, I managed to get myself invited to lunch afterwards. So, I had lunch with Cary Doctorow a few other people.

Long story short, Cory’s cool. His interests are in the technology, society, copyright, privacy, freedom spectrum. A lot of people in that world can be a little intense: prone to conspiracy theories and rants. Cory was very thoughtful and knows an insane amount about this stuff. He has also been directly involved in an amazing amount of technology policy (and just won the EFF Pioneer Award).

Basically, I have a platonic crush on Cory Doctorow.

Plus, it can’t hurt to have a little face time with my dean (who was at the lunch). Good day overall.

Next step: flapping arms

March 6th, 2007, 1:42 pm PST by Greg

Good thing I paid for the wi-fi. I have now been in the Raleigh-Durham airport for 7 hours, and have one more ahead of me (if all goes well). I bet AT&T didn’t think people would use the “one day” account at the airport for more than a few hours. Hah! Showed them!

Where were we… My Air Canada flight to Toronto was canceled. I phoned Air Canada and was told I could get to Toronto tonight, but not Vancouver. Fine, I’ll stay here and with Kat for another night.

When I went up to the desk to get my free shit, the guy said “you can’t get on the O’Hare flight?” He worked for United, not Air Canada, and put me on their flight to Chicago and then Vancouver, getting in at something like 23:00.

I had to go get my bags and check back in. No problem.

I got my bags and went to the counter. Since they had a canceled flight, there was pandelirium. But, I already had my ticket, and went to the electronic checkin. No problem, except the guy who was either (1) retarded, or (2) new and received 5 seconds of training before being put on the desk. The woman ahead of me who was trying to change her ticket befuddled him for probably 15 minutes. After somebody came and helped him, I put my bags up and said “have boarding pass; take bags”. He had to have somebody help him with that too.

Then, off to security. Who’s been selected for special screening? Nope… Nope… Nope… Yeah, that’s right! It was me!

So, I get patted down. Not that bad, I guess. Once again, they were friendly, and even slightly jovial.

The kicker for that: there’s a notation on your boarding pass that indicates that you’re up for special screening. So, if I had been a ne’er-do-well, I could have easily noticed that and, before getting anywhere near security, thrown out my knitting needles or toothpaste, or whatever. Nobody would have been any the wiser.

There’s a airport spa here. I got the 25 minute stress-reliever massage. That helped.

Now, I’ve got another hour before my flight. I found a seat near power, but should probably give it up and get something to eat. Maybe a drink.

Update 12:10: Home after 19 hours of travel containing maybe 6 hours in the air.


March 6th, 2007, 10:33 am PST by Greg

So, I’m still in the North Carolina airport. My flight that was delayed half an hour is now about 2:00 late. We spent about 1:30 sitting on the plane before the pilot decided we’d be more comfortable sitting in the terminal.

When we got off, they were still trying to get a maintenance crew to the plane. The guy on the intercom just said they’d have an update for us in about a half an hour.

I had a 2:30 layover in Toronto, so I’d be sure I had enough time to get the connection, having missed connections on a 1:30 layover there before. Good one, Air Canada!

Update: flight canceled. Rebooked with a Chicago stop. I may, in fact, get to Vancouver tonight. Late.

On the way

March 6th, 2007, 6:36 am PST by Greg

I’m heading back to Vancouver today, flying from Raleigh-Durham, through Toronto to Vancouver.

I left plenty of time to get to the airport, since I had to fill and return the rental car and get their shuttle to the airport. It turns out that at the Alamo rental car, a guy with some wireless dohickey comes up to your car and checks you out right there. There was a shuttle waiting to leave, so the whole thing took about 60 seconds.

Check-in and security were empty, so I sailed through there.

And, my flight was delayed about a half hour, so I’m here with almost 3 hours to kill. I might have to pay the $8 for wi-fi.

As an aside, the TSA people were almost… well… friendly. I know it’s contrary to everything I have read on the Internet. After the woman asked me to take my shoes off, she smirked and said “when they lower that threat level, you can keep your shoes on.” I told her that the floor was colder last time, so it was okay.

Yeah, I’m paying for the wi-fi…

Tree update

March 2nd, 2007, 10:55 am PST by Greg

I posted some more pictures of the tree that I took this morning.

I did a panorama from the upstairs balcony that gives a better idea of what happened. I had rolled my car a few feet forward before this picture (to leave room to get in and clear stuff out).

There’s a guy with a chainsaw clearing the last of the tree away right now. I’m hoping he’ll get the last chunks of log off the SUV so I can get some clear pictures of what’s left.

Just to add something else to this entry, I just got the strangest piece of spam:

Why? You stupid fat fuck. Have you looked at yourself in the
mirror lately? What a joke. Your lucky I am even writing this
because I can’t stand you most of the time. Why do you not get
serious about looking better? With all the bullshit out there
right now and dam results I’ve seen in the people I know, your
an idiot not trying something. My fuckin sister lost 52 lbs
not even exercising using this crap http://?????????.com

It’s about time you stopped being a lazy piece of shit and
do something about yourself.

-You know who I am probably

So, they’re trying the lesser-known sales technique “you get more flies with vinegar than honey and boiling vinegar is even better.” Clever.


March 1st, 2007, 9:46 pm PST by Greg

So, I was hanging around the house (Kat’s place in NC) this afternoon. Brushing my teeth, in fact.

I heard this loud smashing noise. I thought maybe the guy upstairs had part of his loft collapse with a bunch of furniture and maybe a toolbox on it. I wandered outside to see what was going on.

It took me a minute to process… a tree had fallen down. That’s bad.

A big tree. That’s worse. Onto the downstairs neighbour’s SUV. Really bad.

The way it fell was quite amazing. There are three cars parked there: upstairs, us, downstairs. The tree was closest to the upstairs car. The trunk fell maybe 8 inches behind his bumper, and our bumper.

Then there was a fork in the tree (so it was wider), and the downstairs SUV (which stuck out more). The SUV got, well, smooshed. I’m guessing that the salvageable parts are: two front tires, a few parts of the engine.

There was no damage to the other two cars. Our car is covered with chunks of window/skylight that kersploded off her car, but that’s it.

I phoned 911 because I wasn’t sure about the gas tank. They sent around a police patrol. He looked at it, wrote some notes for a report, and left a card for her. Then he walked back to his car, came back, and took some pictures with his cell phone.

My thought process: “A phone’s camera isn’t good enough for evidence. Why doesn’t he have a proper camera? Oh! He’s taking the pictures to show his buddies!”

I managed to get a few pictures in the dark with our camera. I’ll try to get some more in the morning.

The frightening thing is that it wasn’t windy or stormy. There was light drizzle, but that’s about it. Pretty much, her car got smote.