Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Questions answered, unanswered

I was discussing publishing papers with my supervisor today. There are at least two papers, though he has reservations about both. This prompted a question from me. Part of my reluctance to commit to the world of academics is the worry that I won't be able to come up with anything publication worthy. I know that I'm not alone in this. How will I know when something I've done is ready for publication? How will I even know whether my questions are interesting enough that they would even be worth trying to answer them? On this second question, I feel somewhat validated that papers on ideas and questions that I've come up with on my own have already appeared in the literature. The first question I am less certain about, and this is what I ask my supervisor. It's subjective, he responded.

After his response, I added that it depends on whether my goal is just to get a certain number of papers in print, or whether I could actually be proud to associate myself with the papers that bear my name. This reminded me of a former graduate student from Queen's who had published a large number of papers, about 10 times as many as I have had published or accepted. He gave a presentation on some of the material from these papers at a seminar once. The results weren't very interesting. I said as much to my supervisor, and this was enough for him to be able to identify the student that I was talking about. His opinion was about the same as mine.

He then told me that this student tried to insist that the department hire him for a faculty position straight out of the Ph.D. program. He didn't get hired. In fact, no Queen's Ph.D. graduate, no matter how well qualified, would ever get hired by the department for a full time faculty position without having gone somewhere else first for. It sounds like even a post-doc somewhere else is not enough. This answers another question that a number of people have asked me. Do you think Queen's would hire you? Maybe 10 or 20 years down the road, they would, but the question is clearly being asked about the present. In that case the answer is no (though a number of students have done short post-docs, or limited term teaching positions, but in most cases I don't think this is what the questioners have in mind either).

Monday, July 30, 2007

I kept using these words. You do not think they mean what I thought they meant.

In a recent conversation, I asked a friend whether or not he had ever been to Kamloops, BC. He had. I asked how many times. Several, he said. How many is that? About four, he replied. That's not several, I said. Several to me was around seven, maybe even more. Regardless of the range of numbers that the word represented, it was a large quantity word. Usually four is a small quantity, unless you're talking about the number of sleeves on a t-shirt, in which case its far too many. Thus four could not be represented by the word several.

I consulted the Oxford English Dictionary. It was on my side. One of the meanings given was "a good many". Mind you, the OED labels this usage as obsolete. If only I had lived in the period from 1695 to 1883. I would have won that argument hands down. Of course, every other meaning given, especially those that appear to be more current, agreed with him. In particular entry 4: "As a vague numeral: Of an indefinite (but not large) number exceeding two or three; more than two or three but not very many. (The chief current sense.)" Boy was I wrong.

There are a number of other uses of the word, most of which are obsolete, or else their usage is restricted to certain contexts, such as the law. Most of them are consistent with the use of the word to mean a small quantity. In some contexts, it only means more than 1, and it appears that long ago, it was almost synonymous with individual. Clearly the meaning of the word is drifting toward meaning larger and larger quantities. Be patient Randy. Sooner or later, the meaning of the word will be what you think it does now, and then you'll win the argument.

For the time being, I think I'll avoid using that word. I'd appreciate if you didn't use it around me either. I just can't fathom that it could mean something as small as four, even if that were the number of sleeves on a t-shirt.

Another word whose proper meaning I recently discovered is the word ambivalent. I don't why I happened to be looking this one up in the dictionary, though having it wrong neither won nor lost me any arguments. None that I am aware of, anyway, though perhaps I've unwittingly embarrassed myself by using it incorrectly. Ambivalence to me had a sense of apathy. Having to choose between two options, I was ambivalent if I didn't care enough about either to choose one or the other, or in the case of my attitude to one particular thing, the word was synonymous with apathetic. In the case of having to choose, however, ambivalence has the sense of caring too much, while in the case of my attitude to one particular thing, it has the sense of passionate but opposite feelings, a love/hate sort of attitude. Look it up if you want something a clearer definition.

I'll have an easier time adjusting to this discovery than I will to the proper several, though I still feel like it's best for me to avoid this one for a while too.

I had also been using the words "insofar" "inasmuch" as if they were synonymous with "as far as". They are not. Not having had a reason to use either of these in some time, I think I've taken a long enough break, and the adjustment period is over. I'll be using these words at the next possible convenience. Inasmuch as it is appropriate.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

She said yes!

On Tuesday night I was doing laundry, and one of my worst fears came true. The door to the laundry room is self-locking, and I was always afraid that I would leave the key on one of the machines and then walk out. Normally I would check my pocket to make sure I had it, and every time up until but not including last night I did. Sure enough, the one time I forget to check is the one time that I forget to put it in my pocket. Of course, I didn't realize that I had done this until I was about to go back to the laundry room, when I finally decided to check my pocket and the key wasn't there. I frantically searched all over the apartment, and eventually concluded that it wasn't there.

I decided to ask the only other people on my floor if I could borrow their laundry key to see if I actually did leave mine in the laundry room. As I walked up to their apartment I could hear them chatting away, with the TV on in the background. I knocked on the door, and the chatting stopped within a few seconds. I thought perhaps they had stopped talking so that one of them could come answer the door. After about a minute, though, I was pretty sure that nobody was coming, so I left. The tile floors cause quite a bit of reverberation and make it hard to walk away quietly, even for a sneaky guy like myself. Even with the TV on, they would have heard me. I hadn't even walked past the next apartment, and already they were back to talking.

Isn't this the sort of thing that you only see on TV sitcoms? The mother-in-law with tragically annoying character flaw shows up and everyone inside wants to avoid her, so they quickly hush up, sit still, and turn off the lights, in order to make it appear that nobody is home. On TV, this usually works, though pretty much anybody watching knows that if this happened in real life, then, no matter how quickly they do all these things, the mother-in-law would already know that someone is home, and it would be too late. But I guess, in real life, that doesn't stop people from trying.

So (how) did I get my laundry back?

I had taken out the garbage earlier that night, and thought that maybe I had accidentally dropped the keys in there, so I decided to check the garbage. This proved to be fruitful. I checked the garbage, and sure enough, my keys weren't in there. However, on my way back in, somebody else was taking out her garbage. Having just moved in, and never having met me before, she smiled at me as she passed me by. Seeing as she already appeared to be more friendly than the people who I have seen at least once a week, and even held the door for on occasion, I asked her if I could borrow her laundry key.


Sure enough, the key was right there on top of the laundry machine.


Other things lost or almost lost this week:

  • My bank card. I used it to take money out at the bank on Friday. That's the last time I remember having it. I needed it on Tuesday, but couldn't find it. I cancelled it later that night, and no damage was done to my account.
  • My camera. I was at the post office on Wednesday with my camera. After I had mailed what I needed to mail, I walked away and heard someone say "Did someone forget their camera?" I still kept walking away, until one of the post office staff got my attention and asked me if it was mine.
  • My credit card. Last night I was at the Toucan. At the end of the night, I paid for my meal with my credit card. Someone offered me a ride home, so I got up to leave. Someone else at the table reminded me that the waiter hadn't come back with my credit card yet.

Not a good week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lexical Laxity

When I was in grade 7, some kids did a little skit/presentation when a recycling program was introduced into our school. It was terribly corny, even by grade seven standards and was expectedly made fun of by at least one classmate. The teacher heard one of the students, and as punishment, he had to write out the definition of recycling a hundred times or something like that and hand it in the next. The next day, when he came to class, however, he did not have anything to hand in. Why not? He couldn't find a definition for it in the dictionary [1]. I was rather shocked by this. A word that I only learned of the day before is not in the dictionary? How could this be? The word did not seem that unusual, being composed of a common prefix and a familiar word. Thinking about it now, if I had put two and two together then, I would have realized that since they are doing a skit to introduce this new concept of recycling, then the word for that concept must itself be new. This was probably my first encounter with a word that wasn't in a currently available dictionary.

Fast forward to 2007. I recently installed the latest version of Firefox. When I did this, I was brought to a website telling me about a spell checker add-on. Since I do a lot of writing via Firefox (for example, this post), I thought it made a lot of sense to me, especially considering my weakness with spelling (see, I keep trying to apply the spelling rules that I learned in grade 1, to my disadvantage) [2]. Now when I'm typing stuff for the internet, there is a word that comes up quite a lot that the spell checker add-on identifies as an incorrect spelling. The word? internet. [3]

[1] The student was not let off by this technicality. As a class, we came up with our own definition for him to write out. (Take that Oxford!)

[2] Being a math student, you would figure that I would know how to spell the word amount. However, for the longest time, I wanted to spell it with two m's, since the m is preceded by a short vowel. A friend then told me a little trick. Think about it this way... he said. It worked. But when I tried to apply the trick to the word account, I misspelled the word. I now conclude that his little trick actually has nothing to do with my ability to spell the word properly, even if the event of being told did. Now, having learned the proper spelling of account, I tried to spell the word recommend, but, by analogy with account, I used two c's instead of one resulting in an incorrect spelling (which in turn resulted in an insult by a friend, as if to imply that I was somehow being illogical and stupid. The only illogic and stupidity that I can be accused of is trying to be logical and smart, and not just looking up the stupid word in the dictionary). So basically it comes back to that old fact that the exception is the rule in English. Or, as Brian Regan so elegantly puts it "I before e except after c, or when sounding like ay as in neighbor or weigh, and on weekends, and holidays, and all throughout May, and you'll always be wrong, no matter what you say!"

[3] To be fair to the spell checker, it does recognize the capitalized version. There is some debate as to whether it should be capitalized or not. Apparently, it has something to do with it being a proper name. The Randy disagrees.

So maybe this lets the creators off the hook. When it lists suggestions for correct spellings, however, the capitalized version of the word is not an option. This to me seems like a basic feature of a spell checker, and I'm surprised that they overlooked it. The free software that they have designed for me is clearly inferior, and I am ungrateful.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Key Evidence Obtained in Murder Case

A few weeks ago, it was particularly windy. I came home to find one of the plants on my balcony overturned. I uprighted the plant. It seemed there was less of it there than before it had been overturned, though not much less. Some plant bits must have blown off the balcony. The next day I came home to find the same thing. Only this time, it was worse, and there were almost no leaves left on the plant or anywhere else (photos here and here). The one leaf that I could find had bite marks in it. Clearly it was not the wind, and foul play was involved. I looked around. It seemed like quite a jump for a squirrel from the nearest tree branch. It could not have been one of the pigeons that attempt to alight on my balcony now and then, since they are blocked by a plastic mesh. I have seen them try, always unsuccessfully.

This morning, I awoke to the sound of rummaging in my kitchen. Which of my housemates is rummaging in the kitchen, I thought. Then I recalled that I don't have housemates. What else could it be? Whatever it was was rummaging in my food. It's the only thing I have to rummage in that would make the kinds of sounds I was hearing. Must be an animal of some kind. I started to panic a little bit because I know it can be difficult to deal with trapped animals. I walked into the hallway to see something with a bushy tail on top of my food, as I had suspected. The thing turned around. It was a squirrel. Squirrels aren't known to have the greatest memory, and I was a bit scared that it wouldn't remember how it came in. I knocked on the wall and disappeared. I wasn't sure where it went, though I couldn't hear anything anymore. I advanced into the living room and looked out the sliding glass door to see the squirrel on my balcony. To my relief, it remembered the way out. I walked up a little closer to see that something had made a squirrel sized hole in the screen door. I also found a plastic lid with fresh bite marks in it.

Impressions of the bite marks in the lid and the plant leaf have been taken. Furthermore, fingerprints at the site of the hole in the screen door have been taken and ran against AFIS. A suspect, one Mr. P. Nutbutter, has been identified, and confirmed by dental records. He has been arrested by police and charged with attempted robbery and herbicide. Investigators are still not sure how Mr. Nutbutter was able to get on the balcony. A nearby family of sparrows claimed that the pigeons were angered by the mesh, and were seen cooing with the squirrel. The pigeons are currently being interrogated.


Note: While this story has been embellished somewhat, a plant on my balcony was killed a few weeks ago, and there was a squirrel in my kitchen this morning.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

If I can do it with an incapacitated finger...

...I can blog about it with an incapacitated finger.

Sometime last summer, I ran into an acquaintance sitting on a bench in front of one of the libraries here at Queen's. He told me that his girlfriend had recently bought a small sailboat, and was looking for people to sail with. He asked me if I wanted to go sailing sometime. I was interested, though I had never been before. He told me that no experience was necessary. She would do all the hard work, and I would mostly just follow a few simple orders. Sure. Sign me up. I was told to expect a call or an email in the next few weeks. The next few weeks passed, however, and I hadn't heard anything yet. Later on, once the term started, I ran into the acquaintance at the Tim Horton's on campus and interrupted him from whatever he was busy with. It turned out that something had come up that required them to be out of town for a while. He apologized for my not being able to go sailing. It's okay, I said. Not having been before, I didn't really know what I was missing out on. I could live without knowing. Since then, I have become better friends with him than her (more due to difference in quantity time than difference in quality time), and by the end of the term, they broke up. I saw her bike down the street one time after, and, while she saw me, there was barely an acknowledgement that we might have met each other at a party we both went to at a mutual friends house. Surely, if there was ever any hope of going sailing with her up to that point, it was gone after that.

Of course, I wouldn't be telling you about this if nothing ever came of the original request to go sailing. And indeed it is not the case that nothing did. A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from her. It was clear from the beginning of the call that her apparent lack of acknowledgement was more due to the awkwardness of the situation than it was a snub or anything like that. The purpose of her call was that she wanted to know if I was still interested in sailing (surprise!). Of course. I gave her a rough idea of my schedule, and she told me that she'd call me back by the end of the week to make more definite plans. She didn't. Unlike a game of racquetball [1], say, when to go sailing depends on whether conditions. It's not really sailing if you're just floating on the water hoping desperately for even the gentlest of breezes. I figured this is what happened. Earlier this week, she finally called me back. Same routine as before, but with less awkwardness, though she called me twice when I was unable to talk.

We planned to go this morning at 8:00. There was a sailing event at the marina this weekend, so we wanted to get there early enough to avoid them. She called me at 7:30 to tell me that there was no wind, and that there was a small craft warning (it's a rather small boat, 14.5 feet in length). Within two hours, the small craft warning had been lifted, and the wind had picked up. I left my place at around 9:30. When we got there, it must have been between 10 and 10:30, and we were probably in the water by 11:00. It would have been nice if the weather conditions had permitted us to leave sooner, since we barely had time to get in the water before the young sailors launched. The two volunteers were rather rude to her when she asked if she had time to launch before all the competitors did (we would have had to wait up to an hour if we had waited for them), in distinction from the friendliness of other sailors out that day. We were nowhere near getting in anybody's way.

After a bit more mucking about to get the boat ready to sail, and an explanation of the two main manoeuvres that the crew (me) must know, we were on our way. The first of these was tacking and the second of these was hiking.

While sailing, other than at slow speeds, both of you are sitttng on one side of the boat, while the sails are opened opposite to you. At some point (many points, actually) it is necessary to switch sides. That process of switching sides is called tacking. It involves letting go of one end of a rope, grabbing on to the other end, and avoiding hitting your head on the boom (aluminum bar to which the bottom of the main sail is attached) as you switch sides. Apparently I was the first of any of her sailing partners who had to try to avoid hitting their head.

If the sailing is to be any fun at all on such small craft, you can expect there are times where the boat will capsize if you just sit happily on side of the boat (if you try this, you will no longer be happy, sitting, or on the boat). In order to avoid this you have to shift your body weight to compensate. Occasionally you have to lean in, though much more frequently, if my experience means anything, you will have to lean out. Sometimes far. This is called hiking. It's hard to do unless you're actually in a situation where you need to do it. Trial by fire (water?).

(For better more detailed explanations of these things, ask somebody who knows what they're talking about. Failing that, ask Wikipedia.)

One this stuff was explained to me, we headed out. Getting out of the marina was a bit tricky. I was able to get a lot of practice at tacking while doing this. Apparently this is unusual. Once we were out, everything was ummm... smooth sailing. Well not so much. It took me quite a while to get a hang of tacking, especially while avoiding hitting my head on the boom on my way to the other side, and sometimes it felt like I was so slow that I almost caused the boat to tip, and in such a way that hiking would not have been able to help us avoid that (see, it's hard to lean out when you're fumbling awkwardly in the middle of the boat) . It took a while to get the hang of hiking too. There's something a little frightening about extending your body as far as you can, your backside hovering completely over the water, the only thing keeping you from falling in being a strap on the floor of the boat to put your feet under and your own muscles. Once I did that a number of times, however, and figured out where the best place was to put my feet, it was fairly easy, and not so frightening. I didn't quite get the hang of getting back in after hiking, though. In fact, we ended when we did because we needed to tack while I was hiking. In the clamour of trying to get in the boat, I grabbed the rope with my left hand, and ended up putting too much stress on the injured finger. While the splint had been getting in the way the whole time, this was the first time I felt any pain. It's probably nothing, but I decided not to push it after that. All in all we were in the water for at least two hours.

All things considered (head bruises, finger pain, future muscle soreness, etc.), it was a great way to spend the morning and early afternoon. Given the opportunity to do it again, I would. Given the opportunity, so should you.

[1] Not completely true. You probably shouldn't play on days that are so hot that the university shuts down the air conditioning out of fear that the Ontario hydro grid could get overloaded and cause another blackout like what happened a few years ago.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Copper Stop

A proposal to scrap the penny. It's not the first. It probably won't be the last, as long as that crimson coin continues to circulate.

The mint itself is clearly not nearly as enthusiastic about the penny as they are about other coins. The only special reverse that it's ever had was in 1967, to commemorate Canada's centennial, and that was quite a while ago, long before the current binge.

I myself rarely use pennies. They might get tossed in with the tip on one of those rare occasions when I pay for my meal at a restaurant with cash and one comes with my change. Even then, it seems kind of rude. I feel like I'm just offloading an unwanted encumbrance. "Here. In exchange for your exquisite service, may I offer you the burden of carting around some copper discs that may be worth more in copper than their value as currency." Plus, I like nice round numbers, even when giving tips, and if I'm getting pennies with change, my bill wasn't round, so neither would be the tip. If I happen to have one or two of them in my pocket, they might get used to make giving change easier for a cashier. Otherwise they get tossed in a container with the rest of my change, unlikely ever to be used. So, while my change wouldn't be quite as colourful, from a practical standpoint, I wouldn't miss it much.

Australia gave up their penny in 1992. Our currency and theirs are often fairly close, relative to the US Dollar. If they can live without it, why should we be so attached? They also melted down the copper to make bronze medals for the 2000 Olympics. We've got some Olympics coming up here in a few years, of which we know the mint is aware. Perhaps, if our legislators get on it quickly enough, the mint can make a more sensible contribution to the Olympics.

If we actually went through with it, those evil people who run businesses could round up to the nearest nickel, thereby increasing their ill-gotten gains up to four cents (not four pennies, for they would be no longer) at a time. Certainly this could be cause for revolt! (Why revolt? Why wouldn't we just protest the legislation before it passes. One quote says it all: "I moved here from Canada, and they think I'm slow, eh?") Then again, before or during 1973, when our precious penny was worth what a nickel is now, there weren't pleas for the production of a 1/5th of a cent coin on the basis that those shady shopkeepers were rounding up to the nearest penny. In fact, that would have been absurd! So really, rounding up is immaterial.

Of course, in contrast to Australia, our penny does bear our national symbol, the maple leaf, which might make it tough to sell (or not to sell, as the case may be). Theirs only had the feathertail glider. Is that even a real animal? Probably not! Surely the coin must stay on this basis alone, even beyond the point at which the nickel has diminished in value so much as to warrant its abolishment!

According to the article, it's not like it would save the mint a mint, though. $30,000,000.00 is quite a lot for you and me, and even quite a lot for the Liberal Party of Canada to launder. But it's peanuts in comparison the national budget. So even the purportedly penny pinching party presently in power may not be persuaded on the premise of pecuniary prudence. If it is a good idea, it probably won't happen since, just like annexing the Turks and Caicos Islands, it's just not a priority.

Some other facts about pennies:

  • I have $2.12 in Canadian pennies. Or, better, I have 212 Canadian pennies. Giving them a dollar value is misleading, since I am unlikely ever to spend them (except perhaps to a copper depot in exchange for twice their face value). One of these pennies is a centennial penny, featuring the rock dove.
  • When I was in high school, one of my classmates would chase after pennies if someone rolled them down the hallway. This was discovered when some of my other classmates, having discovered already then that pennies were more or less worthless, would flick them at people. After people noticed this, they would bring bags of pennies to school for the sole purpose of throwing them down the hallway to watch my classmate chase them. It seems cruel now, but still I don't think he minded all that much. I think he really enjoyed the candy that he would purchase with his hard earned money.
  • In Canada, a penny was known as a copper. It is not surprising that a penny would be called, but it is surprising that only Canadians would call it that. But perhaps I am inferring too much from my source. I discovered this after I chose the title for this post, while looking for an archaic sounding phrase involving the terms "two bits" and "fortnight", neither of which have anything to do with copper or pennies, aside from the fact that 25 pennies, all of which contain at least some copper, are worth two bits.

Friday, July 06, 2007

This week in review

[unedited for your proofreading enjoyment]

Well the 168 hour period that began a couple hours from now last week is almost up, so I should get to posting, before it's too late and this is old news. The weekend started like any other. I was sitting at home doing nothing on a Friday night, in anticipation of doing something on a Saturday. Well, not completely nothing. I typed up an email in order to make sure I didn't show up late for Saturday's early afternoon of mayhem. Then I sat glued to my computer waiting for the reply. Actually, I don't remember what I did. Maybe I wrote another email. Who knows?

Anyway. I was told to show up at 10:30. I was planning on showing up late, but decided not to, since one of the participants is rather quite punctual, and seems to get visibly irate in the presence of minor delays which could turn out to be very inconsequential even in the short term. I had forgotten about his girlfriend, however, who isn't quite as punctual. In fact, before the early afternoon of mayhem, I hadn't met her. I showed up a minute late, and was worried that the car would have left without me. It turns out that 3 out of 5 of us weren't even there yet. Sooner or later everyone showed up and we were on our way. Three of us were jammed in the back seat of a Honda Civic, and I got stuck in the middle, which meant that my legs were squeezed tightly against each other. In a way that was a blessing, since I had consumed a large coffee in my way there.

We arrived at Sandbanks at around 12:00. We sat around for a bit, and then threw the football around, until such time is a tried to catch the football with the tip of my finger rather than the palm of my hand (well hands, I guess). I decided that throwing the football around wasn't fun anymore. My friends decided the same. What power I wield, I never knew! We sat around a bit more, absorbed some sun, and then decided to toss the frisbee around for a while. This I could do with one hand, mostly. It was rather windy, however, and after some time, I was having a difficult time getting the frisbee to go where I wanted it to (other than that, they were great shots). The person that I was playing had very good aim, though pretty much all of his throws were on the ground, and rolling sideways by the time they reached me. We decided to switch positions, and magically, we also switched errors. Moments later, we decided that playing frisbee was also boring. We sat around some more, and headed for home at about 3:00. Perhaps 15 minutes into the ride, it began to rain quite heavily, so we had picked a good time to end the mayhem.

The rest of the day was spent doing not much at all. I started a blog post, but my finger got the better of me, so I saved the draft, and haven't touched it since.

On Sunday, I went to Ottawa with an old roommate (who is from Ottawa) to celebrate Canada Day. Among the things I did to celebrate was drinking enough beer so that I could bend my finger without it hurting, and also enough that that seemed like a good idea. Other things included taking a ridiculous number of photos with my recently acquired digital camera, walking around listening to a friend of the roommate complain about what clearly appeared to him as some sort of fascism regarding the manner in which Ottawans were expected to celebrate the initialization of their country, and watching the fireworks under the watchful eye of our apparently fascist overlord's servants, the RCMP. We killed a bit of time, and eventually made it back to my roommates house. I think I lost five dollars somewhere in there.

The next day we headed back to downtown to do some touristy stuff. We had intended to go to the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, but it was closed, so we went to the Modern Photography exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada instead. Highlights of the Gallery included a giant sculpture of a spider (which was inspired by sculptor's mother. How flattering.) and a number of photographs that were similar in style and content to some of my own (not that I'm trying to draw any comparisons about my photo skills). Also amusing was the fact that taking photographs was not allowed at the photography exhibit, while it was elsewhere in the museum (not everywhere else mind you). We ate lunch, made our way back to his house, and eventually drove back to Kingston, mostly taking back roads.

On Tuesday, the swelling in my finger had gone down enough that I was getting some movement back. Accompanying that movement, however, was a clicking feeling that I'm pretty sure wasn't there last week. I decide that this warranted a visit to the doctor. She decided that it warranted a visit to the X-ray department at the local hospital, and so I spent a good part of Tuesday afternoon waiting around for X-rays. I also finally made it back into the gym.

Not much happened on Wednesday, except that I weighed myself for the first time since April, which is also the last time that I went to the gym before Tuesday. Turns out that, after all that laziness and bad eating, I actually lost weight.

Thursday, nothing really to report.

Today, while walking to school to run some errands, I ran into a Japanese friend. She didn't think much of Kingston's 10 minute Canada Day fireworks display. I told her that Ottawa's was 20 minutes. You could tell that she didn't want to hurt my feelings by telling me what she thought of that. She told me that they're usually an hour in Japan. Oh I see. Come to think of it, 20 minutes is kind of lame for a fireworks display in the nation's capital on the day which is supposed to celebrate the birth of the nation. Municipal governments can't necessarily afford to put on huge displays, but if the city of Hamilton (yes, it's my hometown, but I'm under no illusions) on it's own can afford a comparable display, then I would think the feds could have given us a whole lot more than a local government could. In any case. I had to main orders of business on campus today, both of which involved paying fines of some kind. The library's fine extraction system was malfunctioning, so I didn't pay that one. I was going to pay a fine at the doctor's office, but I decided to try dispute it instead. It was a pretty hard sell too. First off, the women didn't come across as someone who was easy to bargain with. I blamed it on a dead watch battery. I showed up for the appointment when my watch said that I was supposed to. According to their records, though, I was on time for another appointment earlier on the same day as the missed appointment. Why was the watch a factor for the second and not the first? Not only that, but the appointment was a long time ago. Why didn't I come in within a week or two to dispute it? Nevertheless, in the end, I was successful.

I returned home, and kept myself busy trying to gain some insight into an open problem from my thesis. I looked at a related paper that I had picked up quite some time ago, and realized that, even though the main result of the paper is rather complicated, parts of it are simple enough to cover almost everything in a special case of the open problem, the few things that it doesn't cover can be dealt with separately (vague enough for you?). It doesn't actually solve the open problem, though it does make another more central open problem "easier" to solve. And that's not nothing.

And, to end the excitement of the day, I got a call from the doctor's office regarding X-rays. It turns out that I fractured my finger. I've been instructed to splint the finger, or else tape it to the one beside it (or is that the same thing?) for at least 3 weeks. Currently I'm doing the latter, which means that two of my left hand fingers are pretty much useless for typing, which makes typing a bit difficult (though clearly I'm getting a lot of practice with 6 finger typing). So, until this thing fixes itself, blog posts will be short, if they happen at all. I'll save my typing energy for electronic forms of communications that are more interactive.