Thursday, November 30, 2006


OK - that's not a song title - but it is the title of a 1977 album by Pink Floyd - and I'm going to do a little review of it now. Animals was the first Pink Floyd CD I bought...sure I had watched The Wall, and I had probably listened to most of Dark Side of the Moon, but I wouldn't consider myself a fan by any stretch of the imagination.

I had got a Sony Discman for Christmas one year, and went boxing day shopping for some CDs with my Dad and brother. One store we went to was having a sale where they were charging $1 per song on the CD (well before iTunes came up with that pricing model). My Dad noticed a copy of Animals, he showed it to me by saying - "That's the Battersea Power Station...I used to drive past that every day". I took it from him and saw it was by Pink Floyd - but better yet it only had 5 songs - so $5! I bought that and about 10 other CDs...but for the next month Animals was all I listened to. It was the album that got me hooked on Pink Floyd.

Similar to George Orwell's Animal Farm, Pink Floyd used animals for metaphors of different classes of people. Dogs - Business leaders, Pigs - Politicians, Sheep - the working class.

Pigs on the Wing (part one)
A short, acoustic song with a catchy melody. This is the closest thing to a love song that the Floyd put on the album. Apparently Roger Waters wrote it (and part two) for his wife at the time. When I started searching for Pink Floyd stuff on the internet I found out that the 8 track version of Animals had a different version of Pigs on the Wing where the two parts were linked by a guitar solo by Snowy White. I like that version even more than the original two parts on the CD.

When I first listened to Dogs I was blown away. It started out normally enough...the lyrics were fantastic...then half way through the 17 minutes dogs started barking. This was something I was not expecting as I had never really listened to anything like it before. When the song ended, I just had to listen to it again.

The song is obvious enough in that it is about big business and the complete lack of soul and feeling business people have about the working class on whose back they have made their fortunes.

Originally written and performed during the Dark Side of the Moon tours of 1974-5, Dogs was originally titled "You Gotta Be Crazy". The lyrics at the end of Dogs have a certain similarity to the style of lyrics in Eclipse at the end of Dark Side of the Moon:

Who was born in a house full of pain
Who was trained not to spit in the fan
Who was told what to do by the man
Who was broken by trained personnel
Who was fitted with collar and chain
Who was given a pat on the back
Who was breaking away from the pack
Who was only a stranger at home
Who was ground down in the end
Who was found dead on the phone
Who was dragged down by the stone.
The song was originally intended for the album that became "Wish You Were Here", but Roger Waters had different ideas. This may have been one of the starting points in the division between Waters and Gilmour.

Pigs (Three Different Ones)
In Pigs (Three Different Ones), Roger Waters starts by criticizing the greed and behaviour of businessmen - continuing on where Dogs left off. But in the second verse forward it targets more of the political figures of the day. Specifically it seems to me that his disdain for Maggie Thatcher so evident in 'A Final Cut' started well before the Falkland Islands 'war'. Also, the lyrics are critical of a group of politically connected parents that were advocating the censorship of music for being to sexually overt including music by Pink Floyd.

The line 'Ha Ha, Charade You Are' is now a common insult used on South Park.

Sheep is my favourite song on the album. It's a view into the philosophy and viewpoint Roger Waters has about the working class. Like Dogs, this song started life as a song the Floyd performed on the Dark Side of the Moon tour and was originally called Raving and Drooling - one of my all time favourite titles!

Part way through the song, there is a satire of Psalm 23 which, for some bizarre reason, caused Tipper Gore and the PMRC to declare that Pink Floyd were Satanists!?

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me down to lie. Through pastures green, He leadeth me the silent waters by. With bright knives, He releaseth my soul. He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places. He converteth me to lamb cutlets. For lo, He hath great power, and great hunger. When cometh the day we lowly ones, Through quiet reflection, and great dedication. Master the art of karate. Lo, we shall rise up. And then we'll make the bugger's eyes water."

It doesn't get much better than that...

Pigs on the Wing (part two)
The conclusion of Pigs on the Wing from the first track. These two tracks seem to have little to do with the 'meat' of the album, although Roger does refer to himself as a 'Dog' and there is a mention of the 'stone' dragging him down that features in Dogs. When I listen to this album now, I generally just listen to the middle three songs, and sometimes the 8 track version of Pigs on the Wing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

See Emily Play #4

Game three of six is over and Kramnik managed another draw. He had white and they played an Open Catalan opening from which he had many attacking opportunities. The computer defended precisely (as they typically do) and managed to hold out for a draw.

So far in the three games, Kramnik has shown excellent preparation and played his openings very quickly allowing him plenty of time for the long ‘thinks’ he needs up to move 40. This has helped him play well in the middle game. Where he has faltered is in the end game where twice in the three games he has missed opportunities to either force a draw in the second game (which he ended up losing), or put a lot of pressure on the computer in the first game.

Score: Kramnik 1.0 – Fritz 2.0

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What Shall We Do Now?

Part of my role at work is ‘software architecture’ which is a somewhat nebulous term and often crosses in to software design. In an agile environment it can’t cross that boundary, however, because it is up to the teams delivering the feature to buy into and create the design for the software. So with the help of the book “Software Systems Architecture” we’re now defining the architecture as a process to find unwritten requirements, constraints, questions, and assumptions that will restrict the design space to only those designs that meet all the criteria and constraints.

The book is quite good, although it is written from a more ‘waterfall’ type mentality. The ideas it presents are geared towards how to effectively communicate an architecture. The authors present a set of six distinct 'views' of the system. Each view is targeted at a different set of stakeholders (which may include the end user, operators, developers, installers, third party developers, etc.) and the intent is to present only the information the stakeholder cares about in the view. The book describes a template for each view including examples of what one is to consider, a checklist, and a section of common mistakes and pitfalls which is quite useful.

The views they describe are:

  • Functional: Describes the systems functional elements, their responsibilities, interfaces and primary interactions
  • Information: Describes how the system stores, manipulates, manages and distributes data
  • Concurrency: Maps functional elements to concurrency units to identify where parallelism can and will occur
  • Development: Describes how the architecture supports the development process including building, testing, and maintaining the system
  • Deployment: Describes the target environment into which the architecture will be deployed including processing nodes, network interconnections, bandwidth availability, and disk storage requirements
  • Operational: Describes how the system will be operated, administered, upgraded and supported after initial deployment.
In addition to the viewpoints, the authors identified some common non-functional qualities of a system and recognized that meeting those qualities will affect more than one view. These qualities include things like performance, security, availability, and scalability. For each of these qualities there is an associated Perspective that the book outlines.

So I'm experimenting with this format by trying to describe a current feature (EPG Data Delivery) along with an upcoming required enhancement to that feature. We'll see how it goes...

Green is the Colour

Yesterday there was a federal by-election in my riding (London North-Centre) and for the first time I voted for a party other than the Conservatives/Progressive Conservatives. That's right - I went green. My former MP (Liberal Joe Fontana) decided to resign his position to run for Mayor of London and lost to the incumbent Anne-Marie DeCicco-Best.

The real candidates for the by-election were:

  • Glen Pearson (Liberal): a former fire-fighter and founder of the London Food Bank
  • Dianne Haskett (Conservative): the former mayor of London
  • Megan Walker (NDP): I know very little about her, but I think she may have been a former broadcaster or journalist of some kind
  • Elizabeth May (Green Party): The Leader of the Green Party of Canada
I didn't vote for the Conservatives because, as the former Mayor Dianne Haskett showed intolerance and disdain for gays/lesbians by trying to stop the Gay Pride parade.

I didn't vote for the Liberals for a couple of reasons. The Liberal party seems very arrogant. I can't stand Dalton McGuinty and the provincial Liberals because of their complete disregard for their election promises and the Health tax. That feeling bleeds to the federal liberals. And I didn't even get to the corruption rampant through the former Liberal federal government.

I'll never vote for the NDP.

So that left Elizabeth May and the Green Party. They campaigned fairly. The leaflet I read describing their policies seemed reasonable. And she is the leader of the party.

I always expected the Liberals to win - which they did with almost 35% of the vote. However, I was pleased to see the Greens came in second with almost 26% of the vote. Congratulations Glen Pearson on winning, and to you too Elizabeth May on a well run campaign and a bright future.

Monday, November 27, 2006

See Emily Play #3

Game 2 in the Man vs Machine match ended in a win for the Machine.

Kramnik had black and it started with a fairly strange opening focusing on the Queen side. It looked even to me for the majority of the match, then Kramnik made a slight mistake in his defense which Fritz took advantage off without mercy. It ended with a Queen/Knight mating net on the black King.

Score so far: Fritz 1.5 - Kramnik 0.5

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Arnold Layne

I was scanning YouTube while waiting for a plane last month and ran across a series of videos from the early days of Pink Floyd - back when Syd Barrett - the Crazy Diamond himself - was the driving creative and musical force.

Seeing some of these videos really made me smile and appreciate the personalities in the band in their formative years...

This is the Arnold Layne video - their first single.

Here are links to videos for Scarecrow and Apples and Oranges


The Steelers lost again today. Not only did they lose, but they were shut-out 27-0 by the division leading Ravens. So the Steelers are now all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They are 5 games behind the division leaders with five games to play and their best possible finish is 9-7. Considering an 11-5 AFC team missed the wildcard last year, it is almost guaranteed the Steelers will be done at the conclusion of the regular season. The team is very similar to last year's squad, but the biggest difference seems to be the number of turnovers the Steelers are giving up. They've already had 3 or 4 more interceptions this year than they did all last year.

Oh, well...normally I'd be depressed about that. But given that they won the Superbowl last season, they've earned a 5 year exemption from criticism in my books.

Now I'll just root for good football...and against the Colts, Bengals, Ravens, Broncos, Cowboys, Redskins and Falcons...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wot's...Uh The Deal?

Hardly had any time to post's been crazy since waking up at 6:15.

There was a smell of rotten eggs in the basement this morning that I noticed at around 8:15 so we kind of freaked out and reported a gas leak. The whole family got up and out of the house by 8:30 in our PJs. Turns out all north east London smelled like gas, not just our house, so we ended up driving around for about an hour waiting for some news. Luckily it turned out to be a leak of the additive companies add to the odourless natural gas so you can detect ironic.

Then I spent the rest of the day between putting up Christmas lights, raking leaves, and cleaning the outside. Lots of fresh air and now I'm whipped.

Time to go to bed....

See Emily Play #2

Game 1 in the Man vs Machine match ended in a draw. Kramnik had white. Both side seemed content to exchange pieces at will. No real chances on either side. It seemed as though Kramnik wanted to be sure to get at least a draw in his match. Hopefully there will be better matches to come.

I don't think I mentioned this before, but if Kramnik wins he gets $1 Million. If he loses or the match ends in a draw he gets $500,000. Not bad either way...

Friday, November 24, 2006

See Emily Play

OK...not Emily exactly...starting tomorrow there is a 'Man Vs. Machine' chess match featuring Vladimir Kramnik against Deep Fritz 10.

Kramnik is the current FIDE World Chess Champion and the 14th Classical Chess Champion (like boxing Chess has splintered due to political/organizational disagreements and there are multiple 'titles' a player may hold). He is coming off a successful defense of his Classical Chess Championship against Vesselin Topolov and is playing better than he has in three or four years.

Deep Fritz 10 is the latest offering from and is sure to prove a mighty opponent for Kramnik. At the championship, Fritz will be running on a standard Intel PC with 4 processors.

The format is 6 games over 11 days of play. I don't think Kramnik stands much chance of winning. In fact I'll make a prediction that he will win 1 game and draw 2.

You can follow the action online at either playchess or at the official site.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Great Day For Freedom

Happy Thanksgiving to any Americans that may be reading this.

My favourite aspect of American Thanksgiving is football. Even though I'm Canadian, quite often I'll take American Thanksgiving off so I can watch football. I haven't done so much in the last few years because I have a TV on my desk where I work so I've been able to watch it there. But I decided to take it off this year because of HD and just to use some vacation time.

The tradition of Thanksgiving Day games is pretty cool however there are a couple of problems I have with it. It always involves home games for the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. In recent years both of these teams haven't been very good, so the Thanksgiving Day games, as a result, haven't been very good. Secondly, because the games follow a normal week the preparation time is much shorter and the visiting teams are at more of a disadvantage. If you analyse the results in the modern era of football (since the forward pass has become popular), the home team wins about 60% of the time. However, the home team wins games on 'short weeks' (where the opponent has less than one week to prepare) 67% of the time. Normal short weeks are fair in that it rotates around from year to year as to who plays where following short weeks. The exception is for Detroit and Dallas who are guaranteed a home date following a short week each year. Why doesn't the NFL keep the tradition alive by allowing Detroit and Dallas to play each Thanksgiving, but rotate home and away games for each team for fairness, I don't know.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Interstellar Overdrive

Following the 'Star Trekking' post, Peter J mentioned a Doctor Who themed song he was reminded of.

I loved watching Doctor Who as a kid, and actually it was the source of the first nightmare I can remember. I watched an episode with my dad that featured the Daleks with their robotic 'Exterminate' catchphrase. I did not sleep well at all that night. of my favourite parts of Doctor Who is the theme music. The BBC has been kind enough to put up a web page that lets you play with samples from the Doctor Who theme and create your own. They call it the Radiophonotron and it is lots of fun to play with. Give it a try if you have a few minutes...

Oh yeah...and Pink Floyd sampled some Doctor Who theme music in "One Of These Days" when they performed it live in the Division Bell tour...

Raving and Drooling

The Nintendo Wii is AWESOME!!!

A co-worker brought one in today and I played Tennis, Golf, and Boxing on it. It was so much fun! The controller is great. Golf was by far the best and most enjoyable. Boxing seemed a little confusing and I wasn't sure that all the motions I made with the controller were being recognized. It was still fun, but I felt a little self-conscious "shadow" boxing in front of a group of people sober. I only played one point in a Tennis match and there was a big lag between my swing and the character swinging. I'm sure you'd get used to it with more practice though.

I know what's on my Christmas list now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Biding My Time - The Answer

If you haven't read the original post where I asked the question, you may want to before reading the answer below. This question was asked of me in a telephone interview, and I managed to work out the formula below on the phone in about five minutes. I didn't go the extra step of performing the derivative and setting to zero on the phone - the interviewer was happy enough with the formula.

If you only had one marble/ball/egg, whatever, you would be forced to go serially from floor n to floor n+1 until it breaks and then floor n would be the answer. Since you have two marbles/balls/eggs, whatevers, you can use the first one to narrow down the scope. The question is how to do that narrowing most efficiently.

Assume you are going to divide the 100 floors evenly into groups of n floors, then the first marble can be dropped on every nth floor and when it breaks, the final marble only has to check the n-1 floors between the last two floors checked.

Let d be the number of drops and n be the number of floors per section for the first marble. In the worst case for d (which is what we care about) then:

d = 100/n + (n-1)

So now to find the minimum d with respect to n, we need to use some high school calculus to take the derivative and set to zero. This yields:

dd -100
-- = ---- + 1
dn n^2

-n^2 = -100

n = +/- 10

Since only positive numbers make sense in the scenario, we can see that we should drop the first marble from every tenth floor and then the worst case for the number of drops to find the floor in question is 19.

Astronomy Domine

In reading Kimota94's decscription of Pop Culture References, he mentioned the phrase "He's Dead, Jim" which instantly reminded me of the song "Star Trekking" by The Firm. I found the video with YouTube and it's worth a look...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Signs of Life

This past weekend there were 11 NFL games on at the 1PM Eastern time slot. FOX only had the TV rights to show a single game and chose one of the games in the later timeslot. I live in the Rogers broadcast area and with timeshifting and HD had access to about 10 different channels (CBS affiliates, CBS HD, and Global) showing games. However, all of the channels were showing the same game (Pats at Packers), despite what the guide said. That game was the most one-sided of all (35-0).

There were a lot of close games, including my favourite, the defending Superbowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers against the Browns in Cleveland.

Unfortunately I had to watch highlights only. The Steelers were trailing the entire time, and were it not for some heroics from "Big" Ben Roethlisberger, they would have lost. However, they managed to score 21 points in the fourth quarter to win 24-20. At the end of both halves the Browns launched passes to the end zone and in both instances, the Browns receiver had a decent chance to come down with the ball. Luckily both times they failed.

So the Steelers are now third in their division at 4-6 trailing Baltimore at 8-2 (whose record is more flattering than their play) and Cincinatti at 5-5.

There are some signs of playoff life - but the Steelers have to win their remaining games - not very likely based on their performance thus far.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lucifer Sam

I love cats. My cat is 16 years old, is deaf, and has thyroid and kidney problems.

Because she is deaf, she meows at loud volumes and incessantly because you can’t hear you talking to her.

She’s had thyroid problems for a couple of years, and because she won’t take the pills for the condition I’ve been giving her half a medicated chicken-flavoured chew twice a day for 2 years. The chews cost about $70 for a months supply. If I forget to give her a chew, her typical response is to vomit bile on some carpet two or three times in the night….so I try not to forget.

Because of the thyroid medication she’s developed a kidney problem which has worsened dramatically over the past couple of months. She’s to the point now, where sometimes she can’t make it to the litter box and has peed in various places in the house – the mat in the entrance way, my daughter’s playroom, and such. When this happens it sucks! Even with scrubbing and the cleaner we use it takes a while for that smell to dissipate.

It’s to the point now where we’re restricting her to non-carpetted areas – luckily that’s the majority of the house.

Biding My Time

This is a lot later than I thought I'd have my first math related post. This is the first of many.

Consider a 100 storey building, each floor has a balcony. You have 2 marbles, and you are trying to determine the highest floor from which you can drop a marble without it breaking. What strategy would you use to minimize the number of trial drops you have to make to determine this height? Using that strategy what is the most number of drops you would have to make to determine the floor in the worst case?

Friday, November 17, 2006

On Thin Ice

Kelly and I got our first 'night' out since our son was born in June. We just got back from seeing the London Knights beat the Erie Otters 9-1 with another couple. The game was never close, but it was exciting and there was lots of scoring (obviously). The Knights outshot the Otters 51-40. A player named Patrick Kane made a really good impression on me. He was really fast, controlled the puck well and scored a nice goal on a backhand that he flipped to the top of the net when the entire arena though he was going to carry the puck around the net.

There was a big fight in the second period that saw the two players go to the ice twice and get back up before the refs broke it up.

One Slip

As I mentioned on a previous post, I play chess online sometimes. If you want to replay a game I'm pretty proud of, go here and you'll see me beat Pete Baljet (one of my co-workers).

He and I are pretty evenly matched most of the time, but he made a blunder (one slip) in this game that let me finish him off pretty convincingly.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Speak To Me

My daughter is three years old, and, among other things, we're trying to teach her to say nice things about people (i.e. compliment them). When I watch her, I can see her decide to say something nice normally something like "I like your hat" or "Your teeth are shiny". But it doesn't always come out right.

The funniest occurence was when she saw my wife getting ready to breast feed our son. She pointed to my wife's breasts and said, very seriously, "I like those!"

Us and Them

In this case, by Us and Them, I mean the black and white sides in a chess game.

I love chess. I love playing it. I love analysing my previous games. I love 'watching' professional games. I love reading about it. I love reading about professional players.

I think the reasons I love chess, are fairly simple. It is a struggle between two initially equal forces and, like Newton said, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It amazes me that in the hundreds of thousands of professional games played, players still break out novel moves after 7 or 8 reasonable starting moves. After one of these novel moves, if the resulting position looks promising, an army of people start analysing the novel move and it gets added to encyclopedia and repetoire waiting for people to find the appropriate refutation.

Computationally we're at a point where a cheap PC or handheld device has enough power to be able to beat 99% of people using brute force. That's unfortunate, however, now chess programs are able to teach and train beginners. It's to the point where even professionals regularly use computers to analyse positions and are a key part of their training regimen. I use Fritz from ChessBase to help me train. And I play online at for complete games or for 'correspondence' style games

Despite my love for the game, and my above average memory in most aspects of my life, my chess skills are probably just average to slightly below average. I think the big reasons for this is that I haven't played enough and I get too focused on my own plans and strategy and sometimes blunder a piece away because I can't give up my plan. It's something I'm working on...

If anyone out there ever wants to play a friendly game - I'm always up for it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Great Gig In The Sky

Over the weekend I found out that a co-worker's baby passed away. The baby was born with a genetic disorder that 'was not compatible with life'. He was expected to live a week or two, but actually lived for just over 3 months.

The obituary mentioned simple joys like seeing him smile, watching trees and birds with him and just spending precious moments together, knowing that they wouldn't last long.

Angel's death has touched me more than any other in my life, even though I never met him. I can't imagine what his parents are going through and how they can cope right now. I just know that I wasn't able to go to the funeral because of the emotions I felt - I would have lost it.

Since reading the obituary I've cried at least twice a day thinking about him and his parents. I have hugged my kids more, told them that I love them more often, and enjoyed my time with them more in the past three days thanks to Angel.

Because of his death, I will not take for granted how lucky I am to have my family. And I will be giving to the trisomy foundation in Angel's memory.

Welcome To The Machine

I've recently been reading the blogs of a few friends of mine (here, here, and here) , and instead of ranting in their comments section or verbally to them, I decided to start a blog too.

I don't think I'll be as verbose or as frequent a poster as Kimota, but I hope not to leave this blog abandoned after just a couple of posts.