Sunday, December 31, 2006

Chess Tournaments

For the first time I decided to enter some online correspondence chess tournaments over the holidays. I've never done this before because I've preferred to play more friendly games against people I know. But I decided to broaden my horizons a bit and potentially improve my play.

I play at (link with referral code on right hand side) and entered three different tournament with mixed results:

The first tournament I entered was an 8 person, single match, open knockout tournament. 'Open' means it is open to anyone of any rating. The 8 entrants are seeded based on rating with #1 playing #8, #2 vs #7 and so on. #1-4 have white and must win to advance (i.e. Black can advance with a win or tie). I was seeded 4th with a rating of 1895 against a player with the handle 'Trapper D' from the USA. We quickly exchanged pieces and I ended up making a blunder in the endgame and resigned - thus quickly ending my first online tournament.

In this style of tournament every entrant plays two games (one as white, one as black) against each other entrant. You get 1 point for a win and 0.5 points for a draw - the entrant with the most points after all games are played wins. I chose a 4 player tournament, so I have siz games to play. So far I won one game with Black and drew another so I have 1.5 points. The other games I'm playing are against much stronger opponents - I hope to be able to salvage a win and a draw out of what is left.

This isn't really a tournament in that there is no fixed end. Rather it is open to as many people that want to play. There are 7 levels to the pyramid - each with about a third as many people as the level below. You start on the 1st level, and advance by beating a player in the level above you. You can also be demoted a level if you lose to someone on the same level (or a level below you). I've won all three pyramid matches I've been involved in so far, so I'm on level 3. Below is the current distribution of players in the pyramid:








Overall, I'm quite enjoying the tournament play - lots of chess boards to move on and lots of new and interesting people to play against.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Allergies and Sensitivities

Earlier I posted about a potential allergy our son may have to cow milk proteins. We've received a lot of conflicting advice from the Health Unit, a dietitian, and our family doctor. Ranging from give up breast feeding in favour of Soy formula, to avoid all formula and solely breast feed.

Kelly has been doing an amazing job of feeding Elliot exclusively by breast (still 7-9 times a day), but even with that his weight gain has not been great recently. He's six months now, which is when we're supposed to introduce rice cereal (pretty much the most bland tasting mush you can make). We started using a Nestle product that you can mix with breast milk which we tried - Elliot got diarrhea with it, but Kelly was on an antibiotic at the time so we weren't sure whether it was the cereal or if it was the drug getting through the breast milk.

So we waited a few days and tried a different brand (from Heinz) that didn't have any milk proteins and contained a lot fewer additives than the Nestle version. Again we were mixing with breast milk and thought everything was going well (no upset tummy, no red cheeks) - but today (day #3 on the cereal) he had 7(!!!) dirty diapers and now the poop is green and chunky - yuch.

We're not sure what's going on...but we're going to try a couple more days since he doesn't seem dehydrated (yet) and he has a Doctor's appointment on Tuesday morning.

We never had these problems with Maya - I didn't realize how easy it was back then.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Math is Fun

Here's another math problem to wrestle with while counting down to the New Year.

Find the smallest positive integer (base 10), composed entirely of the digits 0 and 1 that is divisible by 225.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Stuff

Well after a couple of days of dealing with an exceedingly excited 3 year old I'm ready to put fingers to keyboard to describe Christmas...

On Christmas Eve we visited my Mother-In-Law for dinner and had a pretty good time. Got home at 7:00 (about half an hour before Maya's normal bedtime) and immediately started the bedtime routine with no fussing (because, as she said, Santa won't come until we're all asleep). She got to bed in record time, skipping some of the normal elements of the routine and hunkering down under her covers with her eyes scrunched closed determined to fall asleep immediately. Which she did - there wasn't a peep from her room.

Elliot (our 6 month old) had a pretty good night. He woke up at 3:00 to be fed but was back asleep in his crib by 3:45. Maya woke up at 7:15 - which is a little later than normal for her. So far, so good.

We then proceeded down to the family room to see if Santa had come. Maya was so excited when she saw the 'big present' that Santa had left for her: a 'Rapunzel Castle'. She had seen this set up in Sears when we went for Christmas pictures of the kids three weeks ago and had talked of nothing else since. She asked for it in her letter to Santa, and when she saw Santa at the mall and at the TVWorks holiday party. So, unless we were going to teach her a life lesson about disappointment, she was going to get that castle. (more on disappointing your kids intentionally in another post, I think). Maya also got a watch in her stocking, but to my disappointment, she wasn't interested in it at all despite asking for a watch a number of times and always expressing an interest in my watch.

After about 30 minutes of play downstairs with the kids and the stockings we headed up for breakfast. Maya was too excited to eat and was jumping all over the place, but we managed to get something in her. Elliot was getting hungry at this point, so Kelly fed him, while Maya and I went back downstairs to play with the Castle. After eating Elliot fell asleep.

So Kelly, Maya, and I started opening the presents under the tree. Some highlights:

Me: Shoes, CD (Love - The Beatles), and an IOU for the Wii - Kelly couldn't find one in time and was very apologetic. I kept telling her that it was the thought that counts and I was just as excited for the IOU as actually getting one. Delaying the gratification is good too.

Kelly: Necklace, Sweater, PJs, CDs (Sam's Town - The Killers, Continuum - John Mayer)

Maya: Lots of Little Mermaid paraphernalia - I'm not comfortable feeding the Disney conglomerate, but I'm doing it anyway...don't feel great about it though.

Elliot: Clothes, a couple of big rubbery dinosaurs (T. Rex, Pleisiosaurus), some plastic animal toys that make noises when you move their appendages.

In the afternoon we went over to my Mother-In-Law's for turkey dinner. It was excellent. My sister in law and her new boyfriend were supposed to be there at 3:00. Dinner was at 4:00. At 4:30 she called to say that they went for brunch with the boyfriend's family and weren't hungry and were too 'tired' to come over. She told her mother that if she wanted she could bring the presents over to their place after 7:00 when she got her kids back from her ex.

I couldn't believe how inconsiderate and rude that was. My mother in law was almost in tears as she got off the phone. She went over later so her grandkids could have their presents - but there is still a lot of tension between the two of them. I would normally enjoy that tension, but it's almost beyond that now.

We got back home around 7:00 again, and once again, Maya was so tired she went straight to bed without any fuss and slept through the night.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Sad Anniversary

A year ago today, the sister of one of my wife's friends was found murdered. She was found in the trunk of her car in the parking lot of the public school at which she taught in Nova Scotia. The police have yet to find the murderer and have not laid a single charge. Her name is Paula Gallant and the police are still looking for any tips that could lead to an arrest - there is up to $50,000 available for any such information.

In the year that has followed, her sisters have struggled to cope with this tragedy and maintain a relationship with their niece, who is almost 2 years old now. They have helped open an art room called "Paula's Place" at the school and have held auctions to raise funds and awareness of the investigation. But to this point nothing has led back to anything

Some more information can be found here, here, and here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

1000! revisited

It's been a few days since I posed the 1000! question and while cjg posted the correct answer he used a brute force approach. Here is a more formal solution:

The only way to get a zero at the end of a number is by multiplying by 10. The prime factorization of 10 is 5*2. The prime factorization of 1000! will contain 2m and 5n. So the number of 0s at the end of 1000! will be the minimum of m and n.

1000! contains a factor of every number from 1 to 1000, so we start by counting how many of those numbers contain a factor of 5.

  • Every 5th number is a multiple of 5.
  • Every 25th number is a multiple of 25 - which has an additional factor of 5.
  • Every 125th number is a multiple of 125 - which has yet another factor of 5.
  • And 625 has another factor of 5.
So, we get 1000! has 200+40+8+1 = 249 factors of 5.

We know every other number has a factor of 2, so 1000! trivially has at least 500 factors of 2. since 500>249, the number of zeros at the end of 1000! is 249.

Now, through all of this we assumed I was asking base 10. If, for interests sake I really meant everything in base 2, the answer would be derived identically:

In base 2, a zero at the end occurs for each factor of 10 (2 base 10). 1000 base 2 is 8 base 10.
  • Every 2nd number has a factor of 2.
  • Every 4th number has an additional factor of 2
  • Every 8th number has yet another factor of 2.
So we see that 1000! (base 2) has 4+2+1 = 7 zeros at the end.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas..

and happy holiday thoughts to anyone that is (un)fortuante enough to be reading my ramblings on the day before Christmas.

Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up

This is post #51 and with it marks an end to my theme of titling posts with Pink Floyd song titles. I found it more difficult to come up with the title than most posts content. I even cheated in a few ways:

  • I used an album title once (Animals)
  • I used a Roger Waters solo track name once (What God Wants)
  • I used duplicates a lot - something I wanted to avoid initially (See Emily Play 7 times, High Hopes 3 times, Money 3 times, Speak To Me twice)

Goodbye Cruel World

That's it. The Steelers have officially been eliminated from the playoffs following a 31-7 loss to the "over-rated" Baltimore Ravens. Too bad because Jacksonville lost again.

Kimota94 - you can once again watch'm going to dip into the Christmas egg nog a little early.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Free Four

As in "One Two Free Four Five"...

Here are the five things not many people know about me that Peter suggested here:

  1. I think of myself and am generally considered to be pretty good at math, but on the first two tax returns I submitted (ages 14 and 15) there were 'calculation errors' that Revenue Canada found and corrected on my behalf. Only if math teachers did that too :(
  2. I have had my appendix, gall bladder, wisdom teeth, and tonsils removed.
  3. I prefer a tray of cold cuts, fresh bread and a 'make your own sandwich meal' to pretty much any other kind of meal. It is always my choice when asked what I want to have to eat for a family get together - to the point where nobody asks me anymore.
  4. I suck at first person shooters and real time war strategy games.
  5. I believed in Santa until I was 9.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Brain Damage

Again, Kimota94 provided the first (and this time, only) correct response to the last math problems. Congratulations - go here to see his solution.

Here's a new problem for the holidays:

How many zeros are at the end of 1000! ?

(for those unaware of the ! operator - it is read "factorial". n! means the product of all numbers from 1 to n. e.g. 4! = 1*2*3*4 = 24)

A Saucerful Of Secrets

In response to Kimota94's post about math's a few 'tests for divisibility' that you can use to impress your (geeky) friends.

1) An integer is divisible by 2 iff (that's if and only if for you non-geeks) its last digit is divisible by 2. If you didn't know this one already there's a problem ;).

2) An integer is divisible by 4 iff its last two digits are divisible by 4 because 100 is equivalent to 0 mod 4 (again, for the non geeks, mod is short for modulus meaning remainder (100/4 = 25 remainder 0, 0/4 = 0 remainder 0 - the two remainders are equal so 100 and 0 are equivalent mod 4)

3) A number is divisible by 3 iff the sum of its digits is divisible by 3.
coming later

4) An integer is divisible by 9 iff the sum of its digits is divisible by 9 (casting out nines)

Let x be an integer with digits arar-1…a1a0.
Therefore x = ar*10r + ar-1*10r-1+…+a1*10+a0

Now 10 is equivalent to 1 mod 9
Therefore, for all k > 0, 10k is equivalent to 1k which is equivalent to 1 mod 9.

Now look at x mod 9:
x = ar*1 + ar-1*1 +… + a1*1 + a0 (mod 9)
Therefore x is congruent to 0 (mod 9) (i.e. it is divisible by 9) when the sum of:
ar+ar-1+…+a1+a0 is congruent to 0 (mod 9)

Another way of saying it is that x is divisible by 9 when the sum of its digits is divisible by 9.

5) A number is divisible by 11 iff the alternating sum of its digits is divisible by 11.

Mainly left to the reader. It is almost identical to the proof for 9s except 10 is equivalent to -1 mod 11 so the 10k is either 1 or -1 depending on if k is even or not.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

The "Change Bank" is one of my favourite SNL commercial parodies ever. My favourite line is: "People ask how we make money. The answer is simple: volume".

I found it on YouTube:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

HIgh Hopes (part 3)

I know what you're all thinking: What happened to the Steelers' playoff chances with the NFL results this past weekend?

Well, I'm here to let you know that while still slim, their hopes are still alive. Oh...and a mistake from last week. Buffalo has the same record as the Steelers, but if they win their remaining games would beat the Steelers based on conference record. I must have missed that one, because I can't look at a team starting JP Losman at quarterback and think they have a chance at making the playoffs. Turns out their chances (while still slim) are better than those of the defending Superbowl champs.

The Good News: Pittsburgh won (easily) while Cincinnati, Jacksonville, and KC all lost.

The Bad News: Denver and the NY Jets won (although neither win was surprising against Arizona and Minnesota respectively.

The new scenario for the upcoming weekend:

  • The Steelers must win against Baltimore this weekend
  • Denver and Cincinnati play this weekend, both are 1 game ahead of the Steelers and both hold a tiebreaker against the Steelers, so unless they tie (very unlikely), the winner will beat the Steelers for a wild card spot. Which means there is only one left
  • So Jacksonville must lose against New England (in New England)
Assuming Denver and Cincinnati don't tie, the Steelers have to hope that in the next two weeks they go 2-0, the Jaguars go 0-2, Denver loses their last game, and the Jets, Bills, and Titans lose at least once.

Simple, right. Just not very likely.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Speak To Me

Congratulations to Kimota94 and Vish, who correctly determined the answer to the last math question. See their comments for details...

Now for some algebra:

Two cars race around a circular track, in opposite directions, at constant rates. They start at the same point and meet every 30 seconds. If they move in the same direction, they meet every 120 seconds. If the track is 1800 m long, what is the speed of each car?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

One Of My Turns

Another math problem...answer coming in a couple of days or after the first correct answer in the comments section:

Angle ABC = Angle DEA
length AB = 3
BC = 4
AE = 1

What is the length of line segment ED?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

When You're In

The NFL tie breaking procedures to get into the playoffs are some of the most complicated rules I've ever analyzed or seen discussed in such detail. Last year, at the end of the regular season, the Atlanta Falcons were playing a game and had to make a decision between going for a field goal for a tie or going for a touchdown to win. Because of 'playoff implications' they decided to go for the touchdown and failed - missing the playoffs. It turns out that had they played for a tie they would have made it into the playoffs. On the sidelines, following the end of the game, you could see the coach screaming into a cellphone. In the press conference afterwards he told the media that he was unaware that a tie would get them into the playoffs so he played for the win. When you read the tie breaking procedures it's no wonder he was confused.

Here they are (courtesy of with further explanations from me...)

Within a division:
1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
Common games are against same opponents. Within a division, two teams will have 8 games in common excluding the head-to-head and division games.
4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
5. Strength of victory.
Best won-lost-tied percentage of opponents the team beat
6. Strength of schedule.
Best won-lost-tied percentage of all opponents
7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
Ranked 1-16 within conference for points scored and points allowed. Two rankings added, lowest number is 'best'.
8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
Ranked 1-16 within conference for points scored and points allowed. Two rankings added, lowest number is 'best'.
9. Best net points in common games.
Two teams in the same division have 14 games in common including 2 head to head meetings.
10. Best net points in all games.
11. Best net touchdowns in all games.

If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.
1. Reduce to at most one tied club per division by applying the division tie breaker.
2. If more than one club is tied following step 1, see below.

Two Clubs
1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
4. Strength of victory.
5. Strength of schedule.
6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
8. Best net points in conference games.
9. Best net points in all games.
10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
11. Coin toss.

Three or More Clubs
(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)
1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the three Wild-Card participants.
2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
5. Strength of victory.
6. Strength of schedule.
7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
9. Best net points in conference games.
10. Best net points in all games.
11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
12. Coin toss.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

High Hopes

So the Baltimore Ravens won on Sunday - which means that the Steelers can no longer win the division. So as promised here is some detailed analysis as to how the Steelers can win a wild card spot in the playoffs.

Since the Bengals and Jaguars already have eight wins and both hold tie-breakers over the Steelers (and their respective division winners already have 10 wins), the Steelers must win their remaining three games and one of those two teams must lose their remaining three games.

Looking at the upcoming weekend, that means a Steelers loss or both a Bengals and Jaguars win means that the Steelers are eliminated from the playoffs. Other than that, it depends on what the other 7-6 teams do over the remaining three weeks. Lets look at the possibilities assuming that the Steelers are going to go 3-0 and there are no ties.

NY Jets: remaining games are against the Vikings, Dolphins and Raiders.
If the Jets go 2-1 over that three game span they will be tied with the Steelers. If the loss is against the Vikings then the Jets will hold the tiebreaker based on a better conference record, however if the loss is against Miami or Oakland, then the Steelers will probably win the tiebreaker based on "Strength of Victory"

Denver Broncos: remaining games are against the Cardinals, Bengals, and 49ers.
If the Broncos go 2-1 over that three game span they will be tied with the Steelers. Denver owns the tiebreaker against the Steelers based on a better conference record.

KC Chiefs: remaining games are against the Chargers, Raiders, and Jaguars.
If the Chiefs go 2-1 over that three game span they will be tied with the Steelers. However, the Steelers beat the Chiefs (handily) earlier this year, so they would win the tiebreaker.

Miami, Buffalo and Tennessee all have the same record as the Steelers. If Miami or Buffalo go 3-0 the Steelers would hold the tie-breaker because of a better conference record. However, if Tennesse goes 3-0 it is unclear at this point which team would win the tie-breaker because it would come down to Strength of Victory. I have a feeling Tennesee would win that however.

So what are some potential scenarios that see the Steelers into the post-season? See the list below. Note: I ignored the scenario where both CIN and JAX go 0-3 since that seems very unlikely (but could result in the Steelers getting the 1st or the 2 wild card spots)

Scenario A

CIN1-2 or 2-1
KC2-1 or worse
DEN1-2 or worse
NYJ1-2 or worse
TEN2-1 or worse

Scenario B

CIN1-2 or 2-1
KC2-1 or worse
DEN1-2 or worse
NYJ2-1with one of the wins against MIN
TEN2-1 or worse

Scenario C

DEN1-2must beat CIN, lose to ARZ and SF
JAX1-2 or better
KC2-1 or worse
NYJ1-2 or worse
TEN2-1 or worse

Scenario D

DEN1-2must beat CIN, lose to ARZ and SF
JAX1-2 or better
KC2-1 or worse
NYJ2-1with one of the wins against MIN
TEN2-1 or worse

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What God Wants

I was listening to The Current on CBC Radio One this morning and the satirical opening was talking about Canadian retailers wanting to embrace the materialism of Christmas without alienating the Christians so they were launching a new campaign: W.W.J.B. : What Would Jesus Buy.

I laughed out loud!!

Monday, December 11, 2006


In my post about motivation (Money) - I forgot one basic motivation that some people use to drive their efforts: Fear. It could be a fear of failure, or a fear of losing their job, or a fear of embarrassment. But any sense of fear resulting in you putting in the maximum effort you can to accomplish a task to reduce the feeling feared outcome is a source of motivation.

I'm not sure how ethical (or even legal) it would be for a manager to prey on an employees fears to coax their best effort...but not all managers out there are paragons of ethics (thinking Tom Parkinson, former CEO of Hydro One)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Yet Another Movie / Round and Around

I'm sure everyone is familiar with a dining room table that can expand by placing 'leaves' in either the centre or at the ends to give more surface area when needed. Normally these tables are rectangular or oval (only centre leaves for oval tables).

Well DB Fletcher is a furniture design company that makes a circular 'capstan' table that can expand when needed but maintain its circular shape. How? Well the mechanism is so ingenious they have a video expanding and contracting of it on their website that has to be seen to be believed.

To expand, the table is just rotated in one direction, the pie shaped panels separate and a star shaped centre piece is raised along with the missing pieces between the 'pie slices'. To contract, the table is simply rotated in the opposite direction.

(found the link from bOing bOing this morning)


Get a good job with more pay and you're okay
But if you ask for a rise it's no surprise
That they're giving none away.
-- Money, Pink Floyd

My friend Kimota just posted an article on his blog about raises which got me thinking about money and how it relates to motivation with respect to your job. When I was younger and much more foolish I though that money in the form of bonuses and raises were the best forms of motivation. Having been on both ends (giving and receiving raises) now, I have come to the conclusion that motivation is very loosely tied to salary and raises if at all.

I think this is based purely on expectations. If you expect to get a raise of n% for whatever reason - good performance review, better than average quality of work, high inflation rate, impression from the manager, talk amongst peers, previous raises - but end up getting less than n% (or even if you get n%) then the raise is looked at in a negative light because it didn't meet your expectations. This is similar to going to a good movie that has been built up by reviews and recommendations as the best thing ever and then being disappointed because it was merely a good movie.

A bonus is slightly better than a raise in terms of motivation because, generally, it is not expected, it follows a particular accomplishment and it is a large sudden, influx of cash you can blow on whatever takes your fancy at the time. That feeling lasts a little while and may translate into better motivation at work. However, because these 'spot' bonuses are usually rare, the realization comes that because you got a bonus recently, no matter what you do now you won't be 'due' for another bonus for a long time - so the motivation trails off.

Instead of money, I've realized that the motivation has to come from the work itself. Motivation is a two part problem - you have to be motivated by something to perform well. And your manager has to figure out what motivates you and attempt to give you that motivating item regularly. Here are some of the things that motivate me and how a manager can ensure that I'm motivated:

Motivation SourceSolution
ChallengeMake sure you are challenged in your tasks
Praise/RecognitionMake sure you get positive reinforcement
CompetitionMake sure you feel like you are in a competition and are doing well - but not winning
AccomplishmentMake sure you are aware of how completing your tasks will affect the product/marketplace/team
Chance for advancement/powerPublish the career development path opportunities, talk about continuous learning with employee, etc.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Run Like Hell

I just watched the Steelers easily beat the Browns. Man, if they played that consistently every game they would definitely be in the playoff picture.

During the game, Willie Parker set a new Steelers record for most rushing yards in a single game (223). He probably could have beat the NFL record, but was pulled out of the game with 12 minutes to go after the Steelers took a 27-0 lead.

During the game they showed a graphic depicting the turnovers for the season. This year they are -10, last year they were +7. They also showed the 5 teams with the worst turnover rates this year - the Steelers were tied for 3rd worst in the NFL.

The above photo is from AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar.

Thursday, December 7, 2006


Recently I've been looking into TV ratings and parental control features for TVs and digital set top boxes. Not because, I want to censor what my kids watch - they are too young to be interested in anything worth censoring at this point - but for work reasons.

When watching TV you've probably noticed at the beginning of the show (and sometimes coming back from a commercial) an icon that provides some sort of 'rating' indication. It looks a little like this 14+ or this TV14 depending if you are in Canada or the USA (other countries may have something similar - I'm not sure). Since 2001, all TVs with a diagonal screen size of 13 inches or greater must be able to set rating limits based on these rating indications and if set, block the content from view until a PIN is entered. All this functionality is based on the v-chip technology

The Rating Systems
In North America there are four rating systems in effect that can be used to block TV content:

  • The MPAA system we are all familiar with from movies (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, Not Rated)
  • The US TV system (None, TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14, TV-MA) which has additional letter descriptions (FV - Fantasy Violence, V -Violence, S - Sexual Situations, L - Adult Language, D - Sexually Suggestive Dialogue)
  • The English Canadian TV System (E(xempt), C, C8+, G, PG, 14+, 18+)
  • The French Canadian TV System (E, G, 8ans+, 13ans+, 16ans+, 18ans+)
In Canada, a lot of programming is exempt from these ratings because of freedom of speech concerns including news programs, sports, documentaries, talk shows, informational programming, and music videos (!)

How Does the TV Know the Rating
The TV can't 'read' the screen to see the rating of the current program, instead it reads data from the VBI (a vertical blanking interval) where other information like closed captioning data is stored. If you have a really old TV where there is a knob to adjust the vertical sync of the picture you can turn it and see a black band instead of video. This black band actually contains data including the rating information for the program. Maybe a later post will explain VBI and all the information that can be pulled out of it.

Why Do I Care About This?
Well, I find it fascinating that the Cable TV industry puts such a high importance on parental controls yet often leaves the implementation of it as an afterthought. At work we often talk about 'little Timmy' seeing naughty video' when discussing potential optimizations to tune times. Nothing we do to improve the performance is acceptable if little Timmy could see or hear a flash of restricted content. But the enforcement and setting of parental controls in OCAP was omitted from the first version (added later as ECR778).

We support more advanced parental control features than just rating in our software as do most electronic program guide providers (block by channel, by title, by time of day as well as by rating) - yet currently there is no way to harmonize parental control settings set for VBI/V-CHIP ratings on your TV and the parental controls set via the guide UI you might be using for digital TV.

I'm thinking about ways to harmonize the two now so 'little Timmy' can't bypass the parental controls set in one system by starting to use the other system.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

It Would Be So Nice

I am on an email mailing list for a company that produces high end chess boards and chess sets (the pieces) called the 'House of Staunton'. Each year around this time they have a promotion called the "12 days of Chessmas" where they offer a new special each day for twelve days.

This year they introduced a new line of chess sets called the "Gardena Art Chessmen". These pieces are a wonder to behold. If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas one of these chess sets or the Nintendo Wii would be great ;)

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

High Hopes

My friend Kimota hates the Steelers as much as I like them. He hates them so much in fact that he's been boycotting the NFL season thus far because they won Superbowl XL.

However, he declared that once the Steelers are eliminated from post-season contention, that he'd resume watching football. The sports media (and I as well, to be honest), have already written the Steelers off as a lost cause this year and have used the phrase, "all but mathematically eliminated" or something similar when referring to their playoff chances. But because they are not mathematically eliminated, let's take a look at the scenarios that would have to happen for the Steelers to make the playoffs this year.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the Steelers can run the slate, and win their remaining 4 games against the Browns, Panthers, Ravens, and Bengals (three division games). That would put their record at 9-7.

Can they win their division?
They are currently 4 games behind the Ravens, so that would mean that we'd have to go to tie-breakers. Head to head they'd be 1-1, so within the division the Steelers would be 4-2 and the Ravens would be 3-3. So the Steelers would win that tie-break and beat the Ravens for the AFC North Division. However, what would have to happen to the Bengals? We've already assumed that they will lose to the Steelers. Their remaining games are against the Raiders, Colts, and Broncos. If they win 2 of those 3 games, it would be a three way tie for the division and Cincinnati would win the tie-break (Steelers and Bengals would have a 4-2 division record beating the Ravens 3-3, but the Bengals would either have a better record against common opponents or would have a better conference record than the Steelers depending on which two teams they beat).

So Yes they can win their division if:

  1. The Steelers go 4-0 in their remaining 4 games AND
  2. The Ravens go 0-4 in their remaining 4 games AND
  3. The Bengals go 0-3 or 1-2 in their next three games

If they don't win the division could they get a wild-card berth?

Probably. There are currently 5 teams at 7-5 that are not division leaders (Jets, Chiefs, Jaguars, Broncos, and Bengals). The Colts and Chargers are division leaders with 10 wins, so even if they don't win their division, they'd beat the Steelers for a wild card spot. The other two division leaders have 9 wins.

Let's wait and investigate this possibility after this weekend's action.

Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2

Congratulations to my friend, and former co-worker, Vish, who recently scored an amazing 760 on his GMATs! Just to put that in perspective, the test is out of 800 and a score of 720 is normally in the 96-99th percentile!

He is applying to a bunch of the best business schools in the US (Wharton, Harvard, Dartmouth, MIT, ...) and has asked me to submit a couple of recommendation letters which I'm more than happy to do.

Good luck in getting in to the school of your choice Vish - and remember the recommendation when you're pulling in the big bucks!

We don't need no education.
We don't need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teacher, leave those kids alone.
Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!
All in all its just another brick in the wall.
All in all youre just another brick in the wall

Atom Heart Mother part b: Breast Milky

Yesterday we discovered that our 5 month old son has a sensitivity to cow's milk. A few weeks ago we started giving him some rice cereal which we mixed with water to supplement the breast milk he's been having exclusively up to that point.

We didn't notice at first but after about 7 days we realized that he had been a lot crankier than normal, not sleeping as well and had very red cheeks. Kelly did a little research in one of her many baby books and found that it these were all typical symptoms of a food sensitivity or allergy. We thought that maybe we had started to give him cereal too young (the health unit now recommends six months, but we had given our daughter rice cereal at four months without any problems) and his digestive system maybe couldn't handle it.

Everything was OK, but then we noticed that he hadn't gained any weight in a couple of weeks, so our doctor suggested that maybe it was a breast milk supply problem and that we should supplement with formula after each feed. We tried that and he started to get the same red cheeks and fussiness that we previously saw with the rice cereal.

We mentioned it to our doctor again who came to the conclusion that it was probably a sensitivity or allergy to the cow milk proteins in the formula and in the rice cereal. He then suggested we start on a soy based formula instead.

So out came the baby books again and we read that about 40% of kids who have an allergy or sensitivity to cow milk proteins will also have the same reaction to soy. So we called the health unit who basically suggested that we just stick with breast milk until he is 8 months old when we can introduce some solid foods. So now we are debating whether to try the soy formula, or just stick exclusively with breast milk. We will probably go with the formula after about a week when he's over the current reaction because he is just having a mild reaction and Kelly is pretty exhausted from all the feeding (7-9 times a day with 1-2 wakings in the night).

Some other things I learned about allergies in the past couple days:

  • any allergy, not just food allergies, in a parent (including things like hay fever) is an indicator for potential food allergies in children. I always thought that food allergies were completely different from environmental allergies.
  • 1 in 3 children that exhibit eczema as a sensitivity reaction to a food prior to six months of age (which my son did) will develop asthma or some other allergy by age 3.

See Emily Play #7

Well it's over. Kramnik lost with the black pieces today. His strategy of simplification at all opportunities by exchanging pieces was effective in that he managed to draw 4 games (and could have drawn the second if not for overlooking a mating attack by the computer) . He fared much better than Mickey Adams did against Hydra a couple of years ago.

The Fritz 4.0-Kramnik 2.0 score matched my prediction, but I envisioned a win and two draws for the human instead of four draws.

Kramnik walks away with half a million dollars and his reputation intact despite losing to the machine. It was unfortunate we didn't see him go all out with some sort of sacrificial exchange might have worked or might have failed quickly in the final game since he had nothing really to lose - a draw didn't help his cause. But that would have been against his style.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

See Emily Play #6

The last game for Kramnik with White ended in another draw. With one more game to play, the score sits at Fritz 3.0 - Kramnik 2.0. So at best Kramnik can hope for a drawn match by winning the last game with the black pieces - no easy feat.

Fritz has proven to be a stiff competitor, but it hasn't launched any spectacular attacks. It defended precisely as you would expect a machine to do, and took advantage of Kramnik's mistake in game 2 to capture the only decisive match so far.

Despite the score, I would say I've been impressed with Kramnik's preparation and play, and disappointed with the computer.

Saturday, December 2, 2006


I just came up from my basement after listening to Money from Dark Side of the Moon on my new (to me) AV receiver. I've never had any fancy stereo equipment before - I couldn't justify the expense since, with my hearing, I can't really tell the difference between a tape and a CD. However, last week I happened to find an 'offer I couldn't refuse'.

My wife works at an insurance company and recently an electronics store they insure had a claim when some water leaked from the roof onto the display area. The insurance company paid the claim and took the now un-sellable merchandise from the insured. They then offered all that equipment in a silent auction to the employees. There was a lot of fantastic stuff there - but the mantra is 'buyer beware' as this stuff is salvage from an insurance claim.

We bid $175 on a Sony Home Theatre system (the DAV-FX900W) which retails for $1200 (Canadian) and won it. Great! Now there are a few things missing that I didn't know about ahead of time:

  • no remote control - I have a Harmony 880 already
  • no AM or FM antennas - I don't listen to the radio very often outside of my car
  • no 'table' speaker stands, just floor stands - I'm going to mount the speakers on the walls anyway
  • no 'calibration mic' for simple audio configuration - I'll do it the 'hard' way
  • no surround amp/IR receiver - this is the one that hurts a little
A key feature of this particular system is that the rear surround speakers don't need a wire back to the main unit. Instead Sony has come up with some infrared way of transmitting the audio information. However, to make this work, the left rear speaker needs a power source and an IR receiver cable, neither of which I have. I've looked into getting the part from a Sony service department but it looks like it will be more than I paid for the whole system to this point. So I guess I'll have to have the speaker wires routed to the back of the room somehow.

Getting back to where I just was, I set up the system in the basement this evening after the kids went to bed, just to test it out and the first CD I put in was Dark Side of the Moon. Now I can't wait to move it up to the family room and hook it up to the rest of the components - but that's going to wait until Christmas (my present just came a little early).

Massed Gadgets of Hercules

Google is a pretty fantastic outfit these days. They offer so many different products other than search it's hard to keep track . Here are some I use:

  • Analytics - to track if anyone is actually reading this blog
  • Blogger - this blog (duh)
  • Gmail - awesome web based mail
  • Desktop - client side search and more
  • Gmail Alerts - automatic email when google news sees a phrase I've registered
  • Calendar - web based outlook type calendar
  • Page Creator - my homepage
  • Personalized Home - replacement google main page with lots of web content at a glance
  • Talk - IM client - don't really use this but I have an account
  • Google Maps - my first choice for getting directions
  • Google Video - almost as good as YouTube - but now that's part of Google
  • Froogle - comparison web shopping
Other products I've heard about but haven't used yet
  • Docs and Spreadsheets
  • AdSense
  • Google Earth
  • Picasa - photo app
And I'm sure there's plenty more.

See Emily Play #5

Kramnik and Fritz had another draw yesterday. Initially it looked as though the computer would win easily as it had a significant advantage in terms of development. But Kramnik managed to simplify the position by exchanging pieces and lead the computer into a Bishop vs Knight endgame.

He was then able to construct a fortress and was happy to move his king back and forth between two squares until the computer had to offer a draw because it was unable to penetrate Kramnik's defense.

I must admit Kramnik is doing much better than I had expected...or maybe it's the computer that's doing worse. Either way it is now Fritz 2.5 - Kramnik 1.5 with two games remaining.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Bring the Boys Back Home

Worst quote about the Steelers anywhere:

"[T]he lamest defending champs in recent memory. The 2006 Steelers team picture should just be a frozen turd at midfield. "

-- Bill Simmons, ESPN Page 2
Oh well. like I said earlier...5 year exemption from criticism for the defending Superbowl champions.