09/13/04

Permalink 02:27:20, Categories: Computers, Video Games, 144 words  

Want a Gmail invite?

I have been using Gmail recently, which seems very nice. The much-hyped 1 GB of space isn't all that important to me, but the conversation threading is really nice. It can be a little creepy at times but I am liking it so far. I have a few extra gmail invites to give out while it is still in beta. If you want one, email me or post here. I will update here if I no longer have any to give out. First come, first served. Update: I am all out. Try requesting a gmail account at the gmail invite spooler.

The Rogers Extreme modem has been treating me well. Ping times are still very low, and I actually experienced a sustained 600 KB/s download while snarfing the Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault demo. Yes, over half a gigabyte was sucked down in around 15 minutes.

09/02/04

Permalink 01:41:19, Categories: Computers, 388 words  

New modem

I just got Rogers Extreme internet service, courtesy of a Motorola Surfboard Cable Modem SB5100. It is pretty darn fast: a performance test clocked in at 4617 Kb/s down and 702 Kb/s up. Obviously it is not a pure test and many people have obtained speeds that are even closer to the advertised 5000/800 (down/up). The download limit, capped by Rogers, of 5000 Kb/s is, oh, 347 times faster than my trusty modem that I used for four years to connect to qlink. In any case, I think the practical effect will be to approximately double both my downstream and upstream bandwidth, which is always nice.

I played a little bit of Medal of Honor: Breakthrough tonight and noticed some slightly lower ping times than I usually get, often in the 35-40 ms range. I don't think the latency is supposed to be much improved, but every little bit helps with fast-paced shooter games.

The fine print is that you pay $100 (plus the usual tribute to Paul and Dalton) for the modem, which you own. There is a 2-year warranty, however these things will no doubt be obsolete around then. You pay the same $45/month for the service, however this no longer includes a rental, so it's a slight price increase per month, in effect, to cover the cost of the modem and the risk of having to purchase a replacement.

It seems to me that I used to get around 2000/360 (although observations can be misleading), but according to this FAQ on the RBUA site the theoretical limit of my previous modem (a Terayon Terapro) is 14000/14000 (!!!), however we received 3000/384 service. I guess from a marketing perspective Rogers wanted to (a) raise the price 10% or so in as nice a way as possible and (b) conceal the fact that our existing hardware could have done the job. In Rogers' defense, I understand these modems are the better technology (including an even higher maximum speed of something like 30 Mb/s and faster latency) and will be presumably standard issue shortly. Also, it's not quite clear why they would want to get out of the business of renting cable modems, which is surely a fairly lucrative one.

Details aside, for the price of a couple of coffees a month it didn't take me much pondering to choose to double my internet connection speed!

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08/27/04

Permalink 16:09:40, Categories: Sports, Miscellaneous Rambling, 196 words  

More blogging from the road

I'm still in Toronto and it's getting stickier and more humid by the day, it seems. The traffic is somewhat insane here, it seems stepping into the car entails a bare minimum of a half-hour journey, between finding parking and dodging the other cars and pedestrians. If I lived here, I think having a car would be more or less unnecessary.

I went to the Yankees - Blue Jays game last night. The home nine (ten, I suppose, given the DH (which I like)) lost a close game, as closer-if-not-by-name Jason Frasor gave up three runs. The Yankees brought on the witch and a quick three up, three down ended the game. I have to confess, I was actually kind of hoping to see the Blue Jays fall behind at the end, so I would get the chance to see Mariano Rivera pitch.

I went to the Ontario Science Center today and the ROM yesterday. I was a little underwhelmed by both, perhaps partly because we are spoiled by such good museums in Ottawa, and I am no longer the optimal height for a lot of the exhibits. Also both buildings were under some fairly extensive renovations.

08/24/04

Permalink 16:02:30, Categories: Sports, 263 words  

In Toronto

Well, I'm in Toronto. Went to the Blue Jays - Red Sox game last night. I didn't even know Pedro Martinez was pitching until I got to SkyDome. I had seen Pedro once before, in Montreal, I think in 1996 or 1997, I believe against San Diego. If memory serves, he retired 18 batters in a row in the middle of the game, but I'll have to check Retrosheet to be sure.

It turned out that the real star of the show was Ted Lilly, who pitched one of the best games of his career, a shutout, giving up 3 hits, and striking out 13 batters. Lilly used his excellent curve ball to fool the Boston hitters time and time again. There were a surprising number of Red Sox fans at the game, apparently most of them in my section (117). I had some great seats, in the 14th row. Lilly's game score was 92, which ties Johan Santana of the Twins for the top game score in the AL this year. A most impressive performance.

Today I got up around 10, watched some live Olympics, including the awesome gold medal win by Lori-Ann Muenzer in the match sprint. Of all the events in the Olympics, this has to be my favorite, with its unique combination of tactics and brute strength.

Also checked out the Hockey Hall of Fame, which was interesting. Seeing all the trophies was interesting -- they look a lot bigger in real life somehow. Also seeing the old-time equipment was amazing. I can't even imagine staring down a slapshot with one of those masks the goalies used to use.

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07/23/04

Permalink 02:26:57 am, Categories: Meta, 161 words  

New b2evolution installation

I got b2evolution 0.9.0.10 installed tonight. It looks pretty good to me. I'll probably need to make a couple of little tweaks over the next couple of days but I think I'm basically where I was before. Two little glitches: one was totally my fault and very dumb -- FTPing everything in ASCII mode, which of course broke all the images.

The other glitch was in the upgrade program. I ran the installer, which broke on a SQL command. I went to the forums and found a solution. The only problem was that the script was in the middle of a bunch of database operations, so when I re-ran the script it broke again, since it was expecting to create tables that were already there from the first unsuccessful run. So, I deleted everything, restored my original version, ran the modified (as per the forum) script and everything worked fine. A bit of template fixing and it's all good. Estimated time: 2 hours.

07/22/04

Permalink 01:01:41 am, Categories: Computers, 281 words  

Quantum Superpositions

I went to a most interesting talk tonight at University of Ottawa, Quantum Superpositions, by Damian Conway. I was a little worried, not being a physics type, but he held everyone's attention for nearly 3 hours, which is quite a feat. He threw in a large number of jokes and references that required an agile mind to keep up with. I'm sure I missed a few things too.

It's always inspiring to listen to someone who has a total mastery of a subject.

The first part of the talk was on quantum physics, at a very abstract level. Then he moved into discussion of this Quantum::Superpositions perl module that he has written and different problems that could be solved with it. The module introduces a couple of new operators to perl, "any" and "all". Each takes a list as its argument. any returns true if any of its values make the statement true, so any(1,2,3) == 1 is true. all returns true if the statement is true for all of its values, so something like 0 <= all(1,2,3) is true. These operators are (by the sounds of things, knowing zilch about physics myself) abstractions of a quantum superposition.

The operators are also useful for non-physics-related problems and thus they will be included in Perl 6, along with a couple of other operators, none and one, which are true, respectively, if zero or one of the items in the list make the statement true. I have a feeling that these operators will become a regular part of my regular Perl 6 vocabulary, whenever that comes out.

Anyway, a most enjoyable evening, and I would highly recommend this talk to anyone who has a chance to see it.

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07/12/04

Permalink 12:27:19 am, Categories: Movies, 173 words  

Harry Potter 3

Went to see Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban tonight. I rated it a 7, after giving the first one an 8 and the second a 7.

I haven't read any of the books, so I can't really judge its faithfulness to the series, but from reading some of the comments online it appears that this one deviated a lot more from the books than the first two. It's not necessarily a bad thing, since one of my complaints about the first one is that I felt there were too many little artifacts that they had to show for the sake of completeness.

As for the movie, there were definitely a number of cheesy parts, such as the werewolf, which was not very wolf-like. They did handle a time-travel sequence rather cleverly though (minor spoiler ahead). It was revealed, in the time travel, that previously unexplained actions were actually the result of a time-travelling Harry and Hermione.

Anyway, I put this movie firmly the category of see-it-if-you-were-going-to-see-it, don't-bother-if-you-weren't-going-to-see-it-anyway (I really need an acronym for that).

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07/08/04

Permalink 11:31:41 pm, Categories: Sports, Movies, Computers, 257 words  

Posting out of the blue

A couple of unrelated things: first I'm going to shill for Bloglines.com, a web-based news aggregator that is amazing and a regular part of my web surfing. It lets you easily view new stories in RSS-enabled web sites and they just did a very slick re-design. Highly, highly recommended. It also has a feature to manage your blogroll, so I just hooked that up to the side menu, so you can see the feeds I'm currently watching.

I joined a lob-ball team with work and have been playing that once a week. It's been fun, but it seems like whenever I hit the ball hard, it gets caught, and when I hit the ball weakly, it falls in. I assume that will turn around with time though. We lost 15-13 tonight, but it could have been a lot worse since we started off with only 7 players. I think we're 2-6, but it's still a lot of fun.

A few movies seen recently (and my IMDB rating for them)
* Cidade de Deus (City of God) (10: amazing cinematography, moving story of a boy who escapes the violence of the Rio de Janeiro favellas)
* Paycheck (7: interesting concept but mundane execution)
* Shrek 2 (8: fun summer movie, similar to the first one)
* Spider-Man 2 (8: very good, maybe a bit better than the first but I enjoyed the first more since it was new)
* Super Size Me (8: moronic experiment and dubious science but punctuated with a number of good points about our fast food culture and obesity in general)

Time to delete the porn referrer spam...

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05/01/04

Permalink 10:13:10 pm, Categories: Computers, 495 words  

1 1/6 movies seen

I haven't blogged in ages but I finally have something to talk about -- a couple of movies. One was really good, while the other "earned" the distinction of being the first movie I've ever walked out of the theatre from.

The good one, which I gave a 9 (and seriously considered giving a 10) to was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The screenplay was by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, a couple of very interesting movies. ESotSM is really a love story between Jim Carrey's and Kate Winslet's characters. They alternately go through a sci-fi procedure to erase each other from their memory. Much of the movie consists of their dream-like memories. The movie weaves together the real-life memory erase procedure and the memories in an extremely novel way. It's a remarkable, thoroughly original movie that I would highly recommend. If you liked Adaptation or Memento I'm sure you wouldn't go wrong with this one.

The second one, which a friend and I walked out of after 30 minutes of mind-numbing tedium was Dogville. Apparently the movie is 3 hours in length and after experiencing a mere sixth of it I couldn't have imagined sitting through the whole thing (and I normally don't mind long movies). I don't give ratings on IMDB unless I actually watch the whole movie, but if I had stayed I would have given it a 1. This "movie" is really a filmed theatre production on a stage, which was totally irritating. Why didn't they just do a normal movie with a real set? The town of Dogville is kind of drawn out on the stage and you can see everyone in their houses. This is somewhat neat but it gets to be old hat after about 10 minutes. The story, such as it was, was some boring drivel about this woman Grace (played by Nicole Kidman) who is on the run from some gangsters. Everything was so slow, dry and emotionless that it was just painful to watch. It positively made Gosford Park seem like a action-packed thriller. Enough said about this waste of time and money. I should mention, out of fairness, that apparently everybody else thinks it's really great and it's currently at 8.4 on IMDB and is the #100 rated movie of all time. I should look at the silver lining here though -- next time I have to do something unpleasant, like see the dentist or do my taxes, I'll think to myself, it could be worse, I could have been forced to watch the whole of Dogville.

Oh, I'm also playing a "Succession Game" of Civilization III. Feel free to follow the action at: Civfanatics.com. Basically four other people and I are taking turns playing a single game. We each make 10 moves and then pass it on to the next player. In between the moves we strategize and critique each other's play. I've learned a lot already and we're only about 1/4 of the way through the game.

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02/18/04

Permalink 11:00:38 pm, Categories: Sports, 743 words  

Big Ottawa Senators News

As a fan of the Ottawa Senators, I was very happy today to learn that they acquired Capitals' star Peter Bondra. Bondra gives the highest-scoring team in the league and even greater power play presence and is a fast, skilled player that will fit right in with Havlat, Hossa, Alfredsson, Spezza and company. Bring on the playoffs!

On a hockey statistics note, I've been dissatisfied with Goals Against Average, GAA (goals allowed per 60 minutes played), as a measure of goalie success, since goals against are a function of shots faced, and this is not normalized between teams. Save percentage, or shots saved divided by shots faced, is a better way of looking at a goalie's skill level.

The problem with save percentages, similar (although in general a bit lower) to fielding percentages in baseball, is that they are presented as numbers less than but quite close to 1, which makes quick comparisons very difficult, and obscures significant differences. For example, if Player A makes 2 errors in 40 plays, he would have a fielding average of .950, and if Player B makes 1 error in 40 plays he would have a fielding average of .975. Player A makes twice as many errors, but the untrained eye only sees a .025 difference.

I decided to calculate the league average of shots allowed per game, in order to normalize save percentage to a more understandable number, in the form of a GAA. This was a bit more tricky to do than I initially thought, since the number of minutes a team has played isn't readily available (at least I couldn't find it online). I added 2.5 minutes for a team for every OTL, since there is more or less an equal chance of a goal being scored throughout the 5 minute OT session. I also removed empty net goals from this, since (I think by definition) all shots on an empty net are goals. This gave an estimated league average shots per 60 minutes of about 27.4.

For each goaltender, this number is multipled by 1 minus the save percentage (i.e. 27.4 * (1 - Save%)). I'll call this AGAA ("Adjusted" GAA). The list isn't very interesting in and of itself, since it's in the same order as the Save percentage list, but if we look at the difference between AGAA and GAA then some names pop out. It would also be a much more useful way of talking about save percentage in general.

The five goalies (among qualifiers) that are most overrated by their GAA are (ranked by AGAA - GAA) as follows (using numbers from games as of February 17, 2004). A positive number means that if the goaltender faced a league average number of shots they would have allowed that many more goals per game, based on their save percentage:

1. Marty Turco, Dallas, +0.41
2. John Grahame, Tampa Bay, +0.40
3. Patrick Lalime, Ottawa, +0.31
4. Robert Esche, Philadelphia, +0.29
5. Tommy Salo, Edmonton, +0.29

And the five goalies most underrated by GAA are:

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh, -0.80
2. Sebastien Caron, Pittsburgh, -0.62
3. Roberto Luongo, Florida, -0.51
4. Olaf Kolzig, Washington, -0.35
5. Sean Burke, Phoenix/Philadelphia, -0.29

Note that these lists do not represent good or bad goaltenders, just those who have misleading GAAs, because they played with teams that allowed much more or much less shots a game than the league norm. AGAA is a normalized, easier to follow version of save percentage. As an example, the current save percentage leader, Vesa Toskala has a GAA of 2.01 and a save percentage of .933. Multiplying 27.4 by (1 - 0.933) we get an AGAA of 1.84. This would mean that Toskala, facing a league average amount of shots per game, would be expected to have a GAA of 1.84.

Being an Ottawa fan, I note that Martin Prusek's save percentage is .928 (GAA 1.80), which corresponds to an AGAA of 1.97. Lalime's .906 (GAA 2.27) corresponds to an AGAA of 2.58 (see how the true difference of just a few points of save percentage, is actually 0.6 goals a game! And while it might at first seem that Prusek, being the backup, might play against weaker opposition, a quick check of his record shows 10 games against playoff teams, 8 against non-playoff teams (and a few minutes of mop-up duty against the Rangers in a game in November), which is an average level of opposition.

One improvement that I could see for this would be to also adjust for the team's penalty minutes taken. It's not fair to penalize goalies for their teammates putting them in a situation where a lot more goals are scored (teams score at about 1.5 to 2.0 times the rate on the power play than they do at even strength).

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