Quiet Days

I have decided to take 3 days off this week to get some quiet time in before everything picks up later in the month. A time to get lots of sleep, relax and play my new game: Civilization V.

My initial impressions of Civilization V are mixed. The program is very memory intensive and can be very slow if there are a lot of AI players. While the map is pretty, it is difficult to see resources and how units will land. I don’t like the overlay program Steam. I am not really sure what its purpose is other than a repository for your games. I find it quite annoying. Another thing that is very strange in the new Civ is that you can’t stack units. This means that you can only have one unit garrisoned in a city. Another major change is the introduction of city-states. These civilizations seem to give yo Read more


Today is the day that Civilization V is released. While my iPad is updating to iOS 4.2, I am going to be downloading and playing Civilization V. I have played every version since the beginning. It has always been one of my favourite games! Catch you all tomorrow!

Some Tech and Software Updates from the Swamp

iPad – I am completely and utterly in love with my iPad. It goes everywhere I go including different places in the house. I had thought I would not use it for meetings to take notes or work in a different place but I was wrong. I have now purchased the small Apple Bluetooth keyboard. I decided against the one with the dock as I prefer the iPad landscape and you had to take the case off in order to use iPad. That seemed like a pain in the ass to me. Instead, I purchased a stand that is amazing compact. The other day, I had an hour to kill so I went somewhere with wifi and worked there with my iPad and the keyboard. It was great. The small Apple keyboard is so light you don’t even notice it in your bag. I love, love, love my iPad!

Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 – I wasn’t going to buy this but I changed my mind. I really liked Apple’s Pages but Numbers really did not work for me (Apple iWork’s answer to Excel). Plus there was some familiarity of working with Office that I missed. It is quite difficult to switch word processing programs after many years. Office 2011 seems much more stable than office 2004. The templates in both Word and Excel are professional looking. Having used MS Office since I purchased my first computer in 1990 it feels familiar to me. I having to do a little re-training as I have been using for Pages for months. It also seems like they have put back some features that have been missing in Word for some time. The ability to pick up and move text boxes and graphics is back. I am not sure why they stopped including that feature but I really hated it when it was gone. I have noticed that the Mac version of Word does not offer the ability to format text (bold, underline, italic etc.) via the right-click. I liked this feature wish it were in this version of Word. Excel for the Mac 2011 has put back the formula entry bar (or whatever it is called). I have no idea why this was removed (you could turn it on but it was a floating bar) from the default look of the program. I really do not like editing in cells. I just finished using it for my budgets and it was great. It also looks like charts and graphs would be easy to create. The one thing I really missed in Pages was the format painter. That tool is so great when you are trying to correct formatting but it just won’t work. So far, I think Office 2011 for the Mac is pretty good.

Civilization V – will be out on November 23, 2010!! Need I say more?

25 Random Things About Me!

A new facebook meme has been floating around: 25 random things about me. I thought I would post it here instead.

1. First up – I am adopted. I was about 6 weeks old at the time.
2. I was born in Calgary. Many people living in Calgary are not from there.
3. I did the Katimavik program when I was 18. I went to Newfoundland to build a log cabin. We lived in tents for 3 months. I spent 3 month in Toronto and Baie St. Paul Quebec. It was the best thing I ever did. It taught me to finish something.
4. I played the accordion until I was 12. I hated it. It was uncool and heavy. My brother had to play it too. We all played it because my mother did. By the time my sister was ready for music lessons she got to play the organ because my mother had changed to that instrument.
5. I had a bit of a wild childhood. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say I did a lot of bad things, ran away from home and spent time in group homes. I will also say that my behaviour was caused by things that happened earlier in my childhood.
6. As a result of my childhood I spent my university undergrad in therapy.
7. I completed an honours BA in history from the University of Calgary in 1994.
8. I then went to Queen’s for my MA still in history. Which I finished in the fall of 1995.
9. My biggest academic achievement, in addition to my Queen’s scholarship, was being selected as 1 of 2 students to attend a conference put on by the Centre for the Study of the Presidency. The students selected were the ones who got the highest grades in an American political science course. Ironically it was 2 history students who earned this honour much to the chagrin of the political science students.
10. I knew I was a lesbian from a young child. I was sure I would not get married to a man. I hoped that I could be with a woman.
11. I am a television addict. I especially love reality shows like Survivor and the Amazing Race.
12. We moved to BC in 1999 – December to be exact. Only a couple of days before Y2K.
13. It was so creepy when we moved here. We started off in Burnaby. It was foggy for 3 weeks solid. We were pretty sure we had moved to a very strange place. The last decade here has pretty much borne this out.
14. I have been with my partner Deb for 12 years. We have been married for 7. We got married right after the court decision that made it legal but before the legislation hit. We hoped to increase the numbers of couples who had married in that time so that the government would have a harder time reversing them. Thankfully this never happened and we have remained happily and legally married for the whole time.
15. I have lived with dogs almost my whole life. I cannot imagine my life without a dog or several dogs.  I relate best to little dogs. If I can’t have a dog I don’t want to live.
16. I love computers.
17. My first computer was a Mac Plus. I then switched to PCs for almost 20 years.
18. Approximately a year ago, I switched back to Macs. I couldn’t be happier!
19. I have an interesting almost intuitive relationship with computers.
20. I end up being tech support every where I go. Sometimes I just walk into the room to fix a computer and it suddenly resolves. I cannot explain this but it has happened more times than I can count.
21. I love computer games. I have been known to spend days playing Civilization, Colonization and SimCity.
22. I love music. Listening to music has kept me sane since I was about 8 and I got my first record player with a radio.
23. As a teenager my favourite bands were Fleetwood Mac (Rumours) and Supertramp (Crime of the Century).
24. As an adult, I have continued my relationship with music. I have very diverse tastes that include Richard Shindell, Tori Amos, REM, Sinead O’Connor along with many other artists. Most recent addition: Lady Gaga!
25. I have been blogging since August 8, 2007. I have been trying to blog for every day of 2010. I have forgotten two days I think. Not bad!

Things I can post about…

Well, there is lots going on in my life right now but I can’t post about it – at least not yet.

So, what is there to talk about? Well, music for one thing. I have discovered some really good new music – much by accident. I was listening to the CBC yesterday on my way home from the grocery store because there was nothing to eat in this house (even though the cupboards are overflowing…but that is another story) and Stephen Quinn played a song by Dustin Bentall. I thought I would hate it…but I loved it! He played Crash Hard. I had to buy it from iTunes immediately. I don’t know about the rest of the CD but if this is the kind of music he is putting out at 22 he has a bright, bright future ahead of him. I also downloaded Mercy by Duffy. This song has been going through my head since I saw her on Ellen. (Yes, I have to admit it, since I have been off sick I have been watching Ellen and much to the chagrin of Deb and Angelina she has exposed me to music they would prefer I did not listen too…but that is for another blog). You can see Duffy’s video for Mercy here.

What else – how about some dog updates. Piper seems to have calmed down and she is no longer playing ‘bowling for blind dogs.’ Keifer has discovered the garbage can again – which sucks. However he has been doing really well learning to ‘come’ at the park when there are distractions around. He really is quite smart and learns quickly. Much to Deb’s surprise he showed some interest in fetching a ball the other day. Mabel’s leg is looking much better with the antibiotics. She is being a very good girl and keeping it clean while not overdoing it. However she is way too smart for us. We are having to give her antibiotics and she is spitting them out and pulling them out of everything we put them in. Thankfully we only have 4 more days.

We are going to visit my mother for a couple of days next week. I am going to be installing a new computer for her at Radium. She is still running a Win 98SE machine and it is not meeting her needs anymore. I always think these will go relatively easy. I hope that is the case. My worst fear is dealing with setting up her internet connection with Telus. They have assured me that we do not need a new disk for Vista but I remain skeptical.

Oh, I caught the tail end of the Scripps Spelling Bee yesterday. All I can say is holy shit those kids are smart. I have an excellent vocabulary and a Masters degree and I had not heard of 98% of the words those kids were spelling. Totally blew me away. Congratulations to Sameer Mishra!!!

It’s Official: I am a Nerd

Well, if there was any doubt that I am a nerd it is long gone now (via Penmachine)! Despite the fact that the article is sexist – apparently only men are nerds, I meet most of the criteria! Uggh!

Understand your nerd’s relation to the computer. It’s clichéd, but a nerd is defined by his computer, and you need to understand why.

First, a majority of the folks on the planet either have no idea how a computer works or they look at it and think “it’s magic”. Nerds know how a computer works. They intimately know how a computer works. When you ask a nerd, “When I click this, it takes awhile for the thing to show up. Do you know what’s wrong?” they know what’s wrong. A nerd has a mental model of the hardware and the software in his head. While the rest of the world sees magic, your nerd knows how the magic works, he knows the magic is a long series of ones and zeros moving across your screen with impressive speed, and he knows how to make those bits move faster.

This is a big one for me. I just bought a 24 inch monitor so I can have more screen real estate. My mother phones me regularly for help with her computer and wanting me to remote in and fix it. She brags to her friends that I can fix anything on the computer and then they call me. I have often said that I have an intimate relationship with computers. I just ‘get them.’ I can walk people through things without even being in front of the computer. I have no idea how many computers I have picked out for other people and/or put together the specs. And yes, I know why things don’t run as fast as they should and can generally fix them.

Then there are those pesky control issues which I did not know are attributed to my new confirmed ‘nerd’ status:

These control issues mean your nerd is sensitive to drastic changes in his environment. Think travel. Think job changes. These types of system-redefining events force your nerd to recognize that the world is not always or entirely a knowable place, and until he reconstructs this illusion, he’s going to be frustrated and he’s going to act erratically. I develop an incredibly short fuse during system-redefining events and I’m much more likely to lose it over something trivial and stupid. This is one of the reasons that…

This is so completely and utterly true of me. If anything changes in my evironment or routine I hate it. I obsess about what kinds of things could change and then come up with a plan in case it happens. I am even disturbed by someone else being up in the morning the same time as me if that is not part of my routine. I can’t stand it if I can’t do everything in the same order and same way every day. This makes things like travelling especially stressful. Then of course there is the fact that I would have to be away from my computer for an extended amount of time. But I guess that is what the laptop is for!

Then there is what the author refers to as The Cave. Well, I don’t have a Cave, I have an office. I still remember when we got separate offices. Now I could keep mine the way I like it. The following anecdote from the article is true:

Each object in the Cave has a particular place and purpose. Even the clutter is well designed. Don’t believe me? Grab that seemingly discarded Mac Mini which has been sitting on the floor for two months and hide it. You’ll have 10 minutes before he’ll come stomping out of the Cave — “Where’s the Mac?”

In the past, Deb has come in and tidied my office. I have always noticed when things have been moved or thrown away. At work my desk has stacks of paper. Each pile has a purpose and I know what is there. I can usually find anything I need very quickly. My office is one of my favourite places in the house afterall it houses my computer.

There are some other criteria for nerdiness in the article that I meet although not as strongly as the ones above. The one about projects is quite funny:

The joy your nerd finds in his project is one of problem solving and discovery. As each part of the project is completed, your nerd receives an adrenaline rush that we’re going to call The High. Every profession has this — the moment when you’ve moved significantly closer to done. In many jobs, it’s easy to discern when progress is being made: “Look, now we have a door”. But in nerds’ bit-based work, progress is measured mentally and invisibly in code, algorithms, efficiency, and small mental victories that don’t exist in a world of atoms.

This is so me! When I am working on a database it is always churning around in my head. I have been known, in the middle of a conversation with Deb, to announce that I just solved my database problem. Luckily she is very understanding and has never accused me of not listening because Nerds are really good at multi-tasking:

The ability to instantly context switch also comes from a life on the computer. Your nerd’s mental information model for the world is one contained within well-bounded tidy windows where the most important tool is one that allows your nerd to move swiftly from one window to the next. It’s irrelevant that there may be no relationship between these windows. Your nerd is used to making huge contextual leaps where he’s talking to a friend in one window, worrying about his 401k in another, and reading about World War II in yet another.

Sometimes I do get in trouble when we are talking about something and I abruptly switch the topic. To the casual (read: non-nerd observer) it seems like I am being a jerk and just changing the subject to something that suits me. But this is not the case. It is more like a cascading effect subject A leads to B and then to C etc. We could be talking about one the dogs not feeling well and that makes me think about the yard which then makes me think about the truck which then makes me think about insurance and I am now reminding Deb that her insurance is coming due. It all makes sense in my head.

It is nice to finally have a diagnosis. Here we thought I was obsessive-compulsive. Turns out it is much more benign: I am a nerd.