Priddis Venture

Yesterday I drove to Priddis (south east of Calgary) to visit my mother.
The place is fantastic. A beautiful view of rolling hills and distant mountains. I’m more of a fan of hills than mountains. A hill feels so much more accessible than a mountain. If I look at a hill, I can believe that I could leave from my spot and climb to the top of it, and maybe be back for supper. A mountain holds no such illusions.
Because of all the hills it would have been fun to go running there. Of course I say that, thinking hills would be fun, but really, when you are climbing them, they aren’t. I didn’t go running because my mother wanted manual labor for her yard. Of course I use the term, “Yard” in a liberal sense. It’s a big field, overgrown with natural vegetation. My mother likes things in a natural state.
I chopped down three trees (with an axe I suspect was dull) then got them moved into a circle in the field where we tried to construct a fire pit: A large pile of branches in a pyramid shape just waiting to be lit up to be a big bonfire. The community board won’t allow that unless it has just rained or there is snow on the ground, so we’ll probably light it up for New Years.
I also planned out and mowed a snaking path through the yard. That way one can walk through the yard, while Harry (the dog) can romp around in the tall grass.
I think they should plant corn and try and make a corn maze.
Yesterday there was a lot of teaching Harry to use a dog door. He was a little dumb at first, but I think he’s getting the hang of it. His big problem seems to be to figure out that no one needs to be standing next to the dog door for him to go through it.
Harry was overjoyed to see me. For some reason he really connects with me. He had been bored lately because there was nothing to do, or look at. With my arrival things became interesting. The down side of this was that he wanted to spend a lot of time with me. Which meant that he wanted to sleep next to me. And for him, sleep seems to consist of licking his paw for several hours. That is not easy to sleep next to, so I’m a little tired now.
I left for Edmonton at 6:50 this evening. There was a pit stop in Red Deer to pick up a bit of gas. I arrived in town at 10:00. My total mileage was approximately 680 km. The total gas bill was $45.60. Well worth the price. I only got sleepy around the time I was passing the Edmonton airport, so I didn’t need the coca-cola I had brought along.
Greeting me when I came back was construction across the street with a big spotlight that is mostly pointing down into the work area, but also manages to shine into my bedroom. Don’t these people ever sleep.

Life force draining

I’ve been trying to donate blood for awhile. A few weeks ago there was an article in the newspaper about the CBS. They were getting whiny because they were concerned about their lack of donations. I usually can’t donate blood because I’m, well, using it. On Wednesdays and Sundays I run and I need all the oxygen circulating throughout my body at maximum efficiency.
I did some calculating and figured the ideal time to donate would be after my long distance run on Sunday. Then I would have the longest amount of time before my next run, on Wednesday, which would be less than 10km, so easier on the body.
Unfortunately, the CBS doesn’t take donations on Sunday.
But this weekend I am not doing a Sunday run. I’m going to go to Priddis and see my mother. She is currently holding down the fort in the new home while my father remains in Winnipeg trying to sell the old one.
Incidentally, both sets of parents seem to be rather lonely now. I have to phone them often to keep their spirits up.
Since I am apparently not using my blood this weekend, I decided that I would donate after work some time. My schedule has been tight so it has been hard to fit it in. I figured Thursday evening would be my best chance, assuming other appointments passed quickly.
Then today there were problems at work. I didn’t get out until 5:30. There was no way I could make it to a run that late after a half hour commute to get home. With time available, I went and donated blood.
It was, well I can’t say painless, but it was over quickly. They drain your life force and then send you off to the cafeteria to get some liquid replenishments. One of the girls working there was telling an interesting story. She had played hooky from school and gone to West Edmonton Mall. While there she saw Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie taking in the sights. Mr. Pitt is in town filming The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
I would like to think that the average Canadian will give these people space and leave them alone. Big stars should only be hounded when they are at promotional events and award shows. When they are relaxing they should be treated like normal people, which means ignored.
But I’m not in control of the average Canadian.

Banking and vacations

I’ve got the vacation plan for November, back at the same resort in Jamaica. The payment for it was due at the end of August. I was a little behind schedule so I withdrew the USD funds from my account into a money order and had it Federal Expressed to New York on the 29th.
A week later I got an email asking where it was.
I checked the tracking number. They had apparently received it on the 30th. I even got the secretary’s signature saying they had received it. I brought this all to their attention, and they still couldn’t find it.
So I had to repeat the process.
The thing is that you can’t cancel a money order. You can only tag it saying that it shouldn’t be cashed at the bank. You then get the money back, but it feels like a mortgage application because they want you to be able to cover the funds if some bank accidentally does cash it.
So I’m taking a risk here, but I don’t see what other choice I have. I already have the plane ticket, so I’m going.
Yesterday I got a replacement money order made, and I sent it by express post today.
Hopefully things work out this time.

Light and sounds

They laid down a cement floor for the basement in the construction across the street. Now they are letting it dry. Normally this would be good, because it would mean that they shut off the heavy machinery. Peace and quiet has been in a shorter supply since the project started.
The noise pollution is gone, but the light pollution is up and running. They have four big spotlights targeting the cement. I don’t know if it is for light or heat, but it shines ever so nicely into every room in my condo. Sleeping will have an extra obstacle tonight.
I see one guy using some tool that looks like a big floor buffer. He’s “buffing” the cement. So maybe the light is for him and it will be turned off when he realizes that he should go home and see the wife and kids. But it looks like a slow process. He is also checking how dry the cement is before he buffs. So he might be there all night.

I had an improv class today. I think it went well. A big benefit is that it was a Tuesday class. The previous ones had been on Monday, and it seems I don’t get enough sleep on Sunday evenings, so for the first day of the week I’m rather cranky. Being cranky isn’t optimal for improvising.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the class next week.


That Sudoku last Sunday has bothered me. It took me forever to solve it. Normally I can do a very hard Sudoku in about half an hour. Those are 9×9. The monster one was 16×16 which makes it over three times as large. It wasn’t hard to do, it was just a lot of slogging through looking for the patterns. Patterns that are easy to see on the smaller ones.
But the key here is that it was slogging and not intelligence that was needed.
Last night I whipped up a computer program that could solve it.
It has no user interface, and is really only useful when used in a debugger. But it works. The key to this program is that it doesn’t try to solve the Sudoku all at once. Instead it just tries to find where one number would go and report that to the user. Then it tries to do that again until it solves as much as possible or the user gets bored. I wanted to do it that way so that I could still have the joy of working on a Sudoku and let it give me a hint of where to look for the next number.
I also have the program using an inefficient algorithm to find a number. Instead of going for efficiency I had it trying to replicate the way I try and solve them. Mind you, I only implemented a few of the tricks that I use. That’s because the ones I did use were enough to solve last week’s Sudoku. I know, I used it to once again solve it.
The problem with Sudoku solutions that are given are that they give the end result, but not how to get there.
I think I wrote the program in about the same time it took for me to solve that original Sudoku. So I guess I could have been more efficient last week.
My hope was that I could use this program to make today’s monster Sudoku fun to solve instead of a lot of brainless work. But, after the run (18.5km) this morning, I looked at the newspaper. No monster Sudoku challenge, and I didn’t win last week’s contest. There was just the regular Sunday Sudoku. 9×9, five star rating that took me an enjoyable half hour to solve without using any computer aids.
Not that the program would have helped. A five star rating puzzle needs some intelligence to solve.

Casino aftermath

Four hours sleep.
I was up until 3:00 AM doing the volunteering at the casino. It’s light work, with a lot of waiting around. They do give you a free meal, and the prime rib was quite nice. I got to geek out a bit when the discussion turned to TV shows and the Simpsons evolved to Futurama and then off into Star Trek.
Anyway, I got up at 7:00 in the morning to go for a run. Then there was a brunch.
When I got back I had the misfortune to find that there were two sudoku in the newspaper today. The regular one, and a new 16 x 16 whopper with a draw prize for people who solve it. That whopper took me all afternoon to finish, when I should have been trying to get some sleep. Mind you, I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep because there was a ditchdigger moving earth across the street and making a mind numbing racket.

Corn Maze, attempt 2

Back now.
As I was driving to the maze, the skies started getting darker. I was thinking I should have checked the weather before leaving. Ten minutes before arrival there were a few droplets on my windshield. I decided that come hell or high water I was going to do this maze.
I arrived and there didn’t seem to be any rain, so I was good to go. I looked at the overhead picture just to get an idea, and then off I went. My biggest obstacle in the maze was to avoid other people. They would provide a hint that I didn’t want. Other than that, it was fun. There were signpost every so often that would indicate how far one had gone through. In theory you were supposed to use a page of trivia questions to figure out which way to go from them. But the answers were printed on the back of the sheet, and both paths that you could choose from went to the same destination within 10 meters. The posts were more waypoints than clues.
All in all, I got out of the maze in fifty minutes. It was getting darker while I was in it, and the wind was picking up. Lightning was visible in the distance Ten minutes after leaving it started raining.
I made it just in time.
And they said the average person took an hour and a half. Good thing I wasn’t average today. But mind you, I did forget my wallet, so I can’t feel clever.
This evening I have volunteer work at a casino. So I will be up late. Thankfully there is no smoking in public places anymore, so I won’t smell like a chimney.

Corn Maze, attempt 1

So the plan today was to go to the Edmonton Corn Maze. I even went to the bank to make sure I had the money for it. I can’t stay at home because the sound of the construction across the street is getting into too high a level of annoyance.
I drove for about half an hour to get there, got out of my car and realized I didn’t have my wallet with me. For the first time ever, I had forgotten my wallet. With no money, I had no choice but to return home, getting stuck in a traffic jam caused by more construction.
So on the day with the highest gas prices ever, I did over an hour of pointless driving.
The construction is still going on here, annoying as ever, so I’m going to try the maze again.

New Orleans

During a discussion at work, we came up with an idea of how to solve the New Orleans problem.
Really, the place is a write off. The bowl was cracked and water came pouring in. It will cost way too much money to fix the levy and then pump all the water out.
And look, the place is filled with looters who are generally up to no good.
Well, why not embrace these changes and run with it.
I’m sure you’ve all seen “Escape from New York”

Wall it up, dump bad people there, and forget the city ever existed.

Of course, the United States has a very good record with rescuing people from flooding. They will happily break international water agreements to save a few hundred people (see Devil’s Lake) so I’m sure they will bend over backwards to rescue New Orleans.