Monthly Archives: July 2008

Miscellaneous Stuffs.

It’s a light week for blogging, I guess, at least since the new blog. Not a lot new to talk about. I am trying another variation on the blog theme I’ve been using for a while, though.

I’ve been spending most of my programming time split between VB.NET (with the lion’s share) and REALbasic, which I’m also trying to get up to speed on after having owned it for several years now. REALbasic seems to feel more like what I’m used to, although I think I’m going to have to use VB.NET for a number of work projects, regardless. If I can come to terms with some of the feature differences between VB6 and REALbasic, though, I may use REALbasic for a future GCA version. Nothing definite, yet, although I’m pretty happy with a lot of what I’m seeing right now.

I saw The Dark Knight on Monday. It was very good. Nothing profound to say about it. In recent weeks I’ve also seen Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Hancock, and Wanted. Enjoyed all of them. I may be easily pleased; not sure.

Brain Gone Wild.

I seem to have lost control of my brain, lately. I’ll be tired, and I’ll go to bed, and then my brain will start churning away on work, or a potential side project, and I will “wake up” more, and subsequently be unable to sleep. This would not be uncommon for me, except that over the years I’ve developed a routine for dealing with my brain, and now it seems to not be working. Normally, my routine goes like this:

  • First, I take Melatonin supplements, because my brain seems to be short on that (and I had a seriously messed up sleep schedule, for many, many years, to go with it).
  • Second, I try to watch at least a couple hours of television, up until I go to bed (sometimes a book will work, but not a particularly thought-provoking book). This helps crank down my brain.
  • Third, while in bed trying to sleep, if I’m not tired enough to fall asleep quickly (which is rare), I set my brain to work on a regular “project” that allows me to think on something repetitive that I never really progress with (for ages, this has been how I want to work out my homebrew RPG).

These steps have served me well for many years, but lately I can’t seem to get my brain to deactivate enough to avoid jumping onto issues that keep me up, and putting my brain to work on the “project” isn’t possible when my brain is racing around wildly on its own. This is annoying me greatly, and causing me to get up later in the day than I’d like.

Sometimes, I dislike my brain.

Programming silliness.

I started to rant on this a bit in a comment, but changed my mind. Why not make a bigger issue out of it, just for fun?

One of the things that really bugs me about programming, because it’s so damn silly, is starting indexes at 0 instead of 1. Maybe there’s a historical reason for it, but I can’t fathom what it might be. Does this make sense to anyone? Try this:

A: “How many items are there?”
Z: “There are 3 items”
A: “Let’s start with number 0, work through to number 2, and we’ll be done.”

WTF? Nobody thinks like that, ever. Nobody starts counting with 0, because zero is nothing. Yet for some reason, that’s exactly the way you’re supposed to think a lot of the time in programming. How is that useful?


I’m probably going to play around, apparently randomly, with some other themes for this here blog. I may or may not stick with any one of them for any length of time, but we’ll see. Customizing them will be a bit more of a chore than I’d like, so I’m going to try to find one I mostly like, first. So, do not be distressed if this place doesn’t look like it did before, it probably won’t look like this for long, either.


Today I spent some time looking at some wikis, mostly MediaWiki (which powers Wikipedia; surely overkill for me, but well known), for possible use on my GCA site. It has become abundantly clear that I’m not getting the technical and advanced help docs done in any sort of rapid fashion (glaciers move faster), so it was suggested that a user-to-user help site, such as a wiki, would be great. I’d resisted such things before, but I think it’s time now.

Anyway, never really having used a wiki before, let alone installed one, it’s a bit to do. I did get MediaWiki installed, but trying to set some of the configuration variables as I think they’re supposed to be set just crashes the thing, instead. Clearly, I have more to learn, but at least I have something that maybe I’ll let folks mess with. I think I’ll see what my beta crew has to say, first, though.

Anyway, something new for me today that isn’t VB.NET related.


Bicyclists are expected to ride in the street and obey all the traffic laws, as per cars. When there are bike lanes, they’re supposed to use them. For the most part, I see cyclists doing exactly that. However, I also see that it’s nearly impossible for those poor cyclists to make a left turn at many intersections, or even to go straight at other intersections. Why? Because, while the bikes are expected to use the traffic lanes for such things, there is no consideration by the road-builders for them. There are no traffic sensors in use that will pick up the bikes when they’re in the left-turn lane, or even when they’re on a side street and the traffic signal requires a sensor to trip before it’ll change.

I frequently see and hear people getting mad at cyclists for ignoring traffic rules. And sometimes they do deserve that anger. But I also see cyclists who are often left with no alternative. Today, for example, I saw a small group of riders sit through two cycles of traffic signals without being able to make the left turn they wanted to make, because no car helpfully appeared behind them to trigger the left turn signal. They finally did exactly what most cars do when the signal appears to be broken, and went through when it looked safe. However, the signal wasn’t broken, it simply doesn’t allow for the possibility that a bicycle might ever need to turn left.

In many situations like this, a cyclist has to hope that there is a handy car to trigger the signals correctly, otherwise they have to decide either to go through anyway, or use the crosswalks. On the occasions when I’m out biking around (casually, I’m not like many of these folks with the fancy gear and all), I personally end up using the crosswalks, because the only intersection I usually pass through is too dangerous to do otherwise, and it’s dangerous enough just being a cyclist. Frankly, that’s just a bit absurd. Bicyclists shouldn’t have to use the crosswalks any more than motorcyclists or scooterists, but the only alternative is to break the law because the light won’t change (or, I guess, wait indefinitely for some car to use the lane and trigger the signal).

Sure, there are bad cyclists who do what they want, switching between traffic or pedestrian crossings at a whim, and blowing through stop signs. But there are many who try to obey the laws and get stymied because nobody, still, really considers them. And that’s not right either.

(I live in suburbia, where most traffic signals are controlled by the sensors. In other areas, this is less of an issue because the lights are simply timed, instead, allowing for everyone to move along, regardless of their mode of transportation.)

Bring the Pain.

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time working in VB.NET 2005, and I’m starting to get my brain trained to the new requirements for that language. I’d still like to hurt the programmers who C’d up my language, but I think I’ll be able to adjust given a bit more time with it. Funny story: I spent hours the other day trying to figure out why the heck I couldn’t get passing an array to a procedure to work. Was frustratated still when I stopped for the day. The next morning, I woke up and knew what the problem was: I was stuck in the VB6 mode of thinking, so I kept trying to pass the array with empty parens, when I should have just been passing the array’s name. Worked just fine after that.

GCA: GCA crossed 2900 downloads at e23 waaaaay back on June 11, 2008. Maybe I’ll start posting these closer to the event again now that I’ve got this WordPress thing goin’ on.

Netflix Player by Roku.

A couple weeks ago I picked up a Netflix Player by Roku, which I’ll just call my Roku box or Roku player. What the Roku box does is connect to Netflix to stream movies over the Internet to your TV. It only costs a hundred bucks, and setting it up was incredibly simple. I even connected it to my TV using an HDMI cable to make it even easier, although it doesn’t currently support HD content (perhaps they’ll add that in the future). Connected to my HD TV, it’ll play widescreen movies formatted correctly for the screen, which is an added nicety.

At this time, I’ve only watched one movie using the Roku box, but it worked very well. The quality was better than I expected, looking to me much like the quality I see from many DVDs. I even managed to watch the entire movie without any hitches or pauses, and only saw one tiny artifact. Impressive. I did watch a comedy, not an action movie, so we’ll still have to see how something with a lot of action plays.

The selection at Netflix for streaming isn’t the best, but I still managed to find plenty that I’d be willing to watch at some point. Since I already have an unlimted rental Netflix account, I get unlimited streaming to the Roku box included–no extra charge.

Because the box streams live–and it does not have a hard drive to cache content–you don’t scan forward or backward in the live, full-screen picture. Instead, you see a row of images, like screen shots (or kind of like cover-flow for iTunes), that you can scan through to see where you’re going in the movie. It actually works pretty well, I think. If you scan faster then the first speed setting, you only see the screen shot in the larger middle window, instead of having the other little windows sitting there to show you what’s coming up or passsing behind. I’m probably not explaining it too well, but I think it works well, and again, is a much better solution than I would have expected for a streaming device.

On the whole, I’m really impressed with the Roku player, and for the price, I think it’s a great bargain if you already have an unlimited Netflix account (and you have broadband Internet access). Best of all, you can check out the movies available (and add them to your Instant Queue) and see if you might find the box worthwhile before you spend a dime. If I remember to watch a more action-oriented movie in the near future, I’ll post an update on how that goes.


Today was a rather remarkable four golf-ball day. Since I shifted my schedule to take a morning constitutional, I also usually do my grocery shopping in the morning. That means I don’t find golf balls very often any more. Today, however, I braved the heat to get a Subway sandwich for lunch, so I was plodding along past the golf course at around noon. And, quite unexpectedly, I found two golf balls on the way up to Subway, and then two more on the way back. And those two on the way back materialized in the few minutes I was at Subway, because I could not have missed them on the first pass. Someone was having a bad golf day.