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I crashed five computers simultaneously this afternoon. One of them's fine, the other four I'm not so sure of.

The one that survived was my laptop, and the other four were virtual machines running on it that I use for testing. Unfortunately, they were all getting updates at the time, so when I restarted them the dpkg databases that keep track of what software versions are installed were corrupted. I spent some time following some instructions online in an attempt to rebuild the corrupted database on one of the machines, with no luck yet.

The laptop's normally fine, but I think it's frozen up in the same way three times now in the last month or two. I know I had the virtual machines running the last two times at least, so I wonder if it's a kvm bug.

Oh well. I kept fairly good notes on the setup, so in the worst case I think I can reconstruct them all in a reasonable amount of time if I have to.

Still, it's never fun to end the day feeling like you've gone backwards.

At least I got some laundry done in the morning. But why were there *three* of us in the apartment laundry room doing laundry on a Friday morning? My only reason was basically that I thought it'd be an unlikely time for anyone else to do laundry. I suppose that was their idea too.

frisbee golf

Chris and Scott, both from my grad school cohort, were in town this weekend, and we met at Bill's condo just before noon Saturday. After having lunch and sitting around a while, Bill suggested a round of frisbee golf; so we piled into his car and he drove us out to a course in Ypsilanti.

Frisbee golf is a big obsession for Bill, and he and Chris get together once a year to go on a few days' tour of courses in some area. I'll never reach his level of accomplishment or obsession, but I can see it being a fun thing to walk through the woods throwing a frisbee every now and then.

I pretend not to care about scores, but really I like winning, more than I should. There was no hope of that yesterday, but I know what I got anyway: on the 18 holes, the number of throws it took me to reach the goal was 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 4, and 3, respectively. Except that I was confused at first about where I was allowed to throw from, so the first half of those might actually have been a little longer if I'd known. They claimed 3 was par, and Bill was getting a fair number of 2's.

Afterwards another grad school friend, Dave, showed up, and we went downtown to meet Sara for dinner at Cottage Inn. Sara and I went home afterwards, while the others set out for a pub crawl.

I have a working mp3 player again--the previous one broke a while ago, and then I picked up one as an impulse buy in the Detroit airport on my way to Windsor the other week. So I've been catching up on my French podcasts. I feel like my comprehension's improving a little.

One weekly podcast is a word-game show, "Des Papous dans la Tête", a little reminiscent of the old British radio show "My Word", but more more involved, and with a heavy Oulipo influence. I think I get about 1% of the jokes, but when I get one, I feel like I've accomplished something!


With the help of a small TV from a yard sale and a rabbit-ear antenna Dave L. loaned us, we can get fuzzy reception from NBC and CBC. The Canadian station comes in a little better. So once every couple years we turn on the TV for two weeks. It's really Sara that's the fan of the olympics, but then I get mesmerized and find myself staying up later than I should, all to see the end of some contest that I don't really care about.

I wish they could find something better to celebrate than a few really narrow competitions. When they have to turn up the sappy soundtracks and tell you everybody's life story to keep you interested, it should be a sign that what's on the screen isn't intrinsically very interesting.

But, OK, it's kind of fun anyway. I'm conflicted.

This morning as I was getting ready for work they had trampoline on. They need more trampoline.


Tuesday morning I took most of the day off, did some laundry and other chores, then voted in the primary.

I woke up Wednesday morning to find that everyone I'd voted for had won. So anything bad that happens in the next couple years is totally my fault.

8-year time-warp

It was my advisor's birthday Saturday, so there was a conference in his honor thursday through tuesday. I don't work in the field any more, and didn't think I'd be up for most of the talks, but I went to the Saturday night dinner, and the 10am talks Thursday through Saturday, which were nice surveys of subjects related to his career, together with the occasional personal trivia.

It was all a little like walking back into a room I'd just left and finding everyone 8 years older. Well, the people all seemed the same. (But suddenly there were babies everywhere!) Though I haven't kept up with them, they're all people I like a lot, so it meant a lot to see them again.

Florian even had a math question for me. I spent a few minutes looking back at my dissertation Sunday to look for an answer. Unfortunately I had to agree with him that there was a bug in one of the proofs in my dissertation, and though it looks like it was squashed in the version that later got published elsewhere, the proof in that version is missing an intermediate result that Florian wanted.... So on Sunday I managed to figure out a little, but not to answer his real question. I'll have to give it a little more thought next weekend.

If there were twice as many hours in the week, I'd take up commutative algebra again, though I think I'd rather be doing computational stuff, which isn't something people here seem to be as interested in.

VIA scorecard

I took a total of 6 trains on this trip:

- Windsor to London
- London to Toronto
- Toronto to Ottawa
- Ottawa to Toronto
- Toronto to Kitchener
- Kitchener to Windsor

Of those, the last was the only one I noticed being at all late (and it only by 20 minutes). The connections were all easy.

Part of the attraction was that the last VIA train I'd taken had working network and power at each seat, so I figured I could get some serious work done on travel days.

That didn't work out so well.

The network was only actually usable on one of six legs, and then only barely (latency nearly a second, and tons of packet drops). On four of the other legs I couldn't even get an ip address, and on one dhcp worked but the network was barely good enough to get me past the initial login page.

Four legs had outlets at the seat. Power was actually working on three of those. The newer trains with the outlets also happened to have less legroom and less comfortable seats.

The Amtrak trains all have separate café/lounge cars, which in practice is the only place I've gotten real work done, since when they're not busy I can take a table and spread out a bit.

In any case, I was probably too tired to do much anyway. So, conclusion: I should probably give up on the idea that I'm going to get anything more than reading done while traveling.

I didn't find the scenery as interesting as I have on Amtrak. Partly that may be just the lack of a second-floor observation car.

Overall VIA seemed OK (above all, it beat Amtrak in the basic getting-me-there-on-time category), but not fantastic.


When I gave the woman at the airport shuttle company my credit card number last week, she responded with "perfect". OK, so I'm happy I was able to enunciate so she could understand me, but that seemed a little over the top.

When I reserved my hotel room, again, "perfect". And it kept happening throughout the week.

As much as I'd like to think my skill at answering simple questions has just reached some previously unheard-of level, I suppose the more likely explanation is that this is a Canadianism that I hadn't previously noticed.

Linux Symposium

One of the more interesting Linux Sympsoium talks was "The Making of OpenMoko Neo", on OpenMoko's project to produce a completely free-software-driven mobile phone. Wow, the pitfalls are astonishing. Like not discovering till after the hardware is being produced (and they're trying to write drivers for it), that critical components don't have at all the specs they thought were advertised.

Mark Shuttleworth gave a keynote that was mildly entertaining but thin on ideas.

Talks on redhat's new cluster infrastructure, memory-management scalability, and the new kernel debugger were also worthwhile, but overall it didn't feel like the most interesting Linux Symposium I'd been to.

In the past they've had evening receptions, where there's free food and drink and some poor sap from one of the sponsors who attempts to give a marketing talk over the hacker's hubbub. I never felt like that worked very well, so it was a bit of a relief that they weren't doing that this year. Though the lack of organized social stuff in the evenings leaves a bit of a gap for the antisocial (ahem) or people who just haven't been before and don't know anyone. Nevertheless, I managed to find interesting people to hang out with.

The conference finished with their annual party at the Blackthorn, which seemed just slightly more subdued than in previous years--a good thing, as it was easier to talk to people. I had one beer and left after a couple hours.

My suitemate left in the evening, so I moved to a single elsewhere in the University residential complex. It's smaller, with a bathroom across the hall, but perfectly adequate. There's no air conditioning, but there's a window that opens, and the weather's been mild anyway.

As usual, I've also taken advantage of the "Librarie Du Soleil", just a couple blocks from the conference, and picked up a few comics ("Chroniques Birmane" (a travelogue from Guy Delisle), some Trondheim, a couple Monsieur Jeans, and the fifth of Sfar's "Chat du Rabbin").

Today I'm on my own, with no particular plans. Then tommorow morning it's back to the train station bright and early, and onwards to visit relatives in Waterloo.

last-minute travel plans

Art fair last year kinda got me down, so this year I skipped it.

Saturday night we played games at the Isamans, including pandemic. Which was fun, partly for being played cooperatively against the board, and for being difficult (at least so far--we lost all three games we played).

Saturday I also made my travel plans for OLS: a good thing, since I needed to be in Ottawa by Wednesday morning! I planned a complicated train/bus/airport shuttle trip that would also let me stay overnight with some friends and relatives along the way, and reserved a single in the University of Ottawa dorms.

Sunday I got ready to go, and spent a couple hours at the new library branch.

Monday I took the first four legs of my trip--airport shuttle to DTW, another airport shuttle to Windsor--a lot of web researched turned that up as one of the only practical ways to get from Ann Arbor to Windsor without a car--a city bus to the Windsor train station, then one train to London. It all went fine. One of the few glitches was inadequate Canadian change for the bus fare. I tried giving the driver a 5, but she insisted that was overkill (the fare was something like $2.50, and they can't give change), so I just emptied my pockets of what change I had and she waved me on.

The wait in the Windsor train station was long, but it was air-conditioned, the wireless was good, and I got some minimal work done.

I had a good time with my friends in London. Graham made a super meal of home-made tamales, rice, beans, zuchini, corn on the cob, and wine from a mutual friend who dropped out of grad school to move to California and work in the wine industry. We watched Totoro with Azalea, who insists on the dubbed soundtrack (apparently 4-year olds don't like to read subtitles; OK, OK).

The next morning at breakfast Azalea complained about the sun. (To be fair, it was in her eyes a little). I accused her of being a vampire. She told me I talked too much. That's a first!

Then the remaining three legs of my trip--train to Toronto, connecting train to Ottawa, then bus to the University of Ottawa campus--all went like clockwork. I met someone on the way with a suite in the dorms to split (and a travel partner that had ditched at the last moment), so cancelled my reservation to split theirs.

Library, Neighbors, Townie Party

Friday and Saturday were uneventful.

Sunday I spent at the new library branch, sitting in their cafe area doing some work. They've got power, network, and nice surroundings, and if I get frustrated by something I can stand up and go browse a minute or two. I tied up one long-standing problem (which turned out to be due to a dumb networking configuration), and a couple other small things. After they booted us all out of the library at 6, I picked up a few things at Kroger, then walked home.

Meanwhile, Sara had been making bread and carrot halwa. We tasted a little of the latter (sugar! Yum!), then took the former to the apartment complex's summer potluck picnic. Which was surprisingly fun. The people were pretty interesting. A few we already knew, most we didn't. There were three French speakers there (two Belgian, one didn't introduce herself but must have been Canadian?). There was good stuff to eat and drink.

Streets are already blocked off and tents going up for the annual Ann Arbor Art Fairs, so the Monday before they have a "townie party". Food and drink, some good music, great weather. I got to talk to a few people I knew, and listened to some of the music, but for some reason wasn't really in the mood, so we passed on the food and drink, came home relatively early, and had some leftovers.


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