But Aurora's in Seattle!

Sure... the street is in Seattle. But the real thing is currently hanging over Redmond like a huge luminescent dancing carpet of fun.

This is quite literally the first time in my life that I've ever seen the Aurora Borealis. Must be one hell of a solar flare going on right now.

It's beautiful.

I wish I could take a picture, but I don't have the right camera for it.

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Bring out yer votes...

Being a British citizen - albeit one who holds a green-card - I don't get to vote in US elections (and I won't have that privilege for another two years). However, I've been living here for 7 years now, and as such, I think I've earned the right to stand up and have my say.

I don't like any of the candidates we have right now.

Bush - too religious, too warmongering, and too big-business.

Kerry - too pandering to what the voting public wants to hear... and appears to be just holding the party line.

Badnarik - some good ideas, but once you get away from his core platform, he shows himself for the most part to be just a complete whack-job.

Nader - please. The guy scares me. He's the anti-Bush... yet when was the last time you saw who funds him, and who he has standing behind him? (You won't ever see this, because Nader deliberately hides this information and makes it impossible to find out by playing shell games with his funding).

Frankly, I'm disgusted with the calibre of the candidates up for election this time around. If I had to go with a career politician, I think I'd write in Senator Jon McCain, because at least he's shown himself to be a decent human person with a sense of humor when he appears on The Daily Show.

Speaking of which though...

I think the ideal people for the job are Jon Stewart and Lewis Black. If I could vote, I'd be sorely tempted to vote for them. Jon could be president, Lewis could be VP - after all, you want someone with a little fire to be in the VP position, and someone who can be diplomatic and measured in the Presidential office. That way they balance each other out.

So I'm casting my metaphorical vote - on November 2nd, ignore the listed candidates. Vote for Jon and Lewis instead. Write them in. Send a message to the politicians to let them know that they're not doing their job. It's the right thing to do.

 

(And if you don't want to vote for Jon and Lewis, then please, just make sure that whatever happens, you do vote - because if you can vote and you don't, and you were born here, it'll just piss off those of us who have had to fight and wait for our chance to do so).

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Pumping Iron, Eating Food, and Starving

My friend Aydin and I are currently trying out a new muscle-building program at the gym, invented by a guy called Bob Myhal.

It's an interesting program that appears to be working. Most interesting is that fact that last week, I was starving myself. This week, I'm unable to fit enough food into my body to meet the calorie requirements of the program. I'm perpetually full.

It's an interesting feeling. Not the least because although I feel completely and totally stuffed, for the first time in my life, I have a totally full stomach... yet feel still completely and utterly hungry.

I guess I need to eat richer foods... this was certainly an unexpected turn-up though. I guess I'm eating about 3,800 calories a day right now. I'm supposed to be somewhere up at 4,500 - I just can't do it though. It won't all fit in. I'll burst. I mean it, I'll just explode.

However, there is a flip side to all of this. My legs have always been strong. They're stronger than anything else in my body. Heck, on the leg press, the limiting factor is not my legs, but the design of the machine which (due to my short stature and narrow shoulders) puts more pressure on my back than it should - and I also find it difficult to lift the plate off the starting blocks with heavy weight on it.

The odd thing is, there's this machine called a Standing Calf Raise. It puts weight on your shoulders (which translates into pressure on your spine, but oh well...), and then you effectively stand on the ball of your foot, and raise up on your tiptoes, and down again. Or something like that. It (unsurprisingly) exercises your calves.

Now, I've always had strangely strong legs. But today, I just completely astounded myself. I did 10 reps on the Standing Calf Raise machine, two sets (as per the program). You're supposed to do these at the largest weight you can.

I could do them at 300lbs of weight on that machine, reasonably easily, full range of motion. That weight is the maximum it goes to. To get any higher weight, you need to get someone willing to sit on the machine while you use it.

Now, it did cause a little back pain to do this - not too much, but enough to warn me that I need to be really careful doing this. So in future, I'm going to go lighter and do two or three times the prescribed number of repetitions.

The weird thing? My legs look pretty normal. They're not weightlifter legs. They don't bulge in odd places.

I guess it's genetic or something. Either way, this is the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me. I've always been kind of weak in the past - never really had any muscle whatsoever (except in my aforementioned legs). I certainly never imagined that I'd max out a machine in the gym - and the fact that I've done so kind of freaks me out a bit.

Weird. Damn weird.

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New Job: Nursery Rhyme Defusal Expert

I've decided to create a new job position for myself. Namely, that of nursery rhyme defusal expert.

It's quite simple. It's like a bomb defusal expert, but not quite as bloody, firey or messy if it all goes horribly wrong and I cut the wrong wire.

For example, I can take a dangerous nursery rhyme like Old Macdonald, and completely defuse it with one simple snip.

Old MacDonald Had Some Vowels



E I E I O

See? It's now safe for everyone to use and makes perfect sense. Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

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Variable Names in C code...

Someone over at the MSDN blogs recently posted a mini-rant about people using inscrutable variable names in short apps...

He mentioned that some people use things like i, and others use random letters like x. Believe it or not, there is actually some structure and reasoning behind these choices of variable names, and a certain amount of historical convention to it.

Reasons for using i, j, k as loop variable names:



These are mathematical (or engineering) index variables. Typically you'll see them used in matrices. i indicates the row, j the column, and k? Well, you get the idea.

Reasons for using x, y, z as loop variable names:



These are used when you're iterating over space - x indicates going across a row of pixels / space, and y indicates going vertically down that row of pixels / space. z, of course, goes into the page.

The only other version I've seen is l,m,n - used on the Sinclair Spectrum, because hitting the L key the first time gives you the token for the BASIC FOR command, whereas hitting it the second time gives you L - which is handy as you can rationalize it as "loop variable".

Using i, ii, iii is, however, incorrigible and encourages errors - any repeated single-letter name is going to give you trouble, as you can easily misread it.

Using i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii, viii, ix, x, however, will lead to you being cudgeled to death with a sundial by a software engineer.

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