Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Data-loss and backup

Edit: 03.09.08: Like an idiot, I linked the wrong product. I meant Allway-sync, not Allsync.

Data-loss is the spectre that has graduate students waking up screaming in the night. If your definition of fun is being cruel to lowly beings, try creeping up on a graduate student during the coffee break and whispering: "Your PC is on fire, mate!" Have the defibrillator handy though, especially if he or she is already writing up. Ahh, good times.

Data-paranoia is a frequent symptom of the after-effects of having once lost data. A (relatively) sane individual like yours truly will have a couple of backups: In the lab PC and the office PC (in case the lab PC dies or the lab catches on fire), on an USB-stick you constantly carry on your person (just in case the fire in the lab can not be contained, and spread to the office), on your PC at home (in case you don't make it out of the office when the university burns down), on your external hard-disk (in case your laptop gets stolen by thieves who use the opportunity of the burning university distracting the police), and on a RAID-array on a server in another city (in case the fire cannot be contained to the university, and engulfs the whole town).

Severe cases of data-paranoia can express themselves in various ways: A friend of mine burned all his data to a fresh CD each day, and then hid them in the most unexpected places in his flat, his mates' flats and (so I suspect) in the apartments of unsuspecting strangers like a demented squirrel with a doomsday complex. That was back in the day where CDrs still cost quite a bit, so his habit was expensive to feed.

New technology of course makes your data-paranoia easier to bear. I just found the nice freeware program Allsync, which automagically syncs my usb-stick when I insert it in my office computer. I can breathe easier now... for a while.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

There is still good in this world

About two months ago I ordered two pairs of brakepads from veloplus. They came promptly, but I didn't pay them any mind, since my old ones were still good for a couple of weeks. A few days ago a light shower presented me with the choice of a) slowly sliding downhill into the intersection or b) locking the front brake (which still worked properly) and hoping I could somehow keep the front wheel from slipping. I chose b), and lived to see another day.

During the slide to death (well at least embarrassment) I decided to offer up my old brake pads to the gods of stupid cyclists, and install the new ones, which, of course, were the wrong type. I had ordered the right type, but veloplus delivered the wrong ones. After offending the sensibilities of the gods of civilised discourse for a few minutes, I fired of a quick email to veloplus, bemoaning my fate. I did not have high hopes that they would take back my order, considering the 10 weeks that had elapsed. Imagine my surprise when not 15 minutes after I had entrusted my electronic message to the gods of the digital data transfer, a very polite Mr. Huber apologised for the mistake, and vowed to send off the right brake-pads for free!

Who knew that a business model that cares about it's customers still thrived in this day and age?
So if you live in Switzerland and feel a sudden hankering for bike-parts, consider going to veloplus, who are really double-plus-good. They also sponsored the bike-saddle I won recently.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Summoner - Review

Well, I certainly did not expect to hear from one of the authors of my last book haul! But Ms Martin did leave me a comment, which got her books bumped up my reading queue. Now I've finished reading the first, and there is what I think of it:

The Summoner, by Gail Z. Martin
A review

Martris Drayke is a prince. A second son, and quite content that he won't have to be king one day. Indeed, life for him would be quite spiffy, if his older half-brother were not a cruel psychopath, his father blinded by love, and his mother ineffectual.

And when his brother murders his family and seizes the throne, it is up to Martris and his companions to safe the day, the kingdom and the world... If Martris can safe himself from insanity as he comes into his birthright as a necromancer, that is.

I quite liked the idea of the "Chronicles of the Necromancer" duology. You don't often see a necromancer as the hero, and I was hoping for tale of dark magic, and the sacrifices made by fighting evil with evil.

But this is not the mood of "The Summoner" at all. Rather, it is typical "Epic Fantasy". Which is not necessarily a bad thing - and "The Summoner" is not a bad book, as long as you are not looking for anything original. The plot is of the typical "Quest to save the Kingdom"-variety. Engrossing, and fast-paced though - you won't be bored.

Unfortunately, it is very predictable. When the heroine was introduced in chapter five, it is immediately clear that she will fall in love with our hero - although they will dance around each other until near the end of the book. I also would have liked to see a bit more characterisation - Martris' companions Harrtruck and Soterius never did take on life for me, and I kept confusing them with each other.

Oh, and a final nitpick: I hate, hate, hate the protagonist's nickname "Tris". Sorry, I just do. If I were a Prince called Martris, I'd have anybody calling me "Tris" executed. At once. With blunt pliers.

In the end, "The Summoner" is a nice read despite it's faults, and I am looking forward to reading it's sequel, "The Blood King". And I am still hoping for some zombie action!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Monthly Book Haul

Ah, my good friend Amazon delivered my monthly book fix.

As usual, it is mostly fantasy and science-fiction, with one poetry book thrown in. I have become interested in poetry since I decided to leave comments in poetry-form on deviantart, so I thought I might learn something from the masters. I have never really read poetry before, except Milton's Paradise Lost, and a bit of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, and I am curious if I will take to it.

Books from top to bottom:

Six Centuries of Great Poetry

The Blood King and
The Summoner, both by Gail Martin

Winterbirth, by Brian Ruckley

The Awakened Mage, by Karen Miller

The Elysium Commission, by L. E Modesitt

The Books of Martin and Miller (her second book should be along in a week or so) are somewhat of a rarity in the F/SF genre: duologies. For some reason most authors seem to prefer trilogies or monster series.

I may post some reviews once I am through them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The reason why I don't own an iPhone

My cell phones don't live very long. Never have, and never will. I lug it around all the time, and most of the time it is in my back-pocket, where I will sit on it, without consideration for it's fragile electronic soul. From time to time, my cell phone will protest this behaviour by breaking, and then I get a new one. Preferably one with a flap like the Motorola above, so it is at least somehow protected from ass-related incidents.
Of course I have lusted after the iPhone. Who wouldn't? It is an awesome toy.But frankly, the big screen of the iPhone terrifies me, as does the price-tag, I would have to start treating it like my laptop, which would lead to my getting a man-bag, which would lead to my girlfriend dumping me, which in turn would probably lead to me concentrating on physics to the exclusion of everything else, discovering a doomsday weapon and taking over the world. 
P.s.: My cell-phone still works, only the outer shell is cracked. World domination is averted, for now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I win!

Woohoo, for the first time in my life have I won something!

It is true, ever since I learned about combinatorics I haven't won anything, because I refuse to enter in lotteries or similar schemes. On the average, you will loose money.

But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy winning something. At the EPFL, there is this Bike-to-Work initiative, where they ask you to fill in a card each day you take your bike to work, for a month. Since I always take my bike, this is not a great hardship for me, so I entered - and won this awesome cool, ehhh... ergonomic saddle. It's worth 49 CHF!

Well, at least I didn't win the first price, which was a half-price card for the swiss railway. Not bad as such, but unfortunately every employee of the EPFL gets one automatically anyway.
And now I'll be off, let's see if the new saddle makes me go faster!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Some Alliteration

Another poem I wrote, to ~den-of-thieves "Dave".

Dave the dire dog,
dastardly demonic,
dare touch the dog-bowl:
Dave's teeth dig deeply!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Star Wars Poetry

The nice thing at deviantart is that you can give and receive comments, of course. Now most of the interaction that takes place are fairly inane "awesome!" comments. So I decided that I would leave little poems when I liked a picture. So far I've written about twenty, here is one about ~jarwarstudios' Sith Hunter:

It began, sighed Boba Fett,
as a bet.
There was this bar,
I was upset,
so I drank,
as to forget.
There was this guy,
black as jet,
I said I'd hit
any target.
He asked me,
voice'd velvet
what I would,
as wager set.
"I don't care,
my little pet,
I will win,
don't be upset!"
So I brag'd,
to my regret,
"I'll bet my balls,
do not sweat!"
So that guy,
a silhouette,
turned out a sith,
and did collect.
Which is why,
I have this set,
this pair of breasts,
and speak falsett'
But 'lest you laugh,
do not forget,
the best Bounty Hunter yet,
is now and ever
Bobette Fett!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Keep your guard up

Sarah demonstrates to Tristan why you shouldn't drow your guard, ever. She is one scary lady, and routinely takes apart vo-sinhs who think they can fight. I should know, because I caught her foot once or twice with my face during the last training camp!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hot & sour soup

Mmmmm: The basic staple of Chinese restaurants world wide, but even better if prepared by yourself: Hot and sour soup. I could eat it every day!

500g Tofu
500g Chicken or pork
1/2 cup bamboo shoots
2 tablespoons black fungus (Wood Ear) or Cloud Ear fungus
(or 3 - 4 Chinese dried black mushrooms or fresh mushrooms)
6 cups of chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon of white pepper
2 tablespoons vinegar (rice vinegar is best, but ordinary vinegar will do as well)
2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of cold water
1 egg, beaten
1 red pepper
1 green onion, finely chopped

Shred or cut to thin slices the tofu, pepper and chicken. Well, it's supposed to be thin slices, but as you can see, I am usually too lazy to do that. Marinate the tofu and the meat - at least 20 minutes, hours is better, unless you are really hungry.
Bring the stock to a boil, add everything up to the cornstarch. Bring back to a boil, let boil for 2-3 minutes.
Add the rest, don't forget to stir while adding the egg. Bring back to a boil, serve hot.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Last week

No blogs for a week, and the reason is this:

I joined the deviant art community as a wannabe artist - partly so I don't have to inflict my sketches on this blog. I added a tool-bar on the right where you can see my most recent crimes against art, if you really want to. 
Drawing is fun, and seems to have partly replaced aimlessly-surfing-the-net as my procrastination-method of choice. Certainly more creative, and ultimately more satisfying as well.