I'm on OKCupid, and I don't even really know why any more. I like to see the percent matches for my boyfriend and friends. Being female, I occasionally get messages even if I haven't been active on the site.

Yesterday, someone sent me this:

The link leads to this picture:

I have no idea what to do about this. I mean, nudibranch is my favorite invertebrate name [and I sent back a reply to that effect]... but still. It threw off my whole evening. SOMETHING IS DIFFERENT FROM USUAL.

Easily styled Random Post widget

You may notice a slight change in my random post widget. It looks a bit different now, eh? I can tell you, it acts completely different from what it once was... the old one wasn't meeting my needs, so... a friend and I made one for ourselves! [check below if you want one for yourself...]

Why would we make our own widget?

I used to use a random post widget from Blogger Plugins, but eventually I got annoyed with not being able to change the styling of the widget. (Beyond what was made available in the widget configuration) I wanted to make it look less cluttered, and more similar to my blogroll styling.

Blogger Plugins' Random Post widget (left) versus Blogger Blogroll widget styling (right)

It was also extremely slow to load: it would appear upwards of three seconds after the rest of the page had rendered, which is shameful for an item on a webpage. Especially one that is already slow-loading, like my blog.

In frustration I turned to a good friend for help.

I may have bought some kitty ears...

...And then I may have put them on...

This is a better shot of the dress I'm wearing. Because it's a super comfy, awesome dress that I really, really like and therefore I'm making you look at it.

And I really wish this photo had turned out better, because it's not often I am genuinely smiling in a picture and don't look too awkwardly posed and am not half blinking and aurgh why aren't I good at pictures.

And pretty quickly after this the photoshoot became x-rated, like all good photoshoots should. I blame the cat ears?

The Computer Spectrum, AKA "I'm a Computer Engineer, I can't fix your email."

So here's a social scenario T and I encounter quite frequently:

Someone: So, what degree program are you two in?
Me: I'm in Computer Science, and he is in Computer Engineering.
Someone: Oh, what's the difference?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since most people have little knowledge of computers. What I, most of my friends, and my boyfriend T will be doing for a living can, for the majority of folks, be summed up as "doing computer." People assume that because I'm in computer science, or because T is in computer engineering, we can fix their iTunes and email and printers. “It's all computer!” they seem to think. The thing is, it's not "all computer." There are many different aspects of a computer that involve an entire field of researchers, quirks, experience, journals, professors and... well, and learning. There is a fair amount of overlap, sure, but not nearly as much as people assume. So, while I can explain to you some of the finer points of how your operating system manages memory, I probably can't explain why your printer is making that noise. Sorry.

A handy guide to the computer spectrum

A Tiny Adventure in Halifax

I feel like a grown-up, guys. I accompanied T to Halifax for three days. He was invited to a conference about software for tidal modeling – something he's been working on under government contract – and I was allowed to tag along. The government put us up in the Marriott hotel, and – for the first time in my life – we had a hotel room to ourselves. Oh, but first, I got the new tights I ordered from Sockdreams:

On check-in at the hotel, the receptionist was going over the room - “Three nights, government rate, king-sized bed, -” “SWEET!” I exclaimed. The receptionist stopped in his tracks, stared at me, then grinned. That bed was amazing, let me tell you.

Our room was lovely. It was fancy. This wasn't the funky-carpeted, floral-bedsheeted, pictures-of-kittens-and-sunsets-on-the-wall kind of hotel I have become accustomed to.

There are no words...

We sit, fascinated, horrified, terrified, concerned... a natural disaster on the other side of the world has us entranced. I feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car: I don't know what to do, other than watch and hope. So many people missing, so much destruction, the threat of more devastation from unstable nuclear reactors, from fires and explosions.

What can we do? We are so far removed from Japan, from the Pacific rim... It feels like the world should have stopped, that it should have dropped everything and turned focus on the most recent natural disaster. It always feels that way. But it isn't so - we still have to eat, and sleep and work; we go to movies and shopping and we play online. I sit in a Boston Pizza, four hours from home, and I blog about code. It's a paradox I often struggle with - the lives of so many people touched, changed, ruined or simply ended... and mine continues along, unaffected. I feel great empathy and concern, but it's directed at a faceless, nameless entity: "everyone who has been affected by the recent Tsunami". What can I do with that, how do I focus it?

I can send my best wishes, but however sincere they are - however much hope, concern and empathy I have - they are naught but words... it doesn't seem significant enough.

Code is beautiful

I guess you'd call me a programmer. Personally, I'm not particularly comfortable with that title, because while I do know how to program I am convinced I'm not good at it. No matter how hard I try, there will always be someone who is better, more clever and faster than me. I also rarely program as a hobby, which tends to be the singular mark of a true programmer.

The thing is, I love code. I suspect I love code more than most of my peers. Code is poetry. It's creativity. Code tells a story, and a very complex one at that. Coding is a creative problem solving exercise. A finished program both describes and solves a problem: not only does it describe an algorithm - a recipe for solving a puzzle - but it writes it in a way that a machine built entirely out of principles of physics can actually execute. Good code can even make such a machine flexible and adaptable. Clever or interesting code brings me a thrill akin to that felt by people who enjoy poetry. It is accompanied by the rush of having learned or discovered something new - and appreciation of the design skills and intelligence of the author. In a world of complete imperfection, we have in our hands the ability to create things of near perfection. If one only cares enough, one can create error-free, beautiful programs...

Visually, code is beautiful to me. There is a wonderful symmetry in well formatted code, and when you add pretty syntax highlighting and a nice monospace font, things become... well, I would print and frame code if I had any space to hang it. The uniqueness of the programming design itself is further emphasized by the uniqueness of formatting. I once had a professor tell us that he can recognize when a student submits someone else's code, because the physical formatting of the code changes from previous submissions.

Blogging about Blogging

Is this writer's block? Is that the ailment I have?

I have several draft posts half written, and many more dancing around in my head... things sparked by recent conversations, world events, things that I like and hate and silly things I want to share. But, try as I might, I cannot get them expressed into words properly. I write a post and I hate it - it's not funny, or clear or strong enough. The natural flow that I'm used to producing just seems to have gone away. I feel like I'm in middle school again - unable to express myself without using bulky, awkward words and spaghetti-like phrases.

My brain feels fuzzy.

I visit many blogs on a daily basis - the blogs I read and follow, and blogs I check out when newbies want a review on the Blogger forums. I often get a smug sense of "I can do better than that," when looking at new blogs, but it never amounts to anything. Lately I've been posting... what, once a week, maybe? I have more to say to the world than a few hundred words a week. I have well-formed and highly researched opinions. I am an armchair expert on many topics. I can sit down and pump out an essay in an hour, or an essay-like forum post in twenty minutes. Why can I no longer do it for my blog? (I'm trying to boost my blogging confidence here, so don't mind if it sounds cocky. I can assure you, I don't sit at my computer all day going "I'm awesome!")

So, I've been pondering the nature of blogging. What is it for? What do the majority of people use it for? I think blogging started as e-journaling. The things people would put down on paper were now written into websites. Blogs are a very rich platform - you can embed photos, videos and music into a blog, unlike a journal. After a while, people got more creative with the medium - corporate and developer blogs popped up. Niche interest blogs popped up - showcasing the work of hobbiests, for example. Blogs as writing, coding and photography portfolios. Blogs as a means of generating revenue. Blogs seem to be getting less and less personal as time goes on.

I encounter many impersonal blogs. These blogs feel hollow, for some reason - they're missing the flavour of an individual behind the words. Many blogs seem to have no purpose. I see these all the time in the forum - new bloggers whose first five posts consist of "so I started blogging eh? This is it, I guess." I saw a blog that actually made me laugh - it was a blog about the authors first foray into blogging. Their first post was basically, "I'm blogging because I want to. This is my first post!" and their second was "Well, still going strong! I now have two posts!"

It was kind of cute, but painfully... empty. "Why are you blogging?" I wanted to ask, "When you have nothing to say?". The thing is, I believe everyone has something interesting to say. Maybe they are not skilled enough in their language to say it. Maybe it never occurred to them to say it. So when I see all these blogs that are lacking personality, that are little more than Facebook lists or "Is anyone reading this?" posts... I want to take the author and shake them up a little bit.

Get angry. Get informed. Share your interests. Share your creativity, or your hopes and dreams. You're a complex human being, I know you are. Don't sit there and pretend you aren't.

Hopefully I'll be able to take my own advice.

Go Fish reinvented

My younger sister, who is six years old, is currently sitting on a hotel bed eating chips and watching Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (one of my favourite movies, by the way).

A few minutes earlier she was playing Go Fish with me. Or at least, we were playing what she calls Go Fish.

"We start with five cards each," she says. "Oh, and one Old Maid. The Old Maid goes into the pond."

I deal out five cards to each of us. We each eliminate the pairs in our dealt hands. "Do I draw new cards?" I ask, and she tells me, "No. Now I pick a card from your hand!"

She picks a card. I pick one from her hand. She takes one of mine, and I take another of hers. We make a few pairs, until we're left with one card each. "Oh." she says, puzzled. "None of us have the Old Maid. When you get the Old Maid you take new cards. I guess we pick up new cards anyway."

Whatever you say hon.

I never did learn how one wins in her version of Go Fish, and I suspect that she didn't even know.

I always wonder what the world looks like to a child. My guess is batshit fucking crazy.

A Nano-liscious wedding

Warning: This is a huge and self-indulgent post.

I go through phases where I become obsessed with weddings. I don't know. It happens. Anyway, my current wedding obsession was sparked because an acquaintance of mine is planning a wedding, and I started following a lovely vintage/DIY wedding blog, Ruffled, and another, Trash the Dress [Europe - the main one seems to have fallen off the Internet] which I'll explain in a bit.

From beginning til end, here's a fuzzy sketch of how my perfect wedding would go. None of this pure white prom-dress gown, hairsprayed hair, awkward and stiff family photos in a church for me. This wedding is for me, not my family, and I'm going to have it how I want it. And don't worry about T, I'm pretty sure he's totally cool with everything. Pretty sure.

The Engagement

Straight up: fuck diamonds. They're ugly, plain, and are the epitome of artificial scarcity. Diamonds can suck my balls. I've asked T for a moissanite (MOIS-uh-nite) stone if we go the gemstone route.

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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."