Archive for the ‘Diary/Miscellany’ Category

No, I’m not writing about HRC’s remarks Friday, I’m talking about the Eurovision Song Contest – that annual celebration of kitsch, glam and (mostly) pedestrian music in which 25 European performers from different countries go up on stage and perform so that the whole of Europe can choose the best song/voice/sex appeal/weird outfits/light show/weird dancing/ability to get their border countries to vote for them.

To those unfamiliar with the Eurovision process, here’s what happens: most European countries (43 this year) choose one singer/band to perform an original song that will go to the contest. There are two semifinal nights before the final, at which 25 countries are represented. Each performer gets three minutes on stage to perform, taking about two hours, and then viewers across Europe vote for who they think should win. They take 15 minutes to vote, 15 minutes to count the votes, and then spend 45 minutes describing how each of the 43 countries entered initially voted, giving points to the top ten performances: 1-8 points for places 10 through 3, 10 points for second, and 12 points for first. Country size doesn’t matter; 12 points from Malta is as good as 12 points from Germany.

Of course most of the music is… well, crap. It can usually be divided into one of three categories: bad europop, really bad europop, and pale imitation of really bad europop. Occasionally a completely off-the-beaten-track song shows up, such as Lordi’s death metal song from two years wihch won the competition for Finland. Much of the time the winner is a marginally decent song, usually a ballad or something that falls into the category of bad europop.

Usually however, the winner has more to do with inter-country politics: the Scandinavian countries vote for each other, the east European countries vote for each other, Portugal and Spain vote for each other, etc. So the winner is rarely the best song. In principle winning Eurovision can launch careers – in practice it rarely seems to do much for the winner outside his own country, unless they were already established. Celine Dion and Cliff Richard have won it when they were already established artists – only Abba and possibly Dana seem to have had their careers launched by Eurovision.

I watched this year’s Eurovision streamed live online, which began with a tedious Romanian ballad and ended with a tedious Norwegian pop song. Mixed in between was a 75 year old rapper from Croatia, a blind singer from Georgia, and a 16 year old from Armenia. Other notable performances: the Russian performance was forgettable but featured an ice rink on the middle of the stage. The Latvian group dressed up as pirates and sang a half-decent song about pirates, the Azeri group had some weird performance involving half the performers dressed as angels and the other half dressed as devils, and the Bosnian performance was just bizarre (but a pretty good song nonetheless). (You can watch the full program at eurovision.tv – the links above take you to the original videos for each song, but I recommend watching the whole performance to understand the full force of Eurovision.)

In the middle of all this came the one real bright spot of the night – a nattily dressed group from Denmark, singing a crisp pop song, with a crisp melody, crisp lyrics, crisp outfits and an overall crisp performance. A song vaguely reminiscent of Frank Sinatra/Peggy Lee style music but with a much more modern edge. The only song I’d probably want to listen to regularly. Of course, since they had the best song of the night, they only came in 14th.

The winner? Russia, with another boring song. The big loser? The UK, a result that says more about how the rest Europe dislikes the UK than about the song itself (it was certainly much better than the Russian entry).

I’ll stick to my music collection.


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More silliness: Wikipedia is available in Volapuk. English Wikipedia’s own entry on Volapuk says that the language has 20 speakers worldwide. And they still have a version written in Volapuk – a language that looks like the bastard child of Finnish, Hungarian, and Vulcan. Even Vulcan has more speakers. Jaysus.

Now playing: Logh – End Cycle
via FoxyTunes

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This is hilarious. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Thank to Andrew Sullivan for the pointer.

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Out East

I went off to the east coast last week for Matt and Trina’s wedding, and it was …fun. It was held in Wolfville, on the north side of the peninsula, roughly opposite Halifax and a 15 hour drive from Kingston. We left at 10:30 on Wednesday and basically drove nonstop until fourish the next afternoon.

Driving was quite adventurous. Montreal proved surprisingly annoying to traverse at one in the morning, partly because traffic on the 40 was backed up due to construction, and we got off just before we would have had to wait in frozen traffic for hours. Of course, there was no construction actually going on, but half the highway was shut anyway. We took the service road and everyone got confused by the bizarre lane changes (well everyone but me since I’ve been on these roads many times but I’m a useless navigator anyway). We got on the Lafontaine highway and were promptly redirected in several directions by construction again before getting on the tunnel.

At this point the car was temporarily overtaken by some bizarre shaking, a problem that would plague us for the rest of the journey; while accelerating the car would whine and rattle until we hit 3000 RPM, at which point it would run smoothly again. Not knowing what the problem was we simply put up with it and speculated as to possible causes. Ryan: ‘You don’t need to worry unless the check engine light comes on’. An instant later: the check engine light came on. Oh well. We drove on anyway and spent the remaining ten or so hours with the annoying shakes.

Upon checking in to our slightly sketchy motel with oddly dark rooms Justin took his car to the nearest Midas and learned that one of the spark plugs was shot. So it turned that we had driven two thirds of the way at 75% power. Impressive. In any case, the car was fixed the next morning.

The area around wolfville seems to be serviced by just one main road – a one lane thoroughfare inundated with traffic at all hours of the day, only spared of cars late at night. This single road passes through Kentville, New Minas and Wolfville, all three towns being very close together. Wolfville is a picturesque town at one end of the road graced with lovely architecture and Acadia University, and at the other end Kentville has a beautiful downtown area that James, Ben and I explored the morning of the wedding. That same morning we also visited the Acadia University campus, a verdant campus with splendid botanical gardens paid for by the Irving family. We had also visited a farmer’s market at the time – I mention this because the area has a number of them in a small area. It seems to be a great place to live if fresh produce is important to you.
The wedding was held at a chapel on campus (during a football game between St. Mary’s and Acadia that St. Mary’s ended up winning) and the reception at a nearby country club. Well, nothing out of the ordinary mostly, though after the wedding we blew bubbles at the couple instead of throwing rice. Maybe that’s common at weddings now, I don’t know.

The after dinner dance was interesting, what with James inventing a new dance for ‘Stayin’ Alive’ and Ben dancing more than the rest of us put together (and I don’t think he was even drunk). I would post pictures, but I forgot to bring my camera 😦

And we went home the first next day, a relatively smooth ride compared to the first one.

Anyway, I wish the happy couple many years together.

Now playing: The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
via FoxyTunes

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I did not know that the expression existed, but on a web forum someone called me a ‘diamond geezer’ after I provided some Linux advice. The term seems to mean something along the lines of ‘nice bloke’, and is apparently quite common in parts of England.

Just thought that was slightly interesting.

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I’m typing this post on my new laptop. Yee-haw! On Ubuntu! And the wireless internet is working!

Actually it was quite an adventure to get both Vista and Ubuntu working cleanly and playing nice with each other on my new G1. This is going to be long and boring post, but it might serve as a blueprint for anyone wanting to install Linux onto on of these behemoths. The laptop ships with Windows Vista and a hard drive prepartitioned into OS and data partitions (plus a recovery partition), but the data partition was too small for my purposes with Ubuntu, so I decided to resize the partitions. That’s when the fun started. See, the recovery DVD that came with the laptop gives you the option of either a) installing Vista to the first artition, b) installing it to the entire hard drive, or c) installing it to the first partition on the hard rive and create a second one as well. Which meant I had to install Ubuntu on the second partition (no problem) and resize to the size wanted (slight problem). The installer for Ubuntu provides gparted, which ostensibly is able to resize whole partitions but in practice ended up borking the Vista partition (and, somehow, the recovery partition, which I didn’t actually touch). I know this because when I restarted and booted into Vista with grub, the Windows loading screen came on and then nothing happened. So either resizing the partitions lost data, or Vista gets confused when the partiton table is altered and pouts. Stupid Windows.

Well, at this point I need to find out if Vista really needs the partitions the laptop came with or if the recovery DVD only installs to whatever the first partition is, no matter the size … because if it’s the latter, then i can resize in parted first and then install Vista, but if it’s the former then I’ll have to resize partitions after installing Vista using something like PartitionMagic. So I started by deallocating the entire partition table in parted, and then tried reinstalling Vista. The recovery DVD goes in, I decide to install on the first partition only (which remember should be the entire HD), and it proceeds to install…along with all the Asus bloatware (grrr!)…then I restart…then I wait…then I restart again, then I wait again, then I restart again, then I wait a really long time, then it shuts down, now at the state in which it shipped. I turn it on, it wants me to configure regional options…and it restarts again. Stupid Windows. Now i’m finally able to check the hard drive usage…and it installed to entire hard drive. Good. (In retrospect, I should not have had to do all this, but someone has to do it to find out what happens so other people don’t have to..right?) This means I can install Ubuntu while prepartitioning the drive as I like and then install Windows.

At this point I had lunch. Leftover balti. Very tasty.

Then I proceeded to install Ubuntu again, this time partitoning the drive exactly as I wanted, with the first third for Vista (as fat32 for the moment) and the remainder for Linux. (No recovery partition.) Restarting brings up the grub menu. Good. Now, to reinstall Windows. Recovery DVD goes in, I choose to install to the first partiton, image unpacks, bloatware (grrr) follows. Restart…into Ubuntu. At least Vista doesn’t appear to hijack the HD like previous versions of Windows. But I do need to edit the grub configuration file with an entry for Vista. After restarting, it boots into Vista’s endless install process when I select that entry in grub. Good. After 378 more restarts (each time being sure to go into grub and boot vista instead of Ubuntu), Vista is finally installed (using ntfs). Good.

Bottom line: I now have both Ubuntu and Vista dual-booting and working cleanly on my sexy new laptop. And for the past four days, I’ve only used Ubuntu.

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Yesterday evening, I finally purchased a laptop online, and, contrary to what I had implied in a previous post, it is not a MacBook. It’s an Asus G1, which is a nifty 15-inch preconfigured Linux-ready (at least that’s what the Ubuntu forums claim) laptop with the best specs I have seen for the price. It’s quite an attractive one to boot, as well – no ugly Dell for me! Yay!

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