Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Google's Summer of Code

Any computer science students reading this should go directly to and read about what Google's doing this summer.

But, if you're still reading this, I'll recap. Google is funding student work on open source projects. Basically, open source projects register with Google and specify defined tasks they want to have completed on their projects. Students apply to complete a task, and if they're approved and actually complete the task over the summer, Google pays them money.

You may not get your college to actually count this as an internship, but you'll get some great experience, earn a little money, and support an open source project at the same time.

So why are you still reading this? Go apply!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Jay - 6, Weedy Bushes - 0

I did another stint at digging up weedy bushes this weekend.

It was an odd weekend. I woke up early each day, and then by lunch was dead tired. So tired I did something unheard of for me, which was to take a nap. I don't normally nap, since I wake up from them feeling worse than when I did before the nap, but this weekend I napped both days.

True to form, I woke up feeling pretty bad, so I went into the yard and dug up more of the weed bushes that have taken over the woods. Between Saturday and Sunday I managed to get rid of half a dozen of the more annoying of the bushes, including one that had completely overgrown our walking path. Now we have a big hole in the woods that we'll have to fill with something more manageable.

On the geek-front, I finished up a program I'd been working on to make playing board games by email a bit easier. I used Game Maker to write it, which allowed me to get it done in record time, but made some aspects of the program pretty slow (such as doing a flood fill of a screen region). So I downloaded Irrlicht, which is primarily a 3D graphics engine but it also is supposed to do 2D well. Over the next few weeks I'll look at rewriting the program in Irrlicht so it isn't so slow.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lawn Envy

Spring time brings out some interesting behavior.

We live in a suburban neighborhood, and one of the spring time rituals is the first mowing of the lawn. Each year, the men in the neighborhood seem to compete to see who can be the first to mow their lawn. This year I think someone got the prize by mowing their lawn in mid-March.

Lawn-care seems to be contagious, too. On an otherwise relaxing weekend, all it takes is one person to mow their lawn, and before you know it everyone else is out mowing their lawn, too. I'm not sure if they think their lawn looks bad now that someone else's is mown, or what, but it's a definite phenomenon.

We tend to take the minimalist approach to lawn mowing. We mow the first time each year after all the flowers scattered through the yard have died. That's usually in mid-May. We then mow once a month, whether it needs it or not, until the last mowing, probably in October.

We've found the trick to taking this approach is to not fertilize the grass, and to learn to enjoy all the other sorts of ground cover that will grow when you don't use chemicals on your lawn. We have the loveliest clover through part of our front yard, and some sort of other leafy ground cover in the backyard. Our grass grows pretty slowly, whether due to the lack of fertilizer, or all the other ground cover taking up nutrients, I'm not sure.

A side-effect of all this non-grass ground cover is that we get fewer dandelions in our yard than our neighbors do. Which is a shame, because we like dandelions.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Game of Thrones

There's a board game called A Game of Thrones that some friends of mine love to play.

Normally I stay away from tactical war games. In high school, my group of friends loved to play tactical war games, the more detailed the better (at least that's what it seemed like to me at the time). And I played, but never did very well in them.

Lately, I've been playing A Game of Thrones, and it's a nice change from the ultra-detailed war games I played in high school. The game is detailed, but the focus is not so much on simulating an actual war, as trying to capture the feel of a series of novels the game is based on. Diplomacy among the players is not only expected, but almost mandatory.

Another interesting aspect of the game is that it's difficult to actually eliminate a player. Units retreat when defeated, and the boundaries of kingdoms ebb and flow over time as territory is retaken. You win the game not by eliminating the other players, but by positioning yourself so that on the last turn of the game (turn 10), you can ensure you hold the largest number of cities on the board. You can also win by holding a certain number of cities (7 cities for a 5 player game, 6 cities for a 6 player game), but I think that's relatively rare.

I still don't do extremely well at the game, but it's fun to play. I'm doing better in a play by email version of the game with those same friends, so there's definitely something to be said for having more time to think about all the ramifications of a move.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sleeping Out

I'm not sure what term is the opposite of sleeping in, but that's what happens to me more often than not.

It's the scenario where you get up in the middle of the night, maybe to go to the bathroom, or feed the cat, or whatever, and you discover that it's only 23 minutes until your alarm goes off. That's enough time to make you drag during the day, but not enough time to do you any good if you go back to sleep. Just enough time, in fact, to do a blog entry before starting your day.

To make it worse, I'm not a morning person. I'll cheerfully stay up late without blinking an eye (okay, maybe an eye blink or two when I get tired), but getting up early feels like it takes way too much energy. But, since my body's normal wakeup time is about 8:00am, most jobs require me to get up early, especially the current one with an hour's commute.

Okay, enough whining about my schedule, it's time for me to start on my commute.

Monday, April 17, 2006

April Showers

Wow, I'm way behind on my blogging. The good news is that it isn't a sign of being less interested in blogging, but more a sign of being way too busy elsewhere. Or is that a bad sign?

We've been getting lots of rolling thunder and rain lately. We're glad to see our ten month old daughter doesn't mind the thunder. We both love that sort of weather, so it would have been strange if she didn't as well, but you never know. It's strange enough that she seems to like the sunny weather, which we don't.

Our semester at Muskingum is drawing to a close, so in a few more weeks I'll have more time than I know what to do with (yes, that's wishful thinking). My summer project list already has about a dozen tasks on it, and there are half a dozen more that will get added before too long. Building a tree house is the most fun task on the list (that's one I added myself).

To keep with the geeky flavor of the recent posts, here's a link to The Onion Router,, for those of you who value your privacy far more than most.