Vincent Cheung

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Got out of jury duty!

I got summoned to jury duty, but I got out of it :)

I wrote them a letter saying that I was a student and couldn't afford to take time off, etc. The amazing thing was that less than 24 hours after I put the letter in the mail, they called me to confirm that they got my letter and that I was off the hook! I was amazed! Not that I got out of jury duty, but that the mail got to them so fast! I always figured that the postal system was super slow and took at least a few days, even if it's in the same city, since I imagine that it has to go into some huge sorting facility, etc., etc. I was only sending it a few blocks away, but I still didn't expect it to get to them that fast, especially not by the next morning.

Anyways, it's a relief. It really doesn't make sense for students to have to do jury duty because it can really screw with you if you miss classes, especially if the hearing lasts a long time, you could even miss a whole semester and have to retake the entire year. For me, while I don't have any classes or anything, if I'm gone, there's no one that will do my research for me, so it'd have to be totally put on hold and research is highly time sensitive in that it's easy to get scooped. Students are in school to learn, no point taking that away from them.

The little pamphlet that comes with the summons to jury says that "If this is a particularly difficult time for you to attend, because of your employment, business, schooling, or personal circumstances, you can, by a request in writing, ask to have your jury duty postponed to a later date." I know several people that have gotten out of jury duty. Seems like only the unemployed, severely bored, or people not smart enough to get out of jury duty actually do jury duty, which makes me question the quality of the jurors. I hope I never have to rely on a jury...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lord of the Ants

I now command ants in addition to wasps

My apartment in Seattle 3 years ago

Long time readers will remember my post from almost exactly 3 years ago about wasps coming into my apartment to die. I now have control over ants. For one reason or another, insects are attracted to me in the last moments of their lives. I must be some sort of insect religious figure that they believe they must visit when they die in order to transcend from this life into the next. Maybe these ants are actually the wasps from before, but in their next life...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nuit Blanche 3

Last week, I went to the 3rd Annual Nuit Blanche in Toronto. It's "a free all-night contemporary art thing". Basically, they have artists put up their contemporary art throughout downtown Toronto, often converting public spaces into art exhibits. Some are cool, some are weird, some are dumb. It goes from sunset on Saturday to sunrise on Sunday.

I went to all 3 zones this year and did a lot of walking. I took my GPS along with me to record exactly where I went and so that I could geotag my photos (automagically putting the longitude and latitude into the photos so that I could put them on a map so you can see where I took each of the photos):

View Larger Map

There were my favourite ones (in order that I saw them):

A dozen mascots dancing in a field to music. It was remarkably amusing

Shipping containers that would shine light spelling SOS in morse code

Dropping and smashing stuff! You can't see it b/c of the motion blur, but there's a monitor and computer being dropped in this photo.

I don't think this was an official installation, but it was cool. Some guy in the back of a truck dressed in a chicken outfit sitting with chickens.

My favourite one. A waterfall coming out of a 3rd story window.

Video games using lights in Toronto City Hall. It's Pong on the left and Asteroids on the right. You control it by calling in to the photo numbers supplied.

More photos

Google Chrome

I've converted to Google Chrome. If you didn't know, Google Chrome is Google's fairly newly released web browser. I was previously using Firefox, but I like Chrome for a few reasons. The most important is memory management. Without getting into too much technological detail, it basically spawns a new process for each tab instead of just a new thread, this makes it easier to free memory when you close a tab. I tend to keep a lot of tabs open (I currently have 34 open), which are mostly pages that I opened and will go back to soon (too lazy to bookmark and then delete the bookmark later) or some like Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Calendar that I always keep open. While Firefox 3 has improved on memory management a lot, it still gets really bloated and I would have to close the whole browser and reload it every day or two. Chrome does a much better job and I like that it has it's own task manager (shift-esc) that shows how much memory and cpu usage each tab is using.

Another is cpu usage. I noticed that Firefox would sometimes use up a lot of cpu usage even when I wasn't doing anything (it was just sitting in the background). It happened on just some sites and I think most of the time it was related to flash ads. Chrome doesn't have this issue, or at least I can easily find out which tab is causing the problem and kill it. Also, if flash is having an issue, which it sometimes does, again, I can just kill the flash plug-in and reload the pages that I need flash, all without reloading the whole browser. With each tab in a separate process, one website won't cause the whole browser to crash, it'll just crash the one tab. I find Chrome to be a bit snappier than Firefox as well, especially when first starting the browser. I found the combined location bar and search box confusing at first, but now that I'm used to it, I really like it. I really like that I can customize the search, so for example, if I want to search google, I just type in the keywords, if I want to search google maps, I just precede the keywords with "map" (I added that one). I can also search mininova and isohunt (for bittorrents) by just typing in "mininova heroes" or something like that and it'll send me right to the search results from mininova. It saves me from first going to the site and then searching.

It's not all positive for Chrome though. It doesn't have extensions (though I don't use any that I can't live without) and it doesn't support the google toolbar (which I like for the keyword highlighting and autofill). The bookmarking in Chrome sucks, fortunately I don't bookmark much, but I'd like to be able to periodically bookmark all the opened tabs just to make sure that I don't lose them. Chrome also crashes on me every day or two (though I'm a pretty heavy user). It's not that big of a deal b/c it remembers all my tabs and reopens so fast, but still, it's annoying. It's pretty awesome though considering that this is it's first release. Way more stable than the first release of any other browser.

One other interesting feature that at first I thought was dumb, but turned out to be pretty cool is the page you get when you open a new tab. It shows you your most visited sites (screenshot above). This makes it really quick to open a new tab and go to one of these pages. It's kinda amusing to see what are my most visited sites:
  1. Statcounter - checking how many people visited my sites (blog, school,, etc)

  2. Adsense - checking how much money I've gotten from ads on ($57 since January, most of which is from the last few months)

  3. Slashdot - News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.

  4. The Star - Toronto's newspaper (get local, national, and global news all in one place)

  5. Facebook - No explanation needed

  6. Real Clear Politics - Checking the latest American election polls

  7. Digg - Procrastination

  8. Google News - More news (I also have a special "Volleyball" news section that has news articles with the word "volleyball" in them)

  9. TD - Watching my mutual funds portfolio drop in value
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