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Present Perfect

Ending the year

Filed under: Belgium,Life — Thomas @ 22:51


Well, things aren't turning out quite the way we planned this week.

For one, I was planning to spend some time in the new little holiday house my parents bought at the seaside. My mother was making sure there was going to be internet for me to be able to work from there, and she somehow... forgot. And even as a high-paid consultant for one of Flanders' two biggest providers, her waiting time for getting net installed is 7 weeks.

That also means I get to see a lot less of Kristien than planned. She's busy all day in a theme park that used to be called 'de Meli', by sheer coincidence a mere kilometer from my parents' holiday house, entertaining the young children of Flanders dropping by for Ketnet Freeze.

Meanwhile, this week I finally had my neurologist appointment. I have a strange oversensitivity in the left part of my body that isn't quite painful but not pleasant either. I've been having it for over half a year now, thinking it was related to my tooth infection. Clearly it isn't since the tooth infection was removed three months ago - along with the tooth. The oversensitivity has made it hard for me sometimes to stay seated at work, which might explain to people reading this my various creative moments in seating during meetings.

While the doctor was hammering various parts of my body, he noticed a lump in my pants pocket. 'What's that ?' 'My wallet.' 'That big ?' 'Uh, yeah ?' 'Is it always there ? All day long ? Even while working ? Do you work sitting down ?' 'Yes, yes, yes, and yes.' Yes, I always put my wallet in my pants pocket, mostly not to lose it, but also because the wallet contains a keycard which is the only way to get back into the office after I went to the toilet. 'I wouldn't recommend always having your wallet there. The nerves to the areas you are complaining about are right below where your wallet now is.'

So, first, initial diagnose - walletitis. Obviously it might be completely unrelated, so further analysis is necessary. So I got House's favourite exam - the famous MRI ! I had it on second Christmas day, at 20:00. Amazing that there's still so many people in a hospital on second Christmas day and a Friday evening.

The MRI was mildly disappointing, though the checklist I had to complete to make sure I had no metally things in my body was a bit daunting. In the end you start doubting if you really did not get any kind of surgery that might be problematic for this exam. I had to get undressed, lie on a board, and was told not to move at all. She gave me some headphones for the noise, and told me it would take 20 minutes. Then she slid me in, and I started counting. I almost fell asleep a couple of times, because there is really nothing you can do in there and I didn't want to think about anything important because I wanted to keep counting. I got slid back out as I reached 961. Possibly my idea of a second is wildly off.

The next scan is in a month, I've been threatened with injections of tracer fluid for that one, I hope it won't be necessary.

Meanwhile, I was also fighting off a cold. Pretty annoying, because it meant that I basically wasn't able to get anything done of all the things I was planning to get done in this 'long weekend'. It's just too hard to think with a head full of snot and a buzz in your head.

Yesterday was the hardest day though - I woke up at 6 with a splitting headache. Got some Dafalgan, went back to sleep, woke up again two hours later, still with a headache. Took Dafalgan all through the day, went to sleep early, woke up, still with a headache. Today was a bit better, only took three, and hopefully tomorrow I will be all rested again. Just in time for work...

Here's to making the last day of the year a lot better than these past few ones! We will have some friends coming over, and I've been putting together a 6 course menu that I will prepare for them - pretty much on my own, since Kristien has few days off and wants to do nothing at all on the last day of the year, and I very much intend to make her wish come true. And besides, we paid enough for this great new open kitchen, I want to put it to good use...

Xorg contributions

Filed under: Hacking — Thomas @ 11:57


More than half a year ago I got a new computer for the living room, as quiet as possible, with an ATI 2400 based card. It took some tweaking to get X working, including using the "new" radeonhd driver, and learning enough about how XRandr works to cook up a simple one-line patch to get my card detected correctly and allow me to use multiple screens (I wanted to write Xinerama but apparently that's not the cool word to use anymore).

An X driver patch is only one step removed on the geek ladder from kernel patching, right ?

Anyway, as a good open source citizen I submitted this patch in the correct location, got some followup questions to try my card with HDMI attached, lugged my computer across the room to the TV, did the testing, sent the info, and assumed my patch would make it in, and forgot all about it.

Yesterday I did an upgrade, got a new X, and restarted, and I only had one screen working after booting. After scratching my had a little and relearning xrandr, I vaguely recalled me doing this patch half a year before, and checked if it was still valid. Seems it didn't land yet, sigh.

I know we're all busy in open source, but a one line patch verified by hand by someone owning the card to work, should be a no-brainer, right ? I'll repoke the relevant people and get it in this time.

I do have to say though it's definitely an improvement to have the whole X tree be split up, and to be able to take just one module, find a problem, create a one-line patch, and rebuild just the rpm package for that driver, instead of having to rebuild all of X for a simple change.

For those of you who happen to have Fedora 9 and the exact same card (GeCube ATI Radeon HD 2400Pro, with one VGA, one DVI, and one HDMI output), you can get the package from my Fedora 9 repository.

NYC part 3

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 01:18


day 7

Woke up, left, took the Bolt bus back to NYC. Went to SoHo, had pizza at Ben's pizza, supposedly the best pizza in New York. Went to the Apple store, as usual it looked nice but low on content.

Went for cheesecake at Eileen's, Kristien bought some SoHo boots. Went to pick up our bags at the previous hotel to move to our new hosted bed and breakfast.

Went out for dinner at the Fork and Knife, 6 course sampler menu. Afterwards, tried to get into the Greenhouse, but it was invite only. Instead, ended up at the Bitter End on Houston (which isn't pronounced as you think), which had a pretty good band called Jason Yudoff and the New Hotness. Awesome guitar player, and a horns section.

day 8

Woke up late, went out to Central Park. Convinced the bike rental guy that, no, subzero is not a problem for us to rent a bike and go biking around the park, and yes, we understood that it would be 9$ even if we brought the bike
back after 10 minutes.

Went for a burger at the Burger Joint in Park Meridien hotel, awesome burger, worth the 30 minute queue. Tried to go to FAO Schwarz, but there was a queue of over 300 people. Went back to the apartment to meet Ingrid.

Went to Rockefeller Center and up to the observatory deck, an awesome night view of NYC. Went to the East Village, passed by Caracas Arepas on the way for a yummy Reina Pepiada and a beef arepa.

Passed by St Marks comics - a comics store that is open until 1 AM ! Planned to come back there after the show.

Walked down to the Bowery Ballroom, we were late but so was the first opening band. Second opener, Delta Spirit, was awesome - best unknown opening band I've seen in 15 years, since Kitchens of Distinction. They blend an edgy Gomez and Walkmen with a distinct southern flavor. Nada Surf was excellent, which was less of a surprise. They played to a home town and played quite a few old songs, including their first single.

Afterwards all bands were very approachable, walking around and talking to people at the bar. Matthew Caws looks just like his mother, funny to see. Of course the show ended close to 1, so no more going back for comics.

day 9

Got up, got a lovely New York breakfast from our host, Ingrid. Went to the MOMA where we were on the guest list thanks to Lucille, our host at last week's milonga. While smaller than I expected, it was still an impressive museum, and our staff guest tickets got us into the special Van Gogh exhibit easily. Most of all impressed with the design exhibition.

After MOMA, went to B&H to buy the Cowon A3 player I had set my mind to, while Kristien went boots shopping. She arrived in New York with two pairs and left the city with five.

Went to Grand Central Terminal to pick up a cool t-shirt that should have been there by now but still wasn't, ate down at the food court, then took our last metro ride back to Ingrid's. Had some trouble convincing a cab driver to take us to the airport (apparently due to shift changes), stressed about the traffic, but arrived well in time for our flight.

I've taken a few plane rides, but a night time take off from New York is a truly awesome sight to behold once you've walked through its streets.

The personal in-flight entertainment makes for a romantic experience when we count down together pushing 'play' on the same show we're going to watch.

Goodbye New York. Hope to see you back soon.

NYC part 2

Filed under: Travel — Thomas @ 20:31


day 4

Went to Ellis Island on the ferry in the morning, impressive, best thing so far. How anyone in the US could keep up being racist after a visit here is beyond me.

Walked around Financial District a little, went to the WTC site and saw nothing. Did an incredibly disappointing NBC studio tour (advertised as 70 minutes, started with a 15 minute overview video, then a behind-the-glass look at the SNL sets, a make-up video, and then a fake news show with two
people from the tour, and that was it.)

Went to see the New York Knicks play the Portland Trailblazers. Knicks lost, but still very entertaining. They really keep you busy at every time out or break.

day 5

Got up, went out for breakfast, 2 eggs on a platter with bacon. Went to Brooklyn Bridge, walked across, clear blue sky, great view. Went to Coney Island, mostly closed. Faded glory. Had Nathan's hot dog and corn on a cob, not impressed. Walked along the boardwalk to Brighton Beach into Little
Odessa. Had Borscht and meat with buckwheat at a Russian restaurant, interesting.

Back into town, shopped a little, then went to Momofuku to meat up with Luis and Krissa. Had a nice dinner, fresh food, good ice cream. Went to a bar and scored the best cocktail, called 'Tie me up to the bed post', which had a twig of rosemary skewering some cranberries as decoration.

day 6

Up and out, leave our bags in the bag storage room for the next two days, and take a cab to the Tick Tock diner to catch the bolt bus to Boston. Had blueberry and raisin/walnut pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast. The Bolt bus is nice, clean, and has electricity and wireless.

Got off in Boston South and met up with Ward, April and Ruth. Dropped off our stuff at the Free Software Foundation headquarters where Ward works. Had a Chili-style steak sandwich, walked around Boston Commons, the Garden, Beacon Heights, and down Newbury (why can't I pass by a comics store without buying anything ?), then took the bus into Harvard where sadly the skating rink was closed.

Back home to Somerville, then out to Davis Square for dinner at Johnny D's (good food, but the live band was pretty bad, the waiter begged us to 'please take me out with you guys'), and then on for drinks at the Diva Lounge.

NYC part 1

Filed under: Travel — Thomas @ 16:41


Road summary for the folks back home.

day 1

Arrived around 20:00, past security, took a cab, and checked into the Morningside Inn in Harlem/Morningside Heights.

Went out for dinner at Metro Diner, great burger. Went out to Lenox Lounge in Harlem, with a jazz show in the Zebra room. Took the subway back home at 1.30, which apparently is not the sort of thing we should be doing.

day 2

Got up, went to Times Square and queued for tickets to the matinee of Speed-The-Plow with Jeremy Piven from Entourage. Walked around a bit, went back to Harlem to go to Alice's Queen of Soulfood. OK but not
awesome. Went back to Broadway to see the show. I thought it was pretty good and definitely funny but Kristien found it overacted. Walked around Times Square some more, saw the M&M store (almond and peanut butter M&M's) and Toys R US.

Went to dance tango in uptown east, nice bar, friendly people.

day 3

Got bagels, walked around Harlem. Had Gumbo and meatloaf somewhere. Saw Saint John's Cathedral, massive - apparently it's the biggest cathedral in the world and they just finished it yesterday. Suck on that, Sagrada Familia. Moved to Carlton Arms hotel, after some debating took room 12c - the spider room. Walked around, saw Grand Central Terminal, 5mins of New York Public Library, lobby of Chrysler building.

Hunted for wine and/or cake, went to Stijn. Had Thai food at Stijn's place, saw his kid. It's good to know people around the globe.

Went to the famous Blue Note, where a band had their CD release show, but jazz just really isn't my thing. And you pay 15 $ for the Blue Note privilege.