Friday, June 29, 2007

Bored. And desktop backgrounds. And… hybrids.

Ever have one of those moments when you have a bunch of time to kill, and you feel like surfing the web, but there’s nothing specific you really want to look at? You must; I’m sure it’s not just me. Well, when that happens, I tend to pull up my trusty HTML editor, and start crafting a blog post.

I’ve spent the last week looking for a new picture to use for my desktop background, but I haven’t found anything I liked. I tried looking for actresses I like—partially as a response to the desktop image Andrea’s currently using, but I won’t tell you what that is—but I realized that there aren’t that many actresses I like. At least, not enough to make her my desktop background. (I looked for Lucy Liu in specific, but everything I found was either not that great, or… well, mildly pornograpnic.) I tried looking for shows that I like, but I couldn’t find much [that I liked] for Harvey Birdman or Home Movies. (I thought Simpsons was too commonplace.) I’m not really into cars, so I didn’t bother looking for car pictures. In the past, I’d spent a good solid couple of hours looking for guitar-themed background images, to little avail, so I didn’t bother with that.

I finally settled on a picture of the interior of the Honda Civic. (Didn’t I just say that I’m not into cars, so I didn’t bother looking for car pictures? Yes I did. So why did I change my mind, and look for a car picture? Read on, for my reasoning…)

We’ve decided to get a new car, because we’ve been thinking about getting a hybrid for… well, for a long time now. From what little I know about hybrids—which isn’t much—our two main choices were to get a Toyota or a Honda. From my reading, I think that Toyota hybrids are a bit more fuel efficient than Hondas, but not really that much, so I was more leaning toward getting a Honda.

Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

  • The way Honda and Toyota are marketing their hybrids, they’re the highest option you can get. I don’t know how to explain that properly, but basically, if you want to get a Civic Hybrid, for example, you would get the highest model of the Civic—the one with the most options—and then the hybrid option would be an extra one on top of that.
  • The Honda Civic hybrid chimes in at around $26,000, and the Accord hybrid at $40,000. Yes, you heard me right: forty grand. Forty G’s. Forty kilodollars.
  • I didn’t get pricing for the Toyotas, yet. See the next bullet, for why I didn’t bother.
  • For both the Honda and Toyota hybrids, the batteries for the electric motor are in the trunk.
    • For the Honda, the batteries are affixed to the back of the seats. You lose about an inch or two of trunk space, but other than that, it’s a regular trunk. And, because the batteries are affixed to the back of the seats, you can even fold the seats down, to put large items in the trunk, just like with a regular car.
    • For the Toyotas, the batteries take up the entire trunk. Even for the Yaris—which is a hatchback—the battery takes up the whole trunk. It’s ridiculous; you end up with a couple of inches of trunk space! If you wanted to put a pair of shoes in there, you probably could—but only if they were small shoes. This was the main reason I didn’t bother pricing the Toyotas (even though it would have just taken me 30 seconds on Toyota’s website); we use our trunk heavily, and wouldn’t be able to get a car that didn’t have a trunk. I don’t know why Toyota couldn’t use a smaller battery; they were the first out the gate with hybrid technology; why couldn’t they have found better battery technology, like Honda did?
  • In Ontario, you can get a credit from the government, if you buy a hybrid. In order to qualify for the credit, the car you’re buying has to meet certain efficiency standards. For the Hondas, the Civic qualifies for the credit, but the Accord doesn’t; apparently, they put a more powerful engine in the Accord, which pushed the emission level too high to qualify for the credit.
    • If I understood the numbers correctly—I might not have—the Civic hybrid is about 3 kilodollars more than a “normal” fully decked-out Civic, but the credit from the government is about 4 kilodollars. So it’s like buying a decked-out Civic, and getting the hybrid option for free.
  • How hybrids work:
    • None of the hybrids I’ve seen need to be plugged in; the batteries charge as you drive the car. (When a hybrid is slowing down, it uses the kinetic energy to charge the battery somehow. I don’t know how it works.)
    • Hybrids use electric power as much as possible, and, for the most part, the gas motor only kicks in when the car is accelerating. When the car is idling, the gas motor is completely shut off, meaning that there are no emissions.
    • All of this means that, in terms of fuel efficiency, hybrids are the opposite of regular cars, in that they get better mileage in the city than they do on the highway.
So, because we’re heavily leaning toward getting a Civic hybrid, it’s been on my mind a lot, which is why I ended up with a shot of the Civic interior for my desktop. (It wasn’t even a Civic hybrid’s interior; I think it was a Civic coupe.) Andrea just rolled her eyes at me, because we’re not the types to have car pictures for our desktop wallpaper. (Remember when I mentioned that earlier?) If I really wanted to annoy her, I would get the typical type of car shot, of a low angle of a Civic taking a corner at high speed or something. Something like this:

But I don’t really have any interest in annoying Andrea, so I didn’t do that.


I’ve been in the habit of changing my MSN Messenger “message” every couple of days, to random quotes I find online. For some reason, I was in a Monty Python kind of mood today, so I chose this: “What’s brown and sounds like a bell? Dung!”

Wikked Lil' Grrrl says:
Oh Serna. *shaking head*

sernaferna says:
hehe I was looking for Monty Python quotes, and that was the first one that wasn't 8 paragraphs long.

Wikked Lil' Grrrl says:
i'd have gone with "We lived for 3 months in a paper bag in a septic tank"

sernaferna says:
I was tempted to just go for the simple "And now for something completely different"

Wikked Lil' Grrrl says:
Also an excellent choice.

sernaferna says:
But I thought that *everyone* could get some joy out of this one, even if they'd never heard of MP.

Wikked Lil' Grrrl says:
True. It *is* a universal sentiment.

Wikked Lil' Grrrl says:
Just a little... "low-brow" for someone of your style.

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
Hey, I like potty humour as much as the next guy.

sernaferna says:
Well... I guess it depends who the next guy is.

Wikked Lil' Grrrl says:
George Michael?

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
BTW, do you mind if I post this conversation to my blog? It's been so long since I've done that...

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Pink Panther

We watched the new Pink Panther movie, with Steve Martin, on the weekend, but I’m not going to bother posting a movie review about it, because I don’t really have much to say. (It was a slap-stick kind of movie, which I don’t normally go for, but they did have quite a few jokes that I laughed at. Even some of the slap-stick stuff had me laughing, when it was executed well.) I was semi-mesmerized by Emily Mortimer, as Nicole, because I was trying to remember where I know her from, but I looked her up on IMDB, and I don’t recognize anything that she’s been in, so I guess I don’t recognize her. (Addendum: I then looked her up on her Wikipedia page, and it turns out she was in The Kid, with Bruce Willis. I think that I saw that movie, so maybe I remember her from that?)

Anyway, I think the thing I liked best about The Pink Panther is the theme music, originally written by Henry Mancini. I’ve always loved the Pink Panther theme music, and I think most people do. I like the original score better than the “modernized” version that was in the new movie, but still, it was pleasant to watch the movie just to have that music in the background. Actually, now that I think about it, I seem to recall that there was another “modernized” version of the music in one of the Charlie’s Angels movies, that the Pussycat Dolls were dancing to, and I didn’t like that version, either. So this must be one of those songs where the old-fashioned feel is part of its charm, or something.

I really should try and get a copy of that song on CD, or download it, or something. Of course, since I don’t have any kind of file sharing program, that might be difficult…


Actually, both of these things occurred as I was on my way to get lunch, so I guess they’re not totally random. If I wanted to pretend that I’d put any thought into this post, I’d claim that “things I saw on my way to lunch” was the theme. But I’d like to think that all of the people who come here are intelligent people, who wouldn’t fall for a trick like that.


On my way to lunch, today, I passed by the cubicle of a woman who was playing Solitaire on her laptop. I catch her every once in a while—probably about half the time I pass by, when she’s at her desk. Not that I’m judging, or making fun. I just find it kind of funny that I catch her at it so often. She probably doesn’t realize that people can see her screen so well, from the angle she’s on. (I guess the lesson is that people who play Solitaire at work should walk by their desks from different angles, to see how visible the screen is.)

And then, when I walked by the kitchen, I could smell someone else’s lunch. At the time, I was trying to decide what I wanted for lunch—I didn’t want to settle for a burger and fries—so it was a relief to think that I could get whatever the other person had. Until it turned out to be Swiss Chalet. (It was the unmistakable smell of Swiss Chalet fries, I’d been inhaling.) Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go for Swiss Chalet, although smelling the other guy’s fries had kindled a burning desire to do so. I haven’t eaten there in a long time, even though it’s one of my favourite restaurants.

So I ended up getting a burger and fries.

Now, aren’t you glad you took the time to read this?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Why I don’t post that often anymore

Regular readers—if any—will have noticed that I don’t post to my blog as often as I used to. I’ve gone from multiple posts per day to multiple or single posts per week. Part of the reason is that I’ve been self-editing myself.

For example, I was about to start a post this morning, about the fact that I left home an hour late, this morning, and still got to work at the same time. (That’s rush-hour traffic, for you.) I got about three or four paragraphs into the post, before I realized that it was utterly boring and pointless.

So here is the post I would have posted, if I’d let myself carry on: I left home an hour late, this morning, and still got to work at the same time. (That’s rush-hour traffic, for you.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Book Review: Service-Oriented Architecture

Title: Service-Oriented Architecture
Subtitle: Concepts, Technology, and Design
Author: Thomas Erl

I don’t have much to say about this book, other than the fact that it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the topic of Service-Oriented Architecture. Erl is clear and articulate, when laying out the concepts, and brings you to a full understanding of SOA in a way that will make sense to you. Consider this book a textbook for any SOA-related work you want to do, whether you’re an architect, a business analyst, a developer, or perhaps even a manager.

Of course, you’ll need to be prepared for the book’s size and weight; it’s huge. (Even if you’re not interested in SOA, you might want to consider buying the book to help yourself get in shape.) But don’t be daunted by that; there are a lot of diagrams included, and the book is very well laid out, so it won’t take as long to go through as you think it will. (That being said, I’ve been reading this thing since I received it as a Christmas present! But not because of the length; for most of that time, it sat untouched on my bed-side table.)

Not too productive

I don’t normally write about work, however, since I haven’t really done any work today, I don’t feel that this post is breaking the rule. I’ve done almost nothing, so far this morning, other than install software.

It started out with my copy of Enterprise Architect. I’ve been using the trial version, but I was given a proper key, today, so I had to uninstall the trial version, and install the “full” version. Incidentally, for you fellow computer geeks, if you’re looking for a good UML modelling tool, give Enterprise Architect, from Sparx Systems, a try. From what I’ve seen, over the last couple of days, it does everything Rational Rose does and more—even database modelling!—for a tenth of the price. (I believe there is a Linux version of EA as well, although I haven’t had a chance to try it out.)

Then I got a message from Pidgin, that there was a newer version available, so I downloaded that, and installed it. Pidgin is an instant messaging client I’ve been using; I was introduced to it when I first installed Ubuntu, because that’s the IM client that comes by default. (It used to be called GAIM, but there were some legal issues, and they decided to change the name to Pidgin. There’s some more detail on the Wikipedia article.) Incidentally, this means that I am currently running three IM clients, on my laptop: Office Communicator, which I use for communicating with the client; MSN Messenger, which is the main IM client I use for both work and personal; and Pidgin, which I only use for personal, and even then, hardly at all.

And finally, I opened up OpenOffice Impress—the “presentation software” that’s an equivalent to PowerPoint—to see how good it was at exporting a PowerPoint deck into Flash, and it told me that there was an OpenOffice upgrade, from 2.2 to 2.2.1, that I could install. So I downloaded it, and upgraded.

And it’s now quarter to 12, and I’m ready to do some real work. Oh, yeah, and I have to leave early today. So today won’t have been the most productive day I’ve ever worked, I don’t think. Unless I do a lot of work, over the next few hours…

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Driving Traffic

Today I did something that I don’t normally do: I commented on someone else’s blog, and left a link to my own. I don’t normally do anything that will drive traffic here, mostly because I have a blogging inferiority complex—I’m pretty sure that anyone who comes here will immediately become bored. Possibly to the point that they won’t be legally allowed to operate heavy machinery.

Also—and this is, perhaps, a more important point—I never say anything of substance here. Why would I bother to send a link to someone else if I don’t have anything to link to?

Oh well. What’s done is done.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Book Review: A Complicated Kindness

Author: Miriam Toews

It’s difficult to review this book. It’s about a Mennonite girl, Nomi, living in a Mennonite town. (In the book, “Mennonite” is always shortened to “Menno”. “Mennonites” are “Mennos”, a “Mennonite town” is a “Menno town”.) The girl is 16, and the book is written in the first person, and Toews does a good job of imitating the voice of a 16 year old girl. (From what I can tell.)

It’s difficult to review the book because it’s very good, and I didn’t like it. I’m not just saying that it’s good because it won awards—including the Governor General’s Literary Award, as the book proudly proclaims from the cover—I’m saying it’s good because I can tell that it’s good. Well, in my judgement, anyway. I can say with authority that I don’t like it because I don’t like it.

I can safely tell you, without spoiling anything, that the book is centred around Nomi and her father. As I said, they’re Mennos. The father is a good Menno, has never missed church. The girl’s older sister left home some time before, and her mother left home not long after. Both were excommunicated from the church. The book simply examines the way they deal with the situation.

Part of the reason I didn’t like the book is that it’s about Mennos. It would be very easy for someone to read the book and come away feeling superior to them. That may not have been Toews’ intention, but it would be very easy for someone to do. You could read the book, and come away thinking “Wow, Mennos are really backwards, aren’t they?” And then you could spend the rest of the day feeling smug and superior. I don’t feel superior to them, because I don’t feel superior to anyone. Andrea pointed out that she didn’t feel superior, partly because Mennos aren’t that much different from Baptists. If we were to go off and create our own town somewhere, with only Baptists allowed, we might live similarly to them. Of course, the fact that we wouldn’t go off and start a town like that is part of what makes Baptists different from Mennos. But I’m not trying to compare us, nor to judge superiority of one over the other. I’m just relaying Andrea’s thoughts on whether people might come away from the book feeling superior. I guess I should also mention that Toews came from a Menno town, and therefore I assume she writes with a certain amount of authority.

Part of the reason I didn’t like the book is that Toews does a good job of relaying the voice of a 16 year old girl. Especially the kind that would skip school more often than she went, and smoke a lot of pot—the kind of girl that I would have enjoyed hanging out with, when I was 16. Why don’t I like that she did such a good job? Well… have you ever read the writings of a 16 year old? The best one can usually say is that it shows promise. And I just read 246 pages of it.

Part of the reason I didn’t like the book is that Nomi and her father are having a lot of problems dealing with the loss of Nomi’s sister and mother. I won’t say that they’re descending into madness, or anything like that, but I will say that they’re not acting normally. Some might say that the book is an excellent portrayal of two people, and how they deal with their grief; to me, it seems too over the top, and therefore unrealistic. Then again, who am I to say?

So I’ll sum up the review the way I started it: The book is very good, and I didn’t like it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Paris Hilton Redux

I wrote that I’d only seen one article about the whole Paris Hilton situation that I felt was worth reading. Based on a tip from the Colbert Report, I have now seen something else worth watching—on, of all places, MSNBC.

Now, to be clear, MSNBC wasn’t making any sense of the situation. Oh no! They were being as irresponsible as all of the other media outlets. It was, believe it or not, Tommy Chong who was bringing clarity to the situation. For some bizarre reason, Contessa Brewer invited Chong on to give his opinion on the situation, and, to her surprise, he gave it.

I love it when people speak truth to the media, these days. And the response is pretty typical; he was making some valid points—mainly that the media is paying a lot of attention to Hilton, which is taking away time from important news, like the Alberto Gonzales situation—and Brewer simply called him a conspiracy theorist.

What kind of a world do we live in when Tommy Chong becomes the voice of reason? Maybe he wasn’t extremely eloquent about it, but it’s harder to be eloquent on the spur of the moment than it is in a blog, especially when the talking head who’s interviewing you is constantly trying to interrupt you.

If you’re interested, here is a link to the segment on the Colbert Report when Colbert discussed it with Chong.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paris Hilton

If you’re alive, live in North America, and are a sentient human being, you’ve probably been inundated with news about Paris Hilton’s arrest, and going to jail and coming back out and going back in again.

I’ve seen/heard/read story after story, and every time, I get a little more disgusted with the media.

I’ve only come across one article that was worth reading—and even it wasn’t an “article”, per se, it was an editorial piece. If you’d like to read it, click here.

My Haircut

I remember what it was I was going to write about, having to do with my haircut. Not that it’s important, but I’ll share it now:

As he was using the razor on the back of my head, and trimming the sideburns and all that, he trimmed the hair in my ears. This, ladies, and gentlemen, is proof positive that I’m getting old. I never knew I even had hair in my ears, but I actually had enough that the guy felt he needed to control it a bit.

I think I need to blog more often. Soon I’ll be so old and decrepit that I won’t be able to lift my fingers to type on the keyboard anymore. Who will continue the serna Bible Blog when I’m gone?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Saturday

Phew. Today was a busy day!

It started with choir practice. Our concert is next Saturday, the 16th, so of course we’re having as many practices as we can, to get ready. Practice is supposed to be 10–12 Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, not a single person was on time, today. Not. One. Single. Person. This was not a good way to start the day.

After that, we went to the dentist. I was pretty worried about this. Not that I’m normally worried about the dentist—I’ve never had a cavity, and trips to the dentist are usually pretty uneventful—but I haven’t been to a dentist in over three years, so I was afraid that there would be some problems. Luckily, my fears were unfounded, and my teeth were fine. Maybe a bit stained, but no cavities or anything. The interesting thing, though, was when the hygienist suggested that I get braces. My front teeth stick out—a lot—so she suggested that I might want to get them straightened. They don’t need to be straightened, it would be purely a visual thing, but she put the bug in my ear.

Normally, I wouldn’t give it any thought at all, and would probably consider it a vanity to get my teeth straightened. We’re too self-conscious, in North America, about piddly little things like that. On the other hand, I have to admit, I am self-conscious about them. Especially this week; I was watching a video, in the last couple of days, of me talking, and I was watching the way that I have to specifically talk around my teeth, and it made me very self-conscious about them. I’ve always known that they look… off, but I didn’t realize how much so. So, I’m not saying that I’ll get braces, but it’s on my mind, and I’m going to give it some thought.

After we left the dentist, Andrea and I were in the car, heading to get her hair cut, and having a detailed discussion about the possibility of me getting braces, when we got in an accident. Now, let me stress, for the record: It wasn’t my fault. I’ve been in numerous accidents, most of which have been my fault, but this one wasn’t. We were driving through an intersection, on the green light, and there was a car turning left. For some reason, she decided to go while we were still in the intersection, and she hit the back of my car. (Pictured below.)

It was bizarre, because I don’t know what she could have been thinking. It was obvious she couldn’t go, and yet, for some reason, I guess she thought she could. She even hesitated a bit, as if she wasn’t sure of herself. I tried to swerve out of the way—which might have helped—but not enough to avoid her altogether. As she hit me, I could hear the crunching, the scraping, and the broken glass, and I knew it was going to be a good amount of damage. But then, when I got out of the car, and looked at the damage, there wasn’t any! Well, there was a big scrape, along the back panel, but other than that, no damage. Not even a tail light that was out. (And, frankly, with the rust on the hood of my car, an extra scrape on the back isn’t really a big deal.) We went back and looked at her car, and her front headlight was smashed out, which explained some of the sounds I’d been hearing, during the accident.

Of course, we decided not to bother with insurance, as there wasn’t anything to fix on my car, and the cost of fixing her light would have been less than the deductible she’d be paying anyway. Possibly the strangest thing about the accident is that the woman who was driving the other car wasn’t really sure what had happened. She was even wondering, at one point, who’s fault it might have been, but Andrea was having none of that, thank you very much. It was pretty obvious who’s fault it was, and she made no bones about it. (She wasn’t impolite, of course. She just didn’t let the woman keep any false pretenses about what had happened.)

After this, we continued on our merry way to get Andrea’s hair cut. I decided to get mine cut, too, while we were there, and I could have swore that there was something worth writing about, from the hair cut, but I’m not remembering what it was. It probably wasn’t important. (Not like all of the other stuff I’ve written about, eh?)

Not much happened after we got home. Except that I got a call from James, from Jeremy’s house. Apparently all of my friends back home are rip-roaring drunk, and wanted to let me know that they’re having fun without me. Jerks. (Actually, they probably weren’t that drunk. At least, most of them. And by the time you read this, I doubt any of them will be drunk anymore.) While I was on the phone with them, it was reported to me that a friend of mine—Hi Terri!—has started a “group” on Facebook, devoted to getting me to sign up. (Is “group” the right word?) She’s apparently gotten 23 people in this group, including people that I don’t know.

You can create all the groups you want, people, I’m not joining. Heh.

I had to hang up the phone with them, though, so that I could come to work, since I have to pull another all-nighter tonight. Which is where I was when I typed this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Becoming a writer

Once again, I’ve got the urge to become a full-time writer. Not just a computer nerd who sometimes takes a few weeks out of a year to update his book on XML, but a real, full-time, stay-at-home-and-do-nothing-else, writer. Of course, I still want to do it for all the wrong reasons.

But I’ve also added a new reason to the list: I’m not happy with my job, these days. I’m not sure if it’s the job itself, or the situation, but I think the reason is that WORK-RELATED REASON WHY SERNA IS NOT HAPPY WITH HIS JOB REMOVED FROM SENTENCE. Which is pretty reasonable, don’t you think?

I sometimes wonder how well my sense of humour really comes through, in blog form. It’s probably not nearly as funny to everyone else as it is to me—which makes it exactly like my sense of humour in real life. (Did I ever write here about Andy Kaufman? No? Oh well. I don’t feel like getting into it right now. Look him up on Wikipedia, if you’re interested.)

I should really get to work on finishing my novel, so that I can send it to someone knowledgeable, so that I can get an opinion as to whether it’s publishable. If so, I’ll be more than happy to pursue that, and then, when the money starts rolling in, quit my day job.

Or, when the money starts dribbling in, do that and my day job. Which means I would have two jobs. Hmm. Maybe I should think this through a bit more…