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Lighting storm on August 8, 2009

On the evening of August 8th, 2009, Southern Ontario was struck by an incredible lightning storm. In St. George, rather than direct strikes, the sky was constantly lit up by indirect sheet lightning, although accompanied by very little sound. I took some pictures and the resulting colors are a bit spooky. The full album is here. All pictures were taken through a window (I wasn’t about to sacrifice my hair for the sake of photography), with the shutter staying open for 3 seconds. It was after dark, and the sky was pitch black when there wasn’t any lightning, making the lit sky in the pictures all that much more incredible. I give you these two for weird sky colors.

From Lightning Storm on August 8, 2009
From Lightning Storm on August 8, 2009

Posted in General.

Kezia the dancer

Kezia, aged 4, is our resident dancer. There wasn’t enough light in the kitchen for the lens I had on my brand new Nikon D90, but I do think the blurring adds to the effects of her delight in twirling around.

From Family

Posted in General.

Canoe Update – August

A bit more work on the canoe, one half of the bottom is complete, center line is cut, and I’ve got two of the sixteen or so planks on the other half complete. The second half of the bottom is tricky, as both ends have to fit perfectly in what feels like 18 different axis. And if you cut the second end too short you start all over again. Pictures below, and more on my Picasa page. Enjoy!

From Canoe
From Canoe

Posted in General.

Model Rocketry

Noah received a model rocket for his birthday, so we built it over the weekend and launched it Sunday evening, when the wind died down to nothing. Here are some pictures of the event. Our new camera was fast enough to pick up the actual launch.

Posted in General.

Mikaela’s missing front teeth

Mikaela recently lost her two front teeth. Here’s a great picture of her attempting to look at said gap. Click thru for a bigger version.

From Family

Posted in General.

Canoe Update

I’ve done some more work on the canoe, the sides are covered, and one half of the bottom is complete. Next up is cutting a very precise center line and finishing the other half of the bottom. More pictures available on my Picasa page.

From Canoe
From Canoe

I’m writing this using the new WordPress client for BlackBerry. Very slick app.

Posted in Personal.

Stop-action Lego Movie

Noah decided today he needed to make a stop-action lego movie. He pulled out our camera and took over 300 pictures, to make the movie below. Some quick iMovie action, and presto! you have the movie, available below or here.

My Opa, Jan van der Meer, created a few movies this way, but the old-fashioned way, with a 35mm camera. How he got the pictures from single shots to 8mm video is unknown, although my Mom claims it involved a lot of tape. Noah chose to copy some of his style, look for the blocks helping each other up to create the wall.

Posted in General.

Noah on the Violin

Here is a video of my son Noah playing at his recital, where he attacks his song. He doesn’t just play it, he marched up to the front and attacked it as if it was a battle he had to win. I’m biased, but I think he won the fight. Noah is accompanied by his Aunt Ang on the piano. Watch below or click here to view it. Enjoy!

Posted in General.

Building a canoe

A long time ago I decided I would someday build a canoe. That day has come. I decided to build a 17′ Nomad, which is really a typical a 17′ version of the very popular 16′ Prospector. The plans and kit came from Bear Mountain Boats, based nearby in Peterborough. Ron Frenette, of Canadian Canoes, is associated to Bear Mountain Boats, and graciously offered to lend (and deliver!) me his strongback (the red part in the upcoming pictures) and deliver the kit. I can’t say enough about how eager Bear Mountain Boats and Ron are to help out their customers.

The target launching date for this boat is the beginning of September, when we have a Dad & Kid’s canoe trip planned. Whether I’ll make it is yet to be seen, but things are so far going well.

I have an image gallery setup over here that I will update, here follow a few samples for your viewing pleasure.

Posted in General.

A few miscellaneous updates

Due to the expiring without warning, this blog was moved from to Why gybe? First off, it was available. Second, it’s a sailing term (also spelled jibe) for turning through the wind, which fits my current fascination with boats. Third, it was available.

Because the domain expiry coincided with the birth of my fourth child, my venue for announcing it was gone, so here it is. On April 15th my daughter Abriel Josie was born, weighing in at 7 pounds 11 ounces. She is now four weeks old, and all is well. Pictures are available here.

My colleagues at RIM organized a gift basket, and the last few pictures there are the results of that gift. This one is my favourite.

Abriel Josie in the latest BlackBerry accessory

I hope to post a few more times than once a month to this new blog.

Posted in General.

Typing Speed

After reading this great post of how programmers need to be good typists, I tried out my skill on this typing test. I came out with 75 words per minute… not bad eh!

Posted in General.

What is this bird?

This bird killed a Mourning Dove right outside my (home) office window this morning. I’m fairly certain it was a young Peregrine Falcon, but the map ranges show they don’t live anywhere close to Southern Ontario. The tail (not really seen in the pictures) was fairly long, with horizontal dark brown stripes on it.

We didn’t see the kill, but based in its behavior I can only speculate that it knocked the Mourning Dove out of the sky, as it sat in the tree above it for a while before going down to the ground, sitting on it for a few minutes, and then flying away with it.

Any ideas what it was?

Posted in General.

Oracle SQL: Converting Hex to Decimal and Bit Operations

I realized the other day how much I depend on Google to help find quick answers, and how much information is actually out on the web. I also realized that I don’t contribute much, so I’m hoping to change that.

I needed to check bitmasks against an Oracle DB the other day. My bitmask was in hex (base 16 for the uninitiated), and the Oracle DB’s column was in decimal, so I first needed to convert the hex into decimal, and then do a bit AND operation.

For this example, the table is “TABLE1” and the column is “BITMASK”. Let’s say that we’re looking for all rows where bit 5 is set, which is 0x10, or decimal 16. (Yes the conversion is simple in this example, but not when you’re looking for bit 78). In that case the query looks like:


Let’s pull that apart. BITAND(val1, val2) is a function that does a bit AND between val1 and val2, similar to the “val1 & val2” operation in Java and C/C++. The TO_NUMBER() function converts the string “10” from hex to decimal. Then we look for rows where the BITAND() method returns 1, and presto, we have our bit AND operation against Oracle.

Oramoss Blog
Oracle Users’s Coop

Posted in General.


I took Noah and his cousin Mitchell to Massassauga park last week, leaving Thursday to site 6, and staying for two nights. The weather was very nice (20 degrees C in the daytime), and the colors were incredible. The reds are so red it looks almost impossible. I’ve uploaded some pictures to my shiny new Picasa page here: As for wildlife, we didn’t see much other than the usual chipmunks, loons and assorted birds. We did hear a moose calling, but never saw it. Oddly enough, we didn’t see any other humans until later Friday afternoon, which was a bit strange, but Noah and Mitchell made up for the lack of noise.

Posted in General.

Selling Home Theatre’s on the street

Driving through Waterloo today, a guy in the next lane flagged me down while waiting at a red light. “Hey buddy, wanna buy a home theatre? It’s still in the box, I got the receipts! Real cheap!”.

My only response was to laugh and drive away. It left so many unanswered questions…

Posted in General.

Algonquin Park

We have just returned from yet another camping trip to Algonquin Park. I’ve uploaded some pictures to my flickr page. It rained a lot, but we caught some fish, swam, saw some sun, investigated a bear print on the trail, and generally had a good time.

Posted in General.

Entourage vs Outlook

I’ve very recently switched to using a MacBook Pro at work, and consequently have moved from using Microsoft Outlook to Microsoft Entourage as my main email client.

As an aside, I rather dislike Outlook, and have tried Thunderbird, but Exchange’s IMAP implementation is broken, causing all sorts of grief, and the lack of calendar integration drove me back to Outlook, horrible as it is.

Back to the main thread, both clients, Outlook and Entourage, are written by Microsoft (although I think by different departments), but Entourage is infinitely better. Here’s where Entourage beats Outlook:

  • Search actually works! It’s integrated with Spotlight, but it works!
  • Threading messages works reasonably well too (sorting by conversation), and isn’t ugly like Outlook.
  • When you view a message that you’ve previously replied to, the window has a small yellow bar that states “You replied to this message on 01/05/08. Show Reply”. Click on the Show Reply and you see your reply. This feature is so insanely simple to use, and very powerful.
  • Entourage allows you to mark a message as “To Do”, which a date. Any message marked as such shows up in your Task List.

That’s just barely scratching the surface, but these simple features make Entourage actually usable. Why can’t Outlook have these as well?

Posted in General.


Is the Caps Lock button on your keyboard useless? Mine is… or it was until yesterday. The old HP console keyboards, found only in datacenters attached to very large servers, had the ‘Esc’ key where the Caps Lock key traditionally is. It took a bit to get used to that, but very quickly you realized that this was a great spot when you are a heavy VI user.

So yesterday I remapped my Caps Lock key to be another Esc key. In Linux this is easy:

  • Create a file called .Xmodmap in your home directory with the contents:
    remove Lock = Caps_Lock
    keysym Caps_Lock = Escape
  • Run xmodmap: “xmodmap .Xmodmap” or logout and login again.

Presto, the Caps Lock key has become useful!

There are ways to do this in Windows, and Apple of course makes it dead simple (go the Keyboard section of the Keyboard and Mouse preference section).

Posted in General.

Five-year old spelling

This morning I received an email with a knock-knock joke from Mikaela (age five). It said:

nok nok hooz thar kamol kamol hoo i thot you wr supoost to wok a mile not 2 sekinz


She wrote it phonetically, spelling the words the way they sound. If you read it out loud, you can make out what she wrote (hint: last word is supposed to be ‘cents’. And in case you don’t get the joke, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but that’s the point.

Posted in General.

Garage Door Springs

A few days ago my garage door broke. Specifically the big spring broke. Having helped a few times with replacing a similar spring, I understood the dangers of doing, but this guy made me laugh out loud with the title “How I replaced deadly garage door springs, and lived to tell the tale”. He has an excellent reference on what makes the door tick err… go up, and while it is dangerous if you’re not careful, it’s no worse than running a piece of wood through a table saw (and I should know!). Thanks to my brother’s help we replaced the spring it in less than an hour. I’m sure a select few out there have lost limbs from letting a wound spring go, but the garage door companies also use it as a marketing ploy to push their services.

Posted in General.