Saturday, November 26, 2005

VLC 0.8.4 is out!

Oooooooooh yeah baby!

The most polyvalent media player out there just got better! It reads DVD, pretty much all video formats, and pretty much all music formats. I think only RealMedia is out of its reach (yet). It acts as a streaming server, etc.

You know you want it.

VLC Media Player

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Book Review: The Screwtape Letters

Title: The Screwtape Letters
Author: C.S. Lewis
Publisher: Various, latest is HarperSanFrancisco
ISBN: 0060652934

Rating: very good

Summary: very insightful at the work of Satan in the life of someone. The most interesting is that it is done from the perspective of Satan, with a major demon coaching a minor demon on his first mission. The reader can read through it as bedside reading, or can analyse the arguments, and will thus satisfy pretty much all readers. Obviously, C.S. Lewis pushes his theology and understanding in a very informal way. As such, I would use that as a starting point for thinking about sin in our lives and not as a reference to quote.

Book Review: Victory of Surrender (2nd edition)

Title: The Victory of Surrender (2nd edition)
Author: Gordon Ferguson
Publisher: DPI
ISBN: 1577821858

Review: go out of your way to read this!

Short summary: Ferguson talks about God's omnipotence and our need to submit to Him fully. One chapter deals very intelligently (and convincingly) about the problem of evil. A study guide helps the reader with the practical side of things.

This book talks about the necessity for a Christian to submit fully to God. It is presented in a very Paulinian manner: the first parts deal with the theology, and then practical analysis (notably with finding God's will, conflicts, family and evangelism).
The thesis brought forward by Gordon Ferguson is strongly explained, and the Biblical references are there to make sure that the whole assembly sits on solid foundations. The picture drawn is black-and-white, and quotes such as "A Bible teacher of mine once said that anxiety is practical atheism" (p.42) leave no room for doubt over the importance of the topic of surrender.
He warns the reader that for every surrender will come challenges of surrender, where our decision will be solidly put to trial. He warns us of the risks of being lead by our emotions, and the need to rely on Bible study, prayer and wise advice far more than what our closed set of logic says.
In the third section, we learn about God's nature. The problem of evil is treated, and the reader can realize the need to fully trust God in their lives for all matters, that is he willing, capable and good-intended for us.
I have ran out of time to write the rest of this review, but I think this should be a good enough starting point. Enjoy :)

Wash me with hissop, and I shall be white as snow

We all know that snippet of Psalm 51.

It is very coherent with what is going on as a) the snow is staying on the ground now... winter has officially started! (yay!!!) and b) I spent time with a brother for reconciliation.
We know each other better now. I still need to fight off and pray about my tendency to resent at a emotional level.

Still, I'm feeling better.


As a sidenote, the Operating Systems Security presentation went well. Things were not perfect, but it went well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hmmm... molto radio!

I found a comprehensive database of public radio. There is a lot more that support Vorbis format than I thought...

Go see the Public Radio Fan now!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Adaptations...

So, we have a new brother in the household... he is going through very particuliar personal circumstances. Ihad many opportunities to servie him in very many ways.

We did our group demo in Cryptography also, and I got to work hard on my research which opened on interesting directions.

Graduation is confimed... it will be on Dec. 5th! I can't wait to get that piece of paper that will make it all official.

So, I'll have to stop living for the next 3 weeks until the rush goes on.
This week, it is the Operating Systems presentation. Last week's presentations did not impress me, nor did they teach me a lot. It was mostly VPNs and buffer overflows... not that I didn't write on these things when I was undergrad. I'm eager to make that presentation and hand in that report. We're talking about real actual research here :)
Speaking of research, I had a good idea this week. My supervisor liked it and asked me to get a first draft going. I was able to reuse a lot of material from another paper project (that's useful to have a very comprehensive "previous work" section).
There's an interesting thing that unfolded this week. I was doing some research and saw that a major standardization body was doing some work close to my work area. My surpervisor being connected as he is, he managed to get us involved in that standarization work... On one hand, I'm excited about the opportunity (how good will that look on a resumé!), on the other hand I'm a bit afraid... international politics, long stays in hotels potentially far from any church, some non-negligible distraction from my courses, the mission field, the ministry and so on.
Basically, reasons for prayer.
What about the rest of the week? There is not much to tell... mostly work and studies.
I got a tooth extracted and had two fillings this week too.
The Cryptography presentation did go too well, but the prof was still satisfied.
On other news, I had good time at the CCF meeting. The teaching was OK, even though the Bible wasn't opened enough at my liking. I'm annoying like that.... I demand one Biblical reference after another. I had the chance to talk with a Swiss girl, who believes in baptism as well. That was interesting in itself.
There was a good birthday party on Thursday for a sister. I saw the end of a popular movie which popularized the t-shirt "vote for pedro". I didn't have the chance to speak with her for a while, it was some kind of catchup.
On Saturday, I spent time with brothers, then we cleaned the house, then we did the communal grocery for the household. Afterwards, we ate a little bit, then I got to the Singles' hanging out time. It was a concert at McGill's Redpath Hall by the McGill Chamber Music Ensembles.
First, it was Haydn, String Quartet in C major, Op. 76, No. 3 "Kaiser", interpreted by Nora Pellerin, Nathalie Duchesne, Yuri Sinto-Girouard and Geniève Lessard-Lapierre.
Then came Martinu, Trio in C major for piano, flute and violin, Op. 291 "th Madrigal Sonata", with Tomoko Inui, Miriam Hartropp and Pieter Viljoen.
Finally, we had Brahms, Trio for clarinet, cello and piano in A minor, Op. 114, interpreted by Shauna mcDonald, David Eggert and Michelle Nam.
I personally loved Haydn's piece the most... I loved the small canons that built up very much.
Martinu's work was more cacophonic to my ear. I did not enjoy it very much.
Brahms work I enjoyed well too, even though I did not really hear those little plays between the instruments, not was it as "gentle" as the Baroque style I like so much.
Afterwards, I was with a brother and a sister and went to Mont Royal to have a view at the city from there. We prayed for the mission field in front of us. They went to my place, and I served them some food and tea.
On Sunday, we had a very convicting preach on Romans 12, 13. I got to talk to a few to work on the friendships that gone cold because of unresolved issues. Something I should have done much earlier... I'm glad its done. Still, there are 2 that I need to take care of as well.
I ate out with brothers and sisters, then slept a little (I'm still undersleeping because of stress). We fixed some food and so on. The new roomate proposed a DVD, The Apostle, which is so overfull of false doctrine that it hurt. Then there was the broken southern US accent made it hard to follow... Yet, this guy was indeed an example of zeal for Christ.
I gave a phone call to a sister and asked for the women's perspective on friendships. I am working on a teaching on this topic. Its been generally remarked that the church here has a few problems with loving one another. She told me good news: there was a baptism in Toronto this Sunday! Amen.
This week has been full of blessings in many ways, with many adaptations, challenges, and so on. Can't say God is not at work.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Toronto Weekend

So, I decided to be a bit crazy by going to Toronto, for a set of lectures from Douglas Jacoby sponsored by the Toronto Church of Christ.
Crazy because I have a project demo this Monday...

Friday, 5PM, my train was leaving to Toronto. It was the first time I travelled by train in North America (after using this mode of transportation abusively while in Europe).
This option was more expensive than the bus, but the fact that it took that one 4h15 to reach destination, compared to the ~7h that the buses took, was a major motivator.
The train did remind me a little bit of the Swiss trains for the airplane-like seat arrangement. It had a lot bigger storage space for luggage, was only on one floor, and was definitely a LOT noisier than a Swiss InterCity (but not as bad as a very old clunky Regio). It was weird to hear the whistle all the time. It was so frequently that it did feel like "all the time". Good thing I could put music on :)
Arriving, I got to the rendezvous metro station and waited for my hospitable brother at Starbuck, because Tim Hortons did not have power plugs for me to connect my laptop (my battery is pretty low), I got to Starbucks.
After he picked me up, we chatted a bit, petted his cat, then got to bed.
Saturday, we ate breakfast together, prayed in the car together, and went to Convocation Hall to attend the lecture from Douglas Jacoby on reasons to believe. I was with a few brothers and sisters to lunch in Chinatown, and got the following classes on archeological evidence and world religions.
Overall, my expectations were very high, and they were not met. The format where we could ask questions was good, but not what exactly I was hoping for.
I went to study and worked on my OS project afterwards, then got to spend the evening with 2 sisters, and loved it very much. We ate at a Hong Kong restaurant (both sisters are from Hong Kong) and I got to try out Ox Tongue... it was very yummy. I'd eat it anytime. We spent 3 hours together, and it was cool to know their dreams, their conversion stories, what they think of their native land, etc.
I definitely want to keep in touch with them.
On Sunday, we got to Convocation Hall again for the worship service. Douglas Jacoby was teaching about evolution, dynosaurs, the big bang, etc.
I did not realize the importance of the Big Bang from a theological perspective, because it means that the scientists recognize that there was a start to the universe... a nothing that lead to something!
In general, he stressed the importance to dissociating the why from the how... evolution does not necessarily mean that God does not exist... its a matter of mechanism to let creation happen. Same thing for the Big Bang. In fact, the fine tuning required for a working universe (with margins of errors of the magnitude of 10^-20) hints towards God.
A brother took good care of me after service and escorted me back to the train station. I cancelled my ticket and returned with brothers from Montreal after a little bit of wait.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Double-ration of blessings

This week was interesting...

The planning to Toronto was flipped upside down when the brothers who were supposed to drive with me pulled out altogether.
Then, there were a few last minuteness regarding the accomodation... my planning side was not happy.

But all fell in place anyway.


I spent a good chunk of time studying a standard draft document. It presents both opportunities and risks for my research, so it is important that I take more time to understand the standard itself, but also the standard body and the working group's direction.
Maybe there is a way to join their effort, which would be a very interesting experience for me.
I'm leaving my classmates to work on the crypto project this weekend. I had to put aside my "code hero" personality for something that was truly important for me: Douglas Jacoby, which would fall close to a role model for me. When I knew he'd be teaching in Toronto, I just jumped at the opportunity. There was only one problem though... our crypto project to hand in on Monday.
I put things in place so that we could make a lot of progress this week, and even coached one team member to work on his not-yet-functional code.
I struggled with impatience (a form of anger, when you think about it), because not all team members were set up for the code-a-thon we set on Wednesday. It was a few hours this week that were focused on helping others do by themselves what I felt I could do for them (you know my pride). In that sense, it was a victory in servantship. Lets hope it translates in a good grade :)
The Bible talk on wednesday was of size... 11!
In August, at the the return of Portland, I began praying for my Bible talk to reach size 10, and to have studies starting afterwards each and every time.
The first part of the prayer was accomplished very quickly, when you think about it.
So, I am "forced" to pray for something more specific: 10 guests :D
One can have worst problems.
Speaking of which, guess what? Money grows from trees!
Or so it feels. I received a letter from my university telling me that I was selected for a Graduate Scholarship. That did boost my morale!
I do confess that, on the spot, I began thinking of how to fiscally optimize it, of how much I'd put in my RRSP, what electronics I'd give myself...
I woke up at some point from my covetous dream and started thanking God for this unexpected blessing. I still need to decide how to split this, but there is definitely a part that goes for the church, another that will go for an organization caring for the poorer abroad (I'm thinking Médecins sans frontières, HOPE Worldwide and Oxfam), another that will pay for this Toronto trip, and another that goes to the RRSP. The rest will likely go for gifts for family, friends and/or self :) I do have more urgent matters anyway.
What's the line-up after my Toronto trip?
Monday, Nov. 14th: Demonstration of our Crypto project
Monday, Nov. 21st: Submission of our report for our Crypto project
Monday, Nov. 28th: final (unconfirmed yet) for Crypto
Thursday Nov. 24th: Presentation of our OS project and report submission
Thursday Dec. 1st: Final exam for OS
Tuesday Dec. 6th: Final exam for Network Security
Wednesday Dec. 7th: Demonstration and report submission for Network Security
So, yeah, you'll have to bear me as a stressed productivity beast for a little while. The good news is that I'll have reverted back to humanity before Christmas!

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

A must read about computer bugs

Wired has a nice article about the 10 worst bugs ever, and a nice illustration of a buffer overflow.

Even though it is technically incorrect at some level, it is still helpful for understanding.



Monday, November 7, 2005

King Treatment by My Parents

Spent the weekend in Québec City with my folks and the church there.

I'm definitely a spoiled single child!

On my arrival on saturday, after a long painful Allo Stop trip (with guys in the car talking about sex nonstop), we did some shopping for winter boots, a new backpack (mine was nearly kaput) and some electric stuff.
We ate a great supper together (my dad did a great job with the steaks) and watched the movie Les Boys II together. Vulgar hockey movie, very stupid, but very funny.
On Sunday, we went to the service together. Afterwards, I ate with a brother, then spent time with another. This took all my afternoon, and was a great opportunity to catch up on their lives, request advice, and give advice when needed. In the evening, I ate at the Quebec Inn with my folks (great, beautiful buffet), then took an Allo Stop ride back home. One guy in the car wanted to know a lot about God, so I spent nearly one hour with him after the ride showing Bible passages and so on.
What else happened in my week?
Lots and lots of work. Deadlines are appearing soon with the projects. My supervisor wants to have a draft of a paper done real quick too. One of my projects is quite bigger than I was expecting, so its a lot of grunt work, trying to match a bunch of problems to a lot of solutions.
On Friday, I was mentally drained, and did not feel like using my brain too much after work, so I watched The Bourne Supremacy. That was good relaxation. Not a great movie, but entertaining nevertheless.
I spent a great time on wednesday night with two brothers, after meeting for the booktable planning.
I had a guest speaker at the Bible talk on Wednesday, so that was easy for me.
There was a big cloud on the board though... on Wednesday, a meeting with our supervisor turned sour. We had issues to deal with him, collectively, and it turned bad the way I was expecting it to be. No more details here.
My supervisor and I still have a friendship, but this could have squashed it.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Pictures of China Garden

Here are those that made the cut. Not edited yet.

As a friendly reminder, those were taken in the Botanical Gardens of Montreal, and mostly in the China Garden, for the Chinese lanterns exhibit they have every year.

The theme of this year was the birds. Those pictures were shot using a low-grade tripod with my digital camera on ISO 50 settings.

Surprisingly, the exposure times were still very small, in the other of the second or so. Still, I had more than one blurry image, especially when I did not have the time to set my tripod correcty.
Some will need cropping to be really presentable, and maybe a rotation or two, but I'm overall satisfied.
Its a real challenge to be taking pictures of glowing things in the dark, and I often shot 3 of the same scence, with different overexposure settings, and had to make difficult decisions on which to keep. A has more visible details, but the lanterns are too white and kind of break it, B is a bit too dark and blends too much in the background, C is (well, you get the point).

I'm happy I finally took the time to do this that I wanted to do.