I’ve had a pretty hectic weekend. I’m going to clear the geek
talk out quickly here with the following bullet points, and move
on to the fun stuff.
- On Friday, I completed my turn to the Dark Side, and made
a well-received presentation about to my software QA class on
regression test selection techniques and their relationship with
extreme programming methodologies. Relevant papers can be found in
the April 2001 issue of “ACM Transactions On Software Engineering
and Methodology” – they’re called “An Empirical Study Of Regression
Test Selection Techniques” and “An Comparative Study Of Coarse-
And Fine-Grained Safe Regression Test Selection Techniques.”
- If you’re not the kind of person who likes both software
development and empiricism, these papers are as exciting as watching
a wall-paint lifecycle in slow motion. Paint drying, waiting,
paint peeling, be still my heart. Me, I thought that the second
paper was only OK, but the first one was supercool. Way to go,
Todd Graves et al.
- All done with the geeking now.
I pulled into Kingston at 8:00, and jumped immediately into
Arlene’s car for the drive to Toronto. The conditions were miserable,
hard rain and patchy fog, but the temperature stayed mercifully
positive for the whole trip, something I was a bit concerned about;
at highway speeds freezing rain is thirty atmospheres worth of
selection pressure, which thankfully didn’t happen. That said,
I did make a few observations about cars and driving in general
that I’d like to share with you:
- Toronto roads are clearly a contested ground between the forces
of good and evil; they invoke a stark theological angst in the
thoughtful driver. Can God create a pothole so large that even He
could not drive around it? Would a just and loving God allow such
a road to exist? At what point do you stop using the word “pothole”
and start using, say, “crevasse”? “Lake”, possibly?
- I only have plenty of time to formalize these thoughts because
my girlfriend, love of my life, sleeps like an olympic-calibre
narcoleptic the moment I turn the ignition. It’s astonishing.
- While I’m sure that this has been said a million times, I
humbly suggest that if you don’t have any intention of actually
passing people, maybe the passing lane isn’t for you. It hardly
bears mentioning, really. But if you, humble reader, happen to be
the morbidly obese owner of a lime-green minivan I spent a full
half-hour diligently tailing this weekend, I’d really like you to
take this advice to heart.
- I have the same reaction when I see a bunch of bumper stickers
on a car that I do when I see somebody walking around in public with
their ass sticking out past the top of their sweat pants. “This
person has given up”, I think. I’m reminded of the “Sacrifice
Zones” from Snow Crash, huge chunks of real estate so disastrously
polluted that the cost of cleaning them up outstrips any possible
future value they might have; the government just puts a fence up
and writes them off. As far as I’m concerned, bumper stickers are
the warning signs they hang on the fence.
The reason for my visit, aside from the uncomplicated joys of
Arlene’s company, was that two of Arlene’s friends from medical
school, Stephen and Sabira, were married this weekend. It was an
incredibly civilized ceremony, minimalist in every way. Less than
eighty people by my guess, succinct and tasteful in all respects. So
much so that I was almost taking notes; a small but very tastefully
furnished venue, a simple, elegant menu… the same words are
going to come up again and again if I describe the whole thing,
but suffice to say that this was the Haiku of wedding ceremonies,
a finely cut diamond in a simple setting.
That elegance, I should note, was only my Saturday. Sunday was
an unmitigated nightmare of gaudy, garish furnishings housed in
unspeakably stripmallesque, um… strip malls.
Arlene and I went shopping for a coffee table for her Sunday
morning, and I can only briefly describe the Lovecraftian,
things-man-was-not-meant-to-know amount of truly awful furniture
that is available in concentrated form on Kennedy Street. It is
a physically palpable thing; a great disturbance in the force, as
if millions of interior decorators suddenly cried out in terror,
and were suddenly silenced. I have seen furniture this weekend
that mortal man should not be made to gaze upon with the naked
eye. I swear that next time Arlene and I go shopping for furniture
I’m bringing welder’s goggles. I am reluctant to share with you a
full account of the Kennedy Street Expedition, of strip mall after
strip mall laden with discount, bargain, indeed all qualities cheap
and chintzy, furniture, but I will tell you of the glass ovals. If
I limit myself to a narrow slice of all the horrors I witnessed,
the “glass oval held off the ground by something” school of coffee
tables, my mortal eyes saw glass ovals held off the ground by the
- Butter-coloured dolphins cavorting in butter-coloured surf.
- An enormous metallic hand with bronze nails.
- A huge plastic orchid.
- A painted metal fish skeleton.
- A large, walnut-coloured wooden mermaid.
- Off-white, or faux-leather brown ceramic books, three feet by five feet.
I was just thinking to myself “You know what would complete
the decor in my place? A wood carving of a midget Atlas, holding a
frilly glass oval off the ground. I will brook nothing less in my
quest to keep my coffee off the ground.”
The horror… the horror…