Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

May 6th, 2003

Fun with train times

There’s a fairly detailed rant/analysis of the new on-line rail timetable in The Register and all it’s failings. Some of the things mentioned in the article have already been corrected (for example the ‘Today’ and ‘Tomorrow’ buttons are back), however the best part of the article is the link to the German alternative. Yes you can search for UK train times using the German site, and it’s better than the new UK version!

Not only can you search for train times for journeys in the UK, but it seems to handle most European countries. For example you can work out that you can take the “train” from Helsinki (yep Finland) to Preston in a mere 44 hours 52 mins!

For the curious: You take a two hour train from Helsinki to Turku, the overnight ferry to Stockholm, then back on the train to Hamburg with a change in Koebenhavn. Another train to Bruxelles (Brussels), the Eurostar to Waterloo, underground to Euston and then a direct train to Preston.

Perhaps more realistically you can do Preston to Venice in just shy of 21 hours, with only 3 changes (excluding the underground)! If you fancy having a play yourself check the timetable site out.

May 3rd, 2003

First Skate

I’ve just had my first skate of the year, and my feet hurt. I managed to spend half an hour (I know, pathetic isn’t it?) outside in the bright sunshine skating around the neighbourhood without falling once.

If the weather is this good next weekend I think I’ll head down to the beaches, the paths there should be in far better condition than the roads around our house are, and the scenery is far more interesting.

May 3rd, 2003

Wedding photos on-line

I’ve uploaded a few pictures from Kevin and Mary’s wedding. If you would like to see them (see me in a suit!) drop me an email and I’ll send you the login details.

May 1st, 2003

Display in IE

I think I’ve tracked down the reason for this page not being displayed correctly in IE. I was setting the width of the left hand column explicitly, which worked fine in Mozilla but caused IE to display visual glitches. Having removed this it now seems to display OK in both browsers (you may have to control-reload the page to see the fix).

Mozilla’s “DOM Inspector” was very useful in helping to find this – highly recommended for web development.

May 1st, 2003

SARS Update

On the way in to work this morning I spotted the Metro headline, that two more people have died of SARS in Toronto, so I looked up what the Globe & Mail were saying on the subject. The article is interesting because I learnt a couple of things that I’ve not seen mentioned elsewhere:

Although SARS has been linked to a specific coronavirus, that virus is being detected in fewer and fewer cases. And, more puzzling, it has been found in some people who show no symptoms, suggesting that it is possible to contract SARS without ever knowing it.

Francis Plummer, the scientific director at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, told the conference at a Toronto hotel that only 40 per cent of people who have been diagnosed as probable SARS cases have tested positive for the virus. That number has declined in recent days to almost zero – something the scientists are at a loss to explain.

So it appears that cause of SARS is still a bit of a mystery. It makes sense that in some cases the virus would show up without any of the symptoms, but why would people with the symptoms of SARS not have the virus present if it does indeed cause the disease?

April 30th, 2003

How far have we fallen from the true art?

I happened upon “Real Programmers Don’t Use Pascal” today. It could have been re-written several times since 1982 with a whole series of languages and environments given the same treatment as that handed out to Pascal here. My favourite part:

Real Programmers are reluctant to actually edit a program that is close to working. They find it much easier to just patch the binary object code directly, using a wonderful program called SUPERZAP (or its equivalent on non-IBM machines). This works so well that many working programs on IBM systems bear no relation to the original FORTRAN code. In many cases, the original source code is no longer available. When it comes time to fix a program like this, no manager would even think of sending anything less than a Real Programmer to do the job — no Quiche Eating structured programmer would even know where to start. This is called “job security”.

April 29th, 2003

There and back again

We got back last night from a short trip back home to the UK. The last flight back is a nice one, we had enough time for a meal in London before heading to Heathrow, and by getting in after midnight you feel absolutely no guilt going to bed straight away.

The UK had mixed, but generally mild, weather. It was nice to see greenery again after such a long winter, although on return we found the start of spring underway here in Toronto. As a concession to the SARS madness we now have anti-bacterial soap in the bathrooms at work and disinfectant wipes for our keyboards and phones…

April 21st, 2003

Time for a nice cup of tea and a sit down…

This site is inspiring, and proves that maybe wasn’t such a bad name to choose after all:

On a more serious note there’s been some positive moves in Cyprus recently, including the opening of the borders, along with positive moves from Turkey, so there is some hope for finally resolving this long running dispute…

April 21st, 2003


So why is it that a student that has paid no tax, and owes no tax to either the federal or provincial government ends up with more extensive and complex paper work to fill out, than say a migrant worker who has paid lots of tax, and still owes a little more?

It’s a challenge to try and follow the bizarre arithmetic involved in filing taxes, which in some cases seems to be deliberately obscure. The ones that stump me:

  • What the hell is the GST/HST credit?
  • How much is the Ontario surtax? (It’s computed as: (Line 35 minus $3,685) x 20% + (Line 35 minus $4,648) x 36%)
  • Why do you multiply line 43 by two to get line 44?

April 19th, 2003

New release of TALAggregator

I’ve just uploaded version 0.3 of TALAggregator. This release addresses some template bugs (images now sit properly underneath one another), and cleans up some missing things (like user agent identification).

Copyright 2015 Colin Stewart

Email: colin at