Healthy Pets

Sharon and I have two pets: a rabbit (Stewie) and a ferret (Chimutisk). Today was a trip to the vet for both of them.

For the most part we do not take our pets to the vet. They get treated like the humans for the most part and do not get to see the veterinarian unless there is something specifically wrong. In this case I was eager to take both in, Chimutisk for a follow up and Stew because we a check-up prior to travel seemed like a good idea.

Overall, both passed with flying colours. The vet has commented that both are in incredibly healthy condition for animals their age.

It makes me really happy to know that I have been able to take good care of these animals and give them a good life. I’m proud that they are both in good shape and healthy. I pay a lot of attention to their diet, and mental stimulation, and I’m glad to see it has paid off.

Stewie (The Rabbit)

The rabbit, Stew, is a 7 year old flop ear bunny.He loves running around the house doing sprints up and down our hallway and running laps around the coffee table.According the the vet he is in really good condition. His teeth and coat are in excellent condition, he is strong and active, and is not a cowering animal.

For seven, he’s in awfully good shape.

Chimutisk (The Ferret)

Unfortunately, Chimutisk was diagnosed with insulinoma two weeks ago. This is very unfortunate, but not totally unexpected for a ferret of his age (5 years old). He is on medication to treat his condition (which is the real reason we went to the vet). Other than his condition, the vet is very impressed with him: clear, inquisitive eyes; nice coat, clean teeth… a healthy geriatric ferret in all ways (except the insulinoma)

Chimutisk’s condition means he needs to have medication given twice a day, which is a 1/2 hour process each time (he needs one drug, wait 20 minutes, then the other). I also have a policy of feeding him a “snack” (generally some egg) 4 times a day, just to make sure he doesn’t let his blood sugar drop. When I explained this to the vet, she was pleasantly surprised that I was doing all of that.

For five, he’s in awfully good shape.

Keeping Contrary Pets

Yes, we have considered the problems associated with keeping both a ferret and a rabbit, however it was somewhat unavoidable. Prior to meeting each other, Sharon and I purchased pets for each of our households. When we began dating we needed to assess whether or not our pets were compatible. We spent three months introducing them, with the knowledge that if it didn’t work out, she and I would not be able to continue forward together.

Everyday, I would bring Chimutisk over to her apartment and leave his kennel next to the couch, allowing Stew time to adjust to the smell and sniff noses with the guy inside. Finally, we took Chimutisk out of his kennel and put him on a leash to see how they would react to one another without bars between them. As they touched noses, I braced to yank Chimutisk away the minute he attacked. Suddenly, Stew jumped up, spun around and kicked Chimutisk in the head, knocking him senseless. That was it, the ferret never wanted anything to do with the rabbit ever again.

We continued to introduce them slowly for the next 2 months, always observed, but the tone was set. The ferret spent the rest of his life avoiding the bunny and the bunny has spent the rest of his life hunting the ferret. It’s not how things like this are supposed to work, but I’ll take it.

One of the sweetest moments was after I had moved into Sharon’s apartment, just prior to us buying a house together. I came home from work, and there was Stew pressed up against the bars of Chimutisk’s cage, sound asleep. Since moving into our new house, both animals have free range of the house (while we are home), and we think its hilarious to watch the ferret take extremely round about routes to avoid the rabbit, or to ask to be picked up when the rabbit is blocking the hallway.

WARNING: This is a dumb idea. Don’t think you can do it. These two species are natural enemies. Ferrets chew the heads of rabbits. Yes this is graphic, but I don’t want you thinking that this will be a cute combination to bring into your house. It has been hard and constant work for 3 years, and that’s with the help of some very good luck.

The Way

I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to get this site up and running; desperately fighting against the lost opportunity of things I want to write about. Now, as I have the site up, and I stare at the blank screen ready for my commentary, I find I don’t know what to say. Perhaps its not that I have nothing to say, but I have so much to say and don’t know where to begin.

This is meant to be an introduction, and as such, must say everything, but tell nothing. It should foreshadow things I will write about, but not give the full detail.I suppose I could begin with a history, what led my wife and I to where we are, and what we hope to achieve; but I’m not sure any of that would be of interest without knowing what it is that we are trying to achieve. I could explain where we are and what we believe, but that has taken us about five years of research, philosophising, and truck stop coffee. How do I wrap that up in a single article? How do I wrap that up without writing a novel?

Perhaps a middle ground.

The Scenario

I’ve always loved the work I do. I don’t think you can be a really good software developer without loving the thrill of the solving an intense and difficult problem. It’s a little more than that though: I’ve always loved working.

Now, a few of my friends have looked at me strangely for this over the years, but I really do love working. I love to apply my effort and see something of value come from my effort. That’s a really cool thing.

I found myself working for an employer, making about half what a person of my skill set should be making, but with the promise of working on some really cool projects and working for a company that really cared for its employees. The problem? If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. I shortly realised that the reason the company needed to offer a games room, and free massages, coffees every Friday, casual dress code… was because you were expected to never leave.

I had a “good” job, a “good” salary. I was exhausted. I could not think straight. I literally had not seen my wife in three months. The company was working me to death, and I was volunteering for it the whole way. Then one day my wife asked me how much I was making per hour, given how many hours I was working… it worked out to the going rate for cashiers at fast food joints. That was the night I received an email from my boss informing me that I wasn’t being a team player and needed to put in more hours to ensure the completion of the current project.

The Problem

Obviously there was a problem, and the first step was to identify what it was. It would be easy to say that the company was mistreating its employees, but as with most problems the obvious answer was mearly a symptom of a larger underlying issue.

That statement identifies what the problem is.

This was not the first company I have worked for that put me in this position. I have spoken with friends and determined that they were experiencing similar situations. I spoke with successful family, I spoke with unsuccessful family. I polled for as much information as possible and I found something interesting; a common cultural thread within business, within Calgary, within people: altruism.

The common thread was altruism.

In nearly every job I had, I had worked for the greater good of the company. I had always felt it was my most sacred duty to work and produce. Remember, that I love to work and build and create; but I had mistaken that love for a love of duty. I was working for other people, not myself. I am not speaking of being an employee here. Creating something for someone else to use and derive benefit from is actually the best thing in the world as far as I’m concerned. What I am referring to is the fact that I was not doing this work because I was gaining something out of it. I should at least derive satisfaction, or financial compensation, or… something. At least then both parties are gaining something. Instead, I was doing it out of a sense of duty to sacrifice myself to the job.

There are months, maybe even years, of discussion and reading in what I just wrote; suffice it to say, I came to the conclusion that if I was going to be working that hard, for that little, I may as well be deriving the full benefit of my effort.

The Solution

Once the problem has been identified clearly, the solution is usually self-evident. The key to this problem lies in the statement “full benefit of my effort”.

It’s a fine thing to say and many people have said it, including the people I saw around me who were miserable. I have watched “successful” people, work for years to form their own companies from the ground up, only to be sick, miserable, and isolated. They had received all of the money from their efforts by working themselves to death. As with all things, we need to look a little deeper.

The real key to this problem lies in the word “benefit”.

Why do we work? What do we hope to obtain? What do we hope to attain? What benefit do we hope to derive from our efforts? These were the questions that had been nagging at me. This narrative is almost deceptive in that it depicts these questions as being the conclusion of a linear set of events, but they had been nagging me for years in one form or another.

Since I was old enough to form coherent thoughts, I have wanted one thing: a piece of land to call my own and foster in some way. I wanted to take a piece of land and foster it to be something more than it was. I wanted to heal a piece of land and cause it to be a healthy and beautiful place.

That is what I had been working for all these years. My intent was to work hard, save money, buy some land, and retire to it. Sharon and I had discussed this plan, we had looked at properties and discussed what the requirements were for the land, what it was going to take to achieve the vision, and we had come to a single conclusion: I would be too old to foster the land by the time I was able to own it; unless something changed.

What if we could own it now? What if we could start working it now? All of the effort I was putting in was not getting me closer t the goal, it was mearly putting money away toward a future in which I would not work (what we call retirement). I have never wanted to not work, so what is the point to making enough money to not have to. Retirement, for me, has always meant having enough resources to not *have* to work, but only to work because I love the job, or because I think the project worthwhile. Well, if the job is profitable, and worthwhile, I could retire immediately.

I have decided to retire immediately.

But this isn’t a matter of walking away from anything. I realised that I was mearly trapped, doing something I didn’t want to do, I wasn’t allowed to create things of value. This isn’t walking away from that trap, so much as walking toward what I’ve always wanted: to be self-reliant, to be self-expressing, to create something of value by my own power. The key is to be able to dictate what will be considered of value, to not be a slave to the whims of others, to not live for other people’s benefit, but mearly to define what value means to me and to seek it out.

The Plan

Sharon and I have decided to sell almost everything we own: our house and our furniture. We have decided to walk away from our city jobs with steady pay-cheques. We have decided to leave what family and friends we have behind. We have decided to move to rural Nova Scotia where we will start a smallholding. We will begin to seek ways to grow our own food, raise our own animals and in the end, live our lives for ourselves, expend our energy for our own gain. Live our lives in the way we see fit, for our own personal satisfaction. We have decided to retire from this crappy world, and build a better one, in our own image.

I hope we’re right.

A (short) Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a princess who lived with her prince in a nice little home in the big city. They worked hard together; making their house a home and building a small garden. After a while the prince & princess yearned for their own kingdom; someplace they could feel free and fend for themselves. The prince had dreams of chickens and goats; the princess of creating something out of nothing.

As time plodded on, their enemy (of the insidious kind), watched and waited. The prince and princess were getting more worried by the day so they set off in search of a kingdom close by, somewhere to call their own. Unfortunately everywhere they looked it was either too cold, too dry, too barren or just plain too expensive.

One day the princess said to her prince “Why don’t we try Nova Scotia?” “It might just be the perfect place for people like you and me”.

So here and now they start their journey. Their house has been sold,and soon they will set out in their carriage for a magical place in the country where the chickens lay golden eggs and the goats spin flax into….wait a minute that’s another story..

~Sharon

I before E

“I before E, except after C”

A little rhyme taught to children to help remember the spelling of various words, it is often the butt of jokes for being wrong so often. Words like deficiencies even go so far as to break the rule twice.

After a debate about this rule in the office, and reading yet another inconclusive article online, it occured to me that everybody stating the rule needs to be disposed of has never actually sat down and determined whether the rule has any real value or not. What needs to happen is for someone to sit down and count how often the rule is violated in the English language. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to sit down with a dictionary and count all the words; its a boring and repetitive task. What did occur to me is that I’m a computer guy, and computers are really good at boring, and repetitive tasks.

Using the power of computing, I intend to put this damned debate to rest, once and for all.

Word Lists

In order to do this, the first thing that will be required is a list of words to test. I am not going through the Oxford English Dictionary and typing every single word, so I have to go online and find a list. The most logical place is to look is on hacking sites. It is not uncommon to maintain lists of words for guessing people’s passwords.

Another source I can use would be one of the online dictionaries. This would likely give me a highly accurate representation of words; however, this would take more effort on my part, and this is a stupid experiment to begin with: I’m not wasting a lot of time on it.

Probably the most relevant source would be a wordlist maintained for cryptographic analysis. Optimally one maintained by the NSA (they have the most time and motivation to keep it up to date). I have created word lists for this purpose, but I just ran Mobey Dick through a program to count the occurance of words. Sharon has pointed out that nobody but me still speaks like that.

Originally I had obtained this word list:

http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/ucrel/bncfreq/flists.html

However, the owner has decided that he needs to hide it away. Now I will use Wiktionary’s television show word frequency list. Not the best source of data, but it will do for my purposes.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Frequency_lists#TV_and_movie_scripts

Testing the Rule

((I had originally published these results on Wikipedia, however they have a policy against being the initial publishers of research. It makes sense, but unfortunately means that these results got removed with nowhere else to go. To see the original Wikipedia page, please go to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=I_before_E_except_after_C&oldid=52333742) ))

Using a lexicon of 627,935 words, several SQL queries were run to determine the validity of this rule. While the results are interesting, the lexicon was suspect as it appears to have contained several instances of the same word (-cy suffix, and its plural variant). While an attempt was made to handle these scenarios, the results are suspect:

Rules:

1. I before E, except after C
1. "IE" suffix ignored
 Lexicon Size................... : 627,935
 Words with apostrophes in them. : 127,774
 Words ending in "ie"/"ei"...... :   2,220
 New Lexicon Size............... : 497,941
 Sample Size (all rules applied) :  26,050

                         Success : 20,380  78.2341%
                         Failure :  5,670  21.7658%
                                   ------  --------
                       Check Sum : 26,050  99.9999%

Since the lexicon itself was considered flawed, a new lexicon was obtained and the same rules applied: http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/ucrel/bncfreq/flists.html

 Lexicon Size................... : 4845
 Words with apostrophes in them. :   12
 Words ending in "ie"/"ei"...... :    4
 New Lexicon Size............... : 4828
 Sample Size (all rules applied) :  156

                         Success :    137  87.8205%
                         Failure :     19  12.1794%
                                   ------  --------
                       Check Sum :    156  99.9999%

Unfortunately, this does not take into account the frequency we use these words in. The frequencies of word occurrence are in PPM (Parts Per Million) in the dataset.

                       Written             Spoken
                 ------------------- -------------------
 Lexicon Weight   817,814             835,197
  Sample Weight    13,283               6,910             

        Success     8,553  64.3905%     3,819  55.2677%
        Failure     4,730  35.6094%     3,091  44.7322%
      Check Sum    13,283  99.9999%     6,910  99.9999%

Accurate but Misleading

The rule appears to handle almost 90% of the cases, but words that violate the rule are used more frequently than words that do not.

If you aren't staring death square in the eyes, you aren't doing it right