GC [sic] Habs Go

GC Habs Go
GC Habs Go

I understand the desire to include the logo of one’s sports team of choice in the place of letters that are part of an encouragement to that team.

This only works, however, if the logo is not in fact a different letter of the alphabet than the letter it replaces.

For example, if a team’s logo was, say a stylised hockey puck, that could be used to replace the “O” in “Go [Team Name] Go!”

There’s just something unsettling about seeing the letter “O” replaced by a logo that is essentially a stylised letter “C” with a letter “H” inside it.

Why can’t one eat an egg with 油条?

When I lived in China, I would sometimes have a 油条 (yóu tiáo) along with my bag of hot soy milk for breakfast. A 油条 is a long, oily fried bread that you eat with your hands. It’s really good.

Whenever I would buy it, the vendor would always tell me that I shouldn’t eat it with an egg, and then she would laugh. I thought this was some sort of joke, but I never actually did eat an egg together with the 油条. Then, I went to a completely different vendor on the other side of town, and I was told the exact same thing—don’t eat your 油条 with an egg.

I was tempted, but never actually did try combining the two forbidden breakfast foods. I have a couple questions for my Chinese readers, or for aficionados of Chinese culture:

  1. Have any of you had an egg with 油条? What happened?
  2. Do you know why it is that I’m not supposed to eat them together?
  3. Is it out of some legitimate concern for one’s health?
  4. Is it a cultural superstition or a convention of some kind?
  5. Is this not even a thing? I mean, I might have misunderstood, or it might have been a huge coincidence.

How to “castle” in chess

Red pieces on a chess board
Red pieces on a chess board

Unlike the en passant capture, this is a move in chess that I’ve known since I was a child. However, like the en passant capture, it has also caused me grief while playing against my iPod. I will explain why this move can be frustrating below in the “pro-tip.”

This is how to castle in chess: It is a move for your king and your rook at the same time, and it is a great way to develop your rook conservatively. This is a move that should be done early in the game.

It can only be done if neither the king nor the rook have been moved yet in the game. There can be no pieces on the board on the files between the king and the rook, and you cannot castle out of check. If you are doing a kingside castle, your king moves two files toward the rook, and the rook jumps over to the space just on the opposite side of where the king has moved to. A queenside castle is done exactly the same way (king moves two files toward the rook, rook jumps over king to the file immediately past him), but in the queenside case, the rook moves further.

Thanks again to Wikipedia, the abbreviations for queenside and kingside castling are O-O-O and O-O, respectively.

Pro-tip: If you are trying to castle while playing against a video game, computer or iPod, do not move your rook first and then try to move your king. The iPod will think that you are moving your rook in the normal sort of way that rooks move, and it will not think that you are trying to castle. What you need to do is move your king first, and then the computer will automatically realise that because a king can’t normally move two files, you are attempting to castle, and then it will automatically move your rook for you. Just trust me on this one.

How to do an “en passant” capture in chess

Chess board
Chess board

Every once in a while, I play a game of chess against my computer or iPod. Sometimes I win—sometimes I lose, but the most frustrating thing that happens to me every once in a while is when the iPod does an en passant capture of one of my pawns.

This is frustrating, I think, because I never see it coming. That’s mostly because it’s an obscure move that I never took the time to learn how to do. I learned about it for the first time in elementary school, so I could always identify it when it happened, but I never knew what it was well enough to be able to pull it off myself or anticipate it. So, this week, I finally looked it up.

This is how it works: On its first move, a pawn can advance one rank or two. (Don’t worry—I already knew that.) If a pawn has been advanced two ranks in its first turn, an opposing pawn can capture it by moving diagonally into the space where the first pawn would have been, had it only moved ahead one rank.

Note that this can only be done in the turn immediately following the two-rank move of the first pawn.

According to Wikipedia, this “prevents a pawn from using the two-square move to pass another pawn without the risk of being captured”

This time, I’ll be ready for you, iPod!

Metro adventure today

Metro Adventure
Metro Adventure

It’s getting so that you can’t trust the métro any more!

I was trapped at station Lionel-Groulx for a good long time on Wednesday. Me and a few hundred people and one yelling guy. That wasn’t too bad.

Then today, just after I finished TA-ing my first conferences of the semester, a few minutes before 14h this afternoon, I transferred to the orange line at station Lionel-Groulx, and when my metro car was between Vendôme and Place St-Henri, the lights unexpectedly went out, and the train sort of coasted to a stop between the stations.

A voice over the speaker eventually informed us that we would be evacuated.

Below are a couple of videos that I recorded on my iPod. The first is a short one of us getting off the train, and the second is a longish (30 seconds) one of us walking along the métro tunnel toward Vendôme.

When I got there, I just got in a cab and went to station Snowdon, since I didn’t know what bus to take. A nice old lady shared a cab with me, and wouldn’t let me pay for it, so it didn’t cost me a thing!

According to the STM Twitter feed, service is only just now (15h10) gradually resuming.

Isn’t there a law or something?

This weekend, I was on a highway near Montréal, and I saw something that I had never seen before, and at first I didn’t recognize. I saw two cars racing. On the highway.

Now I could be wrong about this, and maybe it was in Ontario, but wasn’t there a law recently passed about racing? One with terrible consequences for transgressors, like being shot on sight by the police or something?

Anyway, they didn’t crash and kill us all, so I guess that’s a relatively happy ending to the story, although it would have been better if justice were done upon them somehow.

In somewhat related news, I drove a car with standard transmission this weekend. It wasn’t too bad.

Memories of French class

Téléfrançais - Bonjour, allô, salut!
Téléfrançais – Bonjour, allô, salut!

Does anyone else remember Téléfrançais? It was a children’s programme meant for French-language instruction made in the 1980’s by TVOntario, starring the crime against nature that you see in the picture attached to this post.

I take it as a sign that my French is still at an immature level, that sometimes, after conducting a conversation entirely in French, I walk away feeling very satisfied with myself and humming the Téléfrançais theme song.

The very last Téléfrançais émission that I remember seeing in elementary school ended with a puppet flying an airplane for some reason, and Ananas (the pineapple puppet) and the children were passengers. Les Squelettes were on the wings of the aircraft too, as I recall. At the last moment, the puppet lost control of the airplane and they were about to crash, when the closing credits started to roll over the screen. I never saw the next émission, so as far as I know, that’s how the television programme ended—with the death of all the characters in a fiery airplane disaster. Actually, that wouldn’t be so hard to believe.

There’s an obvious life-lesson to be learned here: Don’t fly in an aircraft where the pilot is a puppet.

Earthquake

There was an earthquake this week in Montréal. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I did notice it.

The computers provided for my design team are new, but they have trouble sometime. They turn themselves off periodically, and sometimes their fans sound like an aircraft preparing to take off.

So when I saw my computer monitors shaking, my first thought was that it was another problem related to the fans inside my computer. In fact, to test my theory, I started pushing the leg of my desk slightly against the enclosure of my computer, to see if the shaking increased or decreased.

And here’s where it gets weird: For a second, I thought I had established a relationship between them. I nearly called over one of my co-workers to show them that whenever I pressed the leg of my desk against my computer, the whole thing shook enough to make my computer monitors shake.

Then the earthquake ended.

This is what is interesting about what I did: I think I unconsciously selected which observations I would pay attention to, and ignored the ones that didn’t support my theory.

So how do I know I’m not doing the same thing with my earthquake theory, now?

Speaking of spiders

Itsy Bitsy Spider
Itsy Bitsy Spider

Today, a schoolmate and I went to visit the Montréal Botanical Gardens. We went to see the insect exhibit. It was pretty fun, and because we are students, we got in for the cheap rate!

Here is a spider.

I wonder if they have to count the number of creepy-crawlies they have in the insect exhibit every night. The reason I wonder about that is because there was a surprising number of empty enclosures, and it made me wonder what happened to the spiders or scorpions or other creatures that were supposed to be living there. I’ll just double-check the inside of my bag tonight. You know. Just to be on the safe side.

Bonzai tree
Bonzai tree

The outside of the Gardens was mostly covered in snow, but the inside had some wonderful things to see. I’ve always loved bonzai tress, and sometimes secretly wished that I had the patience to grow one myself.

Now I don’t know about you guys, but every once in a while as a child, for some reason, at schools or other such educational institutions, I was shown a video adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book called “The Lorax.” Actually, I assume there’s a book that it’s based on. I’ve never actually seen it in book form.

I'm pretty sure this is a truffula tree
I'm pretty sure this is a truffula tree

I guess I always assumed that there was no such thing as a real truffula tree. And then I saw the tree in the attached photograph in the butterfly exhibit.

As I recall from “The Lorax,” the little boy at the end was given a single truffula seed and told to plant it and care for it, so that truffula trees might grow again. I suppose that little boy succeeded in his task.

But seriously. What is that? Eight points for anyone who can tell me what sort of legit tree it is.

Honeycomb
Honeycomb

The butterfly exhibit was my favourite. They were huge, and they liked eating fruit. The cockroaches were my least favourite. The bees were kind of cool to see as well, but not on the same level as gigantic beautiful butterflies and truffula trees.