My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

5 Articles in August 2011

  1. Tying the knot with Ubuntu

    My summer research project involved extensive use of Macaulay2, a computer algebra program. Essentially, what Macaulay2 does is make it easy to do computations on different types of abstract algebra objects, like rings and ideals. Since there is no native version of Macaulay2 for Windows, my options for running it these past two summers have been: run it in Windows under Cygwin or, once again, dual boot Windows and Ubuntu (or Kubuntu). Ubuntu and I have a love/hate relationship, as I have testified on this blog before. It’s been a while since I last blogged about my adventures with Linux, and now it’s time for an update.

    Last year I was using Kubuntu 10.04, and the experience was immediately better than any other time I've tried using Linux. Maybe it's a truism, but with each new release, more features in Ubuntu work out of the box for me, which of course makes it much nicer to install and use. Whereas earlier versions like Hardy and Gutsy played havoc with my display or printer, Karmic Koala was actually an enjoyable operating system to use. It had one problem, however: when in Kubuntu, my network card would keep dropping wireless…

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  2. Updated my “About Me” page

    I have rewritten my “About Me” page. It has needed some updates for a while now. I focused on making the page briefer while keeping it informative. Now people who come to my site can know who I am in a few paragraphs. If they need to know me more deeply, they will know where to stalk me.

    Also, the page now includes an excellent photo that portrays my love of math and silliness. The photo comes from back in May. Our mathematics resource room received new carpet, so Aaron, Rachael, Tim, and I were drafted to remove all the books from the room and store them in our office until the carpet was replaced. Then we reshelved all of the books, and posed for some silly photos. I've long wanted to put a photo of myself on that page, but until now I didn’t have any that seemed adequate. I was browsing my Flickr feed in the hope of finding something suitable when this gem appeared; the moment I saw it, I yelled, “Yes!” and laughed maniacally.

  3. I am bereaved: rest in peace, my cat Marble

    My two lovely cats, Kaylee and Marble

    This morning, we had two cats. Their names were Marble and Kaylee; they were sisters. I don't remember exactly when we got them, for I was very young, but they must have been 12 years old or even older. So they have been around for most of my life now, and I have grown accustomed to their curmudgeonly feline ways. Upon moving into our newest residence in 2007, Marble took up the habit of sleeping on my bed, while Kaylee appropriated my new reading chair for herself. These arrangements continued for another three and a half years.

    As of this afternoon, we have one cat. Marble died sometime around two o'clock, by my reckoning. I am sorry to see her go, but she was old and ill, and I suppose it was her time.

    For about a year now, Marble has not been well. She was having difficulties using the litter box, but the vet could not find anything wrong with her—our options were, essentially, switch her to some new fattening food or put her down, and I think it's obvious there was only one option there. We tried this, and meanwhile Marble seemed stable—she did not improve, and despite…

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  4. Now the summer begins

    Jessica displays her raspberry pie

    Last Friday marked the end of my summer research term. For reasons I don't entirely understand and don't need to understand, Jessica made a pie to celebrate the milestone. It was raspberry (my favourite fruit) and, more importantly, it was delicious. This summer feels like it has gone by extremely quickly, and I'm not yet eagerly anticipating school. I have two weeks off now, returning early on August 29 to begin the intense final year of my concurrent education degree. My schedule does not seem all that bad, as far as classes go, but I'm not sure what the workload will be like—I hear it's heavy but not difficult.

    As far as my research goes, I can't help but compare this summer to last summer. Overall, I was not as interested in my project this time around—it's the same project, so it is no longer fresh. Working on it on a full-time basis for 16 weeks was intense. This year was also quieter around the office; Jessica was not around as much, and Rachael had a research project, but it only lasted eight weeks. Aaron came in pretty consistently several days a week, despite not being on any kind of…

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  5. OMG, one more Hugo post

    Yesterday was the deadline for voting in the Hugo Awards. I submitted my final ballot on Friday. I managed to finish all of the Hugo-nominated works in the novel, novella, novelette, and short story categories. I also voted in the best related work and best dramatic presentation categories, and I voted for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Here's an overview of my picks for this year's Hugos.

    I wrote lengthy reviews on Goodreads for all of the novel nominees, so rather than a recap blog post that just links to those reviews, I will list them here. The ballot allows us to rank each nominee by preference, so that if our first choice doesn't receive a majority of the votes, it gets stricken from the ballot and our second choice becomes the first, and so on. So I've listed the nominees in order of preference:

    • The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald. This did not blow me away, yet it somehow stuck with me and persuaded me to give it five stars. I hope it wins.
    • Cryoburn, by Lois McMaster Bujold. My first Vorkosigan novel, I enjoyed it but don't really think it's
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About Me

I’m a 26-year-old math and English teacher back in Canada after two years teaching in England. In my free time, I read books! When I’m not reading, I’m writing, coding, or knitting.

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About this site

I started coding websites, in bad HTML on Geocities, in 2004 in a fit of whimsy. Since then I’ve learned PHP/MySQL, coded my own blog software, and rebuilt this site several times. With the exception of the blog, it’s currently running on the exquisite Symphony CMS. This website is hosted by HawkHost

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