Friday, February 29, 2008

Seemingly defying the laws of physics

Here's a trick that could impress your friends.

It's really not that amazing once you realize why it works, but it's visually impressive nonetheless.

RPM edition 3

Alright music trivia fans, you seem to be chomping at the bit, so here's another.

Q.: This female artist moans a five word phrase 28 times during the length of her first hit. Name the artist. If you can, name the hit.

I'd post a picture, but even a glimpse would be a dead give-away.......

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oh my! This should be very cool

In a year's time, there will be such a thing online called the world wide telescope. I could not describe it and do it justice.

You have to hear / see it for yourself.

[Update - Dec 2008] It's online now. It requires a download.


The Billboard Liberation Front did a funny with an AT&T billboard and posted the transformation on YouTube.

In case the text isn't legible, it says "AT&T works in more places, like NSA Headquarters".

Is this how loyalty is repaid?

Am I the only person who thinks these points systems redeemable for flights are the biggest scam ever? This past week, I needed to set up a flight back east and decided to try and redeem some earned points.

I started with Aeroplan (Aeroplan is the points collection mechanism for Air Canada - for you non Canuckians). As far as their web site indicated, I indeed had enough points to fly to my destination and back, but when I applied to redeem them, there weren't any remaining flights to be had for that many points, only flights that needed 50% more - minimum! Worse, these higher point cost flights were not direct - oh no. In some cases, I would have visited 5 airports on my journey. So much for that.

Next, I was about to try Air Miles. Darlene told me about the hoops she has to jump through to book a flight through Air Miles and I freaked. She said be prepared to be on the phone (waiting included) for about 2 hours, maybe more. That's right - you can only redeem Air Miles by phone, which of course puts pressure on me to accept whatever crap flights they toss my way. The more I thought about the effort involved, the more depressed I got. Especially considering that Air Miles flights aren't exactly free - you still have to pay the fees and taxes, often in the order of several hundred dollars.

None of this really seems like a good deal to me. I try to be objective, reminding myself - you are getting the offer of flights for free. But to me it's like being promised a prime steak and getting a cheap hamburger.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RPM edition 2

Since the first trivia question went so quickly, I thought I'd get another one out there right away.

Q.: What gender bender wanted to release an album sporting women's panties?

Answers in the comments please. Good luck.

Never a dull moment

A good friend at work tipped me off on a site that could potentially provide hours of entertainment. It's a blog that captures the best of Bozeman Montana police reports. A sampling:

A woman said a motorist tried to run her over at a crosswalk on North Rouse Avenue, though she told police that she didn’t think the driver really would have done it. The man, for his part, had revved his engine at the woman to tease her and didn’t know he’d frightened her. He apologized.

A deputy responded to a report of a naked person lying on the interstate near Manhattan. The deputy discovered that it was not a person. It was a blowup doll.

A woman on Bridger Drive intentionally walked over her boyfriend's new couch with muddy feet. She was cited for criminal mischief.

To the good people of Bozeman: We're not laughing at you..... we're laughing with you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Music trivia from the RPM edition

Which of David Bowie's characters does he describe as a junkie?

Place your answers in the comments.

Good luck.

Thumbs down on rebate cancellation

I just had a quick look at the Federal budget the Conservatives introduced today. The rebate for buyers of fuel-efficient vehicles is cancelled.


Monday, February 25, 2008

I identify with the one on the right

This lolcats picture made me laugh too, even though it does not include any cats.....

$5 per month for all the music you want

I could have sworn I blogged about this before, but couldn't find a quick reference to it. But anyway, one of the suggestions put forward by some people in hopes of re-defining the online music model is to charge all high speed internet customers a surcharge on their internet connection fee (let's say $5). This would entitle you to download all the music you could ever want - legally. The surcharge would be collected by a music industry organization responsible for divvying out the collected fees to artists based on the number of times their stuff was downloaded / traded.

It's an idea I like very much and it seems to have attracted the attention of the Songwriters Association of Canada.

Thanks to Ernest for the tip about the article.

Unfortunately, there are a few people who don't think this is a fair way to collect fees, as it 'punishes' those who don't download music at all. While I understand their argument, you could say that you don't want to pay for the bandwidth other internet users are using for peer-to-peer file sharing or downloading (even legal) video - but you are.

If the surcharge idea won't wash, I have a different idea - advertising. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility to make music available for free from sites that push advertising on you when you choose to download.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

...and we're farther north!

This is a comparative study of snow..... in Canada.... in February.

On the left, my sister's place in Aylmer Quebec - taken today. The snow banks are just as tall as I remember them when I was a kid. That's my niece Jessica being dwarfed by the snow bank on one side of their driveway.

On the right, that's the view outside my front yard - taken this morning. As you can see, the snow bank is about as tall as a small dog.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stupid... ankles

So, for the umpteenth time (I've lost count), I injured my ankle. I was at work Friday and I guess I somehow caught the edge of a raised floor tile (I spend most of my work days in a large computer lab) and tripped, lost my balance momentarily and managed to turn my ankle sideways, placing my entire weight on it. For a second, it produced a pain that I just cannot describe. It was funny to watch everyone's reaction, because they likely only saw the look on my face, but had no idea why I looked like that, having incurred the injury below their line of sight.

Anyway, I tried to minimize the damage once I got home by icing it, but of course it swelled like a little balloon and now is turning a nice shade of purple. I don't know what it is about my ankles - I've turned them like this many times. All I can say is...... it's annoying. This is the main reason why I don't skate.

The hilarity continues

Not content to sue their customers directly (it's a public relations nightmare), or bribe universities into policing their networks for copyright infringement (easily defeated), the recording industry now feels the only way to stop the copying of music online is to convince lawmakers to force internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor all the traffic that passes through them looking for copyright material. As this intelligent article suggests:

"An analogy may help to illustrate the point. Millions of people use the telephone network for questionable, illegal or unethical purposes. But we would regard it as unthinkable to impose on phone companies a legal obligation to monitor every conversation."

What Liverpool bus terminal is a Beatles song title?

I have such great friends.

Last year I mentioned that I was looking for the RPM edition of Trivial Pursuit. It's a version of the game that contains only music trivia and it was made in the 1980's. I have played the game but never owned it, having not been able to find it in stores or anywhere for that matter..... until now. My good friend David, who obviously never forgot that I was looking for the game, spotted it at a flea market for $5 and just brought it to me yesterday.

Thanks David. To my friends, family members and work colleagues who I will now mercilessly taunt with music trivia......... now you know who to blame.

The answer to the question posed in the title is.... in the comments.......

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Speaking of the Emperor from Star Wars.....

Here's a funny skit depicting the Emperor trying to land a job.

Not all LOLcats have cats in them

Like this one for example, which had me laughing for a long time.

Of course, it helped when the person that showed it to me did his impression of the Emperor from Star Wars Episode IV.

Ban 'opt out' business solicitations

I got a phone call from my cell phone provider today. Because I'm such a good customer [grin], they wanted to offer me a special package for free for one month. This package would contain the services I already have, in addition..... and that's when I blacked out. So when I was asked if I wanted to accept that special offer, I only had one question. What happens at the end of the month? Well, I go on using these new services as per normal. Ah, yes, but what happens to my account charges? This is where the salesperson started with the avoidance measures. There was talk of 'savings' and 'less than what you pay now', but those were slight untruths. They almost had me accepting the offer until I heard the words fourteen dollars. I said hold on a second, fourteen dollars - I could have sworn you said my account fee would not go up?

Anyway - long story short, they were playing the old 'opt out' trick on me - offer the customer some free extras and force THEM to opt out by month end in order not to get charged more money. I said, I am not interested in any offer that forces me to do something at the end of the trial if I don't want those extras. The sales person got very aggressive and insisted that it was in my best interest to accept. I made it clear that the only offer I'd be interested in was one that required me to 'opt in' if I wanted to pay for the extra services once the promotion was over, not one that required me to 'opt out'. We talked in circles for another minute, then I said to just drop the offer.

Then I called customer service and complained that I wasn't happy with their new 'opt out' tactic. I made it clear that if they tried that trick again, I will be switching providers. Isn't the 'opt out' tactic outlawed somewhere? If not, it should be. I won't drag the name of the provider into the mud, but if you're from Canada, the picture should clue you in as to who it was. But I'm guessing they're not the only ones who pull this stunt.....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

'See' what's in your food....

Most foods have nutritional data on the label now, but can you actually gauge what all the numbers mean? Maybe something more visual is more meaningful. Foodsel does that for you, breaking out the content of the food - protein, fats, ash, water, carbs. Clicking the other categories also lets you see the minerals and vitamins. But even more fun is the visuals tab, which shows the energy, sugar and fat content as a visual representation. If you start feeling guilty, you can click on the exercises tab and see how long you have to work off the food given a variety of activities.

Big Mac? About an hour of jogging to work it off.

Big truck!

In Canada, the longest truck you'd typically see is two trailers in tandem.

But in Australia, they have 'road trains', the longest having 28 axles.

Lamp uses gravity for power

A Virginia Tech student has designed and built an LED floor lamp that is powered by gravity, using a weight slide that is expected to last 200 years. The creation puts out the equivalent of a 40-Watt bulb, and lasts four hours per cycle. The lamp won 2nd place in the Greener Gadgets Design Competition in New York City.

The lamp is essentially an acrylic lens about 4' high. Electricity to power the 10 high-output LEDs is generated by the slow fall of a mass that spins a rotor. Imagine - no noise, no cords, no batteries. After 4 hours elapses, just raise the weight again and get another 4 hours of free light.

I love it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

lolcat......... i getz em

Man I love a good LOLcat.....

I'll post some other faves from the last couple months.

Now..... that's hockey!

I am so proud of my hockey team right now. Before the season started, the sports journalist nay-sayers were predicting that my Montreal Canadiens wouldn't even make the playoffs this year. But this team has pulled a rabbit out of the proverbial hat, building a potent power play that is tops in the league. They have clawed their way toward the top of the standings and currently are close to toppling the first place team (in the East).

Today, playing those annoying New York Rangers, they found themselves down 5 - 0. Now I don't know about you, but if I found my team 5 minutes (1/4) into the second period losing 5 - 0, I wouldn't have too much hope that the game was still in reach. But I'll be damned if my pesky Habs didn't get themselves back into the game, scoring 5 un-answered goals of their own to tie the game. Michael Ryder, who most people had insisted was trade-bound in the next few days due to his lack of goal production, scored a freaking hat-trick (3 goals) to help the team get back in the game. Then they won the game in the shoot-out. I think that was the first time in the team's history that they came back from a five to nothing deficit.

I don't think I screamed that loud in my house in a long time. Damn, that was fun to watch.

[update] The 3 goals Ryder was credited with was modified to 2 after reviewing the goals later. But in everyone's heart - he got a hat-trick.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The big 4 oh oh oh....

Can you believe it? My humble blog has reached 4000 posts.

That's not bad for just over 3 and a half years.......

I'd like to thank all of my readers and raise a cup in their honour. Thanks. Be sure to spread the word this year. I have no intentions of stopping anytime soon.

These eyes.........

The dramatic squirrel ain't got nuttin' on this Lemur.

Sometimes a picture makes me laugh more than it should

.......and this would be one of those times.

Thanks Bernie. You so funny.

"They make the salesman about 25 dollars per cable..."

Some insider information about consumer electronics purchases:

"7 lies you'll hear from salesmen..."

Synchronicity... Fate... Call it what you will.......

I've already mentioned that I'll soon be a grandpa. Wait until you hear about how her name was chosen. Awww heck, I'll just ruin the story...... I'll just let our daughter Lee-Anne tell it:

"After finding out we were having a girl (was under the impression it was going to be a boy), we were at a loss to what to name our daughter on the way... I was in the shower one morning going through the alphabet, you know A..Allison, Abbey, Andrea... Nothing really had an impact on me until I came to O and said Olivia, and there, that sounded fantastic to me. Forgot to mention it to Colin..."

"Two days later, Colin comes home from work and says.." I thought of the perfect name - what do you think of Olivia?" That's when I had a mild freak, jumped up and said..."That's it for sure!!! Olivia it is..."
And that's the story.

[play Twilight Zone music here]

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Baby bargains

We wanted to help our daughter out with her baby that's coming in a few months. After a little shopping around we saw just how expensive good quality baby stuff is these days. Darlene remembered me mentioning a little (heh) site called craigslist, that had among other things, a buy / sell section. Darlene went to the Vancouver section of craigslist and noticed that people tend to put the area they live in parentheses to indicate what neighbourhood they're in. Darlene browsed the listings, starting with the newest listings, and began looking for some great deals. Darlene found a top of the line stroller / car seat combo worth more than $400 for under $200. When Darlene explained she was trying to help out her daughter, the seller also threw in an expensive exer-saucer. She also scored a $200 solid wood change table in mint condition for $40, an antique wooden spindle rocking chair for $25 and a solid wood crib and mattress valued at over $500 for $90. So if you're looking to equip yourself for baby, don't forget about craigslist if it services your area. Craigslist makes it possible to post pictures too, which really helps sell stuff.

Where is it edition 41

OK, so the score to date is:
Nancy: 1 Jim: 12 David: 3 Anon: 3 Carla: 9 Joseph: 2 Bud: 1 Andy: 1 Royce: 3 Tim: 4

You know the drill - name the city. Click the picture for a bigger view.

Let's see if we can get this race done in under a day....

This blood's for you.....

I know some folks who really don't appreciate the art of improvisation, those who turn their nose up at it as if it were a lesser art form than dramatic acting. To those people I say, "Spend a night at the Grand Guignol".

A Night at the Grand Guignol (pronounced geen-yol) is a special Loose Moose performance being presented on late Friday and Saturday nights at 10:30pm until March 1st 2008. It is produced, directed by and stars Alice Nelson, with a supporting cast of 11 other Loose Moose improvisers. It consists of 4 small plays and is described as "striving to terrify and titillate the spectator through melodramatic performance, using a mixture of horror, laughter and the erotic.
More about the Grand Guignol phenomenon in general can be found here.

Darlene and I went to last night's show and it was refreshing seeing folks step outside their improvising, comedic roles and wear the dramatic hat for a little while - although, there were still elements of humour - dark humour, throughout. Standout performances for me, included Josh Bertwistle, who was practically unrecognizable as Henri, the man whose face was burned by acid, and Gavin Williams, who always cracks me up and did a splendid mad doctor. The rest of the cast were amazing as well. The finale, a wickedly funny dance number, did the perfect job of stirring you out of your trance and bringing you back to a smile-filled reality.

So if you're in the mood for a little dark humour and you don't mind the sight of blood, be sure to spend a night at the Grand Guignol. Make sure you ask to sit in the front rows.....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The fat lady is clearing her throat....

The HD-DVD format took another kick in the crotch this week as WalMart announced it will only sell Blu-Ray DVDs and players from now on. Best Buy and online video rental company Netflix also announced siding with the Blu-Ray format. This could be the final ass whoopin' the HD-DVD format needed for its backers to call it quits.

Here's undoubtedly the best article I've seen yet about the state of the Hi-Def DVD union.

Video game reviews were never this funny

Thanks to my pal Bernie for sending me the link to this site. The Escapist has a weekly feature called Zero Punctuation, where this fast (and I do mean fast) talking mate named Yahtzee, who reviews video games in a manner that is quite entertaining.

Treat a laptop like a $2000 bill

Most large corporations are now sufficiently aware of the dangers of losing corporate laptops (especially the data stored on them) that they employ security measures to help protect them from theft. But many smaller companies have yet to address this issue. Even if employees are informed and prudent enough to do what's necessary to protect the laptop and the data stored within, logic often flies right out the window come repair time. If you aren't fortunate enough to have your own IT repair staff, you'll be depending on outsourced services to do that task, perhaps even the original vendor that sold the laptop. But therein lies the problem. Do you trust them to pay the same due diligence while the laptop is in their possession as you would when it's in yours? Here's a story of a woman who sent her laptop in for repair at Best Buy and they 'lost it'. They even tried to cover up the fact. She's suing for $54 million, but that's not going to stop things like this from happening again.

What can you do? If possible, get any sensitive data moved onto another drive before sending a laptop in for repair. While the laptop is working, use strong encryption methods to protect the folders on the drive that you can't afford to be compromised. Using hard drive level protection may not work because you do have to give the password to the repair service folks. Consider using repair services that do their work on-site. This way, you can watch their every move and the laptop never leaves your possession.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The best parts of the web..... as a train map

Are you making the most of your internet experience? Are you familiar with the latest web trends for 2008? Would you even know where to start your exploration of what's hip?

Unless your answer was an unbridled 'YES!!', allow me to rectify that for you. Presenting the Web Trend Map 2008 (beta), where web sites are organized in a similar vein to a Tokyo train map. The clickable online version allows you to click on any item on the map and be taken directly to that site. If you're yearning to discover what's going on online.......... this is a great place to start. I guarantee there'll be sites on that map you've never heard of.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My hopes are up.....

One of the books I've mentioned I'd like to see made into a movie is Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama. It's one of the most intriguing sci-fi stories I've ever read and tells the tale of an alien object, shaped like a cylinder 50km long and 16km wide that enters our solar system. A manned spaceship is dispatched to investigate the object - dubbed 'Rama'. The ship manages to rendezvous with Rama, the crew figures out a way to enter the massive object and explores its vast interior, but the nature and purpose of the object and its creators remains a mystery throughout the story. The crew see things that boggle the imagination.

Morgan Freeman has been hinting that he would help turn the story into a movie for years now, but various stumbling blocks got in the way, not the least of which is how to keep the story from being turned into a cowboy action film as Hollywood is known to do with 'boring science stories'. Having not heard any news at all about this project in a while, I dug a little lately and discovered that the project is still a go, and there are clues it may see theatre screens in 2009. If Mr. Freeman (who will also star as the leader of the expedition into Rama) does this story justice, it could be awesome. The best news being, that Rama had 3 sequel books, all excellent stories in their own right, as the mystery of Rama and its creators are slowly revealed.

Go Rama!

[update] I found a nice short animated trailer-like film that was developed by an NYU art student. Nice work.

Excess packaging - another pet peeve of mine

I think it's time for the public at large to focus on excessive packaging. It's one thing to package something in a manner that helps protect the contents, but it's another when the packaging only serves the purpose of marketing or as a security measure to prevent theft of the item from a store.

I recently bought a few things that were packaged rather excessively. One example is a memory stick. The plastic that surrounded the item was at least 5 to 10 times the size of the item itself. They don't make it easy to open this plastic sarcophagus either, requiring a sharp blade and determined concentration to cut open the plastic while avoiding damaging the product inside. A CD that was recently sent to me was shipped in a box big enough to hold a pair of work boots.

It's not all bad though. Kudos to Apple for how they packaged my MacBook. The way they efficiently fit everything into that tiny box was a work of art and thoughtful design.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is this just greed?

Yoko Ono wants a rocker named Lennon Murphy to stop using the moniker 'Lennon'. So much so, the lawsuit is filed.

Yoko is not going to make many friends with this move. Even Julian Lennon doesn't have a problem with Lennon's use of the name. It is her name after all.

[update] Once the uproar started, various sources got their stories a little straighter... er.

The Fountain

This past weekend I watched another one of those 'mind f#ck' movies. This time around, it was The Fountain. This movie stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. It tells a complicated story about 3 men in three different time periods who flirt with immortality. It's one of those movies that will not likely appeal to anyone who doesn't appreciate a thinking person's movie. It has so much visual imagery that it may require multiple viewings to appreciate fully.

"The party is in your stomach...."

An explanation on why it isn't a good idea to drink more than one 'drink group' on the same night.

Funny stuff.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Pictured here is the newly unveiled Honda Accord Euro Tourer for 2009. Honda continues to squeeze more power and fuel economy out of their engines.

This wagonesque model won't be sold in North America.

Too bad.......... I'd buy one. Darlene likes it too.

If you bother to look at the sedan version - that'll be re-badged as a 2009 Acura TSX.

Short sleeve shirts are perceived as lower class apparel

I knew I made a few men's fashion mistakes..... but I had no idea just how many.

Check them out here, at ask Andy about clothes.

Life was hard..... no PS3

During the year I was born, 100% of American households had electricity, 98% had a fridge, 95% had a stove and a radio, 78% had a telephone, 75% had a car, 43% had a clothes washer, 20% a clothes dryer, 13% air conditioning, 7% a dishwasher, 1% colour TV and 0% had a microwave or VCR.

At least - according to this chart.

How would she know?

A good friend (who shall remain nameless) was reminiscing with me about funny things our parents have said.

I was quoting my mother, who used to threaten to "sell us to the gypsies", which then reminded me that she used to describe an un-namable far away place as "East Gybip" (pronounced je-bip). You know............. as opposed to Timbuktu.

But my friend had a better quote. He said his mom once said that the stinkiest thing in the world was "a fart in a root beer bottle". Which begs the question........
See post title

picture by girlieleep

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Aren't parodies fun?

Some folks decided to have some fun making fun of certain web sites. Pictured here is their version of Facebook. Make sure you click whatever links work.... the subsequent pages are funny too.

At the bottom of the page is a few links to other parodied web sites, like Apple, eBay, Google, Amazon........

Open letter to the TV industry

I think I understand your business model. You buy programming from some schmo and hope to earn money by selling advertising during its run on the air. But once the first airing of any program is over, I think you're settling. You're wasting its future earning potential.

In general, once we watch any first run episode of a television program, the chances of us ever seeing that episode again (legally) grow slim. Sure, we might catch a re-run during summer, or a writer's strike, or holiday, but that's it. If we're lucky, the program might go into syndication, but that doesn't mean our local station bought it, nor does it mean they'll even air it at a time that's convenient, or at all. Or worse - they may not effectively advertise that they've got it scheduled to air.

Then there's the DVD option. I'm not so sure I understand why television programming merits such a high dollar value on DVD - and don't you dare start freaking lecturing me about the potential for piracy.... just because a person walks into a local 7-11 and robs the place doesn't mean every person who walks into a store is a criminal. The same is true for consumers of television programming. We should not have to suffer any kind of hassle because some folks are stealing the material. But I mean - seriously..... $80+ per season of Sopranos? No wonder folks are stealing it. Didn't you guys make enough money during first run advertising?

So for those of us who missed the first run of any show, our options are limited. We can hope that the episode will air again, but we rarely have any idea when that will be. We can wait for a DVD release, which will often cost more than what the average consumer can afford. That's assuming there even is a DVD release. Many years ago I watched a delightful British program on a cable network in Canada that was called Smack The Pony - think Monty Python but with all women as the headliners. I got to see some episodes, then it was gone. Forever. Waited many years. No DVD. Wrote the original network that aired it in the UK. Clueless. But they finally (after 3 emails) volunteered the information that BBC Canada owns the rights to the program in Canada. So I wrote BBC Canada too. No answer. Nothing. So what are my options? Here you have someone who would actually pay whatever insane price you'd charge for a DVD set of the entire series of Smack The Pony.... except that it isn't available.

Now, we've had the technology for TV-on-demand for years. With digitization, storage concerns are now essentially moot. But the only on-demand choices we have are for a dozen or so movies that are already available by other means. Meanwhile, countless years worth of programming sit on a shelf somewhere, not earning the TV industry any money at all.......

Don't even get me started on movies and music...........

Friday, February 08, 2008

You don't know winter............

A friend I just hooked up with again on Facebook after who knows how many years, reminded me of an experience I thought I'd share.

I'm one of the (relatively) small group of people who have spent 6 months at one of the poles. In this case, the place I'm talking about is Alert, Nunavut. I was there over the winter of 1989 / 1990. When I got there at the beginning of September, the sun was up 24 hours a day (although very low in the sky). This phenomenon makes it very hard to sleep well unless you completely black out your room window. But by mid-October, the sun dips below the horizon for good and doesn't re-appear again until the 1st of March. That's 24 hour darkness. That really messes up your system. You step outside at noon and it's pitch black. The only natural source of light comes from the moon. After the few months of darkness, when twilight begins to brush the horizon in late January for an hour or so surrounding the noon hour, it has a hypnotizing effect on your soul. Each day, the twilight gets brighter and lasts a while longer. I can remember staring out the window at lunch time in February, watching the sky get brighter and brighter, knowing that once the sun breached the horizon again, I would be on my way home.

During winter, the temperature is an almost unwavering -35C (-31F). There's snow everywhere - of course, but it's not deep in most places - maybe a foot, but it's hard packed and it makes a loud crunching sound when you walk on it. It's the wind that you should be afraid of. When a storm whips up, it can reduce visibility to zero for hours or even days at a time and you dare not venture outside. Not only would you freeze to death, the wind is strong enough to disorient you and even blow you away from safety. There are actual ropes that are tied between occupied buildings to assist in getting from one to the other to get to the safety of the main complex before the crap hits the fan at full force. Buildings that are far removed from the main complex are stocked with enough provisions to last a week or more, just in case you didn't make it back to the rest of the camp before a major storm hits.

Being in Alert is akin to being on another planet. There are no trees or obvious plant life of any kind. The lack of trees makes it difficult to gauge distance. Mountains that look 20 miles away are more like 150 miles. You are so far removed from civilization that news arrives days or even weeks late. Everything must come by aircraft. There are no live TV or radio signals from down south (or at least - not in the era while I was there). Recorded TV programming arrives up to 6 weeks after it originally aired. Alert has its own radio station, which is a blast to operate I might add, but you still must follow CRTC protocols (no swearing, etc.) because flights that fly over could tune into your station. Being in isolation does nasty things to your psyche, among other things, anything happening back home is so totally outside of your control that you really do feel like you're on an unstoppable space mission. So you have to try to keep your wits about you by keeping busy. Doing things you'd never dream of doing under normal circumstances. That sounds worse than it is. By that I simply mean that activities that wouldn't normally interest you suddenly are intriguing. You can't survive as a loner in Alert. You need to belong to the fraternity you live in and play their fun, silly games (the details of which I swore an oath not to divulge). Because these brothers and sisters are your new family - the only people you can depend on to help keep you sane until your tour is over.

It's not all bad. They have a gym that stays open 24 hours a day. Curling rink. Bowling alley. Weather station, which is usually populated by some awesome people. Visiting the weather station is like visiting the neighbouring small town - it is almost completely self-contained. In daylight hours, there are amazing ice caves to visit a short tracked vehicle drive away. You can climb onto an iceberg! How many people have done that? The cooks in Alert took real pride with the meals they served. I can't think of a time when I ate better.

One would think that being only 500 miles from the North Pole, there wouldn't be any animals. Under normal circumstances, you'd be right. Even the Inuit are smart enough not to live this far north. But over time, the garbage dump has attracted a growing, sustainable population of arctic fox, arctic hare and arctic wolves along with the occasional visit from a polar bear. I had a close encounter with the wolf pack while visiting the dump during the dark months. It was fascinating, but scary as hell.

Free is great

I found a new list of open source alternatives to programs you normally have to pay for.

The list is pretty extensive and includes some of my favourite programs, including Firefox, the Open Office Suite, Filezilla, NVU, 7-Zip and others.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Trying to get computer business?

Here's a computer store sign in Milford, New Hampshire that brought a lot of customers in.

This is totally unscientific in terms of a sampling, but feel free to comment to this post and share your Vista experiences with the other readers. As for my own experiences, I tried Vista on my (former) HP laptop, which was no slouch hardware-wise save for the mediocre video card..... it sucked.

"Batteries just 'die'...."

Here's a nice clip (hunker down, it's 14 minutes long), of a comedian named Demetri Martin.

Good stuff.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Feelin' like a vampire

I'm a real baby when it comes to my eyes. There's just no touching my eyes.... I can't even bear to put eye drops in those suckers. Contacts lenses? Never going to happen!

Well, today I had to visit an Ophthalmologist and get the Glaucoma exam done. You know - the freezing of the pupil so they can put a lens against your eye. Then they use those drops to dilate your pupils so the good doctor can look inside your eyes properly. I needed a double dose of that stuff before it worked, so needless to say, I'm impressed.

Then I had to run a few errands, so I'm running around feeling like some kind of vampire because of my sensitivity to the light. The world starts to look like some kind of blurry fantasy land. And of course while your pupils are dilated, you can't read anything up close.