Friday, July 31, 2009

Best blog post title seen on a blog this year (so far)

"Show me the Monet"

White Noise blog 5th anniversary

Today my little blog in a quiet corner of the internet turns 5 years old. With 5800+ posts and counting, it's going along nicely with an average of 100-200 hits per day.

To all of my readers, casual and dedicated alike, thank you for gracing my pages with your time and your interest.

Tell your friends. Tell your family. The more, the merrier.

One of the reasons the iPhone is so successful...

... is that fantastic apps like these are made for it. In a great example of 'augmented reality', the Nearest Tube app, made for Londoners, uses the built-in GPS and compass to show you where the nearest subway lines are relative to your location and as you tilt the phone up, down and around, it superimposes bubbles representing the nearest stations with information like what line and how far away over live video of what's in front of you (provided by the iPhone 3GS video cam). There's one for the New York subway system too (pictured).

This is the kind of ingenious new use for smart phones that just a short time from now we'll wonder how we ever did without.

Have more than one email? Manage them in GMail

Did you know that if you have a GMail account, you can use GMail to access any other email accounts you have? All you do is go into Settings > Accounts and choose 'add another email address you own'. Then follow the steps.

This basically allows you to consolidate all of your email in one place and maintain separate accounts for various purposes. When you compose a new email, you can choose which address to make it appear you're sending from. Cool huh?

(I know Hotmail can do this too, but why would you want to use Hotmail for this when GMail is so much more capable?)

A retail prediction from Karl

I anticipate any Crocs stores that still exist to be closed within 18 months.

You heard it here first.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Big E' weigh in on DRM... "It's fair!"

Cory Doctorow came upon this argument by the lawyer who represents the MPAA, RIAA in a letter to the Copyright Office. In it, the lawyer states that buying DRMed content, then having that content stop working later is fair.

"We reject the view," he writes in a letter to the top legal adviser at the Copyright Office, "that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works. No other product or service providers are held to such lofty standards. No one expects computers or other electronics devices to work properly in perpetuity, and there is no reason that any particular mode of distributing copyrighted works should be required to do so."

The problem with this argument is that content protected with DRM is crippled by design. Imagine if the car you bought would only work if the company's DRM server were still online. So if the company went bankrupt (that could never happen, right?), your car would suddenly and permanently stop running. Would that be a fair analogy? Would you stand for such a policy by the automobile industry? Then why are we letting the entertainment industry get away with it?

Full article here.

Because your mobile provider needs more money

Our cell phone companies are at it again. For the uninitiated, you can take advantage of the connection your phone can make to the internet (assuming you have a data plan) and connect your computer to your phone so that you can surf the web etc. on a bigger screen than your phone provides. It's called tethering and it only requires a cable to connect the two.

If you're already paying for data to your mobile phone company, you'd figure that tethering or not, data is data - as long as you stay within your purchased limit of megabytes, everything is hunky dory. And that's where you'd be wrong. By the end of 2009, Rogers and Fido will likely charge you a monthly fee if you want to tether your laptop to your phone for internet access on the road, otherwise the feature will be blocked. There are ways around this block (naturally),
but not everyone will know how nor should they have to. This is still pure speculation, as Rogers haven't actually said they will charge for tethering, but the way their announcement was worded, they are leaving the option open. On my Fido bill, there is now a fee entry placeholder for tethering.

I really have a bone to pick with this issue and I'm not even mildly interested in tethering in the first place. If I paid for 1GB of data use per month, it's bought and paid for. Period. Whether I use this data on my phone or tethered to my laptop is of no business to my mobile phone company. Once again, the mobile phone industry in Canada delivers another punch to the consumer thanks to the lack of real competition. I truly look forward to the day a European cell provider gets access to our market.

How technology changes our culture

I absolutely love this list of '100 things your kids may never know about' from Wired online.

My fave: Having to delete something to make room on your hard drive.

Honourable mention: Having to manually unlock a car door.

Little rock gods in training

I'm always pleasantly amazed when I see young kids rocking out. This 8 year old is no different, tearing the crap out of Hey Joe by Hendrix. That guitar's as tall as he is for crying out loud!

More little rock gods here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is Bill O'Reilly really this stupid?

When a Canadian asks if anyone noticed that life expectancy in Canada (assigning credit to the health care system) is higher than in the US, Bill responds by saying, "Well, that's to be expected Peter, because we have 10 times as many people as you do. That translates to 10 times as many accidents, crimes, down the line."

Now I'm certain his show is a comedy.

Doesn't it look awesome?

Apple's next iPhone, the 3GI, is "as light as air," according to Apple senior Veep Philip Schiller. "See how thin that is? It's like it's not even there."

According to Apple, the new phone will only be visible to "the company's hippest and most dedicated customers."

An Ernest contribution.

If you want to sell something..... then 'sell' it!

Darlene and I have always wondered what goes through some peoples' heads when they post stuff for sale online. Not so much about the items themselves, but the photograph of the item that gets put online. I mean, they do intend to 'sell' the thing, right?

The Good: This is how you sell a bike. High contrast, well lit picture. Nothing around to distract from the item.

The Bad: If you're trying to promote the value of an item, like an antique sewing machine, you might want to showcase it properly, not surrounded by junk. Keeping your finger away from the lens helps too.

Below is a picture of a retro phone table from the 1970s. It might help if you stood upside down to view the picture. No, I'm serious - that's how the image appeared in the ad. Isn't that swell? Lighting is an important part of good picture taking too.

IE.... the bane of my existence

I've been trying to wean Darlene of off Internet Explorer (the browser that comes with Windows) almost ever since I discovered Firefox. She keeps reverting back to it, even though it has caused numerous issues on her computer. Well, the computer gods seem to have finally taken the issue out of her hands completely since yesterday. Her computer kept rebooting and although I was able to get the reboots to stop, the computer would not stop freezing - as long as she kept using IE. Reverting back to an older version of IE did not fix the issue. Not using IE at all seems to work.

Long live the alternate browser....

Toys not even created equal

Darlene has become quite familiar with the toy industry since becoming a grandmother. One of the things we acquired for little Olivia lately was a Little Tikes Place (seen on the left), a basic doll-house with movable furniture and people. But then she noticed that Little Tikes also makes a Mansion (seen on the right), with better quality furniture and better people - and by that I mean physically better (more joints) - not morally. Family members can be bought as Caucasians or African-Americans. For real. It would be fun to put the white family in the ghetto house.

You know, it's never too early to teach your children about the class system in society.....

That was a joke.... just so we're clear, OK?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What's wrong with recycling in Calgary

I spent part of the day Sunday at Calgary's Folk Fest. I was helping out with the CivicCamp booth. I met some amazing people and learned a few things about grassroots civic initiatives happening in this city.

A phenomenon I was rather proud of at the Fest was the very obvious recycling initiative going on. Not only were they trying to recycle everything on the grounds, but there were guides to assist you with where to put everything.

One small snag - as I was recycling my Tim Horton's paper coffee cup (yes, there was a Tim Horton's booth in the food area), I was told they could not recycle the plastic lid which is clearly marked with a recycle symbol. When I asked why, they told me that the city would not accept items for recycling that had not been rinsed and they had no facility to rinse cup lids on site.


"North.... to the future..."

Did anyone hear Sarah Palin's final speech as Governor of Alaska? It baffled a lot of people.

Conan O'Brien recognized it as poetry and asked William Shatner to recite it verbatim. Hilarity ensues.

NBC is actively shooting take-downs at YouTube for this video. The link may stop working. If so, search Shatner Palin and it may be up at a different URL.

Signs a corporation doesn't get it

1. They ban camera phones in the workplace for security reasons. The problem with this policy is that there's really very few phones now without cameras. I would venture that if you did a random poll of cell phone owners in the workplace, you'd find at least 50% of phones had cameras built in - the number is likely higher and climbing by the day. This is a policy that is not only highly inconvenient for staff and visitors, but is difficult to enforce. Then there are the privacy considerations. Imagine walking into a company lobby and being asked to hand over your cell phone because it has a camera. Just like that. Who will have access to this phone? Where and how will it be stored? How will you know who to give my phone back to? Do you see the irony here? "At XYZ Corporation, we value our privacy, we just don't value yours."

2. They filter internet sites. Yes, companies try to achieve a number of goals with web filtering, including better information security, a more productive workforce and the saving of corporate bandwidth. The flaw is in the method used to determine sites that are perceived as being unproductive. What corporations fail to understand is that many sites that are painted with a wide brush as being inappropriate or unproductive are in fact the new tools of the modern age. Yes, there are millions of non-business related videos on online video sites. But there are also countless tutorials, demos, lessons, etc. being hosted on free video hosts like YouTube. Why? Because it saves companies money in hosting costs. I actually heard a story once of an IT department representative saying "If a company is hosting their video on YouTube, they're amateur and we don't want to do business with them.", in response to a request to get YouTube unblocked on a corporate network. I'm not kidding. But it's not just YouTube getting a bad rap. Facebook is the new social network for the tech-savvy and they don't just use it for recapping the weekend's social events. Pose a question on Facebook and your friends will likely either have an answer or point to a resource in minutes.

The point? Those that choose to restrict technology often don't fully understand its value. This is an attitude that is short-sighted and inherently dangerous. But it does have some value. Any restriction placed on technology resources - especially in the workplace - will eventually only result in one thing. A workaround. One way..... or another.

Let me pose a hypothetical to any IT manager out there. Imagine you're employing methods to block internet resources and that this could potentially annoy the users of the network. Now imagine possible scenarios of how these users could work around your restrictions. Now imagine the worst case scenario. This is what is either being investigated by those affected, or is already happening. So much for those restrictions, huh?

Frank Zappa was smart

Zappa had a potential new music industry business model figured out in 1983.

Zappa's a freaking genius. He wrote this in 1983.

Monday, July 27, 2009

This wine has too much body

A bottle of wine with this label on it is outlawed in Alabama because labels aren't allowed with "a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner".

That could explain why Starbucks changed their logo too.

Because the best person to get information from is.... a local

Directionless Enquiries is an open source peer to peer helpdesk system that helps us to help each other. The concept is simple. When you have time to be an agent, you volunteer to answer peoples' questions about your city / neighbourhood from people calling in. In exchange, any time you need information, you call and let someone else be the agent, helping you find the nearest ATM, who makes the best pizza in the area, how far of a walk to the subway from your current location - whatever.

What a great idea. It's collaborative information sharing the way it should be done. At the moment, it's only in plans for UK participation, but I'm hoping that changes quickly.

If I was in charge (4 years later)

I originally put up a list of things that would change if I had the power in June 2005. Nobody commented on anything. What's up with that? I felt it was time to redo the list. Note: These are just my thoughts - I don't profess to be right (I'm a little more left, truth be told).
  • Do whatever it takes to overhaul our health care system to bring it back to the quality of service that existed 30 years ago. Private service requiring extra payment from patients should not be allowed and it should not be necessary. Some of us stopped paying health care premiums. Why - if our system is not even working?
  • Outlaw speed bumps. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. They're only good for wrecking suspensions. Based on my observations, they do not slow people down - they're a nuisance, not a deterrent.
  • Free transit for anyone over 65 ( I upped the age by 5 years).
  • Here's a concept - the more a vehicle pollutes - the more it should cost to buy.
  • The lowest emission vehicles get to use HOV lanes.
  • We need a wholesale upgrade of the electrical grid to be ready for the onslaught of electric vehicles due in the next decade.
  • Financial incentives to add renewable electric generation capability at your home (wind / solar / geothermal). Utilities should provide the necessary equipment to enable excess energy to be sold back to grid.
  • Stop the security charade at airports. X-ray our bags, make us walk through detectors, but stop acting like lip balm should be spelled lip bomb.
  • Let's stop playing partisan politics regarding the carbon tax concept. It's an idea whose time has come. Anyone who doesn't like it has too much vested interest in the carbon industry.
  • The government in Canada needs a voting system overhaul. Consider this as well: If you win with a majority, you get to determine national policy unopposed for 4 years. If you win with a minority, you try to govern with a virtual gun to your head until the opposition finally pulls the trigger and forces another election. Is that productive?
  • Day care is way too expensive. Yet even with families paying $800+ per month per child, there are waiting lists of two years to get in. Can't we fix this?
  • Speed cameras belong mostly in school zones and playground zones and at pedestrian crosswalks when they're in use. Speaking of crosswalks - let's make them more visible - and teach pedestrians to put their arm out to indicate their intent to cross. I've seen this in action in Toronto and it works wonders. No more trying to guess if someone is crossing.
  • Hide the GST back into the price of all products - we don't need to see it. This will make it more realistic to:
  • Abolish the penny. Everything ending in 1 or 2 is rounded to 0; 3 or 4 rounded to 5; 6 or 7 is rounded to 5; 8 or 9 rounded to 0. Bye-bye penny! [Everyone wave bye-bye]
  • Canada should not succumb to pressure from the entertainment industry or the US government to make copyright law more restrictive. Heck - down with copyright altogether. Up with Creative Commons Licensing.
  • While we're on the subject, governments and industry alike need to understand that business models need to change with the technology, the culture and the times. If a model is failing - and this applies to so many industries right now - then the model must adapt or die. Tax dollars are not meant for saving the skins of stubborn CEOs and board members.
  • Free trade is a joke. Scrap all duties. If you can't compete... you're doing it wrong. Sounds like 'failing business model syndrome' again.
  • Offer financial incentives to companies that capitalize on telecommuting at least 50% of the work week (reduces traffic / pollution).
  • Abolish the CRTC. Or at least its mandate of legislating Canadian content. Canadian programming that's any good will stand on its own.
  • Consumers are the most qualified and capable to distribute artistic content using the internet. So let them do it. Charge a levy in addition to ISP connection fees that allows everyone to download anything at anytime. The entertainment industry can use file-sharing analysis software to tabulate who the fees should go to. Problem solved.
  • Twin the Trans Canada Highway from coast to coast. Find a way. It's embarrassing that this hasn't been done yet.
  • Make all speciality cable TV channels a-la-carte. There are too many crap channels riding the coat-tails of viable ones. The ones that have low demand must be tossed.
  • The penalty for drinking and driving is loss of license. Forever. No exceptions. Not even for work. Then you go to jail.
  • There should be a sophisticated RFID-type device that you get from the vehicle registry that enables you to operate a vehicle. If you've lost your license, you lose this device as well. This would prevent those who are penalized from driving illegally.
  • Abolish the gun registry. Crimes are rarely committed with registered weapons.
  • Legalize marijuana. Regulate it to make it safe. Do it now. I need to get my Mr. Munchie (mobile munchie truck) business on the road before I retire.
  • Find a way, maybe through corporate sponsorship or something - to make university and college free. There are just too many benefits for this not to work.
  • If someone emigrates to Canada with a professional skill - for heaven's sake let them at least challenge an exam to earn the right to practise that skill here.
  • If the government really cared about our health, they would heavily tax junk and processed food and pay us to quit smoking.
  • It's time to inject new life into our national passenger rail system. High speed trains between Quebec and Windsor, Edmonton / Calgary / Regina / Winnipeg would be a good start.

Jedi breakfast

Cute video about breakfast and Jedi (pl.)

"You don't mind the light sabre on the table...."

Could the war be over soon?

The debate over legalizing marijuana in the US is picking up steam, especially now that Governor Arnold of California is suggesting it might be time to debate the issue. The hard line anti-drug folks trot out the same tired old lines against the idea, but a Harvard senior economics lecturer knocks down every anti-marijuana myth in this video. Basically the argument is that billions are spent, when in fact billions could be generated instead.

Speaking of marijuana, here's a BBC report on the plant in Canada - specifically - British Columbia, which most Canadians joke is the hub of the drug culture in our country.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Can we just get over the breast bearing already?

A woman was breast feeding her child (covered) in an Ikea store in New York when security banished her to the bathroom. What is it about breast feeding in public that has folks' nipples in a twist? (See what I did there?) Do people actually find it disturbing to see a mother feed their baby in the most natural and healthy manner possible?

I really don't comprehend America's bizarre obsession with breasts. We get moderate doses of them in movies but abhor them being displayed in public. Oh..... except for Mardi Gras of course. I admire the European attitude toward nudity in all of its forms. Nobody flinches (except the tourists) at topless or even completely nude beaches and swimming pools in Europe. Generally, we really are a bunch of puritanical prudes over here. It's very unfortunate.

Take the money and run

A fairly well to do New Zealander took all of his money out of one of the nation's bigger banks after they denied him a mortgage because he doesn't make a guaranteed income (he's an artist - but a very successful one). He made the withdrawal a bit annoying by demanding the money all in 20's (all $190,000 of it) and then he deposited his money in a local community credit union. He said after 25 years as a loyal customer who never missed a payment if they wouldn't lend him the money he needed, it was time to switch banks.

"If you don't support the community, the community won't support you."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kevin Spacey on Twitter

Kevin Spacey explains Twitter to David Letterman. Dave doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.

David wraps up the whole conversion with "You know what it reminds me of? Oh yeah, a waste of time."

Would you like our wonderful browser or this other crap?

It appears that Microsoft wants to save money on lawyer's fees regarding the release of Windows 7 in Europe. They have agreed to the EU's terms of offering users of Windows 7 a "browser ballot" during the initial boot sequence, so that users are not forced IE as their web browser. That screen would allow users to choose from a number of competing browsers, which would then be downloaded and installed on the machine. There's no word on which browsers would be eligible for votes, but Google (Chrome), Mozilla (Firefox), and Opera have all been in discussions with the EU.

Too bad they couldn't get such an agreement in North America, but governments here don't seem to have a problem with a Microsoft monopoly on personal computers. I think it would be even better if on first boot-up, you were explained that you don't have to stick with Windows period, then offer to install Ubuntu for you.

Be careful what you wish for....

If you know me at all, you know that I have a rather new-age-y outlook on life. I seem to recall saying to people back in the very early part of this year that I needed a good break from work and that work was getting kind of boring. That's not a slight against the job at all, I just felt like I was in a rut.

Well, you know how the saying goes - be careful what you wish for - no sooner did the universe hear my request, I got laid off. If there's one thing I have learned in life it is to resist the urge to freak out over situations like this as I truly do believe that everything happens for a reason. I have been fortunate to be able to use this time off to relax, attend some professional development and spend quality time with my family. As I was walking along the Bow River pathway today, it occurred to me that a lay off could have come in the middle of winter, but no, I got to essentially take the summer off. You have no idea how wonderful that is.

So in the spirit of believing that the universe is listening and ready to grant my every sincere wish, I just want to put out there that I'm feeling relaxed and refreshed and am ready to return to work. To the best job I've ever had.

Round about the end of September.....

Cooking the way Grandma used to

When I saw this blog, I started drooling immediately. Come on - it's called How to Cook like your Grandmother. Look at the picture.... it's called 'Perfect Brownies'.

You're not even reading this post anymore, are you?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nay nay..... we didn't say funniest...

With the passing of Walter Cronkite, the torch of 'America's Most Trusted Newscaster' had to be passed on to somebody. It seems that somebody is none other than Jon Stewart, anchor at The Daily Show. The green states voted for Jon.

What exactly does that say about the state of the news business? Or the state of America for that matter. I mean.... the 'states' of America.

Frozen food lasts forever! Sweet Jesus......

This is what can happen when you invite the public to speak at city council. You learn a whole bunch of things you might never have known before. Like how the East believes in slavery and perfect pesticides and how businesses need to lower their rent and stuff. Oh! And vegetable trees.


Colour names

Imagine if more colours were named after a recognizable thing of that colour - like orange is.

Blood might mean stop. The grass might always be grasser on the other side. The sunflower's petals might be sun. That song by Crystal Gayle might be called 'Don't it make my mud eyes sky'. My favourite rock band might be called Flesh Floyd. Bruises might be coloured night and sky.

On the minds of students today

During that seminar I told you about regarding 'generations', we were shown this video.

It's called A Vision of Students Today and it is "a short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime."

Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

It's out there....

Here's my big question for the year: Why aren't we exploiting the immense potential of space-based solar power?

Sure, the initial cost would be enormous, but investing in a system of orbiting solar power collectors and ground stations to receive that power, could stimulate the economy in a big way. Gathering the sun's energy in space and beaming it down maximizes the harvest while minimizing the environmental effects on the Earth.

Big bucket!

Not fooling anybody is a web sites devoted to conversions of buildings from one business to another, where obvious architectural clues allude to the building's original use.

My favourite is this one. Hey! Mr. Gilstrap! There's a giant bucket of chicken on your sign......

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The cat concerto

Remember the piano playing cat? Well, a composer from Lithuania named Mindaugas Piecaitis was inspired by Nora the Piano Playing Cat and composed a concerto for her to perform with an orchestra. Nora appears via video clip. The rest of the music is by the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra.

Make sure to watch through to the end.

So thair!

English is a lanaguage. Speek it!

You can't write good comedy like this...... it only happens in real life.

xkcd - best online comic in the world

My former colleagues and anyone working in IT with the Windows Operating System will get a kick out of this edition....

Based on how long dialogue boxes would say an install / update task would take, we used to joke about minutes as in "Is that actual minutes or 'Microsoft minutes'?"

Speak now or forever hold your peace

I have already blogged about the fact that the Canadian government is consulting on copyright reform (finally). What isn't public knowledge yet is that you can have your say. Not in person, but online at least. You simply go to this site and register, then let your opinion fly. This is important for Canadians because you can bet special interest groups will be all over this opportunity like white on rice. Who is going to speak on behalf of your rights?

If you need to inform yourself first, Michael Geist has launched the fantastic The site features dozens of posts and videos on Canadian copyright law, the Twitter #copycon stream, information on Bill C-61, and a Take Action page that highlights many of the ways individual Canadians can speak out on copyright.

"Let's start by admitting censorware doesn't work"

I've always been vocally against censorware - ask my friends, they'll tell you it's true. It doesn't work and it does much more harm than good.

Finally esteemed man-about-the-internet Cory Doctorow has written an article on the subject worth reading.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

He said "Well, I don't want to see myself all over the internet"

The fun in the UK with regards to police strong-arming the public about filming them continues:

"The mobile phone clip shows two uniformed police officers searching her boyfriend by a wall in the station. Atkinson said she felt that police had unfairly targeted him, who did not have drugs in his possession, and decided to film the officers in order to hold them to account.

Seconds later, an undercover officer wearing jeans and a black jacket enters the shot, and asks Atkinson: "Do you realize it is an offence under the Terrorism Act to film police officers?" He then adds: "Can you show me what you you just filmed?"

Atkinson stopped filming and placed her phone in her pocket. According to her account of the incident, the officer tried several times to forcefully grab the phone from her pocket. Failing to get it, he called over two female undercover officers. Atkinson said he solicited their help getting the camera and told them where it was."

After officers made calls to the police station, the handcuffs were removed and Atkinson was released."

Hey Mr. Policeman. How did you make out not seeing yourself all over the internet?

Do you like to go fast?

A blog post showing videos of people going stupid fast in various vehicles. Some of the examples are downright retarded, but I did rather enjoy the video from Top Gear, where they tried to take a Bugatti Veyron to its rated top speed of 253mph (407km/h).

No..... that's not a typo..... For reference, the fastest that a Formula One car has ever gone on a track is 229mph. Off-track, one reached 257mph.

What colour is water?

If you said it doesn't have any colour - it's transparent, you'd be wrong. Pure water has a slight blue hue, which becomes a deeper blue as the thickness of the observed sample increases. Lakes and oceans aren't blue because of reflections from the sky....

Packing for men

They don't teach this stuff in school, but I think every man needs to know how to pack a suitcase for a trip. This article does a pretty decent job explaining how to do that, including how to fold clothes so they don't get creases.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Besides fun, witty tees, Karl likes.....?

.... fun, witty greeting cards! Or, in this case, mean cards. Pictured:

"you quit smoking!" (inside: "Just cigarettes, right? Congratulations!")

0 to 70 (km/h)(46mph) in 14 seconds

You've probably already heard about the new car Indian company Tata Motors is producing to try to get more people on the road - the Nano (it's moniker - The People's Car). This car is more affordable than (I think) any other car made today, selling for only 123,360 rupees (CAD$2835), with a deluxe model going for 185,000 rupees (CAD$4252). The engine is just a 2 cylinder at a miniscule 624 cc. It gets a combined mileage of 56mpg(Imp) (4.2l/100km).

The vehicle is set to come to the US in two years. I bet it won't sell for $4000.......

Don't advertise your BBQs in UK on Facebook

A guy announced an "all-night" party at his house - a BBQ to celebrate his birthday. So the police scrambled to break up the event under the UK's anti-rave laws. The party had 15 people at it. They were eating hamburgers. They hadn't put on any music.

The police claim that sending out the chopper and the riot van saved money, compared to what it would have cost to break it up if it had turned into a full-blown, multi-thousand person rave.

Lesson: If you're going to advertise your BBQ on Facebook, don't make it sound anything like a rave. The cops are watching (in the UK).

Towing the line

There's a lot of talk right now in Alberta about the Conservative provincial representative from Fort McMurray (Guy Boutilier) being yanked from caucus due to public comments he made about his constituents being concerned regarding the delay of health care dollars being spent in their riding.
The Premier's office claims their decision was fair and necessary to set an example that public comments out of line with official party policy will not be tolerated. I feel the Premier's pain. He's trying very hard to control spending and has his sights set on health care dollars. His party members have to be seen in solidarity or his very unpopular stance begins to look weak. Right?

I'm not an experienced politician, so what I'm about to say may be naive. I've always had a problem with party members having to strictly tow the party line. It's a problem across the political spectrum and an issue I'm sure that cannot be easy to solve. It's also a double edged sword. On the one hand as a representative, you want to support the party's policies and leadership. But on the other, you also need to put forth the views of your constituents. What do you do when your party has a platform and you and your riding disagree with one or more of the policies? If you're quiet and tow the line, you might keep leadership happy, but the next election could see you voted out by your riding. If you are too vocal about differences with party policy, they throw you out of cabinet, caucus, perhaps even the party.

Can't a politician have or represent a view and not be judged for it? Sometimes a difference in opinion helps balance policy objectives. Are our political structures so vulnerable that they can't survive a little disagreement? Wouldn't leaders be able to make better choices if their followers were free to speak their minds?

I think that if I were to belong to a political party, I would want everything open to discussion. All opinions are valid. The leader still has to make a decision, but only after considering all voices on a matter. One has to wonder, if a leader insists that a government has to reign in health spending and the public think the health system is falling apart and a few representatives are objecting to cuts..... maybe the whole reigning in idea was bad and everyone else is too scared to say anything.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy Canadians

The OECD produced a study ranking the world’s nations by the level of happiness of their citizens. Here are the top ten:

1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. The Netherlands
4. Sweden
5. Ireland
6. Canada
7. Switzerland
8. New Zealand
9. Norway
10. Belgium

There's a reason Canadians are so happy. I could tell you..... but then you'd wanna move here.....

Imagine batteries that partly recharge from the air

A new battery technology invented in Scotland uses oxygen from the surrounding air to help recharge and thus prolong the capacity of the battery to at least 10 times current capabilities. The technology is still about 5 years off, but could revolutionize battery size and capacity.

Places where this technology would not be welcomed: submarines and space ships.

A major milestone (for me) went by silently

It occurs to me that the 10th anniversary of when I quit smoking went by (last month) and I didn't even notice. Did I ever tell you the story about how I quit? I couldn't find anything in the blog archives, so bear with me if you've heard this one already.

I had less than a year before I was to conclude my 20 year contract with the military and I knew it was time to quit smoking soon. Darlene works with cancer patients and had been gently lobbying me to quit. I was getting to the point where I was ready and was thinking that in preparation for the life altering change that was awaiting me post-military, quitting smoking might be good practise for altering behaviour. Because as I learned, that is the key to quitting - behaviour modification.

First, the doctor had me keep track of all the times I had a cigarette and log the reason for each smoke. Every smoke has a purpose. Some are rewards, some are due to peer pressure (smoking with friends), some are from boredom, some are pure habit, the list goes on. The key is to plan to replace each of the situations with a new behaviour. So instead of a smoke, I planned to end a meal with a walk. Instead of a smoke resulting from boredom, I planned to reach for a bottle of water. One of the main reasons quitters don't succeed is that they neglect to replace the act of smoking for a specific purpose with something else. The behaviour is so ingrained that it overpowers you unless you modify that behaviour.

Once I was prescribed Buproprion (still smoking), my whole world changed. Buproprion (Zyban) makes you goofy - at least, it did for me. It's an anti-depressant after all. It changes your brain chemistry to make you feel the same way you would post-cigarette-buzz. On Buproprion, that buzz you get from the first drag of a smoke..... is gone. It's freaking spooky. On the drug, the act of smoking becomes an empty gesture - no effect at all. By day 2, I was lighting up, taking 2 drags of a cigarette, and getting nothing out of it at all, and subsequently stubbing it out. By day 4, I had my last cigarette, on the front porch of my house. At 8pm. I actually quit 3 days before my official 'quit ceremony' day. That made the doctor very nervous. So he kept me on Buproprion for 12 weeks. No matter. The program worked and here we are 10 years later.

10 years. I deserve a celebratory treat for that I think. A nice 46" High Definition LCD TV would do the trick. Oh yeah. As soon as I start my next job..... colour it done.