Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This could get a lot of diabetics beaming

MIT is working on a new way of measuring blood-sugar levels using a device based on infrared light.

No more pin prick.

An experiment to make the web more connected

Here's a web concept that is simple yet overlooked. The things we use the web for are disconnected. Here are some examples:

Let's say you're composing an email to some folks announcing a get-together at your house. You can go to a mapping site and get a link to a map of your place, then put the link in your email. Or you could take a screen shot of the map and insert the picture into your email. But you can't just put the whole functional map in your email.

If you want to email some friends about a great restaurant you've been to and want to include the review, you can paste a link to the review, but you can't just put the whole (readable) review into your email that if clicked, opens other reviews on the same place.

The other thing that's inadequate about the web is that if you want to define a word, you have to go to a dictionary site, then type in the word. You can't just type 'define ubiquitous' in your address bar and expect anything useful to appear. If you're on a site and you want to email it to someone, you have to open your email program (or web mail site), find (or remember) someone's email address, add it to the TO: field, then copy and paste the current URL into a new message and send it.

Wouldn't it be cool though, if you could just from the web page you're at type 'email to jon' and it instantly opens your email resource of choice, adds jon's address and copies the current URL into the message? How about you highlight an address and type 'map this' and voila - Google maps provides you with a map that you can then insert right into: your email, blog entry, whatever. Or select some foreign language text and type 'translate this' and the selected text is instantly translated into English (or other language of choice).

Well, Mozilla Labs had been working on just such a project, called Ubiquity. Too bad that it has been abandoned. The good news is that the user community has adopted the add-on and are writing additional commands to make the add-on even more usable. Let's go to the video, shall we?

Monday, August 30, 2010

China gives gridlock new meaning... or The Big Jam

Have you guys heard about this epic traffic jam in China? When I first heard about it, I thought it was one of those urban myths, but apparently not.

The deal is that material destined for Beijing is mostly transported by truck. Normally, this isn't a problem, but this summer there is a lot of construction going on on the Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway. It started August 13th on a part of the highway that is usually congested, especially after large coalfields were discovered in Inner Mongolia. Traffic has increased 40% each year. Making the problem worse is that unlike in other parts of the world, China's highway system has no redundancy, in that there is no network of secondary roads to use as alternate routes.

The jam stretches 100km (60mi) with vehicles moving anywhere from a half to two kilometers per day. Some drivers get stuck in the jam for five or more days. They pass the time sleeping, walking around, or playing cards and chess. Local villagers were doing brisk business selling instant noodles, boxed lunches and snacks, weaving between the parked trucks on bicycles.

The construction will not be finished until September 17. But almost miraculously, on the morning of August 26th, the jam cleared up. So there you have it, essentially a two week traffic jam.

Solar charging coming to Apple mobile products?

The big news from Apple may not end up being the iPhone 4.

Apple has apparently filed a patent for a full range of mobile devices with integrated touch sensor solar panel surfaces. In other words - solar powered iPods, iPhones and iPads. The cool factor? The placement of the solar cells underneath the multi-touch surface. The recent switch from a metal back on the iPhone to a glass one would also allow for an internal double-sided solar panel. This makes it clear that Apple is moving in the direction of integrating solar cells.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

You should buy one

It's never too early to be thinking about Christmas gifts. If you don't buy that statement, then let's just think of this as a potential birthday gift. I was going to say "For your man", but women would love this Leatherman Skeletool CX as well. It includes:
  • 154CM Stainless Steel Clip Point Knife
  • Needlenose Pliers
  • Regular Pliers
  • Wire Cutters
  • Hard-wire Cutters
  • Large Bit Driver
  • Bottle Opener
  • Carabiner Clip
  • Phillips #1 and #2 Bit, Screwdriver 3/16" and 1/4" Bit
It weighs in at a lithe 5 ounces.

Now playing in the playlist - Genesis

Do you se that little jukebox over there on the right side of my blog page? The one labelled Grooveshark? That's a playable list of songs. You'll only see it if you're on the blog page (not looking at my posts via Twit or Faceplant). Once in a while I change what's stored in there.....

This week, I threw in a bunch of Genesis (the band - not the book from the bible).

The new bulb paradigm

The problem with comparing incandescent bulbs to their more efficient brethren is that it's no longer fair to compare using watts of energy used. So the US government made it the law to allow consumers to compare bulbs on fairer terms. The labels you see here are an example of the new labelling to be seen soon (if not already).

We need this in Canada too.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Out in the country

Some friends invited me to tag along while they did a driving tour of destinations south of Calgary in the Okotoks area. The tour was actually part of the Harvest Festival, but these places are open every weekend anyway.

First stop was the Millarville Farmer's Market, which sets up at the Millarville Race Track. A twoonie to get in and I have to say it's probably one of the best markets in the area, if not the best. I picked up some polish baking, rocky road fudge, some home-made bread and butter pickles, Hutterite butter tarts and some bison jerky.

Then it was off to the Chinook Honey Company, just west of Okotoks. We got to see a live hive from the safety of a screened tent. We asked all kinds of questions and the woman running the place had some fascinating insight on the operation of a commercial hive. Some things I did not know:
  • Bees can kill wasps by clustering around them and over-heating them.
  • Bees survive the winter in a manner similar to penguins, they cluster around each other to keep warm. The inside of the hive can be 20C even while it's minus stupid outside.
  • The biggest problem with keeping the hives safe is skunks.
  • Smoke seemingly calms the bees down because they think there's a fire approaching and they go into the hive to gorge on honey in case their food supply gets destroyed.
  • Among the things killing bees in North America - disease due to a less balanced diet, thanks to the new agricultural mono-culture (not enough diversity of crops in fields)
Next stop was a nice little restaurant in Okotoks called Divine. Proud of the locally sourced food they serve, they cooked up a nice bison burger for yours truly. It was awesome. I've never ventured east into Okotoks down Elizabeth Street / North railway and it's a quaint country-style downtown area. Some of the shops are surprisingly big inside and stores sneak up on you with their location. I saw an ice cream shop in a regular looking house, nestled right in the midst of plain old ordinary residential homes.

My last stop was the berry winery south of Strathmore, Field Stone Fruit Wines. The make scrumptious berry wines. I got to try them all and escaped with a bottle of raspberry dessert wine.

All in all, a fun, informative, treat filled day with great friends. Thanks guys.

You never notice something until you 'discover' it

Yesterday I saw my first Alberta license plate with seven digits. I knew they were coming, I just hadn't seen one until yesterday.

Then they started coming out of the woodwork so to speak. It's almost like I had blinders on to their existence, then, once I noticed one, I was able to see them all.


The evolution of gons

The new angle on shapes.

A welcome addition to our neighbourhood

Montgomery has been blessed quite recently with the opening of its first gourmet restaurant - Notable. The creation of well-known chef Michael Noble (note his surname framing the restaurant's moniker), Darlene and I were excited to have a potentially good place to eat just a few blocks from our house.

This place is on the ground floor of that new large condo building that was built on Bowness Road near the Mohawk gas station. Inside, it's decor reeks of class and the kitchen is right there in front of you, their wood fired rotisserie roasting anything from pork roasts to whole chickens (man do they look yummy). Outside, you can sit on the patio and watch folks drive by, wondering what the hubbub is about. Could this be Montgomery's first restaurant patio? I think it is.

We went for the first time for some breakfast last Saturday and it was good. But I was anxious to try something I spied on the menu - their burger. You know me and my burgers.... I can now report, it is superb. Thick, cradled in a house made bun and served with....... wait for it..... home cut french fries. Yeah.

Yeah. Welcome to the neighbourhood Mike. I have a feeling that we'll be seeing a lot of each other.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cancel the damned job!

I knew something was up with the printer.....

Trying to be neighbourly

One of the nice things about owning a home is having the freedom to do what you want. Sometimes though, that freedom tends to impinge on your neighbours.

Here's an example we can discuss. It's just a random situation that I thought up just now. Imagine that your neighbour likes cigars. A lot. Like, a lot lot. Now imagine that your neighbour likes to smoke them on their front porch. At night. Now imagine that the smoke comes right into your window, which is only 10 or so feet away. You'd like to close your window, but all that will do is prevent the heat from escaping and letting in cool outside air. Cool, cigar-scented outside air. So thick and acrid, it makes you cough.

What do you do? Do you tell them? Do you risk ruining the relationship you have with them? Or do you just let things be. Do you hope that maybe it will resolve itself in some way? Do you put up subtle signs around your house indicating your low tolerance for smoke?


Notice: Any persons, situations, names or places in this story are not based on any real persons, situations, names or places and any resemblance is purely coincidental.

By the way, doing a Google search on 'smoking a cigar' with safe search off can get you more than you bargained for... I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

She's a natural

Here's a video of our grand-daughter, taken yesterday.

Olivia is 27 months old. (Facebook access required)

Must.... shop.... at.... Sobeys......

Sobeys is a grocery store in Canada. I shop there a lot.

After looking at this picture... I just realized why.....

The IKEA maze

I found this out on one of my recent trips to IKEA. If you go into IKEA, head upstairs, take the first shortcut, take the second shortcut, then the next, if you accidentally take what looks like the next shortcut (but is not labelled as such), you'll end up right back where you started.

Not that I've ever done this. Twice.

Do you know what else I've noticed? Large families tend to stop right in the middle of traffic choke points, just to:
  • Socialize.
  • Figure out where they are.
  • Discuss at length which direction the lighting section is.
  • Feed their children.
  • Argue with each other.
  • Visualize how nicely the Ektorp will look in their family room.

An overstatement perhaps?

Is this what us men are all about?


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I guess it's officially over

Because of this...

The story behind some muppet characters

Need I say more? Just read the article.

Shown - my second fave character. Don't take my word for it - he hangs on the coat hook on the inside of our hallway bathroom.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Upon drawing this card...

..user must fart a tornado and drop his pipe on a surprised dog.

Let's be clear - a gas mower

It's true.

The people who need it most would suffer most

This rant may reveal my somewhat leftist leanings, but I digress, in advance. Let us begin.

If you read my blog or know me personally, you are aware of my opinion about user fees. I find that user fees are just a way to offload the responsibility for good municipal fiscal management onto users, creates rifts in accessibility and marginalizes low income families.

Some news I read today is a perfect case in point. At one time, the outdoor community swimming pools in this city were funded and managed by the city. The money came from the pool of tax revenue. 6 years ago the city handed the operation of public outdoor pools over to the individual community groups. Because we have had 3 summers where the cooler than average weather meant less demand for the pool, the 7 communities who operate outdoor pools have lost money (the pools are paid for through user fees and some grants from the city).

I think the majority mind set would suggest that the pools are an example of a resource that may not be viable in a city like ours. I say B.S. I believe that making users pay to use the pool contributes to the marginalization of the lower income demographic. I would offer that low income families might actually need the resource the most, after all, they can't afford to buy their own pool. Since the community pool can only survive when a specific amount of fees are collected over a period of time (in this case, over several years), it is quite easy to mentally write the resource off when attendance is low. But the fact is that summer will eventually return to this city, likely with a vengeance. Unfortunately, because we've made this about the money, the pools may not be around when we need them most. The city isn't helping matters either, by reducing the amount of grant money given to communities to maintain these resources.

I liked the old way of managing resources, where most things were paid for out of a large pool of money and the city actually had to 'manage' it, using funds to prop up marginal resources during bad times and using surpluses from resources that are doing well. It's the way our country worked in the 20th century and it worked pretty well, if you ask me. Converting everything to fee-based services does nothing to encourage the use of resources and could spell the end to universal access of the things we need most to help bind our communities together. We've always prospered as a society where the 'haves' pay a little bit more to help out the 'have nots'. I would like to see a return to that concept.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lobby for something important

Parents of students in an area of Ontario are pressuring school officials to stop using wi-fi network connections in schools because of the potential health effects on children. The school board doesn't feel anything needs to be done.

The jury is still out on the long term effects of wi-fi and other wireless signals on our health, but these parents are insisting that something needs to be done.

Too bad nobody is making a big deal about school budget cuts, teacher salaries, impractical class sizes and unhealthy food and snacks in schools. These problems are known to contribute to problems for students down the road, but these more immediate issues remain largely ignored by parents.

I'm just sayin'.....


The space required to transport 60 people.

An interview with Jamie Northan

It's been a while since I have posted any interviews of Loose Moose improvisers, but it's been getting harder and harder to kidnap.... umm... imprison.... uh... stop them long enough to conduct an interview. But just in the last few weeks I managed to sit down with Jamie Northan long enough for a chat. It only took a year or so to pull it off. Hey - I'm nothing if not persistent.

So please enjoy this conversation with Jamie Northan of Loose Moose theatre.

I've decided to try hosting interviews from this point onward on my own online media storage. Faster and better quality.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

They created sweet dreams

It was time to rotate the playlist again. This time, I loaded it up with music by possibly the greatest band to come out of the 80's.

The Eurythmics.

Eat flesh

Zombie... eat flesh.

Let's talk about some mega-projects

Like... the Luna Ring solar moon project. Pretty far out stuff.

The one I'm hoping for is the space hotel.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What makes driving so unsafe?

Well, it's us, isn't it? Which is why as technology makes the act of driving more and more intelligent and automated, driving will automatically become safer. How, do you ask?
  • GPS equipped, networked cars will deliver real time traffic, weather and accident data.
  • Adaptive cruise control systems will adjust to slower cars ahead, check for a lane opening and steer around cars without having to slow down.
  • Cars linked in groups will travel highways like coupled freight cars. This will save fuel, reduce accidents, reduce traffic jams and free drivers to relax during commutes.
  • Pedestrians can carry a transponder that alerts vehicles to their presence, fixes their location, and ensures that they don’t get hit.
  • If a collision is unavoidable, networked cars could automatically reposition before a crash to protect occupants, such as pivoting a car to turn a deadly T-bone accident into a survivable rear-ender.
  • Ambulances will digitally broadcast a signal to cars ahead to automatically slow down and pull over. Motorcycles could get increased visibility via a digital assist. People often miss them in their rearview mirrors, but to automated cars they will be quite obvious.
  • New satellites will pinpoint cars' positions to the inch. That level of accuracy can help snap to a digitally mapped lane like a slot car on a track when a driver daydreams or falls asleep.
  • 20% of crash fatalities and 40% of accidents occur at intersections. Smart intersections will beam visual and audio collision warnings to cars and slow or stop vehicles and prevent running red lights.
  • Tomorrow’s networked cars and parking lots will tell each other when and where a spot opens up, saving time and fuel and pollution. Drivers might even let the car park itself and call for it to return at day’s end.


Yep. 45 of 'em. This panorama of Dubai is composed of 4250 individual photos. That's how big it is. You focus on a spot and zoom in and zoom in and zoom in and......

It's like watching that scene from Blade Runner. "Pan right 45....."

6 things from history that we picture wrong

I won't waste your time. The article says it all.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Font humour

Darth Vader is bold.

Donna Grantis

Damn you Steve for making me aware of this girl guitarist. This chick can play. Damn.

We need to pair her up with bassist Tal Wilkenfeld and maybe Elie Bertrand on drums. Yeah.... that should do it.

And now for the videos. Improv rock video. Improv shred video. Improv rhythm video.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Google now has Hollywood shaking in its boots

Because of Google TV. Read more about it here.

"I understand being scared of Google. They are big, smart, powerful and disruptive. It makes them scary from the moment they enter the room," Crockett said. "But they also represent the future."

Let the nightmares begin.

The next leap in speed for anything using a CPU

.... may come from a form of carbon known as graphene.

The real deal on Facebook privacy

You seriously have to read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Sorry, too long. Didn't listen."

What the internets have done to us.

You don't need an IQ test to own a laser

Message to the guy who pointed a class 3B green laser at a HAWC police helicopter, then lasered the chopper 2 more times, which helped the police helicopter crew determine his exact location for officers on the ground to arrest him:

What are ya.................................. stupid?

Karl's review of The Men Who Stare at Goats

I have to admit, going into this movie, I was optimistic that although the premise and the humour might only appeal to a narrow audience, I wanted to be a part of that audience. Well, I came, I watched, I stared blankly at the TV screen. For exactly 94 minutes.

I like George Clooney. So it had that going for it. But after seeing this film, I imagined that when the casting director interviewed George, it went something like this:

"Have you ever been constipated George?"
"Do you remember the faces you made?"

"OK, I think we've got our man..."

I went through the whole movie without breaking into any kind of emotional reaction. No smiles, no tears, no frowns. It just seemed to have no effect on me whatsoever. Even when Ewan McGregor noted that these Army superhero wannabes referred to themselves as Jedis, or when he asked the group's spiritual leader if he could be a Jedi too, I couldn't even be bothered to crack a smile at the irony.

In the end, I didn't feel too bad, because I only recorded the movie on my DVR from the Movie Network for free. If I had actually paid for this movie, I think I would have been pissed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another thing that's bad for us

91 per cent of Canadians have detectable levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine, according to a new Statistics Canada report. Bisphenol A (BPA) mimics estrogen in the body. The average level of BPA found in the Canadian population was 1.16 parts per billion, about a thousand times higher than natural levels of estrogen found in the body. BPA is found in Polycarbonate plastics, with applications in some food and drink packaging, such as water and infant bottles, CDs and DVDs, impact-resistant safety equipment, and medical devices. It is also found in epoxy resins used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes. Some dental sealants and composites may also contain BPA as can eyeglass lenses. Other less-known sources of BPA include pizza boxes made of recycled cardboard, some toilet paper, recycled paper, credit card receipts at the gas station and restaurant, wine (fermented in BPA-resin lined vats), beer (likewise), Rubbermaid polycarbonate-lined baking tins used by Subway, pop cans, plastic cups, plastic cutlery, blue-tinted hard plastic 5-gallon drinking water bottles.

So it's no wonder that we have it in our bodies. What can we do? The logical thing is to avoid plastics when possible. Try to use glass containers more often, especially when heating food or drink. Is it overkill? Maybe. But many people like to err on the side of caution.

The good news is that once oil becomes scarce, we'll be making less plastics, so this will all sort itself out in a few decades.

This doesn't happen today...... does it?

“Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Hermann Goering

Obsessive compulsive size!

I saw these Temptations cat treats on sale at Safeway the other week. They're calling it a 'variety pack'.

I'd call it 'crazy cat lady sized'.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

All lined up

I can be cruel sometimes.

Gelato flashback

I tasted a flavour today that I hadn't experienced since 1974. It wasn't exactly like the peanut butter ice cream I once had at Seaside Heights boardwalk in New Jersey, but it was damned close. It was banana and peanut butter gelato at Amato Gelato on Kensington Road NW.

We almost went to Dairy Queen instead. Glad we didn't....

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I know people. Creative people.

I know this guy.... his name is Rob. I like to think he's a friend. He's an improvisor at Loose Moose theatre. He has a few extra tricks in his bag too. Turns out, the guy can sing! And play musical instruments! Here is his Facebook page. You should go. Some of his music is on there. 'Our town' is my current fave.

He didn't ask me to tell you. No really.

Oh.... and he's a Mac user too. Gotta love Mac users. And he's cute. Just freaking go already, will ya?

What we're made of

The stuff of human life.

I post this especially for my sister Heidi

.... who I did not know has a severe aversion to skunks.

"Hey Mom, come see the kittens!"

It's definitely 'crushing it'

I absolutely love this translator my friend Bernie found called Unsuck It. It takes any corporate jargon and unsucks it back to plain English.

You can search or browse the list of words. All the good ones are there: soup-to-nuts; ping me; boilerplate; low-hanging fruit; fill your boots....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Your music is always best to you

Listening to music by yourself versus playing it for friends.

Play songs on your phone

You can play music on your (cell) phone by pressing the buttons listed below.

Happy Birthday
112163 112196 11#9632 969363

Auld Lang Syne
11113212 321139# #9331212 321##91

Frere Jacques
12311231 369369 9#9631 9#9631 191 191

Mary Had a Little Lamb
3212333 222 399 3212333 322321

Louie, Louie
111 66 999 66


(Blogger will not be responsible for long distance charges incurred)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sometimes, words won't do

Yea, thou art a treasure too valuable for words.

The power of music

I am always fascinated by the power of music to change a person's mood. Association is one aspect of the phenomenon, where a song from your past has such a strong connection with an event or experience that every time you hear the song, you are instantly and effortlessly transported back to that time and place to relive that experience. But even music that has no connection to a specific place and time can alter your mood in a way very few other things can.

On my way home from work yesterday, I was in the midst of a mid-week funk - nothing serious, but I couldn't say with a straight face that I was 'happy'. Then I played some music from my iPhone over the car stereo. Skip... next song... skip... ahh, that's the one. Within seconds, the funk had washed away. I cracked open the sunroof, the sun strobed into the car through the trees and a smile slowly spread across my face. The power of music had cured my hump day blues, become the soundtrack to the rest of my day and made me happy to be alive. That mood affected Darlene when I got home and the rest of the day was great.

Thank you music.
(For those who are wondering what song magically transformed my day - it was Rushing by Moby)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Combo humour

Windows and The Clash.