Thursday, May 31, 2012

I wish I had their courage and conviction

I thought I had weighed in on the topic, but a quick search demonstrates that I have not. So here goes.

I fully and completely support the students who are protesting the raising of tuition fees in Quebec. This is not about entitlement. It's not about the economy. It's about a long standing principle in Quebec. It's about universal accessibility.

If you read your history, you will know that tuition fees in Quebec have been frozen at very low rates for long periods of time. $540 per year from 1968 to 1990, $1668 per year from 1990 to 2007 and an increase of $100 per year until 2012, making it $2168. The plan is to increase the tuition over the course of 5 years to $3793 by 2017.

Now, this still puts Quebec University tuition less than half of other parts of Canada. So naturally, many people argue that Quebec students should suck it up and got on with their lives. Their response has always been that it's not about the cost. It's about the values that Quebec has always held dear regarding affordable education. A value that is (apparently) less important in other parts of the country. Students understand that as long as education was being funded by government, any inefficiencies would be policed and managed by that same government. If students take on more of the cost directly, the power to manage inefficiencies in the education system is lost, because students have much less power to force the system to improve. This has also always been about keeping post-secondary education affordable. A $1668 tuition makes education available to many more people than $3793. Precedent is set too. That fee is surely to go up after 2017. So what this is doing is privatizing education costs by allowing governments to pay less and students to pay more. Don't let anyone tell you that tuition is going up because the education system is broke, because it's just not true. Government is trying to cut costs and instead of telling schools that they have to get more efficient, they're just sloughing it off onto the student.

You might argue that the students didn't exactly ingratiate themselves to either the government or the public by behaving the way they did during the protests, but one could argue that hooligans managed to ruin it for the polite, non-violent protesters, as happens during most organized protests.

But the government went too far in trying to deal with the students when they passed Bill 78. The Bill, among other things, restricts freedom of assembly near universities, restricts freedom of assembly ANYWHERE in Quebec without prior police approval, and restricts education employees from striking. That did not sit well with a populace that cherishes its right to protest as a basic human right. It resulted in both the largest Canadian act of civil disobedience (300,000-400,000 people) on 22 May 2012, and an almost nightly ritual by supporters of the students called Casseroles, where protesters bang pots and pans at 8pm to demonstrate their disapproval of Bill 78 (see this video). The students have launched a legal challenge of the Bill as well.

I have always felt that we do our citizens a great dis-service by making higher education so expensive in this country. We ask for students to pay for their education up front, something many cannot afford and places a huge debt burden on them for many years to come. Quebecers believe that it's more reasonable and practical to let society pay for education en masse, which motivates more of the population to educate themselves and benefits society as a whole by raising the professional bar of its citizens. You get more doctors and lawyers and other professional when education is more accessible. That in turn earns the government more revenue in taxes, which helps perpetuate the concept. Newfoundland is looking at eliminating tuition altogether. I believe this is the right move and Quebec and other provinces could be doing their citizens a huge favour by exploring this concept as well. Incidentally, the UK once had no tuition. Then a £1000 tuition was introduced. Now it's £9000.

The symbolic moment in that wonderful video comes at the 3:35 mark. That's where the sole student walking down the street is followed by the shadows of dozens of people - his supporters, both in spirit and in reality.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Sing along if you know the words"

Have you ever seen Kid Koala perform Drunk Trumpet live?

This DJ has some... how you say? Skilz.

If Star Wars had been written today

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Things I learned this week 27 May

  • Mars rover Opportunity is on the move again after surviving yet another Martian winter. It's been operating on Mars since 2004, after only being expected to work for a few months.
  • If a thief broke into your house (in Canada), and you knocked them out and rendered them unconscious, you might not be charged with assault. But if they were retreating and you hit him in the head with a bat and they were critically injured, you might have a problem. 'As much force is as necessary' is one of the things taken into account by judges.
  • You'll probably see cars that drive themselves in the next 10 years.
  • The Seattle Public Library hid 1,000 children's books among the city's landmarks for kids to find, read, then re-hide them for other kids to find. 
  • Now when you buy a DVD, you'll get twice as many un-skippable anti-piracy warnings, including a Homeland Security Investigations “special agent” badge next to the FBI badge. 
  • The Netherlands adopted legislation to safeguard an open and secure internet. It implemented net neutrality in the law along with provisions protecting users against disconnection and wiretapping by service providers.
  • Ubuntu Linux will soon be shipping on 5% of new PCs sold around the world (instead on Windows).
  • In 2010 there were 360,000 Americans with master's degrees or higher on public assistance.
  • The earliest known Mayan calendar has been found in Guatemala and it includes dates some 7,000 years in the future. No end of the world in 2012, sorry.
  • There will be a transit of Venus across the sun (from our viewpoint) on 6 June 2012. The next transit of Venus will be in December 2117.
  • A fundamentalist Catholic school in Phoenix chose to forfeit a championship baseball game rather than play a team fielding one female player.

So many questions

I'm losing faith in our capitalist society. There - I said it.

Maximizing profits has become so important that nothing else seems to matter. The attitude seems to be 'to hell with the environment', 'to hell with peoples' health', 'to hell with established rights'. Some examples follow.

When the economy tanked as a result of the financial melt-down on Wall St., it was the result of greed. In simple terms, investors ran out of things to invest in, so Wall Street invented new things that looked shiny on the outside, but were in fact worthless on the inside. We crashed so hard, our governments had to bail the financial industry out to prevent world economic collapse. At least - that's the line they fed us. We will never know what would have happened if no bail-outs had been given. While we're on that subject, you know how Canada's government keeps bragging how our banks didn't need any bail-outs? What they meant to say was "They didn't need any from us - they got some from the US". In the end, what did the bail-outs accomplish? Raises and bonuses to senior management in the financial industry resumed within weeks of the bailouts and those who invested in the crap lost everything. What do I take away from that? The government helped the industry while ignoring the needs of the people.

When the entertainment industry realized that their decades-old business model could no longer work in the new reality that included the internet and rapid technological innovation, they lobbied the government to create laws to protect the industry and usurp the rights of the consumer. This is something they tried to do many times before and failed (cassette tape; VCR; CD-ROM), because at the time, the industry didn't have any government members in their back pockets. The ultimate goal is to control technology, stifle innovation and invade privacy while throwing due process out the window. Worse, they don't even understand the technology they're trying to fight. They don't seem to get a very simple concept - an IP address is not a person. But once again, the government listened to the industry while ignoring the needs of the people.

When the food industry made packaged food cheaper and less nutritious, or began using processes on fresh food that might put our health at risk, as soon as the government proposed tougher regulations, the food industry lobbied to eliminate those improvements. Labelling on food packaging is misleading almost to the point of fraud. Harmful additives are still here and continue to rise. Corn producers are outright lying to consumers to deflect the awful truth that high fructose corn syrup is extremely bad for you. Subsidies keep various food producing sectors alive when they should have died natural deaths. Vibrant and varied local production of food for local consumption is almost non-existent. And still, the government helps the industry while ignoring the needs of the people and protecting their health and welfare.

When the oil and gas industry tried to get pipelines built in Canada, concerned citizens spoke out against them, hoping that at the very least, government would study and try to lessen the environmental impacts of such pipelines if and when they were built. What happened next? The environmental review process was slashed to speed up assessment times. Worse, government representatives in Canada labelled environmentalists 'terrorists'. Industry 4, consumer 0.

When large content corporations like Disney asked the government to extend the life of copyright from 'life of the author plus 70 years, for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier', you'd think the answer would be 'no'. It was not. The consumer (and the independent creator) loses again.

When new drugs are created, their inventors are allowed to maximize their profits before sharing the drug with competitors, artificially propping up prices and making the people who need the drugs most - the poor and 3rd world countries - unable to afford them.

When governments need to cut costs, the first things they go for are social benefits. They have no trouble cutting back on health costs, education costs, social assistance, effective public transportation. But they balk at cuts to corporate subsidies, increasing taxes to the wealthy, or cuts to their salary and eliminating their gold-plated pension increases.

When government officials leave office, they tend to go working for the exact industry they were empowered to regulate. This is a serious conflict of interest, but we don't do anything about it. It also explains why government is essentially powerless to do anything about industry misbehaviour, because who would hire a bureaucrat that punished an industry too much?

I am confident that if we were allowed to fully see how our government officials are lobbied by industry, we would understand why the kinds of laws we see today are created and why we don't see the kind of laws taxpayers want. I recall reading a sci-fi book decades ago that described a world where large corporations were the new governments, overtly and completely. I suggest that we have achieved that reality, albeit a bit more covertly. Governments act like they're in charge and are serving our best interests. But the reality is so much different. Not everyone in government has been 'bought', but those who have not are having a hard time stopping the motion of the industry-driven machine.

Our current Conservative government made it crystal clear when they said that their prime directive was to secure our prosperity. That speaks volumes. Not promote prosperity, not ensure more people get to enjoy prosperity. The new way of the world is to protect the rich and the rest of you - you're on your own. Protect the 1% - they drive the economy. Those of us smart enough to understand the real world know the truth. It's the middle class that drives the economy. The rich just keep socking their riches away. What disturbs me the most is that all of this doesn't disturb a lot of people. I've even heard folks say it's all about protecting the capitalist dream of making it big. In other words, leave the rich alone because I'm going to be one someday.

I'm going to Mars someday too.

Make a choice

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Texting the alien #23

Texting the alien #22

Thank you to Darlene's inner voice

On our arrival at Calgary's airport on Monday, returning from San Diego, I lost my sunglasses. First time. I know exactly how it happened too. I had them slung out of my shirt pocket and likely lost them bending to pick our luggage off the carousel.

I was actually shopping for new shades in San Diego and never bought anything. Good thing too, or that would likely have been the pair I would have lost.

Well, I can't go very long without shades because my eyes are very sensitive to bright light, so I had to replace them pronto. Darlene suggested The Bay (The Hudson's Bay Company for you non-Canadians). I laughed. "They don't sell sunglasses!" I had never seen sunglasses in that store and was willing to bet that they didn't have any. Needless to say, I was quite mistaken. There they were - racks of them. Among the selection, a very nice pair of Fossil Allen grey polarized lenses with gun metal frames. $60. Not too shabby for polarized shades.

I don't know what possessed Darlene to suggest The Bay for my new shades, but I'm glad she did. They're awesome.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Design genius

Apple hardware are full of design brilliance. But there is more design brilliance that even Apple didn't tell you about.

Like the ability to use an iPad charger as a bottle opener.....



While in San Diego, I finally had the opportunity to sample this beverage.

I had this sudden urge to share it with everyone. I can't explain it. I just wanted everyone to get hammered and sickled.

You started it....

My MP (and I use that phrase VERY loosely), emailed me asking if I agree that "the provincial government shouldn't be bullied by China into censoring performing arts?" In this case he was referring to the fact that the Communist Chinese government pressures venues in many countries to cancel or delay Shen Yung Performing Arts events because the troupe highlights Chinese persecution of the spiritual movement of Falun Gong.

I decided to write back.

"You're absolutely right. Alberta should not be bullied into censoring performing arts.

By the same token, Canada shouldn't be bullied into adopting a copyright stance that is even stricter than what the US have with DMCA. In this case, the bullies are the US entertainment industry and the State Department.

Our newly minted Copyright Bill is not balanced at all, but favours the industry instead of the consumer. Your own government MPs are even suggesting that consumers shouldn't expect the right to format shift their music.

So, in conclusion, I'll vocally support your position if you vocally support ours."

Thursday, May 24, 2012


How did this become the accepted symbol for washroom? I suppose depicting a man and a woman voiding themselves of waste products would have been too much, but surely this symbol doesn't make one think about going to the bathroom. It's obviously a learned symbology compared to other, more obvious symbols.

Imagine what this symbol could have represented if it wasn't ingrained in our brains that it means washroom. Some ideas:
  • Confessional
  • Monolith viewing ahead
  • Peep show
  • Parallel universe ahead
  • Separate beds only
  • His and hers pole dancing lessons
  • Sex change operations

If Pixar did The Avengers.....

The world's fastest train ride

The Shanghai maglev train that goes from downtown to the airport does the 30.5 km run in 8 minutes at a top speed of 430km/h.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are these girls crazy?

Longboard chicks be crazy, man! Like seriously. I'm sure it's a rush, but if anything goes wrong...... ouch.

I wonder how fast they were going...

The Ovengers......

Trip report - May 2012

So I guess it's time to tell the story of our latest trip to San Diego.

We managed to book the same great little boutique hotel we had the last two times - Tower 23. We didn't book early enough though, so we couldn't get the room we normally get, so we had to settle for a room just around the corner, overlooking the sky deck. The view was still decent, but being over the sky deck had its issues. For one, the sky deck allows smoking, so any time anyone smoked, we were downwind. Luckily, it didn't happen often. The other issue was noise. There were a lot of young people at the hotel who liked to sit in front of the fireplace on the deck and chat. Late. It was a bit annoying. Darlene also wasn't aware when she booked our room that it didn't have a tub. That didn't go over well. But the beds were still as comfortable as we remembered, the food in JRDN restaurant was still amazing (did you see the pic I posted on Facebook of the French Toast?) and of course it was great being right on the beach.

On our last visit, we went to Balboa Park to the zoo, but this time we intended to visit all of the museums at the park. They had a passport deal that cost $50 per person which was good for 7 days. That allowed us to take in a few museums per day so that we didn't walk our feet off. A lot of people are asking me if it's worth going to the museums. I thought about that for a while and came up with a good answer. If you've been to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, or any other world-class museums around the world, you are going to be disappointed in these museums. The Air & Space museum was OK. The Automotive museum was decent. The Photography museum was in the middle of switching from one exhibition to another, so it was not up to scratch. Neither was the Mingei International museum, for the same reason. The model railway museum was alright, but not everyone is into that. When you consider that the Smithsonian is free, I considered this site to be seriously lacking. The buildings were nice....

The weather was, in a word, spectacular. I am not into hot. It was not hot. It was balmy with an ever-present sea breeze. Most mornings started out with a bit of cloud or fog (but only by the ocean) which lifted by noon. Then nothing but sun. We went through a lot of sunscreen.

I put over 1000km on the rental car. Yeah. We went places. Plenty of outlet malls and regular malls. Got some great clothes and footwear. We ate great meals at places like The Cheesecake Factory. I noticed that eating out is now much cheaper in the US than in Canada. Their portions are gigantic too. A lunch sized anything is more than enough. Going through a grocery store is depressing, because the US has so much stuff we can't get here in Canada.

I got into a routine of waking up, donning some clothes, grabbing a free Island Coconut flavoured Keurig coffee at the front desk, and heading to the beach for a morning walk until Darlene got up. It was so nice to hear the sound of the surf for a whole week. On our last day, Darlene and I discussed where our next spring or fall vacation should be in 2013. We couldn't come up with anything better than San Diego. Still.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Texting the alien #21

To all youth about to go out on their own

A list of tips for when you go out on your own.
  • Your parents don't want what's best for you, they want what's good for you, which isn't always the same thing.
  • Alarm clocks need a backup battery in case the power goes out.
  • Try not to judge other people, but especially those people whose shoes you have not walked in.
  • Run the hot water in the kitchen sink before running the dishwasher. The load will have much hotter water, which will possibly let you do without the heat boost from the dishwasher.
  • Laughter is one of the most powerful medicines and the prescription is practically free.
  • There are possibly more varieties of bread than chips. The breads with grains are the best ones for you.
  • When you listen to someone, focus on what they're saying as if there will be a test afterwards.
  • Peanut butter keeps a lot longer than the date on the jar. Go by smell and taste.
  • When driving, always be prepared for the worst in the other drivers. Don't expect it, just be prepared.
  • Hold the door for other people. Just do it.
  • When cooking, make a lot, eat some, freeze the rest.
  • You need much less perfume than you realize. Is there perfume in your deodorant? That's all you need.
  • The quicker a food can expire, the better it is for you. If it comes in a box, avoid eating it.
  • Soup, stew, it always tastes better after a second day of slow cooking.
  • Even if she insists, pay for the meal.
  • Prepare a list for packing luggage. You start with the ultimate list and pare down depending on the trip.
  • Always be 15 minutes early for any meeting or appointment. No exceptions.
  • Going to school does not guarantee you a job in the career path you chose - especially if there are no available jobs in that path.
  • Never miss a payment on any credit or bill. Banks will use the next 7 years to remind you of it and they will hold it against you.
  • Butter over margarine. Trust me.
  • Sometimes, you can find decent, almost new second-hand clothing at the local thrift store. $5 versus $75.
  • Flowers only mean something if they're UNexpected.
  • Never underestimate the cleaning power of vinegar.
  • Don't compromise your principles or opinion just to please someone.
  • Learn to make a great soup. Make a lot and invite your friends over to share it with them.
  • Every time you say 'no', an entire reality is crushed into oblivion.
  • Toilets, dishes and clothes will not clean themselves. Don't worry about the cats.
  • Your intuition should be followed. I can't stress this enough. Learn to tell your intuition from your ego.
  • Buying a house typically earns a crap-load more as an investment than any other savings strategy.
  • Once meat reaches 160F, it's safe to eat. Invest in a meat thermometer, then you'll know for sure.
  • Unless it interferes with your ability to earn money or retain a great friend, try to accept all invitations.
  • You'll have way more fun if you're NOT drunk at the party.
  • Clean clothes can be achieved through less detergent and a longer laundry cycle.
  • Never leave food on the floor. Unless you want to share your home with ants.
  • Chocolate is meant to be shared, not hoarded.
  • You'll always do better to get your vitamins and minerals from real food than from pills.
  • Any clothing not worn in more than a year would be best given to a charity.
  • It's not what you know - it's who you know.
  • Never trying is so much worse than failing. 
  • First 3 kitchen tools to buy: church key (bottle opener), can opener, a good knife.
  • Every day you begin with joy in your heart and a smile on your face will be much more energetic, productive and fulfilling.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Video pan in front of Tower 23

In case you didn't catch this on Facebook, I took a video pan with my phone of the area directly in front of our hotel.

Can you see why we love this place so much?

Back from San Diego

I just put up a photo album on Facebook from the trip. Here is the link.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tim Hortons food chain

I'm at the Calgary airport and we're eating at the Tim Horton in the secure area in the US destination wing. They have a very limited selection of food and very curt staff at this outlet. I could have any type of bagel that i like as long as it is sun dried roach with cracked beetle shell flavour. I try to visualize how this outlet fits into the pecking order at the airport and I imagine that the Tim's in the front area of the terminal gets first dibs at the food delivery from the Tim's truck. Then the domestic wing gets the cast offs. The US wing staff probably have to dumpster dive the rejects and wipe off the dirt to stock their shelves. Which would explain why my chocolate glazed donut had very little glaze on it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vacation break

The White Noise blog will be on pause for 8 or so days while yours truly and his lovely companion Darlene jet off to sunny San Diego.

That's our hotel, yes. That's the ocean, yes. We'll be waking up to the sound of surf, yes.

I may throw a pic or two up on Facebook while I'm away - who knows.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Definitely getting a piece of this

So I'm really excited about a new piece of technology that will be coming out later this year that I have decided to invest in, along with over 66,000 other people. What makes this all possible in the first place is the use of a web-based crowd sourcing investment portal where inventors, artists and so forth can display what they want to create. These creators can indicate how much money they're looking for and by what date and indicate to potential investors what they get as a reward depending upon the level of investment they choose. The investment portal is called Kickstarter.

In this particular case I was notified of an existing small technology company that has designed their sophomore product. It's a watch, and if you know me, you know how bloody obsessed I am with watches. This watch is special. It's called Pebble. It's a smart watch, intended to connect via Bluetooth to a smart phone, such as an Android phone or an iPhone. The watch essentially becomes an extension of your smart phone.

The reason this is a big deal, is because unlike most other watches, this watch is under complete configurable control via a special app that resides on your smart phone. This means that if your smart phone can do something, your watch can participate in that functionality as well. Not only will the watch alert you in the same manner that your smart phone does, but the app controlling the watch on your phone allows for any number of watch faces to be applied to your watch. You can even use your watch to control some functions of your phone such as changing songs. Because a software development kit is available for this watch, if you have any programming experience you could technically create your own functions for your own watch. Apparently there will be an app store for this watch, which of course over time will offer more and more functions that your watch can perform. For me, this is beyond exciting. I have invested enough to achieve the reward of getting two of these watches when they are produced starting this September. I'll let you know what it's like once I get it. If you are interested in learning more about this product, just visit and search on the word pebble (or follow the link above). They were originally just looking for a $100,000 investment by the middle of May, and as of this writing they were already over $10.1 million pledged. I think this speaks to the potential for this product to become one of the most popular new devices of 2012. Unfortunately, they have stopped offering any more watches to pledgers - probably because they have exceeded their initial investment request by a factor of 100. So if you want one, you'll need to wait until they are offered to the public. Estimates say they'll sell for $150.

Texting the alien #20

Texting the alien #19

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kalle Mattson

You're going to be hearing a lot more from me about a new group from Ontario called Kalle Mattson. I only heard about them because an old military buddy of mine's son is in the band. Now, sometimes you know how that goes, and I'm being brutally honest here - not every artist somehow associated with people you know are as good (to you) as the person makes them out to be.

But in this case, I am in fact blown away. We'll get to some of their songs in due course. I'm also lobbying to get an interview with them when they pass through Calgary later this summer.

In the meantime, enjoy this clever, lo-fi arts and crafts video for their song Thick as Thieves from the album Anchors. It's the history of the world y'all!

Metaphorical elevator

Thursday, May 10, 2012 versus

Same cherry pitter.

$32.41 in Canada.

$7.00 in the US.

Things I learned in the last 2 weeks 10 May 2012

  • Patricia Reichardt is the real name of Peppermint Patty from Peanuts.
  • Bibendum is the name of the Michelin Man.
  • Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs is the Wizard of Oz.
  • Nostradamus Shannon was better known as Bull on the TV show Night Court.
  • Norville Rogers is the proper name of Shaggy from Scooby Doo.
  • Twinkies originally had banana flavoured filling.
  • The famous “I am stuck on Band-Aid…” jingle was written by Barry Manilow.
  • The eight juices in V8 are tomato, spinach, celery, carrot, beet, lettuce, watercress and parsley.
  • Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people during a rampage last summer, mentioned in court that he hated the song "Children of the Rainbow". 40,000 people then gathered in a square near the courthouse in Oslo to sing the song. 
  • A Japanese bank will introduce ATMs that allow customers to carry out transactions after offering credentials in the form of a scan of their palm.
  • A rich guy from Australia is going to build a working replica of the Titanic, but with modern features and safety equipment.
  • Germany has more solar workers, than America has steel workers.
  • The same person who sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was also the voice of Tony the Tiger.
  • Jay-walking is essentially a measure lobbied for by the auto industry to keep people off of streets.
  • If you scaled a grapefruit up to the size of the earth, an atom would be the size of a blueberry.
  • Trade unions were outlawed from the 14th century when the Ordinance of Labourers was enacted in the Kingdom of England. Unions would eventually be outlawed everywhere and remain so until the middle of the 19th century.
  • An alternative school in Walla Walla, WA for kids with behavioural problems, ditched the zero-tolerance approach to school discipline and treated traumatized, furious kids with compassion and understanding with dramatic improvement.
  • Star Wars Land is rumoured to be coming to Disneyland Paris sometime in 2015.
  • TestPAC, founded on Reddit, aims to oust congressman Lamar Smith, who authored SOPA and rammed it through committee without substantive debate, after taking large campaign contributions from the entertainment industry.

Where's Jason

As opposed to 'Where's Waldo'.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Solar keyboard

I treated myself to a very indulgent item for my desk at work. I bought a solar powered wireless keyboard. Why? Because I can. It's made by Logitech and I found out it was severely discounted at Staples - so I bought one.

It's actually a nice keyboard. It's very thin, so it's easy to position on your desk and move around. It's powered by light, so you never have to change the batteries. I was hoping we had achieved solar efficiency that would not require the keyboard to have to operate under sun lamps and I was totally impressed with its ability to convert light into electricty. The keyboard's battery level and solar generating status can be monitored live using a utility downloaded from Logitech. I found that just being in any kind of light was enough to power this thing. I didn't just buy it for its show-off factor though. The keys have a very nice light tactile touch to them, which, considering the amount of typing I do at work, is wonderful.

The only problem I had with the K750 was its installation. It comes with a unifying wireless to USB adapter which is supposed to work with any Logitech wireless device. Since I also have a Logitech wireless mouse, I expected it to work with both. It did not. The two devices did not work with the mouse's Logitech unifying adapter either. So I ended up having to use - both unifying adapters - a bit of overkill. But it works. Amazingly, they don't interfere with each other.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Movie recommendation - Nine Lives

A DVD that was languishing on the 'to be watched' shelf at my house, finally got its viewing last week and I need to mention it here. Nine Lives is a powerfully acted story in 'hyperlink cinema' fashion. It tells nine loosely intertwined tales about nine different women with their own collection of life issues and manner of dealing with them.

Themes include parent-child relationships, fractured love, adultery, illness, and death. These overlapping vignettes, each one running about the same length and told in a single, unbroken take, features a talented ensemble cast. Do yourself a favour - do not spoil the story by reading about it ahead of time.

10 word movie review for 500 days of Summer

Proof that a well-liked actress can do no wrong.

"If I give you my life, would you know what to do with it?"

Luc Besson.

Name ring a bell? Think Leon - The Professional and The Fifth Element. Those are only his most famous works, but he has been involved in a lot of movies. Including a little gem I discovered named Angel-A.

André owes money to everyone in Paris, including people who promise to kill him if he doesn't repay by midnight. André gives up and tries to leap off of a bridge to his death. He sees a beautiful girl clinging to a rail on the same bridge. She jumps and he saves her life. His life will never be the same.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Custom training is a must

Most people who have taken Excel or Word or Outlook training have often come away from it wondering if (or knowing that) they have missed something. That's because the typical Excel foundation course for example, basically flies through covering the Office button menu, glossing over things like the 'prepare' options, etc. Then you get a whirlwind tour of the Home tab of functions.

I have been known to conduct 1-2 hour sessions just on conditional formatting. My version of Excel training (that I offer where I work) consists of a foundation level course just to get everyone up to speed with the ribbon interface and the Office menu, but that's about it. Then there are workshops on things you would never learn thoroughly during a typical Excel course.

How to design a good spreadsheet and why the design is so critical. Will your document survive without you - all about leaving clues for spreadsheet users. Conditional formatting, an amazing way to add visualizations of analysis of your data. Pivot tables. Everything about charts. The various forms of document protection and how they differ. Converting a range into a table and why that can be great. Named ranges. Those are all separate workshops. That's just the Excel sessions.

So what's the point? If you want your employees to learn as much as possible about their productivity software, you're not going to get it from canned courses. You need custom training sessions. If you have your own on-site software trainer, you can have it.

No, those courses aren't available at Microsoft, that's just me having some fun.

Free poutine!

Apparently the student protesters in Quebec like their poutine.

I love hacking the news.

Yes, I did that....

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Father Vader 4

FILDI (F%ck it let's do it)

Ze Frank is making videos again. In case anyone was missing him.

Start with An Invocation for Beginnings and work your way up the list.

"This is an invocation for anyone who hasn't begun, who's stuck in a terrible place between zero and one"

Chocolate bar introductions by year

[1900] Hershey bar
[1907] Hershey Kisses
[1908] Hershey bars with almonds
[1919] Nestle Milk Chocolate Bar
[1920] Baby Ruth & Oh Henry!
[1922] Charleston Chew, Clark Bars
[1923] Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Mounds
[1925] Mr. Goodbar
[1926] Milk Duds
[1928] Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfinger & Heath bar
[1929] Snickers
[1932] 3 Musketeers
[1935] Kit Kat bar
[1936] Fifth Avenue
[1937] Rolo, Smarties
[1941] M&Ms
[1947] Almond Joy
[1949] Junior Mints
[1954] Peanut M&Ms
[1966] $100,000 Bar
[1977] Twix Cookie Bar
[1978] Reese's Pieces

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Father Vader 3

Mickey Mouse Curve

A nice graphic showing how copyright terms have evolved over the years. Back in 1810 for example, copyright term lasted just under 30 years. Period. The original term (not shown on the graph) was 14 years. Just after 1830, it was increased to over 40 years, but it also was retroactive back to works created in 1818. Look ahead to today, the Sonny Bono Act increased it to 105 years backdated to 1978 and 95 years backdated to 1923.

Do we really need to protect works for that long? Disney seems to think so. The latest copyright extensions protect Mickey's Steamboat Willie clip until at least 2023!

Forget pop tarts....

I think I've seen it all now. Toaster chicken. For reals.

When they legalize pot and I open my Mr. Munchie trucks business - I will be selling these.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Father Vader 2

Netherlands weed laws regressing (for now)

I've been hearing all of the right-wing pundits pointing at recent developments in The Netherlands as proof de-criminalizing marijuana won't work in Canada. I had to investigate to see what was really going on.

The actual problem is that certain cities such as Maastricht, which borders both Belgium and Germany has been suffering a constant flow of a million plus non-Dutch driving to the city annually to purchase as much cannabis as possible, then drive back home. After numerous complaints and also as the result of a shift toward right-leaning government, a policy barring tourists from buying marijuana started in parts of the country today.

Some background: Weed is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but has been sold openly for decades in small amounts in designated "coffee shops" under the country's tolerance policy. With the policy change, only holders of a "weed pass" are allowed to make a purchase. Non-residents aren't eligible for the pass - which effectively bans tourists. The new policy doesn't go into effect in Amsterdam until next year. Amsterdam is home to a third of the country's coffee shops. The city opposes the new policy and since the conservative national government collapsed last week, time will tell whether the policy will last after elections are held.

Back in Maastricht, most shops plan to refuse to use the pass and kept their doors shut in protest today, but at least one shop is provoking the police to do something about their non-compliance. The plan is to challenge the new law in court as a form of discrimination. The mayor feels the closed shops are being rude. Most other cities in the area are protesting with closed shops or are defying the law. The residents aren't getting the passes either, figuring that the law will only be temporary until sense is restored to society. They're also afraid of privacy concerns over the information needed to get a pass.

A former chairman of the Netherlands' Police Union believes the policy's negative effects will outweigh any benefits and enforcement would waste resources. Anyone unable to get marijuana will walk down the street to drug dealers. Ironically, the reason the Dutch tolerance policy started in the 1970s was not because marijuana was OK, but because containing it in shops seemed like a decent way to deal with the issues caused by street dealing.