Tuesday, April 30, 2013

MAC n cheese

Deep thoughts about EI and unemployment in Canada

I would be very interested to know if there are qualified Canadian people to fill these supposed vacancies that are being filled by foreign workers or outsourced to foreign countries.  Specifically, I'm interested to know if these qualified Canadian people exist in other jurisdictions.  I'm interested in exactly how companies prove to the Canadian government that they have tried to fill vacancies with Canadian workers before they fill them with foreign workers.  What's unfortunate about our current situation is that the gov't probably has no idea of the current situation regarding vacancies vs. unemployed people, yet they do not hesitate to both try to regulate this situation neither do they hesitate to marginalize unemployed people.  People who are not only actively trying to find work, but could probably succeed if their government were trying to match them up with existing vacancies in different parts of the country. 

As the press have said, whenever they tried to get facts and figures regarding the situation, the government says they cannot provide this information.  The question is is it that the government cannot provide or will not provide this information.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Things I learned lately 28 Apr

  • Some people can utilize 'peanut therapy' to reduce allergic response to peanuts in teens and adults. After 68 weeks of therapy, participants were able to eat more than 10 times the amount of peanuts than ever before with no reaction.
  • Estimates say that in developed countries, baby girls have a 40% chance of living beyond 100 years old.
  • A guy went for a walk in London from his home and over the course of 1.4 mi (2.25 km) encountered over 140 CCTV cameras.
  • Most of the people in the US who changed their mind and are now in favour of same sex marriage did so because they now know someone who is gay.
  • The flu virus doesn't transmit well in warm, humid air. But it travels well in cold, dry air.
  • The 6 members of the Walton family (Wal*Mart owners) have as much combined wealth as the entire bottom 1/3 of the US population.
  • The most fuel efficient vehicles on the road are hurting the bottom line of government roads budgets that are funded by fuel tax. So the fix is either higher fuel taxes, or taxes based on distance travelled on roads.
  • New Zealand consumes 28.4 litres of ice cream per year per capita. In comparison, Canada only consumes 10.6 litres per year per capita.
  • Because the earth's spin is slowing, in 100 years our day will be 2 milliseconds longer.
  • The word car is short for carriage.
  • The stethoscope was invented mostly to deal with the fact that Catholic doctors weren't keen on putting their ear to a woman's chest to hear what was going on with their heart and lungs.
  • How bad are things in Spain? 27.2% unemployment.
  • There are 29 US states where you can be fired for being gay (as of 25 Apr 2013).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Workplace wellness suggestions

[Condensed from an article by a guest contributor to TechRepublic]

1. Your main improvement goal is creativity. Contrary to popular belief, cost savings are not the only goal for a workplace wellness program and if you’re running a tech company or managing an IT team, it shouldn’t be yours. Instead, foster creativity. Whether they design or develop or engineer, they have to imagine new ways of doing things and when they do, your company is more profitable. A good wellness program energizes your team, which fosters their creativity. So, instead of focusing on cost savings, think of the money your wellness program will help you earn.

2. Think long-haul. Your hiring pool is largely Gen Y and, soon enough, Millennials. These groups strongly value their personal life and unlike previous generations, they expect the same of their employer. That means your wellness program should also make you more appealing to potential recruits. The best candidates will not be tempted by a firm that doesn’t address employee wellness. So think of your wellness program as helping you improve both the health of your current team - and the company.

3. Watch the ergonomics. Repetitive motion syndrome, back ache, and eye strain are just some of the ways bad ergonomics can affect your team. If your people are in pain, they aren’t working at peak performance. Don’t wait before addressing ergonomics. Make healthy ergonomics a part of your company culture and bring in a specialist to periodically review everyone's work stations. Get a physical therapist. They are trained to see not only how the work station should be set up, but how to alleviate pain that’s already been set in motion.

4. Getting up and moving is one of the best ways to ensure the team can keep working for years to come. Given how sedentary a job can be, taking a break every hour or so can help the body shake off the strain of being in the same position for too long.

5. Provide healthy food. Whether it’s a full-on cafeteria or just a healthier selection of snacks in the break room or vending machine, keep an eye on food choices. Techies are grazers - and they are often so in the zone they don’t want to bother with a full meal, which leaves them prey to junk food from the vending machine or convenience store. With just a few healthy snacks on hand - crackers, cheese, fruit, nuts - your team can recharge without the empty calories.

6. Embrace your inner geek. Get your team moving with Nerf zombie duels. Let your engineers figure out how many steps it would take to cross the Atlantic - and then use pedometers to see who gets there first! Geeking up your wellness initiatives makes them more fun - and that’s what makes techies want to participate.

7. Keep things interesting. Techies get bored fast with the same old, same old, so keep things fresh.  Invite speakers in to give talks on new topics. Try out the latest fitness apps as a team. The more you mix it up, the more they’ll like it.

8. Watch the stress. Pay attention to the stress levels of your team and seek ways to alleviate it. Forcing a float or vacation day, having an impromptu ping pong competition, or bringing in a massage therapist are all ways to counteract the stresses that go with the job. Remember, not all techies show their stress - but if you think they’re feeling it, they probably are.

9. One of the best side effects of a good wellness program is the way it enhances serendipitous interaction. That’s when one member of your team gets to talking with another, someone they’ve not previously gotten to know very well. It’s a great way to lead to new ways of working together. Wellness initiatives like games and challenges do a lot to increase the chances of serendipitous interactions, but so do subtler interventions like a bowl of nuts in the break room or a daily comic posted on the wall. (Google is huge on promoting serendipitous interaction; they’re probably on to something.)

10. Think beyond the office. Obviously, not everything affecting the health of your team stems from the office. Everyone has times when personal life stresses seep over into work. A good wellness program can reduce the impact of these times by making counsellors available (often through your EAP), creating a venting area (maybe a punching bag?), even allowing some impromptu personal days off. Creating a wellness program for your tech team doesn’t have to be expensive - and it can reap huge rewards for your company, in terms of energy, creativity, and loyalty.

The Matrix in 60 seconds, animated

This is a fun romp through the movie in 60 seconds.

Princess Leia and the 7 jawas

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Canadian TV – an analogy

Imagine if you will that most of our food came from the United States.  This reality is made possible by a combination of factors, the least of which includes a bigger market, and a better financial and environmental situation.  Canada makes some of its food, but not enough to supply every person with every kind of food.  In order to satisfy our culinary egos, the government has decided to mandate that a certain minimum amount of food be produced in Canada.  Your tax dollars are being used to subsidize the production of Canadian food, even though it might not be otherwise financially feasible to do so.

Here comes the kicker.  Imagine that when you go to buy your food at the store, you can't just buy tomatoes.  If you want tomatoes, you have to get celery and beets too.  In this reality if you want tomatoes you have to get the celery and beets as well, no matter if you don't want them.  The worst part is that you have no say over this and that Canadian celery and beets only exist thanks to your tax dollars.

It gets worse.  You can't have tomatoes whenever you want them.  You can only have them when the tomato producers feel like putting them in the store.  This happens on their schedule of course,  not yours.  So if you feel like making spaghetti sauce with tomatoes tonight for supper, that's just too bad.  You'll have to wait until the tomatoes are in the store.  There is one exception.  You can pay someone to buy some tomatoes for you on the day they're available and keep them for you until you need them.  If you try to go to the farm where the tomatoes are grown and buy them on the day you want them, you'll be turned away.  If you ask the grocery store to make tomatoes available every day, they'll tell you they can't afford to do that.  They'll also make it clear that if you want tomatoes, you need to get celery and beets as well because the celery and beets industry won't survive on their own.  You might be inclined to suggest that maybe we don't need celery and beets if the market can't support them.  But your suggestion would fall on deaf ears.

This is how the television industry works in Canada.  Is it any wonder people steal tomatoes from the farm?

Monday, April 22, 2013

My top 5 favourite chips

  1. Pop Chips BBQ
  2. Doritos Zesty Cheese
  3. Old Dutch Rip-L Sour Cream and Onion
  4. Miss Vickie's Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar Kettle Cooked Chips
  5. Old Dutch Rip-L Smokey BBQ

Generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point...

What do you get when you mash up Star Wars and Schoolhouse Rock?

You get this funny video clip on (sing it) Interjections!

Tooth Fairy note

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Drive rescue

If you back up computer files to an external hard drive, I congratulate you. Not many consumers have a backup plan and they should. I harp on this with my clients and students all the time.

Eventually your backup hard drive is going to fail. As will the one inside your computer, which is why you have a backup in the first place. But which one will fail first?

In my case, it was the backup drive. It failed the other week and once that situation sunk in, I realized that there were in fact a few files that only existed on that backup drive. Nothing life altering, but I was curious if it was all lost. You see, when a hard drive stops working, it's usually one of two parts that has failed. It could be the drive mechanics itself and the on-board circuitry, or it could be the USB controller circuitry in the external case. If the mechanics or the on-board circuitry have failed, there's not much you can do about it. I've heard stories of hard drives being temporarily revived by putting them in the freezer overnight, but had never tried it myself.

I was betting on the USB controller circuitry gone bad. My external drive came apart easily and I was able to disconnect the drive from the case. Many moons ago I had bought a drive dock (see picture), which allows you to take a drive from a computer and dock it, transforming it into a USB external drive so you can rescue files from it. I decided to try the dock just in case the drive still worked. Lo and behold - it did!

So if you ever end up with a failed external hard drive, don't give up on it before you try connecting to it with a drive dock. These can be had from your local computer parts store for around $35.

Mountains in motion: Canadian Rockies

Take the time to watch this breathtaking short film of the Rockies in Canada.

Beautiful time-lapse photography.

Booger nutrition

Friday, April 19, 2013

Things I learned lately 19 Apr

  • America is home to 301,874 zombie houses that have been abandoned by their owners, but not foreclosed upon by the banks.
  • The biggest safety issue regarding the Google self-driving car isn't the car itself, it's the other drivers gawking at the driver-less car and not paying attention to the road
  • The magnetic north pole is now moving at a rate of 64km per year in a northward direction.
  • Subway said that just because they call it a foot-long, doesn't mean it's supposed to be 12" in length. Foot-long is just a moniker. So, I wonder how that translates to the 6 inch sub? Are inches just a moniker too? Or maybe 5 is the new 6.
  • Django action figures were pulled from many US store shelves because they 'trivialize the horrors of slavery'. Needless to say, the controversy has caused those still available to buy to skyrocket from $30 each to over $200 each.
  • Iran is producing its own version of Argo to counter US propaganda.
  • The conventional wisdom that the best grip for a steering wheel is hands at 10 and 2 o'clock is obsolete and dangerous according to AAA. '10 and 2' dates from an era before power steering. Turning the wheel required more force and pulling down on it was the easiest way. But easy-to-turn wheels and airbags have made it so that if the hands are at 10 and 2 when the airbag deploys, they'll be knocked into the face. If they're at 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 the hands will be thrown sideways in the worst case scenario.
  • Jimmy Fallon is officially replacing Leno on the Tonight Show in 2014. Bye bye Jay. I may start watching again.
  • How Canadian cities ranked in the TomTom N. American Congestion Index: 2nd - Vancouver; 6th - Toronto; 10th - Montreal; 18th - Ottawa; 26th - Calgary; 34th - Edmonton.
  • eBay now automatically tacks customs and duties onto any purchase made from a US seller (bought by a Canadian). But they don't tell you what that charge is until AFTER you buy the item. 
  • During the Boston lock-down following the search for the bombing suspects, select Dunkin' Donuts locations were allowed to remain open to service law enforcement and first responders.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Warehouse robots!

Kiva systems has revolutionized the way stock is picked from warehouse inventory to fulfill an order. It makes use of robots that autonomously (actually under control of a central computer) bring the shelf of goods to the packer. The system not only moves inventory to packers as needed, it also sorts and organizes inventory based on its popularity and can operate on different warehouse levels.

You have to see the video to understand the awesomeness of it all.

There is an exception

Saturday, April 13, 2013

You now have an excuse to fart on a plane

Flying makes you fart. It's just a fact of physics. When altitude increases, pressure decreases and volume increases. Cabins are pressurized to compensate, but this can only do so much. When the plane is at 33,000 feet, in the cabin it's still the equivalent of 8,000 feet. That's why you feel the need to release. You should release too. Holding it in can be uncomfortable, even painful, and can lead to bloating, dyspepsia, pyrosis and a factor in diverticular disease.

So, let 'er rip!

F-18 carrier ops

This would be thrilling. All except the landing part...

The best in-flight F-18 fighter video I've seen to date.

Watch it in 1080p for full effect.

Lyrics then and now

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

My take on Justin

My friends and I have been discussing the federal Liberal leadership race and of course most of the talk has been about Justin Trudeau. So I thought it was about time that I speak my piece on the subject with a blog post.

First of all, Justin is not an elitist. If you know the true meaning of the word, you'd realize that. Justin has made it very clear that he does not have all the answers, but he is willing to listen to our ideas. Second of all, no matter what you thought of his father, Justin is not his father. They may be related, but they are two very different kinds of people.

The two obvious front runners in the Liberal party leadership race were Justin and Mark Garneau. Mark appealed to the older demographic of Liberal supporters along with those who could never allow themselves to support another Trudeau. Mark is full of ideas, with details, and was the obvious practical choice for leader. The problem for me is that the oldest generation in Canada are pretty much steadfast in their allegiance to a particular party or ideology. You're not going to convince a 'Big C' Conservative supporter who has always been a Conservative supporter to change stripes. The same goes for long-term supporters of the NDP. So the question is this: how do we get more people to vote Liberal in the next election?

I think you unleash the demographic that remains largely untapped to this day - the youth vote. The youth of Canada remain apathetic towards politics because what they have seen of it so far in their lives does not indicate that their vote would matter much. The youth see it as always the same games, the same lies, the same fraud, the same broken promises, the same allegiances to big business and an unwillingness to listen to anyone with a differing opinion - even within the same party. Let's be honest, the Liberals were just as guilty of this in the past as the Conservatives are now. But I believe that Justin Trudeau has the potential to motivate the youth of this country to get involved in politics like never before. Well actually, like nobody has since his dad. Because his father Pierre was the first modern politician to resonate with the youth of Canada. Trudeaumania wasn't just a catch phrase, it existed for real. Justin has proved he appeals to the youth of this country because as he has campaigned from coast to coast, a large proportion of the people who showed up at his rallies were youth. The twitterverse is filled with Justin supporters. This is one of the ways Mayor Nenshi earned his job in Calgary and I truly believe that this is how Justin will win the leadership race. If he becomes leader of the Liberal party he just needs to keep the youth motivated and mobilize them. If he can pull this off, he has a very good chance to win the next election.

There are some things that Justin will need to avoid doing to succeed. The tired practice in politics of negative attacks against people and ideas has to stop. It can no longer be about why the other idea isn't good and more about why this idea is better. Justin is not a natural politician. But he is an eloquent speaker who speaks from the heart. That is his strength. So he should avoid trying to sound like a politician and instead keep sounding like a sincere person who intends to foster change. Because that's what I expect from the next Prime Minister of Canada. Change. To what the people want.

Not so much

Sunday, April 07, 2013


Amanda Palmer has figured out something I've been saying about the music industry for years. The business model of selling music is no longer viable. Fans no longer want to pay for music because the new reality makes content freely available at all times to all people. Let's face it, in the artist's heart, it's much more important for them to be heard than paid. But they don't have to work for free. Fans are willing to pay for something other than the content. They will pay for the performance, and they will pay for an intimate (artistically speaking) relationship with the artist.

What did she say!?

Remember the history of wooing women in music by cdza? No? OK, go and watch it now.

You're back? OK, now we have the history of wooing men in music. Once again, in the 90s, it all goes to hell...

Canadian middle finger

Friday, April 05, 2013

Let me take you by the hand

A photographer by the name Murad Osmann takes a lot of pictures and posts them online. He seems to have a running gag where he takes a picture of his girlfriend taking him by the hand into various geographical places around the world. What a fantastic meme!


DoorBot is a device/app combo that transmits an audio and video feed over your Wi-Fi network whenever someone rings the doorbell. The DoorBot does not display a feed to whoever is standing outside the door (so they can't see if you're not home), but it does have an audio feed so you can communicate with the visitor from anywhere in the world. The camera even uses infrared technology to see who's outside the door at night.

The DoorBot uses four AA batteries that power it for about a year before it alerts the homeowner to change them. It is made with weather resistant brushed aluminum, and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

In case you were wondering how they get bruised overnight

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

More it's not real

If you want to see some truly outstanding computer generated photorealistic 3D renderings, head here. It's freaky how real these scenes look.

Not a photo

No, that is one of many drawings created by Kelvin Okafor using pencil and charcoal.

Colour me impressed, no pun intended.

Wocka wocking dead

Monday, April 01, 2013

Things I learned lately 1 Apr

  • Men have nipples because they develop in the fetus before the 'Y' chromosome kicks in and makes all those male changes to development.
  • Average firearms per 100 people (2007). US:88.8; Canada: 30.8; Japan: 0.6
  • A music store operator in Sweden created hi-fi coffin so the dead could listen to their favourite tunes in the grave.
  • North Korea has a very relaxed attitude toward marijuana.
  • The only part of what's in front of you that is in focus (in your eyes) is no bigger than the tip of your thumb held out at arm's length. To see the 'whole' scene in front of you, your eyes dart around, capturing the rest in focus.
  • The average age of a LinkedIn user is 44.2
  • The average age of a Facebook user is 40.5
  • The average age of a Twitter user is 37.3
  • In 2012, 7 petabytes of photo content were added to Facebook every month.
  • Production of the movie Cast Away was halted for a year so that Tom Hanks could lose 55 pounds before shooting his sequences trapped on an island.
  • We may be mining asteroids for material to build stuff for space by 2020.
  • A strip mall owner is trying to prevent protests in front of Stephen Harper's constituency office.
  • Netflix will be producing a new original sci-fi series - "Sense8" - that will start streaming in late 2014. Andy and Lana Wachowski, the creators of the "The Matrix" movies, and "Babylon 5" creator Joe Straczynski are teaming up to produce the show.
  • Alberta Health Services has about 10,000 manager positions. 10,000! For a total work force of 100,000. Doesn't that seem excessive to anyone?

My take on Windows 8

You've probably heard all the doomsday stories. It's terrible. It's unrecognizable. Nobody will be able to understand it. Where's the desktop? Where's the start menu? I've heard it all, and I'm here to tell you that things are just not as bad as some people are trying to make it out to be. I've given windows eight a decent test run and I can state with confidence that with a 30 to 60 minute tutorial I can get you off and running in windows eight with no interface problems. Note that I am not commenting about application compatibility or driver/hardware issues.

I don't know anyone who works of Microsoft, so much of what I'm about to tell you is supposition. I believe the that in an attempt to evolve Windows to the next level, Microsoft came to the realization that they had to renovate the interface to be ready for touchscreen computing. There wasn't really much wrong with the desktop, but the start menu was another story. For one thing, the start menu is quite small. You can only fit a dozen or so features in that space and everything else hides behind the all programs menu. The other problem with the start menu is that you keep having to click the start button to get to it. I think Microsoft tried to solve these two problems by converting the start menu into the Windows 8 start screen, or the Metro interface as it was known during development.

So when you log into a Windows 8 computer, you will be greeted by the new incarnation of the old start menu which is now the larger than your display. The Start screen is the essence of Windows 8. It greets you with tiles, each tile a representation of an app. If you're thinking to yourself, this sounds like a description of a phone's screen, you are right. The start screen essentially takes the old fashioned shortcut icon and blows it up into a mini window, previewing what's hiding inside the application. So when you look at the weather app tile, you see fast facts about your weather. When you look at the Facebook app tile, you see snippets of status from Facebook. When you touch or click the tile, you're just opening the program to see more information. If you scroll to the right, there are more tiles to see and at the far right are familiar tiles to access things like your Office programs and anything else you decide to pin to this screen. Best of all, the tiles can be rearranged to suit your needs.

Click on the desktop tile and you're taken to the more familiar desktop screen. But the start button is gone. This tends to freak people out. Fear not. Press the Windows logo key and you're right back at the start screen. Press it again and you're back at the desktop. See how easy that is? One of the things I like about Windows 8 is that it leverages keyboard shortcuts even more than Windows 7 did. You'll find you'll be using the right mouse button more too.

Another oddity of this new interface are the hot zones at the far left and right sides of the screen. The left hot zone gives you access to the other open programs, both to switch to them and to close them. The hot zone at the right brings up the Charms Bar, which gives you access to search, other installed programs and settings. No matter where you find yourself, if you get lost, the start screen is one Windows logo key away.

Apps are pre-installed, but there are many more available, some at a cost, but many for free. They can be gotten using the store app tile. Opening an app is a little daunting at first because the familiar window controls for close and minimize are missing. Remember, this interface is designed for touch screens, so you're going to be scrolling and right clicking stuff a lot.

Corporations are avoiding this version of Windows like the plague, mostly because this is a big change and they're afraid of the learning curve for users. I'm convinced they have little to fear. A 60 minute tutorial should be sufficient for most people. I've been playing with Windows 8 in a virtual machine in my classroom for weeks and demo it to anyone who will sit down for 15 minutes. It's fun, especially with a SmartBoard attached.


Oymyakon is a rural locality in Russia. The village has the lowest recorded temperature for any permanently inhabited location. Temperatures can plummet to -71C (-95.8F), so cold even planes cannot land there in winter. The valley of Oymyakon in northeast Russia is known as the 'Pole of Cold' and with an average January temperature of -50C (-58F).

Here's a great article and photo collection on the place.

The Empire Rocks