Friday, December 30, 2005
I've been waiting for someone to come up with a way to turn some of the public domain books that are out there on the Web into audio books. I figured it was just a matter of time and with sites like Project Gutenberg out there, there's plenty of material.
Well, someone has taken up that challenge. Check out LibriVox to see the result. They're serving up public domain books that you can listen to on their site or download to portable player and enjoy wherever you are.
This is a very interesting site that is built on the open source model, where like-minded people come together to create something useful. It looks like a great idea and one that you can participate in if you're so inclined. They're looking for volunteers to read chapters and contribute, so if you've always thought that those years of reading to your kids were wasted on them, try those pipes on a wider audience. Maybe you'll be able to quit your day job!
Thursday, December 29, 2005
The Boxing Day shooting in Toronto put a spin on the Christmas holidays that we certainly didn't need around here. But as it turned out, our family was involved in a way we didn't expect.
On Boxing Day, Heather's brother, Rob, and his son, Henrik, arrived in Toronto from Oslo. Henrik and his hockey team were in town to play in the North Toronto Christmas hockey tournament, which was on over the Christmas break.
While the kids were staying with billets, the parents were staying at the Delta Chelsea, which is located about half a block from the scene of the violence at Yonge St and Elm. When Rob's cab arrived at the hotel a couple of hours after the shooting, the street was still closed and they had to enter the hotel through a side door.
Ironically, Rob had been telling the Norwegians how nice Canadians were and how friendly everyone was. But when they arrived to find armoured police staffing the lobby of their hotel and plenty of worried people and rumours flying everywhere you can imagine how they felt.
The next day, we were in Toronto for supper with Rob and we walked past the Future Shop on Yonge, where 15-year-old Jane Creba was killed, and five others injured. The police tape had just been taken down and the street was filled with people again. Many were there to see the spot. You couldn't help but feel strange to be walking past the same spot just a few hours after it all happened.
When we walked by on the way to supper, the site was freshly washed and the sidewalk was clean. But just an hour later, on the way back, a makeshift memorial, with candles, teddy bears and hand-written notes, was already in place on the sidewalk outside the Future Shop. It's a ritual that seems to be all too common these days whenever a young victim dies.
At one level, it seemed unreal. It was just another day on Yonge St. But Creba was the 52nd person killed by a handgun in Toronto this year. And while the murder rate in Toronto is a whole lot lower than most other big cities, the rapid increase in the use of guns is a sobering statistic.
Update -- Jan. 1 -- The bad news continues for Toronto, as the first murder of the year comes just hours after the New Year arrives. And again, a handgun is involved.
Monday, December 19, 2005
This week, Internet usability guru Jacob Neilson explores the significance of this in his latest Alertbox newsletter. Here's some interesting tidbits:
- According to Morgan Stanley estimates, 36% of Internet users are now in Asia and 24% are in Europe. Only 23% of users are in North America, where it all started in 1969 when two computers -- one in Los Angeles, the other in Palo Alto -- were networked together
- It took 36 years for the Internet to get its first billion users. The second billion will probably be added by 2015; most of these new users will be in Asia. The third billion will be harder, and might not be reached until 2040.
- In 2002, NUA estimated that we had 605 million Internet users. Since then, Internet use has grown by 18% per year -- certainly not as fast as the 1990s, but still respectable.
The implications on how we use the Internet and what it is used for (like e-commerce) are sobering.
This is a good piece to whet your appetite for thinking some big thoughts about where all this is taking us.
Personally, I'm finding it more and more exciting every day. But just how significant the changes are is not necessarily that obvious in a day-to-day sense. It's only when you look at how quickly things have changed in such a short time that you start to grasp that something big is truly happening.
After all, as I am fond of telling my kids, when I went to school, computers were kept in separate rooms. I only ever used a typewriter to do term papers and when I started my first job in the newspaper business, I used a manual typewriter! And I'm not really that old!
What about you? When did you start using computers? And when did they become a part of your life that you couldn't imagine doing without? Or have you yet to cross that Rubicon?
Sunday, December 18, 2005
I just realized that I hadn't let you know about Kelly's big decision, which she made a couple of days ago.
As you might know, she's been entertaining rowing scholarship offers from the University of Louisville, Cal-State in Sacramento and Washington State in Pullman, Washington.
It was a tough decision, but she's decided to go to Louisville next September, and join the Louisville Cardinals rowing program. They were her first choice from the beginning, but strong challenges from both Sacramento and Washington State made the decision a really tough one. (That's their varsity 8 on the right.)
The other variable is that Heather and I will be in Victoria next year, which means Kelly will be a long way away. But she'll only be a short (about 8 hours) drive from Hamilton. And Cory will be still be here, so she'll have someone to stay with if she gets back during the school year to visit her friends.
Needless to say, Heather and I are very, very proud of Kelly. She has handled the pressure of being recruited, visiting the campuses, evaluating the programs and making a really tough decision with incredible poise. She's a great kid and I'm just so very, very proud...did I mention that I'm proud of her?
Well, I'm glad I got that out. Now we're all going to settle in and enjoy this holiday season, the last one we'll be spending here in Hamilton. Jaime arrived home last weekend and it's been great to have her around again. She's flying higher than ever. She's the only kid I know who welcomes the chance to come home and work out for hours and hours every day, since she doesn't have any school work. Talk about dedication (or is it obsession?) I'm only kidding, Jaime.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
But if you're familiar with the on-line encyclopedia, you might be interested in Dan Gilmour's report about a study published recently in the journal Nature, comparing Wikipedia and the Encylopedia Britannica on the accuracy of their scientific postings.
Wikipedia, which is unique in that anyone can post an entry, or edit an existing one, has been under fire in recent weeks. (For a bit of background on some of the controversy, read this post from Bruno Giussani.)
But in recent days, it's been getting some good notices, like this one.
I use it often and I think it's a tremendous project. So long as people realize that there is no such thing as an absolute sure thing when it comes to sourcing information, we should use it, contribute to it, if appropriate, and enjoy the benefits of yet another open source project. (Like the Music Genome Project I wrote about last week.)
Friday, December 09, 2005
Thursday, December 08, 2005
But I admit that I also like to listen to lots of music that isn't "podsafe." In fact, my Ipod is full of all the copyrighted stuff I've collected over the years.
So I was really excited to hear about a new service that's up and running called Pandora. It's essentially an on-line radio service, but you can create your own, personalized stations, tailored to present music you like.
The format is deceptively simple, but it really works. If you don't believe me, just try it out for yourself. Just go to the website and type in the name of an artist, or a song that you like. Then the site will start playing music that matches your preferences.
How does it do that? That's the really cool part. The site is based on the work done by a dedicated bunch of folks who have been working on something called The Music Genome project. Their goal is to break down music into essential elements in such a way that you can identify which songs will be attractive to which people.
But like I said, the details are less important than the end result. And the result is -- it really works. The online service lets you create up to 20 personalized radio stations. You have to register on the service, but it's not a problem and it's available for free. There is a Premium edition, without any advertising, but the ads are not really a problem. After all, it's the music you're interested in.
Oh, one more thing. If you're not a US resident, you're technically not allowed to use the service, according to the licensing arrangement the site has with the copyright owners. But as long as you don't tell anyone I told you, there is an easy way around that requirement.
When you get to the part of the registration process that asks for a valid US Zip code, just go here, enter the name of any US city, and you'll get a valid Zip code. Then just copy that back into the Pandora site, and you're off and streaming.
And since it's the holiday season, you should know that you can create a holiday music station really easily. Here's what the site says about that:
To hear holiday music on Pandora, just start by entering the name of a favorite holiday song (for example, "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow"). We'll then ask you to pick from a list of artists that we know performed that song. Pick your favorite version and we'll create a station that will play other similar holiday music. While we're not able to play that exact song immediately, it will play on your station eventually so keep listening!
If you'd rather start from an artist, just enter the artist's name followed by the word holiday (for example, "Nat King Cole Holiday"). We'll then use that input to build a holiday station based on the musical qualities of that performer's holiday
If you're looking for something nice to listen to at your desk filled with stuff you like, give Pandora a try.
Update - Dec 21 -- I'm not the only one that loves this site. Here's a detailed review by Tonya Engst from the Tidbits site.
This week, the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary chose podcast as the Word of the Year for 2005.
According to a recent story in the Globe and Mail The New Oxford American Dictionary defines podcast as:
“a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made
available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player.”
I couldn't have said it better myself. And it's nice to know that all my harping about how cool a use of new technology podcasting is getting some larger agreement in those not directly involved in this business.
Now I've got to start thinking about what the word for 2006 should be...
Monday, December 05, 2005
Today, I've got a follow-up. In the most recent New York Times Magazine, Clive Thompson takes a look at why so many of us are being driven to distraction by interruptions. (The article, called "Meet the Life Hackers," might still be available on the Times site, but here's a link to Thompson's blog, with a complete version of the story.)
What makes his essay so interesting is research that shows that interruptions are not always the problem -- in fact, they are often the solution to problems that we are facing, and we need the information they are providing. But not always. And there's the rub. We get interrupted, which might be a good thing and it might be a bad thing. But until we stop what we're doing and check, we won't know. And by then, it's already too late.
Here are three excerpts to whet your appetite. But be warned ... this is a long article ... make sure you have the time to read it without interruptions! Ha-ha!
Information is no longer a scarce resource -- attention is ... 20 years ago, an office worker had only two types of communication technology: a phone, which required an instant answer, and postal mail, which took days. "Now we have dozens of possibilities between those poles," Rose says. How fast are you supposed to reply to an e-mail message? Or an instant message? Computer-based interruptions fall into a sort of Heisenbergian uncertainty trap: it is difficult to know whether an e-mail message is worth interrupting your work for unless you open and read it, at which point you have, of course, interrupted yourself. Our software tools were essentially designed to compete with one another for our attention, like needy toddlers.
Once their work becomes buried beneath a screenful of interruptions, office workers appear to literally forget what task they were originally pursuing. We do not like to think we are this flighty: we might
expect that if we are, say, busily filling out some forms and are suddenly distracted by a phone call, we would quickly return to finish the job. But we don't. ... The central danger of interruptions, Czerwinski realized, is not really the interruption at all. It is the havoc they wreak with our short-term memory:
"What the heck was I just doing?"
But for many users, simplicity now trumps power ... we have shifted eras in computing. Now that multitasking is driving us crazy, we treasure technologies that protect us. We love Google not because it brings us the entire Web but because it filters it out, bringing us the one page we really need.
In our new age of overload, the winner is the technology that can hold the world at bay.
Thanks to David Allen for the pointer to this article.
That's why I'm so disappointed to learn this weekend that Heather Mallick has left the paper over a dispute about the way the editors handled her regular Saturday column, according to The Toronto Star's Antonia Zerbisias in her media blog.
I found out about this through my friend Eric Eggertson's blog Mutually Inclusive, who in turn has a link to the original blog posting. Ah, the beauty of blogging in action.
Eric's post is called "What was the Globe thinking?"
Indeed. They've let a good voice get away, if they don't do anything to get her back.
And if you think she should be brought back send a note to the editor.
I've linked to all their blogs above, but only John Oxley and Geoffrey Rockwell actually wrote about the event and those posts are the ones I've linked to.
For me, the most important message was how important it is to have an authentic voice in order to have a credible blog. This is even more important in a business blog. Blogs are successful when the authors are passionate about what they're doing and their passion has to come across in a way that is real.
Geoffrey Rockwell summed things up for me in his post, when he said:
Finally, I realized, again, how blogging is not about the technology, it is about voice and engagement. It is a sign that web technologies are maturing when things like RSS and XML are not really the issue, it what you do with them and how they are hidden.I'm having an "ah-ha!" moment after thinking about this for a few days. I realize just how passionate I am about this "new media" thing and its potential for the communications business. Yet somehow, I'm not connecting what I'm doing (on a daily basis) with what I know is possible.
Sure, technology is a cool thing and at first, it tends to obscure the real uses of these new tools for communicators. But eventually, content takes over as the true measure of how useful something is for the people using the technology. If the content is up to it, no matter how "cool" the product doesn't get used. And making sure the content is good is my job.
What really hit me is that I am just as up-to-date (maybe more so) on the topics of interest and the current events in the blogosphere as the panelists were, yet I'm not really participating in that world. I watch it from a conventional corporate communications perspective.
I'm on the cusp of straightening out my thinking in this area. When I do, I'll write about it.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
So far, she's visited Washington State University in Pullman, WA, the Univeristy of Washington, in Seattle, Sacramento State University, in Sacramento, CA (obviously) and the University of Louisville in Kentucky. While the west coast is beautiful, the rowing programs look a bit stronger in the east...so we're still waiting to see what happens.
She's now evaluating at least two offers but she's still waiting to hear from a couple of the schools. Needless to say, we're pretty excited in the Wood/Traynor household!
Watching Kelly jet off to parts all over the continent has really brought home to me just how quickly Heather and I will be on our own. While I keep reading about how some parents are getting used to their kids staying at home forever, that's not the case with us.
Cory was by last night to pick up some recipes and we were chatting about his future. He's really enjoying his house, but he's thinking that he might like to find a place of his own come next May when his lease is up. Right now, he's living with four other guys and while that's all right, it can be a bit tiring at times. Especially when you want to go to bed and everybody else is interested in sitting up and drinking beer!
So, when Heather and I head out to Victoria at the end of the summer, we'll be on our own, for the first time in over 21 years...hard to believe. (Of course, Jaime will be close by...which will be nice.) Speaking of being alone, Heather will be spending January and February in Victoria, before coming back here to wrap things up in Hamilton. And then she'll be back there for good in July, while I'm not likely to make it out until September or so...it's going to be an interesting year, to say the least.
Well, that's my short update for today. More to come soon, I'm sure, especially now that we're having an election...oh joy!
Saturday, November 12, 2005
At first, it sounded like a great idea. Then some publishers and authors' groups stepped in and cried foul and claimed that Google was an evil empire intent on smashing the sacred cow of copyright protection. Sounds like a bad thing, right?
Since I'm a writer at heart and by profession, albeit one who is fascinated by all things electronic, this is a debate I've been watching with interest.
Well, today, I found a great commentary at Wired News by Lawrence Lessig, one of the founders of the Creative Commons licensing scheme, who is someone I think a lot of.
I think he's hit the nail on the head. And his warning of what the result of this could mean for the future of the Internet is defnitely food for thought. Read it for yourself.
Friday, November 11, 2005
I had thought I might be able to give you regular updates on the life of a rail commuter, but it hasn't happened yet. But I am gathering some good material. When you step back from the day-to-day and just watch what's going on around you, it can get pretty interesting...kind of like when you stop watching the tennis game and start watching the crowd watching the game...
But that's not for today. Today, I've been grooving all afternoon at my computer here in my home office. I've really missed this place. Right now, I've got Brother Love blasting away on I-Tunes and I'm catching up on all the blogs I haven't been reading lately.
If you don't know who Brother Love is (Listen to There She Goes) , or Matthew Ebel, (Listen to Drive Away) or Planet of Women, (Listen to Waking up the Neighbourhood) you're really missing something. Podsafe music is where the world is going, people, and Brother Love is just one of the poster children. As CC says, "It's all good."
I've become addicted to podcasts...I've got 20 shows that I'm subscribed to and I listen to them all faithfully. Some are updated daily, others every few days, weekly or even monthly. I listen to music, talk, jokes, nasty bits, business stuff -- it's all over the map, really. But they're all great. And there's thousands more out there. I'm not going to even try sharing links, or anything like that. You'll see what I mean once you jump in. Suffice to say that once you discover the joys of listening to podcasts, you'll never go back to regular music.
Oh all right. To get just a sense of what's out there, check out Adam Curry's Daily Source Code and PW Fenton's Digital Flotsam. They're two very different shows, but they both are at the top of their category.
There is a revolution going on in the way information moves around the world. Pick up an IPod, hook it up to your new Mac (or Windows, if you must) and your life will never be the same. New technology is allowing us to easily share words and music and now even video in ways that were unthinkable not that long ago.
I remember how exciting it was in the early days of personal computers...I entered this world in the early 1980s. I was a Compuserve member back then and I loved the opportunity to get and share information. Since then, it's become a big part of my life. Now, I'm trying to build a business helping others learn how to use this technology in their business.
I'm not sure where this road is going to take me, but I'm sure having fun travelling down it and then back again, and then again, and again. But if I've got a good book and my IPod with me, it's doable.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Jaime's Varsity 4 just won their race, by a comfortable 3 boatlengths! So they've repeated as Canadian Champions, capping off a very successful fall rowing season.
I know Jaime is flying higher than a kite right now. Congratulations to her and her whole team!
Heather called me while I was in the car home from the Toronto airport. I'd just picked up Kelly, who is back from her recruiting weekend at the University of Washington and Washington State University. She says she had a great time and she's got lots to think about.
But a final decision will have to wait until she visits the Univeristy of Louisville in Kentucky next weekend and Sacremento State in California the week after. Right now, there's a lot of stuff to process, but with luck, a decision will be made before Christmas. Keep your fingers crossed!
Man, am I a Proud Papa or what!?
Thursday, November 03, 2005
But this weekend, I might just beat that record.
A year ago at this time, we were in Montreal, watching Jaime compete in the Canadian University Rowing Championships, where her UVIC varsity 4 took the gold medal.
Now, here we are one year later, and Jaime and her crew are defending their championship at the CU's in Victoria this weekend. I don't think there are any live feeds of results, but I'll be sure to post something when I know how she did. They're feeling very good about their chances of repeating, after the great showing they had in Boston.
Last week, the senior member of Jaime's boat, who is a former World's Doubles Champion in the Under 23 Lightweight Women, told Jaime that she has never been in a faster boat. Needless to add, Jaime is "over the moon" about how well things are going, as are Heather and I. (And while I'm waiting anxiously by the phone this weekend, Heather will be watching the event live! She's out in Victoria this weekend, "on business," she claims, although the timing worked out really well. I'm quite jealous.)
But that's only Part 1 of the Proud Papa update this weekend. As I mentioned a couple of posts back, Kelly is off this weekend in Washington, visiting the University of Washington and Washington State. We sent her off yesterday, and I have to admit it's all starting to seem very real to me all of a sudden. In just a few months, Kelly will have made a decision about where she's going next year, and then she'll be gone! And we'll be true empty-nesters! I'm not sure I'm ready for that.
Anyway, this weekend's trip will be followed by next weekend's visit to Louisville and the week after that Kelly is heading back out west to Sacramento, California. Then she has to settle down and figure out just where she wants to be for the next four years. It's a tough decision and I really don't know what she's going to do. Louisville has a great program, and she knows some of the other rowers there, so they are probably the front runners. But of course, we're going to be out on the west coast, with Jaime, and we'd all like her to be closer. And Seattle is just a short ferry ride from Victoria.
No matter what she decides, I know she'll do well. To have four top US Universities competing to have you join their program (and offering her full scholarships, no less!) is a great honour and a real credit to Kelly and all the hard work she's put into the sport. It almost makes up for all the hassles she's putting up with on her basketball team -- but that's another story.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
"Doing what?" you wonder to yourself..."It must be pretty important."
That's my hope. I've just dropped out of sight after that long car trip back from Boston and I'm sure you've all been thinking I must be off doing something really important.
Alas, it's not really that exciting and in the interests of full disclosure, I'm going to offer you a glimpse of what my reality has become each day.
I'm back in the commuting fast (or slow!) lane. I am up at 4:30 each day to walk the dogs and grab a bit of breakfast, then it's off to the Go train station. I catch the 6:29 out of Aldershot (just outside of Hamilton), and ride it to Union Station, then stay on it for another three stops, finally pulling into Eglinton station in Scarborough at about 7:51 am.
If all goes well, there's a shuttle bus waiting for me, to take me (and the other commuters) to Aviva, which is about a 10 minute drive from the station. That's the morning...if all goes well. Leave the house about 6 or so, arrive at work at 8:15. Lots of sitting around, but not too bad.
Coming home is a different story. I usually catch a shuttle from work at either 3:35 or 4:15. If I catch the 3:35 shuttle, I get on the 4:18 Go train, which takes me to Burlington, hope on a Go bus and arrive at Aldershot at 5:52 pm. Then I drive back home, arriving about 6:10 or so...Leave work at 3:30, arrive home at 6:10 or so. Just about 3 hours!
If I catch a later Go train, my time getting home jumps to about 6:45 or so...
Sometimes I catch a Via train instead, which is a bit more money, but is comfortable and you spend less time in the train. But it doesn't really get me home any earlier...
So...in order to book about a typical 7.5 hour day, I'm away from home for over 12 hours each day. That doesn't leave a lot of time for anything else, unfortunately.
I remain optimistic that once I settle in, working from home will become a bit more of a viable option, but I'll still be travelling plenty of the time. But it's worth it. I doubt I could do this in the long term, but as a short-term contract, it's worth it. The people are good to work with and I'm enjoying the work. So, aside from the commute, it's working out well.
And at least I get to catch up on all my podcasts during those long hours on the train!
Monday, October 24, 2005
Right now, I'm so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open, so this post will be short.
But I've got great news! Jaime and her varsity four from UVIC blew their way through the competition on Sunday and rowed a superb race. They ended up winning their event by 19 seconds and they did it in impressive fashion.
UVIC started out in the 11th position and by the time they came by us near the last turn of the race, they were on their way to passing eight other boats. They were going so fast when they went past us the other boats looked like they were hardly moving! It was a very impressive display of raw power. They rowed the entire course keeping a steady rate of 32 strokes per minute all the way.
The picture I've added here shows them on their way past one of the boats ahead of them. UVIC's in the top of the picture. That's Jaime second from the right. Although you can't really tell in a still photo, they only took about two strokes to whip past this boat. All in all, it was a great result and very, very satisfying for Jaime. She and the rest of her crew were really pleased with the result.
Now they're looking forward to the Canadian University Rowing Championships, which are coming up in Victoria on November 5. And fortunately for Heather (and tough for me) Heather is going to be in Victoria to watch Jaime row once more.
She's going to be there to see some of the clients she'll be following when she does a locum for a couple of Victoria midwives during January and February. And then, of course, she's moving out there permanently in July!
Anyway, time to wrap this up for today. The end of a very satisfying rowing season (for me and Kelly, anyway). And a very successful year in Boston. I have a feeling that both of the girls will be there again in the future.
Oh, one more thing. Have I mentioned that Kelly is being recruited to join a US College rowing team? Actually, she has four colleges actively talking to her. And next week, she heads out on her first recruiting visit. She's off to Pulman Washington to visit Washington State, and then to Seattle to check out the program at the University of Washington.
The next week, she's off to visit the Univerisity of Louisville and after Christmas, Sacremento State plans to bring her out to California.
What an exciting time for her...and us! I'll keep you informed as things progress.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
We arrived here about 2 pm on Friday, after spending the night near Albany. Kelly was able to hit the water and row the course, which is a great advantage, since she's never been here before. Jaime had already arrived and her team had been out on the course earlier in the day.
But that was yesterday and right now, I'm actually sitting in our hotel room on Saturday night. The weather today wasn't quite as good...it turned cold and a bit wet. But Kelly's race went well.
I've got a picture of her here, partway through the race, just as she passes under the Elliot St. Bridge, one of the most exciting places to watch the race. Kelly ended up in 17th place, in a field which included a lot of experienced rowers. While she would have loved to have ended up a bit higher, I'm really proud of her placing today.
And speaking of the Elliot St. Bridge, I thought I'd add this great picture of Jaime and her Mom with the bridge in the background. It was taken just shortly after Kelly went by.
Tomorrow, it's Jaime's turn. She'll be rowing with her varsity 4 from UVIC in the Lightweight Championship 4 event, and her crew is the odds-on favourite to win the event. She's very excited today and looking forward to tomorrow.
I'm still pinching myself to think that Heather and I have two such talented daughters here at this, the largest regatta in the world. What a weekend. And it's not over yet. I'll send an update when I get back to Hamilton. But if you want to find out how Jaime did, check out the on-line results. She's racing in the Lightweight Fours - Women.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
The head of the Charles is one of the largest regattas in North America and it's a pretty cool event. Heather and I, along with Kelly and her boyfriend, Spencer, are heading out tonight on our way. We'll stop somewhere along the way tonight and head into Boston by noon tomorrow (I hope.)
Jaime is already there with her Varsity 4 teammates from UVIC. So we're looking forward to seeing her again and watching them both race.
I hope to have a good connection in Boston, so I'll plan to post some updates while I'm there this weekend. You can also follow along with the results on-line, if you like. I'm not sure what they'll have on the weekend, but check and see.
Monday, October 17, 2005
There is a fairly extensive entry in Wikipedia, and I got this from a Technorati search. (What's Technorati?
But the other day I happened to pick up a copy of Discover Magazine, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a special issue. There are a lot of interesting articles in the mag, but one of the pieces that caught my eye was the Emerging Technology column, written by Steven Berlin. The piece is called "Web 2.0 Arrives."
It's a good piece and it helped me understand what's meant by the term. More importantly, I started to get a glimpse of what it means for companies to embrace the idea and how they might begin to gain footholds in this market. The part of the story I liked the best was Berlin's metaphor of the Web 2.0 as a rainforest.
There are a lot of very smart people who think that we've only just begun a revolution in how the Web is going to shape the way we live. I'm starting to think they're right.
The difference between this Web 2.0 model and the previous one is directly equivalent to the difference between a rain forest and a desert. One of the primary reasons we value tropical rain forests is because they waste so little of the energy supplied by the sun while running massive nutrient cycles. Most of the solar energy that saturates desert environments gets lost, assimilated by the few plants that can survive in such a hostile climate. Those plants pass on enough energy to sustain a limited number of insects, which in turn supply food for the occasional reptile or bird, all of which ultimately feed the bacteria. But most of the energy is lost.
A rain forest, on the other hand, is such an efficient system for using energy because there are so many organisms exploiting every tiny niche of the nutrient cycle. We value the diversity of the ecosystem not just as a quaint case of biological multiculturalism but because the system itself does a brilliant job of capturing the energy that flows through it. Efficiency is one of the reasons that clearing rain forests is shortsighted: The nutrient cycles in rain forest ecosystems are so tight that the soil is usually very poor for farming. All the available energy has been captured on the way down to the earth.
Think of information as the energy of the Web’s ecosystem. Those Web 1.0 pages with their crude hyperlinks are like the sun’s rays falling on a desert. A few stragglers are lucky enough to stumble across them, and thus some of that information might get reused if one then decides to e-mail the URL to a friend or to quote from it on another page. But most of the information goes to waste. In the Web 2.0 model, we have thousands of services scrutinizing each new piece of information online, grabbing interesting bits, remixing them in new ways, and passing them along to other services. Each new addition to the mix can be exploited in countless new ways, both by human bloggers and by the software programs that track changes in the overall state of the Web. Information in this new model is analyzed, repackaged, digested, and passed on down to the next link in the chain. It flows.
There was a lot of media attention focused on the issue and a lot of commentary. But yesterday, when I picked up my copy of The Atlantic Monthly, I learned something new about this story -- and I'm shocked that I hadn't heard it before.
Imagine if, in advance of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of trucks had been waiting with water and ice and medicine and other supplies. Imagine if 4,000 National Guardsmen and an equal number of emergency aid workers from around the country had been moved into place, and five million meals had been ready to serve. Imagine if scores of mobile satellite-communications stations had been prepared to move in instantly, ensuring that rescuers could talk to one another. Imagine if all this had been managed by a federal-and-state task force that not only directed the government response but also helped coordinate the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other outside groups.
Actually, this requires no imagination: it is exactly what the Bush administration did a year ago when Florida braced for Hurricane Frances. Of course the circumstances then were very special: it was two months before the presidential election, and Florida's twenty-seven electoral votes were hanging in the balance. It is hardly surprising that Washington ensured the success of "the largest response to a natural disaster we've ever had in this country." The president himself passed out water bottles to Floridians driven from their homes.
The author is Richard Clarke, who had his own run-in with the Bush Whitehouse after he published his memoirs about security concerns pre and post 9/11.
But what really floored me is that I hadn't heard anyone else compare the response to Florida a year earlier with Katrina. Why is that? It doesn't seem like it should have been that tough to point out, given that the Florida hurricanes were a significant news event. I do remember them. But I didn't realize just what kind of a response had been laid out in advance, and how that same level of preparedness had not been cranked up in advance of Katrina.
Looking at the steep decline in President Bush's approval ratings in recent days, one can't help but wonder whether the US public is beginning to see through the transparency (at least what appears that way to some of us in Canada) of how "homeland security" gets parcelled out. If it's a state in peril, with an election win in the balance (and your brother is the governor), that appears a lot more important than the fact a Category 4 or 5 hurricane is threatening a million people.
But it also makes me wonder about the apparent short-term memory of the media. In retrospect, the comparisons between Florida one year ago and Katrina and Rita this year seem like a natural. But I don't recall seeing or reading any stories about that. Do you? Perhaps I missed them, or maybe there's more to this than Richard Clarke is willing to admit.
I decided I should try to find out, so I went searching for articles that might have made the same link. Turns out there were a few. Here's one that talks about FEMA's response to Frances and Katrina. It also contains links to a number of other items about the same issue.
So there were stories out there, but they certainly didn't get the kind of play that I expected they would. But then again, hindsight is always better, isn't it?
By the way, if you want to read the rest of the Atlantic article, you'll need to subscribe to the Atlantic, or pick up a copy at the bookstore (or, what the heck, send me a note and I'll send you a copy. As long as you promise to never, ever, tell!).
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Did you see the new Video IPod that Steve Jobs released yesterday? I'm amazed...it is so cool.
And that surprises me. I didn't think I'd be impressed. I figured yeah, video...that'll be OK, but I don't think it's something I really need.
But you know what? I haven't tried it out, of course, but I saw some of the coverage from Jobs' special event...and it sure grabbed me. I bet it's something I could get into. It's the evolution of podcasting...no doubt about it. There's a revolution going on and we're right in the middle of it, my friends. Hop aboard...it's going to be a great journey.
And special thanks to the visionaries at Apple for having the good sense to let their engineers run wild with the possibilities. I like this company.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, from all of us here in Hamilton. We're just four this year, as Jaime is off at UVIC (and spending Thanksgiving in Vancouver). But Cory, Heather, Kelly and me (I'm taking the picture) send along our best to all of you.
I like this holiday, largely because we don't have to go through the hassle of presents, and all that stuff like that entails. It's a family time, which we don't always have enough of during the rest of the year. And of course, you get to stuff yourself silly and not feel guilty about it.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Thursday, October 06, 2005
First, although I haven't posted in awhile, my website stats show that the visits to the site have actually increased in the last few days...go figure!
Second, I'm flattered that so many people have noticed my lack of posts. I appreciate the comments I've received. Although there are occasions when I wonder whether anyone actually reads my stuff, you do. And you know who you are. (Here's a shout out to you, Michael!)
So, to keep you guys satisfied, here's a bit of "Dave news."
Today, I started a short-term contract in Toronto, doing some corporate communications projects. While it means getting back into commuting, it's a good opportunity and I'm looking forward to it.
I met my new teammates today, and they're an impressive crew. They sent me home with a backpack bursting with reading material, as well as a fair number of projects to get my head around. Talk about hitting the ground running...ah well. Back in the saddle, so to speak.
So, in the days to come, I'll be looking for topics for the Daily Upload. And given what happened on the Go Train this morning, these whacky commuters I'll be joining every day will provide plenty of fodder.
I caught the 7:04 am train out of Hamilton this morning. (I'll probably be catching an earlier one next when I'm heading in every day.) And no sooner had I sat down than a woman plopped down in the seat across from me and looked straight at me. Obviously, she had something on her mind.
"That's not your seat," she said.
"Pardon?" I replied. I wasn't sure I'd heard her right.
"That's not your seat," she repeated. "There's going to be someone else coming here and that's their seat."
Then she just stared at me, as if she figured that her point couldn't be any clearer.
Well, I know that that the seats on the train aren't reserved. But there was no way I really wanted to sit across from her with her staring at me all the way into Toronto. So I just grabbed my bag and moved across the aisle. And sure enough, at the next stop, two people showed up and sat with her and they talked all the way into the city...and talked...and talked.
Interesting way to start the day, eh?
And there you have it...your Daily Upload. Talk to you soon.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Oh well, I suppose it had to happen sometime. But until now, I haven't been plagued by Comment Spam, like some bloggers complain about. I've seen plenty of sites get taken down by spam but I guess that only happens if you have some readers.
But, fortunately, I do have a few...and now I'm the victim of comment spam myself. Well...victim might be a strong term. But I have begun receiving some very polite spam messages. How do I know they're spam, you ask?
Well, first, they're anonymous, which is a red flag right there. Most of the comments I get are from people I know, so I'm always interested when I see an Anonymous listing in the mail.
Second, the comment compliments me on the "nice blog" and urges me to "keep it up." Then it immediately refers to a neat site somewhere else on the Internet, with a link embedded in the message to a website.
Normally, I just delete them, but I thought perhaps I should find out more about how to stop them...and what do you know? Blogger has something called word verification that you can turn on in your comments. It forces anyone leaving a comment to type in the correct series of letters that you see from an image. Supposedly, these automated scripts that are sending out the comment spam aren't able to do that, so - Presto - No Spam!
Sounds good to me. I've turned it on and now I'll just wait for all of you to add your comments...all right?...go ahead...I'm waiting...sigh...
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I read a lot of blogs, of course, and I subscribe to several on-line editions of major papers, so I'm not suffering from any lack of information. But I do find it convenient (and entertaining, I admit) to sprawl on the couch and watch the news with pictures. So I've found myself searching out difference sources for TV news.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, I started watching the coverage on CNN -- and became addicted, sort of. Since then, I've continued to flip to the Atlanta all-news channel whenever I was looking for a quick update on what is happening. And I've got to say that I've been impressed with how well CNN has integrated new media and hi-tech into it's news gathering operation.
Today, in Wired News online, I read an article about CNN's Situation Room, with Wolf Blitzer, which talks a bit about the people behind this "new-look" program. Anyone who's seen it will know what I mean...but until Katrina hit, I wasn't aware of all the stuff that was going on. It's an interesting piece.
I think that CNN, while leading the way in many respects, is just scratching the surface of integrating a lot of different news feeds into programming. There's a lot of stuff going on, and as we become ever-more connected, it's going to be interesting to see how these things evolve.
But one thing is clear. Things like blogging, podcasting, BitTorrent, file-sharing, IPods -- these things are not just flash-in-the-pan items. They are changing the way we perceive the world around us.
The tsunami at Christmas, Katrina last month, 9-11 four years ago, the war in Iraq -- they've all shown us a new face of the news. It's immediate, it has a huge impact and we're forced more than ever to make judgements about what we're seeing. The way the news is presented can make it seem so important that we forget that context is everything.
There is also another more insidious side to this "instant" coverage, however, as this article yesterday from MediaChannel.org points out. And that is that the media is more likely to blast out rumours, and we need to be vigilant in maintaining our own "filters" while we're watching all this. Not everything we see and hear is necessarily true. Caveat Emptor remains an apt warning, even if the stuff is free.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The show was put together by Bob Cringely, whom I've talked about here and here before. The show, which is being put together through the good graces of National Public Radio (NPR) in the states, is a pioneering effort to start bringing a new kind of video to the masses. I'm pretty enthused about the whole thing.
You have to download a copy of BitTorrent to download the video and you need a copy of QuickTime to view the final result. But hey, if you're a Nerd (or even just a Geek), none of this will be a problem. And if you're not, you know it...so just enjoy the rest of your day...
Have fun. I'm sure we'll talk more about the implications of all this down the road. For now, I'll let you all decide on your own. But be sure to add your comments after you've watched the first episode...and keep your eyes open for the RSS feed when it appears.
Oh...one more thing. And this is really funny.
Remember when Janet Jackson had her "wardrobe malfunction"? You know how crazy the TV networks in the States have been since then about any "inappropriate" material getting past their censors?
Well...check out what happened on the TV show Rockstars the other day...it's a hoot! (And be sure to follow the Dick Cheney link for a bit more in the same vein.)
- Thanks to "what tian has learned" for the link -
Friday, September 09, 2005
I like the fact that the bugs are gone and while the days might be warmish, the nights are cool. Rainy days usually clear up pretty quick. And I like the longer nights too. Sure, winter is coming, but that’s all right. It’s all part of this four season thing that makes living in this country so great.
But the fall is also a time of change. Kids are going back to school, and work often starts piling up again after a summer lull. Fall sports kick in, literary societies start planning a new series of readings, the fall schedule on CBC begins (OK, not this year, but usually).
Roy McGregor, a columnist with the Globe and Mail thinks that Labour Day should really be the start of the Canadian New Year – not January 1. His idea makes a certain amount of sense, when you think about it.
This fall could be significant for me as well. I’ve been freelancing for the last couple of years and I’ve loved it. I like the independence and the chance to work on a variety of jobs without the usual day-to-day stuff that comes with a job you have to commute to every day. But as nice as it’s been, the work has been slow lately. So I’m considering returning to the full-time workforce.
Heading back into Toronto full time might not be a preferred option, but communication jobs outside of the GTA don’t seem too plentiful. But that’s OK. Commuting can be a positive experience, given the opportunity to read and catch up on personal stuff that comes with long train rides…or at least, that’s the attitude I’ll try to take.
I’ll let you know what happens. But in the meantime, if you know someone who’s looking for help with their communications planning or writing, or websites, etc., keep me in mind…meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying watching the leaves change colour.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Janice is a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analyst with The Forestry Corp and she uses a lot of satellite imagery and analysis in her work. So this is of particular interest to her and her colleagues.
Thanks to Janice for the link.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
(Note -- This link may not be working anymore. When I tried to go back to it, I couldn't get through. I suspect that high traffic may be playing havoc with it.)
But the threads are getting scary and they make for chilling reading. I feel so helpless when I read them, thinking about what those people are going through...if you want to help, I suggest you consider donating to the Red Cross, which is now accepting donations on behalf of the American Red Cross.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Today, I've been glued to the TV, watching the coverage of Hurrican Katrina on CNN. What a show! I tend to be a bit cynical about the way that TV covers these dramatic events, but I've got to admit, I'm hooked.
True, the people on air are kind of crazy. They love to stand outside in the driving wind and rain when they should be just watching from inside...but it does make for compelling TV. And it's pretty much kept me from doing any useful work this morning. I'm just glad I'm far enough away not to be part of a storm like this. Talk about the power of Mother Nature!
Thursday, August 25, 2005
It's been a long time between posts, I know. But I took a real vacation for the past couple of weeks...it's been great. I'm on my way back to Hamilton right now...at the moment, we're in a hotel in Winnipeg, on the first day of our trip back.
I don't have any cool pictures of the trip to post...but I thought I'd put up this image of the view off the deck at Buena Vista. Those tiny white sails you see are the boats competing in the sailing competition of the Canada Games a couple of weeks ago. It was great fun watching all the action while we sat at the cottage.
Anyway, I'll be back home in a couple of days and then posting can get back to normal...whatever the heck that is! Time for this consultant to go back to getting clients and making money again. There are university bills to be paid, after all.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Oh well, I guess that’s what happens when you’re on holiday. I’m here at my cottage in Buena Vista, just outside Regina, Saskatchewan, where I’ve been enjoying a great run of nice weather. While I might start the day thinking of a few things to get around to, I seem to end up just muddling around. Updating my blog has not been on the top of my agenda.
But enough excuses. Here’s the update on stuff from Henley.
Jaime and her partner, Jess Southall, didn’t qualify their double in the semi’s, but they were still really pleased with their performance.
In the singles final, Jaime got fifth place, about eight seconds back of the gold medalist. While she would have loved a medal, she was really pleased with her race and she’s already looking forward to next year. She’s got three years left in her Senior B. category, so she’s in good shape to medal yet.
As you know, Kelly didn’t qualify for the singles’ final, which was a major disappointment. But in her doubles race, she and her partner, Laura Ceyrs, had a great run. They finished second in their semi, then had a great race in the final to come home with a bronze medal. Kelly says it was their best race ever and they are both really pleased with their result.
Today Jaime arrives here in Regina, ready for a two-week holiday before heading on to Victoria and another year at UVIC. Kelly and Spencer arrive in a week, so we’ll have a lot of fun showing him around Kelly’s home town.
That’s it for today. As I mentioned, I’m on holiday mode, so I’m not sure when I’ll have more to add. But in the meantime, feel free to add a comment here. I do check my mail from time to time and I love to get feedback.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Today (Wed) was Day 2 of Henley. Day 1 saw both Jaime and Kelly qualify for the singles semi-finals, with great races. Today, they each had a heat in their doubles, with the singles semi as well.
Both Jaime and Kelly qualified today for the semis on Thursday in their doubles. Whoo hoo!
And in the single semi's, the good news continued with Jaime qualifying for the final race in her single, finishing second in her semi-final. Way to go Jaime!
Kelly, on the other hand, suffered through a difficult race and finished fourth in her semi, just missing a chance at the single final. She's frustrated because she was rowing a lot slower than in the Ontario championships 2 weeks ago. In fact, the girl she beat in that race qualified two positions ahead of her today. The extreme heat of the last few weeks seems to be taking a toll on her.
In the doubles races, Jaime and her partner ended up in a dead heat for the third and final qualifying position. Both boats were timed at 8:05.51 and a photo finish couldn't determine which was ahead, so they'll both be in the semi-final. What an amazing result! Jaime says it was definitely hers and Jess's best race of the year and they're thrilled to be moving on.
Meanwhile, Kelly and her partner, Laura, cruised to an easy qualifying position by winning their heat. They said it was a great race and they were never pushed during the race. Now they're ready for a much tougher semi-final race on Thursday.
The link to the results page has been working great so far. It's a little nerve-wracking not to be able to find out how the race is going, but when those results come up, I can cheer just like I'm in the stands...
While I really do wish I was there to watch, I'm really glad to be able to follow things so closely. Between my laptop here at the Traynor cottage, a stable (but slow) Internet connection and cell phones, I've been able to keep right on top of things. Ah, technology...what a cool thing it is when it all works.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
It's late right now, but since this blog is titled "The Daily Upload" I thought I should make an attempt to start keeping up with my name. Or else change the title to "The Occasional Upload." (More accurate perhaps, but not as sexy...) Anyway, before I hit the sack, I thought I'd brief you on our trip out here.
We started off with a problem. We were towing a trailer to Regina and we didn't even get out of the driveway on Thursday night before the trailer lights stopped working! Big problem, given it was dark out, etc. I tried to solve the problem, while Heather went back inside, convinced the trip was cursed and we wouldn't be going anywhere.
But after a couple of hours, I had figured out what was wrong (although I couldn't fix it right then) and we decided to head off with just running lights. Not a problem, I figured, since we had hoped to avoid major city traffic along the way. But because we were late leaving, we ended up driving through Chicago at morning rush hour...and then Minneapolis in the afternoon rush hour. Oh well...we made it.
The trouble was, by evening, we needed to find a place to stop. We had planned to drive right through, but the delays and stuff were working against us and we were all bushed. A VW Jetta isn't very big to start with, and it gets smaller every time you try to stretch out for some sleep!
We had hoped to find a hotel in Bismark, South Dakota, but the state fair (or something) was on, so at midnight we found ourselves with nowhere to stay! So we headed up to Minot, looking for a vacant room along the way...but nothing. The North Dakota state fair was also on this weekend. Not a room to be had anywhere.
So, by this time, I was exhausted and couldn't keep my eyes open. But Cory was sort of awake (after all, he had just slept for about 20 hours straight) so he took over and we headed north from Minot. Alas, the highway we chose turned out to be under major construction, so at 3 am, Cory found himself creeping along a chunk of sand, with no lane markers, in a fog that cut visibility to about 20 feet or so! Quite a ride.
But Cory, to his credit, stayed with it and eventually the road improved and the fog lifted. So after crossing the border back into Canada at Portal, we crawled into Estevan at 4 am, got a hotel room and crashed. We finally arrived in Regina this afternoon about 3 pm, tired, but glad to have had a decent sleep.
Tonight, we arrived out here at the cottage, where I've finally figured out how to get an Internet connection, so I can check my mail and post this note.
No more pictures, unfortunately. I was going to snap some in the car on our trip, but my camera got buried in the trunk and I never did get it out...so you'll just have to take my word for things.
That's it from the Traynor cottage for today. Stay tuned and the big adventure continues!
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Unfortunately, that means that I'll be missing the Henley Regatta this year. It runs from August 2-8 in St. Catherines. Both Jaime and Kelly are entered in the singles and doubles competition and I'm really looking forward to their races. They'll be staying here for a while longer. Jaime follows us to Saskatchewan on Aug 9 and Kelly is coming with her boyfriend on Aug 16. So we'll still have a bit of time together before Jaime heads back to Victoria for another year at University.
But while I won't be able to watch the races live, I will be able to follow the event pretty closely. The Henley Regatta has a website, and they plan to post the results pretty quick each day. Therre's a link for Results and Photo Archives where I think they'll be posting the finals. So we should be able to find out what happens as the day goes along. As long as I can get my Internet access working at the cottage, we should be able to keep an eye on things from Buena Vista.
We leave here on Thursday and we're planning to drive straight through to Regina. We should be there in about 24 hours, assuming we don't run into any problems. We're heading through Detroit and Chicago, then up to Winnipeg and on to Regina. If I get a chance, I'll try to post a few pictures from along the way...sort of a blogosphere record of our trip.
Talk to you in a few days.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Kelly won the gold medal in the Under 19 Women's Single, with a very convincing win today. This followed on a third-place showing with her partner, Laura Ceyrs, in the Under 19 Double on Saturday. Following their win last week in St. Catherines, they were a bit frustrated. But this weekend's results just make them that much more determined to finish well at Henley.
Jaime chalked up her second silver medal in as many weekends, finishing just out of first place in her Under 23 Womens' Single. She lost to the same woman that beat her last weekend. But once again, Jaime finished ahead of Caitlin Pauls, who Jaime also was ahead of last weekend, proving that last weekend was no fluke. Jaime also finished fourth in the Under 23 Women's Double with her partner Jess Southall. They looked good the whole race, but they're on the young side of the age bracket, and the maturity of their competition showed as the race moved into the later stages. They're also looking forward to Henley.
I've got some pictures from the weekend, and I'll put up some links when I get them.
Friday, July 22, 2005
However, I've bought an external harddrive and I've been pretty good about back up all my stuff diligently. I've even backed up Heather's stuff fairly often. But alas, I didn't back up Kelly's hard drive...nor did she. And a couple of weeks ago, it died. Completely. Very sad, as you might expect.
If you're having trouble getting around to doing a back-up, or if you're still depending on things like CD's, tape drives or diskettes, consider switching to a hard disk. It makes all kinds of sense.
And while you're at it, consider what John Cleese has to say about the issue. He's the star of a hilarious new video about the perils of not backing up your stuff.
Thanks to GlennLog for pointing me to the Cleese video.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
At any rate, I'm aware of just how nice an evening it is because I just got back from our regular walk (that's me and all these dogs I'm taking care of.) I've got two of my own and I've been looking after my brother's Golden Retriever for the last three weeks.
Taking care of three big dogs in the city is a challenge, especially here in Hamilton. This summer, the city has decided that the thing to do is to give out tickets to people if they let their dog off its leash. So they've been out in force in their white vans, driving around in the parks handing out tickets. That's right...they drive those vans right through the parks! Talk about ironic. They're so worked up about my dogs possibly leaving behind some personal calling cards that these guys have to whip around in their vans to prevent it.
It wouldn't be so frustrating if there were any off-leash areas close by. But Hamilton doesn't seem to like that idea. All the parks and trails are off-limits for dogs. The only off-leash areas are in Ancaster, Dundas and Burlington. Oh, and one way on the outskirts of Hamilton, on the way to Lake Erie, for crying out loud.
But enough of my troubles. Because I'm worried about bothering anyone else with my dogs, I tend to walk them early in the morning and late at night. Not only is it pretty deserted around here, but the weather is a lot more bearable as well. Tonight was a beautiful night, and the light of the moon made it really easy to track down those doggie deposits for my plastic baggies. Oh, the things we do for our animals!
But now to the point of my post (as if I have one!) I noticed the full moon on my walk and it got me to wondering about all the stuff you hear about people going nuts on the full moon and the emergency wards filling up, etc. So when I got back, I spent some time searching around for some interesting articles. My title refers, of course, to Lycanthropy, which, in folklore, according to Wikipedia, is:
...the ability or power of a human being to undergo transformation into a wolf. The term comes from ancient Greek lykanthropos (λυκάνθροπος): lykos ("wolf") + anthropos ("man").
I didn't run into any werewolves, but there were some pretty strange people hanging out over at the park. They scattered when I showed up with three big dogs, though.
But what about those urban myths about hospital emergency wards being so full and wierd stuff on full moon evenings?
It appears that science may have debunked that myth as well. According to a study called "The full moon and admission to emergency rooms" reported in the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences:
...the number of trauma patients was not increased during the full moon days against other days of lunar month. Statistical analyses of data didn't exhibit a positive relation between full moon days and increasing of trauma patient admission to ERs. An association between assault and attempted suicide was not observed around the full moon days either.
Darn! There goes that theory!
And here's another story about some studies that debunk the idea that people party heartier, kill each other and suffer more dog bites when the moon is full.
Oh well. I'm not even sure that tonight is a full moon. According to a complicated formula used to decide when the full moon happens, the moon is supposed to be full on July 21. Which is now. But I don't know whether it's supposed to be right now, or tomorrow (or rather today, but this evening...if you see what I mean.) I'm starting to get a bit silly here, aren't I? It doesn't really matter. The moon is as big as an elephant's eye...that's about all I know.
That wraps up my science lesson for tonight. I'm going to go sit out on the back deck and listen to the music wafting over from the neighbours' place. Whether it's because of the full moon or not, they seem to have a great party going. I'm too old to join in, but I can still enjoy the ambience. And I'll keep a close watch out for werewolves.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Another weekend, another regatta come and gone. This week, Jaime and Kelly (that's Kelly in the picture, with her gold medal) were rowing in the St. Catherines Invitational. It was a very successful weekend for both, but especially for Kelly. Kelly brought home two gold medals for Leander, in the single and the double, while Jaime placed second in her single and fourth in her double.
Both of them looked in great shape, and they look to be peaking at just the right time. The Henley regatta is Aug 2-8, and that's the big one, for the rowing fraternity. Both of them will be rowing their single and a double.
While Jaime didn't win, her silver medal finish was historic. She finished ahead of Caitlin Pauls, from St. Catherines, who has been her arch-rival through her entire rowing career. Saturday was the first time that Jaime has ever beaten Caitlin, going back to their first high-school regatta. Caitlin, who is now rowing at Central Florida University, finished about three boat lengths back, in third place. A most satisfying result for Jaime, and nearly as good as first place.
This coming weekend, both will be in action at the Ontario Championships, the last regatta before Henley. Kelly will be rowing the double with her partner, Laura Cers, while Jaime will be teamed up with her partner, Jessica Southall, in the lightweight double. And of course, they'll both be rowing their singles as well.
Watch for more pictures from all the regatta coming soon.
You might also be interested in Robert X. Cringely's column, which I think is the source for a lot of this stuff. Cringely is always good for an interesting take on things. He's one of my favourite tech writers.
What does all this mean for you and me? Well, I don't have any money, so I can't go out and buy Apple shares, but I wish I had picked some up back about a year ago, just after I got my PowerBook. The company's profit sheet has stayed really good for awhile, and I suspect that if this video thing works out, Apple will stay a good bet.
I'm still bitter about the fact I didn't have the jam to do what I was telling everyone else to do back when Google shares first went public. I thought of converting some of my RRSP stuff to Google shares, but since I don't have a steady income anymore, I didn't work up the courage to do it. Why, I'm not really sure. It was probably as close to a sure thing as anything will ever be...and I knew it! Oh well...I guess the market is not really my thing.
Finally, are you up to date with the podcast phenonomenon? What? You haven't heard of podcasting? It's only...well, never mind. But there is an interesting story in today's Globe about how mainstream companies are lining up to jump on the bandwagon. I think podcasting is pretty cool...I subscribe to several. If you're into it, add a comment here and recommend some of your favourites.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
OK, that's not really what happened to me. But last week, my son, Cory, (pictured here) and I went to watch the Toronto Argos host the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the Skydome (sorry, the Rogers Centre!).
We sat in a special section which had been purchased by the University of Regina and Saskachewan alumni associations. There were lots of crazy Rider fans around and we had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the Riders lost in the last minute, which was a drag...
But what was strange is that we went to a BBQ dinner prior to the game with about 350 other people. And I didn't see a single person I knew! That kind of blew me away, although it's been a long time since I was a student at the U of R. Still, I figured I'd know somebody! After all, I still spend a month there every year.
Actually, that's not entirely true. I did recognize a couple of people who had been politicians when I worked in Sask, but I didn't get a chance to talk to them. And I knew who Roger Aldag was, even if I haven't actually met him. (If you don't know who he is, don't worry about it. You're not from Sask!)
Anyway, Cory and did have fun, and since I don't often talk about my son here, I thought I'd post a picture, just so you know I do have one. So here's Cory, at the game with a bunch of people we don't know, other than that they all cheer for the Riders, as all right-thinking people do, of course.
Friday, July 08, 2005
I am not equipped to comment in depth on the attacks in London. For more details on what has happened and what is happening, you might want to check out Wikipedia's London blast coverage. There will probably be follow-up items published there as well. While it's not "professional" coverage, it has an immediacy that makes it compelling reading.
But as the world digests what's happened, we also need to think more seriously about what is going on. And how our actions and reactions today may affect us tomorrow.
The seeds of the destruction that occurred in London yesterday, and Madrid, Bali and New York before that, were sown years ago. The governments of the West recruited all kinds of people in their previous war (prior to the War on Terror) when the enemy was the evil empire of communism. We won that war but in the process, a lot of people were trained and encouraged to conduct the kinds of terror campaign we now condemn. There is an inevitability to what is happening, when looked at from a longer and larger perspective.
While I don't like to point readers to items that are not freely available on the Web, I'm going to recommend that you consider reading a couple of items. Both of them require paid subscriptions.
The first is today's column by Rick Salutin, in the Globe and Mail. It's available via an Insider subscription. Of course, it's also in the print edition.
In his column, Salutin says there's a grim connection between what's happened in the past and Thursday's bombings:
Let me make the connection more specific. In Afghanistan, working with its partners in Pakistan's security service, the U.S. funded and trained as many as 100,000 religiously fanatical mujahedeen, of whom 5,000 to 15,000 saw action. Then it simply abandoned them. Many of these people now are al-Qaeda and its offshoots. They scattered after the Afghan war, back to their homelands or around the world, applying their acquired skills. Let me specify further. The training they got was often in the use of the kinds of explosives set off in Madrid and, most likely, in London yesterday. Huge amounts of such weapons were left in their hands.
This is not a bit of unexpected "blowback," as has often been said. This is the same reliance on terror by many of the same people, possibly using the same weapons. It's all sickening: the targeting of totally innocent people, the appalling sanctions against Iraqi kids, the bombs yesterday, 9/11. But you can't create, legitimate and utilize terror for decades, even as you officially condemn it out of the other side of your mouth, then suddenly claim to stand utterly clear of its incarnations.
Not even their language separates the "sides." The U.S. justified support for its terrorist "freedom fighters" by saying they were battling the "evil empire" of the Soviets. Now the Soviets are gone, but, yesterday, George Bush again said this is about good versus evil. Many mujahedeen learned the language of good versus evil while in Afghanistan. Today, they fling it at their former sponsors, who fling it back. None of this absolves the bombers of responsibility for their bombs, but it makes for less than a clear contrast with the leaders of the G8.
The second item is this month's cover article in Atlantic Monthly magazine. It's called "Countdown to a Meltdown -- America's coming economic crisis. A look back from the election of 2016," and it's written by James Fallows. Again, you'll have to be a subscriber to the Atlantic to read it, or pick up the print edition.
It's a stunning bit of work. Working from extensive interviews with experts on a wide variety of topics, Fallows has constructed a hypothetical look back on the near future from the perspective of a briefing memo for the next president of the US, who is about to win election in the year 2016. The style is compelling, as are the extensive footnotes that back up many of the predictions and scenarios that are presented as having already happened.
What it paints is a sobering look at the dramatic changes which could affect the World's largest economy if certain things happen. Granted, they may not happen, but the possibilities are worth considering. I won't try to restate Fallow's work, but here's a brief excerpt, just to illustrate:
Before there was 9/11, however, there was June 7, 2001. For our purposes modern economic history began that day.
On June 7 President George W. Bush celebrated his first big legislative victory. Only two weeks earlier his new administration had suffered a terrible political blow, when a Republican senator left the party and gave Democrats a one-vote majority in the Senate. But the administration was nevertheless able to persuade a dozen Democratic senators to vote its way and authorize a tax cut that would decrease federal tax revenues by some $1.35 trillion between then and 2010.
This was presented at the time as a way to avoid the "problem" of paying down the federal debt too fast. According to the administration's forecasts, the government was on the way to running up $5.6 trillion in surpluses over the coming decade. The entire federal debt accumulated between the nation's founding and 2001 totaled only about $3.2 trillion—and for technical reasons at most $2 trillion of that total could be paid off within the next decade.4 Therefore some $3.6 trillion in "unusable" surplus—or about $12,000 for every American—was likely to pile up in the Treasury. The administration proposed to give slightly less than half of that back through tax cuts, saving the rest for Social Security and other obligations.
Congress agreed, and it was this achievement that the president celebrated at the White House signing ceremony on June 7. "We recognize loud and clear the surplus is not the government's money," Bush said at the time. "The surplus is the people's money, and we ought to trust them with their own money."
If the president or anyone else at that ceremony had had perfect foresight, he would have seen that no surpluses of any sort would materialize, either for the government to hoard or for taxpayers to get back. (A year later the budget would show a deficit of $158 billion; a year after that $378 billion.) By the end of Bush's second term the federal debt, rather than having nearly disappeared, as he expected, had tripled. If those in the crowd had had that kind of foresight, they would have called their brokers the next day to unload all their stock holdings. A few hours after Bush signed the tax-cut bill, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 11,090, a level it has never reached again.
In a way it doesn't matter what the national government intended, or why all forecasts proved so wrong. Through the rest of his presidency Bush contended that the reason was 9/11—that it had changed the budget as it changed everything else. It forced the government to spend more, for war and for homeland security, even as the economic dislocation it caused meant the government could collect less. Most people outside the administration considered this explanation misleading, or at least incomplete. For instance, as Bush began his second term the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that the biggest reason for growing deficits was the tax cuts.
But here is what really mattered about that June day in 2001: from that point on the U.S. government had less money to work with than it had under the previous eight presidents. Through four decades and through administrations as diverse as Lyndon Johnson's and Ronald Reagan's, federal tax revenue had stayed within a fairly narrow band. The tax cuts of 2001 pushed it out of that safety zone, reducing it to its lowest level as a share of the economy in the modern era. And as we will see, these cuts—the first of three rounds—did so just when the country's commitments and obligations had begun to grow.
Pick up a copy or subscribe. This article alone is worth it.