Wednesday, September 30, 2009


30 days.

30 posts.

2 of 'em not bad.

But it seems a little bit trivial tonight - more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


That's the sound of a kid growing up. Thanks to Einstein and Doppler, parents perceive time as a complicated blur whereas the kids feel like bugs trapped in amethyst. But it doesn't matter where you're standing - time lurches steadily forward whether we like it or not (TARDIS owners notwithstanding).

I'm thinking about all this today because I have to go to some kind of 'post-secondary information night' later this week. It seems that my daughter the BandGeek, all of 16 years old, is theoretically eligible to get kicked out of high school the proper way come next June.

I'm not ready, the RESP is not ready, and it's questionable whether BandGeek is ready. True, I left home to go seek my fortune when I was a few months shy of 18 - which is the same boat my December baby could board next year. I like to think it's different situation here (and it is!).

But we'll all go to the information night and see what's what. At 16, the kid has no real idea of what she wants 'to be' when she grows up, nor should she. We'll support her and give her all the advice she can stand, but I'll secretly hope we get to keep her with us, just like it is today, for a little while longer.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Must Have Too Many Friends

Microsoft is a company that owes much of its success to marketing its product better than the Other Guy. Before MS Office came along, their bread-and-butter was the Windows operating system. But here's a dirty little secret, it was never 'the best' (and still isn't). By most measures, Windows has been close to 10 years behind competing products in terms of technical sophistication and quality. In fact, a lot of the concepts in the guts of modern versions of Windows can trace their roots back to an ill-fated collaboration between Microsoft and IBM so many years ago.

So why did Windows persevere while the likes of OS/2, Amiga, and BeOS bit the dust? Microsoft knew how to market to Big Business. While the Other Guys were convinced that the better product would win, Microsoft figured out that that didn't matter. Good ol' fashion schmoozing and FUD in the boardroom will always win - hands down.

For all it's success in convincing business users and hardware manufacturers that Windows was the way to go, MS has never (and I mean NEVER) figured out how to talk to real people. And there's a special place in the annals of computer geekdom for the Dancing Monkey Boy.

With Windows 7 (erasing the deeply flawed Vista debacle for only a few hundred bucks), the brain-trust out in Seattle is asking people to sign up to host 'launch parties'. Let that sink in a moment.

Launch parties.

You sign up with MS, they send you some party supplies and some instructions, and you show all your friends the wonders of Windows 7. I presume the party kit will contain a good assortment of 'Apology Cards', which will likely consume most of the day after you host your Windows party

Granted, there are people doing this for reasons only they can explain. In my IT profession, these people are called virgins. Or Futureshop sales personnel.

For myself, I cherish my friends. And I'm pretty sure none of us are virgins.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Small = Cheap

I ran across this article today. The upshot: the console gaming industry is casting a nervous eye towards cellphone-based games as a drain on market-share. The poster-child here, of course, has to be Apple and their powerhouse couple: iPhone and App Store. To quote from the article, "Of the 758 new game titles shown at the Tokyo Game Show, 168 were for cellphone platforms — more than twice as many as in the previous year.". Interestingly, Apple was absent from the Tokyo show.

There are a lot of smarter people than I who are looking at these market forces and confirming that the cellphone platform is a legit threat. But I don't see it that way. I think there's room for consoles and cellphones and I doubt anyone's slice of the pie will need to be cut into finer wedges.

On my iTouch I have a few games: iShoot Lite, Jellycar, Assassin's Creed (Demo), and a few others. I've tried them all, but I only come back to one or two on a regular basis. Fact is, these games are for casual use only. They're great for whiling away the time in the dentist's waiting room, but I don't find myself clearing a few hours to spend time in that gaming world. The form-factor is just not built for that kind of gaming, I think.

In addition to offering casual gaming, the cost is cheap. I'll never spend $50 on an iTouch game. I'd even have trouble spending more than $5 or $10 on a cellphone game. I'm more comfy with a few bucks risked on an iTouch game. Even then, there better be a try-and-buy version. The reasons are simple: an iTouch provides a low barrier to entry for anyone to write software - including games. There's lot of choice out there. The flip side of that coin is that there's a LOT of dreck out there, and it's caveat emptor all the way. I can't afford to experiment too much.

For console gaming, the biosphere is a bit different. Enthusiasts aren't providing a ton of content in that world (save the most motivated of souls). This limits the choice to studio-produced games that we are only too willing to shell out $50 to own. Even there, we seem to rely on an eco-system of professional reviewers and marketers to convince us to part with our dough.

In the PC-land, both worlds seem to be colliding. While big-budget PC gaming is not dead yet, studios like PopCap are really embracing the low-end, low-cost, big-fun games (and they get the need for try-and-buy). Maybe this is where PC gaming will end up: PopCap at one end and big-ticket MMO at the other, with consoles trying to own the middle.

I don't think the folks at Square Enix have a lot to worry about. Rather, they need to be considering how to exploit this nascent cellphone gaming market. There's room enough for all, so long as the studios realize that not all gaming is created equal.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Work Hard Today To Be Lazy Tomorrow

The Sun did not shine.

It was too wet to play.

So we sat in the house

All that cold, cold wet day.

So I've had this old, beat up, cast-off PC hanging around for awhile with no real plan in mind. I just hate seeing old stuff like that go to the dump when it could be useful to someone. In its day (like, several years ago), it was a pretty powerful machine. And while it's still more than capable of surfing the Innertubes and doing some light-duty office work, it's worthless by today's standards.

Getting tired of seeing it sit in the corner all by its lonesome, I spent the afternoon dusting it off and seeing if I could hook it up to the flat-screen TV in the family room. I like this PC because it's very small and very quiet - perfect as an 'Internet terminal' component for the family TV!

It took some fussing and slightly creative cabling, but I finally got it to work pretty well. I had hoped to keep Ubuntu Linux on the box, but I couldn't find drivers that would support a high enough video refresh rate. So, I had to swallow my pride and install a stripped down Double Secret Probation version of Windows XP (made for 'legacy' hardware). It did the trick, and I can use the PC in 42 inches of wide-screen LCD goodness!

Phase 2 of the project will be to install a cheapo wireless adaptor for network access and a cheapo wireless keybpard/mousepad combo for sitting in my comfy chair while I surf. If it all works properly, we'll be able to surf the Net and stream audio/video from the Big PC downstairs.

Is all this really necessary? Probably not. But it's a minimal investment for a bit of fun on a rainy afternoon. And if it all works out well enough, maybe I'll put together a real HTPC down the road. Not that Osmos on a big screen would kick-ass or anything.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mighty Casey Has Struck Out

Over the years I've developed a bit of a reputation in my neighbourhood as a Fix-It Guy. Within the small circle of houses on my court, I have 2 advantages, it seems: I have a lot of tools and I 'do something with computers' for a living.

Everything is relative, of course. Having a lot of tools is no guarantee that they're useful. To some folks, hammering a nail with the flat side of a wrench is perfectly okay. Likewise, 'doing something with computers' is no guarantee that a teenager's PC can be disinfected from all varieties of virii that travel through cyberspace on the backs of stolen MP3s and Vanessa Hudgens money shots.

Still, my neighbours keep me busy. I've fixed toilets, replaced sump-pumps, hooked up PCs to the Innertubes, even buried a family pet. I like to help. It feels good. And it's good karma that often come back to me in the form of returned favours, bottles of Scotch, or lovely baked goods.

But I feel like I'm slipping - like my salad days of handy-hood might be on the wane. It started a few months back.

One my regular 'customers' - a single mom with a special needs kid - called me all in a tizzy over a botched toilet repair. I'll spare the details other than to say that my repair unearthed another critical problem. In resolving that problem - and feeling the glow of gratitude from my neighbour - I neglected to install a gasket in a place where a gasket is critical. The result was water - lots of water - seeping through the ceiling below. I fixed my mistake quickly and, while the good neighbourly vibes did not seem to diminish, I felt like a bit of a fraud.

While that may have been an anomaly, tonight's events make me wonder. Over the last few weeks I've been helping another neighbour learn the ins-and-outs of her new iPod. Tonight there was a frantic knock on the door, and there she was clutching her iPod. She was trying to load a rented movie onto her New Best Friend, in preparation for a plane trip the next day. Sensing her critical timing, iTunes was throwing up cryptic errors. "Relax", I said, "I'll help." 90 minutes later, I had deduced that the problem was well-known on the Innertubes, and none of the recommended fixes would work for me. She graciously offered that she had a good book picked out for her trip, and that I was 'super' for trying. I shuffled home in the dark mulling over the fact that 25 years of 'doing something with computers' didn't seem to matter too much all of a sudden.

I need a win and I need it soon. Maybe something simple like hanging a picture straight or rescuing a kitten from a tree. Otherwise, I'll be buying my own wine and cake. And that ain't good.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Doreen Green?

I have never had an original thought, I think.

And that's not too original either.

Deep thinking aside, the concept of squirrel-like super-powers was brought to the fore today. The Why and What For is a story on its own - and not mine to tell.

But as my limbic brain worked lazily on the question of exactly what such super-powers might be, my neocortex took matters in hand and started Googling for squirrel facts. Predictably, someone beat me to this long ago. I should have known. There's nothing new under the Sun - at least in my solar system.

It did occur to me, however, that there's one critical squirrel ability that is astonishingly absent from Doreen Green's arsenal:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sometimes I Must Cheat

This is, indeed, lazy blogging during a month when I've promised not to be so lazy. But this video took my breath away a little bit, and I had to share. The film was created by 3 young French filmmakers as a thinly-veiled nod to Jim Henson. I find Over Time: The Sad Mystery of Death simply and utterly brilliant.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What, Really, Is Productive?

I tend to measure free time in terms of unencumbered hours. It's an elusive definition, but it seems to be a momentary lack of intersection between Must Do and Should Do. A theorectical gap that can only be perceived when you're standing inside it. I call that rift in time Nice To Do.

My Nice To Do list is always long and always in flux. It's that place where I can read my books, stare into space, think about software I'll never write, plan the home media network that proceeds in fits-and-starts, play a video game that may never get finished, complete that pond fountain idea - all the things that would make me a Renaissance Man were I, in fact, rich and idle.

Lately, I've noticed my precious Nice To Do time has been fairly unproductive - although that feels like the wrong measure. The point is, I don't seem to make progress on the Nice To Do stuff anymore. And it dawned on me that the clarion call of the Internet might be to blame.

Since you're reading this, you already know that the Internet is a potential time-sucking vampire. It asks us for nothing more than feeble mouse gestures and the will to remain sedentary. In return, it feeds our short attention span and slakes our thirst for entertainment and knowledge in all forms high and low.

Of course, the Internet is not evil. It's simply the analogue of life's rich pageant. But for those of us who are sometimes weak in resolve, it can tip the scales between inventing the Next Big Idea and a life of poor posture. And don't even get me started on the Pavlovian effects of an iPod Touch and a Wi-fi connection.

It's a battle that I fight almost every day, and one I intend to win every day. I think the key is to set goals, even when floating in the void that is Nice To Do. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm learning about laminar flow rigs.

But I really should check in on what LiLo has been up to lately.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Totally Not My Fault

Today is going to be a sort of hiatus from the whole blogging for 30 days thing and I'm just really embarrassed about this. We had this whole 'guest blogger' idea worked out and it's totally not original, I know, but we thought it would be really fun for everyone.

Well, it turns out my 'guest blogger' has a little problem with self-medication and she kinda screwed up the whole big idea at the last minute. Since I didn't have a Plan B (my bad) we're kind of stuck here today.

They told me "don't trust a furry Siberian", you know? And I just ignored them - totally blew them off and now everything sucks. So....umm....sorry, and we'll have something a little more interesting tomorrow.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Got Fair?

Yeah, we went to the Western Fair today. We were motivated by the The Boy's love of rides and The Girl's entry fee in the horse-jumping competition. It was the same old, same old - but a little less so.

The rides seemed a bit more expensive, but the usual assortment nonetheless. The buildings seemed to have fewer reasons to poke a head inside. The various competitions - photography, local crafts, and the like - pushed further into the corner of irrelevance.

Like last year and many of the years before, the patrons were largely the tattooed demographic - with their piercings, their strollers trailing cigarette smoke, and the general vibe that life was not going to get any better than today.

To be fair (ha!), there were some memories to take back to the 'burbs:
  • a woman leaving as we arrived produced the day's best quote: "You know, the fair is as ghetto as I can remember"

  • watched The Boy eat a deep-fried Mars bar and then ride every sickening ride without choking up something vile

  • saw a warm family moment unfold as Mom and teen daughter fought over the last smoke in the pack (just bad planning if you ask me)

  • witnessed a small lamb squeeze through the enclosure bars and prance over to nearby children, eliciting surprised shrieks

  • watched Nick Paparella - family in tow - eat a corndog and not once did he make his goofy TV-guy-at-the-fair face. Astounding!

  • The Girl, after a long day of waiting her turn, got her rented mule jumping well enough to win a First, two Fourths, and a Sixth in her various classes.
There was a time so very long ago when I looked forward to visiting the Fair. It knew what it was back then. It didn't need shiny ad campaigns that, today, feel oddly out-of-kilter with the sensibility of a Fall fair. Now, the facade promises something that the inside can't deliver - and the heart is gone.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Too Windy For Blogging

Every Fall, I look forward to Doors Open London. It's the thrill of seeing forbidden places blended with the chance to be surprised by places I see everyday. I'm betting the whole experience stimulates the brain in the same way that checking out someone else's medicine cabinet can produce a tiny rush - a little bit of naughtiness with the promise of a 'wow' moment.

For various reasons, there's not a luxury of time this year to make the Doors Open circuit. Today, I did find some time (with The Boy in tow) to take a tour of the wind tunnel facility at UWO. I've never been able to get there in previous years, so I'm glad there was time today.

Our guide, who's name I never did get, was extraordinary. He truly seemed to love his work at the facility, with an enthusiasm for the subject matter that infectious. And for good reason - it's a bit of a geek paradise in there. There are shops that construct elaborate models of buildings and bridges (costing anywhere from $50K to well over $100K). There are huge puzzle-piece models of mountain ranges, the city of Hong Kong, and a section of London, England. There are computers, high-voltage cables, water tanks, smoke machines, software, metal catwalks, and all the other trappings that say "there are happy geeks on premises".

And there's the tunnel. Actually, that should plural. The main tunnel is actually a racetrack-shaped affair with 4 different testing areas. We were lucky enough to stand inside one of the testing areas and feel the gentle breezes, although the tunnel is capable of winds up to 100 km/h. All the while, our host interspersed facts and figures with war stories, wind science, and an obvious affection for the facility's founder and namesake, A.G. Davenport.

It was a heck of a 40 minutes. And I walked out wishing (just a little bit) that I was that happy geek we left behind for the next group.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Get Out Much?

A conversation my family had this evening at a local well-known eating estabishment:

Waiter: Hey! You brought a DisneyWorld book. Planning a vacation?

Mom (after a few glasses of wine): Why, yes! It's our Christmas present this year!

Waiter: Excellent! You'll have Mickey and heat!

Waiter leaves.

Me: Did he say we'd have Mickey in heat?

Mom laughs. Daughter laughs with much eye-rolling. Son not so sure.

Daughter: What did you just say? Jeez, Dad!

Me: Well, that's why Minnie has her own house. Mickey can be a real problem for her, you know? Everyone knows he's 'all hands' with the ladies.

Mom laughs harder. Daughter laughs in spite of herself. Son not so sure.

Mom (did I mention the wine?): Oh, it's true! Why do you think Mickey wears such baggy pants?

Mom laughs way too hard. Daughter laughs in shock. Son not so sure.

The bill is paid and we leave.

Son: What about Mickey's pants?

Me: Let's go to the car and I'll try to explain.

The curtain closes.

Oh, yeah. Stay classy, family.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Yin for a Yang

For every Red Robin there has to be an Immortal Weapons.

As for the former, I went ahead and picked up issue #4. The good news: something happens besides panel after panel of introspective sulking whilst staring out windows. The bad news: there is still a lot of sulking - well, you get the picture. Still, I keep buyng these like the beaten dog who still manages a tail wag with the hope that my master will find a heart. I feel dirty.

In contrast, I enjoyed the hell out of Immortal Weapons #1 - enough to pickup #2. The good: issue #1's Fat Cobra 'origins' storyline was a heckuva tale. Being new to the character, the writing was 3-dimensional enough to make me care. I like that. The bad: I understand that each issue will be created by a different team - story and art. This means I could be in for a disappointment down the line, but I'll buy it just to see.

And when all else fails, I have a small stack of Gotham City Sirens that I have yet to get to. And I like bad girls just fine.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Major Never Dies

I ran across a video today that takes me back to a time before I knew about cynicism, anxiety attacks, and harmonized sales tax. A time when Saturday morning was all about cartoons and sugary cereals. A time when a bendable plastic astronaut told me what the future would be like. A time when my blogging didn't channel a Stuart McLean monologue. Now I know that we covered this territory some time ago, but classics are timeless.

Get close to the TV now - close enough to feel the screen-static tickle your nose. Snuggle nice and deep into the shag carpet, feel the red-dye rush from a mouthful of Froot Loops, and remember how things used to be...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

There Be Dragons In There

Apple recently announced iTunes 9.0 was comin' at us with a raft of cool, new features to make our lives easier. That assumes our lives are unnaturally focused on the care and feeding of our music collections - or at least the part of the collection that sits in iTunes. I sometimes imagine that iTunes is just an elaborate Tamagatchi toy - compelling us to feed, tickle, and stroke our digital music-pets lest they whither and die.

For the most part, the ballyhoo over iTunes 9.0 was lost on me. The new features might be cool, but I would probably just throw them onto the slag heap with all the other iTunes tricks I ignore. The one feature that caught my eye, however, is the new ability to manage iPhone/iTouch applications.

I've longed for a way to easily arranged all my little iTouch apps according to some categories that make sense to me - e.g. Screen 1 would have all the stuff I use everyday, Screen 2 would be games, Screen 3 would be reading material, etc. and whatever. Today this is only possible through spastic finger gestures on the iTouch screen - finger gestures that really don't lend themselves to anything useful other than Primal Scream therapy. The new capability in iTunes would let me do all of the work on my PC, and let iTunes tell iTouch what to do.

Tonight I discovered iTunes 9.0 was ready for me, and I clicked 'yes' to start the upgrade. First off, the new version (including iTouch app management) clocks in at a whopping +100Mb of downloaded software. I have written software for fun and profit for over 25 years - mainframes, mini-computers, PCs - and I cannot recall EVER having developed a piece of software that large. That, in itself, made me suspicious of just what the hell is inside iTunes. It also worried me that something could go wrong. That's a lot of code.

When I clicked 'yes' to install the iTouch app manager feature, nothing happened. It would download, but it would not install. No explanations were given beyond Steve Jobs' assurance that something went wrong. 15 minutes later, I finally coaxed the new software to tell me that it wants a Windows update first. A very specific update.

Mr. Jobs wants quid pro quo from Mr. Gates - and I think with that, I'll just forget the whole thing. It seems like a lot of effort for a stupid Tamagotchi.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Do Chromosomes Lie?

Somewhere, somehow, researchers have determined that, on average, men lie 6 times each day. Women, on the other hand, lie an average of 3 times per day. I can't dispute these claims, but I do wonder about the methodology behind the numbers. All I know is that I pretty much believe everything my wife says for the simple reason that I'm never quite sure what's going on around me. Her job is to keep track of all the things that matter, while my focus is to get the trash to the curb and dig holes in the garden as per her instructions.

Anyways, I thought about everything I've done today and wondered if there were, indeed, 6 lies in there somewhere. All I could come up with was:

Lie: Don't worry. We'll manage just fine while you're out of town this week.
Reality: We'll eat pizza and live in our own filth for the next 4 days.

Lie: You kids really ought to get some sleep so you're not over-tired for school tomorrow.
Reality: For the love of god I need some quiet time with a bottle of Red.

Lie: I'm just so proud that you managed to finish the main quest in Oblivion!
Reality: You can count on more chores around here, buddy.

Lie: I am totally pumped to work on your project. Your ideas are innovative and I love the challenge.
Reality: When others begin to suspect that your ideas are the result of a childhood head injury, I'll be long gone.

Lie: I can totally come up with 1 blog post ever day for 30 days.
Reality: I'm perilously close to blogging about Ashton Kutcher's tweets.

See? That's only 5 lies today, although I do have an hour to kill...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Star Wars WaltBoy Wet Dreams

Taking a page from ComiCon and PAX, Disney wrapped up their inaugural D23 Expo today down in California. I would love to have been there. Virtually every division pulled out all the stops to wow the legions of WaltBoys lucky enough to attend. In a very shrewd move, Disney used D23 as their platform to make an unprecedented series of announcements for future plans across the Disneyscape. A few highlights include the confirmation of Pirates of the Carribbean 4, a major expansion for FantasyLand at WDW's Magic Kingdom, and a plan for Disney Cruise Line to run Alaskan cruises in Summer 2011.

One of my favourites has to be official confirmation of Star Tours v2.0 at WDW and Disneyland - slated for 2011. Star Tours is about as close as I'll ever be to living inside Star Wars. For the uninitiated, the Disney Studios ride centerpiece is a simulated tourist trip to the moon of Endor that goes goes awry - and ends up as part of a Rebel attack against the Deathstar. The set design is part of the magic for me: entering through an Ewok village, a full-size Imperial Walker shooting water vapour, a full-size speeder station with C3PO and R2-D2 engaged in conversation.

But the attraction is a bit elderly, with film effects having advanced considerably since the ride opened in 1987. There have been rumours of a Star Tours re-boot for a few years now, but nothing was ever official - until now. It has been confirmed that 2011 will see a revamped attraction that will center on a full 3D pod-racing experience! Disney has gone so far as to release a teaser for v2.0. I've watched this a few times, and I'm still all goosebumpy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Old School Geeks

For no other reason than we had enough fossil fuel in the tank, we pointed the beige minivan towards St. Jacob's this morning for a little family road trip. I hadn't been there in something like 10 years, but I didn't expect much to have changed since the local Mennonites are all about tradition.

Our first stop was the Farmer's Market just outside of the village. It was massive - definitely putting anything around London to shame. There was a huge outdoor spread of vendors selling what you'd expect - lots of local produce, baked goods, and pseudo-carny snacks.

Then there were the entrepeneurs selling the unexpected. In one case, it was an assortment of retro Nintendo gear (with a wee bit of XBox to ensure the geek-net was cast wide).

Adjacent to the sea of outdoor stalls, a slightly smaller building filled with every variety of vendors selling every kind of Germanic cheese and meat that one could imagine. All that was missing was polka music - and the inevitable heart disease that comes from that kind of diet.

The final stop before heading into the village-proper was the dreaded 'outlet mall'. It was the usual collection of clothing and footwear shops that induces the eyes of male species to roll backwards into their sockets.

The one bright light, however, was a Lego store that contained a pretty sizable collection of Star Wars kits. A perennial favourite of The Boy and I is the 10,000-piece Millenium Falcon that could be had for a cool $700. Our guffaws were noticed by a nearby young couple who joined the gaiety after explaining they were hard-core Star Wars fans but could never imagine shelling out that kind of coin. Afterwards, I noted to The Boy that the female half of the geek couple was smokin' hot, which further proves that geeks are the most attractive people on the planet.

Next on the agenda: into the village where we would peruse Olde Tyme Shoppes. The place was packed on a Saturday morning, and the air was filled with sounds of singing. To our surprise, a local Mennonite church choir had arranged it's 50+ voices on a street corner to belt out some serious gospel. It was great music, but I grew squeamish at the sight of paparazzi tourists with telephoto lenses a mere foot or two from the music - trying to capture something they found exotic. It just seemed to be in bad taste, somehow.

Our first official village stop was to grab a bite to eat in a sit-down restaurant that seemed to be a magnet for some seniors' bus trips. The rule to follow: seniors know where the good buffets are, so follow them. Out on the highway you must rely on truckers for culinary clues, of course.

After scarfing down some saurkraut and sausages, we started making the rounds. Much of the wares were not of my taste: fussy little doodads produced by local artisans and lots of potpourri. But there were a few gems in there, too. As St. Jacob's is the historical ground-zero for the Home Hardware empire, there was actually a museum dedicated to their history. In reality, it was just a collection of old hardware without much context, but we liked it just the same.

Down at the old Mill building, a local model-railway club had a damn fine setup. I counted at least 3 trains rolling through a model recreation of St. Jacob's from earlier days. On the floor below we found a maple syrup museum which was interesting enough - if not a peculiar choice. And no visit to the village is complete without a trip to the old blacksmith shop where you can watch folks manufacture honest-to-goodness corn brooms. We even bought one!

Last on the agenda was a stop by a on old railway caboose now serving as a walkthrough ice cream parlour. I opted for frozen yoghurt to balance out the saurkraut. And with that, it was back to the minivan, which we pointed along backroads that took us through Stratford and, eventually, home.

That's not too bad a day. And now I kind of wonder if Mennonites are big into Star Wars Lego.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How Jerry Found His Palm

Because I had The Roofer and the NASA appliance guys visiting me this past Wednesday, I worked from home. Because I worked from home on Wednesday past, my lunch-time walking partner, Charles, had to spend his lunch-time walking alone. And because Charles was walking alone at lunch-time on that fateful Wednesday, he unwittingly met Jerry's Palm.

Taking the usual route down the newly refurbished 'river walk' opposite Harris Park, Charles rested for a moment on a park bench - something he only does when he's walking alone. Beside him on that bench he spied a gadget sitting all alone. The gadget was dirty and muddy, and Charles felt pity for the lonely little gadget. He wiped away some of the grime to find the gadget had a name stamped above a little screen. And that gadget's name was Palm Treo AT&T - Palm for short. So off they went together, back to the office, where Charles would give Palm a proper cleaning and discover the little gadget looked none the worse for wear - no water damage, no sticky keys, no scratched display.

This is where I come into the story, for Charles wasn't sure what to do. Palm must have been lost and must have had an owner. But Charles, being unfamiliar with the likes of a Palm Treo AT&T, did not know how to ask the right questions in the right way. And, alas, Palm's power button had no effect, and the screen refused to shine. But I knew what to do.

Palm came home with me Thursday past where I found an old Palm charger that fit just right. Once Palm was able to shine his screen, I asked him for his secrets. By asking the right questions in just the right way, Palm told me everything he knew and maybe a bit more.

His owner was Jerry (just Jerry), and he had lost Palm in late August, although they had not known each other long. Jerry was likely in his early 20's and a student at Fanshawe. Palm made phone calls for Jerry on the Rogers cell network, but Palm was not a Rogers phone. Rather, Palm was an unlocked phone, which meant Jerry had paid a price for his gadget. Palm also told me his phone number, and that his SIM card - his Rogers brain - had been deactivated. This could only mean that Jerry had told Rogers about his problem and that Jerry had a new phone - probably with the very same phone number!

The very next morning I shared Palm's secrets with Chuck who, while slightly disappointed that Palm was not a true orphan, resolved that we must find Jerry. After calling Palm's old phone number a few times, Charles connected with a confused Jerry and told him about the whole adventure. Jerry was indeed a young Fanshawe student, so after his classes he hopped on a bus so that Charles might reunite the two old-new friends.

Alas, Jerry was young and mono-syllabic - not one for graciousness and story-telling. With a shrug and a thanks, Jerry accepted Palm and left, leaving Charles and I wondering about Palm's adventures before the park bench by the river at Harris Park.

We'll never know, of course, but we'll always have karma for doing the right thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Feeling Slightly Dirty

So I applied today to be a member of the Walt Disney World Mom's Panel (gender issues notwithstanding). Their 2010 application process began this morning and will last for 10 days or 20,000 applicants (whichever comes first). I'm vying for one of the 20 coveted spots - not good odds.

So what's this Mom's Panel, right? Basically, you spend a year as a sort of volunteer Disney World travel planner. People write into a website with the Disney World questions, and the Mom's provide answers. The commitment is 12 months and a minimum of 15 questions per week.

Simple, really.

There's not much in the way of compensation, other then whatever good feelings one gets helping other people and talking about Disney World. I'm down for both since I've been known to occasionally darken the door of certain websites for just such a purpose. Yes, I like going to Disney World and, yes, I like helping people plan their own trips.

I recognize there is the cynical perspective that Disney is getting free help here - good feelings in exchange for a virtualized call center (sort of). That's okay. I don't mind.

Oh, and there is the free trip to Disney World each Mom gets for a bit of training. So wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I Sing The Laundry Electric

It was a day, this 9-9-9.

The Roofer made an appearance and the appearance was on time. The repair job took much longer than planned, but I think my garage will finally be immune from gusts of wind-driven rain that sometimes come from the South-East. I did not get (nor did I expect) any acts of hang-dog contrition from The Roofer, even after the months of back-and-forth disappointments to fix that which he did not fix before. Still, it's a very large hangnail that's been removed and I'm glad for it.
As The Roofer said good riddance to my address, a large truck appeared carrying the new washer and dryer. Judging from the control panels on these appliances, the truck must have been under contract to NASA. So it was that the evening was spent levelling things and plugging things into places to get all those mysterious LED readouts to talk. You'll see from the picture above that the usual crew had my back. Right now, the appliances are being put through their paces - making sure I've followed their instructions. Sadly, this excites me.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Places We Ought Not To Go

For reasons that only boring, middle-aged people can understand, we need to replace our aged washer and dryer. They are past their prime, with the peculiar habits of wandering about the room on their own and sometimes making horrendous noises - not unlike the miserable kids in the next room who need you to know they're there.

Researching and purchasing replacements is, perhaps, a subject best left for another time. Needless to say, technology has changed in the last 20 years and I had no idea that I needed 'steam technology' and user-selectable cycle tones. I still have no idea if I need these things, but if they make our whites whiter than white, I'll be impressed, I guess.

The new hardware arrives tomorrow sometime between 4pm and 9pm - a slightly better service target than Bell Canada and Rogers Cable. Since the delivery guys will be hauling away the old equipment, my job is to ensure it's all unplugged and de-plumbed. I had not considered that there might be 'stuff' under the old appliances that should not be 'stuff' under the new appliances.

I won't go into specifics. I'm a gentleman, after all. But I will confirm that liberal applications of brake cleaner and Mr. Clean were needed to create a pristine home for our newest additions. I can only surmise that the old hardware was in a sickly way - or I've stumbled upon the secret burial ground for all the left-foot socks we've written off as lost over the last decade.

Monday, September 07, 2009

So long and thanks for nothing

Depsite suspicions of being an under-achiever for the past few months, Mother Nature reminded everyone that she calls the shots by delivering a fairly kick-ass Labour Day Weekend. For myself, I didn't mind the cooler temperatures through the killing joke that is 'Canadian Summer', but I have to admit that the warm Sun this past Sunday was enough to send us beach-bound for a few afternoon hours. This was followed up by an uber-enjoyable dinner in Bayfield where we toasted the titular end of Summer. The picture above - a melancholy view of the dying minutes before we shook the sand from our beach blankets and packed up our books. Ah well, back to being Canadian again...

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Obligatory 'About Last Night' Post

If you want a a pitch-perfect synopsis of an Alpha Geek's rite of passage into 2 score and 4 years, you need to go here. I can't top that other than to point out that the 'cock and vagina' discussion at one end of the table was actually a scholarly debate on the layers of meaning and intended symbolism inherent in craptastic Doctor Who special effects. Well, that and roller derby girls do have an astonishingly creative vocabulary.

No question - it was a very, very good time, made all the better by meeting an even wider circle of new Geek faces. Fact is, I was glad to be invited to the celebration and even gladder to drag along my far better half, Deanna. Living with a Geek is one thing, drinking with a coven of never-laid-eyes-on-'em Geeks takes some kind of courage. And a pint of Guinness. I think she passed both tests.

So Kid, many thanks for having the foresight to land a birthday on a Saturday night in a quiet pub. Here's to hoping your questing brings fairytales and fortunes.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

I'm Tired, So Please Shaddup Already

I worked hard today. Really hard - as in 'hours of sweaty yardwork' hard. Now I'm tired, with thin slice of crabby on the side. And for no apparent reason today I got to thinking about Cheryl Miller and I got even crabbier.

Ms Miller has managed to garner a bit of press here in London by pushing for Internet filters on public computers at local libraries. The catalyst for her media crusade-lite was a recent incident where a rather disturbed fellow was caught surfing (child) porn at the library, and was summarily arrested.

Rather that acknowledge that maybe the system worked in catching this library patron, Ms. Miller would like to censor public access to the Internet - at least in libraries. Now I don't doubt that the Counciller from Ward 14 has some genuine feelings here. But she needs to keep them to herself. And she needs to knock off a call for public meetings on the subject - which is really a disengenuous path to getting her own way by whipping up public indignation at taxpayer expense.

Clearly, we should not be filtering Internet access at London public libraries. And I say this for two reasons:

Number One - It is no one's place to censor what someone else can say or see so long as no laws are being broken. The personal freedoms of Democracy are a very messy business, indeed. Certainly a city Councillor should know that.

Number Two - Internet filtering is, at best, imperfect. Having spent years as an IT Guy working with this technology, I can attest that they do not work well and are easily thwarted by someone motivated to do so. They provide a false sense of security and, ultimately, reflect someone else's idea of 'appropriate'. Who will be that Someone Else in London, Ms. Miller?

If we're worried about people accessing objectionable material in London libraries, then address the problem in ways that don't require censorship. Ensure the library's policy is clear on accessing porn, etc. Position public PCs so that their screens are not visible to anyone else. Assign someone to physically monitor and patrol areas where PCs are available. Get rid of public PCs altogether, if the porn problem won't go away.

But for heaven's sake, don't let the Cheryl Millers of the world decide whether Londoners should see images the the Venus de Milo or access safe-sex information on a public PC.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Even Hitler Loves DisneyWorld

Unless you're a WaltBoy, this fun little video might not make a heck of a lot of sense. Just know that ADR = Advance Dining Reservation, and that ADR's are a branch of mathematics peculiar to getting seats at your favourite DisneyWorld restaurant. The upshot, you currently can make an ADR 90 days in advance (soon to be 120 days), and the competition for these things can have all the drama and frustration of getting tickets to a Beatles reunion concert. In reality, it ain't that bad - but ADRs have become a meme all their own in the DisneySphere. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Free + Wii = Weeee

I missed this piece of news, but luckily a friend did not. The Wii Internet Channel, which used to cost a princely 500 Wii-Points (about $5), was made a free download as of September 1st. And for those who had previously forked over their 500 points, a refund is in the mail. That's pretty good customer service, I think.

The Internet Channel is really just a Nintendo-branded web browser for the Wii. The browser software is a customized version of the very good Opera browser - the same embedded browser found on the Blackberry, DSi, and other consumer devices.

I like the idea of surfing the Net from a comfy chair in front of a nice, big TV screen. More and more, we find the need for the family to surf together - be it for vacation planning, checking the movie listings, or settling an argument courtesy of Wikipedia. Crowding in front of a PC screen isn't cutting it, but using a Wii, a Wiimote, and a nice, big flat panel sounds pretty Jetson-sweet to me.

So of course I downloaded Internet Channel and took it for a spin. On the whole, I like it - but it's not perfect.

The Good: The Wiimote interface is very well thought out. With gentle flicks of the wrist and push of a button, it's easy to surf, scroll, and zoom in and out of webpages. Pages that I visited were rendered quite well. Some sites, notably Youtube, will custom-render their pages when the Wii-browser is detected - a very nice touch. The on-screen keyboard is very easy to use through the point-and-click interface (a much more pleasurable experience vs. the Xbox360 keyboard). But for those who like to type, a USB keyboard will do.

The Imperfect: Because the Wii does not drive HD-quality video, there can be a subtle graininess with some webpages. While the video is quiet readable and clear, I'm clearly spoiled by the clean-and-crisp XBox360 interface. As well, webpages do not get sized to fit on the screen. Instead, a small amount of side-to-side scrolling is required - a simple matter with the Wiimote, but a small nuisance nonetheless. I also found that the content-rich DisneyWorld main page did not play well with the Wii browser. The Javascript-heavy animations were never present and, instead, the Wii admitted defeat and told me it ran out of memory for the page.

Imperfections aside, the Wii Internet Channel is a nice piece of work. Now if it could just stream movies and music from my home server....

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

From Within the Cube Walls

My day job is IT Geek for a Very Large Corporation. There are pluses and minuses that go with that territory. On one hand, I get to work on some pretty cool projects and people assume I know what I'm talking about since I'm old (in IT years). On the minus side, I get invited to a lot of meetings - most of them conference calls that go on way too long.

Oftentimes, I don't really need to be sitting on those calls. I'm just there because some MBA-type feels better knowing there's a Geek on standby to settle disputes involving Star Wars trivia (this has yet to happen). To pass the time, I often make my own fun by chatting online with Peer Geeks. In the interest of full-disclosure, 'on-line' really means 'inside our corporate network'.

As as exercise in 'you are there', I thought I'd lift the veil of corporate intrigue and post a snippet of one of these sanity saving exchanges. I can't believe I get paid for being this stupid-lame. This is all real, with only the names changed to protect the IT Geek image. Enjoy!

Other Geek [9:04 AM]:

I was forced to switch to Firefox last night.

I feel dirty

Me Being Bored [9:04 AM]:

Welcome, brother. You are safe here.

Other Geek [9:09 AM]:

Here's the deal. XP told me there were updates (including the optional update to IE8). Foolishly, I went for it. I then went to miniclip to play pool and it failed. I was angered. I went back to the checkpoint it wrote before installing everything and it corrupted registry. I went back to the previous checkpoint and all was cool, but the banners were gone from my IE 7 browser. I could not get them back. I tried to download the install from MS. I could not download anything. I went to another PC, downloaded firefox. Installed it on my problem PC and it worked. so I uninstalled IE7. re-installed it and it works. However, I left Firefox as my browser of choice. The funny thing is that the miniclip game still does not work - on any PC i have. It had nothing to do with the browser.

not banners......toolbars

I lost my toolbars in IE7

Me Being Bored [9:09 AM]:

Firefox rox

Other Geek [9:11 AM]:

it's the same. It looks the same as IE7/8. It runs the same, it inherited my tab preferences (IE7 has tabs), my favorites, my homepage, my cookies, everything. I would bet that Kid and Wife don't even notice.

Opera rox

Me Being Bored [9:12 AM]:

I use Safari on my iPod

Other Geek [9:13 AM]:

It's no Opera. There are hacks to make it work on Apple TV.

Me Being Bored [9:14 AM]:

Hacking Apple hardware is a mug's game, I think.

Other Geek [9:16 AM]:

It's more mainstream than that, I think.

imagine - Google earth on Apple TV.

Me Being Bored [9:16 AM]:

that would be pretty cool

Other Geek [9:18 AM]:

In fact, on Apple TV, Google Earth is LIVE. The images are delivered in REAL TIME. Cars driving down the road. bombs going off in Foreign Countries. You know, all laughing aside - that's not beyond the realm of possibilities.

Me Being Bored [9:18 AM]:

whoa! I saw that on CSI

Other Geek [9:19 AM]:

No, that was using a black light to find fingerprints.

Or maybe you're thinking of how they flick at a piece of dangling flesh for dramatic effect.

Me Being Bored [9:26 AM]:

No, no - it was fingerprints. Matlock was sure the culprit's fingerprints were in a backyard but McGruber couldn’t figure out how to melt the lock to get into that backyard so Quirky Genius Geek Goth Girl commandeered a Google Earth satellite and they zoomed into the backyard and found the fingerprints with 2 MINUTES LEFT in the episode. And then they all took their sunglasses off and wore them in cool affected poses while the credits rolled - inexplicably over a racing speedboat that had nothing to do with the story.

Other Geek [9:26 AM]:

I love it when a plan comes together !

I pitty da fool

Me Being Bored [9:27 AM]:

Book 'em Dano

Other Geek [9:27 AM]:

Holy crap..... they enabled this a couple of years ago and I didn't know.......

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

30 Days of Teh Stoopid

Contrary to a half-hearted 2009 resolution, I'm not posting much these days. I'd like to blame it on a short attention-span fed by 140 characters of Twitter or perhaps an obsession with Facebook. But that would be a lie since I'm spending precious little time in those places, too. It really comes down the malaise of having nothing much to say and no real drive to say it.

So here's what I'm thinking: a post every day for the entirety of September. For good or for bad, Mika the Cat and I will force thoughts into words into finger/paw muscles into cohesive groupings of electrons on the PC monitor. And we'll do it every day, for 30 days.

I think this could work. September will be interesting.

The evenings are getting cooler, and I'm content to sit in front of a keyboard with Mika's warmth on my lap. JediBoy begins his high-school phase while BandGeek contemplates her final(?) year there. My nemesis, the Steel-Set pool, will de-construct in a few days - perhaps for the last time. There will surely be another Geek Meet. There will be video games. A new season of television offers the usual promises that we know will ultimately disappoint. I will finish reading a book. Disney will buy more stuff. I will continue to get inspiration from other voices.

I think this could work.

See what we did? We made a blog post on September 1st! If Mika were awake, she'd probably offer a High Five.