Why Were There No Posts / Why Are There Some Now?
It's been an unpredictably complicated autumn, that's why.
At this time of year, I clean up the blog, post it to an archive page, and start anew. And I think that as I begin 2009, it's as good a time as any to pick up where I left off several months ago.
Some of you know that, along with the usual busy fall semester, I moved to new digs back downtown, by myself. Uprooting ones life is such fun. But with that, comes certain advantages, like being able to schedule one's life on one's own, and hey...I'm now only a 15 minute walk away from campus. While challenging, it's also exhilarating to start life all over again, from a new place (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), with a host of yet-unexperienced new situations. With that...let the games begin!
The Family Gene
Journal entry, Antigua:
Is there something in our DNA makeup called "the family gene"? It's probably nearby the "coupling gene", I expect in the double helix. Seeing so many families - indeed, extended families - here, makes me wonder if there is something predisposed in our genetic makeup that we not only want children, but even more, families - or not. Why are some people not really into having kids, a family legacy, and so on? What's more, perhaps more people than we expect don't have the "family gene", but because society has told them they must have a family (or are wierd, sacreligious, or worse if they don't), mean that we have a much higher world population than we should have - indeed, than we can sustain on this planet. Not to blame it all on religion, not at all. But I wonder...
Brave New World
With all the articles lately on people stealing iPods, I went through mine, and checked to see what was on it, besides tunes. Nothing really harmful, but there were a couple of 'silly' videos, really harmless stuff, but I decided to remove anything that could remotely be used or posted by anybody. It really is a new world, where we constantly have to be on the lookout. Yesterday's Globe and Mail had quite a few articles about our changing world in terms of our being 'public' wittingly, or unwittingly. Like the people who commit suicide live on a webcam. Or the emails now being read in court between a boyfriend and girlfriend, on the plot to kill her mom. When I started with my webcam, I didn't really worry about these things, because people weren't thinking of using any of my material in a malicious way, it was more of a novelty and an experiment. Same with all the websites I have online. It's become a very complicated world, vastly more so than when I was younger. I know, my parents probably said the same thing, but I do believe it's changing the Western sociology. I don't know what we've done to ourselves, exactly, but I'm not at all certain it's all for the good. People wonder why I didn't have kids, maybe I knew this was coming.
I wonder what Tim Berners Lee thinks about all of this?
Effective Way To...Loose [sic] Your Job
I'm often asked by my first year students, regarding their papers and assignments, "Does spelling count?"
They have just started in a communications
program, and they still ask me this.
Submitted for your approval (as Rod Serling would have said) - the attached picture (click on it for a bigger view.) These are two unretouched photographs of the very same billboard, a few weeks apart.
Somebody (I expect - hope?) lost their job over this bit of shoddy proofreading. Can you imagine the cost of re-printing all of these billboards, and re-installing them all again?
Does spelling count?
If you're wondering...yes, it does.
Wait For Light...
We have these relatively new-fangled buses in Toronto. They're wonderful - they have lots of standing room, they kneel for passengers (they probably even curtsey, but I haven't seen that yet.)
There's a sign over the rear doors that says "WAIT FOR LIGHT TO OPERATE DOOR PUSH BAR". So I went to get off at the back doors, and the green light came on. But no matter how long I waited...
...the green light didn't operate the door push bar. I eventually had to push the door bar by myself...
We just bought a nice new Patio Chef BBQ yesterday, and it only took an hour and a half to assemble it. However, in the 20-page assembly manual comes this warning, on page 3:
use while under the influence of alcohol or drugs."
Guess we won't be using it as often as we thought...
Okay, so I tried. I wanted to leave a Facebook posting for someone in their first language. It's not one of the normal Babelfish languages, so I tried another translating webpage.
In English:Have fun, [person]. Sorry I can't make it to your concert. Enjoy!
In their language (at least, theoretically):Ha moro [person]. Beklager JEG kan ikke lage den � din konserten. glede seg over
Back to English, via the webpage:Make fun of [person]. Am sorry I can't brew it å din concert. enjoy
I give up... :-(
The New Proposed Copyright Legislation
The new copyright proposal - a nice idea, and a step in the right direction, but it's half-baked. Some good concepts, but clearly designed by a bureaucrat who doesn't own an .mp3 player and hasn't seen YouTube. It tries to understand "fair use", but doesn't go far enough. It also doesn't delineate, along proper lines (IMHO) the difference between fair use and piracy.
I'm all for kicking the pirates' asses, believe me, but there is, to me, a new understanding about fair use since the 1970s. Yes, it comes down to making a buck versus personal use, but the legislation hasn't quite nailed that down clearly. I genuinely think it's okay to make 20 copies of an article to hand out and use in my classroom (hell, I don't even mind if people do that with a few pages from my textbook, or copy my YouTube instructional videos for personal or instructional use). However, I'd still like to put up a PDF of an article on a locked Ryerson website for my students to read, for example, but the legislation won't let me do that. I'd also like to show a TV show or a part of a movie in class, but that's still no dice.
But, piracy...the moment someone copies my whole
textbook, or sells copies of it
, or tries to sell a YouTube compilation of my stuff on DVD, I say fine the bastards. And I want my cut from the fine, that's what's more.
I'd be happy with 10%, thank you.
Bananas Used To Be Yellow...
I'm getting really annoyed with supermarkets. All I want is a banana, for lunch. You know, fresh fruit, trying to eat healthy, all that. What's with the bananas? When I was a kid, bananas used to be YELLOW.
These are inedible...grr, argh.
Another New Computer
Seems like every few years (like, about four), I need a new computer. Not that there's anything terribly wrong with the old one, but I continue to require more horsepower. Last time it was doing intensive graphics and photo work. This time, it's video editing. So I bit the bullet and plunked down $1200 on a new HP quad-core machine with a 22" LCD widescreen monitor. It's been a pretty easy conversion, but there are a couple of things to get used to and discover:1. Vista.
I've raged on about Vista in an earlier posting, so I won't belabour the point again. Once you get used to getting nagged about everything obvious (e.g., click on a program to install it, "Are You Sure?
", "Are You REALLY Sure?
" arrgh) it's actually an okay OS, and it has some cute features, I suppose.2. iTunes. What? Apple
won't let you move your iPod's contents back into a new iTunes?
Apparently, this is to stem piracy, but my Goddess, this is insane. Fortunately there are a lot of inexpensive ($20) software tools out there that let you get around this and get your valuable (and legal, dammit
) music back into your computer. But, what a stupid assumption that Apple makes - that you're a criminal first, and a new computer owner second. Double arrgh.3. No more RS-232 serial port.
Many of you won't know what that is, growing up in a USB world. Back in the old days, a serial port was the 'de facto' way of getting information from one computer to another over a long distance. I had an old Wacom pen tablet that used a serial port, but now it's in the "yard sale" pile. I had to buy a new Wacom Bamboo to replace it.4. Old software doesn't work.
I have over a hundred programs on CD-ROM that are compatible with various OS, particularly XP. But, some of this stuff doesn't work on Vista, oh no. You have to purchase a new version. Triple arrgh.5. File transfer - thinking ahead saves time.
Fortunately for me, some time ago I stopped saving my precious work on the central hard drive. Instead I have most of my files on external USB drives (with backups, of course.) So, there were gigabytes of stuff I didn't
have to transfer off of the old machine - it was already offline. So here's a tip - if you're thinking of upgrading any time soon, go buy a cheap ($100) big USB drive and drag your files into it. I use the C:\ drive as the backup
drive, not the source.
Now, let's see how that iTunes backup is going...
It's The Simplest Thing, But It's Still Pretty Neat
I'm the first to admit I'm a relatively newbie to the world of the iPod. I've been playing mp3s for years on various other devices of course - Palmpilots, and so on. But without the miracle of iTunes (okay, so it isn't a miracle, but...)
When playing music on most mp3 players, you can play a song, or an album, maybe shuffle everything up if you want. But I'm really enjoying the idea that, with almost 2,000 tracks on my iPod so far, I can listen to variations on a theme so easily. For example, I have no less than three versions of the Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- the White Album 'original', an acoustic version from Anthology #3, and an acoustic version with new strings added for the soundtrack to "Love", the Cirque du Soleil show. How about five
versions of Get Back
, including an odd remix I have from one of my workout CDs?
This is probably old hat to most of the iPod users out there, but it shouldn't be underestimated that just a couple of years ago, this kind of side-by-side comparison would have been a pain in the butt to set up - haul out all the CDs, put in one of them, cue it up, then eject it, then put in the next one, cue it up...lather, rinse, repeat. So, this old school guy still thinks this is cool. Come to think of it, it's especially cool, considering I'm listening to tunes that are 30 years old and in those days, this kind of convenience wasn't even dreamed
Automatic Waste Compactors
I had the opportunity the other day to watch, in action, an interesting device called the Smart-Pack Waste Compactor at my local McDonald's (no, don't ask me why I was at McDonald's, it was a moment of weakness, I swear...).
I didn't know, at the time, it was called Smart-Pack, but a three-minute google search came up with what I needed to know. It is a garbage box, with a built-in compactor. Some restaurant owners rave about it: "The Smart-Pack is one of the best problem-solving innovations to come around in a very long time!"
It is motion-sensor activated, which means that if you have a tray of refuse, the front lid will magically open, and allow you to dump the contents of your Big Mac container, drink glass, liner tray, and anything else you have, into its automated maw.
Sounds great, right? Well, as I said, I sat there for some time (I have no life) observing its actions:
* If somebody walks even close by it, on their way out of the restaurant, with or without garbage, it opens its lid, like a little newborn baby bird, asking plaintively for more food...er, I mean garbage. This isn't the most energy efficient machine I'd seen. Why is this necessary? Do we not have the physical strength anymore to open the lid of a garbage bin while we put our McDonald's trash into it?
* Every so often (about once a minute), whether there's enough garbage in it or not
, it goes through a several-second compacting process. Again, not the best design. When I worked for a high-rise hotel in the 1970s, the building garbage compacting system only worked when there was enough
garbage to activate it. It was a simple, primitive, photoelectric sensing system. And it seemed to work okay 'way back then. Again, a little more thought would make this beast more energy efficient.
* While surfing to find out more about Smart-Pack, I noticed a site that said that the compaction worked so well, it sometimes takes two employees to move the full bin to the regular garbage bin. "With typical dining area waste, the average weight is usually between 60 to 85 pounds."
* The thing talks
to you: "The Smart-Pack can also play messages to your patrons." "Our customers even love them... No matter how old they are, people are amazed by the talking feature."
This, honestly, was rather annoying, as I was lined up for my McExtra, and I kept hearing this disembodied voice telling me something, but it was so muffled, I couldn't make out what it was saying: "There is a fire in the Eaton Centre. All patrons must leave the building now"
For all I know, that's what it was crooning.
* In all fairness, here's the FAQ: http://www.atsource.ca/smart-pack-faq.htm
I'm not saying these are bad things - after all, anything that compacts the trash we send to places like Michigan can't be all bad - but I'm wondering if just a little more thought would have meant a more practical device, and an even more energy efficient design, in these days of "green consciousness".
For what it's worth...
"Helicopter parents". I imagine you've heard of them. Wikipedia
defines them thus:"A helicopter parent is a term for a person who pays extremely close attention to his or her child or children, particularly at educational institutions. They rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes. They are so named because, like a helicopter, they hover closely overhead, rarely out of reach whether their children need them or not.[The term] gained wide currency when American college administrators began using it in the early 2000s as the millennial generation began reaching college age. Their late-wave baby-boomer parents in turn earned notoriety for practices such as calling their children each morning to wake them up for class and complaining to their professors about grades the children had received."
I guess that's so. As a university professor, I've noticed some radical changes in parental behaviour from when I was in undergrad, in the dark ages, some 30 years ago. At that time, it was considered a 'rite of passage' to move out of your parent's home at the ripe old age of 18 (as I did) and, above all, to be completely independent of them.
We've had parents call about grades (which we're not allowed to discuss with parents, by the way, under the terms of the FIPPA Act (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.)) We've had others show up in the office, intercepting students' interaction with the University. One day, I actually had a parent show up in my lecture, unannounced
, telling me that her daughter wouldn't be able to make it to the class today because of an accident (perfectly legitimate, but still, making the trip to Downtown University, coming right up on the stage, in front of 160 students and telling me this...?) Another left me a voicemail about her son who'd broken his arm and couldn't make it to the lecture. She left me her cellphone number...and his! Why the student couldn't simply call me himself, I'm not sure.
Anyway, it's something new that we're wrapping our heads around. Understand, when I went away to the Polytechnical Institute (as it was then called), independence was very important. I, and my fellow colleagues in first year, would have been mortified
if our parents had intervened in this way:"Oh gawd, MOTHER! Will you please stay the hell out of my life, I can handle this myself!"
Times, apparently, have changed. There have been studies done
(simply google "helicopter parents"
to see them). Many students appreciate the interventions, and would like, at times, even more attention and intervention. This is likely another side effect of an upbringing that was so different from what I knew (and, to the next generation reading this, what your parents
knew.) According to one study, 74% of students thought their parents' intervention was about right, 11% thought they'd gone too far, and 15% thought they hadn't intervened enough.
Like I say, times have changed.
Food For Thought
I was watching the Food Network
this evening while working out on the elliptical machine at the gym. Which raised a couple of thoughts in my high-impact-exercise-addled brain:
* Why do so many people, when working out, tune in the Food Network on the TVs there? For so many people, the whole point of working out is to burn off the calories from eating (too much, perhaps.) So, there I am - burning about 500 calories in a half hour, watching all sorts of scrumptious calorie-laden dishes being prepared before my very eyes. It just seems...wrong, somehow.
* Also, if someone had told me 30 years ago that there would someday be an entire television channel devoted to food and cooking shows, I would have thought they were crazy. Back in those days, cooking shows were one of those neat ways of creating cheap Canadian content - build a kitchen set, and have some person yak away, preparing food. It probably started in the 1960s with Julia Child
and her show The French Chef
(Ms. Child was neither French, nor a chef, but nevermind.) Canada picked up the trend with Graham Kerr
and The Galloping Gourmet
, which added some lighter comedic moments to the genre. They even appeared together in a 1995 show, "Cooking in Concert: Julia Child & Graham Kerr."
* Peculiar side note: the only clips I can find of The Galloping Gourmet on YouTube have been translated into a foreign language, like this one
, but you'll get the idea. A decent clip of The French Chef is here
, for example - there are lots more out there.
Now, of course, we have Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Michael Smith, Ricardo and, of course, Rachel Ray...and so many more
. Maybe we're gluttons for punishment...
TTC: Think For A Moment...
On the subway today, during rush hour, I was thinking to myself, "Thank goodness those backpacks and purses got a seat this morning. It would be so sad if they were forced to sit on people's laps, or heaven forbid, be placed on the floor."
C'mon people. I know it's early in the morning, but look around you and think for a moment.
A Place To Keep Your Stuff
I was reading about Yotels
the other day. These are wonderful little 'cabins' available at Gatwick and Heathrow (London) and Schiphol (Amsterdam) airports. Great for a short stay-over. They're quite reasonable, too - a minimum of four hours costs only �40 for a premium cabin and from �25 for a standard cabin. The prices per hour thereafter are from as little as �6.00 per hour in a standard cabin.
They reminded me of my days living in bachelor apartments, and how I found that, really, people need little else to live than a place to do basic work, eat, bathe, and crash. Why we have become a society of buying big houses or large apartments or condos is something that I'm increasingly curious about. Much of it has to do with our propensity of collecting stuff. I recall George Carlin's great monologue:"That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house."
It Really Is A New Year, Isn't It?
When the French ban smoking
, you know the world is changing. When I first visited France in the late '70s, I thought all the French smoked - or so it seemed. By 1990, the percentage was down to about 45% - still almost half the population. Today, it's now 20% - about the same as Canada. That's still 12 million people in France, and several million in Canada. Where do we put these people? So-called "smoking rooms" have never really taken off in Canada - too expensive for establishments to install. So what next...out in the street?
I think there may be a growing market for "smoke cabins" like these
. Although, it's rather like putting people in a pen, isn't it? But they have such nice names, like Smoke 'n Go Compact (2-3 person), Smoke 'n Go Mezzo (4-5 person), Smoke 'n Go Espace (6-7 person), and my personal favourite, the Smoke 'n Go Plaza (12-14 person). Why, it practically sounds like your own personal smoking mall!
I think this is a good year for me to butt out...
Welcome to 2008
So where did that
I, for one, was 'way
too busy this past year. It was getting so ridiculous that not only were my faculty colleagues telling me not to take on so much, but my students were starting to do the same thing. I think the real hint came when I got a Christmas card telling me not to work so hard. Okay, I get the idea...
My biggest problem is that I don't know how to say 'no'. Not because I'm weak about actually saying 'no' to people, but rather, I'm approached by so many interesting projects that I want to take them all on! This has got to stop. Therefore, astute friends, colleagues, and students will notice I'm backing off a little bit - don't take it personally if I tell you I can't do something for you - "It's not about you, it's about me."
But I just have to stop working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six to seven days a week. Hope you understand.New Year's resolutionsQuit smoking
(yeah, again. I gave it up for four months a while back, then slowly started at it again. Today's the first day, of course - new year's - and I'm jonesing for one, it's 10 p.m. Stupid, when you realise I was only smoking a pack every four days - that's only two packs a week
. Anyway...)Moderate the drinking.
Not that this was really heavy duty anyway, but I'm gettin' too old to just burn off those empty calories like I used to. Crystal Light, anyone?Get back to the gym, even more than I'm going already.
I've never really stopped, and my trainer has been very good with me, given my busy life. But honestly, I miss it! And time to hop back on the elliptical trainer for some cardio and calorie burning. Two times a week to the gym is good...but three times a week is better!Take some time for me.
Easier said than done, but given my resolution to do a little less at the office, it might just be possible. It's ridiculous that I didn't even have a few minutes to put together to - Blog more
Happy New Year 2008 to one and all!
PS: The 2007 blog is now archived in the expected place
, with a link on the right side of this
Where Did All The Blog Postings Suddenly Come From?
Or maybe you hadn't noticed. But for those of you who have...nothing since April and then...blammo, a bunch in a row online as of Christmas morning.
Here's the deal. I've been nutzoid busy since May...yeah, since May, I'm serious. I haven't had an inclination, opportunity, or enough time to rub together to actually post things on the blog (which is RSS'd to Facebook, too.) However, all of this hadn't stopped me ranting to other people on email, of course.
So, what you're reading lately is some of my more lucid ramblings that I sent to others during that time. That's the why the dates span the year - they're actually accurate (Blogger lets you change the date to the time you wrote it, versus the time you posted it.)
Soon, it will be year-end clean up the blog time, but I'll probably leave most of this stuff up here for now.
It wasn't that busy a year, after all, was it?
Happy holidays and Happy New Year to all...
Cheap Political Ads
I've noticed lately that it seems everyone is doing the "clean background, slide some still photo of your most un-favourite politician around the screen and add some text that moves, too, then finally add a narration" kind of thing in their political spots. I see it on the telly all too frequently.
It's not what I would call the highest production value, any of it, but Goddess knows it's cheap to produce. It goes back to the"Manny's Blowout Carpet Sale
This Weekend Only
Everything Must Go!"
commercial that's essentially a bunch of stills of Manny's place, an explosion animation and a screaming Everything Must Go graphic with narration and music. The lowest form of commercial, in my view. All of this appeals to the lowest common denominator mentality.
Ooo, I can be bitter when I've only had one cup of coffee on a Sunday morning, can't I?
Windows Vista - Bah!
Bought a new desktop PC box for the office on Friday. It comes, of course, with Windows Vista. What a pile of shit. MS has managed to take a perfectly good OS (XP), pretty it up with cutsey pop-up semi-transparent Windows, and then add so much security crap in it, it makes it almost impossible to use.
Oh yeah, they managed to hide really useful things like "add/remove programs" and "Programs" (you know, from the Start
menu?) in curiously new places, too. In other words: take a well known layout, and f*ck with it because it would be a cool idea to do so, and we can. Let's not take useability into account, or anything sensible like that.
Latest fun: even though I have administrator rights, all file folders are "read only", right back to the C:\ drive itself. Trying to 'uncheck' the "read only" box, works, until you hit "apply" and close that setup Window. Opening it again, shows...surprise! We were only foolin' - your stuff is still "read only." Tee hee. So how, exactly, am I supposed to do any work?
I was shocked that Vista pulled this stunt, but apparently, it's a well known 'security feature' on the forums. Everybody hates this. [Blogger's note: apparently, I found out later, that this checkbox doesn't really do anything anyway, so it doesn't matter where it's set...so why do they have it then???
If you're more than a level 0 Windows/PC user, this OS will drive you nutz. You've been warned! >:(
Fortunately, you can "end run" most of this garbage if you know what you're doing. I'm managing to turn most of its "features" into XP-looking and -feeling equivalents. And I think I found the master "security switch" and shut that off, so I can actually do some work. Sheesh.
[Blogger's later note: Finally, one of my most important pieces of software, Streamulator, wouldn't run on this box, because the software developer actually expected Microsoft to be sensible about things and allow him to do basic things, like, oh, I don't know, make a directory, maybe? Jeremy wracked his brain over this one for weeks and only a couple of weeks ago (December) did he manage to crack the code. There's no reason
they had to make it this
difficult just to do work on the computer!]
Why I Haven't Blogged Lately...
This fall was the insanest eight weeks ever. I don't know why it was so busy, but I ended up working evenings and weekends about 55-65 hours a week during that period. Last week I finally calmed down, and this week is also more or less clear.
I have 15 MRPs (Major Research Papers) this year to go through, and the mid-year proposals come in this weekend. I only have four Practicum groups I'm advising even though there are 21 projects, but that's because there are five advisors this year. (Bless 'em.) As you'll recall, I completely re-wrote Practicum this past summer, and it paid off for both the students and the profs - things are going much more smoothly this year. It's also two semesters now, so you get a mark each semester - the first semester is pre-production bible and shooting; the second is post production and EPK and final project.
Well, *That* Was A Mercury Retrograde I Won't Soon Forget...
The Practicum course handbook has blossomed (bulged?) from 53 to 107 pages. Er, the students said they wanted more guidance... :-) Seriously, I'm really pleased with the way it's turning out - the Human Dynamics handbook has a few changes, too. Today I have fun - design both of the covers.
Anyway, yes...what a retrograde. One night I saw several of my friends at my local pub, at total odds with one another - just amazing to watch. Talk about mis-communication. It all worked out well, but wow. It was almost like our world of immediacy and cellphones made the communications worse
among all of them. Wild.
And...I lost my first major computer file during a retrograde. It was four day's work on the Handbook - gone, poof. I'd done a hard drive backup, but unfortunately that was accomplished just before
I started work on the re-writes. Fortunately (perhaps because it was a re
-write, a re
-evaluation of what was in the book, re
-etc.) I managed to get a "file fixer" program from Corel's website that at least brought back the whole book just enough so I could save it in Notepad as plain text. I spent a couple of hours putting back in the headings and formatting, but that beats four days of re-write down the tubes.
I just sat here this morning, staring at the screen and simply said, "Hmm. Now, that's not good..."
It was actually quite humourous...if you find that sort of thing funny.
If some of you reading this have no idea what I'm writing about, type "mercury retrograde" into a search engine and find out more...
I swear, the Internet's not really safe anymore, it seems. On an average day, I'll do a few google
searches for information on benign things like SMPTE television standards, HDTV, and so on. The next time my adware filter is run (it runs once a day, automatically) it's found a whole batch of new nonsense (mostly cookies, but once in a while adware and malware.)
I guess it's sort of what the doctors have always told us about bowel movements - it's good to flush out your system at least once a day.
I've stopped worrying too much about visiting the 'wrong' sites, because I'd never get any work done otherwise. Problem is, when you're googling to find real information, you never know whether you're going to click over to a goldmine of decent technical information, or some ad-filled piece of crap that only has links to more ad-filled pages. My life is a researcher these days, so I've just had to stock up on anti-virus and malware tools and hope for the best. This stuff seems to catch the problems, and even IE7 and Mozilla seem to stem the flood of pop-ups. I haven't seen one of those in a long while, although these browsers send me a message like "This website is trying to close this tab. Do you want to close it?" Of course, I click "no" (*duhh...*) and then shut down the offending page. Beats the old days of continuously ALT-F4'ing until you got ahead of the stream...