Thursday, January 31, 2013

STR to save a life

[Thanks to Keith in Brampton, Ontario, for sending this along.]

During an outdoor barbeque, a woman stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics). She said she had just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes.

They got her cleaned up, and got her a new plate of food. While she appeared a bit shaken up, Jane went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening.

Jane's husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital, and had passed away at 6:00 pm.

She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ. Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Jane would be with us today. Some don't die. They end up in a helpless, hopeless condition, suffering severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms.

So, please take a minute to read this.

A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can completely reverse the effects of a stroke. He says the trick is to get a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and given medical attention within 3 hours.

But, if you remember three letters --- STR --- you can save a life.

A bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
S - Ask the individual to SMILE.

T - Ask them to TALK, saying something coherently i.e. "Chicken Soup."

R - Ask them to RAISE BOTH ARMS.
If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call 911 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

And here's another sign of a stroke. Ask the person to stick out his tongue. If the tongue is crooked, if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Rickshaw Run

[Thanks to Sheri in Brampton, Ontario, for sending this along.]

A 3,500 km pan-Indian, insane adventure in a 7-horsepower glorified lawnmower while raising money to save the rainforest. Sign up here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hello, phone company

I'm wondering whether I need a phone at all.

I suppose a cellphone might be handy in case I drive into a ditch and need a tow, or need to check with my wife whether it's potato salad or potato chips that I should pick up at the supermarket.

I could turn that on when I need to make a call, then turn it off.

But it's becoming increasingly difficult to make a case for a land line.

Pretty much anyone I want to hear from, except maybe the Governor General's office with the news that I have won the Order of Canada, has my eMail address, or my Twitter handle, or my street address.

When the phone rings, it's usually someone I don't want to hear from --- a telemarketer (poor bastards) or a fundraiser or a newspaper selling subscriptions or one of those recorded messages from a local candidate for some public office or other.

Or someone looking for the liquor store (I have no idea why, but we get quite a few of these).

The whole idea that I should interrupt what I'm doing and race to the phone spilling my coffee and tripping over the dog while trying to mute the TV to answer one of these calls so I can tell them as nicely as possible to get lost strikes me as so twentieth century.

Plus the landline is, by definition, IN MY HOME, where I do not want to be bothered by anyone who does not live there or, for that matter, by anyone who does live there.

I signed up for the do-not-call list, but it didn't make much of a difference. People are still bothering me.

To pay for this seems unreasonable. Maybe I'd feel differently if the phone company was paying me, say, a hundred bucks a week. That sounds about right. They can collect it from the guys who want to call me. I'd even promise to listen to their spiels before telling them to get lost.

It'd be like one of those paywalls the newspapers are putting up on their websites.

Call me crazy, but if enough of us cancel our phones, mightn't that happen?

Do I sense the beginning of a movement, or is it just the All-Bran?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Annual check-up

[Source: GeezerPlanet]

Friday, January 25, 2013

Signs of the times

• A respected Harvard professor of genetics has proposed finding an "extremely adventurous female human" to serve as surrogate mother for a cloned Neanderthal baby.

• Coming to a supermarket near you, genetically modified salmon that grow faster than their regular cousins, cutting feed costs and time to market for fish farms which now supply 99% of the Atlantic salmon eaten in North America.

• A year-end survey by the Association for Canadian Studies indicates that 56% of Canadians think other provinces get better treatment from the federal government (more influence/money/autonomy) than does their province.

• They currently have a fuel economy of 117 miles per gallon, but a top speed of only 43 miles per hour. Expect to see hybrid cars running on compressed air by 2016.

• There seems to be a real basis for the old phrase, "That smells fishy." People who had been exposed to a fishy smell in a hallway were willing to invest 24% less money with another person, according to a recent study.

• Non-Christian animal lovers are volunteering for After The Rapture Pet Care, a service that will take care of pets left behind after their Christian owners are raptured up to heaven.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A page from the future

Larry Page, CEO of Google, dreams big.

He has a vision of the future that includes cars that drive themselves, drop you off and go park themselves, then notice that you are leaving and pull up to the door.

If you're someone who views driving as a boring chore, you'll probably love this idea. If, like me, you enjoy driving, you'll see it as a bummer.

I do realize that I'm part of a shrinking minority, so Larry is probably onto something.

Sound farfetched?

Maybe, but let's remember that this guy came up with the idea to photograph every inch of every street everywhere to create a digital replica of the real world available to everyone, free.

And he did it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A chief for the 21st century

[Thanks to Wayne and Anita in Alliston, Ontario, for pointing me to this story.]
Source: CBC
Prime Minister Stephen Harper ought to appoint Clarence Louie as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

For more than 20 years, Clarence has been chief and CEO of the Osoyoos Band in British Columbia's South Okanagan.
"My first rule for success is show up on time.
My No. 2 rule for success is follow rule No. 1."

"If your life sucks, it's because you suck."

"Quit your sniffling. Join the real world. Go to school, or get a job. Get off of welfare. Get off your butt."

"Our ancestors worked for a living. So should you."
This is Clarence speaking to First Nations audiences. Have you ever heard a native leader speaking like this?

The band was bankrupt, taken over by Indian Affairs. They set a goal to become self-sufficient in five years.

The Osoyoos now own, among other things, a vineyard, a winery, a golf course, a tourist resort, and a chunk of the Baldy Mountain ski development.

There are jobs for everyone, and members of 13 other tribal communities have come there to work for the Osoyoos, who contribute $40-million a year to the area economy. View the whole story in this CBC documentary.

Clarence travels widely, as far away as Australia, spreading his philosophy that creating sustainable businesses leads to jobs, money, a better way of life, and respect for native peoples.

Some say he's ignoring tradition. His response is, "You're going to lose your language and culture faster in poverty than you will in economic development."

His approach integrates native people into the mainstream of Canadian life by helping them become self-supporting members of society rather than wards of the state. It is a path to achieving the human dignity to which they are entitled.

Of course, it won't work everywhere. The Osoyoos are favoured by geography and climate, plus they have Clarence.

But the ideas that underpin their success will work in many places if the will and the leadership can be found.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Canadian moment

[Found this thanks to Jen in Kingston.]

Can't view the video? Click here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

We're back

Friday, January 18, 2013

Signs of the times

• A father in China, perturbed by the amount of time his adult son spent playing online video games, hired digital hit men (other gamers) to kill off all his son's characters.

• Coming to your iPhone or Android phone,  ScoutMob is an app that alerts you to rapidly-expiring deals on local food, coffee, and shops for your current location.

• Immigrants are, on average, more highly educated than native-born Canadians. Since the 1970s, most are independent or economic immigrants, who are selected based on Canada's points system. These immigrants tend to have some form of post-secondary education, and substantial numbers have advanced university degrees.

• Countries that require people to opt out of organ donor programs have registration rates averaging 98 percent of their population. In the U.S., which has an opt-in policy, participation is about 40%. In Canada, it is even worse, at 20%.

• While 60% of Canadians give themselves a B grade or higher for overall tech savviness, only 4% actually earn that grade, as indicated by a survey conducted for Rogers Communications.

• The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that, just because it floats, it is not necessarily a boat. The case dealt with the destruction of a floating house by the city of Riviera Beach, Florida, which justified its action under federal maritime law.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

There are teachers, and there are educators

[Thanks to B.B. in Florida for sending this along. Author unknown.]

A private Catholic school was recently faced with a unique problem.

A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom.

That was fine provided it was of a natural or neutral skin tone, but after they put on their lipstick, they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints. Every night the maintenance man would remove them, but the next day the girls would put them back.

Finally, the principal, Sister Mary, decided that something had to be done.

She called all the girls to the bathroom, and met them there with the maintenance man.

She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every night. This information was received with plenty of yawns and eye rolling.

Sister Mary asked the custodian to show the girls how much time and effort was required.

He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.

Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Twitter explained for old farts

[Came across this thanks to Clare in Toronto.]

Can't view video? Click here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Coming and going in 2013

Which new things can we expect to see in 2013, and which old stuff will be disappearing?
You can click to view the full size PDF image, or just read the lists below. I have no idea what some of these Hello items are, and I thought several on the Goodbye list had disappeared a couple of years ago, but the guys who put this together are way smarter than me, so I won't argue.
Hello Goodbye
Augmented reality glasses Intimacy
Thought control Computer mouse
3D printing in the home Spelling
Personal DNA testing Landline telephones
Digital butlers Coins
Voice control TV Privacy
Customized medicine Video rental stores
Pay by fingerprint Public phones
Electric sports cars Vacuuming
Robot sex Retirement
Conversational computing Weekday newspapers
Empathic robots CDs/DVDs
Gesture interfaces Chain bookstores
Flexible, foldable mobile phones e-Cards
Robo-nannies Space tourism
Infinite color at home 8 hours sleep
Personalized billboards Switching off
Networked professional services 9-5 workdays
Bio-Hacking Dining rooms
Pollution absorbing clothes Handwriting
Biodegradable electronics Shop assistants
Automated instant translation Biodiversity
Memory implants Non-internet businesses
Video wallpaper Printing photographs
Retail delivery boxes Welfare state
Learning foreign languages
Paper medical records
Watches for under 25s
Focused attention
[Source: Trends in the Living Networks]

Monday, January 14, 2013

Evolution stumbles on

[Thanks to Libby in Caledon for sending this along. Original source unknown]
Yes, you guessed it, it’s a new breed of young human beings!

They are referred to as “homo slackass-erectus” created by natural genetic evolution
through constant spineless posturing, and spasmatic upper limb gestures, which
new research has shown to cause shorter legs and an inability to ambulate other
than in an awkward shuffling gait.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Signs of the times

• Many companies are removing their self-checkout lanes, claiming customers don't like them. In reality, they're just losing too much money from shoplifting that's easier in the absence of a checkout clerk.

• In fiscal 2012, Apple paid $6 billion in federal corporate income taxes, which is 1 out of every 40 dollars in corporate income taxes collected by the U.S. government.

• More than 130 Canadian charities have received more than $129,000 generated over the last two years by inmates of federal penitentiaries, despite their limited opportunities to earn money.

• In a comparison of the world’s top 20 startup hubs, Toronto ranked 8th behind Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Boston, London. Vancouver ranked 9th and Waterloo 16th.

• Samsung has introduced a new TV that lets two people watch two different shows at the same time. My wife could watch House while I watch Top Gear.

• WildPlay Element Parks Nanaimo will host its seventh annual Naked Bungy Jump  for the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society on February 23-24. Call for your jump time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Smile for the database

You're not paranoid when they really are watching you, and Canadian cops really are keeping an eye on your movements, or at least those of your car.

So are other police forces across North America.

Maybe you didn't know, so I'm sorry to break it to you.

The RCMP began using Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) in British Columbia in 2006. Now it's everywhere.

The technology uses cameras mounted on police patrol cars, bridges, overpasses, stoplights, integrated with optical-character-recognition to feed license numbers into a database. It's similar to the technology used for the automatic billing systems on toll roads like Highway 407 near Toronto.

In Canada, it has the blessing of the federal and provincial privacy commissioners, and if the vehicle has not had any "violations," individual images are supposedly purged every three months.

In the U.S., some states allow anyone to submit a license number and receive a report covering every place and time that plate was photographed. Repo men love it, but what might a stalker do with that information?

Presumably, your employer could see whether you're goofing off to visit your girlfriend, or grandma, when you're supposed to be on the job.

Lots of potential for abuse.

Interestingly, as seen in this video, these reports can also be used to to locate the stationary readers, as well as track the patrol patterns of the reader-equipped cruisers. Useful info if you're planning a bank heist?

Do you feel safer now?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Archie Bunker on gun control

[Thanks to Fred in Toronto for sending this along.]

Can't view video? Click here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The gamechanger gets hooked up

At bottom, this is not a technology story, but a story about the next big step in the tradeoffs we are all making between privacy and convenience.

I've blogged about the power of Google in the past, so the wheels in my head started turning when I read the news that the company had hired Ray Kurzweil, the genius futurist, engineer, inventor.

His inventions include the flatbed scanner, omni-font optical character recognition, the print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer that could emulate a grand piano and other instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition system.

In summary, he's a guy who not only conceives game changing ideas, but brings them to fruition. So it's not an exaggeration to say that this is important news, not just for Google, but for everyone.

Google's CEO, Larry Page, heard that Kurzweil was planning to start a company to build an artificially intelligent computer. That got Page's attention because Google's core business is based on search, and Ray's project overlaps semantic search.

Have I lost you yet? Please stay with me just a bit longer.

Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the context.

Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt, explains it with this example:
“Is it a ‘hot dog’ or a ‘hotdog?’ And, if you knew something about whether the person had dogs, or whether the person was a vegetarian, you’d have a very different potential answer to that question.”
Sounds great, right? No more wading through a bunch of useless search returns. Just zoom right in on the stuff you want to know --- how to cool down Fido, or get the best franks for your barbeque party.

Here's the wrinkle. To be really effective, semantic search needs to know a lot about you. Not just whether you're a vegetarian or a pet owner, but where you live, what you own, who you know, how you spend your free time, the state of your health, what you like/dislike, and what you think about a whole range of things --- politics, values, religion, investing, sports, work, retirement, guns, abortion, and so on.

How would Google get that information?

The friendly folks at Google already know which websites you're browsing, and they can target ads at you based on your search queries, but that's just the first chapter in this unfolding story.

To make semantic search work, they need to go much deeper.
Kurzweil explains that Google has unique access to the “things you read, what you write, in your emails or blog posts, and so on, even your conversations, what you hear, what you say.”
Once they have that information, do you believe they won't sell it to advertisers, governments, insurance companies, and anyone else who can write a big cheque?

This is way past anything George Orwell envisioned in his dystopian novel, 1984.

Think about that next time you're updating your Facebook page, or your blog, or Twitter, or sending a message via your Gmail account, or chatting on Google Talk.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Still hangin' in

Friday, January 4, 2013

Signs of the times

• According to recent large polls, 56% of British adults do not believe in God or a "higher power."

• A recent Forum poll found that 22% of Canadians do not believe in God or a "supreme being."

 • A 2009 Pew survey found that 5% of American adults say they do not believe in God or a "universal spirit."

• Globally, Pew's analysis says that about 84% of the earth's population are affiliated with a religious group, and 16% are unaffiliated.

• In modern times, as long as there have been three competitive parties at the federal level in Canada, governments have won a majority only three times with more than 50 per cent of the popular vote: 1940 (King); 1958 (Diefenbaker); 1984 (Mulroney).

• Japan’s aging population now buys more adult diapers for incontinent seniors than baby diapers.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Guns are not part of my world, and I hope to keep it that way, but I have been wondering lately about our controls on guns in Canada, so I decided to take a look.

As a kid growing up in the country, I had a .22 rifle, with which I shot my share of groundhogs and foxes, both seen to be pests that caused trouble around the family farm. I have no problem with farmers and other rural residents owning a long gun, provided they store it safely, because there are situations where it is the only realistic solution.

I was never a hunter, although I have friends and relatives who enjoy hunting. I can accept that, although I can't say I completely understand it.

I also have a good friend who is a target shooter, and he owns a handgun for that purpose. While I trust my friend to store his target pistol securely, I am also aware that many such guns find their way into the wrong hands due to break-ins and so on. We've agreed to disagree on the need for people to own handguns for pleasure.

Handguns and automatic weapons may not be used legally for hunting in Canada. Their purpose is to kill people, so my own belief is that their ownership should be restricted to those who are authorized to kill people, when the situation warrants --- police officers, armoured truck guards, the Prime Minister's bodyguards, and the like.

Canada has three classifications for firearms --- prohibited, restricted, and unrestricted.

Fully automatic weapons are prohibited, except those registered before 1978. Also prohibited are handguns with a barrel length of 105 mm (4 in.) or less and those that discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition, except for a few specific guns used in International Shooting Union competitions.

Handguns of other sizes and calibres are not prohibited, but are restricted, meaning that anyone with the appropriate licence and a "valid purpose" (e.g. target shooting, gun collecting) can acquire them. Handgun owners can convey their unloaded weapons to ranges, etc. if they have an Authorization to Transport. These can be issued for long periods.

While more difficult to arrange, the carrying of a holstered or concealed firearm in a public place is allowed, subject to a valid permit. For example, an RCMP Authorization to Carry may be obtained for protection during employment that involves handling of valuable goods or dangerous wildlife.

Similarly restricted are semi-automatics such as the military-styled Norinco AR-15 and 97NSR. Semi-automatic, small calibre variants of the Bushmaster version of the AR-15, used by Newtown gunman Adam Lanza, are legal and continue to be registered as restricted long guns in Canada. However, such (centre-fire) rifles are limited to a five round magazine, dialling down the fun for Rambo-wannabes.

Other rifles and shotguns are unrestricted, and may be owned by anyone possessing the correct licence. As of February 15, 2012, long guns need not be registered anywhere except in Quebec.

These are the just the basics of gun regulation in Canada. Federal, provincial, and municipal governments may be involved in any specific location.

There are many more guns in Canadian households than I expected. It is estimated that civilians own 9,950,000 guns, although accurate figures are unavailable. This ranks our rate of gun ownership (23.8 per 100 people) as 13th in the world.

About 5.5% of Canadians are licensed firearm owners which, if I have the math right, means that on average they each own about four guns.

I don't worry too much about the folks who are licensed, although there are about 600 firearm suicides per year. If they had not had guns handy, would all of those people still have killed themselves? I doubt it.

I do worry about the young gangbangers in the big cities, unlicenced and carrying prohibited and restricted weapons, who are turning some neighbourhoods into killing zones and endangering innocent bystanders, including children.

Their firearms, mostly handguns, are stolen or imported illegally from south of the border.

The Toronto police report 210 shootings in 2012, mostly by males 15-29.

So far, our society has been spared the extreme gun culture that plagues the U.S., but there are those who would like to see us further relax our firearm regulations. As Americans are waking up to the need for gun control, let's hope Canadians don't go to sleep.

Much of my information was sourced from and the RCMP.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An open book

This video finishes with a twist.

Can't view video? Click here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hash browns

There are no frozen hash brown potatoes in our local Metro supermarket.

They are not just out of stock. The store is not carrying them any more.

What the hell? We have been buying these for decades. They are a staple. I spoke with one of the store workers. He, too, could not believe that the hash browns had disappeared. We walked the frozen food aisle together, twice, and stared in amazement at the spot where they used to be, now taken over by beans.

Stunned silence, like realizing that a once-common species of bird had suddenly become extinct. Gone forever from the face of the earth.

"Management," he nodded, knowingly.

Back home, I reported all this to my wife, who looked askance.

"Surely not," she said. "Can you believe it?" I said.

On the next trip, I checked again, hoping that it had been a temporary oversight, now corrected. But no, they were not there.

One thinks, "Are we the only customers who eat hash browns now? Have hash browns fallen out of favour without our knowing?"


The store has created a whole new section devoted to frozen French fries. They have about 25 varieties of French fries, but we do not want French fries. And we don't want the little "gourmet" pouches of frozen, cubed potatoes with Rosemary and other spices, which cost twice as much and taste half as good, either.

A line has been drawn in the vegetables.

We will be taking our patronage elsewhere. Some things can not be abided.