Friday, March 29, 2013

Canada explained

[Thanks to Libby of Caledon, Ontario, for sending this along. Author unknown.]

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sing your song

[Thanks to Anita and Wayne in Alliston, Ontario, for sending this along.]

We have long known that music can stimulate the emotions, and now we are discovering that it can improve the functioning of minds impaired by dementia and Alzheimers. Young people, patients, and caregivers came together in London, Ontario, to create music, with some encouraging results. And some pretty good entertainment, too.

Can't view the video? Click here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Betting on yourself

"Studying entrepreneurship without doing it is like studying the appreciation of music without listening to it...

Until you confront the fear and discomfort of being in the world and saying, "here, I made this," it's impossible to understand anything at all about what it means to be a entrepreneur. Or an artist." ~ Seth Godin
Truer words were never spoken.

There are courses on entrepreneurship, taught by academics who have never ventured outside their educational institutions.

There are people who write about intrapreneurship, which is defined as the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization.

There are a range of definitions concerning entrepreneurship. I define it as the act of commercializing your own new idea.

I sometimes think that, given the array of obstacles stacked against it, and the improbability of success, entrepreneurship may actually be a kind of mental illness.

But if you are an entrepreneur, you can not restrain yourself.

You will take the leap.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

You know you wannabe Canadian

Can't view the video? Click here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pride in the job #5

Source: theCHIVE

Friday, March 22, 2013

Things I learned this week

• Men tend to marry younger women because men are capable of producing children for a longer time than women and thus, when they're older, are more likely than women to marry.

• Research seems to indicate that eliminating leaded gasoline lead to a major reduction in violent crime and teen pregnancies between 1960 and 2009. Something to do with lead making you stupid.

• Do not heat any liquid in a microwave oven for more than two minutes per cup and, after heating, let the cup stand in the microwave for thirty seconds before moving it or adding anything into it. Microwaved water and other liquids can actually get superheated and not bubble at all, then bubble up out of the cup when it is moved or when something like a spoon or tea bag is put into it. People have been badly burned this way.

• Not one of the top-five smartphone vendors from early 2007 (Nokia, RIM, Sharp, Motorola, and Palm) remains in the top five today.

• Of Americans who changed their minds to favour gay marriage, 37% said this was because they know someone who is gay or lesbian.

• A new study from the University of Colorado says that if you eat while you should be sleeping, you will gain weight. You heard it here first.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A woman of many parts

[This amazing, true, story was sent along by regular contributors Anita and Wayne of Alliston, Ontario. It was written by novelist, playwright, and journalist, Naomi Ragen.]

It all started with a skin flick.

In 1933, a beautiful, young Austrian woman took off her clothes for a movie director.  She ran through the woods... naked.  She swam in a lake... naked.  Pushing well beyond the social norms of the period, the movie also featured a simulated orgasm.  To make the scene "vivid," the director reportedly stabbed the actress with a sharp pin just off screen.

The most popular movie in 1933 was King Kong.  But everyone in Hollywood was talking about that scandalous movie with the gorgeous, young Austrian woman. Louis B. Mayer, of the giant studio MGM, said she was the most beautiful woman in the world.  The film was banned practically everywhere... which of course made it even more popular and valuable. Mussolini reportedly refused to sell his copy at any price.

The star of the film, called Ecstasy, was Hedwig Kiesler.  She said the secret of her beauty was "to stand there and look stupid."  In reality, Kiesler was anything but stupid.  She was a genius.  She'd grown up as the only child of a prominent Jewish banker.  She was a math prodigy.  She excelled at science.  As she grew older, she became ruthless, using all the power her body and mind gave her. Between the sexual roles she played, her tremendous beauty, and the power of her intellect, Kiesler would confound the men in her life...  including her six husbands, two of the most ruthless dictators of the 20th century, and one of the greatest movie producers in history.

Her beauty made her rich for a time.  She is said to have made - and spent - $30 million in her life.  But her greatest accomplishment resulted from her intellect... And her invention continues to shape the world we live in today. You see, this young Austrian starlet would take one of the most valuable technologies ever developed right from under Hitler's nose.

After fleeing to America, she not only became a major Hollywood star... her name sits on one of the most important patents ever granted by the U.S. Patent Office. Today, when you use your cell phone or, over the next few years, as you experience super-fast wireless Internet access (via something called "long-term evolution" or "LTE" technology), you'll be using an extension of the technology a 20- year-old actress first conceived while sitting at dinner with Hitler.

At the time she made Ecstasy, Kiesler was married to one of the richest men in Austria.  Friedrich Mandl was Austria's leading arms maker. His firm would become a key supplier to the Nazis. Mandl used his beautiful young wife as a showpiece at important business dinners with representatives of the Austrian, Italian, and German fascist forces.  One of Mandl's favorite topics at these gatherings - which included meals with Hitler and Mussolini - was the technology surrounding radio-controlled missiles and torpedoes. Wireless weapons offered far greater ranges than the wire-controlled alternatives that prevailed at the time.

Kiesler sat through these dinners "looking stupid," while absorbing everything she heard. As a Jew, Kiesler hated the Nazis.  She abhorred her husband's business ambitions.  Mandl responded to his willful wife by imprisoning her in his castle, Schloss Schwarzenau.

In 1937, she managed to escape. She drugged her maid, snuck out of the castle wearing the maid's clothes, and sold her jewelry to finance a trip to London. (She got out just in time.  In 1938, Germany annexed Austria.  The Nazis seized Mandl's factory.  He was half Jewish.  Mandl fled to Brazil.  Later, he became an advisor to Argentina's iconic populist president, Juan Peron.)

In London, Kiesler arranged a meeting with Louis B. Mayer.  She signed a long-term contract with him, becoming one of MGM's biggest stars.  She appeared in more than 20 films.  She was a co-star to Clark Gable, Judy Garland, and even Bob Hope. Each of her first seven MGM movies was a blockbuster.

But Kiesler cared far more about fighting the Nazis than about making movies. At the height of her fame, in 1942, she developed a new kind of communications system, optimized for sending coded messages that couldn't be "jammed."  She was building a system that would allow torpedoes and guided bombs to always reach their targets.  She was building a system to kill Nazis.

By the 1940s, both the Nazis and the Allied forces were using the kind of single- frequency radio-controlled technology Kiesler's ex-husband had been peddling. The drawback of this technology was that the enemy could find the appropriate frequency and "jam" or intercept the signal, thereby interfering with the missile's intended path. Kiesler's key innovation was to "change the channel."  It was a way of encoding a message across a broad area of the wireless spectrum.  If one part of the spectrum was jammed, the message would still get through on one of the other frequencies being used.  The problem was, she could not figure out how to synchronize the frequency changes on both the receiver and the transmitter.

To solve the problem, she turned to perhaps the world's first techno-musician, George Antheil. Antheil was an acquaintance of Kiesler who achieved some notoriety for creating intricate musical compositions.  He synchronized his melodies across twelve player pianos, producing stereophonic sounds no one had ever heard before.  Kiesler incorporated Antheil’s technology for synchronizing his player pianos. Then, she was able to synchronize the frequency changes between a weapon's receiver and its transmitter. On August 11, 1942, U.S. Patent No. 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and "Hedy Kiesler Markey," which was Kiesler's married name at the time.

Most of you won't recognize the name Kiesler.  And no one would remember the name Hedy Markey.  But it's a fair bet than anyone of a certain age will remember one of the great beauties of Hollywood's golden age - Hedy Lamarr.  That's the name Louis B. Mayer gave to his prize actress. That's the name his movie company made famous.  Meanwhile, almost no one knows Hedwig Kiesler - aka Hedy Lamarr - was one of the great pioneers of wireless communications.  Her technology was developed by the U.S. Navy, which has used it ever since.

You're probably using Lamarr's technology, too.  Her patent sits at the foundation of "spread spectrum technology," which you use every day when you log on to a wi- fi network or make calls with your Bluetooth-enabled phone.  It lies at the heart of the massive investments being made right now in so-called fourth-generation "LTE" wireless technology.  This next generation of cell phones and cell towers will provide tremendous increases to wireless network speed and quality, by spreading wireless signals across the entire available spectrum.  This kind of encoding is only possible using the kind of frequency switching that Hedwig Kiesler invented.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hooked on swing

[Thanks to Anita and Wayne in Alliston, Ontario, for sending this along.]

Can't view the video? Click here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Florida's tourism prevention programs

I've written before about Canadians and other snowbirds being treated like cash cows in the State of Florida.

Two recent examples of lunatic lawmaking from the Sunshine State just confirm this impression.

Example #1:
You may have heard about the first kerfuffle. The Florida legislature passed a law a while back that required all foreign residents to obtain an International Driver's License in order to operate their automobiles on the streets and highways of the sunshine state. Apparently a state trooper had difficulty deciphering a license in something other than English, so someone thought this would be a good solution.

Trouble is, they didn't tell anybody, and it was late February before the story leaked out in the media. By that time, a large percentage of the 2.5 million Canadians who visit Florida each year (including my wife and I) were already ensconced in their winter digs and motoring about, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they were lawbreakers. More worrisome, that had the potential to void their car insurance, leaving them unprotected in the event of a traffic accident.

When I heard about it, I checked the Florida State Government website and could see no mention of it.

What to do? Fly back to Canada to get an International Driver's License, which involves no testing and is as big a joke as those police badges that used to come in cereal boxes, or keep our fingers crossed that we weren't run into by a '79 Coupe de Ville driven by a geriatric in cardiac arrest. We decided to lay low and hope for the best.

Predictably, the whole thing blew up, there was great embarrassment on the part of legislators, who were saying things like, "I hope I didn't vote for it." Police promised to not enforce the law, and apologies were issued, along with promises to repeal the law when the lawmakers were back in session. This finally happened last week.

Can't you just feel the love?

Example #2:
Tony Hough and spouse drive down to Sarasota from Palm Harbour, meet friends, and go spend $450 on dinner at one of the finer downtown restaurants. Everyone had a fine time until they returned around 8:30 pm to the parking garage to find a $35 ticket on the windshield.

Expired meter? No.

No Parking zone? No.

Handicapped space? No.

The offence, under Ordinance 33-115, was BACKING THE VEHICLE INTO THE PARKING SPACE!

A cash grab, pure and simple.

There's that lovin' feeling again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pride in the job #4

Friday, March 15, 2013

Things I learned this week

• While the U.S. minimum wage is $7.25, minimum wage for waiters and waitresses is only $2.13, a rate that hasn’t changed since 1991. The justification is that they earn tips. Because of inflation, $2.13 is worth 40% less in real terms than it was when the rate was established 21 years ago. Restaurants are supposed to make up the difference if tips don't bring earnings to $7.25, but they often just exploit the workers, who are usually women.

• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that a certain amount of contamination is unavoidable in commercial food processing, so it allows for a small amount of "filth" before taking action. "Filth" includes rat hair, maggots and cigarette butts, insect eggs, "mammalian excreta, and much more."

But there are limits. The FDA doesn't worry when there aren't "over 20 or more maggots ... per 100 grams of drained mushrooms," and it's happy unless the "average of mold count is 12 percent or more." Peanut butter can have no more than an average of one rodent hair per 100 grams. There are also limits to the amounts of sand, grit, parasitic cysts, insect fragments, sticks, and stones.

• The share of American households with guns has declined over the past four decades from 50% in the 1970's to 34% in 2012, according to General Social Survey results released last week. A spokesman for the NRA wasn't buying it.

• Among North American companies, Proctor and Gamble has the most billion dollar brands, with 27 of their 300 products qualifying for the exclusive club. They include Tide, Crest, Gillette, Pampers, Charmin, and Head & Shoulders. [Source: Under the Influence]

• Two years after the Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster, in which residents were speedily evacuated, one man still remains there. Naoto Matsumura, a 53-year-old, feeds the local animals that were left behind when everyone fled his town, which is just six miles from the plant and is highly radioactive.

• Vietnamese Americans make up an astounding 80% of California’s manicurists and 43% of manicurists nationwide.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birds of Paradise

[Thanks to Linda in Venice, Florida, for sending this along.]

One of the most wondrous shows produced by nature.

Can't view the video? Click here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ladies' night

[Thanks to Ingrid of Guelph, Ontario, for sending this along. Author unknown.]

Two women friends had gone for a girls' night out.

Both were very faithful and loving wives. However, they had over-enjoyed the Bacardi Breezers.

Incredibly drunk and walking home, they needed to pee. As it happens, the cemetery was handy.

One of them had nothing to wipe with, so she took off her panties and used them.

Her friend, however, was wearing a rather expensive pair of panties, and did not want to ruin them.

Fortunately, she had squatted beside a grave that had a wreath with a ribbon on it, so she proceeded to wipe herself with that ribbon.

After the girls did their business, they proceeded to go home.

The next day, the husband of one of the women was concerned that his normally sweet and innocent wife was still in bed hung over, so he phoned the other husband and said, "These girl nights have got to stop! I'm starting to suspect the worst. My wife came home with no panties!"

"That's nothing," said the other husband, "Mine came back with a card stuck to her arse that said, "From all of us at the Fire Station - we'll never forget you."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A horse named Reckless

[Thanks to Wayne and Anita of Alliston, Ontario, for sending this along.]

The men who fought in the brutal Korean War (June 1950–July 1953), including 27,000 Canadians, didn't get the recognition they deserved. It has been called the "forgotten war." People were tired of war after World War II, and most folks had hardly even heard of Korea back then.

Nonetheless, many brave soldiers died, including 516 of our own. I hope you enjoy this inspiring tale of a horse that served bravely in that conflict, and survived.

Can't view the video? Click here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pride in the job #3

Source: theCHIVE

Friday, March 8, 2013

Signs of the times

• Provisions of an Ottawa Hospital dress code policy prohibiting tattoos and piercings were declared void and unenforceable by a labour arbitrator.

• The 10 most influential brands in Canada, according to Ipsos, are:
1. Google
2. Microsoft
3. Apple
4. Facebook
5. Walmart
6. Visa
7. YouTube
8. Tim Hortons
9. Air Miles
10. CBC
It's disappointing that only two have a direct Canadian connection. The top four are also the most influential brands in the world.

• 20% of online teens in Canada have witnessed someone they know being bullied on social networking sites.

• Telepresence weddings, in which the participants are in separate locations but feel as if they are present in the same space thanks to video and other technologies, are on the rise.

• A devastating drought in Europe and a freak hailstorm in Australia has resulted in a looming shortage of olive oil.

• 15% of wheelchair requests at Los Angeles International Airport, about 300 per day, are able-bodied travellers who are tired of waiting in line, want to get to the front of security lines, or want someone to help them with their bags. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wrong about being right

I recently read The Value of Wrong, an insightful essay by Heather Bussing, in which she counsels us to embrace being wrong.

"Most of us yell, insist, dig in, run, shut down, do research, or make up stuff to avoid being wrong," she writes.

Oh, that is so true of me.

I hate to be wrong, will go to almost any lengths to prove I'm right, see being wrong as a personal failure, will still be defending my position to myself, in hindsight, even when everyone else has gone home and is well past caring.

I love the cut and thrust of the argument, and need to hear the other guy concede.

This does not endear me to people but, in the heat of the thing, it's more important to be right than to be loved.

Heather says, "When people are focused on being right, discussions become contests of gotcha and score keeping."

Admitting you're wrong allows a fresh start, dissipates tension, breaks any impasse, opens things up for the consideration of alternatives and new thinking.

In fact, why wouldn't you say, "I'm wrong," even when you think you're right, if it would move things along toward a good result? Well, why wouldn't you?

C'mon, you know I'm right!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Your last moments should mean as much as your first

A hospice is a place for the care of the dying or the incurably ill. This is entirely different from regular nursing homes and hospitals.

Hospices offer a type of care that focuses on reducing pain and helping with emotional issues to make leaving this life as comfortable as possible.

Many people go through their final days alone, but that will not happen in a hospice.

The special people who work in hospices, both professionals and volunteers, focus on bringing comfort, self-respect, and tranquility, to people in the final days of life. They truly do care.

I know such a volunteer, and I admire her, as she does things that I could not do.

Your local hospice needs your support if it is to be around when you need it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Where to work

I read that Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, says all employees must show up at the office.

No more working from home or from the local Starbucks. She wants to see you in your cubicle every day.

The rationale for this is that innovation happens when people encounter each other at the watercooler, in the cafeteria, in the washroom, and elsewhere.

The thinking goes that someone will inquire about what someone else is up to, and the answer will trigger a flash of brilliance that will evolve into a lucrative new product or service, or a better way of doing things that will save millions.

Well, maybe.

It can not be denied that many, perhaps most, employees have good ideas, and that we need to create a business culture and communications channels that bubble those ideas to the surface. In the aggregate, those ideas can have a substantial effect.

But in my almost 50 years as a human resources professional, manager, entrepreneur, and business owner, I have observed that most significant innovation comes from a tiny percentage of employees. I'm talking about the breakthrough ideas that can dramatically change the future prospects of a business.

These super-creatives have brains that operate on information in a different way. They can be at any level, and in any part, of the organization. They can be fresh recruits or veterans. They can surprise you. When you find them, you need to nurture them, and help them connect with others of their kind.

This probably means that these people should frequently be in the office and interacting face to face with others in order to foster synergy, the 2 + 2 = 5 effect. But they also need quiet thinking time, as that is also essential for innovation. Loud conversations from adjoining cubicles, attending pointless meetings, putting up with unwanted interruptions by co-workers, getting roped into office politics --- none of these is conducive to creative thought.

As for other employees, why not give them the option of working at home at least part of the time. Young mothers and those looking out for an aging parent will thank you for the flexibility this provides. So will those with disabilities that make travel difficult. Hours normally spent in commuter traffic jams will be spent on productive work. You'll be contributing to the reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Your office expenses will drop.

A host of technological solutions are now available to satisfy even the most paranoid and insecure supervisor.

These can connect employees working remotely to the company and to each other, monitor their productivity, facilitate collaboration, and encourage social interchange with colleagues. The image of people sitting around in their pajamas, goofing off while collecting a paycheque, is at odds with reality.

In fact, in the 21st century, work can be performed anywhere, and the greater risk is that people will not shut down their laptops, turn off their smartphones, and call it a day.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pride in the job #2

Source: theCHIVE

Friday, March 1, 2013

Signs of the times

• One-third of Americans say a body cavity search to board an airplane would be fine and dandy.

• Two brothers celebrated a $75,000 winning lottery ticket by buying marijuana and meth, then accidentally blew up their house when lighting their bongs. Cautionary tale.

• When a San Francisco-based chain of gyms refused to pay the designer of its website, he replaced it with a message that told the world they had cheated him out of his fee.

• While marriage, and money (to a certain level) lead to happiness, children do not, according to Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor of psychology and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness. He said, “The only symptom of empty nest syndrome is nonstop smiling.”

• Tigers are being bred for slaughter on huge farms in China. Meanwhile, China's wild tiger population has plummeted to just a few dozen.

• More content has been uploaded to YouTube from Canada than CTV and CBC have produced in 50 years.