"Do you know what you're doing?"

"My dear chap, I can't wait to find out."

Exchange between the Brigadier and the Doctor, in "The Daemons"

Image nabbed from here.




Rock, Paper, Scissors

Over the Christmas holidays, we were playing rock, paper, scissors with Jason and having a pretty good time.

At some point Jason decided to up the ante and make it Rock, Paper, Scissors - Gun, with Gun beating everything.

Image nabbed from here.



Buddha's Hand

While shopping today, I saw this delightfully exotic looking fruit, with the delightfully exotic name of Buddha's Hand.

Even thought it was $7.99 (Canadian), I still bought it.

After researching it on the internet, I realize that I have bought a rather large and expensive lemon rind. Apparently, Buddha's Hand is a citrus fruit with almost no pulp or juice primarily used for its zest.

It is still definitely worth a look.

Photo credits: Richard of Forbidden Planet

Labels: , ,



Sixty-Three Years and Four Days

My mother died today at 01:10 Eastern Standard Time.

She died in her home, with my sister present at the time of death.

She was a good mother and wife and person all round and we will all miss her.

Her name was Helena.

The picture was taken 3-1/2 years ago and features my mom and her two grandchildren.

Photo credit: Richard of Forbidden Planet

[Updated 28-January-2007 to add photo credit.]


Who are you?

A while back I listened to a talk given by Albert Koopman and he said, "Who are you? If you do not know who you are then you become what you do."

Earlier I had heard Dr. Alan Weiss saying that the people who describe themselves by the function they perform (I am an accountant. I am a programmer. I am a librarian. etc.) are most devastated by being laid off because they have lost their identity.

Who are you? Are you what you do or do you do what you do because of who you are?



Sixty Three

Today my mother is 63 years old. Since today is a weekday, we visited her yesterday (my parents live about midway between Ottawa and Montreal, near Cornwall, Ontario).

Unfortunately, she is not really doing terribly well. She is extremely weak, barely eats and has lost a fair bit of weight these past two weeks. She has run a fever of about 39C (102F) for the past two weeks and there is nothing to relieve it.

For the first time in the two years since she was diagnosed with cancer, she looked to me like she was dying. A person’s life can be in danger because of external threat, or the need for constant vigilance until strength returns. But this time there is no danger she can run away from or simply rest and wait until she gets stronger - her body is losing to the cancer.

Sitting with her, observing her, I could not help but feel she is close to death - despite being remarkably strong and active during the Christmas / New Year season. We saw her two weeks ago, just before she fell ill, and she looked very well.

Of course, this might all have to do with cliched ideas and imagery we often see in movies. I have little real experience with death and dying.

She lies quiet and still on the bed, sometimes emitting a weak dry cough. Her hearing is diminished and I have to speak more loudly than I did two weeks ago.. Her voice is weak and her words come slowly and she has difficulty concentrating - she even said, "Gosh, it is so hard to think." She is not on any medication and doesn't feel any pain, not even on some pretty nasty bruises she sustained from two fainting / collapsing incidents she had earlier. She could barely hold the birthday card the kids gave to her, and her hand shook so much that I had to hold it so she could read it. She wanted to sit up, and I had to hold her up because she didn’t have the strength to do so herself.

She is in definitely worse shape than I expected. I hoped seeing the kids would spur her to eat a little bit more (although she has some pretty wicked sores in her mouth and on her tongue).

She eat a little of the cake we brought (a strawberry flan) - if two small nibbles count as eating.

I told her to eat, so she can have strength, because the less she eats the weaker she will grow.

Prayers are welcome.



What Art Movement Am I?

You Are Romanticism

You are likely to see the world as it should be, not as it is.
You prefer to celebrate the great things people do... not the horrors they're capable of.
For you, there is nothing more inspiring than a great hero.
You believe that great art reflects the artist's imagination and true ideals.
What Art Movement Are You?



"Men do not care how nobly they live..."

"Men do not care how nobly they live, but only how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man's power to live long." - Seneca





I submitted an application to register a trademark with the Canadian Government today. It was painless and quickly done over the Internet. The total time was less than 15 minutes.

I then submitted the application to the US Patent and Trademark Office. This took about 45 minutes - and I am not sure I did it correctly. It also cost more than double the Canadian application. One thing I did not like was that to finish a rather long section you had to press a button labeled "Exit" - it was not clear that this would lead you forward in the application process (since all the pages leading up to this had a button labeled "Continue"). After much brow furrowing, I decided that the only way off out was to "exit".

A principle difference between the two applications processes is that for the Canadian application, I simply describe in words what wares and services the trademark applies to. So it was a simple, open ended sentence for each. For the US application, you have to select from a list of topics (you enter a keyword or two and get one or more pages of topics). For example, if you type in "seminar", you will get a bunch of seminar / education related topics including such things as "seminars on oncology". Sometimes the topics are a bit more general, but require you to fill in the blanks (such as, "Training in the subject of [FILL IN THE BLANK]").

I hope I will do something with this (assuming I get them) instead of it just being another thing I spend money on, but don't use (like a whole bunch of domain names - not entirely true, I do use my personal domain for certain e-mail correspondence).

I may choose to file in other countries as well - let's see how this goes first, though.

Just looked at the confirmation e-mail from the USPTO and it includes these words:

In approximately 5-6 months, your application will be assigned to an examining attorney; ... The overall process, from the time of initial filing to final registration, can take 13-18 months, and even longer ...

So I guess this is not one of those "stay tuned to this channel for all the latest news and updates" types of posts.

Hmmm ... wondering where my confirmation from the Canadian Government is?

[updated @20:07 to include this little tid-bit from the USPTO]



Patient Transport Vehicle

It looked like an ambulance as I passed it on the highway, but clearly written on it was Patient Transport Vehicle.

Image nabbed from here.



On the other side of the world

While here in Ottawa and Montreal we are having a fairly mild Winter - indeed, news reports are saying that 2006 was the warmest Winter on record in North America - this is not universally true.

I wrote my friend in Hong Kong and asked if her Winter has been as nice and mild as ours. She replied, "nono..it is freezing here, so cold! i have to put on long coat and a lot of hot stuff to keep me warm!"

I know that fellow bloggers Renny (Norway) and Matt (Sweden. sniff, his blog is gone) are having a milder Winter.

I am curious, is this Winter or Summer season (depending on your part of the world) warmer or cooler than usual? Or is it pretty much normal. (Yes, this is an active solicitation question, please don't be shy. Don’t forget to include the part of the world you are from and what season you are in).

When I grew up in England in the late 60s, I don’t recall snow (my first recollection of snow was the snowstorm of the century that occurred in Montreal in March, 1971, shortly after we emigrated to Canada. It was fantastic! I have waited for such snow ever since). My parents tell me that Winters were very mild in England; it would snow in the morning and by noon it was all gone. People then went out and tended their roses and had tea in their gardens in the afternoon. I know this all changed in the late 70s (for a lot of Europe) when they started getting huge snowstorms and bitterly cold weather.



He said, she said, but nobody ever asks.

I have devoured a number of books on writing over the past few months (my personal pick is "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman – it gives you everything you need to know in under 200 pages) and they all say the same thing about dialogue (or speaker) tags - use the simple said instead of a more colourful verb or adverb-verb combination.

The reason is that you don't want the tag detracting from the dialogue. Alternatively, the dialogue belongs to the characters and the reader and does not require the author being obtrusive with a hollered, bellowed, screeched, whispered, or panted line of dialogue.

I think a little hint in the way of dialogue can't hurt, but ok, I'll accept that the use of said is less invasive and allows the reader to remain in the story. Except ... when it obviously should be something other than said.

When I read to the kids, I find it extremely annoying to read something like: "Are you all right?" he said.

Why are authors afraid to use asked?

The most recent irritant I read was "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Nearly every question is said not asked.

"Where is mister Tumnus?” said Lucy.

"Who is Aslan?” said Peter.

"What are you?" she said.

Just a few weeks earlier I had been cursing a Pokemon book I was reading to JJ for exactly the same thing - questions said not asked (that and the fact the story didn't exactly flow from the tongue). I was wondering if an editor had even bothered to look over the book.

You can find some examples of dialogue tag abuse here here

Also came across a blog called The Rejecter which is ostensibly written by someone who works as an assistant at a literary agency weeding out those 95% of manuscripts that just aren't meant to see the light of day.



"Look! It's the first day of Spring!"

cried out Jason this morning as he looked outside at the bright sunny day, the green grass and the total absence of snow.

All that snow from a few weeks ago is gone.

I am pretty sure this is going to go down as the warmest winter (in thses parts anyway).

[Updated at 17:21, 08-January-2007 to fix broken link. Thanks Renny.]



Ubiquitous power generation

Back in 2002, I was looking for niche ideas that would break me out of working (and hopefully make me independent).

One of the ideas I hit upon (though have not researched in any great detail) is ubiquitous power generation. People (well, politicians and organizations with vested interest) always talk about huge energy producing projects (whether hydro, wind, nuclear, or some sort of fired plant), they never really talk about conservation and reducing the energy footprint (except after that power outage we had in 2003). However, it seems to me, that no one ever focuses on generating power during our everyday activities. Granted, it is not as sexy to generate 5mW of power as it is to have a 25MW nuclear reactor, but enough small (let's call them nano-generators) could be useful for generating power.

The first thing I thought of was doors (actually revolving doors, but regular swinging doors would work just as well). The doors are stiff because there is a damper installed (which takes the energy imparted to the door and turns it into waste heat). What if this damper was a little generator instead? A generator would convert the energy of moving the door into electricity. The process of generating electricity would provide the resistance you need to dampen the doors motion. This would also work with push open doors, the damper would again be replaced with a generator.

Another idea I had was to underlay floors with piezo electric elements. They could be manufactured in the form of mats and layered if need be (they don't have to be very thick). They also don't require a lot of deformation (less than 0.1%) in order to generate electricity. Piezo electric crystals are used in electronic lighters - a hammer hits a crystal, it generates a potential of several thousand volts, this sparks across a small gap, lighting the butane or propane.

I have no idea how much power you could get out of a piezo electric mat, since nobody seems to think of piezo electric crystals are power source, more as curiosities with narrow niches.

Image the floor of your local mall covered with these types of mats, as thousands of people walk, stand, shift move, electricity would be generated. As long as there is some movement to deform the piezo element, electricity will be generated; just standing and swaying of moving a little would be sufficient.

I am sure somebody has already thought of this (but I haven’t checked patents).

I think it is a more viable alternative than solar power because this type of power generation integrates into our daily life. We do not set power generation apart from our life, it becomes part of and a consequence of our life. Instead of wasting the energy we generate while moving about, we harness it.

Do we need to install huge wind farms? I don’t think so, imagine covering building with piezo elements or mats, just the normal sway of the building in winds would be sufficient to generate electricity. The vibrations of people walking through the building of cars and trucks driving by would generate electricity.

Imagine if the structures of buildings had piezo electric elements installed in them, every movement, twitch, sway would generate some electricity.

That was my idea. So far it has only remained an idea and I have never investigated it beyond the concept.



Toot Sweets

Unfortunately, it gets a little out of sync.



Happy Birthday

Sofia celebrates yet another indeterminate birthday today. Unfortunately, I am in Ottawa (because I have to work), however, we agreed to postponse the celebration until Saturday.

There are things I'd like to say
to you my love on your special day:

I am forever thankful God sent you my way.

Like a gift from up above,
you showed me how it is to feel real love.

I know many mountains we've had to climb
and sometimes forever has seemed like a very long time.

Yes, we've endured our share of pain,
but together we have so much to gain.

Bigger mountains may lie ahead,
but together there is no hill we can not tread.

So always remember my love for you,
and there is nothing together we can not do.

I'll be here forever - my love is true.
The person beside me, that would be you.

Poem was nabbed from here.

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