Contents tagged with Other

  • Do We Indeed Have a Future? George Takei on Star Wars.

    George Takei (rhymes with Okay), probably best known for playing Hikaru Sulu on the original Star Trek, has always had deep concerns for the present and the future. Whether on Earth or among the stars, he has the welfare of humanity very much at heart.

    I was digging through my old copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland, a great publication on monster and films that I grew up with, and came across this. This was his reaction to STAR WARS from issue 139 of Famous Monsters of Filmland and was written June 6, 1977. It is reprinted here without permission but I hope since the message is still valid to this day and has never been reprinted anywhere, nobody will mind me sharing it.

    STAR WARS is the most pre-posterously diverting galactic escape and at the same time the most hideously credible portent of the future yet.

    While I thrilled to the exploits that reminded me of the heroics of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, Burt Lancaster as the Crimson Pirate and Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, I was at the same time aghast at the phantasmagoric violence technology can place at our disposal. STAR WARS raised in my mind the question - do we indeed have a future?

    It seems to me what George Lucas has done is to masterfully guide us on a journey through space and time and bring us back face to face with today's reality. STAR WARS is more than science fiction, I think it is science fictitious reality.

    Just yesterday, June 7, 1977, I read that the United States will embark on the production of a neutron bomb - a bomb that will kill people on a gigantic scale but will not destroy buildings. A few days before that, I read that the Pentagon is fearful that the Soviets may have developed a warhead that could neutralize ours that have a capacity for that irrational concept overkill to the nth power. Already, it seems we have the technology to realize the awesome special effects simulations that we saw in the film.

    The political scene of STAR WARS is that of government by force and power, of revolutions based on some unfathomable grievance, survival through a combination of cunning and luck and success by the harnessing of technology -  a picture not very much at variance from the political headlines that we read today.

    And most of all, look at the people; both the heroes in the film and the reaction of the audience. First, the heroes; Luke Skywalker is a pretty but easily led youth. Without any real philosophy to guide him, he easily falls under the influence of a mystical old man believed previously to be an eccentric hermit. Recognize a 1960's hippie or a 1970's moonie? Han Solo has a philosophy coupled with courage and skill. His philosophy is money. His proficiency comes for a price - the highest. Solo is a thoroughly avaricious mercenary. And the Princess, a decisive, strong, self-confident and chilly woman. The audience cheered when she wielded a gun. In all three, I missed qualities that could be called humane - love, kindness, yes, I missed sensuality. I also missed a sense of ideals and faith. In this regard the machines seemed more human. They demonstrated real affection for each other and an occasional poutiness. They exhibited a sense of fidelity and constancy. The machines were humanized and the humans conversely seemed mechanical.

    As a member of the audience, I was swept up by the sheer romantic escapsim of it all. The deering-dos, the rope swing escape across the pit, the ray gun battles and especially the swash buckle with the ray swords. Great fun!

    But I just hope that we weren't too intoxicated by the escapism to be able to focus on the recognizable. I hope the beauty of the effects didn't narcotize our sensitivity to violence. I hope the people see through the fantastically well done futuristic mirrors to the disquieting reflection of our own society. I hope they enjoy STAR WARS without being "purely entertained".

  • Signing Time and Vista

    Scott recently posted an update (his third or fourth on the subject, I've lost count now) on using the Signing Time DVD series to help babies learn to grow. I just wanted to send out a nod to Rachel Coleman and her company, Signing Time, as well. Since Vista was a few months old we've turned her onto Signing Time and she's grown to have a signing vocabulary of over 60 signs in the past year.

    Is Vista hard of hearing? Not in the least. In fact she's overly sensitive to sounds and has the hearing equivalent of better than perfect vision.

    When Vista was about 6 months old we got turned onto the Signing Time DVDs (by picking up a copy of Baby Signing Time). Until that point, Vista really didn't watch much TV (she still doesn't) and wasn't too interested in TreeHouse (the local kids learning channel). When we sat down and watched Baby Signing Time with her the first time, she was glued to the set. I don't know what it was about it, but she was totally into it. Now grant you, being fixated with a television show isn't the greatest thing to start your kids off with but we felt it was a learning tool and stuck it out to see what would happen.

    Eventually she started showing signs of, well, signing. Her first "word" was milk. She started telling us when she wanted a bottle (or agreeing with us when we told her she needed one). It took time but at one point there was a literal explosion of signs. Within the span of days sometime after being exposed to the DVDs, she signed Dad, Sleep, and Baby. Other signs came along over time. Here was a child not even 1 year old and we were communicating and interacting with her. She could tell us when she was hungry, when she needed her diaper changed, and when she was tired and ready for bed. When our dogs bark, she started signing the sign for dog. It was literally incredible to watch this and experience it.

    Vista is almost two now and the last time we went through and checked, she was signing up around 60 signs. I suspect that's grown as she keeps adding new ones. We find it amazing to discover new signs with her and frankly, sometimes she signs something that we look up and discover "Oh, I didn't know you knew that" (like Bear, which to this day I still don't know where she picked it up from). Vista is talking these days and will sometimes mix talking with signing, but that's okay since we understand her. Like I said, her hearing is superb. She's been slow to develop some skills (like motor skills and speech) so a few months she was tested for hearing. It turned out stellar and her hearing is better than average (which accounts to her sensitivity to loud sounds that scare her).

    It doesn't matter if you child is hard of hearing or has some other disability (I hate that word as I don't consider it that, but can't think of a better term right now). Signing really helps kids communicate with parents faster. I don't know what frustrations we would have gone through if we had to wait until she was 1 1/2 or 2 years old before we could have a conversation with her. However learning it does take time, practice, and patience. It did explode for us and Vista was signing all kinds of things for a few weeks there but it took a long time (I think months) to get there. So be patient with them and don't just plop them in front of the TV and walk away. Interact, talk, encourage, and reward them. Eventually you'll hit paydirt and the jackpot will come in as they tell you what they want or how they feel, rather than crying or screaming at you.

    I think the way Rachel presents the topic really hits home. This might be in part due to the fact that she created the Signing Time series to sign with her daughter Leah who is deaf. Rachel presents the sign, there's usually a graphic of it (sometimes an animation) and the word is spelled out on-screen. To support the sign there's sometimes a song (or at least music) to accompany it then short videos of real kids doing the sign. To me, this is probably the single selling factor that got Vista hooked. She just loves looking at babies (I think all babies do, don't they?) so seeing other kids actually performing the signs and the act associated with it (eating a cookie, drinking milk, having a bath, etc.) makes it that much more real. The association is what makes it real and grounded IMHO. We did try some other DVDs but they fell flat on their face with stale and lifeless content. Signing Time always keeps Vista's attention as she can relate to what's going on and reacts to it.

    In any case, if you have a small child under 2 and you're interested I highly recommend Signing Time. Grab a copy of the Baby Signing Time kit to see if they like it and give it a whirl. It's a small investment for a big return. Like Scott, I am not affiliated with Signing Time but think Rachel and co. are in a word incredible.

    Apologies for the non-technical interruption. We now return you to your normally geeky life.

  • This is what happens when you let kernel geeks design the UI

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    Stumbled across “Tiny Footprint” mode of the Task Manager today while I’m tracking down a nasty hijacker Smitfraud-C malware bot on my Jenn’s machine.

    Thought for a minute I was in a different program or OS or something wrong was going on. Turns out if you double-click on the area outside the tabs on Task Manager it throws a hissy fit and jumps into what Microsoft dubs “Tiny Footprint” mode.

    I don’t know what disturbs me more, the fact that this “mode” exists and is not very known, or that they have a KB article on it in case users “accidentally” get themselves into it.

  • National Do Not Call List for Canada, well... not really

    Today they launch the National Do Not Call list in Canada, a bill that was passed 3 years ago but it's taken this long to build the service (guess they don't practice Agile in their software delivery process). From the looks of the service you might be jumping for joy thinking all those annoying calls at dinner time will stop. Think again.

    I went to register my number with the National Do Not Call list but I’m pretty skeptical that it’s of any value. There are a whack of exclusions:

    • Any registered charities can call you
    • Anyone you’ve done business with in the past 18 months
    • Anyone you’ve made an inquiry to in the past 6 months
    • Political parties
    • Public surveys
    • Newspapers for the purpose of subscriptions

    Hmmm. Doesn't leave much left does it? 

    In addition, apparently it costs money for the telemarketers to subscribe to the list. It’s not clear that if they don’t subscribe to the list they can/cannot call you. All it says in the rules are that “Telemarketers and Clients of Telemarketers must subscribe to the National DNCL and pay any applicable application fees”. 

    I suppose it will reduce the number of “cold call” telemarketers that will call you, but I’m suspicious that it’ll really reduce much. Looking at the exclusion list, basically there’s very few organizations that will fit into the non-exclusion list and are open to interrupt your dinner time (or quality Halo 3 time).

    For the most part, I get called by my own bank and credit card companies (offering me extra insurance or whatever the flavor of the day is). According to the rules since I do business with them, unless I tell them to put me on their internal DNC list, they’ll still continue to call me with their offers I can’t be bothered with. That’s if they even have an internal DNC list and there’s no legislation that requires them to. 

    Some people are welcoming the list, I just have doubts that it'll do much good. I agree that it's a good thing but there are too many restrictions, rules, and loopholes to make it really value-add to the consumer. True, you get off those cold-call lists from unknown telemarketers but in my experience I get more calls from business that I work with (banks, etc.) than unknown telemarketers and they're excluded (as is newspaper/magazine subscription calls which I get a lot of those too).

    BTW, I tried to register my number but it took me to a page that simply said:

    The service is not available. Please try again later.

    I guess they didn’t figure anyone would actually use it or maybe the webserver just fell over and nobody cares.

    Brilliant.

  • Off the grid

    I’m taking a bit of some downtime in the British Columbia for the next week so no blog or project updates. I’ll be on email/twitter/facebook intermittently via my CrackBerry (wherever there’s reception) otherwise I’ll be back sometime next week with new and exciting adventures in the digital land.

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  • The ME Conference

    I found it rather funny (thanks Jenn!) having a conference named after me. Well, not exactly named after me, but when you're basically the only guy on the planet who spells his name "BIL" you have to laugh when you see this.

    Who am I?

    Best of all is the description of What is BIL? (something I always ponder myself each morning as I head into work).

    "BIL is to TED, what BarCamp is to FooCamp".

    We should probably break down and tell TED this at some point.

  • I love Sony, I hate Sony

    image You know. It's a love/hate thing. This Christmas the family decided we would get each other consoles. Hey, what's a house with 3 XBox 360s without some more console love? So I would buy the PS3 (and a couple of choice games) for Jenn, she would get me a Wii (plus the proverbial look-like-an-idiot games). I came through on my end, but unfortunately there is no Wii anywhere in Calgary. Anyways, so change of plan and we've bought the PS3 as our "family" present and we'll just fill each others stockings and whatnot with other goodies.

    Now here's the kicker (and where my <rant/> begins). I own a Harmony 880. Best damn remote on the planet (well, at the time, the 1000 kicks it's butt). Controls everything. If I want to watch TV, it shuts other devices off; turns on the TV; selects the correct input; and turns on the digital receiver. Switch over to the 360 and it shuts down the digital receiver; turns on the 360; and changes the input on the TV to HDMI. Brilliant.

    Then I tried to get it to work with the newly acquired PS3. That was a farce. Guess what Sony decided to do with their console (and I'm only finding this out now). It's a proprietary Bluetooth device (okay, not sure about the "proprietary" part or if it's standard Bluetooth). No Harmony remote (mine or anything else on the market) handles Bluetooth. I mean, why would they? That's a silly technology to support. Everything (and I do mean everything) is IR these days.

    Sheesh. So basically my "universal" remote handles everything in the house except that crazy Sony device. There are some crazy hacks like buying a USB->IR thingy which requires the Sony remote so I would probably end up dropping another $200 bucks or something on top of the $400 I paid for the remote in the first place. Not something I'm going to entertain so I guess it's get off my lazy butt and walk across the room to turn the freakin' console on. Sigh.

    Thanks Sony.

  • Geek Toys: Digital Camera Wi-Fi!

    This is totally cool. An SD card with a built-in Wi-Fi adapter for uploading your pics to Flickr, Facebook, and other sites.

    About a month ago John Bristowe showed me some Nikon camera that had Wi-Fi capabilities so you could upload your pics directly from the camera to Flickr. I thought it was cool so if I was say at Party with Palermo, I could snap some pics and upload them live. Pretty slick. However it meant buying a new camera which wasn't cool since I just dropped $800 on a new digital Nikon. Also the camera really didn't take great pictures so that was a bit of an issue, but the concept was what I wanted.

    Now this comes into my inbox. I just ordered one so I'll let you know how it works when I get it. If you have a SD card camera and are looking for a way to get your pics uploaded without the need for your laptop, this is the way to go. The card is just an SD card and comes with 2GB of storage, which is decent. Then after you set it up, you just snap your pics and the SD card will upload your pics to the site you configure it to when your camera is in contact with the wireless network. Slick!

    You can check out the webpage here.

  • 42

    The answer to life, the universe, and everything.

    Also the number you'll get if you cut me open today and count the rings.

  • Kyle, Justice and Me

    The race is on. Ever go out and ego-surf? It's the art of finding yourself on the Internet. Either blog posts or websites you author, people talking about you, or the amazing coinky dink that you are the same person as someone else. Just a mind-numbing experiement for those that have no life.

    The score so far:

    • "Bil Simser" - Web hits: 45,000 Blog search: 407
    • "Kyle Baley" - Web hits: 682 Blog search: 6
    • "Justice Gray" - Web hits: 95,400 Blog search: 412

    I need to cut down on coffee on Tuesday mornings.