Hallowed Hallowe’en

30 October 2010

I’ll start by mentioning that I am biased on this subject.  Normally I try and present an unbiased ponder to get people thinking whether they agree or disagree with me – that’s the point of this site.  I am quite open about the fact that Halloween is my favourite holiday (even if spell checkers won’t let me spell it properly).

Thankfully, this year I did not have to endure hearing people try to tell me that it is a holiday that worships the Devil.  It amazes me how people can say these things without thinking fondly of their big buckles and life in Salem, Massachusetts.  I should be glad that they took a break from burning witches to peek into life past the 18th century.  History and the fact that Halloween is an acknowledged Christian holiday aside, why wouldn’t they think that the Devil made us do it?

Anyway, some people don’t like the holiday for their own reasons.  I totally understand that as Christmas is one of my least favourite times of the year.  One of these non-Halloweeners asked me what I like about it after rhyming off their disdain of expenses, greed, and obligations (the same reasons I don’t care for Christmas actually).  I had to admit that the commercialization of any holiday does leave a bad taste, but one has to dig further than that.

Halloween to me is many things.  My memories of trying to think up a costume that both looked great and could fit over a parka are great reflections of ingenuity and creativity.  Going out with my friends for a ridiculous walk around town that we would never otherwise do was both fun and great exercise.  I also still remember the lessons of moderation when it came to the candy.  It was also a great way to get out in the community and participate instead of sheltering ourselves through self imposed exile. I still love the telling of spooky stories at this time of year.  Most stories are more gross than spooky, so it’s back to the classics for me.

However, more than anything, the thing I love about Halloween is that science and scepticism can just bugger off for one day.  For one day we can believe that anything is possible.  El Dia de los Muertos is a variant of Halloween is practiced in some parts of the world where it is believed that the dead can come and have a last few moments with their loved ones.  Traditionally, “Different” people could venture out and mingle with those that might not otherwise acknowledge their presence thanks to a clever disguise.  Not to mention the fact that everyone is permitted to explore that hidden little part of their personality with impunity.  I find it hard to imagine a way that Halloween isn’t good providing the commercialism can be ignored too.

So I wish you all a good Halloween and don’t eat all the chocolate at once.

What’s up with Apple?

26 October 2010

This week Apple had their “Back to the Mac” event. There was an update to iLife, new MacBook Air, and announcement about the next OSX version, Lion. Generally speaking, it was full of exciting announcements.

I’m not a MacBook Air fan because I see them as a dramatically overpriced Apple netbook. This generation is more realistic than previous, but I think anything over $800 would make anyone on a budget forget about the Air and upgrade to a MacBook Pro. Recognizing my bias, I’ll leave any reviews to more impartial people.

Then Steve Jobs talked about blending OSX Lion and iOS4. This is where the happy times ended for my friends and I. We saw the simplifying of an operating system and the first steps in closing of a platform. Onto itself, this is not entirely bad; I am not of the “Openness” religion. There are many times when computers can and should be focused towards a specific task.

Then was the announcement of the Mac App Store. This is bound to make Apple a lot of money and everyone will want it. That is until it is the only practical option for getting software. Although Steve Jobs said that they are not going to close the system at this point, it appears to be Apple’s trend and will be supported by small developers.  As it becomes harder for developers of products that compete with Apple’s to make their software available, the doorway for alternatives and choice could close on the Apple platform.  It was enough for friends of mine to considering selling all of their Mac products and my reconsidering buying my first MacBook Pro.

If everybody will love these changes, then how could there possibly be a problem? The concern lies in the 90 – 90 rule where a company focuses on what 90% of the people do 90% of the time. This makes sense for business and customers alike. Where this could be a problem is when the other 10% of the people can’t do what they need to because the flow of “typical” users has blocked access. This is not just a problem in the computer world; an extreme example in the real world is when an ambulance can’t get to an accident scene because traffic won’t give way that small percent of the time. Apple’s announcement seemed to be calling full speed ahead in this direction, and the power users started checking out the life rafts that they are sure to need.

Could this be just paranoid conspiracy theories put against the words of Steve Jobs? Sure it can, and everything may work out just fine. However, Apple seems to be focusing all of its attention on building devices that do specific things well and leaving behind the concept of building an “anything you want to do” machine. As history proves time and again, what we want is unlikely to be what is best for us.

Goin’ App Mad With iPod Touch

9 October 2010

I have been tempted by the iPhone for some time now. In spite of being a happy BlackBerry customer for years, I felt I was missing out on the app trend. BlackBerry does have apps, but it just isn’t the same. Most BlackBerry apps are either really expensive or only amusing to those with little appreciation for recreation. I’m not talking about fart or pimple popping apps either, the world would be just fine without those.

I was recently challenged to crawl through App World and have a look at all the apps now available for BlackBerry, and I took up the challenge. I did equal searches for free apps on App World and iTunes resulting in 9 BlackBerry apps and 5 that were not available for my device/carrier to 24 iPhone apps. The clear winner was iTunes with more educational and general interest apps available for free.

I was more tempted than ever to turn my back on my trusty 9700 that is great in every way except having an inferior keyboard than the 8700 (I seem to be a keyboard snob …). The problem was that I wasn’t willing to give up 3 days of battery life, superior security, and data compression. Then the announcement about the iPod Touch came out and I had my solution.

I’ve had my Touch now for about a week and have installed about 50 apps and quickly rejecting about a dozen of them. I honestly have not even listened to a song on the touch yet, nor do I have any immediate plans to. I have gone app mad on this little unit that reviewers like Andy Ihnatko call the “iPad Nano”.

When sitting down to write my ideas down, I came back to my thoughts on the BlackBerry apps. It is true that the most useful apps were available for all the smart phones including BlackBerry. It is also true that RIM is going to great lengths to attract app developers to their platform. Finally, I have to admit that I’m not sure that I really want all these silly apps on a device as important as my phone.

For me now, I like the idea of keeping the phone as a secure and useful tool and having a separate tool for my apps. I also like my BlackBerry service and reliability in spite of my carrier’s insistence in sending me crap app offers.

I do think the Touch is a little small and the iPad is a little large; maybe if someone would come out with a 7″ tablet with wifi and Bluetooth that could possibly tether off the BlackBerry when necessary…

25 Years of Tornados

31 May 2010

Friday, May 31, 1985, I was walking my paper route in Elora, Ontario.  Everything seemed as normal as it could be, until it wasn’t.  The air changed in a way that cannot be put into words, but it made my skin tingle as if someone were watching me with malicious intent.  In a moment, the sky changed colour and the world around me visibly darkened.  My nerves heightened and I swear I could feel the air become charged with a horrible energy.  It was a scene many film makers have tried to recreate.

Then all Hell broke loose, or should I say hail.  Starting with a rain drop, the moisture fell from the sky bigger, colder, and harder than the one before.  Within a few confused steps, my discouragement of rain turned into complete fear of pelting hail.  I desperately looked about to try and find some solace from the chunks of ice that spewed forth from the heavens.

I was on good terms with all of my customers and know any of them would have given me shelter, if any of them were home from work.  Lifting my paper bag over my head, I ran for a nearby car port marvelling at how badly marble sized hail hurt as it hurled from the sky towards my body.  I reached the car port and was seriously considering crawling under the RV that was parked there when an even worse feeling came over me.  I slowly turned around to look at the street behind me.  The horrible storm had stopped just as it had started, without warning.

Later on that evening, we got a call that one of my Mom’s best friends wasn’t nearly as lucky as I.  We were to go the next day and help her get whatever she could from her house in Grand Valley that was smashed by the tornado cell that went up their street.  I saw things there that cannot be explained other than to say that the forces of nature are never to be underestimated.  We didn’t take any photos, we didn’t need to.

Another cell from that storm touched down in Barrie, Ontario.  This one was a killer.  Until the tornado reached the Barrie shopping mall, the storm had only caused fear and loss of property.  In Barrie it took headlines, and lives.

The tragedy of the storm solidified it in so many of our memories, especially my young mind.  The buildings were rebuilt, life moved on, but few who were there forgot.  In spite of being on the skirts of 2 more tornados in my life, this is the one I will never forget.  Here’s to its silver anniversary!

What Happened?

28 May 2010

Hello Everyone,

Back to my overly neglected blog again.  Some of my ones of viewers may notice that things have changed a lot a bit.  Specifically, all of my blog posts are gone, the format has changed, and it looks more like English.  Well, that’s because things got a little corrupted along the way (and possibly hacked?).  I’ve deleted the old install and made another in it’s place in the hopes of actually getting something going again.

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