Shaw Festival 2012

Tomorrow night (April 27th, 2012) I'll enjoy a night at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. It is going to be a special night for a couple of reasons. First, It has been nearly half a decade since the last time I got to attend live theatre. Also, it will be the first time that Alie will have a chance to see real live theatre, and in turn the first time we see live theatre together.

Recommending - LED Bug Zapper and Pest Control

I'm going to preface this with a notice that I do understand that some bugs are an essential part of the ecosystem, I also understand that other bugs are evil and carry diseases. In order to go after these 'bad bugs' I've used the standard technologies. Nets and citronella are great avoidance tools. Sticky traps and bug zappers are the real eliminators. This past winter we made the mistake of bringing some of the plants with the local organic soil back into the house. Bugs everywhere, and we didn't fret, after having two litters of kittens and the fleas they attract the sticky traps were deployed and the pest problem is gone.

I'd like to take the indoor solution outside. I'd also like for it to run on less than 30 watts. unfortunately there are no LED based bug zappers. There are LED lights that can go into sticky traps - but the largest bugs pose a problem for the sticky traps. I need a foot long double sided led strip with a sticky semi-transparent tube, and have it protected from the biggest bugs by a zapper tube. This LED Bug eliminator will get rid of large, small, and everything in between. Unfortunately I can only find ineffective solar LED mini zappers, over-powered fluorescent zappers, and unshielded sticky traps.

If anyone can find a complete and certified full power LED zapper please contact me through my contact page.

Recommending - Automated Rain Barrel with Drip Hose for the Garden

Somebody probably has a better name for this but the idea was to combine a rain barrel, drip hose, and battery operated water timer so that no grid power or municipal water would be used on the vegetables.

This system is going to be tested throughout the summer, but I'm convinced that the rain barrel and drip hose are already a success. I was eating toasted tomato sandwiches for a month last year we had such a good harvest. The year prior we did mini pumpkins, and they are the perfect 'meal on the go' if you can grab some butter and find a microwave then you can eeat that mini pumpkin. Mini pumpkins are their own bowl. Back on topic; The timer is the addition that will leave more time for summer fun, allow users to water at night without having to be awake late at night, and control exposure. With enough information I can plan the number of barrels needed against the average rainfall. From there I can shout 'science' and promptly forget everything I've learnt when I do the same experiments on a new garden in a couple years.

I'm awaiting the results, but even if you cannot automate I'd recommend planting some simple vegetables.

Recommending - The Washlet

As a joke I began to eliminate paper from my life shortly after having all of my printer hardware fail in less than a month. More than three years later I've managed to eliminate copy paper, lined paper, tissue paper, and paper places from my home life. One thing that was still sticking around was the toilet paper. I'm not about to skip on hygiene, so there was a real problem, until I discovered the Washlet.

The washlet is essentially a bidet affixed to a standard sitting toilet. Some Japanese models are heated, play music, and wash 'your business', but most of the Korean models are simple ant to the point. So I sent an order out to Bizwin, and I hope that they appreciate my business.

I discovered the idea of a washlet shortly after a fire burnt down the main paper processing facility in Cuba, but it took a couple years for the idea to grow on me. It has and I'd personally recommend it to anyone, although if you have kids, make sure they don't try to use it as a fountain.

These are my three major technological inspirations for the spring of 2012. I'll probably have the next batch of inspiration cooked up in early June.

More Information -

Cleanse Finished

I finished another challenge today, this time it was the "Cleanse Challenge". After hearing about other folks in my office experiencing sickness fatigue and even major liver problems the discussion shifted quickly to how to deal with these problems.

The solution from one point of view was a cleanse, and by that I mean allowing the body to rid itself of contaminants by sticking to good foods and avoiding a list of other ingredients. For one whole week I avoided white sugar, white flour, meat, dairy, caffiene, and alcohol. I was the only one capable of sticking to these guidelines for an entire week. I am not recommending this solution, and here is why.

These rules limit intake, social exposure, and beneficial food and drinks. I missed my green tea on cold days. I missed sandwiches, and soy meat was a poor substitute in any meal. I missed the occasional iced tea. I missed long grain white rice after I added it to the list in good faith. The negatives outweighed the benefits in the short term.

On the plus side I rediscovered my magic bullet and made some banana/soy/ice smoothies. I enjoyed grapefruit, oranges, and apples in a new way. I found satisfaction in almonds. I was more diligent and conscious of my meals. I was a better person, and I knew it wasn't permanent.

Would I do it again? Maybe for a weekend, but it is hard when you do not have the freedom to hunt down the food alternative that satisfies a craving. Because of this hesitation I'm holding back my recommendation.

Health in Niagara

Seems like every year I know a new group of people that missed out on the health tips that most people learn the hard way.

Stay Warm - Even if you get sweaty
Confused about what to wear because of the weather? While I'm in favour of fashion trends that involve layering some people rush to drop a couple layers on what they perceive to be a warmer day or location. Keep them on and buy some deodorant. The long term cost of getting sick is always higher than the short term social cost of perspiration and we've developed a multitude of 100% technologies to combat the human scent. There is no 100% immediate cure for the cold, flu, or a fever. Lock in that mentality and you'll love your next snowball fight.

Eat Well - The right nutrients and liquids matter
Two major mistakes come up often, people with strange diets and people that don't adequately hydrate. Extremes don't work in finance or politics so why would anyone think that it would work in their diet. Fake Celiac anti-carbs people can jeopardize their health by cutting off some of the most nutritious foods from their diet. I know about the dangers of these extremes as a person with minor food allergies. Sometimes when you are craving beef jerky it is because your body and mind are working together to get something you need.

While you'll get some health nuts staring at their urine every day it makes more sense to set a routine and pay attention to the beverages you choose. Your beer and coffee may satisfy you at the time but you're going to need more than that - get a water bottle, join the tea scene or pack some juice. Although I've had some discussions about how some juices like apple juice are more of a food, but then again this is coming from the Bear Grylls fans stare longingly into the toilet again. I'll try not to mention toilets and food together again, but liquids realy are 'easy come, easy go'.

Stay Active - Even if it means taking a risk
I highlighted staying warm, don't use it as an excuse to become a shut-in. I used to think of the Winter as video game season. While it will keep you out of some trouble by staying in the warm areas there are even more problems related to inactivity in this generation. After you eat and suit up go outside. I don't care where you go or what you do, the fist step is always going out. Your Wii Fitness is not social, there is no sunlight and that makes you a SAD* lonely person in the dark.

Some ideas for getting out:

  • Walk to your local Tim Hortons or Comparable low cost restaurant with friends
  • Enjoy some of the trails in your municipality (Canal Trail in Welland, Rail Trail in Pt. Colborne, Hydro or Riverfront Trail in Niagara Falls)- and if your municipality doesn't have a pedestrian trail system then walk to city hall and ask why not.
  • Go to your local library and then sit around there - you're already paying for it.
  • Get a hobby.

I can't tell you what to do, but I'm sure the television and sadness routine you are in isn't working. I'm also not asking for you to become a marathon runner in leg warmers that drinks eight glasses of water a day - I'm not about extremes when it comes to health. Next time you feel a cold coming on start with these three tips immediately and even if you do get sick at least you'll continue enjoying yourself.

Halloween 2011

Seasonal food and decorations are up both online and offline, just in time for Hallowween. I'll be re-adding images to most of the Zen Alliance sites after the Oct 31st to November 5th rush week. It's going to be a real busy week. OWS is calling for savings to be moved out of banks, Anonymous is targeting Facebook, and all kinds of other international events are hitting closer to home. But the really important events are happening at home. Winterizing, sealing and converting more fixtures to LEDs. FIxtures that haven't been used through the summer that will be more important in the dark days of winter. I'm even trying out a new insulating material in parts of the basement to see if we can keep the heating bills down without freezing our faces off.

Winter can be a useful time to tinker around with new technology. Avoiding dreary days in style and comfort.

I'm unclear on if Alie and I will be joining a Halloween Party yet, but I know that her costume is going to be 'magical'. Alie will be celebrating Halloween in a home-made Fairy Mary costume, she is a new character in the Disney Peter Pan Universe was designed to prolong copyright claims and IP rights for Disney. They own the idea of fairies in green suits, calling them 'tinker fairies'. Shiny.

Steam Working on Ubuntu System

It's been a couple years since I tried to get Steam working through Wine on Ubuntu. Steam (the DRM tool) is very useful for people like myself that have abandoned optical drives in favour of solid state memory as it downloads and installs the software. This is very similar to the apt based software packages from Ubuntu and other Debian based operating systems, although it would also be nice if steam had a native Linux client that prepackages additional libraries for Windows or Mac based games (or started compiling Linux native apps).

For the most part everything is working well, my first acquisition was the Fallout: New Vegas software package. This game was very enjoyable whe I had a chance to play it last year - unfortunately my blacklisting of Microsoft or Sony products meant that I couldn't enjoy this software (Steam and F:NV) under my terms. Now things have changed and I will not have to support either of the blacklisted companies.

Now I've got to discover what will go wrong next.

Going RoHS Compliant in Canada to Save Money

I don't like to spend more unless I have to, and the Ontario Eco Fees have been sneaking up on me. Out of principle I refuse to pay the Eco Fee, it is a 'sin' tax. Currently the problem that I have is finding RoHS compliant devices that are appropriately marked in stores. RoHS compliant technology is supposed to be exempt from most well though out environmental price adjustments. This means that the $30 to $50 more for an eco-friendly product is balanced by a $30-$50 Eco Fee on a hazardous product.

Unfortunately most of the devices, like LED TVs, are not RoHS compliant. I contacted a Future Shop in my area to find out if they had any RoHS compliant LED TVs, not only were they confused about the question but they dismissed any possibility of an exemption on the Eco Fee on TVs at their stores.

My LED Lights around the house are RoHS compliant. The new server is mostly RoHS compliant with some exceptions, specifically the server was compliant but the SSD that went in wasn't certified, plastic casing. My phone is RoHS compliant.

RoHS compliance snuck up on me - most of these products I originally chose for their low power consumption and competitive prices. I like to calculate TCO (total cost of ownership) on everything. While some people have questioned the durability of biodegradable plastics in RoHS compliant products I'm finding that more of the products are made of aluminum, glass, bamboo, and other materials generally considered to be tough stuff. Not 40 years of use tough but enough that recycling is a worthwhile option at the end of its use cycle. (Recycling is good, we can make 5 refrigeration boxes with better thermal insulation for the same mass of steel from a 1960s model, but that is a rant for another day)

I'm going to be selling off some of my used equipment over the next couple of months. This is a major clear out to meet three targets - the Two (2) Kilowatt by 2/2/2012 Goal, The 100 Things Challenge, and now the RoHS compliance rundown. The hazardous materials are already in the existing equipment being phased out by 2K2012 and 100 Things. This includes my old Dell systems from Niagara College, Two old Samsung SyncMaster 753DF Monitors, and random smaller devices.

Google Places - Support Issues

Every now and then I use the blog to rant about a completely unsatisfying experience - this is one of those occasions. Google Places is usually a great resource for businesses. Most of the businesses that I work with have no major issues, there is one that it all went wrong with. This case that highlights the hands off policy that Google has with most of their services.

The business was a multi-million dollar acquisition that included a name change - same location, same business type, with a new website and new name. Easy solution, change the two variables. Turns out it wouldn't be that easy. Instead there are two listings both with the same new name. One is linked to two other similar businesses (incorrectly) users are getting bad information. The other while completely accurate cannot be verified by Google the usual way (by Phone) because of the duplicate listings. Despite trying to open a dialog to merge, verify or assist us Google continues to remain hands off.

On top of that for the better part of a month there has been a disconnect between the website both profiles use and the site in search listings that constantly put the business on Page 2 of Google search listings. This put small mom and pop businesses on page two while a major employer and venue went unseen by the majority of search users (Page two is apparently a problem that can cost tens of thousands of dollars a month for a business that size). Luckily advertising exposure kept the business on the first page sidebar, although it is pretty sick business to be paying out thousands of dollars to Google when they can't even open a dialog with their customers that also use their public services.

All of those problems were for one business while dealing with Google Places. Add that onto the month-long Analytics nightmare at the beginning of 2011 and I'd almost be willing to pay a marginal monthly fee to Google - for support or at least as a justification to get litigious about public services (remember Places isn't really free, its paid for by advertisers and offered to the public. Although I don't remember seeing advertisements on my analytics pages).

No worries. Google may be slow but they usually respond sooner or later. This time the * didn't work because Places (a division of maps) does not accept email through any longer. Call centres don't work that well either when you need a real administrator to solve a real problem.


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