Success Town Welland

'Success Town?', Yes. The destination of the Fail Train may not be everyones utopia, but if it is just a bit closer to your perfect world call it a success. I had hoped that Welland could get a couple of my out of town favourites including a Sushi/Sashimi Restaurant, Bubble Tea, and Free Public Internet. They all came and I though 'closer to perfect. The Sushi was too expensive for the rest of Welland. The Bubble Tea (Seaway Mall) comes without 'the bubbles'. The Free Public WiFi is too slow and never got the user login system running (to increase speeds). Problem? No.

People saw that we could do more than Pizza and Coffee in the city. When more people are ready to dive into an idea things will be better. With All You Can Eat Sushi - to make the cost worthwhile. With better internet services. And would somebody please get the shop at the seaway mall to take down the 'Bubble Tea' sign if they don't have that product - it's been nearly a year now. Admitting failure is not a problem - it lets someone else try instead.

This year the Welland wishlist includes:
Public MESH WiFi, Sunday Bus Transit, Free Transit Days (During Festivals), AYCE Sushi, Bubble Tea, Stop sign at the corner of Welland Street and Empire Street, Downtown Hot Dog vendor (Summer/Fall), Solar Power on City Hall and Museum and Each Factory (at least for the lights), The Welland/Lincoln Regiment in the Rose Parade, Make businesses on regional roads have to clear snow from the walkway, more bike lanes and repainted lanes by April 1st, Increased police presence in the 'Eastdale Cordage' Area on Friday and Saturday Nights, Fines for both businesses and landlords for litter, Speed limit for the Niagara Circle Route trail (slow down the spandex menace), Bike lane on the Merrittville HWY for E-Bikes, Public drinking fountains (removable for the winter), a low-power Welland TV Station, and more.

Solar Power in Welland

Some good news for the city of Welland and its residents. Being among the first with a photovoltaic solar panel manufacturing facility is an important step in reclaiming Welland's industrial heritage. It is an economy that can fuel its own growth, more affordable electricity has always led to higher electricity consumption - in this case it means a nearly perpetual market for more new panels.

Start powering lights, then motors, then heaters. We do not need to grow trees and burn them for heat, with the same space we will be able to bank enough solar energy to power more efficient and clean electrical heaters. Motors can focus on efficiency and durability as electric motors can be made with copper or in some special applications silver it will drive not only our cars but our mining and recycling industries. Finally, between solar panels and LEDs we can eliminate nearly all of the inefficiencies and finite resource issues. Brighter, Faster, Warmer, Longer.

As a long time user of solar panels and supporter of solid state solutions (solar, transistors, LEDs, etc.) I'm glad that Welland is going to participate in this enormous new economy. I hope that the manufacturer has open sales policies to buy direct, one of the greatest obstacles has been the old brick and mortar business model increasing costs and keeping knowledgeable consumers away from the products they want. It's easier to discuss buying large quantities in a business setting when it is easy and affordable to buy them for home use (see Cars, Computers, Cell Phones as examples).

Aside from my other wishes I'd love to see the first solar panel off of the assembly line in front of the factory powering something simple - like a light for a sign. Then it would show every employee, customer, and resident of Welland that as long as the first panel works every subsequent panel will too*. If I get a call I'd enjoy helping a project like this.

* When installed and configured according to adequate standards. But then again, isn't that what a engineer/product designer is for.

New Radio Coming

Seems like this has been a good week, filled with updates. This time around I've managed to find a new VHF/UHF mode radio. This will help with some early preparations for the 2011 Field Day with NPARC. There is a lot that can be done with just a little bit of power. I will be running the radio and computer rig using only solar power. The panel will be able to bank enough energy for the evening and into the next day.

There isn't much else to it than that for the time being. I will have to find some equipment to link the radio to the computer, and that can be done with dollar store parts.

Update: Added a picture of the handheld radio that came in. Of course all images are resized to my default size scheme for the blog.

Update 2: The radio works well but I think I need some help connecting to the local repeater properly. I'm still a little new.

Android Tablets

In my small corner of the world the biggest upcoming change is going to be the widespread use of Linux, Tablets, and RISC based processors. Of course the old advances are still there (no mechanical parts, 100% DC, etc.) and are going to be very important to the transition. More affordable computers with a new input and command system.

All of the Zen alliance websites will need to be updated for ease of use. I had a chance to test some of the Android tablets out over the Winter and immediately noticed some problems with how we compact information on websites. Simple spacing will be used to get past this problem so that even the worst quality tablets can get a top quality experience on these websites. Good thing CSS3 got here in time with the border-radius function.

HTML5 and CSS3 Compatibility

Good news everybody. I've been poking around all of the Zen Alliance websites and made some important changes for a couple of new technologies and techniques. The first and most important is the transition into HTML5 and CSS3 Compatibility. This is something that I've been undecided about for a while, to sacrifice legacy compatibility or use the new standards. Recently the compatibility issue dropped.

Users of Windows XP with Internet Explorer (9 or lower) will not be able to make use of the new features, but with some crafty coding this shouldn't matter. An omission is acceptable, an error is not. The most important information could still be loaded by a web browser from the early 1990s, or w3m. There is still more work to be done, and the important first steps have been made.

Debt Elimination 2011

The skill building, problem solving, efficiency machine is on the move - I am finally making use of my skills and expertise to help the community and reduce my personal debt. The debt is minor in comparison to that of other people in my age group, however it is a barrier to the opportunities and freedom that I could enjoy without it.

This is thanks in large part to my current employer and all of the organizations that built up to this opportunity. Through the Welland Heritage Council I work the Employment Solutions office as the CAP Instructor. The Community Access Program is a great way for underprivileged members of the community to access, use and learn about the ongoing digital evolution. This article isn't about the functions of the job though, it's about how I can financially move on with my life.

It will be a while until the debts are eliminated, but I have already started to recalculate my living expenses. As many of my friends know - I don't like bills and actively eliminate them. It's part of why my home computer systems are solar powered. It is not expensive, but it does take skill, and in the long run will save money and allow me to shave bills down to their lowest points.

If you are also getting back to work, I'd recommend looking at energy saving equipment now - before the smart meters and tax/credit changes take effect this year. That's what I'll be doing on my spare time.

Web Development Marathon

New sites/databases, batch conversions, and advanced theme development were all pretty routine until - The Marathon. It was one of those 'get in the zone' sessions, where sleep and eating were second place to getting the job done.

Is it over? no. The coding is done, but now comes the legwork - getting all of the pictures and other multimedia for the websites. This means arranging to get photos done of staff, locations, and workspaces.

On top of that the main server decided to kill another stick of ram. Which reopens the 'we should get a new server' internal discussion. The server is pretty efficient but there are some new ones that use less energy than a light bulb (even less than a CFL light bulb). I think too much about efficiency... but then again I have to since the battery nearly went kaput too (server is solar powered).

It's been nice procrastinating from working on Drupal by working in Drupal, now its time for a real distraction.

Another Drupal Conversion

I've been working with a couple more non-profit groups, getting them setup with the Drupal Content Management System. This time four domains and websites are going to get the treatment. One problem has been the large number of hosts, domain providers and developers.

As some local businesses handed the services off to other agencies there were complications. Now for an agency changing itself to meet the needs of the community it cannot change its most dynamic communication tool. Dynamic tools should be capable of change on a regular basis. Here comes the goal.

One host, one DNS, one vision.

Winter Foods

It's the time of year to reminisce about Winter Foods. Pies, Cocoa, Gourds, and enough carbs to sleep for a month (literally, winter is at least three months one third is spend sleeping). My own pro-pumpkin propaganda must have worked because there is now extra homemade pumpkin pie in the freezer just in time for the holidays.

Something different we tried at home last year was Kifli, a baked good that included almonds. The recipe we use is an older one from Welland's old newspaper The Guardian, around 1984. It will include almonds again this year as a new tradition was born.

Food traditions are among my favourite traditions, and they transcend cultural differences (the traditions, not necessarily the food). Seasonal dishes allow us to appreciate fresh food while remaining economical. One problem is that some global foods have wiped out local recipes. In Canada, I don't see pineapple as a local food. While I understand that it is a tradition in the southern United States and Pacific, it just never appealed to my local/seasonal food tradition. Processed meats on the other hand are a salty disaster that I choose to willingly eat every year - so don't feel too bad pineapple lovers.

Think about your Winter food and share some ideas and maybe recipes in your community - it's not like The Guardian newspaper will be anymore.

Working with the WHC

Seems as though something must be going right. I say this because in less than a week a storm of celebrations, tests, and interrogations came down upon me. Despite being tired, frozen, and hurt from a couple accidental slips I managed to pull myself together. With some help from my EC Sara, I was able to get involved with another good organization.

I will be helping the Welland Heritage Council through their CAP program. This involves helping to improve technological literacy and improving work skills with technology. The part that puts it over the top is that for once while doing some good I will be paid. Yes, I am a sucker for non-profit organizations and feel-good causes, and now my paid work can overlap (for a little while).

There is a lot to be excited about, and while I would like to share more there isn't much else to this story. Aside from the fact that I could probably "do lunch" with Alie ( on certain days. I like it downtown.


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