Diet Rite Comes To Canada!

01/27/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Low-Carb


Well, at least to a store near me :)

I encountered these at the local Sobey's (anyone know what the deal is that had most but not all IGAs turning into a Sobey's?) in three flavours: cola, red raspberry and tangerine.

This is another Splenda-sweetened soft drink. (The only other ones I know of are the local Diet Orange Crush and the Talking Rain drinks at Costco) If you get an aftertaste from aspartame drinks, these are definitely worth a look.

The cola's not bad, but it's no Coca-Cola. It's reminiscent of RC Cola (no surprise, since the Diet Rite brand was a brand of RC), although a little less strong. The red raspberry is pretty good, but the clear winner of the bunch, in my opinion, is the tangerine. Tangerine flavour has a nicer "kick" to it than orange, and this is well-flavoured.

All the drinks are non-caffeinated, including the cola (which may or may not fit in with your plans), and have basically zero grams and milligrams of everything included on the nutrition label, including sodium.


BAD Medicine : Christopher Wanjek

01/19/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]


This is a great book of bad and questionable medical practices, both modern (shark cartilage, dilutions in homeopathy) and older (bloodletting and using mercury). It's pretty readable, and paints an interesting picture, especially of modern-day society where, now that we are healthier than ever before, many strangely turn to 'cures' from the days before we knew what we were doing.

The book gives a fairly speedy treatment of old medical beliefs, who invented what, and how mankind was slowly starting to figure things out, when the Roman Empire fell, and medicine devolved into superstition again. Ideas like humours and chi/qi and the like would dog medicine well into the modern age.

Some of the pre/sorta-scientific things that happened in the Age of Enlightenment were pretty atrocious. 'Snake oil' was the least of peoples' problems. Sometimes, folks got bled, purged, what have you three times a week. Placebos in an era of this nasty kind of pseudo-medicine would have worked better than 'official' cures. Prayer or dilute "blessed" water instead of being bled three times a week would have given a much higher survival rate.

It then goes into a somewhat fun section debunking some body myths, like the "you only use 10% of your brain" myth, commandeered by some charlatans to convince you that their product/tape/lifestyle can help you use more. Or that the liver needs "detoxifying".

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Dark Matter, Missing Planets & New Comets : Tom van Flandern

01/11/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

What can I say about Tom van Flandern? Crank isn't quite the right term. Tom has some crankish ideas. He also has some interesting-but-not-mainstream ideas. However, he has a good background, has not gone off the deep end, and has made his own contributions to science and has an interesting resume. That makes him way more interesting than a crank.

Anyhow, in addition to his Meta Research web site, he has a book out with a mouthful of a title: "Dark Matter, Missing Planets & New Comets: Paradoxes Resolved, Origins Illuminated". The content ranges from crankish to extremely speculative to downright intriguing. I'll cover them in summary.

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How To Touch A Live Wire

01/09/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense, Science

File under Uncommon Common Sense...

Was talking to a coworker of mine whose father apparently used to put together his own televisions and radios in his home country, and learned a small, very salient piece of common-sense advice.

If you want to touch a wire to see whether it's live, touch it using the back of your hand. That way, if the current makes your muscles contract, your hand jerks away from the wire instead of grabbing it harder.

Not that I'm going to try out this advice any time soon... :)


The New Conservatives

01/07/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Politics

Normally, I don't get much up in arms about politics up here, but I've been worried. The Liberal party has been embroiled in financial scandals - mild compared to US and even Alberta - yet telling of an abuse of incumbency. In olden days I would have voted Conservative in a second to help send a strong message.

The Conservative Party these days isn't that old Conservative party. I've been investigating things in advance of the Canadian 2006 Election on Monday, January 23. Taking a walk through the How'd They Vote? web site is particularly instructive. This web site will help you track down your incumbent candidates' views on issues and party views in general.

It's leading me to think that the Conservative Party really is by and large just a renamed Alliance Party, and that is the closest thing we have had to the reactionary neoconservative part of the Republican party stateside.

My beliefs in a nutshell, politically, are to be financially responsible, cultivate personal responsibility (keep class action suits in check, make people responsible for their actions), but (and why should this be a "but"?) to be realistically, socially liberal, stay the hell out of the bedroom, and don't cowtow to fundamentalists of any stripe.

So when I see the likes of the votes on the Same-Sex Marriage Bill, or how votes were split on adding sexual orientation to hate crimes, or the anti-abortion record of the Alliance party, I get a little worried. Looking back, it's not the voting record of the old Tories that I'm worried about; it's purely the Alliance party that did a reverse takeover of the Conservative party that I'm worried about.

I don't support financial tomfoolery, but I cannot abide neoconservatives.


Make sure you investigate your specific candidates if you can, though. Some of them are worth voting in regardless of party affiliation.

I'm thinking that a minority Liberal government might be the best outcome here, though minority governments have historically (to my recollection) gotten investors jittery. Hopefully, substantially more oversight will help keep them in line.


More Heralds of the LED Revolution

01/05/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Toys, Thoughts, Science

One of these days, I want to get a projector. It seemed like such a lost cause to go looking for one, though, not just because of the space around here, but because I thought something else would be coming over the horizon soon.

I thought LEDs would be coming soon. It's been a tough road to get affordable white LEDs, and many of the consumer grade ones are a little too blue to be a good white, but I thought it was coming. I remember, but cannot find, a good 20+ pages long forum thread somewhere with people trying to hack together an LED-based projector with clusters of white LEDs, mini-LCD screens and lenses. I don't know how close to success they came, but they were all agog with the possibility of putting it all in a wooden case, something impossible to do with the ultra-high pressure lamps of today.

Well, it's a bit of a rough entry, but a few companies have finally bit the bullet and come out with LED projectors - as almost "handheld" (not by design, but they nearly fit in your hand) mini-projectors.

Toshiba is announcing one, and Mitsubishi has one.

It's only a matter of time before these become bigger and better.

I'm interested to see where the LED revolution will lead next.


Horizon Meats

01/01/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Stores


The traditional butcher shop is a pretty hard thing to find these days.

Actually, we were mostly on the hunt for strange meats to take to our friend Adam's mostly-traditional "stones" meal for new years (cooking on slabs of rock heated with an element). Started just doing a search for ostrich on the 'net, and tripped across the web site of a butcher's shop.

It's north on 27th Street from 32nd Avenue N, and it's on the right hand side. Not a spot you would typically just trip across from driving around :)

They have quite an amazing selection there, really, from mango chipotle chicken sausage to ground everything to elk, deer, alligator, and even yak New York steaks. We wished we had a deep freeze; there were a number of fill-your-deep-freeze type of deals. We settled on a yak roast and ostrich sausage.

The ostrich sausage was delicious. The yak roast, which we cut into strips, was magnificent... and lean. Our cleaver cut through it like butter. It's actually apparently a yak/cow cross called "dzo", and Alberta-grown.

They finally solved a mystery for us at the shop, too. Dena had moose a long time ago, the product of a hunting trip, and loved it. We have been looking in stores ever since. We would have looked forever. Butcher shops in Alberta can only sell inspected, farm/ranch raised meat, and not the products of hunting trips. So we have yak farms, deer farms and even elk farms... but no moose farms, so no moose :)


Julio's Barrio

12/28/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Restaurants


We don't have a lot of Mexican restaurants in Calgary - if you don't count Taco Bell, anyhow. Salt 'n' Pepper and the Tecate Grill... there may be a few more. Julio's Barrio is a Mexican restaurant that is in the old location of Red Robin's in Kensington.

It's a pretty restaurant. A lot of Aztec-themed painting and a few cacti around. The seating is... varied. There are some comfy seats and tables, but the majority of the seats are high, hard-to-move, slightly tippy seats. Those would be the worst part of the experience, really.

You get served some tortillas and salsa before the meal. The salsa is interesting - it tingles with heat on direct contact with your mouth, and nowhere else (you can almost draw a map of heat in your mouth if you try). They have virgin margueritas in numerous flavours (I don't drink, so I loves the mock-tails) - from strawberry and lime to peach, strawberry-banana and piña colada. One little bizarre thing they do that amused me: they have three colours of maraschino cherries with slightly different flavours.

It took a long time for the meal to arrive, but I can chalk that up to chefs on holiday. The meal tasted excellent, and was, judging by ours stomachs, larger than they appeared. The quesadillas tasted good, but they were softer than many, and thus a little hard to cut without making a mess. They came with refried beans, Mexican rice and corn salad (pretty good). Dena had the quesadilla, I had Julio's Platter - both nice. The menu is good, but fairly limited in variety. Interestingly, they will substitute veggie ground round for meat in many dishes.

Tasty, all in all. I'd recommend it if not for the seating.


NeXXTech 130-in-1 Electronics Lab

12/27/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Toys


My wonderful wife got me one of these for Christmas, and I've already been playing with it. I've done 5 of the 130 projects so far - most of them are not that hard - and have been finding it rather interesting, though I obviously have not learned electronics in this short a time yet.

I am positive that I appreciate this a lot more now than I would have at eight years old, because I can look beyond the fun of the projects itself :)

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The Wind and the John

12/27/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions

Totally distracted thought, but I've noticed that the toilet bowl water sloshes around a fair bit whenever it's windy outside.

What I haven't been able to figure out is whether that has to do with what the wind does to air pressure inside the house, what it does to air pressure or water pressure in the sewers, or whether it's from the wind rocking the house around... or a combination of any of the above.

Anyone else notice this?


911 Math Emergency

12/21/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Hoots

My coworker Debbie and I share a student at our online school-- a young man who is travelling internationally right now and recently landed in India after months in Germany. I teach him Chemistry 30, and Debbie teaches him Pure Math 30.

I recently faxed him his last hardcopy test-- successfully!-- to a chosen test proctor/professor at an Indian university.

Debbie tried to fax him a test today, and was not successful...

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Desperate Recipe # 1

12/21/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Cooking

Sometimes, it's just really tough to pull a meal off in short order, and there's weird stuff in the fridge. I'm an experimenter, though, and sometimes, they turn out to taste pretty good. So here's a recipe invented last night. If you actually try it out, you're crazy:


  • A bunch of that light and dark green bean and carrot mix from Costco
  • A can of tuna
  • Frozen shredded nacho cheese
  • Sauces: ketchup, catalina/california dressing, thousand island dressing and Frank's Red Hot sauce

Start heating the oven to 350. Spread the green bean and carrot mix in an enamel or other baking dish fairly thinly. Crumble the can of tuna on top, except for the metal parts of the can. Squirt some of the sauces around on top of it. Scatter a decent but not too thick layer of frozen cheese on top.

Throw it in the oven for 15 minutes. Then, switch the oven to broil and cook until some of the cheese on top is starting to crust up.


Perhaps this will become a series of "what I did when our fridge was empty", perhaps not :)


Paley In A Test Tube: Video

12/21/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science

It's a bit nerdy, but here is a page that contains an excellent video of a presentation Ken Miller did regarding Intelligent Design and 'irreducible complexity'. It's a really well-done presentation. I wish science classes had been nearly that much fun :)

UPDATE: Ken Miller was to debate an opponent (Dembski, I believe) at Case Western Reserve University, but the opponent was a no-show. Nevertheless, it was a pretty darned fine presentation and Q&A session. Ken Miller is my new hero :) Link...


Judgment In Dover Is In!

12/20/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Ethics, Religion, Science


Judge Jones put a lot of thought and effort into this. The judgment, found here, is a staggering (to me) 139 pages long, yet it is easy to read, thorough, and utterly definitive: the Dover School Board was religiously motivated, and violated the Establishment Clause and Pennsylvania's own constitution, which had an even earlier clause to the same purpose.

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Helping Microsoft Debug

12/20/05 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Programming

There was something that happened in a security patch Microsoft put out that was wrecking our clip art objects that we store in databases. Since more and more people were applying the patch, we were understandably worried.

It was, albeit harrowing at first, pretty interesting to actually help track down what the patch was doing and why it was failing this one particular circumstance.

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