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  11:56:07 pm, by Nimble   , 256 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Gardening

The Savage Garden : Peter D'Amato


This is a great book for fans of carnivorous plants.

I got my first interest in gardening going to the horticulture department of UBC as a little kid, and the Venus Flytrap was definitely the main thing that got me hooked.

I've tried raising them in the past. Often, Home Depot or the like would get in a little shipment of tiny Venus Flytraps, we'd take them home, and they would just slowly decay. Well, we're hoping to change all that.

First thing you learn in the book is not to use tap water, or many bottled waters. Anything with minerals in it is bad for the vast majority of these plants, since your plantings cannot possibly simulate the constantly-running waters of a bog which clears away any buildups, and if you live in a place with alkaline water (if your reservoir is on limestone, for example), that's even worse, since most of these plants are acid-loving. Use distilled water. It's cheap, albeit less convenient.

You'll find out the origins of most of these plants, and it's surprising how many of them are native to North America, not the jungles of Madagascar, for example.

There's plenty of excellent advice and reference material on each kind of carnivorous plant, from Venus Flytraps to Sundews to Bladderworts to Pitcher Plants (there are different species of these) to Cobra Lilies (a very challenging plant to grow, from the sounds of it).

We've got some carnivorous plants on the go here now. If we have success, you'll hear about it :)

  01:26:17 am, by Nimble   , 294 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Internet

Google Your Own Tech Support

Oh boy, did I ever have fun with my web space provider over the past while. I just have a cheapie account with a 300 Mb quota, which has been more than sufficient for my needs.

So when the account usage suddenly grows by 100 Mb overnight without me having uploaded any files, I get worried. Especially when that trips it over quota. You can create new files... but you can't put anything in them.

So I started talking to tech support...

Full story »

  01:19:30 am, by Nimble   , 372 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

Meet Gorbachev

Well, our canary called Gorbachev, anyhow. He's a fascinating little canary, all white except with a grey smoodge (as opposed to a smudge) on his head.

We went to Pisces to take a look at canaries. We were in luck that day, because they put out a number of canaries into the hall, many of them excellent singers.

It came down to a choice of two. One yellow who just belted out his song, and one white-with-a-smoodge who was slightly quieter but had a lovely song as well. It took a while to decide. In the end, the yellow fluffy guy lost out because we thought he might deafen us at some point :)

So we chose our white-n-grey canary, and they put him in a cardboard box for the journey to our place, and usually, pets are a little freaked out once they finally come out of there into their new home, but this little guy... no problem. Just hopped right out, hopped around his new environment, and started eating.

He made lots of peeps and chirps for days. We were wondering, though, if he was ever going to sing like he did in the store. They have a 4-day non-singing guarantee, where you can return a guaranteed singing canary at the end of four days if they don't sing. Well, he wasn't singing after four days. Some slightly longer chirping, but nothing like song.

We decided to hold onto him anyhow, at the very least since he was so personable. Well, a few days later, we were rewarded.

Here is a movie of Gorby singing. You may need to turn the audio up a little, since if we get too close, he gets too interested in us to sing, but this is representative of his pretty marvellous singing abilities. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Gorby passed away while we were on vacation, unfortunately. No real reason for his decline, as far as we know. The other birds in the cage seem fine. He is survived by Raisa who, while not up to Gorby's par in singing, a month later, she twitters and responds to us. We have yet to decide if we want to get a replacement companion, given how solitary canaries can be.

  01:06:56 am, by Nimble   , 676 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

Another Case For Intrinsic Redshifts

Another pre-print from our very own Morley Bell of the Herzberg Institute with another interesting case for intrinsic redshifts in a paper bestowed with the enormous name, "Evidence that Quasars and Related Active Galaxies are Good Radio Standard Candles and that they are Likely to be a Lot Closer than their Redshifts Imply".

As you look further out into the universe, spectral lines caused by heated gases shift towards the red part of the spectrum. The further out you look, generally, the redder it gets. Conventional wisdom has it that this red-shift corresponds very closely with distance. This is "cosmological redshift". Conventional wisdom also holds that this is due to velocity away from us. A while back, this was believed to be an actual speed, but now it is believed to be due to "space expanding".

The existence of intrinsic redshift throws some caveats into this picture. An "intrinsic" redshift is a redshift not caused by distance or velocity. It can cause things to be more red-shifted than they "should" be, meaning that the objects are nearer or moving more slowly than conventional theory would indicate.

Full story »


  01:28:10 am, by Nimble   , 225 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Programming

Revenge of DOS

A coworker of mine brought something to my attention. We were informed of trouble in testing one of our pieces. Funny... it had always been working. The test was construction related, and our tester had put in "con" (short for "construction") as a test user name...and it blew a small gasket.

If you used another user name, no problem. So what gives?

It was encountering an error making a directory. Hmmm? Privileges? What? Well, it was making a directory corresponding to this particular user name, C:\Blablabla\inbox\con. That failed.

Then it struck him, and it may strike some of us "old-timers". "con" is a device name from DOS days. It still functions. You can go Start->Run cmd [ENTER] then type:


You can then keep typing until you hit Ctrl+Z, and what you typed will end up in MEEP.TXT.

Funny that in this day and age, you can't name a directory 'CON'.

Go ahead and try it (if you have a Windows machine) - make a new folder anywhere, and try to rename it as "con".

Other things you cannot name the folder: "nul", "lpt1" (or lpt plus any number), "aux", "com1" (or com plus any number). As an old-timer, I understand why: these are reserved system device names. Just kinda surprising/funny is all :)


  11:36:10 am, by Nimble   , 277 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Politics, Religion

Sam Brownback

I just read an article on Rolling Stone about this man, and it personifies everything that frightens me about the theocratization movements south of the border.

It's a long article, but the thrust of Sam Brownback can be understood from a few quotes...

The most bluntly theocratic effort, however, is the Constitution Restoration Act, which Brownback co-sponsored with Jim DeMint, another former C Streeter who was then a congressman from South Carolina. If passed, it will strip the Supreme Court of the ability to even hear cases in which citizens protest faith-based abuses of power. Say the mayor of your town decides to declare Jesus lord and fire anyone who refuses to do so; or the principal of your local high school decides to read a fundamentalist prayer over the PA every morning; or the president declares the United States a Christian nation. Under the Constitution Restoration Act, that'll all be just fine.


And yet compassionate conservatism, as Colson conceives it and Brownback implements it, is strikingly similar to plain old authoritarian conservatism. In place of liberation, it offers as an ideal what Colson calls "biblical obedience" and what Brownback terms "submission." The concept is derived from Romans 13, the scripture by which Brownback and Colson understand their power as God-given: "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

What if these people get their way? What if they hoodwink the millions upon millions of moderate Christians into believing their tripe and supporting their agenda? Or, will they even have to do that - they already seem vastly over-represented compared to their actual fundamentalist voting base.


  10:51:11 am, by Nimble   , 468 words  
Categories: Reviews, Games

Kingdom Hearts


This game was a surprise. It's one of the oddest concepts I've come across in a while - Final Fantasy meets Disney - but the truly strange thing is that it works, and even soaked-to-the-bone surety that running around with Goofy and Donald by your side can't possibly be anything other than cheesy... doesn't prevent you from enjoying the game thoroughly.

This seems a homage to the "horror lite" that Disney was occasionally so good at, like Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. Indeed, the beginning is pretty darned... creepy. Shadows, including your own, coming out of the ground to attack you. When you finally land on the idyllic paradise island, all seems to go well. It doesn't last, though.

Full story »


  09:24:32 pm, by Nimble   , 177 words  
Categories: Reviews, Low-Carb

Diet Rite Comes To Canada!


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.


  10:59:48 pm, by Nimble   , 1410 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

BAD Medicine : Christopher Wanjek


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".

Full story »


  09:22:36 pm, by Nimble   , 1923 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

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

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.

Full story »


  10:22:59 pm, by Nimble   , 91 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense, Science

How To Touch A Live Wire

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... :)


  11:53:46 pm, by Nimble   , 342 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Politics

The New Conservatives

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.


  11:01:29 am, by Nimble   , 218 words  
Categories: Toys, Thoughts, Science

More Heralds of the LED Revolution

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.


  10:21:50 pm, by Nimble   , 255 words  
Categories: Reviews, Stores

Horizon Meats


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 :)


  10:34:39 pm, by Nimble   , 292 words  
Categories: Reviews, Restaurants

Julio's Barrio


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.

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