Sunday, May 29, 2005

Beerfest

The Devon Days1 Beerfest. The last time I attended this get-together was 15 years ago. I remember glaring at the old guys2 who were staring at my girlfriend. But I did notice that when you attend an event like this where a majority of the crowd is half your age - you can really be a fly on the wall as most are oblivious to your existence.

Anyway, I was sure that there would be a fight or two. There was a cup of beer thrown in our general direction, but the cops surrounded him pretty quickly - he wasn't hauled off to the drunk tank3, but things settled down pretty quickly. I heard last year there were many altercations and this year they were being extra cautious. I figured he threw it in the direction of the tallest guy (who was standing by us) - to see if he would back down or ... ?

It was $20 for 7 beer/drink tickets - not a bad price for the night. Too bad I forgot we only had 3 hours to finish them (never leave a beer behind !) before we left the beerfest and headed to the Devon Hotel pub where the rest of the revellers were waiting, their butts parked for the night by the couple dozen tables. This left standing room only for us, but it was a good way to meet/greet/converse with people.

I got the usual greetings : "I haven't seen you in 15 years ! How are you ? You haven't changed a bit!" (Physically I hope they mean). A few people looked familiar, others took a little while longer. "He/She/They graduated in '8X, remember?" - which caused a spontaneous anecdote from my friend and I of how people at one party that summer were driving golf balls off my parents' front yard down main street. But we kept those old stories to a minimum (I hope).

There was the usual banal conversation with people I didn't know (before), but at least a couple leaned towards political in theme. I did find time to pick on the only guy wearing a baseball cap (at least it was frontwards) and harass the goof who was not wearing any shoes/socks in the bar (opps, was that your toe ? Gee that's gonna hurt tomorrow). Still no fights, but baseball cap guy did get pretty annoyed ("Is the sun in your eyes dude ?") - but I didn't play the obnoxious drunk all night (I hope).

At 2am-ish it was time to get going and devour that hot dog that was waiting on the bbq outside for the last couple hours. I made it home by 2:30am - thanks to our diligent designated driver (DDD) (golf clap).

Déjà vu
At 4 am I suddenly remembered why I should not eat vendor's food on the way out of the bar. I originally woke up realizing I had been 'dreaming' about programming since I passed out. Nice - why can't I dream about the anonymous young lass that pinched my ass while we waited in the beer line ? She responded with "that's okay, I would like her too" to my pleadings that "she shouldn't do that - I'm married!"

Anyway
, the dried out hot dog decided to make a second appearance much to the chagrin and annoyance of my wife who had stayed home to sleep and look after the kids.

Hmm. 15 years ago I was at the beerfest and I drank lots of beer in a few hours and we ended up at the Devon Hotel pub ...



1 Devon Days

2 BTW isn't that music rather loud and does her mother know she left the house wearing 'that' !?

3 Oklahoma City Drunk Tank

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Queen's Visit

Queen Elizabeth II is visiting Edmonton this week. While I care not about it, other than how the heck am I going to get to my parking lot downtown tomorrow, the spin I read today was 'interesting.'

The Telegraph's quotes about Ralph Klein show just how crass he can be sometimes (but we love him anyway). The Edmonton Journal's article shows that we tried to put a brave face on a $1M expenditure for an event scheduled during a typical unpredictable spring season in northern Alberta (but it's still better than 35C and 90% humidity).

Queen dons waterproofs for soggy birthday party Telegraph News - UK
It rained, again. The birthday girl was late, the cake soggy, the celebrations curtailed and the guests left in droves before the end.

Poor Alberta. No place could have tried harder for the Queen. But the elements reduced the province's extravaganza, a year in the planning, to a washout.

Before the Queen could retire, Edmonton had one more treat in store. At a banquet, where she was served bison tenderloin, Mr Klein announced that Highway Two, the 420-mile Edmonton to Calgary corridor, would be renamed "The Queen Elizabeth Highway".

Not only, he boasted, would it be the only highway in Canada named for Her Majesty, but it would be Canada's "longest highway named after a member of the Royal Family".

"This just goes to show that we don't do things by half measure in Alberta!" Mr Klein crowed.
Museum gets royal treatment Edmonton Journal
Heavy rain and gusty winds forced organizers to cut short a gala celebration at Commonwealth Stadium on Monday. Some dance performances had to be cancelled because the stage was wet and unsafe.

The royal couple was to head to Calgary on Wednesday on the final day of the nine-day visit to Saskatchewan and Alberta to help both provinces celebrate their centennials.

When Her Majesty leaves Edmonton, she will travel down the newly named Queen Elizabeth II Highway.

The 260-kilometre stretch between Calgary and Edmonton was renamed by Klein on Monday in her honour.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Dear Peter


Dear Peter,

I'm sorry you had to receive the news this way. I can no longer hang out with you and your friends. It's not you - it's me. I'm at a cross roads and I must in good conscience move on for the good of Canada and my career.

Please let Steven and those that voted for me know that I am now working for Paul across the floor. He says he is counting1 on me this week and that I can fill a position that requires me to provide large grants2 to the ridings that we feel need the help.

Please remind the people that voted for me last year that this year they will have to make their crayon scribble inside the Liberal box.

Yours Sincerely,
Belinda


1
We still don't know whether the budget will pass or not, [but] I've got to tell you, I can count.
Prime Minister Paul Martin, May 17 2005


2
Job grants scandal may cause lasting damage to Liberals
"Finance Minister Paul Martin became a new target for opposition barbs, with suggestions that he is ashamed of his role in what has been called "the $2 billion boondoggle."
CBC News, Feb 25 2000

Is Honourable Jane Stewart lying over the bungled $1-billion jobs programs?
Last week, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe accused Human Resources Minister Jane Stewart of lying in the House of Commons over the bungled $1 billion programs.
By Mario deSantis, February 15 2000

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Google Maps


Google maps once again proves it's the experience, not that data.

The offerings from their mapping service aren't new - satellite photos, directions and maps with points of interest have been widely available online since the first boom of the internet. The Google service has been around a very short time compared to the stalwart MapQuest, but once again their developers prove that they can provide a better experience.

You can do many interesting, different things with Google Maps : sightsee the globe, build your own custom maps, get directions, hack the interface, create/view new mashups or even see fun/weird things. You could even enhance your blogging with maps, markup, pictures or clickable interfaces - although the examples I have seen are quite lame, IMHO.

"Why bother seeing the world for real?"

Satellite pictures have always been interesting and Google Maps allows for easy navigation and/or retrieval of a birds-eye view of available images, all courtesy of Keyhole - now a Google subsidiary. You can easily find an image of a location of interest, using it's latitude/longitude or address. Here is a site for looking up the latitude and longitude of commonly known locations - compiled from a variety of sources in the public domain.

Interesting things found on Google Maps:
Google GlobeTrotting Sites
Directions

Maybe you want to use Google Maps for getting directions to a point of interest - pretty standard stuff and the main reason MapQuest has survived the dot-bomb bust. However, some users have noticed that you can search and find sites of interest on Google not commonly found on the other sites.

Yahoo! has a story on "brothels" that can be found in Eugene Oregon , New York and South Dakota using Google Maps.

If you want to track down the person or business that has been calling your phone (why else would you want a map to a phone number?), you could use gMap, a mozilla Firefox extension that allows you to find directions based on publicly listed phone numbers.

Hacking

The major foothold Google obtains in each market can partially be attributed to the result of developer uptake of their mostly hackable products and Google's reluctance to let anything bypass a mandatory beta phase. It's like they're saying "come play with this" and almost every programmer likes to try the latest shiny new object/technology.

It appears that the easiest hack would be the "service" offered by www.mygmaps.com (registration required) - as it enables you to "create, save and host custom data files and display them with Google Maps."

Joel Webber has blogged how Google Maps works under the hood.

Gpswanderer's blog shows how to get your phone to use the current GPS location to display a Google Map. He used a Bluetooth GPS device, but all phones will have an internal GPS device in the near future. Using python (the coding language) on a Nokia phone seems a bit of a stretch, as I'm sure this would be easier to accomplish with Java, as it is already widely available on most new cell phones.

Hacking Resources
Mashups

A mashup is a term used for a home-spun mix of two or more songs, usually the lyrics from one overlayed on the backing music from another. Many people have taken Google Maps and mixed their service with other geography based information from other sites/services to build a hybrid.

This site offers the ability to choose any city that Craigslist covers and see all of the places for rent/sale in that area. I'm sure this could be implemented for almost any product (with an address or phone number) listed on the classified market section of Craigslist.

There's Google Traffic Maps - you enter a city, state or zip code and receive a Google Map, with traffic information icons : construction signs, hazard signs, etc. If you click on an icon you'll get a popup window of detail information about the construction, road closure or other incident.

Blogging

As this sample site shows, you can create an interactive blog with Google Maps.

Other Cool Google Technology

If you use Google to search using the keyword/tag "movie:" before the title of the movie, you'll be presented with a summary page of all the online reviews Google has found. Here's an example of what is available for one of my favorite movies: Ferris Bueller's Day Off

While this is obviously an alpha product (pre-beta), the "
Find theaters near you" option is very telling in the direction that Google will going in the near future - almost any search results on their site can/could be equated to a geographic location on a map, driving directions or the showing of a cool satellite image.



Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Search Terms

I've been keeping track of search terms that referred people here since I received a flood of traffic after I published a link to the U.S. blog that was breaking the Gomery publication ban.

Some are surprising and a little unnerving. Several terms were utilized several times - showing that the Homulka/Bernadro crimes and the sexiest MP in Canada are searched for quite often.

Here's a quick summary, in no particular order and sans page view details.



Search TermsBlog
gomeryGomery Publication Ban - We all want to know
"this day in nhl history"This day in NHL History
"rona ambrose" sexiestUpdate - 20050406
with hack pepsi vending machine
"coke machine menu"
Hacking Vending Machinesv
devonphotoradar.blogspot.com
alberta drivers speeding fine schedule
Devon Photo Radar
town of devon speeding
town of devon Photo radar
Devon Photo Radar
"jon bentley"Quotes
carla homulka
paul transcripts bernardo lethal marriage
Gomery Publication Ban - We all want to know
Fireman Chris Fields
april19th 1995
Oklahoma City ceremonies 10th anniversary
chris fields image firefighter holding
Oklahoma City Bombing - 10 years later
Calgary chief
police chief beaton
Jack Beaton
beaton calgary
Calgary Police
Code200.com
Free Speech?
"dryer lint screen" "spam"
Bad Habits (Hudson/Ford/Cassidy)
Mr. Mom
stapler technologyMain Page

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Victory in Europe

Over one million Canadians served in the Second World War and approximately 42,000 gave their lives. Per capita, Canada's contribution was one of the largest in the world - our troops played a significant role in the invasion of Normandy and in the liberation of the Netherlands.

So this week we should pause for more than a moment to remember a pair of high points in Canadian history : the liberation of Holland on May 5, 1945 and VE Day on May 8, 1945.

In the 60 years of ensuing freedom, many who survived that era have since passed on. My wife's grandmother was a war bride from England - she and her husband have passed away, so now we only have pictures from their photo albums. Most are not labeled or have names that we don't recognize. The most memorable is the one with all the war brides arriving on a ship in Halifax.

Anyway, they lived in another time and obviously myself or my children do not have to endure world wide conflicts like they did. We have their sacrifices and determination to thank for that. Lest we forget - but somehow it seems that we do in our "busy" day to day life.

I have seen several estimates that about 55 million people had lost their lives by the time Nazi Germany fell to the Allies. We owe it to all who helped to keep their memories alive - Lest we forget.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Devon Transfers Photo Radar to RCMP

The Devon Dispatch Paper is reporting today that the Photo Radar Program is being transferred to the local RCMP detachment.

RCMP will now make the determination on the location - where the photo enforcement is going to setup on a week to week basis. Policy changes include a decision on enforcing school and playground zone speed limits. Playground zones usually have a speed limit of 30km/h from 8:30am to dusk, but photo radar will only enforce that limit during school hours. I suspect that this policy change means these areas will receive a new found focus. This is an item that myself and others were most critical about as the highway seemed to receive the most attention and of course was the largest money maker.

The other major modification was the limit for offenders to receive only one ticket per calendar week for the first ticket that they're caught. The article claims that Devon is "the only jurisdiction doing this."

One last major note is that other municipalities are using Devon's 'success' to initiate their own program. Spruce Grove (a city west of Edmonton, Alberta) recently approved a tender to allow a subsidiary of the private Devon operator to provide photo radar services there.

Public opinion and input (IMHO) has proven valuable in making Devon and the Alberta Solicitor General realize they need to track and modify the program in Devon. I still don't personally approve of photo radar on a busy highway - there should be a visible RCMP officer pulling people over.

However, these photo radar programs will continue to be implemented in Alberta and only through our diligence can we ensure that these programs don't become cash cows on our highways ! Contact the Alberta Solicitor General, the RCMP, the local municipalities and your local paper's editor with your articulated concerns.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Hacking Vending Machines

Almost all vending machines built in the last 10 years are computerized and since they don't come with an attached keyboard, can be easily 'hacked' by any passerby.

Most machines offer an easily accessible menu system to show the operator the machine's statuses without having to take the time to open it. The menu system allows the operator to view the total amount of sales, the quantities remaining, etc. To access the menu and it's options, the proper sequence of buttons (vending selections) must be pressed.

Since these options are actually readily available in the vending machine manuals (even online), this shouldn't be considered true hacking - but knowledge is power and knowing the menus could get you one step closer to free soda ! This is especially true if the operator allows administrative type functions like 'price setting' available to the external menu.

Common Menu Options
  • Diagnostics
  • Sales Data
  • Cash
  • Error Log
  • Internal temperature
  • Coin Payout Mode
  • Price Setting
  • Time Adjustment

Administrative Functions

Most vending machines are configured so that the administrative functions - setting the price, coin payout mode or dumping coins will not be available by default from the external menu.

Usefulness

Unless you can get behind the door, there's little you can do with this except impress your friends. If all you want to do is get free soda, it is commonly believed by people attempting this hack that you will have much more success through a mechanical attack - after a study of the available manuals on the inner workings of the machine.

Links

So below are the links to articles that explain how to access the secret debug menu on many Coke and Pepsi machines.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Oklahoma City Drunk Tank

A sobering view of the Oklahoma City Drunk Tank

It was a day like any other day in OKC - the daylight hours were spent toiling over billing system code, arguing with managers about deadlines, test plans and thinking of going out for a beer.

"Hey - you've had a pretty crappy day" my roommate beckoned - "let's go out!"

Out to the Red Dog Strip Club that is. A place famous for its young scantly clad girls and cheap beer. Heck, drinking beer and staring at mostly naked women (they can't be nude in Oklahoma) was hard to turn down when compared to the alternative - phone the wife from the corporate apartment, watch tv, play sega, drink beer.

So the adventure began. After rounding up about 5 other fellow transplanted Canadians, we arrived at the famous Red Dog and plunked down as close to the stage as we dared. Beers came round, someone paid and a few of us grumbled about the watery brews as most beer in Oklahoma that is sold cold has to be less than 3.2% alcohol (by volume).

After a couple of rounds of beer and stage girls, the grumbling about work stopped. We had finished the jokes about the place, its 'burger barn' chairs and tables with dark seedy corners where the women give 'lap dances.'

The single door to the large open bar opened, sending a beam of light across the stage - I turned to look. It was the cops ! Two guys about 6 feet tall, stocky and sporting crew cuts and frowns. The first cop's icy stare in our direction caused me to quickly look away. My coworker to the right of me had already completed his head twist back with a half worried smile on his face. I took advantage of the moment - "I think they've come to take you away, they don't like long hairs around here!" His shoulder length hair often got him stares at the malls and it seemed like the right time to push that paranoia button of his a little more.

The cops made a bee-line for our area, now with no expression on their faces. I turned away before my friend could respond. Now I was getting a little paranoid...

Read more ...




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