Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ten rules on how to treat an ...

Ten rules on how to treat an ...
Edmonton Police Officer

  1. Don't give them email access for sharing their views/thoughts/jokes within the department.

    A racist e-mail circulated among some members in the Edmonton Police downtown division. Sources claim that it listed '10 rules for police officers who deal with aboriginals.'

  2. Don't openly criticize them.

    Edmonton Sun columnist Kerry Diotte and police chairman Martin Ignasiak were targets of a police sting operation after both had been critical of the Edmonton Police in the media. Police staked out the Overtime bar, attended by a group of delegates from a journalists convention. They claimed they were acting on a tip that the columnist was inside and a risk to drink and drive.

  3. Don't accept the chief of police's indefinite sick leave request the day before he is ordered to appear before a review board.

    Police Chief Fred Rayner claimed that the seven officers on the Overtime stake-out were doing their job and wouldn't face any discipline.

    Shortly after this decision, the police radio transcripts from the stakeout were published. They revealed how much glee the officers were having at the chance to catch their most outspoken critics. Rayner abruptly stepped down the day before he was to appear to a review board, saying he was taking a medical leave of absence.
    His contract was cancelled the next day.

  4. Don't tell him/her that a hell's angel clubhouse is operating in your neighborhood.

    Two Edmonton detectives came forward in the spring of 1999 with allegations that the force had been infiltrated by the Hells Angels and other elements of organized crime. They also claimed the chief at the time, John Lindsay, was ignoring their concerns.

  5. Always promise them a kickback and gifts if you're supplying their photo radar systems.

    The RCMP is investigating allegations that several Edmonton traffic officers inappropriately accepted gifts from a private photo-radar company and that the department attempted to award a $90-million contract without any public tender.

  6. Don't defend those that question their treatment by officers.

    Through a Freedom of Information request a lawyer has learned that 10 police service members, ran his name at least 16 times over a five-year period through several information systems that by law are supposed to be restricted to police work.

  7. Don't allow them access to a national RCMP electronic database of private/personal information that should be used for only for criminal investigations.

    see #6

  8. Don't let them pick their own outfits to wear during an internal investigation.

    Several Edmonton police officers wore T-shirts warning other members not to "rat" on their colleagues when the department was under internal investigation for allegedly assaulting street people.

  9. Don't give them any reason to pepper spray you and/or put you in the trunk of their car.

    Internal affairs officers are investigating allegations that two police officers pepper-sprayed and then stuffed a man into the trunk of their cruiser after he caused trouble during a traffic stop. The Crown had to abruptly drop charges of resisting arrest against the man after the officers, during cross-examination, suddenly couldn't remember how their prisoner was transported to jail. The police are also being sued in that case.

  10. Do list them as possible human rights violators.

    The Edmonton's Police Service was mentioned in a U.S. State Department annual report on human rights.

    The report noted that "
    During the year, police in Edmonton were accused of using excessive force when responding to minor infractions in the city's tourist district. Among other incidents, police allegedly knocked a man to the ground for jaywalking; repeatedly kicked a person for swearing at officers; and repeatedly hit a handcuffed person in the face."

Two out of Three ain't bad

I should mention that I do support the efforts of the Edmonton Police Service, with the exception of some of their Photo Radar tactics.

I do know three officers that are in different divisions. One was pretty much a jerk when I knew him many years ago - I've heard that he was put on desk duty after he 'totaled one of their cars.'

The other two are straight arrows - one of them, my neighbor, left the traffic division after he got tired of seeing bodies get scraped off the the street. He's often presented viewpoints that reveal he has a level head regarding traffic enforcement.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

This blogging thing

Well, I've been blogging for a few months now. Originally my first web pages in the mid 90's were just another form of blogging - anecdotes about my travels, thoughts and all that.

Not much has changed, but now with tools like blogger.com it's just a little easier to put together some miscellaneous ramblings about my spin on the latest news, politics or hack I found. I don't have much else to write about today, so here's a quick summary of what's up with this blog so far.

Most popular posts
There has been a fair amount of traffic from other blogs, google, technorati and yahoo. Here's a list of the most popular posts in no particular order. See also my post regarding the search terms people used to find my blog.

Free Speech
Epson C80 AKA Boatanchor
Dear Peter
Gomery Publication Ban (we all want to know)
Google Maps
Hacking Vending Machines

The Browser Of Choice
I believe that my audience is astute enough to know they have a choice in which web browser they can/should use. Perhaps they have realized that the default browser on their desktop - Internet Exploder from Micro$oft, is one of the buggiest windows applications and biggest security risk known to computer users.

The latest browser tracking for That's My Stapler readers is here. This is a dynamically build pie chart- but lately it seems that Firefox usage has stabilized at 50% or greater. YMMV.

My Favorite Posts
Here is a list of my favorite posts. I have no further comment other than what's on my about page.

FAQ - Last Day at the DOE
Mr. Mom
This Day in NHL History
OKC Drunk Tank

I don't receive many comments other than a few verbal stating that they check/read it everyday. But the occasional typed comment in response to the latest post is welcomed (thanks).

Every once in a while I wonder why I bother posting - but then I get an email or comment and it keeps me going for one more post. I do have to support my faithful readership (all eight of you!?).

Blogs I Read
I try to read a few blogs a day and here is a subset of the ones I regularly visit. They will certainly welcome your patronage and/or comments. But don't mention this blog, or else I'm bound to get tagged again by some blog chain message.

These go to eleven
News.com Tech Blogs
Hack a day
The Blog of Daniel Sale
Boredom relief
Maple Lounge

What's next ?
I will keep going I guess. The hour or so I spend on this every couple days seems like a good distraction from the usual job or personal stresses. Here's what's coming 'soon' :

Driving in Edmonton
Oh Carla
July 31st
No Fly List and Border Crossing
Build Your Own Arcade

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bad design

There are bad ideas and then there is bad design. A bad idea eventually will die in the evolution of user acceptance, but bad design happens all the time - usually the result of an assumption or rush to implementation.

Being a techie, I tend to notice elements of applications or automated systems that just don't work. I'm speaking of those systems that we all use daily, yet never seem to question how much we adapt to their bad design.

Didn't you notice ?
Your computer keyboard has a number pad that starts its sequence on the bottom left. Your phone's number pad starts its sequence on the top right.

Go ahead check it out. I'll wait... Now ask yourself why you never noticed before.

Press any key
Many of us use an ATM or bank machine each day. Almost all have the same 'interface' - a screen (it always seems too low for even the average person) and a touch pad for entering pin numbers and amounts.

How many different types of ATMs have you used ? Each one seems to have its own sequence of commands and acknowledgements. My bank's program asks you to enter your pin on the keypad, then press one of the buttons besides the screen for the account or transaction type. Several times it will prompt me to press the 'OK' button... which is somewhere on the keypad. Up here, down there, up here.

No wonder I'm so confused when I don't use the same ATM.

What users want
I've been using the Firefox browser from Mozilla for a while now. I didn't just switch because Internet Exploder from Micro$oft is a security nightmare.

Firefox is free, offers upgrades often (if there is a security flaw) and gives users what they want. What do users want ? Who knows. But I know I can't live without tabbed browsing and at least Mozilla is trying new innovative ideas. Some may not be the next big thing, but at least they're not resting on a 98% market share.

By the way, a Micro$oft representative in Australia said tabbed browsing "was not important to Internet Explorer users." He encouraged customers to contact Microsoft if they wanted extra features added to their existing browser. Microsoft is now releasing a new version of their browser with tabbed browsing - recanting the fact that they were not going to release a new version before the next operating system release in 2006 (or was it 2007?).

And the kitchen sink
Microsoft currently is facing a problem with Microsoft Office. It has reached market saturation in the developed markets like the USA. The package already has all the functions that most people need and there is no need to buy an upgrade. OpenOffice.org, even with its reduced functionality, has all the functions that most people need and there is no need to buy Microsoft Office. Anyway, they obviously think that innovation is putting more 'stuff' into their software.

Superhighway to hell
The internet itself is not a great design, especially if your intended usage is to glean information regarding a subject. This is probably why google has gotten such a following. Clifford Stoll's book, Silicon Snake Oil contains a great summary of his view on this subject :
The Internet provides a vast amount of data. But there's a wide gulf between data and information. There's a long distance from information to knowledge.
Good design
Don Norman has an excellent webpage praising good design. I read his book : Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles, many years ago and realized that his thoughts on how technology drives us, not the other way around were too true. My favorite anecdote is when he spent more time setting up the video camera tripod at his daughter's recital than actually sitting down and enjoying it.

I'm not on an anti-technology rant, or prescribing that we all resort to following the Bhutan guide to happiness, but we should not have to cater to bad design or technology that does not enhance our lives.

I stopped wearing a watch, although not voluntarily, several years ago. I find the day goes easier when I'm not checking the time 'all the time.' I do work harder to being on time for appointments, but I will admit that being at a computer most of the day does help in time management.

We don't own a video camera. And seven years ago, I bought all the new 802.11 wireless hardware and used it throughout the house/yard to surf the 'net, read/send email and complete my work. But soon I realized that I really didn't want to be working anywhere in the house or backyard. The wireless gear is in the closet.

BTW, I don't know what I would do without my Personal Video Recorder (PVR) ...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father Day

Today was that one day a year we acknowledge our thanks to our fathers. As I have mentioned before, as I get older, he appears to get wiser/smarter as the saying goes.

Sage Advice
I remember asking my father a long time ago why he wasn't higher up (like a vise-president) in the company that he spent many years working with for 25+ years. He told me that he didn't feel the investment in [over] time was worth it - he'd rather be home with the family each day by 5pm.

A while back I mentioned to him that when he was forty (my age now) I had already graduated from high school and my little brother was in junior high. My kids are 3 and 8 - I have a ways to go yet on my experience !? He commented that he wished he had spent more time with us.

Thinking back on the conversation, I think he was actually giving me advice or a lecture, without me realizing that was how the conversation had turned.

Totaled his truck
When I was living at home, I borrowed my dad's 4X4 quite often - paying for my own gas and insurance of course. He bought it when I was young and only used it once in a while for pulling the trailer during his holidays or that odd fishing weekend.

Well, one of those wild&crazy events happened and we managed to wreck/total his truck.

I came home and asked him "what is your truck worth ?- I wrecked it today and I would like to write you a cheque for it's value - buy it from you." He said an amount, I wrote him the cheque and from what my mom told me, he didn't say much about it.

Well, I spent the next week fixing the truck, swapping parts from a wrecked chev truck at work. I think I spent over 6+ hours per night on it. Mom says dad was quite shocked to see it running/working after I finished the overhaul - the front end was pretty much 'toast' from the tree it was wrapped around (another hold my drink story).

I sold the truck to a friend's dad for the same amount I paid my dad.

Lesson learned, turn the page.

Revenge ?
I remember many times my father telling me how I should do this or that and of course I totally ignored his advice. The other day, I was out on the driveway with my eight year old, shooting hoops with her. Now, I have been playing basketball for a very long time and was actually quite good at it "in my day." She seemed to be having trouble with making her shots consistently. I suggested she hold the ball like 'this' and follow through ...

"No daddy, our teacher says we should shoot like this!"

Sigh. I'm starting to understand so much more now about raising kids, the sacrifices involved and the zingers that come your way as 'the dad' now and then.

And one more thing, my wife reminds me now and then that my first daughter will be driving in 8 years - and that my miata is "still in good shape!"

I only drive it in the summertime once in a while ...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Blog Virus

The world's first blog virus has infected 'That's My Stapler'!

Do not be alarmed, I am assured by various computer experts that your computer will not be harmed by reading my blog - unless of course you're using Internet Exploder from Micro$oft. In that case, you have more problems to worry about ...

Symptoms of the virus include an uncontrollable urge of the blogger to infect five (5) other blogs. Not three or four and six is right out. I caught mine from a fellow Canadian (Maple Lounge), but that's no reason to ban content from the great white north eh ?

Okay, that's enough of that. I'll go along with answering the few questions to rid my blog of any bad karma that may come my way. (I needed something to write about today anyway.)
  1. Number of books I own
    I own probably less than I should - about 100. Mostly techie books that I need/use for work. Otherwise when I'm finished with one, I either loan or give to somebody who might enjoy it.

  2. Last book I bought
    "Five people you meet in Heaven" - for my wife for Christmas (no really). Okay, after hearing more about it, I might actually take the time to read it.

  3. Last book I read
    "America - the book" (The Daily Show)

  4. Five books that mean a lot to me

    In no particular order :
    • It's not about the bike - Lance Armstrong. He's not the hero nor a perfect role model, but he did go through a lot and winning six (6!) Tour de France races is no small feat.

    • America (the book) - The Daily Show. I am Canadian, but having spent a few years in the US, the subject matter in this book all too funny/true.

    • Canadian Legal Guide for Small Business - Nishan Swais. Title says it all (why would I want to pay 55% tax when I can start a corporation and ... ?)

    • Design Patterns - GangOfFour. Geek stuff, mostly about re-using object oriented programming techniques to their full advantgage (not that you cared).

    • The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide - Douglas Adams

  5. Tag five more
    1. These go to eleven
    2. The Blog of Daniel Sale
    3. Extra Strength Boredom Relief
    4. David Duchovny
    5. CalgaryGrit

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Today is the nineteenth anniversary of an unfortunate accident on the Mindbender roller coaster at West Edmonton Mall.

Due to negligence of Triple Five Corp., the owner/operator of the ride, the wheel assembly sheered off on the last car. This caused it to fishtail and hit a concrete foundation before entering the third loop. The train then didn't had enough speed to complete the loop - so it stopped and rolled backwards, when the last section hit the foundation again, where it came to rest. Three people were killed and one was seriously injured when they fell to the concrete floor below.

Sprechen Sie Deutsches?
Triple Five Corp. claimed there was a design flaw that caused the accident. But evidence showed that they had ignored a special inspection order from Schwarzkopf GmbH, the manufacturer of the roller coaster. Cars were checked only by visual inspections and not by taking them out from service. It was later determined that visual inspections alone would not have been adequate to determine if screws or bolts were loose.

Furthermore, the Schwarzkopf manual had never been translated from German into English - It directed workers to perform weekly checks on all the screws and bolts. After the accident it was discovered that one-quarter of all the axle bolts on the trains were loose and/or had damaged cranks.

The ride was closed for several months and reopened in a modified form with shorter trains using non-trailered cars and over-the-shoulder restraints. After the inquiry and several other incidents at other rides around the world, shoulder bars and/or lap bars became mandatory on all rides that traverse loops like the Mindbender.

Nine Lives
Would I ride the Mindbender roller coaster again ? Maybe, but probably not. And not just because we shouldn't trust our lives with minimum wage earners who weren't trained to maintain the ride properly (or can't read German).

I haven't been on the Mindbender since 1986. You see, the night it crashed, my friends and I were gathering at my friend's acreage so we could all go the "mall" and ride the roller coaster. Some of us hadn't yet been on this thrilling new ride at the world's largest indoor amusement park.

We would have been on that ride, possibly at the time of the accident, but something else occurred. I decided to take my friend's motorbike out for one last go at the subdivision's twisty corners. I didn't make the first turn.

Somewhere on that turn, at breakneck speed and carrying a passenger (my friend's little brother), I lost control and I don't remember anything other than the engine racing as the bike flew into the ditch. My friend's brother was okay. I spent a week in the hospital with pulled back muscles, scratches on my face and arms and several compressed vertebra - one broken/cracked.


I was young and I recovered eventually, but of course my back does hurt when I get tired or strain it. I consider myself lucky as the hospital's therapist gave me daily lectures (with a life-side bone model) of how close I came to paralyzing myself. The scars are still visible (to me) and I am very sorry for what I put everyone through.

Anyway, I don't ride a motorcycle anymore. I don't think I've been on a roller coaster since the accident either. Suffice is to say that I know I enjoy speed too much and that I don't have that many lives left (see the other posts in this blog).

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Identity Theft

Identity theft is unnerving. It's not like when you had your house or car broken into or your wallet stolen - and you knew right away that you were a victim. When someone steals your identity, you don't know if/when it will stop.

If you were a victim of identity theft you would know what I'm talking about. That paranoid feeling I remember having after our house was broken into just doesn't compare. You see, our problems were not the direct result of lack of diligence regarding our personal information as the Royal Bank's minimal webpage on the subject describes :
While there is no silver bullet in preventing identity theft, there are things you can do to help minimize your risk and protect your identity...
One Friday, a few years ago, my wife was traveling to visit her family. As was the case every once in a while, I logged on to our RBC account on the internet and noticed that $800 had been withdrawn that day. My wife and I hardly ever withdrew large amounts so I immediately phoned that bank to try and track down the anomaly.

They noticed that it was a joint account and suggested that my wife had withdrew the amount - especially if she was traveling and thought she needed the money. I was still suspicious, but agreed that I should check with her.

The blame game
My wife confirmed that night that she had not withdrawn any money ! We went down to our branch that next Monday to find out what was happening. I had not known anybody that was a victim of identity theft before and still didn't suspect that was the case with our missing money. The teller redirected our inquiry to the manager...

The bank manager produced documents that "showed that my wife not only withdrew the money, she paid the phone bill!" When the manager left the room for whatever reason, we stared bleakly at the paperwork thrust at us.

"Don't leave mail lying around"
My wife realized that she had paid that phone bill the week before by cheque in the mail AND the signature on the facsimile of the withdrawal slip hardly looked like hers ! We asked them to look closely at it. They said it was a little shaky, but looked somewhat like the one they "had on file." I was about to suggest that they don't check signatures against what they have on file, but I didn't think that comment was going to help our quest.

After a few more terse comments, they finally agreed to "start an investigation" - but if it was not 'their' fault, we would have to pay for it !?! We were also told that if we felt we were the victim of a crime, we would have to fill out a crime report with the RCMP. I think they also suggested they would need it for the investigation.

Before we left, I queried them about "how is that anybody can withdraw money from our account without ID nor a debit card - you guys ask me to swipe it each time I come in !?" They replied that it isn't always convenient for some of their customers to provide ID and debit card.

So, we eventually got our money back. The police determined that the street corner mail drop off box got broken into that week and it was probably Meth-heads that perpetrated the crime. They said that may be the end of the identity theft against us - but we changed all our credit cards, bank accounts and automatic withdrawals anyway. I don't believe Canada Post ever entered the investigation.

A Scene from Falling Down (the movie)
The day I went into the bank to pick up the new cheques (we insisted they not be mailed to us), I told them my name and that they "had some new cheques for me to pick up." They just handed them to me - without asking for ID, debit card, anything. They couldn't understand my displeasure that they "weren't being very diligent (AGAIN) regarding their customers' information."

Free Toaster ?
And RBC-Royal Bank's stance after all this ? They finally apologized after we complained the next time they made a major mistake and we wrote a terse letter claiming we were going to take our mortgage, line of credit, resp, rrsp's elsewhere.

They even gave us several months free of "service charges."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Linux Trivia

I read an interesting bit of trivia a while back from PCToday.com, who proclaims to be "Your (Microsoft) Windows Authority" :
OS Trivia Of The Day: May 7, 2005
And In The Beginning

In 1975, Microsoft had three employees, including Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Ric Weiland. The guys produced $16,005 in revenue that year. In 2003, the same company produced more than $10 billion in revenue and a net profit of $1.55 billion.
So, I thought I'd present my own little brand of trivia around one of my favorite subjects, Open Source and the freely available operating system known as Linux. I hope you enjoy and haven't already heard some/all of these factoids that I present today.

Birth of Linux
As you may or may not know, Linux is an operating system that was initially created as a hobby by a young student, Linus Torvalds, at the University of Helsinki in Finland... read more @ linux.org

August 25, 1991 is noted by enthusiasts as the birth of Linux by the initial announcement from Linus of a new operating system he was working on :
From: torvalds@klaava.Helsinki.FI (Linus Benedict Torvalds)
Newsgroups: comp.os.minix
Subject: What would you like to see most in minix?
Summary: small poll for my new operating system
Date: 25 Aug 91 20:57:08 GMT
Organization: University of Helsinki

Hello everybody out there using minix - I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).

I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months, and I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them :-)

Linus (torvalds@kruuna.helsinki.fi)

PS. Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(.
Linus/Linux up close
Lars Wirzenius shared an office at the University of Helsinki with Linus and was there during the initial trials and tribulations of early versions of the system. His ancedotes on Linux and Linus are quite enjoyable.

Linux is not a panacea to solve all the woes of the average IT department, but it is clearly a new opportunity to lower costs, maintain or expand functionality, and 'partner' with a huge community of developers that would be too expensive for anyone to hire.

A free and extensible operating system gives corporations the ability to implement a cheap OS 'vendor independent' solution - but I readily admit that you will have to hire administrators that know how the system works beyond a few GUI screens available from the "Control Panel." This may add to your 'total cost of ownership (TCO)' over a windows implementation, but Linux is being adopted by companies at an ever increasing rate.

Here is a collection of some growth/revenue numbers regarding linux servers :
  • IDC expects Linux-based server revenue to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 21 per cent between 2003 and 2006 - compared to the market average of 5 per cent.
  • Linux server sales recently enjoyed their 11th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, with year-over-year revenue growth of 35.2 per cent and unit shipments up 31.1 per cent.
  • Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced company record setting revenue of $2.5 billion from its Linux-based offerings
  • IBM says it made back its $1 billion investment for switching to linux services within the first year
  • Selling servers is IBM's biggest Linux business, with nearly $2 billion in sales expected in 2004, but the company says services and software revenue will grow in coming years
  • IDC announced they are forecasting the market for servers running Linux will exceed $9 Billion by 2008.

The Emperor has no clothes ?
Yes, windows does run on the majority of servers and desktops that are shipped. But the Windows market share is usually estimated by the units of Windows Microsoft claims to have shipped. This figure is skewed, because it includes every unsold box sitting on shelves. More significant, however, is the fact that it includes every PC with a pre-installed version of Windows.

So, the change to Linux from windows is occurring, but the actual market share statistics are unavailable. When someone purchases a PC with Windows pre-installed and then overwrites it with Linux, nobody subtracts "one" from the installed base of Windows and then recalculates the market share. So Windows starts out with a false boost and maintains an inflated market share even as it gets replaced by Linux.

Web Servers
Apache, an Open Source web server, runs 70% of the internet servers. Nuff said.

Non-technology executives soon will realize that their companies already use much more Open Source than they think. We all probably know of executives who still think their companies don't/shouldn't use Open Source in a 'production environment.' Of course, there are probably Open Source technologies at work inside each enterprise somewhere, including that corporate web server running Linux and Apache for the last few years.

But in 2005, the dramatic and continued growth for Linux will be joined hand-in-hand with recent boosts in other Open Source use - like Firefox and Open Office which will replace the buggy, insecure MS Internet Explorer and horribly expensive kitchen sink known as MS Office. Open Source is bound to finally hit the radar of even the most pointy-haired of bosses (phb).

In the last couple years we have heard about companies 'switching to linux' and this year will be the initial year that large corporations actually disclose their balance sheets and IT expenditure that can be compared to previous years. The bottom line will start to show overall cost savings in licensing fees, development and maintenance. So, once executives realize that incorporating Open Source libraries into their development processes can make development go faster, cost less and make them more competitive - the smarter ones will begin asking why they aren't using more of it.

So, executives will soon realize that their companies aren't using nearly as much Open Source as they should.

After all, Open Source applications and programming libraries are usually available at little or no cost and they work well, are extensible and almost always follow a commonly accepted standard. The latter being especially important to a programmer like me, as a library or utility can easily be swapped out for another if it doesn't quite meet the requirements or expectations.

And most Open Source libraries are written in Java. But that's another blog...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Coca-Cola(R) aka Coke

Things to do with empty coke cans

Today's topic is on Coca-Cola(r), which I drink a lot of for some reason. Here is what you can do with the coke cans that result from an addiction like mine.
  • How to make a fire using only a chocolate bar and a can of coke.
  • If you are at a location where you can't build a fire, create a stove
  • Create an Apple iPod holder that fits into your car's cupholder.
  • Build some model airplanes
  • Make some camera straps
Open Cola Recipe
You could make your own cola to refill the empty cans, using a recipe freely available on the internet. But you have to get through their disclaminers and warnings :
Improper use of cola might result in blunt trauma, puncture wounds, physical illness, mental illness, caffeine dependency, dental necrosis, acid reflux, death, devastation, and random tax audits. Or it might not.
My chemistry 30 (grade 12) final experiment was a study of caffeine and other nasty stuff (camel colour & phosphoric acid) found in colas. It's very interesting to revisit the ingredients that the 'open cola' recipe suggests goes into the common cola drink.

GPS Coke Can
If you drink as much coke as me, perhaps you have heard of the GPS coke can. Coca-Cola(r) ran a summer promotion in which it hid GPS transmitters and cell phones in 100 coke cans. Whoever wound up with one would push a red button on the can, which called coke officials, who tracked down the winner via GPS and delivered big prizes.

I wouldn't suggest trying to make your own prototype of this novel idea, as they had major issues with the can not being able to pass security checkpoints. The GPS coke can as shown in this article looks a little bit like an IED (improvised explosive device) in an X-ray machine!

The Corporation
Of course, making sugar water is big business now and Coca-Cola(r) has as many issues as other corporations that are trying to take over the world (like Walmart). Websites such as CokeWatch.org have a great, although one sided, review of information/headlines/other about the faceless corporation that only sees you and I as consumers :
The Coca-Cola Co. is facing an escalating number of problems in its international operations, which produce about 80 percent of the company's profits. The Atlanta-based beverage giant is dealing with labor unrest, organized protests, criminal and civil investigations, a product recall, a forced plant closing and questions about the health aspects of its products.
The caffeine added to Coke, as most people know by now, is one of the most addictive stimulants known to modern society. It is estimated that nearly 90% of adults are (or were) at some time ingesting caffeine on a daily basis. HowStuffWorks.com has a great write-up on the subject.
  • Typical drip-brewed coffee contains 100 mg per 6-ounce cup. If you are buying your coffee at Starbucks or a convenience store or drinking it at home or the office out of a mug or a commuter's cup, you are consuming it in 12-, 14- or 20-ounce containers. You can calculate the number of milligrams based on your normal serving size.
  • Typical brewed tea contains 70 mg per 6-ounce cup.
  • Typical colas (Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, etc.) contain 50 mg per 12-ounce can. Things like Jolt contain 70 mg per 12-ounce can.
  • Typical milk chocolate contains 6 mg per ounce.
  • Anacin contains 32 mg per tablet. No-doz contains 100 mg per tablet. Vivarin and Dexatrim contain 200 mg per tablet.
Addiction ? I can quit anytime!
I haven't decided to give up coke or caffeine, but I am down to one coke per day and one (large) coffee first thing in the morning. You might say I am a kinder, gentler guy by the time I get home from work. Or perhaps it's just fatigue from a long day at programming while staring at a computer 10" from my face ?

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