Create Fire from Water

Not sure how efficient this is as it requires 220 volts to operate (manufacturer lists the output at 31,000 BTU). The brilliant part is that 100% of the heat goes into the room that it is in and it produces water vapor as a side effect so it humidifies the room as well.

Book: The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Ok, everybody has already heard of/read this book (what can I say, Im slow and don’t have many opportunities to read). I thought that there were a great many interesting ideas about how things become adopted/popular. I particularly enjoyed the writing style which I found to be engaging without being chatty.

I also enjoyed the book because it is the sort of thing that helps me in my job, which is largely about trying to make complex things understandable and influencing people to take action on them based on the benefits.

Elevator ‘Hacking’

This little tidbit seems to be making the rounds on the net:

The designers of some elevators include a hidden feature that is very handy if you’re in a hurry or it’s a busy time in the building (like check-out time in a hotel). While some elevators require a key, others can be put into “Express” mode by pressing the “Door Close” and “Floor” buttons at the same time. This sweeps the car to the floor of your choice and avoids stops at any other floor.

Elevators that have been tested and worked on:
Otis Elevators (All But The Ones Made In 1992),
Dover (Model Numbers: EL546 And ELOD862),
And Most Desert Elevators(All, But Model Numbers ELD5433 And ELF3655)

I might try this out the next time I am in a high rise building (which isn’t too often these days).


Where in the World?

Came across this nifty site at that lets you generate a map of the places that you have been (which appear in red on the map) and even the ones that you would like to visit. Mine looks something like this:

It appears that the idea of the site is to allow travelers to add their own commentary and advise on places that they have visited or lived. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Professional Photographer Uses ‘Point and Shoot’ Camera

It’s always been my contention that the gear you have doesn’t matter, its what you can do with it that does. This article about an award winning professional photographer who uses so called point and shoot cameras for his pictures rather than a ‘big, fast, bulletproof pro SLR’ really makes the point.

I get a certain satisfaction out of his current choice of camera, the Olympus c-8080, the same camera that I have (though the results I get are not in the same league as this guy).

Buying a Mobile Phone from Amazon

I had been mulling over a solution to carrying around both a Palm and a mobile phone to deal with my day to day. After returning from vaction, my phone was ripped off, so the pressure was on to try to find a converged replacement. After trying out the Treo 650 and Blackberry 7100, I decided against both of them and started to zero in on the Nokia 6682. Problem is, the 6682 isn’t readily available, but supposed to be released ‘any day now’ by Cingular.

After two weeks without a phone, I finally made up my mind to stop waiting for the Nokia 6682 to be available from Cingular and to just get the Nokia 6620 instead and ‘upgrade’ to the 6682 when and if it becomes available.

Searching high and low around the area quickly led to the conclusion that none of the Cingular stores around here have a very complete selection of phones and definately not the more feature rich units. I noticed on Amazon that they had the phone available and with the two rebates offered, I essentially made $25USD on the purchase of the phone. I ordered with Amazon and ponied up for the next day delivery as the item was listed on their site as ‘shipping within 24 hours’. The next day I get, not a delivery notice from Amazon, but an email telling me that there is a delay in processing my order. It turns out that it can take up to 48 hours for Amazon/Cingular to do the credit check — Amazon won’t ship until Cingular says your credit is good. So three days later my phone ships. The amazing thing was that it shipped at 3AM and I recieved it later that same day.

Activating the phone was another adventure which required no fewer than 8 phone calls to Amazon and Cingular to get the phone activated, the correct calling plan options established, voicemail initialized, etc. In spite of all of the calls required, Amazon and Cingular did an excellent job of quickly and politely dealing with each and every issue including staying on the phone with me as I went through the various activation steps. At one point, I was on the phone so long that my cordless phone’s battery died with no warning. About 30 minutes later the Cingular rep called me back to make sure that everything had been activated properly. Outstanding!

Since then I have been trying to find the time to familiarize myself with the phones features and software (and there are quite a few of them). More on that later.

Cellphones and Driving Don’t Mix

No surprises in this article on Wired. Driving while talking on a mobile phone is unsafe whether you are using a headset or not.

It is my firm belief that accidents caused while someone is talking on a cellphone should be treated as other driving impairments (DUI). Do it more that a few times and you lose your license.

In Case of Emergency

This is a simple but very effective way of helping yourself if you are in a bad state. The jist of the article is to add an entry (or entries) into your mobile phone contacts list under ICE (In Case of Emergency). That way a paramedic or hospital attendant would have a good chance of getting ahold of someone on your behalf if you were incapacitated. Multiple entries could be added for ICE2, ICE3, etc.

Senseless Acts

What a series of horrible and senseless events in London this morning. My thoughts go out to all those impacted by this barbarity.

And me scheduled for a business trip there in a few weeks…

Book: The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

I have had this book for a while now and just finished it in while on vacation in Alaska. In fact, I bought this book back when the original Power of Myth PBS series aired some time ago.

I have always had an interest in mythology, religion, cognitive psychology and linguistics and this definitely plays into the first two and to a lesser extent the third. It also builds on my interest in the works of Carl Jung as well.

It was interesting to finish the book in Alaska, a place where the indigenous practices have (seemingly) not been surpressed as they have been in other places. The visit to the Alaskan Heritage site was rewarding to talk to some of the people who are from the various tribes and collectives of Alaska.

In a subsequent conversation, I was curious as to where young kids these days get their mythology and how do they learn the lessons that a cultures mythology attempts to internalize? Video games? Television? Internet? Sadly, interaction with parents and the community seems to be a scarce commodity.

Travel: Alaska

Just back from two weeks on a driving tour of Alaska. We had decent weather for most of the trip (which was handy because we were outdoors for most of it). The itinerary was basically a few days in Anchorage and around, Wasilla (just to get out of Anchorage), Seward, Homer, Whittier and back to Anchorage to fly home.

Considering that we were in coastal places the entire time (ok, except for Wasilla) I was shocked at how appallingly bad the food was, particularly the seafood. Think about it, you are in a place with fresh seafood coming in everyday (and all day) and what do they do to it? Batter and deep fry it or slather it with some disgusting concoction that tasted like ketchup mixed with honey. And forget about vegetables (you wouldn’t want them even if they were on the menu). To add insult to indigestion, you pay top dollar for the honor.

On a hiking trail that is basically right in Seward, my daughter and I came within 50 yards or so of a black bear cub. So while she stood there with her mouth agape, I was mentally running down the list of things to do/not do when you encounter a bear (make lots of noise, don’t get between the cub and the mother, stand your ground if charged, etc). As luck would have it, by the time I thought to reach for my camera and power it up, the cub took off like a shot. Nicola still talks about it to this day. Perhaps, obvious to some, but worth a note, the mosquitos in the area are awful so plan appropriately when venturing into the woods.

In addition to the hiking we did, the highlights were the two glacier cruises that we did on the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound. While the wildlife viewing was so-so, getting up close to some of the tidewater glaciers was quite impressive. As an aside, on the Prince William Sound cruise, the BBC were onboard filming what appeared to be a travel show on Alaska.

Lastly, the 22+ hours of sunlight a day does take some getting used to. There were many nights when Martina would tell Nicola “you need to get ready for bed in a couple of hours”, then realize that it was after 10PM! Waking up in the middle of the night always gave you that “oh crap, its morning already” initial shock before you realized that it was 3AM. Defying all logic, one of the hotels that we stayed in didn’t even have blinds on the windows, let alone black out shades. Thank goodness for eye shades.

Photos from the trip are here and here on Flickr.

On the pond

We have been planning a small pond in the front garden since shortly after we moved in 7+ years ago. Well, this was the weekend for it. The ground wasn’t too hard, so shifting all of the dirt wasn’t as challenging as it could be if we put it off until later in the summer when the soil is like concrete.

We got the dirt (and debris) out, the sand in, and the liner down. Then off to a nearby garden shop to buy some stone to edge with (and really to help keep the liner from shifting once the water went in). When it came time to fill, I was surprised that it took almost an hour to top it up. Nice start.

So all of that together was really ‘step one’. Next comes putting in the water plants, the waterfall, tidying up the edging and ultimately some goldfish. I’ll post some pictures as we are further along in the process.

Book: Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather

Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather by Gao Xing Jian

I bought this book after it was rather deliriously reviewed on NPR.

While there are a few interesting moments in the book on the whole, I was left wondering what all of the breathless praise in the review was about. The last two short stories in the book where particularly unsatisfying. The short that shares the same name as the book moves along nicely then absolutely disintegrates into a stream of consciousness load of blather. It’s almost as if the author couldn’t figure out an ending so he pulled the literary equivalent of the last 10 minutes of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey movie.

The final short in the book reads like a collection of snippets for ideas for scenes in a book (or even a film for that matter). They don’t come close to hanging together and have the jarring effect of poorly done free jazz (to my eyes anyway).

I’d give this book about 2 out of 5. Not a total clanger, but definitely not one that I would read again.