Saturday, April 23, 2011

Song of the Day: Cuff the Duke - Listen to Your Heart

Remember "Song of the Day"? Me neither, but this song has been playing in my mind all day.

Light is darkened in the rain,
whispers linger and remain.
There you are just wondering who to blame.

Has it passed you by,
like a stranger in a crowd.
All you have are distant memories.

Listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay.
Whoa, listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay.
Whoa, listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay.

You've been looking for your chance,
to get away from it all.
Bu'it's still here while your friends moved on.

Well the time finally came,
but the moment wasn't right.
There you were just feeling left behind.

Listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay.
Whoa, listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay.
Whoa, listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay, okay.

Night is darkening the rain,
whispers linger and remain.

Listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay.
Whoa, listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay.
Whoa, listen to your heart, baby it'll be okay, okay.


Gorgeous song. Especially live.


And so, naturally, when looking up "Listen to your Heart" on youtube, you get this also awesome song.

Roxette? Very underrated.

oh Dell

Oh Dell. So wanting to participate in Earth day.

Sending a Super Sale promotion out the day after earth day was not enough for you, but you also suggest to "Save Energy and shop online".

Really? Like, energy energy, or laziness energy? I was planning to go into this whole harangue about box stores vs driving assumptions vs delivery services and trucks vs whatever else came to mind at that exact moment, but knowing Dude, you got a Dell's target marketing audience, I'm going to take a Saturday morning break and just assume it's the latter.

Mmmm, yes Dell, show me how you care for that earth...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In preparation for England,

I picked up TomTom's iphone mapping software...

purchased a cheap flashlight from dealextreme, 

... and can't wait to buy one of these hammock tents from MEC for countryside expeditions.

I did check; there are trees in the UK.

I had high hopes for's iphone app but...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lawyers, doctors, journalists, oh my.

What can't robots do?

Automation of higher-level jobs is accelerating because of progress in computer science and linguistics. Only recently have researchers been able to test and refine algorithms on vast data samples, including a huge trove of e-mail from the Enron Corporation.

“The economic impact will be huge,” said Tom Mitchell, chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “We’re at the beginning of a 10-year period where we’re going to transition from computers that can’t understand language to a point where computers can understand quite a bit about language.”

Nowhere are these advances clearer than in the legal world.

A typical physician spends most of the day playing twenty questions.
Where does it hurt? Do you have a cough? How high is the patient’s blood pressure? But an expert system can play twenty questions better than most people. An expert system can use the best knowledge in the field, it can stay current with the journals, and it never forgets.

Consider how many people die because physicians forget the basics. Gina Kolata reports on a Medicare program to rate hospitals on the quality of care provided in the treatment of heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia – these three areas chosen because there are standard, clinically proven, treatments that everyone agrees are highly beneficial.

Deadspin conceded. They published a follow up, saying that — in this case — the machine did write the better story.

"The image of the robots typing wins me over for sure," says Carmichael. "And on top of that, in some cases, as we've seen with Narrative Science's story, they actually can produce the stronger story."

This robot journalist can explore its surroundings, take pictures, interview people, perform internet searches, and publish online. Ok, I'm about to lose my job.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More Kindle, procrastination, etc.

A browser extension "bookmarklet" (chrome, firefox, safari) allows you to send any web article straight to your kindle for later reading at the push of a button.

Or, send articles/attachments straight to your kindle with its personal email address ( No spam either; all incoming email addresses need to be pre-approved.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Are lawyers really in trouble?

These people obviously haven't heard that the four digit hourly fee ceiling has been broken recently. It is funny though; there is certainly a growing discrepancy between what you are reading and what you are hearing lately. These articles keep coming out one after another all saying exactly the same thing, yet every lawyer I'm talking to, new graduate or established, isn't complaining a lick about a lack of business.

Maybe it is a larger problem in the states, and just like good Canadian journalism, it's unabashedly echoed here. The story du jour. I suspect the problem is also magnified in business centres like Manhattan and Toronto, where once would be corporate lawyers aren't finding what they were promised and don't want to leave their chosen path (or residence), and it is from these business sectors that these articles are focused on and are coming from. In truth, I think the dip in new hires extends to the business sector as a whole (don't tell me it's rebounded), and even corporate jobs by the boatload will soon be available for those those who are born for a Bay Street gig. However, in saying that, as a practicing lawyer in Canada even today, you certainly won't starve.

Space signpost!

In Bristol, there's a "space signpost".

It's a signpost that points at things in space; planets, comets, satellites in orbit around the earth. Press a button, and the signpost will point at the object, actually track it across the sky, and show you the exact distance it is from the signposts location, updated every second or two! It's inspiring and accessible!

Gobekli Tepe, et al.

So, yeah, it's been a LONG while since I've updated, and that's not entirely out of laziness. I've been reading instead of surfing the net most nights lately, and most certainly not law books ;) I've been on a travel run of late, and for those that don't know yet, I'm going on a two month summer program to Herstmonceux Castle to study international public law. There'll be plenty of updates from there, don't you worry.

But, in this potpourri blog update (you thought I jumped around a lot before?), in preparation for the summer, I've picked myself up a Kindle.

The ebook tipping point came when I found a mound of online resources for free downloads of current books, news and magazine releases downloaded straight to the Kindle (including the New Yorker, w cartoons!), as well as free international 3G internet service. Sure it's in black and white, but it's perfect for email, directions, wikipedia, facebook, etc. I was thinking of a Nook Color for the longest time, but figured that was more just another toy than an actual reader, and I'm happy, especially with all of Kindle's automations, that I went for the Kindle. That, and with little games included (Scrabble, Sudoku, Mathdoku!, etc... ), it was a no-brainer.

SO, to distract myself even further from the upcoming exams, I've been thinking about what to do this summer. The current plan is to travel around Europe for a bit after school, and then maybe a bike trip over the Rockies in late July.

The school in England is located about 90 kms south of London (but only 65 kms from Gatwick airport). So, easy and cheap access to the rest of Europe for a weekend trip.

 Yup. I'll be "studying" there.

I've been fortunate enough to visit the castle once before with Jeremy when we went over to visit Simon while he was on exchange from Dalhousie, and it's absolutely great there. They even have a WORKING OBSERVATORY!!!

The above is the observatory figuring out whether a "leap second" was to be added in 2009. In a nutshell, a laser beam is fired at a satellite to which a retro-reflector has been attached. By measuring the time it takes for the beam to return, it is possible to measure where the base station is relative to the satellite and therefore detect fluctuations in the Earth's rotation as well as tidal movements of the land (due to the pull of the Moon). Interestingly, the solar building was not only the first of the new domes at Herstmonceux to become operational following the move from Greenwich; it is the only one where active research is still carried out.


So, when not spending time on the grounds, current weekend trip ideas include Berlin, Madrid or Barcelona, and Paris, and maybe a cost saving long weekend bike/camping trip to Stonehenge, which is about 180 kms away. And yes, through the wonderful Tori, who happens to have cousins living a short 18 km jog away in St. Leonard's-on-sea, I think I may have secured a bike for the duration of my visit.

Speaking of Stonehenge for a second, which archaeologist believe was erected around 2500 BC, there are many theories as to why it was built. However, they all seem to centre around the idea that it was a religious meeting place of some kind. BUT, perhaps more interesting is the recently discovered Gobelki Tepe.

Located in south east Turkey, dating back to around 9000 BC (!), current theories surrounding this, errr, erection are that this is the reason for and the beginning of the transformation of the homo sapien nomadic hunter-gatherer to the current farming and agriculture lifestyle. These profound changes in our understanding of human societal and cultural development are absolutely amazing. Despite only about 5% of the area has been excavated so far, tremendous scientific research and theories have emerged.

Get this: A current theory holds that nomadic homo sapiens would gather in this area, and had been for years before erecting the monument, and because of the constant and consistent revisiting, sedentary farming villages emerged. Firstly, the hill was ideally situated for ancient hunters. Wild gazelles still migrate past twice a year as they did 11ish millennia ago. Secondly, for some reason they picked this place to make a consistent ritual place out of, for whatever reason. So, more proof right?

Wheat is considered the basis for farming culture today and in ancient times. One of the earliest domesticated form of wheat was the einkorn.

The cultivation of einkorn, perhaps for eating as gruel, is thought to mark the origin of agriculture in the ancient world. "If you know where [einkorn] wheat was domesticated, you know where agriculture originated," says wheat geneticist geneticist Jan Dvorak of the University of California. A newish study aimed to find those whereabouts, and has (read the full article pdf print here... you just gotta love the periodical access given with an active student number...).

Heun and his colleagues analyzed the DNA from 270 lines of the wild einkorn, as well as 68 lines of the larger, cultivated grain, which differs genetically only slightly from the wild forms. In the DNA fragments they examined, the cultivated einkorn most closely resembles 11 lines of wild einkorn that grow in the Karacadag Mountains, less than 30 kms from Gobekli Tepe.

"They show that all the cultivated einkorn is related to one specific population in Turkey," says Dvorak. THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE FINDING. Along with the cultivated wheat came barley and lentils, then other crops, including another form of wheat that led eventually to the familiar bread wheat. Likewise, sheep, goats, and pigs were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent, along with dogs (SN: 6/28/97, p. 400 (pdf)).

Incredible. This seems to be where it all started.  It seems that the erection of monumental complexes was within the capacities of hunter-gatherers and not only of sedentary farming communities as had been previously assumed. In other words, as excavator Klaus Schmidt puts it: "First came the temple, then the city." (link)

More good, and obviously biased, reading on Gobekli here.


Anyway yes, I have checked out flights from London to Sanliurfa (where Sanliurfa is less than 20 kms outside Gobekli Tepe), and they are currently running about 250 pounds, or $540, with a stop in Istanbul... Gobekli is about 170 kms by road from Istanbul.

Anyway anyway, after the castle (classes end on the 23rd of June), if not Gobekli, which does seem a bit out of the way and hence more of a one off trip(?), we're thinking of visiting Simon in Warsaw, go down to Krakow and Auschwitz, Vienna, and then Croatia to visit Milan. We have our return flight booked for July 9th. Of course this is still very much in the air, so to speak.


Ok, I'm not done procrastinating yet. I'm currently looking for people to come along on this trip, as current enlistees are waivering... here's the recruitment email I sent out a couple months ago if anyone is interested.

Ok, I did some research on a Calgary to Kelowna bike route.


- Calgary Folk Festival Thursday July 21st - 24th. Awesome.
- Leave Calgary by bike Monday July 25th - arrive in Kelowna Saturday July 30th.
- Adam/Claire wedding.
- Monday August 1st is the August long weekend holiday. Fly back.

All these events are once in a lifetime opportunities as I see it. Except for Adam's wedding. HEY-OOOO!

Ok, (route mapped out)

Around 600 kms. +/- 100 kms a day depending on hills = 6-7 hours on the bike on hard days, 5 hours on easy days. This obviously doesn't include stops, but, if we start each day at 8am and finish at 6pm, that's 10 hours travelling time, for 7 hours max bike time. Lots of time for food and exploration, never mind the early evenings. It's certainly not "easy", but totally doable, and a major accomplishment.

And look at the elevation below. There are 5-6 hard climbs, and don't get me wrong, these are hard, world famous climbs. Rogers Pass being one. Obviously we take the total kms down those days...


Although we may be against some wind, most of the trip is downhill! An ideal direction to do the Rockies if you're EVER going to do them.

On the way, we would pass some AMAZING places and views, with plenty of hostels/motels to stay in (so we don't need to haul tents, etc). Bow Valley Provincial Park, Banff, Sawback Range, Lake Louise, Yoho National Park, Glacier National Park, Mt Revelstoke National Park, and the Okanagan towns of Armstrong and Vernon, are just a few of the major stops along the way... Also, I don't think I need to tell you of the potential bike-wine tours in and around Kelowna as REWARD when we get there.

What a great accomplishment this would be, and to be bookended by two awesome events... it's practically a sin not to do this. I'm currently sending email inquiries to Vienna on how to actually make it a sin.

A few links:
(remember, we'd be doing most of these in reverse... )

Here's one in our general direction:


Alright, enough for tonight. Back to consuming, and "the readings"... but first, solely on our Property Prof's recommendation, the following Cosby show clip.

This is perhaps 4:27 minutes you will ever spend.

AND, perhaps the best Cosby episode ever...


If you're going to watch this, skip the first minute, cuz it's ridiculous.