Garmin 405 – A Birthday gift for the consummate technophile!

Garmin Forerunner 405Turning 58 was not really as traumatic event as I might have expected. Perhaps this was because, in my mind, I already was that age. At this point, it is really just a number and I have come to a point where I really do not think much about my age. The main reason for this is, I believe, because I am probably in better shape physically now  than I have been at any other point in my life.

Although I am not by any measure a fitness fanatic, I do either run, cycle, swim, workout or play tennis, for a minimum of forty minutes, five or more times a week. The obvious benefits are that I can still (or again) fit into clothes I have owned for 20+ years. Whether they look good or not  is more a matter of fashion than fit 😉

Over the last decade or so, Dorothy, my wife, has bought me a variety of hi-tech watches for my birthday. The first was only half a success ie. it sucked! The idea was sound enough; it was a watch with a built-in camera. The good part ended with the idea though, since the implementation was woefully inadequate. The resolution was about 240×180 and was only monochrome. Luckily, it came with a good return policy.

Much to her credit, Dorothy did not give up and more suitable candidates followed, including a wristwatch multi-function remote control and more recently, two different heart-rate monitor watches. The first of these was a Timex Ironman which was great except for the remote monitor strap which had to be fastened around your chest. The second did away with the strap but was activated by completing the circuit by touching a button on the watch face. The only (but serious) problem was that the monitor works flawlessly at a standstill but is exceptionally flaky when activated during a run.

A short while ago, Mik, our son-in-law, received a Garmin 305 as a birthday gift from his parents. This was not only a heart-rate monitor but also a GPS device that tracked time, speed, distance, topology and calories burned. One of the biggest features for me was that of  ‘Virtual Partner’ which allows you to run to a specific pace or against a previous run. Furthermore, results can be posted to the Internet to share with friends or compete with others. The only drawback was the unit’s size which made it look like one had a mini-notebook computer lashed to one’s wrist. Also, having watched Mik use his on a couple of runs, it didn’t look like the easiest to operate on the move.

And then, recently, whilst browsing in Costco, I came across the ultimate solution, (or at least until they come out with a new model). Although they unimaginatively called it the 405, this name does very little to describe what is really a technological marvel. Its size is now only slightly larger than a regular wristwatch and it fits reasonable well on even my own scrawny wrists. One of the few signs of aging that I will admit to is that my eyesight is no longer as sharp as it used to be and since I prefer to run without my reading glasses, the readout of some of my previous wristwatches have been difficult to decipher on the run. I appreciated the feature of the Ironman watch which would emit a continuous beep when I was either above or below my programmed training heart-rate zone. Of course, all this wizardry comes with a fairly steep price tag. Being the lucky man that I am, the family deemed that I was deserving enough or perhaps would be in the coming year if they catered once more to my foibles.

I must admit that I was a little skeptical as to how the unit would perform in real-life situations after having read as much as possible in advance of actually placing it on my birthday wishlist. The simple truth is that you can never fully evaluate any hi-tech product without actually putting it through its paces in the field. However, the 405 did not disappoint. Although the screen is a touch smaller than the clunkier models, I can read all but the smallest fonts without my glasses. Certainly, I can glean the relevant information during my run and check out the small print when I transfer the data to my laptop.

After my first run, I was fully convinced that this watch is one amazing piece of equipment. It does everything it purports to do and does it well. It is easy to read and to control on the move and the data loaded into my PC tells me everything I could need to know about my workout. You can even load the data into Google Maps and get a visual of your route.Of course, I had to try out the on-line sharing as well, so if you wish to see how this works, you can check it out at Garmin’s site

All in all, I am more than satisfied that the Garmin Forerunner 405 is a worthy addition to my hi-tech arsenal!

The Power of the Blogger! Or, how to make a bad situation worse.

Un-chef, mighty Blogger, Destroyer of Restaurants

Un-chef, mighty Blogger, Destroyer of Restaurants

It never ceases to amaze me just how arrogant and ultimately self-destructive certain business people can be! On our sister blog, JustRW – Home of Canada’s Un-Chef, we recently wrote a review of a local restaurant. For us, it was merely one of many that we have posted in the last few months and held no special meaning for us. It must be said that overall, said review was less than flattering towards the restaurant in question, simply because the food wasn’t great and the service was worse. Since we had been introduced to the restaurant by a friend who knew the owners, we actually got to meet one of them but he was unaware that I would be writing a review after our visit.

The really interesting part came afterward. In the spirit of helping a restaurant improve, our friend sent a link to our post to the owner of the restaurant in question. For a few days, he heard nothing and thought that the restaurateur had decided to simply ignore it. However, yesterday, the owner called him and berated him for bringing me to his establishment saying that my review was biased, unfair and attacking his ‘heritage’. He went on to refute most of my comments as being either exaggerated or totally incorrect. He finished by saying that if my friend had any other acquaintances that were bloggers, he should refrain from inviting them to the restaurant.  Apparently, my review was especially damaging because it ranked highly in the search engines like Google and therefore was likely to be seen by many potential customers who would then have a false impression of  his restaurant.

Finally, he stated that if I should happen to enter his restaurant in the future, he would show me the door.

My initial reaction to this is simply to chuckle. It is gratifying to think that I, a lowly blogger, could wield so much power if only in the eyes of a paranoid restaurateur. On the other hand, although it is true that my blog does have a reasonably large following, especially in the Ottawa area, I am hardly one of the more influential food critics and am merely a small fish in a big pond. Finally, I can assure anybody who reads this that I have no ulterior motive nor any particular axe to grind. I simply enjoy eating out, though perhaps not so much at this particular restaurant,  and writing about it.

The shame of the entire situation is that quite apart from making a mountain out of a molehill, this so-called businessman has drawn even more attention to both the negative review and his subsequent churlish attitude towards it and this writer. Furthermore, anyone doing any even modestly broad reading of local reviews and comments on blogs, mainstream media and the like will find that my slightly negative review is hardly an anomaly.

My advice to this unfortunate individual: Get over it and move on! Don’t shoot the messenger. Turn your efforts towards improving your business. If the message was wrong, then in the long run it won’t matter. If it was right, you can learn from it and turn a negative into a positive. However, with everything that I have experienced before and since, I doubt that this is going to happen!

Off the beaten track in England: A travelogue

Houses of Parliament

London, River Thames and Houses of Parliament

When many people think of a trip to England, images of Clark Griswold driving around Marble Arch extolling the virtues of Big Ben comes to mind. Indeed, perhaps in the minds of many, London equates to England. If you decide to follow us on our recent trip to Old Blighty, you will see another side of the country that most tourists will never get to see!

In early June, we flew from Ottawa to Heathrow via Air Canada for a short vacation to attend my stepfather’s 80th birthday celebration. Our tickets were $1400+ each, the most we had ever paid to cross the Atlantic but we decided that we would pay the extra to avoid the harrying experience of connecting through overcrowded hubs like Toronto, New York, Chicago or Atlanta. We had been able to find tickets for just under $900 Cdn but we just couldn’t face the extra travel time and stress. It would ultimately turn out to be the right decision.

Air Canada makes checking in at Ottawa a painless experience, especially if you have checked in online as we did. There was no appreciable line as there typically is for most trans-Atlantic flights at most airports. Online check-in also meant that we already had chosen our seat assignments. Boarding was also orderly and painless and we were soon installed in our allotted bulkhead seats. The only flea in the ointment was a very young baby seated in the same row already crying before the flight had even taken off.

Vauxhall Meriva

Apart from minor disturbances from the aforementioned baby and food that was mediocre at best, the almost 7 hour flight was reasonably pleasant and I was able to get a few hours of fitful sleep. Deplaning and crossing customs at Heathrow went smoothly. My only minor complaint would be the inordinately long distances that one is forced to walk between the ramp and the customs hall. Having rented a car through Alamo, we found our way, with help from airport personnel, to the appropriate shuttle stop and, about 90 minutes after touchdown, we were setting off for Bluewater in our blue Vauxhall Meriva.

In reality, we were heading for a tiny dormitory town in Essex called South Woodham Ferrers where my brother Kenn and his family reside. Since we knew that no-one would be home until 6 PM, we had all day to get there. Personally, I had already visited Bluewater Mall a couple of times on previous visits but my wife had not yet seen it and as you can well imagine, was not averse to a little shopping! Although I knew pretty well where it was, we still elected to use our newly-purchased TomTom GO 930 GPS (or SatNav for the Brits). We had previously owned the 920 and, crazy as it seems, it was only marginally more expensive to upgrade the machine than just to update the maps (both North America and Europe).

Bluewater Shopping Centre

Bluewater Shopping Centre

Even though it was mid-morning and rush hour was over, traffic on the M25 London ring road was solid but moving smoothly. Our GPS accurately predicted our arrival time at around noon. As it turned out, today was one of those days, for both Dorothy and myself, where neither of us was really in the mood to buy anything. It felt like that old quotation: “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!” Nevertheless, our window shopping did help us work up an appetite so that we could do justice to our first meal on English soil. It was indeed fitting that this first meal should be ‘High tea’ served at that most iconic of British shopping institutions, Marks & Spencer. For a full review of this meal, see our Un-Chef sister site

deli counter

Marks & Spencer deli Counter

Although what we chose was quintessentially English, not much else about our surroundings was! The deli counter at which we sat was more reminiscent of France. Furthermore most of the clientele were siting in front of open-faced baguette deli sandwiches which were being washed down with copious amounts of wine.  This is something which is totally European and would have been unthinkable as little as 15 years ago. One of the sharpest differences that I noted on this trip was the amount of alcohol, both wine and beer that the British consume at lunch and during the afternoon. Britain might be an island but some of its insular nature is being rapidly eroded by the continental onslaught of the European Community. I, for one, do not necessarily consider this a bad thing (except perhaps for the increased alcohol consumption). Obviously, tacitly if not overtly, most of the Brits would seem to agree.

Once again, putting our faith in the trusty TomTom, we set off for South Woodham Ferrers. Even though I travel to the U.K. fairly frequently, I never ceased to be amazed by the sheer volume of traffic in comparison to North America. Even without the obvious detriment of right-hand drive, manual-shift vehicles, many less adventurous travellers would be well advised to stick to public transport. Personally, I enjoy returning to where I first learned to drive and consider it a matter of pride not to be intimidated by the challenge. 

It was at my brother’s home that we started to see parts of the English ethos that has not changed. Although Brits are not universally known for their work ethic, neither Kenn nor Kym his wife could be accused of being slackers. Both work long hours and yet time is still found to put a home-cooked evening meal on the table. Whether by chance or not, we sat down this evening to roast beef, potatoes and 3 veg. Dessert was served with copious amounts of fresh double cream and /or custard. Now that’s English cooking!

After chatting and reminiscing for a couple of hours, we all turned in. It was still only 20 hours since we had boarded the plane in Ottawa but it already seemed a distant memory.

Check back soon to read the continuing sage of our England adventure

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The Supper Seven do it Louisiana Style in Ottawa

These shots were taken on a recent Supper outing to Jean Albert’s restaurant at Lyon & Somerset street in Ottawa. You can read a full restaurant review on our sister blog at: JustRW – Canada’s Un-Chef

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Jean Albert's Louisiana Soul Food restaurant at Somerset & Lyon in Ottawa


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Ottawa still ranks highly as a great place to live!

Ottawans celebrate Canada Day in the Nation's Capital

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how Vancouver is such a great place to live. It is true that the recent Winter Olympics have done a great deal to increase its visibility on the world stage. Having visited the city a few times personally over the years, I must admit that it ranks highly in my list of pleasant places to visit. Nevertheless, it is not just by accident that we have chosen to make Ottawa our home for most of the last 35 years!

Canadian cities still dominate the top of the index for this region with Vancouver (4) retaining the top spot, followed by Ottawa (14), Toronto (16) and Montreal (21). Calgary ranks 28 on the overall quality of living ranking.

via News Release: 2010 Mercer Quality of Living survey.

Ok, I will grant you that Vancouver still ranks ahead of Ottawa but the fact that the two, along with Toronto, Montreal and Calgary rank in the top 50 worldwide should help Canadians realize that Canada is doing some things right. We have, as a nation, with the possible exception of hockey and ‘own the podium’ a tendency to be self-deprecating. It is usually our neighbours to the South who will blow their own trumpets with unbridled enthusiasm at the least excuse. In this instance, each one of the five Canadian cities rank above ALL U.S cities of which only Honolulu and San Francisco rank in the top 50. If you take the trouble to visit the actual report quoted above and scroll down the page, you will discover that there is a second section which ranks cities by using slightly different criteria:

Eco-City Ranking 2010 includes the following criteria: Water availability, water potability, waste removal, sewage, air pollution and traffic congestion.

Things look very different when we start looking at garbage, air pollution and traffic congestion. From my perspective, these are not inconsequential details. Now we find that Ottawa rates 3rd in the entire world. Not too shabby. It is worth noting that in this new ranking, the U.S. has 6 cities present versus 5 for Canada. Of course, they have many more cities to be ranked than Canada. And there are some surprises since neither Minneapolis nor Pittsburgh would come to mind for many when they are considering potential Eco-City placings.
So, the next time that you feel yourself being sucked in by the negative self-image that is so often promulgated in the Canadian media, remember, we are still living in one of the best spots in the world!

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Blogging is not as easy as it looks!

There’s that old adage about the other man’s grass always being greener! So it is with blogging. It looks easy! Anyone could do it! It is a very attractive proposition on the surface and a whole sub-industry has blossomed on the Internet to help anyone who wishes to make a fortune with a blog. After all, it costs nothing to get started. You can get a free sophisticated blog website from the likes of Google (Blogger) or WordPress, you can put advertising on it through Google Adsense and many others and away you go!

Well, yes maybe anyone can start up a blog, but then anyone could sit at the controls of a jumbo jet. That does not mean that they can fly it. In fact, we could safely say that 99% of people who tried it without the necessary background training and information would crash. Although the fallout would not be so disastrous, we would estimate that the percentage of unsuccessful bloggers would be about the same. Let’s take a look at why this might be:

  1. A website and the knowledge to operate it – All you will get, when you open an account with Blogger, Blogspot or WordPress is the ability to set up an account. Before you even write your first word, you will have to make a myriad of decisions about the look, feel and operation of your blog, much of which, will require at least a modicum of knowledge about Internet technology such as programming languages, file types and protocols and much more. You will need to be a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades to produce an eye-grabbing, attention-holding site.
  2. Interesting Subject matter – Once you are over the initial hurdle of getting your site set up, you now have to find subject matter that will keep both you and your readership engaged. If you think that ‘build it and they will come’ applies here, you are in for a nasty shock. The Internet is littered with millions of sites that get few or no hits on a regular basis. Just throwing up random stuff  will not guarantee success.
  3. Continually updated, RELEVANT content – Even though you may occasionally knock one out of the park with an inspired post that garners attention, your blog will only become popular if you are able to post something of interest to your readers at least a couple of times per month. Even if you do well in the search engines, you need a loyal, committed readership to really be successful. A user who visits your page a single time to read a particular post is not likely to return a third time if their initial impression is not reinforced on a subsequent visit. Similarly, you will lose their interest if the gap between relevant posts is too long.
  4. Relevant advertising and merchandise – Even if we don’t admit it to ourselves, very few of us are blogging just for the good of our souls. You need an end goal. For the majority, I suspect, that goal is to make some money. Once again, many will try to convince you that if you throw some advertising up on your site, you will start to rake in the money. Nothing could be further from the truth. First and foremost, any advertising or merchandise that you offer MUST fit in with the theme and content of your site. If your site is about cats and you advertise golf shoes, you are not likely to make any money. Furthermore, except from a few random chance clicks or purchases, it is not usually the first time visitor who will click or buy. Your blog must become familiar and trusted before your readers will start to click or buy.
  5. Traffic – Everything begins and ends here. No matter what purpose you have for your blog whether monetary or altruistic, it will all be for naught if you don’t succeed in getting traffic to your pages. And this is the hardest thing to do. There are entire industries whose whole purpose is to drive traffic. The kicker though, is that it must be the right kind of traffic. Imagine my surprise when I looked deep into my web’s log pages to find that the most common visitors to my pages were spiders and crawlers, those mindless bots that just roam the Internet sucking up all in their path. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing for me in the  long run. You just need to be aware that thousands of hits from disinterested non-human artifacts will not help you to produce results until the real visitors start showing up.
  6. Desire, drive and persistence – This is really the key to anything that you undertake. First and foremost be assured that nothing worthwhile ever happens overnight. It will take time to hone your craft and build a base. If you enjoy what you are doing, you will not mind putting in the time to build a solid foundation. Also, be prepared to make changes if what you are doing is not working as well as you would like. It’s not likely that your first ever swing at a baseball would be a home run, so why should you expect it with your blogging?

In summary, Blogging is like most other things in life: It can be easy or hard, wildly successful or an abject failure all depending on the talent you start with, the effort you expend and a little bit of good old-fashioned luck! In short, we don’t recommend that you quit your day job to start up a blog unless you have most if not all of the bases above covered.

Don’t be negative and let your scanning slide!

Click to check out this scanner!


Perhaps like me, you have a whole bunch of photos, slides and negatives from years gone by sitting around. You know that you should do something to preserve them, but all the options seem either too time-consuming, too expensive and too technically challenging. That was certainly the way I felt! A few years ago, I had purchased a high-quality HP scanner with a slide attachment and had started to convert some of my collection. The problem was exactly as mentioned above with time-consuming topping the list. After converting about 100 of several thousand pictures, I simply ran out of steam and the photo collection went back into the hole from whence it had come.


Over the last few months, I had been seeing advertisements for stand-alone devices that claimed to be able to scan negatives and slides instantly with 5 megapixel resolution. After doing considerable research including reading user reviews, I opted for one almost identical to the one pictured here.


Roy Wallace

Me in Germany: Taken in 1974, Scanned in 2010

Dorothy on St. Vincent circa 1970

Dorothy on St. Vincent, 1970 - Check out those COOL Shades


Right out of the box, I powered it up, inserted a 2gb SD card and started scanning. A couple of hours later, I had already converted almost 200 slides and negatives. I tried both slides and negatives, colour and black and white.


The real beauty was not having any settings to worry about. the only tricky part is making sure that the pictures and properly aligned in the viewfinder before pressing the button. There is a little play in the transport mechanism to allow for this. In some cases, no matter what you do, you will end up with some black or white  borders or which will have to be removed after scanning.  


On the left, you can see an example of a 35 year-old negative that was scanned and untouched exactly as it came from the scanner except for being size-reduced for the web.


Here’s some of the more important tips of what I learned:


  1. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! A lousy original shot or a faded, scratched or otherwise degraded original will not produce a pristine scan.
  2. The longer you wait to convert your pictures, negatives and slides, the more degraded they will become. I found that many of my slides and negatives after 35 years were close to the limit. Interestingly, the black and white negatives seem to be better preserved than the colour ones.
  3. It can sometimes be tricky to line up a strip of negatives to match the divisions in the tray provided and you must make sure that they face the right way otherwise, everything will be mirror-imaged.
  4. If you have non-standard sized negatives or slides (as I do), you will have to rig up your own sleeve to pass them through the scanner. I took a clear plastic report cover and cut it to size and it worked like a charm.
  5. You will still have to do some post-scan processing to remove unwanted borders make colour corrections and remove scratches and blemishes. However, the result is generally superior to that which I achieved with my HP scanner and there are absolutely no settings to make other than to remember to press either the slide or negative button.

There is a wide variety of sizes, formats and price ranges for scanners. The Wolverine F2D200 35mm Film to Digital Image Converter with 2.4-Inch LCD and TV-Out suited our purposes admirably. If you want to check out other possibilities, just use the arrows in the box below.



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For the post-processing, I would recommend Windows Live Photo Gallery (Free download from Microsoft) for the simple stuff. For more involved and detailed touch-ups and corrections, Adobe PhotoShop Elements is a powerful tool that has all of the most important tools and functions of the full-blown product without the inflated price tag.


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Finally, take a look at a slideshow of scanned pictures that were lost to us until I bought the scanner. It was very fortunate that we kept the negatives. Years ago, it was not possible to get reproductions from prints. This is probably the main reason that we kept them. Looking at these snapshots reminds me that black & white photogrpay can be every bit as interesting as colour…

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Possession is NOT nine tenths of the law

Rolls RoyceIt’s the ONLY law! But it is man’s law not nature’s …

If you believe that you actually own something, anything at all, we encourage you to think again; very carefully… In reality, the concept of ownership is one of the cornerstones of almost all modern societies. However, it turns out that it is a totally artificial and erroneous fabrication of the human mind. We humans like to believe in absolutes. This is largely because they help us to come to terms with our own existence and our place within the universe. As we progress (or regress) as a species and succeed in mapping out both the micro and macro-cosmos, we feel more and more in control of our fate. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Firstly, we should never forget that we are all born with nothing and we will all die the same way. Some would say that we are born with our own body at very least. Even this is not as it may seem. In fact, every single atom that makes up our body at birth was supplied from our mother’s body apart from a single and statistically irrelevant contribution from our father. They, in turn of course, were born the same way.

We all want to believe that we own our body but even this, as with most things in life, is open to interpretation. Let’s try to drill down to exactly what it is that we think that we own. There is a generally accepted basic law of nature that states that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. We all also accept that our world existed before we were born and will continue to exist after we die. No new material was brought to this planet to make us. Therefore, we will come from the earth when we are born and will return to the earth when we die. So any ownership, even of our own bodies, is only temporary.

A further addition to the conundrum lies in the fact that all cells in the human body only exist for a limited period of time. We know that if we compare an 8 pound baby to the fully grown adult that it eventually becomes, there is remarkably little resemblance. In reality, there will not be a single solitary cell in the body of a twenty-year old that existed at his or her birth. So which part of our body is it that we think that we own? The words often expressed over the grave of a recently deceased person suddenly take on a more sombre meaning: ‘Dust to Dust, ashes to ashes’. We were really only borrowing the stuff that our bodies are made up of!
Over the millennia and continuing right up to the present day, in various parts of the world, there are people who fervently believe that they can own not only their own body but also those of other humans as well. Furthermore, by most, if not all, of the yardsticks that we commonly use to determine ownership, they would appear to be correct. Yes, we invoke all kinds of hocus-pocus to back up our claims of ownership. Deeds, certificates of ownership, proclamations and court rulings are just a few of the arrows in our quivers when a fellow human has the audacity to claim something of ours for his or her own.

One of the most ridiculous tenets of the ownership concept is that we can actually own land! Even the lowly beasts of the fields and forests instinctively grasp the reality of the situation better than we humans. They bravely mark out a territory and will defend it to the death. However, when a stronger or smarter usurper comes along and successfully manages to wrest the territory from its former owner, the animal knows that the property is lost. Many of us further believe that such ownership is also a birthright. Since the misconception is widely held and upheld, it is propagated from generation to generation. However, there are limits to this birthright, which is, in and of itself, a contradiction, because in most jurisdictions, governments have the ‘right’ to claim a significant portion of your birthright when you come into it!

We also extend the concept of personal ownership to include groups of people. Now, we can draw natural or artificial borders around whole chunks of the earth, call it a country and claim exclusive property rights. A truly laughable concept in light of all the foregoing, but because we collectively condone it, it continues to be one of the most dangerous and divisive forces in human history.
Although it is slowly falling into collective disfavour today, historically, there was a trump card that was dealt to or stolen by a few select individuals over the millennia and that was the concept of divine right. God, the final arbiter, was deemed to have passed a portion of his omnipotence over to some apparently worthy individual who was then able to grab everything, including people, within reach and claim it as personal property. The most ridiculous part of this pretence was the fact that it only holds water as long as the subjects allow it to. Never, in the course of human history, has anyone ever seen the Word of God except as expressed by another human being. If only I could convince you that God has afforded me the right to abolish the concept of property!

As a slight aside, let us also consider for a moment, the concept of rights. Once again, this is a fabricated idea. By definition, a right is something that everybody has. I defy any reader to come up with anything concrete that is accorded to every single being on the planet. Contrary to popular myth, we cannot make anything a right by simply declaring it so on a piece of paper. Rights to life, liberty and freedom of expression and thought are just a few of the pipedreams that we periodically declare. In truth these are merely privileges accorded to a few of us by common consent and they can be, and often are, withdrawn at a moment’s notice. A true right cannot be withheld. The moment that it is, it ceases to be a right!

The idea of rights makes a nice segue into the final area of insanity in the myth of ownership: Intellectual Property. As the world becomes more accessible to the bulk of the population and electronic media becomes more pervasive, so are the walls of intellectual property being eroded. In recent years there have been many high profile cases of one individual ‘stealing’ another’s idea. Recently, the estate of an Australian author filed suit against J.K. Rowling and her publisher claiming that she copied ideas from ‘Willy the Wizard’ for one of her Harry Potter novels. George Harrison was accused of rehashing someone else’s song and passing off ‘My Sweet Lord’ as his own creation. I am not saying, in either case, that they did or did not commit the particular offense but it is obvious, once again, that copyright is yet another illusion. It is perfectly feasible that two individuals could and often would independently come up with very similar ideas, concepts, tunes etc. Once again, some human must make the determination of exactly what belongs to whom. “And who exactly accords the arbiter that right (or privilege)?”, you may well ask. Well, of course, we do. Or at least some of us do and some of us don’t and therein rests the crux of the problem of ownership.

On a larger scale, entire nations continue to battle over who was the true inventor of some of the most outstanding technical innovations of the centuries like radio, light bulbs, splitting the atom etc. It all comes back to the holy grail of ownership.

In summary, it seems obvious that ownership can be seen to be analogous to winning Olympic gold. Although you may have the metal disc that says you won, you only own the actual record until someone else comes along and takes it from you. Don’t forget also, that if enough people agree that you did not actually deserve to win, you can be stripped of the medal at any time….

So, whatever you’ve got, hang on to it tight! It is only yours for as long as the rest of us and the universe allow you to maintain the pretence.

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Facebook: Where the rednecks go and grammar and spelling are optional?

Today, I had just finished reading about privacy concerns regarding FB’s policy towards sharing personal information across different partner sites when I stumbled upon this gem of a conversation. I am not happy to report that it involves some of my own family. Obviously, privacy is not uppermost in the minds of the individuals in this little exchange!

Julie Foster: u make me sick…hope ur bofriend knows how fcking close u 2 are!!!!!!!!!!!
Dennis White: i think i no wat u mean lol i had a gd old nosy listen wen i was next to u waitin on the road lol and silas and christie are def doin stuff its bit ov and he knows she has a bf well dne smart thinkin lol hope your ok anyway and had a good night
Dick ‘Zohan’ Sutton: haha didnt take u to long either son 😉
Julie Foster: yeh n shes a m8 of mine on here so she cun c wot u put lol.so i hpe that aint the case !
Dick ‘Zohan’ Sutton: well 2bh if she is i hope she can see it coz she needs to sort it out!
Dennis White: i dont care she aint mates wiv me so i dont give a shit lol
Julie Foster: ther fckng cousinz! i hpe nufnks goin on.i hav a son wiv hm.i saw them walkng hme2getha!drove past them in the taxi.i doubt it.but i do wounder.i txt hm askng hm lol e dint answer.mayb ther jus bein family?
Dennis White: yer maybe they like to jeep it in family bit of insest maybe thats wat there family are like rathem them than me haha
Dick ‘Zohan’ Sutton: u no what they sat, insest is best, a game the whole family can play lmaoo… thats just sickkk!! lol
Dennis White: yer that is sick and trust you to come out wiv it u sick twat !!
Dick ‘Zohan’ Sutton: oi dont be gettin lairy u dirty inbred 😉 haha
Dennis White: haha inbread that aint me thats them shaggin and there cusons how nice for them there parents must be proud haha x
Julie Foster: wot gav u guys da idea i waz on bout them 2 anyways?
Dennis White: so are we but deans being a prat lol
Dick ‘Zohan’ Sutton: im justt having a laugh lol i just got the idea from you 2 lol
Dennis White: such a dick haha
Julie Foster: ur aligations cld cause a masive fckd up situatn 4me u shldnt say sht unles ur sure!
Dick ‘Zohan’ Sutton: well if u get any shit from it just send them to me lol or us! as its our alligations 🙂
Chloe Lehman: i agree julie … people should watch what they chat about!!!!!
Tiny ??? ??? Foster: well said jules ,come on guys dont go to far i no u all pissed up.
Julie Foster: woteva given up now!just hpe people thnk of the consiquences of ther actionz!

Unlike the individuals involved, I did take the trouble to mask the names. However, it won’t be too hard for any ‘friends’ to figure out who’s who. Spelling and language like this is almost like a fingerprint. Although someone did finally have the good sense to erase the original message and comments, the damage was done. I, for one, had already made a copy of it! Once you have put something like this out on the Internet, you can never take it back…. 
To me, this drunken outburst highlights three things that are sadly amiss, not just in the UK where the individuals reside but in our ‘wired’ world in general.

  1. People feel somehow that they can say whatever they want online with total impunity. I somehow doubt that this drivel would have even surfaced in a face-to-face situation. And if it had, it would have at least been limited to those within earshot. It probably would have ended in a drunken brawl too!
  2. Facebook gives the impression that teens and twenty-somethings spend their entire lives either drinking or thinking/texting/typing about it. Two days to drink (mostly the week-end) and five to talk about it and long for the next binge. Somehow, not my idea of an idyllic existence!
  3. Correct spelling and grammar are going the way of the dinosaur. Personally, I feel like I need to go back to school to learn this new language. The thing is, I personally find this pigeon English much harder work to decipher. Although many don’t want to believe it, punctuation, spelling and grammar are there to facilitate communication. I have to read some of these messages several times before I can determine exactly what is being said. It is akin to the writer speaking with a mouth full of marbles.

And this is our future talking. Then again, I suppose one never had to know how to spell incest to accuse someone else of it!

With ‘m8s’ like this, who needs enemies?

Digital Video, a crash course Part 2 – Choosing a Format

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Casio Exilim EX-V8
It’s not a videocamera but makes a good stand-in!

In a previous post, I mentioned that until recently, I had not really bothered much with video. So you can imagine my surprise when Adobe Premiere Elements informed me today that I have almost 400 video clips taken since 2005, sitting on my hard drive! I have never really done anything much with them because I lacked the tools and the knowledge to do so.
Then last year when my daughter, Christa was planning to get married, I wanted to put together a photo-montage. I happened to have a FREE version of PowerDirector 6 sitting on my system and tried it out along with various other programmes. To make a much longer story short, I became hooked on PowerDirector and bought the Full Version and discovered that it gave me the capability of doing some pretty amazing things with video as a bonus. Since that time, I have purchased the upgrade to version 8 which adds even more capability.
However, I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Unless you are using your cellphone to shoot video, chances are that your video capture device has some options that you can (and probably should) set. Before you start actually shooting, you need to think about what is the end purpose of your production. There are sometimes as many as 6 different aspects of the finished clip that you can affect with your settings:

1. Aspect – Generally, your choice is between 4:3 standard TV or Monitor or 16:9 which is widescreen. The choice is not as straightforward as you might think. The choice mostly depends on where your video will most often be displayed, but also whether it will be stand-alone or combined with pictures or other videos. In this case, you need to shoot in the aspect that will be MOST compatible with the other media.

2. Frames per second – The video that appeared in our previous post was shot at 10 fps and it shows! 30 fps is broadcast quality. Anything less than 15 fps is of really poor quality. Actually, for some perverse reason, the real industry standard is 29.7 fps. If you find your audio often getting out of sync with your video, it is most likely due to your software not accurately timing it to 29.7 vs. 30 fps.

3. Compression Quality – To some degree, this is tied in with Video Codec (below). Just as jpeg and gif formats in graphics cause differing levels of loss of quality according to the amount of compression applied, so the same holds for differing video codecs. And often, within each codec, there is an ability to alter the amount of compression. Of course, there is always a trade-off between file size and picture quality. Again, you should think of your perceived end use. There is little point in using wide-screen, high-definition, minimum compression recording just to play it back on your cellphone!

4. Audio Quality – On the older digital cameras, you often had to make a choice between higher frame rate and no sound and lower frame rate with sound. Neither was really acceptable. The fact was that these devices did not have enough processing power to effectively handle video. Now, many digital cameras even have the ability to record stereo sound. My Casio exilim V8 is one such and its quality is very good. Unfortunately, although it can record UHQ video, it cannot reach the hi-def quality of my Canon T1i which only records monaural sound ;-( Such are the trade-offs to be considered.

5. Video Codec – Usually, you will not have much choice in the encoding format used by your camera. For some reason, the majority seem to have opted for Apple’s quicktime (.mov). However, there is a giddying array of video file extensions and you should be aware that behind each extension is a wide variety of encoding-decoding schemes, such that you cannot assume that because a file has a particular extension that it will necessarily be compatible with your playback device.

6. TV playback format – Finally, if your finished product is destined for DVD or TV playback, you have to contend with NTSC, PAL and SECAM. Different countries use different TV display systems. North America is almost universally adheres to the NTSC standard, while much of the rest of the world uses either PAL or SECAM. The principle difference lies in the lines of resolution (525 NTSC, 625 PAL).

To give you something to compare with last week’s somewhat dismal offering with low resolution, no sound and slow frame rate, this week we offer UHQ, 848×480 30fps and stereo sound. You are viewing the raw file exactly as it was downloaded from the camera. Because the file is encoded in the Quicktime format, your browser may need to download Apple’s Quicktime plug-in in order for you to view it (double-click to start playback).

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