Category Archives: technology

The Seed Vault

Follow world-renowned scientist Cary Fowler into the heart of the arctic, where the Svalbard Global Seed Vault lies nestled in the frozen Norwegian landscape. Among the most important buildings in the world, the Seed Vault holds the key to human survival: more than 880,000 seed samples, the largest collection in the world. These seeds are critical because, unless safeguarded, agriculture biodiversity is at risk of decline in the face of changing environmental and population pressures.

New Food Recycling Appliance Will Turn Scraps Into Fertilizer in 24 Hours

While the price is really high, this could be really cool tech once it becomes popular (and cheaper)

New Food Recycling Appliance Will Turn Scraps Into Fertilizer in 24 Hours

As Curbed reports, the Zera Food Recycler is an automated composter that, according to its designers, can turn food scraps into fresh fertilizer in just 24 hours.

Traditionally, the composting process takes weeks—if not months—to complete as microorganisms turn organic material into rich fertilizer (what gardeners call “black gold”). It’s also a somewhat taxing activity because in order to provide oxygen to the microorganisms responsible for the decomposition, you have to mix the pile regularly.

By contrast, Zera is completely hands-free. The trash can-sized bin chops up food scraps, heats them up, and churns the mixture up with a special additive made from coconut fibers and baking soda designed to speed up the process. (Composting requires a certain amount of “brown” material like dry leaves, hay, or sawdust to provide carbon.)

The appliance, invented at Whirlpool’s WLabs and launched at CES this year, can also take in food that traditional compost operations cannot. It will break down meat and dairy, unlike your average community garden compost pile.

A prototype Zera was built in July, and production of the final design is set to begin in March. The $999 units (available for pre-order on Indiegogo) are due out in summer 2017.

I do wonder what the market is for this considering that it is pretty easy for most homeowners (to walk outside, toss a container of kitchen waste into your backyard composter and collect it in a few weeks) or months.  We toss in a package of Septo-Bac to raise the heat and aid in the breaking down process.

U.S. Visitors May Have to Hand Over Social Media Passwords: DHS

If this becomes policy, I may never visit the United States again.

People who want to visit the United States could be asked to hand over their social-media passwords to officials as part of enhanced security checks, the country’s top domestic security chief said.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress on Tuesday the measure was one of several being considered to vet refugees and visa applicants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?” he told the House Homeland Security Committee. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.

I don’t have a lot of private conversations on Twitter but there are some that I don’t want some border guard to have access to.  I use Facebook only to access the FB account at work.  I’ll be honest, if a Homeland Security guard would handle the Facebook messages I get, I’d be happy to turn that over but there is a principle at stake here.

What’s next, cell phone call records?  Home phone call logs?  Of course as soon as the Department of Homeland Security demands this, users will use cheap throwaway accounts with no connection to them or use new services.  If you get WhatsApp account info, then they use Kik or something else.  I understand why DHS wants this info but the likelihood of it providing any leads is almost nothing.  Plus, you don’t need the passwords to see what stupid things I write here or who I am connected with on Twitter.  At the expense of the U.S. economy, this policy would provide very little good information.

For Naval Aviation Nerds, This is a Sad Day

From New Atlas,

For Naval Aviation Nerds, This is a Sad Day

After almost 55 years of active service, the USS Enterprise has been decommissioned. No, we’re not talking about a certain starship, but the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which was commissioned in the US Navy in 1961 and now bears the distinction of being the first nuclear carrier to be decommissioned. The eighth US Naval vessel to bear the name, the Enterprise was removed from the Navy list today as Captain Todd Beltz relinquished his command in a ceremony in the ship’s hangar bay.

The keel of USS Enterprise was laid down in 1958 at the Newport News Shipbuilding Co. and the ship was christened on September 24, 1960 by Mrs. Bertha Irene Franke, wife of former Secretary of the Navy William B. Franke, before being commissioned on November 25, 1961. Enterprise was the first and only one of its class and was unique for the time by being powered by eight Westinghouse A2W nuclear reactors – six more than later carrier designs. This gave Enterprise an unlimited range and it required refueling only every 20 to 25 years.

Displacing 93,284 tons (84,626 tonnes), Enterprise carried a complement of 5,828, including an air crew of 1,300 to maintain and fly the 60 to 90 aircraft aboard. During its career, the US Navy says the Enterprise steamed for over one million nautical miles and at decommissioning was the third oldest ship in the Navy.

For Naval Aviation Nerds, This is a Sad Day

“The Big E,” as it was nicknamed, was involved in almost every major US Naval engagement since the Cuban Missile Crisis with the exception of the 1991 Gulf War, when it was laid up for a major overhaul. In April 1983, it also played host to actor George Takei, who portrayed Helmsman Sulu on the science fiction space-going version of the Enterprise. Unfortunately, on that occasion, the real carrier ran aground on a sandbar off San Francisco.

Canadian warship project a mess, as one of world’s largest shipbuilders threatens minister it won’t bid

From the National Post

Canada’s multibillion-dollar project to buy a replacement for its frigates is so poorly structured that one of the world’s largest shipbuilders has warned the Liberal government it won’t bid unless changes are made.

A number of other ship designers are also considering backing out because of the problems plaguing the project to spend more than $26 billion on a new fleet of Canadian Surface Combatants.

Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri sent Procurement Minister Judy Foote a detailed outline of why the acquisition process is in trouble, warning that, “Canada is exposed to unnecessary cost uncertainty,” according to the Oct. 24, 2016, letter obtained by Postmedia.

There is also a belief in industry circles that the federal government is favouring a design from the British firm BAE, which is offering the Royal Canadian Navy the Type 26 warship.

Foote had previously said only proven warship designs would be considered to reduce the risk of problems. But the Liberal government retreated on that and will now accept a Type 26 bid, even though the vessel has not been built yet.

Preparing a bid for the Canadian Surface Combatant or CSC will cost companies between $10 million and $20 million. If they see their chances of winning a contract as slim, firms could decide not to enter the competition, further narrowing the choices for the Liberals on a new vessel for the navy.

The government announced Oct. 27, 2016, that Irving Shipbuilding, its prime contractor, had issued a request for bids from companies on the design of the new ships.

We actually saw this during the efforts to rearm the Rangers.  Canada wanted firms to give them their intellectual property for a rifle that Canada would manufacture.  Now we see it with the Canadian Surface Combatants.  No wonder firms are balking.

What’s in the Bag of NHL Defensemen P.K. Subban?

En Route Magazine caught up with Nashville Predator’s defenseman P.K. Subban and asked him how he packed his carry on bag.

What's in the Bag of NHL Defenceman P.K. Subban?

For years I would being everything but the kitchen sink with me on flights and I would spend the flight trying to get at the stuff and failing.  Now when I fly, I bring a messenger bag, my wallet, a Moleskine/Pen, my Pentax MX-1, and maybe my 7” Tablet.  When I get to the airport I may or may not purchase a magazine but often I find myself reading and enjoying the in flight magazine.  I then go and purchase a large bottle of Aquafina once I clear security. 

For those of you who sneak your oversized rolling suitcase and take up more space than allowed, I hate you and feel you should be a no-fly list.

Inside My Bag: Hiking and Landscape Photography Kit

We have a marketing campaign starting at work in a while that revolves around what staff have in their camera bags.    Here is my bag and gear that I pack to take along for day hikes into the mountains.  Of course I don’t hike with all of it but most of it will go with me to Banff and Yoho National Park this summer.

Inside My Bag: Hiking and Landscape Photography Kit

The Bag:

Manfrotto Off Road 30 L Hiker Backpack.  Last year we spent hiking through the backcountry of Banff National Park.  This year we are spending part of it hiking the Alpine Circuit of Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.  Later this summer we will hike almost 25 kilometers to three different alpine tea houses so my wife can drink tea.  Doing that much hiking means that I want a backpack that is comfortable.  With it’s external frame and hip belt, this bag does a pretty good job of carrying the camera and other gear that I want to take on longer day hikes.

The pack is packed and tossed in the back of the car.  I keep the Ricoh WG-4 in the front seat with me in case something interesting happens on the road.  When we get set up in a campsite or a trailhead, I evaluate what lenses and gear that I will want and then what gear I will carry.  At that point it often comes down to three lenses, the 18-135mm and the 70-300mm but I like having the 35mm and 28mm lenses for the trip.  I have long wanted a longer zoom lens but the SIgma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens is too big and heavy and my wife also shoots Olympus and has the Olympus M. Zuiko ED 75-300mm F4.8 – 6.7 II Lens which is equivalent to the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary and less than a quarter of the weight.  Actually since she is carrying it in her bag, it weighs nothing.

The Contents:

  • Pentax K-3: I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II but the larger sensor and increased dynamic range of my Pentax means it will be the camera that I carry on those hikes.  I normally always have my grip on my camera but when climbing in the mountains, shedding weight is a big deal so it gets left at home.
  • Two 64 GB Lexar Platinum Cards.  Two 32gb Sandisk SD Cards as backup.
  • Three Extra Batteries:  That is excessive for most hikes but we like to stay at unpowered campgrounds because I find they have less partying.  While the washroom in the campground has power, it often has a powerbar full of cell phones being charged on it at all times.  I will probably pick up another two for this year. 
  • Pentax SMC DA 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR: Over the last two years of hiking I have seen countless tourists carry and be frustrated with their 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on mountain hikes because it is too long to capture the views on winding trails or take in the views on mountain passes.  Sometimes your best option (especially in good light) is a more versatile walk around lens.
  • Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens for Pentax:  Last year I watched people try to take selfies of The Boss (the alpha grizzly bear in Banff) with a cell phone.  That bear even eats other bears and has been hit by a train and just shrugged it off.  I prefer to not risk my life for a shot so I use this lens to keep some distance between myself and things that see me as dinner.
  • Pentax smc DA 35mm: Sometime during the trip I will head into Banff one evening and want to take some photos of the township or take some nice portraits of the family.  I am always torn over bringing this or the Pentax smc DA 50mm but on a APS-C camera, 50mm is often too long for street photography or if I am in a restaurant.  I lose a half stop of light with this lens but I get more shots in the end.  I really need to upgrade to the Sigma 35mm f1.4.
  • Pentax D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro: Many of you love macro photography.  I am not one of them and only bought this lens because of peer pressure.  My wife however loves macro with a passion so sometime on a trip I will find myself laying down and taking a photo of a flower and hating every single moment of it.  I just hope I don’t get bitten by something.
  • I won’t take it hiking with me but I will bring along my Pentax-M 28mm f2.8 lens.  It is manual focus but ideal for taking late night shots of the stars and the Milky Way.  The bad part of this lens is that I have to be awake in the middle of the night to use it.
  • Nalgene Water Bottle: For obvious reasons.  If it is a really hot day, I will also bring my Swell Water Bottle. You have no idea how amazing cold water tastes on a long mountain hike.  Why two bottles?  I have gotten sick then last two times I have had water out of a “pristine” mountain glacier stream. 
  • Gerber Scout Knife: Last year a male wolf came into our campsite and sniffed my head through the tent.  The wolf was between my axe and myself and all I had was this knife.  I like to think that if it came down to it I could have defended my kids with it but I have watched The Grey and know it would probably have won.  Luckily the wolf hadn’t watched The Grey and went back into the woods.
  • Adidas Saskatchewan Roughriders Receiving gloves:  I had some lightweight Nike jogging gloves for hiking but these are tackified in the fingers and palms giving you a firm grip on your camera.  If they are good enough to make the game winning catch, they are good enough for me to hang on to my camera.  They have been one of my best purchases of 2017. 
  • Niteize Carabineer light.  I have one of these on all of my camera bags.  If we are out too late or something goes wrong, I want to be able to be seen in the dark.  I also have one on my all black dog so I can see her at night.  It’s another one of those things that brought all sorts of people by our campsite who had children that wanted to check out the “blinking dog”. 
  • Panasonic HX-WA02 Camcorder: If I am going to shoot some video in the backcountry, I use this.  For this summer, I plan to upgrade to a Nikon Keymission 80 camera which is both lighter and smaller but has some really great features for hikers.
  • 52-Inch Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod: For taller photographers, there seems to be only two alternatives.  The one is to carry a medium duty tripod so it is tall enough or carry a lightweight tripod on the trail and have to crouch over or kneel down when using it.  I prefer to crouch down.
  • Primus Classic Stove and Fuel: I carry one of this with me on cooler days and long hikes.  There is nothing better than stopping on a long hike and a cool day and cooking up a box of Three Cheese Kraft Dinner.  To save space, I toss the box and keep it in a zip lock bag.  It is the same amount of food as the the macaroni and cheese MREs but is about 15% the cost.
  • Clif Bars: They are easy to eat on the trail, give you a boost, and are edible even if not my favorite thing in the world.
  • Mess Kit: It’s not the best quality mess kit out there but it is lightweight and can cook the above mentioned Kraft Dinner.  Since contracting giardia twice in Banff over the years, I tend to boil up some water during that time.  If we are eating near a creek, I tend to boil the water up, pour it in the Nalgene and then put the entire bottle back in the glacier water to cool it back down. 
  • Nikon 10×25 binoculars: I have found myself hiking through alpine meadows that are frequented by grizzly bears.  Scouting it out works for me.  It saved me big time last year as I was able to see a grizzly feeding right in the middle of a trail I was about to walk down.
  • Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera: I look at this two ways.  It’s an addition camera battery and there times when I want a waterproof camera that can take high resolution files.   With the carbineer, I keep it clipped to the front of my pack.
  • Business Cards: I don’t know why but everywhere we went in Banff and Yoho National Parks people wanted to meet, pet, and take selfies or family portraits with my dog.  This generally led to them wanting to email me the photo or stay in contact with them. I gave out a ton of personal business cards and got some photos back of strangers with my dog.  Some said it was the highlight of their trip.  I don’t get it at all. 
  • Magellan eXplorist 110: There isn’t a lot of cell coverage once you leave the highways in the National Parks.  I have needed a GPS before but it is nice to check to know how much farther we have to go.   The last thing I do when I leave work on a trip is pick up a pack of Energizer Lithium batteries.  There are devices you want to have the best batteries on the market in them.  This is one of them. 
  • Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies.  This guide book is broken into multiple different books.  The big book is used at home for deciding on which hikes we want to go on.  Then we take the smaller and lighter trail guides which have the trail maps in them on the hike.   If there is one book that I recommend every hiker owns, it is this one.
  • A Lighter:  I get asked by friends if I have an alternative fire starting method like some fire steel or maybe a bow and rope to make fire without a lighter.  The answer is no.  I just carry another lighter.  I have never understood the principle of backing up a really effective method of starting a fire with a far less effective one.

Purchasing a Drone

I have wanted a drone for a long time.  I was going to purchase a DJI Mavic Pro drone this spring.  If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out the video below.

Wendy (and Mark) were totally supportive of my decision to get one of these.   I get questions all of the time for how we afford the gear.  It’s a weird question because people who ask me often have expensive hobbies of their own.  Photography is our hobby and it is less expensive than ATVs.  That being said, Wendy and I will sit down and figure out what gear we want to buy in a year and then save towards it.  I have a “lens fund”.  Every time I get paid, I put some money in the “lens” account and that goes towards buying a couple of lenses each year for Wendy and I.  Mark does the same thing now that he is working.

With us going to Lake O’Hara this summer, I wanted an ultra-wide angle lens for this summer.  I haven’t decided if I want the Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM lens for my Pentax or if I want an Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0 – 5.6 for my Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.  Either way that was above and beyond what I wanted to spend for my drone.

Then while out and about this Christmas, I saw the Yuneec Breeze.  It is small and portable like the DJI Mavic making it easy to take places but less capable.  While it says it shoots 4K video, it really used that 4K video to shoot 1080p video that is stabilized.  That isn’t bad because I don’t generally shoot 4K UltraHD video anyways.  What I like about it is the price and the fact that Oliver could even use it.  The trade off is speed and altitude.

Initially I wasn’t that excited about it.  The initial real world tests sucked in part because no one was doing anything cool with it and didn’t know how to fly a drone.  It was nerds talking about a drone while struggling to fly it.

The other day I saw that DJI was still selling the DJI Phantom 3 Standard for about the same money as the Yuneec Breeze.

It is way more powerful the Yuneec Breeze which is both really cool but I realized Wendy and Oliver would never use it.  Wendy likes it but as she said last night, “I would not feel comfortable using it”.  It also isn’t nearly as portable.  Both the Breeze and Mavic fold down really small.  The Yuneec Breeze is compact enough to fit in a 10 inch by 10 inch case and has the sensors to fly and hold it’s position inside.

If you have any muddled thoughts or ideas, let me know in the comments.  I am not buying until March so I will probably change my mind and then change it again many times between now and then.  Also you don’t need to point out, “You can’t use these in any Parks Canada parks and you don’t know seem to be vacationing anywhere other than a National Park in 2017”  I know, that is a big issue for me right now too.

Buyers Guide to Pentax Lenses

A Pentax Lens Buyers Guide for Pentax DSLRs

Pentax is behind Canon and Nikon when it comes to market share.  One of the things that I keep hearing while the cameras are great it doesn’t have the lens option to allow you to put together a decent photography kit.

As Pentax user I have always denied that but I decided to put together a buyers guide for lenses here back in 2013 that I felt was pretty impressive.  When I started doing social media for Don’s Photo in 2015, I moved it over to their blog but every time I looked at it, I realized that I had forgot a few lenses.  I finally got around to updating it today and I am blown away at the options that Pentax users have to put together a solid set of lenses from Pentax, Sigma, Rokinon, and Tamron.

I got asked a while ago how I pick what products I choose.  Stock levels some times play a small factor.  If I know the store can’t get a product because it is backordered for months, I generally don’t write about it because what’s the point of getting someone fired up about something that they can’t get until 2023.  Basically I need to get fired up about it or a colleague is fired about it and that gets me excited about it. 

With Pentax being a brand of camera that both and I use and love, it’s probably a little more personal then other brands that Don’s Photo sells in that each of these lenses have been heavily debated and researched by Mark and I.

My vlog gear

So back in October, I decided to shot a video for each day of 2017.  There is absolutely no way I am shooting 365 videos in 2017 but I am going to try.  Here is the setup that I am using for this project.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II camera

It is a great camera and I bought one used this fall.  Wendy has the Olympus O-MD E-M10 II but it isn’t weather proofed nor does it have a mic jack.

I know I was going to get the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 but… a colleague (fine, call him my boss) is upgrading to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II and was selling his.   Better video focusing than the Canon EOS Rebel SL1, smaller, and it has a flip out screen.  Since I can borrow Wendy’s lenses if I need them (more on that later).

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art

I actually gave this lens to Wendy for Christmas a few years ago but then when I gave her a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens for her birthday last year, it was redundant so we gave it to Sean Shaw with her Olympus PEN camera.  It’s a great lens for video and with the camera, is a great rig.  Wendy also has the 30mm and 60mm versions of this lens which means that if I need something longer, I can borrow that.

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Lens

While I wanted this lens when I started to put together this kit and ordered it in from Don’s Photo.  It is an Art series lens so you know it is sharp.  Like all Sigma lenses, it comes with a seven year warranty.

Rode VideoMic Micro

Compact and inexpensive microphone.  Perfect for this.  It also comes with a dead cat.  Almost identical to the one Wendy gave me for our anniversary (which was for cell phones)

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Joby Gorillapod Micro

It’s weird.  Off all of the camera gear I have bought, this is my favorite thing ever.  It cost me almost nothing.

Joby Gorillapod Micro 250

 

I have a couple of them (worst thing about working at Don’s Photo is that because subconsciously I know that I can get some stuff there so I don’t always pack well and I pick up one at work.  That makes Wendy mad because it really is a waste of money based on lack of planning.  She uses the tripod as well so that saves me too).  Back to the tripod.  I also bought the Joby smart phone holder.  You can get small ones or even one for tablets.

Joby Grip Tight Mount

I attach that to the Joby Gorillapod 250 and use it to mount my cell phone on it for everything from time lapses to just short videos.  It’s great and small enough to go in every bag.  It also has a low centre of gravity which means that I am confident when I screw my Pentax K-3 to it that it is going to stay put.  If it won’t, it’s only falling less an inch.

Cullmann Magnesit Copter with CB-2 Mini Ball Head

I use the Cullmann Magnesit Copter Mini Tripod with CB-2 Mini Ball Head.  I have some cheaper mini-tripods but this thing is amazing.  Steady, durable, and lightweight.

Cullmann Magnesit Copter Mini Tripod with CB-2 Mini Ball Head

I can’t recommend it enough and as proof, I own two of them.

Twas the night before Christmas

It’s late on Christmas Eve.  Wendy, Mark and I are just chilling out and having some night time tea.  Oliver has already gone to bed.  I doubt he is asleep but he is in bed.  I assume he is filing a formal protest as we speak.

It was a busy day today.  I had to go to work which wasn’t so bad and we closed up early.  It’s one of those things that you never think about but then Wendy shows up and the day is done early which is nice.  Lots of coffee made the day go by faster.

Wendy was off work today so she hung out with Mark and Oliver until Mark had to go to work.  Wendy and Oliver took Marley to the Pierre Radisson Dog Park a few times in an effort to tire her out.  After much running and playing, she still wanted to go back again as we all were ready to call it a night.  She is a dog with a strong internal clock. 

A can of Diet CokeSwan PizzaWhen it was time to leave work, Wendy picked me up and we had two pizzas from Swan Pizza ordered and set to arrive at 6:00 p.m.  While Mark and Oliver wanted to open presents right away, we ate first, poured some coffee and opened the gifts around 7:30 p.m. 

Once that was done, we opened out our Christmas stockings which had all of the usual fair of new socks, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste along with some candies and treats for everyone.

We exchanged gifts after that.

Mark

Wendy and I gave Mark a new Head snowboard and bindings.  That kind of blew him away but he was understandably thrilled and excited.

Head Snowboard

Oliver gave his brother some good snowboard boots so he is ready to hit the slopes.

Marley gave him some Ryder sunglasses and a thing to keep them on his face when he wipes out while snowboarding.  There were some good gloves in there as well.

Ryder Sunglasses

61fK-6 NL8L._SL1000_Hutch gave him a red GSI Outdoors Java commuter mug.  Making good coffee was a struggle last summer and with Wendy, Mark, and I all having one, this should make some adventures this summer start out much better.

Since Mark wants to do some adventure travel after he graduates high school, we gave him a copy of Alastair Humphreys book Grand Adventures.

Grand Adventures by Alastair Humphreys

To go along with the book, I got Mark a large duffle bag which is perfect for travel.


Oliver

Wendy and I have him a Acer Iconia 7 tablet.  He was pretty excited since all he wants to do is text Wendy, Mark and myself.  We set up Google Hangouts on our phones and he had a blast messaging us all night, even though we were in the same room.  Now that he has gone to bed, I am installing the apps that he will need and want.   We also got him a 16 gb MicroSD card for it.  To make it easier for him to annoy us, we gave him a Bluetooth speaker so he can rock out all night long.

Acer Iconia 7" Tablet

A friend of ours gave Oliver her old snowboard which meant that we just had to get him some boots.  A quick trip to Larry’s Skate Exchange and we found some great ones at a remarkably low price which were there under the tree.

Mark gave him a Huskies Athletics hoodie and a few games for his Nintendo 3DS.

Marley gave him a pair of snowboarding goggles and some warm gloves.

Wendy also gave him the new Jedi Academy book which I gave him his own website at olivercooper.org.  He’s happy to have a blog at last and I enjoy doing stuff like for him.  I am using Blogger to power it which means he can control it and post to it from both the web and the Blogger app.

Santa Claus brought him a Bluetooth speaker and some Wicked Raven headphones.  He can play Spotify loudly or quietly.  I hope he uses his headphones but I have my doubts.


Wendy

I gave Wendy a 10.1 inch RCA Android tablet with a keyboard.  She was looking for a netbook but in the end she felt a the Android tablet was a better option.  She had seen our friend Janice’s Microsoft Surface and loved the form factor.  After debating over her options, she decided that an  Android version is what she needed.

RCA Viking Pro Android Tablet

Mark was aware of what I was going to get her and get her a handcrafted leather case from India.

He also picked up some other things like a stainless steel Samsung USB drive, a micro SD card for extra storage, and Moleskine daytimer and a nice pen.

81lLpXNwiHL._SL1500_Oliver went in a different direction and got Wendy a new camping cookset.  Not only that be since he already got Wendy a GSI Outdoors Java Press for her birthday, she would need a nice tea kettle for camping, a new 2 litre pot, and a camping frying pan.


Me

Wendy bought me an Acer Iconia 7” Tablet as well.  I don’t use a tablet that much but I do use it for consuming information.  The size works for me and I think I’ll use it a fair amount.  Of course Oliver went nuts as it means that we have the same tablet as each other and Mark.  Oliver thought that was incredibly cool.

Mark got me some badass carbon fibre trekking poles.  He was with me when I saw them and he decided to pick them up for me.   He also gave me a Rode VideoMic Micro for my Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.

Oliver got me a new Swiss Gear backpack.  In it I found a pen, notebook, and a knife from Gerber.  I have written about our travel bags that are already backed and ready to go before, he just figured I needed an upgrade as my backpack was showing some age.

Santa Claus realized the household had transitioned from Apple OSX and iOS to Android/PC and so the old guy gave me a Google Chromecast to replace my Apple TV.

Marley gave me a Philips Multipurpose Grooming Kit.  Apparently it was a hint to keep the goatee a little tighter trimmed.  Fair enough.


After the gifts were open, Wendy served up Sex in a Pan for dessert.  The boys devoured all of that and now Oliver is off to bed and I am installing apps from the Google Play store for Oliver and Wendy.  I may need more  bandwidth.

Proudly Independent

Over the last few years I haven’t paid as much attention to this site as I should have.  I have been busy doing other things and to be honest, being sick sucks.  I still go home too often and just fall asleep at the end of the day at work

Yet for some reason, more and more of you every day stop by.  At time when blog traffic is in decline, traffic here has grown and I have no idea why.  What I am told is that it has more traffic many days that some media properties.  I find that both incredulous but also a reflection of how poorly run some of the news sites are in Saskatoon.

I know blogs aren’t as cool as they used to be.  We have all moved on to other things like Twitter and Facebook.  Well you have moved on to Facebook, I still hate it and won’t acknowledge any messages sent to me on it.  No I won’t follow you either.

Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine Yahoo selling off Tumblr. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.  Heck the same could even be said for The StarPhoenix and Postmedia.

There are only four things in my life that have lasted longer than this blog.

  1. Breathing
  2. My brother Lee.
  3. Reading The StarPhoenix every day.
  4. My marriage to Wendy.

This week I was offered a somewhat lucrative offer to sell advertising on it and I turned it down.  I just couldn’t imagine running ads here or endorsing things I don’t believe in. 

Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to Verizon. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed.

This space has given me exposure, a place to share my projects and ideas. It’s created new opportunities for me, directly or indirectly responsible for every major project I’ve gotten involved in. It’s a place to play and experiment with ideas, some of which led to big breakthroughs and passions. And it connected me to people who cared about the things I did, many of whom became lifelong friends.

Not only are you awesome to me, you have made the web this awesome place for Mark and Oliver.  Instead of seeing the web as someplace scary, it is a place they can talk with cool adults.

So I am putting a renewed emphasis on this place.  The first thing you will see in 2017 is a daily vlog.  I’ll be using YouTube to host it but they will be embedded here.  (I know that undermines my previous points about services going away).

The boys are a huge fan of Casey Neistat and really want to do their own blog and somehow Wendy and I got sucked into it.

So Bridge City has sucked majorly this year in part because I got sick (the infection destroying my leg is two years old this week) and I stopped taking photos which dried up some of the content.  The traffic on that isn’t bad so I will keep it going.  That being said, the site crashed in early October and I just realized it had last night.

What you don’t see is that this blog is falling apart.  Bots are using up a tremendous amount of system resources and I am fighting them, my database wasn’t optimized, and I have an issue with chron jobs which sounds dirty but really isn’t.   I may or may not have to upgrade my hosting plan or leave Dreamhost over it.  It is just hard to find a host that can handle this much content for what I am paying Dreamhost for.

Finally, we are recording the first episode of The Saskatonian this week.  It is kind of a reboot of OurYXE but this time it is going to be less formal, longer and recorded in a bar over nachos.  If I am motivated enough to remember the power cord, it may even become a video.