Category Archives: technology

Drones Impede Helicopters Fighting Fires

You read the headline right

Of all the elements they must battle in a wildfire, firefighters face a new foe: drones operated by enthusiasts who presumably take close-up video of the disaster.

Five such "unmanned aircraft systems" prevented California firefighters from dispatching helicopters with water buckets for up to 20 minutes over a wildfire that roared Friday onto a Los Angeles area freeway that leads to Las Vegas.

Helicopters couldn’t drop water because five drones hovered over the blaze, creating hazards in smoky winds for a deadly midair disaster, officials said.

The North Fire torched 20 vehicles on Interstate 15 and incited panic among motorists who fled on foot on the freeway Friday. The wildfire continued to burn uncontrollably Saturday, scorching 3,500 acres with only 5% containment in San Bernardino County, officials said.

Drones hovering over wildfires is a new trend in California, and on Saturday, fire officials condemned the operators of "hobby drones," as officials labeled them. It was unclear Saturday whether authorities would launch an investigation into the five drones.

"Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities to report, but the 15 to 20 minutes that those helicopters were grounded meant that 15 to 20 minutes were lost that could have led to another water drop cycle, and that would have created a much safer environment and we would not have seen as many citizens running for their lives," said spokesman Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

My Day Bag

Outside Magazine had their list of essentials that should be in everyone’s day bag.  You know the bag you have if you are off for a day trip and you don’t know where or the day will end.

Here is mine.

15 litre backpack. 

Swiss Gear Backpack

You know it’s the same size of bag that you use for carrying your laptop or your bags to school.  It’s big enough to take everything with you but small enough to casually carry over your shoulder or toss in the back of a car.  Wendy, Mark and I all have something similar.  They are always ready and packed for use at a moments notice.  You probably already have one laying around.

We don’t stress over the bag.   The best place to get them is Wal-Mart or Bentley when they are on sale.  It doesn’t need to be amazing, it just needs to hold your stuff and be ready when you are.

Ricoh WG-30 camera

Ricoh WG-30W Adventure Camera

16 megapixels, waterproof, crush proof, HD video and made for adventures.  Make sure you toss a 32 GB card in it and have a backup battery.  I have a silicon case to protect mine and a Pentax camera case to keep the extra batteries.  It’s not the best camera on the market but it is a perfect camera to always have on you on every adventure.

Gerber Ripstop I Knife:

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

I always travel with a multi-tool so this is just for times when I need a small blade (I hate using the blade on a multi-tool).  It’s only 3 ounces which is light enough to toss in and forget about it until you really need it.  Plus, you are going on a day trip, not doing a combat tour. Leave the fixed blade, serrated edge, hardened metal knife at home with your camping gear.

Having crossed into the U.S. border many times with a knife in my bag or vehicle, it is a lot easier to say to a border official, “I have a small jack knife in my bag” than a hunting one.  It is a lot less questions about who or what you plan to hunt.

Multi-tool

19-skeletool-cx07I own some great multi-tools but my favourite one is a generic one that I got for $10 at Wal-Mart.  It has multiple tools, grips that don’t hurt my hands and has lasted several adventures and crisis around the home.  You can pay more than $20 but at the end of the day, mine has lasted me really well and there are all sorts of ones to choose from.  If you are determined to get a high end multi-tool, you can do no better then the Leatherman CX Skeletool.  At a mere 5 ounces, it is the lightest multi-tool on the market.  One word of warning, it’s blade comes out of the packaging really, really sharp.   Rub your finger across it and you are bleeding all over your new multi-tool.

Moleskine Notebook and Pen

What do you do if you come across a great idea in the middle of a road trip?  Share it with your friends knowing that haters going hate.  Or do you write it down like Henry David Thoreau would do?  You know the answer.  Grab yourself a decent notebook and a Parker Urban Roller Ball pen.

Extra socks

Something cotton and goes with both shorts or khakis.   Get the Mens Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks.  If your socks or feet get wet from water or sweat, it makes for an uncomfortable day.  Instead pack a pair of these amazing socks in your pack and change when you need to.  They are perfect for getting you through your day and good looking enough to get you through the evening.   Of course you probably have a pair of socks you have already you can use.

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Van Heusen Men’s Short Sleeve Oxford Dress Shirt

Van Heusen Men's Short Sleeve Oxford Dress Shirt

This is something to wear once your day of adventure is done.  Whether you are going out for a nice dinner, meeting up with some friends or just want to feel good on the trip home, this is the shirt you toss on.  It’s wrinkle resistant, comfortable, and has a timeless and classy look to it.

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard with $250 on it

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard

Your bank may or may not have a similar option but for $10 a year, you can get a BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard.  It works just like a regular MasterCard but it is prepaid.  You can add money to it from an ATM or if you are a BMO member, it is linked to your account.  If you have an emergency, you can pay for a motel room, a tow, or grab a meal no matter how bad it gets.

Since it is prepaid, there is no interest or debt to pay back later.

So what is in your day bag?

Mark is now 15

Happy Birthday Mark!

He turned 15 today.  Despite his best efforts, he has made it 15 times around the sun without being tossed from the planet.

We celebrated in part on the weekend.  On Friday Wendy and I took him shopping and got him to pick out some new sunglasses.  He totally ignored the incredible looking sunglasses I picked out for him and instead picked some sunglasses that look like he is from The Matrix.  Whoa.

On Sunday morning we got up early and I gave him a MSR Pocket Rocket stove, fuel canister, and base.  For $8 the base makes the entire system a lot more secure.  Mark is pretty responsible but he is a teenager and therefore his coordination comes and goes. 

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

Wendy gave him a one person mess kit to cook with while hiking.  Oliver’s response was, “Only one person?  What’s Mark going to eat?”  He’s always looking out for his older brother.

We then took off to Prince Albert National Park and went hiking for the day.  We hiked the Waskesiu River, the Mud Flat Trail (where we got close and personal with some black bears), and hiked both sides of the Narrows.  Mark cooked us up some lunch with his new gear.  After a day of hiking and exploring, we went to The Angry Taco for dinner and called it a day.

Tuesday morning, we gave him the rest of his gifts.  Oliver gave him a frisbee disc golf set.

We all got him a Altec Lansing XL Soundblade Bluetooth Speaker which he has wanted really badly.  He was pretty happy to get one.

Altec Lansing XL Soundblade

Today after school him and I are heading out for a quick game of golf and then coming home to have some steak that has been marinating for several days.  It is starting out as a nice day.

Norway will shut off FM radio in 2017

Norway’s Minister of Culture announced this week that a national FM-radio switch off will commence in 2017, allowing the country to complete its transition over to digital radio.

As Radio.no notes, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will provide Norwegian listeners more diverse radio channel content than ever before. Indeed, DAB already hosts 22 national channels in Norway, as opposed to FM radio’s five, and a TNS Gallup survey shows that 56% of Norwegian listeners use digital radio every day. While Norway is the first country in the world to set a date for an FM switch-off, other countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are also in the process of transitioning to DAB.

Frequency modulation, or FM, radio was patented in 1933 and has been recording and sharing the human story for nearly a century. But its days are clearly waning. According to a 2012 Pew Study, while over 90% of Americans still listen to AM/FM radio at least weekly, more people are choosing to forgo analog radio for Internet-only services each year. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before many countries follow Norway’s example, although I’m not so sure I’m ready to part with my 80’s-era Grundig. Thing still sounds like a dream.