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The slow death of the microwave

Microwave sales fall as people move from quick food to fresh food.

“As people become more health conscious, and more interested in cooking ‘fresh,’ that’s not helping microwaves,” Owen said. “It’s leading to lower sales.” The interest in cooking is more than a movement; it’s a national phenomenon. Even major grocery chains have noted upticks in sales as a result.

Growth in sales of microwavable popcorn are also slowing, while sales of ready-to-eat popcorn are growing at an over 11% clip. Why microwave junk food when you can get it pre-popped? Americans are at once too patient and too lazy to use their microwaves these days.

Go into your neighbourhood Safeway or Sobey’s one of these days and look around.  When I was a kid, most of the aisles were full of things for my mom to make and cook.  Now the aisles are increasingly full of things that are already cooked.  Wendy will tell you that at even 33rd Street Safeway can’t keep up with the demand of pre-cooked chicken, soups, and fries at supper time.  Even a small store has a deli which will make you sandwiches and a variety of food like samosas and salads.   We may want to cook but many families don’t have the energy or time to do it anymore.

Report: U.S. Could Be Plunged Into Blackout By Minimal Attacks

It seems that Saskatoon is not the only jurisdiction not paying attention to infrastructure

A coordinated attack on just nine of the United States’ 55,000 electric-transmission substations on the right day could cause a blackout from Los Angeles to New York City, according to the study conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The study’s results have been known for months to select people in federal agencies, Congress and the White House, but were reported publicly for the first time Wednesday. The WSJ did not publish a list of the 30 most critical substations identified by the FERC study.

Electric substations play a vital role in keeping the electric grid humming by boosting voltage for long-distance travel and then transforming it to usable levels upon arrival. On a hot summer day, with the grid operating at high capacity, FERC found that taking out the right amount of substations could lead to a national blackout lasting weeks or even months.

How Seven People Keep the Internet Safe

From the Guardian

Standing in the break room next to Lamb is Dmitry Burkov, one of the keyholders, a brusque and heavy-set Russian security expert on the boards of several internet NGOs, who has flown in from Moscow for the ceremony. “The key issue with internet governance is always trust,” he says. “No matter what the forum, it always comes down to trust.” Given the tensions between Russia and the US, and Russia’s calls for new organisations to be put in charge of the internet, does he have faith in this current system? He gestures to the room at large: “They’re the best part of Icann.” I take it he means he likes these people, and not the wider organisation, but he won’t be drawn further.

It’s time to move to the ceremony room itself, which has been cleared for the most sensitive classified information. No electrical signals can come in or out. Building security guards are barred, as are cleaners. To make sure the room looks decent for visitors, an east coast keyholder, Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder of Sweden, has been in the day before to vacuum with a $20 dustbuster.

We’re about to begin a detailed, tightly scripted series of more than 100 actions, all recorded to the minute using the GMT time zone for consistency. These steps are a strange mix of high-security measures lifted straight from a thriller (keycards, safe combinations, secure cages), coupled with more mundane technical details – a bit of trouble setting up a printer – and occasional bouts of farce. In short, much like the internet itself.

As we step into the ceremony room, 16 men and four women, it is just after lunchtime in LA and 21.14 GMT. As well as the keyholders, there are several witnesses here to make sure no one can find some sneaky back door into the internet. Some are security experts, others are laypeople, two are auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers (with global online trade currently well in excess of $1tn, the key has a serious role to play in business security). Lamb uses an advanced iris scanner to let us all in.

“Please centre your eyes,” the tinny automated voice tells him. “Please come a little closer to the camera… Sorry, we cannot confirm your identity.”

Lamb sighs and tries again.

“Thank you, your identity has been verified.”

We file into a space that resembles a doctor’s waiting room: two rows of bolted-down metal seats facing a desk. Less like a doctor’s waiting room are the networks of cameras live-streaming to Icann’s website. At one side of the room is a cage containing two high-security safes.

Francisco Arias, Icann’s director of technical services, acts as today’s administrator. It is his first time, and his eyes regularly flick to the script. To start with, things go according to plan. Arias and the four keyholders (the ceremony requires a minimum of three, not all seven) enter the secure cage to retrieve their smartcards, held in tamper-evident bags. Middle-aged men wearing checked shirts and jeans, they are Portuguese keyholder João Damas, based in Spain; American Edward Lewis, who works for an internet and security analytics firm; and Uruguayan Carlos Martinez, who works for Lacnic, the internet registry for Latin America and the Caribbean.

All but one of the 21 keyholders has been with the organisation since the very first ceremony. The initial selection process was surprisingly low-key: there was an advertisement on Icann’s site, which generated just 40 applications for 21 positions. Since then, only one keyholder has resigned: Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, now in his 70s and employed as “chief internet evangelist” by Google. At the very first key ceremony, in Culpeper, Virginia, Cerf told the room that the principle of one master key lying at the core of networks was a major milestone. “More has happened here today than meets the eye,” he said then. “I would predict that… in the long run this hierarchical structure of trust will be applied to a number of other functions that require strong authentication.” But Cerf struggled with the travel commitment and dropped his keyholder duties.

At 21.29, things go awry. A security controller slams the door of the safe shut, triggering a seismic sensor, which in turn triggers automatic door locks. The ceremony administrator and the keyholders are all locked in an 8ft square cage. Six minutes of quiet panic go by before they hit on a solution: trigger an alarm and an evacuation. Sirens blare and everyone piles out to mill around in the corridor until we can get back to the 100-point script. Every deviation has to be noted on an official record, which everyone present must read and sign off at a later point. Meanwhile, we use the downtime to snack: people rip open a few bags of Oreo biscuits and Cheez-Its.

 

Bubba Watson’s Golf Cart

The fact that the City of Saskatoon has not jumped on this bandwagon seems like a massive missed opportunity.

Bridges?  We don’t need no stinking bridges!

Column:Mobile services effective option

My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

My ears perk up whenever I hear Coun. Pat Lorje talk about the concentration of social service agencies in Saskatoon, because it is a very hard problem to fix once it has developed.
Social services tend to be located in poor areas of the city because that is where the need is. For many people, that is the end of the debate, but it’s more complicated than that. Those agencies are located there because of need and because real estate is cheap.
Despite the rhetoric of government, most see social services as an overhead cost, and if money can be saved by locating an agency in a less expensive part of town they will do it, nine times out of 10. For agencies not funded by the government, it is seen as a good stewardship of donations and resources to pay as little as possible for rent or a mortgage.
In Saskatchewan, the need is somewhat artificial because for years the province’s rental supplement has been geared toward accommodation that’s close to supports and services. It provides an incentive for people to live close to social agencies and concentrates poverty.
Once a critical mass of social agencies gets concentrated in one part of town, they tend to drive out other businesses and decrease property values even more. For people who depend on those services, it makes more sense to move to where cost of living is lower and close to where the services are provided. Of course, then you have more social service needs.
It’s an endless cycle that can do a lot of damage to the economic districts of some communities.
An interesting trend in a variety of cities over the last couple of years has been the creation of mobile social services, which are offered all across a city or region. Often these take the form of converted school buses or motorhomes, and provide such things as medical services (i.e. the Saskatoon Health Region’s health bus), as well as mobile showers in San Francisco and even a grocery store that’s driven to areas that do not have easy access to healthy food.
It’s not an new idea.
Libraries were doing this long before it was hip and trendy. I know many people who grew up in Saskatoon who can tell you when the Bookmobile came to their neighbourhood, and exactly where it stopped. It was by no means revolutionary, but it was part of community life.
Today we have the health bus. It doesn’t replace a hospital, but provides many services that one can access without going to a hospital. Being mobile, it can adjust its routes and schedule to meet people’s needs.
The advantages of mobility is that it allows the provision of services to neighbourhoods that need them, but aren’t within walking distance from the main location of a social agency. When many service agencies located in Riversdale, the area had some of the lowest rent and family incomes in Saskatoon. Redevelopment in Riversdale has significantly changed the neighbourhood.
The next place that could see big changes is Pleasant Hill, where the Junction development is slated to proceed. The impact that has seen real estate prices soar elsewhere is yet to be seen here, but the potential exists for affordable housing to move far away from the core and needed services.
There is a reason why studies in many cities show homeless people and those in extreme poverty will walk up to 20 kilometres a day to obtain food and shelter services. Even in Saskatoon, some of the most affordable living areas have almost no access to social services. Either rent eats up one’s food money and you can access services, or you have affordable rent and no access. For many it is a loselose situation.
Using outside-the-box ideas to use buses, local schools or faith-based organizations to deliver needed social services allows agencies and the government to meet needs inexpensively, while having a minimal impact on a local community.
Not only are the startup funds needed for such programs relatively small – one community recently made a significant dent in its food desert with a $100,000 bus – but it is temporary. If a grocery store comes in and wants to build in the neighbourhood it can, and the bus rolls out to another section of town. It can create markets, not kill them.
Without a long-term investment in a property, these programs can also be suited to economic conditions.
Saskatoon is changing.
With that comes the need for the province and city to adapt to how they deliver services in a way that helps people and minimizes the impact on the neighbourhoods where they live.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Wendy’s new website

Wendy has had a blog for over a decade and has been trying to decide what to do with it.  She also publishes The Cooking Blog.  Since she doesn’t have the time or motivation to write for both of them and wanted to do something else with the site.  

Several people have asked me what they should do with their domain name and I always tell them to check out Hemant Naidu’s website.  I found it a while ago while searching for something local and found it.  It’s hosted by Flavors.me.  Depending on your options, it can be either free or $20 a year. 

It’s a one page template and does everything that Wendy wants it to do.  I set this up for her in 20 minutes.  Most of that time was Wendy stressing out over the font and the photo.

Wendy Cooper.org

About.me does something really similar but costs about twice as much.  If you are looking at parking a domain name, it is the easiest way to do it.

It’s going to be a bloodbath

Dell lays off 15% of it’s workforce

Two sources have told us Dell is starting the expected huge layoff programme this week, claiming numbers will be north of 15,000.*

The company is returning to private ownership to restructure its operations in the wake of a falling PC market, a commoditisation of the server market and a perceived need to better serve enterprises with their ever-increasing mobile and cloud-focused IT requirements.

Does the brand of computer even matter anymore?  For years Dell stood for quality but now, does anyone care if you computer comes from?  It is the same components, technology, and operating system as the next guy and if the next company is cheaper, why not go with them?  If you want a premium brand, you go with Apple.

Why the “cannibal” cruise ship has already been sunk

As the National Post has reported, there isn’t a lot of to be worried about.

The East Coast of Canada was subject to three-meter waves when the Lyubov Orlova broke its final tow line. In the 12 months since, the ship has spun aimlessly through iceberg-infested waters and been pounded by all manner of swells, storms and gales.

And it’s not like the Lyubov Orlova was in tip-top condition to begin with. Before going to sea, the ship had spent three years deteriorating in St. John’s harbour and tellingly, the only buyer she could fetch was a scrap dealer.

In the October words of Irish Coast Director Chris Reynolds, she was less a cruise ship than “4,000 tonnes of metal,” he told the BBC.

It has probably been at the bottom of the Atlantic for a while.  In the slight chance you want to read more about it, here is the back story.  Basically we towed it for a while and then cut it lose in the Atlantic.  Not our best job as a country.  Ireland wasn’t impressed.

The Decline of Facebook

Pro Tip: Cameras for Politicians

Ever since working at Don’s Photo, I have been contacted by politicians on both sides of the political spectrum and asked what kind of camera they should be using.  Basically they want something small but takes better photos than the $129 camera they have now.  While Brad Wall might have an entourage to make him look good, even cabinet ministers do things by themselves and don’t have a camera crew surrounding them.

Here are my two picks

Sony RX-100 / Sony RX-100 II

Sony RX-100 II

The Sony RX-100 and RX-100 II are the two best compact cameras on the market.  They are amazing in low light which is where you spend most of your time.  I am not talking about back rooms or seedy hotel rooms but rather indoors like your office or in community centres for photo ops.  That is where this camera excels.  In fact the New York Times called it the best camera they had ever seen.

The problem with these camera is that the RX-100 is around $650 and the RX-100 II is $850.  I think they are worth it but unless you are in Alison Redford’s cabinet, you can’t expense something like that or you would have the Canadian Taxpayers Federation all over you.  The last thing you want is to be the person that took the media focus off of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.

So if you are going to get one, make sure you pay for it out of your salary or get your constituency organization to pick it up.  To be honest, you will like this camera so much that you will want to pick it up yourself.

Canon S120 (or S200)

Canon S120

Canon also has an amazing compact camera optimized for low light and that is the Canon S120.  It’s smaller than the RX-100 but has a good build quality and fast f1.8 lens.   It has a powerful image processor and can be found on sale for around $350.  The S200 has a slightly slower lens (f2) but can be had for $250.  The best value may be the older S110 which can be had for $250 but still has the faster lens that the updated S120 does.  The Canon has slightly more zoom but the Sony is faster zoomed out (giving you better photos when zoomed out)

Both cameras are small enough to go anywhere but more importantly are powerful enough to take good photos of you and the event you are at in poor light without a flash.  They also take 1080p video at nearly broadcast quality (which would have helped Stephane Dion the night he gave his ill-fated coalition speech).  With metal build quality, they will also stand up the wear and tear of the rubber chicken circuit (even if you won’t).

If you are a politician and rely on good photos as part of your public image, ditch the camera that you have, put down your iPhone and get one of these, preferably from your local camera shop.

Christmas Eve

After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman.  They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place.  We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents.  The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker.  The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.

Wendy

  • I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera.  She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade.  This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes.  It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it.  I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary.  A nice bonus for her.
Fujifilm Finepix JX600
  •  Times Ladies Ironman Triathalon WatchMark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch.  Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off.  The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it.  So far so good but it is early yet.
  • Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography.  Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom.  He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
  • Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera.  it was used but barely used.  Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens.  I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
  • The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter.  I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras.  Story of my life.

Olympis PEN EPL-2

Mark

  • I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera.  He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it.  It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount.  Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account.  That’s quality parenting right there folks.
Vivitar Action Camera
  • Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone.   Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them.  He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes.  The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit. 
  • Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
  • The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
  • Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie.  He’ll never take them off.
  • Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug.  It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
  • Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks.  He is going to need them.

Oliver

  • I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars.  He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well.  As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies.  Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code.  I hear beeping in my future.
  • Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them.  Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting.  It should be fun.
  • Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS.  Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin.  Mark isn’t so crazy about that.  We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head.  Something to inspire him with.
  • Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs.  Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
Memorex CD Player
  • Hutch got him an art set
  • Maggi got him a compact camcorder.  It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver.  He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots.  The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it.  At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days.  I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
A $10 Vibe Camcorder

Lee

  • I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades.  Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me.  The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
  • The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk.  It seems to sum both of them up so well.
Mark and Oliver Cooper at Arlington Beach in 2013
  • We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.

Brittany

  • Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
  • Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.

Me

Pentax f1.7

Canon 17-135 lens travel mug

I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag

LowePro Classified 160 AW camera bag

Well that’s enough from me tonight.  We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner.  Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.

19 Years Ago Today

Netscape Navigator

Netscaoe Navigator was released

Christmas Gift Guide for the Outdoorsman | 2013 Edition

In case you are shopping for the great outdoorsman, here are a list of suggestions for those who often prefer to outdoors rather than inside. Check out the other Christmas gift ideas that have been posted this season.

Straight from Ned Flander’s Leftorium, the MEC Left Handed Slingpack $21 | Wendy has had a sling pack for years and just about jumped for joy when I told her that there was a left handed version available. She may have actually wept a tear or two. 

Pelican 1050 waterproof case $18.68 | These are great camera/GPS/iPod cases. They are water proof, padded, floatable, and strong enough to take a lot of abuse in the back of your trunk or any backpack. While you may not use it when you head to the park, you will use them when you are packing for a trip and don’t want your iPod, camera, or phone to be crushed. They are pretty much indestructible which means that of all of the things you have to worry about, this isn’t one of them.

Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport Shoes $70 – $130 | The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised. The Vibram Five Fingers shoes are designed to simulate walking barefoot while protecting your feet like shoes do. If you have any questions, check out the reviews on Amazon.

Leatherman Skeletool CX $80 |  Now you’re ready to lighten your load and boost your survival skills — with Leatherman’s Skeletool. At a mere 5 ounces the new, full-sized multitool keeps weight and volume to a minimum without sacrificing quality and true functionality, and that’s what the Skeletool is all about. Many multitools have multiple options, but they’re often heavier — and they’re loaded with more features than most people actually need on a regular basis. Conversely, pocket knives are light and streamlined, but they render themselves useless when the task calls for a more versatile tool. Enter the new Skeletool platform, offering minimal weight, compact size and endless capabilities. And with the Skeletool’s integrated, removable pocket clip, you can easily clip this tool onto a belt, a pack, or a vest — with no sheath or tote required.

Cammenga Lensatic Compass $88 | This is the Rolls Royce of compasses.  It has been used by U.S. troops, foreign militaries, law enforcement, and special forces for years. A total of seven Tritium light sources provide readability in total darkness for 10 years without external power or the need to “recharge” using a flashlight.

Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS

Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS $249 |  Sharpen your cycling performance with Edge 500, a lightweight GPS-based cycling computer for performance-driven cyclists. Loaded with data, Edge 500 tracks your distance, speed, location and elevation with high sensitivity GPS. Add an ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor or compatible power meter for a finely-tuned analysis of your ride.

Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System $99 | The Jetboil Flash cooking system utilizes the same efficient design as the now classic Personal Cooking System (PCS) but adds the additional convenience feature of an external temperature indicator. Designed to capture and focus heat more efficiently than traditional cooking systems, the Flash brings two cups of water to a boil in only two minutes. The lining also houses a color change window that alerts you to when the contents are hot. A sip-through lid further helps insulate the contents of the cooking cup and prohibits spills. The protective plastic bottom of the cup can be removed for use as a small bowl or measuring device.   

If the Jetboil Personal Cooking System isn’t what you are looking for, check out the MSR Pocket Rocket stove $39 | The PocketRocket backpacking stove from MSR provides full cooking function in an incredibly efficient form. Barely noticeable in your pack, it delivers precision flame control from torch to simmer while the Wind Clip wind shield boosts efficiency in breezy conditions. The PocketRocket stove’s diminutive size is also the foundation of a solid emergency kit for home or trail.

Cabin: Two Brothers, Five Acres and a Dream in Maine by Lou Ureneck $17 |  Confronted with the disappointments and knockdowns that can come in middle age-job loss, the death of his mother, a health scare, a divorce, Lou Ureneck needed a project that would engage the better part of him and put him back in life’s good graces. City-bound for a decade, Lou decided he needed to build a simple post-and-beam cabin in the woods. He bought five acres in the hills of western Maine and asked his younger brother, Paul, to help him.

Double Nest Hammock $65 | The DoubleNest allows room for one, two, three, or however you decide to pack 400lbs. The DoubleNest seats more than one person comfortably and is essential for family adventures. The DoubleNest still packs down to the size of a grapefruit, so there is no excuse to be without your ENO hammock.

Outdoor Coffee Press $40 |  Now there is no reason to bring that horrible tasting Starbucks Via coffee with you when you go camping or hiking.  Instead bring some fresh ground coffee or loose leaf tea with you and make some excellent coffee when ever you want with this outdoor coffee press.  Of course you won’t bring a bean grinder with you on most trips but it gives you an idea of what it takes to make a good cup of coffee while on the road.  Of course you need something to drink it from.  You may want to check out some excellent stainless steel coffee mugs/beer mugs to drink from.

Zippo Hand Warmer $20 | The Zippo Hand Warmer is a rugged, metal hand warmer with a high-polish finish and a sleek, thin design so it easily fits into your pocket. The hand warmer is virtually odorless (great for hunters) and stays warm for up to 12 hours. Plus, it’s reusable with Zippo lighter fluid and includes a convenient filler cup and warming bag. Whether you’re skiing, tailgating at the game, hunting, sledding, or enjoying any other cold-weather activity, keep a Zippo Hand Warmer in your pocket and keep your fingers toasty warm.

Garmin GPS

Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator $168 | Garmin’s eTrex GPS series offers reliable satellite navigation, making it a favorite of hikers, hunters, and geocachers. The eTrex 20 is equipped with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, a 2.2-inch color display, and ships with a worldwide basemap with relief. Add a wide array of detailed topographic, marine, and road maps, and start mapping out your next adventure.

Hennessy Hammock Expedition A-sym $143 | Next generation of Hennessy Hammock’s most popular model with all the key features including full velcro entrance seal, mesh pocket on ridgeline and webbing straps to protect the bark of trees.  The rain-fly is polyurethane coated polyester ripstop or silicone impregnated nylon and may be tilted to any angle, rolled up above, removed or used separately. The No-See-Um mesh and hammocks fabric will deflect wind to provide a calm space inside. Large area of No-See-Um netting to provide ventilation and keep insects outside the hammock. When properly sealed, the entrance design also makes sure no bugs get into your hammock.  All of this means that you can sleep almost anywhere.

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern $25 | Designed for ounce-conscious backpackers and climbers, the Black Diamond Orbit lantern packs 45 lumens of bright, non-glaring light in an ultra-portable package. A DoublePower LED (1-watt) works with Black Diamond’s dual reflector system and frosted globe to illuminate everything from tent-bound reading to pre-dawn racking. A collapsible, double-hook hang loop attaches to tent ceilings and tree branches alike.  Mark and I both have one and they are simply amazing.  They are highly rated on REI, MEC, and Amazon.com and are loved by all that use them.  Whether you are a camper, hiker, or even a family who needs a safety light in the car, these are a must have.

Filzer UFO Light $8 | Alert vehicles and help keep track of your dog at night. The UFO light is designed specifically for runners, hikers and dogs. The light easily attaches to 1″ webbing, dog collars, clothing, etc… with a small carabineer. Five red LEDs put out highly visible red light in three modes – steady, flash and rotate. Its waterproof design makes it ideal for any weather.

Christmas Gift Guides and Ideas

If I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Ford’s (Amazing) 50th Anniversary Mustang

I have been following the news about the 50th Anniversary Ford Mustang for a while now and Ford Canada is releasing it today.  Here is the press release from Ford.

2015 Ford Mustang

DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 5, 2013 – The next chapter in the life of the iconic pony car begins today as the all-new Ford Mustang, loaded with innovative technologies and delivering world-class levels of performance, is simultaneously revealed around the globe in six cities on four different continents.

“Ford Mustang inspires passion like no other car,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, global product development. “The visceral look, sound and performance of Mustang resonates with people, even if they’ve never driven one. Mustang is definitely more than just a car – it is the heart and soul of Ford.”

Mustang’s impact goes well beyond the 9 million-plus cars sold during its 50 years of continuous production. It is the world’s most-liked vehicle on Facebook, with thousands of appearances in film, television, music and video games. For the first time ever, Ford will bring Mustang to customers in key parts of Europe and Asia.

“We crafted this car with the goal of creating a contemporary interpretation of Mustang – an American automotive icon that symbolizes optimism and freedom for millions of people around the world,” said Jim Farley, executive vice president of Ford global marketing, sales and service and Lincoln.

All-new shape, yet unmistakably Mustang

Ford Mustang

The clean-sheet design of both Mustang fastback and convertible evokes the essential character of the brand, retaining key design elements including the long sculpted hood and short rear deck with a contemporary execution.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression and when you see this car, you immediately see a Mustang strong and true,” said Moray Callum, Ford executive director, design, The Americas.

Several key design features define the all-new Mustang, including:
· A lower, wider stance with a reduction in roof height, wider rear fenders and track width
· The return of Mustang fastback with a sleeker profile enabled by more steeply sloped windshield and rear glass
· Three-dimensional, tri-bar taillamps with sequential turn signals
· Contemporary execution of the signature shark-bite front fascia and trapezoidal grille

2015 Ford Mustang Interior.jpg
Mustang convertible drivers will appreciate the standard multilayer insulated cloth top that gives the car a more upscale appearance and a quieter cabin. The new top lowers twice as fast as before, and has a sleeker profile when folded for open-air motoring.

The information and controls that an active driver needs are all readily accessible in the aviation-inspired cockpit, which is executed with the highest degree of craftsmanship ever found in a Mustang. Large, clear instrumentation that puts vehicle information right in front of the driver in the roomier cabin while improved ergonomics and tactile switches and knobs provide better control. The added width and new rear suspension contribute to improved shoulder and hip room for passengers and a more usefully shaped trunk that can accommodate two golf bags.

The Mustang experience

The way Mustang looks, drives and sounds is key to the visceral experience that makes drivers want to just get in and hit the road. With more options to choose from, there is a Mustang to fit any lifestyle. The upgraded V6 and V8 are joined this year by an all-new 2.3-litre EcoBoost® engine that brings state-of-the-art technology to Mustang.

Mustang GT continues with the latest edition of the throaty 5.0-litre V8, now featuring an upgraded valvetrain and cylinder heads that yield more than 420 horsepower and 396 lb.-ft. of torque. A new intake manifold improves low-speed breathing for better fuel economy, idle stability and emissions.

“This EcoBoost engine delivers where a Mustang driver expects it to with a broad, flat torque curve that pours out when you stand on it for easy passing or hustling down a twisty road,” said Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer.

The Mustang EcoBoost engine uses direct injection, variable cam timing and turbocharging to deliver plenty of usable performance and projected segment-leading fuel efficiency. A unique intake manifold and turbocharger housing enable it to deliver the performance Mustang drivers expect with output projected at more than 305 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque.

With at least 300 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque on tap from the standard 3.7-litre V6, even the most accessible Mustang delivers the performance customers expect.

Drivers will appreciate smoother shifts from the updated manual gearbox, while a reworked automatic transmission features new steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles for drivers who want the choice between convenience and control.

Most nimble pony ever

When life throws drivers a curve, the all-new Mustang sets new handling benchmarks for the brand, delivering world-class dynamics and ride quality.

“We already set a very high standard for Mustang’s dynamics with Boss 302, and our goal was to go above and beyond that with this new car,” said Pericak.

Mustang features all-new front and rear suspension systems. At the front, a new perimeter subframe helps to stiffen the front structure while reducing mass, providing a better foundation for more predictable wheel control that benefits handling, steering and ride.

The new double ball-joint front MacPherson strut system also enables the use of larger, more powerful brakes. This is expected to be the best stopping Mustang yet, with three available brake packages.

At the rear is an all-new integral-link independent rear suspension. The geometry, springs, dampers and bushings all have been specifically modified and tuned for this high-performance application. New aluminum rear knuckles help reduce unsprung mass for improved ride and handling.

Smarter than your average pony

2015 Ford Mustang Interior

The all-new Mustang features a significant amount of innovative technologies providing drivers with enhanced information, control and connectivity when they want it. From Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start to SYNC and MyKey in every Mustang built, plus available Track Apps, MyColour gauges and new Shaker Pro audio system, drivers will be able to customize their time behind the wheel.

The feeling of freedom and confidence that drivers get in Mustang is amplified when they can take control of how it behaves. On a twisty back road or a weekend track day, the driver can tap the toggle switches on the console to quickly adjust steering effort, engine response, and transmission and electronic stability control settings using the available Selectable Drive Modes to create the perfect Mustang at any time.

The new advanced, Ford-developed stability control is tuned to maximize Mustang’s dynamic capabilities with features like torque vectoring that directs engine power to individual wheels to help keep the car on course. When the time comes to turn up the wick at the track, Mustang GT includes standard launch control that enables drivers to achieve smooth, consistent starts every time.

When it’s time to back off and relax for the drive home available advanced driver-assist features including Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control can help ease the load.

50 years of Mustang

April 17, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the original Ford Mustang and each 2015 model marks the milestone with a badge on the instrument panel that includes the galloping pony logo and the words “Mustang – Since 1964.” Mustang will continue to be built in America at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

“From day one, we knew if we were going to build a new Mustang, we had to do it right,” said Pericak. “We built a new Mustang from the ground up that is quicker, better-looking, more refined and more efficient, without losing any of the raw appeal that people have associated with Mustang for decades.”

The Globe and Mail has it’s thoughts right here as does the Ford Blue blog.  I want one.

Here is my review of the 2013 Ford Mustang GT in case you are interested.  Its pretty awesome too.

Guardian Editor Describes Pressure After Leaks by Snowden

From the New York Times

The testimony by the editor, Alan Rusbridger, gave a public airing to the debate over how to balance press freedom against national security concerns, an issue that became more acute once The Guardian began publishing material leaked by Mr. Snowden in June.

The American and British governments have said the disclosures, which detail how the National Security Agency and its equivalent in Britain, Government Communication Headquarters, gather vast amounts of data, damage national security and help hostile governments. Journalists and transparency advocates have countered that the leak spurred a vital debate on privacy and the role of spy agencies in the Internet age.

Mr. Rusbridger said Tuesday that the governments’ measures “include prior restraint,” as well as visits by officials to his office, the enforced destruction of Guardian computer disks with power tools and repeated calls from lawmakers “asking police to prosecute” The Guardian for disclosing the classified material in news articles.

As he testified before a Parliamentary committee on national security, he faced aggressive questioning from lawmakers, particularly those of the ruling Conservative Party. Some asserted that The Guardian had handled the material irresponsibly, putting it at risk of interception by hostile governments and others. Others said the paper had jeopardized national security.

At one point during the hearing, Mr. Rusbridger was asked, to his evident surprise, whether he loved his country. He answered yes, noting that he valued its democracy and free press. After Mr. Rusbridger’s testimony, a senior British police officer, Cressida Dick, refused to rule out prosecutions as part of an investigation into the matter.

Since the revelations, newspapers, particularly those that have dealt with Mr. Snowden’s material, have also had to adjust to a harsh new reporting environment, security experts and journalists said, as governments and others seek secret material held by reporters.

“The old model was kind of like your house,” said Marc Frons, the chief information officer of The New York Times. “You locked your front door and windows, but not your desk drawer, even if it had your passport inside. In the new model, you have locks on everything.”

The Guardian, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal declined to comment about internal security arrangements.

But Mr. Rusbridger told Parliament that the newspaper “went to more precautions over this material than any other story we have ever handled.”

Senior Guardian editors were initially skeptical this year when asked to hand over their cellphones before discussing Mr. Snowden’s documents, said a person with knowledge of the reporting process, who did not want to be named discussing confidential security procedures.

That soon changed when they reviewed the information Mr. Snowden had supplied, this person said. The documents, they came to realize, would be of intense interest not only to the American and British governments, from which they were taken, but also to other governments like China and Russia seeking an espionage edge and hackers seeking to embarrass either government agencies or the publications reporting on the material.

Eventually the same editors insisted that meetings be held in rooms without windows and that any electronic devices nearby be unplugged. Computers that contained the information could never be connected to the Internet. And reporters who needed to consult with colleagues in other countries about the documents had to fly them over physically and meet in person, despite the extra costs. On one occasion, Mr. Rusbridger said, encrypted documents were sent via FedEx.