Saturday, July 30, 2005

Tales from the road

I've arrived at Buena Vista, our cottage in Regina. It took a while...about 30 hours of driving, all told. And not without some adventures.

It's late right now, but since this blog is titled "The Daily Upload" I thought I should make an attempt to start keeping up with my name. Or else change the title to "The Occasional Upload." (More accurate perhaps, but not as sexy...) Anyway, before I hit the sack, I thought I'd brief you on our trip out here.

We started off with a problem. We were towing a trailer to Regina and we didn't even get out of the driveway on Thursday night before the trailer lights stopped working! Big problem, given it was dark out, etc. I tried to solve the problem, while Heather went back inside, convinced the trip was cursed and we wouldn't be going anywhere.

But after a couple of hours, I had figured out what was wrong (although I couldn't fix it right then) and we decided to head off with just running lights. Not a problem, I figured, since we had hoped to avoid major city traffic along the way. But because we were late leaving, we ended up driving through Chicago at morning rush hour...and then Minneapolis in the afternoon rush hour. Oh well...we made it.

The trouble was, by evening, we needed to find a place to stop. We had planned to drive right through, but the delays and stuff were working against us and we were all bushed. A VW Jetta isn't very big to start with, and it gets smaller every time you try to stretch out for some sleep!

We had hoped to find a hotel in Bismark, South Dakota, but the state fair (or something) was on, so at midnight we found ourselves with nowhere to stay! So we headed up to Minot, looking for a vacant room along the way...but nothing. The North Dakota state fair was also on this weekend. Not a room to be had anywhere.

So, by this time, I was exhausted and couldn't keep my eyes open. But Cory was sort of awake (after all, he had just slept for about 20 hours straight) so he took over and we headed north from Minot. Alas, the highway we chose turned out to be under major construction, so at 3 am, Cory found himself creeping along a chunk of sand, with no lane markers, in a fog that cut visibility to about 20 feet or so! Quite a ride.

But Cory, to his credit, stayed with it and eventually the road improved and the fog lifted. So after crossing the border back into Canada at Portal, we crawled into Estevan at 4 am, got a hotel room and crashed. We finally arrived in Regina this afternoon about 3 pm, tired, but glad to have had a decent sleep.

Tonight, we arrived out here at the cottage, where I've finally figured out how to get an Internet connection, so I can check my mail and post this note.

No more pictures, unfortunately. I was going to snap some in the car on our trip, but my camera got buried in the trunk and I never did get it you'll just have to take my word for things.

That's it from the Traynor cottage for today. Stay tuned and the big adventure continues!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On the road again

I'll be off-line for a few days soon. I'm heading back out to Saskatchewan with Heather and Cory.

Unfortunately, that means that I'll be missing the Henley Regatta this year. It runs from August 2-8 in St. Catherines. Both Jaime and Kelly are entered in the singles and doubles competition and I'm really looking forward to their races. They'll be staying here for a while longer. Jaime follows us to Saskatchewan on Aug 9 and Kelly is coming with her boyfriend on Aug 16. So we'll still have a bit of time together before Jaime heads back to Victoria for another year at University.

But while I won't be able to watch the races live, I will be able to follow the event pretty closely. The Henley Regatta has a website, and they plan to post the results pretty quick each day. Therre's a link for Results and Photo Archives where I think they'll be posting the finals. So we should be able to find out what happens as the day goes along. As long as I can get my Internet access working at the cottage, we should be able to keep an eye on things from Buena Vista.

We leave here on Thursday and we're planning to drive straight through to Regina. We should be there in about 24 hours, assuming we don't run into any problems. We're heading through Detroit and Chicago, then up to Winnipeg and on to Regina. If I get a chance, I'll try to post a few pictures from along the way...sort of a blogosphere record of our trip.

Talk to you in a few days.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Another Proud Papa Rowing Update

Just a quick post after the Ontario Championships regatta. Kelly and Jaime had another good weekend, and they are both feeling pretty positive heading into the Henley Regatta in 10 days.

Kelly won the gold medal in the Under 19 Women's Single, with a very convincing win today. This followed on a third-place showing with her partner, Laura Ceyrs, in the Under 19 Double on Saturday. Following their win last week in St. Catherines, they were a bit frustrated. But this weekend's results just make them that much more determined to finish well at Henley.

Jaime chalked up her second silver medal in as many weekends, finishing just out of first place in her Under 23 Womens' Single. She lost to the same woman that beat her last weekend. But once again, Jaime finished ahead of Caitlin Pauls, who Jaime also was ahead of last weekend, proving that last weekend was no fluke. Jaime also finished fourth in the Under 23 Women's Double with her partner Jess Southall. They looked good the whole race, but they're on the young side of the age bracket, and the maturity of their competition showed as the race moved into the later stages. They're also looking forward to Henley.

I've got some pictures from the weekend, and I'll put up some links when I get them.

More later...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Back it up now

You do back up don't you? You know you should...but perhaps you've been avoiding it, thinking about it, but haven't done it. We're all guilty.

However, I've bought an external harddrive and I've been pretty good about back up all my stuff diligently. I've even backed up Heather's stuff fairly often. But alas, I didn't back up Kelly's hard drive...nor did she. And a couple of weeks ago, it died. Completely. Very sad, as you might expect.

If you're having trouble getting around to doing a back-up, or if you're still depending on things like CD's, tape drives or diskettes, consider switching to a hard disk. It makes all kinds of sense.

And while you're at it, consider what John Cleese has to say about the issue. He's the star of a hilarious new video about the perils of not backing up your stuff.

Thanks to GlennLog for pointing me to the Cleese video.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Anyone up for some Lycanthropy?

The full moon is bright tonight. Outside, the air is that perfect temperature (about 20 C) that makes walking at night so comfortable. It's just cool enough that it's refreshing, but still warm enough that there's no urge to add more clothes. Indeed, the kids two doors up seem to have shed their clothes entirely! I guess they're taking this full moon thing pretty seriously.

At any rate, I'm aware of just how nice an evening it is because I just got back from our regular walk (that's me and all these dogs I'm taking care of.) I've got two of my own and I've been looking after my brother's Golden Retriever for the last three weeks.

Taking care of three big dogs in the city is a challenge, especially here in Hamilton. This summer, the city has decided that the thing to do is to give out tickets to people if they let their dog off its leash. So they've been out in force in their white vans, driving around in the parks handing out tickets. That's right...they drive those vans right through the parks! Talk about ironic. They're so worked up about my dogs possibly leaving behind some personal calling cards that these guys have to whip around in their vans to prevent it.

It wouldn't be so frustrating if there were any off-leash areas close by. But Hamilton doesn't seem to like that idea. All the parks and trails are off-limits for dogs. The only off-leash areas are in Ancaster, Dundas and Burlington. Oh, and one way on the outskirts of Hamilton, on the way to Lake Erie, for crying out loud.

But enough of my troubles. Because I'm worried about bothering anyone else with my dogs, I tend to walk them early in the morning and late at night. Not only is it pretty deserted around here, but the weather is a lot more bearable as well. Tonight was a beautiful night, and the light of the moon made it really easy to track down those doggie deposits for my plastic baggies. Oh, the things we do for our animals!

But now to the point of my post (as if I have one!) I noticed the full moon on my walk and it got me to wondering about all the stuff you hear about people going nuts on the full moon and the emergency wards filling up, etc. So when I got back, I spent some time searching around for some interesting articles. My title refers, of course, to Lycanthropy, which, in folklore, according to Wikipedia, is:
...the ability or power of a human being to undergo transformation into a wolf. The term comes from ancient Greek lykanthropos (λυκάνθροπος): lykos ("wolf") + anthropos ("man").

I didn't run into any werewolves, but there were some pretty strange people hanging out over at the park. They scattered when I showed up with three big dogs, though.

But what about those urban myths about hospital emergency wards being so full and wierd stuff on full moon evenings?

It appears that science may have debunked that myth as well. According to a study called "The full moon and admission to emergency rooms" reported in the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences:
...the number of trauma patients was not increased during the full moon days against other days of lunar month. Statistical analyses of data didn't exhibit a positive relation between full moon days and increasing of trauma patient admission to ERs. An association between assault and attempted suicide was not observed around the full moon days either.

Darn! There goes that theory!

And here's another story about some studies that debunk the idea that people party heartier, kill each other and suffer more dog bites when the moon is full.

Oh well. I'm not even sure that tonight is a full moon. According to a complicated formula used to decide when the full moon happens, the moon is supposed to be full on July 21. Which is now. But I don't know whether it's supposed to be right now, or tomorrow (or rather today, but this evening...if you see what I mean.) I'm starting to get a bit silly here, aren't I? It doesn't really matter. The moon is as big as an elephant's eye...that's about all I know.

That wraps up my science lesson for tonight. I'm going to go sit out on the back deck and listen to the music wafting over from the neighbours' place. Whether it's because of the full moon or not, they seem to have a great party going. I'm too old to join in, but I can still enjoy the ambience. And I'll keep a close watch out for werewolves.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Proud Papa - Rowing Update

Another weekend, another regatta come and gone. This week, Jaime and Kelly (that's Kelly in the picture, with her gold medal) were rowing in the St. Catherines Invitational. It was a very successful weekend for both, but especially for Kelly. Kelly brought home two gold medals for Leander, in the single and the double, while Jaime placed second in her single and fourth in her double.

Both of them looked in great shape, and they look to be peaking at just the right time. The Henley regatta is Aug 2-8, and that's the big one, for the rowing fraternity. Both of them will be rowing their single and a double.

While Jaime didn't win, her silver medal finish was historic. She finished ahead of Caitlin Pauls, from St. Catherines, who has been her arch-rival through her entire rowing career. Saturday was the first time that Jaime has ever beaten Caitlin, going back to their first high-school regatta. Caitlin, who is now rowing at Central Florida University, finished about three boat lengths back, in third place. A most satisfying result for Jaime, and nearly as good as first place.

This coming weekend, both will be in action at the Ontario Championships, the last regatta before Henley. Kelly will be rowing the double with her partner, Laura Cers, while Jaime will be teamed up with her partner, Jessica Southall, in the lightweight double. And of course, they'll both be rowing their singles as well.

Watch for more pictures from all the regatta coming soon.

Apple on the move

There's a lot of stuff percolating out today about Apple heading into the video market, similar to what it did with the iPod and the music business. Here's a story from today's Globe, along with another in MarketWatch.

You might also be interested in Robert X. Cringely's column, which I think is the source for a lot of this stuff. Cringely is always good for an interesting take on things. He's one of my favourite tech writers.

What does all this mean for you and me? Well, I don't have any money, so I can't go out and buy Apple shares, but I wish I had picked some up back about a year ago, just after I got my PowerBook. The company's profit sheet has stayed really good for awhile, and I suspect that if this video thing works out, Apple will stay a good bet.

I'm still bitter about the fact I didn't have the jam to do what I was telling everyone else to do back when Google shares first went public. I thought of converting some of my RRSP stuff to Google shares, but since I don't have a steady income anymore, I didn't work up the courage to do it. Why, I'm not really sure. It was probably as close to a sure thing as anything will ever be...and I knew it! Oh well...I guess the market is not really my thing.

Finally, are you up to date with the podcast phenonomenon? What? You haven't heard of podcasting? It's only...well, never mind. But there is an interesting story in today's Globe about how mainstream companies are lining up to jump on the bandwagon. I think podcasting is pretty cool...I subscribe to several. If you're into it, add a comment here and recommend some of your favourites.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What if you went to a reunion and didn't know a soul?

OK, that's not really what happened to me. But last week, my son, Cory, (pictured here) and I went to watch the Toronto Argos host the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the Skydome (sorry, the Rogers Centre!).

We sat in a special section which had been purchased by the University of Regina and Saskachewan alumni associations. There were lots of crazy Rider fans around and we had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the Riders lost in the last minute, which was a drag...

But what was strange is that we went to a BBQ dinner prior to the game with about 350 other people. And I didn't see a single person I knew! That kind of blew me away, although it's been a long time since I was a student at the U of R. Still, I figured I'd know somebody! After all, I still spend a month there every year.

Actually, that's not entirely true. I did recognize a couple of people who had been politicians when I worked in Sask, but I didn't get a chance to talk to them. And I knew who Roger Aldag was, even if I haven't actually met him. (If you don't know who he is, don't worry about it. You're not from Sask!)

Anyway, Cory and did have fun, and since I don't often talk about my son here, I thought I'd post a picture, just so you know I do have one. So here's Cory, at the game with a bunch of people we don't know, other than that they all cheer for the Riders, as all right-thinking people do, of course.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Considering the carnage in London

What are we to think after Thursday's events in London? It's easy to try to ascribe blame and make things black and white. It's us vs them. That's what we heard from our leaders, and that's what we saw as security forces ramped up around the world. And I share that feeling. Targetting innocent people for death is not a "proper" thing to do, after all.

I am not equipped to comment in depth on the attacks in London. For more details on what has happened and what is happening, you might want to check out Wikipedia's London blast coverage. There will probably be follow-up items published there as well. While it's not "professional" coverage, it has an immediacy that makes it compelling reading.

But as the world digests what's happened, we also need to think more seriously about what is going on. And how our actions and reactions today may affect us tomorrow.

The seeds of the destruction that occurred in London yesterday, and Madrid, Bali and New York before that, were sown years ago. The governments of the West recruited all kinds of people in their previous war (prior to the War on Terror) when the enemy was the evil empire of communism. We won that war but in the process, a lot of people were trained and encouraged to conduct the kinds of terror campaign we now condemn. There is an inevitability to what is happening, when looked at from a longer and larger perspective.

While I don't like to point readers to items that are not freely available on the Web, I'm going to recommend that you consider reading a couple of items. Both of them require paid subscriptions.

The first is today's column by Rick Salutin, in the Globe and Mail. It's available via an Insider subscription. Of course, it's also in the print edition.

In his column, Salutin says there's a grim connection between what's happened in the past and Thursday's bombings:
Let me make the connection more specific. In Afghanistan, working with its partners in Pakistan's security service, the U.S. funded and trained as many as 100,000 religiously fanatical mujahedeen, of whom 5,000 to 15,000 saw action. Then it simply abandoned them. Many of these people now are al-Qaeda and its offshoots. They scattered after the Afghan war, back to their homelands or around the world, applying their acquired skills. Let me specify further. The training they got was often in the use of the kinds of explosives set off in Madrid and, most likely, in London yesterday. Huge amounts of such weapons were left in their hands.

This is not a bit of unexpected "blowback," as has often been said. This is the same reliance on terror by many of the same people, possibly using the same weapons. It's all sickening: the targeting of totally innocent people, the appalling sanctions against Iraqi kids, the bombs yesterday, 9/11. But you can't create, legitimate and utilize terror for decades, even as you officially condemn it out of the other side of your mouth, then suddenly claim to stand utterly clear of its incarnations.

Not even their language separates the "sides." The U.S. justified support for its terrorist "freedom fighters" by saying they were battling the "evil empire" of the Soviets. Now the Soviets are gone, but, yesterday, George Bush again said this is about good versus evil. Many mujahedeen learned the language of good versus evil while in Afghanistan. Today, they fling it at their former sponsors, who fling it back. None of this absolves the bombers of responsibility for their bombs, but it makes for less than a clear contrast with the leaders of the G8.

The second item is this month's cover article in Atlantic Monthly magazine. It's called "Countdown to a Meltdown -- America's coming economic crisis. A look back from the election of 2016," and it's written by James Fallows. Again, you'll have to be a subscriber to the Atlantic to read it, or pick up the print edition.

It's a stunning bit of work. Working from extensive interviews with experts on a wide variety of topics, Fallows has constructed a hypothetical look back on the near future from the perspective of a briefing memo for the next president of the US, who is about to win election in the year 2016. The style is compelling, as are the extensive footnotes that back up many of the predictions and scenarios that are presented as having already happened.

What it paints is a sobering look at the dramatic changes which could affect the World's largest economy if certain things happen. Granted, they may not happen, but the possibilities are worth considering. I won't try to restate Fallow's work, but here's a brief excerpt, just to illustrate:
Before there was 9/11, however, there was June 7, 2001. For our purposes modern economic history began that day.

On June 7 President George W. Bush celebrated his first big legislative victory. Only two weeks earlier his new administration had suffered a terrible political blow, when a Republican senator left the party and gave Democrats a one-vote majority in the Senate. But the administration was nevertheless able to persuade a dozen Democratic senators to vote its way and authorize a tax cut that would decrease federal tax revenues by some $1.35 trillion between then and 2010.

This was presented at the time as a way to avoid the "problem" of paying down the federal debt too fast. According to the administration's forecasts, the government was on the way to running up $5.6 trillion in surpluses over the coming decade. The entire federal debt accumulated between the nation's founding and 2001 totaled only about $3.2 trillion—and for technical reasons at most $2 trillion of that total could be paid off within the next decade.4 Therefore some $3.6 trillion in "unusable" surplus—or about $12,000 for every American—was likely to pile up in the Treasury. The administration proposed to give slightly less than half of that back through tax cuts, saving the rest for Social Security and other obligations.

Congress agreed, and it was this achievement that the president celebrated at the White House signing ceremony on June 7. "We recognize loud and clear the surplus is not the government's money," Bush said at the time. "The surplus is the people's money, and we ought to trust them with their own money."

If the president or anyone else at that ceremony had had perfect foresight, he would have seen that no surpluses of any sort would materialize, either for the government to hoard or for taxpayers to get back. (A year later the budget would show a deficit of $158 billion; a year after that $378 billion.) By the end of Bush's second term the federal debt, rather than having nearly disappeared, as he expected, had tripled. If those in the crowd had had that kind of foresight, they would have called their brokers the next day to unload all their stock holdings. A few hours after Bush signed the tax-cut bill, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 11,090, a level it has never reached again.

In a way it doesn't matter what the national government intended, or why all forecasts proved so wrong. Through the rest of his presidency Bush contended that the reason was 9/11—that it had changed the budget as it changed everything else. It forced the government to spend more, for war and for homeland security, even as the economic dislocation it caused meant the government could collect less. Most people outside the administration considered this explanation misleading, or at least incomplete. For instance, as Bush began his second term the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that the biggest reason for growing deficits was the tax cuts.

But here is what really mattered about that June day in 2001: from that point on the U.S. government had less money to work with than it had under the previous eight presidents. Through four decades and through administrations as diverse as Lyndon Johnson's and Ronald Reagan's, federal tax revenue had stayed within a fairly narrow band. The tax cuts of 2001 pushed it out of that safety zone, reducing it to its lowest level as a share of the economy in the modern era. And as we will see, these cuts—the first of three rounds—did so just when the country's commitments and obligations had begun to grow.

Pick up a copy or subscribe. This article alone is worth it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Should reporters protect their sources at any cost?

As a former political journalist, I know the importance of protecting sources. But as media manipulation becomes ever more sophisticated, reporters are facing some unique situations and sometimes it seems as thought the tried and trusted ways of yore aren't sophisticated enough to cover what's happening today.

The on-going case in Washington over just who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, (a CIA operative married to a man who made the Bush White House angry) to the media is a good case in point. On the one hand, we have reporters from Time and the New York Times refusing to co-operate with prosecutors and turn over their sources. (Although Time has decided to turn over the reporter's notes, over the reporter's objections.) On the other hand, the original source of the leak, a well-known right-wing commentator, appears to be immune from prosecution, apparently because he's already cut a deal with the prosecutor.

But over the weekend, it emerged that the most likely source of the original leak was President Bush's chief political advisor Karl Rove. His lawyer has admitted that Rove was interviewed but denies "knowingly" leaking the information.

I admit I hadn't paid a lot of attention to this case as it's wound its way through the courts. But now its getting pretty interesting.

Today I found an interesting story about Rove's role, written by a friend and colleague, Bill Israel, published in Editor and Publisher. Although they're friends, his comments carry an ominous warning about the way the press is being used (and abused) by the Bush White House.

For a more complete backgrounder on Rove, including links to the main elements of this story, check out Rove's entry in Wikepedia.

UPDATE -- Wednesday afternoon, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for refusing to give up her source in this case. And she didn't even publish a story!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I've joined the revolution

Yes, I've finally got an iPod. And my life will never be the same, I suspect.

After several years of dropping subtle hints ("The only thing I want is an iPod, etc.") my family finally came through. I'm now the proud owner of a 30 GB iPod Photo. So not only can I put every song I own on the thing, I can also have a bunch of my digital photos, too! It's really cool!

I've been ready for a couple of years, ever since I got my PowerBook a couple of years ago. I've already burned all of our CD collection to my computer, so when I plugged in the iPod, it copied everything and now I've got about 10 days worth of music on the thing.

There's been a lot of stuff written about how putting your music on a computer (or an iPod) will change the way you listen to it and how you'll discover stuff you never even knew you had. And I'm here to say it's all true. Trust me, you'll like this digital toy, if you don't have one already.

But the iPod looks to be more than just a cool toy. I think it's part of a major change in how we as a society relate to technology. It's not just cool, more and more, technology is a part of life. Some of us older folks remember what it was like in years gone my first job, I wrote my stories on a manual typewriter. But my kids have grown up with technology around them. For them, it's as natural as breathing to sit down at a keyboard and talk to their friends. And a mobile phone is just another thing they have and use constantly. Same with microwave ovens and music.

I started thinking about this today because I came across a cool article about the iPod generation on a website called I'd never heard of it before. But it looks like an interesting music site and it's Canadian to boot. (or is that to bout?)

At any rate, check out the article. And let me know whether you've joined the iPod revolution...and what you think.