Technology Marches Onward — Fruit Salad

blackberry

blackberry (Photo credit: arrayexception)

Technology marches onward.

What’s the fruit of the day? I was just listening to a news story on the new Blackberry smart phones. Can we really still call them phones?

I know some cynics really dig at the idea of so many things being in so many devices. Having cameras and music players and video players all in the telephone makes him think that there’s just mediocrity in electronics. They say if you want a camera get a camera because a camera built into a phone just won’t do a good job. I say that it’s all fine and good to have a great camera that takes great pictures, but if you don’t have that camera with you you won’t be taking that nice picture. It’s a picture taken at the spur of the moment that tends to get the awards. That is unless you’re one of these great National Geographic photographers whose job it is to take photographs. Of course they always have a huge camera bag with them wherever they go, but do you wander around with a 40 pound bag of cameras and lenses?

Comunicando 114 ¿Qué móvil prefieres? iPhone, ...

Comunicando 114 ¿Qué móvil prefieres? iPhone, BlackBerry o Android (Photo credit: jagelado)

In any case I rather like the fact there’s some competition between smart phone manufacturers. I like that Apple had the competition of all those Android phones. I mean I like the iPhone — I don’t have one, I’ve got an iPod touch, but it gives me a good idea of what the iPhone can do. From what I’m led to understand the Android phones do as well or better. Actually I have good friends who take every chance they get to take a dig at Apple and hype Android. Things seem very partisan to me. I would be very happy if Rimm and their Blackberry do well. I like the idea of more competition in the market.

I wonder how the new Blackberry would interface with my MacBook?

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This Air is My Air, This Air is Your Air…

Where do your rights end and mine begin? Where do my rights end and yours begin?

English: Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis s...

English: Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis shop at 970 Lincoln Street, Denver, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here we can use legal marijuana. You can get a prescription for it in capsule form and a license to grow a small amount for personal usage. You can even get a license to grow it for others that have a license to use it.

I’ll not get into the medical conditions which are eligible for consideration for treatment with medicinal marijuana — it’s not the point of my article here, nor are recipes for brownies or that you can get it in the form of capsules or candies. The point is a matter of personal space and respecting it.

I could say I am for medical marijuana, I could say I am against it — I could say I am for the decriminalization of marijuana, I could say I am against it — I could say I am for the legalization of marijuana, I could say I am against it — but regardless, what I can say is that even though I might be eligible to get a license for medical marijuana, I react badly to it. I’m not saying I am morally against it, but that I have a medical reaction to it that is negative.

Results of allergy test

Results of allergy test (Photo credit: dathan)

I couldn’t say at this moment, pending more medical testing, whether it is an actual “immunoglobulin type E (IgE)” allergy reaction or some other sort of chemical hypersensitivity, but it is real and severe. It started with a feeling of anxiety and mood swings mixed with nauseousness and headache. However with each exposure — and I am referring to “second hand smoke” from people nearby, smoking it, like over 10 metres (35 ft) away in a park or in some other suite in an apartment building on their balcony — it has gotten worse until now, a strong exposure will knock me off my feet literally.

The last strong exposure, I walked around the corner of a house I was visiting and into a “cloud” of it that a breeze has wafted down between the houses from the far end. I only had time to note, “Oh the guy at the far end is toking up I had better go ’round the oth….” and the next thing I knew I was laying on the cement and gravel beside the house with a bleeding elbow and knee and the house owner’s son — worried — just having gotten there asking if he could help. It was him who had been smoking up and he had gotten rid of the roach already before approaching — most likely in case his Dad came out. I explained to him about the strong reaction I had to pot and he was sympathetic. He’s a pretty good kid and has been careful enough when I’ve been visiting that I’ve never had a problem since.

Exposure had started to make me shaky an a bit dizzy – seeing stars, before, but never so extreme. I did recall that with my allergy to feathers, when I was literally faced with a goose down pillow — I was sleeping over at a friends and rolled over from one pillow to the next to discover one of the pillows was down — it felt like my breath was sucked out of me. For some reason I just could not breath in when I faced the pillow. I don’t think it was because my throat swelled shut becaus as soon as I turned away from the pillow I could breath again. I still can’t say that allergies work this way.

cigarette

cigarette (Photo credit: Fried Dough)

The last exposure I had to pot smoke however is what spurred me to write this. I was approaching a nearby bus stop the other Sunday an two fellows were sitting on the bus stop bench talking. I could see they were smoking and so I gave the bench a bit of a wide berth not caring for cigarette smoke to stand by the pole near the street. It was there I thought I smelt a hint of skunk… We live in a part of Surrey BC that is next to an “Urban Forest” which the highway goes through so occasionally skunk and man occasionally encounter each other. It can leave an odour.

However I figured the odour wasn’t from a skunk… I looked over at the bench and noted the two fellows nearly head to head sharing a cigarette. Well, two guys on a very low budget who were “close” might share a cig, but… no they were sharing a joint. It has taken me much longer to type this and perhaps you longer to read it than for this to take place. I’d already started reacting to the “skunk” smell… which was another giveaway. I don’t really have that much reaction to real skunk!

I was starting to feel anxious and a bit nauseous. I realized it wouldn’t be good if I were to just collapse at the bus stop and nobody know why. So I told the fourth person there at the bus stop, a woman, that I had an allergy to pot and the fellows at the bench were smoking it and if I were to collapse, to tell the paramedics that was why. Now this is a bit of an over-reaction, and probably this very over-reaction part of my reaction to the pot. The guys at the bench thought I was talking about calling the police and started talking about having a license to legally smoke pot for medical reasons.

allergies

allergies (Photo credit: jfl1066)

Of course they just had to show me their license… one between the two of them, ahem. Number 76## Actually the number was somewhere in the seventy-six hundreds, but am not 100% on the last two digits and wouldn’t post them here in any case. I am just posting that so that you don’t think that there are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of those licenses issued by the federal government. Either that or he printed his up on his Kodak photo printer at home for anyone other than the police.

They said they had every right to be smoking it because they had medical reasons. I told them I had no problem with medical pot, but I was allergic. They said I should just stand further away. Further away? How do you catch the bus if you don’t stand at the bus stop? Their ears mostly went deaf when I mentioned their license was only for smoking in their own residence until one had the bright counter argument — “What do you want? For me to live like a hermit and just stay at home?” He couldn’t figure out the difference when I asked if I should live like a hermit and just stay at home? He had a choice when he smoked. I find that I am always having to breath.

He just couldn’t see that for some reason he might imbibe in some other way than smoking it if he wasn’t home. He wasn’t waiting for the bus either. He was just using the convenient bench. Perhaps it isn’t fare that I mention we were within a block or so of a “half way house“. I am all for half way houses as well. People who are struggling need all the help they can get.

Now I didn’t collapse on that encounter. There was a fairly strong breeze in the right direction. But, by the time the bus came my arms and hands were trembling like I was suffering from a nerve disorder and my legs trembling so I had problems walking. The bus driver lowered the bus so I could step up and I needed the hand rail. I didn’t want the driver to think I was drunk so I told him I was getting over an allergic reaction. I said “getting over” a reaction so he wouldn’t worry about picking me up. My head did clear over the 10 minute trip too.

In any case, whether my reaction to the pot is allergy or chemical sensitivity — or even psychosomatic — don’t I, or anyone else, deserve the right to walk down the public sidewalk and breath air that is not perfumed with tobacco or pot smoke?

There are now laws limiting where you can smoke cigarettes. It is true that you can smoke cigarettes walking down the sidewalk, though now, at least in Vancouver you aren’t allowed to smoke in public parks.

I know that people have grand discussions on how pot smoke does less harm than tobacco smoke to smoker’s lungs. But, they miss the biggest point. If “you” are smoking they are “your lungs”. If “I” am stuck at the bus stop with “you” they are “my lungs”. Truly, I chose to be at the bus stop. I could chose to be elsewhere. Maybe I would rather be at the zoo? But wait, I’d have to take the bus.

With regards to legalities — I am no lawyer, pot advocate, anti-drug person, etc. — there are three things: medical marijuana usage, decriminalizing marijuana, and legalizing marijuana.

One can have legal medical marijuana usage where it would be a controlled substance still and available only by prescription or from a licensed grower without it being decriminalized or legalized. It would be similar to heroin where people can be taking it medicinally by prescription — though in this case I think most often in hospital, but there are other medications that more likely fit that model.

Decriminalization would mean that you don’t go to prison if you are found with a certain amount of marijuana in your possession for your own use. You might be allowed to grow up to a certain amount for that personal usage or it might simply mean that you are put into jail and fined for possession but not thrown into prison and given a prison record. That would be much like a minor traffic offence — too major for just a ticket, but not such that you face judge, jury, and prison time. Here in BC we have decriminalization.

Legalizing marijuana, I would believe could put it in the cigarette and alcohol sort of category… perhaps. though I think harder to control… I guess it is easier to grow pot than even make wine or beer. Growing and curing tobacco is harder, distilling whisky or other alcoholic beverages.

I’m not sure what I would do if it became legalized. I’d be like a kid with a peanut allergy with all the kids running around the playground playing peanut butter sandwich tag.

Note: Since I wrote this, Marijuana is legal in Washington State and a number of other places in the US — though I believe isn’t to be used in public places.

 

 

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Are YOU Prepared for Big Brother?

Big Brother 1984So, are you prepared for Big Brother?

I’m not referring to any conspiracy theory or any TV reality show. I am considering things I have seen in the news and in science magazines and on the web. While some of the things are speculation, or were speculation 25 or 30 years ago, many are happening now.

That sounds like the start of a conspiracy theory type article — I am sure. However, even as I write, the Province of British Columbia, Canada is in the process of swapping out  the decades old analogue electrical metres from domestic households to replace them with new electronic digital ones.

These digital metres have been very controversial. There are the factions who are against the increase in microwave background — the metres use WiFi to send and receive information to the electrical power company on power usage in the household a number of times a day. (Even a number of times an hour.) While with my education in electronic engineering, electronic communications, and Animal Biology I have concerns over the general increase in microwave radiation in our environment — I am not overly concerned over the metres from this environmental point-of-view. I’m more concerned about overuse of cell phones, personally. My concern has to do with intimate personal monitoring of the usage of electrical power.

This monitoring is in part — they say — to help do things like catch electricity theft, quickly respond to power outages and developing safety issues in the power system. Officially BC Hydro says:

Once smart meters are  fully operational they will:

  • Help get the lights back on faster during  power outages;
  • Keep rates low by helping BC Hydro operate more efficiently  and help to reduce  wasted electricity
  • Provide customers with new tools to conserve energy and money.

BC Hydro – Media Centre , “BC Hydro Smart Metering update” May 4th, 2012

Advanced Metering Infastructure meter

Advanced Metering Infastructure meter

Part of the conservation is encouraging people avoid using power during “peak hours”. Also to be aware of “power vampires” — ie items that drain power even when apparently turned off.

Being aware of your power usages does sound wise. Having the utility company too aware of every Milliwatt of electricity I use bothers me a bit. With a bit of logic they’d almost be able to tell if I were home or cooking or when I went to bed, turned my computer on or off, my TV…

Water metres are very sophisticated too. From one metre on the outside of your house they can tell which faucet or fixture is being used for how long. Combine this with other smart metres available and inherent abilities to monitor such things as telephone and cellphone usage and Internet usage or even cable/telephone/Internet TV usage… we are or will be “very” monitored soon.

surveillance-camerasWe are already visually recorded many times a day whenever we go out. Our picture is taken when we go into the bank or past any automatic bank machine — at least when we use them. While there are some shops that have fake cameras, the video surveillance is now so cheap that perhaps fake cameras are more expensive. Even without actual public surveillance cameras our images are caught by “Red Light Surveillance” cameras and where they exist Radar Cameras. We also are caught on the many “Traffic Cams”.

Recycling?Those things are not conspiracy fodder or “things to come”. Nor are cameras mounted on “garbage” trucks which record the material dumped from rubbish bins at each house to enforce recycling bylaws by recording if there is an excessive amount of recyclables going into the trash waste stream. Those cameras keep track of the address each bin’s contents come from and while they don’t audit every piece of garbage, they do take a video of all the trash going into the truck. I wonder how long that information is kept for?

Ten or more years ago people were proposing that smokers be charged more for health insurance than others. That sounded almost fair until a friend pointed out that if that was fair, then it should also mean that people who skied should pay more and people who did anything to excess should  be charged more as well. Along those lines, there is a movement that parents of obese children should have them removed on the theory that they are unfit parents.

Where does Big Brother come into this? A “smart toilet” might be able to tell many things to do about your health. That smart toilet combined with monitoring a person or family’s purchases might give health officials a very intimate view on a person’s lifestyle. Are you getting enough fibre? Too much fat?

When I recently was asking the pharmacist at the local area pharmacy (it just happens to be in a major grocery chain, but it is “my” local pharmacy) about the wisdom of a particular product on the shelves and if it would interact with my prescription medications — after checking my records and the medications I was on he gave me my answer. The answer included a tidbit of information I didn’t know. The pharmacist also knew what over-the-counter medications I purchased! Granted, in this case I am pleasantly surprised. The pharmacy record of my medications is available to emergency service providers and hospitals. Whether I am coherent or not when I reach an ER they will know what medications I am on.

But it is in part what got me thinking about this whole “Big Brother” issue.

I do watch what I eat. I’m diabetic an have a few other issues. I a lucky… a fluke of genetics perhaps …and have low cholesterol and low-normal blood pressure. I even have had a carotid Doppler and among other things they discovered that I have little or no plaque in my arteries and veins. That doesn’t mean I am in perfect health. Though I have never smoked and rarely drink, I was quite heavy and though I have lost 50 Kg or more I could stand to lose more.

But, I do sometimes like to have “Hint of Lime” Taco Chips with low fat sour cream. I also like to sometimes have a square or two of unsweetened semi-sweet baking chocolate. (The sort you buy in the baking section.) I also keep some regular Pop on hand for when I feel down. What of a time when there might be “smart fridges” or “smart cupboards” that will record what comes and goes through their doors based on the bar-codes?

I know a few people who live lives that are nearly that structured already. Their lives are measured and weighed. Every “movement” every morsel… unless they go out …is recorded and every time they go out of course is recorded. Even when they go out, “it all comes out in the end.” They have few choices in their lives. I know that most people would like more choice, but have to punch a time-clock — literal or not.

But when the time-clock becomes automatic and as non-invasive as it is invasive, will life ever be the same. Non-invasive, as in we won’t have to write anything down or punch anything; but invasive as in, it will pervade every intimate detail of our life.

Some people argue that if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to worry about. But do you want to worry about how everything looks? What if the author of that book you picked up on the shelf is unsavoury? Perhaps you didn’t recognize the author or what they stood for — but the person looking over your video feed might. Is your garbage pristine? Do you want someone knowing if you “do it” with the lights on? If you are unmarried and are “doing it” or if it is with someone of the same sex? Perhaps it might provide an alibi when you tell the judge were at home alone.

Big Brother 1984Perhaps we should stop saying “Big Brother” and start saying “Santa Claus”?

He knows when you are sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake!
He knows when you’ve been naughty!
So be Good!
For Goodness Sake!

But I like Santa. :-(

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An Artistic Crunch! Big Bang?

Indika Ball PenI think we are coming to an “Artistic Crunch” or perhaps “Big Bang”?

When you consider the options open to budding authors and writers, singers and song writers, animators and film producers, and even software developers — there are so many venues that a person really has to either shine like a super-nova or be incredibly lucky to be successful in this new age.

When i entered my teen years, I could look at the school library — which was fairly decent — and reasonably decide to read every science-fiction book in the library. There simply were not that many science-fiction authors around — including classical ones. I was a bit in the dark regarding the genre of fantasy or horror. Now, not only are there whole sections in bookstores and even whole bookstores which cater the fantasy, science-fiction, and other speculative fiction, but so many new books and authors come out that I know I don’t recognize many.

With the Internet, there are very many more options for creative endeavours and these are not just fiction and art. There are whole periodical news sites and reference sites and quite professionally done. In fact it can be difficult sometimes to tell the fake from the real — the well researched from the off the cuff flights of fancy. Musicians and film makers have so many ways they can express themselves they can easily get lost and even gems can get lost with oly one or two viewers or people as an audience.

Even while major publishers and retailers are having problems adapting to this electronic age, they also have a glut of material to select from. There are also very many talented people desperate to be read or heard that they are nearly giving their material away for pennies.

The time where the Internet may have made it easy for an artist to come out into the open — I think — are gone. Now it is a new struggle to be noted. At least there is plenty of space to practice practice practice.

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