Category Archives: technology

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. I’ve moved my blog again, this time to WordPress. Blogger was getting increasingly unwieldy and I was having to deal with a lot of spam comments.  Wordpress seems much more elegant and has a better user interface. I’ve spent too much time today setting it up, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. Please consider subscribing, using the link to the right.
  2. Last night was Michael’s final high school music concert. It was long and extremely hot in the packed auditorium. There were eight of us there to support him as he played a tuba concerto written by Johnny MacMillan, a Grade Nine student at the school. As well as the concerto, which he played with the Senior Concert Band, he also performed with the Men’s Chorus, the Mixed Vocal Ensemble, and the Senior Stage Band (bass trombone).  My brother and three aunts came out, and Michael’s first tuba teacher, Rob Teehan, was there which was a real honour. I also had a chance to meet Michael’s flat mate for the next school year in Montreal, who also dropped into town from Burlington to hear him play.
  3. I’m heading out to Ottawa next week to hang with my mother so I spent a lot of time today catching up on paperwork. This weekend I need to wrestle the laundry into order and stock the fridge for the men-folk who will fending for themselves. I would love to get the interior of my car cleaned before the trip, but I’m afraid the wet weather will preclude drying of my cloth upholstery, so that will have to wait.
  4. My new computer arrived earlier this week, a MacBook Air, but haven’t had time to get it out of the box and set up yet. I’m finally switching back to the Mac ecosystem after a number of years on Windows. The rest of my devices are Apple, and given that most of my work is done in the cloud these days, it probably makes sense to integrate. I have always preferred the Mac user-interface and design quality but for a while I needed to use software only available in Windows.
  5. I want to get started on a little article for the newsletter of the  Goddard Association of Europe, of which I am a member. Captain Nichola Goddard was the first Canadian female killed in the line of duty (in Afghanistan) and I just got a copy of her biography (Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard by Valerie Fortney).
  6. I’m participating in the Sea Change Program started by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. I have been reading Leo’s blog for years and have come to really respect him as thoughtful teacher and thinker. More about this next week!
  7. I will also post about my experience of the COC’s Dialogues des Carmélites. It was beautiful and moving and well worth seeing if you’re in Toronto and love the opera.

    Courtesy Canadian Opera Company

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1.  Michael and I attended Bésame Ópera last evening, presented by Opera 5, a small group of young singers. Presented at Gallery 345, they staged two Spanish operas, El Retablo de Maese Pedro by Manuel de Fallo and Goyescas by Enrique Granados.  Opera 5 wants to bring opera back to the masses:
  2. When opera was developed it was meant to combine all art forms and we intend to push that to the limit by combining opera with any and every distinct art form such as dance, photography, visual art, performance art, creative writing, and even culinary arts by showcasing new talent in each medium. (About Opera 5 

    Last night’s production included shadow puppets in the first half, sangria and tuna ceviche at the break, and some beautiful visual effects involving wardrobe in the second half. The cast was superb, with the only difficulties being the sightlines in the small-ish space. I will definitely be back for next season.  

  3. I have failed miserably at getting to anything at HotDocs this week. I went down to try to get a same day ticket for Rent a Family Inc on Tuesday but they only had rush tickets and I was there two hours in advance. I decided not to wait around and risk not getting in. Yesterdays pick was bumping up against the opera. So I need to get better organized next year.
  4. I wandered into Belle de Provence yesterday when I was on my dress-hunting expedition. They sell scented soaps, candles, tableware, and other French loveliness. I adore liquid soap from France, even the inexpensive stuff. The scents are very natural, unlike North American products that all seem to have a chemical/not-made-in-nature smell. My in-laws bring Le Petit Marseillais brand soap in these funky earth-friendly tubes when they visit, and when I run out, I get a supply of a similar product in large bottles at Winners (1L of liquid soap for 9.99), which is WAY less expensive than what I saw in the shop. I suspect that the packaging changed, or something. If you see a gal in the bath products section at Winners sniffing all the bottles, it’s probably me.
  5. We’re off to an engagement party this evening, but if we weren’t, I’d be joining Michael at Baroque Idol with the Aradia Chamber Ensemble at the Music Gallery. Young composers have been invited to submit works for the baroque ensemble and then the audience gets to vote. The winning composer gets a commission.
  6. My new to-list app for iphone is kicking my butt. It’s the gamification of personal productivity. Check it out.
  7. It was HOT outside today.
  8. We’re seeing two operas next week at the COC. Because of Z’s travel schedule, we had to switch around some dates, which left us with Strauss’ Salome (directed by Atom Egoyan) on Tuesday and Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc) on Wednesday. 
Thanks for dropping by! Feel free to leave a comment below.

My little (n=1) sleep study

I week and a half ago I blogged about a new iPhone app, Sleep Cycle, that I was trying out.  In a nutshell, it’s an alarm clock that also monitors nighttime movement to determine when you’re in the various sleep stages.  It attempts (within in a half hour window) to wake you up when you’re in light sleep, leaving you feeling more refreshed. By looking at your nighttime graph, you can also see what kind of sleep you got.

After the first couple of nights, allowing the app to calibrate itself, I had a period of a few days of poor sleep.  Here’s one graph:


The time axis is along the bottom. The left hand axis goes from deep sleep at the bottom to “awake”at the top.  I fell into deep sleep immediately (at 12:30 pm) but had a number of periods of near-wakefulness throughout the night, and relatively little time in deep sleep. 

A week later, I had nights like this:


Apart from one period of wakefulness early in the night due to Wilson barking at a stranger (to him) in the house, I was in pretty deep sleep for most of the night.

One thing I have realised is that my natural sleep cycles put me in deep sleep around 6:30, which is typically the time I set my alarm for.  This means that I have to pull myself out of sleep with great effort, and don’t feel particularly refreshed when I wake.  Examining the entire series of graphs suggest that waking at either 5:30 or 7:00 am might be better for me. Not great choices, but 5:30 would work if I could get myself into bed earlier in the evening.

I find this very interesting, especially when I’m in a time of life when my sleep can be very disturbed.  More insight into some of my natural patterns should help me get a handle on how best to manage this most precious of resources.

Those of you with an iPhone can download the app at iTunes here for $0.99.


High-tech tracking for a low-tech need.

A recent series in the National Post on the quantified self got us thinking about our sleep (or lack thereof).  We both have issues, although different, and though it would be a good idea to track our sleep patterns.

In seeking an easy journalling device, I came across this nifty iPhone app that is extremely intriguing. Using the accelerometer in the phone, Sleep Cycle  tracks your sleep patterns (based on movements in your sleep) and helps you awaken in the morning during light sleep, ostensibly making the morning wake-up easier, less disruptive, leading to a better day (or at least morning).

You place the phone upside down on your mattress under the sheet (I use the top corner of my bed) and the during the first couple of nights it calibrates your sleep cycles.  You set the alarm (using one of the included gentle sounds to wake you up) and it awakens you in the period up to 30 minutes before the time when it determines you are in light sleep.  Here’s an example from the website of what a night of sleep might look like.


I have used this for two nights and got two very different looking patterns, which makes sense since I had very disrupted sleep last night, compared to the first night.  

Here’s an example of a good night’s sleep.


And one of a disrupted night (which looks quite a bit like my last night.)


It also tracks how long you sleep and lets you review your previous nights with a simple swipe of the screen.  You can also send your sleep graphs via email and (if you so desired) post them to Facebook.

Here’s a link to the app in iTunes.  For $0.99, it’s a steal.  I’ll post my personal gleanings after a few more days of use.

Day One of Paleo Diet

Other than a massive headache, it went okay.

I’m not sure whether the headache was due to lack of caffeine, lack of sugar, too much Angry Birds on my iphone, or an act of God, but I couldn’t make it to choir last night and only managed to watch two episodes of Weeds and one of Mad Men before retiring to the kitchen sofa with a book and promptly falling asleep.

Here’s how the food portion of my day went:

Breakfast:  two scrambled eggs, two mini cucumbers, two large black plums, tea with honey

Snack: almonds

Lunch: tuna salad with real mayo (no dairy) and pickle relish, two plums, two mini cucumbers

Snack:  cashews and raisins

Cocktail:  arak with water

Dinner:  large spicy sausage with mustard, steamed broccoli with dijon-honey dressing, strawberries, two plums, plain tea

Snack: mixed nuts

My digestive system has felt a bit wonky, but better this morning.

I also decided that I’d make coffee and drink it black, because I have a meeting this afternoon and didn’t want to risk another headache.  I actually quite enjoyed the coffee and realised that I’m not ready to give it up, even without cream. 

This morning, I made a mushroom and two-egg omelette, and had an orange and two cups of java.  Larabars look suitable for the diet, so I’m going to start carrying a couple in my bag for those times I need to eat and suitable fare isn’t available.  And a bag of plain, raw almonds.

I’m off to Canadians Connected 2010 this afternoon down at the Westin Harbor Castle.  It’s a Symposium and the AGM for CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), of which I am a member, owning a couple of .ca domains. Terry O’Reilly and Mitch Joel are two of the speakers and it should be an interesting afternoon. Hashtag is #cira2010 for those of you on twitter and interested.

Social Maladroit? Moi?

Found myself on Colin Marshall’s site The War on Mediocrity.  Now, I don’t know anything about this guy, or even how I ended up on his site, but his five-part series The Plight of the Social Maladroit is very compelling reading.  Marshall discusses how communication today, particulary via the internet, including so-called socail networking sites, has become “autistic”, or non-collaborative.  Tweeting, Facebook, blogging, he argues, are intrinsically one-way forms of communication and as such, we may be losing the ability to interact socially in a give-and-take manner, whether face-to-face or online.

His series is in five parts, and I’ve excerpted a small bit from each part to give you a sense of where he’s going.  The series is definitely worth a read and some meditation, whether or not we have an online presence or not. Parents, in particular, might learn something about their teens modes of communicating.

I strongly encourage you to go to his site and read through the five parts.  If you start at Part 1, you can easily click through to the next.  Below, I’ve included a sentence or two from each part to stimulate your interest, but really.  Go there and read it. 

Me?  I’m determined to leave more comments, reply to more Tweets, and work on my collaborative, interactive skills online.  And in the real world. 

The Plight of the Social Maladroit

Part 1:  Put it Out There

It’s no wonder that scattershot autistic declaration has become the internet’s dominant form of speech. You could hardly design a better enabling device: allow people to lob as many messages as they can type into the void, and have that void sometimes reward them with just enough of a response to imply the alluring promise of much, much more.

Part 2:  Carnegie Knew Everything

If, like those “talented” kids who grow up lazily shielding the dubious glory of their intelligence, you buy your own hype, you might come to believe some weird things. If other people bow before the awesome power of your brain, for instance, then what could you ever stand to gain from interacting with other people? They’re worshiping you, after all. You’re a god to them! The assumption that you only need your projects, your own brain and maybe the friendship of the 99th percentile most like-minded and demographically similar people in your region….

This all comes back to Dale Carnegie, doesn’t it? I somehow happened on his immortal How to Win Friends and Influence People in high school and, despite the book’s dopey aspirational title, found that its ideas made so much sense I could hardly think directly about them.

Part 3:  The Problematic of the Dale Praxis

Just as the near-epic challenge of developing a Dale Carnegie-style “genuine interest in other people” often goes unacknowledged, it seems to me that people tend to be wrong in the same way about openmindedness — or empty-mindedness, ready-mindedness, or beginner’s-mindedness, or shoshin-mindedness….

I would submit that, like anything worthwhile, cultivating this sort of receptive mind demands actual sacrifices. I’ve mourned living people due to to their unwillingness or inability to understand this. If I could only frame life in one way, I’d frame it as the constant pushing outward of one’s own comfort zone, with all the attendant risks. If you’re not doing that, you are, in some sense, dead. With constrained interests, you’re similarly dead. Without the willingness to separate your interests from your identity, from your various prejudices and from any other of the aforementioned lingering brain garbage? Dead.  

Part 4: The Secret Ingredients of Failsauce

But from what I can tell — in the parlance of the previous installment — nobody is quite so fucked as he who lacks an interest in social connection, even if he’s awesome at work which itself has ostensibly nothing to do with the social world.

Part 5:  Everything is a Collaboration

The deep trouble begins when you start seeing your potential audience, collaborators or audience-collaborators as the Other. This is the mindset of so many hapless teenage dudes on the hunt for a girlfriend: they forget that they’re making a connection and not, say, playing solitaire. Adam Cadre made an astute point about this in regard to the generation of guys raised on computer games: “Want the treasure behind the door? Find the key. Want to get past the troll? Give him the fish. Want the monkey to follow you around? Give him some bananas. Want the girl to love you? Give her the right object, and just like the door, surely she will open up and yield her treasure.”