Another thought on health care…

Well, I am sitting here writing a blog post because I am not at the hospital with my son for his jaw surgery that was scheduled for today. It was cancelled because the surgeon was called in for an emergency case which obviously took precedence.

My first thought (and I tweeted this) was “this is the downside of Canadian health care”. After a little reflection, however, I think that this is exactly what makes Canadian health care superior to American health care in the large. It shows that in the Canadian system, decisions are made based on who is in the most need, and the person in the most need gets the appropriate resources. Compare this to the US situation where the person with the most money or the best insurance will get the treatment, and the person with no money or insurance may never get anything beyond rudimentary care (if that).

This is inconvenient to me, and to my son, but it is not life threatening.

Once again, I will take the Canadian system, thanks.

What Should a Slate Tablet Look Like Today?

I was sitting in a meeting today, and I got thinking about my computer. I have 4 right now. The one I had with me was my Acer convertible tablet from PDC. I also have a Dell XPS laptop, a Motion Computing LE1600, and from work I have a pretty standard HP laptop.

I use all of these for different things.

Right now I am using the Acer a lot, just because it is new and I am experimenting with multi-touch.

Mostly I use my XPS for gaming (which I don’t do much anymore) and for programming. It has 4 gb of RAM, so I have enough room to run a VM for development environments.

My favourite is still the LE1600, however. For day-to-day none programming work I love the slate form factor. Many people crap on the tablet because of handwriting recognition. Personally, I have always found handwriting recognition Windows XP to be more than satisfactory. In Windows Vista it is even better, and even better in Windows 7. That said, I really do not do a lot of handwriting recognition. Mostly, I use OneNote to take notes and leave them as handwriting. I also use applications to mark-up Word and PDF documents (in ink).

My LE1600 is 4+ years old now, though, and it is starting to show its age. It only has 1 gb of RAM, and a 60 gb HDD. I could upgrade the HDD, but it does not seem worth it.

I would like to replace my slate, but there is nothing out there in a reasonable price range that really strikes my fancy. It does not seem that the slate tablet has progressed much at all in the last few years – and there does not seem to be much interest in slates in the marketplace.

There is a lot of interest right now in eBook readers, and while I think they are cool, I cannot see carry yet another device for nothing but reading.

So I got thinking today “what would the perfect slate tablet look like for me.”

Here is a list of what I came up with:

  • A form factor similar to the Kindle DX (maybe a larger screen, but similar thickness);
  • A real back-lit screen – maybe with the ability to turn off back light to conserve power. Without backlight, should look as good as Kindle;
  • Ink input – and maybe touch;
  • Running a full OS – a light version of Windows or a Linux distribution (I do not want just an eBook reader);
  • Software support: Reader for PDF and Office, etc., eMail, Browser, OneNote-like app, Media support;
  • No extras: no modem, no optical drive, minimal ports, no video out, no web cam;
  • No HDD – maybe an SDD, maybe the OS in ROM or something;
  • No keyboard except maybe by USB or Bluetooth;
  • Maybe assume that most applications I need will be in Browser (cannot believe I said that lol);
  • Price point around $500

So that is my quick and dirty wish list – can anyone add anything more?

Republic Air CEO puts his faith to work

 Republic Air CEO puts his faith to work – The Denver Post

I find this extremely disturbing. It is part of a major trend over the last couple of decades whereby self-proclaimed “people of faith” try to inflict their beliefs on those around them. It is especially inappropriate when the CEO of a corporation makes it clear that the organizations beliefs are Christian beliefs. While the article says:

Bedford says he doesn’t try to convert anyone or require faith as an employment litmus test.

Unfortunately that fact that he makes it clear that the organization’s beliefs are Christian beliefs, any employee who does not share those beliefs is going to feel extremely threatened. If I am an Atheist, Wiccan, Buddhist, or an adherent to any belief system which does not match the Christian view of God, I would feel pressured to either pretend to share Christian beliefs, or leave. I would certainly feel like I had no career path in this organization.

I am not saying an organization should no put forward a value system. What is wrong is to bring an explicit statement of a specific religious doctrine into it. If his vision statements such as “every employee, regardless of personal beliefs or world view, has been created in the image and likeness of God.”, that is imposing upon me a creationist, fundamentalist view of the world, which is inappropriate.

Also implicit in this kind of thing is the commonly held belief (among “true believers”, anyway) that if you do not believe in God, and specifically a Judeo-Christian God, then you do not have beliefs, or morals, or values, or principles. I would put my beliefs and morals and principles up against any Christian on the planet – and am fairly confident my values are more “Christian” than those who support war, capital punishment, intolerance, racism, and yet call themselves “Christian”.

So, bring all the values and principles you want into a company, but please leave your religious dogma at the door.

PS – I did not mean to imply that my values are perfect, or that I am in any way perfect – only that being “Christian” is hardly proof positive that you have strong values, or any values at all for that matter.

Something different – a few astrophotos

Well, we finally got some decent weather last week (not raining, but not so hot and humid that I could not really see much), so I had a shot at some astrophotography. My equipment is:

  • Celestron CPC 1100 Telescope
  • Alt-az mount
  • Canon XSi DSLR camera

Since I do not (yet) have an equatorial wedge for my telescope, I am limited in the exposure lengths I can use to about 10-30 seconds before field rotation ruins the image.

My first attempt was a simple star picture – Albireo – which is a pretty double star in the constellation Cygnus. This is a stack of 10, 15 second exposures:

Albireo

My second attempt was of M13, a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules. This is a stack or 15, 15 second exposures:

M013_2

Finally, I decided to try M57, the Ring Nebula, in the constellation Lyra. This is a stack of 20, 15 second exposures:

M057_3

As I say, these are my first attempts at non-lunar, non-planetary images. I wanted to quickly work with a low number of images to stack initially, to see if I could get reasonable results. Next chance I get, I will focus more on one object, and go for a larger number of images to try to get more detail, better noise, etc. I am also just learning to use the image processing software, which is a major effort in and of itself.

(someday I will get a wedge, and be able to try longer individual exposures).

Some Thoughts on Political Correctness and Offending People

As almost everyone probably knows, President Obama appeared on The Tonight Show last week. Many people seem to have thought this was a bad idea right from the start, but I do not see anything wrong with it. Then we (in Canada) have seen our leaders (yeah, well, sort of) appear on shows such as Royal Canadian Air Farce before, and nothing too seriously bad came out of it.

President Obama made a bit of a faux pas when he compared his bowling to being in the Special Olympics. The crowd seemed to be amused, and not terribly offended. I thought it was a funny if not-well-thought-through quip, and was not particularly offended by it – then I am not handicapped/special/differently-abled.

Or am I?

This is not a very PC thing to say, I know. The fact is, I am and have been differently-abled for most of my life. I have always been a good deal smarter than most of the people around me. This is not bragging or conceit, it is just a fact. I grew up reading encyclopaedias, doing math, physics, and astronomy, and reading philosophy – all just because I wanted to and because I found it fun. So, that made me differently-abled than most of those around me. It also meant that I had a great deal of trouble fitting in socially. I was teased, I was bullied. I was beaten up. I was avoided. I was a geek, a dork, a dweeb, a nerd. And those are the names my friends called me.

My troubles may not have been the same as someone normally covered by the term differently-abled, but there are definite problems associated.

It has become very politically incorrect to make fun of someone who is mentally challenged, or has a physical disability, or is short, or is female, or is overweight, or comes from a different ethnic background. The funny (or not so funny) thing is that it still seems to be perfectly acceptable to make fun of people who are smart, who love to learn, who love science and philosophy, and who have a hard time interacting with “normals” simply because we do not think the same way.

How many shows have been on the air (from that show with Steve Urkel to Revenge of the Nerds to Big Bang Theory) that are based almost entirely upon ridiculing this segment of the population? If Steve Urkel had been mentally challenged, would the premise of this show have been deemed acceptable? Of course not. If he had been in a wheel chair? No. Then why is it acceptable to make fun of him because he is smart but socially challenged.

This may seem petty, but take it from some one who has lived through it. It is serious. And not just for the individual. It colours the way our society sees and values people. It drives one of the problems facing our society, which is the low value we place on scientists, researchers, and educators. It influences smart young people to hide from who they are for fear of ridicule and not fitting in. It causes young people who might have an interest or talent in scientific and technical fields to be pushed away from these fields at an early age.

It no longer really offends me. Almost nothing offends me anymore, as I have developed a pretty thick skin, and I am too much an egomaniac to really care what anyone else thinks (just kidding!). But think about it the next time you watch TV, or a movie, or read something – notice how deeply engrained this is, and think about what it means in our society.

Fiddling while Rome burns Part 2…

Ok, I posted a while back on the political circus to the south. It is embarrassing now to watch the kids in Ottawa try very, very hard to out do them.

I am not going to go through the details of what is happening in Ottawa right now, since you can read about it on any Canadian news site. I do have a few points to make about it, however:

  • In reading various forum posts, blog posts, etc. it frightening to see how little Canadians know about their own political system. People ranting about the coalition being treason, a “coup”, etc. I am afraid not folks – this is the way our system is designed. What they are doing is perfectly legal (though not too bright, politically). Also, people going on that Stephen Harper has some kind of “mandate”. We do not elect a prime minister. We elect representatives. The majority in the house decides the leader. If the majority changes, the leader changes. This whole party leader=prime minister thing is just a side effect of this atrocity known as “party politics”, which is the biggest enemy of true democracy.
  • the conservatives are ranting about the coalition’s deal with the BQ. Funny how they forget about 2004, isn’t it? They are doing far more to harm national unity than the coalition is.
  • the Conservative party in its current form is only marginally more a “national” party than the BQ. Sure they have candidates in a broader geography, but thier actual support is nearly as narrow. And they are really only interested in keeping their power base out west happy.
  • the current situation has nothing to due with economics, financial crises, social programs, or anything of the sort. This is all about power, and playing political games to keep or get power. And all four party leaders are to blame (maybe not Duceppe – as much as I disapprove of the BQ, at least they are very clear, honest and open about their goals).

As far as I am concerned, there is only one credible way out of this mess now:

  1. Like it or not, we need to have another election. Harper should pre-emptively call an election (does he have that option right now? I am not sure). The Conservatives have lost the confidence of the current house, and probably cannot regain it. This would, however, stop the coalition from taking power – although the coalition is legal, it is bad for the country due to the division and instability it is creating.
  2. Mr. Harper needs to resign. He has demonstrated through 2 elections now that he is unable to achieve a majority. In addition, his judgement and credibility are somewhat questionable now.
  3. Mr. Dion should also resign. I do not think anyone in the country (his own party included) believes he has what it takes to lead the country.
  4. Mr. Layton should resign because his visible involvement in the coalition will severely harm his party’s future.

So, what would an election look like if none of the parties had leaders? Kind of like the last election, I guess.

I am so completely embarassed by and ashamed of our government right now. I do not know how any of them have the nerve to show their faces in public at the moment.

21st Century Family Time

As many nerds know, the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, came out last week. As with the previous expansion, both of my sons and I got our copies at midnight the night it came out.

In the past week, all three of us have spent considerable time online together playing WoW, and sharing our experiences and adventures. Something occured to me on the weekend – is this quality family time for the 21st century?

My first image with my new toy…(telescope, that is)

saturn test 2 ps

Tonight I got my first chance to try imaging with my new toy. This week I added a Philips webcam to my collection of accessories, modified slightly to work with my telescope, and had a shot at imaging Saturn, and this is the result. Not quite as good as I might have hoped, but not bad for the first astronomical image I have produced in about 25 years. I am still learning to use the various pieces of software involved, as well.

Now to go back outside and just enjoy the view 🙂

Random Thought

I was watching a rerun of Boston Legal the other night, and this quote caught my attention – not all of you will understand why, but some might… 

“It’s sad, how you go from intimacy to nothing, cold turkey. I mean, how many people along the way have true meaning in your life, and to suddenly have no contact, and….it’s sad.” – Denny Crane (Boston Legal)