Shiny Ipad? No Thanks!

For the past couple of weeks I have had a chance to use an Ipad Mini (16GB/WiFi) and compare it to my Android devices. Can’t say I am impressed. To start the mini has but one control button on the front face which takes you back to the home screen and all the apps I tried have no intuitive, easy to find (if any) way to back up a screen or two when navigating the app. When browsing the web the thing insists on popping up the app store (seems to be no way of turning this “feature” off) forcing me to go back to the home screen, re-launch safari and re-navigate to where I was. There is no way and no app that I have found that allows me (like I do on Android) to look at, move, upload/download files on the file system to my pc except through Itunes absolutely abysmal interface. Apple will alow you to view/move and transfer music/video/some apps but only through Itunes. The device is riddled with such annoying Appleisms like the insistence on a single navigation button, it’s only appeal seems to be that it is shiny and catches the eye of the magpie techies. I have since sold my Ipad, won’t be buying another.
The above experience is not limited to Ipads and Ipad minis either but in my view is typical of all Apple devices such as Macs, Iphones, MacBooks and all. All Apple products seem to be vastly overpriced and over rated. They are big, shiny and new (a new Iphone about every 6 months …) even if not always up to date. Apple’s computers are especially annoying in that they cost a ton more than other PC’s, come with the ubiquitous one button mouse (I really hate having to buy a regular wheel mouse when I buy a new computer!) and don’t really outperform other PCs to the extent that would make them worthy of costing 2 to 3 times as much. Yes they have nice BSD unix under the hood (arguably better than Windows in some cases), yes they have big shiny displays (a real magpie feature), yes they have unique software (different not necessarily better) and yes they are hyped so well that evangelists’ line up like crack addicts getting a free fix to get the newest, latest, greatest.
I can however get two shiny new quad-core mega-GB wheel moused PC’s for about the same price as one Mac Desktop. One can run Windows (which my wife prefers) and one can run (any dist) Linux, both with all the bells, whistles and funky features that the Mac shipped with. The software for my two PCs will be more familiar, cheaper (open source is free, yes free, that is $0.00) and found in more stores and places online. As a developer (mostly web and web-app) I also have an issue with Mac’s. While I can cobble together some tools, add-ons and such to make my Visual Studio or Eclipse compile Objective-C, I can’t find any Windows or Linux port of the Cocoa frameworks and other IOS bits, that’s Apple only as far as I can tell. Oh and I would have to learn Objective-C, not really my cup of tea. I could develop stuff for Mac’s, Ipads and Iphones using Java I guess but why bother? The market is small and shrinking, even the die hard magpies are discovering that Android is more fun, better interfaced, more adaptable. Developers are using Eclipse, Java and open source to create slick software for the Android devices. Windows is not out of it either, Windows 8 has some nice features and is catching up fast.
The bottom line? I am not a Mac fan, not an Iphone/Ipad fan, not swayed by shiny new cases, big media circus launches. I am a fan of pure economics, PCs and Android devices are cheaper, easier to work with and on, easier and cheaper to get software for, just as powerful and funky and easier to develop for.

just a quickie …

Many who view my blog (especially the younger ones) may not recognize the flag on my header or understand why it is there. Contrary to the opinion of some it is not the flag of Ontario, my home province. It is in fact the Red Ensign and the original Canadian Flag. While the current Canadian Flag is recognized by all and has been around since 1967 when a political decision was made to change it, I still prefer the Red Ensign. It is the flag I was born under, that my Father and my Uncles went to War under, the flag that Canada was born under. Unlike the current Canadian Flag the Ensign marks our British and Commonwealth heritage and the fact that Quebec and the French were and are part of this great country. In 1967 when Canada became it’s own country as part of the Commonwealth, many of the rules changed, we still recognized the Queen as our Monarch but we are much more separate from the UK than say Ireland, Scotland or even Australia. I can trace my heritage back to the early 1800’s, to Hexam and Hayden Bridge, I am happily married (20 years) to a beautiful British woman but can I emigrate to England, work, live and laugh in England? or Ireland? or Scotland? The answer is no, not without a lengthy and costly immigration application process. So I am a Canadian, whose heart is English, the Maple Leaf is the flag of my Country but the Red Ensign will always be my flag.

Dare to be bare …

Nudity is taboo, it is bred into us, a fabric of society, the cardinal rule that is reinforced nearly every day of our lives. When people see someone without clothes they immediately think perv, sex, deviant and so many other things. It’s against the law, contrary to religion, unacceptable just about everywhere except in place that ply the sex trade or the privacy behind closed doors.

You can’t sun bath in your back yard, swim in your pool or be anywhere that someone might see and be offended, much worse embarrass you. My question is, what is embarrassing? Offensive? We all have two arms, two legs, eyes, ears and other parts. We are all shapes and sizes, not just those found “attractive and acceptable” by the latest fashion trends. We all age, some have scars, blemishes, freckles, long hair, short hair, signs that we have aged a little, adventured a little, lived a life full of fun and discoveries.

There is nothing particularly sexual about being naked, that comes with who you are with, the situation you find yourself in.  While sun bathing at a nude beach in Panama one time, my  wife and I were in the company of perhaps 20 other couples, some thin, some young, some old. Nobody was ogling any other, sizing others up or making any judgement on looks, age, size, marks, religion or any of the many many other idioms we use to judge people. We were just there to enjoy the sunshine, the open air, the sea and the freedom from clothes. Why should this be limited to a nude beach 2500 miles from home?  What is it about being naked that so frightens and offends people that they must eliminate it from public view, hide it away with laws and social taboos?

Obviously the society we live in has many dangers, many undesirable elements you would not expose your children to. Neither I nor anyone else would suggest that this should change, that we all run around nude letting all our inhibitions run amok. I would however suggest that being nude in your backyard while sunbathing or swimming should be your choice not that of your neighbor or the local constabulary. It’s quite natural, healthy and uniquely liberating to be nude in the sunshine, in the summer rain. Being nude eliminates all class, money, religion, race, educational indicators and shows us for what we are, what we all are, people. Just people.  All of us are equal, interesting, beautiful, different and the same. There is nothing, no shape, no scar, nothing that should embarrass or offend anyone in being nude. Dare to be bare, you will be so much better for it.

Why do I go barefoot, part Deux

Well this is part deux (that’s part 2) of why do I go barefoot. It’s healthy for you. Yes there are risks, there are always risks but as a barefooter I tend to watch more caefully where I walk. Some of the health benefits include better circulation, stronger muscles in your feet, no bunions or corns, no athltes foot or deformed toes, no back pains and many others. There are more and more studies that show walking barefoot is healthy and good for you.

One of the more modern ideas is that of “Earthing”, being in touch with and in tune with the natural energy of the earth around us. Earthing reconnects us with the environment in which we live, promotes positive energy, relieves stress and brings us back to a stable harmony we have lost in the modern fast paced world of business, sports for the kids and go go go 18 hour days.

Health benefits and Earthing and the pure joy and freedom of being bare aside, here is a proposal for you. Go out (in July of course!), find a pair of close fitting cotton gloves and put them on each morning for a month. After doning your cotton gloves, put on a pair of stiff hard leather gloves over top and keep them on all day. At the end of the day, what will your hands be like? At the end of the month? When you are in your garden can you feel the soft texture of your roses with your gloves on?

Being barefoot is about being free, being in touch with your environment, being in harmony with everything around you. It’s about fun, feeling healthy and making choices. It’s probably not for everybody but it is for me, a simple choice and cheaper! Think how much you will save by not buying those LaBoutine red soled stilettos!

Some links to look at …

http://www.movefreeshoes.com/resources/being-barefoot-by-movefree-shoes.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barefoot

http://www.earthinginstitute.net/

http://www.squidoo.com/goingbarefoot

Why do I go barefoot?

Why do I go barefoot? It’s simple, because I like it. I really like it. Life is an adventure and walking barefoot is the most amazing adventure of all full of textures and feelings. I’ll try to explain by giving you my feets perspective on a day.
I wake in the morning, my feet cozy and warm under the blankets as I rise to get out of bed. The first feeling of the day, warm burble carpet under foot, soft and inviting, slightly ticklish here and there. Step on to the tiles in the bathroom, smooth, cool slightly slippery and a little textures like shale. As I stand there they warm and I get the sensation of both warm tile and cool as I move around.
Out into the hall to go down stairs I am met with a mixture of warm wood floors, slightly grainy and more of the carpet. As I progress downstairs I step on one of the pups soup bones, all lumpy and sharp, cool to the touch. My foot kind of rolls over it stretching like getting an inpromptu foot massage.
More tiles in the front hall and in the kitchen, out on the deck I see fresh snow that has fallen over night. Stepping out on to the deck it is cold but not uncomfortable, the snow envlopes my feet tingling. It squishes under foot as I walk unlike any other surface I can think of. It’s really unique. Back inside I go out to the garage to put some garbage away, the cement floor is cool, rough, it has a distinctly unfinished feel. It’s flat but not smooth at all, the feeling is amazing, exciting all the sole of my feet.
Skip ahead now several months to a summers day, out for a walk. As I stroll down the sidewalk warmed by the sun I can feel the rough grain of the pavement, a little further on it changes to a new patch, very smooth and much warmer. I can feel the heat all through my feet. Stepping off the path I am greeted first by warm sand which gives as I walk on it, flows over my feet, between my toes. It’s warm, grainy just slighty rough here not like smooth beach sand of fine clay. Then I am on the grass, soft and ticklish under foot, swishing as I walk. As a gentle rain (or perhaps a summer downpour) starts to fall, the feeling of the grass changes, now cool and wet, sprionkling my ankles as I go along. The sand I passed earlier is now mud, soft cool and clingy, it coats your feet, crackles ever so slightly when it dries.
Later walking back to home I pass a driveway made of pebbles, walking across it is the most amazing feeling, not grainy like pavement, not smooth and inviting like carpet and grass. It’s rough and rolling, smooth at the same time. Full of bumps, lumps and unevenness, warmed by the sun, some places hot others merely warm. Then I cross an intersection, the road paved not unlike the sidewalk earlier, the pavement is hot almost too hot to walk on, the painted line in the middlew giving respite from the heat. The pavement although open grained like the sidewalk is much smoother, made that way by the passage of countless cars.
Home now I prepare to go up to Loblaws for some necessities. As I get in my car I notice the carpet, not all like that in my bedroom. This one is rougher, sturdier, less inviting with sharp sand and little stones left by winter. My feet feel the peddles, hard rubber, cool to the touch but not uncomfortable or harsh. Theyt have been worn smooth by years of drivers (shod and not), all the sharp edges worn away.
In Loblaws the floors are cool, smooth as glass and slightly dusty. My feet slide a little as I travel up and down the isles. In the freezer section the floor temperature drops by at least 15 degrees, F. It’s cool, my wholer body reacts, it’s 90 outside but standing here in the freezer isle I am quite cool. A bit further on near the seafood section my cart rumbles across a section of checker plate, steel with little cross marks on it. The sensation of walking over this is remarkable, it’s cold, textured, does give in the least.
Down another isle I am back on smooth floors, picking up pancake mix when a little boy looks up at me, then down at my feet. He smiles and says “hey mister your feet are bare!” His mother quickly herds him away in the other direction as he looks back, smiling.
Why do I go barefoot? Because I like it. To me it is like going on a trip to some distant place and deciding to go by plane, get there faster and see nothing, experience nothing. Or to go by convertable with the wind in your hair, dust and smells whirling all about you, adventures around every corner. I like being barefoot, life is an adventure.

Time for a rant …

Ok it’s time for a rant. This has been a particularly mild winter, February is winding down and spring is just around the corner. In the past year or more I have noticed more and more shoe stores advertising “barefoot” shoes. The expound on how they feel just like walking barefoot, they’re so light, so comfortable, so natural. NOT!

Shoes are not barefoot. End of. They are not barefoot if they are light weight, have five little fingers for the toes, two big fingers for collections of toes, or space age mesh. Shoes are shoes, barefoot is the lack thereof.

My other bone of contention with so called “barefoot” shoes is the cost. If I trundle on down to Aldo or some other shoe store and pick up a pair of Doc Martins, I can fully expect to pay (in Canada) something like $140. Expensive as all get out but for that price I get a heavy, comfortable leather shoe that is quality made. They previous pair I had lasted some ten years, went through a house fire and was finally parted with only because I was offloading a ton of stuff with the idea of moving to France. Barefoot shoes, including the vaunted Vibram Five fingers and other “toed” barefoot shoes come in around the same price. However for my $140 I now get a flimsy, cheaply made, sweat inducing vinyl mocassin that chafes my feet in any number of places. For the same price as the Docs I get a shoe made in China somewhere for about $0.13 that if I am lucky will last one summer.

If you are thinking of going barefoot, go barefoot. Your feet (and most of your other bits associated with mobilty) will thank you, you will save money and you’ll be amazed to discover what an incredible environment ypou walk on each day. I have been barefoot for nigh on 30 years except where forced into shoes by winter weather, inflexible rules (there are no such laws), intolerance and prejudice. I love the feeling of being barefoot from warm summer pavement, soft grass, cool rain soaked paths and even fresh winter snow. Try it, you’ll be amazed, truly you will.

McNuggets Anyone?

This picture showed up in my Facebook wall recently, can you guess what it is? What it will become? I’ll tell you now that it is not ice cream, sherbert or gelato. It is in fact something called “mechanically separated chicken” and it will become MacDonald’s (or others) chicken nuggets, chicken patties, chicken fingers and the like. Along the way it will be washed with ammonia, dyed with a more appealing color, flavored with a more appealing flavor resembling chicken and shaped into appropriate shapes. If that doesn’t put you off your nuggets then maybe this will. The meat stuff you see above is made not from nice prime cuts of chicken but everything, feet, eyes, guts, head, body, wings, the whole damn bird. It’s tossed into a separator, out the other end comes the above. To make matters worse (in the processed food industry), it seems that most manufacturers of processed meat where the meat doesn’t have to accurately resemble the real thing use these processes for the meat in question such as hot dogs, hamburger patties, sausages, breaded thingies of all shapes and sizes. I have been a vegetarian for 20 years and after coming across items like this I know I will never return to eating what is passed for meat in a modern grocery store or fast food restaurant.

I fight on ..

“Takes the wind out of your sails”, “knocks you flat”, “that sinking feeling” these and so many many more platitudes we have all heard over the years. They are however just words, they do not begin to describe the feelings, emotions, mad thoughts, fears that blast through your mind when the one you love most in all the world is diagnosed with cancer. At a time like that it is just a load of old bollocks.
Jacky and I have been married for almost 20 years (20 come this November) and in all that time we have not spent 24 hours apart except for a spat of business trips a few years ago. We met in September and married in November. We are best friends, biggest fans, two souls and one unifying love. We have never fought or argued, have the same interests. When we moved in together we both had libraries containing the same books, two of everything.
Last week after what seemed a routine blood test our family doctor called us (Sunday morning) and told us to get down to the hospital for further tests. Early on Monday a team of doctors and hangers on came in to deliver the news, my wife, Jacky, my soul mate had Leukemia. In one 10 minute conversation everything in our world had changed, there are no words that can describe what ricocheted round inside my head in those few minutes, no way to convey the cascade of feelings, fears, emotions.
I know Jacky is getting the very best treatment, the doctors are excellent, the prognosis good (seems it was caught early). I am holding it together, keeping her spirits up and providing the strength my son Matthew also needs to get through this. Everybody is sending out good wishes and good energy to buoy us up in these trying times.
However in the dark quiet of the night when Matthew has gone to bed, the doggies are sleeping and I am alone then is the hardest time. With my Jacky miles away in a hospital bed, the house has a different feel, it’s lost something vital, the energy and the spirit of my soul mate. It is then in the deep dark recesses of my mind that the doubts hide, fighting to get out, to overwhelm me. It’s then that I must be strongest, to fight hardest. It is then that the night seems darkest. It may not seem rational, since I and everyone else knows, tells me everyday that she is in the best place, getting the best care. I just can’t drive the doubts away, it’s not easy to explain and I don’t anyone can really understand until they walk that horrible path. On the day my Jacky comes home with me I’ll know we won through, we beat it and our world is secure again. Until then I fight on. Every night.

eco-friendly? Not!!

I have just been reading the press blurbs about the new Nissan Leaf, a totally electric vehicle, the first of which was delivered to a happy consumer in Ottawa recently. This car is only one of several being developed and to be sold to consumers in the coming months.
These vehicles are being billed as “zero emissions” vehicles, viable alternatives to gas powered vehicles, economical, eco-friendly and many other superlatives. Judging from the reviews articles and websites I have read, nothing could be further from the truth.
The car itself is expensive at $38000, more than many other compact cars of merit and better styling. This price also does not include the costs involved in installing a 240 volt charging station in your home, the additional electrical bills, the insurance (likely to be charged) for a new untried and rare vehicle or the maintenance. The economic kicker is the fact that the batteries which power this car are leased to the owner (They cost $10000.00) because they are too expensive to replace and expected to last no more than 5 years.
Being billed as a zero emissions vehicle is almost false advertising in my view. The car itself indeed produces no emissions, however experts say that the emissions created in generating the additional electricity required to run it is about equivalent to a well tuned compact diesel car. This also does not take into account the carbon footprint of shipping raw materials around the planet to produce the exotic batteries and other components before they are assembled into a shiny new Leaf.
In terms of performance Nissan claims a top speed of 144 Km/H (90 Mph) and a range of approx. 160 Km (100 Mi.). Nissan also notes that the trickle charger takes some 21 hours to full charge from low battery. If one were to take those claims as accurate then a trip from London to Ottawa would take me about 8 days or about the same as if I travelled by horse and carriage. I dare say the horse would be more ecologically sound to boot. So this car is not a touring car designed for long trips but an inner city commuter. For 38 Grand I can purchase any one of several dozen more attractive commuter cars and even some not so commuter cars.
One final point in this rant, the Leaf and all it’s brethren from other manufactures are pure electric cars, getting their “get up and go” from the power grid. Here in Ontario every summer Ontario Hydro complains that too many people crank up their air conditioners sucking up electricity and causing brown outs. Ask yourself, what would be the effect of a few million consumers plugging in their electric cars every night? Then again maybe that’s not a great worry as Nissan only expects to sell 600 of these by 2012, hardly seems worth the effort.