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2017 Continuing to Be the Year of the Big Wet for Canadians

By on July 20, 2017 in General, Science

If you are of a certain age, you may find yourself conferring with similarly decrepit friends about the state of the weather these days. Chances are, you have found yourself saying something along the lines of, “I don’t remember there being such extremes in weather when I was a kid!”

Climate change has definitely made the weather more unpredictable and, at times, downright fiercer. The last couple summers in Ontario probably left you parched: brown lawns were the norm on every block. By sharp contrast, this year has seen a tremendous amount of rain in the province. That means everything is lovely and green, but you had better keep an umbrella with you at all times. I can’t recall a season where things have alternated so rapidly between sunny and rainy. Meanwhile, our friends on the west coast in British Columbia continue to suffer through a prolonged season of disastrous fires that are claiming homes by the dozens.

Dubbed by Environment Canada as the “Year of the Big Wet,” 2017 has certainly been a soggy one. Between April 1st and July 11th, rain fell on 71 of those 102 days, which seems more like a forecast for a Brazilian rain forest than the Great White North.

This can’t be a good summer to be a hiker or a drive-in owner as there have been few totally sunny days; it seems like rain always makes an appearance at some point. So, how have you been dealing with all of this extra moisture? I’m tempted to say that you should go jump in the lake (don’t take that personally), but it’s not safe to swim in the rain. Have you been staying inside more? Or are you one of those people who not only don’t mind getting wet, but actually rather enjoy it? Tell us in the comments!

Have You Ever Been a Victim of Road Rage?

By on June 23, 2017 in Society

A dramatic crash brought about by an instance of road rage in California made headlines today. The available video does not show what started the confrontation, but we do see a motorcyclist kick a car, which then swerves towards him. The cyclist is able to regain control of his vehicle before it hits the median, but the car’s driver loses control. He or she then crashes into the same median and then crosses over into the next lane and hits a truck, causing it to roll over. Reports do not detail the degree of injuries sustained, but it would be very surprising if there were none.

Many people live in a state of near-constant stress today and that spills over into their driving habits. Maybe they are late for work or fatigue, anxiety, and impatience are causing them to act irrationally. Whatever the case, losing your temper and acting out is one thing; doing it in a car or truck is much more worrisome and potentially deadly for anyone in the vicinity.

When we are caught up in the moment, it can become incredibly easy to forget the consequences of our action. What might seem like a simple reaction to a rebuke can lead to serious and even fatal injuries. The consequences can be truly tragic.

A disturbing survey by State Farm Canada revealed that one third of Canadian drivers admit to engaging in road rage at least once per month. If you spend a lot of time traveling in your car or are a regular commuter, that means you have no doubt found yourself in such a situation as either the giver or the receiver.

How did you react? Did you lose your cool and cause an incident or keep a level head when confronted with one? Click the comment button and let us know.

 

How a Murder Changed Yonge Street

By on June 22, 2017 in General

40 years ago this summer, shoeshine boy Emmauel Jaques was found dead on the roof of a massage parlour on Yonge Street. Examination of the child revealed that he had also been sexually assaulted. That news led to a public outcry and a considerable crackdown on the increasingly sleazy nature of many businesses on one of Toronto’s best known streets.

The Toronto Star wrote a detailed article about this grim anniversary and it left me thinking about my youth. I didn’t live in Toronto, but my family frequently visited the area in order to shop at the newly opened Eaton Centre and the World’s Biggest Bookstore.

I was 12 years old in 1977, the same age as Jaques, and while my brief time in the area would not have subjected me to the same sorts of dangers he faced, it was almost certainly less safe than I imagined. The Ontario Censor Board ensured that the sex films exhibited in the province were far less explicit than those shown in American cities like New York and Los Angeles, but prostitution was increasingly prevalent on the Yonge Street strip. While there were women working the streets, many were out of sight and in the large number of massage parlours that had opened in the area.

Sexual freedom is important and I support legalized prostitution, but studies have shown that many of the women in this profession are illegal immigrants and not doing this job willingly. Even when sex is a business transaction, it needs to be a safe and consensual one. Government oversight is probably the only way this would be possible.

Did the prurient nature of Yonge Street during that time contribute to the murder? It might have, and the actions of Toronto police certainly indicated their belief that it did. Nowadays, Yonge Street is far more corporate and safe, though probably still not an area where a wide-eyed 12 year-old should be walking around unaccompanied.

Yonge Street only has a few sex-oriented businesses left these days. By William Mewes from Oakville Ontario, Canada (Rio Theatre) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Do You Consult Ratings Before Letting Your Kids Watch Movies?

By on June 21, 2017 in General

In the United States, motion pictures did not carry content ratings until 1968. Previously, movies were either approved or sent back for revisions. Parents and members of the public did not have any idea what their content was like, outside of a few independent bodies like the Catholic Legion of Decency, which reviewed movies on their own.

Canadians had ratings systems launched well before that. The Ontario Censor Board started operations in 1920 and still carries on to this day as the Ontario Film and Video Review Board. Outside of extreme pornography, movies are no longer censored or banned in Ontario. The emphasis has switched from censorship to classification, leaving people and parents to decide for themselves if a film is appropriate.

In the recent past, Ontario grew quite notorious for cutting and banning movies that were allowed intact in other parts of the country. Those days are behind us, thankfully, though some horror movies these days regularly boast graphic content that would never have been allowed even as little as 20 years ago.

The Ontario ratings system consists of G, PG, 14A (those under 14 must be accompanied by an adult), 18A (those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult), and R (18 and over only, used mostly for explicit sex films). Theatres can be somewhat lax in enforcing these ratings and many parents don’t bother to consult them.

What are your thoughts on movie ratings? Do they influence what you go to see or allow your kids to watch? With the rise of content on the internet, children have access to material that would have given board examiners a coronary even just a few years back. Do you trust your kids or do you police their viewing?

Click the comments and let me know. I’m of two minds. I want to trust young people, but some of the content out there is quite explicit and disturbing.

Look After Yourself This Summer

By on June 21, 2017 in General

Summer is now upon us and we have already had a couple of super hot and humid days here in Canada. With the depletion of the ozone layer and the harsher temperatures each year due to climate change, it is not a good idea to spend extended amounts of time outdoors without some precautions. While Canadians love the heat after a long winter, it can definitely be too much of a good thing.

Here are some ways you can look after yourself this summer:

  • Wear a hat and sunscreen. Are you old enough to remember the days when people used to put on baby oil and spend as much time as possible in the sun in order to get brown? Well, those days are long gone. There is nothing wrong with a mild tan, but nowadays, it is more important to protect yourself from skin cancer. Always wear a hat and sunscreen on sunny days (check the weather forecast to know what spf rating your sunscreen should be for that particular day).
  • Avoid heavy exercise during the hottest parts of the day. Check the weather forecast and see when it will be coolest that particular day; save your exercising for then.
  • Stay hydrated. You will probably sweat quite a bit over the course of the day, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids. If you perspire more than the average person, then you need to ingest more water.
  • Wear lighter shades. Dark coloured clothes will make you feel hotter, so save that cool black shirt & jeans combo for the fall. Choose a lighter shade instead.
  • Stay inside. If there’s a heat warning or the temperature/humidity has things above 35 degrees Celsius, try to just stay inside. Take a cool shower, sit in front of the fan, and relax. Don’t go outside during times like this unless you really have to.

 

How Would Earth Benefit If Everyone Went Vegetarian?

By on June 20, 2017 in General, Society

There has been much debate over the past few years about the sustainability of meat in regards to the health of the planet. An article in the Future section of the BBC website laid out the specifics and the data is pretty fascinating.

  • The population’s general health would improve with a meat-free diet. If everyone had adopted the vegetarian lifestyle by 2050, there would be 7 million fewer deaths per year. Make that vegan and the total would increase to eight million.
  • The environment would improve. Cows produce a great deal of methane; if their population was drastically reduced, food-related emissions would drop by as much as 60%.
  • Taking pasture land currently used by the planet’s millions of cows would free large areas that could instead be used for forests. This would help to alleviate the effects of climate change. These lands could also host different types of plants, which would influence biodiversity.
  • The number of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers would decrease if meat was eliminated from diets.

In the interest of balance, however, the article also pointed out some aspects of this change that you might not have considered.

  • Nomadic groups that raise livestock for food would be forced to settle permanently in some part of their country. This would rob certain tribes of an important cultural tradition.
  • Eliminating meat would also mean making a fundamental change in traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Between farmers raising livestock and people employed in meat processing and distribution, that is quite a few workers who would need to find new careers. Some could be employed in the agricultural industry, which would experience an enormous upswing in a meat-free world.
  • Grazing sheep have helped to shape the land for centuries, so eliminating them could cause considerable geographic changes and negatively effect biodiversity.
  • Meat provides more protein per calorie than most components of a vegetarian diet, so it’s entirely possible that the world’s overall nutrition level would suffer.

So, it looks like the answer is not as cut and dried as it might seem.

 

Have You Cut the Cable Cord?

By on June 19, 2017 in Technology

Cable television was seen for decades as the main source of home entertainment. While it seems laughably small now, the fact that cable could provide dozens of channels meant so many more possibilities than the basic 13 you could get on old TVs.

However, changing times have eaten away at cable’s dominance. While premium services like HBO and Showtime meant that you could watch uncut movies at home in the early ’80s, home video’s rise during this same period meant you could do the same thing via VHS/Beta and Laserdiscs, and well before the twelve months it typically required those same movies to make it to cable.

However, the arrival and increasing popularity of the internet has been the real enemy that cable companies face. At first, surfing the net just meant a new and enjoyable distraction that caused people to spend less time in front of their televisions. However, when streaming video became more reliable and better quality, people realized that they could then run this into their TVs and see content for free.

Of course, streaming is not always free, but when a service like Netflix charges only $9.99 per month and offers thousands of possibilities, the $100+ that many people pay for cable quickly seems a lot less desirable. While it’s true that cable still offers a multitude of choices, and remains the only way to see certain things, many people are happy to do without in order to save money. Let’s face it: how many channels do you actually watch out of that gigantic cable package?

This had led more and more people to “cut the cord” and drop cable altogether. This seemed unheard of as little as a decade ago, but the changing nature of technology has made cheaper alternatives readily available.

What is your preference? Are you a cable holdout or do you rely on streaming services to provide your home entertainment? Click the comment button and let us know!

 

Does Celluloid Still Matter?

By on June 16, 2017 in Technology

Films used to only be shot on film, hence the name. 35mm was the main production and exhibition format for major motion pictures for decades, but now it is all but extinct. While film was, and remains a viable medium, digital offers advantages that the studios just couldn’t pass up. Movies can now fit on a hard drive that costs only a couple hundred dollars and costs very little to ship, as opposed to 35mm prints, which are expensive to make and send to theatres.

Digital is also much more cost effective in terms of shooting. Film costs money to buy and process, requires frequent magazine changes, and can only be viewed once it has been processed. Digital is so cheap that many productions simply leave the cameras running in between takes, and the results can be viewed instantly on-set, which makes the director and cinematographer’s jobs easier. Amateur filmmakers also benefit tremendously from digital’s versatility and ease of use. It is entirely possible to shoot a whole movie on a camera that costs a couple thousand dollars, and editing and mixing are possible on your average laptop.

Despite this, some directors are adamant about only shooting on film, including such heavy hitters as Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino. 35mm screenings are now so rare, that many film buffs head to them for the sense of nostalgia that ensues.

However, does the average moviegoer notice or care? Almost certainly not, which is all that the studios really worry about. If the public is happy, then they are, too, especially with the millions they are saving in print and shipping expenses.

One area where digital falls short, however, is preservation. No one knows for sure how long a digital file can be stored without corruption, but a properly stored negative or 35mm print can last as long as 100 years. Thus, film will almost certainly continue to have its uses going forward and that ought to make buffs happy.

Are You Taking Advantage of e-Marketing?

By on June 12, 2017 in Technology

The world wide web has really changed the way people do business, not only at work, but also in their personal lives. If you have a business and do not have a web presence, you are missing out on some major potential clients. Even if you do have a website, if it isn’t active and optimized, Google will mostly ignore you, which makes it harder for anyone to find you.

Fortunately, there are specialists out there who can help. You can employ the services of a digital marketing agency. These firms use experts to analyze your website so that you can know what is right and wrong about your approach. They will offer suggestions on how you can make your page easier to navigate, more pleasing to look at, and all around more effective at satisfying the needs of customers.

SEO stands for search engine optimization. That means making your website more effective at attracting potential customers using search engines, like Google. You can ask an SEO company about how to make your site more active and an industry thought leader. These make you appear more important and worthwhile in Google’s eyes, and that leads to increased web traffic.

Blogging is an excellent way to do this. You don’t need to write something every day, but having yourself or another person on staff writing about some aspect of the business a couple times a week really helps. These pieces do not always have to be about what you are selling; in fact, it is a bad idea if they are because no one likes reading advertisements all of the time. Make them related in some way to what you do, make them informative, make them friendly, and make them instructional. Offer something of value to the reader and not just an ad.

Will 2017 be the year for E-bikes to go mainstream? 4 Reasons Electric Bicycles are Catching On

By on April 19, 2017 in Technology

Most of us will never be able to afford a Tesla, so maybe e-bikes are the green vehicles were all looking for?

4 Reasons Electric Bicycles are Catching On

In terms of getting around, bicycles are pretty much the greenest way to travel, short of just walking. But if you want to get somewhere nearby quicker than walking, cycling is a great choice. If you’ve been thinking about e-bikes, or still haven’t even heard of them, here are 4 reasons why the industry is blowing up.

More E-Bike Options

If you follow tech, you’ve probably noticed the rise in e-bike and e-bike related accessories on sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Crowdfunding is the most popular way for start-up companies and products to raise money quickly while also raising awareness and the profile of their public image.

Crowdfunding sites are a good way to figure out where consumer demand is growing, as well. Smartwatches rose to popularity through several successful crowdfunding campaigns, notably Pebble. E-bikes are close to the same stage, but without the product fatigue that’s hitting the wearable industry. Sondors was one of the first companies to introduce an affordable e-bike for the masses, and since then there have been plenty of others. At this point, there is a new e-bike company looking for crowdfunding every week.

Interest Among Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomer generation has been the one to define the markets. Because of them, car making companies made record profits over the past few decades. Now that they’re getting older though, many are looking for different ways to get around that meets their new lifestyle.

As they retire, they won’t need a commuter vehicle anymore. Instead, travel will most likely be concentrated to local destinations. Bicycling has always been a great past-time for older retirees.

As muscles get older and joints get stiffer, e-bikes are the perfect solution for those that want to keep on pedaling.

The World Is Going Green

While it may not seem like it in some countries, the world is going green. Most populations are aware of their energy use and carbon footprints and want to reduce them.

Look no further than the rise in EVs like Tesla. Every single other major car company has introduced or are working on the next generation of electric cars. Production of cars is a huge energy expenditure though. Because of all the materials needed, buying a new car–even an electric one–can be a bad choice for the environment.

E-bikes are small, energy-efficient, and ultimately, the best choice for an electric vehicle.

Prices are Dropping for E-Bikes

Finally, the main reason why any technology catches on: the price. Once the general population can justify making a purchase, a tipping point is reached.

For e-bikes, it looks like when they are sold near the $500 mark, it piques the attention of consumers. The Sondors bikes were the first to hit this price point, and subsequently were wildly successful. Other crowdfunded bikes that focus on affordability have likewise been successful.

As prices for batteries drops, the cost of e-bikes will only continue to drop.

They’re already meeting the price of the high-end non-electric bike market. Once they hit the same price as department store bicycles, I predict we’ll see a huge shift in e-bike sales.

Get ready for the e-bike revolution!

Android TV Boxes: Everything You Need to Know About Free TV Boxes

By on March 21, 2017 in Technology

What are android boxes? And why are cable companies trying to stop them? You might have seen in the news recently that several large TV service providers have set their sights on a new enemy, taking those that sell Android TV boxes to court. But if you’re like most of the population, you’re probably curious about what exactly is an Android TV box?

remote-control-android_TV_Box

If youre a techie, you probably already know what an Android box is and likely already have one. But for many, the technology is still a little bit confusing. If youre in the latter camp and are looking to reduce or cut your dependence on cable TV, here is a summary of what they are and what they can do.

What is an Android TV Box?

The name itself is pretty explanatory, but to break it down in simple terms: its a box that plugs into your TV and runs Android. Basically, its pretty simple and unless youre well versed on Android, youre probably still not very impressed. What is impressive is what this allows you to do.

Android was originally developed for phones and tablets, but the beauty of it was that it was built off of Linux, an open software, and Android itself is open to any and all. This openness and freedom is an amazing thing and because of it, we have other technologies using it that go far beyond the scope of its original intent.

One of these unforeseen uses for Android has been to put it onto TVs.

When an android box connects to a TV, you end up with a smart TV. This smart TV doesnt cost you an extra $1,000, though. And most Android boxes remain open and easily modifiable, whereas Smart TVs are typically fairly locked down in what you are able to do.

An Android box, for example, can easily access the millions of Apps that have been created for Android.

What Can an Android TV Box do?

Now that we know what it is, the next question is what can it do? Weve already established that they run Android, just like your cellphone. What you might not realize is just how much video you can access from the Android OS.

Apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Youtube, Acorn and more can all be installed and give you access to more video than you could ever watch.

Android-TV-apps-1

There are also other apps that can provide access to pirated video streams from all over the web.

If youve never used an android phone before, getting used to an android box might take you a little bit of time, but the capabilities of having the OS on your television is likely worth it. And despite large cable service providers trying to stop the sale of them, the increased attention that they are forcing onto the technology will probably have the reverse effect. The times are changing and the way people access their video content is entering a new age: the age of internet television and android TV boxes.

 

Android Oreo? What Will Android 8.0 Be Called?

By on February 25, 2017 in Technology

As we all know, each yearly major haul of Android comes with a new, sweet name. To add to the fun, Android devs have followed a tradition of naming the newest version of Android after a sweet confectioner’s treat. This started back with version 1.5, which was affectionately called Cupcake. Then came Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb (which was a tablet only version), Ice Cream Sandwich, Jellybean, Kitkat, Lollipop, Marshmallow, and finally the most recent version of AndroidNougat.

See the pattern? Each new version starts with the next letter of the alphabet.

Historically, it’s about this time of year that we start to hear new things about the newest upcoming version of Android OS. One of the things that techies love to speculate about is the name that Android will be bringing to the new version. What we do know (based on the pattern) is that Android 8.0 will start with the letter O.

A big (and obvious clue) let loose by Hiroshi Lockheimer (the head of Android, ChromeOS, and Chromecast) in his Twitter might be proof for some:

android_oreo

But I think this is too easy. And why would he make it look so obvious? No, as great a name as Android Oreo is, I think we should be looking outside of the *cookie* box.

Here are my top pics:

  • Android Oh!Henry
  • Android Ovaltine

You know what? There’s a remarkable lack of sweet treats that start with O…

Android might be stuck with Oreo. Or maybe they’ll skip right over O to P. Android Pineapple has a nice ring to it!

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