gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for July 2006

Ancient frog bone marrow found

July 27, 2006 @ 01:23 By: gordon Category: Seen on the 'net

A headline crawling across the top of my screen on the BBC Ticker caught my eye:
Fossil frogs yield ‘soft tissues’

Normally, when a creature is fossilized, the soft tissues are destroyed and you’re left with the fossilized bones. If you’re lucky, you can see where the soft tissues were and that’s about it. Well, it appears that about 10 million years ago, some frogs and salamanders were preserved in some swamps in northeastern Spain. However, unlike every other fossilized creature that’s been found to-date, some of these have both types of bone marrow preserved.

Needless to say, this opens up new possibilities for research into the ancestors of animals that are still around today.

First DX QSO!

July 27, 2006 @ 01:14 By: gordon Category: Amateur radio

I was over at my friend Darin’s place Wednesday evening.  We set up his new HF rig in the backyard and tried to see who we could hear and talk to.  I had my first DX QSO with the HF privleges I acquired when they updated the legislation a couple of years ago.  It was with OK4RQ, a ham named Pavel located in the Czech Republic.  Though it was a very short conversation consisting of not much more than exchanging signal reports, it was still very cool.  I’ve had an amateur radio license since 1992, but this is the first time I’ve been able to operate on HF.

200th find!

July 23, 2006 @ 18:11 By: gordon Category: Geocaching, Travel bugs

I woke up bright and early this morning and decided to dedicate the day to geocaching.  I found 9 out of 10 caches (the 10th was a micro on an old railway bridge).  I started with a cache near Osgoode and proceeded along the south shore of the Rideau River, stopping at a park near an interchange on the 416 and at Nicholson’s Lock before crossing the river at Merrickville and heading to the chocolate factory in Smiths Falls.  There, I tried to find the micro on the railway bridge to no avail and then headed towards Perth, stopping outside Port Elmsley to find a cache that looked liked a birdhouse.

In Perth, I found a cache near the swinging bridge and then headed north towards Lanark to find numbers 199 and 200.

Cache #200, called Animal Crossing (GCKFTE), was near the end of a dirt road.  At the very end was a gate with a large sign warning that people entering were subject to real-time photography — not quite sure what that was about.  I found the cache fairly easily and released a geoSquid geocoin (TB14EJY) to celebrate my 200th find.  From there, I made my way home, stopping in at the Mount Beckwith Cache (GCN56D), where the bugs were terrible.

All in all, a very good day! đŸ™‚

Bistro 54 in Perth

July 23, 2006 @ 18:09 By: gordon Category: General

frontpagelogo.pngLast night, I went to an Italian restaurant in Perth called Bistro 54, located at 54 Foster Street, with some friends.  The food was absolutely amazing!  The portions were very generous and the prices quite reasonable.  If you’re ever in Perth, you should take time to have dinner there.

Antenna woes

July 21, 2006 @ 23:31 By: gordon Category: Amateur radio

Since it sat on a shelf for three or four year, I took my Kenwood TH-78A in to Bytown Marine to have it checked out. It seems that it survived and only needed to have the antenna’s BNC connector tightened. At the same time, I bought a new antenna for it since the rubber resister it came with isn’t a very good antenna. I paid the man and off I went.

I was driving away from a geocache in the west end when I heard something thudding and clattering around on the roof. Stopping to check it out, I found the 2m/70cm dual-band antenna for my mobile radio in two pieces. It seems that the threaded connector on the magnetic base had corroded through. (It had seen the better part of ten Ottawa winters.)� So, back to Bytown Marine I went for yet more anntena-related components. At least, the antenna (the expensive bit) was ok and I just had to replace the magnetic base.

Money can buy everything on eBay

July 15, 2006 @ 00:41 By: gordon Category: Seen on the 'net

It’s amazing what you can buy on eBay these days.  I googled the word “fun” this evening and noticed the following in the list of sponsored links on the results page…google-search-on--Fun-.gif


Graduated licensing in Ontario

July 05, 2006 @ 18:57 By: gordon Category: General

Like most people I know, I obtained my driver’s license prior to the implementation of graduated licensing in the province of Ontario. This meant that from the moment I received my license, I was able to drive on 400 series highways at 2am on my own. However, since April 1, 1994, newly licensed drivers have not been able to legally do this because of the graduated licensing system.

Under the graduated licensing scheme, new drivers start a two-step process that takes at least 20 months to complete and must be completed within five years. The system “lets new drivers get driving experience and skills gradually”, according to the MTO. Assuming you’re at least 16 years old, pass a vision test and a knowledge test of the rules of the road and signs, you will receive a Class G1 license.

A Class G1 license allows the holder to drive a vehicle provided that they have no alcohol in their bloodstream, are accompanied by a reasonably sober (less than 0.05%) fully licensed driver who is the only other person in the front seat, but doesn’t allow them on 400-series highways or highspeed expressways such as the QEW, Don Valley, Gardner or a couple of others I’ve never heard of. And, they cannot drive the vehicle between midnight and 5am. If the person sitting next to you is a driving instructor licensed in the province of Ontario, you are allowed to drive on the “prohibited” roads.

You have to hold a G1 license for at least 12 months, unless you’ve passed an approved course in which case you can reduce this to 8 months. After this 8 or 12 month period has passed, you get to try a G1 road test. If you pass it, you get a Class G2 license.

A Class G2 license allows the holder to drive on any road in Ontario without a “co-pilot” provided that they have no alcohol in their bloodstream and do not have more passengers in the vehicle than working seatbelts, which is also a condition for the G1. As of September 1, 2005, there are limits on the number of “young passengers” (19 years old or under) a G2 driver 19 years or under can carry between midnight and 5am. G2 drivers who are 19 years or under who have had a G2 for less than six months can only carry one young passenger. Once they’ve had their G2 for more than six months or turn 20, they can carry three young passengers. There’s an exception to this rule if the passengers are immediate family members or if there’s a fully licensed G driver onboard.

Once you’ve had a G2 for at least a year, you can try a G2 road test, which will give you a full G license if you pass.

You’re probably asking yourself “so what?”.

Well, I’ve noticed over the last few years that the number of drivers on the Queensway who travel along at 80 to 90 km/h has markedly increased since I got my license under the old system in the mid- to late-80’s. I have been speculating that this is a result of the graduated licensing system. Drivers who have been driving on a G1 for a year or two probably haven’t had a whole lot of experience driving at speeds in excess of 80 km/h. When they finally graduate to a G2 license, they are able to drive on roads with speed limits 25% higher than they’re used to. Consequently, they tend to drive in their comfort zone, rather than at the 100 km/h speed limit found on 400 series highways and highspeed expressways. I don’t have any empirical data to support this, of course, just a gut feeling based on a steadily increasing incidence of drivers travelling below the speed limit, primarily on the 417 in Ottawa, when 100 km/h is appropriate to the road and weather conditions.

The Ministry of Transportation’s website claims that the graduated licensing system has been a “resounding success” and reduced death and injury among new drivers. Their research also shows a link between the number of teenage passengers onboard and the likelihood of a serious or even fatal collision, with new teenage drivers being nearly three times as likely to experience such a collision. That’s why the G2 has restrictions on when and how many young passengers a G2 driver can carry.

I have no doubts that the graduated licensing system has indeed had an impact on the accident rates for new drivers. But at the same time, I believe it’s producing drivers who are less confident in driving at 400 series/expressway speeds, which has potentially significant ramifications to other drivers on these roads. Drivers who drive below the speed the rest of the traffic is moving at are just as dangerous as those who weave in and out of traffic. They lead to other drivers having to break unexpectedly for no reason other than they’re travelling too slowly.

What I’d like to see are some statistics correlating driving speed on a 400 series/expressway, license class and years that class has been held. I think the real story would emerge then. Perhaps some sort of voluntary black-box vehicle tracking system which was excluded from being used against the driver if they did get stopped for some moving violation, would allow statistics to be gathered on driving habits and new drivers.

If the statistics on young drivers and teenage passengers are true, then I would have no problems with restrictions similar to those in the G2 license being in force if the graduated system were scrapped. At most, it would inconvenience new young drivers for a couple of years.