gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for March 2009

Industry Canada needs to fine Port Hardy Secondary School

March 31, 2009 @ 21:14 By: gordon Category: Amateur radio, Current affairs, In the news

The Globe and Mail had a story this morning that caught my eye. To combat the use of cell phones by students in his school, Steve Gray, the principal of Port Hardy Secondary School, purchased a cell phone jamming device. The students figured out within a couple of days that something was interfering with their cell phones and quickly organized a demonstration. The principal eventually gave in and turned off the device.

At first pass, jamming cell phones in the school might seem like a not unreasonable solution to the problem. Students shouldn’t be using their cell phones in class, so if their phones are jammed it shouldn’t affect them.

The problem is that cell phone jamming devices are illegal in Canada under sections 4 and 9 of the Radiocommunication Act. Specifically, Section 4(2) states:

(2) No person shall manufacture, import, distribute, lease, offer for sale or sell any radio apparatus, interference-causing equipment or radio-sensitive equipment for which a technical acceptance certificate is required under this Act, otherwise than in accordance with such a certificate.

Section 9(1)(b) states:

9. (1) No person shall

(b) without lawful excuse, interfere with or obstruct any radiocommunication;

Anyone who violates either section 4 or 9(1)(a) or (b) or who “without lawful excuse, manufactures, imports, distributes, leases, offers for sale, sells, installs, modifies, operates or possesses any equipment or device, or any component thereof, under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the equipment, device or component has been used, or is or was intended to be used, for the purpose of contravening section 9” is …

guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable, in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both, or, in the case of a corporation, to a fine not exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars.

The principal claims that he didn’t think it was illegal to operate the jammer. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.  He now knows that it is illegal to operate or even possess a cell phone jammer, but he’s quoted in the article as stating “I’m going to hold onto it and hope the regulations follow reality.”

Industry Canada needs to immediately confiscate the device and fine the school board for breaking the law by both having operated the device and possessing it.

And the students need to respect the rules established by their school and turn their phones off when they’re in class.

Whacking Day in Australia

March 30, 2009 @ 12:59 By: gordon Category: In the news

WhackingDay Fans of the Simpsons should get the reference in the title of this entry and can skip ahead. For the rest of you: start watching the Simpsons. Geez. Anyway, in one episode, the town of Springfield celebrates Whacking Day, much to Lisa’s horror and disgust. Basically, the citizens of Springfield drive snakes into the town square and then club them to death. Lisa enlists the help of Barry White to rescue the snakes by cranking up the bass while he signs. The vibrations attract the snakes away to safety and it’s Bart who convinces the citizens that they need to stop it because Whacking Day was original invented in 1924 as an excuse to beat up the Irish in Springfield. Now you know know about the reference to Whacking Day, so let’s return to the other people.

imageAccording to the Australian Museum’s website, cane toads are large heavily-built amphibians with dry warty skin. They have a bony head and over their eyes are bony ridges that meet above the nose. They sit upright and move in short rapid hops. Their hind feet have leathery webbing between the toes and their front feet are unwebbed. Adult Cane Toads have large swellings – the parotoid glands – on each shoulder behind the eardrum. They’re are found in habitats ranging from sand dunes and coastal heath to the margins of rainforest and mangroves. They are most abundant in open clearings in urban areas, and in grassland and woodland.

Dogs lick them and get a bit of a high from the poisons they excrete from the glands on their back. Some vets are reporting that some dogs are becoming cane toad junkies as a result. Naturally, this has lead to people licking them to get a psychadelic high from them, which is incredibly dangerous because they’re very toxic. But people still do it anyway.

They were deliberately introduced from Hawaii to Australia in 1935 to control scarab beetles, which sounded like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, no one thought to check that the toads could jump high enough to get to the beetles, which live on top of sugar cane stalks. They can’t.

They are, however, very good are reproducing.

As a result, Australia has zillions of cane toads and they’ve become a serious problem in some parts of the country. The Queensland government held its first Toad Day Out this past weekend. They held kill-a-toad festivals, with BBQs, and contests to see who could find the biggest cane toad. (No, really, I am not making this up.)

“To see the look on the faces of the kids as we were handling and weighing the toads and then euthanizing them was just…,” Townsville City Councilman Vern Veitch said, breaking off to let out a contented sigh. “The children really got into the character of the event.”

The toads were checked out by expects to ensure they were evil cane toads and not harmless banjo frogs (which happen to be endangered). If they were declared evil then they were either frozen or popped in plastic bags full of carbon dioxide. Apparently, even the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was on-board with the killing of the toads — as long as it was done humanely.

Fun for the whole family!

Plotting the analemma on your window

March 24, 2009 @ 16:01 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Photography

Near the end of January, I posted some pictures I took of sunrise one morning. Last week, on the first day of Spring, I took some more pictures at sunrise. Here’s a photo from each day, side by side for your viewing convenience:

January 21, 2009
First sunrise of Spring 2009 002
March 20, 2009

The astute observer will have noticed that the sun is rising 10 to 20 degrees to the left of where it did on January 21st. This got me to thinking that there’s an experiment you can try at home based on this difference.


Happy Vernal Equinox!

March 20, 2009 @ 07:44 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Current affairs

Or you can watch it here.

A tip o’ the hat to XUP for giving me the idea for this!

First ride of 2009

March 18, 2009 @ 23:52 By: gordon Category: Cycling, Out and about

Ottawa has been having some nice weather the last couple of days, so yesterday I checked over my bike and got it ready for the road. It was nice again this evening so I grabbed my stuff and headed out for the first ride of the season.

I made my way to Dow’s Lake where I picked up the bike path along the Canal. Following it down to the NAC, I headed to Parliament Hill where I did a quick lap past the Library of Parliament before making my way back along the Ottawa River Parkway. Normally, I would have taken the bike path, but there were still sections blocked by snow.

This is one of the earliest first rides I’ve taken. Last year, I wrote about the first ride of 2008 on April 25th. Hopefully, this is good omen of the weather for the next few months.

Shuttle and ISS pictures

March 18, 2009 @ 12:03 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Photography, Seen on the 'net

@BadAstronomer re-tweeted a link to some photos of the space shuttle and the International Space Station taken about an hour before they docked yesterday evening that’s worth a visit. If a similar opportunity exists when they separate, I may try to take some pictures, too.

Yet another pipe bomb scare caused by a geocache

March 17, 2009 @ 12:33 By: gordon Category: Geocaching, Seen on the 'net

It seems that some geocachers still haven’t figured out that wrapping a piece of PVC pipe in duct tape and hiding it in a public place isn’t a good idea. Fox affiliate WLUK-TV reported on Sunday that a “suspicious device” found in a tree in a park in Allouez, Wisconsin Sunday morning was reported to the police. As a result, the bomb squad was called out and the container was blown up.

One of the firemen who also responded happened to be a geocacher and he was “99% sure that it was a geocache“. He went on to say that though he was pretty sure it was a geocache he wasn’t “going to gamble on it with the one percent”.

The response from the geocaching community has been mixed. Most seem to agree that an unlabelled container, particularly one that looks like a pipe bomb, is a prime candidate to be blown up by the bomb squad. Some people are encouraging the owner of the exploded cache to replace it. One cacher decided to blame the people living in the neighbourhood with this gem of a log entry:

I realize nobody will ever see this note, but I need to vent. To the residents of Irwin and Kalb Streets: This cache had been here for almost two years – in fact, there was another cache in this park before this one. Why did you choose March 15, 2009 to report suspicious behavior at this cache site after so long? Was Wise River Rambler [the last geocacher to find it before the bomb squad –G] really any more suspicious than me or any other finder on this cache? This cache has been found at all various times on weekends, evenings, and other various times that you’re home and watching across the street at the park. Why not yesterday, or the day before, or when tkks was actually placing the cache? You had plenty of opportunity to call the police and tell them that there were GeoCachers there. Seriously folks. . .

It doesn’t matter how long the cache was there or how many people found it. It was placed without permission, was not labelled and looked suspicious. The onus is on the hider to ensure that a geocache is placed in an appropriate location. If geocachers continue to ignore this we’re going to start seeing more laws banning geocaching altogether.

At least the fireman got to log a find with the following log entry:

Hey, I guess I can log this as a find. It should now be a multi because it’s in a million pieces. Ya’ll wouldn’t believe the time, energy & money involved to find it.