gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for March 2011

700 posts and I don’t have to go back to the doctor

March 14, 2011 @ 19:50 By: gordon Category: Health, Meta

Yesterday evening I noticed that I was one post away from a kind of blogging milestone: namely my 700th WordPress post. (In fact, I’ve written more than 700 posts since there are some posts in my old Pivot-based blog that I didn’t import into WordPress when I made the big switch back in August 2004, but I’m not going back to count them.)

So, I’ve been looking for something to write about. I didn’t want to write another rant about annoying drivers on the Queensway or stupid drivers who don’t stop at stop signs(Oh, I had a chance to get run into by a big car carrier today that blew through a stop sign on Johnston and Southgate after work today) and it’s too early to write about the Ides of March (that’s tomorrow). We switched our clocks forward on the weekend in a vain attempt to save energy, but I grumbled about that a couple of days ago.

And then a topic came to me…


Rolling stops

March 13, 2011 @ 21:56 By: gordon Category: Out and about

stop_signWhen did stop signs become suggestions instead of a requirement?

I was waiting outside my friend’s house on the way to the climbing gym this afternoon and over the course of five to ten minutes none of the cars that went through a three-way stop down the road came to a complete stop. Many of them, in particular those that were turning right, barely touched their brakes before going through the intersection. Of those that did touch their brakes, they did what can only generously be described as rolling stops.

On more than one occasion at four-way intersections within a block of where I live I’ve pulled up to the stop sign and come to a full stop only to watch people from the cross street roll through the intersection as though their stop sign didn’t exist. Fortunately, I was paying attention so I didn’t get hit, but less attentive drivers could find themselves in an accident.

This problem has gotten worse over the last couple of years. A little more enforcement of one of the basic rules of the road is probably in order.

Falling forward through time

March 12, 2011 @ 08:33 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Current affairs, General

I had queued this up to be published yesterday morning, but decided that grumbling about losing an hour of sleep when Japan had just been hit by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake really wasn’t appropriate.

Time_vortex (red - forward)This is the weekend that we fall forward through time. Specifically, at 2am Sunday morning, everyone should set their clocks forward by an hour – unless you’re in Saskatchewan in which case you can stay asleep. That right – I’m  talking about changing to Daylight Saving Time.

The US Energy Policy Act of 2005 defines when most of the US switches its clocks forward and back in an attempt to maximize useful daylight hours save energy. Most of Canada changes its clocks at the same time to minimize the amount of chaos caused by this.

The province of Saskatchewan, along with little parts of British Columbia, Nunavut and Quebec, however, does not switch to daylight saving time, which really isn’t surprising given its agricultural heritage (translation: cows don’t understand daylight saving time). Apparently, the provincial government has been mulling holding a referendum to determine whether they would start switching to DST. According to a story in the Leader Post, they did some opinion polling and found that the majority of people are happy with the status quo, so they’re not going to hold a referendum and save the roughly $500,000 it would cost for something else. Good decision!

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s been no evidence that daylight saving time has resulted in the saving of a single watt of power. Australia tried to use it to offset power consumption during the 2000 Olympic games and found the demand did not decrease as a result.

Accidents also tend to go up in the days following setting the clock forward, probably because everyone’s a little sleep deprived while waiting for their circadian rhythms to adjust to the change in the clocks.


Friday recap

March 11, 2011 @ 15:21 By: gordon Category: General, Meta

So, it’s been another busy week – the culmination of several months effort at work on Wednesday and a number of blog entries, too. The weather in Ottawa still sucks, but at least it’s been raining rather than snowing the last couple of days. Can you imagine how much snow would have fallen if it had been just a bit colder? It probably wouldn’t have deterred the diehard winter cyclists who are sometimes on the roads when it’s really not safe for them to be, however.

Fortunately, the weather didn’t interfere with my seeing the Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station Tuesday evening. I managed to take a couple of long exposure photographs and I even managed to catch the ISS in a video.

And, of course, the week ended with a massive earthquake in Japan. I took the afternoon off work because I’m waiting for a Bell technician, so I’ve had the tv on in the background. Most of the news channels have coverage of the devastation in Japan. CNN has had the same collection of footage running while various “experts” are talking about whatever they’re talking about. It makes me wonder sometimes if the hysteria surrounding natural disasters like this isn’t fuelled by the news outlets themselves. (Actually, I’m certain that it is a factor.) I wish the Japanese people well as they start their recovery. Two major earthquakes on the Ring of Fire in the last two or three weeks – hopefully the last for a while.

Looking ahead to the weekend: I’m curling on Saturday and looking forward to climbing on Sunday. And it looks like we’re done with the precipitation – at least until 3pm tomorrow afternoon:

TAF AMD CYOW 112014Z 1120/1218 VRB03KT P6SM FEW008 OVC030 TEMPO
1120/1208 OVC020
FM120800 23005KT P6SM OVC020 TEMPO 1208/1215 BKN030 PROB30
1209/1212 1/2SM FG VV001
FM121500 23010G20KT P6SM BKN030

Japan earthquake

March 11, 2011 @ 08:13 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

imageAs you’ve probably heard by now, Japan experienced a massive magnitude 8.9 earthquake a few hours ago, which has led to tsunami warnings and watches for the west coasts of North, Central and South America and the Hawaiian islands. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre is an excellent source of information about this. You can read the bulletin issued at 1431Z here.

Japan is unfortunately well-versed in dealing with massive earthquakes. Prior to this morning’s quake, the Kobe earthquake in January 1995 was the biggest one to hit in recent history, with a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale. It resulted in more than 6,400 deaths and cost about ten trillion yen in damage, which was about 2.5% of Japan’s GDP at the time, or just over $100 billion US dollars.

This morning’s quake was about 100 times as powerful as the Kobe quake. And I just saw on Twitter that Japan was just hit by a 7m (23′) tsunami. The extent of the damage is staggering.

Google’s Person Finder service is up and running at http://japan.person-finder.appspot.com. Family members of Canadians in Japan can call DFAIT at 613-943-1055, or toll free within Canada at 1-800-387-3124, or visit http://www.voyage.gc.ca/contact/menu-eng.asp.

Pictures of the ISS from Tuesday evening

March 10, 2011 @ 16:21 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Out and about, Photography

Yesterday, I posted a short video I took of the ISS passing over Ottawa this past Tuesday evening, so I thought I’d post a copy of long exposure photos that I took.

IMG_3913I used my digital Canon Rebel on a tripod that I sat on the roof of my SUV. Generally, I had the ISO set to 1600, stopped the lens down to about f/20 and manually selected a 30 second exposure. The autofocus was turned off and I manually set the focus to ~infinity and confirmed it the stars were in focus with some test shots. I have a small wireless remote that I used to trigger the shutter. To avoid condensation problems, I set things up about half an hour before the pass to allow the camera to cool down.


Brace yourselves because this is going to suck

March 09, 2011 @ 15:33 By: gordon Category: Weather

I just looked at the Franktown weather radar and cringed when I saw all the colours. Judging by the aviation forecast, the next 24 hours are going to suck. (I apologize for using a highly technical meteorological term, but one must be precise about these things.)

TAF CYOW 091738Z 0918/1018 09015KT P6SM OVC100
FM092100 09015KT P6SM OVC080 TEMPO 0921/0923 11/2SM -SN VV012
FM092300 09015KT 3/4SM -SN VV007 TEMPO 0923/1004 11/2SM -SN VV012
FM100400 09015KT 1/2SM SN VV005 TEMPO 1004/1015 1SM -SN VV010
FM101500 09015KT 4SM -RA BR OVC010

Continuous snow starting anytime after 4pm Ottawa time and carrying on until 10am tomorrow morning when it’s supposed to switch to rain. I can hardly wait.

The City of Ottawa sent out an email this morning advising of an overnight parking restriction from 01:00 to 07:00 because more than 7 cm of snow are forecast to fall. You can sign up for these notifications on their website.