Sky calendar

Full Moon from Space.comThis site is excellent for laying out the simple astronomical events for the coming month. Telling you the date and time of the events along with great little pictures to help you visualize what’s about to come. It also includes handy icons with the event descriptions so that you will know the best tool to use for observation. i.e. Naked Eye, Binoculars or Telescope.

Unfortunately, tomorrow night will be a bust for trying to observe the Moon and Saturn in close proximity (always cool to actually see the moon moving relative to  a background object. But the forecast is looking pretty sweet for Saturday’s Total eclipse moonrise.

Check it out — NightSky

Should parents worry about vaccinating their children?

ABC News: Should Parents Worry About Vaccinating Their Children?:

I always enjoy John Stossel’s reports. But he’s one of the better kept secrets on TV. I find it very difficult to find the shows where his segments are aired.

This article demonstrates, yet again, how we worry about things that we shouldn’t, don’t about what we should and how the media’s insatiable need to sensationalize the irrelevant continues to feed an increasingly ignorant lay person’s (non) reality. Many opportunistic lawyers are not above pandering to these unfounded fears for their own gain either.

Remember – if you read / hear about it in the main stream media. It isn’t something worth worrying about.

Updated Collingwood Treetop walk videos

I just added these videos to YouTube as a more practical way of hosting them.

These are from our August 2005 trip to Canada where we visited Collingwood and did the Treetop Walking Adventure.

This video shows my perspective of the zipline at the end of the walk. I inverted myself to get a more exciting perspective:

This video shows the same scene but from the ground:

New Vision Fitness T9200 treadmill


In the wake of the demise of my Tunturi J770 I went and picked up a new Vision Fitness T92000.

I primarily used “Consumer’s Reports” in making this decision. I wanted a simple, solid treadmill. The Vision Fitness units are novel in that they have several bases (3 non-folding that I looked at) and 3 consoles available that can be used with any of the bases.

I went and “test ran” the different base choices at lunch hour one day a couple of weeks ago and I elected to stay simple and picked up the T9200 base and the simple console. I was tempted by the deluxe console as I’m a sucker for the 5K program, but I’m so used to manually controlling my workout when I run indoors that it wasn’t enough of a feature to justify the extra cost.

The unit weighs in at a hefty 105 Kgs with the box included. I can tell you, *that* took a while to get out of my van and into the gym. My trusty little handcart was not going to be up to the job so I just had to muscle it over.

A couple of hours and a bit of sweat later I had the unit fully assembled and calibrated. For some reason (it was now after midnight) I didn’t feel much like doing my inaugural run at that point.

I now have a couple of runs under my belt and find I really like the unit. The old one had gotten progressively more noisy as the motor began to wear out and I was just used to it being that loud. This one hums along quietly and smoothly.

It has some nice “quick” features, such as “quick speed” and “quick elevation” that mean you don’t need to awkwardly hold onto an up or down button while trying to make major adjustments and run at the same time, such as when you break into a run after a couple of minutes of warm-up walking.

The only ‘nits I have about the machine – and these are really minor – are a) I’d kind of like to be able to see distance and time simultaneously on the display. I think I could have had this feature with the deluxe console so I don’t think I can really complain here. b) the heart rate display takes a LONG time to ramp up. Gripping the sensors after a hard run (not really feasible *while* running) has the display start at about 72 bpm – even though I *know* I’ll be up in the 130 -140 bpm range. It takes a good minute or so for the readout to climb to my actual rate. I presume this is so that the readings reflect a large sample so they can’t be skewed by, say, taking your hand off the sensor to wipe your forehead. I think it would be ideal for workouts where you can keep in contact with the sensor for the duration. The models in the store were like this as well so I’m confident it’s not merely an issue with my unit, this is by design.
As I said, minor little ‘nits. I regard viewing my heart rate as a novelty in any case. It really isn’t so hard to just take your pulse if you really want to know.

Tunturi J770 treadmill for sale

** Update October 30, 2009 **
Just wanted to highlight that I disposed of this treadmill back in 2007.  I just don’t believe in deleting blog entries.
** End Update **

1892I picked up this Tunturi J770 treadmill about 9 1/2 years ago and it’s seen light duty throughout those years.

These pictures show the unit without all the nice plastic end caps on it but I have those in my storage room.


This is a high quality treadmill that cost a little over $2,000 those many years ago. It’s solid for running on and I’ve enjoyed it greatly.
The motor on it is spent, but the rest of the unit is in perfect working order. I was having trouble tracking down a new motor for it so I decided to splurge and get myself a new treadmill. If you have the resources to dig up a replacement motor this is an excellent unit. The running belt still has plenty of wear left in it.

You can have this unit for $200 if you come and pick it up. Leave me a comment if you’re interested.

Google, almost there, but not quite

One pet peeve that I have with Google is their seeming inability to actually finish stuff.

Maybe it’s the nature of the Internet or a web 2.0 thing, but it seems that so few of Google’s wonderful offerings develop to the point where you can finally commit to using them and get rid of other paradigms.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Google and what they’ve done for Search and email. Their Gmail product is the best on or offline interface that I’ve yet encountered, and I was a die-hard Outlook user before that. (MR/2 before that, Lotus Notes at work).

The problem is, I use a PDA when I’m away from home. An iPAQ 3955 ig you’re interested. And the best PIM for syncing this device is Outlook. So my calendaring is in Outlook, my tasks are in Outlook and my Contacts are all in Outlook.

I don’t know what world most of the wireless PDA aficionados live in today, but it isn’t mine. I do not have Wi-Fi access most places that I go and I haven’t found a PDA-based calendar that can hold a candle to “Pocket Informant” on my iPAQ (well, maybe DateBK4 but that was in the heyday of Palm devices..).
I also use a Blackberry since I support these devices at work, their calendaring is staid and reliable but not very good for planning.

Google has a great contacts scheme in Gmail. Why can I not sync them with Outlook? Heck, Google owns ORKUT, why can’t they sync with each other and THEN with Outlook?

I also am enamored of Google’s calendaring app, but I have no way of getting the information from it to my iPAQ. Again, Google has created a kick-ass interface and then does not provide sufficient functionality to allow me to take advantage of it. It has to sync with Outlook in order for my iPAQ to have it available for me. It’s been out there for over a year now (nearly 2??) and can do some spiffy things, but still cannot do something as basic as sync with Outlook.

I just tried using “Remote Calendars” and “Companionlink” over the weekend to see if either was up to the task. Never mind that Google is in perpetual Beta so neither of these offerings are able to guarantee that they will continue to work flawlessly as Google’s products are tweaked. At least they are trying to bridge the gap.
“Remote Calendars” simply doesn’t work on my system – I have the feeling it’s either a conflict with GDS (ironic) or an old plug-in called lookout that I used to use with Outlook. And the “Companionlink” offering, which installed and worked right out of the box (so to speak) started duplicating some (but not all) calendar entries with each sync. I really didn’t need to be walking around with 20 reminders of an impending doctor’s appointment waiting for me next month so, after trialing to satisfy myself of the current state of the situation, I uninstalled it and will check it out again in another quarter or so.

The same can be said for Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets app. I keep a list of movies that I want to see on a little excel spreadsheet on my iPAQ. I like to update it from a real keyboard if I’m at home and so I use Excel. I would be just as happy to use the Google offering, except the only way to see the spreadsheet is to access the web, which I’m not doing in my local Blockbuster. The same applies for my weight and balance spreadsheets for flying, my groceries-needed spreadsheet and a half dozen other little lists that spreadsheets are useful for. Again, the ability to sync the files out of Google is needed.

Perhaps I’m falling behind the times and I need to shell out for some kind of unlimited data plan and a WinCE-based phone. But the offerings out there seem to me to be prohibitively expensive. I do play somewhat with these services from my Blackberry as such access is included with the corporate plan that we use but most small-screen access of the web seems to me to be lacking. It’s not a very rich experience and it is so very, very slow. My plan is EVDO for those who know what that is, so it’s pretty much as fast as you can get on a Verizon wireless device.

So, as usual, my desires are about a decade ahead of what is being offered. I can certainly keep doing what I’m doing now, it’s worked for the past few years, I’m sure it will work for a few more. But I can’t help but wonder if I’m either too eager, too small a demographic for anybody to care about, or simply looking in the wrong direction for progress as these (to me) obvious gaps in application offerings hang out there well beyond the point where I’m willing to wait to use the associated products.