Blog

We work on the Internet and are constantly consuming information. There's a lot of it out there. We'd forget it if we didn't write it down someplace…

Visual Lizard's blog covers everything from web standards to the muppets, from php to comic books to music, just about anything we find interesting

Real life Xmen?

After several years of research, Japanese geneticists have discovered the reason for the increase in human DNA mutations over the last few decades. The full article is over here at cNet, but in a nutshell, human DNA is mutating due to environmental factors. As a parent, and an expecting father, I'm hoping my upcoming kid can fly, and maybe control objects via thoughts, and perhaps regenerate fast enough to be virtually immune to physical ailments. Oh, and hopefully like me too.

Where do you find your new music?

I've been asked a few times in the last little while about where I find my new music. My answer is always a little muddy, as I have several sources that I follow in hopes of finding a new gem to put into rotation on the iPod. So, for your listening pleasure, here is a small list of the places I go when looking for new music:

  • Radioparadise.com - without a doubt, a fantastic listening experience. Bill is one of the last great DJs in my opinion. He is able to link together sets of songs that just seem made for listening to back to back. If you have never listened, check it out. You won't be disappointed.

  • Paste Magazine - I used to get Tracks magazine, but they merged with Paste. Boy am I glad they did. Not only does Paste cover music, but they also seem to dig pop culture in the same way I do. Each issue comes with a CD full of the best tracks from their album reviews. Every Paste CD has been churned through my iPod for a week or two after arriving and without fail, from each CD I have ended up buying at least one new full CD.

  • CBC Radio 3 Podcast - One of the best Podcasts you can get - and free! With over 1,000,000 subscribers at the start of 2006, Grant does a great job of bringing new Canadian music to the world. There was a little time there that CBC axed radio 3, and what a dark few months that was. Happily, everything is back and things are right in the music world.

  • Pitch Fork Media - My brother turned my on to Pitch Fork awhile back. Great reviews of music you may or may not have heard of, along with news and other interesting pop culture happenings. Start with their Best of List and go from there.

  • MetaCritic - If you only bookmark one site from this small list, this is likely the one. They pull reviews from around the planet together and use those scores to create a complete score for the albums they review. Of course, they link back to all the reviews they rank and you can spend days sifting through the reviews on just one album. They also have a complete listing for DVDs, Games, Books and more ... best of all, they have a really comprehensive up coming releases calendar in the music section.

There you have it. A small list of online music resources I spend way too much time at. So where to do you track down your new music? am always looking for new veins of music to tap so leave a comment and let me know.

Library where the Sky is the Limit

I found this one at Treehugger. Everyone has at one time or another seen footage of derelict airplanes stored in the western deserts of the United States. The planes are scavenged for their more valuable electronic parts but leaving the airplane fuselages to clutter the desert.

Well it appears that some green minded architects in New York have thought of an interesting new function for these abandoned tubes of aluminum and steel. They want to use them as the primary structural component of a new library in Guadalajara Mexico.

How cool is that!

Beautiful Music Posters

As you may have noticed, we have a keen interest in music around here. It likely goes with the territory of living online, programming and design. There are long stretches of very productive work time during the week were the right music can make your productivity increase significantly.

Along with music, we also appreciate good art. Art that speaks to you is one thing, but when done the way the guys over at Heads of State do it, it becomes a thing of beauty worth framing and putting on your office wall. Check out their site. Well worth the visit.

An Apple Thing of Beauty

I've been using a 17" Powerbook for almost 4 years now. I can honestly say it has, without a doubt, replaced any need I have for a desktop machine over the last 3 years. I am able to take all my work with me to client meetings. I have my laptop rigged up as complete development server for testing - see Dave Shea's excellent article on virtual domains within apache on a Mac. We can demo any of our applications in a controlled environment for clients and prospective partners. So now, whenever I am on the road, short of an internet connection, I'm actually still in the office.

Granted we still have an office full of desktop PCs for various applications, testing platforms and at home we have a PC for web/email/work for my wife, but given the line of work we are in, a laptop makes just makes more sense.

When I first got it, people would stare in awe as a would open it up a meetings to take notes on. They would ask me what I was doing, and I would say, taking notes. Everyone would then look at their boring old pen and paper and back to my laptop with envy.

This is now the first time I am actually thinking of upgrading my trusty 17" G4 Powerbook for real. Behold the new 17" MacBookPro. Commence drooling.

New Manitoba Music Web Site Launched

ManitobaMusic.com

Manitoba Audio Recording Industry Association (MARIA), working with Visual Lizard and Guppy, relaunched their web site, www.manitobamusic.com, on Friday, April 21st, 2006. Originally launched in 2002, the site garnered thousands of unique visitors a month, millions of hits a year, and has been a shining example to music industry associations nationwide.

The redesigned site includes an online poll, a steaming radio, forums, and downloadable video and audio clips of local Manitoba artists. It also sports a web forum, a live music calendar of current and upcoming music events, and a searchable directory of Manitoba talent. Finally, MARIA members can log into the website, and administrate their own profiles online!

On the same date, MARIA, Visual Lizard, and Guppy launched www.aboriginalmusic.ca, a brand new website focusing on Manitoba’s growing Aboriginal music scene!

I am proud, as are all of us at Visual Lizard, to have helped bring the music industry together! To find out more about the launch of both site’s read the official MARIA announcement.

E Coli 0157

What? - was my exact response when the doctor told me what I had last week. "How is that possible?" was my second question. So begins a tale of gastric strife and six days lost to hospital time and pain killers ...

WARNING: SEMI-GRAPHIC details about colon function, stomach pain and very tiny microscopic bacteria. THOSE WITH WEAK STOMACHS (and hearts) SHOULD NOT READ ANY FURTHER!


Lets begin our tale early last week. On a Tuesday morning. Nothing out of the ordinary other than a slight rumble in the nether regions that usually signifies some upcoming trouble. As usual, when this happens, the day goes on. So we went to work. We had a few meetings, answered the phone, wrote emails and added/removed stuff from the work list. Hand soap and anti-bacterial hand wash was used repeatedly. By the end of Tuesday, the rumble was still there and was dismissed as the start of a possible flu bug.

Wednesday starts very much the same as Tuesday. Rumblings have escalated and we have a full blown case of diarrhea, but nothing out of the ordinary. Being the overly cautious (read slightly germ paranoid) person that we are, the day continues. Hand washing and anti-bacterial soap are being used like they are in endless supply. We go to a meeting, answers some phones and continue about the day. Sometime around mid-afternoon on Wednesday, we start to experience some slightly out of the ordinary stomach cramping. However, having had various gastric maladies over the years, Norwalk Virus for one, this usually just means that things are becoming more active and about to peak in some nasty vomiting before they begin to improve. Well, the vomiting never came.

Just for fun, escalate the cramping to a mildly annoying hit every five minutes or so. Also for kicks, lets throw in some serious bleeding at about 4am on Thursday morning. Well, if you have never had an intestinal bleed before (we had not) ... it is really scary.

With the first 4am episode of bleeding, some phone calls were made to the family (doctors, the lot of them - call me the black sheep of the family) and we are told to go back to sleep and see how it is in the morning. Come 7am and severe cramping and more bleeding, we are showered and headed to the local emergency room. All work plans are out the window. We leave the wife and daughter and plan to be gone for a few hours.

Fast forward to 5pm that day. Being as it is over Passover, the surgeon on GI Bleeds has turned his pager off and not come to the emergency room to diagnose us. Luckily, our brother is on call in the same hospital that day and has been checking in on his bleeding and in pain brother. He calls in a favor and gets the GI doc who is half-way out the door and headed home to come back and look at me.

Needless to say, GI doctors actually like to scope things. We assume their love of scoping is almost exclusively for rectums, but you never know. Well, seeing as we are still bleeding and cramping is occurring constantly and then severely every five minutes, nothing sounds better as far as we are concerned. We will skip the details of the scope other than the fact that the tool they use to blow up your colon could also be used to inflate the Goodyear blimp.

Skip ahead to 9pm and we are discharged from the emergency 14 hours later, with no diagnosis, no pain killers and some advice to drink lots, stay hydrated and come back if things get any worse. We are full of Midazolam, 2 doses above the normal procedural dose because we tolerate chemicals very well, and finally get a few hours of sleep for the first time in 48 hours. However, as soon as the Midazolam wears off, the pain is terrible. And of course, the bleeding is getting worse.

Needless to say, by the middle of Friday afternoon, we are headed back to the hospital. They have called to say that my biopsy and stool samples have tested positive for Ecoli 0157. We are re-admitted to the emergency, hooked to an IV and Morphine is started for the pain. Every doctor in the hospital, it is seems, comes by for a visit and to see the "E Coli" case. However, thanks to the Morphine and IV fluids (mostly the Morphine), we are feeling 100% better than the previous 2 days. The cramping - which was the worst pain we have experienced in our life and having broken 2 collarbones, torn ligaments and the like - was nearly unbearable due to the frequent repetition and severity of each cramp. Unlike regular pain from various sources, the cramping is almost impossible to ignore and as painful as you can ever imagine.

Skip ahead to Sunday. The bleeding is almost stopped. The cramping is all but gone, and we are discharged in time to head home for dinner.

E Coli 0157 is one of those viruses that kills people. It kills people because of the dehydration that occurs so quickly as your body tries to flush the bacteria from your body. Oddly enough, not everyone that is exposed to the E Coli bacteria gets a full blown case of E Coli poisoning. Some people don't even get sick. Lucky us, we got as sick as possible. Had we stayed home and not gone to the hospital, the 17 pounds we lost over the 12 days of feeling ill, might well have been complete dehydration and a myriad of other complications.

Given that we are now almost 14 days away from the start of the bleeding and illness, we can confidently say that we are over the E Coli. Our appetite has started to return and we are starting to get our strength back. The worst part of the entire event was the return to work, where everything had pilled up for 6 business days, and you still have to get through it all. Ah well, alive and 18 days without a hamburger!

Editorial note: if time permits, I'll write about the various stories that I skipped over during the hospital stay. There are plenty, but this entry is plenty long enough.

Plug that leak!

I have noticed recently that if I have had the Firefox browser open for a long period of time (as happens quite often while working) my computer’s efficiency starts to really suffer as Firefox draws more and more of my system resources to maintain itself. It takes a long time for programs to open or close, or for open program’s windows to appear or minimize. This is rather annoying and a big waste of time while working. I’ve had enough!

So to fix the problem, I went looking on the net for a solution. I found one (I hope) which I will be testing over the next little while. This solution is relatively simple and can be found at www.freerepublic.com among other places. It is as simple as accessing the Firefox configuration and setting a limit on memory capacity for Firefox.

The place I initially found this was a blog entry at LifeHacker.

Hybrid Scooters!

We’ve put up a couple of posts about Hybrid cars coming to the public conscience and the fact that for those who can afford it, it would be a pretty impressive step toward putting a dent in our environmental footprint. Well now there may be a way for those of us who can’t afford a car might be able to do the same. Vespa it seems is putting out 2 new lines of Hybrid Scooters. The first having the standard Vespa look in a 50cc gas-electric hybrid called the Vespa LX 50. The second has a more impressive modern look with a 125cc gas-electric hybrid called the Piaggio X8 125.

Have a look at Retro Thing to see all the details.

Google Calendar

Last week, Google launched the beta of Google Calendar, an online calendaring and scheduling application that interlinks with other Google services, like their customizable homepage and Gmail. This brings them one step forward on their (apparent) plan to completely conquer the internet. It’s very Microsoft-ish of them. :)

Having a Google account, I was happy to discover I could log into Google Calendar and play around. It’s very... calendar-ish, I suppose. I’ve used Sunbird before, and I’ve seen iCal, and there’s some obvious similarities. You have multiple calendar/month/week views. You can schedule events and if they repeat. In some views, you can drag events, stretch events, lots of fresh, fancy Web 2.0 functionality you’ve come to expect from Google applications.

They’ve added a couple other features that are nice. A reminder feature allows an email to be sent out to, um, remind you of an upcoming event. You can invite people to the event, allowing them to confirm. When adding details, the location is linked to Google’s mapping app (depending on your level of detail when describing the location). You can open the calendar to groups or to the public. And, for those with calendars already, you can import and/or share calendars.

Some of the interface is wonky, though. I felt I was stumbling around for a while finding what everything was. And I’m still confused as to what is shared and what is public and what is not. With some more experimentation, I’m sure it will all become obvious. Plus, everything still has that plain Google look. I now it make’s it load nice and fast, but would it kill Google to pretty it up a bit? Maybe an option that you could turn on in the Settings?

Another addition is the Google app links in light blue in the top left hand corner, a subtle reminder that you can organize and live your entire online life through Google. So, if you’re using Gmail, there’s a good chance that you’ll at least take a look at Google Calendar...

This application has been rumoured and speculated on for a while now. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the idea; they let rumours and gossip speculate on what the next online app from Google will be, and whatever gets the most buzz for the longest time is what they actually work on. Or buy outright.

The devious, genius bastards! :)

The Drug for What Doesn’t Ail You

For a long time now we have known that drug companies are primarily out for profit. They hold patents on all those little pills we take which drives up the cost of health care to an astronomical level. They extort money from you because you have a disease or medical condition. You can’t go elsewhere, because by having a patent on the treatment, they for all intents and purposes they have a patent on a disease.

Well now it seems that the drug companies aren’t satisfied with real diseases and medical conditions. Now they are inventing drugs which treat natural everyday / every life problems like Menopause.

Pharmaceutical firms are inventing diseases to sell more drugs, researchers have warned.
Disease-mongering promotes non-existent diseases and exaggerates mild problems to boost profits, the Public Library of Science Medicine reported.

[Source: BBC News Health]

It is sickening to think that we as a society can’t get along with minor ailments that every human for the last several thousand years has been able to deal with. We are so willing to fill ourselves up with chemicals to treat the symptoms of these little twinges, but we don’t seem to be willing to get out of our easy chairs and go for a walk or eat a proper diet which would make us healthier and therefore less likely to get that little twinge in the first place. Now I am not the best example of health as I have let myself go over the years. I realize that filling my body with drugs may take care of any symptoms I may get from my lack of a healthy lifestyle, but it won’t fix the problems causing the symptoms.

My suggestion to the reader and the advice that I am now following, is to move. Walk to the corner to pick up the paper, or walk to the corner store. Walk to the next bus stop up from the closest stop. Every little bit helps. Don’t just do it for your own health, do it to help your bank account. The healthier your lifestyle, the less money you are going to be paying to the drug companies to get the same healthy feeling. And you won’t have to keep track of all sorts of drugs either. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get the drug companies working on curing diseases rather than curing symptoms? Think about it.