Recently in From Canada

To Amsterdam!

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I'm flying out to Amsterdam tonight, for 9 days. My first time outside the airport in a country where English is not the first language, and my first time in continental Europe. I'm really looking forward to it.

Research saved me money again. I want to buy a video card I can use as a PVR as well as to transfer old video to DVD and suchlike. The ATI all in wonder 9600XT looked good, and is $100 cheaper in Canada than in Australia. I spoke to someone who owned a card, and they told me that the software menu has "Australia" as one of the country settings. However a deep search through ATI's website eventually turned up that every TV tuner carrying card comes in three different versions, and that Europe, Australia and New Zealand have different hardware tuners to the American continent tuner hardware. I would have spent extra money on a TV tuner I couldn't use in Australia, when there are other cards that have tuners that work in many countries.

Also saw that Aiptek have the pocket DV 5300 poised for release, and its very well designed. The previous model of this still/video, mpeg4, tiny digital camera, is on sale for around US$120 at the moment, and should go down even further when the DV 5300 finally gets on the shelves. In Australia, the older DV 3100 sells for AU$400, which is outrageously expensive.

Livejournal peoples

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Emma has started a livejournal blog. Iain started a livejournal blog. Garth-North has a livejournal blog. I'll think about it.

Weird supplements

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My doctor suggested I look for capsules of an extract of the mushroom Coriolus Versicolor while I'm travelling in Canada and the USA. Its not available in Australia yet, and the research for its immune system boosting properties look good. If I buy it here, I can save US$20 on shipping. So far, I can find it online at every price from US$20 to $60, and its hard to work out in the unregulated health food industry which product contains the PSK and PSP polysaccharides I want the supplement to contain. While google-surfing for a deal less than $60 that appears to be a genuine product, I found a Venus Flytrap extract being sold as an immune boosting product "Carnivora". This amuses me, I have grown venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants since I was 15. As a grower of venus flytraps, I can tell you that its supposed to be a flower emerging from the top of the plant, not non-functional leaves as they appear. Hopefully Coriolus Versicolor as sold here in North America will approximate the Krestin sold as a pharmaceutical in Japan, and mean that I don't catch every cough or sneeze borne virus I come into contact with.

You can't get there from here

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I've been staying with Andrew and Kim in Mississauga this week, while Emma helps Kelly with babysitting in Buffalo. Buffalo, the place where the drama comes to you.

My mission yesterday was to meet my Toronto friend PeterW at Union station, navigating on my own. I failed.

After an afternoon spent checking and rechecking the websites for helpful informaion, I gave up and phoned the GO people. They directed me to the exact bus stop, and what to ask the driver. I caught the bus, and asked the driver for a GO train so I could get to Union station. He took me to Cooksville GO station.

I left the bus, to find the ticket office was only open between 7am and 8:25am. The ticket machine was still being built. I asked a guy waiting in the parking area, and he told me to hop on a train "same as in Europe". I went in and found that there was only a one-way platform, and no signs or maps or schedules. The tracks for the other way were unavailable from the platform. So when a train turned up, I got on board. It went the wrong way, so I got off at the next stop. I was pleased to find that this platform had two sides. It was possible, in theory to catch a train to Union, downtown. Time passed.

I was later to discover that the train doesn't actually travel downtown to Union station after 8:25AM.

I phoned PeterW to cancel, he couldn't help me with the GO trains or buses. I called Andrew, who suggested I look for buses on the main roads, and phone back if I had trouble.

I walked 4 blocks, went to check a road name on the $10 Palmpilot, and discovered it missing. I retraced my steps and was very lucky to find it where I'd left it, next to the public phone. I returned it to a zippered pocket with relief, and then took my leave of the last public phone I saw for SEVEN KILOMETRES.

I saw a bus pass by with "Sorry for the inconvenience: Out of service" animated on a sign, but no actual bus stops. There weren't any places for a taxi to stop for me either. I rested at a McDonalds and got "food", but there were no public phones. It was pretty weird to be crossing highways in the dark which didn't always have "walk" signs, trying to be mindful of the different traffic rules in Canada while also trying to keep my balance. But hey, if this had happened a year ago, I wouldn't have made it the seven kilometres to the next phone, and rescue by Andrew.

Did I mention it was a smog alert day?

Hooray for the performance-decreasing steroids that kept me vertical, its a shame I can't stay on them long-term without getting osteoporosis.

Best ten bucks I ever spent

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Last week we went to the Canadian National Exhibition, which is kind of like the Sydney Easter Show. There were a few cool things to see but not quite buy, like glow-in-the-dark t-shirt prints that changed colour in sunlight, and adult sizes of those sneakers with wheels hidden in the heels. They were just short of my size.
I've been envying those kids who switch from walking to gliding just by changing their weight, but perhaps I need to rewire my physical skill a little further before I get a pair.

The real find of the CNE was the Cheap Palm stand. Emma and I bought a Palm VII for C$10 each. Fully functional, with 2 Meg of non-expandable RAM and PalmOs 3.2. Of course the Pam VII also comes with a mobitex radio modem for wireless internet, but went offline on the very day we bought the machines.

I've been entering ideas, thoughts, and things to remember in paper notepads since I was 9. The pads fill up, and then go into a drawer. Essential stuff gets copied to a more permanent place or to the new notepad, or gets forgotten in the drawer. In 1994 I first saw the IBM PC110 on a Japanese website, it was a 486 with a colour screen the size of a paperback novel. Stupidly, I set it as my benchmark of what I wanted from a pocket computer.

In 1996 I could finally afford a pocket computer and could see it as a better brain prosthetic than my paper notepad. However I wanted the colour screen I'd seen on the PC110, and some decent storage space. Then my income halved due to health problems, and I prudently held off.

So feeling poor, I actually hesitated about spending the $10 for a grey-screen, 2 meg, used Palm. Emma convinced me by buying one for herself.

Having gotten past the ten year old habit of researching palmtops because I need one but not buying one YET, I followed by buying the hotsync cable and a funky fold-out keyboard for another $15.

Emma's been saying every day "This is the best ten bucks I ever spent!"

The Memopad is my main application while I transfer my notepad contents.
The TimeZone app is useful. I'll see what else I can find as useful while travelling. I also have the the JPalm juggling simulator loaded.

I can do much more when I have my own desktop as a home base again.

Peter Watts has a blog!

| No Comments Newscrawl is the blog of Peter Watts, author of the Rifters trilogy: Starfish, Maelstrom and now β-Max. I enjoyed Starfish and Maelstrom, I'm looking forward to β-Max.

On his blog Peter has some cool scientific stuff he's uncovered in researching his new writing projects and excerpts from his stories.

You're Alice's Adventures in Wonderland!
by Lewis Carroll
After stumbling down the wrong turn in life, you've had your mind opened to a number of strange and curious things. As life grows curiouser and curiouser, you have to ask yourself what's real and what's the picture of illusion. Little is coming to your aid in discerning fantasy from fact, but the line between them is so blurry that it's starting not to matter. Be careful around rabbit holes and those who smile to much, and just avoid hat shops altogether.
Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.


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The SFX science fiction/anime/comic book./horror expo on Satuturday had illegal swords being seized from dealers and melted down, the big drawcard Patrick Steward was missing due to last minute health problems. They got struck by lightning on Sunday and the power went out. They were instructed to evacuate the building for safety reasons. Luckily there was a big baseball game on next door, and so the authorities restored power before the expensive guests were forced out into the rain.

The anime fans had some impressive costumes.

We were just there to visit the TorontoTrek table, and see what it was all about. The dealers were charging high for everything on sale, so they didn't get my money for books or t-shirts.

There was an information booth that wasn't staffed. People before us had added the word "NOT" on a card in front of the "INFORMATION" sign. We sat and waited there for friends. I practiced throwing the free trading cards. People still came up asking for information, so we changed the sign to read "MISINFORMATION". People only saw what they expected to see, and still came up and asked us for directions. So we changed the sign to read "RANDOM FACTS", and continued throwing the cards, going for a distance competition. Fans came up asking for random facts. At last, people who can read!

Later we came back and saw the booth labelled "KISSING BOOTH", with two girls in anime costumes inside. They had buttons reading "HUG ME". It was fun to watch men's faces as they walked by and clocked that the girls were gaol bait, or simply tried to figure out if they should call the girl's bluff.


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We arrived in Kelowna two days ago, and yesterday I realized that this is the home of the famous Lake Monster Ogopogo! I've read about the monster in Fortean Times.

There's even a video from Monster Hunters at taken at Rattlesnake Island, the home of the monster according to native legend.

And various blurry photographs.

The consensus among the believers in the "snake in the lake" is that its a throwback to primitive whales, and they've found bones of such creatures in the area.

Lets try that again

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We'll soon be flying to Canada for 9 weeks, with time in Kelowna, Toronto, Buffalo and Georgina Island, and then returning home via a few days in Amsterdam because its cheaper that way. Once you're leaving the Australian continent, its cheaper to buy a Round The World ticket than it is to buy a direct return ticket. This is the last minute chance for Australian people to put in orders for Canadian stuff, and Canadian and American people to put in orders for Australian stuff. We kept our list of TimTam addicts from January...:-)

Buffalo inspires great lines

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We're in Vancouver now, resting up from a fun social time in Buffalo and Toronto.

So from my notes, here are some great lines I saw, heard or crafted myself while in Buffalo:

"Free Money
Godlike Power
Instant Gratification!"

(alas it was only advertising an Xbox Cheat Guide)

"That would be Just Plain Hookery!"
In discussion with Jeff at Fudruckers, was the topic of sex-only relationships. The question arose of whether you would have dinner with your sex-buddy afterwards.
This phrase has since been extended to any and every analogous situation.

Its not the size of the sacrifice that matters; its what you do with it!

Work That Monkey!

I won't go there, but when you do, you can bring me back souvenirs.

Only You Can Prevent Cerebrocryotosis!

"Its not lying; its a Gift For Fiction"
(from Brain Donors)

We Suck At Mornings

"Tool Chix"

"You Too, Can Prevent Thud!"

'You think I run around saving things like a woman?"

"Life in Buffalo is never dull, at least you didn't win a fruitcake"


That's like walking around trying to assemble furniture without tools

Blog This

... (pronounced "dot dot dot")

And finally we saw Senator Karen Mosen Brown interviewed on the Daily Show by Jon Stewart, where she came out of the closet on her science fiction fan minority status and thus attracted political pressure that resulted in her dropping out of the Illinois Democratic nominations. She almost got away with "Fear is the Mind Killer" from Frank Herbert's DUNE but then she said "Live Long and Prosper" while making the vulcan hand sign and gave her secret away.

I know, I know, putting a 'buy from Amazon" link in my blog -
that's just plain hookery!

Potatoes in socks

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I just spoke to my parents in Australia, and the news on TV about Toronto is that someone from a Jewish charity is on the frozen streets of Toronto distributing hot potatoes in socks to save the homeless from freezing to death.

Of course its true.

Its called the Potato Tikun Olan Program of Ve'ahavta, the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee.

The originator Iris Halbert is a student at the University of Toronto who read Russian history - that the peasants have put hot potatoes in their pants to keep warm for centuries. She realized that Canadian peasants could survive the same way, and have sustenance when the potatoes cool down after fthree hours in a pocket, or five hours in a sleeping bag.

This is Day Nineteen of winter wonderland, and the air in every house and car is filled with little hairs and fluff that start me coughing up a lung, and the occasional stomach lining. There is no ventilation in winter in the Northern Hemisphere. With the Super-Senses afforded to me by the curse of hyperacuity of my sense of touch, I can count every dog hair and fabric fragment as it hits my lungs going in, and sometimes out.

Hyperacuity is experiencing the removal of the normal filters that remove noise from the signals your brain porcesses from your raw senses. Its usually caused by psychotropic drugs, hypnotic states, or brain inflammation. I've opened the Doors Of Perception, as Huxley called this, with meditation in the past, but sadly its inflammation thats cursed me at random times in the past 12 months, and the Doors are open so wide that I can't get them shut to get some sleep.

I've visited a Canadian 24-hour clinic, so I've been able to compare standards of medical care with my Australian experience. The 90 minute wait wasn't bad for a Monday lunchtime in winter. My Canadian doctor was only able to handle one symptom for the visit, and his objective was to eliminate life-threatening pneumonia as a diagnosis, as quickly as possible and get me out of there so more desperate souls could receive his aid. I'm embarressing everyone with the secondary stomach problem that was caused by literally gut-wrenching, convulsive coughing on my return to the house in Toronto. My responsibility is to hope quietly that it will heal on its own. I would have been able to get an Australian doctor to at least check out the tender points, and get a baseline on whether I've done myself an injury in an already troubled region.

I have full travel insurance, so I can pay for proper medical care, but that doesn't matter. Emergency rooms at hospitals are for life-threatened people only, anyone else will be resented as betraying their civil duties, and be justly punished by unpleasant day-long waits. I'm not dying yet. This I have had explained to me, and this I understand.

I've also had explained to me that the Docs in the Clinic are understaffed and over-worked, and I've seen this. I'm told that Canadian residents do have access to doctors who could actually treat you like a person instead of a symptom, but that these doctors don't see people unless there's a guaranteed commitment to a long-term relationship. Sort of like an arranged marriage.

I should have stayed in Buffalo, and tried out what the US medical system would make of a guy who isn't dying, but can pay to see a doctor. I was certainly in a culture where I was welcome to express my distress, without people dismissing me as a drama queen. I made a bad decision. In my defence, I had all the signs of recovery until I hit the indoor air pollution. I felt like I was trying to breathe the atmosphere of a different planet and failing miserably. Not on Pluto anymore.

Deep exhaustion and oxygen-deprivation caused brain fog, and my ability to think narrowed sharply. Between gasps and full-body spasms, I was still able to clearly express myself in short, witty sentences, to a group of people who had no idea I'd been feverishly ill for four days already. After attempts to solve my oxygen problem with air cleaning machines, postural changes, and drinks of water, I was no longer able to think of a remedy for myself, and only wished for death to hurry up, already.

So I expressed blunt doubts about my survival, and someone was able to suggest stepping outside into the cold night air to escape the indoor air pollution. I wiped my running nose, coughed up the other lung, and put my jumper, snow-boots, jacket, scarf, gloves and touk (to stop my ears freezing), and ventured outsite. I was feeling very foolish I hadn't thought of this traditional Canadian respiratory infection remedy for myself. I risked being told once again how upside-down and topsy-turvey my Australian expectations are.

There is a ray of light from out of this cloud of misery and snow. I've been exposed to vaso-dilators. Much later in the evening when all the people with cars who could drive me to a Clinic had gone home, secure in the knowledge that I only needed a quick trip out into the cold but clean night air to be able to sleep; I was offered a hit of ventolin for my tortured lungs to help me survive the night. It affected my brain a *very good* way. Back in High School, I remember seeing non-asthmatic kids in high school getting high from ventolin puffs.

This is what happened: I heard a loud dizzying, ringing noise, and then my mind cleared.

This is wholly remarkable to someone who has suffered clouding of the brain by severe CFS or Fibromyalgia. To someone like me, who has suffered frequent attacks of mild aphasia and complete confusion, this is like going from reading by the light of a randomly flickering LED clock, to switching on the room lights. Result!

Two weeks ago I was reading the patient's gloss of Dr Jay Goldstein's "Betrayal By The Brain" about his clinical research into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. He talks about there being brain systems going wrong that are helped by vaso-constricting drugs, and other brain system problems that are helped by vaso-dilators. A bronchial-dilator like ventolin is a vasodilator. I took my prescription bronchitis inhalor tonight, and I didn't experience the ringing in the ears, or get quite so quick an effect. However, what an effect! Not only does it help control my coughing and wheezing, but I've just written a book review, and a rather sizeable blog entry. I've only been prescribed a two week supply. My memory problems seem to remain unhelped, but my concentration and articulation are improved. Memory may simply take longer treatment.

I'll be reading Goldstein's book to see what else he suggests for people who respond the way I have, and planning to get some vasodilation drugs that work a little more long-term on my return to Sydney.

Fibre, whats that?

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We had lunch at the all-day breakfast restaurant Smitty's yesterday. Wonderful fried North American food. Steak and eggs and potatoes and toast, yum! Steak for breakfast, what a concept. I hope to visit Smitty's several more times before we return to Australia and try some other dishes.


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Just completed my CCNA Networking Basics 3.0 Bridging final exam, and scored the 90% I needed to pass. I'm once again qualified to work as an instructor. Previously, I had bizarre technical problems eat my final five questions, so that I was wrongly scored at 80%. I'm sick and jetlagged, and the PC I'm borrowing went on the fritz for 30 minutes just before I decided to start the exam, so its a *huge* relief that its all over for this year! Now I just need someone to employ me to teach Basic Networking...

This caught my eye

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Western Union finds a way to Nigeria

After flying from Sydney to Honolulu going through US customs and signing away all my rights just to go into another departure lounge and security check to fly to Vancouver with more security checks, to fly to Montreal, where our flight was delayed by 5 hours due to snow.

Snow. crystallized water falling from the sky, like slow rain, or fast feathers.

The flight before us was cancelled because their crew decided it was too dangerous to try. However, come midnight, our intrepid crew boarded, and I was faced with real live snow to walk through to reach our little plane to Charlettetown. Half melted and refrozen snow. Slippery. I was trying to balance after 36 hours without sleep, 24 hours without being able to eat, with a backpack, a bag on wheels to drag, and 45 tired Canadians rushing to get into the plane to get home. I really can't afford to slip on the ice with my back injury.

Conclusion: Snow is icky, wet and wrong. I'm here for another seven weeks.

As we left a store today I snagged the pamphlet above from the counter. I think its self-explaining.
I also got to see for myself the legendary Hungry Man's Breakfast. this is not only extremely artificial eggs, bacon, potatoes, sausages, pancakes and maple syrup, but its nutritional panel lists 231% of recommended cholesterol per serve. Thanks to Dave Ennis for pointing me to the review.

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