Sunday, April 30, 2006


Michael's Blog

I decided on Saturday to do some renovations on this blog. It had been bothering me off and on for a while on how dark my original choices of colour scheme was on the original blog.

I had chosen the original blog layout based on the blues in order to match my original website's colour scheme (which was newish at the time for the website).

But the dark navy blue background bothered me. I had attempted to try and offset the dark blue by using white in the main posting section. But the dark background still bothered me. I played around with the existing setup by changing the various components colours. But nothing seemed to work.

So I merely chose a different template from's myriad of choices. Why choose from Blogger's choices and not create my own? Simply, when it comes to technological coding from scratch, I am useless! But I am pretty smart at decoding existing html language and molding it into what I need (which if you view the source on this blog might give a computer programmer a heart attack). So voila here it is. The New Michael's blog!

The new blog maintains the blues from the original website (which I am currently also renovating as well) and makes the blog more readible by removing the dank dark background and enlarging the text somewhat from before.

Don't worry, the original website will continue to exist and expand under the " banner" using the existing framed pages. But some of the older material will be updated as well reformatted to use the current newer colour scheme and layout.

Once that is complete I intend to start adding more expansion to include my teaching lesson plans, more pictures from both New York City, Toronto, Aurora and other places.

So stay tuned! There is more to come!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Art of the Rant: Disservice to the Troops?

The Art of the Rant: Disservice to the Troops?

I had been thinking about the issue of closing CFB Trenton to the media and the general public for the returning of the four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan to Canada for much of last week. Should the air force base, CFB Trenton, only be open to the families and friends of the fallen soldiers and closed to the media and the general public?

My mind raced back and forth to come up with a solution based on the right of the public's need to know and the right of the families to mourn in private. Here is what I came up with.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A "Down to earth" question - Down to earth

Have you ever wondered why some technologies don't seem to receive the same government support as others? Take a look this article and start wondering.

Why can't the provincial and federal government understand the need of reducing power consumption more than one way? Currently the governments want us to use lower wattage light bulbs, more energy efficient appliances, have environmental home audits and so on and so forth all in the bid to reduce energy. All of these methods only reduce what we currently use through either natural gas or electricity.

Why doesn't the government start investing in ideas like thermal heating exchange units similar to thos mentioned in Tyler Hamilton's article referenced above. That article points to a technology that could reduce electricity and natural gas consumption quite considerably both in the immediate and long terms. So why won't governments do it in the name of trying to achieve the targets set out by the Kyoto accord and reduce greenhouse gases?

In Canada quite a few of the local municipalities are in the electricity business. So having all of these homes and businesses switch over from being electricity consumers to possibly even being energy producers. How could they be energy producers? One is obviously by reducing the amount of electricity being used quite considerably by installing the thermal idea referenced in the article. The second might be to either install an electrical generator to use the heat in the summer being forced underground in order to produce electricty. Or the second might include the installation of solar panels and/or a wind turbine to create the necessary energy that the home or business might require. However, if an over abundance of electricity is generated because of the seventy percent energy reduction as well as the energy production, the home/business could sell the excess back to "the grid." In other words the hydro (electrical) companies could end up paying to the home or business owner for electricity produced instead of billing the homeowner/businessowner for energy used. If enough buildings convert, then some municipalities wholly owned hydro companies may start to have to pay out more than is coming in. But that is more likely to be long in the future.

Could it be that the local hydro companies want us to reduce our power consumption because they cannot build generation fast enough? Probably. Do these same companies want us to reduce our electricity consumption by as much as seventy percent? Not likely. Why not? Because that just might put them in a financial hardship if the money starts to slow while the electrical company gets stuck with the bills for maintaining the infrastructure required to maintain "the grid."

But then again bureauracy, as we all know, takes sometimes to recognize the most obvious things. I just hope that the bureaucracy of the government notices this twenty-five year old technology pretty shortly and comes up with a way to fund the installation of it before the ice caps of the Artic become an endangered species.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

School Scope & Wasted Legal fees: New York City Department of Education Edition

School Scope

One of my favourite columns I love to read is in the local paper out in the Rockaway's of New York City. Turns out the City of New York's Education system hasn't changed since I have left.......

Furthermore, I have learned that more than 50% of the Canadians that were international teacher's to New York City to start in September of 2004 didn't renew their work visas. Source? Just let me tell you the "legal beagles" in New York are astounded at this one.

There are litterally thousands of dollars worth of wasted work visas being sucked up by the New York City Department of Education's international teaching program instead of this money being properly directed to the classroom. More than half the international teachers recruited by the New York City Department of Education teaching program leave within their first year of teaching. So the unit ends up going back out jetsetting around the world in search of more international teachers to fill the needs. The people who work in this unit sell the life of New York City. Why only the life of New York City? Because nobody in their right mind would work in the chaos that is New York City Department of Education.

I should have known, if New York City can't attract enough domestic teachers to teach in the city, why would they go to foreign trained teachers? Because foreign trained teachers are more willing to take the abuse in order to obtain their American green cards.

Apparently I was smart to return to Canada. Where people don't stab you in the back like the New York City Department of Education does. Want proof? See the complete story here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Is it Swedish?

Is it Swedish? That is my question of the Ikea products I bought today. More on this in a bit.

I was off to Ikea today to pick up some curtains for my apartment's living room windows. I happened to notice in the Toronto Star on Thursday that Ikea had a whole whack of things on sale for the living room. Feeling my living room was a little sparse and a Saturday morning free I headed to Ikea in Vaughan.

Being the environmental concious guy I am, I hopped on VIVA in Aurora and headed south to Richmond Hill Centre where I changed from riding VIVA Blue route to the VIVA Purple Route. I had to wait 15 minutes to make the transfer ("this is supposed to be convient?" I thought to myself). Then I changed from VIVA Purple over to VIVA orange (another 15 minute wait...same question as before...). At last I got to Ikea Vaughan to do some shopping.

I immediatly skipped the Ikea furniture showroom and headed to the marketplace. I was looking for some pillows and blanket for my futon. I also picked up the white curtains that were onsale. I didn't have any problems until I relized:

1. Pillows need pillow covers. Who knew pillows needed covers to go over them. Wouldn't pillows come with existing covers when you buy them? Wouldn't new pillow covers be for older pillows that simply need a recovering because the pillow doesn't look so hot? Apparently not. Even new pillows need covers.

2. Who designed the layout of Ikea? You cannot go from the restaurant (second floor) down to the exit after purchasing your items without going through the entire store again. I wanted to get my shopping done first and then eat. That is not a good idea....or so I learned.

An interesting thing I came across while I was opening the packaging of Ikea and noticed most of Ikea's products are made in the People's Republic of China (which makes the Ikea store opening in Taiwan even more interesting...just think of the shipping!). Also, if all the products are being made in China, doesn't that make this a Chinese company or is Ikea a Swedish company because all of their designs come from Sweden? I'm so confused! Which is it?

Friday, April 14, 2006


We worship the Christ, Living Water, Sacred Truth, Loving Friend. We come to hear again the story of sacrificial love, we come to remember, and we come to be transformed. - From the Bullitan of Requim performance at Aurora United Church.

A very nice night out at my church to see the musical stylings of the Aurora United Church senior choir accompanied by an extroadinary group of musicians. This combination provided a moving musical tribute to the death of Jesus that Christians mark on Good Friday.

Mark Ruhnke, the Director of Music at Aurora United Church, continues to outdo himself time and time again. Tonight brought my memories flooding back to last summer in New York City. Last year I was able to attend several classical music concerts that I felt were very well done. The New York concerts, as one would expect, were done by professionals who work on this music from day in and day out.

Mr. Ruhnke, however, does not have the luxury of having paid professionals to draw upon to perform. He does have quite a talented senior choir and musical background he can draw upon in order provide an outstanding performance. The performance tonight transformed the historical sanctuary of Aurora United Church into an occoustical masterpiece complete with accompanientment of pipe organ, oboe, flute, timpani, cello & harp.

The wonderous music was in both English and Latin. At times the choir seamlessly changed between the two languages within one song without anything seeming to be amiss.

Following the musical offering of Mr. Ruhnke and his accompaniests the story of Jesus dieing on the cross was presented by the ministry team of John Smith and Ruth Noble using selected verses from the book of John.

A very moving presentation on Good Friday was had by all. There will be, no doubt, more musical masterpieces in the future. Keep watching the church's website for future musical events.

One final note, congratulations to Mark Ruhnke and everyone else for an exquisite presentation of John Rutter's Requim. Also, thanks to the music departments of Aurora High School & Newmarket High School for the use of timpani, glockenspiel & music stands. Aurora is a true community when everyone comes together to put on such a great performance.

We go eagerly and with purpose, For God is with us this night as God was with Jesus on that Friday so long ago.

Photo of New York City Ground Zero courtesy of Mark Ruhnke.

Spring Damp days suck

Anyone ever notice the words "cool", "damp" and "the spring season" never seem to go well together?

Today is one of those days in Aurora. A rainy, overcast cool spring day is now underway. I went for a walk this morning to the local Tim Horton's. It was a warm eight degrees celcius as I sat down for my coffee and blueberry muffin (both the coffee and muffin were freshly made in case you were wondering).

On the way home I felt a shiver down my spine. Following the shiver I noticed that the dampness and cool air made me feel even worse than some of the coldest days in a Canadian winter.

Why is that?

Why do people feel colder when there is high humidity in the air during the spring?

For that matter, why do people feel even more warmer during the summer when there is a high humidity or a humidex?

I find th world of weather to be quite intriuging. Weather can make us feel different emotions or assist in stiring up those emotions.

Take a look how I felt this morning on this cool and dreary spring day. I felt a little down. However, on a warmer and sunshiny day I usually feel excited and happy.

I even notice it outside from my new perch (aka apartment) in Aurora. When I look out the window this morning I don't see that many people out enjoying the overcast and damp day. However, I peeared out yesterday and saw quite a few people walking by with their dogs or with their significant others. I love people watching from my new apartment to see what people are up to. Thats why I love summer weather, the ability to sit outside and watch the people go by. I can't wait to get rid of the damp and dreary spring days. THEY SUCK!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Stupid ignorant people

One of the things I hate most is stupid ignorant people.

I've complained before about the people who, when making a right hand turn on a red light pull out into the pedestrian crossing. Then these insightful people figure if I only look to my left to see if there is any oncoming traffic, I don't have to worry about anything. WRONG! How about pedestrians who might want to cross while they have the funky walking man from the other direction? Nope, the pedestiran is out of luck. The driver figures if I don't look at the pedestrian, then I the driver of the right turning car (which is looking at a red light) has the right of way. NEWSFLASH! Drivers in this situation are supposed to check both ways for oncoming pedestrians before making the right hand turn. As well, they do paint pedestrian crossing lines on the pavement for a reason. Can't see these lines? Maybe you shouldn't be driving!

Yesterday while I was on the bus heading home from work, these three teenage girls get on. These three girls sit down together and proceed to talk. Everything seemed to be fine until one of the girls' cell phone rings. Of course she answers. Next she starts yelling, not talking, on the phone with some guy. The girls were seated almost at the back of 40 foot bus. Yet, I swear everyone, including the driver at the front, could eavesdrop on the conversation.

I was getting a little irritated. But being the kind guy that I was, didn't say anything. Eventually the girl lost the connection with the person she who had called. She then proceeded to call him back and argue with the guy about who hung up on who. That was it, I turned around and gave her the death look.

Anyone of my students from last year will know the death look. It melts teenagers and children right away. The girl's eyes locked with mine and she started to slouch in her seat while still on the phone. To say the least the decibal level of her voice came way down.

Later when I exited the bus, I was asked by one of my fellow passengers what I did? I said nothing really except look at her.

"That was it?" The fellow passenger inquired.

"Yup." I replied, "That was it."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

`Chronological oddity' set to occur - `Chronological oddity' set to occur

Sometimes you just find something interesting in the newspaper that takes too long to explain to people. This just happens to be one of them.

Further, I would love to see this in the courtroom when a judge inquires: "Where were you on the morning of 04/05/06 at precisely 01:02:03 A.M.?"

Monday, April 03, 2006

For good or evil, Google grows - For good or evil, Google grows

I normally respect quite a few columnists who provide great insight into things I am interested in. The Toronto Star's Tyler Hamilton, Antonia Zerbisias, and the Toronto Sun's Sue Ann Levy are but a small sampling of newspaper columnists I read on a regular basis.

Tyler Hamilton provides thought provoking columns on a variety of technological issues and trends that might arise in the future. He covers everything from electrical generation (i.e. wind power) to computer gadgetry to the latest items on the internet. Usually he is quite up on the latest information on the issues revolving around technology.

However, I was disappointed in today's column found on the front page of the business section in the Toronto Star. Hamilton started off well discussing what products Google has created recently and why these products have become so successful. But near the end he starts wandering away from his obvious well researched column into this:


So where's Google heading with this and the dozens of other products — real or experimental — it has unleashed online?

You've got to wonder whether the company even knows the answer to that question.

Is there a master plan — a grand design — or is this just a case of throwing out the dots and connecting them later like constellations in the sky?

Google's rivals such as Yahoo and Microsoft must be frustrated.

Like chess champions, they're more vulnerable playing against someone whose moves are unpredictable and disconnected, detached from the methodical planning behind most traditional business models.

Say what you want about Google, but for a company that swears to do no evil it has all the complexity and mystery of an evil villain genius.


If Hamilton had of even bothered to read The Google Story he would have learned the whole secret behind Google's success is the "Twenty Percent Time." This twenty percent time according to The Google Story, including such popular inventions as Google News, Google Maps, and Froogle. The concept of twenty percent time has lead to the explosion of popularity of Google because Google's staff has been allowed the time to check out their interests and figure out how to invent a superior product that provides great usability to the user while keeping things simple. That is the strength of Google. That is, for example, why I prefer Google maps over But I digress.

Tyler Hamilton may also have missed by not reading the book is that Google is set about to basically become the index of the world's information.

So that is what Google is doing. It is not simply putting up the dots then connecting them in a sequence. I see Google as a spiders web. Google started with a basic search engine that made them popular. Next came the questions of how to make finding information, other than simple text on millions of websites, more easier? This question is probably what spawned the idea of searching for pictures, marketplace products, news, and much. Google basically said lets aim at being the best at cataloguing this information. Then Google as a company, started branching out even further into the idea of books, e-mail and whatever else they could think of. All of these new ideas came about from the twenty percent time that employees were allowed to take.

Is it mysterious what Google might look at cataloguing next? Yup, Google never ceases to amaze me at what they might think of next. Is it mysterious what Google might overall do? No, Google is just slowly extending its web outwards and onwards. Now that Google has virtually run out of ideas on what items of information need cataloguing, the company has moved towards figuring out how to its customers can get the information even more conveniently. The most convenient way to make the information the most convenient via the internet is to go wireless. Only the future will tell if Google is able to successfully connect this dot to its existing web.

Hamilton seems to have missed the basic premise of Google that would have made the company's master plan and, thus, the products it relaseas now and the in the future more clear.. But, unfortunately in this case, Hamilton didn't finish his research by reading a crucial book, The Google Story.

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