Monday, November 10, 2008

Audi RS6 gets stupid fast treatment

It seems Audi was getting tired of having sand kicked in its face by the 500 hp V10 BMW M5 and the 507 hp V8 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, so they slapped a couple of turbos on the Lamborghini-derived 5.0 L V10 in the S6 Avant, et voilà: 580 horsepower and 479 lb.-ft of thundering torque available from 1500 to 6250 rpm. In a wagon. Pure insanity.

For 2009, the sedan gets the RS6 treatment.

The Europe-only package is completed by dark-finish 19-inch alloys lurking within blistered bodywork, three-stage electronic damping, a six-speed paddle-shiftable auto-box, and Quattro all-wheel-drive with a 60 per cent rear bias.

Inside you'll find highly bolstered sport seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel (all real suede in this tester that costs the equivalent of about $150,000) that signal things to come.

Press the start button on the console and the V10 barks to life and settles into a somewhat off-beat, flatulent idle. Not pretty but ominous as a pea-green sky.

Rumbling down the dirt road from Schloss Dyck Castle, the ride was firm but not harsh. Once on a straight stretch of tarmac, the hammer went down and the RS6 exploded towards the horizon. The blown V10 bellows like a moose in heat, the wastegates wuffle between shifts and your corneas come perilously close to meeting your retinas. On the autobahn, it was pulling with this ferocity at 225 km/h.

The RS6 does not drive like the lithe 420 hp V8 RS4. It's big, it's front heavy, the steering is a bit numb but it does have more grip than you'll ever use on public roads. Most of all, it's just stupid, laughably fast.

And they say the Germans don't have a sense of humour.

Friday, November 7, 2008

5 important tips to preserve your independence

We all hope to stay active and independent for the rest of our lives. And as we age, most of us want to stay in the familiar surroundings of our own homes and neighborhoods for as long as possible.

A 20-year nationwide survey of people ages 45 to 74 identified five health problems that substantially boost the risk of admission to a nursing home: smoking, inactivity, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Over time, these problems contribute to many chronic illnesses that can cause disability and death, including heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.

What to do. Here are five things you can do to preserve your independence throughout life. Keep in mind that these changes interact and reinforce one another; the more you adopt, the greater the potential payoff:

  1. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about options for quitting. We all know that smoking is bad for health, but here’s a quick reminder of how bad: it’s harmful from before birth to the end of life, raising the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, osteoporosis, macular degeneration, and cataracts.
  2. Become more active. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking five days per week reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes; lowers blood sugar levels; decreases depression; and helps activate genes that clear fat and sugar from the bloodstream.
  3. Improve your diet through some simple changes. Add more servings of dark green, red, orange, or yellow vegetables or fruits to your daily intake, with a goal of reaching nine servings per day. And switch to healthier fats: skip trans fats, choose fewer saturated fats, and get more healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils and omega-3 fatty acids). Plant oils, nuts, and fish are all good sources.
  4. To get your blood pressure under control, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, and consider adopting a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and low in red meats (and other sources of saturated fats), sweets, and sodium (salt). If improved diet and increased exercise alone don’t bring your blood pressure under control, prescription antihypertensive medications may help, as long as you take them consistently.
  5. Talk to your primary care provider about bone mineral density (BMD) testing. All women ages 65 and over should have their BMD tested. If you’re at high risk for osteoporosis, your clinician may recommend screening at an earlier age. Be sure to get adequate calcium (1,000 to 1,200 mg per day) and vitamin D (800 to 1,000 IU per day).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Preventing falls

Among older people, men are more likely to die from a fall, but women are more than twice as likely to suffer a fracture — especially a hip fracture, which often results in long-term impairment and nursing home admission.

If you’re concerned about falling, have your clinician assess your situation, prescribe a plan to put you on a safe track, and help set your mind at ease. To avoid falls, try some of these proven strategies:

  • Exercise. Weak muscles, poor balance, and limited flexibility due to arthritis often turn trips into falls. In one study, a fall-prevention program comprising strength training and balance exercises reduced falls and fall-related injuries by 35% in people ages 80 and over. Yoga or tai chi is also helpful.
  • Check your vision. Age-related vision changes also contribute to accidents and falls. Have regular eye exams, and keep your glasses or contacts up to date.
  • Review your medications. The body’s response to medication, prescription or over-the-counter, changes with age. Regularly review your medications with your clinician, and discuss the possibility of dropping or changing those that may be causing troublesome side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired balance.
  • Remove home hazards. Improve your home’s lighting with higher wattage, fluorescent bulbs, or additional lamps. Night-lights or other nighttime lighting may also help. Coil loose electrical wires, and affix them safely along walls. Keep stairs and walkways uncluttered. Repair torn carpeting. Remove throw rugs or secure them with nonslip backing or double-sided tape. Rearrange kitchens and closets so that you can easily reach the items you use most often. Install handrails on stairways and landings, and put light switches at the top and bottom of stairways. Use nonslip strips or rubber mats in tubs or showers. Install grab bars in tubs or showers and near the toilet.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Magic missing in Criss Angel Cirque show

Not all marriages, alas, are made in heaven.

Despite the fact that both partners have great appeal on their own, the partnership of a Long Island Goth and a Montreal sophisticate that was unveiled at the Luxor Hotel on Halloween night is going to need a lot of work if it's to emerge as the successful union that everyone hoped for.

The show is called Criss Angel BeLIEve and it combines the wildly popular illusionist with the even more beloved Cirque du Soleil, marking the sixth show that Cirque has on display in Sin City, with the longest running one, Mystere, about to celebrate its 15th anniversary next month.

But ever since BeLIEve started previews in September and postponed its opening, the word on the Strip was that the show was in trouble.

A lot of changes have supposedly been made to it in the interim and what's finally onstage is certainly not a disgrace.

In fact, large sections of it work very well, redeeming Guy Laliberté's initial impulse to match up Criss Angel with Cirque. But there are problems still to be solved.

It all begins almost as if Angel was doing one of his typical shows, only in a Cirque setting. Then a near-death experience during one of the illusions sends Angel into a dark fantasyland, kind of like The Wizard of Oz with Alice Cooper replacing Judy Garland.

Surrealistic rabbits run rampant, Angel levitates and director Serge Denoncourt weaves visual magic within a world of lush red velvet drapes and spectral black presences.

By the time we reach a nightmarish wedding sequence where two sides of femininity fight for possession of Angel and he literally rips himself in half, it's all working in a way that fulfills whatever dreams you may have had for the show.

It's just that it takes a long while to get there.

Part of the trouble is that Angel loves to talk to his fans; it's part of his charm. But Cirque shows are usually wordless. This causes a curious disconnect off the very top that we never really recover from.

Angel is all openness, sharing his thoughts and feelings freely; Cirque is about leaving things opaque and making us stare with added intensity to discover their true nature.

This isn't to say that either party is really at fault here. Some of the illusions that Angel comes up with are indeed spectacular and they're given added resonance by being part of the ebony-hued fable that Cirque is spinning.

And a lot of the images Denoncourt has designed for the surrounding performers are breathtaking in their depth. It's just that they don't always go together.

Many of the newspaper critics have been unduly harsh to the show, almost as if they were taking out a personal vendetta against Angel for his past successes, or on Cirque for working with an established star. The public doesn't seem to care about that, however, and the advance sales are among the strongest in Cirque's Vegas history.

There is also a history of Cirque shows that stumbled when they first opened (like Zumanity) righting themselves after a few months in front of an audience.

One feels that will be the destiny of BeLIEve. Angel is too canny a showman and the Cirque team too skilful to leave something up that doesn't dazzle. My advice is to wait and let the Angel fans fill the theatre while the show works out its problems. Then go see it.When BeLIEve works, even now, it's impressive enough that you wait in anticipation for it to reach its final form.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Can Hoodia help you lose weight?

Hoodia is a succulent plant that grows in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, where the indigenous people (San) are said to chew the plant to help stave off hunger. The Hoodia species with purported appetite-suppressing properties is Hoodia gordonii. In the 1990s, researchers isolated an extract of the plant called P57, which is thought to stimulate feelings of satiety in the brain.

Phytopharm, an English biopharmaceutical company, was licensed in 1997 to develop P57. In collaboration with Unilever, it hopes to incorporate Hoodia as a food additive in meal replacement products pending clinical studies of its safety and effectiveness. So far, efforts to synthesize P57 on a large scale (an important step in developing an appetite-suppressant drug) haven’t panned out.

There’s no good evidence that the Hoodia products you mention are safe or effective weight-loss agents. Internet vendors often cite a trial showing that after two weeks, subjects taking Hoodia ate 1,000 fewer calories per day than those taking a placebo. But the study involved only 18 people, was never peer-reviewed or published, and was sponsored by Phytopharm. The only published study has been in rats, which consumed less food after P57 was injected into their brains (Brain Research, Sept. 10, 2004). Although that study shed some light on the extract’s activity (it affected neurons in the hypothalamus), the results clearly don’t apply to humans swallowing a pill or capsule.

Also, it’s uncertain what’s actually contained in Hoodia supplements, which aren’t regulated by the FDA. Experts say there aren’t enough Hoodia plants in the world to account for all the alleged Hoodia products on the market. Some may contain little or no Hoodia gordonii, include the wrong plant parts, or use questionable plant sources. We also don’t know the dose needed to achieve weight loss or the drug’s safe upper limit.

There’s simply too little evidence to say whether any of the Hoodia now on the market works or is safe to use. We may know more down the road, but until then, you should probably avoid it.

— Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Is Canon EOS 50D better than 40D?

The EOS 50D is the latest incarnation of a product line that has always reliably delivered on image quality and you won't find any nasty surprises in this review either. The 50D delivers a lot of detail and clean images with well balanced contrast and colors that leave some latitude for 'customization' in post processing. Canon's standard-across-the-range Picture Style tone and color combination also produce consistent performance between models, which is useful if you're moving up from a 'smaller' model.

Having said that, in terms of detail the 50D is not quite the step up from the 40D that we would have expected. After all the new model's nominal resolution has increased by approximately 22% in both dimensions. There is only a very small amount of extra detail in the 50D output though (in fact even at 100%, if you scale the 40D's output up to match the 50D the results are almost indistinguishable). While the new sensor makes the 50D the highest megapixel APS-C DSLR currently on the market it also makes it the one with the highest pixel density and it appears that Canon has reached the limit of what is sensible, in terms of megapixels, on an APS-C sensor (using current technology). At a pixel density of 4.5 MP/cm² (40D: 3.1 MP/cm², 1Ds MkIII: 2.4 MP/cm²) the lens becomes the limiting factor. Even the sharpest primes at optimal apertures cannot (at least on the edges of the frame) satisfy the 15.1 megapixel sensor's hunger for resolution. The result is images that look comparatively soft at a pixel level and only show marginally more detail than images from a good ten or twelve megapixel DSLR. If all you end up with is a larger image (and file) one starts to wonder what the whole point of pushing the resolution up to these dizzying heights is.

Considering the disadvantages that come with higher pixel densities such as diffraction issues, increased sensitivity towards camera shake, reduced high ISO performance and the need to store, move and process larger amounts of data, one could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that at this point the megapixel race should probably stop.

Just to make it clear, the 50D's image quality is (at identical viewing size) and by no means worse than the competition's but it's also not significantly better than the 40D's (Dynamic range and high ISO performance are even slightly worse) and that simply makes one wonder if the EOS 50D would have been an (even) better camera if its sensor had a slightly more moderate resolution.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lang Lang: Chopin, The Piano Concertos

Some musicians have to wait a year, even two, to get from studio to music store, but Lang Lang's June recordings of the two pretty-as-a-bouquet piano concertos are already on sale. The Vienna Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta accompany magnificently as Lang delivers polished, whimsical and intimate renditions of Frédéric Chopin's two 1830 concertos. Chopin, a brilliant pianist himself, included plenty of notes with which to show off; Lang tosses the challenges off breezily. The audio balance is better on the live performance of No. 1.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to tell when someone’s having a stroke

1. Crooked smile. Have the person smile or show his or her teeth. If one side doesn’t move as well as the other or seems to droop, that could be sign of a stroke.

2. Arm drift. Have the person close his or her eyes and hold his or her arms straight out in front for about 10 seconds. If one arm does not move, or one arm winds up drifting down more than the other, they may be having a stroke.

3. Slurred speech. Have the person say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” or some other simple, familiar saying. If the person slurs the words, gets some words wrong, or is unable to speak, that could be sign of a stroke.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Gender Gap

Female centenarians outnumber males by a 9:1 ratio. The longest documented life was that of a French woman, Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at age 122. And throughout most of the world, women, on average, live longer than men. Some researchers say it is estrogen that gives women the longevity edge. Others theorize that menstruation and systems related to childbirth better equip women to rid their bodies of toxins. Women also tend to be more social than men, and social connections are believed to be critical to weathering old age.

Yet the men who reach their 100th birthday are, on the whole, healthier than the women. They are far less likely to have dementia or other serious medical problems. Thomas Perls, head of the New England Centenarian Study, calls these men “aging uperstars.”

Longevity statistics favoring women suggest that there may be some protective genes lurking on the X chromosome, the sex chromosome that women have two copies of and men
only one. Another possibility: genetics are relatively neutral but social conditions favor long life for women.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


IBM has been talking about iNotes for a number of months, but only recently released teaser photos of the up and coming iPhone native App. The app will bring Lotus Domino message server services to the iPhone via a web App client. It will support Domino email, calendar and contacts.

According it IBM’s website the App will be built around IBM Lotus Domino Web Access infrastructure giving users access to Domino data using the iPhones rich user interface.

You can view some tentative screenshots of the App here. The site notes that the interface is subject to change, probably due to IBM’s check of the interface against Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for the iPhone.

IBM has also posted documents about iPhone pp development using Ruby, Eclipse, and Netcon

This development, along with other options in the Enterprise software space like Sybase, MS Exchange via Activesync, etc. will aid in the iPhone’s enterprise-level adoption.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Doing too many things at once may not be saving us any time, and could be harming our health

Christine Rosen
special to the star

In the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield offered the following advice to his son: "There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time."

To Chesterfield, singular focus was not merely a practical way to structure one's time, it was a mark of intelligence, while "hurry, bustle, and agitation are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind."

In modern times, hurry, bustle, and agitation are so much a way of life that we have a word for it: multitasking.

Used for decades to describe the parallel processing abilities of computers, multitasking is now shorthand for the human attempt to do simultaneously as many things as possible, as quickly as possible, preferably marshalling the power of as many technologies as possible.

In recent years, however, challenges to the ethos of multitasking have begun to emerge.

Numerous studies have shown the sometimes-fatal danger of using cellphones and other electronic devices while driving.

In the business world, where concerns about time-management are perennial, warnings about workplace distractions spawned by a multitasking culture are on the rise.

"Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers," a 2005 British study found.

Among the many scientific explorations of the phenomenon is the work of psychologist René Marois of Vanderbilt University, who used scans to track what happens when the brain is forced to respond to several stimuli at once. Marois found that task-switching leads to time lost as the brain determines which task to perform – bearing out Chesterton's point about efficiency or lack thereof.

And for teens who insist they can listen to music, watch TV, surf the Net and do their homework, all at the same time, psychology professor Russell Poldrack has bad news.

Poldrack, of the University of California, Los Angeles, did a study that found multitasking adversely affects learning. "Even if you learn while multitasking, that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily," he says.

His research demonstrates that when people are distracted, they use different areas of the brain for learning and storing new information. Brain scans of people who are distracted or multitasking show activity in the striatum, a region of the brain involved in learning new skills; brain scans of people who are not distracted show activity in the hippocampus, a region involved in storing and recalling information.

"We have to be aware that there is a cost to the way that our society is changing, that humans are not built to work this way," Poldrack warned in a recent radio interview. "We're really built to focus. And when we sort of force ourselves to multitask, we're driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run even though it sometimes feels like we're being more efficient."

As educational psychologist Jane Healy told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I think this generation of kids is guinea pigs." She worries they could grow into adults who engage in "very quick but very shallow thinking."

When we talk about multitasking, we are really talking about attention: the art of paying attention, the ability to shift our attention and, more broadly, to exercise judgment about what objects are worthy of our attention.

People who have achieved great things often credit a finely honed skill for paying attention. When asked about his particular genius, Isaac Newton responded that if he had made any discoveries, it was "owing more to patient attention than to any other talent."

William James, the great psychologist who wrote at length about the varieties of human attention, compared adults' stream of thought to a river – "easy simple flowing predominates in it, the drift of things is with the pull of gravity, and effortless attention is the rule."

In contrast, the youthful mind is characterized by an "extreme mobility of the attention" that "makes the child seem to belong less to himself than to every object which happens to catch his notice."

Like Chesterfield, James believed the transition from youthful distraction to mature attention was in large part the result of personal mastery and discipline – and so was illustrative of character.

"The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again," he wrote, "is the very root of judgment, character and will."

Today, our collective will to pay attention seems fairly weak. We require advice books to teach us how to avoid distraction. In the not-too-distant future, we may even need new gadgets to help us overcome the unintended attention deficits created by the gadgets that exist today.

Like the devices placed on engines so that people can't drive cars beyond a certain speed, there may be "time nannies" (as a New York Times writer speculated) to help us manage our multitasking. These technological governors would prompt us with reminders to set mental limits when we try to do too much, too quickly, all at once.

Then again, perhaps we will simply adjust. For the younger generation of multitaskers, after all, the great electronic din is an expected part of everyday life.

But given what neuroscience and anecdotal evidence have shown, this state of constant intentional self-distraction could well be of profound detriment to individual and cultural well-being.

When people do their work only in what James called the "interstices of their mind-wandering," with crumbs of attention rationed out among many tasks, their culture may gain in information, but it will surely weaken in wisdom.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Playstation 3 losing $$$

PlayStation 3 console cost so much to develop and make that the company will find it difficult to recoup its losses.

After retailers and distributors have taken their cut, Sony is likely to make anything from 40 to 75 per cent margin on these sales.

At this rate, the PS3 may never be anywhere near as profitable as earlier PlayStation models.

However, with every console sold Sony is also seeding homes with Blu-ray players for which it can sell Blu-ray DVD movie titles at much higher margins.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Power hungry

Games consoles, such as the X-box and Sony's Playstation 3, can use up to five times more energy than a medium-sized refrigerator, according to an Australian study.

The consumer group Choice found that a Sony PS3, switched on but not in use, could cost almost $250 a year in electricity bills. A fridge would cost less than $50 a year.

The Playstation 3 was found to consume over ten times as much power as the Nintendo Wii. The Apple iMac used just two-thirds of the energy consumed by a PC.

With the oil price skyrocketing everyone is trying to save energy it can be a concern.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Quake in China Leaves Behind Thousands of Orphans

The earthquake in southwestern China displaced five million people, and many families were separated, leaving parents and children still looking for their loved ones. In the chaos, there has been a special outpouring of concern for the thousands of children who may have been orphaned.

Tens of thousands of refugees now live around this stadium - their homes were destroyed in the earthquake. Names ring out on the loudspeaker of people who are still missing.

Many of the homeless are children who have gotten separated from their parents. Their big concern is who will take care of them in the days to come, especially if it turns out that their parents are among the tens of thousands killed by the quake.

The Chinese government already is working to sign people who may want adopt some of those orphans.

For now, though, adoption officials are keeping unaccompanied children inside the gymnasium, to keep them safe while they search for their parents. After two months, any children who have not found their parents or other relatives will be registered as orphans.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Under $100 notebook

The revamped machine created by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project looks like an e-book and has had its price slashed to $75 per device.

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte gave a glimpse of the "book like" device at an unveiling event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The first XO2 machines should be ready to deliver to children in 2010.

At the MIT event, Prof Negroponte announced the resumption of the Get-One-Give-One programme to allow people in wealthy nations to buy two XO laptops and donate one to a child in a developing country.

The programme will be open to people in North America and Europe and start in August or September.

Want to see how this will help children in Africa click here...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Violence and video games

Thirteen-year-old Darren and a half dozen of his video game-playing friends are sitting around a table at the Boys and Girls Club in a working-class section of Boston. We're talking about the games, especially the violent ones. They've all played them.

Darren had a tough time in school earlier this week. On Monday, a teacher said something that embarrassed him in front of his classmates. When he went home that afternoon, he plugged in his video game console, loaded Grand Theft Auto III, blew up a few cars and shot a half-dozen people, including a young blond woman. When asked, Darren admits that the woman he killed in the game looked a lot like his teacher.

If you listen to the politicians and the pundits, the relationship is blindingly clear: playing violent video games leads children to engage in real-world violence or, at the very least, to become more aggressive.

Friday, May 9, 2008

New invented words

Found some interesting words that are not on modern dictionary.

v.: your reaction after looking in the mirror and seeing how much weight you've gained. (From Glenn Purchase, Cambridge)

n.: a person (usually a child) who innately can locate all the hidden cues within any video game and ultimately reach its highest level. (From Linda Cole, Cobourg)

n.: someone whose fame is confined to the Internet.

n.: someone who thinks the world is warmer due to human-made greenhouse gases but doubts the impact will be extreme.

n.: "an employee who maintains a position at a company even though all his duties have been reassigned to other employees."

n.: the litany of gruesome and painful injuries affecting long-distance runners. (From The Telegraph)

n.: the one kid in every school who can turn his eyelids inside out.

$500 Million Game

Grand Theft Auto IV was released on April 29 and was reported to have sold around 6 million units globally.

The game was already on a good start since day one of its release. According to reports, GTA IV sold approximately 3.6 million units on its debut, thus making an estimated $310 million.

As of now, Grand Theft Auto IV holds the records for both all-time entertainment for day one and week one sales by dollar value.

The game was developed by series creator Rockstar North and was released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And speaking of PlayStation 3, Rockstar announced the release of an updated version of Grand Theft Auto IV, available for download via the PlayStation Network.

The developer claims that the patch will prevent Gamespy's servers from being overloaded and that players will be prompted to install it when starting the game.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

13 genius gizmos that will keep your family happy, healthy and safe

There's nothing like a vacation to help everyone recharge — but there's nothing like a bout of traveler's diarrhea to put a crimp in your trip. Or a bad sunburn. Or wanting a doctor... but not being able to find one. To the rescue: the travel essentials worth toting to keep your trip easy — and fun.

Channel your inner fashionista with this Coolibar packable wide-brim hat। Unlike the average hat, which offers an SPF of 6 to 10, this version protects you with an SPF of 50 — and it springs back into shape after being stuffed in a suitcase or tote.

Forget grubby, hard-to-clean toothbrush cases। Just turn the dial on fresh&go's toothbrush to dispense the paste — the handle holds 2 weeks' worth — then snap the cap back on to keep contaminants at bay.

If someone in your family is packing meds, help her stay on schedule with E-pill 7-Day Organizer and Reminder, a case that sorts medicine by time and day. It includes an alarm that beeps when a dose is due or missed. Program up to 37 alerts; they'll reset automatically at midnight.

Leave bulky bottles at home: Travelon toiletry sheets won't weigh down your bags. Simply add water to a paper-thin sheet, which dissolves into hand soap, shampoo — even laundry detergent! The cases are smaller than a deck of cards.

This password-protected "thumb drive" holds electronic versions of medical histories, prescriptions, emergency contact info, and more. Use the Portable Travel Profile to print out copies — or have a doctor plug it into any computer if you're hospitalized.

The High UV Protection Buff headpiece is a seamless, moisture-wicking tube of fabric that can be worn at least 12 different ways and offers 95% UV protection. Dip it into cold water and loop it around your neck to keep from overheating on a hike, or fold it into a sweatband for yoga — the CoolMax fabric dries in less than an hour.

Everything from harried airport eating to changes in altitude can make you bloated while flying. For insurance against painful gas, take two Charco-Caps before takeoff. Unlike other products that break down gas bubbles, studies show that the charcoal in these pills attracts and traps gas, which makes the remedy an even better way to head off an embarrassing problem.

Flying is painful if you're congested or have sensitive ears, so pop in a pair of EarPlanes before your plane leaves the runway. Filters inside the silicon plugs regulate air pressure to keep you comfy during ascent and descent. A pair of the disposable plugs is good for a round-trip flight.

If your legs swell during long flights, these circulation-enhancing socks can help. They're tight in the right places to increase blood flow, reducing your risk of deep-vein thrombosis, a dangerous blood clot more likely to occur during periods of immobility. Your odds of DVT go up if you recently had surgery, have a family history of the condition or a genetic predisposition to clots — or, simply, if you've had your 60th birthday.

Before you go hiking or lounge on the beach, apply a SunSignal sticker. The bandagelike patch turns from yellow to dark orange when you've hit your limit on UVB, so you won't get a dose that raises the risk of skin cancer.

The geraniol in BugBand bracelets, towelettes, and sprays is the strongest plant-based bug repellent out there. Independent studies show that the spray is as effective as DEET against mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and gnats. Use the bracelet when the bugs aren't as thick; it provides less coverage.

It's hard to enjoy the wonders of a new place if you're worried about drinking the water. The lightweight Steripen Traveler water purifier kills more than 99% of illness-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites with no chemical aftertaste: Just swish the ultraviolet wand in your glass.

Save precious minutes in case of emergency: A few taps on the TomTom One 3rd Edition Global Positioning System is all it takes to get directions to the nearest hospital or police station. (With other GPS devices, you have to manually search for nearby hospitals and such.) Lost? Press "Where Am I?" and your coordinates appear.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Believe it or not…

Cris Angel walks on water...How does he do this?

This guy is very freaky, he did lots of strange illusions that quite different. Even though it is not real but still look amazing. I saw another Japanese guy whom is doing something similar, may be one day they should compete on the same show that will be nice to watch.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Harry not on the list anymore...

This Sunday's New York Times will be Potter-less for the first time since Dec. 27, 1998, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (as series opener Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was titled in the U.S.) made its debut on the paper's bestseller list. The streak has ended with the dropping of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, published last July.

Over the years, the Potter books became such prominent mainstays on the New York Times bestseller lists that the paper kept creating new categories to accommodate the phenomenon, first introducing a children's list in 2000 and then, four years later, breaking the children's list into sub-categories, including a separate ranking of series books.

Also, a U.S. study based on the reading habits of three million children reported yesterday that established favourites by Dr. Seuss, E.B. White and Judy Blume ranked higher with surveyed readers than the Potter books, although several Potter titles made it into the top 20 preferred books. About 375 million Potter books have been sold.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Third World Farmer Online Simulation


The objective of the game is to make enough money to sustain your characters’ family, by buying all the communication items. As the years pass, you try to give your characters an education, a spouse, children, and enough money to sustain their family.

Connection to the Real World:

Like the real world, there are many obstacles that the characters face that will most probably put them all in danger. Your financial stability might decrease and eventually kill everyone. Some obstacles in the game were; civil war, dry season, angry mob, theft, crash of the national bank, and sickness.


The first few times someone would play the game, the developers of third world farmer have succeeded in meeting their goal. However, as the play the game more, the objective has shifted to getting a lot of money, or getting more points. So, we as a class, would all get hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then just make our characters do the most unrealistic things for the sake of getting points. I saw the hardships more as something to expect, and not exactly injustices. Rather than playing to “stimulate a deeper and more personal reflection of the topics” we played for different reasons.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bird watching

Its spring time in Toronto while we had a terrible winter we should start packing up our winter gears and ready to enjoy nice good weather coming. The pass week was very nice temperature was mainly above average and mostly sunny which reminded me that I have to start prepare for my golf season. Got to practice my rusty swing soon before embarrass myself at the golf course.

Last spring we had a bird watching event at Tommy Thompson Park, it was much better than I expected and the kids loved it. I have to thank my two dedicated friends whom spent many hours to plan the trip and organize the kids’ games. This year we are going to a different location, High Park which I haven’t visited for over 20 years. I’m going to bring my telephoto lens to shoot some bird pictures this time. Hopefully, I can get some good one otherwise camera store here will be very happy….when is that 150-500mm Sigma lens coming out?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Playstation 3 portable

Not sure if anyone ever thinking of bringing their PS3 to party, if you do this may be for you. There is a portable version available for auction soon. Wonder how much people are willing to pay for it.

Want to see how it looks? Here you go. Go to this site
for more details and pictures.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool

Can you believe a Smart car can out run Ferrari F430? I don't think so but it really did in the video, needless to say this is not a ordinately Smart car. It has been modified to produce more horsepower and better handling.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Nintendo really reinvented video game with their Wii, they not only included the new remote controller but also the concept of exercise during video game. They will have a new game dedicated for that which involve Yoga, dancing, and hula hoops. It will come out May this year, I'm pretty sure there will be long line-ups and disappointed kids and parents.

Other than that they also recreated few of their all time hits like Mario Party, Paper Mario, and Zelda. Last week they released the long waited Super Smash Bros. Brawl which is everybody's favourite. It is a fighting game with all Nintendo famous characters for different titles. Fortunately it is not the violent type of fighting game so there is no blood or flying body parts. The game is simple and easy to play with different play mode as well as Wi-Fi support, so people can play online with their friends.

I found this game quite addictive once started you will want to try all different characters and finish all events and adventures. Nintendo has been around for a long time, remember playing Nintendo 64 and Gameboy, once again they show that they are still the leading edge in the video game market.

March Break

Students here have a really good life almost every month there is day off. My daughter only needs to go to school 5 days in March. The first week was field trip then 2 weeks March Break after that there are Easter holidays.

It is not easy for parents consider most family have both husband and wife working. I don't understand School system here. They are not helping the kids at all. I remember I heard on Radio that our Premier urges teachers to give school kids a break not do force them to hand in their home work as they have a busy life.

What the heck, what kind of advice is that? Our kids have enough bad influences from media already we don’t need that from our school system. What happen to discipline, integrity and respect? Shouldn't our kids learn these from school?

I understand our kids need some freedom to be creative and enjoy their life but at the same time they need to learn to be responsible and hardworking. I hope our school system can educate our next generation, encourage team work and community support rather than creating all these self-centre monsters.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

DDR memory

Recently I was looking for DDR Ram to upgrade my old PC. To my surprise I found the DDR Ram is actually more expensive than DDR2 Ram, it is almost double the price. One of the reason is that DDR3 Ram is due now even though it is quite expensive around $120 per Gb. But I don't understand how that can make money when DDR2 are selling under $50 per 2Gb kit. Unless they are ripping us off all along. I remember not long ago I was paying $120 for 512MB SDRAM. Anyway, I'm glad that the price is falling so rapidly as I may consider buying a new system soon.

My current PC system is over 7 years old the only thing I've upgraded is the harddrive other than that it is still working fine with Windows XP. Surfing the net is no problem thanks to my cable modem, it is running at 5M download speed, however I doubt that they can handle Vista. I have Vista installed on my notebook which has Core2 Duo 2GHz CPU and 2G Ram, it is running fine but I don't think my Athlon XP desktop will work even if I put more memory.

It is time to study the latest hardwares and hopefully I can come up with an affordable configuration that can last me another few years.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tax time

It is always been a busy month in February, not only it is the shortest but it packed with all these festivities like Chinese New Year, Valentine Day, and the new Family Day. But one thing that bothers me the most is the RRSP contribution deadline. Every year I will be scratching my head to figure out my contribution and the worst part is to find the money. It is very dreadful to most people as they have to decide where to put there RRSP investment. Fortunately most financial institutions are already aware of these so they let you park the money and decide later.

This year the stock market is not looking good so GIC or Bond will probably be most common choice. I always think that the people that come up with this RRSP idea is genius. It really helps the government and financial market to release a lot of pressure. Imagine all the money coming every year to support the financial market and the retired people.

So now let me finish my RRSP contribution and start filing my Tax return. By the way, QuickTax is being stingy this year. They only allow 2 returns per copy instead of 5 so beware if you are sharing with family or friends.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Car show

Originally uploaded by Unionville

After missing the car show for over 10 years, finally got a chance to go last weekend. Actually I didn't plan to go but my friend got extra ticket and I know this year they are showing the new Nissan GTR.

What's so special about the new GT-R? Mostly, the fact that it's no longer based on the Skyline platform, which underpins our current Infiniti G35 sedan and G37 coupe.
Instead, the GT-R's body and chassis are unique – not only incorporating GT-R exclusive styling but engineering elements, such as a flat underbody with ground effects, as well.

The 3.8-litre V6 engine is a new unit as well and is coupled to a brand-new sequential-shift transmission that offers paddle shifter, automatic operation and three different settings for shift speed and aggression.

It all adds up to a 485 hp package that can lap the Nurburgring racetrack faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo, according to Nissan's claims.

But the GT-R is more than just an out-and-out performance car. It's designed for high-speed touring as well. Its interior is the nicest you'll have seen in any Nissan, with real aluminum accents and a leather-covered dashboard. Fittingly, the instrumentation was designed by the Gran Turismo folks, who helped make the GT-R so famous to begin with.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar eclipse tonight Feb 21

There will a Lunar Eclipse tonight after 12am. The following video was taken last year in Hawaii.

The eclipse will begin when the moon enters the faint outer portion, or penumbra of the Earth's shadow. The penumbra, however, is all but invisible to the eye until the moon becomes deeply immersed in it. Sharp-eyed viewers may get their first glimpse of the penumbra as a delicate shading on the left part of the moon's disk about 20 minutes before the start of the partial eclipse (when the round edge of the central shadow or umbra, first touches the moon's left edge). During the partial eclipse, the penumbra should be readily visible as a dusky border to the dark umbral shadow.

The moon will enter Earth's much darker umbral shadow at 1:43 on Feb. 21 by Greenwich or Universal time, which is 8:43 p.m. on Feb. 20 in the Eastern time zone, 7:43 p.m. Central time, 6:43 p.m. Mountain time and 5:43 p.m. Pacific time.
Seventy-eight minutes later the moon is entirely within the shadow, and sails on within it for 51 minutes (about average for a total lunar eclipse), until it begins to find its way out at the lower left (southeastern) edge.

The moon be completely free of the umbra by 9:09 p.m. Pacific time or 12:09 a.m. (Feb. 21) Eastern time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Battle over - Blu Ray the winner

So after 2 years of battling with Sony for the next DVD format Toshiba has announced that they will withdraw from this market. They will slower their HD-DVD player and disc production and will stop their HD-DVD business by March 2008.

Finally after the unforgettable lost for the VCR format, Sony has won this time. But I think the ultimate winners are the consumers. We can start saving our $$$ for the Blu Ray stuff since the price will drop more rapidly now that all the manufacturers can focus on one technology. Actually, I'm kind of regret that Toshiba dropped out so soon as all my old DVD collections won't be able to play on the Blu Ray player. Let's hope some manufactures will produce player that backward compatible.

iPhone competitor

Seem like Apple and Rim will have competitor on the smart phone market.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Digital photography?

Since digital cameras became main stream I rarely look at any photo album anymore. It is very cost effective and green but somehow I miss the physical photo. In the pass ten years I had cumulated thousands of photos and they were resided in various hard drives in my home computers. Actually I have hard time organizing them, I tend to save them casually everywhere among my PCs, and after I downloaded them I rarely have a chance to see them again.

Lately I’m using online site to post my photos so family and friends can share, but still very tedious. Usually, there are some post processing need to be done. For one, I like to take my picture in RAW mode so at least I have to convert them to more common format like JPEG before I can post them. While I was doing that I usually found the color or the composition were not that desirable so ended up spent time touching up the photos. This is not a simple exercise, even though there are lots of software out there that can help but it is always depend on personal preference and experience. At the end of the day it took me hours and hours before I could get it done.

I know this is the norm but sometime I hope I can just find a store to develop all my photos professionally and I don’t mind paying a little bit more. Hm…may be I can open a business to do this…:)

The Case for a Creator

I'm reading a book called 'The Case for a Creator' by Lee Strobel. It is quite interesting the author was an atheist journalist and after interviewed with many scientists and scholars he found many scientific evidences that support a creator for this universe.

Lee revealed some of the myths and discrepancies discovered in Darwinism, and lots of thrilling discoveries from cosmology, cellular biology, DNA research, astronomy, physics, and human consciousness that present astonishing evidence.

This is by far one of a most interesting book that I’ve read and I strongly recommend it. If there is a Creator what should we do to get to know Him?