Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

Mon. Oct. 31, 2006: Next generation PDA

David gets a replacement for his Palm IIIxe.

(by David): Back in the Palisades days, IBM had a deal with Palm, so I managed to get an IBM Workpad, which was the first generation PDA. It was black-and-white, and didn’t do much, but since I would sync it to my laptop, it was helpful when I really didn’t want to boot my computer just to look up an address or phone number. I’m on my Thinkpad so much, that I really don’t need a lot of computing power. The old PDAs used to run 2 months on 2 AAA batteries, but then everyone went crazy for more features, so the PDAs had to start using rechargables … and they had to be rechanged everyday.

Of course, the old Workpad broke, so I got a second generation one from my job at Palisades. IBM stopped selling the Workpad, so when that one broke, I ended up buying a Palm IIIxe from Factory Direct. Under $100, with 8 MB of RAM, and still black-and-white screen on two AAA batteries.

Somehow, I lost the Palm IIIxe, and I’ve been working away from the desk at home, so I’ve been a bit annoyed at not having a PDA. I looked at what was new in PDAs, and decided to wait a few weeks … for the new Palm TX.

The Palm TX is, in effect, a Palm Tungsten T5 with Wifi access. This means a mobile browser! The other advance (from older Palms) is non-volatile memory. On old Palms, when the power ran out, everything on the PDA was lost. Now, when the battery runs out, at least I don’t have to reload everything!

The TX has been a nice luxury — it’s cheaper than the older models, but I could almost buy a cheap used laptop for that price, these days! Still, I’ve been listening to Podcasts recently, where the user interface has been discussed, so I’ve bee considering this my portable alternative to a Mac. (I’m still on Sony minidisc, no iPod!

Two annoyances with Palm, so far. One old application I used — Currency — a useful cross-exchange rate program that hasn’t been updated since 1999! — caused the TX to go into a loop. I had to reload the TX many times until I figured out that it’s a lost cause, and replace Currency with FXPilot from Oanda, which does the same thing, but in a user interface that requires two more taps. Secondly, I bought an SD card and then got Realplayer for Palm under the assumption that I could now play Realaudio (which is a super-compressed streaming format, which I normally have use Total Recorder to convert to MP3). Wrong! It turns out that Real doesn’t support Realplayer on mobile technologies! What are they thinking? (It’s possible to get WMA support — Microsoft’s version of streaming audio — on the Pocket PC format).

On the whole, I’ve been satisfied with the TX. It’s brand, brand new, and I bought a “multilingual” version over eBay, instead of going to a store, because this multilingual version comes with a multi-voltage adapter that I would otherwise have to pay $40 for!

Postscript: In packing for Finland, I discovered the Palm IIIxe in my travel luggage. I remember now …. I was taking notes at the conference in Florida, and already had all of my luggage packed. I just slipped the Palm into my travel luggage, because I tend to use the Palm when I’m on the road! Maybe Diana would like the Palm IIIxe.

Fri. Oct. 28, 2005: Flu shot and scarf

David prepares for winter.

(by David): Flu shots are free to residents of Ontario, and the advertising push is on again. We’re used to the lineup at Gerrard Square, but they’ve been transforming that mall, so flu shots aren’t there this year. Since I try to prevent catching or giving the flu to people on the trans-Atlantic flights, I decided that I needed to go to one of the earlier flu clinics. Diana and Ryan will have to schedule a time for themselves.

The lineup at the Eaton Centre for a 6 p.m. shot was probably about 40 people. There must have been a dozen nurses there. Line up, get a shot, have a seat for 10 to 15 minutes, and leave.

While I was in the Eaton Centre, I thought that I would check out the price of scarves. I had bought two microfiber scarves at Target a few years ago, when I was working on a U.S. gig. Diana had given one to the boys, and they lost it. Then, in packing for Adam’s trip to China, she gave him my scarf. This isn’t quite a traumatic as losing my scarf, but it’s an annoyance. Since I won’t be going to Target anytime soon, I should find a substitute nearer to home.

I went to Sears, and saw a plain acrylic scarf for $12.50 — probably about what the Target scarf cost, but not as nice. I then went to H&M — I’ve never been to the one in the Eaton Centre, although I’ve been to the Big Apple branch in Espoo, Finland! — and found a plain polyester scarf with a velour finish for under $8. The Target scarf was much better finished, but this is cheaper, and will do ….

I hope Adam brings my Target scarf back from China when he returns.

Wed. Oct. 26, 2005: Fake fur winter envelope hat

David laments the loss of his winter hat, last spring.

(by David): I’ve now become famous for wearing my fake fur hat during the winter — as well as in the late fall and in the early spring. Somehow, I’ve become unfashionably fashionable because I don’t like to have a cold head.

In the last millenium, probably when I went shopping with Diana at Value Village, I managed to pick up a Persian lamb skin hat. The style is described as a “envelope hat”, since that’s essentially the shape. It’s like an envelope that you would stuff a letter into — although there’s a slight indent over the top of the head, to accommodate the fact that human heads aren’t narrow. Eventually, Diana thought that the Persian lamb skin hat was looking too ratty — the lamb’s wool was glued onto the surface of the hat, and some was starting to separate. Thus, I retired the hat, and, in the interest of not supporting undue cruelty to animals, started wearing the fake fur version that people are accustomed to seeing on me.

I wouldn’t actually mind paying a reasonable price for the hat, because it’s become a signature for me in the winter, but it doesn’t seem to be in production anymore. Once, when I was in the hat section at Eaton’s — and that should date the visit, since there hasn’t been an Eaton’s in the Eaton Centre for some years — I spoke to a hat salesman about the hat. He said that he hadn’t seen one in a long time, but remembered that the Crystal Cap company (a local company) used to make it.

Then, a few years back, I lost the hat. I managed to find another one at the Goodwill on Jarvis Street. (More dating, because that building has been demolished, and there’s construction over there right now).

In the spring, when I was shuttling Eric around to bike store — that’s when we bought the Trek that he’s riding now — I lost my envelope hat. I’m not exactly sure where it was, because we visited about six stores, and I got tired of carrying it in and out of the minivan. It was a rainy day, and not so cold, so I didn’t absolutely need it. I was sorry that I didn’t have it when I got home, but really didn’t need it for the season anymore, because it was spring.

Last week, it started getting cold in Toronto. I really wanted my hat. Phoning around, winter hats aren’t really available yet, at Goodwill. (They’re still working their way through Halloween sales). I started pressuring Diana to consider tailoring me a hat.

When I came home on Wednesday, Diana said that she had a surprise for me. She had found two hats at the local Value Village. The smaller one didn’t fit, but the larger one did. (I have an extra large head). Diana said that she wished that the smaller one did fit, because it’s in better shape, but I can’t get it over my forehead.

I’m warm again!

Mon. Oct. 24, 2005: Flemish Beauty Pears

David fills the house with Flemish Beauty pears, fulfilling a memories of days past.

(by David): It’s one of those childhood memory things …. I haven’t read Proust, but I’ve seen enough citations of that idea.

Way back in the early 1970s, Grandfather (and Harry and Pearl for that matter) lived in the house at the southeast corner of Beverly Street and Cecil Street. The property was due for expropriation for a a hydro switching station, and Grandfather moved over to a house one block west on Ross Street. (That’s where I lived with Grandmother during university days in the late 1970s).

It’s hard to be accurate from my childhood memories, but I seem to recall people saying that the Beverly Street house was much larger than the Ross Street House. In addition, the Ross Street house was semi-detached, whereas the Beverly Street house was free-standing. (The Ross Street house had parking off a laneway, though, whereas the Beverley Street house just had a drive coming off Cecil Street). I also seemed to remember that the Beverly Street house had a reputation of a leaky basement.

As it happens, there was a neighbourhood uprising against the Hydro switching station, and the property eventually became part of the CityHome complex. This means the city is the landlord in mixed income housing. In the late 1970s, my friends Debbie and Ena used to live in a 2-story apartment on Henry Street, which is one street east of Beverly Street.

One of the strong memories I had of the Beverly Street house was that it had a pear tree. In the fall, we used to have a day when the whole family would be out picking pears. These were green pears, which weren’t too sweet, but had a great flavour. We used to have a contraption — like a basketball hoop with the netting bottom closed, at the end of a long bamboo pole — that we used to pull the fruit off the tree. It would simply fall into the netting, and after two or three pears, the end would be lowered to the ground for someone to remove the contents. Retreivals using the pole would be done first from standing on the ground, then on top of a stepladder, from the second floor window (which wasn’t that close to the tree) and then from a small roof outside the third floor window (where everyone would be concerned about the danger of falling.

Adam’s posting on Taekwon do and free fruit reminded me of this scene.

Probably around 1978 or 1979, I remember going with Paul to knock on the door of the people living on the Beverly Street house — tenants — and asking for permission to pick the pears. They said that they were waiting for them to turn yellow — they would have had to wait for a long time for that! — and gave us permission to pick. We got so much fruit that we ended up baking pear pies in Debbie’s kitchen.

Sometime later, I discovered that the pears were called Flemish Beauty pears. They’re a hardy variety of pear — presumably Belgian in origin — and I had considered planting a pear tree on Booth Avenue when the boys were young. The caution against this is that South Riverdale used to have heavy industry, so it might not have been such a good idea to grow fruit when there’s a possibility of lead in the soil. The pear tree on Beverly Street has since been removed, and there’s more parking space on that property.

Every fall, though, I’m on the lookout for Flemish Beauty pears in the markets. It’s not exactly the most popular variety. Clapp pears are close, and slightly easier to find. Last year, I posted on a question on Foodland Ontario site on pears and discovered that Flemish Beauty pears actually peak in October. When I was up in Markham this week, I made a slight detour and bought some pears

And that is why the fruit bowls in our home are all full!

Fri. Oct. 21, 2006: Trinity College book sale

The last book sale of the year, and traditionally the best. David is slightly disappointed this year.

(by David): I’m usually not looking for specific books, so it’s purely opportunistic whether I come with a huge or small batch of books. This was one of those unlucky years.

The book sales are also usually an opportunity for a social event. A group of friends gets together to stand in line for an hour, and we talk. This year, everyone begged off, so I was by myself. Since I had a client meeting, I arrived relatively late, about 5:30 for a 6:00 p.m. opening. I got number 191, which put me in the basement, but just around the first turn (before all the plumbing is visible!) As forecasted by one of the volunteers there, I was out of the building by 7:15 p.m.

I didn’t find many “hot” books & just a few to fill out my library.

  • Wurman, Information Anxiety. Wurman is a master in the visual presentation of data, and this was a nice copy of his book.
  • Rosenberg, Landau and Mowery, Technology and the Wealth of Nations. A collection of readings, some by various notable economists. This could be one of those books where getting the original articles is tough, so owning the book could save some stress.
  • Kelly, Leyden & Members of the GBN, What’s Next? Scenario planning by the masters.
  • Wilber, A Theory of Everything. There’s a lot of Wilber fans out there, including some in the systems sciences community. I haven’t had time to look into his work, much, but what I’ve seen sometimes leads into spirtuality, which is beyond what I use in my research.
  • Foster & Kaplan, Creative Destruction. I didn’t think that this was the most original work, but some business readers like it. I was on Mohan Sawhney’s web site yesterday, and he described it as warmed over Schumpeter. He suggested reading Clayton Christensen, instead.
  • Lash, Sociology of Postmodernism. Someone must have used this as a textbook, because there’s highlighting in it. Lash is well known, and I decided to pick up the book because a quick scan shows his writing is relatively easy to read. Thre’s something rare for philosophy!
  • Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy. I’m not a regular reader of Wired, but a lot of people seem to like this writing.
  • Harvard Business Review on Innovation. The articles aren’t what I would define as innovation, in my academic research, but it’s a good idea to know what the average business person reads.
  • Pink, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself. I’ve heard that Pink is a popularizer, so I’m not expecting much. His new book seems to be getting more attention.
  • McLuhan, Understanding Media. I’ve never actually read it, and this was a nice hardcover edition.

Here’s some books that I already own, that I’ve bought for anyone who wants one.

  • Jane Jacobs, Systems of Survival. Not that I don’t have other copies, but this is a like-new copy.
  • Russell Ackoff, Creating the Corporate Future. The more research I do, the more I move away from Ackoff. Still, he’s a strong foundation from where I started, and this is one his most coherent books.

I think that I only spent around $60 on this trip. I’ve spent as much as $150 in prior years.

After the book sale, I ended up shopping for CDs, and ended up with a huge stack. I need some relief from the long commuting drives, and the radio stations aren’t helping much.

Wed. Oct. 19, 2005: Late night at Robarts Library

David hits the stacks at the university, in the evening when it’s not busy.

(by David):  I have an alumnus library card for U. of Toronto, but access to journal articles requires full-time enrolment. The university library has a few public access terminals up in the stacks, so I can read the full selection of journals if I go to the university in person.

It’s a bit annoying that the university changes protocols every fall, so it takes a bit to find out the new ways. When I was at the university a few weeks ago, I couldn’t find the public access terminals amongst the two dozen that are immediately in front of the elevators on the 11th floor (where the business and economics books are). This time, I decided to try to find the terminals on the 9th floor. They turned out to not be outside the elevators, but hidden away in the stacks, near the books. The PCs have all been replaced, so the screens are a lot sharper than they used to be.

Between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night, it was relatively quiet. Students living on campus should be able to access library resources with their IDs, so they wouldn’t physically have to be in the Robarts building.

I usually don’t stay past the time that the library closes, but was trying to get the last few references done. At 11 p.m., they turned out the lights. At 11:10, there was a special elevator with the library patrol, picking up the last few stragglers. Since the elevators are shut down at 11 p.m., I guess that the alternative is to walk down the stairs.

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