BIT Studio

November 30, 2015

There Yet?

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 7:28 am

  Approaching end of PhD 01 (first term, first year) with papers, projects, presentations, and panic attacks. Suffering from severe impostor syndrome! Many thanks to family and friends for your unending support and caring.

York

 

March 30, 2015

Bloodletting

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 1:17 pm

  Apherisis is a medical technology where the blood of a donor or patient is passed through a device that separates out one particular component and returns the remainder to circulation. For Canadian Blood Services, platelets and plasma are spun out of the whole-blood and the remaining components (red cells, white cells, etc.) are returned to the donor’s blood stream.

I completed my 131st blood donation this week. I started giving while in university and continued at 56 day intervals (with the occasional year off) for the next thirty years. Two years ago I switched from standard donations (whole-blood) to platelet donations (apherisis), which allow a 14 day interval between visits, that is, every 2 weeks instead of every 2 months. The platelets are used primarily for cancer patients to kickstart the creation of white blood cells in the marrow after chemotherapy has weakened the immune system.

It is a one-to-one contribution and sometimes the CBS staff lets you know where the donation is headed, for example, to Sunnybrook Hospital (no names, obviously). Knowing that your donation will be helping someone beat cancer, likely that very same day, makes the apherisis procedure extremely personal.

The term bloodletting conjures visions of 14th century torture and leeching procedures designed to drive out illnesses and evil spirits. But its roots are much less sinister and over the centuries it has been associated with curing a wide variety of ailments. An 1862 publication called The Salerne School contained a poem by Professor Liakat Ali Parapia touting its many benefits:

“Of bleeding many profits grow and great,
The spirits and sences are renew’d thereby,
Thogh these mend slowly by the strenghth of meate,
But these with wine restor’d are by-and-by;
By bleeding to the marrow commethe heate,
It maketh cleane your braine, releeves your eie,
It mends your appetite, restorathe sleepe,
Correcting humors that do waking keep:
All inward parts and sences also clearing,
It mends the voice, touch, smell, and taste, and hearing.”

So, in the olden days, with a little help from red meat and wine, bloodletting was known to fix problems associated with our brain, eyes, appetite, sleep, voice, touch, smell, taste and hearing.

People talk about the euphoria experienced after giving blood, and this goes beyond the feelings associated with doing a good deed. Is it the creation of new oxygen-rich blood? Is it the one-pound of weight loss lightening one’s step? I have experienced this many times although it did not happen during my two years of apherisis, possibly a result of the anti-coagulent mix in the returning blood. Regardless, my time spent doing apherisis was enjoyable and it was a pleasure working with the excellent CBS staff at the College/Bay location.

I look forward to my next euphoric adventure in whole-blood bloodletting. It’s in you to give.

Canadian Blood Services - It's in you to give.

 

February 27, 2015

Stutterer

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 10:06 am

  I spent the first twenty years of my life avoiding conversation. It wasn’t that I didn’t like people; I stutter.

School was traumatic (speech classes were ineffective) and although most people were understanding and supportive, there were many awkward moments. French was a challenge (for example, “Il y a une probleme” was a showstopper) and word substitution figured prominently (like swapping “your majesty” for “sir” in a lengthy grade 9 history reading). A simple conversation was a minefield of potential dialectic disasters, all word-options weighed and rated for producing the minimal societal impact. If nothing else, it was certainly a cerebral exercise in organization and creativity.

In non-stuttering normal speech, PET (positron emission tomography) scans show that both hemispheres of the brain are active but that the left hemisphere tends to be more active. By contrast, people who stutter yield more activity on the right hemisphere, suggesting that this activity might be interfering with left-hemisphere speech production. Much evidence from neuroimaging techniques has supported this theory. **

This may be true. The increase in damage-control activity in the “creative” right-brain may overwhelm the “functionality” of the left-brain. I don’t know. I do know that in certain situations, and not all of them public speaking, my delivery of coherent and logical speech can be spontaneously interrupted with an internal electrical storm that overwhelms all of my senses and grinds my thoughts, and any hope of recovery, to a halt.

Stuttering has been compared to the structure of an iceberg, with the visible and audible symptoms of stuttering above the waterline and a broader set of symptoms, such as negative emotions, hidden below. Feelings of embarrassment, shame, fear, anger, and guilt are often a result of the inability to communicate clearly. This, of course, leads to increased frustration, tension and effort, which further exacerbates the stuttering. A common end result is self-imposed isolation. With time, continued exposure to difficult speaking experiences may crystallize into a negative self-concept and self-image. **

Stuttering is sometimes seen as a symptom of anxiety, but there is no correlation in that direction, although the inverse can be true, as social anxiety can develop as a result of stuttering. A person who stutters may subconsciously project their opinions onto others, believing that they think he or she is nervous or stupid, which then feeds a self-fulfilling cycle of self-deprecation. Many perceive stutterers as less intelligent due to their disfluency, however, as a group, individuals who stutter tend to be of above average intelligence. **

I deeply appreciate Brené Brown’s TED Talks on vulnerability (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en) and shame (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame). We all have coping mechanisms that help us get through our lives and each of us is different and saddled with our own perceived shortcomings.

All of us, as individuals, are not alone; we are not victims and are not any better or worse off than anyone else. Rest assured that everyone is insecure and needs support. Regardless of our own turmoil and personal battles, it is up to each of us to suck-it-up, get out there, and do the best we can.

Brene Brown

Brené Brown

** Quoted shamelessly from Wikipedia

May 31, 2014

Married!

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 3:00 pm

May 31, 2014

 

April 28, 2014

Mofocal

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 3:38 pm

  Monovision is a term used to describe the accommodation of one eye to improve a weakness, such as presbyopia or farsightedness. Contact lenses, laser surgery and prescription glasses use monovision. A typical application has one eye focused for distance and the other focused for reading. The brain determines which eye is providing the most useful information and it ignores input from the other.

Bifocals provide a simple solution for presbyopia. The top half of a lens is set for distance (often simply clear glass) and the bottom half for reading. Bifocals are excellent for many situations but they often require pivoting the head to adjust focus. For example, descending stairs can be dangerous because the stairs are viewed through the bottom half of the lens.

The “bifocal monocle” combines 1) a solution for presbyopia with 2) the benefits of monovision. By assigning the task of reading to only one half of one eye, the brain is free to process stereovision information from everywhere else. There is no loss of peripheral vision from eyeglass frames. There is no surgical adjustment to the eye lens from laser, which can be permanent. And unlike prescriptive and contact lenses, monocles are inexpensive and adaptable.

The mofocal (mofo-kel) has become my lens of choice for almost all activity. It is perfect for driving as I can now read my dashboard. It is great for shopping as price tags and best-before dates are now crystal clear. It is safe descending stairs as I now have the luxury of monovision for that angle and distance. It is excellent for meetings as I am able to take notes and maintain eye contact without tipping my head. I do, however, occasionally prefer regular glasses when I have a lot to read. And enthusiastic chewing and animated discussion can sometimes cause the mofocal to fall out. But still, a great mofo experiment!

The monocle and a 2.0 strength stick-on bifocal lens were purchased over the internet for less than $30.

Mofocal

October 26, 2010

Kayak Toronto

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 9:19 am

  Toronto Harbourfront extends from the Music Garden (near Bathurst) to the new Sugar Beach (near Jarvis). Street cars, bikepaths and walkways connect over 2 kilometres of restaurants, theatres, ferries, marinas, and boat rentals to the downtown core. The crown jewel of the Toronto waterfront is Toronto Island, a 500 acre, 13 island archipelago in the heart of the city, home to several yacht clubs, public parks, a bird sanctuary, and a select group of very fortunate residents.

I was one of a dozen kayakers on a Night Cruise through Ontario Place last summer, organized by the Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre. Entering Ontario Place from the west at 8pm, we passed the Chinese Lantern Festival (an amazing view from the water) and then navigated the streams and tunnels of the OP property. We exited under the main walkway and through the Yacht Club.  At 10pm, we found ourselves resting mid-harbour taking in a spectacular view of the city night skyline from water level.

Owned and operated for the past five years by Dave Corrigan and his wife, Clare, the success of the Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre is a tribute to Dave’s hard work and effort. Dave has extensive experience in paddling, ecology, nature and tripping, and his calm and professional character make the excursions fun and educational.

It is easy to forget about Toronto during the summer, but kayaking through the islands offers a great escape from summer in the city. I recommend the stress-free evening Social Paddles (W/R/F 6pm-8pm). Come via subway and street car – no gear required. Dave calls it a mini-holiday; I call it peace and quiet.

November 4, 2009

Publishing Industry

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 12:12 pm

  The traditional role of the publisher as gate-keeper between author and distributor is being challenged. The book industry is presently undergoing major change and many comparisons have been drawn between the music industry of 1999 and the publishing industry of today.

Record labels and music distribution companies underwent massive consolidation and downsizing as MP3 and file sharing technology emerged. Publishing companies are restructuring and as a result, almost all in-house editorial services have been outsourced. Likewise, title acquisitions are becoming more dependent upon agents, referrals and the mining of successful self-published books and expired-copyright material. Print-on-Demand (POD) technology has taken much of the mystery out of the publishing process and today’s author has direct access to online distribution. Amazon (Kindle) and Sony are trying to establish a dedicated hardware solution for electronic books, but ebooks will likely migrate to a PDA or Smartphone platform. It is also likely that the cost of the digital book (currently $9.99 on the Kindle) will drop. An industry standard digital format (such as the Palm PDB) readable on an industry standard software program (such as the eReader, which is a free download for products from Apple, Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia, Palm, etc.) is the most logical evolution and future for the ebook. Interestingly, eReader.com has recently removed all commercial restrictions from unencrypted eReader formatted products, a strategy similar to that implemented by MP3.com ten years ago.

Multinational publishers should embrace this inevitable outcome early, but they won’t. Grandfathered and legacied contracts bound within an archaic and self-fulfilling legal architecture are worth a lot of money. Industry evolution at the upper levels will be slow and painful, just like it was in the music industry ten years ago.

 

April 30, 2009

Kick Bike

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 9:04 pm

  A Kick Bike is a chain-free greaseless alternative to the bicycle. The front tire is mountain bike-style (26 inches) and the back tire is smaller (16 inches). It is equipped with standard front and back caliper hand brakes and weighs in at a mere 25 pounds. There is no seat. There are no pedals. The centre step platform is low to the ground and provides the optimum position for pushing forward with the foot.

Riding a Kick Bike has been described as a cross between cycling and jogging. The pendulum-like leg action (push, swing, swing) is smooth and low-impact, and timing the swing with a light push from the arms creates an efficient forward momentum. Switching feet is done with a quick heel-toe exchange on the platform. The Kick Bike can be used for a full body workout or a relaxing cruise through the park.

I bought one this week and it is cool! My inaugural trip was fourteen miles, from North Toronto to the Beach and back. The Kick Bike is very popular in Europe and new to the North American market, but if the attention and comments gleaned on this first excursion are any indication, the prospects for the bike in Canada are excellent. Mine is black and equipped with upturned racer handlebars; it is a road-bike first and a “scooter-on-steroids” second.

The Kick Bike is easy to use and a lot of fun. It is designed in Finland and sold in Ontario through distribution. For more information, click here…  http://www.kickbikeontario.ca/

February 12, 2009

Darwin Agnostic

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 11:21 am

  Today, February 12, 2009, marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.  Darwin’s theory of natural selection has inspired breakthroughs in everything from financial analysis (genetic algorithms) to cosmos development (galaxy formation). 

There may indeed be a super-being that created this universe 13.8 billion years ago.  And miraculously, as expected, the task was completed on-time and on-budget (no lost energy!).  Like all super-leaders, this super-being delegated much of the operational duties, allowing this universe to unfold under a variety of control parameters such as natural selection and evolutionary due process – God is not a micromanager.

Agnosticim may not be as provocative as the Invisible Pink Unicorn or Flying Spaghetti Monster, but the year 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species; perhaps a return to basics is needed in this too-crowded battlefield.  In the words of Charles Darwin, “I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

August 23, 2008

Facebook SNOT

Filed under: Composts — webmaster @ 3:49 pm

  SNOT – Sycophantic Narcissists Offloading Themselves

Facebook is a scary 21st century phenomenon. Glorifying mediocrity in the pursuit of fifteen minutes of fame can be a rewarding boost to the ego, but it is hardly a noble or practical use of time and effort. As a logical extension of today’s instant-gratification/Idol-driven society, Facebook has found its niche as the premier hub of shallowness on the internet.

The hilarious picture of you talking to Ralph on the porcelain telephone is not so funny when taken out of context. These classic “faceplant” entries rarely represent an individual’s lifestyle or accomplishments, yet they can affect personal and professional lives for many years. Requesting the removal of compromising photos or anecdotes rarely eliminates the evidence. As all conspiracy theorists are aware, any photo appearing on the internet for even a short time will end up in an archived file somewhere and will be available to anyone with the determination to find it. The show-and-tell-all repercussions have extended to the courtroom where, for example, a defendant’s apparent lack of remorse provided grounds for a prolonged internment.

The dictionary defines snot as nasal mucus or phlegm. Snot is also defined as an annoying, arrogant or impertinent person. Although the concept of a nose (snotty) as the centre of a face (book) draws an interesting parallel, Facebook SNOT are typically not annoying, arrogant or impertinent by nature. Misguided, perhaps; everyone in society has a responsibility to think just a little bit beyond self-gratification.

Facebook members cannot be held responsible for the relentless dumbing-down of society as they are much less cause than effect. The social website is pervasive and addictive and we can only hope that it will soon be relegated to the novelty-item shelf where it belongs.

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