Jul 312005

(I’m back in town and my skin is slowly hydrating. I always forget how dry Calgary & BC can be)

First, a little background as to why I was talking to homeland security in Canada – Calgary has a full service (as far as I can tell) US customs and immigration office in the airport. On US bound flights, you have to go through them before you get to US departure gates. It has always seemed a bit odd to me that Canada would give up that much sovereignty. At the same time it would really suck to get to the US and be turned back for whatever reason.

I had my multi-entry parole for an alien papers on hand (gained by filling out an I-131 and paying a couple hundred bucks), and based on my Mexico/US border experiences, expected a swipe of my passport, a glance at the papers, and a wave. This was not the case in Calgary. They had me fill out a new I-94, which I thought my multi-entry parole make obsolete, then proceeded to run 15 minutes worth of background checks on me. I still must be Canada, the Esquire in the waiting room had nipples showing. After being called up from the empty waiting room they slapped some stamps on my new I-94 and parole (first time it had been stamped) and I was done. I’m not sure what to think. Is the US/Mex border protocol that much more slack? Or is it just that the guys in Canada are so bored that they like to do everything possible?

On the airport security end of things they didn�t seem to give a damn about my shoes, which is all the rage at SAN right now (regardless of whether or not they set off the metal detector). No mechanized chemical sniffers here either – though security had us walk around them in San Diego anyway. They did plance a squinty eye on electronics, inspecting laptops and asking about cameras. My bag was flagged and I was waved over. �You have folding scissors in your bag sir.� I replied that I was pretty sure I didn�t. She showed me the x-ray screen that showed my microtool. �Ah�, I said, and showed that the key chain tool had no knife blade. It makes itself useful by with a couple of small screwdriver heads and some very small pliers. Full sized tools are not allowed of flights of course, because of their clubbing/stabbing potential. Small tools, like eyeglass repair kits, are supposed to be allowed according to the TSA. I had specifically bought the microtool so that I could carry it on (I never check my bag), and had been doing so for about 10 flights over this last year.

�No tools�, she said, and dropped it into a box of knives and lighters. Bugger. I briefly tried to reason with her on TSA regulations, but quickly thought better of that as as it was pretty clear it wasn’t going to happen. Of course, she told me I could have it shipped for the same price I bought it for. Maybe she gets commission. I want to see the financials of the shipping company at the airport. That�s got to be the sickest profit margin around. So anyway, I guess a screwdriver an inch long is a deadly weapon. Maybe they are afraid of me MacGyvering my seat console to show porn on the TV screens. I can see the 24 hour news headline: Moral Terrorist cripples aircraft, 36 offended.

It seems to me that these two events have two possible lessons. One – you are at the mercy of the security person’s interpretation of regulations. Or Two – the system is so broken that it takes a while before someone does the correct action, surprising you. Either way, it doesn’t give one much confidence in the system.

Jul 192005

This post should show up as I am in the air. As Anna marked on her calendar, we will be “Visiting Far Away Canada” for the next two weeks. Our first stop is in Calgary, then on to Williams Lake to meet up with my Mom’s side of the familly, then a bit at our cabin on Francois Lake. I will be in remote locations for most of the trip, so there won’t be much noise from me for a couple weeks.

Jul 182005

I’ve finally gotten around to messing with my htaccess file and added the following:

# Error pages
ErrorDocument 404 /404.php
# Redirect
Redirect /blog/blog.html http://www.chrisnelson.ca/
Redirect /blog/index.html http://www.chrisnelson.ca/
Redirect /blog/atom.xml http://www.chrisnelson.ca/feed/atom/

The Error Pages part redirects 404 errors to my 404 page, so my hosts’ doesn’t show up. I don’t really care about the other ones, since they are infrequent. The Redirect part forwards request for my old blog & atom rss to the new wordpress spots. I’ve left my old photo pages with meta refresh directs because its already done, but more importantly, I’m lazy.

I’m also toying with the idea of killing image hotlinking, and forwarding direct images to page code with the image imbeded. This should cut down my bandwidth (site pulls around 100mb per day just in people hotlinking my images), and get people to view the site framework so their browser is sent my creative commons licence information (Put simply, you are able to copy or distribute my work as long as I get credit, there is no profit involved, and my work is not changed). I could redirect hotlinks to a picture to make sure they never hotlink again, but I’m just not that cruel.

I implemented the htaccess rules from the alistapart link above and managed to get it working. I had to comment out the Cache-Control parts of the showpic.php file, as it was throwing 500’s all over. I also had to change the redirect and put the htaccess file and showpic file in the /gallery/albums directory. I tried the files working in / and /gallery/, but it was going to be way too much of a pain in the ass to try to compete with the rewrite rules of wordpress and gallery. Every time the showpic.php tried to display the full img url it was passed, the mod rewrite rules for gallery and wordpress would mangle it and break the image link. It is still breaking off the front of the url, but because it is in the albums directory, the relative path works out. I also modified some of the htaccess based on the code comments found here.

My testing seems to all work out so far. Any of my photos in gallery that gives a header (blank header is ok) not from Google or my site gets sent html instead of the picture. If someone clicks on a direct link to my images, they get a frame around the image. Click here to see what it looks like.

After reading through all the comments on the article, it seems there may be a better way to go (click here). But that will have to wait until I have more time to redo it all.

Jul 142005

Be Wise Ranch

About a month ago a coworker told Anna and I about their enrollment in a CSA program at Be Wise Ranch. She loved it, so Anna and I decided to give it a go. What the hell am I talking about? From here:

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a new idea in farming, one that has been gaining momentum since its introduction to the United States from Europe in the mid-1980s. The CSA concept originated in the 1960s in Switzerland and Japan, where consumers interested in safe food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops joined together in economic partnerships.

Still foggy? I don’t blame you. The basic idea is that one ‘subscribes’ to a local farm, and receives crops from it. In my case it means that I pay $20 a week to a local organic farm (Be Wise Ranch) for a box full of veggies and fruit that I pick up every Friday at the drop-off closest to me (bankers hill/hillcrest).

Why do it? Be Wise Ranch lists five reasons on their website:

    You and your family will be able to eat tasty and nutritious farm-fresh produce year-round, delivered weekly (or bi-weekly) to a location convenient to your home.
    You will enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown organically, without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
    You will encourage sustainable stewardship of a local family farm right here in San Diego.
    You will join a community of 900 families in San Diego who are committed to social and ecological responsibility in the local community.
    You can do all this at a lower cost than buying the same produce at a supermarket!

I’d like to add a couple of my own:

    Saves my time by reducing shopping & planning
    The somewhat random nature of ingredients increases your exposure to different foods, new recipes, and new ways of cooking
    Enforces healthy eating habits, since you always have a lot of fresh produce to consume
    Education, and a reconnection with food and harvest. While not as bad as our relationship to meat, I think America is very disconnected to seasons and the actual production of food.

What do you get for your money? Its always going to be different, and produce varies by season. As an example, this is approximately what we received last week (‘small share’):

1 large bag of salad mix (enough for 6-8 salads)
3 onions
8 carrots
6 small zucchinis
Aprox 2lb of green beans
Aprox 12 small-med valencia oranges
5 heirloom tomatoes
2 large celery
5 Radishes
Occasionally there is extra produce for everyone at the drop-off point to share. Last week there were a lot of tomatoes, so we grabbed about 4lb.

As you can see by looking at our list above, your menu will change every week based on what you get in your box. For us that turned out to be lots of salads, fresh marinara, fresh salsa, green bean & tofu stir-fry, and faux-pot-roasted veggies. I really enjoy having my ingredient list already prepared for me, it makes coming up with meals a lot quicker and simpler. It also forces you to be a bit more daring with your cooking. Iron Chef here I come! Hah, no.

Our experience with BWR:

    Service – I wish you could more on their website, and they can be hard to get on the phone. Other than that, the service has been fantastic.
    Quality – The produce is the perfect ripeness/freshness and of the best quality. Needless to say, it blows supermarket produce out of the water. It also compares favorably to good vendors at farmers markets. Little things matter, like keeping the tops on carrots & onions makes the produce last a lot longer as well.
    Value – Looking at our list for last week, we get good amount of produce for $20. Considering its great quality and organic production, the value looks even better.

This is our third week doing the weekly ‘small share’, and we are definitely fans. We have been eating healthier, and the quality has been great.

More information
The UT profiled a number of CSA’s in San Diego, June 30th.
CSA at the National Agricultural Library (NAL) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Introduction to CSA
A list of CSA farms
Another list of CSA farms
Yet another list of CSA farms

Jul 132005

Skippy has a very snazzy WordPress Database Backup plugin. I just loaded it up on mine and it works fine (1&1 hosting). This is really nice for me. Previously I had to login to my hosting account, go to the mysql admin, then run a backup on the tables. Now I can schedule backups, and can even get it to email the gziped sql to me.

So swassy.

Update: This plugin is now part of wordpress v2

Jul 122005

Human footprints discovered beside an ancient Mexican lake have been dated to 40,000 years ago. Hopefully this will finally make people take a closer look at the Clovis and pre-Clovis viewpoints. Oh, we finally are getting some results on the Kennewick Man after a long legal battle.

Newton’s alchemy manuscript rediscovered in the vaults of the Royal Society.

Stack Rock Fort, about 800 yards off the west Wales coast near Milford Haven, is for sale for £150,000. The 19th Century fort – complete with a couple of cannons – dates back from the time of Napoleon, when it was initially built as a defence for the river Haven. But it has nowhere to sleep at present, and the new owner will have to sort out sewage, water and power.

Underground Ozarks takes a look at D. M. Oberman Manufacturing Company, an abandoned building in Springfield. They also got a tour of Lipscomb Feed Mill, former home of Houn’ Dawg dog food. The mill reminds me of old grain elevators in Alberta.

Another Minsk is a site featuring photos of urban exploration and decay of Minsk in Belarus. Good stuff, just run it through babelfish for the RU to EN translation. Gotta love technology.

Jul 112005

Saudi officials saying that the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will be unable to meet projected western demand in 10 to 15 years. This is a bit of a surprise, considering how optimistic OPEC usually is.

I found this 3 part interview with Matthew R. Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert, very interesting. He goes into depth on the technical questions of oil production and our current situation. He has also posted a pdf presentation on the basis of his book.

Speaking of sustainability, the Wall Street Journal compares our housing situation with Japan’s lost decade.

Jul 112005

On the 1st Anna, Rodene, Bean, and myself went to a night game at Petco Park. (Photos here) I’ve lived near downtown for almost 3 years, but this was my first time at a game. Not much of a ball fan to be honest. It is about the most boring sport out there for me. Going to the park for a game is a fun experience though.

The 2nd we drove up to Encinitas to watch the red tide. It was fairly bright, but was moving further out because of the tide and was elusive to photograph. Red tide is always fun, stamp your feet, kick sand, and watch the show.

On the 4th we celebrated up north with Anna’s family, then headed back home to watch the fireworks. We were watching Spike, Bill‘s cat, so he said we could use his balcony. He was a great view, so it was nice to just sit back and be able to watch fireworks from Coronado, 2 on the bay, and Ocean Beach.

Yesterday Anna and I went for our first snorkel to the cove in a long time. The surf line (221 8824) said the visibility was 15f, so we were really excited. Unfortunately, by the time we got there the water was pretty churned up and there was a lot of surge. But, we were already there, so we hopped in.

I brought my WP-FX701 (my notes here) to take some under water photos. I’ve been pretty impressed with the case so far. Easy to use, all of the buttons are available, and it seems alright at resisting fog. The only gripe I have is that it is slightly uncomfortable to take photos with my index finger, as the case is too wide for a standard grip. But if I switch my standard grip and use my middle finger it is alright.

There was a lot of stuff in the water, and I was fighting the surge most of the time, so photography was a bit frustrating. Photos with scuba gear would be much easier, since you aren’t on a time restraint to stay still. You also don’t have to move around as much since you are buoyancy neutral. I will definitely have to work on my breath capacity for snorkel photos. I found that you need around 20 seconds of not moving much at 10 feet for the fish to not be freaked out by you. At that point you can get closer to them for better photos. Needless to say, this was not easy when fighting the surge as a lot of my oxygen had been used up by the time a good photo op presented itself. I still managed to get a few photos worth keeping and a fun movie of me chasing some fish around. I can’t wait to try it out on a clear day.