Monday, April 30, 2012

How Internet Advertising Finds You

      This morning I listened to Terry O'Reilly on the Age of Persuasion which is a CBC radio show. Terry O'Reilly is an advertising man who's been making advertising for large companies. These ads go on TV and in newspapers and are kind of a shotgun approach. They try to make the ad catchy whether or not you want a product or not. So the people who buy nothing but a Honda are showered by ads for Fords, Chevs...

     This morning's program explained that the big TV and newspaper advertising has suffered with competition from internet advertising. He explained how internet advertising operates.

     A couple of months ago I was looking for a new Internet provider. I checked out Telus. Ever since then I've had an ad on my Face Book page for Telus. So it works like this. If I want a car and I check out car loans. I put in the exact car in order to get a loan quote. Let's say I want a Honda Accord. The next day I'm going to have an ad on my home page for a Honda Accord and it will be at a good price and they"ll even throw in the wheels! You are one of the few people who gets this ad along with other probable Honda Accord purchasers. Terry O'Reilly explained how this happens.

     There are cookies that identify us. These are small bits of code. It operates much like a finger print. If the police have my finger print and find my finger print at a crime scene , they come to my house right away and say, "You're coming with us." They've matched the finger prints. Where ever we go on the Internet we leave traces. The places we go are picked up and matched to what we are interested in.   So another computer program sends us the exact ad for something we are interested in. 

      When we shop on line we leave information about ourselves. When we travel we leave information with airlines, hotels etc. These people are often very willing to share or sell our information. So along the way a tremendous amount of information is collected on us. If we use our credit card at 2:00 AM in a casino , our rating for credit card payment could be suspect? If we stay at a five star hotel or if we chose economy hotel information is built up as to what our tastes are. So after a while the Internet knows more about me than my wife does. 

     So it's very easy electronically to focus ads to very specific customers. This is cheap as compared to TV or newspapers. There doesn't have to be a lot of money spent to design a catchy ad. Internet ads  have  a big bang for the buck as people are targeted and very little energy is wasted..

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Beaver Web Cam

     I have included a link for a beaver web cam again. They put a web cam in a beaver   lodge last year and it was not very successful. They now have a camera for very low light and have devised protection so that the beavers won't pile mud over the camera.
Photo by Judy Boyd

    This camera is located at a place called Ellis Bird Farm. A brother and sister farmed the land until the 1970's. They were bought out by a petro chemical company that constructed a large petro chemical plant. The Ellis's had developed a system for successful blue bird houses and were largely responsible for bringing back blue birds to this area. They also had houses for purple martins. Of course, they fed birds all winter.

    Since this couple had single handedly helped the birds, one of the stipulations in the sale of their farmland was to leave part of the land for the birds. The company funded a board to organize and manage the area.

    This has been a very successful venture as the birds have been well looked after and studied. It has been made into a sanctuary and facilities have been built to accommodate visitors and has become a tourist site. 

    So because of the importance of the site I like to put this link on my blog. I hope that those of you who like web cams will get some pleasure out of this one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Large Volume of Writing Today: What Will Influence be on our Society?

      I find it challenging to even think of an answer for the question I have asked in the title. There are so many things to consider. What might the future hold that would influence the use and storage of all things written and saved today.
    There is a tremendous increase in writing volume today compared to any time in our history. In the 1950's when I was a little kid I would write two or three letters a year to my friends and maybe one to my Grandma. Today I write a blog that is nearing 400 posts. If conditions had remained as 1950 I would have written very little. 

      Today there are thousands of blogs and the common man and woman are able to write an exponential amount because of the use of  computer technology. If one  browses blogs for a few minutes you can find an endless variety of well written blogs which would never have been written before this time. Some blogs are made up of endless beautiful photographs which record our life. Digital cameras and computers have made it possible for almost anybody to take photos and post them for all to see .

     About 700 AD the quill pen and powdered ink was invented. A very limited amount of writing could be done. I would think that only a fraction of this writing would have survived. The common man did not write. The primitive printing press was invented about 1500. This not only allowed for more writing but more readers. The first fountain pens were developed in  about 900. This allowed more people to write and more writing survived. In the 1930's the ball point was developed and refined in the 1940's so pilots could use it during the war instead of fountain pens which did not do well with great altitude changes. Even with these developments few people wrote and little was kept. 

     My Dad was born in 1912. I do not know of any of his writing that has survived. We did find a letter he had written to our Mom before they were married. My brother found this letter in a stove where Dad was disposing of papers. Dad had just filled the stove but had not lit a fire. I'm not sure if this letter survives.

     I do not have an answer for the question I asked in the title. I can only assume that by the exponential increase in writing we will leave a vast amount of information about how we lived a this time. Archaeologists should not have to dig carefully around in the soil to find small bits of garbage to see how we lived.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Alberta Provincial Election Today

       Today Albertans vote for 89 Members of the Legislature (MLA) who will serve for the next four years. As far as I know there are five parties organized for this election. There could be one or two more that are very small and running only a few candidates. 

       Albertans tend to keep the same party in power for long periods of time and then change them abruptly. The Social Credit Party was in power from 1935 to 1971. Today only one or two Social Credit candidates ran for election so the party is basically just an organization. The Progressive Conservatives (PC) have been in power from 1971 to 2012. During all these years the opposition was very small for most terms so the ruling party had a huge majority. The last few years a split in the PC party has been taking place. A party called the Wild Rose, which was organized about three years, ago is challenging the PC party for the majority. So this election campaign has been hot and heavy with the two conservative right wing parties fighting it out.  For a change the results of the election are not a foregone conclusion and it will be a close race. 

      Albertans seem to always want to vote for a winner no matter what the party may be. They seem to size up who may win and everybody votes for that party. 

     I have never got on the band wagon. I usually vote New Democrat (ND). I like to vote for policy rather than candidates. The Nds are a social democrat party that puts people issues first . That means that their emphasis is on health, education, seniors, children. They also have a business tax schedule that has lower tax rate for small business and a higher tax rate for large business. Some people may accuse the party of being a socialist group which is not so. It can be described as left of center. Now this party may not be perfect but I'm sure others suffer the same judgement. 

     These days parties tend to bash each other rather than present their policies. Worse than that, parties try to promote wedge issues which enable them to get a majority easier. Sometimes parties misrepresent their policies or misrepresent other party's policies to the point of lying.

    So this evening will be interesting as we await the counting of the ballots to see if the old party is thrown out  and how many seats the other parties get.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Robots: Coming to a Farm Near You

        I accidentally found an article in a newspaper on the research and development of robots in agriculture. Now I don't know where I've been hiding the last few years, but I was very surprise that the development of robots in agriculture has progressed as far as it has. I'm well aware of GPS used on farms. However, there still must be an operator for the equipment. Someone has to adjust equipment on the go and and monitor for any problems.

      A hundred years ago agriculture was a very labor intensive industry. That was almost one hundred years after the reaper had been invented. Fruit farming and vegetable farming are still highly labor intensive. So that's where most of the research on robots has been centered. A number of robots have been developed to pick fruit and prune trees. Most of his work is done now by laborers who must hand pick the fruit.

     Other robots have been developed to operate on grain farms. Seeders have been developed to sow crops. Harvesters have been developed to harvest grain crops.

     Most robots are in a prototype stage. the next hurdle is to be able to mass produce them. In order to mass produce they need a market. The market will develop if they can persuade farmers to buy these machines. The machines have to be able to cost effective for the agricultural industry.

      So I ask myself where I've been the last ten years when all this has been going on? Obviously under some  very large toadstool!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cashless Society Coming Next.

      We've had  vague knowledge a way back in our head that someday we might not have any cash in circulation as we have today. I recently listened to a documentary and was surprised at how soon it may be that we do not have cash in circulation any longer. 

     In my last post I wrote about the penny being discarded in our cash. Many comments were on the sentimental value of the penny. However all commenters could see the practical reasons for getting rid of the penny. Other comments could look ahead to the loss of the nickel

     It was a few days after these comments that I discovered the reality of a whole country without cash. This may be coming sooner than we think. Most of us have cell phones and are connected to the Internet.

     There is now technology developed that would allow us to do business with out cash. We would have a chip on our cell phone. This chip would communicate with the chip in our bank card which is in our pocket. We would simply key in the price of the total of the items we are purchasing and away we go. The Canadian mint is assessing one system now. 

     Sweden is much further advanced in going cashless. They have a cashless system in place. However, cash is still in circulation. About 90% of Swedes go cashless. There are a few people for whatever reasons still want to use cash.

    One must look behind and wonder when we started using cash. What did we use before cash? 

    So I guess quite soon we will be able to say, "Have chip. Will shop."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Penny is Lost!

      A month ago the Canadian government abolished the penny! That's right . No more pennies for Canada. 

       The penny cost 1.6 cents to produce so to cut out the penny would save the government money. Now what could I buy for a penny?  I couldn't come up with an answer. In fact, what could I buy for 2,3,or 4 cents. I don't think we've been able to buy anything for a penny for a long time. The penny now has been used to set a neat sounding price like $4.99. So you come home every day and empty your pockets and the penny jar gets fuller each week. So I don't think the penny will be missed for monetary purposes.

      The government stopped making pennies on the day of the announcement. Pennies will be accepted in business for some limited time. Fund raisers have been quick to latch onto a good idea. Many penny jars have been set up for various charities to raise money. I noticed that the jars all had tons of pennies.

     Now one of the things not considered in doing away with the penny is the place it has in our language. Many sayings have been generated around the penny. The word penny is of British origin. Americans have chosen to use the term cent. Sayings that may die are: Penny or your thoughts; Shiny as a new penny; Cost a pretty penny; A penny saved is a penny earned; In for a penny; A bad penny always turns up; Penny ante; See a penny, pick it up, all day long you will have good luck. I would think these sayings would disappear over time. When the penny has been gone for several generations the use of these terms in our language will probably disappear.

    So a sad good bye to the penny which was sort of the work horse in our money system. How soon will it be before we discard the nickel?


Friday, April 13, 2012

Titanic Centennial

        Since  this week is the hundredth  anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, there has been much discussion on the news. 

       The sinking of the Titanic was a major disaster in several ways. Over 1500 people lost their lives. A major vessel was lost on it's first voyage. A comedy of errors occurred which led to the disaster.

     Over the last 100 years the Titanic sinking has provided the reason for many books to be written. People are still fascinated with the sinking. Many heroic tales have been told of how people survived and died. It was horrendous for all as they thought they were on an extremely modern and safe ship. Within the last 10 years a major movie was made. Many newspaper articles and interviews have occurred on the topic. This week I heard several documentaries. One documentary was on the band that played on the ship and how it played to almost the last minute. The band members got off the ship but because they were in the water they soon perished from hypothermia.

     Recent technology has enabled us to go down to the Titanic and look around. Again more was learned to explain what happened. Treasure seekers have been able to access the wreck. There is controversy regarding the ethics of taking things from the wreck. Salvagers assure us that the things the have were picked up from the ocean floor and not taken from the ship as the ship is considered a grave site.

     Survivors provided eye witness accounts of events. The last Titanic survivor died only a few years ago. Families are still able to name members who were lost in the disaster. 

     Many investigations have taken place as to why the Titanic sank. There is till some dispute as to what actually happened. The investigations have led to many rules to improve navigation and safety. The basic building of ships was changed so that the bulkheads would prevent water from moving from one compartment to another. The type of steel used to build ships was changed because of the Titanic sinking.

     It's difficult to consider the technology of the time. They did not have radar or sonar. They only had Morse code for a radio system. Visual sailing was all they had. They knew that this area could  have icebergs but they continued on. Other ships in the area stopped for the night.

    I think that today we have benefited from the Titanic disaster by having more reliable engineering practices. Laws have been enacted to enforce safety regulations. Life boat space and life jackets must be provided for all people on a ship.

    We have all benefited from this great tragedy. 100 years have provided us with much information. I'm sure there is still more to learn. We also must remember this tragedy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Peregrine Falcon Web Cam

       I have just put on a link to a Peregrine Falcon nest. The nest is one placed on the top of a 100m (330 ft) tower in Red Deer Alberta. This is the third year the web cam has been placed on the tower. The first year three eggs hatched and all three birds fledged. Last year none of the eggs hatched and later in the summer the female was found dead under the tower. It is suspected that she succumbed due to a poison. Tests are being done on the body to see if it was poison and if so what poison.

     Now, the link for the Owl web cam has not been successful. This year the owls did not choose the nest. That site is showing still pictures from last year's web cam and also still pictures from the beaver web cam.

      Enjoy the season watching the web cam.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Millennium Madness: Remember It?

       Recently I have been thinking about the approach of the third millennium and all the hype surrounding it's approach. In the late 1990's more and more was being said and written about the approaching millennium. I'm sure that in back rooms discussion of the upcoming millennium occurred well before the late 90's. 

      Some of the issues reported seemed very practical. The computer issue was obvious. Computers had been inadequately programmed to show dates. So if changes weren't made a whole host of problems would occur with incorrect dates. When it came to legal, business, government and historical issues the possible effects were enormous. Frantic efforts were made to update the computer system to handle the 2000's in dates. Stories on this issue were common and they always emphasized the doubt about the success of changing computer programs. It made for good story telling. Stories abounded about a total computer collapse. So there was tremendous fear mongering. 

    Well, the millennium came and surprise, surprise the world of computers did not end. Nor did the world end.

      Aside from the computer issue there were many other wild stories about the coming of the millennium. The end of the worlders added their two cents worth. There were various groups who had reasons to predict that the end of the world would come. Many other religious groups had discussions as it related to their faith.

     When you think about it it seems like the millennium issue happened only recently. Twelve years have passed since that momentous change from one millennium to another. Slowly the issue has left our minds and it seems like a distant dream. I'm sure someday we will look back and ask what all the fuss was about.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Snow, Snow and More Snow

      Snow seems to be a popular topic on Hiawatha House. There have been four posts on snow in 2012.  I like snow and where I live we have some interesting snow occasions.
The lilac hedge full of snow

     Yesterday we had weather warnings for heavy snowfall. We were warned that we could get from 10 - 25 cm(4-10 in.) of snow. About 7:00 PM light snow started but it melted as it hit the ground. By 10:00 PM it was snowing heavily. I looked out at 2:00 and 4:00 AM and the sky was full of snow. If I wasn't so lazy I would have gone outside and taken a picture of the snow falling in the street light. 
The poor old car was heavily covered

     Now I know that I can blame this snow on followers in the north west U. S. The forecaster guy said that this system got organized in the north west U. S. So what happens is a moist Pacific air mass hits the west coast. Winds begin and a low pressure system forms. If conditions are right the low pressure system can become very large. As it moves eastward the winds will turn and blow toward the east side of the Rockies. The air mass has to rise as it approaches the Rockies. So when air rises and cools moisture drops out of it. That's where we come in and get the big dump of snow.
A snow laden juniper

    So this morning there was about 8 cm on the ground. Trees were covered. The temp was about minus 2 C or plus 27 F. Needless to say it was a very beautiful morning. 

You just have to look at these kids and you know they're having a ball.

My neighbor's house decorated with snow.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reflections on my Career

   I originally posted this piece in 2009. I'll use the usual excuse when I repost something. "Nobody was reading me in 2009."

     I was a teacher for 37 years from 1958 to 1997. I taught in three provinces and one territory. I look back on my time with the feeling that I would do it all over again, but change some things which experience drilled into me.

    Now for starters, I have to be careful what I say because one of my previous administrators reads this blog. He's a wonderful human being but can be a bit critical at times. I might have to defend myself strenuously if I go too far out in left field.

     I took the compulsory administration's class in education. It was a survey course and explained and justified why the system was organized the way it was. The grade system was dealt with thoroughly.

     Looking back, some students jumped through the hoops (grades) willingly and paid their debt to society and got an education. However, not all students learned at the same rate or had the same learning style. So some kids had difficulties as they were not prepared or ready to learn the concepts being presented at a certain grade level. Some of these kids went on and never did pick up the concept and as a result were challenged later or met with failure. A simple example would be some student who did not learn to read in the primary grades. Some of the obvious behavior problems were a result of students not being ready for a concept and acting up because of the difficulties experienced.

     Now I'm not the only one to make these observations. Various attempts have been made to accommodate the variation in student readiness. "Continuous progress" - remember that one? Open classroom concept? Portfolios? These were attempts to solve the problem of different learning stages of the student population. They were good ideas and would have worked, but they didn't. A teacher was left with the same number of students and found the strategy too challenging so gradually backed into what they were doing previously .

     My favorite teaching assignment was to be given 12 to 15 students who were labeled as having problems. I was able to go away with these students and modify a program to where they were able to succeed. At the end of the year I would come back with my charges. Would they have achieved grade level? No! But they would have met with some success and avoided the hassles they would have met in the regular program.

     So it bugs me to some extent that I saw students experience problems because of a system which was set up to accommodate administration rather than a system set up to meet the needs of the individual student .