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Archive for July, 2007

Slowly Trekkerizing my Kids

2007-07-30 Leave a comment

The Original Series Star Trek Season 1 DVDI got Season One of TOS (The Original Series of Star Trek, for you younguns) for my birthday earlier this year. The series was made before the studios cheaped out and invented “Reality TV” so there are a glorious 29 episodes instead of the modern less-than-20 studios make nowadays, if they even bother to make dramatic series instead of home redecorating shows.

I like to stick one on in the kitchen while we make supper. Lately the kids have come running when they hear the Enterprise bridge noises from the DVD menu, and they sit enthralled by the adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy (and Mr Scott of course). It’s fun to see them enjoying one of the things I really got into when I was a kid. It’s also fun re-living the excitement I felt watching these shows the first time.

Last night we watched “This Side of Paradise” where everyone is hypnotized by the alien plant spores and mutinies and abandons Enterprise except Kirk. Spock gets to express repressed love for a woman he knew. Jenn got to roll her eyes when the woman asked Spock if he had any other name, and I said, right on cue, “You couldn’t pronounce it.” Yeah, I’m a geek, get over it.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff

Stony Plain Swim Meet 2007

2007-07-30 Leave a comment

Saturday was the Stony Plain meet. It was a scorcher at over 30 degrees in the outdoor pool. I think by the end of the day Jennifer and I were more tired than the kids. At least they got to get into the pool and cool off (and swim a race) now and then. Emily swam 50 free, 200 free, 25 fly and 50 back. She won all but the 200, which was a 12 & Under event. She was second in that and did her best time by a few tenths. Mack swam 50 free, 25 free, 25 back and 25 fly. He won all of them and both kids won the gold aggregate in their age group. Some of the other 8 & Under boys were complaining to Mack that he always wins everything. He said “No I don’t! I got one silver this year!”

The season’s going well, and we’re down to two meets left: Regionals and Provincials. Then we’re on vacation until school starts again.

Categories: Swimming

Canadian Passports Caught in a Time Warp

2007-07-26 Leave a comment

PassportWe want to go into the USA during our summer vacation this year. We don’t need passports to go into the USA yet from Canada by a land terminal, but we wanted to have them just to make things easier. Jenn took the completed applications in to the passport office on July 16, and they arrived by mail today. My only conclusion must be that they were mailed to us by Passport Canada six weeks from now, and accidentally got caught in that time warp thing that Canada Post has that makes mail arrive slower the closer the destination is from the sender, and sent back in time. There’s no other explanation for how the passports could have arrived in only ten days.

Categories: Rant

Interesting Comparison Between Religion and Science

2007-07-24 3 comments

I though this was interesting, despite the fact that I think comparing religion and science is not really fundamentally possible, because religion is a belief system and science is a method of understanding the world around us. I saw this comment here attached to a talk by Michael Shermer on why people believe strange things:

“The problem with science, as far as religion sees it, is that it can’t instantly explain everything. The problem with religion as science sees it, is that it can’t definitely explain anything whatsoever.”

Religious apologists think that since science can’t explain everything then there is something wrong with it. They miss the point of science entirely. It’s point is to find something we don’t understand, formulate ideas about what could explain it, and then try to disprove the ideas, until an idea comes along that explains things sufficiently to predict the behavior of those things. The point of science is that it is always looking to improve it’s explanations of everything. The point of religion is to continue to believe the same things, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff

Yay, I’m Back to a “Dumb” Phone

2007-07-19 Leave a comment

I have been using a Blackberry for about a year or so. I never could get to like the damn thing. Before I started using it, I used Palm organizers for about six years and I really like the Palm devices. I also used to use nice simple Motorola phones, like the Startac and it’s descendants. They just work. I switched to the Blackberry about a year ago and never got to like it because it was a crap organizer compared to the Palm, and it was a crap phone. About half the time I got a call, I’d accidentally hang up on the caller instead of answering because the stupid answer thing required you to push the wheel in, and half the time the act of pushing it also rolled the dialog box selection from “Answer” to “Ignore”.

Yesterday I got a nice simple LG 245 or something. It has a little camera, and a phone. It works great and I’m so much happier. I have my Palm T|X for an organizer (and e-book reader) and everything is right with the world. I feel positively cave-mannish with my non-smart phone, considering all the iPhone coverage on teh interwebs lately. The only thing good I can say about the Blackberry is that one day I misplaced it and my daughter found it two days later on the deck, where it had been sitting in overnight thunderstorms two nights in a row. After sitting and drying out for a few hours, and a good recharge, it still worked.

Categories: Neat Geek Stuff

Identity Manager Updates

2007-07-17 Leave a comment

This summer’s round of upgrades, patches and hardware replacement pretty much devastated my Novell Identity Manager configurations. Between changing single-node servers to two node clusters, SSL security patches that changed the certificate authorities, and standardization of eDirectory tree names, pretty much every IDM driver set needed to be touched to get it working again. I’ve just finished the last one, so our users should now have up-to-date synchronized data across all our connected systems.

Categories: Identity Management

Summer Swimming Update

2007-07-12 Leave a comment

The kids have been having a good season in summer swimming again this year. It’s their fourth year swimming, and both of them are becoming old veterans of the swimming scene. Emily takes it a bit more seriously than Mack at this point, being a bit more focussed on what she wants to achieve. Mack, despite having a shorter attention span than his sister, still manages to work hard every practice. He’s not motivated by any grand goals or anything, he just wants to finish everything first.

This year Mack has a strong competitor in our region for the first time. A little guy from Drayton Valley has been giving Mack some good races through the season, and has handed Mack his hat a couple of times in the IM. Hopefully this will help Mack be a bit more focussed. He works hard in practice, but he doesn’t always put a lot of thought into his technique and such. It helps that his coach is very good at working with him on technique. Thanks to her help he’s become more of a breast-stroke swimmer than I ever was, although admittedly that’s not a particularly impressive feat.

Emily has been dominating her age group in our region all season. She qualified for year-round-swimming’s summer provincials in the very first meet of the year this year, instead of at the last possible meet like last year. At year-round provincials, she won 50 free, got 3rd in 50 fly and 4th in 100 free. She was seventh in 50 back and the ASSA all stars got a bronze medal on the 4×50 free relay. Emily also broke two ASSA all star records, which are basically summer swimming’s long-course records. She broke the 100 free and 50 fly records. She was pretty proud of herself, and so were we. Mack was even impressed watching.

One of the most fun parts of the meet for me was getting Emily to meet my coach from the ’80s at Keyano, Dave Johnson. Dave was the National Team coach for several years, and has returned to his roots (and what he does best, I think) coaching at the club head coach level at Calgary Cascade Swim Club. I also introduced Emily to another coach that I’ve known for many years, Tom Ponting. Tom was a three time Olympian for Canada, and was the best butterfly swimmer in Canada for many years. I don’t know if Emily was impressed or not. At the end of the meet, Dave offered one of his typical backhanded compliments for Emily. He said to me “I watched your daughter swim. She could be good. You just have to get her to kick.” Typical Dave.

Categories: Personal, Swimming

Good News at the Wrong Time

2007-07-10 Leave a comment

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that two drugs used to treat bone loss in old folks can both kill and short-circuit the “sex life” of antibiotic-resistant bacteria blamed for nearly 100,000 hospital deaths across the country each year. (Read article)

It’s very hard for me to read that two months after my dad died from an infection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria resulting from a gall bladder problem. I’m hopeful for future sufferers of this type of illness, but for us it’s just too late.

Categories: Personal, Rant

Swimming in Alberta and LTAD

2007-07-06 2 comments

There are two types of competitive swimming programs in Canada, summer swimming and year-round swimming. Before I start expounding my opinions, let me just say that I am a product of both programs, but primarily of the year-round program, and I swam competitively from age 7 until I graduated from university at age 24. I also have two kids who are swimmers (among other sports) so I have perspective on these issues from both directions. I’m also about to make some sweeping generalizations, so don’t be offended if your organization has a different philosophy from what is discussed below.

Year-round swimming is a unified program nationally in terms of having an over-arching organization (Swimming / Natation Canada), and a common set of rules. The season starts in September and carries on until the following summer. Nationals and high-level international competitions take place over summer, so for elite swimmers, the season pretty much lasts all year. Swimmers in all parts of Canada participate in meets together including twice-yearly Provincials, age-group Club Nationals and open-age National Championships. National team members also come from the year-round program. Training for many swimmers is every day, with Sunday off, and some do workouts morning and night, before and after school. It can be a major commitment, but that’s how the programs produce internationally successful swimmers.

Summer swimming varies by province. There is no national organization. In Alberta, summer swimming is managed by the Alberta Summer Swimming Association, supported by the Swim Alberta. The season goes from May to August. Kids participate in meets between clubs in the various regions in Alberta, and then each region hosts a regionals. Top swimmers from each regionals go to Summer Swimming Provincials in August. Swimmers generally train about five times per week through the season. It’s a lot more focussed on fun and enjoyment of swimming rather than the performance-oriented focus of year-round swimming. It is also a great sport for developing athletes, because it allows the participation in multiple sports throughout the year.

In Alberta, year-round swimming hosts an age-group Provincials competition. This is the only competition where summer swimmers have the opportunity to race against their age-counterparts in year-round swimming. If summer swimmers achieve year-round-swimming “A” time standards, they qualify for the Alberta Summer Swimming All-stars, which is a multi-club team that goes to Alberta year-round swimming summer Provincials. It’s a fun experience for the summer swimmers, firstly because the summer swimmers get some new kids to race against, and secondly because it’s the only time in summer swimming that kids get to race in a 50m pool. The rest of the summer swimming season is done in 25m pools.

I think that the other great benefit of the All Stars is that it shows the value of the summer swimming program in comparison to the year-round programs (not the value of summer swimming above year-round swimming, just in comparison to it). Summer swimmers who come and compete at year-round swimmers see that their programs are not inferior, and that they can compete directly with kids who train in swimming all year. Year-round swimming proponents (some of whom stupidly look down on summer swimming as a joke) get incontrovertible proof that summer swimming produces competitive athletes, especially at the younger ages, without unnecessary early specialization in swimming. Unfortunately, the All-Stars team also engenders the equally stupid fear held by many summer swimming organizations that year-round swimming is out to steal athletes from summer swimming, and that having athletes move to year-round swimming somehow harms summer swimming. The pathological dismissal of summer swimming programs by year-round swimming organizations, and the paranoia held about year-round swimming organizations held by summer clubs is a problem that benefits nobody.

Presently, Sport Canada is pushing to adopt a new philosophy, called the Long Term Athlete Development model (LTAD). The LTAD model is a non-sport-specific model for athlete development from early childhood, through youth, to nationally and internationally competitive athletes, to post-competitive active adults. The LTAD considers a lot of scientifically supported information regarding child and adolescent development, as well as athlete development, and long-term health and wellness.

The point of this article is that in terms of Sport Canada’s push to adopt the Long Term Athlete Development model, the existing summer swimming program in Alberta is more appropriate and compatible with the LTAD than the existing year-round swimming program, for the LTAD’s first three stages. Those are: FUNdamentals, Learning to Train and Training to Train. The first three stages encompass young athletes up to ages of about 15 for girls and 16 for boys. The LTAD recommends no sport specialization for the FUNdamentals stage, focusing on at least three sports in the Learning to Train stage, and on two primary sports in the Training to Train stage. Year-round swimming, with it’s intensive training programs and long season, discourages generalization during the Learning to Train stage, and essentially requires one-sport specialization in the Training to Train stage. The LTAD recognizes early specialization as a contributing factor to a lack of basic motor skills, over-training injuries, early burnout and early departure from competitive sport. A requirement for early specialization may also eliminate potential future star swimmers from swimming entirely, because many young athletes are interested in participating in multiple sports, and if participating in one sport precludes other sports, the exclusive sport might be dropped in favour of the others.

The summer swimming program in Alberta, in contrast, fits nicely into the LTAD model for the first three stages. The season is brief, allowing ample time throughout the year for kids to participate in multiple organized sport programs. The attitude of summer swimming is very fun-oriented and light, and most clubs in Alberta even encourage and facilitate participation in other summer sports, like soccer. The program obviously works for the young ages, judging by a direct comparison of 12-and under swimmers at year-round swimming provincials. Athletes who have successful summer swimming careers, and then move onto year-round swimming towards the end of the LTAD Training to Train stage, often have tremendous success and tremendous career longevity in year-round swimming. The Swimming/Natation Canada national team bios contain several stories of national team members who didn’t specialize in year-round swimming until the middle teen years.

As a former participant and beneficiary of both programs, and now as a parent of a couple of budding (no Flowers pun intended) young aquatic talents, I would like the summer swimming program to get rid of its paranoia and start encouraging kids who have outgrown the summer swimming program to consider moving on to year-round swimming. I would also like year-round swimming programs to start recognizing summer swimming programs as valuable sources of developing athletes, and as appropriate programs for multi-sport athletes, and being more supportive and inclusive of summer swimming. Changing attitudes on both sides will benefit both, and more importantly, will benefit the athletes most of all.

Categories: Editorial, Personal, Swimming

It’s About Time

2007-07-06 Leave a comment

We have a company that’s full of engineers. Not software engineers,but civil and structural and mechanical and electrical and automation engineers. It’s not a technically un-savvy company by any means. However, in my experience, engineers tend to be extremely focussed in their technical acumen and (sometimes) surprisingly ignorant in other technical areas, especially information technology. There are some notable exceptions in our company, especially among automation engineers, transportation engineers and GIS people. In fact, transportation engineers, as a group, were the first really computerized engineering discipline back in the day before there were computers on every desk, just because of the nature of their work designing highways.

That said, I was surprised and pleased to receive my first request for a corporate internally facing blog from an end user today. I think most of our staff don’t know what a blog is, much less actually knowingly read any, and much much less want to write one. I guess I’m off to work preparing my first internal WordPress server. We’ll probably need some kind of internal image and file host for it too.

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