Thursday, April 01, 2004

Murdered Children

This week's news has been punctuated by two stories on CBC radio about missing children whose bodies have been found and identified this week. Cecilia Zhang is the young girl who was taken from her bedroom about five months ago and who so captured the hearts and minds of people everywhere in the province. Although all the evidence has yet to be processed, it appears she was murdered and her body left in a woodlot in Mississauga near a church.

Also this morning on CBC Radio, I heard of another body found northwest of Toronto of a boy missing since leaving school on December 12th of 2003. Police were notified when he didn't arrive home after school that evening. Rene Charlebois's body was found in a landfill site and police have already confirmed that foul play was involved. In both cases, dental records were used to confirm the identity of the victims.

Heart, in the heart of south-western Ontario, a place to grow and live that is probably as safe as any in the world, we still hear of such stories and tremble as we think of our own children. My youngest son often comes home late from high school after a team practice. My eldest son often walks to his job and to the homes of friends in our quiet suburban neighbourhood. Is it any wonder that parents immediately identify with threats, real of imagined, to their own children.

But it's true. Despite thousands of years of cultural and social evolution on top of the millions of years of primate evolution, children are still murdered by adults. We may have developed incredibly institutions and created societies of great depth and breadth, and yet still the unspeakable can, and sometimes does, happen. We need to keep both perspectives constantly in mind when we greet the day and turn on our radio.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

.NET Architecture and Framework

Every once in a while, you find someone who speaks your language...or, at the very least, seems to have something very useful to tell you at just the right time. I've already mentioned Pavel Tsatsouline and his work on strength training (see the web log entry “The Evil Russian”). Ken Wilber is another person whose work never ceases to amaze and inspire me (you can find out more about him at Shambhala Publications).

A few years ago, I found an author writing about Visual Basic Business Objects named Rockford Lhotka. At the time, he was writing for Wrox Books. That publisher has since gone out of business, and some of the best authors have been signed up by Author's Press. Fortunately, Rocky Lhotka is one of the chosen few.

His most recent book, Expert One-on-One Visual Basic .NET Business Objects, was available at the Kitchener Chapters store last night. I purchased it, even though it is very expensive ($90 Cdn), simply because his earlier books dramatically changed the way that I looked at applications development. Already, after only 50 pages, I can tell that it is a very good investment.

Architecture and frameworks is what the book is all about. This is just what I need. I have been reading voraciously about the .NET world now for months without being able to become comfortable with how to apply the theories and manuals. Lhotka brings the reader back to a broad perspective which first distinguishes physical and logical architectures and then moves on to a business object framework built on top of the infrastructure provided by Microsoft's .NET class library. The architecture is called CSLA - component-based, scalable, logical architecture and the application framework he has built to support business applications looks very impressive. This book may just be what I need to move from theory to hands-on development.

It's Spring. Let's Buy a Car!

Well, after much consideration and some research, a test drive, checking out some blockbluster spring car sales, and talking to friends and neighbours, we made a decision - we purchased the Toyota Camry LE. This time, unlike our last vehicle, a 2001 Ford Focus wagon, we decided to purchase outright. Sure, it costs more, but we figure that the Camry should have good resale value if and when we decide to get another car in five years or so. I just couldn't imagine buying out the lease on the Ford Focus.

We didn't have a lot of probems with the Focus, but you could just tell that it wouldn't last another three or four years. The Ford dealership had a three-day, Ontario-wide sale on, but a comparable Taurus was more expensive and not nearly as impressive as the Camry. And sure enough, when we visited the Ford dealership this afternoon, there weren't many people around, despite the promise of a $4500 rebate (on cash sales only, we discovered!). But at the Toyota dealership, the place was packed. At least twenty cars had already been sold by the time we arrived at 1:00 pm today.

By 3:00 pm, we had signed all the papers and made all our decisions about interior and exterior color, extended warranties, rust protection, fabric protection and so on. Delivery is slated for the end of May to coincide with the end of the lease on our Focus. That's a full two months away, but at least our birthdays and anniversary and income tax season will be over by then. We're feeling a little stressed out, but like all other big decisions, it's good to have finally made the choice.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The Evil Russian

His name is Pavel Tsatsouline, a former Spetsnaz physical training instructor in the Soviet Union and a Master of Sports. To his many comrades and followers in North America, he is known affectionately as "the evil Russian". Why? Because his physical training programs and routines are no-nonsense, straightforward, and tough. If you read his books or watch his videos and pay attention to the propaganda, you can't help but become more flexible, stronger, and less willing to put up with the crap we often get from the weekend-certified fitness trainers in North America.

I currently have four of his books in electronic format (Adobe Acrobat files), including Power to the People, Beyond Crunches, Super Joints, and Relax Into Stretch. I can't say I've read every one cover-to-cover, but for the past few weeks I've been doing deadlifts, one-arm presses with barbells, snatches and swings with dumbbells. Each workout at Popeye's Gym takes me about 40-50 minutes and leaves me sweating and with no need for an additional cardio workout. Already, I feel stronger and in better shape even though I've been a regular gym rat for three years.

Pavel says that to get stronger without bulking up, all you need are two exercises - the deadlift and the one-arm press. You simply concentrate on excellent form, heavy weights, low repetitions (less than 6) and few sets (two of each). If you want a cardio workout to top it off, the Russian Kettlebells doing ballistic exercises of snatching and swinging are best, but most gyms don't have that kind of exotic equipment, so you can settle for dumbbells instead.

I'm convinced "the evil Russian" can teach us many things about physical exercise and all-round fitness. So, I'm giving him at least six weeks, probably more like twelve to eighteen weeks, doing nothing but these exercises just to see what difference in makes in my body. Who knows, maybe I'll start calling friends and family members "comrades" soon.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Anti-Semitism and Assassinations

As I listened to the newscasts today on CBC radio, I couldn't help but wonder at the irony. This weekend there were anti-semitic attacks on a synagogue and toppling of headstones in a Jewish cemetery near Toronto. Today, all three levels of government denounced the attacks and called on the citizenry to fight anti-semitism. All of which makes sense to me. But then there was the assassination of the Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Israeli leadership considered the attack justified as anti-terrorism. The United States government refused to condemn the attack.

Ironic that the two stories broke at the same time. What is bothering me, though, is that it seems that it's becoming increasingly difficult to determine right from wrong in these related stories. Certainly intolerance and hatred are unjustified no matter where we find them. But doesn't it seem a little odd that we can rally all levels of government so quickly when it comes to anti-semitism, but we have a much more difficult time when it comes to defending the Palestinians against Israeli aggression? Sure, the Hamas leader was a terrorist. And maybe Israel is justified in killing him as fit punishment for his crimes against humanity. But shouldn't we as Canadians be more equitable in our reactions to crimes of hatred and intolerance and injustice everywhere? Are we being equitable today, for instance?

ManyOne Universal Browser

As a subscriber to Integral Naked (, I received the weekly update this morning. The feature interview this week is with Joe Firmage, cofounder of USWeb and called by some a UFO lunatic. I had never heard of the man before, so I'll leave the Fox Muldar musings until I know a little more about him. The Disinformation web site has a brief biographical sketch with links to other articles about Firmage (see for anyone interested in finding out more about him.

Anyway, I've just downloaded the MANYONE Universal Browser, which Integral Naked says "may revolutionize the way we use the World Wide Web." I'll also download the conversation between Ken Wilber and Joe Firmage for later listening. Whether the man and his inventions live up to the hype on Integral Naked or not, I'll be sure to write some more about the browser soon.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Why Bother Blogging, Anyway?

It occurred to me today that our extended family's egroup, 54highland (currently hosted as a yahoo egroup), is not as effective as it might be in helping members communicate feelings, thoughts, and opinions. There are many reasons why group email doesn't function well this way, but perhaps the most obvious is that email tends to be geared towards news messages only. In other words, as soon as an individual "gets personal" or has an "opinion", someone is bound to be offended. Similarly, telephone conversations with family members tend to deal with simple items of family life and talk about things like weather, sports, etc. without getting very detailed or even very informative. Not to say such means of communication are useless; far from it, they keep the wheels oiled and are a very useful means of saying "you mean something to me." But they have limitations.

Blogging or journaling is usually very personal. But it can also be collaborative and one way in which family members can discover more about one another than is possible through phone conversations, gatherings, and email. So I was considering inviting some of the technically oriented extended family members to collaborate on setting up some kind of web site in which we could provide more open-ended communication features for one another. Never having done web logs before, though, I thought I would first do some research and even attempt some entries of my own before extending an invitation to others to consider doing something similar.

Another reason why I am blogging is simply because my experience has convinced me that I often don't know exactly what I think until I take the time to write it down. The very act of using text, or trying to articulate my thoughts, helps me to discover those thoughts. I have been guilty of using email and group discussion lists in the past for this very purpose; namely, discovering more about myself. Some appreciate the effort; others do not. That's true for family egroups just as much as it is for lists of friends, acquaintances or people with similar interests. And, since I haven't been participating much in egroups recently, blogging seems an excellent match for my experience with writing and my interest in communications technologies.

Anyway, here we go. Blogger seems as good a place to start as any other. Perhaps even better, since it is recommended in an MSDN article about blogging. To get started, I have also downloaded and installed the blogging plug-in for Windows Media Player. That way, I can begin to share a bit about my listening habits too.