A Canadian Law?

Canada has a law that can put you in prison for blasphemous libel. The definition of blasphemy includes “irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable” and “the act of claiming the attributes of a deity”.
So, apparently they could lock me up for saying “Holy me!” if a trier of facts considered that blasphemy and I were not, in good faith, attempting to establish an argument that we would be better off without this law.

Section 296 of the Canadian Criminal Code - Blasphemous Libel
Section 296 of the Canadian Criminal Code – Blasphemous Libel


I keep hearing that Netflix has a much greater selection of content in the US than in Canada. To access US content Canadians need to pretend to Netflix that we are Americans ;-).

After talking to some friends I gave blockless.com a try – their first week is free. Easy to set up and works as advertised.

What I found is that this is a good way to demonstrate the ambiguity of great. The US version does have more shows, but it still didn’t have anything that made me want to extend blockless past its one week trial.

Edit: I wasn’t thinking outside the box… Blockless give access not only to US Netflix, but also to other regions’ Netflix and other services. Access to foreign language content. A way to keep the rust off my German.

Epidemiology of Healthcare Course

Auditing a course to tell me more about the databases of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) right now. They essentially host a variety of Manitoba data sets that are combined to better understand population health. The data sets are huge both in that they contain most Manitobans and in that they stretch into areas like health, housing, education and also some stats can data. They also have a very  handy free and online concept dictionary that explains some of the indices and acronyms used in that field.
As interesting as the course itself is the wide variety of people who are taking it: students, new people at MCHP, people who work with native, housing or education agencies and a few doctors. Half the course is spend discussing some of the reports MCHP has generated and there are always interesting perspectives around the table.

Order in shop

Just picked up this rack for pliers at Princess Auto. Now my pliers are no longer in a puppy pile that comes tumbling out of the shelf when I pull one out.

It works well enough but the number of narrow vs wider slots isn’t quite optimal. That would be different for everyone, though, so can’t really be fixed without making it adjustable, and then it would risk becoming finicky. Even so, better than what I had before.

NFC automation: send SMSs and bedside mode more

I try to remember things. I am bad at it.NFC Tag

For example, I try to remember to text home when I leave work. And I try to remember to set my phone to night mode with alarm for next morning when I go to bed.

Enter NFC tags (eg. from dx) and the Smart Tags app for the blackberry. The Smart Tags app allows you to write tasks to the NFC tag, and your phone will then execute that task if you hold it near the tag.

So, I put some tags

  • on my backpack strap to launch a SMS home
    • this one never worked once I put it onto the tuck tape I used as an in-between to the fabric
  • on my night stand to turn my phone into bedside notification mode (sadly they don’t have a setting available for true bedside mode)
    • works, although of limited use since I still need to put it into proper bedside mode
  • on my laptop to turn notification normal and open phone screen
    • That sticker never worked after I applied it to my laptop. We were talking about antennas and all their fun properties in a HAM radio course I am taking right now, and it made me think. Sure enough, it turns out NFC stickers  don’t work well when applied to metal. You can buy special ones that do.
  • on my key chain to turn on the camera (I use my camera a lot, more to document than for snapshots)
    • Never did figure out a way to put it on the keychain, I don’t ahve anything on there big enough to fit the sticker. If I wanted this badly I’d need to get one of the keychain NFCs

So, only 1 in 4 worked, and I am now hesitant to use the last one. It appears functional, but I don’t know what broke the other two, so holding off for a bit.

random noise maker

Sparkfun's MP3 trigger in case on the actuator mechanism for the random noise maker.
Sparkfun’s MP3 trigger in case on the actuator mechanism for the random noise maker

Someone asked me to build a gadget that will randomly play one of 4 sounds when a cord is pulled.
I decided to build it using Sparkfun’s MP3 trigger. I designed and laser cut a case for the circuit board and plasma cut an adjustable hinge mechanism to mount it in. (download .pdf).

I am really please with the MP3 trigger, setup was a piece of cake: put mp3s onto a microSD card, add config file to set a trigger to random, solder on a switch, done. Designing the case and mechanism and setting it all up took a bit longer, but a satisfying project over all.

Soft jaws

IMG_20150818_203651I have some soft jaws with rubber faces for my bench vise. They are great for holding more delicate things still while working on them.

The problem is that the magnets on the back are very weak, so the jaws don’t stay in place as you are adjusting stuff against them. I didn’t realize just how weak the magnets were until one fell out the other day. I don’t know if it could hold up 5 pieces of paper to my fridge.

soft jaw with original, weak magnet on the right and the replacement neodymium magnets on the left
soft jaw with original, weak magnet on the right and the replacement neodymium magnets on the left

So, since it had fallen out anyway I instead hot-glued in some 1/4″ neodymium magnets. What a difference! I think it will work much better this way, and I could always add a few more power magnets if this isn’t strong enough.


Customer cards on cell phone.

I try to keep my daily carry limited to what will fit into my pockets, so I have a very small wallet. No space for all the different cards different places give you. For example, our library gives out a credit card sized customer card with a bar code. I never have it with me, and the librarians are usually happy enough to accept other ID. So far it has meant that I could not use their self-checkout, though. I wondered if the checkout machine would accept a photo of the card on my cell phone. Turns out it does! Wonder if this will work for my co-op card and any other bar coded items as well.

This is all good for convenience, but it also opens up a risk of fraud. Anyone who has taken a picture of my card can go borrow books with it. Or, anyone who has a picture of any number of gift cards that use the same system could get money off those cards. On a less nefarious note, it would also make it easier to share something like a gift card between multiple people, everyone would just need a photo of it.