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That one summer in Quebec

I’m thankful for many things, and since November is a popular month to recognize those things we’re thankful for, I thought I’d… wait, it’s December already? Oh.

At any rate, I visited my parents over Thanksgiving, and while I was there I found some old photo albums from back in the day. One of them was the photo album from the six weeks I spent at a French language school in Quebec City, at Cégep de Sainte-Foy, during the summer before my final year of high school. I went to Quebec with my friend Peter, who has been one of my best friends since we met in the fourth grade, but we met a lot of new friends from all over Canada (and even one from Atlanta) while we were staying there.

One reason why I am thankful is that the program was sponsored by the Canadian government. The trip to Quebec City, the room and board, and the daily French lessons were paid for as part of a French language bursary program. The program still exists, it seems – it is now called Explore, and it lasts for five weeks. It doesn’t seem like the current program is comprehensively covered as it was when I was in high school, but I still think it is pretty cool that the Government of Canada will sponsor English-speaking Canadian citizens to learn the French language, and vice versa. It shows the emphasis that the Canadian government places on being a multilingual country.

I learned a lot of French in Quebec, of course, but I learned a lot of other things as well – a lot about independence, and friendship, and Quebecois culture. It’s an experience that I will always remember, and it’s something that I hope my own children will be able to experience one summer once they themselves reach high school.

Here’s a picture I scanned of Peter and I at Toronto Pearson International Airport, getting ready to fly to Quebec City for the program.

peter-brian-toronto-airport

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Thoughts about future technology

stuff-on-a-tableCallum and I often have long discussions about future technology. Callum is surprisingly prescient for someone just starting out, especially where computers, computer hardware, and mobile devices (iPhones, iPods, iPads, and the like) are concerned.

Two of the things we discussed the other day:

The future of MP3 players

Like David Pumpkins, MP3 players used to be “their own thing”. Now many people simply use their mobile phones as MP3 players, and don’t carry around a separate MP3 player device. Callum and I talked about what form MP3 players eventually might take as technology progresses. As electronic devices become smaller and smaller, MP3 players (or players of whatever format comes next) will be able to be located pretty much anywhere.

One possible location would be in a person’s watch – for those people who wear a watch. While most of my family members (especially my father, my son, and myself) are pretty big fans of Apple laptops and devices, none of us was motivated to get an Apple Watch. While an Apple Watch has a lot of functionality for such a small device, most of the functionality it has can be better served by using something else. While the Apple Watch makes for a good fitness watch, it doesn’t make for a great fitness watch. It’s good for mobile communication, but you need to have your phone on you to use that functionality anyway. With an MP3 player and Bluetooth earphones, an Apple Watch would be useful as an MP3 player. It would also serve as a good mobile phone itself by using those same Bluetooth headphones, with all of the communications functions built right into the phone. Then you would no longer have to carry around a phone or a tablet, and if it was strapped securely to your wrist, it would be much more difficult to lose or to have stolen. It boggles me when I see teenagers walking around with their mobile phones halfway out of their back pockets.

Of course, in the future, MP3 players and mobile phones could also be placed directly into the earphones themselves. As technology gets smaller, earphones could house full computers that could connect to other devices via Bluetooth, cellular, or Internet. It seems that in the future, Internet will completely replace cellular and Bluetooth technologies – it will simply be everywhere, and all devices will be able to use Internet as a medium, so cellular and Bluetooth will no longer be needed. And in the even further future, we likely won’t even need earphones. We’ll be able to get sound piped directly into our minds.

Self-driving car races

Race cars can move pretty quickly, but one of the things holding cars back from increasing speed is the fact that you have to stick a human driver in one. That means that a car has to at least be a certain size, and take up a certain amount of volume in a certain shape. With self-driving cars, those limitations are relieved. Self-driving cars can be any size, and of any shape.

In the future, as self-driving technology becomes ubiquitous, I’m guessing we will eventually see self-driving car races as a sport. Artificially intelligent cars will be able to use their knowledge of a racecourse and their self-driving software to maneuver around a racecourse, avoiding other cars, at incredible speeds. It would make for an interesting sport, and could bring prestige to automobile companies and to the creators of self-driving vehicle computer software. I’d certainly watch that.

Drones as entertainment

Meanwhile, here in the Orlando area, Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) has introduced a new nighttime experience for the Christmas season – a holiday light show featuring 300 drones. These drones are programmed to create aerial formations and activate a variety of colored lights to create a light show in the sky over the Disney Springs marketplace. We haven’t checked it out yet, but we certainly plan to.

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19. Nov, 2016
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“News” on Facebook

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of “news” on Facebook that displays a great deal of bias. In one memorable bit of news, a website claimed that Michelle Obama is actually a man. The interesting thing is, people seem take these news articles very seriously when they pop up in their news feeds. They are frequently (maybe almost always) shared with friends or networks without proper due diligence being performed to determine whether or not the news in question is true or false.

In most cases, news being shared in this manner comes from an obviously fake or biased source. For example, “Spinzon” was the site that shared the news about Michelle Obama being a man. If a news source is called “The Conservative News Agenda”, you can probably guess what their bias is going to be. If it’s “The Liberal Daily Digest”, same thing.

If you’re going to share news on Facebook, be sure you know what the bias of the news is, if any, and if it looks suspect, do your research before sharing the news to your Facebook page. Sharing interesting, relevant news about politics is helpful, but sharing fake, heavily biased news is not helping anyone.

To help propagate this idea I created this meme. And as an added bonus, I now know what fonts Facebook uses in its news feed!

Facebook news

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01. Nov, 2016
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News from the kitchen

I’m going to wax poetic about our kitchen faucet.

Our old faucet failed a week ago (FYI, when faucets fail, they tend to fail in epic fashion). So we needed a new one. While investigating different faucets, we found several that you can touch to turn on and off. They were a little more expensive than the other ones, so at first we glossed over them, but then we realized – we are constantly turning on and off the kitchen faucet with food-covered hands. Like, every single day. So we ended up buying one. And I have to admit, I am really digging it – you can tap the faucet with your forearm or the back of your hand to activate it, and not have to worry about getting food all over the handle.

So, anyway, yeah. I’m excited about my kitchen faucet. That must be a grown-up thing.

A touch-to-activate kitchen faucet

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18. Oct, 2016
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The Main Street Electrical Parade

Over the weekend we visited the Magic Kingdom as a family. After riding Splash Mountain, Callum and I were walking toward Liberty Square when we noticed that the Main Street Electrical Parade was about to start. Apparently, this particular parade is going to be closing at Disney World on October 9th of this year, with the various floats and costumes being moved to Anaheim so that they can feature the parade at Disneyland, which is where the parade originally took place. Since it’s about to become a part of history here in Orlando, I figured we may as well watch it one last time.

Considering we decided to watch the parade right before it started, we managed to find a really good spot. There are walkways across Main Street that are blocked off during the parade. The Disney cast members don’t let you hang around behind the rope on these walkways – you can’t block the path, as it is used throughout the parade to allow people to cross. But Callum and I found a spot outside of Splash Mountain in front of some garbage cans, still behind the white line but right up close to the roped off area. So basically we were front row. However, as we were a little further back from the street than normal, I managed to get some decent photographs of the various Electrical Parade floats – my camera (in this case, my iPhone) was able to take in a bit more of the floats than you normally would be able to if you were up close to the parade.

These phone-taken pictures aren’t professional by any means, but I was glad to be able to take a few photos while I was still able to do so, before the parade leaves Disney World and makes its way over to Disneyland.

Tinker Bell's balloon

Tinker Bell’s balloon

Alice on the mushroom

Alice on the mushroom

The caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland on his mushroom

The caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland on his mushroom

Captain Hook's pirate ship

Captain Hook’s pirate ship

Pinocchio

Pinocchio

Pete's Dragon

Pete’s Dragon

The America float, the final float in the parade

The America float, the final float in the parade

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The Doors of Durin

If the Mines of Moria had had better security.

The Doors of Durin

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02. Sep, 2016
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Star Wars Launch Bay

This evening we checked out the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. We got pictures taken with Kilo Ren and Chewbacca, and checked out the various models of ships and equipment from the various Star Wars movies that they had on display. I didn’t go to the movie beforehand – Yvonne mentioned it’s just a bunch of clips from the Star Wars movies.

Some people feel that the Launch Bay isn’t as impressive as it could be – it’s more of a mini-museum that doesn’t offer guests as much interaction with the Star Wars universe as a full attraction might. However, I’m pretty sure that the Launch Bay is a temporary installment to keep guests interested while the real Star Wars land is being constructed elsewhere in Hollywood Studios. For what it is, I thought the Launch Bay was pretty good. We rushed through it this time as we had FastPasses for Midway Mania, so I’ll probably go back to check out more of the models another evening.

While at the Launch Bay you’ll find a few unruly Jawas roaming the premises, making illicit trades with guests. If you bring a trinket from home to the park you can attempt to trade it with them for droid parts. Here’s me trading a Batman eraser with one of the Jawas; he’s checking out my potential trade while I keep an eye out for the authorities. He went for it, so I’m now an R2-D2 head richer. Afterward I asked him if next time I saw him he’d let me drive the sandcrawler. I don’t think he went for it.

A Jawa at the Star Wars Launch Bay

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You said what?

Brian Crawford on TwitterPeople don’t blog as much as they did back in the day. Nowadays people rely more on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and the like to share their thoughts and experiences online. This is okay, but posting on social media sites is kind of like throwing your experiences into a bottomless pit. You see your posts for a while as they fall down the hole… then they gradually fade away until they disappear entirely.

I was reminded of this the other day when I checked to see how far back my Twitter posts go. The answer is, currently they go back to April of 2011. I am sure that Twitter keeps those posts archived on a server somewhere. But for all intents and purposes, those things I tweeted from when I joined Twitter in July of 2008 to April of 2011 are now gone for good.

That is too bad. It’s not that people look that far back on peoples’ Twitter feeds – only the most serious stalkers do that – but it’s nice to know that if you wanted to see what you happened to be doing in July of 2008, you could. If you were to blog that information, you could hold onto it as long as you kept backups of your blog. On Twitter, it’s history.

So I decided I’d copy and paste a few tweets from my past that I found meaningful – things that remind me of the time and place I was experiencing when I tweeted them. I’m not expecting people reading this blog to care too much about them, or even read them, but it’s fun for me to get a glimpse of how things were.

So here is the first installment of Tweets from the Past

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter

Twitter

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27. Jul, 2016
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It’s a tragedy

At 11:30 AM I got the call to head to Redgrave’s Children’s Home. Three children had been accidentally poisoned. The neighborhood was in shock. The saddest part was, two children had been poisoned there last October, and another one a few months before that. Chief Carson sent me over to the home to try to make some sense of what was going on.

When I arrived at the children’s home, Mrs. Redgrave met me on the front porch. I could tell she had been in tears most of the morning. I showed her my badge. Still shaking, she led me into the house.

Inside, the home was roomier than I thought it would be. A couple of kids, maybe five years old, were playing with toy dinosaurs on one of those big oval carpets you used to see a lot in the 70s. Piled high by the closet was a big pile of bags of pesticide. Walking further into the house, I noticed more bags of pesticide on the dining room table. There were more stacked by the TV. Some kids were playing video games in the family room, sitting on big bags of pesticide, some of them ripped open and leaking powder onto the floor. I took out my notepad and scribbled a few notes.

“It’s all so senseless,” said Mrs. Redgrave. “Such a tragedy. I just can’t understand how this happened.”

“Ma’am,” I said. “You do know you have big bags of pesticide all over the house?”

“Of course,” said Mrs. Redgrave. “You never know when you are going to have a pest problem.”

“Do you have a pest problem, Mrs. Redgrave?”

“No. Would you like some tea?”

I brushed pesticide off one of the couch cushions and sat down. Mrs. Redgrave fetched me a cup of tea and placed it on the table beside me. I didn’t drink any.

“Mrs. Redgrave,” I said. “Do you think maybe having all this pesticide sitting around constitutes a risk?”

“Of course not,” said Mrs. Redgrave. “We would only use it if we had a pest problem. And we would make sure that when we spread it around the house, we’d tell the kids to be very careful where they stepped.”

“But there’s so much of it,” I said. “Why do you need so much pesticide?”

She frowned at me. “What are you saying?”

I shrugged. “I’m just trying to make sense of what’s going on.”

“Owning pesticide is not a crime, Officer.”

“I realize that. But maybe if you just got rid of some of these bags…”

“We can’t do that,” said Mrs. Redgrave. “We’ve always had pesticide. Our neighbors have pesticide, too. If they used their pesticide and we didn’t have any, the bugs would move from their lawns over to ours. Can you imagine?”

“I suppose,” I said. I sighed. “So what are you going to do now?”

“Same thing as last time,” she said. “We’re going to post pictures of the victims, so everyone knows all about the promising young lives that were tragically cut short. We’ll hold a candlelight vigil for them. We’ll use social media to talk about how horrible we all feel. And then I guess we’ll do our best to get back to our daily lives, and pray that this never happens again.”

I closed my notepad. There wasn’t much more I could do here. “Thank you for your time.”

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