Month: February 2018

Catching up

with my daughter.

Two Christmases ago, I thought that we had the ultimate gift for her.  Wandering through a Coles store, we saw a Trivial Pursuit version of Harry Potter.

Now, chances are, you don’t know my daughter but I’m here to tell you that she’s into everything Harry Potter.  Read the books, saw the movies, dresses as characters during the appropriate events, researches everything Harry Potter, …

She flipped when she opened the present and quickly was into doing what you should never do with Trivia Pursuit – read all the cards and then the answers.

  • that’s easy
  • everyone knows that
  • that occurred in this novel
  • saw that in the movie

Well, it kept her busy for a while.  She still goes through them periodically but doesn’t play them with her equally as obsessed friends because it’s too easy…  Well, I tried.

This morning, though, there’s another thing bound to catch her attention.  I know that it caught mine.

Google’s Arts and Culture application is featuring a Harry Potter:  History of Magic.


The collection of stories is extremely interesting.

After scrolling through the opening page, I started to plan where I’d start reading and it wasn’t top down.  This story – Ten Strange Things You Didn’t Know About the History of Magic was the clear winner.

Google Arts and Culture is an incredible resource for things and I find it indispensable when I’m waiting for things.  Instead of mindlessly scrolling my way through Instagram, I take the time to read articles and, hopefully, become smarter.

I know and fully admit that I will never “Catch up” to my daughter.  But, it’s fun trying


OTR Links 02/28/2018

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Change your looks

Out of the box (or after a download), your web browser is pretty bland looking.  I understand why; it’s the goal to make sure that the browser will work on every computer that it’s installed.

For many, that’s enough and life goes on.


For the rest of us, you know, the curious types, we may want to do things just a bit differently.

So, typically it’s off to your browser’s “store” to check out alternatives.  In this case, I’m working in Google Chrome so I head to the Chrome store.  And, there are a whack of them!

You’re not limited to the store; there are other places that have collections as well.  One such location is ThemeBeta.  Oh, so many themes to add to the Chrome Store collection.

You could change to a different theme every day and have something new to look at daily.  What caught my eye at ThemeBeta was a Theme Creator.


Look at the options to truly make things yours!  Images, generate your own colours, oh my!  Of course, I had to dig in and play around.

Those that know me know that green is my favourite colour.  Off I went to play around with frames, toolbars, backgrounds, …  Until I got it just right.


That’s certainly more colourful than the default.

How does the magic work?  It’s actually pretty easy to create a theme and apply it to the browser without ever looking under the hood.  But, there is the option to download your effort to take a look.

JSON Editor Online is a handy tool to view the code online.

“manifest_version”: 2,
“theme”: {
“images”: {
“theme_frame”: “images/theme_frame.png”,
“theme_toolbar”: “images/theme_toolbar.png”,
“theme_tab_background”: “images/theme_tab_background.png”
“colors”: {
“frame”: [
“toolbar”: [
“tab_text”: [
“tab_background_text”: [
“bookmark_text”: [
“ntp_background”: [
“ntp_text”: [
“button_background”: [
“tints”: {
“buttons”: [
“properties”: {
“ntp_background_alignment”: “top”,
“ntp_background_repeat”: “no-repeat”
“name”: “”,
“version”: “1”,
“description”: “”

So, don’t settle for the defaults.  Add a little colour to your browsing experience.

OTR Links 02/27/2018

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Big data and lost towns

We don’t think about it much these days but Ontario went through a whole bunch of amalgamations a few years ago and literally changed the map of the province.

In terms of me, you may remember this post – My Childhood Community.

We actually knew the perimeter of our town from riding our bicycles around the streets at its outer limits.  We also knew the names of the townships that surrounded the town – Goderich, Hullett, Tuckersmith, and Stanley.

But, no more.  Towns and townships had been amalgamated into new communities or adminstrative entities.

I ran into this terrific resource recently.  It was a Fusion Table resource of Canadian Administrative Boundary data.

As you can see from the visited link colour, I checked out Ontario.

Screenshot 2018-02-25 at 12.17.51

That’s when it got real for me.  I set the Filter to filter by name.  Then, when I searched for “Clinton”, I got nothing.  Why?  Because it’s not an administrative place any more!  Then, I remembered the new name which covered more than the traditional town.  They named it after my old high school “Central Huron”.


Then, it gets educational, a bit nerdy, a bit mathematical, and big time geographical!

From the Fusion table, there’s the KML data that defines the area.

Screenshot 2018-02-25 at 12.23.32

How’s that for your above average polygon?

Here’s a piece of it.  Ideas about how to use that or plot that abound.

Want to see that on a map?  Of course, that’s possible.  This is Google after all.  All the jagged edges reveal the extent of the KML entries that define the place.

Screenshot 2018-02-25 at 12.24.26

Let’s zoom out to get a better look…

Screenshot 2018-02-25 at 14.47.00

How’s that for an n-gon?

It was actually kind of fun after that.  I started poking around looking at other administrative areas.  I learned very quickly that the process is additive so I had to reset if I just wanted to look at one area.

If you’re interested in exploring and doing a little geographic inquiry or if you’re in search of some raw data for a project or two, this is the place for you.

OTR Links 02/26/2018

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

My Week Ending February 25, 2018


Readings (You can follow my daily readings as they happen here)

  1. When one of your Flipboard categories is “Education”, you just have to know what the topic of the week was.  However, one of the more interesting reads didn’t come from there but rather from TheLocal in Denmark where the Danish Prime Minister encouraged the American President to “Listen to America’s young people“.  I’d suggest this is good advice to all politicians and not just on this topic.  Today’s students are more aware of the world and the position that they will assume once they graduate.  They would offer a better vision of the school system than an accountant or a testing service that compares school to school.
  2. This could be me in the Canadian Tire store in town!  Even though it’s a newer building, or maybe because they try to carry anything you could ever want, I just can never find what I’m looking for.
  3. And, this could be me with my aging iPad2.  I guess, from its name, that it’s a second generation version of the tablet.  Unfortunately, it won’t die so I just can’t bring myself to throw it away.  But, I have thrown it across the room when it crashes yet again.  My Chromebook in tablet mode is far more reliable but there’s still a couple of applications that don’t work quite well enough to cut the cord completely.
  4. Stories like this one are click bait for those who think we should ban cell phones from schools.  Imagine paying a premium for the luxury of going to a school that bans them.  The fact that students would order their lunch delivered to the school via app should be a clue that this is an entirely different world.  I don’t see particularly insightful wisdom in the quote “But teachers are encouraged not to use laptops and tablets just “for the sake of saying that we want technology in the classroom,” Block said”.  Shouldn’t that logic apply to every school in the world?  I had to smile when I thought of all the technology alternatives these students probably have outside of school hours.
  5. ECOO is partnering with schools and districts in Bruce and Grey Counties to offer an  “#ECOOcamp” in April.  The call for proposals is out now and registration will follow.  Owen Sound?  Absolutely!  Instead of racing down the 400, 401, QEW, why not take a leisurely drive on Highway 6, 10, 21, or 26?
  6. For anyone interested in problem solving, algorithms, etc. but haven’t taken the leap yet into a formal programming language, here’s an activity from CS Unplugged guaranteed to please.  When I taught the Computer Studies course at the university, it was always interesting to see these people with Computer Science degrees work at developing an algorithm without the use of a computer!
  7. For the past two weeks, our evenings have been focused on CBC, TSN, and Sportsnet watching the Olympics.  It’s really a time for a country to shine.  I hate how drug use is always a topic though.  It appears that there’s a great deal of desire to bring a future games to Canada.  It’s always a geography lesson to actually find the location of the games; often it’s not in a city of a country that I would know about already.  If this winter games had been in Incheon or Seoul, I’d know absolutely.  Maybe this is a good thing.  They’d never come to Essex County; we’re so flat.  What we have that passes for skiing hills would be easily joked away.
  8. If it’s not already part of your jargon, you better practice making Progressive Web Applications something you talk about.  All the Google haters will hate how this is another move to control how things are run on the web.  But look to the number of people using Chrome or Chrome OS.  Resistance is futile.
  9. So, if you are resisting, you might turn to Firefox or Edge or Opera or CLIQZ or Vivaldi.  But, how about the Brave browser?  What’s interesting isn’t what it does – as a branch from Chromium, it displays webpages nicely.  What’s interesting is the functionality that we would normally associate with extensions comes hard coded into the browser.
  10. One of the things that we probably don’t think through carefully enough is what happens when you get rid of old technology.  If you resell it because you upgraded, are you selling it without any hooks to your old use?  Not so, as shared in this story.  Plus, I’ve seen enough television drama where the good guys can recover bad things from a seemingly erased hard drive.  I think that there’s room there for an ambitious programmer to absolutely and completely make a previous owner of technology anonymous.  Any takers?
  11. If you’re like me, you probably headed out to Google every day for the past two weeks – not to search for something but to see the Google Doodle for the Snow Games.  Now that the games are over, I was going to put together a collection of them all but Google beat me to it.  You can see all the Doodles here.  (Just in case you missed one or two or you’d like to spend a few moments replaying them all.)  I think #13 was my favourite.


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Technology Trouble Shooting

No more driving through fields – Sometimes, it’s the little things.  Ever since the construction of the new route to the proposed Gordie Howe bridge, there’s been a challenge in driving north on Howard Avenue/County Road 9.  Not that that’s a challenge but the straight on drive to a stop light is now a jog to the right to a two lane roundabout.  Before it was a roundabout, it was an agricultural field.  On my wife’s Garmin GPS, you end up driving through that field.  Well, February being a short month with little risk of going over my data cap, I took the time to download a new set of maps.  I was pleased to see that the roundabout is there.  Like I said, sometimes it’s the little things.

Weekly Challenge –  I think this stupid iPad hates me.  I’ve done the typical trouble shooting things with it – removed all the apps that I don’t use, reinstalled the operating system (many times) and have it to the point where it’s kind of reliable again.  I hate to assign human attributes to a piece of technology but it’s now, on its own, decided that it would like to reboot itself periodically.  Here’s the thing; it never does it when I’m around using it or watching.  I’ll just pick it up every now and again to see that there’s no wifi and a message on the opening screen that I need to enter my passcode in order to get networking back due to a reboot.  Grrrr.


Video of the Week – No Touching

Who knew we had a “no touching” zone between us and the United States?

My Favourite Photo This Week

It’s really been raining here.  Lots of flooding around here, to be sure.  We took a drive through a small community on Lake Erie last week and there was water everywhere.  In these days when we’re watching Spring Training from Lakeland, I call this one “Rained Out”.


As bad as this is, it’s nothing compared to the reports that we’re hearing from Thamesville, Moraviantown, and Chatham.  (Pictures)  Bonus marks if you recognize that the tie that binds these communities together is the Thames River.  More bonus marks if you know that it empties into Lake St. Clair at Lighthouse Cover.  What’s scary is that Lighthouse Cove is surrounded by high water at the best of times.  Mayor Tom Bain was on the news last night indicating that the town of Lakeshore is preparing for the water which is supposed to land there sometime today.


Thanks for reading.