30 September 2007

Farewell, Miss Moneypenny

As reported by cbc.ca:
"Canadian actress Lois Maxwell, who played the definitive Miss Moneypenny in 14 James Bond films, has died. She was 80.

Maxwell died in hospital in Fremantle, Australia on Saturday....

Maxwell was born Lois Hooker in Kitchener, Ont., in 1927.

She started her acting career on radio, but left home at 15 to join the army. She travelled throughout Europe in the Second World War, performing music and dance numbers in the Army Entertainment Corps....

Only a year later, she was hailed as best newcomer at the Golden Globe Awards, for her part in That Hagen Girl, which also starred Temple and Ronald Reagan.

Shortly afterward, she appeared in a photo layout in Life Magazine with another up-and-coming actress — Marilyn Monroe....

Shortly after the birth of her second child, Maxwell was asked to take the role of M's secretary in Dr. No, the first of the Bond movies to star Sean Connery.

Her character Miss Moneypenny's flirtatious interactions with Agent 007 were popular with moviegoers and she outlasted another Bond, Roger Moore.

"She was always fun and she was wonderful to be with," said Moore in an interview with BBC. "She was absolutely perfect casting." Moore had known Maxwell since they were drama students together in London....

She starred in 14 movies as Moneypenny, including The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only and A View to a Kill....

In the 1980s, she became a regular columnist for the Toronto Sun newspaper, sharing stories about her experiences on the movie set, her co-stars, her life in Italy and her present life. Her last movie, made in 2001, was a thriller, The Fourth Angel. She retired to the U.K., but moved to Western Australia to be close to her son's family."

28 September 2007

Implicit Association Tests

I followed a link to Project Implicit, which according to their website:

“represents a collaborative research effort between researchers at Harvard University, the University of Virginia, and University of Washington. While the particular purposes of each study vary considerably, most studies available at Project Implicit examine thoughts and feelings that exist either outside of conscious awareness or outside of conscious control. The primary goals of Project Implicit are to provide a safe, secure, and well-designed virtual environment to investigate psychological issues and, at the same time, provide visitors and participants with an experience that is both educational and engaging.”

There’s a variety of different IATs (Implicit Association Tests), but the one that was available at the time for non-registrants like me (registration is free, I think) was a “Multicultural-Unicultural IAT”. Apparently, registrants can participate in studies regarding social groups, pop culture, personality, and more. The IAT I tried took 5-10 minutes, and mainly consisted of assigning words and pictures to their correct categories as quickly as possible. There were also a few questions tacked on to the end.

Taking the IAT I was slightly anxious about what the results would be. Would the results reflect what I believe about myself, or would they suggest a disconnect between my conscious and unconscious beliefs, and if so how might that be influencing my behaviour?

Of course, these types of “tests” shouldn’t be taken too seriously or as something that is written in stone. I look at it as being educational and entertaining--which is what the website itself says.

Having said that, I admit I was relieved that at least in this instance my unconscious feelings were in accord with my conscious ones.

Greedy telecoms

I've alluded before to my disgust with mobile phone companies (Handys and upgrading) in North America. This "phone-locking" business has to be one of the all-time major cash grabs in the history of corporate greed and I'm just waiting for the day customers are able and willing to say, "enough is enough".

Mobile phone customers in the U.S. and Canada are forced into one or two year contracts with every new phone they purchase. In contrast, new handys in Asia and Europe(?) are unlocked, which means customers can switch providers as often as they please. Why are Canada and U.S. customers getting the short end of the stick? There's probably a variety of reasons, but I think it's because telecoms have too much lobbying power, and customers have been conditioned to expect and live with this larcenous behaviour.

As I understand it, the telecoms' argument is that they are subsidizing the cost of the handy so contracts are a way to recoup their costs. My reply would be two-fold. First, if a business model with unlocked phones is thriving in Asia and Europe, why can't it work in North America? Second, why can't telecoms offer both locked and unlocked phones? Why!?

Perhaps the majority of customers would still purchase handys under contract, but others, like myself, are willing to pay a premium for an unlocked phone. I paid a premium price for my unlocked, unbranded HTC s620 Excalibur.

Branding--ugh. That brings up a whole other issue.

I understand telecoms installing software and altering functions of handys they offer so that customers can access whatever special features the telecoms offer. Fine. But for myself, I buy a handy to use as a phone, and for contacts. I don't buy a handy to watch video, listen to music or surf the interent. Ever heard the phrase, "jack of all trades, master of none"? So the notion of paying a premium price for a branded phone with telecom logos and junk software I'll never use is extremely galling, to say the least; it's pouring salt into a bleeding wound.

Relatively recently I learned that after 3 months or so some telecoms will now unlock your handy for free--except that you're still locked into your contract. I also have to acknowledge that at least one telecom I contacted said they could sell me an unlocked phone-- except that it would be a branded version. ::roll-eyes::

Update: Oops. I forgot to mention the cause of this rant. The impetus for this post was reading an article on bbc.co.uk talking about the iPhone, which says:

"An Apple software update is disabling iPhones that have been unlocked by owners who wanted to choose which mobile network to use."

The full article is here: Apple iPhone warning proves true.

27 September 2007

Luck, hope and taxes

The past few years I’ve been purchasing tickets for the Spina Bifida Association’s annual Porsche Raffle. Spina Bifida (7 out of every 10,000 live births) is a developmental birth defect where the neural tube does not form correctly. There’s no cure, but the risk can be reduced up to 70% by taking folic acid supplements.

Anywhoo, the first time I purchased a raffle ticket it was a spur of the moment decision. I saw a sign, “Porsche Raffle”, a Porsche Boxster, and I pulled over to learn more. Since the only way I’ll probably ever own a new Porsche is by winning one, and since the raffle had a set limit on the number of tickets, I bought one.

Initially I was excited at the possibilities, and for the first time in my life (hey, why torture myself with the impossible?) visited the official Porsche website. I played around with “building my Porsche”, but it only confirmed my previous thought that yes, the only way I’d ever own a new Porsche was by winning one.

It was only afterwards that it occurred to me that were I to actually win (ha ha) I’d have to pay 50% of the value in taxes, which would probably be a minimum of $22k to $25k. Ugh. I’d be forced to sell it, but at least I’d be on the plus side—financially. Emotionally, I’d be depressed. Imagine winning a new Porsche but then having to give it up. Double ugh.

Reminds me of the guy who won a trip to space, only to be forced to decline upon learning he’d have to pay taxes on the value of the trip, which, if memory serves, worked out to be more money than I’ll ever earn in my lifetime.

Anywhoo, that first year I greeted the news of not winning the Porsche with both disappointment and relief. But why do I continue purchasing tickets every year? It’s for a worthy cause, hope springs eternal, and even if I did end up selling a Porsche at least I’d feel vindicated sporting a spiffy Porsche baseball cap. Hey, I used to own a Porsche.

26 September 2007

Viggo Mortensen

The only movies I've watched with Viggo Mortensen are the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I greatly enjoyed his performance as Aragorn. Having said that, I admit I haven't seen or had a large desire to see any of his other movies. But from what I've read and/or heard about him in articles [and DVD extras ;o)] Mortensen-- a photographer, publisher, pianist, painter and poet-- sounds like an interesting individual.

"NEW YORK (AP) -- Viggo Mortensen is looking out the window.

Across the street from his Manhattan hotel, he notices a man on a balcony and wonders aloud what the man is doing, what his life is. The moment makes him ponder, "What does that mean?"

"Basically, I think life is relatively short," Mortensen concludes. "We're not here that long and I think we're lucky to be here.

"And it makes sense to pay attention."

A conversation with the 48-year-old star of the acclaimed new film "Eastern Promises" is likely to include such philosophical musings, delivered in Mortensen's characteristic even, almost hushed tone. The man many know as Aragorn from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy is about as opposite as possible from a Middle Earth warrior -- an enigma wrapped in a Mets T-shirt.

That's what Mortensen was wearing beneath otherwise stylish duds at a recent interview, where he made it clear that "Eastern Promises" -- his second collaboration with director David Cronenberg....

Critics have lauded Mortensen's performance as Nikolai, a low-level but rising Russian mobster living in London. Nikolai -- who only speaks Russian or heavily accented, broken English -- develops a relationship with a midwife (Naomi Watts) who's seeking answers behind the death of a Russian teenager and the baby girl she left behind....

He's [Mortensen's] a photographer who has held exhibits around the globe, the founder of art book publisher Perceval Press, a pianist with a forthcoming classical CD titled "Time Waits for Everyone," a painter and a poet.

Mortensen generally shuns the flashy Hollywood lifestyle; he even declined a 2004 invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Instead, he immerses himself in roles.

The actor dragged his sword everywhere with him while making "Lord of the Rings" and took a road trip through the Midwest in preparation for "A History of Violence." For "Eastern Promises," he spent several weeks in Russia researching his character....

He was cast at the last moment for "The Lord of the Rings" when Stuart Townsend was jettisoned, having been judged too youthful to portray the world-weary Aragorn. It's a quality Mortensen seems to specialize in, as he showed in "Hidalgo" and both Cronenberg movies.

Is it a characteristic Mortensen himself shares?

"Sometimes. It's hard not to get depressed when you pay attention to the world and how strangely and corrupt the people in it sometimes behave," replies Mortensen, who has never shied away from political dialogue.

Mortensen recently finished shooting "Good," about a professor who becomes enmeshed in debates on euthanasia in 1930s Germany. He'll soon begin production on the Ed Harris-directed "Appaloosa," and has been reported to be in talks to star in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road."

It seems clear that Mortensen has declined the career of a blockbuster movie star, which was available to him after "Rings" and "Hidalgo.""--cnn.com

21 September 2007

Run, don't walk

The other day my workplace had its 24th Annual Institute Relay. This year there were 91 teams of five runners, each team needing at least two women and two men. Each person runs a half mile loop around a couple buildings on campus. Due to the number of runners the relay is divided into two heats. There are no prizes and/or awards besides bragging rights and bottled water.

This year, due to personnel changes, health, and absenteeism we were one runner short but luckily someone from a lab down the hall accepted our invitation to join the team. Our lab participated just to have fun and didn’t have any drastic expectations or hopes, but others were pretty serious. Surprisingly, there were only two teams from our institute.

Our team placed somewhere in the middle finishing in 43rd place with a total time of 17:39. There were six teams within five seconds of us, so I think we faired fairly well, and much the same as last year (last year I was on the cheer squad). The best time was 13:54 and the slowest was 25:17.

Anywhoo, what did I learn from the relay? Two things: first I learned that the concept of “rate-limiting reaction” does not apply to running, at least not in my case. The first half of the loop was uphill (the slowest or rate-limiting section), so I hypothesized that if I pushed myself for the first part my overall time would improve since I could “coast” down the last part and at least maintain my pace.


By the time I finished the uphill portion my legs were already feeling dead and I had a sneaking suspicion that in the last portion I could have walked faster than I was running but… you know, actually walking it would have been mortifying.

Oh yeah, the second thing? Applied chemistry is not one of my better subjects.

20 September 2007

$1 Cdn = $1 US

For the first time since 1976 the Canadian dollar equaled, albeit briefly, the U.S. dollar:

"The loonie briefly reached $1.0003 US on foreign exchange markets shortly before 11 a.m. ET, the Bank of Canada said. The loonie's stint at parity was brief, however, as it later slipped back to just under $1 US....

"We've come a long way. It wasn't that long ago that the Canadian dollar was trading around 60 cents and people were thinking the end was near," said Steve Butler, director of foreign exchange at Scotia Capital. "And now, seeing it close to parity with this much strength and this much momentum, I don't think parity is going to be the number that stops it,""--cbc.ca
I think the loonie was 62 cents only five years ago. I guess now would be the time for Canadians to head south and purchase some luxury vehicles. :o)

Of course, since I'm living in the U.S. this bit of news doesn't really do me much good. ::sigh::

18 September 2007

The Einstein Quiz

Albert Einstein said that 98% of the people in the world can not solve the following puzzle. I have no idea if that’s true, but I’m willing to give Einstein the benefit of the doubt. :o)

I think this puzzle is tough, but fair. It was slow going at first, but once the pieces started fitting it went quickly. I needed 40-45 minutes to solve it [on my ::cough:: first ::cough:: try--kudos to me! ;o)].

So without further ado, on to the question.

The Einstein Quiz: Who has the fish?


  1. There are 5 houses in 5 different colors.
  2. In each house lives a person with a different nationality.
  3. These 5 owners drink a certain beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigar and keep a certain pet.
  4. No owners have the same pet, smoke the same brand of cigar or drink the same drink.


  1. The Brit lives in a red house.
  2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
  3. The Dane drinks tea.
  4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
  5. The green house owner drinks coffee.
  6. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
  7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
  8. The man living in the house right in the centre drinks milk.
  9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  10. The man who smokes Blend lives next to the one who keeps cats.
  11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
  12. The owner who smokes Blue Master drinks beer.
  13. The German smokes Prince.
  14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
  15. The man who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water.

Problem: Specify who lives in each house, what animals they own, what they drink and what they smoke, and then, by this process, determine who has the fish.

Update: Follow this link only if you want the answer! Solution to The Einstein Quiz.

UPDATE 2: Warning! Answer is posted in the Comments section.

Robert Jordan dies at 58

Fiction author Robert Jordan has died of a rare blood disease:
"Author Robert Jordan, who was best known for the Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels, has died of a rare blood disease aged 58.

Jordan - whose real name was James Oliver Rigney Junior - died at the Medical University of South Carolina.

His personal assistant, Maria Simons, said the disease caused the walls of his heart to thicken.

Jordan's first fantasy book, The Eye of the World, was published in 1990 and went on to sell millions of copies.

He also wrote a trilogy of historical novels set in Charleston under the pen name Reagan O'Neal in the early 1980s.

After turning his hand to the Wheel of Time series, he went on to publish 11 books and had been working on the 12th at the time of his death.

Jordan's books tell of Rand al'Thor, also known as The Dragon Reborn, who is destined to battle evil in a mythical land.

The author is survived by his wife, Harriet McDougal Rigney." --bbc.co.uk

I really enjoyed the earlier books in the Wheel of Time series and I remember how eager I was for the next installment to be published. Despite growing frustrated with the series and giving up after the 5th or 6th novel, I still have fond memories of how much fun I had reading his earlier work.

08 September 2007

US Open 2007 Champion: Justine Henin

Yowza! Justine Henin df. Svetlana Kuznetsova (6-1,6-3) to win her 2nd U.S. Open championship and her 7th major.

Henin came out swinging and quickly took a 4-0 lead in the first set; she outplayed Kuznetsova from the start and dominated the match. Kuznetsova was never able to get herself going; Henin was just too good. Kuznetsova had a few chances to break, including two games at 15-40 in the 2nd, but Henin pulled through.

I find it amazing that Henin's serve percentage was so low but she was still winning points and never broken in this match despite several double-faults, including 3 in one game, if I remember correctly. Henin came through this tournament never dropping a set, passing both S.Williams and V.Williams in the quarter- and semi-final, respectively.

Oh yeah, I've mentioned this before (2006 US Open and Tennis etiquette), but it annoys me to no end when people insist on screaming and yelling in the middle of a player's serve. Show a little sportsmanship, please. This time it was Henin serving for the match leading 5-3 in the 2nd, up 15-love, when someone shrieks in the middle of Henin's toss. Henin goes on to double-fault to 15-15. Henin double faults again to go down 15-30 and loses the following point to 15-40. Ugh. Fortunately Henin managed to climb back to deuce, and ulimately win match point, but recalling it now I'm still annoyed and frustrated with the shrieker's lack of respect.

Djokovic df. Ferrer 6-4, 6-4, 6-3

Hurrah! In the U.S. Open semi-finals Novak Djokovic defeated David Ferrer in three sets (6-4, 6-4, 6-3). Although it was straight sets it wasn't easy. Djokovic was down 0-3 or 1-4 in the first set before settling down. The hot, humid weather also appeared to affect Djokovic more than Ferrer--Djokovic called for a doctor early in the second, and also in the third.

I don't want to get my hopes up too high, but can Djokovic defeat Federer again, but in a major? Djokovic did defeat Roddick, Nadal, and Federer--in sequence!--in Montreal earlier this year, so at least he knows he can do it. Nevertheless, Federer is still the overwhelming favourite, I think.

Of course, this is assuming Federer defeats Davydenko in the last semi-final, but I think it's a safe assumption.

07 September 2007

Henin defeats Williams!

Hurrah! Justine Henin went throught the semis and into the US Open Finals by defeating Venus Williams, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4. Henin will be up against Svetlana Kuznetsova on Saturday.

04 September 2007

US Open quarterfinals

Congratulations to Justine Henin, who defeated Serena Williams in the US Open quarterfinals (7-6, 6-1). Henin played well, but my impression is that her 1st serve percentage could have been better. Hopefully that will improve in the semifinals where Henin will probably be up against Venus Williams who also has been playing well.

I've been rooting for Henin to win the year's last major, though it will be tough going to get through the the semi-finals (go Jankovic!). On the men's side, I've been rooting for someone, anyone, to take out Roger Federer. Wishful thinking? Probably, but hope springs eternal. :o) If I had to choose who had the best chance against Federer in this tournament, I'd actually pick Novak Djokovik over Rafael Nadal.

Hmm, I should say that it's not that I dislike Federer, but I just think he needs more competition, and being a fan of Pete Sampras anything that delays Federer breaking Sampras' majors record is all good. :p

02 September 2007

Site visitors in August 2007

The top 5 visitors in August 2007, listed by countries:

1) United States,
2) Canada,
3) Australia,
4) China,
5) an European country.

If memory hasn't failed me, I think this is the first time China has made it in to the top five. Ahhh... variety is the spice of life. ;o)

Full list of visitors in August 2007.

Statistics for previous months.