Category Archives: Article

Road Tips for Racing on Unfamiliar Ground

Race

One of my races in Montreal, Qc – Defi Boreal Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue 5k

 

Hitting the road in unfamiliar territory is both daunting and exciting. On one hand it’s an excuse to visit a place you’ve never been before. On the other hand you can face a new climate or different elevation that takes some getting used to, especially when you’re there for a race.

I’m a novice runner, so let’s be clear that there are so many people who have more experience under their belts than me, but I want to provide general observations and lessons I learned in my races. What affects me might affect you, too. That said, these tips might not apply to everyone. Some people are awesome and can run under any condition and, if that’s the case, kudos (and curses) to you.

Choose a Destination

Pick a place, then look for a race. Or vice versa. My first destination race was a 5k in Montreal, which is roughly a six-hour drive from Toronto (longer depending on the weekend, what’s happening, and good ol’ traffic). Pick a place you’d like to visit for the weekend and see if there are any races that pique your interest. Likewise, if you hear about a fun race, plan a trip around the race….

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Hiking in Sydney: Scenic World Blue Mountains

 

Australia (84)

The Three Sisters at Blue Mountain in New South Wales, Australia.

The trails range from easy to hard, but the views are spectacular at Blue Mountain’s Scenic World.

Difficulty: Range from easy to hard
Time: The shortest trail is around an hour, the longest six. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take all day covering all the trails
Length: 10 minutes to a full day
Conditions: Some paved/wooden paths, others using nature’s rocks

Sydney’s Blue Mountains Scenic World is a tad out of a way but it’s definitely worth the trip up north in New South Wales. There’s a trail for every level from easy to hard, but make sure you keep a map with you or know where you’re going, or you may end up taking a harder trail then expected. The Furber Steps, for example, is much easier going down than it is going up – much, much easier. As friendly as the trails are, some sections of the walkway aren’t wheelchair accessible and it’s recommended to speak to staff before hitting the trails.

There are various starting points that all interconnect with one another, but once you are at the bottom you can either hike your way back up or go take either the railway, skyway, or cableway back up to the top…

For more, visit BreakingMordern here.

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Hiking in Sydney: Bondi to Coogee, along the east coast shoreline

Australia (73)

Bondi Icebergs at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. An open concept pool connected to the ocean.

The best way to enjoy a part of Sydney’s gorgeous coastline is to walk along the coast – one such trail begins at Bondi Beach with its well-known white sands and clear water. Though it is known to be a tourist trap for many, if you’re looking for a nice easy walk for a lazy day, this is for you.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 2 to 3 hours, pending walking speed
Distance: 8 kilometres one way
Conditions: Exposed

Most begin this trip at the southern tip of Bondi Beach near the Baths and Bondi Icebergs, a concept in which a swimming pool in essence borders with the ocean and allows swimmers to enjoy nature’s waters without the elements and undercurrents of Mother Nature. It’s also something I’m in awe of, along with the deliciousness of Tim Tams, of which I’ve eaten far, far, far too many.

The easy trail winds its way from Bondi towards past Mackenies Bay towards Bronte. During portions of the year, there are usually art displays that line the pathway…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Kill Shakespeare comic a must read

Kill Shakespeare

“Kill Shakespeare’s” fun and interactive website.

 

“A man can die but once.”

If only these words of the memorable character Feeble, from Henry IV Part 2, rang true.

Kill Shakespeare brings beloved (and hated) characters together in a mash-up world where the Bard’s greatest heroes and darkest villains are pitted against each other in efforts to find the mysterious wizard, William Shakespeare. Pretty cool premise, huh?

If you’ve never heard of the series, Kill Shakespeare is like what Fables did to fairy tales and Unwritten did for young wizards and the world of Harry Potter. Created by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, and illustrated by Andy Balanger, Kill Shakespeare brings to life an alternate universe where the Shakespearian cast of characters meet up. All the action, adventure, murder, tragedy, romance and comedic humour that defined modern literature thrives once again.

Kill Shakespeare’s Premise Explained

The comic opens with false starts and shaky beginnings. Half the world believes everything that has gone wrong in society (all tragedy, death and grief) is committed by the wizard William Shakespeare, while the other half believes he is actually the all-powerful creator, and if they wait long enough for him to show up, all the drama will be resolved…

For more, read the rest of my review here.

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Swept Away: Meditations on the Uncommon Genius of Stephen King

“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
― Stephen King, On Writing

StephenKing3

My growing collection of Stephen King novels.

From The Shawshank Redemption to The Green Mile and from Pet Sematary to It, author Stephen King is best known for leaving readers variously horrified, disturbed, or disgusted – yet equally captivated. King’s novels, short stories, audiobooks, essays, movies, comics (deep breath) poems, screenplays, and television shows, are among the undisputed classics of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy.

Consider:

  • His works have sold over 350 million copies worldwide.
  • He has published another 200 short stories (to date), and under the pen name of Richard Bachman he has written seven fiction and five non-fiction books.
  • He has been awarded the Bran Stoker Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the British Fantasy Society Award – to name only a few. His novella, The Way Station, was also a Nebula Award novelette nominee.
  • And his accolades keep rolling in.

My first foray into King’s literary world was in high school, with his science fiction series The Dark Tower and its first book,The Gunslinger. I had heard of Stephen King before, of course, and had seen his many books lining the library shelves, but I hadn’t read any of his novels before picking up this book at a sale.

For those who haven’t read the series, let alone this novel: Go.

Now.

It’s brilliant. King himself describes this series as his magnum opus.

King’s masterful blend of fantastical horror and old-school western, touched with advanced technology – travelling between worlds, anyone? – results in an intriguing world and kickass characters. Oh, and there’s magic, too! The first novel introduces us to Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last living member of a knightly order known as Gunslingers. He is also the last in line of “Arthur Eld,” which is this world’s equivalent to the mystical tales of King Arthur. Roland’s quest is to find a fabled building known as the Dark Tower that is said to be the nexus of all the universes. Of course, along the way he stumbles across: a fanatic preacher he comes to call the Man in Black; some epic battles; and many, many questions.

The Gunslinger is a wonderful introduction to a crazy world; the book adeptly sets everything up for the forthcoming novels, of which there are eight in total. Admittedly, the first novel is sparse on details of Roland’s motives, goals and, well, personal life, but it does set up the remaining installments nicely.

A short story, “Little Sisters of Eluria,” was also written as a prequel, while the eighth book (or book 4.5, according to King), The Wind Through the Keyhole, was written in 2012 – eight years after the series officially concluded. A series of prequel comics were also published after the Dark Tower series was completed in 2004.

It just keeps going.

Soon after I finished The Gunslinger, my aunt surprised me by delivering a box of books – not just any books, but practically the entire collection of Stephen King novels available.

I was in heaven.

And then I realized that there were movies.

The more critically-praised King adaptations include The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Where Shawshank tells the story of a banker in prison for the death of his wife and a money laundering operation, The Green Mile looks at a death row supervisor and his encounters with supernatural gifts (healing, empathy). But of course many of King’s other literary works have been adapted into films or television shows: more than fifty, at last count.

The first such adaptation, Carrie (1976), revolves a high school girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers. A shy girl who is bullied and abused both at home and at school, she eventually exacts a shocking revenge on those who teased her. The image of Sissy Spacek in a delicate white dress with pig’s blood streaming down her face and off her arms is not easily forgotten; and a remake featuring Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role will hit theaters in October, 2013. Other notable King film adaptations include The Shining (1980), Children of the Corn (1984), Misery (1990) and Apt Pupil (1998).

On television, mini-series made of King’s works have long been acclaimed (It, Salem’s Lot, The Tommyknockers, The Stand). Most recently, after a tense few months of uncertainly, Syfy has announced thatHaven will get a fourth season this fall. Based on King’s “The Colorado Kid” and much lauded for its creative and quirky sci-fi whims and humor, Haven follows FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose, Jericho) and her journey to Haven, Maine to complete what appears to be a routine case but instead places her in the center of an enclave of people who possess a range of supernatural abilities. At this point, her past, which she can’t seem to recall, starts to emerge and the townspeople’s dormant abilities begin to express themselves.

The latest adaptation of King’s work is Under the Dome, based on his 2009 novel. Cloverfield’s Mike Vogel and Twilight’s Rachelle Lefevre lead an impressive cast that includes Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris andSabrina the Teenage Witch’s Beth Broderick. This series has debuted to mixed reviews; the general consensus has been that though its premiere was riveting, the following episodes proved lackluster. Where King is able to provide a subtle dimension to his characters in his novel, many viewers feel (and I concur) that the acting falls flat—which is a shame, since the pilot showed so much promise.

The novel of Under the Dome is a sociology experiment depicting how residents of Chester’s Mill, a small American town, cope with the sudden appearance of a transparent dome around their town. Yet despite the initial similarities, showrunner Brian K Vaughan noted the show aims to veer off course with a different ending than the novel. Despite the changes to the story – which were made with King’s approval – the author wrote in a letter to his fans: “If you loved the book when you first read it, it’s still there for your perusal. But that doesn’t mean the TV series is bad, because it’s not. In fact, it’s very good.” Good or bad, the first season of Under the Dome is slotted for 13 episodes, with each episode costing around $3.5 million. The fate of the series beyond the first season will depend on whether or not the pace picks up, but it’s still up in the air.

I’ve found that King’s novels range from featuring thought-provoking societal issues to disturbingly creepy situations that leave goosebumps trailing up my arm. There are some that I can’t put down, while others I can’t bring myself to finish. And there are some that I just cannot read at night. Between my overly active imagination and his vividly eerie worlds, sleep becomes the last thing on my mind.

Which is why I’m still working my way through the 823 brilliant but terrifying pages of The Stand.

Originally posted inGeek Speak Magazine.

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Museums create interactive tech for disabled youth

In addition to creating audio-tactile maps to the Descriptive Video Exchange, Dr. Joshua Miele has another project — to improve the museum experience for disabled youth.

Miele is working closely with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to create a program where people, specifically blind youth, are able to interact with pieces within a museum.“A lot of museums are things that you largely look at and you don’t have an opportunity to interact with them,” explained executive director Mark Roccobono of the NFB. “There are a lot of great technologies out there that can provide descriptions about the items you’re looking at, and it would be great for blind people who visit museums.”

At the moment, art museums have a different set of problems than science museums, but the issue of the lack of accessibility to the works still remains.

Miele and the NFB are hoping to enhance access to several science museums for blind youth and their families with the help of the National Science Foundation.

In its first month of a three-year project, the Museum of Science in Boston and the Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore are currently involved. Roccobono hopes more museums will come on board later.

“We’re trying to inspire and engage blind youth in science, but also create a relationship between blind people on the local level and the science museum by working specifically on making some exhibits accessible,” said Roccobono, noting it’s a chicken-and-egg problem. “A museum says, ‘We never see any blind people in here so it’s hard to work on access for blind people,’ while blind people say, ‘We never go this museum because they never have anything that is accessible.’ If they do something accessible, it’s done cheaply so it’s not meaningful.”

The project is also looking to build a relationship between the museum and its visitors. Ideally the visually impaired can evaluate and provide feedback on what’s happening and the museum can work to integrate tools and techniques already available.

“It’s important that mainstream technologies are also accessible to blind people and that we have to recognize technology is not what makes people successful, but rather technology provides access to information we haven’t had before,” said Roccobono as the project continues to surge forward.
Overall, Miele and Roccobono agree the vast majority of work that needs to be done is making and providing people with better access in a manner that’s more mainstream and not just focused on the technology.

“I’m here developing these innovative tools and talking about how we can use these to make information more accessible, but I’m kind of out ahead of where most things need to be,” said Miele. “There’s a lot of basic work that needs to be done and most of it isn’t incredibly hard to do. It comes down to awareness and people understanding the problems.”

Future goals for Miele include accessible maps and interactive areas not just for public transit or museums, but also places like the airport that see a lot of traffic and is in need of good information.

Also in Assistive Technology

The series explores how advancements in assistive technology are helping the visually impaired and the disabled.

Originally posted in TechPageOne.

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How B.A.R.T. helps the blind get around

What started nine years ago with the creation of the Tactile Map Automated Production (TMAP) system for California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system has developed into an audio-tactile graphic map to increase accessibility for the visually impaired.

Dr. Joshua Miele and his team at the Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Development Center are once again working alongside San Francisco’s LightHouse organization to make travelling easier with easy access to information.

“BART maps has been one of the ways I’ve been working on making information more accessible,” said Miele. “I developed a tool in 2004 called TMAPs and it was and is the only way a person can get the tactile feel of anyplace they want.”

Most people can go to Google Streetview or Google Maps and retrieve a lot of information, but those with visual impairments cannot get that same spatial context and information hence the creation of TMAPs. However, much of the Braille maps now are too cramped with information and certain areas are not labeled due to lack of space.

Miele and LightHouse are now working to launch the audio-tactile graphic maps in 43 of the 44 station stops. The project is a few months from being released.

These new maps allow people to explore the area through Braille, as well as audio stimulation. The maps incorporate Braille into its design, but it is not dense with information.

To get a more in-depth experience, you can employ a smart pen to touch the graphics and a computer will inform you about the part of the map you are touching. The use of smart pens is particularly adaptable for uses outside the public transportation system.

“There has been a lot of positive responses and the interest continues to grow,” said Frank Welte, information resource specialist and strip map coordinator of LightHouse. “A lot of people, not just the blind, are excited for the audio-tactile maps to help with their orientation of where they are and have to be.”

The importance of this technology is that once these maps are implemented, they’ll not only be useful to transit, but for other maps as well, added Wente.

“You can almost incorporate a guide book into the map, which is a future possibility,” he said.
The technology already exists in various forms but needs to be applied everywhere, said Mark Roccobono, executive director with the National Federation of the Blind, which is a membership-based organization of blind people in the United States.

“If we can get engineers and others to design technology with accessibility in mind from the beginning, we can then use technology that everybody else can use. It would be the same information, at the same time, at a different price, though we would access it through Braille or audio,” said Roccobono. “The importance of public transportation and having the technology make it accessible is helpful.”

He pointed to the audio and visual cues that most buses now have that announce which stop is coming up. In this case, audio cues are also helpful for visitors to the city or if English isn’t your first language.

There are other companies and organizations working to make information more accessible to blind people around the world, but Miele added that those projects aren’t currently at the scale of his team’s projects.

However, Roccobono noted the biggest problem facing blind people isn’t blindness itself, it is more the public attitudes toward blindness and technology doesn’t change that.

“One thing it (technology) does change is access to information,” he added.

Also in Assistive Technology

The series explores how advancements in assistive technology are helping the visually impaired and the disabled.

Originally posted in TechPageOne.

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