Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Makerspace update

"Learn how to code with Arduino and the Garoa Dojo Shield," makerspace Berlin, 2016. (Photo by re: publica from Germany CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

“Learn how to code with Arduino and the Garoa Dojo Shield,” makerspace Berlin, 2016. (Photo by re: publica from Germany, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Remember I told you we were getting a Makerspace?

It’s part of something called the Momentum Initiative — a cooperative effort between Innovacorp and a number of other organizations and entities, including New Dawn, Cape Breton Partnership, CBU, Navigate Start-Up House, NSCC, the National Research Council of Canada and Propel ICT.

Most of those organizations, you may have noticed, have offices in the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation (the former Holy Angels, as in, my old high school, as in, when I enter from the Nepean Street entrance that is not the main entrance, I walk by the locker I used during my senior year and always have a moment’s panic that I’ve forgotten to do my Chemistry homework or am late for my shift in Sr. Power’s canteen).

Back in April, when I first wrote about the makerspace — which will be equipped with things like “a computer numerical control machine, a mill, welding and soldering gear, and a high-end 3D printer” — Bob Pelley, Cape Breton regional manager for Innovacorp and the Momentum Initiative’s executive director, said the former high school was one of two options for the space (he wouldn’t tell me what the other was). At that point, they had “almost finalized” a deal and hoped to have a soft opening in May with the official opening scheduled for June 13th.

As you’ve probably noticed, the soft opening didn’t happen in May and the space is not yet open.

But Pelley tells me they have picked a spot:

[T]he location is being built out now at the gymnasium of the former Holy Angels High School. We did have soft launch scheduled for last week but had to postpone as a result of a scheduling conflict with an important guest. We are in the process of rescheduling now.

I’m following this closely because I am picturing myself mastering the 3D printer and creating custom plumbing fittings of my own design. (And yes, terror is a completely rational response to that prospect.)

All by way of saying, I’ll be watching that (maker)space…


Fun with Algorithms

My search engine assures me this is a visual representation of an algorithm.

My search engine assures me this is a visual representation of an algorithm.

I’ve mentioned before that algorithms of the “if you liked this, you may also like…” variety are the reason I sleep well at night, secure in the conviction our computer overlords are a long way from replacing us.

Sometimes the results are funny — like eBay concluding that my purchase of three Captain Morgan glasses suggests I might also want a beer bong with a three-foot funnel; or LinkedIn’s assumption that because I am a journalist named “Campbell,” I should join both the Hispanic and Asian journalism associations; or Netflix’s conviction that I should watch Hallmark holiday movies with titles like The Prince Under My Christmas Tree.

Sometimes, though, the results make me wonder if the computers know me better than I know myself. That’s the case this morning as I’m looking at the articles Mozilla Firefox has decided I need to read today. They are:

“Google is Training Machines to Predict When a Patient Will Die” (Bloomberg)

“Can the West’s democracy survive China’s rise to dominance?” (Economist)

“How to clean a ceiling fan in 60 seconds” (CNET)

What kind of person would be attracted to all three of those articles? A morbid cleaning lady with an interest in geopolitics?

I’m actually tempted to start reading articles that will improve Mozilla’s impression of me which I guess means my computer overlord is winning.


The writing on the (sea)wall?

Since the early 1980s, climate change had warmed the Gulf of Maine’s cool waters to the ideal temperature for lobsters, which has helped grow Maine’s fishery fivefold to a half-billion-dollar industry, among the most valuable in the United States. But last year the state’s lobster landings dropped by 22 million pounds, to 111 million.

Now, scientists and some fishermen are worried that the waters might eventually warm too much for the lobsters, and are asking how much longer the boom can last.

That’s from 21 June 2018 New York Times article headlined, “Climate Change Brought a Lobster Boom. Now it Could Cause a Bust.”

traditional Maine Lobster Boat, as seen in Casco Bay, near Peaks Island (Photo by KPWM Spotter at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Traditional Maine Lobster Boat in Casco Bay, 2006. (Photo by KPWM Spotter, GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and other organizations say the Gulf of Maine — fishing grounds for three US states as well as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans, although they’re not sure why. It could be “atmospheric events.” It could be shifts in the Gulf Stream. It could be some combination of these and other factors, but the bottom line is that the waters are warming and, as the Portland Press Herald reported in May:

Overall, the research predicts hundreds of species will shift northward, further disrupting some of the nation’s most important commercial fisheries. In Maine, some of the state’s most economically and culturally significant species – including lobster, scallops, shrimp and groundfish – could find the cooler waters to the north in Canada more hospitable if ocean temperatures continue to rise at the current pace.

Now, I suppose we could see this as reason to cheer — the lobster are coming! The lobster are coming! (Interestingly, nobody cares whether shellfish have their papers in order when they cross the border.) But it’s not like the section of the North Atlantic we’ve roped off as our own is immune to the forces that have warmed the Gulf of Maine. And our scientists know that: one of the most worrying recent findings about warming waters in the Gulf of Maine came from researchers with the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

Watching boom slowly turning to bust in the Maine lobster industry should be more than just a wake-up call for us — it should be like having the desk clerk burst into the room playing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries on the bagpipes.*

Unfortunately, we seem able to sleep through just about anything.

*I just pulled the idea of the Ride of the Valkyries on bagpipes out of my b…ag of tricks, but decided to do a quick google search to see if such an arrangement existed and of course, it does, although that’s not necessarily a good thing, as a poster from Shubenacadie explained on a bagpipe discussion board:

Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner, arranged as a march by Bandmasters Keeling and Rippon was adopted as the Regimental March of the Parachute Regiment. 15th (Scottish) Company is part of 4th Battalion TA. While Wagner’s theme is maintained, the march is quite a bit different. Best left to the iron foundry, some music just isn’t meant for pipes.


Oh, THERE’S Cecil

Sometime CBRM Mayor and would-be leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party Cecil Clarke was at the second official PC leadership debate in Dartmouth Thursday night and Jennifer Henderson attended so you and I didn’t have to.

Her account of the event is in the Halifax Examiner — [just like on TV, the volume is now going to increase for an advertisement] GET ACCESS TO THIS AND OTHER GREAT STORIES WITH A $15 PER MONTH JOINT SPECTATOR/EXAMINER SUBSCRIPTION!

Henderson reports that Peter MacKay, the former federal defense minister and MP for Pictou County, will endorse candidate Tim Houston on Sunday. MacKay’s father Elmer, also a former MP for Pictou County, has endorsed Clarke. That should make for interesting discussions during the annual Canada Day barbecue and military fly-over at the MacKay residence. (I just assume MacKay fils celebrates everything with a military fly-over. Or a spin around Pictou in that light-armored vehicle he gave the town of New Glasgow back in 2013. And yes, I know he actually lives in Toronto.)

Finally, a quick update to the Cecil Tracker, Clarke did indeed attend the Halifax Needham AGM Wednesday night, having started the day with a tasty ($10 a plate) breakfast at Cousins Restaurant in the riding.







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