Thursday, August 6, 2009

Honey, lets Wi Fry the kids! / Tower plan opposed / Meters are not too smart / Quebec shelves smart meters / Lyme and the tale of two tests

A good reason not to go to Disney parks.
Toy Story Mania! is Disney's first ride to use 802.11 technology
By Carolyn Duffy Marsan , Network World , 07/31/2009

Disney claims its first use of an 802.11 wireless network to operate an amusement park rides is a hit.

Disney is using an industrial-strength 802.11a wireless network to power its Toy Story Mania! ride, which opened last year at both Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., and its Hollywood Studios in Orlando. Disney plans to open another Toy Story Mania! at its Tokyo Disneyland Resort.

Disney's famed Imagineering team says Toy Story Mania! is the most high-tech ride they have ever built.

With Toy Story Mania!, riders board peanut-shaped vehicles that seat eight. They wear 3-D glasses and view 3-D images of the characters from the Toy Story movies. Riders pass five classic carnival games and use an onboard shooting device to throw pies, toss rings or otherwise interact in a virtual way with the games. Ten-inch LCD displays on the vehicles show riders how many points they've racked up during each game.

Powering Toy Story Mania! are 154 graphics workstations running Windows XP that are used to render 3-D images on the ride's screens at 60 frames per second. The workstations communicate with each other and with the four gaming systems onboard each vehicle using an industrial-strength wireless network based on 802.11 technology.

The wireless network integrates a huge amount of real-time information gathered from the ride: the exact location of the vehicles within one inch; the rotation of the four turrets on each end of the vehicles; and the pitch, yaw and activity of each onboard shooting device. This information is fed into the graphics workstations so they can accurately render images of pies or rings coming out of the shooting devices at accurate angles and with accurate projectiles.

The wireless 802.11 network is a key component of Toy Story Mania! because it has to keep the visual effects coordinated with the movement of the ride.

"One of the challenges was just getting [the 3-D graphics] flowing smoothly with the vehicle," says John Noonan, technical director of show control systems for Walt Disney Imagineering. "Coordinating all of that information, keeping all of those network messages synchronized, that was a lot of little details to keep coordinated. That was the big challenge with this ride."

Summerland Review

Tower plan opposed

Tensions were high last week as residents opposed to a cellular telephone tower on Little Conkle Mountain spoke out at a public meeting last week.

The meeting, held on July 28, drew a full crowd in the basement of the library.

Paul Commandeur, one of the residents living near the tower location, said the electromagnetic emissions from the tower are unsafe.

"Although you can't see or smell it's emissions, they are there," he said. "It appears that there could be some long-term effects."

Commandeur said a better location for the tower would be on Conkle Mountain, farther from homes and schools

He added that the cellular tower technology is still relatively new and as a result, more research is needed into the health and safety of the tower.

"We feel there's sufficient controversy to call for a moratorium," he said.

Walter McInnis, a Victoria-based electrical contractor who has studied cellular towers, questioned the Health Canada regulations which govern the towers.

"For the most part, Health Canada relies on the industry to conduct its research," he said.

He added that the electromagnetic radiation from the towers will have effects on health.

"This energy is not powerful enough to rip apart our molecules, but it is powerful enough to affect our health," he said. "We are blanketing the continent with a brand new form of radiation."  He said cellular telephones, which are also small transmitters, have been linked to some health risks.

Brock Enderton, manager of real estate and government affairs for Telus, said the communications company is working to comply with the regulations.

"We are required to comply with the code. We take that very seriously," he said. "We are here to comply with all government regulations."

He explained that the site was chosen to provide the best service to the community.

"We believe this is a responsible location for a cell phone tower," he said. If other sites were used, Enderton said portions of the community would not have service because of the topography

Vicki Lightfoot, one of the opponents of the site, said Telus should build the site elsewhere.

"You don't have our approval," she said. "We don't want that tower in the neighbourhood. We are the people using this technology and we don't want it."

McInnis said the health regulations are "totally meaningless" since they were set in place 60 years ago and do not adequately cover radiation from the tower.

"People are being exposed to levels of radiation which have been shown scientifically to harm them," he said.


Hydro's smart meters are not too smart

Posted 2 months ago

No thought went into Hydro's smart meters and their peak hours' program. Seniors and disabled people will need their air conditioners on during the peak hours on very hot days.

The Hydro smart meters will put small businesses out of business and the rest of us in the dark or the poor house. I believe that larger businesses and large corporations will not have to deal with peak hours costs; yet it is small businesses that keep Canada alive.

The preceding 12 months my Hydro One bill was $2,120; this included the cost of using the laundry room coin machines; it's equal to home owners using their own laundry machines and the hydro costs involved.

The cost to seniors, the disabled and low-income families will be astronomical. They need their air conditioners on during peak hours, more so than at any other time of the day.

Businesses raised their prices due to increased cost of transportation, but they were not lowered when the costs went back to normal; increased hydro costs will drive the cost of goods even higher, but won't go back to normal during milder seasons. Business never loses an opportunity to pass higher costs onto the public.

This takes me back to an incident in Sudbury a few years ago when a young pregnant woman died as a result of being without air conditioning while confined to a top-floor apartment on the hottest day of summer. She had been charged under former Ontario premier Mike Harris' new law that if you cheat on your 'Disability payments' you will be confined to your home, by virtue of an ankle bracelet. She did leave her home - in a hearse, an inquiry followed.

When peak hours Hydro costs leave many without 'dispensable income' to pay their bills or buy food, then and only then will we be free from Hydro debt retirement charge; delivery charges; regulatory charges, we will have starved to death, Elliot Lake's lights will be out forever.

Say no to new nuclear energy, it's too expensive.

Jocelyn Field,

Elliot Lake


Note: from two years ago!

Hydro Quebec shelves smart meters

Last Updated: Monday, December 10, 2007 | 12:11 PM ET

Hydro Quebec is backing away from a major government initiative that would have reduced electricity consumption in the province, CBC News has learned.

The conservation plan which hinged on smart meters to cut peak period hydro consumption is too costly to deliver real savings, according to the Quebec power corporation.

The smart meters, already common in Ontario, allow consumers to save money by monitoring their usage and consuming the bulk of their power at night when rates are lower, rather than during peak periods in the morning and evening.

But they are expensive to install in residences and that cost would inevitably be offset by raising electricity prices, said Hydro Quebec distribution president André Boulanger.

"In California, for example, smart meters make a lot of sense. A lot more sense than here. We have to evaluate the cost of it, and the benefit at the same time," he told CBC News. "Because we don't want to increase the bills of our customers."

The Quebec Liberal government first floated the idea of smart meters in 2006 when it unveiled a nine-year, multi-billion energy strategy that included plans to increase electricity production and cut down on consumption.

At the time, Premier Jean Charest said Quebec homes would be equipped with smart meters by 2009 to encourage people to use energy more efficiently.

Quebecers are among the biggest hydro consumers in Canada, a habit that needs to change, according the premier.

"The golden rule about energy and the environment [is] it's the energy you do not consume that is the best investment you can make," he recently said.

Hydro Quebec is still open to a pilot project testing smart meters, but is not prepared to introduce them on a wider scale, Boulanger said.

In Ontario, the province's power utility has installed more than 200,000 smart meters in recent years after a successful pilot project spearheaded by Ottawa's municipal utility.

The Hydro Ottawa Smart Price Pilot results revealed that, with conservation considered, "93 per cent of customers paid less than they would have under regular rates," said Hydro One spokesman Dave Watts.

Lower energy use during peak times means less need for new generating stations, he said.


Lyme and the tale of two tests  

Diagnosing The Disease; As ticks spread into Canada, concern rises about rigour of existing screenings

Lia Grainger,  National Post   

Published: Wednesday, August 05, 2009   

When Jim Wilson was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease, he was baffled. Now the head of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, Wilson had been sick for years and the medical community had been stumped as to the cause of his illness. On hearing his diagnosis, his first thought was, "Why did the doctors not even consider Lyme disease over the previous four years?"
The answer to that question lies with the guidelines used by medical practitioners to diagnose and treat the controversial disease that is now reported to be spreading in Canada. These guidelines are set in Canada by the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network (CPHLN) and in the United States by the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA). Advocates for the treatment of chronic Lyme disease believe the guidelines that dominate popular and expert opinion on Lyme disease in North America have caused many infected patients to go undiagnosed and untreated. Doctors and researchers who set the guidelines disagree and believe changes to the guidelines could lead to misdiagnoses and to the misuse of antibiotics on patients who do not have Lyme disease.
Both the U. S. and Canadian guidelines advocate a two-tiered testing system that requires a positive screening test, called an ELISA or EIA test, before proceeding to a Western blot test. Lyme disease advocates such as Dr. Ernie Murakami of British Columbia believe it is this system that is leading to thousands of missed diagnoses a year. "It should be based on a clinical diagnosis," Murakami says. "These tests are notorious for turning out false negative results."
Dr. Muhammad Morshed is a clinical microbiologist at the University of British Columbia. He contributed to both guidelines, and sees no need for a revision. "From a laboratory point of view, I don't think we need to alter anything," Morshed says. "We can always adjust it if we find out more information, but the two-tiered system --a screening with a sensitive test followed by a very specific complementary test -- stands in a good way from a laboratory point of view."
Most Lyme disease advocates believe that the Western blot test produces more accurate results, and many Canadian patients who believe they may have Lyme disease pay private laboratories in the U. S. to give them this test. Dr. Nicholas Ogden is an expert in tick-borne diseases at the Universite de Montreal in Quebec and a researcher at the Public Health Agency of Canada, and he encourages patients to be cautious when sending blood to be tested by commercial laboratories in the U. S. He says for-profit laboratories may be using unproven interpretations of tests that are themselves recognized, like the Western blot test. "It's an issue that does potentially muddy the waters," Ogden says. "They may be using very loose interpretations of test results."
Both guidelines also advise testing only if the patient has been exposed to a known endemic area during tick season, but a recent study headed by Ogden and co-authored by Morshed reveals that the endemic areas in Canada are more widespread than previously believed, and will continue to grow as global warming creates an environment increasingly hospitable to ticks. Once believed to be contained to a small area of Lake Erie's shoreline in Ontario, the report says that Lyme disease has now been identified in southern Ontario, Nova Scotia, southeastern Manitoba, New Brunswick and southern British Columbia. The report also warns of a low risk of contracting the disease outside of endemic areas from ticks that have fallen off migratory birds.
Perhaps most concerning to advocates on both sides of the border, though, has been the virtual dismissal in the U. S. guidelines of the very existence of chronic Lyme disease. The U. S. guidelines currently state:
"Unfortunately, it is apparent that the term 'chronic Lyme disease' is also being applied to patients with vague, undiagnosed complaints who have never had Lyme disease ... the majority of patients [who believe they have chronic Lyme disease] have had no convincing evidence of ever having had Lyme disease, on the basis of the absence of objective clinical, microbiologic or serologic evidence of past or present."
Since their publication, these findings have been called into question. In May 2008, Richard Blumenthal, the Attorney General of Connecticut, began an investigation of the IDSA's 2006 guidelines, based on allegations that "the IDSA's guideline panel improperly ignored or minimized consideration of alternative medical opinion and evidence regarding chronic Lyme disease, potentially raising serious questions about whether the recommendations reflected all relevant science."
Blumenthal also reported that members of the IDSA panel "undercut its credibility by allowing individuals with financial interests --in drug companies, Lyme disease diagnostic tests, patents and consulting arrangements with insurance companies -- to exclude divergent medical evidence and opinion."
The IDSA denied all of Blumenthal's findings and negotiated an end to the investigation by agreeing to form an entirely new panel monitored by the office of the Attorney General to review the guidelines. That review commenced with a hearing last Thursday, and the panel says it hopes to publish its findings by the end of this year.
Though Canada operates under its own guidelines, they are similar to those set by the IDSA that are currently under review. The continued discord over the very existence of chronic Lyme disease in the U. S. coupled with the reported spread to new previously unaffected areas of Canada seems likely to increase the visibility of the issue on both sides of the border in the coming months.
For the time being, there have been no announcements of plans to alter the Canadian guidelines, though both Morshed and Ogden say new findings could lead to changes. "We're not sitting idly by and saying these are the best tests and we're not doing anything about it," Ogden says. "We know they're not perfect." 
- For updates on ticks and what to do if you're bit, visit Health Canada at hc-sc.
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Debate over Lyme disease lingers on, with a U.S. twist 

Lia Grainger, National Post  Published: Wednesday, August 05, 2009