Hey Donna, buy something…

This is a test post to help out my brilliant friend Donna with a iframe issue on her blog.

While trying to embed an affiliate iframe code from Amazon on her blog, she just gets a blank page. It seems like embedding iFrames in WordPress is broken or just not working for her.

It seems that if you have an ad blocker running, you can still see YouTube embedded iframes like this one from one of my favourite musical finds below, but not the Amazon affiliate iframe below that…

Speaking of brilliant friends, check out this amazing book from my friend Anthony De Sa. Anthony is a Giller-nominated author who serves on the Story Planet board with me.

How to watch US streaming services like Netflix or Rdio in Canada using Unblock-us.com

OK, it seems that I’ve been asked a few hundred times in the past few weeks, so here is it is…

Most streaming services like Netflix or Rdio check to see where you’re located by examining the IP address provided by your internet provider. So if your internet provider is in Toronto, your IP address will also be pegged to Toronto. So, what happens if I want to appear from the US or anywhere else in the world?

There are a couple of ways around this, but the simplest is through the Unblockus service. It is $4.99 a month with a free trial to see if it is worth it to you.

Rather than going through a VPN or other similar scheme, this service does a bit of black magic with DNS.





All you do is change your device or router’s DNS settings with a few simple instructions.  If you can’t get it to work yourself, their Support is pretty good too.

The gist of it is that you go either into the DNS settings of your device like computer, iPad, Apple TV, Roku, PS3, etc. and change the DNS address to:

And that’s it!  You go to the Unblockus web interface, and from there, you can select your region.

If you change the DNS settings in your network’s router, you can switch the region for ALL the devices on the network. The DNS settings don’t mess up other applications such as Facebook, banking, etc. It only changes the region for the selected streaming services. As far as I can tell, their DNS servers respond very quickly as well.

An interesting thing about using Unblockus with Netflix is that when you change the region, with the same account, it will change the content. So, if you change the region to the US, you see US content. If you change it to the UK, you see more content from the Beeb!

These are the Netflix regions that you can pick from:


How to unfreeze a bicycle lock using methanol




In all my years of riding, I’d never actually had my bicycle lock frozen to the extent that I couldn’t unlock it. However, after the recent ice storm in Toronto, I couldn’t undo either the Kryptonite disc lock or the Abus Futura U lock. What a time to be double locked!

After chipping off the ice covering the key holes, I was able to insert the keys, but  neither key turned more than 1/2 way. Knowing that forcing the keys was a bad idea, I wasn’t sure what to do short of using a blowtorch!

I was retreating indoors to come up with a plan when it hit me…METHYL HYDRATE!










Methanol (CH3OH) is the simplest of alcohols. It melts at ?97.8°C; and boils at 67°C. It is commonly used as a clean burning fuel, antifreeze, and solvent. You can buy it very inexpensively at any hardware store. It is also sold at gas stations as “gas line antifreeze.”

Don’t drink it though. When ingested, methanol metabolized to formic acid or formate salts which is very toxic to humans. Drinking methanol may cause blindness, coma, and death.

OK, you’ve been warned. DO NOT DRINK METHANOL! Oh, it is also super flammable, so don’t do this  around a flame source or while smoking!

Back to our story…

After I chipped the ice off from where the shackle meets the locking mechanism, I poured some methyl hydrate into the key hole and hoped for the best…

I stuck the first key in and BINGO! The lock turned freely and released the shackle on the first try! Same thing with the next lock. Easy peasy.

The whole shabang was brought inside to clean off with a bit more methanol. When dry, the locking mechanisms were re-lubed them with a light oil (FWIW, I used Tri-Flow).

So there you go, science–making your life a little bit better!

P.S. Yes, the bike needed to thaw out too, but that’s another story…

The 10 Commandments of Logic

The 10 Commandments of Logic

Getting back to running


As most of you know, I’m a bit of a road cycling nut. Now that it is getting colder here in Toronto, riding for anything besides commuting isn’t nearly as fun.

I need another exercise to keep me from exploding from my other interests of cooking, eating and drinking! So, I thought…why not run?

I was a fat kid and lost my weight from running frequently…almost obsessively.

Who knew that I’d be decent at endurance sports? This possibility was never explored during my childhood over the many boring or traumatizing 45 minute gym classes. Who know the fat kid would one day run hours at a time or ride a couple hundred km without too much effort?

Anyway, the running was a long time ago. The shoes I started on are now having their 30th anniversary! I’m totally dating myself with this tidbit.

I’ve picked up some new snazzy Nikes and made a declaration on Twitter and Facebook that I’m going to run my first 50 km in 30 days! This is no big deal for a “real” runner. Without this goal and the possibility of public shaming, it will be an effort to get me going regularly again.

I’m also using the Nike+ site to help me along by gamifying the goal.

So here goes! I started this morning logging 3.5 km but Nike+ only recorded 2.5 km as the iPhone ran out of charge. To make matters worse, it was raining then and it is raining now.

Here’s hoping for nicer weather tomorrow morning. So far, the forecast looks OK. We’ll see…

Halloween costumes for programmers


Halloween costumes for programmers.

What Board Directors Really Do in Their Free Time – Boris Groysberg and Deborah Bell – Harvard Business Review

This HBR blog post reveals what Board Directors do in their free time across the globe.

I find it interesting that philanthropy and community service makes it into the top 3 only in Asia and “Sports & Fitness” is in the top spot in all regions.

Research on boards shows that good board dynamics involves being in sync. There are some interesting points about how these alignments globally are remarkable but also questions about how gender differences persist and how they affect group cohesion.



What Board Directors Really Do in Their Free Time – Boris Groysberg and Deborah Bell – Harvard Business Review.

LED Light Conversion for Dynamo Bicycle Headlight



OK, so this SHOULD work. I have a Pashley Roadster Sovereign bicycle that comes with a dynamo powered headlight. While it is very convenient that I don’t have to change or charge the batteries, it is 2013 and we’re used the pretty bright LED headlamps on bicycles.

This lead me to start surfing for a LED light conversion that will fit and just work. For sure, I thought the Dutch would have worked this one out already. However, there doesn’t seem to be a ready made kit for sale. Let me know if you’ve seen anything like this.

So, it looks like I’ll have to sketch out how to make my own and power up the soldering station. If you’re actually interested in how this is going to work, you can follow my nerdiness on MyGeekJournal in a few days.

I think it will be a simple bridge rectifier circuit to turn the AC from the dynamo into DC suitable for an LED module. I’ll have to smooth out the power a bit, make sure it doesn’t go over voltage and kill the module, and maybe put in a “stand light” feature so the light stays on for a bit even while I’m stopped at a light. Currently, as soon as I stop, the front lights go dark…sub-optimal!


Adventures in Fundraising


Being on the board of non-profits and charities brings the necessity of fundraising to the forefront. While everyone is generally well intentioned and wants to do great work, the fuel and lubricant the keeps these social ventures going is cold hard cash.

Over the years, the various organization that I’ve been involved with have had varying amounts of success in raising funds to sustain its activities. To a geek and business person like me, this all seem a bit haphazard. I’m thinking there must be a framework–a system.

So, in the past weeks, instead of reinventing the wheel, I’ve been picking the brains of various masters in this field.

Today’s visit with Geoffrey McDougall has been most enlightening.

From Geoffrey’s blog, his bio is certainly impressive. His current job is described as:

Geoffrey is currently working to establish partnerships with foundations and governmental institutions for Mozilla, makers of Firefox and one of the largest social enterprises in the world.

What’s most impressive is his generosity with his time and knowledge. He tells me that there is “no magic” in fundraising. While that may be true, what I’ve gathered is that I have much to learn.

A lot of what is required seems reasonable. Remembering to position your opportunity in a story arc that makes sense to a funder; spending time being more social; treating funders like human beings and collaborators; and learning how to A-B test a pitch. Now the only trick is to piece everything together and just put it into practice. No problem. :-)

Some resources:

Geoffrey’s Personal Blog

Jennifer McCrea’s Exponential Fundraising Blog


The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic – NYTimes.com

20120919-082648.jpgAn Op-Ed piece on the cause of climate change that I missed earlier. It is surprising as it is by Richard Muller, a Berkeley physics prof whose research is mostly funded by the Koch brothers.

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

If the Koch brothers believe their own research, do they care? Here’s an article that says that maybe, BUT it is all predicated by self-interest and the moneymen.

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic – NYTimes.com.

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