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Technology Category

Telescope Fever

bc-astronomy-nixon-100720.jpgLook to the stars!  Not the easiest thing to do in Vancouver for much of the year, but when it's clear the night sky does not disappoint.  Unfortunately, I am afraid that doing stories about stargazing has always disappointed me.  Television cameras never quite capture the awe inspiring majesty and brilliance that all those constellations and planets give to the human eye.  Pointing our lens into a telescope lens has worked no better.  But looking into a telescope yourself at the heavens is always worthwhile.  It's so big and we're so small. 

Given the technical problem of astronomy TV stories, it's always a challenge to do them justice.  Too dark to film the stars, murky sky buffs moving amongst the shadows - illuminated by our 'sun guns', which kind of defeats the whole purpose.   But when Simon Fraser University told me they were having a daytime sun gazing session, I said count me in.  Scientists there are trying to raise money for an innovative school outreach centre to attract young minds to science at an early age.  Had it existed in my day, perhaps I'd be a scientist now.  Nah, would never happen.  Sunny 'Scopes icon_video.gif

Souped Nuts

bc-cars-nixon-100711.jpgHere's are a few things I learned in the course of doing a story about customizing cars.  Most of the people who want to customize cars are men who have money.  Quite often, lots of money.  Quite often that means they are middle aged, and quite often they want to customize a car from their youth.  Quite often they choose a car that meant alot to them when they were young because of what happened inside it one night when the feeling was right.   Quite often this produced an intense memory that gives them great happiness whenever they recall it.  So as they age, and they get alot of money, they want to return to that happy time by customizing the kind of car that holds such importance in their lives.  A sentimental lot, car buffs. 

I confess that a 1962 Rambler American figures prominently in my own youthful memories.  But who customizes AMC cars?  That would be crazy!  Custom Cars icon_video.gif

Rembrandt's Eye

bc-rembrandt-nixon-100528.jpgThe Dutch Master, Rembrandt, is so revered in art circles that his paintings sell for millions of dollars.  But his influence also can be seen every day on television screens.  All of the camera operators I've worked with over the years are very familiar with "Rembrandt Lighting", a technique that uses key and fill lights to emphasize one side of a subjects face on the screen.  The idea, traced back to Rembrandt, is that this lighting allows viewers to focus better on a subject and listen better to what they have to say.  Apparently, it puts people at ease.

But if it works, why?  And how?  What did Rembrandt discover 350 plus years ago that so attracts attention to his paintings?  A UBC researcher decided to try figure out the science behind the art.  Art Science icon_video.gif

Look Waaaay Up

bc-bicycle-nixon-100416.jpgI often wonder if the world has more kinds of cycles than it has cars.  Unicycles, bicycles, tricycles, those quadricycles with the funny cabana style roof you find a beach resorts.  Within the bike category alone you'll find a whole range of options.  Tandem, mountain, road racing, triathalon, fixie, recumbent, cruiser, touring, BMX and many more can all be found on the streets of Vancouver. 

But I have not seen many in the class known as Tall Bikes.  In fact, the subject of my video story, Lyle Vallie (sorry about the misspelling in the piece) figures only ten such curiousities exist in the city.  His is probably the most remarkable.  It's lightweight abd engineered to position the rider in a normal cycling position, not the easiest thing to do when your seat is close to two metres off the ground.  Lyle is an engineer who, when he's not at his day job with the high end bike shop "Mighty Riders", designs and builds high end bike components.  So this is a pretty special bit of work.  But how does it ride?  Check it out, he said.  That was where my trouble began.  Tall Bike icon_video.gif


By the way, if you're into bicycle technology, Lyle's website is worth a gander.  Here's the LINK

Aquatic Astronauts

bc-astronauts-nixon-100331.jpgAnyone remember the Tom Swift books for boys?  They gave the Hardy Boys a run for the money back in the 60s space race.  All kinds of Grade Six lads read them and watched Johnny Quest and Lost in Space on TV, dreaming that one day they too could become astronauts. 

I never joined the craze and do not know why.  Maybe it was because I realized that it would never happen to me and even now am one who would rather canoe a river than stare down at it from outer space (though if I could do both....).  Still, when Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield popped into town to learn how to drive an underwater rover, I admit to slight excitement.  He is, after all, a Canuck who has spent 14 hours walking in space outside the shuttle.  And like all things space related, his current project is high tech and really cool.  Watery Rocketmen icon_video.gif



LP Records

bc-vinyl-nixon-100323.jpgYou should have seen Lawrence Crawley's eyes light up when I told him I have an original Sex Pistols 'Never Mind the Bullocks' album.  "We could sell that within an hour," he told me.  Of course, when I said 'have', that's only kinda true.  I gave my record collection to my sister for safe keeping decades ago when I moved out of the country.  Guess what?  I never asked for it back.  (Hey Pam.  Send me that album.  I'm hankering to listen to "God Save the Queen" again.) 

It seems Crawley has caught a wave, as people who never bought a record in their lives are suddenly discovering the joys of LPs.  They like the idea of the whole process involved in getting music played, taking the vinyl out of its sleeve, putting it on the turntable, taping a penny to the needle - you know, the whole record playing thing.  So much more personal than downloading some MP3, plugging in the earphones and nodding your head erratically on the skytrain.  But maybe even that will seem way cool in 30 years when all music comes through brain implants.   Vinyl Guy icon_video.gif

Neon Chinatown

bc-neon-nixon-100315.jpgThe trouble with doing a story about neon signage in Vancouver during the day is .... (fill in your answers here). 

Of course, it is not as big a problem as it is for the folks who decide that the best time to turn on the sign for the first time happens to be the day after daylight savings time kicks in.   A lovely twilight image of brightly shining coloured glass tubes artfully bent into an enticing message somehow loses its impact when the sun still has ninety minutes to go before setting.  But perhaps they were caught unawares and, besides, what does it matter in the long run?  Vancouver gets another big sign to remind us of the glory days of neon.  Or perhaps to herald a bright shining future.  Glow in the Dark icon_video.gif

Oscar Bound

bc-oscars-nixon-net.jpgI once picked up a library book that featured every Oscar winner since the Academy Awards began back in the 1920s.  With the same diligence that allows some kids to memorize baseball statistics, I proceeded to learn by heart who won what when in most major categories.  The book ended with the 1969 winner (was that the year "In the Heat of the Night" took best picture?) so it was not that huge a list.  I mostly forgot what I learned over the years - though it still bugs me that "The Best Years of Our Lives" beat out "It's a Wonderful Life" for best pic in 1946. 

Another thing I learned from that book was that if you're Canadian and want to win an Oscar - either move to Hollywood or work for the National Film Board.  Fortunately, things have changed.  We've got our own movie industry now, and first class talent.  Witness the special effects nomination for a Vancouver company I had never heard of before nominations were announced.  Special Effect icon_video.gif

Zipline Test Pilot

bc-zip-line-nixon-100126.jpgZiplines have been strung out all through old growth forests over the past decade, delighting and occasionally terrifying eco-warriors who get a thrill as they zing through the woods.  So it makes sense that a province that wants to showcase its assets would come up with a way to bring this tourist attraction to the thousands of visitors expected to swarm Vancouver during the Olympics.  Sure enough, a zipline has been constructed right in the heart of the city and no doubt this will be a popular attraction.  But as the crew stringing the 164 metre (not 52 metres as I said in the story - a mathematical miscalculation for which I offer profuse appologies) line finished the job, I began to wonder who would be its very first rider? Zipline Right Stuff icon_video.gif

Birks Clock

bc-clock-nixon-net.jpgWho would have thought that a trip to watch a historic clock's return to Granville Street could turn into a lesson in the art of punning.  In this case, it's the Birk's Clock, that was removed several years ago when the Canada Line subway construction began and the venerable jewellry company decided to refurbish its giant time piece for the first time in almost 100 years.  They called in the best - and he delivered ... and then some.  A who really knows when the clock is ticking. Time Flies icon_video.gif

Pressure Washer

bc-cleaning-nixon-net.jpgI wonder how many of us had New Year's resolutions that included pressure washing the mould and muck off the back fence.  That's some big job.   But not nearly as big as the one a fellow I ran into had.  Cleaning the entire side of a building of decades worth of grime, all because of one night's worth of grafitti.  But this was no garden variety tagging.  It was Olympic sized.  Graffiti Be Gone icon_video.gif

CBC Open House

Five thousand people came to the CBC Vancouver open house.   Luckily, they did not arrive all at once.  So as they filed through the newsroom and the control rooms and the studios, the idea was to give them a behind the scenes look at how we create the news each day.  I decided to make a story about exactly that - how I make a story - about CBC's Open House.  A Day in the Life icon_video.gif

Old Films

Back in the 1960's there was a joke about the easiest way to clear a room was to offer to show off home movies.  But you know what?  Wait a couple of decades and those old films suddenly look really interesting.  They become a window on another world.   


HDTV Antenna

As someone whose youth was spent constantly adjusting the TV antenna above our old Black and White so I could watch Get Smart without all the onscreen snow, I did not have a particularly high opinion of off-air television signals. 

Smell O'rama

Hey, I love the smell of a freshly mowed lawn, and cinnamon buns in the morning.   It's great to catch a whiff of hotdogs at a baseball game.  But I never thought you could make money from odors.

Viking Ship

  You've got to love this boat.  Two hour sails on English Bay.  An experienced and friendly crew.  A chance to for some hands on sailing. 

Man on the Moon

What Canadian does not remember where they were when men first walked on the moon?  In truth, most of them don't remember. 

Venus Williams

Sure, it was a staged media event, a chance for video game giant Electronic Arts to plug its fall lineup of Hockey, Basketball, Soccer and Tennis games. 

CSI Burnaby

Who hasn't watched those TV shows and said to themselves, "Hey, I want to make crime scenes my life?"

Miranda's Day

I first met Miranda back in February when she had earned hundreds of dollars to give to the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.  At the time she was strapped into this painfully frightening leg brace she has needed to wear for years. 

Birks Clock

A well known Vancouver landmark has been missing for the past two years.  Where did it go?  And what's happened to it? 

Soccer Robots

Take ten engineering students from a bunch of disciplines, add an insane amount of hours, thousands of lines of computer code. 

Eagle Cam Chicks

The eagle cam sensation continues to attract web viewers worldwide, attracted to this up close view of wild life the makes for some amazing reality TV.  

Eagle Cam Fever

They're back, and bigger than ever.  B.C. eagle cams waiting for the eggs to hatch at three separate locations. 

A Toss Up

Is this the best catapult ever built?  And if it is, what then?  Let's not put our blinkers on for this one folks.