Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Big disappointment

In the last year we lost a restaurant that has been hit or miss - Luciano's. The chain was replaced by a new one - Redwater Grill. Another upscale entry in the market. The menu we saw online didn't really inspire us, but I finally convinced Darlene that we should check it out, especially since one of them is just a 3 minute drive from our house.

The decor is typical of new restaurants - lots of muted, dark colours and focused lighting. But on to the food. I ordered the Italian bacon and cheese gourmet pizza. It was very tasty. But Darlene's chicken fettuccine alfredo was awful. She said "Lipton Sidekicks would be better than this." I had to taste for myself and I agreed. It was tasteless, the sauce watery and flat. The pasta was undercooked.

What a shame. For a gourmet restaurant, they were a perilous 1 for 2. We haven't completely given up on this new place, but our next visit will have to be perfect for them to see us through their doors again.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best use for used CD spindle seen....... ever



Don't drink and blog

In this period of celebration and festive... ness, it's always a good idea to remind our friends to beware the dangers of drinking and blogging.

Blogging 41 months (and counting) sober.

90mph no less...

Here's yet another electric car that may make headlines soon - the Aptera.

It kinda looks like a small plane with the wings missing.

Goodbye TomTom, hello Garmin

I traded up. I bought the Garmin Nuvi 760. Same basic features as the TomTom unit I returned, much higher price. I'll assume for the moment that the extra price translates into better quality and less hassle.

Obviously, the thing I was most interested in was the process by which you get map updates. Garmin doesn't rely on web downloads - they offer their map updates via (shipped) DVD or SD card, the SD card option supposedly being more efficient in that the moment it gets inserted into the device, the new map is available (no PC required). That sounds great to me. I was able to make a complete backup of the contents of my Nuvi without any additional software installed, as the Nuvi is seen by the PC as just another USB drive. Although support wasn't very clear with me whether my backup is of any real use, it's still nice to know that if any files get corrupted on my Nuvi, I have backup copies.

I will give the departed TomTom one kudo - their interface is better than the Nuvi. The Nuvi doesn't show as much on the map screen while you're driving. But it does offer a lot of extra information on a separate screen that the TomTom didn't have. I like the Nuvi mount a bit better too.

[update] Darlene was impressed by the Nuvi's ability to find the nearest Tim Horton's.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Free lighting!

I'm assigning a very high cool factor to this - solar trees. OK, they're actually street lights shaped like trees, with solar panels on top. They're being trialled in Europe (of course), but I would love to see them find their way to our fair city, especially along our many kilometres of bike paths.

Go here for the rest of the story and to see what they look like at night.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Longing for the personal touch

I really miss the small local merchant business model. The model that allows for a store to stock what sells in that market or to stock what customers want versus what a national or global conglomerate wants it to stock. I have seriously lost count of the number of times I've purchased a particular product for years in a row only to discover one day that the product is no longer stocked by a certain big box store (BBS). I long for the return of stores with that personalized touch, which look different from other similar stores and have the ability to stock what they choose. If a particular flavour or variety of a product is selling well, I'd like a store to order more of that flavour or variety, instead of always being sold out but offering dozens of the flavour or variety that doesn't sell.

Minute Maid frozen Watermelon Punch - used to be able to get it, now it's been off store shelves for years. It didn't disappear because Minute Maid no longer makes it.... so what's the problem? Uncle Ben's Stuff'n Such dressing mix - no longer stocked by Safeway. Why? It's the best mix available because the spice packet is separate from the croutons. I could write a book.....

Hey - I like a bargain as much as the next person, but I've gotten tired of walking into BBSs and being able to predict what is on every shelf of every aisle. Worse, I reject the idea that I cannot get a BBS to stock something I'd like to buy. As a consumer I feel like I'm being held hostage.

OK, I'm done ranting for now.........

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Need a boost?

Ever wondered what the most expensive drink at Starbucks is? Wonder no more, my caffeine addicted friends.

Someone in New York City received a free Starbucks drink voucher and decided to make the most of their fortune by ordering a 13 shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel. That would be worth $13.76 (with tax).

Many thanks to my good pal Ernest for the find.

Where is it - edition 39

While you're waiting for the mall lineups to subside, why not give the latest edition of 'Where Is It?' a try?

Guess the city. Click on the image for a bigger view.

Good luck, my geohunter friends.

Is the mall the right venue for real estate?

There's a feature in malls (at least where I live) that makes no sense to me - the real estate kiosk.

I don't know about you, but when I think about buying or selling a home, I think - head for the mall.

Maybe it's just me, but I notice one thing in common about every listing collected at the kiosk - the interior decoration leaves a few things to be desired. Even the listings showcasing acreages with multi-million dollar lovely log cabin-esque properties feature furniture and accoutrements from the 1970s.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blade Runner - The Final Cut

I may have mentioned this before, but the movie Blade Runner really struck a chord with me and ranks as my favourite movie of all time. So it generated great excitement in the Plesz household when I heard that Ridley Scott was releasing the definitive (and final) version of Blade Runner in 3 editions. The 2 disc edition has the Final Cut version on one disc and the 'making of Blade Runner' documentary on the other. The 4 disc edition adds a disc containing 3 previous versions of the film on one disc and a disc of extra featurettes. The edition I bought is the ultimate collector's edition, which adds a disc with the rare 'work print' version of the movie, a toy model of the 'spinner' flying police car, the unicorn origami figurine I alluded to earlier and a few other little gifts, all inside a tiny silver briefcase.

After watching all the discs except for the work print edition, I can say it's a treat for any Blade Runner fan. The final cut brings re-worked video and sound, which just blew me away. No voice-over, a few subtle changes. But the question most fans figured would be answered - is Deckard a replicant? The answer is......... what do you think?

When is a gift not really a gift?

If you had told me 3 years ago that there would exist a social networking site where you could, for a dollar, buy tiny pictures of gifts to give to your friends on said social networking site, I would have said, "Gimme a break - nobody would be dumb enough to fall for that crap and actually buy a picture of a gift for someone".

But alas it has come true. It's bad enough we've fallen for this overt example of highway robbery, but to make matters worse, they even have the gall to act like some of these 'gifts' are 'limited edition' and are in short supply. Is this what it's come to?

Chrisco to the rescue......

Darlene and I have spent the last week or so trying to empty our cupboards by eating all the old, stale, expired food in our cupboards before the Chrisco guy comes to deliver our yearly hamper of food. We would have felt bad if we had to throw anything out, but we had to make room for all that great food that's being delivered. We ate the cheese soup and baking soda and stale crackers and all the other things that have been sitting around for months.

I'm kidding of course. That Chrisco ad is incredible - it portrays the most surreal and bizarre reality. The family is painted like folks who just never quite get any of the groceries they like. It's as if the local grocery stores they're stuck with only stock the most awful stuff.

"It's cool having this much food in the house", says the boy in the ad. What? They've never had full cupboards before? This has got to be the stupidest commercial ever. People getting excited about having their pantry filled with food.

Bring on the Boxing Day sales......

A holiday wish from me to all my readers. Have a safe and emotionally satisfying holiday. At this time of year, it's always important to focus on the important things. Like 'did I get what I wanted for Christmas, and if not - who's to blame'.

But seriously, here's raising a turkey leg to you all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

2 hot girls in the shower

It's not what you think - exactly.

The problem with posting about this set of videos is the inevitable question it forms in the minds of my readers. ("Gee Karl, what were you doing online that you happened to stumble upon this?")

Never you mind!
I especially like episode #9


You can always count on criminals to do their dumb best. Or is it dumbest?

Either way, these stories should elicit a chuckle or two.

There's so many!

Merry Christmas everyone. You're probably wondering - where are my gifts? They're online. Courtesy of Lifehacker. Presenting Lifehacker's 2007 guide to free software and webapps.

Ahhhh, t'is but a good guide. I know ye well.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Everything's grand..... until update time

I promised additional review of my TomTom Go 720, so here it is.

One of the things I really enjoy about planning a route, other than being able to reject what was offered and choose alternates is Route Demo. This is where you can watch the thing show a 'drive through' demo (at high speed) of the planned route, so you can familiarize yourself with where you'll be going as opposed to looking down on a map. Speaking of map, I did notice some inaccuracies, but these all involved major road work detours, so it was forgivable.

I decided to give the mp3 player feature a try and loaded a couple SD memory cards with mp3s. I was reading a lot of gripes on online forums about the unintuitive-ness of getting music on the TomTom and I see what they mean. You have to use the included PC software as a means of copying the files onto the SD card for it to work 100% guaranteed. OK fine, I'm hip to that. But when I brought the TomTom into the car to try it out, it didn't always boot and instantly recognize the SD card. The FM transmitter built in is a nice feature - one less gadget to carry around - but even with the device cranked to 100% volume, the volume coming through on the radio was quiet and full of noise. This is not good.

The TomTom allows you to switch the units of measure to metric. But when the text to voice reads the distance to the next way point, it says 2 miles when it really means 2 kilometres.

But alas, all the good things about this TomTom were superseded by a major fault - updates. Oh, they had updates. In fact, I was entitled to a free North America map update for 30 days. The problem was getting it downloaded. This task has to be done via the TomTom Home software. The problem I encountered is that the download (almost 2GB) kept quitting after about 10 minutes. Never at the same spot. No alternative to get the update by another means. TomTom insists it's not their problem, yet online forums would indicate otherwise. To their credit, they tried everything surrounding the Home application itself. I even tried changing computers and unblocking ports on my firewall. But nothing worked. And that's a show stopper my friends.

So the mighty TomTom Go 720 is headed back to the store. But its replacement has been spotted. Garmin to the rescue.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Have you ever seen anyone do magic with math before?

Check out Arthur Benjamin as he races a team of audience members with calculators to calculate 3 digit squares in his head, among other things.

This should clear things up...

Lovely attempt from Ikea to indicate when would be a good time to shop at their store.

Looks great, doesn't it? Until you really look at it - then it falls apart. When exactly are you open guys? According to the chart, on Saturdays - they never close.

"Think it over"

I've talked about mashups in the past, and I've paid tribute to the master (IMHO).

Now, fans are making videos to go along with Go Home Production's creations. Like this one, 'Supreme Evil'.

Things that make you go 'hmmm'

I guess the public outcry regarding proposed copyright measures by the government didn't have as much of an effect as we thought. Now we will be seeing changes in the levies paid along with the purchase of digital media. The proposed levies range in price including:
  • 85 cents for each rewritable CD and MiniDisc
  • $2 for each 1 GB removable electronic memory card
  • $25 for a digital audio recorder between 1 and 10 GBs
  • $75 for digital audio recorder of more than 30 GBs
What's next? Levies on our hard drives? We can use them to store music and movies. What about the internet? Levies on our ISP fee? Will that be next? What happens when writers and publishers ask for a levy on every notebook and sheet of paper because it could potentially be used to store their copyrighted works? Photocopiers should be illegal!

Supposedly, the levy on recordable media is the price we pay for the right to be allowed to make private copies. No levy = no deal. Private copying becomes copyright infringement.

Has anyone thought about auditing the entertainment industry to see exactly where these levies go that supposedly benefit the artists? We certainly have no proof of where the money is going.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"Too bad she won't live..... "

This is the cute origami unicorn figurine that came in my Blade Runner - The Final Cut box set.

Isn't it pretty?

I promise - I'll be reviewing the DVDs themselves as soon as I've watched everything.

"...other people are going back to XP"

Apple continues to make funny ads taking the piss out of Windows.

This poke at Vista is hilarious.

More great geeky ads here at BoingBoing

Homer Simpson appeared as this guy in a show opening couch gag

Oh my!

Remember this character?

1000 geek points to anyone who can name this 1967 era superhero.....

5000 geek points if you can tell me how fast he could run.........

Can they build it in time?

Every once in a while the subject comes up of a high speed rail line between Edmonton and Calgary. Then it fades away, only to crop up again every 10 years or so.

This time, something even more exciting - and plausible, has come up - commuter train service between Calgary and outlying communities like Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks and High River. This is a much more viable idea because the infrastructure is more or less already there and let's face it, the feeder roads into our fair city are at capacity already.

I hope this is something we don't just study for the next 10 years and actually do what's necessary to make it happen.

Bacon flowchart

Bacon must be making a comeback (did it ever really go away?), because I've been seeing a lot of stuff online about bacon.

Like this flowchart.....
(much more than what's displayed here)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fear not, faithful readers....

Yep, I'm still alive - but busier than all heck.

What with instructor meetings, volunteering at Loose Moose and assorted holiday something-or-others, blogging has sunk low on my to do list.

Never mind that I just bought the 5 DVD ultra-collector-edition Blade Runner Final Cut set.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Even without nuts - they're nutty....

I'm a big fan of clever design and these salt and pepper shakers are definitely unique. You don't shake them, you bend then shake them and the salt or pepper is sprinkled from the gaps between the coils.

Cool, huh?

Getting with the times

So, after getting my first taste of GPS navigation in our rental car while I was in the UK back in September, I decided to treat myself to a GPS device for my car. I did a bit of research and settled on the TomTom Go 720. The price was right and I had heard great things about the user interface. Apparently, its biggest weakness is map accuracy - but I'm willing to assume that risk and put that to the test.

I was a little nervous about the mounting situation. I have never mounted a device to my windshield before and wasn't very confident that mounting the TomTom there was going to be secure (it might fall off), nor was I convinced it wouldn't interfere with my sight lines. Luckily, this TomTom comes with an adhesive disc for mounting on your dashboard. I just happened to have a perfect spot to locate the disc and the suction cup mount stuck to it like glue. The sight line to the device is perfect - not blocking my view at all - just below the windshield line and not too far over to the right. This made me very happy.

The first annoying thing I noticed about the device is that the moment you turn it on for the first time you're supposed to select a language. The problem is that the selection screen disappeared very quickly, leaving me to try and figure out the interface in Spanish. Not good. After looking at the manual I was finally able to switch to English, but I foresee this freaking some people out that aren't paying attention.

The next thing I did was try to set up the TomTom as a hands-free phone device. I had heard you could do it with my cell phone model. It works like a charm - the TomTom even captured my cell phone's phone book. So now, when both the cell phone and the TomTom are on, all phone controls are routed through the TomTom. Quality was decent too.

I decided to break in the TomTom with a journey to an address deep in a maze of streets in one of the most confusing neighbourhoods in our city - Huntington. It did a great job. The turn by turn voice directions were bang on, with plenty of warning about upcoming turns. Darlene was impressed. It also found a bizarre albeit quick way out of the area to our next destination. One of the things I like about this device is that once it has planned your trip and shown you the overall route on a large scale, you have the ability to reject the route and it will offer alternatives. Another feature I like is that if you decide to deviate from the planned route, it instantly plans a new route based on the deviation. In some cases I was curious about the route it chose, but I'll be damned if it didn't sometimes pick efficient ways to get to familiar destinations.

I'll post more on the TomTom in a few days or so.

The token Christmas YouTube link

The 12 Days of Christmas like you've never heard before - with a twist.

Thanks to Ernest for the tip.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How do you decide who to marry (written by kids)

1) You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. - Alan, age 10
2) No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with. - Kristen, age 10

1) Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then. - Camille, age 10
2) No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married. - Freddie, age 6

1) You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. - Derrick, age 8

1) Both don't want any more kids. - Lori, age 8

1) Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. - Lynnette, age 8
2) On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. - Martin, age 10

1) I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns. -Craig, age 9

1) When they're rich. - Pam, age 7
2) The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that. - Curt, age 7
3 ) The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do. - Howard, age 8

1 ) I don't know which is better, but I'll tell you one thing. I'm never going to have sex with my wife. I don't want to be all grossed out. - Theodore, age 8
2 ) It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. - Anita, age 9

1 ) There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there? - Kelvin, age 8

1 ) Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck. - Ricky, age 10

Cool photo

This photo caught my eye on another blog.

"I know both my parents"

So last night I ushered at Loose Moose again, but they're not doing their normal show these days. The current performance is 'A ChrisMoose Carol' and it's a take off you know what. I won't tell you this year's theme, but I will tell you that you have to go see this show if you can. It's been playing all month but there are only 3 shows left - this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm. Tickets are pretty much selling out in advance, so don't just show up expecting seats.

It's one of the funniest shows I've ever seen.

The post's title is an inside joke - which you'll get after you see the show......

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How low can they go?

A charity in the UK was told by a Performing Rights Society officer that they needed a licence for staff to listen to a radio in the kitchen. Next, they were stunned to be told their annual carol concert would be taken into account when the cost of their licence was calculated. Last year they were handed a bill of £230 ($476CAD) – which they paid by holding a raffle. The future of fund-raising shows was put in doubt after the PRS demanded £470 ($973CAD)this year.

They were told the only way to avoid paying to sing the carols is if the kids were told to sing old songs which are out of copyright.

Do you like TV theme music?

I found a site with the theme songs for many TV shows. Underdog, the A-Team, Rocky & Bullwinkle, the Jetsons.........

You can even play a 'name that theme' game!

How much further can you go?

How far can your car go after the gas light has turned on? Tank on empty aims to find out.

You can view submitted statistics for your car's make and model or submit your own values.

Family Christmas joke

I just read this at the J-Walk blog:

A man in Chicago calls his son in New York the day before Christmas and says, "I hate to ruin Christmas this year, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams. "We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Atlanta and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like hell they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this."

She calls Chicago immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're coming for Christmas and paying their own way."

Pass this joke on, and give credit to the blog where you found it. Let's see if we can get this joke on every single blog in the world. Theoretically, this will create a pyramid of millions of link chains - any one of which can be followed back to the joke's original source.

Copyright = rights for big industry

In light of the fact that Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice might be actually thinking twice about the potentially flawed copyright bill he planned to introduce this week (before withdrawing), he might want to read this excellent article on copyfraud (false copyright claims). An excerpt (courtesy of BoingBoing):

Copyfraud is everywhere. False copyright notices appear on modern reprints of Shakespeare's plays, Beethoven's piano scores, greeting card versions of Monet's Water Lilies, and even the U.S. Constitution. Archives claim blanket copyright in everything in their collections. Vendors of microfilmed versions of historical newspapers assert copyright ownership. These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner's permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use.

Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud. The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offence under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.

This is powerful stuff that every consumer, creator, educator and politician needs to be aware of.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Like art - beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Tacky Christmas Yards....

.... "is somewhat of a scavenger hunt. Everyone has their own holiday traditions and any tradition can be seen differently from one person to the next. is not a malicious attempt to end all decoration, just a fun challenge to find the most violations. Locating the “best” yard is as much of an art as creating the “best” yard."

Seen here... The Brigade.

The differences....

....between men and women. According to other men....

....and women.

Some examples:

On being told that someone has bought a new car women usually ask what colour it is - men ask what sort is it.

Men like to have all their stuff (DVDs, CDs, etc) on show to impress their mates. Women like to hide things in cupboards.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Massoud Shaari

We all go on about our 'rock n roll', but these two guys rock the house!

It's nice to hear an ethnic piece of music that displays great talent outside of our normal North American sphere of entertainment.

It goes on for almost 10 minutes, then ends abruptly.... unfortunately

Are ya still 'ba-da-ba-ba-ba lovin' it'?

Overstay your welcome (more than 45 minutes) at a McDonald's parking lot in the UK and receive a 125 Pound ($258CAD) fine in the mail.

Just try not to pay it either.......

Big finish

Here's a cute parody on the typical herbal shampoo commercial, starring Canadian Shaun Majumder.

Spot on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rock n Roll quiz

I scored 31 on the Almost Impossible Rock Quiz.

I did not cheat at all - I tried to answer the questions purely from memory.

If you think you know the history of music, give it a spin.

Spreading the.... ummm... joy

Here's an event I'd like to see come to Calgary - Unsilent Night. The idea is that a large group of ghetto blaster toting folks show up at a specific place and stroll through town playing the same holiday music (it's all finely synchronized).

I'd participate for sure.....

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cats revisited

Remember the post I did a little while back about the 2 cats talking? Well, someone overdubbed what they would sound like if you could understand 'cat'.


Because you just can't get enough Pooh

Perhaps one of the most unfortunate book titles - ever.

I just can't stop laughing.

I have to get this book.


Is it an 'attack' on one belief if you profess a belief in something else? Sounds bizarre, doesn't it. Yet that's what some people are proclaiming after an atheist group put up a sign to mark the winter solstice with the words, "Imagine no religion".

Muslims and Christians alike are upset, especially at the suggestion (as portrayed in the sign) that 9/11 wouldn't have happened if it weren't for religion.

Message to John - wherever you are: They still don't get it............

Then why are you doing it?

There's a stretch of road in our city where the transportation gurus have taken it upon themselves to use lane reversal to try to alleviate some congestion during rush hour. It's an experiment that failed (in my opinion) just due to the fact that the reversal barely gets you going along on extra lanes before you have to merge back into 2 again. Feedback I've gotten says people don't really like it, but it continues to this day. The other day as I was passing through the area, I noticed a subtle irony in the signs that are posted along the route:

"Lane reversal in effect Mon-Fri 15:30-18:30. Expect delays."

Did you catch that last part?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Holy inflation Batman!

In the year I was born (1961), things were significantly cheaper than now:
  • Average cost of a new house $12,500
  • Average income per year $5,315
  • Cost of a gallon of gasoline 27 cents
  • Average cost of a new car $2,850
  • 1 lb. of bacon 67 cents
  • One dozen eggs 30 cents

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Why the DMCA is bad....

A most awesome slide show explaining what the DMCA is all about (and why we should be making a big deal about it). Very nicely done.