Saturday, October 31, 2009


Well, tonight's the night I unveil my mystery costume on the world at Gord's Hallowe'en party. I'll be posting photos of the get-up and others on Facebook tomorrow sometime.

Until then, everyone have a safe, fun night and be a good l'il ghoul.


Share this....

There's something relatively new on the web that is really starting to annoy me. It's this stupid thing right here. This stupid 'share' thingy.

What I hate about it is that you don't even get to click it - you just accidentally hover your mouse pointer over the stupid thing and it springs to life as pictured. Depending on the web site you're visiting, the thing seems very persistent about sticking around.

And that drives me crazy.

Crazy I tells ya.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Safety information

Have you ever wondered if there were any safety recalls on the car you drive (or are considering buying)? This American site will help you find any known recalls on vehicles, child restraints and tires. Keep in mind that Canadian safety standards are different, especially with regards to child restraints.

My car has a known issue with the trunk wiring harness, which I knew about and have already gotten fixed on warranty.

The evolution of the internet

The first network (called Arpanet) had 4 computers connected to it. That was 1969. In 1971, the year of the first email message, the network had grown to 23 hosts.

In 1983, the various hosts switched over to the internet protocols we use today. All 562 of them. In 1988, the year IRC was born, there were 56,000 computers online.

I got online in 1994, when there were only 3,864,000 other internet hosts. When blogs started in 1997, that number was at 19,540,000. In 2001, the birth of Wikipedia saw 125,888,197 computers online. Facebook and Gmail came aboard in 2004 and the internet had grown to 317,646,084 computers.

In July of this year (2009), there were 681,064,561 connected hosts online. Finland passed a law making broadband internet connectivity a basic human right.

Think back to the day you graduated high school. Imagine if someone told you that some day, you'd be sitting in front of a computer no bigger than Saturday's newspaper, looking at a navigable panoramic picture of the neighbourhood you grew up in. Oh yeah..... and view endless pictures of Lolcats.

Olympic torch is en route

The Olympic torch will employ 12,000 runners to carry the Olympic flame across Canada. They have begun the 106-day, 45,000km (28,000 miles) relay as of today.

On 10 Dec 2009, the Olympic torch will be passing through my original home town of Deux Montagnes QC. On 12 Dec 2009, it will be in Aylmer QC, where my sister and family live. It will arrive in Kingston, where my father-in-law, brother-in-law and mother-in-law live on 14 Dec 2009, and departs the next day on the 15th. My sister-in-law in Kincardine will get to see it on 28 Dec 2009. My other brother-in-law can see it at CFB Borden on 29 Dec 2009. The torch will arrive in Calgary on 18 Jan 2010 and will depart the next day.

The Olympic torch will arrive in BC Place Stadium to open the ceremonies on 12 Feb2010.

Here's the live route information. Here's the various route maps with city way point lists.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I can haz traffic updatez?

Has anyone (in Calgary) noticed that on Google Maps, Calgary now has traffic updates?

You have the choice of getting live traffic conditions, or choose traffic at a certain day and time, which is presented based on what traffic has been like historically during that time.

I don’t know if it’s a by-product of ongoing improvements on the site, but there aren’t many routes being monitored outside of Deerfoot Trail and few other major routes. No Sarcee Trail, no downtown roads, no Memorial Drive, etc.

Now, what would be really cool is if Google could make an iPhone app that when functioning on a phone, could send real time vehicle movements to Google Maps to contribute to the live data. Then Google could offer route delay warnings, alternate routes and so forth. Someday, these kinds of features will be ubiquitous.

Asterix and Obelix!

Today's Google search logo sure brings back a lot of fond memories.....

In the news...

The economy is showing signs of recovery.
Or maybe it’s not.
Actually, yes it is. We’re on the up swing.
But only in the retail sector.
Retail is expected to be down this holiday season.
Jobs are being created.
But there are more unemployed.
But unemployment benefits paid out are down.
New cars sit idle.
But car sales are up.
Housing is up.
Unless you live in the depressed areas.
Money markets are suffering.
But gold is through the roof.
Now is a good time to start investing.
Except in stocks. And futures.
Retailers are hoping for brisk sales in December.
Container ships sit empty off of SE Asia.
Things are looking up.
Except for those who are looking down.
We’ve turned a corner.
There’s a big fat scary monster around the corner.
Don’t be afraid.
It smells fear.

Jewel heist..... of the worst kind

Some woman randomly went up to a guy and kicked him in the crotch. The victim was injured so badly he had to have one of his testicles removed. Police are concerned there may be other victims, but they may be too embarrassed to come forward.

I think this woman's a nut case.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Messages about messages

My phone recently alerted me that I had received an email message. The email message was an alert that someone messaged me on Facebook. They messaged me on Facebook because they weren't able to get a hold of me on my phone. (OK, I made that last part up)

Am I the only one who thinks this whole business is beginning to spiral out of control? There are times when I really don't care to be in instant contact with the whole world.

No..... really....

It's not you. It's me.

Here are some other annoying things about the internet.

It really is 'who you know'

During the years 2000-2003 I was teaching the first part of an adult retraining program designed to prepare those looking for a career change (or start) into entry level IT support. During those 3 years, I met and made friends with a lot of people, almost all of whom did indeed enter the IT world with varying degrees of success. I remarked at that time and since, that not only was that job one of the most fun I've ever done, but that I would relish the fact that I suddenly knew many contacts in the industry that would hopefully be a benefit in years to come. Little did I know.

As most of you know, I was laid off from my last job back in April, and scrambled to get myself out there as part of my job search process. During that process, I heard through the grapevine that 2 former students had in fact evolved from being IT support people to IT recruiters. I contacted one of these friends and arranged a meeting. I made it clear that more than anything, I was looking for a training role for my next job. My friend warned that training jobs didn't come across their desks very often, but I was not discouraged. During the interview, my friend insisted that I register on their web site so that I would be notified if the kind of work I was seeking would pop up.

A couple of months later, I received an email from one of my recruiter friends' colleagues about a possible job match and it was just the kind of opportunity I was looking for. I'm talking exactly what I wanted. I notified Ben that I was definitely interested in this job and I entered the selection process. You probably have already guessed the outcome. I got the job.

So, to my wife Darlene, thanks for convincing me to take that course in 2000, which immediately led to the teaching job. To my friends Kostja and Allison, thanks for coming to school and becoming a friend. Because you did, I was able to make important connections in the IT industry which inadvertently led to my landing a great job in 2009.

See how synchronicity works?

Want fast internet? Threaten to build a public network

A friend sent me this article about a suburb of Minneapolis in Minnesota (Monticello) that managed to get some wickedly fast internet service out of the regional private ISP. Too bad it wasn't the result of their own willingness to provide such service of their own free will. A summary:

Monticello: Yo, ISP. You plan to get fibre-to-the-home?
ISP: Nope.
Monticello: Yo, public. You want fibre-to-the-home?
Public: Damned straight!
Monticello: OK, we're doing it ourselves.
ISP: Whoa. Lawsuit!
Monticello: WTF!
ISP: In light of the public's demand for fibre-to-the-home, we'll build it.
Monticello: Sneaky bastards.
ISP: You tricked us. We don't believe the public really wanted fibre-to-the-home.
Monticello: Wankers.
Public: Woo hoo! Fibre-to-the-home! 50Mbps speeds!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sorry chief, you had your chance

After many years of negotiating with the Tsuu T’ina first nation and the resulting vote to turn down the proposed ring road route through their land, their chief is threatening to sue the government if the alternate route we are going forward with blocks access to their new casino.

Even funnier, the chief is mad that the City let the media see the content of the threat.

Suddenly, I have this tremendous urge to go ‘neener neener!’

But seriously, I have a message to the chief: Dude….. sorry… your chiefness, you might have done better to explain to your nation that by voting down the proposed ring road route through your land, you would be forcing the City to explore alternatives and one of those alternatives has a high probability of blocking access to your precious casino. But that consequence didn’t sink in. So there you have it. Pretty much every legal eagle watching the case agrees that the risk of any lawsuit from your nation is pointless anyway, because the government negotiated in good faith for many years only to be burned.

Just imagine how awesome it could have been if you not only agreed to the ring road proposal, but if you also had the foresight to build the casino somewhere that would allow access no matter which ring road route was chosen……

How to make the web even more secure

I found a really awesome article on passwords. I was pleased to read that complex passwords are not as practical as their ubiquitousness would lead us to believe. Pass phrases are much better. I was even happier to see a suggestion that just makes perfect sense. If you work for a company that uses 2 factor authentication to access your work email from outside the company for example, you probably have one of those RSA password fobs that offers you a temporary password to use when you log in.

This technology can be integrated into every website that requires a login and the fob can be replaced by your cell phone. A user enters their login name at a given site, and in a few seconds their phone beeps with a text message containing a temporary password. The beauty of this is that every password you use is only good for one session, so even if someone does happen to see you type it in, they couldn't use it if they tried.

It also makes losing your phone a reportable incident.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Zombie peanuts

I've blogged about this guy's work at least twice, but he continues to produce quality art.

Bent objects makes characters and stories out of everyday objects and some unravelled paper clips. There's even a book.

I snorted very loudly when I saw this one.

I can't stop laughing

You know how you start typing stuff into the Google search field and the auto-complete feature starts suggesting phrases? I had heard about this particular phenomenon and didn't believe it, so I had to try for myself.

Lo and behold. I typed in 'I like' and this is what Google suggested first:

'I like to tape my thumbs to my hands to see what it would be like to be a dinosaur.'

Someone's trying to mess with my head.....

I'm still laughing though.....

Facebook Live Feed analogy

Facebook introducing its Live Feed is kind of like someone getting their car detailed when the clutch is still broken.

Or like painting the walls in your house when the roof is still leaking.

Or like fixing your lipstick when your cuts are still bleeding.

Stuff like that.

This is what online multimedia technology is all about

I found an inspiring web page that combines video, music, mixing, collaboration and personal creativity all in one beautiful place. This one page is a testament to what you can do with technology when you use your imagination and in my mind is only the tip of the iceberg.

"In Bb 2.0" is a collaborative music and spoken word project conceived by Darren Solomon from Science for Girls, and developed with contributions from users. The videos can be played simultaneously or you can start them up at any time in a slow, staggered sequence. Do whatever you want - the soundtracks will work together and the volume of each piece can be adjusted with the individual sliders. If you want an element (that has ended) back in your live creation, just hit replay.

You may want to set some time aside to play with this..... it's very easy to get caught up in the fun and play for a long time. The music is very Brian Eno-ish.

Tip: If all of the video boxes aren't visible on your screen at once and you use Firefox as your browser, just hit 'Ctrl' and '-' to shrink things down to fit.

Source of page: The Kids in the Hall Facebook Group mentioned it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Show me (all of) the money!

Message to people who buy stuff via the online or paper classified ads:

If I'm selling something for... oh, let's say $30. Then you communicate with me and make arrangements to buy the item and come to pick it up. Whether or not we've discussed the selling price, the price is the price. It is not OK to show up at my home, open your purse, or wallet, and accidentally discover that you only brought $23 with you, "Is that OK?"

No..... it's not OK. We agreed on $30. That's what the item costs. If the price wasn't satisfactory, you bring that up before you come over. Because if you do show up with $23, I'm going to tell you that it's not enough. I'm going to make you go and get the rest of the money. Then I'm going to rub salt in that you may have spent as much in gas getting the money you 'forgot' as you tried to shortchange me.

I'll tell you what. I'll drop the whole subject if the next time you're at your favourite food outlet, you coyly mention that you don't quite have enough money to pay the bill. Or tell the bank that you're a little short on mortgage money this month. Let's see how they take that little bit of news.

This kind of thing happens more often than you might think. The next person that tries this little stunt with me is not only not going to get the 'deal' they're trying to finagle for themselves, I'm want to not letting them have it at all.

But look at Japan!

I've already ranted about this the other day, so just read it if you haven't already. But this graphic portrays just how pitiful Canada's broadband situation is compared to the best countries in the world.

"Why can't my baby read?"

It looks like Disney was challenged about the legitimacy of its educational claims regarding its series of Baby Einstein videos. An advocacy group from Boston complained to the Federal Trade Commission in May 2006, saying claims made on "Baby Einstein" packaging and the Web site were not supportable by scientific research. The claims had consumers falsely believing the videos could, among other things, teach words to babies under 2 years old.

Disney offered refunds to people who bought the videos.

[Update] Some damning evidence via boingboing.

"They don't do them selfs"

Best use of a home-made motivational poster.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Egg-stra good

Here's a great article on how to boil the perfect egg.

Aren't eggs fantastic? Pickled, devilled, scrambled (with green onion and a bit of cheddar), hard boiled, fried and put in a sandwich. Dipping the toast in the yolk?

Are you drooling yet?

P.S.: The link is fixed....

Best album cover mashup seen this year

Jack Black Sabbath!

More nuttiness here.

Food for deep thought

[prelude] Sometimes I let my imagination get the best of me and I let ideas flow freely. A few weeks ago it happened again and I decided to put some of them down. I wasn't sure about posting this, so I waited a few weeks to see if I'd return to this post and still feel like publishing it. I do.....

So I was thinking.... I often wonder how our society, how our world would be different if there were even some slight alterations in our environment or the way we do things.

I try to imagine the effects of these changes and think about if they are good or bad in the long run. I try to take into consideration that some of these ideas already exist in other parts of the industrialized world while others border on Utopian ideology. Each of these ideas are meant to be considered individually, on their own merit. This is not to be interpreted as a 'wish list', nor is this exercise to come up with excuses or reasons why these things could never happen. It is simply a list of things to consider.

Since I don't have a forum other than this blog to discuss these with people, feel free to chime in with your own offerings and/or your own takes on any item in this list. [in the comments]

What would it be like if.....

1 ...teachers were paid as much as engineers?
2 ...stores were closed at meal times and only open 8 hours (total) per day?
3 ...transit was free to ride?
4 ...roads and highways had to be funded only by gasoline taxes and other fees that only drivers pay?
5 ...most neighbourhoods had a tool sharing co-op?
6 ...your doctor was allowed to prescribe an outing to an improvisation or comedy show or movie as prescription medication?
7 ...we spent as much money developing renewable energy technology as we spend trying to get every last drop of oil and natural gas out of the ground?
8 ...there were highways in the sky (for easy-to-fly personal low altitude aircraft)?
9 ...every day had a siesta from noon-2pm?
10 ...there were no convenience stores?
11 and trucks were shared like a big co-op? (not unlike the business model of ZipCars)
12 ...doctors got a financial incentive for making you healthier? (quit smoking, lower cholesterol...)
13 ...even post-secondary education was free (paid by taxes - or industry)?
14 ...schools treated the arts with the same importance as the sciences?
15 ...the media could only report the good news stories?
16 projects were just as important as individual results in school?
17 had to grow your own food (either individually or as a neighbourhood)?
18 ...countries solved all of their
own problems first?
19 ...graffiti artists were instead paid to paint murals?
20 purposely went to meet a new neighbour every week?
21 ...junk food was more expensive than healthy food?
22 ...children were taught that our way is not the better way, just another way?
23 ...bearing a smile had the same actual value as giving a dollar?
24 ...every military was instantly converted into an equally sized and funded aid organization?
25 ...all textbooks were available online and they were collaboratively updated
in real time?
26 ...we seriously invested in the power of the sun to meet our energy needs?
27 ...we truly made an effort to rehabilitate criminals?
28 ...we closed all zoos, but made studying and observing animals in their natural habitats possible using technology?
29 was not morally or ethically acceptable to promote atypically thin men, women and children?
30 ...children were guided and groomed into the right career(s) by professionals who knew how to thoroughly assess their potential?
31 ...we could cross North America on high speed rail in 24 hours?
32 ...politicians received no special privileges whatsoever (including no financial contributions)?
33 ...we accidentally discovered that the cure for cancer was joy?
34 ...artists (of all stripes) had to promote their own works but got to keep all of the money (not impossible with today's technology)?
35 ...there were no organized TV networks? (we'd still have the technology, but we get to choose everything)
36 ...meditation was taught in school?
37 ...we worked a longer day, but a shorter 4 day work week?
38 was no longer safe to eat any kind of meat at all?
39 ...schools provided every child with a free, nutritious breakfast?
40 ...high school students adopted (and went to visit) a senior in a home?
41 ...society eventually abandoned the use of cosmetics?
42 ...religion was kept out of schools?
43 were not allowed to alter pictures of people? (in other words, no photos can be retouched)
44 ...access to water was entrenched as a human right and could not be sold?
45 ...marijuana was legal and standardized by the medical community?
46 ...a deadly virus came into existence that only affected 'closed minded' people?
47 ...there was no such thing as cigarettes or cigars?
48 was perfectly acceptable to fart in public?
49 ...we didn't know how to lie?
50 ...we actually intercepted a message from another world?

Many of the items on this list are considered to be absurd. So what? Just imagine how the change would affect the world. That doesn't cost anything and that's where all change begins - in your imagination.

photo by Stratocasterman

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sometimes, success is in your soul

Here's a short blog post about 7 successful high school drop-outs.

Parking beef

I was thinking about parking today. In particular, parking for work.

With the exception of one job from 2000-2003, all of my places of employment had free parking. I am beginning to realize that this is highly unusual. I don't have a lot of stories from friends about their parking costs and parking peeves, but I do think that it's highly unfair that some people should have to deal with the expense of parking while others do not. The reason I have an issue with it is because there's no rhyme or reason for parking costs. Calgary parking in its downtown core is among the top 3 highest parking rates in North America. Yet our property values aren't in line with New York City prices. So where's the inequity creeping in?

City Hall doesn't seem willing to offer any kind of relief from high parking costs, because they've already gone on record as saying they would rather people took transit to work. My retort to that stance is that if we actually had an efficient, reliable transit system that took less than an hour to get you from one side of the city to the other in rush hour, I'd be OK with that. But we don't. Before anyone setting transit policy has their say on this issue, I challenge them to use nothing but transit for one month, for everything, then get back to me. Don't even get me started on the $3 per day parking fee at the transit park and ride lots.

I think that where possible, parking should be a job perk. But it should be a perk that still leans toward promoting transit use. So perhaps companies could offer half priced parking or a free monthly transit pass. I fear that this would only motivate parking lot / garage owners to raise their prices even higher.

In highly concentrated work centres like hospitals, they not only charge a fortune for parking, there isn't even enough parking to go around, as there are waiting lists. Worse, you might get a parking spot, but have to park a great distance away from your building, depending on a shuttle bus to get you to and from your car. Here's a secret little piece of trivia - doctors get free parking at the big medical centres and they are the closest spots.

Maybe the problem is that everyone needs to pay for parking, no matter what. Maybe companies that are fortunate enough to have their own parking spaces on their own properties need to contribute a parking tax to the government to help pay for roads.

I don't know what the solution is, but the whole idea bugs me.

Would you eat horse meat?

Unlike most of the rest of the world, there is a very distinct taboo regarding the use of horses for food in North America. Based on what I've read, the taboo regarding horse meat is strongest in the USA, in terms of the fact that it's hard, if not impossible to buy it there. But there is a market for the meat, as some Americans do come to Canada to buy it and smuggle it back across the border.

Canada is somewhat less anti-horse meat, but you'll still have a tough time trying to buy it in many places. the exception? Quebec, where the horse meat market is thriving. What many people don't know (especially here in Alberta, where a lot of it comes from) is that Canada is a big exporter of horse meat to other parts of the world, Europe in particular.

My first experience with horse meat was during my visit to Germany in 1982, when I visited a little hamburger stand in a little town called Verden (Aller). I ordered and ate a home-made burger and remarked to the lads that it tasted 'different'. They revealed to me that the reason is because it was made with horse meat. It wasn't awful.... it was just..... different.


An animated tribute to the funniest comic on the interwebs - xkcd.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Have you ever been anywhere amazing?

Here's a question for my readers, a ploy to get you to chime in.

I ask you:

Where is the most amazing place you've ever visited in your life and why do you consider it so amazing?

My answer is: The Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. It boggles the mind all of the objects they have collected over the years and that less than 1% of the collection is on display at any one time (so the saying goes). Darlene and I spent 3 days visiting and barely scratched the surface.

How long before Canada tries this? The US?

British ISP TalkTalk explain why their government's plans to disconnect households from the net if Big E accuses them of three acts of infringement is problematic.

They take a real world situation and show how it's possible to perform infringing activities on someone else's network.

Running in slow motion

This video clip of various people running toward the camera in slow motion will either have you raising an eyebrow, smiling, laughing or perhaps a combination of all 3.

The running styles are for the most part highly exaggerated, but they're still cool to look at.

The political spectrum explained

I love this Left vs Right political guide, because rarely do political parties really tell you what their true leanings are, they only mention the good stuff you want to hear.

This 'map' indicates where each side of the political spectrum stands on various ideals, concepts and belief systems. Based on these definitions, I'm definitely a lefty.

This link is the 'world' red = left version. Americans can go here for the Yank colourization.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hey look! Our broadband sucks!

The FCC (US) posted an in depth study on broadband around the world, conducted by Harvard researchers. The study concludes that Canada trails much of the developed world on broadband. The rankings:

* Overall - 22nd
* Access - 16th
* Speed - 20th
* Price - 25th

The report essentially blames Canada's regulatory environment for the terrible performance.

CRTC on the side of net ambiguity

The CRTC issued a framework by which it will judge whether internet service providers are discriminating against certain kinds of traffic and content - in other words - traffic shaping is not allowed. Yay!

Oh wait...... The framework is non-binding, which means nobody will follow it, because the onus is on users to prove something is up. Booo!

Did you hear that!?

Have you ever been listening to a song you’ve known for a long time (maybe all of your life), and because you listened to it in a different environment (great stereo system; awesome headphones; no distractions; actually paid attention; remastered album), you heard a musical detail, note, lyric or sound effect that you had never noticed before?

Is there anything cooler than that?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Takes 9 months to load

I'm all for geeky clothing options and this maternity tee is so hilarious.

In case the design is difficult to see, it says "Loading... Please Wait" under a progress bar.

From ThinkGeek.

Latitude and Longitude mashup for Google Maps

If you've ever needed to find the exact latitude and longitude of a place, but didn't know or remember how to extract that information from Google Maps, fear not. This site will do it for you.

If you intend to input this data into your GPS, you'll likely only need a few decimal places. This is very handy when you're trying to navigate to an acreage, a farm or campground that doesn't have a street address.

If you can sketch it - they can 'shop' it

This is an incredible advance in online image manipulation. The premise is simple enough - draw a (labelled) sketch describing what kind of photographic elements you want in a picture and (most importantly) where you want them in the picture. Let the software find the elements in different photos (online) and place those elements as described in your sketch.

PhotoSketch is an Internet Image Montage project from five Chinese Computer Science and Technology students at Tsinghua University and the National University of Singapore. It works like this:
  • Draw the outlines of the figures you want in your picture – anything from seagulls to a Mercedes, whatever tickles your fancy.
  • Add labels for each of the items, as well as for the background.
  • PhotoSketch will then find real-life images to match your doodles and put them together in a Photoshopped image that will seem incredible.
Photosketch has such great image recognition technology that it can determine which dog fits best in your canine doodle. Check out the demo video.

The actual site is offline at time of posting (probably from the high amount of interest from all of the press it got), but keep watching - it is a real site.

Nudie toon

In what can only be described as a desperation move by Playboy, they have featured a pictorial starring animated cartoon character Marge Simpson.

I don't know what's worse, that they did it, or that Playboy figures there are enough guys out there that might be aroused by the pictorial to justify publishing it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to solve our future energy dilemma? Piss on it.

The most likely source of energy in the future (aside from wind, geothermal and solar) will be hydrogen. The problem with that is how to get it. It costs energy to separate hydrogen from other elements, which kind of defeats the purpose. But recently, scientists at Ohio University have discovered a way to separate the hydrogen from a very common source of the element with much less power than is needed to separate it from water.

The magical fluid? Urine. That's right - in the near future, we could be creating hydrogen to power our homes, farms and vehicles from pee. The article suggests that one cow produces enough urine to heat hot water with hydrogen for 19 homes.

Te amo seƱor robot

When robots finally get the ability to perceive emotion, who will they fall in love with?

This video clip takes a cute poke at one possibility.

Because it never snows in Calgary....

Last week's 'freak snow storm' caused hundreds of Calgary residents to get missed by recycling pick-up. They were missed because of icy roads. The City officially responded by saying "Sorry, you'll have to wait until next week. If you have a lot of recycling and can't wait, just go to your nearest depot.

No word on any refund of the $8 per month these residents pay for recycling removal. Nor if the City will get a refund for the crappy snow tires they bought for their trucks.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Go ahead, we're used to it

Ok, so one of my fine American blog readers saw the little bit of fun I decided to have at the expense of the United States and asked:

"And now please post a contest for us 'mericans to do the same thing with Canada."

Alrighty then. In the comments, feel free to indicate as little or as much as you know about our Provinces and Territories. Let the stereotypes fly. They are listed below:

  • Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • Quebec
  • Ontario
  • Manitoba
  • Saskatchewan
  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Yukon
  • Nothwest Territories
  • Nunavut
Contest open to non-Canadians only please.

Which logo are you?

Here's a fun question for my readers: If getting a brand name logo tattooed on you could earn you some serious money, whose logo would you get a tattoo of? Never mind if you would ever actually do this, if you had to pick a logo to wear on your body for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

I think mine would be the Best Buy logo. Even if you don't consider the brand association, it sends a good message.

Woman 1 - Bear 0 (iPhone sidelined indefinitely)

A woman's iPhone saves her from a bear attack. An innovative app was not involved here....

An Ernest contribution.

The best kind of graffiti

Here's a page that showcases 50 of some of the most fantastic murals in the world. I've personally seen #15 in Toronto.

It's quite magnificent. Who am I kidding - they all are.

ISP: Why is our internet so sucky?

Want to get on your Internet Service Provider's bad side? Call them up and ask them, "Why is it that in Japan, they can get a 160Mbps internet connection to their homes for USD$60 per month and we can't?"

If you even get anyone at your ISP to seriously tackle that question, the first thing they'll probably do is argue that they couldn't possibly offer internet for that price because of the economies of scale. It would be hard to argue that, because it's very true that Japan packs more people per square kilometre than the US or Canada ever will. So it is much easier to charge less money per user when a smaller, denser infrastructure is serving many more people.

But what you can easily argue is that since our infrastructure is already in place, it would cost very little to upgrade the current antiquated equipment (or equipment settings) to offer speeds at least 10 times what are offered now, using the same cabling that already exists.

In case your ISP argues that Japan is a unique case, you could mention the 100 Mbps internet connection in South Korea for less than USD$50 per month. Or the 24Mbps connection in Finland for USD$66. Or the 20Mbps offering in Australia for USD$44.

For comparison, in Canada, Telus offers 10Mbps for $43 per month. Shaw does offer 100Mbps.... at $158 per month. No, that's not a typo.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Used child car seat buyers beware

Now that we are looking after our granddaughter several times a week, we've become more familiar with child safety and have become aware of some things about car seats that some folks may not know. I write this post to prevent someone from making an uninformed decision when buying a car seat - especially a used one. It's very important to be serious when buying a car seat because it's all that's protecting the child's delicate spine, which doesn't fuse until they're two years old.

One thing all Canadians should know is that the safety regulations concerning car seats are more stringent in Canada than they are in other countries, even the United States. As a result, you might not do well to buy a seat in the US as it may not meet Canadian standards. Using a car seat that doesn't meet our standards is actually against the law. Another thing all car seat buyers need to be aware of is that every seat has a label indicating the manufactured date and/or the expiry date, which is needed to determine if the seat is still considered safe according to Canadian law. Every brand of seat has guidelines on their web site or in the seat's manual concerning how long the seat is safe for, but the usual period is 6 years from manufacture date (not purchase date). If the label is missing, you would do best to keep looking, because in this case there is no way of knowing for sure how old the seat is.

All of this isn't such a big deal when you're buying a new seat, but if you're considering a used seat, you really need to determine if the seat has 'expired' based on Canadian safety standards. Why? Because the safety folks have determined that all of the parts making up a seat degrade and wear over time and lose their ability to hold the child in place, whether it's the result of plastic fatigue, strap wear or something else. Over time, there may also be safety recalls issued on seats that may or may not be known by the seat owner. There are also newly introduced safety features that, once they become standard on new seats and are eventually deemed necessary, the standards are raised to include those new features. Since older seats do not have these latest safety features, the need for their timely expiry is only natural. In fact, all of these factors make seat expiry a sensible thing to do. It is also good to know that any seat that has been present in a vehicle while that vehicle has been in an accident is no longer considered safe - even if there was no child in the seat at the time. How can you possibly know if a used seat has been in an accident unless you know the seller intimately? You can't know for sure.

Darlene and I have seen numerous examples of people selling used child car seats that have most definitely expired. Yet, using the good brand as a justification, the seller is trying to get close to the full price that they paid new for the seat, often validating their asking price by mentioning that the seat was hardly ever used (second or third seat, stored in a garage for 4 years, etc). The problem is that it just doesn't matter. If the seat is expired, it's expired - period. Sellers might even try to pull a fast one by saying things like "The seat can be re-certified". This is absolute bunk. There is no such legitimate service in Canada.

If you find yourself in possession of an expired seat, the best thing to do is cut all of the straps, remove the padding and generally make the seat totally unusable. Perhaps see if a recycler will take the plastic shell. But never allow it to be reused by anyone. Even thrift stores won't take used car seats anymore because of the legal implications. That should tell you something.

Just so you know, police services are authorized to check the validity of child safety equipment in a vehicle and they take this new role very seriously, because it's the law. Canadian consumer information from the federal government can be found here. Used seat buying tips are here and a used seat buying checklist is here.

Darlene wanted me to give a personal recommendation for Britax brand car seats because after a lot of research she found that even though this brand can be on the expensive side, they are easier to use and are well made. She said there were a lot of great reviews out there backing up her support of this brand. The trick will be choosing the model that fits your particular car model well. The internet is a great source of information regarding this. Make sure you install the seat exactly according to instructions. I don't know if this is a common service elsewhere, but in Calgary, the fire stations will gladly help you install the seat properly.

Lolcats on depression

"Happy cat........ has run out of happy"

More at

The Dyson Air Mulitplier

Sir James Dyson, the dude who brought the Dyson vacuum cleaner to the world, has created a fan with no blades.

Wait... what?