Monday, October 31, 2011

Skype on iPhone - free video calls!!

I gave Skype a try on my iPhone for the first time yesterday. I contacted my sister in Quebec to see how it would work and I was impressed. I was on a wi-fi network, which I am told is the best way to make a Skype video call and it worked very well. The sound was clear, the video acceptable. I was finally able to introduce my grand-daughter to my family. That was pretty cool.

Governments who regulate technology - this post is for you

This graph demonstrates in a nice visual way why government legislation is going to have a tougher time trying to manage new technology as much as 20th century business model based industries are going to have a tougher time trying to exploit new technology.

Because they're slow to anticipate and slow to react to new capabilities.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Now we take you to the board room of an oil company

Oil executive A: I say we lower the cost of gas.
Oil executive B: Are you mad?
Oil executive C: But the price of crude oil just went UP.....
Oil executive A: Yes, yes, I know. It makes no sense, right?
Oil executive B: We've just spent the better part of a decade trying to explain to consumers that gasoline prices are tied to the cost of crude oil. By doing this, they'll put two and two together and realize that everything we've been telling them was a lie.
Oil executive C: You devious bastard!
Oil executive A: Why thank you.
Oil executive B: This could really push them over the top.
Oil executive C: They'll go completely mad.
Oil executive A: They'll never know what hit them.
Oil executive B: It's settled then. Do it. Lower the price of gas 4 cents per litre.
Oil executive C: Are we still flying to Phoenix for a round of golf this afternoon?
Oil executive A: Absofreakinglutely!
Oil executive B: I'm bringing my gold plated clubs this time.

You can't get much greener than this

Bike share programs are popping up all over the world. Paris has one. Montreal has one. Washington DC has one. Barcelona, Helsinki, Stockholm, London, Denver, Melbourne......

Here's a video about the DC version - Capital Bikeshare. Canada's largest bike share system is Bixi Montreal, which started in May 2009. It has over 5000 bicycles at 405 stations. The Paris VĂ©lib system has 20,000 bicycles distributed among 1450 stations. China has impressive stats though. Hangzhou's bike sharing system has over 60,000 bikes found at stations located every 100 meters.

side.entree.drink.diabetes

Somebody punk'd a Burger King billboard ad.

S'truth!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Subterranean beauty

The stark beauty of the Stockholm Metro.

Thanks to Taz for the link....

No more CDs?

There's a rumour floating around in the back, back, back channels of the music industry (nothing official) that 2012 will mark the end of music being sold on CD, with the exception of special releases. That would mean that almost all music sold would only be available through download or streaming via the internet. I have some issues with this, assuming it is true.

For starters, access to music in digital form is not ubiquitous. In Canada, I do not have access to the same degree of selection of music in electronic form as I do in physical form. We're close, but we're not there yet. Second, all of my legal purchasing avenues for music in electronic form are restrictive in many ways. I won't list them all, but let's identify the three most important ones.

1. DRM - Digital Rights Management or 'digital locks' as they are also known, restrict what you can do with the music you buy. The music industry seems to be getting the message that consumers don't want DRM and in some cases it is disappearing. But at least with a CD, if there is no DRM, you are not only free to do with the content as you please (within your legal rights), but you never have to worry that DRM would suddenly appear where it never existed before. With music only available in electronic form, nothing stops the labels (or the distributor) from applying DRM whenever they want to, or changing the DRM scheme to something else. In other words, the rules can change unexpectedly, potentially rendering your existing collection unusable in some way. Another thing many people aren't considering is imports. There are still issues with certain music releases only being available in certain countries. Unlike with import CDs, you can't pay a bit more to import downloads.  If music is only licensed to a specific other country, forget it - you can't have it. At least not legally.

2. Quality - I'm not satisfied with an electronic collection at poor mp3 quality. I own physical CDs for a reason. I can choose to transfer my CD music to FLAC (lossless compressed mode) or a high bit rate mp3 format (320kbps) and the songs are practically indistinguishable from the master. Until I see the option of downloading ALL music in the highest quality format possible, from ALL sources that sell the music, I'm not buying into this new business model.

3. Supporting software - iTunes. Do I really have to say any more? I hate iTunes - so much that I don't use it to manage my music, nor do I buy music through iTunes. It's very difficult to manage my music on my terms, it forces me to play along with DRM and it restricts how I can move and copy my music around between all of my devices. So, buying my music from Apple is not an option for me. The problem is this - in Canada, there isn't much else. I know there are some other electronic music stores, but for the moment their catalogue is laughable. I want access to the same music I can get through Amazon in CD format. Period. Once that becomes a reality, maybe we can do away with the CD.

So let's recap. Once electronic download options are as ubiquitous as the physical and online box stores that sell CDs, and once the industry does away with DRM and offers the highest quality options for its entire catalogue....... then I'm ready to abandon the CD. Until then.......

[Bonus discussion] After considerable reflection, I realized other issues that need to be discussed.

1. If you don't have a credit card, no music for you. What about children? How will they get to buy their music? Gift cards?

2. No internet? No music for you either.

3. If bands want more control over their revenue, they may decide to release their own physical CDs (or thumb drives with electronic versions of songs). This could squeeze out record labels entirely in the long term. Imagine if you could go to a Travis concert and get their latest CD for $5. Or for free!

4. If music is only going to be available electronically, does that mean we can expect to see price cuts? No CD means no CD manufacturing plants, no material costs, no physical distributor and no overhead costs for storage and box stores. We better see a corresponding decrease in price.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Smack the Pony (dating videos)

What follows is actual dialogue from a scene in the hilarious no-holds-barred British comedy series Smack the Pony, a kind of Monty Python with women. The scene is a supposed dating service video, featuring a couple. (It's the second scene in the clip)

Woman: "We are Apollina and Benji Maharshi and we are looking for a young, similar, attractive couple in the England area who want to meet up for evenings of beer and wine and fun. Maybe more. This is the first time we have done this but we both for some time want to swing. I very much want to go swinging. I could totally recommend my husband. He's quiet but uninhibited. He does everything. He does 'upstairs downstairs', 'half eaten samosa', 'deaf Rapunzel' and most Latin American rhythms. Also, the 'straight three in a bar'. And as for me, I don't want to be arrogant, but uh..... I can really make the puffin fly."

[Update - I removed the embedded video due to a technical issue with the file host player. I seem to have fixed the problem, but it persists for some people and the last thing I want to do is annoy my readers. The link will download the clip for your viewing pleasure.]


A Ford broke down in his driveway

Rob Ford, the current mayor of Toronto, is at it again. I'll try to include extra details for those of you not familiar with Canadian TV culture. We have a political parody program called This Hour has 22 Minutes. It is quite popular. One of the things this show does on a regular basis is to send a female character named Marg Delahunty, who is dressed like a parody of Xena the Warrior Princess, to ambush political and celebrity figures and conduct ad hoc interviews. This usually happens when the target has recently been in the spotlight for something, good or bad. Even our Prime Minister has been targeted, and most people play along, knowing that it's just good, clean fun.

This time, the target was Rob Ford. The 22 Minutes crew tried to interview Rob at his home and while he supposedly played along at first, he got very agitated and tried to leave. Not succeeding, he went into his house and called 911. Twice. He claims he did it because of the death threats he has received. He claims it was dark. He claims to not know who the crew were. He claims that his daughter was scared. But there is no indication that his daughter was around. Check the still of the video clip. It was not dark at all. The crew were unmistakable as the 22 Minutes crew. There was no threat to his life. He was smiling. I saw the video clip. I find it hard to believe that Rob doesn't know this show or this character, or this schtick. But it doesn't end here.

Word on the street is that not only did the mayor of Toronto waste the valuable time of the 911 emergency service because of an ad hoc comedy interview, he called them back a few minutes later and verbally berated the dispatchers because the cops hadn't shown up yet (it took them 10 minutes). I have no confirmation of this, but he supposedly said, "You.... bitches! Don't you f--king know? I'm Rob f--cking Ford, the mayor of this city!"

Stay classy Rob Ford.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Never mock a Dalek

Daleks don't like it when we mock them by wearing Dalek costumes.

It's racist.

Get over it already

You know what I'm really getting tired of? Using the economy or a rigid business model to justify the status quo.

In an article I read today, spokespeople for the food industry are complaining that if stricter drunk driving laws are passed in Alberta, people will be scared into just staying home, which will put restaurant revenue at risk.

Give me a break. This is the same sort of logic that had the music industry fear-mongering about cassette tapes, CDs and the internet, the movie industry fear-mongering about VCRs, DVDs and the internet, and so on. It's also the same argument that the food and bar industry tried to use to stop the smoking ban from coming to Alberta. It turns out that restaurants and bars have not gone out of business (at least not from the smoking ban), but have attracted people that otherwise might not have bothered to go because of the smoky environment.

It also speaks to the narrow-minded approach the food industry takes toward change. If people are less likely to go out because they fear drinking too much will get them into trouble with the law, then there are a lot of things you can do to take advantage of that. Offer them taxi vouchers to get a ride home. Offer a free meal to the person(s) in the group designated to drive the rest home. Start promoting things other than alcohol at your establishment.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Somebody is wrong on the internet!"

Now you can correct what's wrong with Google Maps. Google Maps Map Maker let's you browse maps and if things are out of place or mislabelled, you can submit edits for review, just like wikipedia.

I've already had to make precise adjustments to the physical locations of the Tim Hortons in my neighbourhood. Amateurs.

Me like......

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zombie's day out

For all my zombie loving readers out there.

This video should put a tiny smile on your face.

Jogging partner?

The ad starts out "I am looking for a person of athletic build to help me get in shape"

After that, it gets goofy.

My MacBook will miss my iPhone

So, when I got my new iPhone, I had an opportunity to organize and backup my data a little differently. Previously, I was backing up all of my iPhone data to my MacBook through iTunes using a cable. It worked OK, but I tend not to do a lot of syncing with my MacBook because.... well.... I'm lazy. And forgetful.

When I picked up my new iPhone the provider rep asked me how I want to set up my email. Since all of my email accounts are currently accessed through GMail, I told him I would use that. He asked if I would be using Google for my calendar as well. That had never occurred to me before. I had always been syncing my calendar with iCalendar on the MacBook. Then I realized that if I use the calendar in my Google account, anything I create online will automatically be synced to my phone and vice versa. So now all that's left to sync are photos and contacts. But now that iCloud is available to everyone with an Apple ID, I am just using iCloud for my online contact and photo storage. I can do away with a physical sync connection to iTunes altogether.

One thing I did not realize is that by connecting my iPhone email to GMail, my iPhone Notes automatically got synced to a Notes folder in GMail. How cool is that?!

I love the cloud..........

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fight me

I love these flash-mob improv stunts that are being created, this latest one by Improv in Toronto. The premise? You see a lone ninja standing there with a sign on the ground in front inviting you to 'fight me'. In front of that is a foam sword.

If you pick up the sword, the ninja springs into action and out of nowhere, dozens more ninjas appear to kick your ass with foam swords.

Clever, fun and only possible where pepper spray and concealed weapons are not the norm. Check out the video here. I love the part where the girl gets ambushed and she says, "Alright.... I'm drinking my coffee."

Who pays and how?

The Champlain Bridge in Montreal, opened in 1962, is on its last legs and isn't expected to last 10 more years before it collapses. The federal government has promised to replace it (these bridges fall under federal jurisdiction). But the feds still have to decide how to pay for it. Tolls are not out of the question, which should be no surprise to any Montrealer. The bridge was a toll bridge from its opening until 1990. Canadians were polled recently as to whether they support tolls and generally, the country was split 50/50.

I'm not surprised that we've run out of money to maintain our road infrastructure. We have a very high ratio of roads per capita (*), maybe the highest, partly due to how spread out we are in Canada and partly due to the bias toward accommodating vehicle traffic versus public transit. We can't maintain the level of roads we have now without spending a lot more money. To make matters worse, we are spoiled by low fuel prices and low insurance rates. Don't believe me? Call someone in Europe and check out what they pay for gas and vehicle insurance. You might be shocked.

The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning toward the idea of forcing our car-biased society to start footing the bill for the type of roadway network we have insisted upon. People without cars should not be paying to support the massive roadway projects, bridges and overpasses we need to build and eventually rebuild. So the only option I see is either tolls, or bring gas prices up to where they should be to generate the tax base necessary to fund the road network. Owning a car is a luxury, not a right. This is something we tend to forget. An extremely unpopular opinion, I agree, but there you have it.

Now, having said all that, we really need to get cracking on fixing public transit. You can't tell people that using a car is only a luxury option when our transit (especially in Calgary) is as slow, inefficient and unreliable as it currently is.

(*) Canada has about 900,000km of roads.

Friday, October 21, 2011

40 years of f%@kin' wit da man

What I especially love about this advertisement is that it was made (for free) by the very same type of ad agency that makes ads for the very people Greenpeace pisses off.

Walking for peace

11 years ago, Jean Beliveau (not the hockey player) was depressed. He decided the cure was to leave his home in Montreal to go for a walk. He probably didn't realize he wouldn't be home for 11 years. Nor did he likely think he would eventually walk 75,000 miles over 4,000 days through 64 countries before making it back to familiar surroundings.

He left Montreal with $4,000 in his pocket and ended up spending that amount each year (provided to him by his wife) and relying on the kindness of strangers. He is broke, but said, "I left with nothing, but I return now with a wealth of knowledge and understanding." Jean says he learned many lessons, among them he experienced a paradigm shift on the concept of wealth. Having seen so-called “poor” people other countries, he concluded that it is us who are the poor ones. “We say these people are poor but they are happy and know the real values of life. They have a sustainable way of life. Who are we to teach them? We are destroying our planet, putting so much stress on our society. It’s time to learn from them.”

He wants to write a book and his new purpose is to promote "harmony between people, listening to one another and accepting of others' differences."

What is it about walks around the world that motivate people to promote peace and goodwill toward humankind? I've always believed that many of the prejudices we form and the biases against other races, cultures, regions, countries and societies stems from our lack of familiarity and understanding of them. If that is true, then Jean is a new Messiah of sorts, able to see the people of the world for who and what they truly are and hopefully he can relate that to all who can hear him.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leave it to private enterprise to pick up the slack

Fast fact: Alberta has no recycling program in effect for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). You aren't supposed to put them in your blue bin and the City of Calgary's hazardous waste drop sites won't take them either. So they expect you to throw them out in the regular garbage.

Raise your hand if you knew that Home Depot takes them back as part of a voluntary program.

30 gifts for 30 strangers

This video really pulled on my heart strings. I wish the world had a lot of people like Lucas....

I especially loved the quote:  

Man's first responsibility is to be happy. The second is to make everyone else happy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's not about this pipeline in particular

I've been reading about all the people protesting the big Keystone XL pipeline they want to build between Alberta and Texas to get the crude oil to refineries in the US. Even Robert Redford has waded into the discussion.

I am all for environmental responsibility and I hope we can do something to clean up our act over time. That said, I think people need to stop commenting on or protesting about things until they get all the facts. Right now, there are hundreds of pipelines scattered around the world, some that leak on a regular basis and nobody even knows about them let alone protests about them. There are fossil fuel infrastructures from the well site through to the refinery that are over 30 years old that are potentially anywhere from weeks to months away from major catastrophe, but nobody is doing anything about any of this. This means there are much more serious and environmentally catastrophic things to worry about than a brand new pipeline being built in a time where technology, regulations and visibility are much better than they have been in years. I'm not saying there is no risk. I'm saying there are riskier things in the business that have gone ignored until now. It's almost like people complaining about the new gas guzzling Hummer next door while down the street, a smoke-billowing junker fills the air with acrid black smoke on a regular basis.

As much as it pains me to say this, until we find a way to wean off of fossil fuels, the world demand for these fuels continues to increase and the oil companies need a way to get the product to the consumer. We could abandon the pipeline. But all that would do is force us to either ship the oil via other means (more expensive), or find another customer (likely Asia) which in turn would require building a pipeline, but to a different coast, our own West Coast. American protesters would be silenced only because the risk is removed from their backyard. Without a pipeline, the lack of oil to the US would reduce supply versus ever increasing demand, which in turn would make the cost skyrocket. Then we would have people complaining that there isn't enough oil to go around. I digress - there won't be enough to go around soon enough, we'd just be speeding up the process before we're ready.

So the only way to honestly demonstrate our disapproval of the dangers of a new pipeline, is to start to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels - now. This shows no signs of happening anytime soon, let alone next month or next year. Interestingly, I find that the amount of oil that would be supplied by this pipeline is not more than 5% of the total oil consumed by the US. So assuming that these figures are correct, I wonder what actual effect it would have on the US economy if the pipeline were cancelled. Would the US just get the oil somewhere else, for now?

Are you Siri-ous?

My contract with Fido is up soon, so with the introduction of the iPhone 4S, I decided that now is the time to upgrade and renew my agreement.

There are a lot of people disappointed in the new phone announcement, most people having expected that the iPhone 5 would be the next release. Alas - no - the 4S looks the same on the outside. Most of the changes to the new phone are on the inside. It is faster, has a better camera, higher resolution video (1080p) and some new features. But the thing getting the most Ooooo's and Ahhhh's is Siri.

Siri turns the iPhone into a talking and voice-activated personal assistant. You can make and change appointments, create reminders, send and receive text using voice and ask Siri questions as you would ask another human being. The video demo is mind-boggling. If Siri works as advertised, this will revolutionize how we use our phones. I've been wanting a feature like this for ages. It's a beta, which is great news. Because if it works this well now, I can only imagine what it will be like once it's out of beta and other iPhone apps can use it. People have already figured out how to post Facebook status updates using Siri, through the text message-to-status feature in Facebook.

Darlene said to me not so very long ago, "I hope one day you can tell your phone to remind you to do something in the future." As I left work today, I instructed Siri to remind me (once I get home) to tell Darlene that I can now do this. As I pulled up to my front door, Siri, realizing that I was arriving at my home address (it being duly plugged into my contacts), reminded me right on cue. Siri will also send and reply to email, text messages, check weather, create alarms, set timers and add or edit appointments and just generally 'shoot the shit'. It will also act as a dictation feature in a window where you would normally type text. For now.

I expect much more in the year(s) to come.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Puppet rants

I stumbled across this cute video whilst looking to see if I could get Amazon Mobile for Amazon Canada. I cannot. First of all, the puppet is cute. Second of all, he's like a chip off of...... me. Third, I totally agree with him. Turns out he's got a whole series of videos (as does his creator - Hoggworks Studios).

Suddenly I am glad I own many puppets. I have an idea......

Woof!

Sometimes my mobile phone service provider really pisses me off. No really - they do. I try to keep my monthly costs as low as I can and since I'm a low volume user, I don't see any reason why this is an unreasonable goal. But the odds and the plans are stacked against me. Worse, when I do try to eek out the best deal I can muster, those bastards never tell you the catch. In this case I refer to 'the catch' as any detail omitted from the negotiation that might have swayed you to one decision or another had you been in possession of all of the facts.

Almost 3 years ago, I managed to negotiate myself a voice plan as low as $17.50 per month. I managed this because I asked for the lowest possible price they could muster for a voice plan. I don't need a lot of minutes, so why should I pay for a lot of minutes? By the way - that $17.50 gets me 200 any time minutes plus free calls during evenings and weekends. I was so proud of myself.

What they didn't tell me was that because I was paying a rock bottom price for my voice plan, it didn't include any extras at all. Like what, you ask? Well, for example when I went to pay for my new iPhone 3G, they said that I had to pay an extra $50 on top of the subsidized price because of the low cost of my voice plan. Did they mention that in the negotiations? No, they did not. What else didn't I get? Free text messages. Did they mention that in the negotiations? No, they did not. So, upon using text messages in the next few months, I noticed that I was getting charged per message. Needless to say, I had to call my provider up and tell them how unimpressed I was. But I had to add a $5 text message plan to my account to get some free messages. I also noticed that I was not able to use the feature 'visual voice mail', a feature specific to the iPhone. Thinking I was doing something wrong, I called and was told that this feature is not included in my rock bottom voice plan. Did they mention that in the negotiations? No, they did not. $10 to add the iPhone value pack onto my plan. See where I'm going with this? Wait. It gets better.

Now that the new iPhone 4S is out and I still have a 3G, I figured that now is a good time to upgrade. So I went online and reserved myself a new phone. I called my service provider to find out how all of this is going to work and was politely informed that I do not qualify for an upgrade to my phone. There was a long, uncomfortable silence on the line and then I asked why that is. It's because I don't spend enough money on my plan. My plan minimum had to be $50 or greater. I had a great comeback. "But my bill is $62.50 before taxes." Ahhh, that may be so, but that $50 has to include a minimum $25 voice plan (mine is only $17.50). "So my $5 text add-on and $10 iPhone value pack don't count?" No. They do not. So let's recap. Someone with a $25 voice plan and a $25 data plan qualifies, but my $17.50 voice plan plus $15 in extra options plus a $30 data plan doesn't qualify. Does this make any sense? No, it does not.

So in order to qualify for an upgrade, I have to switch to a $25 voice plan with only 150 minutes, which effectively adds $2.50 to my monthly bill, before taxes. I told them, "This sucks. I have to pay more money for less service than I get now." They were curious how I concluded this. "Because for more money, I get fewer minutes." But you also get unlimited text messages! "I don't care about that. I don't use a lot of text messages!"

Now here's the thing. When I negotiated my original contract terms 3 years ago, if I had been told that the rock bottom priced voice plan price does not include messages, does not include the neat iPhone features and would not qualify me in 3 years time for a phone upgrade, I'm pretty sure I would have reconsidered and chosen a plan that would have put more money in their coffers. Like seriously, WTF?

One more thing. I reserved a new iPhone online on 7 October. On 14 October, thousands of people lined up at stores to get a new iPhone. Since then, thousands of people have their new iPhone. I'm still waiting for my new iPhone. What exactly was the benefit of reserving a phone? I'm confused.

P.S.: This is what happens when there's an oligopoly in Canada.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Someday this could give the brand Nike Air a whole new connotation

Scientists from Germany are figuring out how to make various types of plastics from CO2. This is game changing for a number of reasons.

If this becomes viable, not only would we be able to reduce a human by-product in our air by turning it into physical objects, but the plastics being created have attributes like nothing we've ever made before. Some are even naturally bio-degradable.

Very cool.

Truth in labelling

What the cereal boxes 'should' say.....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm unusual because...

  • I'm Canadian and I cannot skate.
  • I don't like spicy food.
  • I have no tattoos. Or piercings.
  • I can recite the alphabet backwards. Quickly.
  • I'm 50 and I have a 34 year old step-daughter (and a 3 year old grand-daughter).
  • I spent 6 months near the North Pole.
  • I don't really like the taste of beer.

Chocolate covered strawberry shot glasses

Wait, I'm not done. They're filled with chocolate liqueur.

Yeah.

Sounds yummy, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Meow

Great new video from the Simon's Cat folks.

What happens when you try to get stuff done on your computer when a cat is around.

Tips for people selling on eBay or kijiji

One of the interesting things about having online markets like kijiji and eBay is that people who have never sold anything in their life now have the power to sell stuff. But this lack of experience leads to faux-pas like posting the wrong kind of picture of the item being sold. As a public service to such people, I offer Karl's tips regarding taking photos of stuff you are selling online.

If you're selling an article of clothing, it's not a good idea to leave it in a crumpled heap on the floor. You might want to model it in a manner that helps to demonstrate how great it looks being worn. That means put it on a mannequin or on a live person. If you choose a live person, try to frame the photo in a way that doesn't distract from the clothing. So for example, if the model has a cigarette dangling from their mouth, you might either want to get them to put it aside or frame the photo in a way that the cigarette isn't in the shot. Things like overly obese body parts, cut scars on the wrists, warts the size of dollar coins, extremely hairy limbs, etc. are things that might distract the viewer from the article of clothing. Articles in the surrounding environment that could distract from the item being sold include vibrators, open bottles of alcohol, underwear (unless that's included with the article you`re selling) and kitty litter boxes. If you're going to say that the clothing has never been worn, you might not want to prove yourself a liar by modelling the clothing on a person. At least - not a live person. If the clothing is full of wrinkles, don't be surprised if you don't get a lot of bids. As an aside, the term 'gently used' does not mean an article that came from the thrift store and has possibly been owned by at least 12 people. Don't insist that the clothing comes from a smoke-free or pet free home and there's a cat enjoying a cigar sitting right beside the thing you're selling. If you're selling jewellery and insist on putting it on a live model, try to choose someone whose skin doesn't look like the person is 90 years old. If you're selling bedding, like a mattress, if there are stains - make sure that you're not showcasing them by facing them to the camera. Consider putting the mattress on an actual bed. Laying it up against a wall covered in black mold, or having the mattress surrounded by boxes that look like they just experienced a spring flood might not be putting the item being sold in the best light. If the bed or bedding being sold is put together, think about how much better it would look if it was made up. 

So the overall theme as you can see is that if you're trying to sell something, you have to present it in the best light possible. The item should be clean, presented in a manner that flatters the object and not surrounded by objects or an environment that distracts from the item being sold.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Relevant math

Here's what we should have been taught in math while we were in school.

Yes indeed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bizarre dream alert

I don't remember many of my dreams, but sometimes I do and last week I woke up remembering a weird one. This drea involved me trying to buy something someone was selling on kijiji in Calgary. I was buying a big screen TV and the price was pretty incredible, maybe too incredible.

I arranged to meet the seller and when I got to the meeting place, it was Terry and Dean, those guys from Fubar (the movie). As soon as I saw them, I realized I was being duped, but I suddenly came to the realization that maybe these guys were in the middle of ffilming a new movie and I was part of one of their improvised scenes. So I decided to play the fool and go along with the whole thing. They sold me a TV box filled with styrofoam.

It was one of the funniest dreams I've ever had.

Roscoe's Oriental Rug Emporium

"Going out of business since 1957. (Opening soon in Northgate)"

Best mock commercial ever.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Repost - stuffing secret

For those of you who have not been with this blog since the beginning, here's a post I did over 5 years ago about my secret stuffing recipe.

Thanksgiving 2011

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I have a healthy family and am blessed with spending lots of quality time with my 3 year old grand-daughter, who loves me very much and has brought immeasurable joy to my life. My career is progressing quite splendidly. I'm working in the best job I've ever done in my life, working for a company that truly values my contributions. I continue to learn the fundamentals of improvisation and try to teach the same at a basic level, which I think will set me up for the retirement training job of my dreams. Darlene and I got to go to San Diego this year - twice! I have amazing friends who are kind, generous and funny. A big shout out to all my blog readers who have supported me over the years and to those of you who became my friend. I wish nothing but the best to each and every one of you. Have fun, be open to new experiences and ideas. Become an advocate for something you truly believe in. Be a force for change - we all have that power.

Now.... to the turkey! (and the stuffing)

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Just a snapshot of an amazing collection

One of the most amazing places I have ever visited was the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. Darlene and I spent 3 full days touring the facilities, scattered over both sides of 'The Mall', yet we only got to see about half of the exhibits and that was at a very brisk pace. The museums at The Smithsonian have some amazing articles in their collections of over 137 million pieces. Among the items are the USS Enterprise model from the TV show, the command module from Apollo 11, Rosa Park's dress and so much more.

This page gives some insight to what kinds of things you might see if you visit.

Star Trek book of opposites

Sesame Street no longer has the market for teaching kids to itself. Now your kids can learn all about opposites through the zany characters from Star Trek (the original series).

Fascinating....

Friday, October 07, 2011

Moose for Thanksgiving

Forget the turkey, maybe it's time to give moose a try this Thanksgiving. Loose Moose that is.....

Come on down to the Loose Moose theatre and discover why improvisational theatre is the best damned art form - ever. Even better than LOLCatz.

Moose. It's the other, other red meat. And it's gamey.

Bleep! Boop!

Are you kidding me? A custom, made-to-order R2D2 sweater?

$450.

On Etsy.

Crafty.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Funny because it's true

Best Weird Al video.
Ever.
Period.

They prey, you pay

Here's something I just learned in the last few days. If you go to the Calgary Police Service because your employer requires you to complete a security check, you may have to pay for that security check out of your own pocket. Fair enough.

Here's where it gets bizarre. If you happen to have the same gender and birth date as a registered sex offender - you will be flagged and have to submit to fingerprinting to make sure you are not that sex offender - name changed. That will cost you an additional fee. You pay. For someone else's deed. Even though you're not the offender.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Any Doctor Who fans in the house?

Dr. Who fans may recall the episode Fear Her, which involved David Tennant lighting the Olympic torch in the 2012 London games. Fans of the show are trying to make this a reality. There is a petition circulating online to have David Tennant play The Doctor as he lights the torch in the upcoming games.

If you’re interested, you can sign the petition.

Karl's PRT network #2 - Bridgeland/East Village

[This post is updated to include my expanded vision for this network]

People who have spoken with me about PRT and seen my proposal for the Foothills Medical Centre / University of Calgary / Brentwood network have also asked me what other areas of Calgary could benefit from a PRT network. While I have had some thoughts about a network for the Calgary International Airport, my next proposal is actually designed for the Bridgleland / Inglewood / Stampede Park / East Village area. Let me explain why.

Bridgeland, an area across the river from the east end of downtown Calgary, is seeing a fast pace of development as it is one of the few prime neighbourhoods left within striking distance of the downtown core. Ever since the old General Hospital was demolished (yeah - I know - don't get me started), 1st Ave NE has seen medium to high density development that shows no signs of stopping. The area is mere blocks from an LRT station, but is physically isolated from the next big thing - the East Village.

The East Village is the currently developing medium to high density project that has the potential to transform the east end of downtown Calgary into one of the most pedestrian-friendly waterfront neighbourhoods since Eau Claire. Just south of the East Village is the north end of the planned Stampede Park expansion project. Stampede Park owners envision the area evolving from something that only sees action during the Calgary Stampede, conventions and hockey games, into a commercial district that draws people from all over the city to eat, work and play. The famous Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville chain has already staked a claim to an anchor spot on the new boulevard being built as part of the project.
If the high speed rail line between Calgary and Edmonton ever gets built, the station is likely to be built just south of Fort Calgary, right along my proposed PRT line from Inglewood to Stampede Park.

Inglewood already has years of charm drawing many people to the trendy restaurants and antique shops and this neighbourhood only suffers physical isolation from the downtown core. With better access, this area would instantly become attractive to new investors and developers.

So my next PRT proposal ties Bridgeland to the Carewest senior's complex and on to an LRT station. The line then heads east to the Calgary Zoo and St. Patrick's Island, which is going to be turned into another huge park with a possible beach, then on to Inglewood. From there the network heads west, stops at the site of any future high speed rail station, then on to the Saddledome, putting you right in the heart of Stampede Park's original core and minutes from another LRT station and a convention centre. The line then heads north to the north end of the expanded Stampede Park (steps from Margaritaville), then further north to the East Village, before crossing the river back to Bridgeland. A new spur continues south to the south end of Stampede Park, then heads up to connect to the LRT station, west into the fast growing beltline area, then north to City Hall before hooking back up at the East Village.

This network is meant to be built now, before any new major development starts - for a change. Trip times are impressive. Bridgeland to the Saddledome is slightly more than a 6 minute ride, to City Hall is 10 minutes. The Zoo is just over 3 minutes from the East Village, as is the East Village from Inglewood, thanks to strategic short-cuts in the network. Average wait times at stations on this network are 14 seconds.

PRT in the spotlight

I was approached by a journalist a while back to talk about PRT for an article being written. That article is now published on OpenFile. Hopefully this raises awareness about PRT for the city of Calgary.

Monday, October 03, 2011

You love your car too much when...

...you park it at the Zoo with a cover like this.

I really wanted to see what was under this cover, but I was sure that had I touched the car, Army-grade alarm sirens would have gone off.

I'm guessing there's probably a Sunbird under there.

Quick video pan of our hotel's sky deck

I took this video to give everyone a better idea of why we love this hotel so much.

The sky deck is on the 2nd floor, overlooking the ocean.

Pancakes!

So, remember that Original Pancake House place I was just talking about in my last post?

This is what I'm talking about......

Buckwheat in the back, apple pancake up front.

Back from San Diego

What a week!

OK, we may as well talk about the photo first. City Palate magazine in Calgary is having a contest where readers submit their photos of themselves posing with the magazine in various places. We decided to take ours to San Diego and Darlene used a prominent ad as a prop. Hopefully they think it's funny.

Our trip was marvellous. The weather was incredible. No rain. Mostly sunny. Warm. It was perfect. We stayed at Tower 23 in Pacific Beach - again - this is our favourite hotel in San Diego. Tempurpedic mattresses, being right on the beach and having a fabulous restaurant are what make this hotel so good.

We finally got to the famous San Diego Zoo. What a great zoo. Pics will be going up on Facebook as soon as I have time. There's no way you can see everything in one visit, but we tried. Here's a short clip of us riding the gondola that goes from one end of the zoo to the other.

We had enough time to do some exploring around the San Diego area. We drove north to Carlsbad to the Premium Outlet mall (naturally) and then worked our way down the coast using the scenic route to visit beach towns like Encinitas and Del Mar. They were so nice, we went back for many return visits.

A wedding party that booked our entire hotel forced us to move to another hotel for our last day, so we ended up in downtown San Diego, in the Gaslamp Quarter. This gave us an opportunity to stroll along the harbour and visit the USS Midway museum (pics coming to Facebook). It was very difficult to pick a place to eat in the Gaslamp Quarter - there are so many restaurants. At night, all you could hear from our hotel room were drunken revellers in the streets below. Luckily, it was not too loud.

Darlene was in her glory because we discovered that San Diego has an Original Pancake House. She loves their buckwheat pancakes and I have to tell you - their pancakes are damned tasty. We went twice. The second time I got an apple pancake. It was huge - I could not eat it all.