Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Technologies that the US Congress tried to kill


Who Wanted it Killed: The movie studios. The MPAA's Jack Valenti famously testified before Congress that "The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

How it Worked Out: No fewer than six bills were introduced in Congress to control the VCR. The MPAA finally dropped its demands that VCRs be outlawed, instead supporting bills that would require licensing of VCRs, royalties on the sale of blank videocassettes, and a copyright owner's permission before renting out video tapes. In the end, Congress decided to wait and see what the Supreme Court decided in the famous Sony Vs. Universal case. In 2002, the DMCA required all VCRs to include "automatic gain control," thus making Macrovision copy protection an integral part of all VCRs.


Who Wanted it Killed: John Philip Sousa, the guy who wrote "Stars and Stripes Forever." He testified before Congress that both the gramophone and the player piano would put musicians out of business. And that they would stifle composers from writing new music by removing "all incentive to further creative work." In marathon hearings, Sousa and the American Copyright League argued in favor of a bill which would have given copyright owners control over all sales (including resale) of their work.

How it Worked Out: In the end, Congress passed a milder bill, which simply assured musicicans and composers royalties from recordings. Sousa was satisfied, and in 1923, he told Thomas Edison, "You have made the art of the musician immortal, Mr. Edison."

Mp3 players

Who Wanted it Killed: Congress had tried to pass a few laws to protect copyright owners in the past, which were so broadly written that they would have banned a wide range of technologies, including mp3 players. There was the Induce Act, which would have banned any technology that induces people to violate copyright. Earlier, there was the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, which banned any devices that could be used to read digital content that didn't have Digital Rights Management (DRM) built in.

How it Worked Out: So far, none of these bills has passed, so your iPod is safe.

Update:  What started out as stand-alone players are now part of every new phone, most cars, and tablets. The music industry should be thankful, as the ability to take music with you anywhere has made it an even more valuable commodity than ever.

DAT (Digital Audio Tape) recorders

Who Wanted it Killed: The music industry. Congress held hearings throughout the late 1980s over whether to stop this digital technology from coming to consumers. Music industry lobbyists demanded that DAT players be fitted with technology that would degrade the sound quality of any music copied on them, or that sales of DAT tapes include a royalty payment to the music industry. The recorders were in limbo, waiting on the court's decision and were not for sale even after production started.

How it Worked Out: Digital audio tapes became subject to a compulsory licensing scheme. The technology flopped once it was released under control of the content industry, partly because the sales delay led to disinterest in consumers.

Update: Little did the music industry anticipate, but the DAT recorder, which came in a portable version perfect for recording live music in high digital quality, would eventually be made obsolete by the modern high quality digital recorder (pictured), which uses flash memory to store the music. Modern technology has evolved so rapidly, the government and the entertainment industry can't keep up.

The learning continues

Things I learned this week:

If your visible sex doesn't match your indicated sex (on travel documents), you can't fly in Canada.
Calgary councillors don't like being called 'dysfunctional'.
It is definitely not safe to take Ecstacy in Calgary.
Newt Gingrich doesn't quite understand copyright either, used Eye of the Tiger without permission.
House prices are still dropping in the US.
When you're 3, watching Alvin & the Chipmunks several dozen times is not excessive.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Vulcan ears to keep your human ears warm

Ladies, increase your geek cred instantly with these crocheted Vulcan ears.

Some things I miss, some not so much

Things I don't miss
  • Ketchup on eggs (Mom used to try and make me eat them)
  • Being a skinny, pimply-faced kid in high school
  • Standing out on military sentry at 3am in -15C weather
  • Vomiting for any reason
  • Being alone
  • My old Vic-20 computer
  • The threat of boarding school (it was a close one)

Things I miss
  • Living near my family (mom, sis,bro)
  • Walks in the woods in my home town (which no longer exist)
  • Summer as a kid and hanging out with the Smart sisters
  • Firing a Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon and blowing up tanks
  • My 750cc Magna
  • Disc jockey-ing
  • Montreal

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Things I learned this week

  • Ben Folds 5 is getting back together
  • You can put a Lego man in space really cheap
  • Some people thought I was gay
  • Passing a law about distracted driving in Alberta doesn't change much
  • Seniors don't like the idea of Old Age Security benefits being cut (and there's a lot of them)
  • The French plan to build a theme park to honour Napoleon

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Socialist thinking or just common sense?

Maybe I'm oversimplifying, but I wonder how different the world would be if we weren't trying to earn more profits for stockholders, who do nothing to help a company get better, but instead we were trying to earn more profits for the people employed by the company. All of them, not just the senior executives and management.

I suspect it would be a better world. Well..... except for the investors.

Why stop at 2 cat-houses?

Dennis Hof, the owner of two of Nevada's brothels and star of the HBO documentary Cathouse, recently bought a rundown bordello northwest of Las Vegas. He plans to renovate and reopen it as the Alien Cat-house, promising "girls from another world." He turned to an old friend to plan the costumes and decor: Heidi Fleiss.

This gives the phrase 'alien probe' a whole different meaning....

Friday, January 27, 2012

More deviant art

If Dr Seuss did a cartoon version of The A-Team.

KeePass! You rule!

It's amazing the things you learn about the software you use when you take the time to read.... THE MANUAL.

OK, so I use this password management utility called KeePass. What you do is create an entry for every web site you need login credentials for, and KeePass will store them for you and protect access to it all with one master password (which you can make as long as you like). It's brilliant for one main reason - long, complex passwords, while being very secure are also impossible to remember. KeePass solves that problem because you no longer need to remember any but the master password. Best still, the database that KeePass uses to store the URL, username and password for each site is portable. I even use it at work, as do many of my IT colleagues.

What I had been doing is when I get to a web site that needs my username and password, I drag and drop them, one at a time, from KeePass right into the appropriate fields on the web page. What I didn't know is that KeePass will actually type that stuff into the fields for you - it's called Auto-Type. You just place your cursor in the username field on the web page and go back to KeePass and select the entry for that site and do a Ctrl + V. That copies and pastes the username and password into the correct fields on the web page and even does the equivalent of pressing Enter. No more dragging and dropping. It's just a quick click, click Ctrl + V, and you're logged in.


Thursday, January 26, 2012


If you would like to see what is wrong with our economy, or more specifically - the current state of capitalism, this superb CBC (Canada) documentary "Meltdown", in 4 parts, is a must-see. If you don't happen to have the 3+ hours to watch the whole thing, you could skip to the 4th part, "After the Fall", to see the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008.

Here are some extraordinary financial and social facts about the state of the economy and the people that participate in it.

Star Wars Uncut

What do you get when you take the Star Wars Episode IV movie, divide it up into 15 second pieces (472 of them), then let fans recreate each one?

A whole lotta awesome!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Zooey & Joseph

I think Zooey Deschanel is dreamy and although I still can't get used to her singing in her duo group She & Him, I absolutely adore her duet with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The song topic is a little late, but I digress.

Warning - smart person ahead!

One of the things that's really cool about the internet is access to the things people say on every subject. Some things are mediocre and some things are just downright amazing.

Such as this brief TED talk given by Clay Shirky on SOPA and all that Copyright nonsense.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Interesting times ahead

I found a very intelligent article about the SOPA failure and the Megaupload arrests and want to share parts of it here with you. The 'What's Next?' section is the most interesting part, because it raises important, valid questions about the future of the internet and those who depend on it for their livelihood.

Enjoy. [Edited for brevity]

Last week Megaupload, the most popular file sharing site on the Internet, was shut down, and the owners arrested, in raids across many countries, seizing computers, etc. Megaupload itself was already involved in several lawsuits with Hollywood companies. The people behind the site taunted the authorities. A lot of Anonymous members took this as their own personal battle, but in the end this battle won’t end up mattering much.

Back story: Megaupload was established in 2005, in Hong Kong, and had grown to become the biggest file sharing site on the web, with over 50 million daily visitors, and 180 million registered users. Of perhaps more interest, they charged a monthly fee for premium use. The owner, Kim Dotcom and other employees, made millions. They were living in luxury, thanks to the Megaupload success and this matters.

According to lawsuits filed by the US Justice Department, among other agencies, Megaupload’s main purpose was to conduct illegal activities, promoted the fact that they were hosting a lot of pirated content and rewarded users who uploaded lots of content. There were emails between employees showing that they knew full well that their servers were filled with illegal content. There were logs that indicate the users who were rewarded on the sites were picked because of the large amount of ripped movies they would upload. Getting behind this battle might be a lost cause.

Picking your battles

The government isn’t going after innocent websites as part of a misguided seizure. That would be gross misconduct. They aren’t going after some random business owner who was mistakenly targeted. They’re going after people who allegedly built an empire on crime, knew what they were doing, and profited financially. Money laundering is why raids were conducted by many countries and why arrests were made.

What followed was a mass retaliation from Anonymous. Sites were brought down, including the FBI, the RIAA, MPAA, and more, in protest to the arrests and the closure of Megaupload. This will not likely have any political effect. The raid on Megaupload was not because of the failure of SOPA. A case involving International actions around the world doesn’t get planned in less than a few months, sometimes years.

What’s next?

The US Feds do have way too much power and discretion as to how they apply the law on websites, especially foreign ones. SOPA and PIPA may be dead, but similar laws will emerge in the coming years. In the meantime, interesting developments evolve: Following the Megaupload closure, Uploaded.to which is another file sharing site based in Europe, decided to block all US internet addresses from using its service. This sends a much more powerful message.

Just think what would happen if suddenly the US internet user community found itself blocked from thousands of sites around the world. Blocked because the US passed laws that are so ridiculous, no one outside the country is interested in taking any risk dealing with it anymore. What if small business owners inside the US decided to start their new online projects using servers, email systems, online office suites, and so on, all based in other countries, because they don’t want to risk having biased agencies spying on them or controlling them? What if suddenly, the US cyber landscape starts emptying itself, with large chunks of data moving to other countries? When actual jobs start disappearing, and innovation moves offshore, because a few Hollywood monopolies always get their way in Washington, politicians will notice. This is what will make things move, not having the MPAA or the CIA site being down for a day or two.

Monday, January 23, 2012

iPad apps for (young) kids

iPad apps for kids that I (and Olivia) can heartily recommend to parents.

In no particular order:

  • Toca Boca Tea Party (or anything by Toca Boca)
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Goldilocks and the 3 Bears
  • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
  • Monkey Math School Sunshine
  • Stella and Sam - Backyard at Twilight (or anything by Stella and Sam)
  • Sesame Street Playground
  • Adding Apples

I never thought about purse bottoms....

Things with more germs than a toilet seat

Hotel Bedspread
Purse Bottom
ATM Keypad
Office telephone
Restaurant menu
Condiment container
Grocery shopping cart
Steering wheel
Faucet handle
Gym equipment
Playground equipment

Follow the link above for the low-down.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

SOPA primer

In case you've been wondering what all the hoopla is about, let me sum it up for you with an analogy. Imagine you're a kid and your brother stole a dollar from mom's purse. Mom claims that there's $100 missing and tells anyone who will listen that her kids are thieves and that one or all of you has stolen $100 from her purse - even though she has no proof. Mom even goes so far as to say "Everyone agrees, kids stealing from their mothers is a serious problem." So dad tries to pass a house rule that says anyone caught with money in their pockets is going to boarding school, which is not only a stupid rule, it could also come back to bite them both in the ass.

Luckily, Uncle Bob shows your parents how insanely stupid and impractical that rule would be and begrudgingly, they back down. Then you're accused of loving Uncle Bob more than your mother.

That just about sums it up.

Waste not

The Eco Clock solves a battery waste problem in a smart way. There are many instances where devices that use AA batteries stop working long before the battery or batteries have run our of juice. The Eco Clock allows you to place an almost dead battery in each slot where the hour indicators would be. You can fill as many slots as you like and the clock will use the batteries in tandem. Plus, as each battery goes completely dead, it can indicate that as well.

What a great way to get every last ounce of electricity out of your AA batteries. Prepare for some major Engrish at the link.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The history of TV

"Mario, go get your Rod Serling outfit..."

The Practical Lexicon - episode 7 - part two

In this lengthy episode, Bernie and I finish up the topic of improv in the workplace. I really wanted to chop this up into 2 episodes, but I just couldn't find a natural break to do the cut. So sit back and enjoy a nice beverage while we try to 'advance the story'.

Friday, January 20, 2012

MP pension = great, military pension = meh

Canadians are beginning to learn more details regarding MP pensions. We kind of already knew that an MP only needed to serve 6 years as a Member of Parliament to qualify for a pension. What we didn't know was just how great their plan was. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) says MPs have the best pension fund "on the planet". They also suggest that it's time for the government to set a good example and shut it down.

The CTF claims that while officially, for every $1 that MPs pay into their own pension fund, taxpayers contribute $5, in reality, taxpayers pay more like $23. That's because the pension fund is guaranteed a 10.4% interest rate - by law. To put this into perspective, during the economic collapse of 2008, the Canada Pension Plan lost 18.6% of its value, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan lost 18%, the Quebec Pension Plan lost 25% and the S&P/TSX total return index lost 33%. Meanwhile, the MP pension plan returned 10.4%. Same as it ever was.

As well, MPs can start collecting at age 55. During the 6 years and MP serves to qualify for a pension, they need only contribute $10,900 a year to get the minimum pension. In comparison, it would take the average Canadian almost 30 years to save as much as what a backbench MP would get in their eventual pension payout after 6 years of service. The CTF thinks an optional dollar-for-dollar matching defined contribution plan is a fairer way to go.

According to the CTF's calculations:
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper can collect a pension of at least $223,500 per year by 2015.
  • Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, if he stays on as leader, can collect a pension of at least $71,400 per year by 2015.
  • NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault, elected last year at age 19, can collect a pension of $40,000 per year if he retires at 27.
  • 20 MPs will be able to collect more than $100,000 a year if they retire or lose after the next election in 2015.
Maybe this would be a good time to re-introduce the private member's bill asking for the removal of the Old Age Security clawback for military pensioners......

EU doesn't like SOPA either

Neelie Kroes, the EU's Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, tweeted Friday "Glad tide is turning on SOPA: don't need bad legislation when should be safeguarding benefits of open net." Outrage over SOPA earlier this week triggered a one-day blackout by Wikipedia's English-language service and sparked growing protest.
The EU is struggling to tackle online piracy - but without restricting Internet freedom. Kroes favours a less invasive approach, tweeting "Speeding is illegal too: but you don't put speed bumps on the motorway."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Confessions of a kijiji husband

[Darlene and I were joking around about the trials I go through to accommodate her kijiji habits. She suggested that I write a tongue-in-cheek blog entry about kijiji husbands, who we're both sure must exist in significant numbers (we met one last night). All kidding aside, we love kijiji. We've been able to get some amazing deals.]

My wife discovered kijiji about 3 years ago. Our lives haven't been the same since. I'll wake up at 1am and find her staring at the computer screen, browsing the local kijiji ads for stuff we don't even need. I'll be on my way home from work and get a phone call from her asking if I wouldn't mind making a detour to pick something up that she bought. Sometimes I get home and I sense that something isn't right. It takes a few minutes, but eventually I notice that maybe the furniture in the spare bedroom has been swapped out for something new. Our grand-daughter will ask me from time to time where one of her toys is and I just don't have the heart to tell her that her Nan might have sold it on kijiji. Our schedules become irrevocably altered from waiting around for kijiji buyers who promise to come to buy something at our house, but never show up. I'll be talking to my wife on the phone and be informed that she needs to hang up because she's expecting a kijiji buyer or seller to call any time. We'll be driving around and I'll get a cryptic question like "Do you happen to have $300 cash on you?". This is code for "We're about to spend $300 on a kijiji purchase that I didn't tell you about". If I press, Darlene might even deflect, but it becomes obvious what's going on when your cell phone rings and the other party asks if you'll be coming by soon to look at "the coffee table we are selling" and "do we need directions?". Some days I wonder if at some point someone will come to our house and ask "are you Karl?" as they look me over thoroughly, then turn to Darlene and say, "Would you take $500? Yes?! OK, it's a deal."

Damn you kijiji! [wink]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Today, the White Noise blog stands in solidarity with wikipedia and many other websites around the world, by going into a blackout for the duration of 18 January 2012, in protest against SOPA and PIPA. Especially if you are an American, you need to find out what this is and tell your Senator and your Congress-person what you think.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Use caution!

Use Google Maps to get walking directions from The Shire to Mordor.

Those people at Google have a sense of humour, no?

Hey America... in 2012, vote for Canada!

The Canada Party.

A little less scary than the current offerings.

Also, we have donuts.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Would you like a sump pump with that?

To accommodate the introduction of a new 24 ounce sized beverage cup, Tim Hortons is shifting their existing cup sizes as of a week from today. They're going to call this new behemoth an 'extra large'.

Unfortunately, this means that as of next week, if you order a small, what you'll really be getting is the old medium. If you order a medium, you'll be getting the old large. And so on. Am I the only one that sees a problem here? Instead of renaming all of the original cup sizes, I suggest just calling the new 24 ounce cup size 'stupid large', or 'bladder torture'. Maybe 'the bucket', or 'the gargantu-one'. No word on whether the insulation sleeve will sport a handle to help hold this monster 700ml pail of caffeine solution.

The old small will be renamed 'extra-small'. Tim Hortons claims that part of the reason they're doing this is to bring their sizes more in line with Starbucks, Second Cup and McDonalds.

'The coffee tower'? How about 'The two-four'?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Practical Lexicon Podcast Episode 7

What happened to episode 5 and 6 you ask? Lost episodes. Hard to explain. 5 is coming and is in post-production. 6 may be missing in action. We await news from the front lines

Anyway, here is the first part of a two-part episode where Bernie and I discuss improv techniques in the workplace.

Password security

If you' ever wondered how secure the password you're using is, just plug it in here and the site will calculate how long it would take for a typical PC to try to crack your code.

If nothing else, it's a good way to indicate how adding variety and especially length to a password can make it very difficult to break.

One time secret

One Time Secret is a site where you post some sensitive text (like a password you're trying to share with someone else) and it creates a link you can send to the other person that they must use within 48 hours. Once they open the link and view the text, the link evaporates and is no longer usable.

This keeps the sensitive info out of log files, archived email messages and so forth.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Say what?

I've always found it interesting that although in the majority of our country people (can) speak English, we don't always understand exactly what other people say. Especially if they come from a different part of the country, like Newfoundland. Heck, I know some people from Newfoundland that can barely understand people who come from a different part of Newfoundland!

Here's a funny video from Canada's best known 'pewfie' (Pakistani-Newfie), Shaun Majumder, of what it's like to ask a Newfoundlander for directions versus someone from Toronto.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

$50 bills are legal tender

There are times when Darlene asks me to hand her some cash and I give her a $50 bill. She will hand it back to me, saying that the store she plans to go into doesn't take $50 bills. This is where I lose it. My mind that is.....

Why the heck not? Is it because the store is afraid the $50 bill might be counterfeit? No? Then what is the damned problem? Oh. It's because they don't have enough change. Too bloody bad!

Message to all stores: As long as the $50 bill is considered legal tender, and as long as cash withdrawals from the bank machine keep giving me $50 bills, then you are obliged to accept them as legal tender. If you don't have enough change to accommodate this, then get some more! You're not hosting a garage sale. You're running a retail store for crying out loud!

"Oh Karl, you are still using cash?" Yeah, I saw that question coming a mile away. I'm ready for you too. Until financial institutions get their act together, making it damned near impossible for people to hijack or steal my cards and accounts, I will reserve my right to use cash. Especially in situations where I do not know or trust the store.

[Steps off of soapbox]

A very special Rube Goldberg machine

It turns the page of the newspaper. Thanks to Adam for sharing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baby talk

Author and comedian Simon Rich wrote this essay imagining the in-flight conversation between two noisy infants seated behind him.

-Wow, that was some nap.
-Tell me about it. It's almost like I was drugged or something. Hey ... what is this place?
-I'll look out the window. ... Oh my God. I think we have a situation.
-What is it? Are we at the doctor's office?
-No. We're in the sky.
-We're just, like, flying through the sky.
-Do Mom and Dad know?
-Clearly not. They're just reading like everything's normal. (Looking around) Everybody's reading.
-How do we warn them?
-With screams.
-Which kind? Soft and whiny or piercing and crazy?
-Let's go with piercing and crazy.
-It's not working. They just keep handing me bottles. As if I can eat at a time like this.
-Can you scream any louder?
-No — this is the loudest I can scream.
-Is there any other way to signal to them?
- (Sigh) I guess we could try pooping in our pants. It's not exactly dignified, but we're running out of options here.
-All right. On three?
-Sure. One, two, three.
-Well that didn't work.
-Yeah, they're just changing us.
-I can't believe this. We're hurtling through the sky in a metal tube, and yet we're the only ones screaming and pooping.
-I guess no one's looked out the window yet.
-Look at that lady down the aisle. She's so relaxed she's about to fall asleep.
-We need to wake her up.
-We need to wake everyone up.
-How much juice do you have left?
-I don't know. My voice is getting pretty hoarse. I'm pretty exhausted from all the screaming.
-Can you do the pooping thing again?
-I'm not a machine. (Sigh) Sorry. I didn't mean to snap. I'm just stressed out.
-I don't blame you. We're about to die and no one seems to notice.
-Hey wait a minute ... look at that guy sitting in front of us, with the notepad.
-He's staring right at us.
-He must have heard us!
-Well, good. At least we got someone's attention.

Lost but don't care

Monday, January 09, 2012

I'm not posting a link to this video just because two of my friends linked to it on Facebook. It's a really clever composition and performance. 5 people singing and playing one guitar.

Brilliant. Unofficially, this is also my song of the day selection.

Angry birds - the action flick

Imagine if Guy Ritchie made an action flick based on Angry Birds....

It's not a chick flick...... [come on, you knew I had to]

Message to Shaw and other television content providers

If you want to make your customers happy (and why wouldn't you want to do that?), I offer some things you should look into post haste.

If a customer has a PVR provided by you, they should be able to modify their programming online. In other words, I should not have to be at home, in front of my PVR to set up or change a recording. There should be an app for that....

Now that people are switching to HD televisions in droves, channels should not be presented / selected in a two-dimensional manner as they are now. In other words, if the tuner box is capable of detecting that I own an HD TV (I don't think this a hard thing to accomplish), HD channels should be listed first and foremost and their non-HD counterparts should be an option you should have to manually select. This also means I shouldn't have to browse the hundreds of channels available to find the channels I watch most. If I never watch the Basket Weaving channel, even though I paid for it because my provider makes me get it as part of a bundle, I shouldn't have to keep looking at it in the listings.

Let's take that to the next level. With the advent of smart phones that can be tasked by my spoken commands, how about smart cable / satellite boxes? I would like to be able to say to my box "Is Myth Busters on in the next 7 days?" It should instantly list all the times that program airs on all channels in chronological order. Right now it takes many minutes of remote 'texting' to get that simple query answered. The same thing goes with PVR programming. "Record Channel 209 today at 8pm for 2 hours" and then a confirmatory "Yes" is all I should have to say to get that task done. Or "Record every new episode of Doctor Who on channel 226."

Speaking of smart, my cable box should also be able to remind me when content I normally watch is being passed by. Whether it's via a message I get when I turn my TV on, or a text message to my phone, I should be getting notifications like "Karl, there is a new episode of Weeds airing tonight at 9pm on Showcase that is not set for recording on the PVR. Would you like me to record that for you?" Like.... yah!

If a channel is available in an HD version, it better be available to me by default. Case in point, I pay extra to watch RDS from Quebec, but I can't get it in HD even though it is an available channel on other competing providers' line-ups.

No doubt this next request will have the TV and movie industry in fits of hysteria, but I'd like to be able to connect my hard drive, or iPhone or what-have-you to my PVR and get a copy of something I recorded so I can watch it on something other than my connected television. I really don't think that's asking too much.

Well, that should keep you people busy for a few months.......

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Good graffiti

There's bad graffiti, then there's this.

The gift that says more than "I'm too lazy to bother"

There was a time when gift wrap concealed a surprise present - nothing more. Now it is possible to take the guesswork out of gift selection and resort to giving a gift card to a particular merchant. The philosophy is this: Let them buy what they want. In theory, it's a great idea, albeit it takes a lot of the responsibility of carefully choosing a gift out of the gift giver's hands. Where's the fun in that?

But I often wonder what the recipient thinks about getting a gift card for a particular store. Is it possible to insult, offend, insinuate or subtly suggest something by the selection of a particular store card? I believe it is and offer these tongue-in-cheek 'read-between-the-lines' sentiments behind various gift card choices:

Rona / Home Hardware / Home Depot / Lowe's - We've been to your house and you obviously need some help financing that renovation project you've been working on.
Chapters / Indigo - We find it easy to visualize you spending most of your free time reading books, so....
Best Buy / Future Shop - Just because your wife says you can't have that new 50" television doesn't mean you can't buy it with other peoples' money.
Boston Pizza - Because a McDonald's gift card would have been really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Wal*Mart - China clearly needs more of your money.
Apple Store - Now you have a reason to go into one of their stores besides just trying to look all hipster.
iTunes - Seriously, who 'buys' music anymore, especially DRM-laden AM quality rubbish 128bps mp3s? Use these for coasters when you host a party.
Roots - Give these to newly landed immigrants who need a little Canuck-ing up with beaver tuques and red and white woolly maple leaf scarves.
Le Chateau - For all the 'The Situation' and 'JWoww' people in your life.
HBC / Zellers / Home Outfitters - Grandma, I understand that you might be in the market for 2 year old stale chocolate. They keep that stuff right by the tills....
Sears - You may as well experience what it's like to shop in a store that probably won't be around in 5 years.
Winners - Why pay $150 for a cost-$10-to-make shirt when you could have it for $55?
Canadian Tire - There are not too many gift cards you could use simultaneously to buy an oil change, a coffee machine and a crescent wrench in the same store.
The Keg Steakhouse / Cactus Club / Joey's / Earl's - Now you can justify eating for two for $60.
Starbucks - Haven't you always wanted to know what it would be like to be pre-diabetic and insanely hyperactive at the same time? Ooooh! Free wi-fi!
Esso / Shell / Petro Canada - Give this to the owner of a Ford F-450 King Ranch pickup. Mak sure it's a $25 card too. It'll 2/3 fill a Honda Civic Hybrid's tank, but you'll need 6 of these to fill up an F-450.
Golf Town - I'd like to buy you a new set of balls, because yours look pretty worn out and pathetic.
Sephora - Shampoo that smells like cinnamon buns. You know you want it.
Fairmount Hotels & Resorts - Here's your chance to see if a $600 room is any better than a Holiday Inn Express room.
La Vie en Rose - A cheap $30 thong panty just won't do. You need a high class $100 thong panty.
Victoria's Secret - Guys can just walk in, pick out a salesperson and say "I need something that would fit you if you were 20 pounds heavier and wore a permanent scowl. Can you model this for me?"
Williams Sonoma / Pottery Barn - When your budget just won't justify $50 cake mix or a $500 Galileo table lamp.
Nine West - Two words - high maintenance.
IKEA - I hear you're going to be single soon. IKEA can help furnish a new place on a budget.
Toys R Us - The only thing you can't buy here for the kids are scholarships.
Holt Renfrew - When you start getting that look of "You don't belong in here ma'am", just flash this card and you'll be left alone for 5 minutes.
Safeway - The best gift I could conjure up in my mind was help with the groceries.
Jysk - You're so cheap, you think IKEA is a luxury store.
Costco - Ever had a Costco poutine? No? Too busy buying the 125 pack pallet of Prego?
Lotto 649 - If you win, I expect a substantial cut of the earnings.
Pennington's / Addition Elle - Actually, your ass does look big in those jeans....
American Apparel - I often visualize you dressed in skimpy outfits and posed like a schoolhouse tramp.
Payless Shoesource - Because Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik are so over-rated. Nuthin' but Hush Puppies for the one I love.
Old Navy - You wouldn't pay good money to buy clothing that will start to fall apart the moment you walk out of the store. Now you don't have to.
Joe Fresh - You have no fashion sense whatsoever.
Gap - You are gay or have gay friends.
Mark's Work Warehouse - Safety steel re-enforced bras and boots are something you obviously need.
Coach - $200 should be enough to buy a purse, right? It's not?
Purdy's Chocolate - What you need more than anything else right now is chocolate.
Tim Hortons - I'm willing to subsidize your addiction to horrible coffee and sugary starches.
Dairy Queen - When you're ready to break your ri-DQ-lous new year's resolution, I figure a peanut buster parfait or a blizzard should do it nicely.
M&M - Yes, I totally realize that you're going to use this to buy frozen appetizers to bring to my next pot luck....
Lee Valley - You need a hobby.
Bombay Co. - You did say that you like cherry wood..............

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Look out!

I really like this picture.


[Disclaimer: There are times when I start on a topic of conversation that offends some people. What we have here would definitely be one of those topics. I almost decided not to post this bit, but then I figured that I would not be true to who I am and what I believe in if I held back. And isn't that the beauty of living in a free world? My reality contains the opinions of all people and they are all legitimate input. So if you are offended by the topic of gay marriage........... I firmly DO NOT apologize one bit. Just don't read this post...]

I smile when I read about straight people who insist that allowing gay and lesbian people to marry each other would betray the sanctity of the institution of marriage. John Medeiros wrote an open letter (tongue firmly placed in cheek) to a married US Senator who betrayed that sanctity somewhat, by having an illicit affair with a male staff member.

Dear Ms. Koch,

On behalf of all gays and lesbians living in Minnesota, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for our community's successful efforts to threaten your traditional marriage.  We are ashamed of ourselves for causing you to have what the media refers to as an "illicit affair" with your staffer, and we also extend our deepest apologies to him and to his wife. These recent events have made it quite clear that our gay and lesbian tactics have gone too far, affecting even the most respectful of our society.

We apologize that our selfish requests to marry those we love has cheapened and degraded traditional marriage so much that we caused you to stray from your own holy union for something more cheap and tawdry.  And we are doubly remorseful in knowing that many will see this as a form of sexual harassment of a subordinate.

It is now clear to us that if we were not so self-focused and myopic, we would have been able to see that the time you wasted diligently writing legislation that would forever seal the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, could have been more usefully spent reshaping the legal definition of "adultery."

Forgive us. As you know, we are not church-going people, so we are unable to fully appreciate that "gay marriage" is incompatible with Christian values, despite the fact that those values carry a biblical tradition of adultery such as yours. We applaud you for keeping that tradition going.

And finally, shame on us for thinking that marriage is a private affair, and that our marriage would have little impact on anyone's family. We now see that marriage is more than that. It is an agreement with society. We should listen to the Minnesota Family Council when it tells us that marriage is about being public, which explains why marriages are public ceremonies. Never did we realize that it is exactly because of this societal agreement that the entire world is looking at you in shame and disappointment instead of minding its own business.

From the bottom of our hearts, we ask that you please accept our apology.

Thank you.
John Medeiros
Minneapolis MN

Lego brickworks

Imagine if all repair crews had lego....

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Found at Goodwill part deux

She also found this.

Found at Goodwill

Darlene found this at a local Goodwill store.

Tetes a Claques for Anglos

For many years now, Quebecers and others who understand French (at least - Quebecois French) have been enjoying these uproarious little videos under the name Tetes a Claques.

Now they've remade some of the most popular skits in English so that those who can't understand Le Francais can enjoy them too.

Like this one about Hallowe'en.

Unfriend me? Was it something I said?

Getting unfriended (on Facebook) is definitely better than having to unfriend someone else.

They do the dirty work for you!

And it's guilt-free!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Nice parody of the Apple logo.

This is kind of what Occupy was protesting

The average salary of the top CEOs do laps around the typical worker's salary. I took a screen shot of this moments ago, showing a typical CEO's earnings by 8:40pm 4 January 2012, already making DOUBLE what an average worker makes in one whole year.

"For me, this was kind of spooky-amazing...."

Over an hour long interview between Stephen Colbert and Neil deGrasse Tyson. After a little comedic banter, they talk about everything from Pluto to quantum mechanics, to multiverses and the Higgs-Boson. All with the passion and down-to-earthiness that is Neil. A must-see.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

When opportunity knocks, just say 'yes'

Here's a great true story from a guy who hacks banks for a living (electronically), on what happened when his team decides to try robbing a bank (legally) for real - in person.

When a LOLcat meets a triangle

LOLcats meet geometry.

Why do I find this so funny?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Hey winter! [making faces]

This is shaping up more and more to be reminiscent of my first winter in Calgary (1994/95).


Tell it like it is Roger

Roger Ebert explains why movie revenue is dropping. "Ticket prices are too high."

Secret agent Calvin and Hobbes

What Calvin and Hobbes might have looked like if they grew up and became secret agents.

Great artwork.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Unveiling a new level of flying

The last time I bought a new computer, I did it in part because I wanted to experience better performance from my flight simulator software. That software is Microsoft Flight Simulator X. After I bought my latest computer system, which I made sure had a fairly decent graphics card, I installed all my necessary software and eventually got around to the flight simulator. Who am I kidding - it was practically one of the first 5 programs I threw on.

Now, I expected that because Microsoft knows what they are doing (yeah, go ahead and laugh), the game would have detected my superior hardware and configured itself accordingly. It did not. I tweaked the settings higher (but not too much - I didn't want to overwhelm the machine) and was sort of satisfied at the performance. Little did I know that I was being fooled. Completely.

Fast forward to this week. I did a graphic card driver update. The end result was that MS Flight Sim X took it upon itself to downgrade my settings. A lot of them. Like... what? Now I was getting performance similar (or at least reminiscent) of what things were like with my old computer. Suckville. So I did a little digging online.

It turns out that in fact, Microsoft has no clue how to configure itself on a particular machine. Especially if that machine is not equipped with an nVidia graphics card. It seems that ATI is a freaking enigma to the boys in Redmond, so they don't bother to auto-tweak the settings to anything even close to the level that the computer can perform at. Read a few articles, changed a few key settings and cranked everything up to the max, save for the traffic settings.

Holy anti-aliasing! I have been playing under a rock. Now it's like watching me fly an aircraft in an HD movie. I have literally wasted at least a whole year flying stuff at crappy quality. Thanks Microsoft......

Steve Miller Venn

How does Steve Miller stack up against the likes of Snoop Dogg, Russel Brand and the Marquis de Sade?

Only this Venn diagram can show us.