Sunday, December 28, 2008

A company in Germany is offering this fantastic getaway for men. Here is the perfect description:

Think of it as a testosterone-soaked sandbox: a German amusement park where, instead of standing in line to ride on roller coasters, you get to play with big, loud machines. For 219 euros (about $280), patrons can spend the day operating 29-ton Liebherr backhoes and 32-ton Komatsu front-end loaders, off-roading through the woods in a Mercedes-built Unimog, peeling out in a Suzuki SUV, and slinging some mud on quad bikes.

Does that not sound completely amazing? Driving huge tractors, off roading and any other amazing thing you can think of. I am so getting on a plane to Germany right now.
Check out the article from Wired here with pictures.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas (its a conspiracy)

Now that Christmas is over I would like to wish my blog readers a Merry Christmas. So, Merry Christmas everyone!
I would also like to point out that Christmas has been hijacked by commercialism and post a video put together by a group called Advent Conspiracy.

As you can see by the video they are advocating more worship, spending less while giving more and loving everyone. One of the best points they make is the fact that Americans spend 450 billion at Christmas time and at the same time it would only take 10 billion to solve the world water crisis.
It is a powerful video so give it some thought. I know our church is certainly thinking about what we could do next year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Are You Ashamed Yet?

I saw this article about a small-time software developer trying to guilt software pirates into paying for the program. When you enter a hacked registration code you get this message.
The 'Shame on Me' button is priceless.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

World Air Travel

I stumbled across this clip months ago but forgot to blog about it. It demonstrates the typical air travel all over the world during 24 hours in a quick 72 second video.

Fascinating stuff. I can feel myself getting drawn along with those yellow dots doing the large arc across the Atlantic to Europe.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Christmas Card Time!

In keeping with the season, Irene and I sent out Christmas cards to many of our friends and family. You should be getting yours soon. If you don't get one than we don't have your address. I am not going to post the actual one we sent out because I don't want to ruin the surprise.

But I will post some of the runners-up.All we need is some hot cocoa and fake reindeer antlers.

We did a lot of work on the house this year.

Anybody who knows about Irene's chainsaw wielding past will understand why she is the one doing the cutting.

We like Christmas lights.

I don't know why I am skiing, snowboarding is where it's at.

And sledding, sledding is also where it's at. Sorry gingerbread men but those tobaggans are hard to control.

I hope you enjoyed that and maybe in the new year I will post our actual Christmas card.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Attention all Drones

If anybody is still actually using Internet Explorer these days (I know you exist) they should stop right about now.
Since Tuesday Microsoft has been admitting that IE is vulnerable to some pretty serious security leaks which allow hackers to steal passwords and other personal information. The internet has been abuzz with stories like this and news clips like this. Basically you should be using anything (Firefox, Chrome or Safari) but IE.
I personally just installed the update along with the Microsoft anti-virus software on my computer at home but who is going to trust it when it was made by the same guys who brought us Vista.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Living in Ottawa

So Ottawa has been a happening place lately. We have had all the government shenanigans and parliament being paroqued. This has led to endless debates among normally non-political people. Even people who don't live in Ottawa seem to know what is going on. However on the downside, it has led to many in the media mispronouncing paroqued as pierogies. This has, in turn led to some confusion when reporting on the latest in the economic crisis. There has been no word on how the pierogies feel about the latest reports. The media really has to tap that angle for better ratings.

At the same time the city is in turmoil because everyone's best friends, the good bus drivers of this city, have decided to strike. These idiots are striking despite being offered a 7% raise and better benefits etc. Apparently the main point of contention is the scheduling. The bus drivers want to be able to pick their own schedules based on seniority. The city has countered by saying that they could save millions by hiring less drivers and buying less buses if they could be in charge of scheduling. Of course, the stupid unions are going to ignore this and go for the jugular by bleeding the taxpayers even more. I mean, in these economic times can't you be satisfied that you even have a job let alone a 7% raise. Sheesh, get back to work already! Traffic is brutal, parking is impossible and everybody hates OC Transpo right now. Personally I have come out of this relatively unscathed since I don't work downtown anymore and nobody in Kanata takes the bus so driving isn't even that bad. Shocking, I know, I have resorted to driving. But don't worry, it makes me sick too.

The transit strike seems to be timed perfectly with some horrible weather (for driving or walking). They are currently predicting some sort of snomageddon this weekend. I have my doubts because the media really just seems to be pumping up the weather story for the ratings boost after missing out on the pierogies angle.

But either way, it seems like the perfect time to leave our wonderful city and seek out the nearest beacon of civilization, Montreal. We are heading out to see some family downtown and maybe do some Christmas shopping on Catherine Street. We are staying in a sweet hotel for really cheap and it is quite close to an Apple Store. Should be fun if we can get there.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

(I'm not) Scared at Night

Before we left for Spain I picked up the latest Kathleen Edwards album 'Asking for Flowers'. Now, after several listens while driving through snowstorms in the winter darkness to and from work, I have really got into it. The song, 'Scared at Night' is one I find quite poignant and touching.

Here are the lyrics:

As a child I would wake at night.
I was scared but I kept real quiet.
Shadows on the walls moving in on me...
And underneath my sheets I could barely breathe.
And your room was only just across the hall.
All it would have taken was a single call.
But maybe sometimes we've got to trust ourselves not to scream out loud, and run like hell...

Believe me, all our days here are unsure.
Believe in me, I don't want to anymore.
And in the dark, picture me in your mind.
And I'll lay with you.
You don't have to be scared at night.

As a young man you were shooting rats.
By accident you hit the farmyard cat.
He ran for the fields and came back the next day.
You'd blown out his eye and you could see his brain.
That's it boy, there is some things in life, you don't want to do, but you know is right.
So take him out back and finish him off. Got your gun off the shelf, it only took one shot.

Believe me, all our days here are unsure.
Believe in me, I don't want to anymore.
And in the dark, picture me in your mind.
And I'll lay with you, so you don't have to be scared at night.

And I flew away and I paid on your final day.
They said that you waited 'til I came.
We sang your favorite hymns and we held your hand.
You took your final breath and that was that.
But I'd never seen a person die before.
I tried so hard not to cry and all...
'Cause maybe sometimes we've got to trust ourselves, that when you die you go some place else.

Believe me, all our days here are unsure.
Believe in me, I don't want to anymore.
And in the dark, picture me in your mind.
And I'll lay with you.
You don't have to be scared at night.
You don't have to be scared at night.
You don't have to be scared at night

-Kathleen Edwards (Scared at Night)

It has the right amount of sadness and questioning in the lyrics to make you feel and wonder. From a Christian perspective it makes you feel good and reassured about the hope that you have. Maybe that is why I enjoy sad/melancholy music so much more than silly/joyful music. It is more raw and real and I, for one, can relate very easily. The music is also fantastic. It is real Canadian Indie-Folk-Rock at it's best. She is coming to Ottawa in February so if anyone wants to see her at the Bronson Centre, I will go with you.
Today, however, Irene and I plan to head up to the Black Sheep Inn to catch Toronto pianist Royal Wood. I believe I posted a romantic music video for his song 'Juliet' in the past.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Update

An Update to my previous blog:

Ken Starks has updated his blog with an apology to the Teacher. He apparently did not realize the extent to which this would spread. Apparently it even made the front page of Slashdot.
The teacher, who he refuses to identify to the media, has even talked to him and they seem to have made nice. Either way, it may have been some good press for the open source community.

What!?! Software is free!?!

Yes it's true. I didn't know it was so unbelievable but apparently a lot of people don't know about it. I stumbled across this article about a teacher in the States threatening a student for giving out Linux cds and other open source software for free while introducing some fellow students to it.
She sent a letter to a blogger named Ken Starks who is involved in introducing cheap computers to disadvantaged children. She says:
"...observed one of my students with a group of other children gathered around his laptop. Upon looking at his computer, I saw he was giving a demonstration of some sort. The student was showing the ability of the laptop and handing out Linux disks. After confiscating the disks I called a confrence with the student and that is how I came to discover you and your organization."
Why would you do that? What the kid is doing is impressive, schools should be encouraging that type of thing. If schools went completely open source they could save so much money. She then goes on to show her ignorance by saying:
"I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful."
What!?! There is TONS of free software! Everybody uses open source stuff now even if they don't realize it. You really don't need to pay anything to use your computer anymore.
Then after talking of pursuing legal action and how Linux is holding kids back she starts going all 'Pro-Microsoft':
"This is a world where Windows runs on virtually every computer and putting on a carnival show for an operating system is not helping these children at all."
No, this is a world where more and more people are turning away from Microsoft. The only reason it is so prevalent is because they have created these situations where it is hard to switch operating systems. But instead of developing a good one they constantly churn out relatively archaic junk. They know that many will purchase it because they don't know any better or they just buy the pre-built system in Future Shop. And many more businesses will purchase it because they have to. Why bother spending resources creating a better product if you know you will be selling millions anyway. It sounds suspiciously like another failing business model which I blogged about earlier. There is a shift that already began with Apple reinventing itself and Firefox becoming the browser of choice. Even Dell is offering computers preloaded with Linux Ubuntu! Dell! Seriously! Regular people are ready for change.
Now if you read the comments below the article it starts to get a little sketchy fast. People commenting on links between the teacher's union and Microsoft, the teaching quality today and the usual Microsoft hate speak. But some of it is valid. I have recently reformatted my computer and am now dual booting with Windows XP and Linux Ubuntu 7.1. My computer is 5 years old and only has 512 RAM with a small 2.2GHz processor. I have been really careful to keep it clean and quick but there is only so much you can do when XP uses such a sizeable chunk of your computer just to run. With Ubuntu I have all the awesome open source software I need and it runs so smoothly, flawlessly and effortlessly. The graphic effects in Ubuntu rivals Vista but Vista would never run on my computer. I truly am a satisfied 'customer'. I was always a little scared of it since I know almost nothing about programming etc. but this is almost the most user friendly experience ever.
Now the only reason I have Windows is for AutoCAD and I almost wish I hadn't bothered. AutoCAD and Windows are the only things I am 'paying' for. Everything else is free. I use GIMP or Paint.NET instead of Photoshop, Firefox instead of IE, OpenOffice instead of MS Office, Gmail instead of Outlook, AVG instead of Norton.
And by the way, all those open source products work on Windows too because they are, well, open-source. Do some research and you will find many good reviews of all these products. Once again, there is no reason you should be paying for software these days.
Seriously, if you have an older computer kicking around that you think is garbage, stick Ubuntu on it and you will have a perfectly good usable computer. If you want an install disc you can order the latest one here for free (I know, its crazy). Or you can have mine. If you are having trouble with your computer now, consider switching. And if you have kids, I think it is really important to expose them to things other than Microsoft if you want them to have the computer skills of the future.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tis the Season for Concerts

We sure have seen our share of classical/seasonal music in the past month. We went to see a candle lit performance of the Messiah. I think this may become a tradition for us.Irene performed with her choir at a church designed by my firm. They also sang parts of the Messiah along with some seasonal tunes.Our church had the annual children's choir performance. It was as cute as ever despite missing several kids who were on vacation.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Good ol Hockey Game

In the last couple weeks we ended up scoring tickets to see both of Ottawas major hockey teams. A co-worker got me 4 free tickets to an Ottawa 67s game and the following week I ended up with a ticket to the Senators/Thrashers game. Someone ended up backing out of that at the last minute so Irene got to go.
The 67s are a pretty decent team with one of the best (and longest running) coaches in the OHL. They started off pretty badly but near the end were starting a good comeback. The final score was 5-4 for the Oshawa Generals. The game also included the funniest half-time show I have ever seen. It was a bunch of mascots running around the ice, dancing and attacking each other. And since we came late our seats were near the top of the stands. Also, because we had four tickets, we invited some church friends along with us. The Senators game was quite thrilling because we had some of the best seats in the building. We were 8 rows up from behind the opponents bench. High enough to see over the boards but low enough to really feel the action. Also, they serve you beer/food in these lower levels.
The game was really thrilling and was a big win for the struggling Ottawa team. I caught all the goals and most were really good. The scoring started off early and so did the fighting.
The final score was 5-1 for Ottawa. It was a once in lifetime opportunity.In somewhat sad news, a fan from Vermont in the stands across from us fell from the top (third) level to the second level when he tripped on a womans purse. He was apparently carrying two drinks. Both the man who fell and the woman he landed on are surprisingly fine. No word on what happened to the drinks.
We missed the whole thing because we were too busy getting served in our luxury seats. Apparently, what happens on the top levels, stays in the top levels.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

New By-line

In case you haven't noticed (which you probably haven't if you use RSS feeds) I have changed my blog byline. It has been the somewhat appropriate "If you tolerate this, your children will be next" from the Manic Street Preachers song of the same name for a couple years at least.
My new byline is "They want me raw and smooth like glass, They want it fast but they don't want flaws" which is a line from the Islands song Rough Gem from their album Return to the Sea.
The reason I like this line is because it says a lot about life and specifically my life/work. I can relate very easily to it. The demands put on you can be almost impossible and are usually conflicting.
What do you think of it? I just love a good byline.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Crazy Sports

I came across this video the other day.

If you don't want to watch it, it shows a guy using a roller suit (yes, a suit with wheels) going down some crazy hills in the Swiss Alps. He is going insanely fast. My favorite part is where he passes the motorbike. I just don't understand how he steers. One wrong move and he will smoke a barrier.
This video reminded me of another other crazy sport (which I may have blogged about earlier)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pirating the Financial Situation

An article I read today......

Somali Pirates in Discussions to Acquire Citigroup

By Andreas Hippin

November 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Somali pirates, renegade Somalis known for hijacking ships for ransom in the Gulf of Aden, are negotiating a purchase of Citigroup.

The pirates would buy Citigroup with new debt and their existing cash stockpiles, earned most recently from hijacking numerous ships, including most recently a $200 million Saudi Arabian oil tanker. The Somali pirates are offering up to $0.10 per share for Citigroup, pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said earlier today. The negotiations have entered the final stage, Ali said.

"You may not like our price, but we are not in the business of paying for things. Be happy we are in the mood to
offer the shareholders anything," said Ali.

The pirates will finance part of the purchase by selling new Pirate Ransom Backed Securities. The PRBS's are backed by the cash flows from future ransom payments from hijackings in the Gulf of Aden. Moody's and S&P have already issued their top investment grade ratings for the PRBS's.

Head pirate, Ubu Kalid Shandu, said: "We need a bank so that we have a place to keep all of our ransom money. Thankfully, the dislocations in the capital markets has allowed us to purchase Citigroup
at an attractive valuation and to take advantage of TARP capital to grow the business even faster."

Shandu added, "We don't call ourselves pirates. We are coastguards and this will just allow us to guard our coasts better."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

95 Theses but the Pope Ain't One

Since tonight is a Bible Study night I thought I'd post something related to that. A church friend sent me this link a few days ago. It is a rap about Martin Luther and the 95 Theses that he nailed to the church door. Now before you all flip out at me for being sacrilegious and the rest this is a serious project by some Yale students. I couldn't care less for rap music but the way these lyrics were written combined with the witty video shows that these guys clearly have a grasp on what they are talking/rapping about. Take a listen and see how much you can catch.

There are several great references to other historical figures and events along with the obvious doctrinal points. They did take liberty with some things and admit as much here. And you can read the lyrics here. It is pretty harsh on the Catholic church but really they are just talking history albeit in a language the kiddies can understand. It mixes humour and history in a very clever way.

Some of my favourite lines are:

I warned y'all that Rome best agree to the terms.

If not, then you can eat my Diet of Worms!
You think you done something spectacular?
I wrote the Bible in the vernacular!
A heretic! [What?] Someone throw me a bone.
You forgot salvation comes through faith alone.


But you forgot about me and my demonstration?
Like you can just create your own denomination?
"We don't like this part, so we'll just add a little twist."
Now we Anglican, Amish, and even Calvinist.


and right at the end....

Shout out to Johann Gutenberg... I see you baby.

I love The Office

The Economy according to Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin

Here's the thing about this so-called "financial crisis," if it were really bad, people would be jumping out of buildings on Wall Street. No one's jumping out of buildings, so it's probably just the media scaring us again, just like it did about birds catching the flu and cows getting mad. But there is a problem and in order to make things right, the government needs to start printing more money and lots of it. Now I know it takes money to make money, but I sell paper and you can get a couple hundred sheets of it for a buck, thousands if you buy in bulk. If the government bought some quality Dunder Mifflin paper to print new money on, believe me, they'd make a huge profit on the deal even after the cost of ink. So if anyone knows Barack Obama, please forward this to him, and make sure he knows we're having an incredible special on Hammermill Great White recycled copy paper-99.99% jam free! But if the government insists on continuing to get ripped off by the big box chains, there are other fixes. When it comes to stocks, they should start buying low and then selling high. I hear that's a good way to maximize profits. They should also consider focusing more on "transparency," "sustainability," and "stabilization." Those appear to be good things. At the same time we should avoid "recessions," "speculative bubbles," and "asset-liability mismatches," because according to Yahoo Answers, those are really bad things. Plus, they could cut or raise interest rates depending on the situation. I think if we take these simple steps, all our economic troubles will probably just go away, like global warming did after Al Gore made that really boring film.
*excerpt from Dunder Mifflin Newsletter

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Microsoft Matrix

This video is done so well. If you have seen The Matrix and have used Microsoft Windows this video will appeal to you.

Thanks Chris

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I just read this article about Toyota trying to clamp down on pictures of their cars. I just can't believe it. Here is an excerpt from that article:

Toyota, one of the biggest car companies in the world, is often a name synonymous with quality. There is even a philosophy of doing business, called “The Toyota Way”, which emphasizes that the right result will come from the right process, and that solving the root problems brings the organization the greatest benefit.

This ‘Way’ is probably not communicated to its lawyers in great detail, which is why Desktopnexus, a site that provides desktop backgrounds, has been contacted by them. In perhaps one of the most wildly arrogant demands in DMCA history, Toyota’s lawyers are demanding the withdrawal of all wallpapers that feature a Toyota, Scion, or Lexus. The site’s owner, Harry Maugans contacted Toyota to clarify. He was told that all images featuring Toyota vehicles should be removed, even images with copyright belonging to others.

It seems almost as crazy as the new initiative by Queens University to clamp down on any talk that doesn't align itself with the university's views. But actually that story is much worse. I almost chocked on my lunch when I read that one. Back to Toyota: What is with big corporations these days and their backward thinking philosophies. This is the internet age people, change your corporate plan to fit with it or your company will suffer the same fate as the movie and music industry. In this day and age companies have to learn to change faster and faster. By threatening to sue a Desktop Wallpaper website you are not accomplishing anything but you are losing touch with your customers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is it time to let the Big 3 Die?

I have been forecasting this for years and finally with the latest economic crisis they have been pushed over the edge. The American auto-makers have been dieing a slow death for years for many reasons. First of all, the unions which breed bad attitudes and create a huge rift between the management and the labour. Secondly the short-term thinking and 'i-want-it-now' philosophy of American culture which permeated the ideals and direction of these companies and just feeds the 'old boys club' mentality of the management. Last of all, the product which because of a cash strapped company with a bad work environment and not enough R&D did not evolve with the competitors and suffered for it. And that is just the start....

In the early years of manufacturing unions were required in order to get the employees a decent wage and basic safe working conditions. Today the government has set so many standards and the economy drives the wages that unions are not required (at least in this industry). The union has become a self-perpetuating catalyst for itself. It's main concern is keeping itself in business. They drained the companies for all they were worth and now the workers are paying for it. The huge pensions of such a large workforce have to come from somewhere. It is said that for each car that Ford sells $2000 is going to the pension fund. It's no wonder a Taurus can never match a Camry for quality. Right off the top there is $2000 less quality in there just to make it competitive.

The omnipresent attitude in north-american culture has always been 'I want it now', 'I want it fast' and 'I want it big'. This explains many things about north america including fast food. These car companies give in to these ideals by trying to offer products too quickly with not enough research put into them. It brings down the standards of the company and they end up only caring what the car will look to make it to sell and not about refining the car to make it last. A good example is the Ford Pinto. When civics and corollas started to flood the market Ford rushed out the Pinto to compete with the lower prices and fuel economy. It sold well at first until thousands of problems surfaced (including exploding gas tanks which Ford refused to acknowledge). It just shows that you have to do the right research and refine your product (at least enough that it won't explode). Today they clearly have not learned from their past. While Toyota continues to develop and refine the Prius, GM is putting money into building a Hummer plant.

Tied into this attitude problem is the parts. Because the Big 3 are under so much pressure to lower the price of their vehicles to remain competitive they start to pass that on to their parts suppliers. The parts suppliers are forced to manufacture cheaper parts which equals worse quality. I once talked to a guy who worked for a company making carpet for the interiors of several manufacturers (domestic and imports). The carpet must meet strict measurements in order to fit the car perfectly. In a meeting with some Ford management the Ford guy flipped out and said "I don't care if the shit doesn't fit, just put it in anyway!". I think this says a bit about both the management and It is a perpetuating cycle that is passed on to the consumers, some of whom will never buy from that company ever again. The CEOs have made the claim that you have to support America and that they are the life blood of America. Sorry but that only works on rednecks and they aren't the ones buying new cars.

The philosophy is that if you get as many of your cars on the road as possible you will be able to get the money back when they start to bring them back to the dealership to be fixed. It is the quantity over quality philosophy which works for Wal-mart but not a vehicle manufacturer (especially when there are better options). They have been going down this road over the last several years and it has partially worked. It really is remarkable what you can get in a car for 15-25K but in the end the company is not making any money off those cars. They are the mainstays that have to carry the brand through market changes.

So lets take a look at a couple examples:
Cavalier: It was decent to start as a cheap competition product but GM never invested in it and it stayed basically the same for 15 years while the civics and corollas got better and better. That is 15 years of lost R&D that they tried to get back with the Cobalt which didn't work.
Taurus: A best seller in '86 it was left to decline and eventually died. Ford tried to bring it back a year later but it is too late. This could have been a great car if they had only kept it up. The Ford Explorer is a similar deal except that it is still going.
Jeeps: There are just too many models. It used to be pretty simple; Wrangler and Cherokee. But now you have 6 options that are too similar. They have created extra models in the hope that the consumer will turn around and buy the next vehicle if they don't like the first one. Not the best business strategy.

In the end I think the answer is pretty clear. The market is saying these companies should not be in business. Propping them up is just postponing the inevitable. But it would be a huge loss to our economy. Many jobs depend on these companies. Maybe other companies would take their place since it is clear that North America is in love with the automobile but either way it would really hurt to lose them. I have always said that this was inevitable but now that it is about to happen I am not so sure that it is such a good thing......

What do you think?

Base Jumping World Record

These guys set a world record for jumping off the highest building. They jumped off the Burj Dubai in Dubai while it was still under construction in May of 2008. The most amazing thing is they got away with it.


Dubai has been the city built on nothing for the past while. It has virtually risen from the desert from a small trading post in the last 75 years. That means that it has no real culture, architecturally or otherwise. I originally thought it would be an impressive place to go but the more I read about it and hear stories from people who have been there I really don't feel the need to go there. There is so many cooler places to check out and experience (like Spain).
Dubai is just an attempt to create an economy in the country that is not based entirely on oil production. As such it has no real history and therefore no culture. It is just overt opulence for the purpose of impressing. Every large international company now has to have a some headquarters there just to remain impressive. It is kind of in the same vein of McMansions and Escalades.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Annnnnnnnnnnd We're Back!

We arrived home at around 11:30 Ottawa time from Madrid (minus only one bag). Irene promptly ate a bowl of cereal since it felt like breakfast time to us. I staved off the hunger in a desperate attempt to change my body into accepting this time zone. I think it worked.We had a fantastic time running around Madrid and doing trips to places like Segovia, Toledo, San Sebastien and Bilbao. Thanks to Tim and his sister Esther for showing us around and sharing lots of sangria and tapas. It was great fun and it is a little sad to be home so soon and back into the grind of real life.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Life of an Architect

And now for a humorous interlude while I take a stress leave from blogging. I was so stressed I had to head to Spain to get away from it all. It is tough work being a sporadic blogger.

Dilbert is probably one of the best print newspaper comics out right now.
Here is one of my classic favourites because it says a lot about my job.
I may not be the architect but some days that really is just the way it is.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

And we are off....

As this blog is posted we are hopefully on a plane to Madrid via Montreal and Paris.
YAY!

I really did not think I would get another chance to go to Europe perhaps forever so I am pretty excited to get this chance. Now with this economic downturn and the future looking so shaky I am getting the feeling that this will be the last time we go. Once China becomes a super power and Obama turns the States into a third world country (taking Canada with it) we will probably not even have affordable air travel let alone the jobs to pay for it.

On another, totally unrelated note, this is my 200th post.

Gobama

And it is pretty much settled.
The US of A has it's first black president. This is a hollywood movie in the making.
I am a little scared and nervous as to what it all means for Canada. I guess only time will tell.
I'm not going to outright say McCain would have been a better choice but I am going to insinuate it.
From the start Obama has scared me with his perfect rhetoric and well polished speeches. But his win was pretty much sealed once Sarah Palin was announced as McCain's running mate. I could not believe that when it happened. The other thing is, whenever the CEEB interviewed americans on who they were voting for they would only spout off things they had heard in the media. Ridiculous one liners like 'Obama is promising jobs for everybody' or 'Obama sounds like a terrorist'. Americans are so ridiculous.
Here is an example:These are the people who ruined it for McCain. It reminded me of the people talked about on stuffchristianslike (a play off of the similarly toungue in cheek stuffwhitepeoplelike). One of the things Christians like is bumper stickers. This is so not the way to 'convert' people to vote for your party.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Greatest USB Port ever!

OK wait! Stop before you go running for the hills all annoyed at me for writing about some boring new technology that no one but me cares about. This isn't about technology, rather it's about alcohol......aaaah you've stopped. Yes this blog post is about the type of wine called Port to be exact.

Now I like Port about as much as the next guy who also likes Port. These guys have really thought of an interesting marketing strategy to get people to buy their drink. Ever since a new law went into effect that says only Port made in Portugal can legally be called 'Port' all the other Port makers are stuck trying to think of new names for their products.

California-based Peltier Station came up with this inovative solution. Remove the word 'Port' but add the acronym that everybody knows ('USB') and put the universal symbol on the bottle (in binary code text no less).
Read the full story here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

On Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite authors. His most famous book 'Farenheit 451' is about a fireman whose job it is to start fires. He is assigned to burn books. The book is set in the future with a totalitarian government that is controlling what everybody does or sees. Anybody who harbours books basically is killed. The main character ends up getting interested in books and ends up getting chased.....and I won't tell you the end.
I love books that deal with a post-apocalyptic world or a world where society has changed dramatically. Anyways, the common thought was always that the book (which was fist published in 1953) was a book about the crushing of free speech and censorship. So when I stumbled across this BoingBoing article by Cory Doctorow (whose writings I have been stumbling across quite a bit lately) I was mildly surprised that it was really supposed to be about the evils of TV. I can see why he wrote it that way though. There were a lot of TV screens and emphasis on the 'I want it now' society that it breeds. There was no care for anybody else. Really truly sad. I think he took TV to its ultimate conclusion. So I am not sure if this makes the book better or worse. Either way I still think Bradbury is fantastic.

Here is a quote from Kingsley Amis in New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (stolen from wikipedia) where Bradbury describes his book.

In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.

I think that proves his point.

Another reason I like him is he really does not like Micheal Moore for using a play on his book title for his movie Farenheit 9/11. In the documentary 'Manufacturing Dissent' Bradbury goes on a small tirade about how Moore doesn't understand what his book was about. That really raised my respect for the author because we all know how much I love Micheal Moore.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

To Beard or Not to Beard

I am thinking of doing the beard thing again to keep myself warm while taking the bus.
Besides the obvious good reasons of making me more of a hipster and upping my indie cred these demonstrations are really helping me make up my mind.

Here are a few good reasons to have a beard:And of course.....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Songwriters Circle

On Monday night I took a group of friends downtown to the Library and Archives building for a neat little concert that was part of the Ottawa Writers Festival. Not being a writer, I had hardly taken notice of this festival. This sounded interesting enough though and having missed the Great Lake Swimmers show on Friday I sure felt like I needed a concert. Plus Justin Rutledge was there so that pretty much sealed the deal for me. The other two artists were Glenn Noutio and Kyrie Kristmanson.
I really had no idea what it was going to be like but it turned out to be quite an intimate and informal affair of wine sipping and trading song writing info between the artists. After waiting for Junot Díaz to finish a reading from his new book 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' we were let in to the auditorium and introduced to the artists. Glenn Noutio, since he is a super-gay guy, had to make that obvious every time he opened his mouth. I know not all gay guys are like that but really so many are. We know you are gay, now stop reminding us. Kyrie Kristmanson has this amazing voice and she sang a couple a capella and the rest with a guy on double bass. I bought her cd even though it did not have 'Blackwind' on it. Check her out here. Justin was, of course, amazing with his strong voice and sweet guitar. Check out some of his stuff here.They took turns performing and talking about the lyrics and how the songs came to be. I love hearing that kind of background. To me it makes the songs mean something more. I get a deeper satisfaction from them. It turns out that Kristmanson is studying music in Lyon, France. She is transposing some of the first real recorded non-religious music into a more modern playable style. It was written by wives of men who were off in the crusades and apparently it is often said that these 40 women invented love and courtship as we know it today. Rutledge is currently working on a play/reading of a new book by that famous Canadian author whose name is escaping me right now. Was it Ondatje? Anyway, he wrote some songs for one of the characters.

Overall it was a great night although a reaction from one of my friends was 'I liked my Backstreet Boys concert better'. Read into that however you want. It wasn't really a true concert though. But I did like it better than any Backstreet Boys music I have ever heard.

These pictures are courtesy of Lenny Wu (a fellow Radio3 listener and blogger)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pretty bird, yeah pretty bird

I ran across this article about a spider catching a bird in its web and eating it. This, of course, happened in Australia where it is normal to be attacked by insanely huge arachnids.
Now excuse me while I go and kill that spider in my kitchen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A lesson learned....don't wait for people

We waited to long for some people to make up their minds and now the Great Lake Swimmers show is sold out. I guess we weren't the only ones blown away by the awesome performance with Basia Bulat the last time the played at the Black Sheep.
It will be such an awesome show.
Next time I am just going to buy the tickets for myself and not bother trying to convince other people that they might will like it.

On a brighter note we may get to see Justin Rutledge on Monday night with Kyrie Kristmanson (kind of like Fiest) as part of the Ottawa Writer's Festival. This show is right downtown so hopefully it isn't sold out......

Also on a brighter note, I picked up two cds tonight. Imogen Heap's Speak for Yourself and Kathleen Edward's Polaris nominated 'Asking for Flowers'. Both are fantastic.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Steal This DRM-Free Comic

Thank you xkcd. This is one of my favourite web comics and this most recent strip agrees with my view on this situation perfectly.
It is something that our conservative government regrettably is not agreeing with. And for that we can thank the Americans (not the Danes).
Down with Itunes! I'm with AC/DC on this one!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

400% More Caribou

In reference to my previous post about the Polaris winner, apparently his cd sales are up 400% according to Radio3. It was sold out in the entire city of Vancouver and also broke into the Top 30 on Itunes which is no easy feat when you look at the usual bands that are up there.
Not bad for a guy from small town Ontario.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who is even voting for this guy?

I just cannot understand who is voting for Stephane Dion. Check out this clip of an interview he did with CTV Atlantic. The reporter asks Dion what he would have done differently if he was Prime Minister when the markets are collapsing and the economy is crashing. He stalls and says he doesn't understand, asks for a redo and does this 3 or 4 times. Finally he gives an answer that doesn't mean anything.
It is just sad. And this guy wants to be Prime Minister! It makes you feel almost sorry for the guy until you remember that he is trying to ruin our country with his 'good intentions'.
I mean, I would vote for Jack Layton over this guy.
Just vote for Harper people. He even reversed the arts cuts so now he isn't so bad.

Speaking of arts cuts, on the CBC Radio3 blogs that I frequently comment on you can not get away with saying anything that supports the conservatives. Even the DJs are quite blatantly biased. There are people pushing the anyonebutharper.ca, Facebook vote swapping and events such as 'This is not a conservative party'. The music is great but the attitude really gets you down. Many of their points are true but when you look at Dion and his Green Shift plan and then Layton who wants to shut down the Tar Sands really what choice do you have. Both of those parties have lost some touch with reality. The only logical choice is Harper.

Monday, October 06, 2008

It's Official

We are going to Spain in November.

I wish I could just move to Europe. No more suburbs, no more SUVs and trucks, no more slow public transit. Only real culture and real history and real transit and chic living and amazing food and lots of Vespas.

Madrid, San Sebastian and Bilbao here we come!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Political Compass

The other day I was directed to a website called The Political Compass by my buddy and co-worker. The website claims to find where you stand in the political spectrum. They say that it is no longer about left vs right. It is more a combination of your stance on social and economic areas.
I took the 5 minute multiple choice test and this was my result:The website administration apparently placed the Canadian political parties based on the same questions:
It looks to me like I am closer to the NDP than even the Liberals. Weird. I thought I would be more of a Libertarian but on the Right side of the economic scale.
I suggest you take the test and let me know where you stand according to this website. I find it hard to believe that they would not be biased in some way but it is not readily apparent if they are. Also, some of the questions are not that great. When it asks if you agree or disagree with the statement "Sex outside of marriage is usually immoral" you could say 'I Agree' or you could say 'I disagree because it is always immoral'. Technically both responses are on the same side but because of the way the survey looks at it they would be reflected very differently in the results.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Finally!

This is what I have been waiting for. Leave it to those sneaky Scandinavians to challenge Apple on their DRM system. DRM (Data Rights Management) is really my only hang up with Apple. Honestly, they make really well designed products but when you start getting into Apple they turn out to be just like Microsoft. Both companies feel the need to control their products so tightly that they squeeze out some of the functionality and advantages. With Itunes and DRM you can't just take your Ipod to your freinds computer and copy your songs onto his computer. Song sharing is such a big deal to me (and millions of other people) that I can't buy an Ipod just for this reason. I am forced to use a mildly inferior product (a Sansa mp3 player) which uses the more standard mp3 format.
In Scandinavia there are many bittorrent websites becuase of the very open copyright laws. So it doesn't really come as a surprise to me that a Norwegian consumer advocacy group is suing Apple because of DRM. The consumer ombudsman said "It's a consumer's right to transfer and play digital content bought and downloaded from the Internet to the music device he himself chooses to use, iTunes makes this impossible or at least difficult, and hence, they act in breach of Norwegian law."
I hope they get somewhere with that. Then I can buy a Mac.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And the winner is....

Caribou with the album Andorra. The winner of the Polaris Music Prize (and $20 000) was announced last night at the Phoenix in Toronto. You can listen to a podcast of the party here.
I didn't put a lot of faith in that album when the short list was announced. But that was mostly because I was not a huge fan of it. It was interesting but hard to get into.
But the award is for 'Artistic Merit' so I can see why it won. It is one of those albums that takes a few listens to really enjoy and they are usually some of the best. She's the One is probably my favorite track on the album right now.
Caribou is a project by Dan Snaith of Dundas, Ontario. He is a pretty interesting guy who started recording when he was 14. He progressed from a solo electronic DJ act to performing in a four piece band. If you want a taste of his live performances check out a CBC recorded concert here.

Other cool Caribou things:
  • Watch some pitchfork videos here.
  • They have a song called Irene.
  • They were originally called Manitoba but were forced to change due to some ridiculous lawsuit.
  • Watch some Caribou 'Take Away Shows' here. (via Pitchfork)
  • Dan Snaith has a PhD in Mathematics from the UofT
And on another musical note I plan to go see Mother Mother, The Wooden Sky and The Superfantastics on Friday night. Should be good.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A music video made without cameras

Sorry, it's another Radiohead post. It's just that those guys are always on the cutting edge of technology and music so I can't get enough of them.
For the latest music video for House of Cards (one of my favorites from In Rainbows) they used a totally different approach to filming. They used a laser point based 3d measuring system (known as LIDAR) as the camera. These machines are most often used for measuring existing architecture or infrastructure and when hooked up to a GPS system it can draw and locate everything within view to the nearest millimeter. This technology is most often used by cities or governments (who actually have the money for it). I actually know someone who does this in Montreal. As far as I know, this is similar technology to what he uses.
So here is the video:

And here is the video showing how they made the music video:

And if you are the creative sort you can create your own music video by using the 3d environments created by these guys and the music of Radiohead. Neat stuff! Check it out here. Careful though, since it takes a while to get going you are probably best off downloading the stuff here and putting it together on your own computer. If anybody ends up doing this I'd love to see the result. You can also upload it to the House of Cards YouTube group.

Rise Up! (with Al Gore)

Al Gore, the planet's best friend, feels that nobody is listening to him. He believes that this calls for drastic action. He is now calling for 'civil disobedience' to protest coal plants and other CO2 emitters.
This is what he said:

"If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration."

This guy ticks me off almost as much as Micheal Moore.

Read the article here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My kind of pie chart

With all the economic turmoil these days you can imagine all the pie charts being generated as employees of banks and investment institutions are rapidly trying to explain to their bosses why the company has lost trillions in a week. I am sure some of those employees are using pie charts. In honor of them I present this; the best pie chart ever.

As you can clearly see in the chart above, most of the pie has yet to be eaten.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

T-Shirt Idea:

I want a T-shirt that has this on the front:
and this on the back:
And maybe something like a Wal-mart symbol or something.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

He's going for it!

I don't think I ever blogged about my Montreal trip to see Radiohead. I left that for other people. Well, back when we went to Montreal for that Radiohead concert we also rented Segways. Y'know those gyroscopes with a handle and wheels that you use to zip around in crowded areas.
Yeah they were fun. Here are a few pictures and videos just so you get the idea.


We are on the cusp of returning to Montreal this Saturday. Maybe we will rent them again....

They promised us the 'red key' next time! (for all you non-segwayers - that means we get to go faster)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vito's Ordination Song

I always knew you
in your mothers arms
i have called your name
i have an idea
placed in your mind
to be a better man
ive made a crown for you
put it in your room
and when the bride groom comes
there will be noise
there will be glad
and a perfect bed
and when you write a poem
i know the words
i know the sounds
before you write it down
only wear your clothes
i wear them too
i wear your shoes
and your jacket too
i always knew you
in your mothers arms
i have called you son
ive made amends
between father and son
or if you havent one
rest in my arms
sleep in my bed
there is a design
to what i did and said

Sufjan Stevens, Greetings from Michigan - The Great Lake State

I think it is pretty obvious what he is saying in this song. Truly, some great lyrics to accompany a marvelous tune. Oh the harmonies!

Here is the cd cover for the upcoming cd from The Welcome Wagon (by the Reverend Vito himself):

Sufjan news

I just read an article from PasteMagazine.com about yet another project with Sufjan's golden touch. This project is a worship or gospel group formed by Reverend Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique. It is called 'The Welcome Wagon'.
The interesting thing about this project is that the Reverend is a close friend of Sufjan's and there is this absolutely fantastic song that Sufjan wrote for his ordination. I wonder what church this guy is at.....
You can listen to or download the song "Sold! To The Nice Rich Man" here. (right click to download).
Check out the info at the record label's website (Asthmatic Kitty Records). I always think it's the best name for a record label ever, by the way.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Family Time

A couple months ago when we celebrated my parent's 25th wedding anniversary we also went and had family photo's taken. This had not happened in many years so it was a pretty interesting experience.

Our photographer (who's blog Irene routinely reads) was pretty good. She was so good she ended up blowing out her already injured knee while showing us how to sit. She recovered to produce some pretty good shots.

Here are some examples: