Tuesday, January 31, 2006

TV Ads ... Without TV!

I heard an interesting discussion on the radio yesterday about the evolution of advertising in recent years. With the huge emergence of the Internet it was bound to happen sometime. One of the most interesting examples is GoDaddy.com. They are famous for their SuperBowl ads that are so risque that they never get aired during the SuperBowl. At least not on network TV! But they create such a buzz that people go watch them on the Internet, thus taking all those eyeballs to the www.GoDaddy.com website, which was the intention in the first place!

The irony is pretty heavy: A made-for-TV ad never gets played on TV but does what it was expected to do - perhaps even more so!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Techie Comedy from England

There's an absolutely hilarious comedy called "The IT Crowd" available online. You can view it by clicking here.

It accurately depicts the decades old battle between I.T. personnel and the users they support.

Note: I learned the hard way that you can't skip ahead to a section, so once it's running you need to watch it straight through, albeit with pauses.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Glimpse Into Canada's New Wealth

Alberta is unlike any province in Canada or any state in the U.S. It's absolutely debt free and booming beyond belief. A big part of the reason for this are the oil rich tarsands in & around Fort McMurray. The BBC's Peter Day provides an excellent and comprehensive report from this northern Alberta town in this episode of In Business. As former mining engineer, the technology behind all of this is nothing new for me. What I found most interesting was when he stopped into an English class for new foreign workers. He interviewed people from Venezuela, Libya, and Poland. This diversity of people from all over the world is what makes Canada (and America) so incredibly special. But the transition from their home countries to this part of my country must have been a huge change (in a negative Celsius direction!) for most of them.

Running Business in a Completely Different Way

One of the best podcasts I've found on the Internet is Peter Day's "In Business" program on the BBC. I just finished listening to "Down With Hierarchies", a fascinating examination of why business organizations are run as they are and a glimpse into some other, perhaps better ways to run them. It's something that every manager or aspiring manager should listen to.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Canada, As Explained To Australians

Here's a classic piece by Mark Steyn, describing Canadian lumberjacks, tranvestites, Monty Python, and ... oh yes, Stephen Harper. Classic Steyn!

Canadians Are Slow Learners

Here are the final results from yesterday's election:

124 - Conservatives
103 - Liberals
51 - Bloc Quebecois
29 - NDP
1 - Independent

Of the 103 seats the Liberals won, 54 came from Ontario. Which begs the question: What on earth is run with the drinking water in Ontario? I would have been perfectly content if the Conservatives had received a minority with the bulk of the seats made up of NDP'ers. But so many Liberals getting elected . . . when will Canadians learn?

My prediction: We'll be back to another election before the year is out, with some "shining" new Liberal leader. And then the same old, same old will be back in place: Corruption, lack of productivity, hypocrisy, and lack of vision. It's so predictable and so pathetic. :-(

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mark Steyn's Election Predictions

Here's what Mr. Steyn has predicted for our January 23rd election:

NOVA SCOTIA: Con 5, Lib 3, NDP 3
NEW BRUNSWICK: Con 5, Lib 4, NDP 1

QUEBEC: Bloc 58, Con 7, Lib 9, Independent 1
ONTARIO: Con 45, Lib 39, NDP 22

MANITOBA: Con 7, Lib 3, NDP 4

TERRITORIES: Lib 2 (Yukon, Nunavut), NDP 1 (Western Arctic)

...which means the new House of Commons will be:

NDP 40
Independent 1

Upcoming TV Segment

Saturday was another great day for BC Digital Divide. Eleven new families throughout the Lower Mainland received computers. My morning started out with a new volunteer, Su, picking me up. We drove to the home of our tech, Bruce. Soon after, Corey Baird, from Shaw TV came by to interview us. The segment will air this Wednesday, January 25th on Channel 4 throughout Vancouver.

Su & I then headed out to a home in South Vancouver, where we met two very grateful people, Lisa & Gerry. We then headed down to the home of another one of our volunteer techs, a young fellow named Ho. He provided us with two Macs he had refurbished and I gave him two more PCs to work on. Then we met Tony, a really nice man who lives in Northeast Vancouver to whom we provided one of the Macs from Ho. After that we headed to Burnaby to deliver an older laptop to Lisa and her delightful little boys. Our last stop was in North Vancouver where we dropped off a PC to Sarah and her family.

Su then drove me back to Bruce's where we met Ian, the driver for the afternoon shift. We loaded up three more PCs and headed out to the southern suburbs. Like Su, I had not met Ian before and also like Su, he turned out to be an extremely interesting person. Our first stop was in Delta, at the home of Patricia and her boys. Then we continued on to Jen and her kids, who had been referred to us by their "cool aunt", Cindy. The final stop was in Coquitlam, where we met Shellie and Justin. What a terrific pair of people they were ... and Shellie gave us some delicious cookies as well!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Selfish Young Woman Leaves One Of Santa's Elves Stranded!

Back on Christmas Eve, my friend, Ahmed, came up from Seattle to help me deliver computers to needy families around Vancouver. Today, Ahmed was back and went up to Cypress Mountain to do some snowboarding. On his last run of the day he heard someone scream, "Watch Out!" He turned around right when a young woman smashed into him from behind.

This resulted in him breaking his right elbow. She was perfectly fine. She did stop to apologize and First Aid was immediately summoned. He was up there on his own so he asked the woman who had hit him if her & her friend would drive him to the hospital. She agreed.

So they walked together to the edge of the parking lot. She went off to get her friend and then . . . and then they never came back! Vancouverites have long had a reputation for being selfish but this sure tops the charts!

Dear Young Lady, I hope you have a pleasant year, knowing that you broke the elbow of one of Santa's elves and then had the audacity to leave him stranded. Even if your friend had been the selfish one, what you clearly should have done is gotten out of the car and helped the person who you injured get to the hospital even if it required a bus or a taxi. But they probably didn't teach you that in the cave you so clearly grew up in, did they?!?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Vancouver unConference

What's an "unConference", you ask? Something that a great friend of mine, Rochelle Grayson, is organizing here in Vancouver. It's called "VidCamp" and will be focused on the merging of the Internet with Television with other technologies as well. Very cool stuff!

What a Small World!

A woman - let's call her "Helen" - just called me. Her & her husband moved to Vancouver from the Czech Republic just 6 weeks ago. She had learned about the Digital Divide program while reading an article by Robyn Stubbs in 24 Hours.

We got to talking about what computer we'll be providing to her family. As I always do, I asked her for her postal code. When I started typing it into my Excel spreadsheet, Excel performed its "type ahead" feature, and it immediately became clear that this postal code belonged to someone else, which meant that a previous recipient also lives in her block. Then when I asked her for her actual address, it turned out that they live in the same building!

What a small world!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Is Svend Robinson the Gay James Bond?

I saw this campaign sign and just had to get a photo of it:

Guns & Violent Crime in Canada

Today I attended a very interesting and informative talk by SFU professor, Gary Mauser, at the Fraser Institute. The title of his presentation was "Guns and Gangs: What should we do?"

Mauser presented many compelling points:

  • Crime statistics are often misused to move forth the speaker\writer's agenda.
  • Since the Long Gun Registry came in to being in 1998, violent crime has gone up.
  • Statistics on "violent crime" in the US & Canada are measured differently and thus not directly comparable.
  • Gang related homicide is definitely going up though.
  • Current research of crime reduction programs in Canada is "program research", not "scientific research". This research always tends to justify the programs.
  • No empirical data exists that draws any correlation between the Long Gun Registry and any crime trends. Put another way, there's absolutely no evidence that this registry has accomplished anything. Though it has consumed $2,000,000,000, which is approximately 20% of all police expenditures.
  • Handgun bans in all English speaking countries has had no effect in reducing violent crime.
  • Violent crime convictions and incarcerations in the US are decreasing violent crimes.
  • There are now strong suspicions that the home addresses of gun owners has been stolen by organized crime.
  • The USSR had a complete gun ban but had 5x the homicide rate of the U.S.
In summary, Mauser suggested 3 steps as a solution:
  • Community policing,
  • More convictions
  • Longer sentences

Endless Stream of Short Videos

The makers of RocketBoom now have another site dedicated to playing all those crazy/funny/goofy videos you get to see from time to time. Check out Apollo Pony!

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Global TV Gaff!

My friends and I were watching '24' Episode 3 this evening and with 10 minutes left to go ... it suddenly ended!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! They messed up and then started playing Episode 4. We couldn't believe it! They covered this up by adding tons of commercials ... which were so completely annoying.

Another thing I'm suspicious of is that Canadian TV stations often override the U.S. signal and cut a few seconds here & there out. So I'm curious of what else we missed!

P.S. Were there enough exclamation marks in this posting?!?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

3 Simple Words: Jack Is Back!

Okay, maybe a few more ... my favourite TV show is back! Kiefer Sutherland resumes his role as rogue agent, Jack Bauer, America's favourite superhero. And as I love to remind all my American friends, he's a Canadian!!!

Friday, January 13, 2006

What's Wrong With Liberalism

I'm catching up on my reading these days and just came across this superb article by George Jonas.

Canada is often held up by many academics as "progressive" and "forward thinking". Perhaps on some issues but Jonas makes the case of how we've gone so far awry, especially when it comes to the world. Early on he says, "There's an overall tendency in Western thought that has come to regard taking no position on anything a great achievement. But detachment, taken in itself, is hardly a virtue."

Then later he adds, "... the peculiarly Canadian illusion that moral leadership in the world requires strict neutrality between good and evil. I call it Canadian, because today no country exemplifies this tendency more than Canada. We've raised fence-sitting to the level of an Olympic sport. Soon we'll hand out medals not for achievement, valour or values, but for being sufficiently risk-averse, non-judgmental, and value-free."

This is a brilliant article that every Canadian should read and think strongly about!

Liberal Ad Generator

A great new webpage by David Janes allows you to generate your own Liberal campaign ad! When entering the text, just be sure to include the words "Harper", "scary", "right-wing fundamentalist", "hidden agenda", "turn back the clock", "take away the rights of women", and "will put all homosexuals into prison camps".

Okay, now go ahead and generate your own ad! Who knows, your more creative submissions might even be used by the Liberals!!

Will GM Be Bankrupt By 2009?

I just heard an extremely fascinating interview from WABC New York about General Motors. According to the journalist being interviewed, it's almost a mathematical certainty that the once indestructable American auto giant will be bankrupt within 3 years. They're apparently suffering a burn rate (loss) of $24 Million per day and there's seemingly nothing to stop it. Here's another article on the same subject.

The world is 'a changin'!


This afternoon I went to see a new exhibit at Storyeum featuring dinosaurs. It's not that large but was interesting. There were only a few other people there at the time, which keeps me wondering
how this place stays in business. I do wish them the greatest success but think they're just charging too much ($21.95 per adult for the main exhibit). But if tourists are willing to pay this then good for the people who run Storyeum.

Dine Out Vancouver

Once a year, Tourism Vancouver, works out special deals with some of the best restaurants in the city. First-class meals are available for $15, $25, or $35, depending on the restaurant.

Make your reservations soon though, because this program only runs between January 20th - February 2nd. Click here for more info.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Liberal Campaign Has Clearly Come Off The Rails

At the suggestion of a colleague, I've been reading Warren Kinsella's blog. For any of you who don't know, he was a high-level Liberal strategist for many years. But he was clearly in Chretien's camp and not a big fan of Paul Martin. There's a link to this CTV video which shows a side of journalist Mike Duffy that I've never seen before. Bravo Mike, bravo!

Throughout this entire campaign I was fearing and pretty much expecting the Conservative campaign to blow-up, with some fundamentalist Christian zealot saying some wacky thing. But it never happened. Never did I dream that the Liberals would be the ones to mess things up for themselves.

A Good Way To Avoid Work

What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895

I can't verify that this is true but I found it very interesting!

--Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley
Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS -1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts
of"lie,""play," and "run."
5. Define case; Illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849,1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour) Do we even know what this is??

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane,fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by
use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba,
Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete. Gives the saying "he
only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Simple Math for Paul Martin

The number ONE complaint of most Canadians is TWO fold:

  1. Crime is out of control and nothing is being done to curb it.
  2. Much of the blame rests squarely in the laps of judges; individuals who clearly seem unwilling to be tough on criminals. For example, apparently stealing 50, 100, or even 1,000 cars doesn't merit any kind of a lengthy sentence from most judges. But since judges are appointed, they are completely unaccountable to the people.
Yet Paul Martin wants to give ALL power to the judges and in the process make politicians completely free of responsibility for anything. With judges ultimately deciding everything, why on earth do we even need to hold elections anymore? Well, perhaps to have somebody to appoint more judges!

I have to believe that even the most devout advocates of a socialist democracy must have winced at Martin's ludicrous suggestion last night to remove the Nothwithstanding power from the politicians.

Unlike judges, politicians are ultimately held accountable, even if it is only every 4 to 5 years. And so to conclude this little Math exercise, number THREE will be Paul Martin's eventual realization, after he loses the upcoming election, of how completely out of touch he is with the Canadian public.

Two New Heroes Of Mine

I'd like to introduce you to two amazing people. The fellow's name is Chris. He moved from Ontario last year and now works as a techie for Global TV here in Vancouver. He gave up most of his Sunday to help me pick up and distribute computers to various families throughout the city. Besides being a great guy, he's also super knowledgeable about computer hardware.

The lady is Annie, the same woman whose letters I featured here. Annie and her 3 teenage children live in a tiny one bedroom apartment in a not very great part of the city. But she's absolutely determed to improve the lives of her children. So now she's taking courses in Word & Excel and hopes to get a job later this year. Annie is very eloquent and I think would be a huge asset to any company. After she received the computer donation she wrote me this e-mail:


My daughters both went to work on their resumes as soon as you and Chris left. A big thank-you to Chris also. And to everyone else who donated their time and computers, etc.

P.S. I hope you have a great day today.


Do You Know This Family?

One of the strange things that sometimes happens with what I'm doing with Digital Divide is that you sometimes end up with personal items that people forgot to remove. No, this wasn't a computer file because we format all the hard drives, erasing everything in the process. Rather it was an actual photograph that was left in a bluish-green Acer scanner that was donated to us. I scoured my memory but couldn't remember who it was from so I thought I'd post it here and see if anyone recognized any of the people shown here. Based on the clothing and decor, I'm guessing this was taken in the 1970's. I'd love to get the photo back to the owner!!

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Little Glimpse Into The Refurbishing Process

When someone requests a computer, I try to gauge the financial need of the family. And if they truly appear to be in a position where they can't afford to buy one then I obviously feel great empathy for them. But what most non-techies don't seem to realize is the tremendous amount of time & devotion required to ensure each computer we donate is working perfectly. No computer takes less than 2 hours to prepare and often much longer. Shown here are two of our dedicated volunteers, Bruce & Chris, hard at work on a Sunday morning. Here's a photo of a computer motherboard that Bruce is salvaging. To date we've had about 35 techies volunteer their time but have only been able to activate less than 10 because of a lack of coordinators. This all important role involves receiving e-mails from donors and coordinating the delivery to the techies and then subsequent delivery to the families. Many people are now working on developing a more automated way of doing this, but it takes time. The great thing is that once the technology is developed, we'll be able to share it with communities elsewhere, to help them help others. Together we can really can bridge the digital divide!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I need to get back to work :-(

It has now been nearly 3 weeks since I put my regular work on hold to focus exclusively on the Digital Divide project. As my parents and friends know, I've been ignoring them way too much since this all started. And I'm way behind in my work. This weekend I will make one more push to get computers to the families who need them but then after that my real work has to take precedence. I'll still devote as much spare time as possible to the fledgling BCDD but I can only hope that all understand that one can only do so much.

So many people have volunteered their time but it's a huge effort to get it all coordinated. Though it does trouble me to hold off on delivering computers to more needy families for a while, it's a necessity for the time being. With that said, I will see what can be done to connect donors to techies to drivers to recipients, albeit with me not on the critical path. It's so important to keep good records of this process though, for follow-up support and future educational opportunties of the children involved.

I can only hope that people can find the patience and understanding during this transition from "little Xmas project" to full-time not-for-profit charitable foundation. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Picture Postcard from Prague

My friend from HK is visiting her sister in Prague right now. I was working late and she suddently contacted me via Skype, sending along this photo. What a gorgeous place! I've never been but now must get over there one day soon!!