Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Brave New World

Let me refer you to a book review, but it's much, much more than a book review. It's a glimpse into the new world we've so quickly galloped into and one that, quite frankly, most people haven't realized we've arrived at.

The book itself is called "An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government and Other Goliaths" by Glenn Reynolds, prolific online author whose writings can be found here and here.

The book reviewer is Mark Steyn. He touches upon several fascinating points, including the dramatic changes going on in journalism, entertainment, and indirectly even government. What has changed so quickly over the past decade, with the advent of computer technology and high-speed Internet, is the ability of so many individuals to do so much so rapidly. Their only obstacle is creativity and the will to follow their dreams. And those that "do", rather than just talk about doing, can reach a gigantic audience instantly and for very little money. What's really starting to happen now is the middlemen are being bypassed in so many supply chains because it has become clear to many people that they add little to no value. That's got to be a good thing for everyone ... well, except for the middlemen perhaps!

The City of Richmond, BC is Rotten to its Core

For many months now, CKNW radio talk show host, David Berner, and Vancouver Sun reporter, Daphne Bramham, have been focusing their attention on the rampant corruption throughout the civic institutions in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver.

This story sheds a new, interesting twist on a recent conversation that Berner had with the Richmond Firefighters Union President, Tim Wilkinson, about the sexual harassment charges that female firefighters have laid against the department. At this time, 100% of the female firefighters in Richmond are not working. In the discussion Wilkinson said that he and his union fully support the female firefighters. Nonsense. Watch the recent movie, "North Country", and you will see who the unions really protect in such circumstances.

Here's one telling quote from the Sun story: "... the firefighters' union told members not to cooperate with police and that some members may have even threatened victims not to come forward." I can't say I'm surprised. Working in the mining industry for the years I did, I saw the same sort of "circle the wagons" mentality amongst the union leaders there.

With each new story about Richmond civic institutions, it's becoming clear that there is an incestuous cabal in place. The men in power, be they union or management, elected or non-elected, do whatever they want and then lie & deny, lie & deny. No matter what the offense - or even the crime - their one & only goal is to "protect each other's back". Truth and doing the right thing never seem to come into play.

Ultimately it is the citizens of Richmond who must be held accountable for not throwing the powers at be out on their proverbial you-know-whats. Their apathetic choice not to should be a wake-up call to all Canadians of how democracy gets corrupted when people stop caring about good government and accountability.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Corrupt & Incompetent Canadian Legal System

10 years ago Matt Brownlee killed Linda Lebretton-Holmes and her son, Brian, while driving drunk. But a ridiculously stupid, ignorant judge declared him not criminally responsible. How's that possible, you ask? He and his lawyer claimed that Brownlee was being telepathically controlled by Shania Twain through one of her songs.

It is getting close to April 1st but I assure you this is not some kind of sick April Fools Day joke. You can read more here.

And my foreign friends wonder why I get so frustrated with the powers at be here in Canada?!

Indoor Volleyball is Over

After returning to Vancouver, I vowed to myself to get back in shape. I prefer participatory sports rather than activities like running & stretching. So I got back into volleyball last summer. One thing lead to another and by September I had assembled a team of 6 people to compete in an indoor league every Tuesday evening at UBC. There are 3 levels: Competitive, Intermediate, and Recreational. The only openings were at the Rec level. Some teams we were much better than, others not so much. But in the finals in December we were victorious!

This allowed us to move up to the Intermediate league. Looking at our competition we were all quite intimidated and just praying that we didn't come in last place amongst the 8 teams. Over the first few nights in January we were quite shaky as a team. But over time we got better & better. There were still some evenings where we sucked. This breeded negativity in some more so than in others. But in the overall picture we won more matches than we lost.

Last week the double-knockout finals commenced. We won two games and lost one. This was enough to enable us to compete for First Place last night. We won our first game ... by one point. In our 2nd game we were facing only 4 opponents vs. our 6. But they played well and took a large early lead. But over time we came together as a team and ended up beating them by 10 points. In the final we played our toughest competitor. At times we were ahead but to their credit they came back and definitively beat us.

But reflecting back, I think we should all take great pride in accomplishing what we did. The newbie "Rec team" coming in 2nd place ain't bad at all!

How to Achieve More from Tradeshows

A friend & colleague of mine, Liz Gaige, is holding a seminar on how to be more effective at tradeshows. I haven't been to one in years but vividly remember how ineffective I was at such events. And walking around, I could see the same amongst most of the participants there.

If you're thinking of displaying your company's products or services at a tradeshow then you should definitely listen to what Liz has to say. Bright lady. You can read more about her seminar here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Know Any Helicopter Parents?

I heard the aforementioned term for the first time today. It describes those parents who constantly "hover" over their children, micromanaging most every aspect of their lives. And apparently in many cases, a helicoper parent will always defend their "little precious" son or daughter no matter what the circumstance and no matter who's at fault.

You'll never convince me that kids, growing up in such an environment, don't grow up and then view the world in a very warped way. In fact, this is probably the root cause of most of our problems these days, so let's outlaw the helicopter mamas and papas!!! :-)

Do you know any helicopter parents? Might YOU be one?!?

Terrific New Article from Mark Steyn

Every Canadian, young & old, should be required to read this article from my favourite columnist, Mark Steyn. It speaks in volumes about my biggest complaint about Canada over the last 30 years and the UN for the last 50: What exactly do they really stand for and what exactly do they really accomplish?

On the international scene, the problem with my country, of course, is that our politicians talk a good game but rarely, if ever, put any tangible actions behind their words. And yet droves of ignoramuses keep on voting for them. This may have changed with the recent election of Stephen Harper but only time will tell.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

World's Shortest Political Quiz

I just took this quiz and voila ... I'm regarded as a Libertarian. No surprise there, I've known that for decades!! Unfortunately too many in my country believe they need to be taken care of from cradle to grave so my political views will never see the light!

Cool Online Art Site!

If you're an aspiring artist and are looking for an easy-to-use, effective way to display your art on the Internet then you should definitely check out this: It's a cool site, with some really nice art.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fantastic Afghan Meal

I just had one of the best meals in recent memory. It was at a restaurant called the Afghan Horsemen that has been around Vancouver for 32 years but for some crazy reason, I had never been to before. You can read my full review here. But in one word ... Yummy!

Hackers Have Shut Off My Websites!

Two of my websites are currently not appearing. Why? Because of this. These hackers have attacked the name servers of my registrar in Germany, This means that whenever one tries to go to one of my sites, the name servers are not available to provide the correct IP address. Its most annoying, and I think criminal!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Late Afternoon Walk in Vancouver

Like me, my friend Liz works for herself at home. Like me, she also gets miserable when there are too many days of grey skies in our beautiful city. So when she called up and asked if I wanted to go for a walk, I jumped at the opportunity to get outside!
It was lightly raining when we left but soon cleared up. There were more than a few people also enjoying the brief respite from the greyness. We headed down to Kits Beach, through Vanier Park, and then swung back over to Granville Island. I bought a bunch of fruits & vegetables, as well as some interestingly spiced saussages from a French butcher. Just before I got home the sun shone brilliantly down
Broadway. Never fun to drive into such a brilliant light, but makes for a nice photo!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Give Thanks Where Thanks Is Due

Earlier today 2 Canadian and 1 British hostage were released from their captivity by a joint team of British, American, and Canadian soldiers. These men risked their lives to rescue these three who shouldn't have been in Iraq in the first place.

From the get go it was clear that their friends and colleagues back home were completely ungrateful for what occurred and in fact, tried to spin it that their captors released them. Michelle Malkin covers this well here and here.

There's a time & a place to express one's political views but common decency dictates certain norms of behaviour, especially in life-threatening situations.

Mapping Wars

Google set a high benchmark for great online maps with their very dynamic mapping engine. But recently Amazon has introduced a cool feature that integrates photos of streets with their location on the map. Here's a good starting point.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Anti-Wireless Enforcement

I've heard that some movie theatres are looking to install devices that will block Cel phone signals. Furthermore, I've heard that some schools are looking to block both Cel phone signals and WiFi (Internet) signals during lectures.

Though I make my money in the tech industry and love technology in general, I do support both of these initiatives wholeheartedly. In the same way that the rules of the road probably took a few years to get developed a century ago, so it has taken a few years of bad technology usage behaviour to make people realize that some "rules" have to be enforced too. And since common sense and consideration of others seems to have been thrown out the window, the signals will be prevented from reaching the devices being used by the culprits ... and unfortunately everyone else too.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

American Inventor

I love this show! It features an endless stream of inventors, most of whom are completely whacko (or aspiring actors who like to humiliate themselves to get their 15 seconds of fame) but the energy behind all of them is inspiring.

America has become the great economic power it has because of inventions - the airplane, the automobile, atomic energy, the transistor, spacecraft, the computer, software . . . the list is endless. With this show, you get a small glimpse into the psyche of inventors, of which I very much consider myself to be one!

A Few More Photos of Vancouver

I took a lot of photos today! Here are two of my favourites, one at the beginning of my journey, and one at the end.

This is a view I never grow tired of seeing. It's taken from the west side of Granville Street bridge, near the southern side. Depending on the type of light available, the photos from here range from great to spectacular!

This old apartment building, at the northwest corner of Granville & 12th Avenue, was built in 1912. Though much of Vancouver's history has been demolished, this one is still proudly standing. I love the contrast of the shapes and colours of the windows with the solid brick background.

Mid-March in Vancouver

Today I went for a long walk with my longtime friend, Dennis. We met some people for sushi and then continued on our journey. It was a tad chilly but not oppressively so. Lots of people (and their dogs)
were out enjoying this early preview of the great weather months soon to come!

Rent-a-Crowd Alive & Well in Vancouver

My friend & I accidentally ran into this protest on our way to lunch. You see such folks from time to time, protesting everything under the sun. I applaud their commitment to protest something they're obviously committed to but I deeply question the voracity and depth of their logic. In past times I've tried getting in debates with some of them but it's pointless. For they seem to be against helping everyone on earth who is being oppressed by thugs and worse. When you ask them how such people should be helped, if it's not through military action, all you get back are empty platitudes like "Give peace a chance" and "Military force is never right". Better examples of naivety are difficult to find. Perhaps it's because my father's family grew up in Nazi Germany that I better understand the dangers of doing nothing in the face of tyrants.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Gateway Transportation Project

This evening I attended a talk by BC's Transportation Minister, Kevin Falcon. I was greeted at the front door by 3 protesters, one of whom wanted to hand me some literature. When I politely refused he said, "Aren't you interested to find out more about it?"

I responded, "I already know a lot about the issue and happen to disagree with you." He gave me a dirty look and walked away. Folks like him are advocating that 100% of transportation dollars should be placed into public transit. I'm one who does not own a car - by choice - and disagrees with them.

I love being a zealot's worst nightmare!

In any case, Falcon's talk was excellent. He talked about the various components of the large project. It's clear that a lot of research has been done into the traffic patterns (trucks, car, public transportation, and cyclists) has been done by his Ministry. There were some very intelligent questions afterwards (hey, we're a bunch of engineers!) and it seemed clear that Falcon had really done his homework.

A very great evening indeed!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Liberal Leadership Slogans

Though the Canadian Federal Leadership Campaign hasn't officially started, it seems clear that two of the frontrunners will be Belinda Stronach and Bob Rae. In anticipation of their upcoming campaigns, I'm offering these campaign slogan suggestions:

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Little Preview of Warmer Times

A Proud Moment For Canadians

Our prime minister, Stephen Harper, recently visited the Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and gave the following speech:

Thank you for your warm welcome. I want to begin by telling you how proud I am of the work you're doing.

You have put yourself on the line to defend our national interests; protect Canada and the world from terror; help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country.

I thank you. Canadians thank you. And I know that the Afghan people thank you.

Your work is important because it is in our national interest to see Afghanistan become a free, democratic and peaceful country.

Before its liberation, under the Taliban regime, Afghanistan often served as an incubator for al-Qaeda and other terror organizations.

This reality hit home with brutal force on 9-11, when two dozen Canadians lost their lives suddenly and senselessly in the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Those were ordinary Canadians, people with families, partners, children and dreams for a better future. Just like all of our citizens, people who died suddenly and for no reason at the hands of fanatics.

Since that time, al-Qaeda has singled out Canada as one of the countries targeted for terror.

And beyond the threat of terror there's the threat of drugs.

An unstable Afghanistan represents easy pickings for drug lords who would use the country as a safe haven for the production of heroin, which wreaks its own destruction on the streets of our country.

Our Canada is a great place, but Canada is not an island. And what happens in places like Afghanistan threatens and affects all of us back home in our own country.

Your work is about more than just defending Canada's interest.

It's also about demonstrating an international leadership role for our country. Not carping from the sidelines, but taking a stand on the big issues that matter.

You can't lead from the bleachers. I want Canada to be a leader. And I know you want to serve your country, a country that really leads, not a country that just follows. That's what you are doing. Serving in a UN-mandated, Canadian-led security operation that is in the very best of the Canadian tradition, providing leadership on global issues, stepping up to the plate, doing good when good is required.

Finally, but no less important, is the great humanitarian work you're doing. Working with the Afghan government and Afghan people to enhance their security helps them. It helps them rebuild their country to make a better life for themselves and their children.

Already a great deal has been accomplished. Reconstruction is reducing poverty; millions of people are now able to vote; women are enjoying greater rights and economic opportunities than could have been imagined under the Taliban regime; and Afghan children are now in school studying the same things Canadian kids are learning back home.

These are important victories for the people of Afghanistan, and they represent things worth standing up for.

Of course, standing up for these core Canadian values may not always be easy at times. It's never easy for the men and women on the front lines. And there may be some who want to cut and run. But cutting and running is not your way. It's not my way. And it's not the Canadian way.

We don't make a commitment and then run away at the first sign of trouble. We don't and we won't.

Friends, we have made real progress here. Your work is vital to Canada, to the free world, to the Afghan people.

As you get ready to go back to work, know that I am behind you. Your government is behind you. And, most importantly, the Canadian people are behind you.

Thank you. God bless Canada.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

An Aspiring New Filmmaker

I just listened to Philip Yang being interviewed by David Berner. Philip is a young filmmaker in San Diego who has started making interesting, high quality films on issues that matter to him. Soon he and his young colleagues will be moving to Hollywood. Don't be surprised to see him at the Oscars one day soon!

Stop Being So Selfish!

After encountering some really atrocious behaviour of late, I have some suggestions how each of us can improve the quality of life of everyone:

  1. When you're in close proximity to another person, remove that Cel phone welded to your ear and say Hi! to them.
  2. The next time you're using your vehicle to intimidate or threaten a pedestrian, think about how you would feel about a similar ton of metal coming at you.
  3. It's very unlikely that you have the ability to drive your car, talk on your Cel phone, drink a coffee, and smoke a cigarette all at once. So give up 3 of the 5 and we'll all sleep easier.
  4. If you're not up to looking strangers in the eye and saying "Good Day" to them then please just stop leaving your home ... ever. You can just order in pizza and toilet paper and live a very fulfilling life.
  5. Pretend that everyone is a tourist and that you're employed as your community's #1 Ambassador.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Take A Break, Walk A Dog!

I made some excellent progress on my software programming today but by 4:30pm my head needed a break. So one of my neighbours let me walk his dog. Toby is a black Lab and simply one of the best trained dogs I've ever seen.
We walked down to the ocean, along the shore for several kilometres, and eventually ended up at a dog friendly beach next door to Kitsilano Beach. It's often said that the simplest pleasures are the greatest treasures. In my mind, walking a dog ranks high up there!

Wacky Weather!

It's early March and it's snowing in Vancouver. This NEVER happens. Wild!!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What Exactly is Google up to?

I just read this and this about Google. Looks like Microsoft's worst fears may be coming true, with Google seemingly building all of the infrastructure to allow a computer user to do pretty much everything online that they now do locally: An Office suite, including Outlook functionality, and seemingly unlimited storage space.

The idea of computers becoming more like dumb terminals, with all applications and data stored elsewhere is not new, of course. In fact, prior to the personal computer that is the way computers worked. But the 25+ year reign of the PC made complete sense, especially with the very limited bandwidth of accessing anything external to the user's personal network. But if communication speeds continue to increase, especially on the wireless front, then a great case can be made to store everything centrally, as opposed to little "islands" of data here and there.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fascinating Examination of Silicon Valley

Peter Day, of BBC Radio 4, has quickly become one of my favourite journalists. He focuses on the areas of business & technology, often with an entrepreneurial leaning - several of my favourite things!

While searching on Google I discovered an absolutely fascinating 4-part examination of Silicon Valley. Though done in 2002, it's still quite relevant today. You can listen to the series here but do need RealPlayer installed.

An interesting follow-up piece to listen to is entitled "Bright Young Things", featuring a potpourri of entrepreneurs out of the UK.

To Debate or Not to Debate?

Regarding our military presence in Afghanistan, the very fact that many Canadians want to have the debate now is proof positive that on the world stage Canada is but a teenager amongst adults. It must be a real wake-up call to the latte drinking, sushi eating urban Canadian yuppies that not all of the rest of the world is like the safe little bubble that they clearly reside in.

Let's be honest about what this debate is all about: It will simply give the NDP'ers and a number of Liberals the excuse to publicly absolve themselves of all responsibility for sending the soldiers there in the first place. This will then leave Stephen Harper to accept all responsibility when every new Canadian soldier gets hurts or pays the ultimate price. What a cowardly, irresponsible political maneuver.

I wonder what those pushing for this debate want next? Perhaps a new national slogan: "When the going gets tough, us Canadians get going (though we'll have lots of meaningless excuses though)."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Arrogance or Ignorance?

When I started BC Digital Divide just before last Christmas, I was willing to accept most anything (beggars can't be choosers) and was willing to go pick up the items from the home of the donor. But as things have evolved, the number of donations have increased dramatically, especially from the corporate sector. And the quality of the equipment has increased as well, especially from these same corporate donors.

So we decided last month that we could no longer pick up items from individuals, though we're trying to find a way to let them drop off equipment [we can use] once a month. But when we get an e-mail from a prospective corporate donor, I always give it special attention.

Today I went over to see one such donor, a mid-sized medical firm on Vancouver's west side. I met the woman I had been dealing with, the assistant there, and she was very nice. But the equipment she showed me was far from recent. Much of it was at least 10 years old, clearly much older than anything we could take. One monitor had a "Broken" label on it, though she still assumed I would take it.

But the ultimate slap-in-the-face came when I met her employer, one of the doctors there. He hauled an old clunker out of his office, that was circa 1995-97. I looked at it and politely told him that we could not take it. Then his assistant told him that I had mentioned a recycling firm that could take such items away. He responded in the most dismissive tone, "I don't care how we get rid of it, as long as we don't have to pay for it."

Read that line again. How is it that an educated man in a multi-million dollar medical practice could ever make such a statement?! What part of his life experience makes him think that he can call up a private firm and get them to cover the cost of hauling away his junk?!?

I've got to tell you, encounters like this one make me question why on earth I've put my own work pretty much on hold since mid-December to focus on Digital Divide. Thankfully there are some AMAZING people I've met too, but today's events provide a vivid reminder that selfishness is alive & well in Vancouver!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Olympic Flag Flying in Vancouver!!!

Here's a shot on a blustery day of the recently received Olympic flag flying proudly in front of City Hall.

Another Vancouver Street Banner

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Peter Warren is Retiring :-(

One of my favourite journalists, Peter Warren, is retiring. For several years he has been hosting a weekend radio show on CKNW and other Corus stations across Canada.

But this is but one small part of his illustrious career. For many years he was the voice of Winnipeg and frightened more than a few politicians ... which, by the way, are what journalists are supposed to do!

Peter will now be transitioning into a Private Investigator role, helping out various families with unresolved issues.

His last show will be this Sunday, March 5th between 11am - 2pm PST. We're going to miss you, Peter!!! But we know you'll get on with it!