Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bundt Cake Follies

Anyone who's seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding can never forget the hilarious scene surrounding the infamous "Bundt Cake". Well, my good friend, Ravena, worked long & hard to prepare a birthday cake for her sister-in-law but alas it was not meant to be. Something went wrong and it ... well ... got a tad deformed. Apparently still tasted great but she was upset with the end result. So a replacement was quickly obtained from Goldilocks.

This sort of reminds me of the time I prepared my "world famous" curried shrimp for some friends in Sudbury, Ontario. To thicken it I usually use cornstarch. They didn't have any so I substituted Cream of Tartar. Little did I know that the moment that touches milk, it goes sour! All that work and all for naught!

New Low-Cost Airline For Vancouverites

Citizens of Vancouver (and Seattle) will soon have a new low-cost airline available to them. SkyBus is a brand new airline modeled after Irish discount carrier RyanAir. I just checked their website and found return flights for as low as US$60 ($50 + $10 taxes) each way. That's the good news. Here's the rest of the story:

  • Flights are out of Bellingham. You can either drive down and park for $6/day, get a friend to drive you down, or take a shuttle bus.
  • All flights go through Columbus, Ohio.
  • The first 2 checked bags cost $5 each. Subsequent bags cost $50 each.
But still, non-business travelers, especially students, will probably make good use of the service to travel around the U.S. for much less than any other airline.

Overcrowded Turtle Island

I must admit that I've never seen turtles crawling on top of other turtles before. But a turtle's gotta do what a turtle's gotta do!

Spring Has Arrived!

I went for a walk down to Kits Beach today. There were hundreds of people out enjoying the lovely weather.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Canucks Fever!

Most everyone in Vancouver had their eyes closely focused on the community of Anaheim, California last night and were overjoyed to see Jeff Cowan fire in the winning goal after a glorious under the leg pass from Trevor Linden. This tied up the second round NHL series against the mighty Anaheim Ducks.

All over the city today Canucks flags were flying aplenty, shouting out in every direction: "Go Canucks! Go Canucks!! Go Canucks!!!"

What A Beautiful Day!

It has been raining miserably for days (weeks?) here in Vancouver. Finally today we had a bright, beautiful, sunny day! When it nice here, it's REALLY nice!

New British Columbia License Plate

I walked by this car today and, at first glance, assumed it was from a U.S. State. I did a double-take when I discovered it was from BC!!! I must have been out of town when these new plates were announced. I think they look great!

The Dennis Miller Radio Show

One of my favourite comedians, Dennis Miller, started appearing on his own radio show on Monday, March 26, 2007. I've listened to the podcast of the program every single day since it began.

Critics dismiss Miller has right-wing conservative. A completely unfounded accusation. He's very middle of the road, much like the Pragmatic Libertarian that I am. What I especially like about the show is that he truly, truly listens to what people have to say and challenge them, in a polite way, to support their views. So, for example, when one caller stated the other day that he was convinced that 9/11 was a conspiracy of the American Government, rather than just dismissing him as a conspiracy nutcase, he sincerely asked him whether he really believed this or was just saying it for effect.

You can check out the show here: It's absolutely the hippest thing on radio these days! P.S. His wife is a beautiful Vancouver gal named Ali Epsley.

It's Critical That We Not Forget The Past

I received this from fellow blogger, Nachtwache:

Please click on the little cartoon and read carefully. It's powerful. Then read the comments at the end. We cannot, we must not, ever forget what happened in Europe over 60 years ago, because it could happen again. Anyone, any group, could be the target. It has been said that those who refuse to study history are doomed to repeat it. In this case, those who are attempting to rewrite history are probably planning to repeat it! The hatred is already there, in place, taught to the children from infancy, with promises of glory and honor to those who carry out the plans. Forewarned is forearmed!

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This cartoon was written in memory of the 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated while the German and Russian people looked the other way.

Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be "a myth", it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.

PelaLusa: Sadly, I have little doubt that in this new age of "moral equivalency", such a message will have little effect on many people reading this. For these people, America is the great evil in the world, with Israel not far behind. Certainly not every American or Israeli is a good person and not every Muslim is a bad person. The problem lies with the leadership in all cases. It just galls me though how certain leaders are blamed for everything and others are given a "pass" on everything they do.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Colour Burst

I've been really busy with work these past few days so blogging has had to take a secondary priority. These little chocolate Easter eggs were intended for a special lady, but when she disappeared I was still left with the chocolate. Why let a good thing go to waste?! :-)

Thunderbird Version 2.0

The ever popular free e-mail software, Thunderbird, just had version 2.0 released. Other than a slightly sharper interface, I don't see any other big changes. But I do like the software and have been using it for a few years.

There's been a persistent bug though, which I only resolved today. When the Address Book is first opened or the first e-mail is sent, the software hangs for a few minutes. I just found the solution here. A minor victory!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Quick Primer on Digital Video Cables

I just purchased a beautiful 22" LG LCD Monitor. The prices have come down tremendously and I thought it was long overdue to get one. The fact that I can now work from two screens (my laptop's native one and this one as well) has improved my productivity a great deal.

On the back of the monitor is the standard 15 pin VGA port that has long been on computers. But now there's a new one as well called "DVI", short for Digital Visual Interface. I don't have this on my computer but a friend of mine does, so I got to wondering what differences one might expect to see with it.

As I often do in such matters, I turned to my good friend & colleague, Geoff Meredith, who is the guru of gurus for anything related to computer hardware or software. As one past programmer in my company once said about him, "He answers questions you're thinking of before you even ask them!" Here's what Geoff had to say about digital video cables:

It's quite possible that the VGA cable is good enough. The issue is that VGA is analog and DVI is digital. The DVI cable will give you perfect signal reproduction and VGA will be degraded to some extent but if the VGA cable is good and the environment is not too electrically noisy, you are not likely to see a difference. Also, as the frequencies go up, as they do with increased resolution, the chance that VGA signal will degrade goes up. So as your monitor size gets bigger, DVI becomes more important.

The degradation that I've seen in VGA signals seems to come from capacitance issues that affect harmonics of the signal. For instance this rounds off the edges of a square wave. In the analog world this give you ghost signals that you see as slight shadows or ghost lines at high contrast vertical edges such as next to the letter "I" when it's black on white (or even more, white on black). If you can see ghosts of letters slightly offset, then you are seeing VGA cable degradation. If not, you are likely getting as good a signal as you are likely to get.

While there is a theoretical possibility of colour reproduction degradation with VGA, the colour reproduction on LCD panels are so bad that you wouldn't notice any issue introduced by a VGA cable.

As an example, my 22" is running on DVI and my 19" is running VGA. I can't see a difference in image sharpness between the two although the colour reproduction is radically different. I had meant to run my 19" on DVI but at the time that I bought it, my video card did not have dual DVI outputs and such a card was quite expensive so I decided to wait. It turns out that I really didn't need it.

As for VGA cable quality, one indicator is the thickness of the cable. The thicker the better. Also the shorter the better. As an example of the extremes, we use a 50' VGA cable to connect from our media center to our projector. It's a very thick, and seemingly high quality cable and it does a great job on the 800x600 signal that our projector needs. It will be interesting to see when we move up to 1280x1024 if that cable will still perform well. We paid a ridiculously low price of $28 from NCIX for this cable. Others I was looking at wanted about $150.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Vancouver Business Writer

Having been away from Vancouver for awhile, I just learned that a good friend & colleague of mine, Fiona Walsh, is now writing a bi-monthly column for Vancouver's Office Journal newspaper. Her first article is called "Sales Pitch : A car dealership for women? It’s about time".

Fiona's a really smart person and so dedicated to the art of selling & marketing. If you'd like to learn more about her, just click here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sheryl Crow: Shut Up & Sing!

From the first time I heard her, I loved Sheryl Crow's music. From the first time I saw her, I thought she was a beautiful woman.

But now she's talking and I'm thinking she's an idiot, a hypocrite, or perhaps both. Ms. Crow is recommending that each of us use only one square sheet of toilet paper each time we visit the bathroom. Think I'm kidding? Read this.

What is it with these celebrities? Do they only have "Yes Men" around them 24/7 who agree to everything they say? Why can't the singers of the lot just shut up & sing? And in her case, she make look like a goddess but I wouldn't want to get too close to her if she's following her own prescription to save the environment!

Monday, April 23, 2007

I Believe, I Believe, I Believe ! ! !

The Vancouver Canucks just won Game #7 a few minutes ago! I must confess that I had been reluctant to let myself believe that they could pull a victory out of this series. And Period #1 didn't help on the optimism front. But they pulled it off, with a decisive 4 - 1 victory against Dallas, in no small part due to the amazing play of goalkeeper, Roberto Luongo, pictured here on the right with my friend, Palm Beach Post hockey writer, Brian Biggane.

May the citizens of Vancouver shout in unison: "We Believe, We Believe, We Believe ! ! !"

Chicago Taxi Dispute - A Shimmer of Light?

Back in early February, when my mom & I were departing Chicago for Miami, the Chicago Carriage & Cab Company refused to pick us up from the home of our friends. Why is not certain but their proximity to Midway Airport was likely the prime factor.

I complained to the taxi company, twice actually, but received no response. I also complained to the City of Chicago. Lo and behold I just received a response from the latter, only two and a half months later:

Dear Mr. Werner:

Thank you for informing us of your extremely troubling cab experience. On behalf of the City of Chicago, I offer my deepest apologies. I do hope that this unfortunate incident will not dissuade you from continuing to visit Chicago in the future, as we have many enjoyable sights and activities to offer! I have forwarded your information to the supervisor of the Chicago Carriage & Cab Company’s dispatch office, who will be contacting you about your ordeal. Once again, please accept my apologies for your inconvenience, and please feel free to contact me if I can assist you in any other way.

Kate Francis

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Interesting New Development on Google

A friend of mine in Chicago is flying out to L.A. in a few days and will be trying a famous hot dog place called "Pink's". I decided to check it out on the Internet. So I went to Google and found myself here.

You'll notice that something looks a bit different from a normal search. Underneath the link is another one that reads "This site may harm your computer." I'd never seen this before. If you try going to the actual website, instead you're taken to a special page that provides a pretty severe warning. You're instead encouraged to visit

This is a very interesting development. Companies like Pink's Hotdogs are legit but there's something embedded in their website that is clearly frowned upon. Google isn't preventing you from going there but is raising alarm bells and making it much more difficult. With Google's market dominance, only a foolish website owner wouldn't change whatever is required to remove themselves from the blacklist.

I wonder if there'll be an uproar about this.

See The End: A Campaign to Fund Cancer Research

I want to remind everyone that my friend, Rich Ralph, a Vancouverite transplanted from Toronto & Kingston a few years ago, is about to embark on a rollerblade across Canada to raise money for Cancer Research. He'll be skating from East to West, covering 10,070 km. No easy feat, but I'm convinced he will complete the task!

If you can make an individual donation, great. If you can get your company to make a larger donation, even better. If you're in the media or have media contacts, any press Rich can receive will drum up many more donations. It's not about him, it about the cause.

The best way to contact Rich is just to e-mail him:

Or just go directly to the donation form.

Please do help if you can!!

Destino: A Magnificent Musical Treat!

I got invited to a concert tonight, of which I did not know a thing about. What an unexpected treat! Destino is a group of four 20-something Canadian fellows who sing unlike anything you've likely heard live before.

Their musical is so very different from the standard formulaic schlock that passes for music these days. Powerful voices all, singing some familiar songs, though many in Italian. An absolutely stunning melodic treat for the ears.

A special treat was their performance with 10 year-old Michaela Slinger, who may very well be the next Celine Dion!

If you ever get a chance to see Destino in concert, don't hesitate, just go, go, go! You won't be disappointed!!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Peggy Noonan on the VA Tech Massacre

One of the best writers alive today is Peggy Noonan. She wrote speeches for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. She's the one who came up with the brilliant "thousand points of light" term.

Nowadays she writes a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal. Her thoughts this week about the recent massacre in Virginia are simply brilliant. You can read them here. You can also hear her talking more about this on Dennis Miller's April 20th show.

Her major themes are ones of political correctness run amuck and psychobabble overriding all other voices after a tragedy. In such circumstances, when you start hearing someone frequently using phrases like 'we need more' :

  • Dialogue
  • Support services
  • Sensitivity training
  • Anger management workshops
  • Understanding of the challenges of the mentally ill
then you know you're being spun. The coldness and insincerity of such talking heads becomes crystal clear.

For a long time I bought into the notion that all problems could (and should) be solved by the psychology and pharmaceutical industries. And why shouldn't I? This view is supported by countless news broadcasts, TV talk shows, and newspaper & magazine articles.

Certainly these two industries have their place but it has become clear in recent decades that they're each now trying to grab a larger market share by inventing diseases and ailments that never existed before. For example, suppose Little Johnny in Grade One is found to have problems sharing things with his fellow classmates. In today's environment he would typically be found to "need professional counseling" or "deemed to require medication to control his mood disorders". Maybe. Sometimes. Perhaps. But might it also be possible that he's just a spoiled brat who is allowed to do whatever he wants at home?

It was actually longtime radio talkshow host and fellow blogger, David Berner, who first clued me in to the over clinicalization of our society. He talked a lot about the over prescription of Ritalin and the lack of effective rehabilitation for Vancouver's drug addicts. What's funny is that David would describe himself as "leftie", yet it's generally those on the political left that support these very viewpoints he detests. I keep on trying to convince him that he's a Pragmatic Libertarian at heart but he doesn't believe me ... yet!! :-)

Getting back to the VA Tech massacre, Noonan points out that there were obvious signs long ago that the killer should have been locked up in a mental institution, so he wasn't able to harm others. He briefly went through officialdom but slipped on through and out. In most modern countries today common sense is being supplanted by official policy and expensive programs which, sadly, rarely solve anyone's problems ... oh, except for those who are employed by them!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Afternoon Round-up

A number of things occurred in the last 24 hours that I'd like to share:

  1. Last night I met up with a pretty lady for a drink. It wasn't so much a date as a long conversation with an old friend who I was meeting for the first time. We talked about a lot of things but what I got out of it more than anything was a reassurance that there are women out there who are hip & cool and not emotionally unbalanced. This was a necessary thing after the proverbial rug got suddenly yanked out from underneath me.
  2. I received an e-mail from a German friend who I hadn't heard from in some time. We only met once, in October 1994, when I was making a major transition in my life. He asked me to catch him up on the past 12.5 years. It's sort of weird to look at things from that perspective; almost like a movie. I started wondering if my life is about to make another major transaction.
  3. This same German friend mentioned that Germany is currently seeing the largest departure of its citizens since World War 2. I don't know all the reasons for this but have asked him to further explain it to me. I think this will be an interesting development both for Germany and for Europe; and not a positive one in either case!
  4. Anyone who knows me, knows how important BC Digital Divide has become in my life. It's an important and rewarding activity, even if I and my fellow volunteers make absolutely no $$$ from it. But once in a while we get some scamsters that lie through their teeth to get a computer, ignoring our "warnings" that the machines are only intended for those who truly can't afford them. It's still a rare thing but it happened twice this past week and it tends to make one disillusioned. But this afternoon I hand delivered a computer to a nice old gent in the West End. To say that he was profusely grateful would be the understatement of the century. This, combined with my walk home through gloriously sunny Vancouver, put me into the greatest mood!

  5. Does this box look familiar? Girl Guide Cookies were a wonderful treat, only once a year, when I was growing up. I received these as a present from a friend for fixing her computer. Yummy!

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

Oh how I wish this was true more often!!!

Dear Prudence, Off Base?

Every week I get sent this advice column. I don't know why but I find the stories quirky and yet compelling. Often I agree with the columnist, but not this time:

Dear Prudence,
I have been dating this guy for about three months. When we first met, I was struck by his gentleness and kindness. The sex is great. I can express myself, all my quirky idiosyncrasies included, and not fear judgment or ridicule. He understands me and accepts me as I am. Which is why I'm having such a hard time with this dilemma: I've never dated anyone so sensitive before. He has his bad days, as we all do, but his bad days make him cry. His mood spirals down into an abyss of self-hatred and emotional despair. I try to talk him out of it, and often I'm successful. He says that just seeing me and holding me boosts his mood considerably. I've tried to help him figure out how something like a tiff with his boss can make him feel like the world is ending. I've suggested therapy, but he gets defensive, and I don't want to shatter the tiny bit of ego he has. The other (bigger) part of me just wants to yell, "For God's sake, grow some balls!" When we started dating, I had the "wow, he could be the one" thoughts. Now, I can't imagine spending my life with this man, having kids, etc., because I feel he's weak and it disgusts me. It's infuriating because the rest of him is so great. I love him and want to see where this can possibly go, but if I can't find a way to overcome this, then I may as well end it now.


Dear Distressed,
Talk about spiraling down. You start your letter rhapsodizing about this wonderful new guy and end it describing your fury and disgust. You love that you've found someone so sensitive to you, but can't stand that he's so sensitive. Your guy already has balls—as you note in your third sentence. Being supported and understood, and giving that in return, is the magical part of a relationship, but I agree that feeling you also need to be your partner's therapist isn't. Your boyfriend needs a therapist, because what he's experiencing is crippling emotional distress. I've recommended it before, but he sounds as if cognitive behavioral therapy could help him to reorder his reactions to the world and give him some much-needed ballast. It could also be that he could benefit from short- or even long-term medication for relief from his frequent downward spirals. You say you love him, so when you talk to him about this, be gentle, but don't dance around it. There's nothing embarrassing or ego-shattering about needing help to make your life function better. Explain to him that you want to be the love in his life, but you can't be his doctor. If he refuses to get help, then your relationship is doomed—feelings of contempt will poison even the best sex life. But if he does get help, then you have to see if you can get past your own restrictive notions of masculinity so that you can fully understand and accept him.


In my twenties I tried to fit into the mold of what many women said they wanted in a man: A Sensitive New Age Guy. Then I learned, for the first of many times, that women often lie! Okay, I'll be more politically correct: Some women periodically misconstrue what they're actually looking for with what they think they're looking for.

It finally took a few more direct women - one ex-girlfriend and one adopted sister - to point out to me that no woman I'd ever want to be with wants a guy who cries or is too sensitive or generally isn't someone that she can depend on when she needs support.

The columnist here just take the standard New Age approach of saying that he needs medication and/or therapy. Maybe he just needs a swift kick in the ass by the woman in his life or a male figure he respects and told to buck up and act more like a cowboy from an old Western than one from Brokeback Mountain!

P.S. I realize that this entire posting may offend some. Not my deliberate intention but do try removing your PC blinders for a second and take some time to think about how the real world works.

Pavlov's Son

My mom is getting funnier as she gets older. I don't mean "more odd", I mean FUNNIER, as in a greater sense of humour. Here's a perfect example. Back in mid-February our friend in Boynton Beach, Florida, Maria, took us for a tour of a nature preserve. On it, we drove right up beside this VERY LARGE alligator. Maria & my mom were insistent that I step outside to get a closer photo. Yeah, right!

Fast forward to this morning. I was "doing my business" and catching up on some newspapers my mom had given me. I turned the page and saw that she had written the following: "Remind you of something, Robert?" I looked down and there was a photo of an Asian man in a dentist's chair. No reminder there. I looked further down the page. There was a photo of a large alligator!!! Yikes, I almost jumped off the toilet in fright!

Undoubtedly she would be most pleased with herself to get this reaction out of me!!!

The Landlord

A friend & I are strongly considering making a 15 minute video about something (we don't yet know what) this summer. He just sent me some of the competition we'll be facing:

Downtown Stroll

I had a chance to go downtown today and took several photos:

This is the much talked about Convention Centre under construction. It's much larger than I had envisioned. And here's a video of the same:

Inside the Sinclair Centre

A trio of buildings

Looking toward the North Shore Mountains. The patch of snow is on "The Cut" on Grouse Mountain.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Virginia Tech Massacre

Like the rest of you, I'm still sorting out in my own mind all of my feelings about the tragedy that recently occurred in Blacksburg, Virginia. However the hairs on the back of my neck go up when I hear the same old chorus of:

  • We must stop such a thing from ever happening again. Really, how?
  • The murderer, Cho, was a victim too. Sorry, I just can't feel sorry for him.
  • All guns must be banned. This is a very complex issue and isn't quite so simple.
  • Much more sensitivity training would have prevented this. Really, how?
I realize that people need to express their grief in different ways but it's very uncouth when different groups immediately use a tragedy to support their own agenda.
Mark Steyn makes some excellent points here. And David Berner does the same here

Funky VW Beetle

I came across this car and was just glad I had my camera with me! Note the water fountain on the front hood. It was operating even though the car was turned off!


A highly edited previous posting of mine was published in the Vancouver Sun today. They captured the gist of it except that they didn't clearly define "DEPI" = Downtown Eastside Poverty Industry. Hopefully people can infer it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spring Is On Its Way

I've never hid the fact that I HATE the grayness of Vancouver from about November through April. I'd honestly welcome snow and colder weather over endless gray days (or is that a "gray daze"?!?) A wonderful treat for all Vancouverites these days are the gloriously colourful flowers now sprouting up all over the place. I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do!

Various Scenes Around South Granville

The past few days have been very similar: Miserable in the morning and then sunny and bright in the afternoon and early evening. I went out for a walk later on and captured these images:

Young Brilliance: You Just Never Know Where It Might Lead

This is the current image on the Microsoft home page. It reminded me of the young fellow from Somalia who my organization gave a computer to the other day. How many people thought young Bill Gates would accomplish what he did and literally change the daily activities of billions of people. No, not all on his own, but great things often come from just one or a small handful of people. Gates has proved that intelligence, perseverance, determination, and lots of hard work can accomplish great things.