Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Giving a Break to Hassled Customer Service People

I received this from a friend and just had to post it!

Written by Harry Tucker

I was recently traveling during bad weather that had caused cancellations of many flights. I was sitting by the gate, having already changed my ticket and was watching the unfortunate airline rep at the gate counter. She was being bombarded by people who seemed to assume that the poor weather and flight cancellations were her fault. Each one in turn laid all of their grief on her and I could see she was being pushed to the brink...

A little ah-ha light bulb flashed in my mind and since I am apt to follow my instinct, I stood up and took my place in the line of ornery people intent on sharing their bad day with her.

I patiently waited my turn and when I was finally standing in front of her, her weary eyes looked up to me, her forehead creased with stress and she asked "May I help you, sir?" I said "Yes you can". I then suggested that she act busy while I spoke to her. I told her I stood in line to give her a 5 minute break. While she typed (I have no idea what she typed), I explained to her that while all of these people were intent on ruining her day, the fact that she had other people in her life that really cared about her and that she had passions in her life that gave her life meaning was far more important than what was happening here today. In circumspect, what was happening here wasn't important and shouldn't stress her out.

We chatted back and forth for a few minutes as she continued to look busy. After seeing her regain her composure, I knew she had to get back to her work and I wished her a great day, telling her it was time for the next customer.

She looked up at me and I could see that her eyes were slightly welling up. "Thank you so much", she said, "I don't know how to thank you for this". I smiled and told her the best way to thank me was to pass on the kindness to someone else when she had the chance.

This Environmental Hypocrisy Has To Stop!!

I received the following e-mail from an acquaintance of mine:

Hi. I hope this subject justifies a mass emailing. This is a time when the power of the Internet could be effective.

Cheers, Graham

Begin forwarded message:


The 1st of February 2007:

Participate in the biggest mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming!

The Alliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations] is calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet.

People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances on the first of February 2007, between 1.55 pm and 2.00 pm in New York, 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Bruxelles, and Italy. 1.55 pm in Ottawa, 10.55 am on the Pacific Coast of North America.

This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves.

Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take long, and costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debate.

Why February 1? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris.

This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to show how important an issue global warming is to us. If we all participate, this action can have real media and political weight.

Please circulate this call to your utmost ability to your network.

Graham's a nice guy and I'm absolutely certain his intentions are genuine and sincere. But such faux efforts of yuppies everywhere REALLY annoys me. Why? Let my response to him explain:

Hi Graham,

Thanks for this. But I must tell you with great candor that I think the problem is with "us", the citizens of the world, not the politicians [of any stripe]. Rather than turning off one's electricity for just 5 minutes, what about:

* Turning it off for 8 hours a day, every day.
* Stop driving for all but 2 days per week.
* Having only one car per household.
* Telling the government to instantly triple the price of gas via taxes.

For if people are really serious about meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol then this is what's really required. Making a symbolic change like this 5 minute thing is akin to putting a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker on one's car. Do the people who do this really want to free Tibet? You & I both know that if the actual steps were taken to do that then these same people would be screaming about that.

Sorry, but you've touched a raw nerve on the hypocrisy front. Maybe you live your life in an environmentally friendly way. And I commend you for that. I certainly do. I gave my car 4 years ago and now walk, bicycle, and take transit everywhere. I live a very simple lifestyle when it comes to consumerism. But I don't wave a green flag around.

Do you realistically think most Canadians would vote for a party that advocated the 4 bullet points I've listed above? I don't. So this symbolic stuff really annoys me because it further perpetrates a lot of hot air but no real action.


BCDD Presentation

In early December I was invited to talk about BC Digital Divide to the Vancouver Chinatown Chapter of the Rotary Club. What a GREAT group of people! They do so many great things and often in a low-key way. For example, one of the people at my table was a medical doctor who recently donated a month of his time to help out children in Ethiopia.

I think my presentation was well received. If you're interested, you can download it here. Please be aware that it's 7.5 MB in size. There are two videos that won't play, though you can view them here and here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

300 Computer Milestone Achieved!

In anticipation of a talk I have to give tomorrow to the Vancouver Chinatown Chapter of the Rotary Club I compiled the list of donations that BC Digital Divide has made since its inception. We just crossed the 300 mark! That might not sound like a lot but once you understand how many person-hours go into each computer, it's actually quite enormous!

You can read more about this achievement here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Every Community Needs A Village Idiot

In my neck of the woods this role is filled by my embarrassing Member of Parliament, Hedy Fry.

This afternoon she appeared on Sean Leslie's show on CKNW. Her "performance" prompted me to e-mail the host this letter:


Thanks for having that Beacon of Wisdom, Hedy Fry, on your show this afternoon. As a resident of Vancouver Centre, I've long thought of her as a MIMP = My Ineffectual MP. In times past, hearing her would have driven me to drink, but now I just laugh and laugh and laugh.

This afternoon was an exceptionally stellar performance, with her rivaling your longtime caller, Dave, for being able to speak endlessly without taking a breath. The piece de resistance had to be when the Queen of Burning Crosses charged Stephen Harper, an economist, with not understanding competitiveness!

You brightened my day, Sean!!


A New Way of Programming?

A friend sent me this NY Times article about computer programming. It focuses on the efforts of Charles Simonyi, the former chief architect at Microsoft and a very accomplished programmer in his own right, to create a newer, more simpler way of building software applications - any software applications.

I am skeptical but am very interested to see if he makes any progress on this front.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Social Enterprises

Here's a fascinating news story on "social enterprises" from BBC Radio 4's programme, In Business. Though the organization I founded, BC Digital Divide, can't yet be defined as a formal social enterprise, we do try to run things in a very efficient, business-like way.

I've long pondered the idea of turning BCDD into an actual social enterprise. This would see it transitioning into a for profit company, albeit one that still gave away computers for free to those who couldn't afford to buy them. But I just have too many other things on the go these days to make this transition. One day though, one day . . . !

Food Photography

There are several subjects I seem to be particularly good at photographing. One of them is food. I don't know why, exactly, but I've often thought that my stomach is sending out signals of love to the food in question. Here are some recent shots I took at the Water Street Cafe:

Note: The last one isn't particularly spectacular but I just loved the shape of the round loaves of bread!

Friday, January 26, 2007

New Blog Design, the company that hosts this blog, has made some dramatic improvements to the tools that bloggers use to create and format their content. I wasn't really aware of the scope of these changes until I met up for coffee with David Berner today. He had some questions for me about the more technical aspects of his blog but it didn't escape my attention that he was using a rather cool interface to manipulate his blog. It was using a lot of "Ajax" to provide a great drag & drop facility.

So I decided to take a much-needed break from my work schedule and fiddle around with the design of my blog. To this end you are now graced with a fairly different appearance than before. And if you go to the very bottom (just press Ctrl-End) you'll see a little surprise in the form of some of my favourite panorama photos that I've taken. I'll grow this section over time!

Hope you like the new look!!

[Certain] Politicians - Ughhh!!!

I vowed to myself to minimize the amount of time I listen to talk radio. It's very engaging but altogether too negative. The same issues get talked about time after time after time but nothing ever gets resolved. Much like politics I think!

Anyhow, this evening found me listening to Raymond Chan, Liberal MP from Richmond, blether on & on about how Stephen Harper has not kept his promises. Huh? And Double-Huh?

Oh certainly, Harper has backtracked on some of his promises but I think there were good reasons for doing so. More importantly though, how much arrogance must a Liberal like Chan have to start lecturing us, the great unwashed, about keeping promises?! This is like the Enron execs giving lectures on corporate ethics or a convicted murderer speaking about how to be a law abiding citizen. Sometimes it's best if one just SHUTS UP for a while, especially the Liberals, who are clearly living inside the proverbial glass house of public scrutiny.

When he started his rant, Chan offered an old Chinese proverb. I have an old Western Canadian one for him:

Question: What's the difference between a Federal Liberal and an Unprincipled Hypocrite?

Answer: Not too much!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Boeing 747 Anniversary

On January 21, 1970 the first Boeing 747 commercial flight took off from New York's JFK airport and landed in London's Heathrow airport on January 22nd.

Well Dressed Dog

I normally repel when I see dogs dressed up by their owners. But these photos are pretty cute:

They were sent to me by Sherilyn Hunter, owner of Hunter Couture. An uncle of mine owns one of these Shitzus. I don't think she would ever allow herself to be dressed up though!

If you're so inclined to have such a well dressed dog then here's a little blurb about a new store opening:

We take great pleasure in inviting you to the grand opening Lady Seville Couture, an elegant new custom fashion line and boutique in Seville Tailors’ new downtown store. There will be a draw for a custom suit for a man or a woman, roses for the ladies, a Canuck ticket giveaway and wine and nibbles for all … plus a sneak preview of our adorable new Pet Seville Couture Custom pieces.

Thursday February 1st, 2007
5 pm to 10 pm
1110 Seymour Street, Vancouver

Problem Discovered, Solution Found!

I'm working double duty these days to add some extra features to my Pocket Pollster software and get it installed on some mobile computers for my new client. Things have been going well but today I discovered that there was a terrible problem "synching" their newer, more modern devices.
It turned out that the problem wasn't so much with my software but rather due to a change that Microsoft made to the latest generation of their mobile operating system called "Windows Mobile 5.0". When I first saw the error happening I freaked out, "Oh my god, this is the last thing I need with the tight deadlines I have!" But after MUCH research I finally found a posting on a software forum that provided the key to the answer. After many hours of code changes and testing, testing, testing I am now proud to say that Pocket Pollster is better than ever before!

Improvements With Health Care Delivery ... Courtesy of Toyota

I found this segment from the BBC most fascinating. It's a 30 minute piece from Peter Day's excellent show, In Business. This one focuses on how some enlightened professionals in the UK's National Health Care System are giving serious thought to adopting some of the principles used on the Toyota automobile assembly line. Sounds far-fetched? Listen to it first and you might not think so afterwards!

I only wish some Canadian politicians and health-care managers would pay attention. For as an engineer who has long been involved in improving the business processes of large corporations, it has been clear to me that the processes within our hospitals are as far away from efficient as one could possibly imagine!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Environmental Talk: Reality vs. Rhetoric

I constantly hear many left-of-centre Canadian politicians ranting on & on about how the federal government and assorted provincial governments aren't doing enough to help the environment.

Three of them immediately come to mind:

  • Federal Liberal leader, Stephane Dion
  • Federal NDP leader, Jack Layton
  • B.C. NDP leader, Carole James
If I had the opportunity, I'd love to pose the following question to each of them:

Is it not long overdue for you to declare that if your party is elected that you will put an immediate moratorium on all coal and natural gas extraction and exploration, not just for consumption in our country, but everywhere? Please put your money where your rhetoric is and make this declaration today and then fight the next election on it.

I'm simply tired of all the B.S. and hypocrisy and would like some clarity about what tangible environmental plans each party really has. Present them clearly and succinctly and then let the voters make their decision.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I Love FedEx!!!

I had an urgent shipment of PDA cases that must to be in the hands of my client by Tuesday. They were purchased yesterday and look what has happened since:

Tracking number
Ship date
Jan 19, 2007
Estimated delivery
Jan 23, 2007 5:00 PM
Service type
INTL Economy
1.6 lbs.
At dest sort facility




Jan 20, 2007 6:58 AM

At dest sort facility


2:12 AM

Departed FedEx location


1:04 AM

Arrived at FedEx location


Jan 19, 2007 8:38 PM

Left origin


3:22 PM

Picked up


10:43 AM

In this day & age of endless waits at [most any] government facility, it's nice to know that some human beings on this planet have figured out how to do something with incredible efficiency!

Quick Tip: If you're ever ordering something from the U.S. avoid UPS like the plague. You will be charged a minimum of a $50 "brokerage fee". There's now a class action lawsuit against UPS to retrieve these monies that they've essentially stolen from countless customers.

Pocket Pollster is QUICKLY Taking Off

I just learned that my Pocket Pollster software is going to be test on a prominent transit project here in Vancouver. Very cool but also a little intimidating. It's a great opportunity for me though. Things are moving forward at lightning speed . . .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Canadian Drug Policy: Reality vs Nonsense

David Berner has posted onto his blog a series of fascinating articles about the many issues surrounding drug addicts in Canada. You can read them here and here and here.

I wish more people would listen to what he has to say about this. If we followed his sound, principled policy, all of society would be much better off!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Questions & Answers About Canada

I received this from a friend . . .

Now that Vancouver has won the chance to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, these are some questions people the world over are asking. Believe it or not these questions about Canada were posted on an International Tourism Website. Obviously the answers are a joke but the questions were really asked!

Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow? (England)

A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

Q: Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? (USA)

A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto; can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)

A: Sure, it's only four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Canada? (Sweden)

A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: It is imperative that I find the names and addresses of places to contact for a stuffed Beaver. (Italy )

A: Let's not touch this one.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Canada? Can you send me a list of them in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Halifax? (England)

A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada? (USA)

A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Ca-na-da is that big country to your North ... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Canada? (USA)

A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees . Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada? (England)

A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)

A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is ... oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Vancouver and in Calgary, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Do you have perfume in Canada? (Germany)

A: No, we don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you sell it in Canada? (USA)

A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)

A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada? (USA)

A: Only at Thanksgiving.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? (Germany)

A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada, but I forget its name. It's a kind of big horse with horns. (USA)

A: It's called a Moose. They are tall and very violent, eating the brains of anyone walking close to them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)

A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

Funny (or Scary) Received from a Female Friend

A woman and a man are involved in a car accident on a snowy, cold Monday morning. Both of their cars are totally demolished but amazingly neither of them are hurt.

God works in Mysterious ways.

After they crawl out of their cars, the woman says, "So you're a man. That's interesting. I'm a woman. Wow, just look at our cars, there's nothing left of them, but we're unhurt. This must be a sign from God that we should meet and be friends and live together in peace for the rest of our days."Flattered, the man replies, "Oh yes, I agree with you completely; this must be a sign from God!"

The woman continues, "And look at this, here's another miracle. My car is completely demolished but this bottle of wine didn't break.

"Surely God wants us to drink this wine and celebrate our good fortune." Then she hands the bottle to the man. The man nods his head in agreement, opens it, drinks half the bottle, and then hands it back to the woman. The woman takes the bottle and immediately puts the cap back on, and hands it back to the man.

The man asks, "Aren't you having any?" The woman replies, "No. I think I'll just wait for the police...."

Women are clever. Don't mess with them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Funny Finnish Pursuits

I just received this amazing book from two Finnish schoolteacher friends of mine who live in Helsinki. The book is actually written by the husband of one of them. His name is Risto Etelämäki. The book is illustrated by a talented artist named Bruno Maximus. Do click on his name to see the various paintings on his website. Very cool!

I haven't yet read the book but plan to soon!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mid-January Vancouver

I had a fantastic business meeting downtown today. On my way home I couldn't resist taking some photos of the wonderful buildings glistening in the sunlight on this chilly Vancouver winter day.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


A friend of mine, knowing that I love panorama photos, sent me this link.

The photographer in question, Ryan McGinnis, took an AMAZING photograph of the NYC skyline; actually two of them. Go over to his blog to take a look and let him know what you think.

I haven't taken many panoramas lately but here are a few of mine.