Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Little TV Syndrome?

Not long ago I was searching for a new apartment so I had the opportunity to view quite a few before making a decision.

The thing that I found uncanny and frankly pretty funny was, when I was taken through the units, the current tenants out for a short time but their furniture still there, no matter how small the place was, there was always a GIANT flat screen TV in it. To me this made no sense at all. Presumably, for the majority, the reason you are renting is because you are not in a financial position to own or perhaps your living arrangement is something temporary, or maybe owning is just not that important to you right now.

I understand that the big screen may have been what the renter "got" in a nasty breakup, maybe the ONLY thing they laid claim to, and therefore they want to hold onto for dear life. Breakups are heart wrenching and sometimes make you do irrational things. To me, having a giant flat screen TV in a tiny room is indeed irrational.

For one thing, did none of their parents tell them not to sit too close to the TV because it's bad for your eyes? Has this warning been lost??? I know I sound like an Old Maid but I visited friends who had a big flat screen mounted on the wall of a tiny room. They turned it on to show me how great the clarity of the picture is and I sincerely felt dizzy. At the time they had a 3 year old. What does that do to a kid's sight???

Anyway, I guess I just don't understand the NEED. I sympathize if someone loves watching movies or big sporting events, they want to feel like they're in the front row. But typically the front row of any football game or movie theatre has at least some space between the event and the spectator!

I was thinking about all this today as I listen to my neighbour below. He is a 50-something bachelor whom I'm pretty sure has not had too many dates. When I moved in, he gave me the tour. His TV, no word of a lie, is about the size of one of my entire walls in my living room. My apartment is pretty spacious.

Back to listening to my neighbour. And by listening I mean he is a big NASCAR fan. I told him jokingly that I would rather have my fingernails pulled out one by one than be forced to watch NASCAR. He still talks about it every time I see him. And he has a NASCAR video game. I am listening to him play it through my floor because the audio on his TV is like being in the pit crew.

So I ask, is there some correlation between the size of the TV and the absence of something?

I tend to think so. Or maybe I'm just jaded.

In the meantime, I'll just put on my coveralls and grab my wrench!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas shopping

It's a Sunday in late November. I went to do some big box store shopping, grocery shopping really, and the parking lot is full.

I drive around a little then think, I'm an able-bodied person who could likely use the walk, take the next open spot, wherever it is. Lucky for me, it just so happened it was NOT several kilometres from the front door.

I admit, I get impatient behind people that saunter along the aisle and look at almost everything when the place is packed but I love the Christmas season and I wear a smile a mile wide. Honest!

So as I near the checkouts I see the lines growing. 'Tis the season. Some carts are full of presents to cross off lists, some have stocked up on baking supplies to do the "family recipes" for the holidays.

The self-checkouts surprisingly have the longest line.

I overhear a man saying, with sarcasm dripping in his voice, "Yeah, this is the time of year I LOVE. One hour of shopping and two hours of waiting,"

I smiled.

I made an effort to look at the many faces in the crowd. Was anyone else smiling?

Very few. Most exhibited a furled brow, filled with impatience.

When it was my turn to tally the bill, I said a happy "Hello!" to the cashier and asked her if everyone was in a pretty good mood today. She smiled and rolled her eyes.

I said, "I just don't get it. Christmas comes around every year. Why are people surprised? AND why so frustrated?"

She simply said it just gets worse every year.

I'm not an overly religious person, but I don't think that's what JC had in mind when He showed up. I don't think He expected His birthday to turn into some stressful, frustrating, unpleasant affair.

And so I smile.

And continue to get excited about the wonder of the season.

Mostly the innocence of children and their contagious smiles and laughter on Christmas morning.

I think about people that have much less than me, and still manage to make the best of it.

I think about the times when I felt terrible that I didn't have much money and had to make presents for family and friends, and I realize those holidays were among the best ever.

Why are people so ungrateful and impatient? Why is it so important to get the kids everything they want, even if it maxes out the credit cards, adding yet even more stress?

If I had the answer, I'd share it. Those much more philosophical and intuitive than myself have tried.

Until people wake up, I just smile.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Oh Rogers, you need a swift kick in the arse!

Having an agreement with a cell phone company is like living in an abusive relationship. Not to make light of the very real situation that many are scarred by, and this is purely in jest, but man, they can sure stick it to you! Why do I stay?

I purchased an iPhone 4 about a month ago. I went directly to the Rogers store. I paid outright using my credit card because I did not want the charge on my bill. Guess what? It's on my bill.

Now I have to go down to the store, show them my receipt and wait until the NEXT billing cycle to get my credit. So I have to pay the $200+ on my current bill so I don't lose my credit rating. The credit will not appear until my next bill.

Sure, that makes complete sense right? (Eyes rolling)

I wish I could only count on ONE hand how many times Rogers has pulled shenanigans like this in the past, but alas, I need both hands, feet, and any other digit-like appendage.

But what are my choices? I pay to get out of my "3 year plan"? Pay the start up to go with another company that also has "administrative" and ""activation" fees?

More mobile companies are beginning to crop up but the one that offers spectacular customer service and will buy out your former contract will be the overall winner. But then where's the competition? No one seems to be able to compete with the large conglomerates, they are simply TOO big.

So, because I am now addicted to my new Apple toy, I will dutifully report to the Rogers store, stand in line, and get them to apply my giant credit to NEXT month's bill.

Oh and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why do we need a phone book?

I wasn't aware until this week that the powers that be would still be printing and delivering the hard copy of the Yellow Pages and regular residential phone lists.

There was a big push by a man in Montreal a couple of years back to stop distributing them. He wasn't a self-professed "tree hugger" or anything but he did say it was a waste of paper. The drive seemed to gain some momentum, at least back then, and frankly it seemed to make sense.

I saw them sitting outside of my building, presumably left there for each of us to pick up if we so chose, so I grabbed one. I have to admit, I've always like having a big 'ole phone book, if nothing else, to look up a number for a pizza place or a cab, which I don't have much occasion to call that much anymore.

I guess most people don't see the use for them, and I understand that. You can look up any number at in Canada and really you can get almost any number you need via the net or even your smart phone. The Yellow Pages even has a app!

So why then keep printing them?

The old argument I guess that there are many elderly and senior folks that don't have computer access. That's an angle I could support.

Except for one thing.

I'm not in my "party prime" anymore nor am I sliding into "zoomer" territory, but somewhere in between. I wear glasses and contacts but not bifocals - yet!

So you can understand my frustration doing the first thing everyone does when they get the new phone book, look up my own phone number, only to realize I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME READ IT!!!

The letters were so tiny, I seriously had to adjust the lighting, push my face closer, squint, look for a magnifying glass, before a friend arrived and I asked him if he could please tell me if he saw my name on the page!!! Humiliating!!!

If I was having that much trouble, how could seniors or anyone with WORSE eyesight then me possibly read it?!

It does not make one lick of sense to me to print something that by all accounts is obsolete, but to make the typing so minute that no one can see it without help... is not only preposterous but a bad business model!

Maybe someone can explain the value in it to me.

For now though, I'm a not a fan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Necessary? Hell yeah!

I don't like garbage. Obviously can't be many people that could say they do, but it's not my favourite thing to have to deal with.

I am reviled by the smell, tying the bag, putting it at the curb, the whole nine yards. But I do it.

I never have considered myself a sedentary person, lazy nor sloth. So it seemed odd to me that I have discovered one gadget I never thought I would embrace but now cannot live without.

Da da da daaaaaaaaaaa! 

It's my automatic sensor touchless garbage can!!!

As corny as it sounds, I love it!

I don't have to step on something nor even touch the lid with my dirty hands! I simply wave something over the top, and voila, it opens up... then closes down without any help from me!

It's perfect. Does exactly what you want without asking. Doesn't say a word. Just does it.

Now, I COULD include some nasty comments here that would be putting men down, painting them as useless cads like many television commercials do but I like men. I like them alot. And if one of them wants to take out the trash for me, by all means. That's something I still have to do. And I don't mind doing that part at all.

But there is some odd comfort I feel not having to look nor sniff the refuse I myself have created in my own home. Crap! That just sounded wrong.

You get my meaning.

As frivolous as some may consider this remarkable toy, I'm sold.

When I bought mine, it came with a smaller one, that I now use in the bathroom! Totally cool!

Not sure how long the batteries will last though I think I've got a good stock.

Don't ask. ;-)

Friday, November 12, 2010


That's what I call it - technoscape. The art of avoiding face to face conversation or even glancing up to look at someone while using technology, be it listening to music with headphones, busily texting, or carrying on a full on cell conversation in front of everyone.

The way I figure it, everyone needs validation. It's a basic human necessity. People want to know that they've been seen and heard. No one enjoys being ignored.

But that's exactly what we've come to. I'm no angel, I do it too.

I was out for a run today, and counted five people I passed that were either texting, tuned into their tunes or chatting away on their cell phone. Please don't think I expect everyone to notice me, sweaty and a little out of shape, panting and grimacing.... not exactly a fitness model, but I had to swerve to miss two of them because they were so engrossed in what they were doing.

I thought about this as I trotted along and how disconnected it feels.

I reflected on how I never used to text people. Now with a smartphone, it's so easy. I texted a friend in the Remembrance Day crowd so we could find each other. (We never did connect ironically!) I make plans via text. Facebook. Twitter. I've met some cool people through both. An old pal I haven't seen in a dozen years, we figured out, saw my Facebook status, and invited me to join him via Twitter/Facebook. Ten minutes later we were catching up on the past 12 years. Incredible. That's an upside.

Theorists speculate about this all the time. What will be next? How will our children communicate? Will we all lose the ability to be honest and do the right thing by having a face to face conversation about important events? Will teenagers be able to talk to their parents about the menacing insecurity they feel about themselves so we can prevent so many of the tragic suicides that have become so prevalent? Will even more marriages end because neither person knows what to say or how to say it and it's just easier to say nothing at all?

Some suggest that young people are far more open than our generations were. They talk about everything. Sure, but HOW do they communicate? E-mail, texting, sexting? Should those be the primary messengers?

All of this was swirling in my head as I plodded along. Of course, I was listening to the iPod on my phone so had earbuds in my ears. If someone wanted to engage me in conversation, they'd have to do something else to get my attention. When I first started running years ago, I didn't listen to anything but the chatter in my head. I sorted stuff out, made plans, set goals, encouraged myself. Now it seems so much more of a motivator to listen to the tunes I love and rock out! But I have always felt music changes your mood.

Sidetracked. Back to technoscape.

Alot of people have tried to raise this issue with many new forms of communication. People talk about it but no one stops it. It's a multi-billion dollar industry and hell, they're FUN!

So what do we do? Do we stop texting, e-mailing, Tweeting?

I wish I had the answer. I feel lucky I still LOVE to talk to people face to face and am not afraid of telling the truth and having to confront an issue in person. I just think it's the considerate thing to do.

Maybe I'll be a novelty. There's gotta be something in that right?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Demon Diallers

I know those things don't exist anymore but telemarketers still have the technology to call you up, at least they call me up, and some recorded message comes on asking you to support a candidate or buy some "free" vacation!

But today I was pretty stunned to answer an "unknown" but local call that turned out to be the Millionaire Lottery reminding me that I only have hours left to purchase my Early Bird ticket!


Granted, I did not add my name to the federal Do Not Call List as I didn't want my name to be on yet another "list" the government can gain information on me with, but come ON?! Has this become the norm?

I felt like I'd been hornswaggled (not sure if the spellchecker even recognizes that word) Typically if I don't recognize the number I don't pick up. Plain and simple. I was snaffued today!!!

I have to admit, I have been very disillusioned by charities in the past. Having worked a few radio "telethons" in my day, my heart sank when the "wall of volunteers" that used to answer the phones for the pledges, was contracted out to an "800" line in India. Yep, it really make me sick, it lost something for me.

I know it's become big business to compete for those charity dollars but seriously, shouldn't there still be some personal involvement?

I probably would have purchased a lottery ticket if someone at the other end of the phone had a personal story or was kind enough to explain where the money goes. I'm old school like that. I was probably born too late.

I know it's tough for some of you to solicit friends and family just for fundraising and your children's school. Some people have a knack for it and some don't.

For me I guess the compassion is lost. They just want my money. There's not even an opportunity to feel empathetic.

So while I'm sure the Millionaire Lottery needs my support, I'm not sure I share the same "connection" about what they do now. I've heard the stories, met the staff, the families, heard them share their extreme lows and joyous highs.

This year, it doesn't wash. I hope I don't feel this way forever or about many other charities, but today, I am disappointed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Problem solved - motivation - check!

After researching and asking around the past couple of days, I decided on a free iPhone app called Run Keeper. You can upgrade to a better version for like $10 but I didn't feel like I was missing anything on my first run with it.

Plus, I can track my distance, pace and time AND listen to my music on the same device as well as catch a call or text! FOR FREE!!!

It absolutely pushed me to run farther. When you take a look at your distance (the upgrade actually announces in a male or female voice, your choice) you think, I can go just a little farther. I really like that aspect of it since I may not have a running buddy most of the time.

I mentioned that I don't like to "carry" anything when running, don't know why, makes me feel restricted. But I didn't mind digging out an old school "fanny pack" and starting up the iPod on the phone and the Run Keeper app and zipping it safely in.

During my online research, a friend (thanks Alicia) posted a blog on Facebook that was pretty cool. Have no idea who the guy is, and I know there are literally thousands of fitness and running blogs, but this one I found motivating.

cool blog

Oh, and here's the link to the online portion of the RunKeeper app... it keeps track of your runs, pace, and shows your graphs of your progress.

RunKeeper app

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nike +

After the last post, I found out about a nifty gadget that could save me a bundle!

Now that I have an iPhone and a Nano, I don't have to spend more than like $40 to get a Nike + kit to track my runs!

I don't know why I didn't do more research before thinking I had to shell out almost $200 for a Garmin!

I found this link really helpful!

Nike + review

And I prefer not to purchase a new pair of Nike shoes as I recently bought a comfy pair of Sauconys.

This link shows you how to insert the sensor into a non-Nike pair of running shoes!

will save you money!

So... there's an Apple outlet store just down the street from me. I'm off tomorrow to purchase my new and less expensive toy!

How much technology do I need?

One thing I've  been trying to avoid is "technology clutter".

When I was a kid, my dad was a "gadget guy". He always had to have the latest Casio watch with the tiny calculator on it, etc... You get the picture.

Although I have inherited a bit of a curiosity about gadgets, I don't want my place overrun with remotes and frankly stuff I don't need.

My problem is that it's taken me to get to this age to recognize, in some cases, that you get what you pay for.

After purchasing a cheap dog clipper set at your local big box store and practically tearing out my poor pooch's hair by the root, I decided it may be better to leave it up to the professionals.

I decided recently to commit to running again.

I know, every sport has gadgets and accessories that companies try and convince you, enhance your performance, etc. Running though seems to be so universal, because really, you can do it literally anywhere, and so many more people are taking it up than ever before, it's become a booming business. There's even a renewed movement for barefoot running and some cool new toed shoes.

The last time I was running on a regular basis, I got tired of mapping out my route with the car to figure out how far I'd run, and bought an inexpensive pedometer from a certain store that is similar in name to Cannuck Rubber. It was a piece of crap and waste of my money. I should never have bought it.

Now, with smart phones, iPods, and technological wizardry coming out the ying yang, there's likely 100 ways I can track my runs. I know there is, I've seen them in blogs like this one, on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

My problem is, I want it convenient for ME.

I want to turn it on when I start and when I'm done, it's all right there in nice big numbers so I don't have to feel like a decrepit old person and get a magnifying glass just to read it!

I don't want to have to carry it, because I don't even like having one of those hydration belts on me when I'm running. I don't even like having to carry an iPod.

I have heard and read that the Garmin watch is the cream of the crop.

Here's the link to the one at Costco

I'm cheap, or frugal as my mom would say, so putting out roughly $175 for something I wear on my arm seems insane to me. I currently sport a men's Timex with giant numbers and "Indiglo" so I can tell what time it is when I wake up in the middle of the night without my glasses on. I've had it for likely 4 years or more and have only had to change the battery once. It really is indestructible.

So I guess my quandry is do I really NEED a Garmin watch? I have only myself to answer to for the expense so it's not like my kids will go without boots this winter if I do purchase one.

I go back to the tech clutter. I now have an iPhone, a laptop (which currently is a piece of crap), an iPod, four remotes, cordless phones, iPod/iPhone alarm clock/docking station and a whole bunch of free weights. Wait. I guess they aren't gadgets. Maybe that's why I was surprised when they didn't lift themselves!

I WANT a cool new toy/gadget. I think it will help and encourage me to run farther. So why am I holding back?

I don't imagine most people rationalize things this way, but I have to.

I think also I feel funny sporting one because I am not an elite athlete, training for the race of my life. I'm going to run a 10k New Years Eve and then, I'm not sure what's next.

I do my best thinking when I am running. I will sort it out then.

Would be nice at the end of it though to see the progress.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Traffic lights

One of the most frustrating things people always seem to have something to say about, from every walk of life, is traffic.

Ask anyone where the longest red light is in their town and they can come up with at least two examples (providing they drive of course).

Now that we have a brand new city council, it wants to prove a few things to you. One of which is that it can change the traffic congestion. Light synchronization has been attempted. Most people just think that system is an urban legend.

Check this out!

So increasing the left turn signals will at least relieve the problem, right?

Sounds reasonable but sadly, motorists are not.

You see, it doesn't matter what you do to try and tackle extra traffic, stale green lights, construction, the list goes on and on. It doesn't matter what you do because it's not the traffic that's the problem. It's the operators of the vehicles.

Look around you. Most people behind the wheel have a furled brow and are all ready late thank you very much. They are in a hurry and they are important! So much so that their time takes instant precedence over yours. Too slow, too bad, too late.

Sure you still see a few people letting folks in or merge in front of them, but it's the exception, not even close to the rule.

A man once got out of a car in a parking lot and ran over to me because he thought I was purposely trying to cut him off at a traffic light. He was a muscle guy, he shouted at me and I simply responded that if this was the worst part of his day, he was lucky. Of course I did apologize and say that I didn't SEE him or I would not have cut him off.

My story is in no way unique. People shoot the bird to one another routinely, with the kids in the car! Fabulous lesson to be teaching the next generation.

Driving is a privilege and it can be taken away.

If waiting in traffic is going to give you an aneurysm, maybe you should switch to a more recreational mode of transport, one that doesn't weigh roughly 2 tonnes and can become a dangerous weapon.

Unfortunately, increasing the left turn signals will not solve the deeper issue.

Too bad you couldn't put a helping of "consideration" in the Koolaid.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Should anyone be surprised that a 15 year old "self described" hacker managed to breach the security feature of his school board's website and expose over 27,000 high school students' passwords?

Here's the story

Apparently, it's the largest security breach in the board's history.

The kid is charged on four counts and according to the article that would normally carry up to 10 years in prison.

But the reason he gave makes sense, even if it's not true.

He said he did it to show how vulnerable the system was.

Let's face it, kids know more about computers, unless of course you are a programmer or that's your career, than most parents and in some cases, teachers.

I have always maintained that the Internet in general, was a cart before a horse, there is now no way of really policing it, and the kids hold the key to that! I can't be the only person who sees this!

Businesses are at the mercy of people that know how to build websites. Sure, many people can figure it out now, but what about building a network for your company? Creating a social networking marketing scheme? More and more of these are emerging, but even if you are a journalist, you've got to be computer and technology savvy in pretty much any media medium.

Back to the hacker.

At first I thought, why not hire the kid as a consultant, make him/her sign a confidentiality agreement, and keep them on staff till they move on. But what kind of message does that send to the other students? That if they break the rules, they get a free pass and a pay cheque?

This isn't new and it will continue to occur. Wasn't it Matthew Broderick who starred in that old film War Games?

There are video game development companies that hire some kids right out of high school although there are specialized college programs offered here in Canada now.

So should the student get jail time? You know they won't and the punishment will depend on the kid's attitude, whether they are remorseful, good student, etc.

It sure is a blemish though on the school board, an embarrassment actually. Hard to believe that the system was so rudimentary that it didn't even have encryption.

Someone recently reminded me of that old adage, "Those that know - do. Those that don't - teach,"

Maybe it's time to go back into the pool and pull out another fish!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Isn't Air Free?

Closing out the cycling season... here's another piece of baffling technological genius. I'm SURE you've seen these before!

What?! You're trying to do your part for the environment and for your health, and you have to PAY to fill your tires with AIR?! Now, I know this isn't new and has been happening for alot of years but when I looked closer, I found it hysterical the explanation!

First it says to insert two quarters, it costs 50 cents... then it goes through the instructions how to utilize the machine. BUT look at the line right under the "Air"...

Yep, you can actually go in and ask the attendant to turn it on for you... in other words... if you're in a hurry, your eyesight's bad or you just never read the fine print... you're SOL!!! Another case of, "We give you the choice and make a clear statement, it's your responsibility to take notice."

I looked into this a bit and asked around. Apparently the cost is in the compression... another suggested that there is a large company that owns alot of these and there is a charge for them to install and service the machines.

But surely to God there's some stations out there, Mom and Pop outfits, that offer FREE air as a service... just like they still have attendants that pump your gas in the pouring rain (God love them, or at least my mom loves them!)

Sadly, those small family business type stations are typically in the heart of your average small town, not smack dab in the middle of London, on a busy street for commuters.

I know we can't turn back the hands of time but isn't it time to rethink where we are going???