Year: 2007

Driving in Toronto – the meme

My buddy John just sent out this little Driving in Toronto meme which is so incredibly true, particularly the bits about shredded tires, turn signals, and driving 130 in the left lane being a shooting offense.

DRIVING IN TORONTO

1. You must first learn to pronounce the city's name: it is T.O.

2. The morning rush hour is from 5:00 AM to noon. The evening rush
hour is from noon to 7:00 PM. Friday's rush hour starts Thursday morning.

3. The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 130 km/h. On the 401
or 407, your speed is expected to match the highway number. Anything
less is considered 'wussy.'

4. Forget all traffic rules you learned elsewhere; T.O. has its own version of traffic rules.
For example, cars/trucks with the loudest muffler go first at a four-way stop; the trucks with the biggest tires go second. However, in Oakville, SUV-driving, Cell phone-talking moms ALWAYS have the right of way.

5. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear ended, cussed out, and possibly shot.

6. Never honk at anyone. Ever! Seriously! It's another offense that can get you shot.

7. Road construction is permanent and continuous in all of T.O. and, in fact, the GTA. Detour barrels are moved around for your entertainment pleasure during the middle of the night to make the next day's driving a bit more exciting.

8. Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, skunks, dogs, cats, barrels, cones, celebs, rubber-neckers, shredded tires, Cell-phoners, deer and other road kill and the coyotes feeding on any of these items.

9. MapQuest does not work in T.O. — none of the roads are where they say they are or go where they say they do, and all freeway off- and on-ramps are moved each night.

10. If someone actually has their turn signal on, wave them to the shoulder immediately to let them know it has been 'accidentally activated.'

11. If you are in the left lane and only driving 130 km/h in a 100 zone, you are considered a road hazard and will be 'flipped off' accordingly. If you return the flip, you'll be shot.

12. Do not try to estimate travel time — just leave Monday afternoon for Tuesday appointments, by noon Thursday for Friday and right after church on Sunday for anything on Monday morning.

I love #5 because it happened to me once.

When I worked security back in 1995 or so, I got rear ended late one night by a Civic because I actually slowed down at a yellow and stopped at the red. They guy behind me yelled at me for stopping, and I was all like “the light was about to go red for me, and would definitely have been red for you and OH YEAH YOU REAR ENDED ME!!!” As I'm talking to him I'm thinking, “this guy's either drunk or an idiot”. He's popping gum like tic tacs, and begging me not to call the cops. I told him I had to because he hit my work vehicle.

Cops arrive and tell me they don't want to call in a breathalyser because they don't think he's drunk, he's just nervous. I told them that I was positive this guy was drunk.

They finally call in a car with a breathalyser, and the guy blows a 1.4, nearly twice the legal limit. The cop apologizes to me and tells me it was a good catch.

Something’s rotten in LondonTowne

Okay, I love London, I really do. It's a great city, fairly low crime rate, everything's nice and close, my mom and dad are in town so we've got built in babysitting, and my childhood friends are all here, so we've got a built in social network. All of those are good things, but there's one thing that drives me so insane that some days I actually long for the bad old days of Toronto..

London has the worst drivers in the world.

In

The

World

See this traffic? Even this Indian traffic chaos is more sensible than London.

Why? Well you can see the patterns in that chaos. You can understand what someone's doing. In London you never know.

The other day I was behind a guy who decided to turn right. He signaled, prepared to turn, and then swerved back, turned off his signal, and continued on straight. Okay, he's not tur…WHY IS HE CUTTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME?!? Then suddenly he turns left cutting across 3 lanes of traffic and nearly causing me to sideswipe him.

On my way to work this morning there was a beautiful white Mustang in front of me, brand new, gorgeous car.

The driver was doing about 30. So I'm getting so frustrated, angry, annoyed. I pull up alongside the car, and look over. In the car, swear to god, is Clara from the Where's the Beef commercials.

This woman is about 90, cokebottle glasses. About 4'5″ tall. Literally looking THROUGH her steering wheel to see out the window. All I could think was, “There should be a law against someone that old having a car that powerful.”

In Toronto you know that drivers are going to be idiots. You know this guy is going to cut you off, and that guy will likely try to run that red. In London the only thing predictable about drivers are that they will be slow, and that they'll do something totally unpredictable.

What I’m playing – Bioshock and the Orange Box

Having finished up Halo 3 a while ago, I had gone back to plugging through Marvel Ultimate Alliance and toying around in Crackdown. I picked up BioShock, and then sold a few games to grab Guitar Hero III, but when it was sold out (pretty much everywhere), I bought The Orange Box instead.

Bioshock is an amazing game. It's full of style, with an incredible visual narrative. The story is pretty good, and it's fun to let it unfold around you. The super powers are a really cool twist, but I find it really hard managing resources and I've reached a point where I can't keep bullets on hand for my various weapons quick enough.

The Orange Box is probably the best value in video games of all time.

It contains Half Life 2, Half Life 2 Episode One, Half Life 2 Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress Classic.

Now I've finished about 3/4 of Half Life 2 on two different systems (the original X-Box and the PC), but I'm going to give it one more shot. It looks incredible on the 360, and my sweet TV makes it all the better.

Portal is an incredible game. It's really short taking just over 2 hours to complete totally, but it's ridiculously fun. This would have made a terrific XBox Live Arcade title.

Finally there's Team Fortress Classic 2. I've let my Live Gold membership expire, but this game may be enough to get me back on there. It looks like it's a load of fun, and the really cool graphics which look torn from the pages of a comic, are a welcome addition.

There's still a lot of really great stuff available for the Xbox 360. Assasin's Creed, Call of Duty 4, Beautiful Katamari, and of course Guitar Hero III are all on my “must play” list. I'll probably give a few other games a whirl if I can find them really cheap (like Simpsons, Conan, and Tomb Raider Anniversary).

The next game I'm likely to shell out cold hard cash for is Rock Band, which was supposed to get released on Tuesday, but will now arrive in Canada on December 20th. That sucks, but it gives me some time to get some stuff done so that I can dedicate the holidays to rocking out I guess.

‘Member Bee?

Ever since we took Kaylin to the Western Fair back in September, she’s asked the same question of us every day. “Member Bee?” She’ll say, and then go into a tirade about how the bees went “wound and wound”, and how the Ladybugs went “too faster”, and how the man in the cage was carried by the monkey. Tonight however when she was asking ‘Member Bee? She was also asking about the bee who flew and carried the honey. Thank you Barry Bee Benson.

Ryan and I took our girls (Paige for him, Kaylin with me) to see The Bee Movie today. It was the first movie since “Stars and Strollers” for both of our girls, and they surprised us by sitting still for pretty much the whole flick…even during the agonizing last half hour which just dragged far too long.

We got to the theatre first and went looking for Ryan and Paige. Kaylin and I entered the theatre, and the look on her face when she saw the massive screen was priceless. Her eyes widened and she was amazed.

We went back into the lobby, found Ryan and Paige, got some snacks, and entered the theatre as the trailer for The Golden Compass started. Now I’ve got to say as an adult it looks awesome, but it’s full of action and massive bears attacking one another…a little overwhelming for a toddler.

The theatre was dark, and Kaylin was overwhelmed. She stood still and made this awful little mewling sound. My hands were full with snacks and a booster seat, so I had to grab an usher to help us out a little bit.

Once in her seat though, she was happy as the bee’s knees. She sat in the chair mesmerized, and barely looked at the spoon that I was using to feed her ice cream.

She was such a great kid. About 20 minutes into the flick I got tired of leaning down to hear what she was saying, and I plunked her on my lap, where she sat for almost the next hour.

Both she and Paige had a great time, and I have to admit it was a lot of fun for me too. The movie wasn’t great, but just the fact that I know I can take her out to a movie and she’ll be good means that we’ve got another “daddy/daughter” thing that we can do to get away.

And that is sweeter than all of the honey in the world!

Too fast to be viral

The marketing campaign for The Dark Knight, the sequel to the hugely successful Batman Returns is simply brilliant. The only problem with it is that while the marketing firm is obviously trying to create brilliant viral ideas in the vein of I Love Bees and the Subservient Chicken, everything is happening so fast that nothing has a chance to catch on.

First there was the “I believe in Harvey Dent” campaign which showed the first snap of The Joker. Recently the website Why So Serious featured a smiling jack-o-lantern that gradually degraded on one side of it until this morning when it became a ransom like note. I saw at 7am this morning that a half dozen words had been spelled out. Tonight when I got home the message was revealed.

“The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.” Clicking on it shows yet another picture of Heath Ledger as The Joker (and damn if the lad doesn't look creepy).

Then there's a message telling people to dress up as the Joker and take a picture with as many of your friends near your city's most famous landmark. “Do this for me and I'll do this to for you.” the message tells us.

That leads you to a website called Rory's Death Kiss.

So what's next? A trailer? More pictures?

I'm excited about that…but I really don't think any of these ideas is going to be able to catch on virally. They're all happening too fast.

Who mourns the dinosaurs?

Another week, another clueless music or TV industry executive speaking out against the future. This time it's NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker who said that “Apple destroyed the music business in terms of pricing”. Never mind the fact that the ease of use of iTunes has meant that people like me have bought more music in the last year than they had in the previous five. Nope, Apple's destroying the industry because they have figured out a price-point that people will be willing to part with their cash for an electronically crippled, lower quality, non-physical version of the CD they used to pay a couple of dollars extra for.

Who allows these morons to speak? Why doesn't some savvy marketing or PR guy take one of these ill informed boobs aside and tell them that “we” aren't the enemy?

I'm so tired of seeing these fossils who just don't “get it” getting all “chicken little” and proclaiming that today is indeed the day in which the sky has fallen.

I used to deal with the small mindedness all the time in my prior life, and I was hauled before the President of the Company once to figure out how we were going to “stop these pirates”, when some kid had figured out how to cobble together a web site that pulled together all of the feeds that several broadcasters were showing. Of course if their feed had commercials embedded in it, this wouldn't have been an issue in terms of lost revenue…but they didn't, so everyone was freaking out about the “theft”, although no money was exchanging hands, and the site was likely attracting a few dozen users at most (and I'd wager the majority of those users were in the very walls of the office I was in).

The video game industry is profiting while the TV, Movie, and Music industries are languishing. I have to think that some of that is because the Video Game industry has figured out that their greatest asset is their customers.

Taste makers are the customers who will evangelize your product and convince others that they NEED to buy it.

Microsoft approached me YEARS ago about this very blog and invited me to X03, one of the first Xbox events. I had a blast with it and I blogged about it the next day. More importantly I pestered the site where I worked to start up a video game section. They eventually did, and I wrote a review of Fight Night Round 3 and Rockstar Table Tennis. Two Xbox 360 games that I absolutely loved. Those reviews were seen by millions of people.

Now let's conservatively say that 200,000 people saw my Fight Night Round 3 review, and of those 200k people, 1% of them were swayed by my review to purchase the game (my review was hella good, so the number was probably closer to 28%, but for argument's sake we'll keep it at 1%).

That's 2000 people. The game was $60.00, so that's $120,000 in revenue that was generated by reaching out to your fan base and getting one person to evangelize your product.

You look at the Video Game industry and you see a wide variety of games that appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Casual games like Guitar Hero, wii Sports, and various arcade titles are there for bite sized pieces of gaming, but there are the big meals like BioShock and Halo there too.

The movie industry is quick to blame outside forces for the lack of people in theatres. The week Halo 3 came out, it was blamed for the poor box office. Never mind the fact that Char and I TRIED to find a movie to go to that weekend and were caught between the horribly reviewed Elizabeth II, or the horribly reviewed Ben Stiller abortion The Heartbreak Kid.

On a totally side-noted rant here, can anyone explain to me why a city like London has five major multiplexes with a minimum of 8 screens each, and yet all five multiplexes show the EXACT SAME GODDAMNED MOVIES?!? The same week that we couldn't find a movie to see in London there were no fewer than SIX movies in Toronto playing that weren't on any of the screens in London.

In the music industry you see dozens of bands that look, sound, and are marketed the same. You have everyone's album coming out between October and December (and a massive void of music during the summer…which from my teen years was the time that I was MOST looking for new music).

You have one company, Clear Channel, ruling the majority of the music airwaves, and creating homogeneous playlists so that whether you're in Alaska or San Diego you're hearing the same processed pap, 12 times a day, 96 times a week.

I read recently some anecdotal reports that “the kids” today are listening to the music of the 70's and 80's rather than the ridiculously overproduced pap of the 2000's. Perhaps video didn't kill the radio star. Maybe it was the corporations which killed the radio star.

What all of these companies need to remember is that they are the middle men.

Record companies don't make records, they distribute the records that artists create.

Movie studios don't make movies. They distribute movies that artists create.

The trouble is that users and artists have unprecedented choice because of the power of the internet. The trouble with all of this power that users and artists have now is that they are beginning to realize that they don't need the middle men. The record industry is reacting much like the “Jump to conclusions” guy in Office Space. They feel angry because they provide a “valuable service”, which nobody can identify with anymore.

What superpower would YOU want?

I kind of long for those days of being a kid and sitting around waiting for the days to pass, boredom a constant enemy, and time dragging so slowly. As I get older I find that the super-power I most wish for isn't teleportation anymore, it's the ability to hold time in place. Imagine having the ability to sleep for 8 hours while 1 second goes by in real time? That would be awesome.

Sometimes amazing how quickly time flies. Every day at work I look up at the clock sometime in the early afternoon and see that it's 5:00pm. That wasn't always the case, but any time that I'm involved in creative thinking, time just flies by. Of course the days that I'm involved in mundane project management time crawls, as does my productivity.

What is it about the relativity of time though that makes it such a variable? Why is it that the 20 seconds I'm heating up Kaylin's milk while she's calling for me seems to take five minutes, while the three hours that I play BioShock goes by in five minutes?

Of course Hiro on Heroes already has both teleportation AND time control, which just seems unfair.

For those of you looking for the continuation of my week of vacation badness, visit I Heart Baby Toes, where you'll see that the week ended pretty positively, and we had a good time.

Not really a “vacation” per se

I took this week off to relax, get some stuff done around the house, and hopefully tie up a few loose ends with my side projects. I'm a little bit burnt out right now, I've been burning the candle at both ends for quite a while, and it was all starting to catch up to me. My plans were dashed pretty quickly on Saturday, and have been thrown up in the air further as the week has gone on.

On Saturday Char and I celebrated our sixth anniversary. We dropped Kaylin off at Grandma and Grampa's around noon and went out for a little shopping excursion, picking up wood for the “soon to be built”, built-in bookshelves in the office. Of course it was the wrong wood, so we would have to go back the next day to buy thicker stock.

After our shopping we got ready and went out for dinner at a nice little steakhouse downtown called “Chancey Smith's”, which is the name of the original vegetable vendor at what is now the Market. It was a great meal, although a little filling. We had plans to go see Harry Potter or Ratatoullie, but by the time our dinner was over both had started, so we ended up seeing The Heartbreak Kid. Do yourself a favour and just avoid this movie like the plague.

Even still, we had a good dinner, good company, and we got a good night's sleep.

On Sunday morning I called my mom and dad's to see how Kaylin was, and found out that my grandmother had passed away. She was my dad's mom, and even though he put on a brave face, he was pretty broken up about it. We went over to pick up Kaylin, and waited to find out about the funeral arrangements.

I haven't seen most of my dad's family in years, we kind of drifted away from them, and other than my uncle Leonard, and aunt Marie in Nova Scotia, I haven't heard from any of them in probably 8 years (the last time being at my grandfather's funeral).

We found out that the funeral would be on Tuesday, so I spent Sunday and Monday doing some of the things around the house that I needed to try to do, but I wasn't feeling great. I was asked to be a pallbearer (probably due to my strapping figure).

Monday was my birthday, and my mom and dad dropped by with some carrot cake as Char was making a wonderful birthday cake for me, so I was fully caked up by the end of the day. I stained and sealed my work bench, and put up one wall of slatboard, which weighs about 80lbs, and is awkward as heck to work with.

As a special birthday gift, Rogers killed my internet connection somehow, and I spent most of the day troubleshooting it.

Tuesday was my grandmother's funeral. It was as pleasant as a funeral can be expected to be, I talked to a few of my uncles most of whom didn't know that I had moved back to London.

I also had a chance to speak to my cousin Billy for the first time in at least a decade, which was pretty cool. He and I have a lot in common. He's in radio out in Edmonton where he does sports for the local CBC affiliate and operates the board. Before my internet superstardom, I did some editing at TSN and had briefly considered doing some radio there (but the radio division got shut down). He rediscovered comics years ago, and has been following a lot of the same stuff that I read, so that was cool, and I got to tell him about All New Comics (which is always fun to talk about).

We got home, had some dinner, and then I went back out to visit with Marie, Leonard, Billy and Leona (my dad's sister, brother-in, law, nephew and niece respectively).

That's one of the nice things about being in London, the closeness to my parents is an amazing thing, Kaylin loves to see them, and it's nice to have “pop-overs” once in a while. Dropping by their place doesn't have to be a big deal, and we can just swing by whenever.

I've been feeling run down all week, and it was getting worse every day. Yesterday everything finally caught up with me, and I spent the day in bed, getting one out of the 15 things I wanted to do done.

Today I'm going to try to fly through a few things, and then we need to get packed up to visit Toronto.

So while this hasn't been a traditional “vacation” vacation, my body is forcing me to rest, and not do nearly as much as I had planned.

I guess that's what weekends are for though.

Adventures in LondonTown

Kaylin and I decided that we'd give my buddy Ryan a hand this weekend and try to tire his two girls out Saturday morning. To enact this brilliant scheme, I told Kaylin that we'd go to Adventures on Wonderland. “Where do you want to go?” I'd ask Kaylin merrily “I want to go to bentures!” she'd respond. “I'm sorry, I don't understand, where do you want to go?” I'd tease again. “I WANT TO GO TO BENTURES!”

My plan was a little TOO brilliant though, as Kaylin decided that she wanted to go to “Bentures” at 5:30am on Saturday morning. I took her downstairs to the TV, and put Monsters Inc on for an hour and a half (during which I napped a couple of times.

Char got up and gave me an early anniversary gift, tickets to Tegan and Sara (along with some surprise babysitting for the evening). YAY! Grown up dinner, conversation, and live music!

Ryan, Cordie and Paige popped by around 10:30 and we headed over to Adventures on Wonderland.

Adventures is quite the place. First, it requires socks, which apparently some folks (RYAN) didn't know. We be-socked his girls, and headed in. There's some smaller play equipment in the front room, a little ball pit, some small climbing things, that sort of stuff. Ryan commented at one point “this place is a bit of a scam hey?”, to which I replied, “Oh my friend, you've not seen the coolness yet.”

We dished out some snacks for the rug rats and headed to the back where they have what can only be described as a human habitrail. It's monsterous, around 20' tall, about 30 feet long, and probably 15 feet deep. Kaylin immediately jumped into its waiting maw and vanished promptly.

There she is. Nope, she's gone.

There she is, nope, lost her again.

I think I see her, nope.

Every time she surfaced, she was running at full speed, as fast as her tiny toddler limbs would fling her. There, gone, there, gone. Bouncing, then down again.

She was suddenly running towards me at one point saying “Addy addy addy” (yeah, I'm “addy” all of a sudden) “Somebody's coming”, then just as suddenly she was gone.

There she is. Nope, gone again. There she is, nope lost her again.

She appeared again saying “You come? You helpa me climb?”

Thinking nothing of it, I thought, “SURE! This will be fun.”

What next occurred will scar me for the rest of my life.

I'm what they kids call a “big guy”. I'm not fat per se, but I'm big. Six feet, a couple and a quarter hundred pounds. Big shoulders, big chest. I'm swarthy. Some might say “strapping”.

The human habitrail is meant for small people. Children mostly. Slight women fit. Maybe the odd androgynous male.

Not a big guy.

Certainly not a big 35 (soon to be 36) year old guy.

Now Kaylin is unaware of this. I'm Daddy (or presently “Addy”), she cares not for the plight of the larger man. Get a move on addy, hustle it. Come come COME!

So we start our ascent, and at some point I'm thinking “probably not a great idea”. We continue. She vanishes, her head reappears “Come on daddy. Come come come.”

Okay, thinks I, this must be some land of fun and wonderment up here. Let's get going. So I climb. I'm 20' above land. I'm in a tube designed for a kid. I can't really get on my hands and knees, but I can crawl in a worm like manner. So crawl I do. I mosey, I sashay, I move like the wind (or a giant worm in my case). And I start to panic a little.

Now here's a good place for an aside. I'm not particularly fond of three things.

1 – Snakes.

2 – Crowds.

3 – Small, enclosed spaces.

There were no snakes.

There were no crowds. Just me and Kaylin up here in the stratosphere.

However, what do we have in spades for him Bob? How about Small Enclosed Spaces Jim! Yup, we've got a buttload of those. How does about 800 feet of small enclosed space with a few punched out holes for breathin' and some windows in the side to see how well and truly “French Connection United Kingdom”'ed you are?

DING DING DING WE HAVE A WINNER!

So here I am, 20 feet in the air, having a bit of a “moment” with the only person who can help me being a “very close to her naptime” toddler who usually requires a translator to have others understand what she's saying (who therefore is not a great candidate to run to the bottom of the structure and tell someone that her daddy is trapped in a portion of the habitrail and would you please drill him out thank you very much, since it's likely to come out as “I want cracker”).

Eventually Kaylin and I navigated our way out, and I emerged kissing terra firma and thanking god that I am still alive.

Best part of the story. This morning Kaylin appeared next to Charlene's side of the bed at 6:30am, suitcase in hand, telling mommy “Mommy, I'm going on trip. I'm going to bentures!”.

Of course there was also much meme's, pepe's, aunties, uncles, cousins, grandma's, grandpas, and turkey, this weekend.

So much so that I need to go sleep some of it off.

A service I willingly pay for

I'm not a member of the “Cult of Apple”. I think they're an excellent consumer electronics manufacturer, but not a particularly great computer manufacturer (I know it's blasphemy…but I'm just not a huge fan of OSX). The iPod in particular is an elegant device. Almost as great is iTunes despite some incredible weaknesses, there are some things that it just gets right. In fact it gets buying music so right that it makes illegal downloads obsolete.

Here's a very real situation I had this week. I wanted to listen to A Perfect Circle's Thirteenth Step. I've had one song in my head for weeks, so I went downstairs, dug up the CD, put it in my laptop, and played it. “Awesome” thought I, “I love this album, I'm gonna rip it.” I clicked “Copy CD” in iTunes, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Five minutes later it finished ripping the first song.

Now let's be clear here. My laptop is a BEAST. It's a 1.8ghz Core 2 Duo with 2 Gigs of RAM. This thing renders video faster than my desktop. But it couldn't rip my CD…because it has copy protection on it (I bought this CD before I enacted my “I refuse to buy CD's with copy protection embedded on them” rule).

Option 1: Download it legally from iTunes…I checked, I could do that, but it's $10.00 for a CD I already own. Took me about 30 seconds to find it, and I know that the copy will be great.

Option 2: Download illegally. Took about 5 minutes of searching, and I found what I THINK might be a good version of it, but I won't really know for 5 minutes when I download it and find out that it's actually a virus bomb created to blow up my computer.

Option 3: Figure out how to break the Copy protection.

Option 4: Listen to the CD as god (or in this case EMI) intended.

I chose option 4 this time…but it made me think. I now buy music on iTunes without much thought. $10.00 is a sum almost inconsequential. It's a little more than a movie rental, and about the same as a fast food meal out.

This morning I had a song by Regina Spektor stuck in my head. I checked on iTunes and the regular album was available for $9.99, while the version with 3 bonus songs was $12.99. What the heck. I'll buy it.

I clicked on “Buy Album”. iTunes prompted me for my password. Entered, and the album begins downloading.

One minute and thirty five seconds later, the album was down.

Two minutes after that it was on my iPod.

Holy crap. Now that's an example of an enabling technology. I sacrifice a bit of quality to get the convenience of a super fast experience.

Now I'm not delighted with the fact that the music is DRM'ed, although there are ways around that, the quality isn't great (and the highest quality available is 128k), but I'm kind of okay with it.

I wish iTunes itself were a little more better and wasn't primarily focused on looking good. Stability would be nice. Better organizational tools would be nice. Some support for Canada in terms of Movies and TV would be nice (those movies and TV being in HD would be even nicer), and better integration with stuff like Media Center rather than requiring me to buy yet another appliance that I'm not interested in (Apple TV), would be great.

However, that said, iTunes is a pretty cool experience, and I like the convenience of it a lot.