Tuesday, January 31, 2006
The Job Hunt Heats Up With a New Opportunity
While the guys toil away on IGotNewsForYou, I've been on the job hunt...
Yesterday, I came upon a position advertised in our newspaper that suited me to a tee. I quickly adapted my cover letter and fired off my resume to their HR department. As it turns out a former colleague of mine now has a fairly senior position at this very large organization. I emailed him for advice and any help that he could provide. He responded very quickly (always appreciated), and said he took the liberty of contacting someone that I had worked with more closely in our former organization, who apparently complimented me all over the place (and why wouldn't they?!?!). My former colleague then spoke to his HR department and suggested they give me every consideration...stay tuned, folks.
(Technorati Tags: finding a job
Monday, January 30, 2006
Getting Prescription Drugs is as Easy as Going Undercover and Asking for Them
I was listening to a radio call-in show today on CJAD
in the car and they were talking about the ease with which one can get prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs. A reporter went around undercover to 12 local clinics (Montreal, Quebec) and got a prescription within 5-7 minutes at 10 of these medical facilities.
Within 5 days he had over 200 pills.
One doctor didn't even write the prescription, just gave him a handful of samples. Now this reporter didn't say he was suicidal or about to axe someone to death. He told the people giving him the drugs that was feeling a bit "blue". And he got all these pills at all these places. There are millions of these drugs being prescribed here...and we're talking Quebec, Canada...imagine the scale of things in the US.
There's a great deal of pressure put on doctors and medical facilities to prescribe these drugs. And pressure on people to take them. This is big business and the pharmaceutical companies have created the demand via the media, and work very hard to maintain and increase that demand, even though for many people these drugs may not be necessary, and may even be harmful. I realize these drugs do help some people, but soon half of adults will be in la-la land on anti-depressants and don't get me started on drugs like Ritalin for our kids.
Mind you, maybe there's a lesson that we can apply to our little start-up business, IGotNewsForYou. (Voice inside head changes to evil entrepreneurial, money-grubber...) Create demand, massive demand, get people hooked, get them so addicted they can't stop using IGotNewsForYou. Interesting.
In any case, if you take Prozac or any of the other anti-depressants, think about it. Do you really need them? In April, you'll be able to create IGotNewsForYou pages...they'll also cheer you up and may also become addictive and a difficult habit to break...but they'll be a lot easier on your brain, your body and your wallet than those pills. And please, take care of yourself...
(The following public service announcement was not made by a trained doctor. It wasn't even made by a trained monkey. We respect the intelligence and experience of trained professionals in the medical field, and encourage people to listen to their doctors. Of course, that would assume you could FIND a doctor around here...Seriously, take care of yourself, be careful about over medicating...there I go preaching again...and enjoy a good laugh once in awhile...)
(Technorati Tags: health care
, prescription drugs
Malaysian Government Investigating Bigfoot Sightings
Well, that's probably not true, since this was a recent submission we received to the IGotNewsForYou Satire Writing Contest
. The submission was from Charlie
at Where the Hell Was I?
. His blog is an entertaining read, and we wish him the best.
Now, onto the fake news of the day:
The Malaysian government is investigating a series of recent 'Bigfoot'
sightings in the southern rainforests of the Endau-Rompin national
park. Locals have reported spotting a hulking, tall, hairy ape several
times throughout the park.
In related news, Mr. George Fielding of Boston, MA
was detained by
local authorities for questioning in the 'Bigfoot' investigation.
secretary, Jennifer Parker
, told the press that Mr. Fielding
had never even been to Malaysia, but was informed by the police that his similarity to the description given was too close to
be coincidental. Reports that Mr. Fielding
was lured into police
custody with a trail of ripe bananas could not immediately be
The bolded bits would be where the personalization kicks in. As well, this could very well be considered a general interest type story, or perhaps we would categorize it as a story related to a specific quirk (of Mr. Fielding in this case -- i.e. hairy, hulking, etc.) and then the story becomes extremely appropriate.
In this case, George Fielding would most likely have been the recipient of this story, while Jennifer Parker could have been the sender, a significant other or George's friend.
Charlie sent three other submissions as well, and deserves a warm round of applause. We hope Charlie continues to submit funny fake news, and we'll continue to be very appreciative.
As I pointed out last week - the contest runs through the end of February, so there's plenty of time for you to submit your own stories. Read the guidelines
before doing so, cause they'll definitely help.
(Technorati Tags: satire
, fake news
Sunday, January 29, 2006
No Beer Pouring Robots from Canadian or U.S. Beer Makers; Asahi Innovates
What's wrong with Canadian and U.S beer makers? Molson, Labatt, Coors, Budweiser...all we get is T&A on TV with supposedly funny, sexy commercials, or in the case of Canadian beer makers we often get them trying to tug on our nationalistic heart strings (think Molson's "I Am Canadian" ads). Ok, so some of the commercials are decent, but check out what they're doing in Japan...
The beer makers at Asahi (a fairly good brew I might add) are running a contest for beer pouring robots
. How great would that be for the Superbowl? You don't even have to stop eating the nachos anymore, the robot pours the beer for you
. The robot also stocks 6 cans of beer and 2 mugs, keeping them nice and cool.
Of course, this brilliant innovation is only available in Japan, which is extremely frustrating. I guess the other downside is that it only serves cans - I always find the beer in cans has that metallic twang to it, so I prefer bottles. If the Japanese make a robot that stocks bottles and opens them, I'll be on one of the first flights over.
In the meantime, I know we have some readers from Japan. Think you could win me one of the 5,000 available robots? I'll pay you back for it somehow...
Saturday, January 28, 2006
My Favorite Buzzword: Scope Creep
In 1998 I had the opportunity to write a book called, The Buzzword Bingo Book
. As you might have guessed, it was all about buzzwords
. I'm a huge fan (from the perspective of wanting to tear my own ears off and strangle upper management-types) of buzzwords. The book is old, but plenty of those buzzwords are still around, including my favorite: scope creep
Now there are plenty of more interesting buzzwords. Low hanging fruit
for example, which is supposed to mean something about the easy sales/opportunities/revenue you can get in business. Who cares what it's supposed to mean, if someone says that in a boardroom meeting I immediately think about the low hanging fruit between my legs. Sorry for the visual, but it's true. And so does every other guy in the room. I'm particularly apologetic to any ladies in that boardroom, hopefully you're able to just think, "That manager is a moron. I'd like to kick him in the low hanging fruit."
But scope creep
still rules the day. Why, you ask? Mostly because it really means something, and back in 1998 I was dealing with scope creep constantly. In those days my company was building fairly complex web sites and applications (e-commerce, dynamic content sites, etc.) and we faced scope creep with every single client. It didn't matter if their website was 1 page or 5000 pages, scope creep reared its gruesome head. So when I heard the word scope creep, or when I used it (and yes, I'll admit to using this buzzword) it really said something to me, something along the lines of, "@#$@#$*#@$ client wants #@$#@$&@$@ more stuff on their @#$%@$##@#&% website."
Those days are long gone, but even today I deal with scope creep on a fairly regular basis. Even with IGotNewsForYou
we deal with it. When we first got IGotNewsForYou rolling we talked about a thousand different ideas, and we even started working on quite a few of them. We'd go down one road, thinking it would be fairly simple, only to add more ideas/more features/more complexity...tada! Scope creep. Of course, we want to offer the absolute best product(s) and service we can, but the reality is that there are always going to be limitations: time, money, lazy partners, plain old bad ideas, itchy toes that you have to scratch incessantly, etc. Often when starting a new business you don't really know entirely what
your customers are going to want, but trying to offer everything is a mistake.
As they say, you can't please everyone all the time. It just doesn't work.
Keeping it simple is the key, in my mind, to being able to launch a business successfully, minimizing risk, keeping flexible and gaining traction. Start simple, offer limited functionality, services, products and see where it takes you. Build relationships with your customers and then grow from there.
That's precisely what we're doing with IGotNewsForYou. We removed some of the products we were going to offer, in order to simplify things - both for our customers and ourselves. We simplified some of the requirements of how our system will personalize stories (thereby reducing the programming workload and also keeping the door open to move in different directions more quickly when we see the demand). We're making sure our website is ultra-basic in terms of design - it'll look nice, but simple, and it'll have the critical content but nothing else. This is partially to give users a very straightforward and easy experience, but it's also to avoid scope creep.
Scope creep is the death of an entrepreneur. Even if you're working with a few partners (like I am), there are only so many hours in a day, and only so much people can do. We don't have all of the skills to handle everything but we certainly can't afford to hire other people. So you simplify, keep the requirements under control and avoid scope creep. Otherwise you get overwhelmed and you never launch
Never launching = death.
Launching simple = a fighting chance.
(Obviously there are no guarantees)
, a well-recognized name in the tech world, recently wrote a post on his blog titled, "The Art of Bootstrapping
". My post isn't about bootstrapping per se, but there's a couple things he points out that say to me, "avoid scope creep". I encourage everyone to check it out, even if you're not in the software business, or currently starting your own business.
In reality, scope creep is often inevitable. If you come up with some brilliant idea, you're not going to say to yourself, "Wait a second, that's more work than I had planned to do. Oh well." If it's going to make a significant difference to your business and its success, you have to look at doing the work. In fact, if you do a search for "scope creep" on Google the very first result (that I got at least) is a 2002 article by Hal Helms, titled, "In Defense of Scope Creep
I'd still contend, particularly for an entrepreneur working his or her tail off with limited time + resources that keeping scope creep significantly under control is critical. Launch quick, lean and mean. Add more later.
To bring this enormously long post full circle: buzzwords are freaking lame
. I'm no longer on top of the latest buzzwords, although I still encounter plenty of them. The phenomenon of buzzwords is here to stay (and the Buzzword Bingo game is still around too!) Just look at BuzzWhack
for all your buzzword needs. And if you have any great buzzwords that you love-to-hate, email them to me
, or post a comment.
(Technorati Tags: buzzwords
, scope creep
Friday, January 27, 2006
Monkey Cops and Monkey Justice. No Monkey Business
Don't mess with the macaques. Seriously.
comes the story: Monkey cops keep the peace among groups
For those that have very short attention spans and don't want to read the full article, here's the scoop:
- Monkeys kick ass.
- They do so by policing their own, forming gangs and levels of dominance.
- Monkeys pick their peacekeepers on the basis of who can kick the most ass. Wimpy monkeys basically vote the tough monkeys into policing roles. (Is it me, or will we see this sort of thing adapted into a reality show soon?)
- Remove the monkey cops and chaos ensues. Cats end up sleeping with dogs. Dogs cry wolf. And the monkeys go apeshit.
- Monkeys are like humans, only generally smarter.
Macaque is an unfortunate name for a monkey. Worse still, its scientific name is Macaca nemestrina
(which sounds like something my son might do as soon as I take his diaper off, or something he's bound to catch at daycare). Still, I'm not going to tell the macaque monkeys about their name, they'll throw me in monkey jail and toss away the banana.
(Technorati Tags: monkeys
, monkey cops
Cross-border Shopping, The Cleaning Lady and Illegal Bones
It’s Friday afternoon, about 12:30pm and I’m sitting in the clubhouse of the Whitlock Golf and Country Club
in beautiful Hudson, Quebec
with my laptop, thinking about IGotNewsForYou and my life, glancing at the newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. Why am I sitting in the clubhouse instead of hanging around my kitchen in my underwear? It’s because the cleaning lady is in this afternoon, and take my word for it, you wouldn’t want to get in her way.
I’m one of the most honest people I know. My wife and I have traveled extensively and have been on many cross-border shopping trips to US border towns. Each time we leave Canada, I start to fret about our coming back and dealing with Canadian Customs. As you may have guessed, my wife likes to shop. I spend the whole trip worrying about import limits, US-Canada exchange rates, duties on things manufactured in various countries, surly border officials just waiting to nail my sorry ass against the wall, Goods and Services Tax, Provincial Sales Tax, confiscation of my car, confiscation of my wife when she starts to argue with the border guard, etc. etc. Crossing back into Canada is an experience that leaves me sweating, trembling and on the verge of a complete breakdown. I invariably look like I’m lying and I’m sure the 18 year old customs officer also knows that I’m lying about the number of souvenirs, t-shirts, blouses, shoes, etc. that are hidden in our suitcases.
And as I look at our newspaper this afternoon, I see that some Canadian agency has illegally imported human bones and tissues from cadavers from a US company. These body parts may have been infected with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, syphilis and who knows what else, and have been used in transplants. Recipients of these tissues are of course planning a massive lawsuit. So what did the guy bringing this stuff into Canada say at the border when asked if he had anything to declare? What did he say was the value of the purchases he was bringing in? Was he nervous and uptight? Did he declare the socks he bought in Plattsburgh as well as the human tissue? Did he have to pay duty on the socks and the bones but not the tissues? Should I ask him to join my wife and I on our next shopping trip to Vermont?
(Technorati Tags: canada
, tissue transplant
, cross-border shopping
An Update on IGotNewsForYou.com
It's been awhile since I've posted an update on how things are going with IGotNewsForYou. How are things going? Good question.
The guys are making some great strides towards our eventual launch in April
. I think a bit of panic is setting in, I just saw Neil, normally a calm, reserved Brit, racing by with a bewildered look on his face, not unlike a crazed llama. He's so excited about the project, I wonder sometimes if he's going to burst at the seams. And he's constantly running in here with a million ideas; I can barely understand him when he speaks at a normal pace, but quicken that ten fold, well...
The real site (which isn't available for your viewing pleasure just yet) is almost finished. We're developing all of the necessary pages and sorting out logistics: return policies, privacy policies, pricing, etc. One might think this sort of thing rather dull, but it's not at all - it means these guys are getting closer and closer to making IGotNewsForYou a reality. Even though I spend most of my time piddling about, asking questions, mucking with a bit of code here and there, I can't help but look at the progress that's been made and be pretty darn happy.
There's still plenty of anxiety, even for me, but I think we'll make it. There's also a lot left to do: finalize the actual system for personalizing stories, write about a billion more stories, clean up the website, finalize the e-commerce component, get the necessary office equipment and so forth. There's a task list a million feet long...well, there would be if we bothered putting anything on a task list. But, I know we'll make it, and IGotNewsForYou will launch.
What happens then...phew...who knows!
(Technorati Tags: satire
, online business
Thursday, January 26, 2006
The Biggest Bong Ever
there's a story titled, "Feds smoke out largest drug tunnel yet"
Seems the Feds in the U.S. unearthed a tunnel running from Mexico to the U.S. that's about 1,200 yards long, 5 feet high and 3.5 feet wide. Suffice it to say that it's a really huge freaking tunnel. And it was chock full o' pot.
Not only was it a super long tunnel but it had more amenities than a 3-star hotel: built of concrete, electricity and lighting, ventilation and a pump to remove water. Granted, they hadn't yet invited Martha Stewart to clean it up, but who cares, it was full of pot.
Amanda at Orange Buffalo
points out the obvious, but I'll do it again anyway -- the title infers that the Feds smoked out
the tunnel. Obviously they didn't light a giant match and toss it into the tunnel to burn all the pot, that would have been an incredible disaster and an incredible waste. I can only imagine the scene when people rushed to both ends of the tunnel to try and inhale what would have become an absurdly huge smoke fest.
So kudos to CNN for the witty title (even if it was unintended), and kudos to the Feds for discovering the giant tunnel. The Mexicans are probably not that pleased since they'll get blamed for everything.
Luckily no one's discovered that even bigger tunnel running from British Columbia into Washington State...
(Technorati Tags: bong
, war on drugs
Steven Harper Hug Your Children, Please!
This morning while watching CTV
they showed a quick bit about Steven Harper
. It was a fluff piece far as I could tell, but it showed Steven Harper dropping his kids off at school.
Now we all know that Steven Harper is a bit socially retarded; let's face it, the quirky, uncomfortable smiles, the fairly monotone tone he uses almost all time...he's not exactly ra-ra, and not exactly comfortable in the spotlight. But that's ok, I don't think that should seriously impact our judgement of him as a Prime Minister (although it's still a bit weird). We'll judge him as a Prime Minister for what he does for us (and so far that's been absolutely nothing, transition my ass, where's my GST cut and $1,200 for my kid?)
The thing that caught my attention, and it was mentioned again on the radio as I was driving to work -- why didn't Steven Harper hug his children
? True, he was in front of a camera, and that can be a bit awkward (although he better get used to it for his own good), but for heaven's sake, Steven, they're your children
. Even George Bush has hugged his kids on TV hasn't he? In fact, George Bush has even hugged other people's kids...
Instead of hugging them as he dropped them off at school he shook their hands
. If you ask me, it's just plain bizarre.
And while no one probably paid that much attention to the incident today, each of these little, quirky things is going to add up to an image of Harper that he's so carefully tried to craft. Eventually people are going to say, "does he even like his kids?" Or, "does he even have a soul?"
I wish Harper the best of luck, not because I voted for him, but because he's now the man in charge, and as long as I live in Canada I want Canada to be a good place to live. I want better health care, better daycare, less taxes, safe streets and palm trees. Yup, that's right, I'm the president of the special interest group known as "Bring Out Our Palms" (or BOOP).
I don't care where you come from, shaking your young kids' hands as they go to school is plain old odd. And Steven doesn't want to look odd in front of the Canadian people. Governing isn't just about number crunching, deal brokering, going into deficit, scandals, and stealing all our money. It's about image too.
PS. Arm our border guards, Harper. I'll support that any day.
(Technorati Tags: steven harper
, canadian politics
A Testimonial From My Mother
Working with Allen (our resident writer and my brother
), on IGotNewsForYou can sometimes be a messy affair. The guy is funny. Pee-your-pants funny. As lazy as they come mind you, but certainly funny. We were chatting yesterday about various story ideas, the website, etc. and he started talking about what it would be like to explain IGotNewsForYou to our mother. Now our mom is tripping past 80 years old these days, and sure her memory isn't what it used to be, but she still has a good sense of humor. Of course, having never actually sat at a computer, it would be almost impossible to explain IGotNewsForYou to her. Still, Allen was going on about how funny it would be to show it to her and how funny it would be to get a testimonial from her. (Ben claims we need testimonials to show people how great IGotNewsForYou is. On the site we're working on, we've put in some placeholder/fake ones just to get the layout down.)
So, skipping out on the things he should have been working on, Allen came up with a testimonial written by our mother:
Friday...another lonely weekend coming up...
My name is Mrs. Yoskovitz and my son, Allen, is a partner in IGotNewsForYou or at least that's what he tells me. It's a great business. He told me the last time he came to visit me...that was about five months ago. Considering that he lives 10 minutes away by car, I can't ask for much more. Although he could pick up a phone. Actually it's that wife of his...ah well never mind.
As I was saying IGotNewsForYou is very clever. Personalized, shmersonalized...who cares...as long as he can earn a decent living from it...but it can't be worse than his previous business ventures. He was a partner in an upscale ladies wear store in Kabul for a while. It didn't do very well. Then he got involved with some strange guys who opened a woman's shelter in Iraq...bombed as well...in any case hopefully IGotNewsForYou can make him enough money so that he can finally start to pay down his student loans...considering he's 54 years old, it would be a good idea. And he had a good education...university and everything...but I think he spent most of his school time hanging out with, what did we call them, dippies, bippies...I can't remember...you know long hair, that weird Turkish tobacco, whatever...ah well...and I always hoped he'd become a doctor like my friend Elsa's boy.
Thanks mom. You're the best. Allen, get back to work.
(Technorati Tags: baby boomers
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
If I Could Win a Lawsuit Every Time Someone Said I Was Broke
Truth be told I'm not broke, so the subject line is a bit misleading, but the news of the day is that Donald Trump is suing the author and publisher of "TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald" for massively understating his wealth.
The book claims Trump is worth about $150 million: $150,000,000
Trump says it's more like $2.7 billion: $2,700,000,000
Look at all those freaking zeros
And Trump's suing for $5,000,000,000
. My friends, that's not a typo. He's suing for $5 billion dollars.
I've thought Trump's been nuts for awhile, what with every single attempt he's made to get publicity, even the lamest possible publicity there is. But this is really absurd.
To me it's all about Trump trying to get more attention for himself. His show (which sucked after the novelty wore off), really put it into his head that he had to be the biggest publicity hound in the world. I'd call him a publicity whore.
Granted, publicity is a good thing, even bad publicity, but there has to be a limit. There has to be a point when it starts to work against you, where the very sight of you on TV or elsewhere, or the very mention of your name causes uncontrollable wretching amongst the people. I just ate a giant steak submarine for lunch, so it's hard to tell if I'm wretching cause of that, or cause of Donald Trump. Let's say 50-50.
I would also point out that Trump is giving tons of free publicity to the author and publisher of the very book he's fighting against. For that very reason, here's the first link for the keyword "Trumpnation" from Google: VidLit: TrumpNation
. (P.S. I've never heard of VidLit until just now, but it looks kind of cool.)
I can't wait to see what happens with this lawsuit, and I will follow it with a keen eye. If Trump wins, then every time my wife says, "Ben, we don't have enough money," I'm going to sue her for $10. No, wait...$10 and a candy bar. No, wait...$10, a candy bar and some Pepto-Bismol.
If you want the full scoop on this absurd story, check out these links:
* Trump sues over claim he's simply a millionaire
* Donald Trump Sues Tim O'Brien
* The Donald - pissed.
(Technorati tags: trump
An Update on the Satire/Fake News Writing Contest
I've been pleasantly surprised with the quality of submissions to our writing contest
. We've received 16 submissions from people across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. I'm looking forward to many more submissions from those places and other parts of the world.
There's still plenty of time...the contest ends February 28th
, and you can submit as many stories as you like
Remember, we're looking for fake news, 70-150 words, where the content can be personalized. The news doesn't have to be ultra-topical (but it can be). It might be totally made up news, where it's not a spoof or satire of an actual event, or it might be a spoof of something actually going on.
Here's one submission that we received from the writer of Jagpot
- In local sporting news, Rebecca Sasser
set a new Guinness record today by throwing a full-grown man 19 feet, 2 inches. This tops the old record of 18 feet, established by Roseanne Barr in 1994, just days before her divorce from Tom Arnold.
Local resident Al Smith
, the man thrown by Ms. Sasser
, had this to say immediately after the record-breaking feat: "Hey! What the hell, lady?"
"I had just left Starbucks, minding my own business, when this woman grabs me by the neck and throws me across the goddamn street," Mr. Smith
added later, appearing to not yet fully grasp the importance of his role in sports history.
When asked what inspired her historical toss, Ms. Sasser
replied, "I don't know. I felt strong, the wind was right, and that guy just looked aerodynamic somehow."
I've bolded those bits of information that would have been personalized in the story. As well, one could consider this a "sports" story, so the recipient (in this case, I think it would be Mr. Smith) would have been interested in sports. Ms. Sasser would likely have been the person that sent the page to Mr. Smith with this story included on that page.
As you can see, this is a news story but it's not related to anything going on...at least I don't think so...
To those that have submitted already, thank you
. To those still interested in submitting, please do
. To those that have just come across this now, I hope to hear from you
, and look forward to laughing at your writing (not because your writing is bad, but because it's funny!)
(Technorati Tags: writing
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Canadian Politics, The Election and My Predictions
This is far from a political blog, and I don't foresee much political commentary here. Having said that, as a Canadian, I would be remiss if I didn't say something about last night's federal election.
Canadians are often known as a timid bunch. If you look at the Prejudice Map
(something I came across a few days ago), you'll see the entry for Canada as: "cultural diversity, humility and kindness
, liking their beer, being tolerant
." Oh, how I wish this post was all about beer...but I digress...
With that, the Canadians elected a Conservative government, but as a minority, keeping a fairly short leash on them. Canadians wanted change, and a lot of people were outright ill at the prospect of electing the Liberals (after scandal after scandal after scandal). Eventually, even the tolerant and polite among us could stand it no longer. But still, the leash is held tightly around the Conversatives' necks and now they get to tread lightly in the House of Commons, forming coalitions and brokering deals every step of the way.
I didn't vote Conservative. I also didn't vote Liberal. But that's not really the point (except to say I'm trying to be reasonably impartial in this post).
I was pleased to see the turn out was a bit higher than last time, but I still think it should be higher. Particularly amongst younger people. You may not care as an 18 year old (or 20 year old, or whatever) about politics, and you might not think it affects you, but it does. The choices you make today impact things 10 years from now when you'll most likely have a car, house, wife, kids, trillions of additional responsibilities, debts, expectations and decisions to make. Just look at the history of it - the Liberals were in power for 12 years and now things have changed. Decisions people made 12 years ago to put the Liberals in power set that party up for 12 years of being in charge. So vote. Each and every single freaking time. Vote.
In terms of Paul Martin
stepping down: I had a feeling. Why? Well, first because he got his ass handed to him in this election. The Liberals did better than most thought, but he personally took a lot of crap. And secondly, when he didn't come out to give his speech last night until very late (I had already gone to bed) I just had a feeling he was making the decision right then and there. I'm glad Martin's leaving, not because I have any hard feelings against him, but because he represents a party that grew so entitled in their own minds that he could never properly lead them again.
On that note, I might as well make some predictions as to what will happen next:
* One of the newly minted Conversative MPs will invariable say something stupid about removing rights for gay people, or something similarly racist against ethnic minorities. Admittedly, Harper did control his people extremely well during the campaign, but now that they're in power, I guarantee you he loses the reigns a wee bit and it goes to some people's heads and they start yapping. After all, power corrupts. See the Liberals for more details.
* The Liberals will restructure, out with the old, in with the new. Belinda Stronach
will not be the next Liberal leader (although she's still an MP and she does take a ton of flack for being a good looking woman in politics and someone that switched parties). I don't know who will be, but Frank McKenna
looks like a possibility/front-runner. The Liberals will do reasonably well as the opposition, and after several Conservative gaffs related to the rights of Canadians, the minority will fall (on some non-confidence issue related to budgets) and the Liberals will win a majority. (It will take 2 years since Canadians don't want an election any time soon, and that'll give the Conversatives plenty of time to say stupid things and get caught in bed with their U.S. counterparts. Oh the scandal!)
* Jack Layton
will not shave off his moustache. He will sign a record deal and cut an album of country & western songs.
* Pierre Pettigrew
will disappear into a sewer where he came from (sorry, he's slimy and I really can't stand him).
* Steven Harper
will not learn how to improve his ability to smile
. Every time Harper smiles, I can just imagine what it says in his speech notes, or what he's thinking in his mind: "insert smile here".
* Gilles Duceppe
will continue to rant and rave about Quebec sovereignty. Key topics will be: the fiscal imbalance, Broisbriand and poutine. (PS. Poutine rocks, sovereignty does not. And I've never been to Broisbriand.)
PS. Most of the above links were found using Google Blogsearch. Most were the first blogs that came up when I searched for each person's name. I thought the diversity of posts, blogs and commentary was interesting.
(Technorati Tags: canada
Do Your Business While Checking Out the World
From Mister Snitch's blog
, this is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. In Houston they have a public toilet completely surrounded in glass. The person on the inside can see out, people of course, can't see in. So you can be sitting there pooping away (and yes, I just used the word "pooping"), reading a magazine and watching people strolling along the streets. If I wasn't so busy right now I would do much more research into this:
(1) Whose idea was this?
(2) Why did anyone think this was a good idea?
(3) Can anyone confirm that this is in fact really true?
(4) How much did it cost to build?
(5) What's the strangest thing or most interesting thing someone's done inside the toilet? (Come on folks from Houston: don't be shy!)
(5) Where can I get one? No seriously, I want one...
Monday, January 23, 2006
A Quick Guide to Being of Use for Older Baby Boomer Men
Lots of older baby boomer guys might feel depressed or question their purpose after they suddenly find themselves fired, let go, pensioned, downsized, retired or packaged off. But I know there are ways to continue living a full and satisfying life! You can still contribute to society in a valuable and positive way, besides playing cards with elderly ladies or taking up weird hobbies. You simply have to re-focus and find those hidden skills and abilities so long kept under the rug while you were holding down your 6-figure salaried position.
This stuff is particularly true if you have an in-house female, legally and contractually obligated significant other...aarrgh, political correctness...If you have a wife, is what I'm trying to say.
For example, you can become an automobile security consultant. While your wife is in the mall shopping, you can be napping...I mean guarding the car.
Years ago (while I was still working but holding down a part-time gig as an automobile security consultant) I fell asleep after giving up on the crossword puzzle, sitting in the driver's seat, parked in a mall lot somewhere while my wife was shopping inside. A knock on the window nearly killed me as my heart tore from my chest in surprise. It was a cop. I rolled down the window as quickly as I could, the newspaper falling to the floor and drool dripping from my mouth. The cop asked me if I was ok. I told him my wife was inside shopping and that I preferrred staying in the car than go shopping with her. He said he understood completely, wished me a nice day and drove off. He thought I was dead. I nearly died from laughing afterwards...
Here's another idea: fashion consultant. So when your wife asks, "Do these pants go with this blouse?" you'll know immediately what to answer. I'm really good at fashion advice. The last time I bought clothes for myself was in 1987. A package of three jockey shorts. They were too small and of course couldn't be returned.
How about a lifestyle guru or trainer? When your wife asks, "Does this dress make my butt look fat?" you'll know what to do. I'd suggest faking an epileptic fit or cardiac arrest. You can get into home decor so you'll know if the curtains clash with the wallpaper. Or become an etiquette advisor - "We have to repay the Browns for having us over for brunch. What do YOU suggest?" As an etiquette advisor, you can handle this one easily. Or try cooking...lots of guys like to cook, apparently. When she asks rhetorically, "What are YOU planning for dinner tonight?" you'll be ready.
So guys, don't despair...a new, fulfilling career is just around the corner...of course, if that corner is in your house you better make sure that it's appropriately clean, dusted and suitable for last minute visits by your wife's bridge club.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Customer Evangelism Is Critical
For a business like IGotNewsForYou, customer evangelism will be critical. If customers don't talk about us, rave about us, and help promote us, we'll have a hard time reaching a ton of people. We don't have a huge marketing budget (What's that Dad? We have no marketing budget? Right, got it.) and our marketing machine consists of me, myself and I. Our hope is to garner some press from a number of different angles, pull some stunts that might draw some attention, but ultimately it's going to come down to people telling other people about us. And no matter what, you can't really force something like that. People will talk if people want to talk. (And I can tell you that we'll appreciate the effort people make on our behalf, and we'll be particularly tuned in to that effort and their needs as customers.)
So how are we going to do it? That's a bloody good question. Ultimately, I think it will come down to providing something of value (in this case funny and unique) and doing it in such a way that it's incredibly easy for people, the experience is enjoyable and the price point makes it a no-brainer. We will always work to provide a great customer experience, with any interactions people have with us, as well as with the product.
If you ever need proof of how important customer evangelism (or word-of-mouth marketing) really is, then check this out.
It's about the online DVD rental business called Netflix
. Note: I'm not a Netflix customer, so I can't speak to their business whatsoever, but the bottomline is that their best marketing has been through their customers. Customers love Netflix and they tell everyone they know about it.
I can only hope the same will hold true for IGotNewsForYou.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Palestinian Play Time: Hamas and the Kids
From Rapture Clock
I just read an article in the New York Times
(registration required) about a new kids' show being aired on a TV station owned by Hamas. Yup, that Hamas.
Some critical points of the article and the show:
- There will be people in fake-fur animal suits (ok, lots of kids shows have that)
- The TV station (Al Aska TV) and the show are a means for Hamas to broaden its role in Palestine politics and society (oh, wonderful)
- Hamas is working on a satellite version to increase their reach further (just what I've always wanted)
- The show will apparently teach the basics of militant Palestinian politics (kid terrorists anyone?)
Most importantly, the show will be preceded by an hour of cartoons, including Tom & Jerry
. If that doesn't make you laugh, I don't know what will. Tom & Jerry in the Middle East...I'm surprised they're not showing endless hours of Itchy & Scratchy
This sort of thing reminds me that life is almost always funnier than anything we can possibly imagine in our own heads. I guess that makes writing satirical, fake news even harder, although it seems to me that we can take this real story and use it as a launching pad for any number of hilarious, absurd stories for IGotNewsForYou.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Someday We'll Buy A Shatner Body Part
News is spreading all over the blogosphere about William Shatner selling a kidney stone for £25,000. The buyer, of course, is GoldenPalace.com. No one should be surprised with all the whacky stuff they've bought.
They do it for publicity, and it works. The beauty of something like this is that it gets tons of play in mainstream media and in blogs, entertainment sites, quirky news sites, etc. Even this morning on CTV News they were talking about it.
While I certainly chuckled at the news, I immediately thought about it from a business angle, "Someday, IGotNewsForYou.com will buy whacky things and get publicity. Someday, we'll outbid GoldenPalace.com for something. Someday, we'll buy another body part off Shatner." (You just know he'll sell something else.)
Will having the resources to buy something absurd for thousands of dollars tell us that we've "made it"? Who knows...but I'm all for pulling stunts (online and offline) in order to promote the IGotNewsForYou.com story and brand. Somehow silly stunts and IGotNewsForYou just seems to make sense.
On that note, if anyone has any crazy ideas/schemes/stunts that they think would work well for IGotNewsForYou, I'm all ears. Maybe we'll tattoo someone's forehead (temporarily of course), or have someone run naked through the streets with our URL on their back (or elsewhere).
For the full story on Shatner and his beloved kidney stone, take a look at Heckler Spray
PS. From The Obscure Store
I just read a blurb about a woman that had the logo of a pizza place tattooed on her arm. It was her idea, and the pizza place was willing to pay for it. They also gave her free pizza for a year. I don't know that I could ever ask someone to tattoo the IGotNewsForYou logo on their body, but if they offered...The full story can be found here
Satire Writing Contest: Submit Fake News Today!
Recently, we launched a writing contest
to find the funniest, short bit of satire. We'll probably run contests forever (or until we sell IGotNewsForYou.com for millions to Yahoo
, retire and buy really, really expensive rocking chairs). It's a great way to engage people in the process of building IGotNewsForYou into a resource of hysterical content. Plus, it's just plain funny to see what people submit. We've already received a number of great submissions, and I'll most likely be posting some in the near future.
All of the contest details can be found at http://www.igotnewsforyou.com/contest.html
I didn't realize how many
writing contests existed until I started taking a look. But there are plenty. I can't vouch for any, but there's plenty of information online in terms of what to look for, what contests might be sketchy, etc. Trust me, ours is legitimate, even if we look like a bunch of doddering bozos. And there's no entry fee. We don't want your money we want your humor!
The prize for our contest is admittedly fairly modest, but I'm unemployed and the other three guys are cheap bastards. So, for our first contest the prize is one of four comedy DVDs that we've selected, which the winner will be able to choose. We'll buy the DVD from Amazon
and have it shipped directly to the winner. In the future, I hope the prizes will get bigger and better.
The deadline for submissions is February 28, 2006. A decision will be made almost immediately afterward, and the winner will be notified. We'll probably ask the winner for a little bio of him/herself so that we can put that on our site and promote the heck out of the person (it's the least we can do).
So start writing people! Think funny thoughts! Send submissions to email@example.com
! Send as many as you like!
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
When Should You Quit Your Job?
I'm sure lots of people struggle with that question on a daily basis. Some, like my dad (sorry!), don't cause their employers already answered the question for them.
Well over at We're Only Immortal For a Limited Time
, J. Francis Lounds is asking that exact question. In fact, he's decided to write a book
about it, and he's asking for submissions. I've got some experience
in writing books, and it ain't easy, but it can be a rewarding challenge. He's setup a blog specifically on the subject: When Is It Time To Quit?
where he'll be publishing some of the best stories people send him. He's even got a contest going (offering $500 worth of job coaching) to encourage submissions.
Everyone complains about their work at some point in time, and some have it way worse than others. But lots of people might be nervous about complaining online, and this guy's taking it to a whole new level, narrowing in on a theme that's important to many, and trying to bring all those frustrated folks together. Good luck to you Joel!
What is IGotNewsForYou Anyway?
That's a good question. And by now you're probably really curious or really ticked that I haven't tried to explain it in more detail. We do have a brief home page for you to look at (http://www.igotnewsforyou.com
) but let me try and do it some more justice.
IGotNewsForYou is similar to an e-card, but a lot more sophisticated and flexible. It's a personalized, satirical page in a newspaper-style format, created by someone for someone else. It's available online or in poster form...and it's really quite hilarious when you see yourself and your personal stuff in newspaper-like stories. Ok, you can decide if it's really funny or not. We think it is.
So it costs a couple of bucks to send one or you can buy a yearly subscription and send as many as you like. And you, the sender, can select the stories you want, the ones that fit your recipient best, to make it an even more personalized message, card or gift.
The bulk of stories are original, written by our staff of comedy writers (that would be mostly Al) and some are new takes on existing ideas, adapted and tweaked to make them fit the format (Neil does that). And we also have contributors, people that think the idea's worthwhile and are submitting their own, original stories. But you, the sender, get to choose the stories. So if you think that your recipient may not like one, or it might be somewhat offensive (you can always choose whether the recipient would appreciate a raunchy style or not), just select another story by clicking the headline. Very cool!
Of course, I can't show you any of this, because we're still working on getting it up and running. But as the temporary home page says - we're launching April 1st, come hell or high water.
I sent my resume to another job posting this morning...let's see; that's the 400th one since April that I've sent out in response to website job advertisements. How many have responsed to me? Let's see...that would be...uh, oh right, none, zero, nothing, nada, nil...argh.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
A Recent Job Interview
So as Benjamin, Neil and Allen work away on IGotNewsForYou.com at a feverish pace of about 20 minutes per day, I went on a job interview recently. I prepared for it just as the employment counselors advise, you know, learn about the company, practice your questions and answers, prepare the right clothes, shower, clip fingernails, remember the firm handshake, eye contact, get there on time and on and on and on and on. I did all of that. I've been in this position a few times...
It was a small hi-tech firm but the ages of the three people who interviewed me, I don't think, added up to mine. One of the girls was wearing a sweat suit...I was wearing my suit. The head technical guy was unshaven, looked like he hadn't showered in weeks, and was about 200 pounds overweight. And all I could focus on was his chest hairs showing in the opening of his shirt that was so stretched across his burly frame I thought I would have to be there when it burst...and they asked me about my strengths and weaknesses. Needless to say I don't think that there was a good organizational fit here.
So I took off my suit and put on my shorts (not in front of them, I went home first...not that I think they wouuld have cared). I took a look at the developing IGotNewsForYou.com website, emailed the guys some ideas and suggestions and went to watch Oprah.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Humping the Dog for Dominance
The IGotNewsForYou.com team of writers (Al, again) has got writer's block. Says he can't come up with anything new. Had something to do with his new puppy -- and his family is so excited. They just got this new Bernese Mountain pup -- a male -- and cute as a button. Seems the pup started humping Al's leg almost immediately. The vet said it wasn't sexual; the pup needed to assert his dominance as the main male in the house. Well Al wasn't going to sit by and idly get humped -- so he started to hump the pup's leg back to assert HIS dominance. After a few of these episodes, the cute little pup now cowers, sticks its tail between its legs and runs away every time Al enters the room. Al's family is totally pissed at him. They leave the room too as soon as he walks in (not that that's so different from how they always acted). I can understand the writer's block.
Neil is chomping at the bit to launch IGotNewsForYou.com as if there's nothing else in his life. Maybe he should get a puppy to keep him busy. Ben is working feverishly at his job and IGotNewsForYou. He doesn't have time for a puppy. And my wife told me that if I didn't get a job soon, and get out of the house, she would trade me in for a puppy.
If I don't have a real job by September 2006, Al's puppy and I will move in together in an apartment downtown and look for babes.
(PS. No puppies were harmed in any humping activity whatsoever. We love puppies. Honest. For all we know, Al's making the whole story up to avoid doing any real work. For more information about Bernese Mountain dogs go to: http://www.berner.org/
Sunday, January 15, 2006
The People Behind IGotNewsForYou.com
Allow me to introduce the management, staff and volunteers of IGotNewsForYou.com (oh, management, staff and volunteers are all the same people, right, ok...) So, in order of age descending (we should be nice to our elders) we have:
Neil Pallister, a great friend, a retired electrical engineer, a Brit with a Brit sense of humor...and the best bridge player I know...and I know some pretty sharp ones.
Mike Yoskovitz, that's me, a forcibly retired Senior Information Technology guy, who while still looking for work helps out a bit.
Allen Yoskovitz, my brother, an enigma wrapped in a conundrum - how can it be possible to be such a grouch and yet be so hysterically funny?
And last, but certainly not least, Benjamin Yoskovitz, my son, without whose fierce enterpreneurial bent, brains, Internet experience, I would have bought my rocking chair a long time ago and would be napping instead of breaking my old head wondering what to write in this blog.
(I promise funnier and more insightful posts soon, we have to get through all the intros!)
Working With My Dad
Don't get me wrong, my dad's a great guy. A bit too into curling perhaps, but still a great guy. Working with him on IGotNewsForYou (if you can call what he does "work") has been fun, interesting and challenging. Sure, I've got half his genes, but our minds work in very different ways. He's nice, pretty chill and has been a "company man" for many years (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'm much more aggressive, a bit curt, much louder and excluding the occasional summer job, I've never worked for anyone but myself (excluding partners, who you could argue one does work for). So bring those two worlds together and you get a rather interesting experience.
IGotNewsForYou.com interests me on a few levels. First, I've always wanted to create new businesses (or help in that process), and so now I get to spend hours during the day sitting at a computer for my day job, come home, and spend hours at night working on this. Second, I think it's funny and fresh. Plain and simple, I think it's a good idea. Third, I think it can be successful. Lots of good ideas fail, so I'm trying to keep our ragtag team together with some string and old tape, and hoping we can pull it off.
In the meantime, my goal for the blog is really to let my dad's voice come out. Personally, I think he has an interesting story to tell: worked hard all his life, lost his job, resurrected IGotNewsForYou.com, struggles to find new work, and spends plenty of time napping and curling. There aren't tons of guys out there pushing 60 that like to get their hands dirty in code, learn new technologies and spend their time taking orders from their kids.
And what about my voice? I'm told I project very well...I'll be posting from time-to-time with updates on this little project, and tiny tidbits of news from around the world that I find interesting and amusing. Perhaps I'll be a refreshing break from all of my dad's talk about downsizing and career transition. We'll see...
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Welcome to the IGotNewsForYou.com Blog!
Hello. I'm the creator and founder of IGotNewsForYou.com. There's not much to share right now since we're still working on it, but you can get a sneak peak at http://www.igotnewsforyou.com
I thought of the idea years ago, and even dabbled with trying to make it happen a few times, but never had the time to get it off the ground. Until now. And why is it a reality now? Because I lost my job. Yup, in the middle of 2005 my position was eliminated, and now I have time...too much time, maybe.
I brought the idea back up with my son awhile ago, and being the opportunistic, entrepreneurial bugger that he is, he told me that I had to pursue the idea once and for all. I've always worked for large companies though, and I thought my last position as a Senior IT Director could be my last. Surprise!
So now I find myself looking for an IT management job (unlike my son, I've gotten used to the regular paychecks, pension plans, health benefits, diversified co-worker environments, etc. that a large company can provide) and trying to adjust to a life so completely different to what I've experienced for the past 25 years.
While I look for work, I've also offered to get involved with IGotNewsForYou.com, but only as a volunteer, on a very part-time basis...after all, besides looking for "real work", I now play bridge, curl, snowshoe, read, play guitar, socialize (I do a whole lot except earn a real living). And being the project-oriented sort that I am, I've given myself a deadline -- September 2006 -- if I don't have a position by then, I might just get into IGotNewsForYou full-time...or buy a rocking chair for the front porch. So I've roped in a few associates, including my brother, son and a good friend, and set them to the task of making IGotNewsForYou a reality.
My personal history is a long and sordid one. Alright, more long than sordid, but I've gone through a number of careers, spanning a number of industries: construction, education, retail, tech support, information technology and more. I've always been enamored with the Internet and the possibilities it provides for streamlining business operations and improving people's lives at work. But since my position was eliminated, I'm looking for another opportunity to help people out. Of course my son wants me to become filthy rick and mock my former employers. Alright, maybe not, but he really wants me to be a successful entrepreneur (of course, he might just be afraid that I'm spending whatever is left of his inheritance!)
Ah well, I really hope people enjoy IGotNewsForYou.com. I really hope we can provide something of value, and give people some laughs.
So what's this blog and unending rant all about? Well, I'm hoping to talk about the challenges of what the employment industry euphemistically calls "career transition", volunteering my experience to launch a new business, facing the possibility of forced retirement from the workforce, being constantly underfoot at home, having no place to go in the morning and adopting all kinds of hobbies and sports, just to maintain some activity level.
There are tons of 20 and 30-something entrepreneurs (no offense intended!) but I have a much different perspective as I creep into my late 50s and early 60s. Ugh.
My son (Benjamin) will also be posting from time-to-time, with news about our progress, and his own commentary on life as an entrepreneur and the strangeness of the world.
Oh, and we hope to be pretty funny too (even if this first post wasn't that funny). Promise.