Monday, February 27, 2006
Better To Be Lucky Than Good
I went to see Woody Allen's latest contribution to the cinema art form a couple of nights ago, Match Point. Allow me the liberty of the briefest critiques. I thought it was excellent. The main point of the movie, without giving anything away, is that it's better to be lucky than to be good. I got to thinking about this a bit (as good movies do get one's gray cells going). Everyone knows people, who seem, at least superficially and to the public at large, to have horseshoes in places where the sun don't shine. They seem to have the health, wealth, relationships, etc. etc. that make us sometimes a bit envious. We know intuitively that what we see is the tip of the iceberg and some of these folks are not as lucky as they appear, but we envy their luck just the same. In business and especially when launching a start-up, although not a substitute for hard work, dedication, passion and all those other things we know about, luck is vital. We can't control it, but we can influence directions and outcomes, both in our professional and private lives. I don't know if we'll be lucky with IGotNewsForYou.com. I know we're working our butts off at it, and of course time will tell - but good luck - yeah, it would be nice. A friend of mine has a cholesterol problem. Three times a year he goes to see a specialist and for a month before he goes and for a month after his appointment, he complains and whines to all who will listen that he doesn’t care too much for this particular doctor. Seems the doctor doesn’t know him very well, doesn’t spend too much time with him, is curt, simply prescribes more and higher dosages of drugs and basically gives the impression, to my friend at least, that he is not very good at what he does. My buddy saw the specialist last week. The doctor was upbeat, friendly, chatty and personable, and recently had surgery to remove a cancer in his bowel. Better to be lucky than to be good! (Technorati Tags: match point, woody allen, luck)
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Respect Accountants, They Deserve It.
I volunteered to take a look at setting up a system to track financials for the IGotNewsForYou team. Big, big mistake! Since I once worked at a financial services company about fifteen years ago, and I've heard the terms debit and credit before, the team thought I was the best qualified man for the job. My respect for accountants has just gone way, way up. I spent the better part of yesterday trying to come up with a way to set up a financial tracking system in Excel so that the team can then adopt it and run with it. My aim was to have a process that involved a minimum number of steps. Of course, IGotNewsForYou is a volume-type business. We're expecting lots and lots of transactions (hopefully) and no one should have to spend the entire day, every day, 365 days a year, logging $3.95 transactions...And it's not just simple transactions either - there are a number of combinations of products (online page, printed poster, shipping costs to various locations), and exchange rates to deal with...I even ended up reading some accounting stuff. I almost puked. In any case, I think I have a semblance of a plan. Basically it involves a daily expense register (not yet completed), a daily sales register that is downloaded from an online transaction file that adds up eight sales types, the eight tracked sales totals then automatically go to a monthly journal, and those totals then go to a quarterly/yearly actuals journal that includes budget numbers coming from a budget file. Say what now? All journals have an estimated exchange rate (since we're taking US dollars but we'll be working in Canadian dollars, or what we like to call "loonies") and when a bank reconciliation is done at month end, adjusting entries are plugged into the General Ledger to make it all balance. From there, I think an accountant can complete the monthly or yearly close of books... Did anyone catch that? Now some people might say, "Why bother with all the complexities? Launch IGotNewsForYou, take the money and run like the wind." That sounds great, but from day one we wanted IGotNewsForYou to be run like a proper business. We're not messing around. Well we are, cause IGotNewsForYou is all about humor, but the financials need to be solid... Anyway, perhaps some accounting demi-god will appear before me, take all this work off my shoulders and make my life easier. It's very difficult to drink a gin and tonic, eat ice cream and watch Olympic sports on television while working on this stuff! (Technorati Tags: accounting, financials, setting up a business)
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Don't Forget About The Writing Contest!
Just a quick reminder - the IGotNewsForYou Satire Writing Contest is coming to a close at the end of the month. That gives you about a week to send in submissions. All of the details are at http://www.igotnewsforyou.com/contest.html We're looking for short stories (100-150 words), in the format of "fake news". There are samples on the Contest page and some have been posted on this blog before, including here, here and here. To date, we've received over 40 submissions which ain't half bad if you ask me. I'd love to see more, and I'm sure we'll get a few more coming in before the deadline. A winner will be picked shortly after the close date of the contest: February 28, 2006. That winner will be emailed directly and announced on the blog. All contributors will receive a 1-year FREE subscription to IGotNewsForYou (once it launches). Value: Priceless (ok, not really, but it's still pretty cool.) So even if you don't win the contest, you're still a winner. We're all winners aren't we? Check out all the details and submit stories to email@example.com. Come on! (Technorati Tags: writing contest, satire)
Brains are Cool and Other Important Scientific Research
I just finished reading a blog post titled, "Brain death by dull cubicle". It's all about some research being done in 'neurogenesis' by Elizabeth Gould. Apparently our brains can create new neurons if we're stimulated appropriately (which is important for all those booze-swigging yahoos out there killing off brain cells like there's no tomorrow.) The crux of Gould's recent findings is that our brains are significantly impacted by our surroundings. Boring and/or stressful surroundings stop our brains from developing new neurons. Interesting, exciting environments are like food for the brain, and it gobbles up those wonderfully complex environments and does a boogy dance inside your skull. I work in a non-cubicle environment; I've always hated cubicles but I understand why offices set them up. I hope never to have to work in one. But even if you are stuck in a cubicle, I hope you're given the opportunity to decorate it to your heart's content, because otherwise, your brain is on auto-pilot, and you're being turned into a zombie... And what's this have to do with IGotNewsForYou? Well...when you are the recipient of a wickedly hilarious poster from IGotNewsForYou, pin it up in your cubicle or in your office; it's creative, complex and unique. That page is adding positivity to your environment, for your brain, and more neurons will form. Or if you send a page to someone, tell them to pin it up in their office environment, and you'll be improving their brains. So really, IGotNewsForYou pages help make people smarter. Wow. (Technorati Tags: neurogenesis, elizabeth gould, cubicles)
Monday, February 20, 2006
The Delta Hotel Disappoints; Pricey, Old and Hairy (Just Not a Good Combination)
A couple nights ago we lost power in our house. My son was under the weather and my wife was working late. So of course, being the uber-proactive guy that I am, I did nothing, while it got darker and darker. I assumed the power would return pretty quickly. Hydro teased us with blips of power as everything would turn on suddenly only to turn off just as quickly. Meanwhile, my son was napping so I wasn't too concerned... Eventually it got so dark (amazing how that happens) that I was using the light of my laptop to walk around looking for candles. Too late. The candles had been moved from their hideaway (in one of my wife's "reorganization projects") and I was clueless as to their whereabouts. At least my son was still asleep and not panicking at the fact that there were no lights. Without knowing when the power would come back on, and needing a place to stay that would be reasonably comfortable (remember: my son is under the weather, and you don't mess with a kid that's sick), I decided we should go to a hotel. It didn't really matter which hotel, we'd just be there for the night. The Delta Hotel is fairly close by, so we packed up what we could (in the dark) and drove off. The Delta Hotel in Montreal is a 4-star place, so I figured it would be fairly swanky. And it's not too cheap either: $179/night. I've seen worse, but I've also seen better. Now I didn't ask the guy if that was his cheapest room, let's face it I was embarassed. And the whole time I'm thinking, "This room is going to be grand, and we'll get a kick out of it. A wee treat." It was on the 25th floor too! Well to make a long story short -- the room sucked. It wasn't terribly large (although the bed was massive) and there were hairs in the bathroom from whoever had stayed there before. In a 4-star hotel there shouldn't be anyone's hairs in the bathroom. Not from their head, balls or anywhere else. Simple as that. The bathroom was dingy. Old. Not renovated. Pretty disappointing. I've seen similar bathrooms in a Howard Johnson before. As we settled in, the kid was running around mucking with everything. At least he was having some fun. Then we realized we needed some milk for his bottle. I hadn't picked any up from the house, in the dark. So I called room service to order some. I figured it would be easier than going around looking for it. Guess how much it cost? No, seriously, guess? $6. I had to tip her, so the total was $8. For a 8oz. glass of 3.25% milk. Are you freaking kidding me? That's just gross. To top it off, and this frustrates me about most hotels, is the fact that parking is insanely expensive. It shouldn't cost $18 to park my car overnight in essentially an empty lot. It just shouldn't. I realize that's probably a great cash grab for hotels, but this guy could have easily offered to pay for my parking; he saw how bedraggled we look, he could see my son crying in the background...come on you twit, pay my parking! With taxes and everything included, I'm out about $239 for a night in a crappy room with a hairy bathroom because Hydro Quebec couldn't keep the power on in my house. Gggrr... Now this brings me to the other point of this post. The power of blogging is that it lets people like me (and you), very easily, publish our thoughts online for the world to see. We can praise great companies, products or ideas, and we can bash others. And we should be able to influence others. And we do. I know for a fact that many people look to their favourite/respected bloggers for advice on all sorts of things before going to mainstream media or elsewhere. That's amazing and incredibly empowering. And companies out there should be paying attention. I highly doubt anyone at Delta watches the blogosphere for positive and/or negative comments such as this one. But they should. There are companies out there that offer this service. Even if you don't pay a company, it's not that hard to do. Take Technorati, Google Blogsearch and a couple other services and you can pretty easily see who is talking about you and what they're saying. So for anyone thinking of staying at the Delta Hotel in Montreal: don't bother. There are plenty of hotels close by, or even a bit of a distance away (in downtown Montreal or Old Montreal) to choose from. Personally, I won't stay at another Delta unless it's strongly recommended by someone I trust (that's the power of one negative experience, if you ask me.) And for the record, I did complain about the room, but only after I had paid. He had my credit card number, it had been processed, and I could have made a bigger stink about it, but sometimes it's just too frustrating and too much of a hassle. So instead I can use this blog to rant about it, perhaps dissuade others from choosing the Delta, and get some satisfaction in that. (Technorati Tags: delta hotel, blogs, hydro quebec)
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Prone to Injury And Exaggeration: The Yoskovitz Way
For those of you that know the Yoskovitz family personally, you'd know that we're prone to two things: 1. Ridiculous injuries; and, 2. Exaggeration. Combined, this becomes an extremely powerful force for annoying the heck out of family and friends. Our wives are particularly targeted by this force. I may dub this, "The Yoskovitz Force", or better yet, "The Yoskovitz Way". Two nights ago while giving my son a bath, my wife was blowing bubbles over the bathtub. I'll spare you all of the gruesome details, but suffice it to say I got caught in the crossfire. Yup, that's right...horror of horrors, a bubble hit me in the eye. Have you ever been hit in the eye by a bubble? It stings horribly. It felt like my eye was being stabbed repeatedly with daggers. The instant it happened, I flinched viciously and said to my wife, "I think a bubble went in my eye." She replied, in a tone all wives possess, "Don't tell me you have a bubble injury." It was true, friends. I had a bubble injury. My eye bled for a few hours, but I persevered. I managed to continue with my son's bath and get him tucked safely into bed. The complaining lasted a few hours more before my wife threw the entire container of bubble mixture at me. Luckily, with my cat-like reflexes I avoided the projectile. I've had numerous injuries from things that many people might consider inane or harmless. So have my father and uncle (both involved in IGotNewsForYou). In fact, my uncle's wrist injury is likely the most famous one of all...he was inflicted with the injury to his wrist while wiping his behind. No one is quite sure whether it was the angle of his wrist and arm as he went for the wipe, the heaviness of the toilet paper, or some other nefarious factor, but suffice it to say, uncle Al's wrist was hurt, and we're still hearing about it years later. (In fact, several IGotNewsForYou stories have been written about it as well.) Now I'm certain this combination of ridiculous injuries and exaggeration is not only a Yoskovitz thing, but I must admit that we have mastered both to a point where it is all quite like an art form. Stay safe, and watch out for nuclear bubbles. (Technorati Tags: humor, silly injuries)
Thursday, February 16, 2006
The Carnival of Entrepreurship Recognizes IGotNewsForYou
This morning I discovered that my submission to the Carnival of Entrepreneurship was accepted, and you can read all about it at the Working Solo blog. The submission was all about bootstrapping your startup, and Leah at Working Solo was kind enough to give us her "notable mention award of the week". So what do we win? Huh? Do we win something? Please? Anything? People interested in entrepreneurship need to keep on top of the Carnival. It's a great resource and I'm now pouring over the other posts that Leah listed at Working Solo. Kudos to everyone for posting valuable, worthwhile content. Now I just have to come up with something intelligent to say for the next Carnival of Entrepreneurship...um... (Technorati Tags: carnival of entrepreneurship, bootstrapping, startup companies)
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
In The Spirit of the Olympics and Synchronized Bus Bombing
The Olympics are always an interesting thing to watch. Let's face it, where else do you get to see two guys lying on top of each other flying down some icy tunnel at 100 miles per hour? Seriously, where else can you see that? And why don't they have women's luge doubles? Two women are better than one, that's what I always say...(Ok, I don't always say that, and really if we want to get into that, I'm not sure two women are better than one, but enough about that...) Mark Rayner at the skwib offers a variety of interesting ideas for new Olympic sports. A few days ago, if I'm not mistaken, he had some other ones as well, including a combination curling-luge event, which as a Canadian I'm bound to love. Imagine if it was the inebriated curling-luge event. Sign me up right now. (Heck, almost all curlers are inebriated, and you've got to be on something to compete in the luge.) Anyway, at IGotNewsForYou, we've come up with our own take on the Olympics. My dad wrote the story below. (To keep on the up-and-up, no submissions from current IGotNewsForYou team members are included in the fake news writing contest, that'd just be silly.) You have to imagine seeing this story on a web page (or on a printed poster) alongside others in a newspaper-style format. As the recipient of an IGotNewsForYou page or poster, your name would go into the story (replacing my own): *** Al’Qaeda is petitioning the Olympic International Committee to allow the organization to compete in the next Olympics. Spokesman, Benjamin Bin Yoskovitz, in a written statement to the IOC said, "We believe it is our divine right to compete. We have been training for years in the hills of Pakistan and could be serious contenders in several new events that we propose be adopted by the IOC. These include the 15,000 meter jalopy-driving and Kalashnikov-shooting biathlon, the synchronized bus bombing competition and the highest-ranking western delegate kidnapping event. US flag-burning can remain a demonstration sport." *** (Technorati Tags: olympics, humor, al-qaeda)
Search Engines Really Are Blog-Friendly
This blog has only been up for about 1 month, but already we're seeing the power of search engines, and how heavily they favor blogs. The most popular search so far has been, biggest bong. Search for that on Google, and a post I wrote on January 26, titled The Biggest Bong Ever is 6th overall. The post was actually about a drug-running tunnel discovered between Mexico and the United States filled with marijuana. The second most popular search has been, biggest bong ever. Clearly, people dig their bongs. That's followed by an assortment of searches all related to Stephen Harper (the Canadian Prime Minister, for anyone outside of Canada). In particular, people want to know about the incident where he shook his kids' hands as they went off to school. So we see search terms such as: stephen harper shaking kids hands (9th on Google) stephen harper kids (2nd page on Google) steven harper's children (2nd page on Google) stephen harper children (2nd page on Google) harper hug (2nd on Google) stephen harper looks evil (3rd on Google) I did comment on this incident in the blog on January 26, in a post titled, Steven Harper Hug Your Children, Please! One of the first posts ever put into the blog was written by my father. It was about his brother humping his new dog to exert his dominance. The post is titled, Humping the Dog for Dominance. That's generated all kinds of traffic, and although a bit scary (cause some people I swear are actually looking for advice on how to hump their dog, which was not the intention of the blog post), it's definitely interesting. For example, do a search on Google for "puppy humping dominance" and we'll show up on the 1st page, around the 5th listing. There have been a host of other interesting search phrases appearing in our logs, none of which have anything to do with IGotNewsForYou and some of which barely have anything to do with the blog postings. What this tells me overall is a few things:
- People search for crazy stuff online. People search for everything online.
- Search engines consider blogs more highly than regular websites. If you post something on your blog about a topic, particularly a less popular topic (one where there isn't a ton of competition online), you're going to get highly ranked and it will generate traffic.
- The traffic is nice, but it's not necessarily going to generate business (more on this later).
- Having a blog for your business is essential. This is particularly true if you can niche that blog specific to your business; it will start generating valuable traffic.
- The Internet is a wild and whacky place.
Quality Tech Support from Canon a Shocker
Starting a business is no walk in the park. I'm trying to help out the IGotNewsForYou team, and I got assigned to testing the printer (for printing the poster pages that so many of you are going to buy right? Right?) So I bought a Canon i9900...highly rated, wide format, photo quality printer. We need the wide format because an IGotNewsForYou page is wider than your typical sheet of paper. I unpacked it carefully, what a beauty! Read all the instructions, carefully undid the tape on all the moving parts, print head and cartridges, placed them all inside delicately, installed the driver and printed a page. To my shock and horror, the red looked washed out green/orange. Now calm down I said to myself, I've seen this kind of thing before. I'll just do the maintenance procedures available in the print driver. Three hours and a ream of paper later, no improvement. I decided that I would email Canon and failing any resolution, the printer was going back. Canon emailed a response within 4 hours (pretty good!) suggesting that I phone them. I called and had a technician on the line within one minute. That was shock #1 - I had expected to be listening to crappy music for 45 minutes while my ears bled, at least. I updated the technician on everything I had done. He asked me to run a nozzle test (sounds dirty, but it isn't). That was okay. He then said I should remove the cartridges and the print head and with a Q-Tip and rubbing alcohol clean some little areas. I told him that I didn't think I had the alcohol in the house (unless I could use some of the wife's Tanqueray Gin) and he suggested using warm water instead. I really didn't think this would be too helpful and told him so, fully expecting to have to re-box the printer and return it to the store. I followed his instructions and wouldn't you know it - shock #2 - it worked perfectly. Thank you Canon support for a job well done! (Technorati Tags: canon, i9900 printer, tech support)
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Of Blood Tests, the Canadian Medical System and Comedy
While gainfully employed, I had a medical insurance plan that allowed me to go to a private clinic for my quarterly cholesterol blood tests (yes, we can pay for some procedures here in the frozen north). It was very convenient - make an appointment for the next day, show up, get poked and prodded, pay, get results within three days, submit a claim to insurance, get reimbursed - very convenient. Now that I no longer have medical insurance, I was advised by my doctor to call a public clinic to make an appointment for a blood test. So I called on Friday (Feb. 10th) but had to leave a message, which I did. Left my name, number, reason for the call, and said that Monday morning would be great for me. An hour later, the clinic called me back. The first available spot...March 21st. Now that's service! But no problem...I was going to Bowser and Blue the next evening, on Saturday. Something to cheer me up. You may not have heard of these guys...they're a musical comedy duo (George Bowser and Rick Blue - when George introduces his partner, he says that the P is silent) specializing in political satire (similar to the Smothers Brothers of the sixties) but with a distinctly Canadian and Quebec slant. I've seen them a few times but now that we're trying to break into the comedy world ourselves, with IGotNewsForYou.com, I wanted to look at what made people laugh, the demographic of the audience, and how these guys deliver. It was very interesting in that the audience was fairly senior, middle age and beyond, quite staid and English (in the uptight sort of way), yet they laughed hysterically at "little penis" and "erectile dysfunction" jokes. Musically, these guys are excellent, but it's the overall context, atmosphere, rapid delivery and stage presence that makes people laugh at jokes that are older than me. It's like watching a guy get kicked in the groin - we've all seen it happen a million times (most guys experience this at least once in their lives), but it's always funny (for those watching, not the guy with the crushed nuts). IGotNewsForYou.com is not dissimilar to Bowser and Blue. Some of our jokes are old, some deal with small male appendages, etc. but wrapped in its context - personalized, newspaper format, ability to select the right story for the recipient, etc. - you end up with something that's hysterical and fresh...check it out...April 2006! (Technorati Tags: bowser and blue, humor, comedy)
Monday, February 13, 2006
Cheney Shoots Friend, Imagine What He'd Do To His Enemies
In the news today, it's being reported that Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney shot his friend, and Republican, Harry Whittington, while they were out hunting. It sounds like Mr. Whittington is going to be OK, which is good news, but it really does make you wonder what would happen if Cheney was out hunting with his enemies. I'm sure he'd shoot Al-Qaeda operatives on purpose (that probably goes without saying), but what about Democrats? He'd probably want to make it look like an accident...but not make it too difficult to shoot them either. He doesn't want to have to exert himself too much shooting Democrats. I could see Cheney suggesting to the Democrats that they dress up in turkey costumes, or flutter around in the bushes like quails. Bam! Truth be told, I'm somewhat surprised this sort of thing has never happened in Canada. God knows most of our politicians are turkeys, and Canada has plenty of avid hunters...it's probably only a matter of time. I read about the story just now on the Globe and Mail website: Cheney shoots pal in hunting accident And the blogosphere is running wild (of course). Here are the top links in Google's Blogsearch at this very moment: Beware of Dick Cheney Cheney Shoots Someone Deadeye Dick (Technorati Tags: dick cheney, harry whittington, american politics)
Saturday, February 11, 2006
If Canadians Ruled the World
It goes without saying (except for the fact that I'm saying it now) that if Canadians ruled the world it would be a better place. More peaceful. More hockey. More beer. More humor. There'd be some problems too - we'd likely have to move Leafs fans somewhere really remote (even more remote than Canada) and strip them of anything that could be considered a weapon so they couldn't rebel against the elite Canadians who are all, of course, Habs fans. Not that all Habs fans are elite, but if you're a Leafs fan, well I'm sorry... Anyway, I just came across this contest at Worth1000. The contest was to create the best image that would represent what the world would be like if it were ruled by Canadians. There are tons of classics in there. I'm not sure which one's my favourite (and here I'm spelling favourite the Canadian way, it's not a typo). Here's a few that caught my eye: Eh? Canada Kiss Canuck News (Technorati Tags: canada, humor)
Friday, February 10, 2006
Baldness, Steroids and Hockey Players: A Bizarre Combination
Yesterday, TSN.ca was reporting that an NHL hockey player who had been on the long list of potential Olympians had been caught in a drug screening. Apparently it was a "masking agent" used to hide the use of steroids. That's pretty serious stuff. Today they announced the culprit: Jose Theodore. Being a Habs fan this is of particular interest to me, but it should be interesting to all sports fans really, since doping in sports is a major issue. And with the Olympics just around the corner, it's an even more serious issue. We'll undoubtedly hear about a number of Olympians doing God-knows-what to themselves to shave a millisecond off some time in some race that almost no one really even cares about. But the atheletes do, and they've trained their whole lives, so they take what they can to improve their chances. Enough about that though... So on TSN's website today, here's the headline: Theodore's hair tonic causes positive test. Say what now? Are we on a satire site here or is this a sports news site? It's not April Fool's Day is it? No friends, it's not. This is a real headline - and once again proof that life is often funnier than the fun we make of it. Anyway, here's the scoop -- Theodore uses a hair product called Propecia which is designed to slow down hair loss and help with hair growth. I guess it's like Rogaine. He's been using it for 8 years or so, and truth be told, Theodore does have some nice hair. Probably spends more time combing his hair than doing anything else which would explain why he's been stinking up the joint since the hockey season started. Goalies often experience hair loss (just look at a lot of goalies), and I think a lot of it has to do with wearing a helmet all the time, sweating in there. I'm no doctor mind you, but goalies (and hockey players) are often going bald pretty quickly. So I can understand why Theodore uses such a product. But still, this is about as funny as it gets -- a hair product used as a masking agent for steroids -- well there's no way he's on steroids, they're supposed to enhance performance right? It does make me wonder though...I can't help but notice when I look in the mirror that there's less hair there than there was before. Maybe I should get my hands on some Propecia? I'll need a prescription but that shouldn't be too hard...I really wonder if it works. Doctor Mulder (not from X-Files, the Canadiens' team doctor), is quoted in the article as saying, "And he has had very good success and he feels it has helped hair growth and prevented further loss and he has taken it with my knowledge." Well that's all I need to hear. Theodore's got great hair. I need to get me some of that! And I guarantee sales of Propecia go through the roof (at least in Canada where we care about and read the news on hockey). Plenty of bald people, and plenty of people who are now thinking, "I can use steroids too!" Of course they won't totally understand the concept of "masking" and most will probably think it relieves the bad symptoms of taking steroids, like shrunken testicles. "So my balls will stay the same size AND my hair will look great? Did I just die and go to heaven?" P.S. I just came across this auction of washed up Jose Theodore on eBay from a link at shakylegs. The auction is a bit old, and according to the listing, "the seller ended this listing early because the item was lost or broken", which cracked me up. (Technorati Tags: propecia, hair loss, hockey, jose theodore)
The Cable Problem is Solved, I am Victorious
Yesterday morning I left the house after tossing and turning all night thinking about my TV cable connection (or lack thereof) and how that incompetent cable guy couldn't resolve the problem and provide me with basic cable service from the cable socket that is glaring me in the face from a wall in my basement. I should have been thinking about IGotNewsForYou but it's amazing how the mundane can take over your complete conciousness. The cable guy's solution had been to run a wire down along the front outside wall of the house, and I had told him that there had been a functioning TV in the basement as per the previous owner, and I didn't want a very obvious cable displayed on my outside walls. As I got into the car, something made me look up at the outside wall of the house. And wouldn't you know it, painted the same color as the house to camouflage its very existence was a cable running from our top floor into our basement. AHA! I thought that this was very, very good news. Third minutes later, the better half calls my cell. Mr. Previous Owner called her. He said that there was a cable running outside down along the front of the house. I told my wife, in that male-all-knowing way, that I had already discovered that. So in the afternoon I connected the cables, with splitters, boosters, adapters, paper clips, duct tape and a little hope...and VOILA...cable TV in the basement...and the cable company just lost their $60 installation fee. Mike 1, Cable Company 0.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Guests Come and Go. Cable Guys Almost Never Show Up to Begin With.
Last weekend, we had a couple of overnight guests stay with us. About a week before their arrival my better half suggested that we install a small TV in the basement guest room for their viewing pleasure. No problem. Tube TVs are really cheap what with the flat panels, HDTV and who knows what other technology is looming just over the horizon. So out I went and spent a whopping $100 on a little TV. I bring it home and try it where I have my current cable connection. Lovely picture. I then bring it to the guest room in the basement, connect it to the cable outlet in the wall and turn it on...only to get a screenful of snow. Ah well, I'll just find the splitter and connect the dangling wire, or at worse, go out and buy a splitter with an extra output and maybe a booster. I am a pro at this sort of thing, very handy around the house. So I search through the house. No cable splitter. Ah well. Guess I'll have to call the local cable company and pay them $60 for 3 minutes of work to connect a wire. So I make the appointment. Unfortunately the service guy can't come before the guests, so no TV for them, but next time (and for future guests) - the glory of cable in their basement bedroom! Guests come and go. Any that don't aren't really guests, they're family, family mooches, and that spells trouble (and that's a story for another time). Technician day arrives. I wait. He calls. He's lost. Give him directions. 15 minutes later, he calls again. Lost again. (Technically still lost since he probably never found his way in the first place.) More directions. 20 minutes later he calls again...should I be shocked at this point? He's lost. And no, I don't live in a remote desert with no street names or signs. I ask him if he saw the McDonalds near the highway...yes, he replies...I tell him to meet me there, and I can be there in 10 minutes. He describes his truck, I describe my car. (Now I've got a blind date with a cable guy and I'm feeling dirty.) I get there. Wait 20 minutes, no one shows up. I drive home really pissed. Walk in, phone rings. He missed the exit but he's approaching the restaurant now. I tell him I'll be there in a flash. I get there. He follows me home. (Are we dating, or is he stalking me? Now I'm lost.) Two hours later he still hasn't found where the cable comes into the house or the location of the splitter. Says he's done and has no solution except to wire the house from the inside to the outside and back to the inside. I tell him I hope he can find his way home. That night I call the previous owner...no one home...leave a message...it's been 2 days with no return call. And I thought we lived in such a technologically advanced society...ah well...wife is really steamed. Do they still sell "rabbit ears" for TVs? (Technorati Tags: cable tv, humor)
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
If You Had a Glass, What Would It Be Filled With?
Our friends at The JagPot venture to ask this very question. Alright they didn't phrase their commentary in the form of a question, but I did. So there. Some of the ones I particularly enjoyed from the post: French Guy: "You are a fool. I smell like feet." (So true it's scary.) Bill Clinton: "I did NOT Have Sexual Relations With That Glass." (Liar). Pro Athlete: "The glass is half empty, but there’s still a lot of time to play. We just need to play together and give 120% in the second half, and we can still win this thing." (I think most often they'd say "play as a team" and not "play together", cause that's just...well...you know...invoking images of guys swatting each other with towels in the shower...not that there's anything wrong with that...) Head on over to The JagPot and add your own ideas, and enjoy a good, hearty chuckle. (Technorati Tags: satire, humor)
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
What Else Could the LAPD Fire At Cars?
I just came across a blog post about the LAPD outfitting their cars to fire a GPS device at fleeing vehicles. Apparently a small dart-like device is propelled from the officer's car which activates on impact. The GPS sends a constant transmission via satellite, and the police officers can access the information through a password-protected web portal. OK, that's pretty darn cool. But being me, it makes me wonder about other things that the LAPD might fire at fleeing cars. 1. A bazooka rocket: This seems like a natural. Perhaps a bit of collateral damage but is there any faster way to stop a fleeing vehicle? 2. A giant net: Like gladiators of old, this would look pretty cool. A giant net shoots out of the front of the car, envelops it and sticks to the ground. Probably not realistic, I guess...(unlike my other suggestions, which are totally realistic) 3. New Age or Wilderness/Nature CDs: This music is all about relaxation. Jettison a few CDs like this or this, and the people fleeing will pop in the music, and chill out. They slow down while uber-relaxed and bam, you blast them with that bazooka. Note, if you click the first link I've posted you'll notice that it's a CD of bird sounds. That might be more irritating than relaxing, but some of the birds include the Blue Tit (not my sort of thing, but whatever), Great Tit (now we're talking), and the Coal Tit (sounds intriguing, but I may pass). You've also got the Swallow (we're back on track) and the Golden Orolo (which just sounds cool, and interestingly enough generates zero results on Google Image search, which makes me wonder if it's a real bird or just something the people made up behind that CD to sound cool.) There's plenty of other things you could shoot out of a police car at fleeing vehicles, but I'll stop there for now. Any suggestions? PS. Here's the full article on the LAPD news. (Technorati Tags: lapd, gps, satire, songbirds)
Changing Diapers is Like Going to War
Few of you may know this, but I'm the father of a 17-month old son. Great kid, if I do say so myself. A genius, don't ya know. And, from time to time, I'm required to change his diaper (it gets awfully wretched if you don't). The other day I couldn't help but thinking that changing diapers is like going to war. Here's why: 1. War is messy as shit. Granted, these days lots of combat is done from a distance, from the comfort of fighter jets, ships and so forth (not that I imagine those things being terribly comfortable), but at some point, in every war, someone has to get down into the filth of things and fight. As far as I know, when it comes to changing diapers, no one has invented any form of mechanical arm or salad tong-like device allowing me to do it from a distance, so yes, you go in arm-deep in shit and wage war. 2. War stinks. I'd say this is fairly self-explanatory on a number of levels. Lots of people (most I'd venture) think war sucks. I'd also wager a handful of dimes that most people (if not all) think changing diapers sucks. From an actual olfactory perspective, unless you have a particular taste for the smell of dead people, decaying corpses and other unpleasantries, war stinks. And while dirty diapers don't stink until your kid starts eating solid foods, holy mother of all that is sacred are you in for some rockin' reaking good times after that. Poo stinks. War stinks. 'Nuff said. 3. Wars always take longer than you expect. The same holds true when changing a diaper. Just try and rush it. I dare you. Invariably, with one wrong flick of your wrist, the diaper falls on the floor, bursts open and spreads shit everywhere. Or, you're in the process of trying to clean the kid up, but amazingly you're spreading things out even more (often due to a wriggling, uncooperative child, see #4 below). The phrase, "We're knee deep in it", has an entirely new meaning for me. 4. Wars are fought against uncooperative people. I suppose that's quite an understatement, I really should have said, wars have enemies. Well guess what? Changing diapers is all about enemies. Sure, they tell you not to frown in terror at the sight and smell of a dirty diaper, they tell you to be positive and talk calmly and happily to your child. They can kiss my arse. Most of the time you're trying to stop the gag reflex while your child (in this case "the enemy") is twisting and turning like some retarded break dancer. If you're unlucky, your child is also screaming like a banshee, making you feel like you're torturing them (see all the possible parallels?) 5. Wars cost a lot of money. Diapers are expensive. And yes, I know there are alternatives (like cloth), but give me a break, we all know there's no real alternative (just like there's no alternative to going to war right? *smile*) Bottomline, changing diapers is expensive, but at the same time you can't just stop doing it. And the same holds true in a war, you can't just pull out of a war and stop. You can lose, I suppose, but losing in the war of changing diapers is never an option. 6. Wars are rife with surprise attacks. I think we can agree that war is dangerous. You're killing people and they're trying to kill you. Seems obvious. But what often makes it so frightening is the surprise attack. And, like we're seeing in today's war on terror, it's almost always about the surprise attack. Well guess what? Changing a boy's diaper is no different. If you lower your guard for one second, I guarantee a laser beam stream of pee will strike you in the face before you can yell, "Aaarrrgghhh". I've got the scars to prove it. I could go on and on -- (oh wait, I will) -- 7. Wars often involve allies. Changing a diaper alone is doable, but I always prefer this technique: Ben says to wife, "I think his diaper needs changing." Ben smells delicately. Ben says to wife (trying to hide his look of horror as the scheme is put into play), "Yup, he needs a changing. Can you help me a quick sec?" Ben picks up child, holding him at a comfortable but safe distance. Ben arrives at the designated changing area, wife close behind. Ben puts the child down on his back (in preparation for the changing) but tactically makes sure the child's bottom half is facing the wife. The wife (not really paying close attention) begins the process of changing the child's diaper. Ben, while still participating by holding the kid in place (and therefore not seeming like a completely incompetent moron), gets to avoid a close encounter with the poo kind. 8. War always leaves lasting reminders. No war ever ends cleanly. Even when a war is over there are always lasting reminders, many of which aren't pleasant: poverty, disaster, refugees, etc. Changing diapers is quite similar. Even after you've gotten through the mess, you've put on a new diaper and things are clean and tidy, you still have a nuclear bomb of a diaper, soiled and ready to be transported elsewhere. Granted, you throw the diaper in the garbage (at least that's what I would do, some might choose to throw it out the window), but even that process is a nasty one. We have a special garbage just for diapers (it has some silly name and is meant to block odors...whatever...) Even if I don't do the diaper cleaning (see #7 above) I'll try and make the effort to transport the explosive device to the garbage. That process is not terribly painful, but often can lead to some collateral damage (just like in war, even when it's over, it's never really over). Certainly dropping the package to the ground is bad news. "Kaboom!" Just hope the wife secured everything carefully enough. To avoid that, you may hold the package too tightly, and...bam...your thumb pokes through some opening and now it's covered in poo. There's just nowhere to turn. And when you finally drop the stink bomb into the garbage (again because it's one of those odor-blocking devices), you have to push the diaper through an opening that closes after the diaper goes through (unlike a constantly open garbage can). Try doing that without your hand touching something unclean. It's impossible. Now there's lots of ways that changing diapers is not like going to war. For one, as far as I know, no one dies changing diapers. I'm sure someone has (and I'm sorry about that), but for the most part no one should die. You may want to scrub your hands raw, and your nose hairs might curl up and go gray, but you'll live to fight another day. (Technorati Tags: war, changing diapers)
Monday, February 06, 2006
Auschwitz; A Poem From My Mother, A Holocaust Survivor
My apologies for the disappearance over the last few days...Ben has been off galavanting with old university friends, trying to re-live his "glory days", and I've been perfecting my sweeping on the ice rink of our local curling club. I can assure you that we'll get back to the funny very shortly, but in the meantime, here's something completely different... My mother, Fela (Ross) Rosenwasser (Yoskovitz nee Pacanowska) is a holocaust survivor and we arrived on Canada’s shores in 1948 when I was one year old. In the early sixties she wrote this poem. I’m not sure if it’s good poetry or not, but coming from someone who went through one of the darkest periods in the 20th century and had been speaking English for only about 15 years, I think it’s quite something. She asked me to transcribe it to electronic format and I told her I’d post it on the Internet for all to see. Auschwitz by Fela Ross It was a hazy September morning, And the sun was peeking through the clouds. When hundreds of trains came to a stop, Trains for miles and miles. Pouring out people, no greetings, no smiles. A great number of trains had come to this station. A voyage of no return was our destination. No happy faces rushing here and there No luggage needed only the things that you wear. In a countless line of people We stood deprived, in fear and fright Waiting for a verdict without a trial. Mother cuddling her child said, “Don’t be mad soon we’ll know If we get life or we get death.” Who will live to see a tomorrow? The morning sun or smiling moon? In their hands lie our fates to rule To carry out orders, heartless and cruel. Why do sheep bleat when to slaughter they go? Why can’t they be like people, silent? Hearts wrapped in a veil of terror While partings went on without any violence. What right do they have to take possession of our souls? Why were we chosen to give life for free? For those are the tyrants skilled in their deadly art, For them, an easy game, like an open cart. And pressing tightly my mother to my side Among thousands we stood In that judgment line. How powerful was the wish for a miracle to come Or heaven and earth to split in a deadly revenge. But nothing of this, nothing was in sight all around Only grief and sorrow and minutes of life to count. And to the zone of death went also my mother. Useless was pleading for her life. With her went my painful heart. Her memory to carry in that empty part. Old people, young people, children with their mothers There she went with all the others. A world of love and affection swept away in a tide Crushed and crumbled and gone from my sight. Blindly we followed those pointing guns, Driven on a road made of human blood. Faces hungry and skinny everywhere. Human destruction was felt in the air. The sun was burning our hairless heads, While walking on a hot gravel road. Then sitting closely to each other on a wet, dirty soil A pit of half-naked bodies curled in a coil. We are forgotten and erased from the globe, Degraded morally and robbed of our rights. Nothing but torment in one of its kind Agony of body and agony of mind. And up above over our heads, Silhouettes of guards moved back and forth. The sound of boots cut the still of the night. And their guns reflected in the flickering light. Old people, young people, children with their mothers Why shouldn’t we go with all the others? Let’s not fear death sure to come For the electric wire let’s make a run. And when that sleepless night was about to decline Surprising it was to see a tomorrow. The moon was slowly being replaced by the sun. Stiff and chilled we got up without a sound And in the mist of the daybreak we stood in despair. Free of sins and unguilty souls. Horrified eyes looked up high For rescue and salvation from the sky. Unaware of the misery that hung in the air. To a dead march we were driven again Walking and limping in tired bare feet Till dragging pain made them bleed. A few lost birds were flying above Singing freely with no hope in their tunes They seemed to say, “Hey down below, Cruel world holds no promise for you at all.” Are we souls waiting to be lifted to heaven? Or are we bodies forgotten to fall? But mercy no, we still have our lives There would be no rifles with pointing knives. And as we walked, tired and beat It wasn’t food we were thinking of. The sun was giving us all its fire And the need for water became a desire. “Water, water”, we heard silent cries. But water was not seen for miles. “Dear, oh God,” we all prayed in vain We will outstretch our tongues for a bit of rain. Give me the power to step from this march Or a bullet to meet to bring an end to this torch “Don’t be a coward,” somebody said, “Our hope must be stronger than the will of death.” At sundown we stopped at a grassless field Where the cool of the night was about to fall. Then instead of the gas chamber we were brought to the station Where so many trains had rolled with such sad destination. Trains for miles waited to be filled Ready to take us from that hell on earth. Maybe we were spared from certain death For unknown fears that lay ahead. (Technorati Tags: auschwitz, holocaust, poetry, holocaust survivor)
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Things to Remember When Bootstrapping Your Start-Up
Please find this article at: Instigator Blog >> Things to Remember When Bootstrapping Your Start-Up (Technorati Tags: bootstrapping, entrepreneurship, starting a business)
The Secret Signals Men Are Supposed to Know
When playing card games (or any other games) that involve working with a wife (or long-time companion) as a partner, I've realized how wary one really must be. It seems a unique set of signals (aka non-verbal communication) is developed over time between co-habitants, which are easily transferrable to the card-playing table, and should provide a distinct advantage to the signallers. These signals are very subtle, often made unconciously, and as such can be very dangerous to the unsuspecting, naive opponents. These signals get refined over time, generally in social situations, and for the most part, are unilateral. That is, the female partner is typically the signal giver, the male typically the signal recognizer, and as such, he faces a much more difficult task...that of being the signal interpreter. As I just mentioned, so bear with me as I repeat myself, signals develop over time. There's the pinky finger to the inside of the corner of the eye, indicating that the male partner has some white crap there. The finger to the tooth? Yup, broccoli. Finger to the nostril? Ugh. Who has ever been on the receiving end of the sideways glance? It can mean you're being boring or rude to the guests, you have to go change the hand towels, or your elbows are on the table. What about the upward glance or the Olympic-sized double eye-roll? Not only are you boring, you're acting like an idiot and you're embarassing me, your wife/partner/fiance/most important person in your life. A gentle caress of the table fork? You're using the fork to eat your soup, moron. Of course, there are plenty more of these subtle signals, and many people have made money giving business courses on body language, body odor (ok, probably not), gesturing and other non-verbal communication. Seems to me, the point of all of this is that some of us (no names, but hint, hint, wink, wink) need to take things a little less seriously, and some of us (that would be me), have to shape up and simply "get with the program". (Technorati Tags: relationships, manners, satire)