Saturday, November 16, 2013

Looking for some Liberty

The trek through IKEA is rather stressful.  They've laid out the place like a course that they want you to follow.  Rather than go up and down rows based on my needs or desires, they would prefer that I follow their meandering course so that I pass every single thing they are selling.  Imagine if all stores and places were like that?

What if YouTube didn't allow me to search for videos that I wanted?  What if I had to do things there way instead of mine.  Okay, actually, they seem to be changing YouTube to force me to do thing that I don't want.  Maybe they took a page from Apple or Microsoft and decided that it's their way or the highway.

But I much as they will let me.

I just want some liberty.  We talk about freedom, but we really don't seem to have it.  Maybe Rousseau was right.  Stay inside the lines, have your quarter for your shopping car deposit, no substitutions with your combo meal, no you can't have those channels with that cable package.  I grant that none of these things is really that oppressive..... but they kind of are.

I don't think freedom is about doing whatever you want.  I do think freedom should not allow you to harm others, or even bother others.  If I believed that you should do whatever you want whenever you want without regard to anyone, then I wouldn't mind those annoying people on the bus whose crappy music bleeds out of their earphones.

No, I just want freedom from the people who could so easily give it to me.  I want to choose the channel I can watch.  If nobody wants a crappy channel, then it will go out of business and free up advertising dollars for someone else.  If I want to quickly blast through IKEA without checking out every piece of unpronounceable furniture, that should be my right.  If I want to have multiple names on my YouTube account, leave me alone.

Monday, November 11, 2013

No Video No Cry

The last blockbuster store is closing.  Should I weep?  I don't think so.  They should have seen the writing on the wall.  They should have known their business model was almost finished.  They, along with DVD distribution companies, soaked us long enough.  They had their late fees, and high prices for new releases.  They got their money, they just forgot to get out of the game while the getting was good.

Now we have Netflix, or other semi legal (and semi illegal) options.  There is another option.  The one I use is the library.  The library has lots of DVD's right now.  This may not last forever, but it should be good for a while.  Unfortunately, nobody cleans the DVD's at the library, and people who get things for free don't treat them well.  Why respect anyone property if you don't have to (insert sarcastic indignation here).

What will the future bring?  Good question.  I don't know, but I do know I will not be weeping because Blockbuster didn't adapt to the times.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Where's Your Poppy

I have overheard a lot of people calling Monday a holiday.  No, it isn't.  A holiday celebrates something.  Monday is Remembrance day.  A time to mourn, a time to remember sacrifices people made so that things as mundane as this blog, or things as bizarre as Rob Ford, or even things as everyday as offering your opinion could happen.

Wearing the poppy means you understand and respect that others died fighting for freedom, fighting for the rights of others and fighting for a way of life.

I have heard people question if we should honour war.  It isn't about war.   Most of the people who fought would not tell you they liked war.  They didn't enjoy killing.  They didn't want to rob anyone of their life.  They did it because they were sent.

Monday is about the people who fought.  It isn't about the politicians, or oil companies or anything else.  It's about regular people who didn't know if they would come home or not. 

Donate money and wear your poppy proudly. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

PIles of Flyers

I hate to say it, but I think they distribute too many flyers.  I hate to say it, because I like looking through the flyers.  I enjoy hunting down a deal.  I go over most of them, but I wonder if I need as many as I get?  More than half hit the recycle bin without even a glance.  I usually only keep the ones for food.  I might keep the electronics ones if there is something that I am planning on buying.

I don't want to put the printing guys out of business.  That is no small thing as it is a big business in my town.  I know that most of the flyers and catalogues are printed locally, but I am just wondering where that business will be in ten years?  We will all have probably gone digital and I will have to view the flyers on my tablet.  Most stores no longer deliver catalogues, and only a few of them have them if you ask.  I actually like catalogues and have kept the last Canadian Tire catalogue as a reminder of how things used to be.

It sounds far fetched, but the flyers are available online now, so how long before they stop delivering them?  How long before they become library collections.  Actually, Canadian Tire donated their complete catalogue and flyer collection to my University, and they had to build another building to house it all.  Someday, somebody will do their dissertation on the effects of Canadian Tire money on the Canadian economy.

As I write this, I realize, I had better not wish the flyers away.  I don't have a tablet and until e-flyers can turn their pages as quickly as paper ones can, I will not be satisfied.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Calendar Conundrum

I am looking at one of those desktop day calendars where you rip off the day once it is done.  This happens to be one of those learn a word a day types.  I can't say this is completely wrong, but I can't say it is completely right either.  I feel so conflicted.

I received the calendar as a stocking stuffer last year.  I appreciate the gift because it does, in fact, seem very suitable.  I am an English teacher, I like learning and I like words.  This last point is evident because I am writing a blog and I do crosswords almost every day.

There are two problems with this calendar, though.  The first is that I really don't look at it every day.  I look at it once a month.  I attribute this to the fact that it sits in the corner of my desk I am least likely to look at, or most likely to ignore.  I cannot, in good conscience, blame the calendar for this.  I could put it in a more conspicuous place on the desk, though no space seems to be offering itself.  The problem is that once the month is gone, am I gone to look through thirty or so words?  Most likely, I will rip off the stack of words until the day in question.  I might glance through them, but will study them?  I have used the word unlikely already, so I will answer that it is improbable.

The other problem is that most of these words are not new to me.  As I said, I am an English teacher who does crosswords.  Yes, I have learned a few (sanguine, for one, which really didn't mean what I thought it did) and I have come across words that I had no idea existed (October 16 was ailurophobia--and now Microsoft's spellchecker is rejecting it).  Will I remember these words?  Does glancing at them mean that I have somehow absorbed them?  Can I learn through osmosis (no, I didn't get that one from the calendar, but there are still two months to go).

Christmas is soon upon us, and perhaps I will get another one of these calendars.  While I cannot say I would reject getting one, I would say the idea of it doesn't thrill me.  As I gather up these papers and prepare them for the recycle box, I wonder if I should give one to the person who gave me this one.  Retaliation--that word was in the calendar.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vending Machine Envy

the latest hi tech vending machine from Japan
Why can't we have cool vending machines like they do in Japan?  Several of the Jvloggers (Japan Video Bloggers in case you didn't know) I follow have done some posts about vending machines in Japan.  They are pretty cool, and offer a hell of a lot more choice than I can get in Canada.

Is it a population density thing?  Is Canada just too big with smaller concentrations of people to place vending machines in convenient places?  Granted, I haven't seen any outside in a long time, but I have seen them in schools, hospitals, community centres and other places where either the service was needed, or somebody thought they could make a buck or two.  (Okay, I sometimes look at business pessimistically--It might be different if I were getting a cut)

Perhaps the powers that be just don't want to put vending machines on the streets where they could get vandalized.  I can understand, though not agree, with this argument.  And in reality, it has been a long time since I came across one outside and don't really miss them.  I don't like paying convenience store prices, but I have found enough alternatives that it doesn't matter so much.

However, for the ones that we do have, why can't they be cool like the ones they have in Japan?  Why do I have make do with four or five choices when most Japanese machines have more than 20 (hot and cold)?  The newest ones have considerably more.

It can't be a coin issue because Canadians have one and two dollar coins (the loonie and the twoonie).  The ones in Japan take bills--I even used one once that took the Japanese equivalent of a one hundred dollar bill.

Is it just wishful thinking?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Turkey Effects

Every year around Thanksgiving we hear various stories and old wives tales (maybe this is no longer the politically correct term...if someone knows what that would be please leave me a comment in the box below) about how turkey makes you sleepy.  Is there any truth to that?  Does it need to be a combination of wine and turkey?  What if you just drink beer and watch hockey?

I do not know.

Maybe turkey has an effect on your sleeping.  I really can't say for sure.  What I can say for sure is that it surely has an effect on a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle.  I don't base this on extensive, or even efficient , laboratory testing.  Mostly it is anecdotal.  Driving home on both Sunday and Monday of Canada's Thanksgiving long weekend, I was witness to a spectacle of pure driving folly.  So many turkey addled drivers were unable to make wise and useful decisions on the road.  So many made me want to pull my hair out--I didn't, because that just wouldn't have been fair.

Left turns that took up three lanes.

Ignoring advanced greens (and consequently obnoxiously loud horns--and not just mine).

Talking on cell phones while driving.

Improper lane changes.

Poor musical choice on the stereo.

I saw it all this weekend, and I can never unsee it.  That is what makes it really bad.

Perhaps we need a new campaign.  "Arrive alive.  Don't eat turkey and drive!"

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Gift Card Season

While I am by no means so organized that I am shopping for Christmas right now, I am thinking a bit about it.  Perhaps that is because is will only be another day or two before the Christmas decorations rear their pretty heads--I haven't actually been shopping, so it might have already happened.  This blog is not a rant about selling Christmas before Halloween is over, it just has a Christmas theme.

Family traditions are what they are, but lately, I notice that more people give gift cards rather than actual presents.  There are several reasons for this, and they seem sound.

  1. It's easier than shopping for something.
  2. The people getting the gift have given no hints (subtle or not so subtle) as to what they want.
  3. They are likely to return your gift anyway, so this saves the intermediate step.
  4. They can get what they want (though if they couldn't give you any hints, it probably means they don't know what they want.)
  5. Gift cards are an easy fallback--and for all those guys doing their shopping on the 24th, what a great fallback it is.
  6. Gift cards are easily re-gifted.
  7. They are easy to wrap.  They often come with their own envelopes.
  8. Transporting them is easy.
  9. They've become so popular you can even get them at the gas station.
  10. People, except young children, do not express disappointment in getting them.

I guess, I just miss the excitement of getting a gift.  Usually when people ask me what I want, I can give them about ten ideas.  I usually keep a list of things that I want, and when people ask me, I email it to them.  I have even gone so far as to point out which stores offer the best deals on that particular item (and yes, it is often Amazon).

I do not know what Christmas has in store for anyone in my family, but I am starting on my list today.  And to make it easy, I will even include some ideas of where I want gift cards from.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Candy Conspiracy.

It's still September and the Halloween candy is already for sale.  Sure, why not get a head start on event.  It makes sense....but does it?  What I realized is, the candy you buy today, really isn't for Halloween.  That candy is for you.  You are going to have to go back to the store and buy more candy before the night  is actually here.

Don't worry.  That's all part of the plan.  I am not talking about life's plan. I am talking about the junk food companies' plan.  How else could they sell so much candy?  They know you'll break down and start sampling the products.  They count on it.  They bank on you not having the willpower to resist.  Buy candy now, and buy candy later.

Now, don't get me wrong.  There are some people out there with the willpower to resist.  There are some people who can fight off the temptation--I'm not one of them, but I know they exist.  Those people are not the ones that the candy companies want to talk to.

I wish I could help you and give you some useful tips.  All I can say is the more you give away, the less you eat.

By the way, when I was young, Halloween was spelled differently.  What happened?

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Bright Idea

I notice that there is a new iPhone available.  They call it the iPhone 5S.There has been a lot of hoopla and a lot of media noise.  Nobody asked an interesting question.  Why isn't there a solar charging feature?

I know, I know.  You're going to tell me that a tiny solar cell on the top of the phone couldn't possibly charge up the phone.  Although it works for a watch and a calculator, it couldn't do the job of a USB cable.  No argument.  The only thing is, couldn't it help?

The way I look at it, there is always the time when you really need your phone and that is the time when the battery dies.  At that moment, wouldn't it be nice to have a chance to get a little power back into your phone?  Maybe a solar cell could provide this emergency power.

I guess I should have contacted Apple before now.  Do you think they would have listened?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What's my Size?

Japanese beer comes in many sizes
Who determines what size something should come in?  I mean, who decided that we need four litres of milk in three bags?  Whose idea was it to sell hamburger buns in packages of eight?  What genius determined that my bag of spaghetti should contain 900 grams of dried pasta?

Now, I know, I have ranted about the size of things before.  Mostly, though, I was complaining about how they have made everything smaller.  I still feel quite strongly about that injustice, but this rant is different.  I am not complaining, just wondering.

I was making spaghetti earlier this evening when I noticed that the weight of the pasta package was 900 grams.  Why didn't they just make it a full kilogram?  Dried pasta is not exactly a high ticket item.  I stopped to reconsider.  I considered maybe they were selling it in pounds.  Nine hundred grams comes close to two pounds.  I checked the label, and no, actually it equals 1.98 lbs.  I don't know who should feel more ripped off.

If you really think about it, how do you decide what is the right size to sell something?  Is there a certain quantity that we can not exceed?  Is there a certain price we won't pay for something?  Considering how popular Costco and Price Club are, neither one of those things can really be true.  If someone is willing to buy a 20 litre container of mustard (for whatever price 20 Litres of mustard must cost) then you could almost sell them 20 Litres of anything....couldn't you?

Some of this must be historical.  Anything sold in sets of twelve must be connected to a bakery.  This still doesn't explain the hot dog bun versus hotdog package...but don't get me started.  I am pretty happy with the 24 of beer, but since I have seen 28 packs and 32 packs, this number seems kind of arbitrary.

Beverage companies decided that cans of pop should be 355mL.  It seems to be the right size--but then why is the coke company trying to foist those 700mL bottles on us?  I guess they thought we needed more, so instead of screwing around they just said double.  I guess nobody bothered to suggest triple.

Maybe none of this should really bother me, maybe I should let is slide.  The problem is that I live in a country that uses the metric system.  The whole beauty behind the metric system is the nice, useful, easily manipulated numbers it produces.  They still sell butter by the pound, but at least they print the metric numbers on the label.

I guess somebody made the decisions, and that is what we are left with.  If somebody had asked me, I might have been able to convince them to choose another size.  My pasta would come in 1Kg bags and there would be five tennis balls in a can instead of three.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Library Blues

As part of the commuter lifestyle, I tend to read a lot (when I am not doing the crossword or Sudoku puzzles).  In an effort to be economical or frugal (you can read that as cheap), I take books out of the library.  I hate to rant on the library because its advantages greatly outweigh its disadvantages.  It had lots of books, DVD's, CD's, comic books, graphic novels, magazines and a whole bunch of other stuff that I don't access, but is probably great for other people (seminars, art shows etc.).

Nonetheless, I have two problems.  These two problems have nothing to do with due dates or late fines.  Those things, while slightly stressful, have their place and are necessary.  What bothers me is the way they have done their digital book offerings, and the way that they either don't have some books, or the wait list is has me getting the book sometime in the next decade.

I bought a Kobo, and I am quite happy with it.  I have had difficulty with e-books that the library has, though.  Why is there only one copy?  If it is digital, should there be an infinite number of copies?  It isn't like I am actually taking the data off their hard drive.  It won't be lost.  The copies are programmed to delete themselves after three weeks.... Is it that the library system in Ontario has somehow confused the past with the present.  Are they unable to see the digital forest for the trees?  Are they trying to make the digital age represent the way things used to be?  One only needs to look at how Netflix put an end to Blockbuster to understand how wrong this kind of thinking is.

Maybe there are some copyright issues involved, but those should be explained, rather than hoping that we just understand.

As for not having books...yes, I understand there are space and budget constraints.  There are plans to expand my library, so hopefully they will have more space for books.  My problem is that I want to read a series of books in order, and sometimes the library doesn't have one or more of the books in the series.  If you have most of the series, and are hoping that people take the books out, not having the whole series is kind of ridiculous, don't you think?  Most recently, I have read Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books, but due to availability I have read them completely out of order.  You can guess that I am slightly confused, but starting to make sense of it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Schools Back......

There is a buzz in the air.  It is a mix of nervous energy and eager anticipation.  School is in and the kids are back in it.  There is definitely an air of hope and dreams in the air.  It is a great time of year....

That is, unless you're riding the bus with these loud obnoxious leaders of tomorrow.  Though I risk sounding like a crotchety old man, they're just talking loud and saying nothing.  Nothing at all.  If it sounds like I am eavesdropping, I'm not.  I really don't want to hear what they have to say, but they must think I am interested, because they don't seem to practice any form of editing.  They stuff they will say into their cell phones is amazing.  Either they think no one can hear them, or they just want to broadcast their sexcapades.  If I knew their names and could contact their parents.... well, lets just say that the blackmail money could be quite lucrative.  Of course, then, I wouldn't have to ride the bus.

Mostly, I guess, it's just the crowds.  My bus is always full, but it seems more so now.  Before, I always got a seat, and could even sit by myself for a few stops before some overly large man (as to an attractive petite woman) with obvious spatial recognition issues would shoehorn himself in beside me. I can still get a seat, but the pickings are slim and the bus is full much quicker.  I guess it's a good thing that I live near the end of the line.

Either I will get used to it, or some of them will drop out of school.  Maybe I should just buy better headphones.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New and Improved means Smaller and Just as Expensive

Once again the evidence is clear.  Some ad executive somewhere has decided that "new and improved" is a fantastic cover story for smaller, but not less expensive.  I have written about this before, but I have to make the case again.  I have to rant and rage because it really bother's me.   We let it happen to potato chips (remember the two separate bags in a big bag of chips?) and we can't let it happen again.

Maybe it is too late.  Maybe we are destined for a shrinking world rather than a higher priced world.  Maybe, because we balked at the higher price we took comfort in the same price for less.

What started this rant was my body wash.  I noticed the size discrepancy while taking my shower.  Not the most pleasant way to wake up I can assure you.   They couldn't even reduce it by a round number...causing me to do math before I had my coffee.  If that isn't disrespectful, I don't know what is.
New and Improved--and 89millitres smaller!

Before we become too complacent, we should consider the ramifications for this.  Do you really want to buy hotdogs in a five pack?  We already have the inconsistent 8 pack of hotdogs and the six pack of buns.  Do you want to smaller ketchup bottles?  We had them when I was young--they were glass mind you, and I kind of miss them now.  Could you drink a 150 millilitre box of chocolate milk?

I was looking at the remastered box set of Star Trek the Original series today.  In that first season they shot 29 episodes.  That's right, 29.  Let that number sink in.  Now 22 or 23 seems to be the norm (and I am not even thinking about those 8 or 12 episode seasons which HBO seams to favour).  Of course, prior to that it was not uncommon to have 36 episode seasons.

Why is it that the things I want to become smaller never seem to.  I wouldn't mind smaller commercial breaks.  I certainly wouldn't say no to shorter speeches by politicians.  Shorter acceptance speeches for award winners or beauty contestants is a must-- this might have saved a certain Miss Teen USA some embarrassment.  Pre-game shows are longer than the games themselves.

Can I blame shrinking products for all this?  No.  All of these things are symptoms, not the cause.  The cause was the desire to make money at the expense of the customer.  The only problem is that I am one of the customers.  I don't like it.  I am going to keep calling them out until they listen.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Frustrations of the Modern World

There isn't anything more frustrating than when something that usually works, stops working. Imagine, you're set to watch your favourite match on TV, or your favourite show (either the premier or the final) and your TV doesn't work.

You might take it calmly.  You might rationalize that machines sometimes break.  The key word in that sentence (for me at least) is the you.  You might, but I simply can't.  When I expect something to work, like the TV or computer, and it doesn't, I flip my lid.  I go absolutely ballistic.  Imagine a cartoon character...... you get the point.

I was all set to check something out on streaming video and it didn't work.  I haven't sworn like that in ages.  My poor cat was probably wondering why I was so worked up.  He probably hasn't heard that language since the hard drive in my last computer was so clogged that it took an hour just to do the startup routine.  I slapped that machine silly, in addition to teaching it all the expletives I knew in English, Japanese, Spanish, French and Korean.  That's right, I showed that machine who's boss.

Is it wrong to expect things to work?  Is that how disposable society has become?  When was the last time a machine made you so angry?

The problem has been fixed...without machine homicide...and it probably wasn't my machine, but something that originated at the source....but it still made me angry.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Do Not Call List

I put myself on the do not call list because I didn't want anyone to call.  What I understood was except for charities and government pollsters, I would be left to go about my business undisturbed.

This does not seem to be the case.  Since going on the do not call list, I have been bothered at least once a week (though often more) by people offering to clean my air ducts.  In fact, as it is Saturday morning, I suspect that one of these calls will happen any minute now.  I can't really express how much this bothers me...though I have tried to express it to these people on a number of times.

I know how she feels
Some of the things that I have done to register my displeasure, beyond swearing, name calling, and other acts of hostility include one of my favourites.  I answered, they asked to speak to me, then I offered to go and get the person they were referring to.  Then I waited a minute and told them to wait a little longer.  I repeated this step for about 10 minutes.  To what end?  Besides personal satisfaction, I probably kept 10 other people from being bothered that day.  Sadly I couldn't stop it from happening another day.

Do any of you have any strategies?  I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Changes: Newer isn't better

I hate it when they make changes to things that I like.  New isn't always better.  Some things should be left alone.  Change just for change sake isn't really an improvement.
Why is this an issue with me?  Recently, they changed YouTube (again).  I get it.  YouTube is wants to remain fresh and relevant....but come on.  Yes, it is nice that you can watch longer videos...but that also means some people prattle on for longer than they should.  Sometimes it is good to give people a time limit.  Imagine if some movies went on four six or seven hours--even the Avengers would get tedious at that length.  A limit provides a good chance to edit. 
I would have put a remark about how less is more in the column but after watching Yngwie Malmsteen on a TV show explain that more is more, I will have to resist.  I agree Yngwie, more is more, but not everybody should be allowed to put more.
I used to love YouTube when after you watched one of your subscribed videos, or didn't want to see one of them, you could delete it from the cue.  Now they just stare at me for all eternity.  Some of my favourite Vloggers and JVloggers put several different series, but I don't want to see all of that.

Here is a few of they things I wish they hadn't changed.

McDonalds' Milkshakes

Yes, I get it.  They are healthier now.  Of course they are also more expensive.  If I were really concerned about my health I wouldn't eat at McDonalds. I go in there craving junk.  I know that drinking a large milkshake isn't going to help me towards my weight loss goal.  Please.

Used Cars.....Previously Enjoyed Automobiles

Change the words and you change to connotation.  It makes sense, but it is also a slap in the face.  You are trying to fool us, and we are not fooled.  If this car was so enjoyed, why is it in your used car lot....sorry previously enjoyed car lot.

Sizes of pop bottles

I could complain about the change from glass to plastic, but I am too late on that one.  Just why they decided to come up with a 710 mL bottle, I am unsure.  Basically that is two cans of pop.  When they had the 600mL bottle, they secretly changed that to a 591mL bottle, with no one being the wiser.  Maybe they will do the same with this one.  Remember when a 750mL bottle was good for three people, or three drinks.  I wonder what the current bottle is good for.  I am guessing that is a one person size.

As for the glass plastic debate....they couldn't make us switch our beer bottles to plastic, so I guess we won some kind of victory.

Windows anything

Here is a good idea, instead of trying to make it better by making it new.  Make it better by making it work.  Rather than release it half finished, release it when it works.

Your thoughts

I'd love to hear from you guys.  I wrote this rather quickly this morning, and I am sure that I will have many more thoughts over the coming days and will add to this blog.  Either way, I would love to hear what things you wished they hadn't changed.

Friday, May 17, 2013

May, one weird month.

What a weird month May has been in Toronto.  It snowed last weekend...It's May!!  What's going on?  Then this morning we had a small earthquake,  Then we go treated to the whole Rob Ford issue. (The twitterverse is already lit up)
I wonder if this is just some cosmic joke.  Maybe so, but why now?  Why couldn't we have a warm day in winter instead?   I guess life just doesn't work that way.
If nothing else, maybe the city will be the centre of attention for a few minutes.  Maybe we will get on some big news channels and people will be talking about us.... for all the wrong reasons.  There are still two weeks to go in May.  I wonder what the month has in store for us?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Vicious Circle

These tools won't fix television

There are too many cable channels.  I said it.  I know, for most of you out there, that's blasphemy.  You all want as many channels as you can get.  If cost weren't a factor, probably a lot more of you out there would agree.  It sounds good, but let's look at this critically. 

Way back, I was so happy that we would have a channel devoted to Science Fiction (I like it so much that I have to capitalize--if you don't like it, write your own blog).  Then we got a channel devoted to cars and auto racing.  If it weren't 24 hours of NASCAR I would probably like it more.  There was so much promise, where did it all go wrong?

Basically, there are lots of great ideas for specialty channels, as they have come to be called, but there have been a lot of bad ideas too.

I used to look forward to some TV programs.  Now, I think that if I miss it, I can see it another time.  Maybe the problem isn't too many channels, but too many choices.  The problem is, that too many choices has led to too many channels.

A twenty-four hour reality TV channel means that not only is there too many mediocre shows being broadcast, but that too many mediocre shows are being made to fill the need.  Can anyone say vicious circle?

Now, I am not advocating a return to the 13 channel universe--I remember those days all too vividly.  I am advocating a return to quality over quantity.  When will it start?  Cynically, I say never.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

There's a Holiday Tomorrow, Shop Now!

I went to the store today to buy some coffee and milk.  As I write that sentence and reflect on how innocuous that sounds, I think of how I felt when I left the house to go to the supermarket this morning.  It seemed like a typical Saturday, and I expected the store to be a little busier than it would be on a weeknight (when I usually go shopping).  How wrong I was.

I forgot to consider that the store will be closed tomorrow, and that meant that everyone and their dog would be at the supermarket stocking up.  I had never seen so many carts full to the brim.  It was just like I see on those coupon shows where the husband and wife are pulling three shopping carts up to the checkout at a time.

Perhaps I just don't understand the significance of a holiday.  The supermarket will be closed for one whole day.  I guess that is reason enough to panic.  When the zombie apocalypse arrives, I'm sure we will be no less vigilant.  Heaven forbid anyone run out of Pillsbury crescent rolls or tacquitos.  We're talking life or death here.

I just couldn't join the fray.  I didn't even bother getting a cart.  I took a handbasket and tried to get out as quickly as possible.  I easily qualified for the express lane, but couldn't get over to it, so just lined up behind anyone I could.  I was almost run over by carts numerous times.  I heard several people remark on how "crazy" it was, but they didn't give up and go home either.

All I can conclude is that life is weird.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sports, not Distractions

Sports on TV are fantastic, especially now in High Definition.  You would think I have nothing to complain about, no reason to rant, no frustrations to vent at all.  Sadly, you'd be wrong.  When it gets right down to it, there is too much stuff on the screen.

Don't get me wrong, I like information, and stats, and other relevant stuff.  My thing is, I don't need it all the time.  I don't need a tickertape running below or above the action.  I don't need to know the score all the time.  I have a pretty good memory, so I wouldn't mind being updated every couple of minutes as opposed to constantly.

Is this so much to ask?

Last night, on Hockey Night in Canada, they were promoting the second screen.  That means you should have your laptop (or most likely tablet or smart phone) opened up and web surfing while watching the game.  Okay, multi-tasking I get it.

However, aren't they really telling us that the game isn't exciting and you should divide your attention between two screens?  Aren't they just hitting us with two screens to show commercials on?  Are you falling for it?

When I look at Europe, with sponsors names being bigger than the team crest I am saddened.  When I look at North America where every power play, every penalty, every face off is "brought to you by..." some sponsor, I am saddened.  Even going to the game is no respite from the barrage of advertising and mostly irrelevant information.  Of course fellow patrons spend most of their time on their smart phones, so they might not notice how many things are taking away from the game.

I predict in the future:

Golf balls will have sponsorship labels on them (of course we will be able to follow them as they fly through the air and down the course)

Lacing up skates will be brought to you by Tim Hortons.

Players heart rates during games will be on screen for everyone to see.

Even seat part of your seat will have an ad on it.

Toilet paper in the men's room (and ladies' room as well) will have ads on them.

The screen will be even more cluttered with stats like shot velocity, basketball rpm, tennis ball wear, bathroom break elapsed time counters, and skate sharpness reports.

You may think I am overreacting (and I am) but my bleak version of the future probably isn't that far away.

I long for the simple beauty of the game.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Get Out of My Way

Suitcases with telescopic handles and actually functioning wheels is are a great idea.  Fantastic.  My first luggage set came with casters (which are not wheels, no matter what you think) and was more likely to tip over than casually trail behind me at the airport.  So, I welcome these great inventions.  However, whatever person thought that they should replace their briefcase, or purse, or whatever they pack all their work or school crap in and take them to public places should be publicly flogged.

On my bus journey there are a couple of these offenders.  Their bags stick out into the aisleways, they take much more time to get on and off the bus, and worse, while navigating the space between the bus and the subway platforms, they weave all over the place cutting people like me off.  When you have to pull a trailer on your car, you need to do some training (don't you)?  These people seem incredibly oblivious to the large rolling mass behind them.  They don't seem to care that my feet get run over, or that I trip when the seemingly uncontrollable need to move side to side strikes these rolling suitcases of death.

I could write about idiots with backpacks that clunk into people's heads with alarming frequency--certainly there is a special place in hell for them (hopefully next to the idiots with their MP3 players turned up too loud, or next to room full of overly loud cell phone users who talk about mostly inappropriate topics)  I could write about any number of clearly foolish people.  Right now, though, I need all my venom for people and their large rolling suitcases.

What are they transporting to and from work that they need such a large bag?  If I was their boss, I would certainly be wondering if corporate espionage was behind it.  Either way, they take up too much space, and seem always to be in my way when I have places to go.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tales of the Lazy

What if technology is too smart for someone's brain?  Today's smartphones put all kinds of information within easy reach, but does that matter if you don't reach for it.  That old question of whether a tree falling in the forest makes any sound if there is no one to hear it kind of applies.  Having all the information has no effect if you don't ask the question.

Several of my students confided in me recently that they wouldn't have come here (Canada) to study if they had known what the weather was going to be like.  (Of course, we were working on third conditional sentences, so perhaps they were just making a joke....perhaps....honestly, their facial expressions conveyed that there was some truth to their sentences--but I digress)  Several students did, in fact, make this assertion.  This is nothing new to me because I hear it every year.  However, I paused to reflect because every single student has a smartphone.  Every student can find obscure bits of trivia rather quickly.  My only question was, why didn't they know about the weather?

When I went abroad, now almost twenty years ago, I was armed only with a Lonely Planet guidebook, a look at an atlas and a few pamphlets from the Japanese Consulate (which contained some fabulously out of date photos even then--imagine how old they look now) I didn't have the opportunity to look up anything on the internet.  I read that book (and those brochures) cover to cover.  The truth is, nothing can compare to being there, but I did the best I could.  The funny thing is, I think I was better prepared than my students, who seem surprised at so many things.

I keep forgetting to ask them how they prepared for their trip.  Maybe I am afraid that they will answer honestly, that is to say, they really didn't prepare.  I am reaching that conclusion on my own anyway.  They can find every variation of the Harlem Shake known to man, but couldn't find out that it snows in Canada in the winter?  Seems too unbelievable to be true.  Sadly, it is. 

If I had to guess, they probably don't look up anything until it is staring them in the face.  I have this image of my students landing at the airport, and then having to enter the following words in the search box.  "Toronto, white stuff on ground, cold" and seeing what Google tells them.  You'd think that some of that might have come up when packing.

If I have said it once, I've said it a thousand times.  Smartphones, don't make smart people.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Responsible Chilren, Lazy Adults

dream delivery
When I was a kid, the newspaper was delivered by children, or youths.  These days, it seems, this has become an adult occupation.  You would think that adults taking over the role of children would lead to better service--everyone says kids are not as responsible as adults.  Sadly, I have to tell you nothing could be farther from the truth.

The person who used to deliver my local paper walked from house to house.  They didn't trample over my grass or flowers.  They walked on the sidewalk from house to house, and always put the paper on my step, in my mailbox, or even in my screen door.  (I did in fact call the newspaper office to praise the carrier on more than one occasion)  The current person doesn't even get out of their car.  This wouldn't bother me, except that when their paper doesn't land anywhere near my house, they don't bother go correct their mistakes.  The other day, they threw the paper at me when I was on my way home from work.  Thanks.

Think this is a problem only with the local paper?  Think that this sort of thing wouldn't happen at the more prestigious national paper?  You'd be wrong their too.  Responsible children one, lazy adults zero.

not my house, but not far from the truth
I guess the parents of my local carrier taught their child well.  I am sure most parents preach responsibility and taking pride in your job.  I sure they stress it is better to do things right, than to do them quickly.  If only they could take their own advice.  I would say that I wished that they would grow up, but that wouldn't obviously be true.  I wish they would be more childish, because, surprisingly, that would be better.  At least then I wouldn't have to trudge through snow banks looking for my flyer filled newspaper.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Like Nails on a Chalkboard

For the most part I am an easy going person.  Okay, that's probably an exaggeration, or probably an outright lie.  A lot of stuff bothers me.  I created this blog so I would have space to vent my frustrations with the world.  Today, it has to do with things people and their inability to pronounce things in Japanese.

What's so difficult?

I know it is already too late for words that entered English in the 1980's.  Nobody will every pronounce karaoke correctly.  The same goes for words like karate, sake,  and hibachi.  Sometimes there is nothing we could do; our inability was decided by companies and names were changed to reflect that.  Words like Mazda, Datsun, Godzilla (all of which are not written, spelled, or pronounced that way in Japan) were given to us, already altered.

The sad facts are that we change lots of words to English friendly pronunciation.  I certainly don't pronounce Volkswagen the way my German/Austrian/ Swiss students do.  I could (though I let them think it is impossible) but I don't.  It wasn't until I was in my mid twenties that I realized the word Braun, sounded exactly like brown. As a Canadian, I try a little harder to pronounce things in French--but don't we all?  I can't do that lisp like sound from Spain...though I have tried.

But I digress.....

Having a fondness for Japanese, I do wish it were pronounced better on television.  Maybe I am playing favourites, but it's my blog and I can do what I want.  And I want people to pronounce things in Japanese better.

Several things sparked this rant.  The first is that stores are now selling Japanese style breadcrumbs.  I think this is great, because the breadcrumbs are a great product.  What I don't think is great is that people can't pronounce "panko".  It drives me absolutely nuts every time that commercial is on.  It has gotten so bad that I have to quickly change the channel.

The second thing is the TV show American Ninja--no, I am not going to blather on about the word ninja, and stuff like that.  On the show, the final obstacle is called Mount Midoriyama...... yama means mountain.  Mount Midori Mountain.   It's worse than fingernails on a chalkboard.  Couldn't anyone do some research before they decided that was the title of the final obstacle.  Mount Rushmore Mountain?  Mount Everest Mountain?  Are your ears bleeding too?

Am I asking too much?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Making Life More Difficult

Sometimes modern electronics are frustrating.  Who thought that charging things up while you are using you computer is in any way easier than plugging them into the wall?  I don't have an unlimited number of USB ports.  I can't plug in everything.

Yes, it isn't difficult.  I agree.  However, every time I unplug the printer to plug in my MP3 player, or my Kobo, or my camera, or any other device, the printer decides to go into test mode and waste my ink spitting out a useless piece of paper.

Basically, it's a pain in the ass.

I have seen iPhone users utilize some kind of wall charger, but that seems to be the exception as opposed to the rule.  Of course, I have also seen a bunch of these people forget their charger in the wall and walk away.  So I guess that really isn't a solution.

I guess, in the future, homes and offices will have USB charging plugs right alongside the electrical outlet.  I am eagerly awaiting that day.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snowplow--More Priorities Out of Whack

Isn't it always the way.  You get all your winter crap on:  your boots, your gloves, your toque (winter hat, for all you non Canadians).  You get out there, work up a sweat (even worse sometimes, but I don't really want to joke a bout some poor old guy having a heart attack) and finally the driveway and sidewalk are clean.  Then, you hear that dreaded noise.

The snowplow.  Invaluable for making the roads clean, driveable and safe, and perhaps the most frustrating device ever created for the man or woman who has just finished plowing their driveway.  All that work gone for nought.

I have no idea  when the snow plow was invented.  I know they have been around since World War II at least.  I live in a country where they come in all shapes and sizes.  I've seen huge ones, and ones that fit onto an army jeep.  Someday, some half drunk backyard mechanical MacGyver wizard will probably rig one up to a bicycle. (I did a quick google search, and its already been done...I should have known)

Nevertheless, despite years of innovation, despite incredible engineering, the snow plow still manages to plow me into or out of my driveway.  Finish cleaning and it will come past my house and form a perfect barrier between me and the street.  Go out for a quick errand (maybe to the beer store) and come back to find that I have to shovel my way back onto my driveway (or try to ram myself through, and get stuck, and not get to drink the beer I just went out to get).

I have heard that there is an invention to prevent this, but I have never seen it.  If it exists, please tell me, or better yet tell the town council, how I can get this machine to plow my street.  We have superfast internet, but we I still face a mountain of snow  before I can go to work.  Once again, our priorities seem completely out of whack.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Goodbye Penny


I am not sure how I feel about it.  I understand the government's position, but at the same time, I don't understand it.  I use my pennies, and never had a problem using them.  Unlike a lot of people, I do not have a jar of pennies that I have been meaning to roll and take to the bank.

I have some pennies that I consider lucky, and probably wouldn't spend them even if I could.  I have probably found them on the ground while walking, or maybe the date was special... I don't know.  Since we are not talking millions, they will probably just sit in my drawer for the foreseeable future and beyond.

I haven't had my final total rounded up or rounded down yet, but I am sure that it will be weird the first time it happens. I certainly am not looking forward to it, but there really isn't anything I can do about it.

Goodbye penny, goodbye.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cruel Mother Nature

Oh Mother Nature.  You are a cruel one.  This time, perhaps, you have gone too far.

Today, I awoke to an incredibly warm and sunny day.  Sunny is not unusual, but to be so warm in January only gives us pause to consider.

I heard some people blame this on global warming.  Ah, if only it were that simple.  If only I could find some scientific theory that really accounts for it.  No my friends, this is Mother Nature playing with us.  This is Mother Nature having another laugh at our expense (I was going to write last laugh, but no, this won't be the last time).

All the snow was gone from my front and back yard, revealing all the leaves I wasn't able to pick up before the blanket of snow forgave my lack of gardening ambition.  It was such a cruel reminder that I was shamed into going out and picking up those leaves (in all honesty, these aren't your ordinary leaves, these are more like pods, pods from hell) that littered my yard.  Now, I have a yard waste bag full of leaves that will have to inhabit my garage until the spring.  Oh Mother Nature, why?

Of course, I appreciate the warm day.  I appreciate the chance to have a beer on the deck (maybe fire up that barbeque again).  I appreciate the opportunity to fill my system with vitamin D.  I just fear that you Mother Nature are going to make us pay for this.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Now What?

So, a deal is done.  Does that mean we forgive and forget?  The answer to this question is no.  I am not proposing we boycott the games, or even turn off the television, or give up the season tickets you've had since you were a child.  I am talking about making some kind of stand.

What that means for people going to the game is a boycott on the merchandise and concessions.  Wouldn't it really hurt them more if they didn't sell any popcorn, or beer, or jerseys?  Wouldn't you be sending an important message that you love hockey, but you don't have to support the marketing, the merchandising, or the price gouging.

Yes, we will be hurting some of the little people by this action, but I don't see a way around it.  Sorry concession stand worker.  We've got to stand up for ourselves and not just meekly go back and suck it up.  We have to show them that we've been the ones hurt in this.  We're the ones that need some kind of compensation.

I don't know what part of merchandising and food sales are included in "hockey related revenue" but I suspect this action will have an effect on both sides. I still side with the players on this deal, but they need to know they are not innocent.

No shirts, no pucks, no family sized cokes, no programs.

Time to take a stand.