Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toy review

I did eventually get my iPod the other day. Actually, within about 20 minutes of posting this entry, I noticed a car in my neighbour's driveway, and wandered over to get my package, which was no longer hypothetical. I ran home and opened the box like a kid on Christmas morning. Is niiiiiiice. But holy crap, is that thing ever small. My wife has a little 512MB MP3 player that she uses for early morning walks, and it holds lots of songs, but she still has to refill it occasionally because she's bored of the music on it. The iPod, which is not much bigger (and when it's strapped to your arm is probably insignificantly bigger), holds 160 times as much stuff.

I'd ripped a bunch of my CDs to MP3 because of the MP3 player in my car, but they used various ripping programs (some of which are better quality than others), and use different (probably fairly low) bitrates and such, so I decided to start from scratch and just rip everything with iTunes. I've only done maybe 10 albums so far, so there's not much on there yet. I found a cable that I can use to attach to my car stereo, and this morning on my way to work, I listened to a podcast of yesterday's Prime Time Sports, "the nation's most listened-to sports talk presentation". I generally like listening to this show (live) on my way home, but because it's over AM radio (ugh), the reception isn't always the clearest, and I can't listen to AM radio and charge my cell phone in the car at the same time because of all the interference from the charger. Now I'll be listening a day behind, but the sound is crystal clear, there's no interference, I can skip bits if they start talking about football or something else I'm not interested in, I don't miss anything if I stop to get gas or if I get home right in the middle of an interesting topic, it's awesome. This is not even mentioning the fact that now I'll be able to listen to programs from radio stations that I can't even get, or (gasp) actual podcasts that are not simply recordings of radio programs. And soon (well, probably several weeks from now once I get everything ripped), I'll have my entire music collection with me as well.

I haven't even had the thing a week and already I'm wondering how I lived without it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Thinking Man's Spam

While checking my spam filter today looking for false positives (which are becoming more and more rare), I happened across one with a very intriguing subject line. The message itself was a stock tip, but the subject line was "It's possible of course that only similar processes to that which arise in a human brain can give rise to conscious thoughts."

It's probably rare that a spam message makes you think philosophically.

Vick is sorry he did it. And I'm the King of Siam.

Michael Vick pled guilty to federal dogfighting charges the other day, and I think there were gambling charges as well. He also apologized to a bunch of people, and said that his actions were "immature". I heard a reporter comment that a cynic might think that his comments were scripted and didn't come from the heart. Call me a cynic.

First off, what he did was not immature. He put two dogs in a ring and watched them attempt to kill each other. If the loser of the fight survived, he'd kill it himself by drowning or strangling. This is not immature, it's simply evil.

I think the only thing that Vick is sorry for is that he got caught and that his NFL career is probably over. If you go to a dogfight once and get caught, you can say you made a mistake and that you now realize that it's a bad thing. But you don't finance a dogfighting ring for years and kill at least eight dogs yourself and suddenly decide when you get caught that it's a bad thing. The weird thing is that I think the apology could have been scripted better. The first people he apologized to were the NFL commissioner and the owners of the Atlanta Falcons, who basically hold Vick's NFL career in their hands. He didn't get to the fans and kids out there who look at Vick as a role model until later.

Having said all that, I'm a little surprised at the extent of the public outrage over this issue. While what Vick did is reprehensible, and I hope he gets serious jail time for it, there have been NFL players and other sports figures that have been convicted of rape and murder with less public outcry. My guess is that it will eventually blow over. Vick will serve 3 years in prison, the NFL will quietly end his indefinite suspension, and then some NFL GM will sign him, saying that he's all better now, he's done his time, paid his debt to society, and is ready to resume being a productive member of society. Celebrity justice at its finest.

Monday, August 27, 2007


This entry is about responsibility. When you have a job to do, it is critical that you make every effort to make sure that job is done to the best of your ability, even if that means making sacrifices. By way of example, let's just say, hypothetically, that I was expecting a package today, coming by FedEx from, oh let's say Shanghai via Anchorage and Indianapolis. Let's also say, hypothetically, that I was at work when this hypothetical package was delivered and the FedEx guy brought it over to my neighbour's house, and he signed for it. Now the hypothetical package is in his hands, so he has taken on the responsibility of getting it to me, since I was the intended recipient. If you have this reponsibility, do you go out for the evening? NO! You stay at home and make sure that the intended recipient gets his hypothetical package as soon as humanly possible.

As I said, you may have to make sacrifices. You can go grocery shopping tomorrow. There will be other soccer tournaments that your kids can play in. You had an anniversary last year, you'll have another one next year. I'm sure she'll get married again.

So, Mr. Harrison, get the hell home, and get me my frackin' iPod hypothetical package!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Toys!

Somewhere out there, there's an iPod with my name on it. And I mean that literally. I ordered an 80 GB iPod from yesterday (with free engraving), and got an email this morning saying that it had shipped. I feel like rushing home and checking the mailbox every, oh, fifteen seconds or so. Maybe I'll just bring my laptop and sit next to the mailbox. OK, I'll have to cool the jets just a bit — I just checked the FedEx site, and the package left the point of origin in Shanghai, China a few hours ago, so perhaps sitting by the mailbox today would not prove useful. Tomorrow maybe.

The one I bought is priced at $349 US at, but $399 Cdn at Since won't let you ship to a Canadian address, I had to buy from the Canadian site, which is a total scam — the Canadian dollar is so high right now that $349 US would only cost $378 Cdn, plus the sales tax would be less. I suppose I could have bought it through and had it shipped to my friend in California, and then paid him to ship it to me, but then you have extra customs stuff to worry about, and extra shipping costs, not to mention the hassle, so I guess I'll just eat the $20 or so and complain about it in my blog. There, that's done.

I am really looking forward to getting this new toy piece of equipment. My buddy Kurt has one, and he can't stop raving about how great it is. Once I've ripped all of my CDs (450+) and put them on the iPod, I can store the actual CDs in the basement, freeing up space in the CD/DVD rack for more DVDs, which are starting to get piled in various places since we're out of room. If I wanted, I could also remove the CD player from the stereo cabinet and replace it with the iPod dock I intend to buy. My car stereo already has an iPod input jack so I'm OK there, but I might need to buy one for the van. Kurt says that you can even rip DVDs to the iPod, so if I can hook it into the DVD player in the van, that would be even better.

Update: I saw 80 GB iPods at Costco yesterday for $369. Crap.
Friday update: It went through Anchorage yesterday, and is in Indianapolis today! Estimated delivery is Monday!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fern 2007

Last week was our (seventh?) annual trip to Fern Resort, and I think it was our best ever. I think I gained about 50 pounds, or at least it feels like it. I haven't weighed myself yet, but I'm not optimistic. The diet starts... soon.

I won't give a day-by-day summary or anything, but here are some of the highlights and (one) lowlight:

Good Stuff

  • The kids were awesome. They didn't sit still when eating most of the time, and Ryan had a little bit of a tantrum once but that was short-lived, and the rest of the time they were great.
  • Four-way beach volleyball. I look forward to this all year
  • Golf with Ryan on Fern's 5-hole course. Ryan hit pretty well, I shot two pars and missed an eagle putt by an inch
  • Golf with Jeff, Mike, and Jerry at Hawk Ridge. I came in last, but not by much, and I played reasonably well
  • The food was phenomenal, as always
  • I was the co-winner of the men's singles tennis tournament! Well, this was only because I was one of only three people who showed up, and it started to rain just as we got there, so the tennis pro cancelled it and gave us each points for showing up
  • I won at bingo twice - $5 once time and a t-shirt the other time
  • Nicky got on stage during the magic show. The magician "pulled" lots of coins out of his ear, his nose, from under his arms, etc. Nicky told us later that the magician was just hiding the coins in his hand and then dropping them in the bucket, but he played along the whole time and was hilarious
  • Rachel and Sarah won the "Fern's Got Talent" competition with their routine from High School Musical
  • Ryan and I saw a blue heron while riding pedal carts through the woods

Bad Stuff

  • Walking with Nicky across the volleyball court, I bent down to duck under the net, while he thought it would be fun to jump and brush his head on the net, and our heads collided. He rubbed his head and said "Ow" and that was it, while I fell to the ground ("you dropped like you'd been shot" said the guy walking behind me) and ended up with a black eye and a nasty abrasion right below my eyebrow

We started our second week of "vacation" on Saturday (though we're working this week), when we dropped Ryan off at Gail's dad's place and Nicky off at my parents' place and came home alone. I love my kids more than anything, and I will certainly miss them this week, but I'll also enjoy not making lunches, not dropping anyone off in the morning or picking anyone up in the evening, not worrying about whether they'll eat what we make for dinner, going to see movies without arranging for (or paying for) babysitters, etc. We went to the CNE yesterday, saw Harry Potter (again) on Saturday and Stardust yesterday, and we might try to see The Bourne Ultimatum on Wednesday. Thursday night we're going to Canada's Wonderland (where we won't even go near Kidsville), and Friday we're going for dinner and then to see We Will Rock You in Toronto. We pick the boys up on Saturday.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Don't flash flash flash those things at me

While driving into Waterdown tonight, I was driving 60 (in a 60 zone) in the right lane, next to a car doing about the same speed in the left lane. A tow truck came up behind me doing about 80 and flashed its lights at me — but not its headlights, the flashing lights on top of the truck. He had the lights off as he was driving, but as he approached me, he flashed them on for a second and then off again. I did nothing, partially because I was in the right lane and there was a car beside me, and partially because the right lane was ending in about a kilometre anyways. When the right lane ended I moved over, and the tow truck moved over behind me (there was time to continue in the right lane and pass me before the lane ended, but he didn't).

This is something that has bugged me about tow trucks for the longest time — why do they have flashing lights on them? Police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks I understand; they sometimes have to get somewhere in a hurry, so they put the lights on and people move out of their way. But tow trucks? Who moves out of the way for a tow truck with its lights on? I certainly don't. I can understand that if they are in the process of hooking up to a vehicle in a lane or at the side of a busy road, they might want to put the lights on to alert drivers that something is happening there, but while driving? What's the point? Get over yourself, Mr. Tow Truck Driver. You're performing a service that is valuable to society, but the flashing lights are a bit much.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Homers and homers

Alex Rodriguez is one homer away from 500 on his career. When he hits it, he'll be the youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs. Everyone is going nuts over Barry Bonds's pursuit of Hank Aaron's 755, but I think A-Rod's achievement is even more impressive, especially given the fact that Bonds was on the juice for the last few years, and A-Rod (probably) is not.

Bonds's story is kind of too bad — he would have been known as one of the all-time greatest players even if he hadn't juiced himself up but because he did, now he's a joke. He has over 500 career stolen bases, and is the only member of both the 400-400 club and the 500-500 club, but will people remember him as a base stealer? Not likely, because of the home run records, the juice, and the fact that he's only averaged 5 steals a year over the last 6 years. Sure he's got the single-season homer record and he'll soon have the career record, but everyone knows what he did to achieve those records, so even if there isn't an asterisk next to the numbers in the record books, there is in most people's minds.

Even Bonds, however, has acknowledged that assuming he does break Aaron's record, the most likely player to break his record would be Rodriguez and barring injuries, I think A-Rod is a lock to do just that. Bonds is probably done after this year, so let's say he ends up with 765, and say Rodriguez ends up with 515 by the end of the season. Rodriguez would then be behind by 250 at the age of 32. Five years of fifty homers each might be a stretch, but can A-Rod average over 35 a year for 7 years, or 25 a year for 10? Sure he can.

There's a report today that a group of local businesspeople in Nashville is close to a deal that would see the Predators stay in Nashville. They would buy the team for something like $190 million, which is something like $30 million less than what was offered by Jim Balsillie. I see this as proof that Gary Bettman does not want any more NHL teams in Canada. What owner who is actively trying to sell his team would take $30 million less than what he was offered? If he's considering bids that were almost the same amount, he might decide to go with the one that keeps the team in Nashville, but no owner is going to say no to an extra $30 million out of the goodness of his heart. The big question is what has Gary Bettman promised him in order to keep the Preds from coming north of the border?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Patent Pending

I've got an idea for the automotive industry. It's hardly groundbreaking, nor will it revolutionize anything, but I still think it's a good idea. A number of times in the past, I've been driving along in the centre lane and I see someone in the right lane with his left indicator on, so I slow down to let him in, and he doesn't go. I give him enough time to see that someone is letting him in, and then I say "screw it" and speed up again, only to notice that he was not signalling left at all, he had his four-way flashers on. I couldn't see the right-hand light because of a trailer, or other cars, or because the light was broken or burned out, or whatever. Other times, I'll be driving in the right lane and see a car driving on the shoulder, signalling left, so I move over to clear the right lane. Again, it turns out that he was not signalling but had his hazard lights on. Since the hazards and the turn indicators flash at the same rate, there's no way to tell the difference if you can only see one of the lights, or one is not functional. It occurred to me that there should be a way to distinguish between them, and the simplest way would be to double the flash rate of the hazard lights. This way, regardless of whether you saw one light or two, you could tell by the flash rate whether it was a turn signal or hazards.