2013-09-27

Time To Switch From Trudeau to Mirabel

Planes at Trudeau airport in Dorval/Montreal are an incredible source of noise pollution. So much so that the airport has a curfew.
Solution: close Trudeau and make Mirabel Montreal's 24 hour international hub.

Some people in the federal government are thinking about opening an airport in Pickering, east of Toronto, to help alleviate potential congestion at Pearson. While an airport downwind from Toronto would have environmental advantages, it seems to me that taking advantage of Mirabel, an airport that is already built, and making that Canada's eastern airline hub, would make far more sense.

Dubai is about to close their central airport and move things to their new airport south-west of town. Dubai, like Atlanta, generates most of it's traffic from passengers in transit.

Unlike Altanta, Mirabel does have local transportation challenges, as there is no rail link. And from the south shore, unless you take a ferry or detour via Ontario, there is no way to get to Mirabel without crossing the Island of Montreal and it's notoriously congested bridges (although the new bridge to Vaudreuil offers and additional option for those wanting to go via Hawkesbury).  

That said, Mirabel does have regional transportation advantages over Trudeau. It is only 180 km from Ottawa via the newly completed highway 50. And passengers in cars from the north shore of the Saint-Lawrence, including Quebec City, can travel to Mirabel while avoiding much of Montreal's road congestion.

From Montreal, passengers already on the island would encounter little congestion going to Mirabel in the morning. And with the subway now going all the way to Laval, it is easy to imagine a city bus shuttle service like the one Toronto has between Pearson and Kipling station (although that would be 33 km vs. 12 km in Toronto).

What to do with vacated land at Trudeau would be an issue as I'm sure it is highly polluted. There probably isn't that much demand for industrial land and Montreal can only have so many warehouses. Making it a green space while waiting for land prices high enough to justify a clean-up would be an option.

Having a big airport with 24 hour access and capacity to spare and geographic advantages  is no guarantee of success. Would ticket prices be low enough to attract passengers from Ottawa? Would Toronto passengers be willing to sacrifice their non-stop trans-Atlantic flight to Europe. Would enough passengers from New York and Boston be attracted to Mirabel (via short flights) to justify non-stops to Asia (they currently fly over Montreal from those cities)? 

Still, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. And Montrealers deserve a good night sleep, even if they have to wake up 30 minutes earlier to catch that morning flight to Toronto. 

2013-04-21

Somewhere Between is a Great Doc

Netflix just earned my monthly 8 bucks again. Somewhere Between is perhaps a bit of a chick-doc, but there are enough geopolitical economic undertones to keep the coldest intellectual male interested. The human side of The Economist, if you will.

I highly recommend it. So did Roger Ebert

Somewhere Between is a documentary about Chinese adoption, currently streaming on Netflix Canada and USA.

2013-03-17

"God is a Psychopath" (North Korea and Propaganda)

This is one of the best propaganda films I've seen in a long time. I found it fascinating.



After viewing it, I recommend reading this.

2013-02-24

Movies Complimentary to Argo

I really enjoyed Argo (probably going to win the Best Picture later tonight; rentable in iTunes and the PS3 video store). It's not too often that you get such a tense geopolitical thriller. The story is more or less accurate and, obviously (hopefully), the Iranians featured in the film are not reflective of the entire population.

To get a more balanced impression of Iran, I highly recommend the following films. Unlike Argo, most are quite slow.

-Crimson Gold (about a pizza delivery man).
-Persepolis (a historical cartoon)
-Offside (a girl trying to get into a soccer stadium).
-The Queen and I (about the wife of the Sha, living in France)

2013-02-23

Health Care and Education Over the CBC, Via and Useless Weapons

The CBC and Via Rail are not huge budget items, but I submit in 2013 they should not be budget priorities. Worse, they are being used to inspire bundling. A billion for the CBC as long as we spend 40 billion on national defence.

CBC
In the age of advertising supported television, the CBC was the alternative. But now the alternative is pay TV and the Internet. Is there an audience that isn't served? I enjoy programming on the CBC, PBS and the BBC that arguably wouldn't exist without subsidy. But the opportunity cost is high. I submit we should lower taxes to allow poor people to purchase the shows they want to see or spend the tax dollars on more valuable services like education and heath care. 

Via Rail
It's the fourth way. Almost all Via Rail destinations are reachable by car, bus and plane. In many places, Via actually competes for rail space with suburban rail. Most Via Rail trains compete for space with freight trains. Heavy trucks damage roads and cause deadly accidents. The more freight transported by rail, the better. The bus is cheaper, driving more convenient and flying usually faster. Intercity rail is such a niche service that it really doesn't deserve to be subsidized.

National Defence
Canada is a big country. But what country would invade Canada? Imagine the logistics involved in taking over Wood Buffalo and exploiting the tar sands. We could outsource the defence of Canada and save a fortune. At the very least we should downsize the military until we get a credible enemy. We need a few ships to protect our fishery and ports. But tanks?


2013-02-19

Queen of Versailles is a Must See Doc

 If you live in the UK, I highly recommend you load up your BBC iPlayer and watch Queen of Versailles (Canadians can rent it for $5 via iTunes). It is an incredible story about about a time share magnet making money, and then not making as much, as the world recession roles through.

Everybody involved is nouveau-riche. You don't want the nouveau riche as your neighboors, but they are fun to watch on TV. Queen of Versailles is no exception.

 

2013-02-15

Meteorite Landings Are Not Random

Here is my hypothesis: The location of meteorites crashes are not random. They are not spread out equally around the world. What do I base this on? The map.

Look at it!

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The Chelyabinsk region is like the surface of the moon! Perhaps there is a logical explanation: lazy map makers, beavers, Soviet engineering... But man, does it ever look like a bunch of meteorites crashed in to the region.

-What Do We Know about the Russian Meteor?
-Meteorite Hits Russia, Causing Panic (in case of WSJ paywall, Google the title)
-Videos of Russian Meteorite Captured by Bystanders

Alberta and Florida Driver's Licences Are Illegal

This is the Alberta driver's licence. Do you see "Permis de conduire"? 

Model Driver's Licence according to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic:

ANNEX 9. MODEL DRIVING PERMIT

Dimensions: 74 x 105 mm. Colour: Pink

1. The permit will be drawn up in the language(s) prescribed by the legislation of the State.

2. The title of the document "Driving Permit" will be written in the language(s) prescribed in 1 above and will be followed by the translation in French "Permis de conduire".

3. The inscriptions should be written (or at least repeated) in Latin characters or in so-called English script.

4. The additional remarks, if any, by the competent authorities of the issuing country will not apply to international traffic.

5. The distinguishing sign as defined in Annex 4 shall be inscribed in the oval.


Outside pages


Reserved for endorsements by the competent authorities of the issuing country and including periodic renewal.


[Name of country]


[Seal or stamp of authority]


2013-02-13

Grand Canyon Trails Now in Google Street View!

If your iMac is getting dusty, or worse, wasted on tax software, now you have a great excuse to use it: the Grand Canyon in now is Google Street View!

Granted, if you read the Google Maps blog, you already knew that. But for everybody else, this is exciting news. Enjoy!




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2013-02-12

Monorail, Monorail, Monorail !

My little sister just returned from Orlando and advised me she didn't get me the Disney Monorail toy. So this blog post is my consolation gift to myself.

So far, I've ridden the monorail at Disney World, the one in Seattle, the one at Newark Airport, the one at Montreal's La Ronde and the one at the Granby zoo. Please do not confuse a monorail with an elevated train (like the ones in Scarborough and Vancouver). You could also argue that the train at Toronto's Pearson airport is a monorail (that I have ridden), however, for aesthetic reasons, I don't consider it a monorail.

The Simpsons Monorail Song from Marge Vs. the Monorail.


Disney Monorail Toy


Lego Monorail


Lego Monorail II


Seattle Monorail


Sydney Monorail


Mumbai Monorail


Newark Airport Monorail


The Shainghai Maglev Monorail

2013-02-06

A Maximum of 20 million People Have Viewed House of Cards


I previously called House of Cards a hit, but that was based on comments on Twitter. I've introduced some fuzzy logic. Psy's Gangnam style has been viewed 1.2 billion times, yet has only received 7 million ratings, or 0.59%. For each rating, the video has been viewed 168 times. Part of the explanation for that is many people will have watched the 4 minute video over and over, yet only rated it once. As well, I'm pretty sure you have to be logged into Youtube to rate a video. With Netflix, few if any people will have viewed House of Cards 20 times and only rated it once. Also, you have to be logged into Netflix to view a video, so there is one less step to rating.

The Netflix experience is probably different than Youtube. I suspect the average viewer per Netflix account is significantly higher than one. An account is, after all, $8 a month. You can only rate once per Netflix account. An other defence of House of Cards is that many people will wait until they have finished the 13 episode season before rating the show. Only the insane have already viewed the 11 hours of House of Cards made available by Netflix 5 days ago. Still, you can rate the series, or even an episode, without having viewed the entire series. I suspect it is more than 0.6% that have done so.

So with that disclaimer out of the way, here is my conclusion: Best case scenario, 20 million people have viewed 1 or more episodes of the 2013 US version of House of Cards. 
Math: 120,000 X 168 =  20,160,000 people. Since the average rating for House of Cards is 4.6 stars out 5, we can assume most of those viewers will eventually view each of the 13 episode.

These days, you usually need a karaoke machine to reach 20 million people an episode. 

I Need to Talk About House of Cards

I'm suffering from House of Cards withdrawal. But they haven't even filmed season 2 of House of Cards yet! Depending on if you count the credits, so far I've watched about 22 hours of House of Cards in 2013 (British version + American version). So yeah, the show has had an impact. 

Firstly, humans are social animals. You can't watch that much TV without having the overwhelming urge to interact. I'd talk with someone about their cat at this point. But only briefly, because I want to talk about House of Cards. You may have noticed, I created a new label: HOC. The label should be at the bottom of each of my House of Cards posts. Apparently I'm not the only one with this urge to talk about House of Cards.

If, and only if, you have seen all 13 episodes of the American version (Netflix) of House of Cards, then you can allow yourself to read House of Cards, Watched Entire series, by Josef Adalian. That got rid of my urge to read about House of Cards. :)

I honestly can't wait until House of Cards is available in France. I just know we French speaking people will have interesting discussions on the subject of House of Cards. Oddly, the House of Cards show doesn't seem to have caught on in Quebec, yet. They were probably busy watching Superbowl commercials

House of Cards is good, but it isn't Rubicon good. And that AMC show got cancelled. So I'm kind of obsessed with the popularity of House of Cards. The people involved in the 1990 British version of House of Cards are probably dead by now, so the American version of House of Cards is all we got.

So far the newspapers have found a way to talk about House of Cards because of the marathon angle (you can watch all 13 chapters, like you would with a new book). Twitter is spitting out about a tweet a minute, 24/7. The vast majority are positive. So far, 120,000 people on Netflix have given the show an average 4.6 out of 5 star rating. But that 120,000 number would be fairly disastrous if it is anywhere close to the actual number of people who have watched House of Cards. Network shows in the US typically get an audience of about 10 million people an episode. 

As they'd say in Rubicon, I need more data!

My previous House of Cards posts:

Remember to click on the HOC label below so you don't miss any of my newer House of Cards posts.

2013-02-05

Wonderwall

The 1995 song Wonderwall was featured at the end of episode 4 of Girls (HBO, 2013).



Toronto concert. Skip to 1:30.


The gitarist and singer Noel Gallagher suffered 3 broken ribs. 48 year old David Sullivan of Pickering, Ontario, plead guilty and received a sentence of 1 year house arest. His wife left him, no doubt in part because Sullivan was about to lose all his money. As they had to cancel a few shows, the band sued Sullivan for 2.5 million dollars. The band disbanded shortly after this video was taken.

Some say Noel Gallagher's absence from the closing ceremonies ruined the 2012 London Olympics. Ok, I made that last part up.

See for yourself. Note the absence of Liam Gallagher's brother Noel.


Today, back pusher and rib breaker David Sullivan... (insert content here when finished stalking him).

Dispite his injuries and the end of the band Oasis, Noel Gallagher returned to Toronto in November 2011. No word if David Sullivan, a free man by then, showed up at the concert.


2013-02-04

Mad Men Love House of Cards

Mad men had terrible ratings. Why? Well, people are interested in different things. And with CSI and American Idle being so popular, perhaps we live in the age of stupid. On the other hand, we are talking about TV, shouldn't smart people be reading books?

With literacy rates sky high, an interesting phenomena in the English speaking world are books aimed at the stupid masses and TV shows aimed at an intelligent audience. Both are fairly fragmented niche markets. Most stupid people still don't read much and, when they have jobs, the educated don't spend that much time in front of the idiot box. You, for example, have access to 150 TV channels, and yet you are reading this blog.

When shown with no ads, perhaps shows like Mad Men and House of Cards make even less sense. Assuming their target audience does indeed watch less TV, you'd think they could attract a premium from advertisers. On the other hand, educated smart people tend to earn more, so perhaps they are the ones willing to pay more for AMC and Netflix. Apparently, even in the age of digital video recorders, product placement still isn't that lucrative.

The problem with intelligent TV is that most of us get tired, drunk or surround ourselves with ignorant people (our children, for example). We can also surf the net, tweet, or read a magazine while watching TV. So we can watch stupid TV. However, it takes alot of effort to watch something when you don't quite get it. Try watching something in your second language. There better be a lot of nudity, because without subtitles, you are going to be reaching for the remote. And even when there are subtitles, most of us are at least slightly put off when presented with a movie or series in a spoken language that is going to require alot of reading. Watching smart TV requires a certain level of alertness on your part and that of your partner. It is generally not advised in the presence of stupid people (aka your teenagers). At any given time, smart TV has a limited audience.

To be fair, neither Mad Men nor the House of Cards require a particularly high knowledge level or intelligence to be enjoyed. And if I still have your attention, you are probably not that smart either (nor am I, as my B.S. degree attained with a C+ average attests).

So what's the conclusion? Frankly I've lost interest. Now where did I put that US IP address?  I need to watch Prisoners of War (Israeli version of Homeland) on Hulu before my contact lenses dry up. 
 
Shortcut to this blog: j.mp/slugline 

Photo stolen from

2013-02-03

House of Cards: Netflix Execs Have Balls of Steel



New shortcut to Altavistagoogle: j.mp/slugline .
 
I liked the 11 hours of the 1990 to 1995 British version of House of Cards (currently on Netflix). Silly, dark and about politics, what more could you want? However, it never would have occurred to me to make an American version. Even less to make what could (should?) be a low budget TV show and turn it into a Waterworldesque 100 million dollar production.

This is, after all, a show based on characters that are completely amoral. And just in case you are amoral yourself and start to identify with them, the authors of the American version made one of the male characters bisexual. An other had 3 abortions. Despite this (or because?), the 100 million dollar American version is quite watchable. Hopefully it provides escapism for most viewers and perhaps even educates a few on how a bill becomes law. Oh, and there are numerous references to zoning and easements.

I can just imagine the Netflix exec, enraptured by the separation of powers, the federalism (all 4 levels of government) the bill writing and the people blogging, jump in excitement when he realizes the show would include: FLIRTING VIA SMS!

Like I said, I liked it. I should say them, because after watching the 11 hours of the British version, I did watch the 13 hours of the American version. Since the launch of the show Friday morning, Twitter is averaging a positive review every 30 seconds. Even with this, I still have my doubts. Just like when the iPad first came out, part of me wants to believe this will be a monster hit. But people are weird. They like CSI and American Idle. This is a show about public policy and writing law.

Netflix execs are brave (or stupid) people. First thing Monday you should probably buy some Netflix stock, because the subscribers signups will be HUGE. Or not. I don't know.

Oh, and offering a free month subscription? Aren't you worried people will sign up, watch the ENTIRE SERIES, and then cancel before their free month is up? Maybe you shouldn't buy Netflix shares. Just get a good mattress. 

-House of Cards is a Hit!

I assumed part of the 100 million dollars went to build this peach monstrosity. Turns out it exists in real life!
 


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2013-02-02

House of Cards is a Hit!

You might think House of Cards is an excellent series, but I couldn't possibly comment.

New shortcut to my blog: j.mp/slugline .
 
Who am I kidding? The show is great! The people of Twitter have spoken: way too many product placements and very awkward references to the Internet. Well actually those are the two only negative comments I have found. Everybody else seems to like it.

Interestingly, few people seem to have seen the 1990 British version, despite it also being available on Netflix. Personally I though the British version was quite good and I'm kind of perplexed that someone found a need to Americanize it. The British parliamentary system is perhaps easier to understand for Canadians, although the MPs choosing their leader is a thing we don't do in Canada. If you weren't a newsjunky in the 90s, you might miss some of the current events references (Margaret Thatcher spied on her MPs, Cyprus, prince Charles' meddling obsession with architecture).

House of Cards is worth watching, even if most of your $8 goes to the series this month. Either version or both. The first episode of both versions is kind a slow, but it gets better, honest. 

Other series i quite enjoyed recently on Netflix Canada:

-Breaking Bad
-Mad Men
-IT Crowd
-Top Gear

Not on Netflix, but I recommend them anyway:

-The Promise. Hulu in the USA; In Canada, TVO has been sitting on it for over a year:

 Thank you for contacting TVO.  We haven't yet set a date for the broadcast of The Promise, but I have shared your message with our Programming department. 

-Homeland with Claire Danes. Showtime in the US. Super Channel in Canada. The excellent spy show is based on the Israli, Prisoners of War (Hulu USA). 
-Sons of Anarchy (FX in the US, in Canada: Super Channel for recent series, FX Canada for older seasons). A couple of shows were filmed in Northern Ireland!
-The League (Hulu USA). A show about fantasy football. As silly as it sounds. 
-House of Lies (Showtime in the USA, The Movie Network in Canada). A show about consultants. 

If you don't have cable, you can find some seasons of Homeland and Sons of Anarchy on iTunes. Your PS3 video store also has interesting shows.

If you've never subscribed to TMN/HBO, now might be the time. The back catalogue available via Internet (get a password from a close friend or relative) include 6 seasons of The Supranos (New Jersey crime, often involving local government) 3 seasons of The Wire (Baltimore politics and police work), Bordwalk Empire Season 3 (Atlantic City crime and political corruption during prohibition). The Newsroom (with Olivia Munn as the hottest economist ever). Luck ( a well acted show about horse racing that was officially cancelled because horses kept dying. Oh, and the ratings were terrible). I watch Girls, but I can't recommend it. I think I like it because it features New York City and 2 very attractive women (Including NBC news anchor Brian Williams' daughter).

People on Twitter have commented that House of Cards reminds them of Boss (Mayor of Chicago losing his mind). Starz had it in the USA. Super Channel in Canada. iTunes has season one. Ratings (not reviews, ratings) were terrible, so it was cancelled after 2 seasons. I have not seen it. 
 
My list of network TV favourites:

2013-01-31

National Strategy on Using the Word Federal Instead

As a non-Torontonian, I really get irritated when the Toronto Star or well meaning Toronto MPs like Olivia Chow call for a national strategy for things that are a local jurisdiction like drinking water and urban transit.

Obviously, the federal government has a impact on local urban transit. It subsidizes some electric and hybrid cars. The Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation enables people to buy big houses. Unlike in the USA, in Canada there is no federal capital gains tax on owner occupied homes. And here and there the federal government gives grants to local transit authorities, as compensation for over-charging with the gas tax (meant for Via Rail and the Trans-Canada Highway).

But the Moncton city council isn't going to coordinate transit spending with Ontario or the City of Toronto. So lets be clear. I think what people in Toronto mean when they say "national" is in fact "federal". The federal government can have strategies on whatever it wants. Local jurisdictions in Canada have taxing authority. They don't need the federal government meddling in their jurisdiction, strategy or not. 

Weird Buildings of Europe

I went to Europe last century. They've actually continued building since then. Here are some of Europe's weirder modern buildings. Hat tip CNN.

Krzywy Domek (the crooked house), Sopot, Poland.

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I was lucky enough to visit the Bilbao, Guggenheim, museum. The city of San Sebastian, also in the Basque Country, is frankly more worthy of your time. But the outside of the Guggenheim is absolutely unique and, dare I say, beautifull.


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Eden Project

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Atomium

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Office Centre 1000, the banknote building. Kaunas, Lithuania

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Castel Meur. By the way, meur is a Breton word, a language that has nothing to do with French. Like Irish and Scotish Gaelic and Welsh, Breton is a Celtic language still spoken by about 172,000 people in the Britany (Bretagne) region of France. Many Bretons immigrated to Quebec, but the language was quickly lost as the filles du roi mostly spoke Parisian French.


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Nationale-Nederlanden Building (the Dancing House), Prague, Czech Republic. I spent a week in Prague at the end of the 90s and I don't remember this building at all (it was completed in 1996). By the way, the non-Euro Czech Republic has some of the cheapest beer in the word (500ml for about $1.50 in a night club).


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Kinémax Poitiers, Poitou-Charentes, France

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2013-01-30

Paywall Or Not, Advertisers Are Being Fleeced

Conflict of interest disclaimer: this blog generates about $80 a year in advertising revenue.
Lazy Greedy Ad Agencies
Many Canadian households have digital video recorders and most have the Internet. So why do companies still pay premium dollars for TV and newsprint ads? Part of the problem is laziness on the part of ad agencies. Buying a full page ad in the local newspaper is easy and expensive. If you get payed on commission based on a percentage of the advertising dollars spent, there is an obvious incentive for big buys. At the other end of the spectrum, buying radio ads is cheap and time consuming. From an advertising agency point of view, its a no brainer.

Confidence
Internet advertising has the additional issue of confidence. Not only is real fraud a problem, but the potential for fraud is there. As an advertiser, chances are you won't even see your Internet ad. As a car dealership owner, there has to be some reassurance involved in hearing your spot on the radio and looking for your ad in the morning paper. Even if customers don't show up, you know the ad was there, and at least one person saw and heard it. On the Internet, there are Russian bots, Chinese cheap labour, slide shows and video auto-play. 

Influence
Journalists know who pays their salary. Presumably they read their own newspaper and occasionally watch their own shows. I've been to a couple of talk show recordings, and they actually play the ads in the studio, even thought the show is recorded! Advertisers are probably not getting their money's worth if they are trying to influence content producers via TV and print ads, but perhaps that plays into the value assigned to those forms of advertising.

Pandering to advertisers on the Internet is quite difficult. Not only are the ads you see here, for example, different based on your physical location, they are also affected by the device (mobile vs. full site) and your browsing history. And they are automatically generated! I could bash Canadian Tire all I want and Canadian Tire could still have ads on this blog. That's not to say companies don't use online advertising to punish "bad" content. Digital Home, for example, was apparently boycotted by Rogers after the site owner complained about their digital TV compression rates.

Cost
TV and newsprint ads can actually seem cheap. The problem is nobody measures the number of people who saw the ad. They just measure if people are watching the show or reading the paper. Newspapers have vastly different rates based on the location of the ad, so there is at least the acknowledged implication that most people don't read the newspaper cover to cover. TV and newspapers also extract a premium because some people actually seek out advertising. When I had a dvr, for example, I'd press play whenever an Apple commercial appeared. And people look in their local paper for sales on anything from furniture to peanut butter.

When you advertise online, you might have to fork over 30 cents to get someone to click on a link to your furniture site. That might seem steep if you are under the delusional assumption that a high percentage of newspaper readers will see your ad and that DVR owners are too lazy to press fast forward.

Advertising Works, Probably
Hershey, the milk chocolate company, used to depend on word of mouth. Now they make their chocolate in Mexico, use milk powder and sell quite a bit of dark chocolate. Oh, and they advertise, alot. Even if advertising does work, at the very least it is more art than science. In most companies, dealing with advertising agencies is the responsibility of the marketing department. Marketing departments are generally populated by people who are bad at science, math and creativity. They are like illiterate lawyers. We'd replace them, but we are to busy doing stuff that is actually useful. However, as a business owner or been counter, advertising online is an easy way to cut costs and increase profits, even if the advertising agency you hire has to work for a change. 


2013-01-28

Miley Cyrus Braless

Some random safe for work Disney spin off T&A to increase ad revenue. If Huffington Post does it... By the way, significantly less hot with sound on.

When I Win Geoswee:-P

Geosweep, as you know, is the map based lottery sweeping the nation. That nation being Altantica, aka Atlantic Canada, where the the Altantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) runs the gambling racket. Not content with numbers, hockey and the Oscars, ALC thought it would be a good idea to let people bet on churches and sewer plants using Google Maps. All the jobs related to this idea are in the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, where Geosweeps is based. So far, ALC and the provinces are in for 5 MILLION dollars.

Anyway, some day I'm going to win the $250,000 grand prize. Nobody has ever won it, so I suspect the press conference will be well attended:

Journalist:
-Altavistagoogle, what do you plan on doing with the prize money?
Me:
Thanks for asking. There is a lot of suffering in the world, so the first thing I plan on doing is setting up a foundation. I plan on calling it "The Altavistagoogle Foundation For Helping Starving Children in Africa". I plan on covering 100% of the set up costs out of my own pocket, that's just the kind of person I am. After a few years of fundraising, I'd like the foundation to start helping the starving African children with 100% locally sourced New Brunswick organic food. We don't eat that crappy African food, why should they? Seems only fair.

I'm also a big Lindsay Lohan fan. Charlee Sheen payed her 2008 back taxes. I'd like to cover 2009. #Winning!

$250,000 will only go so far, so I plan on investing a significant portion. One of my investment ideas is a business that comes up with lottery and web based gambling products. It will be based here in New Brunswick. Examples: When my sisters and me were kids, we'd play lawn darts. I'm sure you did this to, after a while you get bored and start throwing the darts in the air and run for your life. Nobody ever got hurt, but I miss the thrill. The lottery would be fully web 2.0 and integrated with Youtube. An other example would be a map based lottery. It would be kind of like Geosweep except we'd use Mapquest and you could only bet on water. We'd call it Go Fish (trade mark pending).

I'd also like to start a newspaper. Part of the annoyance people have with local newspapers is that they are not relevant. My newspaper would only carry news for my street. On days when there would be no news, we'd still deliver the paper, just that it would say "No News On My Street Today" surrounded by the regular advertorials and car ads. My aim for the first year is a dozen subscriptions with a low churn rate.

Journalist: That's very clever Altavistagoogle, but aren't you going to splurge a bit. You did after all win the lottery.

Me:
Absolutely, first thing I'm going to buy is a vowel. A giant A on my front lawn, perhaps painted in gold. It would be just as effective as a sports car for pissing off the neighbors, but without the risk of dying in a horrible car accident.

Journalist:
Ha, ha, right. What about travel?

Me:
Absolutely. With the winter we've been having, I'm going south! I'm thinking Grand Manan or Halifax. Joking! Ha. Had you going. No, I'm thinking Amsterdam followed by Colorado and Washington State.


2013-01-27

Just Say No To Arts Funding

Poor people pay taxes. Yet we take their money and give it to opera, jazz and unfunny sitcoms about Muslims in the prairies. Perhaps contemporary paintings with vertical lines are worth a million dollars of someone's money, but not the money of someone who cleans toilets all day.

Perhaps that is my hidden agenda: Rich people, you can have your subsidized opera when dishwashers get to be tax exempt just like they generally are in the United States. Raise the basic tax exemption, then you can have your jazz festivals.

I don't clean toilets all day. And frankly, I probably get my money's worth when it comes arts funding. But should my government be encouraging me to watch Canadian TV, instead of perhaps exercising when I'm done watching the limited amount of American shows that are of interest? Should federal tax dollars in effect discourage local culture, encouraging people to watch "art" made in other regions of Canada?

In a rich society, especially one affected by winter like Canada's, art is important. But thanks to technology, we have many ways of charging people for what they enjoy. The justification for tax dollar use is less compelling. Art is no longer street lighting, it is lighting in your home, and people can charge you for that.

I don't know what the basic tax exemption would have to before I'd support art funding. I just know it has to be higher than whatever a toilet cleaner earns. 

Not That There is Anything Wrong With That

After getting all excited about the unimportant but remarkable fact
that Ontario now has a homosexual premier, I came to realise that
Canada's foreign affairs minister, John Baird, and Canada's
immigration minister, Jason Kenney, are most likely also homosexual.
Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I'm a man, and I like women. To be more accurate, I'm sexually
attracted to women. Did you need to know that? Probably not. But I'm a
blogger, not a politician.

Perhaps gay politicians need to practice omission, particularly when
they lean to the right. I don't go around telling people I'm an
atheist. I certainly am not ashamed of that, but why set myself up for
discrimination or, worse, risk being evangelised to.

And this blog is written under a pseudonym. Wouldn't be the end of the
world if I was outed, but I like the perceived freedom of anonymity.

Ontario's new leader was most likely sexually confused for many years
(she has 3 children). I don't know the circumstances, but unless her
husband was aware she was gay when he got married, he was a victim.
Was Wynne the perpetrator, or was it society?

I have trouble relating to the sexually confused. I've been attracted
to girls since I was 10. Zero doubt. However, I know that is not the
case for everybody. I also know the overwhelming influence that
religion can have on people.

Still, you expect people in their 40s to have it figured out. And
there are documented examples of closeted homosexuals
overcompensating, acting out against gays. Jason Kenney may have done
that when he removed language about gays in the Canadian citizenship
guide. Or maybe not. Hard to tell quite frankly.

Its only been a couple of hours since I started even considering the
possibility that John Baird and Jason Kenney are gay. I now accept it.
In retrospect it explains some behaviour and mannerism. And frankly it
doesn't matter since they don't know me and I don't personally know
them.

However, I always assumed Stephen Harper was homophobic. But he most
likely named two gays to his cabinet, including foreign affairs. The
choice of foreign affairs minister is often the prime minister telling
the country who should be the next prime minister.

That is going to take a few more hours to process.

2013-01-21

The Promise is a TV Gem

Israel, then and now, from a British perspective.

If you like your TV fiction mixed in with a bit a geopolitial history, then, if you are in the USA, point your browser to hulu.com and search "The Promise". In the UK, go here. France, go here.  In Canada, you will have to wait until TVO decides it is worthy of your eyes and ears.

Here are some of the French media reviews according to Wikipedia (I recommend turning on closed captioning if you watch it in the original English):
 Libération called it "admirable", praising the "excellent director" for telling a "tragedy in two voices", while "pointing the finger at neither one side nor the other".[77] Les Echos called it "exceptional, stunningly intelligent" and said the considered dialogue and tense, serious acting fully measured up to the ambition of the film.[78] TV magazine Télérama called it "remarkable", confronting its subject "head on".[79] Le Figaro said it was "magnificently filmed and masterfully acted... perfectly balanced... great television", and gave it a maximum rating of four stars out of four.[80] The Nouvel Obs and Le Journal du Dimanche both identified the series as reflecting the viewpoint of the "British pro-Palestinian left", but the latter praised it as "nevertheless a historical fiction useful for understanding an intractable conflict",[81] while the former commended its "epic spirit, rare on television".[82] Le Monde gave the series an enthusiastic preview in its TéléVisions supplement along with a lengthy interview with the director.[19] Le Point predicted Kosminsky would receive a "shower of awards...[a]nd also gibes".[83] However, La Croix's reviewer was more hostile, considering that although there was "no doubt that the film ought to be seen", it "cannot be mistaken for a history lesson but a great partisan fiction", marred by bias and an "embarrassing" representation of Jews.[84]L'Express considered it beautiful but too long.[85]  
I couldn't possibly agree more with those reviews.


2013-01-17

Canada Should Tax Flights to the UK

The UK taxes flights to Canada a flat $106, significantly higher than internal flights or flights to France. Canada does the opposite. If you take a $1200 Halifax-London direct flight, you will pay $3 in GST. But if you spend $1200 on transportation within Canada, you would pay $60 in Canadian federal sales tax (5%) and $120 in provincial tax. How is that fair?

Perhaps we should do like the British and, to avoid double taxation, only charge sales tax on outgoing flights to the UK. Flights to England from US border airports are usually more expensive, so additional tax shouldn't be an issue. It might encourage people to visit France instead of the UK, but that is what the British are doing with their discriminatory anti-Canada tax. 


By the way, if you spend 24 hours or more in Dublin, Reykjavik or Paris on your way back from London (or book you segments separately) you avoid much of that $106 air duty. Obviously, you want to avoid flying out of Belfast UK if you have the extra 2 hours to get to Dublin, Ireland, by bus.

2013-01-16

NBC News Anchor's Daughter Almost Topless

Would Allison Williams be as attractive if she wasn't Brian Williams' (NBC Nightly News Anchor) daughter? Someone please ask someone who isn't a lefty news junky.

Anyway, I felt like the guy in the picture after Williams almost showed her breasts in episode 1 of HBO's season 2 of Girls. So close.

As a Lena Dunham inspired confessional (read her book proposal), I'd like to publicly admit to watching a few episodes of Sex in the City (because of the warning that "it may contain nudity"). That felt good.

If you are interested in Girls, the TV show, you might also be interested in reading about one of the writers, Lesley Arfin, and her horrible racism against blacks. If, like the typical congressman, you are just interested in girls, point your browser to my post about Zosia Mamet. .
 
You may know Chris O'Dowd in this video from the very funny British show IT Crowd (currently on Neflix Canada). Williams has also appeared as a fully dressed girlfriend in season 3 of The League (curently on Hulu USA).

You're welcome.

2013-01-15

Freedom of Speech in China. Not So Much

This blog (as with all Blogger blogs) regularly gets banned in China. This is a visual example of censorship in China today (hat tip Radio-Canada for tweeting a Washington Post blog article about the German TV ZDF report. Excerpt below. By the way, I didn't notice any Internet censorship during my recent trip to Hong Kong. In fact, there is free wifi in parks, provided by the phone company. Yet Hong Kong is not a democracy, not even close.


University Dropout Jason Kenney Gets Rebuked By Courts

Jason Kenney, Canada's minister of citizenship and immigration, dropped out of philosophy studies at University of San Francisco. A cabinet minister without a university degree? Even the Harper Conservatives can do better. 

His latest tough on refugees law has been rebuked by the courts. A degree is no grantee of competence in any field. However, when you drop out of philosophy, you better get good a making me coffee. Please leave policy decisions to others, or lawyers will take advantage of us all.  

From what I understand (remember, a degree is no guarantee of competence), the section struck down was not one that was created by the Harper Conservatives (although Kenney was immigration minister in 2009 during the alleged offence that lead to the court case). However, the legislation was  subsequently amended by Jason Kenney, with the offending section intact (His predecessor was Diane Finley, who holds a Masters of Business Administration). 

An other university dropout mistake?

2013-01-13

Absinthe Minded Olivia Munn

I watched the Cabin episode of New Girl (City in Canada, Hulu in the USA) with Olivia Munn drinking absinthe. My thought when I watched her jug some of the mystical drink: "what, you're not burning a cube of sugar!?"

Rogers to the rescue. The free documentary "Absinthe", currently streemable on Rogers on Demand, explains that the 1990s Czech trend of burning sugar into your drink was a gimmick invented by post-communist entrepreneurs. In some Prague bars, they'd light your drinks on fire (an effective way of burning the excess alcohol when you don't have water to dilute it). You don't even need sugar at all if you are drinking a quality absinthe. 

Anyway, turns out Absinthe was a popular drink in France when wine became expensive and soldiers returned from Algeria where the army used absinthe to disinfect the water. It was declared legal in the USA, wait for it, in 2007!

I was about to cross the street to the liquor store (I chose my apartment when it was a parking lot, honest), when I realized Alcohol NB doesn't sell it! At least, that is what their web site says. The Nova Scotia Liquor Commission lists one brand, but non of the stores I searched have it stocked. 

So what is the solution? I don't have to drink at home. I am willing to go out. Where in the Maritimes can I get a glass of abstinthe!

Update: 2013-02-19
Olivia Munn nip slip in Attack of the Show (Not safe for work):
 




 


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