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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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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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.

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. 

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.

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. 


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:

-Altavistagoogle, what do you plan on doing with the prize money?
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.

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.

Ha, ha, right. What about travel?

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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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):



Public Service


TMZ: "TV is Mindless and Bad, But so what"


TMZ Now on This Blog

TMZ was a blog that turned into a TV show. Well now you can embed TMZ, the TV show, not the blog, on your own blog. That makes way more sense than going through the trouble of turning your own blog into a TV show. I think. Although wouldn't it be cool to embed TMZ, the blog, into your TV show?

Oddly, this video seems to be viewable in Canada. Perhaps its is because they caught Bieber smoking weed. In Canada, you could normally catch-up on TMZ via the CTV website, but looks like they dropped the show! When did that happen?

TMZ, Friday January 4 episode. I've rated it PG-13 because Bieber was caught smoking weed.


Modern Seinfeld

Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld and an Austin Healey in an
 unothorised screen capture of the Death Machine episode of
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
While writing this post I got seriously distracted by Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (hat tip NY Times) and tracking down "The League" (found it on iTunes) as per a comment on the Wired article:

 "Worst idea ever, we already have "The IT Crowd", "Always Sunny [in Philadelphia]", "The League", "30 Rock", "Modern Family" and dare I say, the [...] US version of "The Office" all dealing with 'Today' "

By the way, I can't speak for The League, but you should absolutely watch every episode of the above shows (most are on iTunes) before wasting your time with the rest of this post.

After a couple of the people I follow on Twitter retweeted Modern Seinfeld ( @SeinfeldToday ), a fan fiction account with 140 character summaries of modern never aired Seinfeld episodes, I read all 22 days worth. I laughed and I felt good after reading them.

I'm now one of 292,542 followers. 

To my chagrin, we aren't exactly a secret society. The following articles have been written about the account. I'm a 24/7 connected new junky and huge Seinfeld show fan, how did I take so long to catch on?


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