Rants/Musings

Crazy

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I’m starting to go a tad crazy I think. This week has been insanely busy. It seems like I keep getting things piled on me. Work has been exceptionally busy as we madly prepare for the upcoming man-machine poker match. I’ve had a pile of fairly little tasks to do along with a couple of larger tasks. There’s a huge list of directions we want to go before the competition happens, and we’re going to be madly trying many of them right up until the competitions.

This week my Mac Pro arrived, so I’ve been pretty distracted by setting it up. It’s taking me a surprisingly long time to set it up. There’s a lot of things that go into my computer environment that I need to get just so. That, and copying large numbers of files to and from my drobo takes a little longer than I’d like it to.

The wedding planning continues at a relatively slow pace. We’ve got a lot of the things that we need checked off the list, but there’s still lots of things to do. It’s hard to believe that it’s only (less than) a month away!

Last night I finally caught up uploading photos to Flickr. That took entirely too long, but now I’ve got over a thousand photos up on my flirckr account. Pretty sweet to break that milestone.

Today I stayed home working and waiting for a package that contains some additional RAM sticks to put in my Mac Pro. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet arrived and I need to go join Diane for dinner at one of her coworker’s place. I don’t understand how UPS scheduling works — I saw one of their trucks stop at the building across the street, and my package had arrived in Edmonton yesterday morning. Why wasn’t my package on the truck that came that close to my place?

It seems every so often UPS just doesn’t work well for me. I was so happy to see that my RAM was scheduled to arrive today, but now it looks like it’ll be Monday or Tuesday before I get it. *sigh*.

Anyways, sorry for the haphazard-ish update. I’ve got to get going pretty soon here.

Heraldk

Ahead of the Curve

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One of the problems I have with starting to move ahead on the technology curve is sometimes you don’t get to benefit from critical mass. Recently I started playing with Twitter, but using it has made me feel kind of lame because I barely know anyone who uses it. I’ve added the one friend I know who has it, but he doesn’t use it actively. I’m also following a couple developers in the mac community, but that’s it.

So. What is twitter? It’s hard to describe it in a way to make it sound as cool as I think it does. If you watch the video on the twitter page it seems kind of lame at the worst, and no different than facebook status updates at its best. They describe it as a way to keep everyone informed on what you are doing, and keep up to date with what other people are up to.

If that’s all there is to it though, then that doesn’t explain why I keep reading about it all the time on the blogs I subscribe to. So finally my curiosity got the better of me so I looked into it a little more and found this post that describes some of the features that twitter offers for people who have learned to use it. Hmm. Intrigued, I finally signed up. But now I have a problem: I don’t have the social circle of people on twitter yet which means it doesn’t have the value for me yet.

So. Anyone want to sign up and help me make it useful to me?

Heraldk

Provincial Election

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So I watched the leader’s debate tonight with leaders of four of Alberta’s largest parties go at it for an hour and a half. There was Stelmach for the conservatives, Taft for the Liberals, Mason for the NDP, and some other guy for the Wild Rose Alliance (err … yeah). It has been awhile since I attempted to watch anything like this on TV before, but I figured since I was home I should try and watch it so I could make an informed vote come election day. Well. After sitting through that garbage, I really don’t know who to vote for. If anything, the entire thing made me feel an ever increasing disdain of politicians in general. Not one of the candidates made me feel like they knew what the were talking about.

A couple of notes:

  • Kevin Taft made a couple of comments about infrastructure that included the words “we have the cash, let’s spend it”. Errr, yeah, I’m sure it’s that simple. The whole reason there is any debate is because the cash the government gets isn’t enough to do everything they want to do with it. So if you just spend everything on infrastructure you don’t have enough cash for stuff like health care.
  • Brian Mason did talk some sense, but then came his talk about rent controls. I’m sorry Brian, but Stelmach was right on this point: if you expand the number of units in places where rent in soaring out of control, the competition will help bring rents back down to a reasonable amount. It’s easy to charge monstrous rents if you have a tenant who has no choice but to pay you. It’s a little hard on the pocket book if you drive your tenant away to new buildings being built.
  • The Wild Rose Alliance guy (I’m too lazy to look up his name) came off very strange. He made some comments about how they should give Albertans more of their money back so they could keep their children at home instead of sending them to daycare. Both Mike and I thought this statement was a little odd — like he was saying that it was the normal thing to do to have one parent stay home? What about single parents who have to send their kids to daycare? Hmm. Dunno what to think about that one
  • Where did these men learn their manners? Every one of them had moments where they were talking all through the other person’s point. In fact, there were points (particularly at the beginning) where there was two or three people talking at the same time. I don’t know about you, but if that happens I can’t follow what any of them are saying let alone all of them. I think they must’ve had the moderators talk to them in the commercial breaks, because it did calm down a little later on
  • Who is one supposed to vote for? All these guys don’t instill any confidence in me whatsoever. It’s all the same thing rehashed over and over again. We want to do X for health care, we will do better than the government currently is, we want change, we want innovation, blah blah blah blah blah. I really want a refreshing change to this! It makes me wish there were more Stephen Mandels running around with fresh thinking and a positive campaign.

I don’t know much about politics. I wish that it wasn’t really necessary. The election in a couple weeks is not exciting to me in any way. No matter what happens, it will feel like we’re putting some clown in power. Am I wrong when I think that?

Heraldk

Deep Freeze

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Well I was away all weekend for the department ski trip, and returned home to find Edmonton in a serious deep freeze. The temperatures here have dropped to what I consider to be entirely too cold, and the city has found itself in a mayhem situation traffic-wise.

As we drove back from Jasper, I started to wonder what people’s problems were. I was driving along the yellowhead highway on my way back to Edmonton and the roads were not in great shape. There was some places that were pretty clear, but for every kilometer we traveled on clear roads, there was at least 4 or 5 kilometers of icy road with blowing snow across it.

So as I’m driving a good 20km/h below the speed limit of 110km/h, I see a large number of vehicles speeding by me on these dangerous roads. As they do so I start to feel more and more nervous that one of these vehicles is going to lose control and cause us to get in an accident. It sure kept the heart pumping as I continued down the road.

Particular frightful situations occurred when larger vehicles would pass by going the speed limit or more. They’d churn up a large amount of the blowing snow and present it to me a few meters in front of my car enabling me to see even less than I could before. Every time this happened I was forced to slow right down just to be safe if someone was stalled/stopped in my lane for any reason, or some poor wildlife was on the road — because if I continued to go 90 down the highway with zero visibility … well that’s just an accident waiting to happen.

I don’t understand how people think that hurrying down the highway will help them out in any way. The chances of them getting in an accident don’t seem to be worth getting home half an hour earlier to me. When conditions are like they are right now … you SLOW THE HELL DOWN!

Speaking of highway issues – has anyone noticed that a large portion of the cars on the road have no idea how to properly pass someone on the highway? I’m not talking about a simple undivided highway where there is just one lane of traffic going each way (I must admit I’m not all that experienced at passing vehicles in this situation). I’m talking about driving on a divided highway with at least 2 lanes of traffic going in the same direction. I can’t tell you how many cars sped by in the left hand lane and cut in front of me way too early. Why the hell is that a good idea? You’re just pissing me off! By cutting in front of me so fast, you greatly increase the probability you’re going to pick up a stone and hurl it at my poor windshield. Since you’re passing me, why don’t you take a few more seconds to continue on in the left lane until there’s suitable distance in front of me for you to get in front of me without causing me undue stress.

Ugh. I don’t know where people learned to drive, but they really should learn something about how they’re driving their vehicles.

Heraldk

Predictions

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I’m not going to give my predictions for the upcoming NHL season, although I suppose it has already started officially since there’s been a couple of games have been played over in London. I am, however, going to rant a little about the predictions of other “experts”. It seems that hockey experts agree that the Oilers have no shot at making the playoffs this year. I have one thing to say: why do these so called “experts” always sell the Oil short?

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when the Oilers were pushing for the 8th and final playoff spot a couple years ago. They were a team that was fighting it’s own potential. I knew the team had a lot of talent, but it seemed that every couple of games, they’d lose a you-should-win-this-game type scenario and they’d slip back a notch. They did it, but barely. In the first round that year, they were up against the high powered Detroit Red Wings. Everyone wrote Edmonton off and had them down in out quickly. Surprise, surprise when the Oil suddenly became the team they were capable of becoming and took down not only Detroit, but San Jose, Anaheim, and almost Carolina en route to the stanley cup final.

Last year was a painful year for the average Oiler fan. The team struggled in mediocrity for most of the season and then got hit by a terrible injury streak that took most of the regulars out of the lineup. As a result, the team skidded to a halt and failed to win most of their remaining games.

The offseason was a high-drama period where the Oilers made a large number of moves and almost completely re-tooled. Powered by the new blue-liners of Pitkanen and Souray, they have far more power on defence than they had last year. Penner adds some size and some scoring punch and Sanderson is a wily veteran who should contribute as well. The real exciting thing for this upcoming season though is the chance for some of the youth to shine. The Oilers have several young players, in addition to Ales Hemsky, who all have a shot of hitting it big this year. These guys include Gagner, Nilsson, Brodziak, Pouliot, and Cogliano. To me, this is super exciting … and I have a hard time believing that the Oilers are going to have trouble making the playoffs.

But lets take a look at what the experts think. One of the oft-quoted stats from last year is +/-. I’m not sure how they can compare player’s +/- stats correctly when these numbers are so very biased on the team they were playing for. For example, Souray and Pitkanen both played on teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year. This typically means that those teams got scored on more often than they scored (duh). So take two important defencemen who play big minutes for their teams and put them on clubs that are losing. What happens to their plus minus? It plummets. Whoop-dee-doo. I’m not saying the statistic is meaningless. I’m just saying that you need to make sure you keep in mind what you’re trying to compare.

A lot of analysis seems to compare how a team has changed from the previous year. Unfortunately, this also is a problem. How do the experts know that the “winners” of the free agency craziness (the rangers and the flyers) are going to gel and mesh the star players they signed? Who’s to say that teams with a bunch of young talent are going to not mesh and start winning games? The past doesn’t necessarily tell the future, folks – especially when so much has changed from last season.

One of the things I think many people forget is that the new collective bargaining agreement is giving teams some level ground to play on. It’s not completely level, that’s for sure, but teams are much more evenly matched than they used to be. Remember the Oiler’s heyday way back when they were winning cups every year? That team was so stacked that you had to expect great things from them. Fast forward to today – there are far fewer teams that looked that stacked in comparison. Maybe the penguins look a bit awesome at the moment … but the division from them to the next closest team is far smaller than for the Oilers back in the day. The salary cap helps balance out the skill players among the teams, and as a result, nearly any team has a chance to do well enough to hit the playoffs. So I don’t think last year means nearly as much as the experts seem to think. I also don’t think they have ever given the Oilers enough credit.

So I think the Oilers have a good chance of doing well this season, and we’ll just have to see how it turns out.

Go Oilers!
Heraldk

I Hate Car Alarms

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Last night I was trying to get some sleep, as most reasonable people do during the hours of midnight to 7am. At around 2:30am, I woke up to the rude sound of a car alarm nearby letting everyone in the neighbourhood know that it was indeed going off. I shut my window in an attempt to cut down on the sound, and curled back up attempting to sleep. My ensuing sleep was filled with dreams involving car alarms … I don’t remember what they were, but I remember that it involved the car alarm repeatedly going off – which I’m pretty sure is what was really happening outside. I woke up again at 3:30am now totally sick of hearing this damn car alarm going off like a yappy dog wanting attention. It probably took me until 4 in the morning to finally get to sleep again – which means when I got up this morning I was tired, cranky, and just plain unhappy with having to get up. All thanks to a stupid car alarm.

When it really comes down to it, how much protection do car alarms give your car? I don’t think they give any extra protection. Car alarms are so often set off by their owners that all the thief has to do is look casual, roll their eyes, and continue about stealing the car. In the meantime, more noise is generated that keeps people awake at night, ruins peaceful mornings with blaring sounds, and destroys quiet candlelit evenings.

A quick google search returns several articles that talk about why car alarms are increasingly useless as people acclimatize themselves to the false alarms. So I ask: why are these alarms encouraged by insurance companies? Is there actually a difference that they make so that they can offer cheaper insurance based on a noise-maker?

Maybe there is. But that doesn’t help my lack of sleep problem I’m having today.

Heraldk

Metro on the Train

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I am a frequent LRT traveler. In Edmonton, we have a relatively short light rail transit system that runs from the North East end of the city where I live, South and West to the University area. This is a great connection for me. A train ride to the University, once I get on the train, takes about 20 minutes. This is a great deal for me considering driving would take at least 35 minutes. Not to mention all of the parking, and gas, and maintenance costs. Plus the lack of dealing with crazy Edmontonian drivers during rush hour is a big plus. There is a down side however. I have to deal with various people on the train and around the train system.

One of the reasons I bring up the train system is the people who it is their exciting duty of passing out the relatively new metro newspaper to anyone and everyone who will take one. They stand, at the choke points in the train stations, lurking to pounce on unsuspecting train goers to pass on their gigantic piles of free papers.

Ordinarily, I don’t mind people who give out free stuff in the train stations. If it’s something I’m mildly interested in, I might even take a copy of whatever they are handing out because it might hold some value to me. One time, Diane and I even got handed a bowl of soup! It wasn’t very good, but it was something to talk about for sure.

The problem with the Metro people is that the people passing them out are increasingly pushy, and they are there both in the morning and the afternoon so they pass out papers to you on your way to work and on your way home. One particularly pushy woman stands at the bottom of the LRT stairs and almost forces a paper at you. You have to actually change your planned path to avoid this woman. Maybe I’m overreacting, but c’mon! Is it really that damn important that you need to get a newspaper in everyone’s hands?

One of the things that angers me about this activity is that so many of these papers get left on the train. The litter left over is extremely unappealing. I’ve seen several times where the driver of the LRT walks down the train picking up all the loose papers he can see and dumps them unceremoniously into the nearest garbage can. Great … now those papers are getting dumped in a land fill instead of being recycled. Yuck.

This marketing campaign has lasted a couple of months, and apparently shows no sign of stopping. Every additional day I see these people I feel like swearing at them to stop doing it. I know it’s not really their fault — they probably have a quota of papers to get rid of each day. Still, I hate it, and wish they had put a stop to it a week after they started.

Heraldk

Sicko

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Recently I watched the new Michael Moore documentary … twice. Once by myself, and then once with Diane a few days later. It is an extremely powerful and moving film, and one that I’m very glad I saw. Say what you will about Michael Moore … but I don’t think you can say he makes bad movies. They are interesting, and entertaining, and this one might be the best one I’ve seen yet. (I’ve seen two others: Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine).

My complaints about the movie are few, but here’s a couple. The first is that the weakest part of the movie is the first segment with the couple that is forced to move in with their children. First of all, it seems really weird for the family to go through this tough time in their lives right in front of the camera. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d hate to have that sort of thing recorded by a family camcorder let alone a major movie producer. What made me feel more uncomfortable yet was the way the people were reacting to their parents moving in with them. Where’s the love? The parents are going through likely the most difficult time of their lives and it didn’t seem like their kids were very supportive.

The other complaint I had was that Michael Moore seemed to paint the rosiest picture of the Canadian health care system. On the one hand, I can see why — the American public should be made aware that the Canadian system does work to a certain extent. But it sure isn’t perfect. Of course, I totally prefer what we’ve got to what they’ve got…

Other than that, the movie was really strong. One point in particular struck home with me when Moore was interviewing former British MP Tony Benn. Tony made a point about how an educated, confident and healthy nation is harder to govern. But it also gives the power to the people because a nation that is educated, confident and healthy is capable of standing up to the government. In the states, it seems that everything is headed in the other direction: education is dropping, health is dropping, and the public is being scared by the threat of … well everything. If the US is going to change dramatically, people are going to have to gain these three things to stand up against the government and its wrongdoing and see if things can get changed for the better. God I hope so … but I’m not holding my breath.

Heraldk

A New Edmonton Arena

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Anyone who’s been reading the journal lately knows that there seems to be an ongoing debate over the council’s investigation into building a new arena in downtown Edmonton to replace Rexall Place. There’s been a barrage of articles over the past few days pointing out some of the advantages and disadvantages to the proposal … and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised there is such hot debate over the topic. It is, after all, a large investment of city resources. I’m cautiously in favour of a new arena in the downtown core, but I’ve been waiting to weigh in on the issue until I’d read a few more articles in the paper.

I think today’s article by Scott McKeen convinces me that it’s a good idea, and touches on many of the complaints that people have with the arena.

So, why do we need a new arena? Well the reality of the situation is that Rexall is aging – particularly when compared to arenas in other cities. It’s the 2nd oldest building the remains in active use in the NHL. From the Oiler’s perspective, its hard to remain competitive if they can’t sell as many seats or luxury boxes as other teams. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’m an Oiler fanboy, so you’ll know that I’m biased about this from the start. But before you chastise me for being biased, Scott McKeen makes the point that Rexall is not just used for Oiler games… a new arena would be usable to attract some of the world’s biggest musical acts as well. Not only that, one should only look back to this time last year when the Oilers were making their unlikely run through the playoffs to know how important the Oilers are to this city. Don’t you think they deserve the chance to remain competitive – particularly when a competitive Oiler team makes this city swell with pride?

So I believe a new arena is warranted. So what are the issues? Well cost is one big one. Already though, it looks like there are several options that will require much less taxpayer dollars to build the arena. As the committee looks at it in more detail, we’ll see what they come up with. However, several people more in the know than I remain confident that much of the cost can be absorbed from other sources. Sounds good to me.

As to the location – why not build the arena downtown? Downtown is starting to get much more lively as we are finally seeing condos being built in the core. (I’m happy that the city is finally starting to build up a little – the sprawl of this city is kind of disgusting). Building the arena downtown can only help – particularly since the current proposal is to build it in an area of downtown that isn’t exactly bustling at the moment. You have to go west of city hall to really see active part of downtown. Thousands of people pouring into downtown to watch the latest hockey game or concert — sounds like a good plan to get people downtown. The inevitable businesses that pop up around and in the facility will help draw people to arrive downtown early and have them stay late.

To be honest, I am a little biased. And I don’t know all the issues. I do however, have a hard time believing that this isn’t a good idea for the city. Many articles have pointed at other cities and the success of downtown arenas there — places like Vancouver and Columbus and Denver and … well I forget all of them, but there’s quite a few. I don’t know all the information, but maybe someone can point out to me why a new downtown arena in Edmonton can hurt us.

Heraldk

I won the lotteries

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It seems like every day I get two or three messages that say: You have won the lottery! Just send us your name, address, social insurance number, and your bank account number … as well as you mother’s maiden name, your date of birth, and your soul to us and we’ll give you this totally non-fake prize of several tens of thousands of dollars!

What the hell? I know I’ve seen these emails before … most of you probably have seen these before too. But why am I getting them every day now? The worst part is that it passes through gmail’s spam filter which means it is a daily annoyance to manage the message (rather than just hitting the ‘delete all spam’ button). So what gives? It isn’t like I’m going to give them the information they want so they can steal my money, my identity, and my soul. It hasn’t worked yet, and it won’t … so …

This is similar to the situation when I got a bazillion emails entitled ‘good luck!’ in short order. Thankfully, gmail recognized that as spam.

This post has gotten pretty rambly, so I’ll just wrap it up quickly. I find it scary that these emails continue to be sent because that means that people, somewhere, are falling for these tricks. The success rate is probably not high, but somehow people are dumb enough to believe that they just won the lottery and pass on all these important details. And so I find that truly scary … and I’m also mad at them because it is them that justify these spammers sending these damn emails to me everyday.

Heraldk

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