Friday, October 29, 2004

I want my MTV (or whatever)

I don't have a TIVO, or any of the other personal video recorders that are out there. But I'd like to have one. I know that there are good TV shows on the air and I'd like to be able to watch them on my own time. But I don't have time or the inclination to sift through the trash. Nor am I able to organize myself enough to set up the VCR on a regular basis. And while I like watching commercials at certain times, in general, I detest the interruption -- especially if I'm watching a movie. Movies edited for television should really be illegal. So TV is not a big thing with me.

But I am very interested in what's happening in TV-land, especially when it comes to how people are watching it. There is a lot of cool technology being used out there to help people enjoy the TV experience, and I like reading about it.

I've written before about Robert X. Cringleyand how much I enjoy his columns. Today, he's talking about TV and a cool new way of keeping up with your favourite soap opera -- even if that soap is airing on a local channel in another country. It's good stuff.

What sets Cringley's work apart from most of the breathless (or cynical) reviews of the latest gee-whiz gadget that's being touted, is that he wants people to consider how technology is affecting what we do. Not in a rarified theoretical way, but in the day-to-day activities that we all enjoy. That's why he's so taken with how technology helps him live his life and if it doesn't help him do it better, it's not worth much.

He's a good commentator to have along while we surf the information highway, because he's always willing to give an opinion on whether things are making sense.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

My domain is mine again...

I just realized I haven't updated anyone since I had my problems switching over my domain hosting.

Well, I'm happy to report that everything is up and running fine at I've got the e-mail thing happening, the website has been transferred, and everything seems to be working all right.

My only problem now is dealing with the Spam Alert software my new web hosts have on their system. It seems to be a bit sensitve and I've been having a few problems with stuff bouncing back that gets sent to me. But I'm figuring things out. So now it's time to move on to updating my website and carrying on with my grand plans...yeah, right.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fun and games with domains

If you're reading must be a dedicated sort. And thanks. I've been switching domain name providers and website hosting companies, and it's proving to be a lot more difficult than I had expected. I wanted to move so I started the transfer process, but my old provider wasn't happy about it. Sure, the transfer did go through, but my request to change the name server information was ignored.

So, when the transfer happened, all the extra services I was using, like automatic forwarding of e-mail info, domain name info, etc., ceased to function. But because the name servers are still listing the old company, there's nowhere for anyone looking for to go. Oh well. It should all be fixed up in a day or so, then my website will be back up and running, with the links to this site working again, and my mail should be back on line. But it's kind of a drag to have to put up with all this.

We get so used to everything working fine that we're a bit stunned when something goes wrong and we can't fix it in seconds. Wait a whole day? Seems like a lifetime...maybe I need to go back and read some of my own posts about slowing down, life in the slow lane, yadda, yadda, yadda. Sure, that's easy for you to've still got your e-mail connection!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Getting beyond the day-to-day buzz

As the US election approaches, the media is overflowing with stories about the campaign's final days. The hype, the shrill nature of the coverage, the "gloves are off" style of reporting are with us everywhere. But it's a high-paced kind of reporting, and I've been hoping for something a lot more thoughtful.

This past weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran this story. The piece was written by Ron Suskind, whom some of you may know as one of the most hated reporters covering the Bush White House. You can find out more about why if you want (see this) but for now, take a look at his most recent article.

It talks about the "faith-based" presidency of George W. Bush and how that runs smack up against the "reality-based" world that he's struggling to govern. It's a revealing look at Bush's first term and a sobering preview of what may be ahead in the term to come. But it's not a partisan attack. It's something closer to what history will write when someone has the luxury of looking at the events that we have been living through with the advantage of sober second thought. Already, we can see that the US reaction to the events of 9-11 have influenced today's events in ways that were never imagined at the time.

But enough about what I think about this article, and the natural questions and speculation that arise from it. Read it yourself. It's a long piece, and you'll want to take the time to sit through it all.

Then, when you're done that...we can start thinking about some of the things that are happening here in Canada that deserve a lot more sober second thought.

One Ontario item is the recent flap in the media over the resignation of a Vice-President at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. There are also allegations that other administrators have been muzzled or removed under pressure from the Liberal government. (UPDATE - I changed the source of the articles because the Star put the originals behind their pay firewall)

(Disclosure Note -- My interest in this story is decidedly personal, as well as professional. Cyndy DeGiusti, the VP in question, was my boss at Stentor for a couple of years.) Was she forced to resign for speaking out against the Liberal government's decision to force hospitals to balance their budgets at all costs? It does sort of look that way. And the government did warn hospitals that if they said anything negative about the government, there would be hell to pay...Still, it does seem a little heavy-handed.

This morning, my wife posed an interesting question. "Do you think (Ontario Premier Dalton) McGuinty has a plan? Or are they just stumbling along from one crisis to the next?" Indeed...that is the question, isn't it?

At some point, a more detailed look at exactly what is going on in the McGuinty inner circle, similar to the scrutiny now being aimed at the Bush White House, may prove revealing. I hope so.

I'll finish with this thought. Suskind paints a potrait of a President surrounded by a tight inner circle of advisors. He does not hear dissenting opinions. For him, there is only certainty that he is doing the right thing. I'm not saying that Canadian politicians are acting in a similar manner. But I find it interesting that in today's political world, leaders like George Bush (and lots of others) routinely ignore the facts while they implement their decisions. They're not about to let facts get in the way.

But as "facts", or "reality", become less relevant, where does that take us? And what does the role of the media become, if simply reporting the facts doesn't actually affect the outcome?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Now here's something interesting...

If you're like me, you're spending more and more time using various search functions of the Web. Google has changed my life, probably forever. Someone asks me a question, and the first thing I usually do is head to the computer to find an answer. I'm often amazed how much I can find in a very short time.

But one of the on-going issues for me is that it's tough to find local info in a reasonable manner. Obviously, I'm not the only one, and here's a very interesting piece on Yelp!, a new piece of software that's designed to help us all live better lives. It's an intriguing idea and I'll be interested to see how it works...let me know if you try it.

By the way, Bob Cringley is a fascinating story all in himself...sign up for his regular columns if you like to know what's going on in the Web world. And use things like Google to do a little research into who he is...and what the name of his column is all about. It's a neat story.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Picking up the pace again

Well, I’m back in the fast lane. Literally.

I left Regina on a Wednesday, and headed into the US, via North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. All the way down...things were all right. The Interstates were busy at times, but traffic was OK. I was travelling at about 120 km/h (or about 75 mph) most of the time and I was usually in the fast lanes...but it was a nice, relaxed kind of fast.

In Chicago, the construction was amazing...and the routes were in rough shape. Lots of detours and congestion, but fortunately, I went through late at night and passed all that stuff before stopping for the night. Good thing too, because the next morning was terrible weather and the traffic in Chicago was backed up big time. But I was heading the other way, and it wasn’t a problem for me.

At least, I didn’t have any problems until I hit Ontario and the 401. I guess I’ve been away from Ontario for too long, but I couldn’t believe how fast things happen here. And the most obvious thing is the way we drive. I was only on the road for about 10 minutes, and I was nearly run off by someone doing about 200 kmh. At least, that’s what it seemed like when they came running up my rear end. I just about didn’t swerve out of the way in time. And that was just the first one...there were plenty more.

Coming into Hamilton, I was doing about 130 km/h and people were actually honking at me for going so slowly. Geez...I felt like I was on a different planet all of a sudden. Oh well, talk about life in the fast lane. I guess all those things that people in the rest of Canada say about us have some merit after all. So now, my goal is to start my own slow life crusade. I’m not quite sure what that’s going to mean, but I don’t want to get sucked back into the fast pace. I liked the pace I was working at in Saskatchewan. I’m going to try to keep that perspective out here, even if I do have to put up with a few horns now and then. I’ll have more to say on this as it develops. I suspect I’m not alone...and I also think that like me before I left for awhile, many people don’t even realize just how fast a pace they’re operating at most of the time.

Well, time to head off to multi-task some more...

PS — For those of you who have been nice enough to write...the latest update on my Mom is that she’s doing much better. She’s still in the hospital in Regina, but things are looking positive, and I’m hoping that she gets home next week. But just where “home” will be is still up in the air. These strokes are a tough thing to deal with, as I’m sure many of you know. But we’ll just wait and see...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Hanging out in Bismarck

Right at the moment, I’m plugged in to the Internet at a cheap little hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota. Interesting, isn’t it, how sometimes the most obvious things are done by the less than obvious places? What I mean is that I’m sitting here in a very small hotel room that only costs me $39, plus $5 for my dog. But for that price, I get free local phone calls, a gazillion TV stations, including a couple of movie channels, and, best of all, free wireless Internet.

That’s right...all the things that always cost a lot more at most of these places come as part of the package here. It’s nice — especially the Internet. I just turned on my Mac and bingo! I’m hooked up and able to get my mail and surf to my heart’s content. I’ve even logged into Messenger but wouldn’t you know it, none of my family seems to be on line tonight. Oh well.

This is what communications should be like. For the weary traveller, an easy-to-use connection to the web is a godsend. It’s so nice to be able to check mail and make sure things are OK back home. And wireless makes it so easy. No messing around with dial-up and long distance and all that fun stuff. And the free local calls is a nice touch as well. Paying some hotel $1 just for picking up the handset really makes me mad...

The only one who seems PO’d by all this is Blue. She hates the noises my computer makes when I’m on-line and she spends most of the time trying to hide in the bathtub, or claw her way out of the doorway. Oh well, she’ll settle down eventually.

As you may have gathered, I decided to head back home to Ontario today. I left Regina about noon and I’ve decided to stop for the night here in Bismarck. I was going to try and travel a lot further today, but I’ve decided to hit the hay in favour of an early start tomorrow and a long day then. I’m heading home via Chicago, then Detroit and into Hamilton. With any luck, I’ll be home sometime on Friday.

Well, I wanted to take advantage of this nice connection, and I’ve done that. So I’m off to watch the baseball playoffs and fall asleep...I’ll come back on if the next hotel room is as thoughtfully laid out.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

A lot to be Thankful for...

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving, everyone. Here in Saskatchewan, this nice run of weather continues. Today was another warm, sunny day. It was a great day for closing up the cottage, which is just what I did. I ferried all the accumulated junk around the place to the dump, shut off and drained the water system, and shut everything up nice and tight for the winter. 'Cause I know the cold weather is coming...

I've had just about enough of this being away from home business. My contract writing work is done here in Regina, so I'm ready to hit the highway back to Hamilton. But my Mom is still in the hospital after her stroke and we're not sure just what her future prognosis is. So I'm hanging around until we know for sure what's going to happen. But I'm getting more and more antsy to get home. I've been away for quite awhile already and I'd like to think that they need me.

Today, my Mom seemed pretty together, but she wasn't able to remember anything prior to today. She was surprised to see me, and stunned to find that she'd been in the hospital for so long. But she isn't able to walk on her own and that's the main criteria for getting back to her former residence. Oh well...tomorrow I'll be up there trying to get her back up walking. I hope we're able to make progress. This week, since I won't be working anymore, I hope to spend a lot of time working with Mom...let's hope it has some effect.