Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

from the "it's not North Korea... but..." dept.

How I'll spend (part) of my summer vacation:

Na zdorov'ya!

from the "let's make a deal" dept.

I'm looking for a cheap flight to Copenhagen. That should be easy enough, but with all the flight booking options out there, it really isn't.

How do you know a quoted fare is the lowest? You don't. You have to search, compare and finally at one point, trust your gut enough to hit "buy."

My travel dates for Copenhagen are limited. I'm looking for an outbound flight between my last day of work (April 25) and a previously booked flight from Copenhagen to Bucharest, Romania (May 2). The return to Vancouver is flexible, but I figure around May 21.

I started looking a few days ago and quickly realized it would take some time to get the lowest fare. And just because I find something low now, it doesn't mean that I won't find a lower fare later.

In these situations I have to weigh my tight departure date with the chance of fares dropping. I pick a fare that I think is fair and, if I can find it, I'll buy it.

Flying from the Pacific coast to Copenhagen isn't cheap. And I've tried the option of a cheap flight to London and then using a discount carrier (Ryan Air, EasyJet) onwards. This option not only costs time, but lots of extra money. The savings, if there are any, are generally not worth hassle.

I'm lucky in that I can fly out of Vancouver or, with a short 3 hours trip south, Seattle. Generally, the Seattle fares are cheaper. Sometimes by a lot.

Back to my flight: If I can beat $1000 (either US or CA -- the dollars are at par today) I'll be happy. So, let's see what's out there:

Air Canada: Vancouver-Copenhagen return $1104
Air Canada: Seattle-Copenhagen return $1014
Travelocity: Vancouver-Copenhagen return $1051
Travelocity: Seattle-Copenhagen return $914
Travelocity: Seattle-Copenhagen-Vancouver $812
Expedia: Seattle-Copenhagen-Vancouver $895
Expedia: Seattle-Copenhagen return $1061
Expedia: Vancouver-Copenhagen return $930
United (SAS): Seattle-Copenhagen return $1042
NWA: Seattle-Copenhagen return $856
NWA: Seattle-Copenhagen-Vancouver $989

You get the idea. Even using Kayak and ITA software, I wasn't able to beat the Travelocity Seattle-Copenhagen-Vancouver fare of $812 -- the cheapest by far and that includes taxes.

Another thing, the Seattle-Copenhagen flight is direct on SAS (code share United) and the return portion is direct to Seattle with a 45 minute flight to Vancouver. All the other quotes generally included 1 or 2 stops along the way.

All this means: I'm getting a cheap fare and with the savings I'll head to Seattle on Saturday the 26th to take in two Seattle Mariners baseball games (vs. the A's). And when I come home... I don't have to deal with the bus or getting a ride up from Seattle. Perfect.

I'll keep an eye on the fares... but I think I got a pretty skookum deal. Not bad for spending the time to really see what's out there.


from the "zzz zzzzzzz zzzzzzzzz zzz" dept.

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Nothing like summer tires!

from the "brave idiot" dept.

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Wheee! Vancouver in the snow! Womp! Wheee! Medicare!

from the "abnormal weather" dept.

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

Yep. Snow. Vancouver. Go figure!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

from the "time for a slideshow" dept.

While I'm out shooting new pictures, here's a slide show of my favourites. Just click on the image:


Friday, January 25, 2008

from the "mad men" dept.

This old MAD magazine cover shows that U.S. politics have always been kooky. When I was a kid, I didn't care. Now, I love it. Argh. I am getting old. Blerk!

Oh, and I just ordered one of these:


from the "old news" dept.

[image courtesy Mike Wile]

The budget cuts at Global Television went down last fall and brutalized the spunky little television station that I helped launch in Halifax, N.S. w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-y back in 1988 (20 years ago!).

Tonight, I stumbled across an opinion piece by former MITV sports director Alex J. Walling. He wrote it in October, immediately after the cuts were announced.

It brought back a flood of memories and made me feel really, really old.

[Audio God & Mark & Vanda in Labrador, circa 1992]

[Revisiting the audio room in 2005]

Thanks Axel K. Appalling! No donair for you!

Read A.J.'s words HERE.

I'm still planning to put together some sort of pub crawl in Halifax to mark the 20th anniversary. Can't wait!


from the "tooheys old, please" dept.

Happy Australia Day to Ad, Cel, Ange and Angela... Looking forward to getting down there again... one day soon.

Cheers, mates!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

from the "reeling in the years" dept.

Feel like a trip down memory lane? Here's some great radio airchecks from decades ago... click on the logos above.


from the "I have kooky friends" dept.

While I write this and that on the West Coast, my buddy Blair does morning drive at Q104 Halifax... on Canada's East Coast.

A little ditty by B.J. and the morning crew is HERE.


from the "wish I was there" dept.

[Ghana's Junior Agogogoes, No 9 centre, celebrates with his team mates after scoring against Namibia's during their African Cup of Nations soccer match in Accra, Ghana, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)]

Ghana has won another one... against Namibia in their second match at the 2008 African Cup of Nations. Oh, how I wish I was there!

There is no television or radio coverage here in Canada, but I did manage to find the game (s) streaming online -- free! Click HERE. Unfortunately the play-by-play is Arabic, but the on-screen text is in English.

Cheers! Go Ghana!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

from the "mirror image" dept.

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

It was another clear (and cold) day in Vancouver.

I had the day off, so I decided to get out of the house and take some pics.

After Tuesday's ride on Chopper 9, the pressure was on.

I headed east... to Buntzen Lake. And I was rewarded with more stunning B.C. scenery.

The rest of the images are HERE.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

from the "natural high" dept.

On Wednesday I had the opportunity of a lifetime: I hitched a ride on CTV Vancouver's news helicopter... Chopper 9.

Our nearly two hour flight took us over much of the city and the North Shore mountains. The view was almost indescribable.

I brought my camera, of course, and shot a few hundred stills. I've taken the best and made a little slide show. Enjoy!

If you'd like to see the images full size, click HERE or HERE for a slide show.

Thanks to CTV flight cameraman Murray Titus, pilot Peter Murray (yes, three Murrays on one helicopter) and the fine folks at CTV News.

Monday, January 21, 2008

from the "follow your bliss" dept.

He makes a heck of a computer. But he also gets life. Set aside 15 minutes and prepare to be inspired by Apple CEO Steve Jobs:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Belizean musician Andy Palacio 1960-2008

Belizean musician Andy Palacio died Saturday. It comes as a huge shock. The giant voice of a tiny nation, he was literally at the top of his career.

Ivan Duran, head of Stonetree Records, posted the following note Sunday on the label's website:

We are heartbroken to report that Andy Palacio passed away on January 19th at 9pm Belize time. The cause of death was a massive and extensive stroke to the brain, a heart attack and respiratory failure due to the previous two conditions. After having been waylaid in Mobile, Alabama while en route to emergency care in Chicago, Andy had been brought back to a hospital in Belize last night so that he could die in his homeland.

Words can't express the sorrow we feel at the loss of such a tremendous person, artist and friend.

A more formal press release is copied below. Please pass this information on to the countless people around the world who have been impacted by Andy's music and message. Feel free to post this announcement to your email lists or blogs, as we want to make sure that everyone who knows Andy or his music are aware of what has happened.

In the Garifuna culture the death of a loved one is an opportunity to celebrate their memory and rejoice in having been blessed to have had them in your life. We feel so fortunate to have known this incredible individual and we mourn the loss of truly great man.

In an interview conducted last July, Andy was asked how he wanted to be remembered when he died. He replied, "As a proud Garifuna...someone who instills pride in Garifuna and raises their self-esteem. To me, that's the most important thing." This was already the case while he was alive, and we're certain it will only be more true in the future.


Ivan Duran

The official press release is HERE. Videos from Andy's incredible album Watina are below. Andy's MySpace page, loaded with music, is HERE.

Friday, January 18, 2008

from the "thinking about Andy" dept.

Bad news from Belize: Andy Palacio is suffering from life threatening health problems. More on that to come. But in the meantime... think positive thoughts and watch the magic.

from the "kicking norse pass" dept.

Norway? No kidding!

Check out this scene that didn't make it into Sicko:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

from the "conjunction junction" dept.

I've been back in Canada for more than a month now and it still surprises me how the 11 months I just spent in Ghana seems like a dream.

Life has become so normal -- just like it was before I went to Ghana -- that I sometimes wonder if I ever actually left. Pinch.

One of the things that helps to remind me of the not-at-all distant past are words of the current (and final) crop of JHR folks in Ghana. I read their blogs daily, hoping for new tidbits, new pictures, new stories to refresh my memory of what a crazy experience Ghana was. I now live vicariously through them. Our roles have flipped.

One thing that I find amazing is the differences in storytelling.

Some of the blogs paint the picture as it really is: Gritty. Depressing. Hard. Rewarding. Eye-opening. A sometimes difficult challenge peppered with amazing moments. In other words: Real life.

Others skip over the bad and portray a land of lollipops and daffodils (or, more accurately, a land of banku and vanilla orchids). Perhaps this view comes from our ingrained fear of offending someone? The dreaded beast of political correctness rearing it's head even in personal writings?

But, I suppose it's similar to Western media, in that you need to hear a variety of voices to get the full story.

It is now though their words that I remember (and miss) the experiences I had. It scares me to think that I am on the cusp of full-time work back in a newsroom. Am I giving up my freedom? Am I selling out?

No, I tell myself, I'm heading back to the grind in order to pay for the next big adventure. After all, travelling isn't free.

Part of me wishes I was back in Takoradi, standing in the blistering noon-day sun, arguing the proper fare to town with a belligerent taxi driver. Yes, it was a pain in the ass. But it sure was different.

And the end of a sweaty day, I would sit on my roof, beer in hand, looking out over my adopted home -- feeling so lucky to be in the midst of such a life changing experience. I miss that.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

from the "FedExcellent" dept.

FedEx came through.

After the troubles mentioned in my earlier post, I called FedEx to get things straightened out.

The woman at the call centre was very pleasant and I remained calm. She took my contact info and said someone would call.

About an hour later, a local FedEx person rang. She apologized and said that they would deliver the package containing my new laptop between 5 and 7 p.m.

Around 6:30 a driver showed in his own car. He lives in the area and the customer service woman had him drop off my package on the way home. Amazing.

Now that's customer service. Make a mistake, make up for it. Kudos.

The odd thing: no one really knew why the original driver blew the delivery. CSR woman figured he was new and didn't know his route. Hmmm.

Anyway, all is good and I have a new MacBook.

Last night I loaded Windows on it so it boots in both OS X and XP. Perfect!

More to come...


Thursday, January 10, 2008

from "the waiting is the hardest part, part II" dept.

So... I wait and wait and wait all day Thursday for FedEx to deliver my new MacBook.

The FedEx website confirms that it's on the delivery truck and heading my way! Yay!

Imagine my surprise, hours later, when I check the package's online status again and it notes that a delivery attempt was made. And there was no one home.


I run downstairs and... nothing.

I check the buzzer by the front door. My note, telling the driver to call my mobile if there no answer, is still there.

It's not like I went anywhere. I was too scared of missing the delivery person to even take a leak, much less go gallivanting around Deep Cove.

And there is no "attempted delivery" sticker at the front door.

My initial conclusion? The moron driver either was too scared of the rain and didn't get out of his truck... or he couldn't find a multi-story building in Deep Cove.

There are two.

And only one with an entrance on Gallant Ave.

So I call FedEx. The customer service rep, who is likely in Bangalore, repeats what the website says.

No, I say, no one has been here. Yes, I say, that's the correct address.

So now I wait for customer service to provide some customer service.

And where is my new MacBook?

Likely having a gas in the same black hole where Canada Post redirected my mail for the past three months.

I'm having a Scotch.

from the "itchy finger" dept.

The nutbars at Gizmodo (a tech blog) were up to no good at this week's Consumer Electronics Show. Armed with tiny TV remotes, called TV-B-GONE , they shut down monitor walls and more.

The video is hilarious. Watch it here.

Want your own TV-B-GONE? Adbusters has 'em for $25.

Look out Future Shop!

I would have loved one of these things in Ghana.

from the "fill your boots" dept.

Wired has an interesting piece on leaving your wireless network open. I tend to agree...

"To me, it's basic politeness. Providing internet access to guests is kind of like providing heat and electricity, or a hot cup of tea. But to some observers, it's both wrong and dangerous..."

The rest of the opinion piece is here.

from"the waiting is the hardest part" dept.

If you've been following along, you know I've been suffering with some serious computer problems.

I have three laptops, neither of which works properly. One has no sound, one has no picture and one is little more than a doorstop. Guess which is the PC!

So... after much consideration and time pressure, I've decided to purchase a MacBook from the folks at Apple.

While I would have preferred to have made my purchase at a local outlet (Discount Mac) or from Craigslist, Apple's online store was offering fully warrantied refurbished MacBooks for several hundred bucks off. Plus I saved $30 on my .mac renewal.

I may regret the decision a wee bit if, on Tuesday, Steve Jobs introduces something skookum at MacWorld. But, hopefully not.

As I write this I am waiting for FedEx to deliver the new toy/tool.

As Tom Petty sang... The waiting is the hardest part.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

from the "time machine" dept.

Here's some VTV promo stuff from 1998... ah, memories!

from the "I wanna rock" dept.

Free air guitar

[h/t: JG]

from the "run, mitt, run" dept.

American politics are so much fun:

from the "loofah" dept.

The Bill-O - Olbermann battle continues.

Submitted for your laughter, Olbermann's recent O'Reilly Puppet Theatre spoofing loofah-man's recent troubles at a Barack Obama event.

[h/t: C&L, REW]

from the "lacktop" dept.

One of the things that I liked about living in Ghana was that my cursed electro-hex did not follow me overseas.

For those of you who don't know about my electro-hex, it is simple to explain: While I love technology, it doesn't necessarily love me. I am able to corrupt computers, shut down cash registers and generally wreak havoc on anything digital -- simply by my presence.

In Ghana, everything worked. Now that I'm back in Canada, not so much.

A small example: my laptops. I have three.

Laptop 1: A used 12" iBook I bought for $100. It is slow but perfect for dragging around to coffee shops. It worked like a charm until about two weeks ago: the screen is dead. Usually. Sometimes the screen works but the computer locks up during the boot process.

Laptop 2: My 2002 vintage Mac PowerBook. Expensive and still robust after all these years -- it is speechless. For whatever reason (perhaps one too many tumbles to the floor), the speakers don't work. Thankfully the headphone jack works and I can listen to melodious beeps and error pings.

I could live with this state of affairs except I can't run some PC-only software I use to do my CBC work. It allows me to work remotely saving me from commuting to, say, Saskatchewan!

For that I use:

Laptop 3: I bought a little Gateway PC especially for my CBC work. It was inexpensive and has served me well for several years.

It's now dead. It won't run off AC power. It won't run off the battery. The battery won't charge. It smells funny. I even tried a new charger - but that didn't work either.

So now I have three laptops: one without a display, one without sound, and one without anything. And it's the PC I really need the most (see reference to Saskatchewan commute, above).

There is a solution: a new MacBook. I can boot in Windows and run my CBC stuff. I can boot in OS X and run Final Cut Pro et al. Perfect!

Except the $1600 price tag. And the fact that Apple is announcing new goodies next week. Damn them! I don't want to wait!

Anyway... as I was lamenting the fact that I have three computers that don't suddenly don't work... I found a funny video to cheer me up.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

from the "reset" dept.

Wow. That was some year.

And now a nice big blank canvas awaits for 2008.

What will it bring?