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Updated: 2016-09-18T11:48:04.947-03:00

 



Slow TV

2016-07-12T03:25:39.723-03:00

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Norwegian TV discovered that 2 million Norwegians were willing to watch the train ride from Bergen to Oslo in real time. I did it both ways in person and didn't find it particularly interesting (although I was with a Floridian who got to see snow for the first time, in July no less). I did watch part of the "show" on Youtube, and did find it relatively interesting (helps that we are at the front of the train, a view you wouldn't normally have as a passenger).

In that same sense, perhaps you'd be willing to watch some Australians do laundry in Hawaii. Although these Australians are easy on the eyes and ears and have some really beautiful high definition video of some pretty epic scenery, I can't quite pinpoint what is so compelling about their travel vlog series. They are both 24 years old, so perhaps it is the wholesome voyeurism of their millennial lifestyle and interests. Their "coffee" at Starbucks has soy and they are willing to walk two hours to Whole Foods because "Walmart was horrible" (for fresh food). I only know Whole Foods from Southpark, so perhaps simply seing the real-world version is what I found captivating.

As you can see here, in one year, they do manage to see more of the world than either you or me. They both went to university for 5 years and worked in Perth (the Fort McMurray of Australia), so presumably they had some cash. And indeed, they aren't hosteling or camping. Full private kitchens are part of their travels. Also, they have a website, and I guess they were able to scam some free tickets to tours here and there.

Start the 365 video playlist from the beginning (one a day) as they leave Australia. Soon they will be in Hawaii, then the Rockies, Europe and Africa. Watch in HD.

It is amateurish, self-absorbed and mostly uninteresting. And yet very watchable. Slow TV at it's best. Even better than the Norwegian train ride. :-)

Disclaimer: I love to travel (50 countries and counting), and have got a bit of the travel bug. But you can't leave the Moncton area in July (because the ocean is really warm and this is the month everybody comes to visit).  
 
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Beacon Hill Has One Exit

2016-05-07T10:41:26.712-03:00

As you may know. Fort McMurray, in Wood Buffalo, Alberta,  has one road connecting it to the rest of the world (Highway 63 until the intersection with highway 881). Beacon Hill has one road out of the subdivision.That's not good. If you only have one road out of your neighborhood, move! The videos below were taken Tuesday May 3rd, 2016. Most of the homes you see were burnt to the ground. I called the videos epic when there were118 views. There are now over 800,000 and I've seen the videos on CTV, CBC, NBC, CNN and the BBC. And now you can watch them here. You really should watch them in full screen (the bigger, the better), in 1080P. These are embedded and linked, not copies, so apologies if the poster has taken them down.My blog is usually quite political, but remember that many families in Fort McMurray lost their homes (quite likely, including the poster of the videos). Videos contain foul language.Beacon Hill, Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo, Alberta, Canada allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="450" src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d8764.491025730005!2d-111.35993251384309!3d56.68932169509155!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x53b0060595579241%3A0xa751ca51175145ab!2sBeacon+Hill%2C+Fort+McMurray%2C+AB!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sca!4v1462626222026" style="border: 0;" width="600">Fort McMurray Fire 1 of 6 Front Dash Cam allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uQZxcSRGqlo?rel=0" width="560">Fort McMurray Fire 2 of 6 Fire Dash Cam allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PCc1FvZ3g0Q?rel=0" width="560">Here are the links for the other 4 videos of the epic Beacon Hill escape. See if you can spot the deers almost causing an accident in videos 3 and 4.-Fort McMurray Fire 3 of 6 Front Dash Cam-Fort McMurray Fire 4 of 6 Rear Dash Cam-Fort McMurray Fire 5 of 6 Front Dash Cam-Fort McMurray Fire 6 of 6 Rear Dash CamRemember, if you only have one road out of your neighborhood, move!My income is way, way below the Canadian median wage. Yet I give hundreds of dollars to the Red Cross every year. It feels good to help (it is about 25% tax deductible, so don't be cheap). [...]



Stop Harper for 10 Cents a Day

2015-09-07T22:15:08.382-03:00

A tight 3 way race. Isn't democracy great. But the Conservatives have more money than the Liberals or NDP.

The NDP is going to win Quebec (Quebeckers despise both Harper and Trudeau).

But many people in other regions will still vote Conservative. The Conservatives can win.

Influencing voters, and overcoming (sometimes justified) apathy, is expensive. 
If you make a $500 donation to the federal NDP, it will only cost you $150 after tax rebate. $150 over 4 years is only 10 cents a day (0.1 X 365 X 4)

Think about how much the Conservatives have already cost Canada, and, more importantly, you: Needless defence spending, commercials for non-existent federal programs, income splitting, less accurate Canadian census, etc... 

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Golden Age of Television

2015-06-16T01:31:44.467-03:00

So people are stealing video in shocking numbers, and yet we are apparently in the "Golden Age" of television?

The jury is still out on that one, in my humble opinion. But then again, I'm still miffed AMC cancelled Rubicon. 

Still, if you feel you've been missing out, here is what I've watched and enjoyed since September. (Canadian channels)

Drama
-Homeland with Claire Danes. (Super Channel)
-Madam Secretary
-The Americans
-House of Cards. The plot of the latest season was a departure from the 1990s British version (which had far fewer episodes), and therefor it was rubbish. However, the actors and visuals are just as great as in previous seasons.
-Mad Men (Sigh. So, so good, and yet, as always, so dangerously close to terrible. So I totally get it if, like most people, you don't like it). 
-Our Girl. Set in Afghanistan (BBC)

Comedy
-Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
-Fresh off the Boat
-Silicon Valley (HBO)
-Veep (HBO)
-Modern Family
-The Simpsons (Global)
-Last Man Standing
-South Park (Comedy Network)
-Episodes (The Movie Network)
-Mr. D (CBC)

I watched plenty of British TV comedy this winter. There are some high quality shows, my only beef is the seasons are way too short. 
-Fresh Meat
-Him and Her
-Siblings
-Plebs
-Cuckoo
-Friday Night Dinner
-Bluestone 42. A wartime sitcom set in Afghanistan. Loved it. (BBC)

Other:
Top Gear (BBC)

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Allegiance's Hope Davis is Not the Air Farce's Jessica Holmes

2015-02-06T02:46:35.285-04:00

Wow, I just watched the entire first episode of NBC's new Allegiance dram (à la The Americans) thinking they had cast the Air Farce's Jessica Holmes as the Russian-American heroin. They didn't. In fact, they casted the 9 years older, and very American, Hope Davis.

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What Air Asia Does Different

2015-01-27T10:32:36.127-04:00

Firstly, let me premise that I'm not convinced Air Asia is profitable.
Any reported "profits" could simply be accounting manipulations based
on unrealistic depreciation values assigned to new airplanes or very
temporary competitive advantages based on hedged fuel and low wages.

But from a brand perspective, here is what the company does different
(Air Asia is an umbrella group of independent national airlines).

-Western Rock music during boarding and unloading.
-Charges for water
-Flies small people (compared to North America and Europe)
-Is genuinely comfortable. Having suffered through two 7 hour ANA
Dreamliner flights, I can confirm that Air Asia's A320 seats are far
more comfortable. They are in leather à la Westjet (so easy to clean)
and have foam in them.
-Takeoff like rockets. They shoot for the moon when they go up and
travel at very high altitude.
-Leave early. I always wondered how airlines enforced their 20 minute
rules at the gate. Well Air Asia does it more often than not by simply
leaving the gate!
-Flight attendants are gorgeous and kept humble by having them clean
the plane. And they start cleaning the front before all the passengers
are off!
How pretty? People were taking pictures and videos of them.
-Ban outside food. As a North American I find this one hard to digest,
but South Asia food does tend to smell, spill and stain. So that
cucumber sandwich will have to wait.
-No alcohol. This is probably because of Malaysian and Indonesians
imposing their stupid religious customs on others, but no booze for
you.
-They sell advertising space. You know that ad space inside city
busses, Air Asia does that to. Possibly for accounting and tax
reasons, however, it appears to be in-kind advertising. So companies
that advertise Air Asia get ad space on the luggage compartments of
the inside of the plane
-The face of the owner is on the side of the plane. I'm tempted to
call this an ego trip, but who knows? It is different, that's for
sure.
-10 minute sales pitches during flights. A flight attendant apologised
to me because he was going make a 10 minute sales pitch "in the local
language". 10 minute talks on cell phone plans are bearable when you
don't speak Malay. If you do, then you should be using your phone to
listen to music anyway (in Airplane mode, of course).
-You can buy tickets without a credit card. If you do use credit, it
will cost you $9. Your boarding pass can be printed at home or using
the bar code sent to you via MMS with the airport self serve kiosks.
Human check-in on international flights remain free and quite popular.
But travellers opt for human check-in are greeted by long lines. The
adjacent document check lines were at most 3 people long.

7 kilo hand luggage limit (10kilo with Tiger). That ain't much, but it
is doable. My weeklong travel bag containing a pair of jeans, charging
cables and plenty of underwear topped out at 6.7 kilos when my bathing
suit was wet from a swim at Singapore's Changi airport. But normally
it was well under. Locals don't seem to have mastered travelling light
and are paying luggage surcharges.

These observations are mostly based on my experiences flying in an out
of KLI2 in January 2015 operated by the Malaysian branch (The umbrella
group is based in nearby Sepang).(image)



Fees When Donating Online to Canadian Political Parties

2014-11-16T23:47:47.988-04:00

I just finished watching The Ides of March on Netflix Canada and I got in the mood to make a donation to a political party. Since I haven't waited until the last minute this year, I thought about sending a check so that none of my donation gets eaten up by merchant credit card fees (2.5 to 10%). Because of the tax credits, if you want to give $100, you give $400, to give $200 you need to give $600. Since 4% of $600 is $24, approximately 12% of a net (post tax credit) donation of $200 would go to the credit card processor.

But then I thought of the logistics involved in sending a check (finding my stamps and the envelopes that don't have the evaporated glue), and I realised sending a cheque was unlikely. Plus processing a cheque on the receiving end isn't free either. Someone has to open the envelope and enter data into a computer.

Thankfully, the NDP has a solution: eChecks. I did some reasearch and at worse, the NDP will pay 1% of my donation as a fee. More likely, the fee will be limited to less than $5. For me, that's the way to go. At most it will cost me 65 cents, and that is only if I'm over my 10 transaction per month limit on my $3.95 a month bank account. I won't get my 1% in donuts back that I would using my DoubleDouble CIBC credit card, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make so that Trudeau or Harper don't win the next election.

By the way, you will need a routing number: 0XXXYYYYY (X= Bank number, Y= branch number). You can look it up if that explanation was too complicated.

The Liberals don't accept eChecks. They accept Paypal. That dramatically increases the fee to 1.9% (plus 30 cents), but at least it is cheaper for the party than credit cards.

The Conservatives? The Conservatives don't accept echeques or Paypal, but they do accept American Express. Amex has the highest merchant fees. At a minimum, 3.5% (probably more for Internet transactions). 

Hmm, I just realised that at the bottom of the NDP donation page, there is a link to "contribute via your bank account" and then you have the option to use Interact Online. My bank charges me $1.50 to use Interact Online, but as far as I know that is the cheapest method for the merchant. I'm not sure why they kind of hide that option, although perhaps it is because you can only use Interact Online if you use online banking with:
-BMO Bank of Montreal
-Envision Financial
-Libro Credit Union
-Scotiabank
-TD Canada Trust
-RBC Royal Bank

(So no CIBC, National, Laurentian or Desjardins.)

Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals accept Interact Online. By the way, Permanent Residents can't vote, but they can donate
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Jurisdiction and the TTC

2014-11-10T19:13:05.003-04:00

The rules of federalism don't always make sense. John A. Macdonald wasn't a fan.But it is what it is and we have it. If you want to mess with it, Toronto, and have the federal government pay for bus drivers and potholes, than here is what we could also change.-Duty on foreign made cars. In Canada, new cars are only made in Ontario. Why should the rest of the country pay duty on non-Ontario made cars? That's a giant subsidy of Ontario, at the expense of poorer Canadians in the rest of the country. Is there a duty on foreign fish? Foreign oil? Foreign paper? Foreign lumber? No. -Capital gains on homes. If you make a million dollars on your home, you don't pay a cent in federal tax. How is that fair? That is a giant subsidy to the people of the Toronto area and, lately, Ottawa. You know where homes are not increasing in value? Rural Canada, and that includes most of the Maritimes.-GST on financial transactions. Many banks charge $10 a month for a checking account. Others charge 65 cents per transaction. Not a penny is paid in GST. There is GST on a sandwich, but not on financial transactions. That's a giant gift to the banking industry, you guessed it, based in Toronto.-Why is the banking industry based in Toronto? Does it need to be federally regulated? Credit unions under provincial jurisdiction seem to be doing OK. So do provincially regulated insurance companies. Banking in the USA is under state jurisdiction. I'm not saying the industry would necessarily be better, but it would spread the wealth to non-Toronto cities, and that is a good thing.-Federal jobs in Toronto and Ottawa. In the age of the Internet, does it really make sense to have all those federal jobs concentrated in expensive cities? In Ottawa-Gatineau it is even more absurd. Move the jobs across the river, save on rent, and workers that follow their job to the Quebec side would pay their income and sales tax to the government of Quebec, reducing federal transfer payments. Very few federal jobs need to be in Toronto. There is no reason for the CBC, for example, to have their HQ there. Move it to Hamilton, Montreal, Halifax, Winnipeg. Just not expensive Toronto!-International flights to Toronto. Any European airline can fly to any city in Canada, but they can't make stopovers and pick-up passengers en-route. Worse, countries that don't have agreements with Canada can inexplicably fly accross half of Canada's airspace and land in the most lucrative market (Toronto) without serving the rest of the country. Make them land in Quebec City, Halifax, St. John's, Yellowknife, Iqaluit. Asking for federal funds is very shortsighted. Wealth might be concentrated in Toronto, but voters are not. In addition to all those non-citizens in Toronto who can't vote, Canada is a big country and the vast majority of Canadian don't live in Toronto. Hence, getting federal funding for transit is giving power to politicians in Moncton and Moosejaw. Power to literally decide the location of streetcar lines and the frequency of bus routes. That strikes me as not good. Worse, Torontonians, on average, have higher incomes than most Canadians. Since many cities have pot holes and city busses, asking the federal government to contribute 33% is the equivalent of asking the federal government to increase taxes. And basic math dictates that rich people spend more in tax than they get back in public services. The federal government spends, Toronto loses.Both Montreal and Vancouver have local gas taxes. The city of Toronto has the power to impose tolls. Many cities have a hotel tax. London, UK, has vastly more expensive transit with zone fares. The Toronto Maple Leafs suck. But the solution isn't to change the rules of hockey. [...]



ISIS is Not Our Problem

2014-09-27T18:44:38.085-03:00

So there are a bunch of armed religious zealots running around Syria and Iraq trying to turn that region into a Saudi Arabia minus the Saudi part. How is that Canada's problem?

-Are they a military threat to Turkey (a NATO ally?)
-Are they a military threat to any other NATO allies?
-Are they a military threat to Canada or Canadian interests?

No. 

If Assad didn't warrant military intervention, if we continue to act as if Saudi Arabia is a civilized country, then why on earth would we spend our hard earned money on fighting the Islamic State? Why would risk the lives of Canadian soldiers in this conflict?

This war makes no more sense than the 10 year war against the Taliban.

Fundamentally, IS it's not our problem.


 
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5 millions pour la F1, rien pour le mascaret de Moncton

2014-07-07T01:46:12.493-03:00

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La F1 c'est une fin de semaine par année et pourtant le gouvernement
Harper lui accorde 5 millions de dollars par année pour les prochains
20 ans. Le mascaret de Moncton, quant à lui, est à tous les jours et
n'obtient pas un cent du fédéral. ;-)(image)