Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Orleans Trip

You may already know, but I am heading off to New Orleans, LA next week for a trip with my Dad.

We are heading over there for Shaklee's Global Conference, however, there will be a good amount of free time to see the sights and take in the city of New Orleans.

We are only going to be there for about 4 or 5 days total, but I was hoping at least one of my readers has been to The Big Easy and would have some recommendations as to some of the best things to see or do.

Please leave a comment if you can add any insight!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Musings about my new Smart Car

I originally posted this on my smart USA(insider) blog.

The following is a quick list of a bunch of the stuff I've noticed since I've got my new Smart Car

-This car is the least expensive WOW factor car on the market
-The doors require a tiny extra muscle to close them
-I still head to the middle of the car to reach the outside door handle, even though the handle is at the back
-My Smart Radio 10 is seriously bumping
-The "D" automatic mode is probably better to use during the break-in period
-The most annoying question I get from people is "How much does it cost to fill up the gas tank?" How is that question even remotely relevant?
-My sunshade suffers from an apparently common problem where it comes free of the track on one side, and it does that even when I put it back in. The dealership already told me they are ordering me a new one.
-The financing application from is apparently not very accurate. It declined my loan, but the dealership was able to get me a great rate anyways.
-The drivers seat doesn't go all the way back, but this allows the two seats to be staggered
-The turning radius is amazingly small, something like 28ft
-The seat belt tensioning device is the most responsive I've ever seen
-The plastic panels seem to collect a lot of dust, I've already purchased a car duster
-There are a few annoying blind spots, but upon further investigation, not much is able to hide in those blind spots, so its not such a big deal
-The car feels a lot bigger inside than it looks outside, this creates interesting conversation when you are 6'3"
-I haven't been asked about its safety as much as I was anticipating
-Closing the glass hatch in the back seems to create a lot of fingerprints
-This car is worth the 5 years I've been waiting for Smart Car to come to the USA

I'll probably come up with more as I continue to drive my car.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Movie Review - Wall-E

I went to see Wall-E last night, and here is a few quick thoughts on the movie.

  • It is the first Disney-Pixar movie to feature live action sequences.
  • It is probably one of the most adorable movies I've seen in a while.
  • Disney-Pixar did a wonderful job giving inanimate objects (robots) personification, and were great characters in the movie.
  • While watching the movie you realize how much can be conveyed without speaking/words.
  • A number of social/cultural commentaries on our society are evident in the movie.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed this movie.

No Bad Publicity

According to the old adage "There's no such thing as bad publicity" and this article from AdFreak shows this quite well.

Basically, the CW is advertising for their show Gossip Girl using quotes from critics who were bashing the show. They are using these quotes as the headlines for the advertisements to attract an audience.

This also demonstrates that you shouldn't try and please everyone, because you will probably end up pleasing no one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Movie Review - Wanted

Ok, so I actually saw this movie (twice) a couple of weeks ago, but I really want to give you my take on it because it was that good.

First off, Wanted is one of the best action movies I've seen in a while.

Second, it is a basically a compendium of a few of my favorite movies. There are parts of this movie that remind me of The Matrix, The Boondock Saints, and Fight Club.

Third, the action is just great, and in my opinion really gets away from the monotonous fighting and shoot em up movies that are usually out there.

Fourth, there are some pretty great actors that play the leads, and this just added to the fun.

And to say I saw this movie in the theater twice says a lot, because I rarely do this.

Of course, this movie is rated R, and for good reason, so for goodness sake don't take the kids with you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My New Car

If you've been following along with my car updates, you already know that I finally took ownership of my smart car yesterday. It was very exciting for me, first, I've been waiting to buy one of these for more than 5 years when I first saw them in Europe in 2003, and second, I've been on the waiting list since June of 2007 after they were announced that they would be coming to the United States.

I took a few pictures of the car, so you can see what I am so very excited about.

And of course, parked in the same spot as my scooter, for a valuable size comparison.

Here is a link to the specifications of my specific car.

A basic summary of what I got is:

Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe, yellow body panels and black tridion safety cell. I got two major options installed including the Smart Premium Sound System and the Comfort Package (which includes black leather seats, heated seats, power steering, rain sensing windshield wipers, light sensing headlamps and auto-off headlamps with exit delay).

The closest dealership to us here in Fresno is San Jose, which is about 160 miles (260 km). I made my appointment to pick up my car at 9:00am yesterday morning, which meant both of my brothers and I left at 5:45am to make the appointment time. We got there about half an hour early (the dealership opens at 9am), and I walked the small lot and figured out which car was mine. It was great to be able to finally see it.

On the way home my brothers and I headed up to Palo Alto to the IKEA there, and had lunch and did a little bit of shopping. On the way back I gave both of my brothers an opportunity to drive my new car for about 40 miles each.

It is amazing at how many people rubber neck and stare at my car as they drive by me or are just standing beside the road. Most people have not seen anything like this before, even though there are approximately 5 Smart Cars in Fresno already. As well, without fail every time I go somewhere I have at least one person stop me and ask me questions. I've also gotten a few waves and thumbs up from different people as I drive by.

I have yet to name my new car, but I have decided to wait and spend a little more time with it before I make any decisions. I also must decide the gender before I can name it. Right now though, I am leaning towards my car being a boy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Long Wait is Almost Over

It's been a rollercoaster ride up to this point, but I'm glad it is almost over. I got an email today from smart center San Jose (the Smart Car dealership to which I've been assigned) telling me that my car has finally arrived at the dealership.

This is not only exciting because I will be getting my car very soon, but also because it fits with a fairly weird pattern.

It seems like every big jump forward with my reservation process has occurred right around (within a few days of) me getting really antsy or excited. For example, I was still just in the reservation process and hadn't placed my confirmation order, when I was really frustrated and started looking at other cars. A day or two later I get my confirmation email and place my order. These last few times, the next step has occurred right after diving really deep into researching different things about my new car. Yesterday I was trading emails with someone here in Fresno who had just picked up their Smart Car, and it was getting me really excited about my own.

I guess my Smart Car and me are just meant to be.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Most Walkable Cities/Neighborhoods

This may be surprising to any of you Fresnans, but Fresno is one of the most walkable cities in the country. Well, actually it is ranked 19th in the top 40 largest cities in the USA according to Walk Score, but that is in the top half. This is kind of depressing, cause Fresno is literally one of the worst cities I've ever been to (spent time in) for walking. I guess that is just part of our American culture, which could easily start changing with rising gas prices.

We are in great California company at this ranking, with Sacramento, San Jose, and San Diego all within a few ratings points of each other. Fresno's most walkable neighborhoods include Central, Fresno-High, and Hoover.

Via World Changing

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Church Giveaways

Reading this article at Church Marketing Sucks reminds me of my post on attracting people.

Maybe this church focuses on an "Old Testament" view of God.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oil Profits

Here is an interesting article from the Brookings Institute about what the Middle East is doing and what they should be doing with their profits from oil, especially in our world where oil prices are rising so much.

This reminds me of what I have thought for the last number of years about my home province of Alberta, Canada and the oil revenues the provincial government receives from royalties from the Athabasca Oil Sands. While rising oil prices has made these reserves much more cost effective to exploit (even though it is non-conventional oil sources) it still costs much more money to extract the oil from the tar sands.

I have long thought that Alberta needs to do a better job of using this money to invest. Investing in both important "right now" projects, such as education and health care, as well long term projects is, in my opinion, the best option. Long term investments such as renewable energy projects could make Alberta another leader in energy, and could continue making money in this industry long after the oil is used up, or which I think is going to be much more likely, demand for oil goes way down.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Are You Bored?

Just in case you get bored this weekend, go ahead and try this experiment. Just be careful because you might lose track of a couple of hours.

Step 1 - Combine corn starch and water
Step 2 - Place oobleck (corn starch and water mixture) on a thin sheet of metal
Step 3 - Place metal sheet on top of subwoofer
Step 4 - Crank the bass!

Via BoingBoing

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bird Monster

If you've never witnessed a huge swarm of birds flying in formation that makes you think all the birds are connected somehow, it is a definite sight to behold. I've seen something like this video once, and it is one of the most fascinating natural phenomenon I've ever witnessed.

This really reminds me The Matrix Revolutions when the Sentinels attack Zion and create hands and hammers out of their swarm.

Via Presurfer

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Craziest Soccer Match Finish

Just read this.

I think this just goes to show that if you try and change something and take away the purity of the game, you are bound to have something like this happen.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Imogen Heap

I just purchased a bunch of music from the iTunes music store, mostly songs and albums that I have added over the years (since college) and never got around to buying. I decided to use a small part of my economic stimulus check to clear out my shopping cart, and buy all this music. One of the songs that I bought, and can't stop listening to is "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap. It is one of the catchiest tunes and most interesting sounding songs I've heard in a long time.

Check out the video and song here.

Here is her Myspace page.

Open Mic Mondays

For those in Fresno, you may be disappointed to learn that Vince Warner hosts Unplugged Open Mic Mondays at the Starline has been temporarily canceled due to low turnout.

I was down in the tower district last night with a friend, and we were hoping to check out the show, as neither of us had ever been, and we were both quite disappointed to learn that it wasn't happening, and hasn't happened for the last few weeks.


Here is a great post at Noisy Decent Graphics on perspective as related to maps. As someone who loves maps, I've always found it interesting when maps are positioned in different ways, or when the curvature of the earth is not taken into account on maps, etc.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Whenever I think of redundancy, I think of the Department of Redundancy Department. This usually stirs up emotions of inefficiency and as I've said before, I like efficiency.

I came across something that made me think twice about always being efficient, or maybe better put, efficiency as it relates to redundancy.

As I was viewing my shopping cart at IKEA's website I came across this little jewel.

Look at the text at the top below the word "quantity" it says "To delete an item, change quantity to "0" and click "update," but upon further investigate there is also a delete button right beside the quantity. To actually delete an item using the instructions given you have to move your mouse right next to the delete button.

With this redundancy, I don't think any of IKEA's customers are going to be frustrated trying delete something from their shopping cart. And while you usually don't want someone deleting something from their shopping cart, you definitely don't want to make anything in your process frustrating.

A More Effective Broom

One thing I have to deal with much more often here in California than I did in Canada is bugs. Sure Canada has its fair share of bugs but there are way more in California. I just found a couple of spider/cob webs in the upper reaches of my bedroom walls and when I was cleaning them up it got me thinking.

Spider webs are designed to catch things by entrapping and entangling them. I used my broom to get rid of these spider webs and as a result the spider webs became stuck to the broom. I decided not to remove these webs because they should improve the effectiveness of the broom by collecting dirt (or at the very least dead bugs).

Marketing To Someone About Someone Else

People respond to marketing in a positive way when you tell a story that matches with their personal beliefs/thoughts/feelings and their own story. This is one of the cornerstones of many if not all of Seth Godin's books.

One thing that plays into this is not just telling a story about your customer (potential customer) it also can be very effective to bring other people into the story. Godin's post about all customers being smarter than average and The Onion's painfully truthful satirical article about 98% of US commuters favor public transportation for others shows that most people believe the rules shouldn't or don't apply to them, just everyone else.

This philosophy can be utilized effectively in marketing. One example is "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" and its popularity. Most people love watching others look like fools all the while they sit on their comfortable couch thinking that they in fact are smarter than a 5th grader, all the while the show really has nothing to do with intelligence, but rather just the recollection of obscure facts that these kids have just recently learned.

What would be an ineffective strategy here is to use the negative, so always focus on the positive. "Other people are dumb" is not nearly as effective as "you are smarter than him/her/that".

That's How I Roll

I think maybe the only thing better about this "Essential Life Lessons" is the fact that something this seemingly unimportant can be argued so fervently by people.

I am one that agrees that the roll should positioned so the free sheet is on the top pointing outwards (or rather hanging over the front rather than the back). I don't get in a tizzy if I am at another person's home and find the toilet paper in the incorrect position, but I will always place my own the right way.

I think something that might be interesting is to keep track of how many people do it the right away and how many people do it the wrong way. I think every time I visit someone's home and use the facilities I may keep track of the numbers.

Via Presurfer

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Security Hysteria?

So apparently a NJ school was put into "lockdown" because of a ninja sighting. Yes, that is correct, someone saw a ninja outside of the school, and everyone was locked into the school. It turned out to only be a camp counselor in a karate uniform who was going to a costume party. (What!? Not a real ninja lurking outside of an elementary school? Surprising.)

Public schools in Barnegat were locked down briefly after someone reported seeing a ninja running through the woods behind an elementary school.

Turns out the ninja was actually a camp counselor dressed in black karate garb and carrying a plastic sword.

This just goes to show that we can let our fear and suspicion take over our lives for no good reason or against our better judgment.

Link(Via BoingBoing)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Watering Schedule

If you've lived in Fresno in recent summers you have probably also heard the catchy tune the water resources department for the city has used to market and inform the citizens of this city as to when they are allowed to water their lawns.

I enjoy listening to and singing along to the song both on the tv and radio. I realized tonight that I haven't heard this advertisement yet this summer. Fortunately my apartment complex does the watering for me because while I know the tune and basic lyrics of the song I don't remember specifically which days even numbers water on.

I wonder if they've cancelled this marketing campaign. I will have to do some research.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


We had a new dishwasher installed in our apartment yesterday. Our old one had an issue where the detergent dispenser lid would not close. So the apartment handyman came out and told us he would just have them replace it! This problem was there a year ago when we moved in, and I didn't bother calling them about it because the dishwasher still worked.

At least this new one works properly and it is energy efficient!

HDR Photography

I've mentioned before about HDR photography. It's an amazing type of photography that uses multiple frames of the same shot taken at different exposures to get a good blend dark and light areas that can normally not be achieved through regular (especially digital) photography.

Here is a site that has 20 of the best HDR pictures that this guy has found. Enjoy.

(Via Presurfer)

Milk Jugs

I love milk. I grew up drinking milk. I would be very sad if I had to give up milk because it is one of my favorite drinks. With all this milk drinking my normal consumption of this delicious beverage happens from the economical gallon milk jugs. It is interesting to see that an eco-friendly milk jug is on the horizon, and I could see a couple of these in my fridge.

To me it looks a little industrial, and my guess the grooves that run top to bottom are there for structural integrity. I recycle my milk jugs when they are empty, and before throwing them in the recycle I always crush them down, I wonder if that will still be as feasible with this. Without a label it looks pretty plain too, I wonder how companies will dress them up?

(Via TreeHugger)