Friday, 22 November 2013
We were taken to a table, given menus and then left alone. That gave me time to observe the servers. They seemed to congregate at the end of the bar near the cash register. And then each one got their phone out. There are penalties for distracted driving. Maybe there should be a penalty for distracted serving? They were reading or texting. In fact I wondered if the regulars knew the cell phone number of their server and could put in their orders that way.
We did get served, eventually. In fact once we had placed the food order, it actually arrived surprisingly quickly. Perhaps because someone other than our designated server brought it. Why is it that only when your mouth is full does someone stop at your table and ask "How is everything tasting?" And not our server of course. The person who usually tells you their name and says, with absolute sincerity, "I will be looking after you this evening" and then vanishes.
I have sometimes had the feeling that the presence of actual customers gets in the way of the social life of the people who work at bars and restaurants. But if it was not for the paying customers, there would be no pay - or tips. Yet they expect ever more generous tips for what seems to be increasingly slipshod service. Is it too much to ask for someone to pay attention to the needs of the people who come to your establishment to eat and drink?
Monday, 28 October 2013
I have read in several places how this new system will be able to better to handle multiple displays - including using a tv through AirPlay and Apple TV. Apparently you can set it up so one display shows something different from the other. So I could, in theory, use it to have a Safari window open on my tv showing a video. But no matter what I tried I could not get the display icon to show up at the top of my screen. I even went through a software update on my Apple TV to see if that helped.
The answer apparently is that my MacBookPro is too old.
(Apple says that AirPlay requires a second-generation Apple TV or later and a 2011-era Mac or later.)
Indeed just recently I learned that I was not the only one who has an older Mac who finds this new OS version has slowed things down. But then that did come from someone who makes a living selling new computers
Sunday, 20 October 2013
"World Premiere" although it has previously been seen and reviewed as “a fully staged workshop production (prior to its official World Première in October 2013 at the renowned Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver)” at the Finborough Theatre in London (with a different cast).
I had not read anything about this play before I saw it last night, so I had no expectations. In writing this review, I think it would be great if you could share that experience. But because it has received so little attention here so far - it opened on October 17 - the theatre was mostly empty. It must be terribly dispiriting for actors to p[lay to rows of empty seats. But you wouldn't know that from the performances of the two person cast, who both give it their all. Great performances and really good chemistry. You can get a synopsis of the the plot from the review I linked to above. All you really need to know is that Michael (Mik Byskov) is a wounded Canadian soldier and Halley (Matreya Scarrwener) is the Pathfinder (a sort of superior Girl Scout) who reads to him.
Matreya is a 10th grade student at Kitsilano Secondary School and already has an impressive resume of tv work. It is her professional theatre debut. It is also Mik's debut on the Vancouver stage. And I will be willing to bet that we will be seeing a great deal more of both of them in future - and one day you will be able to say "I saw him/her when they were just starting out ..."
I did not know that Stephen Crane (author of the never out of print "Red Badge of Courage") was born after the Civil War - and indeed never fought in any war prior to writing it. Colleen Murphy has not fought in Afghanistan either, but I felt I understood a lot more about that conflict having seen this play of hers. It also makes you think very hard about the nature of truth and fiction. This play is fictional but has the ring of truth throughout. There are times when the audience laughs. Sometimes I laughed too - but at others I felt like shouting to the rest of them to stop laughing, such is the sensitivity of the subject matter. I have never fought in any war, but that does not reduce my appreciation of its horrors or reduce my desire for peace.
Please go see this play, and then tell your friends about it. It deserves to be seen by a much bigger audience. You will not regret the 90 minutes (no interval) you spend at the Revue Stage. Promise.
Wednesday, 2 October 2013
"Radio 2 gives Canadians a unique listening experience with its distinct format that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the radio dial. "Which is true, but only to an extent. In terms of what I can pick up on a short length of wire antenna inside my 6th floor apartment, I have to agree. But that does not mean that I cannot find a source of classical music when I want it. And the CBC's earlier decision to limit classical to a few hours of the day (9am to around 2:10pm) means that I have become a user of other services. Just not FM radio through my stereo speakers. I can get music from the internet, which means using the rather tinny speakers on my MacBook Pro or headphones. I don't like wearing headphones. I have yet to find any that are really comfortable for any length of time, even though the sound quality produced by some of the (very expensive) Klipsch ones my son had (they got stolen, of course) are very good indeed. There is also the availability of streaming audio over the tv. Galaxie provides five channels of classical - and on Telus TV they can be found on these channels
UPDATE January 2, 2015
There are some bugs in Yosemite that might be interfering with Bluetooth.
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Unkai (at 5351 West Boulevard) has a lunch special: 2 items $6.95 or 3 items $9.95 - an item being something like "small chicken udon" or a dynamite roll - or three pieces of the same nigiri. I must admit to be a bit of an enthusiast for nigiri. Last weekend we went to Shota (5688 Yew) - who claim "the best sushi in Kerrisdale" - because of a coupon we got. When I checked, of course, it was not valid that day. I ended up paying closer to $20 for something not too different, and waited a lot longer. Note that the salmon pictured above is almost certainly farmed Atlantic (places that sell wild Pacific Sockeye charge a premium) but the tuna (maguro) was on this occasion the usually premium priced toro - fatty or belly tuna.
The tiny Unkai was empty at midday, so I got served quickly. Unfortunately the complimentary miso soup was cold - but it came at the same time as the sushi. I also asked for green tea as it was not all clear if that was included (it was) which was also lukewarm. Even so, 9 pieces of nigiri for $10 is a bargain, and this was of high quality. It is also apparent from the picture that it was not a skimpy piece of fish on each piece. The furnishings are basic and the room spartan. At Shota you are in a different class of establishment. We had comfy padded chairs and could admire the calligraphy on display.
For a quick lunch you could go further and fare worse than Unkai. And since the soup is "free" it won't hurt to ignore it.
Sunday, 15 September 2013
Care2 sent me an email
"In response to a lawsuit against Google for snooping through personal Gmail, Google claims that users have "no legitimate expectation of privacy" when it comes to their email."
They are, in my case, absolutely right. I use Gmail for people like care2 to send me petitions, for people who read my blog to let me know something that they don't want to leave as a comment. It is very useful for newsletters and other non-urgent, non-personal stuff. I have another email address I use for personal communications, and that is not paid for by advertising.
Google makes a great deal of money. But no-one pays for their services or software on-line. It is paid for by people who want to reach a targeted audience. It ought to be mean that when I see an ad on blogger or gmail I find it useful. I am surprised how often they miss the mark completely, but then this tells you something about the limitations of even really very smart software. And, by the way, why all that snooping the government is doing - which we pay for handsomely - is not actually making any of us any safer.
When I signed up for Gmail I had wanted it for some time. Because hotmail was so awful. Google actually restricted who could get Gmail. But I was under no illusion that it would not be used by Google to target ads because I knew that was what Google does. If any Gmail user was not aware of that then they do not deserve any sympathy nor can they expect to win a lawsuit. Nor will a petition to Google do any good. All it does is cause a few people to use the facepalm gesture.
Thursday, 12 September 2013
This post is actually part of the process of documenting my acquisition of a new smart phone. I got a Google Nexus 4 which runs Android. This is a lot cheaper than going the iPhone route as I have explained elsewhere. It was very rare for me to use my old phone to go to websites. The Nokia is small and not very easy to use. And, when I did need it to find and book a car2go for example, it was remarkably inaccurate. The GPS was hopeless. It was too small to render the next bus information as a map too. But all that has changed.
I got Universal Password Manager when I got the tablet. Back in the old days of the Palm pilot, I carried my passwords on that in an encrypted database. I did not pay much attention to the ability to synchronize across devices, as when I needed a password the tablet was handy to the MacBook. But it won't be when I am out and about with the Nexus 4.
UPM is free and available from Sourceforge. It is cross platform - meaning it can run on most operating systems - in my case OSX and Android but also Windows and Linux. And, since I already have a Dropbox account, syncing across machines is easy. I do not claim to be a technical wizard, and with the aid of the user guides provided, I found the whole process to be easy and straightforward.
Now why do you need this. Well for one thing when looking for the password manager I also came across plenty of webpages offering password hackers. They are also free and easy to use. (Just put "universal password hack" into google to see what I mean. The problem is that you need passwords that are hard for machines to hack, which means for humans they are impossible to remember. You must also have different passwords for different web pages, first because you do not want someone's web page manager knowing how to get into your other accounts and secondly web pages get hacked. Having multiple, gobbledegook pa$$w0rds @ h& is going to be essential for everyone who wants to do something to protect the 3@$3 of use and convenience of doing stuff online.
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
I also started to use free software. Not software "stolen" or copied but simply available at no charge. Open Office and GIMP have both been steadily improved and replace the very expensive Office and Photoshop, and can produce computer files that interchange with people who still buy that software when necessary.
My children were easy converts to Apple products. Expensive to buy but very easy to use. Eventually I realized that Iw as still spending too much time and effort on geekiness, and got a MacBook Pro.
But my Linux running cheap net book was also not really what I wanted. And when tablets started becoming available I got a Nexus 7 from Google. Runs Android. Wow what a difference. No cables. Slips in a coat pocket. Works every time. The only thing that is wrong with it is the camera. Which is pointing the wrong way. Selfies only!
I do not use a cell phone very much, but I appreciate that when you need one they are very useful indeed. And increasingly the world seems to expect you to have one: at least the bit of it that I inhabit. I looked for ways to keep the cost down, which meant I avoided the big telcos and iPhones. I got a Nokia smart phone from Wind, and was able to unlock it and take my business to Mobilicity - as reported here.
Frankly the performance was unreliable at best, useless too often. For instance, car2go use requires a smart phone. You can get by without it but nothing like as conveniently as it ought to be. But my Nokia and its app usually cannot locate me correctly. The contrast to my Google tablet was instructive. So when the price of a Nexus 4 smartphone fell to the same price I once had paid for the Nokia, I ordered one from Google and I am tracking its progress now. I should have it soon.
Nokia abandoned its Symbian operating system and its new phones have been running M$ software for a while. I felt abandoned. The apps that are available still are about as good as the carthago one. Not good enough.
So I feel that the marriage between Nokia and Microsoft is fine. I hope they work nicely together. I doubt I will ever feel it necessary to go back to either.
What puzzles me are the people who labour on with outdated versions of Microsoft products, simply because they once paid a lot for them. If you could have a newer, better software for free, why would you not cut your losses and dump things that are just frustrating? Life is too short to waste it on bad software and apps.
Wednesday, 31 July 2013
I find it hard to believe. For one thing Seattle - our nearest neighbour - has a classical station. It used to be commercial, it is now listener supported. Public Radio is available all across the US. In Colorado, where I was recently on vacation, I could listen to classical music on the car radio in most places - despite the mountainous terrain. Actually CPR runs two channels, one actual music (as opposed to mere noise) and the other talk/news/current events. The United States of course has no such thing as a state broadcaster, nor any tax based funding.
As I am sure you will be aware I spent the first 40 years of my life in England and when I first became aware of radio the BBC was about the only option. It was possible to pick up Radio Luxemburg - which was commercial, but broadcast in English - and stations like Hilversum, which broadcast in Dutch and wasn't. The BBC used to get its funding from mandatory radio licences. Now it is only tv in Britain which needs a license. BBC funding has long been an issue - but Auntie has got much better at finding new sources of revenue. One of the best being selling "quality tv" programs to PBS. Like Masterpiece.
When I got to Canada I fully expected the CBC to be BBC like - only bilingual. Boy was I disillusioned quickly. But there was then at least all day classical music, not just on CBC Radio 2 but also stations like CJRT. And yes I know I can get music over the internet but my laptop has really tinny speakers and I have this really good hifi system - with way to connect to the web. NOr have I ever owned an iPod, dock or anything similar.
There has long been a general assault on public services of all kinds. Health, education, transit, you name it it has had its funding cut, service reduced and all sorts of fees and charges introduced. The private sector and profit making is now seen as more important than any other consideration. We truly know the price of everything and the value of nothing. PBS tv programming now has commercials - not within the program (yet) but in between them. And of course regular fund raising drives. The CBC has not sunk that low yet, but tv advertising is just as intrusive as on any other commercial station. While the radio is free of adverts and fundraising appeals, the quality of programming is steadily being replaced. What is good gets shunted aside in favour of what is popular.
You have probably never heard of Lord Reith. "Broadcasting as a way of educating the masses" really does not sound very attractive - but then we seem to distrust education as a concept. In a way that we do not distrust commercials. Enough people believe them that companies keep on making them and making profits. There even seemed to be some regret the Joel Matlin lost his job. Even though home alarm systems in reality do nothing to make you safer - but do a great deal to destroy communities and their sense of peace and quiet. Essentially a protection racket. Usurious money lenders advertise widely - yet their practices are actually contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada.
To be fair, only the CBC seems to take seriously the task of defending the public interest. They do investigative journalism seriously - even when commercial interests are at stake. Marketplace for instance. But they also give a bully pulpit to people like Kevin O'Leary, Don Cherry or Rex Murphy. There does, it seems to me, need to be more of a sense of balance. I have never understood why the Conservative Party thinks that the CBC is a nest of commies. If only it were, it would offset the rest of the broadcast spectrum!
Tuesday, 9 July 2013
I have seasonal allergies. This year I started allergy season with Reactine and have been coping well. Until that first pack was used and I had to replace it. I went to a supermarket and bought their own brand of antihistamine. It simply did not work. Neither of these medications requires a prescription in Canada.
Today I took a Reactine tablet and within twenty minutes I was symptom free again. It says on the box "can start to work in 20 minutes and lasts 24 hours" - and that is certainly my experience. YMMV
Reactine is 10mg Cetirizine Hydrochloride. The store brand allergy remedy I bought was 10mg Loratidine - and that is what I have been buying in the past. I bought it simply because generic medication is often the same as brand name and usually cheaper. For instance Aspirin is Bayer's brand name but their product is always more expensive than the identical generic acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) . I do not know if any store sells generic cetirizine.
In the past I have out up with the less than satisfactory performance of loratidine. After all it was - it seemed - better than nothing and I thought was probably as good as it gets. Not so.
Monday, 8 July 2013
For instance, at my old house, we cut off the cable some time ago as we were not there to use it. But talking about getting rid of furniture with a neighbour I learned he was interested in antiques. My partner has some - and we have pictures. But I wasn't carrying my camera at the time. And even if I could have used my tablet, those particular pictures weren't on the web anywhere. And anyway, the tiny screen on a camera is not really adequate for deciding if you want an antique desk. In the end I printed some postcard sized pictures - and he lost interest in the mean time.
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
This blog has always been different to the one that I have spent most time on. The one about transport and planning and related issues, that is hosted by WordPress. They do insert ads, but they get all the revenue. I could have that one ad free, but would then have to pay for it. My readers there say the ads don't bother them.
On flickr, I continue to pay for a pro account because I do not want to see ads. But I suppose that anyone else looking at my pictures there will now get ads inserted. Yahoo, of course, will no more share that ad revenue with its content creators than WordPress does.
But Google is different. I do have an Adsense account. Since 2007 it has earned me a princely $5. I was only when one of my flickr contacts drew attention to his much bigger stash that I learned of the Google wrinkle. They do not pay out small sums. To get any money from Adsense, my account has to have $100 in it. At this rate, I doubt I will live that long. But I am going to make a point of going to my friends blogs on blogger, and clicking an ad, to see if I can help them get a little cash.
This will never be a Dragon's Den item. It is highly unlikely to make the slightest bit of difference. But then I did win some money with one of my Premium Bonds a while ago. They haven't paid out that either.
Can you click the ad, please? And would you please add a comment below.
There is a poll below. Please use it. I can also get feedback if I see a rise in clicks - or comments telling me I should not be doing this.
Thursday, 6 June 2013
Now for the bad news. The flight is on Frontier Airlines. They fly one plane out of Bellingham four times a week (M W F Sa) to their hub in Denver. The last time I went that way I connected to another Frontier flight to Kansas City. I recall that clearly since we sat in the plane on the ground because a hatch wouldn't close and they had to send for a replacement door. Took over an hour, but at least we were still hooked up to gate power. We got an apology, nothing more. On the way back the departure was scheduled for the early hours of the morning. I was concerned when I got to the gate to see that the plane had not yet arrived there. It never did. About an hour after it was supposed to depart there was a cancellation announcement. And a bit of a rush on the gate agents. They did indeed rebook people but that takes time. No doubt others did clever things on their smartphones, or went to Starbucks to use their free wifi. I stood in line. Eventually I got to talk to an agent, who - after quite a bit of wrangling - came up with a flight on Alaska that evening which connected through Seattle with one to Bellingham. And some vouchers.
The vouchers are the crux of the story. There were several printed on boarding card stock which bought meals at the airport - breakfast, lunch and dinner. And one that was torn from a printed piece of paper with the title "Electronic Travel Certificate"
Monday, 3 June 2013
"You are about to receive new settings to your device, to ensure your Samsung SGH-T999V is functioning correctly please accept them. Do not reply to this message."
and sure enough the reply button was disabled.
The slightly incorrect English was a bit odd, but the real warning sign was that bit about my device. I do not have such a thing and the message came on my old Nokia smart phone. Surely, I thought, my service provider knows what device I am using to access its network. The second message did not even have Mobilicity in the From: field but Service Provider. It read
"Select 'Save' from 'Options' to configure al settings. Access points: MoWAP Web settings: Homepage
I did no such thing, but I did call 611. After the usual long wait, I got to speak to someone - probably on the other side of the globe, who knows. But he confirmed that the message did not come from Mobilicity.
Why someone would want to capture my home page, I cannot guess, but I suspect much darker motivations.
Like the old Sarge on used to say on Hill Street Blues "Let's be careful out there."
While it is not impossible for someone to take over an iPad, the circumstances would have to be very unusual. And my partner is not the sort of person to fall for any of the gimmicks I found with a quick Google search. I have just come back from a visit with the genius bar at the Apple store, and they confirmed that what I had done was right.
With any computer (and most peripherals) performing oddly, power down (and unplug from the wall if appropriate) will often reset things. Known in the trade as the "cold boot". Most people leave their systems running - just closing the lid of the laptop or closing the iPad smart cover. It's easy to get an app out of the way by using the close fingers gesture or the home button, but neither actually closes the app. If you use four fingers to swipe upwards you can see how many apps are running. And in this case it was a lot. So close them by holding a finger on the app icon until it wobbles and a "no entry" sign appears on the top left corner. Then tap the icon. It is good practice to shut apps when they are not being used as it frees up resources, and reduces the chance of conflicts.
The genius also ran a diagnostic which showed which app had been crashing. That I uninstalled and replaced with another that does the same thing. It was only a game, after all. To uninstall an app simply hold the icon on the main screen (not the one revealed by the four finger swipe). Once again the icons all wobble and the "no entry" sign appears. Hold the app icon and then follow the prompts.
The strange behaviour was caused simply by overload of the touch screen interface - and probably a conflict between open apps. Clean up is easy and straightforward.
Or so we thought. The problem re-emerged a few days later - when there were only two apps open. So I once again backed up the iPad to the cloud and went back to talk to another genius. By the way, do not use Google to locate the Oakridge store - that's in California. Do it carefully on the apple.ca address to make sure you get Vancouver BC! This time they said they would reset the iPad to its original condition. I was asked not to restore the backup until I was sure that this had worked. Just as well, because it didn't, which proved we had a hardware problem - not a software conflict. This time my partner took the iPad in herself - and found that they had set aside a brand new iPad, with my name on it, just in case.
Monday, 15 April 2013
BBC Panorama programme on North Korea and LSESU Grimshaw Club
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Basically the concern is that some countries - mainly those in "the third world" - persecute Christians. There is nothing in the article that singles out states that have a formal religious component in the governance system. Indeed the only country that is identified is Pakistan.
The CBC story also picks up on the concerns of organizations that represent people who do not profess any religion.
Good. So here is a very big job Mr Ambassador. There is a very large and very powerful country to the south of us that persecutes atheists. The constitution of the United States is supposed to uphold a complete separation of church and state. That is because the founding fathers were mostly dissenters. People who objected to the position of the Church of England as the official state church where the monarch replaced the role of the Pope. To get an idea of what it was like to be a heretic in Henry VIII's kingdom, have a read of the recent great historical novels by Hilary Mantel.
Ambassador Bennett made clear at his first news conference Tuesday that if people face persecution for their lack of belief, they could expect his office to speak out.
"All people of faith and, again, those who choose not to have faith, need to be protected, their rights need to be respected," he said. "That's what this office is about."
What has been happening in the United States is that the conservative Republicans have been very successful in persuading Christians - who used to stay away from politics for fear of being tainted by its less desirable characteristics - to vote and become active in pursuing faith based policies. It is for this reason that issues like abortion and same sex marriage continue to dominate debate, even though the vast majority of Americans have views that these issues have been settled, and in the case of abortion, by a very old Supreme Court decision (Roe v Wade).
Some of the great successes of the Christian right are symbolic. Replacing E Pluribus Unum on the currency with In God We Trust, for instance. But others are direct assaults on civil liberties, such as the prevention of atheists from holding public office in many states. Here are the ten scariest places in the US to be an atheist. No, they don't burn people at the stake.
Bennett ought to be making representations at the highest levels that the Land of the Free should not be denying freedom to its own citizens. Freedom From Religion being as important as Freedom of Religion.
I will be very surprised indeed if a Harper appointee who was formerly "dean of Augustine College, a small, private Christian liberal arts college in Ottawa, where he taught the history of Christianity there and who was completing a part-time degree in theology" actually does anything at all for atheists in America. But I will be watching. And I hope he lives up to the commitment he made.
Monday, 28 January 2013
Sunday, 27 January 2013
It was a small cast but there are lots of characters, achieved with very clever use of masks - and one or two odd accents. Similarly one small set but very clever lighting that was most satisfactory when DJ is dragged off to hell at the end. No that isn't really a spoiler because we are all familiar with the story, which also got got turned into the opera Don Giovanni. As Director/Adapter John Wright notes he has "borrowed freely from all that came before us and interwoven the ancient with the modern". It would be a spoiler if I told about how that happens - and the audience lets you know by its appreciation of familiar material in unfamiliar places. Peter Jorgensen (Don Juan) and Simon Webb (Sganarelle) are the only cast members who have one character throughout - and Sganarelle gets more stage time and a lot more business than the eponymous lead - and steals the show. His performance alone is worth the (full) price of admission. But there is one scene, when the Don actually seduces two women, back to back, at the same time which is not only hilarious but utterly convincing.
I think that if you have read this far, you would do well to book now, on line, at the link above. More about the Blackbird Theatre Co.
Tuesday, 8 January 2013
Located at Arbutus Village (4255 Arbutus St) a strip mall opposite the Arbutus Club.
This is a small establishment mostly catering to the take out market - and even if you eat there, serves its food on styrofoam. It is the sort of place where you order at the counter, get your own tea (which you could refill if you so desired) from an urn into a styrofoam beaker and pay before you see the food.
The menu is stuck to the counter and there are no translations. I ordered my nigiri by the piece and this came to $16.50 before tax. Most sushi places in this part of town would charge about the same, and there are quite a few along both Arbutus and 41st. In even the smallest "hole in the wall" cafes, they would serve onto real plates - or bento boxes. There would be cheaper sushi too - but not this sort of selection. Sushi specials tend to be rolls, and cheaper kinds of fish. For instance, most California rolls will use imitation crab even though we have plenty of crab in our local waters.
That being said, I think the quality of the fish is excellent and you can judge the presentation for yourself. Given the ambience I doubt I would travel very far to go here. They are opening another outlet on Robson, which might be worth checking out
For the last ten years CDI coverage was cheaper than the competition. That is no longer the case. Not only does another private insurer offer a lower premium, so does ICBC! This seemed so unlikely, based on ten years experience, that I called CDI to see if there was a mistake, or if they wanted to make me a better offer. The answer was no and no.
I am not going to reveal my claim record or the quotes I got since your mileage will vary, but I do think that is worth doing your due diligence. You will probably save yourself some money if you get more than one quote for your optional insurance, and it need not take you out of your way or cost you anything to find out.
By the way, when I changed my address from a townhouse in Richmond to a condo in Vancouver, my private insurance premium increased. I thought this a bit odd since at the townhouse it was simply in an open lot, with a roof. Like a common car port for residents, it offered little protection. At the condo it is an underground garage - with locked doors, and a car entrance requiring a programmed remote. So I would have thought better protected against theft or vandalism. Well, I was wrong about that too. One of my neighbours - who has a Mercedes - found the driver's window of her car smashed and the contents rifled. And apparently that is not the first time such a thing has happened here.