Sunday, December 31, 2006

Stop junk mail and junk calls in Canada

If you want to stop recorded telephone ads and junk snail mail, you can add your name to the Do Not Contact list of the Canadian Marketing Association.

The feds are supposed to be implementing their own list. But I'm not sure if that list has been launched yet.

Movies: Rocky Balboa (2006)

When Rocky V was released in 1990, Sylvester Stallone said it was the natural end of the story arch,which goes like this:

After late career success (Rocky, Rocky II), Rocky Balboa becomes super rich (Rocky III), fights Russians (Rocky IV), then loses all his money and ends up back in his old neighbourhood, where he becomes the trainer for a new up-and-coming boxer (Rocky V).

If that was the natural end of the arch, then why the new Rocky Balboa movie?

The sarcastic answer is that Stallone needs to pay the bills. He wrote, directed and stars in the movie. But if it were not for the love people have for the Rocky character, the movie would never have been made.

When the Rocky theme song starts and that trumpets blasts, everyone in the room feels good. And when people visit Philadelphia, they all run up those steps. The Rocky movies make people feel good. So why not a final lap around the track?


In the first movie, Rocky Balboa is an aging local boxer (ha!) who pays the bills by working as a collector for a loan shark. Then Balboa gets a shot at the champ in his hometown of Philadelphia.

In the new movie, Rocky Balboa is a retired world famous boxer who lives near his old neighbourhood and makes a living operating an Italian restaurant named Adrian's -- named after his wife who died a few years ago. Every year, Balboa drags his brother-in-law, Paulie, with him for a stroll down memory lane. Insert flashbacks from Balboa's first date here.

Eventually, Balboa decides he needs to box again -- but against local fighters. He's a fighter, after all, and wearing a smoking jacket and telling his patrons the same boxing stories again and again is making him live in the past. He wants new stories. He has feelings he wants to exorcise from his system. So he passes his physical and the boxing federation eventually gives his a licence to box.

Around this time, ESPN does a computer simulation of a hypothetical fight between Rocky Balboa (in his prime) and the new (unloved and undefeated) champ, Mason Dixon. Balboa wins the simulation. It gets people talking. Dixon's managers approach Balboa and ask him to fight the champ in an exhibition. He won't get hurt, they promise. It'll be a final hurrah for Balboa. And Dixon will be seen to be honoring the ex champs. It'll give him respect, or something.

Balboaagrees to the fight, but he's in it to prove himself. The training montage is mercifully short. Apollo's old trainer is back to help Balboa make 'hurtin' bombs' as his only chance to win is through 'blunt force trauma'. Basically, the George Forman strategy. Balboa bulks up and gets ready to fight.

Balboa gets knocked around but stays on his feet. He eventually unloads some of his 'hurtin' bombs' and the champ is rattled. To everyone's amazement, Balboa goes the distance. And the fight and the film end in the only way that they could. In that sense, Rocky Balboa is much closer to the original Rocky film than any other in the series.

During the final credits, the Rocky theme blares and we see regular running up the steps in Philadelphia. Old people. Young people. Fat people. Skinny people. Pairs of people. Single people.

Whatever you think of cinematic excellence (or not) of Rocky Balboa or the other films, the fact is that these make people happy. Happy enough to run up 20 steps, throw their arms into the air and jump around. That's something.

New Quebec rating: 3.5 / 5

Read more reviews here

Rocky (1976) and Rocky Balboa (2006)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tech tip: add automatic photo resize to context menu in XP

Visit the Microsoft PowerToys page to download individual add-ons apps for your XP computer. I found Image Resizer, which adds an image resize option to the context (left-click). This is a quick alternative to loading Photoshop and resizing the images manually.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Use your webcam as a security cam

I bought a Logitech QuickCam Communicate STX webcam last week. I always thought webcams were gimmicky and useless. But in one week using with friends and family, I now think they are useful.

So, the take home message is get a webcam.

Webcams still in their infancy
Webcam image quality is probably better than it has ever been but still not quite the HD, big-screen we've seen on the Enterprise and in the White House situatuon room.

For now, the webcam feels like the original telephones that were kept in a special room and you had to walk over there to place a call. Ultimately, when our home communication/entertainment system is unified, we'll be able to make video calls from our sofa.

Use your webcam as a security camera
Webcams have additional uses beyond video conferencing with your family. I found an excellent guide and free software that lets me use my wired webcam as a security camera. Your computer and Internet must always be on to do this. (Although I think wireless webcams can connect directly to your router/modem and you don't need a computer.)

Using your webcam and the free Dorgem software, your webcam takes photos if it detects movement. These still images can be saved to your computer and/or uploaded to your website using your FTP login username and password. (Uploading the images to your website folder allows you to see what's going on at home when you are away and can give you an alternate set of the digital photos of the thief who is about to steal your computer.)

So, if you have a webcam (and, optionally, a web host), follow these straightforward instructions to learn how to make your webcam into a security cam. I tried it and it works.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dodgers vs. Expos: Game 5, NLCS, 1981

I was too young to watch the 1981 NLCS. The only part I've seen is the short clip of Rick Monday's home run and that cutaway to the mustached gentlemen in the stands who hits his forehead and runs his hands through his black hair. (You know who I mean.)

Anyway, thanks to YouTube (and an Expos fan), you can now watch most of the Game 5 of the National League Championship Series here. Enjoy.

Phun with pronunciations

This offensively-inaccurate pronunciation for the word piquant appeared a few months ago in The Gazette.

I checked their purported source, Merriam-Webster and discovered it does not include PEE-kunt as the proper pronunciation. Instead, it lists the following:
Pronunciation: 'pE-k&nt, -"känt; 'pi-kw&nt
I can hardly wait 10 years from now when all these brilliant CanSpell kids are interviewing at law firms and one of them leans over to a senior partner and says, "My, what a PEE-kunt whit you have."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Green Christmas 2006

Dec. 25, 2006
St. Joseph's Oratory

Dec. 25, 2006
No snow on Snow Hill Rd.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cloning cakes

The missus spotted something oddly familiar about the cake on the January 2007 issue of Coup de Pouce.

A quick search through her pile of cooking mags undecovered the December 2002 issue of Bon Appétit with the same cake flipped horizontally.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Rex Hudler, Damaso Garcia and the 1989 Expos

Every once and a while, I have a eureka moment and realize I can use the Internet to find stuff that would never have been possible to find before.

This is 10 minutes from the Major League Baseball Game of the Week on NBC from July 22, 1989. Bob Costa and Tony Kubek in the booth. Reds leading Expos 5 to 1 in the bottom of the nineth.

Moleculo, The Molecular Man

Conan is the best. One of my favorite skits from SNL.

The girls of the Wonders Years

Some of this is NSFW, but have a look at all the women who appeared on the Wonder Years. [Look here too.]

Who knew that Alicia Silverstone, Carla Gugino and Juliette Lewis were on the show.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why Gmail (and Google) will win

It can be frustrating to explain to people who haven't used it why Gmail is so much better than every other web-based email client (YahooMail, Hotmail) and computer-based email client (Outlook Express, Eudora).

Then I read Google's War on Hierarchy, and the Death of Hierarchical Folders and now I feel vindicated.

I'm right. Google's way will win. It really is better and easier. Folder structures create work for users. Searching doesn't.

The article looks at three examples of hierarchy versus search:
  • Web directories versus web search
  • Email folders versus email search
  • Computer folders versus computer (desktop) search
Google's search philosophy has already won in web site finding. It is now pushing that philosophy in email. And Google Desktop will so the same in computer file search.

This is not to say that Google will dominate. Other companies can simply adopt Google's "search, don't sort" mantra. But "search, don't sort" is what we will all be doing in the future.

Anyway, read the article. Here's a snipit:

Hierarchical Folders have dominated info organization since they first appeared over 40 years ago. But in industry after industry, a strange thing is happening: hierarchy is under severe attack, and even dying out.

Just take a look at some of the most successful info-based businesses of all time:

* Yahoo's Web Directory
* Microsoft Outlook's email folders
* Microsoft Window's file system

All three businesses have achieved enormous success using hierarchical nested folders. And yet, one of these businesses has already abandoned Hierarchies, and the other two Hierarchies are under attack.

The company behind all three of these attacks? Google, the web's leading search engine.

Chill a Coke in two minutes

According to this from Mythbusters (via Lifehacker), here are the (increasingly faster) ways to chill a can of soda.
  • Freezer: 20 minutes
  • Bucket of ice: 10 minutes
  • Bucket of ice and water: 5 minutes
  • Bucket of ice and water and salt: 2 minutes
I haven't tried this yet. If you do, please post your results here. Good luck.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Montreal metro ad from 1976

Montreal metro ad from 1976

The only thing missing from this deliciously awful ad is the Metro supermarket clown jumping on screen and yelling "Na na na!"

You'll note the first two lines of the jingle:

Il fait beau dans le métro
Tout le monde est gaie
Gee, you think?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Google working blue

This is a real screenshot of a verification screen Google Groups served up to me this evening. (Click the image below for a larger version.)

What exactly is an enedf*ck anyway?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Free software apps for Windows

Here's an excellent list of 30 free software apps for Windows courtesy of The Simple Dollar.

There were a couple of items on his list that I had never heard of. There are replacements for Photoshop, Word, IE, Norton Anti-Virus and other pricey software.

This complements nicely my March 2006 list of must-have software (some of which were not free).

Dion's speech on nationhood

Congrats to Stéphane Dion who was selected yesterday at the new leader of the federal Liberals. It has been a while, but the federal Liberals finally have a leader with a good head on his shoulders.

Watching a Harper-Dion debate will be fascinating, I think. Both are the smartest guys in their parties and became party leaders because of their keen minds, not their charisma.

On the issues, I think Dion and Harper share the same core beliefs on how to battle secessionists. I found Dion's speech from last week on the motion to recognize the "quebecois" as a nation. Once again, Dion breaks it down and explains the issue better than anyone else. I tried to make this point in a previous post, but no one is as clear as Dion on this issue. I suspect Harper would agree with everything Dion said.

Here is what Dion said in the Commons on November 27, 2006 speaking to the motion: "That this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada":

Mr. Speaker, the motion that the Prime Minister has put before us reads as follows: Que cette Chambre reconnaisse que les Québécoises et les Québécois forment une nation au sein d'un Canada uni.

In English, that this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada.

Before voting on a text that some of our fellow citizens believe will be of great significance, we have a duty to tell them clearly what that text means. In French, according to Le Petit Robert, “nation” has at least three meanings.

First, “Group of men presumed to have a common origin”, the ethnic sense of the word nation; second, “Group of people constituting a political unit, established in a defined territory …, and personified by a sovereign authority”, the state sense of the word nation; and third, “Group of people, generally large, characterized by awareness of its unity and a desire to live together”, the sociological sense of the word nation.

The sociological sense of the word “nation” is also found in Webster's Dictionary. In the first sense, the ethnic sense, Quebec and Canada are not nations, but French-Canadians are a nation, one that is concentrated primarily in Quebec but is present everywhere in Canada.

There are several other groups of people in our country that can also be considered to be nations in ethnic terms. I would therefore vote in favour of a motion that said: In Canada, including in the province of Quebec, there are several nations in the ethnic sense of the word.

In the second sense of the word “nation”, the state sense, the only sense that confers legal existence in international law, Canada and Canada alone is a nation. I would therefore vote for a motion that said: Canada forms a single nation which holds a seat at the United Nations.

In the third sense of the word “nation”, the sociological sense, we, the Québécois, are a nation, because we form a large group—nearly a quarter of the population—and we have an awareness of our unity and a desire to live together. In that sense, it is correct to say that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada. I will therefore vote for the motion that is before us.

However I add that the entire Canadian population is also a nation in the sociological sense of the term. As Canadians, we have the sense of our unity and the will to live together, and there is nothing that prevents the same individual to be part of different nations in the sociological sense of the term.

So I say, in this House, that I am a proud member of the Quebec nation and a proud member of the Canadian nation. I say that these identities are cumulative and indivisible, and that I will fight with every resource that democracy gives me against anyone who wants to make me choose between these two wonderful identities: Québécois and Canadian.

I know all too well the game that the independentist leaders want to play. They want to persuade us that we cannot be part of the Canadian nation because we, the Québécois, form a nation. In other words, they want to slide from the sociological to the state sense of the word “nation” : from the “community” sense to the “country” sense. As usual, they want to conflate the meaning of words in order to sow confusion in people’s minds.

Well, as usual, my country and my 33 million fellow citizens can count on me to counter confusion with clarity.

I know all too well that in the politics pursued by some people there is little regard for dictionary definitions.

Facing this motion, two quotations come to mind.

The first one is from the great Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran:Pity the nation divided into fragment, each fragment deeming itself a nation.

This is why the Bloc will vote for this motion. They hopes that it will help them to fragment Canada, but there is another interpretation of this motion, which is not only in accordance with the definition of the dictionary, but also noble and generous. It comes from José Carreras:

[Member spoke in Spanish as follows:] Cuanto màs catalàn me dejan ser, màs espanol me siento.

In other words, in proclaiming my identity as a proud Quebecker today, I am proclaiming my identity as a proud Canadian. Let us work together to make sure that this noble and generous interpretation of the motion that we will vote on today will prevail.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

'Effin expurgated version

Pulp Fiction fans will enjoy this two-minute 'effin expurgated version of the film.

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