Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Ingrates

I needed to get milk, and it was 20:00 on December 31. I didn't want to do it the following day, because I don't want store managers to get satisfaction out of making their employees work on holidays.

Nevertheless, I went to the bank, withdrew a twenty, and went to the 24-hour convenience store.

Twice--once when locking my bike before entering the store, and once while unlocking it after my purchase--a young couple walked by expressing their distaste at the fact that the clerk was on the phone the whole time.

When I went in, the guy was on the phone, speaking a language that even I couldn't recognize. I didn't care. He was probably talking with his family or something. I thanked him anyway.

I didn't say anything to the first couple, but when I heard the second couple, I reminded them that maybe they should be grateful that this guy was working on New Year's Eve.

"Still, it's not good customer service to talk on the phone like that," said the girl. She was all made up, and they were probably going to a bar for some late-night partying.

The guy commented, too: "Hey, I work in retail and I had to work today."

I imagine he probably works in the underwear department at Sears. The only people who probably would have been shopping at his store were consumer whores looking for their Boxing Week specials. If he didn't work today because the store were closed, a horse might have yawned.

Whatever the guy does, his fancy coat and clothes demonstrate that his employment is clearly not comparable to a convenience-store clerk who works the midnight shift for a large chain.

If you don't like it, go somewhere else. Oh, wait--that's right: this is the only place that's open. Fuck off already.

- RG>

When you drive a Hummer all day long, you may need to go to...

I frequently see this Hummer downtown. Maybe you have too? Or have you....

(Read the words closely...)


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Whoa. That's a fancy camera!

I got a new camera last week. It's leaps and bounds better than my old one. In addition to being small and not having a lens that goes in and out, it's waterproof and dustproof (my last camera became useless when it got dust inside the lens).

Unfortunately, when buying a camera, you don't get the option of getting a megapixel or two less and saving a lot of money, because those cameras sell out too quickly. So I paid more than I wanted to. But it's worth it.

One of the many features (aside from user-friendliness) is macro mode. This lets you take photos of things really close up. It saved me a lot of trouble when I saw a nice plant someone was tossing out. It looked alright, but there was some white stuff on it. I took a shot of it in macro mode and zoomed in on the 2.5" screen, and discovered the white things were bugs!

I left the plants where they were.

Earlier today, I was bored, so I took a photo of a ballpoint pen. Go on and click it to see the larger version.

In case you didn't notice, that black spot on the tip is a reflection of the camera in the tip. Forget horsepower, this puppy's got 7.1 megapixels, and isn't afraid to use them.

I assume that, like my typewriter, I'll keep finding more funky features as I use it (although I've already read through TFM).

- RG>

Monday, December 18, 2006

Burning ethanol does not reduce GHGs!

I had been meaning for quite a while to bitch about these ads on the bus stops, and also about Christmas lights.

This person wrote a comment on Slashdot, which I felt I had to reply to. I liked the way my reply was worded, so I thought I'd copy it here and kill a few stoned birds...
"I estimate rather conservatively that my compact florescent (CF) bulbs will pay for themselves in less than 18 months"

Sorry to burst your bulb, but this is a really dangerous style of reasoning.

For example, there are a lot of ads at the bus shelters here in Ottawa talking about how ethanol and biodiesel "reduces" greenhouse gases.

I'm sorry, but when you burn any hydrocarbon there are more--not less--GHGs in the atmosphere as a result. Carpooling with one other person will reduce your emissions by 50%; teleworking or cycling one day per week will reduce by 20%.

Similarly, CF bulbs (yes, I do use them) don't "pay for themselves": you don't get paid to use them, they only cost less, when compared to an older, less efficient technology. Do you still hear people talk about the money that they save from not having to pay for lamp oil by using incandescents?

That's why I don't bother with those LED Christmas lights: sure they use less energy than the old kind, but I use no energy at all when I don't have any Christmas lights! (well, plus I have it in for Christmas; see username)

The advantage of performing a task with less energy (or at less cost, or with fewer pollutants) often distracts people from asking themselves if that task needs to be done at all, or as much.

- RG>

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ontario MPPs have nothing to protect...

Earlier today, the Ontario legislature passed a motion Thursday to make helmets mandatory for cyclists of all ages?

Read the MPPs' doublespeak in the Hansard record.

See Citizens for Safe Cycling's letter opposing this action here, and a very strong argument against mandatory helmet laws.

Technically, the motion didn't cause helmets to be mandatory; only to call on the government to remove the exemption of those 18 and over, so there is still a slight chance.

Mandatory hemlet laws act as a barrier to cycling, are a tool for the police to pick on the poor, and distract from activities that actually make cycling safer.

- RG>

Friday, December 08, 2006

Letter to Citizen: Vote with your feet, not your car keys

Here is a letter I sent to the Citizen after reading this article. We'll see if they want to print it:

Buy, live locally to save energy

re: "'Turn off lights more, use less water,' Ambrose says"
Friday, December 8, 2006, A02

It's funny that federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is sending out the same messages to Canadians that her ministry's One Tonne Challenge campaign sent before she cancelled it earlier this year. She says "Industry alone is not going to be able to solve this issue."

Frankly, it'll be nice to see Industry do anything.

I am sick of being asked to do a little bit more. I try to set an example, but there's no more energy that I can save: Every light in my apartment is already compact fluorescent. My hydro bill is under $30 a month (with electric heaters). I bicycle everywhere, so I won't be "buying a more fuel-efficient car".

I buy local goods, which don't require as much energy to transport, but this is difficult. Maybe Minister Ambrose can tell me why the apple at the big-box grocery store from South Africa costs less than the one right next to it from Ontario? Or the beef from South America, and the myriad consumer products from China and southeast Asia (where, I might add, pollution regulations aren't as strict as in Canada)?

In Ottawa, the commercial property tax rate is much higher than the residential rate. When consumers buy their goods at a big-box store, local stores close, and the City loses their tax revenue. On top of this, the City must spend millions to build roads for citizens to drive to these large stores.

Those who want to reduce their energy consumption have already done so; Ms. Ambrose needs a better plan than asking politely if she wants to reach the rest of consumers. In the meantime, people should buy locally: vote with your feet, not your car keys.

- RG>

One small step closer to the future...

Last November (or was it December), when I got my new cell phone after switching to Bell (which has been a far better experience than Rogers. Grr...Rogers), I decided to try the 'voice tag' feature.

The purpose of this feature is you don't have to remember a person's number, and you don't even have to scroll through to find their name. You just have to speak their name.

The catch, of course, is knowing how to activate the thing that lets you use this feature. Obviously, it's not going to call my grandmother every time I say her name within earshot of my cellphone's microphone.

Last November, the only way I could figure out how to do this was by pressing and holding the "send" button, while the keyboard was unlocked. At that point, I figured it would be just as easy to use the one-touch dialing, the scrolling method, or old-fashioned dialing the digits.

I was bored a couple of weeks back, and discovered that if I were to press and hold the button on my handsfree headset, which sits on or near my ear for most hours of the day, I could activate this feature. It was quite a pleasant surprise. I spent the following hour or so recording as many voice tags as my phone could handle (to be honest, 20 isn't enough), when I probably had an essay to write or something. Actually, I have a couple things I need to write right now...

The next day, while riding my bike, I took advantage of the ability to call people without digging under my many layers of jacket and sweater to pull my cell phone out of my belt-pouch. I also called Bell, because I knew I'd be making more outgoing calls during the day with this handy-dandy feature.

Here's how it works: with my cell phone's keypad still locked, I just need to press and hold the button on my headset for a few seconds, wait for a sound, then speak the tag. It then finds the matching tag, replays it to confirm that it's dialing who I want it to dial, and it dials.

I liken it to the communicators from Star Trek. No, not those awkward handsets from TOS, but the two-taps-and-tell-me-who-to-call version from the later series.

Note to self: do a very close analysis of my phone usage on my next phone bill. Methinks I will be talking a lot more now.

- RG>