Breaking out of his pod

Post ImageToday the Edmonton Journal featured the Alberta Centennial Edition, a collection of stories about 100 Albertans living and working in the province today. Along with each one is a related story about Alberta’s history. If you follow the above link and navigate to page 46, you’ll find an article entitled “Breaking out of his pod”, all about Dickson Wong.

It’s a really well-written article, although it says that Dickson sings in three choirs when in fact he plays piano in three choirs. In fact, Dickson is quite the piano man! He played last night at Yi-Li’s BBQ, and he often entertains guests at the Paramagnus offices, as seen here. The article talks about a number of things including Paramagnus, the podcasting robot, and Dickson’s Chinese heritage and language. It mentions our leather couch and frequent late night trips to Denny’s! I even got quoted a few times.

The subtitle of the article is “Versatile computer engineer aims to market podcasting software in China” – perhaps more a prediction for the future than an accurate representation of present day, but intriguing nonetheless. Dickson scanned in the article, which you can find here.

Congratulations Dickson!

Read: Alberta Centennial Edition

The Key to Violet's Apartment

I went to see another Fringe show on Friday night after the birthday party. Sharon wanted us to get there early so that we’d get good seats unless the show sold out. Unfortunately, we ended up having a lot of time to kill for nothing as the show was almost empty! We went to see a solo act entitled, “The Key to Violet’s Apartment“.

It was written and performed by Paul Matwychuk – a huge guy! He was extremely tall, which I suppose is good because he definitely commands your attention. In the show he tells the story of his friend Violet, and the mystery surrounding the key to her apartment (hence the title). I don’t think Dickson, or Chu or the others enjoyed the show as much as I did. I thought Paul was an excellent story teller.

At the beginning, he explains how he was talking with his friend Max one afternoon about what it would be like to be a woman for a day, just to try it out. Eventually the two men ended up describing exactly the type of woman they would be. Paul then launched into the story of Violet, describing the way she looked. The thing is, I didn’t picture Violet the way he described as the story went on – I pictured her like the woman he described he would be. He saw himself in Violet? Or maybe that’s a little too deep 🙂

In any case, I thought it was pretty entertaining! The lighting was done really well too, as was the stage. Paul sat on a stool in front of a curtain of keys that glimmered red or blue depending on how the ighting changed. It made for a great story telling environment.

Read: Edmonton Fringe Festival

The Key to Violet's Apartment

I went to see another Fringe show on Friday night after the birthday party. Sharon wanted us to get there early so that we’d get good seats unless the show sold out. Unfortunately, we ended up having a lot of time to kill for nothing as the show was almost empty! We went to see a solo act entitled, “The Key to Violet’s Apartment“.

It was written and performed by Paul Matwychuk – a huge guy! He was extremely tall, which I suppose is good because he definitely commands your attention. In the show he tells the story of his friend Violet, and the mystery surrounding the key to her apartment (hence the title). I don’t think Dickson, or Chu or the others enjoyed the show as much as I did. I thought Paul was an excellent story teller.

At the beginning, he explains how he was talking with his friend Max one afternoon about what it would be like to be a woman for a day, just to try it out. Eventually the two men ended up describing exactly the type of woman they would be. Paul then launched into the story of Violet, describing the way she looked. The thing is, I didn’t picture Violet the way he described as the story went on – I pictured her like the woman he described he would be. He saw himself in Violet? Or maybe that’s a little too deep 🙂

In any case, I thought it was pretty entertaining! The lighting was done really well too, as was the stage. Paul sat on a stool in front of a curtain of keys that glimmered red or blue depending on how the lighting changed. It made for a great story telling environment.

Read: Edmonton Fringe Festival

Nighthawk Rules at the Fringe!

Post ImageLast night I went to a late show at the Fringe with Sharon and Dickson. This was my second year attending the annual festival, the first for Dickson, and the millionth for Sharon (she’s such a pro she knows the code-speak the volunteers use!). Parking was non-existent as usual, and there was a lot of people. It was fun though! Oh and for the record, I really don’t like this year’s name, “Fringe A-Go-Go”. Doesn’t appeal to me at all, I don’t know why.

We waited in line to buy tickets, and then had time to kill before the show started so we walked around a bit. To my surprise, they were selling mini-donuts! I love those things, I just can’t help myself when I see them. After I bought a bag, we went to Starbucks. I really wish they had made that one on Whyte Ave and Calgary Trail bigger – it was so crammed last night.

The show we went to see was called “Nighthawk Rules“, from the company 40 Foot Theatre, directed by Jeff Page. It was written by James Hamilton and Colin Doyle, who also starred as the two main characters. The only other character in the show was played by Lora Brovold. Here’s the description:

It’s hard to stay friends. Barry and Dick have been friends since grade 7. The problem is, Barry wants to settle down with his girlfriend Pam, but Dick still wants to drink all night and steal street-signs for kicks. While Dick pulls from one direction, Pam pulls from the other. Dick and Barry embark on a drinking game to end all drinking games-the object of which is the destruction of their friendship or the destruction of Barry’s future with Pam.

If you’re planning to go see the show, skip this paragraph. The description is okay, but it doesn’t really tell you what happens, which I guess is the point, but still. It turns out that Barry and Dick fall in love, and end up starting a relationship. Totally unexpected, but brilliantly portrayed in the show! The guy who played Dick was especially convincing, and delivered his lines perfectly. Lora who played Pam only had a very small on-stage role, and unfortunately for her, it was meant to be completely over the top, so you’re left not liking her character at all. There was a lot of laughing, a lot of swearing, and some good “shock value” moments too, such as when Barry and Dick share their first kiss.

It was a really great show! I enjoyed it, though I could have done without Sharon’s comments afterward. But don’t worry, I will exact my revenge one way or another. I’m planning to go see at least one more show, so watch for another review!

Read: Edmonton Fringe Festival

One Ugly Car!

On Wednesday evening I was driving with Ada to volunteering, and on the way we saw one of the dumbest, ugliest cars ever! It was a Cavalier, circa late 90s, and this is what the guy had done to it:

  • Attempted to put a body kit on the car, but it really only covered the sides and front.
  • Attached what appeared to be chicken wire to the front grill.
  • Painted the entire car an ugly, matte grey-blue.
  • Added a “dual” exhaust.
  • Took off the door handles!

That’s right! We stared at the car, because there were no door handles. We couldn’t figure out how the doors were supposed to open. Anyway, it was a really ugly car. If you’re going to pimp out your ride, at least start with something good, and don’t do a half-assed job.

I should invest in a small camera to keep in my car so that I always have one ready. Would have made an excellent “your caption here” photo!

Edmonton man addicted to updating gas prices

Post ImageWhen I posted about the price of oil on Tuesday, I linked to EdmontonGasPrices.com as a resource for checking out where the cheapest gas is in the city. Then today, reading the Journal, I came across an article talking about Scott Widney:

It’s only noon, but already Scott Widney has earned 450 points as a tipster for GasBuddy.com, a gas-price tracking service that posts good deals on fuel for more than 170 North American cities.

Using the screen name oilmaster, the 46-year-old logs into local gas-price tracking site edmontongasprices.com and reports the price changes at six south-side gas stations about three times a week.

“It’s pretty addictive,” he said Tuesday, the day gas prices at most Edmonton stations shot up to 102.9 cents per litre.

Whatever floats your boat, I suppose! Granted, he does get entries into contests for free gas for every 150 points he earns, so it’s not like he gets only satisfaction out of the deal.

Though I have always thought GasBuddy and EdmontonGasPrices.com were kind of a funny concept. If you found cheap gas, wouldn’t you instinctively want to keep it a secret? To keep it all for yourself? Maybe I’m just selfish. The other reason I thought it was a funny concept is that it allows gas stations to see how their competitors are pricing gas around the city without having to make some phone calls or (gasp!) drive around. Seems to me it would be easier to raise your prices just because someone else did.

Read: Edmonton Journal

Interac Done Right

Back in September of last year, when I was still attending class often enough to need to purchase lunch on campus, I wrote about the Interac Surcharge Insanity at the University of Alberta. To refresh your memory:

Today at CAB I decided I wanted Chinese food so I went over to the cafeteria place to get some. Grabbed my good old Coke, and headed to the counter to pay using my debit card. What happened next I was not prepared for. I was shocked…they wanted to charge me a 35 cent surcharge for using Interac.

I griped about the situation, and even wrote a cleaner version of my post which got published in the Gateway. I haven’t been to campus in a very long time, and even longer to buy food on campus, so I don’t know if things have changed. My guess is no, since lowering fees isn’t exactly natural to a post-secondary institution. What I can tell you though, is that not all companies are taking part in the surcharge madness!

BCOM Computer in Edmonton (and they have a Calgary store too) knows how Interac should be done. On every item they sell, there are two prices. One is the regular price, and the other is listed as a “cash rebate” price. What I didn’t realize until today however, is that you can use either cash or Interac to get the rebate price!

That, my friends, is exactly how Interac should be done. They save money by having me use my debit card, so they pass the savings on to me. Now if only we could get the University to do the same thing!

Read: BCOM Computer

Oil prices will go higher

Post ImageDriving to work earlier today, I noticed that some gas stations have raised prices again, this time to 102.9. I have never seen gas prices so high, and I never thought I would. I remember a few years ago when a litre of gas cost less than half what it does today. And the worst news of all? Oil prices are going to keep rising.

If you think I’m joking, read this Economist.com article. It does an excellent job of explaining things:

So far, however, the effect of higher prices has been surprisingly muted. Gas-guzzling America has seen GDP grow at a brisk clip, far outstripping many of its daintier peers in the rich world. Though high oil prices are contributing to America’s surging (and unsustainable) current-account deficit, they do not seem to be worrying consumers, who have kept on spending.

In part, this is because the oil-price records are an illusion, brought about by inflation. While nominal prices are at record levels, in real (inflation-adjusted) terms they are still well below those seen in the wake of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, when the cost of a barrel of oil hovered around $90 in today’s dollars (see chart). Consumers are better-off now—in 1980, the median personal income in America was $16,800 (in 2003 prices), versus $22,700 in 2003—and economies are more fuel-efficient. Both of these things should cushion the shock of higher prices.

There are other factors to consider too. During the hostage crisis, OPEC deliberately kept prices higher than the market could bear – but it backfired. We became more fuel efficient as a result, something OPEC would not want to do again. There’s a theory though, that they have lost the control required to keep prices artificially high anyway:

With the exception of Saudi Arabia, its producers are pumping as much as they can—and Saudi excess capacity is in heavy crude that is harder to refine into the cleaner fuels demanded by rich countries. OPEC made a great show of raising its members’ combined quotas to 28m barrels per day (bpd) in June. But thanks to rampant cheating, they were already pumping at least that much, and possibly as much as 30m bpd, making OPEC’s promises little more than a carefully staged bit of public relations.

There is an excellent Wikipedia article covering the current increase in oil prices, complete with breakdowns of demand and supply, and some excellent charts. It too, says the worst is yet to come:

While oil prices are considerably higher than a year ago, they are still far from exceeding the inflation-adjusted peak set in 1980.

There are lots of people talking about the gas prices, obviously. The number eight search on Technorati right now is gas prices. And over on Flickr, you can check out some of the prices around the world as people take pictures and post them.

Here in Edmonton, you can keep an eye on gas prices at EdmontonGasPrices.com. And if you think it’s time to park the car, the ETS website is http://www.takeets.com.

Read: Economist.com

Crazy Frog Radio

Post ImageI was reminded again today why I don’t listen to the radio. I was driving along when I finished my CD, so I decided to change to the radio, just because it had been so long since the last time I tuned in. First, I checked out The Bear, only to find commercials. So I next switched to The Bounce, and to my surprise, I heard that annoying Crazy Frog Axel F song!

You know, the song based on the ringtone that knocked Coldplay out of first place in the British music charts a while back. I couldn’t believe it! Anyway, I switched to Joe FM, and listened to that for a while. Then, around six, I switched to 96X and guess what was number eight on the hot 9 at 6? That damn frog!

So I’m going to have to burn some new CD’s tonight, or transfer more music to my Zen. In case you’re new to the frog, here’s the story from Wikipedia:

Crazy Frog is the marketing title of a ring tone based on The Annoying Thing, a computer animation created by Erik Wernquist. The animation was originally created to accompany a sound effect produced by Daniel Malmedahl whilst attempting to imitate the sound of a two-stroke moped engine. The advertising of the Crazy Frog brand has drawn a great deal of criticism, with advertising authorities being inundated with complaints about the frequency and focus of the adverts, and the display of the frog’s genitalia.

I guess I should just be happy I don’t live in Britain.

Read: Wikipedia

NowPublic Tags

Post ImageAs you can probably tell, I jumped on the tagging bandwagon very early on. I think tags are an excellent way to self-organize the vast amounts of information available to us. So I am really happy to see that NowPublic, a site I have written about before, has added proper tags!

I say proper tags, because while you could tag news at NowPublic in the past, you couldn’t really link to a tag. Now all you have to do is link to http://www.nowpublic.com/tags/edmonton, for example, to see all of the stories tagged with “edmonton”. Previously this required a search of the website.

Very cool! I’m happy to see the site continuously improving – can’t wait til it’s out of beta.

Read: NowPublic