Summer fun at K-Days 2016

No summer in Edmonton is complete without a trip to K-Days to eat greasy food, take in the sights and sounds of the midway, enjoy some entertainment, and to stay up late for the fireworks. It’s something Sharon and I do every year, and this year we were fortunate to have our gate admission, food, and tickets to the TD Comfort Zone covered by Northlands. We visited on Saturday, and couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Swing of the Century on the midway

This being the year of the Pokémon Go craze, the game was everywhere. From the Pikachu and other plush characters being won at the midway games to the five PokéStops on site, good luck ignoring Pokémon if you attend K-Days this year.


It turns out the first new food item we ate this year was the best! The Meatball Sub on a Stick from Pizza Casa actually won 1st Place in the New Food Contest and we can see why. It took a few minutes to make, but it had great flavor, wasn’t messy to eat, and actually didn’t feel all that unhealthy! I really liked that the meatballs were wrapped in dough, rather that in a bun that was awkardly skewered which is what I had imagined.

Meatball Sub on a Stick

The Teriyaki Chicken Perogies from International Perogies were on our list of new food items to try, but once we got there we were swayed by the Poutine Perogies. The $12 price seemed a bit steep, but the portion size was actually pretty generous. Have a bottle of water on hand when you eat this dish, because it was a bit salty, but it was very tasty.

Poutine Perogies

There are two things I always eat at K-Days: a corn dog and mini donuts. This year I tried the Bacon BBQ Corn Dog, which was pretty good and not much different than a plain corn dog with BBQ dipping sauce actually. I also tried the new Big Pickle Dog from Chicky’s Chicken. I really wanted to like it, but it was awful. The pickle was way too big and much too difficult to bite into. And in trying to bite into it, hot pickle juice flew everywhere. Worse, the hot dog itself was soggy and slid right out of the centre of the pickle. Just avoid it.

Big Pickle Dog

Also on the avoid list was the Mac N’ Cheese Stuffed Burger from Gourmet Hand Made Stuffed Burgers. Aside from the highly questionable food safety practices of the vendor (even for K-Days) the dish just lacked flavor. Like the pickle dog, two things I love combined should have been amazing, but instead it was pretty disappointing.

Games & Attractions

I wouldn’t say that we’re big midway gamers, but Sharon does love Bowler Roller (the 25 cent version). Though we spent a few dollars there, she actually won on her very first roll! Aside from Pokémon characters, emoji seemed to be the other hot prize this year. She won two of them.

Sharon won an emoji

There was also fun to be had inside! We spent some time inside at TechLife where lots of people were playing video and board games. I’m tempted to go back on the weekend for the Canadian Drone Racing Championships! One of the more interactive features was the Jenga Giant games, which Felicia and Sharon played. They attracted a small crowd at one point because of the height they got to before it call came crashing down.


Back outside we visited the K-Days Pow Wow, produced in partnership with the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. The pavilion features a different theme each day of the festival and “will host members from First Nation communities within Treaty Six and across Canada.” Every day between 3:30pm and 8:00pm you can experience a variety of traditional songs and dances.

Pow Wow Grand Entry

If I’m being honest it felt a little like it was tacked on, but to be fair we didn’t spend a lot of time at the Pow Wow. I do think it’s important to recognize that K-Days takes place on Treaty Six land and I hope this aspect of the festival can be built upon in future years.


In past years we have enjoyed the Super Dogs show inside the Expo Centre. This year, we watched the Peking Acrobats then went outside to take in The Canine Stars.

The Canine Stars

I mean, who doesn’t love dogs doing amazing stunts? They caught frisbees, jumped over incredibly high hurdles, and dove into a giant pool, splashing everyone around it. It’s the kind of event the crowd really gets into!

The Canine Stars

Entertainment, and specifically music, has been a focus for K-Days this year with great line-ups at both the North Stage and the South Stage. Shawn Hook, Rachel Platten, and Victoria Duffield are some of the artists you can hear at the North Stage, while major names like X Ambassadors, Moist, Tom Cochrane, Simple Plan, and Finger Eleven can be heard at the South Stage. On Saturday when we attended, I was thrilled that Matthew Good was performing!

For the first time, the South Stage was moved from the concrete jungle alongside the rides to the track infield at Northlands Park. With a capacity of more than 12,000, the fully-licensed, grassy infield gave the stage much more of a music festival vibe. Just to the left of the stage was the TD Comfort Zone, a VIP area “designed for those superfans who truly want a night to remember.” It’s a large, covered, raised structure with appetizers, a cash bar, and a great view of both the stage and the crowds. Compared to the 5,000 or so people out in the infield, the VIP area was pretty empty, and we think most in attendance were invited by Northlands. Still, it did make for a comfortable way to take in the show if beach balls and mosh pits aren’t your thing.

Matthew Good performs at the South Stage

The other great thing about the new South Stage is that it offers an amazing view of the fireworks! We’ve always made our way over toward the casino for fireworks in the past, but this year we were able to get closer and could see the lights of the midway in the background. I definitely recommend checking it out, even if you aren’t particularly interested in the musical act that night.


So far K-Days has had pretty good weather and with strong pre-sales thanks to the music line-up (I’ve heard twice as many pre-sales as last year), I think this could be an incredibly strong year for the festival. K-Days attendance peaked at 810,503 back in 2005. The festival was re-branded Capital EX the following year, and attendance plummeted to 688,369.

k-days attendance

What’s most interesting is that the average attendance for the seven Capital EX years was 731,992. That’s only slightly below the average of 753,933 for the preceding seven years. But the branding damage was done, and the switch back to K-Days in 2013 was widely celebrated.


So that was our experience this year! There’s a lot more to K-Days than we were able to take in, like rides, but we had lots of fun. Thanks to Northlands for the opportunity. You’ve got until Sunday to visit K-Days for yourself! You can see more photos from our 2016 experience here. You can read about our 2014 experience here. Be sure to check out Linda & Mike’s experience this year too!

Poor Jasper Avenue, Rossdale Land Sale, Star Wars in Edmonton

Here’s the latest entry in my Edmonton Etcetera series, in which I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. Have feedback? Let me know!

A new vision for Jasper Avenue

Back in May 2009, I attended the first open house for the Jasper Avenue New Vision project. Then in November of that year, a more in-depth open house was held at Enterprise Square. Six years later, only a tiny portion of that vision has come to life between 100 Street and 102 Street. The original project was meant to cover Jasper Avenue between 97 Street and 111 Street. In theory that work will still get done, but don’t hold your breath! Already the City is conducting public engagement on the rest of Jasper Avenue, west of 109 Street. I guess that makes sense, given how long it has taken them to get to this point, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could finish the original project first?

Cyclist, Jasper Avenue, March 22. 2015
Cyclist, Jasper Avenue, March 22. 2015, photo by More Bike Lanes Please

Here’s what a recent Edmonton Journal editorial said about our city’s main street:

“Pity poor Jasper Avenue. It has always been the canary in the recessionary coal mine in our city — it can go downhill very quickly when the economy softens. The signs are there already, bringing back echoes of Edmonton’s bad old reputation as Deadmonton.”

In general I agree with Paul who wrote in response that “the sense of doom and gloom is overstated and unhelpful.” Yes there are empty spaces along Jasper Avenue that badly need to be filled, but there are plenty of examples of positive changes to the street too.

Filling those spaces is important but it’s not enough. What Jasper Avenue could really benefit from is a reduction in traffic lanes and wider sidewalks throughout, not just around 101 Street. Here’s what I wrote back in 2009:

“Almost every feature of Jasper Avenue is geared toward vehicle traffic. Any redevelopment needs to shift the focus to pedestrian traffic.”

Sadly, not much has changed.

Rossdale land sale to the Province

Council voted this week to move forward with negotiations to sell a block of land in Rossdale to the Province for about $13 million. The land, located southwest of 96 Avenue and 105 Street, is considered “surplus to municipal requirements” and is currently vacant park land with just four houses. The Province wants the land so that it can “restrict development on these lands to protect the view corridor to the legislature from the bridge crossing.”

The problem is that the City’s West Rossdale Urban Design Plan aims to “create a complete, mixed-use, highly liveable, walkable, and sustainable community” that could be home to 4,500 people. Council feels that the money isn’t the problem anymore (the $13 million is apparently market rate) but they are concerned about fit with the urban design plan. If the Province won’t allow any development on the land, that could be an issue.

The West Rossdale plan does include a recommendation to “reserve and enhance view corridors” so that part is aligned at least.

Star Wars in Edmonton

Forget Christmas, Star Wars is what everyone is talking about right now. And that means the media are looking for local angles to basically tell the same story as every other news organization in the world right now: people are excited for this movie! And why not, the reviews sound incredibly positive.

South Edmonton Common’s Cineplex theatre is one of six across Canada offering a Star Wars movie marathon where fans can watch the original six films before seeing the new one. Good luck getting tickets though, as well over 6000 tickets had already been sold at the southside theatre by Monday. Still, five of the theatre’s sixteen screens will be showing the new Star Wars movie. On Friday, The Force Awakens will play 103 times in Cineplex theatres throughout Edmonton.

So we know it’s going to be a big deal. If you’re going to wait a few days to watch it, then you can read about it in the meantime. Here is 5 ways to “find the Force” from an Edmonton Star Wars superfan, and of course there are interviews with lots of other Star Wars superfans. Here’s a sneak peek at the movie from an official Star Wars artist who lives right here in Edmonton. Even Paula decided to write about Star Wars this week! If you’re looking for a primer on what happened after Return of the Jedi, read this.

May the force be with you!

Media Monday Edmonton: Oprah comes to town

Oprah Winfrey was in Edmonton tonight for the first of three Canadian stops on a mini speaking tour that will also take her to Calgary and Vancouver later this week. She has been the talk of the town lately, with thousands of Edmontonians looking forward to hearing from the TV icon herself (and spending a lot of money to do so). I was fortunate enough to attend with Sharon courtesy of EEDC, one of the event’s sponsors. While I didn’t exactly grow up watching Oprah, many people around me regularly watched her show, such as my Mom and Grandma. I think most of the people in attendance tonight (primarily women, it’s true) are fans of Oprah because of the good she does in the world, because of what she does for other people, but for me the appeal has always been her larger-than-life personality. I wasn’t hoping for a life-changing moment tonight. Instead, I was hoping to gain a better understanding of what makes Oprah the woman she is.

Oprah in Edmonton

Tonight’s event was hosted by Global Edmonton’s Carole Anne Devaney. She admitted to being extremely nervous, and shared with us some of her own memories of Oprah’s show. She then got the crowd fired up by sharing a few “favorite things” from Edmonton that Oprah will be going home with. She chose sausage, a photo/painting of the river valley, a basket of goodies from Duchess Bake Shop, and an Edmonton Oilers jersey with #1 and Winfrey emblazoned on the back. Oh and a purse shaped like truck nuts. “Ok maybe that’s not one of Edmonton’s favorite things,” she joked.

Oprah in Edmonton

I thought Carole Anne did a great job, and she looked absolutely smashing. “We’re all going to leave a little bit more inspired, a little bit more motivated, and a little bit more enlightened,” she said before she left the stage.

After an official introduction from CIBC’s Gary Mayzes, it was finally time for Oprah to come out on stage. Here’s a look at what it was like:

It was pretty incredible! As you can see, she decided to humor us and Carole Anne with the truck nut purse.

Despite all the chatter about Oprah coming to town, and despite the show being sold out, no one really knew what to expect. Oprah herself addressed this when she got on stage. The program explained that the event would provide “an intimate personal profile of someone who has touched people across the globe for more than a quarter century as one of the most powerful voices in media, resonating with and bringing hope to people of all walks of life.” Oprah set the record straight. “I am here because I have a glorious life; and I want that for you.”

Oprah in Edmonton

The next couple of hours seemed to go by pretty quickly. Using clips from her show, photos from her childhood, but mostly just stories, Oprah shared with us how she got from Kosciusko, Mississippi to Edmonton. I felt at times as if I were in a church sermon, especially with the various Oprahisms she shared. Here’s a taste:

  • “I come from the power, I have access to the power, but I am not the power.”
  • Purpose is Spirit seeking expression.
  • “Figure out what your defining thread is, and then share it in service to others.”
  • “The defining question, the thing everybody wants to know is, ‘do I matter?’”
  • “Life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you.”
  • “Failure at its most poignant is simply a push in a new direction.”

It’s kind of hard to read those statements out-of-context, I realize. Integrated with stories from her life and things she has learned from other people, they make a lot more sense. Based on the reaction from some folks on Twitter, you could look at Oprah’s remarks as simply popular psychology, but in the room, listening to her speak, they were something more. I think many people did in fact walk away feeling inspired. She’s a powerful storyteller, if nothing else.

She didn’t talk too much about the media part of her career, but there were a few tidbits I picked up. She talked about the recent interview with Lance Armstrong of course, and said that it wasn’t about making him say something a certain way, but rather it was offering him the space to share the truth. She talked about the countless hours of research and preparation that went into that interview, and told us that she had 112 questions prepared.

Oprah in Edmonton

Oprah also talked about the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). She said that 2012 was a terrible year, that she got slaughtered in the press for the network’s struggles. Reflecting on the last few years, she said a change happened when she began to look at herself rather than those around her for answers. “I had gotten comfortable with being successful,” she admitted. That realization led to what she described as a paradigm shift – a shift back toward the founding philosophy of, “how can the network be of service?” And she made a bold declaration: “In three years, the network will be a force for positivity.” She sounded positively energized by the challenge.

After her remarks, George Stroumboulopoulos joined Oprah on stage for a brief sit-down interview. I don’t think the interview was long enough for George to get into a rhythm, and given that Oprah likes to talk she dominated the time. Still, in the short amount of time he had, George managed to impress Oprah. After she described a recent experience with children, he asked, “What did you learn about yourself through that experience?” To which Oprah responded, “Ooh, that’s the kind of question I would ask!”

Oprah in Edmonton

Given that Oprah was such a major supporter of Barack Obama’s in 2008, many wondered why she was in Canada today instead of back in the US for his second inauguration. It turns out, a simple mix-up is to blame. She thought the inauguration was yesterday (which technically it was), though she quickly added: “because I’m here in Edmonton with you!”

The interview ended rather abruptly, but Oprah didn’t skip a beat, standing to offer some final words. She described her prayer for everyone in attendance, and said she hoped the kindness shown to her tonight is returned a thousand-fold to everyone. “What you have to offer is needed,” she declared.

Oprah in Edmonton

I really enjoyed the event tonight, probably more than I expected to. Yes at times Oprah was a little too new-age-preachy for me, but it’s clear that what she says comes from an honest and heartfelt place. I enjoyed hearing her talk about her struggles and her successes. I admire her ability to learn from experiences and her devotion to becoming a better human being. And I’m glad I got to see even just a little bit of the real Oprah – from the recognition that she has an ego, to her funny voices as she told us stories. It was a great night!

Oprah in Edmonton

You can see more photos here.

Ticket Giveaway: Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo

Adam West. Billy Dee Williams. Charisma Carpenter. These are just a few of the special guests you’ll find later this month at Edmonton’s premier pop culture show, the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. This new event grew out of a partnership between the Edmonton Toy & Comic Show and the Calgary Expo:

Whether you’re a connoisseur of sci-fi, horror, gaming, fantasy, animation, toys, and comic books, or you simply have a keen interest in pop culture, then this is the show for you. The Edmonton Expo will feature vendors, exhibitors, celebrities, and artists, from every nook and cranny of the pop culture universe, not to mention the many hours of fantastic programming included with admission.

The event takes place on October 20 and 21 at, appropriately, the Edmonton Expo Centre. Check out the detailed schedule here. You can see the event on ShareEdmonton here.

Ticket prices range from $15 for a single day to $150 for a VIP pass and are on sale now at Ticketmaster. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by the show’s PR folks recently with some tickets to give away! Here’s what is up for grabs:

A family pack of Edmonton Expo tickets (2 Adult tickets and 2 Children ages 10 and under) and priority seating at the Whedonverse Panel, where Sean Maher and Charisma Carpenter will lead a discussion on what it has been like working within the Whedonverse and the benefits their careers have had working beside legendary writer, producer, and director Joss Whedon.

To enter the contest, simply leave a comment below identifying an “Edmonton superhero”. It can be a real person or a character you make up!

Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm on October 17, 2012. I will contact the randomly chosen winner by e-mail by October 18, 2012.

Good luck!

Recap: TEDxEdmonton 2011

More than 200 people attended the second TEDxEdmonton which took place on Saturday in the intimate Rice Theatre at The Citadel in downtown Edmonton. TEDxEdmonton is an “independently organized TED event” (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” It’s pretty likely that you’ve seen a TED talk at some point – more than 900 have been made freely available on the TED site. The idea behind TEDx is simple: stimulate dialogue at the local level by adopting the 18-minutes-or-less format and creating a TED-like experience.

The theme for this year’s event was “seeds of innovation”:

We’re in the midst of an exciting era. We’re living in an interconnected knowledge economy shaped by the creative industries, information technology, and globalization. And we’re seeing a new generation of connected artists, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs emerging who can transform seeds of new ideas into bold new works, companies and products. At TEDxEdmonton 2011, we’ll meet some of these remarkable people, some from abroad, others from right here in our hometown. We promise you another dizzying day of inspiration, wonder and curious delight, as we experience the stories, visions, and passions of these bold individuals through the art of live presentation.

After last year’s edition, I’d say the bar for TEDxEdmonton was set extremely high. The production quality, the excellent speakers, and the time built-in for discussions were just a few of the reasons that so many people thought last year’s event was superb. Matching or exceeding that success was a tall order for the organizing committee this year, but I think it’s safe to say they nailed it.

First impressions are everything, and TEDxEdmonton did not disappoint. Upon registering, attendees were given a lanyard with a nice big nametag that had space on it for a photo. The next step was to have a mini-Polaroid photo taken that could be taped onto the nametag. It’s kind of strange to have a photo of yourself on your nametag (I mean, you can see my face, can’t you?) but the nametags were indeed a great keepsake from the event. More importantly, it was an opportunity for people to have some fun and to get creative. And they did!

TEDxEdmonton 2011

Last year’s stage was created by the University of Alberta’s Student Design Association and it was, in a word, remarkable. It was colorful and visually interesting, and was going to be difficult to top this year. Once again the SDA was tasked with creating the stage for TEDxEdmonton, and the design they came up with was just as impressive as last year’s. Less colorful but more vertical, the stage provided the perfect backdrop for the day’s presentations. It sounded complex too – they took inspiration from Edmonton itself and used light to plot points of interest from around the city on the design. You can see some work-in-progress photos of both stages at the SDA’s Flickr page. You can also follow them on Twitter!

TEDxEdmonton 2011

The day’s presentations were broken up into three sessions: Transformation, Unstoppable, and Provocative. There were ten presentations in all, plus three TEDTalks, one for each session. Local power-couple Ryan Jespersen and Kari Skelton were our hosts for the day, and they did a wonderful job of keeping things moving.

Ryan Jespersen & Kari Skelton

TEDxEdmonton 2011Vik Maraj, co-creator of Unstoppable Conversations, kicked things off with the first presentation. His talk centered around the idea that we need to be game-changing. He used the metaphor of a child learning to walk to make his point, saying that we need to “start trying to walk, and stop trying not to fall” if we want to be successful. His talk was full of great one-liners, like this one: “The future derives from creation, not from surviving it.” He was a great speaker, and was the right choice to lead off the day.

TEDxEdmonton 2011Our second speaker was Jessie Radies, founder of Live Local Alberta and owner of The Blue Pear restaurant. She talked about the importance of the local economy, through of mix of statistics and personal anecdotes. Her talk touched on the challenges of being a farmer in Alberta, noting that the average farm has experienced a net loss for the last 20 years. She also talked about her belief that a rising tide would lift all boats and her dedication to sourcing things locally. She issued a sort of challenge to the audience, saying that “by shifting a portion of our spending we can significantly change what our community looks like.”

TEDxEdmonton 2011Todd Babiak of the Edmonton Journal was up next to talk about the importance of story. Without question his talk was my favorite of the day, a sentiment echoed by many in the audience. His talk was the right mix of serious, funny, and thought-provoking. He talked about his kids, noting that children instinctively understand what a story is. We unlearn that knowledge as we get older, without even realizing it. Todd stressed the importance of having a story: “If you haven’t built your story, the most you can hope to achieve is mediocrity.” He also poked fun at cliches and jargon as he touched on authenticity, a section of his presentation that made everyone laugh. “You have to find the higher spiritual truth of your story in order for it to be effective,” he said. Finally, he got everyone thinking about writing their story by reminding us that “the longer you wait to tell your story, the more difficult it becomes.”

Our first TEDTalk of the day came next. We watched Steven Johnson’s talk titled Where good ideas come from. It was filmed in July 2010, and introduced the intriguing concept of the “liquid networks” found in London’s coffee houses. The key idea was that connecting ideas is more important than protecting them, because “chance favors the connected mind.”

Colleen Brown closed out the first session with an awesome musical performance. She’s a fantastic singer/songwriter and more than a few people in the audience proudly proclaimed that they were new fans as a result! It was a great way to end the morning.

TEDxEdmonton 2011

Lunch was next on the schedule and as with the rest of TEDxEdmonton it was anything but ordinary. Instead of individual lunches, groups of five or six people were given a wooden box filled with sandwiches, salads, drinks, and treats and were encouraged to eat together. Most groups ended up outside where the sun was shining and the streets were packed for the Edmonton Pride Parade. It was great to see discussions happening all over the place. Kudos to Elm Café and Duchess Bake Shop for the delicious food and the creative presentation!

TEDxEdmonton 2011 TEDxEdmonton 2011

The second session of the day began with another TEDTalk, Adora Svitak’s presentation rom February 2010 titled What adults can learn from kids. Her message is a powerful one, and I think everyone really enjoyed the talk. It’s definitely worth watching!

TEDxEdmonton 2011Our fifth speaker was Laura McIlveen, a chemical engineer at Alberta Innovates Technology Futures. She started out with a provocative statement – “You probably think that engineers aren’t sexy” – then proceeded to explain why engineers are in fact, sexy. Laura encouraged everyone to “think about the possibilities that don’t seem possible, because that’s what engineers do.” She outlined four key steps: ask questions, dream big, build a team, and make it happen. To help illustrate her point, Laura talked about natural fibers like straw and said “we can spin straw into almost anything!” She then showed of a longboard, made of hemp!

TEDxEdmonton 2011Veer Gidwaney, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of, was our next speaker. He said “we need to change how we live” and talked about some of the major challenges we face, such as “Mr. Couch and Mrs. Potato Chip”. Veer’s key message was that small acts make a movement, and he encouraged the audience to “go do good”. He also shared a big idea: “What if we as a nation were to commit ourselves in ten years to match our national debt in positive actions done?” Veer was a really strong speaker, clear and powerful.

After another “conversation and refreshment” break, we were back for session three. Anthony Atala’s TEDTalk titled Printing a human kidney kicked things off. It was filmed just a few months ago, and documents some of the incredible advancements that have been made in bio-engineering. Truly fascinating.

TEDxEdmonton 2011Our next speaker was Sheetal Mehta Walsh, a champion of microfinance and founder of She talked about entrepreneurship through the lens of her experiences in the slums of India. For her, entrepreneurship has become a way of life, and she had some very intriguing ideas. One of them was that she wants to be known simply as an “entrepreneur” rather than a “social entrepreneur”. She explained, “we should all be socially conscious.” Sheetal also talked about the importance of networking, saying “I often call my network my intellectual property.” She also had one of the unintentionally funny moments of the day, when she asked if everyone in the audience starts their day with Tim Horton’s coffee and no hands went up. I guess we were a Credo/Transcend/Starbucks crowd!

TEDxEdmonton 2011Meagan Kelly, a journalist and filmmaker, was our eighth speaker of the day. She gave an abbreviated talk on her debut film, a documentary that examines a young girl’s struggle to escape poverty on a garbage dump in the Philippines. The sights and sounds she shared were striking. One memorable moment was when Grace, the young girl featured in the film, started singing Justin Bieber’s hit “Baby”.

TEDxEdmonton 2011Our next speaker was Aaryn Flynn, the Studio General Manager of local game developer BioWare. He used the opportunity to discuss BioWare’s approach to innovation. “Innovation relies on diversity,” he said as he talked about the cultural diversity at the company. Another key tactic utilized by BioWare is to “decide at the last responsible moment.” The most memorable mantra from Aaryn’s talk was definitely “no play, no say”. Basically if you don’t play the game, you don’t get a say in its development. It’s easy to see how this might be applied to elsewhere too. Aaryn finished with a brief demo of Kinect support in the upcoming game Mass Effect 3, noting that it opens the door to a wide range gameplay and accessibility possibilities.

TEDxEdmonton 2011Last but not least, Minister Faust (Malcolm Azania) was the final speaker of the day. His talk was titled “The Cure for Death by Small-Talk”, the same name as his upcoming book. He was a great speaker to end on, as he got the crowd laughing, thinking, and probably doing some serious self-reflection all at the same time. Instead of asking “what do you do for a living” at a party, Minister Faust suggests asking “what do you do for fun?” He touched on the etymology of “conversation”, explaining that is all about “living together” and the way you treat people. He told the audience to “ask people questions that will connect you for life.” Minister Faust’s talk ran slightly over time, and after he left the stage our hosts had to skip through another thirty slides or so that he didn’t get to – he could have talked all afternoon!


While some of the day’s presentations were definitely better than others, all succeeded at inspiring and sparking a dialogue. The entire day was streamed online for free, and while some technical glitches made it difficult to watch during session one, many people tuned in for the rest of the day. Twitter was active all day long using the hashtag #TEDxEdmonton and the discussions are still ongoing!

TEDxEdmonton 2011

Before the day was finished, Ken Bautista took the stage to make some announcements:

  • TEDxEdmonton 2012 will take place next spring. The larger Maclab Theatre, which seats 500-600 people, has already been booked as the venue. Tickets will go on sale for 2011 attendees in the next few weeks.
  • The TEDxEdmonton Salon Series will be launching in 2012, a series of smaller scale TED-like events.
  • A new event is being planned for fall 2012 – TEDxEdmonton Education, focused on building and inspiring a learning revolution.

Stay tuned to the TEDxEdmonton website and Twitter for updates.

I think it’s safe to say that TEDxEdmonton 2011 was a big success. The organizing committee deserves a ton of credit for making such a world-class event happen here in Edmonton. Well done everyone!

TEDxEdmonton 2011 TEDxEdmonton 2011 Organizing Committee

You can see the rest of my photos from TEDxEdmonton here. Watch for video and other updates to be posted on the TEDxEdmonton website over the next few weeks.

Recap: U2360° Tour in Edmonton

Last night I attended the U2 concert at Commonwealth Stadium here in Edmonton along with more than 63,000 other fans. Considering I purchased the tickets way back on November 2, 2009, it’s fair to say it was a long time coming. Fortunately, Bono and crew did not disappoint! Here’s the official U2 entry for the tour.

U2360 Edmonton

This was the first thing we saw as we walked toward our seats around 6pm. Called “the claw” or “the spaceship” it very nearly became the star of the show. The structure is 164 feet tall requires 120 trucks to transport. Oh and there’s three of them because they take so long to setup and teardown!

U2360 Edmonton

It was Sharon’s first real rock concert, so that just added to all of the hype leading up to the concert!

U2360 Edmonton

Our seats were so high up that I joked we could see the balcony of our condo downtown! We could see the building anyway. Being high up turned out to be totally fine with the large stage and video screens. Plus I think it probably resulted in better photos.

U2360 Edmonton

The Fray opened the show at about 7:30pm. They performed some familiar singles like “How to Save a Life” and “You Found Me” as well as a couple of new songs.

U2360 Edmonton

Then we waited. And waited. While we waited, the Claw showed us interesting statistics and the local time for cities around the world.

U2360 Edmonton

Finally around 9:15pm, U2 emerged and the Claw started to come to life! The show was on!

U2360 Edmonton

For most of the evening, the data connection on my phone completely stopped working. Apparently the antennas were just overloaded with everyone trying to text, tweet, and call (archive).

U2360 Edmonton

One of my favorite aspects of the evening was watching the Claw transform. There were all different kinds of light combinations, and the video screen in the middle actually expanded and contracted as well. The two bridges connecting the inner circle to the outer circle also frequently moved around throughout the evening, meaning the band could interact with fans all around the stage without having to walk too far.

U2360 Edmonton

The first part of the show didn’t seem very political, at least compared to the latter half which featured Amnesty International and the ONE campaign.

U2360 Edmonton

At one point Bono pulled a lucky fan on stage, and she could barely let him go! Bono didn’t do too much talking throughout the show, but he did spend some time talking about Edmonton Oiler Gilbert Brule. It turns out that Brule and his girlfriend picked up Bono and his assistant while they were hitchhiking in West Vancouver (archive)! Honestly, I thought he was joking at first.

U2360 Edmonton

That was my favorite shot of the night. As it got darker the lighting of the Claw just looked better and better.

U2360 Edmonton

Near the end of the show, Bono encouraged everyone to take our their cell phones. It created a pretty spectacular sight in Commonwealth Stadium!

Here are three quick videos and a longer one that I recorded last night:

Sharon and I had a great time! It was truly a unique experience, and U2 delivered a high energy performance from start to finish. We avoided the nightmare that was the lineup for the LRT by walking home afterward. As we walked past the loading area adjacent to the stadium, we noticed the big trucks were already in motion – presumably they waste no time in tearing down the stage!

You can see the rest of my photos from the evening here. I’ve also created a playlist with some short videos here.

Britney Spears is on Twitter!

twitter When I was younger, I thought Britney Spears was the most incredible thing in the world. Over time I’ve come to realize that she’s not, and that I can like her music without necessarily being a fan of her. Besides, she doesn’t need me – she’s got millions of fans around the world. And that’s exactly what makes the news of her official Twitter account so interesting:

I’ll say this, though. This is solid gold for Twitter. A few more of these and it will be hard to argue that it isn’t going mainstream.

There’s more discussion at Techmeme. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow Britney here.

The Twitter account is part of her newly relaunched website. It also includes links to her profiles on YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. Obviously it’s not Britney herself spending the time to engage with fans on all of these sites, her people are doing that for her. To their credit, they’re up-front about that. Here’s the bio on Twitter:

Yes! This is the real Britney Spears! We’ve got updates from her team, her website and yes, even Britney herself!

Michael Arrington is right – if Twitter continues to sign up high profile celebrities, it’ll be hard to argue that Twitter is not going mainstream. I can’t confirm if this is legit or not, but I’m pretty sure that Kanye West is officially on Twitter too.

I wonder who will join Twitter next?

UPDATE: A few others I know about – David Usher and Matthew Good

UPDATE (11/24/2008): It seems Britney’s team has worked some magic, she is now simply @britneyspears. If you were following her old account, you’ve automatically be migrated. is better offline than online A few weeks ago, Sharon and I signed up for the free trial at, which is Canada’s equivalent to Netflix. We rent movies fairly regularly, usually at the local Blockbuster. The appeal of was the larger library of titles – Blockbuster’s selection is pretty limited. When our free trial expired at the end of last week, we decided to pay for the 1 DVD plan which costs $5.95 per month. Why? Not because we fell in love with, but because it will save us money.

You can fairly easily break the experience into two parts – the online part and the offline part. The former is where you search for titles, select the ones you want to rent, and pay for your account. The latter is receiving the DVDs in the mail, watching them, and then returning them. In my experience thus far, the online experience sucks and the offline experience rocks.

Where should I begin with the website…it’s slow, awkward, confusing, and worst of all, it’s inconsistent. Depending on where you are on the site, you’ll see either the old look:

Or the new one:

The logo, navigation, colors, and page width are all different between the two – it’s very annoying. Another thing that bugs me about the site is the rating stars (sometimes they are yellow, sometimes they are red, sometimes mousing over them changes them, etc). Like everything else, they are confusing and seem inconsistent. Thankfully, the offline experience is much better. Our DVDs arrived quickly, and the packaging was simple and effective. It’s lazy but quite enjoyable to have movies simply arrive at the door! Sending them back is a breeze too – just stick them in the already prepared envelope and drop them in the mail.

New releases at Blockbuster cost $5.97 to rent, and “favourites” cost $4.19. Then on top of that you’ve got to factor in gas prices and the fact that they may not have the movie you’re after. For $5.95 at we get two movies with free shipping, and as many additional movies as we want for $2.49 shipping and handling provided we only have one DVD out at a time. Combined with the larger selection of movies, it’s simply a better deal.

Rob recently wrote about at Techvibes, pointing out that the four-year-old company recently shipped its 10 millionth DVD. Quite an accomplishment, I agree, but is still no Netflix.

Until something better comes along however, I’m happy enough with

The Dark Knight

There’s no question that the must-see movie of 2008 is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. It took in over $150 million in its opening weekend, breaking the records for the opening day and opening weekend, and also the opening weekend for an IMAX film. It has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 9.6 out of 10 rating at IMDB. The Dark Knight is pretty much the only thing people are taking about lately when it comes to entertainment.

the dark knight

I’ve seen the film twice now. I saw it in IMAX at midnight on Thursday the 17th (technically the 18th) and again at 10pm in the normal theatre on Friday. I had advance tickets for both, but of course still lined up three hours ahead of show time to ensure good seats. As most of my friends know, I had been looking forward to The Dark Knight for months. I tend to have one movie a year that I really want to see, and this year that was The Dark Knight. So I had high expectations going in, and thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

Yes, Heath Ledger is fantastic. His performance will be talked about for years to come, even if he doesn’t win an Oscar for it. Yes, Christian Bale once again proves he can play both the troubled caped crusader and the billionaire playboy at the same time. Aaron Eckhart surprised me with his performance as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman are all spectacular as you’d expect. And even Maggie Gyllenhaal was pretty good, though I agree with Sharon that almost anyone could play the role of Rachel Dawes.

The action sequences in the film are amazing. Even the second time I couldn’t believe my eyes! There are car chases, explosions, daring stunts, and much more. And a main character dies. There’s a definite wow factor in the movie.

I think there are a few things that take The Dark Knight from great to superb. One is the cinematography. Nolan and his team always seem to pick the most interesting perspective for the shot, and the lighting is appropriately eerie. Another thing is the pacing – neither time did it feel like I had been sitting for two and a half hours. The cuts seemed natural and appropriate. A third thing is what I’m going to call “attention to detail”. Everything looks so great in the film! I think Nolan’s desire to avoid CGI and go for the realest shot possible definitely made a difference.

As for IMAX versus regular screens, I have to say that the IMAX does indeed make a difference. It felt like we were going over the edge of the building when the camera did, and the sound and vibrations from Batman’s Tumbler were definitely impressive. If you can, see The Dark Knight in IMAX.

In the theatre on Thursday, a group in front of us started talking about the Batman movies of the 90s. One girl asked how the story in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight fits in with the previous movies. Her friend stood up, and very strongly said “as far as you’re concerned, the first Batman movie ever made was Batman Begins. Forget about the rest of them.” I couldn’t agree more. Nolan has definitely created something special.

Can’t wait for the third installment now!

Canadians celebrate new Xbox 360 dashboard, long for Netflix-like partnership

xbox 360Xbox 360 owners should be excited about the announcements Microsoft made today at E3! A number of new games were shown, including Fable 2, Gears of War 2, Fallout 3, and Resident Evil 5 (interesting that the most anticipated games are all sequels). They announced a bunch of new downloadable games, and will finally make community-designed games available in the next update. They’re enabling “play from hard drive” functionality, and have added a few new display support options.

Other new features include the ability to browse Xbox Live Marketplace content on the web, and the Xbox Live Party System which enables up to eight friends to connect to watch a movie, play a game, or share photos. Related to that feature are the new avatars, an extension to gamertags akin to Nintendo’s Mii.

And then there’s the two biggest announcements of all: the dashboard is getting a makeover, and Live Gold members will soon have access to Netflix streaming. When I heard about the dashboard update I thought, “finally”:

“When people turn on their Xbox 360s this fall, they’ll get an entirely new interface and Dashboard, an entirely new Xbox through the magic of software,” said John Schappert, head of Live services.

Microsoft is a software company after all, it’s about time they take advantage of that to do some cool new things with the console.

When I heard about the Netflix streaming feature, I thought “cool”. I agreed right away with MG Siegler:

With one fell swoop, Microsoft may have dealt its strongest blow in the consumer market to Apple in years.

Then I realized I live in Canada.

Netflix only serves U.S. customers at the moment, and as far as I know plans to expand to Canada and the UK were shelved a long time ago. The amount of content on Xbox Live for Canadians is already far behind our American counterparts, and this announcement just means we’re even further behind. As Mathew Ingram says:

If what you like is anything made by the CBC and the occasional CTV show like Little Mosque on the Prairie, then you are probably going to be in heaven. Otherwise, you are out of luck.

Sad, but true. I’m excited for the new dashboard and other features, but once again disappointed that as a Canadian my access to media via the Internet is severely limited.