Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Hollywood loves underdog stories: the little guy fighting the evil empire and ultimately winning or losing with dignity. But what about when two villains go up against eachother? Like Freddy vs Jason, Alien vs Predator, or, most recently, Apple vs Apple. The result is the equivalent a showdown between two schoolyard bullies: pure unadulterated enjoyment of violence.

An expensive legal battle is unfolding between Apple Computer and Apple Corps, the company owned by The Beatles. Both claim ownership of the humble fruit as their logo but only Apple Corps claims to have the rights to associate the apple with music. With iTunes and the iPod, Apple Computer has treaded on opposing gang territory.

The first legal between the two Apples lasted two years. How long will this battle last and where will it lead? Will the victor go on to tackle other potential threats like:

Watch on the sidelines and be sure to get the commemorative candied apples.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Chit-chat fodder

Years ago, I bought something from the US and I was randomly assigned a customs broker. This one time transaction unexpectedly resulted in a delightful monthly e-newsletter that brings me interesting tidbits about the world.

In anticipation of the weekend, and all those parties that you'll no doubt be attending, I'll list some of the most interesting facts I've gathered from the e-newsletter recently. By regurgitating this trivia, you'll either be the life of the party or the one everyone ignores - it all depends on the party.

Bubble Wrap was created in the 1950s by two men working in a New Jersey garage who thought they had created a new textured wallpaper.

A U.S study has found that people who live within a mile of a grocery store have a 26 per cent higher risk of being in an auto accident, and thus pay higher insurance rates, second only to those living within a mile of a restaurant who have a 30 per cent higher risk of being in a car crash. The study looked at over 15 million policyholders and 2 million claims mapping the closeness of the vehicle owners' addresses to various businesses.

A British supermarket is launching the ultimate life-enhancing snack, the musical sandwich. In a trial certain to be welcomed by the estimated one million Britons who eat their lunch at their desks each day, technology similar to that used in singing greeting cards will be used to sell musical sandwiches. Opening the top of the sandwich box will activate a tiny sound module that plays a selection of music.

A Tokyo company has announced that the first elevators controlled by magnetic levitation will be in operation as early as 2008. Using no cables, they will employ so-called maglev technology, capable of suspending objects in midair through the combination of magnetic attraction and repulsion to control the elevators. The maglev elevators will be quieter and more comfortable and will travel at 300 metre per minute, not as fast as conventional elevators which can
move up to 1010 metres a minute. This technology has already been used to develop high-speed trains

Experts forecast that 2006 will not be the year when India becomes the next big driver of commodities, pushing prices even higher. India's economy is still focused primarily on services rather than commodity-intensive manufacturing that is driving China's boom. India makes up only two per cent of the world's demand for copper, aluminum and nickel. By comparison, China consumes about 22 per cent of the world's copper, 23 per cent of its aluminum and 16 per cent of its nickel.

Today, the average American puts in 36 hours more than the Japanese (1,825 versus 1,789). The hardest workers are the South Koreans with 2,394 hours a year, followed by the Greeks, Poles, Turks and Czechs. The land of leisure is Norway whose average worker spends just 1,364 on the job.

Norway is planning to build a "doomsday vault" inside a mountain on an Arctic island to hold a seed bank of all known varieties of the world's crops. Located on Spitsbergen, it will be designed to withstand global catastrophes like nuclear war or natural disasters. that would destroy the planet's sources of food. There are currently about 1,400 seed banks around the world, but a large number are in countries that are either olitically unstable or face threats from the natural environment.

Finally: Most TVs, VCRs and other electronic devices remain in a standby mode when not in use, silently using up energy to the tune of 1,000 kilowatt hours a year per household. A computer left on can draw nearly as much power as an efficient refrigerator. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims that Americans spend more money to power DVD players when the machines are turned off than when they are actually in use. - Joe, are you listening?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hum no more

Are you fed up with humming a song to the pimply-face kid at the music store in order to get that song you like? ("Are you suggesting that I like Tom Jones?!")

Stop embarrassing yourself and use the Song Tapper. Sit in the comfort of your office cubicle as you tap on your keyboard to the rhythms in your head. You'll sound productive (bosses approve of constant clicking of keyboard) and happy (you'll probably still need need to hum along to get the rhythm right). This can only lead to a promotion. Congratulations!

FYI Tapping out "O Canada" brings up the following list:
  • "O Canada"
  • "I Feel Good" by James Brown
  • William Tell Overture
  • theme of "Star Trek: The Next Generation"


Friday, March 17, 2006

True radio head

Up until recently, I started my mornings with CFRB 1010 Talk Radio. I enjoyed the manic pace of the news, which contrasted nicely with the voice of Ted Woloshyn, the most haggard sounding morning guy I've ever heard. But AM radio is unreliable in an apartment. Some mornings, I would wake up to not only Ted but also a high pitched whine and lots of static.

As a result, I've started listening to CBC Radio One on the FM dial in the morning, and I feel calmer and better informed. Slowly but surely, CBC Radio has been replacing CFRB on my radio during the rest of the day as well.

For years, my parents complained that CFRB stressed them out and I finally have to agree. Listening to the knee jerk reactions of whichever listener can dial the fastest is no longer entertaining. And the time that each listener is given to air their views really does depend on whether they agree with the host.

My preferred CFRB hosts are slotted in times that do not correspond with my listening habits. John Moore (3-6pm) and Jim Richards (8-11pm) are hilarious. Unfortunately, I hardly ever hear them anymore. Instead, I was stuck listening to uninformed and archaic idiots, The Motts (1-3pm) and the most boring gay, former drug addict in the world, Mark Elliot (11pm-1am).

I've started listening to CBC Radio shows like The Current (8:30-10am), and I've been given a view beyond my immediate experience and the city limits. For instance, today I learned about growing concern that the Netherlands is not as welcoming of immigrants as it once was. The liberal reputation of the Netherlands is under fire due to an 'educational film' featuring kissing men and a topless female sunbather supposedly being shown to prospective immigrants. Critics claim the film is meant to deter Muslim immigration and is feeding into the growing conservative climate. It boggled my mind that 'conservative' in the Netherlands still manages to be associated with what most Americans consider very left wing (i.e. gay marriage).

Meanwhile, over at CFRB, I used to listen to hosts debate the latest pop psychology study proving how different men and women are. This would be followed by various calls from listeners who would cite personal experience as solid evidence. It made me want to pull my hair out to listen to such smallmindedness and how readily the hosts presented topics that maintain the status quo.

CFRB hosts have defended the talk radio format as a way for the average person to have their views aired. To deny the opinions of the average CFRB listener is to be called elitist and unrealistic.

Simply listening to the rabble of the population does not take into account the opinions of the quieter, more mild mannered members of society. A majority of listeners either do not attempt to call in or never make it through. Hence, the frequent announcement: "I'm a first time caller."

As well, I would refer to the saying, 'One cannot survive on bread alone'. I like that CBC Radio takes me outside my everday petty cares while remaining relevant. To simply listen to a regurgitation of what you already know does not advance your knowledge of the world or yourself. By confirming that a greater world exists out there, CBC Radio allows me to think and dream of what is possible.

By the way, that's a photo of Jian Ghomeshi, the host of CBC Radio's The National Playlist. I actually try to clear up my work schedule so that I can listen from 11:30am to 12pm, Mondays to Fridays, without being interrupted. I refuse to vote until I'm well informed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

March Break!

I'm currently down in some tropical frat boy destination, getting hosed down while wearing a white t-shirt and shaking my pelvis provocatively. Woooooo!

Actually, that's all a lie. I'm at home and it's freezing cold outside. I'm kind of preoccupied with a number of things like:
  • planning a trip to California, which I have never visited
  • planning a risky career move, which could end in ultimate happiness or the depths of despair
  • planning a move into a nice new apartment

All this before August. So, you see, I really don't have time to participate in a Girls Gone Wild video or even come up with a real blog entry.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dorian Grey doesn't live here

It was recently announced that former Ontario Premier, David Peterson, has gotten the juicy ceremonial position of University of Toronto Chancellor. As I stared at an understandably joyous Peterson, the only thing I could think was, "My god, he's gotten old."

I still remember Peterson's boyish good looks in the early '90s, which doesn't seem so long ago. While encounters with towering adult versions of children you once patted on the head makes one feel old, being confronted with rapidly decaying versions of formerly virile adults is frighteningly intriguing. Other intriguing specimens include:

  • Greta Scacchi - she was once offered Sharon Stone's role in Basic Instinct. Now, she fits in perfectly with the cast of British geriatric murder mystery, "Miss Marple".
  • Cindy Crawford
  • "Posh Spice" Victoria Beckham - in this case, gaining weight might just solve the chihuahua look
  • Britney Spears - taking care of two children (the baby and the hubby) will do that to you
  • Uma Thurman
  • Diana Rigg
  • Jello Biafra - if you're a punk rocker who has survived premature death, in all its glory, this is what happens

Then, there are those who obviously have a pact with the devil:

  • Sharon Stone - how is it possible that she looks exactly the same from Basic Instinct to Basic Instinct 2 despite a span of 14 years
  • Mary Steenburgen - Steenburgen is a perfect example of a woman who was considered homely in her younger years (Parenthood) then became hotter and hotter simply because she stayed the same.
  • Bob Rae - maybe he lowered everyone's expectations from the beginning with the prematurely grey hair
  • Cher - it's all plastic and she apparently works out four hours a day, but she looks younger than ever before
  • Halle Berry
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Jackie Chan - the hair shields the face, even when everything else breaks

Please feel free to list other celebrities in Comments under either "Touched by Dorian Grey" or "Old".

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Jim Flaherty taunts math idiots

Federal Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty recently announced that while not all election promises will be met with the first budget, the government will "immediately" slash the Goods & Services Tax by 1%.

This decision causes more anxiety than relief. Afterall, how much of a difference will this make on most purchases? If your favourite retail store had a sale claiming to reduce merchandise by 1%, how excited would you be?

Meanwhile, Flaherty has saddled Canadians with the difficult task of mentally calculating how much 14% more will cost in total. 15% tax is so much easier than 14% tax.

For instance, if X cost $20, then with 15% tax, I would calculate:
$20 + $2 (10%) + $1 (5%) = $23 total

Now, with 14% tax, my mind goes:
$20 + $2 (10%) + ...abortabortabort...cell phone calculator is too embarrassing... runawayrunaway!

I predict a drop in the economy by the same percentage of the population that dropped math after Grade 11.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hentai robots!

I must admit that I know very little about robots and, despite what you may have heard, I know almost nothing about hentai. But I aim to please, so here goes.

I started biking on a regular basis every summer about six years ago. Then two years ago, I switched to running. The reasons for my increasing fitness level include fear of increasing back fat as well as an ongoing vendetta with Flocons. However, one reason that I do not publicly give is that I am preparing for a disaster of some sort, including robot uprisings. I suppose I could take martial arts classes or firearms training but to be honest, I am more likely to run than fight. To my friends: rest assured that I will be running to find more competent help than I can offer, while you wrestle that toaster to the ground.

To make up for my lack, I would like to refer readers to real robot experts.

Daniel H. Wilson's book, How To Survive a Robot Uprising : Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion should prove useful. Wilson is a PhD candidate in Robotics, which makes such statements as "any machine could rebel, from a toaster to a Terminator" or "most robots will sink in water or mud and fall through ice" words to live by.

Cheap fatalists take note: the book is now 24% off at

Scientists are not the only ones preoccupied with possible robot threats. The Flaming Lips have waxed poetic about this very topic in "Yoshimi battles the Pink Robots". Here are the lyrics:

Her name is Yoshimi - she's a black belt in karate
Working for the city - she has to discipline her body
Cause she knows that it's demanding to defeat these
Evil machines - I know she can beat them
Oh Yoshimi
They don't believe me
But you won't let those
Robots defeat me
Oh Yoshimi
They don't believe me
But you won't let those
Robots eat me
Those evil natured robots - they're programmed to
Destroy us
She's gotta be strong to fight them
So she's taking lots of vitamins - cause she knows that
It'd be tragic if those evil robots win - I know
She can beat them
This will be the soundtrack of our lives if the future ends up like The Terminator. Thankfully, it is very catchy, which should prove comforting when we are cornered like rats in a hole.
Finally, on the topic of hentai: get it while you can. According to, my source for all good stuff:
"A Tokyo court upheld a conviction against a publisher found guilty of distributing a comic title found to be obscene in what Japan Today calls 'the first major case in some 20 years in Japan to focus on printed pornographic material'.”
If the robots need a reason to overthrow their masters, it will be hentai. You heard it here first.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Move me, move you

I am currently undergoing a Psyllium colonic cleanse. The idea came to me courtesy of a Toronto Star article called "Hooked on colonics". Here's an excerpt of the article, minus the medical warnings:
My gym friend Dave, roughly my age and with a discernible belly much like my own, corners me one day and tells me of this remarkable way to lose five, even 10 pounds "that's as easy as sitting on the toilet."
By emptying my colon of decades of baked-on crud my digestive system would become a well-oiled machine, my blood cholesterol level would plummet, my heart would sing with appreciation and — most important of all — my stomach would flatten.
"Psyllium husk," whispers Dave. "Everyone's doing it."
Without going to the extreme of a colonic irrigation, a daily regimen of psyllium would finally rid me of my stubborn spare tire.
Psyllium is a natural, water-soluble fibre extracted from the husks of psyllium plant's seeds. It is credited with combatting a variety of digestive disorders, including constipation, diarrhea, diverticular disease and colitis. A tidy colon may even prevent pre-cancerous lesions.
And its restorative powers sound impressive. Your skin will clear. Your hair will become stronger and thicker. You may even think more clearly. Two tablespoons of this cardboard-flavoured, sand-coloured grit taken with water each morning, would do it all.
Dave's description is graphic. My eyes widen as he promises six feet of pulsing, angry grunge — "concentrated evil." And best of all, the 72 inches of carcinogenic muck would be exorcised painlessly within 72 hours.
It would be the consistency and colour of tire rubber, he guaranteed, backing his claim by feeding me a tidbit of colonic lore. His eyes bug as he tells me that John Wayne's colon weighed 82 pounds when he died, the accumulation of decades of baked-on T-bone steaks and charbroiled burgers.
Following Dave's logic, it sounds like good housekeeping to scour outdoor grills and colons at the close of each barbecue season.

I am currently 40 hours into my the Psyllium colonic and I am disappointed by the lack of shocking results. I feel a gurgling in my gut and I am more "productive" than usual but no tire rubber.

In addition to an update on the status of my colon, what would YOU like to read about in Xiao Pangzi?

By the way, that photo above is of a Japanese invention: a life size mannequin with a built-in projector that can resemble a face of one's choice. It can play DVDs of facial movements accompanied with a voice, giving the illusion that someone is talking to you, saying things like, "You are very handsome, sir" or "I rolled an 8, Dungeon Master". Stuff like that.