My wife was getting ready to call the ambulance this morning. I was reading a piece in the Gazette about Hugh Hefner’s impending marriage to a 24 year-old, and it was so funny that I was falling out of my chair with laughter. “Careful”, my wife said, “You might have a heart attack”. The article came on the heels of the announcement of the nuptials earlier this week, at which point I had said to my wife, “This is a publicity stunt…there isn’t enough Viagra in the world to make this marriage for real”. This is a must read, filled with great one liners such as, “This will be the third marriage for Hefner, who is starting up a new magazine called Playcoot”. And, “He [Hefner] could get charged with assault with a dead weapon”.
When I lived at my parents’ home, Sundays were always a day of rest; there were few available outside activities with the exception of church (I fought tooth-and-nail to avoid going), the Botanical Gardens, or visiting with family and friends. This was still in the days of stores remaining closed by law on Sundays.
We always had a big family lunch on Sundays and I would head for the couch immediately afterward, hoping for a few zzzz’s to kill the boredom and to wait out the stuffed feeling in my gut. There were three things on TV that were guaranteed to have me asleep in a matter of minutes: Religious programming of any kind, golf broadcasts, and fishing shows.
So when I saw a review in yesterday’s Gazette of an iTunes app called Fishing Kings, it immediately brought back memories of soporific boredom. But the review was so glowing and the description sounded so downright fun, that I went to iTunes and downloaded both the iPhone and iPad versions. I played the game this morning and it’s not only a load of fun, but very instructive as well, if you’re a fisherman (I am, although I prefer fly-fishing and the program is exclusively bait oriented).
For the sake of full disclosure, note that I am not a gamer; in fact there isn’t a single game on any of my Apples (iPhone 4, iPad, and iMac). But even as a naive player, the graphics of Fishing Kings look wonderful; the choice of locations, equipment, and species are inexhaustible; and the action loads of fun. I especially liked the verbal coaching which helps you understand what you need to be doing as the fish reacts to being hooked (you see the fish underwater). Get this right away if you enjoy fishing. Hell, get it even if you don’t like fishing.
P.S. I just realized that Fishing Kings was only free for a couple of days, as a Christmas promo, I guess. It’s now $4.99. Still worth it IMHO. And there is a free version with very limited options for you to try out.
There is a popular conception that we should support small local business people rather than large corporate stores such as Best Buy, Costco, etc., because the small business owner will always give you more personalized attention and has a higher stake in his/her relationship with the customer.
As a small business owner myself, I can attest that such is not always the case and that it is largely a myth. The problem with the small business owner is that very often he/she has more at stake in the immediate transaction than in the long-term relationship itself. Our firm gives a popular workshop entitled, The Six Rules of Entrepreneurship, geared specifically to large corporations that want to behave more entrepreneurially, or intrapreneurially, to use the technically correct term. The First Rule of Entrepreneurship is that, “If you don’t kill you don’t eat”, i.e. nothing happens until you get an order. For entrepreneurs, each order is often critically important, making the difference between paying this month’s bills, or not. I have often encountered store owners who will try desperately to shift me to another product in their store, once they learn that they don’t have what I want, even if the product they have is clearly inappropriate to my needs and wants. Similarly, owner-operated stores typically make returns and refunds very difficult.
A case in point: This Christmas, my wife bought a set of stereo headphones for her Mom, from a small local franchise electronics chain where the owner also operates the business on a day-to-day basis. The headphones hissed something awful; most likely due to all the portable phones, cellphones, computers, Wi-Fi, etc. in our home. This morning I returned them to the store only to learn that they offered a store credit but no refund as part of their policy. I took the credit….what choice did I have?
With large corporate stores, the employees and management are largely divorced from pricing and isolated from the immediate effects of refunds, returns, etc. Buy anything at Costco and you can return it within a year, no questions asked. And most other large retailers offer 30-day refunds and 90-day (or longer) credit periods on just about any purchase.
It’s an unfortunate reality of modern times that while dealing with the small business owner may be great for specialty fruits, vegetables, organic meat, and even for personal services, it’s not so great for equipment, supplies, or larger capital purchases. In large stores, even when something is a matter of policy, you can keep complaining to a higher and higher authority until you get to someone who cares more about the bigger picture of customer satisfaction than the immediate transaction. In small businesses, the buck often stops (literally) at the first or second level of complaint.
I do like owner-operators when it comes down to specialty products, hand-made objects, personal services (barber, lawyer), or anything requiring expertise. In these cases, the big enterprises have a lot of difficulty competing precisely because the employees are not sufficiently invested in the sale to really care.
Courtesy of my Sister-in-law, the story of the Nativity told through modern social media. Very cool.
I’ve had salmon tartare in restaurants a number of times and it looks fairly simple to make. Well, it is. Nothing simpler; maybe 5 minutes of effort, wonderful taste, and loaded with Omega-3’s. I adapted Laura Calder’s recipe, tweaking the quantities a little. I used fresh, farmed Atlantic salmon. I read somewhere that farmed salmon doesn’t need freezing in order to kill parasitic worms in the flesh, since it apparently doesn’t suffer from these. I wasn’t sure of this factoid, so I froze the salmon for a day or two, just in case. The beauty of Atlantic salmon is that it’s very fatty, so freezing doesn’t seem to affect its texture at all.
- 4 ounces raw salmon, coarsely diced
- One or two green onions, finely chopped
- One tablespoon capers, finely chopped
- Two tablespoons red pepper, finely chopped
- One half teaspoon dried or fresh dill
- One tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Eat either plain, on toast, or with a hard-boiled egg on the side for breakfast. Pour into a timbale (round metal form) and top with a little black caviar for extra elegance.
I use mozy.com to store all my computer data “in the cloud”. At five bucks a month it’s a pretty good deal, and I never have to worry about upgrading technology, loss to fire or theft, etc. The main downside is that the first time you back up a new computer it takes about a week and 100 GB of upload (in my case) to get the job done. This means that I would quickly overrun my 40 GB monthly upload limit at my ISP (Videotron) and incur rather large data penalties (like $50-60).
My solution to this problem was to call Videotron and upgrade to the next higher data plan. “Good news”, the customer service rep told me, “It’s only a dollar more a month than your current plan”. “Are you absolutely sure?”, I asked, “It’s sounds too good to be true”. “Yes, Sir”, he replied, “It’s a promotion”.
The “deal” gnawed at me all month. It didn’t make sense. So this morning, while speaking to another Videotron customer service rep on a different issue, I asked her to verify the terms of the new service plan. “My assumption is that it’s only a dollar more per month, based on what the previous person told me”, I said. “No”, she replied, “It’s actually $11/month more”.
She and I went through both plans and here’s what the sneaky little first-bastard had done: He presented the price of the old plan as if it were a stand-alone service, without any rebates, and then compared it to the new plan as a bundled service (given that I already have internet, telephony, and TV with Videotron). Had he compared the old plan to the new plan as bundled plans, the difference would have been $11. This is no mistake, but a clear intent to deceive. I repeatedly questioned the figures, but he kept insisting the difference was only one dollar.
New plan canceled…back to the old plan.
As the pickpocket in Casablanca said to the man and wife in the cafe as he deftly removed the man’s wallet from his back-pocket: “Be careful Sir, this place is full of vultures, vultures everywhere”.
Courtesy of Leisureguy, an absolutely hilarious take on modern technology:
Let me preempt any admonitions by saying that I absolutely know and accept that farmed salmon is an environmental catastrophe – a Soylent Green alternative to declining global fish stocks. I get it.
As a result, I’ve been buying wild Pacific salmon from British Columbia. The most common species offered in the East are Sockeye and Coho; excellent, low-fat varieties familiar as staples of canned salmon. Broiled, grilled, or pan-fried, it tastes O.K. (just O.K. mind you). But as gravlax (home-made “smoked” salmon), our favorite rendition and an almost daily provision in our home, it is shit. The principle problem is that it lacks fat. Once it has been marinated in the special sugar-salt brine, it dries out and, lacking fat, acquires a waxy, dry texture.
And even preparing the salmon isn’t necessarily the most appealing endeavor; the wild salmon, albeit its bright red natural color, often has discolored areas indicative of parasites or possible disease. These carry through to the final product and I often find myself throwing away large chunks; a terrible waste considering the outrageous starting price (2-3 times that of farmed Atlantic salmon).
So, regretfully, I’ve decided to return to Atlantic farmed salmon for my gravlax (I have never seen wild Atlantic salmon anywhere, and can only assume the fish stocks are completely dead on the East coast). I’m hoping that over time, salmon farming will find its way back to ecological friendliness, but for the time being, I’m prepared to accept my politically incorrect decision as a compromise – like driving a car, or heating with oil. And ultimately, the decision fits with a basic criterion of going green….quality and taste come first.
I have an iPhone 4. I also have a 6GB data plan (that’s 6,000 MB) for which I pay $30/month – an amazing privilege, I am told, since it was only made available to those who signed up for an iPhone in the first 30 days of its release. I only use about 100 MB a month though, so have asked Rogers numerous times if I can pay less for less data. The next cheapest plan is 500MB for $25 – a paltry savings that makes the whole deal quite unattractive. So, I’m stuck paying for a large amount of data I don’t use with no meaningful option for saving money.
I also have an iPad. Apple does not allow the iPhone to tether to the iPad (although it can do so with other computers and laptops), making it impossible to use my iPhone data plan on the iPad. This means I need a second data plan for the iPad – another $16.93/month for 250MB. Not only that, but the iPad data plan renews automatically every month, whether I use it or not, i.e. there is no “rollover” of unused data into the next month. So, every month I pay a combined total of some $50 (including taxes) between devices, for a couple of hundred megs of actual data usage. Very clever. Now I know why they call them “smartphones”….you can’t be too smart buying one!
A few years ago, my wife and I visited Jamaica. We were warned by our tour guide to not leave the shopping center he had taken us to. My wife wanted to buy some postcards and saw a corner-store across the street from the small shopping center. As we crossed the street, we were mobbed by at least five young local men, asking us for $5 to help us cross the street unharmed (hey, didn’t I see that in some mafia movie?). We shelled out the money and immediately retreated to the safety of our starting point. Trying to go “native” in Jamaica made me feel like an earthworm being circled by vultures.
But dealing with cellphone and cable companies in Canada brings to mind another metaphor: I feel like the honey-pot into which everyone is dipping their fingers. No matter what I try to do to save a buck, I actually wind up paying more. They must have more actuaries, statisticians, and psychologists working for them than all the insurance companies and mental hospitals combined – constantly figuring out every possible permutation and combination of human desire and discontent in order to make sure they always get the same money no matter what you do. Brilliant. Wish I had thought of it.
“You can’t protect yourself part-time from people committed to taking advantage of you full-time”. Words of wisdom for the holiday season and its buying frenzy.
And just to preempt those wise-asses among the readership (Yes, I mean YOU Mr. Italo and Mr. Dario), I know that I’m actually angry at myself for being so stupid and not following my own advice to “want less”.
Here’s the latest food/eating fad: Clean Eating. Popularized by Tosca Reno and her book, The Eat-Clean Diet, it has spawned a magazine, Clean Eating, as well as numerous soul-mates such as Dr. Alejandro Junger and his 2009 book, Clean.
Our good friend and New York correspondent, Mr Dario, having recently retired, has taken on the role of agent provocateur, routinely piquing us with topics and questions for working stiffs like myself and Mr. Italo to engage with him in. It’s actually a terrific role that prevents us from falling into the trap of work-eat-sleep, so endemic to the harried worker and business owner; an intellectual break as it were.
This morning, Mr. Dario raised the topic of Clean Eating and most notably Dr. Junger’s diet and rejuvenation plan. Here’s the gist of my reply:
“It’s really not very complicated at all, although many try to make it so in order to sell books and make money:
- Half the world eats way too much for the amount of physical activity it has.
- Half the world eats way too little and therefore has very little activity (It’s hard to stage a revolution when you don’t have enough energy to get out of bed – dictators like it that way).
- Of the half that eats too much, half eat a lot of foods that have very low nutritional quality because they are highly processed and loaded with sugar (leading to obesity and Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes) and salt (leading to high B.P. and stroke + heart disease).
Everything else is pretty much bullshit….from nutritional supplements, to cleansing, Veganism, Ayurveda, and every other wacky advice you can receive. I know it’s hard to believe, because the Psyche craves control; it wants to do SOMETHING to save itself from the harbinger of impending death.
But the body is an incredibly adaptive and resilient system with a million years of evolution behind it. Try to fool it and it kicks you in the balls. That’s why we North Americans are obsessed with eating low-fat foods, yet have the highest rate of obesity.
Freud posited that everything in human life is about the struggle between Eros (life) and Thanatos (death). Human beings are generally terrified of dying. It takes an awesome form of brainwashing to convince a human being to willingly die….this is what makes terrorists so scary because there is no limit to what someone who is willing to die will go to for his cause.
Running parallel to the desire to sustain life for as long as possible is the need for control; the subconscious logic being that if I can control THIS (whatever the task at hand), I can also control my death (or non-death). This is also the basis of all religions: Do the right things and you will not die, you will get to Heaven.
It is no surprise then that religion has a lot to say about food. Note that Gluttony is one of the 7 Deadly Sins. Note that all religions use fasting as a form of devotion and proof of worthiness (Catholics eat no meat on Fridays, Jews fast at Yom Kippur, Greek Orthodox fast app. 50% of the year).
So here’s the formula: Fasting = Control = Everlasting Life, i.e. “If I just do the right things I will live forever”.
But Life is a bitch….constantly throwing us curve-balls. Of my 5 friends who died this year in their 40’s and 50’s, 4 were health fanatics who watched every mouthful and worked out….they were all slim and fit. This doesn’t mean that being a lard-belly like me is O.K.; it just means that the quest for everlasting life through “proper” eating and exercise is largely a myth.
Attention to what we eat is also largely a function of high income; it’s a “fat cat” phenomenon. About half the world worries primarily about IF it will eat rather than WHAT they will eat. And those who worry excessively about what they will eat are usually morose, obsessive individuals who are quite unpleasant to be with for sustained periods because they are NO BLOODY FUN. Ultimately, it’s our imperfection that makes us attractive, because the Psyche recognizes the futility of the pursuit of perfection. Perfect people are very boring and usually quite troubled below the surface.
With respect to Clean Eating: It’s an old story, rejigged every few years and going back to the Ancient Egyptians, Indians, and Chinese: The body is a cesspool of accumulated “toxins” that must be “cleansed” through various rituals and avoidances. It’s amazing the power of this myth, which taps into the very core of the human psyche; its fears, its hopes, and its religious fervor to atone for past sins.
It is of course, mostly bullshit. The human body is an amazing self-regulating and homeostatic system. It is a living system, unlike a cesspool (which may have life in it in the form of bacteria). Clearly, fat-soluble environmental toxins do accumulate in the fat, where they are largely sequestered and isolated. One of the dangers of rapid weight-loss is in fact the release of these toxins in sudden concentrated amounts.
On the other hand, all these extreme diets have been shown to essentially be unsustainable because the human body needs variety and the human psyche needs satisfaction and pleasure.
But hey, money makes the world go round.”.