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Random Wanderings and Wonderings

Category: wonderings

Branding problem

By , April 26, 2014
Houston, we have a branding problem.

Houston, we have a branding problem.

It may include conditioners, apply in just one step, and be apple-scented, but I’m just not convinced I’d want to clean my horse with SuperPoo.

Mophie loves me

By , February 15, 2014
Mophie loves me

The user manual for my Mophie portable power pack proclaims its undying love for me.

Dear Mophie,

Like a lot of people, I first met you after December’s ice storm. I suddenly found myself with things to charge and few places to charge them. The backup battery for my phone was great for my phone, but not for anything else. And it only gave me one charge, not nearly enough for three days without power. We took refuge at my mother-in-law’s, who had more than enough power to go around, but the ordeal made me realize just how vulnerable I am to power outages. I felt mortal. Weak. A poor provider. So once cats, wife, and laptop were safely provisioned in a warm house, I set out to find comfort in a portable power pack.

I found you in Future Shop, looking lonely on the rack and offering up promises of exactly the kind of portable power storage I needed. I gave you a quick once over. With two quick-charge USB ports, you’d be fast off the mark and reach the finish line without a lot of waiting. I asked the guy at the counter about you and he said we’d be perfect together. He gave me a knowing wink and added that you’d be able to charge me three or four times before I’d have to charge you even once.  I nodded silently, thinking, Huh, that sounds pretty good. You were stylish, if a little chunky. A little more than I was hoping to spend for a quick charge, but hey, any USB port in an ice storm. After some quick pleasantries, I paid your tab at the cashier and took you home.

I thought we had an understanding that this was just an arrangement of convenience; no pressure, and only the barest thought given to long-term compatibility. So I was a little surprised when I started unboxing you at home only to have you declare your love for me almost immediately. “Mophie loves you,” you said, channelling George Costanza in the third person. “Let’s just see how this goes for a little while first,” I said. You blinked a couple of LEDs at me as I plugged you in, and everything seemed fine.

We’ve had a few charges in the weeks since then and the guy at the counter was right: I can charge you once and then just sit back while you charge me over and over again. It’s given me some measure of comfort knowing that when the darkness comes again, I’ll be able to wrap your cables around my phone and keep the LTE lit up for a few days.

But your words linger in the back of my mind. Mophie loves you.  I threw out your clamshell a long time ago, knowing that I wouldn’t need to kick you out, and you go with me virtually everywhere now, providing silent support should I ever need it.  But I still have your receipt on top of the pile. I’m obviously not completely comfortable with the way things are. It’s not that I don’t like you, but…”Mophie loves you.” That’s tough to swallow right off the bat, and it’s just kind of been hanging out there since our first encounter. You haven’t pushed it, but it’s a definite undercurrent in our relationship. And with Valentine’s Day behind us, it’s about time that I address it.

Mophie, I don’t love you. Don’t get me wrong, I like you and all, but I just don’t see us having a long-term future. Sure, 500 charges sounds like a lot, but realistically, that’s only a couple of years before you start getting old and don’t charge me up the way you used to. And other than charging, we don’t really have a lot in common. By this time next year, I’ll be eyeing some fresh new power packs that will weigh half as much, deliver just as much of juice on demand, and won’t be nearly as clingy. I mean, let’s face it: the only reason I picked you is because you were the only one left on the shelf, the joint was getting ready to close, and I was kind of desperate. There may have been a reason you were the last one sitting around that day. Everyone you’d arrived with had already partnered up and left; why were you still hanging around? I don’t think I’ll ever really know, but I’ll always have my doubts.

Anyway, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when we met and certainly had no intention of committing to anything long term. I do appreciate the support you’ve given me so far but let’s park the “Mophie loves you” talk for now. I’m happy to keep using you for the occasional power trip. In return I’ll keep you charged up as much as possible and take you with me whenever I go somewhere. Let’s just be friends, with power benefits.

Sincerely,
 
Val

Friday the 13th

By , December 13, 2013

black-cat-under-a-ladder-324

Black cat under a ladder on Friday the 13th; what could possibly go wrong?

(She was taking a break after spending the morning breaking a mirror, spilling salt, and opening an umbrella inside.)

The road to health

By , September 23, 2013

The road to health is paved with good intestines

 

Can’t argue with that.

(Seen on Danforth.)

We did it!

By , June 7, 2013

Tunnel Boring Machine gets started on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT

After a merciless robocalling campaign, months of behind the scenes schmoozing, and whistle stop visits from Senators Duffy and Wallin (remind me to double-check those expense forms), Don and Humber—my picks for tunnel boring machine names—carried the day, along with Dennis and Lea. I’m happy to confirm that I’ll be splitting my incredible winnings equally with everyone who helped achieve this victory by voting, mumbling their general support, or just ignoring me entirely. Please submit your mailing addresses ASAP so that I can drop your full share of absolutely nothing into the mailbox.

The only part of my priceless winnings that I can’t divvy up with everyone is Wednesday’s trip into the launch pit at Black Creek Drive and Eglinton Avenue for the launch ceremony. There were actually four winners in total who were invited to the ceremony: one person who had suggested Dennis and Lea, and three of us who had all suggested Don and Humber. We got to wander around the coolest construction site in the city for the low, low, price of having to listen to a couple of speeches. Then in recognition of the enormous contributions that my fellow TBM-namers and I made to the  project, we (along with several workers much more deserving of the honour) signed our names to the belly of the beast before sending it on its way:

Everyone got to sign the TBM before it heads into its new tunnel

Glen Murray, the Minister of Infrastructure, announced proudly that the TBMs for the Crosstown line were built right here in Ontario. What he didn’t announce was that the plant where they were built is closing next year. Caterpillar seems to make a habit of buying up local manufacturers only to shut them down.

Lea again

The tunnel boring machines were both impressive in size yet smaller than I expected. I somehow thought they’d be bigger, but I guess the thing with TBMs is that they pretty much have to be the same size as the tunnel they’re digging.

Head-on view of Lea, the next TBM to be launched

Dennis is the first TBM to start, and Lea, seen above, will be up next. Don and Humber will be starting to dig toward Yonge Street from Brentcliffe Road in about a year and a half.

Vote for me!

By , November 19, 2012

[Update, Monday, November 19: The voting period has been extended by two days until Wednesday. I can only assume that Don and Humber are racking up too many votes for Metrolinx to count them all. Also, it can't bode well for my receiving my fabulous prizes if they're already deviating from the published contest rules. I suspect my winnings will be whittled down to just half of the originally promised nothing. Or possibly even less. Still, remember that your vote will ensure our combined victory. Original post from November 14 follows.]

I don’t usually deploy this blog’s legions of fans (and by legion, I mean three old guys sitting on stools in the corner) for nefarious purposes, but I’d like to encourage everyone to go to the voting page for the Crosstown LRT’s tunnel boring machines naming contest and vote for the entry that I submitted, Don and Humber. Just one vote per person, and voting ends on Monday at 4:00 p.m.

What was my inspiration for Don and Humber, you ask? Disappointment with the names for the current TBMs tunnelling the Spadina subway extension moved me to action. I suppose that Torkie, Yorkie, Holey, and Moley are good enough names, but nothing about them really screams “Toronto” to me. Okay, “Yorkie” is sort of a shout-out to history and the subway’s destination, but it’s just a bit too cutesy when combined with its mate, Torkie. Holey and Moley are so generic that they might as well be menu items at Tim Horton’s. In contrast, Don and Humber are two rivers that have historically defined Toronto and are each relatively close to the end points of the Crosstown tunnels. See what I did there? A historically important pair of names, relevant to the project at hand, and instantly recognizeable to any Torontonian. What could be better?

Only one of the other semi-finalists, “Dennis and Lea” takes its entry from something local (the Mount Dennis and Leaside neighbourhoods at the ends of the tunnels). That seems obscure enough that no one will get it. Even Google thinks that “Dennis and Lea” is a reference to the failed engagement between Dennis Quaid and Lea Thompson a quarter of a century ago. Seriously, who’s going to vote for that?

And what riches await if my names are chosen? The grand prize consists of “recognition through [...] a press release” and has “no monetary value.” The prize is also non-transferrable and, yes, I have to answer a skill-testing question to claim it. And naturally, Metrolinx “reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater monetary value” should they be unable to award these unfathomable riches, so I could just get a big cup of nothing—minus the cup and the press release. Vote early, vote often once, and spread the word if you’re so inclined.

How to destroy your page view rate

By , November 6, 2012

To help drive traffic (and thus ad revenue), a lot of websites tease their stories on the front page either by cutting off the story just before the salient part or by writing an ambiguous headline. Here’s a perfect example from the Star’s website this morning, teasing the results of last night’s Over the Rainbow on CBC:

Teaser headline in the Star

Who could have won? I must click through.

See? In an actual newspaper that was more concerned with telling you the news than selling your eyeballs to advertisers, that headline would be sporting a name in place of the ellipsis. (Indeed, the story’s URL gives it away, but many people wouldn’t notice.) Instead, you have to click through just to see the headline, right? Except that someone forgot to tell the Star’s advertisers how this whole teaser thing works:

Spoiler on page 1

Never mind, I got it.

If anyone at the Star noticed the incongruity of a teaser headline with a spoiler right underneath it, they just doubled down on the ad instead of losing the coy headline:

The Star giveth away

I said I got it.

Someone really needs to tell a Star editor that there’s no point in teasing the headline if it’s surrounded by the story. Okay, a semi-silly teasing headline on a website, no big deal. That would have been that, except that the Star did the same thing in today’s dead tree edition, placing the spoiler not just on the same page as the teaser, but in a wraparound that covered the teaser up:

The Star is giving it away.

Want to find out who won? Please buy this paper and turn to page E1. Try not to look to the left.

Neat.

Is it really so hard to check these things?

By , October 30, 2012
Bail of Hay sign at Longo's

Bails of hay can be neutralized by pales of water.

Oh, Longo’s. I had such high hopes when you moved into my extended neighbourhood that you’d be less careless with your spelling than the local Sobeys and Loblaws. I guess I’ll have to settle for fresher produce if I can’t have better spelling.

Fixing Mammoliti

By , October 4, 2012

A lot of ink and bluster have been spilled over yesterday’s confrontation between Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti and Gord Perks. I won’t add to it other than to say that Jack Lakey, the Star’s Fixer, wrote a blog post detailing a spat between his younger self, when he worked the City Hall beat,  and Mammoliti:

 

At one point [Mammoliti] told me – in front of other people in the council chamber – that I wrote the stories because I was anti-Italian. And then he walked away.

I was livid, not just at the comment, but at his timely evacuation of the danger zone.

In those days, I was a lot more jumped up and charged with testosterone. It was a serious challenge not to chase him down.

I called aside his executive assistant at the time, a good guy named Anthony Cesario, and asked him to pass along a message to George: If he ever said anything like that again, I’d drop him.

I was quite capable of it, and George knew it; he never came near me for months afterward.

If he’d followed through, Lakey would certainly have come to be known as The Fixer, but different reasons than he is now.

Nothing to steal here. Move along.

By , September 26, 2012

Nothing to steal here. Move along.

The Ten Thousand Villages store on Danforth really wants you to know that there’s no cash in the store to steal after hours. So much so that they don’t just leave the empty till open behind the counter, but they put it at the front door so you can see for yourself that it’s completely cash-free without going to all the bother of actually breaking down the door to look. Unless, of course, it’s just a ruse and all the cash is still sitting in the real till behind the counter.

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