Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Eastlink Advertising

The people at Eastlink are out of control.

I advertise my restaurant on their television station, which has worked out pretty well. We get a lot of dinner guests who mention that they heard about the restaurant on the television ad, so it is definitely worth the expense.

Anyway, I get billed on a bi-weekly basis (as in once every two weeks). The funny thing is that usually I get two copies of the bill, for the exact same amount, but the format of the two different pages is slightly different. I didn't really think that this was very odd, until I checked the mail yesterday. This time round, I got a total of SEVEN letters from them, for the last two-week period. There were the normal two copies, then a third one in a different format that I've never seen before, then two more telling me to ignore the first two because the tax was calculated incorrectly, then two more saying the exact same thing again.

Luckily, being a tree planter, I can appreciate this absolutely ridiculous waste of paper. I think of it as job security.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gabriel & Dresden in Boston

I just got back from an interesting weekend in Boston. I flew down to see a Gabriel & Dresden show, but also to actually meet them, courtesy of a mutual friend, Kate.

For those of you who aren't familiar with electronic music, these two are incredibly talented. Among other things, Dave Dresden is a talent scout for Pete Tong, and was a journalist for DJ Times, Mixer, DMA, and Billboard magazine, where he has done interviews with Paul Oakenfold, Moby, Todd Terry, Sasha & Digweed, Puff Daddy, BT, The Crystal Method, Keoki, Josh Wink, the Chemical Brothers, and Deep Dish. Josh Gabriel was the sound designer for the Oddworld video games, was co-founder of Mixman Technologies (remixing software), did work for for Warner Brothers & Sony Music, and was the mastering engineer on Disney's "Aladdin" soundtrack.

As a duo, the two of them are very highly ranked as DJ's (23rd in the world, to be exact), according to the current standings on They also have their own record label in San Francisco, called Organized Nature. However, they are probably most well known for their production skills, whether it is individually, as a duo, or in partnerships with other musicians and producers (including releases under the monikers Andain & Motorcyle). For the non-electronica fan, they are probably most well-known recently for "Tracking Treasure Down," which was #1 on Billboard a few months ago, in July of this year. Here's a link to the video for that song on YouTube (the link is visible on my real blog, but not in the Facebook feed):

Aside from that well-known hit, they have a very extensive string of other #1 hits over the past few years, and they've worked directly with or done remixes for a huge variety of well-known artists, including Coldplay, New Order, Tiesto, 4 Strings, Paul Oakenfold, Roger Goode, Sarah MacLaughlan, Jewel, Afrika Bambaataa, Armin van Buuren, The Crystal Method, Dido, Nelly Furtado, Fischerspooner, Groove Armada, Annie Lennox, Britney Spears, Depeche Mode, Madonna, and others.

Anyway, the weekend got off to a bit of a rough start when I forgot to go through my luggage carefully before flying. I've probably taken at least 300 commercial flights before, so I definitely should have known better, but I wasn't really thinking. I have a "travel bag" which is always packed, but the last time I used it was when I was just travelling in Canada. Consequently, when I got to airport security, I had to throw out my shaving cream (because it was in an aerosol can), and my drugs (you'll note that I said drugs, not narcotics). Then, the officer going through my bag asked me if I really expected to be allowed to take a wine opener on the plane. I guess the large pointy metal stabbing tool and sharp knife didn't exactly meet regulations.

I got to Boston pretty early on Friday morning, which led to a new dilemma, since it was 10am and I couldn't check into the hotel until 2pm. I don't normally drink before 5pm (unless it is a continuation of the previous night's festivities) but I thought that since I was on vacation, I'd make an exception, so I went to an Irish Pub for breakfast. And lunch. The Pub was about three doors down from the hotel, and there were several hundred students staying at the hotel for a Harvard Model United Nations event, so there were people to talk to everywhere.

After lunch, I went back to the hotel. That evening, Kate and another friend picked me up, and we went out for drinks to a pizza place & bar beside Fenway Park. We were planning to meet Josh & Dave fairly early, but their plane had been delayed in Chicago due to winds, so they didn't get into Boston until around midnight. When we went back downtown to meet them, they were having problems checking in because it was past midnight and the hotel computers wouldn't let people claim their room after midnight, so they came up to my room for about an hour before the show while they tried to sort things out.

The rest of the night was pretty fun. Rise was a fantastic little after-hours club. It was smaller than I expected, about the same size or smaller than the after-hours clubs I usually frequent in the Maritimes, but the cleanliness was unbelievable, and the lighting was incredibly well-done for such a small venue. Rise is a private members-only club (plus a limited number of guests for each member), so I think that most people who were there actually knew each other. Once they got started, Dave & Josh played until 7am, and it was a pretty interesting set since they played a fair number of their own tracks, and I knew quite a bit of the music. They ended the night with their remix of "The Wings" by Gustavo Santaolalla - I think that the original might have been the closing track from Brokeback Mountain.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. It's been a few years since I've been to Boston, but it has so many universities and students around that it completely reminds me of Halifax. There are very few US cities that I'd ever want to live in, but Boston would probably be the one exception (or maybe San Francisco).

Saturday night was pretty fun too, but that's another story. Coming home was fairly uneventful, except that our flight crew didn't show up for the flight out of Newark. It was kind of funny actually, since they eventually had to be paged on the airport intercom system: "Paging flight crew XXX, can you please report to gate C99. We need you to fly a plane."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

University Exams and Garbage Cans

We're in the middle of end-of-semester exams here at Mount Allison University, so most of my friends are stressing out about how hard their lives are right now. But really, when you're 80 years old, will you look back and say to yourself, "Man, I can't believe I missed that question about Dirac's Constant on my exam back in 2006. That pretty much ruined the rest of my life."

Let's be serious for a minute: is that exam really going to make the difference between you spending the rest of your life doing sub-atomic particle research versus being "the fry guy" at the local drive-through? I thought so. So it isn't worth getting that stressed out. Study, but don't stress.

I agree that exams can be pretty hard sometimes, but do you want to know something that is really hard? Try throwing out a garbage can. I'm not kidding. I have a broken garbage can, so every week, I put it out on the curb with the rest of the garbage. But do the garbage collectors ever take it away? No. It's always left standing there, lonely and unwanted, as they drive off into the sunset. It's becoming a war of attrition between me and PBS Waste, but unlike Bush and the war in Iraq, I know that someday I'm going to win.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Joining the Digital Revolution

All around us, we can see the accelerating presence of computers, digital communications, and digital technology. Today, CNN announced that the Internet has just reached a major milestone of 100 Million websites online. For my own website, I'm just a few days away from reaching the milestone of a quarter of a million hits in the less than five years that I've had it online.

Well, today I lost my virginity.

I have always been a vinyl DJ when it comes to electronic music. True, I've used CD players when playing rock music and other conventional tracks at the club. And I've actually had a Pioneer CDJ pitch-control CD player here in my studio for over a year, although I've never used it except for playing single tracks. However, tonight I felt a little crazy and I mixed a track into a practice session using the CD player, rather than using a piece of vinyl.

I'll admit, I felt a little bit cheap. Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can never put it back. I still hope to stick to mostly vinyl for my live shows, because it just looks more impressive to the people dancing in front of the decks, and it's so much more fun. However, I can't argue with the fact that digital media is far more flexible, portable, and versatile, and essential if I'm going to start playing my own self-produced tracks in my sets.

Anyway, I'm worn out now from the emotional significance of the evening, so I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Keyboard Error

Mr. Gates strikes again.

I was just working on setting up a bunch of equipment in my studio since everything was dismantled and stored off-site for the summer. One of my first goals was to put one of the computer systems back together, so I could start working on a video editing project.

I powered the system on, forgetting that I hadn't attached a keyboard yet. Much to my amusement, the following error message came up:

"No keyboard detected. Press F1 to continue."

It takes real brilliance to come up with something like that. The only thing I've ever seen that tops that was on my tax form several years ago, where there was a message that said something resembling, "If you are blind or visually disabled, please call the following number for assistance." It's too bad that the number wasn't in braille.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Stupid Clerks, part one

The other day, while I was still on the west coast (well, in Alberta) I had to run to town to pick up some stuff for my cooks. One of the things they asked for was 7 kilograms of thinly sliced [sandwich] ham.

I went to the deli counter at the IGA, and said that I wanted 7 kilograms of sliced ham. The girl looked confused, so I showed her the list and repeated my order. She looked at it and said, “You mean 700.”

I was confused, and said, “No, just 7.” After she insisted a couple times that I meant 700, I said, “I think you’re getting confused by my cook’s handwriting. That reads SEVEN KAY GEE not SEVEN ZERO ZERO.” She didn’t understand.

Our argument went on. Even the lady in line behind me was getting exasperated, and she couldn’t believe the clerk either, so she yelled over my shoulder, “He wants fifteen pounds.” Another clerk behind the counter came to the defense of the first one: “We don’t cut it in pounds anymore.”

I tried a new approach. I said, “I know this sounds like a lot, but I’m trying to buy enough meat here to feed eighty people with lunch sandwiches for three or four days.” She replied, “I know, and 7 is not nearly enough. You need 700.” I suddenly thought I understood what the problem was: she was confusing grams and kilograms. I tried a new approach, “I think you’re talking about grams. I want seven kilograms, which is a lot of meat, not seven grams, which is a couple slices.” She said, “No, you don’t understand how we weigh things here.”

Obviously I didn’t.

At this point I was getting short on diplomacy as I was already late for meeting someone, so I said, “Listen, just start slicing meat. I’m going to go pick up some paper towels. When I get back here, I’ll tell you when to stop.” She didn’t look impressed, but when I saw her reach for the ham, I figured that I was safe to pick up the paper towels.

When I got back, she was all smiles. She had the right amount of meat all packaged on the counter. I started to put the package into the cart when she apologized, “Sorry, I didn’t understand what you meant. I think this is what you wanted. This is actually seven THOUSAND kilograms.”


It's a good thing that I brought the big truck.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Harriet the Tortise Dies

Harriet was a tortoise rumored, probably incorrectly, to have been kidnapped by Charles Darwin in the 1830's and brought to Britain. Harriet died in a zoo in Australia this week, after reaching 176 years of age. You may have seen Harriet on The Crocodile Hunter show.

Most people assume that humans have some of the largest lifespans, and when people think of the largest living organism, they usually think of blue whales. However, if you include the plant kingdom, some really fascinating facts can arise.

The trembling aspen tree is considered by some botanists to be the world's largest living organism. This tree has male and female specimens, and can reproduce sexually as wind blows the pollen from a male to a female tree. However, aspen trees can also reproduce through cloning, a process by which the roots of an existing tree spread through the ground and "sucker," which means that they break through the surface and grow up to become new trees. I think it is proper to call it a "new" tree because a tree probably refers to a plant with a single trunk, separated from other trees by soil at the surface. However, technically, the separate aspen trees share the same root mass, and therefore are the same organism. There is one specific aspen stand outside Salt Lake City, Utah, which covers about 43 hectares in size, and has about 47,000 stems arising from it. A single stem may die (lifespan of about 150-200 years) but the organism will remain alive for centuries until some sort of natural disaster wipes out the entire organism.

Another plant which is very large and very old is a species that lives in the ocean: Posidonia Oceania. This is a sort of grass-like plant that covers the seabeds in some parts of the Mediterranean, including around the island of Ibiza. Apparently, scientists have found a single strand of this plant which measures eight kilometers in length, and is believed to be over 100,000 years old. This plant contributes to the ecosystems somehow and enhances the beach-building process, which is one reason why Ibiza and nearby islands have such nice beaches.

Anyway, RIP to Harriet the Tortise.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

One Man's Trash

Lots of people have heard the saying that, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." I was thinking about just how true that is going to be in another decade, although I bet that most people don't realize it.

Right now, the world is experiencing some of the highest metals prices in the past two to three decades. Zinc, Copper, and other metals are definitely setting records, and PGM's (gold, silver, etc.) are showing huge signs of strength. Many of these different metals are used in tons of industrial processes and hi-tech equipment, so demand has been growing very quickly over the past decade. The problem is that even with the higher prices providing the funds for companies to increase exploration efforts, diminishing returns are being experienced. In many places, all the "good finds" have already been taken advantage of. The problem is not as significant as in the oil industry, because there will certainly be many more deposits discovered which can turn into viable mines. However, demand is increasing at a rate which suggests that the mining industry won't be able to keep up, and will fall further and further behind in the next decade or so. And of course, if oil prices go up significantly in the next year or two, metals prices will have to follow because it takes a lot of energy to mine and refine metals. The metals shortage probably isn't something that is going to turn into a crisis overnight like energy could, but it will certainly become a challenge ten to fifteen years from now.

And that's where garbage comes in. Just think of how many landfill sites there are across the country, just full of old cars, appliances, computers, batteries, and all sorts of other goodies containing dozens of different types of metals. I'm not suggesting that people should dig up the landfills and pick through the garbage looking for old items to recycle. I'm thinking that the entire contents of the landfill could go to a smelter and be processed the same way that ore is processed when it comes out of the ground. The concentrations of some metals in this garbage have got to be higher than concentrations in random truckloads of ore coming out of the ground directly. There would be some challenges, but I'm sure that most smelters or ore-processing facilities could be converted to be able to accept landfill detrius mixed in with conventionally mined feedstock.

Maybe I should start looking into trying to buy an old city landfill or two, although I bet they'd be way too expensive for me to afford. After all, who would want to sell a future gold mine?

Friday, March 24, 2006

GDC 2006

I DJ'd at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose (California) last night, and then flew back up to New Brunswick today. It was a lot of fun, but next year I'm going to have to try to take a week off and go back so I can sit in on some of the seminars. Wow, there was a lot of stuff happening there!

GDC is an annual conference devoted to computer software programmers, or "coders." Quite often, I don't think the general public appreciates just how much work goes into creating software, and just how big an impact computers have had on increasing the standard of living and GDP in the past few decades. The coders are the people who make it all work, and although this conference is designed specifically for developers of video games, people who work in just about every branch of programming should find something of interest.

The show was very well organized by the ShoutCreative team ( After I played, Uberzone ( took to the stage, playing a set based on Ableton Live with scratching and live drumming. It was basically a breaks set with a lot of interaction and effects, and it was really enjoyable. If you ever get a chance to see Uberzone, do it. After seeing that, I realized that I've got to get myself up to speed with Ableton.

One of the craziest parts of the night was the fact that there were combot wars happening at the party. A "combot" is a specialized type of robot, built specifically for these matches. Basically, it's like a hi-tech version of smash-up derby, with remotely controlled machines that are about the size of Fat Forrest (my 110 pound black Labrador). Now I'll admit that I had never seen anything like this before, so I didn't know what to expect. Before the show, I noticed that there was a huge enclosed structure built for the competition, and I thought to myself, "that's a little bit over the top." After all, I thought this was more of a game than a sport (it's only a sport if you can lose an eye). Or so I thought.

Anyway, while I was playing later on, I could just barely see the combot arena from the stage, and at one point during my set I looked over just as two of the combots attacked each other. All I saw was large chunks of wood and metal flying about eight feet up in the air as a huge cheer went up from the crowd around the arena.

All in all, it was a very fun experience, although I don't think in general that the Americans drink nearly as much alcohol as Canadians do. The party had open bars everywhere, and if they had that kind of setup in Canada (complimentary drinks with a thousand people in the room), they would have needed truckloads of beer and liquor!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Socks To Be You

Well, I had a rather amusing end to my evening running the club tonight. After we had everything cleaned up and all the staff were sitting around having a beverage after work, someone started banging at the side door. One of the staff opened it, to see what the commotion was about, and one of our best customers walked in.

In boxers. Nothing else. For those of you from around the globe, this is January in Canada and it is not exactly the best time of year to be wearing nothing but boxers.

Apparently, the gentleman in question had offended his girlfriend somehow. This was not surprising to us, after listening to his alcohol-induced speech impediment for about thirty seconds. The lad was sloshed, and in Olympian proportions. The fine young lady whom he dates had apparently been unimpressed by his level of intoxication, and fired him out into the streets at 2am, sans pants. Nor shirt. Nor socks or shoes. And locked the door behind him to prevent re-entry, just to make sure the message got through.

I was humbled and flattered that in his alcoholic haze he decided that our Pub was his best refuge, but after video taping his antics for a few minutes, I paid for his cab and sent him on his way, wearing my own socks. Shelley just bought me new sneakers, so I couldn't quite part with those.

I've never given my socks to a customer before, no matter how significant the time of distress. Let me just say, however, that tonight it was "well worth the price of admission."

Zach, I'm having a big fat Jack Daniels and Coke right now. A great big cheers to you - customer of the month!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Scotiabank Visa Problems

Today I became extremely frustrated with Scotiabank and Visa. The problem stemmed from the fact that I was trying to buy a large liquor order (for the club) from our local liquor store. The card (which was not anywhere close to being over its limit) was declined and the machine suggested that the clerk needed to call Visa to obtain authorization for the transaction.

The problem was that this was the fourth time in three weeks that this has happened. Each time, it took half an hour on the phone, several transfers to other departments (about five), and a lot of explaining from me as to why I spend several thousand dollars per week on booze. It apparently doesn't matter that I have been running the club for about fifteen years, that I always buy my alcohol from the same merchant, and that I have had my Visa (a gold card) even longer than that. And apparently it doesn't matter that I keep doing the same thing, week after week.

Today's "customer service" rep suggested that I should go down to my local bank branch and get them to "put a VIP flag" on my card. When I replied that I had been told the same thing each of the last two weeks, and had done exactly as suggested with no apparent success, the telephone representative was less than forgiving. I refused to go back down to my branch for a third time, so I made a suggestion at this point myself, something along the lines of indicating my willingness to cut up my card and switch to a Bank of Montreal mastercard.

Perhaps the allure of talking to a man who spends $150,000 per year on alcohol tempered her subsequent reactions, because after I gave her the phone number of my branch and a couple names of people to talk to there, she said that she'd see what she could do.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that they have security procedures in place so that if someone steals my card, they aren't likely to be able to rack up a whole lot of purchases on my account. However, I'm curious to see what will happen next time I try to ring through a pallet of beer. I am fully confident that it will be declined, and the liquor store clerks will immediately go postal on the debit machine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My New Blog ... and Robert Schumann

So here we are, I now have a blog. I have thought about putting one of these together for a long time, mostly just so I could occasionally vent my frustrations about idiocy that I encounter in daily life. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of it these days.

You may wonder what the title ("talent works, genuis creates") refers to. It's a quote by Robert Schumann, a German composer who lived from 1810-1856. One of his more memorable quotes was, "I have arrived at the conviction that with work, patience, and a good teacher, I would be able, within six years, to surpass any pianist. Besides... I have an imagination and perhaps a skill for the individual work of creation." I like his attitude. I think that a person can do just about anything if he or she puts their mind to it.

Here we go ...


Edited, November 18th, 2006: I just changed the title to, "From the Ridiculous to the Sublime," which is loosely based on a quote by Napoleon Bonaparte, and more directly based upon my life, in a nutshell.  Sorry Robert.