Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Baseball In Heaven

From the humour file....

Two ninety year old men, Moe and Sam, have been friends all their lives. It seems that Sam is dying, and Moe comes to visit him every day.

"Sam," says Moe, "You know how we have both loved baseball all our lives, and how we played minor league ball together for so many years. Sam, you have to do me one favor. When you get to Heaven, and I know you will go to Heaven, somehow you've got to let me know if there's baseball in Heaven."

Sam looks up at Moe from his death bed, and says, "Moe you've been my best friend many years. This favor, if it is at all possible, I'll do for you."

And shortly after that, Sam passes on. It is midnight a couple of nights later. Moe is sound asleep when he is awakened by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calls out to him,
Moe.... Moe...."

"Who is it?" says Moe sitting up suddenly. "Who is it?"

"Moe, it's me, Sam."

"Come on. You're not Sam. Sam just died."

"I'm telling you," insists the voice "It's me, Sam!"

"Sam? Is that you? Where are you?"

"I'm in heaven," says Sam, "and I've got to tell you, I've got really good news and a little bad news."

"So, tell me the good news first," says Moe.

"The good news," says Sam "is that there is baseball in heaven.

Better yet, all our old buddies who've gone before us are there. Better yet, we're all young men again. Better yet, it's always spring time and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play baseball all we want, and we never get tired!"

"Really?" says Moe, "That is fantastic, wonderful beyond mywildest dreams! But, what's the bad news?"

"You're pitching next Tuesday"

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quiz time!

Sometimes in the blogging world you just want to take a quiz. In school I used to hate class quizes and tests, but for some reason in the blogging world quizes are the thing to do.

So without further a do a quiz I found over at Mary P'.s blog:

1. What is your favorite word?

I really don't have a favourite word, per say, as I like to look for words that seem to flow within a sentence. I like simple words that get across the point trying to be made. One of my pet peeves is when academics use large complicated words that confuses the average reader in piece meant to be read by the general public (i.e. a newspaper article). I call this "ivory tower syndrome" because in cases like this I see the academics as being out of touch with the average person. So simple words are my favourites!

2. What is your least favorite word?

Just like Mary P., "Like."

If your not "A Valley Girl" then don't use the word "Like" in every sentence!

3. What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?

Simply getting out and going for a walk. Doesn't really matter where I walk, I just need to get the blood pumping and my body moving. For some reason I do a lot of my thinking while I'm on my feet. I guess thats a good thing, employers are always looking for people who can think pragmatically on their feet.

4. What turns you off?

STUPID PEOPLE! Especially poor customer service agents at fast food establishments and call centres.

5. What is your favorite curse word?

Zoot! Cause its French and sounds funny.

6. What sound or noise do you love?

Sound? Silence..... Sometimes it's nice to have quiet once in a while.

7. What sound or noise do you hate?

Kids throughing a temper tantrum. Any kid over the age of one who starts wailing. If your an infant, for some reason the tantrum isn't ear piercing but sounds cute. However, once the little one gets over the age of one or two years old, the tantrum sounds worse than nails on a chalkboard.

8. What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?

Teaching....without the stress of marking!

9. What profession would you not like to attempt?

Teachers Assistant at a university or college. I hate marking the same essays or papers over and over again. When I was a teacher in New York City I loved reading the first fifteen essays by my students because the papers provided fresh well thought out reading material. However, the monotony after a while makes my eyes strain and I would rather figure out how to not do the marking period! So to all the TA's out there....THUMBS UP!....for being able to mark hundreds of term papers by university students in such a short amount of time.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

"Welcome to the Peanut Gallery!" "Check out what is going on in our Ant Farm down below today!" "Can you pass the popcorn?"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

An Afternoon in Newmarket

This afternoon I headed north from Aurora to Newmarket to investigate the downtown of Newmarket and the town's Fairy Lake Park.

Here is what I saw:




Looking northards up Main Street from Water Street at downtown Newmarket.




Another look up Main Street.




The old Post Office on Main Street.




Trinity United Church





A look at the Holland River in Fairy Lake Park just above the Dam at Water Street.


Fairy Lake Park looking Southward.




A Look at the Holland River within Fairy Lake Park.




The boardwalk over the marshy area along the east side of the Holland River at Fairy Lake.


Although the weather was overcast this afternoon, I still managed to find the hike to be pretty good. There were lots of people out with their dogs for an afternoon walk. Also the ducks and geese seem to be back from the south trying to find nesting spots all along the Holland River that flows through Fairy Lake Park.

Belinda Stronach Gone from Politics?

Belinda Stronach officially announced this past week she will not run as the Liberal candidate in the riding of Newmarket-Aurora.

Ms. Stronach has had quite the political career in such a short time. This political career included:

1. Running for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

2. Crossing the floor of the House of Commons from the Conservatives to the governing Liberals. She even managed to assume a cabinet position which only angered some long serving Liberals who resided on the back benches of the government. Why did she become a Liberal?

3. Her recent notice of quitting politics has some critics wondering if Belinda is choosing to leave because she doesn’t see a possibility of winning the next election with Stephane Dion as leader of the Liberals.

The feeling in the riding of Newmarket-Aurora, where I reside, is quite wide ranging.

Some people wish her well in her new job as Vice-President of Magna International. Magna is one of the major employers in the riding and people feel with her at the helm and the possibility of Magna purchasing Chrysler, Magna is going to grow even more. So they see her not running for re-election is a positive thing because she will be doing more in her new position with Magna.

Others wish Belinda good riddance! These people point out Belinda ran and was elected as a Conservative and then crossed the floor to the Liberals without holding an election. These people continue to point out she basically backstabbed the voters of the riding. So these people are particularly happy because they are finally getting rid of her from Canadian politics.

Her leaving politics only further convinces me that her attention span continues to be short and need to be periodically in the news headlines is still there. Need prior proof of this? Click here for a prior posting on this idea.

Whats to come for Belinda Stronach at Magna? Is the sale of Chrysler to Magna mean she will head up the new project on behalf of her father?

The interesting thing would be if she does become the new head of Chrysler. The question everyone is asking is if Chrysler is headed by Belinda, will it rise again to success or fail? Who knows, only time will tell.

What we do know is that the name “Belinda Stronach” will continue to be in the media and her attention will shift, yet again, to other endeavors in either a professional or charitable fashion.

Why do I link to other Blogs?

Have you ever wondered how some bloggers choose to blogroll some blogs rather than others?

Over at Randon Thoughts: Do they have Meaning? , Jack blogrolls (i.e. links to other blogs) of those who frequently comments on his blog.

At the Art of the Rant, where I'm a contributing editor, Bill looks after the linking to other blogs. Usually Bill links to the contributors blogs (i.e. Stephen's and my blog) as well as those that comment frequently. Also, Bill has added "Liberal Blogs" links in order to tempt the blogs readers into reading similar content at other blogs. Basically, Bill links for both those that contribute to the blog, in both commenting and contributing content, and for interest.

What criteria do I use to link to other blogs? This question may be simple to ask, but is complicated for myself to answer. Basically, the main answer is I link to other blogs that I find interesting.

Sometimes I aimlessly wander around the internet and come across blogs that I find interesting. Or sometimes I come across an interesting blog through the regular websites I visit. Some examples:

1. Sometimes when I wander the internet I find blogs like Gary Dunford's. Dunford's blog I stop by periodically because he used to write a humour coloumn for the Toronto Sun before retiring a couple of years back. So I linked this blog because of past enjoyment of reading Dunf's columns.

2. Sometimes I find other blogs via regular blogs I read. This is howI found Jack's Blog (the same one linked above) via one of Bill's postings at The Art of the Rant. I found the blog to have hilarious moments and commenting on issues I found interesting or thought provoking.

3. Regular websites I visit, like the Toronto Sun's, I sometimes find interesting blogs that I like to read. The new link I added today, Glenn Garnett's, was added because I found his blog to be interesting. Garnett, via his blog, provides insight to the reader into how a major newspaper editing team builds a daily paper from the ground up on a daily basis. Garnett investigates how stories and pictures are chosen, how writers and columnists are chosen for assignments and much more. I find this blog to be intriguing because the blog pulls back the curtain on how the newspaper's day to day business is operated.

Now this brings up another question: "When do you remove a link?"

Basically, this is done when I either no longer find a blog interesting or is no longer updated. I currently cannot provide an example on when I lose interest in a blog, but I can provide an example of when a blog is no longer updated.

Antonia Zerbisias' blog on the Toronto Star website, I found interesting because she explored the varying world of the media in Canada. However, for whatever reason, she stopped blogging at the end of 2006. So I decided to remove it. I figure if you are not going to continue blogging and I've read almost every post, I have lost interest in your blog. So provide intriguing content or you will be removed! Bill Arends did this on The Art of the Rant recently as well.

I use the links on my blog to visit others on a regular basis. So if you are providing interesting content to me and update on a regular basis there will be a link. Failing this, the link will most likely be removed. With that in mind, I have to get going, Subwayblogger has some interesting design pictures on his blog of the new Second Avenue Subway stations of New York City's new subway line....

Monday, April 09, 2007

Do Corporations care about their Customers?

Privacy has become more and more important in terms of preventing identity theft in this day in age. Companies like Rogers, CIBC, Winners and others claim they take the privacy of their customers to the utmost importance.

However, CIBC and Winners have recently been busted in terms of not protecting their client's privacy. A Winners' electronic database containing credit card information had been infiltrated by hackers. This meant that some credit card information was at risk of being stolen by the hackers.

CIBC was caught in violating the privacy of customers when a computer hard drive went missing. The hard drive contained 470,000 records of CIBC customers.

Recently, Rogers got involved in the game of 'privacy follies' when a senior found boxes of old work order records that contained the names, addresses, phone numbers, driver liscense numbers and credit card numbers. Rogers VP of Communictions, though, denies that credit card numbers were on the work order. Although, the Toronto Star did obtain some of the records when they visited the senior and they noted the numbers might be on the Rogers records in question. These records were found behind a coffee shop near a parking lot. In other words a very public place. The fact Rogers would let their customers' personal information be poorly disposed in this way is astounding!

Even worse is the response by Rogers' Vice President of Communications, Taanta Gupta, to the his company's lack of respect for their clients personal information: "Clearly something went wrong....This is not information that should have ended up where it did." One question to Mr. Gupta that every one of their current and past clients should be asking: "YA THINK?"

Rogers needs to re-look at their policies in terms of protecting their client's personal information. In a further article, Rogers blames one of it's contractors for not following Rogers' policies in protecting customers' personal information. The real question is in this day and age of the computer, why is Rogers releasing credit card information and Social Insurance Information to a third party in order to handle the ordering and installation? Last time I checked, that particular information is not required. So why does Rogers not use its technological superiority to remove this information from the customer's records before forwarding it on to their contractors? Contractors should only be given private information on a need to know basis. For example, in order for a contractor to install Rogers high speed internet and cable services the only information the contractor would require is the name, address and phone number of the place these services would be installed. Thus, the credit card information and Social Insurance Number required for billing would not need to be released to the person installing the services. This information could be retained by Rogers themselves.

The idea of not allowing contractors to have too much information means that Rogers can ensure that their client's personal information is retained by Rogers and not released to a non diligent contractor. Obviously a non diligent contractor was used in this case considering that personal information was easily available in near a parking lot behind your average coffee shop.

Corporations should not be releasing unnecessary information to subcontractors or unnecessarily within their own organization. Companies like Rogers, Winners and CIBC should be examining who and what type of information is accessible to their contractors and their own employees. This information (e.g. credit card information, social insurance number, address, phone number, etc.) should only be provided to employees and contractors on a need to know basis. There is database technology on the market that allows different levels of accessibility to this type of information. Thus a contractor installing services would only be allowed to access information that would be necessary to complete this task. However, someone in the billing department would be allowed to see the customer's billing address and credit card information for billing purposes. In other words, there would be different levels of availability of customer's information depending on what is needed to be known.

Corporations that are caught accidentally releasing information should lose customer's basis. This is because obviously these corporations do not care about their customers. If these corporations did, then obviously this information would be properly protected.

Recently there have been accusations that corporations have been trying to cover up their own messups in terms of releasing customers' personal information. For example, Winners was accused of hiding the fact their electronic database had been compromised for months from their customers. This only further shows how much corporations care about their customers. Again, if these corporations had of cared about their customers, they would have properly protected their information. But then to even hide the fact this information may have been compromised only inflames the situation even more.

Corporations should be protecting personal information in order to prevent the theft of this information. Otherwise these types of corporations might find themselves with problems of theft, customers "thefting" their own money and moving their business someplace else.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Control c, control v

Control c, control v

Plagiarism

That word sends shivers down every teacher's back. Teachers want students to learn to think for themselves while completing assignments. Teachers do not want to know what other person's ideas are about the subject. However, Teachers do want insight into what a student may have learned when researching an assignment. So it is fine to borrow people's ideas, as long as it is mentioned the idea presented is not their own. For example, a noted quote by Winston Churchill should be quoted as coming from Winston Churchill and not claimed by the student themselves.

This article takes a look at what happens when someone does plagiarize from an article. Sure the article needs a little more work to flesh out ideas a little more sure would have benefitted this article. A real case study on what happens to students when they plagiarize in high school or university might have assisted the author in making their point a little more clearer. However, that is what happens when a young writer, such as the case with this article, writes. In other words, this article is written by a novice writer who is still 'learning the ropes' of writing.

On the other hand lets take a look at what the young author did right:

- She quoted authorities on the plagiarism that would resonate with her intended audience (i.e. young adults would find a grade 6 teacher and a movie reviewer as authorities).

- The authorities she uses to prove her point would provide information in such a way as to be easy to quote from instead of confusing the reader (i.e. a Grade 6 teacher and movie reviewer would use simple language so that the masses would understand instead of a university professor using all sorts of jargon).

- She made the article concise and interesting to warn about the dangers of plagiarism.

Sahar Jafrani, the author, obviously learned something from researching this article. She learned why not to plagiarize. Also, she was able articulate from the point of view of someone her age why it is not a good reason to plagiarize.

If Sahar was my student, she would receive a big pat on the back. In fact, I would be inquiring with her if it was acceptable to use her article to show the rest of the classes I taught why it is not acceptable to plagiarize someone else's ideas. Sometimes, as a teacher, some of the best material to use for teachable moments are provided by the students themselves. Sahar should be proud of herself for providing such material that teachers would be interested in while also warning fellow students about the dangers of Plagiarism.

Footnote: Try the following: highlight a line in this posting and then hit "CTRL C" and then opening Microsoft Word (or some other word processing program) and then hit "CTRL V". It should copy and paste the line highlighted from this posting into the word processing program. To think I learned this from a thirteen year old!

Monday, April 02, 2007

YRT asks "Whats yo number?"

Isn't it weird that a transit agency would want to know your number?

That is exactly what the marketing geniuses at York Region Transit and VIVA want to know. No, not your phone number or pant size numbers, your "Bus Stop Number". (The blue number in the top right hand side of the sign in the picture within this post). This number will enable riders to find out when the next five buses will arrive at the stop and will also be incorporated into their route planner.

Now for a little disturbing YRT and VIVA history:

YRT has been promising since the October 2006 newsletter one was coming. YRT & VIVA even increase fares for January 2007 in promising "improved technology" (YRT Rider newsletter - Winter 2006/2007). Now through the first fiscal quarter of 2007 ending, YRT has suffered technological problems including:

1. The YRT website going down even more than the year before.

2. The VIVA displays that tell the customer/rider when the next VIVA bus will arrive have either stopped working or malfunction (i.e. bus arrives at stop and the VIVA display shows the bus is still 20 minutes away).

3. The VIVA displays did not deal with the new time of year from the change to daylight savings time. This change forced the VIVA displays across the transit network to go down. Even when YRT fixed these displays, this meant two of the four routes (VIVA Purple & VIVA Blue) were delayed by two minutes on average. This meant if someone was trying to connect between the VIVA Purple at York University to go south to Downsview Station, they had to wait the full fifteen minutes because the rider would see the VIVA Orange pull out just before the VIVA Purple arrived. Before the time change, the VIVA Purple would arrive about three minutes before the VIVA Orange arrived, making the transfer convenient.

4. The news and information screens on board the VIVA buses are notoriously providing bad information (e.g. the time is wrong, the temperature displayed is wrong, the entertainment information is grossly outdated, etc.) or just malfunctioning (e.g. Windows XP toolbar is showing, Windows XP computer error is showing, high pitched scream is heard as the screen restarts, no power to the screen, etc.). Even better is when the screens are functioning properly, yet the bus is "Not in Service" (i.e. not picking up passengers).

With the above technological issues in mind, how can YRT and VIVA claim, in their Winter 2006/2007 Newletter, that the increased fares were for improved technology?

The transit planner still hasn't even been launched yet and probably won't be until, by my estimation, early May of this year. Yet, YRT is already trying to get free advertising with the marketing plan of "What's Your Number?" However, perhaps if YRT had saved their investment in time and marketing and spent their time on taking a look at Google's offer. Roomers have abounded on the Internet that Google had offered to do the transit planner for free. All Google needed was the routes and route times from YRT. But YRT wanted to maintain proprietary ownership over the transit planner. This despite Google offering to do it for free and use its own Google Maps software to show the route and time points. Google has already done several cities transit planners quite successfully. But YRT, apparently will have none of it.

Now YRT is launching this marketing campaign in order to get people to take pictures of themselves with their bus stop signs. VIVA will hand them an $85.o0 monthly bus pass and then turn around and use the pictures to market YRT & VIVA in newspapers and probably on television. So they bought free photography and models for a total charge of $85.00 instead of having to pay an advertising company mucho buckos to promote it. Sounds like YRT and VIVA loves to save money at least!

But the real question on the numbered signs is will the transit planner tell you when the next VIVA bus will show? This will especially be intriguing considering YRT and VIVA claim these buses arrive every ten to fifteen minutes and do not operate on a schedule. So the question is, how will the planner know when these buses will arrive? Considering VIVA is the 'backbone' of the YRT system, VIVA times and routing will be an essential component of the transit planner. Riders will only find out how well YRT and VIVA have done on the transit planner until it is launched. And riders are still waiting....and waiting....and waiting.... for it to be launched.

Until the planner is launched, bus stop occupants can at least be entertained by people taking idiotic pictures in order to enter the "I want to be a tool in YRT's 'What's Your Number?' contest.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Labels

It is commonly known not to put labels on people. Labels like "retard", "idiot", and others are considered regressive. However, please feel free to label a bad driver an "idiot." That seems to be fine. Otherwise, to label someone an "idiot" is not preferred.

So why did Blogger.com use the word "labels" when coming up with a way to categorize blog entries? However, it should be pointed out that "labels" are used in our lives to categorize items on an everyday basis. People label categories when forming budgets like "salaries", "office supplies" and others. So apparently it is fine to label things but not people. Therefore, since Blogger is labeling posts, and not people, it must be fine to use the word "label"

With that in mind, I've spent quite considerable time this weekend labelling the posts on this blog to make it easier to search and read by topic. I will enventually go through all of the three hundred plus posts and label them all. So watch out for the labels because labelling things seems to be the thing to do!

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