Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who needs Cable Anyway?

Recently Bill Arends wrote an entry over at his blog about how the Cable Companies and Television Networks are at war over a pay per subscriber fee to go towards local cable companies.

Bill, in his blog entry, debates a couple of options consumers could take if faced with higher cable fees. I on the other hand saw Bill's take as a chance to reflect on my coming up on four months without cable.

I posted a comment Bill's post and thought it adequatly reflected on what there is to do besides sitting my large bottom down to watch television:

I've actually given up on cable and actually don't have it. There was one reson why, Aurora's (where I live) local cable provider sold out to Rogers. Rogers put out letters asking subscribers in the area to call a special number and transition over. After several phone calls to Rogers nobody could tell me what "Basic Cable" channels were included. I alos couldn't talk to a manager there as they were never available for every reason under the sun. I even attempted leaving my cell phone number but the lady couldn't record that information even after I repeated it 5 times.

I blogged about it under this lable on my blog here:

http://michaelsuddard.blogspot.com/search/label/Life%20without%20Cable

What do I do without cable?

1. Read books - Currently reading Brian Mulroney's biography a thousand page behoemouth well worth the read if you are into Canadian Politics.

2. Read newspapers and do crosswords - Metro is a free newspaper in many Canadian cities and my wife and I have become good crossword fanatics. I even polish off the word search in the weekend Toronto Star or Toronto Sun.

3. Nintendo Wii - hours of fun, nuff said.

4. Clean the apartment - doesn't it need doing?

5. Excercise - Take a walk together outdoors - hark! Actually see the neighbours!

6. Blog - I'm working on blogging more.

7. Save a wack of dough - NO Cable bill = $35.00 plus in savings per month on basic cable. Also means I don't have to worry about Rogers screwing up my cable bill. My Internet bill on the otherhand...

8. Surf the internet - Local news programming from accross Canada is available on the CTV and CBC stations websites. I imagine Canwest (Global) is similar. CBC.ca also has the National and other news programs loaded on a daily basis.

Lots to do, so who really needs cable anyway?

After writing the above, I've further reflected on how I can now sit back and watch the cable companies and networks go after each other on whose going to pay for this new "TV Tax" either the cable companies or the cable subscriber. If consumers are nailed with increased cable fees after this squabble has been settled there will be more consumers like myself who will just drop cable television. Besides the increased rates will only be worse in Ontario once the HST will only incresae the bills even further. Once this happens fewer subcribers will mean fewer viewers which will mean lower advertising revenues for the networks which is exactly the problem the networks ran into in the first place. So let these big Television Networks and Cable companies go at it because again, who really needs cable anyway?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

YRT's Hypocrisy: The Wait is over but Not Over Yet

The image to the left is currently on the York Region Transit (YRT) website's front page on the bottom left hand corner.

The image refers to YRT's promise in it's fall My Transit Newsletter, on page 2, that real time transit information would be available on YRT's website. Basically the promise boils down to a rider, just before starting their trip, being able to log onto www.yrt.ca and checking to see what time the bus will arrive as opposed to the usual YRT's "I pray it is right" schedule. Hopefully this will answer a transit rider's question "is there a bus coming?....soon?". I won't go into how I feel about YRT launching this (GREAT! But you guys have a history of screwing this up....how can a VIVA Bus be at a stop yet on your digital VIVA board show it is 2 minutes away? HUH). No now...not this post at least.

The image posted on their website, above, is hillariously hypocritically badly done that a high school student would fail if this was a web or english project.

First: The first line: "The wait is over" screams to the www.yrt.ca visitor that 'YRT is launching something' and the reader can use this new feature right away. Now before you get too excited keep reading....

Second: The Second line says "Real-time info is coming soon." Which tells the reader that in the near future the Real Time information, as I described above, should be launching soon. But doesn't this contradict the first line where YRT promises that "the wait is over"?

Third: "Stay tuned for updates" reads the third line. If "the wait is over" and "Real-Time info is coming soon" why the need for updates? Shouldn't the Real Time information on www.yrt.ca website be launched already (according to the first line of the graphic) or within the next month be launching (as the second line would indicate as "coming soon")? So, again why the need for updates?

The whole graphic smells of typical YRT hypocrisy (i.e. do this, no do that, no do this) that YRT is becoming known for. It seems YRT has no idea when this thing will be launched (today, tomorrow or sometime in the distant future that we'll update you on).

Now for the other shoe to drop: YRT doesn't have its stuff together on this "Real-Time" and will not launch this feature on www.yrt.ca as it's GPS system, which tracks the location of the buses, currently isn't working on all of it's vehicles. As a case in point, I rode YRT Route 85 on the way home and from Rutherford GO Station to Yonge Street the bus showed "85 to MS Hospital" and didn't show the next stop like it usually does if the GPS System is up and running. Another failure of this system is that the TTC buses, that YRT contracts to provide service in the southern part of York Region, will not be included as YRT isn't even allowed to track these buses for customer service complaints and scheduling issues.

With YRT posting a confusing graphic in a promenint spot on their website, it makes riders wonder if the wait for the "Real-Time Transit Info" will be worth the wait.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who needs Harvey's when you have T.C.'s

T.C.'s Burgers on UrbanspoonI've always been a fan of T.C's Fish & Burgers growing up. I've spent a lot of time there enjoying the burgers and fries through my teen years and now enjoy it married. There's just something about going to T.C.'s at 15198 Yonge Street, Aurora, Ontario for a little lunch.

This past Saturday afternoon my wife and I stopped by for burgers and fries for lunch.
Chris (the "C" in TC's) took the order.

The Order: Cheeseburger Combo (4 Oz cheeseburger with Fries and Dr. Pepper) & Chicken Burger Combo (Chickenburger with Fries and water)

The Review: Within ten minutes of laughing at marriage jokes with Chris and his wife Stella as they prepared the food my wife and I were chowing down on a good flame cooked burgers. This was despite two other groups of four people were waiting for their orders.

My cheeseburger combo is perhaps the best burger combo in Aurora hands down. The burger paddy is delicious and TC's tops it just the way you want it. Then they add mounds of fries to your plate. Add to this the excellent service provided by a family who cares about their restaurant instead of the teens at Harvey's who are only interested in the pay cheque and when quiten time is.

My wife consumed a chicken burger. I didn't get a chance to taste it myself, but if it is anything like T.C.'s burgers, it must be excellent. I did have the chance to eat about half her fries though, there are just too many for her to eat all by herself.

All in all T.C.'s Fish & Burgers is an excellent family owned and family oriented food establishment with great food in generous portions.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Taxpayer Supported SPAM

Spam is the abuse of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam,Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, and file sharing network spam. - Wikipedia.

Spam in blogs (also called simply blog spam or comment spam) is a form of spamdexing. It is done by automatically posting random comments or promoting commercial services to, wikis, guestbooks, or other publicly accessible online discussion boards. Any web application that accepts and displays hyperlinks submitted by visitors may be a target.
Adding links that point to the spammer's web site artificially increases the site's search engine ranking. An increased ranking often results in the spammer's commercial site being listed ahead of other sites for certain searches, increasing the number of potential visitors and paying customers.- Wikipedia

On October 23rd I visited my blog to find a new comment to the most recent post I made. As a blogger I love when people comment. Fellow blogger Jack put it best in a recent post "It would be great to get a lot of comments on every post....I like comments, but I don't blog for them...it is not my central focus." I enjoy blogging but don't aim for comments myself either. I blog what is on my mind and sometimes to let off a little steam (like when I run into incompentance of various natures).

So I clicked on the "comment link" to the post and eagerly awaited Rogers Internet to deliver to deliver my comment content. Sadly I was dissapointed, to find a SPAM entry. Now I don't get many SPAM entries (in fact I can barely remember the last one) but sadly a SPAM entry has to be one of the most frustratrating things that a blogger can run accross in his/her comment section.

But this time it was even worse. I quickly read the comment from "Jordan" who started off noting that his comment was directly toward the post about my dining experience at Fran's in Toronto. He then goest to ramble on about VIVAnext for the rest of his comment and mentioning the VIVAnext website and VIVAnext's current contest for an ipod Nano. Not only was I being SPAMmed but I was being SPAMmed by a taxpayer payed employee of the Region of York whose job is to market the yet to put a shovel in the ground VIVAnext program.

Apparently part of Jordan's job during a workday is to runaround the blogosphere and post unsolicited SPAM comments about VIVAnext's blog and website address. This is proven considering that this blog post points out that Jordan has posted comments to that blog's post and another blog's posting. Perhaps this is done so VIVAnext will have more links to it's website for search engine purposes (currently listed 1st for the website and 2nd for the blog on Google) or just to attract more visitors.

I wonder what will happen if I were to visit the VIVAnext blog and post a comment beginning with "while this isn’t a comment directly related to the recent blog posting.." and then advertise my blog or my company's services whether it would get through the moderators there. I happen to think that, hypocritically (which VIVA is well known for), they would probably delete my SPAM post and yet "Jordan" and others would continue on with their SPAMing ways. The worst part of all this, you and I the Region of York Taxpayers and/or VIVA Transit riders are paying for all this. And for this YRT/VIVA will no doubt raise transit fares again just like they have for the past three consecutive years.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Little Dinner at Fran's tastes mediocre

Fran's on UrbanspoonMy wife and I were looking for a place to eat for dinner in downtown Toronto and stopped by Fran's Restaurant (20 College Street, Toronto). My wife wanted an all day breakfast and I was satisifed with a burger and fries so we sauntered in noticing several other tables were occupied.

The waiter took our drink Orders (Pepsi and a glass of water). He returned with two glasses of water. I waited for the Pepsi thinking the waiter was being polite and bringing water out for the table and the Pepsi would be coming.

We placed our orders of a "Premium Fran Breakfast" and a Classic Franburger with Fries".
The food came about 10 minutes later. The waiter ensured there was ketchup, relish and mustard on the table and was about to leave. I inquired if the Pepsi I ordered was available yet at this time?It quickly appeared after only the SECOND REQUEST!

The fries were dry for my liking but the burger was good. The Homefries in the breakfast were perfect. However the sausages, cut in half length wise were a little dry as well.

If we are in the area again perhaps we'll return. However, this isn't exactly the best "greasy spoon" restaurant in town.

Retail Incompentence Astounds me

Yesterday Yvonne and myself headed to Downtown Toronto for a little lunch with my sister, a tour of Yorkville (Yvonne had never been) and to purchase a new winter jacket at Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC).

Lunch was decent at Made in China on Yonge Street just south of Gerrard. We did a quick walking tour of Yorkville and visited Indigo so my sister could purchase a book. Following this we headed to Valu mart where my sister did a little grocery shopping. So far so good.

Yvonne and I headed down to King Street to MEC to investigate men's winter jackets for me. We looked through the two or three racks of jackets until I settled on the "Frostbreaker Parka". I wanted one in black and sorted through the rack twice by myself and at least once by Yvonne. This was to no avail. I tried on a brown one in my size and it fit perfectly. However, the brown I wasn't keen on.

So we tried asking one of the associates. The female associate was talking to another one right near the rack I was so I enquired about the size I wanted. She quickley went over and looked it up on the computer and we saw there was seven in stock. She dissapeared to the backroom for three minutes and returned empty handed saying they didn't have any.

I dejectly thanked her for her time and effort and slowly walked away with Yvonne. Yvonne wouldn't have any of it. She said we should ask someone else. Yvonne wouldn't take no for an answer from me and we wandered around the top of the store once more. Eventually I gave into her persistance and we approached a male associate at the back of the store. We told him what we wanted and again looked it up and saw seven were in stock. He dissappeared into the back again for three minutes and came back out WITH A JACKET!

I tried on the jacket and it fit perfectly. We walked downstairs and browsed the bag section for Yvonne before heading the cash.

One of my all time pet peeves in the retail environment is the poor back room organization and stocking practices. Working in the retail sector I know back rooms can be messy with a lot of stock coming in at one time. However, during down times the stock room should be organized to so that stock can be quickly found and moved onto the floor when required.

In my case MEC failed to have an organized backroom as the first associate couldn't find the jacket I was looking for even though there were seven of them. The other theory is the first retail associate I ran into simply "didn't care".

I prefer the original idea that their backroom is not organized. When I saw the male associate enter the backroom they had clothing up hanging from on high on racks and below also on racks. I presume these racks ensure the clothing is hung and is ready for the sales floor. However, I'm not quite sure in the brief glimpse how one tells what type of clothing is on the top rack or how it is retrieved from the top rack at all. So this may been a problem for the female associate who failed to find my jacket as she was looking on the racks and not for the boxes.

However, the male associate brought one out in a plastic bag with the jacket folded in it. This would suggest that the jacket came from a box of these and hadn't been hung up on the racks in the back ready to be moved to the sales floor. But then again, the fact the store didn't have any of my size on the floor in that colour and the next size down shows the store hasn't stocked the racks on the sales floor for quite some time. Perhaps if the staff on the sales floor weren't talking to one another and instead took greater interest in stocking the racks this problem wouldn't occur and more sales would be made.

This leads us back to stocking the racks in the first place (the first issue of my visit for my jacket). The backroom in theory should be where the items are brought into the store off the trucks and prepared (e.g. hung, price tagged, etc.) for the sales floor. Once this is complete the coats and other items should be brought out and put on display. If there is not enough room on the salesfloor, the existing stock on the salesfloor should be checked for sizes so that all sizes are on the sales floor and others held on the racks in the backroom waiting to go out as stocks were depleted. Obviously in my case my new jacked skipped the backroom prepping (first mistake) and never made it to the salesfloor when my size no longer had any there (second mistake). Follow this up with the female sales associate who couldn't find any despite there supposedly being seven in the store's inventory (third mistake).

What does all this amount too? A possible lost sale of over $100 for Mountain Equipment Co-op if not for the persistance of a wife of mine.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Little Petey got Married!

This past weekend my little (or not so little) brother Peter got Married to Alice Xu at the McMichael Art Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario.

It was a wonderful wedding at an interesting place. The wedding took place after the McMichael Art Gallery closed for the day. The ceremony itself took place in the lobby of the art gallery and following the ceremony cocktails were service and attendees were allowed to wonder the art gallery at will. Following that dinner and dancing occurred.

The only downfall is the lighting in the lobby and in the gallery's multi purpose rooms is not that great for pictures. So I only have a few found here.

CONGRATS LITTLE PETEY & ALICE!

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