Sunday, January 30, 2011


It's not enough we share our sitting around the house in our beanbag chairs, eating popcorn, in 140 characters or less. Or that we friend people and have others poke us, now we can tell people exactly where we are, by checking in to Foursquare.
What Foursquare does is allow you to announce your location to your friends through the web. What of us doesn't want others to know exactly where we are at any one time or another. Of course what it does is prove we don't actually live very interesting lives, at least from my perspective of myself. If you go to my Foursquare page you will discover I spend a fair bit of time at the gym. This is followed by probably Zehr's and a few other places. You can check my homepage on Foursquare and discover the exciting life that I lead.

What makes it an interesting place is the fact it has rewards, for example you can get badges which denote different things you've done. If you really are interested, you can also buy those badges to wear to prove you are indeed the great person you are, or the sad sort of person that collects badges. As well, if you show up to the same place enough times you can claim the Mayorship of the location. Besides the ego stroking that entails, the plan has been to have retailers give special things to Mayors, who can prove they are the Mayor of the location.

To give the basics, to quote another blog:
Foursquare doesn’t just broadcast your location to your selected friends; it also serves as a game, pairing virtual rewards with real activities.

Users earn badges as they visit different spots. Visit one location enough times and you become the mayor. You can use Foursquare to meet new friends, find out who else is in your area or compete against other people in your city.

“Elizabeth Fisher just checked in at the Algonquin Hotel.” This message is now famous as a supposed shout out to Foursquare, which popularized the phrase “check-in” on the deliciously tech-savvy show, “Gossip Girls.” Even Crowley couldn’t resist and took to Twitter to post, “Check-ins on Gossip Girl?”

As of March 2010, Foursquare has 500,000 users and 1.4 million venues according to Tech Crunch, keeping Gowalla at a solid second place. Why are more people checking out Foursquare, leaving Loopt and Gowalla in the dust? It’s simple.

You can read more by going to Social Media Examiner.

Another thing you can do is add locations. If the place you are at isn't listed, you can add it to the places to go.

It's obviously an interesting place, since recently it was acknowledged it had grown by 3400% over the past year. It now has 6 million users.

I've been using it for the last number of months and its been fun. However, I've noticed a change; it started when I noticed a loss of mayorships. They were places that I had thought I wrapped up, including the Fit4Less. This was horrible, even though I had a super Mayor badge, there was a distinct deterioration.

I noticed a message on my phone, there was a change in the way things operated; from now on, if I use a web based phone rather then a smart phone with one of their apps then nothing I can do will count for mayorships. This is horrible. Not only can't I become a mayor, but as i witness I will lose mayorships. I know what you're thinking "Oh the Humanity". I can understand them wanting to get people to use their apps, it makes sense, but don't forget the rest of us. I'm sure I speak for a lot of people who don't have the required Smartphones.

If they are going to penalize us, then develop apps.

That's all I got to say.

For the record, I've checked into Fit4Less 47 times, and I'm not the Mayor.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

University Gone Wild

You would think after all the controversy regarding the demolition of the 41 properties along the south side of Colborne Street, the last thing anyone would suggest is demolition another building that may have heritage implications in the downtown core. Apparently we need to all think again. It appears one more property is on the block for a date with the wrecking ball. The property is 105 Wellington and the purpose of the demolition is to provide a parking space for Laurier Brantford. I want to thank Leis Marie Jansen for the link of the Report. The document makes for a compelling read, on one hand, you have the recommendation of proceeding with the demolition, and on the other, you have the Heritage Committee calling for its preservation. So you have two dynamic forces at work, the University and its wish to expand to develop the downtown campus and to further enhance the downtown core, and those in the heritage committee who want to preserve something of Heritage Brantford. I suppose if there is any good news to come out of this is the fact people are talking about preservation. Last year you might recall only a few "cranks" spoke out for the preservation and renovation of the South Side of Colborne. Interesting to note, I was talking to a person regarding this very issue, he suggested that any building can be preserved and restored. Knowing this individual's background I think he is in the know, pity no one talked to him.

If you read the document you will note, the building is not necessarily a heritage structure, but is part of a landscape of buildings from the same time period, as well it is part of the housing stock for the downtown. The concern of the Heritage Committee is:
The Heritage Committee, at its meeting, January 18, 2011, discussed the proposed demolition of the building at 105 Wellington Street.
Members of the Committee recognize the university’s need to expand, planning for future growth and the demand for additional parking. However, the Committee noted that the property at 105 Wellington Street is part of a group of buildings that form a small, cohesive streetscape of early 20th century architecture and the proposed demolition of this building would result in a vacant gap along this streetscape.
Members of the Committee stated that the property would provide a limited number of parking spaces. The Committee would encourage the university to utilize the building until such time as it is required for a larger redevelopment of the area.
The Heritage Committee made the following recommendation:
THAT although the Heritage Committee supports Wilfrid Laurier University’s plan for growth, the proposed demolition permit application for 105 Wellington Street BE NOT APPROVED as this building forms part of a cohesive architectural grouping of an early 1900’s streetscape.”

So you ruin the cohesiveness of the block and place an empty space where a house once stood. I suppose it will only be temporary since you tear down one house, what's to stop the demolition of the entire block? After all, more parking is needed, even though there is a lot approximately two blocks south which in the most recent survey is only 40% utilized. I know its a bit of a walk, but walking is good for us.

I don't want to get on the "the University is Bad" bandwagon, because the University is a good thing, but there should be some understanding and consideration. The first is, is there any under-used property in the area that could be used by the University, that may have the infrastructure in place for parking, or perhaps is close enough to existing parking spaces?

The area of the downtown is a Demolition Control Area, meaning that Council needs to approve any requests for demolition. From reading the local news, it seems there is some resistance to the idea of the University talking this property and turning it into a parking lot. This is a good thing, I mean its one thing to simply say, have the University and the Heritage Committee meet to establish the proper protocol for demolition of property in this zone, which means, well, what? How do you establish a protocol for a bulldozer knocking down a house? I know it means more then that, its just- can there be expansion without destruction. The University should be praised for the work of restoration and revitalization that has already taken place in the Downtown Core. However it needs to do make it does not lose its lustre and start tearing things down for its own needs.

Just as an aside, while the bylaw required all requests of demolition to go to Council, it appears Council doesn't have a problem approving demolition requests in the zone.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011: the Year of the Tablet

In my reading of computer magazine and various tech sites, plus technology articles in major newspapers, the message is clear- this is the year of the Tablet. Ever since the iPad burst onto the scene, people have been wondering when other computer manufacturers would decide to follow suit and challenge what seems to be the run-away success story and the template of such devises. One can read about commentators defining what will be the iPad killer. When in actual fact, there is probably no such thing.

It has gotten to the point that even PCWorld Magazine has articles stating that my next PC will be a tablet. The article begins by stating the obvious, but it is a good place to start:
The world of computing is at a crossroads. The primary computer for most users today is not a PC; it's a phone. While the PC sits on a desk at the office or on a coffee table at home, smartphones go everywhere with us and integrate into every part of our lives. But despite getting smarter and smarter, phones are too small to replace PCs completely. We need a device that bridges the gap between what PCs do and what mobile phones do. That device has arrived. Welcome to the age of the tablet.

This is very true, the evolution of the cellphone, from brick to smartphone has seen the devise transform from a telephone to an always connected mini computer. With our phones, we text, we take pictures and videos, we email, we surf the web. In fact the last thing we probably do is take phone calls. Go to your last bill and count the minutes you've used in telephone calls, I'm going to suspect its very small. Then look at the usage on your data plan, or the number of text messages you've sent out.

However, the problem with all phones is this, they are too small, the form factor still demands it to be a telephone first and everything else second. Which is why the tablet PC, or plain tablet is now the talk of everybody. From what I can see, the tablet is making inroads into everyday life. I was at Starbucks a few weeks ago, which is always the place to discover what technology is making a difference and there was a couple with an iPad. Mind you I've sat at Starbucks and the local library with my little tablet as well, doing the surfing thing and putting upgrades to Twitter or Facebook, because that's what we do. PCWorld also had an article on my devise, the little iPad Knockoff from China. Personally, I still use it, it's a good thing to have around when all I want to do is look up my email or that sort of thing, and I don't want to start the laptop.

It still has good functionality, and for all that talk about it being an Android tablet, it's comfortable to use. I do recognize that its only one hundred dollars so its not top of the line. It falls under the catagory you get what you pay for, it's 1/4th of an IPad, so I can't expect it to function like an IPad.

What is impressive is the long list of companies producing or promising to produce a tablet. I've been looking at the Samsung Galaxy Tab and must say I've been very impressed with its functions

It has a nice function and does look good, my problem is the price, its quite expensive and one needs a data plan from the various cell companies to get it going. I know it has wifi, but probably the always on function needs 3G to operate successfully. I at one time, did balk at the whole idea of getting onto the 3G network, something about giving Rogers even more of my money, but I do understand why this is necessary, after all, why have a devise that needs to, or at least works well when connect to the Internet when you aren't always guaranteed a hotspot. I still dislike the idea of giving Rogers more money though.

What is going to be interesting is the Blackberry Playbook. This might be interesting in that RIM is already a success and has a whole bunch of users who might be happy to move over to the Playbook. They are comfortable with the form and function of the Blackberry and understand the OS. From talking with someone who works at RIM, he spoke of the fact that it is impressive. Couple this with the fact that there's a bit of a war going on between Apple and RIM, I asked if Steve Job's comments aren't on the bulletin board at work, he said it features around the place, then that tells me that things are going to be interesting.

If you go to the main page, there is a link to the comparison between it and the IPad, which is going to be for every devise I have to believe. I also have to believe its going to be the thing all the crackberry users are going to buy and use. Which is probably a good thing to have such a loyal market already. It should be interesting to watch how the Playbook does in the opening weeks of its introduction. I know people will make comment if its not as good as the IPad, which probably won't be fair, but that's how some people operate.

One of the devises I'm looking forward to is the new Dell Streak 7. Of course as you know I'm a bit of a Dell fan, I've owned to Dell laptops, plus a few of their Axim's, so when they announce this devise, I've got my ears up to read more and learn more about it:

If I have any concern about the tabs, and some of them are answering this concern, is the fact that they are a consumer devise only. I like the idea that many of them are featuring slots for SD or miniSD cards, after all if the camera is going to be on them all, you got someplace to store the pictures, and you might as well use them to edit the photographs as well. I've tried taking pictures with the 7" and I can see it is possible to grow onto it, even thought at first it feels a bit awkward. I can't imagine having a camera on a 10" IPad, that is going to feel funny and probably look funny as well.

So will 2011 be the year of the Tablet, it will be an important part. Will it take over, probably not since they are still limited an limiting. Will I get one? Have to save my pennies for that answer.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Citizen Say on the South Side

It was on the front page of the Expositor: "Public to get Say on the South Side". After the debacle of the destruction, sorry, the demolition of the South Side of Colborne Street, the new City Council has decided to include citizen input on what should happen with the stretch of land.

That tells me a few things, one is they learned their lesson. After the problem that led to the demolition, people felt they were shut out of the process and I thinkn a few people lost their political jobs because of it. I'm not sure people were all that fired up about the demolition. I do understand the knee-jerk reaction was 'tear it down since its nothing but an eyesore'. But as it started, people began to feel something was wrong. The second thing, there was no plan. I know former Mayor Hancock all but said that, but here's the proof.

So what should happen. Here's few thoughts I'm starting. The first thing is what shouldn't happen.

1) Don't leave it vacant. I notice some people talk about the great view and how nice it will be to sit along the top of the hill and take in the view. There are now benches produced along the way:

It might be nice, but vacant, or even parkland means no development, no housing, no income from property. I think there should be green space incorporated, but to leave it as a park might be a mistake.

I wonder if it should developed into more University and the Y, as was thought to be the plan. Possible, but again, I think its not the best use of land.

What needs to happen; I believe what the downtown needs is more people, more business and more places to go. For the latter people in the north end, and probably across the river say there's no reason to go downtown. You can understand, after all the retail is in the north. So we need to develop the downtown so that more people live downtown and there is more to do downtown. I know that's easier said then done, but that's where plans come from.

My own vision for the City is to develop a high tech industry for the Centre. I see the old Expositor Building as the hub of all this, in fact perhaps Queen Street can be the nexus for this growth industry. There might be some snorts of derision, but consider this, we live in the industry of electrons. Electrons don't require a specific geographical location. The industry of atoms, heavy industry need a specific location. So we can dream.

What is needed is people downtown. There needs to be that critical mass, a place to live, work, and play is vital. Make everything close so people need not have cars. Density is important and so housing should be in the mix.

Jobs are vital. As the University grows there needs to be something to keep the young people after they graduate, as well as give them something to do while in Unversity. As I look downtown, there not a lot of opportunities for students to find jobs while in the City. Entry level jobs are important and jobs that allow students to practice their education. The University is part of the economic engine for the downtown, it needs to keep going and be vital. At the same time there is need for diversity.

Let me think more about the south side. They want public consultation, this is important because if the public doesn't get into the consultation process, there are all sorts of consultant groups that will gladly take our money and come up with ideas that we can.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mayor Chris at Rotary

There are a number of advantages to attending Rotary. One is the good meals and fine company, another is to get involved in the community and the third is the quality of speakers.

This past Friday is was Mayor Chris Friel's time to speak to the club. I believe he said this was one of the first speeches he will make in the new year. So it was interesting to hear what he had to say. It was as you can remember an interesting election and I think he may have won because he was not a part of the last city council and the fact he had some progressive ideas and promises.

He began by mentioning he had some props with him, one was a congratulation note to a Rotarian who had been made a Paul Harris Fellow. The second was interesting, he brought a city flag that had flown in Afghanistan. One of the local young men who had been stationed had asked for a flag and had it flown over his Armoured Vehicle. It was a success and at the end, he had his platoon sign it, for the city to have. It was quite something to see the names and to realize where this flag had been, plus there was photographs showing the young man proudly flying the flag.

Mayor Chris said he wanted to connect with community groups because they are an important part of the community, and its one that is a challenge. The lives of people are becoming busy and find it a challenge to give time to make the community a better place.

He has a vision and wants to start with a Call to Action. To have all groups in the community get involved. To him an important part of the call is to celebrate the successes of Brantford. Most of the time we hear all that is wrong with Brantford, and he did admit being part of that when he spoke of the downtown as being the worst in Canada. The negative thought is still out there and is very vocal, to him one thing that surprised him was the vocal anti-University sentiment in the community. He heard that people are tired of the fact that the University has been on a free ride and has not brought much to the community. Yes there are students, but they have not brought about any change to the downtown, except to have students. It seems that to many, the City has given a lot to the University and has got nothing in return. In fact it appears all the changes, whether wanted by the people of the City appear to have the University as the motivator. Even the debate of making the roads in the downtown to two way is because of the University.

He took some of these criticisms and gave some answers; first of all the University has generated 38 million dollars worth of building permits over the past 10 years. This includes the 2.3 million for the new Academic Research Centre. Now the City has helped the University with its development. It has used surplus funds, for example, as well as given support through land sales. Also the City has donated building for the University, such as the Carnegie Centre and more recently the SJ Johnson building, which was the old CIBC building. All structures were abandoned and therefore cost the City nothing at all. The result of this is, 2050 students coming to the University. It is estimated these students generate 9.8-12.8 million dollars in economic activity to the downtown, this includes rent, food and retail. Some complain that the students haven't brought much retail, yet the stores that succeed are the ones that market to the students. As an aside, this is probably correct for most of them. Although I think it could be said the Fresh Co plaza probably has been developed by the student base.

What he has discovered is that outsiders are excited about what is taking place in the downtown of Brantford. He talked about discussions he had with a major development and the partners were very excited with what is happening. Projects were being developed that they wanted to be a part of and invest in the downtown.

Mayor Chris also confronted the complaint that the downtown is only for students and there is nothing for people in the north end, say to come downtown. He pointed out, of course, Harmony Square, which is the meeting space of the City. As well, the University is the place where change will commence. There is a lot of exciting things happening and things are even going to get more positive for Brantford. He spoke of the City 'exploding' with positive energy and things. He spoke of the continual need for dialogue between Brant County and the Six Nations. In fact he said there will be some "made in Brantford" decisions which will force the federal government to move forward on land claims. There will be local initiatives which will help the three communities to work together for a change.

One of the questions he was asked was regarding the future of Mohawk College; as we know there are noises of the College pulling out of Brantford. He said to bring Mohawk downtown and that is the desire will cost the City money. The benefits of the College is that it brings more students to the downtown, to the number of 1371. Both sides want to stay in Brantford, so now it is a matter of dealing with outstanding issues.

There was another question about one of the problems is students are only in the City 8 months of the year, is there a way to bring the Colleges and Universities to to full-time. The answer is waiting for the critical mass to be reached.

More good news is that there are other Universities and Colleges looking to expand into Brantford and into the downtown core. Again, this is the Call to Action, to celebrate the good news of Brantford and more from there.

There was warm applause after the speech. He was thanked and it was mentioned of his work keeping Mohawk in Brantford 10 years ago. So we have a mayor willing to take on the challenges facing the City.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Dominion Stands Secure

You may have wondered, what have been the dangers which Canada has faced over the last twenty five years or so. Well, today it was finally revealed. It was not: global warming and environmental degradation (really?), nor was it encroachment upon our Arctic Sovereignty ( yawners), and it certainly has not been economic concerns and crises ( oh please, that's so last year). You would think any and all of those have been our chief concern and the potential source of any problems. No the chief source of the misery and plight that has dogged our fair Dominion has been the song, "Money for Nothing". Yes the now classic rock hit by Dire Strait, is and has been the greatest danger facing us as Canadians. If you read any of the news today you saw the headlines, the snorts of derision, the laughter from the rest of the planet. A group called the Canadian Broadcasts Standards Council released the report of a decision reached last October. It seems one person in Newfoundland set a complaint in regarding the song "Money for Nothing". The Council heard the complaint and decided it was a valid complaint and has decided that the song, in its original form is not fit for Canadian ears.

Darryl Sterdan wrote in the Toronto Sun:
It's been a long time since I wanted my MTV -- but right now, I'll take that over the CBSC any day.

In one of the most head-slappingly moronic moves in history, the national embarrassment that is the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled that Dire Straits' 1985 song Money for Nothing can no longer be played in its original form in Canada -- because one person in Newfoundland was offended over its use of a word that starts with F, rhymes with maggot and refers to gay men.

Let's get a little history happening, the song was written as MTV, was becoming a part of the public conscience. In fact in those days the "M" stood for "Music" and not "Mediocre Crap". Music Video was the new format and a lot of bands were taking advantage of it, certainly there was some great stuff but one of the complaints was that style was overriding substance. Mark Knopfler, the lead singer of Dire Straits, and composer of the song, says he was in a furniture store and overheard one of the salesman complaining about how these 'musicians' were making easy money by being on the MTV. He grabbed some paper, a pen and began to write the comments this guy was making. He turned them into part of the song, released with the album "Brothers in Arms" and the rest is history. However we now know that all the social ills in Canada can be traced back to this one song.

Now, I bought the CD when I bought my first CD player, in fact I've owned it on every possible medium, from cassette to vinyl. So I guess I am now corrupt.

However now, thanks to the CBSC, we are now safe from future corruption, because our radio airwaves, that is the terrestrial ones will no longer play this song. So from this day forward, future generations will not be exposed to it, unless they are connected to the Internet, or been to a record store, do those still exist, or a used book/ music store.

Now far be it for me to leave future generations uncorrupt. So here is the song.

Watch Dire Straits - Money for Nothing in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Just a few more things: if you want to complain here is the contact information page. Yes I've already written them. The second thing is this, if there is one over arching characteristic shared by bureaucracies, be they public or private, government, corporate or industry based, is that none of them possess in the slightest a sense of humour. They cannot comprehend humour, sarcasm, satire, irony or anything else. It is totally beyond them. The third thing is, if you have to ban a song, why can't it be Celine Dion's cover of "You Shook me All Night Long", a version which has been agreed by experts as being the worst cover of all times. It is so bad I implore you do not look it up. It is not terrible, it is the personification of evil. You will beg someone to throw acid at your eyes if you start to view this video. So don't.

And the last thing is: its only Rock 'N Roll, but I like it.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Watching Tron: Legacy

Wired Magazine had this as its opening paragraph:
You will like Tron: Legacy. That’s not a prediction—it’s a command. Don’t even try to fight it. Come December 17, when the movie comes out, your butt will be in a seat and your head will be plugged into migraine-inducing Urkel goggles like everybody else. The people from Walt Disney have made sure of it.

I did watch the original movie when it came out in 1982, wow, doesn't that age me or what. Then again, being a geek means I had to attend and enjoy it. One person called it the first myth of the computer generation. It looked to computers as connected devises in which users manipulated the 'lives' of the population of the computer. It could be controlled, or it could control us. It had great music, produced by Wendy Carlos, and the attention to detail, plus the special effects, the disc match, the light cycles, the escapes- all that made a good movie. Yes I know it was panned by the critics and sort of failed, but it may be one of the those movies that improve with age. Whatever it inspired a sequel:

What also made the first movie so interesting was the interaction between Tron and Jeff Bridges character.

This blog is going to be more based upon my opinion of the movie, not a full review. So there's no worries of spoiler alerts, because if you read my work, you're equally a geek and you've seen it.

Let's discuss it:

This was my first experience of a 3D movie, I know shocking, its just I never had another one I was interested in see. I mean Piranha in 3-D, please I do have tastes. What I liked is the 3D was not over the top, it was relevant, there was no scenes of the light cycles 'crashing' through the screen at us. It added depth and allowed to show the difference between the real world and the digital world, or is it the real world and the analog world.

It also had a number of the original cast, well at least two- Bruce Boxleitner, who went on to be Captain John Sheridan of Babylon 5 fame. As well as Jeff Bridges who brought back his role of Kevin Flynn.

The music was not by Wendy Carlos and her amazing Moog Synthesizer, it was Daft Punk, who brought a more house sound to the movie.

What interested me was the influences of the movie, I thought there was at least three movies which had an impact: Tron, of course, the Matrix and the Big Lebowski. You may wonder why the other two, I thought the scene at the club was right out of the second and third Matrix movies, although the role of the Merovingian was played by Castor. In fact the only thing missing was the three heros entering the bars with weapons drawn. They did have the same DJ booth and the two DJ's in it were dressed alike. I don't know about you, but you either hated the bar scene or loved it. It did make sense in the third movie, except for the rave in the cave of Zion- still hate it. Personally, I thought it was the club scene that set the movie apart from the original. To me the first half was very much scripted to form, call for the flying tanks, have the battle with the discs and cue the light cycles. It was only when the met at the club to get the information they need, plus hang out with the hot babes that the movie came alive. Yes Clu did destroy it, but it was important and the battle scene was quite good. Plus Olivia Wilde did some serious butt kicking, even though she was injured

As for the third influence, it did have, after all, the Dude himself. The Dude truly did abide. Getting serious, there was a very spiritual influence on the movie, Jeff Bridges spent a lot of time meditating. He also was driven with a desire to redeem his character and save what remained of a people, which had been destroyed by Clu. Ultimately Flynn does sacrifice himself to save the Grid, his son and Quorra.

Overall, I did enjoy the movie.

I do have a few reservations, the first was the CGI of the younger face of Jeff Bridges, it was a bit hokey and at first seemed to be a rather bad photoshop attempt. I don't know if it improved through the movie or not, or I just got used to it. The second was the minor influence of Tron, yes it was a corrupted program throughout most of the movie, only coming back to his true reality towards the very end when he does sacrifice himself to protect the Users. It is only then you heard his voice, perhaps Bruce didn't want to go through the CGI process for his character.

In a good way the movie continues the legacy, which is its name, after all. It was worth the price and popcorn which followed.