Archive for November, 2009

As I’m currently in Montreal celebrating both my sister-in-law’s and beau-pere’s (father-in-law) birthdays, I had to write this post well in advance.  Long weekend Monday mornings away from home aren’t exactly made for early morning blog posts when there’s plenty to do.

If all went well, we partied at least twice, ate some great food and had a great time with family and friends.  According to our plan, we spent yesterday having a little family bonspiel at the curling centre in the metropolis of Blainville, Quebec.  I can only assume that means that tomorrow I’ll have some great stories about sending rocks flying into adjacent sheets and learning all the latest Quebecois swear words from the REAL curlers at the rink.  Awesome.

It should also be noted that as of late last week, I’ve completed about 10% of my Christmas shopping.  Since we’re headed to the States, I have to get it done early and ship gifts off to the family flung far and wide across this great Dominion before I abandon it for the great republic to the south.  I only mention that as I’m still waiting for gift lists from my immediate family (HINT, HINT, HINT; Mom, Dad, Graham, Deb and Tim).  If I don’t receive lists, you can all assume that you’ll receive a personally dedicated blog post about how great you are this year in lieu of an actual gift.

Now that family business is out of the way, I wish you all a happy Monday.  Since tomorrow is December 1, you only have 25 shopping days left until Christmas.

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Shouldnt you be out shopping?

Shouldn't you be out shopping?

Now that the time for giving thanks is over, both in Canada and the US, it’s time to get ruthless about deals and savings as we horde products for ourselves and loved ones from now until Christmas.  Get out to those retail outlets and don’t forget to bring a good stabbing knife and a pair of steel-toed boots.  It can get ugly out there.

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I can only imagine that this could lead to WAY too many options, but I need a referral from all you folks out there.  Having near perfect vision (I have reading glasses that I only need if I get a headache from sitting at a computer too long, which is all the time), I don’t spend a lot of time visiting the eye doctor, which is why I don’t have one anymore.  So, do you know a good eye doctor in Toronto that you could recommend?  East end preferred, but not required.

Basically I just need a checkup to make sure I’m not actually blind and didn’t know it.  I also should start getting regular glaucoma tests (the puff of air in your eye) as there’s a bit of a history of it on my dad’s side of the family.

I’ve been to enough eye doctors and heard enough horror stories to know that some of them aren’t known for their bedside manner, so if you’ve got an eye doctor you think is the bee’s knees, let me know.  Please!

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So we’re forgoing our usual Christmas pilgrimage to the east with stops in Western Quebec (near Ottawa) , Blainville (near Laval) and Pincourt (near Montreal) to see family and to try and burn out the transmission in our car and tempt the car crash nymphs.  Instead, we’re flying all the way to Minneapolis, Minnesota to see Danielle’s grandmother and extended family in her mom’s hometown of Stillwater, Minnesota.

I’ve been hearing about this magical little town since I first starting visiting Danielle’s family, and from all accounts it’s a picturesque little place, nestled on the banks of the St. Croix river right on the border with Wisconsin.  I already feel like I’ll fit right in as its origins and history aren’t that different from where my family first settled from Scotland up in the Ottawa Valley.

I’ve been told that I’ll be hauled off into a hut on the river ice to join ‘the boys’ for some ice fishing, and I couldn’t be more excited.  Sure, I’ll miss seeing my family, but I’ve also missed not seeing my new family except all too briefly at our wedding.  I mean, I have ANOTHER grandmother thousands of kilometres away who wants to spoil me, so who am I to turn that down?

I also plan on drinking lots of American Dr.Pepper, which is the pinnacle of soda pop technology.  It’s so sweet and peppery and doctory and delicious.  I also plan on picking up some clothing deals at many of the fine outlets and shopping centres that are unique to the American midwest.

To say I’m excited would be a massive understatement.  Let me know if you want me to bring you back a Dr.Pepper.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time researching social media (Facebook, Twitter etc) and how we interact with these new communications mediums and how companies interact with us on them to sell us stuff.  There is tonnes of information out there on the intarwebs from companies trying to reach consumers and from ‘tech gurus’ trying to ply their expertise in this area, but so far it all seems pretty slapdash.

For Twitter, the status quo is to set up a Twitter account and start posting regularly about what’s going on with your company and what you’re currently promoting.  Some even run technical and customer support on them, responding to issues quickly.  The drawback is that your customers need to follow you on Twitter in order to hear your voice, and they’re stuck listening to you talk about the stuff they don’t necessarily care about.

For Facebook, the model is sort of the same.  Companies create a fan page or an identity.  You join the page or friend the identity and then sit back and let all the updates roll in.  Then, you pick and choose the information that matters to you.

In both cases, the consumer (that’s you) has to wade through all the information that’s put up and decide what they want to interact with.  It’s sort of like watching TV and tuning out the commercials that don’t interest you.

Right now, I’m working on a tool that will allow consumers to decide what information they want to get from whoever they want to get it, and then they can discreetly use their social media network to access that information.  We think it’s pretty rad, and that it will change the way marketing is done in the world of social media.

Stay tuned for more information, but let me know if you’re intensely curious about what we’re doing and I’ll send you more information.  In the meantime, I’d be really grateful if you’d share how you interact with companies in social media and what works or doesn’t.  Leave a comment or drop me a line.

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On Saturday afternoon, we headed down to the Brickworks in the Don Valley to let our dogs frolic in the late autumn awesomeness that is November 2009.  It was sunny, it was warm and it was a perfect day to play in the trees and meadows.

For us, a highlight was having a nice chat with a celebrity.  Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies was hanging out with his family and friends.  We didn’t let on that we knew who he was (at least obviously), but he knew we knew and, to his credit, he played it cool.  What a classy guy.

That night we got locked out of the Wine and Food Show (note for next year, buy tickets of everyone WELL ahead of time) and headed down to the Distillery to have a few drinks at the Mill Street Pub (try the Helles Bock).

On Sunday, aside from some playtime in the local park with our canine charges, we also headed to the ‘burbs to go bowling with my brother.  It wasn’t my best showing at 10-pin, but it wasn’t my worst either.  I think I need to start playing more often to find out how to use my peculiar spin for good instead of evil.

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For years now, I’ve always had a Sharpie marker in my arsenal of ‘must have’ tools.  I bought my first on-board CD burner back before it was cool (in the late 90’s, and it cost me a pretty penny) and quickly found, like everyone else, that Sharpies were the best tool for writing on CDs.

Fast forward to now.  A few weeks ago, I went looking for some new pens.  I’m pretty picky about my writing instruments, and Pilot G2 Gel Pens are getting hard to find for some reason, so I made the switch to Uni-Ball Signo pens and I’m really happy with the choice.  As an impulse purchase, I picked up a pack of Sharpie fine-point pens.  Yes, Sharpie makes actual pens.

The body is nearly as thick as the marker, but the click-out point is superfine, and releases just the write amount of ink.  It’s nearly as smooth to write with as a rollerball tip, but without all the pesky ink-bleeding.  To say I was surprised at how much I liked it would be an understatement.  My only issue with the pen that keeps it from becoming my new favourite is the sheer size of the pen itself.  If they could get it down to normal size, I’d be hooked for life.

If you think you use a better pen, let me know and I’ll try it out.

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I’m still unsure how I plan on responding to the rumours of an upcoming TTC fare hike to deal with massive budget shortfalls for this year.  According to Adam Giambrone (the chair of the TTC) and various media outlets, it sounds like the cash fare will go up by $0.25 to $3 with a similar hike to Metropasses.

For the last year, I’ve been feeling that my return on my transit investment has been pretty terrible, so the thought of paying more for the same shoddy service is something I’d prefer not to do.  So, what are my options?  I suppose I could protest somehow.  There are groups who have planned boycotts of service for a day, or protests at TTC head office (at Davisville Station), but I doubt those will have any effect on the decision makers.  I could do the most Canadian thing of all and write a strongly-worded letter to those same decision makers, but they’ll likely give the most Canadian of responses and just ignore it.

I think that maybe the time has come for me to start seeking out some new modes of transportation that don’t require driving my car or taking the laughably called “better way”.  Any suggestions?

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