What's under the hood

This is mostly for my own benefit, so I can refer to what gear I've got if I'm in the mood to upgrade .... or if there's some kind of catatstrophic crash.

Little Eddie, the Home Theatre PC is:
  • AMD Athlon XP 1500+ at 1.3 GHz
  • 512 MB RAM (256 MB x2)
  • MSI MS-6712 board (aka MSI KT4V)
  • BIOS is American Megatrends Inc. 07.00T 04/02/01
  • 704.03 Gigabytes Usable Hard Drive Capacity (Maxtor 6B200P0)
  • Sapphire/ATI RADEON 9000 video
  • Hauppauge WinTV 250 and 150MCE tuner/capture cards
  • Sound Blaster Live! 24-bit
  • SnapStream FireFly
  • Logitech wireless mouse/keyboard
  • Linksys Wireless-G PCI Adapter
  • Inside an Antec Overture II case
  • Hooked up to living room television and home theatre sound

The Stallion (studio/gaming/general purpose PC) is:
  • AMD Sempron 3000+ at 2 GHz
  • 2 GB RAM (1 GB new Kingston Value, 2 x 512 MB Kingston)
  • ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe board (v2.xx), BIOS Rev 1013
  • 407.87 Gigabytes Usable Hard Drive Capacity
  • SiI RAID 0 Set + WDC WD800JB-00CRA1 (80.02 GB)
  • NEC DVD_RW ND-3500AG
  • CD-RW LG GCE-8481B
  • ATI ALL-IN-WONDER 9800 Pro video
  • SB Audigy Platinum sound card (removed for now)
  • M-Audio Delta Audiophile 2496 sound card
  • LG L204WT 20" widescreen monitor

Both running Windows XP.

Well, that ought to do it. Enough geekery for tonight. Dinner's almost ready.

Big Ass Music now online

I've signed up to a new service that's in beta testing right now. It's designed to be a MySpace/YouTube kind of site for Canadian musicians, focusing for now on Atlantic Canadian musicians.

I've put some songs up for listening. For the first time, you can now hear some remastered tracks in hi-fi from my first album Serotonin, and a couple of tracks prepared for the (eventually) forthcoming album Mind The Gap.

You can also sign up to be "a fan". I don't know what that gets you. Odds are I won't be mailing out candy and newsletters.

Check it out: the web site is www.onlinemusicnetwork.ca, and my profile page is at http://www.onlinemusicnetwork.ca/Big__Superstar/.

Rock on!

Cygnals: Ween: All about the high sh*t

From the pages of Cygnals Zine, Issue #9, Spring 1997


"It's all about the high sh*t." The first words out of Gene Ween's mouth upon answering the telephone.

I can only assume he was talking to sidekick Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo), sharing a downtown Detroit hotel room after spending the night on the tour bus. Gene, known as Aaron Freeman to the police and anyone who needs his real name, is groggy, but fresh from a good healthy shit.

Based on previous interviews with Gener I'd read in other zines, I figured I might be in for a tough time. But little did I know that Gene Ween would be a more challenging interview than any politician or scientist I've ever talked to.

I introduce myself. "Did you just talk to this guy?" asks Gene to Dean. "Yeah, you were in the toilet," he answers. Woo-woo. Gene/Aaron puts down the phone, grabs a cigarette and comes back for the interview.

Warner was kind enough to send me a copy of Ween's current release, 12 Golden Country Greats, an enjoyable mix of Ween wackiness with country hurtin'. A country record from drug-punk-funk-alterna-whatever boys Ween? What must the record company have thought? "They didn't really know until it was finished, until we handed it in." Once finished, they were good about promoting it, I'm told, but I still haven't seen a video from it.

Ween's drug use is legendary, but Gene says that's over. "Not after the big bust in '92, there's no big drug lifestyle anymore. I can't talk about it. Pretty ugly." Yeah. Right.

I made the mistake of bringing up one of my other favorite bands, They Might Be Giants. I'd read Ween doesn't like them. "No, not really. Can't say as I do. A little too smart college boy for me. I was never into smart college boy music."

Aside from an anticipated tour with Marilyn Manson (is he kidding?) And last year's tour with Foo Fighters, Gene poo-poos opening for anyone. "It's something that we've never really done, and it's something that we're not going to start doing. I think we're a little different than that, our whole trip. Forty minutes in front of Beck isn't really where it's at. There's nobody out there that I like enough to do that with. Ninety-nine per cent of opening bands stink. Cuz of these stupid fucking club people who try to find a They Might Be Giants type band. So not only aren't they like They Might Be Giants, they're worse than They Might Be Giants. Which is hard to imagine."

Stupidly, I mention I saw TMBG opening for Hootie (ack!) And the Blowfish at Skydome a week earlier. "That sounds like a nightmare. Goddamn. Why am I even talking to you?" I lose his attention even more. "I got athlete's foot, I think...uhh, yeah?"

Pushing my luck after talking to Ween about Frente, I ask if he's heard of Cub. "Cup?" Cub. "I think 99% of that cute girl shit sucks. Alternative girl-rock. Very popular right now and they all sound the same."

After nearly twenty minutes of trying to pull more than "yeah" or "it's cool" answers from Gene, I wrap up the interview.


Follow up 2008:

- The October 23, 1996 show that I interviewed Ween for was later released as Ween's first live album, and a must-have for Ween fans. The release of "Ween: Live in Toronto" marked the launch of Chocodog Records.

Cygnals: David Bronstein

From the pages of Cygnals Zine, Issue #9, Spring 1997.

"Get off the couch, get out of bed, go to the phone and call the number on the screen!"

If you've had the good fortune to be channel-surfing late at night, among the exercise equipment, food processors and motivation courses, you've no doubt found Dial-A-Date.

David Bronstein from Dial-A-Date Surrounded by bikini-clad dancing girls, the self-proclaimed 'Prince of Love' David Bronstein compels viewers to "call the number on the screen" to "talk live to real single and women and men."

I tracked down Bronstein at the North York
headquarters of the Dial-A-Date empire, B&W

"I'm an actor, that's all I am," he says.

Bronstein has appeared in a few movies, on CBC's Toronto After Hours, on YTV and USA Cable Network's Dog House, and on the syndicated film trailer show Hollywood Camera. (He was later replaced by granite-jawed pretty-boy Dan Duran. "The station, whoever was carrying it, thought I was an idiot. They hated me. They hated my goofiness. They hated my personality, whatever I was doing.")

After all this, Bronstein found he wasn't getting a lot of auditions. Fed up, he fired his agent, hooked up with partner Andrew Wells and grappled to produce his own show. TV production isn't cheap, however. Facing the prohibitive costs of writing a script, selling it, shooting a pilot, and shopping it around, Bronstein decided the now-common infomercial route would work best: buy the whole half-hour and program it yourself. Rather than sell advertising time during the show, he set up a 900 line to generate revenue. All, he says, to get his Seinfeldesque mug on TV.

On a few weekend mornings, I've seen Bronstein pushing a stroller on the subway. He's lived with wife and family in Toronto for 10 years. He seems like an otherwise nice guy. So, of course, the obvious question: is David Bronstein really the obnoxious Prince of Love we see on TV?

"Not the same guy," he confesses. "The persona I portray when I go 'Hey, baby, hey gorgeous, hey sweety,' I'm portraying all the guys who go to clubs who are all hot and cool . . . do you watch Saturday Night Live? You know the segment where they have the two disco guys? That's the role I'm playing on TV, because I'm not that guy. I wish I could be that guy, and have that kind of confidence when I go to clubs. On the screen, the role that I turn on and off light a light switch when I'm shooting, I wish I could be that. But when I go to Vegas with Andrew, my partner, he takes me to clubs because people recognize me, and he meets girls that way. But I don't have the guts to go up to girls and say 'Hey gorgeous, you're beautiful, what's your name?' -- I don't have the guts to do it. I wish I did!"

Now that you've seen the other side of the leering guy with the waving hands, dancing with the bikini girls, you might be surprised to know that the folks on the line are indeed "real single women and men, the kind of people you'd meet in clubs and bars, but you're too chicken to talk to."

Here's how it works. The people who appear on the show get access codes for the Dial-a-Date computer. They log in from home when they feel like taking calls. Then Joe Couch Potato calls the number on the screen, and is presented with a menu of who's logged in to take calls. He presses a button and the computer calls Real Single Chickee at home and gives her the option to take the call or not. They're connected, they chat, and she gets paid by the minute to talk to the guy. Of course, the longer she gets him to talk, the more she makes (and the more he pays).

"It just so happens the dating business is a great business," he says, "because it never goes away."
But that's not the end of it. "People are staying home more and they're going out less, and that was the whole point of bringing personal ads to television was to create a night club in your home so you don't have to go out and meet anybody because I'm going to bring them into your living room."

Bronstein and Wells want to take the interactive phone world even further.

"There's a billion types of shows I want to do. Dating is great, but Pepsi, they have Orange Crush and grape soda . . . for more shelf space. I read an article about how there's so many overweight people. I want to do a show giving you your own personal nutritionist-diet person you can talk to over the phone live, so they'll tell you what kind of foods to eat, and how much to weigh your food, and what'd you eat today, and talk about nutrition."

What's left once you have the market cornered on by-the-minute billing for fat folks and lonely people? Well, having a panic attack? Call the number on the screen!

"People are depressed, people have been abused, they have nobody to go to, nobody to talk to. So I want to do a show where people can call in, and you can talk to all these social workers who are out of work, and all these therapists can work from home and talk to these people. Yes, it'll cost them money on their phone bill, but the whole reason they're out of work is because the government's not giving them any money. Everything costs money, but there's a big market for that -- unfortunately."

"I read all these articles about the Internet. All these women are leaving their husbands because of guys they're meeting on the Internet. So I want to capitalize -- not on people's problems -- but there are a lot of lonely women there . . . I guess."

The net's getting to be big business, with neat stuff like live teleconferenced strip shows getting more popular. Bronstein likes it, and would love to get in.

"More people have telephones and TVs than have computers, which is why I'm on television, even though I want to do the Internet. We do have a web site. It's a very lame web site, at http://www.dial-a-date.com/."
Yes, the web site is very lame. Very very lame and full of bad grammatical errors. (Seeing
"you're" as "your" really gets me going.)
Follow-up 2008:
- This David Bronstein is not David Bronstein the chess grandmaster.
- He has a new website: DavesTVDeals.com (now gone)
- Check out a whole pile of David Bronstein video clips (not any more)
- Want David to pitch your product on TV? $20-thousand gets you the King of Late Night! (nope)

Rush: Subdivisions: Mark Dailey: The Truth

** Update December 5, 2010: On the passsing of Mark Dailey, I've written an update for this article with the latest thought on the subject. I hope it may put the issue to rest.

More than ten years ago, I posted an item at cygnals.com correcting a "fact" in the Rush Frequently Asked Questions list:

- Neil says "Subdivisions" in the song of the same name, even though Alex is shown saying it in the video and does it live.
That's wrong. I've found who really says it.
If you live near Toronto, you know who he is. He's Mark Dailey, evening newscaster and "The Voice" of Toronto television station City-TV and also MuchMusic.

I'm thrilled to have first brought this fact to the Internet so many years ago ... and credit and thanks to Mike Wilner for the tip that sent me off on the research mission in the first place.

I spoke briefly with Mark about it back then, and posted a clip of him saying "Subdivisions". He confirmed it outright. Some still didn't accept it as fact. The story has sat idle, and the RealAudio sound is old and scratchy by modern standards. Besides, who likes using RealPlayer these days?
Here's subdivisions-dailey-1997-whole-from-ra.mp3 -- an MP3 version of the first RA file, which was mono, 11khz. I don't know if I still have the original master of the cassette source.

Well, I was going through my old Minidiscs recently and happened upon a follow-up chat I had with Mark Dailey in late 2002. It's provided me with a good opportunity to update the story and post some new audio -- this time in MP3, which wasn't the standard in 1997 that it is today.

Here's subdivisions-dailey-2002-whole.mp3 -- the new audio of Mark from 2002. Okay, strangely enough, he's completely changed his story. Now he's suggesting it's former Buffalo newscaster Nolan Johannes, who moved to a station in Pennsylvania in 1982. Is he trying to swerve us to preserve a sense of mystery? I think he's just joking with me. All signs point to Dailey as The Voice. I'm in the process of contacting Nolan Johannes to get his take.

Here's subdivisions-dailey-comparison-2007.mp3 -- a compilation clip with the following:

  • a clip from the first instance of "Subdivisions" in the original song
  • the centre channel isolated from that clip, to highlight "Subdivisions
  • Dailey from 1997 saying the word, with effects, then without
  • Dailey from 2002 saying the word, without effects, then with
  • the original song clip again
  • a centre-channel-extracted clip mixed with the 1997-with-effects clip for illustration

People have tried to edit the correction into the Wikipedia article about the song, but other editors have repeatedly nixed the change, even though the Mark Dailey article says exactly this.
I don't suggest using a "fact" on one Wiki page to corroborate a fact on another -- that's useless, circular logic -- but you're welcome to cite me, for heaven's sake. If I'm credible enough deliver the news every night, I'm certainly credible enough to quote on Wikipedia. Heck, my stuff has been used to support articles about Sam The Record Man, TTC's Lower Bay subway station, TTC's Lower Queen Station, and an article about Russell Oliver that has since been deleted.

I should also point out that some authors have accepted this reality. The book Rush Tribute: Mereley (sic) Players by Robert Telleria (Quarry Press, 2002)doesn't cite my web site by name, but says:

Contrary to popular belief, Neil does not sing the part "Subdivisions" (nor does Alex who filled in for concerts and in the video promo). It was actually Toronto newsman Mark Dailey's voice. (p. 181)

So ... can we settle this already? Mark Dailey says "Subdivisions" in "Subdivisions".

My first newscast

Back in 1982, my teacher, Bill Webster, invited the class to write a little newscast about the school to be aired in a weekly Sunday-night segment on Newmarket radio station CKAN 1480 AM.

IIRC, the whole class was assigned the job of summarizing a series of news items about the school into a short bulletin, and mine was chosen for the show.

Either that, or he picked me out of the class to do it. I'm not sure.

In any case, I present to you my first radio newscast!

I was at Pearson International Airport doing a story for 680News one morning, when I saw Mr. Webster walking through the terminal. I thanked him for giving me that break so many years ago. I don't know whether it had any effect on my future career, but I'm pretty sure I've never been as nervous filing a report over the telephone as I was that lunch hour in the principal's office.

Cuba now, New York later?

We're booked!

We've set up a vacation to Cuba for March. One week in the sun, sand, and endless bacon of the all-you-can eat buffet. Ah, the life of an otter -- laying back in the water with food on my tummy.
I still hope to get to New York City later in the year for another vacation, but Amanda's concerned finances may not allow such a trip.

Fortunately, the amazingly talented folks at Infinite Solutions have served up a guide to enjoying NYC on $100.

I strongly recommend checking out the rest of the Infinite Solutions videos. You'll be surprised how much you learn.

Followup to Donair Salad request

I sent out an email about my Donair Salad article. I asked for feedback from King Of Donair, Bash Toulany's, and Venus Pizza, as well as from two webmasters who feature extensive sites about Halifax donairs.

Chris at TheGreatness.com (a fantastic Donair resource, btw!) responds:

Dunno. I would think, given the Mediterranean emphasis on salads and the North American "chicken caesar salad" phenomenon, that such a salad would make some
sense. It's a natural evolution from the "doner kebab" and green salad combo that is common in Turkey and, by extension, in European towns with large Turkish populations. But Canadian donair has a well deserved reputation of being the food you eat when you don't care about healthy eating. How do you mix that with the healthy clientele that usually wants a salad? Maybe it would work, but it's one more item on the menu to keep track of.

So far, none of the other leading donair innovators or commentators have replied to my request.

A genius tribute or spoof?

If you have an hour or so -- and I'm not saying I do -- and you appreciate visionary genius and absolute skill at editing -- and I do, kinda -- and you think Garfield cartoons are kinda lame -- you got me there -- then please, please, take some time and view the series of videos by Lasagna Cat. You may not laugh out loud at the first one you see, but digest a bunch of them and I hope you'll agree... this stuff is ... like ... good and stuff.

Sorry, bud, wrong Scott Simpson -- part 3

Looks like my Audi A4 has been serviced.

Of course, as documented here recently, I don't have an Audi A4.

Yet, I got another email today from New Country Audi thanking me for having my car serviced, and inviting me to fill out a customer satisfaction survey.

They didn't acknowledge the last email I sent alerting them to the fact that they're emailing the wrong Scott Simpson about the car.

Perhaps there's a field in the customer satisfaction survey about that.

I'll be sending them another email about this today.


The reply to my inquiry was: "I apologize, all you have to do is unsubscribe on the email" (sic)

So, I asked, "Any explanation of why I’d be getting email intended for one of your customers?"

The answer: "To be honest with you, I have no idea, its a third party that does the email address collection, for some reason your email address is attached to scott B simpson. Again, I apologize for this inconvenience"

Someone must make this: Donair Salad

Jason was heading off to Burger King to get a salad today.
Why? Because he had a coupon.

Still, a salad? At Burger King? Home of the Whopper?

It suddenly dawned on me ...

Someone in this town needs to introduce a DONAIR SALAD.


Can't you just see it? Or smell it with your mind's nose?

A salad ... a salad with, y'know, lettuce ... but with the usual donair toppings of onions and tomatoes ...

... topped with donair meat ...

... dressed with ... I dunno ... DONAIR SAUCE?

It seems obvious! We have donair subs, donair burgers, donair pizza, perhaps even donair fries. But a google search only turns up a couple of instances of Donair Salad, and I don't think they're even in the Donair Capital, Halifax.

Someone. Please. Make. Me. A. Donair. Salad.

Low in carbs. Crunchy. Meaty.
Add it to your menu, and I'll write you up a recommendation here at www.bigasssuperstar.com. And it'll be an especially good recommendation if you give it to me free.

Cygnals: Crazy Joe: You'll be sorry!

From the pages of Cygnals Zine, Issue #8, Summer 1996.

For sixteen years, a bearded man in a black suit has been hard-selling his way into Toronto-area living rooms.

Crazy Joe (the only name he'll give) hit Toronto's Multicultural Television (now CFMT-TV, channel 47) with fast-talking, low-budget TV spots based on a simple formula: "A crazy guy dressed up like a rabbi, with a hat, with a beard, selling blinds, verticals, furniture and carpet," says Joe. Yelling breathlessly for 30 seconds, Joe ambushes the viewer and implores him to "shop at Crazy Joe's or you pay too much ... you'll be sor-ry!"

Why's this nut dressed up like a rabbi? "I'm an Orthodox Jew, that's the difference," he says. "I wear this suit with the hat all the time."

The no-frills, crazy-crazy-crazy, dressed-like-a-rabbi gimmick has inspired spoofs from the likes of SCTV, with a parody piece dubbed "Crazy Hy's." Joe saw it two years after it went to air, calling it "very, very interesting."

Joe's hard-sell style has been imitated by many retailers, including Toronto jewelry fanatic Russell Oliver. "Oliver came to me for interview," says Joe. "He came to me, he want to know how to present himself, but basically he took off on me." And how's Oliver doing, in the eyes of the master? "I don't know, but he'll never come close to me as a promoter."

And what about the Bad Boy, Blaine Lastman? Another nooobody. "He's doing the same schtick from 20 years ago, so it's only going the same routine back and forth."

Both Lastman and Oliver read from a prepared script, something Joe denies doing. "Everything is on spot," he says. "I do it right away, on spot. Not no scripts, nothing." He admits, though, it takes about two hours to crank out four or five commercials.

For the small-time journalist trying to track down the big man for a quick telephone interview, he comes across more like Surly Joe than Crazy Joe. With all the good cheer you'd expect from a skeptical, stressed-out businessman with an unrelenting schedule, Joe was hard to find in a good mood.

Once the interview got rolling, though, Joe was the same goofy guy we see on TV.

But...he doesn't understand what a zine is. I guess that'll change soon.
Crazy Joe's Wife Responds
Subject: Crazy Joes Article
Date: Sat, 03 Aug 1996 22:45:35 -0400
From: Chane Iczkovitz

Thank you very much for a copy of your "Zine".
Joe was very pleased with your article about him. He especially liked hearing the real audio of the interview.
He wasn't aware that you taped it. I have been trying to get him to advertise on the net for a while now without any success. Now, he's quite pleased to be on it.
I've tried explaining to him what a zine is, but I don't think he gets it.
I hope you sell alot of copies. Good luck.
Chane (Joes techhead wife)

Bonus links!
Official Crazy Joe's Drapery site

Cygnals: Russell Oliver: Jewellery Fetishist or True Patriot?

(The thought of discontinuing my old site, http://www.cygnals.com/, has crossed my mind from time to time. A few articles from over there still get a lot of hits, so thought it prudent to republish them here. Besides, those articles -- many published more than a decade ago -- had tiny photos and scratchy RealAudio files, as was the style of the time. Now I can offer bigger photos when I have them, and MP3 audio if I can find the source tape. -- Scott)

From the pages of Cygnals Zine, Issue #8, Summer 1996.

If you've been up late watching TV in Toronto, you've probably noticed this guy begging for you to bring him your jewelry. He's Rusell Oliver. He spoke to Cygnals from his stately jewelry emporium on Eglinton Avenue West.

Cyg: For anyone outside Toronto who hasn't seen your ads, explain what you do on TV.
Oli: I basically go on myself, and I encourage people to come down and bring me any jewelry they have in the form of gold -- gold chains, gold bracelets, gold necklaces. I also encourage Cartier and Rolex watches or any big-name brand watches. I also buy diamonds, and I buy antiques and estate stuff. So what I do is I have encouraged people to come down, bring me their jewelry, and I pay them cash, on the spot, while they wait.

Cyg: How did you first get into these TV ads, these middle-of-the-night low-budget ads?
Oli: Well they're not really middle of the night any more. They started out that way, but now you'll find you'll see them on Oprah Winfrey, Dini Petty, Breakfast Television...

Cyg: ...And I notice you're also sponsoring the late-night movies...
Oli: Late-night movies I kept, because they're fabulous. If you watch any of those movies on Tuesday or Friday nights, you can't miss them, because they're sponsored by me...so I'm constantly on there. What started me on that was, I was selling used jewelry and the market was pretty slow -- most people were coming in wanting to sell stuff. So I decided, well, rather than get involved too much in the selling of jewelry to people, let me try buying from people. And what happened was, people started coming on a more frequent basis as I started advertising. And when I went on TV and people saw that...and people who don't know where to go, they have no idea where to sell their jewelry, would say Oh well, here's a guy who encourages and wants our jewelry. They're intimidated to go anywhere else because they're scared. People go into a jewelry store and say "will you buy my jewelry" and they're afraid the answer will be, which it is most of the time, no, we won't, and they're intimidated by it. So they're happy to see a guy on TV who's saying I want your used jewelry, I need your used jewelry, I've got cash for your jewelry.

Cyg: You're pretty passionate about needing people's jewelry. How did you first get into all this?
Oli: I've been in the jewelry business for 25 years. But I've been on the other end. I've been on selling jewelry.

Cyg: So where do you get all this money to buy all the jewelry? Where's all the jewelry that people bring in go?
Oli: Uh, well, what we do is we export most of it. So we've got customers all over the world who are giving us money...and we take their money and give it to the Canadian public.

Cyg: And now you've joined the ranks of Bad Boy and Crazy Joe -- a sort of kitschy TV personality. Do you think people take you seriously or do they look at you like some wacky pawn-shop guy on TV?
Oli: It doesn't matter. How they look at me is not important. They look at me and they come down. They react...everybody reacts differently. Most people are, you know, quite impressed. But what is fabulous is that I am the only one that you can actually come down and meet me. Should you want to go to Bad Boy, you're not really going to meet Blaine Lastman. You may or you may not. You're taking a shot. He's got four stores and they're huge. You come to my place, I guarantee you're gonna meet me. You're g onna meet Russell Oliver in person. That's what it says on the commerical. And people love it. Because they feel they know me. You have a guy in your living room, and he's talking to you, a few times a day, which I am, they feel they know me. They come in, they feel comfortable, they smile, they're in a good mood -- everybody likes coming, because they feel like they're meeting a television personality. And, quite frankly, they are.

Cyg: And do these people ever have second thoughts about going through their old family heirlooms and bringing in old gold?
Oli: Sure, sure. It's an emotional experience, and I understand that. I sympathize with people, and I'm the first one to sympathize and say "look if you have any use for it, use it.." But if you don't have any use for it, it's silly to have it in a drawer, jewelry box, or even your safety deposit box. You may as well turn it into cash, which whether you need it or not is not the important -- your cash can make you cash. Whether you put it in the bank, get some interest out of it, or buy a GIC or put it in the stock market, you're gonna make money. Sitting in your drawer and jewelry box is not going to make any money, it's going to sit there as dead money. So turn it into cash and then you can use it for something else that might represent something that you get more enjoyment out of.

Bonus links:

Oliver Jewellery, Official Site

My premier's funnier than your premier

Reminding me a little of the antics of former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, Nova Scotia premier Rodney MacDonald hustles to get David Letterman to come to Canada's Ocean Playground.

And given today's dearth of news, this is today's top story.

Sorry, bud, wrong Scott Simpson -- the sequel!

Ray Catena Lexus in Larchmont, New York wrote to welcome me to the eVIP program for service on my Lexus Rx350. They even had the VIN# for my Lexus.
Problem is ... I don't have a Lexus.

Today, another email from another dealership addressed to me ... well, to Scott "B" Simpson:

Welcome to the New Country Audi OnStation Program! We are pleased to offer you complimentary membership to our online email program designed to help you maintain and extend the life of your vehicle.

I've sent a reply to New Country Audi, 181 West Putnam Avenue, Greenwich, CT, asking how this could happen. Haven't heard back yet.

Pennies from heaven or money-grubbing desperation?

Krystal at the "Give Me Back My Five Bucks" personal finance blog is wondering about people who pick change off the ground:

Some people have set standards - they won't pick up change unless it's more than a quarter. Or a dollar. Others just won't pick up money at all. I, on the other hand, clearly have no standards. I pick up money off the ground all the freaking time. Even pennies.

Me? Heck yeah. If it's a penny, I'll justify it by saying it's a luck thing. If it's anything more, it's a money thing.

It's also a karma thing from that time a few months ago when I left $60 sitting in the bank machine 'cuz I was in such a rush to grab my receipt .. and someone walked away with my money.

I was talking about lobby cameras today with a guy who works in the building, and he says his friend used to glue coins to the lobby floor and sit upstairs watching people try to pry the coins off the floor. Sounds like a blast -- and a YouTube project, actually -- but I wouldn't disrespect my own apartment building by gluing things to the tile without authorization.

Name my robot

Still no flying cars, but the Jetsons world is starting to come through at BigAss HQ with the arrival of the Roomba robotic vaccum cleaner.

I got a Roomba Scheduler for Christmas from mom and dad and have had a few opportunities to put it through its paces.

It's cleaned the living room and dining room a few times, and does a decent job. It chokes on cords if they're in the way, and wedges itself helplessly under the coffee table from time to time, but that's half the fun.

It's not a hands-off toy. It demands cleaning after use. Emptying the dustbin is just part of the maintenance. It takes a bit more work to take the roller and brush out and give them a thorough cleaning. But that's, again, part of the fun. It's satisfying dirty work, like popping a boil, or cleaning the wax out of your ears, or a good puke after drinking too much.

Yesterday I cleared the clutter from the master bedroom and sent it on a mission to clean where the regular vacuum won't go -- under the bed, under the dressers and so on.

The Roomba spent an hour or so bouncing around the bedroom while I cleaned the litterbox. I cleaned the machine's guts afterward and ended up with a huge pile of cat hair, lint and detritus. After recharging, I sent 'im back for another mission. Another pile of stuff. This beast really cleans up.

The problem is ... he (she?) doesn't have a name.

Given that our household has two kitties named "Kitty", and Amanda's DS Nintendog puppy is named "puppy", there's a solid chance the new robot could end up named "Robot," "Roomba," or "Vacuum."


Goals for 2008

A few things on the to-do list for the year ahead:

  • Tackle weight loss, again

  • Complete two albums -- first, finish "Mind The Gap", then work on some originals

  • Play at least two open-mic gigs in Halifax

  • Advance two more belt levels in taekwondo

  • Keep my RRSP maxed out

  • Increase my net worth. It's not bad now, but will be even better

  • Finally finish quitting smoking and eating cinnamon buns

  • Get a tattoo commemorating the disposal of all my vices

  • Develop my leadership skills
  • Become a more accomplished cook -- and cook at home more
  • Be more assertive about inviting friends to do things
  • Be less codependent -- own my own stuff and get more comfortable letting others take care of theirs
  • On the small-to-do list that's been sitting for ages: digitize all my media (tapes, videotapes, slides, prints, super-8 film), renovate my web sites, get new glasses, steam clean the carpet, take the cat to the vet, etc.

Today was my last day at work, and I'm okay with that

Today marks a weird spot on the calendar for me. It’s one of those landmarks that really doesn’t mean anything, other than to illustrate the...