Feb 02

Cancun (part1)

Last week Zuimei and I went to Cancun, Mexico.  It had been several years since the two of us had a vacation together, just us.  I booked the trip through Expedia and it was a toss up between Bermuda and Cancun but in the end we decided there was probably more to do there.  It is difficult to pack for a trip to somewhere warm while it is ten below outside.  It is also difficult to pack for two.  Zuimei had been in New York on business so he was arriving the night before we leave.

Once at the airport we got cornered by a tout who could hook us up with all the tours, etc.  I was a bit confused since he had an official looking badge and was inside the secure zone of the airport so I guess he was state sponsored tout?  We politely extricated our selves from that situation and were met by the Westjet agent. Eventually they had a board a minibus and shuttled us off to the Hotel zone and eventually our hotel.  Zuimei tipped the driver and we checked in.   One thing I advise, if you are going to Cancun is to get a hundred one dollar US bills.  Everyone there asks for tips.  Even though we were in an all-inclusive resort (and there is much debate about this on TripAdvisor) we felt sort of obligated to leave something every time we ate, or to tip the maid service.

The resort I had chose was the Grand Caribe Real.  They had a good rating on tripadvisor and from the photos it looked good. The rooms were fine, They were clean and spacious.  My only complaint would be we paid for a junior suite ocean view and you needed to go out on the balcony to see the ocean.  I wanted to be able to see it from our room. 24240268189_40b376132d_z

We did have an issue with the nightclub from the hotel next door being right under out suite.  As a result the thumping music was keeping me up. The staff were happy to move us to another suite on the other side away from the noise of the club.  However now we were on the street side and had the noise of cars and trucks as well as the resorts massive air-conditioning system.  Still it was better than the thumping base.  Our view changed as well with us now looking back towards Cancun proper.24239257069_01b5435dfa_z

 

When we go back to Cancun, we will not be staying at the same resort.  Not because it wasn’t good, but because it is really family oriented.   The resort is centered around the pool area with most of the rooms looking inward.  Several of the restaurant overlook the patio as well.  If you have kids this is the perfect place for you.  There are lots of staff, who are incredibly helpful and speak English very well.  So you can be confident that your family is safe.  But if you are like us, and really after rest and relaxation this might not be the best place for you.

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The food was okay.  Neither of us got sick or anything which sometimes happens when you travel.  The resort has 5 restaurants.  Two buffet style restaurants, a Mexican, an Italian and a steak restaurant.  The food, as you can see was beautifully presented but a little disappointing.  I assume because it is a family place we found the flavours quite bland.  We shouldn’t be too surprised though, if you want authentic Mexican, you have to find out where the locals eat.

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The resort was all-inclusive so you can order a pina colada at 10 in the morning and no one looks twice.  I know because I made that part of my daily routine.  Unfortunately Zuimei doesn’t drink so I am not sure we got out money’s worth on that front.

One of the daily activities for us was shopping.  Often it was just browsing since a lot of the touts sell the same plastic crap made in China.  One of the places we went was Mercado 28, which is this sort of market for tourist stuff. This reminded me of being in China, with all the vendors calling to you, “Amigo, come see my shop. What do you need? I have it”  If you are feeling up to it you can bargain quite aggressively.

24604580325_07f18dc886_zOne of our favorite stores is called Amberte.They sell beautiful, authentic artwork from all over Mexico and can provide you with additional information regarding any of the things they sell, who made it, what part of Mexico it is from, why it is an important piece.  We bought several items there, jewelry, pottery, a bead bear…  What was sad though is both of the locations we went to were in these depressing, dying malls.  In one of the malls 60% of the stores were shuttered. and the rest all sold the same plastic garbage.

 

 

 

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Feb 02

If love could have saved you…

edc51Ty

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Jan 28

Something rotten in the state of Newmarket

My taxes have gone up again this year.  Which isn’t too surprising there are only two guarantees in life: death and taxes.

  • Property taxes                                    2.34% increase
  • Hydro                                                   11.0% increase
    Power is delivered through Newmarket-Tay Power Ltd. – a privately held corporation. It was very hard to dig this information up as there is no mention of who actually owns the company on their website
  • Water and Sewer                               6.5% increase
  • Recreation and User Fees               3.5% increase

What really grinds my gears though is when that money isn’t spent appropriately.  Take a look at the salaries various mayors I got from this Toronto Star article.

I get that mayors should get paid a decent salary but if you consider the average salary in Ontario is $49,088 Tony Van Bynen’s $180K+ salary is a hefty increase.  If you compare it against other towns in Ontario it isn’t that out of line until you calculate the cost compared to the size of the town.  If you do that, Rob Ford came in at a thrifty 7 cents per person, while Mr. Van Bynen comes in a whopping 32 times that!

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Something is seriously out of whack in Newmarket, thankfully there is a Newmarket Taxpayer Advocacy group. Who will now get a new member.

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Jan 15

Some old photos

I came across some old photos while looking for something on my computer.

Zuimei and I in Xian,  Zuimei in Shanghai, Me (25 years old) in Dort Kalesei in Turkey, My friend Neil and I standing in the Mediterranean, Me with hemp growing in Pakistan, and me playing a very serious video game.

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Jan 11

Good Riddance to comments

With my work at the CBC, I struggled with explaining the value or ROI of certain tools or mediums, others are much easier..

Take TV for example.  We can measure the lift of traffic to the website for any given advert.  We were able to successfully measure the lift in traffic to a particular site (Steven & Chris) when they had a bottom third ad which came across the screen. Something like “For the recipe visit www.cbc.ca/stevenandchris/”  We could measure when that message appeared on the screen, and the corresponding entries to their site.  Neat stuff.

Social media I find a little more difficult.  You can measure tweets with campaign IDs, however with the multitude of platforms, readers and aggregators, re-tweets and so on it begins to get a little fuzzy.  Not to mention that is only measuring a direct conversion, whether that is a visit or a product purchase.  If you put that up against the costs, then it becomes a real struggle. How many visits do you require to justify paying someone a salary to do nothing but tweet?

Lots of companies have made a business out of measuring sentiment, and calculating the  value of Facebook “like”. And you could make arguments for goodwill, brand recognition, & customer service, so maybe social media isn’t a complete wash.   Personally I think it’s value is grossly overstated. I do not want to be friends with my insurance company or get Facebook posts from an office supply manufacturer.  I think the ROI would be better with other tools to solve specific issues, but that being said social isn’t the biggest black hole; that goes to commenting.

Commenting is the biggest waste of time, money, and human resources on the entire internet.

Lately, I have noticed a shift across the media, away from commenting and I say good riddance.  The Sun and The Star have both eliminated commenting.  The cost of mediating commenting is astronomical.  Even if you leverage keyword culling or similar technology sooner or later you have to pay someone to deal with the filth that pervades the web, and the bile that spews from every troll.

A few times at the CBC I had to pull data about how many people had read a particular story within a specific period of time because someone had written a libelous comment and someone was suing so we needed to see what the damage was.

With the other major sites no longer allowing commenting the trolls have migrated to the CBC.  In fact the CBC had to remove commenting from their entire aboriginal section because of the racist shit people were posting.  The biggest hurdle is the anonymity that trolls enjoy.  Now I comment on the CBC  all the time.  But I do it under my own name.  If you don’t want people to know you said it, then you probably shouldn’t say it.

Now commenting on a blog is different.  Someone is adding to the conversation or asking a question.  With commenting on news sites there is no information added.  The typical comments go like this:  If the story is about someone dying then the comments are “RIP”, “They’re with the angels now”, “So sorry” or similar.  They’re usually not offensive but they add nothing.

If the story is about an animal dying then, “Cats are way better than dogs”, “Humans suck – Animals rule!”, “Won’t someone please think of the animals!”  It usually devolves into a sob feast about poor animals.

If the story is remotely politicized, such as legalizing pot in Canada the comments break into camps (Liberals vs. Conservatives)  For example this comment from book planet media “The Conservatives just keep coming up with irrelevant excuses why doing nothing for no good reason was and still is their favourite approach to governing.” or this one by jimmydean “Justin is not like his daddy … he’s not a leader but a follower.”

Neither provide new information or move the discussion in any meaningful fashion.  They aren’t malicious, just irrelevant.  When you get into the true vileness is when the story is about a minority group, be it gays, aboriginals or immigrants.

FreshOutDeTrap

“These aren’t immigrants. Immigrants that speak English or French and have job prospects are valuable. These people will not contribute as we have seen in Europe. Most are on welfare.”

And the CBC filters their comments. They have to. There are too many trolls. So what is the ROI? Comments might increase page views or return visits, but unless you monetize the crapped out of the page you won’t make the cost of moderation back. You could paginate comments and insert rotating banner ads but to what end? So some prick from butt-fuck nowhere can enlighten everyone with their view on how awesome Donald Trump is and how all immigrants are bad?

No. the time has come to kill commenting on news sites completely. Let the haters hate and the trolls crawl back into the darkness where they belong.

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Dec 30

A year in review

Every December I like to take stock of the year that just passed.  Normally I would read through my blog posts and remind myself of what I had done but this year there were not a lot of posts.  I am not entirely sure why though. Perhaps I was busy, I don’t really recall.  2015 was a good year without a lot of drama which is just fine by me.

Zuimei’s mother came and stayed for a few months in the spring and was a great help keeping everything running smoothly and everyone fed.  She was also very active in the garden I that put in. I ended up with more tomatoes than we knew what to do with so we canned salsa.  The kale also came in very well and lasted into November!  Given the mild weather it would still be going strong if I hadn’t uprooted it so I could till the soil in preparation for next spring.  Even as I write this it is a balmy 13 degrees here in Newmarket.

Work is going well.  I had a lot of new projects completed this year migrating the entire bank to Dynamic Tag Manager.  It was not a small feat, and I am very pleased with the data.  There is still a long way to go, but a great foundation has been laid.  At one point I was a hair’s breadth away from leaving.  I had an offer from a company I was very excited to work at which, it turns out, was founded by a guy I used to live with in residence back at UVIC.

The bank countered with a deal I couldn’t pass up.  Three days a week working from home! I am way more productive, happier and I save money so what’s not to love.

In February I had my second biopsy.  Really it was to make sure that the cancer was not growing anywhere.  The results came back negative so we’re now coasting.  As long as my PSA remains low I can avoid another biopsy and just keep trucking!

I also settled my case with the TTC,  It was nice to finally have that chapter of my life completed and done with.  The money came in handy and I invested most of it.  I paid off all the debts other than the mortgage and so financially I am pretty happy as well.

We celebrated Dad’s 80th in Kelowna which was lovely. I think it was the first time we’d all gotten together since his 75th and it was the first time Zuimei and I got to meet Grady.

I  also joined my work friends in supporting a coworker of ours who dances with a troupe in June.  It was really amazing. Dancers of all different levels and skill coming together with a passion. I smiled for days afterwards.

In July we suffered through the Pan-am games luckily it didn’t affect the train too badly and Zuimei travels off hours so we made out alright.

In September I returned to Victoria to get neuro-feedback treatment from Jr.  I had been having difficulties controlling my emotions since the accident and this was right up his alley.  Treatment was twice a day for a week and involved using electrodes and software to encourage certain brain waves in parts of the brain. Music plays if your brain produces the desired waves and the clinician, Jr, controls what the criteria is for success

If I had to describe it I would say it’s like this: Have you ever tried meditating and thought, “am I doing this right?”  Well with this you know if you’re doing it right because the feedback tells you.  Anyway it has proven very helpful and I feel much calmer.

It also helps that last Christmas Zuimei had bought me a pottery wheel and kiln, and pottery is a lesson in patience.  It cannot be rushed and nothing can be made in a hurry.  I started taking lessons in January with my friend David and eventually set up my own studio in the garage.

This fall I insulated the garage so that I could throw all year round. I still toss out more than I keep but the results have been encouraging and it is a huge learning experience.  I have even begun creating my own glazes which reminds me of high school chemistry.  I’m sure with all the chemicals involved I’m on a watch list somewhere.

I am looking forward to 2016. I think it will be a good year for us. Zuimei’s businesses are coming along.  Work is interesting and I like the people I work with.  Both Nicole and Renee are going to come out and visit and I feel like Zuimei and I may get away for a trip somewhere.

 

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