thinglets: economic doom is a lie

For all of you crying the blues about an economic downturn, take some advice from the Canadian province of Manitoba. When the chips are down and people can't seem to make ends meet, there's a sure way to pump money into the economy while pumping your veins full of forget-your-troubles juice.

Manitobans break record for single-day liquor sales

"MLCC spokeswoman Diana Soroka said the holiday season accounts for 17 per cent of the province's annual liquor sales. And it will be another busy week in the lead-up to New Year's Eve, she said, adding customers seemed to be not only buying more liquor, but better liquor at this time of the year."

As a Canadian, it warms my heart to know the good citizens of Manitoba are not just drowning their consciouses in a cheap glass of ripple, but taking it to the next level all for the economy. With all the doom and gloom reporting that's been happening over the past few months, thake some time to raise a glass to Manitobans who know the best way to break an economic recession is to forget all about it.

booze record

thinglets: SMS/Text Message Gouging Explained


In this article from the NY Times, we get a comprehensive explanation of how the economy of SMS/text messaging is clearly a price gouge, and that the idea of message numbers going up does NOT indicate proportional cost increases for the providers.

A few key quotations:

"All four of the major carriers decided during the last three years to increase the pay-per-use price for messages to 20 cents from 10 cents. The decision could not have come from a dearth of business: the 2.5 trillion sent messages this year, the estimate of the Gartner Group, is up 32 percent from 2007. Gartner expects 3.3 trillion messages to be sent in 2009."

"The lucrative nature of that revenue increase cannot be appreciated without doing something that T-Mobile chose not to do, which is to talk about whether its costs rose as the industry’s messaging volume grew tenfold. Mr. Kohl’s letter of inquiry noted that “text messaging files are very small, as the size of text messages are generally limited to 160 characters per message, and therefore cost carriers very little to transmit.” A better description might be “cost carriers very, very, very little to transmit.”"

"Srinivasan Keshav, a professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, said: “Messages are small. Even though a trillion seems like a lot to carry, it isn’t.” Professor Keshav said that once a carrier invests in the centralized storage equipment — storing a terabyte now costs only $100 and is dropping — and the staff to maintain it, its costs are basically covered. “Operating costs are relatively insensitive to volume,” he said. “It doesn’t cost the carrier much more to transmit a hundred million messages than a million.”"

"Once one understands that a text message travels wirelessly as a stowaway within a control channel, one sees the carriers’ pricing plans in an entirely new light. The most profitable plan for the carriers will be the one that collects the most revenue from the customer: unlimited messaging, for which AT&T and Sprint charge $20 a month and T-Mobile, $15."


lovehate: My Shopping Evolution

The world wide web has many positive and negative attributes not the least of which, both positive and negative, is eliminating my need and desire to ever visit brick and mortar stores again.
I remember growing up in a time when the Mall was the touchstone of all social and pop cultural advancement. As an early teen I could easily wander from checking out the freaky animals at the pet store to meeting a friend who worked at the record store (they were still called record stores then) to checking out the t-shirt shack, food court, music sections of department stores, book stores and basically wander around aimlessly for hours. This was all, of course, before driving was an option and before I was permitted to hop the bus downtown.
Upon gaining the bus permission, my browsing became refined. The downtown core held five record shops worth checking out on a weekly basis with at least two bookstores and two comic book shops. There were also a couple of television stores that carried the latest video game cartridges for Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision, and, a couple of years later, Commodore 64 software. This was the first time in my life I could feel ahead of the curve on things. This was the time I was reading magazines on video games, musical instruments, and collectibles. I knew when things were coming out a month in advance and could save up money for something I really wanted because I'd read the advance reviews.
The ability to drive and a growing experience at the specialized shops allowed me to winnow down my browsing even further. I knew the best stores to maintain my comic book collection, my sports card collection, my video game addiction and even had "frequent buyer" discounts on all the LPs and cassettes I bought. Each Friday night would be a comic and record run. Each Saturday would be sports cards and video games. I had it down to a system, and the only thing that killed the system was my burgeoning knowledge.
You see, I am, by nature, a collector. I have to get parts three and four if I've got parts one and two. I purchased comic book series far after they ever remained good just for the completist in me. I would buy every album a band put out if I liked the first one I bought. I would sometimes avoid a comic book series or novel series altogether if I'd missed the first one or two installments. I liked to get in on the ground floor... it was for this reason I eschewed coming in late to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and instead turned to the radical underground stylings of the Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters.


But knowledge is a costly thing. I soon found I could not keep up with everything I wanted to maintain this completist lifestyle and, as such, started to give up things altogether. I stopped buying comic books. I gave up hockey cards. I radically slowed down book buying. I focused on music and, while trying to keep up with growing PC options, the costs really put them out of my league. Besides, I had already learned how to tape over a notch in a 5.25" floppy in order to copy and recopy to my heart's content.
I moved into a time period where the only interest in any mall was books (more as a passing interest than a purchase) and music. And even then, the mp3 scene was bursting out with Napster and Gnutella clients. I had moved my browsing from windows and aisles onto web and ftp sites. I, essentially, forsook the mall.
I have the city's only worthwhile mall, by all accounts, a five minute walk from my house and I haven't been there in two years except to meet a friend at a restaurant inside. I remember renewing my license plate stickers two years ago at a kiosk just inside the doorway. I don't know or care to know any of the stores contained therein except for the ones with their illuminated signs emblazoned on the outside. I have been shopping online for over a decade. I remember pooling friends together to buy 500 blank CD-Rs and 1000 CD-R sleeves to get a discount rate. I research, discover, and comparison shop without leaving the comforts of home.

When I walk into the Brick & Mortar store these days, I feel out of place. I see people wandering around aimlessly looking at things and often feel that I should be doing so as well. I'll walk up and down the aisles looking at things I know about, don't want, and wonder why anyone would ever that price for it. When a sales clerk asks if I need help, I'll play the game and say, "No, I'm just looking." I don't want to make the clerks feel bad by letting them in on the fact that their jobs have become meaningless to me unless they have to unlock a display case. I try to make my Brick & Mortar experiences as long as possible to soak in the ritual that accompanies so many of the hoards that still shuffle aimlessly between the shelves.

In reality, but for checkout lines and slow debit machines, I should be out of any store in three minutes or less. I don't want the extended warranty. I don't want to upgrade to the "next" level. I don't want any advice from a clerk who's extent of technological knowledge is capped at chat clients and X-Box Live. CompUSA and Circuit City are victims of me and those like me who now have the tool to do the research, the comparison and often the purchase itself. Gone are the days of trusting a sales clerk to tell you if something is good. I've got a world of reviewers at my disposal and an endless supply of merchants willing to ship worldwide to my door.

Yesterday was Boxing Day in Canada, kind of like Black Friday in the US, and I haven't been there for years to take part. Even the online specials are almost meaningless. Unless I feel like a visceral cattle call in my near future, don't ever expect to see me rubbernecking the Brick & Mortars again. I've evolved.

the madding crowd

lovehate: Waiting in Style

I'll be the first to admit that I can be a pretty cheap bastard when it comes to most things. In ridiculous ways too - not at all consistent. I'll spend a bunch of time trying to get the best price for a room in Vegas, but won't balk at the hundreds of dollars I may lose in a session of blackjack. I will wait weeks for the right deal on a flight. Just recently I booked a short flight between Phoenix and Las Vegas as part of trip home after the holidays and waited two months for the price to go down from $59US to $41US... I probably lost money considering the Canadian dollar has crashed in that time.

What I have miserly with is the differences in decimals between gas stations. I almost always get my gas at one chain because it allows me to maximize my Flight Plan points which gets me a flight on a yearly basis. And this extra spending on gas (and dozens of other Point collecting techniques) has allowed me to fly - for the first time mind you - Air Canada's Executive Class to Las Vegas. More on this in a minute.

I arrived at the Toronto airport four hours in advance and, while this may seem ridiculous to many people, hoped I wouldn't have to endure repeated Bataan death marches of check-in, customs, carry-on scans, etc.. Much to my surprise the foot traffic at the airport was almost like a ghost town. With the amount of snow this area received last night, and expected to get tomorrow night, I thought there would be cattle calls of people wanting to get out ASAP. Apparently I was mistaken.

And so I find myself with near three hours to kill waiting for my flight to Las Vegas. Then I remember about the Executive Class booking. Such a booking has qualified me for admittance to the Terminal One Maple Leaf Club in the Toronto Airport. I feel like I've walked out an Amtrak station and onto the deck of the QE2.

Laid out before me is a quadruple spigot tap for pouring pints, about a dozen liquor bottles uptipped in shot positions, a cooler of every soft drink under the sun and a small group of people looking quite content. Not having a job where I can expense Executive flight upgrades, this world is foreign to me. It's almost too quiet. No announcements, sound-proofing, panoramic views of the runways... I feel like this is Eloi world that this lone Morlock has stumbled into. Mix me up a batch of soma-infused Freshie, I'll join the "club".

I never thought waiting at the airport could be so antiseptically-different from mixing it up with the embattled hordes jostling for room at the gates. Dear me, have I become elitist... maybe I'll come down to earth seven hours from now as I walk into my $50/night room at the Sahara on the Vegas Strip. I'll think back to the fond memories of free internet, free drinks, pomo stylings, and people who look too cool to care. Then I'll go down into the casino and see it all over again.

Tom Petty once opined, "the waiting is the hardest part." Surely he can get his agent to book him into Executive Class next time. C'mon Tom, you don't have to live like a refugee!

(PIC: not my Maple Leaf Club, but looks the same)

lovehate: The Church of Baudhism

The WEB is my shepherd; I shall not doubt.
It maketh me to dive into vast communities: it leadeth me to confide my thoughts.
It restoreth my soul: it leadeth me in the paths of hypertext for the clean code.
Yea, though I surf through the torrents and flashes with spyware, I will fear no evil: your apps are with me; the scan and the quarantine comfort me.
Thou preparest a browser before me to learn of the faceless: thou anointest my mind with wiki; my apprehension becomes understanding; 
Surely CPUs and broadband will follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell with the Web and the Network for ever.

- The Word of Baud

While some of you may be railing in sacriligious overtones of blasphemy and heresy, surely many of you must realize that the Web has become the one of the largest churches in the world. Hundreds of millions of us attend every day to read the good words of the preachers and prophets and skeptics and soothsayers all contributing to the word of Baud.

Baudhism's followers as of June 2008 total 1.46 billion people. While still behind the 1.9 billion Christians in the world, this easily overtakes all other major religions. I understand that most you are thinking that there is no way the Web could be considered a religion. I ask you to consider the following definition of religion from

"A religion is a of way of life based on tenets (or a belief system) about the ultimate power. It is generally expressed through conducts such as prayers, rituals, or other practices, often centered upon specific supernatural and moral claims about reality (the cosmos, and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience."

The Web is a way of life for many people. It helps to define their existence. It facilitates communication. It sets the boundaries for what's considered sacred and profane within its own parameters. It provides, challenges, and allows for diverse beliefs all in one system. It accepts differences while galvanizing them all in two common frameworks: Web - the word, and Web2.0 - beyond the word. Such frameworks are subservient to the ultimate power: Network - which is, beyond the servers and the cable, the minds which make it up.

The beliefs are expressed through rituals and practices that gather up flocks by interest or history or geography. We script, we blog, we message, we update, we tweet, we read the good word of other people, we interpret and we believe. It seeks to explain the unexplainable. It seeks to define good and evil. It encourages creativity. It has zealots to be sure, but is fully accepting of those who just visit from time to time to make their contributions.

The Web defines us by defining our times and by seeking to redefine history. The winners may have written the history books, but the losers now have a voice of their own and a worldwide audience.

Lastly, people have faith in the web. That Wikipedia is taken as gospel and social networks have usurped traditional places of worship happened in no small part due to people believing in the general good of the Network.

It is said of religion that one only gets out of it what they're willing to put in. Such is the same with the Web. Our most passioned advocates are those acolytes who devote their lives to serving the Network to make the Web better. For them there is no greater reward than the work itself. I'm sure that less than a century ago, people would have considered it god-like for one person's thoughts to reach almost everyone in the world within seconds. And the Web makes this possible.

Baudhism does not disavow anyone for adhering to another belief system based on traditional mysticism. Baudhism embraces diversity, tolerance, individuality, creativity and participation. The Network shall allow access and allow inclusion, but not ensure popularity or status. As any religion, the Web can be used as a tool for such things, but these are not the ends of the Web in itself.

Embrace Baudhism. Identify yourself as a Baudhist on your next census. Celebrate holidays of any denomination because they allow people to stay home and spend more time with Web. Send greetings, send mail, chat, upload, download, interact. Become part of the trinity:

You belong to the Web.
The Web belongs to the Network. 
The Network belongs to you.

The Web

lovehate: how we hide

When Aaron Sorkin's oft-imitated Colonel Jessop storms "You can't handle the truth!", most of us sit in eager anticipation for Tom Cruise to work his manipulative magic and rip the truth from the smug colonel's countenance.

Some of the most common themes in literature arise around the tug of war topic between appearance and reality. Fiction, however, does not hold eminent domain over such a struggle. Most people spend their waking hours delving into all aspects of trying to hide reality from others and themselves while, at the same time, demanding transparency from everyone around them.

Whether it's the "flattering" clothes we choose, or the cosmetic alterations, or the airs of grandeur we adopt, we do our very best to conceal and hide what we consider a flawed reality from everyone else. We work to fulfill expectations that aren't our own by wearing certain styles. While most people admit a fondness for being able to lounge around in a t-shirt and sweats on a weekend, we are quite willing to adorn ourselves according to expectations. We will don the business suit and tie and carry the cow hide portfolio. We will gather around the water cooler or surreptitiously open chat windows to compare notes on the previous night's reality television escapades or try to derive gossip from who's spending too long in each other's office. We would be horrified to find ourselves on the speculative end of rumor, but are quite willing to exercise, with reckless abandon, character dissections of others based on the most miniscule tidbits of information. It's a small wonder we take such pains to hide in public.

We decorate our houses in the acceptable fashions, buying furniture endorsed by television homemakers if over 35 and Swedish box store consortia if under. We hang posters and prints and pictures and paintings to microcast the inner-workings of our sensitive minds to those that walk by and ponder. We allow clutter to happily gather around us for a week and will relish basking in its fort-like structures until an hour before company comes and it all must vanish in an effort to convince friends and acquaintances that we foster pristine, perfect living spaces. We have collections of place settings that remain in cloistered velvet-lined boxes or on display in glass-doored cabinets that we only use with a special brand of event or assembly. We spend hours, days and sometimes weeks on crafting our yards into elaborate Home and Garden pictorials in an effort to send a message. If the medium is the message, and our front lawns are the medium, we need to learn new languages.

We create online personas that seek to enhance our best qualities and obliterate our worst. We try to impart wisdom in 140 characters or less. We post links to oddly-interesting websites that we think other people will also like, but, more importantly, will create a perception of cutting-edge cool in whichever milieu we choose to categorize ourselves. We social network with people we met one night at a bar and will never see again. We've seen pictures of their family and friends in our feeds and, for the time being, seem to know more about them than some of our own family members. We reduce our 3D reality down to 2D profiles. We use Facebook as a verb. We twitter, plurk, friendfeed, ping, and google each other to derive snippets of information that will further feed our eternal quest to think we "know" about someone better that they think we do.

We speak less than honestly, but rarely completely dishonest. We know how to spin a message yet get infuriated upon discovering the media has. We want to divulge enough to stay relevant but not enough to make us obsolete. We obfuscate better than any press secretary. We politic better than any politician. We can manipulate as well as any cult leader, though sometimes our guilt gets in the way. We find ways to avoid conversations when the topic seems too tedious. We find ways to push conversations when our comfort zones allow for insight. We can cut to the quick to make a statement, to make a point, to make an enemy, to make an ally. We throw up shields. We duck and cover. We block emails, unlist our numbers, disassociate and move to new streets, cities and countries all in the effort to avoid truth.

Colonel Jessop was right. We can't handle the truth. Because while it sits out there like the Grail, the Fountain of Youth, or the Pot of Gold, the quest is always more important than the prize itself. What do you do when you find the Holy Grail? Have a pint?

thinglets: My Mind on Shopping

Tom Waits - Step Right Up

Step right up. Step right up. Step right up.
Everyone's a winner! Bargains galore!
That's right, you too can be the proud owner of the quality goes in before the name goes on.
One-tenth of a dollar!
One-tenth of a dollar!
We got service after sales.
You need perfume? We got perfume.
How 'bout an engagement ring?
Something for the little lady? Something for the little lady? Something for the little lady, hmm?
Three for a dollar.
We got a year-end clearance. We got a white sale and smoke-damaged furniture.
You can drive it away today.
Act now. Act now and receive as our gift, our gift to you,
They come in all colors. One size fits all.
No muss, no fuss, no spills - you're tired of kitchen drudgery.
Everything must go!
Going out of business! Going out of business! Going out of business sale!
Fifty percent off original retail price; skip the middle man.
Don't settle for less.
How do we do it? How do we do it?
Volume, volume, turn up the volume.
Now you've heard it advertised, don't hesitate.
Don't be caught with your drawers down. Don't be caught with your drawers down.
You can step right up. Step right up.

That's right, it filets, it chops, it dices, slices, never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn.
And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school.
It gets rid of unwanted facial hair.
it gets rid of embarrassing age spots.
It delivers a pizza.
And it lengthens, and it strengthens.
And it finds that slipper that's been at large under the chaise lounge for several weeks.
And it plays a mean Rhythm Master.
It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar.
And it's only a dollar, step right up! It's only a dollar, step right up!
'Cause it forges your signature.
If not completely satisfied, mail back unused portion of product for complete refund of price of purchase.
Step right up.

Please allow thirty days for delivery.
Don't be fooled by cheap imitations.
You can live in it, laugh in it, love in it, swim in it, sleep in it, live in it, swim in it, laugh in it, love in it.
Removes embarrassing stains from contour sheets - that's right!
And it entertains visiting relatives.
It turns a sandwich into a banquet.
Tired of being the life of the party?
Change your shorts, change your life, change your life, change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy, get rid of your wife
And it walks your dog, and it doubles on sax.
Doubles on sax, you can jump back Jack, see you later alligator, see you later alligator.
And it steals your car.

It gets rid of your gambling debts. It quits smoking.
It's a friend, and it's a companion, and it's the only product you will ever need.
Follow these easy assembly instructions.
It never needs ironing.
Well it takes weights off hips, bust, thighs, chin, midriff, gives you dandruff, and it finds you a job. It is a job!
And it strips the phone company free, take ten for five exchange.
And it gives you denture breath.
And you know it's a friend, and it's a companion.
And it gets rid of your traveler's checks.
It's new, it's improved, it's old-fashioned.
Well it takes care of business.
Never needs winding, never needs winding, never needs winding.
Gets rid of blackheads, the heartbreak of psoriasis.
Christ, you don't know the meaning of heartbreak, buddy!
C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon!

'Cause it's effective, it's defective, it creates household odors.
It disinfects, it sanitizes for your protection, it gives you an erection, it wins the election.
Why put up with painful corns any longer?
It's a redeemable coupon, no obligation, no salesman will visit your home.
We got a jackpot, jackpot, jackpot!
Prizes, prizes, prizes!
All work guaranteed.
How do we do it? How do we do it? How do we do it? How do we do it?
We need your business. We're going out of business. We'll give you the business.
Get on the business end of our going-out-of-business sale.
Receive our free brochure.
Read the easy-to-follow assembly instructions - batteries not included.
Send before midnight tomorrow, terms available
Step right up. Step right up. Step right up.

You got it buddy: the large print giveth and the small print taketh away
Step right up. You can step right up. You can step right up. C'mon step right up.
(Get away from me kid, you bother me...)

thinglets: Tanzania's Albino Genocide

It's alright to do a double take when reading this title... I thought I might be reading an article from the Onion, but at least one editor in Tanzania is convinced of the country's moral decay:

"At the moment, we are witnessed unparalleled killings of albinos. Strange enough, rather than seeing concrete action being taken to stem the tide, almost everybody from top down is complaining about the killings, but no political will has been manifested towards actively protecting the albinos."

Apparently albino skin is used by "witch doctors" in ritual medicine.

I born, raised and bred in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and I don't pretend to know ANYTHING about Tanzania. I present this more for its seemingly surreal nature in addition to what I'm sure are tragic events for the families involved. When I think about the juxtaposition between North American auto bailouts and government changes compared to albino hunting... I'm at a loss!

You can't invent this stuff - whaddup Earth?