Saturday, November 19, 2011

Yellow Dots Blog visits the frontpage of Reddit

Wow - someone submitted a link to my Yellow Dots blog to reddit (a massively popular link-sharing site) yeterday. I was quoted in PC World magazine about the tracking dots issue back in June and I thought that would be big exposure, but I was wrong.

Here's a snapshot of my all-time Yellow Dots blog traffic:
That tiny little blip near July is PC World magazine traffic. That massive spike in November? Reddit. You can see that I have had 181,000 pageviews in the last month, but (do the math) I only had 6,000 pageviews before this reddit exposure.

Here's the weekly traffic:

It was pretty cool suddenly getting that level of exposure. All that traffic generated about 15 or 20 new blog comments of all varieties, which I spent some time responding to. But it only lasted about six hours - suddenly, it was all over, and the internet's attention was focused elsewhere! (As depicted by the sharp drop-off in traffic).

When I started the Yellow Dots blog, I wasn't aiming for immediate exposure - I wanted to document my experiences online for other people to find. It looks like that's exactly what happened! In fact, I sent a message to the person who submitted a link to reddit and asked where they found the link. Their answer - Google! It made my very happy :-)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New SSD for Laptop

I installed an SSD (solid state drive) in my laptop on Tuesday night. An SSD is exactly like a hard drive except that instead of a spinning magnetic disc holding all of your data, it's stored on flash memory - like iPods and cell phones use.

The blue drive is the new one. 

In modern computers one of the main speed bottlenecks is hard drives - physically spinning a disc to find some information will always take longer than transmitting some electrons through wires. By upgrading to an SSD, my  laptop boots to Windows in 40 seconds - and by that I mean after 40 seconds, there is no lag whatsoever, nothing is still loading. Previously it took about 3 minutes (2:57 to be precise) to start up to a usable state (for the geeks, I'm running Windows 7 on a one-year-old ThinkPad L412: Intel Core i3 M330 dual core @ 2.13 GHz, 4GB RAM). 

Another advantage to SSDs is that data can't be damage by bumps and jolts, whereas if you drop a laptop with a spinning hard drive you could easily wreck the drive. The main downside to SSDs is that they're still expensive per gigabyte - mine was $289 for 120GB. 

If you're thinking about upgrading, I recommend this kit from NewEgg Canada, as long as 120GB is enough for you. The kit comes with all of the cables you need to copy your existing hard drive to your new one (when you're done, everything will be EXACTLY the same, except faster). And it comes with an enclosure so that you can connect your old drive as a USB storage drive when you're done.

The whole process took just over an hour - 5 minutes to skim instructions, 10 minutes to pull out the old drive, install the new one, and connect the old one with USB, 50 minutes of data copying (I read a book), then it was done! I booted up and everything was just how I left it. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Petition to rename February "Metaluary"

BECAUSE I'M GOING TO SEE SO MANY HEAVY METAL SHOWS!

Feb 3 - Megadeth & Motorhead
Feb 5 - Iced Earth & Symphony X
Feb 15 - In Flames & Trivium
Feb 27 - Children of Bodom (it will be my fourthtime seeing these guys - they tour a LOT)

Here are some samples.

/!\ Pro-click zone /!\


Trivium - The Crusade - An 8-minute thrashy instrumental metal epic. Even if you don't like metal, click this link and just listen to all the different guitar, drum and bass parts throughout the song.

Children of Bodom - Bodom After Midnight - I like this one because I can understand the vocals of the refrain. Also, they're the title of the song.

/!\ End Pro-click zone /!\


I missed a ton of awesome metal shows in Montreal in July due to a friend's wedding, and a ton more in October when I was in Saskatoon. Metaluary is going to make up for that. Metal!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lemon Quinoa Chicken Salad

My Saskatoon roommate sent me this recipe for Lemon Quinoa Chicken Salad a while ago and he insisted I make and try it, because it was "delicious".

Well, roommate, checkmate. You were right. It was delicious.


The picture makes it look bland, likely because I omitted cilantro (because I'm one of these freaks). Also I bought sliced almonds and forgot to put them in, rage!!!

So, readers, I highly recommend you construct this food item for yourself!

Monday, November 14, 2011

When Work and Charity Collide


A few weeks ago, my employer went on a strong push to encourage its employees to donate money to a certain charity as part of an annual fundraising campaign.

In theory, a company supporting a charity - and encouraging its employees to support a charity - is just fine, and I am happy to be employed by a company that supports local charities. However, I'm a bit annoyed at how this is carried out in my office.

Based on what I can piece together from over a dozen emails, there is a committee in my office specifically to raise money for this charity. Some fundraising efforts are great - like "Be Seen In Jeans" week. Chip in a few bucks and dress casual for the week. Everybody wins! Or, have a BBQ, and the proceeds to to the charity. Great, I love burgers! I'll pay $10 for a charity lunch.

Others efforts more tedious - like the distribution of donation forms directly to the desks of everyone in the office. These forms have options for one-time donations, or you can opt to automatically donate a chunk of cash from each paycheque. To be fair, this may be a great option for employees who are invested in this particular charity, and a good way to remind irregular donors to donate something to someone (if only for tax incentives). However, during this fundraising drive last year I recall hearing this gem: "You haven't returned your form yet." Umm... it's because I wasn't going to, and I should have no obligation to do so.

During peak fundraising week I was receiving daily progress emails, with quotes like "we're at 60% of our goal!" That's a neat update to receive, right? What about when it's followed by a statement like this: "...but it's only because of the generousity of eight employees, and we need more participation!" I read that and felt like I was being called a cheapskate, which certainly didn't incentivise me to donate.

The sum of all these initiatives, for a few weeks every year for the past two years, makes me feel like I'm constantly being pestered for my pocket change on top of the expectation of a larger lump sum or payroll deduction contribution.

Again, this is just how I feel, and it might be because I manage my charitable donations quite closely. I skim $20 from every bi-weekly paycheque and donate in $50 or $100 increments to causes that appeal to me. Every other cause I say "no" to, including the $1 donation requests at so many grocery store checkouts.

So, work colleagues, grocery store employees and other field agents of charity, don't give me the stinkeye or think I'm cheap when I refuse to donate!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tim Hortons Food is Bland


Has anyone else noticed that Tim Hortons food is some of the most bland, boring, tasteless food available for purchase?

I was eating a Tim Hortons sandwich in an airport when I was flying between Montreal and Saskatoon a while ago. I was struck by how completely boring the sandwich was - crisp but flavourless lettuce, a tomato that seemed like it had once been frozen, and deli meat that could have been called ham, turkey, or beef and I wouldn't have known the difference.

It had mustard, but it was more of a paste-like yellow garnish than something that added any flavour sensations.

Even the donuts seem more bland than they used to. Is it my imagination? Is it real; a side effect of the massive reheaeted-from-frozen food supply chain that Tim Hortons has apparently become?

McDonalds, Burger King, and the rest of the fast food industry knows that sugar, fat, and salt taste good. If I can't detect any flavour in a Tim Hortons sandwich - if the act of eating Tim Hortons is equivalent to a chore where you have to move your mouth to force a bland mash of bread and assorted toppings into your body - does that mean it's healthy?

Food for thought. (ah ah ah!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remember, Remember, the 'Stache of Movember

I grew a sweet* beard during the project commissioning I was doing in Saskatoon from late September to early November.

* I said it was sweet, Robyn pretended not to like it but secretly thought it was sweet

At this point I wanted to add Community-esque Starburns but within seconds of starting I gave up.

Bye, huge burns.

Attempting the handlebar... nope, not enough hair at the sides of my mouth.

The final greasy result! For now. Perhaps there will be another update in two weeks, before the month's end.

Over half the guys in the Montreal office seem to be growing moustaches this month - some amazing, some rank nasty - but that's all part of the fun! 

If you'd like to donate to Prostate Cancer Canada through my Movember page, you can do it here! Prostate Cancer Canada is a registered charity that sends 86% of the funds they raise to research programs - a much higher research:administration ratio than some other charities! (source)

Bonus: Here's me last year, if you didn't see it.

WestJet, BIGOTZ


The last flight I booked on WestJet had a confirmation code that - I suspect - evaded the filter that prevents the F-word and other unsavoury words from being injected into confirmation codes:
I mean, BIGOT isn't a swear, but it's not an attractive word in the least. I wonder if some ugly-but-not-profane letter combinations are filtered out of the six-letter-confirmation-code generator, like OLDHAG and DUMBAS and FSCKYU. I'd like to see FUNTME and MMAGIC and WIZARD as confirmation codes instead.

The last crew I had on WestJet was so awesome. Three male and one female crew members; all funny and energetic. They completely transformed the boring safety routine and mundane passenger announcement into something funny, or at least attention-grabbing. Lines like:

"We'll be landing shortly, so our crew will be coming through the cabin to collect any garbage, phone numbers, jewelry, or money you want to leave with us," followed by the crew member silently mouthing the words as the French version of the annoucement was made. Or, a crew member telling a guy, "Look, you have to put your Kindle away for take-off. I know it's a stupid rule, but Transport Canada makes it, not me". Much respect for acknowledging it's ridiculous! (see my previous rant on this)

It was a really fun, fresh flight. It made me completely forget how bitter I am about lots of stupid airport rules, so I hope this cabin crew attitude spreads!