End of the Season and Kat Kam MIA?

Like many Vancouverites, last night I watched one of the most painful and edge-of-your seat hockey games in years. Backs against the wall, the Vancouver Canucks, the last Canadian team left in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, managed to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (something I tweeted a couple of days ago re. the game that brought them to the brink). To quote Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight:

The only question left for the Canucks is who won’t be returning to the squad next year. After the signing of Mats Sundin earlier this year, there were high hopes that this would be the year that Vancouver would finally win its first Stanley Cup. But once again, the fans’ hopes have been crushed.

Some things never change.

This morning, on the radio, I heard many saying ‘Wait till next year!’. Well, Hope does spring eternal, but the Blackhawks (among other teams the Canucks played against this year) were notable for the number of young players in their 20s just beginning to come into their prime. Unless Vancouver can get some rising stars of their own, as Buzz Bishop pointed out on Twitter, the window is closing or perhaps even closed on it being their year in 2010. I felt particularly bad for Roberto Luongo, who after a very strong season, picked last night to have an off game. For someone with the reputation of being perhaps the best goalie in the NHL, letting 7 goals through is just not a way any goalie wants to end a season. In fact, the game felt more like Basketball (a sport I’m not very fond of) because of the see-saw of scoring for either side.

I remember these feelings, that of every other year or so, the home team getting close but ultimately losing, from the 1980s and 90s in Boston for the Red Sox. Anxious to blame it on anything but the players, Bostonians attributed it to ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, but in the end, it was just a matter of time. So my advice to Vancouver fans might be: Just hang in there for another 20 years or so, and your time will come.

The Kat Kam, Stuck?

Speaking of windows closing, is our virtual window on False Creek also closing? For about 13 years, there has been a camera pointed West Southwest on the Burrard Bridge and the view beyond it of English Bay from the offices of Telemark Systems in the West End of Vancouver,  posting the live image on the website: The Kat Kam. Before I moved here, I used the Kat Kam as a way of acclimatizing myself to the weather and general look of this city, like a new aquarium fish looking out of it’s plastic baggie into the new aquarium it was about to enter. It turns out that ‘Kat’, the person who ran the webcam left Telemark Systems at the end of last month to pursue a career in Culinary Arts. While I’m thrilled that she is starting out a new chapter in her career and life, I wonder if perhaps this might spell the end of the view of False Creek on my desktop. Fortunately, there are now several other cameras on Vancouver on the web, although this was perhaps the best known and certainly the oldest continuous view (not to mention, it was a pretty one, especially later in the day). I suspect that several people planned their commute based on the traffic on the bridge, and I enjoyed seeing the Sun Run runners as they were caught by the Kat Kam. So, here’s the last view we got, 15 minutes past 9 PM, May 11, 2009. Let’s hope that’s not the image of False Creek I’ll get from my windowless home office:

The Kat Kam on the evening of May 11, 2009

The Kat Kam on the evening of May 11, 2009

I’m hoping the view gets ‘unstuck’ soon, but until then, there are other cams:

Gee, maybe this office really is a room with many windows. Too bad I don’t get a breeze from any of them.

Update: Well, after about a 16-20 hour break, the Kat Kam started updating again. Hopefully it will keep going for a while yet to come.

A Life In Motion

One of the reasons that I haven’t been posting as often this month as last month, is that it seems that I’m always in town, busy attending/watching/participating in something. You’d think that being on the job hunt and not tied down with a 9-to-5 commitment would mean that I have tons of free time to spend on blogging, cleaning up my office, and doing all of those other ‘things I’d do if I had time’. No such luck.  It seems my calendar’s clutter increases to fill the allotted time. I do want to at least mention, and provide a snapshot or perhaps a snippet of video (because I can) of some of what’s been going on for the past 2 1/2 weeks or so:

September 13th: To celebrate my (and my brother’s) birthday, we took a weekend trip down to visit him and the rest of the family down in Bellevue, Washington. This included a trip to the Sculpture Park:

At the Seattle Sculpture Park

At the Seattle Sculpture Park

and a celebratory Dinner out at Wild Ginger, a favourite Seattle restaurant of theirs:

OK, so I got a little silly, but a birthday candle is just asking to be played with.

OK, I got a little silly, but a Birthday Candle is just asking to be played with.

September 16th: I had lunch with a friend and attended the Molson Brew 2.0 event, which I had written about a little earlier.

September 17th: Met with several people during the day and attended Launch Party 5 at UnWined.

Imbibing and meeting Startups at Launch Party 5

Imbibing and meeting Startups at Launch Party

September 20th: Attended BarCampBankBC, a real eye-opener about the concerns of the people in the Banking and Credit Union business (Questions included: “If increasingly, everybody does most of their banking online or at ATMs, what’s the new design/experience of a Bank branch supposed to be?” ):

A session at BarCampBankBC

A session at BarCampBankBC

September 21: Made it to the first Annual Canary Derby in Gastown, a fundraising race of soapbox-style racers, mainly to cheer on the team of Webnames, who regardless if they won or not (they didn’t), still had the classiest looking race car of the day. Here’s one of the earlier trials that they won:

Since that was moving pretty fast, here’s what the car looked like standing still:

The Webnames.ca entry in the 2008 Canary Soapbox Derby in Gastown

The Webnames.ca entry in the 2008 Canary Soapbox Derby in Gastown

(Note: The child at the wheel in this shot is not the driver in the race)
September 23: Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, Pam and I were able to get to one of the Pre-Season games of the Cannucks. They were playing Edmunton, and despite that team’s (apparently well-known) speed, the Cannucks won! Here’s a snippet:

September 26: The Party for BarCampVancouver 2008, the yearly unconference, took place at Workspace. This year I helped out in the planning as well as the food prep (and even played bartender a bit).

September 27:We lucked out, and the weather was gorgeous, which helped since BarCamp was held on Granville Island, at 3 separate locations including the Revue Stage, Emily Carr University, and the Playwright’s Theatre. I had prepared a talk on Ubiquity, the fascinating Firefox plugin that extends some of the ideas about interacting with information on the Internet. Unfortunately, I was bumped because the contract for the room had us there until 5PM, not 5:30 as we had been led to believe. Moral of the story: Never reschedule your session to what you think is a better time (originally I was early in the morning and opposite several other sessions that I wanted to attend myself!) I am working on reformatting the presentation and slides so that I can put them online on my other blog and will try and let folks know when it’s done. Here’s me pitching my ill-fated presentation:

Making my pitch for a presentation on Ubiquity at BarCamp Vancouver 2008

Making my pitch for a presentation on Ubiquity at BarCamp Vancouver 2008

September 28: Word on the Street, the Annual festival of books, writers and other things literary took place downtown, around the library. Pam and I managed to make a talk by the entertaining and inspiring Colin Moorhouse, a freelance speechwriter that Pam had managed to hear at a BC Editors Meeting last year.

That brings me to today. I nearly feel out of breath just recounting this. And it doesn’t include a couple of job interviews, meetings with friends and colleagues, and the usual day-to-day stuff. It has been a busy month, to say the least.

I think that what’s been going on is a gradual accrual of yearly events. We noticed a couple of years ago that there seems to be a tacit agreement that in Vancouver, anything worth doing is worth doing annually. Our year is getting busier, which is probably OK, but soon we’ll have to pick and choose what we can or cannot make and say instead that we’ll catch whatever we miss ‘next year’.

A Long Walk, and iJerks(?)

With Pam home, and with me not working this weekend (which won’t be the case next weekend), we managed to do some shopping and other errands on Saturday. Today, better late than never, we decided to start training for the Sun Run next month (or, for us, I think more of a ‘Sun Walk’). Yes, we are planning on doing a combination of walking and running in that event. I have no expectations about beating any time; just want to finish it in one piece.

At any rate, I suggested that we walk around the seawall of Stanley Park. We’d start around the Yacht Club near the Lost Lagoon, and walk around the park, ending up around English Bay. After all, with the seawall now open again, and a sunny day expected, it would be a great way to sightsee and get some much-needed exercise. We started walking around noon, and were doing pretty well until around the 2 1/2 hour mark, when we both realized the extent to which we both were out of shape. I’m not sure how far we actually went in mileage (or kilometerage – is there such a word? Honestly, since we’ve gone metric I still don’t know how to say some things…), but we were plenty tired, aching, and hungry by the time we got to Denman Street for a late lunch. I hope I don’t regret this with too much of aching legs tomorrow, but obviously we need a lot of work to get in shape by the time the Sun Run takes place.

Wait Wait, Don’t Trash Me
While we were doing the aforementioned walk around the park, I listened to podcasts on my iPhone. Yes, that’s right, I got the iPhone fully functional, and like so many other Canadians, I’m using it unlocked, and awaiting the day when I can officially ‘go legal’, and not have to waive off the attempts by iTunes to upgrade the phone (which would turn it into an iPaperweight as quickly as you can say ‘Rogers Wireless’. )

So here I am, feeling pretty good about my cool new touch-screen iPod/Phone/Wireless browser and listening to NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, the news quiz show, when the following bit comes up:

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For those who can’t hear the audio, the gist of it is that a US marketing company called MindSet Media claims that Macintosh users are 60% more likely to be “self-centered” and “arrogant” and regard users of other operating systems with contempt and condescension. They are also more likely to see themselves as “artistic” and “hip”, “exceptional” and even “extraordinary.” Clearly, the report asserts, they have high standards and are not very modest.

To which I say: “And your point is?”

But seriously, this cracks me up, particularly after I learned this from an article about the report on Ars Technica:

It’s difficult to determine if any of this is real…We tried to get details of the study from the company’s press contact (who is also its COO and cofounder), but were unable to learn much about the process. They could not provide us with enough details to scientifically examine the study.

Approximately 7,500 people were surveyed at Nielsen Online and grouped according to their choice of computing platforms. The survey results were then fed into Mindset’s personality profiling process, which is undocumented. The company claims that it can correlate personality profiles with with brand choices: “a MindsetProfile will identify the psychographics that drive your brand, your category, and even your competitors.”

Given that there is no data on the survey questions or the evaluation of the answers, it’s difficult to analyze the results. A company-supplied image, however, provides some indication of the personality categories, which are arranged to evoke a periodic table, and hence hint at scientific credibility (Mindset apparently does understand marketing). There are probably fewer effective categories than are listed there, since a number seem interrelated. After all, it’s hard to imagine that someone with a strong sense of superiority could possibly score low in the self-esteem, or be easy to identify if they were highly modest. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine that timidity and bravado are compatible traits.

Still, this information isn’t sufficient to evaluate the claims, leaving us to rely on the credibility of the company itself. Judging by the fact that the company’s COO is its press contact and its “In the Press” page still says “Coming Soon,” it’s likely to be a new venture with a small staff. It’s entirely possible that Mindset is in a position to design Internet surveys, analyze the resulting data, and generate accurate personality profiles, but I’m somewhat skeptical. My sense is that the press release was largely an attempt to tie its company name to the Mac on the week of the Macworld Expo as a way of gaining a higher profile and some free publicity.

So their game is to pick a group who often reacts with great (and vocal) hostility when there is an attempt to sully their name and come out with an unflattering report on them. With this in mind, I’m expecting Mindset Media to come out with their next report: Marketing to the Overgrown Adolescent, AKA Heavy Users of Digg… No, wait, better yet: The Typical Personality of Those Scientologist Clowns.

Still, it tickled me that I (and my immediate family back in the US) pretty much fall into every single pigeonhole that the NPR panel could come up with : Macintosh-using, Obama-supporting, Prius-driving…

In the words of Woody Allen’s character played by Carol Kane in Annie Hall, Allison Portchnik:

Allison Portchnick: I’m in the midst of doing my thesis.
Alvy Singer: On what?
Allison: Political commitment in twentieth century literature.
Alvy: You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
Allison: No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.
Alvy: Right, I’m a bigot, I know, but for the left.

Am I Really a Sports Jinx?

Back when I was working at RIPE, I used to joke to my co-workers that I’m bad luck to any team that I root for. When the BC Lions were in the Grey Cup, some of them either discouraged me (or encouraged me, depending on their preference) from watching the game on TV, because somehow they would always win when I missed the game and lose whenever I watched. It was almost uncanny how the act of observing the game, like some sort of twisted Heisenberg Principle, made the team lose.

This year, I didn’t watch a single game that the New England Patriots played in, except for one: The SuperBowl.

After winning every other game they played during the whole year, they lost this one game I watched in the last 35 seconds. It was probably one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets in history. In fact, ESPN.com is now having people rank and vote what they think are the biggest upsets in history, and tonight’s Super Bowl XLII (42) is listed among the candidates: (here’s a screen capture for posterity:)

Sports Upsets

Oh, and by the way, after missing their regular season, I also saw that ball go through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series, when the Boston Red Sox lost to the New York Yankees, which is, naturally, in the list.

Note to self: If your team is playing, and you’ve not seen them play in any other game, and they’ve won every other game, be sure to watch them, and bet against them, big time, particularly if it’s any team from New England vs. New York. At least you can profit from the misfortune you seem to emanate.

You Can Take the Boy out of Fenway…

The Red Sox, Victorious in Game 1…but you can’t take Fenway out of the boy.

This evening, Pam and I ate hot dogs, drank beer and watched the Boston Red Sox utterly dominate the Colorado Rockies in a wicked first game of the 2007 World Series. It was curious to see the Sox not only do so well, but do so well in so many ways. They finished off with a score of 13 to 1, tying the record of 13 doubles in a world series game. But it wasn’t only the hitting. They pulled off a beautiful double play, and pitcher Josh Beckett only allowed 6 hits. The Rockies, on the other hand, went through 5 pitchers.

Old habits do die hard, though. All the way up to a score of 7 to 1, Pam kept saying ‘They could still screw it up! Don’t let yourself be fooled!” It’s also hard to get used to seeing our old Boston team as the favourite, and clearly not the underdog. That said, it is fun to see them win handily, even if we aren’t within a stone’s throw of the Green Monster any more.

Go Sox!