Friday, December 25, 2009

Review: Avatar

I finally got around to seeing Avatar this week. I saw it in 3d in a normal theater but the next time I see it, I'm going to try to see it in IMAX.

Avatar is set in the year 2150. Humans have gobbled up all of the resources on Earth and are mining a distant planet called Pandora for a substance far more valuable than oil or gold. The planet is inhabited by the N'Avi people, who are connected to the earth and not overly fond of having their planet destroyed. In order to connect with the N'Avi, the humans take on these "Avatars" in the form of a N'Avi that lets the humans interact with them. The idea is that if you get them to vacate their land freely, then the military won't have to roll in and destroy everything.

Obviously this movie carries the message that we have to be careful of this is where we will end up. I also believe it is a commentary on terrorism and the war on terror.

Yet I didn't really enjoy the movie for the story so much as I enjoyed it for the visual effects, which are stunning to say the least. I had always wondered when they were going to make a movie that was over 90% digital effects and I believe this movie is a huge step forward in that regard.

The 3D imagery is also stunning. There are lots of scenes in the forest that are simply amazing, especially at night when the forest lights up. You have to wear glasses for the entire movie and that may be annoying to some. My only other 3D complaint is that the movie maker decides what is going to be in focus. This means that you can't really look at details in the background or explore the "shot" too much. However this isn't a huge issue because there is so much to look at that is in focus.

Overall, I'd have to say this a movie you have to see in the theater and you should try your best to see it in 3D. It will look great at home but do yourself a favor and get to the theater.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Review: It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud is a documentary feating Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page. They are some of the more influential guitarists alive and as I imagine, three people very hard to get into the same room... which is exactly what the filmmakers have done in this one and half hour film that includes archival footage, interviews and live performances. If you have ever played the guitar or been a fan of their music, then this movie is peek inside how they work the instrument to express themselves. Each of them comes from a different background but yet the movie works to show each of them as having gone through similar stages in their development.

Jack White likes to fight, literally, with cheap plastic guitars and vintage amps on the verge of breaking up. The Edge is famous for playing with effects until he gets exactly the sound that he hears in the head. Jimmy Page is simply put, is an absolute tone hound and responsible for many of the rock guitar sounds you hear today.

To see Jimmy Page stand in the hallway where the drums for "When the Levee Breaks" were recorded, clap his hands and hear the familiar reverb of the space after 30 years is simply awesome. We also see The Edge return to the school where the members of U2 first performed, which includes the classroom they practiced in, which is even more poignant considering they are playing stadiums on their current tour. The Edge also walks on a small schoolyard stage U2 first played on well over 20 years ago.

In fact the movie is just filled with incredible moments. In one scene, the Edge pulls out a box of four track tapes without any idea of what is really on the tapes. As it turns out, one of them is an early demo of "Where the Streets Have No Name". Jimmy Page rummages around in what could be best be described storage room for his gear, filled with more instruments than your local music shop. Perhaps one of my favorite scenes is when Jack White tells some 9 year old doppelganger to stomp on his #1 guitar like he's putting out a cigarette.

Then there is the scene where Jimmy Page plays the first distortion pedal ever made. That to me is quite magical when you consider everything that comes after that. There also some crazy moments where nothing is even said between these guitar gods. The look on Jack White's face as Jimmy Page plays "Whole Lotta Love" in front of him. The twinkle in Jimmy Page's eyes as he puts on Link Wray's "Rumble". It's almost like you are seeing what it must have been like to be there the first time they heard those recordings.

If these are the types of things that make you get shivers down the back of your neck, then this movie is going to blow your socks off. If you are a fan of any of these bands, then you are really going to enjoy this movie and if you are simply a fan of music, you'll enjoy this well narrated trip through the past, present and future of rock and roll.

It Might Get Loud is currently in limited release. Details here. And will be out on DVD December 22nd. I'm sure the bonus footage on the DVD is going to be KILLER.

Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My New iPhone: Week One

I purchased an iPhone 3GS last week.

The first thing about upgrading your phone is that it is expensive... and we here in North America have been so conditioned to getting discounts on the cost of the phone that we choke at the full price of a smartphone. At Telus, a 16GB iPhone 3GS is $700 and I believe the 32GB version is over $800.

Cost aside, I have to say that this in an impressive device. Not perfect by all means but very well thought out.

I used to have an HTC Touch Diamond... another device that was big on touch screen navigation and this phone really blows that phone away. I have big fingers and yet I don't really have any issues typing of navigating on the iPhone. Of course it helps that I can turn it sideways and access a larger typing area. Moving from Twitter (via Tweetdeck) to the web is fast and seamless.

The ability download lots of apps is also pretty nifty however I'd say most of the apps I have downloaded so far just make specific tasks faster... like finding out the weather forecast (WeatherEye) or nearest gas station (MyNearest). I am also finding Facebook really convenient and of course talking and texting are a breeze.

I really don't think these phones are for everyone. Thinking about it last night, you need to be a really connected individual to get the most out of an iPhone. You need to have lots of contacts that you talk to often. You need to be out and about and need to remain connected to information such Podcasts or RSS feeds. If you are the type of person who goes to the office and home each day, then an iPhone is probably going to be too much for you.

I have a love/hate relationship with Apple and I have to say that I love this phone. But more than that, I live what this phone represents to mobile handset designers: something to surpass. As I mentioned, this phone isn't perfect but I think that representing something to shoot for will ultimately make the experience you want to have while on-the-go closer to reality and for that I applaud Apple 100%.

Cheers. Danny

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Social Media and Job Search Strategies

I recently had a conversation with somebody about how important social media has been to my job search and I figured that this information would be useful to others.

First, some background: I relocated to Ottawa from Vancouver in August and have been looking for my next opportunity since that time.

I believe that social media is invaluable when it comes to researching potential job opportunities. One of the main reasons for this is that you can often get unfiltered/unedited information about a company, job openings and interviewers before you even step foot in an interview room. Given the popularity of social media these days, there is also a wealth of information available that is often free and easy to find. You just have to know where to look!

Looking for Job Postings
Even though I am going to talk about searching on-line for information about jobs, I should point out that networking is always one of the best ways to find out possible job openings. If you have a large, active network behind you then I would suggest that is the single best place to start.

That said, there are lots of great places on the web to find jobs. Lately, I have been using a site called Indeed. Sign up and create searches that can be set up to send you a daily alert message with the results of the search. I also find that LinkedIn is a popular place for job postings and if the company isn't posting directly on LinkedIn, you can also use LinkedIn's search engine to search the web. Here is where that is done:

Twitter is also becoming a popular place for job postings. Most cities have business directories that will have lists of companies you might want to work for. In Ottawa, there is the Ottawa Business Journal's annual Book of Lists. You should use that list to search and see if a company is on Twitter and if they are, you can follow them. I also recommend looking at Twitter accounts on to see who the company/contact is following and who is following them to expand the list of companies/people you are following. Twitter now has a nifty list feature so you can also see who is on a contact's lists and follow them. I also recommend trying to find people that are well connected in your city and following them. Connected people often post openings on Twitter that come from their network. Ideally you can get out to meet these people face to face, but meeting on Twitter isn't bad either! I also suggest searching to see if there is a an Twitter account like OttawaJobs or something similar in your city that posts openings.

I rarely use to interact with Twitter. Instead I use an API called TweetDeck. One of the best features in TweetDeck is the ability to have searches permanently saved in columns that continually update. I recommend setting up searches for the types of positions you are interested in for your city as something might come up there as well. More on using TweetDeck below.

Corporate blogging was all the rage a few years ago and they can be a wealth of information about companies and job openings. Most often, a company will blog about needing talent and if you subscribe to the RSS feed (if available) you don't even have to go to the blog... you just need to watch your RSS feeds. Side note: If you aren't using RSS feeds yet then I recommend signing up for Google Reader and subscribing the RSS feeds of blogs that you read. That way you can keep updated on new posts as they are published.

Researching Companies and Interviewers
Research is absolutely crucial when searching for jobs. Because I am focusing on social media in this post I won't go into detail but it is critical that you keep you finger on the pulse of what is happening in the city or cities you want to work in. At the very least, I like to read the business section of the paper daily but other useful sources of information include business associations, trade journals and trade associations. Most of these are now served by websites and those will often have a section for job postings. Examples of things to look for are: Business Association, Technology Industry or Association. Every city likes to promote itself as a great place to do business and you can really use this information to your advantage!

If you find an opening or have an interview scheduled then you must do research on the company, the industry and the person or people you might be interviewing with. Obviously, LinkedIn is invaluable when it comes to this. Find the company in LinkedIn and review the list of popular profiles at the company to see who is active and see what type of experience they have and if they are connected to you in some way. You can also see if the job you are interviewing opened because somebody left, however I should mention that you will only see this if that person has updated their LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn can also give you an indication of the turnover rate at the company... is there lots of activity in terms of hires and promotions? You can also find out about people you might be working with and/or interviewing with. I like to see if we have anything in common as this information might be useful for helping to create some rapport with the interviewer. Best case, you might know somebody in common who can serve as a reference for you.

I deactivated my Facebook account earlier this year but reactivated it when I started by job search. I am finding that Facebook is also a great place to find information about companies you might want to work for. See if they have a company profile and see what information is being shared. In fact you should also see if they have a Twitter account and what type of information they are tweeting about and you can also set up a search in TweetDeck for the company name to see what people are saying about them. All of this information should help you get a feel for what type of company they are... are they fun? serious? do customers appreciate their product/service?

I spoke about corporate blogs earlier and I should point out here that they invaluablel in the research phase. Look to see what the company is blogging about for indication of what they are thinking about. I like to say that corporate blogs are often the most honest peek into a company and its culture you are going to get before you step foot in the office. Whitepapers and product pages are going to be written by the marketing folks but blog posts usually come directly from the employees and while most are edited, they are usually more transparent.

Lots of firms have set up Flickr accounts and they will often have photos. I usually search to see if the company looks like a fun place to work. I have seen companies that post pictures of the office and the staff and they are great for understanding what the culture is like. You should also check to see if they have a Youtube channel and what content is being shared on Youtube about the company. One company I was researching had a corporate video on Youtube about what a great place it would be to work at! (HR professionals take note...)

After Your Interview
What happens if you go for an interview and you never hear back from the company? Unfortunately, it seems to be standard procedure for companies to NOT tell you that you aren't being considered for a job. While I don't know why this is the case, I always suggest you contact them to ask before doing anything else. If that doesn't work, then you can actually use LinkedIn, Twitter or the company's blog to figure out if somebody else was hired and see if anybody tweets about signing an offer or if there is a post on the blog about a new team member.

Stay Positive
No matter what you do, stay positive. The job market is really tough right now and it is most likely going to take lots of effort to get something. I read recently that it will take about 150 contacts to get a job offer... and I have to say that this sounds about right to me. Looking for work is never easy so I always suggest that people try to enjoy it... afterall, when else do you get to meet so many interesting people that work at interesting companies!

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review: Star Wars In Concert

Last night, I went to Scotiabank Place here in Ottawa to see "Star Wars in Concert".

It is a multi-media show that includes props from the movies at various points in the hallways of the arena and a main show that includes the music from the movies performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and narrated by C-3PO (actor Anthony Daniels).

It is a fairly elaborate setup with lights, lasers and a giant video screen. The orchestra is huge and includes a full choir... so this is pretty serious stuff that is designed to be pretty overwhelming... and it is.

I have to be honest and say that I didn't know what to expect but I was really blown away. Here is a clip from another show that will give you the idea:

Of course, Anthony Daniels who played 3-CPO was hilarious as the narrator, even if he was slightly over-dramatic at points. The music is really amazing and it makes you realize just how much effort was put into the score for the films. In fact, I felt they could have done without the movie clips at times and just let us focus on the musicians.

The majority of the songs were accompanied by video montages assembled from all of the six movies. What they did was arrange all of the clips that centered around one theme together and paired it with the song. For example... there is the theme for Darth Vader so that video would be all of the clips that show Vader's story. Another would be large battle scenes were the Empire is attacking set to music used for those scenes. I thought this was an interesting concept as they were able to tell the story in a less linear way but it still made sense.

The other thing that struck me is how well the footage from the first films holds up against the footage from the more recent ones, even if they have tonnes of digital effects. In fact, I think the older films look a bit better because everything is more organic.

All in all, a great time that was well worth it and would highly recommend this as a must-see for anyone who enjoyed the movies.

UPDATE: just after I wrote this post, I noticed on FastCompany that Addidas and LucasFilm have teamed for a run of Star Wars themed footware... neat. See it here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blackberry - Love What You Do...

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you have probably seen the newest Blackberry ad campaign "Love What You Do" which features the Beatles' song "All You Need Is Love".

Ever since I first saw it, I have been trying to figure out exactly what they are trying to say. I suppose the point of the campaign to position Blackberry as more of a lifestyle brand than a one more focused on satisfying the needs of business. This makes sense, seeing as the iPhone is getting some traction in the business market while Blackberry eyes the everyday user but the issue I have with these ads, at least in the montage version I seem to see more often, is that I just don't see any of the product or brand benefits really being portrayed in the ad.

Here it is:

So I am left to wonder what their placement strategy is... are they going to show the individual versions or just keep showing the montage? (you see the whole series here).

I have to applaud Blackberry for stepping into the pop culture limelight and trying to make their brand appear younger and cooler. I saw in the paper today that one of the Blackberry models outsells the iPhone but I personally just cannot seem to get it into my head that carrying a Blackberry will ever be "cool" despite how cool the people that use them think they look. I have just sat across from too many people tapping away on their Blackberry.

That's why I got an HTC Touch and am eyeing an iPhone 3GS for my next phone but we'll see... there are so many great phones coming out these days it's going to be hard to choose.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Advice to Young Marketers (MBA's included)

I am in the process of looking for my next "opportunity" and the job-hunting process has forced me to reflect back on my marketing career. The other day I was thinking to myself "If you could go back to when you first started, what would you tell yourself?" and when I finished my internal thoughts, I realized it would make a great blog post.

Avoid Getting Locked Into One Tactic
I started the "marketing" phase of my career working in email marketing. That was late 2000 and at that time, email marketing was all the rage. Marketers were loving it because it offered great ROI. Email service providers like the company I worked for were in a race to grow revenues and would often give clients super low CPMs to sign them up. This meant that it cost next to nothing to blast people with all kinds of email messages selling your goods/services.

Since that time, email marketing has changed drastically (as every other marketing tactic does) and now it's just another tool at a marketers fingertips. I believe the marketing industry is largely driven by hype. Lots of people making and drinking the Cool-Aid, if you will. Those that sell tools and services need to be seen as having something that marketers don't, so that the marketers pay for it. And so it is easy to get caught up in it. Take social media, which to me feels an awful lot like email marketing used to feel. It's cheap and the possibilities are endless but in a few years it will be just like email marketing - another arrow in the quiver.

Some people might want to stick with one tactic and to those people, best of luck, but if you have aspirations of being able to do more then you need make hard choices and keep diversifying your experience. I believe this is easier said than done because success can come easy... even if you had never heard of social media two years ago, you could be a published author with over 10,000 Twitter followers today. It can be hard to walk away from success but my advice would be to just consider the big picture. Is what you are doing today really going to matter in five years?

In my case, being seen as anything but an email marketing person was really hard. In some ways, I had to go to and do an MBA to shed that image. So my advice to young people is to get as much experience in different tactics as possible. Not only will you get a better understanding of who true marketers present an integrated marketing strategy but you will also pick up lots of great contacts along the way.

Get Experience in Communications and Sales
I believe that sales, communications and marketing are and have been converging for years. They all involve similar strategies to make people think, feel or act in a pre-determined way. People are often scared of sales but trust me, if you can't sell then how are you ever going to get a job because the most important thing you will ever sell is yourself.

This is especially true if you want to work for smaller companies because more often than not, they will not have somebody that just does marketing or just does communications. And while most communications people think that a marketing person can't do their job (and vice versa), the truth is quite the opposite. Looking back at how I missed out on these opportunities or didn't capitalize on them, I now see many different ways I could have been involved. Participate in trade shows, liase with your agency's PR or sales department and bring in leads.

When I was doing my MBA, we never really spoke about communications or sales. In fact, I'm pretty sure that when we did a business plan project that my group was one of the only ones that included a PR strategy as part of our overall marketing communications strategy. I don't really think the basis of PR are all that complicated - I learned them in a few hours over the phone. But employers like to see tangible experience in this area so get out there and get involved!

Stay Connected
For better or worse, the internet is awash in marketing thinking. Blogs, websites, tweets.... it's everywhere. Spend some time getting familiar with who is out there. Find somebody influential and see who they are listening to. If you are not already into RSS feeds then set up a Google Reader account and start subscribing to RSS feeds at imporant marketing websites... it will save you going back often to see when new content is published. Set up a twitter account and follow influential thinkers. Search for key terms or look for hashtaps like #marketing to find pepole to follow. Tools like TweetDeck make managing twitter that much easier.

If you are not on LinkedIn, then you should set up a profile immediately. LinkedIn will help you manage and stay connected to your business contacts. When you meet somebody interesting, ask them if they are on LinkedIn and if you can connect. I have found LinkedIn invaluable when it comes to doing company research and preparing for interviews. I use it to get a sense of what the company is like and what experience the people I might be working with or interviewing with have.

Don't Burn Bridges
The world may be big, but the marketing world is small and you never know when something is going to come back to you. I left DoubleClick's DARTmail division in 2004 and I remember leaving the building thinking that I will never see the DARTmail platform again. Two years later I am sitting in training learning the tool all over again.

Stay positive and try to keep you reputation (personal brand) as something viewed positively by those around you. Spend some time each week reconnecting with and staying updated on what old colleagues are doing as you never know when you might get an email or a phone call that leads you in a new and interesting direction.

Have Fun
Marketing is a fun field to work in. Be social, be jovial and be passionate. I think that these three things are infectious and bring energy to any office environment. Just because it is fun, doesn't mean it is easy and some days you are going to want to crawl under a rock and die but if you're having fun as much as you can, you will never go wrong.

Good luck out there.


Monday, November 2, 2009

If you don't care, should I?

I blogged a few weeks ago about customer service during the recession. That post his here.

Today I stopped by Sport Check to get some shoes and then went to Best Buy to get some blank CDs ( have a tonne of new music to burn).

Sport Check was fine, except for the fact that I never saw a single salesperson in the shoe section. Which is too bad because I saw two customers leave. I was able to find the shoes I was looking for in an area where there were boxes so I could try on a few pairs and figure it out for myself. I consider myself lucky.

Best Buy was a total joke. The shelves were a total mess and a good number of the things I was looking at had no prices on or around them. I wish I could have taken a picture. Perhaps they only care about the big items like computers and TVs but aren't the small things very high margin? How can somebody buy something that has no price on it?

The problem of no prices was especially bad while I was waiting, with about five other people for ten minutes, for one of the two cash registers to free up. This is where they are supposed to get you with the impulse buys... but there were no prices on a bunch of the items.

To me it just seems sloppy and makes it look like you don't care. And if you don't care, why should I?

Monday, October 26, 2009

U of Ottawa MBA's Take Oath of Conduct

Read a story in the Ottawa Citizen today about U of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management MBA students taking an oath of conduct. The article is here. Another article from the CBC with a copy of the oath is here.

To recap the story, the students at Telfer have joined two North American schools to take an oath of conduct upon graduation. The other schools are Harvard and Thunderbird (Arizona). The oath itself contains statements about considering all stakeholders (not just shareholders) in decisions, obeying laws and acting in an environmentally sustainable manner, among other things.

Having recently completed an MBA, I think it is also important to point out the effect many of the recent "scandals" have had on MBA programs. In one word, it would be HUGE.

I did my MBA at UBC (Robert H. Lee graduate school at Sauder) and in the program there, Ethics or Corporate Social Responsibility was one of the main cornerstones of our program. The first three months of the program is referred to a "The Core". Everyone does the same 13 subjects and few of them get more attention than others in that you spend more time studying them and case discussions are centered around them. They included accounting, marketing, supply chain, strategy and corporate social responsibility. Our year started out with a discussion of Joel Bakan's "The Corporation" and our major project, a business plan, had to included considerations for corporate social responsibility. I have not attended other MBA programs, but I can only assume there was a similar emphasis in other programs.

Why does this oath exist and why are MBA graduates taking it?

1) MBA are starting to get a bad reputation. Many people believe that MBA's are at fault for many recent financial scandals. Jeff Skilling from Enron was a Harvard MBA.

2) Other professionals such as Accountants and Doctors have to take oaths of conduct.

What do I think about it?

It is a marketing ploy. The oath is not mandatory and it is not universal across all MBA programs so for the time being, it serves to differentiate one student or one program from another. Any MBA program worth anything SHOULD be teaching a heavy dose of corporate social responsibility so an oath such as this should not be necessary.

It is not going to deter bad behavior. Some people might argue that if something stops just one person, it is successful. I believe that is an excuse for an inefficient allocation of time and resources. Perhaps more time and effort should be spent inside the program teaching corporate social responsibility, instead of tacking on an oath at the end. And even then, I am sure we are always going to have these problem because not everyone that commits fraud/white collar crime is an MBA and because human nature often trumps everything else.

Personally, I found it really funny that the entire time we were debating and discussing the Enron scandal in my MBA program, Wall Street was pulling billions of dollars out of Main Street. I believe that until regulators and government get seriously tough on corporate crime, we are going to have these problems. Energy goes to where the money is. Which means that if you're smart you will go to Wall Street and make millions instead of going to SEC and making nothing. As long as Wall Street is smarter than Main Street at ripping people off, the trend will continue and oaths like the one taken at Ottawa U, Harvard and Thunderbird sound nice... but if we think they are going to make a difference, we are only kidding ourselves.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Recession Is An Opportunity

I was driving home from a store today and I was thinking about all of the bad customer service experiences I have had in the last year. They range from not being able to get service at stores to not being able to find what I was looking for because the shelves are disorganized.

I could be wrong, but I believe that many stores are currently under-staffed because they are trying to reduce overhead in the face current market conditions. From a business perspective, I can understand the logic... if sales are flat or declining, then you need to reduce your costs to maintain or increase profitability.

But this leaves a bad taste in the mouth of your customers. And it does this at a crucial time. As a consumer, I have two broad choices to make each day: do I spend my money or not. And I believe that in times like these, that question becomes all the more important. In the good times, consumers think about where they are going to spend their money but in recessions, people think about if they are going to spend their money much harder in a recession than when times are good.

So if a consumer has decided they are going to spend their money, which is probably a decision people are not making very often, should a firm just throw the opportunity for that purchase (to fill that demand) out the window with poor service? I think not.

This leads me into viewing a recession as an opportunity. I think that smart firms understand this and see this opportunity to grab market share from the competition. For this reason, I say that a recession is an opportunity.

I think the same applies to career planning. If you are successful in your career and times are good, then the opportunity cost of switching careers is high because then you will forgo all the progress you could have made if switch career paths. When you're in a recession, that opportunity cost is much lower, so if you're going to make the switch - now is the time.

The job market is not very good right now - trust me - but there are opportunities and I read last week that we may never, at least for a while, go back to the levels of employment we were at a few years ago. I read this to mean that some people may never get back into their old industries. Worse, some people may never even get back in the job market or have a really hard time doing so.

So I say that if you're going to make a move - now is the time. It is all about perspective and I think everything changes if you look at a recession like an opportunity.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Elusive Muskellunge

I started fishing the Ottawa River when I was probably three or four years old. Back in those days, it was pretty easy to pull large fish out of the Ottawa River.

Over time, it seemed as though it became harder and harder to catch the big ones; yet one specific type of fish, the Muskellunge or "musky", was always what we were after. Muskies are the largest members of the pike family and I have caught a few pike in my day.

However I had never caught a musky. Until last Thursday.

My brother in law and I had been talking about trying to get out musky fishing for a long time. We spoke to local fisherman who had caught muskies and figured out a few places where they were active. It should be noted that the Ottawa River is known for some of the best musky fishing in the world.

Finally, one of his close friends purchased a proper fishing boat and we were one step closer. Then, we found out about a place known for an abundance of large muskies and everything fell into place.

I went out and got licenses, a few large lures and some heavier fishing line. We loaded up the boat with some food and we were off to the races. Musky tend to feed in the morning or at night so we went out later in the afternoon for the late shift.

We launched our boat and started trolling at about 5mph. With four lines in the water, we got tangled up a few times but once that was all sorted out the real action began.

I started reeling in my line because I thought I might be tangled or have a bunch of weeds but it turned that as soon as my line came closer to the boat, something was on it. My first musky! It was about 36 inches long and about 10 pounds:

I caught a second one about an hour and half later that was about the same size but it spit the hook as we were about to put it in the net.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Octoberfest in Vankleek Hill

This past Saturday, I ventured out to Vankleek Hill for the Octoberfest celebrations, sponsored by Beau's.

Vankleek Hill is about an hour east of Ottawa, towards Montreal. Beau's is a small brewery in Vankleek Hill that makes some of the best craft beers I have ever tasted. They make a beer called Lug Tread that is considered a lagered ale in that it combines the best of both types of beer. It is available at select LCBO stores in ceramic bottles and select pubs as well as restaurants. Look for it and give it a try sometime.

This was the first time there had been an Octoberfest celebration at the fairgrounds in Vankleek Hill and it was an interesting time to say the least.

The Good
There were lots of things to see and do. There was a traditional ompah band, hay rides, a pretty zoo for the kids, food, lots of beer and "Norm" from Cheers was there.

The Bad
I felt the event was highly over-priced. It was $15 to get in, which I think was pretty steep seeing as you can go to rural fairs and pay $10 for all the rides. Mugs were $8 and then it was $4 a beer and $1 for food tickets and various food items were pretty costly... up to like $7 for a sandwich. Kids admission was free though.

The Ugly
The service for beer was pretty laughable. It took me TWO hours to get my first beer. I had to wait 45 minutes for beer tickets then over 1.5 hours to get a beer. And the people service didn't really seem organized.

My Advice
Show up early. We got there at 3:30 and bus after bus of people were arriving. Just after I got my first beer at 5:30, the beer lines seemed to be much better. Be warned about going late.. they claimed to be sold out at about 6pm when we were leaving but the event was going until 9pm.

Here are some pictures

Friday, October 2, 2009

Updated Layout

I woke up today and decided that it was time to update the layout of my blog.

For one thing, my header (I often call it masthead) image reflect my previous geographic location on the west coast. For those of you who didn't know, that was a picture of the Burrard Inlet and Georgia Straight taken from the Stanley Park seawall.

My new image is a picture I took a few years ago on the canal locks next to the Chateau Laurier. In the coming weeks, I am going to do my best to get out on my bike and get a better picture that I think summarizes Ottawa better, but this will have to do for now.

I also simplified the color palate and design elements to make things look a little bit cleaner and re-organized my right hand column to reflect the changing times... which means I moved my tweets up and the RSS feed down.

Good call? Bad call? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

EI Update (Conclusion)

My posts about my dealings with EI (employment insurance) seem to be popular as lots of people have emailed me with questions about the issues I had.

So here is my last update that details how things got resolved. To recap, getting my ROE (record of employment) was a nightmare and didn't happen until mid August (finished work at the end of June). I finally got everything sorted and submitted close to the end of August (24th) to be exact and was supposed to get a decision on September 16th.

What ended up happening was that there was no decision made on September 16th. In fact, it took them nearly a week to finally make a decision and in order to that, they needed to clarify some stuff with former employer. I found this out because I was calling the EI office every single day.

The EI office calls my company in the USA but leaves a number only available in Canada... so my old company can't call back... I had to play middle-man and get the EI rep's number from my old company, call them and leave a message that to call back and if a message is left, use a number that works.

Turns out that all happened and they finally approved my application and I got the funds 2 days later.

So let me summarize my lessons to anyone in a similar situation:

1) If you know you are going to leaving work before it happens, ask for your ROE as soon as you can so that you can leave the office with it on your last day OR have it processed ASAP after you leave. Ideally, you get a paper copy and walk out with it on your last day. If not, be sure to ask for it before you leave and have them process it and send it to you. It can be submitted electronically but have them only do that if they know how to do it. Otherwise you are best going and handing it in.

2) Fill out your EI application immediately when you finish work. You can do it online or you can do it in person. Personally, I had an account with Services Canada because of my e-Taxes that made doing it online really easy.

3) Continually monitor the status of your application. That said, it does take about three weeks for things to be processed.

4) Be prepared to wait for everything to happen. For example, when I dropped off my ROE it took about 5 business days for it to show that it arrived. When they were suppose to call me, it took two business days to get processed.

5) Don't expect to be getting a large sum of money. At best you are looking at 450 dollars a week so be sure to have some savings to fall back on.

6) The good news is that you can be eligible for a good number of weeks of coverage... so rest assured that you will be given some time to find a new job.

Now I have to get back to my job search!!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Facebook is quickly becoming obsolete to me.

The true story is that I used to be fairly active on Facebook, having upwards of 400 friends at one point. I found it amazing that I could find old friends from middle school and reconnect with them. Looking at pictures of class trips to Quebec city was fun.

Then I realized that Facebook was just a waste of time. You spend more time looking at pictures of people drunk or with their kids. Now, don't get me wong, that stuff can be interesting but it starts to get old quickly.

So I deactivated my account.

I was happy with the decision and for a while, pretended that ingorance in bliss. I was proud of the fact that I was off the book and happy to tell anyone who would listen.

Last week, I reactivated my account.

Why? I am finding it a useful tool as part of my job search strategy. It helps me see what kind of presense potential employers might have in the whole "social" space. It has in some cases helped me better understand who I might be interviewing with (although LinkedIn is really where that is done best) and it has help me waste hours or time reconnecting with old friends.

But really, nothing has really changed on Facebook. It is still the same old boring thing it always was. I don't really see it as being all that dynamic. Content is fed into Facebook from so many sources (like Twitter) and I am getting tired of seeing things coming across each platform through many different people.

I am going to keep my Facebook account because I suppose I can use my privacy settings to keep everything private and because it's a great research tool but it really isn't the great connector it once was.

There was a study done by Facebook and The Economist a few months ago that showed that while some people have more friends and more contact on Facebook, the average user has no more friend and interacts with no more people regularily than the offline person.

So, in my mind, Facebook was great while it lasted but now it's time to watch Twitter go through the same transformation.

And I really think that interfaces, platform and aggregators like Google Wave or FriendFeed that can tie it all together in a useable way will be the big winners in the future. Afterall, I rarely interact with's website.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shifty Rogers

Here in Canada we have some of the worst mobile phone companies in the world.

While the rest of the world has been basking in 3G networks for years, we only recently had a move to 3G by Rogers and Bell. Telus is supposed to launch their 3G network soon.

To be clear, I am not really a fan or any of our Canadian options but Rogers is certainly the one I despise the most and this all goes back to an issue I had over a year ago when their customer service was disorganized and couldn't get a phone into my hands within 3 weeks.

Last week, I read about how Rogers was going to be doing away with the $6/month system access fee that has been annoying me ever since I owned my first cell phone.

But that doesn't mean your Rogers bill is going to go down... because they are implementing a Government Regulatory Recovery Fee.

This was taken somewhere online.. I believe the Rogers site...

What is the Government Regulatory Recovery Fee?

The Government Regulatory Recovery Fee ranges from $2.46-$3.46 /line/month (varies by province and plan selected). It is applied to help fund fees, costs and other amounts related to federal, provincial and/or municipal mandates, programs and requirements such as provincial 911 fees, spectrum acquisition, licensing charges, and contribution charges to help subsidize telephone service in rural and remote areas. It may include costs incurred in prior years that are still being fully recovered. It is not a tax or charge the government requires Rogers to collect. The fee and the components used to calculate the fee are subject to change as the fees/costs of government mandates/programs change.

On top of this, most plans will go up by about $5/month... so it sounds like Rogers is going to be taking in more than the system access fee was.

Shifty move... and I wonder how many Rogers customers are even going to notice...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Can't sleep again

My sleep patterns have been really messed up since I moved back from Vancouver. I actually don't think I have adjusted to the Eastern time zone yet and it's been over a month.

I spent over 10 hours doing job search related research today... and I have to admit that it's really fun getting to learn about new companies and industries. Especially because I can still use the vast UBC library resources.

My niece Ella got some fish today so I went to the store with my sister and my brother in law to pick them out with her. Goldfish are a great bargain... about a dollar fifty for a good sized one. She got three!

Twitter is starting to turn into spam central and boy, did that ever happen quick. A few months ago, I started getting all kinds of random ad requests... spam. Then, I followed one person who would use mentions to tweet spam. And the other day, I followed somebody and they had a confirmation message that required me to validate by clicking a link. Nuts.

Gotta sleep now!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Economy

When it comes to the recession, people like to think that we might be through the worst of it. I beg to differ.

Part of the reason that I say this is that everything right now is about discounting. Businesses are seem to be so desperate to generate any kind of revenue they can (which makes sense as revenue is like oxygen) that they are willing to discount their wares all over the place.

To see this, look no further than your television set. Watch any U.S. based channel and I find it so noticeable, you couldn't miss it if you tried. You can even mute your TV and notice it.

Go to the newspaper and see what kinds of flyers or coupons you're getting . Today I saw some crazy coupons for Denny's (not even sure where there is one near me in Ottawa) that promised a free entree with purchase of two. Ten dollars off a bill over $30... and many more which seem to knock the price of a Denny's outing for a few people by about 30 percent.

The problem is that people are tapped. Those people who are working, are probably taking pay cuts, work reductions and unpaid leave.

Those who aren't working, and there are many people out there, aren't going to be getting jobs too quickly. I read some recent figures that show while employment will increase in the next few months, companies will be adding headcount slowly.

I think the big concern is that we are not going to have a big fourth quarter... which is when most companies make all of their money or profit for any given year. The holiday shopping season will be flat or significantly lower than last year's and this, I believe, is going to cause a massive dip in economic output from Q1 through Q3 next year.

I'd like to believe we have seen the worse yet but I'm just finding it hard given the hard economic numbers I'm seeing and the sheer volume of discounting on behalf of marketing managers everywhere...

Buckle up.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Employment Insurance... update

I got a bunch of emails as result of my last post about my EI situation so here's the update:

I was hoping that everything was going to be sorted out this week. I went into the Services Canada office last week and gave them my second (and should be final ROE) and the person told me I'd get a call early this week and after that they would be able to release the funds.

Instead, I got no call. So I decided to call Services Canada this afternoon. The phone rep told me they received by updates but that it will take them up to September 16th to review everything. It could happen sooner, so I should keep checking the website but their internal deadline is September 16th. However I know that it won't be earlier than the 16th because my original application had a 4 week deadline and it took almost exactly that.

It is really unfortunate. Getting the ROE situation sorted out was a total mess and as an employee, you don't really have much recourse... you are at the mercy of your employer or in my case the payroll companies. Once that is done, you have to wait for Services Canada. Everyone I have spoken to there has been super friendly, it's just the time that each step is taking that is the problem. What really burns me is that I was concerned that this was going to happen in August and I kept trying to tell myself that it was going to be ok... turns out I was right and I'm sure you can guess what I mean by that.

The job market is really starting to pick up. The last few weeks have been pretty good and I should hope to have something shortly.

I could be back at work before I even see a dime of EI money - now that would really funny.

On the upside:
I babysat my niece for the first time today for about 4 hours. Good times!

Monday, August 31, 2009

What I'm watching...

People always ask me what TV shows I watch so I thought I would write a bit about a few of them here.

True Blood: At first I thought this was a "Twilight" rip-off, but it's not even close. True Blood is set in modern day Louisiana and vampires (and more) actually exist and interact with humans. The True Blood vampire isn't exactly like the vampire you might know (if they drink your blood, you don't become one and vice versa). It is on HBO, Sunday at 9pm.

Hung: Takes place in modern day Detroit, which means that everything is falling apart, and is the story of a guy who becomes a male prostitute because he is down on his luck. I think that you will be disappointed if you think this show is about prostitution because I think it is really about relationships. The relationships between family, friends, co-workers, a city and its people, a country and its economy and most of all, the relationship will all have (or don't have) with money. HBO, Sunday at 10pm.

Nitro Circus: Is what would happen if the guys from Jackass actually knew what they were doing. Travis Pastrana and his friends do insane stunts like backflipping a motorbike between two buildings and jumping out of planes without parachutes. Now on Season 2, you can watch episodes on Can-con: at least one of the cast is Canadian!

Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory: Imagine that you are a super rich pro-skateboarding who just finished three seasons of a hit show called Rob and Big. What do you do next? Build an office, skatepark, foam pit and more inside a huge warehouse in L.A. and film yourself doing whatever you want. Season 2 just started and you can watch episodes at

Mad Men: Probably the best show on TV. Blogged about it a bunch of times... 1960's advertising agency in Manhattan. Sunday nights, AMC. 10pm and 11pm (repeat).

Entourage: just tweeted about how this show is fading fast....

The Aftershow: Anyone who really knows me will attest to the fact that I am pop culture fanatic because I find it strangely fascinating. Like watching a car accident. I also think Dan Levy and Jessi Cruikshank have great chemistry and are hilarious in that they often see the same lameness in celebrities that I see. Airs Monday to Thursday on MTV but like all their shows, you can watch at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Marketing at Movie Theaters

Going to see a movie is quite the experience. If you're going to a Silvercity type set up, as I did last night to see Disctrict 9 (great movie) then you're in for a real treat. Lights and sounds everywhere.

You are also surrounded by marketing. Posters, advertisements, magazines... on one hand you would think that you are there to see a movie but I actually believe you are there to be marketed to.

In order to get to your seat, you have to find your theater. On the way there, you walk past elaborate "set ups" promoting up coming features. Now I have to admit that these are often very clever. For example, the Woodstock movie had a black light poster.

Once in your seat, you are subjected to a rolling series of ads and "advertainment" type screens that pretend to ask questions about celebreties. "Which star of the upcoming movie about George's Hamilton's life grew up in Texas? Answer: Renee Zellweger who stars in ____ out this month!".

For the first time ever, somebody actually got up in front of the audience to "pitch" us something. It was somebody from St. Lawrence College talking about finding jobs... I was so shocked that I couldn't really catch what she was saying, but I have to hand it to them... pretty clever but not sure how many people would have been receptive.

Then, the "movie" finally starts but first you have to get past a number of "real" ads like you'd see on TV. However I have noticed in every movie I have seen recently that Coke seems to play that ad with the eyeball and toungues at least twice in a row. Do they have any idea that this is annoying??

I work in marketing so I get it. And I know that advertising prior to movies does get attention... but I just wonder why I have to pay for the movie and then have to suffer through all of the advertisements.

I am starting to think that there might be a niche market developing for a movie experience that is advertisement free....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Employment Insurance (If you can get it)

For those of you that don't know, my last company closed my office in June. This means that I am eligible for Employment Insurance benefits. I figure that because I am eligible and because I have paid the premiums for years, I might as well collect.

I won't go through all of the conditions but I will tell you that in order to collect you need complete an application - which you can do online through the Services Canada website - and receive a completed Record of Employment from your previous employer. The completing of the application is really not that difficult. In my case, it was even easier because I have a ePass account that I use to submit and track my taxes with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Of course, the system isn't exactly the greatest, but it does work. The problem that I have had is that getting a record of employment (ROE) has been an absolute nightmare.

Technically (I would say legally but I suppose that does not mean anything) I was supposed to get an ROE within 5 days of finishing work.. and I finished work on June 30th.

The problem is that my former employer is based in the US and has dealt with two payroll processing companies during the time that I worked. Neither company could issue a single ROE for the time that I worked so I have had to get two ROEs. The first one was submitted electronically - good enough - but the second one (physical version) I received just last Friday.

Unfortunately for me, the ROE that was submitted electronically and automatically attached my application (which is good because technically the ROE should be complete and correct). In my case the electronic ROE had too few hours to qualify me and I was rejected. I have had the file reopened and escalated but I have to wait another week to get the case reviewed.

So I'm rounding the corner on two months out of work and I'm still not getting any EI!!!!

Gotta love it. So what is my advice for those that find themselves in this situation:

1) Although leaving a company is hectic, always ask for an ROE before you leave so they can get the ball rolling. Get a physical version if it is easier so you can verify it but ideally they should file it electronically.

2) Complete your application ASAP. You don't need to wait to get an ROE to fill out the application. If you don't have an ROE, the application will just sit there until the ROE is attached and then it will be automatically submitted. Apparently, you can lose benefits if you don't file.

3) Use the Services Canada Website

4) Complete your reports every two weeks, even if your application has not been approved. When you collect EI, you need to tell the government every two weeks that you are looking for work and you are willing to work... this is a condition of EI... so you need to complete reports to that effect. You can do them on the phone or maybe in person but trust me - the web version is easy.

5) Keep records. I can't stress this one enough.. keep copies and notes on everything you do and when you do it. Comes in handy when things get messy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

BMW and Mad Men

I have blogged about Mad Men before... great show on AMC about a 1960's Madison Avenue Advertising firm. The show is not only a portrait of 60's culture, but also an interesting lens into the world of advertising.

Oddly enough, I was also reading the recent issue of Vanity Fair with Farah Fawcett on the cover. It has a pretty extensive article about the show and a photo shoot with John Hamm (Don Draper) and January Jones (Betty Draper).

But what really hit me was the huge fold out advertisment for BMW that is promoting the North American debute of their new diesel engine. You can see the ad and read a bit more about the deal between the companies here. You can see one of the ads here.

Is this a good call or a bad call for BMW?

I suppose that would depend on how much they paid for the rights to sponsor the show... but my guess is that this really isn't going to be a game changer for BMW.

My guess is that people purchase BMW's because they are exactly what they have marketed themselves as for the last decade or so: "The Ultimate Driving Machine".

People don't buy BMW's because they are the "Ultimate Green Driving Machine".

And for this reason, I think they might have missed the boat this one. Plus, I also think that while Mad Men may appear to be a "slick" show about sophisticated men... it's not.

Mad Men is as much about women, and their place in the changing society of the 1960's as it is the men. And the men.. well they are all starting to flounder at what I can only imagine is the beginning of the end for the male dominated society of the day. Roger Sterling, the silver haired head of Sterling Cooper is reeling from a divorce, Don Draper is cracking trying to pull himself together after cracking at the seams in Season 2 and Pete Campbell is going to have to learn to play nice or he's out.

Watch the show and let me know what you think. Comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mama, I'm coming home!

It's official! I have settled into my life in Ottawa.

I arrived on Monday night, spent Tuesday painting my sister's basement with my brother in law and then had an interview today. I also picked up my stuff from Greyhound this afternoon.

In case you didn't know - Greyhound Express Courier is a great alternative to movers if you don't have too much stuff.

I shipped about 9 bags/boxes from Vancouver and it was only 75 cents a pound. When I used movers last time (I had more stuff) it was about 600 for 500 pounds and then a dollar per pound on top. There are restrictions on the size of items you can ship and the weight, my boxes got trashed but all in all, I think everything made it here in one week, in one piece.

I am going to spend some time in the next few days updating the design of my site... I suppose that I'll need to swap out anything that screams Vancouver (but I don't want to lose my masthead image).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Last words

I'm at the airport, waiting to board my flight to Ottawa.

Despite the fact that it's been an amazing summer, it's raining today. Fitting.

Even worse, the forecast is for thundershowers when I get into Ottawa. Great.

So long Vancouver!

Monday, August 3, 2009

So Long Vancouver

This will probably be my last post from Vancouver. I am in the process of packing up, selling and giving away as much of my stuff as I can, so that I can get back to Ottaway on August 12th.

Vancouver has been a great city to work in but the reality is that there are more opportunities in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal than there are in Vancouver.

Selling my stuff on online has been interesting. It's like looking for a job and my goods are no different than myself. I create an online ad for the item (like a profile on LinkedIn), somebody calls that is interested (like setting up an interview), the come over to see the item (interview) and then decided if they want it or not (ie: make an offer). Sometimes they are not interested, sometimes they don't call back and sometimes they buy.

And much like the job market, I think the market for second hand good is suffering from over-supply right now. Talent, much like jobs, can be a real bargain in these days. I think that most hiring firms understand this and so they aren't too quick to make offers. Others are more careful with their money, as it too is hard to come by these days. Still more are in no rush to do anything at all.

Smart firms, like smart people, are taking this time to stock up on good deals. When things pick back up in a year or two, I think the economy is really going to start buzzing again.

So, what can I say to sum up my time in Vancouver? It was a real roller coaster ride.

I arrived in August 2007, had to deal with find a place to live, moving in and getting set up. I started school at the end of August and Orientation was a blast. The Core was intense and lasted through early December. Then it was time to find internships and I ended up with a full time job. Last summer was great, the fall was also pretty good but then once the economy got really bad everything started to fall apart. Doing school part time was demanding, work was even more so and the next thing I know, I am graduating from school and my office being closed.

However, finishing school and moving from Vancouver marks the end of what I would refer to as the second phase of my life. The first was until the end of university, the second will be until August 12th when I move back and the third... well... that is waiting for me.

I am going to be an uncle for the third time in 2010. I am going to be able to ski more and enjoy my free time more. I want to get more serious about biking so I'll get an awesome road bike. I am going to start painting more again as well. And I am going to get a great job that really kick starts the next phase of my career.

Will I miss Vancouver? Of course.

Vancouver is an amazing city. The weather is not even nearly as bad as people think... in fact this summer has been unbelievable. There are great restaurants, bars, beaches and parks. British Columbia is by far one of the most beautiful and diverse provinces I have visited and I am really glad I got a chance to live here for a few years.

It's been great Vancouver. Good luck with the Olympics!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"New Rules" Article in Wired Magazine

I'm back in sunny Vancouver, for now. Arrived yesterday night to a beautiful sunset and watched Canada's entry in the fireworks competition. It was really, really good.

I purchased a copy of this month's Wired magazine to read on the plane... always such an interesting magazine to read. It had an interesting article on the new rules for managing your life... but they really read to me as online etiquette rules and I was laughing because I think so many of the "rules" where spot on.

Here is a sampling:

Feel Free to BitTorrent: If a movie isn't available at your video store or the store is closed, just download it. While I do no support illegal downloading, I think that in the year 2009 it is acceptable to download a movie under these circumstances.

Online Conversations All About You: this I see all the time, especially on Facebook. People update status and comment only about themselves. Narcissism is one of the main reasons I got off Facebook.

Don't Blog for Tweet anything with over 1/2 million views: This is so true... people send around so much stuff that anyone who is connect has already seen about 1000000000000 times.... this one made me howl.

There's Such Thing as Too Many Friends: This I also agreed with... the article quotes some Facebook research I read in the Economist a while back... basically, people on Facebook may have 400 friends but the average user only really interacts with 10 people... so why pile up friends you will never contact??

Balance: You need to balance out your life... I have a rule that I follow and has served me well. Spend 1/3 of total time that you spend connected, offline. Meaning if you spend 9 hours a day "connected" you should turn off your phone or not touch a computer for 3 hours that day. Works like charm!

The article isn't online yet but keep an eye out for it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Big Three (Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal)

Since July 1, I have been on the road.

I left Vancouver on July 1st for Ottawa. The weather was beautiful that week in Vancouver, so I found it really hard getting on the plane. It was a few weeks ago now, but I still remember the sunny haze that hung over the mountains as I drove to the airport.

Arrived in Ottawa and made my way to the cottage the next day to see the family. My brother was there with my nephew Tate. I don't have any good pictures of him... but soon. We had dinner as a family for the first time in a while.

In case you don't know, the weather around Ottawa has been terrible all summer and that has pretty much summed up my time here so far. I suppose the good thing is that I have been so busy hunting down job opportunities, that it hasn't really affected me too much. (it just started raining in Ottawa as I write this very sentence).

Being back in Ottawa during the summer has really interesting. I haven't really spent much time here since I left for university in the fall of 1995 so my memory of the city is often hazy. I can get close to where I need to go, but then I'll make one wrong turn somewhere right near the end and get lost. Either way, it's good to be back and was able to get some interviews in while here.... maybe something will work out... we'll see.

Then, I spent a few days in Toronto. At first, I didn't like it. Toronto used to feel like home to me. I lived a few places but my last apartment there was at Queen and Spadina, right downtown. This time, I found myself like a stranger or a tourist in a city that used to be my backyard. After a bit of time I started to warm up to it. Met with a recruiter and I think there will lots of opportunities for in Toronto.

Drove to my cottage and left the next morning for Montreal. Now Montreal - there's a city for you.

Sunday afternoon, we went to Picnik Electronique to see Justin Long, JT Donaldson and Fred Everything. I hadn't heard any good house music in a while and all I can say is this: The last hour where Justin, JT and Fred went back-to-back erased that pretty quickly. Good times.

The rest of the time was divided between interviews, waiting for interviews and trying to see the city a bit more. Montreal has such great resto's, bars and clubs. It's beautiful and what impressed me the most since I was last was how bike friendly it is. There were bike lanes everywhere!

Now I'm back in Ottawa again. This weekend is going to be a weekend off for me... then I think it's back to Vancouver next week!

Here are some pictures
<-If you like "flats", check out Pretty Ballerina. First North-American store opening in Montreal soon! My friend Nick's new Vespa will promoting pbnorthamerica this summer in MTL.

This is BIXI bike in MTL and my niece Ella!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My thoughts on Perez Hilton

I think this past weekend in Toronto might have been Perez's peak and now he might be on the long descent downwards.

In case you don't know or have been living under a rock: Perez Hilton was in Toronto the Much Music Video Awards. He was hanging out with Lady Gaga, backstage, doing interviews, presenting and the like. He got into an argument with the Black Eyed Peas over comments he made on his blog. Apparently, he called Will.I.Am a bad name and allegedly got punched by the BEP's manager. There are pictures and video and comments about the incident everywhere, including Perez's site, which I link to here on my blog on the right.

I read his site multiple times daily and have for a few years now. During that time I have slowly watched him go from the outside to the inside. He started talking about bands and then they'd blow up, then he started plastering his site with mass amounts of advertisements and then I started to notice the personal relationships developing... and I remember one time when he posted a pic of him and some famous friends on the town like he was reporting on anything else. Then he starts hosting events, shows, judging...

So there is no doubt that he is an attention whore and a drama queen (and always has been) and this event has done nothing but thrust that into the spotlight and even as a avid reader of his site, I have to say that I can't help but feel this is the beginning of the end for him.

It happened late Sunday/early Monday and so I saw his tweets about needing police, calling 911, etc. before I knew what happened and even my reaction was that he was being too dramatic.

I think that inside, he regrets his behavior (at least I hope he does) but he's gone too far to go back and is stuck now being an ass. It sounds bad, but I always felt the Tom Cruise/Katy Holmes thing was the same way: They threw up a fake relationship, got called on it, but couldn't go back so they had to step up.

The law says that physical violence is never the answer. And this may or may not be true.

But there is another kind of law that governs the streets and it says that if you talk sh*t about somebody then you might get hurt. That same code says that if you call somebody a f*agg*t to their face with the intention of hurting them, you may get punched. And I bet if you took 20 average people off the street and gave them a rundown of the situation over half would say Perez was being a douche.

But people also need to remember that Perez's site not only trashes celebrities but promotes them. And Perez does have a point: If he likes something, he says so. If he hates something, he says so. For example, I know he's friends with Katy Perry and I have seen him both trash and applaud her on his site.

I think this issue is more of a reflection of our time. This whole issue sparked thousands, if not millions of videos, blog posts, tweets, newspaper articles, radio comments, RSS posts within seconds of occuring but what is it all?


Get used to it. It's 2009 and the noise level is not going to anywhere but up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus 8

I don't watch Jon & Kate Plus 8 on a regular basis.

But I have seen it a few times. My sister used to watch it and then I would hear the show being talked about often on the radio here in Vancouver.

The only thing that I have to say about what is happening (Jon and Kate are getting divorced) is that it is an extremely sad event because 8 kids are going to grow up the rest of their lives without having their mother and father under the same roof.

However, life goes on and this does not mean that these kids can be any less happy or adjusted than anyone else.

Although my opinions are only based on what happens on the show, and we all know that this isn't always reality, I have to say that I was so obvious that they were not happy that you only needed to watch 2 minutes of the show to see this.

I can only hope that both Jon and Kate are able to move forward for the sake of their kids. The two older girls seem to be really smart and funny. The younger kids are just adorable.

Someday soon, I hope they put the cameras down and start to live their life for real.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Massive Update

It's been a while... and I apologize for the lack of posts. The truth is that I have been really busy finishing school and one that finished, trying to enjoy myself. Here's a rundown of what I have been up to:


I was in Toronto on Easter weekend. Seeing some friends from back in the day and getting to know my old home again. It was great seeing everyone. I also got a chance to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (aka the AGO).

The AGO just underwent a huge renovation that included the installation of a Frank Ghery designed staircase:

There was also some great stuff done by an artist that carves out trees to reveal what the tree looked like at a specific point in its growth without bark:

After I got back from Toronto, the rest of April was my final "run" at school as my last exam was May 2nd.


School finished with a bang, as you would expect. Working and going to school wasn't too much fun but I was glad it was over. I actually didn't consider myself finished until I saw my transcript. And didn't really feel any sense of accomplishment until I actually got my degree.

Here's me at the Rose Garden in my gown. It's really hard to make a grad hat look good isn't it.

My parents and I had a great week and were able to get out to Tofino:

I am also proud to say that I finally got myself a bike. If you know Doggler, you will know why I call it "Doggler II". Anyways, I'm loving having a bike as it has opened the city to me in a whole new way. As much as I can, I like to get out to the beach after work to watch the sun go down.

Saw a great sunset a few weeks ago out on Third Beach (go third beach rangers).

I also went to Vegas for a weekend: Crazy place. Fun.... but crazy. Everything is Cirque Du Soleil. It's like Quebec in the desert in that sense.

Also, I am in the process of looking for work. I have a few things on the go and a few interviews coming up so we'll see what develops. I have to say that I am really excited to be moving on with my life and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Take Care,


Monday, June 1, 2009


Hi Everyone,

I finished my last exam on May 2nd and I actually graduated just last week. Here's a quick picture and I'll post more soon. Afterall... I have more time on my hands!



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April (Fools)


I know it has been a while since I last posted something and I apologize for that. I have been extremely busy since I lasted said anything on this blog.

For one thing, work has been really busy lately. It seems 2009 is shaping up to be the year of channel marketing. Although channel activity is always important when it comes to marketing, the recent economic downturns seems to have forced lots of company's to "rethink" the strategic importance channel marketing. I suppose this comes from the fact that when the (world) economy was booming, demand was everywhere. Now that it has shrunk, people are desperate to get in front of customers and now have the time (or will) to invest resources into ANY channel that may boost revenue.

The other thing is that I have been pretty heavy into school for two reasons. The first is that I am almost done and so I am pretty excited about finishing but at the same time, really nervous because I feel I have worked really hard to get his degree finished and don't want anything to screw it up. The second reason is that I chose to do an export plan project by myself and ended up having to crank out over 3000 words and this ended up being on evenings and weekends... oh, and I had an exam in the middle of all that... and oh yeah, another esssay that came in just over 2000 words... and oh yeah, more classes.

So.... hang tight. I'm going to be back really soon posting... I promise.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I finally saw the tween smash hit Twilight this past weekend.

Twilight is the first in a long line of movies based on the series of books by Stephenie Meyer. On one level, it is the story of a young vampire who falls for a girl.

On another level, it is about the terrible side effects of being a vegetarian. Meat eaters hate you, and you never feel fully satisfied. Which is why vegetarians often fall in love with the new girl in school and develop skin that looks like diamonds when exposed to sunlight. Which is something most guys would actually want because I guess that diamonds are better than acne.

What I found interesting about the movie is that the romance part is huge, perhaps even bigger than the action part. Really, it's more of a love story than anything else and so the movie seems to take the greatest care setting up the emotional bond between the two main characters. I suppose that because it is a series of books and there are plans for a series of movies, they felt they had to establish as much of that bond in the first movie as possible.

My prediction: You're going to see lots of guys dressed up as Edward Cullen at Halloween next year!

West Coast Weather

On the whole, I enjoy the weather on the West Coast. We don't have bad winters and the summers are nice and cool. People always talk about rain but the reality is that it doesn't bother you that much.

The problem is snow. And today I woke up to snow swirling outside my window. Actually, it looked like fireflies in the light coming from the street lamp outside my bedroom.

We also got some hail this weekend but here is a video I took at about 7am today on my way to work:

And here is the video I mentioned about the hail on the weekend:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Personal Statement

I was in class all weekend again. We had Leadership on Friday and Saturday, then International Trade on Sunday.

The Leadership class was great and my one piece of advice to any student (MBA or otherwise) is to take HR classes as they are some of the best and most useful classes you will ever take (along with classes about Intellectual Property).

Anyways, we were asked to create a Personal Statements for ourselves that would function to help guide us through the next 3-5 years of our lives. In case you haven't noticed, everything these days is about work/life balance and everything in life is connected. I think personal happiness and professional fulfillment go hand in hand and my personal goals for the next 3-5 years involve maximizing both of them.

I will say that I thought one of the example Personal Statements we were given was REALLY the best one for me and will most likely be using that one. I can't print it here (copyright) but I will post the one I wrote for myself. A few interesting points but here it is:

Danny Starr: Personal Statement

I will choose to live my life in any geographic location and not be afraid to consider new and exciting opportunities, no matter where they may take me.

My family, no matter how far they are, will always know what I am up to. I will talk to them regularly and use technology to make long distances shorter.

I will be an attentive and engaged uncle, brother and son. I will also be mindful of the community in which I live and devote time and energy each month to making it better.

My co-workers will understand that I value integrity because they will see that I embody this in my daily actions. I will work as hard, if not harder, at developing their careers as I have on my own.

I will not be afraid to make, stick buy and implement tough decisions. If those decisions are made by those above me, I will trust that they are in the best interests of the collective and not just the decision maker.

I will be more effective at work because I have taken that necessary time ensure that I am well rested and recharged.

All good things come from positivity and my own personal view of the world will reflect this so much so that those around me will feel the same hope for the future.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Picture time

I feel that too many of my posts recently have just been rants about this or that. Here's a few interesting things:

1) Interesting post about iPhone vs. BlackBerry Storm

The media (and marketers) tend to overhype 3G phones and make us believe they will do everything they are marketed to do but this isn't always the case and this quick article ads another opinion to the pile.

2) 200 Flavours of Gelato

There is a great place here in Vancouver that has over 200 flavours of gelato. I'm sure most of us wouldn't be interested in curry flavoured gelato but you have to admit - they certainly know how to put on a show! And this was taken with my HTC Touch Diamond...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Death and Taxes

Ufile... where have you been all my life?

Is the only thing I could say to myself on Saturday afternoon and pretty much every moment since then.

Yup - that's right. I did my taxes on Saturday. It wasn't even CLOSE to as hard as I would have thought. Until now, I have managed to go all these years without ever having to do my own taxes. I've had other people do them (my dad, sister, friends) but I have never actually done them myself.

I suppose part of the reason is that I hate accounting/accountants/counting.... the other part of the reason is that I was just a little scared of screwing something up or spending all night slaving over numbers (and then ending up in jail anyways). Lucky for me, it didn't turn out that way.

Wow, the things they can do with technology these days.

I go to and in only a few minutes, I'm using their software and entering the appropriate info. Few minutes later paying only about 20 bucks to use the program to submit and bam, done. Now I did have to call CRA to get some info for my online submission but that was a snap.

Now I all have to do is figure out what I'm going to do with my tax return. Obviously, most of it is going towards my retirement (which won't be for a while). But I am also terribly conflicted about what else I should get.

Part of me wants to get an HDTV but the problem is that I don't watch TV... at least proper TV. I don't have cable and my current TV doesn't fit with my decor so I consume most TV at my friends' places or online. And the truth is that you can watch most TV online, whenever you want. MTV Canada has this down pat.. shows are up only an hour after they are on air and they only have one thirty second commercial each break -at best. Some shows have the commercials less frequently. Afterall, who with the budget for that type of spending is buying up time on Double Shot at Love...

So then I think about computers. I have two laptops. My old Dell, which is only alive by the grace of a new power cord, which cost me $100. I use it in my "beat lab".

No, I don't have a "beat lab". I just wanted to use that sometime/somewhere.

And I have an IBM ThinkPad which is a total tank but nearing the end of it's useful life. I could erase everything on it, wipe it and donate it to a good cause. To replace it, I either buy a netbook (which I want to so bad) or a media type computer to run my new HDTV. I want the netbook really badly because it will do everything I need - surf and turf - in a package the size of a daybook and weighing in at just over a pound. Most notebooks are over 4 pounds. Perfect for somebody that's on the go - except I am finishing school in the spring and don't plan to get into that mode again for a while.

Lastly, I could get a bike. Now, I could get a sweet bike and splash out some money or I could get a cheapo. Afterall, I plan on moving to the East side soon and bikes there last as long as Frosty the Snowman in Miami. But I recently saw an awesome conversion project. An old high school friend of mine converted a cruiser into an electric bike. Complete with battery and lights, it will so close to 30 km/h.

The dark horse 5th option - dj equipment. I could go all out and get a pair of Pioneer CDJ 1000's but they tend to be a pretty penny and I need two. But part of me has been enjoying djing the most I ever have recently and why not start getting more serious about it?

Anyways, the new Beyonce song "Halo" is on the radio so I better go cry.

Seriously though - listen to the words of the song. "Baby you're my saving grace... I can see your halo". Those are some pretty high expectations to live up to. For almost any guy who's not an angel or wearing a lighbulb under his hat.

What happens when he cheats on her with her best friend or runs off with some younger girl? Can he just pull out his halo and make it all better?