Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Canadian Music

Looking for music which is quintessentially Canadian, but still good quality and won't annoy the younger generation?

Alanis Morissette, Canadian singer-songwriter. If you haven't heard of her already you must be living in a cave.

Ashley MacIsaac, a professional fiddler from Cape Breton Island. Best known for "Sleepy Maggie", with vocals in Scottish Gaelic by Mary Jane Lamond.

Avril Lavigne, Canadian singer-songwriter. Best known for "Sk8er Boi", "I'm With You", "My Happy Ending" and "Girlfriend".

Barenaked Ladies or BNL, a Canadian alternative rock band with multiple hits, including the theme song from 'Big Bang Theory'.

Chantal Kreviazuk, a Canadian pianist / singer-songwriter of adult contemporary. Examples: "God Made Me", "Believer" and "Wayne".

Choclair, Canadian rapper. Best known for "Let's Ride".

Great Big Sea, a Canadian folk-rock band from Newfoundland and Labrador, best known for performing energetic rock interpretations of traditional Newfoundland folk songs + original material. ie. "Its the End of the World as we Know It"

k.d. lang, a Canadian pop and country singer-songwriter, with multiple hits including "Constant Craving" and "Miss Chatelaine".

Moxy Früvous, a socially conscious and politically satirical folk-pop band. My favourite is their rendition of "Green Eggs with Ham".

Nelly Furtado, Canadian singer-songwriter. Best known for "I'm Like a Bird", "Promiscuous", "Maneater", "All Good Things (Come to an End)" and "Say It Right".

Our Lady Peace, an alternative rock band. Best known for "Starseed" and "Somewhere Out There".

Priestess, Canadian heavy metal / stoner rock band. Best known for "Blood" and "I Am the Night, Colour Me Black".

Sarah Harmer, Canadian singer-songwriter and activist, former lead singer of Weeping Tile. Notables include "Chicken", and "You Were Here".

Sarah McLachlan, Canadian musician, singer and songwriter. If you haven't heard of her already you must be living in a cave.

The Tea Party, a Canadian rock band with blues, progressive rock, Indian and Middle Eastern influences. Best known for "Heaven Coming Down".

Tom Cochrane, Canadian musician and humanitarian, best known for his hit songs "Life Is a Highway", "Lunatic Fringe" and "I Wish You Well".


Book Stores in Toronto

The following is a list of my favourite book stores in Toronto, in order of which is best.

#1. Eliot's Bookshop - 584 Yonge Street, 416-925-0268

#2. BMV Books - 10 Edward Street, 416-977-3087

#3. Toronto Women's Book Store - 73 Harbord Street, 416-922-8744

#4. World's Biggest Bookstore - 20 Edward Street, 416-977-7009

#5. Any of the Indigo stores. Bay and Bloor, the Eaton's Centre, Yorkdale, etc.

NOTE: Nothing however beats the good ol' library. ie. The Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street).

Baileys = Yuck

No offense to the people who make Baileys (or drinkers who enjoy it), but its just not my cup of tea. Or alcohol in this case.

Same goes with Kahlua. Yuck.

Give me brandy, cognac, whiskey, vodka any day. Or if you like Asian drinks, baekseju, soju and sake.

But Baileys and Kahlua. Sorry, its just not that good. Its too sweet, and when you mix it the flavour is ruined.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Boxing Equipment from CSN

ENTERTAINMENT/HEALTH - Awhile back I got into a fight with a crazed crackhead in downtown Toronto (see Fisticuffs in Kensington Toronto) and I revealed my interest in traditional boxing as a martial art.

Or as I like to call it, Good Ol' Fisticuffs.

Since then I was contacted by CSN stores and asked to write a review of their boxing products. They sent me the following items by courier:

* "The Champ" Boxing Focus Mitts
* Double Mouthpiece
* "The Champ" Velcro Boxing Gloves
* MMA Quick Wraps

However they made a mistake sending the quick wraps. They accidentally sent me TWO right handed hand wraps, and neglected to send a left-handed one. I am planning to contact them and hopefully they will send me the left one to complete the set.

Since receiving them the items which I've used the most are the boxing gloves themselves and the boxing pads, both made by Amber Sports. I've even shown taken them with me around Toronto to show friends and get their opinion on the products.

(That and it helps to have someone else holding the boxing pads and taking turns at it.)

I even brought the boxing gloves and pads to a Christmas get-together with some relatives and my cousin's children got to play with them. That was amusing all by itself and I wish I had taken photos of them.

So far I can give the following review:

Durability - 5 Stars (No rips, they're still in perfect condition despite regular usage.)

Fit/Ease of Use - 5 Stars (Very easy to use.)

Eco-Friendliness - 4 Stars (They're made from plastic polymers, like a tougher version of nylon. No animals or plants were harmed in the making of these products from what I can tell. Some of the bits look like faux leather. Note: Polymers are made using either oil or recycled plastic. I didn't say any any label that said "Made from Recycled Materials" so I am going to guess they're made from oil, so they lost 1 star for that.)

Seriously, the only complaint I have is that they messed up the order with respect to the left-handed quick wraps. Hopefully they will remedy that soon enough and I can post an update that they were quick to send the left hand wrap too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Toshiba Notebooks, Canon Cameras and Windows7

TECHNOLOGY - I bought a Toshiba Notebook computer yesterday. According to the numbers on the box it is a NB250. It looks exactly like the photos shown below.

Now while I have used laptops and notebook computers before for work and play, I have never actually owned one of my own before.

I was tempted to buy one when I was living in South Korea (they were relatively cheap there and comparable to desktop prices) and I regret not going the laptop route because it would have saved me luggage space when I eventually brought the computer back to Canada.

But now that I finally have a notebook computer (and its just the right size too, small and super easy to fit inside a bag, but not so small that I am typing with my thumbs or something silly like that) it means I will finally be able to take a computer with me when I go traveling.

Technically I bought it for my website design business and I will be claiming it as a business expense on my income taxes. The idea is to have a nice portable computer which I can have with me when I meet clients.

And the price did not break my budget. $285 + tax. I also bought a wireless optical mouse to go with it because I prefer to work with a mouse. That is going on my business expenses too.

However I am kind of kicking myself today because I could have entered a contest (and possibly won) a Toshiba Notebook anyway. Its a Lenzr photography contest sponsored by a designer swimwear company, ERP software, and a beauty school. Not that it really matters who sponsors it, I just thought it was interesting that I could have entered the photography contest and assuming I won I could have got the Toshiba Notebook for free.

Or at very least got some interesting photography out of the competition process.

Canon Cameras

I am a big fan of Canon cameras. I have 4 of them now. I have 5 cameras total, the 5th is a Polaroid (which I cannot find film for any more). I have been very happy with the quality of Canon.

My first Canon camera was a simple point and click. I give it 4 stars.

The second was a digital camera, a PowerShot A20 (which is so old its considered obsolete but still works amazingly well). I bought it in 2001 and later took it with me to South Korea in 2003-04 and again in 2005. I did not replace it until 2010. 5 stars.

My third I bought in South Korea, a manual Canon Rebel SLR. I even bought an extra lens to go with it. The quality of the shots I got off that camera was amazing. (Also, while I am at it, I recommend the Kodak Photo Shops in South Korea for developing. The quality over there is amazing.) 5 stars.

And my new digital camera is a Canon PowerShot A480, purchased in 2010 for a fraction of what I paid for its grandfather in 2001. And unlike its grandfather it can also shoot video and has a lot more options, more pixels, etc. 5 stars.

Which brings me back to the Toshiba Notebook NB250. It comes with a webcam on it. I have never owned a webcam before. I am struggling to figure out what to do with it. Maybe do live podcasts or videos of myself for YouTube. Dunno yet.

Windows7 Starter

One thing is bothering me however... how do I change the desktop background image on it? Normally that is an easy thing to do, but Windows7 Starter does not seem to allow it. It makes me tempted to download and install the Google Chrome OS when it becomes available for notebook computers because the inability to customize some of the settings on Windows7 Starter is super annoying.

The rest of the computer is fine. I was playing games on it and watching movies on it last night to test it out. Works great for everything else. Its just those freaking Windows7 Starter jerk computer programmers who said 'Hey, lets be even bigger jerks by not letting people customize their own computers and then they will download Google Chrome OS when it comes out?!'

Morons. They are just shooting themselves in the foot. I can't wait to try out the Google Chrome OS.

Otherwise I am sure there is a program out there that I can download and which will allow me to customize my desktop somehow. I will find it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

All Day Breakfasts in Toronto

Looking for a good place in Toronto for an all day breakfast?

Well I was. I normally like going to The Sunset Grill (Yonge and Richmond, 5 stars), but today I decided on a change.

So instead we went to:

Future Bakery & Cafe (Annex, SW corner of Bloor and Brunswick, just west of Spadina)
483 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M5S 1Y2, Canada

I had the blueberry pancakes and they were excellent. My vegetarian date had a spinach omelette. Both were excellent.

The place was very busy however, a sign that the food is very good, but it felt rather cramped. The place triples as cafe, bar and all day breakfast place, so it was understandably busy when you consider its prime location on Bloor street.

The food was great, but there is no waiters. You have to go up and make your order at the bar and then they call your name when it is ready. I give the
Future Bakery & Cafe 4 stars out of 5.

Another good breakfast place, if you're in North York, is The Blueberry Hill at York University. Good music, nice seats, great decor, and lots of university students. Blueberry Hill is inside the York Lanes Mall near the middle of the campus. Parking however is tricky. 4 Stars out of 5.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Indigo Books Vs eReader Kobo

If you've been into any of the big box bookstores recently you've probably seen Indigo's new eReader "Kobo" which they are trying to jam down people's throats without making it any cheaper.

Now I've tried the Kobo out in the store and its ridiculous slow. You press the buttons and then you wait.

And you wait and you wait and you wait...

And eventually the next page loads.

Its ridiculously freaking slow and the price tag is way too expensive when you consider how slow and annoying the thing is. $149 for the piece of junk.

Now some people might say "Hey, I could have all my books on there and I wouldn't need all the space." But once you try the Kobo and realize how slow it is you should really think twice about that idea. Sure, you could have lots of books stored on it, but what would be the point when its so ridiculously slow?

#2. Of course you still have to BUY the digital books just to put on Kobo. Expect to pay at least $50 to get enough books to keep you busy for a year or two.

#3. Also there is the issue of what happens in two years when better and more quality products have made the Kobo obsolete? You've just wasted $200+ on a product you will never use again.

So the end result is a slooooooow product which will soon be obsolete and you've just wasted $200.

Plus there is competition. Amazon.com has the Kindle eReader and its only $139 (and also a hunk of junk from what I hear). But neither of them will be worthwhile. First a company needs to make one that actually works properly and quickly, and then they need to get the price down to the magic number of $99 (because then it will just fly off the shelves).

Meanwhile Indigo is really pushing itself in the toy and gift business. I admit I bought quite a few xmas gifts at Indigo this year. But they have a long way to go if they want to start selling digital books on eReaders.

Especially when you can usually download popular books online these days for free and stick them on any laptop or tablet device. Or even your SmartPhone. Sure, its a pirated copy, but you can't beat the price.

Just don't bother trying to give pirated e-books as a gift. It won't work. :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Canadian Flags - Made in Taiwan

Call it the shame of Canada - but we don't really have much of a textile industry here.

Fur yes, but very few people buy fur any more.

Thus it was with little surprise that I noticed the label on my Canadian flag (currently stored on a shelf, neatly folded) saying it was Made in Taiwan.

I bought that flag years ago. Not even sure when or where. Never noticed the label at all until now.

I will say this however, judging by the quality of the stitching those Taiwanese really know how to sew properly. It is made really well and the fabric is high quality.

Which maybe explains something. Maybe Canada just sucks at sewing?

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