Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Internet Sucks! hahahahaha

I love the Internet, it doesn't matter what the subject is, I can find information about it. In fact I even teach a class about searching for stuff online.

The big problem is figuring out how to find the stuff you want, as opposed to the stuff you don't want.

Even worse, the Internet is an anarchy, no one is in charge, and if you have access, you too can put whatever rubish you want online.

I am a big fan of cooking, and a big fan of eating! Because I am a big lover of the Internet, I never write anything down, I can always find the answer with a quick Google search!

This plan does not work so well when looking for recipes. Everyone has their own theory.

I decided to make some Yorkshire Puddings, but I could not quite remember the ratio of flour to milk. A quick Googling revealed a vast array of ideas. From one part flour and two parts water, to one part water and two parts flour.

I remembered that the 1:1 rule works for me! The other problem I have in making Yorkshire Puds is the elevation we live in. At sea level one egg probably works fine, but at almost a mile high here in Calgary you need a little boost in the raising agents. I use 3 or 4 eggs, a really stinking hot oven, and a pinch of baking soda.

Yorkshire Pud fans will probably have heart failure when they read this. But being a Pud fan, you just have to do, what a Pud fan has to do!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Xentel Update

In a previous post I whined about being bothered by collection agencies, in particular Xentel. These assholes are looking for a certain Mr. O'Brian, that I do not know, and never have known.

The good news is that since I was really damn rude to Xentel the calls have stopped.

Over the past week I have noticed a lot of hits to this blog from search engines. The search term is always Xentel. I suspect that I am not the only person that has suffered at the hands of these idiots.

As a public service I will offer this information about dealing with Xentel.

Regardless of where you are located, I recomend that you call the Edmonton office, and ask for Will MacDonald. Oh and please feel free to use me as the reference.... "Hi Will, Simon told me to call you....".

Of course if you are really aggravated with them, I recommend that you drop by their offices, and ask to speak to Will directly.

The phone number is (780) 482-5801, (but I just know they have a 1-800, and I am going to find it!)

And the street address is 200-10025 106 Street NW , Edmonton.

Of course if you all call or drop in to say hi to Will MacDonald he will likely lose his job. While I think that would be a good start, it would be like swatting a single fly! One fly in it's lifetime can produce a lot of maggots!

Lets swat em all! Telephone harassment, Just Say No! (and tell Will, Simon sent you!)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Adventures In Reading

The other day Janny0 (My lovely wife) and I were chatting, I think it was Monday. We were talking about all this book reading that I have been doing, and she was feeling a little left out of the action.

I proposed that she help me out, and tackle a couple of books from the pile.

After a little bit of persuading she agreed to try.

I get books all the time, and it is not unusual for the shipment to contain books by accident. Last week I got a package of 4 books, only one of which was for review, The other three were accidents. One of them was only 49 pages long!

I gave it to Jan to review, with the promise that if she generates a 400 word review I will publish it!

So I get home from work today and Jan asks me how I am doing with the book I am reading, well the short answer is 'not very well, I have only managed 200 pages in 2 days. This means I am way behind schedule!

Jan offers up the news that she has got started with her 49 page book, and after a 3 days of effort has made it almost to the end of the first paragraph!

I think Jan has a little ways to go before be bestow the 'Book Reviewer' title on her. At this rate she will likely finish reading the 49 page book sometime in the year 2020!

Monday, February 19, 2007

zzsimonb is a BoyToy?

Obviously this is a question that many readers have. Is Simon just a Boy Toy?

According to my lovely wife, the answer is YES.

Now I have to admit that for 6 months of the year she is older than I am, and yes I do refer to her as Mrs Robinson during this time. She is the older woman, taking advantage of a younger man.

Today she refered to me as her Boy Toy, now, I am 51 years old! I do not consider myself a Boy Toy (and she is 51 and a half!). Actually she is knocking hard on the door of 52!

Of course I am flattered that she thinks of me as her Boy Toy, and I really must get her to an optician soon.

Of course I am as sprightly as I was 30 years ago, but, I am still not sure that I like being called a Boy Toy.

I suspect that she downloaded the Full Monty. After watching that movie, everyone is a Boy Toy!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Independence Day, Another Adventure In Home Theater

Last night one of our favorite movies of all time was on TV, Independence Day.

I decided that this would be a fine opportunity to crank up the Barrett home theater system.

Of course there were a few hurdles that needed to be fixed. The Home Theater computer (The PC PC) does not have a TV tuner card in it. That meant that I had to either use The Cardboard Box, or the aging Apple.

In a snap decision I settled on the cardboard box. Unfortunately due to the somewhat delicate nature of it, I was very loathe to move it. So we were going to have to situate the projector in a part of the data center (living room), that we do not usually use.

The biggest problem was that the projector was going to be projecting right into the window. A quick bit of McGyvering and we had a screen, two pieces of Styrofoam and some sticky tape!

The next issue was sound, the Cardboard Box is missing a funcky cable that needs to go from the TV tuner card to the sound card. I know I have more than one of them, but God only knows where!

My solution... we use the speakers on the Apple, so we listened to the Apple while we watched the Cardboard Box! hahahahaha

Another fine evening of entertainment at the Barretts!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Books As Far As The Eye Can See

I have not been writing much on here lately because I am still swamped in stinking books. In the past week I have read and reviewed 4 books. Even by my standards that is a lot of stinking words to pass through my eyeballs.

But I will say this, you sure learn a lot of not quite useful information by reading that much. I know way more about how the financial world works thanks to Richard Hains' book Chameleon. This guy intrigues me, he is an Aussie, living in London, who writes a book about Wall Street, go figure!

He also has the most unique concept of marketing a book. He has a web page, well lots of authors create a web page, but this guy also has created a Youtube feature. That is the first time I have ever heard of an author doing that.

Here is the really interesting part, he is also running a competition, the winner gets to fly first class to London and spend a couple of days with Richard. Oh, incidentally he is a pretty rich guy! According to a couple of articles that I have read he is also 'one of England's most eligible bachelors. I can't wait to interview him!

Right now I am half way through a really strange little book, The Shakespeare Code. When I saw the title I went "Oh no! another bloody code book, Dan Brown is an asshole!".

This book is worth the effort to read, it has some interesting theories, none are new, they have all been explored before, but never combined.

It goes like this..... Our good buddy Will Shakespeare was actually an illiterate lout who could not have possibly penned such works as Macbeth. The actual author was Francis Bacon, who was Queen Elizabeth I's illegitimate son.

Now we get to the good stuff, Queen Liz loved her son, but kept him under her thumb. Little Francis wrote the first Shakespeare Folio as a way of documenting his life story. Of course this had to be done carefully, so as not to antagonize Queen Liz. He did this by using a code in his writing.

This type of cypher is based on the Trithemius system. By using a device called a code wheel, you can reveal the secrets contained in the plays and sonnets.

I have to admit that the jury is still out on exactly how much I am in agreement with Virginia Fellows on this one.

Oh, and somewhere in the blur that represents last week I read Point and Shoot by the anonymous sounding G.D. Baum. It was a fun little read, one of those rough tough Private Investigator stories. I had the opportunity to interview the author, and I still don't know what his name is!

The week started with Julia Gaylord by Louise Fairchild, another curious little book. What I found interesting was the way the author used the main character Julia, Julia in many ways was not the object of the story, she was just the catalyst through which the story could be told.

Oh, and my adorable wife Jan, has solved a problem that has been bothering me for months, I love books, and refuse to write in them, but I need some way of marking bits that I want to refer to when I write my reviews. She came up with the great idea os cutting up some post it notes! It works great! She is a doll!

By my math I think there are only 5 or 6 books waiting to be read. WooHoo I am winning the battle. Unfortunately I told the agent that, so I am sure that there will be a steady stream of Fed-Ex and UPS deliveries next week!

I need a beer!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

F'ing Credit collection agencies, Xentel, and Will MacDonald in particular!

Jan and I have lived in the same place for two years, and we have had the same phone number for all of that time.

Some call center keeps calling for someone named Mr O’Brian, at first we took it in good nature and explained that no Mr. O’Brian was here.

Unfortunately the calls became a weekly event. Poor Jan had to field them all because they tended to be during the day when I was at work. Jan has the patience of Job, but even she was beginning to wish that the witch hunt for the elusive Mr. O’Brian would look somewhere other that our basement apartment.

It was clear from the telemarketer’s tone that they were not looking for Mr. O’Brian to tell him that he had won a $1,000,000. I suspect that they want money! The collection business is an interesting one, you buy debt at pennies on the dollar and employ heavy handed phone thugs to try and reclaim a few pennies on the few pennies that they have bought.

Over the past year Jan has repeatedly told these people that we know of no miscreant named Mr. O’Brian. Repeatedly she has been told that our phone number will be removed from their database.

More by luck than judgment I was here the last time that the seekers of Mr. O’Brian called. It was most entertaining.

Me: Hello
Them: Can we speak to Mr. O’Brian?

Me: Nope, we are not the O’Brians, never have been, are not now, and never will be!
Them: Oh, OK, I will take you off our calling list.

Me: Hang on a second, you have said that every week for the past 2 years, what is your name, what is the name of your organization, and what is the mailing address?
Them: Ummm, let me put you through to my superviser.

Supervisor: Hello, can I help you?
Me: I doubt it, but we can give it a try. For almost two years you have annoyed my wife and I with calls looking for a Mr. O’Brian, without exaggeration we have told you this at least 100 times. Why do you keep calling us?

Supervisor: I will make sure that your number is removed from our database, have a nice day.
Me: Woah, hold your horses, I want to know your name, and the name of your company, I am filing a complaint, we have asked repeatedly to be removed from your system, and nothing has been done.

Supervisor: Hold on, let me get my boss.

(shouting in the background…. Will, Will, come here quick, take this call………..)

Bossman: Hello, how can I help you?
Me: You are obviously a collection agency, and I am fed up with your calls, I am not Mr. O’Brian, I never have been and I never will be.

Bossman: No problem, we will remove you from the database.
Me: No, I want more information, I plan on filing a formal complaint, your organization calls us every week. For starters what is your name?

Bossman: umm Will
Me: I am sure that you work for a pretty big outfit, so saying that I spoke to Will might not actually single you out, do you have another name, a surname maybe?

Bossman: umm its Will MacDonalad.

Me: And the name of this company is?
Bossman: umm (mumble)

Me: sorry my hearing isn’t what it was, can you speak a little louder and spell it.

Bossman: umm Xentel, and we have over 30 offices worldwide

Me: And where exactly is this office? And what exactly is the address, so I know where to send my letter?

Bossman: We are in Edmonton, but I do not know the address.

Me: (laughing) That sounds odd, I have a job, I know the address of where I have to go everyday, do they move you around a lot or something?

Bossman: No, what I meant was I do not know the Post Office Box number.

Me: Oh I care nothing about the PO box, I want the street address.

Bossman: Oh, umm, it’s (mumble).

Me: sorry I did not quite get that, can you speak up and slowly…..

Bossman: umm its 10025 102st, Edmonton.

So my fellow readers and fellow recipients of those ugly calls from people that you don’t know, and don’t care about, it’s people like Will MacDonald doing it. Pick up your keyboard, or your pen and send them a message.

And remember to get their name and adress, boy they hate that!

Having posted this, I do plan on emailing my good good buddies at Xentel, I am sure that Will Macdonald will get a pay raise! hahahaha

Will, when I see you on the street corner begging for money, I'll be the guy that says "Your mother was right, you should have got a propper job".

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Beyond the Gates

Jan and I powered up the home theater system last night.

Of course the Barrett home theatre system is slightly different from the traditional idea. We use an old digital projector that cost me $0, and I am dreading the day that I have to replace the bulb in it! No $1000 high tech screen for us, no sirree, we got a nice flat $0 wall! In the summer we use the neighbours wall, but last night it was minus way too many degrees for an outside adventure.

Surround sound? Nope we don't need that! There is nothing wrong with the built in mono speakers in the projector!

Normally Jan and I watch movies straight from the computer, so I was a little confused about what to do with something that was actually on a DVD. I was pretty certain that we had a DVD player, and after a little bit of investigating found one attached to the TV in the bedroom.

Of course the problem was how the hell do we go from DVD player to projector without a computer? I solved that by using the cable that goes from the Super Nintendo (Yes we have one, and I like Super Mario) to the TV.

I realised that there were still some obstacles that needed to be resolved before we could enjoy the main feature. The number one problem was to find the remote control for the player. I tore the bedroom apart, and finally located it under the bed! I don't know why I didn't look there first!

Feeling pretty confident I tried to start the movie, the remote though was being un-cooperative. It has 20 gazzilion buttons on it, all I want is the "Play this movie now" button.

After randomly pressing things, and a good deal of cussing the movie finally starts.

Things went swimingly for about 45 minutes, then disaster struck, I needed a beer, a cigarette, and a bathroom break. Jan, being the boss, had taken control of the remote, so I asked her to Pause the movie. With my bladder empty, my lungs polluted, and a full can of Lucky Extra, I was ready for part 2.

Of course there is no "Unpause the movie and watch the rest of it" button on the stinking remote!

We spent 10 minutes trying to Un-Pause the movie, all to no avail. We ended up having to restart from the beginning and watch it at 8x speed until we got to where we wanted to be.

This is technology that is truely frightening!

Oh, incidently it was a really great movie, it is not in theaters yet, but when it gets there, go see it. Beyond the Gates is well worth the price of admission. My review can be found here.

Oh and if you don't beleive this is a true story, just go ask Jan!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Drowning in Books.. The Revenge

I was already in trouble, I have enough new books to last the average reader for quite a while, actually months. Unfortunately the 'Book God' has decided that he likes me (or maybe he hates me!).

One of the problems with getting into the reviewing bussiness is how the hell do you persuade people to send you free books?

That was all I wanted. I read a lot, and the idea of getting free books sounded like a great idea.

Unfortunately this is one idea that has worked way better than I had anticipated. Suddenly getting free books is not a problem, where to store them is the issue!

In the past two days I have had a total of 11 books and one movie screener DVD arrive. Of course they do not arrive all at once, that would be too simple.

We live in a basement appartment, and while Canada Post has skillfully avoided putting any of our mail in the 'Barrett' mailbox for the last 18 months, UPS, Fed-EX, and all of the other delivery services have no problem finding us. I can only assume they employ slightly smarter people

Where is this all leading I hear you ask?. Well Jan hurt her hip a couple of days ago. Canada post is not a problem, they allways deliver our mail to somewhere else. The real delivery services tend to want to make sure that the object makes it to the intended recipient

Poor Jan had to hobble her way up the steps twice yesterday, and three times today to accept free stuff.

On the phone she said "I really want to have a nap, my hip hurts so much, but every time I crawl under the covers the damn doorbell rings".

This is a good reason to not become a book reviewer!

I know you are all waiting with baited breath to find out what pre-release movie I have, well it stars John Hurt........

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Blogosphere by Michael Keren Part 2

Ok, I finished the book. Being a blogger I can honestly say that I am indebted to Dr Keren for not picking me as one of the 9 bloggers that he reviews.

This is a truly brutal book. In the space of only 159 pages Dr Keren Squishes bloggers like a bug!

This is a must read book for anyone that thinks blogging is a good idea.

One aspect that popped into my slightly warped mind is that he talks derisively of bloggers that do it for money, yet he gets paid to write a book about it? (He admits that in the foreword).

Damn I want a job where I get paid to whine! Oops I already have one.

There is no doubt in my mind that interviewing Dr Keren is going to be interesting. Even better, for once the interview will be face to face, he works about one mile from where I live.

You can find my review of Blogosphere here.

Blogosphere by Michael Keren

I decided to tackle the latest book to arrive, well what the hell else are you going to do at 3am?

I am just over half way through it and I can tell you that Dr Keren has absolutely no use for Blogs or Bloggers! The style of the book is interesting, he analyses 6 blogs from various countries and systematically rips them to shreds!

I am oh so glad he did not feature mine in this work of carnage.

Early on in the book he says "Blogs are often voyeuristic, gossipy, and creepy", and his view goes downhill from there!

I can't wait to interview him, it should be a hoot.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Canada Post, The Numbers Are In!

I wrote a pretty sarcastic piece about how slow Canada Post is. Well I have to recant my previous story. It actually took 50 hours to move that one mile!

So the calculated speed of Canada Post is actually 105.6 feet per hour, or about 18 inches a minute!

I am writing out next years Christmas cards and plan on getting them in the mail today. That way most of them should get to the designated victims before next Christmas.

Canada Post, Do They Really Use Dog Sleds?

My answer is YES. I am waiting for a book to arrive in the mail. The author works approximately one mile from my house. Unfortunately our schedules did not match up well. So I told him to sling the book in the snail mail rather than go and pick it up.

That was 48 hours ago. Now, you will have to bear with me here, while I dust off my high school math. I seem to recall that 1 mile is 1,760 yards or 5280 feet.

Based on the popular view of a day having 24 hours in it, we can determine the speed at which Canada Post operates.

It is now 48 hours after the book was put in the mail. If you divide the distance by the time, you end up with a conclusion that Canada Post moves at approximately 110 feet per hour! Another view would be that the average letter or package moves somewhat less than 2 feet per minute!

Based on this slightly less than scientific survey I conclude that it is a miracle that we get any mail at all! Of course the stinking bills allways seem to get here on time!

Drowning In A Sea Of Books

This book reviewing business is a lot of fun. Not only do you get free books, you get to talk to the author as well. That in my opinion is one of the best parts. I don't know how many books i have read in the past 40 years and after I had finished thought to myself how neat it would be to ask the author some questions.

Well I get to do that now.

It is also very exciting to see the occasional article pop up on some of the big regional website like

Unfortunately there is a downside to all of this, if you are not careful you end up drowning in a sea of books. And that is about where I am at right now.

I am currently reading The Crescent City Lynchings by Tom Smith, and The Remembering by John Nelson, and Digital Destiny by Jeff Chester is sitting on the table waiting for me.

There are at least 3 more books somewhere in the Canadian mail system, one of which is Blogosphere by Dr Michael Keren, this one I am looking forward to, the rumour mill says that Dr Keren is highly critical of both the quality and newsworthiness of Blogs. That should make for some good copy for Jan and I have also been invited to the kick off bash for Blogoshere next Friday (free booze and munchies!).

Last Tuesday I received conformation that a package of 6 (yes six) books are en route from an agent in San Diego. These books will need to be given top priority and turned around quickly (this is a for pay deal! woo hoo).

So when you total it all up, I have to deal with at least 12 books right now! My guess is that is more books than most people read in a year, and I have to try and bang out reviews and interviews in a couple of weeks!

I have been trying to persuade Jan to tackle a couple of them to help out. At the mere mention of reading a book her eyes glaze over, so I am not very hopeful about getting her assistance.

I think I need a beer!