Friday, February 13, 2009

10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

Very useful guide to some detailed stuff I didn't know about.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Brush with a fake landlord.

I had previously blogged about how tight the Vancouver housing market is.

It turns out, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, that one of the people I met stands accused of being a scammer who leases an apartment then sub-leases it on to new tenants, collects the rent but doesn't bother paying the original landlord.

I must say, I'm rather glad to have avoided that one and I will now (slightly) change my opinion of how tight the housing market here is.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War

I previously blogged about a misogynist view of romance in the 21st century. Here's another view of how Evolutionary Psychology approaches the idea of war. i.e. that war is a good idea for a small tribe to undertake when population pressure gets too much. This is on the basis that even if the small tribe loses thir genes will live on in the women that the winning tribe takes.

Rather gruesome but does explain some of the nastier sides of human nature.

It's also something we should consider in more depth in the years to come. I would suggest that global warning and pressure on key resources such as water and oil will lead to wars. I've seen arguments that Darfur is chiefly about decreasing water supplies. This is a bit of an issue with the overflow of 20 million Chinese men who will not get a woman of their own. Many of these men are now hitting the years (18-30 or so) where they are most likely to cause trouble. While growth is continuing one hopes they will be mollified but if growth slows down and they become angry then exactly how does the world expect to keep them under control?

Oh, and I found this sentence, "(Status is approximately attention integrated over time.)," a rather pithy summation of status. In hindsight, it certainly makes sense, no?

Fighting fires

...real ones!

I was sitting in the lounge at the hostel talking with a friend when somebody casually walked in and said there was a fire. After walking out into the hallway to see somebody smash the extinguisher cabinet and set off the alarm it seemed there actually was one.

I hurriedly went back to the lounge and packed my laptop into my bag (insert joke about my most treasured possessions here), slung it on my back and then went to see if I could help.

One of the staff members was trying to fight it but the little fire extinguishers lasted about 3 seconds and had no permanent affect. A bunch of the hostellies sorted out the firehose so we grabbed that and trained it on the flames through a broken internal window. (Yes we did ask the question about whether it was an electrical fire but went ahead anyway...) I had a quick look through the window and it was fairly clear that the seat of the fire was inside the wall and the firehose wasn't going to be much use because the angle was wrong.

At this point the fire department turned up and took over so I left and went outside. A bunch of us stood around feeling rather cold while watching the fire staff do their job. It was a bit interesting when one of them purposely walked into the hostel carrying a chainsaw!

You'll have to forgive the blurriness of this photo. It was cold enough that I was shivering a little. This is Jesus in front of one of the fire trucks.

10-20 minutes later everything seemed fine but the staff said the fire captain was checking things before letting us back in so we wandered off to the local Irish pub and had a beer or two - as you do at times like these...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Romance in the 21st century

A friend and I were having an email discussion about nice guys and dating. I came across this article (hat tip: Arts and Letters Daily) which seemed to rather nicely sum it up. Unfortunately, it came to no particular conclusion as to what might be done, but c'est la vie.

Now I must get back to exorcising my nice guy tendancies...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Canadian differences

So what differences have I found over here?
* As expected, there is very little jaywalking but, prior to this, it was never clear why not. Vancouver is on a grid system with lights at every intersection. All the crossings in downtown Vancouver will automatically go to a pedestrian crossing phase without requiring a button to be pushed. However, strangely, if you do decide to jaywalk the cars will politely stop for you. This gives you a complete guilt trip as one presumes the drivers expect that your mission is important.
* Street collectors: The Salvation Army has collectors stationed at likely looking spots who stand there all day. So far, so fine. However, they all have a little set of hand bells which they jingle *all* *day* *long*. Maybe it's just my culture but it seems rather rude to me and I'm completely over the sound of tuneless bells. Occasionaly they send carolers out, especially in the evenings, but they often aren't very good.
* Toilets: The seats have little cutouts at the front - maybe Canadian men are lazy? The water level is also disconcertingly high. Forgive me, but I really don't want to be that familiar with my output.
* Coins: They still have pennies - and they still require pennies. It gets really annoying. Everytime you see a price you have to mentally add tax. Unfortunately you don't necessarily know if they've added both sales taxes or not (federal and provincial). Then, if you go to a restaurant, you have to mentally allow for a tip. The result of the sales taxes is that what you pay has some odd number of cents. As it's easier to give whole dollars you tend to get lots and lots of coins back. After a while, you start deliberately trying to pay the correct number of cents - or close to it.
* Sales: This might be a US and recession thing but there are a lot of sales here even before Christmas - and the discounts are steep. I was at Banana Republic today (medium-high end clothing store - think Barkers) which was running a 40% off everything sale for just one day. Sears, a similar department store (think Farmers), ran a surprise sale on Monday with buy 2 clearance items and get the 3rd for a dollar.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

US Thanksgiving

Just a few days after I got to Vancouver I went down to Bellingham in Washington state to stay with my friend Bradley and his wife, Susan, for a few days.

It happened that my arrival coincided with Thanksgiving so it was nice timing. I volunteerd to cook pavlova. This used to be party dish. Whenever, during my adolesence, a party invite said bring a plate I'd bring pavlova. Most of these were to choir things so the choir got very used to my pavlovas.
However, for the very first time, my pavlova dropped flat. I blame the mechanical beater I was using - I must have crushed all of the air out of the egg whites.

It was a lovely trip. We had Thanksgiving dinner with Bradley, Susan and Susan's parents. Bradley had this very cool wireless meat thermometer to get the turkey cooked just right with. However, one turkey for 5 people was an aweful lot of turkey.

The next day we did a bit of a pub crawl through Bellingham and I tried a few brews. One bar, the Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro, had some very, very nice beers.

We also played a lot of Guitar Hero - Bradley clearly does this a lot because he was very good!

It was nice. Nice to be with friends in a place where I currently don't have any.

Why do people...

...wear earphones and think that the sound won't possibly be heard by anybody else. Then turn the sound up until everybody actually can, quite clearly, hear them.
Worse: they then tap along in time or (gosh) even start singing a bit.

There was one girl (at least I think what was under the dreads was a girl) in the hostel common room listening to music yesterday while she used a computer.

Right now, there's an older gentleman doing the listening, tapping, almost singing thing. Only thing is he's not very good at keeping the tapping in time. However, to give him credit, he is listening to Dylan who's not exactly known for keeping things like timing and pitch pure.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Experience... the Vancouver housing market

Firstly and briefly, I was going to keep all posts consecutive and matching what happens but I can't be bothered writing a big one for some stuff. You'll just have to put up with small, frequent posts - probably more interesting too.

So I need to find a place to live in Vancouver. The hostel I'm staying in is fine, for a hostel, but at CAD 30 a night it gets expensive quickly.

CraigsList is the flat hunters site of choice so I start working through that. I've seen two places today and it certainly is eye opening.

I turn up to one place: downtown Vancouver very near a big forested park. I had arranged to meet somebody outside the building. However, I get there, wait a few minutes and then call the guy to find the room has been taken. Grr...

I then walk across the bottom of the peninsula to my next appointment. Apartment in a nice building with a nice view. Building itself is right on the water. Turns out the tenant is Turkish, manages a pizza place and can't afford the whole rent so he's put up a cloth screen across the living room and has a sofa bed and TV setup. In the sole bedroom is the place he's letting. He plans to put up another cloth drape here to allow both of us access to the bathroom.

So, a 1 bedroom place now sleeps two people - something that doesn't appear to be uncommon on CraigsList. However, to give you an idea of how tough the market is, this room was advertised for CAD 790 (=NZD 1173) a month (all expenses included).

I politely back out of that and start walking off to the library for some peace and quiet when I get a call from the first place. The guy who took it has backed out because he doesn't have enough money and would I like to be picked up and shown the place. Sure! I say.

Get to see the place and find that it's a variation on the previous one. However, for CAD 700 (=NZD 1039) a month (all expenses included) I could have the sole bedroom of this apartment while not one, not two, but three guys sleep in the living room. Mattresses on the floor and everything.

Consider my expectations reset - I shall now look a lot further afield!