Monthly Archives: November 2006

Use your Sleeve! You Pig.

Derelict Citizens: Use your sleeve!

The City of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission jointly released an ad campaign on Nov 9th throughout TTC stations reminding commuters to use their freshly washed garments as stopgaps for bacteria which literally already live in every cubic meter of air we breath. Including inside subway cars, by the way.

Thanks TTC! Who knew aside a shrinking ridership, disappearing budget and a fleet aging faster than six week old banana bread you are now teaching us things our parents taught us when we were six years old. I mean, we are talking about everyday common sense for God’s sake.
It is a necessity, people forget! It a public service!’ Would the naysayers scream? ”Where were you during the Avian Flu scare?’ Would the hypochondriacs retort? Alright, all valid points which I will promptly discard down my trusty memory garbage chute. Good bye and good riddance.

You see, for the longest time I have been telling people that common sense is paradoxically not that common. People aught not be reminded about something that in this day and age should be considered common — and sure I dare say it?– basic sense. Sure the road to hell is not paved with posters of a woman coughing into her sleeve but I do see it as a misappropriation of limited funds. Practicing common and basic hygiene: Like washing your hands or making sure you do not sneeze into other people’s nostrils is not TTC’s responsibility.

How ironic would it be for a commuter to be thankfully reminded of using his sleeve as a rogue cough conspired to sneak past him only to be rundown by a flying back-wheel from a faulty and aging bus only minutes later as he waited for his usual rush hour trip. Yes, highly unlikely but it would hurt a lot more than a rendezvous with the flu.

Which leads me to my main point: In this era of budget cutting, where city services need to constantly prove their funds are achieving a set of concrete goals or fear having them cut off their next fiscal year. Then why, oh why is a Megacity’s transit system spending from already lean coffers on anything then transportation improvements? Cardboard ads do not make my trip faster, comfortable and bring a rainbow to my day.

I cannot not recall NYC Metro ever reporting pandemics running rampant on their subway system. And trust me, if there was ever a system which would definitely benefit from being entirely douched in hundreds of gallons of Mr. Clean, they are it.

Add to it the recent revelation that the TTC will be running on a $1 billion deficit over the next five years! [Toronto Sun reports: here]

On a more insightful –or market motivated note — if you are going to tell people to seed their own garments with viruses why not go the extra mile and get models using designer handkerchiefs?

Designers: Be the first to inundate the Holiday season with eye catching and colourful handkerchiefs with extra absorbent and out-of-this-world germ genocidal properties! Be the first to stop germs in style. True mavericks would soon create left and right sleeve sneeze patches. Better yet: Introduce the first ever Le Homme and Femme Manchons Collection! Have a model sneeze on a high tread-count fashionista statements and just kickback and wait for the money to start coughing in! The Quebecois nation would love them!

Just Picture the panache revolution this is bound to turn into! Imagine the innovation and statements it would create! I can already imagine the tag line: “Maybe Sick, Yet Always Chic.[*]

Alas, the TTC lacks such foresight, and why? Because they aught to be using their limited funds to improve their infrastructure first, not half cooked attempts at educating people basic hygiene.

Look at the Montreal Metro for example: Realizing people do not want to just travel to and fro. They built a streamlined system with a high reverence for design and art. In fact, some stations are considered tourist attractions all by themselves. So now tourist actually pay a fare to see architecture that had to be there in the first place. Now, how modern and avant garde is that? It surely beats our Stalin-era inspired subway stations. Want to see what we are missing? Click here and scroll down the pictures on the left hand side for a taste.

In my humble opinion, they aught to focus on the positive aspects of their service and innovate rather than to remind –and some would say: scare– an already declining ridership of the rare possibility of catching the same virus I could as easily get while shopping at Holt Renfrew.

Even if the ads border on public warnings, the gains on such enterprise are minimal at best. As the question that ultimately gets begged is: ‘Why even try?’ Leave the educating of health issues and practices to the Ministry of Health. I pay my taxes TTC, now let them do their job!
It is bad news for consumers when the commission tries to expand too far from their core business and into more trivial –yes, you heard me– trivial exercises. Since the most expected side effect of this is the degradation of its core services.

Ultimately, does the TTC brass really think day-to-day passengers are unable to remind fellow travelers to be more health conscious? Sure we Canadians, we are re-known for our polite nature but no one ever said we are like meek sheep to the slaughter or that we lack a good chunk of spine. We are not pushovers. Come one TTC, gives us your clients some credit, we’ll tell that pig to cover his mouth and save you some ad money while we are at it.

[*] — My ‘slogan,’ if you would like to use it, remember to send me royalties.

My Apartment: Recognized As A Nation

Hell, if Quebec can do it why not ME? If Canada recognizes Quebec as a nation (If you do not know what I am talking about, click here to read) So uh-hum. Without any further ado…


Little did I know all had to do is act pissed and pout for you to listen. For I am sick an tired of you not counting, asking, babying or validating my feelings!

You don’t speak for me! Even though I help vote your government in. Do I really have to bitch for 169 years before you to listen? Well, no more!

I want to be able to speak to other nations at international meetings –as I have a few good ideas I would like to run by the Chinese ambassador — as I do not feel you are looking after the interests of My Apartment or the many wonders therein. Such as my stove, fridge, my two pet rats and my potted plant. Which looks very healthy by the window on sunny days, thank you for asking. You didn’t even know I had a potted plant, now did you?!

I have real reasons to be upset as you fail to treat me in any special manner and I like to be treated like I am especial, I mean, I speak Spanish as my first language for God’s sake! That aught to count for something!

Your behaviour towards me and more importantly towards my living expanse –I do pay for a corner unit you know– is inexcusable. For I am not as understanding as Quebec because even though they like to think themselves as French or even European, at heart they have never forgotten it was King Louis XIV of France who disposed of them like a cheap bottle of table wine to the British at the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Choosing instead to keep the Guadeloupe Archipelago, a set of six islands hardly ten times the size of Washington D.C. instead. Everybody knows they are almost impossible to find in a world map without the help of a magnifying glass. That is what I call: ‘Le slap in the face — with vigour.’ Yet they stand gracious and proud.

Unfortunately I am not French. But then again neither are the people from Quebec. Since if I were to follow that logic, then I would have to announce that I am Spanish. But I am not, since I was born in El Salvador and speaking the language does not make from Spain. Oh Quebec, you have it all figured out.

I promise that once Parliament Hill concedes to my demands I will try[*] not to push for further powers or cause any problems. After all, you conceded this to Quebec and if anything you can trust the Bloc Quebecois on the same.

After all even the Bloc Quebecois has to agree that British Canada has been trying to suck up to them since the Quebec Act in 1774 when they re-establish civil tradition for private French law which had been revoked back in 1763. Whoops… true, true, their bad but they tried to make up for it. It was this very act that allowed the citizens of Quebec to become part of the Colonial government and eventually lead to Quebec’s first charter of rights. Cheerio and well played Canada.

But what have you done for me lately? Not even a bloody ‘Happy Columbus Day’ card. Like come on, you brought this upon yourself. Where is my own charter of rights? Is it in the mail?

As such I have come to the conclusion that Canada and the country of My Apartment can exist within one nation. Particularly when it comes to sharing universal health care, security, excursions into Canadian soil and its natives plus other social services. Including sharing our military when a snow storm blocks my driveway. However not within a united Canada when it comes to other more pressing and morally diverse issues like me paying income tax. That is where I have to stand up and draw the line. No more!

Remember Canada, My Apartment is its own Nation!
I will remember!

[*] – However I can’t make any promises.

I see music everywhere! Mp3 players that Is!

Best Buy opened a huge location five minutes away from my place. So I decided to go for a small stroll and browse through the wares my big blue and yellow neighbour had to offer. Especially since there is a three story Future Shop –which was acquired by Best Buy in 2001 for a thrifty $500 Million– three minutes north on Yonge Street. As some of your may know, I have been homebound for a while yet I was curious to see what a futile exercise in laissez-faire capitalism looks like these days.

Obviously I have been out of the personal electronics must-have’s loop for some time. As little did I know the first pentad of the new millennium has been utterly overrun by the MP3 player.
Sure music is valuable for self-expression and one of the highlights of being human, but since when do people must have a musical player attached to their ears everywhere they go?
I swear I can’t count five people down the street without one bopping their head left to right to some unheard beat. You would think them crazy if it were not for the tell-tale cables running from their pockets to their heads.

No Sony, your Walkman is been buried and dead, so don’t even try it, I won’t be writing about you. Just stick with your cellphones and playstations. Any who, I simply could not believe the store, aisle after aisle, if not of MP3 players themselves than of accessories for the damn MP3 players.

So who is the man in this $4.3 billion MP3 player market you ask? Who is at the top of the hill and the source of ravenous envy to all its competitors? Why the aesthete that is the Ipod of course. With 70 million sold in the last five years the Ipod commands now what Apple has been having wet dreams since its inception back in ’76: A mass audience who also happen to be rabid consumers.

As I walked through the rows of Ipod speakers, car holders, stereo add-ons and the ever needed Ipod socks (just $39.99 for a pack of six) really, I am not kidding. I could not help feeling a little stupefied by all of this. Perhaps ‘overwhelmed’ would be a better word. After all, Apple is not the only one throwing their weight around. Other companies like Dell, Toshiba, Scandisk, Samsung and many others have jumped into the bandwagon. After all, if you build it even if it sucks, someone is bound to buy it.

So on that note, just when you think you can see the end of the party crasher’s line. Here comes big brother Microsoft, elbowing everyone –as usual–out of the way as it tries to get in before MP3 players are passe.

Microsoft obviously not happy there is a market in its road to world domination it has yet to get its sticky fingers on has created what they call an ‘Ipod killer.’ So what is the name of this late entry? It is the Zune. Now on paper this product sounds great. It has a bigger screen than the rest of the competition, Wifi and as such you can share MP3s on the go.
It sounds all great and good until you start finding the Wifi will only work with other Zunes.
That you can only play transfered MP3s three time in three days, after that the song becomes unplayable, unless you buy it from their on-line store. This includes your own collection which you may own fair and square. Heck these includes your own creations! So if you are a musician, don’t put your original work in the Zune. What is the point of sharing then?

However what I found out on my trip to both stores is that at this point in the MP3 market companies are not just selling you a digital player. Oh no. You see, a music player is no longer just music player. It is much more than that. At least that is what millions spent in marketing keep on stating, shouting and dancing in ad after ad: ‘Our Music player doesn’t only play music. It more… It’s cool. Its a media and social event all by itself. It’s an artistic expression, a bold reflection of your raw and unadulterated id for God’s sake! It will get you laid! What are you doing standing there? GO BUY ONE NOW!

Just remember before you buy any of Microsoft products –and in fairness any other product in the future– the Zune is a first generation device. The reviews have been negative for the most part. Not to say that even big brother might not have a good thing going in the future. However right now, they don’t. If you decide to purchase it anyway for this Christmas season, don’t be surprised if you get a little too acquainted with windows such as this one:

Oh, one last thing. The future is in all-in-one devices. Not just on Mp3 players and media players and so on. Apple and its competitors are slowly heading into that direction but will surely take their time until consumers wise up.

For those who are wondering what I have used when needing a music player: I bought myself a smartphone almost two years ago. Put a 1 gig memory card on it and since then I had a colour screen bigger than an Ipod, a phone, a media and MP3 player, plus a voice recorder, pda and Internet browser all for $250. It pays to be an educated consumer, even if does not look as cool as an Ipod.

Update 18/11/2006:
Man uses Mp3 player to hack ATM’s in the UK! Read here.

Well, well…Where have *you* been?

That is what I have been hearing from most friends as of late. Since it seems –and righthly so– that I pulled a dissapearing act. Yes, *poof* just like that.

I wish I could say that I have been travelling or exploring the inner trenches of our city. Better yet, left all my belongings and joined a Buddhist monastery on a sabbatical of fancy to meditate on my many, many –well, perhaps not that many– sins. Alas that is not the case. In fact, quite the opposite. I have stayed at home watching unhealthy amounts of the History and Discovery channels –not necessarily by choice– and writing away my sorrows. I swear that if a gream Canadian novel does not come out of this I heads are going to roll! But basically just taking it easy and recuperating.

Yes, you read right: recuperating. It is sad to say but I have been diagnosed with a condition that although not life threating –well, there is always a chance of that, but then again there is always a chance of being hit by a bus everytime you walk out the door– has taken a good chunk of my time, patience and general happy disposition.

However, it does not really affect my mind, so technically you will be seeing more of my adventures and mis-adventures in the weeks to come.

So for those who kept on asking — I am alive, and I am back.