Category: Life

Hack night


OKDG hack night.

We spent the initial part of the night BBQing and discussing ideas.  Then we settled on the idea of building an SMS service to remind you of important dates. It would initially obtain the important dates from Facebook but then evolve to use other services.

The cost of “Stuff”

I was flipping through a flyer left on a table at the office today and came across an inexpensive metal chair ($18).  My first thought was: “Wow that’s really cheap I wonder what sacrifices the manufacturer/shipper/vendor are making to get it that cheap.”  And then I realized, “hey wait a minute, a normal reaction would be to get all excited at the deal and rush out and buy some.”

Is this the wrong reaction or the right one?  Should we be simply looking out for ourselves and our own bottom line or should we be worried about the larger context?  Do we make enough decisions  and have enough stress on a daily basis, is this something we should concern ourselves with?

I’d argue yes.  The globe is small. If we’re burning up all of our fossil fuels to ship cheap items across the ocean, where does that put us in 5 years?  If we’re leaning on the backs of countries with lower environmental or human right standards, how does that reflect on us as a people?  If we’re suppressing the population of another country for our own benefit, what will that cost us when they wake up to that realization. Or when the roles are one day reversed?

Or maybe I’m over-thinking a $18 patio chair.

My take on Usage-Based Billing

It’s been quite the week in telecom news in Canada. In case you’ve been under a rock all week,  Bell and the CRTC have taken a huge pounding for the CRTC’s recent decision to allow telecoms to charge home users fees based on bandwidth usage instead of a flat rate.  The flurry of outrage worked its way up from the home users of which hundreds of thousands signed a petition,  all the way into parliment where the Industry Minister and even the Prime Minister promised to look ito (and then block) The CRTC’s decision in current form.  While I disagree with the present solution as proposed by the CRTC, I don’t necessarily disagree with some sort of billing structure based on (reasonable) usage.  Here’s why:

I’ve worked in offices where everyone was streaming local radio stations while my FTP client was struggling to upload files to a client’s FTP server.  I’ve worked from Coffee shops where everyone around me has been yakking hours on end over Skype while my emails could barely make it out of my inbox. In this day and age,  without ‘rules’ telling people exactly how to act, we sometimes forget how to act with common sense and think of others.  I do feel that there should be some sort of REASONABLE scale system in order to have a usable and fair system for everyone. It’s ridiculous that the internet resellers such as TekSavvy were forced to drop their limits to 1/10 of what they had been offering their customers previously.   I can’t imagine if Terasen Gas called me and told me to decrease my usage by 9/10s or face increase costs.

So , how do we decide what is ‘fair’?  The number Bell came up with was 25GB  which would have been huge years ago but is a pretty small number these days.  I’m not a big fan of leaving it up to the Telecoms because they’ve beeen so good at ripping us off in the past.  I think the CRTC has a role here in deciding a fair base amount, and then a fair rate on top of that.  Government utility boards have done it for years with our Water, Gas and Hydro. I can only imagine how our natural resources would skyrocket if we had to pay only a monthly flat rate for gas or power (or maybe the utilities would charge something insane like a $400/month fee). The CRTC has an opportunity here to make this right and ensure fair and reasonable access for eveeryone.  Will they step up to the plate?  We shall see.

Footnote:   While looking into usage-bases billing this week, I came across the Water Smart system in Kelowna.  It has a scaling system where the base block is a certain price and then the more water you use, the more expensive it gets per unit.  What a great idea (for water conservation, not for internet billing).  With a dwindling supply of fresh water and more and more users, its important that we understand the true cost and scarcity of this resource and manage it effectively.

Vicious Circle of Consumerism

The “Vicious Circle of Consumerism” or:  How to waste time and money

  1. Drive to fast-food restaurant less than 1km away.  Eat giant portions
  2. Experience massive guilt from over-eating.  Sign up for gym membership
  3. Drive home from gym, passing public parks along the way. Once home, notice neglected lawn from long hours at work and gym. To minimize physical exertion, buy new lawn mower and leaf blower
  4. Mow lawn and rake leaves.  Collapse in bed, worn out from long nights at the office and lack of proper nutrition.
  5. Head to work early to pay for new labour-saving devices and gym membership
  6. Stay at work late again.  Too tired for gym.  Hungry but no time to cook proper meal.  Proceed to step 1.

The moment

My definition of a happy freelancer is knowing that at any time you could get up and do something else but the work at that moment is so invigorating, so interesting that you can’t help but be totally immersed and caught up in the task at hand.   I’m in that spot every day. ( Of course, 3pm beers on Thursday is an exception where I force myself to disengage for a brief escape! )

My Pledge to the earth 2010

Dear Earth:

I want to show you that I’m serious about treating you better and helping my fellow earthlings change their ways as well. My pledge to you this year is:

  • To reduce my consumption by 15% across the board:  15% less electrical use, 15% less km driven in my vehicles, 15% less unnecessary stuff bought from the store.
  • Bike to all destinations within 4km of my house 80% or more of the time.
  • Completely eliminate shopping at big chains that sell cheap-quality, non-local goods.  Why should I support Wal-mart when they get their apples across the border and their strawberries from 1500km away? I have fantastic orchards, farms and grocery stores all around me.
  • Extend my consumption life-cycle.  For example, new laptop every 4 years instead of every 3.
  • Resist societal pressure that  ‘new is better.’  Continue to drive  my 22-year old (well-maintained) vehicle runs on a 40% bio-diesel mix (unlike new cars which are limited to 5% and require additional energy to manufacture)
  • Buy quality items instead of cheap throw-away items whenever possible.  No more cheap crappy e-bay laptop batteries that last three months before needing to be tossed (recycled).
  • Judge my success a year from now by how much less “stuff” I have and by how much less is in my recycle, garbage and compost each week (20% less)
  • Encourage my friends and colleagues to move towards a more minimalist lifestyle that requires less stuff, smaller houses.
  • Post an article once a month on twitter/blog to spread the word globally that simple living is not only better for our planet but also healthy and liberating.