Just like real life.

Nicholas Carr comments on the invention of virtual drugs:

Here’s a snippet: "Up to now, avatars have led fairly narrow lives. Their main pursuits have been limited to fighting ogres and dragons and having simulated sex using artificial genitalia. Virtual reality has been like a pornographic version of Middle Earth. Now, avatars have a third and more modern alternative: abusing substances. Fighting, screwing, and getting wasted: Virtual life is becoming more like real life every day."

In the movie The Matrix it is explained to Neo that the machines first created a simulation of a perfect world but the humans couldn’t deal with it. So the machines created a second simulation of an imperfect world which humans were much better able to deal with. If you are creating a virtual world from scratch, why not eliminate all of the problems with the real world? Why emulate them?

I remember reading Snow Crash for the first time almost a decade ago.And now it seems to have almost come true.


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Marijuana beats BlackBerries.

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, points to a study that suggests that found that being stoned on marijuana still makes you more productive than if you are constantly checking your email:

In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hands, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.

In a digital world of infinite distraction, it is “single-tasking” — shutting out interruption instead of facilitating it — that will save us. What’s the alternative? Checking e-mail once every five minutes, then every minute, then every second? It’s not a scalable coping mechanism.

The world doesn’t hiccup, let alone end, if you check e-mail twice a day instead of twice an hour. If it does, it usually means that your work culture rewards overwork to counter its own ineffectiveness. This is predicated on burnout and not a game worth winning. The next time you get the Crackberry urge, consider the option of being productive instead of being busy. Or, if that’s too abstract, consider grabbing a joint instead — you’ll probably get more done.

Years ago I worked with a CEO who said that any email that wasn’t sent directly to him was automatically deleted. He didn’t read "cover your ass" emails that copied everyone in the place. That alone more than doubled his productivity.


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Rogers Wireless: It’s all about us.

Yesterday, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the Rogers Wireless Customer Retention department called me. They told me that I was a valued customer, and they wanted to know how satisfied I was with my service. Frankly I wasn’t too happy being bothered on a Sunday.

Now the other day I commented on the fact that the Rogers Wireless self-service website doesn’t work, so the first thing I asked was what services my son had on his phone. And to my surprise, having just added them myself, that there were no services on the phone. Once again, for the fifth time, I had been unable to get the account corrected.

So my answer was that I was a very, very, very, very dissatisfied customer which they didn’t have a checkbox for, so I just said dissatisfied.

I should also point out that the likely reason that the customer retention department called is that we use our cell phones a lot, and that we are not on any contract. And with local number portability it is suddenly very likely that we might change providers. That little tidbit will come up later.

So this woman fixed my son’s account, adding a service pack that was not available on the website, and that included unlimited text messaging.Of course she then pointed out that there was a limit of 2500 sent messages. When I pointed out that 2500 is not the same as unlimited, she said that 2500 was more than most people said. I again pointed out that this was still not unlimited.

Once we got past that she started to tell me that she would like to do whatever it took to make me a satisfied customer. She mentioned incoming calls free. She mentioned new phones. She said that she would evaluate each phone and suggest the best plan for each.

When I said that I hoped this didn’t require me signing up for a fixed term she told that of course that would be required.

Ah, so now it becomes clear. Rogers isn’t really interesting in a satisfied customer. Satisfying me wouldn’t require a contract. They are interesting in locking me in as a customer again, at which point they will again cease to be concerned about the service that I receive.

So let’s call a spade a spade. Rogers doesn’t really care if their customers are satisfied. They just want to offer enough stuff to lock them into a contract.

Of course I told the woman that I was going to need this in writing, and if I don’t see the promised benefits then I expect to be able to revert to my old plan. We’ll see what happens, but I don’t think the benefits will be worth anywhere near enough for me to sign up.

I like having the ability to switch anytime I want to. And frankly, I’m not even looking at the other Canadian cell operators. I’m looking at Cingular, Verizon, and Sprint, and their North American coverage.


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Powerpoint as a sleep aid.

I’m at a city council meeting in Waterloo, Canada, and they are discussing the issue of building a public square. The discussion started with possibly the most bring, monotonic Powerpoint presentation I’ve ever seen. I felt myself nodding off as the presenter progressed blandly through an endless series of nearly identical slides depicting the various design possibilities of the public square.

I’m numbed by the presentation as I assume the rest of the audience is as well. But I haven’t been informed at all. Lots of slides, lots of pictures, but I can’t make sense of what is what. The final slide that is still showing doesn’t make it clear what I am looking at.Also, there is no justification – just pictures.

I suggest that if you can’t use Powerpoint to effectively convey information then you shouldn’t use it at all. Otherwise it is just a sleep aid. And I feel tired.

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One man pulled the trigger, killer many people at Virginia Tech. One man is to blame for the killings.

So why are people rushing to blame everything and everyone else? This seems to be yet another example of the complete lack of personal responsibility. People are no longer held responsible for their choices.

In Canada the predictable answer is more gun control, even though that has done nothing to stop gun violence.

Daimnation provides a nice roundup of everything that seems to be at fault.


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Get into Digital Media.

A friend of mine, Jan Purvis, is running a drop-in program exploring Digital Media. If you are in or around Waterloo, Canada, the program runs from 3:30-5:30 PM on Fridays (starting tomorrow) at the Waterloo Community Art Centre (the Button Factory for locals).

Jan brings experience as a scriptwriter, video editor, producer and director. She will be giving people a chance to explorer digital media and will be bringing in guest speakers and experts in the field each week.

Definitely worth a look, and convenient to drop by on the way home from work or school before heading out for dinner.


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The provincial government of Ontario, Canada, has a great energy saving idea. They will ban the sale of standard household light bulbs, forcing consumers to but the new energy saving models.

Of course they aren’t the first government to do so. Australia, California, New Jersey, Europe, Venezuela, and others have as well. But they clearly haven’t thought this through.

While I have replaced most of incandescent light bulbs with the energy saving versions, I have noticed that they do not last as long as claimed. I have had a bulb burn out in as little as one year, instead of the 10 year life they claim.

Also, the light is brighter, but not as warn and pleasant. I can tolerate it, but many can’t. I still use a halogen light when I work because I find it easier to use for lnog periods.

And what of my outdoor lights? In Canada the weather dips below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Incandescent bulbs work just fine but fluorescent bulbs don’t always come on at such low temperatures. It is rare to find an energy efficient bulb for outdoor use at such low temperatures.

These ideas look great on paper and sound wonderful on the nightly news. But they rarely take into account the real world situations people must deal with.

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Taking a pound of flesh.

The music industry depends on radio stations to get their product – music – out to potential customers. The fledgling business of internet radio gets that music out to people who may not actually listen to the radio. Internet radio is nowhere near as profitable as broadcast radio.

Yet internet radio stations are facing dramatic increases in copyright costs to the same level as broadcast stations, in some cases more that the revenue they generate.

I can never understand the logic of getting your pound of flash while at the same time killing off a marketing channel and the revenue that current comes from it. Isn’t it better to have some listeners and some money, than no listeners and no money? These folks aren’t going to run out to buy radios.

Some online broadcasters have launched SaveNetRadio to try to fight the decision,but it seems that at this point only Congress can intervene.

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Same tool. Different results.

Microsoft used to make simple development tools that just worked. But lately their software is bloated and unpredictable.

I’ve been using Visual Studio 2005. I zipped up a completed solution and sent it off to somebody also using the same version of Visual Studio 2005. A build produced completely different results. Yet he was using only the zip file I sent him.

How exactly can that happen?


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