Went to the Capital City Beer Festival on Sunday. Heaven. What a glorious time we had… I can’t believe I’d never been. What a great idea. So many beers… Here’s the roundup, as much as I can remember:

Not the worst beer I’ve tasted, but certainly deserving of the bottom spot on this list, Fin du Monde was a little sweet for me – tasted a bit like Coke mixed with beer… weird taste. The name translated to english is, “The End of the World.” I can see how you’d feel that way the next day if you drank it all night. Truth be told, there were other beers that would have made it on this list before this one, but I just love the name.
I’ve never been a big fan of Raspberry beers, but KLB’s effort was certainly tolerable at least. Another sweet beer, I don’t think I could drink this all night, but it would be damned refreshing when served ice cold on a hot day… of course, most beers could make that claim. Another plus: it’s from a local brewery.
Yum. No additives or preservatives, no pasteurization and brewed in small batches using only spring water, malt, hops and yeast, Creemore Springs’ Premium Lager has a nice clean taste and goes down easy. I wouldn’t kill or die for it, but it made it onto my list.
Mmmm… golden lager. Tried Golden Horseshoe Lager about half-way through the day, immediately after Fin du Monde, so my interest in this brand may be skewed, but definitely a good beer. Nothing particularly special about it, but a fine beer nonetheless.
First beer of the day, I had been curious about Hoegaarden for a while… this is the beer that, when you order it in a bar, usually comes in a HUGE glass. I’d heard some good reviews about it, and they were right. Apparently it’s spiced with coriander and curacao orange peels, giving it a bit of a soft and sour/sweet taste. Now I know why they serve it in a big glass.
Another one I’d been eyeing for a while, Steam Whistle Pilsner is a regional beer made with all natural ingredients that is dry, refreshing and has a clean, crisp taste. And they have cool retro packaging and advertising to boot! Oh yeah, and they were giving out free popcorn with their samples! Woohoo!
Stella Artois is a premium European lager that I’d tried in the past and have always enjoyed. When I set out for the day, I had told myself I would only try beers that I hadn’t had before. I couldn’t resist – it’s a fine, sophisticated beer.
Asahi Super Dry from Japan invented the DRY beer process, and they’re proud of it. According to the booth attendant, it’s the fourth top-selling beer in the world. And man, is it dry. Very crisp and clean, it has absolutely no aftertaste. It’s a great beer, but generally I prefer a little more flavour. They were also serving up dried peas and wasabi, a spicy little treat after which a dry beer was welcome.
Another regional beer, Brava is a Mexican-style beer with authentic cerveza flavour. Fantastic. I love Mexican beers. Especially when they come with free bags of tortilla’s!
Imported from Zaporizhia, Ukraine (the homeland), Slavutych was definitely my favourite of the festival. It’s the only Ukrainian beer available in Ontario, so I may be biased, but I also was trapped in their tent during the massive thunderstorm that rolled through the festival (if you’re going to be trapped somewhere during a rain storm, I could think of worse places than a beer festival), so I had plenty of tastes of this one.

There’s another beer that I’d like to mention, but I can’t remember the name. It’s a regional beer made with apples. It was very good. I wish I could remember what it was… I’ll pay a visit to the LCBO and if I find it, I’ll let you know.

I should also mention that if anyone ever offers you an Oatmeal Stout beer, run away. eww.

Broil King (the Barbeque people) deserve massive props for their demo where they taught us all kinds of great barbequeing techniques, as well as how to make the “perfect steak.” They served up samples of said steak, and DAMN was it good! “Two-to-eight makes it great!”

So I’m quitting smoking… again. Every other time I’ve quit, I’ve gone cold turkey. Oh, except last time- I tried out Nicorette, the chewing gum… but it was gross – made my tongue go numb – so I couldn’t use it as much as you’re supposed to. This time I’ve decided to try Nicoderm, aka “the patch.”

So far so good – I haven’t gotten the cravings as badly as in the past. In fact, I’ve had barely any at all compared to last time.

One thing I had heard about the patch going in was that if you wear it at night, you may experience intense dreams. I’d heard some horror stories like an old friend of my roommate’s who wet his bed twice while wearing the patch at night. weird. In the instruction manual, they say that you should wear it at night if you get cravings in the morning, though they warned about “vivid dreams.” Having heard the horror stories, I wasn’t going to wear mine last night. But while I was getting ready for bed, I started getting really curious about these “vivid dreams” and figured the horror story was just an extreme case. I couldn’t resist. I wore mine to bed.

And let me tell you: my dreams were fantastic! So intensely real, I woke up many times through the night. Waking up through the night made for a tired boy this morning, but in some twisted way, I enjoyed it. Every time I woke up from a dream, I’d lay back down, close my eyes and try to steer my next.

The one downside: I have never been able to remember my dreams. 10 minutes after getting out of bed in the morning, *poof* they’re gone. I remember fragments, but that’s it. For example, last night I remember Tom Jones singing “It’s not unusual” in a Burger King. I don’t know why I was in the Burger King, or what Tom Jones was doing there, but it was hysterical! I woke up laughing. I remember dreaming about trying to catch a bus with an asshole driver who wouldn’t let me on, so I rode on the front, hanging on to the windshield wipers and standing on the bumper. ?? I remember that a lot of my friends made cameo’s, usually under very bizarre circumstances. I’d give more details, but I can’t remember them.

I want to remember my dreams. I find dreams fascinating, especially when they’re extremely bizarre. Tonight I will be wearing my patch to bed again. This time, I’ll keep a pad and pen next to my bed and hopefully will have the presence of mind to write some stuff down through the night. Whatever I manage to capture, I will transcribe here for your viewing pleasure. Unless I wet my bed. Then I’ll hang my head in shame and will never speak of it.

Sorry I haven’t been posting much of late – been on training and haven’t been in the office much.

A little bit of a followup on my post, Thank you for your feedback. After I wrote that post, I decided to write back to Lori. I said basically the same thing, but with slightly nicer language and more formal style. I haven’t heard anything back, as expected. I guess she didn’t care for my beligerence. Oh, Lori – I hope you didn’t take it personally – I’m sure you’re just doing your job and all… I may have gotten a little carried away – I couldn’t help it. It’s just too easy to mess with public servants – I know – I spend my days with them.

Renaissance Now? A good read from one of my favourite authors about the world’s next (current) renaissance.

So I racked up a few parking tickets over the past few months… (suddenly, parking control started enforcing the parking regulations on my street, and I slept in a few days and got dinged for parking in excess of the time limit). Last week, I decided that I should pay them lest they go to court and I end up paying all kinds of service fees. I figured, being the on-line super-connected living-on-the-web kinda guy I am, I’d pay through the City of Ottawa website. What a nightmare.

First off, let’s talk about this “convenience fee.” That’s right, they charge a “convenience fee” for this “service.” This is something I noticed a few weeks ago when I went to renew my liscence plates at a Kiosk: I was charged a “convenience fee” for that as well – this time by the provincial government.

I have two problems with this “convenience fee.” It’s pretty much the words “convenience” and “fee.” First, let’s talk about “convenience.”

The fee payment section of the City of Ottawa website is a usability mess. When you get to the section for fee payment, you are given the option of searching for tickets based on your liscence plate number or by infraction number. Since I knew I had a number of infractions, I figured I’d search by plate number. When the results came back, I was presented with my four outstanding fines and a payment button. To my dismay, I found that I was only able to select one ticket to be paid at a time – what a pain in the ass – so I selected a ticket and moved on to the payment screen, where it showed me my fine plus the $1.50 “convenience fee” and I entered my credit card information and clicked submit. Then, rather than sending me back to the list of my other infractions (if they wouldn’t let me pay them all at once, this is the least they could have done), I got kicked back out to the main page where I had to search for my tickets again! I had to go through the entire process a total of four (count ’em, 1-2-3-4) times! And had to pay this “convenience fee” each time! Why the hell can’t I pay them all at once? Even if you’re going to rape me for the “convenience fee” on each one, at least let me pay it and my tickets all together – I mean, forcing me to re-live the experience over and over is a touch cruel, don’t you think?

What was it I was paying for again? Oh yeah… “convenience.” If by “convenience” you mean, “give us your wallet and bend over while we have our way with you and by-the-way how many tickets did you have ’cause we’re gonna have to violate you at least that many times” then I guess the whole experience was really worth it.

Although, I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that the entire concept of a “convenience fee” for this type of transaction is COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!!!!! To wit:

Let’s say I go into a City of Ottawa office to pay my tickets or to the Ministry of Transportation to renew my plates or whatever. What is their overhead on that transaction? How much are they paying that bitchy-little-know-it-all behind the counter? What about her over-paid-long-lunch-taking-I’m-way-too-important-for-you supervisor? And what about all those computers that nobody seems to know how to use lying around the office? Let’s not forget the tech support for those systems, and I bet they’re paying a pretty penny for the real estate their offices are sitting in. (throw in any additional costs you can think of – I’m sure there are plenty)

Now, by comparison, what does it cost them when I pay through their website? To be fair, I’m sure they paid enough to have the piece of crap built – hell, I’m in the business – I can probably ball-park it. But that’s pretty much a one-time cost. Once the thing’s up, if built well it should take care of itself. There are some maintenance fees, and some content management and site updating issues, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that their costs on this type of transaction are considerably lower than what I described above.

To illustrate my point further, let’s look at the online banking industry. President’s Choice Finanicial, launched 3 or 4 years ago, is offering wicked accounts with no fees, lower interest on credit, higher interest on savings accounts, good mortgage rates, and even rebates on groceries. How do they do this? They’re strictly online: low overhead. They have a handful of kiosks in Loblaws stores, a head office, a good website, and a massive call centre. Same with ING Direct. Want another example? Why are all the products on Amazon.com such good prices and how do they get away with free shipping? Because you never need to talk to a person or enter a store in a mall: low overhead. There are tons of examples in the private industry of companies taking their business online and passing the savings on to the customer. This seems right.

So why am I paying more for city services online? Aren’t I saving them money, in effect?

I asked them as much and forwarded my above criticisms to them in a note I sent through their feedback form. This is what I got in response:


Good Morning,

Thank you for your feedback. The fee is charged to defray the cost of operating the on-line payment service from the tax payer.

Regards,

Lori

Parking Ticket Inquiries

Client Service Centre

Oh, really. Well, I guess that answers that… Hey- wait a second – I pay taxes! And, oh yeah, I’m pretty sure most of the people who use this site could claim the same thing! And, wait a second… didn’t I just save you money by using this online service? Yeah, I thought so.

Hey- thanks for getting back to me and everything Lori, it’s nice to have gotten a response from a real person and not just some form letter and all, and I really hope you don’t take this personally but, FUCK YOU, YOU RIGHTEOUS BITCH!

Seems this week is shaping up to be a pretty busy one – gonna be on training for four days, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to get around to posting… will try, for sure – at least a link or two.

My roommate and I rented A Nightmare on Elm Street tonight. Haven’t seen that movie in years… It was loads of fun seeing it again.

This story on Salon has brought back some fond memories from my early days of BBSing in the basement of my parents home.

Somewhere in the early-to-mid-eighties, my cousin Chris and I had been messing around for a number of years on our VIC20’s and Commodore64’s, learning the ins-and-outs of computers the hard way: line-by-painstaking-line… Chris was the first to take the leap forward when he bought himself an Atari 520 ST computer – and it was the bomb! We spent entire weekends staying up all night playing games like Leisure Suit Larry and Ultima IV. When Chris got his first 300 baud modem, the world of BBSing opened up before us. What a mindfuck – you could actually connect to another computer through your phone line, and send messages to other people who did the same thing! Suddenly, video games weren’t the only reason to own a computer – we could communicate with people! People we didn’t know! And these people would open up their communities to us and share information and software!

Around this time, I bought an Atari 1040 ST of my own – with 20MEG Hard Drive – the thing seemed like a bottomless pit! BBSing became an addiction. Chris even began running his own BBS: The Sword’s Blade – the most popular hangout for Atari Users in all the land. Many late nights were spent posting messages, sharing files, playing online text-based games. I even ran a small part-time BBS called The Cave – it was nothings special, but it was mine, and people visited it. BBSing was about connecting people – they were the first online communities.

What fun. So many great memories. I learned so much back then – those days laid the ground-work for everything I am doing today. It’s amazing to think about how far technology has come, but that one central purpose of connecting people is still very much alive.