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David & David

May 21st, 2008  · stk

OKAY ... I'm a closet American Idol watcher (mostly because I couldn't carry a tune if it had a handle on it). The only musical instrument I can play is a CD player and I can't play that very well. However, I was floored a few weeks back, when David Cook sang a Chris Cornell cover to "Billy Jean" ... have a listen

David Cook & David Archuleta

The David & David title takes me back to 1986 and the one-hit-wonder by the band of the same name - "Welcome to the Boomtown" (a great song in it's own right and inserted here - in 128 kilobits per second glory - for your listening pleasure and my listening nostalgia).

No, I'm talking about David Cook and David Archuleta, the two finalists of the 2008 "American Idol" pop television show.

OKAY ... I may be old(ish), but hey ... I'm a watcher of the show and have been rooting for David Cook ever since I heard his jaw-dropping rendition of "Billy Jean" (a cover of a cover by Chris Cornell), the original having been written by Michael Jackson, at the height of his career.

Talk about song selection! (The judges are always coaching contestants about song selection on the show) and I just have to say ... I think David Cook's selection of that song - I forget what week it was, but there were several contestants remaing ... 8 or so - was SPOT ON!

To listen to the cuts done by all three artists - (Michael Jackson's original version of "Billy Jean", Chris Cornell's stunning cover and David Cook's amazing spin on Chris' version) - carry on ...

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Updated: 22-May-2008
Web View Count: 13327 viewsLast Web Update: 22-May-2008

Creating Keepsakes

May 19th, 2008  · stk

When I went to renew Rachel's subscription to "Creating Keepsakes" magazine, I discovered that the publishing company - CK Media - is duping subscribers into believing they're getting HUGE "Insider Savings" on rates, when instead, they're paying MORE! This adds up to a couple of million dollars in extra revenue. I'm holding the company to task on it. Find out more

Magazine Unethically Dupes Subscribers

thumbs up creating keepsakes - CK Media

Creating Keepsakes (published by CK Media) lies to customers about HUGE "Insider Savings" on magazine subscription renewals. Instead, existing customers pay up to 25% more for renewals than brand new subscribers pay! Subscribers are left wondering, "Where are my HUGE Insider Savings? This is how I'm valued as a customer?"

Rachel enjoys scrapbooking our adventures, big or small. She's put together some really nice layouts and our shelves are slowly being filled with 12-inch by 12-inch binders, each holding stunning and creatively designed pages. It's a hobby, a creative outlet and it's been fun to watch her skills and pages improve over time. We enjoy pouring over the old memories, reliving the joy, adventure and good times. The scrapbooks are a treasured family heirloom.

For Mother's Day, last year, I bought Rachel a 12-month subscription to a magazine called "Creating Keepsakes", published by CK Media. The magazine is all about scrapbooking. She draws a lot of inspiration from looking at the featured designs, staying on top of new tools, styles and scrapbooking trends. She really looks forward to the magazine arriving in the mail each month and it's been a wonderful gift.

When I went to renew her subscription this Mother's Day, I happened to discover that existing customers pay up to 25% more to renew their subscription than do brand new customers who are signing up for the first time. This doesn't seem right. You'd think that CK Media would reward existing subscribers, eh? What's worse, is that they flat out lie to their customers, stating on the magazine subscription expiration notice:

LAST CHANCE FOR INSIDER SAVINGS ... ACT QUICKLY ... you can still maintain your insider status which entitles you to take advantage of HUGE SAVINGS and home delivery at no extra cost!

We've all seen these magazine subscription renewal forms, right? "Act Now" ... "Hurry" ... "Huge Savings" .... "$70 off of news stand prices" ... etc. I've never looked to see if it's a better deal than what's offered for new subscribers ... until today.

To follow the trail of magazine subscription enlightenment, subterfuge and *gasp* bold-face lies ... read on brave magazine subscribers ....

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Updated: 21-May-2008
Web View Count: 18287 viewsLast Web Update: 21-May-2008

Hello BC

May 14th, 2008  · stk

Clever British Columbia Tourism Ad

wonder lake yoho national park bc wonder lake yoho national park British Columbia

An online (pure CSS) replication of a lenticular, transforming print ad put out by Hello BC. (Photo donated by Tom Dempsey)

"Beautiful British Columbia" is what it says on automobile license plates in these parts and why not? When the heavens dump as much water on such a mountainous landscape, it's bound to be green and beautiful, filled with streams, lakes and waterfalls!

Tourism plays a huge roll in British Columbia's economy, accounting for nearly $5.5 billion dollars in 2006 (about 4% of the Province's GDP). One out of every 15 jobs is in the tourist industry. Unlike timber and fishing, tourism is actually a booming industry in B.C., growing nearly 5% a year since 2004.

As a result, clever people at advertising agencies are hard at work, coming up with new ways to make a British Columbia vacation sound irresistible. One such print ad landed in our mailbox (courtesy of the previous owner). It was an ad extolling the beauty of the province with a 6-inch by 9-inch photograph of a lone canoeist on Emerald Lake, in Yoho National Park. Using a lenticular printing process, the image transforms from one to another, depending on the viewing angle. One image is a the photo, with a puzzle grid overlain and a piece of the puzzle is missing (the canoeist). The tag line at the top reads, "The only thing missing ... ". The other image is the original photo (no jigsaw grid and no missing canoeist) and the tagline is completed, to read, "The only thing missing is you".

It's not your typical print ad. It was made by Tourism BC, to promote their 2008 BC Escapes Guides. I thought of a way, using CSS styling, to do something similar on a web page, so a had a play and came up with the image on the left. (The photo isn't identical, but it is of the same Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. The photographer - Tom Dempsey - lives in Seattle and graciously donated the image.)

Hover over the image to see an online version of the lenticular ad effect.

To see the original print ad and learn more about tourism in British Columbia, read on


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Updated: 16-May-2008
Web View Count: 18598 viewsLast Web Update: 16-May-2008

Pull My Hinge

May 7th, 2008  · stk

MyHomeHardware - We saved money by cross-border shopping in the United States for 96 hinges and 48 cabinet pulls, when we recently gave our kitchen a face lift. Total cost: a little over $100 CAD. Savings by not buying from Home Depot Canada? $500!! Outrageous.

Cabinet Hardware:
A U.S./Canada Cross-border Shopping Tale

thumbs up

We've been in our "new" (24-year-old), Vancouver Island home for a year and a bit. The galley style kitchen is a traffic jam, drives us nuts and needs a complete renovation. Unfortunately, we have neither the funds - nor the time - to embark on such an expensive and extensive project, at the moment. So, instead, we've satisfied ourselves by painting the (dark forest green) cabinet doors, using a lighter earth-tone melamine paint ("Cozy Cottage") and replacing the old cabinet hardware with something more modern and brighter.

Having a major kitchen renovation under my belt (I completely gutted and re-built the kitchen in my 1940's California bungalow-style craftsman home), I had some idea of the costs associated with cabinets and cabinet hardware. After we counted the number of pull/hinge sets we'd need - forty eight - we took a trip down to the local Home Depot hardware store to purchase some simple, brushed chrome wire pulls and matching hinges. That's when the project stalled, because after a rough tally, we were looking at about a $400 bill and Scott said, "No way! That's outrageous!"

This is the tale of how we bought our pulls and hinges from an eBay company in the United States, for a fraction of the cost that Home Depot wanted for similar items. Chock up another success for cross-border shopping. It's thumbs down for Home Depot Canada for not being competitive and a big thumbs up for MyHomeHardware for their accurate product description, prompt shipping, reasonable shipping costs, product prices and customer service!

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Updated: 7-May-2008
Web View Count: 36619 viewsLast Web Update: 7-May-2008

Getting Off the Sunset Train

April 30th, 2008  · stk

Today, because of the Intuit "Sunset Policy", Quicken Deluxe 2005 will lose certain functionality. It's a blatant money grab by Intuit, confident I've grown used to the functionality and will purchase a new version ($89). Sorry guys, I'm getting off the Sunset Train. Read how I'll regain the lost functionality (and actually improve upon it)

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Shame on Intuit's Sunset Policy, which disables certain software features after three years, effectively forcing customers to purchase an "updated" version (containing few substantive improvements).

I've been using Quicken since 1990 (18 years). I'd say that makes me a long-time customer. I used to upgrade every year and drool over the new features like a kid looking through a confectioner's window. As the product matured, I noticed that the new, must-have features became fewer and farther between. The software also became more expensive and so, I stopped purchasing yearly upgrades.

Apparently, I wasn't alone. When Intuit noticed this shift in consumer behavior they countered it with a planned obsolescence of their products, in the form of a Sunset Policy. By disabling certain features every three years, they could generate revenue by forcing users, dependent on those features, to upgrade.

This first happened to me in 2005, with my Quicken 2002 version. At the time, I didn't object too loudly, because I found a way to upgrade for free! Fast forward to 2008 and now it's Quicken 2005 that that is being crippled - today. Intuit says, "Buy Quicken 2008 Premier or lose certain online features."

Well, this time Intuit, I'm getting off the Sunset train. I've found a simple work-a-round for downloading multiple, daily stock and mutual fund quotes, which is the only feature I use that's going to be disabled today. And thanks to my mate, I now have mQuote, which is actually superior to the historical quote retrieval "service" that I'm losing inside Quicken!

For more about why the Intuit sunset policy sucks and my stock quoting work-a-round, read on.

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Updated: 20-Mar-2009
Web View Count: 24825 viewsLast Web Update: 20-Mar-2009