Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Harmonized Sales Tax Waiting To Screw Us All On Canada Day.

Alright, so I didn't post anything last weekend since I was busy with some stuff, but it's not the end of the world... since I'm writing one right now to make up for it. As mentioned in my previous post, it is getting warmer here in Toronto and people are indeed traveling.. at least to Toronto. This is a season to be dealing with many people wanting to check prices of things (+tax) with little to no english, which makes things really interesting, and wanting to either bang my head against a wall or their heads against it instead. It does get quite annoying when they look at me with a weird look when I give them the price including tax, which is clearly more than what's on the price tag (by 13%). Believe it when I say this: if it were up to me, products all over Canada would have price, tax amount, followed by the total of what you're paying on the price tag. Now, if that were to happen, that would be being quite honest as well as being efficient, but we that just wouldn't be a city in North America, now would it?
Talking about the tax also springs another question in the air: HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). Instead of dealing with both GST and PST, it simply combines both taxes. This means you still pay 13% tax minus the steps of paying 7% + 8%.
So if it makes things simple, why do 74% of Ontarians oppose it? Once HST hits Ontario (on July 1st, 2010), you will end up paying full 13% tax on things like your milk, food that costs less than $4 before tax, and many other things, chipping you away of those pennies here and there, which adds up in the long term. So there you have it, fellow Ontarians.
I do have a solution, though: move.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Is (Almost) Here and That Means...

Most people are starting think about traveling and there is one thing just about everyone brings on a trip regardless of where they go: Camera. With the technology enhancing faster than a guy on steroids, many people feel pressured to upgrade to a new camera as it makes what their current camera to be.. more or less an artifact. If you feel somewhere on the similar lines yourself, perhaps this post could help you on picking out the right camera, without spending anymore than you need to. Here are the things you should be watching for:

1. Megapixel
I'm going to quite frank here; megapixel isn't everything. Do not be tempted to get a camera over another simply because "it has a higher megapixel." It certainly does have a difference on resolution of the photo you take, but if you're not going to print anything higher than an 8x10, you don't need to stress too much over the amount megapixel; 10MP should be more than sufficient (most models now a days are at least 12-14MP on average). If you're not planning on printing your photos (SHAME ON YOU!) and want to just post it on facebook and/or myspace like rest of the population, you really don't need to worry about megapixel at all as those websites shrink the size down the moment you upload your private public moments to the web.

2. Battery
There are two types of batteries today's cameras run on: Lithium ion or AA batteries.
Lithium ion types are those blocky looking rechargeable battery that usually comes with the charger and as long as you fully charge and discharge them, they should be good for about 4-5 years. Your cellphones are also running on same type of battery if it helps to understand. It's also important not to lose the battery or the charger as it can cost you around $70 and up to replace either the battery or the charger (remember, it's suppose to last you 4-5 years). The cameras that run on lithium ion batteries tend to be more pricey compared to the ones that run on AA batteries.
The AA batteries should be self explanatory, but don't forget there are single-use and rechargeable in AA section as well. Though, you would have to buy them on your own, the cameras that run on AA batteries tend to be more affordable. If you find yourself outside in the wild a lot, it may not be a bad idea to stick with a camera that runs on AA batteries as you can carry many back up batteries. If you're a tree hugger and care about the environment, perhaps the lithium ion batteries should be your choice.

3. Brand
When it comes to brand of the camera, Sony pops up quite a lot. While I think Sony digital cameras are finally coming along nicely, there are better ones out there in terms of quality and what you pay for them. Don't get me wrong, Sony makes great other products such as LCD TV's and camcorders. I would say the only thing Sony's got over the other brands in cameras is the style of how it looks, which makes it more appealing, but when you take a photo, is your camera in your shots? Not really (unless you shoot a mirror to take a picture of yourself).
So what other brands are there you should consider? There are plenty. Canon has been making cameras since God knows when. While I do like Nikon DSLR's, I don't think their point-and-shoots are any better than Canon's point-and-shoots. Panasonic has been coming up nicely as well. If you're looking into Panasonic, chances are, you're looking at a camera with a massive zoom, while having a body small enough to travel with. Finally, don't forget the old school Pentax. Just because they don't have an ad, doesn't mean they are crap. So the question is, you want to pay for brand or quality? Ask your salesman at a camera store for some insights and do your research as well (incase the salesman is bias towards certain brand, which is understandable, but you want a camera for yourself, not him/her!).

4. Zoom
I promise, it's almost over. Just like megapixel, zoom doesn't determine how good a camera is. It's easy to be carried away by the numbers in their features end up spending for features that you never end up using in a camera. Zoom is something that men go for more than women and obviously, the bigger the zoom, the more money flies out of your wallet. Either way, if you're just taking pictures of your family, friends, and all the regular stuff, you really won't need anything more than 3 or 5x zoom. I mean, when are you going to use a 10x zoom on a family shot? if you need to zoom in at a situation like that, just step up to them. If you come across what of those once-in-a-blue-moon situations where you DO need something on the lines of 10x zoom (like a bird standing far, far away), just take the shot at the max zoom your camera has, then blow it up later on your computer. Even with 10MP, that should still be pretty darn clear (as long it's focused). If you're a sucker for taking lots and lots of landscape shots, maybe 10x zoom is the one for you (don't forget to buy a tripod!), other than that, people rarely use anything beyond 5x zoom so think about what kind of shots you're going to be taking with the new camera. Oh, and remember: never, never use digital zoom. It lowers the quality of the photo way too much. I suggest turning digital zoom off if you can. Trust me on that one.

5. Video Mode
Yes, most, if not all cameras now come with a Video Mode (or Movie Mode). Watch out though, there are two kinds now: HD (High Definition) and SD (Standard Definition). This feature, depending on what definition the camera shoots at, will make about a $100 difference in cameras that shoot HD or SD. If you like to shoot a lot of HD movies with the camera and have an HDTV at home, maybe you wouldn't mind vomiting up the extra cash. If you go for mainly photos and barely any videos, maybe it's not worth spending the extra. Think about important video quality is to you and how far you're willing to go.

There are obviously more things you should be looking for whether it is feature or quality, but that all depends on what kind of shots you want to take with the new camera. Oh, right. One more thing before I sign off: if your camera stills works great, not too old, and you're happy with it, you may not really need to upgrade to a new camera. But that's all up to you. Have fun.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Planning Well To Be Well Wasted

St. Patrick's Day is not too far away and many people are planning to get wasted at a bar on said day night whether they know the history of St. Patrick's Day or not. Although, I'm sure they wont remember much by the morning after, so I shall spare your eyes with a history lesson (it's really, really boring and I don't know why tortured myself by reading up on it) and skip to the next on the list of matter.

From observing (of what I can remember) the last few St. Patrick's Days, I figured this year's should be somewhat different or rather, well planned. It appears that as simple as it sounds, "let's go drink." isn't something a lot of people can do without some difficulties. Don't get me wrong: it's the "let's go" part I'm worried about, not the "drink" part.

In the past year's my buddies and I have gone to pubs on St. Patrick's Day. This year, we decided to party in one of their places instead as it'll have more breathing room, and practically no wait time on your drinks. Not to mention it is also financially sound, it might be a wise choice for anyone to do the same (depending on whose place you're crashing).

What I also decided to do is to slowly buy liquor at the LCBO in small amounts after work now and then so by next Wednesday (St. Patrick's Day), I would have the amount of liquor I desire to have. If anyone was at an LCBO on St. Patrick's day, they very well know the only thing more chaotic than that would be a Walmart on Black Friday where pregnant ladies get trampled over the crowd.

My last tip (not really a tip) is to actually enjoy the drinks as well as the time you're spending that evening. Far too many young people are just drinking to get drunk. That's fine; that's what young people do (according to the mass media)... but it's fine only if the booze is some low-quality trash that you paid a dollar per bottle for. If you're aiming for to have some class (regardless of age), at least enjoy the drinks (I can't really explain this well until you really figure out how to, but I guess that comes with age... or drinking plenty in the past) and make sure you bought some good quality booze. And by no means mistake it with enjoying the taste of it.

Either way, I hope your St. Patrick's Day will be a blast as well and if you're planning on partying in as I am, don't forget the food colouring (green or blue depending on beer colour) to amp up the spirit of things.

Now here are some random facts about St. Patrick's Day:
- Many places are dyed in green colour on St Patrick's Day, one of them being the famous Chicago River.
- The original colour of representing St. Patrick's Day was actually blue, not green.
- St. Patrick's birth-name is Maewyn Succat.
- St. Patrick's Day was originally celebrated by the Roman Catholics in celebration and tribute to St. Patrick's actions through his time of serving God, as they would feast on the day. Now, many people simply get drunk without knowing any of this and the people of the church are fighting a struggling battle to win back the glory of the day and it's symbol. I may not be a religious man, but I will cheer the church on from the side... by drinking.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Up Is Higher Than Up in the Air and Why You Watch a Film

The 82nd Academy Awards is now behind us. Needless to say James Cameron’s Avatar took quite the spotlight but, was painfully beaten against The Hurt Locker. Even still, that doesn’t mean the society sees James Cameron’s Avatar any differently than before. Up in the Air wasn’t anywhere near cloud 9, but was as good as being 6 feet under compared to Up. A Pixar animation flew higher than George Clooney; I’m having hard time believing it, but that’s because I don’t really look up to anything Pixar or Disney related… no matter how high they go up.

Putting all the award talk and puns aside, lately, I’ve been thinking about why people go watch a film. Is it to get away from reality or is it something simple as feeling the joy of watching something blowing up? Perhaps it’s really different from person to person, but there is something just about everyone has in common when it comes to watching a film; what the film makes everyone feel.

I remember reading something along that line back in high school, “People go to theatres not to enjoy the film, but to feel.” If you think about it, it does make sense. Take the film District 9 for example. In case you weren’t forced to watch it as I was, I’ll fill you in the details. Basically a guy gets infected by some alien oil and starts transforming into the alien race that crash landed floated on Earth. I’m sure I don’t need to explain the rest (and spoil it) at this point. Despite not winning any awards, people loved the film. Hold on, let me rephrase that. People loved what they felt while watching the film.

As you probably and accurately guessed by this point, when the main character starts turning into one of the aliens, the humans simply run rather painful and inhuman experiments on him until he realizes he is strong enough to beat people up and run away, later establishing somewhat of a friendship with other aliens so that they can go back to the ship (in not so friendly road up ahead). Feared by humans and hated by aliens is the situation the main character seems to face most of the time, which at that point, to you fellow audience of the film, you will feel sorry and rather sympathize with him. We like how that feels when we feel it, because unlike the human race presented in the film, we, who sympathize with the main character are understanding and kind. In short, District 9 made us feel like we’re better human beings compared to before we watched the film. Whether we realize it or not, that feeling puts somewhat of a "rush" in our minds. You can call it a form of an ego-boost, if you will.

Whenever I try to explain that to a friend or something, it somehow gives the impression as if I’m saying, “Shame on you!” but it’s not anything like that (I swear!). There’s absolutely no reason why anyone should feel on the lines of being an idiot if they didn’t notice it either. And who knows? Maybe without realizing any of this, a person can enjoy a film to its fullest potential. But ask yourself the question: What makes you watch films and/or what are you looking for in a film? And don’t say the classic “good looking, funny, and non-smoking” =P