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Victoria Spring 2011 - Canadian Gas Prices · 14.05.11 by colin newell

Gas prices in Victoria B.C. Canada - taking it up the wazooI have spoken on this issue in the past – about gas price fixing in Canadian markets.

Which I am now preparing to reject. No, not preparing… It’s done.
Let me clarify: I do not believe that the markets are fixed in Canada.

For Gas. Or Coffee. Or Chocolate. Or anything for that matter.

And you’re wondering… “Who are you? Who took our Colin away?”

Here is the thing – 1st year University economics at work. We live in a free market system. That means that the markets set themselves. There are no wage and price controls at work in Canada or the U.S.
As a result, the market moves around to suit the vendors, the suppliers, the executives, shareholders etc. It is the system we have embraced.
And we vote for governments that support the open market agenda.
Actually, all the governments that are available to be elected are all for open markets – there are no socialist parties or active communist parties in Canada (or America). And the ones that are professing to be socialist are dreaming – or digging for votes.

We live in an open market society. Everything is up for grabs. Everything is for sale. And this includes petrol, oil, gas, coffee, water, pork bellies, all manner of food stuffs – anything that can be bought and solid for a profit.

Our governments negotiate and sign trade agreements with other countries that are not as developed as our own – that gives manufacturers the upper hand in maximizing profit for executives, owners, shareholders, etc. It is in the best interest of the free market system to get products made as cheaply as possible to get the most payback for the vested interests.

Gas is no different. The raw materials come out of the ground and are processed and distributed for profit. Yes, I know the raw materials are free – it comes out of the ground after all. But there needs to be an infrastructure for it to end up in your tank as high octane gasoline. That costs money.
And sure, oil companies like banks make obscene amounts of profit – so what. It is a free market system. Is this profit wrong? No. It is a free market system. We live in this system, support it and vote for governments that have a pro-business agenda.
We totally get what we pay for folks.
Coffee (a subject that I know a little bit about) is one of those highly traded commodities.
Imagine every coffee bean produced in a year – Got that picture? Good.
Well, that mountain of coffee changes hands anywhere from 50 to 100 times a year. And most of those folks that profit from coffee, big time, have never even seen a coffee bean or a coffee farmer. Is this wrong? Technically no – I mean, coffee brokers are not in the business of knowing how Juan Valdez is doing with his family in Nicaragua – or whether he and his family have education or health care. Brokers and traders are in the business of flipping product for profit.

Back to gas. Any government that says they are going to “look into high gas prices” are being utterly cynical. This has been happening in the U.S. lately. Obama has stated that high fuel prices need to be looked into. Additionally, one of the most stupid men in America, Donald Trump, uttered some shallow platitudes about taking Saudi by the short and curly and giving them what-for. Actually, considering that Trump is playing a joke on all of us with his Presidential run, he is actually being more honest than Obama.

When we consider that the fuel that goes into our cars comes from a finite supply, and that it is considerably more expensive in Europe – it is likely that the price in Canada and the U.S. is too low. I know, I hate paying $50 to fill my Honda Civic with this stuff – but I am not alone. And if I was in Holland it would be twice that much.

Summary: We live in a free market system where anything goes. Our new Conservative government in Canada plans on throwing Foreign ownership rules to the wind (which I strongly disagree with – but who am I.) Which means that more Canadian stuff is going to be on the vending block – which will increase the cost of living to average Canadian.

And as much as I would love to live in socialist utopia where I did not have to worry about food security, the integrity and safety of my water supply and the roof over my head… I am now ready to face the facts… that this is the society in which we live: A society where everything is for sale and speculation. It is what the majority of Canadian’s appear to want – so we get the results.

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Victoria Spring 2011 - Islandnet under attack · 12.05.11 by colin newell

Islandnet denial of service attackMy ISP (client since 1995) has been under a cyber-attack since yesterday – taking down the entire operation several times over the last 24 hours – disrupting thousands of customers and hundreds of webpages.

For the time being all is calm.

Islandnet.com was contacted by the attackers who ordered that the web site in question be taken down.

Islandnet.com has capitulated. And in their words.

UPDATE 3:12pm: we have been contacted by a group claiming to be behind the attacks. They identify the target (a customer of ours) and demand that the site in question be shut down or the attacks will continue. As much as I hate to capitulate, we can’t afford to stand up for the rights of one customer at the expense of all the others, so the site has been shut down.”

Not sure how I feel about this.

So. It was not the website I thought it might be. For all intents and purposes, it could have been my blog – which regularly speaks out on some sensitive international issues – pleases me to no end that my opinion is not so valued somewhere that I would be attacked over it. That said, I am not sure how I would feel about my Canadian ISP giving me the boot over the whims of a foreign power.

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2011 sights and sounds - disaster moment by moment · 14.03.11 by colin newell

One can do little more than reflect quietly on their blessings as a people only a few thousands of miles away struggle silently and firmly against seemingly insurmountable odds…

Sound clip caught by one of our monitor stations in the Haida Gwaii as the events unfolded. First few seconds in Japanese followed by English announcements. 5 minutes later, the unthinkable…

If you cannot see the audio device below, click here for the mp3.

Podcast

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2011 Media report chapter 1 - the increasingly silent radio dial · 6.03.11 by colin newell

The decline of reliable radio in British ColumbiaVictoria, British Columbia’s place on the coastal ring of fire almost guarantees that one day we are going to be struck with an Earth moving earthquake.
There will be challenges. We will need to survive on our own devices for upwards of a week before help arrives – but what will be absent are some of the reliable radio voices that we have depending on for news… for years.

Camosun colleges CKMO Radio Society station on 900khz has decided to change from classic AM radio broadcasts to a more “sustainable, future-oriented digital platform to deliver the popular campus radio programming.” Their words…

“We live in a world with so many new media channels and technology options,” says Andrew Bryce, Chair of Camosun’s Applied Communication program (ACP). “Traditional broadcasters are scrambling to find new ways to connect with their customers and communities in the digital world. Camosun’s radio station will be ahead of the game, and still deliver great programming.”

My problem with this – CKMO will opt to be carried on the internet – the first thing that will fail in the event of a natural disaster. There are few things more technologically vulnerable than an all-internet hosted medium. Eggs in one basket if you know what I mean. A stand alone AM radio station can kick in a diesel generator and be on the air in minutes helping with an emergency. On the internet, no such contingency.

Brad Edwards, CKMO Station Supervisor says, “The AM transmitter we now use is expensive and power-hungry. The station can save a lot of electricity by moving to online streaming, a great green option.”

Calling this green is an illusion. Radio stations around the World are using this fib.
Picture this: Turn off a 10kw transmitter that they are probably paying dollars an hour to run and off-load the “energy cycle” of this process to each user who is, in turn, using 50 to 300 Watts of power to flash their computer to hear the broadcast – And the end user is paying 25 to 50$ a month for the privilege of the internet connection.

“ Moving to online streaming will also enable savings to be redirected into areas that will more directly benefit the students and the station, including long-overdue updates to critical equipment like microphones, broadcast boards and hardware and software necessary in establishing a stronger online presence within Victoria and around the world.”

Not sure about the microphones they use but the ones I buy are a once in a lifetime investment. They do not wear out.

CKMO radio listeners will still be able to access the station they have come to love and, as further investment is made into streaming technology and a state-of-the-art production facility, the quality of the signal will also improve considerably.”

Signal? Quality of the signal? There is no signal if you switch off the transmitter.

Listen to Village 900 while you can. The old fashioned way. On good old radio. And while you are at it (after sunset) tune your old radio dial around for stations located in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and beyond… for free.

And reliable as gravity. Earthquake or not…


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident, writer and federally certified Electronics Technologist.

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The Hawaii Series, yes, we are experts Chapter 2 · 19.02.11 by colin newell

I have been talking to a lot of people about travel the last 6 months or so.
And from my perch in the North-west (Victoria, B.C. Canada), I hear the following a lot…

“Going to Hawaii” “Going to Maui” “Going to Kauai” “Going to Waikiki”

Oh yea – and a few cheapskates going to Mexico… no bias or anything here. None at all.

Bamboo Restaurant in Hawi on the Big Island

Picture at right: The Bamboo Restaurant in Hawi, North Kohala district on the Big Island of Hawaii – is a culinary gem!

Folks looking for a warm getaway in 2011 look towards Hawaii and the Islands for a bunch of great reasons.
It’s warm. Yes, it is warm year around.
It’s safe. Hawaii has a really, really low crime rate. Pay no attention to Dog the Bounty Hunter or Hawaii Five O because it is, firstly a reality show and secondly fiction.
The place we stay, a condo 10 minutes walk from the heart of Kona, Hawaii, has not had a car break-in in over 4 years. Many reasons: Laws are tough and it is an easy going place. Drug addiction (despite what you see on Dog) is not rampant and everyone appears to be living well.
It’s part of America, a pretty civil and law abiding place.

Currently Mexico (not all of it of course) is ravaged by poverty and regional drug wars – sure, you are not likely to get caught in the middle of a fire-fight, but why run the risk of being kidnapped, murdered… or worse.
Sure, you can save a lot of money traveling in Mexico – but if you want worry free travel, I think Hawaii is a great choice – which explains why everyone is talking about it – and actually going there.

So anyway – warm, safe, stable (and if you are a Canadian with Canadian dollars) it is as affordable as it’s going to be for a while – our dollar being at par or better!

Getting there – The clear majority of folks that visit Hawaii fly there – considering the alternative (taking a boat), it is the only way to go. But pick your carrier carefully. Andrea and I have been flying Alaska Airlines for some time now – and they never let us down. I made a vow a couple of years ago to:
a.) Avoid YVR (Vancouver International) and
b.) Air Canada (The Canadian equivalent to Aeroflot)

If at all humanly possible.

Seattle (SEA) Tacoma is, by far a vastly superior airport for getting into the Pacific.
Seattle International has a better vibe, it is better organized, and there are no twitchy Canadian RCMP officers with tasers waiting to send you to your maker (OK, more bias, long story…)

So, for us, SEA is the way to go – and Alaska Airlines as a carrier. They are the American version of Canada’s West Jet (whom I would happily fly with if the scheduling was right…) West Jet flies to Hawaii but I have yet to exercise that option.

And for our readers around North America – you really do need to do your homework. While we were in Hawaii we talked to a lot of people about how they got there – and there were horror stories aplenty about those old familiar airlines ; United and American. Look, if you can avoid them, do it. Scan trip adviser online for feedback and testimony on who served travelers right. Ironically, in North America, Hawaiian Airlines is one of the most popular airlines going – sadly, they do not fly everywhere. Check their site for cities served. Hawaiian flies direct to Honolulu from a handful of large Western U.S. cities like Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles. Check them out.

In our next chapter, we will talk about the planning that goes into a trip to the Hawaiian Islands.

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