My Return to the Orchard

By | October 10, 2013

A few months ago I shared my thoughts on the BlackBerry Z10 and now look like a fool since I am eating my words a few months later.

BlackBerry may never be able to compete with behemoths like Samsung as they push for larger displays and bells and whistles, but for a functional device that keeps me connected to home and work the BlackBerry fits the bill and I hope others see that too.

BlackBerry LogoBlackBerry proved me wrong with a larger screen device in the Z10. However, my affair with BlackBerry has come to an end. My Z10 has been sold and I back in the familiar embrace of Apple using a new 5S. I left Apple a few years ago in my transition from Rogers to Wind, it was under good terms and would have used the iPhone on Wind had it been compatible. It wasn’t, so thus began my handset journey from Android to BlackBerry.

I was never disappointed with the Z10. The construction of the handset was still impressive months later. The phone never let me down but I started wanting more from it. The lack of apps did start to become tiresome, especially when I read about new and exciting apps released for other devices. The promise of OS 10.2, which would have brought some necessary improvements, always felt like it was just around the corner and I grew weary.

I read an analogy that described BlackBerry was a well built house with amazing security but set in an empty neighbourhood with no streets or amenities. Apple and Android are nice houses but they are in a thriving community where everything is in walking distance. I thought I could survive in an empty community but it is a larger draw than I suspected. I may never buy a piece of hardware to function with my phone, but not being allowed to make that choice because BlackBerry wasn’t supported was restricting. On top of that, the downward spiral of the company financially all compounded in me to consider changing devices.

iPhone 5S Line UpMy options were the new Nexus Google handset or the just announced iPhone. I decided to go with the iPhone because I like the walled garden Apple has with iTunes. I have other iPod’s at home, our computers are all Apple’s, the iPhone fits and I comfortable with giving up the ability to customize and tweak the iPhone the way I could with an Android. Another factor was battery performance, and sacrificing screen size for this is fine with me.

As for staying connected to work, there is a strong push for a ‘bring your own device’ at the office and new software (transitioning from Good For Enterprise to MaaS360) is being rolled out that will improve upon what the company had previously, so this should satisfy my urge to check work email away from the office. The frequency at which I have been changing phones is alarming but I am hoping I can stay with the 5S for more than a year, and being in the honeymoon phase right now I feel that anything is possible.

My Berry Experience

By | April 12, 2013

BlackBerry LogoOver the last few years I have jumped around on my smart phones. My smartphone history has gone iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and then I went to Android with LG Optimus 2X, Samsung Galaxy SIIX and now the biggest shift of all: BlackBerry Z10.

On the “Legal in Thailand” ski trip in February Tyler was showing off his Z10 and something about it looked appealing. I kept thinking about the phone for a few weeks after the trip and realized that even if I was getting it for better integration with my work email I was not doing anything on Android that I could live without, and at the end of the day I would still have a highly functional smartphone.

Two months have passed and here are some thoughts on the Z10.

The BlackBerry World app store is limited, but it’s growing as the Z10 is released in new countries and it’s important to remember that even the Apple and Android stores had humble beginnings too. The Z10 is new so developers may not see much benefit in building an app for the platform but as the Q10 and other BBOS10 capable devices are released this year the market penetration may increase, and so would the number of apps that are available.

The apps that do exist, and ones I use often (Twitter, Facebook) are basic but they suffice. If there are any applications missing from the store I can visit the mobile version of that website and accomplish what I wanted. I find that I don’t use many apps on my phone but if something can’t be found in the store I can sideload the Android application on to my phone. This is probably the biggest benefit so far, I have my favorite Android apps but improved battery life and a solid user experience.

With Android I got so obsessed with the latest ROM build that I was constantly flashing versions, reading about Nightlies and waiting for Jelly Bean integration in to the build of Cyanogenmod I was using. I couldn’t sit still, I was always breaking and fixing the phone.

I would go back to the stock version of the ROM, find something I hated and switch, and then switch again. I wasn’t happy in a world of customized ROMs and I think a part of my desire to switch to the Z10 was to prevent myself from worrying about this. I could have gotten a phone Google supported and pushed latest system builds too but the temptation would have been there to try something different.

The Z10 is unique because it has no physical buttons and operates entirely on gestures. These gestures took a few days to get used to, and some of the gestures are hidden away you may end up discovering a new shortcut or feature months after use. I no longer think about which way to swipe when going from Hub to applications or opening and closing applications. It is a very solid experience and I am amazed how quickly I have gotten used to no physical navigation buttons on the phone.

The camera on the phone still leaves something to be desired but with a few software updates the potential of the camera may be unleashed. There are minor issues like screenshots appearing in the Pictures application of my Work profile (instead of in my Personal profile). During charging at night the screen will turn on momentarily after it has reached a full charge and will repeat this process while it charges and discharges. My annoyances are minor but I have faith they will be improved over time.

BlackBerry Z10 Text Ad

I enjoy being able to ‘lock’ my work email and calendar so I don’t see this work information when I view the Hub and any new messages I have. I would like to have more customization over notifications, perhaps able to control what color the LED is for which email account. There is an app that does this but for $3 and needing to have the application open and running in order to work seems a bit much. I can wait until the application is able to run in the background or until a BBOS10 update that does these features natively, for now I can survive.

For a new OS and hardware this is a very solid experience. The first Android and iPhone had room for improvement and I think BlackBerry has done a really good job with this release. I like the feeling of being on the ground floor, plus supporting a Canadian company, and I hope that the company can gain some credibility that it lost over the years. BlackBerry may never be able to compete with behemoths like Samsung as they push for larger displays and bells and whistles, but for a functional device that keeps me connected to home and work the BlackBerry fits the bill and I hope others see that too.

My Twenty Twelve in Numbers

By | January 1, 2013

Following in the footsteps of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 year in reviews I wanted to continue the year end ritual. I am surprised by how much has stayed consistent (top artists, quietest online search month) but there were a few new trends I didn’t expect.

Top 10 Google Queries
1. northlands park, edmonton
2. alberta downs race track, lacombe, ab
3. evergreen park, grande prairie
4. Rocky Mountain Turf Club, Lethbridge, Alberta
5. peggy’s footwerks
6. google analytics
7. peggysfootwerks
8. made in frame
9. peggys footwerks
10. peggy’sfootwerks

The top four results are work related for the Horse Racing Alberta website I managed. I have no idea why they were ranked so high amongst everything else. I also can’t explain why I needed to search for “northlands park, edmonton” as frequently as I did.

The rest of the search results were all related to a side business and seeing how high Peggy’s Footwerks was ranking on Google. In the end I was able to add the site to Google and have it hit on keywords so I no longer receive phone calls asking “why they can’t find the site in Google”.

I used my personal Gmail account to look at my Web History so the results are from searching while logged in with that account. My busiest month for searching was in August with 1,667 queries recorded, and my least active month was in June with 864. These numbers are up from last year but June returned as my least active search month, which is a bizarre trend.

Top 10 sites

Wikipedia dominates my top sites again. I honestly don’t think I go there that often but I guess every article about someone or something leads me to Wikipedia so I imagine that adds up over time. I like that Android sites appeared in this list, even though before September the notion of leaving iOS seemed crazy to me.

Top 10 Artists
1. Hans Zimmer (670 plays)
2. Ramin Djawadi (381 plays)
3. Howard Shore (285 plays)
4. Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard (259 plays)
5. Amanda Palmer (250 plays)
6. Daft Punk (240 plays)
7. The Throne (214 plays)
8. Bad Religion (204 plays)
9. Michael Giacchino (177 plays)
10. The White Stripes (166 plays)

With my move to TELUS I expected my play count to decrease and that definitely happened. Instead of listening to music four to six hours a day I averaged about an hour, and rather than having access to my entire music library I had to rely on what I brought with me that day (iPod Nano or iPod Classic). I wasn’t able to pick an artist at random or go on a musical adventure based on my mood. Last year my top ten artists all had over 300 plays and now there is a significant drop off.

Not unusual is that I have a lot of soundtrack influence in what I listen to but this year half half of artists doing a score for something I love (Batman, Lord of the Rings, Lost). I went back to Daft Punk this year but I think most of those plays were from the Tron Soundtrack but a healthy mix from Homework and Discovery too.

The biggest surprise is that White Stripes didn’t top the list. My love of the band hasn’t waned but I think the anticipation of Dark Knight Rises influenced what I listened to and I would opt for something from Hans Zimmer instead of a quick rock out session to White Blood Cells.

I listened to “Watch the Throne” a lot this year, but I’m surprised that Bad Religion got a same number of plays. I like them but didn’t think I sought out their music that much. Amanda Palmer’s “Theater is Evil” album is fantastic and for only being released in September is quickly made its way up my charts.

Top 10 Tracks
1. Hans Zimmer – A Storm Is Coming (42 plays)
2. Hans Zimmer – On Thin Ice (38 plays)
3. Hans Zimmer – Rise (35 plays)
3. Hans Zimmer – Imagine The Fire (35 plays)
3. Hans Zimmer – Born In Darkness (35 plays)
6. Hans Zimmer – Necessary Evil (34 plays)
6. Hans Zimmer – Why Do We Fall? (34 plays)
8. Hans Zimmer – Gotham’s Reckoning (33 plays)
8. Hans Zimmer – Nothing Out There (33 plays)
10. Hans Zimmer – Fear Will Find You (32 plays)
10. Hans Zimmer – Underground Army (32 plays)

There are 11 songs listed here because there were multiple songs tied for a spot. Last year “The Dark Knight” ruled my top plays, specifically the second disc of the soundtrack, and this year “The Dark Knight Rises” ruled supreme. I predicted this last year by saying:

Odds are good that next year Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard will lead the way with “The Dark Knight Rises”.

With regards to air travel 2011 was the lowest in recent years with a pretty painless extended weekend trip to San Diego amassing 3200 miles covered. I drove my VW Jetta TDI over 13,000 kilometers and filled up the vehicle 17 times (the same number last year). I have gone two calendar years in a row without completing a police report, and I received no speeding tickets or anything incriminating like that against me.

My decline in blogging continued this year, and I produced my lowest post count with 13. The Iceland posts were long but being wordy doesn’t make a different when I push the “Publish” button a bakers dozen times. I enjoy blogging when I have something to say but I find that I either have nothing to write or I just don’t have the time to sit and pour my thoughts into a post. I suspect 2013 will have a similar number of posts, but without a trip to Iceland to claim nearly half of my posts finding something to write about this year may be challenging.

My Twitter use has declined as well, going from 188 tweets in 2011 to 113 in 2012. I went from 41 posts on Tumblr down to one. There was a Facebook status update prior to our trip to Iceland, but that was the only one. I frequent these sites multiple times a day, enjoy browsing and catching up on what is new but I may forever be a lurker on them.

I like social networking but I also don’t want to bother people with hourly updates or useless tweets containing song lyrics or writing about how much food I ate. I think my decrease in Tweets was related to not posting every time I updated my Project 365. If people want to see the photos they know how to find them, and spamming them doesn’t do anything more than get a few more image views.

I sent roughly 407 emails from my and email accounts and 52 from my address. My and usage increased a bit compared to last year but dropped a bit. What I did write from was mostly Kijiji related, so maybe the shift is related to using Gmail for more communication.

I made one order with, two with, one with and none with Deal Extreme or

Rough calculations are that I took nearly 5,200 photos with my Canon 5D this year. There was a few week period where the camera was in for repair but any photos I took with the iPhone or backup Pentax Optio were inconsequential. 5,200 is fewer photos than I took last year (7,850) but there was no two week long vacation to soak up a thousand odd photos.

All in all 2011 seems pretty quiet. Even when we tell people what we were up to the usual answer is “house stuff”. You add in a few months of Ice Dragons summer hockey, a couple trips to the cabin at Lac la Biche and you have the year in review.

2011 is in the books, I have a few things I’m looking forward to in 2012 and I’m sure the numbers will reflect that (I predict exceeding 9,000 photos taken) but we’ll see how it all shakes down in 366 days.

My P90X Completion

By | December 28, 2012

P90X-logoFor the last three months I have been following the P90X routine. I was encouraged to try P90X by a friend but I waited until the summer hockey season was over before devoting waking up early to work out. Over the years I have had a fairly steady exercise routine but recently it has been streaky. Prior to starting at TELUS my mornings exercises were peaceful and not rushed, but with my commute to TELUS relying on buses I have a schedule to keep.

I was hitting a plateau and in a rut with what I was doing but I continued anyway. In May my routine went out the window with our trip to Iceland. When we came back in June I kept saying “I’ll start tomorrow” and then hockey season began and late nights followed by early mornings didn’t mix so the amount I worked out nose dived. Enter P90X in September and three months of 5AM wake ups, exercising on the weekend and following a program that beat me down every day.

P90X Header

At first the non weight days, the ones with Plymoetrics, Yoga and Kenpo were strange and foreign; but after a hard day of weights I looked forward to “taking it easy” as I used my body to punch, kick, jump and stretch.

The results of all of this? I think it was pretty awesome. Read further to see more details on my experience with P90X.

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My Year on Books

By | December 18, 2012

books in a stackFor Christmas last year I received a Kindle. My enthusiasm about reading was kick started largely because of the Song of Ice and Fire series. With a change in jobs and spending nearly two hours on the bus each day the Kindle got a lot more use in 2012 than I originally anticipated. Over the year I read some really good books, and some not so good ones.

With the help of I was able to keep track of what I read and what I wanted to read next. According to my stats I am on pace to read 35 books this year. Some were short (“The Stranger”, “Lord of the Flies”), some were graphic novels (“The Dark Knight Returns”) but for the most part they were fairly large reads that took me a few weeks to get through.


Some highlights included the Hunger Game series, Lord of the Rings trilogy and several books from the Orson Scott Card “Ender’s Game” universe. It was nice to settle into a few books and binge on them. The week and a half Jenna and I read the Hunger Game series together was compulsive and very fun. We kept pace with each other while reading and were able to look up and go “can you believe this happened?” to each other and keep on reading.

Michael Crichton CollectionGoing into this year I didn’t know what kind of books I liked. Growing up I read a lot of Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Chuck Palahniuk and that was it. If I hadn’t been introduced to the author through a movie adaptation of one of their other books I was probably not interested. Now, 12 months later I can safely say that I prefer science fiction/fantasy, but I went through a bit of a strange path to realize this.

Reading “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” was engaging but “Life of Pi” failed to earn accolades from me that others easily throw to the book. I also like single story books, which I contradict with A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings but I dropped “Oryx and Crake”, “Hyperion” and “Dark Tower” after the first book because of what laid ahead and how I felt about the first book. I should be a little more lenient on this rule because I know I am missing out on some epic fantasy sagas (ie: The Wheel of Time) but multiple books, let alone something that you need three hands to count the number in a series, may be a little too ambitious for me.

Throughout the year I kept thinking about “Ender’s Game”. I enjoyed “Ender’s Shadow”, and to an extent “Speaker of the Dead”, but “Ender’s Game” was something else. The story, the world and the characters were captivating and the book just made me happy. I didn’t expect a book like that to stick with him for this long and it’s surprises like that which make reading a book you have no knowledge of beforehand kind of fun.

Speaking of characters JK Rowling’s characters in “A Casual Vacancy” were amazing. Each character had a unique voice in their chapter and some were so flawed that you became upset at their actions, or lack thereof. Rowling has a way of writing a world that you feel like you’re witnessing as a passer-by on the street and I hope she continues to release more books like this at her own pace.

A Storm of Swords - Cropped CoverI am finishing the year the same way I started it: reading a book from A Song of Ice and Fire by re-reading “A Storm of Swords”. I will continue to read in 2013, perhaps explore some books on my “to read” shelf and maybe start on some larger fantasy series.

My Time on Madison Avenue

By | November 6, 2012

My name is Sean and I am addicted to Mad Men. Over the last few months we have consumed all five seasons of Mad Men and am now going through withdrawals in search of my next hit.

We started watching Mad Men earlier this year but after the first three episodes failed to hook us in we dropped it and moved on. We started watching a bit of Sons of Anarchy and Louie, but we didn’t feel that compulsion to binge on either. I suggested to Jenna we try giving Mad Men one more chance and the rest is history.

The show takes several episodes to get into it but when it starts rolling you are consumed by complex characters and beautiful stories all set against the backdrop of the 1960’s. I can’t describe what makes this show so good other than the brilliant characters. The show is definitely character driven and there is a reason why it won an Emmy for Best Drama series in its first four seasons. Nothing is blatantly spelled out for the viewer and you can interpret someone’s actions based on what you know about their life and decide if what they did was good or bad.

There are no heroes or villains but there are characters I really like and others I am put off by. Everyone is flawed and everyone is looking for validation. In any given episode you can see redemption for a character or something that makes you wonder why you liked them in the first place. One of the characters I like is manipulative and a little sleazy but there is something about his ambition and drive that I enjoy.

I feel that watching this show week to week would be frustrating because of the slow paced nature of events. A fallout from an action may not come to a head in a single episode, and it could be weeks for repercussions to be felt. However, story threads do come back and even if it isn’t mentioned for a season or more it isn’t forgotten. A single episode immediately leaves you thinking “that’s it?” but then you take a moment to reflect on where the episode began and realize how much ground you covered with everyone and are impressed that it all fit into a single episode. This satisfaction in each episode is what makes it so enjoyable watching a few episodes back to back, and after a few days you have gone through an entire season and are onto the next.

Mad Men isn’t a high paced show with twists and turns in every episode. It is a slow building drive that waits for you to become invested in the characters and takes you on a fantastic trip as you go in and out of their lives.

It was a fun ride and so begins the wait until 2013 for another season to start.

My Little Slice of Death

By | October 31, 2012

Last night a commercial was on TV with a Pizza Hut delivery car at one end of the street and a hot dog vendor at the other. The vendors cart lets loose and started to speed down the side walk. People jump out of the way and at this point I start to leave the room. The food cart slammed into the delivery car and the voice over said these magical words: “hot dog stuffed crust pizza”. I reversed into the room to see the money shot of a hot dog rolled inside the crust of pizza and slowly picked my jaw up off the floor.

A hot dog inside a pizza!?

Apparently this one-two punch of a pizza is only available until November 25 and with my love of hot dogs and pizzas this may be something I try in the next few weeks. I have had hot dogs on top of pizza () before but never thought I would see a day where the hot dog was anything more than a topping.

After the KFC Double Down () and numerous McRib runs () I think my body has been preparing for such a pizza for a long time.

My Age Milestone

By | October 29, 2012

I don’t feel older but I’m officially 30. I have a hard time describing what this age milestone means to me. A part of me doesn’t feel 30 mostly because I thought things would be different, like suddenly you reach that age and things change.

I probably felt the same way about turning 18 or 21, but 30 has distinction. It has maturity. It has responsibility. It is halfway to 60 and the beginning of the roller coaster to becoming an old man.

I’m not disappointed or have regrets with the last three decades but I just thought 30 would be a little more special or a little more of a personal and career milestone. I think the truth I’m realizing is that you won’t have everything figured out at 30, and just because you turned another year older you don’t receive a pamphlet on how to deal with “the rest of your life”. I’m not sure where I’ll be at 40, let alone 35, and I was always under the impression that when you hit 30 you could answer those questions.

Here is to turning another year older, trying to find my place in the world and pretending like I know what I’m doing and having it all figured out.