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Denver to Vancouver

We knew we had to move away from the US and don’t regret it now seeing the country deteriorate. Healthcare was the main reason seeing what Mr Trump is doing I expect access to services would have seriously been affected, not that I could afford anything under the ACA either.

So off we jolly well went back to wonderful Vancouver, Canada – however, this move was more stressful than others on a number of fronts.

Driving from Denver into Canada was amazing, going through areas I have never seen before.  We took our time but it was worth it.  The first piece of bad luck came when my iPhone decided to do a kamikaze impersonation out of the car window off a cliff.  It was clear there would be no recovery so I deleted the data from it remotely, luckily I am completely anal about backing up.  So I was without a phone for a while until the insurance paid for a new one.

Upon crossing the border we had to “export” our car. At this point the US immigration officer decided that he would shout, talk down to me and basically lie about legislation that I was totally up to date with. I didn’t say that my husband had previously worked for US immigration or I had got advice from one of the top immigration lawyers in the US before departing. So, I just stood there, let him think he was putting me down, and of course remained enthusiastically cooperating all the way. He wanted me to give up my US permanent residency card which I was extremely happy to do.  Eventually they warmed to me and I made them laugh making them feel good they had got rid of another immigrant out of their country. Maybe they were super stressed out given the political environment they have to work in but did notice there was no picture of Trump in their facility, unusual for a US government office – so they couldn’t have been all that bad. We arrived in Canada and the staff there were amazing.

Our first week in Canada we stayed near Crescent Beach, near White Rock, oh that was totally wonderful and relaxing; the perfect place to detox from the US. We quickly found a rental in Coquitlam which was a little stressful but considered ourself really lucky to find an affordable and convenient place in a very rough market.  We stayed in Coquitlam for about 3 months while we looked for a place to buy.  We certainly saw some “interesting” places that were really not fit to live in and expensive at the same time.  We did find a lovely apartment in an estate that is extremely difficult to get in, but we did have to view and put in an offer the same day.  The process was slightly difficult as the sellers agent was totally out with the fairies, so basically some of the work was done directly with the seller who was lovely.

The most stressful experience was when the moving company in Denver “dropped” one of the four containers destroying many of the items we owned, in particular our furniture. They tried to hide the fact they did it and blame the drivers company. They also stole some items from us. We are dealing with the Canadian company to go through the insurance process but I will be naming the Denver company soon as I don’t want others to experience the same criminal behaviour. Reading through feedback on the company and connecting with others this has been happening for many years and has to stop.

So we are in mid-October coming to the end of our settling in process and looking forward to easier times.

By | October 14th, 2017|Canada, Denver, Uncategorized, USA, Vancouver|0 Comments

Action Comics 987

Due to personal circumstances I haven’t been keeping up with my comic book reading for a while but given what I heard about Superman issue 987 I fast forwarded to check this issue out.  It was released on 13 September 2017.

More about the comic book here on the DC Comics website.

== SPOILER ALERT ==

The Story

Along comes the mysterious Oz, who was introduced into the DC universe 3 years ago, who goes on the assumption that no one appreciates Superman and what he has achieved for the Earth so he is out to prove that fact. Chaos starts to rein across the planet with a multitude of events that even Superman cannot cope with, too many at any given time. Superman becomes exasperated with people and Oz has one simple answer, see preview graphic below, this just sums up what I feel about the US right now, couldn’t have put it better. The cliffhanger of the story is draw dropping, which for obvious reasons I won’t go into here.

Superman

About the Writer

Dan Jurgens is a writer and artist who has mainly worked with DC for many years, with exception to a few with other suppliers.  He made his comic book debut with Sun Devils in 1984. Since then he has had a steady stream of work, some of them prominent in nature.

Even though I was lot with the story line a little as I hadn’t read previous issues much the writing in 987 was very good indeed.  Obviously done with someone with many years of experience.

Review

The comic has been slightly controversial in the way that it is a little political in nature. Some people want politics out of comics but I believe the whole point of art is to be controversial and communication going on these topics. One of the issues it tackles is immigration, a hot bed issue given what the US Trump administration is doing at the moment with DACA, the right wing media is not impressed with how white supremacists are being portrayed. Too bad I say.

Apart from the politics the story is one of the best I have seen in a Superman comic for many years. I am sure it will create a huge impact if not for the politics but for the revelation of who Oz is. Action Comics 987 has already sold out, if you do happen to see one pick one up!

Score: 10/10

By | September 17th, 2017|Comics|0 Comments

Shirtless Bear Fighter

Shirtless Bear FighterWARNING: this article might contain spoilers, go on at your own risk.

Once again I am well behind reviewing comics but after reading this if you are tempted to purchase it I’m sure you can do so online if not at you marvellous local comic store.

The comic is by Image Comics and rated M for mature, I can see why it got that rating. The main character is actually naked but the artist has pixelated his private parts, which is hilarious.

Synopsis

Large bears are terrorising the city and the only one who can help is Shirtless Bear Fighter. One problem, Shitless is in the middle of the woods wanting to be left alone and not wanting to help society. What can the authorities do to tempt him to help, especially when he’s not interested in money? Who has control of the Bears that is terrorising the city? If Shirtless is persuaded to help can he really defeat the Bears?

It is also Image Comics 25th Anniversary and the cover is stamped with that logo.

Artwork

Michael Spicer provides the art for this comic as the penciller, inker and colorist. He does a very decent job and the characters have a kind of comical slants to them, humans and animals are all created very well.

Michael’s work goes back a long way, his first work I can find was in 1977 for 2000AD. You can view his portfolio on SpicerColor.

Storyline

Jody Leheup and Sebastian Girner wrote the story and did an awesome job. Very unique story line with humour and drama all packaged nicely. They covered a lot of ground in this 1st issue and it all flowed quite nicely.

Jody also has a well established career as far back as 1977 for 2000AD as well, you can follow him on Twitter.

Sebastian is a comic editor and writer again with an impressive career including Southern Bastards, Deadpool, Black Panther, Punisher MAX and many many more. He has a portfolio website and twitter account.

Summary

Comic is an absolute hoot, very amusing overall and I would absolutely buy the rest of the series. I wonder if there is a non-pixelated version of this comic? So if the comic is up your street go track it down.  I believe the digital version of the 1st issue is $2 cheaper than the print copy, note there have been three other editions of the comic (2nd printing, Cover B and Cover C).

By | August 28th, 2017|Comics|0 Comments

Review of Web Hosts

I have used several web hosts in the my time, for myself or with clients, so thought I would review my latest experiences with them.  Note, that I have only used shared hosting with these companies, I expect clients who are on sexier platforms will receive better experiences.

1and1.co.uk

This is the first web host I ever had and I am still with them. The only issue I have with this company is at the shared host level they appear to do their own thing, not going with a cPanel or Plesk type environment.  You have to kind of figure our their setup to get online, this might suit many people.  I had three sub-accounts with them and jumping from one to another was a big issue, never seemed to work properly.

On the plus side the customer support appears to be the best I have experienced.  I rarely had to contact the company for any issues.  If I remember correctly I only called them twice in many many years and mostly with minor billing issues.

Hostgator

The biggest issue I had with this company was downtime.  I get the odd outage now and again but a couple of years ago they had massive problems.  I also had a big argument with them regarding renewal of a domain for which their payment system didn’t correctly take, there was a continuous barrage of rude messages from them until one day a manager saw the light and resolved everything, with an apology.

Generally though they have been perfectly ok. I am happy with the plan although it their basic business shared hosting are mainly for hobbyists not for small companies.

Bluehost

I have one client on Bluehost and generally had poor experiences with them.  Every time I have called support, and waiting for 45 minutes for them to pick up, I get an agent who appears to be half asleep or offensively rude.  They are on a cPanel setup and if you know what you are a fairly advanced techie you might be ok but this company is certainly down the bottom of the list.  Note that both Hostgator and Bluehost have the same parent which has a particularly bad reputation.

GoDaddy

Response times in picking up calls are much quicker than any of the other hosts mentioned here.  Often we have spoken to an agent within 2 minutes.  Customer support can be hit and miss generally down to the person who you end up getting – most have been fine, now and again you get a miserable old wotsit in which case you have to call back again to get a kinder person.  The main problem with this host has been WordPress reliability, many sites being extremely slow and un-responsive, this seems to have improved a little during the 2nd quarter of 2017.

Enom

Ok, I will hit the plus points first.  Infrastructure is good.  That’s it.

This is probably the worst hosting company I have had the dis-pleasure to work with, almost as bad as US healthcare. Takes 2 months to reply to a ticket, waiting on the phone for ages to speak to an agent, rude agents, never get a clear answer, un-trained agents, get wrong answers so serious it has broken our websites, over-pricing on certain items (although hosting is reasonable), and no live chat support.  Even the company has recognized they have bad support but frankly I have seen them do little to improve it.  They need to turn themselves around, and blooming fast.  Quite frankly I wish I never head or done any business with this company, the are so much in dire straits.

Summary

So the two companies here to totally avoid is Enom and Bluehost from the experiences I have had.  Most of the others are ok but its been kind of hit and miss.  I haven’t put links to any of their websites in this post as I don’t want to give them free promotion, I wouldn’t really recommend any of them as I think potential buyers just need to do their own research which I encourage.

By | August 22nd, 2017|Customer Service, Technology|0 Comments

Fake News

Fake TrumpOne of the most boring repetitive phrases to come out of Donald Trump’s mouth is his fixation on “Fake News”. So, I am going to look at this from the perspective of having worked in a Press Office before.

Why does Donald Trump keep on and on about “Fake News”? I have seen all kinds of reasons and agree with some of them:

  • He acts like a dictator
  • He is a bully
  • He does it to cause drama
  • He does it so the media will talk about him, good or bad
  • He has always called media fake for 20+ years
  • He thinks he is perfect and doesn’t want publicity to say otherwise
  • He is completely psychopathic that he has even been his own spokesperson under a fake name

If he wants to rant on and on about this as a private citizen, well, he is welcome to do so and I am more than happy to turn it off.  In a government setting its a whole different story.

I believe Trump should have his complete focus on his job and not be side-tracked by making his so-called Presidency a reality TV Show where long suffering US residents and citizens are characters. His “Presidency” is at the expense of others and the people must ensure their bucks are spent wisely, even down to making obscure and vulgar statements over Twitter, constantly.  Does he not think the American public are intelligent enough to make up their own mind about the authenticity of press articles?

So, the role of a Press Office is to manage that relationship between the government and the media.  In my time I have seen the media release stories before the embargo date/time, not accurately tell a story, sensationalize a story, give out the wrong information, and much more.  Press absolutely should have freedom of access to information through on-the-record and un-attributable (off-the-record) briefings but if that trust is broken then its expected that some kind of punishment is due.  Don’t forget complaining is a two way street, the media should be able to complain about a Press Office too.

Press Offices can enact different kinds of punishment, for example, take them out of the media pool, not invite them to off-the-record briefings for a while, ban certain journalists if they go completely over the top.  However there should be channels to do this through in a structured way.

Donald Trump becoming involved in this process means:

  • Going it alone means no joined up or coordinated approach in managing the media
  • He often says off-the-way remarks that are not consistent with the overall government message making the Republicans seem dis-organised and not on the same page
  • He doesn’t trust the staff he hires to do the job properly, not sure why he hired them in the first place
  • The signs of a bad manager not effectively delegating to staff

If Trump was really serious about the media being fake then he would create a press complaints commission to deal with those issues.  This commission would be for the people, not the “President”. As I said its a waste of the people’s time for him to be dealing with this rubbish.

So, basically Mr Trump, shut up. You are the one who is fake.

By | August 22nd, 2017|USA|0 Comments

Broken Links

Companies and organisations do not pay enough attention to broken links on their site and that completely befuddles me. I will do a broken link check on random sites now and again to see if they really pay attention to these important issues, once site I visited today had hundreds of issues, I would find that personally frightening prospect to deal with.

What is a Broken Link?

Simply it is a hyperlink within your website that will no longer go to the place where you want it to go, it can be an internal or external page.  If a company is managing their website properly there should be a limited amount of these happening but unfortunately they do happen.  External links might break more often as you don’t have any control over another resource.

A broken link causes an Error 404, a list of all the http status codes can be found in many places across the web such as this one. It is very important that you set up a templated page for all your Error 404’s to be redirected to, this is usually called 404.html or can be set up differently in content management systems.  An Error 404 page will generally include useful information to easily direct to the content they are trying to find, however, you should never rely on this and must check your broken links regularly. Search online for inspiration, 404 pages can be an art form all of its own.

Broken Links Can Be Harmful, Why?

If you go to a website and a link is not working, redirects you to a 404 page, it is the most annoying thing if you are looking for information quickly.  For example:

  1. Link doesn’t work, redirected to 404 page.
  2. Try to figure out from the 404 page how to search for content you are looking for.
  3. Search for the content and then have to sift through the results to find the correct information.

By this point a user will be fed up and go elsewhere.  In other words your site will loose visitors/clients/customers and that could equate to LOST INCOME – yes, hopefully you are now scared enough to do some broken link checking.

It can harm search engine optimisation.  When Google tries to index your site it will be stopped in its track and won’t be able to go any further, meaning your site is only partially searchable by those going to search engines.

How to Deal with Broken Links?

Personally I will run a broken link checker across the site at least once a week but this depends on the size of your site.  If your content changes frequently, several times a day then you need to be a judge how often is right for your company.

So you have found broken links and now what do you do to them.  On the basic level:

  1. Has the page that the link goes to come down, if so why, maybe it needs to be reinstated.
  2. A devolved editor may have updated the content without considering the impact to other pages. It could be the case you need to find out who the subject matter expert is and check/approve new wording/linkage.
  3. Fix the broken link and of course TEST TEST TEST.  Never launch to a live site unless you have ensured the updated page/link works.

Some broken links can be very easy to deal with but others might require some research and communication with colleagues.

External broken links can be a little bit more complex.  Many a time I have linked to someone else’s profile on an organisations website, well, people leave and move on to pastures new, so a broken link occurs. That organisation will not tell you of the page coming down, you find out via a broken links report.  So, again, depending on the content on your site you may have to do some research, update the page via the content owner/subject matter expert, test and make live. You may wish to create a workflow for approving modified content in your organisation as certain people need to sign off and manage pages specific to their needs.

One option for fixing a broken link is to place a redirect, and there are different types that you may use. Go to moz.com for some practical guidance on using these.

Broken Link Tools

There are a number of tools to perform broken links testing page by page or across an entire site.  Many tools will also check for broken images.  The following are two to consider but I recommend doing your own research for software that meets your needs.

I personally use Integrity, its a one time charge, the software isn’t fancy looking but it is fantastic for my needs – I need practical not pretty.

Good luck with your Broken Links checking!

By | August 8th, 2017|Technology|0 Comments

New Domain and Spam

I recently bought a new domain from my provider and experienced something I never have before…a ton of spam.

It was interesting that within minutes of purchasing the new domain I started to receive messages, such as:

  • I can design your website
  • I can create the graphics
  • I am the only person who can drive up SEO
  • Your domain is expiring and must renew now
  • I have a business venture you must give me thousands of dollars for
  • Learn how to win over the women the Donald Trump style (yes, really)

I have quite a lot of domains and never had any experience like this. I only have one domain that is locked out from people seeing my details and I bought that within the last year.  I hear that many users of the Avada WordPress theme also get a lot of hacking attempts and spam as well.  I have heard of several issues in the past week where those who have installed a new WordPress program were hacked within 30 minutes.

Well, it got me to review the security on my website and put in more safeguards. One of the tools which I have never heard of, because I must have been on another planet, is Wordfence.  Initial installation and scans appear to have worked well so just have to see how that goes.  On some other sites I have create for clients, who have many people registering and logging in for forums and blog responses, I have put in a separate program.

The only issue I have with these programs is the speed to which WordPress runs and the amount of memory it utilises.  WordPress gets very upset if you install too many plugins plus bells and whistles.  It’s worth checking how much memory these plugins take up and review if this will be go over any limitation your hosting company has set.  If you are using WordPress for a blog or for a hobby I suspect you are going to be ok but more sophisticated websites will need to be planned out from a server perspective.

So, hopefully, after installing all this security my site will still be online tomorrow!!

By | July 31st, 2017|Technology|0 Comments

Great Canadian Products Part Three Purdys

One of the toughest things to find in the US is good quality chocolate and returning to Canada means I have access to higher quality products.

US “off-the-supermarket-shelf” chocolate tastes like chemicals, I suspect this is because of the vast distances it has to travel in its distribution chain and the weather conditions it has to endure, oh and of course maximises profit for the company vs producing quality products.  I was part of the “Boycott Hershey’s” campaign because the company banned UK produced Cadbury’s entering the country where it had the rights to produce its own version of the product in the US, which was inferior – I felt that all the good chocolate was disappearing from the US.

PurdysOne company I missed, and pleased to return to now we are back in Canada, is Purdys.  The company was founded in 1907 with its headquarters in Vancouver but has recently been expanding to other parts of the country, more details about its history here. They are celebrating their 110th anniversary this year.

Purdys reminds me a little bit of Thornton’s in the UK, a chain focused on quality but also selling very unique products.  For example, Purdys produces a range of Chinese New Year orientated goods that we would buy up and send to all our friends overseas. These products have become a tradition and if they stopped doing them there would probably be an outcry.  But Purdys is very clever at judging what the market wants and producing fun products, similar to the Canadian Mint who have a wild imagination in producing unique items you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world.

What does Purdys mean to me? Well, the products remind me of Belgian chocolate, the same quality and taste I would expect by walking into a chocolatier in Bruge or Brussels – not forgetting that every other shop either sells beer or chocolate over there so its very competitive.  Also, Purdys reminds me of how chocolate used to be before it became mass market, do a taste test of Purdys vs Hershey’s and you can tell there is a world of difference, no comparison really.  Also, going into a Purdys store is like visiting to your local pub, or coffee shop, often the people who work in them live locally, at least the ones I have been in, and it feels community based – I hope the company are able to keep that feel/branding and should be in their strategic plan/goals.  What an amazing job it would be to work in one of those stores, Purdys is not the tax man, and chocolate will always put smiles on people’s faces.

My favourite item in Purdys? Milk Chocolate Coffee Cremes.  They remind me of a similar product I would buy once a week in London as a treat in the late 1970s.  Can’t remember the name of the store now but it was off Piccadilly Circus. Its funny how taste brings back memories.  If you haven’t been to Purdys yet give them a try.

By | July 18th, 2017|Canada, Food|0 Comments

Great Canadian Products Part Two Old Dutch

This is part two of reviewing iconic Canadian companies I have missed since being out of the country for almost three years.

Next on my list is Old Dutch who produce a range of crisps, or chips as North American’s like to call them. Our go-to chips in the US were Utz Snacks but here its Old Dutch.  I don’t eat a lot of crisps but these are actually pretty good for a treat now and again, for me.

Looking into the background of the company I thought they were exclusively Canadian since I have never seen their products anywhere else but the also have a mid-western market in the United States.  More information on their history can be found on this Wikidpedia page.

We found small packets of Tomato Ketchup flavour of Old Dutch which is what I am reviewing here.

Old Dutch KetchupReview Date: 14 July 2017
Purchase Price: CDN $1.00 (two for a dollar in Dollorama)
Quantity: 40g each packet

Note I normally have their plain flavoured crisps which are awesome but these were a little different.

Characteristics and feedback:

  • Light
  • Soft crunch
  • Not filling and didn’t bloat me
  • A little bit more salt than I care for, I prefer sodium free which is always near impossible to find in North America (yes, I have boring tastes)
  • The tomato ketchup flavour was completely over-powering, it was like a huge mega-bomb of nuclear proportions going off in your mouth.  It was so much I could only eat 1/4 of the bag, which is only 10g.  The husband tried them too and agreed the flavour was “intense”.  Having said that I suspect this will please the majority rather than the minority like me.
  • We gave the 2nd bag away to a friend, actually taking to our friends in the US to see how they like them.

I will of course continue to buy the plain flavour but unlikely the tomato ketchup one.

Old Dutch on Social Media:

By | July 17th, 2017|Canada, Food|0 Comments

Great Canadian Products Part One Chapmans

For the three years we were away from Canada I missed certain products that you cannot obtain anywhere else or are is very hard to find.  One of those products was Chapman’s.

Chapman’s makes a huge range of products including Yogurt and Sorbet but I am reviewing their French Vanilla.  They are supposed to be the largest ice cream manufacturers in Canada.  Among its inventory of products are also gluten and peanut free ranges.  It sounds as though their standards are pretty high and I feel this is reflected in their products (and price).  French Vanilla is my favourite in their line so you know its going to be positive review.

Review Date: 15 July 2017
Purchase Price: CDN $7.99
Quantity: 2 Litres

Chapman's Ice CreamI am not a big eater of ice cream, and I only usually eat Vanilla, but Chapman’s is one of those brands that seems to be above the rest which my taste buds go into an orgy of excitement, and I am a pretty fussy/particular eater.

Characteristics of Chapman’s:

  • Creamy
  • Not too sweet
  • A light ice cream rather than dense, don’t have to use muscle to dig it out
  • Great after-taste profile
  • Not too filling, doesn’t weigh you down or make you bloated
  • Probably not for lactose intolerant clients, I do have some after-effects now and again
  • I wouldn’t want to put anything on it like chocolate chips or sauce as the product stands on its own pretty well

I tried not to look at the nutritional information on the back but decided I would be brave for this review. One serving is 1/2 cup total 160 calories and 1% sodium.  Oh, I can live with that.

I would unlikely have Chapman’s in my freezer all the time otherwise I would just keep stuffing myself with it which wouldn’t be good for my figure at all.  However, it is a great treat now and again, especially when it goes on sale as the price is beyond what I would normally pay for this type of product.

Follow Chapman’s on social media:

By | July 15th, 2017|Canada, Food|0 Comments