Play pinball like it’s 1978 with the new Kiss game | Ars Technica

Stern Pinball brings back the iconic band for another round with the silver ball.

Source: Play pinball like it’s 1978 with the new Kiss game | Ars Technica

I was never into games, or pinball, when I was a kid, but I was really into Kiss, and on my list of regrets is not buying the original Kiss pinball machine when I saw it in a junk shop in Richmond, VA in the early 90s.

Now new versions are coming out. Priced at a ridiculous level that only Gene Simmons could think of, they will milk the Kiss fans of the 70s who now populate Silicon Valley.



My Improvised Life – Toastmasters Speech #4

When I was 13 I entered high school. In my part of Canada we didn’t have junior high school, so we went from elementary school to high school. My high school had a fantastic music program and at 13 I was starting to get serious about music. On my first few days at the school I heard the incredible big band we had and I knew i had to be a part of it. I would need to audition to get in of course. So I spent 4 months locked in my bedroom immersing myself in a music that would change not just the way I played  but I believe it changed the way my brain is wired and how I look on life.
That music was Jazz.
When I say Jazz it frightens a lot of people. They often think they don’t like it. But most of all, I think they don’t understand it. I can’t possibly convince you in 5 minutes about the history and merits of Jazz as a music. But I can relate how Jazz has changed me.
The foundation of Jazz is improvisation. I believe this is the key difference between it and classical music. In classical music you have a ‘score’. It will tell you exactly how to reproduce that piece of music. In Jazz you don’t have a score. You have a ‘chart’. Like on a ship. The chart in Jazz is a guide to the basic features of the piece of music. It might detail the simplified version of the chords or melody. But just like sailing a ship, as a Jazz musician your goal is to find your own way, using that chart as a guide.
Of course, you can’t just jump in and start playing whatever you like.
I liken playing music to cooking.
Music is a broad term. Like ‘food’. Jazz music is also a broad term. Like ‘japanese food’. Is it ramen? Sushi? Is it Gyutan? Jazz also has as many flavours. But at the center of all of them – like cooking – is the understanding of the rules. The rules of combining certain flavours together. It’s the skill of being able to open the refrigerator and knowing how to combine whatever is there into a great meal.
You have to follow your own taste. Some like it spicy, some like it smooth.
And this idea of improvisation, of taking what life gives you as a chart to be interpreted and not a score to be strictly followed, that has affected me most. I took the skills that I learned as a musician, a software developer, a writer and a filmmaker and combined them and applied them in a way that suited my taste.
It led me around the world.
But perhaps a problem with Jazz is that, because it is so dependent on personal taste, measuring success is difficult. You can’t look outside, to the world at large and say “is this good music”. And I think the same is true of life. You should not measure the success of your life by outside metrics. When playing music, at the end of the night you have to look back and say “I played well” or “I could have done better”. I think life’s a little bit like that, whether you believe it now or not.
When I was 16 I started a jazz sextet with 5 of my fellow musicians from the big band. All of us loved Jazz. And all of us took to the concept of an improvised life.
30 years later, from those 5 people, one is a university music instructor, another is involved in Canadian wildlife conservation in British Columbia, another is an Engineer and another is the senior political editor of Canada’s largest national news magazine.
Jazz of course is not responsible for all of our career paths, but, I believe that this rewiring of our brains that a dedication to jazz at an early age accomplished let each of us see how to apply the rules we learned and to combine them and interpret them into a life that was made from our own tastes.
So, my fellow toastmasters, I cannot convince you to go home and listen to Charlie Parker or Miles Davis, but, I hope I can send you on your way with a fresh look at how to interpret the chart of your life.

The state of Canadian race mentality

Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and to destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out.
Pierre Burton

I never, ever thought that I would be in a position to write such a post as this. I am, after all, on what is normally the privileged end of the equation – white male, successful, English speaking, Canadian born. ie. safe, boring and probably as close to the definition of a white bread male as you can get.

As some of you may know I run – Canada’s leading lottery results website. But I also have a company based in Hong Kong. I use this company for various and sundry computer consulting tasks – one of which is sending out the daily emails to thousands of LotteryCanada subscribers.

All seemed normal, until I got this email yesterday (from someone who proudly calls themselves ‘X X’):

Your office is in Hong Kong – what business do you have listing yourselves as Lottery Canada


I see. Canada, the home to the cultural mosaic, the birthplace of the League of Nations ideal. And I am a Canadian.

I thought maybe X was wrapped up in this whole ‘my god everything comes from China’ thing. So I thought I would reply:

Normally I wouldn’t answer an email like this, but, for what it is worth LotteryCanada was started 12 years ago in Canada by two born and raised Canadians (white, English speaking Canadians, if you must make a distinction) – I am one of them! For all of this time we have been offering the most comprehensive lottery results service for Canadians. Free of charge, I might add.

The fact that 5 years ago I moved to Asia and have started using my own company (100% Canadian owned!) to provide auxiliary information services (mailing, etc) to Lottery Canada does not change the fact that we are Canadians, our staff are Canadians and of our half million monthly readers 95% are living in Canada.

If you wish to live in an all Canadian island I salute you, but also note that you will find it impossible to buy groceries, clothe yourself, drive a car or do pretty much anything else.

Ok – I was in a mood last night, so I sent the email. I know, never get involved in a flame war with a raving nut job, but, I did.

Here is X’s response:

Really, I’ve been alive 60 years and as I recall Canadians did just fine before foreign trade flooded our market with cheap, counterfeit products. orientals cheat lie and steal…. consider Tibet – chinese swarmed in killed the monks and overwhelmed the country. This is happening right now in Vancouver – a big slow ugly infestation. Oh and why does your site not say it’s already in china – huh! What a phony you are.

No way I’ll ever do business with you – or ever visit your site. I don’t buy anything sourced or fouled by orientals. Look what you’ve all done to your air – disgusting! You cannot be trusted.

so take your indignation and shove it!

X clearly missed the salient points of my email

  • I am not oriental. Stop saying ‘you’.
  • Canada has forever been a welcomer of foreigners and indeed was built by them! (CP Rail anyone?!)
  • How many Canadian-grown oranges have you eaten in your life?


  • Not all products from Asia are cheap and counterfeit. Ironically, I would imagine that whatever device this flag waving ignoramus is using to write his manifestos if probably made there! He should quickly throw it away.
  • I don’t think Orientals (really? we still use that word?!) cheat and lie to a higher degree than anyone else.
  • Yes, Chinese politics is a not nice thing. Nothing like Stephen Harper.
  • I don’t really think that what is happening in Vancouver can be compared to Tibet!
  • ‘Fouled by orientals’. sigh

I see no point in replying to this racist old bastard.

But I am saddened to get this kind of thing from my homeland – the nation that prides itself as being kinder and gentler. A nation where everyone gets to keep their identity and their language and if they are lucky even gets streets signs in their language!

I don’t know much about ‘X X’ – apart from the fact that he is 60 and lives in BC. Maybe he’s not even a ‘he’. But I feel sorry for him. And for Canada.


Death By Perfection


Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.
Salvador Dali

Perfection is one of the great things about Japan. Its something that, as a foreigner here I really admire. But, perfection is also stifling the Japanese.

Not Everything Can Be Done Perfectly

One of the great things about Japanese culture is the survival of the apprentice system. Young – and not so young – people still have to work up through the ranks under a ‘master’. This is true in traditional arts and crafts and traditional culinary techniques but also in more modern pursuits like some aspects of construction, and even some of the fast food chains employ this idea (especially ‘fast food’ ramen restaurants).

And in these cases perfection is, if not attainable, certainly worth striving for.

When I go to lunch I know that the food will taste great (has anyone ever had a bad meal in Japan??!) and be wonderfully presented. Each dish will be presented as it was intended. A uniformity will come through that has been evolved over time.


But, not everything can be done perfectly. And not everyone can do everything perfectly.

There is such a high expectation here that it is literally killing some people. I believe that a certain percentage of the high suicide rate can be attributed to this striving for perfection.

If you are failing your tests in school, you are not perfect. If you are not perfect in high school your chances of employment or getting into college greatly narrow.

If you are not outperforming at your job, you are not perfect.

If you are not working as much and as long as the company asks, you are not perfect.

I don’t have kids, nor did I go to school here, so I haven’t experienced the first point, and I don’t work in a Japanese company, so I don’t personally experience the others. But certainly people are killing themselves here because of these perceived failings.

 No one speaks English perfect(ly)

Where I have experienced it is in the Japanese reluctance to speak English. Most or at least many Japanese study English for years both in high school and in cram schools. But they are told not to speak it until they learn it perfectly. I mean, the teacher literally said that!

The flaw in the logic is that no one speaks English perfectly. And there are many kinds of English. From American to Canadian to British to Jamaican to Indian, there are many native English speakers.

Which of these is the bar to hold yourself to?

And then you look at all the people who speak English as a second language! There are more people in China speaking English than in Canada. Think about THAT for a minute!

So the Japanese remain terrified of making a mistake.

And how does this relate to business?

There is no way to start or run a business perfectly. The best businesses try and fail. The best creators of anything try and fail. And fail many more times than they succeed. But they don’t stop, go and sit in a cave until they have perfected something and then come out. Because in business we will never be perfect without including the customer in the loop. It is literally impossible. And always has been.

That is why I am surprised at people who think concepts like the Lean Startup are something new. They are not. They may be newly worded or detailed but it has always been our job as commercial creators of anything to find out what the customer wants and make sure we deliver.

Fail fast, fail often

In business, in language, in life, keep failing until you find the thing that works. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes and move on. I’m not saying anything new here. You’ve heard it before. But maybe you need to keep hearing it! I know I do.


Top 5 Ways to Be Mediocre

Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them.
Joseph Heller

I’m tired of trying to be exceptional. Let’s face it. I am mediocre. But, since I always strive to be good at something, I want to be the best mediocre person I can be.
Here is my list on how I plan to do that.

Be Realistic

Don’t try and change reality. The only way to separate cotton is by hand[1]. The best light is oil lamp. No, candle light. No, burning embers.

Be Jealous

Spend your time and energy thinking about what others have or what others did to you. Bonus points if the person you are jealous of really doesn’t have anything anyway (like celebrity from reality tv shows!).


Don’t do. You get a bonus with this one – at the end of your life, if you’ve spent enough time thinking and not doing, you’ll have a long list of things you can tell people ‘If I’d only…’.

Do What Works For You

You’re perfect, right? Your life is perfect? It’s ‘working’. So don’t change it.

Failure means failure

If you failed, you’re obviously no good at it. Stop trying! If it was meant to be it will come naturally. Like spelling when you’re a kid. Or riding a bike. Or learning to drive. Hmmm. Maybe we are only allowed to fail when we are young. When we hit our 20s our ‘failure pass’ is revoked and we have to do everything right. First time.

Bonus Tip: Eat what you want!

Our bodies love salt and sweet. It’s proven. Therefore salt and sweet must be very good for us – because we are animals and a large percentage of us still believe that animals instinctively know what is good or bad to eat[2].

I hope that by following this list I can be the most mediocre person EVER! Will you join me?




[1] – This is an interesting diversion: Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin. The Cotton Gin was so much faster that production of cotton cloth could be greatly increased. To fuel the boom industry needed more cotton. One major source of cotton was the American south. More cotton meant more slaves were needed. Hence, the Cotton Gin greatly fuelled the increase in slaves and brought on the US Civil War.

[2] – This explains why my dog likes to eat cat poo.



I got a personal email from Mr. Bernanke – head of the Federal Reserve

It’s the price of success: people start to think you’re omnipotent.
Ben Bernanke

How special do I feel???

Today I received a personal email from the head of the US Federal Reserve, none other than Ben Bernanke himself!

Now, I found the following things a little strange about the email

  1. He uses hotmail. Come on, Ben! Are times so tough that they have shut down all the .gov servers?
  2. He personally gets involved in financial transfers
  3. I was unaware that people actually had accounts with the Federal Reserve Bank. I didn’t know it was like a real bank.

But thanks to good old Ben being so diligent, once I give him my personal banking details he will release $10.5 million to me! Woo hoo!

I got a personal email from Fed Reserve head Ben Bernanke - he'll help me get $10.5 mil from Nigeria!
I got a personal email from Fed Reserve head Ben Bernanke – he’ll help me get $10.5 mil from Nigeria!



For those of you that haven’t figured it out – this is sarcasm. This is a spam email. If you get an email like this delete it, or blog about it. Just don’t hand over your banking details.


The Curse of the Belly Fat

I guess I don’t so much mind being old, as I mind being fat and old.
Benjamin Franklin

I believe it started out like this:

Once upon a time, in a quiet, small town in Canada, a boy lay asleep in his bed. Unbeknownst to him or his family a horrible ogre had slipped into the home and made his way to the boy’s bedroom. The ogre pointed at the sleeping boy with a bulbous finger and uttered a curse:

“Your stomach will grow fat and nothing you do can change that”
Fast forward 40 odd years and that boy now sits cross legged on the floor of his apartment in Japan and curses back at that Ogre, with much less fanfare:
“Screw you”
My battle with the bulge has been constant throughout my life. There have been times – coinciding with abject poverty – that I have been less fat. There have been times when I have been more fat. But there have never been times when I have not been fat. Or at least that is how I see it.
But this is a battle I am determined to not lose. So, over the past 6 months I have taken up arms again.
The problems are these:
  1. I love to eat. Food has always been a source of joy and a source of comfort. A dangerous combination.
  2. I hate sports. I have never enjoyed playing them and come from a time that in high school I actually never had to take PE.
So I have no habits of fitness. I have tried over time to develop one. I did some exercises, but it always peters out.
The thing is I know the answer to my weight problem is simple, and tackles each of my two problems listed above head on
  1. Eat less
  2. Exercise more
Exercise More
On the second count I am doing the following. 3 – 4 times a week I am doing Tony Horton’s P90. NOT the INSANE P90X program, but his older, original one (also called Beach Body, but I can’t bring myself to say that). I just do the fitness side, not the other side which seems to be all about buying supplements, etc.
This program is really good. It’s not TOO difficult, yet difficult enough. To be honest though, after 6 months I am still doing the basic level programs (1 day cardio, 1 day muscle building).
And I have not lost a pound.
That being said I am definitely in better shape and have more muscle (which is perhaps why the weight has not gone down). I can do a lot more pushups (considering 6 months ago I really couldn’t do any) and I can now follow along the whole 30 minutes, doing what I am supposed to do.
Also, in Japan I tend to walk a lot. And also when I am in Germany.
Eat Less
Oh cursed taste buds! Oh cursed yummy Japanese food!
I do try and eat healthy. Contrary to what you might have heard or believe, Japanese food is not always so good for you. Lots of fat, salt and sugar. So you do have to be careful. On the other hand the Japanese seem to all live to be around 100, so they must be doing something right.
And I think that ‘something right’ is like this:
  1. eating lots of variety – they don’t sit down to a single plate of food with 3 things on it. They sit down to a meal of many small dishes (ideally each meal has to have 10 components, perhaps across 5 dishes).
  2. Not so much meat. Meat is a little expensive here, but also it is used as a flavouring, not a feature.
  3. Seaweed. There is seaweed in lots and lots of dishes. Seaweed is full of yummy goodness, according to the internet.
So, combining that with just plain eating less and not snacking I hope will be my path to a thinner me.
Why bother?
I am not huge. Yes, I am fat. The reason I am concerned is that, thanks to the horrible Ogre in Scene 1, my fat is around my stomach. This is the worst place you can have it. That means your vital organs are surrounded by fat. And in case you didn’t know, fat is toxic. It holds all kinds of toxins in your body and guess where they are leaching out to? Yes, those vital organs.
Belly fat is also a pre-cursor to diabetes.
Extreme Decisions!
I could try for an extreme diet. I have friends who have had success with the ‘Ideal Protein’ method. Or becoming vegans.
I just can’t do it. My lifestyle isn’t conducive to it. Being even a vegetarian in Japan is bloody hard. Same goes for where I am in Germany. In the small grocery stores around me in Germany the only vegetables are green, like lettuce and green peppers. I’m not kidding. I don’t have access to a big supermarket or any sort of organic groceries.
So even though I’d like to do that, I just can’t.
And Ideal Protein also isn’t an option as you have to have a consultation with them and they are not anywhere that I am!
I know I am not alone in this battle. I know that many of you were visited by the Belly Fat Ogre.
I wish you success in your struggle.
If you have any tips please let me know in the comments!



I suck at diaries

If you read somebody’s diary, you get what you deserve.
David Sedaris

Blog’s really are online diaries. And by that I mean you can find thousands of them that have lots of entries between (metaphorically) January 1st and 15th, then things peter off to every once in a while and then the rest of the year is ‘Aunt Gladys’s Birthday’.

I am guilty of this. I am actually so old that I am guilty of this over the course of 4 decades and various media! From pocket diaries, to school diaries to typewritten diaries to the LiveJournal to Blogger to…! Yes, when it comes to diaries I am a serial starter.
But why? Why am I and SO MANY other people like this?
I have some theories:
  • I get nothing from it
  • I have nothing to write
  • it reminds me of my empty, pointless life
  • someone else might read (or worse, has read!) my private feelings and embarrassed me with ridicule
  • there is no time
Bloggers often throw in a few more reasons:
  • no one reads it
  • I’m not making any money
At least, those are reasons I’ve used!
So, let’s take a look at this.

1) I get nothing from it.

Well – the question would be what did you expect to get. Diaries are not some sort of instant gratification tool, or instant path to self-awareness or anything instant. Diaries are a map of your evolution. What you ‘get’ from them is some sort of perspective. Writing – ideally every day – a little about what is at the front of your mind is a great tool for seeing what you are really thinking. It takes time but soon you start to see the patterns.

2) I have nothing to write

Diaries/blogs/journals are not places where you have to fill empty space with constant profundity. They are the perfect example of the 10,000 hour theory. Write what you think. Write what you feel. Write about what makes you happy, or sad. Write “I am writing today” 100 times. But just write. Saying you have nothing to write is thinking like an editor. Not like a writer. A writer writes. An editor edits. Don’t edit.

3) It reminds me of my empty, pointless life

Get over it. Make your life non-empty…full. Give your life a point, if for no other reason than to give yourself something to write about. Because, at the end of it all, do you want to read a map of nothing or a map of something? I used to take pictures of my food. Then I started to realise that I was always eating the same things. So I changed it up. I experienced new and wonderful cuisines simply so I could have an interesting picture.

4) Someone might read it.

If you want privacy then, hey, it’s the 21st century. Passwords exist for a reason. In truth, this has happened to me. I used to write a journal where I was exploring my deep inner feelings. At the time I was heavily into ‘The Artist’s Way’ that said write 3 pages a day. To refer back to point #1, after a few weeks of doing 3 pages a day you stop lying to yourself and get down to brass tacks. And inside of all of us are negative feelings. Well, someone read those journals in a gross breach of privacy. I was stupid and left them in my office. Don’t be so stupid. It put me off writing in journals probably for life because I felt I could not express my dark side. Its a shame, because I actually love writing long hand with pen and paper.
Evernote has a password. Use it!

5) There is no time

Make time. Writing a diary/blog/journal is a long term investment in yourself. Force yourself to do it. Maybe only 15 minutes a day. And there will be days – many days – when you really don’t feel like it or have a lot going on. Just do it anyway. Sitting in the car (record audio onto your phone and transcribe it later, or write using Siri!), sitting on the train, at lunch, when you first wake up, go to bed 15 minutes later.
There is always time.

6) No one reads it.

Who cares? You think your writing is so amazing that overnight a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand people will magically find you? If you are saying something true over time people will find you, if that’s what you want. I would question why you are doing a blog if this is a real stumbling block. You should be writing for yourself. You aren’t all that anyway!

7) I’m not making money

One of the things that really pisses me off about the internet marketing/blogging for money revolution is the insane idea that anyone can/should start a blog and they can build an audience. My particular pet peeve is people who start a consulting business without having any proof or experience that they know what they are talking about – just some bullshit testimonials and a ‘buy my ebook now’ button. If you are saying anything worth reading people will find you. If you have anything really worth buying people will buy it. Very few ‘great ideas’ go undiscovered, very few ‘great bands’ go unnoticed, very few ‘revolutionary thinkers’ go unread.
Why should you make money from writing? How about you trying writing amazing stuff first and see what happens.
Maybe this posting is full of vitriol. I guess I am weary. Weary of internet marketing. Weary of 1,000 online consultants who can tell me how to make money from my blog or from becoming an instant expert.
What ever happened to being an apprentice?
I spend a lot of time in Japan. In Japan people spend a VERY long time learning their trade. Even in chain ‘ramen’ (noodle) restaurants the guy making your noodles might have been studying it for years. They value perfection. They recognise mastery. I am not one of these people who goes all gooey at ‘the eastern way’ but, they do have that. In the west if we have to study for a job we can’t be bothered. If we have to work our way up from the bottom we can’t be bothered. There is such a sense of entitlement.
The people who are really making it are the people who realise it takes time. You have to learn to be good. Hone your craft.
There are few if any natural born anythings in this world. But I do believe that studying can give you ability. Please study. Please write. Every day. Please blog. Please look inside yourself.
Don’t give up.
I have given up many times. I might give up many more times. But maybe, just maybe, I will stick at it long enough to come up with something worth reading.

What it is to be selfish

For me the definition of a selfish person is clear

I don’t like what you are doing, so I want you to change for me.

Recently a friend of mine seems to be running up against this from inside their family. And it got me thinking.

I’ve been accused of being very selfish because I primarily do what I want, what is in my best interest. But there is a difference between THAT and being selfish. To impose your values on someone else and expect them to change because you don’t like how they violate your ‘rules’… that is incredible to me.

Of course, society does this to maintain order – they are called laws. And the enforcement of just laws is vital to maintaining an ordered society.

But I am not talking about laws. I am talking about ‘I don’t like the kind of books you read, please read these instead’ or ‘I don’t like the colour you have painted your house, change it’. These things don’t affect the other person. What does it matter? Why is what you want more important than what I want?

While attending a conference about gender issues and their effect on the recovery in the aftermath of the Great Eastern Japan Disaster (i.e. the bloody big earthquake and tsunami) I was shocked to hear some of these tales of selfishness like mothers of young babies had to sleep outside (if they were lucky in a car) of the shelters because some people didn’t like to hear the baby crying. If you don’t want to hear the baby crying YOU leave. Don’t ask someone else to change for you. I really wanted to check the babystroller-reviews after seeing this, just so that I could help these families a little bit.

I can be selfish in my actions. This is indisputable. But… I try to not impose my values and opinions on others.

In some cultures maybe this is more normal – certainly in Japan men feel they can impose their will on women. I know this happens in other cultures too. If I try and say anything about this in Japan then I am told ‘you don’t understand Japanese culture’.

I hope I never do!


Is buying frequent flyer miles worth it?

Right now Miles and More (Lufthansa’s StarAlliance rewards program) is having a sale on. You get 20% more miles when you buy.

Often this scheme is touted by people (like Chris Guillebeau for example) as a good way to get more miles. But, I sometimes wonder if it is worth it.

During the sale, if you spend €290 you get 14,400 Miles (12,000 + the bonus).

To buy a ticket from Frankfurt to Tokyo using miles costs 80,000 miles. Note that you still have to pay the tax.

So, I looked at a particular date range I was interested in (from August to September). The tax on the flight would be around €450. So, to get an economy ticket using points + tax would cost $1611 (the cost of points) + €450 (the tax) = €2061.

I can buy the same seat with cash for around €1000. In reality those 80,000 are only worth €600, not €1600.

Am I missing something?

Comments greatly appreciated!

(I do know that you can only buy 12,000 miles/year with Miles and More and that you would need to use ‘earned’ miles for this actual transaction. I have 100,000 Miles and More miles anyway).