Showing posts from 2011

Live in the South of France for cheap

I like seeing people's reactions when I tell them we are going to live in the South of France.

People get the impression that we're super-rich.

I've got news for you. We aren't. Not in the slightest.

So how are we doing it?

Well, for one, we've done something this year that few Canadians or Americans do anymore -- we've put money into a savings account.

That's right -- we resisted the incredible consumer spending urge and actually put away a few bucks for a rainy day.

And how'd we manage that?

The biggest savings, by far, came from neither of us owning a car for 14 months. This Globe & Mail article pegs the annual cost of car ownership between $8,500-$14,000.

Even subtracting TTC passes, tokens, car rentals and ZipCar, we each saved approximately a crapload of money by not driving.

This had its drawbacks and inconveniences, of course. But in hindsight, it's a tradeoff I would make again.

Meanwhile, our flights to Paris booked with TravelCuts cost…

T minus 2 months to France!

As some of you may already know, Melissa and I were recently accepted for a one-year working holiday to France!

We had our interview (which we conducted mostly in French) on November 18th, and received our visa in the mail the following week.

I've been taking French classes at Alliance Francaise 3 days a week, and Mel has been practicing her French writing her resume and calling up places in France.

I will continue to grow my startup, PMRobot, as well as managing consulting projects for Syllogistic Software, working remotely and following 4HWW principles.

We're leaving Toronto for Paris on January 8th. After a few days in Paris, we're kicking off the trip with a cross-country of Italy, flying south to Naples on the 13th, then slowing heading north via Rome, Tuscany, Vienna, and Milan.

From there we'll go west to Nice, where we'll be planting roots for a whole 3 months. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to live in the south of France, so here comes another che…

How to: Plan a trip overseas in 5 steps

With all of the travelling we've done recently, we have the planning down to a science.

Step 1:TripAdvisor

First we hit up TripAdvisor and check out their "Things to Do" section.

Step 2:Google Maps

Then we map out everything we want to see and do on a shared Google Map, so we can start grouping things that are close together.

Step 3:Google Docs

Next, we create a shared Google Doc, start listing the attractions, and figuring out which day to do what. Once we start booking flights, trains, hostels, etc., all the times and confirmations numbers go here.

Step 4: Mobile phone/apps
For this trip, I've used the Labs feature in Android Google Maps to download all of London for offline use, in case I don't have a mobile signal. I've also installed two different apps that give live train and tube schedules.
Step 5: Paper
As great as technology is, it's not quite perfect. Laptops and phones can break or run out of battery power. Before we leave, we always print out a few c…

h5note: HTML5 Notepad

For the longest time, I've been searching for a quick, easy way to take quick meeting notes.

I used to use a text editor called SciTE, the same editor I use for quick code editing, but I find managing files in a file system to be a real pain.

When I had an iPad for a while, I liked the default Notes application, but hated that there was no cloud storage or synchronization. (No, the crappy Gmail sync doesn't count)

Then I heard about EverNote. I thought that was the answer to my prayers, but unfortunately those guys decided  to add every conceivable feature in the universe and have ended up with a bloated mess that takes an hour and a half to load.

There's a bunch of others I've tried too, like UberNote, Springpad, and the Diigo mishmash of apps.

But nothing was small enough, or simple enough for my taste.

So I did what any good developer does.

I created a "learning" project to scratch my own itch.

I used technology I've discussed at the HTML5 Toronto Meet…

Why do people vote Conservative / Republican?

Add another one to my "things that confuse me" list...

Why do average, ordinary people vote for Conservative / Republican / (insert your right-wing party here) politicians?

I can see voting for them IF:
Your household income is more than $500,000/yearYou are a majority shareholder in a corporation that employs more than 500 peopleYou are a senior management in a major corporationYou have the majority of your net worth invested in energy and "defense" stocksBut honestly, unless one or more of the above applies to you, it just doesn't make sense.

For the average Joe, voting for Conservative politicians is basically the equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot -- over and over again.

Their modis operandi is to systematically underfund and dismantle public institutions, and replace them with private corporations they can profit from.

The result is an ever increasing divide between rich and poor, creating a cheap labor force at the bottom (more profit!) and increa…

Imitation is not always the greatest form of flattery

Compare my company's website:

with this one:


They stole my intellectual property!

So should I go and sue them?

Issue a "cease and desist" letter?

Ummm... No.

Why not?

Because I'm not a moron and I don't have time and money to waste.

Large corporations and entertainment companies waste countless hours and millions of dollars suing people about their intellectual property.

Their products and businesses suffer greatly due to this distraction.

It's a digital world. People are going to copy stuff. It's easy and free.

I choose to not be bothered, and instead, focus my efforts on making my business better.

Maybe they should too.

Why not private healthcare?

The traditional "for profit" economic model works great for most things.

For instance, take the mythical "widget". You research all the different types of widgets, find out the best deal, and purchase it.

Manufactures and suppliers compete to offer the best widget for the lowest price. You set a budget, and buy the "most bang for the buck" widget.

Now think about healthcare. What if your child has cancer? What is your budget to save them?

Are you going to be enticed by a discount coupon or "one day only sale" from one of the local competing hospitals?

Are you going to make a rational cost-benefit decision?

Or would you be willing to mortgage your house, cash out your RRSP, and sell everything you own, if it meant saving them?

That's the problem. The standard "supply and demand" economic model does not apply.

Now, I definitely think private healthcare has a role -- for elective and optional procedures.

But for emergency and critical…

Got problems? IPD: Identify. Plan. Do.

Do you have any problems?

I sure do. Tons of them!

Everyone has problems. You might even call them "challenges" or "puzzles" or "opportunities".

I use an incredibly complex, patent-pending 3-step methodology for dealing with them:
IdentifyPlanDoThis may seem like a very simple idea, but I assure you, most people do not follow this.

Everybody gets step 1. Most people know their problems.

Then then add:
Step 1.a) Worry about the problem.
Step 1.b) Complain about the problem.
Step 1.c) Make up excuses for not addressing the problem

I call this the WCE problem-solving methodology -- pronounced "wuss" ;)

I have news: WCE does not work. They are unnecessary steps.

A few people get to step 2, the planning stage, but never complete that step.

What about step 3: Doing -- the one that really matters? Hardly anyone ever makes it there. They're still too busy cranking out excuses.

So next time you come across a problem, just remember the 3 steps -- and …