Best recipes – LCBO Food & Drink

Posted by Harry Bishop on Jun 30th, 2008
2008
Jun 30

I enjoy food.

Actually, that’s probably a general statement that can be considered true for most people. Certainly there are many to whom food is noting special, but the majority of people consider food not only a necessity, but an enjoyment.

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For a large number of people however, cooking is something else entirely, and not in the good category. Most guys have their “3 things I can cook well” list that they learned as a bachelor in some way or another, and never grew beyond (other than pretending that standing over the BBQ is cooking!). Families have their list of recipes passed down from mom, and a list of “quick and easy” meals learned while the kids were young. Beyond that, many people are simply scared of cooking something different, or trying new ingredients. most people are NOT good cooks, despite what the television says.

Here in Ontario, we have a resource that’s great for changing that. The LCBO (which for those of you who don’t live here, is the government agency that sells wine and liquor – yes, we’re still coming out of the dark ages), publishes a regular magazine called”Food & Drink”.

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Now you might be thinking, “government food recipes – run quickly!” … :-)

The truth is actually completely different. It’s one of the best produced food magazines I’ve ever read, and after close to 10 years of trying recipes from it, I think I can remember only one bad meal. Sure some of them I’ve tried and not liked, but only because I decided it wasn’t my taste (I discovered I do not like avacado, for example), not because the recipe was bad. Those statistics are simply so far beyond any other cooking resource my wife or I have ever used, to be amazing!

And a large number of them are available online. Here’s what we’re eating tonight, it happens to be a recipe we still have from the Autumn 2001 issue.

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Now I have to say that although there are some basic meals also, most of these recipes are “fancy/entertaining” type. And of course, being a magazine for what is basically an upscale wine & spirits reseller, there are lots of wine pairing suggestions, drink recipes, entertaining and decor ideas, and even music selections. So for a young cash-strapped family, it may not be the best place for “Mac & Cheese for 8″, but even for you it’s a great place for some alternative desserts for the kids and a few special meals, as well as finding ways to cook food you haven’t had before (maybe you’ve never cooked with lamb, or pork tenderloin, or rhubarb, and want a recipe) while feeling fairly comfortable that you’re not going to be steered too wrong.

The magazine is free by the way – but you have to hurry, it leaves the shelves really quickly each issue!

At home our recipe management system has evolved but is working really well with this simple idea – we keep a dozen file folders, one for each food category (beef, desserts, salad, … well you get the idea), and just tear out recipes from this magazine and other places, and put them in the relevant folder. When we try something we mark it with checks marks in marker ink – 1 check is good, 2 is really good, 3 is wonderful – that really helps because you’re not going to remember everything otherwise – and anything that doesn’t rank gets tossed.

Every so often we go through and clean the folders out, decide what we are still to try, and pare down recipes that are too similar to each other. And some weeks we’ll pull out a few in advance for the week’s cooking, and that defines the shopping list for the week.

For those of you not in North America, some of what you read might be strange, or even startling … we have amazing and cheap access to food here, especially meats, that amazes people I know in other parts of the world – we really are very lucky here in Canada. Hopefully there is still something that is useful for you no matter where you live.

Happy (and yummy) reading!

400+ visitors per day – review of web statistics packages

Posted by Harry Bishop on Jun 29th, 2008
2008
Jun 29

Thank you! :-)


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I’ve now hit a monthly average of 400 visitors per day, and still increasing – a few days ago saw 471 visitors to my post on Favre-Leuba. In the month of June, I had visitors from 86 different countries.

It’s great to see, thanks again!

The above stats are using Webalizer. Good package, but limited basic reports, and you need to modify server config files to get other than standard reports.

What’s more visually interesting is from a different stats package called StatCounter – a map showing the continued global nature of people who are reading this blog.

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This is using the free version of StatCounter, which only stores the last 500 hits, so it’s a limited time slice (for me basically under 2 days) but shows the pattern I’ve come to see as normal – a big cluster in the US, another in Europe, a curving swath of visitors across the Pacific Rim, and depending on the day visitors from many other countries throughout the world.

I’m also been using Google Analytics for the past month now, and am fairly pleased with it. The only gap, and the only reason I’m still keeping StatCounter code on the site, is that the map display provided by Google isn’t nearly as nice.

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Having said that, the Google map does have mouse-over details.

It’s still the same as before – no one stats package really leads the way right now, except for the fact that Google Analytics is free and part of the Google empire, so it’s certainly continued to gain a lot of traction in the lower-end side of this market.

If you’re just looking for informal stats for your blogs, these free packages are useful enough out of the box. If you’re running an eCommerce site, or are a corporate webmaster, you may opt for a larger commercial package .. or one of these can still be a good start, but you need to really delve into the details. And most importantly, compare apples to apples – most web statistics systems continue to use different definitions of “hit”, “visitor”, “unique visitor”, and other common metrics. None of them are either right or wrong, they are just different – they are all useful, just make sure you know what the measurement you are using actually means, and only compare similar metrics – comparing your WebStats hits for June to July is okay, comparing your Google visits to your StatCounter visits is not.

Twitter Tidbits

Posted by Harry Bishop on Jun 28th, 2008
2008
Jun 28

You know a technology is mainstream with at least one demographic when it gets reported in your local newspaper. The Kitchener Record did so about Twitter this past weekend.

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In a new twist for social networking, people can send brief messages to friends, family and even strangers.


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June 21, 2008 – Amy Fuller – RECORD STAFF

If you haven’t already joined, brace yourself for the Twitter time-suck. One of the newer twists on social networking, Twitter lets people send short updates to their friends in 140 characters or less. The site’s popularity has spiked in recent months, so if you compulsively check your friends’ status updates on Facebook, however inane, you’ll soon love–and also probably hate–micro-blogging.


If you’re not on the Twitter bandwagon yet, here are links to some resources that you may find useful…

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Britopian has their own Twitter manifesto for how to use it will, Flyte writes on how to use Twitter for business, and Collective Thoughts speaks to increasing your Twitter following and why it’s even important in the first place.

Swiss watchmaking holidays & modern American slavery

Posted by Harry Bishop on Jun 27th, 2008
2008
Jun 27

Every so often I’m reminded of a major difference between North American and European working habits – vacation. From a recent post on Montres/Suisse:

Watchmaking holidays 2008 … At their June 13, 2007, meeting, la Convention Patronale de l’Industrie horlogère suisse (CP) selected July 14 to August 2 as the vacation time for employees of the companies adopting the principle of the general workshops closure for the summer.


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And that’s just the tip of the vacation differential. In Europe employees typically have between 20 and 30 days of mandated vacation. Here in Canada the average employee has 12 days vacation and 8 days stat holidays, but most people actually do not even use up all of the vacation days they are entitled to! Still, it’s not that terrible. The real difference is when you compare to the US…

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That’s right, see the results yourself in this graph from the US Center for Economic and Policy Research – the amount of holidays mandated by federal law in the US is zero. Some states have helped out a bit, but most do not. The result, from this article in the Illinois Times (which I recommend for a full read):

… Overall, the average private sector worker in the United States gets about nine paid vacation days and six paid holidays each year. Low-paid, part-time, or small-business workers typically get far fewer, sometimes none … nearly one-fourth of American workers have no paid vacation or holidays at all …


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is that the average American employee has 9 days of total vacation and holidays, and  This post from Concordiensis says it well…

… The United States is a great place to live if you are rich but it can be rather difficult if you have monetary challenges … The United States is home to three million millionaires but has the largest proportion of people in poverty <of any major country> …


Personal living standards of any sort have always involved a huge divide between the poor and the well-off in the US. Although actual slavery is no longer legal, the fact is that a large “below the poverty line” group of the population is what keeps the American economic system going. It’s like the lottery, there’s a chance for everybody to get better/more through “the American dream”, but that just hides the fact that for most it’s an impossible dream – slaves till exist, just in a different way.

Favre-Leuba depth gauge diver watches

Posted by Harry Bishop on Jun 26th, 2008
2008
Jun 26

I’ve been saving up various tidbits of information on this brand ever since I saw one of their vintage Bathy divers, and then later purchased a friend a vintage Favre-Leuba dress watch. But with the recent release of their new “Bathy v2″, too many other people have written about this brand, so there’s a lot more information that’s easy to find now, than there was a year ago, so I think it’s probably better I just summarize some of the best posts.

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This is another “reborn” brand, one that died during the Quartz Revolution, only to be picked up later by financial concerns who saw the value of reviving an older known brand now that mechanical watches are “hot” again. From what I’ve seen, they’ve done a half-decent job to date of not embarrassing the old brand, which is always my concern in these situations.

It was the depth gauge that this brand first captured me with, here’s an example of a 1966 Bathy:

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From a post on The Hour hand…

… Its depth gauge works on a beryllium copper membrane. The water enters the double back through four large visible openings on the side. The resulting pressure causes the membrane to contract. By means of a complex mechanism, this contraction, no more than a few tenths of a millimetre, moves the hand on the dial, and does so with unparalleled precision: less than 0.18% deviation for the depth gauge at 45 metres! This precision – extended to its limits in the most extreme conditions s – is one of Favre-Leuba’s trademarks ..


That point of interest was quickly followed by similar consideration for their other technical achievements. From a history of the brand that I cannot find the original author to, but which is quoted numerous places on the web…

… the factory distinguished itself with a number of innovations launched from around 1950, including, for example, their own automatic caliber in 1956, the “Bivouac”, a manually-wound wristwatch with mechanical altimeter in 1963, and the 1966 “Bathy 50″ with a mechanical depth gauge. Similarly in the sixties, Favre-Leuba made itself known for its extraordinary twin-barreled movements, initially with manual winding and later with automatic winding. <and> with a balance frequency of 36,000v/h …


Here’s a 1965 example of an altimeter/barometer Bivouac:

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And a 1966 twin-barrel duomatic Deep Blue with the 36000 bph automatic movement:

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Are you noticing something else that makes these appeal to me? …

LOOK. AT. THE. COLOR. !!!

Wow, is this the cool part of 1960s and 1970s watches, or what. These are just great! Here’s a few other example, men’s and lady’s 1970s Deep Blue divers.

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For more information on this interesting brand, I can also refer you to this post by Sphere By Milan, this recent one at Professional Watches, another on the Amateur Economist, and of course the Favre-Leuba site’s timeline.

2008
Jun 25

Just working on some new sites, and it reminded me of a post from Aaron Wall last year. The concept was on a way to kick-start a new company or site, where you didn’t really have a Unique Selling Proposition of your own. I’ve adapted the idea myself, it really ties strongly and well into social media.

Step 1 – troll the blogs and forums for that industry, read what the industry geeks/purists/fans/gurus are saying, and find the biggest rants against the status quo and your (new) competitors.

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Step 2 – pick one of their ideas, or a solution to one of their problems, and make it your USP. And yes, it’s easier said than done, you need to think this through well, and it has to be Truthful Branding, especially as you’re developing and executing this in social media.

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Step 3 – base your advertising/PR campaign on this.

Step 4 – focus the front end of your campaign on doing LOTS of social media, both in those same places you found the idea, and any others that are relevant.

Step 5 – your competitors are probably not WOM-savvy, and a lot of what you do will fly below their radar, until the blessings you’ve received from industry trend-setters have created business for you, and they suddenly start wondering where this new competitor came from.

Happy hunting.

Landing Page – communicate your core brand message

Posted by Harry Bishop on Jun 24th, 2008
2008
Jun 24

Your company website’s landing page, the first visual image that online viewers get of you, is a core item that needs to consider Truthful Branding.

You only get 1/2 second to capture an online viewer’s attention if they are just browsing. If they already know you (whether they be a customer, prospect, employee, vendor, or partner) they you might get up to 5-10 seconds for them to decide whether to keep reading, or else dispose your site to their “not worth my time” mental trashbin. Believe me, it happens a lot.

One of our clients, a large and very successful high-tech multinational business, came to us because their web site looked like they were (in their terms, not just ours!) a 1950s low-tech manufacturer. The site had been done some time ago by earlier staff, and was in need of an uplift.

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There are a number of obvious issues, compared to current website design standards. Too much text, no call to action, no strongly communicated corporate brand message, content continued below the line, multiple violated logo treatments, etc. On the plus side was strong SEO, based on HTML only pages – no flash, no java. The client also had a great (and well organized) image library, they really have their act together in the marketing department.

The first step was to just replace the home (landing) page. Goals were to change to simple image based navigation, update the general look & feel to be more modern, use the navigation to visually communicate the various company services and products, and start changing to colour palette to that used in their current marketing literature. We also did not want to cause any impact to their current search engine rankings.

There were some limiatinos … we were asked to maintain enough continuity to not have the new home page look completely different than the rest of the site, despite the 1950s look, and were not allowed to use Flash or JavaScript or any other non-HTML code. This was a bit more challenging , it’s actually much easier to redesign an entire site, because you can throw out the new and start over.

About 12 creative composites later, the client selected their preferred option, we programmed it, and it’s live to lots of good comments from the various stakeholders.

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Nice rollovers, a more modern color scheme and layout that still shows some continuity to the rest of the site, larger quality images. Now a visitor actually sees a site that communicates “modern hi-tech competent company”.

This is just an interim step, there’s still a lot more to do of course, but it’s so much better already, and other steps can be rolled out later.

Don’t forget, your website is a marketing & sales tool, and to do it’s job well, it (especially the landing page) has to communicate your brand message well. And truthfully.

The Economist – continuing online debates

Posted by Harry Bishop on Jun 23rd, 2008
2008
Jun 23

This is my last post on this topic, since it’s becoming old news in some way, and getting into some more traditional topics in the actual debates. The Economist are now on their fourth series of online debates – 7 finished debates behind them, 1 in process, and more to come.

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It’s still a neat situation – an established old media firm, a staunch establishment magazine known for staid conservative writing, with blogger advertising and an online version of formal debates.

Below are the topics (and results) to date, along with the moderato’s comments, which I find to be the most interesting part of their summary. (Personally I was disappointed in the “nationalistic” voting on the last item, I feel that there is a bit of a “two solitudes” perspective in that sort of voting, where national pride is at stake among the actual voters. )

Education

1. “The continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education” – An excellent debate. We have supplied our own evidence for the value of new technology in education. Without new technology this debate would never have happened. But we have also shown the value of the traditional academic skills of logic, rhetoric and courtesy. All of these were much in evidence, and gave our debate its quality. Final vote count: Yes 44% / No 56%.

2. “Governments and universities everywhere should compete to attract qualified students, regardless of nationality or residence” – The proposition has been carried, and by an overwhelming majority. Three-quarters of the house wants to see governments and universities everywhere competing for students around the world. Final vote count: Yes 74% / No 26%.

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3. “Social networking technologies will bring large [positive] changes to educational methods, in and out of the classroom” – The motion was carried, both speakers were magnificent, the comments so good they should be bound and published. Final vote count: Yes 63% / No 37%.

Freedom and its digital discontents

4. “Security in the modern age cannot be established without some erosion of individual privacy – Final vote count” – The result is in, and by a handsome margin you have voted against the motion-in other words, in defence of privacy … Two points in particular seem to have carried the day. First, the majority plainly agreed that privacy is sacrosanct, not a subordinate principle in the pecking order. Second, most people felt that nothing in the current concern over terrorism justified sacrificing privacy on the grounds of pragmatism. Yes 28% / No 72%.

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5. “If the promise of technology is to simplify our lives, it is failing” – The early voting suggested a comfortable win for the “no” camp. But “yes” voters steadily clawed back ground. The final victory for the no side was a narrow one indeed … Why did supporters of the proposition catch up so impressively during the course of the debate? I suspect it was because they succeeded in focusing attention on the question of complexity, rather than on whether technology is more generally a good or a bad thing. And they looked at the present rather than at the future promise of technology. Final vote count: Yes 47% / No 53%.

6. “By intervening to regulate business and financial risks, goverments have made things worse” – The voting has been close all the way along. Now the final result is in, and by a wafer-thin margin the winner is the No camp. The evenness of the contest reflects the strength of the arguments on both sides … Out in the real world, policymakers are grappling with the same issues that we have been discussing here. Final vote count: Yes 49% / No 51%.

China and the Olympics

7. “It was a mistake to award the Olympics to Beijing” – The final result comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed the debate and the weight of opinion from participants from China in particular. Final vote count: Yes 33% / No 67%.

Sustainability and corporate responsibility

This is the newest series. The first proposition in this group is under debate now … “Without outside pressure, corporations will not take meaningful action on sustainability.”

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