Beyond the Rhetoric


Grammar 101: What Does “Quid Pro Quo” Mean?

April 18th, 2014 by Michael Kwan

Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

English borrows a lot from other languages and this includes a number of Latin phrases that persist to this day. You might remember when I wrote about the proper use of e.g. and i.e. and how the former is used to provide examples, whereas the latter is used more for providing meaning or clarification. And then we get phrases like “quid pro quo” that are usually reserved for more formal discussion.

But what does “quid pro quo” mean in the first place? Literally translated from the original Latin, “quid pro quo” means “something for something.” An English phrase that provides a similar meaning would be “tit for tat” or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” The fundamental idea here is that we are discussing a roughly equal exchange of goods or services. The trade should be of reasonably equivalent value.

While it may pop up in conversation now and then, “quid pro quo” is most commonly found in the context of legal discussions, especially when it comes to contracts, investing and other sorts of business transactions. The exchange is said to be reasonably fair where both parties are getting something of value. For instance, if George designs a website for Harry and Harry paints George’s house, you might call that a quid pro quo.

Similarly, George’s Trucking might use the storage facilities of Harry’s Warehouses. In exchange, Harry’s Warehouses can transport some of their goods via George’s Trucking. No actual money is exchanged between the two companies, because they negotiated an agreement where both parties are receiving roughly equivalent value in services. This is a type of quid pro quo agreement that is sometimes called a “soft dollar” agreement.

The term can come up in the context of a corruption case where an official is accused of taking bribes in exchange for providing certain favors. For instance, there was a recent news story coming out of Pennsylvania where the reporter said, “But to be prosecutable bribes, the transactions required a quid pro quo. But in this case, the supposed quid pro quo was laughable.”

You might also find “quid pro quo” used in the context of sexual harassment. If some sort of job benefit, like receiving preferred shifts or getting an increase in pay, is tied to performing sexual favors to a manager, supervisor or other superior, then this is called quid pro quo harassment. It’s the same if the same job benefits are unduly withheld due to a refusal to perform those sexual favors.

Realistically, it’s quite unlikely that you’ll use “quid pro quo” in casual conversation, but the next time you see it mentioned in a news story about a corrupt government official or an agreement between businesses, you’ll know what it means.

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On Taipei, Prepaid SIMs and Pocket WiFi Internet Access

April 17th, 2014 by Michael Kwan

Free WiFi @ Taipei Airport

It’s been a few years since I was last in Taiwan. At the time, I remember it was quite the hassle trying to get set up with a prepaid SIM card for my phone, so much so that I ended up not getting a SIM at all. There was this whole confusion about selling prepaid phone service to foreigners and it just ended up being one big headache, possibly rivaling the frustrating experience I had with Telstra in Australia. In any case, I’m heading back to Taipei for Computex this year and I want to be reasonably connected.

While I’ve been told that it has become easier for visitors to get set up with a prepaid SIM, I’m not as sure I’d like to go through a similar kind of headache again. I’ve still got some balance left on my Truphone account that I could use in an emergency for talk or text, but wireless data is my primary concern. Given this, I’ve unearthed three possible courses of action for using Wi-Fi in Taipei City.

Taipei Free Public Wi-Fi Access

The network was in its very early stages the last time I was in Taiwan, but it looks like the service is not only up and running now, but it’s also been opened up to foreign visitors. Basically, there is a network of Wi-Fi access points set up in various locations by the Taipei City Government. After you register for an account, you can log into any of these access points and gain access to the Internet for free. I do like free.

Of course, nothing in this world is truly free. Based on what I’ve heard from some other folks, the free city Wi-Fi can be spotty at best and, even when you do get connected, the speeds can be quite atrocious at about 512 kbps. Especially since Taiwan is supposed to be such a hotbed for technology and seeing how we’ve come to measure our Internet speeds in megabits per second (Mbps) and not kilobits per second (kbps), this could prove to be a rather frustrating experience too. But hey, it wouldn’t cost me a dime.

CHT Wi-Fi HiNet Prepaid Card

Alternatively, another set of Wi-Fi access points have been set up by Chunghwa Telecom, one of the larger telecommunications companies in the country. The service effectively works the same way as the Taipei Free Public Wi-Fi infrastructure, except you pay to use these access points. The CHT Wi-Fi network, which is also known as HiNet, provides coverage in most parts of the city, but you’d naturally lose a connection if you’re between access points.

The 7-day prepaid pass is only NT$299, which works out to about $11 Canadian or about $1.50 per day. The prepaid cards can be purchased online for a slight discount or I can pick them up from any number of convenience stores like Family Mart or Hi-Life. And those convenience stores are just about everywhere.

iVideo Pocket WiFi Rental

The biggest obstacle to using these pre-installed Wi-Fi networks is that they aren’t everywhere. There are going to be times when I am outside of the range of an available access point. It could also be a bit of pain having to log into the service now and again. To this end, I’m also thinking about a mobile hotspot rental from a company called iVideo. They use the Chunghwa Telecom 3.75G network, which should provide great coverage in Taipei City.

This is the same strategy I used for my multi-country Europe trip last year when I rented a Tep Wireless mobile hotspot. Instead of having the hotspot delivered to my Canadian home, however, iVideo allows for pickup and dropoff of the package at pre-determined convenience stores. Go figure. And it’s also a lot cheaper than Tep Wireless, working out to about NT$500 (C$18) for ten days of service, including the hotspot rental itself.

My apprehension is that I can’t seem to find much in terms of any online reviews of the iVideo pocket WiFi rental and their website doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence either. It should be fine, though, and this should provide me with the best coverage.

Where Are the Speed Tests?

I’m still undecided about how I should go about doing this. If I were to get a prepaid SIM, I would first need to unlock my phone and confirm that the wireless bands are compatible. Since I’d be swapping SIMs, I’d also lose access to my Canadian number, which would mean I’d also lose WhatsApp.

Going with HiNet might be the most convenient — especially if the free WiFi is as horrible as people say — but it could also be a little cumbersome. And then there’s the pocket WiFi rental option with a company that may or may not be all that respectable. Strangely, I’m having a hard time finding any speedtest information about HiNet and CHT 3.75G too, which would also affect my decision.

What would you do in my situation? Connectivity at the hotel won’t be a problem, as there is complimentary Wi-Fi there, but staying connected on the go would be much appreciated.

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What’s Up Wednesdays: Clearing Out the Clutter

April 16th, 2014 by Michael Kwan

Barn Wonderland 1

We start this week’s speedlink with Duane Storey. He’s about to hit the road again, this time moving from Chilliwack to Hamilton, Ontario “for probably a year or so.” In preparing for this move, as well as before his 2010 Argentina trip, Duane made a significant effort to get rid of stuff. It’s easy to become a pack rat (or even a “hoarder”), but Duane has really come to recognize that too many people place far too much emphasis on owning “stuff.” Clearing out that clutter and leading more of a minimalist lifestyle can be awfully freeing.

With each update to the Google algorithms, people have called out for the death of search engine optimization as we know it. There might be some truth in that, but expert Neil Patel looks instead to the rising prominence of social media and how social sites like Twitter and Google+ will play an even bigger role in search engine rankings moving forward. These “social signals” are how Google will be able to recognize what content is of value and what content is merely spam and fluff.

Fellow online entrepreneur Bob Buskirk knows the pitfalls of working out of a home office all too well. When you don’t have set working hours, burnout becomes a very real and very scary possibility. That’s why he says that we all need to have a hobby to keep us inspired, entertained and happy. Indeed, as tempted as you may be, these hobbies should be unrelated to work and they should be something that you intrinsically enjoy.

Speaking of inspiration and enjoyment, Tyler Cruz has found that he’s lacking the excitement and motivation that he once felt and that’s why he is considering switching away from affiliate marketing to explore other opportunities. He’s been able to make a sizable amount of money through affiliate marketing these last couple of years, but now he’s entertaining the possibility of creating a new mobile game or launching a new website property instead. What would you do in his situation?

And finally, Thursday Bram explains why you can’t really call yourself an artist unless you’ve sold something. This is true of visual art, just as much as it is about music or writing. It’s not so much about the money, necessarily, as much as it is about getting your work out in front of the world for public scrutiny. This is the only way that you’ll know if your work is any good. It doesn’t matter how great your story is if no one reads it, right?

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Just Waffles, East Hastings in Vancouver

April 15th, 2014 by Michael Kwan

Just Waffles, Vancouver

You could drive past it hundreds of times and not even notice it’s there. This stretch of East Hastings can look a little sketchy, even if it’s also known as “Wedding Street” for the abundance of wedding-related stores in the area. A few steps away from a popular dim sum restaurant is a newly opened establishment called Just Waffles and, well, you can probably guess what their specialty is.

Just Waffles, Vancouver

The inside of the shop is very brightly colored in bold orange and blue, almost borrowing a color scheme that is Dutch-inspired. Just Waffles is a very small restaurant that looks like it’s trying to cater mostly to the “take it and go” crowd, but there are three small tables inside for a total seating area of less than a dozen people. That was one of our first challenges upon arriving one sunny Sunday morning, as all three of the tables were occupied.

At Just Waffles, they specialize in what are known as Liege waffles, which is a particular variety of Belgian waffle that is denser and sweeter than most. The key defining characteristic is the inclusion of pearl sugar chunks. These caramelize when the waffles are baked. Just Waffles steps it up another notch by offering these waffles in different flavors, like strawberry and cinnamon, as well as offering a variety of topping choices, like banana and Reese peanut butter chips.

While they don’t go quite as substantial as the waffle “sandos” that we had at Miura Waffle Milk Bar, Just Waffles also approaches the more savory end of things with breakfast waffles and pizza waffles too.

Just Waffles, Vancouver

I have mixed feelings on the pricing. On the one hand, you’re not really spending that much more than you would on getting a crepe or something similar, but when you get a waffle to go on its own, you’re spending quite a bit more than you would typically spend on a muffin, donut or some other pastry. Indeed, even the Belgian waffles at Cafe Medina were slightly cheaper at $3.15 each, though you did have to spend an extra dollar to get the dipping sauce. In this case, though, the price jumps to $6 if you want a single topping on your flavored Liege waffle.

The first point of disappointment for me is that the waffles are not made to order at Just Waffles. They just sit in the display case, though you can optionally request for them to warmed up in the microwave. That being said, as I understand it, the waffles at Cafe Medina aren’t made to order either.

Just Waffles, Vancouver
Maple Waffle + Bacon & Egg – $7

Lucky for us, one of the tables finished shortly after we placed our order, so we had a place to sit. We were there for our Sunday brunch, so we figured it would only be appropriate to have the breakfast waffle.

Pairing the maple waffle with bacon was a natural fit, giving a nice mix of sweet and savory. The egg was overcooked for my tastes, though having it served on a small paper plate with plastic cutlery didn’t exactly provide the best of experiences. Even if the focus is on takeout, Just Waffles should invest in some real plates and real cutlery.

Just Waffles, Vancouver
Nutella Waffle + Coconut – $6

While I’m not sure the coconut shavings really added $2 of value (a 50% increase!), the Nutella waffle itself was quite nice. Then again, I like just about anything with Nutella in it. There’s a nice layer of the chocolatey hazelnut goodness in there, perhaps making this one of the better options for a waffle snack on the go. The waffle itself has a diameter of about five inches or so.

Just Waffles, Vancouver
Brownie Waffle – $4

For good measure, we grabbed one extra waffle for a snack later. The brownie waffle, after being heated up in the microwave for about 15 seconds, was really more brownie than it was waffle. It wasn’t quite as dense as many of the brownies that I’ve had, but it sure packed the same rich, chocolate flavor.

Just Waffles, Vancouver

Just Waffles on Urbanspoon

As an idea, Just Waffles sounds like it’s on to something. Our city is constantly looking for some fresh takes on old concepts and that’s how we’ve come to embrace crepes, cupcakes and expensive donuts. In execution, however, Just Waffles still has a lot of room to grow.

The lack of seating is a problem. The waffles aren’t made to order either, but we still had to wait quite some time for our breakfast and topped waffles. The location can leave a little something to be desired too, though they may be able to pick up some foot traffic from the nearby bus loop. And those paper plates have got to go. For now, I have a hard time recommending Just Waffles, but if they overcome some of these growing pains, they could tap into some serious potential.

The Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade and Celebration 2014

April 14th, 2014 by Michael Kwan

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

I love how multicultural our city can be. People come from all corners of the globe, bringing with them all sorts of wonderful traditions and delicious foods. And I got to partake in some of those celebrations over the weekend with the Vaisakhi parade and other festivities along the South Slope in Vancouver.

Just as we get to indulge in other cultural events like Latincouver and Greek Day, the Vaisakhi celebrations in Vancouver are a lot of fun. Vaisakhi holds a great deal of importance within the Sikh community for a number of reasons. First, it is the new year. Second, it celebrates the establishment of the Khalsa and, thus, the birth of Sikhism. And third, it celebrates the start of winter harvest back in India.

The festival is marked with a great deal of generosity among local business owners and regular residents alike, as they hand out free food and drink to anyone who’d like to indulge in some homemade samosas, pakora, paneer, chai, and all sorts of other goodies. That’s one of the key differences with Vaisakhi compared to other cultural events in Vancouver; it’s all free. You can even find some free pizza and pop, if you’d like. I only meandered my way down Fraser Street, but the Vancouver Vaisakhi celebration spanned all the way across to Main Street and down to Marine Drive, drawing some tens of thousands of people.

Embedded below are a video and several photos that I took at Vaisakhi. If you’re prepared to brave a crowd that’s multitudes bigger, Surrey will host their Vaisakhi celebrations this Saturday.

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival 2014

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