Author: Michael Kwan

2006 Gemini Awards: Pictures and Videos

Thanks to my affiliation with The Commentary, I had the opportunity to attend the 21st Annual Gemini Awards at the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, BC this past Saturday. The Gemini Awards can be thought of as the Canadian Emmys, dishing out the trophies for Canadian excellence in news, drama, lifestyles, comedy, and so forth. Now, I didn’t get to go to the actual awards ceremony itself — fortunately or unfortunately — but I had full access to the media room where winners were ushered after receiving their shiny profile trophies. I also got to take in the...

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Children are our (unaffordable) future

The popular song tells us that children are the future, but it doesn’t seem like Canadians are paying too much attention that mantra. As more and more people put off marriage (let alone raising a family) until later on in life, there just isn’t as much time be a breeder. More specifically, you’ll find that the cost of living in Vancouver is quite high — as I’ve mentioned in a previous post about the housing market — and as such, people are having a tougher time simply sustaining a certain lifestyle. There just isn’t the money there to have a baby and raise him (or her) right. But I digress. I came across an article in the paper the other day, in the “Working” section, telling me how difficult it is for immigrants to find jobs that pay well and suit their skills. After all, there are many people who enter this country with university degrees, perfectly capable of running complex machinery, overseeing the operations of a multinational company, and yes, even caring for our young. As fewer Canadians have children and as more baby boomers retire, more and more we will have to turn to immigrants to fill those skilled jobs. There will always be plenty of entry-level gigs available — McJobs, as some people call them — but it’s not possible to raise a family on that...

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Reviewing the RCA Lyra X3030 PMP

You know, I love my job. Although I don’t get to keep most of the stuff that shows up at my door via Fedex, I do get a bounty of new toys to play with every so often thanks to my affiliation with Mobile Magazine. There is work involved, of course, but it is certainly welcome, considering that I get to fiddle with things that I wouldn’t otherwise get my grubby little hands on. The latest electronic device that I got to review was the RCA Lyra X3030, a personal media player with built-in PVR (personal video recording) capabilities. Say goodbye to your VCR; say hello to the RCA Lyra X3030. Here’s a short excerpt from the full review I did for Mobile Magazine: When you open up the box, you’ll find not only the Lyra device itself, but also a car adapter, USB cable, a pair of AV cables, a wireless remote, headphones, protective cover, AC/DC adapter, “IR blaster”, and — most notably — a home theatre dock. This last bit is particularly interesting, because it transforms what would otherwise be an everyday PMP into a full-fledged PVR (personal video recorder). Just plant the base in between your satellite receiver (or cable box, DVD player, etc.) and your television, and you can start recording right out of the box. They’re really emphasizing this added capability, as there is...

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Is the love for gold a cultural thing?

I was born and raised in Vancouver, so maybe my perception of society at large is a little skewed. During my time here, I’ve seen both a growing Chinese and East Indian population here, and it becomes quite apparent that these cultures place a very high value on wearing gold jewelry. Some of the best “gold” stores in Vancouver are either run by Chinese or East Indian people, and it makes me wonder, is this obsession with the yellow element a cultural phenomenon? When I ventured to Hong Kong several years ago, there were stores peddling high-priced gold products (though still substantially cheaper than what was available in Vancouver), many of which boasted huge gold statues and such right in the front window. Like oil, the Earth only contains so much gold at any given time, and buying gold is perhaps one of the best investments you can make because it is guaranteed to go up in value in the long term. That’s why people set out to buy gold so often, but more often than not, they are not receiving a physical ounce or brick in hand, rather getting their hands on a piece of paper that indicates that they now own a certain amount housed in some vault halfway across the world in Zurich, Switzerland. Myself, I’ve had a modest gold chain around my next for ten...

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How to get free stuff

You know, you can’t really beat the price of free. When you waltz in somewhere and they just start giving stuff away, you start to jump up and down at the price and gobble it up like a fat kid in a chocolate factory. While other “gifts” may be a scam to get you sign up for a new credit card or to collect your personal information for their spam factory, if you happen to attend any kind of trade show — particularly big name ones like CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas — you can come across plenty of free swag… but how exactly do you swing something like that? How do you score a free thumb drive, high-speed RAM, or other goodies? Local blogger John Chow has been nice to enough to share his swag-getting expertise with the rest of the world, teaching us the ways of free-stuff-getter. He mentions things as duh-worthy as simply asking for free stuff, but there’s also a few other tidbits in there that are definitely worth having a look at. Check out his article through the link below. And yes, you can read it for free too! :p John Chow: How to Get Free Stuff At Trade...

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Reviewing video conversion software

I got my hands on some new video conversion software about a week ago. The Fedex guy came by, dropped off a manila-coloured envelope, and got me to sign on his little handheld communication device. Opening up this bubble-wrapped package, I discovered a DVD case with M2Convert Multimedia Software inside. On this single burned CD (it was quite obvious that it was a CD-R), I got full versions of their conversion solutions, for the iPod, PSP, Creative Zen, smartphones, and the complete package known as M2Convert Professional. I reviewed it for Mobile Magazine, so check that out by clicking on the link below. Here’s a screenshot of the program in action, and while it’s nice that it comes with a boat load of support for a number of different file formats and codecs, I found its performance slow and somewhat cumbersome, especially for a video converting newb like myself.Click here for the full...

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Homebrewing on the Nintendo DS made easy

The homebrew scene for the Nintendo DS is huge, arguably even bigger than the audience devoted to the Sony PSP. Up until now, however, the enthusiasts were a little on the “geek” side of things, and the Average Joe (or Jane) video game player was intimidated by all this talk of flash cartridges, clients, kernels, PassMe devices, and the like. Then along comes what may be the easiest system for the Nintendo DS to date: the outrageously-named but incredibly simple to use DS-Xtreme from DS-X. Let’s get something out of the way. The primary reason why a lot of people would consider getting something like this is to play illegally downloaded games on their DS. Yes, the DS-X can do that and it makes the process idiot-proof, but — of course — technically they can’t sell the consumer on that feature. On the record, I don’t condone the practice, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you want to do. I got a test unit to fiddle with, and have since posted up a review for Mobile Magazine. Here’s a short excerpt: Pretty well any NDS “homebrew app” will run like a dream on the DS-Xtreme. It may take a second or two for it to load, but as soon as it does, there doesn’t appear to be any slowdown. I found this was true both...

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Arts Club: Griffin and Sabine

The Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver puts out a number of mainstream acts like Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap some years back and Beauty and the Beast this holiday season, but they also showcase a fair amount of lesser known talent as well. Although born abroad, Nick Bantock has been living in BC for some years now, most recently finding his way as a fiction writer. He has produced at least two trilogies of verse, the first of which — Griffin and Sabine — has been adapted for the stage. I had the esteemed opportunity to attend the opening night to this lyrical play at the Granville Island Stage and here are my thoughts. The premise is fairly straight forward. Griffin is a one-man postcard company living in London, creating some rather fantastic art and paintings. Sabine is an island girl, living in a not-so populated area of the world (I didn’t catch the name, but it’s probably something like the US Virgin Islands or the like, the actual location doesn’t matter all that much). The twist is that Sabine, since she was a young girl, could see every piece of art that Griffin produced as he produced it, despite the fact that he is on the other side of the earth. The image of his painting would unravel right before her in her mind’s eye, and she made it...

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Is paper obsolete?

I recently wrote an article for LoveToKnow Party about Evite invitations and it got me thinking. Are paper-based…well, anything… obsolete? We turn to email to correspond with people, rather than the old post office method. We use Acrobat (PDF) files, instead of shooting over a fax. Heck, even for taking notes in class, more students are turning to laptops rather than an actual notebook (side note: it’s kind of funny, really, that a “notebook” could refer to a pad of paper or a portable computer). Are we lacking the personal touch? People don’t meet in person as much anymore, yakking it up over instant messengers instead. But what about when it comes to wedding invitations? Or how about the pre-planning events, like when you want to send out bridal shower invitations? Now, I can perfectly understand when you’re organizing casual get togethers, like a poker game, birthday party, or a night of go-karting, but for something as personal (and important as a wedding, can you really opt for a cold message in someone’s email box? Does it not make you look cheap? Maybe I just have weddings on the mind, because I went to so many this past summer. Maybe I overuse that wonderous evite site, relying on it a little too much for keeping track of RSVPs. Bleh. Maybe I’m just...

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Check, raise, all-in. The world of online poker

I’m sure you’ve noticed. Poker is no longer “just a game.” It’s no longer restricted to smoke-filled casinos. It’s about as mainstream as it comes, and a big part of this phenomenon is the internet. Sure, the World Series of Poker has been around for a long time, but with the World Poker Tour catered for television, more and more people have jumped on the checking, raising, and betting fiasco known as Texas Hold ’em. I admit. I’ve been bit by the poker bug too. There are plenty of online poker sites out there — Poker Room, Party Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and so on — and there have even been some millionaires made as a result, the best known of which is Chris Moneymaker (his name is a little too appropriate). One site that I’ve come across during my journeys is Blogger Poker Tour. It’s not new; this is their “second season”, whatever that means, but who would have thought combining the somewhat geeky practice of blogging with the “cool” game of cards. Check it out if you want, stick to the home game tourneys (like me), or dare to be different and play Euchre instead. No matter what you do, it seems like poker is here to stay and it’s only going to get bigger. After all, who could have guessed that Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, and...

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Michael Kwan
Hi, I'm Michael. By day, I'm a freelance writer. By night, I'm still a freelance writer. I'm also a proud father, a voracious foodie, an avid traveler, a gadget geek, and a thinker who thinks he might be thinking too much. Beyond the Rhetoric is a reflection of my eclectic entrepreneurial life.

Read more about me and what I can do for you.