Category: Writing

Every year, I buy a new car.

(Originally posted on LinkedIn on Jan 30, 2024)

Every year, I buy a new car.

It started in 2010 when I moved out on my own: a black Dodge Caliber. Second hand.

This year’s purchase was a new 2023 Kia Forte that I picked up from a dealer in St. Catharines.

And so on, every year in between, I’ve spent my after-tax money to purchase a car.

You must be thinking “where does he store these cars?” or maybe “why would anyone do this?”

Well, you see… I don’t buy these cars for myself.

I buy them for Susan, my landlord’s niece. For Rajiv, another landlord’s cousin. In 2016, I bought a real treat – a new 2016 Toyota Prius C – for Carrie. She was my landlord’s second wife.

As a renter I have to hand over a car’s-worth of cash every year. For the privilege of living indoors.

I know, I know. “Nothing in life is free”. We all have to pay.

But it’s a whopper, isn’t it? When you really think about the sums involved…
And it’s a doozy when you picture the alternative to having a roof over your head (I ❤️ love you Mom, but me and the fam aren’t moving back into the spare bedroom )

My landlords have changed over the years: I started with Briarlane, a large holding company here in Toronto.

Then my landlord was Akelius – a Swedish real estate firm who’s main trick is to perform unnecessary “improvements” to jack up your rent.

In 2016 my landlord was CAP REIT – a REIT is a special scam that charges real-estate businesses way less tax than other businesses. Because… they’re a sort of elaborate hobby rather than a for-profit entity!?

One day you – yes you – will have a chance to lighten the burden for renters like me.

Your chance will look like voting for politicians who support denser housing, more multi-storey, more “container” or “prefab” housing.

Your chance might be filling a city-run survey where you say you’re ok with more schools in your neighbourhood & more 3-bedroom units in new buildings.

Your chance might look like expressing support for an ombudsman who’s investigating corruption in the construction industry, and corruption in your Province’s housing ministry (this is how you know I’m from Ontario 😆 ).

Come join me in pushing for housing options that make sense for renters.

And maybe – one day – I’ll be able to give you a lift in a real car!

Find and Replace Text with Multiple Rules (CSV upload)

This tool performs multiple find-and-replace operations at once on a piece of text that you supply. Create a CSV file with the strings you want to replace in the first column, and the substitution text in the second column:




Notes:

  • Case-sensitive matching. So any rules matching "apple" will not apply to the string "Apple".
  • This tool only works on exact search and replace values. Regex not supported. You can "view source" and adapt the code to your needs. I think you'll need to change the line
    targettext = targettext.replaceAll(data[currentrule][0], data[currentrule][1]);
    to something like
    var regEx = new RegExp(data[currentrule][0]);
    targettext = targettext.replaceAll(regEx, data[currentrule][1]);
    but it won't do "Capturing Groups" logic.
  • Think about how your search-and-replace rules will interact with each other. Rule #5 will not be operating on your original text - it will operate on the result of replacement rules #1, #2, #3 and #4...
  • Successfully tested on a 1.5mb text file, with a set of 15,235 replacement rules. I built this tool because this other tool from JoydeepDeb could not handle an operation this size.
  • This code runs in your browser - the text you enter and the .csv file never leave your computer. I do not have access to them.
  • Big "thank you" to Vanessa Fotso who's code & tutorial for handling CSV files in JavaScript I used for this project.
  • Also thank you to PictureElement on StackOverflow, who's answer about updating the DOM inside JavaScript loops was very helpful. That progress bar took longer than the substitution code...

Jacob Eats: Cream Collon

We all know how eating works:

The food goes in your mouth hole. It slides down the neck tube. Gets pummelled by the stomach muscles. Then it galumphs down the small intestine, spelunks through your large intestine, and PAPOW! that brown, gooey goodness – yes ladies and gentlemen – today I am munching on that Cream Collon.

This Cream Collon snack starts out promising.

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After ArVid – Closing Notes

On November 25, 2023 I started research for this article about ArVid, a Russian-developed device for storing data on VHS tapes. I finally hit “publish” on Jan 21, 2024, almost 2 months later.

This post is a “behind the scenes” look at my research methods, and some general observations that didn’t make it into the article itself.

What prompted this research

I’ve seen the ArVid mentioned before in forum comments. It is a neat device and it comes up reliably when someone has the neat idea to store data on VHS tape. Turns out that many people had the same idea.

The last time I saw it mentioned, I went ahead and visited the English Wikipedia page for ArVid to learn more. There was remarkably little information on that page. I decided to go a little further and Google it – that was more fruitful because it brought up documents in Russian. Luckily, I can read Russian and saw an opportunity to collate information about this device into one spot.

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Computerra | КОМПЬЮТЕРРА

Computerra (Компьютерр) was a Russian weekly computer magazine. It began publication in 1992, stopped print publication in December 2009, and appears to have published online until 2013.

There is an archive of content from 1997 – 2013 at old.computerra.ru but earlier content is impossible to find online.

You can browse articles from 1995-2004 on my site here:

A full .iso file with all the articles and images is available on the RuTracker Torrent site, or directly from my site here.

The collection above has text and some photos that accompanied the articles, but we also have scans of several print issues. Invaluable if you’re looking for graphic design from the time, hardware prices (from ads – something I needed for a research writeup) and other elements that are only visible in print:

Computerra issues 37 and 38 from 1995 (pdf)
Computerra issue 42 from 1995 (pdf)
Computerra issue 45 from 1996 (djvu). To read a .djvu file, I recommend Sumatra PDF Reader.
We even have a scan of Computerra “issue 0” from 1992!

The scans are courtesy of the amazing archive at MagzDB. If you have more scans of Computerra magazine, comment or email me at jacob at this site.com. I’d love to host them!

Dr. Dobb’s Journal (articles from 1988 – 2009)

What is this?

This is content from the DDJ Devloper Library DVD-ROM 6 that was published in 2010. What’s included:

  • Dr. Dobb’s Journal (Jan 1988 – Dec 2009)
  • C/C++ Users Journal (Jan 1990 – Feb 2006)
  • SysAdmin (Jan 1992 – Aug 2007)
  • The Perl Journal🐪 (Spring 1996 – Apr 2005)

These articles are presented in HTML format,
along with published and unpublished source code, podcasts and videos.

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ArVid: how Russians squeezed 4 hard drives into one VHS tape in the 90s

Storing massive data, as cheap as possible

The year is 1995 and you live in post-Soviet Russia.

It’s a hellish time: prices for basic consumer goods are triple what they were last year. Your employer just paid your salary in eggs instead of money. There are daily shootouts between rival gangs. 🎵Your love life’s DOA…🎵

It’s a wonderful time: Russia is awash in Western computers, TVs, VCRs, cassette players and dialup modems. Technology that was strictly off-limits in 1989 is suddenly within reach.

As one of the lucky Russians to have a computer at home, you are facing a challenge: your 500MB hard drive is overflowing with software, games, and documents. You must find an affordable way to get more digital storage.

Floppy disks (30Pin Pictures on Flickr)

You could store files on cheap and plentiful floppy disks. But each floppy only stores 1.44MB and is known to randomly lose data. Your second option is to buy another hard drive. But that costs about $200 USD – as much as a Russian’s entire monthly salary…

You head over to the local computer store in a gray mood. The store is cramped with bootlegged computer games, peripherals and hardware. Inside, you ask Yevgeni the proprietor whether there might be a cheap solution to your storage problem.

This is Yevgeni:

Fortunately, Yevgeni does have a 3rd option for you! It’s a truly innovative Russian-made product called the “ArVid” card. It comes in a package like this:

It is an ISA expansion card for your computer and will allow you to use your home-VCR to store 4 hard-drives’ worth of data on a single VHS tape. The same tape you use to watch movies at home.

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Is Adobe’s Marketo truly “the worst” at getting emails delivered?

For 60 days, I monitored the top 7 Email Automation vendors to learn how well they manage the mailer reputation of their systems.

Come along as I spend $340 of my own money to monitor 3,735 IP addresses and rank the vendors. Discover Pardot and MailChimp‘s tricks for staying off email spam lists, Eloqua’s surprising spot in the rankings (not at the top!) and learn whether Adobe’s Marketo is actually The Worst™ at avoiding blocklists. Oh, and HubSpot, Act-On and Campaign Monitor are also here.

Read on for the full story, listen to it on Mike MacFarlane’s podcast (archive link) or go straight to the vendor rankings!

Backstory

I am a Marketing Operations Manager who’s been in Marketing Ops since 2013. In late November 2022, I was having a normal day at Auvik when an urgent message popped up on my screen.

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Jacob Eats: Unusual Drinks

Kwangdong Jerusalem Artichoke Tea Drink

Dear Reader (hi Mom!),
I admit that I’m a fan of Jerusalem Artichokes. They are the roots of a type of sunflower. Here in Toronto, they’re pretty expensive and rare to find in grocery stores. I don’t eat them often.

When I saw a drink made with them I jumped at the chance to try it out.

This drink smells like an old twig. The flavour is a bit like burdock and dry fall leaves. At the same time, the mouthfeel is smooth like water and the flavour itself is too weak to leave any sort of impression. Strangely, this drink would’ve been better if it had a stronger flavour and a thicker texture. This drink is just bad. The only good thing about it is that it doesn’t leave a lingering taste.

This drink must’ve been made as a herbal supplement.
One sunchoke out of five.
❎🟥🟥🟥🟥

Qingshijia Aroma Milk Beer

What is a “Milk Beer”?
Was I about to take a sour swig of the famous fermented mare’s milk of Mongolia?

This strange milk beer is lightly fizzy and has a crisp passionfruit smell. It tastes like passionfruit, with a milky mouthfeel that’s a little bit thicker than water. The milk-powder that’s part of this drink gives it a semi-opaque look.

Apparently, the “beer” label on this soft drink landed it on the radar of Beer Bros everywhere as they look to add this drink to their “gotta taste all the beer, every beer, gimme beer” scorecard.

I liked the flavour. But after getting a quick second opinion, my mystery Co-Taster said that it is cloyingly sweet.

This Milk-Beer drink has 20 grams of sugar for every 100ml of drink. This is double the sugar in a Sprite and in Coke (according to Coca-Cola’s Canadian site).

For that reason, I’ll give it 3 passionfruits out of 5.

Hey, did you know that this is what a passionfruit flower looks like? I had my mind blown when I saw these growing on a trellis at the local botanical gardens.

Passionfruit flower – credit to Jimmy Baikovicius

Yeo’s Chrysanthemum Tea Drink

It’s a steamy night in August. I open this handsome cold can with a satisfying psssssssttttt. I take a whiff.

It has a faintly sweet, oily smell. A bit like a homemade compote.

Taking a long sip, this chrysanthemum tea is very sweet and flat. (So what went “psssssstttt”???) . Yeo boasts that this drink “brings you delicious refreshment” but it tastes only mildly floral – like grass jelly drink, with notes of old paper, a dusty herbalist’s shop. The proprietor will be with you in just a moment.

Mouthfeel is light. No lingering taste or claginess – even though it tastes like it’s loaded with sugar.

Verdict: one upright flower out of five 🌹🥀🥀🥀🥀. This drink really proves that chrysanthemums should be looked at and not sucked on:

Chrysanthemums. Credit: Saifullah Hafeel

Yanwee Sweet Drink

I look at the plump strawberry on the label. I open the unique tab on top and think “Hey, I’m in for a sweet strawberry treat”. I think: “Hey, things are pretty swell and looking better all th… hm…. ugh….” I take a sniff of the top and something ain’t right.

This drink has a granny-smelling, slightly strawberry aroma.
“Granny” in my world is cheap musky perfume, old carpets, low-quality paper. You see, dear reader, I have Soviet grannies and those 3 things are key pillars of how their home smells.

Taking a gulp of Yanwee, you’re punched in the mouth with sweetness. It envelops your mouth. It is a bright sweetness, like a Japanese Ramune drink. It is a muted taste that’s equal parts milky and strawberry.

The aftertaste that’s left is sweet and like a slightly musty strawberry flavour. Notes of old bubblegum. Like somebody dissolved a strawberry flavoured lollipop in some milk and tried to gaslight you, swearing that this is an actual pop drink that a serious company produced.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. There are 3 kinds of sugar listed in the ingredients: white sugar, high fructose corn syrup and “edible glucose”.
Also listed is “Lactobacillus casei“, which is used in yoghurt fermentation – but I got no hint of fermented acidic flavours.

This drink is so sweet it is just terrible.
Dear reader, sometimes I wonder how far you need to push a man to make him want to drink something like Yanwee Sweet Drink. To think that this drink is enjoyable. And this darkness makes me shudder.

1 fetid strawberry out of 5 fetid strawberries: 🍓

Binggrae Korean Banana Milk

My negative experience with Yanwee put me on an interesting trail. “Flavoured milks” are apparently a big category in Asia. In Korea, banana milk is particularly popular ( our Mystery Friend of the Blog says “the Korean youtubers drink it all the time”).

Setting out to try banana milk, I got a juice-box of the top brand – Binggrae.

Taking out the little straw – big toddler grin on my face – it’s been a while since I drank one of these!

Taking a sip, and it tastes like milk with banana flavouring. I’d say that the milk flavour is a bit more dominant than the banana flavour. The banana tastes very artificial. It is a sweet drink but not cloying.

The texture is light and watery. Which makes sense because the top 2 ingredients are milk and water.

The drink leaves a light banana aftertaste and smell.

The box has a happy little cartoon illustration of singer Jimin, from Korean pop group BTS. Let’s just say that BTS, Jimin’s voice and his look are not my cup of tea. So I will be drinking my milkybox while listening to this banger from Korean group Monsta-X instead:

I’m going to conclude this review by giving two 🍌🍌 out of five bananas to this drink. If you want to properly walk off the cliff of artificial banana flavour, you’re better off with a caribbean drink called “Chubby” – available at every self-respecting convenience store in Toronto. It’s going to be terrible. It’s going to be beautiful. Your mouth will never forgive you.

Joying Shaddock Flavour Drink

After tasting some of the nastier drinks in this batch, I suspected that this drink would taste good. Because I tried a drink from the same company a month earlier when visiting Montreal.

This one is “Shaddock” flavoured. The exotic shaddock fruit on the label looked like a strange pear. Boy are we in for a treat!!!!

Further research shows that Shaddock is just… an alternative name for Pomelo. Apparently named after a “Captain Shaddock” who introduced the fruit to the Caribbean. Or… not. It looks like this captain Shaddock is a myth [archived link].

Pomelo is quite the noble citrus fruit. The three ancestral (sometimes characterized as “original” or “fundamental”) species in the genus Citrus associated with modern Citrus cultivars are the mandarin orange, pomelo, and citron. Almost all of the common commercially important citrus fruits (sweet oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, and so on) are hybrids involving these three species with each other, their main progenies, and other wild Citrus species within the last few thousand years.

(Or… not. What about Kumquats???)

My exotic Shaddock romp was turning into a barrel of lies.

Well, on to the tasting: opening the bottle, the drink smells like pomelo. It tastes like the yellow variety of pomelo.

It is very sweet, as sweet as a Coke. This drink leaves an unpleasant, bitter aftertaste that lingers. That bitterness is part of the fun flavour profile of an actual pomelo, but it definitely doesn’t work in a drink. The drink is also acidic and leaves your throat feeling dry.

On the positive side, the unique flask-type bottle that this drink comes in feels perfect in the hand. If you like reusing pop bottles then definitely get this one.

This drink gets 3 pomelos out of 5.

What I learned from writing this post

The “Jacob Eats” series is my excuse for impulse-buying weird stuff to eat. “HEY IT’S FOR THE BLOG, OKAY!?!?“, I sputter. Eyes wild. Little hands clutching way too many bottles at the H-Mart.

I was expecting to find an unexpectedly tasty one among these strange drinks, but I didn’t. They were all pretty awful to some degree. Which, I guess, is to be expected from the drinks that I would never ordinarily get.

With a fridge full of refreshing-looking drinks, I would find myself craving one. But these are for the blog. I have to take pictures of them, and then to sit down and write about the flavour notes (baaaa-na-na). Often, I would avoid having a cold drink when I really wanted it because it was too much work.

It was enlightening to realize that you can’t really mix real-life with your blog. Either you’re drinking at your leisure, or you’re sitting down to drink them all and write about them. There is no in-between.

In a small way I started to understand how difficult it is for Youtubers to show “their real life”. Your life becomes fake and performative. Or, you know, you rent a completely different apartment to create a facsimile of “your life” just to show on camera:

There was a subset of fans who were “apartment truthers” – the theory was, the apartment that Dan and Phil recorded in was not the same apartment they actually lived in. People were drawing up schematics of their floor plan, meticulously comparing shots from Instagram posts to shots in videos, and overall being INCREDIBLY invasive about the whole thing. But the most insane part? THEY WERE RIGHT. Dan and Phil addressed the theory five months ago (@10:33), stating that they did it because of privacy concerns, and also because they wanted a separation between their home life and work life.

https://www.reddit.com/r/HobbyDrama/comments/11ea56p/youtubers_how_fans_kept_two_youtubers_in_the/

Share the yuck! Comment about your favourite/least favourite unusual drinks at the bottom. Or email me at “jacob@” this website.

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