All the latest and greatest products


Filed under: Consumer Goods — shinypackages @ 10:14 am

There are the wild horses in Alberta. And then there are the ones under the hood of my 2010 Ford Taurus SHO.

All week I’ve been looking for excuses to get behind the wheel of the 2010 Taurus SHO. I almost cheered when I found out I had to make a long trip around the Perimeter of Winnipeg on Tuesday morning. A Taurus? How could that possibly be exciting, you ask? Well, this ain’t your grandpa’s Taurus. It’s an SHO and those three letters make all the difference. Super. High. Output.

I should take a moment to talk about all the luxury features of this vehicle. Things like the suede and leather seats that have three settings of heat and cooling as well as a massage function, just like those chairs at the mall. I should mention the SYNC system that lets you chat hands free, the satellite radio and the navigation system. It would be responsible for me to talk about how quiet this vehicle is on the road and how it feels like you aren’t even moving at 50 kph. But I’m a little too ramped up to talk about that. Right now, I feel the need for speed.

Even though it’s 3.5-liter V-6, it feels like a big block V8, you know, the kinds of cars we used to drive in the late 70s. Technically, it pumps out 365 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque at 3500 rpm. The engine features direct fuel injection, variable intake-valve timing and two small turbochargers that put out a maximum of 12 psi of boos. If you have no idea what those last two sentences said, let me put it this way. She’s freakin’ fast. And seriously fun to drive.

I was driving down Main Street and gave her a little gas. She lurched like Greased Lightning. I was on the highway, doing about 80kph and tromped it. The pickup at this speed was truly impressive. The speedometer goes up to 220kph. And so does the needle, however briefly.

I can’t say that the body style blows me away. I would have put it in the ‘not a head turner’ category. But then I actually saw people stopping, pointing and turning their heads while I was parked in a shopping plaza one day. It’s subtle to say the least. It’s got that wolf in sheep’s clothing thing going for it.

And I’m still really struggling with the fact that this is a Taurus. With all those ponies galloping under the hood, I might have called it a Mustang but apparently that’s taken 🙂

The Ford Taurus SHO as road tested lists at just over $50,000.



Filed under: Consumer Goods — shinypackages @ 1:57 pm

I have a confession to make. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Starbucks coffee. I find their brews a little too robust for my sensitive palate (are you buying that?). I do like their specialty coffee and teas, especially Passion tea on ice. And I like their new instant coffee.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew hit the market a couple of months ago and are a big hit by all accounts. I hear no complaints about them. I like them because I can add a touch more hot water to tone done the bold taste. Plus I will finally be able to have a good cup of coffee on a camping trip. They come in a handy book of three packs.

Starbucks VIA comes in Colombia, Italian Roast and most recently, a decaf version of the Italian Roast.

The suggested retail price of  Starbucks VIA®Ready Brew Decaffeinated Italian Roast is $3.45 (3 servings) and $12.95 (12 servings)

The suggested retail price of the regular Colombia and Italian Roast is $3.45 (3 servings) and $11.95 (12 servings).

Get ’em at Starbucks.



Filed under: Consumer Goods — shinypackages @ 4:15 pm

I read this book because I had just finished reading In the Land of Long Fingernails by Charles Wilkins. I guess you could say I was on a bit of a funereal binge. I may read something called Grave Matters next.

I also read Curtains by Tom Jokinen because it was set in Winnipeg and I’m a sucker for a book that mentions street names I recognize and buildings I have set foot in.

This book is a perfect rainy day read. The curtains at the funeral home get pulled back for all to see in this funny, sad, touching and entertaining tale. A former CBC radio producer takes a job as an apprentice at a Winnipeg funeral home. That’s the story in a nutshell. There are the expected creepy parts that delve into the details of cremation and embalming. But what has stayed with me from this book more than anything else isn’t about death. It’s about life. And specifically—the dash.

So what is the dash? It’s that little line between the year you were born and the year you died and it makes all the difference. Think about it.
At most major bookstores or online at



Filed under: Consumer Goods — shinypackages @ 7:32 am

A bare bones motorist I am not.

I fully admit that bells and whistles impress the hell out of me. I’m not sure I could ever go back to a vehicle without heated leather seats, a premium stereo system and a sunroof that opens with the touch of a button. I like chrome, matching door handles and dark tint windows that make you think someone very important is sitting inside.

That’s why it stands to reason that the 2010 Lincoln MKT has knocked my socks off.

Let’s start with Active Park Assist, three little words that mean parallel parking will never cause your blood pressure to rise again as you try to wiggle into a spot. Here’s how it works: slow down and start looking for a spot. Touch the button on the console. The dash display will tell you to move ahead, then to stop, put the vehicle in reverse and take your hands off the wheel. Yes, take your hands off the wheel. Now all you have to do is work the brake and accelerator and let the MKT slide into the spot. The steering wheel spins this way and that way and corrects until you are perfectly parked. Admittedly, it’s a little unnerving to see your steering wheel spinning around like that but it does a better job of parking than I ever could, both from the right and left sides.

Now let’s talk about the LCD panel on the dash that can keep you occupied for days. Lincoln SYNC is a voice-activated communications and navigation system that will impress even your technology-crazy friends. A few pushes of a button and your mobile phone is paired with the vehicle’s onboard system. That means hands-free operation (even though your should really pull over to take a call). When it comes to tunes, I love the internal Jukebox. Slip a CD into the player, record it, and have it stored forever. That means no changing CDs. The system sounds like a dream. That’s probably thanks to the 14 premium speakers. Lincoln SYNC also includes a complete navigation system.

Now let’s talk about what’s under the hood. Please understand that I am incapable of rewiring my hitch or installing new ball joints, but I do know about horsepower. This Lincoln MKT has the 3.5 litre, V6 EcoBoosts engine. That translates into 355 horsepower and 350 lb ft of torque. What does that mean? Lots of ponies and lots of pick up. In other words, it’s tons of fun to drive.

With all its options, the unit I am driving prices out at just under $65,000. I could go on for days about the seats with both heat and AC, freezer in the backseat, sexy blue lights that come on inside the vehicle at night and the back hatch the opens and closes with a button touch. But that’s enough driving in the lap of luxury for today.


THE IPAD REVIEW April 8, 2010

Filed under: Consumer Goods — shinypackages @ 7:11 am

After nearly 48 hours of playing with my new iPad, I feel it’s time to share my impressions. But first let me tell you a story of how I got my iPad. As you know, they aren’t available in Canada yet. A foursome of geeky boys from Winnipeg made a Fan Boys style pilgrimage to Minneapolis to pick up their reserved units. I thought I would follow their adventure on Twitter, last Saturday morning. Keep in mind that I was sitting by the cozy  woodstove at the cottage while they were anxiously waiting in line.

Then a Tweet showed up from another Winnipegger, who was also making his whirlwind trip to get an iPad. He found out he could buy two units and asked if anyone wanted one. On a spur of the moment, I Tweeted back and claimed the second iPad. Glenn Tinley later told me that the Tweets came fast and furious from others who also wanted to claim it. But I was first.

Getting Set Up

Don’t try to take a shortcut like I did and not install the latest version of iTunes. The instructions, as brief as they are, tells you to do this. I didn’t, and ran into trouble. As soon as I installed the new version, my iPad icon popped up and I easily set up my unit. It’s exactly the same process as setting up an iTouch and iPhone (and yes, I have both, which is admittedly very strange because I am not a gadgety person.)

My Fave Apps

Since it’s only been a day and a half, I haven’t discovered a great number of apps. But I already have a few faves. For example, there’s Pocket Cocktails, a mixology app that give me recipes to a gazillion cocktails. The coolest part of this app is the ‘random’ bottom. Give the iPad a shake and a new cocktail appears on your screen. I also like Distant Suns, an app made just for the iPad. It’s all about astrology and I think it will be a load of fun at the cottage. I might actually learn a thing or two. I was chatting with my Dad last night about our upcoming trip to Ukraine. I need to learn a few words and yep, there’s an app for that, called Speak Easy Ukrainian. Keep in mind that lots of the apps are built for iPhones so they appear on the iPad screen as half sized. Simply touch the 2X bottom on the lower right to fill the screen. Sometimes, they can be a little fuzzy.


I downloaded Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It wasn’t cheap, almost $10, and it took an hour to download. But it looks fantastic on that magical screen. I can’t wait to be on an airplane and fire it up.


My excuse for buying an iPad was that I wanted to give e-reading a try. I could have bought a Kindle or a Sony Reader but the iPad is simply cooler. Lloyd Hanesson is another Twitter friend who is always kind enough to point me in the right technical direction. He suggested getting an app called Kobo. I did. And I love it. With Kobo, you buy your ebooks through their site. My first title is called Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? It’s easy to bookmark pages with a simple flick at the top. You can also adjust the font style and size as well as the brightness of the screen. This means two things for me: I don’t need a lamp to ready by and I don’t need my reading glasses.


The iPad is simply in a whole new category of cool. You can get your mail, surf the Net (with a WiFi) connection, use it as a digital photo frame, follow Twitter and Facebook and probably do 1,000 things that I don’t know about. Do I NEED an iPad? Of course not. But by that same rationale, I don’t need a telephone, electric washing machine or an automobile. Technology marches on, my friends.

$499 US for the 16 GB iPad