I’m running a 10K race to help send kids with cancer to summer camp

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 2.51.00 PMThis might shock you, but I’m not much of a runner.

This isn’t to say I never run. I usually spend at least one morning a week huffing and puffing away on a treadmill at my local gym on days between my other workouts, but I’d be lying if I said it was my favourite form of exercise.

I have a great respect for runners. I really do. I admire their ability to go out and pound the pavement on a cold or wet morning, to push themselves over long distances, and for their tireless pursuit of that so-called “runner’s high.”

It’s just not really my thing. I’d rather play hockey, cross train or lift weights.

But that’s all going to change over the next two months.

On May 11, I’m going to attempt to run the Sporting Life 10K in Toronto in an effort to raise money for Camp Oochiegeas, an Ontario camp for children affected by childhood cancer.

Even though I’m not much of a runner, how do you say no to a good cause like this?

Recently, the fine folks at Nike Canada approached me to join their Canadian Media Team for the Sporting Life 10K.

I told them I have never run a 10K. They said that was fine.

I told them the longest run I’ve completed since grade school was a 5K. On a treadmill. Again, no problem, they said.

So on Sunday, May 11 in Toronto, I’m going to join up with a few thousand other folks — most of whom will be much more experienced runners than this guy — to run 10 kilometers down Yonge Street.

This means I have less than eight weeks to get into running shape so that I don’t wind up bowing out of the race halfway through in search of the nearest Tim Hortons.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be posting a few updates about my progress as I try and get myself ready for race day. Please go easy on me and my goofy stories.

Why am I doing this? Simple: To raise money for a great cause.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Camp “Ooch,” as it is known, it’s the only residential camp in Ontario which offers on-site IV chemotherapy treatments and blood transfusions, so that the kids can continue receiving treatment while getting to experience summer camp.

Camp Ooch offers year-round programs for children affected by cancer in Muskoka, at the Hospital for Sick Children, two other regional cancer centres and Ooch Downtown in Toronto.

Doesn’t that sound like the kind of thing you’d like to support? Of course it does.

I’m told that it costs about $3,500 to send one kid to camp, and we’re hoping to send as many kids to camp as we possibly can with our Canadian Media Team.

So if you’d like to support our team — or your friendly neighbourhood tech reporter himself — you can do so right here. No amount of money is too small, and it’s all going to a great cause, so anything you can do to help us out would be very much appreciated.

To learn more about the race or to sign up yourself check out this link or click on the video below.

Thanks for reading. See you on race day.

I’ll be the guy at the back of the pack.

Songza to begin using Weather Channel data to deliver more context-aware playlists

SongzaAs The Beatles once sang, “Can you hear me that when it rains and shines, it’s just a state of mind?”

Now, when it rains and shines, Songza will have a better idea of your state of mind.

Thanks to a new partnership with The Weather Company — parent company of the U.S.-based Weather Channel — music streaming service Songza will now account for the weather conditions where a user is accessing the service when suggesting customized playlists.

Under the terms of a new deal announced on Thursday, Songza will begin using data from the U.S. Weather Channel to improve its ability to deliver context- appropriate music by factoring in  weather conditions, in addition to others factors like time of day, location and the device from which a user is accessing the service.

As well, Songza will be able to deliver specific weather-themed playlists playlists to match the meteorological conditions going on outside your door, designed for activities like “taking a sunny stroll,” “stargazing on a clear night,” or “watching the sunset.”

You can check out the folk-heavy “Sunset Soundtrack” on Songza here.

But the data will be used for more than suggesting playlists containing Led Zeppelin’s The Rain Song when it starts to drizzle. Songza officials say the data will enable the music streaming service to “understand and accommodate subconscious changes to people’s routines that are driven by relative changes in temperature, precipitation and more.”

“Songza’s mission is to be everyone’s personal music concierge,” Elias Roman, co-founder and chief executive of Songza, said in a statement.

“That kind of premium experience requires being excellent at two things: expert human content curation and algorithmic, data-driven anticipation of users’ content needs, so customers don’t have to work to find the perfect thing. With new data provided by The Weather Channel, we can more accurately predict your context, helping you enjoy more sunsets and weather more storms.”

The Weather Company will be feeding Songza data from across both the United States and Canada on temperature, visibility, humidity, and precipitation, as well as sunrise and sunset timing. The company will also have access to historical averages.

Mr. Roman said the data will allow Songza to suggest weather-related playlists in real time, with no perceptible delay to users.

“The Weather Channel has the world’s most comprehensive database of real-time global weather conditions,” Mike Finnerty, senior vice president of platform products and distribution at The Weather Company, said in a statement.

“Using our data to make an emotional connection to Songza’s users by dynamically recommending playlists is a perfect example of partnering to innovate in a really compelling way.”

Related:

Burton Cummings adds his ideal road trip playlist to Songza
Alanis Morissette curates the ‘perfect’ Valentine’s Day playlist for Songza
Alan Cross joins Songza Canada as head of curation (interview)

Sportsnet’s “Stand Tall” Blue Jays opening day promo video

With Opening Day for the Blue Jays just a week away, Sportsnet has rolled out a video to promote the first game of the season on March 31 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The video, which features stern-faced Blue Jays players staring into the camera, carries with it a theme of overcoming adversity, which, given last year’s result for the team, isn’t all that shocking.

Still, I’m not sure I totally understand the thinking behind a promotional video that seeks to get fans fired up for the coming season by reminding them about the disappointments of 2013.

Here’s the full script of the video:

“Adversity. It is not kind. It is not preferential. How do you react? Do you back down? No. You stand tall. We are true North, and strong. Adversity brings opportunity. A new season is new hope. This is when you stand tall.”

Maybe it’s just me, but sour-faced baseball players and a script that talks about overcoming adversity, while intense, doesn’t exactly get me fired up for the season.

Baseball is supposed to be fun and exciting. This video just makes me think of all the pressure the team is under to perform this year.

Mind you, we could always go back to the Monty Python-esque promos of the late 1980s:

Or, you know, maybe not.

Alison Brie set to executive producer pilot based on ‘Teachers’ Web series

One of the funniest Web series on YouTube could soon land on television after TV Land ordered a pilot episode of ‘Teachers.’

According to Deadline, the Web series from the all female Chicago-based comedy group The Katydids will also feature Community‘s Alison Brie as executive producer.

For those unfamiliar with Teachers, the Web series focuses on a group of highly inappropriate grade school educators and their sometimes shocking antics.

Some of the funnier moments from the Web series include a teacher who has her students play “statue game” for gym class because she’s hung over, two teachers discussing dating a drug dealer while yelling at a kid to “make better choices” and a teacher who uses her students to creep on her ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page.

The show is incredibly human, and the realistic foibles of the characters make me think this is what I might be like if being a teacher was my job.

With a little bit of luck, TV Land will like what it sees from the pilot and Teachers will soon graduate to a full season. Check out the sizzle reel embedded above for some of the highlights.

A few thoughts – Samsung’s 12.2-inch Galaxy Note Pro tablet

Samsung

Samsung

Sometimes bigger is better. Other times, bigger is just bigger.

Samsung recently overhauled its tablet lineup in Canada with a handful of new devices featuring a variety of sizes and price points. The move is part of the company’s ongoing “device democracy” strategy to market a range of form factors and pricing options in the hopes of appealing to different groups of users.

One of the devices Samsung has launched is the 12.2-inch Galaxy Note Pro tablet, a mammoth touchscreen slate that pushes the limits of what you might generally think of when you imagine a “mobile” computing device.

The world’s No. 2 maker of tablets, Samsung sold roughly 14.5 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to estimates from IDC, up 86% over the 7.8 tablets the company sold in the same quarter a year ago.

At a time when growth in the tablet market is slowing, Samsung still trails market leader Apple (which sold 26 million tablets in the fourth quarter by IDC’s estimates) by a wide margin.

But as with its smartphone business, Samsung is ambitiously looking to increase its international reach.

While rival Apple has chosen to keep its iPad lineup relatively simple, Samsung’s tablet strategy veers off in another direction, seeking to offer consumers a plethora of choices in the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Tab product lines (the main difference being the Note tablets feature a stylus pen).

With the new PRO devices, Samsung’s tablet portfolio now includes eight different models, ranging in screen size from 7″ to 12,” which cost anywhere from under $200 to nearly $800.

Over the past few days, I’ve had a chance to test drive one of the latest addition to the Samsung tablet family tree, the Android-powered 12.2″ Galaxy Note Pro tablet.

As the great football writer Peter King would say, here’s a few things “I think I think.”

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WWE launches Slam City, makes us nostalgic for a rubber Macho Man Randy Savage

“Man, I wish they made something like that when I was a kid.”

At one point or another, this is a sentiment that just about every generation feels about those that come after it.

Whether it’s gamer parents seeing their kids jump around the living room with a Nintendo Wii, or comic book enthusiasts who never imagined a time when a summer blockbuster could star Iron Man, every now and then, the ways in which young people will experience older and established brands can drum up a little bit of envy in the hearts of older fans.

This week, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is taking the wraps off WWE Slam City, a new kids property that includes both a series of animated shorts and a line of toy action figures modelled after today’s most popular professional wrestlers, taking a strategy which dates back to rubber wrestling figures and Saturday morning cartoons and updates it for today’s kids.

The 26-episode series of stop motion animated shorts — which were produced as part of the WWE’s longstanding merchandise deal with Mattel — launches today in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

In Canada, children will be able to watch the shorts on YouTube, on Mattel and WWE websites, as well as on iTunes, PlayStation or Xbox. In the U.S, the series of two-minute shorts will also be available on WWE Network.

According to a release from the WWE, the series sees a new animated character known as “The Finisher” who takes control of the organization and fires all of the WWE wrestlers, who are then forced to go find regular jobs in “Slam City.” This results in situations like John Cena becoming a mechanic and Kane taking a job as a cafeteria worker.

Sounds like pure hilarity, you know, if you’re seven years old.

The series features animated versions of the disproportioned wrestler action figures as they appear in the toy line, which gives the superstars a resemblance to the old M.U.S.C.L.E. two-inch figures from the mid-1980s.

Make no mistake, these toys and the accompanying cartoon are in no way, shape or form designed to increase WWE viewership among the smart marks who can name the last 15 Royal Rumble champions. These are kids toys, aimed at growing the WWE brand among grade schoolers in the hopes of creating a new generation of fans.

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Blue Jays plan two ‘Connect with the Blue Jays’ nights to replace Tweeting Tuesdays

toronto-blue-jays-logoSo long, Tweeting Tuesdays.

When the Toronto Blue Jays first started their semi-regular “Tweeting Tuesdays” social media nights in 2010, the team was one of the first pro sports organizations looking to capitalize on Twitter’s meteoric growth.

I wrote a story about the second Tweeting Tuesday event in June, 2010 for the National Post. At the time, the Blue Jays had roughly 7,600 followers on Twitter, and the only players who were actively tweeting were outfielder Fred Lewis and relief pitcher Dirk Hayhurst (who was on the 60-day DL at the time).

That was four years ago. Cito Gaston was still the manager, Vernon Wells was patrolling centre field, and fans were getting excited about a Cuban prospect named Adeiny Hechavarria.

A lot has changed since then. The Blue Jays today have more than 390,000 followers on Twitter, most of the team’s start players are at least on the service if not actively tweeting, and Tweeting Tuesdays have evolved from a curiosity enjoyed by a minority of fans to a staple of the team’s event calendar, usually taking place about once a month.

Conceived of as a fresh and digital way to interact with fans — both those in the stadium and at home watching on television — Tweeting Tuesdays have given the Blue Jays faithful a chance to enter trivia contests, win prizes and ask questions of the team’s broadcasters, 140 characters at a time.

But this year, the Blue Jays are foregoing the monthly Tweeting Tuesdays in favour of putting their efforts behind a pair of “Connect with the Blue Jays” social media nights, scheduled for June 24 against the New York Yankees and August 5 against the Baltimore Orioles.

On Tuesday night, the team’s marketing department invited a handful of Toronto-area bloggers and social media influencers (including yours truly) to the SkyDome for an informal social media roundtable where they laid out their vision for this season’s “Connect with the Blue Jays” nights.

In addition to this writer, in attendance were Canadian Baseball Network contributor Andrew Hendriks, Jays Prospects blog founder and 2013 MLB Fan Cave dweller April Whitzman, and Ian Hunter, author of the popular Jays blog Blue Jay Hunter. While I knew each of them from Twitter, this was the first chance I had to meet these folks, and they were all wonderful. If you’re a Jays fan, you should be following each of them on Twitter.

We were asked to come with our own ideas about what the team could be doing to reach out to fans on social media and for a little help in refining the Connect with the Blue Jays night idea.

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Budweiser wants baseball’s Opening Day to be a national holiday in the U.S.

Budweiser

Budweiser

For many baseball fans, Opening Day is the most wonderful day of the year.

Now, the folks at Budweiser have kickstarted a White House petition to take it one step further and declare the first day of the Major League Baseball season a national holiday in the United States.

As with all White House petitions, Budweiser needs 100,000 signatures to ensure a response from the Obama Administration. So far, more than 37,000 people have signed the petition over the past couple of days.

There are still 27 days remaining in the campaign, so it seems likely Budweiser will get its response. Given that Barack Obama is a devout fan of the Chicago White Sox, maybe the beer giant can strike a chord with the U.S. President.

This isn’t the first time a beer company has tried to create a new national holiday. Labatt Breweries of Canada tried to create a new Canadian long weekend in June back in 2001, but unfortunately came up short.

Of course, even if the Budweiser petition is voted into law — which seems somewhat unlikely — Toronto Blue Jays fans will miss out, as the odds of Prime Minister Stephen Harper enacting a similar decree in Canada are probably pretty slim.

Perhaps Molson should start a similar campaign in Canada for the first day of the NHL season, Or for Hockey Day in Canada (provided it wasn’t held on a Saturday).

Here’s an idea: maybe MLB could help out Jays fans next season, ensuring the Blue Jays play at home and during the day on Canadian-specific holidays next summer?

This year, the Jays don’t play on Victoria Day, Labour Day or the Monday of the August long weekend. (Toronto does play a Canada Day afternoon game against the Brewers on July 1.)

You can add your name to the petition here.

Barack Obama: “We’re building Iron Man”

Take that Tony Stark.

On Tuesday, at a White House manufacturing innovation event, President Barack Obama decided to have a bit of fun with reporters, revealing that the United States government has a secret project in the works.

Iron Man.

Well, not really.

In this clip from CNN, President Obama starts off by welcoming reporters and saying he is being joined by advanced metal researchers, digital cloud designers and Pentagon officials.

Which, if you think about it, is pretty much the group of people you’d need to create an Iron Man suit.

That’s when the President dropped this bomb:

“Basically, I’m here to announce that we’re building Iron Man.”

After a few giggles, the President teased further, joking “this is a secret project we’ve been working on for a while.”

Really?

“Not really,” added the President.

Well, thanks for nothing.

But shouldn’t we take him at his word? I mean, considering all the crazy stuff happening in the bowels of the Pentagon, there’s got to be one guy working on an Iron Man suit, or super soldier serum, or at least a Batarang, right?

Could be. Because the next words out of the President’s mouth regarding the Iron Man suit were:

“Maybe. It’s classified.”

So, the U.S. government is not working on a Death Star — too expensive, apparently — but it might be working on an Iron Man suit.

Maybe.

That’s not a denial, sir.

Phillies minor league team unveils new cap featuring a strip of bacon (seriously)

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Bacon and baseball just might be the two most beautiful words in the English language to begin with the letter ‘B.’

Now, at long last, a minor league team has combined these two gifts from on high into a single wonderful cap.

And it’s glorious.

On Tuesday, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs — a Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies — unveiled their new Saturday baseball cap, which features a single strip of sizzling bacon emblazoned across the front.

The new caprs are part of a complete uniform overhaul for the IronPigs, a campaign the team has been dubbed, fittingly, #smellthechange.

The pork-themed uniform rebranding doesn’t end there. On Saturdays this season, Lehigh Valley’s squad will don uniforms with “Pigs” splashed across the chest and “first-of-its-kind bacon-style” piping down both pant legs. Oh, and the team is also marketing a shirt that smells like bacon.

Isn’t minor league baseball amazing?

Here’s the description of the new uniforms via the team’s Website:

The “Smell The Change” initiative is brought to life in the IronPigs brand-new bacon-themed Saturday ensemble, which includes a bacon strip logo transfixed to the cap, a fresh ‘Pigs’ jersey design emblazoned across the chest as well as the first-of-its-kind bacon-style piping down both legs of the pants. The bold new bacon strip logo sits atop a two-tone cap featuring the familiar colors of IronPigs Steel and Furnace Blue.

Sadly, it appears the IronPigs merchandise Website does not deliver to Canada (I know because I tried ordering one of these beautiful creations tonight).