Monthly Archives: January 2008

Six Degrees vs The Tipping Point and the problem with metaphors.

Kevin Kelly writes on something that is getting a fair amount of attention: the new book by Duncan Watts (Six Degrees). Watts critiques another book by Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point), and Kevin Kelly does a good job of commenting on it.

My problem with all this analysis is the use of metaphors. Using metaphors of disease or forest fires helps model and understand the characteristic of certain activities (e.g. the success of failure of certain forms of communications), but they are just that, models. And limited ones at that. It’s good that Watts has shown the limits of Gladwell’s metaphor. But I suspect his metaphor is just as limited.


What boys dream…

Philosophical podcasts from Schopenhauer to Plato

When everyone else on the bus is bopping along to hip hop, you can be grooving to Schopenhauer’s “The World as Will and Idea” if you surf over to here.

For truly smart people. (I didn’t know they had podcasts in Plato’s time! 🙂 )

Why giving up your privacy doesn’t make you more secure.

Over at is a very concise argument on why giving up your privacy doesn’t make you more secure. Key quote:

“Confiscating shaving cream and nail files at the airport doesn’t make anyone safer. Neither does creating a national ID card, because terrorists rely on surprise, not anonymity. The fundamental issue is that real security involves focusing resources on identifying and stopping the tiny fraction of the population that is engaged in criminal and terrorist acts. The vast majority of people pose no threat to anyone, and it’s a waste of resources to monitor them. “

See Techdirt: If You’re Watching Everyone, You’re Watching No One for the entire article.

How to make a dark room seem light (and well lit)…

…by reading this article, Chasing the Darkness With Sleight of Hand in the New York Times, which presents a nice case study on how to make a dark room light up. It features a room by Jeffrey Bilhuber, a Manhattan interior designer, whose client had a bedroom in their apartment with very little light. The end result is light and very attractive. Lots of good ideas to borrow here.

Valentino is done

To people outside the world of fashion, this could be a big, “eh…whatever”. But after 45 years as a leading designer, it’s a big thing that Valentino does his last haute couture fashion show (in Paris, of course). This piece in the NYT’s doesn’t do him justice. Maybe we’ll need the New Yorker to do a story on him, like they did for Lagerfeld recently. In the meantime, see So This Is It: Valentino – On the Runway – Fashion – Style – New York Times Blog

From the Fake Steve Jobs blog to the Fake Hillary twitter

An interesting development of parody / satire. See: Twitter / fakehillary

Sesame Street Videos – Beta – now online

Now if you are going to watch a “beta” version of anything, this is the one to watch.

I think I will have a and watch them. 🙂

Go here for the videos

Wanting to move up from cheap wine at the LCBO? Look to Matthew Sullivan for advice.

Matthew Sullivan has a great idea for a wine blog. His blog, the Short Cellar, is all about:

“….offering some advice about the joy of aging wine as I build my own cellar from the ground up, detailing what is going in, when it comes out, and what happened to it along the way. My emphasis will be on wines that are easily available in Ontario and that only take a year or two before developing into something special. Who has time to wait 10 years? I’m patient, but not a saint. There’s a perception that having a wine cellar implies expertise or money. This is a myth. You’re never too young, dumb, or soaked in debt to want a better bottle of wine. It’s true that a cellar takes some foresight and knowledge, but only enough to guess what you are going to have for dinner three years from now, and the knowledge that you’ll want something extraordinary to wash it down. You can spend any amount that you wish on wine, but the sweet spot is between $15 and $25. At that level, there are some exceptional wines that will mature marvellously, but there’s no guilt in drinking them at any time since, litre for litre, they are still cheaper than a latte.”

Sounds like a great idea. See The Short Cellar for more.

Avoiding the sub-prime mortgage disaster…for now

The whirlpool that is the sub-prime mortgage disaster in the U.S. continues to get bigger and suck more things into it. But not everyone.

At, the excellent Jason Kottke has some good references to smart people who have managed to see the problem coming and avoid it (for now). For more details, see his entry: Yay! Today is sub-prime mortgage day on, I guess. The… (

Also, check out the site n+1 — he referenced earlier — that has an interview with a Hedge Fund Manager that not only talks about this problem but problems in the world of high finance generally. An eye-opening interview.

Be afraid.

In 2008, wine is going to get cheaper at the LCBO (good news for under $10 fans!)

The has an article on how the LCBO will now stock cheaper wine in 2008. Fans of wine under $10, take heart! 🙂

Some highlights from the Beppi Crosariol article:

– Wine drinkers in Ontario may soon notice a strange trend taking shape at their local liquor stores: more shelf space given over to bargain imports. (Why is this strange? -bm)- Portugal is likely to be a key source of some of the best buys. The LCBO has reduced its minimum selling price for wines from that country to $6.95 for a 750-millilitre bottle, down $3 from last year’s minimum price of $9.95. Similarly, wineries from South Africa and Australia, two other low-cost regions known for abundant bargains, can now submit products for consideration priced as low as $7.95.

– The new $6.95 threshold also applies to “cellared in Canada” blends.

– Bargain wines acquired under the new purchasing program issued this week … are expected to reach shelves over the coming year, starting as early as April.

– The LCBO also sells a rotating selection of limited-release premium products through Vintages… may also choose to source under-$10 deals…

– Chris Churchill, president of Churchill Cellars Ltd., which represents such popular Australian brands as Banrock Station and Hardys, said quality at all price points has improved significantly during the almost 20 years he has been travelling to wine fairs around the world and that $8 and $9 no longer means a gamble with mediocrity. “With better-trained winemakers and better technology, it’s now difficult to find really bad wines, even in the less-than-$10 category.”

– Ontario would still have miles to go before catching up to bargain-wine trends in the United States, where mass-produced brands such as Barefoot Cellars often sell in … for as little as $4 a bottle (which are $9.95 in the LCBO! 😦 -bm))

See the article here with the misleading title of LCBO flips anti-plonk policy, since all LCBO outlets have always had alot of plonk on it shelves that never seems to shrink. Low cost wine isn’t synonymous with plonk.

P.S. for more on some of the fine, award winning and non-plonk wine from Barefoot, see here and here for some good examples.

Friday music – Joanna Newsom

The brilliant Joanna Newsom with “sprout and the bean”

The John Coltrane web site

I love John Coltrane’s music. Learn more about the man and his music at ::: JOHNCOLTRANE.COM :::

Bonus: you go to the site, it pops up with “A Love Supreme”. Enjoy.

flickr steps up the plate for the Library of Congress

[William J. Bradley, Toronto (baseball)] (LOC)

The Library of Congress has added 3,000 copyright-free, public domain photos to Flickr. The catch? It’s up to us to tag them all.

To me, this is a significant step in the growth of such Web 2.0 services. Imagine if more and more librarians put their archives on the Web in such a fashion.

Thanks to lifehacker for the tip!

(Photo: Bain News Service,

[William J. Bradley,
Toronto (baseball)]


Canadian Opera Company’s Opera for a New Age Tickets On-Sale Saturday

Under 30? Live in or around Toronto? Love or interesting in opera? Then mark this date on your calendar:

On Saturday
January 19, the Canadian Opera Company’s Opera for a New Age
tickets go on sale. You get tickets at $20 a seat (as opposed to $60 or more.) for performances of Tosca by Puccini and From the House of the Dead by Janácek.

See Canadian Opera Company’s Opera for a New Age Tickets On-Sale Saturday

(Credit to

China and Web 2.0 has alot of stories on very trivial matters. But this China story is anything but. It’s about:

Wei Wenhua (who) was a model communist and is now a bloggers’ hero — a “citizen journalist” turned martyr.

The world needs China to open up, and so does China. Here’s hoping they do. Everyone will benefit.

For more details, see Death pits technology against Chinese control. Kudos to CNN.

Kids don’t like clowns

According to a study reported on in the, children hate clowns. Even older ones. It found that:

“clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable.”

I think this may be an exaggeration, but I think there is alot more too it than adults realize. Perhaps a few generations from now, people will look back and think: wow! There were clowns back then! 🙂

casa cachagua and other great design at materialicious

What ismaterialicious™? As it says, it is “a weblog featuring residential architecture, design, craftsmanship, materials and products. It is edited by Justin Anthony, a New Yorker who is currently residing in Phoenix, AZ., and was a residential restoration specialist for 25 years.” It is chock full of great architecture and design, like the Casa Cachagua featured above. Go see.

casa cachagua, f3 arquitectos at materialicious

Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools: Art and Fear

Kevin Kelly, in his list “Cool Tools”, has excerpts of what looks like a good book for anyone who wants to know not just about making art but being creative generally. Here’s a link to the site, and here is a fascinating story from the Cool Tool: Art & Fear

‘The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.’

What the future looks like

It’s shifting

Great reasons to start a blog from

people who wonder, “why blog?”, the people at have listed
a number of strong reasons why you should in their article, How To Use Your Blog To Make 2008 Your Best Year Ever!

article is written from a viewpoint of how to use a blog to improve
yourself, and the bonuses they list regarding blogging (e.g. track
progress, get feedback, share knowledge) apply to anyone, either
personally or professionally.

Want to get published? has the story

The New York Times has a good summary on the various web sites offering publishing services in their article: Got a Manuscript? Publishing Now a Snap – New York Times. There are references to, and others.

If you have been always dying to see your work bound in hardcover, check out this article and then the sites they mention.

Chicken Schnitzel and other great Hungarian food at Country Style Hungarian Restaurant in Toronto’s Annex

blogto does a great job of covering Toronto, including restaurants. And this review of Country Style Hungarian Restaurant is no exception.

There used to be a number of Hungarian restaurants in the Annex, including the Korona, my old favourite. Sadly, most of them are gone. But not Country Style. Head on over to 450 Bloor St West and have one of these…

…and you will be very glad you did! 🙂

(image link to blogto)

Bill Gates Last Day at Microsoft

When you are Bill Gates, you can get some PRETTY powerful people to show up in a spoof video of you. The video is funny, but the underlying message is: hey, I am Bill Gates, and look who I can get to show up.

Watch and see:

YouTube – Bill Gates’ Last Day at Microsoft – CES 2008

One Giant Leap – Maxi Jazz & Robby Wiliams – My Culture

One Giant Leap is very innovative musically, and My Culture is a very rich example of this. A fine piece of work….

A nice background switcher for your desktop (with Web 2.0 features)

John’s Background Switcher over at John’s Adventures web site is a really nice tool that easily allows you not only to switch your background, but has links into flickr, Picasa, and more. Lots of great features for the tool, too. I highly recommend it.

How to pick locks

I stumbled across this demo of how to pick a master lock #175. There are alot of these videos! If your lock is in one of them, you should get rid of it.

That said, it is impressive to see some of these videos. It’s hackers for hardware.

YouTube – How to pick a Master Lock #175 with a paper clip…

How to simplify your life with four rules

Over at the well done blog, Zen Habits, is a list of The Four Laws of Simplicity, and How to Apply Them to Life

The laws themselves are:

1. Collect everything in one place.
2. Choose the essential.
3. Eliminate the rest.
4. Organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely.

But see their article for good advice on how to apply them.

How to build a very small house

There are a number of architects and builders specializing in very small dwellings for people.

Tumbleweed Houses are appropriately named and nicely done. It makes being a nomad seem grand! You should visit the site, just to see what can be packed into such a small space.

The great Anna Netrebko, singing O Mio Babbino Caro

What can I say? Just watch and listen…

For people who love watches, check out watchismo

I understand that younger people wear watches less and less, likely due to the abundance of other sources to provide the time. Cell phones will kill off watches, perhaps. If you know of such a watchless person, send them over to watchismo and see if they don’t want to get a watch by the end of it!

This one is perfect for someone who lives 24/7! 🙂

David Byrne explains the music industry

There is alot said about the state of the music industry. Much of that is dire. Then I read this article

David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars

by David Byrne in WiReD. His knowledge of the industry and his insights make for a fascinating article. If you are musician, or if you love music, it’s a great read.

Philipe Starck on the purpose of design

Designers should define their role broadly as agents of good in the world, and limit their work to ‘legitimate’ products: those that are needed, and those that can be made without damage to nature or — through the unethical actions of manufacturers and investors — damage to people.

— Industrial designer Phillipe Starck, on the purpose of design

(Thanks to for this)

Masks for every day use / privacy in the 21st century

Over at Razor Apple is a feature on 11 Masked Hoodies to Hide Your Face. With the rise of more and more public cameras, there may be a trend to more fashion that (stylishly) covers the face.

Bread lovers – this blog is for you

If you love bread, or want to learn how to bake it, the Bread Blog has lots of great recipes and instructions on how to make all kinds of bread, including one of my favourites, Panettone (chocolate chip, no less)

The famous “Funny Cat Cartoon”

I was using the computer tonight and my young son said: play the Funny Cat Cartoon! So here it is! It’s funny on it’s own, and if you have ever had a cat, it is even funnier, I think.

YouTube – Funny Cat Cartoon