Monthly Archives: February 2008

THE Coolest name tag on a T shirt

ThinkGeek has lots of great merchandise, including this T shirt:

If anyone wants to buy me something for my birthday at the end of April, I will take a medium! Ordering details here:
ThinkGeek :: Hello My Name Is Inigo Montoya


Sorel – serious winter boots – and stylish too!

The good people of Sorel make SERIOUS winter clothing. Especially boots. For example, the Intrepid Expedition™ are…

 “…Inspired by the mushers who compete in the Yukon Quest, arguably the toughest dog sled race in the world, the Sorel Intrepid Expedition™ offers a new level of versatile peformance for winter’s most demanding conditions. Rated to -100°F (-73.3°C).”

Rated to -100°F (-73.3°C)!
May you never have to be out in anything close to that. (I have been in temperatures as low as -40°C and it is frightening how cold that is.)

I would highly recommend Sorels, not only because you will never have to fear cold feat again, but they make some pretty stylish boots. I would take these over Uggs anyday. Men, don’t wear Uggs. Wear Sorels instead. (The Bota Bad or Roas Soda if you must! Though I think Expeditions would selling like hotcakes if Nike bought out Sorel. ) Here’s a photo of the Expeditions

And they no longer seem to make them, but I saw a woman with a plaid pair of Sorels that would have gone great with some Burberry.

Who is twitter for ? Everyone. Even plants!

This is a very cool — in a geeky kinda way — of using twitter to keep tabs on your plants. (But really, you could use it for all kinds of things. This Botanicalls Twitter DIY:

“answers the question: What’s up with your plant? It offers a connection to your leafy pal via online Twitter status updates that reach you anywhere in the world. When your plant needs water, it will post to let you know, and send its thanks when you show it love.

Twitter is social software that asks a simple question: What are you doing?

Botanicalls is a system that was developed to allow plants to place phone calls for human help. When a plant on the Botanicalls network needs water, it can call a person and ask for exactly what it needs. When people phone the plants, the plants orient callers to their habits and characteristics. Call 212.202.8348 to hear more about each of the plants.”

Zoho Writer gets better AND bigger

According to TechCrunch:

“Web-based word processors keep closing the gap with Microsoft Office. Since its launch, Zoho now has 650,000 users, a 30 percent increase from just last November, the company tells us. It is doing 2 million user sessions per month. And its users have created more than one million documents on Zoho Writer (1.6 million, if you include its online presentation and spreadsheet products, Zoho Show and Zoho Sheets).”

Pretty impressive numbers. I really like Zoho. see: Zoho Writer Gets An Update—More Than One Million Documents Served

Google and the Internet

It is interesting to see that Google is joining a consortium to essentially pump up the Internet. This is not surprising: Google has the money, and it is in their interest. What I find interesting is thinking that the torch is passing from the telcos to the software companies. It will also be interesting to see how this affects the whole net neutrality discussion.

Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see Google’s foray into the world of infrastructure. See the post on the  New York Times Blog –  Bits: Google and the Undersea Cable.

On Brad Bird: writer, director (of The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille), and…auteur

Brad Bird won an Oscar this year for BEST ANIMATED FILM with Ratatouille. As someone with kids, I’ve watched a number of his animated films. I have watched them more than any other films I like. Because they are animated kids films, it might seem ridiculous to consider Bird an auteur. But if you agree with the auteur theory which “champions the idea that a film (or a body of work) by a director reflects the personal vision and preoccupations of that director” (from Wikipedia), then Bird is an auteur.

In the three Bird’s film I have mentioned, there is a common preoccupation with the ideas of being misunderstood and being great. The Iron Giant, the Incredibles, and Remy (the rat) are all misunderstood. And all are great. All three of them struggle with others who don’t appreciate their greatness. Worse, they are seen as a danger to others, so they have to hide their greatness, and only manage to exercise it after a struggle. (Remy is a danger to any restaurant that has him in it.)

In The Incredibles, there is an elitism to that greatness. Bird’s shows you are either great or you are not, and no amount of smarts or gizmos can make up for it. The line “If everyone is super, no one is.” is used a number of times. This elitism softens somewhat in Ratatouille. There is still that separation of the great from the not great, but it is not always obvious who is great and who is not. This is very different from The Incredibles, where it is obvious that the Supers are obviously better than you and I.

Elitism comes up in a number of ways in Ratatouille. The notion that “anyone can cook” is scoffed at by the wonderfully named critic, Anton Ego. As well, the chefs themselves are superior. And of course, it is set in France, the home of elitism (at least as seen by many Americans). But this elitism is pushed back in a number of ways. For example, the best cook is a rat, and the best dish prepared is ratatouille.

But these films are more than just about misunderstood geniuses. Love is highlighted in different ways in the different films. In The Iron Giant, there is a father-son bond between the boy and the giant. In The Incredibles, there is the love of family. And in Ratatouille, there is romantic love. Love is one of the driving forces.

In The Incredibles, my favourite of the three, there is also something I think that is quite incredible: a signifigantly long portion at the beginning exploring midlife crisis in a “kid’s movie”. The best animated films have always sprinkled adult subtext in them — especially humour — to help adults enjoy the films at a level that kids can’t appreciate. (It’s almost like a dog whistle). But Bird deftly explores the problems that Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) has as he struggles with his job as an claims adjuster. Bob struggles with this throughout the film, but it is strongest and sustained at the beginning.

This works really well, but it took my four year old son to show me why. When we saw the film for the first time in movie theatres, we all enjoyed the entire film. However, when we bought the DVD, my son quickly learned to scene select past all that midlife crises part (which takes up a good third of the film, it appears) and get right to the action. The film is so well made that it is easy for a four year old to deconstruct it in a way that he can still enjoy it, yet an adult can appreciate the entire film. It may sound easy to do (to structure a film like that), but I think it is rarely done, which is odd, since I suspect that MOST kids will skip to the good parts over time.

The characters are so well named in all the films, but I love the names in The Incredibles. When they are not the Incredibles, they are an average family, the Parrs. The weird kid Buddy goes on to be a bad guy called Syndrome. The French bad guy who blows things up called Bomb Voyage. The shrinking daughter is called Violet, and the very attractive young woman who is seemingly attracted to the middle aged guy is called Mirage.

Which brings me to Edna Mode, who seems to be a cross between Edith Head and Anna Wintour (and who is performed by Brad Bird himself). She is my favourite film character in a long time. My kids and I would rerun just the parts she was in. She is devastatingly funny and a great creation.

It almost goes without saying that the film technique of each of the films from Bird (and Pixar) get better each time. However, the attention to detail is not just in making more realistic animation. It is spread throughout the film. When making ratatouille in the last film, there is a wonderfully animated part where the person making the dish naturally cuts out parchment and places it over the food before placing it in the oven. This is as it should be, but it is one of many examples in Ratatouille where they make the effort to include details even if most people couldn’t care less. Ridley Scott gets high marks for such things: Brad Bird should too.

Bird considers animation to be an art form. It is when he makes it.

If you were to ask people about auteurs at this years Oscars, they might point out the Coen brothers or Paul Thomas Anderson. But there was another auteur there as well, and if you want to see good filmmaking, I suggest you check out his films.

Bird has a new film coming out in 2009. I am looking forward to it. (And lord knows, I will likely see it forty times, whether I want to or not! 🙂 )

China 2.0 and beer has a good article that shows the challenges China has in transforming itself from being a producer of cheap goods and other people’s goods to being a producer of goods that are highly valued and Chinese. It’s a road Japan has travelled many years ago. See Budweiser, Miller…and Tsingtao?

Movies on flash drives: how not to think about technology

At the is a article on movies on flash drives. It’s a good example of how not to think about the future. It’s essentially a list of points arguing against movies on flash drives. And what are the points?
1) it’s hard to make money from it
2) flash drives are too expensive
3) you have to have every movie on a separate card
4) People like buying things
5) It would take too long to download a movie onto flash

None of these hold water. 1) Movie viewers don’t care if it is hard to make money from it: ask the music business. 2) They may be expensive now, but watch chip makers gear up if they see there is demand for them: they will get cheap soon. 3) This is just an assumption: there are many delivery models to choose from. 4) This one is laughable on so many levels, it’s not worth arguing. 5) This is in line with number 3: again, delivery models will take care of this.

And the line: “And by that time, the technological, business and social problems of downloading movies are likely to be solved.” Well, that is pure: stick your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away. The problem – at least it is a problem for the movie business – is that the movie business will be in the same boat that the music business is in very soon. It’s part way there already. Moore’s Law will get it all the way there.

Read the article Buying Movies on Flash Drives: Nice Idea That Doesn’t Work – Bits – Technology – New York Times Blog and see what you think.

(Image from wikipedia)

Why I no longer read magazines

I love magazines. When I am commuting, there is nothing better. But other than plane travel, I haven’t bough a magazine in along time.  Magazines have been losing out to the Web. When I see all the amazing content online, all free, it is hard to justify buying magazines (and later throwing them into the recycle bin) when I can feast on all that is on the web.

I think flickr can make a better case than me. For people like me who love New York City, check out:

While there are still magazine out there with better content, the argument for them over the web will get harder and harder to make.

Thoughts on the world’s cheapest car

There was lots said on the world’s cheapest car awhile back. A lot of it was facile and derogatory.

What it reminded me of was the computer business. Computer prices level off from time to time, and the impression I used to have was: well, that’s it, you can’t make them cheaper than that. Faster maybe, but not cheaper. No sooner would I think that than someone WOULD come along and make it cheaper.

Now what making it cheaper did was 3 things.
1: it made people realize that there was no lower limit to how cheap you could make computers. And there is still no limit.
2: it greatly increased who could get access to computers, and everytime more people gained access to computers, better things occured.
3: It changed the design of the computers. Making more computers makes them better, not worse. 

And it is on that last point that I think that the world’s cheapest car could be a good thing.

For more, see Tata Nano: The Worlds Cheapest Car at New York Times. According the the Times:

“Over the past year, Tata has been building hype for a car that would cost a mere 100,000 rupees (roughly $2,500) and bring automotive transportation to the mainstream Indian population. It has been nicknamed the “People’s Car.” “

Tip of the day: don’t call people on your cell phone when you are doing something like …

… walking!

First off, people can tell from the way you talk. It’s obvious. And it is obvious that you are squeezing them in. If they don’t mind being squeezed in, that’s fine. But if you owe them more, that’s not a good thing to do. For whatever else you say, what you are “saying” is that the only time you have for them is “down time”, your “time scraps”, that they are “not important”. If the call is important, take the time to call them when you have time. Better yet, arrange to meet them in person.

What goes for walking holds for other downtime as well, such as commuting, waiting in a food court, terminal, etc.

Do I have to say never call someone in the washroom? Yes, it is a stupid thing to do, and yes, I have seen people do it often, and no, I never do it, and you shouldn’t either. The only way I want someone to phone me in the washroom is if they just remembered they owe me a million dollars and that they are bringing it over right away. Then it’s ok. 🙂

Ok, ’nuff said. 🙂

The simple and brilliant Instapaper

Instapaper is a great solution to the problem of too much to read (on the web) but never a convienient enough time to read it. Go to the site: you will become an instant fan.

Thanks to Victor Chan for the great tip!

Simple: thoughts on simplicity by John Maeda

John Maeda has a great web site. There is much to discover here, including the Laws of Simplicity.

Here’s the first one:

“Law 1: Reduce. The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.”

To get the rest of the laws and other thoughts by him, it’s simple. Click here.

What happened to Haiti?

Note! If you want to read more about Haiti on this blog, click here.

For the latest on what is happening in Haiti, I recommend the They have a great section on Haiti here)

As I was going through the TIME archives, I noticed a quote from a Haitian government official on some matter of importance. It reminded me of something that struck me when I read “Paris, 1919”: the seeming importance of Haiti in world affairs. True, it was not as important as the Great Powers, but it was one of the countries at the table, both literally and figuratively.  It appears to be a middle player at the beginning of the 20th Century. And then it sadly declined.

One account of this is found here.

10 Things that could destroy the planet RIGHT now! :)

If you know people who like to worry, here’s a list of new things to worry about that they likely haven’t even considered!  See:

10 Disasters That Could End It All At Any Given Second

My favourite is rogue black holes. 🙂

(Thanks to for the tip and Nasa for the image)

What Bill Gates listens to on his Zune

Thanks to Woody’s Lounge for the reference!

Woman’s Internet sex auction sparks paternity row

The has a copy of the story from Reuters on how:

“A woman in Germany who became pregnant after an online sex auction has won a court battle to force the website that hosted the sale to reveal the names of the winners, so she can find out who’s the father. Six different men won Internet auctions to have sex with the woman in April and May last year. They were only known to her by their online names”

When I read this, my first thought was: I feel sorry for the child born from these parents. To call the father a “winner” is a stretch, to say the least.

The cookie monster answers the Proust Questionaire on NPR

Do I need to say more?! 🙂 Click here

Go back in time…with TIME

TIME now has what appears to be all their articles online since 1923. It’s like being able to go through old magazines online and see what was being said then. It’s not obvious from their home page: look for the input box at the top with the “Search” button next to it.

As a test, I tried two well known and very different people: Einstein and Hitler. With Einstein, we see Relativity already well established (there are films out on how to explain it, and there is talk about an upcoming eclipse to demonstrate it). Nothing too surprising. What did surprise me was the articles on Hitler. You get to see this terrible force coming into but not yet in focus (at least through the lens of TIME). TIME uses terms like “Bavarian Fascisti” and even “monarchists”, although “nationalists” comes up too.

Regardless of your interest, TIME has made a great start of putting it’s material online.

The first thing one learns on guitar

For her 12th birthday, my daughter got a guitar. I know she is using YouTube to learn music.* I assumed she would learn something contemporary. When I came home the other day, she said: Dad! My friend taught me a new song. And the first thing her friend’s taught her on the guitar was…Smoke on the Water!!! My first thought was: cool, she can play something. And then I thought: hey, 30 years ago when I was trying to learn how to play guitar, I ALSO learned SotW. And then I thought: Has no one written anything ELSE since then worth learning first!?!? It’s quite amazing how this song continues to be passed down to people learning how to play guitar (for better or worse).

Ah well…perhaps they should have put some Deep Purple on that disk they shipped out via Yoyageur, so alien kids all over the universe can learn the first few bars of Smoke on the Water, too. 🙂

* (In fact, I was surprised how many “hits” these tutorial videos get! A tutorial of how to learn how to play “Bubbly” gets way more hits than a classic from Lyle Lovett! Hmmm, maybe Lyle should give guitar lessons on YouTube on how to play Bubbly. Nah! Although I would be happy to watch Lyle singing the ingredients of the back of a cereal box.)

Music Mashup: smells like bootylicious!

Now THIS is a mashup!

See Smells Like Bootylicious!

Kurt C is rolling over in his grave.

Martin Luther King and the influence of Star Trek

It is easy to mock the first Star Trek. To do so, however, would be to miss out on the importance and influence it had. Lots of technical people will tell you about how it influenced the way engineers and designers see the future. But it had a much bigger influence than that. How big? Listen to Nichelle Nichols explain:

Thanks to Matthew Yglesias for the link.

Great women’s clothes at Anthropologie

has great clothes. Anyone who can make a cardigan this well….

… deserves a look! 🙂

What do you get when you combine open source and a cafe? linuxcaffe!

The great blog on Toronto,, has a posting on linuxcaffe, a cafe just south of Christie Pits on Harbord St. in Toronto which features lots of great food, free WiFi, special events and more! See the posting for more info.

A great blog on photography

is The Year in Pictures including a great entry on Chicago based artist Jason Salavon. There is lots of great imagery and ideas here, but lots of nudes too, so it may be NSFW.

(Thanks to for the tip)

How to sing the blues

(I’ve seen this in a number of places. It’s a classic. I am sad to say I own a computer, but I still aspire to sing the blues… )

1. Most Blues begin, “Woke up this morning.”

2. “I got a good woman,” is a bad way to begin the Blues, ‘less you stick something nasty in the next line: ” I got a good woman- with the meanest face in town.”

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes…sort of: ” Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher and she weigh 500 pound.”

4. The Blues are not about choice. You stuck in a ditch. You stuck in a ditch ain’t no way out.

5. Blues Cars: Chevy’s and Cadillac’s and broken down trucks. Blues don’t travel inVolvos, BMW’s, or SUV’s. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the running. Walkin’ plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.

6. Teenagers can’t sing the Blues. They ain’t fixin to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, “adulthood” means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City, but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in St. Paul or Tucson is just depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the Blues in any place that don’t get rain.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain’t the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cause you were skiing ain’t the Blues. Breaking your leg cause an alligator be chomping on it is.

9. You can’t have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.

10. Good places for the Blues:

1. Highway
2. Jailhouse
3. Empty bed
4. Bottom of a whiskey glass

11. Bad places for the Blues:

1. Malls
2. Gallery openings
3. Ivy league institutions
4. Golf courses

12. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be an old black man, and you slept in it.

13. Do you have the right to sing the Blues: Yes, if:

1. You older than dirt
2. You blind
3. You shot a man in Memphis
4. You can’t be satisfied

Do you have the right to sing the Blues: No, if:

1. You have all your teeth
2. You were once blind but now you can see
3. You have a retirement plan or trust fund
4. You won the lottery
5. The man in Memphis lived

14. Blues is not a matter of color. It’s a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the Blues. Gary Coleman could. Ugly white people also get the Blues.

15. If you ask for water and Baby give you gasoline, it’s the Blues. Other acceptable drinks are:

1. Cheap Wine
2. Whiskey or bourbon
3. Muddy water
4. Nasty Black coffee

16. The following are not Blues beverages:

1. Mixed drinks
2. Kosher wine
3. Snapple
4. Sparking water
5. Diet Coke

17. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse, and dying lonely in a broken down cot. You can’t have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or getting liposuction.

18. Some Blues names for women:

1. Sadie
2. Big Mama
3. Bessie
4. Fat River Dumping
5. Caledonia

19. Some Blues names for men:

1. Joe
2. Willie
3. Little Willie
4. Big Willie
5. Leroy

20. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Tiffany, Brooke and Heather can’t sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

21. Make your own Blues name (starter kit):

1. Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
2. First name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.)
3. Last name of president (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)

For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc.

22. I don’t care how tragic your life; if you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues.


Obama, of course

Visio – not just for IT diagrams

As an IT architect, I use Microsoft Visio for some of the diagrams I do. (I do use IBM’s Rational products as well.) Little did I imagine you could use it for non-technical things the way David Salaguinto does to make funny comics like this one:

For more on this, see Office Hours: Drawing a daily comic strip with Visio – Help and How-to – Microsoft Office Online

Neutron loans, or how the subprime disaster works

Over at is a very simple explanation of how the subprime problem works it’s destructive effect:

Joe Ripplinger took out a $184,000 mortgage in 2006 and makes his payments every month. Now he owes $192,000. The 66-year-old Minneapolis house painter has a payment- option adjustable-rate mortgage. It allows him to write a check for $565 a month even though he owes $1,300. The difference is added to the mortgage, and when his total debt reaches $212,000, or after five years have passed, he said his monthly minimum could jump to about $2,800, which he can’t afford. “We’re barely making it right now,” Ripplinger said. The estimated 1 million homeowners with $500 billion of option ARMs are beyond the help of interest-rate cuts by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. While subprime borrowers face an average increase of 8 percent or less when their adjustable- rate mortgages reset, option ARM homeowners may see their monthly payments double after their adjustments kick in. “We call them neutron loans because they’re like a neutron bomb,” said Brock Davis, a broker with U.S. Express Mortgage Corp. in Las Vegas. “Three years later the house is still there and the people are gone.”

ARMs are fine for speculators who know what they are doing and can handle the risk. For people like Joe Ripplinger, they are anything but fine. And there are alot of people like him out there. See: Exclusive

Autogenerated blog? And for what purpose? Ad revenue?

I noticed this blog was driving traffic to my blog, Just Being Rich. When I read the entries, it appears like they are automatically generated (based on the syntax is wrong). It appears that someone is autogenerating a blog on various topics, likely for the purpose of generating Google AdSense revenue.

Interesting idea. It’s not the type of blog I would read, but I could see this becoming part of a trend.

Free Wi-Fi at Starbucks

According to the blog, Bits ,

Starbucks announced today it will give most any customer two consecutive hours a day of free Wi-Fi access. Specifically, that offer applies to anyone who uses its prepaid Starbucks Card at least once a month. That represents as many as 60 hours of access for the price of one $2 cup of coffee.

It’s interesting to think of Starbucks as a network service provider. It has the potential to open up lots of other business opportunities for them as well. See Bits for more info.

Cloud paintings from Richard Herman

I love the cloud paintings of Richard Herman. You can find out more about his work and even purchase it from the fine Toronto art gallery, Art Interiors.

The greatness of Billie Holliday as she sings Strange Fruit

Many artists who are called “incomparable” or “inimitable” are not. Billie Holliday is, especially when she sings this.

P.S. Note the audience response: they are overwhelmed.

So what? Hardly.

Miles Davis. John Coltrane. Brilliant.

P.S. It’s inconceivable that an artist could step back and have a smoke like Davis does here while Coltrane plays. Times have changed.

How to be a creative person? follow these rules

From the excellent tumblelog, Daily Meh

It mirrors some of the ideas from the book, Art and Fear, that I blogged about earlier.

Toronto, beer and BeerBistro

The blog has a really good review of a great bar/resto in Toronto: Beerbistro. I highly recommend this place to both visitors and residents of our city.

One thing they neglect to mention is the great pairings they do with beer and food. They make it easy to forget about wine. And if you love mussels, you MUST go here. Not only will you find a diverse selection of beers, but you will find different ways of preparing mussels to go with those beers.

Winterlicious: fine dining, good prices, in Toronto

Every winter, some of the finest restaurants in the City of Toronto participate in the justly anticipated Winterlicious event. They offer fine prix-fixe meals for lunch and dinner at very reasonable prices. If you are coming to Toronto in the winter, this is the time to come! For more information, see the very informative City of Toronto web site. Come for the food and enjoy the rest of the city.

P.S. There is a Summerlicious too! Just as good!

White Whine – a very creative and funny use of tumblr! and tumble logs can be used for all sorts of things, even for humour, as the very funny White Whine illustrates.

(I think it is more accurately “educated, middleclass whine”, but that’s not as funny! 🙂 )

Thanks to my friend Leta for the tip.

Lucient Freud at the MoMA

Currently the MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art in NYC) has a exhibit of Lucian Freud Etchings. For those not aware of Freud’s work, this could be a great introduction to it. And to fans of his (like my friend, Bruce!), this is a great opportunity to soak up more of his work. See  Lucian Freud: The Painter’s Etchings for all the details.

(Thanks to Occasional Oasis for the pointer).

Occasional Oasis, Bill Israel and Tumblr

I am a big fan of tumblr and I have my own tumble log. But frankly, mine is not very well kept up and looks kinda shabby. For a better example of one, see Occasional Oasis with a template from the talented Bill Israel.