Monthly Archives: September 2008

The Post It Note Reading Series

The Post It Note Reading Series is a collection of stories told on…yes, Post It Notes.
Good illustrated stories on 2X2 yellow stickies. Some of the site is NSFW, ironically, but the stories are worth seeing at some point in your day. Perhaps you will be so inspired that the next time you are trapped on a conference call, you will whip out a pack of that ingenious product from 3M and get cracking on the next Les Miserables!


Be your own prognosticator with is already one of the leading sites for polling, especially this year’s presidential election.

One thing they have in particular that I found impressive is the ability to chart your own data. Let’s take this chart here for Florida: 2008 Florida Presidential General Election: McCain vs Obama. As for today, it shows McCain 47.9 and Obama 46.4. Now, if you study political blogs like I do, you might want to exclude certain polling results from the analysis. Clicking on Tools > Filter, you could exclude all Internet polling if you felt such polling was inaccurate. (Internet polling for this sample is done by Zogby, who in some circles have a not great reputation). So you de-select Zogby.

Now the numbers shift a little to McCain 47.7 and Obama 46.3.

You could even de-select everyone but a certain poll (e.g. CNN/Time) and see what the result are with that (McCain 48.0 vs Obama 45.1).

Once you are happy with it, you can even embed the graphic on your site.

They have a number of good features on their site, but this one is getting alot of press, and alot of embedding on blogs. A good example of how to drive traffic to your site if you offer a great feature.

Cute Overload! It’s Cute! Really REALLY CUTE

I mean, this is one of the least cute pictures on the page:

If part way through the page you are not going “awwwww!”, well, you have no heart. LOL! Seriously, it has to be seen to be believed. If cute could be measured on a scale of 1-10, this site is easily 11. Go to Cute Overload! 🙂

More great moments in underperforming web sites…

…can be enjoyed by going to

You will get a response. Eventually. Apparently the cause of the slowness is the take up of the “write your representative” functionality. With the bailout looming, it seems lots of people have been taking advantage of that. No surprise there.

The Financial Meltdown is a global problem

Besides the American banks, I have also heard of banks in the UK going under. According to Paul Krugman at the New York Times, there are also banks in Iceland going down. Glitnir Bank there has taken a massive infusion of euros from the government of Iceland in return for 75% of the bank.

I suspect we will see more along the way.

Meanwhile, tomorrow, the dead cat bounce we saw on Wall Street today should be over and plummeting prices should resume.

Good times!

What you get when you try to sign up for the Do Not Call Registry

The service is not available. Please try again later.

Heckuva job, Bell!

50 words

If twitter is microblogging, then Fifty Words is related somehow. Sam writes an entry of fiction to his tumblelog every day containing 50 words. For those of you interested in very short fiction or just pressed for time, get a taste of some good writing here

(“Fifty” image from the fine takomabibelot’s photostream at flickr)

Which Linux Distro is for you?

If you are new to Linux and find yourself stuck between wanting to use it and not knowing which Linux (distro) to use, consider this article, Lifehacker Faceoff: Battle of the Linux Distros

It’s pretty highlevel, and it isn’t going to tell you to go with one over another, but if you want to get started and know at least a few things before talking to your local Linux guru, take a look.

I know, there are more distros than the ones here, but for new Linux users, these are good to know, even if they do go with something else.

What’s nature’s answer to Viagra? Would you believe: horny goat weed?

Really. See the’s What’s in a name?

City, Rediscovering the Center by William H. Whyte

A great book on life in a modern city is this, CITY: REDISCOVERING THE CENTER by William H. Whyte.
It’s also one of my favourites. Whyte, famous for an earlier book, The Organizational Man, had been part of a group that:

‘… studied the use of urban spaces for 16 years. This follow-up to The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is an engaging look at the variety of human interactions which make “downtown” vibrant. Whyte looks at such diverse topics as pedestrian movement, concourses and skyways, sunlight and its effects–all from the perspective of a confirmed city-lover. His observations and recommendations can be read with profit and pleasure by professional planners and readers interested in what makes a city tick.’

I actually saw this book in action in Toronto. On Bloor Street near St. George Street was a small park that was semi-secluded behind of a series of low walls. Even though it was in a vibrant part of the city, no one ventured in there, likely because of it’s closed nature and the down-and-out men who occupied it (and who seemed to be fighting more often than not). After reading this book, I thought, if they tore down those walls, the space would open up and you would get more people using the space. (No public space should be dominated or controlled by one group, rich or poor, I believe.) Eventually the walls were torn down and that is what happened: the space was used by a much more diverse group of people and it was more peaceful.

Since that time more and more people have been rediscovering the city centre, in part due to the work of people like Whyte and Jane Jacobs. Anyone who would love to live in a city or who already does would get a much greater appreciation of urban life if they read this book.

The importance of landscaping in the city

I pass this bench all the time. I have never seen anyone sitting there. Ever.

In some ways, it is a pleasant place to sit: lots of grass, good walkways, closeness to the nearby apartment building. It gets both shade and sunshine.

Yet, there is also the omnipresence of the garbage cans and large container nearby that signal it is not really a place for leisure. Nor are there any trees or or flowers or anything to make it more pleasant for someone to sit there.

Perhaps people don’t sit there because there is a park nearby that also has benches to sit. That’s the point: those park benches are under trees and there is a playground and other things that signal to those in the area that this is a place to relax.

Imagine this place with trees and flowers and perhaps a table or another bench. And some way of making the garbage cans not visible. People might actually enjoy it.

Venice on the cheap. Sort of..

While it seems impossible to enjoy a glorious day in Venice for just $40 CNN convincingly shows how it can done.

Of course you have to get there and stay somewhere, but if you are stretched financially, knowing you can enjoy the city cheaply brings it closer.

(Great photo of Venice from iessi’s photostream on flickr)

The amazing costumes worn by Renee Fleming at the Metropolitan Opera

I wrote about the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night gala recently. One thing to note about it is the costumes, specifically those worn by Renee Fleming. No ordinary frocks were these. For the event she had costumes designed by no less than Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano. They don’t do things small at the Met!

Check out the slide show to see some examples of the work:

Fashioned for Renée Fleming – The New York Times > Music > Slide Show

Quote of the day

“One thing is certain. No one – no politician, no investment banker, no television commentator, no economist – should be able to say again with a straight face that here in the United States we just let markets do whatever markets do and everything works out for the best.”

– AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney


I’ve seen live blogging of politics and conferences, but this is new to me. And yet I think baseball is perfect for live blogging. I hope there is more of this! If you are a Mets or Marlins fan, check it out at

Another nice piece of innovation from

The Fall of AIG and it’s relationship to Drexel Burnham Lambert

This article, Behind Insurer’s Crisis, a Blind Eye to a Web of Risk in the has a great rundown of how AIG crashed and burned. It turns out that much of the problem revolved around a unit of AIG known as AIGFP. As the article points out:

‘The insurance giant’s London unit was known as A.I.G. Financial Products, or A.I.G.F.P. It was run with almost complete autonomy, and with an iron hand, by Joseph J. Cassano, according to current and former A.I.G. employees.

A onetime executive with Drexel Burnham Lambert — the investment bank made famous in the 1980s by the junk bond king Michael R. Milken, who later pleaded guilty to six felony charges — Mr. Cassano helped start the London unit in 1987.’

What comes around goes around. No doubt some of the brains behind the subprime meltdown are already dreaming up new ways to leverage us into the next disaster.

Heck of a job, Mr. Cassano.

THE key moment from the U.S. presidential debate tonight.

One of the best people working the U.S. presidential campaign

is this person, Campbell Brown:

Catch her on CNN, of course, or many other places on the Internet. And here’s some of her work:
Commentary: White House caught napping on financial crisis –

The Bailout: no one really knows what they are doing

I blogged about how no one really know much more than you do about the financial meltdown and what to do. As evidence of this, in the article, Bad News For The Bailout – there is this snippet:

‘In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”‘

We just wanted to choose a really large number.

How to land a 747!

I have ALWAYS wanted to know how to do this. Sam Potts provides a simple checklist.

Now I can’t wait until the next time I am on a 747 and the pilot and copilot are out of commission. I am ready! Ready like “Sarah Palin ready”.

(from, home of really interesting stuff)

The secret bailout plan from Minister of Treasury Hank Paulson

Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. Just quietly go and read this. 🙂

The most powerful person in 2009 is not going to be…

…whoever gets to be the president. It’s going to be the person in front of the microphones. (No, not the bald guy. 🙂 )
I think this is a good indication.

Why I buy suits from Zara

I disposed of the last of my Hugo Boss suits last weekend. They were great looking suits in their time, and they still held up well, but some of them were over 5 years old and they looked odd when I put them on. I used to love Boss suits, especially in the 1980s when they made them in West Germany and they took the time to make them fine.

However, I haven’t bought a suit from Hugo Boss (or any high end line) for years. Instead I buy my suits from Zara. I do that for a number of reasons:

Price: in Toronto, a high end suit that’s not on sale can cost between $1000 to $2000, if not more: a typical Zara suit costs less than $300-$400. On sale they can cost less than $200.

Style: I like my suits to be stylish but not too stylish (hence Hugo Boss and not Gaultier). Zara’s men suits have that. Even if you wear the suit often (like a charcoal gray one that I picked up a few years ago) and it starts to come apart after 3-4 years, it is very likely at that point that cut of the suit, the style of the lapels or the position of the buttons will look outdated and you will want to replace it. During that time the suit cost you $100 per year vs $400 to $700. You can use the $300 to $500 you saved for something other than suits. (If, like me, you have kids, I am sure you can think of lots of other things you can do with that money.)

Quality: the standard suit at Zara is a very lightweight wool (mind you, Zara changes a lot, but last time I checked, that was true). And that fabric drycleans well, is wearable most of the year and it looks great. Once the low end suit makers used non natural fibres for their suits. Zara uses mostly wool, although for the spring/summer lines they also feature cotton — a drycleaners dream suit! —  and linen. You can find better quality wool in high end suits, but you pay considerably more for that.

While the fabric is good, the overall construction of the suits is not bad but not great. I have had one suit pucker on me after a few months (it was final sale, which meant I couldn’t return it, alas). And I expect none of pants to last longer than 3-4 yrs. But so what; I’ll be tired of the suit by then and I won’t feel bad about ditching it.

Convenience: Zaras are everywhere it seems, and there are a number of them in Toronto. So are discount stores like Winners. But buying a suit at a discount store is really hit and miss (although the one on Bloor near Avenue Road in Toronto has a great selection with high end lines like Armani, Valentino and Costume National…highly recommended). And like a lot of guys I want to go in and get it done. Zara is great for that.

Finally, Zara isn’t perfect. I’m not a fan of their shoes (I prefer Browns, B2 or even Aldo for casual shoes). And their sweaters are “meh”. For really really basic stuff like t-shirts and casual wear, I go to H+M or even Old Navy or Walmart (I bought “George” stretch t-shirts for $8 that cost $25 at the Gap and other places.) Club Monaco I also like for coordinates, although they cost more than Zara (their slacks are better constructed, though, or at least used to be.) Same with Banana Republic: nicer clothes than Zara but I find better value in Zara.

Now if money were no object, I would have closets full of Prada and Armani and Jo Ghost shoes (ok, I do have a lot of the last one) but I am a middle class guy with two kids and all the costs associated with that. But I still like to look sharp. So I head to Zara.

P.S. If you have found my site worthwhile and you’d like to buy me a coffee (I love coffee!)  as a way of showing your appreciation, you can do so here. Thank you!

the WaMu collapse and how to deal with a crisis

If you are a Washington Mutual client, you are likely thinking: what the heck is going to happen with my money?!

As announced yesterday, JPMorgan Chase has taken over. Furthermore, they have put a link on the web site that takes you to this page, Welcome WaMu. What I liked about this page is how clearly Chase explains what is happening. You see clear answers to the kinds of questions people are likely to have.

In crisis, communications seems like one more thing to deal with. The thing is, in a crisis, the one thing that helps to keep the crisis from getting worse is communication. Clear communication.

Scene of the day

From Washington yesterday, as described here

Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

McDonald’s Hamburgers: they keep going and going ….

Take a look at these two burgers:

One of them was made in 2008 and the other was made in….1996. Yes, 12 years ago.

Can you tell which one is which? I couldn’t either. But if you go here, 12-Year Old McDonald’s Hamburger, Still Looking Good | A Hamburger Today, you can find out the details.

Amazing. To say the least!

(Found via

Using RSS as alerts

Some smart organizations, like the Toronto Transit Commission, are using TTC RSS Feeds as ways of notifying clients quickly if there is a disruption of service or there is some other information you want to get to people.

These alerts don’t have to be a news of a problem: it could be good news. Either way, it is a good way to let people know quickly about something.

The Brilliance of Francis Bacon

The has a fine slide show highlighting some of the Francis Bacon show at the Tate Britain.

I can understand how people can get put off by the misery and horror portrayed in Bacon’s work. However, infusing all that is something that I love about him and it is worth hanging in there and looking for. It’s the same thing I love about Mark Rothko, and that’s the ability of the artist to use colour. While it helps to be able to see more of the artist’s work, just flipping through this slide show gives you a glimpse into the vividness of his palette and the remarkable colour composition of his work.

In many of Bacon’s paintings, a single incandescent light bulb appears. It is a light that he captures very well in his paintings. There is both the flatness and brightness of incandescent light that would otherwise be boring were it not in these paintings.

You can see the slideshow here and as always (it seems) there is an accompanying article.


On appreciation and the importance of showing it

I believe that we underestimate the positive affect our kindness and appreciation has on people. We believe it won’t make a difference, that the effort to do so will be unappreciated, or that it doesn’t matter.

Last week I used the City of Toronto’s web site to enroll my children on some skiing and swimming programs that the City provides. What I used to have to do — really — was get up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and walk over to the community center and line up until 7 a.m. with many other people. I had to do this twice a year: September and January. Standing outside in Toronto in January at 5:30 or 6 in the morning to try and get your daughter in karate is the definition of ‘no fun’. However, the people from the city who ran it were very good, getting there at 6, giving out placeholder numbers to people, and letting them in before 7 just so people could stay warm. At 7, people would take turns working with staff to use the IT system the city has for registering. For high demand choices, you had to get to the system by 7:20, because they filled up immediately (once I tried to register my daughter in karate this way: it was filled by 7:10).

There were two other choices: a phone system (overloaded and not easy for me to use I found) and a web based system. The web based system was HAMMERED at 7 a.m. The first time I tried it a few years ago, it took me over an hour to get in. Needless to say, I went back to the 5 a.m. line up.

However, over the years of trying it, I have seen the web based system improve greatly, and I got in quickly this year (7:05), even though I am sure it still gets massive amount of load at exactly 7 a.m.

I was so impressed, I sent an email to the Mayor’s office (the office of the Mayor of Toronto is fantastic with answering email, usually answering within the hour and with specific responses to my email). I told them how impressed I was with the improvements they have made over time. (And after having stood in the freezing cold at 5 a.m., you appreciate it!). Not only were they appreciative, but they forwarded the email to others within the city, and they were all very appreciative as well. In fact, I was surprised how appreciative they were in the emails they sent back to me.

And so I thought I would write this, partially as a reminder to myself to be more appreciative (it’s a never ending journey and I am sure I have along way to go still). Partially to remind others. And partially to tell people — particularly the IT people I work with — that people do appreciate the work you do to make things better, even if they don’t always say so.

How this financial crisis is already setting Americans up for the next one

According to this posting, Why Pensions May be More Vulnerable – Swampland – TIME, there is a potential that out of all this work being done to fix the current financial meltdown, in the future it might be

.. easier for pension funds to invest larger stakes in riskier hedge funds and financial institutions, relaxing the fiduciary duties that usually come with investing in people’s retirement. This was a controversial provision that even the White House and Senate Republicans were leery of – Dems mostly opposed it – but House Republicans were adamant in seeing it included in the bill. In fact the original language of these provisions – introduced as an amendment in committee by Representatives John “Randy” Kuhl a New York Republican and Rob Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat** – called for even greater changes to the system: allowing pension funds to hold up to 50% stakes in hedge funds and financial institutions*. Just a thought, but when Congress gets down to reasserting more regulation on the markets, this might be something they want to look at.

So in a few years from now, when there is another meltdown, instead of (or in addition to) wiping out people’s mortgages, it will wipe out their pension funds as well.

People in the U.S. should be very very worried.

Art a geek could love

While Hayley A. Silverman has very smart works of art on display, this particular one is my favourite:

A very nice illustration of “the stack”. (Yes, there are protocol, OSs, etc. missing, but hey, it’s a work of art, not Wikipedia).

From the ridiculous to the sublime, musically, and places in between

Checking out music on the Transbuddha web site the other night, I came across this!

Yes, not only is Jesus your friend, apparently he is also a Mountie. Okie-dokie, then. That’s the ridiculous. (And likely a comedy sketch, but still….)

As I was listening to it, I thought, hmmm…that sounds like Ranking Full Stop from the English Beat. Of course it’s also on YouTube.

While there are some differences, it is very similar! So, first song, very bad. But it got me listening to something better. And checking out that, I started thinking of their good cover of the classic Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song, Tears of a Clown. So I looked it up, and I came across this:

So, from the ridiculous to the sublime in a few minutes.

As a aside, I thought: man, the Miracles were a pretty subdued group of dancers. I did a check on the Pips, the Temptations and even the Jackson 5, and while all those groups were looser than Smokey’s backups, they were still more focused on singing and not so much on (lipsynching and) dancing.

I also think Justin Timberlake stole this look for his “Lovestoned/I think she knows” video. You can see it here:

Shop at Goodwill from the comfort of your sofa

If you like shopping at thrift shops, but either can’t get to one or don’t feeling like going to one, you now have an alternative at

They have a wide array of items, from iPods to religious items, and everything in between. It is an auction style site, and the items are AS-IS, but it seems to be well designed and it even gives you information about payment and shipping.

Worth a look, for sure!

How to Stay Awake at Work

Obviously, getting a good night sleep the night before helps. But if you were able to do that, you likely wouldn’t be reading this. So, if you want to know How to Stay Awake at Work, the good folks at Lifehacker have the answer at that link.


The 12 year son of someone I have known for along time died on the weekend. The funeral was today.

Perhaps Paul Simon is right, that “sometimes even music / cannot substitute for tears”. But sometimes music can express what words can’t. And from the limited amount of music I know these days, I thought of this:

The 2008 MacArthur Fellows – or $500,000 — No Strings Attached

Today the MacArthur Foundation

“… named 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2008. This past week, the recipients learned in a single phone call from the Foundation that they will each receive $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years.”

I have heard of this in the past and typically associated these grants
with artists. While there are many artists included as Fellows, there
are other people from other professions, such as Will Allen (pictured here) who is an “urban Farmer transforming the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods to underserved, urban populations through a novel synthesis of low-cost farming technologies”. Will, like many of the people on this list, are deserving recipients of the awards. And while there are no strings attached, I believe there doesn’t need to be, because people like Will Allen will continue to do what they do, regardless if someone gives them $500 or $500,000. But the latter amount is better, and the MacArthur Foundation is to be commended for the work they do.

Go see the list of Fellows at the link above. It is inspiring.

Image of the day: Epic FAIL

From a hearing in Washington today. Let’s see if they can turn it around from “WTF” and “FAIL” to “FTW”.

thought for the day

Reminder: The Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Gala is happening tonight in NYC and…everywhere else!

For people in Manhattan, you may have tickets to The Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Night Gala

However, the great thing is that even if you don’t, or if you live in a different city, you may still have a chance to see it. It is playing on big screens all across North America (if not the world). It’s 270 minutes of glorious opera, so sit back and enjoy.

Show time is 6:30 pm (Eastern Time).

Click on the link for more details.

The best ad ever? Leave Nothing, by Michael Mann

I love TV ads. I used to be teased because I would mute TV shows and put the sound on for good ads.

Unlike TV shows, ads have alot to do in just 30 seconds, and they have to do it flawlessly. Directed well, they are 30 seconds films. One particular 30 second film, Leave Nothing by Michael Mann, is my favourite. I even prefer it to the 1984 Apple ad by Ridley Scott, which I have admired since….1984!

Leave Nothing is brilliant. For U.S. football fans, there is the amazing spectacle of Shawn Merriman mowing down players in the first part– including a spectacular hit midway– before knocking the ball over to Steven Jackson who heroically drives the ball home for the touchdown (and even that is well done, since you end up visualize the TD: it’s not shown). And the amazing computer generated graphics that allow the players and the weather to switch seamlessly is wonderful. Mann holds this all together and what’s more manages to shoot Merriman and Jackson in this seamless tracking shot in which they are all over place (just watch Merriman as he weaves back and forth across the field).

However, one thing about this that I think is brilliant may not seem obvious at first. And that is the sound. Watch it without the sound, and then with the sound, and you will hear how well the sound underlines everything.  You can hear the rain pelting down, the snow squalls, the smashing of equipment and the grunts and breathing of the players. The score – apparently from The Last of the Mohicans (another Mann film) — starts imperceptibly and then swells up to the last few seconds of the ad, before the words “Leave Nothing” flash on screen and then all you hear is the wind.

It’s a masterpiece. And it’s half a minute long.

Michael Mann, if you don’t know, directed such great work as “The Jericho Mile”, “Thief”, “Ali”, “Collateral” and “Miami Vice”. And he directed this.

If you want to know more about the making of this, go here

And of course, now you want to see it! You can see it the Nike ad “Leave Nothing” @ Transbuddha.