Monthly Archives: October 2008

It’s Hallowe’en! Boo!

And to go with the day, here is David Bowie singing: Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) live

The contradictions of Louise Bourgeois

On flickr is a wonderful photo of Children on the sculpture Crouching Spider by the great artist, Louise Bourgeois. (It’s part of a fine photostream).

What I love about this photo is that while the sculpture is almost monstrous by itself, with children hanging from it, it becomes something like a jungle gym. It transforms from a thing of horror to a thing of play and joy.

Reading some interview of Bourgeois, the reason for her fondness for spiders comes through. And yet although she is fond of them, she sometimes portrays them in a way that seems to want to play on our fears of them. It’s as if she wants us to think about them positively and negatively at the same time.

I also recalled a quote from her complaining about having children because of how it prevented her from doing her art. But in the interviews I found on the Web, the essays and interviews talk about her fondness of her children.

I wonder what she would have thought of this photograph. I think she would have liked it.


The Strengths of Barack Obama

James Fallows over at The Atlantic has a good run down of why Barack Obama is such a formidable politician.

In short order, it is his:

  1. formal oratory skills
  2. his ability to use technology to raise money
  3. his skill in getting out the vote (and his overall ground game)
  4. his debating technique
  5. his ability to tell stories and evoke emotions
  6. his demeanour

Fallows smartly compares Obama to everyone from Clinton to Reagan to JFK. The thing is, he is all those things, but he is also something new. Someone others in the future will look back for comparisons.

One thing that Fallows left out is this: his ability to make others wrongly underestimate him. This is something Reagan and Clinton had. It’s a ease they have, that allows their opponents to relax or overestimate their own strengths.

It’s going to be an interesting eight years in American and world history. In the meantime, read James Fallows’s posting. It’s good.


Amanda Jones

Amanda Jones is 109 years old. Her father was a slave.

This U.S. election, she gets to vote for Barack Obama for president.

She embodies alot of history, right up to this week. See: Daughter of slave votes for Obama

Denial-of-Service attacks on advocate sites for “No on 8” in CA and “No on 2” (FLA) sites

According to this, there has been a Coordinated Denial-of-Service Attacks on “No on 8” and “No on 2” (FLA) sites

My first response, on hearing someone say there has been a DoS attack on their site is: check again. Lots of problems could have occurred to affect your site. DoS is not usually the first probable cause.

However, when two sites like this are affected like this, the probability of it go way up. And the timing, just as No on 8 is pushing for a big fundraising drive, make it even more likely (and more serious).

I hope they catch who did it and the parties responsible go to jail for a signifigant period of time. DoS attacks may not be as dangerous as physical attacks on people or property, but what they are trying to achieve is the same. And what they are trying to achieve is removing people’s freedom of speech and association.

It’s time for lawmakers and law enforcement to get serious about computer crimes like this.

To all of you eating at your desks today….beware!

From the brilliant blog, indexed

Listeria update

It’s depressing how many of these alerts I get in my RSS feed reader. Alerts like this:


Still, it is better to know than not.

One misconception people should also know about is that store sliced meats are not necessarily safer than packaged meats. It appears many of these alerts are for packaged meats, but this alert also warns about “clerk-served sliced roast beef”.

Caveat emptor.

Patronage and Ana Marie Cox

Normally, patronage in the political arena is seen as a bad thing. Here’s a chance where it can be a good thing.

Ana Marie Cox is one of the bright lights of U.S. journalism currently. She could use your support.

It’s easy! Just click on her name and go from there. As they say on infomercials, act now! 🙂

I am hoping that she meets her funding challenge.

I also would like to request that she take a portion of my money and use it to buy Joe Klein a drink when this is all over. He deserves a drink because (a) he’s written some great posts lately at Time’s Swampland (b) he’s had to put up with alot of unfair abuse from other writers (c) no one can mock Bill Kristol with the finesse that Joe can (he deserves a drink for that alone).

Microsoft Word is the big Two Five

hat’s right: Microsoft Word hits 25 this year. has a good rundown on the history — good and bad — of this software giant. I used to use Word 5 on an old Mac SE 30 and I thought it was just perfect for what I wanted. (Bonus: no $#%&* Clippy!) But Word rolls on, and new features roll along with (and into) it.

Take a walk down memory lane here: Microsoft Word Turns 25

If you want to enter Boston, New York or other big city marathons, you need to plan ahead

Why? Because they are big and getting bigger. As this article shows, Marathons Grow in Popularity, but City Streets Have Limitations ( So big cities are setting limits and rejecting alot of people.

Should you bother? Most definitely. The NYC Marathon is a fantastic experience. Imagine being in a 26 mile ticker tape parade in New York where you are the hero: that’s what it is like to run that city’s marathon. And anyone who qualifies for Boston has shown they are the top tier of marathon runners.

That said, there are lots of other good marathons out there not in big cities, like Columbus, Ohio, that are not as well known but very well run and very much worth attending. Big Sur on California is another. And Kiawah Island in South Carolina had a marathon in December which is a great time and great place to run. There are lots of great marathons to run. You just need to do some planning and you too can have a great experience.

Bernie’s Rule of Wearing Red Revisited

Awhile back, I explained Bernie’s Rule of Wearing Red. You may have thought it funny, but according to, Wearing red may boost your sex appeal. At least, men find women who wear red more attractive and sexier than women who wear blue or green. The article tries to explain why.

I am guessing that men who wear red well will also get the attention of women. Regardless, more reasons to wear red (especially as the weather in this part of the world turns gray).

(Photo by MontyLov on Unsplash )

Penguin…not just for reading anymore! (Now it’s about hookups!)

Penguin has always been a great publisher. But good books aren’t everything. You want to be able to talk about them, too. Why not talk to somewhere you can potentially hookup with? Wouldn’t that be great? Well, Penguin thought so, too! They decided to provide this. Now you can be smart and meet hot people, too! Life is good.

The dangers of Scotch Tape

According to there is a new source of X-rays: scotch tape!

Now, before you go and throw all your adhesive tape in the garbage, there is something to consider. For X rays to be produced from tape you need a vacuum. So while there is little to worry about, it is something to be interested in.

Remembering Alex Rivera, photographer of the American Civil Rights Movement

There are a number of sites mentioning that Alex Rivera, Photojournalist of Civil Rights Movement died today. Sadly, few of them do much more than edit and print the press release.

This is sad because he took some incredible photographs that are particularly relevant with the pending U.S. election.

Fortunately you can see an exhibit of them here and read about the exhibit here.

For example, in one, taken only 60 years ago, of Sallie Nixon and her family. It says her husband was taken from his jail cell by white men and lynched in 1948. His “crime” was that he had voted.

Go see the site and share it.

Robert Palmer – Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You

Normally, covering Marvin Gaye would be a way to show that you are…well, not Marvin Gaye.

Covering two of Marvin’s songs in this way should just be a way of showing you are….stupid.

But this is Robert Palmer. And while Palmer is always good, here he just digs into these classics and makes them his own. I like his cover of “Mercy Mercy Me”. But as he moves into “I Want You”, he soars.

Robert Parker on “cheap” wines

Ok, I am miffed. I was writing about low cost wines well before Robert Parker, and now he is cutting in on my act! 🙂

Goofiness aside, he has a good article on Fifteen California Wines for Under $25 in BusinessWeek. For Parker, anything in the $20-$25 price range is low cost, and he mentions some here that go as low as $10 (U.S.).

If you can find any of them, I recommend you grab them and given them a try.

PS. If you live in Ontario, you can get the Château St. Jean Fumé Blanc for $20.95 (vs. $13 in the US!), the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay for $19.95 (vs. $15 in the US), the Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas for $25.75 (vs $22). If it is indeed the same wine, you can get the Beringer Chardonnay Napa for $27.95 (vs $16!! WTF?!)

Wazzup – from the ridiculous to the sublime

A few years ago, this was a famous commercial.

Humourous. Stupid, but humourous.

Now we have this.

Humourous. Anything but stupid.


Callie Shell captures Obama

I previously showed a photograph of Barack Obama that showed his resoled shoes. It’s a telling photograph, and it was taken by Callie Shell. Click on that hyperlink: it will take you to many more great photographs of Obama on the campaign trail. Not only are the photographs great — TIME has had many great photographers working for them over the decades, including Shell — but the commentary and the context provided make them even more enjoyable.

How Smart is Barrack Obama? To the bottom of his shoes

I am sure Barrack Obama can afford more than one pair of shoes. Instead, he got them resoled. Someone took a photo of them.

In running for president, the details matter.

How to look sharp indeed.

Photo from

Oil tumbles below $67

Not all business news is bad news. (Ok, maybe it’s bad news for Wall St., but not Main St.) According to the Oil tumbles below $67.

Hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago that oil producers were worried about it slipping below $100. And in mid-July it was over $147.

For people heating their homes with oil, this will be welcome relief for the early winter.

Web 2.0 in a nutshell

By the incomparable Jessica Hagy and found on the Molt:n Digital Blog

Damien Hirst sets new auction record with ‘Investment Banker in Formaldehyde’!

I had promised I would not blog any more about Damien Hirst, but this faux news article,

NewsBiscuit: Damien Hirst sets new auction record with ‘Investment Banker in Formaldehyde’
made me laugh.

Here’s the “work” in question.

The article is good for a laugh.

And if you are Mr. Hirst, you are laughing all the way to the bank.


Really! That’s what it is. Lots and lots of BROKERS WITH HANDS ON THEIR FACES!

Like this guy:

Actually, this is a cross between hand ON his face and punching himself IN the face, but you get the idea. Go see!

It’s another fine use of one of my favourite sites, tumblr.

Eight things I like about Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk is a great site to help you juggle all the tasks you have to do. You can and should Learn More about it: it’s packed with good features. Just some of those features I like are:

  1. I can access it through iGoogle
  2. I can email tasks to it
  3. I can get an an RSS feed of my todo lists and
  4. I can share my todo lists with others
  5. even though there is a Pro version, the free version is really good
  6. the shortcut keys make it fast to update tasks
  7. I don’t use it much, but the offline feature is also good for those times when you want to keep uptodate but you are losing your network connection
  8. It’s simple to use in the best sense

Do a good deed: cheer at a marathon

If you want to make a lot of people feel better, here’s a very easy way to do it. All you need is a nearby marathon.

Go down to where the race is. Get yourself a coffee or tea. Then as the runners come by, cheer them on.Tell them they’re looking good, they’re doing great, hang in there, tell them about upcoming downhills, cheer, clap, yell woohoo. Whatever works for you. The best runners will appreciate you just being there. The rest will be rejuvenated by your encouagement.

I went down today to the Toronto marathon yesterday and in a short time made a few dozen people smile. Having run a few myself, I know how great it is for people to turn out and do that.

Everyone in a marathon is struggling to do their best in the face of great difficulty. Even the best of runners. Your encouragment is greatly appreciated. You can make a dozen people feel better in the time it takes you to finish your tea.

Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld talk shop

Time has a fascinating interview with Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld talking mostly about …Ford and his clothes. Lagerfeld is very generous with his praise of Ford. Ford also praises Lagerfeld, but really, he doesn’t need it: Karl is in a league of his own.

It’s interesting to hear them talk about the thinking that goes into their design. You might think mens wear is simply a matter of adjusting the number of buttons on a suit, but they are evolving the way men dress.

See Behind the Seams: Tom Ford and Karl Lagerfeld Talk Shop – America: Conquerer of the Global Menswear Market – TIME for the interview transcript. I would recommend you scroll down and watch the conversation between them: it’s good.

The soldier and his mother that Colin Powell spoke of

While endorsing Barack Obama today, Colin Powell spoke eloquently about this photograph. It is part of this article: Service: The New Yorker.

Update, here is the video of Colin Powell on Meet the Press.

Obama – People Get Ready

I was reading about 100,000 people turning out in St. Louis today to see Barack Obama. For some reason, the song “People Get Ready” came to mind. When I went on YouTube, it seems that I am not the only one who associates this song with Obama: there were a number of photo montages of him with this song.

It’s a beautiful song, and there are many great versions of it on YouTube. Al Green, U2, Jeff Beck, Ziggy Marley…they all do it well. But this one, with an older Curtis Mayfield, backed up by Taylor Dane, is my favourite.

The U.S. Presidential election is coming soon. People get ready. There’s a train a coming.

How much better things would be if all politicians ran ads like this….

Why you are great

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

— Marianne Williamson

P.S. In the film, Akeelah and the Bee, this quote is attributed incorrectly to Nelson Mandela.  Regardless the source, it is a great idea.

The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner is quite an event.  At this year’s event, both John McCain and Barrack Obama showed up for the white tie event (as opposed to black tie). While Obama was good, McCain was great.

If McCain was more like this during the campaign, he would be doing better:

What is the difference between white tie and black tie? For that, you should check out Whit Stilman’s Metropolitan, a little-seen-but-great-film.

Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops

Sadly, the great Levi Stubbs past away today. Stubbs was the lead singer of the Four Tops, who were known for such classics as “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and “Baby I Need Your Loving,”.

Here they in 1965 performing “Baby…”

The Globe and Mail has a good review of his career here

Good “cheap” Bordeaux at the LCBO this month

One of the Wines of the Month at the LCBO in Ontario is CHÂTEAU D’ARGADENS 2004.

Paul Gregutt of The Seattle Times says:

‘ It’s a joy to find a wellmade, affordable bottle of Bordeaux, from a classic vintage, at a modest price. Granted, this won’t bump the Mouton off the table, but at roughly 2 percent of the cost, it delivers fine flavors of red currant and cranberry, spice and truffle. It’s supple and bright, and soundly made at just 13 percent alcohol.’

It has a nice nose and a good finish. Well worth it for $18.95. Folks (like me) used to the stuff under $10 should treat themselves to this. It’s perfect for those upcoming winter nights.

Jones Soda also innovates with myJones

Jones Soda not only has great beverages, but a great way of packaging them.

Case in point — pun intended — is You can get a case of Jones with your own selected labels. They also provide some, like these lolcats. For fans of Jones, it could be a great present for them.

See myJones: Customize and personalize your Jones Soda for weddings, graduations, parties, events, birthdays….

If Starbucks starts offering dinner, they might serve this….

Flank Steak with Coffee-Peppercorn Marinade Recipe on Yahoo! Food

The Metropolitan Opera innovates again

It is ironic that an opera house seems more innovative than many in the pop recording industry: “then” is more advanced than “now”. The latest thing they are going to do is Offer Performances on the Web. According to the

‘In the Metropolitan Opera’s relentless quest to exploit all media, the company next Wednesday will start making many video and audio broadcasts available for Internet streaming on demand.

Met Player, as the service is called, will be available through the Met’s Web site, At its inauguration, on the 125th anniversary of the Met’s first show, users will be able to choose from 13 high-definition video performances, 37 standard video recordings and 120 audio broadcasts dating to 1937. The company said it planned to add performances regularly, drawing on its vast historical archives and its continuing high-definition broadcasts.’

The player looks good, but the proof will be in the sound. The Met has a sterling reputation; I am optimistic it will be good.

How systemic changes improve societies

I believe that better way to improve societies is through systemic changes. Providing everyone access to clean drinking water reduces disease. Improving lighting through a city reduces crime. Providing free education and libraries increases literacy.

I said the better way because there will still be disease, crime and illiteracy, but you greatly reduce this ills if you do this simple (but not necessarily easy) things.

I thought of this when I watched Bill Clinton speaking at this TED conference (See here). He talks about the approach they took to driving down the cost of drugs for HIV/AIDS. What I like about it is that it is a systematic approach they took: improve the supply chain, change the business model, be economical in the best sense of the term. The result is more medicine for more people which results in people living longer and better lives.

It is a common wish that everyone should live longer and better lives. But in going from the wish to the fulfillment, people can get tangled up in ideology, philosophy, and all sorts of things that don’t promote the very thing they want.

Applying systematic changes will often get us 80% of the way from wish to fulfillment. 100% might be best, but 80% is much better than 0%. And that’s why I believe that better way to improve societies is through systemic changes.

I can’t recommend the TED site highly enough.

Quote of the Day

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

–Mark Twain

Who are the most polite people in the world?

New Yorkers, of course!

Having been to New York a number of times, I would say that while New Yorkers can be gruff, I have found them to be some of the most well mannered citizens that I have met. I wasn’t surprised to see that they came out on top.

As someone who lives in Toronto, I was also happy to see us come in third.

The article appeared in the Canadian edition of Reader’s Digest, which may be why there is more of a Canadian angle to the story. But it is global, and it is worth reading.

See How Polite Are We?

(Pointer from

Obama takes political campaigning to a whole new (virtual) level

According this article in GigaOM, Obama Is campaigning within games:

‘Last week we noted unconfirmed sightings of an “Obama for President” billboard in the Xbox 360 racing game Burnout Paradise. Today we’re able to report that it is, in fact, an official advertisement placed by the senator’s campaign team.’