Monthly Archives: December 2008

Winter fashion items: the long john (yes, really)

Not just any ole long john, but some very stylish candy-cane-like long johns from American Eagle. These can be shown off if you want, but when it is really cold out there, you’ll be happy to have them at all.

The American Eagle Waffle T-shirt is $14.95, and Long Johns are $11.95

Just because you have to bundle up, doesn’t mean you have to look boring. See “The High Low” at The Moment Blog over at the for more info.


The sad, sorry story of the collapse of WaMu

The has an excellent (and long) article on what lead to the demise of Washington Mutual, The Reckoning – WaMu Built an Empire on Bad Loans. The bank had so many bad practices it was only a matter of time it imploded. I think the article is well worth the read, but if you don’t have the time, one of their commercially ironically sums it up well:

What’s chic and European and has two wheels?

The Copenhagen Cycle Chic Blog! I highly recommend this blog to anyone. It challenges the idea of what cycling can be. If you thought a) you can’t cycle in winter b) cycling is not for large cities c) cycling is for cycling fanatics only, then you owe it to yourself to spend some time looking over this blog. Plus it’s well written and has wonderful photos….like this one!

The Word of the Day/Year is Weltverbesserungswahn

Weltverbesserungswahn (a German word, of course): the conviction that the world could be better

The Wonders of Istanbul

I had the great fortune and pleasure of having to go to Istanbul for a week of work this year. It is a magnificent city.

There are so many great cities in the world for you to see: London, Paris, Rio, New York, Cairo, Tokyo, to name a few. Istanbul should be on your list. Regardless of whether you are visiting Europe, Asia, or Africa, if you can, extend your trip and visit Istanbul. You’ll be glad you did.

And if you don’t believe me, listen to James Fallows from the Atlantic magazine rave about Istanbul, this Turkish Surprise.

Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, and the depth of contemporary comedy

James Parker from The Atlantic takes scenes from Jim Carrey’s films (and one from the great Bill Murray) to show the depth that lies beneath the Fool. Unlike Murray and his laid back delivery, Carrey’s manic showmanship can distract you to the point you stop noticing what he is doing, which can be remarkable. See The Fears of a Clown – The Atlantic Podcasts and then read what Parker has to say. You will gain a whole new appreciate for Carrey. He may still get on your nerves, but then, that is the point.

Parker talks about Carrey being in a work by Becket. I think a better place for him would be in a Bunuel film. He would be terrifyingly funny, and capable of achieving something that Jerry Lewis, Steve Martin or Bill Murray could not.

The Big Picture: year 2008 in review

Normally I skip things like “top ten XYZ for 2008”. But when I heard about the year 2008 in photographs at The Big Picture from, I had to take a look. Sure enough, they are great photos. Truly great.

Things I like about it are:

  • The photo quality is excellent. It’s photojournalism at its best.
  • There is more of a world focus than just an American focus.
  • There is a wide range of photographs, from light moments to horrific ones, with plenty showing how awesome the world can be (see the first one of the lightning storm in a volcano).
  • There are good notes explaining the context of each photo.

The only thing that you might want to skip over is the comments: it’s alot of either cheering or petty criticism (e.g., these photos seems to have a liberal bias).

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo? It’s true

It’s also a grammatically correct sentence (albeit a very difficult one to break down). Fortunately, you don’t have to, since there is a detailed explaination for it on Wikipedia.

(Thanks to a tweet from Alpha Ng for point this very cool sentence out!)

Easy Gingerbread Houses for Kids (and You!) to Make

If you want to make an Easy Gingerbread Houses for Kids without buying a kit, or you want to practice making different ones, try this idea. The secret incredient? Pop tarts! Clearly not for gingerbread house purists, but it is not a bad way to make one.

The Drifters – Up On The Roof

The Drifters are great, and this song is also great. But I really like this video and the naturalness of the singers as they hang on “up on a roof”.

YouTube – The Drifters – Up On The Roof.

People who like really well done craft and other work of art

will like this: Bunny with an Artblog. There are lots of great things on this blog, including a reference to this wonderful nativity work of art.

When is beer twice as good as wine?

When it’s a domain name. And is worth twice as much as For more very expensive domain names and what they are worth, check out CARPE DIEM: So What Are Domain Names Worth?

Ew! This is so unnecessary

Scarlett Johansson puts snotty tissue on eBay (says BusinessWeek) and raises over $2000! Sure, it is for a good cause, but it is a crass way of going about it.

New cellphone from…..Hugo Boss?!

When I first saw this, I thought: is that right?! Why is Hugo Boss making a cellphone? But after a moment, it makes sense. For alot of people a cell phone is a fashion accessory, just like a watch can be. And other designers have had cell phones associated with them. Plus, as cell phone manufacturers have a harder time differentiating themselves from each other functionally, they may turn to designers as channels to sell their products.

You can see more about this at this post: Hugo Boss mobile phone – Technology – – International Design Interiors Fashion Travel

It was inevitable….

…that someone would make a flash game that allows you to throw shoes at President Bush. It has the most excellent name: Sock and Awe!

So get your size 10 loafers and get goin’!

A very good (and short) analysis of net neutrality…

…can be found here at Bits Blog (

It is true that big sites can arrange their networks (for a price) to provide better service for their clients. But by and large, the ISPs have for a long time been laissez-faire when it comes to network traffic passing through their networks.

It is also true that you can build a much better network for your clients than the Internet. You can simply pay the ISPs to build you a private network. It will also be expensive.

I think in a few years more and more network traffic will be wireless P2P, and the Internet will matter less and less, other than a legacy backbone for some older traffic and protocols. But in the meantime, I think there will be a lot of discussion about net neutrality. This article can provide you with some useful ideas to consider.

J. Crew = Fail

Not a good page to hit during the Holiday (shopping) Season. But credit to J. Crew for a) having a fail page and b) providing a backup (in this case, a phone number). Much better than getting a “500” error or some other error code that would mystify most people.

Let’s up this page, J. Crew Fail Page, is replaced by the real home page soon.

A new year’s resolution…for your Mac

Come January 1, alot of people will resolve to lose their excess weight and get fit. And what is good for people is also good for …Macs! In this article, Ten ways to turn your Mac into a lean, mean, agile machine…right now (or Jan. 1 🙂 ), you can learn various ways to slim down your Mac while you wait for Mac OS X v 10.6.

What’s wrong with the Australian Firewall

While the government of Australia may have the best intentions, their wanting to test a web filter to block banned content is flawed in a number of ways. ( has a good article on it).

First, it is unlikely to achieve the effect it wants to achieve. Anyone intent on getting around the filter will be able to using P2P networks, as Mike While, the COO of one Australia’s largest ISPs point out.

Second, the government plans to keep the list secret. How will that work if someone wants to legally challenge being on the filter list? And who will keep the government in check in situations where some overzealous censor starts adding sites that are legal?

With the number of countries increasing censorship on the Web, it is only a matter of time before individuals come up with ways to bypass the censorship.

What is a perigee moon? It’s the one you are seeing now.

What is an Perigee Moon? NASA – of course – has the details. Hint #1: it’s the moon we have right now. Hint #2: it’s very close. 🙂

On the joy of owning a tree

I have always loved birch trees. This tree of mine is a Himalayan Birch. I love the name, the exotic nature of it. But more than that, I love how it marks time for me. It marks the seasons. It marks the time when I bought it, how old my kids were when I bought it. It grows old along with me. And perhaps when I am gone, it will still be here, marking time and keeping company for someone else.

When I was a child and my grandfather was in his sixties, I was surprised that he planted apple trees in his yard. Especially when he told me it would likely take five years before any fruit would grow. That was mind boggling for me at the time. Now, I understand why he would have done that.

Be it ever so humble, if you have a chance, I recommend you plant a tree. When you do, and as you watch it grow, you will know why.

What do you get when you combine YouTube, Web 2.0 and classical music? A chance to perform at a Carnegie Hall!

The old joke used to go: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?….Practice, practice, practice!”

Well, YouTube has added a new spin on this. Until the end of January, 2009, musicians can audition via YouTube for a collaborative virtual performance and the best performances will earn the artist the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall. This is social media and Web 2.0 at its best.

I would encourage anyone with the heart and the talent to perform this piece to give it their best and submit it to YouTube. Regardless of the outcome, it will be a great experience. And hey….you never know. Go to YouTube – symphony’s Channel for more information.

See you on stage!

How would you know? Or Pinot Grigio is recalled in Ontario

Why is the LCBO recalling D’Aquino Pinot Grigio white wine from Italy? According to Yahoo! Canada News, it’s because the bottles are filled with….water.

I wonder if some people who drank it thought: even for pinot grigio, this is bland?! 🙂

Wells Fargo offers cloud computing / security

Interesting: Wells Fargo is offering a service called vSafe to Protect, Organize & Access Important Documents.

It looks low cost ($4.95/month for 1 GB of storage) and since it is Wells Fargo, they have a reputation to maintain. And it is a good reputation, particularly in the area of innovation.

They also have a free 30 month trial, with some restrictions (e.g. you need a U.S. mailing address).

Worth considering if you are interested in cloud computing but are concerned about who is controlling your data.

What do you get when you cross great literature with Facebook?

Umm….not great literature? Well, yes, that, but also some funny versions of Pride and Prejudice and Hamlet.

How to duplicate what Obama did during the 2008 Presidential Election Campaign

In talking to clients recently, a number of them have talked to us about how Obama’s team was able to capitalize on the Internet to be successful. This article, In Election’s Wake, Campaigns Offer a Peek at What Really Happened over at the provides a glimpse into both campaigns and talks about things that went well and not so well.

One thing that struck me was this quote, from Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand:

“We’re not supposed to give these numbers out, but I’ll give them out,” Mr. Hildebrand said at another point… “We have 90 people on our Internet team. And they weren’t just doing the Internet. They were producing videos, they were slicing and dicing people who showed up on our Web site to figure who is more likely to give more money.

“We also spent a record amount of money on Internet advertising,” he said. “I want to say in the end $8 million on the Internet advertising alone. That really, really mattered.”

I am not surprised by these numbers: the ability to create and change information at the rate they did, and the ability to raise the type of money they did would required, would require alot of people and resources.

Anyone wanting to duplicate Obama’s success now has a better idea just what it took him to achieve that.

The $99 iPhone?

Not yet, according to this article, CDN – Reports: Wal-Mart to sell iPhone with $2 price drop, but it is a possibility. Whatever happens — and I don’t see Blackberry or Nokia being reduced to niche players anytime soon — the smart phones we carry around are going to continue to dramatically change in the next few years.

Thoughts on the architecture of the TTC

Is the TTC architecture bad? It’s something I have been thinking about after the critical comments from “A.R.” in which he pointed  out that: “Toronto has some interesting subway architecture, as well. you know. Maybe you should appreciate some of the creativity in the system” in response to my comment that “Toronto subway stations…look like washrooms without the necessary plumbing”.

I think alof of Toronto subway architecture is, if not bad, then boring. In this blog post I found, David Ahm from the TTC agreed, saying, “The Yonge-line stations are from the ’50s and ’60s and are functional but kind of boring.”

This blog post with Ahm’s comments were interesting, because you see the challenge of designing a subway station, budget being one serious consideration. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be interesting design work done on a subway, and in fact, lots of Toronto subway stations are well designed. And despite limited budgets, the TTC is looking to have better and better stations in the future, which is a good thing indeed.

Of my favourite stations, the ones I most like are Old Mill, Rosedale, Yorkdale and Dupont. I like the openness of Old Mill and Rosedale. They belong to the neighborhood, somehow. I feel like I am in a different city when I am waiting for a train (or a bus) at the Rosedale station. And I love the windows of Old Mill. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they are both above ground subway stations.

I also admire the design of Yorkdale and Dupont. Yorkdale makes the subway system itself seem dynamic, while Dupont is like an experiment in subway station design.

I like other stations too, like Queen’s Quay, Museum and St. Andrew and St Patrick. Of the latter two, I like the “tube” like design of the tunnels. It reminds me of a European subway station.

One thing I really like about the TTC is their choice of artwork. It is a collection of some of the best Canadian artists, from Charles Pachter to Joyce Wieland to Micah Lexier. And the scale of the work is striking, whether it is the 1.5 million one-inch tiles, used by Toronto artist Stacey Spiegel to create Immersion Land or 3000 handwritten samples that Lexier collected over 5 years to create “Ampersand”.  Anyone visiting Toronto should stop at various stations just to see it. (You can get a sample of it all by going to

It’s never a dull moment at La Scala

This is Guiseppe Filanoti. He will not be singing in the leading role of “Don Carlo” for La Scala’s season opening, after having difficulties in the dress rehearsal.

I can appreciate La Scala wanting to yank him: the last time that opera opened La Scala, it was 1982 with Pavarotti in the lead and he was booed. And last year the famed tenor Roberto Alagna was booed offstage during an infamous performance of Aida.

Never a dull moment! See La Scala swaps tenors for season opener at Yahoo! News for the details.

On Web 2.0 and the notion of happiness being contagious

There are a number of articles out, including one in, about this study that shows that Happiness is contagious. A key section of the Globe’s article said that the study,

“…(u)sing a standard measure of well-being, the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale…found that when an individual becomes happy, a friend who lives nearby experiences a 25-per-cent increased chance of becoming happy. And the more centrally located you are in your social cluster of happy people, the more likely you are to become happy.”

You might think, “well, it might have been a small scale, rinky-dink study”. However,

“(t)he research, being published today in the British Medical Journal, is the latest analysis of data gleaned from the Framingham Heart Study, a longitudinal U.S. survey begun in 1948. The researchers, who have previously published similar findings on the spread of obesity and smoking from the data, focused on 4,739 individuals over 20 years, accounting for 50,000 social and family ties.”

Now what has this to do with Web 2.0? Well it could be that social networks supported by social platforms like Facebook, twitter, and flickr, can support the propagation of happiness (or other feelings). I know when I see pictures of family and friends happy, it makes me happy. And when I hear that they are having a difficult time, it adversely affects me. Perhaps not as strongly as it would if I were there in person, but what social networks lack in quality (i.e., directness) they can make up for in quantity (i.e., I am more aware of more of the feelings of family and friends potentially).

It remains to be seen if this is actually happening generally with people. But I am conscious of what I say when I use social platforms, knowing that people are reading what I write and many times responding to it. It affects how people think, not just about you, but how they think about life in generally. Not that you have to try and make people happy with what you say, but knowing that you might be able to is something to seriously consider.

As for me, I am happy you took the time to read this and think about it! I hope your day is a happy one.

(A most excellent photo of “Mel C” courtesy of *SMILING PUG*’s photostream on flickr)

It’s not the kitchen that makes the chef

As can be seen by the size and quality of Mark Bittman’s (Bad) Kitchen over at the Well Blog on His is really small, and he has some other serious limitations as well, but clearly he can cook some wonderful things. Check it out.

Detroit: the future sadly

This photo essay in TIME, The Remains of Detroit, is haunting.  This photo is of the Michigan Central Station, designed by the same architects that did the still vibrant Grand Central Terminal in NYC. It is anything but vibrant, being vacant for 20 years.

In the film Blade Runner, much of “future” Los Angeles is like this: deserted, decrepit, waterlogged. Perhaps Detroit is the future, sadly.

These are the days of miracles and wonder: surgeon using TXT to save a life

According to this BBC NEWS Story, a UK Surgeon saves boy’s life by text. The doctor, David Nott, received detailed instructions on how to do a critical amputation from a colleague in London via text message.


What’s all the rage in Venice? Hipwaders

Why? Because it is flooded: the worst it’s been in 22 years. The always excellent section of,  The Big Picture, has the photos to show you just how bad it is. (Bad situation: great photos).

Canada Post and the Christmas Holidays Deadlines

The good folks at Canada Post have put together alot of good material to make sure you get your cards and parcels to their destination on time (even if that destination is Santa Claus / North Pole / H0H 0H0 🙂 ) I think this page in particular, Canada Post – Holiday – Suggested Mailing Dates, is very well done.

Don’t just sit there: get wrapping! 🙂

the TTC kiosks

Twice this year I have seen the metropass kiosk offline on the first day of the month. I find this amazing. I am not sure what the problem is, but it should get fixed.

How to find good value wine in the Vintages section of the LBCO

The old way I used to do it was to go into the store and ask the staff. That’s still a good way to do it, but there is a faster and easier and better way.

The better way to do it is to go here:

By entering that into your browser, you will get a list of the wines at Vintages that are associated with value. Now, not all of them are cheap. For example, this wine, DOMAINE ALAIN JEANNIARD MOREY-ST-DENIS VIEILLES VIGNES 2005, goes for $50. On the other hand, it is….

“… sourced from 80-year-old vines, (and) only five half-barrels of this wine were made.(Furthermore….) From its garnet-hued mantle and openly fragrant nose (reminiscent of crushed red fruits) to its well-structured palate and silky tannins, this lovely wine will charm any Burgundy enthusiast, especially those hunting for superb value.”

I tried this and most of the wines I checked had such phrases as “excellent value” or “outstanding value” associated with them. And while there were some expensive Burgundies, there were a number of wines from the new world for under $15 (and one French dessert wine under $10!).

Times are tough, but life is good. Especially if you get one of these value wines.