Monthly Archives: February 2009

Happy Clouds!

English artist Stuart Semple released “2057 pink smiley faced clouds float from the Tate Modern over Londons Southbank towards the financial district.” Why? To make people happy.

Nice touch: they were made to disappear after 30 minutes (so they are pink and “green”).

YouTube – Stuart Semple, Happy Clouds, Tate Modern, Southbank, London

(Tip to


Quote of the day (to end the month of February)

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.” — Albert Camus

Umm…..ok….maybe the future is stupid. :)

Lily Allen is smarter than you might think

It is easy to dismiss Lily Allen: she is cute, she is poppy, and she sings about shallow things. Don’t be deceived: she is really smart. Too smart, almost. And she is getting better and better.

A superior version of the green bag

Throughout Toronto (and likely Canada and many other parts of the world), stores are promoting “green” bags over plastic. While it is better to use these green bags versus disposable plastic bags, I am not a big fan of the design of the green bags. What I am a fan of and what I would recommend is something like these Oxfam Shop’s Jute String Bags. Unlike alot of green bags, they collapse into nothing practically, making them easier to carry with you than green bags. They are made out of a natural material (unlike alot of green bags). They are highly expandable. And they are super strong. I think they are superior to green bags. Plus if you can get them from a fair trade organization like Oxfam shop, you are doing some additional good.

I’ve had mine for years, and I have loaded it up so heavily I could barely carry it, and it shows none the worse for all that.

Animal Collective: My Girls

Brilliant. Infectious. Animal Collective.

Thanks to for the pointer.

Is the e-book the end of the printed book?

David Pogue has a thorough review of’s Kindle at the There’s been alot written about the Kindle, but I like Pogue’s review for how he points out all little details you may want to know before you buy it. He’s a good tech writer.

But what I want to highlight is something he addresses towards the end of the review, where he asks and answers the question:

“So, for the thousandth time: is this the end of the printed book?

Don’t be silly.

The Kindle has the usual list of e-book perks: dictionary, text search, bookmarks, clippings, MP3 music playback and six type sizes (baby boomers, arise). No trees die to furnish paper for Kindle books, either.

But as traditionalists always point out, an e-book reader is a delicate piece of electronics. It can be lost, dropped or fried in the tub. You’d have to buy an awful lot of $10 best sellers to recoup the purchase price. If Amazon goes under or abandons the Kindle, you lose your entire library. And you can’t pass on or sell an e-book after you’ve read it.

Another group of naysayers claims that the Kindle has missed its window. E-book programs are thriving on the far more portable (and far more popular) iPhones and iPod Touches. Surely smartphones, which already serve as cameras, calculators and Web browsers, will become the dominant e-book readers as well.

The point everyone is missing is that in Technoland, nothing ever replaces anything. E-book readers won’t replace books. The iPhone won’t replace e-book readers. Everything just splinters. They will all thrive, serving their respective audiences.”

I put in bold what I think is crucial. Actors still act on stage despite movies and television, musicians still perform concerts despite recordings, radio and YouTube videos, and readers will still read books regardless of the quality and quantity of e-books that come out. The publishing industry will be affected, of course, but that is a different matter. When it comes to the printed page, there will still be people who long and look for that, and there will still be books to meet that demand and desire.

Emanuel smacks down Krugman

Ryan Lizza has a good profile of Rahm Emanuel in the New Yorker (The Gatekeeper).

The whole article is good, but I liked this part:

“They have never worked the legislative process,” Emanuel said of critics like the Times columnist Paul Krugman, who argued that Obama’s concessions to Senate Republicans—in particular, the tax cuts, which will do little to stimulate the economy—produced a package that wasn’t large enough to respond to the magnitude of the recession. “How many bills has he passed?”

It reminds me of Stalin’s critique of the Pope during World War II. (It’s both a very bad and a very good metaphor. 🙂 )

Emanuel will move the troops up the field, but he will do it in his own way. He knows how.

What is (Red) Wire?

(RED)WIRE, as the site says,

“…is a digital music magazine with one very important difference. It not only changes the way
music is discovered, it provides medicine for people who need it in Africa.”

(RED)Wire states that it will provide you with weekly delivery of great music delivered weekly for a cost of $5/month. The best part is that half of that goes to buy medicine for people living with HIV in Africa.

If you are already buying music online, consider buying some via (RED)WIRE – an online music magazine that saves lives.

Roots of Breakdance (Run DMC – It’s Like That)

One of my favourite mashups is this cross of Run DMC’s It’s Like That with some (sped up) Russian soldiers dancing. You have to see it.


And now for something somewhat different: Яolcats

Sure, LOLcats is still funny, but Яolcats, with its quasi-C0mmunist sloganeering, is a new kinda funny. For example, this supposedly translates to:

“Aaaaah… Pig iron, your musk is that of glorious industry …”

There are lots more, but this made me truly laugh out loud.

Is Hillary Clinton being trashed via news photos?

It may be that Hillary Clinton mugs more for photos than other politicians. But in the last year or so, I have had the impression that the media has used more odd photos of her than of other politicians. Almost all the photos that I have seen of Obama and McCain have shown them in a good light, but many of the photos of Clinton that I have seen have been unflattering. Like this one. I wish I had a way to determine if this is true or not. As she become more active as Sec’y of State, I will have to keep an eye out for this.

(photo from : In Pictures)

On the disappearance of old online applications and how to approach new online applications

Yahoo! Briefcase is going away. Google Notebook is getting shutdown as well. I have been using both of them, albeit sparingly, for some time. (I have files on Briefcase going back to 2003). I am not critical of either Yahoo
or Google: they offer a wide variety of services, and from time to time, they are going to discontinue some of them.

What this means to me, though, is going forward, I am going to be trying to apply some rules of thumb in determining whether or not I use such services. One such rule is going to be: how easy is it to retrieve or backup the material that I have stored there? If it easy, I am going to be more likely to use it. My second rule is going to be: how much of my rights do I give up in using the service? If the service provider is taking an aggressive or an expansive approach to my content, then I am less likely to use it.

Why are people’s avatars suddenly black?

It’s like due to the New Zealand Internet blackout protest against a new law there concerning copyright. You can find out more at this site:

Nerd Merit Badges

Yes, you know you want one. Or more likely, all of them. And they are selling like hotcakes, it seem (for example, this is the Inbox Zero badge). Go to Nerd Merit Badges for more info.

This is why you’re fat.

It’s hard to know what to say about the blog, This is why you’re fat. It’s truly scary food. In fact, this…

…may not be the worst thing on the blog. When it comes to looking at it, it is similar to a car crash: even if you don’t want to see it, you also do want to see it.

(Found via Stephen Fry on twitter)

Crowdsourcing and Spartacus

A very interesting web site that asks people to stand up and say, not “I am Spartacus”, but “I am a file sharer”.  Whether or not you agree with them, I think you will agree the approach is both new and ancient. Let’ see what happens.

Check out This is what a criminal looks like |

Crowdsourcing Astronomy

This is not only a very interesting use of crowdsourcing, but a smart way of encouraging it. How do they do that?

‘The “blind astrometry server” is a program which monitors the Astrometry group on Flickr, looking for new photos of the night sky. It then analyzes each photo, and from the unique star positions shown it figures out what part of the sky was photographed and what interesting planets, galaxies or nebulae are contained within. Not only does the photographer get a high-quality description of what’s in their photo, but the main project gets a new image to add to its storehouse of knowledge.’

For more on this story, see the blog Code (a Flickr Developer Blog)

P.S. Credit to Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly) on twitter for pointing this out. As he said: Amazingly cool use of Flickr API

Open Source Wine

Ok, you can’t download your own wine, but what if, like open source software, you want to gain a better understanding of what you are using/drinking and even participate in the production of it? Well you can. Ryan O’Connell, who I have blogged about before, has a smart posting on how Master Grape is applying open source ideas to wine making: Free Culture Movement – Open Source Wine? « Make Your Own Wine.

In some ways, it is not all that different from farming cooperatives we have in North American, whereby people pay a fee in exchange for a piece of farm land where they grow and harvest their own vegetables. Except instead of harvesting beans or carrots, you’ll end up harvesting grapes and making wine! And like people who grow their own, you’ll learn alot about the process, have fun, and end up with a better product (I believe) than if you just buy it at the store.

Check out the blog and the rest of the Master Grape site. I haven’t done this yet, but I aspire to some day.

The lost decade of investment

Now this is depressing. Apparently Stock Decline Have Hit Depression Levels according to They say:

During the darkest 10 years of the Great Depression, from September 1929 to September 1939, the stock market dropped roughly 50%, adjusted for inflation. With today’s drop in the stock market, the U.S. has now matched that unfortunate milestone. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, adjusted for inflation, is now down about 50% over the past 10 years from Feb. 17, 1999 to Feb. 17, 2009.

Plus, if you also have equity in your house, you likely have lost money there, too.

Remind me again why I am working and socking money away?

Has Nate Silver jumped the shark?

Possibly. Off his bang-on analysis of the recent U.S. elections, Nate Silver now Predicts the Winners of the 2009 Oscars in New York Magazine.

Like alot of people, I think Nate is not only a smart guy, but a top notch analyst. So whether or not he has jumped the shark will be determined after Oscar night. Time, indeed, will tell.

Greenspan backs bank nationalisation

Lately, on the political blogs I read, the talk is thick with whether or not banks in the U.S. should be nationalized. Frankly, I thought it might not amount to much more than that: talk. However, according to,, now Alan Greenspan backs bank nationalisation.

If Greenspan thinks it needs to be done, that changes the nature of the discussion and indicates to me that the likelihood of it happening is much higher.

We are in the midst of revolutionary times. That doesn’t mean revolutions will occur – witness 1848 – but big changes will occur now or in the years soon to come.

(Flickr photo of Karl Marx from benleto’s photostream)

Hey, if Jason from Friday the 13th can make a comeback, so can Karl.

The All-American Rejects cover, make that PWN, Britney’s Womanizer

To lead off this cover, the band starts off by saying why they’re doing this. It’s simple:

“We can just do it better than Britney.”

They are not kidding! Not only do they do a great job musically, but these guys are so smart in the way they interpret this song…well, just see for yourself. And just when the song starts to get repetitive towards the end, they take it somewhere different. Like I said: smart.

Pwn? See here. 🙂

Another famous blogger you may have heard about: Georgio Armani

Over at the Moment Blog on is Georgio Armani doing a stint at guest blogging. Like all famous people, it is difficult to know how much of it is his writing and how much of it is his staff. It does feel like a blog entry he might make. It has lots of small details that make for a fun read, including his mild rebukes of Americans for overdoing their pasta and dressing rather poorly in night clubs.

One pair of lines made me laugh. He says:

“I have an apartment on Central Park West, which makes me feel like a real New Yorker. It’s a penthouse with terraces all around.”

Yep, lots of New Yorkers have that! Still, he comes across well, and if you love fashion, it is worth checking out.

The problem with time and money

From the brilliant blog, Indexed, by Jessica Hagy.

Innovative use of rats in Africa

Rats, often seen as a scourge on mankind, are being shown to be a benefit too. Besides being trained to find land mines, giant rats are being used to sniff out TB victims (Telegraph). It’s a brilliant idea. Actually, both of them are.

This reminds me of Joshua Klein’s talk at the TED conference about the amazing intelligence of crows. He brings up the idea that instead of trying to wipe out creatures that we consider parasites or vermin, we should be trying to learn more about them and work with them for our mutual benefit.

It looks like a number of smart people in Africa are already doing this. I think the rest of the world needs to look at our populations of rats, roaches, crows, squirrels, raccoons, pigeons….you name it…and get more creative on how we can live together.

Both the Telegraph article and the Klein talk are well worth while.

(This rat in a flickr photo from gilbrit’s photostream is smart enough to debug software. 🙂 Ok, maybe not. Good photo, though.)

LOVE: the new magazine from Conde Nast

With all the gloom and doom around publishing, it is easy to think that by sometime soon, there will be scarcely any magazines on the stands, never mind new ones. However, if anyone can figure out how to make a go of it in the new world of publishing, I would bet on Conde Nast. And they don’t seem to have given up, as this article in the Telegraph highlights, with their new magazine, Love.

The article has lots of detail behind the new publication. It could be a good one, and a good trend.

The Problem of Paul McCartney

I quite like this song and this video. I think it is inventive, unusual, appealling pop music. If I found it on an indie site and it was attributed to an unknown artist, I would be quite taken by it. Perhaps you would too.

However, it is by anything but an unknown artist. It’s by Paul McCartney, one of the greatest names in pop music. And that affects the way I see the video and listen to the music. More than it should. The Beatles were right to sing “Boy you’re going to carry that weight along time”. In some ways the legacy of the Beatles is a huge weight, both for him and his listeners who loved the Beatles. From time to time we both deserve to put that weight aside and listen to the newer stuff. If you haven’t listened to him in awhile, try this.

Microsoft will open retail stores like Apple….cue up the comedians

As we can see, it is already started, with at at least 10 Ways Microsoft’s Retail Stores Will Differ From Apple Stores in PC World‘s blog section.

Thanks to Stephen Fry (@stephenfry on twitter) for the link. Artwork is Chip Taylor’s.

Who’s the dude at 3:23 of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida?

You likely have seen this video (Coldplay’s Viva La Vida), but have you seen the guy pop up at 3:23? Is that a mistake? Maybe it was the same guy Christian Bale cursed out? 🙂 See for yourself. The video has high production values, but this seems odd at best.

John Cleese on Twitter

Are the famous people who appear to be on Twitter the actual people, or merely imposters? Sometimes it is hard to tell. For example, there is  a John Cleese (@JohnCleese) on twitter, but is it him? See for yourself.

(Not sure where he is, but with lemons outside his window, it’s not likely England. 🙂 )

A new hope for Zimbabwe

While it is wise to temper one’s optimism when it comes to this country, the fact that Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Zimbabwe PM is cause for some optimism. Indeed, if there ever there was a time to be cautiously optimistic, this is it. Whether it is inflation, cholera, or food shortages (to name just some problems), the people of Zimbabwe deserve better. Here’s hoping they get it very soon.

Why Canada has not only avoided the financial crisis, but is a great country

Fareed Zakaria’s article, The Canadian Solution at, runs down why the Canadian banking industry is in such good shape as compared to American banks. Not only that, but he has some surprising — to me — statistics about Canada generally, such as:

  • Canada’s banking system is ranked 1st in the world. The U.S.? 40th
  • TD Bank used to be the 15th largest bank in North America last year. This year? 5th. (Why? So many others have shunk or disappeared).
  • Canadian banks are leveraged 18 to 1. American banks? 26 to 1. European banks? A whopping 61 to 1. (Wow)

From there he talks alot about other differences between Canada and the U.S. It made me proud of Canada. A good article to read.

Infrastruct…..hold on….what kind of jobs are they again?

This ad for INFRACTURCTURE JOBS was on twitpic. Not sure I trust infrastructure from a company that can’t spell the word.

How to build a very small house, part II

Easy. Go to Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools blog and read more about The Tiny Book of Tiny Houses. Even better, they have the plans for G.B. Shaw’s writing hut (which I have also blogged about). How perfect is that? You may not be able to construct Whistler’s Peacock room, but with some effort, you could have Shaw’s shed. And that ain’t half bad.

See Kevin Kelly for more details.

Great photos by Timothy Paul Moore

Over at Timothy Paul Moore’s web site, Letter to Jane, is a strikingly good collection of recent photos he has taken. There is slightly more than a dozen, but they are very versatile and recall to me the qualities of Atget, Christopher Pratt and Gerhard Richter.

Think I am exaggerating? Go see Tim’s photos. Then go look at Atget’s Versailles photographs, Pratt’s “bridge” prints, or the quasi-abstract work of Richter.

Good stuff…..

Gerhard Richter and Toronto

I didnt realize that one of my favourite painters did one with Toronto as a subject. But here it is. Nice.

For lots of work on Richter, go here: Gerhard Richter » Art » Overpainted Photographs » Untitled (Toronto) and then search around.

This is something you don’t see everyday in your inbox

After see the Dalai Lama was using twitter, I thought that I had to follow him (or his representatives). I was a bit surprised to get this in my inbox today:

Dalai Lama is now following you on Twitter! – Inbox – Yahoo! Mail

Hi, Bernie Michalik (blm849).

Dalai Lama (OHHDL) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out Dalai Lama’s profile here:


I mean, it’s great that Barack Obama is following me on twitter, but this is taking it up a level. 🙂

Barack Obama can cuss ’em out as good as anyone

You might think I am talking about what he saying about opponents to the Stimulus Bill. But no! (Ok, maybe, but not that I know of.) What I do know is that April Winchell has nicely found audioclips of Barack Obama reading Dreams From My Father in which he is quoting expressions from his friend Ray, who apparently spoke less than presidentially.

As someone said, he is no Samuel L Jackson when it comes to the effective use of swear words, but he does a pretty good job. See Barack Obama is tired of your …. for the details.

Needless to say, it is VERY NSFW.

Thanks to Adam Schwabe for twittering about it. And thanks to April for posting it.

Who are these tweeps…I mean, people?

I have been using recently, and it seems as a result I have uncovered an interesting phenomena. As I was using, I received tweets from StrongDoctor, MeteorSlim, BlueWild, and BansheeBarnacle. I checked them out, but there is not much to tell about them. They have little or no profile information. Their picture is not of them. But what is interesting is that they have a lot in common with their tweets.

Of the few tweets that they have made, they have said:

  • facebook is so addicting…its like crack
  • shaq rocks
  • someone once said that facebook is for people you use to know, twitter is for people you want to know
  • And they like Family Guy

Odd. And pointless, since I don’t follow people who don’t identify themselves in their profiles. Perhaps it is some troll. Or an odd promotion. If anyone has an idea, let me know.