Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Cure unplugged

There are a bunch of excellent black and white videos on YouTube of the Cure performing acoustic version of their great work, including this:

If you like this, go to YouTube and look for “The Cure Acoustic”. You’re in for a treat.


Where’s on (Google) Earth is Waldo?

Hint:  according to this article, Where’s Waldo? Try Using Google Earth : NPR, he should be somewhere in Vancouver, if you are looking for him on Google Earth.

Idea: assuming Google Earth does pick this image up, give your kids the challenge of finding him using a browser! Then go take a well deserved nap, knowing it is going to take them awhile. 🙂

Superb guitar work on Born Under Punches Live with Talking Heads and Adrien Belew

I’ve always loved this song, but I hadn’t seen ths live version before. It has superb guitar playing from many of the players on stage, but Adrien Belew (from King Crimson) does some amazing things with feedback at the beginning. Well worth a look and a listen.

YouTube – Talking Heads – Live in Rome 1980 – 10 Born Under Punches

HuffPo on something very important: the resurgence of the backless dress

You may have been fooled into thinking the Huffington Post was just about hard news reporting and wonky policy debates. Or maybe that’s me. Anyway, it give me a chance to make you familiar with this article of theirs on the backless dress! Take it away, Katy Hall:

“The backless dress: a great way to showcase sexy curves, or in some cases, a rack of ribs. Also, it’s totally of the moment because Plum Sykes wrote about it in July’s Vogue! (“Wearing a backless dress is demanding. It requires the right back – neither too fleshy nor too bony.”) Check out these plunging backlines and tell us what you think.”

Now snarkiness aside, I think that’s true: not everyone can wear such a dress. For instance, I can’t. And I think a) this is the slow news season b) backless dresses are hot! 🙂 If you agree with b, then check out this article, series of photos, and heck, even a poll on who wears the dress best.

Halle Berry is one of the leading contenders in the poll — no surprise there — but Bai Ling certainly should win something for wearing the lowest cut of the backless dresses. For more, see Bareback Ladies: When Celebs Go Backless (PHOTOS, POLL)

The Beer at today’s Beer Summit was apparently

POTUS: Bud Light
VPOTUS: Bucklers
Gates: Sam Adams Light
Crowley: Blue Moon

Now you know.

Ale To The Chief: White House Beer Summit 2009 | TPM Photo Galleries

Software tools I use: Cool Timer

One way I try to beat procrastination is using a timer. When I need to focus, I like to set myself a time limit and stick to it. To measure the time limit, I use this very simple but effective piece of software called Cool Timer. There are lots of other timers out there, but the simplificity of this one is something I like. It only runs on Windows, but if you have that OS, I recommend this tool.

It’s also good for running workshops too. The timer can be appear very big, and whenever I want the people in the workshop to work on something for awhile, I project this timer on my monitor. Bonus: when the time is up, a loud chime goes off. It really gets the attention of the people in the workshop.

ok, my time is up! 🙂 You can get the tool here: Cool Timer – Free software downloads and reviews – CNET

How to get people to read your blog

It’s simple, really. Provide how to advice. If you know how to do something, blog about how to do it and write about it in a way that is clear and informative. People are often searching for how to do things. If you write about it, they will come to your site.

Of the many things I write about, the posts concerning how to do things tend to get more visits than others.

This is what the leader of the Free World looks like

While that title has been around for a long time in describing U.S. Presidents, somehow to me it seems more appropriate on Barack Obama than it has been on other Presidents.

You can only call yourself a leader if people respond to your leadership. That’s why I think the title fits him best.

A neglected tip for insomniacs: good bedding

I find from using social media that alot of people have trouble sleeping. They want to sleep, but can’t. (Unlike me, who just doesn’t want to sleep. :)).  There is lots of great advice on how to deal with insomnia, but here’s a thought I never see mentioned: maybe your bedding is terrible. If so, and even if it is adequate, perhaps you should consider upgrading you bedding and make the experience more enjoyable.

If you are looking for advice on good bedding, you could start with these fab sheets from Restoration Hardware that were mentioned on my friend Laurie’s blog, Natural Chic. Sure, you can get cheaper, but if you are sleep deprived and other things aren’t working, I suggest you consider these. You deserve it.

Chris Anderson in a nutshell

I liked this interview by Der Spiegel (via of Chris Anderson, author of “The Long Tail” and now “Free”, not to mention editor and chief of WiReD. The interview really provides a great summing up of some of the key ideas of the transition from old to new media. I may not agree with all of Anderson’s conclusions, but I enjoy how thought provoking they are and how he puts them.

It is an interesting interview: Anderson seems miffed at the start, but he rolls out alot of ideas in two short pages. See Who needs newspapers when you have Twitter? | Salon News for the interview.

Not your King James version of The Bible…but a Lego version

Seriously. For example, here is Job 2:1, 3:

One day Yahweh said to Satan, ‘Have you noticed Job? He holds fast to his perfect righteousness even though you persuaded me to destroy him for no reason.’

Or in illustrated form:

For this and more, see The Brick Testament.

Be warned: like the Bible, some of it is NSFW, especially the section The Law.

Clothes for Math Nerds….

…of which I am ..was?…one. If you are one, you want this on your chest? Why?

Because we math nerds know that while everyone knows Sine and Cosine, Tan(gent) is often the neglected one. You can help rectify that with this T shirt. 🙂

Snorg Tees has lots of great T shirts. Not just for math nerds. Go see.

On being human, or one of my favourite quotes from Robert A Heinlein

From Quotes

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

(Emphasis mine. Found via

A very simple and personal use of Web 2.0

My fellow Web 2.0 consultant, Aaron Kim, recently left IBM. Typically when someone leaves IBM, we have a going away lunch where we allow everyone to sign a card wishing the person all the best as well as chipping in for a gift for the person. Now seeing that Aaron has worked with people all around the world, and being that we were both Web 2.0 people, I thought we should take a Web 2.0 approach to things!

Instead of sending around a card, I set up a blog, Aaron Kim’s Leaving IBM Lunch, and asked people to comment/wish Aaron the best on the blog. (As well as providing them with information such as how to get to the lunch). As for a going away gift, using a combination of the ChipIn! service and Paypal, I collected money for Aaron and then transferred it to him after the event.

All in all, it took me less time to do all this than it would have taken to shop for a card! Plus, the benefit was that people from Australia, Japan, Spain, the UK, California in the U.S., and of course Canada, could all participate.

To make it even better, another IBM web 2.0 expert, Jamie Alexander, inspired Aaron to take the gift money and provide it to Kiva. The money raised for the gift is now helping entrepreneurs in El Salvador, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cambodia. You can read more about this at Aaron’s blog.

Best of luck, Aaron. And for people who think using Web 2.0 technology is too difficult…well, as you see, it can be as simple and as effective as this.

The Man Booker 2009 longlist is out

Some of the “usual suspects” are there (Byatt, Coetzee) as well as some new authors. If you don’t know what to read these days, you could do worse than starting with this: Man Booker 2009 longlist

Now this is a good recycling idea: Toilet Roll Seed-Starter

You do it more or less like this:

and you get this:

For the details on this, and more clever ideas on growing things, go see You Grow Girl™ – » Toilet Roll Seed-Starter

The Beautiful Side of New Jersey Corruption …and good crime writing

The title alone was enough to get me to read: The Beautiful Side of New Jersey Corruption in TIME. But once I read the first paragraph, I was hooked, just like the bluefish the author talks about.

Good crime writing often has a wry way of looking at the world. This article is packed with that. And if crime can be tragic, it can also be comedic.  It’s just needs a good writer, like Bill Saporito.

Ancient cities / Modern Cities: The World’s 10 Oldest Still-Inhabited Cities

While many ancient cities are no more, quite a number of them around the world that are thousands of years old not only are surviving but thriving. From Damascus and Jerusalem in the Middle East , to Varanasi in India and Cholula in Mexico, the World’s 10 Oldest Still-Inhabited Cities continue to grow. Fascinating.

(Found via

John Barry, Popularizer of WD-40, Dies at 84

WD-40 is an amazing product. Along with duct tape, it is one of the world’s greatest inventions. While the inventor was Norm Larsen, the man who made it such as success was John Barry, who just died.

It’s worthwhile reading his Obituary at to see just how smart a businessman he was. WD-40 is a great product, but the path to it becoming great was paved by Mr. Barry. It’s worth reading about him.

This is just to say

This is one of my favourite poems by William Carlos Williams. It’s a bowl of plums: cold, sweet, delicious, simple.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Thanks to – Poetry, Poems, Bios & More for this.

Canned Scorpion! Yum!

You come home hungry and look in the cupboards for something quick to eat and what do you find but…

and this is just one of 14 Strangest Canned Foods  over at After reading these, that can of chicken noodle soups starts looking alot better. 🙂

“Birther” smackdown

Over at TPM is a great smackdown of a Republican Congressman who appears to be supporting the wacko “Birther” idea that Obama was not born in the the US and therefore is not eligible to be president. It is just nonsense, of course, but people are running with it. So Chris Matthews Questions Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) About Birther Bill and does something great: he whips out Obama’s birth certificate! So for all those Birthers out there saying that no one has seen it…well, go see. And then be quiet.

I have been enjoying smackdowns of people like this all week.  All those nuts who said Neil Armstrong never landed on the moon have been taken apart on blogs and forums whenever they popped up and said the moon landings never happened.

It is fine to have serious debates and discussions about contentious topics, but things like this deserve contempt.

Koba the Dread: Amis, Hitchens, and Sebald and the problem of the novelist-historian

I just finished “Koba the Dread” by Martin Amis. Following that, I read this review of it in The Atlantic | September 2002 | “Lightness at Midnight” | Hitchens. It makes sense to read a review by Hitchens: he is minor subject in the book, and he clearly knows the subject matter itself. I think both the book and the review are great: Amis writes much better than most historians, and Hitchens writes much better than most reviewers. I don’t think Hitchens answered Amis’s criticisms of him fully, but he does a thorough job of pointing out the many limitations of Amis’s work. Despite that, I highly recommend you read both.

I brought Sebald into this, however, because I think the critics of Amis make a mistake similar to those made by those criticizing Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction. In both cases, you have superb novelists writing about history. In both cases, the reviewers were criticizing their historical skills. However, I think in both cases, that misses the point. Both Sebald and Amis do not give up being novelists when they are writing their histories. If anything, they are creating a new genre that is the reverse of historical novel. I think that new genre could be criticized, but to not see that this new hybrid and not analyze both aspects of the work is to miss out on a substantial part of it. If anything, it is closer to the New Journalism of Capote, Thompson, Wolfe and others.

I’d be interested to know if people who have read Koba the Dread and On the Natural History of Destruction thought the same thing.

The girl with two hearts

According to New Scientist:

A British girl has recovered fully after spending 10 years with an extra heart transplanted alongside her own.

How can you not go and read the rest of the story?

(Found on

Simplify and organize your life in five easy steps – both physically and digitally.

I love this list, and likely everyone from 5 to 105 could go through this list and apply some if not all of it: 5 things to get rid of – Organizing Ideas – Organizing – Style At Home.

I want to reprint the list for a reason. The things you should toss out are:

1 Clothes that don’t fit.
2 Objects you don’t like even if they were gifts.
3 Outdated papers (newspapers, magazines, invitations to events, expired coupons and calendars).
4 Things that you have more than one of. How many do you really need?
5 Broken items that are too expensive to fix.

First off, try applying this list. In an hour, you can easily clear out alot of physical clutter. If you donate it or give it away, you’ll be benefitting yourself and someone else.

Now I reproduced the list to show that you can do the same thing with digital clutter too. By adopting the list, you can also use it to get rid of:

1 Software you don’t use, especially obsolete software.
2 Hardware you don’t use. (Ditch that 8 MB USB key, and recycle that old cell phone)
3 Outdated folders of information. (Presentations, Word documents, spreadsheets, anything a few years old that is not vital or essential)
4 Things that you have more than one of. (How many of those iPhone/iPod touch applications do you need or use?)
5 Broken items that are too expensive to fix. (e.g., any old laptop with a defective motherboard).

Now you have alot less clutter in real life and digitally, thanks to Style and Home and yours truly. 🙂

P.S. Check out the Style at Home site. They have lots of great advice on organizing and much much more. Plus, the people I know who work there are great!

Night Passage Music from the School of Seven Bells – “Half Asleep”


YouTube – School of Seven Bells – “Half Asleep”

Biodegradable cutlery and other brilliant ideas from the blog Natural Chic

My friend Laurie continue to blog about all things eco-friendly at her blog, Natural Chic (A Style at Home Blog). While there are lots of great things and ideas there, I really thought these were brilliant. It’s this:

… biodegradable cutlery. Made from potato starch, it’s not only biodegradable, you can compost it, too – it completely breaks down in three to six weeks. And while the price is somewhat higher, isn’t it worth it for never having to rely on petroleum-based plastic knives, forks and spoons again? (Available at:

I would love to see fast food restaurants adopt these. If you know anyone at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc., please ask them.

Why does The New Yorker make Anthony Lane review movies like Star Trek and Harry Potter?

Because clearly he despises them. I can’t imagine him praising either film under any condition. No matter. If you want to get a proper review of the film, best head over to and see what almost everyone else is saying. But if you want a laugh, then by all means, see
his review: Gray Skies in The New Yorker.

The end of newspapers, or thoughts on reading Dear New York Times: Please charge me more than $5 for your web site. at Nieman Journalism Lab

It’s Saturday morning. I get my coffee, get comfortable, and read the news section, the sports commentary, the financial news. I learn about events going on in my city. Maybe I get some interesting cooking ideas. So what am I doing: a) reading a newspaper b) going through my RSS feeds via my feedreader? It’s B.

Then I do things I can’t do with a newspaper. I watch movie clips. I blog about interesting articles. I share links on twitter. I might create smart feeds that aggregate or filter feeds to give me *just* the information I want. Perhaps I listen to some music.

So when I read article like, Dear New York Times: Please charge me more than $5 for your web site. » Nieman Journalism Lab, I think they must make sense for people who love MSM and want it to continue. As for me, I used to love mainframe computers. Seriously. I work for IBM, and I used to run and program on mainframes. But the rest of the world wanted PCs and cheap computers. Mainframes? Yes, but not so much.

The world of media is radically changing. MSM needs to start thinking radically different. I still don’t see enough of them doing that yet.

A Brilliant Video + the power of Web 2.0

First, this is an incredible video. It reminds me of the work of David Hockney, though of course, it works in a different way than his photographic collages:

By itself, I was impressed very much. But what is interesting about such things is that others can comment on it. For example, it turns out that perhaps the video is not so original, as you can see here at Gizmodo. As well, the site where I found it, molt:n, noticed an interesting life transition in it. All of this to say that the video by itself is great, but the power of Web 2.0 technology that allows others to easily share and converse about the video makes the experience even greater.

Finally, kudos to the people who posted the video here, YouTube – The PEN Story, for acknowledging what others discovered.

Free Photoshop

According to one of my favourite blogs, Tech Style, Adobe is offering a web based version of Photoshop Express. It will be limited in features, of course, but did I mention free? 🙂 Check it out here.

One of my favourite new blogs: Moggit!

The good folks at Moggit review lots of design web sites and find some mind bogglingly bad decor. Like this:

Then they present it in a most amusing way! It’s great fun. Just be glad you don’t live in some (any?) of the places that they feature.
Go to Moggit to get the details.

Small changes can make a big difference or Plastic bag use falls 70% at Metro grocery stores

Toronto has introduced a five cent fee for plastic bags recently. I wondered what the effect would be. I did notice that alot of people were bringing their own bags. Well, according to this (Plastic bag use falls 70% at Metro grocery stores), it has made a big difference. It’s good to see.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Pretenders

Whenever I see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform “Zero”, I think of an earlier band, a great band, with a great singer: The Pretenders.
Here they are, live, many years after their debut, but still great, performing their classic, Brass In Pocket

Chrissy Hinde sings “I’m special”, but that goes without saying.

World’s Best Islands: or what do Bali, the Galapagos and Cape Breton have in common?

As a proud Cape Bretoner, I am delighted to see that Cape Breton has come in third  on this list: 2009 World’s Best Islands | Travel + Leisure beating out such great spots as Kauai, Maui, and Vancouver Island (up from 10th). All these islands are great, of course. For me, what I love about this is the recognition of how great Cape Breton is.

Shepard Farley portrays Aung San Suu Kyi

Shepard Farley, who created the now famous “Hope” image of Barack Obama, has a new image that he is promoting of Aung San Suu Kyi, and as you can see, it is stunning.

Click on the link to get more information on it,  Aung San Suu Kyi, and what he hopes to accomplish.

What I thought about Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies”

I liked how the film has no opening credits. I believe Mann did that in “Collateral”, too. (It’s something you don’t realize until you are well into the film.) The opening credits don’t provide any value and disrupt the flow of the movie. Back when films ran continuously, opening credits made sense to tell people that a new film was starting. But nowadays, there are so many things telling you that the film is starting, you don’t need it. I like this: I hope more directors will do this.

Mann is always experimenting with cinematography, and he does this in “Public Enemies” too. I’d be interested in what people who really know film thought of this. Sometimes it is really striking in this film, but I couldn’t get a strong sense what he was thinking by doing this. It didn’t appear symbolic, and it also didn’t appear to be a signifier of something (e.g. a flashback to an earlier era). I also didn’t see any reviewers explain this. (Most of the reviews were synopses with an overall rating.).

In “Public Enemies”, like “Heat” and“Collateral”, Mann pits good against evil and embodies that in the major characters, with the evil character being free while the good character is constrained. The antagonists in Mann’s films tend to be larger than life, while the protagonists often seem diminished, limited. I came away thinking that Mann believes it is important that the good and the good guy succeed, but I feel he is rooting for the bad guy.

In “Public Enemies”, “Heat” and “Collateral”, time is a major factor. Mann uses it to drive the narrative and to build up suspense. This is not surprising in some ways, but Mann really stresses it. In “Collateral”, there is a lot of discussion of how long it takes to get from point A to B. And in “Public Enemies”, there is discussion around the time it takes to rob a bank. I’d like to go back and look for other termporal references. I think they are also there in “Miami Vice”.

Stylized violence is big in “Public Enemies”, just like it is in “Heat”, “Collateral” and “Miami Vice”. Violence is very dramatic. Likewise, the bad guys are very dramatic. They are villains with a capital V. I thought of that because I am a big fan of “Unforgiven” and “Gran Torino”, and in those films, Eastwood appears to be eschewing violence. While he uses it, he reflects on the damage it does to his characters. I don’t get that in Mann.

I rented “Collateral” after seeing “Public Enemies”. What struck me was how similar the recent remake of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” was with “Collateral”. In both films you have a white antagonist who is supremely confident in conflict with a black protagonist who is downtrodden. In both films the two men form a bond, and the antagonist helps the protagonist with his internal conflict, until ultimately, the protagonist overcomes his internal conflict by killing the antagonist. This also allows the antagonist to relinquish his evilness too: there is almost a relief in both Travolta’s character and Cruise’s character when they are finally dying.

When I watched “Collateral”, “Miama Vice” and “Heat”, what impresses me is how Mann thoroughly incorporates the city into his film. It’s not background: it’s the stage his film is played out on, and he emphasizes the stage. He makes the stage/the city beautiful. I didn’t get that as much in “Public Enemies”. Then again, it is a period fllm, and it is harder to do with those.

One thing I loved about “Public Enemies” is the changing nature of crime and law. The arc in the film is not just of Dillinger and the other Public Enemies, but is also the arc of crime and how crime is pursued. After Dillinger and his kind are arrested or killed, they will be replaced, not just be other bank robbers, but by syndicates and the Mafia. Likewise, the state law enforcement is being superceded by the FBI. Mann does a good job of showing that playing out.

Mann has lots of great detail in the film. One review said there isn’t enough in the film on why Dillinger was popular, but I thought Mann did that subtly, like the time when Dillinger refuses to rob a bank customer, or when the radio is playing in the background, discussing the role of the government at the time. There are other nice details too, like the time when Johnny Depp leaps over a counter in the bank (Dillinger was known to do things like this).

I don’t know if it is intentional, but Mann seems to borrow from the classic film “M”. As in “M”, organized crime turns on the individual outlaws because as individuals, they are threatening the syndicates and the mobs with their actions. Likewise, Mann is saying that the mob also had a hand in doing in Dillinger, since they were bad for business.

Barack Obama and the importance of play at work

Often times (too often) work is only about work. Work work work work work! 🙂 It might seem like a good idea to short sighted bosses, but it’s likely that almost all of your staff will get burned out, and certainly all of your staff will not perform their best. Breaks from work, even small ones, are good. Breaks that make you smile and enjoy yourself are even better.

This is a nice example of such a break here:

I wondered if Obama and his sports gear in the White House were an affectation, a prop for photographers. But I think, instead, that he uses them as tools to shake up and lighten up the office, so his people will work at their best. Smart boss.
See more such images here. From the Official White House Photostream’s photostream on

My good experiences with Canadian Public Service

Over the past year, I have had to get a new passport, a new driver’s licence, and mail a parcel.  In each case I have had to deal with public servants. And in each case, I have had the expectation that the service would be slow and disorganized. What I have found instead is the opposite, with each office being highly organized and fast. The driver’s license took about 10 minutes, with most of that me filling out a form. The passport took less than 30 minutes. For the parcel, I arrived at the post office just before 8 a.m., and at 8, the employee opened the door and dispatched my parcel in a few minutes.

Just now I phoned about getting a new Ontario health card. It took a few minutes to get someone to speak to, but when they did talk to me, they were informed, polite, provided me with everything I needed to know, and then booked an appointment at the office at a time of my choosing so that I can be in and out in a few minutes.

There are many public servants in Ontario as well as Ottawa. I am sure you can find a few bad ones, just like you can at any organization. However, despite expecting the opposite, most of the public servants I have been working with lately have been great to work with. 

More on Iran: Persepolis

YouTube: Persepolis