Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Best Hot Chocolate in Toronto

Now that it is getting very cold here in Hogtown, if you are out and about in such weather, it can be helpful to know where you should go to get The Best Hot Chocolate in Toronto. BlogTO has a rundown of some great places to go for this wonderful hot beverage.

As an aside, I love going to Aroma for their hot chocolate. They drop a big chunk of chocolate into hot steamy milk and you stir: delicious. However, while you won’t find it in the article, you will see people argue for it in the comments.

Regardless, if you go to Aroma or any of these other places, you will (almost) appreciate the cold weather better once you have one of these drinks from one of these places.


What the Canadian government is doing for Haiti and what your government can do

Kudos the the government of Canada. As well as the signifigant relief funds Canadians are providing, the Canadian government has cancelled Haiti’s debt to Canada and is urging other  creditors to cancel Haitian debt. Indeed, Canada’s….

“…Finance Minister Jim Flaherty urged Haiti’s international creditors Wednesday to cancel the country’s debts following the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed 200,000 people, including 21 Canadians.

Canada cancelled all its Haitian debt last fall, Flaherty noted, and all Canadian contributions to the country’s earthquake relief – more than $100 million – is in grants, not loans.”

If you are not a Canadian, contact your local political leader and ask them to follow the Canadian government’s lead.

Hey Canadian filmmakers!

Are you an aspiring Canadian filmmaker? If so, then check out the NFB’s web page, Hothouse » Hothouse 6: Call for Submissions. They are looking for talented filmmakers like you for a 12 week paid apprenticeship. You’ve got until February 19, 2010 to apply. You can do it! Go to the site for entry details. And when you win, come back here and tell me! Thanks!

Think your commute is tough?

Well, it likely has nothing  — NOTHING! — on the 19 most complex and dangerous roads in the world.

Here’s The Road of Death, Bolivia:

The other 18 are just as bad. You have to see it to believe it.

A great perspective on the iPad by looking at the comments on the iPod

This is a great article (Overhyped, Overpriced & Disappointing: iPad? No, iPod in 2001) that shows that alot of the comments for the iPod were very similar to the iPad. If anything, the iPod likely had a more difficult going over. I highly recommend the article and especially the comments that it links to.

As a side note, it is remarkable that back in 2001, the iPod was going for $399. Now the iPad is going for $499. That’s quite striking in it’s own right.

Experiments in non-free news publishing: iCopywrite

When I first saw this article, A Licence to Print Money For Canadian News Sites – Torontoist, I thought, this won’t work. Well, according to Toronoist

“ organizations everywhere have been experimenting with different sources of income, such as licensing. For more than a year now,, the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star, have been using iCopyright…

Here’s how iCopyright works: if you want to print an article from your printer, just click the little print icon beside any story, and an iCopyright window pops up asking you how many copies you’d like to make. Printing is free, as long as you’re making fewer than six copies. If you want to print six or more, iCopyright asks you to pay per article. The system works the same way if you’re trying to email an article, and it can also be used to quickly purchase republication rights.”

Now, technically this is trivial to get around. But it could still make money if larger organizations such a school boards mandate that teachers must pay for such things. This may not make sense to individuals, but large organizations sometimes will make such a call. And not just public organizations, but private ones as well.

I don’t believe it will make alot of money, and it won’t stop the march towards a new journalism that recognizes that people will no longer pay directly for news. But it could be more successful than one might think.

How to extend your weekend

Reading this article, Squeeze an Extra Hour Out of Your Busy Day – Time management – Lifehacker, I thought: that’s all fine and good, but what I want is less busy time, not more. I want more weekend. Likely you do too.

One simple way of doing this is to actively plan your Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays. For Thursdays, try and arrange for a relaxing or enjoyable activity to do Thursday evening. It could be going for coffee or drinks, or seeing a show, going book or window shopping, or going out for a nice dinner. Anything that makes Thursday night more special than Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night. If I do that, even though I have to work on Friday, I  feel like the weekend has already started.

As for Sunday and Monday, it is a similar idea. Even if you find your weekend busy, try to schedule the busyness and chores before Sunday evening and try and  make Sunday night enjoyable, even if it is taking extra time to relax. So many people I see — via email — that they have already started their work week on Sunday night! They not finished working on Saturday morning and they start working on Sunday evening! If they are lavishly rewarded for this, then fine. Otherwise, they need to better manage their time Monday to Friday so that that doesn’t happen. And they certainly need to manage their time so that they enjoy Sunday evening.

Finally, try to extend your weekend into Monday as much as you can. If you can have a relaxing breakfast, or a special lunch, or just meeting a friend for coffee on Monday, you will have eased into the week nicely and the next thing you know, you are already launched into the work week.

For the rest of the week, work hard. But when it comes time to relax and play, play hard too.

It’s your life: make the most of it. Extending your weekend is one way to do that.

While Apple is changing how you interact with the Internet, so is Google

While this announcement is anything as sexy as the new iPad, it is also a big development: Google Proposes to Extend DNS Protocol, Optimize Speed of Browsing.

Google and these other DNS providers are essentially changing the way the Internet will work. If this goes ahead, these DNS providers will be taking over or at least dramatically shaping the structure of the Internet. The way it is presented, the DNS providers will use part of your IP address to determine where to send your request in order to speed up your request. Right now if I want to go and browse ACMEJAPAN.COM, my DNS servers — in this case, the ones provided by Google — will say: oh, ACMEJAPAN.COM, that is located at IP address a.b.c.d. It should do this regardless of where I am connected. Knowing a.b.c.d, my ISP will (at least partially) route my request to IP address a.b.c.d. However, if  a.b.c.d points to a web server in Japan and my laptop is connected to an ISP in Canada, it’s going to take awhile (relatively speaking) for my request to get to Japan and back. What Google is proposing is this: if ACMEJAPAN.COM also has web servers in a location closer to me (say at w.x.y.z), then it will tell me that instead and as a result my request and response will be quicker.

It sounds all good, but it also means that Google DNS (and others) have more control over directing traffic around the Internet. That’s the part that concerns me. Those DNS providers are going to be actively shaping the flow of Internet traffic. And that is interesting.  I expect to see alot more coming out of this development.

Thoughts on the iPad

Since the has this: The Blogosphere Reacts to the Apple iPad, I thought: hey, I am part of the blogosphere, so I should react too! 🙂

  • The response in this article is different than what I have been seeing. One difference: in the article, people have access to the iPad. Perhaps this will make people more enthusiastic once they get it.
  • Overall, it doesn’t have the same Wow factor for me that other apple technology had. I remember the first iMac, iPod and others and thinking how special they were. This doesn’t seem that way. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can’t help.
  • In some ways, I am seeing people argue for it the same way I see people argue for Google Wave. If you have to argue that strongly in favour of something, that is a bad sign. It should be obvious to people why they want it. I don’t see that for the iPad.
  • It does remind me of a big iPhone / iTouch. That’s not too surprising: that is a classic design. But I would have been more impressed if they had done something more innovative in the overall physical form. Many times that alone gave other i devices their wow factor. Nothing about the iPad’s overall physical design excites me. It reminds me more of a new machine.
  • The iPad could go the way of the Air computer. A colleague of mine said this and I think there is a possibility this is true. There could be a minority of people who get it, but the vast majority may stick with other devices.
  • The size is relevant. I find I fuss alot with my Touch when I surf the web. With the iPad, there will be less of that.
  • I think it will hurt the Kindle, but how much remains to be seen. I think the iPhone is superior to most Blackberries as devices, but what makes the Blackberry powerful is the deep integration with backend systems. The Kindle’s deep connection to Amazon could help it achieve the same thing.
  • I know lots of people are joking about the name, but I think it is a good name. It is very close to iPod, and it is related to IBM’s ThinkPad.
  • People are complaining about its lack of features, for good reason, but I think the big thing that is going to happen is the unleashing of application developers on that platform. For that’s what the iPad is: a newer/better platform for developers. I expect the apps alone will eventually drive people to get one. People won’t get one to replace their other devices. They will get it because it has apps that you can’t get anywhere else.
  • iPad apps could allow Apple devices to get into businesses where they could never get in before. They could start appearing everywhere instead of a sheet of paper. There are already tons of big screen TVs everywhere in businesses now. I could see the same thing with iPads.
  • iPads are going to change the nature of mobile devices. Whoever makes the technology for Apple will eventually make it for HTC and others.
  • iPads could be the end of cellphones, even smart phones. If I have a bluetooth headset and a 3G iPad, the reason to have a phone diminishes greatly.
  • If I were a print publisher, I would be excited and nervous. Excited because I believe Apple will give them a lifeline, a rope, so to speak. And nervous because that rope might be used to tie them to Apple, just like the music industry is. It was interesting to see the emphasis of print media at the Apple demo. That will be the direction for 2010, but I think the apps will take over and take it in unexpected directions.
  • I like the lack of a keyboard. Honestly, keyboards and mice are very limited ways to interact with computers. Jobs recognized that with the first iPod and he has been pushing that as he goes forward. But I also think we need richer ways to interact with the computer. The iPad may give that to us.
  • I think the iPad will evolve to become a much more impressive platform. This is just the beginning.

“Winners” in politics

I wrote about “winners” in politics the other night: people who run only when they are confident they will win. There is another angle to this. Winners also will do what it take to win, even what it takes is outrageous or worse. In talking about Harold Ford at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about such winner, people like John Malcolm Patterson, who

 ‘…defeated Wallace, and embraced the murderous (Ku Klux) Klan, (and who also!) backed Barack Obama for president in 2008, and said of his segregationist days:

“If you didn’t do that you wouldn’t get elected. You might as well go home and forget it.” Even after his election, the issue constrained him. “The law required that the schools be segregated,” Patterson says. “And the legislature was not about to change the law. If I had attempted to force some issue myself, the legislature might well have impeached me. Timing is everything. And the timing was not right to do anything about segregation.”

This is not to say that Patterson doesn’t regret the way he handled segregation, particularly the issue of voting rights. “We were denying black people all over the state, highly qualified folk, the right to vote,” Patterson says. “You’d see these country guys on these voting registration boards. They’d call in some guy with a doctorate from Columbia University teaching at Tuskegee and ask him questions about the constitution and turn him down because they weren’t satisfactory. This was ridiculous. It was outrageous.”‘

Patterson was a “winner”. As Julius Caesar says in Shakespeare’s play, such men, with lean and hungry looks, think too much and are dangerous. They are “winners”.

Big upcoming changes in Afghanistan

According to the Globe and Mail, Talks with Taliban gain traction in plan for Afghan peace. Some signifigant points:

“As a soldier, my personal feeling is that there’s been enough fighting,” U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, the senior NATO commander in the 42-nation Afghan mission, said in an interview with the Financial Times. “I believe that a
political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome. And it’s the right outcome.”

By saying that Taliban leaders could be included in a future Afghan government and suggesting that Afghans should “extend olive branches” to the insurgents, Gen. McChrystal has gone further than any previous U.S. commander.

Also, this

At a meeting in Istanbul yesterday ahead of the London conference, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told reporters that he wants to begin negotiations with the more moderate of the several groups usually classified as “Taliban.”

“I will be making a statement at the conference in London to the effect of removing Taliban names from the United Nations sanctions list,” Mr. Karzai said.

This is all very big and very signfigant for the future of NATO in that country. Dividing “The Taliban” is likely the best way to achieve stability in Afghanistan and likely the best way to deal with al-Qaeda there.

How to avoid unwanted house guests…

Easy. I recommend you buy these shower curtains:

Honestly, even if people think: ha! ha! Funny!, they will also think: where are the hotel listings. 🙂

From the brilliant ReflectionOf.Me

The power of Anna Netrebko

This time in a more challenging piece than “O mio babbino caro”. Here she performs Elettra’s Aria “D’Oreste, d’Aiace” from Mozart’s “Idomeneo, Re di Creta”. I think she performs it very well.  It’s a powerful aria, powerfully sung.

YouTube – Anna Netrebko Mozart – Idomeneo – D’oreste, D’ajace, Mozart

I mention power because I actually learned something from the comments of Youtube. The microphone in front of her is apparently not for projection, but for recording (you see a few of them onstage). Compare it with this video, with her performing with Andrea Bocelli.

In this video –not very well recorded — they are using amplification microphones. Now skip ahead to around the 2:44 minute mark and note how close he is to the mic as compared to her. In order for him to project over the overall sound, he has to be on top of the mic. Her? Not so much. If anything, if she was that close, she might overwhelm the overall sound. Power.

(This is not a knock against Bocelli, who has a fine voice. But he appears tense and struggling at this point, while she opens up her arms. Indeed, towards the end she is taking his hand, almost to lend support to the big finish to a difficult piece to sing.)

THIS I love

The Third Bit » Blog Archive » Amen

Obama in 2006

In this Harper’s article, Barack Obama Inc.: The birth of a Washington machine—By Ken Silverstein, is a look at the upcoming Barack Obama, who is  “Already considered a potential vice-presidential nominee in 2008”. Ha!

It’s a good article, mostly focused on lobbyists and their relationship with politicians. However, one quote that jumped out at me was this:

Obama said that the “blogger community,” which by now is shorthand for liberal Democrats, gets frustrated with him because they think he’s too willing to compromise with Republicans. “My argument,” he says, “is that a polarized electorate plays to the advantage of those who want to dismantle government. Karl Rove can afford to win with 51 percent of the vote. They’re not trying to reform health care. They are content with an electorate that is cynical about government. Progressives have a harder job. They need a big enough majority to initiate bold proposals.”

You can see Obama’s thinking about Health Care Reform here, even if it is something that so many progressive bloggers object to. That asymetry is unfair and frustrating to the left in the U.S. Howevre, once those bold proposals are set in place, they gain an inertia all of their own and the asymetry shifts in favour of progressives. (Ask conservatives that try to dismantle New Deal programs.)

(And yes I realize that the blogger community is more than just liberal Democrats….hey, this was written ages ago. :))

On the beginning of the end of the Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin and the return of the “winners”

Whenever a party loses badly, as the GOP did recently, you get a withdrawal of mainstream participants, leaving a vacuum that can be filled by others. On the other side, you get people focused on those that fill the vacuum, as the Dems have. But really, that is a temporary state, until the side now in power starts to look weak. As the Dems are currently looking. Then you get something like this, G.O.P. Seeks to Widen Field of Play in Fall Elections –, where the mainstream participants — in this case, from the GOP — start to reengage.

How you see this depends on your affiliation. Regardless, the idea that the the Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin followers were ever going to lead the GOP was not very likely. Instead, it’s going to be people like Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Mike Pense in Indiana who will become the next leaders. I am not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just the way it is.

Perhaps the Tea Partiers and the Sarah Palin followers will feel that they paved the way for these new leaders. Whether that is true can be determined by how much Senators like Scott Brown listen to them. My belief is the answer is: not much. And that too is just the way it is.

Now we will see the “winners” return. Winners only play when they can win. For them, it’s not about participating so much as it is about winning.

This is sooooo ZOMG Awesome – Google Books has the Weekly World News Online!

See here.

Did you know that the Gates of Hell open? Surely you want to know about that! Well, now you can. Also Woman Gives Birth to Angel and The 10 Lost Commandments are revealed.

Interestingly, I came across it looking up a book written by Hans Kung.  The Internet is amazing.

The resurgence of the Paul Simon Sound

I’ve been hearing Paul Simon everywhere lately in the sound of new musicians. This post over at LETTER TO JANE, on Vampire Weekend’s “Giant”,  highlights its appearance in that song. And a good friend sent me Jeremy Fisher’s “Scar That Never Heals” on and I can’t help but think of “Cecilia” and “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” when I listen to it.

Now obviously Paul Simon is still alive and still making great music. But it is great to see newer musicians take that sound and use it too.

How you can help Haiti now

If you have already contributed financially to Haiti, you might be thinking: are there other ways I could help. Well, there are some Simple Tasks Anyone Can Do and compiled at this CrisisCommons Wiki. Check it out.

…and now…a very helpful chart to help you in your day to day decision making…

from the brilliant ReflectionOf.Me

P.S. I think a man made this. The clue is the “bacon” reference. If it was “chocolate”, I would have thought it was a woman. Just sayin’! 🙂

What I love about Gianni Schicchi

As characters go, Gianni Schicchi is remarkable. Not only does he appear in a Canto (XXX) of Dante’s Inferno, but he is also the subject of a one act opera by the great composer, Giacomo Puccini. Not bad for a minor crook of a man. Other than Othello, not many characters can claim such an honor.

The opera contains one of the most beautiful arias I know, “O mio babbino caro” (Oh, my dear papa).

The night before my daughter was born, I went to see Gianni Schicchi. After, when she was born, I used to hum “O mio babbino caro” to her to help her fall asleep.

One of my favourite sopranos is Anna Netrebko, and she sings “O mio babbino caro” here:


Well done, from the tumble log, Where is F. ?

China vs the West: an economic experiment

It’s not often you see economic idea laboratory tested, so to speak, but as Matthew Yglesias shows, that’s exactly what we have seen in comparing the West’s approach to the Great Recession as opposed to Chin’a approach. As he points out:

When the world entered a major downturn, China applied major stimulus. Really across the board stuff. …The government spent money, they did credit easing, they stimulated consumer demand (”retail sales rose 16.9 percent in 2009″), they did infrastructure, they did exchange rate policy, they did a lot. People warned that all this stimulus might create inflation, but China kept doing it anyway. Now, GDP growth is back on track and there’s actual evidence of inflation happening so they’re looking to pivot. Policymakers in the developed world—especially Europe—have, by contrast, spent much of the past twelve months doing the equivalent of worrying about a flood while standing in a burning house.

As a result, China’s ecomomy is taking off and their Central Bank is worried about inflation. Meanwhile, in the West, the central banks act like they are worried about inflation, but without the economic growth to cause inflation, I am not sure what they are worried about. It is the rest of us in the West who are worried, and it’s not about inflation.

I.F. Stone, the UK Guardian and the future of journalism

When I think of print journalism, I think of journalists working the phones and going to press conferences to gather news. However, that is not the only way to do it. Indeed, the famed journalist I.F. Stone had a different yet very successful way of working. His “journalistic work drew heavily on obscure documents from the public domain; some of his best scoops were discovered by peering through the voluminous official records generated by the government”. It looks like the Guardian is supporting something along similar lines as it launches a search engine for government data. As the article in the link states:

The UK Guardian, ostensibly a newspaper but a major proponent for opening data held by governments to use by outside software developers, has launched some software of its own: a search engine that unearths datasets and pathways to data sets provided by governments around the world. World Government Data Search is now live.

In effect, The Guardian is enabling the new generations of I.F. Stones to muckrake and report on what is happening in the government. We are going back to the future.

Paul Volcker and the return of Glass Steagall as part of Obama’s long term plan

Whatever you think of President Obama’s policies, one thing to note about him is that he plans long term. When he brought Paul Volcker onto his team, I first wondered if it was just window dressing. Volcker all but dropped off the radar until recently, when he has been saying scathing things about the big banks. Now there’s this: Obama to Propose New Limits on Banks – In this article, the WSJ says that…

“Mr. Obama is also expected to endorse, for the first time publicly, measures pushed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, which would place restrictions on the proprietary trading done by commercial banks, essentially limiting the way banks bet with their own capital. Administration officials say they want to place “firewalls” between different divisions of financial companies to ensure banks don’t indirectly subsidize “speculative” trading through other subsidiaries that hold federally insured deposits.”

Why does any of this have to do with the long term? This could have been done anytime in the last year. Instead, Obama shored up the banks and let them more or less do what they wanted. And what did they do? They went on to rake in some serious profits and pay out some huge bonuses, much to the dismay of Obama’s supporters. However, Obama in the short term has focused on the more difficult task, which was Health Care Reform, while cajoling the banks to show some restraint (which they did not).  Once that is settled, one way or another, Obama will pivot towards bank reform, which is what he appears to be doing now. Just in time for the 2010 elections. Which is the plan.

After that, the plan will be to work on climate change, propose improvement to health care reform,  complete the draw down of forces in Irag and Afghanistan, and get the economy in the best shape it can be for the U.S. presidential election. That’s the long term plan. Watch.

Is your password really “123456”?! For alot of people, it is. Here’s why you need to change it

I used to maintain the directory of userids on a bunch of mainframes when passwords were not encrypted. What always shocked me was how trivial passwords were. Every winter, there would be lots of passwords of “winter”. When Major League Baseball started, there were lots of passwords like “Bluejays” or “Yankees”. Anyone intent on hacking into these accounts could have. (Part of our job was to prevent people from doing just that.)

Flash forward decades later, and it still seems that Simple Passwords Remain Popular, Despite Risk of Hacking according to the And what is one of the common passwords? “123456”. Really!

Check this article. See why this is a bad idea. Then change your password. Please. For all our sakes.

A MSF surgical team working on a patient in the outdoor courtyard of the hospital in Carrefour Haiti.

A #MSF surgical team working on a patient in the outdoor cour… on Twitpic

I love this image

The World Food Program (WFP) on Haitian logistics

Can be seen here: Latest Photos Of Damaged Port In Port-au-Prince, Haiti | WFP | United Nations World Food Programme – Fighting Hunger Worldwide.

As you can see from the blog, it’s going to be something of a challenge to unload quickly, though there is progress.

As for the airport, here is the latest on that.

The latest on Haiti from today’s teleconference by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

…can be found here: Transcript: Teleconference on Haiti Earthquake on January 18, 2010 | Doctors Without Borders.

Good news: they have treated hundreds of patients already. Bad news: they have been hampered by the logistics of others, as you can see in the transcript. It looks like this logistical roadblock has been surmounted. Let’s see.

It’s a good transcript with lots of detail. Highly recommended.

Something to beat the winter blahs: a citrus salad

It’s simple, and seasonal, and you can enjoy it by itself or with a meal. This article, The Minimalist – Allowing Citrus to Add Sunshine –, features a nice version of it. I would also recommend adding some olives and feta….just a little.

(Evan Sung’s photo from the NYT make it even more appealing.)

Sunday night music: Herbie Hancock. Corinne Bailey Rae. Joni Mitchell’s “River”

Gorgeous. (Which part? Take your pick.)

Listen and watch Herbie Hancock and Corinne Bailey Rae do their superb performance of Joni Mitchell’s “River”.

YouTube – Herbie Hancock Feat Corinne Bailey Rae – River

Why helping in disasters like Haiti is harder than you might think

You might think that with all these countries coming to Haiti’s rescue, everything should be fixed in no time. However, delivering aid and assistance to a nation in a disaster is terribly difficult, no matter what, as Michael Keizer points out in this article: Logistics questions around the Haiti earthquake.

You will likely hear people question why isn’t aid getting to people quickly enough. Read this article and you will know why.

Jaron Lanier needs someone else to promote his new book, “You are Not A Gadget”

As he lamely states in this article in, you might know know him as

‘the “father of Virtual Reality technology.” In the 1980s and 1990s, I was a young computer scientist and entrepreneur working on how to apply virtual reality to things like surgical simulation’

I did know him from his work then, and his work was impressive. Now he has a new book to promote, titled “You are Not A Gadget”, and it seems less than impressive. In the WSJ article, he states, “Here’s one problem with digital collectivism: We shouldn’t want the whole world to take on the quality of having been designed by a committee. When you have everyone collaborate on everything, you generate a dull, average outcome in all things. You don’t get innovation.” and “There’s a dominant dogma in the online culture of the moment that collectives make the best stuff, but it hasn’t proven to be true.”. Perhaps he hangs out at a different part of the Web than I do, but those statements are false.  Where is “everyone” collaborating on “everything”? And who is stating “collectives make the best stuff”? Instead, what we are just as likely to see is individuals or small teams starting things and then others contribute feedback, ideas, and criticisms. Likewise, we also see companies and organizations spending less time dictating to people how to use technology and more time fostering collaboration and sharing with their technology.

Lanier sets up other straw men in this article, too, like this one: “If you suggested that, say, Google, Apple and Microsoft should be merged so that all their engineers would be aggregated into a giant wiki-like project—well you’d be laughed out of Silicon Valley so fast you wouldn’t have time to tweet about it.” I mean, who in their right mind would suggest that? What companies like Google are doing, though,  is pushing out technologies and ideas — like Google Wave — faster to their clients and users and getting their feedback to build better services.

To sume it up, the entire article is poor. Sadly, it gets worse. Over here in the NYTimes is this: “In the book Mr. Lanier offers some general proposals for helping content providers, like the establishment of a universal system for micropayments administered by the government. He’d be glad to see the system run privately, he told me, but there are obstacles to PayPal or anyone else establishing a universal system, so it needs to be a government function akin to maintaining paper currency.” Again, who honestly can imagine this being an idea that is likely to be implemented? It sounds like something from a Science Fiction novel, not a serious idea.  Even the idea of micropayments itself is old and terrible. In places where there are micropayments (e.g. costs / text message), both people and companies look for ways to get rid of them, either by offering “unlimited” plans or making them “free”. Technical people seem to like micropayments: I recall Nathan Myhrvold was a fan of them at one point, too. But to me they are just an annoyance and a source of contention between a business and their customers, and when I see technical people promoting them, I have a hard time taking their ideas seriously.

Perhaps Lanier’s book is excellent, and he is just doing a poor job of promoting it. When I came across Lanier and his ideas in the 80s, he appeared to be a brilliant guy. I hope that is still the case and his new book illustrates that. But these interviews are not looking promising.

Superb (and upsetting) photojournalism of the Haitian Earthquake…

…can be found at the Lens Blog on the If The Lede is a great news blog, then The Lens is its photojournalism counterpart. For this posting, On Assignment: Prayers in the Dark – Lens Blog –, not only can you see the photo essay, but there is an interview with the photographer that took the photos.

Like I said, though, it is upsetting to see so many people dead, including small children. Be forewarned.

One of THE best news blogs in the world, and a great source of news on Haiti The Lede Blog at If there is a better blog in the world covering the news day in day out, I’d like to know about it. In the meantime, The Lede is the blog I look to for not only fast reporting, but in depth reporting too. The Lede is a credit to the New York Times.

More on the architecture of despair

Why do people in rich countries have a much much better chance of surviving earthquakes than people in poor countries? According to this article in  the, it’s enforcement of building codes. It’s not enough to have building codes, as they had in Turkey, they need to be enforced. You can argue that poor countries can’t stop squatters and slum dwellers from building substandard houses, but you can’t argue that schools and other public buildings and private buildings can’t be made up to code.

Otherwise these structures are death traps.

mGive: one way how the Red Cross and others are raising money for Haiti using mobile devices

One of the remarkable things about the disaster relief efforts for victims of the Haitian earthquake has been the raising of money via mobile phones and other devices via texting. It’s fast, easy to do, easy to communicate, and as we have seen already, very effective. If you want to know more about this and how your organization might use this, you want to check out the web site for mGive. mGive provides the service that allows this to happen. From what I can tell on the site, the service is remarkable and worth checking out.

Not too long ago, the way that organizations would gather funds quickly like this would be via banks. I expect more people to raise funds this way soon.

Good 404 pages

Face it: from time to time, people are going to to type in something wrong when it comes to your web site and get a 404 error on their browser (or a 500 error if you have a J2EE server down). Why not give them something interesting, like this:

From the always interesting siteReflectionOf.Me

How Canadians Can Help in Haiti

The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos has put together a great list, including ways you can text money to agencies. Go see.