Monthly Archives: February 2010

David Geffen, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell

According to The New Republic and others, we now know who Carly Simon was singing about in “You’re So Vain”. Turns out it was David Geffen, the head of her record label at the time. Apparently Simon “resented the effort he put into promoting rival Joni Mitchell”. As it turns out, Joni Mitchell also wrote a song about David Geffen: A Free Man in Paris.

Here’s the latter:

Danny Williams and the Canadian Health System

To me it’s sad that Americans are latching onto Danny Williams going to the U.S. for heart surgery as some sort of proof that the Canadian health care system is deficient compared to the U.S. system. Indeed, at the Health Care Summit that the President recently held, Obama indirectly mentioned him.

To me,  Danny Williams actions prove nothing about the Canadian health system. Indeed, this article by Andre Picard, Williams’s heart surgery choice was based on ignorance in the Globe and Mail, argues that much better and more conclusively than I can. I highly recommend it.

Rather than pull down the Canadian system, Americans should focus on shoring up their own system, with its excess costs and millions of uninsured, and not pay attention to the likes of Danny Williams. I was going to say more about him, but the less said about him, the better.

Farmville on Facebook is like Mom Jeans

Don’t believe me? See Your Mom Is On Facebook. Which gives me an excuse to post this:

The more I read about Facebook and the more I use it, the more I wish there was something else that did what they did but alot better. I believe alot of people feel the same way. So where is the competition?

District 9: a Canadian film?

I didn’t think so, until I read this at the Torontoist blog, which said that:

District 9 was directed, written, edited, and scored by Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell, Julian Clarke, and Clinton Shorter, respectively—all Canadians. (Blomkamp was born in South Africa but moved to Canada as a teenager.) The film, however, was produced by Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films (New Zealand) and financed by QED International (USA).

I think it is a great film, period. It’s good to see so many Canadians on it.

How the world works now: Erykah Badu connects to Paul McCartney via twitter

Erykah Badu needed to get Paul McCartney’s permission to sample from one of his songs. What could have taken days or weeks traditionally was done in hours, most by using twitter.

Now, it’s not all magic, of course. Badu who contacted Lenny Kravity, who connected her with Paul’s famous daughter, Stella McCartney. Those are likely not people who are going to respond to just anyone’s tweets. But the directness and quickness and connectedness of twitter is something that everyone can experience. This is just one famous example of it. Expect more to come.

Most developed countries in the world have near universal health care coverage, save Turkey, Mexico and the United States

For more data like this, see OECD Health Data 2009 – Frequently Requested Data

Why governance is hard

Here is an interesting chart from the blog, The Monkey Cage:

Based on this chart, Salon concludes:

Rank-and-file conservatives actually like big government.

In 2008, the American National Election Study asked a national sample whether federal spending on 12 different programs should be increased, decreased or kept about the same.

As the graph above illustrates, the respondents who identified themselves as “conservative” or “extremely conservative” had little appetite for specific spending cuts.

….Amazingly, the survey found that, on average, 54 percent of them actually wanted to increase spending.

Interestingly, foreign aid will also be a very small part of the U.S. budget, compared to military spending and social security. But those are some of the areas that conservatives are less interested in cutting spending. And if conservatives are not interested in cutting spending, I suspect in alot of case, liberals in the U.S. are not interested either.

And this is why governance is hard. People want the government to use less of their money (in the form of taxes), but they still want the services that governments provide. Having your cake and eating it too is challenging.

What is Google? An advertising company

So says this chart:

Another great chart from CHART OF THE DAY: In Case You Had Any Doubts About Where Google’s Revenue Comes From

A wry photoessay: A History of Obama Feigning Interest in Mundane Things

New York magazine has it. To be fair to Obama, this could be done for just about any politician. Still, it’s funny. Check it out.

Where is Latin alive and well (even at the banking machine/ATM)?


Vatican City, of course. Over at mental_floss Blog one of the 10 Secrets of the Vatican Exposed is the continual use of Latin, even at banking machines. For…

‘The Vatican Bank is the only bank in the world that allows ATM users to select Latin to perform transactions. That’s just one symbol of the Holy See’s continued devotion to the language. Pope Benedict XVI has been particularly passionate about reviving the language and purportedly holds many informal conversations in Latin. (Pope John Paul II generally spoke Polish.)

The Vatican’s Latin Foundation tries to keep the language relevant by translating modern phrases into the ancient tongue. In 2003, they released an updated dictionary that included the terms “rush hour” (tempus maximae frequentiae) and “dishwasher” (escariorum lavatory). Interestingly, the translations can have serious consequences. A recent U.S. lawsuit was brought against the Vatican for conspiring to protect a child-molesting priest, and it was held up for months as the Church’s experts rejected the prosecuting team’s Latin translations of terms such as “conspiracy to commit fraud.” ‘

Corinne Bailey Rae: “Paris Nights/New York Mornings”

What could be finer than Corinne Bailey Rae strolling through Paris and singing in New York?

YouTube – Corinne Bailey Rae “Paris Nights/New York Mornings” [Official Video]

Toys R Us and their extended warrantee policy

I go to Toys R Us alot. Mostly window shopping with my 7 year old. He gets
things like candy and small toys there, so i get to hear the relentless
promoting of the staff selling their extended warrantee to people.

I am sure this is good business for that company, but the way they push it
really irks me. I have seen them push it for everything, even toys with a 1
year warrantee on the box! Plus i have seen it sold for toys that, frankly,
i would be surprised a child will be playing with much in a month and and a
half, never mind breaking it and wanting it replaced. I have also observed
that the people who do buy it have trouble speaking English and i wondered
if they even realize they know what they are buying.

Tonight i was there and the clerk was trying to sell it to me a PS3 game.
When i told him i didn’t want it and i didn’t want to hear the spiel, he
still insisted on trying to promote the virtues of this. For. 30 dollar
game that costs of a CD!!
I think the way they push this service at Toys R Us is odious. Whenever i
have a chance to take my business elsewhere i will. I hope you do too.

More Brilliant marketing from Smith & Wollensky: trade in your stock for steak!

Brilliant. To capitalize on Wall Street firms paying their employees with stock instead of cash, S&W provides an online stock to steak currency converter where you can type in a stock name (IBM, CIT or as they say, “we’ll even accept GM”) and they will tell you what one of those stocks will fetch you at their fine establishment. If you want to try it out, go to  Smith & Wollensky’s Steak for Stock.

How to identify and deal with negative feedback in social media

Now that people and organizations have been blogging, setting up Facebook groups, and participating in social media generally, they have had an opportunity to gather feedback. And some of that has been and will be negative. Alot of that feedback is valuable and worthwhile responding to. Other feedback (e.g. from trolls) is not worth your while and indeed may have been actively managed.

If you feel this applies to you, read this mashable.com post, HOW TO: Deal With Negative Feedback in Social Media

It’s not what you are doing, it’s what you are doing it for (or the purpose driven life for everyone)

I like this story alot:

Several builders were on a construction site. A visitor asked the first worker what he was doing. The first builder replied, “I’m laying bricks.” The visitor asked the second, who replied, “I’m building a wall.” The visitor asked the third, who proudly answered, “I’m building a cathedral.”

I like this story, too, because I had been thinking something similar when I was doing mundane chores this weekend. At one point I was shopping for groceries, and I thought: I am not shopping for groceries, I am buying good food for my kids to eat so they can be happy and healthy. And later on, when I was cleaning up, I thought: I am not cleaning up, I am providing a clean house and a good example for my kids, so they will know the importance of taking care of things that they are responsible for.

Many daily activities can be boring or tedious, but in the proper context, they can be uplifting and meaningful. It requires just a bit of imagination and vision of what you want your life to be. It’s the purpose driven life, regardless of whether or not you are religious, for we all can aspire to a higher purpose, even if that higher purpose is to be a better parent.

From Sacha Chua’s blog, where you can find lots of good stuff! And great cathedral photo from Mercedes.. Life as I picture it’s photostream on flickr.com.

Toyota boasted saving $100-million on recall

Reading this, I thought of the history of the Ford Pinto. Read Toyota boasted saving $100-million on recall, documents show in The Globe and Mail and tell me if you think differently.

For Toyota’s sake, it would be good if I were in the minority in thinking that way. These new findings will certainly make the path they have to make through the hearings in Washington alot tougher.

Something great to read this weekend: the best of 2009 Journalism

Conor Friedersdorf at True/Slant has put together a list with a summary of the best journalism (with links) for 2009. Just reading the summaries makes me want to read most of them. Check them out. (Via Andrew Sullivan).

Melanie Fiona sings sweet, works harder

Melanie Fiona  sings well and looks even better.  But what really impresses me  is how many approaches she takes with her material. She can go from vampy to soulful to 60s girl group (like this video) and more. For instance, here she is performing You Stop My Heart Valentines Day Version

and here she performs a very fun version and unplugged in the Staircase version of “GIVE IT TO ME RIGHT”

and finally here she is singing Monday Morning at MOD Club in Toronto last July

These are just a few examples. Check out more of her on YouTube and see for yourself.

I think she is going to be big, soon.

If were promoting tourism for New York City…

… I would find a way to use this version of “EMPIRE STATE OF MIND Pt. XXII” by Jay-Z & Alicia Keys, as performed by the so so sweet PS22 Chorus. Watch:

There’s even a short blooper at the end that makes it even that much better. Rock on.

(Tip from @ebertchicago. If you use twitter, you have to follow Roger Ebert.)

Iceholes Celebration Lager: what victory tastes like!

The very smart folks at R & B Brewing Co., have…

“For limited release only… introduce(d) Iceholes Celebration Lager in response to the recent “Don’t be an Ice-Hole” campaign against Canada started by Stephen Colbert, of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Barry Benson, co-owner of R&B Brewing Co. says “ We are proud syrup-sucking Canadian iceholes. In celebration of our icehole-ish behaviour we have decided to get even rather than get mad. Canadians can wreak their revenge against Stephen Colbert in a truly Canadian way and have a beer.”

If you are lucky enough to get a bottle — it’s selling fast! — I think this would be a great thing to drink during the Games. Cheers! Suck that syrup, Colbert! 😀

P.S. Yes, I know Colbert is joking around. The Globe and Mail has the details.

Canada at the Winter Olympics

The NYTimes has a great interactive Map of Winter Olympic Medals for The Games Past & Present that shows a visual and tabular distribution of medals by country over the years (1924 to 2010). It’s interesting to watch countries rise and fall in medal dominance over time. For example, in 1988, East Germany had 25 medals, West Germany had 8 and the Soviet Union had 29. Ten years later, Germany had 27 medals and Russia 14.

What I found a nice surprise (as a casual fan of the Olympics) is how well Canada has been progressing over the last decade. In 1988 we were 10th in the standings with 5 medals overall and no gold. In 2006 we were third in the standings, with 24 medals and 7 gold. This year we could do even better. So I patriotically say: Go! Canada! Go! And wish that everyone, from all over the world, has their best performances at these games.

Jay Rosen on the new media: No one wants your message

If you want a good summation of how media is changing and why, watch this short talk by Jay Rosen @ Ignite NYC VI, Yahoo! Open Hack Day.

Hard to disagree with, even if people in traditional media and communications companies may want to.

How to avoid online scams and phishing attacks

If you know what phishing is, you likely know how to avoid it. But you likely also know lots of people who don’t know what it is and who don’t know how to avoid it. Do them a favour and send this this: The Complete Guide to Avoiding Online Scams (for Your Less Savvy Friends and Relatives) –  Lifehacker. It’s simple, to the point, and will likely save people you know and love alot of pain and aggrevation that they might experience from getting scammed.

Lifehacker also has this nice flow chart that is helpful in dealing with possible phishing attacks, too:

Lifehacker.com is the place to go for lots of useful advice. This is just one good example.

The new $5000 minivan from GM. Yes, that GM

Did you know that General Motors has “a minivan that costs only $5,000 and gets more than 40 miles per gallon” (according to NPR)? It does! There’s a catch, though. You have to be in China or some other developing nation.

Reading the article, the comments about it are dismissive. Quotes like “There are frankly some lawn tractors that have more horsepower than that”, even though it has a top speed of 80 miles an hour. Or it doesn’t have “entertainment and navigation systems”. Well, yeah, and it also cost 5Gs! For that price, alot of people would be happy to buy the whole family some iPods and a map!

I think the one valid criticism of the van is the dearth of safety features. But like they say, “In Shanghai, a little van is a lot safer than fighting traffic on a bicycle”. And that brings up a question of whether or not we need to have all our cars equipped to be so big and fast. I think alot of people would like low cost motor vehicles that would be prohibited from highway driving but allowed to go on basic roads.

I think the future is in much lower cost motor vehicles, as much as it is about electric or hybrid cars. Let’s see if GM can prove me right.

One of the risks of location based services…

…is this: Please Rob Me. Now I don’t think these folks are going to rob anyone, and I think that robbers will use lots of other methods to determine you are home besides twitter…still…it’s not good!

Possible new names for Apple OS X

In response to this article, Is It Time for Apple to Retire the Cats? in Bits Blog on NYTimes.com, someone suggested that Apple still has a way to go with regards to possible names for OS X. Here are some candidates:

“There are 38 types of felines, more than Apple to chose from! (see below)
African Wild Cat
African Golden Cat
Andean Mountain Cat
Bay Cat
Bobcat
Caracal
Chinese Desert Cat
Cougar
European Wildcat
Fishing Cat
Geoffroy’s Cat
Jungle Cat
Kodkod
Lynx, Canadian and Eurasian
Oncilla
Pallas Cat
Pampas Cat
Rusty-Spotted Cat
Sand Cat
Serval
Exotic Hybrids
Lion
Asian Leopard Cat
Black-Footed Cat
Flat-Headed Cat
Iberian Lynx
Irimote Cat
Jaguarundi
Marbled Cat
Margay
Ocelot
Temminck’s Golden Cat
Cheetah
Clouded Leopard
Jaguar
Leopard
Snow Leopard
Tiger”

I am looking forward to “Clouded Leopard”. Or “Canadian Lynx”! 🙂

How to think about the stimulus bill: as a diet

Let’s say that after a long vacation to some place with fantastic food you gain ten pounds. Hey, it happens (just like the housing bubble). You decide you need to go on a diet and lose those ten pounds. So you lose five pounds, but after than, you get stuck. Do you say, the diet failed? You may, be you would not have lost those five pounds without it. What most smart people would say is: I gotta keep at this diet until I lose those remaining pounds.

Likewise with the stimulus bill. Unemployment in the U.S. is still high to around 10% (there is still a way to go, just like those remain 5 pounds). But without the stimulus bill, unemployment would be higher, just like you would be heavier without the diet. And just like the ten pounds won’t likely go away without some focused effort, so to will the U.S. unemployment problem not go away without some extra effort on the part of all parties: business and government, to create more jobs. If business can do it, that’s best. But if not, government (i.e. the people, not the bureaucrats) will need to do it. Or it won’t get done. Just like those pounds won’t go away on their own.

For more on the stimulus and its effects, see here: Economic Scene – Success of Stimulus Bill Is Noteworthy as Another Is Weighed – NYTimes.com

Image and more on this from Swampland blog.

A great gift idea: customized Sigg Water Bottles

Yep, you can get your own image and include text. Cafepress has everything you need here: Customize your Sigg Water Bottle with your personal style – CafePress Sigg Designer. You have to put up with a fair amount of flash, but the end result could be one cool gift, even if the gift is for you.

(Found at the always cool, SwissMiss).

If art was like sports, they would retire…

In sports, when a great player retires, they often retire the athelte’s number. Looking at this poster over at swissmiss

I imagined a similar idea for artists. For example, after Hockney, anyone else who paints paintings of California is going to be compared to him. Likewise Pollack and drippings, etc.  Of course artists can still create works about California or Germany or use steel or trash, but they are going to suffer the same comparisons that a lesser athlete faces when wearing the same number as a great athlete.

That said, there are lots more topics and ideas and themes to paint or sculpt, just like there are lots of numbers. So artists and athletes, take note, but take heart. 🙂

A smart idea on how to adjust your mirrors to avoid blind spots

I love it when people take something commonplace and make it much better. This article in Car and Driver on how to adjust your mirrors to avoid blind spots is just such an example.

C&D says if you use this method, you can avoid having to glance over your shoulder before turning. Anyone who does alot of highway driving would really benefit from this.

(via Lifehacker)

Information on how to stop Google Buzz…

…can be found here: Stop Google Buzz From Showing the World Your Contacts  (via Lifehacker). What I like about this article, besides the detailed instructions, is that it tells you how to turn off Buzz.

All this negative buzz about Buzz makes me glad I stuck with my Yahoo! email account.

Awesome Wallpaper from Cole and Son

Really! you need to see it to believe how great it is. I would link to some here, but the images appear locked in Flash. So go to
Cole and Son (Wallpapers) Ltd – Manufacturers of fine printed wallpapers since 1875 – Offical Website

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I encourage you to buy the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It’s a great cookbook. However, if you are hesitant, follow the steps in this video to make the master recipe. Or if you do buy the book, watch this video: it will help you with the master recipe (although the book does a great job of describing it).

Honestly, it is that easy. I was skeptical, like alot of people, but it really is a simple and easy way to turn out a nice looking load of bread.

N.B. If you were to try this just using the video, the authors recommend unbleached all purpose flour in order for the recipe to turn out well.

Enjoy!

YouTube – Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

A first attempt at making a boule from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Well it looks good! 🙂 And smells great. Let’s see how it tastes after it cools. I must say the master recipe is pretty fool proof. The book looks great overall. Now this is nothing to challenge my mom’s breadmaking skills, but it’s good to be baking bread again.

Followup: the taste is good, but it is still a bit underdone. The book calls for a baking time of 30 minutes, but it also warns you that the heat of different ovens can vary from what the temperature reads. I think I will have to check my oven to insure that when I set it at 450, it really is 450 degrees. Also, I think I need to let the bread get darker than this. Still, great start!

Sarah Silverman at TED – or TED makes two mistakes

The folks at TED invited Sarah Silverman to speak at TED (mistake #1) and then said terrible things about her afterwards (mistake #2).

You can get a sense of what she said here:  What the Hell Did Sarah Silverman Say at Her TED Talk? at Gawker. What surprises me is that the people at TED were surprised. Silverman is what she is, and anyone with Google should know this.

Actually, I shouldn’t say she is what she is, because what people think she is, simply a comedian, isn’t true. I think Silverman is half comedian, half performance artist. The comedian is what gets her onto the stage, gets people listening. Then the performance artist comes out along the way, and the performance artist wants to shock and make people uncomfortable. All the time she is performing, people are seeing only one person, but two performances, and that disturbs people. Not to mention what she says. Most comedians tell jokes, funny stories, and try to get you to laugh. That’s it. Great comedians try for more, try to actually change the audience and how they think and what they find funny. I think Silverman tries to do that.

In some ways, that combination of traits should have made her a great comedian to do TED.  The mismatch comes about, though, because TED is more about awe (positive) and less about shock (negative).

So fine. They made a mistake. It happens: not everything is a good fit at a conference. Unfortunately, some of the TEDsters made the mistake of criticizing Silverman over twitter (Sarah Silverman Shows Why You Should Never Twitter Fight a Comedian at Gawker). Now to me this is a really big mistake, because, again, if you use Google, you will see you do not want to mess with Sarah Silverman. And Steve Case, no less. This is like watching the small nerdy kid at school pick a fight with the nastiest kid at school. All I can say is that I hope for Case’s sake that Silverman has better things to do than beat him up. Because it will not be a nice thing to see.

As a performance artist, I think Silverman is great. As a comedian, I am not sure if she hasn’t moved too far over into the Andy Kaufman territory. If you are going to be a cruel comedian, people need to see what drives it, what motivates it, allows them to sympathize with or at least understand it.

If you love her, great. If you can’t stand her, check out this is supportive article of Sarah Silverman in the Washington Post here: TED Organizer Trashes Speaker, Fails Social IQ Test – washingtonpost.com. It’s smart.

P.S. I am willing to bet the only comedian appearing at next year’s TED will be Jay Leno. 😉

Google Scrambles to save Buzz

According to the Official Gmail Blog: A new Buzz start-up experience based on your feedback has been prepared. It sounds like they’ve made some smart moves. The smartest would be to have some outside privacy experts review it and state how it meets or exceeds the concerns people had around privacy. Indeed, I would recommend anyone who starts up a new social networking service with new technology have privacy experts come in and review your service before launch.

Let’s see if these changes can rescue Buzz.

Killer track: on the Vancouver Olympics luge track where the Georgian luger died and other thoughts

The Toronto Star has a great article on the Olympic luge track where the Georgian luger fatally crashed. It has lots of background and commentary from other athletes. Highly recommended: Athletes had feared luge track’s killer potential – Vancouver 2010 Olympics – thestar.com

One thing it didn’t mention is some of the other details written about here: Canada’s Medal Quest – Gold, and Lots of It – NYTimes.com. Canada’s ambitions may have some overlap here with the death of the luger (e.g. limiting foreign teams access to the track). That’s not “blame Canada”: luge is an inheritently dangerous sport, and anyone who competes at the Olympic level knows the dangers and tries to balance them with the need to go the fastest. I believe, though, that more focus needs to be given to the safety of the venues, not just how fast can they be made.

As athletes strain against the limits of what can be done with the human body in the 21st century, they are coming across the limits of going stronger, faster, higher. And their lives will suffer as a result, unless more can be done to make sports safer. That doesn’t mean sports have to become boring: if anything, athletes can use better equipment and terrain to push themselves even further. But no one should die or suffer for the rest of their lives in the quest to be the best.

Still think privacy is dead? Read about Google Buzz and see why you should think different

Google has a hornet’s nest on their hands with their new Buzz offering. What should have been a big push for them into area of social computing and social networking has turned out to be, at the very least, a public relations problem for them, according to this:
Critics Say Google Invades Privacy With New Service – NYTimes.com.

If privacy was dead, then this would be a non-issue. But if you read the article with an open mind, you can see lots more examples (other than the ones I provide here: How to think about privacy) of why privacy is important and is and should be alive and well.

I think Google is a great company. This could be a great opportunity for them to show the world how privacy should be implemented in services such as Buzz.

Barbie Grrl! Barbie’s latest role is Computer Engineer

Barbie once said, “Math class is tough.” (Geez.) Flash forward almost 20 years, and now she has taken on a new role of computer engineer, according to the NYTimes.com. W00t! The choices Mattel asked people to vote on were computer engineer, architect, environmentalist, news anchor and surgeon. Those are all great choices, but given the social Web, I am not surprised that computer engineer was voted first. (I received alot of prompts from peers to vote on this!)

There are great and famous women in IT, though not nearly enough. If this helps get more girls interested in IT and they go on to have great careers and make great contributions to IT, then I am all for it.

The NYTimes.com article is good. I recommend you read it for more details.

Understanding what drives Microsoft

I think this surprising chart says it all:

What drives Microsoft is Windows and Office. Still.

I am surprised by a few things on this chart. First, I thought Office was the real cash cow at Microsoft, but it looks like Office is returning less these days. I also was surprised by the spike in Profit from Windows, but this is likely to do with Windows 7 sales likely shooting up. Finally, I am surprised at just how little Entertainment and Devices add to the bottom line. I guess XBOX is not that profitable. (Never mind Zunes!)

You can also imagine how the profit from Office and Windows allows Microsoft to continue to explore such services as Bing. While Bing may not be profitable, it may be increasingly bringing in revenue. That might be enough for now.

While this increase in profit, I guess Ballmer is safe for now.

From CHART OF THE DAY: In Case You Had Any Doubts About Where Microsoft’s Profit Comes From