Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Lazarus Effect – or what does 40 cents / 20 p get you?

Great campaign video:

I say it’s great, because I am hoping it is going to get you to go to the (RED) site and learn (and do) more.

Some creative ways to use Microsoft Project for Brainstorming

It seems odd to use Project for brainstorming, I admit. But there are advantages to it, as well. The one obvious one is this: when you are done, you (potentially) have a plan of what to do in front of you! But there are other advantages as well. But first, let’s start with how I do this.

Let’s take an easy example. Say I was planning on doing a major personal project (E.g. run a marathon, take 6 months off and travel, buy a new house). I would start by listing major activities. Write out as many as of them as I can, from start to finish. Then once I had my major activities down, I would start adding underneath them all the major tasks that I had to do.

  Now I have the outline of a plan, with the major activities and the major tasks associated with each activity.If this is going well for you, great. However, if you are getting stuck with coming up with activities, try this: start planning project X, execute project X plan, complete project X. For example, you might have: start planning to run my first marathon, train for the marathon, complete the marathon. It’s pretty sketchy, I know. Often times when you are planning to do something you have never done before, it is. If you have more activities, great: add ’em.

Once you are done with your activities, you need to have tasks. If nothing else, have two tasks per activity: start activity Y and complete activity Y. (If the activity is so small as to take little time, perhaps you can convert it to a task to stick under another activity).

If you don’t can’t come up with any tasks, then one could be: define tasks for this activity and list the tasks you need to do to accomplish this (talk to experts, do online research, etc). Some tasks are:         Research/Investigate X, Review findings with others, Plan next steps, Complete this activity, Document / record something, Present something,         Change something, Test something

I also try to use clear descriptions for your tasks, so they standalone on the Calendar view of Microsoft Project.

I recommend that you make your tasks imperative, specific, and measurable. (e.g. Do Something, Visit Someone, Go Somewhere)

Drawing within a photo

I have seen this done with old photos, but this is the first time I have seen it done with drawing.

It would be good to see people overlaying dramatically different scenes. In the meantime, there’s more at Drawing Within a Photo – ReflectionOf.Me.

How Goldman Sachs is about to become the leverage for FinReq

Perhaps Lloyd Blankfein is a smart guy. It’s hard to tell. I wrote this awhile back, The Big Banks blow off Obama « Smart People I Know,  and commented how he and some others blew off Obama in the winter before HCR. Perhaps Blankfein and the rest of his team should study what happened during HCR. They may find that they are now going to play the role that Anthem did. Obama and his team used Anthem and their rate hikes as a concrete example of why Health Care Reform was needed. It was very effective. It helped pass Health Care Reform.

Now Obama wants Financial Reform legislation passed. He is now going to use Goldman Sachs the same way he used Anthem. Goldman Sachs may think this is about the law suit. But to me, it isn’t. It’s about getting the legislation passed and a good way to do that is to find a concrete example of why it should be done. And Sachs is going out of their way to provide that example. If they were smart, they would have shown some humility and contrition. Instead, they are going head to head with Obama. This will end up badly for them. And Obama and company will get the FinReg regulations they want.

Meanwhile, I expect to see Blankfein gone within a year, if not six months.

May 20th, 2010 is “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”

It should be interesting, to say the least. Via The Stranger, Seattle’s Only Newspaper and Andrew Sullivan.

Holy Cow! Maybe they should call blippy leaky!

Wow! This is bad. Really bad. According to this, Blippy unwrapped users credit card numbers | White Hat News,  “it was found with a Google search, Blippy leaked a lot of users credit card numbers, the data actually can see the HTML source code directly, the current official has the problem and quickly fixed the same, at least there are four currently known to be affected customers”.

As in this!

If you are using blippy.com, find out if your card was leaked. And generally speaking, be reluctant to share too much personal or financial information on web sites.

Some thoughts on the importance of buying lottery tickets

I thought this yesterday when something promising happened at work and I thought: if this works out, it will be really good!! I left the day excited, happy, looking forward to the future. In short, I was hopeful. Now there is a good chance it won’t happen, but that, strangely, gives those feelings more power.I don’t buy lottery tickets often, save for the really big jackpots. But when I do, I find myself having the same feelings. Having the ticket inspires my thinking and bends them towards the positive. This feeling can last for days. I know I won’t win, likely. But I can suspend that disbelief in order to enjoy the positive feeling.

In many ways it is similar to buy a movie ticket or a theatre ticket to watch a performance. You suspend your belief in order (usually) to enjoy the feelings and ideas you take away from the performance. That ticket doesn’t enhance your life materially. But it does make your life better in a lot of ways.

A lottery ticket is the same. It is very unlikely to benefit you materially (though sometimes it will). But it can allow your imagination to soar, your spirits to be lifted, and your thinking to turn towards the positive. You can imagine taking trips to far away places, living in better surroundings, and helping people you love. If you pay attention, it can help you realize what is important to you and what you love (and what you do not). A lottery ticket can do many things, including providing a low cost insight into your own thinking (much cheaper than psychotherapy).

It has been said that lottery tickets are a tax on stupid people. I think that is short sighted and condescending. Most people who buy tickets know the odds. If anything, that makes it better. There is something transformative in hoping against great odds. What is religion and belief, if not the greatest of all hopes? The simple will to believe, to hope that our lives can be better, that will can uplift us and remove us from the ruts we are trapped in.

My son is 8. He likes Justin Bieber and he wanted to buy his CD because there was a golden ticket in one CD and the winner of the golden ticket gets a person visit from the Biebster himself. (This is devilishly good marketing taken right from Willy Wonka’s playbook). We had a great chat about this beforehand. I tried to balance his excitement about the idea of it with the fact that it would be very tough to win it. I also told him that even if he didn’t win, he would still have the CD and that would be good. For some adults, they might say: you shouldn’t let him get all
excited for nothing. But to me, the ability to be hopeful is like a muscle: if you don’t exercise it, it atrophies. I want him to have an awareness of the world and despite all its limitations and setbacks, I want him to be capable of being hopeful. The capability of being hopeful is the treasure left in Pandora’s box. It is a something we should treasure, among the many gifts that we, as human beings, possess.

Anyway, these are some things that I thought on a slow Saturday morning and that I hacked together on my Blackberry while lying on my couch. Thanks for reading it.

How to build your own GSM cellular network and other things on my new IT blog at IBM developerWorks

I’ve started a new blog over at IBM’s developerWorks where I talk about topics related to my current professional life. You can find it and the information on how to build your own GSM cellular network here: Bernie Michalik.

I’ve been wanting to blog about technology for some time, but I wanted to seperate it from this blog, which is quite general and touches on any and all topics except for IT. For along time, I was concerned about blogging about what I work on. I have blogged in a group blog though, called The Orange Chair, on topics pertaining to Web 2.0 and emerging technology, and I think that has worked out well. This new blog on developerWorks will touch on IT generally.

It’s harder to blog about work. There is alot of things I can’t divulge publically. However, there are things of a general nature, either with regards to IT itself or working as an IT architect, that I thought were shareable, so to speak, and I plan to write about them. Let’s see! Maybe I have too much to blog about all ready, and this blog will fade away. I hope not. But like I said, let’s see. Besides, there is alot of interesting things happening in the world of IT: there is plenty of material to talk about! 🙂

Shout.

Do you have a band? Can you do this number? If so, I will come listen to you anytime.

If The Beatles can do covers, you can too.

YouTube – You know you make me wanna SHOUT!

And here’s the Isley Brothers. On. Fire!

How iPads may become the next big business thing…

…can be seen in this Mashable post  where a “hospital district in Visalia, California, has ordered 100 iPads to provide staff with access to rudimentary applications like e-mail, as well as X-ray images, EKG results and patient monitoring programs around its five sites.”

This makes great sense. The iPad has the benefits of printed material that a laptop does not, and it has the benefits of a computer that printed material does not. I can eventually see them preloaded with business specific applications. For example, new employees might get one preloaded with everything they need to know about their new company. Visitors could sign in on them. Couriers could use them for deliveries. The list goes on and on.

An new art form: Google SearchStories (animation with a twist)

What is this new art form? It’s very simple: YouTube provides people to create stories using Google searches. You can see them here: YouTube – SearchStories’s Channel

I particularly like this one called “Parisian Love”

Even better: you can make your own.

The Johnny Cash Project shows how to crowdsource art

What is The Johnny Cash project? The Contrarian blog explains:

“The Johnny Cash Project invites participants to use custom drawing tools to create the 1,368 frames in the 2 minute, 51 second, video. Since more than one artist will end up submitting artwork for each frame, the video will look different each time it’s played.”

The design of the site is really well done, and the resulting animation is striking. Check out The Johnny Cash project

More good economic news – GM pays back SOME OF ITS government loans from US, Canada

This headline is misleading: GM pays back government loans from US, Canada from AP/ Yahoo! News. GM still owes alot of money, and the $8.1 billion payback is a small portion of the $61.5 billion it borrowed from the people of the U.S. and Canada. The good news, besides the payback, is that the payback is ahead of schedule. GM’s management seems intent on paying it back as soon as it can. That’s a good thing in itself, but the fact it is doing it is far better.

Plus, GM still employs 40,000 workers, which is a signifigant number of people. That’s nothing to sniff at either. If GM had gone under, that would be alot more people unemployed in regions that would have a hard time dealing with that.

Facebook strips away more your privacy

According to this post on the eff.org site (Facebook Further Reduces Your Control Over Personal Information).
In a nutshell:

“Once upon a time, Facebook could be used simply to share your interests and information with a select small community of your own choosing. As Facebook’s privacy policy once promised, “No personal information that you submit to Facebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.”

How times have changed.

Today, Facebook removed its users’ ability to control who can see their own interests and personal information. Certain parts of users’ profiles, “including your current city, hometown, education and work, and likes and interests” will now be transformed into “connections,” meaning that they will be shared publicly. If you don’t want these parts of your profile to be made public, your only option is to delete them.

The example Facebook uses in its announcement is a page for “Cooking.” Previously, you could list “cooking” as an activity you liked on your profile, but your name would not be added to any formal “Cooking” page. (Under the old system, you could become a “fan” of cooking if you wanted). But now, the new Cooking page will publicly display all of the millions of people who list cooking as an activity.”

After Justin Bieber, someone should go sign this woman

Seriously, she does a superb version of Waiting in Vain. Great singing. Great guitar playing.

Now my favourite version of this song is by Annie Lennox, here:

I don’t think anyone compares to Annie Lennox, but this woman can hold her own. 

Late night, mid-week music: The Pentangle – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Great sound: rich, spare, fine.

And a good video, to boot. (YouTube – The Pentangle – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat)

Chocolate covered raisins – now with more SQL!

And now for something a little different (all you DBAs and techies out there will like this!)

image
Check out the last ingredient in these raisins. 🙂

The Icelandic volcano and Global Warming

Wow. (From: http://theatlantic.com)

Some books that I picked up this weekend….

   
Reappraisals by Tony Judt
The Reformation by Patrick Collinson
A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
When All You Have is Hope by Frank O’Dea
On Becoming an Artist by Ellen J Langer
The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman

Clearly, it is time to get busy. 🙂

Where to eat well, and for little, in Paris (in April, no less)

Here are Six Prix-Fixe Restaurants in Paris (NYTimes.com) that will give you great food from hot young chefs in Paris. If you are going to Paris, please go and tell me how it was.

I would love this beef and sauerkraut in puff pastry from Jadis. Yum.

Hans Küng puts a smackdown on Pope Benedict XVI in an Open Letter to the Bishops

Now it’s on. Küng has used the recent sex abuse scandal to launch a much broader attack on the Pope, saying in this open letter that the
Church is in the worst credibility crisis since Reformation (The Irish Times – Fri, Apr 16, 2010).  The letter is a catalog of complaints against the Pope, from his dealings with the Pius X Society, to the celebration of the Tridentine Mass to how he has dealt with “a scandal crying out to heaven”, the abus of young people and the subsequent cover-up.

While I am sure the Pope will dismiss Küng since, well…he’s Hans Küng, many other Roman Catholics will not, and some may join him. The legal forces outside combined with denunciation from within the Church will be a difficult thing for the Pope to bear.

Horrifying Stationery

That’s gotta hurt. For more horrific goodness, check out Horrifying Stationery from ReflectionOf.Me.

Tracking the flight cancellations due to the Icelandic volcano

If you are thinking of flying into Europe, the short answer is: think again. But if you are anxious about it, you can check on this map,
Tracking the Cancellations – Interactive Feature – NYTimes.com. It looks bad now. Only the outlying areas like Moscow and Madrid seem relatively unaffected.

Girls….from the 80s

Cyndi…

and Madge…

Boys: Rhianna’s Rude Boy, M.I.A.’s Boyz, and that boy from the 80s, Keith Haring

Watching Rhianna’s Rude Boy video, I thought: I’ve seen this before. Here’s Rude Boy

Here’s M.I.A.’s Boyz

And of course Rhianna “borrows” later from Keith Haring:

All three call back to the 1980s, which maybe why I noticed it. As for me, I like Rhianna and I am happy if she gets people to look at listen at others, but since I don’t see it called out on her site, take note. 🙂

Late nite weekend music: Groove Theory – TELL ME

YouTube – Groove Theory – TELL ME (Album Version)

Friday Night Music” The Fray sing Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie on BBC Radio’s Live Lounge

The actual performance is about 55+ seconds into this. Bonita!

YouTube – The Fray: Video Blog 6

My prediction about fraud

Over a year ago, I predicted that as the financial worm is turning, based on this. from shock to fraud…. eventually some of the big players in the financial debacle in the U.S. would be going to court (and perhaps jail). Reading this, it looks like it is finally starting to happen, at least for Goldman Sachs.  It looks like the SEC has a pretty good case against Goldman. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see it played out.

Juilet Capulet is following you on twitter, or how the RSC is tweeting the Bard

Such Tweet Sorrow tells of how the Royal Shakespeare Company is using Twitter in an innovative way to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet. I don’t know if it will convey the story in the same way, but I think more to the point, it introduces one of the great works of Shakespeare in an appealing way to those who may not know it. I am always supportive of such approaches, since I learned to love opera from watch Bugs Bunny sing parts of the Marriage of Figaro many many years ago. If others come to love Shakespeare through this, then hats off to the RSC.

It’s time for progressives in the U.S. to give Blanche Lincoln credit

During HCR, progressives really came down hard on centrists like Blanche Lincoln. (The center being a very relative thing, I know, but in terms of the U.S. Senate, Lincoln is somewhere in the center.) Now with FinReg on the front of the agenda, the same progressives should be cheering her on for what Ezra Klein reports here, namely:  Blanche Lincoln’s derivatives proposal ‘sent shudders through Wall Street’. Progressives have been complaining that FinReg is going to let the banks off easy. Well if they feel that way, they should support Lincoln. Supporting people is always a better option.

Think you’re a hipster still

Then take the hipster test at  The Frisky. If you haven’t worn your hoodie in awhile, go to bed before midnight, you’re not hungover as you read this, then you may no longer be a hipster. You owe it to yourself to find out right away. (If, in fact, you can’t be bothered, then you either are really hip or you are no longer hip. I hope that helps. :))

Ines de la Fressange

I like this shot: it’s so French, to me.

The original photo of Ines de la Fressange here is much better.

Social networking is #1. Email? #2

According to CHART OF THE DAY: Email’s Reign Is Over, Social Networking Is The New King. The proof is here:

Now, alot of people use platforms like Facebook for email and instant messaging, essentially transferring what they do with sites and tools like Hotmail and MSN to Facebook. But they are also do more than that, and that’s likely one of the reason social networking is winning out for the time being.

Fantastic news: Maternal Deaths Decline Sharply Across the Globe

How sharp is sharp? This sharp:

According to this article in the NYTimes.com, “For the first time in decades, researchers are reporting a significant drop worldwide in the number of women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth, to about 342,900 in 2008 from 526,300 in 1980.” Indeed, if you look at this chart, it would have dropped even faster if it wasn’t for the scourge of H.I.V.

For those of you who access to The Lancet, you can get the details there (as well as more information from the Times). 

One thing I’d like to underline is this:

“The study cited a number of reasons for the improvement: lower pregnancy rates in some countries; higher income, which improves nutrition and access to health care; more education for women; and the increasing availability of “skilled attendants” — people with some medical training — to help women give birth. Improvements in large countries like India and China helped to drive down the overall death rates”

It’s not rocket science that is saving the lives of women: it’s the basics. More and better care saves lives. Lots and lots of lives.

Providing better health care to women can save alot of lives. Here’s to everyone who is working to drive the number of material deaths down towards zero.

Good write ups on value wines from France and Italy from Beppi Crosariol

I am a big fan of the wine writing of Beppi Crosariol in the Globe and Mail. He writes well about all sorts of wine, from the rare and expensive to the everyday lowcost wines. In this article, A rare value chardonnay from Burgundy – The Globe and Mail, he writes about a

“terrific Burgundy value was just released … in Ontario… Louis Jadot Macon Villages 2007 ($14.95, product No. 164145) (it) will reach a few other provinces before the year is out. (It’s) medium-bodied, it’s clean and crisp, with a moderately silky texture and notes of tangy lemon and chalky minerality. The toasty, vanilla-like influence from oak-barrel aging is subtle and nicely integrated into the fruit. It could match nicely with a lot of light, vegetarian fare but would probably be best paired with chicken, veal or salmon. For the money, it should make connoisseurs just as happy as bargain-hunters.

It just makes you want to serve up some roast chicken and have a glass.

As for reds, he notes two of my favorite Italian reds….

“Ready for a killer red bargain? It’s name is Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 ($7.45, No. 446633). Familiar to bargain hunters and Italian-wedding caterers across Canada, the Citra brand from Italy did wonders with this wine from the 2008 vintage. Ultra smooth and remarkably concentrated for a wine of its price, it delivers a ripe, almost voluptuous cherry core and nice balancing acidity. Very versatile and nice on it’s own.

Returning to full inventory after a brisk sales run is another great Italian value that I’ve mentioned before, Spinelli Malbec (discounted by 50 cents to $7.45 until April 25, No. 143750). Full-bodied, succulent and smooth, it offers up juicy berry flavours and a hint of mulled-wine spice.”

Spinelli has a number of great, low cost red wines at the LCBO. They are Farnese are worth a try.

Finally, in this article he talk about Guigal from France and Côtes-du-Rhône wines. Guigal’s Côtes-du-Rhône is consistently good and well worth it, although I find many of the Côtes-du-Rhônes at the LCBO are good to very good. Now that BBQ season is coming upon us, you might want to search for them, starting with Guigal’s.

Greed threatens microloans, and snarky writing at the NYTimes.com detracts from that

While this is a really good article in some ways, Big Banks Draw Big Profits From Microloans to Poor – NYTimes.com, it is so snarky that it detracts from the reporting. For example:

“In recent years, the idea of giving small loans to poor people became the darling of the development world….”

or

“Actors like Natalie Portman and Michael Douglas lent their boldface names to the cause”

finally

“The fracas over preserving the field’s saintly aura “

It’s really simple. Microloans work well when they enable people to borrow very small amounts of money at a reasonable rate in order to kick start their business or help them deal with other financial needs that they could not have satisfied through other means. Microloans are not meant to be “trendy” or “saintly”, any more than lines of credit or personal credit cards are. Now they that have been shown to be profitable, the crooks and loan sharks are moving in. As the economist who started it says very well:

“We created microcredit to fight the loan sharks; we didn’t create microcredit to encourage new loan sharks…Microcredit should be seen as an opportunity to help people get out of poverty in a business way, but not as an opportunity to make money out of poor people.”

I think it is a testament to the strength of microfinancing that the greedy are getting involved. But while testament is fine in a limited way, what is really needed is better governance of the lenders to restrict them from ripping off people who have little money. That’s what’s needed. What isn’t needed is snark on the subject matter from Neil MacFarquhar of the NYTimes.com.

Tim Geithner steps up

I hope Americans read this opinion piece by Timothy Geithner in the Washington Post:  How to prevent America’s next financial crisis. And once they read it, I hope they will call their representatives in Washington and urge them to support this reform.  I can say this even as a Canadian, because what affects Americans this way affects the rest of the world as well. We are looking for Americans to take the lead here and get a grip on the Weapons of Financial Mass Destruction, as Warren Buffett once referred to derivatives (PDF link).

Did you know you could get Google to…

… act as a calculator, look up area codes and convert currency? Sure, it can find web sites, but as this article, 10 Simple Google Search Tricks – NYTimes.com shows, it can do a few things you likely didn’t know it could do. Neat!

Why I like Karl Lagerfeld

Simple: he could retire/rest on his laurels. Instead, he is incessant in looking for new venues for his ideas. Here’s his latest: designing for Coca-Cola, no less.

Robitussin and Pregnancy

Anyone looking to get pregnant and has heard of this should read this great piece of journalism, Robitussin: Pregnancy in a $5 bottle of hope – The Globe and Mail. It covers the story very well in addition to showing what I suspect is the state of affairs with regards to human fertility. What was also interesting is that it highlights that the makers of Robitussin are not jumping on the bandwagon with this potential new feature of their product. Lastly, even the comments — always a weak spot in the Globe and Mail — are good.

Superb science/health reporting.