Monthly Archives: September 2010

Creative uses of chalkboard paint for your home

Can be found at the Apartment Therapy New York blog. This room I love

But there are lots of great ideas for kitchens, kids rooms….brilliant.


Today is the Flintstones’ 50th anniversary!

Yabba Dabba Doo! And to mark it, Google has them on their front page! Also, The Telegraph has 15 things you don’t know about the show, including the fact the Fred and Wilma were the first couple to be shown in bed together!

Germany end World War One reparations after 92 years with final payment

This is an incredible story. I had thought that German reparations for the First World War had been shelved, but according to both the
Daily Mail Online and SPIEGEL ONLINE, they had not. There were a number of reasons why they had stopped, and why they started again, but now it is finally complete.

It is interesting to read the Daily Mail’s version of events. They make the Treaty of Versailles sound like someone everyone agreed to, when in fact it was something the Germans bitterly felt they were forced to sign. It’s also interesting to see them associate ‘quantitative easing’ with Germany’s hyperinflation. That’s ridiculous, since in it’s current use, quantitative easing is being used or considered because the central banks are up against the zero bound and inflation is too low. The central banks are considering it to deal with deflation, not hyperinflation.

(Treaty of Versailles image from Wikipedia).

Quote of the day

In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

– Stephen Jay Gould

What is Stuxnet?

Stuxnet appears to be a very sophisticated piece of software that attacks industrial control systems, like those found in nuclear facilities. In particular, Iran’s nuclear facilities.

It’s always difficult to get to the root – pun intended – of these stories. However, this article, Who’s Behind Stuxnet? The Americans? The Israelis? – Security Watch, and this oneIranian nuclear facilities under “massive attack” by Stuxnet worm – Boing Boing both provide more detail than you might find in places like the or Huffington Post. (Make sure you read the comments: there’s alot of useful information there.)

I am always suspicious of IT security stories. There is alot of secrecy and hype associated with them, and then journalists wade in and only acerbate that. It’s entirely possible it was written by some very smart engineer somewhere: indeed, I am more likely to go with that rather than believe it is “cyberwar”.  Let’s see how this progresses.

Don’t Give Up

The superb blog, Letters of Note, has the story on this letter. I think it reads well without context, but I think you should visit the blog (now and often) to get it. It’s from an animator at Pixar to a young boy who wants to become an animator. But really, with some minor changes, it could be to anyone.

On the importance of artists to produce many types of work, great and small

Can be found here

Friday Night Music: Buraka Som Sistema do Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance

There are MANY great covers for Dr. Martens 50 on Youtube. I highly recommend you go look. In the meantime, here’s Buraka Som Sistema cover of the great tune Buffalo Stance.

YouTube – Dr. Martens 50 – Buraka Som Sistema cover Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance

Malcolm X on CBC TV

Most Canadians have heard of Front Page Challenge. As a child I often watched it on CBC. (Heck, it was often the only thing TO watch.)

I didn’t realize that Malcolm X appeared on the show, just after he had left the Nation of Islam and had gone to Mecca, and just weeks before he was assassinated.

Fascinating. And though 45 years old, still timely, in many ways.

30 days through Muslim America, a photo essay

Boing Boing  steals a page from the Big Picture and has put together a superb photoessay that is well worth a look. Naturally, Muslims in Americans have vastly different backgrounds and widely vary in the way they look and in where they live. And this is only a small sample.

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

24 coffee shops – 20 bucks – 1 great coffee adventure

If you love coffee and you are in Toronto, you owe it to yourself to check out the Indie Coffee Passport Toronto. The passport will give you a reason to visit some of the great cafes of Toronto and enjoy some superb coffee while you make your way through this great city. Smart.

What’s hot in men’s fashion – 2010

GQ has a rundown of the fall trends for men in 2010. There’s something for everyone, from the high end three piece suit to the blue collar plaid shirt. Me, I like the lace-up boots and the black on black watches. Other things, like biker jackets, never go out of style, so get one this year and wear it/keep it for many more. See: The GQ Fall 2010 Trend Report, by Jim Moore: How to Build Your Perfect Fall Wardrobe: Wear It Now: GQ

(Three piece Dolce & Gabbana Suit, $1,995; vest, $425, available at Dolce & Gabbana boutique, NYC.)

Catching (fruit) flies with vinegar

The old expression, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar” may not be true when it comes to fruit flies. To see what I mean, check out this experiment at Lifehacker Labs: Capture Fruit Flies with a Cup and Apple Cider Vinegar. It turns out that the apple cider vinegar is just what you need. And now that it is harvest time, you may start having fresh fruit and fresh fruit flies appearing in your kitchen. Now you know how to banish them. Good luck!

(discovered via the Cool Tools section of Kevin Kelly’s site.)

New York at Night

If you are fortunate, you will have the chance to land in NYC at night. I have, and the view is stunning.

This shrunken image does it an injustice. If you want to see it and other gorgeous shots of the Big Apple at night, head over to this: Aerial views of New York | World news |

If you fall in love with these photos, you are in luck: there is a book by Jason Hawkes called “New York at Night” that you can purchase. For more details, go here:

Comparing buying a Kobo vs a Kindle in Canada

It is frequently changing, but if you were to look at buying an eBook reader, you might be interested like me to know that the Kobo is now $128 while the Kindle is $139. Close, yes? Or is it? If you are interested in buying a Kindle, you really should read: What’s the real price of an Amazon Kindle in Canada? at the  Parenting: Curious Dad blog.

Caveat Emptor.

More on repealing DADT


 Found this on Andrew Sullivan as well. It’s great, and worth a watch. But also notice the poster on the wall at the very beginning of the video.

YouTube – calls to repeal DADT!!!

Why is happiness so hard to achieve?

Maybe this is the answer!

God as Lucy with the Football. From one of my favorite comics, Abstruse Goose

Lady Gaga support for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the repeal of DADT

I see Lady Gaga trashed for a wide variety of things. I confess I was dismissive of her at first. However I am impressed by her theatricality and I am starting to be won over by her (even if I am not a big fan of her songs, but maybe that too will change).

What I am really impressed by, howrever, is this Public Service Announcement that she made in support of  the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the repeal of DADT.  Here it is:

She clearly explains what DADT and how it affects service men and women. Moreover, I thought how she ends it, with getting lost in phone mail hell, was great. It makes her Senators look bad, for one thing, but it also shows in a way the difficulty in getting through, even if you are Lady Gaga and you are one of the biggest names in music and show business.

YouTube – A message from Lady Gaga to the Senate Sept 16 2010

Your daily dose of magic realism

Migratory birds get trapped in the World Trade Centre Memorial.

It starts slow, but if you wait a bit, you can really see the birds, floating in the light like snowflakes swirling.

(From The Daily What)

YouTube – Abïme des Oiseaux – WTC Memorial Plane/Birds/Apocalypse

The ridiculousness of No Homo

This article by Jonah Weiner in Slate Magazine, The rise of no homo and the changing face of hip-hop homophobia, gives hip-hop artists a pass on their homophobia. I don’t see why they should get one. Yes, there’s some progress, but it’s pretty small, and the contortions that hip-hop artists go through is ridiculous.

Ridiculous in a good way is this video parody of “Ridin’ Solo” by Jason Derulo. The Station do a superb send up of No Homo (and Jason Derulo). Check it out:

(Found over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog.)

Friday Night Music: Patti Smith – Because The Night

Classic: Patti Smith performing Because The Night on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

YouTube – Patti Smith – Because The Night

Lady Gaga owes Bob Fosse

Watching Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance  video, I thought: what does this remind me of:

So I did a search of All That Jazz and found this famous scene:

If you read the plot of  All That Jazz you can see it strongly aligned with the exotic theatrics that Lady Gaga loves. Anyone who loves Lady Gaga would love this film, I believe. The productions are obviously very different, but the approaches are similar. And in this scene from All That Jazz and the video from Lady Gaga, we see a baroque danse macabre. .

How can you be more productive when you drive?

Excessive car commuting is the proverbial lemon that drivers would like somehow to turn into lemonade. If you are one of those drivers, I recommend you check out this article: Turn your car into an office on wheels.

Not everyone hates commuting: some folks love the life of the driver. Even if you are one of these, you will like this article.

The graffiti artist and his counterpart: Banksy vs. The Gray Ghost in New Orleans

This is a great story about the world famous graffiti artist, Banksy, and Fred Radtke, who is the “gray ghost” who paints over graffiti in New Orleans with gray paint.

What happened when they collided? You can see here in this great tale: Banksy vs. The Gray Ghost in New Orleans at WebUrbanist

Camille Paglia on Lady Gaga

What Camille Paglia thinks of Lady Gaga can be found here: Lady Gaga and the death of sex | The Sunday Times. Some of it is good, although the way Paglia goes on about Madonna makes her almost seem a parody of herself.

As for me, I think she gets some of it right, but she misses the way Gaga is most like Madonna, and that is that both women have a way of reinventing themselves to stay firmly in the spotlight. Madonna was constantly shape shifting, and Lady Gaga seems to be doing the same. And if Gaga steals from Madonna, well, who did more stealing of images and sounds than Madonna herself?

As for Lady Gaga’s avant-garde approach to popular culture, I think it can be said to be just that: pop avant garde. Avant garde, if it can be said to exist at all in pop music, won’t come from mainstream performers like Lady Gaga. That doesn’t make her any less enjoyable and fun to watch. But musically she is fairly mainstream. Where she is avant garde is in her performances. More and more, pop music performances are lip synched dance extravaganzas. And if you accept pop music as being more or less than that, then Lady Gaga is avant garde. However, that is a pretty limited view of pop music, and so while I think Lady Gaga is entertaining, I will look for advances in pop music and pop culture coming for elsewhere.

Memory fields

I was cycling through quiet neighborhood streets last night, and I heard a
child’s voice, like that of my daughter’s when she was younger. Perhaps
because it was near a park that she and I often went to when she was
younger, I had many memories of her younger self all at once as I wheeled
through the streets.

Earlier in the day, I was reading about electromagnetic fields and
gravitational fields, and I wondered if memory is a field too. We have many
metaphors for memory. The common one is of memory as a giant filing
cabinet. Yet often times I will be passing by something and a sound or a
scent or an image will bring to mind all kinds of memories, pulled out of
my mind like a piece of metal encountering a strong magnet. While sometimes
these events seem random, more often certain places will evoke them. These
places are like memory fields, and passing through or being in them cause
me to recall memories that in other locations I would never have.

When you move a magnet back and forth through a wire coil, you are able to
generate an electrical field. Likewise when you put a bunch of photos or
objects in front of you, you are able to generate a memory field, and all
kinds of memories can come back to you. The memories aren’t filed away so
much as looking for a chance to be generated. They are always there, like
gravity is always there.

Sent from my BlackBerry Handheld.

Friday Night Music: rock n’ roll women, live…

First up, Paramore doing “crushcrushcrush”

Then Ke$ha doing “Your love is my drug”…a nice hot mess! 🙂

(Yeah, I know it is Ke$ha, but this rendition rocks)

And to me the woman who is second to none, Chrissie Hynde, from 2008

Love her madly….

In saner places in the world, a church hall is going to be turned into a mosque

According to CBC News a church hall is going to be turned into a mosque:

A group of Muslims in Sydney, N.S., has bought a church hall to convert into a mosque.

The Antigonish Roman Catholic diocese sold the parish hall affiliated with Sydney’s Holy Redeemer Parish Church because a shrinking congregation means the church no longer needs the space.

The more than 30 families who make up the group that bought the hall had been worshipping in various rented spaces throughout Sydney.

According to Archbishop Vincent Waterman from Cape Breton: “This is one of the greatest things I’ve heard so far. As a prayer centre, I welcome it.”

As a proud Cape Breton expat, I am glad to see this. It sounds like the deal is mutually beneficial to boot.

Karl Marx takes a drive

It looks like Marx is going for a Sunday drive. According to SPIEGEL ONLINE:

Berlin’s Marx-Engels monument near the Alexanderplatz square is being moved because of construction work on a new subway line. This photo shows the sculpture of Marx being loaded on a truck to join Engels in a new position. Berlin’s iconic TV Tower can be seen in the background. The sculptures of the founders of modern socialism Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) were made by German artist Ludwig Engelhart and unveiled in 1986.

For people who love books (and interior design)

The awesome Bookshelf Porn tumblelog at tumblr.

A odd defense of States Rights in the Globe and Mail

It was bizarre to come across this article in the Globe and Mail today (1863 and all that: The issue of where federal authority ends – The Globe and Mail). What was the point of it, I thought, as it recalled some very specific occurrences of events that happened in American history, back to and including the U.S. Civil War. Towards the end of the article was this passage:

In the midst of the self-perpetuating slaughter in Missouri and Kansas, slavery was indeed an issue: Missouri was a slave state. But states’ rights were an authentic issue, too. The Civil War definitively answered the first question. It did not definitively answer the second. Now many Americans are beginning to ask it again. It took exceptional intrusion by federal forces to make this happen.

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, in his revivalist rhetoric, invokes a historic resistance to the simple phrase “federal forces.” In his big rally the other day at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, he implicitly asks the very question that motivated the Confederate raiders: Where does the authority of the federal government end? Or does it?

From what I can tell, the author started with Glenn Beck’s rally and worked backwards. The ending question in bold and non-italics is a valid one. Americans – indeed, anyone living in a modern state – has reasons to question the authority of a central government and how much power it has over individuals. But to invoke States’ rights is a poor way of doing it. States’s rights are associated with efforts to prolong slavery, provoke the Civil War, uphold Jim Crow laws and foster racial segregation. Why anyone would want to bring them up I can’t tell, unless they were ignorant or racist.

As to the other phrases I put in bold italics, I highlighted those because it is a terrible way of elevating the issue of States’s Rights. There is an implied equation when in fact there is no such equation: slavery as an issue, as an evil, vastly outweighs any issue concerning the rights of States. I am surprised to see it stated like that. At best phrasing it that way is lazy thinking.

Vegan desserts

If you aren’t vegan and you think of a vegan diet, yummy desserts are not likely the first thing that comes to mind. Well expand your mind, because as this article in the  shows, you can make some fantastic desserts for vegans. See the article for lots more good information. Yum!

On my new egg dish: eggs a la puttenesca! :)

I have made this for a few days now, and I love it. I gently fry some
chopped salami, a couple of tablespoons of onion, a chopped olive together
until the onion is soft and the salami has softened. Then I beat 2-3 eggs
together and either make ’em scrambled, an omelet, or something resembling
a frittata.

I call it ‘a la puttanesca’ because while it reminds me of puttanesca
sauce, the ingredients differ. The spirit is the same though, since it uses
earthy ingredients easily available and thrown together.

I also put some homemade tomato salsa with it, though it is not much more
than sauteed onions and garlic and a cup of diced tomatoes cooked and then
tossed with some cilantro. Just enough to moisten up the eggs if they get
dry from cooking, and also to add more robust tomato flavour.

I generally like eggs with cheese and marjoram, but that is a richer and
subtler taste. This is a basic and more rustic taste. Both are good,
depending on your mood.
Sent from my BlackBerry Handheld.

Friday Night Music: “Go Outside” by Cults

As great as music from 30 years ago is, I don’t have much time for being stuck in one period of time, music wise.

This band has a great studio recording of this song that you should hear. However, I think this live recording is pretty good, too, and since there is no official video I can find, here’s

“Go Outside” by Cults

Great music of 1979, a pivotal year in popular music

If you don’t know much about music of this time, you might think there was no good music from this year. (Wasn’t that the end of disco?) In fact, there was some truly great music released this year. One of the greatest bands of all time, The Clash, released one of their greatest albums, London Calling. And from London Calling was this huge hit:

The punk music of the time had an odd consequence: great bands like The Rolling Stones rose to the occasion and produced some great music of their own, including Miss You from the great album, Some Girls

1979 marked the end of disco, the rise of punk and then new wave, and the birth of hip hop/rap with Rapper’s Delight

It still has a heavy disco influence, but it is the beginning of the end (of disco) and the beginning of the beginning (of hip hop).

Friday Night Music: Jay-Z. 99 Problems.

One of my all time favorite videos:

Just so you know, this is the YouTube – Jay Z – 99 Problems [Dirty] version, so of course it is NSFW.

Some thoughts on why happiness is difficult to achieve and what to do about it

I was reading a post just now that said happiness could be achieved if we
put off the habit of avoiding pain at the same time we seek immediate
gratification. This sounds like a reasonable assertion, but the more I
thought of, the more I thought that isn’t true.

I am more and more convinced that happiness is difficult to achieve because
it is a state of alignment, and alignment is difficult. It is an alignment
of everything we have with everything we want. If our wants are simple,
then happiness can be easier to achieve. For example, if all I want is to
do my job well to be happy and I don’t have any other wants in life that
matter, then as long as I am doing my job well I am happy. However, if I
want to do my job and do something else well, and both things have demands
on my time, then it is going to be harder to be happy. That alignment is
harder to achieve now.

That’s why people are often happy on vacation. They simplify their lives
and line things up so what they are doing makes them happy. However it can
only last for a short time because other demands through off that

The other thing that makes happiness difficult to achieve is familiarity or
repetition. I may align my wants with what I have on a short vacation, bu
on a long vacation I may become bored with, say, lying on the beach doing
nothing. The alignment goes away. I may not be unhappy but I am no longer

Alignment is important, but so is positive emotion towards the thing you
have. The thing you have may seem slight to others. You may be happy
tending your garden, watching sports on TV, or sitting in a cafe chatting
and daydreaming and reading. But the point is that you have a
signifigantly positive emotion towards doing it. You want to do it. And you
are doing it. Then you are happy.

So that’s great, you might grumble, happiness is difficult to achieve.
Thanks for that. So how does one achieve happiness? Well based on two
people I know, I think there are two ways at least to do this: a minimalist
approach and a maximalist approach.

The minimalist approach is to simplify your life to the point that you are
have in your life only the things in your life that you have a strong
positive feeling towards and reject and eliminate everything the detracts
from that. Find a vocation that you love and do that, associate mainly with
people who support and agree with that, and minimalize everything else in
your life. If you can do that, you’ll be happy. I think athletes and
gardeners are two examples of people who live that way, but anyone who is
devoted to a role and gains a lot of positive emotion from it will be

The other approach is the maximalist approach. With that approach, you try
to find a way to extract a positive emotion from everything you have. You
don’t try to manage what you have in your life: you try to manage how you
thing about what you have in your life. This doesn’t mean you accept things
without question. Rather: you try and see the positive side of what is in
front of you while moving towards what you prefer.

Now you might think both are easier said than done. Both approaches take
will and determination. If you want to see things positively, you need to
work on it. Optimism is like a muscle: you need to exercise it to make it
stronger and have it overcome obstacles. But you will need that muscle if
you are going to take a maximalist approach. Likewise concentration and
focus is also like a muscle and you will need to exercise it to make it
stronger. But you are going to need that muscle if you are going to take a
minimalist approach.

Thanks for reading this. I have been able to align what I have – spare
time, a relaxing place to sit – with what I have – a blackberry, some ideas
on happiness – and I have been happy writing this down.

Pick an approach. Work those muscles. Get happy! 🙂
Sent from my BlackBerry Handheld.