Monthly Archives: December 2010

How India is changing

Can be seen in this superb article, India’s New Generation of Caste Busters – It reads more like the digest of a sweeping novel and less like a magazine article. Indeed, as the NYTimes states, the author, “Anand Giridharadas is an online columnist for The Times and the author of “India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking,” out this week, from which this article is adapted.” It is a very personal story set against and embedding the changes occurring in India. A must read.


Rocket Radar: the must-have TTC iPhone app

My former colleague and all around smart guy, Adam Schwabe, has written a great iPhone app for riders of the TTC in Toronto. It’s called Rocket Radar, and you can find out more about it in this blogTO interview with Adam, here: Rocket Radar is the new must-have TTC iPhone app.

Great idea, and a great use of open data from the city of Toronto. Smart stuff indeed.

A good new year’s resolution: buy arts and crafts as gifts

If you are looking for resolutions beyond the usual one, why not try that one. You can get lots of gifts for $20 at
20×200, including this great print called Vogue May 2010:pg 70 (List of Contributors), by Lauren DiCioccio. It would be perfect for the fashion (or magazine) lover. The 10″ X 8″ version is only $20! You can pick up a frame for a few bucks more (think IKEA or even a dollar store if money is tight) and you have a beautiful gift.

For crafts, there’s Etsy, of course (“Your place to buy and sell all things handmade, vintage, and supplies“) and in Canada, why not try  Art Interiors?

The exceptional 1958 – 74 Yashica D

What makes this camera exceptional? Many things to a trained photographer, I have no doubt. But to me, what makes it exceptional is this, the “Yashica D had a long production run of 16 years with no changes”.

That is amazing to me. Is there anything these days that is a consumer product that hasn’t been redesigned in 16 years? 10 years, even.

More good food blogs: gourmande in the kitchen

There are some specialized sites on the web I just love. One are interior decor site (yes, there are many, including alot featuring bookshelves) and the other is food sites. There are lots of great ones out there. I like in particular this one, gourmande in the kitchen, which is just getting started. I hope it continues. It’s well designed, has good content, and really good photographs, like this one:

It looks better on that site. Go visit and feast your eyes.

Do you own a restaurant? Do you have a web site?

Then check out this tumblr site and follow the instructions here: Never said about restaurant websites – How to make a less horrible restaurant website. The site itself has mockingly compliments restaurants sites, very likely born out of suffering through existing sites.

It boils down to keeping it simple.

Thanks to @adamschwabe on twitter for pointing this site out.

Cost and the New York Snow Storm of 2010

Reading this, Inaction and Delays by New York as Storm Bore Down –, the one thing that no one brings up is that of the cost of having workers work at that time of year. Cities have a “snow” budget that they want to stretch over the entire winter, and if possible, you want to not spend it all at once. I wonder if that didn’t enter into the calculations of the city. That, and not wanting to call people in at Christmas are two reasons why New York failed to deal with things as well as they should have.

Why is George Clooney in Sudan?

To monitor the situation there and to help move the cameras off of him and on to the people of Sudan in an attempt to prevent more atrocities from occurring. For more information, turn to George Clooney in Sudan – Photo Essays – TIME – StumbleUpon, and other sources.

Where Inception was filmed, and why it was filmed there

Can be found in this good article: Behind-the-scene of Inception: Movie Locations – Associated Content from Yahoo! –

No doubt making it an expensive film to film!

Bruce Sterling and Wikileaks

Bruce Sterling was asked his thoughts on Wikileaks and he wrote a very strong piece on it, published here: The Blast Shack. While it is very intelligent and well written, it is also very neat. Too neat, I thought; almost fictional in how it is written. Gabriella Coleman has written a very good response to it here: Hacker Culture: A Response to Bruce Sterling on WikiLeaks – Gabriella Coleman – Technology – The Atlantic. If you read Sterling, I strongly recommend you read Coleman to give you a better perspective.

A geeky Christmas tree!

Made from a few basic electronic parts:

An abstract christmas tree made out of LEDs on Flickr. And here’s the schematic:

From the Flickr photostream of Omer Kilic

Not your typical Christmas movie trailer

is this: Home Alone With Zombies

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip, but I think I will stick with The Nightmare Before Christmas

How to be optimistic regardless of the situation: use the 3 Ps

A few years back I read a book called “Learned Optimism”. It argued that
optimism is something you can learn. It’s a good book, but what it really
comes down to are the three Ps: Personal, Pervasive, and Permanent.

Pessimistic thinkers (a category I fall into too often) tend to think that
set backs are personal (it’s my fault I failed the test), pervasive (I am a
bad student), and permanent (I will never be a good student). Optimistic
thinkers treat setbacks just the opposite: they don’t think they are
personal (I bet everyone had a hard time with that test), pervasive (I do
well normally on tests) or permanent (it’s only the first midterm, I can
make up for it later, and in the worse case I can drop the course and take
another in the summer). Likewise, optimistic thinkers tend to think
successes are personal (I did well on that test because I worked really
hard) pervasive (I am going to ace this term) and permanent (I always do
well in school) while pessimists don’t think successes are personal (I must
have gotten lucky to get such a good mark), pervasive (I will likely do
badly in my other courses) or permanent (I still am not a good student).

As an exercise, if there is an area where you want to be optimistic, try
applying the three Ps. You can use it to undermine your pessimism and
amplify your optimism. For example, if you want to lose weight, but are
pessimistic about doing it, look for areas where you are applying the three
Ps. Look for statements like “I am” or “I will never” or “Everytime”. They
are all signs of the three Ps. If you are pessimistic about losing weight,
you might think “I am a fat such and such” (personal), “I am not good at
getting dieting and exercising and anything to do with that” (pervasive)
and “I will never be able to get in shape” (permanent). You need to tackle
that thinking by looking for examples where you can see the opposite, where
you can find reasons to be optimistic. For example you might think instead
“I am not a fat person, I am someone who was once fit and I can be again, I
can be that person I once was and there is nothing stopping me if I put my
mind to it”, (personal) and “there are lots of good eating and fitness
habits I have already: I just need to work on expanding them” (pervasive),
and “body weight is something anyone can change, there is nothing permanent
about it if I put my mind to it” (permanent). In going from being
pessimistic to optimistic you need to attack your negative way of thinking
using the three Ps and replace that with a positive way of thinking, also
using the three Ps. Once you can do that, it will be easier to motivate and
energize yourself to actually make the changes that align with your new way
of thinking.

New years and New Year’s Resolutions are coming up. Use this to help you.
All the best to you. You will do great: I am optimistic about that.
Sent from my BlackBerry Handheld.

The rapid rise and fall of email

There was a good article in the New York Times about the decline in web based email, but this chart from the blog  Contrarian sums it up well:

It’s quite astounding to me. I can recall the affects and the switch to email in the mid 90s when more people started getting email at work and from services provided by ISPs. Then web based email came along from sites like Yahoo! Gmail itself only came out in 2004. During that time mail carriers suffered in adjusting to the loss of personal mail. I would have thought that email would have lasted at least another decade. But looking at this chart, I’d be surprised if it too was around in 5 years.

Gifts for men – not the same ole same ole

Most of the time, stores still trot out the usual suspects when it comes to gifts for men. These gifts from the blog A CUP OF JO are so much better. Here are two:

Perfect for Dad (and uncles).

Here’s a great one for any man with a desk:

Check out the blog post for more.

The richest women in the world

If you are North American, you might think, “Oprah”. Well she is on the list, as is J K Rowling, but most of the list is made up of Chinese billionaires, as you can see:

From: Richest women: The great wealth of China | The Economist

Thoughts on middle age and happiness

The Economist has a great article on how for many people, the age of 46 is a big turning point in terms of well being:

As this graph and the accompanying article illustrate (Age and happiness: The U-bend of life | The Economist) people, regardless of where they live, have a greater sense of well being once they get through the middle of being middle aged. Not only that, but it continues to increase as they get older. There are many theories for that, but the data is strong.

I think everyone should read this article, not just the middle aged, for it can also help younger people and give them a sense of perspective.  Obviously you can find individuals that this doesn’t apply to, but as I get older, it feels right to me. Well worth a read.

Good cheap French wine in Ontario

Is a wine like this one. It consists of colombard, ugni blanc and gros
manseng. I see the first two in a lot of French white. It has 11% alcohol,
which is another thing I like about French and other European wines: they
are not always pushing their wine towards the 14% or in some cases 15%

The wine is light and very refreshing, yet still possessing lovely citrus
flavours. No oak. It may sound odd, but when I drink it, I am reminded of
summer. I am not a big fan of pinot grigio, but if you are, you should like
this. It would go well with mild cheeses, pates, and soups as well as
shellfish or cream sauces on pasta.
It’s not a complex wine, but it is a nice wine to have midweek with a quick
dinner, or with a salad and a not too tangy vinegrette and some goat
cheese to go with that.

And the best thing of all is right now it is less than $10 in the Vintages
section of the LCBO.
Sent from my BlackBerry Handheld.

A Happy Christmas to you all, especially those in London

For London defied the ban on Christmas during the time of Cromwell (according to this and The National Archives (UK)), for in this note, from

 Oliver Cromwell from the State Papers refers to a report that people in the City of London and in Westminster have been flouting his ban on celebrating Christmas.

When Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England, they banned Christmas in an effort to rid the country of decadence. Soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take food being cooked for a Christmas celebration, by force if necessary. Traditional Christmas decorations like holly were also banned. This move was unpopular with the people of England, many of whom resisted it.

Here’s to them. And here’s to you. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!

A brilliant use of dough

This photo essay/art/baking project has to be seen: Let It Dough! –

The bind that China is in

In this blog post, Chinese Confusions –, Paul Krugman sums up the bind the Chinese are in economically and politically.

But political considerations seem to be ruling out all the reasonable responses. They won’t revalue, because that would hurt politically influential exporters. They’re reluctant to raise interest rates, because that would hurt politically influential real estate developers. They’re trying to impose quantitative limits on credit, but are finding that borrowers have enough influence to circumvent the limits. And now they’re trying price controls — which will inevitably come apart at the seams unless they do something about the underlying pressures.

They can’t revalue, raise interest rates, limit credit, or do price controls. Something will have to give, and when it does, it will set off a series of events that will result in big changes there. China is always interesting to watch; 2011 will be no exception.

Late Night Music: Billie. Louis. Nuff Said.

Not sure what this is from, but it is superb. Billie Holiday & Louis Armstrong do The Blues Are Brewin’

YouTube – Billie Holiday & Louis Armstrong – The Blues Are Brewin

A Good idea from Yahoo!

I love this project from Yahoo! How Good Grows: Ripples of Kindness. I hope it is successful:  I like not only what it is promoting, but how it goes about doing it. Does that sounds mysterious? Good! Because I think you should go see it for yourself. Being good is smart.

How to backup your bookmarks

If the answer to this is “yes”, Is Yahoo Shutting Down then if you are familiar with CURL, here’s how you can backup your bookmarks (from one of the comments in the post linked to above):

You can do a CURL on the command line: https://{your username}:{your password} > bookmarks.xml to get the bookmarks as bookmarks.xml – then you can put them in a spreadsheet.

The bestsummary of Julian Assange’s legal situation (as of 2010-12-15)

is here: Gwynne Dyer: The accusations against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange ( Great analysis: just what I have come to expect from Dyer.  (Thanks to Doug Saunders for tweeting about this.)

Using iTunes to create fraud?

According to this BBC News story,

A man has admitted being involved in a £500,000 fraud in which he used stolen credit card details to buy his own songs on iTunes and Amazon. … They allegedly downloaded the songs 6,000 times in 2008 and 2009. Johnson admitted being responsible for about 2,000… (he) used “compromised credit card details” in order to gain royalties from the sales of the songs he posted on the websites.

It’s a novel form of theft: repeatedly buy something you own the rights to. It’s easier to do in this digital age, and one, I suspect, we will see more of.

The deeper meaning of Hans Rosling and Gapminder

Over at the is a good editorial by David Brooks on the meaning of the work of Hans Rosling and Gapminder. For Brooks, the meaning is that the world is becoming more middle class. Given that Brooks is a small “c” conservative by American standards, this conclusion is not surprising. I also don’t think it is wrong.

What I think would be wrong, however, would be to just read one meaning in the work. I think there are many conclusions one can draw from it. To me, the main one is that the Gaps between rich and poor people in the world is diminishing and overall people are benefiting from human progress.

Don’t believe me? Start with this video

And then go search for Gapminder videos on YouTube or and draw your own conclusions. I’d be very interested to hear what you think.

The world has still a great many inequalities and too much suffering. But the gaps are closing, and progress is increasing. Be hopeful.

How to create a strong password and other good videos from

Anyone who is not really computer savvy could use a peak at some of the videos on this site: Teach Parents Tech

I am going to flog this one, because I can’t repeat it enough. Need something to do over the Holidays? Change your $%&* passwords! And Happy Holidays! 😀

YouTube – How to create a strong password

Thanks to Google for this. Well done.

How to give a good presentation? Easy. Follow the TED commandments

Yes, it is TED commandments, not TEN. But there are ten, and they are for presenters that speak at the famous TED conferences. Now you may not get to speak at TED, but regardless of where you are and whom you are speaking to, try following these rules. I think if you do, your talk will be that much better.

(Found here: swissmiss | The TED Commandments)

The first mail to be carried over the Atlantic and other firsts on the east coast of Canada

The first mail to be carried over the Atlantic originated from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Due to their proximity to Europe, Newfoundland and Cape Breton contributed to a number of firsts in communications in the early part of the 20th century. That part of Canada (I am from Cape Breton) is known for its beauty, its hospitality, and its culture, to name a few attributes. It should also be known for creating technological history as well.
Letters of Note: The first mail to be carried over the Atlantic

My new favorite tool: Workflowy!

WorkFlowy is ingenious . It is so simple, yet so effective. If I were to describe it to you, you might have a hard time appreciating why I am making all the fuss. But trust me, to use it is to love it.

I love it for a number of reasons.

1) It simplifies my todo lists into one massive yet easy to organize list.
2) It is a great way to keep a running log of what you accomplished.
3) It is possible to have a massive list that is still easy to focus on.
4) The ease of the tool allows you to focus on what you are trying to do / think about and not have to fuss with focusing on the tool.

If you like to or want to get or stay organized and simplify your life, check it out.

The Story Behind the Mastercard and VISA DDoS Attacks in response to their Wikileaks actions

Can be found here: Verbophobia | The Story Behind the Mastercard and VISA DDoS Attacks

DIY Gift for the Star Wars fan you know

This blog, Polly Want A Crafter?, has a great idea for a gift you can make for the Star Wars fan in your life. Here it is:

I love that! The blog post has a step by step description of how to make it. If you have time (and especially if you are short on cash) this could be a great gift.

Mastery versus achievement

Ben Casnocha has been talking on his blog about mastery, with his latest post (linked here) being The 30 Steps to Mastery.

With regards to mastery, I like to think of achievement versus mastery. We all set goals and then we set out to try and achieve them. For example, when I wanted to run my first marathon, I did this:

  1. Start
  2. Formulate my goal (e.g. run a fall marathon in Halifax after I turn 30)
  3. Investigate how to achieve my goal (talk to my brother who ran a marathon, look at running plans and programs available for me)
  4. Design a plan to guide me towards achieving my goal (based on my investigation, I had a 20 week plan to achieve my goal).
  5. Being executing the plan (start training!)
  6. Modify the plan as I go along (deal with aches and pains and illness, bad weather, busyness)
  7. Achieve my goal! (I completed my first marathon in 3 hours and 47 minutes! When I first started, I could barely run 5 miles at a stretch, and when I finished, I could run over 26 miles!)

Note, unlike Ben’s list, there’s no seemingly endless list of going and going. Furthermore, there is no notion of Mastery. I didn’t plan to master the marathon.  I went on to run a number of other marathons and I got better and better (those were my future goals), but there was never any idea of Mastery in place.

It’s not always a question of Mastery or Failure (to master the activity in question). Instead you can have a process where you go from accomplishment to accomplishment, always getting better along the way.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with mastering something, assuming it can be defined in a way that you can say: if I do it in such and such a way, I have mastered it, and then going on to achieving that mastery.

The people I meet on Twitter (and wordpress and other social media tools)

I have been using social media/Web 2.0 tools for some time. What I find amazing about it is the number of interactions I get from people. Most of these are on twitter, though not exclusively. I remember being impressed by the fact that not only could I follow Stephen Fry on twitter, but he was following me! And not long after that I sent a message to Tim O’Reilly and he replied! I thought: wow, this is amazing.

Since then, this has happened more than I can probably count. I’ve received messages from Mark Bittman, Susan Orlean, Tracey Thorn, Doug Saunders, Glenn Greenwald, Josh Marshall, Lucy Waverman and the mayor of Toronto, David Miller, on twitter. I’ve had Billy Strayhorn’s relatives comment on a blog post I wrote about him. I’ve had people from NBC, various wineries and breweries send me emails about things I wrote on their products. Just as important as well known people though are all the smart and funny and charming and wonderful folks I have met serendipitously since then. It’s been great fun to read all there messages and exchange links and jokes and other bit of information and wisdom. I feel like I have stumbled across this great bar with some of the best people you would ever want to meet, and I get to meet them daily.

I’ve learned alot from using social media over the time I have been using it, but what I have particularly enjoyed is connecting with people. It’s quite amazing.

For now, I remain: Bernie Michalik (blm849) on Twitter.

Robert Lepage’s Eonnagata

Sadly, for a brief two days, Robert LePage’s latest work, Eonnagata, had a very limited Toronto appearance. According to

Robert Lepage’s Eonnagata, which opened last night at the new Sony Centre For The Performing Arts, is a wonderful mishmash of dance, opera and theatre.

I am sorry I missed it. I used to see much of LePage’s work when he was less well known and his performances would roll through Toronto regularly.

If you get a chance to see Eonnagata or anything by him, I highly recommend you seize it.

The arrest of Rosa Parks

55 years ago, on December 1st, Rosa Parks sat here:

She was actually not in the area reserved for white people, but was asked to move back when the bus crowded with white people. You can read the rest of the story here and see more of the documentation:  An Act of Courage, The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks.