Monthly Archives: January 2011

Words: Stephen Fry on language

YouTube – Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography – Language

Great music: Florence + The Machine – You’ve Got The Love

Beautiful. Powerful. Soaring. Watch and listen.

Florence + The Machine – You’ve Got The Love (MLNS 2009)

Like commercial software but prefer an alternative?

Then head to There you will find find open source alternatives to commercial software. Well worth a look, for all your Visio, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, AutoCAD, WinZip, etc. needs.


The Best Times to Buy Anything in 2011

Lifehacker has a great rundown on when to buy things and why. Very much worth a look.

Make an Emergency Oil Lamp from a Can of Tuna

Pretty remarkable, and good to know.

Make an Emergency Oil Lamp from a Can of Tuna via Lifehacker.

This is something you don’t see everyday

(Found on the Daily What)

Junya Watanabe

Brilliant designs, I thought. Junya Watanabe is Japanese and used to work for Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons. Not surprising then to see clothes like this, though I am surprised how the elements are both common and unique.

More great photos over at The Sartorialist.

The value of people over 50

Dan Palotta at has a good blog post on The Value of People Over 50 within organizations. It is a good read, as are the comments. Highly recommended.

My general take is that at every age, there are benefits and drawbacks to employees. Furthermore, the assumptions people make about employees and age are based often on assumptions or worse, prejudice. People should find out what it is that motivates employees, regardless of their age, and work with that to get the best out of them, regardless of how old – or young – they are.

The Beauty of Indian Block Printing

A beautiful film of a craft the produces beautifully printed fabric. Highly recommended.

Thanks to West Elm for this video on YouTube – India Block Printing

You are wonderful

I love this image: the phrase is simple and lovely and it was created from newsprint and pasted on rusted metal. Be we ever so rusted and tarnished, we are also wonderful in our own way.

I stole this from the always inspiring, oliveloaf design blog. It is wonderful too, and I recommend you go there and see.

Where to eat in Toronto? Follow Annie English and find out

Annie English is a colleague of mine who blogs about her and her husband’s Dining Experiences in Toronto. Anyone who likes to eat in Toronto restaurants should follow her blog. I always find good advice from her, and I like the way she writes about places.

Dig in! And bon appetit.

Blogging Tools

I am a big fan of ScribeFire as a tool for blogging. However, a number of people I work with are fans of Windows Live Writer. I decided to try that out here and see how it looks.

The cost and benefit of the World Economic Forum in Davos

Andrew Ross Sorkin has a rundown of the various costs that come along with attending the annual meet and great at the W.E.F. (A Hefty Price for Entry to Davos – While the list of costs are long, the article implies the benefits are few. The impression I get is that Davos is like any other conference, just with more rich and powerful people. You still have the challenges anyone has with networking at such an event. Sometimes it goes really well and it is completely worthwhile. More often you think: that was fun, but what did I accomplish?

I also would not be surprised if China or Brazil or India decides to eventually have their own annual conference outside of Europe. Times are changing. We’ll see.


Speaking of Top Hats

Here’s Fred Astaire peforming Top Hat, White Tie and Tails. He makes wearing a top hat seem as casual as you or I wearing  a T shirt.

And as good as that is, I think his Top Hat performance below is stunning and arguably beats the above. In the following, it’s not enough for him to tap dance with two legs: the cane becomes a third leg, adding additional complexity. Plus the magic of the rising cane and the mirrored images all add up to an astounding performance.

 Fred Astaire – Puttin’ On the Ritz

P.S. Watch how he moves the camera to his left in order for the crew to presumably switch canes with one attached to a string that can be elevated….magic!

P.S.S. Wikipedia has a good compare and contrast of these two numbers here.

The Top Hat

I believed that the top hat died off at the beginning of the 20th century. It turns out that, at least for very formal occasions like Inauguration Attire, the top hat still was worn by no less than President Kennedy in the early 1960s. (Then it died off. But still, that is quite remarkable.)

Here is Kennedy and Eisenhower and the former’s inauguration. You can also see men in the background wearing less formal hats. By the 1960s, however, the only hats you would see on men would be informal caps. The notion of formal headwear for most men ended here.

How to take advantage of social media: a lesson from Canada’s National Post

Of course there is no cookbook approach to capitalizing on social media. But in this blog post: From Tumblr to TV: How our #Starbucks ‘Trenta’ graphic became an online hit | Editors | National Post, they show you what they did to be successful, at least for a (very stellar) day, and thanks to this superb infographic:

Why did Goldman Sachs recently restrict Americans from participating in its Facebook offering?

John Cassidy over at The New Yorker has a great summary of the story, as well as a castigation of the GS senior management. Highly recommended. The best quote and summary of the situation is this:

The fact remains that Goldman, in attempting to set up a quasi-public market for Facebook’s stock prior to an I.P.O., is, to put it kindly, stretching the securities laws to their limit.

One Great TTC poster by Jonathan Guy

Can be purchased here: jonathanguy — TTC – Found Type Poster 24×36.

This would be a great gift for any homesick Torontoian! Or fans of the Toronto subway line or subways generally.

The $100 burger – is it worth it?

The folks at eye weekly did some investigative journalism to see if the m:brgr’s $100 burger is really worth that much.

Given the ingredients themselves add up to around $62, I would argue that it is from a financial point of view.  Overall I think it is a ridiculous dish for people with lots of money and no good sense or taste. But check out the article and see for yourself.

Great food ideas at poppycock

There are lots of great things at the blog poppytalk, but I really like the recipes featured in the section Yummy Treats. For example, this soup

And here’s the recipe for this Lentil, Bean & Chard Soup. Yummy indeed.

A brilliant idea for a clothing rack – from nature to furniture

Can be found on this blog with this post: love aesthetics: DIY branche clothing rack

It reminds me of Art Nouveau in that it takes natural elements and transform them into furniture, althoughthis branch is very rustic.

Brilliant. (Thanks to another great blog, poppytalk, for the lead.)

On speaking with conviction

This is brilliant.

From Jen O – A Room of My Own’s blog.

Winter and memory

I was surfing around YouTube, finding clips of TV and music long past that remind me of winter and more. Things loved, long gone. For memory and winter are related.

YouTube – Northern Exposure – Joel goes back to New York

YouTube – Due south Opening

YouTube – Holly Cole sings on Due South

YouTube – John Mayer – Wheel

Mid week / mid winter music

YouTube – Sting – Gabriel’s Message

The end of the old money and the creation of the new money

You might think, reading this: Now at Starbucks: Buy a Latte By Waving Your Phone –, how is this all that different? Isn’t it just another form of gift card? As for now it is. But what is happening to money is twofold. One, the means to produce money is being widely distributed. Once you needed institutions to manage and create money: governments and banks. Then corporations came up with the means of creating money using their own credit companies. Now smaller and smaller companies will be able to create money using apps like this. Two,the money is now digital. It is not dependent on paper currency or credit cards with smart technology: it is digital. And once it is digital, you will eventually see developers coming up with exchanges and other ways to digitally transform that money into other things, including more money.

The money supply is already alot more complicated than it was decades ago. It is going to get even more so. Welcome to the new money.

(Image from the

The maturing of blogging – or what it takes to blog in the year 2011

Blogging is easy. Being successful at blogging is not, as this article highlights: Bloggers quitting what they call a demanding task with few rewards | Business Of Life | Crain’s Chicago Business. Let me rephrase that: if success with blogging is reaching a large audience, then blogging will be very difficult for you. However, if you are like me, and are happy to share things you know and discover and is happy when anyone reads it, then blogging is easy and you will be very successful indeed.

To be successful, you need the right goals.

The power of Facebook

From Are We Too Obsessed With Facebook? [INFOGRAPHIC]

The latest invention

Sure, everyone is impressed by IBM’s Watson computer on Jeopardy, but what about the Heinz Automato 4!

Pesto Vinaigrette from Canadian Living: a great partner for whatever you are grilling

I highly recommend this Pesto Vinaigrette recipe from Canadian Living. I used it with beef brochettes tonight, but really you can use it with lots and lots of things. For this recipe, from my Canadian Living’s Best Barbecue book,  you will need:

  • 1 lb / 500 g of sirloin steak (although any cut that does not requiring simmering will do)
  • 1 red onion (or regular or spanish, though red grills up nicely)
  • 2 peppers (e.g. 1 red and 1 green)
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 12 mushroom caps
  • olive oil
  • and of course the pesto vinaigrette
  1. Now with the steak and the vegetables you are going to make your brochettes. Cut the beef into cubes and then cut the vegetables so they are roughly the same size.
  2. Thread the meat and veggies on skewers, alternating them any way you like.
  3. Brush the brochettes with some oil and let sit for 30 minutes outside your fridge. You don’t have to, but the result will be better if you do.
  4. In the meantime, fire up your grill to a high heat.
  5. After the 30 minutes is up, brush the vinaigrette over the brochettes and grill them for 12 to 14 minutes until the beef is medium rare and the veggies are tender crisp.
  6. All the while you are grilling them, brush more vinaigrette over them to intensify the  flavour and prevent them from drying out.
  7. Take them off the grill, let them stand for 5 minutes until a foil covered plate, then salt and pepper them and serve.

So that’s the recipe. You don’t have to use steak: all kinds of meat will work with this. Perhaps even salmon or a full flavoured, steak-like fish. Or veggie only would be great too. Likewise, if you don’t like eggplant, replace it with zucchini or more mushrooms, etc. Try to pick something that grills well with those other vegetables. Or if you live for steak, add more steak.

If you can get fresh basil, then you are in business. However, it is not always easy to get in winter. In a pinch, you can fall back on dried basil and you will still get that basil flavour. (If after you make it with the dried basil, you find it isn’t strong enough, slowly add more dried basil to taste.)

I boiled some fingerling potatoes while this was going and drained them when they had softened but weren’t mushy, roughly 10 minutes or so. (Test them with a fork to see they are done). I had some left over vinaigrette which I mixed into some mayo, then I tossed the pesto-mayo combo with the potatoes and some bite sized pieces of romaine lettuce  bef0re serving them on them side. Other waxy potatoes, chunks of tomato (not too wet), cooked green beans, cooked peas, are also vegetables that would work. You could also have rice or couscous or a side salad, too and stir some of the pesto in to your taste. Or remove the pieces from the skewers and serve in a warm pita. Likewise you could chop up some lettuce and wrap everything in a warmed tortilla.

This dish has alot of flavour. The recipe is called provencal beef brochettes, so a good sturdy and rustic red like a Côtes du Rhône or Côtes du Rhône Villages would work well, as would a Côtes de Provence. I’m a big fan of wines from the Minervois appellation and I think that would also work. Canadian winemakers use alot of baco noir, and I think that would be great. Chianti or sangiovese or any hearty Italian red would hit the spot, as would rich reds from warm climates like Spain, Southern California or Australia. Beer and steak also are a great match, and “red” beers I think would go well with this, as would any beer with some bite. Finally, a great sparkling water or an acidic cola would be a refreshing drink for those who prefer not to have alcohol.

If you are lucky and you have some vinaigrette left, you could also toss them with recently cooked pasta to make a tasty pasta salad. Even better, if you have some leftover veggies and steak, add that to it.

There are lots of great BBQ sauces and salsas to add to grilled food. This pesto vinaigrette is a nice break from all that, and the short amount of time it takes to make — it took me around 5 minutes — is very much worth it.

P.S. Make sure you add 3 (or 4 or 5!) cloves of garlic to this. It makes a big difference. Same for the tsp of salt.
P.S.S. You don’t need a food processor: I used an old blender and it worked great. And if you are good with chopping and don’t mind it chunky, you could get by with just a knife and a bowl to blend it in.
P.S.S.S. If you are going with steak, sirloin is a good choice. It is relatively not too expensive, and the pesto will overwhelm better cuts. Save the better cuts for a simple preparation (e.g. a light dusting of pepper and salt at the end, or perhaps a flavoured butter).

Music to uplift you on bitter winter nights as you trudge through the snow

When snow falls at night: James Joyce. John Huston. The finale of “The Dead”.

Whenever I stare at the snow falling past my window at night, I think of this deceptively powerful finale scene from John Huston’s The Dead, adapted from James Joyce. I say deceptive, because when the film came out, some critics faintly criticized Huston for lifting the words directly from Joyce for the final voiceover. But I think this was brilliant on the part of Huston. The words are a masterpiece, of course, but by having the voiceover, Huston is able to assemble a brilliant montage of impressionistic scenes of snowfall at night. The voiceover allows him to escape the narrative and weave together beautiful imagery that melds beautiully with the words. It is masterful in its own right.

See for yourself.

Where NOT to stay in New York

Can be see here, located by a  Forgotten Sign in Times Square at the great blog Scouting NY. How bad is it? Well, this is a hint:

But you need to read the post to get a sense of just how bad it is. Cheap, but bad.

Great advice on anyone who wants to be a chef

Can be found here: So you want to be a chef? Do your homework (ArtsLife –

How Sarah Palin’s Facebook page gets edited

A group of Obama supporters in the UK was recently monitoring Sarah Palin’s Facebook page and observed some Inexplicable Edits.
It is interesting to see it in action. Keep in mind these are Obama supporters, but still, assuming this is true, it seems that there is alot of active monitoring of her page.

More on Chinese mothers. This time on Maternity Confinement in China

I came across this in twitter: Maternity Confinement in China « Jenny Zhu. It’s fasscinating what women who just had a baby have to do for the first month after delivery: no going out, no showers, no hair washing or teeth brushing. And more! Read the article on this 2000 year old tradition.

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior like George Orwell’s teachers were Superior

Read this:Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior – And then read this: George Orwell: Such, Such Were The Joys. You might be inclined to agree with the first approach to teaching and disagree with the second. (I disagree with both.)

Both of them make me think of Wilde’s quote about cynics: “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” People who have these educational approaches know all about the costs/benefits of education, but not the value of it, it seems.

Five myths about why the South seceded from the Union that lead to the U.S. civil war

Can be found in this well written article in the Washington Post: Five myths about why the South seceded.

The myths are:

1. The South seceded over states’ rights.
2. Secession was about tariffs and taxes.
3. Most white Southerners didn’t own slaves, so they wouldn’t secede for slavery.
4. Abraham Lincoln went to war to end slavery.
5. The South couldn’t have made it long as a slave society.

Some of them are well documented (#1), but others are true but debatable (#5). The article provides the details.

Some thoughts on still life painting and pastoral painting

In this blog post, Still Life Without Man – The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan, there is a quote mentioned

Robert Musil said that “all still lifes are actually paintings of the world on the sixth day of creation, when God and the world were alone together, without man!” This is precisely right, as I think Eric’s photo demonstrates it

(Eric is Eric Mencher, the artist who photographed this still life.)

I would argue that it is pastoral work and not still life work are “paintings of the world on the sixth day of creation”. Man/people are all over still life paintings and art works. Look at the work above. The main objects are handmade. You can imagine who lives there. Indeed, as you look at many still life paintings, there is always the shadow of the artist over them in the arrangement and selection of objects in the still life. While with pastoral paintings, even if there is someone embedded in the image, it is less about them and more about what surrounds them.

Things age very quickly when it comes to technology. Watch.

Not only is technology rapidly changing, it is rapidly dying too. Witness modern day French students trying to figure out technologies from the 1980s! They do well with some things, but the 8 track stumps them!

Via my IBM colleague Eric Andersen (eric_andersen) on Twitter.  If you only want to follow a few people on twitter, Eric should be one of those people. I learn alot from his twitter feed each and every day.

Scott Shumann – The Sartorialist – artist

There is a great documentary here on the photographer and blogger, Scott Shumann, who is responsible for one of the best blogs on the Internet: The Sartorialist.

I had the pleasure of meeting him in Toronto recently when he was here promoting his book that featured work from his blog. He was very gracious and stayed for along time to meet and be photographed with everyone who came out to meet him, including me (one of the last ones). For anyone who appreciates photography or fashion or social media, I highly recommend his book and his blog.

You can find his blog here: The Sartorialist. And you can find his book on Amazon here: The Sartorialist (9780143116370): Scott Schuman.

(Found via