Monthly Archives: April 2011

Half a million reasons* to go see the film, Bill Cunningham New York

On the whole I really enjoyed the film. It’s playing in Toronto now and if you can get to see it, you should

 It’s hard not to like it: Bill Cunningham is a modest and charming man and he’s irresistibly likable. The film as a whole was irresistibly likable to me as well because it’s set in New York and Paris, it features the New York Times, it’s a documentary and a history, and it’s all about clothes and fashion. It’s also very thoughtful and smart. Really, what’s not to like?

There are many great threads going on in the film. First off, it is a character study of Bill. What makes him tirelessly trek up and down Manhattan on his bicycle, taking all of the photos that he does? What does he live the modest life he lives? How is it he is so close to these people he seems nothing like in many ways?

Bill is both an aesthetic and an ascetic, which I found fascinating. He is driven to find beauty in the world and capture it, while at the same time living a monk-like existence in his tiny apartment above Carnegie Hall. He loves great clothing, yet he wears the most minimal of things for himself. He is well known by the rich and powerful, yet he lives a frugal life, living with no kitchen and sharing a common bathroom.

In fact, there are a great many contrasts in the film. Many of the people interviewed live in wealthy homes or are extremely fashionable and stylish. Bill is none of those things. He is admired and lauded, but all he wants to do is be invisible and take photographs. At one point he takes about how great designers were inspired by bag ladies, and how in some ways this was a taboo topic.

The film is packed with history. It’s mostly recent, but I sense the filmmakers are especially attuned to life in New York in the 80s. Much of the music in the film is from that time period, and there is alot of talk of when Bill worked for Details magazine at the time. But it is really not of one time and Bill is timeless (and seemingly ageless) in many ways.

  Bill Cunningham reminds me alot of the great Parisian photographer Eugène Atget. Like Atget, Bill is an artist, but like Atget, his artistry comes through not in his rejection of things but in his acceptance of things. Like Atget, Bill wants it all. He wants all his pictures in the paper, he wants all types of people to be perceived as stylish and fashionable and beautiful. That’s not to say his photos are random or accidental. He takes photos quite deliberately. I think he is in love with the world and the beauty of the world, and he cannot see why he should reject any of it.

There’s much more about the film and the man that is interesting, but I’ll leave that for you to discover when you go and see it. Even if you did not like clothes, I think you’d be fascinated by this man and what he does.  I greatly admire him, and I am glad they made a film about him. I think you should see it.

Right now it is playing at the Varsity in downtown Toronto.

* My estimate of how many photos Bill has taken since the 1960s, based on at least a 24 roll a day, 365 days a year.


George Bernard Shaw, 75, Surfing

No doubt a photo capable of shaking all sorts of preconceived notions. 🙂 From George Bernard Shaw | This Is Not Porn – Rare and beautiful celebrity photos

Why I am losing interest in social media: microspammers

I am getting social media fatigue. This is too bad, because I am a fan of social media and social computing and I think it is the future. And I will come back to it more when social sites learn to deal with one of the biggest problems I see now: microspammers. Microspammers to me are people who generate alot of updates every day. They end up dominating the signal, like people at a party who try to dominate the conversation.

For an example, here’s a day in the life of me in social media:

I go to my feed reader and check out blogs like or Mashable or The Daily What. I like them all, but each day they create dozens and dozens of posts. It’s actually stressful to deal with.
I go to my twitter stream, and see a it filling up with tweets from people who essentially use it as a microblogging feed to spam my twitter stream with dozens of links to other sites
Over on, same thing. A few DJs blip dozens of songs each day, making it hard to pick out music.
Facebook? Yup. Newsfeed is more or less reflective of twitter.
Now Linked.In is doing the same thing.

This doesn’t count the daily email spam from digital magazines, etc.

It’s too much.

I have tried to manage it. I dropped alot of tweeps, feeds, DJs, "friends" and now colleagues. I’ve tweaked my profile and settings on all these platforms. But that only goes so far. What happens if your colleagues or family and friends are the microspammers? Do you drop them and risk offending them? Or do you do what I am doing, and considering dropping out instead. Indeed, for alot of these sites, I used to see alot more usage of them than I do now.

Social media sites need to develop better filters. And develop them soon. I think they won’t though. They’re greedy for traffic, and filters naturally cut down on traffic. Network externalities will prevent rapid decreases in usage, just like new features might. But I suspect that alot of them will be surprised that they have collapsed because inside they were hollowed out. Or they became bloated and slow and were surprised to be passed by a lean and nimble competitor.

Also, people using social media need to develop a better sensitivity to what they are doing. I am sure I can faulted with this too, but I am trying to be considerate of all the things people are reading.  And frankly, if you think it is too much, I’d perfectly understand if you stopped following me in one area or another.

I will still use social media, but in a different way than before. It’s time to put it in perspective.

The Imperial Oil Building and St. Clair Avenue in Toronto

I lived in the St. Clair area of Toronto in the 1990s when there were two movie theatres and three big book stores. Sadly, they all closed down in the next decade (although a Book City opened in that area recently). I always felt it was an undervalued neighborhood, overshadowed by the more bustling Yonge and Eglinton area just north of it.

Along St. Clair are a number of corporate offices, including one of my favorites: the Imperial Oil building.

Located at 111 St. Clair Avenue West,  it is going to be converted into a condo, the Imperial Plaza. It’s a beautiful 20th century modernist structure with an interesting history.
Here’s the wikipedia entry on it:

The Imperial Oil Building, designed by Alvan Mathers, is a skyscraper outside the downtown financial core of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Located at 111 St. Clair Avenue West, the 21-storey building was built in 1957 as the headquarters of Imperial Oil, Canada’s largest oil company.

The architectural model for this building was the original design for the Toronto City Hall. Nathan Phillips, Toronto’s mayor in 1955, rejected the Mathers and Haldenby design for city hall and opened the commission to an international competition that was eventually won by Finnish architect Viljo Revell. Imperial Oil, in search of a design for their Toronto head office, bought the design from Mathers and Haldenby.

During construction, catering to the wealthy local residents, welding rather than the then-customary and much noisier riveting technique, was used. The building, on completion, was the largest all-welded steel frame building in the world.

When Imperial Oil assembled the residential properties for the site, Isabel Massie, owner of a house on Foxbar Road, at the rear of the site, refused to sell, despite being offered what was, at the time, a princely sum for her house. Until she died, her property jutted into the Imperial Oil parking lot, an icon of a citizen’s refusal to give in to a corporation. Her estate sold the house to Imperial Oil, which demolished it.

The interior layout is based on the ‘core’ concept, with most offices having windows and with the various service elements (elevators and meeting rooms) clustered in the centre.

With its thick walls, relatively small windows, a built-in cafeteria, a location separated from major targets, and large offices that could be converted to wards, the IOB was designed to be used, in the event of nuclear attack, as an alternative hospital.
The Imperial Oil Building from the west, giving a better view of the observation deck at its top.

The building sits atop a high escarpment with a commanding view to the south, and before the construction of the downtown banking towers, in the late 1960s, the top floor observation deck was, at almost 800 feet (244 metres) above sea level, the highest point in Toronto; on a clear day visitors could see the rising spray from Niagara Falls, across Lake Ontario.

The ground floor lobby features a famous mural, “The Story of Oil”, executed by York Wilson in 1957. Three years in the planning and construction, the two panels of the diptych are each 25 feet by 32 feet; the left-hand side of the mural depicts the nature of oil from its prehistoric origins, while the right-hand panel portrays the modern benefits of its exploitation.

The mural is made of vinyl acetate and is mounted to the wall in such a way that vibrations in the building will not be transmitted to the artwork, possibly causing it to crack. In addition, a ventilation system behind the same wall prevents moisture collecting on the material. Crawley Films of Ottawa was engaged to document the artwork’s realization.

As announced in a press conference on September 29, 2004, the company has re-located to Calgary, Alberta (some corporate operations moved to the Esso Building at 90 Wynford Drive in Don Mills, Ontario). The building has been unoccupied for some years and is listed for sale. Soil testing before the property was listed found that sand about 40 feet below the parking lot was contaminated with heating oil that had leaked from an underground storage tank. The soil was excavated and taken away for cleaning.

In preparation for the sale, the owners told Deer Park United Church next door that they would no longer supply building heat to the church, effective July, 2008. This led the dwindling congregation to leave the church and share space with a nearby Presbyterian church. The Deer Park church building also remains vacant as of January, 2010.

The building was sold in the summer of 2010 to condominium developer Camrost-Felcorp.[1]

The converted condo will now be known as Imperial Plaza.[2]

Over at BlogTo, they had a chance to wander around the building before work started on it, and you can see that here.

If you do get a chance, you must see the mural. It is fantastic. People who live in this condo should be quite fortunate indeed.

Here’s to the growth of St. Clair, and the appreciation and new development of the buildings along the way.

Why being rich doesn’t make you happy – 21st century version

In this article, Secret Fears of the Super-Rich – Magazine, The Atlantic points to a big study that shows it doesn’t (no surprise), but it shows why.

For the first time, researchers prompted the very rich—people with fortunes in excess of $25 million—to speak candidly about their lives. The result is a surprising litany of anxieties: their sense of isolation, their worries about work and love, and most of all, their fears for their children.

An aside: once being a millionaire meant you were rich. Now it seems you need to have $25 million dollars to be rich.

How an article over 15 years old in Fortune magazine is still relevant in describing the world of Big Business

I read this article in 1995:


Back then, this was all new, or seemed to for me, even though I had been working over 10 years at the time. When I first started working, you had the staff and the staff had a manager (boss). It was highly hierarchical and not very fluid. Then the new “world without managers” came along, and it has been that way since.

There are still people who don’t see this is how the world of large organizations work (or should work). But when you look at people who work in big business, the article says you have four roles: top executives, followed by resource providers, project managers, and the talent. I would add a fifth role: sales person. The execs set the direction, the sales people sell the talent, the resource providers and project managers care and feed the talent. That’s it. If you work for a large company, you are one of these. You might say: oh no, I am the manager/director/associate VP of XYZ. But if you look at what you are doing, chances are you focused mostly on doing one of those roles.

Get rid of business jargon using UnSuck It

It’s easy: type in the business word you use and unsuck it will give you the proper word. One of the terms I hate is “socialize”. I typed it in here:
Socialize | Unsuck It . What is your overused jargon? Type it in here: Unsuck It and unsuck it actually allows you to email it to someone if you want.

(H/T to Andrew Sullivan for this).

Start hobbies later in life, just like Winston Churchill

You have important things to do? So did Churchill. You might not be very good at it? I don’t think Churchill thought that he was either. You are too old? Churchill was over 40 when he started, and as far as I know, did not stop (though he did take breaks from it from time to time.) Regardless, the lesson is: you are not too old to start, you are not too busy either, and you will find it rewarding, regardless of how good you are. Just like Churchill.
If Churchill could do it, so could you.
Churchill as an Painter « Iconic Photos

Some thoughts on the upcoming Canadian elections

It is interesting to hear talk of unnecessary elections. Regardless of your beliefs or whom you support, I find this very discouraging. But it got me thinking, and here are some random (and half baked) thoughts on this:
First off, this is notion of an unnecessary election is an antidemocratic statement. Elections are the result of key political participants playing by the rules, and if the government or the opposition has it within their power to cause an election to be held, it is necessary. I can’t understand the thinking behind complaining about having to the means to exercise their democratic rights.
Elections are a right of the people of Canada, and it is a right we should cherish. People around the world are dying to exert their right to elect their government, and dying to prevent others from trying to take that right away from them. And why are they dying? Because their governments are terrible. Whatever else you think of your government, it does not compare to the oppressiveness of such governments. The biggest hardship we Canadian share is having to put up with alot of political communications and having to take less than an hour to go vote. I try to be understanding of people complaints, but this is hard to distinguish from whining. I think people who do whine about it need to revisit their context.
You may agree with that, but state that this election is unwanted by the Canadian people. If the election at this time is unwanted (as opposed to unnecessary), then we shall see the expected results. Parties that call for elections when they are not wanted are punished in the vote for calling one. If it is truly unnecessary, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives should do well and go on to form a majority. So if people want the Conservatives to continue to govern, then this election will bode well for them and help them get the majority they want.
In terms of the cost, if people want to have a system like the United States, they can demand from Parliament that this change occur. I find that ironic, since if anything, the United States has more elections than Canada and they vote for many more positions than Canadians do and likely it will cost more and people will have to vote more. If people feel having to vote more is a problem, then the U.S. may not be the answer to the problem. (I realize this is a debate that can go back and forth. My point is that there is no easy and obvious way to minimize the cost of elections.)
I strongly recall that when both the Conservatives under Mulroney and then the Liberals under Chretien had consecutive majorities, there was much complaining about the damage each one was doing and lots of people wishing they could undo this somehow. Indeed, there was fear of the Liberals gaining a permanent majority and that somehow we needed to change the rules to prevent that from happening. There was talk of banning first past the post and going to a different system. So now the complaint is too many minority governments. It is hard not to think that people will complain whatever the outcome.
If the left of center voters of Canada split the vote and the Conservatives win a majority, there will be alot of talk of getting rid of first past the post. In my opinion, anyone who complains about too many elections should like first past the post, since it is more likely to produce majorities. Representational voting is more likely to produce seats for smaller parties, which will end up resulting in more minorities and more coalitions and more elections.
The Conservatives have had two minority governments over 5 years. If they win another minority government and go another three years, that will mean they we have had three elections in 8 years. However, if instead of minorities, the conservatives had won majorities, it would likely be the case we would have had 2 elections in 8 years. So in effect we have had 1 more election if the conservatives win another minority, using that math. If they win a minority and govern for two years, then over the last 20 years, we will have had seven elections. If we had all majorities with four year terms each over those last 20 years, then we would have had five elections vs seven. So that is two more elections over 20 years. So 1 more election over 8 years or 2 more elections over 20 years. I don’t see how this is alot more. Would people like less? Would people wanted more of Brian Mulroney? Would they have wanted him to have 7 years terms perhaps? What about Jean Chretien? Or Trudeau?
Now my bias is I like minority governments, and I like them being on a short leash. I like voting, and I like hearing what they have to say. I like politics to be dynamic, and I like it when people think they can overthrow the government peacefully if only they work very hard. I like it when politicians have to humble themselves and go out for the vote. People who want to be autocrats should go run their companies, not countries.
The government is not the Conservatives (or the Liberals or anyone else). It is our government. We elect Members of Parliament, who belong to parties that can form a majority, either directly or through the result of a coalition. That majority can ask the Governor General to form the government and it will be up to the him to decide what to do.
Like I said, half-baked. But it stirs me up when people talk about the need to have less participation in our democracy, not less.

Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?

Sounds crazy, yes? If anything, it’s a strong argument for doing some form of exercise everyday, even if it is a short brisk walk or skipping the elevators and escalators and taking the stairs. I think you should do more than that, but in the meantime, check out:
Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week? –

What should you do this Easter weekend? How about start memorizing poetry?

As this essays argues in The Case for Memorizing Poetry, there are lots of benefits to it. And before you write the idea off, consider these two mythbusters:

Myth No. 1: Poetry is painful to memorize. It is not at all painful. Just do a line or two a day.

Myth No. 2: There isn’t enough room in your memory to store a lot of poetry. Bad analogy. Memory is a muscle, not a quart jar.

A good and cheap way to improve your life. Shakespearean actors do it all the time. Why not you?

Michael Ignatieff, current Liberal leader of Canada, on torture

Sadly, not categorically against it, at least not in 2006. I don’t think he has changed his opinion either. Closer to September 11, 2001, this would have made him popular. Also very sad.

See If torture works… « Prospect Magazine

A beautiful way to recycle maps and other old paper

Can be seen here (from the great blog, Thought for Food)

How Obama will pivot off the GOP preoccupation with the national debt

Can likely be seen in this chart:

No doubt the Republicans will argue it another way, but if you are Obama, I am guessing he is going to argue for dropping the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250K, adding some sort of surtax for the Affordable Care Act, and try to shut down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more on this, and the graph, see: The 3-Word Phrase That Signals Obama’s Intentions on Taxes – Joshua Green – Politics – The Atlantic

Simply delicious: Tomato Sauce by Michael Ruhlman

Why should you make your own? Easy:

“50% more sauce, 50% of the cost, 100% more pleasure.”

Make something simple and delicious. Make this.

(Delicious photo of tomato sauce from the photostream of Aelle
(See photo for Creative Commons rights)

Applying the four laws of simplicity when almost everything is essential

Over at are the Four Laws of Simplicity, and How to Apply Them to Life.
First, the laws themselves:

1. Collect everything in one place.
2. Choose the essential.
3. Eliminate the rest.
4. Organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely.

Second, you can see how to apply them the zenhabits way by reading their article.
Third, you may find after reading that that it is harder than it appears. If so, here are some approaches to deal with this.

One approach to the “almost everything is essential” problem: get rid of big items. For example:

1. Collect everything in one place but do it on a piece of paper. Group essential things together. You can sketch this out: don’t try to list everything.
2. Choose the essential. Since everything is essential (you think), work hard at putting some big things in the non-essential pile. Go for things that take up alot of space, or take alot of time to manage. It may not be many things, but it could make a big difference.
3. Eliminate the rest. You know what to do.
4. Organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely. Having gotten rid of those big items, you should have room now.

Another approach to the “almost everything is essential” problem: get rid of duplicate items. For every item you have multiples of, pick one of them to be essential and get rid of the rest.

A third approach is to either deep store or lend out items. When you do, write down on a list somewhere what you dealt with this way. You will likely find in six months or a year you haven’t missed them.

A fourth approach is keep like things together. That way, if you cannot get rid of things this time, at least when you eventually have to, you have already achieved the first step of having everything in one place. Also, you likely will find from the way you use things that some things you use all the time are essential and other things are not since you never use them.

A fifth approach to eliminating things is to say: how hard/expensive would it be to replace a certain item? If the cost is negligible for you, get rid of it. Better yet, lend it out, give it as a gift, recycle it into something else.

What is the KO Hip-Hop Cello-Beatbox Experience?

One great performance and something that you want to experience.

Here’s Julie-O.

YouTube – The KO Hip-Hop Cello-Beatbox Experience: Julie-O

Are you using Dropbox to store confidential data?

Then you might want to read this: How to Keep Dropbox Employees’ Hands Off Your Data – ReadWriteCloud.  There’s some limitations there that you should be aware of. If you have serious concerns after reading this, the article also has alternative solutions/services for you to consider.

Worth a look.

Side Projects: Micah Lexier + Christian Bok work side by side

Speaking of side projects, here’s a great example of artist collaboration featuring the work of Micah Lexier + Christian Bok side by side (from  BOOOOOOOM!)


I am a big fan of Micah Lexier, and given the bike rack and the telephone pole, I am sure this is taken in Toronto.

Work getting stale? Maybe you need a side project! Here’s some ideas.

To which you might say: great idea! But what can I do? One thing I do when I am stuck for ideas is look at what others have done or are doing. Here’s a great list from the blog swissmiss that you can possibly use as a source of inspiration. Good luck! Let me know what you started!

Move over Joy of Sex…it’s the Joy of Cycling!

A most brilliant adaptation:

A bigger version, with details on the poster, is here: The Joy of Cycling.

Kudos to Jamie Wieck for this.

Midweek music: Aloe Blacc – Loving You Is Killing Me

Is it too soon to post another Aloe Blacc video? No I didn’t think so either. 🙂

Not only is Blacc great, but the kid in this video is phenomenal. Super stuff.

YouTube – Aloe Blacc .-. Loving You Is Killing Me ( official video )

Syria and the utter cluelessness of Vogue

This profile of Asma al-Assad, wife of the Syrian dictator, is remarkable. In fact, it’s hard to read it and not think it was written with tongue in cheek! I mean, to read things like:

Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote.

Why yes, 97 percent is startling! Except when you are a dictator, of course, which is what the Assads were and are.

After reading that concoction, head back to reality and  read this:  Syria News – Protests (2011) in the Here’s a key passage:

The country’s president is Bashar al-Assad, the son of Hafez al-Assad, who ruled with an iron hand for three decades before his death in 2000. The Assads belonged to the Allawite sect, a minority that came to hold most of the top positions in the government and military. Under Hafez al-Assad, Syria was reviled in the West for its support of terrorist groups and generally isolated even from more moderate Arab countries. Bashar al-Assad from time to time made gestures toward greater openness. But it remained one of the region’s most repressive regimes.

If you want to learn more about the Assads, one place you can start is here: Hama massacre

If you want to learn what life is like for the aristocracy, especially what it is like before the revolutions occur, read Vogue.

How to shop for groceries – some unusual but useful tips

Sounds simple, but after seeing this tip, Use a Binder Clip to Hold Your Grocery List in Your Cart, I thought I’d add some more tips:

  1. Shop along the perimeter first. The deals should be at the end of each aisle, for one thing. For another, the essentials tend to be on the
    perimeter of the store: vegetables, meat, dairy, grain all tend to be there. Those are the things you should be buying the most of for healthiest eating. For another, by the time you get through the permeter, you may be too tired to impulse buy.
  2. Take your own music. Musak in grocery stores will rot your brain. Seriously. Get your own earphones and drown it out. If you find grocery shopping stressful, play relaxing music. If you want to get in and out, play fast music. But listening to bad grocery store music just makes the whole experience worse.
  3. Wear sunglasses. This sound ridiculous I know, but most groceries stores are overly lit and if you are in them enough you might get a headache.
  4. If you go with a child, establish a limit of impulse buys. Same goes for yourself. If the limit is one or two, and you now have three, put one back. For you, try this: don’t put it in your basket, but say “I will come back for it later”. If you really want it, you will. If you are too tired or even forget about it, chances are you didn’t need it.
  5. Don’t shop at eye level. The inexpensive and non-impulse buy food will be lower. You’ll be amazed at what you see down on the bottom shelves.
  6. Pick the best times to shop. If you don’t know, ask the store manager and the manager of the check-out clerks. They should know exactly what the busiest time are. Also, ask them things like: when does new food shipment arrive? when do things go on sale and why? Things like that. 
  7. Practice your deep breathing skills. My grocery store is designed to almost always have lineups. When I get to one, I practice things like improving my posture, deep breathing, what have you. If you are going to be stuck in line and you know it, prepare for it so it is productive and not frustrating.

How to interpret the S&P warning on U.S. debt outlook

Andrew Sullivan has rounded up the response of various pundits
here. I think the best response is from Matt Yglesias:

There are two metrics to keep an eye on when assessing American debt. One is the interest rate the Treasury has to offer to get people to buy the debt. Currently that number is low. The other is the “spread” between bonds that are indexed for inflation and bonds that aren’t indexed for inflation which serves, among other things, as a gauge of market assessment of the risk that we’ll have no choice but to inflate the debt away. Currently that number, too, is low.

Why Paul Ryan’s and the GOP’s budget plan is neither serious nor brave

Speaking of Ayn Rand admirers, Paul Ryan has been lauded recently for his budget plan. He and his budget do not deserve it. James Fallows, in the Atlantic, takes it apart dispassionately in this post: The Brave and Serious Mr. Ryan.

I will give Ryan credit for coming up with a much more detailed budget than the GOP had put together previously. And no doubt it will be the starting point for further discussion, not the final material that will result in a budget, and I am sure he put it together with that in mind. That said, it is, as Fallows said, “gimmicky” and “partisan”. Something brave and serious would be neither of those things.

Who is Ayn Rand?

With the release of a new movie based on her book, “Atlas Shrugged”, there’s been alot written  about the film, her book and the author herself. Depending on the beliefs of the author, she was either a genius or a crackpot (or worse). I think this line from Donald L. Luskin, in his article , Remembering the Real Ayn Rand, in the, sums up her appeal:

Rand was not a conservative or a liberal: She was an individualist. “Atlas Shrugged” is, at its heart, a plea for the most fundamental American ideal—the inalienable rights of the individual.

And I think that is why Rand, whatever her faults, is raised up by her admirers: she extols the value of individualism.

My new article on the web site, the 99 percent

Can be seen here:  How Influential Are You? :: Tips :: The 99 Percent.    I’d appreciate any feedback you can provide.

And if you like that, perhaps you’d like the other article that I wrote for that site: The Medium Isn’t The Message, People Are. :: Tips :: The 99 Percent

Tom Plaskon on good iPhone apps

My colleague Tom has put together this list: Some of My Favorite iPhone Apps.

And not only is it a good list, but he explains why you should get them. Well worth a look, both for the list of apps as well as Tom’s posterous blog itself.

What Shakespeare and David Foster Wallace and James Joyce have in common

The way they write excites your brain. In a nutshell:

It is Shakespeare’s inventions–particularly his deliberate syntactic errors like changing the part of speech of a word–that excite us, rather than confuse us.

See This is Your Brain on Shakespeare | How to Think Like Shakespeare at Big Think for more on what great writers do to your brain.

P.S. Anyone looking to excite people with their writing or presentation material would do well to read this. We are not Shakespeare, yet we can tweak the brains of others if we try.

Speed Dating, Geek Style

This truly made me LOL!

From 9GAG – Speed dating

How I get my inbox down to “Inbox Zero” every day

You might think: that’s impossible?! You must not get an email!!

Well, I get a fair amount of email every day. This is how I deal with it.

First off, I go through and delete all the email I don’t need to work on and don’t need to keep a record of.  That helps alot.

Second, I go through all the email I don’t need to work on but DO need to keep a record of. I select that email and then have a Lotus Notes agent file all that information.

Finally, I go though the email I have remaining and write out my todo list for the day. I reply to the email I need to reply to right away, and I file the rest. The point is to work off the Todo list, not use the Inbox as a todo list, for it is a very inefficient one at best.

For people who use Lotus Notes, here are the details:

1) I select all my email and mark it all unread. Now I have an inbox full of Red. I change the setting from View All to View Unread.

2) I go through the list and click Insert on all the email I want to file. As I do this, my Inbox starts to decrease. I can do this very quickly.

3) I select all on the remaining Unread items and then have an agent move them to a temp directory.

4) I change the setting from View Unread to View All. These are all the emails I want to file.

5) I have two folders I file things. One is called File and one is MyCurrentProject. I sort by name and then select all the people from MyCurrentProject. That will be the bulk of my email, and mostly every email from someone on my project will pertain to my project. I have another agent that grabs all the email selected and throws them into the MyCurrentProject folder. Then I select the rest of the files and throw them into File with still another agent.

At this point my Inbox is down to Zero. I have one last agent that takes the files in the temporary folder and puts them back in my inbox. But I also could leave them in my temp folder and work on them from there.

The trick is not to have email hanging around. Treat email like dirt: the way to keep you inbox clean is to regularly sweep it out so the dirt doesn’t accumulate. 🙂

Lincoln’s Beard!

I must admit, when I was younger, I always thought Lincoln’s facial hair was odd. Why no mustache, I thought? I had it in my mind they must go together, and Lincoln must have looked odd to his contemporaries.

Turns out his beard was quite boring compared to some of these 25 Awesome Civil War Facial Hair Styles.

For example:

You can see more at Buzzfeed: just follow the link.

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this)

Great Monday Morning Music: Aloe Blacc – I Need A Dollar (and how it relates to Lauryn Hill)

I’ve heard Aloe Blacc’s “I Need A Dollar” and thought it a great song. It has a feel of some of the great songs of the 60s, which their mixture of protest and their blend of soul, funk and the blues. Now you should give it a listen, but you should also watch the video. It’s really well done, given that it is a split screen. That could be hackneyed, but the director does something interesting around half way through the song. Watch.

What’s fascinating to me is that one of my other favorite videos is Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing). It also uses split screen very well, and it also does a great job of revitalizing classic sounds in a current settings. See here:

A good introduction to Cloud Computing for IT professionals…

…can be found here at IBM developerWorks.

Besides being an IBM employee that works with alot of smart people on “Cloud”, I am a big fan of anything done by the folks at developerWorks, including this. Well worth a look.

What to wear – men’s shoes from Leffot (Spring 2011)

For extremely fine shoes, head over to Leffot in NYC. They were recently featured in The Sartorialist, but their blog and their web site has alot more detail. Simply amazing shoes, from casual ones like these:

To more formal styles like these:

Amazing. Go to their site. Better still, go to their store and get yourself some good shoes.

What is A great site you should visit!

What is it? As they say on their page:

Sparked is online volunteering for busy people. At Sparked, we’re driven to make volunteering convenient, fun, and full of impact. We call it “microvolunteering” because you can do it whenever and wherever you have time. And now, with Sparked Enterprise, you can get your whole office volunteering together!

I’ve been doing it for a few months now and I love it. I even got a write up on their blog for the work I did with their API! (Taking our API for its first Spin | Sparked Blog). I highly recommend you check them out and start microvolunteering yourself. How? Go here: – microvolunteering by The Extraordinaries – Team Volunteers

Thinking about Ownership

This article (Shareable: Changing Models of Ownership) and especially this image: a great way to think about ownership. I think this graph, which is symbolic, would change for different items. For some things, like cars, the burden curve might rise higher than a small object that gets stored away.

The article also talks about how digitization changes things. Well worth a read. (H/t to Swiss Miss blog).


From time to time in the U.S., people criticize TARP for bailing out the banks. This is stupid. Plain and simple. TARP stopped the Great Recession from becoming the Great Depression II. Not only that, it made money: TARP Bank Programs Turn Profit After Three Financial Institutions Repay $7.4 Billion.

People have all sorts of theoretical reasons for not liking TARP. The conclusion they come to is wrong. TARP delivered.

Monday Morning Music: Sophie Madeleine – The Rhythm You Started

Perfect for Monday morning: pop music that is upbeat and seems simple. I’ll bet, though, you’ll be thinking about it for some time after. The beats, the tempo changes, the layers of instrumentation, even the clapping, is really well done. The video’s fun, too. See/hear:

If you want to see more of Sophie Madeleine, her site is here: Sophie Madeleine