Monthly Archives: June 2011

What’s the story behind the Toronto florists on Av and Dav?

I have known about and purchased alot of flowers from The florists of Avenue and Davenport over the years, but I never knew much about them before this blogTO article by Robyn Urback came out. If you ever wondered about them, I recommend the article. And if you are looking for something nice to do this week (and you live in Toronto), why not treat yourself to a visit and a big bouquet. Afterwards you can cross the street and head over to the classic Avenue Road Diner for a bite, or wander further south and go to the Four Seasons for tea. Either way, you have seized the day in the best possible way.


Gnooks is great! You type in three of your favorite authors and it suggests more. You must try it, you literary types, you.

For me, I typed in WG Sebald, Graham Greene and AJP Taylor. It suggested more authors. It didn’t know Taylor, but of the ones it suggested, the ones I knew and liked were very accurate. And now I want to check out the authors I don’t know. Amazing.

Given that it didn’t know Taylor, I think it may be limited to fiction authors.

Here’s my summary: Gnod Summary

I’d be interested to know what anyone else’s results were.

If you are someone who loves good food, consider going to Cape Breton this summer. Here’s why.

It’s the 10-day Foodie Adventure that’s featured by Right Some Good. It’s at the end of August, 2011, and it will feature some great chefs preparing meals like this:

in various locations in Cape Breton (including my home town of Glace Bay). Cape Breton is great to visit any summer, but if you love great food, this may be the extra reason to get you to book your trip today. In the meantime, follow the link above to see what I am talking about.

Why you should never feed the trolls

From time to time I talk to people about trolls, and among other things, there is a frustration and desire to do something about righting the wrong caused by trolls. I know, partially from my own experience, that that is wrong and you must follow one of the main guidelines of social media: Don’t Feed the Trolls.

An example of that can be seen here in this interview with this horrible woman known as Tamtampamela (Exclusive: The Japan Quake YouTube Troll Explains Herself – Technology – The Atlantic Wire).

What does she say?

“This is going to make me sound like a really bad person,” she began. “But I was kind of excited that all these people were angry because I am a troll and I enjoy getting a reaction out of people.”

Reaction is exactly what she got.

First off, it makes her sound like a bad person because she is a bad person. She would merely be an unknown loser if it wasn’t because she managed to get so many people riled up because they took her to be sincere but messed up. Instead, she’s a borderline sociopath. She has no guilt or remorse or doubt about any of the things she did. You could argue with her in her troll role and it would not have made a difference. Worse, you would have been just adding fuel to the troll’s bonfire. Best to let it go cold and let her and her kind be.

I watched a couple of her videos part way, and the visceral reaction I had for the first one was rage. Then I skipped over to the second one and laughed and thought: troll. Sure enough, she was. And I stopped watching her and laughed her off.

I do think she is a good vaccine for people who believe you can fight trolls and win. You can’t. Read about her and you should see why.

It’s Monday. You need something to drive your day/week. Here’s Girl Talk for ya:

And an fascinating study of Girl Talk too. What is Girl Talk? Well, it is the stage name of Gregg Michael Gillis, who is a master of the mashup. An d what I like about this site is you can follow along and see just how many sources he uses to make each track. It’s incredible for me. Mashing up Jimmy Smith, Cream and Notorious B.I.G. is just one of the eclectic mixes you’ll find here.

Girl Talk – All Day | toob

I should highly add that alot of the lyrics are NSFW. Alot! I recommend earphones.

Peter Falk, Wings of Desire, and the happiness with the simple things in life

Over at Open Culture they pulled this clip of Peter Falk from the film, Wings of Desire.

The man next to him is an angel that cannot be seen by Falk or the man behind the counter, but Falk senses that he is there. (Actually, Falk’s character was an angel who became a human, so perhaps that is why he has that awareness.)

What I like about this clip is how Peter Falk shows some of the joys of being alive. (The real life Falk apparently could draw as well).

This is one cool site. On economics (no less).

There’s alot to like about this site, The Other School of Economics. It has a nice layout and a good design, for one thing. More importantly is the content itself. As it states in its manifesto:

The Other School of Economics” is a (counter)-reference to the ‘Chicago School of Economics’. Reclaiming the agenda back, and creating a hub to articulate and shape some new ideas.

Well worth a read.

What should be on your short list: the tumblelog Give Me Something To Read

Give Me Something To Read is curation at it’s best. As it says, it’s “A hand-picked selection of the finest articles and essays saved with Instapaper“, and they are fine. What’s more, if you are busy, you can save them using Instapaper and read them later.

Give it a try. Perfect for summer reading.

Mad about plaid! Gingham, madras, windowpane, oh my :)

Seeing this great outfit in The Sartorialist (Prada, Milano) got me thinking about plaid.

Specifically it got me thinking about all the various types of plaid there are. I know alot of them, but for a great list, I turn you over to Alexander West’s site is a run down of the various patterns in men’s shirts (and suits, for that matter): Know your shirt fabric patterns | A Shirt Style Guide.

Now that summer is coming, the Madras plaid will be everywhere in men’s wear. But this windowpane plaid in this photo looks great too.

P.S. Glen plaid is short for Glen Urquhart plaid, the place where it came from.


Very cool! Scanner art (via @drawdrawdraw)

From Index : Pam et Jenny where you can see more of them.

If you’re feeling unproductive and don’t want to be, here’s 50 ways to shake that

With 50+ Personal Productivity Blogs You’ve Never Heard of Before (and about a dozen you probably have). I found this some time ago and likely one or two (or ten?) of them have disappeared. Alot will still be there. There must be one or two that could help kick start your productivity and get you back on track. Good luck.

I love this food blog (What Katie Ate)

Is What Katie Ate. And not just because of this divine looking chocolate cake:

The photos are great, but everything about it is awesome. Take a look.

Lovely Day

The GAP did alot more ads like this, but this one surpasses them all to me. I think it is the combination of the great song, fantastic dancing, and very attractive dancers. It also does something very well for an ad, and that is not only convince you of the coolness of GAP’s clothes, but they demonstrate how easy it is to move and live in them.

Have a lovely one.

YouTube – Gap Commercial – Khaki soul

The Internet: 1901!

Ok, not quite the Internet, but a fascinating look at the world network that existed over a century ago. Even in 1901 there was an extensive cabling and interconnecting of the world for communications. No doubt this was very impressive back in the day too.

(Map from sc-tech: A Map of Undersea Cables from …1901 !)

As a proud Cape Bretoner, I am happy to see Glen Breton single malt whisky do so well

Including winning some prestigious awards, as listed here: Glen Breton Wins Prestigious Awards | Taste of Nova Scotia. I wrote about them before, as they were being harassed by whisky makers in Scotland. I am glad to see they stuck it out and are doing well.

Sure, there are great single malts from Scotland. That goes without saying. But now you can get one from a local distiller. Would make an excellent Father’s Day gift, if you haven’t bought one already. (It can be found at the LCBO for sure.)

Speaking of low cost design ideas

This Italian group’s site has some fascinating Recession Design (2009-2010), that, even if you hate it, have to admit it is pretty ingenious. There’s a PDF as well that you can download that provides some designs on how you could make the items you see in the images that come with the site. I think it may be too functional for alot of North Americans, but the aesthetic is not that different from alot more high end, modern Italian furniture. Take a look.

5 Uses for Wood Pallets in the Home

It is surprising the number of articles that I come across that use wood pallets in creative ways. Here’s 5 more. (I like this in particular)

I find the more rustic the approach, the better it works. See the rest of the ideas here: 5 Uses for Wood Pallets in the Home | Apartment Therapy Los Angeles

Saturday Nite music: Melody Gardot & Herbie Hancock (Edith And The Kingpin)

I still love Joni Mitchell’s live version best, but this is really good.

Computers and older people or Did you hear a click?

This video is charming in itself:

But what I also like about it is that it shows that computers and the Internet are really a part of everyone’s life now. And that is something that I think is great. Everyone benefits from that. Including Frank and Rita, who are now, well, famous!

YouTube – Did you hear a click?

Why yes, I have created another blog and twitter account! Here’s why I set up the Ghost Chair blog

Anyone that sends out professional emails can blog about their profession. This is something I tell others all the time. Still, while I blog and tweet alot, not alot of it relates to my profession. I thought I should change that. I decided that if I am going to advise other people to do this, I should do it myself.  Therefore I set up this blog: The Ghost Chair – My thoughts on IT, over at I linked it to my twitter account bernie_michalik. Anything blogged will be referenced on that twitter account. I hope to blog there once a week about professional matters that I might discuss with clients or colleagues. Nothing is confidential or in violation of IBM’s employee guidelines. Now, if someone wants to follow me professionally, they can. My other twitter accounts and blogs are more experiments and personal. This new blog and twitter account will be more formal.

It’s called the Ghost Chair for two reasons. When I was doing more Web 2.0 work, our team had a blog called The Orange Chair in which we talked about social media and other Web 2.0 related activity. That blog is defunct now, but I liked how the title of this new blogs relates to the title of that old blog. I also like the Ghost Chair that Phillippe Starck designed. I am a huge fan of Starck, for one thing. And I like that chair because it combines the new and the old effortlessly. It is also something of a virtual chair that is transparent, yet still present. That relates to alot of the work that I have done in IT. I thought it was a great symbol for the blog. Hence the name.

I still plan to maintain my other blogs, etc. But I hope to post to this new blog at least weekly for the next year. Thanks, as always, for reading this.

How to really clean and tidy your house daily and quickly

This article, Daily Quick Cleaning Checklist in Real Simple led to a brilliant article mocking it, here: Clean the Whole House in 30 Minutes? We Tried It | The Stir. I agree with the Stir article: the times listed in Real Simple are unrealistic, to put it mildly.

Having tried and failed with the list in Real Simple, I came up with some other approaches that I thought might work better, room by room.

The kitchen: the trick in the kitchen is to keep it clean while you are making meals. This is tiring, but it also saves you time. So if you have the energy, first put away clean dishes. (Actually, before that, if you need to boil water for pasta or vegetables, start that now. The water will be boiling and ready by the time you need to do other things). This gives you more room to move. If you find yourself spending too much time moving things around, get rid of some of your dishes. It’s easy to accumulate dishes, but if you find yourself taking time every night moving dishes around to put other ones away, then either give away some things you have or store them some place else. Have your daily dishes in a spot that makes them easy to put away.

Second, get rid of dirty dishes. Put them in the dishwasher or in the sink of soapy water.

Now you have room to start cooking. If you brought home groceries, put away food that will spoil. Then start cooking. As things as cooking, clean out your fridge and cupboard of things you no longer need or want. Give the fridge a wipe, then store the non-perishable groceries that you have.

Speaking of giving the fridge a wipe, have the day to day cleaners in the kitchen, along with rags or sponges. You don’t want to have to retrieve them: that takes time and energy. At a minimum a spray bottle of all purpose cleaner and a good sponge will help with the basic cleanup.

Have a sink of soapy water ready for anything that can’t go in the dishwasher. As you finish with something, you can either wash it right away or at least place it in there to make it easy to clean later.

Is there any way you can cook for more than one day while you are cooking? If so, that will save you on the amount of time you are cooking and cleaning pots and dishes tomorrow or the next day. Try that.

The dining room: if you have kids, make sure they pick up their own toys before they eat or watch TV or do anything with friends or anything fun. Also have them set the table or tidy up the table, chairs, etc. Consider rewards, since let’s face it: cleaning sucks for kids, too. If they don’t clean up, you can get their stuff in the Sweep. (see below).

When you serve food, use a tray and bring a big bowl and food containers. Why? At the end of the meal, store leftovers from the meal right in the containers at the table. Then scrape any compostable material right in the bowl and dump in the compost (or garbage if you don’t have it). Finally, use the tray to bring it all in with one trip, versus three or four. No place to put the tray? Leave it on the floor during the meal: it’s your family, not the Royal Family.

If you can, have cleaning products in the dining room too. Or have it in the kitchen and bring it in with the tray. You can give everything a wipe after the meal is done.

The bathroom: like the other rooms, have cleaning products standing by. If you have no room for them, then bring them with you at night when you go brush your teeth. Brush your teeth, floss, etc., then give everything a wipe down.

The bedrooms: if you can, get a nice duvet or comforter to make bedmaking a breeze. Clothes lying around? Put away the clean ones right away, of course. Think about what you want to wear before you do in the morning will mean you have less clothes lying around. Also, make your bed before you get dressed, to encourage you to keep the room tidy, and also have a surface to lay clothes out.  Dirty clothes? We’ll get to those in a minute.

The living room and things in general (or, The Sweep): one way to keep the living room and other rooms neat and tidy is The Sweep. Grab a basket (e.g. laundry basket) and some rags/sponges and cleaning products. Go through the living room and other rooms and sweep up books, papers, clothes, toys, etc. Spot clean as you go. At the end, dump off the dirty clothes in the laundry area, reshelve books, stack (or toss) papers, and have a common area for kids toys and put them there.

Other general tips:

Have space to store stuff: tidying takes time because it takes too much time to put things away. Create spaces to put things away, and have those spaces easy to access.

Have space to store cleaning stuff: the less energy it takes to get cleaning supplies, the easier it is to clean. If you have very little space, organize a bucket or bin with a handle full of cleaning stuff and rags. It will make it easier to clean.

Don’t let things build up: that just makes jobs harder. The flip side to this is waste. Running the dishwasher every day even if it is 3/4 full or less will likely save you time, but waste energy. Likewise, you may find yourself with cleaning products all over the place. But the thing you are trying to save is time. You need to balance the waste of one thing vs another.

Make it enjoyable: cleaning and tidying is likely not fun for you (it isn’t for me). But try to make it so.  Put on good music. Have a drink you like to drink. Make it a workout. Talk to someone while you are doing it. Sing a song. Whatever it takes. Also, think about how much easier it will be to find things or do other things if it is clean and tidy.

Get others to help you: this is obvious, but still.

Have less stuff:
if all the stuff you have means you spend alot of time taking care of it, is it really worth it. At the very least, move it out of the way of your daily path in order to streamline your life. Also, use up stuff. Do you really need all that food in your pantry? If you bought paper napkins, why aren’t you using them? Etc.

Prioritize it, but don’t make it your first priority: you want to keep the place clean. But you don’t want to spend all your time doing it. Also, you have other more important responsibilities. Therefore, look for shortcuts. Simplify your meals. Timebox your cleaning effort: if you are pressed for time or tired, give yourself a period of time and clean as much as you can in that time, then acknowledge you need to move on and do it.

Make it worthwhile: when things are the way you like it, take time to appreciate it. Hey, if you don’t, then you are missing out a big reason to spend all that time and energy.

The “appearance” of dark matter – the hunt for the elusive stuff gets warmer

First off, if you don’t know what dark matter is, Technology Review gives a description:

The universe is filled with mysterious invisible stuff that refuses to interact with light. It doesn’t reflect, emit or absorb light. But astronomers know it is there because of its gravitational effect on the visible stuff. They call it dark matter.

But there is a problem. If dark matter exists (and on this blog we’ve looked at a number of alternative ideas), there ought to be a lot of it out there. Astronomers estimate that 83 percent of the mass of the universe should take this form. The rest, a mere 17 percent, is visible.

So where is all this stuff? It should permeate the Solar System, the Earth and our environment. And yet when physicists look for it, they find zip.

More importantly, it seems that some scientists are coming up with consistent ways of discovering it. For more on this news, go here.

Back to the future of advertising: 2001 ads for HAL and Pan Am

Over at is a pointer to fake 2001 ads for HAL and Pan Am. Nice IBM touches in the one for HAL, including the use of the “eight bar” font for HAL (which makes sense, since HAL = IBM by shifting one letter to the left).

Brutalism architecture in Toronto and elsewhere

In this article, Reviving Fort Book, in the Toronto Standard, Alex Bozikovic does a great job going from talking about the current renovations underway on the Robarts Library in Toronto to talking about Brutalism in general. If you are not familiar with this architectural style, try this article, then head over to Wikipedia for more on the topic, here.

I believe over time alot of these structures will be demolished. See and think about them while you have the chance.

Some thoughts on the new Apple HQ and how it reminds me of two IBM facilities designed by Eero Saarinen

I hadn’t thought of it, until I read this Iconic design for Apple headquarters could transform Silicon Valley landscape – San Jose Mercury News, and came across this comment:

San Jose architecture critic Alan Hess also questioned the function of “this huge circle.”

“How are people inside going to communicate?” he asked. “Are they going to be walking around miles and miles of corridors to get to a conference room or use an internal tram system? Maybe they will rely on computer connections.”

When I first thought of this, I thought, yeah, how will they do that. But then I remembered that IBM has two facilities, both designed by the great architect, Eero Saarinen, that have similarities to the new Apple HQ. The IBM facility in Rochester, MN, is very boxy, but it has great courtyards, just like the new Apple HQ has, and employees often go out into them to meet. The other facility that Saarinen designed for IBM was the T.J. Watson research center, and that is a big curve that also has similarities to the new Apple HQ (though it is a curve and not a circle.). Still, despite that long curve, IBM employees have no trouble communicating with each other at Watson, and hardly need a huge tram to meet.

I once read that Steve Jobs wanted Pixar to have one washroom area, for by having that, employees would bump into each other and be more likely to mix and mingle and share. I think the central courtyard in the middle of the new HQ serves the same purpose: employees will be bumping into each other all the time as they cut through it to meet people elsewhere.

I like the design of the new Apple HQ, and while it reminds me of the IBM facilities, it will be architecturally unique.

My idiosyncratic thoughts on Apple’s announcements at WWDC 2011

Apple sells itself well. That strikes me every time they make announcements. Does any company get the same coverage for product announcement that they do? There’s lots of reasons to account for it, but their ability to get people’s attention is impressive in itself, regardless of what they announce.

Data Centers are sexy again. When Google or others build data centers, they are admired for various reasons, but most people never talk about them. Apple makes them interesting, just like it does with all of its technology. However, like alot of its hardware these days, I suspect it will “disappear”, or I should say, fade into the background.

Apple brings the same “easy” quality to the Cloud that it does to their other
devices.  This is remarkable to me. In a sense, Apple will treat the
cloud like it treats the personal computer or the handheld mobile
device. This will set a high bar for others. That said, Apple has strong
competition with Amazon and Google, to name their current competion listed in their Keynote slides. The winners here will be the consumer.

Apple is displacing the Web.  Not the Internet, but the Web. They are not the only one, of course: Facebook is doing this too. But their current strength is in Apps and the Cloud, and those are not the Web. I don’t mean to imply this is a bad thing. It remains to be seen what the effect of this is. But their technologies are disruptive to the Web and could displace it. This is not surprising: new technologies displace old technologies all the time; why should the Web be any different?

Who could have predicted Apple would become such a large employer of developers? Because of the App Store, $2.5 billion has been paid out to developers. Those are developers who would have likely have made $0 on their software. Not only that, but I think Apple has encouraged people who might not have bothered to develop software to make the effort. This is also impressive to me.

Apple’s competion is now Google and Walmart. Did you see it mention IBM or HP or Microsoft? All the companies mentioned in their slides were mostly non-IT. Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy: those are the companies that Apple is competing with now.

Apple stoops to conquer. Apple has done a good job of reducing the price of technologies and products in order to be successful. Once it was a given that there was an “Apple Tax” on their stuff. Now they have no problem with going head to head and even undercutting competition when they want to win. The latest version of that is the price of iCloud. Mobile Me was $99. iCloud? Free. They announced a number of other products as well, all with low costs. It will get harder and harder to beat Apple on price. They are stooping (in terms of price) to conquer (the markets they want).

Media makes Apple sexy, and Apple is great at associating themselves with media that lends sexiness to them. They feature the coolest music and other media and the association rubs off on them. That’s not to say they aren’t sexy, but they borrow as well.

Lots of focus on Lion. The Mac is still important, and not just because of sales. I suspect it will be as long as Steve Jobs is around. iOS is the growth OS, while Mac OS X is the stable OS. Even the version is stable, save for the big cat designation. (Compare that to the operating system drama over at Microsoft.) Alot of the features of the platforms seems to be converging according to my very limited viewpoint. Apple has done a great job with that.

Anyway, those are my idiosyncratic thoughts on Apple’s announcements. Needless to say, these are my opinions and have nothing to do with those of my employer.

For some great notes and photos of the event, see: WWDC 2011 liveblog: Steve Jobs talks iOS 5, OS X Lion, iCloud and more! — Engadget

Monday morning kick out the jams and get busy music: a great guitar cover of Daft Punk’s Derezzed

Missing your morning coffee? This will get you going:

YouTube – Daft Punk – Derezzed Guitar Cover (Tron)

The pink bike: the challenge of public art (some thoughts on how to make it work better)

Boing Boing has a great story about how a Toronto artist, who turned an abandoned bike into sculpture, ended up being threatened by the city for “storing bike on public property”.

The article is well worth a read.

My own two cents is that the artist did a great job, and is to be commended. However, I also appreciate the municipality’s view. What would be great would be some in-the-middle decision, but right now, I don’t see that.

Some potential thoughts on this: any bike left in a spot longer than a reasonable period of time should be taken by the City. It could then either be picked up at a depot by the owner with appropriate credentials, and if it wasn’t, a program could be set up to clean up the bikes and provide them to kids who don’t have a bike but could use one.

I also think that the city should provide spaces for visual artists, just like it provides spaces for food vendors and musicians. Artists could apply to put installations and sculptures in parts of the city for a period of time. If we had such a program, the pink bike could apply for it. Likewise, we could have graffiti parks, public boxframes for visual artists, etc. I would love to see that sort of program become available. The city could use more art, and artists can always use more venues to display their great work.

My latest Diana F+ photos


I’ve posted my latest photos from, taken with my Diana F+ camera. With all the digital software to simulate toy camera (e.g. Instagram), why am I still using a Diana camera? The simple reason is that I have a Blackberry, not an iPhone or even a new iPod Touch. If I did, I might use them. Even then, I would still use my Diana. I like the camera itself: it’s a tool, and like any good tool, it puts me in mind of taking good photos when I use it. Secondly, I enjoy the process of getting the photos developed and printed. In a way, it is like getting a surprise present. True, I pay for it myself, therefore it is a present to myself! 🙂 However, I don’t consider the expense to be very much. The other thing about the cost and the time it takes to get them developed is that I am more particular about what I photograph, which makes me take better photos. And since I get better photos, I consider the few dollars I spend a good deal. I treat them like paintings or drawings, not records. That gives me some rather nice artwork for not much money.