Monthly Archives: September 2011

HTML….for babies?

When I first saw this photo:

from the blog, curiosity counts,, I thought it was just a joke. But no! Here’s the link to where you can buy it from Amazon! Madness! 🙂

What’s the difference between the Amazon Kindle Fire, the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Blackberry Playbook

Well, you can see how they compare here, thanks to this nice chart from here: Tablets comparison | Pic | Gear

So you want to make an eBook? Good news! It’s easy (at least the publishing part is)


Now, coming up with good material for an eBook is not so easy, but if you want to know How To Make An eBook, then Smashing Magazine has lots of good information to get you going. If you’re worried you will need alot of technical ability, relax. As they say:

Making an eBook is easy, regardless of your coding experience. This is good, because 99.9% of your time should be spent on writing and getting your book out there, rather than on technology.

I highly recommend this Smashing Magazine article. It is packed with good information.

Black Boys on Mopeds and other songs inspired by and against Thatcher

It’s odd: I was thinking about this on the weekend, how Margaret Thatcher inspired many things, from riots to…well, great songwriting. The NYTimes.com has this article covering the same thing here (The Iron Lady as Anti-Muse), including A Small Sampling of Anti-Thatcher Songwriting here.

Sadly, they miss one of the better ones by Sinead O’Connor. Here’s a great version of

P.S. One of the things that is amazing about O’Connor, among others, is how the camera can do a tight close up on her face and hold it for along time while she sings. She has a great face, and the emotion that she brings to her songs shines out while she sings them. It’s fantastic.

 

 

All of your photo belong to us! A simple chart showing how Facebook dominates photography

From this post, How many photos have ever been taken? | 1000memories comes this chart:

When I first saw that, I thought: that can’t be right. But the author of the post makes a strong case for it.

Staggering.

What can you do with bottle caps? If you are artist Mary Ellen Croteau, something remarkable

Here’s Mary Ellen Croteau and her Bottle Cap Portrait:

If you go over to Colossal, you can see more detail of the portrait (it’s ALOT of bottle caps), as well as get more background on it, and a link to her site as well.

My son is collecting bottle caps now, making this even more appealing to me.

The economics of modeling and why it is alot like professional sports

Reading this, Chloë Schama Reviews Ashley Mears’s “Pricing Beauty” in The New Republic, I came across this:

The greater supply of models has prompted a contraction in rates—even for high-end work—to shockingly low levels. The average magazine shoot, for example, pays about $100 a day. For appearing on the cover of Vogue a model gets an additional $300. “Many magazines,” writes Mears, “pay nothing at all, though lunch and snacks are often provided.” (I’m guessing that most models don’t gain real compensation through snacking.) Payment for walking in a Fashion Week show in London (where rates, admittedly, are lower than in other cities) is $500. The median income across America in 2009 for a model was $27,330—income that includes no benefits.

It’s true that a rare group of models can make incredible amounts of money. But it seems for most, it is a glamourous but low paying job. In a way, it reminds me of professional sports. It too attracts a great supply of people, driving down the cost for most. The few that make it can make alot of money (just like super models), but there are many more in the minor leagues toiling away for little or nothing.

There’s nothing wrong with doing what you love, and if you love modeling or sports, then you should pursue it. But models, like athletes, should be aware that the chance of riches is very small.

The end of buttons, knobs and switches

When I saw this post (A Smarter Planet — New Touchscreen Thermostat for Smarter Homes) and realized that even thermostat are going touch screen:

Then I have to think that this is end of devices with buttons, knobs and switches. Or keypads, for that matter. There will likely be a few, but if a common device like a thermostat can have a touch screen, I think this will be the norm for everything very soon.

Some thoughts on the complexities of governing in the United States (or why John Boehner is boxed in)


There’s a good article here on why the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Can’t Make The House Work.

The article really shows the challenge American federal politicians have in promoting and passing legislation. Not only must any legislation get through both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but it must also get past the veto of the President. (Not to mention it must not be found unconstitutional by the various courts up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court.) I recommend the article highly.

There is another issue not touched on here. And that is that John Boehner the politician is boxed in. I think Boehner has to try to govern with not only the majority of the majority. He also has to heed  a minority of Republicans in the House that are associated with the Tea Party and whom act like they have a veto. I think that Boehner believes that if he does not acquiesce to them, then he will lose his job as Speaker to someone who will. The result is that he is a much weaker Speaker than any Speaker in along time. Weaker than Pelosi or Hastert, and certain weaker than DeLay or O’Neill. (Gingrich went from hero to zero after 1998 and wasn’t so much weak as dead after the revolt.) He barely can get enough votes at any given time to scrap together a majority and keep his job.

By the way, this shows too the complexity of governing in the United States. There are so many gates, both formal and informal. I think this is bewildering to most people. Indeed, alot of the time I see people complain, saying things like: “why doesn’t the President do something?”; and being totally ignorant of the fact that the President can’t even formally initiate any legislation. He can work with the House and the Senate to initiate something he approves of and would not veto, but it is up to them to do that. And it is up to the leaders in the House and the Senate to gauge whether or not they even want to take it up. If they don’t, the President can rail all he wants, but to no avail. (The president does have other means to effect change, and he has alot of power in foreign matters, but his power is limited in terms of setting domestic legislation.)

Americans, certainly American columnists, need to have a better awareness of how their system of government works. It’s not a dictatorship or a monarchy, and its doesn’t operate the way the governments of Britain or Canada operate. It’s a good form of government, albeit one not conducive to getting a lot done quickly and easily, unless in catastrophic times.

When does autumn start? It depends….

I was surprised reading this, A CUP OF JO: First day of fall, that the first day of fall is actually tomorrow, the 23rd. I thought it always fell on the 21st! According to this, the date moves around quite a bit. Usually Fall/Autumn starts on September 22, but in 2011, 2014 and 2015, it falls 🙂 on the 23rd.

Good to know.

 (Image linked to from A Cup of Jo.)

The diseases that kill are the ones we know

While new and exotic diseases are frightening, the ones to worry about are the ones we already well know, based on this article (Global health: Developing diseases | The Economist) and this chart:

I suspect as the developing world gets richer, mortality due to non-communicable diseases (NCD) will grow to become a greater cause of death. And yet this is a partially a good thing, because when it comes to NCDs, each of us can take action to delay or deflect or prevent some of them. Much more so than poor people in developing countries struggling with communicable diseases, I suspect.

(Found via Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Thanks!)

A great example of how games and gamification can solve real world problems


There’s a great story over at TPM Idea Lab about how an AIDS Puzzle Solved By Computer Gamers.  That may seem far fetched, but

As fanciful as it may sound at first, gamers on Foldit, a crowdsourced, online protein folding simulator from the University of Washington, actually managed to solve a longstanding problem in AIDS research that has vexed scientists for more than a decade. And they did so in about 10 days.

Three players in particular were able to build upon each other to establish the most accurate model to date of an elusive protease enzyme in the AIDS-like Mason-Pfizer monkey virus.

I think alot of credit has to go not only to the impressive gaming skills of the players, but the scientists that came up with the game. I would love to see more instances of this.

For more on the story, with links to those wanting more detail, click through to TPM.

Why we will not have inflation, Volcker-Era or otherwise, in the West for 20 years

Matt Yglesias has a good post over at ThinkProgress on Paul Volcker Denouncing the Return To Volcker-Era Inflation. It’s worth a read, but it misses the bigger picture. Indeed, if I were younger, like Yglesias, I would agree that an inflation rate of 3% is a good thing. It boosts the economy, decreases unemployment, and potentially lifts up your salary. But I am not younger, and furthermore, a big part of the world demographic is older than him or me (i.e., baby boomers) and they hate inflation. If you are a baby boomer, you likely have a limited income based on a pension or savings. You likely already have paid for your house and many of your other major expenditures. You are not all that worried about high unemployment because you are retired. What you are worried about is inflation. You want prices to be stable or even dip if possible. Any politician that supports a policy that drives up inflation is going to suffer. Add that to alot of central bankers that also hate inflation, and what you have is a formula for very low inflation for years, if not decades to come.

Inflationary spikes can come from other sources (e.g. fuel), but core inflation is going to stay low as long as you have a population dominated by older people.

Here’s inflation/CPI for the last 30 years in the US

Volcker and other central bankers in the West broke the back of inflation in the early 80s. Since then, demographics and shifts in manufacturing from the developed to the developing world (i.e. offshoring) have worked together to keep it down. In 20 years there will be a dying off of most of the baby boomers combined with wage increases in the developing world that will work together to drive up inflation. (Also, global warming will affect the CPI). But until then, inflation will stay low for some time to come.

The dangers of using social media in Mexico

As this article in The Economist shows, blogging and tweeting can get your in trouble with either the criminals or the state. And not just minor trouble: some people were tortured to death, while others were threatened with 30 years in jail.

Sunday night music: Chaka Khan & Mary J Blige do “Sweet Thing”

You know what to do: click Play.

Chaka Khan & Mary J.blige ” Sweet Thing ” – YouTube

The past, present and future of the BSoD (Blue Screen of Death)

According to Buzzblog: the Blue Screen of Death gets a new look in Windows 8. It will look like this, apparently:

Where one time the BSoD assumed minimal screen quality and therefore came only in text form, Windows 8 must assume a screen resolution high enough to handle something “fancier”. Here’s hoping you won’t see too many of this screen (though I secretly enjoy seeing ad display systems sporting it whenever I am out and about in the city.)

For more on the history of the BSoD (which has been around since OS/2), click through to Buzzblog.

September – Gerhard Richter – 9/11

Gerhard Richter painted this in 2005.

It epitomizes much of both his work and the day.

For more on this painting, see  September – A History Painting by Gerhard Richter – The Ticket – TV & Entertainment – Mirror.co.uk

Regardless of the upcoming weather, remember this…

As a winter runner, I totally agree.

(Ok, I agree to around -25 degrees Celsius. :))

Image from http://www.polarnopyretusa.com/outerwear, linked here: OUTERWEAR.

Thanks to Cup of Jo for this.

The Euro (and Europe) is on the brink

There’s a good article here (Germany moves fast to ease ECB tension – The Globe and Mail) highlighting the dramatic story unfolding in European finance. Nothing comes across as straightforward. Juergen Stark was likely pushed or felt compelled to resign in order for the ECB to push forward with shoring up some of the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain). However, it also looks like one of those countries, Greece, is going to get pushed out of the Euro. The trick now will be if all this can calm down the bond markets and allow Spain and even Italy to recover. Otherwise it could be a catastrophe that damages the economies of a number of European countries and wipes out the the financial system there as it now exists.

Vintage B-52s

I remember when the B-52s first came out: they were unique in some ways, yet they were this bizarre twisted version of the 50s nostalgia that the 70s was awash with. There was nothing like them before, and I’d say there hasn’t been anything like them since.

Surprisingly, this video of their act before their first album shows that they already had their act down cold before they became famous. They got better clothes and makeup, but their performances were already worked out.

There’s a number of videos of them at the Downtown Cafe in Atlanta in 1978. Here’s Dance This Mess Around:

But “52 Girls” and “Rock Lobster” is there as well.

One amazing photo of Saturn

As Yahoo! News reports, this photo was

Taken by NASA’s Cassini robotic orbiter, (and) the shot was captured from the dark side of Saturn as the Sun’s bright rays illuminated every piece of dust and debris circling the planet.

The indefatigable Karl Lagerfeld reinvents fashion again, this time with Macy’s

And the The Globe and Mail has an Q&A with him and it’s really good.

If you don’t know much about Lagerfeld, you might have this impression:

Some might expect Karl Lagerfeld, creative director for Chanel and Fendi, to be intimidating. The Paris-based designer, with his signature black gloves, skin-tight pants and sunglasses, is considered one of the most influential people in fashion as a designer, craftsman and general tastemaker

Instead, he’s more like this:

he laughs often during interviews, doesn’t take himself too seriously and jokes as he shows off his iPhone case, which features a sketch of himself on the back.

And now he has a new line out with Macy’s in the $50-$170 price range. You might think it’s just something he tossed off, but like everything he does, there is attention to detail. Speaking of detail, there is alot in the Globe’s interview. He continues to be impressive, not just for his fashion, but the effort and drive he continues to put into the high quality work that he does.

What’s happening in the book biz? The Economist has a great rundown

The Economist has a good rundown on what is happening with the book business these days. It starts off with this:

TO SEE how profoundly the book business is changing, watch the shelves. Next month IKEA will introduce a new, deeper version of its ubiquitous “BILLY” bookcase. The flat-pack furniture giant is already promoting glass doors for its bookshelves. The firm reckons customers will increasingly use them for ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome—anything, that is, except books that are actually read.

From there it goes through all the changes going on, and how this is transforming the business. Well worth reading. I know here in Canada the big book seller Indigo has been transforming their stores and their business by moving away from books and selling more home furnishings. Just one more example of how things are playing out.

Wim Wenders’ new film, PINA (in 3D no less) is here

Here’s the synopsis of his new film:

PINA is a film for Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders. The feature-length dance film was shot in 3D with the ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch and shows the exhilarating and inimitable art of the great German choreographer who died in the summer of 2009, inviting the viewer on a sensual, visually stunning journey of discovery into a new dimension: right onto the stage of the legendary ensemble and together with the dancers beyond the theater, into the city and the surrounding industrial landscape of Wuppertal – the place that was the home and center of Pina Bausch’s creative life for more than 35 years.

It’s 3D for grown-ups! Also, great dancing. You can see the trailer in 2D below:

Your kid is going to ask you for help with math homework. Sadly, you suck at math. This can help.


I haven’t checked this book out yet, but right now, it’s free. If you suck at math, but you still want to help your child, you owe it to yourself to check this out: It’s Back to School for Everyone with “MATH FOR GROWNUPS” – get the ebook FREE today through 9/10! | Adams Media.

And hey, you likely suck at math alot less than you think. Ignore what people told you way back when.

Why smart wine makers should be heading to Nova Scotia to make quality wine

I was annoyed when I first read this article by Beppi Crosariol (Surprise! One of Canada’s best wines is from Nova Scotia – The Globe and Mail). I normally like him, and I don’t think he is a snob, but what annoyed me was the tone of the article, as if to say “can you believe Nova Scotia of all places is making great wine”. Actually I can, and if you are someone who wants to find a place to start your own winery, you should be smart and consider buying land and starting in Nova Scotia. Here’s why:

  1. Microclimates: I was not surprised to see that winery in question, Benjamin Bridge, is located in the Annapolis Valley. It may be a surprise to everyone mentioned in the article, but everyone from Nova Scotia knows that the Valley has always had a better climate than most of the province. Spring comes earlier and winter comes later. Temperature are generally milder. The growing conditions in other ways are good too: the Valley is known for it’s apple orchards and other farms. It’s no surprise grapes will grow well there too. But it’s not just in the Valley. Take a look at the map of Nova Scotia wine country. The wine regions are either inland or in the case of LaHave River Valley, tucked away in a cove. Those areas are sheltered from the harsher weather associated with being next to the North Atlantic. There are lots of locations like that in Nova Scotia. If someone were to look around, they could find many more, I’ll bet. You might not be able to do that in Cape Breton, but that’s ok: they are making award winning single malt scotch whisky there.
  2. Latitude: southern Nova Scotia has a latitude of 45 degrees. So does northern Italy and southern France. Obviously there is more to winemaking than that, but it shows that Nova Scotia is not at the “Arctic Circle”.
  3. Global warming: as a kid growing up in Cape Breton, I used to review the seed catalogs and was disappointed with how many seeds were not recommended for Cape Breton because of the climate. One of these was grapes.  Recently my dad has been growing healthy looking grapes in Cape Breton of all places. What this means to me is that winemakers should rethink what is possible to grow in Nova Scotia. Global warming is a fact. Wine making takes time. Winemakers that started now could take advantage of global warming to grow grapes that once might have been harder to grow in Nova Scotia. (Not to make light of global warming, but migration of crops will occur if warming persists.)
  4. Tourists/markets: Tourists LOVE Nova Scotia. They come from all over the world, including the North Eastern parts of the U.S., which is a short distance away from Nova Scotia. A winemaker that wanted to build a nice winery in Nova Scotia would have absolutely no trouble attracting visitors and selling wine. Especially wine that went well with all the fine fresh fish that minutes away. As well, Nova Scotia is close to alot of east coast markets on the Eastern seaboard. Combined with the Halifax harbor, it is easy to reach customers in Europe as well. Not to mention other parts of Canada.
  5. Lower costs: land and labour is relatively cheap in Nova Scotia. Setting up a winery in Nova Scotia would certainly be alot cheaper than setting up one on the west coast of the the United States. For a new winery, that means you have more money to invest in making a good product, as the folks from Benjamin Bridge did.
  6. Ripe for changing: right now Nova Scotia uses alot of varietals associated with cool climates, like Vidal and Marechal Foch. They make good wines, but not the type of wine that sells for top dollar, to my knowledge. However, in the article, it is interesting to me that the winemaker grew pinot noir and chardonnay. I believe if he could, others could too. (See microclimates and global warming, above). Twenty years ago in Ontario everyone sold Marechal Foch: now it is very hard to find. A smart winemaker would fine a way to grow the top selling varietals in Nova Scotia, blend it with some of the hardier stuff, and be a success. Maybe take some of the vines from Northern Italy or other regions with similar climates and move them to Nova Scotia.

I expect there to be a boom in wine making in Nova Scotia in the next 10-20 years. It may be a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of wine places like Australia turn out, but it will be a dramatic increase from what Nova Scotia currently produces. And it will be great.

(Image above links to the Wines of Nova Scotia web site).

An excellent tip on how to deal with Procrastination

Actually, how to deal with the urge to procrastinate, is here: » Best Procrastination Tip Ever :zenhabits.

I think procrastination works at a subconscious level, and that is a hard thing to overcome. This tip helps. Highly recommended.

AI vs AI: what happens when two programs talk to each other (now with T-shirts!)

This video of two chatbots talking to each other has been getting alot of attention on the Internet, for good reason. See for yourself:

Kevin Kelly interviewed the creators of it and has more background on it here: The Technium: Theological Chatbots. Well worth reading.

Bonus! One of the better lines from the video is now on T-shirts! See here

McDonald’s to makeover Happy Meals (and other changes)

So says  Parentcentral.ca. For those of you that don’t know:

For Happy Meals, U.S. customers can already choose between apples or fries. But only about 11 per cent of customers were ordering apples, the restaurant said.

So by the beginning of next year, McDonald’s will instead include a half-order of apples and a half-order of fries. Customers can get all fries or all apples if they ask.

This is an improvement, but I think a better option would be to include apples by default and only provide fries if the customer asks for them. Also, I would like to see McDonald’s making healthier meals for kids in general, and aim to have a certain percentage of the adult meals be healthy, too. I think the chain could do this and still be very successful.

The bombardment of your brain by television

Try this experiment. Turn on your TV, turn out the light, and then sit with your back to it. Also, mute the volume. I did this accidentally tonight and I was surprised by the intensity and variation of the light. Not surprisingly, this is much stronger during commercials. You might not notice it as much if you have lights on and the sound on. Regardless, the TV is stimulating you more than you might imagine. I suspect it is not healthy or relaxing. It would be good if he TV could modulate that for you. Or get some software to do it instead, with the signal going through it before it gets to the screen. Either way, it’s something to be aware of.

Do you like music? Would you like to save over $3000? Do you like free things?

Then head over to here: Amazon.com: Free – Songs: MP3 Downloads. Amazon has over 3000 songs that might cost you $1 elsewhere. Ahem. Why not get them for free and from a reputable location. 🙂  More good music than you can shake a stick at.

Get it done! Use The Cult of Done Manifesto to help you get there

Here on
 Bre Pettis’ Blog is The Cult of Done Manifesto. It’s a must read manifesto. Here’s one of my favourite items:

Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.

Read the rest here. Then get things done!

How to eating well and eat for less at the same time (and why you should)

Here’s some recent links on eating well and eating for less.

Lisa Johnson has a smart interact graph here that shows this: How Many Calories Can One Dollar Buy? A Lot More if It’s Junk Food!.
I agree with this, but I also think this is a matter of education and cultural changes in North America.

Here’s one way to change this: Take the $5 Challenge. SlowFoodUSA is having a challenge even on September 17th, 2011. Their challenge?

“On Sept. 17, I pledge to share a fresh, healthy meal that costs less than $5 — because slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food.”

I think this is a great idea. Not only should you do it, but you should promote it as well. It should be easy if you have a vegetarian meal, and even if you decide to include meat, there’s lots of ways of doing that for low cost. See the challenge site.

If you are not sure what to make, I recommend taking some ideas from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook. You can find references to recipes in it here, and I wrote about it here.

The Making of Blade Runner

Open Culture has a great clip that was used to promote the movie in the early 1980s before it was released as a feature film. Open Culture also has some background on that clip that is well worth the read. Meanwhile, here’s the clip, a must see for Blade Runner fans like myself

One thing I thought watching it is how it also the end of an era. While I am guessing some companies still use matte and large scale models like they did for Blade Runner, I suspect most now use computer generated images (CGI). Blade Runner was likely one of the last of the big SF films to use this for its special effects.

If Scott does make a Blade Runner II, I am willing to bet it will be with CGI, not what is used here.

The history of email? Not exactly

This is a great history of email in some ways, but flawed due to omissions. While alot of the dates are true, email has been around longer than 29 years. And the number of email accounts is underrepresented.

A better history of email is here, Email – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Still that article, Today is the 29th anniversary of email, as copyrighted by this man – Shareables, has this great infographic that is definitely worth sharing for the highlights it does mention.

Great advice (and other things) from The Phraseology Project

This phrase, Nothing Worth Doing is Easy, and many others can be seen much better at The Phraseology Project. A great site.