Monthly Archives: November 2011

Smart: New York City redoes scaffolding

So that it will look like this:

Scaffolding is a necessary part of city streets, and if you can’t hide it, why not feature it? For more on this, see: Coming Soon to the Sidewalks: A New Look for Scaffolding –


Thoughts on winter: Adam Gopnik’s and my own


I was excited to see three of my favourite things come together: the writer Adam Gopnik giving the Massey Lectures on the topic of Winter (all rolled up into this book). I haven’t started to read it yet, but I am looking forward too.

While not in the same league as Gopnik, last winter I was inspired to write about winter as well. If you can’t get enough about writing on the joy and beauty of winter, you can read some of what I wrote here:

Some thoughts on memory and winter

The quality of darkness and the luminosity of winter nights

One of my favourite weeks: the mild weather week in February

The joy of the cold and the dark (some thoughts)

On light at night (some thoughts, random)

If on a winter’s day you board the wrong train…

Monday morning music: Omawumi – If you ask me (via @afromusing)

I love this. It reminds me of classic Stax, though Omawumi is Nigerian. Supremely catchy: it’s been stuck in my head all weekend.

Omawumi – If you ask me (follow link for lyrics) – YouTube

Great political art from Shepard Fairey and Stanley Donwood, here

The above is by Donwood, found here, Thought You Should See This, where you can see a much better representation of it, as well as find out more about it.


Here’s Fairey’s, remixing his classic HOPE poster:


Found here: Occupy HOPE – OBEY GIANT

A nice visualization of the top 0.01% and top 1% can be seen here

Here’s a taste of the visualization:

But if you want to see the original, go here: The Top 0.01% and Top 1%’s Income Share: 2008 — Visualizing Economics

It’s 2008, but if anything, it is still relevant (although the top 1% are even richer, relatively speaking, to the rest.)

Wednesday night / Thursday morning music: two from Tinariwen

Here’s Tenere Taqhim Tossam (Official Video)


Groove In G as part of Playing For Change

Check out the 18th Annual Festival of Smalls at art interiors in Toronto


Every year, the Toronto gallery, art interiors, holds their annual event whereby they sell small pieces of their artists’ work for very reasonable prices. (For example, this great painting by Peter Andrew, from his Highway Series). I highly recommend that anyone interested in wonderful works of art check out their web site and pay them a visit here: Affordable Artwork / Canadian Art / Gallery / Framing / Canvas / Art Interiors – Toronto, ON

Paintings are going from $55 to $250. You can’t go wrong. Canadiana at its best. (And Peter Andrew’s paintings are fine examples of 21st century Canadiana.)

Those stories about Steve Jobs parking in handicapped parking spots?

Are clearly not urban legends, based on this photo:


From Sachin’s Space. Sachin Agarwar parked next to Steve Jobs’ car on the day he went for an interview at Apple, years ago, and he took this photo.


The McRib as a method of arbitrage. The awl has the goods.

The Awl has a fascinating analysis of the McRib that includes some speculation on why McDonald’s introduces it when it does. The above graph, from the article, plots two lines,

The blue line is the price of hogs in America over the last decade, and the black lines represent approximate times when McDonald’s has reintroduced the McRib

It goes into details on why McDonald’s might introduce the McRib when it does and why. It has other things to say about the sandwich, not all that I agree with, but overall the article is thought provoking and well worth a read.

I would also add that besides price, Marketing cycles have something to do with it. McDonald’s is constantly turning over promotions, and the McRib would likely have to be tied into that campaign cycle as well.

Very cool and creepy sculpture from Greg Brotherton, here

His sculpture remind me of Tim Burton, with their sinister and gothic look. They’re quite remarkable, as you can see from this example:



You can find more examples and links to other work from him on the always great blog, Colossal.

How to Set the time on a Phillipe Starck Watch

I just bought this Phillipe Starck watch. I’ve been a big fan of his for years, and this is my second watch I’ve owned that was designed by him. While I love the look, I hate setting the thing. The best tutorial I found on how to set the time is here: Gadgets Page » Ask Laura: How to Set a Phillipe Starck Watch. I am going to extract the key point from her post, because I am half afraid it will get dropped and I won’t be able to find it again.

The button on the bottom left controls the mode. When you push this button one of the four modes will flash (TIM 1, TMR, ALM 1, or CHRO). Push the mode button until TIM 1 flashes. Now, you are in Time 1 Mode. You should be able to see the time, seconds and date on the face of the watch.

Hold down the mode button until the hour starts flashing. You can now set your time. The top right hand button will move you from hours to minutes to date, etc. The bottom right hand button will change the digits. When you have set it correctly, you can press the mode button (bottom left hand button) and it will start acting like a normal watch again.

In normal time mode, you can switch to TIM 2 by pressing and holding the bottom right hand button and set the dual time in the same manner.

Thanks, Laura!

P.S. If you have this site worthwhile and you’d like to buy me a coffee, you can do so here. Thanks! That’s awesome!

Where love and happiness lie (a good blog, found serendipitously >)

Through the blog Cup of Jo I found this blog, Color Me Katie. It’s filled with lots of warm and wonderful blog posts.

This one in particular, lalalala love, has a series of photos of people being photographed. Except the photos we see are like this:

As she says:

The next time you see a bunch of people getting ready to take a group picture…stand behind them. That’s where all the love is!

There are lots of good posts on her blog. Go to Color Me Katie and see.

The 2011 New York City Marathon is this weekend

The ING New York City Marathon is this weekend! I ran it years ago and it was one of the best things I have ever done. The organization was superb, and the New Yorkers that came out to cheer were exceptionally good. If you want to run a great race and have a great experience, I highly recommend trying to enter it.

This race in particular will be interesting because Deba Could Be the First New Yorker to Win the City’s Marathon.

She is originally from Ethopia, but she now calls New York home. If she were to win, this would be a huge boost for running in the United States. I hope she does — it’s always great for the home town representative to win — but it will be tough, for the NYC Marathon is very competitive. Let’s see! Go Deba!

A great explanation of why pluto is no longer a planet

Can be found here: Why Pluto is No Longer a Planet. When Pluto was drummed out of the rank of planets in the solar system, there was alot of sentimental complaining about this, including from yours truly. However, once you read that post, you realize that the only reason for including it *is* sentimentality, and not science.I highly recommend you read more about this: you’ll learn alot more about the solar system in the process.



Terminators or appliances? Some thoughts on the new robots

There’s been alot of buzz around the work being done at Boston Dynamics on robots. Previously there was their video of BigDog

And recently this clip has been getting alot of attention, of PETMAN:

I was alarmed when I first saw this video. I don’t imagine the scientists at Boston Dynamics are blind, and they can likely see a lot of uses for PETMAN besides testing clothing. (Watch the way the man pushes the robot to show stability, for example.) If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it doing a similar support role that BigDog with the U.S. military. The first “man” into a fire fight would be PETMAN.

After being alarmed, my second thought was to think of the funders of this, namely DARPA. DARPA also was instrumental in the creation of the Internet, and needless to say, the first purpose of the Internet as DARPA saw it was not to be able to exchange cute pictures of cats on Facebook. But that is where we ended up. Likewise, I could see a similar thing happening with robots, and they could end up being domesticated, just like the Internet is. The robots will become appliances, just like all the other smart devices will be in our homes. (And very soon everything will be “smart”, be it your fridge, oven, washer, etc.) They will be an appliance that moves. They’ll carry in groceries. They’ll paint things. They’ll even vacuum. (Wait, we have that.).  We’ll end up complaining that our robots are too old and can’t do the cleaning tasks that the brand new robots can.

Will robots be used in war? Of course. But if one soldier is accompanied by a PETMAN and his enemy is accompanied by heavy artillery, my money is on the enemy. They will still be effective in many ways, but like any weaponry, armies will adapt to meet the challenge.

Before I close, I want to add that this is a really under-reported story. There are lots of stories out about the latest mobile device or the latest laptop, but the rapid advancement of robotics in the 21st century is going to be a big deal.

How to use cURL and the Twitter API, November 2011 edition

I used to use cURL to interface with the Twitter API, but after they changed/restricted it, that became harder. However, with a bit of investigation, I can show you how to use them together still, at least for queries. (If anyone knows a simple way of doing updates, please comment below).

For example, if you want to get my timeline, you can use


If you want to get 200 entries, you can use:


If you want to get 200 entries and use JSON instead of RSS, you can use:


If you want to play around, replace “blm849” with your twitter handle or someone else’s that isn’t protected.

For more on various formats and parameters, see GET statuses/user_timeline | Twitter Developers. Also make sure you check it for limits.

Here’s another option. If you want to get the statuses for the entries in my FAVS lists, you can use:


If you go to the REST API Resources for Twitter Developers page, you can see other options.

Essentially you need to play around to take a command you send to the REST API (e.g. GET lists/statuses) and learn how to turn it around to a commend you can pass to

If you say: hmmmm, some of this is inconsistent, etc., I confess I have just started experimenting. But I wanted to get something down before I forgot about it, and I will build on it later.

Good luck!

Big man on campus – the latest thoughts from Bill Gates as he goes back to school

Not to study, but to talk to students at the University of Washington. You can find highlights of the talk here: Ask Bill Gates Anything: Being a Billionaire is Strange, Microsoft Co-Founder Tells Students in Xconomy.

It’s a good read. And I suspect being a billionaire is strange. I like what he has to say about books and statistics, too.

Zombies! They’re everywhere! Run! (or THE best running app you’ll ever find)

The folks that came up with this are brilliant: ZOMBIES, RUN! (A running game & audio adventure for iOS/Android by Six to Start and Naomi Alderman). As they say:

Zombies, Run! is an ultra-immersive game for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android where you help rebuild civilisation after a zombie apocalypse. By going out and running in the real world, you can collect medicine, ammo, batteries, and spare parts that you can use to build up and expand your base – all while getting orders, clues, and story through your headphones.

If you find your running routine is getting stale, this could be the perfect way to reinvigorate it. I haven’t tried this yet, but I am thinking about it, especially for winter, when running becomes that much more challenging.

Do yourself some good: support Letter to Jane Magazine for iPad by Tim Moore on Kickstarter. Here’s why

Even if you disagree with me when I say that Tim Moore has a great project up on Kickstarter and you should support it, you should support it anyway for the following reasons.

If you are trying to get your own iPad magazine off the ground, you can spend alot of effort learning how to do that. Or you can take a short cut and pledge $200 or more to Tim’s Kickstarter project and you will get Xcode sample project that shows how to make everything that’s in Letter to Jane Magazine, so you can learn to make your own iPad magazine (some knowledge of Xcode required). And if you pledge $450 or more, you get the source code + full page ad. If you work for an ad agency or some communications firm or in communications in a larger organization, that is not alot of money. But it will save you alot of time, and time is money in this case. The business case is a piece of cake.

Go here and pledge: Letter to Jane Magazine for iPad by Tim Moore — Kickstarter.

Do yourself a favour: kickstart Tim’s project and you can kickstart your own  as well.