Monthly Archives: March 2013

Friday Night Music: Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Perfect Skin

Dave Weigel from Slate posted a recent video of Lloyd Cole playing “Are you Ready to Be Heartbroken?” in a very small club, and it was sad to see. Literally heartbreaking. Like athletes, pop stars don’t age well, and by the time they get to 40, most of them should retire. Yet I suspect for many of them it’s all they know and what they love, and that keeps them running and performing well past when they should.

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were great back in the day, and I prefer to remember them this way, singing Perfect Skin.

Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Perfect Skin [Live HQ] – YouTube


How to hack your Apple iPod with Nike+ on it to get the data from it (and do other quantified stuff which isn’t running specific)

Nike+ combined with the iPod Nano are not just for running anymore. You can hack them to do other things if you want, too.

Some background. I have used Nike+ with my Apple iPod Nano device for along time. I love it. But the other day, after my run,  I was syncing my iPod with the Nike+ site using the iTunes software, when I had a problem with my computer. Result? The data didn’t upload. Worse, I tried it again on my next run and it still wasn’t working.

Through some searching, I found the answer here: nike+ website temporarily unavailable: Apple Support Communities. Here is the key feedback I needed:

If you go into your Nano and allow “view hidden files,” there is a pathway to both your latest folder and synched folder: E:\iPod_Control\Device\Trainer\Workouts\Empeds\nikeinternal. Take all your runs from the latest folder — these are the ones that aren’t uploaded — and copy them to your desktop. Put one back into the latest folder from your desktop and try to upload it to Nikeplus. Continue until you get one that won’t upload: It’s the one that’s corrupt. Remove it from the latest folder and get Nike to input it manually. You should have no reason to restore your iPod.

(If you know a bit of XML, you can get all the information from your corrupt runs. The distances are in km and the pace and duration are in milliseconds — this is standard for programming).

That’s right! All that data is there in XML format for you to hack! Highly readable and capable of being hacked with. (Even better, it looks like it keeps a seperate folder for each sensor you use. That means you could have one sensor for running and another for hacking. So you don’t have to worry about messing up your time recordings.)

How you can hack it is up to you. Let’s say you were doing an activity and you wanted to see how long it took to do something (e.g., a presentation). You could treat the presentation like a race, but take a snapshot of the time after each slide. This would give you a sense of how long it is taking you to get through it. Or you could turn your chores into a game. Say you have to clean three rooms, but you found it super boring. Why not try and improve your time each time by “racing” through them and recording your time at the end step?

You don’t even have to be moving. After all, the pace isn’t so important, it’s the stop and start times. So you could devote yourself to reading more each week and you could start and stop the Nano every time you do a reading session. All the times would be recorded on the Nano, which you could pull off later.

There’s lots more data in there besides your times. There’s number of steps taken, your weight, even the playlist you used. There is also the difference between when you paused the Nano and when you just do a time check. With some creativity you can record all sorts of information.

For fans of self quantification, there are more and more devices that you can do this with. But a Ipod Nano and the Nike+ additions provide a cool thing to hack around. I recommend it.

P.S. If you can’t see the hidden files, go here and follow these instructions from Microsoft. On Windows 7, you can see Folder Options in your Control Panel without having to go to Appearance and Themes.

Greenscreening: or where the actors appear to be may not be where they are

This is a great example of just how much green screening is done in the shows and movies that you watch. It’s remarkable.

The video is here: Stargate Studios Virtual Backlot Reel 2009, via

What to cook on St. Patrick’s Day

You want to make a dish for St. Patrick’s Day and you don’t know what to pick? Then go here: For the Love of Cooking. They have a wide range of dishes that fill the bill, including this:

There’s a dish for every meal, and there’s vegetarian selections, too. Of course there’s stew, but there’s much more. Cheers!

Why Braun should be capitalizing on Apple’s success

I am a fan of Braun’s products and design, and if you like Apple products, chances are you would too. Yet if you live in North America, there is also a good chance you don’t even know of Braun products. That’s a shame, because as this Gizmodo article points out (1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apple’s Future), Apple owes a lot to Dieter Rams and the work he did on the design of Braun products. See this photo from the article to see what I mean:

And this is just a small sample. I think Apple is smart to borrow ideas from Braun. If Braun were smarter, they would capitalize on this by strongly marketing their products in North America. I think they could sell a lot more and become a much larger presence in North American households if they did.

What makes an expensive pair of shoes….expensive?

Mostly the amount of labour that goes into it. As this article shows (The $482 Difference Between Two Loafers – The Everything Guide to Shoes — New York Magazine), a shoe that costs under $100 can look like a shoe that costs over $500, but the (price) difference is in the details. I liked this article because it gives you a better sense of what goes into the making of a pair of shoes. I am sure the same could be said for most clothes nowadays.

Some great watch and clocks can be found at….

BIEGERT & FUNK‘s web site, including this

They make a number of watches and clocks like this, and they are all beautiful.

How to spring clean (your finances)

Chances are you will do spring cleaning around your house/apartment/condo in the next few weeks. You should also spring clean your financial house and get everything in order. A great way to do this is to take a day off and tackle everything at once, as this article suggests: Your Money – A Day Off to Tackle the Financial To-Do List –

You will be surprised how by the end of it that you are paying less on your overall bills and maybe saving more at the end of the exercise too. Well worth while, both the article and the exercise.

Spring is coming. You need a bike. Why not build your own?

At Urban Outfitters Bike Shop, you can. You don’t have do any fancy welding, just go to their interactive web site and go from there. You start with a pattern like this:

And they help you with designing it yourself. This model, the Plato Dutch Diamond, comes in around $399 for a fixie/1-speed. I have a bike like this (not from them), and I love it. There’s even a random option if the choices overwhelm you. Now you can have that 5 colour bike you always wanted. 🙂 Or for that matter, a basic black model with a touch of red. Whatever, you have lots of flexibility. And in the end, a bike all of your own.

Happy Pi Day! Here’s the best recipe you will ever find on how to make your own pie crust

I love this recipe for pie crust: Stop Being a Wuss: How To Make Pie Crusts the Easy Way | The Awl. Most recipes are dry and detail oriented. Not this one. It has loads of personality, wit and humour. And it is still a valid recipe for how to make pie crust. More than that, you will WANT to try and make a pie when you are done reading it. But wait, you say: what do I do once I have the pie crust? That, my friend, is easy. If you want to be terribly lazy, when you are at the grocer, pick up some pie filling and pour it into this wonderful pie of yours. If you think, “that’s wussy!”, then go all the way and look up apple pie or some berry pie recipes on Google. You will be glad you did.

Now, you are no longer a wuss, and even better, you have pie.

How to be a better runner? Speed workouts. (Even for new runners!)

Yes, even new runners training for something less than a marathon can benefit from some speed training. This article, Adding Speed Workouts to Marathon Training –, is focused on marathon training, but I think anyone running should give it a read. I am a big fan of fartlek training and at a minimum, I’d recommend people that run regularly should add to their training. This article covers that and more. A good read for runners of all types.

How to Hire Programmers

I bookmarked this ages ago, but this post, How I Hire Programmers by Aaron Swartz is worth reading. It’s from 2009, but it is timeless.

I am sure it could be applied to anyone, not just programmers. It’s a very humane way of interviewing and hiring people.

On the 700 billion dollar blank check

That’s more or less what the Congress gave the Secretary of the Treasury (Paulson, under President Bush), in order to save the economy when it was threatening to crash and burn in the fall of 2008. Here’s the Text of Draft Proposal for Bailout Plan (

Basically it gives Paulson the ability to buy any mortgate-related asset from anyone for any amount up to $700B. It’s a remarkable document. Read it just to see how much leeway Paulson had. It’s astounding.

How to: in 1 shopping trip, buying just 10 ingredients, make 5 meals (by Mark Bittman, no less)

I think this article should be printed and referred to by anyone who needs to simplify their lives but still needs to grocery shop and prepare meals for the week. And just what are these ingredients?

Chicken breasts (4 boneless)
Bacon (1/2 pound)
Shrimp (1 pound)
Spinach (1 pound)
Tomatoes (6)
Asparagus (2 pounds)
Button mushrooms (1 pound)
Loaf of good country bread

Sound good? Go to The 10-Ingredient Shopping Trip – and get the details.

The next pope will be Archibishop Angelo Scola

How do I know this? Easy! I went to Data Paradigms – Data, data, data! and looked at this chart.

And yes, it is hard to read: you will need to go to that site or here (Next Pope) to play around with the prediction tool. Let’s see. It says the top five candidates are Scola (Italy), Ouellet (Canada), Scherer (Brazil), Turkson (Ghana) and Bertone (Italy).  I will be surprised if it isn’t one of those.

Data Centres – a peak inside (for those of you who like that sorta thing)

For those who like looking into data centres, there’s this: Search Me – The New York Times > Magazine > Slide Show. I think data centres are mysterious things for many people, which accounts for the fascination with them. Once you’ve been in as many as I have, though, they seem pretty straightforward, despite the visual complexity.

Of all the photos in that spread, this is my favorite:

You may think this is far fetched, but you’d be surprised how people will randomly hit buttons in data centres.

Obamacare and Kaiser Health News

While Obamacare is the law, there are lots of developments happening there, and the GOP is still battling it in a number of ways. If you want to keep track of that, or many other topics concerning healthcare in the United States, take a look at Kaiser Health News. It has a focus you won’t find at alot of other news sites. Well worth reading.

How to look better for your webcam

Sure, you can get a better webcam. But if you spend any time on web conference calls, it pays to read this, too: Strobist: How to Improve Your Cheapo Webcam’s Picture Quality. For example, following the article, the image that the webcam produces goes from the bluish one on the right to the better looking one on the right.

Well worth reading.

The Evolution of Cell Phone Design

This site shows it  from 1983 to 2009.  It’s fun and amazing to see how much cell phones have evolved in a very short period of time. If you are like me, you will go through it and think, “oh, I remember THOSE!” :). For example,  I still remember being so impressed when I saw this for the first time:

Anyone wanting to make predictions about the future of mobile technology might want to review this and see just how much changes and how dramatically are the changes.

OpenProj is a great tool for project managers and others that have to manage projects

I am a big fan of Microsoft Project: I think it is fantastic not just for work, but for home. If for some reason you can’t get a copy of that software, I highly recommend that you consider this software: OpenProj – Project Management | Free Business & Enterprise software downloads at It’s free, and it looks very similar to the software from Microsoft. It will even open and work with files that come from Microsoft Project.

I highly recommend both tools.

Paul Krugman is not bankrupt. Or how false news spreads around the world and ends up in newspapers.

So, working backwards from this, Paul Krugman Bankruptcy Story False, Spreads – Business Insider, I go to here, Paul Krugman Files Chapter 13 Bankruptcy | Stock Market Summary (NSDQ, NYSE, AMEX and more) on, which got it from this Austrian paper, here Paul Krugman ist pleite •,
which got it from…..The Daily Currant – The Global Satirical Newspaper of Record. Yes, the Daily Currant! The one that states it is satirical right up front. To be fair, I have fallen for the Currant’s posts before, but I also don’t work for a newspaper.

Krugman is having fun with this, as you can see here: Breitbarted –

As for the other writers that ran with this… well, I fact checked that in a couple of minutes. Not sure why they couldn’t.

A good use of QR codes, or from the medic alert bracelet to the QR code sticker

This is not a ubiquitous idea, but it could be. It’s also one of the better uses of QR codes that I have seen. Ideally if I had one major medical condition (e.g. a specific allergy), then I would like to see it written next to the QR code. Of course the advantage of the QR code is the ability to contain alot of information on a very small place, which is ideal for people who do have a number of medical conditions. Plus the stickers are cheap and you can have them everywhere.

For more information on this, go here: Lifesquare. Found via this article: Personal QR codes could help first responders get vital patient information | IBM Smarter Trends

Why putrid comments matter

This article, This Story Stinks –, received some bad comments itself, mostly for stating the obvious (or at least the obvious to some people on twitter). I think it is worth reading, though, because it verifies what we suspected: negative comments have an effect on a reader. Indeed, as the article states

The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.

It would be great if more people learned to not read the comments, but they do. Bad comments, like spam, are one of the awful things about the Internet. It needs to be treated seriously and tackled with energy. Studies like this will help us decide how to do this and proceed.

Some background on the company that made those “Keep Calm and Rape A Lot” T shirts

According to this, Algorithmic Rape Jokes in the Library of Babel | Quiet Babylon, the T shirts were generating automatically and the company that sold them, Solid Gold Bomb, is saying that they not responsible because, hey, algorithms. I agree with the article: this is a bogus excuse. It’s like someone saying I wasn’t responsible for my car putting you in the hospital if it hit you because, hey, the car hit you, not me. Just like you are the operator of the vehicle and you are responsible for the operation of that vehicle, so too are companies and the people that run them responsible for their algorithms / computer technology as a whole.

You are responsible for the technology you deploy, and if you don’t understand that, you shouldn’t deploy it.

Also, Amazon needs to act, too. It’s a great company in many ways, but this and other practices that occur on their web site needs to be cracked down on.