Monthly Archives: April 2014

So is @allypatterson in PR OR A REAL PERSON? What do you think?

So, I am discussing whether or not Ontario should allow stores to sell beer and wine.

One person on twitter arguing against this is @allypatterson. This person represents herself as someone who ‘sells beer and takes back empties’ 40 hours a week. So presumably a real person, working in a beer store.

Now, I think she is a PR person. I could be wrong, but here’s why I think that:

  • I noticed a few odd things about her account. First off, no bio, not even an odd one. But a photo.
  • All here tweets are advocating against stores selling beer and wine. All of them. No silly tweets. No tweets complaining about the weather, her friends or family. No pictures of cats. Indeed, no photos, other than ones arguing against liquor in stores.
  • she is followed by and followed by IPSOS Public Affairs @ipsosreidca and Premium brands @pblbeers
  • she has only a few followers/follows (143/56)

Now, I have seen alot of real people who advocate things. Strong advocates usually have a fake photo but a related bio. Others have a real photo and a limited bio. But they generally share things about themselves. Furthermore, most people have an array of things they tweet about. And frankly the ones who stick on one topic like a broken record tend to be ranty.

And how many people with such limited information about themselves and such a small amount of followers are followed by such a large corporation as Premium Brands AND a large PR firm? How many other beer store employees are both of them following.

Maybe this person is a real person. But to be so on message, to be clear and concise and well argued in their communication, I somehow doubt it.

Thanks for reading this. I’ll Le you decide.

P.S. Anyone doing impersonation on Twitter violates the ToS. A big PR firm like IPSOS would know that.

How I blog now (for people interested in comparing notes on blogging)

Blogging is dead (so it is said). But I am still blogging, and happily so. Here’s why, here’s what I think has changed, and here’s what I do now.

I have been blogging a long time (since 2005). Over that time I have had blogs on Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr, and on IBM’s hosted sites. I still blog on WordPress and IBM. (Posterous is gone, Tumblr feels less like blogging and more like social media sharing (great stuff, but not for me), and Blogger never could top WordPress for me.)

Blogging had it’s big moment in the early Web 2.0 days, and a number of bloggers went on to great success. Then more and different types of social media appeared, making blogging seemed dated and bloated. Even I dropped off blogging and started doing more with Twitter, Instagram, and more.

I have returned to blogging because it still has something that other social media lacks. It allows me to capture longer ideas, unlike other social media. It lets me go back and see what I was thinking about and doing years ago. Most social media is about the Now and about the Group, but blogging is more than that. Blogging extends in time, and starts (but doesn’t end) with me.

I was also incented by a number of small things. One, my blog traffic was declining, and I thought I would like to see if I could reverse it. I like the idea of people reading my blog, and I thought blogging again could improve the decline. Two, WordPress started paying me monthly for my blog traffic. It is a pittance: less than $6 a month. I have a goal to get it up higher than that. Three, I’d like to reach the goal of having a million views of my blog. I started the blog modestly, and I have been happy to see how it has grown. I’d like to hit that number.

Those are small incentives, though. A bigger incentive/goal is that writing my blog is Writing. Blogging is a good word, but what I really want to do is write and write better and eventually write well. Maintaining the blog helps with that goal.

(If your blog is mainly writing, consider saying you are Writing (not Blogging) when you are adding to your blog. A blog is a web log, but if you are trying to do something more than just log things — and you likely are — why not elevate what you are doing by labelling it with a better label?)

How I blog now:

  1. I use a WordPress plugin with my Chrome browser. That allows me to quickly blog about an interesting web page I come across.
  2. If I don’t want to blog about it now, I use instapaper to save interesting pages for later. Then I will take time and go though the saved pages and either blog about them or save them in delicious (or just get rid of them).
  3. To promote my blog posts, I connect twitter to my WordPress blog: whenever I update my blog, I have a link to it posted on twitter.(After all, I want people to read them, and flagging them on twitter is one way to do that).
  4. If I post a number of posts at the same time, I schedule when they are posted. Otherwise, people on twitter will get flooded with them, and I think that doesn’t help get people to read them (and it is likely annoying).
  5. Besides my web browser, I use Feedly to read other blogs. I have integrated Feedly with my WordPress blog using IFTTT. I have an IFTTT recipe that fires off whenever I save a document in Feedly. The recipe will create a new draft in WordPress for me to work on later.
  6. I process the drafts in WordPress using Firefox and a plugin called ScribeFire. ScribeFire used to work with WordPress, but it doesn’t work for mine now. But I still use it to create more complex blog posts (like this one). Then I go to the admin panel of WordPress and update my blog using copy and paste. (I know, this isn’t exactly *easy*, but I had gotten used to ScribeFire and I haven’t found a tool that I like as much as that.)

Unlike many smart bloggers I follow, I tend not to write long form posts. When I do, I write them in Microsoft Word, mainly because if my machine hangs up or reboots or does any number of stupid things, I will not lose what I have written thanks to Word’s superb autosave feature. Once it is good enough (by my meagre standards), I will copy and paste it into WordPress.

The man who couldn’t think

The man came up to my son and I outside the theatre tonight and asked me about the hockey gear I was holding. I explained it was a gift to my son who would be playing hockey in May. No, the man said, hockey was ending. I tried to explain to him that it wasn’t. He listened very hard, and I could see from his eyes that he was trying to piece this together, but in the end he came back to telling me that hockey was done. He could not think through the additional information and work it into his understanding of the world.

When I was younger, I would have said that the man talking about hockey was deficient somehow. That he wasn’t normal. I believe now that this ‘normal/ not normal’ thinking is deficient and when I think that way, I am not thinking myself.

We are all struggling to understand the world we are in with the facts we have and the abilities we have. We all have varying capabilities to understand, and each of us has our own weak spots. I know I have sometimes been the man who couldn’t think. I have been the man who, when told sometime obvious, could not process it like others could.

We all think what we can, with the brains we have, the memories we retain, the facts we are given. There comes a time when each of us runs up against some limit of our brains, either temporally or permanently. There comes a time when we too become the person who cannot think.

Thanks for reading this

What computers are doing while you are sleeping

You may think that computers are doing little if anything while you are sleeping. While you are dreaming, you might think, if you think of it at all, computers are sitting mostly idle, running the odd screensaver program, waiting for you to return, your faithful servant.
Of course, some computers, like web servers, could be serving different people. Computers could be handling the requests from people around the world who are awake and working and reading and surfing the web. Some computers handle requests 24 hours a day, rarely having any time to themselves, to reboot, to load new software.They process requests until they are shutdown intentionally or fail dramatically.

But just like your body is resting and your brain is dreaming/sorting things out in the wee small hours of the morning, so too do some computers take the night time to get themselves together. While you are sleeping, they are running backups, processing files they don’t get to process in the daytime, defragmenting their disks, cleaning out their caches and buffers. Many computers have utility roles, doing a myriad of tasks you can only imagine. Plus for every set of computers handling your requests, there are entirely different sets of machines that check and make sure that the machines you use are working properly.
If the earth can be said to be automatic, so too can it be said of the many thousands of computers that are running while you are sleeping, running to keep the world running in the 21st century.

And I have thought of all this while I test run batch programs on a set of test computers during the graveyard shift, in order to insure that the real computers that we run can handle the volume of requests that the real (not test) computers will eventually have to handle. For in my case, what computers are doing while you are sleeping are helping me do my job successfully which will help you in ways you don’t even know (not only, but partially, because you are sleeping)

(Originally posted on posterous, July 21 2010).

Memory, space and time and the redrawing of a line

thebloor

Tonight I went back and retraced activities in places from long ago. I went
to the Annex in Toronto and walked around Harbord Street and Bloor Street,
had a massive wiener schnitzel meal at Country Style and then went to see
Jonathan Demme and Talking Heads great concert film, Stop Making Sense.
These are things I used to do often many many years ago, for the theatre
that showed the film, the Bloor Cinema, used to play the film at least once
a month in the mid 80s, it seemed. I lived near it then, and whenever I had
nothing to do, I might grab some Hungarian food – for Bloor Street had a
lot of Hungarian places then – and enjoy that film.

If you are wise, you will have places that are memory touchstones for you,
places that you can revisit, that will be like a cache of good memories.
Like any good cache, you can draw upon them as needed by going there
whenever you needed to be refreshed and rejuvenated. I recommend you
cultivate such places, places that you may not visit often but that are
accessible whenever you are in need. A wise person also has such stores to
get them through the leaner parts of life. Or perhaps you can look at them
more optimistically and treat them like a rare wine cellar which you dip
into every so often for that great bottle to enjoy and to remember.

Last week I watched a video of a line being retraced. As it was retraced
over and over, each new line varied more and more from the original until
the later lines were quiet different than the original. Still, there was
that resemblance, that connection through time. So to tonight, when I was
revisiting my old neighborhood, I could still feel some of the same things
I felt many years ago, even though much has changed and I am no longer the
same in many ways. For though much has changed, many more things in the
places and the food and the theatre and the film, even myself…many things
have remained the same. The line redrawn tonight had enough points in
common with the lines I would often draw many years ago.

Memory is often thought of as a picture, or a storage cabinet, but memory
may be like a flower. A flower, a rose perhaps, red, white, perhaps even
tea stained, that opens up in the early morning just as you are walking by,
walking in that distracted way we all walk when we are in a hurry to
complete the ordinary, when out of the edge of our vision we see its
vividness and are drawn to come closer and soak up the smell of it and
perhaps even mistakenly catch ourselves on its thorns. Memories may not be
passive things like files or photos. Memories may engage us and transfix
and transform us, much like the rose that waves at us as we stroll by on
what would otherwise by an ordinary day in our life.

We should cultivate the moments in our lives like the gardener cultivates
her rose garden, for those moments will be our memories, our roses.
—————–
Posted on my Posterous blog at February 23 2011 via my BlackBerry Handheld.

The nine circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno recreated in Lego

Not your everyday Lego project, to be sure. And yes, this is just as amazing as you might think.  Hell is no less scary when done using blocks.

For the entire series, see: The nine circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno recreated in Lego by Mihai Mihu – Telegraph

It nicely highlights the sculptural aspect of Lego is only limited by the imagination of the builder-artist.

The beauty of night rain (insomnia tales)

Since I was a small child, I loved the night rain. I was likely 3 and I
remember listening to car tires hissing on rainy roads, and I would wait
for the sound of my parents car to return from their night out.

In Dustin Hoffman’s “Tootsie”, Bill Murray has a great scene describing how
he’d love to have a movie theatre that shows films on rainy nights. I
thought then and I still think how perfect that would be. To be wandering
aimlessly in the night rain and to come across a theatre showing a great
film for a rare showing. The solace and shelter and beauty of the cinema on
a rainy night would be wonderful.

When I was in college, there we no such theatres. But it rained often in
Halifax, and I would wander through the rainfall and window shop tucked
away magazine stores and diners with warm and dry and well fed patrons,
none of which I was. There was no solace then, save that of the enjoyment
of the beauty of the night rain. But later on there would be money and
women to press against while huddled under umbrellas, and the night rain
would lend itself to the promise of love and happiness.

Much weather of all sorts can bring back memories, but rainy night, mild
nights, bring back the most for me.

Thanks for reading my insomnia tales as I try to fall asleep

(originally posted on Posterous, June 23 2011. Written on my Blackberry)

The myth of adult independence

When you are a child, you believe that adults are independent. That they can handle themselves. That they can deal with things. Manage things.

As you get to be an adult, you see this is mostly true. Mostly. Then there are those moments when you see adults in anguish. Adults struggling against forces they can’t handle. Can’t manage. Internal forces and external ones. Smart adults will seek out others to aide them. People they can depend on, no matter how much they prefer to be independent. Other adults, the not so smart ones, suffer in isolation and separation from others who might help them.

The other myth of adult independence is when as an adult you think you can provide all your own needs. That you don’t need much of anything from anyone. That you are self-sufficient. That what you have is enough, because to ask for more means depending on others.

The reality is that we are dependent on others, and there are things we can’t deal with on our own. If anything, being able to depend on many people makes us more independent, not less. For it is a myth that we are independent, when all through our day we depend on a countless number of people to provide us food and shelter and work and protection and human companionship.

The more we see the dependencies we have on each other, the better we can mutually change it for the better. By doing so, we increase our independence, not decrease it.

Just trying to work out sone ideas in my mind. Thanks for reading this.

Where to eat in Toronto this weekend (or any time), high or low

According to blogTO, these are the best new cheap eats in Toronto (for 2013, at least) and these are the 10 most expensive restaurants in Toronto
to dine in Hogtown.

Whether you want to go in style or go casually, all these spots should deliver a good meal (and in some cases, much more).

How to go about cleaning your place when you hate cleaning

I hate cleaning my house. I like a clean house, but I hate cleaning it. So I am always on the look out for ideas that can help with this.

I have to say that I practice most of the tips here: The Lazy Person’s Guide to a Happy Home: Tips for People Who (Really) Hate Cleaning | Apartment Therapy.

Another tip I have that isn’t here is to keep a notepad and pen nearby. I find I often have the best ideas spring to mind when I am cleaning. When I pause to write them down, I am amazed at how productive I am. It makes me feel like I am getting more out of cleaning that just a clean/less messy space.

 

The significance of cloud computing, as explained by the great Stephen Fry (@stephenfry)

This is a really well done video on the importance of cloud computing. It’s 5 minutes long, and well worth it.

Obviously, I would argue that your best bet for Cloud Computing services is from the company I work for, but otherwise I highly recommend this.

Radical Bread Making for people who don’t make bread

The general belief with regards to making bread is that it is hard work, it requires alot of skills, and it demands alot of your time. These two posts here are out to challenge that assumption:

  1. No Knead Bread: so easy a 4-yr old can make it! | Steamy Kitchen Recipes
  2. How To Make Bread in the Slow Cooker Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn | The Kitchn

The first recipe shows you how to prepare the loaf up until the point you need to bake it. The second recipe shows how you can use a slow cooker to do it. I haven’t tried this yet, but I think it would be fascinating to try.

It isn’t it going to be as good as something an experienced baker makes, but it will be much better than most anything that comes from a grocery store (unless you are paying alot of money). And in the summertime you can still make bread without having to turn on the oven, if you follow the slow cooker recipe.

P.S. The Kitchn web site has quite a few posts on breadmaking, including this: Recipe: No-Time Bread | The Kitchn.

 

So Network Solutions has domains for 50 cents. Should you get one?

In searching for a new domain name service provider for a test domain, I came across this promotion for Network Solutions that offered hosting for $0.50. Sounds great, especially since most providers are charging $9.99. 

So, what’s the catch?  Well, in the fine print, you see this:

“This offer is valid for initial (new) purchase only and only on domains to be registered with Network Solutions. This offer is not valid on domain renewals and is only valid for generally available domain names, and not Premium Names of any kind. After the applicable free promotional period, then-current renewal rates shall apply. For reference, the current renewal price for a one (1) year .com domain name registration is $37.99, subject to change at the sole discretion of Network Solutions. Only one free domain is available per order and Network Solutions cannot assure domain name availability.”

$37.99 for a .com domain when most places are charging you $9.99. 

I am guessing that they autobill people after a year and alot of customers just pay that relatively higher price. I say “guess” because I don’t know and I generally avoid companies that do that.

For the record, I use netfirms.ca and namecheap.com and I am happy with them. What you use is up to you?

 

Who will be the big losers in the recent price drops in cloud computing?

Over at The Motley Fool, there is this article, The Big Losers in the Cloud Pricing Wars, that talks about recent price drops for services at Amazon and Google and how these price drops will affect the cloud computing business. (The Cloud Pricing Wars is very dramatic – I am not sure it is an all out battle at this point: we need more time to see if that becomes the case)

Anyone interested in cloud computing should check it out.