Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I tried to view a webpage called "30 Creative 404 Error Pages" and got this:

Yes. I know. It's not a 404 error page. But, y'know. Still funny, I think.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wrong question

There are a lot of headlines in the news right now asking why His Corpulence will not be attending the Gay Pride Parade. But I think this question misses the point entirely. The real question is: how could the people of the largest city in a country built on acceptance and tolerance, with an enormous and thriving gay community have elected a mayor who would shun the biggest gay event of the year in his first year in office? The parade is obviously a very big deal to a lot of the citizens of this city. If it is this important that the mayor attend, maybe this needs to be made a campaign issue. I think, at the very least, it would make a good indicator as to whether we're electing a tolerant mayor who wants to help all the people of the city, or an angry fat innumerate moron who is ideologically hellbent for (next) election on tearing everything great about this city to the ground.

If you're one of those people who is asking the question, "why would the mayor go to the Pride Parade? Ick," I highly recommend you go yourself. You really have to experience it firsthand. Even if the party isn't your style, it's hard to argue against something that brings so many people so much joy. And hey, who knows, maybe you'll surprise yourself and have a good time anyway.

Ultimately, it is the mayor's personal decision as to whether he attends the Pride Parade and maybe cajoling him in the headlines will change his mind. But I think the headline space is more appropriately used for real political matters. I can't call my councilor and ask him to make Rob Ford attend the Parade, but I can certainly call and write and ask him to push very hard against the mayor's handpicked whipped councilors on the Public Works Committee's recent decision to spend 10s-to-100s of thousands of dollars on removing bike lanes which are, by all accounts, not in anyone's way.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


And in the category of "don't quitcher day job", I would like to point out that I also write occasionally for the wonderful food blog Vivre Pour Manger. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but plugging it every now and again doesn't hurt. Everyone who writes for Vivre Pour Manger is an amateur food lover and cook and all around great person, including Tiffany, with whom I once took a cooking course taught by Rob Rainford at George Brown. Plus, pretty pictures of food! Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nothing to blame but blame itself

I got some engaging feedback yesterday from a mysterious commenter who goes only by MZ*. One thing MZ said that caught my attention was "I'm not sure it's the electorate to blame."

I feel like I need to explain a little bit where I'm coming from.

I am a lazy, selfish man. Like most men, I suspect. And I think the adjectives apply equally well to women and people of whatever other gendered noun they choose to identify with. People are, by-and-large, lazy and selfish. Now, there's something a little tricky in there: I think that most people associate the word "selfish" with words like "greedy," "inconsiderate" and "thoughtless." I think of it more as seeking to improve my own happiness to the greatest extent possible. And by "lazy" I don't mean "not willing to do work." I mean "not willing to do more work than necessary."

I am optimising for most personal happiness for least personal work. Think of it like value. Imagine you want to buy a refrigerator. You're standing in the appliance store looking at two nearly identical models: they're they same size, the same power rating, the same colour. The difference is that they're made at different factories to different quality standards and you know from reading the internet reviews that, while they both will do an exactly equal job of keeping your food cool, keeping your electricity bill low and looking good in your kitchen, one has a motor that will crap out after 3 years while the other lasts 12. So fridge A costs $600 and lasts for 3 years while fridge B costs $1200 but lasts for 12 years. It seems painfully obvious to me that you should buy the $1200 fridge because, assuming that you want a fridge for at least the next 12 years, fridge B costs you $100/yr while fridge A (and its 3 additional replacements over the 12 years) wind up costing you twice that much, $200/yr.

I'm spelling this out painstakingly not because I think you, dear reader, are an idiot, but because I feel there is a lot of evidence that while fridge B seems like the obvious choice, many, many people will opt, metaphorically, for fridge A when given a similar situation to the above proposition. And there are lots of reasons for that -- maybe you simply don't have access to $1200 and need a fridge now. Or, perhaps, you have somehow been tricked into thinking that $600 is a more reasonable price for a fridge. And we're none of us immune to this kind of behaviour economic thinking. Although I talk a big rational talk in the privacy of my own blog, I've certainly bought fridge A in many situations over the years.

But I like to think and talk about these kinds of things, because I am lazy and selfish. If I allowed myself to get tricked into buying fridge A then I am not on my optimal happiness-for-work curve: either I've worked $100/yr too hard to pay for the refrigeration I need or I have lost out on $100/yr I could have spent on something in addition to fulfilling my refrigeration needs.

I think that there is quite a lot of evidence that we, as a society, are not living on the optimum happiness-for-work curve. That doesn't mean that everyone is miserable, or that everyone is working too hard. Just that the overall level of happiness is lower than it could be for the amount of work people are doing. Could we all be a lot worse off? Certainly. But, as I am fond of saying, "things could be worse," is not generally meant as a challenge.

Which brings us back to the original point.

Blame. I am not, in general, all that interested in blame. I think that blame is useful only insofar as it helps point to the source of a problem and suggest a solution. When I say "the problem is", I'm not trying to point the finger at someone and shame them (which is I think what blame evolved for) because that's not really a meaningful punishment in modern society.

What I have figured out, over the years, is that I am happiest when surrounded by other happy people. And there tends to be an amplifying effect: if I put a little work into making someone else a little happier, they can put some more work into making still others happier and eventually this will all return to me in happiness dividends. Admittedly, I have only ever tried this on fairly small groups, but I have no good reason to believe that it doesn't extend to the much larger communities of which I am a member in the modern, global world°.

And so, again, when I say "the problem is" what I am really saying is "I think I am working harder than I have to for the level of happiness that I am experiencing and I think the reason for that is." What I want is for you to be happy. Because when you are happy, it is easier for me to be happy.

* This reminds me of the time someone donated to a friends' marathon run under the anonymous name mz-197 and to this day, nobody seems to know who it was.
"mz" is the mass-to-charge ratio. The marathon guy worked on mass-spec data.
Why is there no "d" in "refrigeration"? It feels wrong to spell it that way...
° There is, of course, always the problem of freeloaders. But this entry is far too long already, so I'm not going to talk about it here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The sky is falling

Get used to it. Maybe get an umbrella. A really strong one. Parts of a major expressway in downtown Toronto started falling on the street below this week. Initial reactions by officials were that everything is fine. Which, of course, it is not. It may not be a big structural issue for the Gardiner to have its superficial outer layer flaking off, but it sure is a big health issue for anyone walking or driving on the Lakeshore underneath it.

This is just another piece of crumbling infrastructure which we can't pay to keep up. Which, it turns out, is built into the North American way of life. Someone pointed me at this series of articles this week. They are very well reasoned and full of evidence in the form of case studies. I strongly recommend you take the time to read them all, but if you are really pressed, I'd say read #2 and #5.

And then, remember this: whatever you're paying – in taxes, for goods, for services – it's not enough. And if you don't pony up, eventually the sky will fall on your head.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

specious, adj.

Pronunciation: /ˈspiːʃəs/

  1. Of language, statements, etc.: Fair, attractive, or plausible, but wanting in genuineness or sincerity.

  2. This article: http://www.wheels.ca/columns/article/797968


My favourite thing about technology is how easy it makes bad parenting.

From the Toronto Star:

Also, does anyone really think that a kid who can download a full Bluray quality movie in 8 seconds is going to be spending any time at all in the park?