Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Yes We Can - the update

The debate over the health care package in the US was hard to watch. As it devolved into a hate and blame match, it seemed pretty obvious that the lofty hopes and aspirations of Barack Obama's ascent to the presidency had crashed and burned.

But when the bill finally passed, by the narrowest of margins, I couldn't help but hope that maybe Obama's promise of social change hadn't been entirely wiped out. Perhaps there was a spark left that might be fanned back into life.

This morning, I came across this re-mix of's original Yes We Can video. (link to the original) It's a brilliant piece of work and vividly contrasts Obama's original message of hope with the Republican's single-minded argument of anger and denial. Maybe we can.

You can watch it below, or click here to see it on YouTube.

And one more thing. You might want to skip the comments on the video if you'd rather not get dragged into the muck.

- via Rob Cottingham

Monday, March 29, 2010

Audit: NASA paid $66 per person for 'light refreshments'

This just in from the "You can't make stuff like this up," department.

Audit: NASA paid $66 per person for 'light refreshments' at procurement confab | person, audit, procurement - News - Northwest Florida Daily News

Here's the gist of it:
WASHINGTON -- The nation's space agency paid the out-of-this-world price of $66 a person a day for bagels, cookies and juice at a conference, a new report found.

The subject of the NASA conference? It was a training session for its procurement officials -- the people who do the buying with taxpayer funds.

During the three-day conference, the 317 attendees snacked on ``light refreshments'' of soda, coffee, fruit, bagels and cookies at a cost of $62,611, according to a NASA Inspector General report. That's $66 a day per person.

And that wasn't the only problem. The NASA financial watchdog criticized the financially strapped space agency's spending on conferences in general. The inspector general said NASA didn't price shop to get cheaper locations for conferences and that NASA's spending on food and drinks was ``excessive.''

The agency needs to come up with firm rules and conference costs, like the Justice Department, the inspector general recommended in the report released late Wednesday.

NASA promised it would come up with better conference spending rules.
via AP

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are you a human?

If you want to leave a comment on this blog, you'll notice that there's an extra step involved.

I've been getting a lot of Comment spam lately and most of it appears to be generated by robots. It's not a huge hassle to moderate but it does take time. So I'm going to ask commenters to show me they're human.

I know that you're human so I hope you don't take offence. But those others - I'm not so sure.

So feel free to comment as long as you're really a person. And if you run into problems, leave me a comment.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reality is not an easy thing to establish

If you're a photographer - or just a viewer - you'll know that the ability of someone to "Photoshop" an image to have it display something different from what was visible through the camera lens has come a long way. So far, in fact, that most of us realize that the "photographic record" is probably an oxymoron.

Of course, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. You can do wonderful things with your photos by manipulating them. What you end up with in a photograph is often not what you were seeing - at least not the scene that you remember. Playing with the light and shadows, colours, etc. can often recreate something closer to what you were hoping to capture.

If you're the type that likes that sort of thing, prepare yourself for the next "really cool" step. Photoshop is readying a new tool called Content Aware that brings the ability to fine tune images to a whole new level. To see what I mean, watch this video on YouTube.

(Note that I haven't verified whether this is really a post from the Photoshop team. It might be someone's idea of a prank. But it does look convincing.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Design - Why @ Is Held in Such High Design Esteem -

Here's a good example of how Twitter fits into my daily routine - and why I like it so much.

While browsing through my Twitter feed this morning, I came across this note from Dave Winer:
Design - Why @ Is Held in Such High Design Esteem.
I see the @ sign every day but I've never thought of it as a design element. So I followed the link in his Tweet.

And lo and behold, there's a lot of story there - something I probably wouldn't have come across any other way.

I like that.

Design - Why @ Is Held in Such High Design Esteem -

(Via @davewiner)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why the world still needs the serial comma

I admit that I had fallen into the camp that says we don't need to use serial commas. But a recent editing job made me realize that I was on the wrong side of this argument.

Not sure what I'm talking about? Well, here's a definition from Wikipedia:
The serial comma or series comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma) is the comma used immediately before a grammatical conjunction (usually and or or, sometimes nor) preceding the final item in a list of three or more items. For example, a list of three countries can be punctuated as either “Portugal, Spain, and France” (with the serial comma) or as “Portugal, Spain and France” (without the serial comma).

Opinions vary among writers and editors on the usage or avoidance of the serial comma. In American English the serial comma is standard in most non-journalistic writing, which typically follows the Chicago Manual of Style. Journalists, however, usually follow the Associated Press Style Guide, which advises against it. It is less often used in British English. In many languages (e.g. French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish) the serial comma is not the norm – it may even go against punctuation rules – but it may be recommended in some cases to avoid ambiguity or to aid prosody.
As for why we still need it, consider this little gem, from a review in The Times of a documentary by Peter Ustinov:
“Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector."
If you like this sort of thing, you really should read the whole Wikipedia article.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple’s Spat With Google Is Getting Personal -

There's nothing I like better than a process story. And this one from the New York Times about the behind the scenes story of the developing feud between Apple and Google is a doozy.

Apple’s Spat With Google Is Getting Personal -
While the discord between Apple and Google is in part philosophical and involves enormous financial stakes, the battle also has deeply personal overtones and echoes the ego-fueled fisticuffs that have long characterized technology industry feuds. (Think Intel vs. A.M.D., Microsoft vs. everybody, and so on.)

Yet according to interviews with two dozen industry watchers, Silicon Valley investors and current and former employees at both companies — most of whom requested anonymity to protect their jobs or business relationships — the clash between Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Jobs offers an unusually vivid display of enmity and ambition.

At the heart of their dispute is a sense of betrayal: Mr. Jobs believes that Google violated the alliance between the companies by producing cellphones that physically, technologically and spiritually resembled the iPhone. In short, he feels that his former friends at Google picked his pocket.

“We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business,” Mr. Jobs told Apple employees during an all-hands meeting shortly after the public introduction of the iPad in January, according to two employees who were there and heard the presentation. “Make no mistake: Google wants to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.”

One of these employees said Mr. Jobs returned to the topic of Google several times in the session and even disparaged its slogan “Don’t be evil” with an expletive, which drew thunderous applause from his underlings.
Read the whole article

Saturday, March 06, 2010

YouTube - Pedigree Dogs ad shot 1000 FPS using the Phantom camera

I'm not sure whether I've ever posted a link to a dog food commercial before, but this one is really too good to pass up.

Thanks to my friend Eric Eggertson for passing along the link.

If you want to see it in a larger format, use this link: YouTube
- Pedigree Dogs ad shot 1000 FPS using the Phantom camera
: ""

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Proud Papa - Values Update

I used to tell people that as your kids grow older you learn a lot about yourself - because the values they grew up observing start showing up in some obvious ways.

Now I know I'm going to sound self-serving here, but I can't help it. By that standard, I'd say that Heather and I have done a pretty good job of instilling something right in all three of our kids.

Specifically, they all put a lot of stock in helping others. And I think that's a pretty good trait. I don't post about these guys that often but I am a Proud Papa (you can Google it!) so I figured this post was long overdue.

And this is after all, "Salute your Children" week here in Victoria.

(Actually, I just made that up, but it should be)

For proof of what good values these guys have inherited from their parents - consider these examples:

Blog_Photos-2.jpgCory, the eldest, lives in Regina now and is a chef at a local steak house. He's having a great time working in the food business, after stints as a bricklayer's apprentice and landscaping. What I didn't know until recently is that he's also the proud supporter of two foster children - one in Haiti and another in Brazil. Fortunately, the one in Haiti was not hurt during the earthquake a few weeks ago. Cory never says much about his good works - but we hear about them from others. We're very proud.

Blog_Photos-3.jpgJaime, the middle kid, just completed university and had planned to head overseas last fall. But she postponed her trip to spend most of February working as a volunteer at the Olympics - a pretty cool activity, needless to say. Now she's back at our place for a few weeks while she's scouring the planet looking for a volunteer position in Africa or the far East. She'll likely be heading out in April or May for who knows how long? But some part of the world will become a better place when she arrives there.

Blog_Photos-4.jpgAnd finally, Kelly, our youngest, who is a senior at the University of Louisville, is just nine days away from cutting off all her hair (and she has a lot of it!) to help raise money to fight cancer in kids. She's doing it on St. Baldrick's day (you'll have to look that up) as part of a fundraising effort with three of her rowing teammates in a bid to raise $10,000. It's a worthy goal. So far, she's up to about $1,500. If you'd like to help her get to her target of $2,500, feel free to visit her site and make a donation.

That's my Proud Papa update for this month. I'll let you know how things are going for all of them down the road.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Big Picture does the Olympics

If you still haven't got enough of the Olympics, you might want to check out the photos at The Big Picture blog. Absolutely stunning.

And on a more sobering note, The Big Picture also has a section on the Chilean earthquake and its aftermath. It's hard to appreciate the scope of the damage until you see some of the pictures.

Olympic reflections

It's fair to say that Canada's Olympic party could not have ended with a better script than the one delivered by the Men's Hockey team yesterday. An overtime goal to win the gold medal, scored by Sidney Crosby. It would be hard to believe if I hadn't watched it myself.

I'm still buzzing from the last 17 days. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from the Vancouver Olympic Games. I knew they would be good - they always are. The highs and lows are always profound and shared by everyone. But I wasn't sure how the actual event was going to compare to the expectations. As it turned out, there was no need to worry.

We exceeded all expectations. Canada proved it is a competitive powerhouse but it also showed the world a unique identity. We are a country that embraces diversity yet shares a passion. We have a fierce determination but we don't conquer. We welcome all. We're good hosts. And we have amazing scenery.

The long march of the Olympic Flame across the country was a master stroke of organization, bringing communities everywhere into the Olympic family and making us all hosts to the world. That shared enthusiasm and excitement was contagious and best of all, it didn't depend on gaining the attention of the media to be successful. It worked at the local level and the buzz it created spread organically. The media was a part of it but it wasn't responsible for it.

One feature of the Games coverage that wasn't around last time was Twitter, which brought a new perspective to the entire Olympic event. When the flame relay began here in Victoria, I shared the excitement with a whole whack of followers, who were posting their instant comments and updates in real time. It was a new way of experiencing what was happening.

The opening ceremonies were great to watch on TV but the comments, back chatter and excitement from the Twitterverse was even more fun. My favourite moment came after the fourth arm of the Olympic cauldron failed to rise out of the stage. "Don't fault us for not getting the torch up in time, Canadians invented insulin not viagra," wrote Joseph Uranowki, in a tweet that was instantly picked up and retweeted by hundreds.

Throughout the Games, I watched the TV coverage while keeping an eye on the Twitter feed, which was often a lot more entertaining - especially when the commentators got a little distracted. It was like sharing the show with a room full of sometimes witty, highly opinionated but ultimately enjoyable friends. I like it.

Who knows if we'll see another Olympic Games here in Canada anytime soon. I doubt it, given the massive investment it requires. But today, in the afterglow of the event, it does seem worth it. And maybe that's enough reflection for now. Let's enjoy the feeling.