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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
Saxophones started blowing me down  / I was buried in sound / Taxicabs were driving me around
— Wilco, Handshake Drugs
March 31, 2007

Putting Life in Perspective

From Stephanie Nolen’s column in today’s Globe and Mail:

“There are over 40 murders each day in South Africa, a country of 45 million people, three times as many reported rapes and 350 violent robberies or assualts. The daily death toll often equals that in Iraq.”

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of how good life is in Canada.

Posted by skooter at 1:51 PM This entry is filed under Politics.
Tags: Africa, Articles

March 30, 2007

Steve Jobs on Microsoft

Today’s Cringely column talks about YouTube and copyright, and references one of my favourite clips from Triumph of the Nerds:

Steve Jobs: The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have absolutely no taste, and what that means is — I don’t mean that in a small way I mean that in a big way. In the sense that they don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their products. And you say why is that important — well you know proportionally spaced fonts come from type setting and beautiful books, that’s where one gets the idea — if it weren’t for the Mac they would never have that in their products and so I guess I am saddened, not by Microsoft’s success — I have no problem with their success, they’ve earned their success for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third rate products.

Of course it’s available on YouTube.

Continue reading "Steve Jobs on Microsoft"

Posted by skooter at 6:16 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Apple, Microsoft, Steve Jobs

March 29, 2007

On Humans

Leslie Kaelbing was at UBC as part of the Department of Computer Science’s distinguished lecturer series. She gave me my best quote of the day.

She was discussing the difference between computers and humans and how they approach tasks. Essentially the argument was that computers are excellent at performing simple, well defined tasks. They can, in fact, be better than humans on average—chess is an example where computers can excel, but the average human does not.

Humans, on the other hand, are competent at an astounding range of tasks and able to adapt to new ones as they come along. Stairs of various heights can be challenging for ambulatory robots, but for humans they’re quite simple.

This led to Leslie’s assertion that as a human being it was best to be:

“…aggressively suboptimal.”

I love this, and am going to strive for it as a goal.

Posted by skooter at 7:28 PM This entry is filed under Science, Technology, Words.
Tags: Humans, MIT

March 26, 2007

Death of the Gladiators

They are classic images, these ones, painted with the cold weather and blowing snows of the bitter Quebec winter. Thes images of men wrapped in wool overcoats steeled against whatever nature may bring their way.

These images form the backbone of a political generation. Donald Brittain’s The Champions documented the era on film. Enless numbers of books have been written on the topic, and many more will continue to be.

Rene Levesque and Pierre Elliot Trudeau were the great intellectual gladiators of a generation (or more.) That generation may be coming to an end today.

Continue reading "Death of the Gladiators"

Posted by skooter at 9:19 PM This entry is filed under Politics.
Tags: Pierre Trudeau, Québecois, Quebec, Rene Levesque

Conservatives are Polling

The Conservatives are polling, which probably means they expect to get defeated on the budget.

I have never been a member of the Conservative Party. I only appear on their lists as a volunteer from a couple of campaigns. If they’re mining volunteer lists (from Ottawa, no less) you can bet that the election readiness team is in full swing.

Let the games begin! My prediction: another Harper minority. My vote: well, that’s a whole different story.

Posted by skooter at 11:49 AM This entry is filed under Politics.
Tags: Conservative Party of Canada, Federal Election 2007

March 20, 2007

Visiting Relatives is Hard Sometimes

Lloyd William Lobb December 31st, 2006

Posted by skooter at 9:15 PM This entry is filed under Family.
Tags: Grandpa Lobb

March 19, 2007

For you…Ten Dollars!

Shimano Thumbshifters, $10 I had no idea Shimano ever made 5 speed thumbshifters.

Posted by skooter at 7:37 PM This entry is filed under Camera, Sports, Vancouver.
Tags: Bikes, Cameraphone, Shimano

March 17, 2007

My Name is Skot, and I use a Mac

My name is Skot, and I use a Mac. Because of this, I can’t switch my cell phone number to Bell Canada from my current service provider—at least not without reading a 200 word essay explaining why I shouldn’t be using Safari to surf the web.

Bell Canada Broswer Detect Splash Page

This is funny, because for the 10 years that I had a cell phone with Bell, my use of a Macintosh was never a problem.

Those broken images are fixed now. Thank god for small favours.

At least I know where I’m not going to get my iPhone if I decide to get that route. Probably not a Blackberry either, since the CDMA coverage only works in North America.

Posted by skooter at 9:00 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Apple, Bell, Information Architecture, Usability

March 16, 2007

Sunken Treasure on DVD

Yes yes. It’s official. I am now a Wilco Nut.

Somebody called me this about a year ago, and I denied it. I no longer can.

Continue reading "Sunken Treasure on DVD"

Posted by skooter at 7:36 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Wilco

March 15, 2007

Turing Police

In Neuromancer William Gibson envisions a future Turing Police. Minority Report had the Future Crimes division.

This is not a movie, or a book — this is how a good portion the world’s population suffers from censorship, oppression and a culture of fear when it gets its information.

Welcome to China. Our partners in commerce.

Wired News: ‘Yahoo Betrayed My Husband’
By Luke O’Brien
12:00 PM Mar, 15, 2007

FAIRFAX, Virginia — Early one Sunday morning in 2002, a phone rings in Yu Ling’s Beijing duplex. She’s cleaning upstairs; her son is asleep, while downstairs, her husband, Wang Xiaoning, is on the computer. Wang writes about politics, anonymously e-mailing his online e-journals to a group of Yahoo users. He’s been having problems with his Yahoo service recently. He thinks it’s a technical issue. This is the day he learns he’s wrong.

Wang picks up the phone: “Yes?”

“Are you home?” asks the unfamiliar voice on the other end.

“Yes.”

The line goes dead.

Moments later, government agents swarm through the front door — 10 of them, some in uniform, some not. They take Wang away. They take his computers and disks. They shove an official notice into Yu’s hands, tell her to keep quiet, and leave. This is how it’s done in China. This is how the internet police grab you.

Posted by skooter at 3:05 PM | TrackBacks (1) This entry is filed under Politics, Technology.
Tags: Censorship, China, Privacy

March 14, 2007

Curious George, Curious Georgia & Penguins

L-R: Curious George, Curious Georgia, a selction of Penguins

Posted by skooter at 9:19 PM This entry is filed under Camera, Family, Friends.
Tags: Georgia, Home

March 13, 2007

Two Great Articles in the New York Times

This may be one of the saddest articles I’ve read:

A Place to Turn When a Newborn Is Fated to Die
MINNEAPOLIS The day after Alaina Kilibarda was born, her breathing started to falter, as her family knew it might. During the pregnancy, doctors had told James and Jill Kilibarda that their baby had a lethal genetic problem that would probably end her life within hours of birth.

and nothing points to a consumption based society quite as much as the the growth of the storage industry:

Hooked on Storage
By SUZANNE GANNON
Published: March 8, 2007
Gaithersburg, Md.

ON a recent Saturday afternoon Marcus and Imal Wagner stood in a U-Haul storage warehouse here, surrounded by their castoff possessions: a papier-mâché candy dish, LPs by Cream and the Ventures, a computer printer, a ceramic figurine of a gnome atop a turtle, bolts of taffeta from a long-abandoned pillow-making hobby, and stacks of 25-gallon tubs filled with old files and five years’ worth of paperwork

The emphasis is mine.

Posted by skooter at 5:40 PM This entry is filed under America.
Tags: Articles, Children, Storage

March 12, 2007

Mobile TV

From Information Week:

The biggest loser is mobile content, such as games and ring tones. Another loser is mobile TV. Nokia still appeared to believe in it, with its new N77 handset and its partnership with YouTube, but others, such as Sony ericsson, went out of their way to skirt the hype.

Which leads to the questions: why is Bell Canada launching its mobile movie service now, when the poor history of mobile video content has already been demonstrated in Europe.

An equally relevant question: why are they doing it with movies that are over a year old? Is there anybody who wants to that hasn’t already seen Spider Man 2? If there is, are they really going to need to see it badly enough to download it on a two square inch screen?

Posted by skooter at 9:01 PM This entry is filed under Marketing, Technology.
Tags: Bell, Cellular Phones, Mobile Internet

March 11, 2007

Wilcoworld Preview of Sky Blue Sky

Wilcoworld Sky Blue Sky preview player Sky Blue Sky isn’t released until May 15th. Until then, these occasional previews will suffice. Slap on the headphones.

Posted by skooter at 5:22 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Wilco

Political Sleight of Hand

Slate has a great article about a bit of sleight of hand played the Edwards campaign.

John Edwards’ Bad Edit

…when Edwards sent out a campaign video to 70,000 Iowa voters earlier this week, something caught our eye—a bit of video-editing trickery that made Edwards appear to be talking about medical care when he was really talking about Iraq.

Posted by skooter at 8:16 AM This entry is filed under Politics, Technology.
Tags: Advertising, America

March 8, 2007

Joni Mitchell’s Been Bumped

I’ve had a playlist for California for longer than I’ve had an iPod, and longer than iTunes existed. It was built when I took my first trip there in April of 2001 when I used Toast to burn a CD for the Jeep. I surveyed friends, built the list, grabbed the tunes and burned the CD.

There’s some obvious stuff on there such as Hotel California by the The Eagles and California Dreamin by the Mamas and the Papas. California Uber Alles by the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy was a great little treat, and less obvious.

This list has always started with California by Joni Mitchell. It’s a wonderful song that evoked images of that golden place like no other.

Until now.

Joni’s been bumped and replaced by Neko Case’s In California.

Sorry Joni. Lifetime achievement or not, some things just have to change. It’s time to move along. If it’s any consolation, you’re now the last song on that list. At least this means you’re bookending it.

Posted by skooter at 7:22 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: AltCountry, California, Neko Case, Road Trip

This is Phenomenal

Posted by skooter at 10:49 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Interaction Design, TED, Usability

March 7, 2007

I Am So Out of Tune With You

After deciding to hold onto my somewhat aged PowerBook G4 for a while longer, I decided to invest in a wireless network upgrade. It’s been a while.

It has, in fact, been a while since I’ve paid for Internet access. When I moved to my current location, there was a Linksys Wireless router in place. Tragically, it was an 802.11b.

All was fine until I recently purchased an Airport Express in order to get music from my computer to my stereo. Keen memories may recall that I had a Squeezebox to do this, but I think a power outage or breaker switch blew it. Sadly, there will be no more Pope Gravely Ill days for me.

The Airport Express is different from the Squeezebox—all of its control and input is provided by the computer. I could have bought an (as yet unavailable) Apple TV unit but this would have meant having the TV on to control music. Since I don’t like my TV anyway, I chose to go this route. It was also quite a bit cheaper.

Unfortunately, 802.11b was just not enough to feed the Airport Express. My solution?

Yup. I bought a new Airport Extreme to replace the Linksys equipment. The last Airport base station I bought was one of the first in Canada, served only 802.11b and is still in use some 6 years later in Toronto.

So how did the upgrade go?

Continue reading "I Am So Out of Tune With You"

Posted by skooter at 9:14 PM This entry is filed under Music, Technology.
Tags: Airport, Apple, Music, WiFi, Wilco

The Case for Liberalism, George McGovern

Written before the commencement of the Iraq War (or, as some prefer to think of it, Gulf War 2.0) this article by George McGovern appeared in Harpers Magazine in December of 2002. It’s been kicking around my house ever since. If you haven’t read it, you need to—especially if you live in the United States of America.

Some points I like.

“[As] William F. Buckley puts it in his book Up from Liberalism,

‘Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgment that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before.’

The business of conservatism is, in other words, to cling tightly to the past…”
pp. 39

Continue reading "The Case for Liberalism, George McGovern"

Posted by skooter at 7:17 PM This entry is filed under America, Politics.
Tags: America, Articles, George Bush, Liberal, United Nations, United States

March 6, 2007

Neon Bible

Neon Bible Neon Bible is the new album from Montreal’s Arcade Fire. It’s also the best rock album I’ve heard in as long as I can remember.

Intervention can be found in many iterations and was played on Saturday Night Live last weekend with backing vocals sung into a megaphone instead of a microphone. The album version features a powerful organ line throughout and a bass line that hasn’t been heard in ages.

Working for the church
while your family dies.
You take what they give you
and you keep it inside.
Every spark of friendship and love
will die without a home.
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone.”

This album is good enough that it supplanted, at least for a day, Neko Case as my listening of choice. I can’t wait to dial it in on my iPod beneath a motorcycle helmet…that’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Posted by skooter at 10:06 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Cancon, Montreal, Motorcycle

A Week in the Life

You’re never to young to listen to Neko Case on a good pair of headphones, learn to use a cameraphone or give the photographer a winning smile.

These were all taken with the phone built into my Sony Ericssson k750i cell phone.

Posted by skooter at 8:37 PM This entry is filed under Family.
Tags: Cameraphone, Georgia, Me, Paige

Email

An email from a customer:

The video of my birthday, fortune teller who e’ the person who me is to flank?

translated by Babelfish from the original Italian:

Il video del mio compleanno, indovina chi e’ la persona che mi sta a fianco?

Posted by skooter at 7:43 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Translation

March 4, 2007

Why Chapters is NOT Amazon

It’s a cliche to point out the dominance of Amazon. A few years ago, it was just as cliche to point out the dominance of Chapters in the Canadian book selling world. Small booksellers were doomed in the face of this behemoth.

What’s astonishing is how badly Chapters have failed the online war. I recently found an example of why.

I was considering, for the first time in ages, going out of my way to buy a book at Chapters — specifically Deborah Eisenberg’s Twilight of the Superheroes which I’ve been looking for every since hearing a review on Eleanor Wachtel’s Writers & Company The book has just recently been released in trade paperback.

I searched on locations and found this:
Chapters Store Locations

That last column, the one that lists the store hours, is what caught my eye. Vancouver is notorious for stores that close early — Friday night closings at 6 p.m. are not uncomon. It’s Sunday, and I’m not sure how late Chapters stays open.

The things is, every location said the same thing about its hours:

Our hours of operation are occasionally subject to change - please call the store to confirm store hours.

And if it says that about every location, why bother having the column in your search results at all?

Amazon has succeeded because they have consistently delivered an excellent shopping experience for their customers by focusing on the entire business relationship. It’s not just low prices, it’s a good shopping experience.

Chapters would do well to do the same. They fall far short.

I’m ordering the book from Amazon.

Posted by skooter at 6:20 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Information Architecture, Usability