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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
Disposable Dixie-cup drinking / I assassin down the avenue / I'm hiding out in the big city blinking
— Wilco, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
May 29, 2010

Writing Honestly about Canadian Healthcare

Jeffrey Simpson writes a rare and honest article about the status of the Canadian healthcare system. I’ve added the emphasis.

We can’t afford to live in health-care denial
The public has been blissfully ignorant that budgets are growing at an unsustainable pace

For some years now, we’ve had a slowly worsening problem of financing health care. Many people, including university health-care “experts” who dominated a lot of public debate about the issue, denied the existence of a problem. The Romanow Commission of 2002 ignored the challenge entirely. Politicians knew a problem was emerging, but were scared to talk about it, fearing public reaction. A few lonely voices tried to alert readers or listeners to the looming problem, but they were derided. The public was blissfully ignorant that health-care budgets were growing at an unsustainable pace.

In the recent past I’ve had conversations with friends in the United States who were excited about President Barak Obama’s recent healthcare, but confused by the mechanics of its implementation. Many of these conversations revolved around what they really wanted which, it turns out, is a classic myth: free healthcare, Canadian style.

I pointed out a few of the many flaws and myths of the Canadian system: it’s not free, most provinces now have a monthly fee (in British Columbia it’s about $57 a month); waiting lists exist and are sometimes long, and those with sufficient wealth are often able to jump the line—I know of one politician who paid for an MRI during an election campaign and kept it quiet; elder care is an increasing problem, and one the system isn’t really dealing with; it’s not a national system in anything other than name, as it’s administered by the provinces who jealously guard their territory.

The single biggest flaw I pointed out, however, is the one that Simpson points out above: Canadians simply aren’t able to have a conversation about healthcare at all, because it’s such a sacred cow that the minute anybody suggests changing it, everybody runs scared. The new American system may be confusing to the average citizen, but at least there was a national conversation about it.

With an aging population bubble and healthcare budgets that are spiralling out of control, the time is now for having a meaningful conversation about the status of our public healthcare and how to fix it.

The only thing that’s preventing the conversation is fear: politicians are afraid of not getting reelected and Canadians are afraid to admit the system is failing.

We need to get over it.

Posted by skooter at 4:20 PM This entry is filed under Canada, Politics.
Tags: Globe and Mail, Health Care

May 28, 2010

Time Magazine’s 50 Worst Inventions

Time’s summary of the 50 worst inventions is at the very least an amusing read, and a reminder of times past. The Segway leads the list, and while the product never lived up to the hype (how could it?) I’m not entirely sure it belongs there.

Any number of chemical inventions (DDT, the plastic bag, CFCs and Olestra) appear in between pretty much every product you’ve ever seen an infomercial for.

Posted by skooter at 4:09 PM This entry is filed under Marketing.
Tags: Marketing, Television

Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address to Stanford


I’m not entirely sure how I’ve missed this for so long. You’d think it would have crossed my path before now. Having said that, the timing seems rather perfect right now.

Posted by skooter at 1:42 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Apple, Innovation, NeXT, Steve Jobs, Technology, Universities

May 27, 2010

Edward Tufte: Beautiful Evidence


Tufte is brilliant. Pay attention to this.

Posted by skooter at 3:51 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Edward Tufte, Information Architecture, Information Design

May 26, 2010

Vancouver’s Old Chrysler Dealership

Fading banners at Vancouver's old Chrysler dealership Fading banners at Vancouver's old Chrysler dealership Fading banners at Vancouver's old Chrysler dealership Fading banners at Vancouver's old Chrysler dealership

Posted by skooter at 3:26 PM This entry is filed under America, Camera.
Tags: Cars, Chrysler

Mt. Pleasant Photos

More photos from Mt. Pleasant below. The full (and still growing) collection is in the galleries.

Posted by skooter at 1:45 AM This entry is filed under Camera, Vancouver.
Tags: Mount Pleasant, Photos, Vancouver

May 23, 2010

Michael Enright on Bikes vs. Cars

Michael Enright’s Sunday Edition opened this morning with a monologue on the issue of cars vs. bikes.

Enright points out the deteriorating condition of our infrastructure and raises the spectre of the suburbs in a way that seems to praise the role the automobile had in the development of them.

Cycling is derided as not North American and environmental issues are completely ignored, while the recent economic bailouts are passed over as if their impact should never be considered.

In the end Enright (a motorcyclist as well) chooses his car with—it’s worth noting—some enthusiasm.

This isn’t a war. It’s not a matter of us vs. them. There isn’t much of a choice here: unless we stop using fossil fuels to power even the smallest of transportation tasks, the natural environment on which we depend will continue to decline. Quite simply, North American transportation habits are pumping too many greenhouse gasses into the air for the atmosphere to contend with.

Not everybody has to get out of a car. A minivan with eight people in may be a reasonable choice; the same minivan with a single person is not. If all we could achieve was the elimination of the single occupancy vehicle, too often used for short trips, it would be a major leap forward. I’d like to see more, but this would be a reasonable short term goal.

When the media fails to acknowledge this, and presents an argument so short sighted I’m not quite sure what to do with it. Enright’s show is presented as an opinion piece, and not the official editorial view of the CBC but few are likely to make the distinction. Enright is among the most senior and trusted voices on the radio, and it carries weight.

I’ve transcribed his monologue below.

This past week the World Wildlife Fund, the panda bear people, released the results of a survey a bit off their usual radar. They asked drivers across the country how they felt about their cars.

The results are noteworthy but not really surprising. 36% of us say we would give up junk food before giving up our cars; another 14% said they’d give up coffee; 6% television; and 2% said they’d forgo sex rather than hang up their keys.

Continue reading "Michael Enright on Bikes vs. Cars"

Posted by skooter at 5:16 PM This entry is filed under Cycling, Politics.
Tags: Cars, CBC, Cycling, Environmentalism, Urban Planning

Toyota: The Swagger Wagon


An absolutely beautifully executed television ad for the Toyota Sienna. For me the best moment comes at 1:35 in, when the rap is interrupted for just moment.

The follow ups at the end are well worth watching too.

Posted by skooter at 4:01 AM This entry is filed under Marketing.
Tags: Advertising, Marketing, Toyota

Abstract

iPhone Abstract

Posted by skooter at 2:36 AM This entry is filed under Camera, Technology.
Tags: iPhone

May 22, 2010

Beaty Biodiversity Museum Preview

I attended the first of five summer previews of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC today. The feature exhibit is an 85 foot long skeleton of a Blue Whale largest mammal ever to have inhabited our biosphere, hunted to near extinction by man.

The skeleton is stunning, and well worth seeing. There are more photos than the ones below in the galleries section.

Posted by skooter at 11:20 PM This entry is filed under Camera, Nature, Vancouver.
Tags: Environmentalism, UBC, Vancouver, Whales

Norah Jones Covers “Jesus, etc…” by Wilco


Norah Jones seems to have been playing this around—there’s a video of her performing it at Neil Young’s Bridge School Festival as well. There doesn’t seem to be all that much love for this in the Wilco community. I’m a bit on the fence.

Posted by skooter at 4:03 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Norah Jones, Videos, Wilco

May 21, 2010

Sunset Over Downtown Vancouver

Sunset Over Downtown Vancouver as seen from Science World

Posted by skooter at 6:08 AM This entry is filed under Camera, Vancouver.
Tags: Sunset, Vancouver

May 20, 2010

Floyd Landis Admits to Using Banned Substances

Floyd Landis has finally admitted what was fairly obvious: that he used banned substances throughout his career, and in particular during his unbelievable Tour de France victory in 2006.

Unfortunately, Landis has demonstrated a lack of class and appears to be trying to take everybody else down with him.

Landis, Admitting Doping, Accuses Top U.S. Cyclists
By JULIET MACUR and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, Published: May 20, 2010

VISALIA, Calif. — After four years of maintaining his innocence about doping charges that ruined his reputation and caused him to be stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, the American cyclist Floyd Landis has sent e-mail messages to several cycling officials in the United States and in Europe in which he admits using performance-enhancing drugs for most of his career.

In the messages, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Landis accused other top American cyclists on the Postal Service team, including Armstrong, of using performance-enhancing drugs and methods. Other cyclists named were current United States road racing national champion George Hincapie, three-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer and five-time United States time trial champion David Zabriskie.

The Toronto Star has coverage, ESPN has video but not the actual interview they conducted and VeloNews has the cycling community’s reaction to the news.

Lance’s official statement in response is after the jump.

Continue reading "Floyd Landis Admits to Using Banned Substances"

Posted by skooter at 2:57 PM This entry is filed under Cycling, Sports.
Tags: Cycling, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Tour de France

Great Lake Swimmers - See You on the Moon (Live at the Vogue Theatre)

This was a great show, and a surprise number for the encore.

Posted by skooter at 2:04 AM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Great Lake Swimmers, Videos

May 19, 2010

Desserts at Havana, Commercial Drive, Vancouver

A photo shoot for the Vancouver Fringe Festival for an upcoming promotion in cooperation with the wonderful Havana on Commercial Drive.

Posted by skooter at 2:38 AM This entry is filed under Food.
Tags: Desert, Food, Fringe Festival, Photography

May 17, 2010

20 Years of Missing Jim Henson

I’ve certainly been moved by the death of many people I knew and loved, but I’ve rarely been as moved by the loss of someone I had never met as I was the day Jim Henson died. It was as if my entire had just been…erased. At a time when media felt more fragile and didn’t live forever, it seemed that a future without Jim Henson was a grim prospect.

Posted by skooter at 6:57 AM This entry is filed under Entertainment.
Tags: Jim Henson, Muppets

May 15, 2010

No Smoking

No Smoking sign at J.J. Bean's

Posted by skooter at 3:49 AM This entry is filed under Camera, Vancouver.
Tags: No Smoking, Patio, Vancouver

May 14, 2010

Lorne Guntner on Voter Turnout

Lorne Guntner writes in the National Post about a plan to effectively bribe people to vote by issuing a tax credit. He cites Australia as an example and then hits the key question right on the head (the emphasis is mine):

As voter turnout in our elections has slipped from 70% to 60% to 50% (in Alberta in the 2008 provincial election it was almost down to 40%), more and more of the hand-wringing, eat-your-peas poke-noses who dominate our public debates have called for a mandatory voting law, along the lines of the one in Australia, where non-voters are fined and turnout is often over 90%.

But why do we automatically assume the problem is with those who choose not to vote, rather than with those who have failed to inspire them to vote?

Why indeed?

Canada’s electoral system has essentially evolved—or devolved, depending on your perspective—to reward the middle. It embodies, in its very essence, that most Canadian of qualities: compromise.

Given this tendency towards the middle of the road, is it any surprise that people don’t vote?

Continue reading "Lorne Guntner on Voter Turnout"

Posted by skooter at 4:02 PM This entry is filed under Canada, Politics.
Tags: Articles, Elections, Electoral Reform, Parliament, Senators

Fred & Barney Shill for Winston

Posted by skooter at 4:58 AM This entry is filed under Entertainment, Marketing.
Tags: Cigarettes, Flintstones, Smoking, Television

May 13, 2010

Concrete Hat

Hardhat coated in Concrete, Mt. Pleasant, Vancouver

Posted by skooter at 5:23 PM This entry is filed under Vancouver.
Tags: Construction

Ace Rides Gently Into the Night

Ace Cycles on Broadway in Vancouver isn’t a store that I spend much time in, but it once would have been. It’s overrun by mass market mountain bikes of the sort that parents buy for their teenagers.

Once, though, they had a vintage 1980s Miele in the window with gold anodized rims and a gold chain. Now that’s a bike I would have loved to have.

Ace is a cycling legend in town, and he will be missed. He died at 88 years old.

Lorne Atkinson kept cycling alive in postwar Vancouver
Tom Hawthorn, Published on Wednesday, May. 12, 2010 8:21PM EDT

Lorne (Ace) Atkinson’s name is synonymous with cycling in Vancouver.

He raced at the Olympics, coached Canadian teams and organized international competitions in his hometown.

Atkinson, who has died at the age of 88, was proprietor of a popular bike shop, where he outfitted generations of cyclists, from world-class racers to weekend sightseers.

Ace Cycles opened its doors in 1946 on West Broadway, where it remains a fixture of the Kitsilano neighbourhood. The owner lived in an apartment above a store in which he could often be seen doing repairs, his hands covered in oil and grease.

Posted by skooter at 3:20 PM This entry is filed under Cycling, Vancouver.
Tags: Cycling, Obituaries

Gordon Campbell Won’t Run Again?

It seems that Gordon Campbell is considering not running in the next B.C. Provincial Election, despite insisting for years that he wanted to be B.C.’s longest serving premier.

His retirement, of course, won’t alleviate the effect of the HST decision on the B.C. Liberal Party at all leaving someone else to be tarred with the brush of loser as a result of the decision. This is a shame in no small part because the HST decision is one of the smarter economic policies that this government has implemented.

I wonder how the Kash Heed situation plays into this? Aside from questions of the Elections act violations and criminal chargers, Gordon Campbell has completed bungled it by reinstating Heed too quickly to cabinet only to have him out again the next day.

:Gordon Campbell casts doubt on fourth run at office
Ian Bailey, Published on Wednesday, May. 12, 2010 10:17PM EDT

For the first time, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell is not being so emphatic about seeking a fourth term in the 2013 election.

“I’m 62 years old so I’ll have an opportunity to consider that, but first I’ve got to make sure we get our economy thriving,” Mr. Campbell told CTV in an interview Wednesday.

The comments were at odds with the Premier’s bullish talk since leading his B.C. Liberals to a third straight majority last May, that he’ll be at the helm for a fourth election in May, 2013. But as the anniversary of that election passes this week, the Liberals are under political siege.

Posted by skooter at 3:05 PM This entry is filed under Politics.
Tags: Economics, Gordon Campbell, HST, Kash Heed

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound cover Wilco


This soul infused cover of Wilco’s I Am Trying to Break Your Heart has been making the rounds, and I’ve been rather slow to post it actually. Other things on my mind I suppose.

It’s fairly awesome, and works the refrain from Theologians into the mix as well.

The funny thing is I’m a pretty good candidate for not liking this, but I do. I most often describe I Am Trying to Break Your Heart as a song that reaches deep into my soul and tears it out every time I hear it, and I mean it.

This version turns the song into a pretty entertaining and much lighter romp, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Posted by skooter at 1:24 AM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, Jeff Tweedy, Soul, Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

May 12, 2010

CBC Radio One Early Edition Mug

CBC Radio One Early Edition Mug Woohoo! I won a CBC mug!

Posted by skooter at 11:59 PM This entry is filed under Canada.
Tags: Canada, CBC

May 11, 2010

Jakob Nielsen on the iPad

Jakob Nielsen reviews the iPad for usability and user interface. While the article is interesting, it plays a little fast and loose with details by criticizing specific applications user interfaces and then lumping them under the category of the iPad UI, effectively damning the entire platform for choices developers made.

iPad Usability: First Findings From User Testing

Inconsistent Interaction Design

To exacerbate the problem, once they do figure out how something works, users can’t transfer their skills from one app to the next. Each application has a completely different UI for similar features.

In different apps, touching a picture could produce any of the following 5 results:

  • Nothing happens
  • Enlarging the picture
  • Hyperlinking to a more detailed page about that item
  • Flipping the image to reveal additional pictures in the same place (metaphorically, these new pictures are “on the back side” of the original picture)
  • Popping up a set of navigation choices

The latter design was used by USA Today: Touching the newspaper’s logo brought up a navigation menu listing the various sections. This was probably the most unexpected interaction we tested, and not one user discovered it.

An interesting read regardless. I suspect it will take three generations of operating system evolution for the image of the iPad as just a large iPhone to be shaken, and some of the real usability issues to be addressed.

Posted by skooter at 5:40 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Apple, Information Architecture, Information Design, iPad, iPhone, Jakob Nielsen, Usability

Wilco: Deeper Down (live on the Craig Ferguson show)

“My next guest may be the best rock band in the world working today.”

I didn’t say it. Craig Ferguson did. It must be true.
`

Posted by skooter at 3:16 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Videos, Wilco

May 9, 2010

Dan Mangan at the Vogue Theatre: May 8, 2010

To see an artist in their hometown is always a special thing. Playing at home in front of family and friends artists are at ease…more natural. Performances become more intimate because of the connections to the audience, usually a more established and obviously appreciative fan base.

Dan Mangan lives in Vancouver, and last night he played one of Vancouver’s premiere venues—the Vogue Theatre. Calling the night electric doesn’t do it justice. From the moment Dan took the stage, it was obvious that he was right where he belonged.
Dan takes to to the stage, opening with Sold

Opening with the uptempo Sold from last year’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice got the crowd started quite nicely. A more straightforward and rocking song than much of the material from the album, it was followed closely by Road Regrets, a song which has ended forever the debate over the age old question “What’s the best rock and roll road trip song?”
Dan Mangan at the Vogue Theatre

Continue reading "Dan Mangan at the Vogue Theatre: May 8, 2010"

Posted by skooter at 5:59 PM This entry is filed under Music, Vancouver.
Tags: Dan Mangan, Ivan Coyote, Vogue Theatre

May 8, 2010

Aren’t Markets Supposed To Be Rational?

When I first heard the news about this week’s drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Index, it was being reported as being caused by concerns over the Greek economy. I had my standard reaction to this kind of news: the Greek economy has been crumbling for a while now, so how is it that a supposedly rational and forward looking market has such a large swing in a single day? Shouldn’t the decline have been gradual over time since the beginning of the news?

Later it was reported as being caused by fat fingers on the trading floor. Somebody entered a trade in billions of units instead of millions, and automated trading systems around the world went into a frenzy.

Now that makes sense, but if this isn’t an indictment of automated trading systems then I don’t know what is. Procter & Gamble dropped 37%—as if sales of laundry detergent and other cleaning supplies are going to plummet 37% worldwide because of events in Greece.

These kinds of wild swings in the Dow and other market indices are a modern phenomenon. When trading was done by people, they didn’t happen. According to the Vanguard Group the S&P 500 closed up or down 5% or more in a single day 17 times between 1956 and 2007. In a single year—2008—the S&P reached that same number, closing up or down 5% in a single day.

That is not a rational market, and that isn’t good technology.

Origin of Wall Street’s Plunge Continues to Elude Officials

By GRAHAM BOWLEY
Published: May 7, 2010

A day after a harrowing plunge in the stock market, federal regulators were still unable on Friday to answer the one question on every investor’s mind: What caused that near panic on Wall Street?

Through the day and into the evening, officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal agencies hunted for clues amid a tangle of electronic trading records from the nation’s increasingly high-tech exchanges.

But, maddeningly, the cause or causes of the market’s wild swing remained elusive, leaving what amounts to a $1 trillion question mark hanging over the world’s largest, and most celebrated, stock market.

Posted by skooter at 4:31 PM This entry is filed under America.
Tags: Dow Jones Industrial Average, Greece, Investing, Wall Street

May 7, 2010

New Pornographers: Your Hands (Together)

I was kind of hoping to see Neko throwing some kicks here, but I guess you can’t have everything. An awesome new album will have to do. This was apparently filmed in a Steveston dojo.

Posted by skooter at 5:51 AM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Music Videos, New Pornographers

May 6, 2010

One Grey Whale In All These Oceans

Much abuzz in Vancouver yesterday, as a Grey Whale was spotted in False Creek.

I was actually pedalling towards the swimming pool when I saw an enormous crowd on the False Creek Seawall and someone mentioned a whale, so I paused. Of course I’d left my camera at home and the camera on my iPod wasn’t enough to catch the very brief glimpse that I got of the amazing creature.

Christine MacAvoy has photos taken from the Granville Bridge that do a good job of showing the action.

Rumour is our friend is still hanging around today, though I’ve got a busy day and I’m not sure I’ll have a chance to see it. Perhaps if I walk home from downtown along the seawall.

Posted by skooter at 3:35 PM This entry is filed under Vancouver.
Tags: False Creek, Whale

Darth Vader’s GPS Recording Session

Tom Tom has released a Darth Vader voice for turn by turn directions on its GPS units. The best part is the brilliant promotional video.

Posted by skooter at 3:15 PM This entry is filed under Technology, Entertainment.
Tags: Darth Vader, GPS, Star Wars, Tom Tom

Television: A Poem by Todd Alcott, Interpreted by Beth Fulton

Television is a drug. from Beth Fulton on Vimeo.

Posted by skooter at 12:30 AM This entry is filed under Entertainment, Politics.
Tags: Culture, Poetry, Television

May 5, 2010

I Remember When Rock Was Young

Ah, Hamilton. Home to the exotic. What I love best about this article is the photo of the enormous American crocodile that appears near the bottom. That’s not fear mongering.

Until they catch this thing it’s probably best to stay out of the water though. Just in case.

Crocodile spotted in Hamilton area
Sarah Boesveld, From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail

On Sunday morning, Tom Badeau set out to his local Hamilton-area pond expecting to snap photos of birds and otters - the usual critters he sees on his regular nature jaunts.

But a shot of a branch in the middle of the pond that dipped into the deep made him do a double take.

“I thought it was a stupid stick,” he said.

It turned out to be much more exotic and dangerous - a crocodile that has become the object of a determined search and rescue mission in the pond near Barangas On The Beach.

Posted by skooter at 5:28 PM This entry is filed under .
Tags: Articles, Globe and Mail, Hamilton

May 4, 2010

From Hipster to Hippie

From a Smashing Magazine article about that state of web design comes an article by Hanah Snavely in The Bold Italic about the rise and fall of San Francisco’s hippie hill.

The absolute design highlight is a series of illustrations called From Hipster to Hippie: A Cautionary Tale in 6 Steps. Worth reading.

From Hipster to Hippie: step one and two

Posted by skooter at 4:49 PM This entry is filed under America, Technology.
Tags: Articles, Hipster, San Francisco

May 2, 2010

Who Has the Best Baseball Fans

A well created and presented infographic tries to quantify which baseball team has the best fans.

Accuracy is pretty good here: the Blue Jays pretty much fall off the radar, just like the fans did when the team started losing after winning back to back world series championships.

Infographic of the Day: Which Baseball Teams Have the Best Fans? | Fast Company

The Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, and Texas Rangers have pathetic fans. Which makes you think: Baseball’s continued rep as America’s game really seems driven by a few old cities, where rooting for the home team is a tradition passed down through generations.

Posted by skooter at 7:55 PM This entry is filed under Sports.
Tags: Baseball, Infographics, Information Design, Toronto Blue Jays

H.264 Wins the Video War

With Microsoft announcing its support of H.264 in IE9 and Steve Jobs as the format’s number one booster it seems that video war has been won.

FastCompany writes about the issue including noting controversies over licensing and the possibility that OGG Theora is a better option (linking to Hugo Roy’s argument here.)

My first encounter with OGG was in the early days of Panic software’s Audion which offered OGG encoding as an option. Royalty free and completely open OGG seemed like a good option…except that virtually no hardware supported it.

This is a classic chicken and egg argument, of course, except in this case, as the dominant player in portable media devices, Apple pretty much gets to choose who wins. If iTunes and iPods had supported OGG, I’ve no doubt that it’s usage would be much more common today.

At this point, at least for the short term, H.264 is the future, and future licensing issues will have to be dealt with when the time comes.

Posted by skooter at 5:29 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Apple, HTML, Microsoft, Videos

Posters on the Opsal Steel Building

Posted by skooter at 2:08 AM This entry is filed under Camera, Vancouver.
Tags: Architecture, Vancouver