for more information contact skot@penguinstorm.com

current
On Trump
Bob Dylan - Wisdom is Thrown Into Jail
Bob Dylan: Tempest
Adam West voices the Dark Knight
Apple's Calendar Inconsistency
Is Pono Dead?
Inbox Zero is Old News: Welcome to Inbox Negative One
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Effects Reel
Evolution of Stop Motion Photography
7 Story Cycling Centric Apartments


recent
What Happened to Jai Alai?
Greatest Text Conversation Ever
Quarry Rock in the Rain
Careless Reckless Love
Electricity, Heights and Women
Daniel Lanois and his AC30
How Can You Just Leave Me Standing Alone in a World So Cold
Today Was a Tough Day
The Resonant Frequency of Love - Rocco DeLuca with Daniel Lanois
Dan Mangan - Forgetery
Birch Tree: Toronto, 2016
Japan's Disposable Workers
Jeff Tweedy Plays Charades with Ewan McGregor
Steph Cameron at the Railway Club (February 1, 2016)
Wilco at the CityFolk Festival, Ottawa (September 20, 2015)
Rice Lake, North Vancouver
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Running Away
Stanley Rohatinski: 1925 - 2015
Chewie...we're home!


archives
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
October 2015
April 2015
March 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
August 2014
May 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
July 2003
June 2003
January 2003
November 2002
October 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
May 2001
April 2001
January 2001
October 1999


categories
America
Books
Camera
Canada
Cycling
Design
Entertainment
Family
Food
Friends
Inanities
Marketing
Music
Narcicism
Nature
Penguins
Politics
Quebec
Science
Sports
Technology
Travel
Tweets
Vancouver
Words


randomness
your blue hood
Thin Systems
Listen to the Bell, Mr. Premier...It Tolls for Thee
Gordon Campbell Won't Run Again?
Bike Maintenance Lessons: Disc Brake Pads
Cycling is Mainstream Transportation
Brave New World: The Musical
Perennial Also Ran?
Daniel Lanois and his AC30
Dan Mangan - Forgetery

I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
Sunset is an angel weeping / Holding out a bloody sword
— Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the Cage
October 31, 2011

Scenes from a Weekend

Posted by skooter at 9:00 PM This entry is filed under Camera, Travel.
Tags: BC Ferries, Fall, Salt Spring Island, Travel

October 29, 2011

Why Google’s Verification is a Privacy Fail

Google’s Gmail launched a few years ago, to quite a bit of fanfare. At the time it was definitely the best webmail client out there, though I think that playing field has levelled quite a bit. I’ve got a few Gmail addresses, though none of them are used in any meaningful way anymore. I prefer to keep my email private, and those little contextual ads that pop up started to creep me out, especially when they were combined with Google’s tracking of web activities.

This morning I was going to create a new email address with Google when I was surprised to see, for the first time, a verification box that asked for my phone number:
Google Signup Verification Given the flack that Google’s taken over privacy violations, it’s interesting that they’re asking for this. The system “verifies” users by asking you to enter an phone number to receive either a voice call or a text message.

This may seem harmless at first glance, but the ramifications are huge and far reaching. This is particularly true given that Google doesn’t make any written commitment that this phone number isn’t being stored permanently (not that I’d believe them if they said they weren’t anyway.) That’s privacy violation number one: it’s highly likely that your phone number is store on a server in the United States if you’re signing up on Google today, even if you live in a country that would prohibit storing that information locally.

Most people have limited numbers of phone numbers—two or three at most. By asking for this information, Google effectively creates a situation where anybody with multiple email addresses can no longer keep them discrete. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to have multiple email addresses—for business purposes, for intimate communication with close friends, for humourous purposes—but the new verification process means that Google has a database which can potentially connect all of these identities together. That’s privacy violation number two.

These two combine into a potentially troubling scenario.

Continue reading "Why Google’s Verification is a Privacy Fail"

Posted by skooter at 10:15 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Databases, Evil, Google, Privacy, Stalker

October 26, 2011

Wilco! (and Jay Farrar!)


I swear this isn’t a Wilco blog. Really. Since nobody’s going to believe me anyway, why don’t we just move along…

Wilco are coming to Vancouver on February 5th of next year at the Orpheum. I’m not fond of assigned seating venues, and I’ve never seen Wilco indoors so I was a bit worried that I’d wind up with some crappy ticket off in a corner. The band started their pre-sale today, and I somehow—miraculously—managed to grab a pair of third row seats just ten off centre. I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but I’m just going to embrace it.

Next week on Thursday night Jay Farrar is playing the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham and I’m going to head down for it. I love the Buffalo—it’s a beautiful, scenic venue—and I’ve never seen Jay, so I’m looking forward to this one. I definitely fall on the Wilco side of the Uncle Tupelo split, but at least two of the three Son Volt albums Jay’s released have been outstanding, not too mention his One Fast Move or I’m Gone which had a place on my favourite albums list for quite a while.

So, it seems like the perfect time for Jeff Tweedy telling an awkward story about bumping into Jay on the beach in Mexico, long after their acrimonious but unresolved split. Alternatively, the little moment below which is the only time I have ever watched George Strobolopolous I swear!

Posted by skooter at 8:28 PM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, Wilco, Wild Buffalo House of Music

October 25, 2011

Jenn Grant: Eye of the Tiger


Not, you know, that I want Sylvester Stallone to make another Rocky movie but if he does, maybe he’s got a theme song here?

Posted by skooter at 6:04 AM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: Jenn Grant, Rocky, Survivor, Sylvester Stallone, Videos

October 20, 2011

I Think That Ghosts Like the Cooler Weather

It’s October, and that always means a melancholy time of year for me. A shift in the soundtrack of life happens as days get shorter, temperatures drop and we spend more time indoors. The music I listen to gets quieter, more contemplative and more inward looking.

Fall is a time for new beginnings for some: kids go back to school and in a lot of houses it’s more like the start of a new year that the actual start of a New Year. New routines get sorted out after the lazy days of summer, and schedules adjust.

For me fall starts at the end of August, when the calendar turns on another arbitrarily selected anniversary in my life. This year I turned 40, which is a fact of some significance to some people. Though I shrugged it off as it happened (amidst a week of vacation with friends, family and more live music than is probably healthy for most people) it’s a fact of significance to me too: the last ten years, in particular, haven’t always been easy or kind but this list year…this last year…this has been the happiest year I can remember. Things are just perfect right now. It was a good time to turn 40.

That vacation included a very short stop in Trenton, Ontario. We were there less ten minutes, but I stopped to visit my grandfather’s grave for only the third time in the 21 years he’s been gone. It’s not the frequency of the visits that counts, but the sentiment right? Maybe.

My grandfather died in the fall. He died late in the night one September 19th a long time ago. It was five days shy of his 74th birthday. It’s one of the reasons fall is always a sad time for me: I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember the song that was playing in the store when I bought his birthday card; I remember the birthday card; I remember getting the call when I was at work. September’s never a happy time for me. I remember too much.

Today is the birthday of two dear friends: one lives in Ontario and is now married with three kids. No matter how hard I try to focus on the happiness in her life, I can’t help but remember the other. Richard Charteris died a few years ago. He was 49. He’d have been 57 today. Richard was one of my closest friends when I knew him in Toronto. In a moment of serendipity his youngest daughter found me a while ago through a photo I’d taken and got in touch. Knowing that his kids are doing well was nice: they lost their father so young, and so unexpectedly. October’s not a very happy time for me. I remember Richard every year.

Richard and I were close but not alone. We were a rogues gallery when partnered with Al. Al was the oldest of us, but probably had the most energy. That guy could spend a whole day whipping out a brilliant marketing plan, head to the bar for a post work beer, sing a full set of rocking blues with a nine piece backing band and then wake up and do it all again the next day. One day, when I’m 65, I’d like to be half as cool as Al.

He still has more hair on his head than I do too, so there’s that too.

A few days ago—just a few days before this anniversary of Richard’s death—Al sent a mass email out. He’s been diagnosed with what he’s describing as an “aggressive case of prostate cancer.” It was late at night when I got the email. I was shocked: I was also glad he’d told me. He didn’t have too.

I haven’t seen Al in over ten years. It was before I moved to Vancouver. I lived in Charlottetown for a while and he was in Halifax, but we never quite got together. Worse, he was in Whistler at the end of August and bad timing meant we missed each other when I left for Toronto. We overlapped in Toronto on only one day but I had dinner plans with the oldest of old friends and couldn’t see him. It’s been ten years, but I’m going to have to get to Toronto to see the old guy sometime soon. It will happen.

This stuff all happens in the fall, and it sort of sucks. I’m always happy to have it over with, even though in Vancouver it inevitably leads to the grey skies and rain of November. At least my friends aren’t disappearing. This too, shall pass.

It’s time to cue the music now, and it always starts with Hawksley Workman at this time of year. At least the music’s always good.

I think that ghosts like
The cooler weather
When leaves turn colour
They get together
And walk along ways
These old back roads
— Autumn’s Here, Hawksley Workman

October 19, 2011

Frank Turner at the Biltmore Cabaret

English singer-songwriter-punk-folk-rocker Frank Turner stopped by Vancouver’s legendary Biltmore Cabaret a couple of days ago. It was a Monday night. Vancouver, on a Monday night, is not a place to ply a show: people stay home, they cocoon, they don’t leave the house.

But not this time.
The show sold out about a month before the date. I’d never heard of Frank—a friend (with much better taste in music than mine) urged me to go—and it may be the smartest thing I’ve done this year.

Frank is a live performer like nobody I’ve seen in quite a while. The Biltmore is often filled with crowds of adoring aloof hipsters listening to roots tinged Americana style rock and roll (and yes, I’m more or less one of them.) Every once in a while someone manages to engage that crowd in a short sing along and possibly some witty banter, but for the most part the crowds are pretty…sedate.

Not Frank. Frank did that for almost two full hours. Hands were in the air, songs were sung along too, requests were played and a mini mosh pit formed near the front of the stage.

Sometime through the night I described it as being like seeing Bruce Springsteen before he was The Boss or Bono before he became, you know, Bono. Imagine that with 450 people instead of tens of thousands, and you’ve got an idea of what it was like. I think he’d have kept playing all night if he could have.

Good times indeed. Frank ended his set hanging from the stage singing a killer rendition of Queen’s Somebody to Love. It was a bit of a counterpoint to his own Eulogy, sung earlier in the evening:

Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut
Not everyone was born to be a king
Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury

and a brilliant way to end a night when a whole bunch of people in Vancouver clearly found exactly what they were looking for.

More photos after the break, or on Flickr.

Continue reading "Frank Turner at the Biltmore Cabaret"

Posted by skooter at 6:41 PM This entry is filed under Camera, Music.
Tags: Biltmore Cabaret, Concerts, Frank Turner, Live Music

October 18, 2011

Wilco: Tiny Desk Concert

Wilco's Tiny Desk Concert at NPR NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts are a treasure and one of the best podcasts online. The gentlemen from Wilco stopped by recently to play a tiny show, and it’s well worth watching. Make sure to check out those tiny drums.

Posted by skooter at 6:57 AM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: NPR, Tiny Desk, Videos, Wilco

October 17, 2011

Allen Toussaint & Mavis Staples at the Chan Centre

You know those times you go to a show and you’re not sure who the opening act is? Last night was one of those nights for me.

The opening act for last night’s Mavis Staples show at the Chan Centre was Allen Toussaint and just because I hadn’t heard of him doesn’t mean I didn’t know his work. The prolific composer organized the horns for The Band’s Last Waltz and has worked with just about everybody. An engaging, friendly and upbeat performer Toussaint played a brilliant set of slightly more than an hour.

Mavis Staples took the stage later in the night, after a short intermission. Her joy at being in Vancouver was infectious, and the third song of her set was The Band’s The Weight, a number the Staples Singers sang at that long ago and deservedly legendary Last Waltz. I just about died.

Posted by skooter at 9:26 AM This entry is filed under Entertainment, Music.
Tags: Allen Touissant, Mavis Staples, Stax, The Band, The Last Waltz

Dan Mangan: Robots (live at CBC)


Robots is not, in my opinion, the strongest song from Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice honour would go to Fair Verona in the quirky world of my musical taste—but it’s most definitely the most crowd pleasing. Dan played the song in LA at a Canadian Blast Grammy show once and tweeted afterwards that he’d seen Emmylou Harris singing along to the chorus. She’d have to be heartless not too.

Posted by skooter at 8:06 AM This entry is filed under Music.
Tags: CBC, Dan Mangan, Videos

October 16, 2011

Pumpkinfest: West Vancouver

Pumpkinfest, West VancouverPumpkinfest, West VancouverPumpkinfest, West VancouverPumpkinfest, West VancouverPumpkinfest, West Vancouver Apparently Pumpkinfest is quite the annual tradition over here in West Vancouver. Who knew? I’m coming up on the first anniversary of living here so I missed this last year.

Posted by skooter at 1:23 PM This entry is filed under Camera, Vancouver.
Tags: Fall, Kids, Pumpkinfest, Pumpkins, West Vancouver

October 12, 2011

A Tablet Keyboard for the Blind


Genius.

Posted by skooter at 1:13 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Blind, Braille, Disability, Interaction Design, Usability

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: 1955 - 2011

Fifty-six. So young, but yesterday Steve Jobs passed away. At the end of August a few friends and I figured things were pretty dire but I didn’t expect this so soon.

As then, the Internet has been abuzz. I was pedaling across the Lions Gate Bridge when the news broke, and by the time I got home my twitter feed was overwhelmed with the news. I actually walked in to a radio that was on, and it took me about three minutes of listening to Stephen Quinn ‘s interview to figure out what had happened. It was shocking.

So much has been said and will be said over the next few days about this. I ‘m not sure I have much personally to add, so I’ll leave it up to the Onion, who totally nailed the headline on what could have been an awkward moment. I’ve often said I couldn’t imagine Silicon Valley without Steve: now I don’t have too.
Steve Jobs Obituary: The Onion

Posted by skooter at 8:34 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
Tags: Apple, Obituaries, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs

Google Interface Design

I’ve written before about the fact that what some people see as Google’s interface design minimalism is I see as poor design but it struck me again today when I was in Google+.

Google+ itself has a very nicely designed Circles interface which was designed by Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Macintosh team and one of the finest interface designers in the industry. Andy’s General Magic tablets were ahead of their time, and it’s taken decades to catch up.

There are two main when you post to Google+. The first lets you choose the audience for your post (basically letting you choose which circles or members who will see it.) The second actually publishes your post. These two buttons directly adjacent vertically in the interface: there’s almost no space between them..

The buttons are also both the same colour.
Google Plus Interface Buttons The end result is two buttons that are visually indistinct and so close together that muscle memory alone doesn’t guarantee a correct click.

I’m not sure if someone intended to do this, or if it was just an oversight. it could have happened with two separate teams working in tandem, I suppose. Either way, it seems obvious that different colours should have been used here. I’m surprised it hasn’t been fixed yet.

Posted by skooter at 8:11 PM This entry is filed under Design, Technology.
Tags: Google, Interaction Design, Social Media, social networking, Usability

October 2, 2011

It’s Civic Election Time: This is Your Candidate

It’s civic election time in Vancouver, a crazy event that happens once every three years. The last three elections have each seen a new Mayor (Campbell, Sullivan and Robertson) with substantial changes at council at the same time.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the NPA sees this as an open shot. I’m not so sure: I think Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver team’s popularity is pretty solid, though I do tend to interact with a group whose politics skew in that direction so I’m not sure it’s a fair measure.

More significantly, I think Suzanne Anton’s certifiably crazy. She always rode the NPA coattails onto Council until the last election, when she was the only one who made it (go figure.) She’s sort of a mayoralty candidate by default and not a very good one. I don’t think she has any coattails.

I know of the folks on “her team” as these things tend to be called. Some of them ran in 2002 when I was heavily involved. Dave Pasin? That guy’s not the sharpest pencil in any box you’re going to find. You don’t want him on Park Board, trust me.

George Affleck on the other hand is a very bright guy. A bit self absorbed to be sure, but a bright guy no doubt. The thing is, I sort of expect a level of maturity a little higher than this—sent just after the release of the report on the Stanley Cup Riots—from a candidate for city council:
George Affleck tweet

But there you have it: it’s off to the races, and if that’s the level discourse you’re looking for from council well…I for one expect more from candidates than jokes about a series of riots which have, frankly, damaged this cities reputation much more than some would like to admit.

I live in West Vancouver now, so the politics of Vancouver are over a bridge from me. My interest is a bit more abstract—I still work in the city—but I’m still hoping to see a rational, sensible council elected. It’s good for the region. In the end, I’m expecting Gregor Robertson back as Mayor but I’d be willing to be that the NPA slips two or three more people onto council. Only time will tell.