Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Is Larry Bald?

I saw a photograph the other day of Larry Ellison. Is he going bald? Check out the photos for yourself: 2002 -- 1998 -- and Larry as a kid. His hair really looks like he has a hair piece or something stuck on the top. I don't think it would be very macho of Larry to be seen without hair. Anyway, for some Larry-bashing, see this page, or this one -- .then there is this one -- and the Register has a really funny one!

The Art of James Bond

Here's a site dedicated to the Art of 007. The site offers quite the collection, and provides intelligent commentary as well. You need to be a fan to appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Trinity College Book Sale

Another book sale -- University of Toronto's Trinity College is also hosting their annual book sale -- their's will be held from Oct. 22 - Oct. 26. The college is located at 6 Hoskin Avenue.

Victoria College Book Sale

University of Toronto's Victoria College is hosting their annual used book sale from Sept. 30 - Oct. 4, to raise funds for their library. The college is located at 91 Charles Street West. The sales are usually pretty good -- but you want to show up early before the used bookstores descend.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Origin of Brands

Click to order from Amazon!
I just read this executive book summary while traveling back from San Francisco on Friday. The Origin of Brands, by Al and Laura Ries, uses Darwin's Origin of Species as an analogy to introduce the concept of product brands. Lessons:
- New categories arise from the divergence of existing categories
- Categories die and are replaced by new categories
- The divergence and creation of new categories represents an opportunity to create new brands
- The biggest marketing mistake: trying to stretch existing brands to cover new categories
- Opportunity to create a new brand doesn't lie in pursuing an existing market -- as there is most likely an already established dominant brand -- the opportunity lies in creating a new market/category
- A brand is created to pursue the mind of the consumer -- not to pursue a market for the brand -- get the consumers mind and the market will follow
The book does address the issue of convergence, but down plays the successes and labels them as damaging to the business of marketing. While the clock/radio convergence has been successful, the authors believe that the continued pursuit of convergence to build new brands, such as the internet/computer/television, is doomed to failure.

Cheetah Chase

I woke up this morning from a dream. There was an owl outside our house -- Bernadette's owl, even though she denies it -- and I had grabbed the camera to take a picture of it -- because if you don't take a picture of the owl, was the owl really there? When I got back with the camera, the owl was still there -- but a cheetah as well. The cheetah launched itself at me, and came right through the door, chasing me. Thank god for tiles! While it scrambled going nowhere fast, I was able to gain a lead -- but it soon started moving. It chased me through the hallway and into the kitchen, where Angel, fur standing on end, hissed and launched itself at the cheetah. The two of them fought in the corner, then Angel chased it down the hallway, and up the wall. They fought close to the ceiling before coming back down to the floor, the cheetah cowering in fear. A victorious Angel turned to me and said, "And that's how you treat a big cat!" (See Angel here, here, and here.)

Hidden Dangers of the Informal Economy

McKinsey has an article on the economic dangers of the grey market that is an interesting read, but I don't buy into all of their assertions. According to the World Bank, the informal economy of developing nations represent a significant 40% of their GNP [PDF], while it's a 17% figure for developed nations. McKinsey has found that the grey market has been growing in many nations -- and believes this poses a significant danger to productivity and the world economy. They rightly believe that the grey market has cost advantage over their legal counterparts -- they avoid taxes and regulations, and often are engaged in a grey market value chain that as a whole is a low cost operator. While I agree with this, and I agree that the grey market does pose a danger to productivity and economic output in countries, I see this danger as being more relevant to the developed nations that have the economic and social infrastructure that needs sustaining. For developed nations, it's a chicken-and-the-egg question. They don't have the economic or social infrastructure in place. I think the grey market should be recognized as a vital part of developing nations developing. As long as the grey market doesn't spiral into criminal activities, the developed nations should recognize them as being vital to developing nations -- and vital to long term viability of the world economy. In the long term, the grey market will be converted to legal markets -- it will need to in order to survive. It's the short term thinking of developed nations that wish to protect global conglomerates that wish the grey market to disappear. Yes, there is the danger to the world economy when the grey market from the developing nations start to feed the economies of the developed nations -- but I think that's a constant battle that will and should continue to be waged -- but not on the backs of the developing nations. If McKinsey would have their way, the developing nations would only develop at the behest of global multinationals -- and that's just another form of colonialism. (For another interesting read, check out this paper: Competition Policy, Developing Countries, and the World Trade Organization. [PDF])

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Management Powertools

I just finished reading the executive book summary of Harry Onsman's Management Powertools: A Guide to 20 of the Most Powerful Management Tools and Techniques Ever Invented. With such a title, you might guess that this book goes a little bit back to the basics in the dealing with the subject -- which is fine -- a good refresher never hurts anyone -- but I disagree with the opening premise of the book: "Management is an art, not a science." I think management is a science. I think leadership is more of an art. (But this is just me getting hung up on the differences between management and leadership -- I realize that some will use these words synonymously.) This executive book summary, is part 1 of 2 parts -- this first part summarizes the 10 tools that apply to managing organizations, while the second part summarizes the 10 tools that apply to managing people. So, the 10 tools for managing organizations -- and yes there are more out there, but these are considered the basics that every manager needs in her toolkit.
  • Vision -- strategic intent of an organization is defined by the high level statements of purpose, such as vision, mission and value statements. They're intended to keep an organization grounded and focused, and can be especially important to have in times of change. Without these statements and an understanding of them, organizations can become splintered -- losing focus, drifting and falling prey to irrelevance and competition.
  • Porter's Five Forces Model -- from most Management 101 courses, Michael Porter's model identifies five competitive forces that shape every market and industry.
    - The threat of entry of new competitors (new entrants)
    - The threat of substitutes
    - The bargaining power of buyers
    - The bargaining power of suppliers
    - The degree of rivalry between existing competitors
    Porter also defined three generic strategies for gaining competitive advantage -- asserting that the key to being successful is to have a 'sustainable competitive advantage' -- specifically via product differentiation or cost leadership.
  • Metrics -- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the Balanced Scorecard are two measurement systems used widely in business today. KPIs can sometimes be narrowly focused -- specifically measuring a few or grouped performance indicators that are linked to the business strategy -- the Balanced Scorecard on the other hand, was developed to look at an organization holistically -- balancing between internal and external measures; objective and subjective measures; and, performance results and the drivers of future results. Metrics are great -- but unfortunately, a lot of business either confuse measurements for performance -- ie., they spend too much time navel gazing that the running of their business is forgotten.
  • Scenario Planning -- this deals with looking out to the future in order to prepare an organization for what is to come. Scenario planning is not a forecast of what is to happen, but a view into the possibilities that may come.
  • Competing Values Framework [PDF] -- the premise for an organization's culture is that it is a result of competing values within the organization. Every organization has four culture types within it that compete -- with one or two being the dominant. The culture types are:
    - Clan Culture (Collaborate or Human Relations model) -- emphasis is placed on shared beliefs, teamwork and mutual support.
    - Adhocratic Culture (Create or Open System model) -- emphasis is placed on freedom, initiative and creativity.
    - Hierarchical Culture (Control or Internal Process model) -- emphasis is placed on efficiency, predictability and structure.
    - Market Culture (Compete or Rational Goal model) -- emphasis is placed on goal achievement, competitiveness and performance.
  • Product Portfolio Analysis -- this tool was developed by the consulting industry to help organizations decide on what portfolio of products or services they would offer. Being from a consulting group, you know this has to be a matrix! It separates products/services into high or low market growth potential, and high or low market share.
    - Those that fall into the high market share/high growth quadrant are labeled 'stars' and should be nurtured.
    - Those that fall into the low market share/low growth quadrant are labeled 'dogs' and should be dropped.
    - Those that fall into the low growth/high market share quadrant are labeled 'cash cows' and should be protected.
    - Those that fall into the low market share/high growth quadrant are 'question marks' since they may become 'stars.'
  • The 7 Ps of Marketing -- identifies the elements that influence successful sales in a market. They are:
    - Product -- offering customers the right product/service
    - Price -- this is linked to the customers perception of value
    - Place -- how the product/service gets to market; which channels are used and the logistics involved
    - Promotion -- communicating with the customers
    - Participants -- the employees of the organization and the customers
    - Physical Evidence -- the environment in which the product/service is delivered to the customers
    - Process -- the procedures, mechanisms and activities the organization uses to deliver the product/service to the customers
  • SERVQUAL Customer Surveys -- is a tool used to measure the perceptions and expectations of customers in the delivery of quality service. It is very useful to track how an organization performs over time. It focuses on three areas: 1) customers expectations of the industry; 2) customers expectations of the organization in question, and; 3) customers weight of different aspects of the industry.
  • Process Mapping [PDF] -- there are a range of specific tools designed for process mapping, but they all operate under the same premise: if you know what you're doing, you then have an opportunity to improve on it -- from continuous improvement to grand scale reengineering efforts. There are four types of interrelated process maps:
    - Process Description -- describing the current state process
    - Process Verification -- verifying each part of the process described by observation
    - Process Improvement -- taking the verification maps and after analysis, determining where processes can be improved
    - Process Redesign -- this represents the ideal process
  • Pareto Analysis -- this is a quick tool to help you delve through the clutter to get to the few that really matter. It's also known as the 80/20 rule, and suggests that 80% of the effort will be spent to achieve 20% of the value. Pareto analysis doesn't lead to solutions to problems, rather, it points to where the greatest impact can be realized.
  • ArtsWeek 2004

    Toronto is at it again -- ArtsWeek 2004 is the 18th annual festival that is being presented at various locations across the city. The festival runs 10-days, and features music, theatre, dance, literature, community arts, film and media, festivals, architecture, museums, crafts and visual arts.

    Friday, September 24, 2004

    Frozen Ovaries

    The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting a first -- a Belgian baby has been birthed by a 32-year-old mother that had been rendered sterile by chemotherapy treatments for cancer. The mother had pieces of her ovaries frozen seven years ago -- and it was transplanted back into her after the chemotherapy treatments. The birth is the first from frozen ovarian tissue -- although there are over 100 cases worldwide of babies being produced from eggs that were frozen. This birth is good news for the many women who will undergo chemotherapy for cancer in the future = they may have the opportunity to save part of their ovaries for the future -- it also raises the possibility of preserving healthy ovaries in order to have babies later in life -- as chemotherapy that destroys ovaries renders women menopausal.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2004

    Flex. Expand. Connect.

    I'm at the PeopleSoft Connect Conference. I'm sitting in the keynote hall waiting for the PeopleSoft head honcho, Craig Conway, to come on stage and impress upon the crowd of how great things are in the PeopleSoft world -- but they're not going to be complacent -- how they will in fact strive to better everything, from their software to customer service. It's the standard fare -- I've heard it at many conferences before. Undoubtedly, the message will be delivered with emotion -- with that constipated look that says, right now, this message is coming from somewhere very deep. The pre-show entertainment has taken the stage, in the form of a couple of female contortionists. They're quite talented and are being human pretzels to heavy pop music. The contortionists are replaced by a pair wrapped together in a single costume and undulating around the stage -- I don't think what they're doing classifies as dancing. Now we have a well buffed male and female pair, performing some elaborate physical feats. They're serious, moving in slow motion and doing things that would kill most of us if we tried, with muscles that most of will not have. They're too serious though -- they must be holding something back with all that concentration. The keynote hall is huge. There are over 10 giant screens for everyone to see the stage. The searchlights are strobing across the stage and the hall -- and the giant balls that are hanging from the ceiling have funky animation being projected on to them. Now there are dancers with bouncing balls on the stage -- dancing to 80s music from SF bands. Okay! … Here comes the Craig-miester! Let the circus begin! There are 15,000 people at the conference -- the room is packed. It's apparently the biggest turnout PeopleSoft has ever had at a conference. So much for scary-Larry! My favourite quote from Craig: "Have you every had a bad dream that just doesn’t seem to end? We have, and it's been going on for 15 months!" The highlights of the keynote:

    Eddie Adams - Dead

    Eddie Adams, the photographer took the famous photo of a South Vietnam's police chief, Lt. Col. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, executing a Viet Cong captive, is dead. He was 71. He died of complications from Lou Gehrig's disease. Adams has always had problems with his famous photograph, the story it told and the impact it had. He had always considered Loan a hero -- Loan had executed a Viet Cong who had just killed the entire family of a close friend. This all took place on the second day of the Viet Cong's Tet offensive. It was a war zone.

    Monday, September 20, 2004

    San Francisco

    I'm in San Francisco tonight -- here for the PeopleSoft Connect conference. It was a 5 hour flight, and my ears almost exploded when we came in for the landing. I always get this when I fly. Hurts like hell. I went out for dinner with a collegue from IBM. We went to the Empress of China restaurant in Chinatown. Not a bad supper. The fortune cookies say: 'How you look depends on where you go.' -- and, because I got another one: 'You will be successful in love.' As the old joke goes, you're suppose to append, 'in bed' to your fortune. Have a laugh.

    Sunday, September 19, 2004

    Outdoor Art Show

    My wife and I went to the outdoor art show at the Distillery District yesterday. There were quite a few photographers, as well as the traditional artists of oils, acrylics, watercolours and jewellery. Some of the artists I was impressed enough with to pick up their business cards, were: Corrine Darvill; Julia Gilmore -- she paints everyday objects; Kathryn Boyd -- her paintings are quite stylized, and for some reason, appeals to me; Alana Machnicki -- a girl with a thing for fishes; Alisa Singh -- who seems to be influenced by fantasy, and had her faeries make me go to her booth; Getachew Fantu -- who has painted some amazing pieces; and, Michael Peech -- who had some interesting pieces. My wife and I lunched at the Brick Street Bakery, right in the Distillery District -- they make some humongous sandwiches!

    Saturday, September 18, 2004

    Wild Women Expeditions

    Wild Women Expeditions caters to women looking for an outdoor adventure in Canada's wilderness. It's based on a 200-acres wildness waterfront outside of Sudbury, and offers many getaway adventures for women only. Sounds like a cool idea.

    Friday, September 17, 2004

    the Vurdalak Conjecture

    The Tunguska Event -- a blast that scorched two thousand square miles in central Siberia in 1908. The blast was unknown in origin. Its shockwave was felt around the globe, and the debris it threw up in the sky, coloured the northern European sky for weeks. Two UofTexas astrophysicists, Albert Jackson and Michael Ryan, proposed in 1973, that the blast was caused by a black hole. The conjecture was dismissed by the scientific community for a couple of reasons: 1) there was no evidence that a similar blast occurred on the opposite side of the planet when the theoretical black hole exited, and, 2) Stephen Hawking's work had shown that black holes radiate energy, and any black hole would have dissipated before it had a chance to reach our planet. Recently however, Stephen Hawking has been having second thoughts about some his theories about black holes. The theory that leads the way as an explanation for the blast, is the explosion of a meteorite about 10km above the Earth. The problem with that explanation is that the exploding meteorite vaporized cleanly. No remnants were ever found. This site, the Vurdalak Conjecture, takes the black hole premise and extrapolates. It makes for an interesting read.

    Tobacco Trouble

    BusinessWeek has an article on the current woes of cigarette makers in the US. The US Justice Department is taking the big cigarette makers (Philip Morris, Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, Lorillard Tobacco Company, Liggett Group, Inc., and American Tobacco Company), to court under the Racketeer-Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act asserting that they have been illegally conspiring since 1953 [PDF]. The suit also names the Council for Tobacco Research as a defendant, claiming that the organization was created in a public relations effort by the cigarette companies to mislead the public. The government claims that the cigarette companies knew that cigarettes lead to disease and death; knew that their marketing was influencing kids, and were purposely targeting kids [PDF]; knew their product was addictive. The suit claims that in 1953, at the behest of Paul Hahn, President of American, the other cigarette companies met and determined that scientific research that warned of the dangers of cigarette smoking was "extremely serious" and "worthy of drastic action." Their response -- a public relations effort to counter the research findings. They decided to deny that cigarette smoking caused disease, and maintain that any danger was still and "open question" despite having knowledge to the contrary. Why? Accepting and admitting that cigarette smoking posed a serious danger to the public would have effectively ended their industry. The government is seeking to extract $280 billion from them -- almost all of their profits in last 50 years. Read more in Justice Department's 2,543 pages findings of fact. [PDF - 15.5MB] The Tobacco Control Archives also provides access to some interesting unpublished and once secret documents from the tobacco companies that were leaked.
    Lung Cancer: Black is tar, white is cancer cells.

    Thursday, September 16, 2004

    Unions

    BusinessWeek has a good article on the American labour movement and the struggle unions find themselves in right now, to have relevance. Employers and employees both see unions suited for an era that is no longer with us -- the industrial era -- and in this information age, with high tech and knowledge workers, unions are irrelevant. That type of thinking has seen unions influence erode -- and along with it, the strength of labour and the power of employees. With employers in a constant war to keep costs down and wring out efficiencies, wages and benefits have been taking a beating -- so much so, that the Walmartization effect is having broad and long term negative impact on the economy [PDF] and the competitiveness of entire markets in North America and other first world countries. The article focuses on Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, who is trying to bring relevance back to unions and take power back from employers for employees.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2004

    Forums

    I've created a forum as a test. Let me know what you think. If you start using it, it will become a part of this site permanently. If not, it dies a slow and boring death.

    Carbon Cannibal

    Greg Hughes is one cool and brave dude. He picked up a Rio Cardon 5GB MP3 player, took it home and tore it apart. That's about $400Cdn down the drain. He took the Seagate 5GB ST1 Microdrive out, and inserted it into his Nikon D70 camera. After formating, the camera was ready to store 1,400 6 megapixel images. Now that's way cool! (The CreativeLabs MuVo MP3 player also uses the same 5GB microdrive for the curious.)

    Next Generation Internet

    Intel has championing an open platform for the next generation internet -- PlanetLab. Currently they have 440 nodes with over 195 sites on board. Intel is concerned that as the internet grows with users and technology, the existing infrastructure will buckle under the strain -- so their efforts are being sold as a proactive play before the storm gets out of control. I'm left wondering though -- whatever happened to Internet2? I thought it was out to do the very thing Intel is now claiming to be doing -- saving the internet from itself -- I guess not being invited to join Internet2 may have a bearing on why they've started their own club. So many heroes, just one internet. For a good discussion on the topic, check out Slashdot.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2004

    Olympics Wrap-up

    Greece is one of the poor countries of the EU, and the Olympics has done wonders for their reputation -- now all they have to do is capitalize on that reputation and all of the attention the Olympics brought. And they need to in a big way. The Olympics cost a lot of money -- around $12 billion US -- almost 5% of their GDP. If you want a good vacation, head for Greece -- they need the money, and know how to cater to visitors -- not to mention its rich history. Read more in BusinessWeek.

    Health Care in America

    BusinessWeek magazine has an article on the state of health care in America -- let it be a warning for Canadians and the Canadian governments that favour an open market health care system. Read about the insurance companies scams of a desperate US population -- and remember, Bush likes the insurance industry and hate the trial lawyers (like Edwards) who take them to court.

    Mandatory Retirement

    The mandatory retirement age in Ontario is 65 -- the government has recently opened dialogue [PDF] into ending that arbitrary age, in order to allow individuals to chose whether they wish to retire or not. This is in response to a 2001 recommendation [PDF] by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Ontario's aging population is expected to rise by about 47% over the next couple of decades, reaching 3.2 million in 2028 -- this will put seniors at a whopping 21% of the population by 2028. Aside from the human rights factors, ending mandatory retirement will allow the aging population to fill positions where there are skill shortages -- as well, the social implications of having an older, able-bodied workforce continuing to contribute instead of being shackled away in retirement homes can only be good. There are concerns however. How will the ending of mandatory retirement affect benefits? How will a young, inexperienced workforce fair against and older, more experienced workforce? It will be interesting to see what happens.

    Offshoring Spam

    BusinessWeek has a short article on the recent trend of spammers in sending spam from servers in China and South Korea -- either by using hosted servers or hijacking unsuspecting PCs. The trend is seen as a move to avoid litigation in US by ISPs, especially with the new Can Spam Act [PDF] in effect in the US. China is great for spammers because it is highly unregulated, although the Chinese government is moving to close that gap -- and South Korea is fairly attractive, as it has one of the world's most advanced broadband implementation and penetration. Since February, spam originating from China has increased from 6.24% to 11.62%, while South Korea originating spam has increased from 5.8% to 15.42% of the world's total. The US however continues to be the biggest exporter of spam, accounting for 42.53%. Canada is doing pretty good -- since February, we've managed to reduce our spam output from 6.8% of the world's, to 2.9% -- we're number 5 on the list.

    Monday, September 13, 2004

    The European Dream

    The Sept. 13th issue of BusinessWeek magazine has a short review of the European Dream, by Jeremy Rifkin. The book compares the aspirations of the American Dream with the ideals of Europe, concluding that the American Dream is being left behind by the success of Europe's. The American Dream espouses the ability of the individual to pursue success, and places the government's role in protecting personal property and the country. Americans also believe in assimilating immigrants. Europeans on the other hand, tend to favour social wealth, believe governments should protect communal resources, and favour dialogue over a strong military. They also believe in ethnic diversity. Quite interesting if you would like another option to the American Dream. Canada I believe, sits somewhere in the middle between Europe and America -- although lately, we've been moving away from the American model.

    Paper Napkin

    Paper Napkin aims to rid you of the chore of rejecting someone after too close an encounter. The scenario, as the site puts it, finds you being unable to put off a would be suitor -- or just some dumb-ass that wants to get in your pants -- instead of making a scene, simply give your email address to him/her. Only it's not your email address, it's 'insert_name_here@papernapkin.net.' When the would be suitor (or dumb-ass that wants to get in your pants) writes you, you don't get an email, but they get a rejection note, sometimes with acid -- the really desperate pleas get posted online and ridiculed. Check it out.

    Sunday, September 12, 2004

    Photo Updates

    I've added some photographs to my galleries. Check them out!
     
    And while you're at it, check out my photoblog -- same photos, lower resolution, but with a blog.

    Saturday, September 11, 2004

    Iceland's Genes

    The latest Technology Review magazine has an article [PDF] on Iceland's deCode Genetics' efforts to use Iceland's collective genetic information, to create new medicines. Iceland is unique in the world, because it has a small genetic heritage -- it hasn't been often 'polluted' -- it's genetically pristine compared to most of the world. In addition, Iceland has a pretty good universal health care system, and they keep good medical records. This is advantageous, when you're doing genetic studies, as you can trace back generations. deCode's work is focused on finding the genes associated with some common ailments, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, etc. To do this, they've enlisted the help of the country's population, and the government. More than half of the country's adult population has already given their DNA to deCode. deCode's approach is relatively straight forward. They first narrow their focus to suspect chromosome regions that may hold the genetic culprit for a disease. They did this by looking at shared chromosome stretches amongst individuals suffering from the same disease. Once the playing field is narrowed, deCode turns to public genetic databases, looking for genes already identified that cause certain problems associated with the disease in question. Once they've found what they're looking for in the library, they then get to work to produce gene-related solutions to a genetic problem. Instead of dealing with the disease, they deal with the genetic predisposition for having the disease. Sounds great, right? It is. Only problem however, is that for this approach to have wide application, there needs to be developed a quick and easy way of being able to test for someone's predisposition for a strong of diseases. Ideally, it should be as simple and cheap as getting a blood test or x-ray. Unfortunately, we're not there yet. A bigger problem than this however, is determining if the genetic markers for a disease in one population readily translates to another population. Not all geneticists think this is so. Read more in the TR article.

    Friday, September 10, 2004

    Global Supply Chain Conference (Oct. 20-21)

    Here's something that's totally free, and not bad if you're a Supply Chain dweeb: the Global Supply Chain Conference. The two day conference is completely virtual -- being available free, across the internet to registrants. There are three tracks to the conference: 1) The Supply Chain Advantage; 2) Excellence in Logistics; and 3) World-Class Materials Handling. Each track has its own keynote address, as well as separate webcast topics. I participated to the first conference in this series (last year I think), and it wasn't that bad. You need a highspeed connection to get the full video and audio, as well as access to the presentation materials. The presentation materials are usually available for download during the webcasts, so you can access them after the conference is over. The conference will require you to have the latest Macromedia Flash plugin for your browser; the Java Virtual Machine (from Sun or Microsoft); as well as the latest Media Player.

    Groups

    I'm experimenting -- this time with groups -- the kind from Yahoo, MSN and now, Google. I've created a 'floccinaucinihilipilificate' group at Yahoo, MSN and Google, and have set my blog up to automatically update each group via email. If you wish to get a copy of my posts delivered to your mailbox, sign up for it at any of the groups. The html format is screwed by Google, but they're still in beta. For best results, especially if you can receive html formated email, try Yahoo or MSN. All the groups require you to sign up first -- sorry, that's to prevent the groups from being spammed. Once you're a member, you can post replies or new entries to the groups. As well, I've created two 'Morosophist' groups -- at Google and Yahoo -- what are these for? Well, they started out as an idea for work -- my peers could anonymously sign up to either group, and share a free dialogue with each other, without worrying about the bosses firing their asses. Chatting with one of my peers at work however, I realized that my peers are probably not even brave enough to have such a public anonymous discussion, because they're afraid. Now, you've got to wonder about the environment I work in -- believe it or not, it's not that bad -- yet people are afraid -- maybe it is that bad. [And the word 'morosophist' -- well, I thought is was funny!]

    Walk of Hope for Ovarian Cancer

    The National Ovarian Cancer Association kicks off their 'Walk of Hope' on Sunday, from 10AM to 12PM, at Toronto's Sunnybrook Park, as well as in other cities across the country. This year marks the 3rd year for the walk. The goal is to raise awareness and research funding, as well as provide support for the women suffering from the disease.

    Kentucky Fried Cruelty

    Kentucky Fried Cruelty is a PETA site. It's a site dedicated to stopping KFC from abusing chickens -- not stopping them from making their finger licking good chicken, but stopping them from abusing the chickens in the process of getting to our plates. On this point, I do agree with them -- I don't want lick my fingers after biting into the meat of bird that had been stomped on, kicked around or had weird things done to them by buck-toothed-inbred-hillbillies. That's not appetizing. I want to know my meat has received the care as if it was in the kitchen being prepared for me. The scary thing in this isn't the fact that we breed animals for the slaughter so we can feed off their life -- the scary thing is the buck-toothed-inbred-hillbillies who get off on messing with our meat before it reaches our plate. That fact is revolting, and is enough to make one want to hurl. [Thanks for the sick link Darren!]

    Thursday, September 09, 2004

    Environmental Film Festival

    Planet in Focus -- the International Environmental Film & Video Festival runs from Sept. 28th - Oct. 3rd. There are quite a number of films running, averaging about two per night on the weeknights and ramping up for all-day screenings on the weekend. The cost however, is surprisingly steep -- at $60 for a festival pass, or $10 per film -- but I suppose it's for a good cause. Check it out if you have nothing better to do with your time. [Thanks for the link Garry.]

    Fit for a Queen [PDF]

    Baseline Magazine also has an article on the IT infrastructure of the Queen Mary 2 -- the world's largest luxury ship. The ship has three computer rooms, with major systems duplicated in two of the rooms. Its fibre cables are laid in such a way that every major component is backed up. Every room of the ship is capable of allowing passengers to jack in. The ship provides internet access and has an onboard learning centre. There are 40 WiFi access points around the ship to allow passengers network access while idling outside of their room, and to support wireless POS devices. The ships manifest and security system is governed electronically, and there is a state of the art interactive television system to allow passengers to get the most out of their stay by interactively requesting services. The only ships on the ocean that probably tops the QM2 in technology are probably the US Navy ships. Read the Baseline article on how the IT infrastructure was implemented.

    Waste Not [PDF]

    The latest Baseline Magazine has a case study on the homegrown fleet optimization software employed by Waste Management of Delaware. At the end of 2003, Waste Management operated 18,850 routes, most of which were planned manually by regional managers -- eliminating just one route could save the company $120,000 per year. With their new WasteRoute software, they managed to save $18 million in 2003, and are expected to save an additional $44 million in 2004 -- all for a $10 million investment, and an 18 month rollout. The software employs the quantitative methods of operations research -- the science and mathematics of decision making -- where business problems are studied, variables identified, then models are built, optimized and applied to solve the real world problem. Next time you see a transport truck on the road, wonder what smarts are behind the directives being given to the driver. The math may astound you. Read the complete case study online.

    Wednesday, September 08, 2004

    Margaret Sanger

    BusinessWeek's continuing 'Great Innovators' series pays homage to Margaret Sanger this week. Margaret Sanger was born in 1879, and from a young age, was determined not to suffer the fate of her mother and the women of their time. She founded the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and spearheaded the effort to create America's first foolproof oral contraceptive -- the 'pill.' The 'pill' has been credited by some social historians for being the single transforming force in 20th century society -- it gave women equal power with men, and control of their destinies. Sanger received little credit when the pill was approved by the FDA in 1960. She died in 1966. Sanger was also recognized by Time Magazine as one of last century's leaders and revolutionaries. For a different view of Sanger -- one in which she's painted as a racist, check out this site.

    Poincaré Conjecture Proven

    Grigori Perelman, a Russian mathematician, has apparently solved the Poincaré conjecture, which states that if a closed 3-dimensional manifold has the homology of the sphere S3, them it is necessarily homeomorphic to S3. Say what? The Clay Mathematics Institute has a great layperson description -- it boils down to this: a sphere has a continuous, uninterrupted surface. If you were to take a sphere and slowly shrink it, it would eventually become a point, without rupturing. That's because the sphere is 'simply connected.' If you were to do the same with a donut, you could never get to a point without breaking the donut, because it doesn't have 'simple connectivity.' This 'simply connected' property is arises from the fact that a 2-dimensional sphere has a continuous surface in 3-dimensional space. What Poincaré asked over 100 years ago was, does this 'simple connectivity' property exist for a 3-dimensional sphere in a 4-dimension space? This question turned out to be a rather difficult question for mathematicians. So difficult in fact, that the Clay Mathematics Institute offered a $1million prize to anyone who can solve it. Yes kiddies, math can actually make money! Then along came Grigori Perelman, and apparently solved it -- 'apparently' because other mathematicians now need to dissect his math to find any mistake. This in itself would make an interesting story, but the story gets more interesting. Perelman apparently, has just presented his math, in fairly technical detail, with little or no explanatory notes. He's put it out there, and is not entertaining much discussion about the topic -- instead, he's just leaving it up to his peers to correct him or vindicate him. He doesn't even appear to have an interest in the $1million prize he may have won. In fact, he's known for being 'very unmaterialistic' and has previously turned down a prize from the European Mathematical Society.

    The Hamburg Cell

    aka.alias in her blog, has a post of the Hamburg Cell -- a new movie that is currently making the film festival circuit (not Toronto). The film chronicles the events leading up to the horror of 9/11, but depicts the story from the terrorists perspective. I can already hear the protests starting, but I agree with the post -- if we don't allow ourselves to respond to Muslim fundamentalists with something other than hate, we condemn ourselves to repeat history -- and defile the memories of those who lost their lives in the attack. If we don't stop with revenge motivated responses, it will never end. I'm not saying forgive the guilty (on either side) -- hunt bin Laden down and put a bullet in his head; prosecute the US soldiers that tortured the innocents in Abu Ghurayb -- but don't condemn every Arab, every Muslim, or every US soldier, at the same time.

    New Photographs

    I've updated a few of my Webshot galleries with some new photographs taken recently. Click on the thumbnails below to be taken to the galleries.
    As well, some of these images have made it into my online store, where you can get them now as postcards, mousepads, etc. (Alternatively, just download the images from Webshots and do it yourself.)

    Museum of Foreign Debt.

    When most of us think of museums, we don't think of foreign debt. We think of history -- of things old -- of ancient cultures, arts, and artifacts. It's a different story for some folks in Buenos Aires though. The department of Economic Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina aim to create the debt museum this fall. Their goal is to highlight and perhaps educate the Argentinian population on the effects of debt on the economy and development. Argentina has a rich history in debt. It has five times defaulted on debt payments in its history -- first in 1827, and recently in 2001, when it defaulted on $141 billion in loans. Read more in the Christian Science Monitor.

    Free Gas(TM)

    Canadian Tire is offered free gas to about 350 customers this morning in Calgary. It was the launch of their Free Gas(TM) campaign in Calgary, in concert with Marks Work Wearhouse and Partsource. While this is a nice thing, there is one thing I don't get -- why Calgary? Of all the provinces to need a break from high gas prices you wouldn't think Alberta would be one of them. Oh well ... I guess we'll just have to wait our turn.

    Tuesday, September 07, 2004

    Occupation 101

    Occupation 101 is a documentary, soon to be released, about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The film focuses on the Arabs living under Israeli rule in the territories, and will most likely not be a movie to make the Israelis happy. Expect a lot of debate and the usual Arab/Jew confrontations when the movie is released. Check out the website for a trailer.

    The Linux Revolution (2) [PDF]

    The second part of MIT's Technology Review's article on the Linux Revolution focuses on Linux maturity as an alternative to Windows. Although Windows still dominates the desktop, Linux has made small in roads and represents a significant presence on web servers for businesses. More and more, end users are dishing out for Linux at home and the office -- especially those who spend most of time on the web or in email. For those requiring an office productivity suite, Sun's OpenOffice is freely available and saves in MSOffice's native format. In Toronto, there is already an all Linux shop, and even Wal-mart is starting to sell low cost PCs running Linux. Will Linux dethrone Windows on the desktop? Only time will tell -- and Microsoft is taking the threat seriously.

    A Linux Tale [PDF]

    MIT's Technology Review has a different Linux tale in their September issue. Usually Linux stories fawn over Torvalds, and tells the legendary tale of how he innocently lit a fire under the open source movement with his namesake OS. This MIT TR article however is different -- in this, the first part of a two part story, titled, 'The Linux Revolution,' Torvalds gets a passing mention in order to focus on Miguel de Icaza -- who to some, is the new face of Open Source, and to others, the sellout. De Icaza's first claim to fame was in the writing of a file management program for Linux, then launching the open source effort to create a GUI for Linux named GNOME and finally cofounding Ximian -- now part of Novell. Ximian was created to write software, named Mono, that would easily translate code from the Windows platform to Linux and vice versa. That all sounds great -- but there is that Novell part -- de Icaza sold Ximian to Novell. That's when he lost some friends. Some see his sellout as a sellout of the open source movement -- de Icaza see's it as getting his open source baby faster to market by leveraging on the deep pockets and maturity of a large organization. Read more in MIT's TR.

    Meow ...

    I'm still working on that online store of mine. I just added a new postcard to it. Check it out.

    Saturday, September 04, 2004

    Buy My Stuff!

    I'm experimenting with an online store to sell my stuff via CafePress.com. There's only a few items online so far -- check it out and spend some money! CafePress.com is a cool site. It allows you to sell your creations or brand on a variety of merchandise. They charge a base charge for the products you place your content on, and allow you to mark-up the price from there. (My mark-ups are between $0.50 and $1.00.) It's one quick way of getting some pretty unique gifts.

    Friday, September 03, 2004

    Dr. Strange, Sorceror Supreme!

    If you're familiar with the Marvel Comics character, and don't take comics too seriously, you'll love this interpretation of Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme!

    Quantum Sleeper

    This has to be seen to be believed. The Quantum Sleeper -- protects from bio-chemical terrorist attacks, natural disasters, kidnappers/stalkers and is bulletproof! If want the luxury, you can get a CD player, DVD player, PC connection, microwave oven and a refrigerator added as options. What is it? A bed.

    Thursday, September 02, 2004

    China Goes Nuclear

    China is faced with incredible growth and a hunger for power to fuel that growth. Conventional power production isn't doing it anymore -- it's already not meeting demands, and is a bane to the environment. The Chinese estimate that by the year 2050, they'll require as much power as that produced by the entire world. What's China to do? Go nuclear. A lot of nuclear. To meet the projected demand, China needs nuclear reactors that are small, safe, easy to assemble and cheap. Their solution: a pebble-bed reactor. A pebble-bed reactor is a high-temperature reactor that is helium cooled and graphite-moderated. The helium flows through the core of the reactor, taking the heat from the nuclear reaction to power the turbines to produce electricity. (For more on pebble-bed reactors, click here.) The pebble-bed design is also safe. In case of a failure, the plant engineers can simply walk away from the reactor. Why? It cools itself down with the need for a coolant. Scientists from other parts of the world have been working to develop a pebble-bed reactor for years, with not much success as the Chinese have already achieved. They've already got a prototype, and are planning a full scale model by 2010. Those timelines are crazy in the world of nuclear reactors -- but so is China's growth. Check out the full article in Wired.
    Nuclear power plant with pebble bed reactor.  (From the European Nuclear Society.)

    Google Code Jam 2004

    Think your coding skills are up to snuff? Google is hosting their annual coding jam -- tagline: "Brutal Coding Problems. Sick Deadlines." The 50 top finalists will be flown to Google's HQ in California to compete for the top prize and admiration of their peers.

    SETI finds interesting signal

    A post of Slashdot reports that SETI researchers have found an interesting signal in their search for ET. Chances of the signal coming from an alien civilization are slim however.

    Wok Boarding

    It may eventually make it to the summer Olympics ... why not? Watch this video of some Japanese guys with way too much time on their hands. Armed with woks and available escalators, they go wild! (There are other equally hilarious videos on this site -- check them out.) [Thanks for the link Garry!]

    Voynich cracked

    Who's heard of the Voynich manuscript? No me before this. The Voynich manuscript is a 400-year-old puzzle that's been bothering some pretty smart people for a long time. It is 234 pages, beautifully illustrated, and hand written in an unknown script. Not a single word of manuscript has ever been understood -- even today, with a plausible explanation of the manuscript in hand. The explanation comes from Gordon Rugg, a British psychologist and computer scientist at Keele University, England. Rugg contends and offers proof that the manuscript is total gibberish. It makes no sense -- and it wasn't intended to make any sense. He suspects that the text was written by Edward Kelley, an Elizabethan con-artist, out to make some quick money. Kelley worked with John Dee, Elizabeth I's astrologer, and was supposedly a medium for angels -- apparently he even convinced Dee that they should swap wives, because angels told him so. How did Gordon Rugg do it? He used what he calls the Verifier approach. It relies on the fact that experts make mistakes; or narrowly focus the application of their knowledge, and thereby miss obvious solutions. By looking at what is common between different narrowly focused fields however, new approaches to solving problems can emerge that the individual fields couldn't arrive at on their own. It's an interesting idea. Read more in Wired magazine.

    The Word on the Street

    Mark this in your calendar. The annual Word on the Street Book and Magazine fair is coming to Toronto on Sept. 26, 2004. This year the fair will be held at Queens Park. There will be purveyors of the written word, as well as readings, activities and performances. If you're a book lover, you'll won't want to miss it!
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