Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Obama Show

Now if only America’s problems could be solved through adorable pictures of Obama, then everything would be just hunky-dory.

Obama and Dog Bo Playing Football
Obama plays football on the South Lawn with the family dog, Bo.

Obama and Michelle in a Golf Kart
Obama and Michelle ride in a golf kart to an inaugural ball.

Obama 3D Glases
Obama puts on some 3D glasses to watch Superbowl Forty-Three.

Obama Meets a Pirate
Obama poses for a picture with speechwriter Cody Keenan. This image was later used as a joke in part of Obama's White House Correspondents Dinner presentation.

All images are by Pete Souza, the Official White House Photographer.

> Continue Reading: The Obama Show

Friday, May 29, 2009

Torontoist Teams up with the Globe and Mail to Form an Unholy Alliance of Toronto-Based Awesomeness

Toronto Sunrise

As part of its newly redesigned Toronto hub, The Globe and Mail has signed a content-sharing agreement with Torontoist, a hyper local Toronto news site, to expand its urban coverage. Will the Globe's new Toronto-portal succeed? We hope so. We occasionally contribute articles to Torontoist, and it would be great to see them featured on the Globe's site. Hopefully, the Globe also puts a link to the portal on its homepage, as at the moment, it takes far too many clicks to reach.

Image by DGriebeling

> Continue Reading: Torontoist Teams up with the Globe and Mail to Form an Unholy Alliance of Toronto-Based Awesomeness

The NDP Shifts into Neutral

Ethernet Cable Snake

Today, Charlie Angus, the NDP Digital Affairs Critic and representative for Timmins-James Bay, introduced a private member’s bill aimed at getting net neutrality onto the political agenda. According to the NDP’s website, their bill “will ensure the future development of the internet is not impeded by unfair throttling or interference by telecom giants.” Although the bill is another victory for neutrality advocates, it’s unlikely to elevate the issue to national prominence.

Image by shadphotos

> Continue Reading: The NDP Shifts into Neutral

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Top Ten Car Producers

Top Ten Car Producers
Top Ten Car Producing Countries

Now that bondholders have rejected GM's restructuring plan, it looks like America's largest automaker will undergo bankruptcy proceedings. Not so long ago, things weren't too bad for GM. Sure, in 2007, Toyota had just overtaken the American behemoth to become the world's largest automaker, but at least people were still buying SUVs. When the numbers for 2008 are released, we'll be able to see just how large the gap has grown. Even with its recent losses, by now, Toyota must be miles ahead of GM.

All production statistics are from OICA (International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers)

> Continue Reading: Top Ten Car Producers

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

TTC Sets New Ridership Record

TTC Streetcar Toronto

According to Brad Ross, the TTC Director of Corporate Communications, Toronto’s transit system has a new ridership record. Between May, 2008 and May, 2009, 470.8 million riders used the TTC. The previous record was set last November when twelve month ridership rose to 465 million, eclipsing the old 1988 record of 463.5 million.

Photo by Daifuku Sensei

> Continue Reading: TTC Sets New Ridership Record

Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama Performs Mind Meld Ritual with Young Child

Obama Haircut Young kid

The son of a White House staff member wanted to see if Obama’s haircut felt like his own, so Obama bent over and let the kid feel his head. Now that we think about it, without the picture, this description sounds downright creepy.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

> Continue Reading: Obama Performs Mind Meld Ritual with Young Child

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Worldwide Coca-Cola Consumption

Coca-Cola Consumption 1996

According to Coca-Cola's most recent annual report [PDF], between 1998 and 2008, global consumption of Coca-Cola beverages rose from sixty-five servings per capita to eighty-five. In Canada, however, consumption remained flat.

Many health officials around the world believe that Coca-Cola's market gains in the last decade are partially responsible for the growing obesity epidemic [PDF]. Coca-Cola refutes this claim and has run numerous counter ads highlighting the company's low calorie drinks and sports promotions.

The Coca-Cola consumption map originally came from a 1997 issue of The Economist. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan's blog.

> Continue Reading: Worldwide Coca-Cola Consumption

Viamede Resort Review: Is it Worth the Trip?

Viamede Resort

This Victoria Day weekend, we vacationed at Viamede Resort: a luxury cottage-style inn situated on Stoney Lake, just thirty minutes outside of Peterborough. Usually, at this time of year—especially on a long weekend—a well-known destination like Viamede would be packed. However, when we arrived, the main inn was vacant, and only one other cabin was in use—essentially, we had the whole place to ourselves (when we went to dinner in the dining hall, we were the only guests there).

Viamede Resort
Overhead image by

The weekend was pretty cold, so it’s plausible that the weather might have driven some customers away. But fancy resorts like this are booked weeks, if not months, in advance, and the non-refundable deposit is usually pretty hefty. If Viamede's quandary is indicative of the situation across Central Ontario, than Ontario's tourism industry must be bleeding pretty badly.

Viamede Resort
The dining hall.

While we had an enjoyable time, it often felt as if Viamede wasn’t quite open yet. When we arrived many of the amenities seemed broken or unavailable. We couldn’t play horseshoes because the horseshoe pit was too muddy (although, we probably could have played horseshoes somewhere else, but we weren’t given that option). When we went to check out the hot tub, we found that it was broken, which surprised the girl at the desk, despite the fact that another reviewer indicates that it’s been broken since May 2. The cabin itself was quaint, but in desperate need of a new paint job—much like the rest of the resort.

The best part of Viamede was probably the one thing that the resort has the least control over: the scenery. Stoney Lake was gorgeous (especially on Monday, when the sun finally came out and we were able to go canoeing). When it’s bright and sunny it’s easy to see why the lake has become so popular among Ontario’s cottage goers. Ultimately, the scenery around Viamede is worth the trip, but the resort itself is nothing special.

Photos by dragonheart2. (Taken in the fall.)

> Continue Reading: Viamede Resort Review: Is it Worth the Trip?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Top Ten Largest Empires by Landmass

Largest Empires by Landmass

We were surprised that the Roman Empire, which at its height controlled more than 5.9 million km², didn't make the top ten. But perhaps that's just our Western bias showing through.

Obviously, the data used to construct this graph is open to interpretation, as most empires were ill-defined, which makes calculating their exact size an impossible task. Differing definitions also pose a problem. What exactly is an empire? Should independent allies and tribute states be considered part of an empire? The Mongol Empire technically controlled vast swaths of Siberia, but many of the tribes in region remained autonomous. Should this large sparsely populated area be considered part of the Mongol Empire? Ultimately, this graph is merely guide. If were to use a different set of definitions, then the rankings would probably be different.

A full ranking of the World's largest empires can be found here. The data set on this page is also what we used to construct this map.

> Continue Reading: Top Ten Largest Empires by Landmass

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ownership of U.S. Foreign Debt

Countries Top Ten Holders of US Debt

America’s national debt currently stands at $11 trillion, or about $36,000 per American. By 2012, at the end of Obama’s first term in office, the national debt will have risen by 26% to more than $15 trillion. While Keynesian economists encourage deficit spending as a way to alleviate the negative effects of a recession, America’s ever ballooning debt is worrisome, as America can only continue to live beyond its means for so long. Already, 16.3% of the country’s total tax revenue is spent each year to service the debt.

Although most of America’s debt is owned by the U.S. government, since the 1980s, foreign ownership has skyrocketed. Today, foreign governments own about 25% of the debt. Leading the list is China, with over $767.9 billion. Japan, with $686.7 billion, is a close second.

Original image of the rolled hundred dollar bills by Gnerk.

> Continue Reading: Ownership of U.S. Foreign Debt

Search Engine Gets Creative

TVO Search Engine Jesse Brown
TVO’s new tech podcast, Search Engine, which was cancelled by the CBC and then, almost immediately, picked up by TVO, is now available under a Creative Commons license. Two weeks ago, we had the opportunity to talk with Search Engine’s host, Jesse Brown, about the show’s origins and the big move to TVO.

> Continue Reading: Search Engine Gets Creative

Monday, May 18, 2009

Aliya-Jasmine Sovani: Save the Boobs Campaign

Boobies sell. In fact, if the YouTube comments about Aliya-Jasmine Sovani's breasts—the real stars of this video—are any indication, they're probably worth a thousand Bill Mayses.

This jiggle-fest, if you weren't paying attention, is an ad for Boobyball, a fundraiser to help support breast cancer research. Lately, it seems like breast cancer awareness advertisers are sticking close to PETA's strategy: use busty, scantily dressed women to attract as much attention as possible, positive or otherwise. This is a slippery slope. Last month, The Onion joked in a satirical video that PETA's treatment of women reflected misogynistic attitudes. And you know what? They weren't exactly off-the-mark.

Sovani's bouncing boobs are sure to grab a lot of male attention, but the overt objectification has the potential to upset female supporters too.

Originally spotted at Torontoist.

> Continue Reading: Aliya-Jasmine Sovani: Save the Boobs Campaign

Friday, May 15, 2009

How Chinese Factories Cut Corners to Make Money

Gritty Factory in China

China’s rock bottom prices and short production cycles don’t seem to leave much room for profit. So, how do Chinese factories make money? According to Paul Milder, the author of Poorly Made in China, Chinese manufacturers regularly improve their bottom line through a process known as "quality fade." Milder argues that many factories initially produce goods at a loss, then, over time, cut costs by replacing materials with cheaper substitutes. Many large manufacturing firms also forgo the benefits of economies of scale to produce products in smaller factories, where conditions and safety controls are harder to scrutinize. While third party quality control facilities are increasing being employed by Western companies to test Chinese products, nobody wants to be the one to blow the whistle—there’s just too much money at stake.

Proof of Milder’s thesis is everywhere, from the recent scandals concerning lead-lined toys to stories about contaminated pet food. The only question is, when will China get it's own version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle—a 1906 account of the U.S. meatpacking industry's lax standards and corruption.

Photo by jcfh2001.

> Continue Reading: How Chinese Factories Cut Corners to Make Money

Time Spent Eating and Sleeping Around the World

Graph Time Spent Eating and Sleeping

Geez...the French sure are lazy.

We're surprised that Canadians spend less time sleeping than their American counterparts. We thought that Americans—with their go-go work attitude—would only be catching a few winks under their desks each day. But it looks like we’re the ones that are working ourselves to the bone.

Graph by The Economist.

> Continue Reading: Time Spent Eating and Sleeping Around the World

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Huffington Post Turned into a Hardcore Sex Site So Gradually, I Didn’t Even Notice

Huffington Post Hardcore Sex Site

At the moment, three of the top stories on the Huffington Post are:
  1. Miss California Topless
  2. Padma Lakshmi's Sheer Dress And Natalie Portman's Near Slip
  3. Lingere Football League Tryouts
Journalism is screwed.

Huffington Post Hardcore Sex Site

Update (1:30 a.m.): Scratch that, journalism is dead. The Huffington Post is supposed to represent the future of online journalism, but there's no way that this trite compares to the work of established newspapers and media organizations like the New York Times and BBC News.

Images are from the Huffington Post.

> Continue Reading: The Huffington Post Turned into a Hardcore Sex Site So Gradually, I Didn’t Even Notice

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Make Your Own Michael Ignatieff Magazine Cover

Michael Ignatieff Conservative Magazine Cover

We have to hand it to the Conservatives—it must have taken months to find all these delightfully droll images of Ignatieff. Our favourite picture is the one where he's delicately wrapping his hand around his face. Look at his clothes, that haircut, and those pompous rings on his hand; he looks like a giant 1980s douche bag.

The best part is that you can combine these images with any four titles of your choice to create your very own Ignatieff Me! magazine cover that you can share with your friends and family. The American, British, French, and Russian flags under the magazine’s title are also a nice touch. They really help enforce what a cosmopolitan jackass Michael Ignatieff is.

(In case you were wondering, .me is the top-level domain reserved for Montenegro.)

Images are from the Conservative Party of Canada's website.

> Continue Reading: Make Your Own Michael Ignatieff Magazine Cover

Liberals Up in the Polls as the Conservatives Release an Ad Attacking Ignatieff

According to the latest poll conducted by CTV and the Globe and Mail, the Liberals now have a slight national lead over the Conservatives.

National Results (The second number is the point difference between now and the results of the 2008 election.)
  • Liberals: 35% (+9)
  • Conservatives: 30% (-8)
  • NDP: 16% (-2)
  • Green Party: 11% (+4)
  • Bloc Quebecois: 9% (-1)
With their polling numbers down, Conservative Party strategists must have thought that now would be the best time to try to brand Michael Ignatieff as an out-of-town self-indulgent flake. Well, we hate to tell you Stephen, but this is hardly news. Michael Ignatieff is an out-of-town self-indulgent flake. Canadians know this, and don’t seem to really care. If this is the best you've got, then you don't stand a chance of derailing Liberal momentum before a possible summer election.

> Continue Reading: Liberals Up in the Polls as the Conservatives Release an Ad Attacking Ignatieff

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sananguaqatiit: The Champion of Carving Safety

The Adventures of Sananguaqatiit

Forget Batman, Spiderman, and Iron Man, the next big superhero who’s destined for the big screen is Sananguaqatiit, the star of The Adventures of Sananguaqatiit. The comic features Charlie Kavik, a mild mannered Inuit carver who’s imbued with superpowers in order to stop unsafe carving practices in the Arctic. According to the comic’s publisher, the Inuit Art Foundation—which published the comic between 1992 and 1996—Sananguaqatiit is Inuktitut for: "your carving buddy."

The Adventures of Sananguaqatiit
Even the writers can't keep the spelling of "Sananguaqatiit" consistent.

We understand the importance of teaching safe carving practices, but did anybody ever take this comic seriously? For starters it’s boring. Besides talking endlessly about carving safety, Sananguaqatiit really doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t save lives, he just kinda shows up and people listen to him. He could just be a normal, but knowledgeable guy, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. His flying snowmobile, Super Qamutilk (yes, he rides a fucking flying snowmobile), lets him travel places quickly, but that ability is hardly essential to the plot-less stories.

The Adventures of Sananguaqatiit

Surprisingly, this kind of weird message-driven aboriginal-comic isn't even that unusual. In 1973, the Canadian government created a comic called, The Incredible Coming of Al Cohol, in an attempt to teach Inuit communities about the evils of drinking. The comic starred Al Cohol, an alien with a drinking problem. Like The Adventures of Sananguaqatiit, The Incredible Coming of Al Cohol is extremely ham-fisted and somewhat racist in its portrayal of Inuit people.

All of the issues of The Adventures of Sananguaqatiit are available here, but we don't recommend reading them.

> Continue Reading: Sananguaqatiit: The Champion of Carving Safety

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Old-Age Dependency Ratios, An Age Old Dilemma

Old-Age Dependency Ratios Graph

By 2050, the elderly will make up 25% of the world’s population. As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement, the elderly population in the most industrialized counties is expected to rise dramatically. By 2046, Canada’s seniors population is projected to rise to 11.2 million, increasing the old-age dependency ratio to more than 40%. In Europe, the old-age dependency ratio is projected to double to 54%. But, the most dramatic increase will take place in Japan, where the old-age dependency ratio is currently 35.1%. By 2050, it is expected to rise to 73.8%.

Graph by The Economist.

> Continue Reading: Old-Age Dependency Ratios, An Age Old Dilemma

Canada and the Atlas of the World

Real World Atlas Wealth 2002 Map
GDP in 2002.

Worldmapper is a fantastic visual resource. Using data from UN agencies, researchers from the universities of Sheffield and Michigan have created over seven hundred unique world maps. In each map, area is substituted for a thematic value, like life expectancy or television ownership. While the maps are fascinating, there’s one thing that kind of troubles us: in almost every map, the U.S. completely obscures Canada. Sure, the U.S. is a more populous country, but there must be some category that Canada dominates in. We searched around, and eventually we came up with ten maps in which Canada is visually larger than the U.S.

Net Meat Exporters

Real World Atlas Meat Exports Map

The meat processing industry is the largest food industry in Canada. In 2007, Canada exported $2.4 billion of pork to over 130 countries, and $1.2 billion of beef to over 100 countries. Not surprisingly, Canada exports most of its meat to the U.S.

Net Fish Exporters

Real World Atlas Fish Exports Map

Canada is the world’s seventh-largest exporter of fish and seafood products. Again, most of the fish we catch goes to the United States, which in this case, has entirely vanished from the map.

Net Gas and Coal Exporters

Real World Atlas Gas and Coal Exports Map

No surprise here. Over 99% of Canadian oil exports are sent to the United States.

Net Refined Petroleum Exporters

Real World Atlas Refined Petroleum Products Exports Map

America needs Albertan oil.

Fuel Exports

Real World Atlas Fuel Exports Map

This map includes all fuel sources (oil, gas, coal, nuclear, etc...).

Net Valuables Exporters

Real World Atlas Valuables Exports Map

Canada produces about 15% of the world’s diamonds. Most of Canada’s diamonds come from the Northwest Territories, though there is some diamond mining in Nunavut and Northern Ontario.

Net Metals Exporters

Real World Atlas Metals Exports Map

The Canadian Shield is a rich source of minerals. Exports of minerals and mineral-based products are worth over $62 billion a year. Again, the majority of metal exports go to the U.S.

Net Wood and Paper Exporters

Real World Atlas Wood and Paper Exports Map

Canada is the world's largest producer of forest products. The industry is worth over $33 billion a year. Most of our forest products are exported to China and the U.S.

Net Car Exporters

Real World Atlas Car Exports Map

Although the auto industry is struggling, it still remains an integral part of the Canadian economy. Canada is a net exporter, which means that we export more cars than we import. The majority of these vehicles are sold in the U.S.

Hydroelectric Power

Real World Atlas Hydroelectric Power Map

Canada is the world’s second-largest producer of hydroelectric power. 59% of Canada’s power generation comes from hydroelectricity.

So, what does all this mean? Well, if you were to construct an image of Canada based just off these maps, you would probably picture endless mines, lumber yards, and slaughter houses. Not a pretty picture. There's obviously more to Canada than its resources, but we have to wonder: is this how the rest of the world sees us?

All maps are from Worldmapper.

> Continue Reading: Canada and the Atlas of the World

Saturday, May 09, 2009

New Layout Brings Hope and Change

Not really...But at least images are now displayed in 640 pixels of goodness.

Image of the Golden Gate Bridge by PatrickSmithPhotography.

> Continue Reading: New Layout Brings Hope and Change

Friday, May 08, 2009

Nauru, A Documentary Adrift

Nauru Image Satellite

According to its director, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Nauru, An Island Adrift took four years to make. Salgado's claim must be an exaggeration though, as the documentary looks like it was shot and edited together in Microsoft Movie Studio over a weekend. Nauru is a fascinating place, and it's a shame to see its potential wasted.

Nauru Mining Phosphate
The interior of Nauru has been completely mined out. Image by wazonthehill.

Nauru, to give a little back-story—something the movie altogether fails to do—is a small Pacific island about the size of Manhattan with a population of approximately seven thousand people. The country, which gained its independence from Australia in 1968, is the world’s smallest independent nation. For the last hundred years, Nauru’s economy has depended on its chief export: phosphate, a white powdery rock primarily used in fertilizer. In the 1990s, after the phosphate ran out, Nauru tried to turn itself into a tax haven and money laundering centre. But in 2001, after responding to pressure from the international community, Nauru tightened up its banking laws and most of the foreign money fled the island. Most recently, Australia established a detention centre on the island in 2001 for political refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern countries. But, after intense pressure from human rights organizations, both from within Australia and abroad, the centre was closed in late 2007. Today, Nauru is a mess. Its debt is twenty-seven times its GDP and unemployment hovers somewhere around 90%.

Nauru License Plate
A Nauru License Plate. Image by lotto94024.

Although most of the film is spent examining the impact of phosphate mining on island, few details are ever provided. The information above isn’t special; most of it can be found on Nauru’s Wikipedia page. But for some reason, Nauru’s filmmakers decided that the film didn’t need any back-story. Nauru has been in the news lately, but it’s hardly a subject that everyone is intimately familiar with.

Nauru Coastline
Before mining operations began, Nauru was an idyllic tropical Pacific island. Image by wazonthehill.

The film solely relies on interviews with the island’s inhabitants, which is both its greatest strength and weakness. It’s interesting to hear the Nauruans justify what they did to their island, but the interviews don’t provide much context and often make the Nauruans look dumber than they actually are. Part of the problem is that all of the interviews are conducted in English, which is clearly not the first language of many of the islands inhabitants. The result is that most of the interviewees respond with simplistic answers to the complex and rather loaded questions they’re being asked.

Nauru Cantilever Ship Loader
The cantilever ship loader that was used to load phosphate into transport ships. Image by wazonthehill.

The cinematography is rather poor; the shaky-cam style the directors employ is serviceable at best. The directors also seem to be in love with shots comparing the island’s beauty to what the inhabitants have done to it, and have packed as many of these shots into the film as possible. Ultimately, if you’re interested in Nauru check out This American Life’s fantastic program on the island and don’t bother to waste eighty minutes of your life on this film.

Nauru, an Island Adrift is part of Toronto's HotDocs documentary festival. Satellite image of the island is from Wikipedia.

> Continue Reading: Nauru, A Documentary Adrift

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Something Ain't Quite Right at Time Magazine

Time Magazine Poll
Time Magazine Poll

Time Magazine's polls are being hacked again, or at least that's what the data suggests. Take a look at the two polls above. In an average poll—like the first one—Idaho usually accounts for ten to twenty votes. Now take a look at the second poll. Apparently, Idahoans are so terrified of swine flu, that they voted in droves for a meaningless online poll at a rate two hundred times higher than normal (and thirteen times higher than New York). Come on Time, you're a big publication. The 4Chan thing was funny, but now it's time to fix your polling system.

Images from Time Magazine's website.

> Continue Reading: Something Ain't Quite Right at Time Magazine

Saturday, May 02, 2009

We’re Not Going Anywhere Near Your Basement

Toronto 375 Indian Grove Rapist

We found this vaguely creepy garage sale ad outside Keele station this morning in the Indian Grove parking lot. Tip: when you’re trying to advertise your garage sale, it’s best not to sound like a potential rapist.

> Continue Reading: We’re Not Going Anywhere Near Your Basement

Friday, May 01, 2009

Buds in the Burbs

Spring is here—at least in suburban Etobicoke.

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

Magnolia Tree Bloom Toronto Etobicoke

> Continue Reading: Buds in the Burbs