Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TTC MasterCard Campfire Ad

Jane Station MasterCard Campfire Ad

A clever, if not particularly brilliant, MasterCard ad that I spotted at Jane Station this afternoon.

> Continue Reading: TTC MasterCard Campfire Ad

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: Bay and Adelaide Streets

Bay street and Adelaide street 1940
Looking north on Bay Street near Adelaide Street. (ca. 1940)

Bay street and Adelaide street 2009
Looking north on Bay Street near Adelaide Street. (2009)

One thing I find surprising about these then and now photos, is that there always seems to be more people in the "then" photos.

The 1940 photo of Bay and Adelaide streets comes from the City of Toronto Archives; the 2009 photo is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Bay and Adelaide Streets

Jeff Low's Then and Now Photos of Toronto

Toronto Queen Street West and Bay Street
Looking south on Bay Street from Queen Street West. Top: 1955, City of Toronto Archives. Bottom: 2009, Jeff Low.

This week for Torontoist I interviewed Jeff Low, an amateur photographer who recreates historic photos of Toronto. Low's collection was one of the reasons why I stopped posting then and now photos (I didn't want to feel like a copycat), but after talking with him I'm inspired to start again.

> Continue Reading: Jeff Low's Then and Now Photos of Toronto

Monday, June 22, 2009

Google Helps China Defend Against Porn

Mao Gate of Heavenly Peace

The Chinese government, after successfully censoring journalists, the Falun Gong, the Tiananmen Square protests, and the Dalai Lama’s teachings, is preparing to fight a new and dangerous enemy: porn. On Friday, the government asked Google to disable its search engine’s associative-word feature, as officials believed that Chinese citizens were using the feature to access pornographic images and content. Additionally, all computers sold in China will soon come preinstalled with Green Dam Youth Escort, a type of censorship software designed to block pornography. Officials insist that the program will only be used to block "vulgar" materials, but many activists fear that the program’s primary function is to block politically sensitive websites.

The Chinese government wants to transform China into a respected superpower. But until it lifts its restrictions on the flow of information, China—in the eyes of the western world—will remain an authoritarian backwater. Albeit, one obsessed with its citizen's sex lives.

Photo by lancewebel.

> Continue Reading: Google Helps China Defend Against Porn

Friday, June 19, 2009

Snowing in Toronto in June

Snowing in Toronto in June

Snowing in Toronto in June

These photos were taken today at Islington Avenue and Norseman Street. The white things are floating seeds that come from a nearby tree.

> Continue Reading: Snowing in Toronto in June

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Liberals Shift into Neutral and Support Net Neutrality

Gear Shift

Today, during question period, Marc Garneau, the Liberal Party MP from Westmount—Ville-Marie, declared his party's support for net neutrality. "Mr. Speaker, in a free and open democracy in the twenty-first century, in an innovative and progressive economy, no tool is more paramount than the internet," said Garneau. "The internet is the backbone of today's flow of free ideas and sharing. My party, the Liberal Party, supports the principles of net neutrality and an open and competitive internet environment."

The Liberals, the NDP, and the Green Party are the only parties that officially support net neutrality; the Bloc has yet to fully weigh in; and the Conservatives believe that the internet is an issue best left to the private sector.

Photo by noloran.

> Continue Reading: The Liberals Shift into Neutral and Support Net Neutrality

Text Message Mark-up is an Estimated 4,900 per cent

Cell Phone Text Message

On Tuesday this week, Srinivasan Keshav, a Canadian Research Chair at the University of Waterloo, informed the U.S. Senate, during a hearing on text message rates, that a single message probably costs less than 0.3 cents—a mark-up of 4,900 per cent. Text messages represent a small fraction of the total traffic over cell phone towers, so congestion isn’t what’s driving prices. Most of the cost comes from calculating bills and building and maintaining cell phone towers, but even these expenditures are relatively minor. Ultimately, North Americans are forced to endure steep rates, because the reigning telecommunications monopolies have determined that that's what the market can bear. "I'm not here to judge whether the market is competitive or fair, I'm just telling you this is the price and this is the cost," said Keshav. "Let people who are experiencing these plans decide whether it's correct or not."

Photo by â„“isaa.

> Continue Reading: Text Message Mark-up is an Estimated 4,900 per cent

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dieter Janssen's TTC Fantasy Map

 Dieter Janssen TTC Fantasy Map

My article on Dieter Janssen's TTC fantasy map is now up on Torontoist. While I don't agree with all the design decisions—a line on Keele and on Jane seems rather redundant—this is probably the most professional looking map I've seen (including my own). Here's an article I wrote on some of the other maps out there.

Image by Dieter Janssen.

> Continue Reading: Dieter Janssen's TTC Fantasy Map

Monday, June 15, 2009

How Cheap is Lakehead?

Lakehead University

Last week, a Canadian labour arbitrator ruled that Lakehead University had the right to convert its campus email to Google’s Gmail. In 2006, Lakehead had signed a free three-year deal to outsource its "@lakeheadu.ca" address to Google’s Gmail servers. Upset, the Lakehead University Faculty Association challenged the switch, claiming that it violated privacy rights. Some students and faculty members feared that because Google is an American company, US government agencies would have access university emails under post 9/11 laws such as the Patriot Act. The arbitrator dismissed the challenge, concluding that the privacy of email communication was not protected under the University’s collective agreement.

Debates about privacy aside: just how cheap is Lakehead? Every other university in the country provides its students with on-campus email, so why can’t Lakehead? For a university that already has a questionable reputation, this doesn't exactly scream: "quality education." Things could be worse though: Lakehead could have signed a deal with Yahoo or Microsoft.

Photo by Patrick Chondon.

> Continue Reading: How Cheap is Lakehead?

Friday, June 12, 2009

NOW Magazine vs Jesse Brown

Cat Fight

My article on the Twitter fight between NOW Magazine and Jesse Brown, of TVO's Search Engine, is now up on Torontoist. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this article. If I write about cat fights like this, how am I any different than TMZ?

Photo by merriewells.

> Continue Reading: NOW Magazine vs Jesse Brown

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Twenty Largest Bankruptcies in US History

The Largest Bankruptcies in US History
Click to enlarge.

What's amazing (and downright scary) is that eight of largest bankruptcies have all occurred in last two years. It's also interesting to note just how small GM and Chrysler are in comparison to behemoths like Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual.

Graphic by GOOD Magazine.

> Continue Reading: The Twenty Largest Bankruptcies in US History

SaveOurNet.ca's First Open Internet Town Hall Meeting in Toronto

Open Internet Town Hall Toronto SaveOurNet.ca

My article on SaveOurNet.ca's first open internet Town Hall meeting is now up on Torontoist. This was the first tech event I’d ever been to, and I thought—what with my nerdy background—that I’d fit in. Surprisingly, I felt more out of my element there than I have covering art and music shows (two subjects I know relatively little about).

On another note, a twitter fight seems to have broken out between Jesse Brown, of TVO’s Search Engine, and NOW Magazine, over a comment Brown made Monday night. Brown suggested that Net Neutrality's alignment with leftist entities, like the NDP, Rabble.ca, and NOW Magazine, has made the issue too partisan. "Excuse me, but what the F are you talking about with this net neutrality neutral song-and-dance?" responded NOW on Twitter. "You're muddling the issue for your own personal profile."

Photo by Andrew Louis.

> Continue Reading: SaveOurNet.ca's First Open Internet Town Hall Meeting in Toronto

Monday, June 08, 2009

World Food Prices are Rising Again

World Food Prices Chart 2008-2009

According to The Economist’s food-price index, world food prices have been slowly creeping back up since the index hit its lowest point in December 2008. Overall, however, food prices are still 2.2% lower than they were at the beginning of 2008.

Graph by The Economist

> Continue Reading: World Food Prices are Rising Again

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Time Dilation Accelerator: Secret Origins

Spider-Man the Animated Series

Occasionally, the Time Dilation Accelerator defies the laws of space and time by going back to review the best (or the weirdest) aspects of the early 90s.

Here at the Intrepid we’re often asked the question: "Where does the term 'Time Dilation Accelerator' come from?" No, just kidding, nobody ever asks that question. But we’re going to answer it anyway. The term comes from the mid 1990s Fox cartoon show, Spider-Man the Animated Series. The Time Dilation Accelerator was a portable teleportation device that several of the show’s villains fought over in the latter part of the third season.

Spider-Man the Animated Series Green Goblin
The Green Goblin being sucked into an unstable TDA portal.

The TDA (yeah, that acronym sucks) was also an important plot device, that allowed Spider-Man’s writers to bypass mid 1990s censorship rules about death and kill off characters, without actually killing them. The show occasionally discussed death, as long as it was off scene (like Uncle Ben’s murder). But when someone needed to die, the TDA was a convenient option; if a character fell into an unstable portal it carried the weight of a death—as they would be lost forever—without the gruesomeness. In total, six characters were killed off in unstable TDA portals.

Spider-Man the Animated Series Hobgoblin
The Hobgoblin always looks grumpy.

Death wasn’t the only thing Spider-Man wasn’t allowed to discuss, here’s a few of the other rules the show had to follow.

No punching: For an action show, this is kind of a big problem. If Spider-Man can’t use his fists, how is he supposed to fight bad guys? Well, to get around this, the creators had Spider-Man use a variety of leaping kick attacks. Occasionally, Spider-Man threw a punch, but it was pretty rare, and the scene usually cut before his fist actually connected.

No realistic guns: Instead of guns, almost all of the characters, including police officers, carried laser stun pistols. Realistic-looking guns were occasionally shown, but rarely fired.

When Spider-Man landed on a roof, he was not allowed to hurt pigeons: What!!?? Were the censors really that worried about violence against pigeons?

Spider-Man the Animated Series
"I'm Spider-Man, I'm going to kill me some fucking pigeons!"

Characters were not allowed to say the words, "die," "death," or "kill": Instead of the banned words, writers often used the word “destroy,” and when that option wasn’t available, they would have characters cut each other off. For instance, at the end of the episode, "Night of the Lizard," Dr. Kurt Connors is lying unconscious and his wife asks, "Is he..." to which Spider-Man replies, cutting her off, "...He’ll be okay."

While the show was hampered by these rules, it’s still entertaining, and despite what internet fan boys might say, it’s one of the best Spider-Man adaptations out there.

So, why does the Intrepid use “Time Dilation Accelerator” in its title? Well, honestly, it just sounded cool. We were looking for a title that suggested time travel; and although the Time Dilation Accelerator has nothing to do with that, we were too lazy to come up with something else.

All screenshots are from Spider-Man the Animated Series.

> Continue Reading: The Time Dilation Accelerator: Secret Origins

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Most Popular Photo on Flickr

The Most Popular Photo on Flickr

Unfortunately, with popularity, comes Flickr notes; so many that the image shown here is now obscured by them. Scroll over the photo and see for yourself. It looks a bit like a Borg cube.

Original Photo by acastellano.

> Continue Reading: The Most Popular Photo on Flickr

Friday, June 05, 2009

TD Canada Trust Doesn’t Appreciate Your Business

TD Canada Trust Branch
A TD branch at 420 Bloor Street East. The branch at Norseman Street and Islington Avenue is far uglier.

Today is TD Canada Trust’s Customer Appreciation Day, and based on the spread at their Norseman Street and Islington Avenue branch, TD really doesn’t think much of its clientele. The sign outside the branch promised free food and drinks, but inside there was only a basket of sad looking granny smith apples sitting on a card table. We guess TD is trying to send a branded message about healthy eating.

Photo by Canadian Pacific.

> Continue Reading: TD Canada Trust Doesn’t Appreciate Your Business

Toronto Has Gone to the Birds (the Globe too)

Torontoist Globe and Mail

Today, my Torontoist story on red-winged blackbird attacks was picked up by the Globe and Mail for their Toronto Hub. Unfortunately, the Globe left in a headline from yesterday; or maybe red-winged blackbirds are getting in on the Rheostatics' Hoser March.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Has Gone to the Birds (the Globe too)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Canada’s Broadband Service is Falling Behind

Internet Strangle

According to a new OECD report, Canada’s internet is among the slowest and the most expensive in the developed world. Canada ranks ninth out of thirty in terms of bandwidth penetration, fourteenth in price, and twenty-fourth in speed. When all these factors are taken into consideration, Canada drops to twenty-eighth overall, just ahead of Mexico and Poland. "This may be the most telling metric," explains Michael Geist. "Since it confirms that Canadians pay more for less." Not too long ago, Canada led the world in broadband standards. If Canadian ISPs are given free reign to continue to raise prices, throttle customers, and cut services, Canada is only going to fall further behind.

Source: Michael Geist and the OECD’s Broadband Portal Report. Image by koelsche_sonnenschein.

> Continue Reading: Canada’s Broadband Service is Falling Behind

We Made the News, the Real News, the American News

Canadian Flag
There are two ways for Canada to make the U.S. news a) threaten to self-destruct, or b) do something weird or stupid. Michaelle Jean’s seal heart chow down with Inuit hunters definitely falls into the later. Last week, the Governor General’s act of defiance (or insanity) managed to sneak its way into everything from Foreign Policy magazine to the Slate Political Gabfest. The inane celebrity gossip site Gawker also picked up on the story, and accused Michelle Jean of being the Sarah Palin of Canada (a poor comparison, even by Gawker’s standards).

To American (and even European) news organizations, a Canadian news story is usually only worth printing if it’s weird. Consider some other Canadian stories that have recently made it big: Igor Kenk (Toronto’s extraordinary bike thief); the Greyhound beheading; Billy Bob Thornton’s CBC temper tantrum. All these stories went international, because they were bizarre. Legitimate Canadian news stories that manage to make it to the big time are also treated with this same curious fascination. A Canadian company is about to take over Opel? How quaint. Do they even have cars up there?

Sometimes it feels like Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans was right on the money. Americans (and the rest of the world) don’t know anything about us, and don’t really want to.

Photo by Dr. Ilia

> Continue Reading: We Made the News, the Real News, the American News