Saturday, August 29, 2009

Drugs and Happiness

Graph Drugs and Happiness


Just remember, a correlation is not a cause. Happiness is also influenced by other factors that are strongly tied to standard of living, income, and the other perks that Western countries tend to enjoy.

From Information is Beautiful. Originally spotted at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish.

> Continue Reading: Drugs and Happiness

Friday, August 28, 2009

Glenn Beck Invents a New Word



I also fear Obama's fiendish scheme to transform America into an "oligarhy."

What's even crazier is that more than three million people watched this episode.

> Continue Reading: Glenn Beck Invents a New Word

Thursday, August 27, 2009

La Veranda Osteria Wants Its Patio Licence

La Veranda Osteria

This week for Torontoist, I investigated some angry signs put up in the windows of La Veranda Osteria, a west-end Italian restaurant. The owner is mad at the city for denying him his patio licence, but after talking with the city, it seems that he really doesn't have anyone to blame but himself.

Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: La Veranda Osteria Wants Its Patio Licence

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

National Post Repost

National Post Box

Yesterday, I was browsing through my Twitter feed when I spotted a tweet from Posted Toronto (the National Post’s Toronto blog) advertising a "new" article concerning the TTC’s upcoming Downtown Relief Line study. Being something of a transit nut, I clicked, and started reading. Instantly, I was struck by a feeling of déjà vu—I had read this before. And sure enough, after a quick search, I found the original Post article from August 21. A few changes had been made to the "new" Posted version, but it was essentially the same article.

It’s okay for an organization to reprint its material on different platforms; it’s just in this case, it seems lazy and unnecessary. The new article is almost identical to the old, so why wasn’t it uploaded to Posted Toronto on the same day it appeared in Post? Was Posted Toronto hard up for content yesterday?

Photo by Gloom. The photo really doesn't match this post, but I couldn't find a decent picture of a National Post box.

> Continue Reading: National Post Repost

Monday, August 24, 2009

Iraq's Incredible Shrinking Coverage

Iraq Media Coverage

From early 2007 to mid-2009, coverage of the Iraq War has dropped 92%. Today, Iraq only accounts for 1.1% of all US news stories.

The graph above is from Journalism.org. Originally spotted at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish.

> Continue Reading: Iraq's Incredible Shrinking Coverage

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Boot Failure at Keele Station

Boot Failure at Keele Station

Keele Station is just falling apart these days.

Photo by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Boot Failure at Keele Station

Friday, August 21, 2009

Toronto and the Big Mac Price Index

Big Mac Price Index

According to a new price and earnings report released by UBS, the Swiss financial services company, Toronto is the thirty-first most expensive city in the world. The report ranked Oslo as the most expensive, followed by Zurich, Copenhagen, Geneva, Tokyo, and New York. In terms of purchasing power, UBS ranked Toronto seventeenth. In comparison, Montreal ranked twelfth.

The study also published statistics on how long it takes the average worker in a city to earn the price of a McDonald’s Big Mac. The time-based index, though flawed, as conditions such as local taxes and import duties distort relative Big Mac prices, is useful in comparing purchasing power. According to the report, on average, it only takes Torontonians twelve minutes to earn the price of a Big Mac. In comparison, it takes fifteen minutes in Montreal, fourteen minutes in New York, twenty minutes in Paris, and one hundred and twenty-nine minutes in Mexico City (the global average is thirty-seven minutes).

UBS also examined other goods. It takes Torontonians fifteen minutes to earn a kilogram of bread, eight minutes to earn kilogram of rice, and 10.5 hours to earn an 8GB iPod Nano.

The graph above is from The Economist.

> Continue Reading: Toronto and the Big Mac Price Index

Storm Batters Southwestern Ontario and the GTA



The massive thunderstorm that rocked Toronto and Southwestern Ontario yesterday has been over for several hours now, but the cleanup is still ongoing. The storm whipped up tornados (map) that flattened houses and brought down power lines across the region (20,000 customers in Southwestern Ontario are still without power).

As has become commonplace in our high speed society, dozens of videos of the storm were uploaded to YouTube almost immediately after the storm ended. The video above is fascinating, as it shows just how quickly the storm engulfed Toronto.

Video by hollyakimow.

> Continue Reading: Storm Batters Southwestern Ontario and the GTA

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nac Uoy Kniht Uoy Os Ecnad Adanac

So You Think You Can Dance Canada

Nice work Astral Media. I'll be sure to check out Nac Uoy Kniht Uoy Os Ecnad Adanac on VTC on Yadseut or on Hcum on Yadnus. With gnisitrevda like this, I'm sure it will be "awesome."

The photo above was taken at the northeast corner of Islington and Cordova avenues.

> Continue Reading: Nac Uoy Kniht Uoy Os Ecnad Adanac

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Congressman Barney Frank Responds to the Allegations that Obama is a Nazi



I wonder if conservatives were as perplexed by the Bush-Hitler analogies as liberals are about Obama-Hitler analogies.

Orginally spotted at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish.

> Continue Reading: Congressman Barney Frank Responds to the Allegations that Obama is a Nazi

Space Race

Graph Worldwide Space Launches

It's interesting to note that the decline in American and Russian space launches almost mirrors China's increase.

The graph above comes from The Economist.

> Continue Reading: Space Race

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Infinite Possibilities of the Tenth Dimension



This animation lays out Rob Bryanton's understanding of the ten dimensions, as explained in the first chapter of his book, Imagining the Tenth Dimension. It's important to keep in mind that Bryanton is assessing the dimensions from a philosophical standpoint. His views, while thought provoking, do not correspond with string theorists and should not be regarded as scientific fact. (Not that string theorists are necessarily correct either.)

Originally spotted at Boing Boing.

> Continue Reading: The Infinite Possibilities of the Tenth Dimension

Toronto Then and Now: St. George Station (Bedford Entrance)

Then
Toronto Then and Now Bedford St. George Station
The Bedford Road entrance of St. George Station. (1962)

Now
Toronto Then and Now Bedford St. George Station
The Bedford Road entrance of St. George Station. (2009)

St. George station first opened in 1963, as part of the University-Spadina line. The Bloor-Danforth platform later opened in 1966.

The 1962 photo of the Bedford Road entrance of St. George Station comes from the City of Toronto Archives. The 2009 photo is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: St. George Station (Bedford Entrance)

What if Websites Were People

What if websites were people

If the pictures actually represented their respective sites, here’s what they would look like.
  • Facebook would be a lazy middle aged woman in a dead-end job that spends most of her time checking trying to find out which of her high school acquaintances got fat.

  • Twitter would be a marketer, a struggling journalist, or a robot. (Possibly all three.)

  • Myspace would be a pervert posing as a thirteen year old.

  • Wikipedia would be a schizophrenic nerd with delusions of grandeur.

  • Deviant Art would be a teenage boy obsessed with an anime and cosplay.

  • YouTube would be a homophobic racist who can’t spell or use proper punctuation.

  • Google would be self-righteous know-it-all sell out.
The original image can be found here.

> Continue Reading: What if Websites Were People

Monday, August 17, 2009

Labeling System Update

Label Maker

In an effort to make this site easier to navigate, I've updated the labeling system. In addition to new secondary labels, every post now falls under at least one of main categories. This group includes:

Business
Canadian Politics
Charts
Economics
Entertainment
Health and Style
History
International Politics
The Intrepid
Science
Technology
Time Dilation Accelerator
Toronto
Toronto Then and Now
Torontoist
US Politics
Video Games
Videos

Over time—as I start to explore different topics—this list will likely grow.

Image by harthillsouth.

> Continue Reading: Labeling System Update

The "Truthiness" of the US Health Care Reform Debate

Truthfulness in Health Care Reform Debate Chart

John Sides at The Monkey Cage has created two graphs comparing the truthfulness of statements made by Democrats and Republicans in the health care reform debate in the US. The data that Sides’s used comes from Politifact, a non-partisan political fact-check organization. Overall, Republicans' claims are more likely to be false than true (78% of Republican claims are false) and Democrats' claims are more likely to be true than false (28% of Democratic claims are false).

This is not a scientific chart, as Politifact's data is incomplete, but as Andrew Sullivan notes, "it is telling."

Chart comes from The Monkey Cage.

> Continue Reading: The "Truthiness" of the US Health Care Reform Debate

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Own a Piece of the SkyDome



In his spare time, Ed Conroy searches through old VHS tapes for tv spots about Ontario, and then posts the videos to his YouTube channel, Retrontario. In the past, he's made some great finds, but this ad might just be the best yet.

I seriously question this product's authenticity. The SkyDome was finished in 1989, so if this material was on the roof, it wasn't there very long. This "commemorative keepsake" was probably just made out of leftover construction materials.

I tried calling the number in the ad, but it's no longer in service.

From Retrontario; originally spotted at Toronto Mike.

> Continue Reading: Own a Piece of the SkyDome

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Total Recall: UofT Edition

Mars at Furthest Approach

This week for Torontoist I put together a quick article on how the University of Toronto Libraries Department fell for the infamous August Mars hoax. Every summer emails start to circulate with the false claim that come August 27, Mars will appear as large as the full moon in the night sky. The hoax dates back to August 27, 2003, when Mars came the closest its been to the Earth in fifty thousand years (but still nowhere near the size of the moon in the night sky).

You read more about the hoax here. Honestly, the hoax itself is far more interesting than the UofT connection.

Image by Gary Spiers.

> Continue Reading: Total Recall: UofT Edition

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obama's Health Care Reforms Will Kill Seniors and Babies

Obama Kill Seniors Health Care

Finally, right-wing advocacy groups like the Family Research Council and Our Country PAC have exposed Obama’s sinister plan for America. And no, Obama isn’t just planning on turning America into a socialist paradise (that’s not evil enough); his real plan is larger and far more devious. Thanks to intrepid conservative watchdogs, like the FRC and PAC, we now know that Obama plans to kill off America's grandmas through health care reforms and then use the long-term savings to perform a million abortions (or at least that's what the recent crop of conservative attack ads are claiming).

American attack ads are usually vicious and loose with the facts, but the following three are particularly galling.

"They won't pay for my surgery, but we're forced to pay abortions."



"Would you be willing to put your own family into the hands of Barack Obama’s socialistic health care plan?"



"Now in their most vulnerable period, seniors are being asked to sacrifice again!"



These attack ads are blatantly false. The words "planned parenthood" and "abortion" don't appear anywhere in the current health care reform bill, and while the bill does provide funding for doctor-patient end-of-life consultations through Medicare, it's not mandatory.

The image above is from the Family Research Council.

> Continue Reading: Obama's Health Care Reforms Will Kill Seniors and Babies

Women are doing all the Work

Women vs Men US Work force

According to the New York Times, as the weakened US economy continues to shed jobs in predominately male dominated professions (manufacturing, construction, etc), women, for the first time in US history, may soon represent the majority of the work force.

The graph above is from the New York Times.

> Continue Reading: Women are doing all the Work

Infinite Super Mario AI



No, the player in the video above isn’t a Super Mario World ace, or even a human for that matter; the game is actually being played by an AI designed by Robin Baumgarten using A*, a search algorithm that plots the best, least-cost path from one point to another. The AI is the first public entry in Sergey Karakovskiy’s and Julian Togelius’s Infinite Mario AI Competition. According to Baumgarten, the AI took thirty to forty hours to complete.

While the game in the video looks like Mario, it’s not—it's actually a java-based version of the game called Infinite Mario. Although the graphics and sprites are the same, the controls are slightly tweaked. For instance, Mario can wall jump, as witnessed at 0:45 in the video. The game also randomly generates levels, so the player never knows what’s ahead.

The winner of the competition will be judged based on the average distance travelled on a series of randomly generated levels.

Video by Robin Baumgarten.

> Continue Reading: Infinite Super Mario AI

Monday, August 10, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: Queen Street West

Then
Toronto Then and Now Queen Street West
387 Queen Street West. (1959)

Now
Toronto Then and Now Queen Street West
387 Queen Street West. (2009)

The arrow in the "then" photo is pointing to CIL Paints (387 Queen Street West). Today, the same space is occupied by Katie Fashion: one of the many women's clothing stores that clog Queen Street West.

Bonus history: The precursor to CIL (Canadian Industries Limited) was formed in 1910 when five Canadian explosives companies merged to form CXL (Canadian Explosives Company). In the 1920s, the company diversified into paint and varnish and then changed its name to CIL in 1927.

The 1959 photo of Queen Street West comes from the City of Toronto Archives; the 2009 photo is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: Queen Street West

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Toronto Then and Now: College Street

Then
Toronto Then and Now College Street
370 College Street. (1958)

Now
Toronto Then and Now College Street
370 College Street. (2009)

With the exceptions of the buildings on the far right and the far left, very little seems to have changed.

The 1958 photo of College Street comes from the City of Toronto Archives; the 2009 photo is by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Toronto Then and Now: College Street

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The US is Still Leaning Democratic

Gallup Poll States Party

According to a recent Gallup Poll, party identification in the US has remained relatively unchanged since Obama's inauguration. Despite the recession and the stalled attempts at health care reform, the Democrats continue enjoy stronger national numbers than the Republicans. The number of people who identify as Democrats is down, but this is due to independents reasserting their pre-election identification, as opposed to an increase in Republican support. As Gallup concludes, "the deck is clearly stacked in the Democratic Party's favor for now."

The map is from Gallup.com

> Continue Reading: The US is Still Leaning Democratic

Building Sandcastles in Toronto

Sandcastles Toronto

Last Sunday, I went down to Woodbine Beach to cover the Toronto Public Space Committee's open sandcastle-building extravaganza for Torontoist. The event was a lot of fun, and I even built a sand city myself (which I'll admit, kind of sucks).

More photos after the break.

Sandcastles Toronto
My pathetic sand city.

Sandcastles Toronto
A pyramid to compliment the Sphinx.

Sandcastles Toronto
Even though the turnout was good, by end of the day—as always—there were more photographers than participants.

All photos by Stephen M.

> Continue Reading: Building Sandcastles in Toronto

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Twitter Mind Control: Forbidden Twitter Marketing Secrets

Twitter Mind Control

This is one of the dumbest products I've ever seen. According to Kenneth Yu, the confidence man "marketer" behind these videos, the Twitter Mind Control series can teach you "the Forbidden Art of TWITTER MIND CONTROL" and how "to Seduce Your Prospects, Siphon Their Wallets DRY, and Spread YOUR Marketing Gospel."

Hot damn! And all for the low low price of just $27.

But that's not all, the Twitter Mind Control series can also teach you how to "Turn on the Cashflow of Tears" (whatever the hell that means) and how to "ReTweet your follower's props of you!" Amazing! You can retweet the messages of a single follower now? Thanks Yu!

But wait, there's more.

"So I kept searching and searching until I came up my "crazy Twitter idea" which is the first experience I ever had with what I call "TAS" or "Taming the Animal Spirits". TAS combines the shocking secret of a little-know Keynesian economic principle together with something else I developed called "Ambient Intimacy"...These "Taming the Animal Sprits" secrets can be used by anyone. Whether you are a work-at-home mom, a student or someone who is unemployed. And, if you have a website or blog, these secrets can generate so much cash-flow, you will actually have a hard time getting all the money to the bank... Even during this recession! I'm not kidding."

I'm not sure what an "Animal Sprit" is (is it the same as a spirit?), or how to tame it, but apparently it's money in the bank!

"A price this good will not stay low for long. This price will increase WITHOUT WARNING in a few weeks time...So take action NOW, because this offer can disappear at any time. Rush below and enroll right NOW."

Oh nos! If I don't buy Twitter Mind Control now, I'll never learn how to use @ symbols to subjugate the helpless masses.

Screenshot is from twitmindcontrol.com (I think the URL actually sums this product up pretty well).

> Continue Reading: Twitter Mind Control: Forbidden Twitter Marketing Secrets