Saturday, November 07, 2009

Following in the footsteps of the last post...

In addition to the Social Search function, Google has created Google Dashboard, which aggregates all of your Google-associated activities and accounts. It's my understanding that this information is for you, the user, to better understand what information the all-knowing google-eye has on you. That isn't entirely true though since it only aggregates the accounts you hold with them and doesn't resort to searching the rest of the web for your footprints. It serves as a reminder of how much of a presence one can have, even with a single service-provider.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Privacy in an online world

So much of our lives are online (whether by intent or not). For those of us active with social networks, that likelihood increases ten-fold. Well, like a good little social-network user, I just took a look through the proposed new facebook privacy policy and besides using the information there to help me lock-down my content being shared within Facebook and the applications that use the platform (think Scrabulous {now Lexulous}, Mafia Wars, and all manner of others) I also came across a means to (hopefully) opt-out of "behavioural" advertising from a number of advertisers including google, yahoo and microsoft. Just a note, the tool seems imperfect, but it will likely work better for you if you read this help page first.

Will it make a difference? Hard to say. Will I feel better for actively trying to control what of my information is shared with the world? Definitely.

Oh, and if you're not already a conspiracy theory seeing google as the next "Big Brother", check out Google's latest "Lab" ("opt-in"able beta test) tool: Social Search. Creeped out yet? Check out this perspective. What about now?

Viral before the internetz

An interesting article on social networking and the transmission of information without the use of phones, the internet or even major newspapers within the context of the fall of communism in Europe 20 years ago.

The key:
"A network of human relationships that conveyed information informally on a regular basis, and a population who were highly focused on only a few channels of information, both official and clandestine."

Have we lost or gained since that time? I think a reasonable argument could be made for both.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The World, she is a changin'

No, this is not a treatise on the lamentable way that we treat the planet (though there will be more on that later, I'm sure).

Instead, this "media counter" identifies the breadth of technological activities that are going on merely in the time that you watch it count. Considering that most who bother to read this blog have been around long enough to remember a time without a consumer-accessible internet and without portable phones, let-alone mobile phones, how things have advanced, and continue to do so right before your eyes, is pretty remarkable.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Box

There's a new movie coming out shortly. The premise is:

Norma and Arthur Lewis, a suburban couple with a young child, receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger, delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. But, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world; someone they don't know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity.


So, what would you do? Would you press the button? If so, how many times? Once? Twice? Two-hundred times?

I don't know that the movie will necessarily be all that good, but it does seem to circle an interesting premise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Augmented Reality

This term is likely to become much more common in the near future. A topic of discussion this weekend and the subject of this article, augmented reality represents the additions that today's mobile technology can make to our experience of the real world.

One thing that's not mentioned in the article is the risk for a Big Brother-style (a la 1984, not a la current reality tv) misuse of the information that is created and made available when everyone carries a phone, or similar item, that can track exactly where the holder is. Instead, it appears that the greatest risk to the user is that our knowledge of "facts" will decrease as our need to know the information drops. I'm not sure that I agree with that. Of course you don't need to get an iPhone and load all the new augmented reality apps to risk that becoming a reality. The future is here today with the government's requirement for improved 911 service for mobile users. By early next year, you will be able to be tracked-down to at least a 300m radius by emergency services providers. :)

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Yesterday seemed remarkably out of place. I find that interesting since I hadn't felt like we were deep into autumn or that it had been unseasonably cool or rainy. It's just that yesterday seemed so particularly warm and sunny that I couldn't help but feel blessed. My apologies to those who didn't have the same weather-luck but I was very happy to take advantage of the weather with some quality outside time. It felt like a better choice than driving to Toronto in hopes that the weather would be good for Nuit Blanche. In the end, I think the weather was good for Nuit Blanche but I would've been too tired to enjoy it anyway. I guess I'll need to stick to enjoying other people's pictures and stories.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Death of the Blog

No, I am not writing an obituary for my blog (despite the fact that it may seem to be on life-support at this point). Rather, I am wondering whether facebook and twitter have stolen most of the mindless musings. I know they have in my case. It's sad to think that so many of my mindless musings seem to fall into the container of being no more than a couple of lines (as both are focussed in that area). Much of my other content included links which were easily accommodated by facebook. Suddenly, I'm forced to compose complete thoughts and sentences if I want to put anything up here. What a sad state of...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Crowd Control

If I was running an exercise in limiting traffic to a website without deleting the site altogether, I think I may have found the best practice: Not posting for almost 2 months!

Hi, my name is Justin. This is my (recently ignored) blog. Why has it been so long-ignored? Well, falling out of the habit is one thing. As a creature of habit, I continue to do (or not do) things because I let myself grow accustomed to doing (or not doing) so. You just need to look at the state of my house right now to note that I've grown accustomed to not tidying up. Sure, I was busy trying to make the most of my summer (especially before many good friends left the continent for extended periods abroad). I was busy too with welcoming new students from around the world. Still... Two months?!

I make no commitment to a return to regular updates. This may be, in part, due to trying to maintain a presence both on Facebook and Twitter but even those have seen me neglect updating (though I do stay actively in touch with people through them). If you're reading this, I hope you feel as though your time hasn't been wasted.

In other news, I managed to post around 500 photos on Flickr from my trip to Bhutan and have moved on to others (including some wedding shots from the two that I shot this summer).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I bet you didn't expect me to take this long to post again (or maybe you did). I bet you didn't think this was the 400th post (but it is). I bet you think I've posted all my photos on my flickr site (but I haven't). I bet this theme is getting old (it is).

In any case, life, and all that goes along with it continues. I'm not quite sure why I've neglected posting for so long. Perhaps I am in the midst of a neglectful stage. That seems reasonable. What it doesn't do is encourage me to keep typing. So... Adieu.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I've been back for more than 2 weeks and I'm just getting my photos posted and just coming back to you here on the blog.

The travels were beautiful and interesting. In fact, the remainder of my time in Bhutan was interesting. Things got very active as I neared the end of my time there. Too bad I managed to lose a USB memory stick with hundreds of my photos. :( At least I didn't lose all my photos.

Being back has been interesting. There's plenty I could write about but I'm not sure where my thoughts are on everything so I'll be holding-off for now. Until next time.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I have my permits! I am well-chuffed about getting a chance to explore some more of Bhutan. :) As if it weren't exciting enough, I'll be travelling with a Bhutanese man who is both a licenced guide and photographer. He's published books of his photographs and most of the postcards I've sent have images that he took. I think it will be an enjoyable adventure (and one that comes just in time as I'll need to head to Paro shortly after returning). Paro is where the airport is and home to a number of other interesting sites which I'd like to see before leaving. It won't be all that long before I'm on a plane, and that means Canada doesn't follow long-after.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Just a quick note to let you know that all continues well here in Bhutan. Though volunteering has fallen by the way-side, I am still pursuing the experience as best I can. I am trusting that the in-country travel that I intend to do will show an as yet unseen (by me) side of Bhutan. I am certainly hopeful that that will be the case, anyway.

The adventure is half-way over according to the calendar. Have I reached goals that I may have intended for myself? Probably not, but who knows what the remaining time brings?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Thimpu and beyond

Apologies for any delays in writing but I am not physically connected to a computer here as I am at home. Shock of shocks, I went a couple of days without getting online!

I am writing from an artist's studio. I met one of the artists when I arrived as he helped friends find me a place to live. He and some of his fellow artists and I chatted about Bhutan, Canada and all sorts of things. Though I'm not an artist in the way they are, I have a genuine interest in the range of both fine art and commercial work that they do so that alone has been interesting (saying nothing for the conversation - which was also very interesting).

I'm planning to do some travel to other parts of the country as I've remained in Thimpu, the capital, since my arrival. I may join a couple of Canadians for some travel early next week or I may strike out on my own. In any case, I look forward to doing it in a way that helps me not just see more of Bhutan but to experience more of Bhutan.

I've met a wide range of people already and it's given me a number of insights into Bhutan that I would otherwise never have had. I have plenty more to learn (of course - since that is always the case, no matter where I am) and am looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Sigh... I'm here, but have exhausted myself catching up other folks directly. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait for details. I can say though that in 8 hours or so here (and with the help of some great folks), I have an apartment, some groceries and maybe even a volunteer opportunity. :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Adventure Continues

It truly became an adventure yesterday when Druk Air (Bhutan's only airline) told me that they had no record of me and that I had a visa letter from the wrong government ministry. Funnily enough, it didn't strike me as a big deal. I knew that I needed to contact some people and get things happening, but it didn't really concern me greatly. I knew things would work out. Remarkably, they have worked out according to the original schedule. This is pretty impressive considering not only did I have the wrong documents, but tomorrow's flight was already full. It pays to have contacts, I guess. :)

Next you hear from me, I'll be in Bhutan. As if it weren't going to be a shock anyway, after a couple of days in Kathmandu, I think it will be a huge change. Bring on the change.

P.S. I saw monkeys today. :) For anyone wondering, I did not do my monkey impression for them (but I did feel right at home). ;)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

And so it begins...

If you've ever wondered why those relaxing massage chairs that are often found in malls don't have a "turbulence" setting, I think I know why. After not the most restful flight across the Atlantic, I arrived in London all bushy-eyed and bright-tailed early this morning. Luckily for me, I had a date with a good friend for some quality time in London-town. The day has been great and has already found me thinking plenty about what has been and what is to come. I step forward with excitement and just a little bit of trepidation. But first, further visiting. That means no more typing.

By the way, if you're going on a multi-leg flight in the future, put your deodorant in your carry-on. Just sayin'.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Too x 4

Too few days to go. Too few details to go on. Too much to do. Too bad. :)

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I have let much time pass since acknowledging the thoughts that were floating in my head relating to my first experiences of hot yoga last month. I fear that the most substantial aspects have decanted leaving some nice clear (read: empty) space with all those great thoughts in the muck at the bottom of my brain.

Still, I do recall that much of my inspiration related to self. Self-awareness and consciousness of self (not to be confused with self-consciousness) were highs of the experience as I live a life full of distractions. Hot yoga saw me concentrating (almost) solely on my body and the pose. This was very refreshing, despite the 40-degree heat.

Though I haven't continued yoga in the past few weeks, I will continue the journey of self both literally and figuratively. In 9 days, I will be flying to Bhutan to spend 4-5 weeks learning, living and experiencing. This will encompass new cultural and physical experiences while including many opportunities for self-reflection. One of the things I look forward to most is the change in distractions. I hope to use my time to capture my thoughts and experiences across various media. If you know me, you know that photography will be a big part of that, but not the only thing. I look forward to writing more and think this experience will allow me to explore aspects of myself while I explore aspects of Bhutan and it's people.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Went to Hot Yoga for the first time tonight. I really enjoyed it. It's got post material floating in my head but it will have to wait 'til the weekend to coalesce.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Today's post is brought to you by the letter "A"

Affection –noun
1. fond attachment, devotion, or love: the affection of a parent for an only child.

Addiction –noun
the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

How well do you think these two fit together? I think it is definitely possible to be enslaved to a fond attachment whose cessation causes trauma. In fact, I wouldn't be posting it if I didn't see that as a possibility (and in my own life no less).

It's no coincidence that quitting an addictive product/activity carries many similarities to ending a relationship. Is it best to go "cold turkey"? Is it possible not to? "Ya, now I'm down to one line of coke a week..." (JOKE! NOT REALLY!)

Maybe the difference lies in whether the source of the addiction, or more specifically the object of the addiction is a person or a thing. It does tend to complicate things.

Then again, an addiction to affection isn't necessarily about a particular person, but rather a particular attention or connection and that may be human nature - the need to seek out others with whom we feel a kinship or connection.

Addiction is a term that has plenty of implications. I guess I'm just trying to explore the language and the concept.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

From an article on celestial happenings in the great Kingston Whig-Standard:

"Uranus has an 84-year cycle, so for the rest of your life, the planet will never again be as far away from you as it will be this evening."

It's a good thing that they specified that it is the planet. Otherwise, immature people like myself might think it was funny. Tee-hee.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Fine Print

How often do you read the Terms of Service or End User License Agreement when you set up an account on a web service (e-mail, social networking, etc.) or when you install software? My guess is: not that often. Well, you'd be amazed at what you're agreeing to when you go through those systems. Those are the rules by which the company agrees to abide, and the rules by which they expect you to abide in using their service.

I've seen people get billed for the use of a service that they thought was free because that aspect of the Terms of Service wasn't clear to them. That sucks, but is it worse than giving up rights to your content permanently? Maybe being a photographer makes me more keenly aware of the issues of the latter. In any case, I'm not the only person with a concern.

Facebook recently changed it's Terms of Service, claiming perpetual rights to content that was posted. This caused an uprising of users around the world. Many saw it as an effort to claim ownership over the what users posted. Photographers who make a living from selling their photos were justifiably worried. Well, the uproar has borne fruit. Facebook responded both to explain their intentions (to have the right to use the content to help you share it) and to revert to their old terms of service.

Still, if people hadn't reacted so strongly, most people may not have noted what happened at all. As conspiratorial as it may sound, to ensure our rights are protected, we must remain ever vigilant.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's always nice to have moments that make you smile (that is a generalization I am happy to make). I had a few today, but one of the most rewarding involved being out on the frozen surface of Lake Ontario. Besides the beautiful location and the good company, I was most pleased to see the enjoyment that others were getting. Specifically, seeing an elderly man with an electric scooter out on the ice exploring and, when the ice conditions suited, sliding around and doing doughnuts. :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Apologies seem to be the order of the past few months. It seems to be the most common type of post that I write. That's what happens when days and weeks go by between posting. And so it has happened again.

Having an online presence has it's benefits and it's challenges. For me, the greatest challenge has been the extent of my presence and the energy required to maintain it. I'm on Facebook, Flickr, Blogspot, Twitter and of course e-mail (6 accounts - 4 work and 2 personal). As is my tendency, I spread myself to thin.

Plans for an adventure are afoot. But you'll have to wait for that. :)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lost Opportunity

Governments the world over seem to buy into the economic theory that they can spend their ways out of a recession. Having been chastised by my first-year economics professor for talking in class, I know that I don't have a degree in economics (I should note, that I was explaining a concept to a friend that he had made a particular mess of). In any case, I'm not going to say I know better than the teams of economists that our government, and many others employ. I am though, concerned of with the short-comings in Canada's most recent budget. Sure, there's infrastructure funding, money for social housing, support for First Nations and more. All good things. But where's the forward-looking money? As Obama trumpets the opportunities of a "green" economy Canada cuts funding to scientific research and doesn't look to updating things like our utility distribution networks to better support new approaches to technology like networks to support plug-in hybrid cars. We may/will still come out of the recession, but I think it will leave us structurally behind other countries. Why be short-sighted? If you can immediately influence the economy while seeing long-term benefits, why not do it?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A new hope

Barak Obama is now the President of the United States (in case you live under a rock). His initial efforts and words have related to increasing transparency of government and doing what was promised. That is extremely heartening to me. I may not be American but I believe his approach to governing the U.S. will influence us all.

As people develop a taste for governance that serves the people, that is not explicitly partisan, that wants to remove the curtain behind so much political action takes place, people may come to expect more from their own leaders. This is an opportunity for Canada's politicians to scoop some of the hope inspired by Obama's inauguration. I also hope that if they choose to continue to obscure and fight, that we, the people, will react with the strength seen in the United States.

Friday, January 16, 2009

What kind of a system have we created? An economy that relies on continued growth. Where steady-state is underperforming and where saving money can be a problem.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sometimes reality is more interesting than fiction: "Porn Industry Seeks Federal Bailout"

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy start to 2009!

As years end and other begins there is much looking back and fore at what has come and what may yet come to be.

One chance to not only look back, but also to learn is BBC's 100 things we didn't know last year.