Boston bound

This coming weekend, I’m bound for Boston — or more accurately, Cambridge — to breathe the rarefied air around Hah-vahd and attend BloggerCon. I’ll be there mostly to meet with people whom I only know via the Internet, but I’ll probably also do a little Blogware PR and general schmoozing on behalf of Tucows.

Boss Ross is being sent down on the company account, so he’ll have to stay sober and be “on duty” the entire time. I am travelling on my own nickel, and am free to bail out at any time, drink Guinness with Ryan and flirt with the locals. I can’t afford Day 1 on my own, so I figure I’ll just spend Saturday afternoon hanging out (Day 2, which I’m attending, is free). Any Boston/Cambridge-area folks up for a Saturday afternoon of Guinness and accordion-powered fun?

If you’re wondering what BloggerCon Saturday Dinner I’m attending, it’s AKMA’s, for two reasons:

  • I’ve always wanted to meet him.
  • It’s at a Mexican restaurant, and no Mexican restaurant in the history of all civilization has ever kicked out a guy for wailing on the accordion.

Come to think of it, putting me and AKMA at the same dinner table just gave the dinner a theme: “The Sacred and the Profane”. We both love rock and pop, so be prepared to talk about music at least part of the time.

Boss Ross will be attending Doc Searls’ dinner (I did one with him, Dave Winer, Wes Felter and Scobe Doggy Dogg at ETCon 2002). Doc, if you’re reading this, I owe you at least a couple of beers — my getting this job is in part thanks to you.

It Happened to Me

One last entry for the day

A little exchange at the health food store that had my friend Char laughing uncontrollably:

Kriss: I think I’m wearing my thong underwear backwards.

Me: Why? Does it feel like you’ve “got company over”?

Spike TV, if you ever need a guy to write one-liners for you sitcoms, I’m your man…


Would you like your coffin supersized?

I’m just going to let the article do the talking:

When Keith and Julane Davis started Goliath Casket in the late 1980’s, they sold just one triple-wide each year. But times, along with waistlines, have changed; the Davises now ship four or five triple-wide models a month, and sales at the company have been increasing around 20 percent annually. The Davises say they base their design specifications not on demographic studies so much as on simple observations of the world around them.

“It’s just going to local restaurants or walking in a normal Wal-Mart,” Mrs. Davis said. “People are getting wider and they’re getting thicker.”

Like the airline industry, which was warned in May that passengers were heavier than they used to be, and was asked to adjust weight estimates accordingly, the funeral industry is retooling to make room for ever-larger Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20 percent of American adults are obese, up from 12.5 percent in 1991. Of those 70 and older — the demographic that most interests the funeral industry — 17 percent are obese. Despite the numbers, nearly every aspect of the funeral industry, from the size of coffins to vaults, graves, hearses and even the standardized scoop on the front-end loaders that cemeteries use for grave-digging (it is called a “grave bucket”) is based on outdated estimates about individual size.

Recommended Reading

Atkins Center. Ask me, ask Cory Doctorow, ask Doc Searls, it works. But as I said in an earlier posting, just pick a diet that works for you, and stick to it like glue.


Family ties, Iraqi style

Here in North America, marrying one’s cousin is considered to be on the icky side, best left used as fodder for slightly edgy humour. The most mainstream example of cousin-marrying humour comes from an episode of The Simpsons(Lemon of Troy) in which the founding of Springfield and its rival town, Shelbyville, are explained:

Springfield: People, our search is over! On this site we shall build a new town where we can worship freely, govern justly, and grow vast fields of hemp for making rope and blankets.

Shelbyville: Yes, and marry our cousins.

Springfield: I was — what are you talking about, Shelbyville!? Why would we want to marry our cousins?

Shelbyville: Because they’re so attractive. I, I thought that was the whole point of this journey.

Springfield: Absolutely not!

Shelbyville: I tell you, I won’t live in a town that robs men of the right to marry their cousins.

Springfield: Well, then, we’ll form our own town. Who will come and live a life devoted to chastity, abstinence, and a flavorless mush I call “rootmarm”?

According to this New York Times article, the situation is the opposite in Iraq: it’s expected that you marry your cousin:

Iqbal Muhammad does not recall her first glimpse of her future husband, because they were both newborns at the time, but she remembers precisely when she knew he was the one. It was the afternoon her uncle walked over from his house next door and proposed that she marry his son Muhammad.

“I was a little surprised, but I knew right away it was a wise choice,” she said, recalling that afternoon nine years ago, when she and Muhammad were 22. “It is safer to marry a cousin than a stranger.”

Her reaction was typical in a country where nearly half of marriages are between first or second cousins, a statistic that is one of the more important and least understood differences between Iraq and America. The extraordinarily strong family bonds complicate virtually everything Americans are trying to do here, from finding Saddam Hussein to changing women’s status to creating a liberal democracy.

Nepotism, civic duty. To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to.

Now don’t get me wrong here: I’m big on family ties. I think that when done right, they teach you about love, kinship, cooperation, teamwork, sacrifice and loyalty, qualities that translate well into extrafamilial situations. However, when carried too far, the world gets split into two kind of people: kin and strangers.

Once you’ve got that kind of binary thinking going on, the next is Mafia morality: Be honourable to and trust only the family, be treacherous with and distrust everyone else. You socialize with, hire, vote for and help only those with whom you have blood relations, rather than picking the “best” person. Anyone who’s done any kind of web site development, especially during the early days of the dot-com bubble will be familiar with the disasters that this can cause; in fact, that’s the reason a term like “nephew art” exists.

Some of you will point out that this sort of corruption isn’t limited to group joined by blood ties. “What about Enron?” you might ask. Enron, while not a company made up of blood relatives, practiced a corporate nepotism where those “inside the circle” got treated well at the expense of those outside (many of whom were Enron’s own rank-and-file employees). Enron’s structure was a an analog to a “family” model; Ken Lay has even been described as the company’s “patriarch”.

Putting value judgements aside for a moment, if what is reported in the article is true, the differences between the North American and Iraqi social structures are bound to create misunderstandings of intent on both sides. I had to laugh out loud at this passage at the end of the article:

Sheik Yousif and his sons said they put no faith in American promises of democracy — or any other promises, for that matter.

“Do you know why Saddam Hussein has not been captured?” asked Saleh, the oldest son of Sheik Yousif. “Because his own family will never turn him in, and no one else trusts the Americans to pay the reward.” Saleh dismissed the reports that Americans had given $30 million and safe passage out of Iraq to the informant who turned in Mr. Hussein’s sons.

“I assure you that never happened,” Saleh said. “The American soldiers brought out a camera and gave him the money in front of a witness, and then they took him toward the Turkish border. Near the border they killed him and buried him in a valley. They wanted the money for their own families.

Recommended Reading

Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States. An article that appears in PARAMETERS: US Army War College Quarterly, Spring 1998, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1. According to author Ralph Peters, the seven habits of unsuccessful states are:

  • Restrictions on the free flow of information.
  • The subjugation of women.
  • Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
  • The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
  • Domination by a restrictive religion.
  • A low valuation of education.
  • Low prestige assigned to work.


“Here at MeatShake Corporation,” the site says, “we have a simple vision: Meat. Lots of meat.”

I like the idea behind their Celebrity Meatshakes, especially the lamb shake named for Lars Ullrich from Metallica: “Mutton Else Matters”.

Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Movie night at Zen Lounge

My friend and Queen Street West club bartender extraordinaire Nikki Galligan informs me that her place of employment, the Zen Lounge (526 Queen Street West) is showing two movies on Monday night (September 29th) at 9:00 p.m.:

Admission is a mere $2.

Nikki informs me that the bar will be open, there will be a smoking section, comfy couches will abound, popcorn will be available, and the movie sound will be run through the main club sound system.


Quotes of the week

Jewish Buddha is the weblog of a law student who’s studying in Washington, DC. He’s currently looking for articling jobs, and if you happen to be someone with hire/fire authority at a law firm, you may want to give his resume a look, as he seems to be a pretty nice guy.

(Hmmm. Maybe that’s not what law firms are looking for. )

Anyhow, two lines from his weblog jumped out at me. Here’s the first, which is about salaries:

Proof that law students live in a different world: We say things like, “Yeah, I was thinking of working there until I realized they only pay first-year associates $110,000,” without a trace of irony.

Remember, that amount is in real US dollars, not “Canadian Snow Pesos”.

The second, on the absolving power of “hotness”, if one possesses sufficient amounts thereof:

“She’s not nearly hot enough to be half as annoying as she is.” — my roommate, TV Critic genius.

Jewish Buddha, your roomate and my roomate should get their own TV critique show.