The Smog in China (or: Every Cloud, Even One Made of Pollution, Has a Silver Lining)

How bad is the smog in China right now? Bad enough to make it difficult to land planes. This bad…

china smog 01

china smog 02

china smog 03

china smog 04

china smog 05

But there is a bright side to all this. We’ll be able to tell this glorious story to future generations:

but we created a lot of value


Quote of the Day: China’s State-Run News Agency on James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake”

finnegans wake chart

Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy’s chart showing the psychogeography of Finnegan’s Wake.

It took eight years to translate James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake — a book that barely qualifies as being written in English — into Chinese, but the task is complete and the book is now available in China. Shanghai’s News and Publishing Bureau says that it’s now the number two book in terms of sales of the “good books” category (their term for “serious reads” — no Fifty Shades of Grey here), beaten only a new biography of Deng Xiaoping.

chinese finnegans wake billboard

A Chinese billboard promoting Finnegan’s Wake.

My favourite quote about the book comes from Jiang Xiaoyuan, a professor of Shanghai’s Jiaotong University, who was quoted in Xinhua (China’s state-run news agency) as saying:

“Joyce must have been mentally ill to create such a novel.”

Nope, he was just drunk.


Life of Parody [Updated]

Life of Pi certainly brings out the comedian in a lot of people….












Doug Savage, creator of the webcomic Savage Chickens, just posted Life of Fry:

life of fryThanks to Daryl for the heads-up!



A Blast from the Past – Star Wars: Droids

Do you remember this cartoon opening sequence?

droidsTake a note of the theme song: it’s sung by Stewart Copeland from The Police. This intro is from a short-lived series called Star Wars: Droids – The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3P0, an animated television show whose 13 episodes (one fewer than in Firefly’s sole season) aired in the fall of 1985. Animated by the Canadian studio Nelvana and featuring a visual style that was both influenced by Jean “Moebuis” Giraud and yet faithful to the look and feel of Star Wars up to that point, it featured better stories, animation and music than most cartoons of that era.

(If you ever watched the absolutely terrible Star Wars Holiday Special, you might remember the animated segment in which the character of Boba Fett was introduced. It was the only good part of the show, and it was made by Nelvana. It seems to have served as the template for Droids.)

Paul Dini, an associate producer and story editor for Droids, who’d go on to work on the ground-breaking Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, explained the show this way in 1988, over a decade before Phantom Menace and during a time when we thought there’d never be another Star Wars film:

“[George Lucas] thought that the best characters to use would be the ones who weren’t so heavily tied into the movies’ plots, such as R2-D2 and C-3PO. They’re the running characters in the Star Wars universe. The droids would be a natural for animation because they could go all over the universe and get involved with all sorts of creatures and worlds that didn’t necessarily have Luke Skywalker, the Empire or any of those elements. The only constants would be Artoo and Threepio.”

Droids was set in a time before Episode IV (a.k.a. A New Hope or “The First Movie”). Hardcore Star Wars fans — the sort who like it when even the non-movie stories get tied into the Star Wars continuity — know that the series takes place in the year 15 BBY (“BBY” being short for “Before the Battle of Yavin“, which is the one in which Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star). Despite taking place before the adventures of Luke, Leia and Han, a couple of characters from the original trilogy make an appearance: the assassin droid IG-88 and Boba Fett, long before we knew he was a clone or that his dad was killed by Jedi.

You may notice that some bits of the Droids series managed to find their way into Episodes I, II and III, including speeder racing (on a racing track named “Boonta”), R2-D2’s occasional use of hidden manipulator arms and performing repairs on the exterior of a ship in space, space gangsters, the debate over whether droids or people make better footsoldiers and even a four-armed greasy spoon cook in a dirty T-shirt, well before Dexter Jettster was even a poorly-conceived throwaway character from George Lucas’ stunted imagination.

In honour of the announcement that J.J. Abrams is to be the director of the upcoming Disney Star Wars films, I thought I’d show you the first four episodes of Droids, which made up the first — and in my opinion, the best — of the story arcs in this all-too-short series. Enjoy!


Can’t Touch Him (or: Rob Ford is Still the Mayor of Toronto)

In honour of our Peter Griffin-esque mayor getting off scott-free,
here’s a video of Peter Griffin getting off scott-free.

rob ford - still the mayor - deal with itThe “Fordict” — the Twitter term for the verdict on the appeal of the judgement against Rob Ford, Toronto’s Peter Griffin-esque mayor — is out, and the court decision ordering His Worship (the technically correct honorific term for the Mayor of Toronto, even this guy) out of office has been overturned. There’s going to be a lot of gnashing of teeth over this at the Toronto Star and other local progressive circles, but speaking as one of Ford’s detractors, it’s a fair cop. The verdict against Ford was based on a particularly harsh interpretation of the law, and the mayor’s case for his appeal isn’t without merit. At the very least, the mayor has learned the true meaning of “conflict of interest”.

While we may be stuck with “Mayor Bumblefuck” (Cory Doctorow’s nickname for the guy) for another next two years, there is a silver lining: his ouster would have effectively rendered City Hall inert (which may not necessarily be a bad thing) and would have also led to another election that would cost the city millions. The downside is that while most people are capable of experiencing the emotion of shame, Ford isn’t, and it’s likely that this court victory will only embolden him and unfortunately, his fans in the cesspool of willful ignorance known as the comments sections of the Toronto Sun and National Post. Even so, there’s a silver lining for me: bad Rob Ford news means blogs posts that practically write themselves and also generate great ad revenue. I’m pretty sure Ford has indirectly paid for at least one of my flights to Florida.

So, in honour of the return of “Mayor Griffin”, I present the video above — a scene from the “Petoria” episode of Family Guy, in which Peter Griffin forms his own country and raps about his diplomatic immunity. I imagine Rob Ford’s doing a similar dance right now.

Bonus Feature: Which Quotes are Peter Griffin’s, and Which are Rob Ford’s?

I ran this back during the mayoral election in the article Toronto’s Mayoral Election is “Family Guy”!, in which I noted the similarities between Peter Griffin and Rob Ford, Stewie Griffin and George Smitherman and Mayor Adam West and Mayor David Miller. See if you can tell which ones belong to Peter and which one belong to Rob:

  1. Go to the Orient, go to Hong Kong. You want to see workaholics? Those Oriental people work like dogs… they sleep beside their machines. The Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over… they’re hard, hard workers.
  2. Someday a white man’s gonna to be elected President again.
  3. Do you have a job, sir? I’ll give you a newspaper to find a job, like everyone else has to do between 9 and 5.
  4. They accuse me all the time of not liking gays…which I do.
  5. (AIDS) is very preventable. If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line.
  6. Gays don’t vomit. They’re a very clean people. And they’ve been that way ever since they came over to this country from France.
  7. How are women getting (AIDS)? Maybe they are sleeping with bisexual men.
  8. Women aren’t people. They are devices built by the lord Jesus Christ for our entertainment.
  9. I can’t support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.
  10. I don’t come down to Burger King and tell you how to do your job.
  11. The reason I forgot about the marijuana charge … is because that same evening, I was charged with failing to give a breath sample.
  12. The Nutcracker had zero physical comedy. And, and, with a name like the Nutcracker, I thought, oh, this would be worth a few yucks. But no…that title wrote a check those queers on stage refused to cash.
  13. Do you want your little wife to go over to Iran and get raped and shot?
  14. I don’t understand. Number one, I don’t understand a transgender, I don’t understand, is it a guy dressed up like a girl or a girl dressed up like a guy?
  15. How ’bout THAT side boob? That turn you on? Well, it shouldn’t. That’s MY side boob.

If you want the answers, see my earlier article.


My Cure for Insomnia: Updating the Hell Out of My LinkedIn Profile

Paul Baranowski, Joey deVilla and a wild-eyed John "Captain Crunch" Draper

Beware the powerful stare of Captain Crunch. You know what I’m talking about…

There’s a lot going on today for me: I’m getting some much-needed plumbing repairs done, putting together a proposal for a big consulting gig, moving into a new office and trying to launch a coworking space. Understandably, I had a little trouble getting to sleep, so I decided to be productive and update the hell out of my LinkedIn profile. If you check it out now, you’ll see that it now includes a lot of media links, including an article from Der Spiegel about Peekabooty, the censor-busting proxy application that Paul Baranowski built and for which I programmed and designed the UI (also the last time I did any coding in C++). I can’t read German, so for me, the article is most notable for one of its photos (shown above) featuring Paul, me and a wild-eyed John “Captain Crunch” Draper taking a break from CodeCon 2002 in San Francisco.

Also featured in my LinkedIn profile: Developer Jr., in which my fantasy to host a Sesame Street-style show for kids came true…

…this hastily-put together clip in which I talk about HTML5 and rich internet applications (which Microsoft may have disavowed)…

…and that time when my fantasy to play the opening number for a big keynote at a developer conference came true…

It would appear that LinkedIn approves of the changes, judging by it’s “Profile Strength” gauge:
profile strength - all star
If you’re bored, go ahead and check out my LinkedIn profile. If you’re feeling inspired, go ahead and update yours!

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.


Hilarious, Beautifully-Designed Posters of Creatives’ Clients’ Worst Feedback

While my line of work has been largely software development, technical evangelism and technical consulting, it’s often crossed over into the land of creatives, where advertising people, marketers, writers and designers practice their craft. So when I saw the posters from A Creative Catharsis — an exhibit of Irish creatives’ clients’ worst feedback turned into beautiful posters — there was a slightly rueful note mixed in with my laugh of recognition. 

Here’s a sampling of the Creative Catharsis posters — make sure you see the whole set!

A Very Wide Target Audience

I’ve heard something similar in my software development work about the target user base:

target market

I’m No Semiotician, But…

…when I see a globe and passport, travel is the first thing that comes to mind.


“Lorem ipsum dolor sic amet…”

Okay, this one I’ve actually heard from clients. Yes, I’ve heard it more than once.


I Bet They Could Do It on “CSI”…

turn it around

Very Unclear on the Concept

If your client says this, you should take him or her to an emergency room immediately — head injuries are no laughing matter!

animated gif