Hump Day Grab Bag

Thinking of You
Or: A Virus Warning

There’s a new worm, Goner, that’s been making the rounds. If you get e-mail that looks like this:

When I saw this screen saver, I immediately thought about you. I am in a harry, I promise you will love it!

…don’t run the enclosed program. Delete the message immiediately. It’s not a screen saver, but a program (written in Visual Basic, no less) that uses Outlook, ICQ and mIRC to propagate itself. You’d think that people would have learned after the Love, Anna Kournikova, SirCam and “To have your advice” attacks, but noooooo…


KPMG seem to be under the opinion that people need their permission to link to them. For the record: Wrong!

For the background story, check out Chris Raettig’s weblog. Raettig has a website featuring corporate anthems — yup, just like national anthems, except for corporations. Perhaps KPMG is a little miffed that he not only made an MP3 recording of their anthem but also gave it a less-than-stellar review:

— it’s that team of power and energy at kpmg with their spectacular straight-to-the-top now finally slightly back down aspirational anthem our vision of global strategy. i sense a conspiracy; have you ever seen peat marwick and geoffrey, the giraffe from toys’r’us in the same room together? either way this is destined to become a modern classic. an audiable warning of what companies can do when they take themselves too seriously.

this from a kpmg insider… “In summary: it is awful, awful, awful and we are very (very) embarassed to be associated with it. keep up the good work.”

I encourage everyone to link to KPMG. It’s not really sticking it to The Man, but it’s still fun!

Recommended Reading

Oops…I Did It Again. A good article about social engineering and its relationship to malicious programs propagated by e-mail by those security-minded people at SANS.

Some of the culprits responsible for this meance to society we call linking: Vannevar Bush, Douglas Englebart, Ted Nelson, Tim Berners-Lee, Marc Andreesen. Also to blame are those evil people behind the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books.

Proof the hyperlinking is evil and should be outlawed and made punishable by death: Brad, The Game. A choose-your-own-adventure Web game where all the characters will end up on the Maury Povich Show someday. In one ending, I scored 69 times in an elevator with a woman who tunred out to be a man. Evil!

The fine print for the KPMG site. We really should’ve listened to Shakespeare when he advised us to kill all the lawyers. We ought to take a few suits down while we’re at it.

In case you were curious, here are guidelines for links for a couple of other companies: 3Com and Gateway.

Opinions about the legal issues of linking.

A Nice Beat, But Can You Dance to It? A Fast Company story on corporate anthems.


Babbo! Babbo! Babbo!

For my friend George’s birthday, I flew down to New York and took him and his wife Leesh out for dinner at Babbo. This was one of those damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead nights where I decided that we should try the traditional tasting menu, complete with the wines to match each dish. Birthdays are sacred after all, and George is a man who enjoys the finer things in life (for example, he eats only fromt he $1.29 menu at Taco Bell and buys only premium pork rinds).

The courses, in order, were:

  • Braised beef tongue

  • Very fresh tagliatelle in a very nice herb sauce

  • Pork shoulder in creamy polenta

  • Guinea hen in an amazing pepper sauce (this was George’s and my favourite)

  • Goat cheese in a fig compote

  • Turrone

  • Cakes — Leesh had a pumpkin pastry, George had the apple crumble and I had a flourless chocolate cake. Each one was covered in a matching sauce.

George and Leesh

Me and my guinea hen

Recommended Reading

Some profiles of Babbo’s chef, Mario Batali. The man is a freakin’ genius.

Some reviews of Babbo. You must go sometime.

Susur’s. Not in New York, not Italian, but it’s an amazing Toronto restaurant with a world-renowned chef, Susur Lee. Another must-go place.

What I’m having for dinner tonight. Can’t eat at expensive restaurants all the time. At least not on my salary.


Odd Stuff

“Good old rock. It always wins”. A sex parlour in Fukuoka, Japan will give you a major discount — from about 5,000 yen to a mere 100 yen — if you can win three consecutive games of jan-ken-pon (rock-paper-scissors). The article is interesting for the bits about how to improve your chances of winning, rather than the sex shop aspect. Really. I swear.

Dissed by a five-year-old. One more reason to not have kids.


The Epistles of St. Moz

From 1983 to 1987, there was a band of very nice if somewhat tempermental lads from Manchester known as The Smiths. Although their lineup was conventional — a front man, a guitarist, a drummer and a bass guitar, they were unconventional in most other ways, with their odd chord patterns (the closest thing to a standard rock song being Bigmouth Strikes Again, whose chords are reminiscent of All Along the Watchtower), odder lyrics and even odder front man and throat, one Steven Patrick Morrissey. Morrissey (on the album credits, he went by only his surname), also affectioantely known as Moz, was your classic tortured soul: angsty, lonely, depressed and mopey. Exactly the kind of personality that many a teenager — especially pasty, gloomy Brit kids writing poetry in a tiny bedsit in something-on-another, UK, could really appreciate.

Prior to his stint with The Smiths, Moz had a pen pal named Robert Mackie. Mackie collected this correspondence and made them available to anyone who would cover the cost of the photocopying them. Someone’s taken some of these letters and put their text on a Web page — complete with Moz’s spelling and punctuation — here.

A long time ago, Spin magazine ran an interview with Morrissey, after which someone wrote a letter to the editor saying that Morrissey should get over himself, and that what the perpetually glum vegetarian needed was “a cheeseburger and a fuck.” After reading these bits of correspondence, I’m inclined to agree.

Some choice excerpts:

Dear person,

So nice to know there’s another soul out there, even if it is in Glasgow. Does being Scottish bother you? Manchester is a lovely place, if you happen to be a bedridden deaf mute. I’m unhappy, hope you’re unhappy too.

In poverty,


Do you really like Kate Bush? I’m not surprised. The nicest thing I could say about her is that she’s unbearable. That voice! Such trash!

…thank you for your photo. It came in handy until the plumber arrived. Did you know you had a dead caterpillar on your lip? Real deco, man. You could have smiled but it’s dreadfully unfashionable, isn’t it? Observe the enclosed piccy of your author, disguised as an artiste. This photograph is suitable for framing. Incidentally your real name IS Robert, isn’t it? Everyone in Scotland is either Robert or Billy or Jimmae. Have you got a real Scottish accent? How novel! Why don’t you join a traveling circus?

I’m sure there are worse groups than Duran Duran, but I’ll be damned if I can think of any.

I’m glad your body is still untouched by human hands, at least it gives you something to look forward to, besides Christmas.

He hated Duran Duran? Blasphemy!

Recommended Reading

The Reflex. Lyrics to the greatest song about self-gratification ever written. Even better than the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself.

Is Your Son a Computer Hacker? Is he obsessed with “Lunix”? Every parent should know about this.

Lawrence Lessig’s new book, The Future of Ideas. I may have to get a copy of this.

One cartoonist’s take on Segway, a.k.a. Ginger, a.k.a. It, a.k.a. Dean Kamen’s new invention.

It Happened to Me

Onions in the Varnish

primo levi - the periodic table

It’s a clever turn of phrase, really. I first saw it in use here.

The chemist-turned-Holocaust-memoir-writer Primo Levi has a story about a time he was working at a chemical plant that made varnish. He was surprised to find that in addition to the chemicals he expected, the varnish formula also called for a raw onion. At first, he could find no reason as to why a raw onion had to be added; there wasn’t anything in onions that was needed in varnish, and even if there were, a single onion would be too little for a large industrial vat.

After doing a little research, Levi found out that his predecessors used to toss an onion into the varnish as a simple and inexpensive way of testing its temperature. If the mixture was hot enough, the onion would fry. With modern equipment, the need for the onion had vanished, but for reasons they no longer knew, it had become part of the recipe.

This past Saturday morning in New York City’s Union Square, it occurred to me that I have at least one onion in the varnish.

Recommended Reading

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. Originally published in 1975, this is a set of stories in which the each of the first 21 elements of the period table are used as the central metaphor for a short story about Levi’s Holocaust experiences.

Olfactory titration. Titration is a process often used to measure the acidity (or alkalinity) of a solution by adding a base (or acid) to an acid (or base) mixed with an indicator chemical and watching for visible change. In olfactory titration, you use you nose rather than your eyes, and in this particular case, you use an onion.

Onion Networks. My friend and former co-worker Justin Chapweske’s consulting firm. Go hire him!

City Bakery, New York. Damned good onion rings!


Happy Birthday, George!

And in honour of your birthday, I present you with this lovely photo of when I last came down to NYC for your birthday. It’s me, George, Alicia and none other Misharu Morimoto (Iron Chef Japanese) at Nobu.

Okay, I may have edited the photo just a little.


Start Spreading the News…

I’m leaving today…

…for New York City for a mini-vacation and to celebrate my friend George’s 32nd birthday.

I know it’s a day early, but George, as you once wrote on a birthday card: Happy birthday, you old poop. I’ll be in Manhattan by lunch, and maybe we can hit that nice Mexican place a couple of blocks up from your house. What say you, George?

Thanks to the Current Situation, I have to wake up at yet another ungodly hour in order to allow for enough time for airport security to make me crack open my accordion and prove it’s a working instrument. Hence this short entry…gotta get some shut-eye. But first, a couple of links…

Recommended reading

CBGB OMFUG and The Knitting Factory: Someday I’ll gig at these places. Someday.

The Soup Nazi. Yup, he really exists.