December 2010

By now, I am sure everyone has seen the photographs of President Obama shirtless on the beach, sporting an abdominal six pack. It is my understanding that achieving this particular feat of human anatomy requires two things: being unusually thin and doing a lot of crunches. Should the president be doing crunches? I can see […]


One significant advantage of having ever gone camping is that it frees you from a life of meticulous dish cleaning. You can always say: “I spent two weeks eating from pots that were scraped clean using rocks from the bottom of a creek, so who cares about this little smudge?”


For those seeking to understand the subprime mortgage crisis, there are a couple of episodes of This American Life which explain important aspects in an accessible way: #355: Giant Pool of Money #405: Inside Job Both are available for $0.99 through the iTunes Store.


Tonight, I saw the Coen brothers film True Grit and found it quite interesting and enjoyable. Hailee Steinfeld is very entertaining to listen to, and her character reminds me of Lyra from Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. That said, the film did leave me wondering why a young woman of such premature sophistication would […]


For Christmas, I received The Best American Essays 2010, edited by Christopher Hitchens. So far, the most interesting among them has been “The Elegant Eyeball” by John Gamel, originally published in The Alaska Quarterly Review. Despite being slightly astigmatic, I had never given much thought to eye health or ocular diseases. What was most startling […]


The voyage from Hamilton, Ontario to Albany, New York is about 550km. At 3:30am, I caught a cab to the Hamilton GO train, in order to begin the journey. Normally, the border is the most challenging part, crossing in a Greyhound bus. Either you get stuck in a substantial queue of other buses and need […]


In Now or Never: Why We Need to Act Now to Achieve a Sustainable Future, Tim Flannery raises the question of intergenerational ethics and poverty reduction. He does so with reference to the 90,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired electricity generation capacity India is planning to install by 2012 (compared with 478,000 MW installed in China […]


Previously, I briefly mentioned the optical character recognition (OCR) technology within Google Docs. I decided to test it in the relatively challenging circumstance of converting photographs of pages from a book into text: Walden 1 Walden 2 As you can see, the image to text conversion isn’t perfect. Indeed, it doesn’t work terribly well in […]

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I find all the economic anxiety in the European Union (EU) to be rather worrisome, from a long-term historical perspective. I think the last 500 years of history demonstrate pretty convincingly that the most benign possible way for European states to spend their time is arguing over agricultural subsidies and cheese standards. It’s definitely a […]


Talking with Lauren the other day, it occurred to me that the strongest force redistributing wealth across human history has quite possibly not been progressive taxation of income or estate taxes. Rather, it may be the tendency of the children of the wealthy and powerful to be hopeless wastrels. One generation builds up a gigantic […]