Sunday, August 14, 2011


I joined Google Plus a short while ago and found myself flummoxed- What do I do with this thing? Unlike Facebook, it had no buttons or suggestions for what to do after adding people to my circles.
So now, fast forward two weeks and I'm just loving G+.

G+ is really fun to use, once you get the hang of it. To me it's like having one dashboard from where I can tweet my findings without the 140 character limitation of twitter, as well as share personal comments, findings etc with my acquaintances, true friends, or family, or those people that I classify according to my own personal classification system. So it saves me jumping back and forth from twitter to FB. Since I don't spend much time on FB however, I can predict that my personal posts may see in increase, as it's so easy to send off- the- cuff comments to my close friends and family because I happen to be on G+.
What I appreciate is that I can direct different messages to different groups of people. So I have separated friends from acquaintances, from business contacts, for example. And according to G+, these people don't know which groups or circles, I have put them into. That's the nice thing- how I choose to classify the people I know is my personal affair. Now I am trusting that G+ is right about this!
The +1 feature is useful as it allows you to share webpages publicly (ie to the world- not just to the people in your circles). It's not yet available on most webpages however, so it's use is limited at present.

So that's just a preliminary comment on  G+. More to come as features improve. Knowing Google's track record in keeping in touch with user's needs, I look forward to more innovation while they strive to lure more FB users to cross the floor. (Not working with my family though, who are firmly resisting my calls to join the new network).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The 365 Project- Capturing Little Pieces of Time

It's-33C with windchill at this moment in Toronto. I guess the people from Manitoba don't consider this very cold out in their province, since they do the -40's fairly frequently.
It's so lovely outside though, with brilliant sunshine. Makes me want to go out gallivanting in the city. Sunshine has been hard to find over the recent couple weeks with some horrid wet, slushy snow, in between some beautiful white snowy days with the kind of snow that crunches under your boots.
I would love to go out in this sunshine, but the thought of bloody nostrils keeps me indoors today.
Besides, I have not written on my blog for a while now, so it's as good an excuse as any to stay in and update.

I braved -33C to run out on to the balcony and take this shot which I may put up on my photoblog here:   if I don't find anything better by tonight. Pity, the light is so good for once.

I have been working on the 365 Project for 207 days now and it's been gripping me in a way that is unexpected. I really started it because it is a way of keeping a photo diary. My pictures help me tell a story, (not that anybody cares). But they tell my story, and my views of this city that I make my home. I've seen the same scene in other people's photos and they're alike, but they're different. We see the same things differently. It's a different perspective, from a different angle, or at a different time of day, or season. Pictures have moods. Pictures are emotive.
I love about this project, that I can look at people's photos from all over the world, and see parts of their cities and neighbourhoods that you don't see in the tourist brochures. It's a stranger's little eye on something special to him. And no one would know about what he saw, until he published it up on his photo blog or diary. And when we write about the photos, we capture not just the picture, but the thought we had in that moment.
And some little bug just got immortalized because we put him out in the public pixelated space.
I like the amateurish random shots of plant and animal life, that some people do, as much as the really sophisticated ones that the serious photographers put out there. Some people on the project go into great details about white balance, and texture and composition. And others just want to capture a scene that made up part of their day.I am in the latter category with my point and shoot camera. But I would at some point, like to learn how to take more professional photos as well. And you can bet that despite proper training, I would still want to tell a story.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Wow, that came around rather fast. Time accelerates as we grow older. There's just not enough of it to do all the things we did not get done when we took for granted that we had all the time in the world. So much to see, and savour, and listen to, and  care about.
I have to do something special every day, something that makes me feel good. Then I can look back and say every day was a good day.
This was a summer day this year:

And this was Fall

Monday, January 3, 2011

Yirgacheffe Coffee at Ethiopiques

Coffee has become a curiosity for me since I saw the doc "Black Coffee" over the Christmas holidays.It piqued my interest in a beverage which I don't actually drink throughout the day, Canadian style. You won't see me walking around with a latte anywhere. However my interest did take a turn last summer when I tried some Greek coffee and became so enamored of the taste that I found out how to brew my own, and bought the grind and paraphernalia to make it. I make a rather good cup!

I guess 2010 was my 'coffee awakening' year, as I became more discriminating in my taste and discovered my likes and dislikes. I don't much like the chains, not because they are chains (as seems to be a popular reason not to patronise the big ones), but because I don't much like the blends they serve.
So now I have this desire to sample coffee varieties and in much the same way as one samples wine.
I am just beginning on my journey of discovery and hope my education will be much enhanced by the end of this new year.

I have a very long way to go, but I do believe that I will probably not be able to drink huge cups at a time, but savour the sweetness of strong rich brews, in tiny cups.

So I heard about the Yirgacheffe coffee on the "Black Coffee" doc and decided to try Ethiopiques at Church and Dundas in downtown Toronto( to find the beans. They did have Yirgacheffe and actually serve it free with dinner on Thursdays.
Here's a corner spot in Ethiopiques:

I met Senai ( her name means "Little crutch") and Enat (means  "Mother"), who were kind enough to invite me for a complimentary cup, and to chat about the coffee.
Senai explained that Ethiopian coffee (from one of the oldest coffee drinking cultures known), is meant to be appreciated after a spicy meal rather than drunk solo, North American style. I take that to mean it is not consumed for warmth, but to complete the flavours of a hearty, spicy meal.
So the ladies were kind enough to serve me some hot lentil soup with the coffee.
The beans are roasted on the spot, so be prepared for a wait and a very pungent aroma preceding your cup.
I took several photos of my experience  at Ethiopiques to capture the process.
This is a photo of the roasting beans which Senai brought out of the kitchen to show me:

Then they pound the beans to a grind, which is then shoved into a clay pot with a long neck and spout. This is the pot which was brought out to me:

Cold water is then poured into the clay pot. It renders a better flavour than hot water. Then the coffee is brought to a boil and taken off the heat as the brew begins to boil. An experienced brewer can tell just how short  a time it should be left on the heat, so as not to become too bitter.

Here's my steaming coffee being poured into the espresso-sized cup.

I would say that the Yirgacheffe reminds me of the Greek coffee brew. There's more in the cup though, as the Ethiopians strain the grounds out, while the Greeks leave the grounds in, so you drink the top off the sediment.The flavour comes from the method of brewing as much as from the bean itself. It certainly is a far cry from the coffees we get from the chains!
And Senai painted an Ethiopian morning for me:
The coffee-making process is central to community between the women in an Ethiopian village.  One awakens to the sounds of coffee beans being pounded, and the rich aroma wafting through the huts. The men have arleady left for the work day and the women and children are in the village. The sounds of the coffee-making call some of the women to gather at one of their huts, where the brew is consumed while the women chat about what's happening in their lives (since the last time they met, yesterday).

Howard Schultz, President and CEO of Starbucks attempted to bring a parallel, but different sense of 'community' to the coffee shops of North America, when he purported to re-create the Italian espresso cafes in  the North American context.The coffee shops are supposed to be the 'Third place" where we spend a lot of our lives, home and work being the first and second.
The gathering of Ethiopian women may not be the third, but the 'second place' in that culture.
I don't think the Starbucks experience has managed to really create the feeling of community in the coffee shops.
But the role of coffee in bringing people together is certainly an interesting story...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jason Fried: "Why Work does not Happen at Work"

I found this talk on by Jason Fried : "Why Work does not Happen at Work"
I am reproducing Jason's talk here in order to spread the idea which I wholeheartedly endorse.
On a related point, people learn, think and process in different ways.It's a pity that many decision makers in industry know little to nothing about cognition, so most workers are herded into one type of working environment under the misconception that there is one way to learn and one type of environment to work in. Creative people and deep thinkers thrive if given the freedom to express their perceived off-kilter views in an atmosphere of openness and respect. This means the freedom to work in multiple environments which are not necessarily enclosed within an office space.

It's not just that great ideas come from people who are allowed space and time for creativity, but that there is a need for education of managers to understand differences in cognitive processes. Not all jobs use the same processes for analysis, perception, reasoning, or mechanical or emotive abilities. So to reduce the intellectual thought processes that comprise analysis, reasoning and judgment into a set of discrete steps that can be read by a computer is really an artificial construct. It's the bean-counter trying to measure a concept he has no real understanding of. It's like trying to capture the air we breathe and put a price on it.
Heaven forbid that the day comes when we have to pay for the privilege of thinking. Then we'll really know that the machines have taken over!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Frangipani- A Poem of Loss

My blog is a little different today. If I were a musician I would express myself with music, but having no such God-given or acquired talent, I will say it with poetry.
Some things are too difficult to reveal, so we have to find ways of release that don't betray too much or make the reader uncomfortable.


How can one fragrance open so many of the senses?
Tonight I breathe the scent of frangipani and have the sensation that I am falling backwards in time.
To a place where I used to live.
Memories tumble back haphazardly into my mind,
From wherever they have been all this time.
Where do thoughts go when we're not thinking of them?
Where do they reside?
I wonder what is the common denominator for all things:
Thoughts, feelings, objects, time, colour, music.
Love and death, father, mother, child and God.
Experience is a teacher but we imperfect beings don't always learn the lessons.
Some of us never do.
Intuition is the only teacher when all else fails.
Life is what it is.
Are we never to know the answers?

Or maybe death is the only key to the mysteries
Maybe it is the door to truly knowing.
I cannot conceive of nothingness
My mind is not capable of such a concept
Black holes make sense
But my not existing does not
Some things I experience fill me with a sense of such deep happiness
and fulfillment,
That nothing else matters in that moment
I am complete, filled up, and there's no room for wondering,
what more there is.

Frangipani, oleander, gardenia, jasmine and lilacs
Their fragrance take me to a place where there is nothing
But sensation in the moment
Pure and sensuous pleasure
In those moments I surround myself with music
Heart beating in an ancient rhythm.
And then I know I feel
And I know how truly alive I am
And I have so much love to give...

Will I ever see the ones I have loved,
Are they truly lost forever?
Why is it so real when we see them in dreams.
Is there a place where we meet again.
And when we get  back to that original state of being,
Will we know each other again?

Friday, November 26, 2010

YouTube Blog: Wong Fu film premieres on YouTube

YouTube Blog: Wong Fu film premieres on YouTube I just spent one hilarious half hour watching these talented guys of Wong Fu productions, in their first film premiering on You Tube. I really hope this goes viral! Have a look at this short movie and spread the link around.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Social Media and its Impact on E-discovery

  This is my latest writing on JD Supra which is a professional site on LinkedIn for posting up articles, news, legal and related information, and re-purposed blogs etc.

Social Media and the Implications for E-Discovery

It’s 8 o’clock. Do you know where your employees are?

It seems to make no sense to ask such a question, does it. After all what employees do on their own time has always been considered none of an employer’s business and to ask may seem to border on invasion of privacy.
The question we need to consider though is “Are the times changing so much that we should wonder what goes on outside the office walls?”
In a world of instant distributed access, hitting the ‘send’, ‘post’ or ‘publish’ button can be added to the old Chinese saying “Four things come not back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.”
The prevalent use of social media as a form of global grapevine has revolutionised the way we communicate, collaborate, and form popular opinion. The use of social media by employees has also impacted on the way that companies need to view the extent of the data that needs to be preserved in the event of a litigation hold.
The ubiquitous nature of social media gives rise to several issues that every Legal Department should be cognizant of.
A major one would be to recognise the true extent of the data to be captured in order to be litigation ready. Most responsible companies these days already have some system which mines the data from emails, file shares, document management systems and other repositories which store the myriads of documents and communications which pass between employees. But recently the courts have had to consider the completeness of disclosure in e-discovery situations. Turns out that there is much more to be disclosed than soft copies of documents. And this is where the legal department needs to get up to speed on the full impact of social media upon the e-discovery process.

Courts are being called upon to consider for the first time, whether statements, commentary and postings made by employees on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, are discoverable. Statements made in instant messages (IM’s), group discussion boards, forums, and conceivably skype and the new google chat, are open for legal debate in the courts. And ‘data’ extends to that kept by employees on mobile devices such as blackberries, iphones, ipads, laptops and the new generation of tablets currently hitting the markets. Data is also to be found in “the cloud”, whether it lies on hosted servers or in the public cloud.

The kinds of social media platforms and the devices that enable their use are changing at such a rapid pace that e-discovery rules lag behind in their application. The courts are therefore being called upon to rule on matters on which there is no solid guidance. Judge Stephen Robinson, now a partner with the firm of Skadden, Arps in a recent webinar produced by the New York Law Journal made the point that not all judges are familiar with the technology systems that support social media. Courts assume that documents (and by extension, data), are collected, retained and easy to find. So it is in counsel’s interest to set the scene depicting “information at large” in social media, and explain the technology and the terms to the Court.

It is clear is that the rules of litigation have changed irrevocably and we are sailing in uncharted waters. It is for this reason that advice coming from commentators is about the prudence of instituting a social media policy. The first step is to understand your data universe. A survey of social media use last year showed that about 50 % of companies have some sort of presence on social media sites, whether on LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, YouTube, Facebook ,blogs etc. Not as many as 50% have a social media policy though. Many companies today adopt the conservative approach to the use of new media and social media, under the misapprehension that proscribing the use of the internet during work hours somehow makes employees produce more work.The efficacy of such policy is another debate for another time. Suffice it to say that in a world of mobile personal connectedness, there is far more information from and about your company floating around the internet than you are even aware. Witness photos and real time “video in maps” from sources such as Bing Maps and Google maps which stitch photos from individual contributors, including photos on Flickr to give us a bird’s eye view of office buildings and more in town. Not to mention blogs,micro blogs,wikis (“law-wiki” is a recent one rating law firms and lawyers), Twitter, instant messaging and chats, and the list expands rapidly. Information is written about your company in the social media sphere, whether you like it or not.
Even a recommendation from a supervisor on LinkedIn can resurface as evidence in a wrongful dismissal suit.
So it is in your interest to ‘get with it’, see what is being said about you, and join the discussions.
Keep up to date with the happenings in social media.Place yourself on wikipedia and law-wiki before someone does it for you. In other words, do the damage prevention before you have to do damage control.
Some commentators have observed that one can safely assume that nothing that gets uploaded on to the internet is ever really destroyed or gone forever. Deleting an item may move it out of sight, but the content may have migrated and been spread to another place on the web through a third party. And this may not be malicious at all. A friend could share data (whether it’ s photos or writings), innocently enough. A sent and deleted email could already have been forwarded by the recipient to a third party. Search engine spiders or bots trolling the web periodically, have already indexed the web page on which the posting was made. (And scarily, a criminal record though expunged from the records, may still be found in an archived paper or magazine online).

So this is a sample of the data universe in which e-discovery has to take place in today’s digital world. The current uncontrolled reach of relevant information gives rise to issues of possession, custody and control of data during e-discovery. Both General counsel and External counsel need to be aware that information exists in places beyond the reach of the data management systems and the custodians thereof. Counsel needs to be aware of what exists too, because what he requests of opposing counsel is what he will be expected to produce for his own client.

When employees post statements (say for example, on Facebook) that may be of relevance in a potentially litigious matter, the question that often arises is, within whose possession, custody and control are those statements. The issue of compellability of such evidence rests upon the relevance of the data, and how much of a burden is its retrieval. Privacy concerns are also factored in.The issues of whether or not Facebook can be compelled to produce defamatory statements made by employees, who have made those statements under their page ‘privacy’ setttings are matters that are currently making the court circuit. It is a nascent area of law and it would be interesting to see where this is all going to lead.

A social media policy is arguably the best protection in a charge of incomplete discovery of documents in an action. Given the dearth of legal procedural rules to guide social media discovery, a company’s best offence is said to be a written policy.It is more defensible to refuse to give up data when you can show that you did everything to follow your policy.This gives the court some reference for making a ruling.

Here are some factors I have pulled together, which should be addressed when drawing up a social media policy for your employees. These include:

  • Educate employees, management, C-Suite and the leadership about general benefits and the risks and repercussions of the use of social media
  • Identify an officer to monitor the social media environment for the latest development in new media and your company’s name in it (e.g. new wikis, new features in web applications -eg geographical mapping where your company might show up without your knowledge, new search features etc)
  • Data-map the social media sites that employees are using to guide the defensibility of non-disclosed data
  • Map where the data resides so it can be tracked quickly in the event of a litigation hold
  • Where data is in the private cloud in the form of wikis and blogs and such, determine a time period for retention and disposal
  • Identify the departments that should be involved in the ‘custodianship’ of social media data (is it IT, Legal, HR, and/or practice group?), as part of a litigation readiness program
  • The policy itself should be short, simple and concise. The more detailed you make it, the more you open the door to an employee thinking that what is not specifically prohibited, is permissible.
  • Educate employees about what constitutes defamatory material-what is not acceptable
  • Proscribe the divulgement of trade secrets, confidential and sensitive information
  • Be clear on what kinds of documents/statements made by employees, are privileged and not
  • Document best practices and update policy regularly, in light of the changing face of social media