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Blog of the week

Blog of the week – XUP

Although XUP herself has been on a self-imposed exile for the past several months (on an island called l’Île de la formation linguistique), this has been and continues to be one of my all time fave sites.

From the quirky to the outrageous to the heartfelt, her posts are always certain to evoke an emotion in the reader. Great authors can do this seemingly at will. Good authors can do this too – but with considerably more effort (I humbly consider myself as part of the latter category – but it can be hit or miss sometimes).

You know what a blog is? A blog is really just a collection of connected or not-so connected short stories. And like any good piece of writing, a well-assembled and displayed blog is technically well written, interesting to a wide audience, and, as noted above, infused with emotion engaging prose.

And this is XUP to a tee.

From this post extolling the glories of bacon (XUP is a vegetarian) to this – which is one of my faves since we both have daughters who are about the same age. She talks about her baby girl going on her “real first date”.  Here’s a taste:

And so began a (so far) 10-day battle over why I’m insisting on meeting this shy, handsome teenager who intends to drive my daughter off into the night in his own car versus why I’m always trying to ruin her life to make sure she’s miserable, alone and unhappy until the day she dies.

Why do I have to meet him?

  • Because I want to make sure he’s not a total and complete idiot and if he is, yes, I will call the whole date off. (OH MY GOD MOTHER!!!)
  • Because I want to quiz him on his driving qualifications.
  • Because I want him to know there is someone attached to this girl he’s taking out who will feed him his own testicles if he harms one hair on her head and/or doesn’t drive like he’s taking his brittle-boned great-grandmother on her first ever outing in an automobile.

Is this totally unreasonable of me? Isn’t this what parents do who don’t want to spend the entire evening of the date peering out the window with their finger on the 911 speed-dial button?

Or this short post entitled

Ottawa: The City That Fun Forgot

where she goes on about how awesomely nanny-ish we in National Capital Commission can be:

To ensure even less winter fun the National Capital Commission has also decided not to have the outdoor concert series during Winterlude this year because heating the stage will “cause damage to the environment”. They’re aiming for a carbon-neutral/fun-neutral Winterlude this year.

Isn’t that awesomely responsible of them?

Whatever XUP tackles, it is always with panache and more than a bit of an edge. I hope that, after her language training is complete, she returns to blogging. We miss her!

Check out her site – you’ll thank me for it!


Blog of the Week –

First, before getting to the regularly scheduled Blog of the Week post, can someone please tell me that this is indeed an early April Fool’s prank!??? This cannot be serious, can it? Who the hell could conceive of spending $100 million to commemorate a 200 year old war???

OK.  BP dropping. All is good. Serenity now…


You might have noticed by now that these BotW posts focus on blogs that are more or less aligned along a “theme”. Food and wine are two of my fave things, but both pale in comparison to my obsession (yup, if its not one, it’s close) with politics and more specifically with political data.

So it stands to reason that one of these BotW scribbles would sooner or later look at a political blog. And one that is not simply a series of partisan rants.

ThreeHundredEight is such a beast. The authors do a bang-up job in providing the reader with a balanced analysis of the latest polling numbers – not by focusing on one poll alone, but my looking at trends in the data over time and using a weighted average of all of the major polls. As a data geek, I can, from a professional perspective, appreciate the focus on trends and on the need to examine a weighted aggregate of the polling results.

Interpreting poll results is nasty business most of the time, but ThreeHundredEight ably navigates the briny waters admirably and uses methodologically robust tools.

Check out this text from the site’s Friday posts which talks about two polls that were released the day prior.

Yesterday, we were treated to two new polls, one from Angus-Reid and the other from EKOS Research. They told somewhat different stories, as Angus-Reid pegs the gap between the Conservatives and Liberals at 16 points, while EKOS has it at around seven.

How do we reconcile these two polls? We don’t! (emphasis mine)

I’m not going to compare the two polls as they aren’t comparable. Angus-Reid uses an online panel, while EKOS uses a telephone system. Angus-Reid polled on two days (March 8 and 9), while EKOS polled on nine days (February 24 to March 8, excluding weekends). Finally, Angus-Reid polled 1,021 people, while EKOS polled 2,892 people. The two polls aren’t at all the same.

But what the two polls do have in common is that neither shows a significant shift in support for any of the parties since the last time these pollsters were in the field.

Don’t compare the two! Not. Ever. THIS is why I like this site – no dancing around similarities in modes, MoEs or sample sizes. Just cut to the quick and say that only an utter fool would look at these two polls side by side!

YES! A victory for robust statistics! Woo-hoo!

OK, Trashy – chillllll…..

Another thing that I like about the blog is the effective use of charts as explanatory tools. I am a visual learner and can grasp a message presented visually much faster and clearer than when written down.  ThreeHundredEight takes the polling numbers – in this example, from the EKOS poll – and presents them like this to show the regional breakouts:

Clear and easy to understand.

Then, the results of recent polls are aggregated to show regional breakouts based on the aggregated and weighted results of the most recent numbers, thusly:

Then they go one step further and extrapolates these results to come up with estimates of how these polling numbers translate into seats on a regional basis.

Cool, eh?

Well, for me it is!

Anyhow, be you a data geek, a political geek or just like pretty charts with lots of colours, ThreeHundredEight should be a site that you plug into your RSS feed!



Blog of the week: the-O-dot

I have been getting a laugh-a-minute from this Ottawa-based satirical blog called the the-O-dot News Update. It’s sort of a lower budget version of The Onion – but just as funny and it’s mostly about Bytown!.

Take the post that is on the front page today:

Florida Seniors Stoked For Another Spring Break

“We’ll keep our eye on the Spring Breakers and make sure no one gets hurt or causes problems.” explained County Sheriff Gus Harding. “Last year we had an impaired senior on a Rascal scooter so we’ll be cracking down on the seniors as well as the students.” Harding replied.


But what I really like about this blog is its focus on Ottawa. In fact, Westboro in particular is often a target of the author’s wit.

Check it out:

City Approves Segregated Stroller Lane For Wellington/Westboro

“I think it’s a great idea.” says Wellington Village resident Dave Shindle who suffered a lacerated ankle from a stroller last year. “The strollers will be off the sidewalks and allow us non-baby people to enjoy shopping and getting our lattes without fearing injury or slowdowns trying to get around the slow moving stroller people.

Or this one that quite a few folks took seriously at first before realising that this was really satire:

Westboro To Use Artisan Sea Salt On Icy Roads

Imported from the south of France, the new artisan sea salt will increase road salting costs by 475%, but Hobbs sees the benefits far outweighing the increased costs. “My ward residents are quite happy to pay extra taxes if they can enjoy the benefits of the artisan salt.” Hobbs replied. City Hall passed the motion put forward by Hobbs, and Westboro residents should start seeing the application of the sea salt as early as next week on their neighbourhood roads. Discussions are also underway to have area sidewalks plowed with organic bamboo shovels instead of the regular metal scrapers used by current sidewalk snow removal units.

I know lots of folks from Westboro, and this was, well, more than slightly believable!

The blog also takes the expected shots at OC Transpo, the Feds (though this is a true story and not satire), and other Ottawa institutions… all in good fun.

Whether you are from Ottawa or not, I highly recommend adding The-O-dot to your feed and to your fave lists if you haven’t already done so…



Blog of the week

This week, I am profiling a blog that is all about living and consuming while being sustainably-minded.

The Mindful Merchant, always has some good insights on how to turn just thinking about our environment into actions that might mitigate our environmental impacts. Acting sustainably is a tough thing to argue against no matter where on the political spectrum you plop your behind.

Take this recent article on alternatives to rock salt, for example (for those readers in warmer climes, rock salt is used on driving and walking surfaces to melt ice in order to make surfaces less slippery and much safer.) Clearly, The Mindful One has done loads of research on this post, as is the norm for her.

Another post from last summer is one I have periodically directed folks toward when questions of product labeling arise. Even I, as someone who works in the environment field (loosely speaking), did not know that the label or term “non-toxic” was an industry devised-marketing word and means diddly squat. I really thought that Health Canada or Industry Canada or someone monitored this stuff!

Go on over and visit the Mindful Merchant sometime… you might just learn something!


(BWOW) Blog or Website Of the Week…

I’m starting something a little different this week. As in different from opining on the fools on the Hill, pinheads at Queen’s Park, blokes in City Hall or oafs at OC Transpo or (at least some of) the Trustees on Greenbank Road.

Instead, I am going to dedicate my Monday post to a fave blog or website and talk a bit about why I think you should give it a look-see. Like most of you, I tend to drop by the same ol’ places on this InterWeb thingy – and there is a reason for that – I either find the subject matter interesting, they are well-written, or they deal with something that is a little off the beaten trail… or all of the above.

So I’ll give this a go for a few months or more… might be fun.

First up – Bottledj

Steve is a guy in Montreal who loves music, loves wine and sees and describes the interaction between the 4th and 5th loves of his life (his two kids and spousal unit come first, of course). The tag line for his site is Where Wine & Music Get Mixed, Matched And Paired, which is about the best way to describe his work here.

For example, in December he reviewed a Bulgarian wine, Vinprom Yambol Persona Syrah 2008 and quite eloquently describes as follows:

The only taste note that I would add to that found on the bottle is dark chocolate.  I find the finish bitter, but I like bitter so that is more than fine with me.  Compared to a French St. Joseph, this wine has less accent on the fruit and more on the savoury, and compared to popular entry level Aussie Shiraz, this has a very natural and restrained feel.  Good Stuff.

Steve is one Habs fan that knows wine – which is a bit unusual because, as we all know, Hab fans are a tad unsophisticated.

But I digress.

After reviewing the wine,  he matches the wine with a tune – in this case Hungry Like the Wolf, by Duran Duran. Here’s how he describes this rationale for the pairing:

Soft and full bodied describes the best of Duran Duran and their ability to make rock that is enjoyable, accessible, familiar yet distinct.  This song is sung from a misogynist point of view, but Duran Duran keep it interesting for ladies, and I think the wine does the same thing.  This would be the perfect house red in most casual restaurants, and I am sucker for 80′s rock while I dine.

Give Bottledj a visit – it’s a good read for wine and music fans alike – you’ll thank me.