Creative web searching

For a brief period, just knowing what google was, and how to do a keyword search, made you a magic ambassador of factology.

But the value in web2.0 sites spills over into the commons; ie. these sites tend to organize the internet in ways other than keywords. is a tool for storing one's bookmarks in the "cloud". I've written before that its best use is actually clipping and sharing news stories -- a sort of live repository of external content related to what you care about (ie. you and five friends agree to store all articles on the business strategy of Furbees in there).

But also works as a research tool. The site's designers chose to use a logical, word-based hierarchy for their URLs (there's a better name for that?!). Ie. if your name is david11, your account is 

What made Delicious (getting tired of the periods) unique when it emerged was its use of tagging. So, instead of just saving a news story or website to Delicious, you assign a few keywords (or tags) to it as well, allowing you to find this URL easily in time.

So, the spillover effect of most of the internet being tagged is that you can search for content by its tag, and with the logical URL system they use, that's as easy as:'re-looking-for.

Even better, you can do a keyword search within this tag.

My last post was on Ryanair's business strategy. If you Google that, the results are annoying. Plan B is ... and then a keyword search for strategy (there are 11 answers, all of which are interesting).

Furthermore, I not only have 11 answers, but 11 people/accounts, each of which could lead to related ideas ... things I haven't yet thought of. Sort of like, if I like Fiest and RHCP, an algorithm predicts that I may like your cousins weird band from Wisconsin (most likely, I would hate it).

Google, you know algorithms ... get on this Delicious train! 

Ryanair -- strategy and operations

Ryanair is easily my favourite company. For me, business is about strategy and operations. 

I don't really care whether BCE is a private company focused on servicing debt, or a public company serving regulators. Their decisions around content, and the pipes (including mobile ones) through which they push that content is most interesting. 

Here's a quote about Ryanair: 
Geoff Van Klaveren, an analyst in London at Exane BNP Paribas, said Ryanair hauls in more revenue, relatively speaking, from "ancillary" sales than any other airline. In the last financial year, to March 31, 2008, this category was equivalent to 18 per cent of total revenues of €2.7-billion, up from 14 per cent in 2005 and 11 per cent in 2001. "This will keep climbing," he said, which is one of the reasons Ryanair is one of the few airlines that carries an Exane "sector outperform" rating.

When I worked for a gas station company, I learned that their strategy is to effectively break even on the gas (they buy it from people making money on taking it out of the ground), and sell a few $2.75 cokes and maybe a $6.00 bag of milk to everyone who passes through the door. 

In fact, if Ryanair trusted the right company, it could sell off its entire aircraft operations division and rent back the flights, then operate solely as an ancillary business. As I said before, their business model is merely to convince a large fraction of Europe to lock themselves inside one of their pressurized, tube-shaped stores for 6 or 8 hours a month.

Conversations with Sean Penn

This was a much more thorough and interesting (though fawning) foreign policy essay by Sean Penn than I expected; it is based on interviews with two leftists heads of state, who are viewed as (lukewarm) enemies by the U.S.

I've noticed Penn's political activism; certainly his campaign to Iraq immediately before the invasion in 2003 had the potential to end his Hollywood career. 

But clearly, based on the quality of this article, and on his friendship with Iraq-war enabler Christopher Hitchens, with whom he and historian Douglas Brinkley travelled to Caracas and Havana, he is likely among the leading foreign policy minds in Hollywood.

Maybe that doesn't say much. But based on the media reverberations of his article in the Nation, he may be among the U.S.'s leading foreign policy instruments in the Americas. 

He quotes Joe Biden -- no right wing ideologue -- as calling Chavez a dictator. While Fidel Castro is a dictator, clearly Chavez is no more a dictator than was Bush or Pierre Trudeau for that matter. Penn also appears to be take the most significant step toward resolving US-Cuba relations of anyone in the last 30 years. Fidel is writing his memoirs and Sean Penn is granted the first interview by Cuba's new president, who took office earlier this year. In the interview Raul reveals that the U.S. military itself has long dropped the ideology driven agenda the U.S. formally has held against Cuba. According to Penn, the U.S. State Department and military meet with Cuban officials (not the president) every third Friday, a tradition that began more than a decade ago. According to Penn, the U.S. views Cuba as a key strategic player in their campaign against drugs.

Penn also raises the concern that Columbia is viewed now as the U.S.'s Monroe Doctrine ally -- sort of an Israel in Latin America. So we get into the question of whether rightest human rights violations are better than leftist ones.

Personally, I am very comfortable with the ethics of Canadian business people, so that increased  trade with, say, China, will necessarily and almost organically work toward resolving issues of human rights -- though not necessarily democracy itself. I feel the same about Cuba. Though there our only trade barrier is a mass of land, 48 states wide.

At any rate, what a surprise to read that Sean Penn not only has a brain, but is himself acting as a subtle instrument for change.

That said, let me be clear that Cuba is still a dictatorship, though warming under Raul, that it imprisons non-violent political protesters, and that it needs to not be/do both of these things. I love the tale of Che Guevara's youth on a motorbike, but he very clearly murdered many innocent poets and intellectuals -- not in battle but kneeling on the ground. His silk screen is no icon for me.

American Barackracy

3-second movie review -- Quantum of Solace

An invincible guy tries to take down a greasy CEO. Beautiful scenery.

A little busy

Media relations should be the absense of bullshit

Jim Sinegal is the CEO of Costco; despite my knee jerk dislike of big box, I like him. 

In this magazine feature, the journalist asks him why he installed skylights in his stores. A thousand media relations professionals would have each said something lie, Because it helps us consume less energy and lighten our environmental footprint.

The answer of this business executive with 140,000 people reporting to him: "There's no sense in me BS-ing you. The reason we did it originally was exactly as you're suggesting -- to save money. We put the skylights in so that we didn't have to turn the lights on. But of course it's also environmentally correct. "

Integrity is everything. Now, I trust him. And so what if his environmental record is 0.4% less impressive than a media relations guy could have presented it (as). He, and his company, have integrity.

The snowball

I haven't read the new (authorized) bio of Warren Buffet, but I wonder if the author's title, "Snowball" describes the effect I associate with this word.

When you have a lot of things to do, and you're not sure where to start, start with the easy bit. After that, you'll have less to do and I hope a few easy bits left. Do those next. Soon, you'll be at a stage with:
a) less to do than before
b) momentum.

And the snowball rolls along, picking up snow and growing exponentially.

3-second film review -- W (Oliver Stone)

This film carefully and expertly moves within the vacuum of purpose between satire and historical reality.

Is it illegal to break the law?

An interesting question will arise between today and Jan. 20 around the semantics of the word "illegal."

This article argues what many suspect; that Mr. Bush and others in his employ broke the laws of the United States hundreds or thousands of times. 

Other than the invasion of Iraq itself, we don't really know what if any crimes George Bush committed. But we do know that journalists who attempted to investigate these crimes were themselves victims of threats from the people who currently work for Mr. Bush. 

So, if a President commits a crime, is it illegal? If you do commit crimes, and your country's Attorney General sits next to you at work, and you're not in jail, then it is not illegal to break the law. 

Power is a funny thing. Mr. Bush is about to lose it, and not in a subtle way. His family name, his ideological partners, his team and much of his party have lost almost everything. They will have no real power, of course -- other than high but not stratospheric personal wealth, and good connections. They will have no coercive power because their people will be out of power. No one associated with Bush who does not repute him will have any statesman-like standing after he leaves office.

Almost like Nixon, he will be completely stripped of everything. And then, two things will happen:
a) he will be powerless against the people he pushed around, and who have been holding in years of disclosure about what he and they did that broke the law but was not illegal.
b) he will be a private citizen in a country with a massively more powerful domestic security apparatus. He created a monster, which is incredibly stupid when you have a term limit.

Should Bush be found to have committed crimes, and those crimes be considered illegal ones, I'm not sure I like the actual optics of Bush going to prison. It's too vindictive, and he's a symbol. But President Obama may just find it nearly impossible to stop the tide of indictments against people who broke the law while serving Bush, thinking somehow that it wasn't illegal.

What Obama's win means for me.

I wanted Barack Obama to become president from about 2005 or 2006 onward. I think his charisma first caught me, and his single policy decision: to oppose the Iraq war when it was just as wrong as it is today, but when few public people would say so. I responded to that because virtually everyone in my country opposed the war before it began for exactly the reasons that virtually everyone in his country does now.

I'm not American, and I feel it's arrogant or overbearing for me to care too much about U.S. domestic policy. I'm no fan of Quebec separtism, and it annoys me when foreign people delve into that issue with little knowledge of Canada, or of the undercurrents of that failed movement to destroy a country. And so I don't want to tell Americans to support gay marriage. But I do want to tell them to stop locking people in cells on island bases without normal laws. And I want to tell them to not lie to pre-emptively invade a country that poses little threat, when other measures may have come to a similar, less bloody end. I want to tell them to stop picking innocent people off the streets and from their homes in allied countries, taking them to secret places, and torturing them.

Barack Obama was the only person I felt would do this. And it looks like he may follow at least this spirit -- which I feel is a far more American spirit than what America has recently been. I'm not a beliver in American Exceptionalism, but I'm a believer in the power of this idea to do good; I want people around the world, and in my country too, to look at the United States as an almost immutable force for the steady progress of good in the world.

So on Nov. 4, I was almost shocked to realize that Barack Obama is black. I was fixated on his three unusual names -- especially the middle one. But I had hardly reflected on what it means for a black man to be elected by a white electorate in a country still not healed from the legacy of slavery. Barack Obama, and his wife and young girls will inhabit a house built by slaves. A house with an allusive name. I cried when he won, because it shocked me that, in one night, the entire American conversation around race has changed.

It's been six days, and I don't fully believe that it's happened. I said in October that I was waiting for Christmas, and I wasn't sure it would happen. Even when he won Penn. and Ohio I still worked out ways he could lose. But today feels like a continuing Christmas in which the massively wrong trajectory the world's guardian of classical liberalism (despite their brand-based fear of calling it that) had taken, was corrected. 

I think, with it going the right way, the all-important long term stability of things in our lives will continue. And, perhaps, the world will be a better place in eight years.