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Tag Archives: society

With the Federal election coming up, I pass by a ton of candidate signs to and from work in Markham (and two candidate offices). I noticed that the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP candidates have signs that say their name only, while the Green Party sign has the name and the picture of the candidate on their sign. This perks my curiosity – why do candidates decide to put (or not put) their image on signs? I can think of a couple of reasons why you would want to:

  • You’re a new candidate and want to be recognized
  • You look awesome/trustworthy/superior human being™ and want to subliminally convince voters to vote for you
  • You want to build an emotional connection with voters

For a parallel – take a look at advertisements from Real Estate brokers. The ones that I remember all have the Real Estate broker’s face on them (although I can’t specifically recall what they look like). That seems to indicate to me that having your face on the sign is beneficial.

Then, why would candidates choose to only advertise their name? Here’s what I think:

  • You are already recognized visually by the community
  • Your name is recognized (because you’re the incumbent etc) and much more stronger than your face
  • The impact of the party colours are more important
  • They expect people to glance quickly at the sign and thus not remember the details in a face
  • Given the limited budget, it’s cheaper to print out (and spam) simple signs
  • They are really ugly

Any other ideas?


To help me when I’m waiting or bored, I installed an Instapaper app on my phone. Instapaper is a service where you can save articles and then read them through the site (or through some other app).

Here’s an interesting article I read about “friends”, and not friends. The definition of friends has been diluted now, with acquaintances becoming known as friends thanks to Facebook and other social networking sites. But this article is arguing that our society is changing and we have very few real “friends” now.

But we live now in a climate in which friends appear dispensable. While most of us wouldn’t last long outside the intricate web of interdependence that supplies all our physical needs—imagine no electricity, money, or sewers—we’ve come to demand of ourselves truly radical levels of emotional self-sufficiency. In America today, half of adults are unmarried, and more than a quarter live alone. As Robert Putnam showed in his 2000 book Bowling Alone, civic involvement and private associations were on the wane at the end of the 20th century. Several years later, social scientists made headlines with a survey showing that Americans had a third fewer nonfamily confidants than two decades earlier. A quarter of us had no such confidants at all.

In a separate study, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, authors of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (2009), surveyed more than 3,000 randomly chosen Americans and found they had an average of four “close social contacts” with whom they could discuss important matters or spend free time. But only half of these contacts were solely friends; the rest were a variety of others, including spouses and children.


Interesting thought of the day, why do nerds play video games? Is it because, as the article states, there are well defined societal rules?

Another explanation is that while nerds like to socialize, they are terrified of making social mistakes. This explains why they tend to avoid eye-contact – it is too easy to make the wrong eye contacts. Games let nerds interact socially, yet avoid mistakes via well-defined rules, and a social norm that all legal moves are “fair game.”

I think that’s a good explanation. By extension, maybe that is why nerds are more comfortable chatting online. There are less social cues to pick up when all you see are words.


When I start planning a trip in North America, I do a quick search of the city’s symphony orchestra site. Every single one of them has some under-30 program to get cheap tickets. The fact that ever orchestra has one indicates that there is some student-program flu going around amongst the music directors or there is some systematic reason that the under-30 demographic need to be targeted. As you may expect, it’s the latter!

I think that most people know that there is little interest in Classical music amongst the young people. And if people aren’t interested, they’re not going to shell out $40 – $100 for a ticket now, or later. In the past, people have grown into liking Classical music. I guess they spend too much time at the dentist or waiting on the phone. I always thought that the student programs aim to hasten the movement and get patrons paying the real ticket fees sooner. But maybe that isn’t even the case. The New Yorker published the results of a survey which found that Generation X-ers were not starting to attend to the classical performances even though previous generations eventually did.

Of course it’s too soon to tell, maybe Gen Xers need to get older before they start peaking (some generations peaked in their 70s!), but some how I doubt it. There are too many distractions in this age to fragment our attention and the orchestra will find it difficult to maintain a consistent turnout regardless of whether they “hook” us early.


Wolfram Alpha, where were you when I was in school? Yesteryear’s calculator complaints are now seen as ludicrous and calculators are an integral part of our society. But I bet you will hear the same arguments in a few years when everyone is “showing their work” from Wolfram Alpha.

It’s actually a neat computational problem. It’s one thing to put some variables into a massive formula and get a single number, but to explain, step-by-step in words, what to do almost feels like artificial intelligence.


In continuing this year’s trend of dying celebrities, Walter Cronkite died this weekend of causes related to dementia.

I was never alive or old enough to watch his newcast, so all I know about him before this event was that he was a very well respected anchorman (kind of like CTV’s Lloyd Robertson. Today, I watched a tribute to his legacy on CBS (he was the anchor on CBS Evening News) and learned about his history. He presided over many important events in the preceding decades, like the Vietnam War, Woodstock, the death of JFK and LBJ, Watergate and through this became the trusted voice of news. They even asked him to run for president after he retired!

Walter Cronkite, like Christopher Columbus is one of those people who I don’t we will ever see again. Back in the 60s and 70s, it was a simpler and more straightforward time where people were able to believe in someone else telling them what the truth should be. The nature of society has become more cognitively complex and I can’t imagine a de-evolution to provide the conditions necessary for another Walter Cronkite to emerge. This weekend then, we did see a legend pass.


You know those programs that the bank offers where you can automatically set aside $20 a month and let the magic of compound interest make you a millionaire? What’s the secret behind them and why do they tell you to enroll into those programs? From an analytical angle, I don’t see the difference between investing $20 a month or putting in $300 each year.

Is it because certain people in our society end up spending every single $20 bill of their money and can’t plan to save? Because while I don’t follow one of these programs, after awhile when I see the numbers in my bank account count up, I do dump it into some sort of investment device (and more than $300 natch). So I can’t really see the reason why investment strategists are pushing these programs unless there really are people who don’t have the willpower to save $20 a month.


Taking the subway the last few days, I (re-)noticed that there are a lot of education ads on the subway, as well as a lot of education ads in Metro/24 (which subway riders tend to read). Some of these are to recruit high schoolers to far away universities, but many of them are for continuing education offerings. I guess profiling of subway riders revealed that many of them are not happy with their jobs or career and are looking for ways to climb out of their worker class.

You don’t see a disproportionate amount of advertisement towards education in general, so it seems as though that the ads are targetted to subway riders (and not a confirmation bias on my part).