Archive for the 'Scholar' Category

The Northern Star in Prince George

in Activism, British Columbia, Culture Blogger, humourist, News Media and Scholar


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The Northern Star Magazine, British Columbia, Alternative media print and online publication

Will Lewis, Northern Star Online writer, editor, publisher and daily bloggerWill Lewis is a loud voice, west of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He’s an alternative media print publisher in Prince George, British Columbia, with a well trafficked website and blog. Because storytelling runs in his blood, he writes news, comedy and political satire. His mother was one of the first aboriginal women in all of North America to get a university degree, and he has the same pioneering spirit.

The Northern Star is best categorized as ‘alternative media’, and has one goal – to entertain its readers. Every edition is filled with news stories, folk tales and funny observations. Will, and his wife Cathie, believe their job is to make readers think, smile and feel better about themselves. The Northern Star blog is an effective content repository, where they showcase the best articles and jokes from their weekly publication. Anyone is welcome to respond with their comments. Will says, “We actually began blogging as an afterthought. We first created a printed magazine, developed a readership, and then created the blog to build upon that audience.”

Will and Cathie produce The Northern Star in Prince George, British Columbia, but it’s enjoyed around the world. Even the local political articles, Will's Thoughts on The Northern Star in Prince George British Columbiaespecially Will’s Thoughts, wherein he gets very opinionated about actions and decisions of politicians and government, is enjoyed world wide. Beyond that, there’s plenty of human interest pieces, like the story on Purina’s new TV commercials for dogs, and how Knokkers is played in Missouri. They profiled Leonard George Casley, the independent micro nation known as the Hutt River Principality in Australia, and closer to their home is a fascinating overview of Spotted Lake, a volcanic water body in southern BC, that weeps mineral rich mud in an unusual spotted pattern. Will follows his own passion, and publishes things that makes one think – he shares a growing conviction that ‘We Are E.T.’ (Extraterrestrials) with his readers, in pieces relating facts that challenge the standard belief system regarding the origin of mankind. But don’t misunderstand, The Northern Star is a family friendly publication, that fundamentally respects the diversity of our multicultural world.

The Northern Star, valuing differences, celebrating diversityThe Northern Star is an Aboriginal Owned and Operated Print and Online Publication

Because The Northern Star is physically circulated in print, available online, and directly mailed to thousands of email addresses, Will and Cathie can offer advertisers a variety of different options, different platforms and delivery perspectives. They have more than a dozen long term advertisers, and get good return from their ad network, which speaks volumes about their business acumen. According to Lewis, however, …the biggest obstacle we run into is that many businesses are reluctant to do business with an aboriginally owned and operated company. That’s a fascinating statement, because it makes his own writer’s quest for racial and religious tolerance even more profound.

Unfortunately, Will can’t publish all of his opinionated beliefs, because Cathie is the final filter who won’t allow some of it. When we asked him the worst thing that’s ever happened to him since publishing, he alluded to creative differences with Cathie.

Mel trucker stories truck driver british columbia blog

One of the best things to come from the rise of The Northern Star, is the discovery and promotion of Mel McConaghy, an original voice found in a retired truck driver, who started life as a dyslexic eighth grade dropout, and is now an internationally acclaimed writer. This long journey occurred in part, because of the exposure he receives from his own website, My Life Through A Broken Windshield, Trucker’s Tales From The Road Of Life, which is truncated and published as a weekly column in The Northern Star.

BC truck driver navigates a mountain creek with big tractor trailer

Some terrific examples of Will’s writing occur in Will’s Thoughts, like this favourite, wherein Will confesses to being a belief-o-holic. He writes,

Hi, my name is Will and I am a Belief-o-holic. Beliefs have always been my best friends. I used beliefs to feel better, to ease my pain, and to end my loneliness. Sometimes I believed in public, but most often, I believed alone. I’ve suffered horribly, and caused others to suffer, because of my addiction to beliefs. I put beliefs ahead of my family, friends and community. Beliefs made me do things that I am ashamed of, and almost destroyed my life.

More wisdom in Will’s Thoughts when he writes about the moral ambiguity of the word ‘okay’; he says, …any time that you hear someone say ‘that’s okay’, pay real close attention to how it’s being used.

And this little gem, ‘The Problem With Education’, is a delightful look at a dinner party, where the truth about teachers is revealed to a money grubbing career driven corporate CEO. It’s immensely enjoyable, and like the rest of The Northern Star, it shares a simple mandate to make people smile and give them hope.


Mark Goodfield, The Blunt Bean Counter

in Financial blog, niche blogs, Ontario, Scholar, Teacher and Toronto

The Blunt Bean Counter logo

Blunt Bean Counter, Mark Goodfield is a tax expert and author of a tax blog.

Mark Goodfield is a Canadian income tax expert who shares his insights and knowledge about the Income Tax Act, and that makes him rather unique. There are countless consumer blogs and political pundits and even a few good government blogs, but Mark is the first income tax expert blogger I’ve come across. More accurately, he’s a financial blogger who reports facts, statistics and strategies to help his readers pay the least amount of income tax to the taxman.

The Blunt Bean Counter focuses on income tax, business and investing topics and is meant for taxpayers no matter their income bracket, but in particular for high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs who own private corporations.

Mark Goodfield is a chartered accountant with over twenty five years of experience at four different firms.  He’s studied the science of taxation for a long time, and his unique perspective on investing and tax accounting transforms his posts into fascinating firsthand accounts of how tax affects people and business in Canada.
In his own bio on Blogger, Mark writes, I’m a sports fan, avid traveler, epicurean and accountant. I hope my blog can teach you a couple of things you didn’t know about building wealth and that you’ll indulge me as I wander into topics close to my heart / stomach.

It’s no coincidence the top book on his favourites lists is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.  Much like Howard Roark, the protagonist who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision, Mark Goodfield chooses to express his creativity in what most folks would consider a tedious niche. His uncompromising principles and attention to detail are obvious right in his very first post.

Mark started his blog in September 2010 with a first post entitled, Let’s See Where This Goes.  He described his background and his choice of the word ‘blunt’.  He writes, I am an accountant, but not a classic bean counter. I have tried to move away from being a bean counter every step of the way. I quickly switched from counting beans to calculating tax and then I happily became managing partner and moved into quarterbacking our clients’ wealth management advisors. But I can’t hide from it, I am an accountant.

How Mark Became A Chartered Accountant

In his own biography, Mark relates how it happened that …one summer in the late 1970’s I worked for my father, an accountant, to make money for a trip to Europe. To my father’s consternation (he was asked to try out for the Cleveland Indians but became an accountant instead due to family circumstances) I continued along the path of becoming a Chartered Accountant.

Along the way Mark moved from accounting to income tax. He transitioned from a Big 4 firm (PWC) to a boutique firm, to a two person partnership, and finally to Cunningham LLP North York accountants as the managing partner, and in charge of their Wealth Management division.

Mark Goodfield is not a greedy guy, just the opposite – he’s super generous with his time, information and money. He’s a Big Brother, and has acted on the Investment Committee for the Reena Foundation, and has been involved in the Make A Wish Foundation on a committee level, and as a wish grantor alongside his wife.  Together they intend to grant more wishes in the years to come.

What is a Tax Blog?

Mark Goodfield, Tax Expert, The Blunt Bean Counter is a Tax BlogMark’s most popular blog post is his piece on the Canada Revenue Agency CRA Audit- Will I Be Selected?

The Blunt Bean Counter answers common questions like How Long Do I have To Keep My Income Tax Records?

And the little-known benefits of filing income tax returns for your children.

He delves into education in At Least My Kid Does Not Go To School In The States.

And discusses David Trahair’s Smoke and Mirrors in which this DIY investing author and well known speaker debunks myths about retirement savings.

In the post entitled Taxing the family unit, Harper almost got it right Mark Goodfield compares Canadian and US taxation models. Its here in this post where he writes the line, …This sighting of a T5013, was rarer than sighting the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Good metaphor.

And of course this income tax blogger wrote a dissertation on both government’s fiscal preparations, the 2011 Ontario non budget and Finance Minister Joe Flaherty’s Budget or what Mark calls the Federal 2011 Yawn.

The Psychology of Money

As a chartered accountant, Mark deals on a daily basis with the tracking of money, saving money and the spending of money; he thus has a unique perch to observe human nature in respect to these activities.

Some of Mark’s best blogs relate to the psychology of money. In fact Rob Carrick of the Globe in Mail in his online Reader column has recommended several of Mark’s blog posts dealing with the psychology of money including: The Kid in the Candy Store: Human Nature, RRSP’s, Free Cash and the Holy Grail, Investment Bravado, Little White Lies and Why Kiss and Tell Investing can get you shot and One Big Happy Family- Until We Discuss the Will.

Investing in Stocks

Resverlogix Corp, As a CA Mark cannot provide investment advice, however, he openly discusses his investing mishaps and provides information on websites of interest for investors.

Mark is especially blunt when it comes to talking about investing; no little white lies are allowed on this subject.

Keeping the market interesting justifies our interest in it and, by extension, validates our collective social financial activity and identity. Not only do we need to like to feel good about ourselves, we would rather hear sketchy hyperbole from borderline sources than bad news from an honest one.

Mark wrote a heartfelt piece in which he described his experiences as an investor in Resverlogix, A Cautionary Tale. This piece was picked up as an article by the prestigious US website Seeking Alpha.

The Blunt Bean Counter is a valuable resource for all taxpayers, businessmen, entrepreneurs and investors. On many levels, this blog chronicles how taxation affects life in Canada.
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Michael Nus, Holy Trinity of Happiness

in Personal Blog, Scholar, SEO, Start-Ups, Toronto and Web Designer

blog banner, Michael Nus

Michael Nus in a grey suitMichael Nus is a bearded blogger with a big heart. Known as the gentleman blogger, his informative posts are chock full of philosophical meaning, commentary about staying classy, and SEO and Social Media advice. More than anyone else, Michael includes his friends and colleagues in his posts. He references the work of his contemporaries when recounting a previous night’s event or writing about the digital space. Familiarly referred to as “Nus” he blogs his crew’s collective memories of happenings in Toronto while always preserving a Holy Trinity of Happiness in his own life.

MICHAEL NUS, Holy Trinity of Happiness is all about keeping life in balance between three fundamentally different but important components – Love, Sustenance, and Expression/Creativity. (Please click the diagram below, it expands.) Social media marketers, PR professionals, and web marketing consultants that live by their wits, and work all hours of the day, could benefit from this handy life balance reference guide. Make no mistake Michael’s blog is about friends, marketing and tech events and group moments, but occasionally, now and then he’ll discuss how to enjoy life, and reference the Trinity chart below.

Michael Nus - Holy Trinity of HappinessA digital strategist, PR innovator, and experienced SEO/Web marketer, Michael Nus has been involved in social media since it was called “web 2.0.” Alumnus of the Columbia University Institute for Tele-Information, Michael co-edited a book about digital and physical distribution at the enterprise level by one of the world’s top experts on the subject. He has taken his journalism and tech background into the blogging world and the social web.

Michael has always been involved in social media marketing, but in his own words he says, “…it wasn’t until I met Mark Evans and Casie Stewart that I considered making personal blogging a habit to sharpen my skills in social media, marketing, SEO, PR, and coding even further. The notion was that anything I made that was my own I would naturally treat with care, so why not make my own blog?” Before that, here in Canada, he also worked for the BC Ministry of Education doing policy and data analysis and working on making information available to stakeholders across the province on the government’s digital entities. Projects like these furthered his nuanced education in marketing and strategy and he learned to be a proficient communicator in this space.

Michael Nus on Yonge St says 'Im not usually this creepy'. Michael finally pulled the trigger on starting his own blog after a cancer scare. He was online a lot back then, writing blogs for clients, and he decided that he wanted to share his own experiences with people. His approach is not to just report to his readers, but to bring them along with him through his realizations on his journey. Also, Michael doesn’t patronize people in his writing. He wants people to feel welcome to share his experiences. He expects folks to read his blog then interact with him on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and converse through comments.

Not surprisingly, the film Almost Famous is his favourite movie. He used to interview major musicians and he loved to create a friendly bond with them as the Music Editor for the Young People’s Press and various other music and entertainment publications. The plot of Almost Famous rang true to his own experiences in that part of his life. His favourite journalists are Lester Bangs, and Alan Cross. Remember Michael used to interview musicians, which is probably why he relates to both of these writers. His favourite book is ‘Still Life with Woodpecker’ by Tom Robbins. His favourite author is Hunter S Thompson.


Michael Nus - on Yonge St

Michael Nus shopping for vegetables for foodie blogToday he lives his life right out in the open for everyone to see and comment on. He’s definitely worth following as @MichaelNus on Twitter. People are going to be writing about him a lot more this summer due to a bold mobile web innovation that he’s debuting with his partner Chris Booker in June at Microsoft’s “Code your Art Out” competition as his first major entrepreneurial venture.

An active practitioner of strategic thought and what it means to the digital space, Michael optimizes value for the client.

Michael is organized and methodical, patient in sharing learnings in mentorship relationships teaching others to see what he sees. Extremely engaged in the digital community, he is currently establishing a panel of experts to create a universal definition of what a digital strategist does, how they do it and what their accountabilities are.

Michael’s dedication to the digital community continually grows high-level strategic thinking at both the micro and macro level by developing and executing programming. He’s also a capable speaker and has presented at Make Web Not War, Schulich School of Business, USguys, Social Media Week and many more. Michael is considered one of Toronto’s top 150 Twitter influencers, was the official blogger for Stella Artois during the TIFF, and has been featured in Rannie Turingan’s (@Photojunkie) 140characters.ca collection.

Michael Nus, 140 Characters event photography by Rannie Turrigan

Michael Nus’s own mixed blood comes from a rather exotic cultural background. His mom was born to Italian parents and taught him the value of independence. His father was a humble Hungarian and he inspired Michael to be an entrepreneur and do great things with his life before passing away in 2005. He feels like he’s on the path to greatness now, and that journey started with his father.

Michael majored in political science with a minor in criminology at the University of Victoria, and was creating web content as early as 2000 when he worked as Online News Editor for Metroland News Group during his studies at Seneca College in their Computer Technology program. Back then it wasn’t called blogging, rather journalists would submit their pieces and their content was subject to the pen of editors like Michael before being published online and in print.

Michael Nus on bass guitarWhile at Metroland, Michael encouraged writers to alternate between hard news style reporting and first person “Gonzo” journalism with a healthy dose of feedback from readers. This was something of a foreshadow before blogging appeared on the scene to usher in a new age of journalism where readers are just as involved in the news as the writer. When he’s not blogging or helping clients and friends with their SEO or digital strategy, Michael likes to relive his days as a rock singer in a touring band by putting paper to pen. He’s a lyricist/songwriter, karaoke junkie and a closet chef. You can search his blog for his foody forays into the culinary arts for bachelors in his NusGourmet section.

Torontoites will sometimes catch glimpses of Michael around town whether it be appearing on stage (Joey DeVilla’s blog) playing the electric guitar alongside Raymi the Minx on drums and Sean Ward on keyboards and vocals or co-organizing events like Tweetgasm, Star Wars Day or Movember fundraisers. Last fall he worked with Sean Moffitt on successfully executing Movember’s Toronto’s digital fundraising campaign in which played a part in helping Prostate Cancer Canada raise $20M for their cause! He plans to do it again this year and looks forward to the fun.

Michael Nus on Queen St W with mirrored sunglasses“Michael writes that the best thing about his blog is that it gives him a reason to be somewhere, to be expressive and make great memories at special events or even when casually lounging with friends. The greatest reward, above all else, according to him,  is when a reader tells him how much a post inspired them to do something positive. It’s for that reason that he strives to write quality content for his readers without exception.

Relatively new to Toronto and this city’s populated event blogger scene, Michael was quick to make friends. His frequent blogging, playful and curious nature, entrepreneurial spirit, and respect for his peers and readers has earned many thousands of tweets, retweets, trackbacks and other digital accolades. He makes a point of honouring his commitments and keeping his word. He muses that, “if people can’t count on you, how can you count on yourself? If you only do what’s good for you, you wouldn’t know what’s good for you.”

Stay tuned for a relaunch of MichaelNus.com and for the unveiling of his startup in June!

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Michelle Basic Hendry in Muskoka

in Muskoka, Ontario, Painter, Photography, Scholar and visual arts

Artscapes blog logo, Michelle Basic Hendry

Michelle Basic Hendry is an artist, painter and writer living in Central Ontario. She blogs her thoughts about her art and her life, and especially about the timeless beauty preserved in old buildings all over Muskoka. She shares stories of the structures and elements of her own life in many different ways. She writes articles and takes great digital pictures and even paints her stories in acrylic on canvas, and so of course her blog is fantastic.

Michelle Basic Hendry, a painter in Muskoka OntarioArtscapes Blog is a beautiful scrapbook of architectural art paintings and Canadian heritage information where Michelle Basic Hendry serves society by sharing her knowledge and ‘visions’ of Canadian artscapes. In this portal Michelle writes about the beauty of old buildings found around her central Ontario home.  The girl admits she has always been a doodler, and she loves a good story.  Years ago she got a degree in history and stayed passionate about old rural buildings and their stories. She writes that ‘buildings are characters of the landscape; they are a reflection of their builders and their times.’

While at university, Michelle spent a couple of summers wandering the landscape in search of old buildings for a local heritage group inventory and research project. It was a dream job. She could hardly believe she was being paid to do something she loved so much anyway.  She was hired as an artist and researcher and she had a sketchbook/notebook in the car and would quickly draw the houses and their locations for future research. The recession of the early nineties sapped a lot of government jobs and Michelle followed her skill and abilities as an artist into graphic design.

Michelle has been blogging for three years. Her website and blog are always evolving as she improves her skills using these new communication tools. Right now she’s moving her whole website to WordPress to lose the static HTML pages that comprise most of what isn’t the blog. Her website is always evolving, but this upgrade is the biggest technical innovation and style alteration in three years.

With a background in graphic design, Michelle is conscious of her personal brand. She knows the new site will be altering her brand slightly, and she writes ‘I’m hoping the new look will allow the real brand – the art – to show better, to be front and center, and the theme design to be very secondary.‘.

Yellow Door by Michelle Basic Hendry“With my background in history, I was compelled to find the families, the stories from the past and merge them with the present in my art.  The blog became the vehicle for putting the art with the stories. All this has led to an upcoming book sharing the paintings, the stories and the history of the places in my work  over the last three years – the culmination of my passions for art, writing, and history.” – Michelle Basic Hendry

Blogging has helped Michelle rediscover her love for writing and it has kept her more accountable to her paintings and photography. It has helped her track how she works, where she has been and what she has been focusing on. And so it acts as a life journal of sorts, allowing her to share the stories behind her works of art with her readers and collectors. The blog has been a key driver in traffic to her website and she has garnered a fair bit of media attention over the years because she makes it so easy for researchers and other writers and media makers to find her.

Selling her paintings online was not part of Michelle’s original plan, but in the last three years she has made several sales and met great buyers and through her website and other online contacts she has met all manner of art patrons. She plans on increasing the online store portion of her website in the near future.

Lavendar by Michelle Basic Hendry in Muskoka

Readers that would like to explore the works of Michelle Basic Hendry, should investigate some of the following outstanding posts. Marvel at her photos and paintings of the Vanomi Hotel, now called the Sparrow Beach Lodge, a privately owned 100 year old resort that has only recently closed its doors.

She wrote about her time spent visting Uffington Muskoka and strikes a great balance of hero driven story mixed with art and history. Its wonderful writing that details Pete Marchildon and Judy Veitch, the new owners of the Fleger House and their historic property.

a painting by Michelle Basic Hednry called Waiting - Red ChairA natural storyteller, her piece waiting – red chair plants ideas about an old woman who spent her last days waiting…

Blogging isn’t for every artist. The most important thing you can do is create. But if you do enjoy writing or want to keep a relatively consistent public journal of what inspires you, a blog can be an invaluable tool. Plus it helps others get to know who you are as an artist, and learn about your work. It can be a powerful connection to your collectors, and help you in find your own voice. – Michelle Basic Hendry

Michelle’s blog is already very popular, and some of her posts garner over twenty comments from readers, which is the true mark of a popular and valuable blog. In sitting perfectly still in a canoe she’s discovering landscapes and her text gets mystical as she writes the inspiration, “An excellent photographer or an artist, or a writer or a musician occupies a state of complete presence when they are working on their art. Great art is more than an experience – it is a feeling that engages another sense apart from the one for which it seems designed to communicate.”

In her post Reflections on How We See , I learned something about Eckhart Tolle and something about myself.  Michelle wrote, ‘Buddhists and a number of authors including Eckhart Tolle suggest that peace and happiness are found through living in the moment and the resistance to judgment. We are trained from the moment we leave the womb to pass judgments. We experience the word ‘No’ for excellent reasons and some less valid. This is hot or cold, safe or dangerous, good or bad. When we are so well conditioned, it is no wonder we look to the few who seem to escape its grasp – to whom the world appears less black and white

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Photo Finishes from Cobourg Ontario

in Canadian pop culture, niche blogs, Ontario, Photography, Scholar, Teacher, testing, Toronto, Tourism, visual arts and Web Designer

Picks of Canada, picks of images,

Jacques Surveyer is a writer, a web developer, and a very passionate photographer that lives and works in Cobourg Ontario. Years ago he studied photography at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto before getting an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) from the University of Western Ontario. With this background he found that blogging allowed him to ‘indulge his avocations’ while helping with his consulting business. Jacques is a skilled multimedia magician with a good head for business.

Photo Finishes / Picture That along with TheOpenSourcery.com are two very different tips and tutorials blogs that offer tactics and product reviews for graphics and multimedia processing people. These sites are core to Jacques portfolio as a developer, and they demonstrate to potential customers his expertise in many diverse programming and photo finishing subjects.

Jacques SurveyorOver time Jacques’ two original blogging websites have expanded into ten different blogs. He uses free blog web hosting sites to create multiple presences for specialized tasks. For example JavaScriptures is dedicated to some of the more interesting developments in JavaScript, as applied to lean manufacturing which is serious process to which he jokingly describes Java as the ‘gets-no-respect-like-Rodney_Dangerfield’ programming language.

About ten years ago Jacques Surveyer started blogging on a website platform that he made himself. He built his own blog from the ground up, and people did come, but more people came after he switched over to WordPress.

“WordPress with themes, plugins and a WYSIWYG editor was a vast improvement over my own homemade CMS.”

After six or more years, Jacques is still a WordPress devotee, even though he’s used Drupal and Joomla and has built projects for clients using both programming languages. But he’s quick to reason, “WordPress has stayed ahead of the curve with widgets, jQuery support, and automated updates of not just themes and plugins but also the blog engine itself”.  Jacques did all of society a favour when he weighed in on the classic debate, which is the best open source platform, Drupal, Joomla or WordPress? and in that post it becomes real clear that WordPress is this craftsman’s preferred software.

Jacques loves to take pictures and gradually his interest spread out into photography and travel destination review blogs. He created PixofDetroit, PixofToronto, and PixofCanada to host the photos and stories of his adventures abroad. Later he added commentary blogs like Takethe5th.com and Bookraft.com (his only active Drupal blog) so he could properly articulate his thoughts on government and society.

Then blogs started appearing all over the place. JavaScriptures and NearlyFreeWebsites are two examples which take advantage of nearly free blog software.  Consulting work and help for friends resulted in two gallery sites – ARTSurveyer.com and NeelsPlace.com which are efforts using Gallery blog software and Joomla respectively.

“As Free blog/CMS software has improved I have switched from doing custom websites over to using free blogs like Joomla and WordPress, Weebly and Wix for my nearly cost free blogging and broader web development work.”

Jacques Surveyer prevented from taking pictures of volleyball game on cobourg beach

Jacques’ popular PhotoFinishes blog dips into the political space too. Last summer the intrepid explorer wrote a terrific piece about how the officials at a beach volleyball tournament in Cobourg successfully prevented him from taking pictures of the participants in action, despite the fact that it was public space, with no photography ban signage posted, and no advertisements or precedents prohibiting photography are known.  According to Jacques in this article, the same thing happened at the Royal Winter Fair to his friend a year earlier.

When asked what he likes most about being a blogger, Jacques Surveyer admits that he covets traffic and feels rewarded when his sites grow popular. He recounts with satisfaction the time when his post on KeepanOpenEye debunked Steve Jobs contentions that Flash was slow and buggy, and received over 30,000 visits in one day – that was very gratifying. Also, the Fall Drizzle story on PixOfCanada which visualized the autumn colors in Ontario took in over 75,000 visits in the last months of 2010. To see a pictoral story getting that much attention was also very satisfying for this webmaster.

Jacques Surveyer, yellow leaf road, pixofcanada

Blogging has been good to Jacques, because he’s a new breed of storyteller, a free thinker with real knowledge to communicate.  When I asked him if he’d  do anything different a second tine, he noted that he wished he’d switched to open source or free blog software sooner, and he wished he had taken the time to improve his JavaScript skills earlier. “Skills in JavaScript and CSS make such a difference in the proper styling of a blog.”

This Cobourg Ontario blogger just loves being creative, inventory management and building platforms that push the envelope of the technology.  “The revenues are enough to pay the freight but not much more. But telling photo tales and being able to add my two cents on Toronto, or World scene is both fun and soothing to the spirit.”

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Fredericks Artworks is a Canadian Art Blog

in Culture Blogger, niche blogs, Scholar and visual arts

Fredericks Artworks bannerFrederick winston of Fredericks ArtworksFrederick Winston is a Canadian painter, and his blog celebrates his own passion for the visual arts in Canada. By documenting great art, and detailing little known artists, he gives Canadians a beautifully painted perspective on their own cultural identity.

FREDERICKS ARTWORKS is a veritable volcano of historically responsible, easy-to-read content that’s firmly centered on the visual arts. It’s an online periodical that reviews paintings and the people who painted them, yesterday and today. It’s very frequently updated, and there’s even sidebar text informing readers of when to expect future posts! Frederick, like so many other personal bloggers, feels guilt and angst inside what he perceives is an overwhelming obligation to an invisible audience. He doesn’t want to let his readers down, but will he burn out if he keeps up this pace?

Ladies Tea, a painting by Frederick WinstonOut in front of the curtains, Fredericks Artworks has certainly become a very valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of Canadian art or insights into exhibiting art in this country. The blogspot is part history, part biography and a big part reflection that includes unique social commentary. Reading this material everyday is very healthy for painters, and anyone passionate about supporting the arts and promoting Canadian cultural values.

A look back through the archives reveals many thought provoking glimpses into the nooks and crannies of making art as a business in Canada. Frederick praises small town art galleries, and reviews festivals and visits friends with whom he paints and describes the places at which they glimpse unusual landscapes and why they choose one particular venue over another. It’s truly fascinating stuff.

Bruno Cote, blog bruno cote Soleil Couchant sur la TaigaThe artist biographies and Fred’s presentation of other artists’ works are both well researched and focused on the market. There is some borrowing of public information from sources such as the CBC, the NFB, Wikipedia and You Tube, but whenever possible the author attempts to personalize the text with special insights, unusual facts and personal anecdotes. Frederick likes to write about painters from the early 1800s, and the early nineteen hundreds; its truly remarkable is how well these historic biographies juxtapose his critiques and reviews of contemporary artists, including many fresh young faces still studying art in Toronto and Montreal.

Frederick has no agenda. For the first few years he wouldn’t even show his own paintings on his blog. And he doesn’t ever want to be appear political or even opinionated. If there’s even a hint of controversy he runs away – for example when his piece about Norval Morriseau spawned some spurious comments, he apologized and then deleted the whole post. Ha ha!

St Martins, a painting by Ken TobiasSome of Frederick’s best work includes critiques or studies of certain pictures, such as Robert Harris’s A Meeting of the School Trustees, June 1, 2010, and Prudence Heward’s ‘Sisters of Rural Quebec,’. Recently Frederick had creative exchanges with singer, songwriter Ken Tobias after doing a search on him in which he discovered that this musician is also an impressive painter. Frederick communicated with Ken and shared a personal story about how Ken’s song, Dream Two impacted his life. Later it gave the art blogger a lot of satisfaction to write a positive critique of Ken’s art,

Here’s a bit of what Frederick had to say about Ken’s painting, St Martin (above), This delightful landscape work by Ken Tobias, creates a sense of solitude. The picture covers such a vast panorama of sea and distant land that I cannot help but feel a sense of diminution. The recognition of one’s finiteness against the vastness of earth and sky creates for me a sense of awe at the beauty of the earth.

Frederick’s journey into blogging came from traveling several routes on his path as a writer, and an artist.

Way back when he graduated university with a degree in English and for many years in one vocation or another he produced hard copy newsletters. One publication was an award winner, and so he was published in trade magazines before he became a painter, later in life. The evolution into blogging seemed natural, and his computer literacy and digital photography skills have also improved in accordance with the ardours of the new publishing medium.

Frederick writes, …The problem with writing articles and producing newsletters and blogs is that you pretty much work in a vacuum. After my first year of producing daily blog entries I went through a process of re-evaluation. Even though the blog is ticking along with a healthy readership, a very small percentage of people comment on my postings. So few that sometimes it seems that what I work to produce has little value. One weekend, I was sitting at my art display in a nearby village and someone walked up to me, and said “Hi Fredericks, I enjoy reading your blog.” I was stunned. I told him that I was thinking of putting it to bed and his response was, “No…don’t…I read it every day.”

Art festival in Quebec, fine art, paintings for sale, montreal

Frederick has discovered readers in other artists, art schools, art galleries and among Canadian media and the communication industry in general.

When asked why people read his blog, Frederick Winston replies,

Because I paint, the blog reflects my love of the visual arts in Canada. My blog is unique because I give artists an opportunity of telling their story to Canadians, and the opportunity of sharing special events in their lives and presenting their works. Beneath it all, I strive to present, through art, the way Canadians see our country. Art tells the story of who we are and that story takes us into all parts of Canada, from the art of our Native brothers, into the forest and prairies and coasts of Canada and into our largest urban centers. It also takes us for a walk through time from the recordings of English military officers in watercolours, to the abstractionists of the 20th century, and we see it all through our rich diversity of the visual media.

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Weighty Matters in Ottawa

in Activism, food blog, niche blogs, Ontario and Scholar

Dr Yoni Freedhoff of Weighty MattersDr. Yoni Freedhoff is a 38-year-old married father of three that loves to read books, watch TV and BBQ meals at home.  Yoni is passionate about a lot of things in life, most notably martial arts, hiking and single malt scotch.  He also really enjoys being a medical doctor with a family practice in southwest Ottawa, and he’s addicted to blogging.

Dr. Freedhoff started blogging in December 2005 to give his patients more exposure to medical information about weight loss, proper dieting, and exercise training. Since that time, his web journal has matured into a fountain of first rate nutritional advocacy, and a powerful truth beacon; today Weighty Matters shines a bright light on the soft underbelly of Big Food.

Weighty Matters is an award winning health and science blog that currently ranks among the world’s top health blogs. The domain has been profiled in newspapers, and on television shows across the country, and Yoni Freedhoff even spoke to The House Standing Committee on Health in Parliament in December 2006.

Yoni jogs in the Try a Tri Challenge in OttawaYoni is a health nut that loves being outside and trekking in nature. He once hiked from Switzerland to Liechtenstein across the Alps without taking a single bus or car along the way.  So it should come as no surprise that he now has a triathlon named after him in Ottawa; the Dr. Freedhoff Try a Tri Challenge (100m swim – 11.4km cycle – 2km run) event is for anyone who wants to do a short triathlon, and is well suited for beginners and young participants.

Yoni is a trust agent debunking the food industry and his growing popularity is certainly well reflected in the views, comments, retweets and trackbacks that Weighty Matters accrues with every post.  His expert information is rare and precious, and he really is perhaps one of the most important bloggers of our time because his message is so unique.

Sweetners in Weighty MattersStated formally on the bottom of his sidebar, his blog’s mandate is ‘to provide readers with critical appraisals of nutrition and weight related claims, products and policies so as to allow readers to make more informed decisions in those areas.’

The good doctor uses his growing authority to highlight backward government policies that cater more to well funded food industry lobbyists than on budget health industry advocates. Yoni likes to tell the truth around nutrition and weight management and isn’t scared of torching the merchandisers, marketing executives and government ministers that mislead Canadians so they can sell more breakfast cereal, or put more artificial sweeteners in their  ‘health snacks’.

“It’s definitely reader-beware out there. Mom bloggers getting trips paid for by the products they promote, health bloggers with no actual background or training, illness bloggers who rely on their own personal experiences to extrapolate to the disease as a whole. It’s tough finding reputable sources.”

Weighty Matters reads like a gossip magazine of food industry cover-ups, lies and licentious behavior.  Every post is a potential scandal that should get somebody fired.  Right now March 2010 a number of recent posts prosecute the claims of Saralee, Frito Lay, and catch Del Monte hiding sugar behind the word fruit concentrate in so-called fruit snacks aimed at children that have more sugar than Twizzlers and worse still, have earned the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s seal of approval in the form of their Health Check.

CBC Kids morning sponsored by Kelloggs - screengrab image copied from weightymatters.ca

Yoni remarks on how Kelloggs appears a featured sponsor on the CBC Kid’s website and includes CBC staff official reaction to his blog post and their denials that ‘Eggo’ was introduced into a recent script as surreptitious product placement for Kelloggs sponsor.  Good catch – who else do we have in Canada that is watching this stuff, and keeping an eye on these guys?

While Yoni goes after a great many people and policies, the two that he has hit the hardest are likely the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check which he calls a “misinformation program”, and Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating which he feels is better described as, “Canada’s Food Guide to Unhealthy Eating”.

10 potentially fatal, yet still approved by Health Canada “natural” weight loss products

Registered dietician on how Food Guide “servings” are stupid

Why Health Check’s serving sizes are inexcusable

Breaking News: Official Health Check endorsement of Pizza Hut

Overweight Canadian kids not eating enough according to Canada’s Food Guide

There is very little doubt that weight and diet related illness together are now the number one preventable cause of death in Canada.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is the founder of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute, which is a multi-disciplinary, ethical, evidence-based nutrition and weight management centre. He writes in his blog profile ‘Nowadays I’m more likely to stop drugs than start them, and love going to work in the morning.’ Yoni is referring to how as a medical doctor he once prescribed pills, but now seeks other more natural solutions.  I like how he combines the two ideas in his biography, taking drugs to go to work. That’s because such a large percentage of people do take drugs to go to work these days, and if you consider caffeine or nicotine to be drugs then the percentage is very high indeed.

“The studies on medical information and the web to date have been frightening with the vast majority of sites providing false and sometimes even harmful information.  It’s tough too when you see a patient who’s educated themselves from some of the more questionable sites (which in turn are often quite compellingly written) and they don’t want to hear your opinion.  Certainly it provides another degree of difficulty in effectively counselling patients.

Dr Yoni Freedhoff at home on the couch updating his blog March 10th 2010All in all I’m living a far more interesting, exciting and richer life than I had ever expected, and it’s not a stretch to say that much of that reward has come as a consequence of my tiny, little blog.”   Dr Yoni Freedhoff, March 5th 2010

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Elfshot Sticks and Stones in St Johns

in Newfoundland, Scholar and St Johns

Elfshot Sticks and Stones blog banner
Tim Rast of Elfshot: Sticks and StonesTim Rast is a thirty four year old archaeologist and ‘flintknapper’ from St Johns Newfoundland that blogs bits of his daily business into beautiful bundles of archeological ‘infotainment’. He details himself and his existence by relating anecdotes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  His canny observations and candor make his writing as fascinating as his scholarly career.

Elfshot: Sticks and Stones chronicles the existence of a 21st century flintknapper, a man who makes stone arrowheads for a living.  Many hundreds of years ago this skill was in high demand, and so too were the handcrafted points on the arrows made by the Maritime Archaic Indians, the Groswater and Dorset Palaeoeskimo and the Newfoundland Recent Indians.  But those days are long past, and now the market has dried up.  Only a very few exceptional humans eek out a living as flintknappers today.

Knapping (def.): Knapping is the shaping of flint, chert, obsidian or other stone through the process of lithic reduction to manufacture stone tools, strikers for flintlock firearms, or to produce flat-faced stones for building or facing walls, and flushwork decoration.

Is it a coincidence that Tim’s Elfshot Gallery enterprise uses the same font as Flintknappers.com? There is some connection here although Tim doesn’t maintain a profile on this infamous flintknappers site, he must count the domain as an influence on his own Elfshot gallery creation.

Tim Rast is a great writer that’s just masquerading as an archeology blogger.  His September 25th 2009 post, I grew Up in Vulcan was my first taste of his work. After the first two paragraphs I was hooked, and I spent the rest of that day reading his prose.  His writing reminds me of James Michener ( esp the novel Centennial)  and I personally love Tim’s easy going attitude; in another recent post he describes how his car was broken into, and his parking change stolen, but his CDs were still in the glove box. “I guess thieves don’t steal CDs anymore” In the same piece of writing he goes on to relate other details of his day, and the tragedy of his tarnished automobile is soon forgotten. The robbery was inconsequential as indeed it would be to someone with such passion for creating things.

You can tell by his diction and references that this blogger is well read, and has a good education.  More research reveals that Tim earned his Bachelor of Science in Archaeology at the University of Calgary in 1996, and followed that with a Masters Degree in Anthropology from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1999. Currently he volunteers with the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador and sits on the Board.  Despite all his schooling and exposure to blogs in academia, it was influences in this arts council that finally put him to blogging.

Eldshot: Sticks and Stones

“…at the time I was on the executive with the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador and we had hired an Internet consultant to help us with the web presence of the Craft Council and its members. Blogging emerged from that process as a quick easy way to manage all of the various online content related to a craftsperson’s career. I went home after a particularly inspirational meeting with the consultant Wilma Hartmann and started a blog.”

Tim Rast has been actively blogging ever since, using the blogspot platform as a companion for his Elshot.com information and photo gallery. This is smart combination, and so is the author’s approach to the discipline; Tim is a jogger, and a blogger. He schedules running and blogging in equal portions in his weekly routine; one exercises his body and the other works muscles in his brain. Tim ran his 1st 10-mile road race this July, and he’ll be participating in the St John’s Run For the Cure on  Oct 4th. He’ll be blogging about it on the 5th.

Elfshot: Sticks and Stones helps Tim promote his work and create an online portfolio of past projects. He writes that, “A lot of what I do when I’m working on an artifact reproduction is trial and error, and so the blog is one way of keeping a record of what works and what doesn’t work.”. He confirms that “Blogging is a great way to generate fresh content and keep people informed on what’s going on with my business.”

“Sometimes I have difficulty explaining what I do, but blogging gives me an opportunity to show and tell people how I make a living.”

As an undergraduate at the University of Calgary, Tim had the opportunity to work in some of Canada’s most northern archeological sites, and he found the experience “life changing”. He writes, “The archaeology of the North is phenomenal. People have been doing so much more there than just surviving for thousands of years. The artistic details and skill that went into crafting everyday objects is awe-inspiring.”

When I asked him to select his favourite posts, he replied with five links; “I like this one about Dorset Palaeoeskimo knives as it’s a pretty good little snapshot of what the site is, and what Elfshot is all about. It brings archaeology, craft, and the Arctic all together, with a pinch of polar bears.”

Elfshot Sticks and Stones Tim Rast and Lori“The patinating copper post is one that I’m fond of and it gets a lot of traffic. Its a fun bit of household chemistry that’s useful to me for the sort of artifact reproduction work that I do and evidently other people are interested in how to turn copper green.”

“Lori’s posts are always popular. Here’s one from her birthday that describes Lori’s awesome powers over seals.”

“The first post about the Tuktut Nogait bow that I’m working on for Parks Canada (and myself) is a current favourite. It’s exactly the sort of work that I love doing, and at the same time I had family visiting and they were able to participate. It’s so hard to describe to my family what I do and on this particular day I think they really understood how I make a living.”

The Ioffe Site post is about an archaeology site that we found while I was working as a resource archaeologist for an Adventure Canada cruise last fall. I have such fond memories of that trip and this was a post that I put together for everyone I traveled with.”

“In June, I helped out with a short documentary on one of Newfoundland’s most amazing archaeological sites. It was a unique experience and it’s of interest here because I was contacted for the work by a film maker who knew I could talk about stone tools because he was following my blog.”

But blogging has gotten Tim into trouble too…

“In one instance, in the middle of an unrelated post, I spoke a little too openly about some of the details of our mortgage refinancing. My lawyer (who is also a friend who reads the blog) advised me to be cautious about that sort of thing. That’s the only time I edited a blog post for a reason other than spelling or grammar. Personally, I think its kind of cool that I had to remove something on advice from my lawyer – it makes me feel like Hunter Thompson, but Lori doesn’t like that I draw any attention to it at all.”

And, “then there was also the one where I talked about Lori’s dad taking a pressure washer to his truck engine. Lori didn’t like that it made her dad look like a goof and there were some awkward moments with her mom, because she wasn’t supposed to know that the reason the truck was in the garage for a week might have been her husband’s fault.

Tim Rast of Elfshot: Sticks and StonesThe Elfshot: Sticks and Stones author, Tim Rast  in his own words writes, “I’m especially interested in the people who lived in the Arctic before the Inuit arrived. The Inuit called them Tunit and archaeologists call them Palaeoeskimos.  The arctic environment acts as a natural freeze-dryer so we can find the most delicate organic artifacts perfectly preserved. In so many other parts of Canada, the only artifacts that survive are stone. But a stone knife or arrowhead is only one part of a bigger tool. There would have been wood and sinew and feather and pigments that have all vanished over time. In the Arctic, those materials are frequently preserved so you get to see complete objects from remote hunter-gatherers who lived a life that’s almost completely unimaginable to most of us today.”

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Phronk in London Ontario

in movie reviews, Ontario, Scholar and Web Designer

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Phronk is an innovator and has been since June 2000.  He’s friends with Dead Robot, Mod Superstar and Raymi the Minx; these four bloggers are the Southern Ontario social club. They link to each other in their blogrolls, and comment on each other’s posts, and share unflattering pictures of Stephen Harper…

But Phronk has the most colourful and compelling voice. His blog is surprisingly original, and very readable, and most of the art on display is his own. It’s true Raymi and Dead Robot sometimes borrow his artwork to spice up their posts.

Mike PhronkPhronk writes this about himself,  “I’m a guy who lives in London, Ontario, doing various things, such as going to school (I’m a graduate student in psychology), going to work (I teach people and do science) and many other things. I really enjoy doing activities that are fun and eating things that taste good. I have a wonderful family, friends, and a dog. Bees make me nervous. That’s all there is to me.”

Actually there’s a whole lot more to Phronk than that. A quick scan of his domain shows that he has boundless passion in multiple genres. For example,  last fall he detailed the London Zombie Walk and his comment box was full after profiling the most listened to albums of 2008,

Google superconductorPhronk.com is good for funny cat photos, and ‘ugly cakes’ especially ‘toilet cakes’ which are edible cakes shaped like toilets (with yellow jello and candy bars in the center). And let’s not forget about the vanilla chocolate cake that looks like overflowing cat litter boxes (my personal favourite).

Phronk documents lobster flavoured potato chips and good Google daily logos, exceptional movies that went straight to video, or straight to awesome as he puts it,  and look at this early masterpiece Halifax Holiday photo post. Here he writes, ‘I snap a random vacation picture, post it on my blog, and one of the people in the picture manages to find it. It’s made even more incredible by the fact that everyone involved is as anonymous as can be.’

You get the feeling he’s just goofing around, but writers know its a lot of hard work. Pretty much everyday this author explores something new. Most frequent topics include “life, music, movies, TV, psychology, philosophy, science, parapsychology, skepticism, technology, video games, horror, books, writing, news, stupid internet stuff, and whatever else comes into my head. It’s all pretty self-indulgent, really.” 

There’s a lot of Phronk to read – visitors should journey back to the year 2000 just to see how it all began. Phronk artAfter a post listing his favourite movies, and another promising to make his new blog the repository for all his best stories, readers are treated to a very unusual sasquatch thriller wherein the monster appears on the highway and rear ends the car Phronk is test driving with a car salesman…

Some final wisdom from Phronk:

Contemporaneously should not be a real word.

Only semi-retarded emo kids post their crappy art to their blogs. Do you like the art? Check out Phronk’s scrapbook, phronk.tumblr.com

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Ghost of a Flea in Toronto

in Ontario, Scholar and Toronto

Ghost of a Flea banner

Nicholas Packwood writes blog candy. His text is hard boiled sugar that’s packed with cool pictures and compelling captions; his blog posts are short and sweet and super readable.

Ghost of a Flea jumbleGhost of a Flea is politics and pop culture from Packwood’s perspective. He’s very opinionated, and one of the few anti-Obama bloggers left on the internet. Could his peculiar flavour be distilled from knowledge acquired by reading and writing and finally teaching anthropology and religious studies? Ghost of Flea aims to address contemporary themes inside a ‘ghostly’ anthropological context. First published in 2002, this blog has had some moments in the sun.

“From Canadian blogger Nicholas Packwood comes Ghost of a Flea, a blog with an eye on international opinion of the war” – USA Today

Nicholas Packwood considers himself to be more of a “thinker than a linker”, but because of time constraints he sometimes can only point readers in the direction of something he finds interesting. It could be arts or science, literature or old movies, or the latest breakthrough in geothermal floor heating systems. His passion is his remedy for boredom.

Ghost of a Flea cross statuePackwood writes, “Blogging allows me to express my opinions more constructively than by throwing things at the television. Occasionally, blogging also allows me to feel as though my opinion is being considered in the wider conversations of the day. [It] also reassures me every day that I am not alone in my questions and concerns; there is an enormous comfort and support knowing I am not the only person whose television has been saved by this new medium.”

Ghost of a Flea is an interesting blog by an interesting person. In addition to teaching anthropology and communications to undergraduates, Nicolas is undertaking a doctorate in social anthropology, and is also a student in a recording arts program office phone system someday hopes to work in audio mixing and production. You can catch Nicholas Packwood performing his own “dark ambient and industrial music in Toronto clubs, usually of the gothic variety”.

Ghost of a Flea at MyspaceDuring the US elections, Nicholas preserved his blog’s political theme, and smeared all of the candidates, but mostly Obama. A prime example is Please Connect The Dots. But he understands readers can only take so much rhetoric, so he seems to alter and adjust the percentage of political opinion… On October 30th (which is ALMOST Halloween) Nicholas used Ghost of a Flea to promote Devil’s Night at The Savage Garden, a quintessential Goth club in Toronto. His post Dark Times Demand Dark Music is primed with a photo of Lena Headey.

Ghost of a Flea is concocted to entertain readers, and Nicholas is satisfied with that easy market. He writes, In many ways this is more important to me than if I have managed to convince anybody of anything by the writing, let alone whether we find in time that we disagree about most things.

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