January 18, 2015

April 8, 2013

  • 12 Possible Mad Men Endings

    The sixth and final season of Mad Men has started and it’s got me wondering about how the series will end. Here are a few possible ways I can imagine the writers wrapping everything up for Don.

    1. Sally Draper follows in her father’s footsteps, becoming a partner at the firm, just as Roger Stirling followed his father. She’s hard drinking, philandering and brilliant — just like her dad.
    2. Baby Gene discovers Don’s secret and decides to change his name… to Marilyn Manson.
    3. A decrepit and abandoned Don suffers from Alzheimer’s and can’t remember ever being Don Draper. He keeps asking for someone named Adam.
    4. The final scene shows us a now retired Don Draper walking to a breakfast reception for the firms old partners at the firm’s new office. We see him meeting all the cast members as he checks details on the invitation. We zoom in and see the invite is for 8:30AM on the 47th floor of 1 World Trade Center. The date is September 11th, 2001. The camera tracks up towards the clear blue sky and fades to black as we hear air traffic control chatter.
    5. Don witnesses the fall of Saigon and is astonished when a young Captain named Richard Whitman dies in his arms. He realizes this fate telling him to return to old life, and he does.
    6. Glen gets Sally pregnant.
    7. Glen gets Betty pregnant.
    8. While celebrating his involvement in the faking of the moon landing, Don sees two CIA agents walking slowly towards him and realizes this is not only his greatest marketing coup, it is his last.
    9. Don worries about having missed the boat on the Internet boom and decides to invest his life savings in a new start-up called… pets.com.
    10. Don wins the Quanta Airline account and, after visiting their head offices, looks forward to seeing his fourth wife when his flight — Oceanic 815 — finally lands.
    11. Don, Betty, Sally and Bobby meet in a New Jersey diner for a happy family reunion to celebrate having put their difference behind them. From a jukebox we hear Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” begin to play.
    12. Pam Ewing wakes and, hearing the water running, goes into the bathroom and finds her husband Bobby in the shower. Everything in Mad Men was a dream.

    How do you think the show will end? With a bang, or with a whimper?

January 5, 2013

August 25, 2012

  • The True Story of “One Small Step”

    With today’s sad news that Neil Armstrong has died, all the participants in this story are gone and the truth can be revealed.

    Armstrong didn’t actually say “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. He said, “this is one small step for man, one giant leap for Manny Klein”.

    See when Neil was 12 he was playing ball with some friends and the ball fouled off into the yard of Manny and Esther Klein who lived next door to the Armstrongs.

    As he was digging for the ball in the shrubs under the Klein’s bedroom window young Neil heard Mr. Klein pleading with his wife to give him a blow job. Mrs. Klein replied to Manny, “the day I give you a blow job is the day that brat next door lands on the moon.”

January 22, 2012

  • The Schafer Tax Plan

    Reading Fred Wilson’s post about tax rates made me want to share my (incomplete) thoughts on taxation.

    I’d like to see a Flat Tax on income with only a few tweaks to remove some of the inherent unfairness in that approach. I’m not sure if this is a model already proposed by someone else so I’ll immodestly call it the Schafer Tax Plan until I’m (inevitably) told this is not an original idea.

    My goal here is to increase transparency, simplicity, compliance and fairness. I’d love to hear thoughts on ways those goals are not met with these proposals as well as suggestions on increasing them beyond what I’m proposing here.

    Of course this is a “Clean Slate” approach to taxation. Other than starting a new country and applying these concepts I have no idea how this would implemented without financial chaos ensuing during the transition. Would a “big bang” approach (“everything changes January 1 2015”) be possible?

    The Schafer Tax Plan

    1. No corporate taxes.

    Corporations aren’t people. Tax the companies’ shareholders as they earn income from their investments.

    2. No sales, consumption or usage taxes.

    These are all mechanisms of double taxation that obscure the taxation rate by hiding it in purchases of goods and services. This process also adds massive complexity to commerce and tax collection.

    3. No welfare, child tax credits or old age security.

    Don’t worry, I’ll deal with this in point nine below.

    4. You are an individual if you are alive during a year.

    Yes I’m radically suggesting that babies and old people are individuals for tax purposes. I’m not sure how to deal with cross-border income or transnational individuals.

    5. A flat income tax of x percent on all individual’s income without regard to source or amount.

    This becomes the only tax the government can collect.

    I have no idea what “x” might be. Ideally we’d equal current tax the government collects less the savings from shuttering almost all of the income tax collection function of the government.

    6. Income tax is deducted at source.

    Income seems to be the easiest thing to tax other than consumption which I feel is regressive, complex and has compliance issues.

    7. There are huge financial penalties for incorrect source deductions.

    Compliance could be a big issue once taxes are collected through a single channel so a “big stick” is needed.

    8. Individuals are not required to file tax returns.

    The government already has your money. There is no need to report anything.

    9. Individuals with annual income below y dollars may apply for a Cost of Living Credit if they wish.

    This becomes the only means of redistribution of income to the needy.

    I have no ideas what “y” would be. It would be nice if we could bring every individual above the poverty line with this credit. Not sure that is a good or reasonable idea. I’m also not sure how to deal with the credit coming after people need it (assuming you’d apply for the credit annually you’d only start getting the credits after your year of hardship).

    Babies and old people can apply for this too. That ideally gets rid of the need for child tax credits or social security.

    One potential downside is that this might make having babies economically advantageous. I tried to avoid having any concept of “family” in this approach. Maybe individuals under 18 get a different type of cost of living credit. This also means the kids of rich parents would get the Cost of Living Credit which doesn’t seem quite right.

January 2, 2012

December 28, 2011

  • Movies I Can Watch Over And Over

    Lucy and I were watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” tonight and we started talking about movies we were happy to watch repeatedly. Here’s a quick list I made.

    • (500) Days of Summer
    • 24 Hour Party People
    • A Simple Plan
    • Almost Famous
    • American Graffiti
    • Anchorman
    • Back To The Future
    • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
    • Die Hard
    • Do The Right Thing
    • Elf
    • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
    • Fight Club
    • Goodfellas
    • Groundhog’s Day
    • High Fidelity
    • Monty Python & The Holy Grail
    • Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
    • Out of Sight
    • Pulp Fiction
    • Rushmore
    • School of Rock
    • Stop Making Sense
    • The Big Lebowski
    • Wizard of Oz
    • Zoolander

    What movies do you watch whenever you get a chance? Any idea why some movies bear up to — or improve with — repeated viewings?

November 19, 2011

  • You Are A User

    There is an old saying, meant to shame those of us working on websites into acknowledging that we really don’t care about other human beings.

    “The only two industries that call their customers “users” are software developers and drug dealers.”

    This raises the question of what the appropriate collective noun is for a group of people who visit and interact with a website. If not “Users” then what?

    The most common alternative to “Users” is “Visitor”. That’s a bit more promising as to be at your site they had to visit it in a metaphorical sense, but “Visitors” is, for me at least, too passive. It has a “take it or leave it” feel to it. Is someone who relies on your site as a part of their life and who might use it multiple times a day really a “visitor”? This to me diminishes the importance of the person using your site.

    I want to think of you as much more than a passing ship in the night, so I reject visitors for general use.

    The saying suggests we call them “Customers”, but this seems problematic to me for two reasons.

    Many people using websites aren’t actually customers. Most sites aren’t even looking for customers. You are not a customer of my blog for example. Calling people who visit my blog “Customers” just seems wrong. Even if you do have paying customers, you still have to build your site to deal with non-customers such as prospective customers, job hunters, or teens looking to a school report on your industry.

    I therefore reject “Customers” as too narrow a view of who might use your site.

    Interestingly enough I also reject “Customers” as too broad.

    There is a movement to replace “Consumers” and “Users” with “Customers”. But people aren’t generally “Customers” except in the context of a commercial interaction. Yes I accept that my Acura dealer thinks of me as their customer and I appreciate them treating me well as their customer. But after the few days of interaction with them as a customer, what I really want is a car that is designed for “Drivers”. You might be a customer of Williams-Sonoma but you are a “Baker”. You are Amazon’s customer but you are a “Reader”.

    If I was designing the Acura or Williams-Sonoma sites I’d definitely want my team thinking about Customer Experience, but I’d also want them very aware that the people using the site are Drivers and Bakers.

    So what do people do on a site. They use it. The person using your site might be a a baker, or a driver, or a student, or a job hunter or they may idly followed a link to you and think of themselves as just visiting. But the common thread is that they are at your site, and they are using your site.

    To me, User is to Web Site as Driver is to Car. As Reader is to Book.

    So for me, “User” is the perfect word for what we are on the web.

July 31, 2011

  • The Joy Of Easy Listening

    When I was young (in the sixties) my parents weren’t really into music. But we had the radio on all the time. We listened to Easy Listening stations. This naturally drove me crazy. But it also embedded these songs in my head.

    This BBC 4 documentary (below in six parts) is well worth watching if you’ve either never really heard of Easy Listening or if you (as I did) simply dismissed it as irrelevant.

January 14, 2011

  • Photobooth, 1964

    Here we see a very young me (I’m pretty sure I’m four years old) with my sister Karin (who would have been 23).

    Don’t we look young and happy and (at least in my case) sun-stroked?

January 11, 2011

  • Skeptic At Work

    I love this John Stossel segment with Michael Shermer. He presents a funny, articulate and relatively non-condescending world-view, arguing that reason, logic, and science will serve us better than superstition and the opinions of the famous.

January 10, 2011

  • Happy Birthday You Wonderful Old Domain

    I almost forgot to mention that today is the 15th anniversary of schafer.com.

    I registered the domain for personal use back in 1996 and it’s had something on it pretty much ever since. It’s been a resume for me, a list of links, a corporate site for while I was self-employeed for many years, and since 2001 it’s had a blog attached to it (my first blog post was July 4th, 2001).

    Interestingly enough, and entirely coincidentally, today is also my fourth anniversary on Twitter.

    I wonder what the Internet will look like fifteen years from now?

    When did you buy your first domain name and what did you do with it when you first started out online?

January 8, 2011

January 1, 2011

December 26, 2007

December 7, 2007

  • Thought

    I’m pretty proud of how many of these films I’ve seen:


    How many have you seen?

    (via Tumbleona)

December 2, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — Siouxsie & The Banshees

    Not all punks were guys. Siouxsie Sioux was part of the Bromley Contingent along with Sid Vicious and Billy Idol and started a band called Siouxsie and The Banshees very early on. At the start I think the band was more a concept — a desire to be in a band rather than a band in fact.

    But after a while they got the hang of it and became on of the few bands to move out of the early punk days and have successful careers as “punk” became “new wave”.

    Hong Kong Garden was always my favourite from the early stuff:


  • Dear Podcasters — I’m Not Listening

    I have a very long commute to Tucows every weekday. I generally spend two and a half to three hours in the car each day. Crazy, I know. But my family loves our little village (as do I) and the commute is just a fact of life.

    Rather than resign myself to losing 10 to 15 hours every week to mindless FM radio, I decided I’d use the time a little more constructively. For the first year and a half of commuting I listened pretty much exclusively to podcasts in the car. This was great. I listened to Across The Sound, For Immediate Release, Daily Searchcast, Six Pixels of Separation, Marketing Martini and several podcasts each from CBC, New York Times, and Slate. I highly recommend all of them.

    But after a while I realized the the signal to noise ratio on podcasts was leaving me frustrated. To much “welcome from…” and “here’s how you can subscribe…” and “to recap last week…”, and “here’s what I’m doing/did/won’t do…”. It was information for sure, but not information that was useful or enriching — and that was kind of the whole point.

    I also found that most podcasts suffer from diminishing returns. Once I’m inside the head of a podcaster and understand their world-view I get less and less from each new podcast. But finding new podcasts is a daunting task that can’t be done in the car, so I kept listening to the same podcasts despite the decline in useful insights per hour in the car.

    Then a few months ago I basically flipped a switch and decided my commute would be filled with audiobooks and it has been a wonderful, revelatory experience. I’m now consuming one or two books a week. I’m tackling business, science, modern fiction, and classics.

    Essentially audiobooks act are incredibly high signal-to-noise podcasts. Or maybe more accurately, books are like really poorly written and produced audiobooks.

    So sorry podcasters, until you figure out how to compete with Harper Lee, Walter Isaacson, Cormac McCarthy, Haruki Murakami, Bill Bryson, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and Chip & Dan Heath I don’t think I’ll be listening anymore.

November 10, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — The Undertones

    Punk for me (I was a teen when it all started) was always very much about my generation. At the time I don’t think I noticed how incredibly young we all were.

    Behold the zit-filled faces of The Undertones, looking like they had to ask their mums if it was okay to go out on a school night to shoot this video for Teenage Kicks:


    And because the Internet is making everything instantly available, here’s footage of the band actually recording the song:

    It’s quite incredible that what is arguably one of the best pop songs ever just happened to be used as an example of how records are made!

    Yes, I do mean it when I say I think Teenage Kicks is one of the “best pop songs ever”. Who can argue with lyrics as unpretentious as this:

    Are teenage dreams so hard to beat
    Everytime she walks down the street
    Another girl in the neighbourhood
    Wish she was mine, she looks so good

    I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight

    Get teenage kicks right through the night

    I’m gonna call her on the telephone

    Have her over ‘cos I’m all alone

    I need excitement oh I need it bad

    And its the best, I’ve ever had

    I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight

    Get teenage kicks right through the night

    I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight

    Get teenage kicks right through the night

    I only saw The Undertones once, opening for The Clash but I’ve always had a soft spot for them.

  • Did I Really Say “Good Vibes”?

    Nestor E. Arellano (the “E” is to avoid him getting confused with all the other Nestor Arellanos out there — sorry Nestor I couldn’t resist) interviewed me on Thursday for an ITBusiness.ca article called “Good Vibes Stem The Tide Of Talent Turnover”.

    One of the things I’ve learned as a manager is that my team has to understand why they are doing what they are doing, see challenge in the work, and enjoy the physical act of working (i.e. like the people and environment the work gets done in). If you don’t get those right, it’s very tough to keep anyone engaged. If they’re not engaged, they might stick around if times are tough but given options (as people most definitely are being given right now), they won’t stick around for long.

October 20, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — The Sex Pistols

    For most people, the Sex Pistols were punk rock. We loved the Pistols but I never connected with them the way I did with The Ramones, or The Clash or even The Buzzcocks. The Pistols were one of the few influential bands of the time that I didn’t see live and I think that always made them a bit more of an abstraction for me. Punk was so much about the live experience it was harder to identify with a band you hadn’t seen live.


    Now we would have seen the Pistols live had they come anywhere near Canada. Malcolm McLaren (“The Manager” as Johnny refers to him) was determined not to do anything by the books and booked the first (and only) US tour in the deep south, playing dive bars and honky tonks rather than hitting the major urban centres that had already established punk scenes.

October 7, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — The Ramones

    Of all the classic punk songs, I think “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones is probably the most recognized song these days.


    This footage was taken at CBGBs — the New York City dive where many of the NY punks got started.

    I never got to see the Ramones at CBGBs but I was lucky enough to see them very early on at one of Toronto’s most famous dive bars — the El Mocambo.

    The show was absolutely packed but we where there early enough to get a spot directly in front of the stage. So close we could see Joey’s face despite his eternal mop-top and downward glare.

    Johnny dropped a pick at one point and I snapped it up. I’ve still got it in a box in the basement. Johnny knew a thing or two about posterity and was nice enough to have “RAMONES” inscribed on all his picks making for instant memorabilia.

  • Thought

    I just finished Douglas Coupland’s latest novel “The Gum Thief”. The novel was a light, likeable read but the ending left me rather unsatisfied. Those new to Coupland’s funny but heavily stylized prose might do better to start with “Jpod” or “Microserfs”.

October 1, 2007

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock — The Clash

    Dear Young Person:

    If you’re going to understand Punk, there is no better spot to start than “White Riot” by The Clash.

    The Clash didn’t invent Punk but to many they are “The Only Matter That Matters”.

    It was tradition at Clash concerts in the early days that they would end shows with White Riot. Fans would storm the stage, all hell would break lose. While I think you can find better video of The Clash in action, this footage gives you a sense of the frenzy and chaos that was a Clash gig.


    It’s amazing watching Joe Strummer just barely holding things together — at least for a little while.

  • A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock

    A few weeks ago Lucy and I were in the car when she asked if I had The Clash on my iPod. Turns out she’s really getting into punk these days. We went from The Clash to The Ramones to Iggy Pop in about 10 minutes (all hail the three minute pop song) with both of us bopping in our seats with the windows down in the parking lot at the mall. We must have looked like demented bobbleheads.

    Her interest got me thinking about Punk and what a profound influence it has had on my life. Punk Rock absolutely changed my life. It is surely one of the all time top five things that shaped me into who I am.

    I’m not sure “the kids these days” know much about Punk though. Green Day seems to pass as Punk and I guess from 2007 that make some sense. But there was Punk. There was the Punk that shaped me. And I feel like sharing it with any of you who might be interested.

    Welcome to “A Young Person’s Guide To Punk Rock”.

September 29, 2007

  • Mathematics and Social Networks

    That title is entirely aimed at getting my geekier readers to see this joke Zoe and I came up with.

    Zoe: “I can’t believe Dylan would rather hang out with one sixth grader than three 8th graders.”

    Dad: “I guess that means that he thinks you’re in Grade Two.”

    Zoe: “Wah?”

    Dad: “Well, do the math.”

    1. 3 x Grade8 = 1 x Grade6
    2. Grade8 = 1/3 x Grade6
    3. Grade8 = Grade2

    Zoe: “Great Dad, why don’t you just blog about it instead of teasing me.”

September 14, 2007

September 9, 2007

  • Thought

    Every now and then you stumble across an entire sub-culture you had no idea existed.

    Today’s example is care of YouTube where a quick search on “Misheard Lyrics” gets you about 1200 very juvenile (and often very funny) animations of entire songs worth of misheard lyrics.

    Interestingly enough, you don’t really have to know the original song to find these funny.

    Here’s one I particularly liked: