stevenmansour's blog

Google Buzz Class Action Settlement | Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

An email received from Google to my [deprecated] Gmail address:

Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we've reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (, a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.

The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users' concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.

Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at

Catalytic Communities - Rio Raffle 2010 | Monday, July 26th, 2010

Please consider buying a raffle tickets for a free trip for 2 to Rio de Janeiro, in benefit of Catalytic Communities, an organization on whose board I sit and which I support down there working to guarantee communities have a voice in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. Please help me reach my goal by buying a ticket by Sunday August 1st. Each ticket is only $10, while the trip is valued at $2500 and includes flight for 2, bed & breakfast in Ipanema for a week, and community visits. Click here to donate and buy tickets.

$10 buys a chance at a trip for 2 to Rio de Janeiro (raffle ends August 1, 2010).

Catalytic Communities' Executive Director, Theresa Williamson, presents Rio Raffle 2010: your chance to win a trip for 2 to Rio de Janeiro (flights, bed & breakfast in Ipanema, 3 blocks from the beach, and favela visits included)! For only $10/ticket you'll be funding our unique social media trainings while winning a chance to visit. Our goal? To guarantee a direct communication channel with every favela in Rio (up to 1000) by the 2016 Olympic Games, thus ensuring their stories are told, and their fate is increasingly in their own hands.

Learn more about the raffle:
Buy your raffle ticket/s by August 1st:

On 25-year friends | Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Mark Pilgrim on the loss of someone close:

I’ve been active online for 9 years now. With one exception, nothing I’ve done online has brought me closer to making 25-year friends. Life online rewards breadth, not depth. As gratifying as it may be to have 1 million “visitors” read at least one word of my latest online book, chances are none of those visitors will turn into people who turn into friends who turn into 25-year friends.

My condolences.

On abandoning friends | Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Early this morning on my way to work from my sister's apartment, I stopped at the dog park so that Ryu could have a little r&r before a thrilling day of sleeping, chewing on his toys and watching me work on my laptop. When I got to the park at the corner of Notre-Dame and Montgolfier streets in Laval, I saw that there were two dogs inside already playing with each other. Some mornings there are none, and other days there are 4 or 5. There was only one person in there with them, so I assumed he was the owner of both.

I'm not as social as some of the other people at dog parks; I don't go there to 'mingle' with other dog owners or meet people, but simply so that Ryu and I can get some sunshine and exercise while letting him make new friends. I usually let my dog in, find a bench, and watch him chase and be chased by other dogs. When they get too rough for my liking I bark at him to back off, and he does. Once he gets into the park, he usually sprints right away to the nearest dog to greet it. There was this one dog today, though, that was whimpering sadly the whole time Ryu was trying to play with him. He was a good-looking German Shepherd mix, neutered, friendly and docile, in seemingly good health but not very well groomed (his fur was matted and his nails were very long). He also did not have a collar.

I assumed he was the other man's dog, but he asked me first if it was my dog. We quickly assumed that someone had just dumped him here, and after finding a bowl of food and some water in the corner, we sadly realized that that was the case. The man was a very friendly, older Italian gentleman, and mentionned Le Berger Blanc, a rescue service for animals in need. I looked up the coordinates on my phone and called their number, giving a description of the dog and its location. They replied they would send someone in this morning; I couldn't wait around because I had to get to work but the other guy said he's retired and he'll stick around with his dog until someone arrives.

At an earlier point in my life, I might've just taken him home, advertise him in the lost and founds, and probably get him checked out and kept him if no one claimed him. I have the unfortunate "weakness" - instilled in me by my parents - of wanting to help / save everyone and everything I come across, but lately I've learned to let go and accept that things play out the way they do because of the choices we make. Compassion has a dangerous tendency to veer into [liberal] paternalism when it manifests itself for the wrong reasons. Especially in my generation, there is this counterproductive trend to think of oneself as a "fixer", going around and telling people what they're doing wrong and what they should be doing instead, then going back home and sipping on $4 lattes while setting up a Wordpress install. It's the kind of armchair solidarity that diminishes the value of what we perceive as empathy - which is supposed to be a shared emotional experience, and not a top-down pitying of those less fortunate than you.

It's not so much a question of pity or even empathy that would make me want to take in a stray or abandoned dog; but rather a [perhaps skewed] perception of social justice - yes, even for animals. If this dog did something to deserve being left behind - aggression, biting a human, etc - there are different and better ways to deal with that sort of behavior than leaving it alone and scared in a park to fend for itself. Odds are good, however, that the owner(s) simply got bored, tired, or fed up of caring for another living being and gave up on it. This other fellow at the park was reassuring, and nice enough to stay until someone came to pick up the dog. He says that it's not the first time he's seen this sort of thing happen.

Needless to say, I don't think too highly of folks who abandon their friends this way. Caring for a dog is a responsibility, and if it's one you can't handle or afford, then you shouldn't commit to it - or at least bring the animal to a shelter or rescue where they can have a better chance at a new life. Leaving your dog in the park with some food and some water early in the morning is pretty cold by my scale, and goes a long way to defining what kind of person you are. If you drop your dog out of your life like it's nothing, the chances are that you probably aren't that good of a friend to people around you when the chips are down.

Hopefully, the dog has already been picked up by Le Berger Blanc, and will be cleaned up and taken to a rescue, where he'll wait his turn in adoption to find a new home - one where, with any luck, his new owners will show a bit more maturity, love and compassion.

Safe travels, white dog.

Cabane à Sucre - Pied de Cochon | Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Several weeks ago, three friends and I had the opportunity to visit the Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon. To read the comments on Internet forums you'd think it more likely to come across a spotted unicorn in your dining room than to score reservations to the Cabane. In reality, though, all you need to do is call well in advance. And by well in advance, we're talking about 6 months. So, if you want a table for next year, you'd better be getting your dialing finger ready sometime in the next few months.

And – unlike most things that are hyped up to be something they're not – in this case, it's well worth the wait.

The planets were so well aligned, in fact, that our reservation coincided exactly with my buddy Vahe's birthday, making for an easy, inexpensive and delicious birthday gift. We got into my lemon of a car, and drove the 30 minutes northwest of Laval, past the suburbia of St-Eustache, to the idyllic rural setting of St-Benoit-de-Mirabel. Unlike most “traditional” Cabanes, this one was much more lounge-like, smaller, intimate, and clean – make no mistake; this is a restaurant much more than it is a typical Cabane A Sucre. That doesn't bother me, but for the non-Quebeckers who come from out of town to get a “taste of Quebec”, it needs to be said that this is far from the traditional Cabane A Sucre experience.

Once inside, the hostess looked up our reservation and promptly assigned us to a table; actually, a double-table shared with a group of friendly seniors. The waitress came to our table and explained that there would be three courses, each with several plates of food to share between us. We also had a limitless supply of maple syrup and some of the best crepes I've ever had. We ordered beer – not a wimpy pint, but something larger that a pint, something... precious – and waited not-so-patiently for our food to arrive.

Lo and behold, arrive it did.

The Escapist - Reliable Source: Mac Vs. PC | Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Hilarious Mac vs. PC article by Marion Cox on Escapist Mag.

I suggested that she go buy a $15 wireless router rather than spending $100 on an expensive Apple gimmick. She told me that collage-boy refused to use anything but Mac products because of Feng Shui, apparently it went better with the cheap Ikea furniture.


She would ask me if $2500 was too much to spend on a computer; I died a little inside when I realized that Apple computer would cost more than my last car.


As my homebuilt PC came down, the Mac snapped; the extremely expensive machine cracked open, guts spilling from its disemboweled chassis. Clearly, PC was the winner in this particular fight. Screw you, Justin Long.

P.S. - I am writing this from a VIA Rail train, with free wifi in every car. Welcome to the future [sic].