[Editor's Note: In a scrum with reporters late in his fourth, scandal-plagued term as Premier of Nova Scotia, John Buchanan famously defended one Cherry Ferguson, a favoured civil servant who'd been discovered to be holding down three senior provincial government jobs. His exact words are lost to history, but they ran along these lines: "She doesn't have three jobs. She's Deputy Clerk of the House, Chief Electoral Officer, and a lawyer for the Workers' Compensation Board. That's not three jobs." To honour this great moment in political communication, Contrarian  from time to time presents the Cherry Ferguson Award to an official who can stare...

Perhaps you have seen this speech Kevin Spacey gave at the Edinburgh Television Festival last month. It's been making the rounds on tech and entertainment sites, and has more than a million views. But if not, please take four minutes for the pithiest explanation I've heard of the disruption that has upended the television and motion picture industries. [Video link] A few excerpts: The success of the Netflix model—releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once—proves one thing: The audience wants the control. They want the freedom...

Please read journalist Peter Maass's spellbinding account of how reporter/polemicist Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras collaborated in bringing to light NSA leaker Edward J. Snowden's disclosures about massive illegal spying by the US Government. Seriously, if you read nothing else this week, do read this richly detailed, 10,000-word account of how Snowden made contact with Poitras, how Poitras roped Greenwald into the project, and how they communicate privately when all three are targeted by the most sophisticated electronic spying in the world. It reads alternately like a novel, a spy thriller, a quirky travelog, and most importantly, like detailed expose of...

The tagline at the top of this blog, which many readers will recognize as a phrase from the 1967 Beatles song, A Day in the Life, was also the name of a column I wrote for the Boston Globe, where I worked from 1968 to 1970. It was my first job in journalism. The Globe was the most progressive big city daily in the United States, the only one to favour unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam.  It was also a great place to work. In an era of political and cultural tumult, the paper's managers reached out to rebellious young readers in a concerted...

Capping and containment of the last sections of the former Sydney Tar Ponds nears completion. Looking northwest from the top of the old Sysco slag heap, this image, taken Wednesday evening, shows the mouth of the newly restored Muggah Creek. What appears to be black soil at the side of the stream is actually plastic sheeting, part of the engineered containment system for the stabilized and solidified coal byproducts below. From the same vantage point, the view to the southwest shows the Ferry Street bridge in the distance. Containment and capping of solidified wastes in the north Tar Pond, on the...

Peter Spurway thinks I'm romanticizing Don "Fuzzy" Bacich's legendary crankiness about patrons who wanted to slather his delicious French fries with ketchup: “… and another bastion of quality and tradition falters.” Tradition, yes. Quality? No. Not providing something that many of your customers would like to have has nothing to do with quality. It has everything to do with the perspective of the owner. While I certainly grant the owner the right to fashion their product to their own liking, they have to accept that a percentage of their current and potential customers are not going to like it and it will be seen by...

Patrick Smith's Ask the Pilot blog adds an astounding data point to the accident, which killed at least two people and injured many more, some very seriously. [T]his was the first multiple-fatality crash involving a major airline in North America since November, 2001. The streak has ended, but it lasted nearly twelve years, with some 20,000 commercial jetliners taking off and landing safely in this country every single day — an astonishing run. Is it perverse to suggest that Saturday’s accident, awful as it was, serves to underscore just how safe commercial flying has become? [Emphasis added] 20,000 x 365 days x...

Facebook continually pesters me to entrer the "city" where I live, but rejects Kempt Head, Ross Ferry, Boularderie, and Cape Breton all of which are more-or-less accurate. It will allow me to enter Halifax, Sydney, or Baddeck, none of which is accurate. Contrast this with Google, which embraces locations with admirable granularity. Google effortlessly adopts islands, villages, hamlets—even micro-locations like Frankie's Pond and Parker's Beach—as long as it sees real people using them. This may seem a small thing, but it strikes me as a profound difference in the cultures of the two organizations. One constantly cajoles you into ill-fitting pigeonholes. The...

Hard rock, not coal: 160 feet under New York City, workers are building seven miles of tunnels to connect Grand Central Station with the Long Island Railway, on the other side of the East River. [Video link] Photos and a fuller account of the project from Wired here....