Sunday, November 22, 2015

The simplest things make me laugh

Solar system model - to scale

What an inspiring video of these guys who decided it was time to create a scale model of our solar system.

So they made one. It's mind-boggling.

Use me please

Things I learned lately - 22 Nov

  • You do not lose most of your body heat through your head. It's a myth. Your face is however, more sensitive to temperature changes.
  • Los Angeles will soon be building a private airport terminal at LAX for celebrities, athletes, and politicians. So your chances of spotting your fave star will be greatly diminished. I'm going to predict that there won't be any security gate for them either.
  • The more road you can see from your driving position (higher), the slower the traffic in front of you seems to be going. This could be one reason why SUV drivers drive more aggressively.
  • In St Paul Minnesota, they're experimenting with a means of traffic calming in residential areas by putting signs with just pictures of people staring intently at you instead of the traditional 'please slow down' text sign. It seems to be working, because humans respond to faces and especially eye contact.
  • Drivers are more likely to behave rudely if they are alone in their vehicle.
  • Human drivers tend to overcompensate for the slowing vehicles in front of them and this is amplified with each driver behind. This is what causes traffic jams and why self driving cars will eliminate many of those jams.
  • People who drive convertibles are less likely to honk.
  • Just after college, Bill Nye won a Steve Martin look-alike contest in Seattle.
  • The first guest host on Saturday Night Live was George Carlin.
  • There are 13,381 McDonald's in the US.
  • Until September 2013, the letter 'Q' was illegal in Turkey.
  • On December 30, 1809, it became illegal to wear masks at balls held within the City of Boston, as its citizens believed this practice was “detrimental to morals.”

Saturday, November 14, 2015

His name is Rover...

Fun names for wi-fi networks

  • Tell my wifi love her
  • Pretty fly for a wifi
  • Bill Wi the science Fi
  • Ehrmagerd wer fer
  • You kids get off my LAN
  • It hertz when IP
  • Abraham Linksys
  • Password is password
  • Drop it like its hot spot
  • Bobs unsecured house of wifi
  • Mom use this one
  • The promised LAN
  • LAN-Ho!
  • A LAN before time
  • A van down by the river
  • Series of tubes
  • I am the internet AMA
  • Silence of the LANs
  • Wi believe I can Fi
  • Router? I hardly knew her
  • Wu-Tang LAN
  • I can haz wifi?
  • This LAN is your LAN
  • Wifi art thou Romeo

Droid baby

Things I learned lately - 14 Nov

  • Government subsidies, in Canada, for the fossil fuel industry in 2013-14 were CAD$3.6 billion. I wonder what kind of energy landscape we would have if those subsidies were eliminated and the industry had to survive on its own merits. 
  • Amazon just opened a physical book store in Seattle.
  • The importation of haggis is banned in the US. Maybe not for much longer though.
  • Bagpipes were played for the first time in space on the ISS this year.
  • The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline by the US will not, nor has it so far, prevented any oil from Alberta from getting to its destination. Rail, re-purposed existing pipelines and boats on the Mississippi have taken up the slack.
  • Uniform regulation in the British Army between the years 1860 and 1916 stipulated that every soldier should have a moustache.
  • In medieval times, barbers performed surgery as well as extracted rotten teeth.
  • Jupiter's moons are all named after either Jupiter's (Zeus's) lovers, favourites, or descendants. NASA named the mission to Jupiter Juno. Juno is also the name of Jupiter's wife. So basically, NASA is sending Jupiter's wife to go check on Jupiter and his lovers and affairs and kids.
  • Trakky dacks: What Australians call sweat pants.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Aw ye-

Forget PRT, it's Google time!

This article sets the stage for my view on the future of mobility.

An excerpt:

"The technological differences are really just the beginning of the disruption Google has planned. In Google's world, you won't just quit driving cars, you'll also quit owning them. Forget investing in an expensive and depreciating asset that sits idle 97% of every day. Fleets of autonomous vehicles will circulate through town, pick you up when you summon one via smartphone or whatever, drop you off, and move on to the next fare."

This is the new replacement to the old PRT transit offering that never went anywhere in volume. PRT is a transit technology where automated pods follow customized roads to get you from point A to point B faster than pretty much any other mode, while serving as a feeder into higher capacity modes like BRT or LRT. The problem with PRT is that you need separate roads and the cars can only drive on those roads.

Thanks to Google's autonomous car, getting driven from A to B no longer requires a custom road. It solved a number of issues, starting with 'no driver required'. This not only makes the trip safer, you omit the cost of paying someone. When you have a dense network of automated cars driving around an area of town, driving yourself becomes a lot less desirable. This in turn makes the road safer, because there are no selfish, distracted, amateur drivers putting the rest of us at risk.

So what's my point? Once again, after seeing the development planned for University District in Calgary, the new Cancer Centre on the NE corner of FMC, and the planned development at the old Stadium Shopping Centre, we're going to see a transit vacuum affect mobility.

The area including Market Mall, University District Alberta Children's Hospital, Foothills Medical Centre, University of Calgary, the new Cancer Centre, the new Stadium development, and perhaps Motel Village, may be served well by transit at its periphery, but getting from one of those aforementioned places to another of the same is not easy, nor fast. But if this entire area were served by autonomous cars, it would be a breeze to get around.

On the map, the red asterisks indicate where major developments will be happening and the blue area would be well served by autonomous cars.

'tis but a scratch

Things I learned lately - 6 Nov

  • Morocco is building a solar farm that will eventually produce half of the country's electricity.
  • The Large Hadron Collider is a ring tunnel 17 miles (27km) around. The particles are being driven so fast around this ring, that they complete the circle 11,000 times. In one second.
  • A 70kg person would need to drink 70 cups of coffee to risk dying from too much caffeine.
  • The Canadian Extreme Wrestling Party is a real thing. They never registered as a political party, yet, but they do have a leader.
  • Print to PDF is natively available in Windows 10. Anything that can print can also be converted to a PDF.
  • Mercurochrome, or Merbromin, or dibromohydroxymercurifluorescein, was a common antiseptic used to treat minor cuts and scrapes. Because it contains mercury, the US banned it in 1998. Germany and France halted sales in the 2000s. It is still readily available elsewhere.
  • Jell-O has been around since 1897.
  • The first Twinkies were filled with banana cream, but once the banana rationing of World War II started, they switched to vanilla cream.
  • Oreos have been around since 1912.
  • The modern pretzel’s predecessor was first made in the 6th century by an Italian monk, who used it to reward young church attendees. The word pretzel is from the Latin word pretzola, which loosely translates to little reward.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Coal burners

I wish people would stop labelling electric cars as 'coal burners'. Yes, we are quite aware that some jurisdictions get their electricity from coal. But our dryers, air conditioners, fans, ovens, stoves, TVs, and computers are all coal burners in this context as well. Nobody is decrying the use of coal burning computers or big screen televisions.

Also, I would venture that there is a much smaller environmental footprint burning coal with scrubbers than extracting oil out of the ground, or worse, mining it in the case of oil sands, or fracking it by injecting who knows what into the ground. Never mind moving the oil by rail or pipeline to a refinery and turning it into gasoline, which then needs to be delivered everywhere, while all along risking spills and other environmental disasters like leaking underground gasoline storage tanks. I have yet to read about any electricity spills en route to my house.


"Are you feeling tired, irritable, stressed out?"

It's the only prescription without side-effects!

Seen in Kensington area of Calgary

Things I learned lately - 31 Oct

  • Some cable channels in the US are artificially speeding up syndicated TV shows to fit in an extra 2-3 minutes of commercials. In some cases, they're even cutting out whole scenes to fit more ads. Little do they realize this will just motivate more people to switch to streaming services.
  • Since 2010, 236 Calgary citizens have been trained in hobby beekeeping, bringing over 400 hives into the city. Even the Municipal Building has 2 hives in the rooftop garden.
  • Calgary has the highest per capita number of self employed workers in Canada.
  • 48% of Albertans would struggle with meeting financial obligations if their pay was delayed by one week.
  • Con Edison operates the world's largest network of steam pipes, in New York City. The system started with 350 customers back in the late 1800s. At its peak in the 1920s and 1930s, the pipes had 2,500 customers across more than 100,000 commercial and residential buildings. Today, the network runs 105 miles, delivering steam to nearly 2,000 buildings throughout the city.
  • The Trans Canada Highway still has more kilometres of two lane (one lane in each direction) highway between Kamloops and the Alberta border than there is through all of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined.
  • Madrid and Oslo have, or are in the process of, banning all cars from their city centres.
  • It is possible to get sick from frozen food cooked in the microwave when not waiting for the 'standing time' to elapse. That's because the standing time is part of the cooking process and allows the heat to finish killing any bacteria. Food should reach 165F (74C) to be safe enough to eat.
  • The baby carrots you buy in a typical grocery store (no skin, no stems) are just cut and shaped big carrots.
  • Kellogg's Corn Flakes were invented by Dr. Kellogg in hopes that they would reduce masturbation. He believed corn was one thing that could curb it.
  • Kashi is owned by Kellogg's.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Responding to negativity

One of the things that has always fascinated me about people is negativity. It's a mindset that not only sets the mood for people around you, but it tends to foster more of the same. It's one thing to say you're going to avoid negative people or people who have something negative to say, but that doesn't really solve anything.

One thing you can do is show empathy, then change the subject to something positive. "I'm sorry to hear that. Did anything good come of this?" If the answer is no, completely change the subject. The idea is not to dwell or add fuel to the fire.

Find a strength in the story and remind them how impressive it is that they kept their head. This just focuses on the positive of the situation.

Ask them how they normally handle situations like that to get them thinking about coping mechanisms.

"Too bad so and so doesn't have the courage that you do." This is a combination of flattery and may force them to think from the other person's perspective.

If you summarize what they said back to them to make sure you understand the situation, it proves that you were actually listening to them, which, in my humble opinion, is what they're hoping for in the first place. Just don't embellish, to add fuel to the fire.

When you just don't know what else to say, change the subject to something happier. You can offer help, but just be ready to follow through. Sometimes, the offer of help will be met with the realization that you can't help them, which helps defuse the conversation.

Road runner rules

Things I learned lately - 24 Oct

  • Tesla cars bought after September 2014 now have (after a simple downloadable software upgrade) the ability to cruise mostly autonomously. This means maintain a set speed and safe distance, avoid rear and front end collisions, maintain the lane, and steer. The car will change lanes on its own if you signal accordingly. Tesla is not calling this self-driving, more enhanced driving.
  • Aussie brand shampoo is not from Australia.
  • An incandescent light bulb is only 10% efficient. The rest of the energy generates heat.
  • The electric toaster was invented decades before pre-sliced bread.
  • It's practically impossible to overdose on marijuana. Even if you tried to eat it, you'd need to eat 22kg of the stuff. At once.
  • The theobromine in chocolate is harmful to humans too, but because we metabolize it, you'd need to eat 85 chocolate bars to get into trouble.
  • Two cherry pits contain enough cyanide to kill you.
  • Body Shop is owned by L'Oreal.
  • Burt's Bees is owned by Clorox.
  • Former NBA player Gilbert Arenas has a personal shoe collection with over 2000 pairs.
  • The Mini Cooper Countryman was once listed as the least reliable vehicle in America.
  • Denny's (the restaurant) was founded under the name Danny's Donuts in Lakewood, California in 1953. Denny's expanded to twenty restaurants by 1959, when the chain was renamed Denny's to avoid confusion with another chain, "Doughnut Dan's".
  • GMail now reminds you if it thinks you forgot to add that attachment you mention in the message.
  • Daylight Savings Time increases gasoline consumption. This is likely because evening activities increase since it stays light out later.
  • Astronomers report that there could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in our galaxy, based on new analysis of data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pretending other than on your resume

Alternative voting

In an alternative vote system, voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than voting for a single candidate.

Ballots are initially distributed based on each elector's first preference. If a candidate secures more than half of votes cast, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Ballots assigned to the eliminated candidate are recounted and added to the totals of the remaining candidates based on who is ranked next on each ballot. This process continues until one candidate wins by obtaining more than half the votes.

If that were the system we used in Canada today, based on 2nd choices provided to recent polls, the projected results would be as pictured.

Minorities, coalitions and compromise, oh my!

So, if the latest polls are a predictor of the possible results of this federal election, which ever party wins the most seats may only form a minority government. I've heard a chorus of people who shudder at the thought. Personally, I welcome a minority government, so long as it does not result in another election for at least 2 years. Here's why.

Minority governments force parliament to do something that they have little practise doing these days. Cooperate. Compromise. Listen to other points of view and put forth legislation that almost everyone can agree on. Stop and read that last bit again. How can that be bad? It cannot. It's win - win. Of course, for this to happen, all politicians are going to have to let go of their egos. It also means that Canadians are going to have to get used to compromise as well. No longer would the ruling party (and its supporters) be able to dictate exactly how the country would operate, unopposed. There's a word that might have some meaning again, for a change. Opposition.

And that's a good thing.

How likely

Things I learned lately - 18 Oct

  • In Churchill, Manitoba, people leave their cars unlocked, in case anyone needs to make a quick escape from a polar bear.
  • Lactose tolerance various by geographical region. In northern Europe, about 90% of the population can tolerate lactose, around the Mediterranean, that drops to around 40%, and in Africa and southern Asia, 10%.
  • Your saliva glands produce about 4 soda cans worth of saliva every day.
  • The word Popsicle (TM) is in fact trademarked.
  • Tegestologists are people who collect coasters.
  • In the 1950s, Xerox machines overheated so often, they came equipped with small fire extinguishers.
  • 'Pillow puffer' was a term that used to mean interior designer.
  • There exists scotch flavoured toothpaste.
  • Tokyo's Shinjuku subway station handles 3,640,000 people per day. Not the system - this one subway station!
  • The way we pronounce 'herb' (the 'h' being silent) is a holdover of times when it was considered proper for all aitches to be silent, unlike today. Had the tradition carried on, we would also be pronouncing ospital, umble, etc.
  • Before people said 'break a leg' instead of 'good luck' to actors, they used to say 'give birth to a bastard!', back in 1670. The problem is that the origin of 'break a leg' has at least a dozen different, credible sources.
  • ET was originally supposed to eat M&Ms in the movie, but Mars didn't agree to let the candy be used.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Rush as emojis

Kiss as emojis

U2 as emojis