Friday, August 19, 2016

Trying to take drunk people home

When friends hit the big time

At one time, I could only imagine how someone would feel if a person they knew, or grew up with, became a famous athlete or actor. That sense of pride.

Well, now I know what it feels like and I'm pumped. A friend I met many years ago, at Loose Moose (Andrew Phung) is starring in a new TV show coming this fall on CBC called Kim's Convenience.

I am so excited. Break a leg Andrew!

Today's wifi

Things I learned lately - 19 August

  • The biggest movie of the year I was born was 101 Dalmatians.
  • Copenhagen's latest goal is to build a superhighway for bikes that will stretch to surrounding suburbs. The first of 28 planned routes opened in 2014, and 11 more will be completed by the end of 2018. The city has also pledged to become completely carbon-neutral by 2025.
  • Madrid plans to ban cars from 500 acres of its city centre by 2020, with urban planners redesigning 24 of the city's busiest streets for walking rather than driving.
  • Rumour has it one of the next upgrades to Tesla's Model S is a battery capable of 611 km (380 mi) range.
  • These conventions exist: Bronycon (My Litle Pony); Merfest (merfolk); Anthrocon (furries); the Santa Celebration (International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas); World Clown Association; Fetishcon; World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships; Vent Haven Convention (ventriloquists).
  • There are 6 billion base pairs (A-T or G-C) in every cell of your body.
  • If all the DNA strands were extracted from your body, untangled and stretched out, then laid end on end, they would reach to the sun, and back, 300 times.
  • The term bloodlines came from the belief that semen was just very purified menstrual blood.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Appropriate price, no?

How old should a child be before they get their own iPad?

On Facebook, a thread started among family and friends about getting an iPad for their soon to be 5 year old son. They asked for people to weigh in on the discussion. Since I could relate, I did weigh in, but realized it was a great post for this blog too.

[Edited from original FB post]
My grand-daughter inherited my old iPad about two years ago, when I bought a newer one. I thought it would be great for her to have her own iPad for a number of reasons. Familiarity and the eventual mastery of technology is one. There are so many things a child can do on an iPad or similar device, that the sky is the limit. The educational apps, games, and methods of communicating with family members and friends is just the beginning. Through the iPad, she learned about musical instruments in an orchestra, played doctor, made robots, cooked meals, ran a hospital, supermarket and restaurant, explored space, solved puzzles, read electronic versions of her favourite story books, the list goes on.

Once she discovered Google and YouTube, she was no longer satisfied with the phrase "I don't know". Don't get me wrong, an inquisitive young mind having access to all of the information that's available on the Internet, is a double edged sword. On one hand, they can find answers to pretty much any questions they have. On the other hand, they can find answers to pretty much any question they have. Some parents may not be cool with that possibility. Which brings me to probably the most important factor in all of this. Parents have to parent. They get to decide what their kids should or should not be exposed to. They get to decide how much time their kids should spend staring at a screen, no matter how valuable that screen time may be. I think most parents understand that a child needs to be exposed to other things, like real life. Because not all, but much of what they experience on the screen is virtual.

They need to play outside, they need to make and break things with their hands, they need to interact with other people. They need to learn the consequences of things, because in virtual environments, destruction, injury and death don't really have a price.

So in my humble opinion, I think it comes down to balance. As long as a kid is not spending most of their free time staring at a screen, it's all good. But as parents have noticed, sometimes it's difficult to agree on how much is too much. Also, once a child is aware of the joys and possibilities of the internet and apps, it's hard to tell them that they can't have it right now. But I think parents in general need to be more aware of what their kids are doing with technology, because they'll probably be surprised at how much their kids have figured out on their own, and how far down the rabbit hole they've ventured on their own.

Lastly, for what it's worth, my grand-daughter, who is now 8, is a huge Minecraft freak. She has mastered this virtual environment and has built (and visited) some amazing hand-crafted worlds, thanks to her being able to interact with other players of the game. A lot of folks may not see the value in a game like Minecraft, but it definitely teaches them how to design and build things even if they're virtual things. It teaches them that you need certain resources to build certain things. Who knows what that skill could lead to when they get older. I don't think this is something that should be kept away from kids, just monitored and metered out.

I can barely see it

Things I learned lately - 12 August

  • In September, Google Chrome (53) will start blocking Adobe Flash.
  • On 4 Aug 2016, a sun-grazing comet slammed into the sun at a speed of 600 km per second, or 2.16 million km/h.
  • If you're watching a recorded show on your PVR (at least here in Calgary), and a weather emergency notification is broadcast, you'll see it, even though you're not watching live TV. (They were warning of a possible tornado)
  • Technically, Jupiter doesn't exactly orbit the sun. In other words, it doesn't orbit the centre of the sun's mass, it orbits the combined centre of gravity, which is above the sun's surface. So the orbit is more like a dance, where the sun wobbles around that centre of gravity and Jupiter orbits it too, but from much farther out.
  • The Solar Impulse aircraft successfully travelled around the world, 40,000 km, without using any fossil fuels.
  • Rhubarb has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
  • Only 5% of all the African slaves brought to the Americas went to the US.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Apply anyway

Nothing personal

As I get older and more receptive to new ideas and concepts, I've learned some things that help me through life. One of those things is putting a muzzle on my ego.

I've adopted a philosophy that suggests that our psyches are composed of two parts, our ego, or conscious self, and our intuitive or sub-conscious self. The ego, when in control, does some crazy-ass stuff. One of those things is taking everything personally.

For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic, this is not a personal affront. Your ego behaves like it is, but in reality, not only is the offender not aware of who you are, they probably don't even realize that they've done something to offend you. Until you engage. You flip the bird, or honk, or drive up beside them and launch a verbal assault. Now you're the one making it personal, and they likely don't react well.

Now that I'm more aware of what's going on around me, I see examples of the ego's power everywhere. For example, when we send an email, and the recipient doesn't answer. How rude! Well, not necessarily. They may be busy. Our email may have quickly been pushed down the list by the weight of a lot of other messages coming into their inbox. They may not be in the habit of answering every email they get right away. Email may not even be a priority communications channel for them. There are countless reasons why we didn't get an immediate reply, yet we will often take it personally. We may even lash out, or return the favour. Just the other day, a friend told me that they've been observing a coffee shop regular showing up, but not engaging in conversation with them lately, like they usually do. They took it as an personal insult. But they really had no idea why the other party chose to be less social. Maybe they're tired, or sick. They could have a major situation going on in their life that's distracting. Maybe it's nothing at all. I asked, "Did you go up and say hello?" They did not. So, I reminded them that it's very possible that the other person feels the exact same thing about them. "You didn't go up and say hello, so now they think you're being a snob." It turns out, the other person had cancer, and was acting a little withdrawn.

I've at least had one person ask me if there was a problem, because they were getting the impression that I was being standoffish. That perception resolved itself very quickly. I was told a true story that one time, an employee in an important position, at a company that shall remain unnamed, saw a colleague say hello to another colleague as they passed their office, but this same person never bothered to say hello to them. They took it so personally, that they erupted into an emotional rant in front of a senior executive about how they're constantly being harassed and bullied by coworkers. That person was put on stress leave and slowly released from the staff roster.

But all of these things have one thing in common. The ego. We need to remind ourselves that everything that happens around us is just that. Stuff that happens. In most cases, it has nothing to do with us.

Chill out America

Things I learned lately - 6 August

  • The Netflix hit Stranger Things was passed on 15-20 times by the major networks.
  • Elon Musk is aiming for full automation in the coming production of the new Model 3. That's right, no humans on the production line.
  • Politicians in Germany are actively recruiting British start-up companies to relocate to Berlin in the wake of Brexit.
  • Donlad Trump has a fragrance. It's named Empire.
  • Israel recaptures 86% of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation. This is vastly more than the second most efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19%.
  • During the Cold War, there was a subculture in Russia that used discarded (exposed) x-ray film for making their own home-pressed bootleg records. In many cases it was the only way to listen to certain types of music.
  • In July 2016, Calgary received the most precipitation of any July since 1927. In 132 years of recorded weather, 2016 was the second wettest July in the city's history. Rain fell in the city on 22 of 31 days, with a total precipitation of 191 mm, more than half of Calgary’s annual average. The average July rainfall is roughly 65 mm. Thunderstorms and hail were prevalent in July. Calgary received 20 thunderstorms within the 31 day period. On average, Calgary has 28 thunderstorms per year.
  • Of the 25 healthiest cities in the US, based on physical inactivity rate; obesity rate; access to doctors; access to facilities; and percentage of smokers, only 2 were east of Colorado.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

You don't have to put on the red light...

150,000km mark probably coming up in 4 months!

Time for an update on our Mercedes Benz B250. But in case you're just joining us, or forgot how we got here, check out the original purchase story, the first review, and the 50,000 km review.

It's July 2016 and my car has 137,400 km on it. That's only 3.5 year
s of ownership. So how are my feelings this far along?

I am still loving this car. For all of the same reasons I listed in those other posts. But of course, there are some things I wish were better, if I'm going to be picky. And I am picky.

I wish this car had the same intelligent cruise control that comes on newer, upper end Mercedes models. I am really looking forward to the days of self-driving and even the incremental steps we're using to get there. It will definitely eliminate a lot of fatigue on long drives.

I wish this car had a softer suspension. It's jarring for this 55 year old body. I think that going forward Mercedes would do alright to offer the stiff suspension as part of the sports package and otherwise put a softer suspension on the car. Now that the run-flats are gone, things are better though. I opted for Michelin Premier for my regular (non-winter) tires.

Mercedes really charge way more for routine maintenance than they need to. $400 and $600 for the A and B service respectively. Having said that, there is a 20,000 km gap between visits (normally), but my maintenance costs have gone up on average. This would turn a lot of people off who might consider buying this brand. I don't regret the purchase, I've just budgeted more per month. That's right, I actually budget for my car maintenance.

Although newer versions of my car have 4Matic (all-wheel drive) as an option, I don't regret not having all-wheel drive. The car is so small and light, it doesn't really need it, especially if you throw on good winter tires when it's needed.

I finally found a phone mount that works. I went with the Aukey magnetic mount. I put a metal disc in between my iPhone and its case and now mounting it for navigating is so easy.

The only unexpected maintenance I've had to do is fix a wire harness pin (under warranty).

As you may have read in another post, I drove the B250 to San Diego in May. Over 5000 km round trip. That was a fun drive. Especially with the 80 mph speed limits in some parts of Montana, Idaho and Utah.

So, in summary, so far, so good.

Chinese taxonomy

I've lost count of the number of times Darlene and I have joked about this.

Things I learned lately - 30 July

  • 21% of people living in Canada were born somewhere else.
  • Apple sold its billionth iPhone.
  • Sorbet is non-dairy.
  • Bananas will last longer if you wrap their stems in cellophane. That prevents the ethylene gas, which ripens the fruit faster, from escaping.
  • The Dasht-e Lut Desert, in Iran can get as hot as 70 C (159 F).
  • A Zappos employee broke the record for the longest customer service call ever at 10 hours and 43 minutes.
  • Originally, an acre was used to describe the area a yoke of oxen could plow in a day.
  • The word fortnight is derived from the Old English fÄ“owertyne niht, meaning fourteen nights.
  • A baker's dozen was created as a means of avoiding any chance of shortchanging customers, which in medieval England, was punishable by beatings or jail time.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Almost consonant-free

This would make an awesome party game.

I love the guy on the far left in the video.

Where to get the dental mouth openers.........

That's no moon..... pillow....

Change the world

On the 20th of July, Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors, revealed his master plan, part two, and reminded us of the original master plan.

"The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good."

Read the whole thing. This man is a true visionary.

Disclaimer: That is not the de facto Tesla pickup design, just one suggested by a fan.

Moving an image one millimeter in an MS Word document

Things I learned lately - 21 July

  • Believe it or not, there was still one manufacturer of VCRs making the machines. But Funai will stop the assembly line at the end of July. 
  • Infidelity (for women) in past centuries was considered really bad mostly because of property rights. Because illegitimate children could inherit their father's property.
  • For the Peter Gabriel song "Don't Give Up", on the album "So", the duet was first offered to Dolly Parton, who passed. Peter had envisioned the depression themed song best suited to a duet with a country artist.
  • Nearly 1,000 women are murdered in Pakistan every year for violating conservative norms on love and marriage. These "honour killings" are often carried out by family members.
  • The Montreal Olympics are the reason we have lotteries in Canada. The lottery raised $15 million selling $10 tickets across Canada. The jackpot was $1 million, tax-free.
  • By the 19th century, slaves made up 90% of the population of Haiti.
  • We associate tea with the British, yet they didn't even have access to tea until the late 17th century.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Songs that are 40 years old this year (2016)

Peter Frampton - Do you feel like we do (live) / Baby I love your way
Abba - Dancing queen
Boston - More than a feeling
David Bowie - Golden years
Kiss - Beth / Shout it out loud
Stevie Wonder - Sir duke
The Eagles - Hotel California / New kid in town
ELO - Livin' thing / Telephone line
Tom Petty - Breakdown
Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak / The boys are back in town
AC/DC - Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
April Wine - You won't dance with me / Like a lover like a song
Paul Simon - 50 ways to leave your lover
Wings - Silly love songs / Let 'em in
Manhattans - Kiss and say goodbye
Bee Gees - You should be dancing / Love so right
Wild Cherry - Play that funky music
Steve Miller - Rock'n me / Fly like an eagle
Rod Stewart - Tonight's the night
Chicago - If you leave me now
Manfred Mann - Blinded by the light
Kansas - Carry on wayward son
Runaways - Cherry bomb
Heart - Crazy on you / Magic man
Cliff Richard - Devil woman
Blue Oyster Cult - Don't fear the reaper
Gary Wright - Dream weaver / Love is alive
Rolling Stones - Fool to cry
Boston - Foreplay/Long time
Alice Cooper - I never cry
Boz Scaggs - Lowdown
Starbuck - Moonlight feels right
Hall & Oates - Sara smile / She's gone
Henry Gross - Shannon
Elton John - Sorry seems to be the hardest word
10CC - The things we do for love
Gordon Lightfoot - Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Al Stewart - Year of the cat
Hot Chocolate - You sexy thing

Like a princess

Milky Way Night

We should set aside one night per year when we turn off all of the outdoor lights for a few hours. The night wouldn't be on a fixed date, because we would need it to be cloudless and probably moonless.

On this night, with all of the outdoor lighting turned off, the light pollution would be reduced enough that we would be able to see the Milky Way in the night sky. And many more stars.

That would be cool. Who knows, I think the mere sight of this would be so overwhelming, we'd schedule it more often.

L'il Kylo Ren

Things I learned lately - 15 July

  • NASA is going to let the Juno spacecraft burn up in Jupiter's atmosphere mostly so that earth germs don't accidentally contaminate possible life on moons like Europa.
  • The US still leads with the most Netflix titles at 5082. Canada only has 3435 (48th place). But at least we do better than Australia (2414), Germany (1642) or Greenland (953).
  • The Mongols introduced rice to the Persians.
  • Timbuktu is in the African nation of Mali.
  • The Arabic word for God is Allah, whether you're Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. In case you thought only Muslims use that name.
  • Theodora, empress of the Byzantine Empire, and wife of Emperor Justinian I, participated in Justinian's legal and spiritual reforms, and her involvement in the increase of the rights of women was substantial. She had laws passed that prohibited forced prostitution and closed brothels. She created a convent called the Metanoia, where the ex-prostitutes could support themselves. She also expanded the rights of women in divorce and property ownership, instituted the death penalty for rape, gave mothers some guardianship rights over their children, and forbade the killing of a wife who committed adultery.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Rick Deckard

I really need to get this on a shirt for work

Thoughts on fossil fuel

Let me start off by saying that I am not by any stretch an expert in the petroleum industry, or any industry for that matter. If any readers have some intelligent facts to inject into the conversation, please be my guest.

I've been witness to, and even participated in, some very heated discussions about oil. Our dependence on it, its effect on our climate, our economy, wars between nations, you name it. I've heard every argument from 'we can't end our dependence on oil' all the way to 'we need to stop using oil as soon as possible'.

I just thought I'd throw my own ideas and thoughts into the fire.

Oil makes a lot of money for a select group of people. Why is it still being subsidized?

Why are people alright with the oil industry being subsidized, but lose their minds if green energy and products are subsidized?

Why do some people continue to use the excuse 'China keeps using coal, why can't we?'? China abuses their people too. Why don't we?

If Germany can get to a point where on one particular day they were getting 95% of their electricity from renewable sources, why do our energy suppliers insist that our grid could never handle more than 20% coming from renewable sources?

If one company (Tesla) can build a fast, practical, safe all-electric vehicle, then add a world-wide free charging network to support it, why can't anyone else?

If Norway, one of the coldest countries in the world, can adopt the electric car faster than any other nation, why are places like Canada still suggesting that electric cars will never work there?

People ask 'What would all the oil workers do for work if we stopped pumping oil and switched to renewable energy?'. I'm guessing they would retrain for the renewable energy sector.

If energy suppliers are complaining that we use too much electricity for the grid to handle, why don't they build more supply? Or better yet, why are they against us providing some of our own (solar) on our premises?

Why do we need to find ways to export our oil to other countries when we're still importing oil and refined products from elsewhere?

Is it really true that if we stopped using oil, we wouldn't be able to make plastics? Can't plastics be made from other sources? More importantly, should we be finding a way to stop using plastics?

If all the money that had been invested in finding oil had been instead invested in nation-wide, high speed transportation, would we need long range cars at all?

Why aren't we leveraging geothermal more? Isn't there a practically limitless supply of heat energy underground?

If we have the technology and materials to build well insulated net-zero homes and offices, why do we continue to throw our heating money out the window by building marginally insulated homes?

While we argue about the safety of more pipelines, of which there are already a crap-load, the oil is instead being transported by the longest rail car trains in history. Does this make sense?

Do we not realize that by the time we get our oil to the coasts, the countries we intend to sell to will already be converting themselves to a more sustainable system?

Why do anti-pipeline folks get angry about the newly proposed pipelines, but ignore the substantial, existing network?

I truly believe that the resistance of switching off of oil has nothing to do with its practicality, or that pro-oil people are anti-environmentalists or don't care about the planet. I believe that we're still in oil because it makes money. The only thing that is going to stop our pursuit of getting it out of the ground is when people don't need it anymore.

Norway made a ridiculous amount of money from oil, which they saved up. Now they spend that money on making it cheap to buy electric cars. They fully intend to go oil-free in less than a decade.

I keep hearing the words "Look what oil has done for this country". Aside from jobs, I'm waiting for a more detailed explanation.

Why don't they stay secured?

It's odd that something used to secure things to vehicles is most often found on the road.