Friday, March 24, 2017


Some of my friends will know what this means....
Also, I was not one of them, but I knew very many who were.


In Quebec, there exists a type of food establishment known in French as a casse-croûte. This literally translates to 'snack break', but the reason you go to such a place is to eat comfort food. I'm talking 'steamies', a style of hot dog where the buns are steamed to make them soft and pliable. A 'steamie all-dressed' (which is precisely how even a Quebecois would order it), is said hot dog dressed with mustard, relish and coleslaw (onions optional). Some people prefer their hot dog 'grillé', where the bun is toasted. Even if you're a steamie fan, if you attended a hockey game in the old Montreal Forum, you only got the grillé variety - and they were so good.

A casse-croûte is also where you would find some of the best prepared, fresh, hand cut french fries. And, as you might imagine, the original, authentic interpretation of poutine.

I know many people living in Quebec, who will drive out of their way at 2am to get to their preferred casse-croûte for a fix. There are some known by all Montrealers because they are institutions, such as the Montreal Pool Room, downtown on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, and Restaurant Lafleur in Lasalle (open until 4am). But pretty much every city neighbourhood and community in Quebec has their own local establishment with names like [insert family name here] Patates, Decarie Hot Dog, and Chez [insert family name here]. The place to go where I grew up was, and still is, Chez Gérard, which has been around since 1958. I recently revisited their menu and you can still get two all dressed steamies, a small fries and a drink for under $8.00 plus tax, which is pretty damned good considering you'll be more than satiated when you're done.

But the reason these places are still open and will probably never close, is because of their poutine. It might be easy to fry up a burger or boil a couple hot dogs at home, but you'd be hard pressed to duplicate the glory that is a casse-croûte quality poutine. So as long as these places continue to set the standard in that regard, they'll never go out of business.

In the photo, the photographer couldn't even wait to take a picture, they had to have a bite of their hot dog first.

What to do with all these googly eyes.....

Things I learned lately - 24 March

  • Over the course of a month, the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) can decay as much as a full kilometre above the earth. This decay is caused by atmospheric drag. Booster rockets push the ISS back into the proper orbit, roughly once a month.
  • In the 1700's, it cost 3 half pence to visit the Tower of London, but if you brought a cat or dog to feed the lions, you got in for free.
  • Tesla wants to bundle insurance and maintenance into the price of future vehicles.
  • Last year, China invested $103 billion into renewable energy, and in 2016, its total installed capacity was 77 gigawatts, which pushed the country well ahead of other leaders in renewables such as Germany, Japan, and the US. There's much more coming.
  • North Korean defectors have successfully shipped in several thousand USB sticks containing banned content like South Korean soaps, Hollywood films, and global news. The goal is to spread information about the outside world to North Koreans, who have practically no access to the open internet. "Flash Drives for Freedom" by the Human Rights Foundation, has been asking people to donate spare flash drives to send to North Korea. The foundation has received more than 10,000 drives in the last year, and is handing them to groups of North Korean defectors operating out of South Korea. The sticks are smuggled in by drone and by foot. North Koreans can watch the files on common, portable DVD players called Notels and cheap Chinese smartphones with USB ports. PC ownership is rare. There are around 25 million people in North Korea and it's estimated that about 30% have any idea that the outside world is better off.
  • Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (you might remember them from Prince's Revolution band) wrote the theme song for the TV show Nurse Jackie. They have also done session work and/or written songs with Seal, k.d. lang, Joni Mitchell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Pearl Jam, Terence Trent D'arby, Liz Phair, Michael Penn, Grace Jones, The Three O'Clock, Sheryl Crow, Victoria Williams, Rob Thomas, Gwen Stefani, Scritti Politti, OK Go, Madonna, The Like, Nina Gordon, The Family, Nikka Costa, and Eric Clapton.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Will there be people who don't know what that device is?

Solar power coming online in the US

Planned utility-scale solar additions total 9.5 GW in 2016, the most of any single energy source. This level of additions is substantially higher than the 3.1 GW of solar added in 2015 and would be more than the total solar installations for the past three years combined (9.4 GW during 2013-15). The top five states where solar capacity is being added are California (3.9 GW), North Carolina (1.1 GW), Nevada (0.9 GW), Texas (0.7 GW), and Georgia (0.7 GW). These values reflect utility-scale solar capacity additions, and do not include any distributed generation (i.e., rooftop solar). In 2015, nearly 2 GW of distributed solar photovoltaic capacity was added.

Now that it's legal in Cali...

Things I learned lately - 17 March

  • The American politician with the highest approval rating during the week of 12 March was Bernie Sanders.
  • The 5 states with the largest gender pay gap are Wyoming, Louisiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, and Utah.
  • China has replicas of London's Tower Bridge (but double the size); Athens' Parthenon; a 354-foot Eiffel Tower; a replica of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Beijing, which leads to a fake Sydney Opera House; the Roman Colosseum in Macau; an Arc de Triomphe; a Great Sphinx of Giza; the White House; Egypt's Karnak Temple; and a Tower of Pisa.
  • Employers have the right to make high heeled shoes part of the official dress code for women. And some do. For now.
  • Russian trolls targeted Bernie Sanders Facebook supporter groups.
  • Border walls don't stop flying drones carrying packages of drugs. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic)
  • Hertz Gold Plus reward points expire.
  • Poutine Pizza Pops are a thing.
  • Scientists have successfully taught a group of blind and sighted people how to navigate their surroundings using echolocation - the sonar-based language of dolphins and bats. Using sound created by tongue clicks, the group learned how to detect the size of virtual rooms with surprising accuracy - something that researchers had not expected in people who were born with sight.
  • The first person to perform an air guitar solo was Bill Reed of the Canadian vocal group the Diamonds in 1957. It happened halfway through the group’s rendition of Buddy Holly’s Words of Love. Today some 10,000 people attend the Air Guitar World Championships in Finland.
  • Bell, owner of the streaming service Crave TV, owns the rights to stream HBO programs in Canada. Yet they don't have them on the Crave TV service, except for a few old series and Billions. Why?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cost to charge a Tesla Model X for a year vs a gas SUV

Solar power in Antarctica?

When some people think about efficient homes, they often assume that they wouldn't work in extremely cold climates. This assumption is fed by the typical reality, at least in North America, that a lot of energy is needed to keep a home warm in winter. Of course little do most people realize, it's mostly to do with the poor insulation of the home.

Which is why I love that there is a zero emission station in Antarctica. The Princess Elizabeth research station, owned by Belgium, is powered by solar, at times by 24 hour sunshine, and a great deal by wind.

This station maintains its internal temperatures using only incoming sunlight and the heat produced by human beings and the station's electrical appliances - there are no heaters.

What could go wrong

Hey, I have an idea. Let's go out on the ledge of the like 90th floor of a building in Dubai and you can dangle me over the edge where I'm only hanging on by my hand in yours.
Yeah. What could go wrong.
The pic will be epic.
Let's do it......

Things I learned lately - 10 March

  • The island of Kauai has an abundance of solar energy but it was only able to be used during the day. Kauai burned millions of gallons of fossil fuels annually to produce energy at night. Until now. Tesla’s 52 MWh Tesla Powerpack and 13 MW solar farm will store solar energy produced during the day and deliver it to the grid during the evening hours. 
  • Electronics retailer Radio Shack has filed for bankruptcy for the second time in just over two years.
  • Iceland will be the first country in the world to make employers prove they offer equal pay regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality. Upcoming legislation will require all employers with more than 25 staff to prove they give equal pay for work of equal value.
  • Tommy Chong's national cannabis brand, Chong's Choice, teamed up with Défoncé Chocolatier to create gourmet chocolate bars that can be easily split into smaller, more manageable doses of THC. The chocolates are part of a fast-growing category in the legal weed market that caters to adults who are new to edibles or are consuming for recreational, rather than medical, purposes. Each bar contains twenty 10-milligrams doses of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Chong's Choice chocolate bars are expected to arrive in select California dispensaries in May 2017.
  • The 5 largest cell providers in the US all offer phone plans now with unlimited data. Data speeds might slow down after you burn through 22GB+. The big 3 in Canada do not offer unlimited data plans.
  • Hyperloop One signed an agreement with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority to evaluate building a Hyperloop between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Hyperloop would reduce the commute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi from several hours to 12 minutes.
  • To help cut emissions, Barcelona will ban cars older than 20 years from the city and its 39 surrounding municipalities during the week and at times of high pollution.
  • Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars.
  • Spotify now has 50,000,000 paid subscribers (as of Q1 2017).

Friday, March 03, 2017

Crop circles

Lost in Light

From the photographer, Sriram Murali:

"Lost in Light, a short film on how light pollution affects the view of the night skies. Shot mostly in California, the movie shows how the view gets progressively better as you move away from the lights. Finding locations to shoot at every level of light pollution was a challenge and getting to the darkest skies with no light pollution was a journey in itself. Here’s why I think we should care more.
The night skies remind us of our place in the Universe. Imagine if we lived under skies full of stars. That reminder we are a tiny part of this cosmos, the awe and a special connection with this remarkable world would make us much better beings - more thoughtful, inquisitive, empathetic, kind and caring. Imagine kids growing up passionate about astronomy looking for answers and how advanced humankind would be, how connected and caring we’d feel with one another, how noble and adventurous we’d be. How compassionate with fellow species on Earth and how one with Nature we’d feel. Imagine a world where happiness of the soul is more beautiful. Ah, I feel so close to inner peace. I can only wonder how my and millions of other lives would have changed.

But in reality, most of us live under heavily light polluted skies and some have never even seen the Milky Way. We take the skies for granted and are rather lost in our busy lives without much care for the view of the stars. How does light pollution affect the night skies and quite possibly our lives?"

Lost in Light

Lost in Light II

Magic 10 ball?

Things I learned lately - 3 March

  • There was a meat shortage in the early 1900s. At the same time, southern Louisiana was being overtaken by a new invasive species of plant - water hyacinths - a gift from Japan. These invasive plants covered swamps, bayous, rivers, etc. to the point of making navigating the waters impossible and killing the fish. The infestation took 20 years and even the Army couldn't burn the plants out of existence. So someone come up with the idea of bringing hippos to eat the water hyacinths and being used as a major meat source. It never happened. That's how hippos almost became a common source of meat in America.
  • The Russians successfully hacked the US government in 2008. They broke into the American military's network, which was classified and not connected to the public internet, by planting bugged thumb drives for sale in kiosks near NATO headquarters in Kabul. They hoped that American soldiers would buy a drive and plug it into a secure computer. It worked.
  • partners with medical clinics so you can book an appointment and the app will text or call you only when it's time to come in, taking lateness into consideration. We now have one in Alberta, hopefully more to come.
  • There's a Google Chrome Extension called Nope. Click the green "N". Enter your phone number, then Activate. When you need to get rid of someone at your desk, click the button again. In 3 seconds you get a call from a New York City area code on your phone. When you pick up, a voice quietly instructs you on what to do next.
  • There are tornados on Mars.
  • Ancient penguins were as tall as humans for 30 million years.
  • You are twice as likely to crash while texting as you are drunk driving.

Friday, February 24, 2017

What are taxes?


How they clear snow in Russia.

Meanwhile in Canada...

Things I learned lately - 24 February

  • It seems that more Americans than ever before are now actually FOR Obamacare, and don't want Republicans to repeal it.
  • I guess some people are pretty passionate about their dislike of pineapple on pizza. Also, best headline on the story: "You want a pizza this?"
  • The people of North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean want nothing to do with outside society. In fact, if you were to set foot on the island, the Sentinelese would try to kill you. Almost nothing is known about this indigenous tribe which has inhabited the island for more than 60,000 years. The Sentinelese are completely cut-off from modern civilization by their own choice. After failing to make a connection (even after rescuers from the 2004 tsunami were met with hostility), the Indian government has stopped all attempts and prohibited travel within three miles of the island. In 2006, two illegally operating fishermen were killed when they broke the rules and visited the island.
  • Many Danish supermarkets are starting to sell good food, which is nearing its expiry date, at reduced prices. That means that supermarkets waste less food and earn money on the food, which otherwise could have been tossed in the bin - and customers can buy food at a reduced price and thus avoid food waste. Many Danish supermarkets brand themselves on these initiatives, labelling them “Save Food” of the “Stop Food Waste” bargains.
  • The longest mail delivery route in America is in rural Oklahoma, where some drivers drive 300km each day as part of their route. That would service around 200 homes.
  • The role of Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, was supposed to go to Tom Poston. But when NBC accepted the show idea, they insisted Don Adams get the role, who was on contract with NBC.
  • The first ever direct freight train from China to the UK has arrived to a fanfare in Barking, east London. The train carried millions of pounds worth of socks, cloth, bags, and household goods. It took 18 days to travel from the manufacturing city of Yiwu in China, travelling more than 7,500 miles across 7 countries and through the Chunnel. The new weekly service is thought to be quicker than a container ship and half the price of air freight. Differing rail gauges in different countries means no single train can travel the whole route and the containers have to be reloaded at various stages. 
  • The current market for marijuana in North America is bigger than what consumers spend on McDonald's and Starbucks combined.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sepia hell-scape

Wind-harvesting tree

Imagine a wind powered generator. But it's not big, or unsightly, or loud, or dangerous to wildlife. It's small, shaped like a tree, its leaves are mini windmills that can capture energy from the lightest breeze (7 km/h), and it can power a house with up to 4kW of electricity.

It's called NewWind. Video in French.

Classic Deadpool

Things I learned lately - 18 February

  • Gene Simmons on behalf of KISS, creates as many types of KISS themed merchandise as possible. One of their latest releases - KISS air guitar strings. It's a bag of air with a KISS header card on top, for $3.99.
  • The waiting list for season's tickets to the Green Bay Packers is 30 years long. Parents typically put their kids on the waiting list as soon as they're born.
  • Michigan's highway 185 is actually a bike path. So it's the only highway cars cannot drive on.
  • El Paso, Texas, is closer to Los Angeles than it is to Houston.
  • The tallest building in Vermont is only 11 stories.
  • Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont ban outdoor billboards.
  • Maine is the closest state to Africa.
  • Peachtree, a suburb of Atlanta, has 90 miles of roads just for golf carts. 9000 families there have golf carts as their second cars. Kids from the age of 12 drive to school in their golf carts.
  • There are 2 sets of escalators in the entire state of Wyoming.
  • Pelee Island, Ontario, is farther south than the border between Oregon and California.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rainbow Tesla

Automation's impact on the work force

The subject of conversations lately is turning toward the workplace and economy of the near future. More and more people are starting to wonder how automation, robots and self-driving vehicles will impact the workforce. They also want to know what we should do about it.

The simple answer is that automation is going to eliminate certain types of jobs. Robots can already make cars. Pretty soon, they'll make other robots and build factories. They'll serve food. They'll build houses and roads. They'll load aircraft with baggage. Cars will have computers capable of driving themselves better than a human. And so much more. The domino effect of these things will eliminate even more jobs.

I think what this will finally require is a complete overhaul of our economy and the evolution of our careers. It will start with education. Far too few people currently can afford to get a higher education, and those that borrow for it find themselves unable to repay their loan when they can't get work in the career they've trained for. This results in an overabundance of unskilled and skilled baristas, restaurant servers and retail workers. All of which are easily replaceable with robots. Never mind the currently employed workers whose jobs can and will be replaced by technology.

I think this points out the obvious conclusion that nobody will make it through their career anymore on one track, or a couple sets of skills. Successful careers will require constant retraining, resetting. Careers will require higher degrees of learning to enter a job market requiring programmers, database specialists, etc. In fact, it has already been predicted that the blue collar job of the near future is the garden variety coder. Our current system doesn't allow for equal access to higher degrees of learning, at least not in North America. Other jurisdictions have already figured out that making education accessible to the masses for free, not only elevates the overall capability of the population, but it also gives them the freedom to switch tracks at any time. It's a future-proof strategy, and we better adopt it soon, before the jobs of the future migrate to those jurisdictions, where the workforce is highly trained and have career mobility.

Another element of education that will need to change, is the willingness of institutions to offer curriculum that has no chance of obtaining work upon completion. I not only find this practise irresponsible, it smacks of borderline fraud. Institutions will need to partner much more closely with industry, to ensure that education tracks only run when there is a job waiting for it at its conclusion. This will require both fast-tracking the curriculum and finishing it on-the-job, just in time. These partnerships could even help fund the education in the first place, by offering to subsidize institutions or student cost of living, on the condition that graduates agree to work for the sponsoring company for a fixed term.


Things I learned lately - 10 February

  • The population density of Paris is more than double that of New York City.
  • Iran has 22 ski resorts.
  • Rwanda was the first country to ban the plastic bag.
  • In 1480, Sri Lanka was still connected to India via a land bridge, which has since eroded away. You can see remnants of it on Google Maps.
  • There are no bridges crossing the Amazon river.
  • There are no roads connecting Panama to Columbia. So you can't drive from North to South America (on a road).
  • San Jose Costa Rica, only allows car owners to drive 6 days a week, to fight pollution and congestion.
  • In Bulgaria, their nods mean the opposite from ours. Up and down means no and side to side means yes.
  • The longest fence in the world, at 5600 km can be found in Australia. It was built to keep wild dogs out of the fertile SE region.
  • In Denmark, you're never more than 48 km from the ocean.
  • The easternmost part of Canada is closer to Croatia than to Vancouver.
  • There are no commercial flights in or out of Delaware.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

It's a shame

I wasn't sure I wanted to or needed to weigh in on the decisions being made in America lately, but I feel compelled to say something.

It really saddens me that decisions are being made for political effect, with no consideration for the real effects those decisions will have on innocent people.

A person in charge of education who doesn't even believe in the public education system? A person in charge of the EPA who never believed in the EPA? The elimination of financial regulations that only aim to protect those who Wall Street would readily take advantage of? Judicial hacks who deny women the right to decisions on their own bodies?

The 90 day ban against travellers from select countries is a real doozer. Especially when you consider that all the terrorists that come out of the middle east to inflict harm on America came from countries not even on the list. Saudi Arabia anyone? What strikes me though is the sheer cruelty of this ban. Families broken apart because a member can't come to America to be reunited with the rest of their family. Where's the compassion? Professionals who already work for big corporations in America, green card or visa in hand, no longer allowed to enter the country. Does this government not realize how much this could damage the economy in the long term, when you can't even hire the best of the best globally (like the rest of the world can)?

One can only reason that these policies do not result in the 'great America' so often touted by this narcissist.