Saturday, May 18, 2019

Small things 18 May

  • "Be an expert in giving everyone else a good time." ~Keith Johnstone (father of theatresports improv)
  • Q. Why do moms put the dishes away so loudly? A. To remind everyone that nobody helps around the house.
  • Imagine a Shazam type of service, but instead of for music, it's for diagnosing that weird sound your car makes.
  • Nowadays, you mention Botox and nobody raises an eyebrow.....
  • If you visit Australia and at customs they ask, "Do you have a criminal record?" do not be tempted to reply, "I wasn't aware you still needed one...."
  • Whatever you do, next April Fool's Day, do NOT put up ads all over the city telling them there's a prize for the best Chewbacca roar and to leave a voice mail with your best roar at this number: and then put your boss's cell number as the contact number. Nope. Not a good idea.
  • Remember when teachers and nurses crashed the economy and took billions in bonuses and bailouts? Me neither...
  • When you're in the hospital, the sign 'stroke patients' is not an invitation.
  • Don't go bacon my heart. I couldn't if I fried.... Also, if you don't get the song reference, you're not old.
  • Statistics have shown that people who have more birthdays live longer. It must be the cake...

I think this might have been a slightly different store once upon a time.....


There has been a lot of extremely animated discussion about whether or not Calgary needs to re-introduce fluoride into the public water supply.

Those that are pro-fluoridation quote studies that since we stopped doing it in 2011, the rate of cavities has gone up in Calgary compared to Edmonton. But this is one study, conducted by students, who did not take other dental health factors into consideration at all.

Those that are anti-fluoridation suggest that studies point to adverse effects of ingesting too much fluoride. I have discovered countless articles suggesting that these studies are being suppressed, but I can't conclude one way or the other.

Let's look at some facts. Quebec and BC for the most part do not add fluoride to their water. Only 4% of the water in Quebec is fluoridated. I wasn't able to get recent stats for BC, but Quebec's rate of cavities is 0.5 cavities more per child. Health Canada warned against drawing conclusions one way or the other because the studies to date have NOT considered other fluoride intake factors, such as the most common intake - toothpaste.

In Alberta, actual stats show that communities that do NOT add fluoride to their water showed similar decreases in tooth decay as those that did add fluoride. In one example of the inconsistencies of the data, Radway AB showed a 9% increase in decay with a natural well water fluoride amount of 0.12 ppm. Yet, Busby AB showed a 69% decrease in decay using well water with 0.19 ppm of fluoride. As a reference, communities that fluoridate their water tend to add 1.0 ppm artificially.

Every article I could find about Canada's dental health indicates that their sources show dental health improving over time, regardless of whether fluoride is added to the water.

From a Globe and Mail article:

There has also been a worldwide reduction in cavity rates, regardless of whether countries use the chemical, suggesting factors other than adding it to water supplies are at work.

One theory is that most people are already getting adequate exposure to fluoride through toothpastes, so the amounts in water aren't making much difference in tooth decay rates.

"The parallel reduction in caries [cavities] incidents in countries with a lot of fluoridation and countries with not much fluoridation is quite dramatic," says Warren Bell, former head of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, a group that questions the practice.

Dr. Limeback said factors that might be preventing caries include increased exposure to vitamin D, better oral hygiene, less sugar consumption, and even antibiotics.

When fluoridation started 60 years ago, doctors thought swallowing the chemical was beneficial by strengthening teeth from the inside out. Dr. Limeback said more recent research shows that if there is a benefit, it is from the topical application of fluoride to the surface of teeth, which suggests that brushing with a toothpaste is more effective than drinking water containing the chemical.

The problem I have personally with adding it has to do with the utility's inability to dose accurately based on our observations. Calgary also adds chlorine to the water. In our house, the water contains so much chlorine, when we fill our tub, sometimes the water has a blue tinge to it. We asked the City to test our water a few years back and they admitted that the level of chlorine in our water was rather high and that nothing could be done about it. In fact, they recommended we use a chlorine filter, such as Brita, to make our water drinkable.

So if the City can't reliably dose the water with chlorine in every home, how could one expect them to reliably dose fluoride?

Here are countries with no fluoridation that have good dental health: Switzerland; Sweden; Norway; Netherlands; Latvia; Italy; Hungary; Greece; Germany; France; Finland; Estonia; Denmark; Croatia; Czech Republic; Belgium; Austria.

Back to stats. Kentucky has the highest rate of tooth decay in the US. 98% of the residents get fluoridated water. Draw your own conclusions.

I vote no fluoridation. There aren't any conclusive studies that suggest it helps. There may be no conclusive data that it harms, but if it doesn't help according to modern stats, why bother forcefully medicating a population against their will?

Mars Habitat

This is definitely the coolest Mars habitat proposal video I've seen yet.

Those NASA folks are clever.

She looks so familiar, I just can't place that face....

Things I learned lately 18 May

  • You would have to build a single column tower at least 2.17 miles high in order to exert enough pressure on the bottom brick to lead to structural failure.
  • When in doubt, order the bigger pizza. A 16-inch pizza has almost 100% more surface area (~201 square inches) than a 12-inch pizza (~113 square inches), yet doesn’t cost anywhere near 100% more.
  • People think that the US ignores the metric system, but in fact the military, much of the federal government, and the medical and pharmaceutical fields have switched.
  • You would think that "wi-fi" stands for something longer, but it doesn't. It's just a marketing term, chosen because it sounds better than "IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence". Some folks think it stands for 'wireless fidelity', but that's only because at one time, the term wi-fi came with the tag line "the standard in wireless fidelity". In truth, wi-fi means nothing.
  • The technical name for the sound of a rumbling stomach is "borborygmus".
  • Hawaii is one of only 2 states in the US that has never recorded a record high temperature over 100F. Of course, Alaska is the other state.
  • As Notre-Dame cathedral burned, alt-right figures launched a campaign on social media falsely blaming Muslims for the blaze.
  • In 2015, Godzilla received honorary Japanese citizenship and is listed as officially residing in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Small things 10 May

Me: There was a fad in the 1950s called booth stuffing where teens would try to stuff themselves into phone booths.
Teen: Into what?

  • Don't be sad. Because sad spelled backward is das. And das not good.
  • Twins. The original, all natural buy one, get one free.
  • If you're arguing loudly on your phone in public, please put it on speaker. We need to hear both sides to know whose side we're on.
  • Dear American democrat millennials: You know you could just enable parental controls on your parents' TV and block Fox News..........
  • Never mind 'dance like no one is watching'. Dance like a toddler. They don't even care if there's music.
  • Most of the people who say the Mueller report exonerates Trump haven't actually read the report.
  • Shout out to all the early humans who died figuring out which plants were safe to eat.
  • I'm too embarrassed to tell stories of when we used to download an entire song over a period of 40 minutes on dial-up internet.

It's safer than you are

Tesla's sensors and computer are so road aware that they often see an accident developing long before you do, as witnessed in this accident avoidance video compilation.

The one at 0:33 is especially incredible, as the car sees past the car directly in front to the one experiencing loss of control. The moment you hear the beeps is when the Tesla is letting you know that an accident is happening. Then it happens. The car has already brought itself to a safe stop.

Just listen for all the times the beep alerts you to the incident to come even before it happens.

Tesla navigate on autopilot

In case you've never seen the latest Tesla cars driving on 'autopilot', here's a video showing it in action.

What it allows for over and above the typical dynamic cruise control you would get on other cars is the ability to know where we're going and suggest when it's time to change lanes, which you enable by tapping the turn signal lever.

[Update: The change lanes function I just described is now automatic. You no longer need to use the turn signal to confirm the lane change. The car does it on its own after making sure it's safe to do so. P.S.: That escalated quickly...... (Yeah, I had to say that)

Of course this only works on highways right now, but watch this space....

We're getting so close now

Here we go folks. Tesla dropped this sped up video evidence of a Tesla car fully driving itself from start to finish. Admittedly, on a planned, navigable route, but OK.

It managed traffic lights, traffic, stop signs, navigating secondary highways and roads, the gamut.

Now, I'd still like to see how it does in a blizzard or a big torrential rain, but this is the future.

Tesla Autonomy Investor Day (22 Apr 2019)

I had a chance to glimpse on Youtube Tesla's unveiling of the custom computers that are now being put into new Tesla cars. These new computers will allow the vehicles to drive themselves, which is something that still doesn't quite sit right with a lot of people. I wanted to learn more.

Up until now, Tesla has been using off the shelf computer components to give their cars intelligence, but Teslas goal has always been to create a level of intelligence and autonomy that would be more difficult to accomplish given  existing hardware and software. Let's face it, most computer hardware that exists on the market today was designed to do business productivity or gaming related tasks, not drive a car and keep its passengers safe. Most computers aren't designed to connect to 8 cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and 1 radar to build an accurate picture of what's going on around a vehicle for several car lengths, plus pedal and steering wheel angle sensors. So, Tesla decided to hire specialists to build their own task specific computers and then hire specialists to make neural net software to run on those custom built computers.

The new computer is a dual redundant design, where both sets of circuitry analyze what's coming in from the sensors and cameras, devise a plan, and then the two circuits compare plans to ensure that no mistake was made. But the system can operate even if half of the system were to malfunction. Their failure prediction analysis suggests that you're 100 to 1000 times more likely to lose consciousness yourself than the computer is to malfunction. Having custom made hardware also makes it possible to only run software that was cryptographically signed by Tesla. In other words, hacking the car and taking control would be pretty tough to do. The computer chips themselves employ a neural network design, which is quite different from a traditional chip, and are fast - 144 TOPS (tera operations per second). That's 144 trillion operations per second. If you are a gamer, you know that achieving 60+ frames per second of video is only possible with really great video hardware. Tesla's new computer gets to over 3000 frames per second of processed video. As impressive as this is, Tesla is already half way through the design of the next generation computer.

A few people in the assembled reveal audience were asking if Tesla was afraid of other companies stealing their design. Elon Musk said that reverse engineering and then building a duplicate system would take 3 years, assuming they were skilled enough. But in 2 years or less, an upgraded design with at least 3 times the capability will have been released. Elon also stressed that unlike other companies attempting self driving, Tesla is collecting and analyzing real world driving data from 500,000 cars and counting to tweak their software. In other words, Tesla has gone into a manic sprint and has left the rest of the field far behind.

What the 8 cameras are seeing in real time in the car.

In the composite of what the 8 cameras are seeing, you can see the drivable space in blue, dotted lines identifying where the lane markings are. Based on the neural net designer's explanation, the critical task that the computer has, is to recognize everything it sees and determine with accuracy how far away those things are from the car. This is very difficult for a computer to do, because although our brains are able to identify objects instantly, a computer only sees billions of pixels of varying degrees of brightness. It needs to learn how to put boundaries around these bits of brightness and determine that what it's seeing is most likely a bike, or a person, or a giant truck. The bigger problem is that the 'shape' and brightness of a truck is going to be different depending on from which direction it is being lit by the sun or street lights. And if the sun is directly in your line of sight, the truck is going to appear much darker than it normally would. This is easy for us, because our brain is a high performing neural network that excels in pattern recognition.

So what the Tesla's computers are doing is learning about its surroundings from scratch. You might learn what a car looks like from one picture and be able to recognize them going forward, but a computer cannot do this. A computer needs lots of examples of what a car looks like, from every angle, in every lighting condition. The same goes for bikes, people, trucks, lane markings, signs, construction barriers, etc. In the real world, a deployed computer is learning more based on what it already knows via programming, letting the mothership know what it learned and experienced, then the computers are updated with more awareness of the world and its possibilities.

Some people in the audience wanted to know how Tesla felt about Waymo's suggestion that their self driving system would be better because of the billions of miles driven in their simulations. Elon responded by saying that basing a car's situational awareness on simulations was akin to correcting your own tests. The real world is going to throw many more unexpected but real situations at the car than could even be dreamed of in a simulation. So, Tesla believes that their system is going to be more street smart (pun intended) than the other systems that to this day have very little fleet experience. Not just now, but into the future as well, as more Tesla cars hit the streets and self drive. So the reason Tesla feels their neural network computer is best is because it's being trained with lots of data, lots of varied data, and it's all real data. Teslas have an advantage over humans in that a human can only see where the eyes are facing. Tesla cameras and sensors give the car a much better vantage point to see the world around it. Behind, beside, front and from higher levels than a human's eyes.

The problem gets even more complicated when it comes to object identification and tracking. The neural net might know what a car looks like and what a bike looks like, but what will it do when it sees a bike mounted on the back of a car on a rack? So the computer, using real images from the fleet of cars, looks at many examples of bikes mounted on the back of cars and learns that it's just a car, one object, not two objects that need to be tracked. Now imagine a bike mounted to a car being towed by a motor-home. Do you see why these computers need to be real world aware? The car needs to be aware of debris on the road, animals, what construction sites look like, boats being towed, etc.

So Tesla is being notified daily when their existing cars come across things they don't know how to deal with. Every time a driver takes back control of a vehicle from autopilot, the car sends data about that intervention back to the mothership so they can learn what happened and how to teach the fleet to deal with that particular situation. The cars are also being asked to look out for very specific situations and send video and sensor data when those situations arise. For example, there's no need to send a stream of video of normal highway driving, because the car already knows how to drive in a lane at speed. Once masses of real data are accumulated, Tesla trains the neural net to know what it's looking at, how to deal with it and uploads that new knowledge to the fleet. Imagine if every time you had a question about something, once you learned what it was, that knowledge is passed along to everyone else. Almost sounds like an automatic, built in Google. What's important to note about this, is that the car is quite capable of driving on its own, but with each new software update, it has learned how to deal with more and more situations.

But it gets better. You know how if you're really paying attention to the cars around you and where their drivers are looking, you can predict to a fair degree of accuracy, whether they're about to change lanes? Or cut you off? Well, Tesla cars have been learning this too. They can react to a car coming into its lane not only because of its speed of processing, but also because it can recognize the signs that the lane change is very likely to happen soon, such as when a car starts drifting toward the lane marking. Regardless of whether they're using the turn signal. By the way, this training has been happening for the last few years. All Teslas (built in the last few years) are watching the objects around them and making predictions about what will happen next even though it's not in self driving mode. Then the car gauges how accurate its predictions are and reports all of the false positives and false negatives back to Tesla, so they can figure out where the weaknesses are that need improving. So, when you get right down to it, Tesla's neural network is learning how to drive thanks to our driving. And better still, Tesla only pays attention to the good driving habits. That's impressive. What's even more impressive is that the car is making path predictions even on things it can't see, like blind corners and curves in the road. This why back in September 2018, a Tesla would not have been able to navigate a cloverleaf intersection, but as of April 2019, it can. This is a direct result of refined path prediction.

An audience member asked how the car could possibly figure out when it would be safe to make a lane change, considering how unpredictable drivers can be. Again, the answer came down to learning from real world scenarios. Every time a human driver did or did not choose to change lanes as they were driving their Tesla, the neural net learned from this, because it is simultaneously predicting whether it is safe to change lanes itself and seeing what the human (and the cars around the car) does in each case. It learns and ultimately teaches the rest of the fleet from these experiences. Tesla is tuning the neural net to make decisions based on a more conservative driving style, but as it learns more it will offer more aggressive driving styles while maintaining a level of safety. Owners have reported for example, that their Model 3 saw cars trying to merge onto the highway from the right and created the gaps necessary for them to merge safely. As Elon put it, they're training the car to play chicken and win every time. It sounds scary, but in real life, driving is scary. Tesla cars have driven 70+ million miles with Navigate on Autopilot. Tesla has also logged 9+ million successful lane changes performed by the cars with an additional 100,000 more every day. All of this with no accidents. That will accelerate rapidly with each passing month.

Something I've been curious about, since Tesla's system leverage what the car can see, is what happens when lane markings are hard to see, faded, or non-existent. What happens when the markings are completely covered in snow? The answer is that although Tesla needs to see lane markings some of the time, they will have the ability to train the car to figure out where the lanes are even without the markings being visible, in a manner similar to how we know where the lanes are based on the width of the visible road and where other cars are on it. It won't even rely on GPS to assist, because GPS is often wrong about where stuff is, especially when there have been changes to a road, detours during construction, unplowed lanes, etc. Tesla even said that although it had been predicted that cars communicating with each other would make for a more intelligent car, the current neural net intelligence is making that completely unnecessary, in much the same way that humans are able to navigate all driving situations without having to talk to the other drivers. They simply observe, predict, and react accordingly. Tesla cars are getting extremely good at the same process.

Again, as we drive more cars in the snow, the better the system will get, in a rather short period of time. The car is more interested in driveable space than where the lanes are, in the grand scheme of things. Because when it comes to accident avoidance, the car needs to know where it can go while maintaining control when it tries to avoid an animal, or another car losing control, etc. Elon said that in the next iteration of the software, people will be amazed at how good the driving skills of the car have evolved to. The goal is for the car to be a better driver than any human, an all scenarios. Elon expects that the system will be good enough that we won't need to monitor the car's driving by mid 2020, and convincing regulators that it's safe should come not long afterward, at least in some jurisdictions. The cars would also park themselves and connect to chargers themselves. Elon went so far as to predict that once Tesla cars prove their mettle, consumers will not be interested in driving much anymore because it will be more dangerous than letting the car do it.

Now things get really interesting. The next goal is to enable Robotaxi sometime in 2020, pending regulatory approval. That's taxis with no driver. Any Tesla owner would be able to add their vehicle to the robotaxi fleet, at times they dictate. They would even be able to limit sharing with social media friends and co-workers. The money earned (some predictions put this as much as $30,000 annually) would offset some or even all of the monthly car payments. This would also make cars 5 times more practical considering how many more hours of use they would get. The next generation of battery packs are designed to last 1 million miles before they'd need replacing, which is in line with the expected longevity of the rest of the car itself. For USD$38,000. In time, Teslas will ship without steering wheels and pedals and other parts only required by a human driver. Elon suggests this could bring the cost down to USD$25,000 and make the cars lighter and have better range. Perhaps by 2023. AAA indicates that the average all in cost of ownership of a gasoline car is $0.62 per mile. Elon predicts the average cost to run a robotaxi will be at least as low as $0.18 per mile.

How life is different for people who drive electric cars

  • No more stopping at the gas station.
  • No more gas smell on your hands.
  • Every morning, the car is / can be fully charged and ready.
  • You can get in to an already heated / cooled car.
  • Manage your car with your phone.
  • 'Fill-ups' are much cheaper.
  • It's possible to get free 'fill-ups' at work (depending on where you work).
  • Instant torque.
  • Drives are less stressful (if equipped with Autopilot).
  • Drives are safer (if equipped with Autopilot).
  • No more oil changes.
  • Fewer brake services.
  • No tune ups.
  • Higher insurance (if you choose a performance model).

Things I learned lately 10 May

  • There are more people employed by green energy jobs in Canada than are employed by the oil sands. (Source: The Globe and Mail)
  • Tesla now makes 60% of the world's lithium ion batteries (by kWh).
  • Russian halvah is made from sunflower seeds. Usually, it's made with sesame butter (tahini). (I tried it too)
  • In California you have to request a straw. I think they've mostly switched to non-plastic ones too.
  • Despite being home to enormous geothermal potential, Canada is the only country on the Pacific Ring of Fire that doesn’t use the resource to produce commercial-scale energy.
  • Home Depot could have been called 'Bad Bernie's Buildall' if an early investor hadn't intervened.
  • With nearly 5,000 wineries, California produces 81% of all US wine and sells 241 million cases of wine a year.
  • Google's unusual "death benefits" include paying the deceased's spouse or domestic partner 50% of their salary for 10 years. What's more, all of the dead Googler's stocks vest immediately. Each child of the employee receives $1,000 per month until age 19, or age 23 for full-time students. There's no tenure requirement.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Here comes my ex......

Small things 26 Apr

  • Did humans learn about eating bananas from apes or the other way around? Also, why is it humans don't know (unlike apes) that the banana opens easier from the non-stem end?
  • The Easter Bunny is just a church sanctioned furry.
  • Yogurt is like crack. Don't believe me? Watch how many times someone scrapes the bottom with their spoon. 
  • We are the only living beings (that we know of) on this planet that not only can modulate the sounds of their farts, but can also mimic the sound of their farts with other body parts.
  • It occurs to me that people from Boston wouldn't make good pirates. They'd just walk around all day going "Ahhhhhhhhh!"
  • Did you know you can't breathe in while you smile? Just kidding, I just wanted to make you smile.
  • How many "chuggas" are you supposed to say before "choo choo"?

What makes a home efficient?

If you've read any of my articles on the greening of our economy, you've probably heard me go on and on about more efficient homes as a must-do. Maybe you have no idea what that looks like. I sure didn't 10 years ago. So let me bring you up to speed.

There are many elements of a house's design that make it net zero, or at least qualify it as a 'passiv haus'. What people need to realize is that a house built to code is the absolutely worst house you are allowed to build by law. Over the course of its life, a house built to code will be the most expensive to operate and maintain.


The typical ceiling rating is R-38. In an efficient home, the value rises to R-80 or more. This is accomplished by using more insulation in the attic space or ceiling joists and roof itself and by making sure that any venting does not allow the insulation to cool off, just the roof itself.

Then there's the slope and face. If you're going to mount solar panels on the roof, it should face the south, or at least south-east (statistically less cloud in the morning). Any roof that doesn't have panels on it should not be sloped toward the sun. This results in interesting shapes.


The typical thickness of walls in a standard house are only thick enough to fill with a limited amount of insulation. Most exterior walls are built with 2 x 4 studs which only allows for enough insulation to achieve an 'R' value of R-12.

In an efficient home, the external walls are up to 12 inches thick, allowing for enough layers of insulation to achieve an R-40 rating. There are a lot of competing wall designs out there, but the common denominator is extra thickness. You want more insulation and you can only achieve that with a much thicker wall than normal. In many cases this involves multiple wall layers sandwiched together, each layer serving a specific set of roles, from water barrier, to vapour barrier, to breaking up the thermal bridge from inside to outside. The passiv haus design is much more stringent though. It calls for a 2 x 10 exterior insulated wall with an OSB barrier leading to an interior 2 x 4 service wall for utility (wiring and pipes). This not only makes for a thicker wall, but also prevents the vapour barrier from being punctured whenever you need to add more stuff in the service wall.

Inside the home, any interior wall that will be exposed to sunlight in winter could be made of thermal mass, such as concrete or stone. I'll explain why in the next section on floors.

Moisture and air leakage are issues too. An efficient home must have air tight walls (and windows, when closed). It also must have a layer underneath the exterior cladding to allow for any water to get completely down and out of the wall.


Concrete acts as a heat sink. It absorbs heat slowly and releases it just as slowly as the air cools. A well designed house will situate its windows to allow sunlight to come through and shine and heat the concrete floor in winter most of the day, which lessens the load on other heat sources. Then at night, the heat is slowly released back into the air to lessen the load on other heat sources. Ordinarily, this heat sink wouldn't be enough to heat the house much, but because an efficient home has much better insulation, it makes a huge difference. Also, the overhangs only let this thermal warming of the floor happen when the sun is low in the sky, as in winter.

Incidentally, this only works to maximum advantage if the home is oriented east-west with the south exposure having a good deal of windows.

Radiant heat. Since the most efficient house has concrete floors, your floors are already a great heat sink. If that concrete is embedded with tubing, you can maintain a level of warmth beyond what the winter sun can provide by pumping warm water through the floor for radiant heat. Radiant heating is so much more efficient than forced air heating, because the warmth rises out of the floor, walking on a warm floor gives the illusion of warmth even when the surrounding air is a bit cooler. It also sucks less humidity out of the air than would a forced air furnace or radiator system.


You wouldn't think that much heat is lost in the basement through the foundation, but when your furnace starts operating less often in the spring, you notice your basement starts getting significantly cooler. That's because the heat stored in the concrete walls and floor release the heat into the air, both inside and outside. In order to build a more energy efficient home, you need to insulate the concrete foundation inside and out. The designs I saw had slabs of foam insulation under the concrete basement floor and on both sides of the foundation walls. This improves the slab's insulation rating from near zero to R-16, and the basement walls from R-8 to R-36.


An east-west orientation ensures that the low morning and evening sun doesn't get much of an opportunity to enter the home through the windows, creating too much solar heating. The high midday sun shouldn't enter the south facing windows, especially if awnings, etc. are used as discussed in the next section. But the windows should allow the low midday winter sum to enter through as much window as possible to maximize solar heating of the thermal mass inside, typically concrete floor and possibly walls.

The north, west and east walls can have windows, but they should be as small as possible and higher up on the wall to minimize solar heating. Get the kind that open if possible to allow for cross ventilation in the warmer months.

The windows themselves should be ultra-efficient, 3 pane design with argon between the panes and low-e coating so that the heat that does enter doesn't leak back out.

Awnings and overhangs

In the high sun angle of summer, awnings or overhangs are needed over south facing windows to prevent direct sunlight from shining in the windows. You want to minimize solar heating. Some folks try to prevent the solar heating by using blinds instead, but the heat is still getting through the window itself. You could pick windows that have the blinds built in. That can help. But shading the window is the best. The awnings should not prevent the sun from coming in once summer is over, as this is going to help heat the thermal mass inside.


The newest ultra high efficiency air-to-air heat exchangers can draw heat out of the outside air right down to -25C and work as air conditioning in summer. When you've got the insulation of a passiv haus, this is pretty much all you need for heating and cooling. Most high efficiency homes even forego the furnace entirely. But some homes install an electric furnace as a backup.

Air exchange

Because a passiv haus is air tight, it doesn't get any fresh air. These homes need a heat recovery ventilation system. This device brings fresh air from outside and using a very efficient heat transfer device, pre-heats the fresh air using heat from the air that will be exhausted. It usually works out to be 75% efficient. It makes for a healthy home with lots of air circulation and filtered air too, if that's necessary. The best systems get rid of excess moisture, VOCs, carbon dioxide and other toxins. They also make it unnecessary to exhaust bathroom air directly outside.

Your dryer needs to be considered here as well, because a normal dryer exhausts air outside. There are now condensing dryers that don't need to exhaust anything outside, but remove the water and dump it down the drain.

Hot water

You can use a few of the kind of solar panels that heat water to provide pre-heated or hot water, but these systems are too expensive now compared to the newest alternatives. Modern heat pump water heaters extract heat from the ambient air of your house to heat the water in the tank, and if that's not enough, then electric heating elements kick in. Some of these units can even exhaust cool air into the rest of the house in summer. Think about it, a hot water heater that also acts as an air conditioner. Smart.

Solar panels

The finishing touch of a passiv haus is generating your own electricity. This part of the project requires a lot of planning and consultation with the utility company. This is because some utilities will only allow you to generate a certain amount of power, so that you don't become a regular producer all year long. They want you to produce just enough power to provide for your home. Surpluses are fine, as long as they're not constant. The way around this is to also have battery storage for the excess. That way anything you collect in excess can be stored for later, when it's night or the sun isn't as strong.

One of the smartest things I saw was a house design where the panels were mounted on the overhangs shading the south facing windows. This prevented the entire roof from having to be covered in panels.

By the way, solar panels have really dropped in price these days, which is why they're becoming more viable even in less expensive, non net zero designs.

Riddle me this....

Things I learned lately 26 Apr

  • KitKat chcolate bars are made of KitKats. Every rejected KitKat is mashed and made into the insides of new KitKats. Since every imperfect KitKat was already filled with other imperfect KitKats, and some of the KitKats they'll fill will also be rejected, every time you eat a KitKat, you're basically eating layers of KitKats within KitKats within KitKats.
  • Tesla vehicles will be ineligible for the Canadian government's new $5,000 electric vehicle tax credit when it takes effect on May 1. Base-model vehicles must have sticker price below $45,000 CAD. Tesla's cheapest car, the Model 3, starts at $53,700 in Canada, according to the company's website. The Model S and X start at $114,000 CAD and $117,000 CAD, respectively.
  • Dogs can be trained to smell an oncoming epileptic seizure up to 45 minutes before they happen.
  • Apple now has a few robots designed to disassemble old discarded products and recycle their parts / material.
  • The Method brand soap factory in Chicago (pictured) has a 75,000 square foot greenhouse on its roof that produces 1 million pounds of food every year.
  • There is an annual Sasquatch calling competition in Whitehall, NY. Who knows which call is accurate? No bigfoot have ever responded to any of the calls.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thinking of growing a beard?

Guys, have you thought about growing a beard? Let me share my experiences with you.

I decided to grow my beard in October 2018, after having previously tried various growth attempts in the past. After it got to a certain length, I realized that it was quite wiry and did some research on oils and balms. I settled on an unscented balm from Rocky Mountain Barber Company, a Canadian product. One very nice and totally unexpected by-product of using the balm, is that I wipe the excess off my hands onto my elbows, and it really helps protect them from drying out like they normally do. Old man problems.

So, what's it like with a beard? Well, it brings a whole new dimension to eating. They don't call it a 'flavour saver' for nothing. When food gets on my beard, I often don't feel like wiping it gets it all, so I tend to wash it at the sink a lot after a messy meal.

I notice that I quickly formed a habit of chewing my moustache, which I used to do when I had just a moustache in my late 20s. I don't know if there's anything I can do to stop that, but I'm just dealing with it for now.

I bought myself a cheap, narrow trimmer to get hair off my upper lip and other minor adjustments. Once the beard got pretty long, Darlene said I was starting to look like a homeless person. So I went to the barber for a trim. My first and second barber visits (2 different barbers) did not produce the result I was looking for. In particular, they did a very crooked job of the trim line on my neck. It's unlikely most people would notice, but I did and that's all that matters. If you think it's hard to find a person that cuts your hair properly, I think it might be even harder to find someone who cuts your beard to your satisfaction. My 3rd visit to a barber in the Bridgeland neighbourhood (Cannibale) finally gave me a straight trim line.

I haven't quite made up my mind one way or the other as to whether the beard is permanent, but I haven't had any urges yet to get rid of it. It's been a bit entertaining to watch peoples' faces who haven't seen me since before October 2018 as they try to figure out if they recognize me or not. Most people say they like the change, but would anyone be honest enough to say otherwise? I don't know.

True shower stories

Small things 18 Apr

  • Why do I always feel the need to pull up beside the vehicle to see what the bad driver looks like?
  • Millennials. Always walking around like they rent the place......
  • Should you really wish your diabetic child 'sweet dreams'?
  • Extremely cruel and inappropriate way to break a pet's death to a child: "What has four legs but isn't alive?"
  • Parental control software - no replacement for real parenting.
  • I don't miss homework.
  • Value Village: When you don't feel like dressing up to go to Walmart.
  • It is conceivable that a young person might not realize that if their fob battery dies, they could use their key to unlock the car door.
  • Cat's favourite day: boxing day.

Pointless sign

It's a pointless sign, because Abby is nowhere near this DQ to read it.

That is how the bolus spider do

"If you want to catch a chicken, smell like a horny chicken. If you want to catch me, smell like Doritos and a nap."

Ze Frank continues to crack me up.

P.S.: This was possibly the least gross screen grab from the video.

Just sayin'......

Things I learned lately 18 Apr

  • In the latest version of Tesla's autopilot, the car seeks to overtake (pass) slow moving cars; can change lanes on its on without driver intervention (such as when it's time to get to the right to be ready for an exit from a highway; and can navigate highway to highway interchanges on its own. The next feature currently being tested is traffic light recognition.
  • The most common prescription bottle colours are orange and light brown; the colours are just the right hue to prevent ultraviolet light from damaging photosensitive medication, while allowing enough visible light into the container to illuminate the contents.
  • Tomatoes were a product of the New World and only appeared in Italy after importation. As a result, the first recorded instance of a tomato-based sauce in Italian cuisine wasn’t until the 1790s. 
  • Half of the world’s geysers are located in Yellowstone National Park.
  • Betteridge’s Law of Headlines states that "Any headline that ends with a question mark can be answered with the word no."
  • The symbol for the band Queen, a large crest-like logo, was designed by Queen front man Freddie Mercury and includes references to the zodiac symbols of all four members: the two lions (Leo) on the sides for John Deacon and Roger Taylor, the two fairies (Virgo) for Freddie Mercury, and a crab (Cancer) for Brian May.
  • One Times Square, once home to the New York Times and now the focal point for the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop, is almost entirely empty with few tenants; the majority of the revenue the building’s owners take in is from the many large billboards on the exterior of the building.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Sniff his butt

Small things 12 Apr

  • Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people.
  • The 'trickle-down' theory: The principle that the poor, who must subsist on table scraps dropped by the rich, can best be served by giving the rich bigger meals. ~William Blum
  • Dragons are sad because they can't blow out their birthday candles.
  • Croutons are a great comeback story if you think about it. Bread nobody ate yesterday becomes the best part of the salad today.
  • Children words of widom: "Never trust a dog to watch your food."
  • Children words of widom: "Don't pull dad's finger when he tells you to."
  • Children words of widom: "When your mom is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair."
  • Children words of widom: "You can't hide broccoli in a glass of milk."
  • Children words of widom: "If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a pony."
  • Children words of widom: "Never try to baptize a cat."
  • Children words of widom: "Felt markers are not good to use as lipstick."

Get it?

Songs that are 40 years old this year (2019)

AC/DC - Highway to hell
Gary Numan - Cars
Marianne Faithful - Broken English / The ballad of Lucy Jordan
Michael Jackson - Don't stop 'til you get enough / Rock with you
Pink Floyd - Another brick in the wall / Comfortably numb
Talking Heads - Life during wartime
B-52s - Rock lobster / Planet claire
The Police - Message in a bottle / Walking on the moon
April Wine - Roller
M - Pop muzik
Patrick Hernandez - Born to be alive
Gloria Gaynor - I will survive
Doobie Brothers - What a fool believes
Donna Summer - Bad girls
Chic - Good times / Le freak
The Knack - My sharona
Rupert Holmes - Escape (the pina colada song)
Boom town Rats - I don't like Mondays
The Buggles - Video killed the radio star
Earth Wind and Fire - After the love has gone / Boogie wonderland
Robert Palmer - Bad case of loving you
Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead
Supertramp - Breakfast in America / Goodbye stranger / The logical song
Nick Lowe - Cruel to be kind
Roxy Music - Dance away
Tom Petty - Don't do me like that / Refugee
Sniff n the Tears - Driver's seat
OMD - Electricity
Pointer Sisters - Fire
The Cars - Good times roll
Kiss - I was made for lovin' you
Joe Jackson - Is she really going out with him?
Little River Band - Lady
The Clash - London calling
XTC - Making plans for Nigel
Blondie - One way or another
The Sugarhill Gang - Rapper's delight
Suzi Quatro - Stumblin' in
Ramones - I wanna be sedated

Nobody cares which team you play for