Sunday, August 31, 2014

Things I learned lately - 31 Aug

  • The roots of the 7-day week can be traced back about 4,000 years, to Babylon. The Babylonians believed there were 7 planets in the solar system, and the number 7 held such power to them that they planned their days around it. Their 7-day, planetary week spread to Egypt, Greece, and eventually to Rome. The Jewish people had their own version of a 7-day week.
  • By the late 19th century, workers were still working every day except Sunday. Some Britons used the week's seventh day for merriment rather than for the rest prescribed by scripture. They would drink, gamble, and enjoy themselves so much that the phenomenon of 'Saint Monday' emerged, where workers would skip work to recover from Sunday's fun. English factory owners later compromised with workers by giving them half of Saturday off in exchange for a promise to show up for work on Monday. In 1908, a New England mill became the first American factory to institute the 5-day week. It did so to accommodate Jewish workers, whose observance of a Saturday sabbath forced them to make up their work on Sundays, offending some in the Christian majority. The mill granted these Jewish workers a 2-day weekend, and other factories followed. The Great Depression cemented the 2-day weekend into the economy, since shorter hours were considered a remedy to underemployment.
  • A Startup named Cruise is creating a way to turn any vehicle into a self-driving car for $10,000. The Cruise RP-1 takes a few hours to install. It will eventually work on any car, but for now only works on select Audi cars. The goal is to create a suite of products that will eventually turn any car into a driverless vehicle. It can navigate stop-and-go traffic. It keeps the car in the center of the lane without touching the steering wheel. It is not able to weave in and out of lanes yet.
  • McDonald’s is quietly testing an order ahead and mobile payment app at a handful of its US restaurants. Called “McD Ordering,” the app links to a credit or debit card. You arrive and scan a QR code on display at the restaurant (counter or drive-thru). The app displays your order number and then once your order is ready, you pick it up without waiting in line.
  • In the US, the cost of a hip replacement is $40,364. For the same money, you could fly to Spain, get your hip replaced ($7,371), live in Madrid for 2 years, learn Spanish, run with the bulls, get trampled, injure your hip, get another hip replaced and still have money left over.
  • If our sun was a speck of dust, the Milky Way would be about the size of the US.
  • Can you smell all of those various hydrocarbons, aldehydes, pyridine and pyrazine? Yes? That's bacon cooking.
  • Folks tried to ban coffee 5 times over the course of recorded history. 1511 Mecca; 16th century Italy; 1623 Constantinople; 1746 Sweden; and 1777 Prussia.
  • There's a woman who is divorcing her husband because he doesn't like the movie Frozen.
  • Lead is the heaviest non-radioactive element.
  • A new restaurant will be opening in Montreal named Bar Brutus. Its menu will feature nothing but items containing bacon.
  • Russia has 15,500 tanks. That's more than any other country.

Lyrics I love: Rush - Red Barchetta

I strip away the old debris
That hides a shining car
A brilliant Red Barchetta
From a better vanished time
We'll fire up the willing engine
Responding with a roar
Tires spitting gravel
I commit my weekly crime


SOTD - Duende

Here's some Delerium to meditate to on a gorgeous Sunday.

Friday, August 29, 2014


I was happy to hear that one of my favourite hockey players, P.K. Subban was able to get an 8-year deal done with the Montreal Canadiens. But the deal brought up a topic of interest to me regarding salaries. $9 million dollars. Per year. To play hockey. Why?

That's not the most either. Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators will earn $14 million this next season. Let's compare that with what players earned in 2005. Jaromir Jagr earned $8.36 million for the year. In 1995, Wayne Gretzky earned $6.54 million. In 1989, Mario Lemieux earned $2 million. In 1977, Bobby Hull earned $1 million. In 1967, Bobby Orr earned $35,000.

Now, the argument has always been that professional athletes deserve to earn a lot of money because they play a sport that could potentially end early with a career-ending injury. They also argue that the players are what attract the crowds to the arenas and that's what earns the teams their money. But players also earn money from lucrative endorsements. Consider Sidney Crosby, who earned a $12 million salary in 2013, but also topped up with around $2.1 million in endorsements, as much as the average NHL salary.

I ask you, does a hockey player need to make $15+ million in one year? Does a football player need to make $42 million in one year (Matt Ryan)? Does a basketball player need to make $30.5 million in one season (Kobe Bryant) - $61.5 million if you include endorsements? What does a well-paid soccer player make? $52 million without including endorsements (Cristiano Ronaldo). It would be $80 million if you included endorsements. But that pales in comparison to boxing. Floyd Mayweather earned $105 million last year. That was for 72 minutes of work. I know - that's unfair, as he has to keep practising all year. Tiger Woods earned $61.2 million last year, but $55 million of that was endorsements. Roger Federer (tennis) made $56.2 million, again, most of that - $52 million, was not salary. The highest paid Baseball player (Cliff Lee) made $25.3 million.

OK, so that's what the best earn. How about the typical players? Well, the minimum salary for a hockey player is just over $525,000. That seems pretty reasonable. For football, a rookie earns $420,000. A rookie basketball player earns around $500,000. Guess what a rookie soccer player gets? $35,000. That's it. That's a kick in the pants, isn't it? We can't really compare the rest of the sports, because what they earn is a direct result of how often they win.

Let's not focus on athletes alone though. Some actors get a lot of money for their films too. Robert Downey Jr. gets $75 million. The 10 highest paid actors earned at least $35 million each. Interestingly, the highest paid woman actor only got $33 million (Angelina Jolie).

Now let's take a look at CEOs. John Hammergren of McKesson medical supplies earned $131 million. OK, so CEOs make solid coin. But there are a lot of top bosses of great, money-making companies that know how to keep their earnings to a reasonable amount. Case in point - CEO of WestJet earns a base salary of $568,000. Mind you, if you add all his bonuses etc., his total reported earnings amount to $3 million. The CEO of Tim Hortons has a base salary of $452,000.

Alcohol versus weed

SOTD - YYZ (remastered)

Rush did all of their fans a favour by remastering all of their albums as part of their Sector 1, 2 and 3 box set. So I present to you, the much improved sound of the classic instrumental YYZ. Listen to that subtle, yet precise harmonic echo of the cymbals at 0:35.

Take off, eh!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Lucretius problem

"Risk management professionals look in the past for information on the so-called worst-case scenario and use it to estimate future risks — this method is called "stress testing." They take the worst historical recession, the worst war, the worst historical move in interest rates, or the worst point in unemployment as an exact estimate for the worst future outcome.

But they never notice the following inconsistency: this so-called worst-case event, when it happened, exceeded the worst case at the time. I have called this mental defect the Lucretius problem, after the Latin poetic philosopher who wrote that the fool believes that the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one he has observed. We consider the biggest object of any kind that we have seen in our lives or hear about as the largest item that can possibly exist. And we have been doing this for millennia. In Pharaonic Egypt, which happens to be the first complete top-down nation-state managed by bureaucrats, scribes tracked the high-water mark of the Nile and used it as an estimate for a future worst-case scenario."

Nassim Taleb's book Antifragile

Who invited the herbivore?

SOTD - Jean genie

I keep having to listen to this David Bowie song to remind myself of how rocking it is. Doesn't it sound so New York? It's not a coincidence. Bowie was hanging around with Andy Warhol's gang in the big apple when he wrote it.

Bonus Trivia: The line "He's so simple minded, he can't drive his module" is what inspired the name for the band Simple Minds.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Johnny Express

It's 2150.
There are all sorts of Aliens living throughout space.
Johnny is a Space Delivery Man who travels to different planets to deliver packages.
Johnny is lazy and his only desire is to sleep in his autopilot spaceship.
When the spaceship arrives at the destination, all he has to do is simply deliver the box.
However, it never goes as planned. Johnny encounters strange and bizarre planets and always seems to cause trouble on his delivery route.

Will he be able to finish his mission without trouble?

The site everyone loves to ignore

SOTD - Guinnevere

Not quite as famous or well-known as some of their other stuff, this CSNY classic is the musical manifestation of beauty.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pandas are just an extremely elaborate hoax

Things I learned lately - 23 Aug

  • Americans smoke more in Kentucky than in any other state.
  • In 2013, Warren Buffett made on average $37 million per day. That's basically $1.5 million per hour.
  • At German car manufacturer Daimler, when employees proceed on vacation, they have the option of automatically deleting incoming email while they're away. The sender also is notified of the deletion with contact information of an alternate or supervisor. Once these people get back from vacation, there's no pile of unread messages.
  • In the future, used electric car batteries may be re-purposed as storage batteries for homes with solar panels or wind turbines.
  • In 2013, Google made $50 billion in advertising revenue.
  • Google is unique that its goal is to REDUCE the amount of time people spend on its site.
  • Google has photographed over 5 million miles of road for its Street View maps.
  • The oldest stock market in the world is Amsterdam's. It was established in 1602.
  • On 13 February 1997 the container ship Tokio Express was hit by a wave, tilting the ship 60 degrees one way, then 40 degrees back. As a result, 62 containers were lost overboard and one of them was filled with nearly 4.8 million  pieces of Lego, bound for New York. Shortly after that some of those Lego pieces began washing up in both the north and south coasts of Cornwall. They're still coming in today.
  • You would think that there aren't any pictures of nude people riding Segways. And that's where you'd be mistaken.
  • Houston is now the most racially and ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in the US.

Getting better

"People have been swimming for as long as people have been getting neck-deep in water. You'd think that as a species, we'd have maxed out how fast we could swim long ago. And yet new swimming records are set every year. Humans keep getting faster and faster. Olympic swimmers from early this century would not even qualify for swim teams at competitive high schools. Likewise, the gold medal performance at the original Olympic marathon is regularly attained by amateurs just to qualify as a participant in the Boston Marathon.

And the same is true not just of athletic pursuits, but in virtually every field. The 13th century philosopher Roger Bacon claimed that "nobody can obtain to proficiency in the science of mathematics by the method hitherto known unless he devotes to its study thirty or forty years." Today, the entire body of mathematics known to Bacon is now acquired by your average high school junior."

Joshua Foer's book Moonwalking With Einstein

Truth (Google)

SOTD - Saturday in the park

This song reminds me of summer. I wish it would come back to Calgary.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You got to know how to load 'em

It recently came to my attention that I am not the only person who is very picky about how the dishwasher gets loaded up.

I'm thinking of developing a course where I show spouses who don't know how to load the dishwasher for maximum efficient cleaning, how to arrange the pots, pans, dishes and cutlery.

Meanwhile, Darlene wants to develop a course that shows how to put the dishes that were in the dishwasher away instead of leaving them out to air dry on the counter........

How it's pronounced

SOTD - Keep on knocking

Here's something newish (2011) from The Cars.

Same ol' Cars. No more bassist.

Monday, August 18, 2014

They could do it

Some ambitious Chinese engineers are considering plans to build a high speed railway line that would connect China with the US. The undersea tunnel just to connect Russia and Alaska would be 200 kilometers (125 miles).

China is already in discussions and Russia has been thinking about this for many years. A project like this would require 13,000 km of tracks and it would take a train two days to make the trip if its average speed is 220 mph.

China has plans to build a high speed railway between the southeastern province of Fujian and the island of Taiwan. The trans-Pacific project, named the “China-Russia-Canada-America” line, would require a considerable feat of engineering. If realized, it would be the world’s longest undersea tunnel, four times the length of the Channel Tunnel, which connects England and France.

There are a few other ambitious high-speed railway projects. One project's rail lines would extend from London to Paris, then to Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev and Moscow, where it would split into two routes, with one ending in Kazakhstan and the other in China's Manchuria region. A second project's rail lines would run from Urumqi in China to Central Asia, then to Iran and Turkey, ending in Germany.

Construction has begun for both projects inside China, and the parts of both projects outside the country are still being negotiated with foreign governments.

Besides English & Spanish, the next-most spoken language in each state

SOTD - Never give you up

You could drop the Black Keys in 1977 and they would fit right in. And sell a ship load of albums to boot.

Did I say ship? I meant something else.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Things I learned lately - 17 Aug

  • The original Mr Potato Head had kids sticking face parts onto a real potato.
  • Captain Kangaroo agreed to feature Play Doh on his show, which is how it became well known.
  • Trisha Prabhu, a 13-year-old from Chicago, won a spot as one of Google's 15 Global Science Fair finalists for her project to prevent teens from posting hurtful comments. The science is simple: Teens are impulsive and, because of their brain structure, more likely to post hurtful messages without pausing to think about the consequences. If teens are forced to take a moment of reflection before posting a mean comment, they won't do it. Her system, Rethink, prompts students who would post a mean comment to think about how it might affect its target. In 93% of her trials, the comment wasn't posted. She wants to turn this concept into an app.
  • Tanned skin is so frowned upon in China that women wear face masks (face-kini) to the beach. The reason for the bad connotation of tanning is that it makes you look like a manual labourer, farmer or peasant.
  • Hong Kong has 1268 skyscrapers. By comparison, Calgary has 52. Toronto has 210.
  • Vancouver has a mission to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. They have already reduced water consumption by 20% and 41% of people walk or bike around.
  • Munich Germany has set a goal to become 100% energy sustainable by 2025. It's already 37% of the way there.
  • The (supposedly) most hated NHL team in North America, Eurasia and Australia is the Boston Bruins. In Africa, it's the Winnipeg Jets and in South America, it's the Montreal Canadiens.
  • London has 72 billionaires, the most of any city.
  • 40% of London is covered in green space
  • The Shard in London stands 1,004 feet. Even though it is the tallest building in the European Union, it is only the 65th-tallest building in the world.
  • China's smog-plagued capital Beijing has announced plans to ban the use of coal by the end of 2020
  • The top 5 restaurants by sales (US) are McDonald's; Subway; Starbucks; Wendy's; and Burger King.
  • The US is short 30,000 truck drivers.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Never forget

About those pipelines

I have nothing but the greatest respect for people who take the time and effort to try and change our world for the better. It takes courage, effort, time and can have an impact on our relationships when we stand up for something publicly. But I think there are a group of folks with their hearts in the right place whom are misguided. I speak of those who protest pipelines and fossil fuel development. Let me explain why.

I believe that protesting pipelines and oil sands places the focus on the wrong thing. We all use fossil fuel in one way or another. We use natural gas to heat our homes and water. Even if we don't, it's likely being used to generate electricity or power manufacturing plants. Oil is being refined into a myriad of products from butane, propane and jet fuel to kerosene, gasoline and most types of plastics, just to name a few. As long as we continue to heat our homes with some kind of fuel, build things out of plastic, put stuff in plastic containers, drive cars, and fly in aircraft, we're going to need fossil fuels. Lots of it. Because now we have people doing those things who might not have been able to afford to do them 20 years ago, such as in places like China, India or certain parts of Africa. So the thing to consider is that the demand for oil and gas is on the increase. Well, we just happen to be very good at providing when there is a demand for something. Because that's how the world economy works. If you want it, they will make it. If they make it, you will buy it.

So as long as there is a need for an increasing amount of fossil fuel, there will be a need to get more of it out of the ground. This is why fracking exists and why we bother to dig up oil sand. And it is why we need a way to ship this oil and gas to where it is needed. I don't like it any more than the protesters do, but I'm trying to be realistic. I'm also trying to be consistent. We already have over 790,000 km of pipelines in the US, over 98,000 km in Canada as of 2006.

That map above only shows the major oil and gas pipelines. There are so many more. Here's a closer look at all the interstate and intrastate natural gas pipelines in the US. That's just natural gas.

So when you look at the big picture, the Keystone and Northern Gateway pipelines are but a tiny part of the whole. Yes, any new pipeline is an accident waiting to happen. But so are the hundreds of thousands of kilometres of existing pipelines. Yet we don't seem to be making much noise about those.

At this point, you're probably thinking that I'm pro-pipeline. I'm not. I dislike the idea as much as the next person who wants to protect our environment. But as long as the world wants the fuel, and as long as we have it to sell, we would be foolish to pass up the opportunity. Because money fuels the economy, pardon the pun.

So what can we do? We need to reduce our use of fossil fuels. We need to start heating our homes with alternative energy. That may not be feasible or practical, yet. But we can reduce our need for fossil fuel by building more efficiently insulated homes. We have the technology to build homes that are so well insulated that they barely need a space heater to stay toasty warm, even in the dead of winter, and yet we continue to build draft shacks. We need to build more electric cars like the kind Tesla make. Yes, we still need to generate the electricity needed to power those cars, but it always boils down to less fossil fuel needed per mile, and less cost to the consumer. We need to use cars less often, but that means we need better transit systems and more car sharing, and more protected bike lanes. We can also start generating electricity from alternative sources like solar and building infrastructure to store excess solar and wind energy until it's needed. We need to make plastic from something other than crude oil. We've already started, we need to get better at it. We also need to make that plastic bio-degradable, so that it doesn't end up in tiny bits endangering our oceans. Do you see a pattern? It means a change in the way we do things. It's a big change, one that is less likely to be adopted by the oldest generations. But our hope is in our youth. Our youth see what is happening and they are beginning to understand that the status quo is unsustainable. They're willing to car share. They're willing to bike and walk and take transit. They just want us to make it practical and safe for them to do that. They're willing to buy more efficient homes. But we have to build them and stop pricing them like novelties. They are much less interested in getting one of everything for their home and much more willing to establish neighbourhood tool sharing co-ops. Because they know that everyone doesn't really need their own circular saw or lawn mower.

Once we get enough people like that, we won't need as much oil or gas and we'll be able to shut down the refineries, close the valves on the pipelines and stop drilling, fracking and extracting oil out of sand. So put down those signs and start a practical movement that will change the world.

SOTD - Nobody's fault but my own

This could be my guilty pleasure from Beck. This song incorporates possibly the most modern and progressive use of the sitar and tamboura. But, that's Beck.

I don't think I could ever tire of this song.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Music nostalgia

Feeling nostalgic for music from a particular year? Then give The Nostalgia Machine a spin.

Just pick from any year between 1960 and 2013 and you'll get several dozen links to songs from that year on YouTube.

My recommendation to anyone born after 1975 is to take a look at my musical upbringing between 1972 and 1979. It's magical.

Well played....