Friday, August 11, 2017

This is how we treat nerds in Canada

The new Tesla Model 3 - good or meh?

Tesla revealed the new Model 3 all-electric car to the world at the end of July. This car was touted to be the electric car for the masses, priced at US$35,000. This would make it more attractive to non-luxury car buyers.

But there are, as always, two sides to a story, and the same goes for this new wonder car.


First off, US$35,000 only gets you the basic black model. It also only gets the smallest battery (and consequently a lower range), slower top speed and acceleration, and no auto pilot. There are no power seats, and no powered or heated mirrors. If you want a fully loaded Model 3, you're looking at closer to US$57,000. Not so much in the range of the average consumer.

Adding more range, from 220 miles to 310 (or 354 km to 500 km) costs $9000. Adding enhanced autopilot adds $5000, full self-driving adds another $3000. The Premium package adds $5000.

The US federal tax credits won't be available once Tesla delivers 200,000 Model 3 cars.

It's not a hatchback.


The long range Model 3 has the cheapest price per mile of range of any production electric car.

You get access to the ever growing Supercharger network, which is doubling in during 2017.

The long range Model 3 can recharge at 170 miles (273 km) per 30 minutes of supercharger time.

The long range model is pretty quick - zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Top speed of 140 mph.

15" touchscreen display for all functions.

An incredibly large panoramic glass roof.

This car, with the self-driving option, will eventually have the software upgrade to drive itself with no human intervention. With this option, your car could be in downtown Vancouver, and you could summon it to White Rock to come and get you.

So, could you buy a cheaper all-electric car? Yes. Will it go as far as a Tesla? Maybe. Will it have as many recharging options? No. Will it drive itself someday. No. Will it be as cool or as ground-breaking? Nope. So your options are clear, pay for the future or settle for the present.

Small things - 11 Aug

"Anybody here named "Jeff?"
Jeff: "Yes."
Geoff: "Yeos."

  • I would like the press to provide news representative of the bad AND good in the world. If you read every article in a paper, or online news site, count how many stories are reports of bad things or negativity or criticisms of things or people. Is this all that the world is made of? Are there no positive, uplifting stories to tell? I know we have sites like Upworthy, but good news should be part of all major media output.
  • Thank goodness there was no Facebook when I was younger and decided to try dying my hair with henna.
  • When everyone has a 3D printer, we'll all lament how at one time, we had printers that, when you supplied them with paper, just produced sheets of paper with ink on them....
  • I wonder how driving statistics would change if horns were removed from all vehicles. Are we still using them for what they were designed for? Or are they now just an electronic yelling or bird flipping device?
  • Just remember you younguns, who poke fun at older folks who can't use technology.... one day you'll be old and there'll be a new thing you can't master either.
  • Your birthday. The only day in your life when your mother smiled when you cried.

Yes you are!!

Things I learned lately - 11 Aug

  • David Letterman is currently working on a new interview series for Netflix. "I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely."
  • Bill Burr, the author of the industry standard password guidelines, first published in 2003 — suggested that to optimize security, passwords must be reset every 90 days, and contain a mix of an uppercase letter, number, and special character. Now the National Institute of Standards and Technology has set new guidelines. Passwords should be long and easy-to-remember, and only need to be changed when there is sign of a breach. Long pass phrases work better because they can be super long and still easy to memorize. So goodbye 'Qx3!hNM8%boe', hello 'mothermakeschililikelava'.
  • They play Jai Alai professionally in Florida. The speed record for a jai alai ball is 328 km/h.
  • There are still Blockbuster video rental outlets in Alaska. Their days are numbered, but.... they still exist.
  • Surnames weren't introduced until the year 1066.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The rock 'n' roll weather map

Small things - 5 Aug

  • You know that 0.1% of bacteria your soap didn't kill? They are so pissed at you right now. You killed all their friends.
  • Imagine what kind of transportation system we would have, if all the money spent on personal vehicles, maintenance, insurance and gas instead was invested into modern, efficient mass transit.
  • If you tell everyone at work that you have an identical twin, you probably won't have to talk to co-workers if you run into them outside of work.
  • The next time someone says "We should hang out sometime", just say, "I'm ready to hang out right now"...
  • The biggest way drone quadcopters (with cameras) will change the world is that they will stealthily reveal secrets that some people don't want you to see.

Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel

A few months back, the Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel in Alberta asked people to speak to their concerns, vision and priorities for Alberta energy initiatives going forward.

This was my submission:

The best way for me to address this issue is to highlight for me, what seem to be the areas we seem to be falling short, or falling behind, in the various areas of energy efficiency.

I start with awareness. Although I’ve been following green anything for at least a decade with excitement, I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to who aren’t aware of the technology advances and strides made in the last few years. Or how many people have bought into the myths about sustainability that have been debunked, but the masses still buy into them. If I had access to the financial resources, I would travel the globe and produce evidence to Albertans (and really, why stop there?) of the myriad ways other jurisdictions have moved far beyond us in becoming more efficient and sustainable.

Next up are the utilities, the energy providers. I remember when they said to Albertans, “We can’t rely on more than 15% of renewable connected to the grid.” This was the most short-sighted and now completely false statement a utility can make, and does nothing to promote the idea of efficiency and sustainability. On 8 May 2016, on a particularly sunny and windy day, 95% of the 57.8 gigawatts of electricity that Germany was using was being produced by renewable energy. Solar power produced 45.2%, wind 36%, biomass 8.9% and hydro 4.8% of the total. Power prices actually went negative for several hours.

There are several islands around the world that have begun phasing out their reliance on fossil fuels by leveraging wind power on the island ridges to not only feed the grid, but the surplus is used to pump sea water to higher altitude reservoirs, which, once the wind stops, become instant hydro-electric plants as the water is allowed to fall back into the ocean.
Europe has found a way to store energy as cold. Cold storage warehouses are allowed to continue dropping in temperature, powered by wind, which blows all night, but has no typical demand use on the grid. This can allow the cooling system to be turned off first thing in the morning, allowing power they would have used to be used by the rest of the grid while the warehouse slowly rises back to the nominal temperature.

Many solar installations have been designed with the ability to store energy as heat, which depending on the solution used and the storage method, can keep the energy trapped for later use from hours to months.

In an example of how we already have the means of storing energy for when it is needed, Vermont’ electrical utilities will make it cheaper to install solar panels and storage batteries on the condition that when the grid can’t quite match momentary demand, the grid can draw some power from the collective capacity of everyone’s home battery.
I am not witnessing any motivation by local utilities to move people toward installing renewable energy and it is my understanding that consumers need permission to do these installations. In worse case scenarios like in some US states, consumers are actually charged a fee if they decide to produce any of their own energy. I recall our own utilities complain that we’re putting too much pressure on our grid, but they seem less than apathetic toward the decentralization of power generation via community generation and storage.

Then we get to the efficiency of the energy users themselves. We consume a lot of energy to heat our homes, yet other jurisdictions have proven on a mass scale that zero energy homes are not only attainable, but not much of a premium over status quo construction methods and materials. When a home can either produce more energy than it uses, or at the very least be able to maintain comfort using one small heater, I’m baffled why new developments aren’t all building these kinds of homes. That’s not to suggest that there are no green developments being built here. But shouldn’t they be the norm, rather than the exception?

Finally, I think it’s going to take some brave new ideas to leverage what we have a lot of to help deal with what we are lacking. For example, we should be converting farms in southern Alberta (and elsewhere). Right now, they're big, there's not enough water to go around (which will likely get worse over time), and crops are always at risk of hail damage. Our growing season is short. But one thing we have in abundance, is sunshine. Even in winter.

Farms in southern Alberta should build giant solar arrays. These arrays could generate electricity, some of which could be sold to the grid. I think an even better option is to build some of the array of the type that generates heat. The heat would be stored underground. I would go for solar arrays covering 50-66% of the original arable land. But first, remove the remaining topsoil and put it aside.

On the remaining property, build greenhouses, with material that can withstand hail. Fill those greenhouses with the topsoil. Then heat and light the greenhouses whenever heat and light are lacking, powered by the electrical array and all that heat energy you stored all summer long. Greenhouses would help conserve water too, because there's less surface area to cover, and the evaporating water used to irrigate the indoor crops doesn't escape much to the outside. It becomes part of the internal ecosystem.

This idea is smart not only because of the growing impracticality of farming in our ever dryer Alberta environment, but it allows us to grow stuff we would normally depend on places like California and BC to provide. This saves on transportation costs and protects us from currency fluctuations. It also leverages the one thing we have in even more abundance than oil and gas. Sunshine.
There is so much more to discuss, but I think this is a good start.

Peanut puree and fruit confiture topped with pain blanc

That would be the fancy restaurant name for PB&J.

Things I learned lately - 5 Aug

  • Google Drive now hosts more than 2,000,000,000,000 files (trillion).
  • Statistically, people who swear are more honest.
  • You can buy jeans at Nordstom's that look like you've been working a real dirty job. They're called Barracudas and they'll set you back $425. There's a matching jacket too. A costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic.
  • Robot security guards are a thing now.
  • Most of the top executives of oil companies around the world expect the demand for oil to peak anywhere from 2020 to sometime in the late 2020s, thanks to the expected proclivity of electric car sales. After that, oil demand should decline and that spells trouble for the industry. 
  • India plans to shift to all electric cars by 2030.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Trump presidency lessons

I was going to say 'lessons' learned', but I don't think he or his supporters get it yet.

  • When people question your methods or ideas, attacking them doesn't solve the problem.
  • Lying eventually catches up with you.
  • Blaming everyone else for your problems makes you look weak.
  • You don't need to gloat or belittle your predecessors once you're elected. You won. Now prove it wasn't a wasted vote.
  • You're never going to get other parties to participate in your plans if you keep insulting them.
  • If people accuse you of something, like collusion with a foreign power, assuming it isn't true, the smart thing to do is prove it.
  • Next time you pick a political party to join, don't consider how stupid the voters are (your words), consider how stubborn the politicians are.
  • If you're going to get behind a job creating industry, don't pick one whose days were already numbered (coal).
  • When Elon Musk walks out of your panel, you've done something wrong.
  • Listen to your intelligence community. They know their shit.
  • The people you appoint to positions of authority don't have to agree with you. That's not their job.

Not on Google

Small things - 28 Jul

  • I honestly don't understand how (in North America) a picture of a woman, topless, covering her nipples is not obscene, but get one glimpse of the nipple region and we've crossed into lewd territory.
  • Remember the first time you washed a spoon under running water and got sprayed? How about the 50th time? Why do we never learn?
  • I was going to get a new iPad, but then I thought - no, I need health care more. But then I realized I live in Canada. Here I come, Apple store!
  • Do regular dogs see police dogs and think, "Damn! It's the cops!"?
  • My cell phone sleeps in a different room. In a cupboard. Behind a door.
  • I wonder what Shakespeare had to study?

Because it's 2017

Things I learned lately - 28 Jul

  • In Helsinki Finland, on 22 Jun, the sun rises at 3:54am and sets at 10:50pm. But civil twilight doesn't end until 12:42am and starts again at 2:02am.
  • Stonehenge is not technically a henge.
  • The wastelands around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant are about to be transformed into a large solar power farm, capable of generating half the energy that Chernobyl did. Solar power is the only way the radiation zone around the site can be used productively, as the land will not be fit for farming or anything else over the next few hundred years.
  • A Big Mac only costs $1.57 in Ukraine.
  • Only 3 McDonald's locations in the US serve pizza.
  • Emmanuel Macron's campaign released an ad showing how American pundits predicted an easy win for Hillary, likely scaring a lot of French voters into voting. Macron won.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

If I started a band, this would be our first album cover


What's neat about this solar power unit is that it tracks the sun from dawn to dusk, allowing it to capture more energy with less size and loss.

Even better, it's petals can fold up for protection against hail and other environmental threats.

They make other models with built in battery storage as well.

But what would it be named?

Things I learned lately - 22 Jul

  • The movie Minority Report partly inspired the original iPhone design.
  • Jon Rubinstein, who was Apple's top hardware executive when the iPhone was being developed, pushed to have a regular iPhone and an iPhone mini. One could be a smartphone and one could be a dumber phone. The mini never got any traction.
  • Bus drivers in Nantes, where the temperature has gotten to 38C, are not allowed to wear shorts while driving the bus. So they wore what is allowed for women, skirts.
  • The war between Walmart and Amazon is so bad, Walmart has issued a warning to tech companies it does business with not to use Amazon's cloud services.
  • George Clooney created a tequila company on a whim, Casamigos, and now it's being sold to Diageo for up to $1 billion.
  • The winning word in the Scripps Annual Spelling Bee the year I was born was "smaragdine".
  • For $50 per year, Backblaze will automatically back up all of your data online. You allocate how much bandwidth it can use, so the backup won't interrupt Netflix use. You have very granular control over which files you can restore. Backblaze can send you a 4 TB drive with your data through FedEx for $189, which they refund you if you return the drive within 30 days. Backblaze encrypts all data before it's uploaded and keeps it encrypted. You can also set up a personal encryption key, which Backblaze won't have access to, and two-factor authentication for even more security. The process is automatic, relatively fast after the first backup, and encrypted. 
  • Chameleons are thought of as able to change their skin to fit any color or pattern in their surroundings. However, they mostly use this to maintain a certain body temperature and as a way to communicate with other chameleons, not to hide from predators.
  • Roughly half of all PCs run Windows 7, one quarter run Windows 10.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Songs that are 40 years old this year (2017)

  • Billy Joel - Just the way you are
  • ELO - Turn to stone / Mr blue sky
  • Elvis Costello - Alison / Watching the detectives
  • Fleetwood Mac - Dreams / Go your own way
  • Iggy Pop - Lust for life
  • Peter Gabriel - Solsbury hill
  • Steely Dan - Black cow / Peg / Deacon blues
  • Talking Heads - Psycho killer
  • Meatloaf - Paradise by the dashboard light
  • Donna Summer - I feel love
  • Rose Royce - Car wash
  • Mary MacGregor - Torn betweeen two lovers
  • Leo Sayer - When I need you
  • KC & the Sunshine Band - I'm your boogie man
  • Shaun Cassidy - Da doo ron ron
  • Bee Gees - How deep is your love
  • Heart - Barracuda / Dreamboat annie
  • Commodores - Brick house
  • Foreigner - Cold as ice / Feels like the first time
  • ELP - Fanfare for the common man
  • Chilliwack - Fly at night
  • Supertramp - Give a little bit
  • Steve Miller - Jet airliner / Swingtown
  • Eric Clapton - Lay down Sally
  • Carly Simon - Nobody does it better
  • Boston - Peace of mind 
  • Rod Stewart - You're in my heart

Coolest mailbox ever

Things I learned lately - 14 Jul

  • Over the past decade, Disneyland has raised one-day ticket prices nearly 70% — up to $124 on peak days — to reduce wait times and ease crowding, to no avail, according to a new report from the Los Angeles Times.
  • In fact, attendance at the Anaheim, California, theme park jumped nearly 20% during the same time period.
  • Skin peeling from sunburn is actually your body’s way of protecting you from cancer.
  • When Paul Brown joined Arby's as CEO in May 2013, he was an outsider brought in to tap the 50-year-old fast food brand's potential. He decided that he would begin his tenure with a listening tour. "I want to hear from you what you believe has worked and what hasn't worked in the past, and what we think we could do together," Brown said he told the company. Whether he was in a franchise restaurant or one owned by Arby's, he would ask, "What would you do differently if you ran this?" The question got both franchisees and all levels of store employees to not only weigh in on how they would run their own location differently, but how they would manage the entire Arby's brand.
  • TransPod, a Toronto startup building a hyperloop system to disrupt commercial transportation, studied the viability of building an ultra-high-speed hyperloop line between Toronto and Windsor with multiple stops. They say that building a TransPod system will cost $10 billion, half the projected cost of a high-speed rail, in 30 minutes versus 2 hours for high speed rail. TransPod believes that high speed rail is an obsolete technology, citing that many countries are abandoning it in favour of maglev and hyperloop.
  • Cracker Jack was the first commercial snack food. The caramel-coated popcorn and peanut mix launched in 1896, and by 1916 it was the largest-selling snack food in the world.
  • Colonel Harland Sanders bought and lived in a bungalow at 1337 Melton Drive in the Lakeview area of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada from 1965 to 1980.
  • The loonie turns 30 years old this month.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thoughts on Canada's 150th

On Canada's 150th birthday, I thought I'd list the things I'm grateful for as a Canadian citizen.

P.S.: Montreal also celebrates its 375th birthday this year, something I hope to assist with in short order.

  • I am so thankful that my country is a tolerant one. We recognized gay marriage in 2005 nation-wide. We allow women in combat roles. Racism does exist here, but not to the extreme of other countries.
  • I am happy that for the most part, we welcome refugees and immigrants with open arms. Canada is what it is because of immigration, and the immeasurable diversity newcomers add to our culture is amazing.
  • I love how we are able to make fun of ourselves. If we didn't invent improv, we certainly co-invented it and cultivated it. Our comedians are known and respected around the world and we host the biggest and most respected comedy festival in the world.
  • We invented the telephone; snowmobiles; KD; basketball; gas masks; Hawaiian pizza; jolly jumpers; sonar; ice hockey; the Robertson screwdriver and screw; paint rollers; Trivial Pursuit; canola; the Caesar cocktail; the pacemaker; 5 pin bowling; Pablum; poutine; nanaimo bars; standard time; Tim Hortons; and the Canadarm. 
  • We have a great deal of natural resources. 42% of the land is covered by forest. 3,000,000 fresh water lakes with 20% of the world's fresh water. What's unfortunate is that we still don't manage that water very well. Also, the Rockies - OMG.
  • We don't have to worry about going bankrupt when we go to the doctor or hospital. It doesn't seem like a big deal to us, but talk to an American without insurance and you'll find that it certainly is a big deal.
  • We're very apologetic and polite. Some think this is a weakness. Not me. It's commendable. We also don't tend to try to solve things with violence.
  • I'm proud that I was born in Quebec. I appreciate its distinct culture and civic attitudes.
  • I'm proud of our military, who manage to accomplish so much with so little. Also, we don't invade other countries. My only wish is that we revert back to a primarily peace-keeping and humanitarian role.
  • Our national flag is a lesson in cultural branding. Probably in the top 5 of most recognizable flags in the world.
  • We have likely the most talked about astronaut of this generation - Chris Hadfield.
  • I love that we're about to legalize marijuana nation-wide. If nothing else, this is going to help people with chronic pain. 
  • I'm glad that we don't execute people for crimes. Now if we could just improve our penal system to truly rehabilitate inmates.
  • Our police are pretty chill in the grand scheme of things, and have been known to join in spontaneous music jams, dance-offs, pancake breakfasts, road hockey games, etc.
  • Our politics is fairly civilized. Our politicians usually refrain from personal attacks and stay focused on issues.
  • We have amazing artists.
  • I love how respected we are around the world. When I've travelled and my hosts found out I was from Canada, well. You know.
  • "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation." ~Pierre Trudeau (1968). That motto rules us to this day.
  • I like that we don't sh#t all over our Constitution.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Jetsons here we come

Finally, a working prototype of a fully electric, vertical take off and landing aircraft.

300km range. 300km/h speed. I wonder if what Airbus is working on for their upcoming air taxi is anything like this.

Grey Poupon

Concerts etc

Music artists I'd like to see live:

Zero 7   Alice Russell   Annie Lennox   Arcade Fire   Beck   Boz Scaggs   Cake   David Gilmour   Steely Dan   ELO   Genesis   Gino Vannelli   Joe Jackson   Led Zeppelin (imagine!)   Low   OMD   Over the Rhine   Ray LaMontagne   Roxy Music   Sheryl Crow   Sigur Ros   Steve Miller   Talk Talk   Tom Petty  

Artists I've seen live so far:

Queen   Rush   The Box   Kiss   Styx   Annie Lennox   Sting   Supertramp(2)   Queen Extravaganza   Kim Mitchell   Crowded House   Gowan   Ian Thomas   Kraftwerk  


The Eagles   David Gilmour   ELO   The Tragically Hip   Beck   Genesis   Led Zeppelin   Sigur Ros   Tom Petty   U2   Pink Floyd   Peter Gabriel   Peter Frampton   Jean Michel Jarre   Heart   Fleetwood Mac   Feist   Diana Krall   Coldplay   Barenaked Ladies  

Elon had good news for Tesla owners concerned about coal powering their cars

Things I learned lately - 23 Jun

  • Vancouver has set a goal of producing "zero waste" by 2040. In 2016, council directed staff to consider options for reducing waste from such items -- including the possibility of banning them.
  • Amazon, will now let customers try on clothing before purchasing it, with a service known as Prime Wardrobe. The customer picks a few clothing items, they are shipped, and then the customer gets to try on the clothing before deciding what to keep / buy and what to send back. You get 7 days to make a decision. Shipping is free both ways. A 10% discount will be applied if customers choose to keep 2-3 items, while those who pick 4 items or all of them will receive a 20% discount. You can also order a box as often as you wish. There's no monthly subscription. Not all clothing sold on Amazon is part of Prime Wardrobe, but the over 1 million items that are will be marked with a logo for the service.
  • The Boeing 777 was the first airliner to be completely designed using computers.
  • Daimler, the German automaker, is planning to have the very first commercial vehicle plant that runs entirely on renewable energy. Daimler's BharatBenz division, is in the Indian market. Daimler is working to convert its manufacturing plant in Oragadam, Chennai, India, to 100% renewable energy by the end of next year. They will have the first commercial vehicle plant in the world which is totally sourced by renewable energy.
  • The State of Hawaii is going to begin evaluating universal basic income. They are the first.
  • In the first quarter of 2017, the number of US Netflix subscribers overtook the number of American cable TV subscribers for the first time. While Netflix has rapidly gained new subscribers, cable has been slowly losing them. 
  • Amazon Prime members can use their Amazon app on their phone to upload two pictures of you in different outfits. Then, using Outfit Compare, a human will tell you which one looks better on you.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I am groot

The basic income idea explained

If you're still on the fence, check out this TED talk on the need for a basic income.