Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Happy 148th Canada

Even though I'm not in favour of everything our country stands for at the moment, I still love my country.

We can speak our minds without fear of retribution. We have a decent social net. The land itself is magnificent. Our serving military, fire, police etc. are very tolerant and don't look at its own citizenry as the enemy. We are quite self-sufficient regarding natural resources, perhaps with the exception of tropical produce. Thousands of people per year still try to come here to make a better life for themselves. Let's face it, all you have to do is listen to international news every day to understand why we have it so good.

But as good as we have it, we can't sit back and relax. There are still a lot of people barely making ends meet and we could do so much more to create even more opportunities for our citizens. I truly look forward to exciting times ahead. We are the masters of our own destinies.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

You can't out-internet the internet

"The for-pay services (like Tidal) are deluding themselves by trying to establish a permanent monetization of something that’s in flux.

The internet provides access to materials and things.

Creating these little streaming fiefdoms where certain streaming services have certain artists and certain streaming services have other artists is a crippled use of the internet.

If the internet has demonstrated anything over the years, it’s that it has a way of breaking limitations placed on its content."

~Steve Albini

Karlsound

I often wonder what would have happened if I had continued to DJ as a side job. Then got really good at mashups and other sophisticated DJ tricks. Then became known for it. Then became a DJ full-time. I adopted the moniker Karlsound, courtesy of my old friend David D. Would that name stand the test of time?

Mute

A hilarious short film about a world populated by people born without a mouth.

When a gory accident leads to the discovery they are able to create their own mouth by cutting themselves, this releases an enthusiastic chain reaction among the population.

It sounds gory, but it's very well done.

Some people are handicapped and don't even know it


Things I learned lately - 27 Jun


  • McDonald’s has earmarked nearly 700 stores for closure. The company’s footprint is expected to shrink for the first time in nearly 40 years.
  • GMail now lets you enable 'unsend'. Set a delay time and that's how long you have to change your mind and unsend a message.
  • Most Spaniards don’t even start thinking about dinner until around 9pm and usually don’t eat it until 10 or 11.
  • 75% of Canadians have no idea what the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is, nor that we are a participant in this secretive trade deal. Worse, very few have any idea of the rights being sold to corporations for the pure sake of profits. If you don't know what it is, you owe it to yourself to find out what you can, before your government sells us to the farm.
  • KFC started a huge ad campaign in Japan called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) in 1974, which became quite popular. ‘Kentucky’ as the Japanese call it, milked this tradition ever since, and dresses Colonel Sanders statues outside every KFC in Santa suits. Eating KFC for Christmas is so popular in Japan that you’ll see lines of people snaked outside every branch in the country and people reserve their buckets months in advance. Their Party bucket which is just an 8 piece Chicken bucket (all dark meat), 5 fried chicken breast strips seasoned with soy sauce and garlic, a salad and chocolate cake costs around $40.
  • The astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station witness around 15 sunrises and 15 sunsets every day
  • The British equivalent of 'that's what she said' is 'said the actress to the bishop'.
  • It takes about 45 seconds to explode a Twinkie in a standard microwave oven.
  • Yoda's original, full name was Minch Yoda.
  • It's a Wonderful Life was the first American TV program to be aired in Russia.
  • Wearing elaborate moustaches was common among the military. The Amish, being a pacifist group, didn’t want to associate themselves with those who waged war, so members were strictly forbidden from growing moustaches. This tradition remains among the Old Order Amish people.
  • Saint Anthony is the patron saint of bacon.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Training haiku

A colleague at work challenged me to write haiku poetry to help showcase some of the courses I teach at work. Challenge accepted!

Conditional formatting
Because we are not
Capable of extracting
Stories from numbers

Creating charts
Nothing interests
The data disciple more
Than charts made of pie

Data validation
One cannot filter
An endless range of data
When one has free will

Formula auditing
It’s all in the trace
That connects precedents and
Dependents as one

Named ranges
One does not use words
In formulas in Excel
Just by wishing it

Pivot tables
Grasshopper must learn
Do not create summaries
They will manifest for you

Excel protection
As one guides children
So must the user be shown
Certain cells are locked

Will your document survive without you?
Hallowed be the day
When documents do tell us
Double you tee eff

Excel Foundation
Your program wisdom
Is full of holes like Swiss cheese
Your trainer can plug

File Management
Folders and files are
A portal to the abyss
Without discipline

Good spreadsheet structure
No blank rows at all
Every row a record
Database you are

How to search in Windows
Your frantic mouse clicks
Are silenced forever by
Start menu search field

Listening skills
Your mouth and ears can
Accomplish their tasks quite well
But not all at once

Outlook in a day
Your Outlook skills are
Like stabbing at elephants
With rubber toothpicks

The advantage of tables in Excel
Pre-built named ranges
That scale up with each new row
Are but a teaser

Master calendar appointments
Like an empty map
Calendars void of events
Are directionless

Wikis
A brief description
That if leaving one wanting
Hyperlinks to more

Security awareness
One must recognize
The weakest link in the fence
To protect the lot

SharePoint overview
Web pages as tools
For team collaboration
And data sharing

Time management
Multitasking is
A myth created to pad
The soft resume

Unlearn bad email habits
Electronic mail
Is meant to be short and sweet
Do not ramble on

Up to speed with PowerPoint
A presentation
Is best used as a billboard
Instead of a script

Visio
Only Microsoft
Could build floor plans and org charts
In a single app

Styles in Word
Just as in fashion
A set combination of
Format attributes

Word table of contents
Equipped with headings
One can slay the beast that is
Table of contents

Taming track changes
Accept or reject
The contributor's content
With steely resolve

My take on the Conservative ideology

Disclaimer: This is opinion. You're entitled to your own.

I'm generalizing, but my take on conservative thinking boils down to what follows. They believe that they can solve most of our ills with small government. Because small government equals less taxes. Less taxes means more money in our pockets. More money in our pockets means we can spend more, which stimulates the economy. Most of the conservative-minded folks I've talked to would agree with that in principle. And it's a good thing to strive for. Except it makes some assumptions that don't quite allow it to work.

I'm a firm believer that the economy only thrives when everyone has a decent amount of money to spend. You only get a decent amount of money if you have a good job, and once you retire, a good pension. You only get a good job if you have some extraordinary talent or a great education. You only get a good pension if the government manages your public pension well, if your company has a plan or you have enough disposable income to put money aside on your own. And that is where the conservative philosophy falls apart.

There are a lot of people in our society who will never earn a decent amount of money. They're going to be stuck either in menial jobs because of their lack of extraordinary skill or great education. That means no company pension plan and no extra money to save for later. They probably want a good education, but they can't afford it, and they have so little worth and are such a risk, banks won't lend them the money to go back to school. Nor can these people just stop working and be a student with no income. So these people are going nowhere. Same goes for those who are currently out of a job, in many cases through no fault of their own. Now while there's nothing intrinsically wrong with working in the service industry or any other job that earns little in the way of a living wage, it wouldn't be the end of the world if they also got help in the form of benefits. And it would also help if their public pension amounted to a comfortable retirement. But most don't. If they're sick, they don't get paid. So they go to work sick, which makes them sicker, longer. There are more domino effects here than I have time to talk about. They don't get paid vacations, so if they need some time off, again, there's no money. They don't get much help paying for medications and dentists, so they do without. In fact, they do without a lot that many of us take for granted.

So if we examine the preferred conservative society from a high altitude, what we see are some people who are doing OK, or very well, telling the people that aren't that they just need to try harder. Don't ask for help, because that won't motivate you to try harder. Don't ask for a social safety net, because that just stifles motivation to work. The conservative plan, from what I have seen lately, is if a social safety net is being abused, cancel it. Don't bother to try and fix it. All this approach accomplishes, unfortunately, is keep the poor in their place. I haven't seen any evidence that this approach motivates anyone to do better when the avenues out of this existence are expensive and therefore unattainable. Worse, free market capitalism doesn't give a rat's ass about the poorest among us. So rents go up, dental and medication costs go up, transit goes up, education goes up, the cost of living goes up. What doesn't go up is minimum wage. Or service industry salaries. Or pension plans. In fact, pensions are slowly being whittled away and this is being justified with an attitude that people shouldn't be relying on their public pension anyway, even though they've been paying into it their entire working life.

Now, let's look at the situation from a liberal point of view. Liberals believe in equal opportunity for everyone, no matter their background or financial situation. Liberals would prefer that everyone can afford to maintain their health. They would like you to be able to afford the bus to school or work. Even more importantly, they would like there to BE a bus for you to take. They would like you to be able to afford to continue your education, while still being able to buy groceries and pay rent, and without piling up a mountain of debt, so that you can get a better job, which will earn you more money. Earning more money will allow you to get off the social safety net that we established for you when you needed it, while helping to pay for the safety net for others. Earning more money will stimulate the economy, which will create more jobs, which will further stimulate the economy. There will be abusers of the social safety net, but we won't use that as an excuse to just give up on it - we prefer to fix it. And here is the part that my conservative friends will probably hate the most - maintaining that social safety net, affordable education, and decent public pension is going to mean more contributions from those of us earning a decent wage. And that means less money in the pocket. But there is a huge upside.

Less worry. Wouldn't you rather live in a society where people care that everyone gets by? Wouldn't it be nice not to have to worry about losing your job? Wouldn't you like to get a better education and not worry about paying your normal living costs? Or piling up unmanageable debt? Wouldn't you rather that everyone could afford to get all the dental and medical treatment they need, without having to spend extra to get an MRI this week? Wouldn't you like a decent pension when you retire? Wouldn't this be less stressful?

I've done a lot of research and in more social societies, the only things people typically worry about are death and the loss of friends. In our society, we worry about a lot of things that are easily avoided with a more community-minded approach. I hope we start going back to that approach in our next government.

Possible Indo-European language evolution

An amazing animation showing the evolution of language in Europe. This isn't pure fact, just one interpretation of how it might have happened.

I found it interesting how Celtic started in what is now northern France. Albanian existed in Greece before Greek. Italic started near Venice and worked its way south. Kurdish pushed Persian out of Iraq. French started along the Med and worked its way north. Polish and Czech were among the last to form.

Best graffiti ever


Things I learned lately - 20 Jun


  • Dancing in Tokyo nightclubs after midnight won't be illegal much longer, as long as the blub has an ambient light level of at least 10 lux, roughly the brightness of a movie theatre with the lights up.
  • 30% of American shoppers choose gluten-free options and 41% believe gluten-free foods are better for you. But in fact, only 1% of the population have celiac disease, while only 6% have gluten sensitivity.
  • 80% of Americans own just 7% of the country's wealth.
  • Nobody is quite sure where the expression 'OK' came from, but there are many theories
  • There is an owl cafe in Ikebukuro, a district in Tokyo, Japan. 
  • Human senses (there are more than 5): sight; taste; touch; pressure; itch; thermoreception; sound; smell; proprioception; tension; nociception; equilibrioception; stretch receptors; chemoreceptors; thirst; hunger; magnetoreception; time.
  • Peruse actually means “to read thoroughly or carefully” or “examine carefully at great length”.
  • In the late 1950's, community newspapers would talk about the sicknesses residents were experiencing and mention who was out of town on vacation, for how long and where.
  • The biblical expression “40 days and 40 nights” was not literal. At the time among the Jews, 40 wasn’t generally used to signify a specific number, but more used as a general term for a large figure. When it was used in terms of time, it meant a “long time”.
  • French army medical officer Antoine-Augustine Parmentier was taken captive and as a part of his prison rations, was given potatoes during the Seven Years War. At this time, the French had previously used potatoes only for hog feed and never ate them. They thought potatoes caused various diseases. In 1748, the French Parliament banned cultivation of potatoes as they were convinced potatoes caused leprosy. While in prison in Prussia, Parmentier was forced to cultivate and eat potatoes and found that they were safe to eat. When the potato was introduced to Ireland and Scotland, it was met with resistance from Protestants there because the potato wasn’t mention in the Bible, so it wasn’t clear whether it was acceptable to eat.  The Catholics chose to sprinkle them with holy water before planting, thus making them acceptable to eat.
  • In France, the Supertramp album Breakfast in America is the biggest selling English album of all time and the 3rd biggest selling album overall.



Saturday, June 13, 2015

Powerwall

Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla Motors and Space-X, has just announced his newest product, the Powerwall home battery. For US$3500, you get a lithium-ion battery pack you can mount on a wall at home that can store 10 kilowatt hours of electricity.

Why is this a big deal? Because the one thing the electric utilities have been wishing for is the ability to store energy. Let's break it down. Power plants fuelled by coal or gas produce a set amount of power regardless of how much of that power is being used from one minute to the next. Randomly available power sources like wind and solar only produce power when wind and sun are available, not when we need it. So, the utility is playing a constant game of guessing how much we need versus how much the fuelled and nature-driven power sources can produce. When wind and solar unexpectedly produces more, they can't just shut generators down, because the wind and solar could stop without warning. So wind and solar play a very minimal role in electricity, especially here.

If we had the ability to store excess power when it came available, this would create a very useful buffer of power both for when demand suddenly rose and when fuelled generation can't quite keep up. The other benefit to storage is the minute by minute cost changes of electricity, which changes based on demand versus supply. The generated capacity is being mostly used up during the day while factories and offices operate and especially when stoves and dryers come on at dinner time. But by 10 pm, demand has dropped off dramatically, yet the generated capacity is still high. This forces the utility to shunt a lot of power to ground unless generators are shut off or wind and solar supply drop off. In a more efficient system, homes, electric cars and commercial sites equipped with batteries would soak up as much cheap, plentiful power overnight as the system can provide. In the morning, there would be little need to crank up the system in anticipation of increasd demand because the battery capacity of the whole system would be able to provide a huge boost to capacity, even if each source was only supplying a little.

If I was a utility company, I would be chomping at the bit to get batteries established in as many sites as possible, thereby increasing whole system storage capacity as much as possible. This would not only allow for less fuel needing to be burned, but the variable wind and solar sources would be put to more practical use. I'd think it would be wise to pay for the battery and let the site owner, home or commercial, buy their own power sources. A solar panel or windmill could supplement the system enough to provide at least some of the site's needs, and be stored when it's not needed. This would make for a robust energy grid that would reduce the need for long distance power lines and make it completely realistic to eliminate coal fuelled plants.

Elon Musk has always been on the cutting edge of technological progress and I think this new product is one that has the potential to revolutionize the grid. Utilities would be wise to embrace this change, or witness the eventual and irreversible loss of energy customers once they figure out how to produce their own energy. This could come sooner than we think, since the cost of solar panels has dropped so much in the last 5 years, that we are at most months away from parity with coal on a cost per kilowatt-hour basis.

Real conservatives support legal marijuana

Wow.

First you have Canadian doctors saying that they would not support Health Canada's anti-marijuana stance, and now this.

On a side note, I watched a documentary last night that blew me away.

Although marijuana is illegal in Canada (a fact that continues to blow my mind), apparently the marijuana retail trade is alive and well in Vancouver, British Columbia. You can visit with a medical practitioner in one joint (pun intended), then cross the street with your prescription and buy marijuana in many forms in another.

The police don't bother with them because they have an unwritten agreement that as long as these places don't sell to kids or become a nuisance to the neighbourhood, it's all good. It seems that these businesses who sell are just waiting for other city police forces (and councils) to invite them in before they'll establish themselves in other cities across Canada.

Sorry Rona Ambrose. Are you outraged?

Flight Stream

I love this experiment to map the flights between airports around the world.

It's not real time, but rather great-circle routes between major airports based on flight data.

Why don't they believe?


Things I learned lately - 13 Jun


  • Coca Cola has manufactured a soda bottle made from plastic based entirely on sugar cane plants. They should be the standard by 2020.
  • The vocoder originated as a means of encrypting (scrambling) voice communications in WWII. In modern times it turns the voice into a musical instrument.
  • Google’s self-driving cars have been extensively tested, to make sure the public isn't concerned that the technology is unsafe. Amid reports that they've been in minor accidents, Google has released reports detailing traffic incidents involving its driver-less cars. Google says most of the reported incidents involve other cars rear-ending the driver-less vehicles, while other collisions involved cars side-swiping Google vehicles or hitting them after failing to stop at stop signs, the reports says. None of those prior accidents have been its car’s fault, Google says. "In 6 years of testing, we've been involved in 12 minor accidents during more than 1.8 million miles of autonomous and manual driving combined," Google writes. "Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident."
  • The answer to a question that many "Star Wars" fans have debated for decades was hidden in a Canadian university. While digitizing the UNB Library's science-fiction collection, Kristian Brown stumbled upon the 4th draft of the Star Wars script, dated March 15, 1976. Han Solo shot first.
  • Netflix is courting the trio from the UK show Top Gear.
  • Many companies are trying to tweak the corporate budget and work culture by abandoning voicemail. The justifications include not forcing people to listen to rambling messages that don't concern you or won't get to the point (a form of spam); wasted money on resources; another password you have to remember and change every few months; there's already too many 'send and forget' communications channels at work (email, text).
  • Amazon is now selling advertising space on their shipping packages.
  • Zoe Saldana's husband Marco took her last name instead of keeping his own.
  • The business that would eventually become Taco Bell started out as a hot dog stand called Bell's Drive-In in San Bernardino CA. He was pressured in 1952 to venture into Mexican fast food (unheard of at the time) because of the increased competition from McDonald's.
  • Around 85% of humans only breathe out of one nostril at a time. The pattern of switching from breathing out of one nostril to the other happens in a cyclical fashion, with about 4 hours or so between switches; varying from person to person and based on body position or nasal congestion.
  • Eating turkey doesn't actually make you drowsy.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Social network age distribution


How low can it go?

This site has an eye-opening visual that's you'll see as soon as you scroll down to the reservoir section. Once the bar graph appears, keep scrolling slowly as you watch the date reported at the bottom right.

You'll see a bar graph that shows reservoir levels starting in January 2011 through to March 2015. It cycles the way reservoirs normally do, but you'll notice that it never quite tops up as per normal starting in 2013, never mind how low it goes in late fall.

Observations from our 2015 San Diego trip

So, now that the California government has responded to the severe drought they're enduring, laws have been passed to restrict wasting water. That changed the look of San Diego quite a bit. Dry and quiet (mostly) are the many decorative water fountains in malls and public spaces. Most of the grass is no longer green (see pic - that's supposed to be green grass), unless it's been painted that way. In fact, most grass has died and is slowly being blown away by the winds. The lack of watering also seems to be having an effect on the palm trees, as some leaves are getting brown tips.

Where there is money however, there will be residents who feel it is their right to break the rules. Some well-to-do homeowners feel it's their right to continue watering their lawns to maintain that rich look. They are being shamed by those who choose to follow the new rules.

The weather was once again spectacular, even though it only got to 21C most days. It always feels warmer than it is there, probably due to the increased humidity. It did threaten rain a few times, but we always seemed to avoid it.

As is true of every visit, I was able to score some great clothing deals. I didn't just visit department stores either, having found some great stuff at consignment stores and even Goodwill of all places. The best places to shop are (in no particular order): Carlsbad Premium Outlets; Westfield Carlsbad (for the biggest Macy's Mens store anywhere); Fashion Valley; Westfield University Town Center.

The only new place we explored was the valley from Solana Beach into Rancho Santa Fe and on into Escondido, past Lake Hodges. Beautiful countryside with plenty of 3 acre ranch properties.

Precipitation around the world

If you ever wanted to see where rain and snow falls around the world over a 6 month period, you need to check out this time lapse video.

It captures the span from 1 April 2014 to 30 September 2014.

Note the utter lack of rain in the Sahara desert. I also kept an eye on California, which suffers consistent drought these days and noticed the lack of rain there for most of the year.

TouchofCantHaveThis

I wish companies that both no longer sell the products they picture, nor ship to Canada, would stop infecting my Facebook profile. I'd buy this - but I can't. Bastards!


Things I learned lately - 6 Jun


  • Squatting while doing your business is easier on the body and doesn't require much straining. You can achieve that position, more or less, by putting a stool (no pun intended) in front of the toilet to raise up your legs while you bend forward.
  • Canadian Members of Parliament who are bailing before the next federal election get to start collecting their pensions at age 55. In the case of Peter MacKay, he will earn $128,832 per year.
  • China wants to build a 5300 kilometre high speed railway across South America, from Peru's coast to Brazil's coast. [Waving frantically from Canada] Yo! China! We need one too!
  • Google's Project Soli involves a new microchip that can detect micro movements of your fingers in the air as a replacement for having to touch a screen or button. 
  • The word honeymoon is based on the Honey Moon (full moon) that occurs in June.
  • The nautical term ‘avast’ means “stop” or “hold still”. The word is derived from the Dutch phrase “houd vast”, which means “hold fast”. The phrase eventually got it slurred down to “hou’ vast” and later “avast”.
  • Forrest Mars Sr. not only helped invent the M&M, but also famously invented the Mars bar, which was a “malted milkshake in a candy bar”; he also launched the Uncle Ben’s line of food products.
  • Maine produces about 25% of all the blueberries in the US, making it the largest producer of blueberries in the world.
  • It rains a lot less in Seattle than other US cities, but is spread out over about a month more of days than those cities. This is why almost no native Seattle-ite carries an umbrella. The rain tends to be a very light drizzle that isn’t bothersome. Seattle gets an average of 7 days a year where thunder is heard.
  • Twilight was rejected by fourteen publishers before finally getting published. stupid.fourteenth.publisher
  • Of the 36,000 or so 7-11 stores around the globe, 12,349 of them are located in Japan with 1,577 in Tokyo alone.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

I can dream, OK?

If you had asked me 5 years ago which Hollywood celebrity I'd choose to hangout with for a weekend, I might have said John Travolta. But in the last couple of years he's really weirded me out, so I have to now change my answer.

It would have to be someone who you know in your heart is most definitely down to earth. If they are a licensed pilot, that would be cool. Maybe we'd go flying a little. It would have to be someone who has appeared in one or more of my top 10 favourite movies. Check, check and check. The celebrity I'd enjoy hanging out with for a weekend would be Harrison Ford. Star of my all-time favourite movie - Blade Runner. And he's Hans freaking Solo for crying out loud! And Indy! I wouldn't have far to go, as he apparently has a ranch in Wyoming.

"Hey Harrison! Should I just park my car over here by the helicopter?"

"Hi Calista. Sorry dear, but Harrison and I are going to hang out for a bit. You'll get him back when the weekend is over. Maybe at dinner too."

So long Garmin

Up until this year, I had always brought my Garmin GPS navigation device with me to San Diego (and everywhere else for that matter) to help me get around.

Now that I have a more than decent US package through Roam Mobility, that gives me 400MB of 4G data, per day, all up front (2GB total over the 5 day plan), I don't need it anymore.

With that much data available, there's no reason not to use Google Maps. Especially on an iPhone 6 Plus. In San Diego, it was amazing. Not only did it do a great job helping us find our way around, I had up-to-the-minute traffic data and the directions even made it clear what lanes to use to get from one highway to another.

In case you're wondering, $4 per day. That also gets you unlimited texting, unlimited long distance in the US and Canada. Canadian carriers just can't compete. Which is weird, because Roam Mobility is a Canadian company.

Uber lame

So, I figured I'd give Uber a shot on our latest trip to San Diego. Normally, I book a ride with Terramoto, but I just wanted to see how easy and pleasant Uber was for once. I signed up and linked my credit card. I registered. Good to go.

So we land in San Diego. I take my Canadian sim card out of my phone (because our roaming rates are insulting) and I replace it with my Roam Mobility sim card with an American phone number. Then I hail an Uber car.

Then I get a message that my car is 7 minutes away. Then I get a message that my trip has been cancelled. Why? Because the phone number I registered with isn't the same number as I have now.

So, what can I do about it? Well, at the moment, nothing. Could I fix it in the app? No. Could I contact Uber via the app and get them to fix it? No. I'd need to get online, log into Uber and change my account profile. I don't have time for that. I need a car. I need it now. Fail.

Thus ended my experience with Uber. I booked Terramoto for my ride back to the airport. He was early and he didn't care what my phone number was.

On fire


Things I learned lately - 30 May


  • Jennifer Lopez's infamous 2000 Grammys dress inspired Google image search. Before 2000, you couldn't search for images. Her dress became the most popular search following the Grammys.
  • Not only does 12 + 1 = 11 + 2, but the letters "twelve plus one" rearrange to give you "eleven plus two".
  • Water deeper than 1 kilometre covers more than 60% of our planet.
  • The latest password recovery tool goes through 8 million guesses per second. It tries phrases from the Bible, common literature and online discussions.
  • There are approximately 10,000 therapy animals in the United States. Of those, 14 are llamas.
  • When UPS expanded into West Germany, they had to change the brown uniform to green, due to the “brown shirts” worn by the Nazi SA.
  • UPS developed software that routes trucks such that they minimize left turns in their deliveries. By doing so, they reduced their annual fuel consumption by nearly 51,000 gallons in Washington DC alone.  The reduction in fuel comes from drivers not having to sit idling at red lights waiting to make left hand turns.
  • Railroad cars are brown so as not to show their dirtiness.
  • Bananas are one of the healthier natural food sources in the world, ounce for ounce.  They contain almost no fat; are very low in calories; and are high in vitamin B6, fiber, and potassium.  They also contain decent amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, selenium, manganese, copper, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Niacin, Folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and Pantothenic Acid.  Bananas are also known to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as decrease your risk of getting cancer, according to the FDA.
  • The inner part of the bread encased by the crust is called the “crumb”.
  • Interestingly, throughout history, highly refined white bread was a luxury only available to the wealthy and thus was seen as a status symbol.  Breads from whole grains were only for the poor.
  • Canadian flour has much higher protein levels than flour from most other regions.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How to fill up in Cali without a Zip Code

In the US, they don't (yet) have chip and PIN on their credit cards, or if they do, stores aren't set up for it yet. As a result, credit card fraud is rampant. As a result of that, when you use your credit card to fill up at the pump, they want your Zip Code (in some states). Apparently, the system queries your billing info, and if the Zip Code you enter matches the code found on your billing address on file, you're good to go.

But what if you don't have a Zip Code because you don't live in the US? I always found myself staring at the "Enter Zip Code" screen on the pump and realizing that once again, I'd have to hand over my credit card and my first born to the attendant and try to guess how much worth of gas I need this time.

It turns out that there's a trick Canadians can use to enter a "valid" Zip Code. When the system queries a Canadian billing address, it's only looking for numbers. But because our postal code is a combination of letters and numbers, we think ours won't work. But it does. You just have to strip out the letters and pad the remaining digits with zeroes. So if your billing address postal code is T2T5K6, then the zip code you enter is 25600. It works. At least it does at Shell. In California.

"Maybe I come on too strong...."

This 'guy' who does bad things can't catch a break. Until he gets the perfect job.

Best video I've seen in a long time.

English history

How English got started. After the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, three Germanic peoples — the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes — moved in and established kingdoms. They brought with them the Anglo-Saxon language, which combined with some Celtic and Latin words to create Old English. Old English was first spoken in the 5th century, and it looks incomprehensible to today's English-speakers. To give you an idea of just how different it was, the language the Angles brought with them had three genders (masculine, feminine, and neutral). Still, though the gender of nouns has fallen away in English, 4,500 Anglo-Saxon words survive today. They make up only about 1 percent of the comprehensive Oxford English Dictionary, but nearly all of the most commonly used words that are the backbone of English. They include nouns like "day" and "year," body parts such as "chest," arm," and "heart," and some of the most basic verbs: "eat," "kiss," "love," "think," "become." FDR's sentence "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" uses only words of Anglo-Saxon origin.

The next source of English was Old Norse. Vikings from present-day Denmark, some led by the wonderfully named Ivar the Boneless, raided the eastern coastline of the British Isles in the 9th century. They eventually gained control of about half of the island. Their language was probably understandable by speakers of English. But Old Norse words were absorbed into English: legal terms such as "law" and "murder" and the pronouns "they," "them," and "their" are of Norse origin. "Arm" is Anglo-Saxon, but "leg" is Old Norse; "wife" is Anglo-Saxon," but "husband" is Old Norse.

The real transformation of English — which started the process of turning it into the language we speak today — came with the arrival of William the Conqueror from Normandy, in today's France. The French that William and his nobles spoke eventually developed into a separate dialect, Anglo-Norman. Anglo-Norman became the language of the medieval elite. It contributed around 10,000 words, many still used today. In some cases, Norman words ousted the Old English words. But in others, they lived side by side as synonyms. Norman words can often sound more refined: "sweat" is Anglo-Saxon, but "perspire" is Norman. Military terms (battle, navy, march, enemy), governmental terms (parliament, noble), legal terms (judge, justice, plaintiff, jury), and church terms (miracle, sermon, virgin, saint) were almost all Norman in origin. The combination of Anglo-Norman and Old English led to Middle English, the language of Chaucer.

If you think English spelling is confusing — why "head" sounds nothing like "heat," or why "steak" doesn't rhyme with "streak," and "some" doesn't rhyme with "home" — you can blame the Great Vowel Shift. Between roughly 1400 and 1700, the pronunciation of long vowels changed. "Mice" stopped being pronounced "meese." "House" stopped being pronounced like "hoose." Some words, particularly words with "ea," kept their old pronunciation. (And Northern English dialects were less affected, one reason they still have a distinctive accent.) This shift is how Middle English became modern English. No one is sure why this dramatic shift occurred. But it's a lot less dramatic when you consider it took 300 years. Shakespeare was as distant from Chaucer as we are from Thomas Jefferson.