Saturday, July 25, 2015

Is this just fantasy?

Bohemian Rhapsody played on a 110 year old self-playing Marenghi fairground organ

3 reasons why Finland has such good education

1. Education and learning must be a respected and admired part of your culture. Finland built and secured its national identity in the 19th century through investing in education for all and when independence was achieved, the base was there to develop further.

2. "Leave no child behind" was a slogan adopted in Finnish schools long before it became popular in the US. Pupils with learning difficulties are patiently brought up to the average level of their classmates by teachers and assistants who give them the extra attention and support they need to catch up.

3. You need high quality teachers with compassion. Only 11% of applicants to the teaching profession are accepted, which means that the most motivated are selected. Here again, respect for the vocation of teaching ensures that talented students choose the profession.

Comments are the best

Beach in the City ad

There's an event coming to a Calgary neighbourhood named Kensington next weekend (Aug 1) called Beach in the City. They don't have a TV commercial for it (that I know of), but if there was to be one, this is what Darelene and I came up with:

Scene opens on Kensington Road, facing west into the soon to be setting summer sun.

A dump truck has just unloaded the final load of fresh sand onto Kensington road and workers are raking it. In the distance, you can see other workers hanging a Beach in the City banner across the street.

From the side, a cat wanders onto the sand and starts digging a hole with one paw.

Worker (to the cat): "HEY!! Get outta here!"

The cat meows disapprovingly and scampers off. The worker rakes where the cat began digging.

Fade to black.

Things I learned lately - 25 Jul

  • 77% of Canadians think physician-assisted euthanasia should be legal.
  • Fast food workers will earn a minimum of $15 per hour by 2018 in New York City.
  • IKEA in Germany has a "Parking Lot for Dogs", to encourage customers not to leave their dogs in hot cars while shopping.
  • Researchers from MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe developed an algorithm that can extract audio from silent videos by analyzing the tiny vibrations of the objects as captured by an ordinary camera.
  • You can use potato chips as tinder to start a fire.
  • There is now a state-wide ban on non-compostable plastic bags in Hawaii.
  • The only mother / step-son / son trio to each have a #1 hit record: Shirley Jones / David Cassidy / Shaun Cassidy.
  • Loons are unable to take off from land.
  • There are people who can't recognize faces. The condition is known as prosopagnosia or face blindness. I knew someone with this condition and he never knew it was me until I started to talk.
  • Mel Brooks is one of just 11 performers who have won an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Tony Award, the so called “Grand Slam” of show business.
  • In 1895, the first volleyball game, originally called Mintonette was played in Holyoke Massachusetts at a YMCA. The inventor was the YMCA athletic director there, William G. Morgan. He set out to create a game with similar goals as basketball (can be played indoors, not a terribly rough game, requires some athletic skill), but for people who weren’t in great shape, such as middle-aged businessmen.
  • Greek for 'turn', the Gyro derived its name from the method used to cook the meat, which revolves on a vertical spit.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Melchior Islands

This spectacular drone footage taken in Antarctica's Melchior Islands is breathtaking.

Make sure you watch it full screen.

Some of the most beautiful drone footage I've ever seen.


A Conservative MP, who loosely compared Jesus to her government leader regarding the awesomeness and righteousness of Bill C-51, inspired a new Twitter hashtag #CPCJesus.

The tweets are beyond hilarious.

@LukewSavage: And lo the Lord said "Go forth and spy on thy citizens, for that is my will. Read not the press." - Romans, 4:12 #CPCJesus

@djclimenhaga: #CPCJesus says "Blessed are the 1%, for theirs is the Kingdom of Ottawa."

@kainagata: I hear #CPCJesus can walk on oil spills.

@markcritch: God saw the light, and saw that it was good - so he cancelled its funding #CPCJesus

@clickerati: And #CPCJesus said, blessed are the children, for they cannot vote me out of office in the next election

@PatOndabak: The leper was cured by the Lord. But the Lord made him appear before a review panel to make sure his legs didn't grow back. #CPCJesus

@llootsteen39: Tell a man a lie and he'll vote for you, teach a man to lie and he can run your country #CPCJesus

@JazzlamHazzlam: And the CPCJesus spake unto them, saying "The meek shall inherit the earth, provided they make enough money to qualify for income splitting."

@canadiancynic: "It is easier for a rich man to enter the Senate, than a poor man to qualify for EI."

@TheUselessCoin: Lo, the poor sick woman did go unto #CPCJesus to be healed. #CPCJesus said unto her, "I'm a social conservative. Principles!"

@Meanwhileincana: Harper asks himself: "What would Jesus cut?"

@mikebednarski: And the Three Wise Men came unto Baby #CPCJesus and offered Him gifts of tar, pipelines, and bitumen.

Tesla Supercharger coverage by 2016

Things I learned lately - 17 Jul

  • It takes 4.5 hours for radio signals to get from the New Horizons spacecraft (which just passed within 13,000 km of Pluto) to earth, almost 5,000,000,000 km. For reference, the distance from the earth to the moon is 384,400 km.
  • Pluto circles the sun once every 248 years.
  • It will take 16 months for New Horizons to transmit all of its pictures and data that it collected during the Pluto fly-by.
  • Canada is the only country with a universal health care system that does not also provide universal coverage of prescription drugs.
  • If you're on the beach in San Diego, the country directly across the ocean from you is........... Japan.
  • Harry Wasylyk of Manitoba and Larry Hansen of Ontario invented the first plastic garbage bag for commercial use in 1950. Union Carbide Company bought the idea and brought Glad trash bags into homes.
  • Newspaper editor Joseph Coyle of Smithers, British Columbia, found a new use for paper in 1911. The egg carton.
  • Montreal's Canadian Lady Corset Company first licensed the trademark "Wonder-bra" in 1939, and then renamed the company Wonderbra in 1961. The Wonderbra is as old as me......
  • Peanut butter was patented in 1884 by Montreal pharmacist Marcellus Gilmore Edson. He envisioned his nutty ointment-like product as a food option for people who couldn't chew.
  • An odd number of flowers are unlucky in China and Indonesia; even number is considered to be unlucky in India, Turkey, Russia and Germany.
  • In Malaysia, people point with the whole fist and the thumb at the top indicating direction. Filipinos, on the other hand, point to an object by shifting their eyes towards it or pursing their lips and pointing to it with their mouth.
  • Since 9/11, more people in the US have died at the hands of non-muslim extremists, than at the hands of muslim extremists.
  • Some companies are getting so restrictive with email use that employees must select from a list of pre-approved topics before the email software will allow them to send a message.
  • Most brands of PCs have lost anywhere from 7% to 27% in sales figures in the last year. Only Apple computers continues to see positive growth.
  • One litre of gasoline in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia costs $0.13. That's not a typo. 13 cents.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Doctor (TL;DR)

That time when Tesla predicted the smart phone

"When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket."

~Nikola Tesla 1926

How to make clouds from scratch

I sort of knew how clouds form, but I had no idea it was like this, nor that water molecules have smiley faces.

Extremely well done video from the folks at Minute Earth.

Got your back, man

Things I learned lately - 11 Jul

  • The Pearl River Delta, made up of 9 cities, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Huizhou, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Guangzhou, Foshan, and Zhaoqing has more citizens (42 million) than all of Canada (36 million)
  • Hawaii is now generating electricity from ocean waves.
  • The cost of cable TV subscriptions has doubled in the last 8 years.
  • So, underground (as in empty office tower floor, basement or garage) drone racing is a thing now.
  • The "Door-knob - Safety" game: Should a person produce any sort of flatulence, that person must claim the offending sound and or odor by shouting out "safety!" Should a person nearby the offender hear or smell the broken wind and yell out "Door-knob!" before the windbreaker says "safety", the person yelling "door-knob" is allowed to hit the farter as hard and as many times as they want. The beating ceases when the farter touches a door knob. In the case of a tie, the claim of "door-knob" will be honoured and hitting can commence. This is because the farter usually knows in advance that they're about to cut the cheese.
  • Two former musician members of the Bay City Rollers quit to form the band Pilot. Pilot was produced by Alan Parsons. Three Pilot band members went on to become the core musicians in the Alan Parsons Project.
  • Olympians bite their medals because the photographers ask them to.
  • Sleeping Beauty is based on a story where a married king finds a girl asleep and can’t wake her, so rapes her instead. The story is called The Sun, the Moon, and Talia, by Italian poet Giambattista Basile and published in 1634. It was part of his “Pentamerone” collection of fairy tales, which also includes the first known version of Cinderella and Rapunzel, and includes a version of Puss in Boots. Basile was more or less the “Brothers Grimm” of his time.
  • Canada has more than 3 million lakes.
  • A blue whale's fart bubbles are big enough to enclose a horse.
  • Mr Clean's first name is Veritably.
  • Hawaiian pizza was invented in Ontario.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

I'm bad, you know it - the Dunning-Kruger effect

If you know you are bad at something, you would just avoid doing it. Right? Thanks to how our brains work, no. David Dunning and Justin Kruger, two psychologists from Cornell University, showed that people who are really bad at something, tend to think they're really good at it. The most competent people will usually underestimate their abilities. The rest of us overestimate our abilities, and the worse we are at something, the more we overestimate our abilities.

"Incompetent people cannot recognize just how incompetent they are" said Dunning. You need some skill at something to know how good at it you are. It isn't possible to tell if you suck, if you're too bad to know what sucking involves.

I wanted to find you. But not like this.

Acoustic master

Gabriella Quevedo plays Hotel California in a pared down, but still beautiful arrangement.

Map of ludicrous speed bullet trains in Japan

Things I learned lately - 4 Jul

  • In recent mock dogfights, the new F-35 fighter couldn't even keep up with an F-16 fighter. Designed 40 years ago. A 20 year old jet. Which also happened to be lugging two extra under-wing fuel tanks, which made it even slower. [hangs head in shame]
  • California just passed a vaccination bill that eliminates the option for parents to abstain from vaccination due to religious or other personal beliefs and requires all school-aged children to have undergone 10 complete vaccinations before enrolling in California schools.
  • The most recognized song in the English language, Happy Birthday, is owned by Warner Music Group, and for decades they have charged a license fee for the use of the song. Movies and TV shows that feature a birthday party get around the fee by never completing the song (someone will come in and interrupt the singing), or by singing “For He's A Jolly Good Fellow” (which is in the public domain), or by just not singing at all when it's cake time. The 2003 documentary, The Corporation, notes that Warner has charged as high as $10,000 for the song to appear in a film.
  • Pringles chips only contain 42% potato-based content.
  • In 1899, 90% of New York City taxis were electric vehicles. In fact electric cars outsold any other type at that time. It was Henry Ford's Model T that started the end of the electric era especially due to the lower price.
  • The first known human killed by a robot was in 1981, when a robotic arm crushed a Japanese Kawasaki factory worker.
  • If you followed the Milk River in SE Alberta downstream, you'd eventually end up on the Missouri River, then the Mississippi River and finally empty into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The 'Seuss' in Dr Seuss is supposed to be pronounced 'zoice" (rhymes with voice).
  • We haven't been to the moon in over 40 years.
  • Country music used to be called 'hillbilly music'.
  • Pigathia Lee - the full name of Miss Piggy.
  • There once existed B batteries, but they never caught on commercially.

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


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?


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

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

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