Thursday, July 31, 2014

Things that everyone should know about science

1. Science explains nature rationally and logically, eschewing superstition and mysticism.

2. When scientific disputes arise, the ultimate arbiter is not expert authority or common sense but experimental evidence, guided by theory.

3. Theories aren't guesses; they are logically rigorous explanations of observed phenomena that predict new results.

4. Good theories may be superseded by better theories.

5. There are billions and billions of stars.

6. All life is related.

7. As Einstein demonstrated, conceptions of time and space based on everyday life don't apply accurately to all speeds and all realms of space.

8. At the scale of the atom, and realms even smaller, obey quantum laws completely at odds with common sense, and notions of cause and effect and the very nature of reality are inherently blurred.

9. The way a thing works is often influenced by its connections to other things and the ways that they work, a principle that applies to everything from the networks of cells in the brain and the body's other organs, to ecological and economic systems, to human interactions and social institutions.

10. Little is certain in science but much is highly probable, and the proper quantification of probabilities is essential for inferring facts, drawing conclusions and formulating sound judgments.

Keg stand

SOTD - Come on (Let the good times roll)

Before Steve's vocal kicks in, you'd swear you were listening to Stevie Ray, right?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Who is dependent on welfare?

A fantastic video that sheds some light on the myths surrounding poverty and the welfare state.

Breaking cat news

SOTD - La Goutte d'Or

I was browsing my music collection for something that sounded like heat. Like the heat we're experiencing in Calgary this week. This hit the spot.

St Germain.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


One of the things that always fascinates me about technology is how it changes the way we do things. I've developed a particular interest in the way social networking has changed the way people interact with each other, but even more so, how our perceptions change as the result of new communications channels.

I've already wrote about how social networking is changing the way young adults develop their social circles and how the way they perform in those circles is different from the times when all social interaction involved physical presence (a voice phone call being the exception).

Now I'm starting to see how Facebook is changing the way we present ourselves to our friends and even the relationship parameters we establish with online friends.

Let's start with the way things used to be. Before the internet, your friends were people you interacted with on a regular basis. In person, for the most part. You may have spoken on the phone, but that was usually only because time and or circumstance didn't allow you to be in the same place with your friend(s). More interesting is that although you shared your thoughts and experiences with your friends, it was selective. You might tell certain people what was happening in your family, but not others. The same was true for your love life, school, health, finances, job, interests, hobbies, etc. Some people knew certain things about you, but definitely not everything. It was filtered, and you did the filtering. Only your closest friends knew more, but they still might not know all that there was to know.

Although this might be a challenge to keep track of, there were often very good reasons why you didn't share specific aspects of your life with certain people. You might not have told most of your friends about your sex life because of both privacy issues and peer pressure. You might not have told your closest friends about your secret love of death metal because none of them would approve. But Alex would. So you shared that with him. Your friends were kept on very specific levels of trust and sharing for what you thought were very good social reasons.

Now, especially with Facebook, the playing field is perfectly level. A friend is a friend. There are no 'levels' of trust. If one friend can see your likes, your comments, your status updates, your photo collection, they all can. Not only that, there are intricate fingers of connectivity that spread access to these personal elements about you to people you may not even know, or at least, people who you are not friends with.

So when we make a comment, or update our status on Facebook, when we add pictures of that wild party we attended (and perhaps got wild at ourselves), when we like a link someone shared about the rights of homosexuals, we forget that we have little control over how far reaching that tidbit of information about ourselves will spread. And it might just happen that a friend, who we have a close relationship with, but does not share the same values we do, is now aware of your leanings. A friend of a friend might know that you're into death metal, even if you were trying to keep that between a select group of people.

But it even goes deeper than that. Because part of the challenge of text-based communications is lack of context. You might make a comment that your closest friends know is laced with sarcasm and wit. But other friends, who may not know you that well, take the comment literally and flame you for it. Worse, they might not even give you the benefit of the doubt, or the opportunity to defend your comment and just start trash talking you with their friends, who may or may not be your friends. Then all hell breaks loose.

Then there's the way we treat 'friends' on social networks. I have Facebook friends who are family. Then there are people that I've known for years and have actually met with in real life. Regularly. Then there are people who I used to work with, but not anymore, and I may or may not have met with them lately. Same goes with school. Also people I met learning acting, improv and volunteering in the arts. How many of your friends have you seen in person in the last week? Month? Year? 5 years? Would you be sharing the things you regularly share on Facebook with people you haven't seen in 5 years were it not for the internet? If one of your Facebook friends said something online that you thought was uninformed, racist, bigoted, chauvinist, or just plain inappropriate, would you call them out? Why not? Would they call YOU out for the same thing? Would you expect them to? If a friend hadn't communicated with you on Facebook in more than a year, not even to leave a comment on your posts, would you consider un-friending them? Why not? More importantly, how would they react if they discovered that they had been un-friended. Would you care? How would YOU react to being unfriended? One 'friend' I used to have, didn't like a comment I had made about how some animals die during rodeos. Well, that was it. I was labelled 'one of those people' and was promptly un-friended. I honestly don't care, but I did think that was harsh considering that I didn't get a chance to defend myself first. The comment was taken completely out of context. But it really opened my eyes to what this brave new world was now like. I also learned the hard way that context is so easily twisted into a perception that is quite different from your intent. And there's not a damned thing you can do about it. Well, except quit Facebook.

Online social networking is changing the way we relate to people that we used to handle with personally customized levels of trust, access, interaction and presence, and places like Facebook are a whole new universe. How are you adjusting?

I hope he realizes the logo on his shirt is backwa..... never mind

SOTD - You're in my system

Back in the 80's, whenever I needed to test the bass capabilities of the sound system I was operating, this is one of the songs I would use.

Never mind that it's a rockin' Robert Palmer tune with a truck-load of soul.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Things I learned lately - 26 July

  • You can add "+anything" to your email address and it will still work. This can be good for filtering emails (for example, you could set up a folder for all emails sent to "").
  • There's a "Manual" feature in Google Translate that lets you draw characters or symbols. So, you could draw that Chinese character and find out what it means!
  • In Canada, the average minimum wage was $10.14 in 2013 and the 1975 wage, expressed in 2013 dollars, was $10.13.
  • Companies not expected to survive 2015: Aeropostale; Blackberry; Time Warner Cable (*Comcast); Shutterfly; Russell Stover (*Lindt); Alaska Airlines (*?); Zynga (*?); Hillshire Brands (*Tyson?); DirecTV (*AT&T); Lululemon. (*)=Will probably get bought up by.....
  • There are 10 times as many electric vehicle charging stations in the US now (20,000+) than there was 3 years ago.
  • WalMart may match the prices of its competitors, but it reserves the right NOT to match prices with itself. In other words, if you find a cheaper price at WalMart online, or at another WalMart store, the store doesn't have to match it.
  • Starting 15 July 2014, New Yorkers can get anything from restaurants, grocery stores, and liquor stores delivered to them for free with a delivery service app called WunWun. The idea is that WunWun partners with enough restaurants and stores to give WunWun some sort of kick back. Then that money makes up for the money lost from orders at non-partner restaurants and stores.
  • Google sold 2.1 million Chromebooks in 2013. They operate on the Google Chrome operating system which leverages all data being kept in the cloud. The drawback is the need for constant internet access. The benefit is cost ($300).
  • The key to feeding the world's population may be to start eating insects. 80% of the world already does it, but the western world has a problem eating bugs. Companies like Bitty Foods are helping by making cookies, each made with at least 15 crickets - but you'd never know because the bugs have been reduced to a flour-like powder. Even if we'd have to farm insects, our greenhouse gas emissions alone would reduce dramatically.
  • A single almond requires over a gallon of water to farm and produce. In California, where 80% of the world's almonds are grown, farmers now have to drill 2500 feet into the ground to get water for their almond crop.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A story about a train line

CN's Deux-Montagnes line, was built as part of a major suburban and downtown development plan. The Canadian Northern Railway (absorbed by CN in 1923) needed a terminal in downtown Montréal to be competitive with the Grand Trunk (also later part of CN) and CP. The most direct route downtown available to Canadian Northern was through Mount Royal, the large hill around which Montréal is built.

A 5 kilometre tunnel was therefore built starting in 1912 and opened in 1918. It was financed in part by turning the land on the northwest side of the mountain into a ‘model city’ (modeled after Washington DC), called Mount Royal, centred around its railway station. The tunnel would make Mount Royal an ideal suburb, only about 10 minutes from downtown by train. The downtown development, including a new terminal, was not completed as planned: only a ‘temporary’ terminal was built, which lasted until 1943, when Central Station was opened; and no spectacular development took place in the area of Central Station until Place Ville-Marie in the 1960s. The Deux-Montagnes line is run by electric traction power. Some of the passenger cars include motors so trains can run like rapid transit without locomotives.

From the 1940s to the 1960s the tunnel line was very well used. As many as 77 suburban trains per day were run during the Second World War. 44 trains were run daily until 1967. The areas adjacent to the line, from Mount Royal outward, have become highly urbanized largely because of the presence of this train. This includes neighbourhoods like Cartierville, Roxboro, Pierrefonds and Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, as well as Laval Ouest and my home town, Deux Montagnes.

The municipal planners did nothing to help the trains succeed. Until 1976, it was generally assumed that the trains were a relic of the past and would fade away as their ridership switched to other modes of commuting. The original plans for the metro included a line 3 which would use the Mount Royal tunnel. When Expo ’67 was planned, it became more important to build an Expo line (line 4) under the river to Ile Sainte-Helene. Line 3 was never built. It was decided that an extension to line 2 parallel to Boulevard Décarie would be more useful. The tunnel had lost its importance. CN wanted to close the line in the 1970s and began cutting back on service while at the same time making it more expensive to ride. There was talk of converting the line to a high-speed rail line to the new Mirabel airport. Thank goodness that never went beyond the planning stages, because Mirabel was a white elephant and never became the high capacity international airport that it was originally intended to be (partly due to lack of transit access).

A further handicap that the trains suffered was their lack of connection with municipal transit systems. It may seem strange, but no effort was made to route buses in front of train stations or to schedule buses to meet trains. Downtown, the walkways between Windsor Station (CP), Central Station (CN) and the Bonaventure Metro station are long and full of turns and stairways. Until 1982, the fare systems of the trains and other modes of transit were completely independent. With infrequent service, aging rolling stock, high fares, and no integration either of fares or with other modes, it is little wonder that the trains suffered.

CN transferred the Deux-Montagnes line to the Société de transport de la communauté urbaine de Montréal (STCUM) on July 1, 1982. In 1992, the government of Quebec announced a modernization plan for the line which would include 58 state-of-the-art electric trains built by Bombardier, new tracks and centralised traffic control. Service was shut down completely in the summers of 1993, 1994 and 1995 to allow for major work to be done. The last of the old rolling stock left Central Station at 6:30pm on June 2, 1995 – 76 years, 8 months, 11 days, and ten hours after it first went into service. The same locomotive, #6711 hauled the last old-style train through the tunnel. An underpass was built at a track crossing near Montpellier station, which was needed to allow for more scheduled trains in the future. Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) now owns the line, having bought it outright from CN in 2014. CN is now only allowed to run freight trains on the line outside of commuter train rush hours.

Today, there are 25 inbound and 24 outbound departures each weekday. More than 31,000 people ride this train daily, having almost as many passengers as Montreal’s four other commuter railway lines combined. The line length is 30 kilometres.

This is what an undersea cable looks like cut open

SOTD - Six days

I heard this song in my car this morning and thought - what a perfect song of the day.

The main vocals of the song are sampled from the 1971 song "Six Day War" by British band Colonel Bagshot, with some riffs taken from the 1970 song "I Cry in the Morning" by American singer Dennis Olivieri.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dog and humans not included

Actual advertisement on kijiji with actual picture from the ad:

Sectional couch in great condition. Need to sell by end of April. If you are interested please make an offer. Dog & humans not included.

Strummer extraordinaire

Maestro street guitarist in Poland.

His name is Mariusz Goli.

Did I stutter?

SOTD - Shed some blood

Anyone that says there's nothing good in modern pop music has not yet discovered Rhye. They're an LA-based Danish/Canadian duo. And that vocalist is a man.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Is there a problem?

I had my first bad elevator experience a few weeks ago at Sears in the Southcentre Mall.

I had to get from the 1st floor to the 3rd to check on a product. I grabbed the escalator at the 1st floor but only made it as far as the 2nd due to the next escalator being out of service. So, on to the elevator. I get in, press the button for 3 and sit back to watch my journey through the glass. I rise to the 3rd floor and BAMM! It stops with a noisy jolt.

The door does not open. Instead, I'm sensing movement. Downward. The elevator is sinking. Slowly, like about an inch or two per second. Now this is one of those pneumatic elevators with the big pneumatic lift under the cabin. So I'm relatively confident that whatever's wrong with this stupid elevator, at least I'm not going to go careening down the elevator shaft until I hit bottom.

Regardless of my slow-motion fall, I'm still wondering if this device is going to let me out at some point, so I pick up the receiver and press the call button. All I get is a busy signal. Perfect. I try again. Busy.

I'm just about to get out my cell phone and consider dialing 911 to report a Sears shopper trapped in a malfunctioning elevator when the elevator reaches the 2nd floor and stops. Great. This is my chance to get out of this death trap and run for it. Nope. The door does not open because the elevator doesn't quite reach the same level as the 2nd floor.

But then, movement back upward, at regular speed. Will I make it this time or am I destined to live out the rest of my day in a loop of almost getting to the 3rd floor only to slowly, deliberately fall back to almost the 2nd floor?

The elevator makes it to the 3rd floor. All the way. Without a sound. Or a jolt. The door opens and I scramble to get off this beast. I spot two salespeople directly in front of me, waiting for their next victim of the Sears Saturday furniture sale. I say "That was the worst elevator ride I ever experienced in my life."

They stare at me with a silent, blank stare that can only mean, "So I guess you're not getting the sofa?"

OMG a letter!

SOTD - Don't leave me

Another great tune from Regina Spektor. The cover that isn't quite a cover.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Things I learned lately - 20 July

  • In 100 years, we've gone from needing 90% of the workforce devoted to farming to 2%.
  • Harley Davidson is making an electric motorcycle. It's called Project LiveWire and they're touring the prototype around the US.
  • American organizations leading the fight against relaxing marijuana laws, like the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, derive a significant portion of their budget from opioid manufacturers and other pharmaceutical companies. Legalizing marijuana could hurt the bottom line of drug companies that make money from drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin. Police unions are also fighting legalization. Police departments have become dependent on federal funding from the 'war on drugs'.
  • The first person to die in a Tesla car stole it and crashed it trying to evade police.
  • Cameron Russell, a 27 year old model who has been in the business for 11 years, makes more money than her mother, the founder of Zipcar.
  • In January, a council of elders in West Bengal state ordered the gang rape of a 20 year old woman as punishment for falling in love with a man from a different community.
  • A 14 year old girl was dragged into a forest and raped on the orders of a village council in retaliation for a sex assault blamed on her brother in a small village in Jharkhand state's Bokaro district.
  • Some folks are customizing diesel trucks to spew black smoke into the air. In many cases, these truck owners 'roll coal' as a form of protest against environmentalists. The target of their black fumes are "nature nuffies," or people who drive hybrids, and "rice burners," or Japanese-made cars.
  • One out of every 4 construction cranes on earth are located in Dubai.
  • You can see the Burj Khalifa from 95km away. If it were located in Freiburg, Germany, you would be able to see it in Strasbourg, France.
  • Dubai is building a climate controlled city 4.45km square with air-conditioned boardwalks. That's 2.25 times as big as Monaco.
  • In 2013, there were more tourists visiting Dubai than there are people living in Shenzhen (over 11 million).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Google Maps Calgary in 3D tilt mode

Google Maps Montreal in 3D tilt mode

Windows tweaks that don't actually work

If you've been doing any of these, my apologies. They don't work.

  • Erase cache files (even CCleaner offers to do this)
  • Enable ReadyBoost
  • Defragment an SSD drive
  • Disable the pagefile
  • Enable CPU cores in MSConfig
  • Clear the Prefetch
  • Disable QoS
  • Set DisablePagingExecutive in registry
  • Delay Windows Services
  • Registry cleaning
  • Memory optimization & RAM boosters

Measuring cups and spoons made from R2-D2

SOTD - My paperback sharona

What do you get when you mash up a classic Beatles tune with My Sharona? Something unique, that's for sure. But I wouldn't expect anything less from Go Home Productions.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Another way our government is screwing soldiers

The Canadian military has a home-equity assistance program available to military members who move frequently and run the risk of taking a bath on the sale of their properties. Compensation is supposed to be available when a member has to transfer (not by choice) and sells a home in a depressed housing market.

A 24-year veteran of the Canadian military is taking the federal government to court to recover the $88,000 he lost on his home when he was posted from Edmonton to Halifax and all he got was $15,000. Even though the military agreed he was entitled to have his losses covered, the Treasury Board said no, only because they didn't classify the area as a depressed housing market. He paid $405,000 for a house when he was posted to Edmonton in 2007. In 2010, when he tried to sell his home again on being posted to Halifax, he was only able to get $317,000. This was mostly due to a glut of homes on the market in Bon Accord after the cancellation of local area industrial projects.

Military members cannot wait indefinitely for a better offer when being posted and selling their home. There are many people in this situation in our military. They are declaring bankruptcy and losing their marriages as a result of these rulings. Some soldiers are looking to online donations to help bail them out. Records released last year show that between 2007 and 2010, 146 applications involving tens of thousands of dollars each were rejected by the Treasury Board, despite having the support of National Defence.

Aspern City crane dance

Beautiful dance of construction cranes at a new development in Austria.

No one cares

SOTD - Karma police


That is all.