Monday, July 31, 2006

Repair Zen

I used to fix telecommunicaions and computer equipment for a living. I still consult as a PC fixer dude on the side. Many times I have been called to diagnose a fault only to discover that the fault has disappeared and everything is fine now. This comes as no surprise, considering the mantra of the technician (see step one):

How To Diagnose & Repair Equipment

1. Approach the ailing equipment in a confident manner. This gives the equipment the impression that you know something. This will also impress anyone who happens to be watching. If the equipment should suddenly start to work you will be credited with it's repair. If this step fails, proceed to step two.

2. Wildly wave the reference manual at the equipment. The equipment will assume that you are at least somewhat familiar with the theory of operation. Should this fail, proceed to step three.

3. In a forceful manner, recite Ohm's Law to the equipment - (beforehand, refer to a reliable textbook and assure your knowledge of Ohm's Law). This will prove to the equipment, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you know stuff. This is a drastic step and should be attempted only after the first two.

4. Jar the equipment slightly. This may require from a three to six foot drop, preferably onto a concrete floor. However, we must be very careful with this step. While jarring is an approved method of repairing equipment, we must not mark the floor. Again, this is a drastic step and, should it fail, we are forced to proceed to step five.

5. Add an integrated circuit or other component. This will prove to the equipment that you are familiar with circuit design. This step will also give the equipment an added load to carry, thereby increasing your advantage. Should these five steps fail, we must proceed to the most dangerous step of all. This step is seldom needed and must be used only as a final resort.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

[chatter chatter chatter]

There's a saying some people use - "If you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes". Well let me tell you, it ought to be trademarked by Calgary.

In winter, we experience Chinook winds that can take the temperature from -20C (-4F) to +15C (59F) in a couple hours.

But today was a perfect example of why we should claim the trophy for weather weirdness. Check the temperature graph - it was 28C (82F) yesterday. Today it even made it to almost 26C, then at 4pm a north wind came up and BOOM!, the mercury fell to 15C in less than 10 minutes. It's just above 8C (46F) as I write this and I have seen reports of snow falling in the Rockies (near Canmore). It took a mere 4 hours for the temperature to fall 18C (64F). Allow me just to remind people that it is July.......

Eet eez.......... ze steenker!

There are times I take a chance and buy a DVD movie not knowing whether it's going to be something I want to keep in my collection. Sometimes it's the right decision, sometimes it's not. When it isn't, I often just put the thing for sale on eBay and cut my losses.

Along comes the new Pink Panther movie. Hey - I love Steve Martin. His physical comedy usually keeps me in stitches. But this Pink is 'the stink'. Worse, I can't figure out how to pay an eBayer to take this bomb off my hands.

White Noise is 2 years old

This blog turned 2 today. How time flies when you're having fun. On a somewhat related note, I was chosen blog-of-the-day by a few days ago. It was the 'Firsts' meme that did it.

Anyway, a big thank you to all my readers, especially those that take the time to say hello and offer feedback. All I ask is that you tell two friends.... and they tell two friends.... and so on.....

I lost count!

If you're not a fan of the movie The Big Lebowski, you may as well just stop reading this post. If you can't handle 2:14 of pure, f-word, move along. For whoever's left, I present to you and your soon-to-be desensitized ears: The Big Lebowski - F'ing Short Version. Oh my. Not safe for work...... not safe for mom........ the kids better not be home...........

Saturday, July 29, 2006

You have been warned

I had been seeing mentions all over the net about a David Hasselhoff music video called Jump in my Car. I really had no interest in it, but I was drawn to it like a spectator drawn to a car wreck. I just had to see how bad it was.

I am scarred for life.........

Another breakfast bonanza

Darlene and I returned to Thomson's restaurant today for breakfast to give it a try after ignoring it for many years. Thomson's is part of the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown and can also be accessed off Stephen Avenue Mall. It's not a cheap place to eat, but I remembered the quality being superb. They have an a-la-carte menu (til 11am) or you can try the buffet and omelet bar (til 1pm). Darlene tried the Cinnamon Bun French Toast with pecans and blueberries (she asked to hold the blueberries). I had the Breakfast in a Basket which is basically a fried egg, cheddar and ham sandwich on a very nice pumpernickle toast with oven-roasted potatoes and sauteed onions. It was excellent. I can't wait to go back and try what Darlene had. If parking is an issue for you, here's a secret - you can park in the Hyatt parkade for free. Just tell the lot attendant what you're up to on the way in and ask the server for a parking voucher (Minimum $20 order).

Friday, July 28, 2006

Blast from the past

Once again, for those of you not intimately familiar with my archives, I bring back a gem: My answers to the Bernard Pivot questionnaire (as heard on Inside the Actor's Studio).

IE7 dot com

I'm sure you can guess what happens when you go there................. ? No? Well, go on then.

Looking for band / blog / book / album names?

It's a long list of random word combinations. But it's an awesome audition list for new band names - or blog names for that matter. Some gooders:

Fidelity Wizards - Earthen Nickel - Neon Treachery - Neither Apathetic - Cheese Council

Virtual machines (they're all the rage)

If you're like most of the world, you only care to have one OS (Windows or Linux, etc) on your PC at a time. But what if you want to play with two or more OSes on the same computer? One solution is to dual-boot. I tried that a while back, with little difficulty. But a recent meltdown of Windows on my laptop forced me to reinstall everything (from restore discs) - so - bye bye Linux for now. I have a need to re-install Ubuntu, but the dual boot solution will not suffice as I'm going to be demo'ing it on a network that will only play with Windows boxes (security feature). What's a poor Ubuntu cheerleader to do? Enter Virtual Machines......... (read more in the comments)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Deja Vu?

Take a close look at this picture. In particular, the front page of the paper she's reading......

Karl's tips on life - artistic waste technique

Eating a lot of Oreo cookies in one sitting can make your poo black..........

"You have no idea"

I stumbled across this great article in The Washington Post that got feedback from US troops in Iraq. Highlight:

"I mean, if you compare the casualty count from this war to, say, World War II, you know obviously it doesn't even compare. But World War II, the big picture was clear -- you know you're fighting because somebody was trying to take over the world, basically. This is like, what did we invade here for?"

Warning: Annoying registration pages possible.......


I'm starting a new meme. OK - I stole a meme idea and am tweaking it in a major way. My answers are factual as far as I can remember. Feel free to put your own answers in the comments or link to answers on your own blog if applicable.

1st book: The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher.
1st movie you saw in the theatre: Swiss Family Robinson.
1st car you ever rode in: My Dad's Volkswagen Beetle. This would have been mid 60's.
1st dessert you enjoyed: My Oma's honey cake. I liked it so much, she used to have to hide it in the drawer of her sewing machine table. I still found it.
1st pet: A beagle named Spot. My mother tells me I didn't really like it much.
1st house you lived in: I lived with my Opa and Oma from 1961 til 1964 on Meunier St in St Laurent. The posted pic is about 3 blocks from the place.
1st alcoholic drink you ever tried: Vermouth.
1st full-time job: Stockperson in a music distributor company (Millbank/Discus).
1st vehicle ever owned (anything with a motor counts - but you had to own it): A 1979 Honda 185 Twinstar motorcycle.
1st time on an airliner: 1979 Montreal to Halifax - I was 18, on my way to military boot camp.
1st roomate: Dan Perry.
1st concert: Queen.
1st stereo: a Toshiba ghetto blaster - it's use led to a ticket for disturbing the peace.
1st trip to another country across an ocean: Verden, Germany - 1982.

beta than evah!

You may have heard the new term Web 2.0.

Many Web 2.0 websites assert priority to their visual design and aesthetics [1][2], with the intention of providing a clear, well-organized and visually appealing site. Common design techniques include:

* Gradient backgrounds
* Large colorful icons, often with reflections and drop shadows
* Large text (especially in comparison with the emphasis on very small text in earlier designs)
* Diagonal hatch backgrounds
* Glossy three-dimensional elements
* Apparently random highlights and call-outs in text

Well, some people are having fun re-designing known logos using Web 2.0 aesthetics. Some of my faves are pictured here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Google Maps - now with traffic data....

You all knew about Google Maps right? Did you know Google now has a version for mobile devices? OK - then did you know that Google Maps for mobile devices will now be offering trafiic data in selected US cities? It's true.

The regular version of Google Maps doesn't offer the traffic-flow feature yet, but supposedly it's coming eventually. More on the story here.

Air power

This site is still in its infancy, but what a resource it will turn into once more people submit content. I'm talking about a wiki listing the locations of power outlets in airport terminals. Very handy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

No more funny money

The new (next?) version of Monopoly won't have the classic Monopoly money - instead they're using a play ATM machine and Monopoly debit card. When I first read this, it was so funny I thought for sure it was a hoax. What I want to know is - does the banker now get to charge players a bank fee?


David Letterman has a little fun with Bill Gate's retirement announcement.

I'm a big kid now (with big responsibilities)

Calgary reached a milestone overnight - almost 2 years ahead of schedule. We now have 1,000,000 people living in our city (the 3rd city in Canada to do so). Our city is growing fast - 35,681 in one year. 72% of Calgary homes are owned by the person living in them (the highest rate in the country). Our biggest problems right now? In a word - labour. There just aren't enough people here to fill the jobs that are available. The latest tale - Humpty's (restaurant chain) President just went to Mexico to hire people. The Mayor says we're about 35,000 people short over the next five years to fill jobs that are all ready on the horizon.

Monday, July 24, 2006

"He changed my avatar!"

When geeks interns errr... cubicle dwellers have too much time on their hands, the shenanigans can get out of hand. It's brutal out there..........

It swings! It jives!

And you thought Queen did it first..............

Ahhhhh........ generators are fun, eh?

Sense of humour

Here's a wonderful collection of bizarre statues from around the world.

Some statues not safe for work..........

Harnessing the wind

I'm a huge fan of alternative energy. Especially renewable energy. Tis why I was excited to see my first wind farm in Alberta (down near Pincher Creek) back in the day. Little did I know at the time that this farm (or even the bigger one they just built near Fort MacLeod) pales in comparison to other wind farms. On our first trip to Los Angeles in March 2004, I decided to bypass the 210/10 freeway nightmare west through Pasadena to Simi Valley (coming from Vegas). Instead we headed west at Barstow, past Edwards Air Force Base to Lancaster. That's when I saw the wind farm to beat all wind farms. Follow this Google map link and you'll see almost straight diagonal lines in the centre of the map. Zoom in and you'll see that those lines are access roads to the wind turbines. Keep zooming and you'll actually see their shadows cast on the desert. The area is hilly, so if you think it looks impressive from space, you should see what it looks like as you get close on the ground.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The power of bling

While downtown this morning, we spotted one of these cars parked in front of a high-end restaurant on a pedestrian mall. It's a Lotus Elise. I was waiting for Darlene to finish shopping, so I just sat on a bench nearby and watched. It was fun to see the reactions of people as they passed this car. One couple - the woman actually laid back on the front of the car and posed for a picture. The other thing I noticed was that every other car that was illegally parked on this pedestrian mall had a ticket on its windshield - except this one. Go figure......

Air conditioning on a budget

If you're like me, you can't afford to get central air conditioning. Neither do you want 2 ton boxes hanging out of your window. A couple years ago, Darlene and I decided to give one of those portable roll-away air conditioners a try. Calgary maybe gets above 28C for only a couple weeks a year, so it's the cat's meow. The rest of our house gets up to 29C (at least it did yesterday), but the bedroom is cool and refreshing. And that's the only room that really needs to be comfortable - right? If you decide you need coolness in other parts of your house, you could always roll it into the room you need. The heat exhausts through a flexible hose out the window - but it only interfaces with sliding windows (not the kind that swing out). Best $700 we ever spent.

Only in America you say?.............. pity

Let's get right to the point - I want one.

250 mile (400km) range. 0-60 in 4 seconds. Recharges in 3.5 hours. 2.6 cents per mile to drive (based on a 13 cent per kilowatt/hour electricity rate). Regenerative braking. Top speed - over 130mph (210km/h).

"We will not sell a Tesla Roadster to anyone outside of the continental US"


Saturday, July 22, 2006

I feel so........... alone

I was checking out a multimedia tour of our solar system (attention Heidi.....), when I read a great description to help with understanding the perspective of size and distance in the solar system:

One way to help visualize the relative sizes in the solar system is to imagine a model in which everything is reduced in size by a factor of a billion. Earth would be about the size of a grape. The Moon would be about a foot from the Earth. The Sun would be about the height of a man and about a city block from the Earth. Jupiter would be the size of a large grapefruit and 5 blocks away from the Sun. Saturn, the size of an orange would be 10 blocks away; Uranus and Neptune - lemons, 20 and 30 blocks away. A human on this scale would be the size of an atom but the nearest star would be over 40,000 km away.

Another green roof

Here's another take on green roof technology, but this time it's on the top floor of a 6 story Greenwich St NYC building. This one comes with a porch and a meadow. How about that? A porch-view of a meadow with Manhattan as the backdrop.........

Car logo trivia bonus round

Lexus is the brand name Toyota chose to represent its luxury line of cars since the late 1980s. But that wasn't the original name that had been suggested. Any idea what it was?

The answer is in the comments........

Car logo trivia part 2

Mitsubishi is Japanese for 3 diamonds. But what do the diamonds represent?

I placed the answer in the comments......

Friday, July 21, 2006


Have you ever seen a remote controlled airplane fly? How about a remote controlled jet? This thing can (supposedly) do 200mph.


Google is great for getting information about words. But what if you don't have any words to describe what you want info about?

UK designer Callum Peden has come up with a product idea for Google. It's called "Google Vision". About the size of a cell phone (with built-in GPS), a flexible screen scrolls. It would use image recognition and GPS data to tell you what you're looking at. The image would be compared against a database of objects known to be near the location identified by the GPS.

Physical objects would need to be indexed, such as via a Wiki. The technology needed to build such a device exists.......

Karl's tips on life - utensil history

I once asked someone how much loose tea you use to make a cup of tea.
They said, "About a teaspoon full."
Egad! ..........that's why they call it a teaspoon!
Ummmmm....... nope. It's actually because you use it to stir the tea.

The new music

If you're into the music scene, you've probably heard the tune Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. You may also know that it went straight to #1 on the UK charts before the album even hit store shelves. It stayed there for 9 weeks. What you may not know is that it's the first single to reach #1 through download sales alone. Gnarls Barkley did not make it at the hands of one of the big record labels. They made it through an upstart record label called Downtown Records, which employs 9 people and has been around since January. So how did Gnarls become such a hit so fast? Hype. Spread on this new thing called the Internet. Josh Deutsch, Downtown's CEO says the buzz generated by kids sharing music online actually helps long-term sales. The song is so popular, it's already been covered by British indie band the Kooks, U.S. folksinger Ray LaMontagne and Canadian songbird Nelly Furtado - all giving it an acoustic feel. Twilight Singers grunged it up and U.K. singer Terri Walker jazzed it a little. Next - Paris Hilton wants to put it on her album.

Welcome to the MySpace generation.................

Buying a laptop?

There are a lot of things to consider when buying a laptop / notebook computer. So I was reading an article on building your own laptop at Tom's hardware. I realized that although the points he mentioned were important things to consider when building a laptop from scratch (did you know you could do that?) - every point was also a good primer on what features to consider when buying a pre-made retail laptop as well. For example, how big should your screen be, why some CPUs are better than others (for power management), etc. For other takes on what to look for when buying a laptop, see PC World's article

Whippet good!

Another cool t-shirt design I found on the net (nice play on Devo)....... this and more can be purchased here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Car logo trivia

What does the white and blue part of BMW's logo signify?

I placed the answer in the comments.....

Think before you buy

Sometimes a web address can spell out other than what you intended. Such as: (as in Go Tahoe!) (as in Who Represents)

More here.

Some organizations are willing to stand up

If you're American, you may have heard that the EFF has launched a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for Collaboration with Illegal Domestic Spying Program (by the NSA). Both the government and AT&T tried to get the suit dismissed - and failed. The EFF is looking for your willingness to spread the word and gladly accepts donations to fight for this cause.

Advertising remixed into bad ideas....

Worth1000 has a new photoshopping competition that made me chuckle. See them all at Bad Ads 3.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Calgary - a victim of its own success?

Calgary has a new slogan: "Now hiring - all positions". It's very to find a store without said message displayed and almost impossible to find a restaurant in this city without it either. So what's the problem?

The problem is that Calgary is a very rich city right now. The economy is booming, housing starts continue to set country-leading records, corporations are flocking here like rats, construction proceeds at a pace that has truly created a massive labour shortage. But Alberta has one of the lowest minimum wage figures. There's your answer. It's almost impossible to work even a full-time minimum wage job in this city and be able to afford the cost of living. At $7.00/hr, working a 40 hour week, you'd make a little over $1100 a month - before taxes. The average rent in Calgary right now is $800-900 a month, so even if you shared a place, you won't get far. That's the price of success. Is it any wonder we have so many working poor that live in homeless shelters?

Karl's tips on life - communications etiquette tip

There is no need to speak louder on your cell phone than you would on any other phone. They have very sensitive microphones. If your call drops out - speaking louder won't help..... unless the person is nearby.

Ship on a ship

A ship so big - it can carry other ships........ ladies and gentleman - The Blue Marlin.

Motorcycle + dryer =

Yesterday I heard a peculiar high-pitched whine coming from outside and decided to investigate. Turns out a neighbour was trying out one of those pocket bikes or mini motorcycles. Having never seen one before and noting the absolute lunacy of the size of this bike compared to its rider, I burst into laughter. Man, those things look funny. This bike whizzed along at a pretty good clip too.

You should have seen the look of disdain from the rugby players assembled in the field across the street............ they were not amused.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A tale of words

If you have any interest in the origin of words, this site might be worth a look. Here's something I didn't know (assuming it's true): my first name means free man.

Free your music

Thanks to a demand from (internet connected) music lovers everywhere, there are now more places online to buy music from in various formats. But now DRM has reared its ugly head and very few consumers know what it's all about. Well, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) would like to educate you in that regard with their awesome The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music. It tries to summarize what limitations are imposed upon you when you buy music from various online services. But it's not all bad news.........

Michael Robertson presents yet another article meant to illuminate the issue - only he also presents alternatives to purchasing music online that are not DRM-crippled.

Knowledge is power..........

Bite back!

The internet has made it so the average consumer can report on their bad experiences with big corporations and post those interactions for all to see. The Consumerist is a site dedicated to such exposure. This link offers a video clip of the phenomenon as reported on ABC's Nightline. It's nice to see that the consumer finally has a fighting chance to shine the spotlight on bad service - maybe resulting in the improvement of business' attitudes.

Monday, July 17, 2006


This pic really put a smile on my face. Happy Monday.

See................ Powerpoint is evil!

Vader tries to win Luke over to the dark side............... Powerpoint style.......

Gratuitously lifted from Presentation Zen.


Have you ever heard the story about how the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon synchronizes very well as an alternative soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz? Well, now you can see what the fuss is all about without having to set it up yourself.

Personally, I thought the matchup of Echoes (from Meddle) to the last scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey was better.

You've forgotten what it's like to be a beginner

Here's a site that reminds all of us - especially the computer veterans / gurus, of the important things to consider when helping out less experienced computer users. Excerpt:

Beginners face a language problem: they can't ask questions because they don't know what the words mean, they can't know what the words mean until they can successfully use the system, and they can't successfully use the system because they can't ask questions.

More retro video game fun

Some people made a space invaders game recreation using stop-motion animation and people seated in an auditorium. Hilarious!