Monday, January 31, 2011

Nudity is beautiful

Some magnificent human sculptures by popular Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland, in the city of Oslo.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Practical Lexicon Episode 1

My good friend Bernie May decided to start his own podcast and was gracious enough to invite me to participate. The podcast is called The Practical Lexicon (Darlene and my idea) and the first episode is here!

We're talking about getting that next job - that will cover a few episodes. Where we go next is anyone's guess. The sky's the limit.

Monster dating

This came out of the Vancouver Film School. My favourite line (from the troll):

"You know, I know what you're thinking. 'This guy lives under a bridge'. You know? Ewww! Well, yeah. But you should see what I've done with it....."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Only the elder IT geeks will appreciate this one

Dot bat

Karl the biker

In 1980, mere months after I joined the military, I had a bit of disposable income for the first time in my life. The salary wasn't much in the beginning, but my living expenses were practically non-existent thanks to the military putting a very low cost roof over my head (barracks) and feeding me 3 squares a day at a discount (mess hall). My free time was spent testing the tolerance of bar staff for a few months, until I woke up (much sooner than most of my mates) realizing that there had to be a life outside of the military (drinking) mess.

So on a sunny spring day in 1980, convinced that my freedom hinged on having my own mode of transportation, I made my way to the local Honda Motorcycle dealership in Kingston Ontario and made what is truly the most wise and frugal investment in my life. I bought a used red 1978 Honda 185cc Twinstar for a mere $1100. Most of my peers who were buying motorbikes went for 400cc, 750cc, 1000cc bikes, but I felt that it was more reasonable to get something small to get the hang of riding a motorbike. It was a wise decision. I lost count of the number of guys who bought monster crotch rockets and wrote them off within days or weeks of ownership. Sometimes the write-off wasn't limited to the bike, rest their soul.

But a 185cc bike will get you from point A to point B, albeit without fanfare. The cost of gas was something like $2 per fill-up. I tried riding the thing from Kingston to my home town north of Montreal (a 296km trip) for a weekend visit, but this little bike couldn't really go fast enough to cruise safely at highway speeds, so I ended up meandering along on secondary highways at 90km/h (56mph). I seem to recall that I only attempted that trip once. That was the summer I learned about bug swarms, what it's like to ride on rough roads and why a 185cc bike isn't really suitable for passengers.

I was also introduced to the phenomenon of the wave. Folks who don't ride motorcycles probably don't know about this. Motorcycle riders wave to each other as they pass in the opposite direction. It can be a subtle thing - a simple raise of a few fingers or nod of the head in some cases - there are many variations. It gives us a sense of community and always puts a smile on my face. It means we're brothers and sisters on the road. When riders wave, it not only says "ain't this cool?", but also "I've got your back." We also used the index finger held upright next to the helmet and moved in a horizontal circular motion to mimic the spinning or flashing lights of a police vehicle to indicate that the police are ahead. A flat hand palm down moved with a downward pushing motion is used to convey the need to slow down due to poor road surface, an accident or obstruction ahead, or just that the rider felt you were travelling too fast for the conditions.

What was great about owning a motorcycle is that I now had a means to get around (not all of my peers could afford their own vehicle). This was my very first vehicle and it allowed me to explore the area around Kingston in a way that others could only dream of. Owning a motorbike also motivated me to take it easy on the drinking so that I would be sober enough to ride home. In fact, I became as close to a teetotaller as you can get while still drinking somewhat thanks to my transportation choice. I got used to the Twinstar very fast and by the end of the 1980 riding season was ready to move up in size.

In the spring of 1981, I traded my Twinstar for a 1979 Honda CM400T. They gave me $1000 toward the $2000 bike, which means that first machine cost me a grand total of $100 (plus gas) to learn how to ride a motorbike for a full season. You can't beat that. The 400cc bike had hard case storage saddles and a humongous wind screen so it looked a bit on the dorky side (IMHO). But this bike had the power required to do highway speeds safely, which opened up my frontier in a big way. This made getting home (to Montreal) a lot easier and faster. It also increased my eligibility quotient. Suddenly, girls from the military base were asking for rides on my bike on the weekends. Who was I to say no? This was a fantastic way to meet women. I could say that it was no big deal to have a girl riding on the seat behind you with her arms wrapped around you. But I'd be a big liar. I had a fleeting relationship with a car during this time - let's face it, you can't ride a bike in the winter. But the car was a blip on the radar - I didn't keep it long. One thing that owning the car did to liven up my bike-riding experience was the addition of music. Once you get used to the idea of listening to music while you drive, you miss it when you get back on a bike. My bike wasn't one of those huge Gold Wing monsters with their built-in stereo systems, so I had to compromise with the resources at hand. I already had a nice little ghetto blaster that I liked to bring with me wherever I went, so I just tied the thing to the back seat with bungee-cords. I had a nice set of headphones that you could detach from the headband, so I slipped the ear cups into my helmet and plugged them into the ghetto blaster for music on the go, especially for long highway trips. Totally illegal - but hey - we do what we gotta do. I kept that 400cc bike for 3 seasons before I decided I was ready for the next size up.

In 1984, I bought my first new motorcycle, a gorgeous black 1984 Honda V45 Magna (750cc) for $4000. This bike had shaft drive. What a difference! No more chains to worry about and the power curve was so smooth. A fill-up still only cost about $5. Those were the days. The Magna was a stylish bike. It had guts too. Now bike riding wasn't just practical, it was downright fun. I kept that bike until 1989, when I got sent off to Alert and knew I would be coming home to a brand new car (and a brand new wife). That ended my motorcycle career. I did buy a scooter for Darlene back in 2006, but she didn't really like it. So I kept that and rode it occasionally to work for two summers before selling it. What I'm looking forward to in the future is a good electric motorcycle with a 100km+ range for commuting, that I can charge overnight at home. The purists might scoff, but electric has one big advantage - 100% torque - all the time. There are other advantages too. No oil to change. No coolant. No gas. Regenerative braking.

Until then, keep your shiny side up.

Pictures of the models I owned appear here in historical order, from left to right (they're not mine of course).

Friday, January 28, 2011

I muse aloud

I was listening to a song in my car and these lyrics jumped right out at me:

"everything looks beautiful to him especially girls
he wants to be with them
and if he wants to be
with all the girls he meets
it's cuz I make him feel so good"

Jane Siberry is so........ wry.

Another post about food? This can't be Karl's blog.....

Karl's favourite burgers in Calgary.

Darlene suggested that I put together a list of my favourite burgers in the city in order of preference. The list only pertains to the burger, not any sides that might come with it.

1. Rocky's Burger Bus
2. Dairy Lane (pictured)
3. The Notable
4. Kensington Pub
5. Five Guys
6. LoungeBurger
7. Tommy Burger Bar
8. Joey Tomatoes
9. Original Joe's
10. White Spot

Why stop here. How about my favourite fries in the city in order of preference.
[Updated 6 Sep 2013]

1. Rocky's Burger Bus
2. The Notable
3. Flippn Burgers
4. Dairy Lane (pictured)

5. White Spot
6. Original Joe's
7. Kensington Pub

I had to stop here as there were no other places that had great fries.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mapping the US Census data

Time took data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, based on samples from 2005 to 2009, and mapped it. These maps include things like income distribution, median home value, race distribution and education level.

The image is of the Seattle area. The darkest green areas are where more than 20% of households earn over $200,000.

Karl's idea for first implementation of a PRT in Calgary

Here is my first proposed PRT network for Calgary. In case you don't know what Personal Rapid Transit is, I've blogged about it a few times.

I feel that the best place to trial this kind of transit network is in an area currently least served by last-mile transit in a local way. An area with a high concentration of people. My proposed network includes Foothills Medical Centre, which has a transit bus hub (marked by a 'T'), Motel Village, the University's Sports complex, 3 C-Train stations (Banff Trail, University and Brentwood - also marked with 'T'), Brentwood Village, the University grounds, the Children's Hospital and Market Mall. Based on the lines I drew on the map (click for a bigger view), I tried to create a network with as few choke points as possible while keeping initial building costs to a minimum. Keep in mind that this network is the initial phase with expansion potential built in. If ridership increases to a degree warranting expansion, you just keep building onto the existing network. This PRT network makes it possible to connect to/from one of 3 C-Train stations and get the rest of your way via autonomous electric pod travelling a private PRT guide way. These guide ways are narrow, easy to build and can be put above or below grade to cross roads and other obstacles without interruption.

I would suggest making the network free to use (with a transit fare or pass) and get the University, Foothills Medical Centre and Market Mall to help with the costs. It's win-win since making these facilities easier to get to via transit increases overall transit ridership dramatically, which in turn increases revenue.

If the City wants to discuss this with me, I'd be glad to help.

(Link fixed)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ez egy nagy mualkotas

Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic do a bang up job of updating Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal by performing it as a cello duel.

Nicely done lads.

City Hall disconnect

I visited a local news web site today and saw the headline 'Public debate on fluoride'. The first sentence in the article says "Calgarians are getting the chance to speak out about fluoride in the drinking water."

The lack of a link in the article doesn't inspire much confidence that this is true. So I pay a visit to the City of Calgary's web site. I cannot find any mention of the fluoride debate anywhere. There's no mention of it on the front page or on their News Blog. I couldn't find anything about it in their list of boards and committees. I did a search on fluoride and got a page describing how fluoride is added to the water, but no link to any form of online discussion about it.

So if the public is being given the chance to speak out on this topic, there is either no online means of doing so, or the resource is effectively hidden from the populace.

Message to City Hall: It's 2011. Get with the times.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

".....that would crush my dreams a little bit..."

"That's what Canadian bureaucracy does."

I don't often find videos of performances at Loose Moose online, so this clip seen on YouTube is a treat. In it we get so many of my favourites. An appearance by Francois (a recurring masked character) is a particular thrill for me.

Note to kijiji sellers

When you add pictures, check and see what they’ll look like before posting. When you try to post a picture whose resolution is only suitable for a 50 x 50 pixel thumbnail, at full size in your ad it will look terrible. It may not even resemble anything at all. (See example picture)(Picture used without permission. They'd never recognize it anyway...)

Maximum blur = minimum sales.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Look out arteries!

Well, the fast food darling of US President Barack Obama himself, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, opened an outlet in Airdrie Alberta this week. Work lunches will never be the same again.

This chain, already quite popular in the eastern US, is working its way across Canada. The chain was ranked best US fast food burger restaurant in a recent Zagat Survey. Five Guys is known for its policy of using fresh food - none of the franchises use freezers. They make their patties and french fries by hand every morning. Men's Health magazine rated Five Guys' fries "4th most unhealthy food in America."

Yippee! OK, now on to the review...

Let's begin this review with a warning. If you're allergic to peanuts, look elsewhere. They cook the fries in peanut oil and there are peanuts in-the-shell around the place for munching. Warning number two, if your party isn't into burgers, look elsewhere. Although they have grilled cheese on the menu, if you're here, it's because you want a burger.

All that's left to decide is if you want one patty or two. These patties are hand-formed and cooked medium-well. I especially liked their choices of toppings. I chose mayo, pickles, mustard and fried onions on a single patty (small) bacon cheeseburger. The bacon was crisp and the burger was tasty. The fried onions help a lot. A regular order of fries is enough to feed two people, or one very hungry person. The fries are nothing to write home about - crispy, not tender like chip truck fries. So, it won't be the fries that brings me back. It's the burger.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Net neutrality simplified

Here is a great article about the net neutrality debate told with simple analogies, making it easy to comprehend.

Imagine this: you pick up the phone and call Vito’s, the excellent pizza joint down the road where your family’s gotten its favourite pepperoni and mushroom every Friday night for years. The phone rings once, twice, then: "AT&T: The number you have called is not engaged, but the recipient has not paid for premium service. Please hold for 30 seconds, or press ‘one’ to be connected to Domino’s immediately."

MapCrunch 6

Name the country.

In the comments.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Doobie Brothers are in the playlist

I figure you must be sick of Beatles covers by now, so I loaded the Grooveshark playlist up with Doobie Brothers classics.

First contact

A cute little video that tries to explain why contact with aliens has subsided.

This was a project of the Advanced 3D Productions Programme at the Media Design School in (I believe) New Zealand.

Why law can't keep up with technology

I was thinking today about technological advances and the law's inability to adjust for them (never mind the entertainment industry's inability).

I currently own what amounts to a multi-room wireless music playback system. A system that creates a private, encrypted, wireless mesh network for the purposes of playing music from networked music file libraries. By the way - this operates completely independently from any other home wireless network I may already have. You only need to buy multiple playback devices to expand this system further. Each device allows you to play music in another room or area on your property. The devices can be configured to play independently or play whatever the rest of the devices are playing. The more devices you own, the more widespread and ubiquitous the mesh network. All of this is managed and controlled as easily as getting an app for your iPhone or computer.

That got me to thinking. What if my neighbour bought one of these devices? With my cooperation, they could connect to my wireless mesh network, expanding it into their home. This would allow them to access all of my music. If they agreed to attach their own music collection to their device, it would enable each of us to listen to both collections combined. If my neighbour added more devices, they could expand the reach of their part of the mesh network throughout their property. If their neighbour did the same thing...... and so on, pretty soon, the entire block could become this big private wireless cloud, sharing everyone's collections. No internet required. No way for the entertainment industry to detect what we are doing (it's a private, encrypted network).

This is yet another example of why it is impractical to legislate protection for a business model based on 1950s culture and technology.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The new view from the ISS

This is the kind of view a hotel window would have if it were built in Earth's orbit.

I just put that out there for those entrepreneurs who are following the private sector's foray into space travel.

Isn't this spectacular? It's taken from the new observation area on the International Space Station.

When parents text

Hilarious site.

I have no idea if the picture will render well on posting, so here's what it says:

MOM: have you ever twittered?
ME: it's tweeted.
MOM: i guess twittered does have the word TURD in it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Big news

I lost track of who I announced this to and came to the realization that practically none of you were told yet. So I'm letting the cat out of the bag.

2011 is the year I turn 50. So Darlene suggested we have an event that celebrates both my 50th and our 22nd wedding anniversary - by renewing our vows. She already bought her gown. She just bought my outfit, most of which has arrived. I just had to show off the shoes. They're New Rock skull shoes. Darlene spoils me, she really does. I can't wait to see the English Laundry shirt she got.

So all that's left to decide is a date and a venue and we're all set.

Speaking out on Copyright reform in Canada

The Bill C-32 Legislative Committee is entertaining submissions from regular Canadians until the end of this month on copyright reform. If you care at all about what kind of law could end up on the books courtesy of our federal government, you really should speak out. You can find more information here. Meanwhile, what follows is my brief.

Does copyright need any reform in Canada?
I begin by challenging the government that very little copyright reform is needed. I am convinced that any new copyright bill that tries to take new technologies into account will be rendered obsolete by the time it is passed or shortly thereafter. I would suggest that copyright reform which makes copyright law less restrictive in Canada and more accommodating to current and future realities is more practical. I have little faith in this outcome.

What has led to the government's plan to reform copyright? Canada has not met its WIPO Treaty obligations since 1996, when it was signed. What effect has this had? I challenge anyone to explain to Canadians what the ramifications are of not fully ratifying the WIPO treaty. Who is insisting that we ratify it? The American based entertainment industry (which I will refer to in the rest of this brief as 'Big E')? Who are they to dictate our sovereign national policies? I predict that we could carry on indefinitely, having never ratified WIPO and nothing would ever come of it. Do we have the courage to set our own agenda?

Big E has too much influence
I strongly feel that Big E are the masters of their own demise. A history lesson is required, but in short, their decades old business model depends on finding, producing, promoting and distributing talent and content. When these tasks were done by specialists in a domain under their complete control, the business model was sound. Today these tasks can be done by anyone with a computer. Thanks to technology, artists can produce their own content without assistance from Big E. Thanks to the internet, these same artists can promote and distribute their own material without assistance from Big E. Meanwhile, Big E has lost its monopoly on (especially) the role of distribution and it sees technology and the internet as a direct threat. So what has Big E done? Have they adapted to and embraced the new reality? No. They choose instead to fight to put restrictions on the technology itself. They choose to maintain the status quo. They choose to sue their own customers. Please stop and think about that for a moment. They choose to place restrictions on media. They choose to enlist the help of government in prolonging an antiquated business model and it appears that governments are willing to accommodate them. Artists aren't even siding with Big E anymore as they see the industry speaking 'on behalf of artists' but realizing little benefit from any initiative Big E has undertaken. So why is the government siding with them? Why does Big E seem to have so much influence on government? What makes their content so special that it has to be protected so vigorously, consumers' rights be damned? Why is it necessary for copyrights to be extended beyond the lifetimes of the original artists? Imagine if patents lasted as long as copyrights.

Copying stifles innovation? How quickly we forget history
Big E argues that copyright in the digital age must become more restrictive to foster innovation. What they forget to tell you is that art has always been influenced by previous art. Artists have always been inspired by or paid homage to previous creators and Big E's biggest successes were based on borrowed ideas – just ask Disney. Now that their ideas are able to be used much more easily thanks to technology, they feel threatened. It all boils down to money. Technology is diluting their intellectual property value and instead of being reasonable, it seems that Big E will only be satisfied if restrictions actually stifle innovation. Don't take my word for it — study the history of the expiration of copyright on Mickey Mouse for an insight into the greed that has become entrenched in Big E and the collusion of the US government.

They lie to try to prove their point and the lying is no longer confined to the industry
Big E tries to convince government and the public that they are hurting financially and that the hurt is directly related to piracy via internet file sharing. Their own studies show that sales slumps are directly tied to file sharing. Yet independent studies completely contradict this. In fact, independent studies have shown that those who share their files the most are also the biggest legal consumers of content. The US have recently accused Canada of being one of the worst 'pirates' in the world, but the figures fall flat under scrutiny. Our government did not challenge those figures and show Canadians that the accusations were false. They protected the lie. Then the Conference Board of Canada was caught promulgating falsehoods about the state of copyright in Canada based on figures produced by Big E's own US lobbyists and tried to pass it off as official research. Luckily, we have some very sharp people in this country who saw past the deception right away. Nothing came of this blatant deception. Does the government wish to construct ever more fantastic yet completely false sets of evidence to support new, restrictive measures in copyright reform? I can offer one quick example of file sharing being demonstrated in a positive light – the release of the band Radiohead's last album, In Rainbows. The band made the entire album available to the world for whatever they wanted to pay — for free if one so chose, for many weeks via the internet. They then released the album in the traditional way and still made millions of dollars, much to the chagrin of Big E.

Complex copyright law cannot keep pace with technology
I think that the government needs to be aware of an inescapable fact. Technology no longer moves at the same pace as it did decades ago. The rate of change, innovation and adaptation is moving so fast as to render any technological restriction obsolete within days. The '3 Strikes' law being forced upon consumers in France was rendered obsolete even before been passed into law. Patches were available within days for computers to randomly hop between wifi networks to prevent the monitoring of wireless internet connections. If lawmakers don't know what that last sentence means, then how can we be confident they're creating viable legislation when they don't even understand the technology and its capabilities? It has been suggested based on existing evidence that even if we permanently shut down the internet (something Big E would drool over), sharing would still take place via the swapping of portable media and portable, massive digital storage devices. When hard drives become big enough to store every song ever recorded – and that time is closer than most people realize, we won't need the internet for file sharing anymore. How will copyright law handle that eventuality? It cannot. In short, the only way Big E can maintain their antiquated business model is to outlaw or completely control technological innovation.
Speaking of technology, because few people understand it, crafty Big E lawyers are able to convince naive judges and jurors that because they found some songs downloaded or shared by a particular IP address, it's a fool-proof guarantee that it had to be Mrs. Jones (who was assigned said IP address) that did the infringing. Two such cases went to trial in the US and in those cases, the jury awarded that the defendants have to pay damages to the RIAA in the amount of $675,000 for 30 songs; and $1,920,000 for 24 songs. Both of those cases are being appealed.
Let's examine the reality of such an accusation. Just because a Big E lawyer has determined that a certain IP address has participated in (alleged) illegal file sharing, and used a legal loophole to get account information from the ISP, does not actually prove that said account holder is guilty. Because all it takes is for any of the following to happen for the proof to fall flat:
• The account holder's child's friend comes over and uses their internet connection to download a song.
• The account holder's wi-fi network is compromised and is used by a passer-by to download a song.
• The account holder is a public internet reseller or public hot-spot.
• The IP is a proxy being used for privacy protection to re-route packets from other computers at another location.
There are plenty of more situations that would qualify. So in essence, being able to determine that a certain IP (supposedly) downloaded a song doesn't prove anything. It would be like me stealing your license plate, attaching it to my car, robbing a bank and then you are proven guilty of robbing the bank.

Don't pretend to do us any favours
In Bill C-32, the government is quick to brag about including measures aimed at protecting consumers' rights. For example, consumers would still maintain the right to make personal copies of their own legally purchased content for personal use. Until you read the fine print. This right is only allowable unless it circumvents any type of digital lock (or DRM). The problem is that all commercial movies on DVD have DRM. So the consumer in fact has no right to copy any movie on a DVD. Big E has admitted that if they had their way, consumers of their content would be required to purchase multiple quantities of each piece of content for every separate use. So if you wanted to be able to listen to an album of music on your home stereo, your computer, your mp3 player and your car stereo, they would want payment for 4 uses. Imagine if the publishers of cookbooks only allowed you to use the recipe once, then pay again if you wanted subsequent uses and made it illegal to lend the cookbook to other people. Format shifting is a reasonable consumer right and it should be allowed in any new copyright law, no matter how loudly Big E protests. It gets worse. I have already seen cases where consumers own legally purchased DVD players cannot play some of the newest DVD content because of the type of DRM used. The packaging does not warn that the DRM may render the DVD unusable.

Speaking of locks
Anyone who has done any research on the digital locks Big E employs on music, movies, electronic books, etc. has seen overwhelming evidence that these measures are a recipe for disaster. DRM prevents consumers from doing things with legally owned content that most consumers feel are reasonable acts. Worse, when a type of DRM is no longer managed correctly, or abandoned altogether, consumers are left holding content that no longer works, with no recourse. I would prefer that our government come to the realization that DRM is bad for the consumer and would outlaw it in any new legislation, not support their enforcement. DRM extends beyond content and onto the technology itself. In Canada, you cannot use a cell phone from one mobile phone provider on another service without breaking the lock. Legislation proposed earlier (Bill C-61) would have made breaking those locks illegal. Yet in Europe, consumers swap providers using a single phone all the time to enjoy the benefits of competition in the marketplace. Bill C-32 gives consumers this right. So why the double standard? Shouldn't legal uses allow for any case of breaking DRM?

Copyright reform must empower educational institutions
As an educator, I am against any measure restricting educational material as it is counterproductive. Librarians have spoken out very loudly on this topic. So have teachers. There is nothing more to say on this matter.

Peer to peer getting a bad rap
Peer to peer (P2P) file sharing technology, thanks to an effective campaign by Big E, has gotten a very bad rap. Ask a layperson on the street if they know about P2P. If they do, they'll likely suggest that it is only used for illegal purposes. This is not true. Whole new online business models have blossomed thanks to this efficient data transfer technology and I hope the government bears this in mind while crafting any new copyright law. As it applies to the questionably illegal sharing of copyrighted content, Big E have not learned its lesson with regards to distribution mechanisms. Big E still relies on the expensive, inefficient model of physical media sold in box stores to distribute their content, even after the mainstream public has demonstrated that the best and easiest way to distribute content is in digital form. Since the industry already gets a media levy to allow for the private copying of content in Canada, it makes me wonder if the industry should just lobby for a separate levy on ISP fees to allow for en masse sharing of all content, since this seems to be what most consumers desire in the first place. They dream of the freedom to get what they want, when they want it. All content on demand. A service that neither Big E nor the mainstream content providers (Cable TV, radio, etc.) seem to be able to provide. It's certainly not because the means do not exist.

Fair dealing in jeopardy
Current copyright law in Canada allows for fair dealing. Fair dealing is a sensible user right that allows for the use or reproduction of a portion of copyrighted work for private study, research, criticism, review, or reporting. Yet there are endless accounts of ordinary citizens being bullied by the entertainment industry on blogs, on video hosting sites like YouTube, and elsewhere. If Big E makes an accusation of online copyright infringement, the host site is obliged to take the content down, even if the material is being used under the terms of fair dealing. This is partly due to the robotic nature with which infringements are sought out. Content may not be infringing, but if Big E's automated searches find anything resembling their content — they order it taken down. Due to strong-arm tactics by Big E and the capitulation of online content hosts, the innocent are presumed guilty unless they prove otherwise – after the fact. Accusers can request a takedown even without proving that they are the copyright holder. It's another example of 'shoot first, asks questions later, preferably never' mentality propagated by Big E. Mechanisms exist to challenge inappropriate take-downs, but what chance does the average consumer have against such a formidable machine? In one abusive take-down case involving a home-made video of a child dancing while a Prince song plays in the background, the family fought a Big E company for over 2 years in court and did so only with the help of the non-profit organization EFF. If copyright challenges involved due process and consumers didn't fear Big E and their massive legal and financial muscle, most of these incidents and capitulations would never happen. Why doesn't government want to challenge Big E's stranglehold on creativity?

Accusers are also the abusers
What really disgusts me is that the same Big E companies that use strong-arm tactics against supposed consumer infringers have themselves been caught breaking the law. Many music videos posted to YouTube were proven to have been seeded by Big E staff in an effort to promote their product. In Canada, the member music companies of the CRIA were finally forced by a lawsuit to pay artists the millions in back royalties they owed for compilation discs. It took a lawsuit to get Big E to pay up. Why does government stand up for this industry?

Copyright culture
And finally, the real danger is that the copyright culture has become so prevalent in our society now that it is even being quoted in matters having nothing to do with copyright. Just last year, someone in the UK was accused of violating copyright by the police. This accusation was for posting a photo-radar photo of someone supposedly caught speeding. This was done for the purposes of reporting how inaccurate the police's photo-radar methods are. There is no such thing as copyright on a photo-radar photograph, yet the police bandied the term about as a means of intimidation toward those critical of their practises.

In conclusion, I do not support any government action that gives more to the entertainment industry and takes away from the citizens of Canada. The entertainment industry has extended an antiquated business model well beyond its practical life and usefulness. Now that the business model is in its final death throes, Big E are banking on a group of people ignorant enough to prop them up a little bit longer - government. When you begin studying new copyright legislation, bear in mind that it is the consumers who really need protection. I believe that this is the role of government. As a result, copyright law needs to embrace technology and the digital reality, not shackle it and risk turning ordinary consumers into criminals.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The history of listening to music from an old fart

[This could be my longest post ever]
This post has a target audience. That would be anyone born after, let's say.... 1980.... give or take. I want kids today to appreciate the bullshit we had to go through to listen to our music. Having said that, for anyone born before 1975, this will be a nostalgia trip.

Let's start with vinyl. You see, back in the day, music was sold on vinyl records. Big-assed 12 inch long play (LP) 33 1/3 RPM albums and smaller-assed 7 inch "45 RPM" records for singles. There were huge limitations to listening to music on vinyl.

Because the music was produced by letting a phonograph needle drag around a groove, converting bumps into a feeble electrical signal, which was then amplified and turned into sound, the record had to be delicately cared for. This meant the record lived in a paper sleeve, which was itself tucked into a thin cardboard sleeve. Although this extra packaging was purposed to protect the vinyl, it presented itself as the perfect canvas to present visual art as a value-added extra to the music. Album art was great. It added an indescribable dimension to the music owning experience. Some album sleeves contained printed lyrics, folded up posters while others chose to use the vinyl itself as the canvas - manifesting as picture-discs and multi-coloured pressings. I had a few of those in my day. While today it's the websites that are the value-added product from today's artists and music videos were the extra prize in the 1980s and 1990s, album art was the big deal in the years prior.

In addition to protecting the vinyl with sleeves, the vinyl collected dust like a magnet, due to its electrostatic material. Dust is bad because it interferes with the fidelity of the needle-dragging-along-the-groove thing, and the accumulated static electricity discharged itself through the needle (amplified by the stereo system) as irregular loud pops. Audiophiles spent considerable money, time and effort trying to keep their records clean, dust and static free using all manner of brushes, cloths, fluids and treatments. Picture this - every time you'd remove a record from its sleeve, you'd gingerly (by the edges please) place it on the turntable, likely covered in some exotic felt mat, then brush the surface free of dust and other free-loading particles before dropping the needle into the groove. Now you know where that phrase comes from.

Then there was the playback device, the turntable. A decent turntable with a decent needle and cartridge would set you back a few hundred dollars, but the serious audio nuts wouldn't flinch at dropping a cool thousand or more on custom tables with exotic designs and materials with acoustic isolation properties only a recording engineer could appreciate. Using a record player was no simple task either. That needle and cartridge (and the pivoting arm it was attached to) needed to be adjusted and balanced to ride the groove just right. This was a ritual that had to be performed on a regular basis. Diamond needles wore out and needed replacement at least every other year, depending on frequency of use. Cost? $50 for a new needle was nothing. Speaking of riding the groove, another thing vinyl records were susceptible to was warping. This happened if you stored records incorrectly or left them near a strong heat source or in direct sunlight. The correct way to store vinyl is standing up on its side, which collectors accomplished by storing them in old milk crates.

Listening to music on a record album was a curious thing. You have to understand, when music was primarily played from an album split into two sides on vinyl, we would typically listen to the whole album from start to finish. Play side one, then flip the record over and play side two. This is a dimension of music appreciation not normally experienced by today's youth. Listening to an entire album in one sitting not only got music fans more familiar with the creative spectrum of an artist, it motivated many artists to create albums that were based around a central theme. It also motivated them to produce more than one one good song. Or maybe they just seemed good to us because we would listen more than once before making up our minds. The modern music generation is focused on singles. One or two songs from a modern album are promoted by the label and the rest wallow in obscurity - sometimes deservedly so, sometimes not.

The sheer size of a record and the necessary playback device meant that music was not portable. You could take your vinyl records to a friend's house, or a club. But you couldn't play them in your car, on a bike or going for a stroll. Which brings us to our first real revolution in music playback technology. The compact audio cassette tape.

You will note my deliberate omission of the 8 track tape. [Getting on soap box] That blasphemous sub-standard medium was suitable for pick-up trucks and wanna-be hot rods and was shunned by the audiophile community as a mediocre delivery system akin to a toy piano. The 8 track was but a blip on the tape medium radar and has been forever relegated to the scrap heap of consumer history along with the pet rock. [Getting off soap box] But let's get back to the compact cassette tape. This invention revolutionized music listening - it was the first small, recordable medium available to the consumer. Yes, I know about reel-to-reel. That's not a portable system. The music industry feared compact audio cassette tape. The car industry loved it. Joggers adored it. Now album owners could make copies of music from their vinyl collection and put it on a medium that could be played in their car, in a boom box and eventually in portable devices no bigger than a paperback novel called a Walkman. Even though Sony trademarked that name, everyone's hand-held tape player was referred to as a Walkman.

Tape aficionados could make mixtapes, creating whole sessions of music combinations never before heard together. As previously mentioned, record listening was focused on an entire album at a time. Creating mixed tapes gave us the freedom to play a song by Styx, then one by Zeppelin, then one by Hendrix, and so on. Before tape, only radio had that power, freedom and flexibility. Talk about a paradigm shift.....

Just as vinyl owning audiophiles took great pains to extract the best sound from their records, tape 'deck' owners had their own tweaks to perform. Not all tape was created equal. You had your Type I normal ferrous oxide formula, your Type II chromium oxide formula, your Type III ferric chrome and the ultimate Type IV metal. Oh yeah, we were all about setting the bias on the tape recorder properly, and we knew about stuff like signal-to-noise ratios and equalization and all sorts of technical mumbo-jumbo. It didn't stop there either. Not only did you have various grades (types) of tape, but they came in various recording capacities too. C60 could store 30 minutes per side, C90 could store 45 per side and C120 a full hour per side. Of course, any self-respecting audio nut knew never to buy the C120 size because the tape was so thin and flimsy (to fit in the case), it tended to stretch and even break during playback.

Oh yeah. The breakage. Audio tape had a tendency to get jammed up real good inside a tape deck, especially a deck not kept clean and de-magnetized on a regular basis. Removing a tape that had been 'eaten' by a tape deck was a delicate operation and often led to tears if the mangled rust coated plastic ribbon was beyond salvage. Cleaned you say? Yep. We rubbed isopropyl alcohol soaked cotton swabs on the contact parts of the tape deck (rollers, spindles, heads) to remove the gunk that built up. Gunk causes tapes to be eaten. The demagnetizing was necessary because all that magnetic tape rubbing across the parts made them magnetized, which affected the sound, especially the high frequency response. If you witnessed the act of manual demagnetization of a tape deck's parts, you'd think you had stumbled across a Star Trek fan doing their best impression of Dr McCoy checking the health of his patient with a medical scanner.

Tape playback did have one particularly annoying feature. Because tape was a linear medium, getting to a specific song was tedious and fraught with constant fast-forward and rewind actions. This took some getting used to considering the ability to precisely drop a needle into the groove right between songs on a record. But even more so than records, tapes were meant to be listened to as a complete piece in two parts (one part per side). The difference - while you could buy albums in tape format, the composition on a tape was often created by a consumer - a musical director in their own right.

Yes, the tape generation regarded their tape collection as personal works of art. I considered it a privilege and an honour to be asked to bring my mixed tapes to a party. It was like being asked to perform on stage. You knew you had good mixtapes in your collection when people would ask you to make them a copy, or better - if they asked you to create a custom mixed tape just for them.

The cassette tape also revolutionized two industries. The music industry, which originally had pronounced the tape as the medium that would utterly destroy their business model, ended up embracing tapes and began releasing new music right onto pre-recorded cassettes. This new format would sell so well that sales of pre-recorded cassettes would eclipse both vinyl records and the new CD format combined, for a while. That is a fact. (How do I know? I used to work in the business) The other industry that was revolutionized was mobile audio. Car stereos suddenly had a reason to get better and louder. Portable music! Remember the thousand dollar turntable? Get ready for the thousand dollar car audio tape deck - amps and speakers not included.

Then came the digital revolution. Compact discs. I studied the technology behind CDs when they first arrived on the scene. They were a marvel of technology. They had so many advantages over their predecessors. Easy to clean. Resistant to wear, static and magnetism. Portable. Pure, clean sound. An old school audiophile will insist that digital versions of analog music lacked the warmth, the subtle tones of the record and tape. They may be right, but the world didn't seem to care back then. We all jumped on the digital bandwagon, save for a few hold-outs. The reason? How we would listen to our music would be revolutionized yet again when the Discman portable CD player arrived and car stereos slowly converted from tape decks to CD players.

Digital Audio Tape was next (DAT), but it never caught on, the innocent victim of endless legal red tape prior to its introduction. In short, the music industry again claimed that this new recording format would ruin their business model only this time they had the ear of a lot of US government officials. They also had a lot of money in those officials' pockets. The time wasted debating the fairness of the disruptive DAT technology killed it before it arrived on store shelves.

Computers created an opportunity to shrink the audio format even further. MP3 files made it possible to take a digital music sample from a CD (which on a computer hard drive occupied around 12MB per minute of music) and shrunk it down to a more manageable 1MB per minute. Why did we care? Because hard drives were not very big nor were they inexpensive at the time. Worse, internet connections were quite slow and people were more likely to share their music with each other online (on IRC - remember that?) if a song transfer (on dial-up) only took 10 minutes instead of 100. Yeah - that's 10 minutes per song (circa 1996). Pretty soon, the computer geeks had collected thousands of mp3 files of both their own music and tunes others chose to share with the world. Our music collections would never be the same again as we got to sample more music than radio or music television could ever hope to share with us. I could only imagine what our faces would have registered if we told ourselves that within 10 years or so, we'd be able to download entire albums in just a few seconds.

Most importantly though, the mp3 made it possible to carry and play our music in ways never imagined even by the gadget creators themselves. Now we have digital music players no bigger than a piece of Bazooka Joe gum. We can carry our entire music collections on our phones, our laptops, on memory sticks, and play them in our cars or on a plane or out for a walk. Even better, we now have the tools to mix our favourite music in ways that would have boggled the mind of a teen in the 1980s, let alone a recording engineer. Even a digital DJ could eschew records (blasphemous!) and instead of carrying dozens of crates of records to a gig, just bring a pair of mp3 playing devices and be ready to entertain with any song from their entire collection. As a former DJ, you have no idea how amazingly freeing that would have been for me in the 1980s.

So there's a little insight for you young 'uns on how music was played a mere 30 years ago through to today. We've gone from a time when our music mostly stayed at home and occupied whole walls of our rooms to a period where a whole collection can be brought anywhere and enjoyed at any time. That's a luxury we now take for granted.

P.S.: I still have a soft spot for records and CDs for their fidelity, a quality often lost on the youth of today. I hate to break it to people, but there most definitely is a difference between the pure sound of an uncompressed audio file direct from a CD (or a FLAC loss-less copy) than an mp3 file, no matter how good the conversion. Don't take my word for it. Feel free to come visit and I'll let you hear uncompressed high dynamic music on a decent stereo. I dare you not to tell me you like it better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Self checkout at the grocery store

Has this ever happened to you? You're next in line at the automated self checkouts at the grocery store and you watch while the person you'll be replacing at the machine demonstrates why new technology should not be made available to certain people until they've received formal training.

The person you're watching usually deals with the following issues:

☞They don't comprehend how to scan a bar code across the scanning window. There's only a couple of correct ways to do this, but it's beyond amazing how many wrong ways people come up with.
☞They don't understand that as soon as you have successfully scanned an item, the scale your bag is sitting on is expecting an increase in weight similar to the item. There is a finite time period with which you get to do this, after which the machine complains that you haven't put the item in your bag. Sometimes this isn't enough to clue the customer in that they must put the item into the bag and the machine refuses to cooperate any longer until a store clerk comes to over-ride the machine.
☞Related to the above, once you place an item into a bag, you cannot play a game of 'I think I'll re-arrange which items are in which bag'. The scale goes berserk resulting in another call to the clerk.
☞These checkout machines can't hear you. Nor can they speak. So don't ask it for help.
☞When you scan an item without a barcode, such as a piece of fruit, there is usually a numeric code to be entered. If the code is missing, or you're too challenged to locate it, there is a handy menu to choose your item from. This activity should not take 5 minutes per item. If you can't find the 'organic, free range, albino, hot house onions' in the list, 'onion white' should do just fine. I don't think the grocery chain is going to miss the 15 cents.
☞If you're just not getting this space-aged technology, let your kids do it. You'll be done in 1/5 the time.
☞If you came to the store armed with a fistful of coupons, the self checkout line is not for you. No, it's not. Don't make me come over there...
☞One thing that self checkout users learn quickly is that since there's no live person operating the machine, it will patiently wait an almost infinite amount of time between scanned items without flinching. This is not an invitation to send your spouse back to the dairy case to get the best looking gouda. If you're alone, it doesn't mean you get to step away from the checkout to grab a pack of gum from the express aisle either.
☞When it's time to pay, now is not the time to crack open the piggy bank and feed $30 worth of pennies and nickels into the machine if there are people waiting. The checkout isn't your personal coin cash-in service. If nobody is waiting, go for it.
☞Once the items are bagged and the total is paid, get your stuff and move on. Now is not the time to bundle up the 6 layers of winter clothing, crack open the pack of gum, mentally calculate if you still have enough rent money, or anything else you could be doing elsewhere.

P.S.: For those people that use the self checkout because they're embarrassed by what they're buying - I have news for you. Due to the fact that people are waiting behind you for you to complete your journey at the machine, they're likely paying even closer attention to what you're scanning than if you were in a regular lineup.

MapCrunch 5

Name the country.

In the comments.


Monday, January 17, 2011

We have a new fan...

Watching the Golden Globes last night, the highlight for me was Paul Giamatti's mention of Montreal and Canada, where his film Barney's Version was shot.

"An incredible beautiful city which I dream about,” Giamatti said.

“An incredible place in a great nation, Canada. I salute the great nation of Canada.”

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My favourite artist.... for now

I am the furthest thing away from an art connoisseur, so if you happen to be one, feel free to laugh at my expense.

Anyway, on one of our trips to Vegas, Darlene and I went into an art store in the Fashion Show Mall on the strip. I happened to be admiring a piece of art when the salesperson started chatting me up about it. Then he offered to show me a neat trick with the painting and set it up in a viewing room at the back of the store. He asked me to watch the colours in the painting as he adjusted the lights.

OK, so this is probably a trick art gallery people pull on all unsuspecting customers all the time, but that painting changed. The view of the sky through the window changed through all the dusk colours to night colours and the scene just seemed to magically morph with the light. It was eerie. I was sold.

I found a decent photograph of the painting online and so I present it here (follow the link for a bigger view). Still Waters by Edward Gordon. I could get it as a print, but I'd sure love to get an original canvas.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

MapCrunch 4

Name the country (in the comments).

Heidi (my sister) is on a roll.

Can you stop her?

It sure seems longer than that...

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia with 78 million+ unique visitors per month, and more than 91,000 contributors working on 17,000,000+ articles in more than 270 languages, is 10 years old today.

Cambridge tells bankers to stuff themselves

This is the kind of stuff that makes me smile. There existed for almost a year, a security flaw in the chip and PIN technology in the cards used by banks and merchants. This flaw was not secret. But when a thesis on the flaw was published on the University of Cambridge's web site (with all the other theses), the banker's trade association in the UK tried to bully them into removing the thesis.

The folks at Cambridge were not impressed. Here's a blog post about their response. Here's a clip from their response:

"Second, you seem to think that we might censor a student's thesis, which is lawful and already in the public domain, simply because a powerful interest finds it inconvenient. This shows a deep misconception of what universities are and how we work.

Cambridge is the University of Erasmus, of Newton, and of Darwin; censoring writings that offend the powerful is offensive to our deepest values. Thus even though the decision to put the thesis online was Omar's, we have no choice but to back him.

That would hold even if we did not agree with the material! Accordingly I have authorized the thesis to be issued as a Computer Laboratory Technical Report. This will make it easier for people to find and to cite, and will ensure that its presence on our web site is permanent...."

"What a non-issue"

A reporter from an American Christian new agency talks to and then gets owned by Barney Frank Rep-D (Mass) about the repeal of DADT (don't ask, don't tell).

I love Barney's reaction in this video.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sony still not getting it?

Sony, hoping to step past Apple's dominance of the internet-based music download market, will be offering a new streaming music service with access to over 6 million songs. In the UK, where "Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity" just rolled out this week, the premium version of the service costs L9.99 GBP. For that kind of money, you'd expect that you'd be able to receive the music on more than your Sony TV, PS3 or computer, but that's all you get for the time being.

Sony better get a move on and offer this streaming via 3G to portable devices, because people are all about getting their music on the go. If Sony doesn't get this, then they are truly out of touch with the customer base and continue to lose relevance in the modern entertainment market.

Even Teddy understood the value of failure

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
~Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I have one word - context

Thanks to a complaint from a Canadian radio listener last year, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that the Dire Straits song Money for Nothing (released in 1985) is no longer acceptable for radio airplay in its current state. The problem is that it contains the word ‘faggot’ in the lyrics. No mention of the chimpanzee stereotyping........

So now, the only way the song can be played (I’m guessing) is if the offending part of the song is edited as follows:

“See the little [bleep] with the earring and the makeup Yeah buddy that's his own hair That little [bleep] got his own jet airplane That little [bleep] he's a millionaire”

It’s a good thing Frank Zappa’s tunes never got played on mainstream radio.....

On a somewhat related note, the book Tom Sawyer is being re-written to remove the 'n' word. Not making that up....

Customer Service by telephone

It's just a small peeve of mine, but anyway....

If a customer calls a customer service number and is asked to enter information related to their account, when a live representative answers the phone, the customer should not be asked to provide any of that information again.

I'm just sayin'.....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's a status thing

I'm convinced that Starbucks customers aren't really there for the coffee. It's more of a social experience, which is why Starbucks typically don't have drive-thrus. You have to go in. You need to order something exotic, or something unique to stand out from the crowd. Bonus points if you brought your iPad or Macbook Air, are wearing a fashionable scarf and can fake an accent. You must learn the lingo in order to fit in as a Starbucks regular. "I'll have a Venti Double Peppermint Skinny Extra-Dry 170 Dirty Chai." Have you ever told a Starbucks customer that you never go to Starbucks and don't understand why anyone would? The look you get is priceless.

Starbucks customers may not openly admit this, but the store could sell petrified scented skunk jerky instead, people would still line up for the stuff as long as there was a secret lingo to master and there was status involved. "Yeah, I'll have a Backyard Dipped Extra-Hot Lean Garlic Skunk Jerky please....... with extra salt."

The plaintiffs become the defendants

You won't find this news nugget anywhere in the major news media outlets, which is a shame.

As reported by Michael Geist (excerpt): "The four major record labels that comprise the Canadian Recording Industry Association (EMI / Sony / Universal / Warner) have agreed to settle a class action lawsuit (one of the largest copyright class action lawsuits in Canadian history). This will cost the CRIA $45 million. With the music industry going on about how piracy is bad, you're going to love this. They're one of the biggest pirates around.

The lawsuit was filed in October 2008. Artists decided to turn to the courts following decades of frustration with the rampant infringement. The claims arise from a longstanding practice of the recording industry in Canada, described in the lawsuit as "exploit now, pay later if at all." This involves the use of music included in things like compilation CDs (ie. Dance 2009). The record labels create, press, distribute, and sell the CDs, but do not obtain the necessary copyright licences as spelled out in copyright law.

Instead, the names of the songs on the CDs are placed on a "pending list", which signifies that approval and payment is pending. The pending list dates back to the late 1980s, when Canada changed its copyright law by replacing a compulsory licence with the need for specific authorization for each use of a song. You could say it's a copyright infringement admission list, as the record label admits that it has not obtained copyright permission and not paid any royalty or fee."

As Cory Doctorow from BoingBoing said, "The press release indicates that everyone is pleased with the settlement, though it is striking that it took a class action settlement to get the record labels to address their own ongoing copyright infringing practices in paying artists for the use of their works.

Note that record labels in the CRIA are the same multinational, US-centric cartel that runs music around the world. They're "Canadian" in the same sense that the members of Tony Soprano's "Businessmen's Club" are businessmen."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Population: 2

Buford Wyoming has a (current) population of 2. This could make certain things problematic.
  • Polls.
  • Carolling.
  • Team sports.
  • Having an affair (assuming you're married).
  • Pot lucks.
  • Getting a date (assuming you're single and the 2nd citizen is other than the sex you're interested in).
  • Attaining a quorum at the town hall meeting.
  • Threesomes.

On the other hand, some things could be great.
  • No lineups at the express cashier.
  • Best seats in the house for every concert.
  • Pizza delivered fast.
  • Your Facebook newsfeed will be quick and easy to read.
  • Fewer dropped cell phone calls.
  • Traffic jams nonexistent.
  • You can crank your stereo up as loud as you want. Only one person might care.

Lyric quote heard on my stereo today

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

~David Bowie (Changes)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Replacing hard to extract bulbs

Here's a tip Darlene thought up that saved me any further agony removing old halogen light bulbs.

You know those weird halogen bulbs (pictured) that can be hard to remove when the light fixture blocks any means of grasping the bulb from its side? I've sworn more than a few times trying to get those suckers out to replace them. Not anymore. Just get some packing tape and cut enough to place the sticky side against the entire front of the bulb with some left over on each side to form a kind of handle. Then just use the handle to twist the bulb out of its socket. The same method can be used to insert the new replacement bulb.

Myths about the body - 3

Sugar makes children hyperactive

False! Twelve controlled, double blind trials have shown that there is absolutely no connection between children's behaviour and their sugar intake. One thing was found, namely that parents rate their child's behaviour as more hyper when they thought they had been given a sugary drink. "The studies included sugar from sweets, chocolate and natural sources. Even in studies of those who were considered sensitive to sugar, children did not behave differently after eating sugar-full or sugar-free diets," said Vreeman and Carrol who undertook the retrospective study.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Used VW ad

Cute ad for VW in which dad is ecstatic that the used VW son wants to buy is being sold by a granny. After all, granny couldn't have abused the car much, right?

Birds birds birds.... the song is mostly about birds!

Yes, I know it's a little late for a link to a Christmas video, but I have an excuse. Apparently, the 12 days of Christmas starts on Christmas day. So that would make the 12th day of Christmas fall on January 6th - not that long ago.

Math geeks rejoice, you're gonna love this video.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

It tastes kinda shitty

Thanks to my good friend Jonathan, I finally got to cross something off of my toilet err... bucket list. I have formally drank coffee made from beans that have been shat through a civet. One more thing dung errrr... done.

I feel honoured that he chose to share it with me - seriously - that crap's expensive. But how did it taste? We were both hard pressed to tell the difference or notice anything special about it. I joked with him that it's probably the biggest running joke among the Indonesians: "Can you believe they buy that shit? Can you believe they pay what they pay for that crap?"

By the way, if you feel the need to buy some of the stuff, they sell it on It's the cat's ass.....

Friday, January 07, 2011

Pot-luck etiquette

Based upon our own pot-luck experiences and the stories I've heard from other people who have themselves hosted pot-luck events, there appears to be a need for a basic etiquette guide. Behold, Karl's Pot-Luck Etiquette Guide. Edition One.

When you are invited to a pot-luck event, here is a simple list to observe:


Let the host know exactly how many people you are bringing as guests.
Bring enough food so that every partygoer gets one small helping. A good measure for how much food to bring is to have enough for you and your guest to eat as your full meal. If everyone does this, there will be enough food.
Even if the host does not coordinate the food, ask the host whether they need more appetizers, entrees, sides or desserts.
Bring your dishes and utensils back home with you when you leave.
If you have allergies or are purposely avoiding certain types of food, let the host know far in advance so that alternatives can be offered.
Let the host know in advance if your food will require space in the oven, on the stove or in a fridge for storage or re-heating.
Keep track and take responsibility for your own food's preparation and serving.
At the end of the event, do offer the host to assist with clean-up.
When there is a lot of food leftover, the host will often offer for you to take some food home with you when you leave. It is OK to accept this offer. Build a sampler plate so that other guests who are so inclined can have a little bit of each item as well.
Unlike beverages in single serving sizes, a bottle of wine brought to a pot-luck party especially is deemed a community bottle. You may serve yourself first, but be prepared to share.


Do not invite every friend you know to come with you but you collectively only bring one plate of food, or worse, nothing.
If you're going to a party of 30 guests, please don't bring a small plate of jalapeno poppers, proceed to eat all of the poppers, then eye the rest of the food.
Unless it's a munchie pot-luck, it is very bad form to just bring a bag of chips.
If you forget or it's not practical to bring your dishes and utensils home with you when you leave, be sure to get them in a timely fashion. Don't wait 6 months, then get upset because the host cannot find your items.
Do not show up, complain that there are no vegetarian options, all while you try to foist a gluten orgy on the other guests.
Do not show up with uncooked food, expecting to commandeer the oven to bake your dish at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Do not bring some food and expect the host to not only store or re-heat the food, but even serve it at the appropriate time, in the correct method and so forth. It's your food - if you want it presented correctly, do it yourself.
When the host offers leftover food to take home, they are referring to what is already out in the serving area. This is not an invitation to raid the cupboards or fridge or liquor cabinet for freebies.
Also, don't be picky about what you get for leftovers. Do not try to get all of the date squares to yourself, for example.
Do not be offended if a stranger asks to open your bottle of wine for you and serve themself a small glass. If you want some, hold your glass up first.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Canadian Back Bacon Network

Is there anything more Canadian than the CBC TV network logo done in back bacon?

I think not.

Adjusting cell phones for driving time

We all know that driving and talking on a cell phone isn't the wisest thing to do. The problem is that we've become conditioned to expect uninterrupted connectivity with the rest of the world. If the cell phone rings while you're driving, you know that you don't have to answer it, but you want to because it's what you do. We don't learn to ignore the phone, we learn to answer it. We also anticipate that if we don't answer a call, one of the following might happen:
  • The caller thinks we're screening them.
  • The caller thinks something might be wrong.
  • The caller thinks our phone is off.
  • The caller will give up and try our home number.
  • Our brains might explode.
These are possibilities, but what's most likely to happen is that the caller will either leave a voicemail or try calling again later. But I think there is an opportunity here that either the cell phone service provider or cell phone manufacturer could take advantage of.

I'd like to be able to instantly switch my phone into 'I'm busy driving' mode. When the phone (or service) is in this mode, any incoming calls are immediately routed to voicemail and an announcement indicates that you're busy driving and can take the call in x minutes. Maybe assign the asterisk key to this function:

**5 - The announcement says please try again in 5 minutes
**20 - Please try again in 20 minutes
**180 - Please try again in 3 hours

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

At the corner of Mulder and Scully

I'm not saying that Canadians are fans of The X Files, but in Ottawa you'll find this junction of Scully Way and Mulder Avenue.

We do believe.

Foodtubes not pie-in-the-sky

It's pie-in-the-sky, or more appropriately, pie-in-the-ground. Imagine the entire UK connected by food-transporting pipelines, sending food sailing between London and Liverpool at 60 miles per hour.

In the UK, 8% of CO2 mixed into the atmosphere comes from the diesel trucks used to move food around. That's a lot of unnecessary pollution. Enter Foodtubes. Foodtubes calls for the creation of high-speed food pipelines throughout the UK. Each major city and centre food production would be linked and the cities would also have their own internal pipelines to
further distribute the food to neighbourhoods. The food would sail along in small capsules at upwards of 60 miles per hour. As many as 900,000 capsules could be in circulation in the nearly 2,000 miles of air pressure pipe, all of which would be controlled by smart grids that would manage the grid and prevent congestion and collisions. The capsules would be organized
into little trains of about 300 linked capsules, each spaced about a meter apart.

This might seem fanciful. But the UK transports 180 times more water than food everyday, all of it done using pipelines. Up to 200,000 food-carrying trucks could be taken off British roads. Not bad for twenty tons worth of pipes and capsules.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

MapCrunch episode 3

Name the country.

Let's get one guess out of the way so you don't even have to try it. This is not Vegas in the US. I'm serious. "But that looks so much like a certain hotel in Vegas", you say. Yes, I know it does. Not entirely a coincidence.

It sounds scary

If you like the macabre, you may like this special non-video video game for handheld devices (phones).

You are lost, deep in the darkness of the land of the dead. Your eyes are useless to you here — but your ears are filled with sound. And what is it you can hear? All you know is someone is in grave danger and desperately needs your help. Can you save them and make your escape or will you be trapped in the blackness forever?

Papa Sangre is a first-person thriller, done entirely in audio by an award-winning team of game designers, musicians, sound designers and developers. They’ve created an entire world using the first ever real-time 3D audio engine implemented on a handheld device. Not an easy task.

CEO salary perspective

By around 2:30pm on Monday, January 3rd, the highest-paid CEOs in Canada had already earned what the average worker's yearly salary is for all of 2011. The top 5 highest paid CEOs made between $13.7 million and $24.2 million, almost 160 times what their average worker made.

Recession? What recession?