Sunday, September 25, 2011

California calls

We had such a great time in San Diego in February, we're going back. Pictured is what our view will be in less than 24 hours. We know because we're going back to the same hotel on the beach.

See you all next week.

I can haz telescope?

Guess who is the proud owner of a new 8" Dobsonian telescope?

Me - silly. I chose a 'Dob' because of its value for money. You'd have a hard time getting more light capturing capability from any other type of telescope without spending a lot more. I went with an 8" model because the bigger ones can get a bit unwieldy (heavy) and their mirrors are a challenge to keep cool without a fan. I don't want to be tethered to power to enjoy this hobby. My telescope is not a 'go-to' model, meaning that there is no onboard computer-controlled motor that points the telescope at the object of your choosing. This model is old school - if you want to see it, you have to know how to find it.

My first night out with the beast was not entirely productive. My finder scope was way out of alignment, so it was hard to locate anything. Jupiter and the moon were very low in the East on my first night out, so there wasn't much to look at without an aligned finder scope.

My second night morning out was much more productive. Got up at 5am to look at Jupiter and some of its moons, Mars and the waning crescent of the moon through the telescope. The seeing conditions were pretty awful, but whatever.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Remember when cell phones were the size of a motorcycle battery?

Yeah..... good times. This Radio Shack ad cracks me up.

Another car sharing business comes to Canada


Car2Go free-floating car sharing service, in Ulm and Hamburg Germany and Austin Texas is now in Vancouver.

Car2Go members can access a car “on demand” in the downtown area without a reservation. They can find the nearest car using GPS technology and drive it anywhere. Members are billed by the minute and can leave the car in either a designated parking spot or any available public space including “permit only” parking in residential neighbourhoods.

Car2Go uses Smart Fortwo cars. Members use an RFID card to access a car. To find a car, members either phone the call centre, go to the web site or use an app for smart phones. The app can even show you where your GPS tracked vehicle is if you can't remember where you parked it. If you are walking by an available car, you can take it and go. As soon as you need a car, you can search for the closest one. The system will find a car wherever it is, even if it isn’t in a designated spot.

Because the service is location based, you can drive somewhere to do some shopping, end the rental, then start another rental when you are ready. If you don't think there will be any available cars again when you need one next, just choose to keep the original car. Or end the rental and check the app to see where the nearest car is for the next leg of the trip.

Car2Go staff are ready to take any car that either needs gas, needs cleaning or relocation to another area due to the constant movement of cars.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I should pull over before I write this post

The new distracted driver law that came into effect in Alberta on September 1st has started a debate about the validity of such a law. Most of this debate seems to do with the fact that you're not even allowed to adjust your GPS while you're driving (among other things), never mind operating a cell phone. The jury is still out whether a hands-free phone conversation is less distracting than having one pressed against your cheek, but hands-free phones are still OK. No more eating sandwiches (note to Ralph Klein - who once alluded to such a ban) while driving. No more applying mascara while driving, or reading the paper. You might laugh. I once spotted a driver, alone in a car, reading a novel driving north on Highway 2 between Calgary and Red Deer.

I think the biggest problem we have is that there is so little traffic enforcement in Canada, that the majority of drivers have been lulled into a sense of apathy. They know that the chances of being caught doing something illegal or unsafe is quite low, so they take the chance because in their mind, it's low risk behaviour. I have driven 12 hour road trips in Canada without ever seeing a police car along the route. This would be near impossible in the US.

I also believe that drivers get bolder as they get away with more stuff. I have talked to many drivers, who when asked why they do the illegal and dangerous things that they do while driving, answer "I haven't had a problem or accident yet."

It's like the smoker justifying their habit by saying "I'm healthy - what's the problem?"

Jazz for cows

I posted a similar video once, but this one is different. While watching the video, I imagined the cows were looking at each other and thinking, "Is this for us? Are they playing for us? Yeah, I think they are. I'm gonna mosey on over there for a better look."

Jazz for Cows - that would make a great band name, no?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tool security FAIL

How NOT to keep your wire cutters secure.

Who knew there were so many types of hipster outfits?

I had a little fun creating my own hipster using the Hipster Dress Up game.

The funny thing is, I know someone who looks very much like this.

I won't say who. He (and all his friends) knows exactly who he is.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bind those buds

I love the way lifehacker shows a way to use a binder clip as a very practical ear bud holder.


You may have heard that Google is working on a computer-controlled car. Berlin's Free University has been testing their own computer-controlled car around that city.

The vehicle navigates traffic using a combination of computers, a GPS system in the trunk, a camera in the front and lasers around the car. The vehicle can recognize other cars on the road, pedestrians, buildings and trees up to 70 metres away. It can even see the state of the traffic lights ahead and react accordingly. The car's recognition and reaction to its environment is much faster than a human.

Researchers estimate that it could only take another decade for the fully automatic car to be available to consumers, although more conservative estimates put that eventuality 30 years away. One only has to consider the history of computers themselves. A few decades ago, only research facilities had computers. Now everybody walks around with a computer in their pocket.

When you consider that most of today's accidents are caused by human error, computer-controlled cars should be much safer than letting a human drive.

Ideally, a self-driving car would respond to orders by remote control from a phone. You could call the car to your existing location and then command the car to drop you off at your desired destination. This kind of car is perfect for car sharing. Eventually, there would be no need to own a car. Once the car has dropped you off, it would drive on to get the next passenger.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I thought for sure they were going to trample that thing...

This video of an RC car being used to round up some cows made me laugh.

Thanks to Alvin for the find.

Snail trail

I recently found out that, in 2050, when I am 99 correction... 89 years old, the Voyager I spacecraft will finally reach a distance of one light-day away from the Earth. Light would take 24 hours to reach that point from the Earth.

A man-made satellite will have taken 73 years to get there. At this same rate, it'll be over 26,000 years before Voyager I has travelled a light-year. The nearest star is more than 4 light-years away - in the wrong direction.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

He did the mash - the anthem mash

Grant Woolard did a mash-up of 6 different national anthems.

It's pretty good!

It doesn't wipe

It doesn't have to. Here's what kind of toilet $6400 will buy you. It's a Kohler, of course. It has a foot warmer, heated seat, built-in bidet and music system, all controlled by a touchscreen remote.

I could have had so much fun making the ad for that.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Not available in Canada I'm afraid...

You'd probably think it strange that a skit from Saturday Night Live would inspire a new flavour of Ben & Jerry's. But it did.

Schweddy Balls ice cream.

Amish thugs

Their crime? They refused to put those orange safety reflectors required for slow moving vehicles on their buggies. I'm told loud colours are against their religion.


Best Calvin & Hobbes graffiti ever.

Friday, September 16, 2011


One of the funkier earrings I've seen in a while.

They look like Piranha Plants hanging by their teeth from your ears.

Nostalgia from the 1960s

A blast from my past. A&P grocery stores, which we had in Canada too for a while, sold Jane Parker bread. I distinctly remember the cellophane wrapping around the loaf, kept closed by the paper label glued on at the ends.

There was a time in my youth, when I was around 5 or 6, when I so enjoyed a loaf fresh bread, that I would feast on it - plain - right out of the wrapper. It was so good! Maybe they spiked it with something back then, who knows.

A&P was bought out by the Quebec grocery chain 'Metro' in 2005. For all Western Canadians who've never heard of A&P, the chain didn't make it out west. Check out that snazzy font on the logo.....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Make it yourself

There will come a time in the very near future when if you need a part for something that broke, you'll just have to go to a local shop where they will use a 3D printer to 'print' you a replacement part.

Not long after that, you'll be putting one of these printers in your house to print replacement parts for things around the house. Some people will even use these printers to design and create new things in a way never before possible. Have an idea for a new thing-a-majig? If you can create a 3D model of it (easily done with free tools like Google SketchUp), you can 3D print it.

Putting the hair back

Great stop motion video of a guy putting his hair and beard back.

Just a reversal of him taking it all off.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Deviantly funny art

The web site deviant art has always been (IMHO) the greatest repository of modern digital art in the known world.

The works are exotic, sexy, raw and in this case, funny as hell.

Here's just one example from one collection.

Mythbusters - the early years

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Message to watch companies

Find a computer. Get on the internet. Open a web browser. Go to Google. Type in "philippe starck watch". Go to 'images'.

See those watches with the big digits? We need more of those kinds of watches.

That is all.

Canadian 2 dollar bill

Those were the days eh?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A perfect tribute to the Canadian Armed Forces

I love the Winnipeg Jet's new NHL hockey jerseys. They are a classy and fitting tribute to the Air Force (and military) history of Winnipeg (and all of Canada for that matter). The crest is a CF-18 superimposed on a red maple leaf inside an Air Force coloured circle.

The Jets are now officially my new 2nd favourite team after the Montreal Canadiens. Guess who Winnipeg is playing first this season?

Montreal. Giddy up!

I think we're getting a pretty good deal

The Sun claims a survey of Canadians indicate many people thought the federally funded broadcaster - the CBC - only gets $150mil when they actually get $1.1bil yearly. What they didn't do is set the stage with any kind of comparison to other networks. I checked to see what another network budget was to see if expectation versus reality is realistic. The CTV's operating budget was $2bil - and that's just for television. CBC's budget also operates radio networks.

The Conservative journalists then go on to say that the CBC needs to convert into a PBS style television network where all of the funding comes from corporate donations and 'viewers like you'. OK fine. Maybe they're right. But the moment that decision is made to save that paltry $1.1bil (and falling - the government has ordered CBC to cut its budget over the next few years), I'm going to lobby like a mofo to get every red cent that our tax dollars pay to prop up any other Canadian networks, including the specialty channels, axed as well.

I was discussing the CBC with some friends yesterday and some of them said that they had no problem with the CBC going away. I reminded them of some of the quality programming on the CBC network. They had totally forgotten that some of their favourite shows are on the CBC.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Even PBS travel guru Rick Steves is pro-legalization

As he put it:  

"I'm a hardworking, tax-paying, kid-raising, church-going citizen of this country and if I work hard all day long and want to go home and relax with a joint, that is my civil liberty."

Muppet ray

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Google+ circle names

Complete strangers
Coworkers I'll need to step over to get promoted
People who make me feel better about myself
People I would have accidentally shot had they been in the military with me
People who pull the toilet paper over the roll
People who don't take enough pictures of their cats
People I faked my own death to avoid on Facebook
People within 6 degrees of William Shatner
People I would get high with
Les Quebecois
People who carry an Epi-pen around
Weird friends of my dad who hug too long
Dead to me

Seen on kijiji

Wanted: I need a tv for genuine price

Hi, I need a TV for genuine price.

What does 'genuine price' mean? No fake prices?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

How an insular society views social equity

I've been thinking about how our country has changed over the past few decades and I think I may have stumbled upon a fundamental truth about our current reality in Canada. The reason the political right has succeeded in devaluing the social safety net and the traditional Canadian values of social justice is because of how our society has changed. My theory is that we've become so insulated from the realities of our neighbours as to become convinced that how we're doing is more important than how everyone else is doing.

Part of my belief may have to do with the environment I grew up in. We lived in a small bedroom community north of Montreal, population about 10,000. We seemed much more aware of the people and families around us. We knew who was doing OK and who was not doing OK, both emotionally and financially. Not only did we know the disposition of those around us, more importantly we knew why they were in that situation. We knew that family 'A' were destitute and that it was because the father got laid off after 25 years of loyal service to a company. We knew that family 'B' were in the position they were in simply because they weren't taking any steps to improve their lot in life. We knew that family 'C' were in a bit of a rut at the moment, but that a subtle change in circumstances - like a helping hand, would find them right back in the groove again.

This town had a non-profit organization called The Emergency Centre. It was like a thrift store that took in donations from those with items and food (and money) to spare, to be distributed to those less fortunate families. But unlike the thrift store of today, this centre didn't sell the donations, they gave them away to those in need. Even better, the members of the centre knew the people of the community so well that when something like a baby stroller was donated, they almost immediately knew which families in town could use the stroller and contacted them right away. There was a social network in existence where we all knew who the needy were and as a result were able to respond to those needs promptly when we could. The food that was collected by the centre was distributed to the families everyone knew were in desperate need of some assistance. This changed their lives in ways you cannot imagine. I know because my mother was a recipient of a few food baskets from this organization in her time of need.

I believe that it was this sense of familiarity that made the concept of the social safety net a part of our societal fabric. Nobody complained that there were too many free-loaders on EI or welfare or mother's allowance. I think this was because there was less of a stereotype in existence that those using the safety net were lazy, selfish people. We knew the situation and were less likely to label the users of the safety network as people who wasted our tax dollars. Not only that, but because we were more friendly and familiar with our neighbours and more interested in the well being of the rest of society, the realities of those around us were in our face and we dealt with them through our compassion toward our fellow citizens.

Fast forward to today. We live in a much more insulated society. Very few people know their neighbours and if we do, we are much less likely to know how those neighbours are actually doing. As a result, we have shielded ourselves from the harsh realities that exist and why those realities exist in the first place. If I were to round up the people in your neighbourhood or from random neighbourhoods in your city or town and stand them in front of you, I'd be amazed if you could identify any of their situations, how they got to this place in their lives, what a typical day is like for them and how difficult it is to get through the week with their sanity and their dignity intact.

Yet many of us have the gall to deride people using the social safety net as lazy loafers who abuse the system and waste our tax dollars. It doesn't help that the only news stories we hear about users of the safety net are the abusers, not the success stories or the real stories about the harsh reality of being poor in a rich country with a (relatively speaking) high standard of living.

So before anyone takes another stab at the wasteful social safety net that could use with a little more financial trimming, or applauding the introduction of a two-tier health system that would require a fee for preferential treatment, or any other measure that simply helps those of us that are doing OK in the world at the expense of those that are barely scraping by, I hope you take the time to figure out how your modern solutions would affect those less fortunate individuals and try to put yourself in their place.

I would rather live in a country where I know that if for some unknown reason, I found myself in a precarious financial situation, that my fellow citizens and the government that serves us would be there for me in my time of need. I don't think we're going to get there until we open our eyes and look at the realities that surround us. It will help us be much more grateful for what we have and a little bit more compassionate about those who have much less.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

No G+ for you

Things Not To Do on Your Resume

-Don't overlook the spelling and grammar. It may look fine to you, because you wrote it. So make use of a trusted set of eyes to look everything over for the things you might have missed. No matter how unfair it may seem, spelling and grammar mistakes are one of the biggest turn-offs of a resume reader. While your proof reader is checking over the content, they might even be prompted to ask questions about it if things aren't clear. Whatever those questions are, you need to fix the content so they are answered.

-Don't try to stuff as much information into a resume as will fit. Less is more. Your resume should be tailored specifically to the job you're applying for. It should be worded and formatted so that it is easy to read.

-Don't write generic statements. Every statement you put on a resume should help build a vivid mental image of not only what you did, but how long it took, the scope of the task (how many people, how big of a department) and most importantly - what was the measurable end result. You have to compose your resume with the understanding that the reader has absolutely no idea how complicated your job was, how many people you served or worked with, and so forth. Use words that make it crystal clear just what kind of a contribution you made and how you stood out amongst your peers, both within the organization you worked for and maybe even elsewhere.

-Don't pick a font based on how pretty it looks. Pick a font based on how easy it is to read. The same goes for font size. As a general rule, sans-serif fonts are easiest to read.

-Don't include education and work history that has nothing to do with the job being applied for. People worry that paring the resume down will make it look bare, but in fact what this paring down allows for is the space on the page to amplify the entries that are relevant. This in turn makes it easier for the reader to find what they're looking for. Don't worry about the time gaps either. These discrepancies don't stand out as much as we think they do and are easily explained away during the interview.

-Don't include references from jobs you were fired from. Don't include people that aren't aware you're using them as references. Get their permission first and make sure they know what kind of work you're applying for so they know what to mention to the person hiring. A reference caught unaware could do significant damage to your chances for the job. This may seem like a no-brainer, but...

-Don't use an email address in your contact information that paints you in other than a professional light. shakinmybooty; trekkinator; methhead; metalmaniac; and wifebeatur may seem like harmless, humorous email usernames, but they can sabotage your chances before the person hiring even gets to read your important vitals. Considering how many options are available for free email accounts, getting a simple type of address should be easy.

-Don't mention any hobbies, extra-curricular activities or non-work related skills or interests. The only exception to this rule is when these very things are of guaranteed interest to the person hiring due to their relevance to the job. For example, your involvement in Scouts might be of interest when the job you're applying for will benefit from this role. But mentioning non-work related activities and interests can also paint a mental picture that can be construed as a negative stereotype (reader's bias) that might put you in a bad light. Although a company is not supposed to pass on someone based on a stereotype, there is no way to know that a stereotype has affected the reader's decision. The bottom line is this - you're trying to paint a visual image of a professional worker with relevant skill sets and accomplishments, not a social creature, unless a social creature is what is needed for the job.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Animated sheet music

I don't think there is a better way to demonstrate the meaning of sheet musical notation than a video like this.

It gets really interesting about half way through....

The Woodinator!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Efficient sun catcher

The next time someone tries to tell you that renewable energy sources like wind and solar have a fatal flaw - they aren't capable of operating 24/7, you can send them to this page.

Welcome to the future, where we stop making excuses for why something can't be done and just get on with it. Gemasolar produces enough energy to not only generate power during the day, but also store energy in the form of heat in an underground vat of molten salt, which retains its heat for as much as 15 hours. That's long enough to turn water into steam in the middle of the night which in turn spin turbines to generate electricity all night.

The Rude Store

.... and their opening hours sign on the door.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

While we're asking for honesty.....

I've been reading articles by various Conservative-leaning journalists about how Jack Layton might have been sick the whole time that he was campaigning in the last Federal election and that as Canadians, we deserve to know whether this is true. I honestly don't know what difference it makes, as all of us are or will be dying of something sooner or later and fate just might hand an errant car or lightning bolt into the path of a country's leader as much as any illness, known or otherwise.

But since we're bringing up honesty, openness and intent, maybe the current government might be able to answer these next few questions. What kind of country is the current government planning for its citizens? What does the end game look like? Are we headed for a mostly privatized health care system that only select people can afford? Are we going to shirk any environmental responsibility we might have? Are we going to ignore the potential for green energy technology in favour of maximizing fossil fuel profits? Will the borders be mostly closed to new immigrants? Does the government have a secret plan to support the entertainment industry's rights over those of the consumer? Will our pension system be allowed to wither away to nothing?

We deserve to know......

There's a reason Olivia likes visiting us so much

....but don't tell her mommy.

This is Olivia's first visit (that we know of) to Amato Gelato. This is photographic evidence of her Nan (Darlene) initiating Olivia into the evils of chocolate gelato.

Friday, September 02, 2011

She's baaack!

You may have heard me go on before about an incredibly fun improv show created by Rebecca Northan called Blind Date. Well, my wish has come true because it's back!

"Blind Date returns to Loose Moose after a sold out run in New York! On the heels of her off-Broadway success, Rebecca Northan's Blind Date is heading out on a Canadian and US tour. Before that can happen though, understudies have to be trained. Local talents Julie Orton and Renee Amber will be stepping into Rebecca's shoes on alternating nights, all leading up to a final performance by Rebecca on Saturday Sept 10. This is your chance to see Blind Date for the first time again and again...and again!"

I guarantee that if laughter is the best medicine, this show will cure what ails you. If you play your cards right, you might even become Mimi's 'blind date'.

Remaining shows September 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10. The 7th and 8th shows are at 8pm, remainder at 10:30pm. Only at the Loose Moose Theatre. If you see one show this year.......

Thursday, September 01, 2011


3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage. It's a beautiful time lapse video.

I had to watch it a few times to soak it all in. Gorgeous!

Who is that?

Who are those guys? And what's with the two kids? I don't remember them from the album cover....