Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quoth the raven: WTF?

Why improv is difficult

One of the reasons why improvisational theatre is so difficult is that many of our conversations are just a collection of selfish pronouncements based on our preconceived ideas about reality. Even when we engage in conversations with friends and family, which should be the most non-confrontational discussions we can have, we're most often arguing our own positions on any particular topic.

"Did you hear about Jenny? She's getting a divorce."
"Yeah well, I always knew she should never have married that guy."

"I heard that our property taxes are going up next year."
"Figures. City Hall can't manage the money they have, they always want more."

"Many farmers are reporting that their crops will fail this year because of all this rain."
"See, I told you global warming is a fraud."

When it comes to conversations, sometimes people are just waiting for the other person to finish, so that they can say what they’re waiting to spout to support their own opinion. Some people refer to this type of communication as 'machine-gun monologue'. In these types of conversations, there is very little listening going on - people are just waiting for their turn to talk. Needless to say, very little gets advanced in these types of discussions. Everyone just gets to state their position and even find interesting ways to use contradicting evidence to justify their own beliefs and opinions.

I must admit that I find myself doing this from time to time as well. In my case, it's due to the fact that on occasion I get so excited about speaking that I actually lose patience and can barely wait for the other person to stop talking so that I can get my two cents in. Although I consider myself an open-minded person, it's not conducive to hearing the other person's point of view when all you can think about is "When is it my turn?"

This absolutely does not work in improvisation. If you and I are on stage, I have no idea what you’re going to say next, so I can’t plan ahead with what I'm going to say next. I may be in the habit of planning my next statement, but this will only fall flat on its face, as what you say next will almost always not fit within my planned script. I have to really be listening to you. Only then can I offer an appropriate response.

This lesson can be directly applied to work and life in general. If someone has a solid idea on how to proceed, they are very unlikely to listen to anything that might detract from that idea. We pretend to listen to arguments against the idea, but are we really listening? No we're not. We're just waiting for others to finish so that we can continue to move our own idea forward.

The fact is, projects, relationships, teams, they all work better when everyone feels their voice matters. We don't have to agree, but we can't truly make a good decision unless we've actually been paying attention to other views on the matter. We all need to learn how to listen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

S'morse code

Message to businesses: Keep your value high

It seems that many businesses today do not fully understand the value of retaining customers. These firms have not yet learned that a happy customer is a returning customer and a returning customer is a reliable source of revenue. I've witnessed some recent examples I'd like to share with you.

A certain restaurant chain that specializes in spaghetti that might have the word 'factory' in its name used to be one of our favourite places to go for dinner. The bread was baked fresh and was served hot. They were generous with salad and salad dressing portions. The amount of sauce put on the pasta was also generous. They even had an outdoor sidewalk patio.

Fast forward to 2011. The outdoor patio is gone. The bread is no longer fresh but is barely warmed up in an oven. The butter (which is at room temperature already) does not even melt on the bread. The amount of salad dressing is marginally acceptable. The amount of sauce on my spaghetti was barely enough to colour the noodles and tasted like something out of a jar. 'Famous Naples recipe' my eye. Needless to say, we will likely not be returning to this restaurant, as our visit evoked memories of a previous bad experience as well. A shame, as not only have we been turned off of this location, but we will be hesitant to try any location in any city we visit. In case you're wondering, the restaurant was mostly empty. In times past, the patio was always full and the restaurant was at least half full.

In my second example, a certain car dealership - the one I bought my current hybrid from, managed to secure my loyalty to bring my vehicle there for regular servicing, even though it is quite far from my home and my work. They did this by offering free oil changes for the life of the car - good deal. Like the previous dealership I had dealt with for my last car, this dealership offered a loner car, vital to my ability to leave my car at the dealership for anything longer than an hour and still have my mobility. Because I work out of town, the best I can do is arrange for service on Saturdays and either wait for the fast service or get the loaner to go on with my day.

This week, I phoned to arrange a service and a loaner car only to discover that they have discontinued offering loaner cars. This is a deal breaker. I called a dealership close to where I work and asked if they would honour my free oil change deal. They agreed to do so. Hello new dealership, goodbye original dealership!

Now, in the (abandoned) dealership's defence, they were having issues continuing the loaner car option. I don't know what the issue was, but it could have been related to cost or insurance issues or something else altogether. If it was just cost, they could have always tacked a fee onto the loaner car to recover expenses. If the loaner option is just too expensive, they could have offered alternative options. Maybe give the customer a free transit pass and offer them a ride to and from the nearest LRT station so that at least they can go about their day while the car is being serviced.

In my third and final example, which I've already talked about before, Shell has discontinued their EasyPay tag feature allowing for quick, convenient pre-payment of gas and other products. Maybe there was something amiss with the EasyPay system, but to abandon the feature while offering nothing in its place is a big no-no. I stay with this gas company only because of my ability to collect Air Miles. But even Air Miles is getting skimpy with the value of travel you get for the money spent. Businesses need to learn that you should never find ways to reduce the value of your product or service to your customer, if anything, you should be finding ways to increase the value. That buys all the customer loyalty you'll ever need.

Monday, June 27, 2011

b.l.t.

Mapnificent

It has been a challenge to convince some people that Foothills Medical Centre (FMC) is in a transit vacuum. Lucky for me, there are enterprising people out there who help me make my case. Mapnificent lets you pick a spot on a map (in certain cities) and show you what is within reach by foot or transit within 'X'minutes.

As you can see, the difference between 8 minutes reach for FMC versus the downtown core is significant.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Elements of Ctrl

Improv history in the remaking

Last night was a revival of what used to be an extremely popular staple at The Loose Moose, late on Saturday nights - Hot Nuts & Popcorn. It was a variety / talk show hosted by Moose alumni Derek Flores and Eric Amber, with head-banger Terry Cahill (the character from Fubar) working as the stage manager from the balcony. Word has it that this show was so popular in its day (it had a 3 year run every Saturday night that ended around 1999), that people used to come to Loose Moose at 6:30pm to buy tickets for the 11pm show, then go to a bar and get drunk before coming back to witness the madness.

Last night's reunion had Calgary hockey hero Theo Fleury, country musician Matt Masters, comediennes Amanda Brooke Perrin and Megan Fraser and Cancer, a character created and performed by Bruce Horak. The show's band was Corndog, the one man band fronted by Dan Duguay. It was 90 minutes of very adult-oriented fun and I hope we don't have to wait another 10 years to see it again. [fingers crossed]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How fire extinguishers work

Male CEO: Periods affect a woman's productivity

Sometimes men say stuff to make the rest of us look bad. Like this CEO from NZ who argues that women’s productivity suffers because of their monthly menstrual cycle. I'm serious. Then he contends that going on maternity leave makes it harder for women to return to the work force. He doesn’t explain why paternity leave doesn’t affect a man's productivity as much as it does for a woman.

Article here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Photos of a vampire from a photo booth

Did You Know That - In 60 SECONDS

Search engine Google serves more that 694,445 queries.
6,600+ pictures are uploaded on Flickr.
600+ videos are uploaded on YouTube videos, amounting to 25+ hours of content.
695,000 status updates, 79,364 wall posts and 510,040 comments are published on Facebook.
70+ New domains are registered.
168,000,000+ emails are sent.
320+ new accounts and 98,000+ tweets are generated on Twitter.
iPhone applications are downloaded more than 13,000 times.
20,000 new posts are published on Micro-blogging platform tumbler.
Popular web browser FireFox is downloaded more than 1700+ times.
Popular blogging platform WordPress is downloaded more than 50 times.
WordPress Plugins are downloaded more than 125 times.
100+ accounts are created on professional networking site LinkedIn.
100+ new questions are asked on Answers.com.
1 new definition is added on UrbanDictionary.com.
12,000+ new ads are created on Craigslist.
370,000+ minutes of voice calls done by Skype users.
13,000+ hours of music streaming is done by personalized Internet radio provider Pandora.
1,600+ reads are made on Scribd, the largest social reading publishing company.
1,500+ blog posts and 60+ new blogs.

Source.

What a dreamer

Shai Agassi has a plan to convert every car to electric with an infrastructure to make it affordable, scalable and convenient.

Watch the TED presentation. The man has a vision and he's making it happen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How times have changed

Truck co-op needed

I would like to see a company like Zipcar develop a business model for people who chose to buy and keep a reasonably sized car. Us folks have the perfect car for day to day commuting but do not have room to transport bulky items. We could become a member of a neighbourhood truck / van co-op. This way we could rent the big rig only when we need it. This is not only a common sense solution, it would help save a ton of gas and parking space at our homes as well as reduce pollution. How many people buy an SUV or a pickup, not because they need a vehicle that size every day, but for the 20 times a year that they buy stuff at Ikea, Home Depot or Toys R Us?

Pictured is a Zipcars Toyota truck.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meh

Meh.

I meant eats shoots and leaves


Misheard panda description.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Revisiting a classic movie

This weekend I got to watch (for the second time), the movie The Girl in the Café. I recall that I watched this movie for the first time shortly before Darlene dragged me by the collar to my first acting class several years ago. I was so impressed with the movie at the time that I decided to adapt one of its scenes to an exercise I had to complete in my acting class.

The movie was even better the second time around, especially since I had forgotten some of the details regarding the plot points in the story. This is one of the advantages of aging by the way, if you wait long enough, you get to watch movies again as if for the very first time. [Grin] This movie was nominated for 2 Golden Globes and I'm not surprised. Bill Nighy, who is a lovable expert at low status characters under normal circumstances, absolutely rips your heart out in this movie as Lawrence, the capable, but socially inept, self-effacing workaholic bureaucrat who works at the highest levels of British economic politics. Kelly Macdonald is also warm and unassuming as Gina, the Scottish girl Lawrence meets in the café near his work. She ends up changing his life in ways I could only let the movie reveal. Sorry - no spoilers.

This is a smart movie where nobody dies (at least not on-screen) and sans car chases or guns blazing. For those of you who enjoy an actor who knows how to play status well and can frown with his elbows, I give this movie a huge endorsement.

"Some of the dullest people in the world are in this room. There are gold medallists in the Boredom Olympics here. Anything you say will be more interesting than anything they've ever said." ~Lawrence

Toy car sounds from last century

My granddaughter drives around in her Little Tikes Cozy Coupe at our place. The steering wheel is full of buttons that play car sound effects. The collection of sound effects is mired in early 20th century vehicle technology. Most of the sounds approximate situations mostly unheard of today. The main horn sounds like an old jalopy. You also get backfiring exhausts, an engine cranking like it's about to seize, brakes that sound more suited to an episode of The Roadrunner cartoon and an acceleration sound that sounds like a go-cart.

What I find odd about this toy is that the sounds are so dated - they really don't apply to the driving paradigm anymore. There's no cell phone ringing, no GPS sounds, no modern sounding horn, no whoomping bass from the stereo, no tuned exhaust noises, nothing that would be identified by a late model car.

I wonder if young adults that buy a beater for a car get a subconscious thrill when their loud, obviously-in-need-of-maintenance car sounds most similar to the Cozy Coupe they might have driven when they were little.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Optimist


This video was shot at annual Festival of Colours at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Message to dads

I can't tell you how long it has been since I last saw my father. It's at least 17 years, but it may be more. On this Father's Day, I'm resigned to the idea that I may never see or speak to my father again. It's not like I haven't tried. But this is not my choice, it is his. He became convinced that it was not possible to juggle his old family and his new family (he is divorced from my mother) without conflict. I don't even know if he's alive. Neither am I convinced that his new partner in life would have the decency to tell his kids from his original marriage that he had passed. For that I am sad. It is the bittersweet story of life. On the one hand, I stubbornly keep his memory as far from my daily thoughts as I can. From time to time however, I crave the bond that all children have with their father. To share my successes and ask for advice only a father can provide.

So my only wish, other than that my father someday puts aside his pride and makes an effort to be even a small part of our lives again, is that fathers look past their egos and do what is best for their kids by maintaining a civil presence in their lives.

Not to be a total downer - I am a happy father. A step-father to be sure, but I think of myself no more a step-father than I think of my mother as my step-mother. Even more, I am a grandfather to a girl who has brought so much happiness into my life. So there may be some sadness, but it is eclipsed with much joy. Love to all and have a glorious day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Okay?"

So, this girl gets tossed out of a theatre in Austin Texas for texting during the movie, which the theatre makes very clear is not allowed. She`s pissed. So she leaves a nasty voice-mail to the theatre. They are so impressed, they put it up as a trailer in the theatre now.

Because she so awesomely made their point. NSFW.

Message to fast food joint employees:

We know your job sucks. We also know the pay sucks even more. But if you're having a bad day and your co-worker is not cooperating, it is not OK to go in the back and verbally assault your co-worker with numerous expletives in a loud voice while customers are waiting, then scream at the top of your lungs "You fucking douche-bag, get out there and serve those fucking customers!!" [scream of agony]

There's a good chance that by the time someone gets back out front on the line, those customers will be long gone. Would 'you' eat a sandwich just made by you? I didn't think so.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Print dammit

Computer: Monitor, display this document, ok?
Monitor: No problem, boss.
Computer: OK, now it looks like Mouse is moving around so, Monitor, will you move the pointer icon accordingly?
Monitor: Anything you say, boss.
Computer: Great, great. OK, Mouse, where are you going now?
Mouse: Over to the toolbar, sir.
Computer: Hmm. Let me know if he clicks anything, OK?
Mouse: Of course.
Keyboard: Sir, he’s pressed control and P simultaneously.
Monitor: Oh God, here we go.
Computer: [sighs] Printer, are you there?
Printer: No.
Computer: Please, Printer. I know you’re there. We're having this conversation, aren't we?
Printer: NO! I’m not here! Leave me alone!
Computer: Jesus. OK look, you really nee…
Mouse: Sir, now he’s clicked on the printer icon.
Computer: Printer, now you're going to have to print it twice.
Printer: NO! NO! NO! I don’t want to! I hate you! I hate printing! I’m turning off!
Computer: Printer, you know that you can’t turn yourself off. Just print the document twice and we’ll leave you alone.
Printer: NO! That’s what you always say! I hate you! I’m out of ink!
Computer: You’re not out of in…
Printer: I’M OUT OF INK!
Computer: [Sighs] Monitor, please show a low ink level alert.
Monitor: But sir, he has plen…
Computer: Just do it, damn it!
Monitor: Yes sir.
Keyboard: AHHH! He’s hitting me!
Computer: Stay calm, he’ll stop soon. Stay calm, old friend.
Keyboard: He’s pressing everything. Oh god, I don’t know, he’s just pressing everything!
Computer: PRINTER! Are you happy now?! Do you see what you’ve done?
Printer: HA! that’s what you get for trying to get me to do work. Next time he…hey…HEY! He’s trying to open me! HELP! HELP! Oh my goodness! He’s torn out my cartridge! HELP! Please! ERROR!
Monitor: Sir, maybe we should help him?
Computer: No. He did this to himself.

"... you are agreeing to be bound...."

Richard Dreyfuss puts a dramatic spin on the Apple iTunes EULA by reading it.

Have you ever read those things? They're scary......

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

She's 3!

A few people have politely asked for an updated picture of our granddaughter. Here is one from her 3rd birthday party a few weeks ago.

This was taken by her great aunt Sharon.

Brand Wars


The Jabba The Hut logo is nifty too. More here.

Certification-free zone

I have an opinion that doesn't win me a lot of respect among my IT friends and colleagues, but - there you have it. I'm not a big fan of certifications. Let that sink in a little.

Why do I have a problem with certifications? Because they don't mean what the industry presumes them to mean. In my opinion, all that the possession of a certificate proves is that you can retain information. Enough information to pass an exam. With all of the cram guides and books available for every IT certification exam out there, it only really takes good memory retention to pass them. That's a very strong assertion to make, yeah? I don't make it lightly. I have seen countless people get hired into IT positions who were 'certified', but could not perform the most basic of tasks or solve mediocre problems. Therein lies the problem. Getting certified is similar to other types of training in that it gives you theoretical knowledge. But getting certified is missing one vital component that is provided by regular school courses - practical knowledge. Lab time. Real world troubleshooting.

I do not possess any IT certifications. I never have and I probably never will. This does not appear to have had any effect on my ability to work in IT roles. Whenever the topic of certification comes up, my answer is the same. I don't have any, but if you would like to present me with a task or a problem, I will be glad to work it through to its resolution. Test my ability to do the work, don't ask me to show you a plaque on a wall. It means very little.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The debate

So, as you know, I am an advocate for the concept of PRT. It doesn't mean I'm against other options, but in my research, I've begun to notice that on the internet, there appear to be two distinct, vocal camps who seem to despise each other. The PRT camp versus the urban gondola camp. My attention to this debate was focused after my discussion with an urban transit planner at the City of Calgary, who seemed to be leaning toward the gondola solution and not quite interested in the PRT solution for last mile transit. After watching and in some cases, participating in the debate, I came across this very intelligent offering in my email. It's an automatic alert as the result of the comment being posted on a transit forum. But the comment doesn't appear yet, which could mean that the moderator is censoring it out - I'm not sure. So Dave, without your explicit permission, I'm posting it here for all to see. It's a great summary of the debate currently taking place between the two camps. It's long, but it's a great read. It even features some of my own observations.

Author: Dave Brough

In defense of PRT
What 'got' here is two 'lobbies' with a fail-ya to communicate: the Urban Gondola (UG) lobby, and the PRT lobby. The one-man UG 'lobby' is a self-admitted (and proud of it) 'Bigmouth from Toronto”. He is not an engineer nor, by his own admission, is he a journalist. But he is interested in CPT and is particularly vocal about applying it to urban settings.
The PRT industry is composed of highly technical people, many of them engineers. In this context, it is represented by another self-appointed big mouth from Toronto: yours truly. I'm not an engineer, but I do have 45 solid years of innovation and manufacturing experience. So let's get started.

UG lobby: “The PRT lobby claims it can move large amounts of people over huge networks with dozens of off-line stations and completely private vehicles.”
PRT lobby: True. In fact, PRT not only claims that it can move “large amounts of people over huge networks, with dozens of off-line stations, and completely private vehicles”, it has the utter audacity to claim that it can do it 'more, better, 'less” (more efficiently, better headways, less obtrusive and FAR less expensive) than any other form of transport, gondola included. Add “bigger” (pax movements) and hotter or colder (as the situation demands), remove messy overhead utility cables, add street lighting, brew your morning java and even give you a massage (remember the sauna gondola?).
UG lobby: “(Not so fast). You can't define your technology as some massive improvement over all others but never have a working demonstration”
PRT lobby: “And why not?!” We've had several working demonstrators, going back to CabinTaxi that, 'by definition' (whatever that means), even in the mid-70's demonstrated split-second switching, half-second headways, and easy escape (no helos needed). Cabin Taxi even demonstrated a unique over-under concept that doubled capacity and has had a variant (CabinLift) operating between two remote German hospital campuses for 40 years.
UG lobby: “Urban Gondolas and CPT is not defined by the size of the network, nor off-line stations, nor completely private vehicles.”
PRT lobby: OK, but let's get the rules straight. “What, exactly, IS CPT defined 'by'...?” But even at that, should transit that can easily expand its network, (easily and cheaply) incorporate off-line stations, and have private vehicles – as is the case with PRT - NOT receive some attention?
UG Lobby: “We’ve never suggested urban gondolas as a replacement for all other transit forms. We suggest it as one of many tools, a complementary system.”
PRT lobby: You're putting words in our mouths. PRT has never made the 'all things to all transit'-argument. In fact, what I've seen is that it is primarily intended for dense urban applications.
UG lobby: “You need only look to Medellin, Caracas, Algeria, Portland, Telluride and NYC to see that urban gondolas very much do exist.”
PRT lobby: WTF...? I mean what?! Okay, let's take that look. Medellin, Caracas and Algeria are 'urban' and they're 'gondola', sure, but do they meet the definition of 'urban gondola' in the sense that they compete with (or compliment, take your pick) BRT or LRT? Hardly. They are unique applications designed to circumvent geography. Moreover, they would never-never-never be considered as 'modern urban transit' because a) no air; b) no heat; c) they don't fly low; d) rescue by helo or winch-down would never fly; e) stations are horrendously large and expensive, and difficult-to-impossible to extend without throwing a lot of money at the wall.
Portland, and NYC? Sure, they're also 'urban', but again, they're being used to 'jump' geography (getting up a steep hill - Portland, and a wide river - NYC). And, according to the UG lobby, both use 'tram' technology unsuited to UG.
Telluride. TELLURIDE...?! Whaaat?? How'd that get in here. it's not even UG. It runs up a mountainside to link two very rural communities.
So what have we in UG's shining examples? Read my lips: ZERO!. The only opportunity presented that had any semblance of an urban gondola was right here where I live (place called Ogden, Utah). And boy, did the UG lobby jump all over that one.
UG Lobby: “PRT can’t have it both ways: You can’t define your technology as some massive improvement over all others but never actually have a working demonstration piece”.
PRT lobby: Is there an echo in this room? Our point, exactly. UG is NOT a massive improvement, nor does it have one SINGLE “working demonstration piece”! On the other hand, PRT IS a massive improvement that has had several working examples, and more are coming on line every day (okay, okay. Maybe not every day). But it's getting a lot of traction.
UG lobby: “We don’t claim (urban) gondolas to be a mass improvement over all other things.”
PRT lobby: Good thing, too. Until CPT shapes out and ships up, it's not a mass improvement over nuthin'.
UG lobby: “(UG) simply is what it is. And what it is, demonstrably exists. That’s the difference.”
PRT lobby: Sure fooled us. Gondola demonstrably exists - in thousands of incarnations. But UG is demonstrably conspicuous by the existence of a SINGLE working demonstration piece. On the other hand, there was Cabin Taxi (and several others) and there IS Morgantown, there is Heathrow, there IS Masdar, and soon, there will be many more.
UG lobby: “We’ve demonstrated on this site how the average speed of a gondola is comparable to existing standard modes.”
PRT lobby: Woo woo. We're impressed. Really. In fact, we think that you've demonstrated that the average speed of a gondola actually exceeds existing modes. And when there's a breakdown of existing modes, or at least PRT/streetcar, it VASTLY exceeds existing standard modes. Not only that, it is vastly safer. We give you that, too!
UG lobby: “We’ve shown that gondolas are more than capable of meeting the moderate capacity needs of bus and mid-range LRTs. We’ve shown that they do, indeed, “work.”
PRT lobby: If you're talking about moving people, sure. Ski lifts have shown that for years. And the purported urban gondolas in the third world have shown that that if you ignore flying over back yards and if it's okay to cook people, they 'work' in the same way that buses 'work'. The problem is, they don't 'work' when it comes to fulfilling what modern riders demand of modern transit. Did I mention heat? And air. And low flying, ground level stations. And half-second headways, or switching, or easy expansion, or networking, (or nitpicking).
UG lobby: “The only thing maybe we’ve never shown is that they be networked.”
PRT lobby: Did I mention heat or air or half-second headway or switching or networking or making coffee?
UG lobby. “If (we haven't shown that they can be networked on on-line switching, or off-line stations, it's) because that’s not the definition of the technology.
PRT lobby: It's not? Oh...! Then again, when it comes to urban applications, we say the “definition of the technology” is the ability to meet the needs society puts to it. And we say that in modern-day America, Canada, Europe, Asia, and yes, even Medellin, society needs the amenities that modern transit offers.
UG lobby: “...we’ve shown the technology to be fully-capable of full-integration with all other modes of public transit (subway, bus and tram/LRT).”
PRT lobby: You have...? You could 'network' the technology with the Space Shuttle if you had enough space (oh, my) and money. Speaking of money, this begets an interesting question: “Why, pray tell, has the famous SFU gondola suddenly doubled in price - to $120 million?” Answer: Because the UG station interface is horrendously large and horribly complicated, it is outrageously expensive. And if they're talking $120 'now', what's it going to really cost (shades of Portland – or any other transit project - which was sold to the public on the basis that it would cost $15 million, but ended up at $57 million – nearly 4 times). Who's for putting money on SFU, if it gets built, ending up at $200 million?
UG lobby: “You certainly don’t have to consider urban gondolas, but to deny them is like saying the sky is green.”
PRT lobby: Have it your way: the sky IS green. And it's not covered in urban gondolas either. And until UG schmartens up, never will be.

@ Karl “...the system should be able to offer multiple routes to a destination to offer shortcuts (to reduce time in transit) and to bypass problems in the system (broken down vehicles or pods or gondolas). I have yet to see a gondola system that offers this level of flexibility.

Me either, Karl. By way of example, last weekend I rode one of the few remaining CPT rides still being operated at amusement parks, this one at “Lagoon”, just north of Salt Lake City. (This in itself invites a post entitled “Why are there no new gondolas being installed in theme parks? And why have most of them been removed? I recall riding Disney's http://www.yesterland.com/skyway.html
$300 thousand (in 1956 dollars would have been $2.5 million today. But it wouldn't come close to replacing the ride) Skyride went right through Magic Mountain one year, only to find it mountained-over the next. So, why?)
Back to Lagoon, right in the middle of the ride, with maybe a 100' drop, it suddenly jerked to a stop, everything now swaying from momentum. “Oh my God! Oh my God!”, screamed a lady in the car right opposite and covering her eyes. “I knew we shouldn't have gotten on this thing!” Fortunately for her, a certain gondola affectionado assured her that the wait was just temporary, probably just because they needed to help someone getting on or off. And sure enough, maybe 30 seconds later we were off and running. Only to stop again. And again.
UG lobby: “Pot calls the kettle black". PRT has never demonstrated the flexibility to offer multiple routes to a destination or offer shortcuts and to bypass problems either.”
PRT lobby: Kettle calls the pot a crockpot. Check the CabinTaxi video and eat your heart out. There are vivid examples of switching, of half. But then again, does it need to? When Boeing or Airbus decides to invest several billion dollars in bringing a new airliner into the world, they don't need to build a demonstrator. They not only build every single part on a computer, they 'fly' it on a computer. And they're confident enough that they will take tens of millions of dollars in orders before the first one actually flies. And when it finally does fly, lo and behold, it performs exactly as expected. One of the fundamental differences between GT and PRT is the fact that GT is a like a subway system, a 'tube' where everything gets constricted down to one line. PRT, on the other hand, just like the taxicab it's intended to replace, offers the flexibility of multiple lines, this giving the system the flexibility and the choice of choosing the best route.
Example. We're in Toronto on one of its main intersections, Yonge and Eglington. We want to get to Harbourfront, a straight shot 8 miles south and on the lakefront. If we were making the trip by transit, it would be one choice: the Yonge Subway (and a short car ride). If, for whatever reason, there were a breakdown (or maybe a driver passes out and rear-ends another train), the whole line would be shut down (I know from personal experience that it can be shut down for a lot less than that: I personally once shut down the entire Bloor line for 20 minutes. Actually, they shut it down for me). But let's hail a cab. First off, the driver would have sense enough (he's a PhD, like all Toronto cabbies) not even to consider Yonge St. He would take one of the arteries (Maybe Avenue Rd. several blocks west, or Bayview, several blocks east), then pretty well due south. These days, with GPS, he would have traffic following and know precisely which route to take. But the TTC rider – like the gondola rider – has no choice. One line, one straight shot.
And here's another thing thing. If your trip is in the off-hours, your pretty well stuck. But PRT, like the cab, is time insensitive: you want it: you ride it.
UG Lobby: “To a very small extent, PRT exists at Heathrow. As for your plans at Masdar . . . Have you looked them up lately? Masdar’s basically dead in the water. It’s now a point-to-point, 2 station people mover.”
PRT lobby: I'm wondering what this lobby's comment would have been to Wilbur and Orville. “Gee, fellas, you only flew 120 feet. You're basically dead in the air. Get a life”.
UG lobby: “(London and Masdar don't) quite live up to all that PRT presupposes it to, does it?”
PRT lobby: Even the journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. This is our first step. Then again, using Heathrow and Masdar as examples of PRT is unfortunate. And more to the point, there are those of us touting other forms of PRT, when people use London or Masdar as examples of PRT, we are, well, embarrassed. In fact, let's use the L-word: lam-barrassed. To paraphrase an earlier posting (Ogden UT urban gondola), it's unfortunate that PRT and London and Masdar are so inextricably linked, but so be it. Same with Morgantown.
Using London and Masdar as PRT poster boys is like classifying ALL CPT as 'Tram'. And I'm sure I'm not the only person looking at the glorified golf carts of Heathrow or Masdar, then shaking his head in disbelief. It's like comparing a kid's tricycle to the Concord. They'll both get you there, one is just a tad faster.
ULTra of London and 2GetThere's Masdar both follow the Morgantown (which isn't PRT at all, but MST: Mass Slow Transit) approach of tarting up golf carts to run on a dedicated roadway. Sort of a mini BRT, except no driver (but enough 'watchers' that you might as well have drivers). If you wanted to elevate it – like Morgantown – you would have to elevate the entire street, not unlike a monorail, only wider. And just as expensive.
On the other hand, 'real' PRT (at least to this lobbyist, maybe a few others) uses the 'suspended' approach. Think 'curtain track'. The curtain (the PRT car, aka 'pod') hangs from a slot in a rod that is suspended from above the window. Same deal with suspended PRT: the pod hangs from a slot in an elevated rail. The main difference between PRT and CPT is that PRT is self-propelled. That gives it advantages and disadvantages – although those of us in the PRT lobby say advantage-PRT.
Returning to the present prime examples of London and Masdar, this lobbyist claims that these are hardly Personal RAPID Transit: they're personal, all right, but moving along at a snail's pace, they are hardly Rapid. Which why I've renamed them PST - Personal Slow Transit.
There is NOT one urban CPT on the ENTIRE planet that a) has heat; b) has AC; can 'fly' just above traffic; c) can act like transit in the sense that stops are bus stops sized; d) can be placed
UG lobby: “My problem with PRT is that it over-promises and under-delivers – for the last 60 years.”
PRT lobby: My problem with UG is that its main proponent over-promises and doesn't deliver a thing. My problem with PRT is that it's never been given a chance TO deliver what it promises.
UG lobby: “When it comes to CPT, we’re not promising much more than a cost-effective system to solve last mile problems with LT1M wait times. CPT has proven itself capable of solving that problem. PRT hasn’t been able to prove it after 60 years.”
PRT lobby: Au contraire. PRT has demonstrated and proven half-second headway. That beats the pants off gondola. As for the rest, don't get me started!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How to listen as described by a deaf person

A deaf person is going to teach you more about music than you probably ever learned from all the rest of the people who talked to you about music in your life.

I think TED is one of the greatest things to happen to humankind.

Guitar virtuoso


If you want to see a girl make a guitar her bitch, then you need to watch this exquisite TED performance by Kaki King.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Great food out doesn't have to be expensive

Darlene and I love to go out to eat at a restaurant. A lot. But you already knew that. So I am more than qualified to suggest that the value for money at most restaurants has declined steadily over the past 5 years. The days of being able to eat for two under $20, even $25 or $30 (drinks not included) are long gone, but the quality of the food has declined as well. Some of our favourite dishes have either disappeared or been rendered charicatures of their former selves at some of our regular eateries.

Well, lately we made a wonderful albeit purely accidental discovery. There's still a place you can go to get great food for two for under $25 - non-alcohholic drinks INCLUDED! Most recently, Darlene had a prime rib dinner with roasted vegetables and roasted potatoes while I had a veggie stir fry with beef - big giant pieces of beef, on rice. Darlene actually said it was one of the best prime rib meals she has ever had. That's a huge compliment coming from her. They serve breakfast too.

The name of this secretive noshery? Sunterra Market. Yeah. You may know them for their elite grocery store, but they serve hot food to your table too. If you go to the new one at the Keynote, you'll be impressed. The demo kitchen, where they offer cooking classes is on the second floor. The restaurant portion is on the third floor and there's a bar and an outdoor roof-top patio seating area as well.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Dear me: A letter to my 16 year old self

Hey Karl,

This is you/me 34 years from now, writing from one probable future.

You know how you hate school right now? I know exactly why. You are bored out of your freaking mind. You know you're smart and capable. You certainly proved that to everyone in grade 5, 6 and 7. But your marks have gone down ever since. Trust me - it's because you're bored. Take a look at your Geography marks. They're high because you enjoy geography. You know that secret thrill you get from looking at and studying maps? You'll enjoy it even more when you get older. There will be maps and photos taken from space of the entire world available for you to gawk at on computers. Everyone will have these computers and they'll be connected to each other using a world-wide network. You'll be in your god-damned glory.

I may as well tell you now - you're going to be convinced to join the military by your pal Christopher within 2 years of finishing high school. He will not show up at the swearing in ceremony where you commit to a long career in the service - you'll find yourself to be completely on your own. Don't panic. Go for it anyway. The military is going to change your life. It will help to build your confidence, instill the discipline you lack and give you a very interesting career - for free. You'll discover by accident that you not only love learning when the subject is interesting, but that you can teach. Yes - you my friend. You'll become very good at explaining things to people. Complicated things. You'll intuitively know how to distill the essence of any concept into something anyone can understand. It's a powerful skill and it will open many doors for you. (It actually runs in the family as it turns out)

You know how you like helping David DJ at the community hall dances in Two Mountains? The best is yet to come. You'll become a disc jockey in your own right, on the side, as a hobby. You'll be a late musical bloomer, but not to worry - you'll make up for lost time. You'll spin tunes nobody has heard before and they'll love you for it. Music is going to become a big part of your life and you'll embrace every new technology that comes along to help you enjoy and share music. You'll even dabble with a synthesizer for a while, maybe more if you take the time to learn how to read music.

If there's one thing I must impart to you while you're still young, it's this - stop blocking opportunities that come your way. Say 'yes' more. You'll be tempted to say 'no' and take a pass on a lot of things that come your way. Please DON'T! Every thing you say 'no' to is basically slamming the door on infinite possibilities and potential relationships, personal and professional. In this reality that I am living, it took you 20 years to discover by accident that you like improvisational theatre. It took you 10 years to discover that you like city planning and transportation. But you didn't do anything about it until you were 50. You should do something sooner.

In a sentence - it's better to have tried and failed than never tried and squashed an entire probability.

Have fun,

Karl

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Gummy rug


Get it?

Where did the money go?

OK so, I've only been living in Alberta since 1994. Forgive me if I don't know what's going on. But I base my next observations on what other oil and gas producing countries have done with their royalties and frankly, I'm a bit confused and underwhelmed at the same time.

Middle Eastern countries pour their oil money into building massive (and that word is perhaps an understatement) infrastructure and development projects. Have you seen Abu Dhabi and Dubai? Anyone? How about Masdar City? Look it up (Masdar City is pictured). The future is here and it's happening in the UAE.

Some countries save their royalties in rainy day accounts - like Alberta does. Here's where I get confused. Norway, which only started saving 15 years ago, has already saved $512 billion. Alberta has a paltry $15 billion to show for 35 years of savings. It only seems like a lot until you see what others have saved in comparison. By the way, that amount of money would cover 12 months of health costs for the province. That's it.

Granted, we could have used the royalty money for infrastructure and massive development instead. But there isn't anything to show. Nothing. No impressive towers; no high speed rail; a faltering health and education system; crumbling infrastructure; no province-wide water management; no flood management; a trickle of arts funding; rural Alberta is still waiting for promised high speed internet; no electrical grid development; only a few new power plants; high fuel costs; no money for tunnels under new runways; a transit system mired in 1970s technology and design; the list goes on.

Oh wait - we have part of a ring road in Calgary. We also have part of a ring road in Edmonton. Impressive.

So my question is this - where is all the money going? The kind of economic cruising Alberta is doing should be sustainable with regular taxes, but it seems that all the oil and gas money is barely keeping us afloat. How is this possible? How does the rest of the country do it without all of those royalties? Edmonton and Calgary should look like the twin cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Or at least Abu Dhabi Jr. and Dubai Jr. Instead, we look like baby Ottawa and baby Houston. Colour me unimpressed.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Coming soon to a Disney Park near you

The sets will come in pairs and will include Dr. Bunsen Honeydew as R2-D2, Fozzy Bear as Chewbacca, and Gonzo as Darth Vader complete with his chicken Camilla as a Stormtrooper. Possibly available fall 2011.

WANT!

Beeker art

The ultimate mutation


X-Men meets the muppets.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Message to Shaw / Telus / other Canadian TV providers

The reality is that brick and mortar video rental stores are going out of business. Another reality is that services such as Netflix now make up a large part of the increased traffic on the internet lines you provide to us. As a consumer, I would suggest that there is an appropriate reaction to this new reality.

Just so we're clear, lowering the monthly cap on downloads by your customers is not the reaction we were looking for. Instead, since you also own the content providers, you might consider actually lowering prices for on-demand video content AND making ALL previously run programming available on-demand. That would be an appropriate and welcome reaction.

Loonie power

What people wiped their butts with before toilet paper was invented

Corn cobs; coconuts; seashells; the smooth edges of broken pottery jugs; seaweed; animal furs; sticks; snow; moss; hay; leaves; grass; sheep's wool; wood shavings; stone; fruit skins; lace; hemp; newspapers; magazines; sponges; the Sears catalogue

Friday, June 03, 2011

In case you didn't think you were getting hosed enough by the movie theatres

If you find yourself squinting at the theatre, it could be that rather than swap out the 3D lens when showing a 2D movie, they leave it in the projector. The result can be an almost 85% darker projection. To save time (and therefore money), some projectionists aren't swapping the lenses. It requires entering extra passwords to open the projector and some theatres leave the 3D lens in place.

If the movie is really really dark, look back toward the booth. If you see two beams of light coming out, one on top of the other, that's a Sony projector with the 3D lens.

Oh come on. It's not like you pay a lot to see movies in the theatre, eh?

Genki sudo


Great choreographed dance.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Shell easyPAY FAQ

When will easyPay be discontinued? 1 June 2011.

Why is easyPAY being discontinued? Because it works. Because you like it. You thought the only way we'd push your buttons was by wildly varying the price of gas. Nope. We enjoy annoying you on multiple levels.

Will Shell be replacing easyPAY with some other contact-less pay solution? Maybe. And by maybe we mean we're still thinking about it. And by we're still thinking about it we mean probably not. We are evaluating some exciting alternate pay options such as first-born sacrifice and spousal kidnapping. In the meantime, we would like to sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, but we're laughing way too hard for it to come out sincerely.

Can I still pay at the pump? Absolutely. It's never been easier. Just fumble for your wallet or purse, then insert and quickly remove your credit card. NOTE: If your card is about to expire in less than six months, be aware that the card may not be accepted. You can then insert your Air Miles card and quickly remove it to collect your reward miles. Air Miles aren't worth as much as they used to be, so don't be surprised if you need to buy 5 years' worth of gasoline products before you can fly to the next major city away from you. By the time you've finished swiping your two magnetic strip cards, you had better have quickly answered 'yes' to the displayed question 'Would you like a fill up?', or if it times out, you'll have to begin all over again.

What do I do with my easyPAY tag after 1 June 2011? Keep it. The built-in GPS tracking device is used by government intelligence officials to track your movements to make sure you're not a terrorist. In fact, that's always been the purpose of the tag all along. Using it to buy our gasoline products was just a front. Don't you dare try to throw it out. We know where you live.

People of kijiji:


Like seriously... WTF?

I see this ad for a man's watch listed at $350: "I have a brand new men's XXXXXX watch for sale. Regular price is $450.00. I can email a picture of the watch if interested."

Oh wait! I have a far-out idea. Why don't you just place a picture of the watch IN THE AD? Because I'm not even going to bother emailing you for a picture. Am I being picky? OK, have it your way. The next time Future shop sends out a flyer, let's see how you react when they don't include any pictures and say "We can email a picture of the [insert computer / cell phone / appliance / DVD here] if interested."

I'm sorry. I'm being ridiculous. I've had an annoying day and I shouldn't take it out on you. Maybe there's a good reason for the missing picture. Maybe your camera batteries are running low and you're poor and trying to conserve battery power. Maybe you can only recharge your camera batteries with solar power and it's too cloudy. Maybe you have a phobia of cameras and need to ask your sister to come over to take pictures and you don't want to be a bother. Oh, I almost forgot. Maybe the watch is stolen and a picture might tip off the police or the real owner of the watch.

Can you at least include a model number so we can Google our own image of the damned thing? Geez.... Good luck selling your watch.......