Saturday, June 30, 2012

The new cinematic reality - DRM?

Here is a compelling article about how cinemas that have gone 'digital', and there are a lot of them, risk leaving customers wanting when things don't go perfectly smooth. What's to blame? Another case of DRM.

Here's a taste:

"Unlike 35mm film prints that are tangible, come on spools, and run through a mechanical projector, DCPs are files that are ingested into the digital projector which is in many ways simply a very high-tech computer system. Because the physical file is ingested into a projector it can – if the cinema has enough space on its server – be kept there indefinitely and so, having created this situation themselves, the studios and distributors lock the files so that they can only be screened at the times scheduled, booked and paid for by the cinema. This means each DCP comes with what is called a KDM (Key Delivery Message). The KDM unlocks the content of the file and allows the cinema to play the film. It is time sensitive and often is only valid from around 10 minutes prior to the screening time and expiring as close to 5 minutes after the scheduled time. Aside from the obvious fact that this means screenings really do need to run according to scheduled time, it is also means the projectionist can’t test to see if the KDM works or that the quality of the film is right before show time. This isn’t always a problem. But when it is…"

Tongue tied

Finally, we have a new Simon's Cat video.

Simon meets a frog.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Are you ready for a rant?

We have a problem in Canada. I suppose it has always existed in Canadian politics, but I'm guessing that a highly polarized electorate is exacerbating the issue.  What am I talking about?  The recent slate of bills this government has put on the table has brought something to light.

The way our current government works is based on the assumption that if you support a party, you support everything that party stands for.  In reality, that's just not true.  One can be a conservative, but still care about the environment.  One can be a socialist, but not necessarily support unions.  One can be a liberal, but take a firm stance against massive waste in social programs.  The Canadian budget bill (C-38) that was just steamrolled through parliament is a good example.  It has come to light that there are many conservative members of parliament who do not support the environmental aspects of the budget bill.  So even from a purely party line standpoint there is no perfect unity on this topic.  But then one has to consider the electorate has a whole, across the country.  If roughly 40% of the people who voted are conservative supporters, what percentage of those supporters are in agreement with what the current government is doing to environmental law?  Let's pretend that 25% of those people do not agree with the current direction.  I think it's safe to say that there are more conservative supporters against the new environmental stance than there are liberal or socialist supporters that are for the new environmental stance.  If you accept that assumption, then there are definitely a lot more people against this new direction than are for it.

I think this is basically what's wrong with the way our government works.  As soon as you elect a party into power, especially if you give them a majority, you're stuck with whatever political direction they want to take the country.  Whether you support the government, or not.  If my memory serves correctly, at least in past governments that served decades ago, the ruling party was usually willing to listen to the opposition, who in many cases represented more people nation-wide than the ruling party.  They embraced a concept known as compromise.  That concept doesn't seem to exist anymore.  What's even more unfortunate, is that there doesn't seem to be anything we can do about it.  At least not until the next election.  The amendments that were offered by the other parties to try and make the budget bill better were all voted against by the ruling party.  The only thing the ruling party could say was that the other parties were grandstanding.  Even while real Canadians were commenting on blogs and news web sites that they had a real problem with many of the things contained in this budget bill, the ruling party chose to ignore those concerns.  So even though the offering of amendments was a futile gesture, it was in effect a protest against the government that wants to finish its mandate with its fingers stuck in its ears.

This is one of the reasons why I've always been a fan of minority government's situations.  At least in a minority government, the ruling party is held to account for everything it tries to do.  They are forced to acknowledge the opposition's concerns and arrive at compromises that everyone can agree on.  I believe that this is a much better way to run a government.  And it has a lot in common with more representative government systems.  The major flaw in a minority government is its instability.  If the ruling party doesn't come to an agreement with the opposition, they can lose a non-confidence vote, which results in another election.  There is no other option.  If this flaw could be fixed, minority government's could become the best governments.

There has to be something better than what we have now.  Because what we have now is a majority government that only seems happy to quash dissent or any type of criticism.  A majority government that has its mind set on a very specific direction with no real interest in discussing anything or agreeing to any kind of compromise.  Now, as soon as I say this, conservative supporters will always say things like "yeah but what about the Liberals".  My response is always the same.  Never mind what past governments have done and stop using them as an excuse for you to continue that pattern.  This government promised to be different.  They promised to be transparent, accountable and honest.  Maybe I have blinders on, but I'm not seeing any evidence to support the idea that this government is any different than what has come before.  In fact, it seems that they are worse.

The final "Search Engine" with Jesse Brown

The last podcast for the Jesse Brown hosted show "Search Engine" is a great one, as it interviews Cory Doctorow and talks about some of the most important issues facing technology and the internet today and in the near future.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Not enough hours in a day

So the amount of blogging that will be going on over the next few weeks will lessen. For one thing, it's summer godammit! For another, a really awesome sci-fi book just came out and it's motivated me to get it on my iPad Kindle app so I could read it.

What book? Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312. I'm a huge fan of his after reading the Mars trilogy books so I'm rather excited to get back to my reading ways.

So between that and all the other things I have planned over the next couple of months, I'm running out of minutes to devote to the blog. Posts won't stop, but they will trail off a tad.

Just so you know.

Describing something normal so that it sounds weird - take two

I have a collection of things one uses to stop your possessions from getting wet. Sometimes they're made of rock or metal or ceramic or some kind of wood product. They can be square or round. They're most often decorative and stylish and it's really annoying when visitors to your house choose not to use them. My grand-daughter uses ours as building blocks.

I'm speaking of course about coasters.

The bullshit tour

Man, I love Ze Frank. After watching this episode of A Show with Ze Frank (Chase that Happy), I'm looking forward to playing the bullshit tour. As Ze describes it, "You take someone on a tour of wherever you are and you have to start every line with the word interestingly."

"Interestingly, this flower can only be pollinated by the human finger..."

"Interestingly, Moses had a twin brother named Boses, and when he was put into the river, he was put in one of these... and it didn't turn out so well."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Used bandaids

It seems gross, but I bet kids would love 'em.

Cinnamon graham crackers with some frosting for the pads and a little red jelly or jam in the midle for the blood.

First aid never tasted so good!

A little blow

Penn is really miffed about marijuana laws, especially since he points out that had Obama been busted for his casual marijuana use, he would have done hard time and never gotten to go to that fancy school, or become President.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Coming to iOS 6 later this year

  • A 'do not disturb' feature that will temporarily stop notifications from lighting the screen or buzzing while you sleep. I could have used this feature while I was in San Diego.
  • Facetime over 3G.
  • When you get an incoming call, you have the option to set a reminder to call that person back if you're busy. You can also send him or her a pre-written text.
  • Built-in Facebook integration. Although, you may not like just how much the Facebook integration will do: Sync your FB friends with Contacts; Sync your FB events with Calendar. Not too keen on that.
  • Improvements to Siri. Hopefully that also means it will work better in Canada. My sources say it will - time will tell. Certain car companies will be making Siri (on your phone) available via a button on the steering wheel.
  • New maps app. Apple is ditching its partnership with Google Maps. All I can say is that Canada maps better be good or there will be some serious letter writing to Apple. I've already heard that there will be no transit directions built-in. That makes it less usable than Google Maps already.
  • Passbook will be a one-stop app that stores your gift cards, airplane passes, and even concert or sporting event tickets. Ditto with the Canadian support.

Borg ski mask

How awesome is that?


A stranger just threw their dog poop in your back alley garbage can.


While our neighbour was operating a garage sale with us on Saturday, a woman from the neighbourhood walked past us with her dog. She walked right up to our neighbour's garbage can in their rear driveway (off the alleyway) and disposed of a bag of fresh dog poo into their can. Right in front of us.

Our neighbour said, "Excuse me, do you mind not throwing your dog poop in our garbage?" The woman got defensive immediately and said "We just can't do anything right!" Our neighbour stood her ground and insisted that she was sick and tired of people throwing their dog poop in their garbage and that it stinks very badly. "Why should I have to smell your dog's poop?" The other woman did not understand her position at all and started yelling "Take a pill lady!" She did retrieve her bag of poo and just went down the alley in the opposite direction and threw the bag into another home's garbage can, making a big deal about it along the way, like she was showing us who is boss. She then walked back and down the street whining and complaining about being called out for her deed.


Saturday, June 23, 2012


How Apple uses controlled corrosion to build tough Macbooks, iPads and iPods.

Isn't science fun?

Things I learned this week 23 Jun

  • 72 hours' worth of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • Cigarettes are the most shoplifted item in America according to the NRF.
  • Mobil Oil alone makes $4.5 million per hour in profit. 
  • Iceland considered most peaceful country in the world. Canada came 4th.
  • 1 in 224 every homes in Atlanta Georgia received a foreclosure filing just in May 2012. There are 9677 properties with foreclosure filings.
  • Once homeless people who are doing OK now: Halle Berry; Jim Carrey; Jewel.
  • According to a study by UBC in Vancouver, how cool you are (in Canada) is dependant on socially desirable attributes such as charisma, kindness and concern for others.
  • M&M stands for Mars and Murrie.
  • Cell phone data traffic (globally) only made up 1% of total internet data in 2009. Now it makes up 10%. In India, it's at 50%.
  • Bread bag tags make great cord labels.
  • After the first 2 years of sales, while the iPhone sold around 20,000,000 phones, the iPad is already at almost 70,000,000 tablets in its first 2 years of sales.
  • More US teens smoke weed than smoke cigarettes now. Mostly because cigarette smoking has decreased.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Norway changes prisoners instead of punishing them

I was reading an article about the Bastoy Island prison in Norway and it goes against everything we do in North American society to deal with prisoners. It's like a resort in a way, not like a prison at all. Norway is famous for its liberal prison system and Bastoy Island is unlike any prison you've seen.

It's about an hour away from Oslo on a scenic island accessible by ferry, which is manned by inmates as well as civilians. The island has beaches where inmates sunbathe during the summer, fishing spots, tennis courts and a nice sauna. The approximately 115 prisoners live in nice wooden cottages and they can come and go as they please. They get up, make their own breakfast and then go off to work, mostly in agricultural-type jobs or tending horses. They check in with the guards several times a day to make sure they're safe. They are fed supper by prison staff. The guards are unarmed and interact with the prisoners like peers. The men here have been convicted of serious crimes, ranging from drug trafficking to rape and murder.

The idea of Bastoy Prison is to change the prisoners, not punish them. According to statistics, only 16% of criminals from Bastoy re-offend within two years of being released. In comparison, the three-year re-offense rate for US prisons has been 43%, according to a 2011 study, with older ones indicating over 50%.

There are no walls or fences preventing the inmates from leaving and the mainland is not far. All the inmates agree it would be extremely easy to get away, but most stay because if they escape and get caught, they are transferred to a maximum security prison with extended sentences. The prison warden even tells new inmates to find a phone on the mainland and call, should they escape, “so we don’t have to send the coast guard looking for you.”

The philosophy is not to punish criminals, but to make them want to become better people and truly re-integrate them back into society. Norway also has one of the lowest incarceration rates in Europe and the lowest murder rate in the world.

Where is it? Episode 71

Hey bloggites! Remember this little game? It's back. For now.

For those of you joining us lately, all you have to do is tell me (in the comments) where this is. Easy peasy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 word movie review - The Extraordinary adventure of Adele Blanc-Sec

Pterodactyls and living mummies in 1912 Paris France.

Situation normal.

He's such a poser.....

Darlene and I seem to have inadvertently created a new game at our house. We take turns posing our little Grover that we bought for Olivia in various poses and in various places.

The idea is to make the other person laugh when they see it. It's fun.

Describing something normal so that it sounds weird - take one

There's a part of my body that I cut off almost every week when it gets too long. If I don't cut it off, I find it easy to injure myself and it interferes with my manual dexterity. If this part grows back wrong, it can be hard to walk. There are some people who let this part grow long and they'll even paint it different colours, sometimes adorn it with art. My wife cuts this part off regularly, but she habitually leaves pieces of it on the floor where I inadvertently step on it. I'm talking of course about finger and toe nails.

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's only $5 too....

People are always looking for great places to hide keys to their house just-in-case.

So I think this little number is pretty cool.

It's a fake sprinkler head that you just step into the ground.

How to open a beer.... with anything

Very funny video clip.

Jagermeister logo deconstructed

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Are you sure?

Best real estate sign ever.

This was from a house in New Brunswick, Canada.

At Transformation

I was recently informed that I had to watch this new Tragically Hip video because there are a few seconds of old-timey video from Darlene's family. Specifically, the guy at the end of the video with the girl and on the couch is my brother-in-law John. And the baby in front of the TV is my other brother-in-law's son Christian.

Cool huh? John is friends with the video director, that's how that came together.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Another talking point debunked

Climate change deniers will spout off arguments like, "volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans do".

Nice sound clip, but it's just not true. According to the US Geological Survey, globally, volcanoes on land and under the sea release a total of about 200 million tonnes of CO2 annually. This seems like a huge amount of CO2, but the global fossil fuel CO2 emissions for 2003 tipped the scales at 26.8 billion tonnes. So not only does volcanic CO2 not dwarf that of human activity, it actually comprises less than 1% of that value.

Impromptu in-flight entertainment

What do you get when Toronto's only Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Punk-Super-Band gets stuck on a delayed Air Canada flight? You get an impromptu performance, that's what. Behold, Canada's own Lemon Bucket Orkestra.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's all about monospaced type

Nothing gets a couple of geeks worked up more than a discussion about stuff like how many spaces there should be after every sentence. There's a group of fanatics who insist it should be two spaces and there's the reasonable camp, of which I am a member, who agree that one space is enough. The following article explains why the two space rule came to be and also why it is incorrect to continue using that rule.

Tuition submission

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pub dog

A cute video short about a dog in a pub.

We be friends!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Batwayne here......

"State vengeance as a penal philosophy"

Excerpt from Pierre Trudeau's speech to Parliament before voting on abolishing capital punishment in Canada.

"Are we, as a society, so lacking in respect for ourselves, so lacking in hope for human betterment, so socially bankrupt that we are ready to accept state vengeance as our penal philosophy?

Individuals who strike back at the murderer of a loved one and kill him in a frenzy of passionate grief have sometimes been excused by the courts because they were thought to have temporarily lost control of their reason. I have received letters from the parents of relatives of victims demanding the death penalty for the murderer, and have been deeply sympathetic to the suffering of those who have suffered such a tragic and cruel loss of a loved one. But the state cannot claim the excuse of blind grief or unreasoning passion when long after the provocative act, and after calm and deliberate consideration, it kills a man.

My primary concern here is not compassion for the murderer. My concern is for the society which adopts vengeance as an acceptable motive for its collective behaviour. If we make that choice, we will snuff out some of that boundless hope and confidence in ourselves and other people, which has marked our maturing as a free people. We will have chosen violence as a weapon against the violence we profess to abhor. Who is so confident that he knows for sure that such an official endorsement of violence will not harden the society we were elected to improve, will not pervade gradually many different relationships in our society? Who is so confident that he knows for sure that acceptance of state violence will not lead to the greater social acceptance of lesser forms of violence among our people?"

Read the entire speech here.

The practical lexicon - episode 8a

In this podcast episode, Bernie and I talk about our pet peeves regarding the iPhone.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Transforming how we use energy - Part 4

I listened to a very educational talk by Maggie Koerth-Baker about our energy future. She wrote a book: "Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before it Conquers Us". It was a great talk and I took the liberty of distilling more of the salient points. This is the final part - part 4.

"There was an idea to create biofuels on a regional basis using things that were grown in rural Minnesota. Not ethanol, what we would call cellulosic ethanol. It's not being made out of corn. It would be made out of things like perennial prairie grasses. The way we grow corn in today is not very good for soil and water quality. All of those things are important to having a future for farming. There's a rest stop in Iowa where you can see a visual representation of how much topsoil has been lost since the beginning of corn farming. It's something like eight vertical inches of Iowa have blown away. The Madelia model was really about trying to find a way for people to get paid for growing things that improved the soil, which would be things like perennial prairie grasses that produce these networks of roots underground. They nourish the soil rather than taking nutrients away. They can help clean water before it flows into estuaries into creeks. If farmers plant these prairie grasses on land that's doing poorly or on the borders around their farmland or against creeks and rivers, they can harvest and sell that the same way that they sell their corn. One of the things that they have had gone into play last fall was a project with the University of Minnesota that is based on this portable system called a microwave pyrolysis system. It basically starts with microwaves, which are just like a microwave oven only a little bit larger. You can toss in everything from corncobs to prairies grasses to any organic material into this thing. It heats it up to the point that it starts to release gas from it. Then you can get that gas and use that as synthetic natural gas. This little machine produces both a liquid, which is condensed out of the gas, and enough gas to run itself. You can take this from farm to farm and have people producing the equivalent of their own heating oil out of this stuff that they've grown on their own land.

We are out of good places to build giant hydroelectric dams in the US. So what we need to do is start building hydroelectric power at a smaller scale than we do today. Something that can serve thousands or hundreds of homes instead of millions of homes. Those are done with different technology. Instead of flooding out a valley and building a dam, you have a cut in the river where part of the river will flow through the power plant and then back into the river again. It's cheaper to build, better for the environment, displaces fewer people. This is a big deal in states like Kansas, that has never had a place to build a giant hydroelectric dam. I think Kansas right now produces enough hydroelectricity every year for about 800 homes. But if you captured all the potential from that smaller scale hydroelectric, Kansas could be producing clean power for 300,000 homes. We make most of our electricity at these giant power plants that serve millions of homes and are really far from the people that use the electricity. Going to a more decentralized system or distributed system is really about producing power closer to the people that use it. It goes all the way down to somebody putting up a solar panel on their roof and producing electricity."

Things I learned this week 10 Jun

  • John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, has a Cambridge law degree. He never practised.
  • The Canadian government has a new trick up their sleeve - pass controversial new laws with clauses that make it possible to make further changes without anymore Parliamentary consultation.
  • Taco Bell failed as a franchise twice in Mexico, the second time even trying to bill itself as authentic American food.
  • Wendy's founder Dave Thomas invented the KFC paper chicken bucket.
  • In Australia because of a copyright conflict, Burger King is called Hungry Jack's.
  • British actor Sir Christopher Lee celebrated his 90th birthday on May 27th. He's still working.
  • The Solar Impulse plane completed a 19 hour flight from Madrid to Morocco on 5 Jun 2012, completing the world's first intercontinental flight powered only by the sun.
  • It's probably not a good time to buy a computer right now - Mac or PC, because big improvements are in store by year end.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Hint hint....

Transforming how we use energy - Part 3

I listened to a very educational talk by Maggie Koerth-Baker about our energy future. She wrote a book: "Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before it Conquers Us". It was a great talk and I took the liberty of distilling more of the salient points. This is part 3.

"Carbon capture and storage - you capture CO2 off of the smokestack and you compress it until it turns into a liquid. Then you pump it into a hole in the ground. It's less crazy than it sounds. They pick the holes based on the geology underneath them. In Alabama, there are coal bed seams that are buried deep underground and it's not where it would be easy to mine. These seams are trapping natural gas with the coal. When they pump the CO2 down, it's more attracted to the coal than the methane is and it takes the methane's place. The methane comes out and they're able to use it. They couldn't get to it before. The CO2 ends up locked to the coal the same way that natural gas has been locked to it for millions of years down there. But we get the natural gas to use. At another site in Illinois, they're working with porous sandstone that you would have the CO2 flow into. You keep it down there for a couple of hundred years and after that point it starts to turn into rock - it turns into more of this porous rock.

If you would have asked me two or three years ago what I thought about something like cap and trade or carbon tax, I wouldn't have thought it was worth the trouble. One of the conclusions I came to over the years was that some price on carbon is going to be necessary. I don't know necessarily the best way to do that. If you think about it, what we pay for fossil fuels is an artificial price. It's based on simple supply and demand. It doesn't take into account how valuable those fuels are to us. These are some of the most powerful fuels we've ever discovered on Earth. There's limited supplies. Maybe we should be thinking more about how we use them. When you start trying to make decisions about energy, it's not intuitive. Things that you think are good are not, and things that you think aren't good are. If you just had the amount of fossil fuels used for that product embedded in the cost of the product, the only decision you have to make is, which is cheaper? That's easier.

We need to start taking what I would say is a more healthy relationship with technology, to where we start thinking about everything we do, because even not doing anything has unintended consequences. Some of those unintended consequences are going to be things we don't like. But we are better off if we look at and choose our options, rather than just letting things happen to us. We're better off doing something. Better is better. Even if it's not perfect, any incremental movement towards better is a good thing."

Friday, June 08, 2012

"Mom, Dad........"

Nice ad by Chevy to support Motor City Pride.

Vertical video syndrome

We need to stop it now before it gets out of hand.

Very funny video from one of my favourite teams - Glove and Boots.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

New EI rules

One of the changes to the EI rules being introduced by our government:

"In most cases, people on EI would be required to accept a job within an hour's drive of their home, if it paid within 70 per cent of their previous job."

Yeah. That's going to be helpful to people without a car.........

Uses for Team Viewer

When I used to remote into my clients' computers from my home in order to diagnose or fix or tutor, I used CrossLoop. A decent product to be sure. Free too. Then one of my colleagues at work introduced me to Team Viewer. It's what they had been using for remote desktop assistance. I thought - 'yeah, so what?' and it turns out that Team Viewer has some abilities that CrossLoop does not.

Besides remote desktop assistance, Team Viewer can also be used for delivering webinars. This works especially well when the audio portion is being delivered via phone conference bridge. Today I discovered another use. I'm tutoring a client at my home on Windows 7, but I don't have a projector and it's difficult for both of us to sit close to the one monitor (and share the mouse and keyboard). But by loading Team Viewer up on my Macbook (yes, I did say Macbook), I can have an exact copy of my Windows desktop running on my Macbook and either take control of that PC or let my student drive and we both get to see what's going on.

Now that's cool.

Get your own professional QR code

Vizibility (beta) lets you create an account, add personal information such as your contact info, work and skills data, links to LinkedIn, your blog(s), Twitter etc., then create a QR code to attach to your resume or business card. Anyone with a phone that can scan QR codes just scans your code and your profile on Vizibility opens on their phone, formatted for mobile viewing.

Try it out!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Gervais + Elmo = Bloopers

Some fun video of Ricky Gervais and Sesame Street's Elmo cracking wise.

Transforming how we use energy - Part 2

I listened to a very educational talk by Maggie Koerth-Baker about our energy future. She wrote a book: "Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before it Conquers Us". It was a great talk and I took the liberty of distilling more of the salient points. This is part 2.

"Shared systems, like our transportation infrastructure and the infrastructure of how your house is built, all end up influencing how you use energy and the decisions that we make. The average American uses twice as much energy as the average European, but it's got nothing to do with Europeans being better than we are or more moral. It's because their infrastructures are set up in a way that it's easier for them to make these choices, often without having to think about it. The example I use is that I live in Minneapolis. I live right near a bus line that takes me anywhere in the city. Between that and a great bicycle infrastructure, my husband and I get away with only having one car between the two of us. But if I went down to Kansas City, they don't have a bus system like mine. They don't have that transportation oriented bicycle path system. So if I said, "You should just own one car and you should drive less," I'm telling them, "You can't access your job very easily. You can't get to the services you need and want. You can't participate in your community in the way that you want to participate." That's not fair.

The electric infrastructure is not a perfect system. It evolved, rather than was designed, pieced together from this little patchwork of individual grids that weren't connected to each other in some cases until the 1970s. We haven't had a national grid system for very long. All of these grids came together with priorities of being built quickly and being built cheaply, with the priority of being the best system it could be or to plan for the future. A system that evolved to be used with coal, natural gas, nuclear power and hydroelectric power, all of which to varying degrees can be controlled. Wind and solar are different. You can't ask that wind farm to make more electricity. The grid is not a stable system. There is no storage. We have to balance supply and demand, perfectly every minute of every day, forever, and all manually. If we have too much wind and no demand for it, we can't do anything with it.

There are ways to store energy that don't involve building giant batteries. One of those things is called pumped hydro. You build a couple of reservoirs at different elevations. At night, when electricity is really cheap because there's not much demand for it, you use electricity to pump water up from the lower one to the higher one. The next day when demand is rising, you run that water down the hill and create electricity. One of the fun things about wind is that in a lot of places where we get most of wind from in the US, wind blows more at night than it does during the day, but electricity demand is lowest at night than at any other time. Another thing is called compressed air energy storage. At night you use the wind turbines to generate electricity that powers an air compressor, which fills porous rock underground with compressed air. The next day when wind demand rises, you basically just run the system backwards and let that compressed air out, which runs a generator."

Monday, June 04, 2012

We found our dad

So... uh.... nothing much happening lately. Just a little development. My sister found our dad and paid him a surprise visit (very very very long story).

So.... you know..... no big deal. So that's my sister on the left and my dad on the right. We haven't seen him in something like 20 years. I still haven't seen him. (He's in Montreal)

This bodes well for a possible reunion in the fall. Watch this space.

Transforming how we use energy - Part 1

I listened to a very educational online talk by Maggie Koerth-Baker about our energy future. She wrote a book: Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before it Conquers Us. It was a great talk and I took the liberty of distilling some of the salient points. This will be presented in 4 parts....

"We use more energy to produce electricity in the US than we do for anything else, including transportation. But transportation becomes our focus, because that's what we have an intimate relationship with. I go to the gas station and I might spill gas on my shoes - but electricity is just these magical elves that live in your wall and you just expect it and you don't think about it.

66% of the energy used to produce electricity never becomes usable. That's because of the way that the machines that produce electricity work. Some of that energy turns into electricity, but some gets lost to waste heat and dissipates into the buildings where the generators are and never gets used. Sometimes you can capture that in systems called combined heat and power. They are often used at universities, where they will produce electricity but also at the same time capture that heat and use it to heat up buildings.

At Colorado State University, they're testing out new generators that are way more efficient than have ever been used before. But it's one of those things that happens slowly because these are all really expensive systems. You don't just replace one as soon as the newest thing comes out, like an iPhone. You wait for it to die before you spend the money on a new one."

Shuffle - the movie

Shuffle is the story of a man who begins experiencing his life out of order; every day he wakes up at a different age, in a different year, on a different day of his life.

It looks like it could be good.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Things I learned this week 3 Jun

  • You can stuff sausage casings with cupcake batter. Bake the stuffed casings at 325 F and only fill them halfway.
  • A successful brain-gate interface allows tetra plegics the ability to control a robot arm with their mind.
  • 2012 is the 250th anniversary of the sandwich.
  • These restaurant names exist for real (yes, they're all in Asia): Happy Crack; Come & Wait; Restoran Fatso; Meat Patty Explode Stomach; Smart Noshery makes You Slobber; Herpes Pizza; Watery Coffee; Little Drooling Bear; Smell.
  • 66% of the energy used to produce electricity is lost to waste or inefficiencies.
  • James Doohan (Scotty) finally made it into space (aboard Space-X Falcon rocket that brought the Dragon capsule to the ISS). 
  • Bakelite, one of the first synthetic plastics, was invented in 1907 to replace the beetle excretion called shellac (It took 16,000 beetles six months to make a pound of shellac). It was used to make radios, telephones, ashtrays, and a thousand other things.
  • MIT engineers have essentially invented the hypospray (a-la Star Trek), a means of injecting drugs into the body without a needle.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Dell Voice

Until Canadian cell phone service providers get off their collective asses and offer free long distance across North America to their customers, at least we have products like Dell Voice.

If you've ever heard of, you'll understand how Dell Voice works. First of all, it's an app that you load onto your cell phone. Then, you register to get your free phone number in any part of Canada that you want. In other words, you can apply for a free phone number in any area code in Canada, not just the one you live in. This has an added benefit, because if you get let's say an Ottawa number, not only can you call just about anywhere in Canada for free, but all of your Ottawa friends and family can call you as a local number, even if you're somewhere else.

Once you have your number, you have to use it at least every 90 days, or you lose the number and have to get another one assigned to your account. To use your number, you just open the Dell Voice app and place a call to almost anywhere in Canada. Your call runs as a voice-over-IP (VoIP) call over your 3G network (using data) or over a wi-fi connection if you have one available. This means no long distance, but for now, it only works in Canada (for free). Dell Voice also offers low cost international calls.

Features include free Voicemail, free Caller ID, free Call Waiting, background incoming call notification, syncs with your existing contact list, Touch Tone Dial Pad, Contact Details Screen, Add Contact, Search Contact List, Call Logging, Mute, Hold, Speaker Phone, Recent Calls, Missed Calls and much more.

The only drawback to this app is that in order to receive calls, the app has to be running on your phone. The good news is that if you get a call on your Dell Voice VoIP phone number, but you miss it, or the app is off, it goes to voicemail. So aside from being able to make phone calls for free across this country, you can also let friends call you on this number that are in the same area code when you are away. So if I'm in San Diego for example, because I have a 403 number, all my Calgary friends can call my phone (as long as the app is on and I'm connected to wi-fi - I don't use data roaming - it's expensive).

How to save tons of paper towel

Two magic words - shake and fold.

Trust me.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Small green grammar

New Canadian copyright tarrifs! God help us all....

The Copyright Board of Canada has certified new tariffs that apply to recorded music used at live events. A not-for-profit group called Re:Sound will collect fees on behalf of the record labels and performers who contributed to the music.

For weddings, receptions, conventions, assemblies and fashion shows, the fee is $9.25 per day if fewer than 100 people are present, up to $39.33 for crowds of more than 500. If there's dancing the fees double! Does toe tapping count? How about waving to and fro? Is a party at my house considered an 'assembly'?

Karaoke bars will pay between $86 and $124 annually depending on how many days per week they permit the amateur crooning. So just singing music in a bar costs the bar money.

Parades will be charged $4.39 per float with recorded music playing, subject to a minimum fee of $32.55 per day. You want to put on a free fireworks display accompanied by recorded music? That'll cost you $61.85. Going to play music in the park for the general good of the people. That'll be $16.28 a day to a maximum of $111.47 per 3 month period.

They're supposedly going with the honour system for payment and it is said that agents will be randomly going around the country to look for infringers. I'm totally serious. Did our Conservative government agree to this?

I wonder how long it will take for these crooks to come after buskers who perform music. I wonder how this applies to sporting events. Are they already paying a fee for all those song clips they play? If I get up and dance in the stands, did I just double what they owe?

P.S.: I may have used a copyright photo in this post and you know what? I just don't freaking care anymore. See if I buy another music CD ever again (put out by a label).