Thursday, May 30, 2013

The normal people

Darlene says to me yesterday: 'It's nice to see normal women here.' I asked her to explain. She said that in California, most of the women she saw working in stores looked like they had gotten 'work' done and were overly 'coiffed'. Plastic. Fake. She was happy to be back in a place where people looked normal. And by normal, I think she meant 'natural'.

San Diego - trip #4

So, we're back from our 4th trip to San Diego. We weren't even supposed to go there this time, but after looking at other destinations nowhere near the ocean, I asked Darlene, "Why would I want to pay that much and not even get the sound of the surf thrown in?"

So it was back to San Diego. Same place - Tower 23 in Pacific Beach (PB). Why wreck a good thing? I had to rent a car from the airport this time, which pretty much doubled the cost of renting the car for 6 days. I had no choice this time, as we were leaving on a Sunday and the local PB car rental office isn't open on Sundays. Getting the car was interesting. Even though I was in a rental office with live people, they had me arrange my car through a video conference terminal. That was a first for me. He tried to talk me up to a bigger car, but I resisted.

We got the room we asked for, which is facing the beach and far enough from the sky deck and restaurant to be quiet at bed time. If you took the time to look at the pics on Facebook, you can see that our view was spectacular. The sound of the surf is very loud, that's how close we were to the ocean. I was always the first to wake up in the morning, so I always went downstairs, grabbed a (free) coffee in the lobby, and headed to the beach-side walkway for a pleasant solo walk or sat by the ocean. At night, we always spent a significant amount of time taking in the surf and the surfers and the sunsets and..... [sigh]

Since we had already done the touristy things on previous visits (Zoo, Balboa park, Gaslight Quarter...), we had a lot of time to find a more leisurely pace this visit. A bit of shopping, a lot of great food, numerous trips up the coast, one as far as Newport Beach (where we stayed in 2005), with stops in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Del Mar and Encinitas. While in Oceanside, we saw the house from the movie Top Gun. It's all boarded up now. We also spotted a hotel right by the pier that we might try on a future visit. We also took another trip to Corononado Island to visit the big hotel, but this time, I took the long way around via Imperial Beach, which is like a mile from Mexico. That's the closest I've been to Mexico yet.

Darlene's favourite eateries were The Original Pancake House (we really need one of these in Calgary) and The Cheesecake Factory (ditto). My faves were The Cottage in La Jolla and Filippi's Pizza Grotto.

For the first time, we encountered real California traffic on the freeway. Most of the other visits to San Diego were fairly traffic-free. This time we had a grass fire related delay on I-5 in Camp Pendleton and experienced construction related traffic on I-805 in University City. It was very LA-ish.

Darlene says we won't be going back to San Diego for 5 years. The she modified that to 3 years. I think we'll be back in 2.

Stay tuned.

Bitter coffee

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Message to Morgan Freeman

What's taking so long to get a movie made based on Rendezvous with Rama?

Let's get on it..... Get that script.

She handled it well

A 6 year old girl's first flight. My experience sure wasn't like this.

I wonder how different my life would be if my first hadn't been so terrifying. I think I might have become a pilot. You have no idea how many hours I've put in on simulations.

Hershey's Kiss

Monday, May 27, 2013

Things I learned lately 27 May

  • Canipre, a Canadian company that helps the entertainment industry send legal threats to people alleged to have infringed copyright, has been caught using several infringing images on its own website. Included in the art that Canipre appropriated for commercial gain without permission is a Creative Commons licensed photo that they could have used legally simply by crediting the photographer. Canipre blames its web developer.
  • People are so engrossed in their smart-phone screen in the checkout line, they don't pay attention to the impulse-buy magazine rack anymore. This is killing the magazine industry.
  • Between 1837 and 1863 (in the US), a period known as the 'free banking era', anyone could open a bank and issue currency. Paper money was issued by states, cities, counties, private banks, railroads, stores, churches and people. By 1860, around 8000 different banks were circulating 'wildcat' bank notes. If a bank went broke, their currency became worthless.
  • What does Bill Gates like getting for his birthday? Books.
  • The cheapest thing that gives Bill Gates pleasure since becoming wealthy? Cheeseburgers.
  • If you tried to count all of the stars in the Milky Way at a rate of one per second, it would take you 3000 years.
  • People who are attracted to you (and are not already in a romantic relationship) will subconsciously mimic you. Conversely, to make people like you more, mimic them.
  • A fully loaded supertanker travelling at normal speed takes at least 20 minutes to stop.
  • 84% of parents believe their kids will confide in them if they are being cyber-bullied. Only 8% of kids actually do confide in their parents when being cyber-bullied.
  • Bombardier will be testing a new electric bus that charges using underground inductive pads at bus stops.
  • The Grand Canyon is now in Google Street-view. I'm talking about the foot paths, not just the roads. The views are..... spectacular.
  • Nobody has ever reportedly overdosed on marijuana.

Back from SAN

My aviation-aware readers will recognize that as the airport code for San Diego. I'll have much more to say soon, but for now, here is the link to my Facebook album of the pictures.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

White Noise takes a break

But only for a week. We're off to San Diego.

See you soon!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Things I learned lately 18 May

  • Jericho was the biggest city in the world in 7000BC with 2,000 citizens. In 200AD, Rome had 1,200,000 citizens, but that dropped to less than 500,000 by 273AD just prior to the fall of their civilization.
  • Hointer is changing the way you shop for clothes by using a robotic sales staff. You download an app, go to the showroom, and scan the QR codes of the clothing you'd like to try. The clothes are delivered automatically right to the fitting room, customers swipe their card on the tablet, and walk out.
  • Actual kids voiced the Peanuts characters on the TV shows. This was not something the suits at CBS liked.
  • Almost half of the world's chameleon species live on the island of Madagascar.
  • The price of gas in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is $0.13 / litre. 5 years ago, it was $0.16 / litre. That's right, it went DOWN.
  • In Maryland, the Prince George’s County Board of Education is proposing that the school system copyright all work created by students and teachers. That would mean that anything from a drawing to a lesson plan becomes the property of the school system, not the creator.
  • Berlin Ontario was renamed Kitchener Ontario during WWI.
  • Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is the only city name in the world that features two exclamation points.
  • The surface of the sun may only be 6000C, but the interior is 15,000,000C (we think).
  • Up until recently, it was technically illegal for women to wear pants outdoors in Paris. The exception was if the woman is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse. This law had been in effect since the French Revolution.
  • It was common in the 1940's and 1950's for women to have to resign from their jobs once they got married. IBM stopped doing that in 1951.
  • One of the things that sets Google apart in terms of what it can offer consumers as a service has been born in the form of Google Now. The idea is that Google Now can offer you tidbits of information about your day, your surroundings, your preferences, because it know a lot about you and what you look for already. I think this is the future of mobile computing. Predictive offerings of information, personally tailored to you. The days of having to search for things may be almost over.
  • Citi Bike in New York City will start out 27 May with 6000 bikes and 330 stations. Long term costs are: 0-45 mins = free; 45-75 mins = $2.50; 75-105 mins = $9; $9 for each 30 mins after that.

Butter versus margarine

Science explores the difference and begins the discussion of which is healthier for you.

I loves me some butter. It's natural.

Value for the Defense dollar

If I were Peter McKay, the Canadian Defense Minister, I would be pretty embarrassed right about now. We spent $200 million and all we basically got was a brochure on a possible future Arctic patrol vessel. For $100 million the Norwegian Navy gets two fully functional floated ships.

It's official - red wine - good for you

A natural ingredient found in red wine, resveratrol, found in the skin of grapes, combats diseases related to getting older, like type 2 diabetes, cancer or Alzheimer's. Specifically, resveratrol increases the activity of sirtuins, which makes mitochondria — the cell part that turns food into energy in our cells — more efficient.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Facebook advertising is brainwashing you

A lot of people don't click on Facebook ads. So how does Facebook advertising work?

Clicks don’t matter. But the ads you see on Facebook are working. Sponsored messages in your feed are changing your behaviour. They’re getting you to buy certain products instead of others, even if you think you’re ignoring the ads. Studies show that just seeing the ad will influence a future purchase, similar to way ads work on television. This is called "demand-generation," which plants ideas in your head for the future.

How Google Glass could revolutionize the way we do things

GPS directions right in your field of vision. First person video. Augmented reality - see information about your surroundings and current plans in real time based on what you're looking at. Fix or build something while a professional guides you in real time based on what you see. A surgeon can see your vitals while operating, or see an overlay of your organs to know where to cut, etc. Computerized tour guides based on what you see. Students could live stream lectures to those unable to attend. Law enforcement officers could identify criminals or people with outstanding warrants on sight. Businesses could stream targeted advertising and offers based on your vicinity and what you're looking at. Voice activated (if you want).

The future is so bright, you'll have to get the shades lens attachment for the Google Glass frames.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wealth inequality in US

How Americans think wealth is distributed, versus how they think it ought to be distributed, versus how it IS distributed.

Watch this to the end. Then ask yourself - how is this fair? I think this is greed made visual.

Canadian versus American real estate values over time

The pic kinda speaks for itself. We're out of control!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Things I learned lately 12 May

  • Mitt Romney told SVU grads that they should get married and have a quiver full of kids as soon as possible.
  • Young adults that just purchased clothing at a great price, make a creative and entertaining video talking about their purchases, which is then uploaded to YouTube or Facebook, etc. There are roughly 700,000 haul videos on YouTube, with 34,000 uploaded just over the past month. Some do this because they are really interested in clothes, others use 'hauling' to star in their own videos. For some, hauling has evolved into lucrative profession where they can make a six-figure income, because clothing companies start paying them to review their product.
  • Microsoft is working on Mohoro, a version of 'desktop-as-a-service' that will allow users of any device (even an iPad) to run Windows and Windows apps in a browser. This is nothing new of course. Google already has a web OS (Chrome) as does Firefox.
  • Ke$ha spends more on glitter per month than most people spend on their mortgages.
  • A pastor who ate at an Applebee's wrote on the check in the tip field '0' and added "I give God 10% why do you get 18". The waitress posted a pic of the check to The Consumerist website, and she was promptly fired by Applebee's.
  • An 11 year old Massachusetts boy who spray-painted graffiti on his neighbour's homes was ordered by a judge to get a job so he can pay the victim’s $1,000 restitution – and learn a life lesson at the same time.
  • There are over 100 species of living bacteria in the clouds 30,000 ft above us. They ride the water vapour to get up there.
  • Pacman was originally called Puckman, but the name was changed because the manufacturers were concerned about vandals changing the P to F on the game cabinets.
  • Between the time it was discovered and the time it was unclassified as a planet, Pluto didn't even get to complete one revolution around the sun.
  • Fly like an ego.... off American Idol. Mariah Carey, a judge on Idol (for now) has fired Randy Jackson as her manager and Randy Jackson has indicated that he won't be staying for another season. Likely nobody will be staying for another season. Now if only we could get Ryan Seacrest to jump ship and host The Voice. Yeah, I know. Not going to happen.
  • Colorado voted to legalize marijuana and tax and regulate it like any other substance. On 10 May 2013 the legislature passed a framework for cannabis production, distribution and sale. Colorado is set to make a lot of tax from this. There will be a 15% excise tax and an initial 10% tax on recreational pot sales. The money will fund the regulatory apparatus and also go toward Colorado schools. All marijuana stores will have to be licensed by the state and be owned by residents of Colorado.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


A woman has a Cadillac vehicle with GM’s OnStar system that provides emergency and roadside assistance with the push of a button inside the car, no cell phone needed. Unfortunately, she didn't subscribe to OnStar. Lately, she accidentally locked her purse and keys in the car. And her infant daughter. She managed to contact OnStar and asked them to help, just this once, because there was a baby in the car. They refused. It was a pure accident. She set the purse down in the car and closed the back door, when all four doors locked spontaneously.

[Update: since a commenter called me out for not telling the whole story, I link to the original here.]

I have a problem when car companies nickel and dime you to have to subscribe to a service in order to use a feature built-in to your car. If GM wanted to maintain great customer relationships, they should offer OnStar as a value-added bonus. For free. If they can't afford to do that, it should be built into the price of the vehicle. It makes no sense to have a safety feature that you can only use if you pay extra for it.

Imagine if your air bags only worked if you paid a yearly subscription fee......

"Am I free to go?"

US citizens lawfully exercising their rights against Immigration checkpoints that are nowhere near a US border.

To err is human.....

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Songs that are 40 years old this year (2013)

Alice Cooper - Hello hooray
Bob Marley - Stir it up
David Bowie - The jean genie
Elton John - Bennie and the jets / Daniel
Genesis - I know what I like
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free bird
Pink Floyd - Money
Marvin Gaye - Let's get it on
Mike Oldfield - Tubular bells
Paul McCartney - My love / Band on the run
Steely Dan - My old school
Stevie Wonder - Living for the city
ZZ Top - La grange
Fleetwood Mac - Hypnotized
Rolling Stones - Angie
Sweet - Ballroom blitz
Stories - Brother Louie
Doobie Brothers - China grove
Seals and Crofts - Diamond girl
Aerosmith - Dream on
Led Zeppelin - D'yer maker
Steve Miller - The joker
BTO - Let it ride
Paul Simon - Loves me like a rock
Billy Paul - Me and Mrs Jones
Wings - My love
Ian Thomas - Painted ladies
Allman Brothers - Ramblin' man
Joe Walsh - Rocky mountain way
Three Dog Night - Shambala
Golden Earring - Radar love

PING!! Tweet!

Have you ever wanted to see metrics of tweets in real time? Like a world war map of the twitterverse?

Wait until you see this.

The pic is a screen grab after just over 5000 world-wide tweets had been sensed (which took all of a minute and a half).

Modern times

How Elizabeth I and Shakespeare would look in modern times.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Things I learned lately 7 May

  • It turns out that a proton (found in the nucleus of atoms) is only 0.84087 femtometres across, not 0.8768 femtometres. I know, I'm shocked too. [a femtometre is a millionth of a billionth of a metre]
  • Under Canada's newly gutted environmental laws, anyone who wants to comment on the upcoming hearings on the new Enbridge oil pipeline must fill in a ten-page questionnaire and submit a CV.
  • The top 10 native countries that are the source of Canada's immigrants are the UK; China; India; Philippines; Italy; USA; Hong Kong; Germany; Poland; Vietnam.
  • The Chinese have built a fully functional cell phone with Bluetooth, mp3 player, OLED display and quad-band GSM for $12.Incredibly, it's actually worth less than $2. You can buy it at Shenzhen's Mingtong Digital Mall. 
  • In 1982, the median income for the bottom 99% of wage earners in Canada was $28,000 and the top 1% earned a median of $191,600. In 2010, the median income for the bottom 99% of wage earners in Canada was $28,400 and the top 1% earned a median of $283,400. 21% of the top 1% earners were women, up from 11% in 1982. Calgary is Canada's most unequal city in terms of earnings, as its top 1% earns 26X as much as the bottom 10%.
  • The percentage of Canadians who only watch TV content online (no cable TV) is now at 5%.
  • Netflix plans to release all 14 new episodes of Arrested Development at once (never mind all the other new content), because "It's the future of television. The days of 'managed dissatisfaction' are over."
  • The average Apple retail store generates $5600 per square foot. 
  • The world's largest mobile provider is China Mobile. It has almost 700 million subscribers and counting.
  • Corporate profit margins are higher than they've ever been before. That also means they're not investing in their employees and products as much. Wages as a percentage of the GDP just hit an all-time low. Lastly, the employment to population ratio has collapsed. These kinds of conditions typically result in social revolutions. Just sayin'.

Brian Eno on Nuclear energy

[Condensed from a lengthy letter from Brian Eno to Nassim Nicholas Taleb]

Indeed our geographical 'circle of empathy' grows decade on decade: a hundred years ago it would have been impossible to imagine millions of people raising hundreds of millions of pounds for tsunami victims on the other side of the world - people they didn't know and would almost certainly never meet. In terms of geography, we inhabit a much bigger picture than we used to, and we sense our interconnectedness within it.

In terms of time, however, the picture seems to be narrowing. Public attention is increasingly focused on very near futures: Businesses live in terror of the bottom line and the quarterly results, while politicians quake at tomorrow's opinion polls and formulate policy in terms of them. We've heard tales of farmers planting olive trees or vineyards for their grandchildren to harvest, or of foresters cultivating groves of oaks to replace a chapel roof hundreds of years in the future, but by and large, we don't do that anymore. We have less active engagement with our future than our ancestors did.

To illustrate this, think about nuclear power. Start with FUKUSHIMA, that dread word. As a result of over-excited media reporting ('great story!' I heard one journalist say) that single word has probably condemned nuclear power for another generation, when in fact the accident produced no radiation-related deaths (and it's doubtful that it will produce a discernible statistical blip in cancers in the future). In a conspiracy which seems almost dishonest, most Green groups failed to acknowledge this - it was too good as propaganda for them to let the facts get in the way - and of course the press never returned to the subject with any correctional follow-up. It became one of those little nuggets of received, and totally incorrect, wisdom: Nuclear=Fukushima=Catastrophe.

That received non-wisdom has persuaded Green Germany to begin decommissioning its nuclear reactors - which means more coal-fired plants. Japan too will probably turn back to coal. Coal is - even Greenpeace would agree - the worst option, though they'd claim that the gap can be filled by renewables. It can't, not now and probably not for decades. In the meantime - and it may be a long, mean time - we'll use coal. It's cheap and very, very dirty.

So the real catastrophe of Fukushima is in the future, waiting for us in the form of vastly increased atmospheric CO2.

The nuclear issue - which I've used as an example in this letter - is only one of many I could have chosen. The fact is, we're facing a lot of complex and interrelated problems which demand that we take positions now. To some extent, that position is going to have to be 'let's improvise' because there's a distinct limit to how well we can make predictions. The de facto nuclear storage arrangements currently in use in America are examples of 'let's improvise' and in this case seem to be a not-too-bad arrangement. But 'let's improvise' has its limitations: in fact it's sort of what got us where we are now, in a place that's both wondrous and problematic. We might need some other intellectual weapons in our arsenals, no matter how good we become at jamming.


Audi hired the two Spocks to play in one of their latest commercials.

It's cute. Thanks to my friend Bernie for the tip.

Release the quacken!!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Going from passive consumer to active creator

Maybe you've heard the term '3D Printing' but you don't know what all the hoopla is about. This video should get you up to speed in 7 minutes.

It's very exciting and it will change the world forever.

It's all about senescence

Fascinating video about how we age from Scishow.


Thursday, May 02, 2013

What a gorgeous way to display the weather

Have you seen the new Yahoo! weather app? It's beautiful. Much better than the default iPhone weather app, which gets its data from Yahoo!

The normal screen gives a neat, minimal summary of the current weather in the city of choice (you can load up multiple cities just as before). Scroll down and access just about anything you'd want to know, as seen in the second and third screens here.

More improv from Christopher Guest and friends

I feel the need to tell the world about a new HBO series starting 12 May, especially considering that it stars many of Christopher Guest's usual suspects and a few other familiar faces and is created in exactly the same improvisational way that Spinal Tap / Best in Show / A Mighty Wind / Waiting for Guffman was. It's called Family Tree. Check out the preview video Invitation to the Set here.

Seems legit