Monday, March 31, 2014

Roaming robbery

I present but one example of how much Canadians are getting hosed on US mobile roaming. Roam Mobility is a Canadian company, yet they offer a much better deal to Canadians travelling to the US than our own big 3 providers do.

Why would I pay $40 for 50 minutes of talk and 200MB of data and no long distance provided at all when I could pay $28 for a week of unlimited calling anywhere in the US and Canada, plus 2GB of data?


Really nice clip about people who live with constant wind.

Except during the shift change.

It helps with your movements

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Things I learned lately - 30 March

  • Cherpumplecake - a cherry pie, apple pie and pumpkin pie baked into a 3-layer cake. WANT!
  • The KFC Big Boss is basically like a Big Mac but with two fried chicken fillets instead of burgers. It's only available in Canada, which is rather odd, considering that 'big food' usually comes out first in the US.
  • A UK Subway employee was caught using the bread oven to dry their socks.
  • A new study found no evidence that saturated fats or high levels of circulating saturated fatty acids had any effect on cardiac disease. Nor did they find that omega-3 fatty acids protect against heart disease.
  • Starbucks will slowly be rolling out the barrel... I mean..... alcohol service, starting in the US. I'd say it's worth a shot....
  • French fighter jet manufacturer Dassault is offering to sell Canada their Rafale fighter jet and give us the technology transfer to build them in Canada as well.
  • The next Star Wars movie will take place 30 years after 'Return of the Jedi'.
  • "Wouldn't it be amazing if everyone's medical records were available anonymously to research doctors? Would save 100K lives/yr." ~Larry Page (Google)
  • Researchers in China have developed a tiny stick-on tag the size of a kernel of corn that changes colour to indicate the freshness of a product without having to open the container. The cost 0.2 cents each.
  • Rings have been discovered around an asteroid for the first time.
  • Pluto isn't a planet, it's a dwarf planet. But it isn't the only one. There's Eris; MakeMake; Haumea; Chaos; Sedna; Quaoar; Varuna; Orcus; Ixion; Rhadamanthus; Huya; Typhon; Deucalion; Logos; Ceto; Borasisi; Sila-Nunam; Teharonhiawako; Salacia; Altjira; and now 2012 VP113 (nicknamed Biden). Those are just the named ones.
  • In Silicon Valley, if you're presenting on PowerPoint, you're a dinosaur. Everyone uses Keynote (Apple).

Deep thoughts

Each of your eyes are composed of 130 million photo-receptor cells. In each one of those cells, there are 100 trillion atoms, each of which formed in the core of a star, billions of years ago. Yet, here they are today, being utilized to capture the energy released from that same process. The universe has an interesting sense of irony, in that you are the universe experiencing itself.

You are the universe given thought.

Can you blame them though?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Buy versus rent calculation

Use this calculation to determine if renting or buying is right for you.

Take the asking price of the home you are considering buying and divide it by the amount of rent you would have to pay annually to live in it (or a comparable home). The resulting number is the "housing ratio." The higher the ratio (more than 20), the more it makes sense to rent. The lower the ratio, the more it makes sense to own. A ratio well below 20 indicates buying is a more attractive option.

From the book: "The Smartest Money Book You’ll Ever Read."

'Hooped' is one of my faves

The geekmom blog did a survey to determine the familiarity of 55 Canadianisms. The results are..... fascinating.

image by jules sherred

Best container in the world

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


We have a new postie in our neighbourhood. This postie must be new to the job because they don't really know what they're doing.

Darlene and I have witnessed this person rifling through the letter-mail in their hands trying to figure out what goes where. Unlike other posties who at least act like they have a clue, this one keep walking back and forth down the street, stopping at various houses and making multiple trips to our home to deliver the mail. This person must not know that it's best to sort the mail before heading out to deliver.

This same person also seems to be driving the parcel delivery truck. We've had at least 5 cases of parcels getting delivered to someone else over the last year. Some of those parcels eventually did end up at our house, but only through the kindness of the other home's occupants. Who are handicapped and can't go out. So it's not even them who deliver the parcel to us, but a friend or relative. Some parcels never arrive at all.

We've complained to Canada Post. Each time. It accomplishes nothing. The Canada Post CSR is either shocked and dismayed or couldn't give a shit. I don't have any trouble believing that they lose money. Because they suck so badly. We may have to rent a post office box at the mall postal outlet just to ensure we get our mail. At least the posties who deliver to the mall have a clue and the outlet workers are available to give feedback to if your mail is missing.

I can only imagine what it's going to be like when we all go to community post boxes in our neighbourhoods. The post box rental idea is looking better every day.

The onion

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Things I learned lately - 23 March

  • An 18 year old (Morgan Baskin) is seriously running for Mayor in Toronto and she has some interesting ideas for how a city should be run.
  • A Fox TV affiliate in Oklahoma edited out a brief segment in the new show 'Cosmos' with Neil deGrasse Tyson. The segment had to do with evolution. Fox says it was a mistake.
  • The $26.7 billion of bonuses Wall Street banks paid out last year are enough to more than double the pay of every one of America's 1,085,000 full-time minimum wage workers.
  • $9.99 per month now gets you 1TB of online file storage (Google Drive). That used to cost $49.99.
  • 2 teaspoons of buckwheat honey outperforms cough suppressants with DM.
  • There may be a reservoir of water 400-600km below the surface of Earth that has as much water than all of the surface oceans combined.
  • While in Google Maps, type OK Maps and it will cache the map you're looking at for offline viewing.
  • In the US, it is illegal in many states (and more are making it illegal now) for a car company to sell its product directly to consumers. An independent dealer must be involved. This completely goes against the Tesla sales model. At least 86% of people polled said they were in favour of Tesla's direct sales model, yet dealership associations have convinced politicians not to allow direct sales.
  • A Tesla Model S owner figures that after a year of ownership, even factoring in the 85% efficiency, and vampire power (what the car uses while shut down), only used 7100kWh. That got him 2.1 miles /kWh. That gave him a 'fuel' cost of $820 or 5.3 cents per mile, which is still a quarter of what a comparable luxury gasoline sedan would cost.
  • “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22.” ~Chief of the U.S. Air Force, Air Command Command Gen. Michael Hostage
  • HP's PC sales are so bad, they've abandoned Windows 8 and are selling new PCs with Windows 7 instead.
  • According to details published in the Daily News, on the TV show The Voice, NBC has the right to portray a contestant in a false light, replace them as a participant in the series for any reason whatsoever, at their sole discretion, and depict contestants in a way that may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing and may expose them to public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation. The contract also allows NBC to broadcast the results of network-mandated medical or psychological testing. This is standard in reality TV world. But when it comes to The Voice, the format of the show can be compromised at a producer's whim, as the contract allows production to ignore the show's voting system if they so choose. Such was the case when thousands of text and social media votes were tossed out last May, based on "some inconsistencies" with the show's independent vote monitors. 
  • CNN actually speculated if a black hole swallowed the missing Malaysia flight.

The youth are our future

What we need now is a leader who will inspire the youth of Canada.

My generation is beyond salvage. We've been dulled by experience, made stale by repeated exposure to con artists who promised the moon and delivered fool's gold.

My generation has been transformed from a selfless community who help those in need to a mob of selfish bullies lacking empathy and unwilling to sow kindness and joy.

We've lost the capacity for revolution and forcing change on our governments. Apathy rules the day and while we whine and moan about the injustices in our society, we do nothing to instigate change.

Our only hope now is youth. They still have the energy, the fresh optimism and the imagination to demand a return to a society where people are more important than corporations.

But they need someone to inspire them. They need someone to remind them of how society used to be, when we knew and cared for our fellow neighbour. They need something to strive for and once they realize it is achievable, their excitement and vigour will give them the momentum needed to make change happen.

The youth are our future and we need them to change our world. I look to them to return my Canada to a just society. They have the power.

Robble robble

Two hamburglars attempted to rob an Illinois Golden Arches.

They led police on a high-speed chase where they ran into the car of Centreville Mayor Marius “McCheese” Jackson.

No word on how Grimace fits into this story.

Froot loops

Friday, March 21, 2014

Innovation stifled again

Elon Musk, the owner of the Tesla Motors, wrote this scathing blog post regarding New Jersey's ban of direct-to-consumer car sales (Tesla's sales model):

On Tuesday, under pressure from the New Jersey auto dealer lobby to protect its monopoly, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, composed of political appointees of the Governor, ended your right to purchase vehicles at a manufacturer store within the state. Governor Christie had promised that this would be put to a vote of the elected state legislature, which is the appropriate way to change the law. When it became apparent to the auto dealer lobby that this approach would not succeed, they cut a backroom deal with the Governor to circumvent the legislative process and pass a regulation that is fundamentally contrary to the intent of the law.

It is worth examining the history of these laws to understand why they exist, as the auto dealer franchise laws were originally put in place for a just cause and are now being twisted to an unjust purpose. Many decades ago, the incumbent auto manufacturers sold franchises to generate capital and gain a salesforce. The then further invested a lot of their money and time in building up the dealerships. That’s a fair deal and it should not be broken. However, some of the big auto companies later engaged in pressure tactics to get the franchisees to sell their dealerships back at a low price. The franchisees rightly sought protection from their state legislatures, which resulted in the laws on the books today throughout the United States (these laws are not present anywhere else in the world).

The intent was simply to prevent a fair and longstanding deal between an existing auto company and its dealers from being broken, not to prevent a new company that has no franchisees from selling directly to consumers. In most states, the laws are reasonable and clear. In a handful of states, the laws were written in an overzealous or ambiguous manner. When all auto companies sold through franchises, this didn’t really matter. However, when Tesla came along as a new company with no existing franchisees, the auto dealers, who possess vastly more resources and influence than Tesla, nonetheless sought to force us to sell through them.

The reason that we did not choose to do this is that the auto dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between promoting gasoline cars, which constitute virtually all of their revenue, and electric cars, which constitute virtually none. Moreover, it is much harder to sell a new technology car from a new company when people are so used to the old. Inevitably, they revert to selling what’s easy and it is game over for the new company.

The evidence is clear: when has an American startup auto company ever succeeded by selling through auto dealers? The last successful American car company was Chrysler, which was founded almost a century ago, and even they went bankrupt a few years ago, along with General Motors. Since the founding of Chrysler, there have been dozens of failures, Tucker and DeLorean being simply the most well-known. In recent years, electric car startups, such as Fisker, Coda, and many others, attempted to use auto dealers and all failed.

An even bigger conflict of interest with auto dealers is that they make most of their profit from service, but electric cars require much less service than gasoline cars. There are no oil, spark plug or fuel filter changes, no tune-ups and no smog checks needed for an electric car. Also, all Tesla Model S vehicles are capable of over-the-air updates to upgrade the software, just like your phone or computer, so no visit to the service center is required for that either.

Going a step further, I have made it a principle within Tesla that we should never attempt to make servicing a profit center. It does not seem right to me that companies try to make a profit off customers when their product breaks. Overcharging people for unneeded servicing (often not even fixing the original problem) is rampant within the industry and happened to me personally on several occasions when I drove gasoline cars. I resolved that we would endeavor never to do such a thing at Tesla, as described in the Tesla service blog post I wrote last year.

Why Did They Claim That This Change Was Necessary?

The rationale given for the regulation change that requires auto companies to sell through dealers is that it ensures “consumer protection”. If you believe this, Gov. Christie has a bridge closure he wants to sell you! Unless they are referring to the mafia version of “protection”, this is obviously untrue. As anyone who has been through the conventional auto dealer purchase process knows, consumer protection is pretty much the furthest thing from the typical car dealer’s mind.

There are other ways to assess the premise that auto dealers take better care of customers than Tesla does. Consumer Reports conducts an annual survey of 1.1 million subscribers, which factors in quality, reliability and consumer satisfaction. The Tesla Model S was the top overall pick of any vehicle in the world, scoring 99 out of 100. This is the highest score any car has ever received. By comparison, in the industry report card, Ford, which sells their cars through franchise dealers, received a score of 50. BMW, which makes competing premium sedans, received a score of 66.

Consumers across the country have also voiced their opinion on the sales model they prefer. In North Carolina, a Triangle Business Journal poll found that 97 percent of people polled said Tesla should be allowed to sell cars directly. A poll by the Austin Business Journal showed that 86 percent of respondents were in favor of direct sales, and in a Los Angeles Times poll 99 percent of respondents came to the same conclusion. These aren’t polls that we commissioned and there are many more like them. We have not seen a single poll that didn’t result in an overwhelming majority saying they preferred the direct model to the traditional dealer model. Democracy is supposed to reflect the will of the people. When a politician acts in a manner so radically opposed to the will of the people who elected him, the only explanation is that there are other factors at play.

Going Forward

Some reassurances are also in order. Until at least April 1, everything is business as usual for Tesla in New Jersey. It should also be noted that this regulation deals only with sales, so our service centers will not be affected. Our stores will transition to being galleries, where you can see the car and ask questions of our staff, but we will not be able to discuss price or complete a sale in the store. However, that can still be done at our Manhattan store just over the river in Chelsea or our King of Prussia store near Philadelphia.

Most importantly, even after April 1, you will still be able to order vehicles from New Jersey for delivery in New Jersey on our website.

We are evaluating judicial remedies to correct the situation. Also, if you believe that your right to buy direct at a Tesla store should be restored, please contact your state senator & assemblyman: numbers.asp.

Finally, we would like to thank the many people who showed up in Trenton on Tuesday to support Tesla and speak out against the MVC’s back-door tactics in passing this regulation change without public consultation or due process. It was an amazing response at very short notice and much appreciated.


Step into 1992

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Great Tesla Model S article

Tesla owner David Noland wrote an article about his experiences owning a Tesla Model S. The best part was his list of favourite and least favourite things about the car.

5 Fave Things About the Model S

1. The Acceleration
Sure, the zero-to-60-mph number (5.4 seconds) is impressive. But it's the quality  of the acceleration that's so trans-formative: instantaneous, seamless, silent, effortless. It's what separates this car from all others. After a year, I still get giddy every time I stomp on the pedal.

2. The Deceleration
At first I was a skeptic about strong regenerative braking, a feature of electric cars that slows the car by turning the motor into a generator to charge the battery in the process. Now I love the sporty, responsive feel of strong "engine braking" when I back off the accelerator. I virtually never touch the brake pedal any more. Unfortunately, the car's strong regen braking makes my wife carsick. Fortunately, the Model S has two regen settings: the sporty "high" setting that I like, and a "low" setting that simulates the gentle engine braking of a normal car. Ah, marital bliss.

3. The "Fuel Economy"
To get the equivalent of almost 100 mpg while driving a car this big and fast is a surreal, mind-boggling experience. And then to make a 2,500-mile road trip via the Supercharger network at a total fuel cost of $0.00--well, it's so great it feels illegal.

4. The Service Program
Getting my 12-Volt battery replaced was the single most positive automobile-service experience of my life. It started when I got a phone call out of the blue from the White Plains service centre. Carla said they'd just gotten an e-mail from Tesla engineering in California.

It seems I was having problems with my 12-Volt battery. Frankly, I was unaware that I even had  a 12-Volt battery, much less a problem with it. But Tesla's system of remote monitoring had detected a problem with mine. Would I mind if two Tesla Service Rangers came out to my house that morning to replace it?

Three hours after being informed of a problem I didn't even know I had, it was fixed in my driveway, at no cost or inconvenience to me. How can car service possibly be any better than that?

5. The Style
I know it's shallow, but looks are important to me in a car. I'm very unlikely to buy an ugly or even plain-looking automobile, no matter how practical it might be. To my eye, the Model S is gorgeous, in a classic way that won't fade with time. A year later, I still look back at it every time I walk away from it in a parking lot.

5 Least Fave Things About the Model S

1. The Limitations on Long Trips
This is more a criticism of Tesla's limited Supercharger network in the Northeast than of the car itself. But the fact is, after a year of ownership, I still can't reasonably drive the Model S to visit friends in Maine, Vermont, and upstate New York, nor to three of the colleges my daughter has applied to for next year. My fingers are crossed that this problem will go away one of these days. Or years.

2. The Vampire
It's not the money spent on wasted electricity over the year--maybe $200--that bothers me so much. It's the idea that the supposed best car in the world has a basic flaw that hasn't been totally fixed in far more than a year.

While a recent software update reduced the vampire draw substantially, I still lose anywhere from 3 to 10 miles of range every single day. My Volt has no vampire losses whatsoever. In fact, no other electric car has vampire losses, as far as I know. Why can't Tesla fix this? Again, fingers crossed.

3. Getting In and Out
This one's not going to get fixed. The inevitable price of swoopy good looks and sleek aerodynamics is a low-slung driver's door.  For a tall (6-foot-2), creaky guy like me, it requires some serious contortions and, depending on the state of my lower back, occasional pain. Maybe I'll try a test drive of a Model X when it arrives.

4. Winter
Like all electric cars, the Model S suffers a significant loss of efficiency in the winter. But in the name of battery longevity, when the temperature drops, the Model S also undergoes a personality change that emasculates the No. 1 and No. 2 items on my list of favourite things about the car.

For the first 10 to 20 miles of driving on a cold day, the Model S limits its power delivery--and completely disables the regenerative braking. Power and regen gradually return as the battery warms up, but on many of my local trips in winter, I never have both full power and full regen.

To make the winter woes worse, I've found that the traction in snow and ice is mediocre--at least with my halfway-worn all-season tires. I'm sure winter tires would would improve traction considerably, but at $4,000 per set, I've decided to live without Tesla's winter tire/wheel package. When I inquired last fall, it was back-ordered anyhow.

5. The Ergonomics of the Touch Screen
Yes, it's beautiful and mesmerizing. But  with no physical buttons, the driver's eye must guide the hand all the way to the precise spot on the screen to adjust the climate control or audio system. It's both a visual and cognitive distraction.

That means the driver's eyes are off the road for a bit longer than usual. On a couple of occasions during the past year,  that extra half-second  has triggered some situations that were, if not dangerous, at least attention-getting for me. Worse, my occasionally numb screen sometimes requires multiple stabs of the finger, which multiplies the distraction.

Still the one

Complaints aside, after a year of living with the Tesla Model S in all sorts of conditions, I can report that not once have I ever looked out the windshield and said to myself, "Gee, I wish I were driving that car instead of this one." Not once.

Branch manager

Monday, March 17, 2014

This isn't real..... is it?

The hover board from Back to the Future has arrived.

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own..... I still don't believe it.

What I love the best about this is the quality and tone of the comments the video is getting. People! Don't be so damned serious.

Til death do us part

Cake made by owner of Sideserf Cake Studio for her wedding.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Things I learned lately - 16 March

  • The red breasted robin can see magnetic fields with its right eye, giving it an almost perfect sense of direction. Just to be clear, we don’t mean that a robin can sense the Earth’s magnetic field or something like that as many other birds can, it can literally see it.
  • On a small island nestled between Antwerp and Ghent in Flanders, Belgium lies a hotel shaped like a giant anus. Hotel CasAnus.
  • For the time being, science suggests that the water on our planet wasn't always here, nor did it get 'formed' here. It most likely arrived in the form of carbonaceous chondrites, rocks from beyond Mars.
  • The chill of deep space is nothing compared to what NASA is preparing to create. Researchers are planning to generate a super-cold spot on the International Space Station to study the intricacies of quantum mechanics. It's going to be the coldest spot in the known universe. The ISS Cold Atom Lab will reach temperatures as low as 100 pico-Kelvin above absolute zero (pico = one trillionth).
  • The latest fad in South Korea is "Gastronomic Voyeurism." In other words, people watch other people eat. For money. Online. They have the best broadband and some great food, what's not to love? There are about 3,500 people providing web shows like this in South Korea. One woman, Park Seo-yeon, earns $9k/month doing this.
  • A factory reset of your phone does NOT delete the images and videos in memory. The data is still there, just the path data is missing. (No different from deleting a file in Windows)
  • In Syria, immunizations are withheld as an act of war and polio is on the rise.
  • Health Canada used to have 40 librarians. Now it has 6.
  • A ton of people is really 12 - 15 people.
  • Ultracrepidarian (n): "Somebody who gives opinions on subjects they know nothing about."
  • Apple users are making a huge deal over the way the shift key works on the Apple iOS keyboard. Most people figure Apple missed the boat when designing the shift key because it's difficult for some to determine when shift is 'on'. Is it when there's a white arrow on a grey background or a black arrow on a white background? Here's an idea - how about you don't change the colour of the key, you just change the letters on the keyboard to upper and lower case?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Conservative policies have real effects on real people

And I’m mad as hell about it.

Let’s start with the federal government’s genius plan to postpone retirement until age 67. This is a slap in the face to all the people who worked hard their whole lives and made significant contributions to the national pension plan only to be told that they have to wait another 2 years to get an unreduced pension. The excuse is that the current plan is unsustainable. I find it interesting that nobody outside of the government agrees with that prognosis, but there it is. Assuming that it is true, why should the people who did their part – the contributors, have to pay for the mistakes of the government? They’re the ones who are managing the money. They should be the ones to bear the responsibility for fixing the problem. No matter what the government says, increased contributions and better pension management is the answer going forward. Imagine if a corporation tried this nonsense. Oh, we're sorry Hal, you can't retire Friday, you have to work another 2 years so that we can afford to pay your pension. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Next, we turn our attention to the Alberta provincial government. Their quick adoption of regulating the Pharmacy Technician trade at the behest of the Alberta College of Pharmacists is a mess. Countless careers destroyed through lack of grandfathering and a forced education and testing process that even senior technicians failed in droves. Would you spend $6000+ on a process to reclaim your right to continue working in your trade when Alberta Health Services won’t even cover your expenses or offer a raise to account for the increased responsibilities and legal and professional fees? Well, that's what hundreds of people are going through.

Then we have their solution to the shortfall in the provincial pension for public service workers. Sorry, but you’ll have to work longer to retire as well. You don’t get a say and you don’t get to opt out either. We can’t manage your pension money and you’re the ones who will have to suffer for it.

What really irks me is that the people making these decisions are not affected by them in any way. Their gold-plated pensions and exit packages guarantee they’ll be making out like bandits.

Meanwhile, my wife struggles to not only successfully complete the hardest education she’s ever had to endure just to keep her job and eventually earn her pension, but she now has to work longer to get that pension unless she’s willing to take even less per month as a payment. Not just one pension – every pension. No choice. No alternate plan. I won’t even mention what all of this is doing to her physical and mental health.

I want a government, at both levels, that looks after my needs. I realize that there are a lot of people in this country that feel their government does too much for its citizens. I don’t think it does enough. I feel that my government is more interested in punishing its citizens (tougher laws, more prisons) than helping them (pension reductions, EI reductions, service reductions, veteran benefit reductions). To make matters worse, they don’t even lead by example. While they want us to do more with less, they continue to pad their own pockets and make no real sacrifices whatsoever. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of it.

In a world without Hal Douglas

In honour of the passing of Hal Douglas, I present to you what could quite possibly be one of the funniest movie trailers of all time.

Fido sucking

Oh my aching sides. Why Fido? Why in the world would I want to pay $7.99 per day for some data only? 50MB!! LOL. With Roam Mobility, I'll be paying $4 per day for unlimited talk anywhere in the US and Canada, unlimited text and 200MB of data. PER DAY!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Einstein on praying

January 19, 1936

My dear Dr. Einstein,

We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men to try and have our own question answered.

We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis's class.

Respectfully yours,


January 24, 1936
Dear Phyllis,

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.

But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

With cordial greetings,

your A. Einstein


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Things I learned lately - 11 March

  • American Airlines no longer offers emergency or bereavement fares.
  • The Police Chief of Anapolis MD tried to use a hoax article about marijuana overdoses from the Daily Current website to bolster his position that marijuana is harmful. Luckily, one of the senators listening to the testimony recognized the hoax evidence from Comedy Central.
  • Folsom Lake in California, near Sacramento was at 97% of its capacity in July 2011. In January 2014 it was at 17% capacity.
  • Canada gets about 16 million visitors per year. France gets the most visitors, at over 81 million per year.
  • Sandra Bullock will likely earn more than $70 million for her role in Gravity.
  • Greater Las Vegas depends on Lake Mead for 90% of its water. Soon Lake Mead is expected to fall below the level of the first of two pipes that connect it to the city. So a deeper $816m "third straw" is being built to maintain the water supply. Officials also want to lay a 300 mile pipeline to bring water from the north of Nevada to Las Vegas.
  • Lake Mead can (at maximum capacity) have a surface elevation of 1221 feet. That was the case in 1983. It is now 1119 feet. That may not seem like a big drop but consider the volume of water that is gone. Lake Mead's maximum capacity is 26,134,000 acre-ft. Its current capacity is 13,479,170 acre-ft and falling. An acre-ft is an acre of area by one foot deep.
  • Traditional silicon solar cells are only 25% efficient. That's about to double.
  • Mozilla (the makers of Firefox) plan to sell a $25 smart phone.
  • According to Wolfram Alpha, the average age of all the Karls alive is 50. All 81,968 of us.
  • France has 58 nuclear reactors that provide 75% of the country's electricity. It also exports power to Switzerland, Italy and Belgium.
  • Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder, tried to sell his 303 foot yacht (named Tatoosh) over the last 4 years for a cool $160 million. No bites, so it's off the market. Allen also has a bigger 414 foot yacht (Octopus).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Everything is a remix: iPhone

Kirby Ferguson does it again, this time showcasing that even innovative products like the iPhone are not completely original ideas.

Copying is not piracy

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Companies don't always 'get' productivity

Automattic, the creator of the WordPress blog, powers almost 19% of the Internet with only 225 employees. Almost none of these people work in the same office or even the same city.

CEO Matt Mullenweg explains, "In (many) businesses, if someone shows up and isn't drunk, doesn't sleep at their desk, and is dressed nicely, it's assumed that they're working. But it doesn't account for what they've created during the day. Many people can create great things without living up to those norms. Our company measures work based on outputs. I don't care what hours you work, or if you sleep late, or if you pick a child up from school in the afternoon. It's about your output."

Focusing their hiring practices, management style, and employee rewards on performance has helped make the company's distributed model successful well beyond what people assumed was the tipping point for growth.

The traditional office isn't something that has some magical effect on productivity. When done right, many people are more productive and happier working on their own schedules. When remote work doesn't function well, it's usually because people aren't held accountable.

Getting the right people isn't easy, though. Automattic approaches the hiring process as a tryout or audition rather than an interview. Employees are first hired on a contract basis for a trial period. They can work nights or weekends while still at another job, and all are paid $25 an hour, regardless of what they applied for. And the candidates do real work for the company, the same as what they'd do in their eventual full-time positions.

"It tells you something you can’t learn from resumes, interviews, or reference checks."

About 40% of the people who go through the tryout get hired. Though the process is time-consuming (the CEO spends at least a third of his time on hiring), it has also led to extremely low turnover.

[Adapted from a talk by Matt Mullenweg]

Hipster bait

Thursday, March 06, 2014


The reason why hydrogen (fuel cell) powered electric cars have the potential to do better than battery powered electric cars is that the electricity generation happens inside the car with no need to store electricity. The energy is instead stored in the form of hydrogen, which although is potentially hazardous (which is not difficult to mitigate), makes it easier and much faster to 're-fuel' the car.

The lack of heavy batteries also means a lighter vehicle and less toxic materials to manage over the life cycle. If we could increase the number of solar and wind power plants that also produce hydrogen as a by-product (an efficiency improvement easily achieved), we could also reduce or eliminate the need to use fossil fuels to create the electricity a battery-powered car would use in the first place.

Ford, Daimler AG, Renault-Nissan and Aston Martin are working on fuel cell cars. Honda has been leading the development of hydrogen powered cars and have been leasing hydrogen cars since 2008.

Don't you mean apple pi?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Monster trucks to save the planet

Bruce Sterling once proposed that Americans should be encouraged to drive much larger trucks, big enough to house monster fuel-cells that are kept supplied with hydrogen by decentralized windmill and solar installations -- when they are receiving more power than is immediately needed, they use the surplus to electrolyze water and store the hydrogen in any handy nearby monster-trucks' cells. When the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining, you just plug your house into your enormous American-Dream-mobile -- no need for a two-way grid.

This solution wasn't just great because it aligned the core American value of driving really large cars with environmental protection, but also because it was less vulnerable to sabotage from hydrocarbon-addicted energy companies.

Births and deaths in (statistically) real time

(Simulated) live births and deaths around the world, based on actual statistics.

Everything is nothing

Saturday, March 01, 2014

I have a brand!

I do a little consulting and tutoring on the side. I kept getting advice from folks telling me it was time to brand myself. It's the best way to stand out in the crowd.

So I did. With a bit of help I have been transformed into "The Demystifyer". My tag line is: "The Demystifyer - technology explained".

This is what my card looks like (front on left, back on right).

Design by SheDevil.

Rutger as Thor