Friday, May 30, 2014

A cat's guide to taking care of your human

Humans often stare at inanimate objects for hours at a time

Your duty is to break this spell.

A cat's guide to taking care of your human, starring Ze Frank.

I didn't realize pregnancy comes with free wifi.......

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Another way copyright is broken

The digital marketplace for 3D printing is wide open, allowing makers to design or replicate almost anything. Because of that, there are many intellectual property battles and other legal issues on the horizon.

3D printing poses a challenge to Lego because the pieces can so easily be replicated with fused deposition modeling printers. They make perfect building blocks. Look at faBrickation, a new approach to rapid prototyping. The key idea is to save 3D printing time by automatically substituting sub-volumes with standard building blocks by using Lego bricks.

A person could print their own Star Wars ring, printed in the same font as the original movie. Such a ring is for sale on Shapeways and will likely eventually be a target of legal action.

It will be interesting to see how this develops because this is yet another example of technology rendering (pun intended) past business models obsolete.

One question I have is this. Is it legal for me to build a sculpture of Yoda? Can I sell this sculpture as well without breaking any copyright law? If the answer is yes, then what's the difference between carving a sculpture or creating a 3D model template and letting the printer do the carving?

Once again we see that technology has made the act of copying ubiquitous, this time physical copying. This make sit necessary to completely and without corporate bias, re-evaluate the entire copyright model.


Another Pomplamoose mashup.

This time of 2Pac, Lorde and a little Beck.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Maybe I don't want the break

I got a break on my municipal tax bill. Yay!

Then I realized that I got it because a majority of Calgary city councillors voted to give us money back that was returned from the province of Alberta. Yay!

That money was returned because the province over-estimated how much money they needed for education or something like that. Ya.... wait what?

OK. Last time I checked, the school boards and the teachers were clamoring for more money. Programs have been cut, class sizes are bigger, wages are frozen, student fees have gone up, activity fees are up. But the province didn't need all of our school tax money?

That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I wonder how much of the education cuts we could have saved if we had just told the province to keep the money.

Oh, I forgot. All that people around here think about is how much money is left in their pocket, damn the programs and services.

At least I'm not bitter.

Attention Americans - this one's for you

One of the absolute best explanations of the net neutrality debate.

You really should care about this topic and I hope this video explains why.

They even tell you who to contact to give your opinion (US only).

Amazon distribution centre (one of many)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Things I learned lately - 25 May

  • At Expo Milano in 2015, the USA pavilion will focus on food trucks.
  • Subway restaurants have around 26,000 stores in the US, almost double the number of McDonald's. But they think there's room for 8,000 more.
  • One word why regular computer users need regular (and a few archived) backups of irreplaceable files - ransomware.
  • Up to 400 trains pass through the chunnel each day, carrying an average of 50,000 passengers, 6,000 cars, 180 buses and 54,000 tonnes of freight.
  • DuckDuckGo is a search site that doesn't track your clicks across the Web. So if the government were to come knocking on DuckDuckGo's doors seeking information, they would have no way to tie that information to individual users.
  • Chinese police (as in - from China) will be deployed to the streets of Paris this summer to help protect the growing number of wealthy Chinese tourists who visit Paris but have been the target of mass muggings due to the large quantities of cash and purchased items they carry around.
  • 7 out of the top 20 highest rated laptops on Amazon (US) and 5 out of the top 20 most popular laptops sold on Amazon are Chromebooks (running Google Chrome OS).
  • Two separate teams of scientists have announced that blood transfusions from young individuals fix older peoples' hearts and cure aging brains. So, obviously, vampires are onto something.
  • You'd have to earn $340,000 per year to be part of the top 1%.
  • Doritos were born of recycling stale tortilla chips that were being thrown at Disneyland in the 1950s. They were fried and sprinkled with cheese powder.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Does it wash dishes?

For those waiting with anticipation for Nordstrom's to open in Calgary, guess how much this shoe costs?

[I put the answer in the comments]

Out of time

I don't know why but one of the first things I did just before I took off for vacation was to take off my watch and put it away.

That was a very liberating experience. A little odd at first - I kept looking at my wrist to check the time, even if I had no real reason to know the time. I started to see just how much of a habit it had become.

A habit I started to unlearn. Pretty soon I had no idea what time it was and I didn't really care. Sometimes I needed to know the time, but it wasn't that often.

I believe it made the vacation that much more enjoyable. So the next time you head out on holidays, leave your watch at home.

But bring the sunscreen. Your wrist is gonna need it.

Alibaba is big

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Alien teen

No more tips

A British Columbia restaurant says it will not be accepting tips from customers when it opens next month – a possible Canadian first. Patrons of the Smoke ‘N Water restaurant in Parksville won’t even be given a tip line on their debit or credit slips. If cash tips are received, they will be donated to charity.

Owner David Jones says that 'tipping...  is a broken business model'. In the majority of North American restaurants, servers often make very low wages with the understanding that they’ll make up for it in tips. At Smoke ‘N Water, staff will receive a 'decent living wage' with access to benefits. Front-of-house will make $10.50 an hour, while back-of-house will make $11 an hour. Jones intends to increase the pay grade of his employees through a profit-sharing plan. By giving a portion of the restaurant’s gross receipts back to its workers, staff will be making closer to $15 an hour across the board.

San Diego 2014

Even though this was trip #5 (I think), I was no less excited about getting back to San Diego. Had we run out of things to do, things to see?

Not even close. To start with, we arrived while the place was suffering through an uncharacteristic heat wave. We're talking 39C in a place where normal is 22C. So the heat, coupled with the drought California has been enduring, led to massive wildfires all over San Diego county. Nine in all, with the biggest on the Marine base at Camp Pendleton. You could see the smoke as we approached the area by plane. It looked like the county was being bombed. We were lucky that the fires were happening well north of us, so no smell, no danger. But all the smoke in the air made for some spectacular sunsets.

The heat wave petered out by the end of day 3 and the temperature fell back to normal. But while the heat was on, we tried to find shelter from the sun and the heat and we found a great cool spot by the water at the south end of Mission Point at the park. A nice bench under a huge tree and a refreshing breeze off the water was all we needed. there aren't a lot of trees in this part of the city, so what we found was a goldmine.

One thing I noticed while the heat wave was still around is the effect it had on the cloud patterns and how people reacted to them. You see, normally, San Diego experiences coastal cloud cover early in the morning until the sun burns it off (usually by noon). Then just before sunset, the clouds roll back in from the ocean which prevent people from seeing a great sunset (down to the horizon). But while the heat was around, the coastal clouds were kept at bay, which provided a rare opportunity to see the sun go down below the horizon for a change. This was obviously a novelty, because we saw people stop what they were doing and stand and watch the sunset on those nights. The smoke from the fires made the sun very red too.

So, we had some new (to us) things to check out on this trip. I had always read about a mountain town called Julian. It used to be a mining town way back and eventually became an apple orchard area, which spawned an apple pie business or two, or three. This is what Julian has become famous for - their pies. I like pie. So we had to go. The drive there is spectacular. At one point, at an elevation of around 4600ft, there's a vista point where we stopped to look out over the land and could see the desert of Palm Springs way off in the distance. Julian itself is very much like Black Diamond Alberta, old-style pioneer-era buildings. We found some pie. Apple-caramel-pecan. We ate of the pie. And it was good. Actually, Darlene called it 'the best apple pie I've ever had', so there's that.

On our way back westward, we passed orange orchards in the San Pasqual Valley, northwest of Ramona. That caught me off guard.

Since we passed through Vista on the way west, and since we had heard that the Little Cakes Cupcake Kitchen had won the cupcake wars, again, we should stop in and try. I left totally understanding why they win.

One of the things that always confounds me about Canada is the sheer non-existence of decent variety of men's clothing. What we do have isn't cheap either. This is why every time we go to the US, I'm usually checking out Macy's for their sales on men's clothing - especially shirts. Well, I hit the jackpot this trip. We found a Macy's in Carlsbad that was so big, it had to occupy two separate department store spaces in the mall. In one space was just furnishings and men's clothes. I scored big-time.

This time around, I wasn't going to get hobbled by a ridiculous roaming package from my native cell provider and used a Roam Mobility sim the whole time I was in the US. Worked out well and it was nice not having to always try to find free wi-fi everywhere.

Anyway, it was yet another great trip and I'm already missing the sound of the surf.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Going to Cali (aka wavecation)


Yes, San Diego.


What can I say - we love it there.

Surf's up.......

See you all in a little over a week.

[Disclaimer: those are not Darlene's nor my legs. It's not our room either - our room has a better view.]

Hey Target!

Target doesn't seem to understand why their foray into Canada isn't bearing profit. I can help explain. Pay attention closely.

Canadians who found out that Target was coming to Canada a few years back were not new to the brand. They had in many cases already shopped at Target - in the US. And they liked what they saw. Low prices. Really low - prices in the US in general are cheaper. So when they heard that Target was coming to Canada, they were expecting that they would see the same deals and the same new products that were on US shelves.

Like what for example? Well, consider that a set of fancy Dr Scholl's insoles cost $18-$22 in Canada, but the exact same set only costs $12 ($9 if it's on sale) in the US at Target. That's just one example. You can also get great deals on sun screen, hair care products, vitamins, makeup, children's shoes and so much more. Their selection is great too. Between the WalMarts and the Walgreens and the Targets in the US, a Canadian shopper has access to a dearth of products and brands missing in Canada at much lower prices.

So you can imagine the excitement. But then came the Canadian Target store openings. Same brands as before. Same prices as Zellers - in some cases - higher prices. Less stock. Less selection. Why? Elementary, dear shopper. The entire retail industry in Canada operates under the premise that us relatively well-to-do Canadians will endure the premium prices we pay. So the item that might have cost $9 on a US Target shelf, after import duties, taxes, a cut to the distributors (and there may be more than one), higher fuel (shipping) costs, it ends up being offered for $22 on the Canadian Target shelf.

And that just isn't what we want. We don't want the status quo. We want US-style bargains. And selection. And you didn't come through. And that is why you fail.

Dear Nordstrom's. You're next.............

David Bowie as Tilda Swinton and vice versa

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Things I learned lately - 11 May

  • Speed Weed is a marijuana delivery service chain in southern California.
  • Expo 67, was the general exhibition, Category One World’s Fair held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from 27 April to 29 October 1967. Considered the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century, it had the most attendees to that date and 62 nations participating. It set the single-day attendance record for a world’s fair, with 569,500 visitors on its 3rd day.
  • Alan Ruck, who played the character of Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, was 29 when he played the 17 year old character in 1986. Alan is married to Mireille Enos, the lead from the TV series The Killing.
  • Adult heights have risen, or average, 4 inches in the last 100 years.
  • Dr Pepper came onto the soda scene 6 months before Coke.
  • For 15 months of work, Marissa Mayer's compensation as Yahoo's CEO has been $214 million.
  • Store a microfiber towel at your office, in your gym bag, or in your raincoat pocket. The water-absorbent towels can dry hair quickly if it gets drenched in a downpour. Lie your wet socks flat on an unfolded microfiber towel and roll the towel and socks together. Squeeze. The towel will absorb much of the moisture so your socks will dry faster.
  • "Inequality is the root of social evil." ~Pope Francis tweet
  • Over 55% of people surveyed, who streamed unlicensed video content, said they did so because they could not find what they wanted on any licensed site.
  • Google's self-driving cars can now handle thousands of urban situations that would have stumped them a year ago. The cars can now read stop signs, including those in the hands of crossing guards. It can sense bicycles and groups of pedestrians too.
  • The smallest of Spain's Canary islands - El Hierro, will be the first island in the world to become entirely renewable energy self-sufficient. They found a way to store wind power. By 2020, all of the island's 6000 cars will be electric.
  • IKEA products use about 1% of the world's commercial wood supply.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Day of Honour

Considering that 9 May was declared National Day of Honour to give Canadians the opportunity to show support for their troops, I thought I'd throw my beret in the ring.

Whether you agree with the military missions that Canada has participated in (not the choice of the soldiers by the way), it is important to realize why our military has value in our society and what they do for us besides go to war.

We have always been and will continue to be a nation of peacekeepers. Canada has a strong tradition going into foreign countries and helping to stop warring sides from obliterating each other.

But more importantly, our military also perform the following duties:

  • They defend Canada
  • They patrol the oceans and our far north to exercise our sovereignty
  • They participate in counter-smuggling operations
  • They assist the public in times of floods, forest fires, power outages and other natural disasters
  • They can evacuate people from areas of extreme danger
  • They can provide humanitarian assistance and emergency response in the form of medical aide and clean water anywhere in the world
  • They provide security to protect high profile events like the Olympics
  • They look for signs of illegal fishing and activity
  • They participate in avalanche control
  • They perform search and rescue anywhere in the country (remember the plane that crashed in Alert?)
  • They seek out pirates and terrorists on the high seas
  • We also (this came as news to me) defend Iceland

Our soldiers perform their duties selflessly, often being away from their families for months at a time, again and again. The things they have seen have broken their hearts and injured their souls, if not affected them psychologically for life. Yet their support structure is not the best and they are expected to carry on. And they do carry on. Canadian soldiers are ranked as one of the best trained forces in the world and we have won many peace-time competitions against opponents who on paper should have beat us mercilessly. Our battle honours have earned us the greatest respect.

Our women and men in uniform deserve to get paid as much as a politician, yet some families are so poor, they have to rely on food banks to survive. Don't even get me started about their pensions.

I was there in the blackout triangle in Quebec during the ice storms of 1998, patrolling neighbourhoods to make sure they were doing alright and were safe. The residents of southern Quebec could not believe that the Army had come from across the country to help them with a smile.

I served my country for 20 years and it was the most challenging, productive and proudest part of my life. I made friends that I cherish like brothers and sisters to this day and who would give the shirt off their backs in a time of need.

Your soldiers give their souls and their lives to serve the well-being of our country and our society and they deserve your love and respect.

20 feet from stardom

I watched the wonderful documentary '20 Feet from Stardom', which tells the story of the stellar background singers that made some of our favourite artists sound great. I especially loved the mention of Merry Clayton's contribution to The Rolling Stone's Gimme Shelter, which I think took that song into the stratosphere.

The documentary also follows the careers of Darlene Love, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer among others. It not only tells the tale of their contributions but also how some of them tried to break out and become lead vocalists themselves.

Some backup singers that did manage to break out include:

  • Whitney Houston (backed up Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls)
  • Mariah Carey (backed up Brenda Starr)
  • Mary J Blige
  • Cher (backed up The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers)
  • Sheryl Crow (backed up Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Belinda Carlisle and Don Henley)
  • Pink
  • John Legend (backed up Alicia Keys)
  • Luther Vandross (backed up Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, and Donna Summer)

I was hoping they would have told the story of what I consider to be the greatest back-up singer contribution in the history of rock.

I'm talking about the improvisation Clare Torry did on Pink Floyd's Great Gig in the Sky from The Dark Side of the Moon. Alas it was not to be.

The dark side of the...... that's no moon!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

I'm cured

Cute comedy song / video featuring Aimee Mann and Dave Foley about a doc who cured the common cold.

Aimee play the cold virus.

She's a ball

We're going to be shopping for a crystal ball stand but to make sure that the stand we buy fits, we're going to bring a toy ball the same size to check out stands at antique stores in San Diego and area.

When people ask what we're doing were going to tell them Darlene's mother's ashes are in the ball. Then we'll improvise the rest of the story.

"Darlene's dad owned a toy ball factory when he was alive. His dying wish was to make sure that mom's ashes were put into one of the company's balls. We were able to do this because Darlene's brother now owns the company. Now we need to find the perfect stand so we can put it on display in the lobby of the company."

These are not the droids we're looking for

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Are you gonna eat that?

A Danish website is turning private homes into take-away restaurants by letting users advertise what they are cooking, when and the price. is like a restaurant version of Airbnb, where homeowners make spare rooms or unoccupied dwellings available to renters.

The homemade dishes may be healthier than the greasy fare typically available at take-out counters. The concept is sound, especially in situations where people make too much food for just themselves.

Since the launch in February, the site has attracted 2,900 members, of whom 460 are registered as cooks, meaning they sell food. The website is especially popular in trendy Copenhagen neighbourhoods and  the founders are hoping it will go global.

The site added allows cooks to register a signature dish which they are good at making, and allows members to register their interest so that they know when it will be available.

Otherwise, you can check what is on the menu in real-time. A mobile app is in development.

There are some health issues, but to be honest, I'm not convinced our own food safety standards do us any favours anyway.

The cooks do get ratings though, so there's that.

There's that theme in my head again

Can you guess what it is? Yes, it's a meeting of the cast of the next Star Wars movie, episode VII!

What Stephen Colbert said about that Star Wars cast photo:

"I mean, look at this photo, everything is wrong! Where is the creature design? Every single character is humanoid with two arms and two legs? And those love seats are clearly not canon, those are tatooine battle couches! Have these people even heard of the holocron continuity database? I don't think so!"

"'Oh, but Stephen,' I'm sure he'd say, 'it's just one photo' — cry me a moisture farm, Abrams! Whatever scruffy looking nerfherder released this photo has midichlorian for brains!"

Na na na na na na na na braces!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Things I learned lately - 4 May

  • The US accounts for only 5% of the world's population, yet holds 25% of the world's prisoners.
  • Startup OnDot will add another level of security to your credit cards. The app on your phone can be used to limit purchases; temporarily disable the card; restrict where the card can be used or what types of purchases; get notification when a transaction is performed; view card history; hand the card off to a family member with or without restrictions.
  • Nissan is testing cars painted with super-hydrophobic and oleophobic paint to repel oils and water. This would result in a car that practically never needs (its exterior) to be cleaned.
  • If sea levels rise a mere 0.5 metre by 2070 (now a likely scenario), Bangkok Thailand could have 5.5 million people and $1.1 trillion in assets at risk.
  • If sea levels rise 0.5 metres by 2070, Miami could have 4.8 million people and $3.5 trillion in assets at risk.
  • The FCC will propose new open Internet rules that will allow content companies to pay Internet service providers "for special access to consumers." Under the new rules, ISPs may not block or discriminate against specific websites, but they can charge sites or services for preferential traffic treatment if the ISPs' discrimination is "commercially reasonable." Bye-bye Net Neutrality, and the internet as we know it.
  • A forthcoming paper from Princeton analyzed 1,779 policies over 20+ years. It concludes that policy makers respond exclusively to the needs of people in the 90th wealth percentile to the exclusion of every one else. Mass-scale intervention from citizens' groups barely registers, while the desires of the richest ten percent of America dictate the entire policy landscape.
  • In 2004, UPS announced that the best way to get anywhere was to avoid left-hand turns. UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a drag on efficiency because of long waits in turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and accidents. They map out routes that involve a right-hand loops.
  • In Norway, people are pretty relaxed about nudity, and both men and women will for example change on public beaches without any attempt at covering themselves up. You are however expected to look away.
  • People are very informal in Norway and being on a first-name-basis with anyone short of the King is the norm. Even the prime-minister of Norway is most often referred to by first name.
  • Tipping is not part of Japanese culture. Don't bother. People will chase after you thinking you left your money behind.
  • There aren't many vegan options in France.
  • Last call in Montreal is now 5:30am.

"Dumb fings init?"

When you watch improv on stage, you eventually see seasoned improvisors try their hand at gibberish. Now, when you speak gibbersh, you don't have to sound like any particular language, you just have to echo word-sounds your partners are using to make it sound like you speak the language and to give the scene some glue.

This Finnish girl seems to be able to add some international pizzaz to gibberish, making up pure nothingness while sounding like various languages or dialects.

Really impressive considering she's saying practically nothing.

Pure gibberish. Love it.

Lego Floyd

Friday, May 02, 2014

Relaxing electrons and stuff

Minute Physics has always been a favourite of mine due to its fun way of explaining how the world works.

This episode is one of my faves, shining a light on how light bulbs work. Pun intended.

Oh hai