Monday, June 30, 2014

Obama slams Congress on climate change

"In Congress, folks will tell you climate change is a hoax, or a fad, or a plot. It’s a liberal plot. And then most recently, because many who say that actually know better and they’re just embarrassed, they duck the question. They say, 'Hey, I’m not a scientist,' which really translates into, 'I accept that manmade climate change is real, but if I say so out loud, I will be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements that thinks climate science is a liberal plot so I’m going to just pretend like, I don’t know, I can't read.' I'm not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me that tobacco can cause lung cancer, then I'll say, okay. Right? I mean, it's not that hard."

Lyrics I love: The Tragically Hip - Boots or hearts

I feel I've stepped out of the wilderness
All squint-eyed and confused
But even babies raised by wolves
They know exactly when they've been used

Gummee bear skin rug

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Things I learned lately - 28 June

  • The next world's biggest optical / near-infrared telescope is going to be built on top of 10,000 foot Cerro Armazones mountain in Chile's Atacama Desert. It will have an almost 130 foot mirror and be known as the European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT.
  • Coca-Cola has released a new product called Coke Life. The product is supposed to taste like classic Coke and is available in Argentina, Chile, and the UK. Sweetened with a blend of sugar and Stevia, a 330ml can of Coca-Cola Life contains 89 calories and will feature striking green branding that will contrast with the familiar red packaging. A regular can of Coke has 139 calories.
  • In South Korea, you can buy what is essentially a corn dog, but the batter is used to stick little pieces of french fry to the hot dog too.
  • South Koreans tend to back into their parking spots. It's the safest way, what can I say......
  • South Koreans typically have little blue soft foam blocks stuck to the doors of their cars so that they don't scuff the cars next to them.
  • In South Korea, companies like LG are so big, they even own apartment complexes.
  • Most Korean restaurants only sell one dish.
  • Korea has a store that sells Apple products, but instead of being an Apple store, it's a reseller called Frisbee.
  • A group of friends attending a stag at a New Mexico lake beach accidentally unearthed a buried stegomastadon skull.
  • Last summer the Mercedes Benz Autonomous S Class Intelligent Drive research car completed a test drive from Mannheim to Pforzheim. The route covered 50km on country roads and another 53km through towns and villages taking in 18 traffic circles hundreds of lights intersections pedestrian crossings and construction zones along the way. This technology made use of sensors already included in the car.
  • Canada produces 80% of the worlds maple syrup. Of that amount 91% is produced in Quebec.
  • As of now, nobody has been seriously injured driving a Tesla.

Just add wolves

Want to change the geography of a wilderness?

Just add wolves. I kid you not.

It turns out the World Cup logo is a face palm

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Never seen one of these before

Does anyone know what this is? I saw a few of them scattered throughout a riverside park. It looks like some kind of trap. Anyone?

If World War II were a bar fight

*Interpretation taken from the Canadian military forum at Thanks boys!

Still sore from the night before, Germany has had one too many pints. It is sucking up to Russia, deciding it doesn't want to pay for the drinks that France insists it owes. They then drunkenly shout out that Austria is its brother, man, and Italy is their long time best friend.
Sauced now and belligerent, Germany is glaring angrily about the bar. Italy is already marching around, challenging everyone to step outside. America had left the bar some time ago and no one was sure where it’d gone.
With nothing better to do, Germany challenges Soviet Russia to an arm wrestling match at the Spanish table, while Japan was in the back room whacking China with a pool cue.
Armwrestling over, Germany goes to the bar again and orders another pint and one for Austria. Glancing over to Czechoslovakia, Germany says, “Hey, nice shirt. I want it”.
Before Czechoslovakia can jump from the bar stool and take a swing, Britain walks over and stands between the two, saying, “Can’t we just get along? Come on, now, Czechoslovakia, just the shirt, that’s all.”
Humiliated, Czechoslovakia hands over the shirt and Britain walks back to the corner table with France saying, “See? Peace in our time.”
At the other end of the pub, Italy has finally found someone to fight: it kicks Ethiopia in the goolies as they walk in. Germany, raises their pint glass in salute to Italy.
Then they look at Russia who’s wandered back in after checking on Japan in the back room and both look over at Poland who’s been sitting by themselves at a small table….. right next to Germany. England and France stare at Germany and England wags their finger at Germany. Germany gives them an “aw shucks” grin and then turns and knocks Poland’s beer off the table.
Poland stands up to confront Germany beckoning for England and France to come over and help. Russia then taps Poland on the shoulder and when they turn around Germany grabs the chair and smashes it over Poland’s head. Russia then rushes in and begins kicking Poland repeatedly as they lay writhing on the floor.
Germany turns to England and France and makes a “come on then” gesture, but England and France slink back to their table and continue to utter threats in low voices. Denmark, Norway, Holland, and Belgium who popped in for a quick one after work all look worried and finish their drinks in a hurry and yell for the bill.
Finland who’s been sitting in a corner quietly notices Russia is distracted going through the unconscious Poland’s pockets, and quickly sneaks up behind them and smashes a vodka bottle over their head.
Russia gets up, shakes their head, grabs Finland by one arm and tosses them against the wall, knocking them completely out. Russia then goes back to their table in the far corner and sits down to sulk. Japan notices this and slinks out back to see if China has woken up yet.
England grabs the phone and calls Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India and tells them to get down here right quick and oh could one of them pop around to the United States and tell them to grab their baseball bat and come over. Then England walks over and stands by France confronting Germany, Italy and their mates now standing in the middle of the room.
Everyone else quickly pays their bill and heads for the door.
Germany crosses the room, rolls up its sleeves and with four punches knocks Denmark, Norway, Holland and Belgium out cold. Germany then grabs all their wallets and tosses them on a table to sort through later.
France is upset that its little cousin Belgium has been taken out and rushes to get at Germany. Italy has finally finished going through Ethiopia’s pockets sees France on the move, sticks out its leg and trips them. When France gets up Germany picks up an entire table and smashes it over their head. France is knocked out for several hours and when they finally wake up they’re slightly schizophrenic and crawl off into a corner to argue with themselves.
Outnumbered and alone England barricades itself behind the bar and begins tossing empty pint glasses at Germany, hoping the kids show up soon.
Germany and Italy begin sorting out the other tables and strut around the bar. In a corner booth Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania seeing what just happened, stand up and declare that Germany and Italy are their new best mates and buy them a round.
Across the street the United States is getting concerned about all the noise and broken windows and wants to go over and take a look, but the missus tells them to sit down and finish their dinner.
Shortly after dinner, United States hears a noise in the backyard and investigates just in time to see Japan smashing its tiki themed patio set in retaliation for suggesting they had too much to drink. United States is very upset at this and heads down to bar. Japan also eggs The Netherlands’ house and moons Australia as it heads back to pick on China some more.
Italy, while the Germans have their backs turned, decides to pick a fight with the Balkans Football Club which has been sitting in the corner. The BFC is a lot tougher then they look and offers Italy a few good smacks to the face. Italy quickly runs behind Germany and peeks out from behind their legs. Germany turns around with a “WTF!”
After sorting out the BFC with some help from its new bestest bud Romania and Hungary, Germany looks around the shambles of the room. England is yelling threats at them from behind the bar and Canada is behind them passing a fresh supply of empty bottles to toss.
Then another cry for help from Italy – they’ve decided to rifle the pockets of Egypt who passed out earlier in the children’s sandbox in the corner, but England sicked Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on them and they’re all smacking Italy about the kneecaps. Germany sighs and wonders where it can get some better allies.
As Germany makes its way to the sandbox, it makes eye contact with a stretching, knuckle cracking Japan, who gives a knowing nod. Japan puffs its chest and makes its way through the ocean of spilled beer to the United States, who’s standing there flat-footed, laughing hysterically, one hand slapping its knee. But USA looks up just in time to see Japan midswing with a big section of broken table. USA reels backwards into Germany, which is not amused and promises to get USA once it’s taken care of the sandbox. Japan, in the meantime, turns around and wails on poor Netherlands, cowering on the floor.
The Philippines meanwhile walks out the door, vowing to return. At the end of the bar, India, trying hard to mind its own business gets splashed with beer and starts to get up.
After dealing with the sandbox, Germany walks over to Russia hand outstretched in greeting. Russia takes it and get rewarded with Germany’s boot to the nads, and Finland, Hungary, Italy and Romania all pile on. Bloodied and dazed Russia backs off into the storeroom.
To distract Germany, England whispers something to Canada, who sneaks across the room and tries to smash a beer bottle on Germany’s head. The bottle fails to break and Germany turns around, grins and punches Canada in the nose. Holding their bloody nose Canada retreats, but keeps a supply of empty pint glasses flowing to Britain. Australia and New Zealand get an urgent call from their wives to come home because Japan is lurking in the garden, and they dash out. South Africa still pissed at England for making them take on both Italy and Germany and continues to sulk in the kid’s sandbox.
Germany goes looking for Russia in the storeroom to punch it some more, and notices the attractive walk-in freezer with hanging loops of sausage and schnitzel, not realizing Russia is hiding inside waiting with a frozen haunch of ham….. Germany otherwise occupied, Britain kicks sand in Italy’s face. With things getting a bit too quiet in the main bar, Britain and Canada start throwing pickled eggs at Germany’s back.
Germany and Russia, encouraged by their new buddies Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Finland and Ukraine, have started a serious game of Russian Roulette in the freezer, so Germany fails to hear Italy’s pitiful screams for help.
Italy, having decided that beating up on Ethiopia was training enough to punch at their own weight level, decided to take on Britain, but runs away after getting sodomized by their giant British boot.
Meanwhile, our friendly bartender Switzerland is still sitting there, watching this all unfold, dishtowel in one hand, drink in the other, ducking the occasional flying bottle/chairleg/billiard ball. Our other friendly bartender Sweden is still sitting there, watching, order pad in one hand, weapons licenses for sale in the other and selling brass knuckles to both sides.
USA, Canada and England now working together, piledrive Italy and knock them unconscious. Then, South Africa, New Zealand and Poland (who left to get a new set of trousers and just got back) all join together and rain blows and kicks and elbows on Germany until it can’t help but beg for mercy. Even Brazil from down the street jumps in as does France who appears to be fine again. Italy and Germany decide that enough’s enough and cry for surrender, with the bar now completely and utterly ruined.
Japan is still poking USA in the back. With a little help from some engineers patronizing the bar, USA heaves the piano over the second floor railing and it lands with deafening noise squarely on Japans head. From underneath a tiny white flag rises from rubble.

If World War I were a bar fight

Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.
Austria demands Serbia buy it a whole new suit because of the new beer stains on its trouser leg.
Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view.
Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.
Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.
Russia and Serbia look at Austria.
Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.
Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.
Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in doing so.
Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that its sufficiently out of order that Britain not intervene.
Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what is Germany going to do about it?
Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action anymore.
Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.
Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.
Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.
France and Britain punch Germany. Austria punches Russia. Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.
Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over. Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there. Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.
Australia punches Turkey, and gets punched back. There are no hard feelings because Britain made Australia do it.
France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting. Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.
Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.
America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a bar stool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.
By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered. Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault . While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

Worst locker ever

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"OK glass. Search 'avoid being bullied for wearing Google Glass'"

If Google was a guy, part 2.

The best part was the Bing guy.

Also the Google Glass thing.
What do Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Louis C.K., Paul Reubens, Stephen Colbert, Zach Galifianakis, John Goodman, Lisa Kudrow, Geena Davis, and Richard Belzer all have in common?

They were all rejected by Saturday Night Live.

The official sunblock of Ireland

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Things I learned lately - 22 June

  • "I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue in the same way." ~Texas Governor Rick Perry
  • There are more than 2,000,000 lakes in Canada, but only 31.752 of them have an area more than one square mile.
  • China laughed when they found out the cost to get Solar energy on par with the cost of coal energy ($10 billion). The Chinese are likely to make solar cheaper to help solve their environmental and energy supply problems.
  • Mercedes Benz will not sell the all-electric version of my B250 vehicle in Canada because they expect low sales.
  • A Republican representative in Oklahoma thinks it would be perfectly justifiable to stone homosexuals to death.
  • You can buy stuff from Macy's online, which ships to Canada. They are constantly having sales too. Darlene just bought something that originally sold for about $400 and paid $150, shipped.
  • Nissan is releasing a new supercar named Godzilla. I hear it's a monster. Pun intended.
  • Shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show find the many news video clips they make fun of using SnapStream to search for clips using their closed-captioning texts.
  • NASA has designed a theoretical warp drive ship. Now they just have to figure out how to make a warp drive real.
  • Wanna hire Prince for your own personal concert? That'll be $2,000,000. Miley? Arcade Fire? $1,500,000. Can anyone be had for less than $30,000? Yep. Chubby Checker. Harry Belafonte. Emerson & Lake. Megadeath. Pat Boone. The Human League. Village People. Vanilla Ice.
  • Crime in Denver has fallen over 10% since weed became legal.

"I will not comment on a video I have never seen or doesn't exist"

Rob Ford's words in the mouth of a child

It's surreal.

Why net neutrality is important

You should really care about net neutrality. Why? Because there is (was?) still one thing in this world that treats all content equally - the internet.

Think about it. You can read articles, watch movies, play games, perform research and so much more. But the beauty of it all is that no any one kind of content is treated better than the other. All of these things are delivered to you at the same speed (assuming the source is capable) and there's no favouritism.

The problem now is that the internet is being run and or connected to you courtesy of companies that also own content that used to be delivered via other means, like TV and movies and music stores. These companies are trying (and in some cases succeeding) to control what content gets delivered to you with priority, or better speed - theirs of course.

So when the company that connects you to the internet offers TV and movie programming on demand, they are going to allow their own content to reach you with better speed and access than a competitor like Netflix. Unless they're willing to pay more. Some amateur content creator whose stuff is stored on YouTube doesn't stand a chance. This isn't fair and it leads to uneven competition.

Do you want the companies that operate or connect the internet to you to control how content is managed? If the answer is 'no', you really should let your government know that this isn't acceptable. Because the companies have them convinced that you couldn't care less.

In a recent development, in a filing in the federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) "Protecting and promoting the Open Internet" proceeding, AT&T has promised to lower its customers Internet bills if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows Internet service providers (ISPs) to charge companies like Netflix for faster content delivery.

Politicians discussing whether climate change is real

Friday, June 20, 2014

Look out!

Cute movie made with wind-up robots.

All Our Patent Are Belong To You

Here is an excerpt (edited for brevity) of a recent announcement by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla:

"When I started out, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. Maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. When I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.

At Tesla, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm us. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting far less than 1% of their sales.

Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world's most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla's position in this regard."

I'm on to you Microsoft

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Just sell it to me already

When I heard that Mercedes Benz was going to be making an all-electric version of my car, the B250, I got all excited. Don't get me wrong, I could not afford to add this car to my collection - one is enough. But I am excited that Mercedes is trying to offer electric vehicles in their inventory because from an efficiency point of view, they are a logical next step in the evolution of personal vehicles.

Why? For starters, because pound for pound and dollar for dollar, it costs less to move a vehicle around using electricity than it does using gasoline. It is more efficient to burn a little more fuel to make the electricity to charge a car than it does filling it up with gas. And since natural gas is cleaner than gasoline, it's even less polluting. Now, some would argue that Alberta gets a lot of its electricity from coal, so some of that 'clean' is lost. True, but we won't always be getting our electricity from coal if world and national environmental pressures keep up their pace.

Another reason an electric car is better is because the power plant is less complicated and needs less maintenance. No more oil changes, tune-ups, explosions from fuel tanks, transmission fluid, overheating. A car in the last part of its recharge can use the power from the wall to pre-heat or pre-cool the interior without draining the battery.

The biggest obstacle to adopting electric vehicles has always been battery costs and range anxiety. Well, battery costs will drop dramatically as new technologies come online and once Tesla builds its battery giga-factory in the US, we should see some immediate cost reductions. To assuage range anxiety, charging stations are popping up all over the US and Europe and there are plans to expand those networks with each passing year. Heck, if you own a Tesla, recharging on their supercharging network is.... free. This is a modern, sustainable model.

What bugs me though is that thanks to government cooperation, or lack thereof, parts of the world are seeing mass adoption of this new paradigm while the rest of us suffer with practically nothing. That's right, I'm now talking about Canada. US electric car owners get tax incentives to own a zero-emissions car. Canada has none of that. We used to, but the reigning Conservatives put a stop to that in a big hurry. US electric car owners get preferred status as they go about their commuting. HOV lane access, special parking spots, breaks on parking fees and more. We get...... wait for it...... a couple of parking spaces at IKEA.

Now some of you would be right to ask "What's so special about electric cars? Why do they deserve a break?" What's special is that while they drive around, they are emitting nothing. Get enough electric cars on the road and you almost eliminate smog. You'll still have some, because you have to make the electricity in the first place. But what a lot of folks are missing is that a car filled with batteries is also a small piece of something the electric utility wishes it had access to - somewhere to store power until it's needed. If you had a few hundred thousand electric cars hooked up to the grid, taking electricity when it needs it but putting some back when it doesn't, you have a grid that is a whole lot more adaptable than it ever could hope to be. This allows you to use much more solar and wind power than ever before because now you have a storage element to your grid. Domino effect.

There are a group of people who have decided that electric cars could never work in Canada because of the extreme cold. I've seen enough personal YouTube videos from Tesla owners in Norway to know that this will not be an issue.

But let's get back to the point of my rant. Mercedes now makes an all-electric car. It will be available in stores by the end of 2014. But not in Canada. Why? They don't feel there will be enough sales to justify the offering. Personally, I think this is a short-sighted way of thinking. The only way you're going to sell a lot of electric cars is if you have a widespread infrastructure. The only way that will happen is if you sell a lot of electric cars. So it's a vicious circle, one that will only get momentum when one party takes a leap of faith in the industry. Who should be taking that leap? Our government. They have the means to make it enticing to get an electric car, which would motivate the Mercedes' of the world to sell them in Canada, which will allow people like me to buy them, which will lead to the demand for and eventual fulfillment of charging stations nation-wide, which will lead to less pollution in places like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and lead to a healthier electric grid.

Incidentally, Tesla sells an electric car in Canada. They don't have a lot of dealerships in Canada yet, but they plan to soon. They will also build their own charging network here. I may just have to sell my Benz someday and buy a Tesla.

Netflix answers Verizon's 'stop blaming us' statement

"Furthermore, your attempt to shift blame for our customers, experience on the Verizon network "squarely to Netflix itself" disregards Verizon's responsibility to provide its customers with the service it has promised them. Verizon sells residential Internet access to is customers. In fact, it is my understanding that Verizon actually up-sells customers to higher speed packages based on improved access to video services, including Netflix. Verison's unwillingness to augment its access ports to major Internet backbone providers is squarely Verizon's fault. As an ISP, you sell your customers a connection to the Internet. To ensure that these customers get the level of service they pay you for, it is your responsibility to make sure your network, including your interconnection points, have sufficient capacity to accommodate the data requests made by those customers.

To try to shift blame to us for performance issues arising from interconnection congestion is like blaming drivers on a bridge for traffic jams when you're the one who decided to leave three lanes closed during rush hour."

Ninth grade Nye

Monday, June 16, 2014

Trek continues!

Do you miss Star Trek the original series? You don't have to. Some talented fans ressurected the series with Star Trek Continued. It's not Roddenberry, but it's a pretty damned fine facimile.

3 full episodes so far, Pilgrim of Eternity, Lolani and Fairest of Them All. Listen to the computer's voice. Sound familiar? And the guy playing Scotty? Chris Doohan.

Yes. James Doohan's son.

Solar world

Theoretical space needed for solar power plants to generate sufficient electric power in order to meet the electricity demand of the World, Europe (EU-25) and Germany (De) respectively.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Things I learned lately - 15 June

  • This year (2014) marks the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz.
  • They make hybrid electric hot water heaters now. They include a heat pump built on the top, which does most of the heating. The electric element is only needed once in a while.
  • Bill Gates has enough money ($77.5 billion) to theoretically buy every house (all 114,212 of them) in Boston. The Walton family could buy all 241,450 homes in Seattle.
  • At least 20 states have laws or regulatory barriers that make it extremely difficult, if not illegal, for cities and communities to offer fiber internet access to their residents. That list includes Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, California and Florida. And even in states without explicit public broadband laws, cable companies often have non-compete agreements with the local governments. 
  • Minimum wage in Seattle is now $15/hr. In Alberta, it's $9.95 (about to go to $10.20). $15USD = $16.37CAD
  • Psychiatrist Michael Hunter and fellow researchers at the University of Sheffield in England monitored the brain activity of 12 men as they listened to voice recordings and found they process male voices differently from those of females. Women's voices stimulate an area of the brain used for processing complex sounds, like music. Male voices activate the "mind's eye," a region of the brain used for conjuring imagery.
  • Guess what group doesn't hate Trudeau's pro-choice stance? Women.....
  • Several countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Britain have bike-to-work schemes, with different kinds of incentives such as tax breaks, payments per kilometre and financial support for buying bicycles. Now, some 20 companies in France are going to pay their employees 34 cents per kilometre to bike to work.
  • China goes through 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks per year, which requires 20 million trees.
  • In two years, China produced more cement than the U.S. did in the 20th century.
  • Half of the world's pigs reside in China.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Karl's 50,000km 2013 Mercedes Benz B250 Review

My odometer cycled past 50,000 km last week. Scary, considering the car is only 16 months old. I thought that now would be a good time to review our experiences with this car.

We still love it! The car is very practical having a hatch with fold down rear seats. I'm not sure I can ever go back to a sedan. Darlene still finds the seats very comfortable and very adjustable. She used to have to use a gel seat cushion to last more than an hour and those days are over. We haven't gone on a lengthy (3+ hours) trip yet, so time will tell if it's worthy of a trip to California or Oregon.

That peppy little turbocharged engine mated with the double-clutch 7 speed automatic (with paddle shifters) gives this car a wonderful split personality. It's frugal on gas when you drive with restraint and goes like snot when you need it to. There is a bit of an acceleration delay while it's in Eco mode, but press a button and Sport mode solves that problem. The price to fill the B250 up is more with the need for premium gas, but I think $60 from empty is still a far sight less than what a lot of my peers are paying these days.

I really love the steering column wand cruise control. So much easier than buttons on the wheel, as long as you feel for the wand, which is just under the one used to indicate turns and turn on the wipers. The computer display gives me a lot of feedback on my fuel consumption and I'm currently averaging 7l/100km. I could probably get a lot better mileage but I'm having too much fun accelerating on on-ramps to highways.

The panoramic sun roof is amazing. My grand-daughter loves it too from her back seat vantage point. I'm still enjoying how nicely it parks itself. I'm getting into spots I would never choose of my own volition. The proximity sensors do a great job too. No more having to guess how much far I can back into the garage. The rear camera helps in that regard as well. I'm also enjoying the blind spot assist, the lane keep assist and the collision detection. The collision detection operates on the cautious side, warning me every time I approach what the car thinks is an obstacle, but is really just a bridge pylon. Silly Brunhilde. Yes, we named our car. What of it?

The car we chose has almost every option, but I thought I'd address the ones our car didn't have and indicate whether we wish we had them. The sport package would have only got us 18 inch wheels. Pass. I don't like the price of 18 inch rubber. 17 inch rubber is much cheaper. We didn't get the upgraded stereo. I'm on the fence about this, but the standard system isn't too shabby. Navigation? Who needs a system that is obsolete in 12 months? My Garmin and my iPhone give me all I need thanks. The one missing feature I do wish I got is the Distronic Plus, which not only controls your speed, but also the distance to the car in front. Which means if they slow down, so do you. Right down to a stop if necessary. Think cruise control that manages itself in stop and go traffic. Brilliant. Want. On the newest E Class Benz, their Distronic Plus even steers the car around curves on the highway. So we're very close to a car that drives itself, to a point.

In 16 months, I've had the car in the dealership for scheduled maintenance 2 times, with a 3rd session coming up shortly. The only thing needing fixing was a computer software update which solved a very bizarre symptom I won't bore you with. I bought nice rims to mount my all-season tires onto and use the stock rims for my winter tires. I will not be buying run-flats when these ones wear out. They're brutally stiff and very expensive. I may go with a green tire like the Nokian enTyre or a good set of Michelins.

Lyrics I love: Tom Petty - Here comes my girl

You know sometimes, I dont know why
But this old town just seems so hopeless
I ain't really sure but it seems I remember the good times
Were just a little bit more in focus
But when she puts her arms around me
I can somehow rise above it
Yeah man when I got that little girl standing right by my side
You know I can tell the whole wide world shove it
Here comes my girl
Here comes my girl

I guess the sign on the parcel box wasn't obvious enough

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lyrics I love: Big Wreck - That Song

So I always get nostalgic with that song
But in my room its forced
It has to be in some car across the street

How many times should you try?

Before you quit in your attempt at success.

Let's see how others did.

Web browser share as of April 2014

Monday, June 09, 2014


This is how I imagine a conversation going with a particular organization I was made aware of:

Me: So, 'Friends of Science'.......?
FOS: Yes.
Me: Friends?
FOS: Yes.
Me: ...of 'science'?
FOS: Yes.
Me: Who publicly deny that humans are contributing to climate change.
FOS: Vehemently.
Me: How do you sleep at night?
FOS: Quite well actually. We turn the heat up to 25C and find we don't even need blankets.

Worthless reward

Fido dollars are worth less..... we'll just leave it at that

So, you know how Fido goes on and on about how every dollar you spend earns you Fido Dollars that you can use to buy stuff? Well, as it turns out, those 'dollars' that are earned can only be used to pay for 2 things. A new phone, or a trial of a service you currently don't have. That's it. You can't buy accessories with it. Nor can you buy continuing services. Nor can you pay for your unlocking fee. Or any other fee. Or overages. Or a travel package. Nada.


What I like the most about this conversion kit for bicycles is that it's not permanent.

It will mount to almost any standard bicycle in less than a minute.

25km/h and 25km range. It sells for $1200.

Tesla supercharging station plan for 2015

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Things I learned lately - 7 June

  • A German court has decided that (in Germany) once you stop a relationship with someone, you're not allowed to keep compromising photos of them - you have to delete them.
  • So, the government of Canada has drafted an anti-spam law, with exceptions and loop-holes, with no teeth outside of Canada, to deal with a problem that for the most part, has been solved using intelligent filtering technology. Slow, deliberate clap.
  • According to scientists, the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is inevitable. That's not good, in case you were wondering.
  • Super-skinny mannequins with ribs showing were spotted at the Soho location of the lingerie store La Perla. It pissed off a lot of people, who took to Twitter to show their disgust. La Perla now promises to remove these mannequins everywhere.
  • You've heard of LED headlights. Now there's "laser" headlights (high beams only for now) on new high end BMW and Audi cars. And yes, I made quotes in the air with my fingers while I said "laser".......
  • 1 in 7 people don't get precisely what they ordered in the food industry. One of the ways the industry is trying to correct that is by introducing ordering kiosks.
  • Currently, grazing land for ruminants — cows and their kin, accounts for 26% of the world’s ice-free land surface.
  • Only 30% of Canadians polled realize that the CBC gets none of the money you spend on your cable/satellite TV bill.
  • The entire Canadian English TV industry's revenues from advertising, subscription fees and government amount to about $5 billion annually. The BBC network in the UK has more funding than our entire TV industry. The US TV industry, with which Canada's broadcasters must compete, had annual revenues in 2011 of $165 billion or 33 times that of Canadian broadcasters. Critics bemoan the lack of quality in Canadian TV but they offer no solutions other than to suggest Canadian TV (in particular, the CBC) needs to be 'cool' and make do with less. They have little knowledge of how TV is financed or produced.
  • There is a 61 mile long conveyor belt in Morocco that carries phosphate ore from a mine to the coast.

Record club

As you may or may not know, Beck has been a bit absent from his usual output of albums, having not put one out since 2008. He has a new record out now (Morning Phase), but what's he been doing in the meantime?

A lot apparently. He's been producing other artists and created something called Record Club, where he covers an entire album by another artist in one day, using an informal and fluid collective of musicians.

Albums covered include The Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground & Nico, Leonard Cohen's Songs of Leonard Cohen, Skip Spence's Oar, INXS's Kick, and Yanni's Yanni Live at the Acropolis.

Video footage of every performance has been made available on Beck's website.

Here are some select cuts from INXS's Kick:

Never tear us apart and new sensation.

How am I just finding out about this now? Huh?

Who's leaking what now?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Profound advice

In April of 1958, Hunter S. Thompson was 22 years old when he wrote this letter to his friend Hume Logan in response to a request for life advice.

Thompson's letter, found in "Letters of Note," offers some of the most thoughtful and profound advice I've ever come across.

April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the right direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

"To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … " (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you've ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don't see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I've mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he's not after the "big rock candy mountain," the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which cannot be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It's not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on "the meaning of man" and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term "god only knows" purely as an expression.) There's very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I'm the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I'm going to steer clear of the word "existentialism," but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called "Being and Nothingness" by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called "Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre." These are merely suggestions. If you're genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you're doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. We strive to be ourselves.

But don't misunderstand me. I don't mean that we can't BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be meaningful. A man has to be something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his abilities function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his desires. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he knows he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man must function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let's assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let's assume that you can't see any real purpose in any of the eight. Then — and here is the essence of all I've said— you must find a ninth path.

Naturally, it isn't as easy as it sounds. You've lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn't any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living within that way of life. But you say, "I don't know where to look; I don't know what to look for."

And there's the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don't know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by deciding to look, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don't call this to a halt, I'm going to find myself writing a book. I hope it's not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is my way of looking at things. I happen to think that it's pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn't seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I'm not trying to send you out "on the road" in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn't want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that's what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you had to do it. You'll have lots of company.

And that's it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

your friend,

Preventing Cable Company f%ckery

John Oliver is on a roll.

His take on why net neutrality is such a big deal should win a Peabody award.

I'm sure many can relate.....

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Calgary Shatpede

Guess who's a parade marshall in the 2014 Calgary Stampede?

The Shat! That's who.

How new forms of communication may affect youth

What texting has done for youth culture is complex. But early studies are showing that unlike 20 years ago when young people would go out and meet friends at the mall, high school dances, bowling alley, greasy spoons and the like, now they're staying home. The reason of course is that kids don't need to go out to interact with others anymore. They can communicate via texting, Facebook, Snapchat, Skype, etc.

This brings a whole new dynamic to social interaction because you get to stay in the comfort of your own home. You don't have to dress up to go out, you don't have to worry about being bothered or being seen by people you don't like or who intimidate you. Unlike communication with others 'out loud' and 'in the open', where conversations can be scrutinized and overheard, electronic communication is for the most part private and covert. This leads to much more open and uninhibited conversations than would be possible in public. And let's face it, we often find it easier to say things electronically that we might never say face to face. It also means we can say some pretty stupid shit and there's only one other person (per conversation) that can call it out.

This does create a new issue in that youth are becoming accustomed to sheltering themselves from unwanted physical social situations. This makes eventually dealing with face to face meetings quite difficult. It might also created awkwardness when you finally have to physically interact with someone you're attracted to because you've had this non-physical (but still possibly sexual) relationship with someone and now you have to deal with real physical presence with no preparation or practise whatsoever.

Consider the very likely possibility that young people might become used to long-term intimate relationships with others over electronic means, only to be disappointed with the physical reality of the other person once they meet in real life. If this type of situation happens a lot over the course of a young person's early adult life, they might be inclined to forego physical relationships altogether.

[update] My friend Bernie and I were discussing this and he mentioned that youth today have a distinct advantage in how they manage their communications. They could be physically interacting with a group of friends face to face while at the same time clandestinely texting one another with covert subtext, the kind never possible without technology.

I feel your pain Youppi

The Habs made a bet with Jimmy Fallon, and, well, they lost.

So here's Youppi, the Hab's mascot, in Old Montreal, adorned with a Rangers jersey and not too pleased with the turn of events.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Things I learned lately - 1 June

  • Message to Calgary: NYC has bike lanes. Dedicated ones. Lots of them. In one of the most congested roadway networks in the world. Yet they work. Hmmm.
  • Krakow, Poland; Stockholm, Sweden; Munich, Germany; Davos/St. Moritz, Switzerland. What do they have in common? They all walked away from their bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Why? Because their citizens no longer believe the Olympics are financially sustainable. The only cities left bidding are Olso, Norway; Lviv, Ukraine; Almaty, Kazakhstan; and Beijing, China. A decision is needed by 31 July 2015.
  • Uber drivers have been known to earn up to $90k per year. An average cab driver (US) typically earns $30k.
  • I hope you weren't hoping that anyone was going to win the debate against fracking. It's over and the frackers won.
  • One reason the Mediterranean diet works is the chemical interaction between olive oil and vegetables.
  • The latest resume tips suggest summarizing your most valuable qualifications at the top of the resume instead of a career objective. That way, employers can instantly find what you're good at.
  • Google ever-so-slightly re-positioned the second 'g' and the 'l' in their logo.
  • There are 5 oceans now. The 'southern ocean' was added in 2000 and is the area surrounding Antarctica.
  • A new study has come up with a slightly smaller radius for the proton. This has scientists baffled because they don't know if the first tests were wrong, the new test is wrong or they're wrong about pretty much everything related to quantum electrodynamics. There - now you have something to talk about at your next meeting at the coffee shop.
  • The Solar Roadways indigogo crowd-source campaign has raised over $1.4 million.
  • If you are angry at the person in front of you who's driving like a relative ... Pretend it is your relative — it will significantly reduce your road rage

John Oliver on climate change

"A poll finds that 1 out of 4 Americans are wrong about something." Watch the video.

Container stacking

I love the beautiful symmetry of this time lapse video done in shift-tilt style.