Saturday, October 31, 2015

Coal burners

I wish people would stop labelling electric cars as 'coal burners'. Yes, we are quite aware that some jurisdictions get their electricity from coal. But our dryers, air conditioners, fans, ovens, stoves, TVs, and computers are all coal burners in this context as well. Nobody is decrying the use of coal burning computers or big screen televisions.

Also, I would venture that there is a much smaller environmental footprint burning coal with scrubbers than extracting oil out of the ground, or worse, mining it in the case of oil sands, or fracking it by injecting who knows what into the ground. Never mind moving the oil by rail or pipeline to a refinery and turning it into gasoline, which then needs to be delivered everywhere, while all along risking spills and other environmental disasters like leaking underground gasoline storage tanks. I have yet to read about any electricity spills en route to my house.


"Are you feeling tired, irritable, stressed out?"

It's the only prescription without side-effects!

Seen in Kensington area of Calgary

Things I learned lately - 31 Oct

  • Some cable channels in the US are artificially speeding up syndicated TV shows to fit in an extra 2-3 minutes of commercials. In some cases, they're even cutting out whole scenes to fit more ads. Little do they realize this will just motivate more people to switch to streaming services.
  • Since 2010, 236 Calgary citizens have been trained in hobby beekeeping, bringing over 400 hives into the city. Even the Municipal Building has 2 hives in the rooftop garden.
  • Calgary has the highest per capita number of self employed workers in Canada.
  • 48% of Albertans would struggle with meeting financial obligations if their pay was delayed by one week.
  • Con Edison operates the world's largest network of steam pipes, in New York City. The system started with 350 customers back in the late 1800s. At its peak in the 1920s and 1930s, the pipes had 2,500 customers across more than 100,000 commercial and residential buildings. Today, the network runs 105 miles, delivering steam to nearly 2,000 buildings throughout the city.
  • The Trans Canada Highway still has more kilometres of two lane (one lane in each direction) highway between Kamloops and the Alberta border than there is through all of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined.
  • Madrid and Oslo have, or are in the process of, banning all cars from their city centres.
  • It is possible to get sick from frozen food cooked in the microwave when not waiting for the 'standing time' to elapse. That's because the standing time is part of the cooking process and allows the heat to finish killing any bacteria. Food should reach 165F (74C) to be safe enough to eat.
  • The baby carrots you buy in a typical grocery store (no skin, no stems) are just cut and shaped big carrots.
  • Kellogg's Corn Flakes were invented by Dr. Kellogg in hopes that they would reduce masturbation. He believed corn was one thing that could curb it.
  • Kashi is owned by Kellogg's.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Responding to negativity

One of the things that has always fascinated me about people is negativity. It's a mindset that not only sets the mood for people around you, but it tends to foster more of the same. It's one thing to say you're going to avoid negative people or people who have something negative to say, but that doesn't really solve anything.

One thing you can do is show empathy, then change the subject to something positive. "I'm sorry to hear that. Did anything good come of this?" If the answer is no, completely change the subject. The idea is not to dwell or add fuel to the fire.

Find a strength in the story and remind them how impressive it is that they kept their head. This just focuses on the positive of the situation.

Ask them how they normally handle situations like that to get them thinking about coping mechanisms.

"Too bad so and so doesn't have the courage that you do." This is a combination of flattery and may force them to think from the other person's perspective.

If you summarize what they said back to them to make sure you understand the situation, it proves that you were actually listening to them, which, in my humble opinion, is what they're hoping for in the first place. Just don't embellish, to add fuel to the fire.

When you just don't know what else to say, change the subject to something happier. You can offer help, but just be ready to follow through. Sometimes, the offer of help will be met with the realization that you can't help them, which helps defuse the conversation.

Road runner rules

Things I learned lately - 24 Oct

  • Tesla cars bought after September 2014 now have (after a simple downloadable software upgrade) the ability to cruise mostly autonomously. This means maintain a set speed and safe distance, avoid rear and front end collisions, maintain the lane, and steer. The car will change lanes on its own if you signal accordingly. Tesla is not calling this self-driving, more enhanced driving.
  • Aussie brand shampoo is not from Australia.
  • An incandescent light bulb is only 10% efficient. The rest of the energy generates heat.
  • The electric toaster was invented decades before pre-sliced bread.
  • It's practically impossible to overdose on marijuana. Even if you tried to eat it, you'd need to eat 22kg of the stuff. At once.
  • The theobromine in chocolate is harmful to humans too, but because we metabolize it, you'd need to eat 85 chocolate bars to get into trouble.
  • Two cherry pits contain enough cyanide to kill you.
  • Body Shop is owned by L'Oreal.
  • Burt's Bees is owned by Clorox.
  • Former NBA player Gilbert Arenas has a personal shoe collection with over 2000 pairs.
  • The Mini Cooper Countryman was once listed as the least reliable vehicle in America.
  • Denny's (the restaurant) was founded under the name Danny's Donuts in Lakewood, California in 1953. Denny's expanded to twenty restaurants by 1959, when the chain was renamed Denny's to avoid confusion with another chain, "Doughnut Dan's".
  • GMail now reminds you if it thinks you forgot to add that attachment you mention in the message.
  • Daylight Savings Time increases gasoline consumption. This is likely because evening activities increase since it stays light out later.
  • Astronomers report that there could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in our galaxy, based on new analysis of data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pretending other than on your resume

Alternative voting

In an alternative vote system, voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than voting for a single candidate.

Ballots are initially distributed based on each elector's first preference. If a candidate secures more than half of votes cast, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Ballots assigned to the eliminated candidate are recounted and added to the totals of the remaining candidates based on who is ranked next on each ballot. This process continues until one candidate wins by obtaining more than half the votes.

If that were the system we used in Canada today, based on 2nd choices provided to recent polls, the projected results would be as pictured.

Minorities, coalitions and compromise, oh my!

So, if the latest polls are a predictor of the possible results of this federal election, which ever party wins the most seats may only form a minority government. I've heard a chorus of people who shudder at the thought. Personally, I welcome a minority government, so long as it does not result in another election for at least 2 years. Here's why.

Minority governments force parliament to do something that they have little practise doing these days. Cooperate. Compromise. Listen to other points of view and put forth legislation that almost everyone can agree on. Stop and read that last bit again. How can that be bad? It cannot. It's win - win. Of course, for this to happen, all politicians are going to have to let go of their egos. It also means that Canadians are going to have to get used to compromise as well. No longer would the ruling party (and its supporters) be able to dictate exactly how the country would operate, unopposed. There's a word that might have some meaning again, for a change. Opposition.

And that's a good thing.

How likely

Things I learned lately - 18 Oct

  • In Churchill, Manitoba, people leave their cars unlocked, in case anyone needs to make a quick escape from a polar bear.
  • Lactose tolerance various by geographical region. In northern Europe, about 90% of the population can tolerate lactose, around the Mediterranean, that drops to around 40%, and in Africa and southern Asia, 10%.
  • Your saliva glands produce about 4 soda cans worth of saliva every day.
  • The word Popsicle (TM) is in fact trademarked.
  • Tegestologists are people who collect coasters.
  • In the 1950s, Xerox machines overheated so often, they came equipped with small fire extinguishers.
  • 'Pillow puffer' was a term that used to mean interior designer.
  • There exists scotch flavoured toothpaste.
  • Tokyo's Shinjuku subway station handles 3,640,000 people per day. Not the system - this one subway station!
  • The way we pronounce 'herb' (the 'h' being silent) is a holdover of times when it was considered proper for all aitches to be silent, unlike today. Had the tradition carried on, we would also be pronouncing ospital, umble, etc.
  • Before people said 'break a leg' instead of 'good luck' to actors, they used to say 'give birth to a bastard!', back in 1670. The problem is that the origin of 'break a leg' has at least a dozen different, credible sources.
  • ET was originally supposed to eat M&Ms in the movie, but Mars didn't agree to let the candy be used.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Rush as emojis

Kiss as emojis

U2 as emojis

Why I think you should vote in the 2015 Canadian federal election

You might feel that your vote doesn't count. I assure you, it does.

Try not to focus on a party's look or reputation. See where they stand on actual issues that matter to you. If you're looking for issues to get behind, I have some suggestions. Taking action on climate change; investing in clean technology; repairing the relationship with first nations; offering benefits to those who actually need them, not the wealthy; repairing the Canada-US relationship and our global image; making government more transparent (but for real this time); closing political financial loopholes; engaging youth to vote; legalizing and regulating marijuana; more free votes in Parliament; real Senate reform that returns to the original ideal of sober second thought with less partisanship; a more relevant Question Period with relevant answers; no more omnibus bills; continued home mail delivery; gender equality in government; higher government service standards; a return of the long-form census and the invaluable data it collected; no more muzzled government scientists; affordable education.

The most important platform item I'm hoping for, is a commitment to reform the election process to end first-past-the-post. This is in my opinion, the most important and critical advancement in democracy in the recent history of Canada. The problem we have in federal politics is that if a majority government is more interested in advancing their own ideology and platform at the complete expense of everyone else, you have the potential of a 39% majority ruling the country (it happened), while ignoring the concerns of the other parties. In fact, in only 3 of the 23 elections since 1921 has a Canadian political party won a majority of seats while also being supported by a majority of voters. I think it's time to try a new method of forming government, where even the weakest voices are heard and can contribute to the discussion. I hope we choose a form of proportional representation. Some parties have opened the door to this possibility and I think it's time we walked through it.

You might be thinking of voting for a party other than the current ruling party to instigate change. There are those who suggest that the NDP and Liberals should merge in an effort to ensure the defeat of the Conservatives. Although I like what that does for our chances, I don't agree that the two left parties are similar enough to justify a merge. Also, I tend to agree with Trudeau's argument that Canadians' choices shouldn't be too homogenized, as in left versus right. As recent history has shown, although the old Progressive Conservatives merged with the Reform party, there are a lot of disagreements regarding where the "party of the right" should stand on many issues and it isn't all rainbows and unicorns.

I say vote for the party that best aligns with your values and priorities. Don't vote 'against' something, vote 'for' something. Avoid voting based on something a party or person did more than 20 years ago. Those people are long gone and the situation has evolved. Move on.

Just because you don't think a party is likely to get many votes in your riding is not a great reason to avoid voting for them. Stop listening to what others say and vote with your whole being, logic, feelings, and conscience. The worst that can happen is you elect a bad government and in 4 years, you get to boot them out.

The 40% of Canadians who did not vote in the last election, wielded the power to easily change the outcome. Incumbents rely on apathy. If you want change, you have to vote. Don't abdicate your responsibility.

I'm choosing to vote. In fact, I already have. Yesterday. I hope you vote too.

Soap dispenser's first day on the job

Things I learned lately - 10 Oct

  • 86 Canadian families have more combined wealth than 11.4 million Canadians at the bottom of the income pyramid.
  • The music industry now makes less revenue from selling CDs than both digital downloads and digital streaming.
  • Air Canada originally planned to order 4 Concorde supersonic airliners. The 1973 oil crisis scared too many buyers away, leaving only Air France and British Airways as the only 2 customers.
  • In Alaska, a 'sourdough' is a long time resident of Alaska.
  • Canada's not even in the top 25 countries for average peak connection speed.
  • Japan's owl cafes are so popular, you need a reservation to get in one.
  • There is less caffeine in Tim Horton Dark Roast coffee than their regular blend. But it's only 5 mg less, so you likely won't feel any different.
  • Hillary Clinton hasn't driven a car since 1996.
  • It takes 364 licks to get to the centre of a Tootsie Roll Pop.
  • Wint-O-Green was the first flavour of Lifesavers.
  • The company that made the Baby Ruth candy bar sued baseball legend Babe Ruth to prevent him from making a candy bar named The Babe Ruth Home Run Bar. They won.
  • A typical hive might have 50,000 bees, and visit 100,000,000 flowers.
  • The Beatles used the word 'love' 613 times in their songs.

Saturday, October 03, 2015


Select tweets from the Sarcastic Rover

"Not all electrons are negative. Some have just been hurt in the past and are looking for a reason to trust again." ~sarcasticrover

"2.5 billion dollars and I can't even watch AMC out here?! That's fine. I can catch up on Breaking Bad when I get back. Oh wait... ~sarcasticrover

"Guess who's got no thumbs, nuclear power and is now the Mayor of Mars on foursquare? #thisrover" ~sarcasticrover

"I enter the martian atmosphere at over 20,000 km per hour, and you call Usain Bolt "fast". Screw you assholes." ~sarcasticrover

"Instead of coffee, on Mars we just grind up rocks and filter them through the memories of our abandonment. Really wakes me up!" ~sarcasticrover

"It takes two whole days to get to the space station? This is like the Oregon Trail or something. The cargo craft will probs get dysentery." ~sarcasticrover

"All the science in the world and the best way to get people back from outer space is to drop them in a can with a big umbrella tied to it." ~sarcasticrover

"In the future, unemployment will be 100% because no one gets hired for anything due to past Twitter jokes and Halloween costume choices." ~sarcasticrover

"Humans are all "when will robots think like us?" and robots are all "why would we want to?"" ~sarcasticrover

"I asked Mars if it had liquid water and it said "Is Pepsi okay?"" ~sarcasticrover

"SCIENCE REMINDER: A blizzard doesn't disprove climate change anymore than you being an idiot disproves evolution." ~sarcasticrover

"Mars doesn't have oxygen and it can make your eyes boil in your head while you freeze to death. But, please, tell me about your snowstorm." ~sarcasticrover

Mars vacay

Reasons the Conservatives don't deserve another mandate in 2015

This is just what I remember and could research in 60 minutes or so. In fairness, there are people with a lot more time on their hands who have been keeping close tabs on the government's deeds since they took power. One of them is 24% Majority. He does a splendid job journalling what's been going on with links to news articles and editorials.

People might say, "It's not really fair to be focusing on the government that closely." To those I say, "It's called accountability." Our leaders promised a lot of things that they frankly never delivered on. But that happens all the time, with all parties. What really bothers me in this case, is the sheer insolence of the incumbents.

But back to the point. I give you my list of reasons why this government doesn't deserve another mandate this time around.

No personal attacks. Just facts.

  • Support of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Corporations before people, even before nations and their laws.
  • Failed on promises for better accountability, transparency and openness.
  • Lied about Mike Duffy. If 'lied' is too strong a word for you, how about 'didn't come clean'?
  • Disrespected veterans.
  • Too many cuts to government services.
  • Proven illegal robocalls in last election.
  • Proven electoral fraud in last election.
  • Making us wait 2 more years to collect our CPP pension.
  • Unwillingness to listen to all political stakeholders on any issues.
  • PM won't talk openly to press.
  • Federal scientists permanently muzzled.
  • More cuts to foreign aid than ANY other country.
  • Copyright reform that benefits big entertainment only.
  • Government said they would have adopted SOPA type legislation if it had passed in US.
  • Lack of vision on F-35 program. Worst fighter jet ever. Even an F-16 out-performs it.
  • Making the long form census, the most important statistical tool in Canada, voluntary, making it almost useless. Chief Statistician furious.
  • Cutting 50% of workers from Stats Canada.
  • Making new child tax benefits also available to the rich (who really don't need it).
  • No willingness to offer pharma-care program.
  • No willingness to create affordable daycare program.
  • The Tony Clement G8 spending debacle. Remember gazebos built with G8 meeting funds?
  • No promised senate reform. Then blamed it on the provinces.
  • Appointed 48 senators, after promising to stop appointing senators.
  • Overt promotion of Islamaphobia. Niqab bans? Really? This is important?
  • Gutting the National Archives.
  • Cuts to inmate reform programs.
  • Forced through 'Tough on Crime' bill while crime is lowest it's ever been. Even Canadian Bar Association doesn't approve.
  • If you argue with their policies, you're branded un-Canadian, a pedophile supporter, or a terrorist supporter.
  • When you bring up failed policies, they attack you personally, or blame previous governments.
  • Continuous cuts to the CBC. Only appointing pro-Con board members.
  • Federal riding redistribution (more seats) magically only happened in strong Conservative areas.
  • Food inspections services were cut.
  • Elections Canada can no longer promote voting to youth (or anyone).
  • No willingness to consider legalizing euthanasia.
  • Harper is the only PM in Canada's history to be found in contempt of Parliament.
  • Bill C-51 criminalizes free speech and offers no oversight over CSIS, RCMP and CSEC.
  • Sham 'Federal Accountability Act'. 60 promised reforms, 29 put in place, then 7 rolled back, 31 broken.
  • 4 prorogues of Parliament to avoid serious issues.
  • Forcing unpopular non-budget policies through government using budget omnibus bills and no discussions or chance for amendments.
  • Spying on environmental and aboriginal activists.
  • Failed to fulfill election promise to cut $1.4 billion in federal subsidies to oil companies.
  • $13 million per year for CRA to audit 'selected' charities. Not one of them Conservative.
  • Renaming Government of Canada to Harper Government.
  • Refused to sign on to UN declaration to make clean water and sanitation a human right. Only country opposed. Likely reason: they would then be forced to deal with water situation on first nations reserves.
  • Pulling Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol. 192 countries still members.
  • No federal measures to combat climate change. But they scold the provinces for not doing more when the provinces have done it ALL.
  • Climate scientists cut from Environment Canada.
  • No investment in green technology.
  • Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act either gutted or repealed.
  • 92 auditing positions eliminated from the civil service.
  • Rewrote access to information laws to retroactively protect RCMP from being prosecuted for illegally destroying records that had been requested by the public.
  • Deloitte Senate expense audit altered by PMO to protect Senator Duffy.
  • 10+ Tories charged with serious crimes since 2006.
  • The In/Out scandal (transferring money to local ridings and back to Conservative purse to get around spending limits).
  • Dissolution of CIDA.
  • Refugee health care stripped by immigration minister. Then he scolds Ontario when they offer it instead.
  • Not interested in finding out what happened to 1181 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
  • Our peacekeeping role obliterated.
  • Canada 16th out of 18 Western nations in per capita public broadcasting funding. Average = $80 per capita, Canada = $33.
  • Harper only attends 35% of question periods in 2015. Lowest on record. Ever!
  • Hired lawyers to attack the premise that our government has a sacred obligation to veterans.
  • Income splitting tax cut for non-seniors only relevant to 15% of households.
  • Canada fell from 7th to 25th in world ranking of economic gender gap. In other words, the gap between rich and poor growing rapidly.
  • Cancelled environmental risk assessments on nearly 500 corporate projects. Just in BC alone.
  • Jason Kenney called a UN recommendation to help 1 million Canadian kids who are too poor to eat 'ridiculous'.
  • Eliminated funding to 6 women's health organizations.
  • Government 'lost' $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding.
  • Closed 75% of Status of Women offices.
  • Voted against pay equity bill.
  • 41st per capita in acceptance of refugees. Not 1st as was claimed.
  • Unwillingness to consider de-criminalizing marijuana, even though a majority of Canadians now support it.
  • Officially denied a UN declaration labelling asbestos as hazardous. This resulted in world-wide declaration failing due to lack of consensus. Canada was the only dissenting country.
  • Conservative candidates told not to bother attending debates or meetings with constituents.
  • Government departments and agencies handed back $8.7 billion. In other words - money budgeted for, but NOT SPENT. That's your surplus.

Do you really need any more?

The Credible Hulk

Things I learned lately - 3 Oct

  • In Barrow Alaska, the most northern town in the US, food is expensive because is has to be flown in with everything else. A jar of peanut butter costs around $10. A typical family will spend $500 or more on groceries in a week.
  • Demand for the biggest, most extreme Gulfstream corporate jet (G650) is so strong that owners are flipping them at a profit between $5-7 million. The supply is so outstripped by demand that new customers were selling their $65 million jets before they even took delivery from Gulfstream.
  • Dear parents: If you're on Facebook to keep track of your teens, they've already left for other apps (WhatsApp; SnapChat; WeChat; KakaoTalk).
  • An estimated 1 in 5 children in the UK were conceived on an IKEA mattress.
  • 1/10 of all furniture purchased in Britain comes from IKEA.
  • Midwesterners love to shorten their phrases. Sometimes, things are just so cute or fun that there's no time to get out a full sentence. So, "Oh for goodness sakes, how cute!" is condensed to "Oh, for cute!"
  • Marijuana now legal in Oregon.
  • Amazon won't sell Apple TV boxes or Google Chromecast sticks. #Obviously #NoBigSurpriseHere
  • Facebook is testing 7 second profile videos (looped).
  • Police are disguising themselves as those panhandlers at the intersection to try and catch people on their phones.
  • Caffeinated peanut butter is now a thing. The caffeine of one cup of coffee in every tablespoon.
  • Amazon Flex pays regular people $18-25 an hour to deliver Amazon Prime Now parcels. You must have a car and an Android phone. Shifts can range from 2 - 12 hours.
  • In Australia, a woman named Lucy remotely piloted an iPad on a Segway into the lineup outside a store to get a new iPhone 6S. The iPad/Segway combination is one of 6 such 'telepresence robots' owned by the media company Lucy works for.