Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sad Lake is sad

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Targeted deals

I used to explain to people that the point of your [fill in store name here] club card was not to necessarily do you any favours, but to accurately track your buying habits, for their own purposes.

Those purposes include monitoring whether sales promotions work, noticing which brands you buy, analyzing the results of store layout methods, etc.

Well, we received an example of such tracking and resulting targeted advertising. Safeway often sends us a booklet of coupons that earn us extra Air Miles if we buy certain products. Usually, we have nothing to compare our booklet to, but this time we did.

Our booklet contained almost exclusively either products we usually buy or at least brands we usually buy, nothing more. But a look at this other person's booklet revealed that their coupons were specifically targeted to their buying habits as well. None of their coupons would have benefited us in any way and vice versa. Not only that, but they were able to earn bonus Air Miles spending far less money than the coupons we got.

Old man cat wants you off his lawn

Why can't studios get their acts together?

Here's another Big Entertainment pet peeve of mine. There are a variety of ways that you can legally purchase movies. You can buy them on a DVD or Blu-ray disc. You can rent or buy them on iTunes. You can rent them from a variety of online sources. There are more. But let's just focus on those for the moment.

When I buy a DVD of a movie, it sometimes comes with a digital copy. The purpose of this digital copy is to put it somewhere on my home network so that I may stream the movie to a TV or mobile device without having to lug the disc around. Many of these digital versions also come with a redemption code to build your movie collection online.

The problem is that not all of the studios use the same process or service. For example, one movie might offer a redemption code to add the movie to your iTunes collection. This is handy, because it allows you to watch the title on anything that can connect to iTunes and the internet. This is smart for a number of reasons, the least of which is that once you've bought a movie on a physical media, it only makes sense to allow you to have a roving copy online.

The problem is that not all of the studios are partnered with Apple. Some chose to partner with Ultraviolet / Flixster. You still get a redemption code, but it only works with Ultraviolet / Flixster, not iTunes. You cannot use a Flixster code to have a digital copy on iTunes, nor vice versa. This makes no sense to me. Most people like to keep their collections under one digital roof as it were. Nobody wants to try and remember which service hosts this movie or that.

Was it really that hard to get the studios to agree to allow people to load their digital copies onto the online service of their choice? If Apple can sell or rent any title, why can't it host a digital copy of any title? I have the DVD! What more do you want?

Major fail.

An ice cream ordering an ice cream from an ice cream

Things I learned lately - 27 Feb

  • The musk scent used to come from a male musk deer. Back in the day, a glandular sack about the size of a golf ball would be taken from the musk deer. That sack holds a liquid that is sprayed by the deer and used to attract a mate. When the deer died, the sack would be taken and dried to produce a musk pod. Broken open, you'd find the fragrant musk grain, which would then be soaked in alcohol. The scent was also gotten from other animals, including the vomit from a sperm whale and most other musk animals, like the muskox, musk shrew, and the musk beetle.
  • More young Americans would rather have dinner with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders than music megastars Kanye West and Justin Bieber — combined.
  • Seoul will roll out free WiFi networks at every single public place by 2017.
  • There are now more billionaires in Beijing than in New York City.
  • From now on, you'll need at least 10% down if you want to buy a home worth more than $500,000 in Canada. It used to be 5%.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

360 degree YouTube videos!

OK, maybe I've been hiding under an internet rock lately, but did you know about 360 degree videos? As in, videos where you can drag your viewpoint around in the video with your mouse?

I didn't even know this was a thing.

Here's the first one I came across, a tour of the solar system.

There are more, people! More!

Phone evolution

Mars 360 panorama

If you want to take a quick look around Mars where Curiosity (the rover) is these days, check out this 360 degree YouTube video.

Make sure to select the highest quality available from the settings option in the lower right. It's available up to 4K resolution!

It's OK. They're on their meds...

Things I learned lately - 20 Feb

  • Google Translate now handles 103 languages. That represents 99% of the population.
  • Oil is so cheap, even pirates don't want it anymore.
  • Many coffee shop coffee drinks have more sugar than a Coke.
  • Apparently, Beyonce is black, or something. [snort]
  • No North Korean people have access to the internet because the government is concerned that people would see things that would make them feel unfairly critical toward the West, and the government would like to protect the West's reputation by preventing the people from going on the internet.
  • The first recorded recipe for apple pie was written in 1381 in England, and called for figs, raisins, pears, and saffron in addition to apples. A recipe for apple pie very similar to today’s recipes appeared in a Dutch cookbook in 1514. So apple pie - not really American per se.
  • The 'cinnamon' found in kitchens is actually cassia, derived from Cinnamomum burmannii, a tree native to Indonesia. Of all the Cinnamomum species, this form of cassia, known as Indonesian cassia or Korintje cassia, has the lowest oil content and is therefore the cheapest. In the US, there's no labeling requirement to distinguish cinnamon and cassia, so we know them all as just cinnamon.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My new knock knock joke

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Joe who?
Joe Clark. Dammit you guys are cruel.

Kijiji comedy

Another example of Big E bull

I spend a decent amount of time researching new music artists to expand my horizons. When I want to find out more about an artist I don't know very well, I usually go to

This site does a great job of describing the artists, indicating what their music is like, who they sound like, artist history, etc. They also list the artist's discography and in many cases, even let you sample 30 seconds of each song on an album. This is very helpful in deciding if I want to get the artist's music.

While looking to get some information on Brooklyn based band Wet, I searched the allmusic site and was greeted by this bullshit (see pic).

And people wonder why I hate the music industry establishment so much. You wanna hold back on the samples, fine. But holding back on information is just plain fascist.

There, I said it.


Things I learned lately - 13 Feb

  • In both Vermont and New Hampshire, the percentage of the population that identify themselves as non-religious is over 50%. Maine is at 50%.
  • In the idiom skeleton in the closet, skeleton originally referred to a disease, as in keeping the fact that you have one hidden from others. 
  • Eat, is a restaurant in New York City, where no one is allowed to talk. The rule is strictly enforced. Diners turn off their cell phones when they come in and step outside if they need to blow their noses. Hand gestures and facial expressions replace speech, but most people are focused on eating.
  • In Canada, there is no caffeine in Mountain Dew. There is a law that prohibits light-coloured soft drinks from containing caffeine.
  • The Burger Family line of hamburgers were originally introduced in American A&Ws in the 1960s, disappeared on both sides of the border in the 1980s, but was revived and expanded in the 1990s in Canada only.
  • The average cup size (bust) in Canada is 'C'. Coincidence? The largest average cup size in the world is D+ in Norway, Sweden, Russia and Finland.

Saturday, February 06, 2016


Here's a 9 letter word that you can remove one letter at a time and still make a new word without re-arranging the letters even.


Batman & Sherlock

When I discovered music as a kid

When I was a kid, my family and I spent most of our summers in Trenton, New Jersey. We stayed at my grandmom's house on Dayton Street.

My grandmom had an old floor model radio set in the dining room. This was my single most memorable source of entertainment. It was after all, the mid-1970s and the music scene was bursting with soul. Elton John was singing Philadelphia Freedom, the Bee Gees were singing Jive Talkin', KC and the Sunshine band were in their element, Stevie Wonder had Boogie On Reggae Woman. It was a great time for music.

My introduction to David Bowie was his smash hit Fame. This song got a lot of airplay in the tri-state area, probably in part because he made a lot of friends recording the album Young Americans in Philadelphia, and likely also because the song featured John Lennon backing him up. Lennon was huge in New York, only in part because he lived there. But this song Fame was amazing. I've heard it so often that I would typically be exhausted of it, but no. It certainly became one of many songs that bring me back to Trenton in the 1970s. I can tell you I was not impressed when Bowie re-worked the song for a 1990s remake. I considered it an abomination and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I've had a love-hate relationship with the Bowie catalogue over the years, as my musical tastes changed. But Fame will always be the definitive Bowie song for me.

As I mentioned, the mid 1970s produced a staggering amount of quality soul music. But powerful ballads were in evidence too, my absolute favourite being Elton John's Someone Saved My Life Tonight. My musical sphere was limited to whatever was playing on the radio. But while I was hanging out at a playground just around the corner, I met a family of kids who seemed to know a lot more about music than I did. I was intrigued, because this was the first time anybody ever wanted to talk to me about music. And these kids knew their music. They invited me to go back to their house, not far from my grandmom's on Dayton. Their parents weren't home, but they had the run of the place. I think the eldest child was an older teen, so it was all good. They had a stereo system! And record albums. Lots of albums. They would ask me if I had heard of this band or that artist. One of the first ones I said 'no' to was the band Chicago.

When they heard that I didn't know about Chicago, they went into full on demo mode. Now, it's one thing to listen to charting hits on a 1950s vintage, floor model, tube amplified, monophonic AM radio. It's quite another to be introduced to music on a good quality stereo system. Let's face it, Chicago isn't just guitars and drums either. It's horns and vocal harmonies and power chords. It's bombastic. On a proper stereo, it's a revelation. I was in awe. Why had I never heard this before? This was incredible music. The kids played one album after another in their entirety. We'd be playing some games, with Chicago blaring in the background, and every once in a while, they'd stop and say "OH! Listen to this song!", and we'd stop what we were doing and listen.

I tried to talk about this newly discovered band with my family, but they don't really talk about music. Unless you're talking to my dad about the old big bands and artists like Herb Alpert. I wish I could thank those kids, wherever they are, for opening my consciousness to the possibility that there was a lot more great music out there than what I had been hearing on the radio. It certainly had an impact when I was expanding my musical horizons in the 1980s.


Things I learned lately - 6 Feb

  • The cornea is the only part of a human body that has no blood supply; it gets oxygen directly through the air. The cornea is the fastest healing tissue in the human body, thus, most corneal abrasions will heal within 24-36 hours.
  • In Sweden, everyday office employees — unless they're high-ranking professionals — don't wear dress clothes. For the most part, jeans will get you by.
  • Almonds - seeds, not nuts.
  • Pistachios - seeds, not nuts.
  • Walnuts - seeds, not nuts.
  • Cashews - seeds of the cashew apple, not nuts.
  • Peanuts - legumes, not nuts.