Friday, June 24, 2016

Things I learned lately - 24 June

  • What Sigourney Weaver got paid for the movie Alien: $35,000. For Aliens: $1,000,000. Alien 3: $4,000,000. Alien Resurrection: $11,000,000.
  • The glass delusion is an external manifestation of a psychiatric disorder in the 15th to 17th centuries. People feared that they were made of glass and likely to shatter. One famous sufferer was King Charles VI of France who refused to allow people to touch him.
  • RC Cola is the top-selling cola brand in the Philippines.
  • Amazon produces and shows pilots for any new shows it's contemplating. Netflix does not.
  • Burger King introduced a grilled hot dog to its menu in Feb 2016, but only in the US.
  • HBO streaming only signed up 800,000 customers. Solution: partner with Netflix, raise the price to $10 even and watch the money and customers come rolling in.

Questionable translation

Growing pains

If the city of Calgary is making development and road decisions you don't agree with, it's possible that you might need to look toward your community association.

In my community, the city said it was planning some changes to a major thoroughfare to calm traffic passing through the community. This would be accomplished by adding a more substantial median, banners, trees and flowers, similar to what you see on stretches of Memorial Drive, etc.

But when I attended the information session for the city's plans so far, there is no indication of any of those changes. Instead, I saw the addition of bike lanes, and the reduction in the number of traffic lanes on some major streets. But the city did mention that they now had data to support the addition of left turn signals on some key roads. When asked if those new signals would be part of the plan, the answer was no. When pressed to find out why, it was because the community association asked that they not be implemented.

So I spoke to the president of the association, who was present. I said that a lot of residents were looking forward to an easier time turning left into, or out of, their own neighbourhood. But there are other residents who oppose the signals because of short-cutting through their neighbourhood en route to points north.

So for the sake of extra traffic going up a key road, other residents will continue to endure a difficult time turning left into their own neighbourhood. I suggested, somewhat controversially, that this short-cutting was much ado about nothing anyway. People will take the path of least resistance, and a commuter shouldn't be punished for wanting to take an efficient path to their destination. Although some residents saw my point, what they are really troubled by is not the actual traffic volume, but traffic speed, and safety concerns for crossing pedestrians. I remarked that it's not right to try to curb speeding by restricting access to an entire neighbourhood.

Some residents also suggested that the lack of left signal and the loss of a full lane on a road providing egress from the community, would create a big problem when the multi-use sports park finishes up for the day. Up to 600 vehicles all trying to leave on one single lane road, with no left turn signal to get onto a major highway.

I pleaded with city officials to please remember that any measures taken to resolve concerns must take the whole community into consideration, not just those living near one particular street. Every day, I and countless others like me, struggle to get in and out of our own neighbourhood because of heavy rush hour traffic coming in a particular direction down a major road. To suggest that a left signal will inconvenience someone else is shortsighted and selfish. Community associations need to not only take vocal residents into account, but invite and include other voices as well.

You got 5 seconds to put food on the table or there will be trouble


A friend of mine recently visited Iceland. I've noticed a few of my friends and acquaintances travelling there lately, so I asked Jeff if he would allow me an interview about his visit with his family. He said yes!

Q. Why Iceland? What motivated you to go there?
Icelandair has this deal that you can get off the plane for up to 7 days without any addition fees.  So when booking our trip to Sweden we figured why not. It makes getting to Iceland easy.

Q. I'm told that the people in Iceland are very family oriented. Did you notice this?
Hard to say.  We saw a lot of tourists as we were staying in the center of Reykjavik. But they are friendly.  I think they treasure their relationships with each other because they seem to rely on each other for personal and professional reasons.

Q. Did you get to visit the 'blue lagoon' spa by the geothermal plant near Reykjavik?
Yes the last day we took in the Blue Lagoon for roughly 3 hours.  It also coincided that it was the one day that the sun was out and it was warm.  So we left Iceland with sunburns and wearing shorts.

Great experience but I would take in some of the less commercial springs around the country next time.

Q. What surprised you the most about Iceland?
The cost of food.  This was a known factor but it was still surprising when we got fish & chips the night we arrived from a cart in one of the town squares. It was only after buying it that it was just over $100 Canadian for three servings.

Q. What was the tastiest food you tried?
Went to a restaurant on day 2 called Ostabudin and the food and the people were great. The appetizers and main courses were great but then we had desert. Icelandic cheese cake is different from North American cheese cake and it's an amazing difference.

If you want a great meal without a reservation then this is your place. Here's what we had:

Deep fried camembert with port infused redcurrant jam and crispy baquette
Cured Icelandic Beef 

Main course
SALTED FILLED OF ICELANDIC COD- With potatoes, pearl onions, kohlrabi and warm dulce sauce
Arctic Char - served with scallops, celery root, potato purrée and chicken juice

Cheese Cake - With oats, pomme granate and brown cheese
Skyr Mouse -  Served with blueberries, cream and caramel

Q. What was the weather like while you were there? What time period?
June 17-22 and we mainly have cloudy with moments of rain.  We also went to the most southern township in Iceland. The town is called Vik. We had high winds, rain and then glorious calmness with the sun coming through the clouds.  The very last day was like 22C which I got a sunburn from.

Q. Does Iceland have midnight sun?
Oh yes and especially at this time of the year. The bars really don't get going till midnight. On June 23 there is a midnight marathon going on.  Cons - hard to sleep, Pros - more time to see the country.

Q. What is most different about Iceland compared to Canada?
Food prices obviously.  But the thing that made me stop in wonder is their terrain and dedication to renewable resources.  Truly amazing and diverse ( and I only saw Reykjavik and the southern coast).  The amount of energy they get from the geothermal is impressive.

Q. Do people in Iceland have any unusual customs?
You see coins in the bottom level of the door frames when coming in or going out of stores.  Didn't ask why but it caught my eye.

Q. Do enough people speak English there for tourists?
A ton of people speak English and really well.  No problems in the communication department.

Q. Did your daughters like anything specific about Iceland that might not have affected you and your wife? If not, what was their favourite part of the visit?
They loved the scenery.  We drove 180 km south and saw and experienced the black sand beaches, basalt columns, Eyjafjallajökull that erupted in 2010, and drove through one of the most active geothermal belts in Iceland.

Q. If you could describe the mindset in Iceland, what would you say?

Strong. Iceland is a country with the strongest roots to the Vikings. To have made a home there you have to be strong in spirit and mind.

Q. What myth or perception about Iceland should people have dispelled that might be preventing them from visiting?

Myth - Boring or just plain cold and hard to get to.
Fact - Boring only if you stay in your hotel room. There is so much to see and do. You could spend two full weeks there and you still wouldn't see it all.  Cold at times but July - Aug is their summer time. It was surprisingly warm our last day there. Take advantage of the companies doing layovers in Iceland. You won't regret it.

I personally can not wait to go back with more time to see and experience all that Iceland has to offer.  Majestic landscape, warm people that will capture you heart and soul.

Friday, June 17, 2016

OK. Last Star Wars related post. For today

Another Star Wars related post?

CEO walks in on employee catching nap

What does he do? Well, when you're Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, you take a selfie with that person.

That's my kind of CEO.

We salute you

Things I learned lately - 17 June

  • The price of solar panels has dropped 95% since 2008. That's a pretty big drop in just 8 years.
  • In June 2015, Netflix had 4.1 million subscribers. One year later, they have 5.2 million. Meanwhile, CraveTV and Shomi have 740,000 subscribers combined in 2 years.
  • There are 6 lakes in Canada deeper than Lake Superior. Great Bear (NWT); Adams (BC); Grand (NFLD); Quesnel (BC); Clearwater (BC); Great Slave (NWT). As deep as Great Slave Lake is, if you could put the Burj Khalifa in it, it would still stick 700 feet out of the water.
  • During the 1960s, AT&T Bell Labs developed the Picturephone. Had this $500,000,000 project caught on, we would have had the internet much sooner than the 1990s, as Bell intended to build a broadband network to support the Picturephone, instead of relying on the copper phone cable we'd been using for regular phones.
  • There were video phone booths run by the German post office allowing video calls between Berlin, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Hamburg and Munich, from 1936 to 1940.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

This is the last Macbook decal I'll post. For now

Sure it's a scam, but it's a tasty one

Whenever Darlene and I go to the US, we always visit at least one grocery store to see what they sell compared to what we get in Canada.

This time, we saw a few things you can't get in Canada, but one thing in particular intrigued us enough to buy and try. I'm talking about Coke Life.

In case you've never heard of it, Coke Life is a new version of Coca Cola that uses cane sugar (instead of HFCS) and Stevia to reduce the amount of sugar. Yes, there's still 60 calories in the little glass bottle, but that's better than 100.

We tried it and much to my surprise, Darlene and I both like it. If it sold in Canada, I'd buy it. We don't drink a lot of Coke, but it does go great with certain foods, like pizza. It's a treat for us, and in this case, a slightly less sweet treat.

One more after this, I promise

Dear kijiji users

If you post an ad selling something, or looking to acquire something, please realize that other kijiji users are not stupid. We know how to look at your other ads. The link is right there in plain sight.

So, if you are selling furniture while claiming 'no pets' and 'no kids', don't be advertising other things where your pets and kids are easily seen in the pictures. If you're claiming to be a single mom, don't mention your husband in another ad. If you claim that any furniture you buy will need to be delivered because you don't have a vehicle, don't let one of your other ads be about your vehicle. If you're mentioning you need stuff because you just arrived in the city and trying to get set up, don't say you're moving in a few days to another city in a different ad.

If you're claiming to be an evacuee from Fort Mac, don't have other ads going back months showing you always having lived in Calgary.

Just sayin'.

Another Macbook decal? Really?

Road trip 2016

So, I decided that on this trip to San Diego, Darlene would fly (quicker, easier on her body) and I would drive solo. That's right - drive to San Diego from Calgary. Ever since I got my little B250 3 years ago, I've been waiting for an epic road trip. My plan was to do it in 3 days on the way down and 2 days back.

Leg one was Calgary to Idaho Falls ID. That took 10 hours or so. It had been a long time since I drove I-15 and I remembered parts of it being boring. But my memory seems to have failed me, because the scenery was spectacular. Once you get to Montana, the rolling prairie soon gives way to distant buttes and once you reach Great Falls, the terrain starts to get a lot more hilly. By Helena, you're right into the mountains and they're always in sight for the rest of the trip.

Leg two was Idaho Falls to Henderson NV. I didn't realize just how big the Salt Lake City metro area is now. It seems to go on forever. The trip through Utah was beautiful. It had been and still was raining. I was surrounded by distant rain storms pushing up against the mountains and everything was a bright, fresh green. In places it got as cool as 6C, especially higher up. There was still snow at the highest elevations. The soil is so red once you reach Arizona, the colour reflects off the bottoms of the clouds. It's weird to see red clouds. Once I came down out of the hills into the desert of Nevada, the temperature hit 25C. I saw my first palm tree (of the trip) on the outskirts of Vegas. Henderson is a huge city now too. This leg took around 9 hours.

Leg three was Henderson to San Diego. I was up and on my way before sunrise. The highlight for me was seeing the sun come up behind me as I crested the first set of mountains in California. Most interesting place name: Zzyzx. The Mojave desert is something to see. You definitely don't want to break down out there. Once I reached the pass through the San Bernardino mountains, I slipped into the valley that opens up into the greater LA area. The traffic and construction around Riverside was unnerving, but once you get from the 215 back onto the I-15 around Temecula, it's clear sailing all the way to San Diego. This leg is at most 5 hours. I got to San Diego much earlier than I expected, so before picking Darlene up at the airport, I hung out at Spanish Landing Park and took in the ocean breezes.

I had in my mind that the drive back was going to be brutal, having to pull it off in two days. But it wasn't that bad. 12 hours got me to Layton UT, just north of Salt Lake City. The second 12 hours got me home. It would have been much better if not for the almost one hour delay of road construction between Mesquite NV and St George UT. 13 miles at around 15 mph. Brutal.

Would I do it again? Right now, my brain says no way. But ask me again in 9 months and I'm not so sure. The view throughout I-15 is breathtaking, and ever changing.

Another Macbook decal

Things I learned lately - 10 June

  • Norway is readying a bill that will effectively ban the sale of non-electric vehicles by 2025. Instead, Norway will likely invest in making its roadways and parking lots electric-car compatible. The country already has the largest percentage of electric vehicles on the road at 24%
  • The statement that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is based on uncorroborated studies, not controlled experiments. It is also important to note that many studies suggesting that breakfast should not be skipped are sponsored by cereal manufacturers, not independent labs. In fact, some of these studies suggest that eating cold cereal is healthier for you than fruit, or eggs, or meat.
  • Camelcamelcamel is a web site that, when you input the URL for an Amazon product you might buy, will tell you if that discount price they're claiming is a real discount, or has the site always asked that price.
  • One of the biggest health safety issues is the illegibility of a doctor's prescription. Almost every pharmacist will tell you that that scribble is just an accident waiting to happen. But nobody dares to tell doctors that they need to stop doing it.
  • There are 8-inch floppy disks still in use at the Pentagon's Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which coordinates US nuclear forces like nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • If you're rich, you can watch first run movies at your home, that are still in the theatre. The system you'll need is called Prima, the hardware costs $35,000 to install and every time you watch a movie, that's $500. It's protected with your bio-metrics too, so your visiting mother-in-law can't just fire up the latest flick at 3am.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Another Macbook decal

Stairway to riches

Here we go again. Now the estate of Randy Wolfe, someone the boys in Led Zeppelin used to hang with, is suing Led Zeppelin, because the music in Stairway to Heaven sounds similar to a song this (now dead) guy made.

Stairway to Heaven was released in 1971. The whole world knew about the song, including, I'm sure, Randy Wolfe and his band, Spirit. Why didn't he sue Led Zeppelin at the time?
After his death in 1997, why didn't the estate sue during those 17 years? It turns out, the reason for the late lawsuit stems from the statute of limitations. Once Led Zeppelin re-released the album, it created a new window of opportunity. But my original question still stands. If the artist that inspired Stairway to Heaven was upset about the steal, why wait to sue? I bet this is all about the fact that Spirit did not make it big, and Zeppelin did.

I hope the world soon grows weary of people profiting just by finding similarities between songs. It has always been understood among artists, that any music produced is influenced by numerous other sources.

My favourite example of a lawsuit I despise to this day is the suit against The Verve for their song Bittersweet Symphony. The Rolling Stones song that makes up the centrepiece of The Verve's song is something I'd never even heard of before. If anything, I would have expected that The Rolling Stones would have been elated that a modern band found a way to breathe new life into a song that pretty much languished in obscurity.

In case you need more examples of why lawsuits against music influences are pointless, check out Everything is a Remix. The key point starts at 23:27.

Macbook decals I've seen

Things I learned lately - 4 June

  • Using the term 'buck' for a dollar came from pioneer times, when the US traded deer (buck) skins for currency.
  • The international airport in Atlanta is the busiest in the world.
  • Chinese drivers have been known to run over to kill pedestrians after injuring them, because it is less expensive to pay their death costs that to pay for their injuries for the rest of the person's life.
  • In some studies, people who focused on the sound of what they were eating ate less than those who ignored it or couldn't hear it.
  • The Emoji bible is a thing now. Insert your own jokes here.
  • You are no more 'right-brained' or 'left-brained' than you are right-lunged or left-lunged.
  • The 'learning styles' theory is unproven, with no scientific basis.
  • Study after study concludes that grading courses reduces their effectiveness. Students remember less and are more consumed with the stress of being graded.