Friday, September 30, 2016

Uber transit?

There was a time when I thought that PRT was the answer to the gaps that were left in traditional public transit systems. But now it seems that companies like Uber and Lyft are beginning to fill those gaps, and in some cases, even replacing inefficient transit systems through cooperation with local governments and subsidized rides.

There are now partnerships between towns and cities and companies like Uber where rides are offered at a discount, subsidized by money that would have otherwise gone toward more (expensive to operate) bus services. Examples were given where people were able to get places that would have taken over an hour by bus and walking, but Uber got them there in 5 minutes, for $4, or twice the price of a bus trip.

There are many developing high density areas in cities that exist in a transit vacuum, and services like UberHOP and UberPOOL have been able to serve those areas for reasonable fees. UberHOP functions as a bridge ride service, getting you from a designated pickup point in one neighbourhood to a designated drop-off point in another.

Companies like Uber have hinted that once self-driving cars become ubiquitous, using these services should be even more affordable due to the lack of a paid driver.

The only down sides, that have to be worked out, is the inability to hail an Uber without a mobile phone and Uber's general lack of accessible vehicles for the handicapped. Both of these factors are something the services do intend to address once their business model becomes sustainable.

If Jackson Pollock made Thanksgiving dinner

Dude, where's my car?

I have to say, that I have not typically been a big fan of the Apple Maps app, however it's new feature that allows you to find where you park your car is pretty damn cool.

Caveat: It only works if your car has Bluetooth for connecting to your phone.

Let me in...

You've got 5 seconds to let me in or say goodbye to your precious marigolds.

Things I learned lately - 30 September

  • A California law that goes into effect 1 Jan 2017, allows for actors to tell to remove their real age from their profile, because it's considered an 'employee referral website'. So if you want to know an actor's real age (public data), you could instead just head over to, let's say, wikipedia.
  • Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal's office, a Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead. The room is filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-centre. They are also asked to talk through what happened. It seems to work well.
  • Portland Oregon has more strip clubs per capita than any other municipality in America.
  • In Russia, don't give an even number of flowers as a gift. Russian custom dictates bouquets come with an odd number of flowers if the recipient has a pulse. Only the dead receive flowers in even bunches.
  • 99.9999999% of your body is empty space.
  • 85% of executives in American and European companies admitted that they had issues or concerns at work that they were afraid to raise, for fear of the conflict it would provoke, afraid of the arguments it would start, that they didn't think they could manage and were bound to lose. 
  • While presenting from PowerPoint (or most other similar programs), just press the 'b' key to blackout the slide if they're paying too much attention to it and not you. Pressing 'b' again puts the slide back on. 'w' whites out the slide instead.
  • If you want to call someone again on your cell phone, just hit the call button. It will load the last number, then hit call again to dial.

Friday, September 23, 2016

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear - comment by Edward Snowden

"One of the most important things I think we all have a duty collectively in society to think about is when we’re directed to think a certain way and accept a certain argument reflexively without actually tackling it.

"The common argument we have — if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear — the origins of that are literally Nazi propaganda. This is not to equate the actions of our current government to the Nazis, but that is the literal origin of that quote. It's from the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

"So when we hear modern politicians, modern people repeating that reflexively without confronting its origins, what it really stands for, I think that's harmful.

"And if we actually think about it, it doesn’t make sense. Because privacy isn’t about something to hide. Privacy is about something to protect. That’s who you are. That's what you believe in. Privacy is the right to a self. Privacy is what gives you the ability to share with the world who you are on your own terms. For them to understand what you’re trying to be and to protect for yourself the parts of you you’re not sure about, that you’re still experimenting with.

"If we don’t have privacy, what we’re losing is the ability to make mistakes, we’re losing the ability to be ourselves. Privacy is the fountainhead of all other rights. Freedom of speech doesn’t have a lot of meaning if you can’t have a quiet space, a space within yourself, your mind, your community, your friends, your family, to decide what it is you actually want to say.

"Freedom of religion doesn’t mean that much if you can’t figure out what you actually believe without being influenced by the criticisms of outside direction and peer pressure. And it goes on and on.

"Privacy is baked into our language, our core concepts of government and self in every way. It’s why we call it 'private property.' Without privacy you don’t have anything for yourself.

"So when people say that to me I say back, arguing that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is like arguing that you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say."

~Edward Snowden

The dog that ate everyone's homework

Your grandfathered long distance plan might now be a waste of money

I wonder how many people are still on old long distance plans. You know, like the old plan Telus used to offer where you got unlimited long distance in Canada for $19.99 per month. At least, it was unlimited until Telus realized that there were people who would call loved ones and leave the line connected for hours, if not days at a time. Then they decided to cap unlimited plans at 600 minutes per month.

I wonder how many of these people realize that their plan is costing them much more than having no long distance plan at all. That's right, you're probably better off not even having a plan. Why? Because if you don't have a plan, Telus sells you long distance at 5 cents per minute. So, a 100 minute phone call would cost $5. So, unless you're making more than 400 minutes of long distance calls every month, that $19.99 plan is a waste. Oh yeah, also, the 5 cents per minute rate includes calls to the US. The old plan doesn't.

I bet Telus never called to tell you that.

What's with the chimp? Telus always has cute animals in their commercials.......

Saw this tee on a guy lately - LUV it

Things I learned lately - 23 September

  • Lord Stanley's Gift Monument is a project to build and install a monument to Lord Frederick Stanley who, in 1892, donated the Stanley Cup. The project is being financed mostly by taxpayer dollars, and partly by private donations. The designs for Lord Stanley's Gift Monument will  likely be scaled-back versions of what was originally envisioned. The original budget was $4.4 million, but was downsized to $2.8 million after private donors refused to fork over cash once they realized they couldn't have their names on the monument.
  • German startup Sono motors is building a car covered in solar panels that will get 18 miles (29 km) on a day's worth of sun.
  • France just banned plastic cutlery, plates and cups.
  • Canadian Pacific (railway) once owned most of downtown Calgary.
  • Calgary's Stephen Avenue is named after Lord Mount Stephen, CP's first president.
  • Even kids with genius-level IQs need teachers to help them reach their full potential. Since 1971, the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) tracked 5,000 of the smartest the children in America. SMPY's findings: Don't forget about the kids at the top. Kids who test in the top 1% tend to become our eminent scientists and academics, our Fortune 500 CEOs and federal judges, senators and billionaires." SMPY indicates that kids who show an early aptitude for science and math tend not to receive the help they need. Teachers devote the majority of their attention to under-achieving kids. SMPY reveals that assuming the smartest kids can achieve their full potential without being pushed is misguided. Grade-skipping can play a vital role in kids' development. If parents and teachers notice a child is gifted, the best evidence suggests they should never stop supplying that child with tougher and tougher work. The future of the world could depend on it.
  • There are more insects in a square mile of rural land than there are people on the planet.
  • The sugar industry worked with scientists in the 1950s and 1960s to downplay sucrose's role in causing coronary heart disease and other nutritional risks. Fat and cholesterol were singled out as the biggest problems in American diets. The Sugar Research Foundation paid to fund a project which argued that cholesterol — not sucrose — was the sole relevant factor in coronary heart disease. As the low-fat trend took hold, food makers began replacing fat with sugar — which is exactly what the industry had wanted.

Friday, September 16, 2016

No ordinary tunnels

Norway doesn't just have tunnels for vehicles. It has tunnels with whole roundabouts in them.

Disney character in modern clothing

Would you say that if you weren't so anonymous?

The internet gives people the ability to say things they otherwise would not say. I've often said that being online is like wearing special armour - you can be a lot more aggressive, uninhibited and free-wheeling with what you can say - if you choose to.

I try to be civil when I'm online. I don't insult people or generally say things I wouldn't have the courage to say to their face in front of other people.

I'm seeing a lot of examples lately of people just going way too far with personal attacks on other people online. Death threats to, or calls for assassination of politicians people don't like. Name calling to the extreme, like referring to female actresses and politicians as c%nts.

It makes me wonder. How different would the internet be if when you were posting stuff online, it automatically came with an immediate, real screenshot of you (probably from your camera) or a real, registered still, plus your actual address. Would people generally still be so bold in their posts?

Work was slow....

Things I learned lately - 16 September

  • Myth: You need to find a food supply immediately if you are lost in the wilderness. You can survive up to six weeks without food. Water and shelter from the elements are far more important.
  • Myth: You can suck the venom out of a snakebite. If a bite delivers venom, it’ll immediately enter the bloodstream. Putting your mouth on the bite will deliver extra bacteria to the wound and may simply get venom into your mouth and esophagus.
  • The real reason that many people who have cut out gluten claim to feel healthier, is simply because their diets are better. They're buying fresh vegetables, cooking well, and eating a lot better. In other words, while cutting gluten may seem as though it helps you lose weight or clears up your complexion, the reality is that 500 other things could be the real cause. But when it comes to food, people are incredibly unwilling to question self-diagnoses. No one wants to think that the benefits they experience from going gluten-free might be psychological. Only about 1% of people worldwide actually have celiac disease.
  • German architect Herman Sörgel who devoted his whole life to promote his grand scheme to partly drain the Mediterranean by building 3 gigantic dams. The first would be between Spain and Morocco, separating the Mediterranean from the Atlantic Ocean. The second would shut off the Black Sea. A third dam would stretch between Sicily and Tunisia, cutting the Med in two, with different water levels on either side. The benefits of Atlantropa were numerous, according to Sörgel. Each of the dams could provide enough hydroelectric energy to supply Europe with all the electricity needed. Lower sea levels would create vast stretches of new farm land along the current coastline.
  • In North America, eggs are cleaned with soap and hot water, a process that removes the protective outer layer that keeps water and oxygen in and bad bacteria out. After the protective layer is removed, eggs are sprayed with oil and refrigerated to keep bacteria at bay. In Europe, eggs are not usually washed and therefore do not need to be refrigerated.
  • Uber is currently testing self-driving cars on real passengers in Pittsburgh.
  • Lululemon founder Chip Wilson came up with the yoga wear brand's name because he thought Japanese people wouldn't be able to pronounce it.
  • The Spanish Flu, of sub-type H1N1, killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people between 1918 and 1919.
  • Edibles offer a completely different experience than a joint. When eaten, THC, the psychoactive ingredient in weed, transforms in the liver into a substance that's twice as strong and lasts twice as long as when inhaled. It also takes our bodies much longer to process cannabis when we ingest rather than inhale. With smoking, the peak blood levels happen within 3-10 minutes. With eating, it's 1-3 hours. Because it takes so long to process, people often overdo it. If you don't feel high after ingesting an edible, wait at least 2 hours before consuming a second dose.
  • For now, if a Canadian is asked by US border guards if they've ever smoked marijuana recreationally, the answer to give is 'no'. Unless you don't want to enter the US.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Who knew astronauts had a sense of humour?

We're not gonna take it.... anymore

I think more often than ever before in the history of modern society, people are calling out others for the things they say in public. By "in public", I'm referring both to physical public space and virtual public space, such as social media and comments on news sites.

In a recent example, a male Alberta politician joked that it was too bad that "beating" our female Premier was against the law. He immediately apologized and issued a statement, but the cat was already out of the bag. Sparks flew and he was admonished for joking about violence toward a woman, let alone another human being.

Some people came to his rescue and suggested that too much was being made of the comment because he was after all, just joking. I've also read several opinion pieces that suggest that saying something inappropriate while joking around, although it isn't meant to be taken seriously, is still a symptom of the character of the individual making the joke. I would counter that sometimes we say things for various reasons. For example, I might say something to "fit in", or as a way of venting, or as a means of playing the fool. But an excuse for saying something inappropriate can often be disassembled by asking the person if they would still say the same thing something about, or in front of, their mother, or spouse, or the opposite sex. If the answer is no, then the person has a double standard. Or they're a comedian. If the answer is yes, then there are deeper issues at heart.

I would offer that many of the things that people say or do are learned behaviours, based on a person's upbringing, cultural experiences, environment and so on. Some people choose to resist those behaviours, while others embrace them as a form of cultural bonding. For example, in the military, it was common for non-commissioned members to curse. A lot. Not everyone embraced this behaviour, but most did. In my case, it became a learned behaviour that I had to quickly unlearn when I left the service. I very quickly realized that it wasn't considered acceptable behaviour and I had to adapt. I have relapses, but they typically occur when I'm severely agitated, or my ego is highly stimulated.

The thing is, I know in my heart that it is wrong to physically hurt someone and it is just as wrong to joke about it. But I would be just as much at fault to stand idly by, while someone else does it. To suggest that it's just a joke, is, when you get right down to it, just an excuse.

Unfortunately, we still have members of our society that don't hesitate to judge and verbally assault or mock-threaten someone's life when they disagree with that person. It's wrong and I applaud those who call these people out.

No matter where you sit on this fence, I like the growing trend that observers are now willing to speak up when people behave or communicate in an inappropriate way, or a way that makes us feel disrespected. I hope to see this trend continue so that decades of learned bad behaviour is finally challenged for what it is, regardless of the motive, meaning, and context.

He's a poser

Things I learned lately - 10 September

  • Costa Rica has been running on 100% renewable energy sources for over two months. The last time gas-powered electricity was used was June 16. Of the entire year so far, the country has had 151 total days in which all power has come from renewable resources. In 2015, the country's energy came from 100% renewable sources for an impressive 285 days. 
  • In Spain and Portugal, McDonald's sells soup.
  • On a typical railway line, there are 3249 railway ties per mile.
  • We now have the first openly lesbian Miss America contestant. In other news, we still have a Miss America pageant.
  • On the ballot in the November US election will be the chance to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the following states: Maine; Massachusetts; Arizona; Nevada; California.
  • IKEA has produced over 30 million Poäng chairs since it debuted in 1976, and it continues to sell about 1.5 million every year.

Friday, September 02, 2016

This is my 10,000th blog post

What a milestone.

There have actually been a lot more than 10,000 until now, but Blogger doesn't count the ones I deleted.

Since July 2004. Almost 317,000 page views. Wow.

I finally got my 15 minutes of fame. Spread out over 12 years.............

Common mistake

Things I would say to my 18 year old self

My 18 year old self would just be getting ready to join the military. Here are some things I would pass on to my younger self.

You've gone through the process of applying to join the military with Chris. The day you're both to swear in and sign the contract, Chris won't show. Sign anyway. An amazing adventure awaits you.

You're going to discover your creative self later in life. And love it. So, if you have any urges to do anything creative a bit earlier on, give it a shot. In particular, writing for performing, photography, and especially improvisation. Improvisation is going to teach you approaches to life and work that will blow your mind. Now that I think about it, you might not be ready for that powerful of a message so early in life. What do I know?

Stop trying to please and impress other people. Not only do people not go around thinking about you, they are just as concerned about how people think about themselves. Just be yourself. If you find yourself walking a different path than the rest, that might be a good thing. The only person you have to please is yourself.

Try to say yes to all of the opportunities that come your way. You may not like everything you get involved in, but you'll never know unless you try. Except for skydiving. You're wise to steer clear of that.

When Dad leaves the family, you'll want to maintain contact. Even contrary to the wishes of Mom. You'll hope he gets to share in your milestones and accomplishments. Don't bother. It will be a complete waste of time. You and other family members will get burned sooner or later. Just walk away and don't look back.

You're going to get into music. As a listener. In a big way. You'll discover some foreign artists long before others do. You'll discover you can DJ. Once you've DJ'ed for a while, you'll find that there are other things in life. You'll want out of the business and think about selling off your gear and music library. Don't worry about it. Eventually, music will become so ubiquitous, you won't even need a physical collection anymore, nor will you want one. Your entire collection will fit in the palm of your hand and you'll be able to play it in your car at the press of a button. No kidding.

You'll discover early in your military career that you like teaching and do it very well. You'll want to do it as your job, but there will be obstacles. Persevere. You'll not only get the job (in the military), you'll go on to teach much more after that career is done. Speaking of the military, you'll love that teaching gig so much, you'll beg to stay in Kingston forever. Not a good idea. When it's finally time to go, go. But don't take the shitty post offerings. Hold out for Calgary. It's the best bet for the next phase in your career, even though the base in Calgary will close while you're there. Leave your family in Calgary and come back after your military contract is up.

Say yes to the acting courses. Offer to help your teacher with future courses afterwards. Learn improvisation. Yeah, I know, I said that already. Follow your passion. Lose the fear. Failure is inevitable and necessary. I can't emphasize that last bit enough.

Streaming viewership

Things I learned lately - 2 September

  • About 80% of Canadians don't know that electoral reform work has begun. So, ummm Canada, it has begun.
  • IBM's Watson helped make a movie trailer for the movie Morgan
  • When scientists first studied dinosaur fossils in the 1820s, they had no idea they were looking at dinosaurs, they thought they had discovered giant iguanas.
  • A photon takes 3 minutes to reach Mercury, 8 minutes to reach Earth and 5.3 hours to reach Pluto. To reach the inner limits of our solar system's Oort cloud - 4 months, the outer limits - 9.5 months. To get an idea how far away the nearest star is, that same photon would take 4.24 years to reach Alpha Centauri.
  • A spacecraft can get to the moon in as little as 8.5 hours. But that's only if it's going at maximum velocity, on the way to an outer location like Pluto, as did the New Horizons probe.
  • It does get as warm as 20 C on Mars, at the equator, at noon, in the summer. But it can also get as cold as -153 C at the poles.
  • There is a tree in California that is 4,765 years old.