Friday, February 24, 2017

What are taxes?


How they clear snow in Russia.

Meanwhile in Canada...

Things I learned lately - 24 February

  • It seems that more Americans than ever before are now actually FOR Obamacare, and don't want Republicans to repeal it.
  • I guess some people are pretty passionate about their dislike of pineapple on pizza. Also, best headline on the story: "You want a pizza this?"
  • The people of North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean want nothing to do with outside society. In fact, if you were to set foot on the island, the Sentinelese would try to kill you. Almost nothing is known about this indigenous tribe which has inhabited the island for more than 60,000 years. The Sentinelese are completely cut-off from modern civilization by their own choice. After failing to make a connection (even after rescuers from the 2004 tsunami were met with hostility), the Indian government has stopped all attempts and prohibited travel within three miles of the island. In 2006, two illegally operating fishermen were killed when they broke the rules and visited the island.
  • Many Danish supermarkets are starting to sell good food, which is nearing its expiry date, at reduced prices. That means that supermarkets waste less food and earn money on the food, which otherwise could have been tossed in the bin - and customers can buy food at a reduced price and thus avoid food waste. Many Danish supermarkets brand themselves on these initiatives, labelling them “Save Food” of the “Stop Food Waste” bargains.
  • The longest mail delivery route in America is in rural Oklahoma, where some drivers drive 300km each day as part of their route. That would service around 200 homes.
  • The role of Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, was supposed to go to Tom Poston. But when NBC accepted the show idea, they insisted Don Adams get the role, who was on contract with NBC.
  • The first ever direct freight train from China to the UK has arrived to a fanfare in Barking, east London. The train carried millions of pounds worth of socks, cloth, bags, and household goods. It took 18 days to travel from the manufacturing city of Yiwu in China, travelling more than 7,500 miles across 7 countries and through the Chunnel. The new weekly service is thought to be quicker than a container ship and half the price of air freight. Differing rail gauges in different countries means no single train can travel the whole route and the containers have to be reloaded at various stages. 
  • The current market for marijuana in North America is bigger than what consumers spend on McDonald's and Starbucks combined.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sepia hell-scape

Wind-harvesting tree

Imagine a wind powered generator. But it's not big, or unsightly, or loud, or dangerous to wildlife. It's small, shaped like a tree, its leaves are mini windmills that can capture energy from the lightest breeze (7 km/h), and it can power a house with up to 4kW of electricity.

It's called NewWind. Video in French.

Classic Deadpool

Things I learned lately - 18 February

  • Gene Simmons on behalf of KISS, creates as many types of KISS themed merchandise as possible. One of their latest releases - KISS air guitar strings. It's a bag of air with a KISS header card on top, for $3.99.
  • The waiting list for season's tickets to the Green Bay Packers is 30 years long. Parents typically put their kids on the waiting list as soon as they're born.
  • Michigan's highway 185 is actually a bike path. So it's the only highway cars cannot drive on.
  • El Paso, Texas, is closer to Los Angeles than it is to Houston.
  • The tallest building in Vermont is only 11 stories.
  • Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont ban outdoor billboards.
  • Maine is the closest state to Africa.
  • Peachtree, a suburb of Atlanta, has 90 miles of roads just for golf carts. 9000 families there have golf carts as their second cars. Kids from the age of 12 drive to school in their golf carts.
  • There are 2 sets of escalators in the entire state of Wyoming.
  • Pelee Island, Ontario, is farther south than the border between Oregon and California.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rainbow Tesla

Automation's impact on the work force

The subject of conversations lately is turning toward the workplace and economy of the near future. More and more people are starting to wonder how automation, robots and self-driving vehicles will impact the workforce. They also want to know what we should do about it.

The simple answer is that automation is going to eliminate certain types of jobs. Robots can already make cars. Pretty soon, they'll make other robots and build factories. They'll serve food. They'll build houses and roads. They'll load aircraft with baggage. Cars will have computers capable of driving themselves better than a human. And so much more. The domino effect of these things will eliminate even more jobs.

I think what this will finally require is a complete overhaul of our economy and the evolution of our careers. It will start with education. Far too few people currently can afford to get a higher education, and those that borrow for it find themselves unable to repay their loan when they can't get work in the career they've trained for. This results in an overabundance of unskilled and skilled baristas, restaurant servers and retail workers. All of which are easily replaceable with robots. Never mind the currently employed workers whose jobs can and will be replaced by technology.

I think this points out the obvious conclusion that nobody will make it through their career anymore on one track, or a couple sets of skills. Successful careers will require constant retraining, resetting. Careers will require higher degrees of learning to enter a job market requiring programmers, database specialists, etc. In fact, it has already been predicted that the blue collar job of the near future is the garden variety coder. Our current system doesn't allow for equal access to higher degrees of learning, at least not in North America. Other jurisdictions have already figured out that making education accessible to the masses for free, not only elevates the overall capability of the population, but it also gives them the freedom to switch tracks at any time. It's a future-proof strategy, and we better adopt it soon, before the jobs of the future migrate to those jurisdictions, where the workforce is highly trained and have career mobility.

Another element of education that will need to change, is the willingness of institutions to offer curriculum that has no chance of obtaining work upon completion. I not only find this practise irresponsible, it smacks of borderline fraud. Institutions will need to partner much more closely with industry, to ensure that education tracks only run when there is a job waiting for it at its conclusion. This will require both fast-tracking the curriculum and finishing it on-the-job, just in time. These partnerships could even help fund the education in the first place, by offering to subsidize institutions or student cost of living, on the condition that graduates agree to work for the sponsoring company for a fixed term.


Things I learned lately - 10 February

  • The population density of Paris is more than double that of New York City.
  • Iran has 22 ski resorts.
  • Rwanda was the first country to ban the plastic bag.
  • In 1480, Sri Lanka was still connected to India via a land bridge, which has since eroded away. You can see remnants of it on Google Maps.
  • There are no bridges crossing the Amazon river.
  • There are no roads connecting Panama to Columbia. So you can't drive from North to South America (on a road).
  • San Jose Costa Rica, only allows car owners to drive 6 days a week, to fight pollution and congestion.
  • In Bulgaria, their nods mean the opposite from ours. Up and down means no and side to side means yes.
  • The longest fence in the world, at 5600 km can be found in Australia. It was built to keep wild dogs out of the fertile SE region.
  • In Denmark, you're never more than 48 km from the ocean.
  • The easternmost part of Canada is closer to Croatia than to Vancouver.
  • There are no commercial flights in or out of Delaware.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

It's a shame

I wasn't sure I wanted to or needed to weigh in on the decisions being made in America lately, but I feel compelled to say something.

It really saddens me that decisions are being made for political effect, with no consideration for the real effects those decisions will have on innocent people.

A person in charge of education who doesn't even believe in the public education system? A person in charge of the EPA who never believed in the EPA? The elimination of financial regulations that only aim to protect those who Wall Street would readily take advantage of? Judicial hacks who deny women the right to decisions on their own bodies?

The 90 day ban against travellers from select countries is a real doozer. Especially when you consider that all the terrorists that come out of the middle east to inflict harm on America came from countries not even on the list. Saudi Arabia anyone? What strikes me though is the sheer cruelty of this ban. Families broken apart because a member can't come to America to be reunited with the rest of their family. Where's the compassion? Professionals who already work for big corporations in America, green card or visa in hand, no longer allowed to enter the country. Does this government not realize how much this could damage the economy in the long term, when you can't even hire the best of the best globally (like the rest of the world can)?

One can only reason that these policies do not result in the 'great America' so often touted by this narcissist.


The quintessential American dream - car ownership - is taking its last breaths

Futurist Thomas Frey believes that driver-less cars will be a major disruptive force on a variety of jobs.

For example, airports won't be able to make money from parking fees and taxi contracts, because eventually, most people will just hire a car to the airport. This will also affect the taxi, rental car, shuttle bus, and limo services.

But the effects reach even farther than we imagine. Without human drivers, insurance becomes an unlikely necessity, as do traffic cops, meter maids, driving schools, etc.

Cars slowly evolve from 'just in case' ownership to 'just in time' hire. Since most of these cars will be electric, most maintenance jobs will disappear. Goodbye Jiffy Lube. Goodbye emissions test garages.

But that's the tip of the iceberg. Read about the 128 things that will reduce or disappear in the complete article here.

New York artist pretends to read fake book titles, he created himself, on subway, for effect. Photographs reactions.

Things I learned lately - 4 February

  • Expatriates comprise about 92% of Dubai's population.
  • The median age of Dubai is 27 years old.
  • Oslo plans to permanently ban all cars from its city centre by 2019. The Norwegian capital will invest heavily in public transportation and replace 56 kilometres of roads previously dominated by cars with bike lanes.
  • Based on the results of recent trials, psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, may eventually be used to help treat severe depression.
  • It's a myth that storing batteries in the fridge or freezer will make them last longer. Cold temperatures can actually shorten the life span of your batteries. Also, condensation can cause corrosion or seal damage.
  • From 15 June 2017, mobile roaming charges within the EU won't exist anymore (for people with an EU based mobile company's SIM card).
  • If apple juice is coloured orange, our brain will be convinced that the taste will be of something that is orange in colour. This explains how drink makers can put a lot of juice types other than what the drink is called and get away with it. Colour influences what we taste. 
  • Unlimited refills of sugary drinks have officially been banned in France.
  • Tim Hortons will be expanding into Mexico, the UK and the Philippines.