Friday, March 24, 2017


Some of my friends will know what this means....
Also, I was not one of them, but I knew very many who were.


In Quebec, there exists a type of food establishment known in French as a casse-croûte. This literally translates to 'snack break', but the reason you go to such a place is to eat comfort food. I'm talking 'steamies', a style of hot dog where the buns are steamed to make them soft and pliable. A 'steamie all-dressed' (which is precisely how even a Quebecois would order it), is said hot dog dressed with mustard, relish and coleslaw (onions optional). Some people prefer their hot dog 'grillé', where the bun is toasted. Even if you're a steamie fan, if you attended a hockey game in the old Montreal Forum, you only got the grillé variety - and they were so good.

A casse-croûte is also where you would find some of the best prepared, fresh, hand cut french fries. And, as you might imagine, the original, authentic interpretation of poutine.

I know many people living in Quebec, who will drive out of their way at 2am to get to their preferred casse-croûte for a fix. There are some known by all Montrealers because they are institutions, such as the Montreal Pool Room, downtown on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, and Restaurant Lafleur in Lasalle (open until 4am). But pretty much every city neighbourhood and community in Quebec has their own local establishment with names like [insert family name here] Patates, Decarie Hot Dog, and Chez [insert family name here]. The place to go where I grew up was, and still is, Chez Gérard, which has been around since 1958. I recently revisited their menu and you can still get two all dressed steamies, a small fries and a drink for under $8.00 plus tax, which is pretty damned good considering you'll be more than satiated when you're done.

But the reason these places are still open and will probably never close, is because of their poutine. It might be easy to fry up a burger or boil a couple hot dogs at home, but you'd be hard pressed to duplicate the glory that is a casse-croûte quality poutine. So as long as these places continue to set the standard in that regard, they'll never go out of business.

In the photo, the photographer couldn't even wait to take a picture, they had to have a bite of their hot dog first.

What to do with all these googly eyes.....

Things I learned lately - 24 March

  • Over the course of a month, the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) can decay as much as a full kilometre above the earth. This decay is caused by atmospheric drag. Booster rockets push the ISS back into the proper orbit, roughly once a month.
  • In the 1700's, it cost 3 half pence to visit the Tower of London, but if you brought a cat or dog to feed the lions, you got in for free.
  • Tesla wants to bundle insurance and maintenance into the price of future vehicles.
  • Last year, China invested $103 billion into renewable energy, and in 2016, its total installed capacity was 77 gigawatts, which pushed the country well ahead of other leaders in renewables such as Germany, Japan, and the US. There's much more coming.
  • North Korean defectors have successfully shipped in several thousand USB sticks containing banned content like South Korean soaps, Hollywood films, and global news. The goal is to spread information about the outside world to North Koreans, who have practically no access to the open internet. "Flash Drives for Freedom" by the Human Rights Foundation, has been asking people to donate spare flash drives to send to North Korea. The foundation has received more than 10,000 drives in the last year, and is handing them to groups of North Korean defectors operating out of South Korea. The sticks are smuggled in by drone and by foot. North Koreans can watch the files on common, portable DVD players called Notels and cheap Chinese smartphones with USB ports. PC ownership is rare. There are around 25 million people in North Korea and it's estimated that about 30% have any idea that the outside world is better off.
  • Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (you might remember them from Prince's Revolution band) wrote the theme song for the TV show Nurse Jackie. They have also done session work and/or written songs with Seal, k.d. lang, Joni Mitchell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Pearl Jam, Terence Trent D'arby, Liz Phair, Michael Penn, Grace Jones, The Three O'Clock, Sheryl Crow, Victoria Williams, Rob Thomas, Gwen Stefani, Scritti Politti, OK Go, Madonna, The Like, Nina Gordon, The Family, Nikka Costa, and Eric Clapton.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Will there be people who don't know what that device is?

Solar power coming online in the US

Planned utility-scale solar additions total 9.5 GW in 2016, the most of any single energy source. This level of additions is substantially higher than the 3.1 GW of solar added in 2015 and would be more than the total solar installations for the past three years combined (9.4 GW during 2013-15). The top five states where solar capacity is being added are California (3.9 GW), North Carolina (1.1 GW), Nevada (0.9 GW), Texas (0.7 GW), and Georgia (0.7 GW). These values reflect utility-scale solar capacity additions, and do not include any distributed generation (i.e., rooftop solar). In 2015, nearly 2 GW of distributed solar photovoltaic capacity was added.

Now that it's legal in Cali...

Things I learned lately - 17 March

  • The American politician with the highest approval rating during the week of 12 March was Bernie Sanders.
  • The 5 states with the largest gender pay gap are Wyoming, Louisiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, and Utah.
  • China has replicas of London's Tower Bridge (but double the size); Athens' Parthenon; a 354-foot Eiffel Tower; a replica of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Beijing, which leads to a fake Sydney Opera House; the Roman Colosseum in Macau; an Arc de Triomphe; a Great Sphinx of Giza; the White House; Egypt's Karnak Temple; and a Tower of Pisa.
  • Employers have the right to make high heeled shoes part of the official dress code for women. And some do. For now.
  • Russian trolls targeted Bernie Sanders Facebook supporter groups.
  • Border walls don't stop flying drones carrying packages of drugs. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic)
  • Hertz Gold Plus reward points expire.
  • Poutine Pizza Pops are a thing.
  • Scientists have successfully taught a group of blind and sighted people how to navigate their surroundings using echolocation - the sonar-based language of dolphins and bats. Using sound created by tongue clicks, the group learned how to detect the size of virtual rooms with surprising accuracy - something that researchers had not expected in people who were born with sight.
  • The first person to perform an air guitar solo was Bill Reed of the Canadian vocal group the Diamonds in 1957. It happened halfway through the group’s rendition of Buddy Holly’s Words of Love. Today some 10,000 people attend the Air Guitar World Championships in Finland.
  • Bell, owner of the streaming service Crave TV, owns the rights to stream HBO programs in Canada. Yet they don't have them on the Crave TV service, except for a few old series and Billions. Why?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cost to charge a Tesla Model X for a year vs a gas SUV

Solar power in Antarctica?

When some people think about efficient homes, they often assume that they wouldn't work in extremely cold climates. This assumption is fed by the typical reality, at least in North America, that a lot of energy is needed to keep a home warm in winter. Of course little do most people realize, it's mostly to do with the poor insulation of the home.

Which is why I love that there is a zero emission station in Antarctica. The Princess Elizabeth research station, owned by Belgium, is powered by solar, at times by 24 hour sunshine, and a great deal by wind.

This station maintains its internal temperatures using only incoming sunlight and the heat produced by human beings and the station's electrical appliances - there are no heaters.

What could go wrong

Hey, I have an idea. Let's go out on the ledge of the like 90th floor of a building in Dubai and you can dangle me over the edge where I'm only hanging on by my hand in yours.
Yeah. What could go wrong.
The pic will be epic.
Let's do it......

Things I learned lately - 10 March

  • The island of Kauai has an abundance of solar energy but it was only able to be used during the day. Kauai burned millions of gallons of fossil fuels annually to produce energy at night. Until now. Tesla’s 52 MWh Tesla Powerpack and 13 MW solar farm will store solar energy produced during the day and deliver it to the grid during the evening hours. 
  • Electronics retailer Radio Shack has filed for bankruptcy for the second time in just over two years.
  • Iceland will be the first country in the world to make employers prove they offer equal pay regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality. Upcoming legislation will require all employers with more than 25 staff to prove they give equal pay for work of equal value.
  • Tommy Chong's national cannabis brand, Chong's Choice, teamed up with Défoncé Chocolatier to create gourmet chocolate bars that can be easily split into smaller, more manageable doses of THC. The chocolates are part of a fast-growing category in the legal weed market that caters to adults who are new to edibles or are consuming for recreational, rather than medical, purposes. Each bar contains twenty 10-milligrams doses of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Chong's Choice chocolate bars are expected to arrive in select California dispensaries in May 2017.
  • The 5 largest cell providers in the US all offer phone plans now with unlimited data. Data speeds might slow down after you burn through 22GB+. The big 3 in Canada do not offer unlimited data plans.
  • Hyperloop One signed an agreement with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority to evaluate building a Hyperloop between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Hyperloop would reduce the commute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi from several hours to 12 minutes.
  • To help cut emissions, Barcelona will ban cars older than 20 years from the city and its 39 surrounding municipalities during the week and at times of high pollution.
  • Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars.
  • Spotify now has 50,000,000 paid subscribers (as of Q1 2017).

Friday, March 03, 2017

Crop circles

Lost in Light

From the photographer, Sriram Murali:

"Lost in Light, a short film on how light pollution affects the view of the night skies. Shot mostly in California, the movie shows how the view gets progressively better as you move away from the lights. Finding locations to shoot at every level of light pollution was a challenge and getting to the darkest skies with no light pollution was a journey in itself. Here’s why I think we should care more.
The night skies remind us of our place in the Universe. Imagine if we lived under skies full of stars. That reminder we are a tiny part of this cosmos, the awe and a special connection with this remarkable world would make us much better beings - more thoughtful, inquisitive, empathetic, kind and caring. Imagine kids growing up passionate about astronomy looking for answers and how advanced humankind would be, how connected and caring we’d feel with one another, how noble and adventurous we’d be. How compassionate with fellow species on Earth and how one with Nature we’d feel. Imagine a world where happiness of the soul is more beautiful. Ah, I feel so close to inner peace. I can only wonder how my and millions of other lives would have changed.

But in reality, most of us live under heavily light polluted skies and some have never even seen the Milky Way. We take the skies for granted and are rather lost in our busy lives without much care for the view of the stars. How does light pollution affect the night skies and quite possibly our lives?"

Lost in Light

Lost in Light II

Magic 10 ball?

Things I learned lately - 3 March

  • There was a meat shortage in the early 1900s. At the same time, southern Louisiana was being overtaken by a new invasive species of plant - water hyacinths - a gift from Japan. These invasive plants covered swamps, bayous, rivers, etc. to the point of making navigating the waters impossible and killing the fish. The infestation took 20 years and even the Army couldn't burn the plants out of existence. So someone come up with the idea of bringing hippos to eat the water hyacinths and being used as a major meat source. It never happened. That's how hippos almost became a common source of meat in America.
  • The Russians successfully hacked the US government in 2008. They broke into the American military's network, which was classified and not connected to the public internet, by planting bugged thumb drives for sale in kiosks near NATO headquarters in Kabul. They hoped that American soldiers would buy a drive and plug it into a secure computer. It worked.
  • partners with medical clinics so you can book an appointment and the app will text or call you only when it's time to come in, taking lateness into consideration. We now have one in Alberta, hopefully more to come.
  • There's a Google Chrome Extension called Nope. Click the green "N". Enter your phone number, then Activate. When you need to get rid of someone at your desk, click the button again. In 3 seconds you get a call from a New York City area code on your phone. When you pick up, a voice quietly instructs you on what to do next.
  • There are tornados on Mars.
  • Ancient penguins were as tall as humans for 30 million years.
  • You are twice as likely to crash while texting as you are drunk driving.