Friday, April 21, 2017

Flerpty dur!

You can't always counter ignorance with facts

Here is a great article "Why facts don't change our minds"


"Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. It’s one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about. Sloman and Fernbach cite a survey conducted in 2014, not long after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Respondents were asked how they thought the U.S. should react, and also whether they could identify Ukraine on a map. The farther off base they were about the geography, the more likely they were to favor military intervention. (Respondents were so unsure of Ukraine’s location that the median guess was wrong by eighteen hundred miles, roughly the distance from Kiev to Madrid.)"

These dogs are in tents......

Things I learned lately - 21 April

  • In Nordic countries, you could do your taxes by sending a text message. The way taxes work in Nordic nations, including Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway, you get a document from the government with all the relevant information already filled out. Or a text message with the prepared tax information, and if you respond 'yes,' taxes are done. This is mostly possible because of high levels of public trust. People trust one another and their government. Another reason is that wealth is much rarer among the Nordic countries; most people's taxes don't come with a list of tax breaks and loopholes.
  • There's a game show in Japan where people are challenged to speak English to Siri on an iPhone and see if she can understand their pronunciation.
  • The wacky gourmets at Paqui sell Carolina Reaper Madness tortilla chips. Said item comes in a small, red, coffin-shaped box with the robed figure of death on it. You get one standard-size chip per package. This chip is spiced with Carolina Reaper peppers, touted as the hottest variety on Earth.
  • The CEO of advertising company Steelhouse gives employees unlimited vacation time. But when the policy was announced, few workers took advantage. Now the company pays the workers to take vacation. Rack up vacation expenses and the company pays $2000 of it, per year.
  • When you're filling out forms and you get to a field with a drop down list, just keep typing the first letter of the item you want to select until it appears.
  • You can use the spacebar key to page down on a web site. On every web browser. Shift + Spacebar to go back up a page. (I usually use the page down and page up keys)
  • The most commonly known Egyptian Pharoah, Tutankhamun, didn't actually accomplish much as Pharoahs go, dying when he was 17. He is so well known because his tomb was among the best preserved.
  • All 6 of the manned moon landings occured over a 3.5 year period.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Stormtrooper paintball

Political balance

It must be a challenge to be a politician. I'm not being funny, I'm serious.

The biggest challenge politicians face, if they even bother to accept it, is having to balance the views and values of their constituents against their own views and values. Our Prime Minister got a taste of this balancing act lately when, after promising that the government would be reforming the electoral system from first-past-the-post to something more representative of the population, gave up after both not getting a consensus within government, and rejecting the idea of a referendum to help decide. I've actually written a Liberal MP asking for an explanation, and got one that explained why the decision was made. I don't necessarily agree with their conclusion, but at least I got a decent answer. The big picture problem is that the PM is placing his own fears, doubts and views over those of the populace. It seems that most Canadians don't really care about the doubts, they just want it done. After all, it was promised during the election and people took it to heart. It also seems that even if people can't agree on what the new electoral system should look like, almost everyone agrees, we need to pick something and try it. So what's a poor PM to do?

It doesn't end there. The balance that must be struck is actually between the politician, their constituents, and their party. If my MP is Conservative, and believes with all of their heart that government should take a certain stance on an issue, but their constituents don't feel that way, shouldn't the MP listen to the people? What if the point of view is that of the party, but not the majority of the people in that riding, and/or the MP themselves?

That's a hard question to answer. But I do believe there are some fundamental guidelines that politicians could follow to help make the decision. To start with, if an opinion or value is based on religion, then it should be discounted. Not every person in a party or a constituency shares the same religious values or beliefs, and some don't have any at all. So for someone to foist their values on others based on a belief system is unfair to say the least. The decisions that politicians make should satisfy one common requirement - it is respectful to the people.

I won't delve into more controversial topics as an example, but if we revisit the electoral reform topic, what path would be most respectful to the people? In my mind, that would be the path that gives more people a voice in government. And that, logically, is the reform that is most representative, even if it includes minority extremist views. I am firmly of the belief that when people are allowed to be heard, two things happen. The people speaking feel respected and their hostility diminishes. And the rest of us actually get to hear ideas that differ from our own.

Because only getting to hear 2 sides of an 8 sided concept doesn't provide enough information for creating solutions that last.

Lego training

Things I learned lately - 13 April

  • Britain, Germany, Estonia and Poland were all aware of suspicious "interactions" between associates of Donald Trump and suspected or known Russian operatives in late 2015.
  • Since 9/11, almost as many Americans have died at the hands of far-right-wing extremists as have been killed by radical Islamists – 106 and 119, respectively.
  • Heinz opened a baked beans cafe in the food section of Selfridges in London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the "Beanz Meanz Heinz" slogan. You can get your beans, in a big paper cup, with scrambled eggs, ham hock, or bacon bits.
  • American car insurance companies appear to be charging higher premiums in minority neighbourhoods with similar accident costs.
  • The band Chicago put out at least one album every year from 1969-1980. Four of those were double albums.
  • We are now capable of detecting whether an exoplanet has an atmosphere or not.
  • The word rooster was invented at the end of the 18th century to avoid using the word cock, which by that point also had a sexual meaning.
  • The actual coastline of Louisiana looks nothing like it is depicted in most maps. Between 1932 and 2010, 1900 square miles of land was lost due to sinking land and rising waters, more than all other states combined. It could lose another 1750 square miles by 2064 at this rate.
  • A 102 year old woman in St Louis asked to be arrested, handcuffed and put in a squad car, to check it off her bucket list. The police happily (and gently) complied.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Origin of solar system elements

Very simulating

I like simulation games. SimCity - every version. MS Flight Simulator - every version. Train Simulator. X-Plane. Ship Simulator. I've played them all. Flying is the most fun. I was addicted to Microsoft's Flight Simulator, until it stopped working reliably in Windows 10.

So I gave X-Plane a try. The first version I bought, version 10, came on DVDs with scenery for the entire planet. This made it laborious to install, unless you chose only a fraction of the world's scenery to install. Its interface was definitely not as nice and as intuitive as Microsoft's Flight Simulator. But it worked.

Enter the new version 11, which had been in beta for the last few months and just got released as a formal version. Wow. Much, much better. Digital download! A very intuitive interface. Now you can view the map while you fly. They did a superb job with the video realism. I tried a quick flight from San Diego to Palm Springs in a small private jet and the way the sunrise reflected off the aircraft was amazing. Much more going on too, as airports look realistic and have ground vehicles racing around. Assigning flight controls to my joystick was a breeze.

The only thing I have left to try is filing flight plans and using air traffic control. Then we'll sit back and wait for plane designers to come up with some new aircraft to install for this version.

If you want to give flight simulation a try, this is the one.

Monster spray

Things I learned lately - 7 April

  • Director Ridley Scott's original ending for Alien had Ripley killed at the end of the movie. When Ripley is in the escape shuttle and it's revealed that the alien is on board, the creature slams through her mask and rips her head off. He would've then cut to the tentacles of the alien pressing buttons on the dashboard. It would mimic Captain Dallas saying, ‘I’m signing off'. A Fox executive threatened to fire Ridley Scott. So they didn’t do that ending.
  • Heavy Metal yoga is a thing now.
  • The key to knowing whether you're hydrated is the colour of your urine. Watered down lemonade is what you're going for. Anything darker indicates the likelihood of varying stages of dehydration.
  • Graphene-oxide membranes may one day filter salt right out of sea water.
  • The division sign ÷ represents a fraction where the dots are numbers.
  • Tesla set up a solar micro-grid on the island of Ta'u in American Samoa. It uses Tesla's Powerpacks too to store enough electricity for the 600 residents for almost 3 days. The packs recharge 100% with 7 hours of sun. No more diesel power for Ta'u.
  • They now make no-touch thermometers, which use infrared technology to measure core body temperature quickly and precisely. Arc’s Insta­Temp is one of them. Once the device is placed roughly an inch from the forehead, it spits out a temperature in 2.5 seconds, coded red, yellow or green, depending on the reading.
  • A killer fog hit London for several days, starting on 5 December 1952. It lifted 4 days later with an estimated death toll of at least 12,000 people, with around 150,000 hospitalizations and thousands of undocumented animal deaths. The cause: nitrogen dioxide converting comparatively benign sulfur dioxide into lethal sulfuric acid.
  • In Iceland, they often bake rye bread the old fashioned way - buried underground near a hot spring. It takes 24 hours to bake bread this way, at a temperature around 100C.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

This one too

I like this animated gif

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Why your ancestors didn't miss work with a cold

Chevy Bolt a contender? Not so much.

So, other car companies are finally competing with Tesla and making all-electric vehicles. The market is ripe for this, considering that the Tesla is selling as well as it is for CAD$100,000+. So it was with great interest that I heard Chevrolet has finally released the Bolt EV.

To summarize, the Bolt is a small car (smaller than the Leaf, bigger than a Fiesta). It has a range of 380 km. It can charge in 9.5 hours on 220 volts. So this is the first car with this type of range, to be sold in all North American markets for under $50,000. In fact, you can get in a Bolt for CAD$45,000, but without any options. A loaded model is CAD$51,500+. I'm not including incentives, because in certain parts of Canada, such as here in Alberta, we don't get any.

So they beat Tesla to market on a consumer level car. But I predict that Bolt owners are going to have some serious buyer's remorse once the Tesla Model 3 arrives late this year (or mid-2018 if you order now). Here's why.

The Model 3 (pictured) will have slightly less range (346 km), and it is expected to sell for US$35,000. Canadian pricing is pending, but based on other Tesla models, they'll probably go at the current exchange rate, which right now is CAD$46,625. There are a few things, though, that a Model 3 owner will get, that a Bolt owner won't.

More room. It's just a bigger, more practical car. You'll not likely go on a long trip in a Bolt, but in a Model 3 you could. I've heard reviews saying the Bolt isn't very comfortable and has narrow seats. I'm thinking this won't be an issue in the Model 3.

OMG - the ever expanding Tesla Supercharging network. At an electricity cost of $0.16 per kWh, which is expensive, you could get an 80% recharge in 40 minutes for $6.40 at a Supercharging station in Montana. My guess is that in Alberta, that would be at least half the cost, since we're paying $0.04 per kWh in Alberta right now. You also get 400 kWh of free charging credit per year. There are no Chevrolet charging stations.  Chevy lists charging stations you could use, but they're not all public nor freely accessible.

Based on the reviews I've seen, the Bolt's navigation system is nowhere near as sophisticated as Tesla's. In a Tesla, the car will not only help you plan and drive your route, but it also knows where all the Supercharging stations are and factors that in, while showing you on the map how much farther you can get on the current charge.

But the real deal maker will be the self-driving ability. Yes, Tesla intends to put that in the Model 3 (for an extra cost of course). The Bolt has nothing like that. Here's what this brings to the table.

Even without the full self-driving option, the Tesla will match speed to traffic conditions, keep within a lane, automatically change lanes without driver input, transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway when your destination is near, self-park when near a parking spot, and be summoned to and from your garage (opening and closing the door too). If you get the self-driving option, all you'll need to do is get in your car and tell it where to go. If you don't say anything, the car will look at your calendar and take you to the assumed destination of any meeting or appointment, or home if nothing is on the calendar. The car will figure out the optimal route, navigate urban streets (even without lane markings), manage intersections with lights and stop signs, even roundabouts. It will handle densely packed freeways at high speed. When you arrive, simply get out at the entrance and the car will seek a parking spot and park itself. Use your phone to summon it back to pick you up.

Sorry Bolt, if I'm in the market for an electric car, I'll wait for the Model 3.

What 58 years of computer development looks like

Things I learned lately - 1 April

  • Gum as we know it really dates back to the Maya, who chewed dried sapodilla latex, called chicle. This came to Staten Island with exiled Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1869. He tried peddling chicle as a replacement for rubber tires, but local businessman Thomas Adams realized it had potential to be more fun. He invented the Chiclet.
  • 68% of polled Monopoly players admitted that they've never read the rules. 30% have made up some of their own rules. For example, that rule about collected tax goes to whoever lands on Free Parking? Made up
  • When you land on an unclaimed property in Monopoly, if you pass on buying it, it's supposed to go up for auction to the highest bidder. You can enter the bidding too. That's a real rule!
  • Being on the 'Go to Jail' tile in Monopoly does NOT stop you from earning rent or bidding on property. In fact, being in jail is the safest place to be, because for 2 turns, you'll never risk landing on someone else's property.
  • If you land on someone else's property, you don't have to pay any rent to the owner, if the owner doesn't ask for their rent before the next player rolls the dice. Booyah!
  • Amazon's Prime Air program is on trial in the UK. Drones delivering packages with up to the second updates on your phone. 
  • Kevin Kumala, from Indonesia, has created a bag that looks like plastic, but is made from cassava starch. It is 100% biodegradable and even edible. He proved it by dissolving the material in water and drinking it. This could get big.
  • Nestle has made a scientific breakthrough that has the potential to reduce sugar in its candy products by up to 40%. Using only natural ingredients, researchers had found a way to structure sugar differently, so that less sugar can be used in chocolate with no difference to taste. Nestle will begin to use the faster-dissolving sugar across a range of its confectionery products from 2018.
  • Most famous band from Alabama: Alabama; Kansas: Kansas.