Thursday, March 29, 2018

Small things 30 Mar

  • French texting v. When texting with someone and you see the 'typing' indicator from the other party for what seems like a long time and the message finally comes through, something quite short, like "OK." Based on the fact that it usually takes more French words to say the same thing as lesser words in English.
  • Anybody here named Jeff?  Jeff: Yes.  Geoff: Yeos.
  • You know you might be a little out of it when you start looking for your phone using the flashlight on your phone.
  • In Canada, cruel parents don't dye the Easter eggs before the egg hunt and just throw them outside into the snow. Yes, we often still have snow at Easter in Canada.
  • "If any persons to the number of 12 or more unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assemble together to the disturbance of the public peace and being required by any Justice by proclamation in the King's name in the exact form of the Riot Act, I George I, Sess. 2 c. 5 s. 2, to disperse themselves and peaceably depart, shall to the number of 12 or more unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously remain or continue together for an hour after such proclamation shall be guilty of a felony." There. You've just been read the riot act.....

De-centralized power generation and storage is the new black...... out mitigation plan

The state of South Australia is taking on a revolutionary project to harness solar energy and power 50,000 homes. Instead of solar cells at a single location, it’s creating a decentralized network, with help from Tesla.

Homes will get a 5kW solar panel system and a 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery, so each residence can gather and store energy. 50,000 homes are expected to participate over the next four years in building out the world’s largest virtual power plant, which will generate 250MW, roughly 20% of the state’s average energy needs.

The energy will deliver power during blackouts and feed power into the grid. The kits will be installed at no cost to the tenants.

South Australia has already kicked things off with a trial of 1,100 homes, and will bring the rest on board by 2022.

Operation pothole

Garbage = electricity + skiing

The Amager Resource Center (ARC), is a waste management plant that will convert trash into electricity for 62,500 homes and hot water for 160,000 homes.

But is will also be an artificial ski slope and the tallest climbing wall in the world.

It will blow smoke rings equal to one ton of CO2 from its stack.

The plant will also be surrounded by sports facilities and a go-kart track. It will be 25% more efficient than previous waste to energy plants.

Things I learned lately 29 Mar

  • A Russian athlete at the Olympics in South Korea who wore a shirt that said "I don't do doping" tested positive for doping.
  • "I'm a slave 4 U" was offered to Janet Jackson, who passed.
  • Pharrell's "Happy" was also recorded by Cee-Lo Green, but he never released it.
  • Stainless steel is actually a name for a wide range of steels, but they all have one thing in common: chromium, from about 10-30%, depending on the type. The chromium on the surface of stainless steel bonds with oxygen in the air to form a layer of chromium-oxide, which is what gives stainless steel its very hard, shiny appearance, and makes it resistant to corrosion. If it’s damaged or scarred, the chromium re-bonds with oxygen, and a new layer forms, so it’s self-repairing.
  • To keep the exposed edge of a cut cake fresh, pin a slice of bread against the edge with a toothpick and it won't get stale.
  • Fedex has more planes than Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways combined. Fedex has 650 planes in the air over the course of every day.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Not effective

There's this point during a Windows upgrade when a message appears on the screen. It says, "All your files are exactly where you left them."

Now, the folks at Microsoft probably thought they were doing users a favour, simply trying to convey a comforting message about the upgrade not having any effect on your existing documents, etc.

A computer savvy person reads this message and thinks, "Duh! Of course they are. I'm not stupid."

A normal user is like, "Why are you telling me this? WINDOWS!! WHAT DID YOU DO??!! Did you mess up my files and then fix them in a panic? What's going on?"


I loved this short about happiness.

The highest speed limits around the world

Guns guns guns

I have a respectful relationship with guns. I write this as I observe the aftermath of people being killed by guns and listen to people on both sides of the discussion, for and against gun control. Against my better judgement, I weigh in with my own limited perspective.

As people who know me are aware, I was first professionally introduced to weapons in the military. But my history with guns really begins when I was a young teenager. My best friend owned a few pump action pellet rifles and we used to use them for target practise in his basement. I discovered that I was a decent shot, even though I had no idea how to fire properly.

Once I joined the military, I had to learn how to use various weapons as part of my training in boot camp. The first personal weapon issued to me, was an FN C1 rifle, 7.62mm calibre, and I had a chance to qualify on an standard 9mm calibre SMG (sub-machine gun) and a 9mm Browning pistol. The FN C1 was eventually replaced by the fully automatic 5.56mm calibre C7 in the mid 1980s, and that became our new personal rifle. I've even been lucky enough to fire the M3 Carl Gustav 84mm shoulder fired anti-tank weapon and almost shit my pants in the process. Oh, and I set myself on fire from all the blowback carbon burning in our firing pit. Good times.

The only time I ever fired a weapon was during military exercises (war games) and our annual weapons qualifications, which you had to pass to remain employable. During exercises, we used blanks. During weapons qualifying, we used live ammunition. Once we were finished at the rifle range, we had to declare to the range safety officer (RSO) that we had "no live rounds or empty casings in my possession, sir!" Because we had regular (but highly controlled) access to our personal weapons, it was a big deal to keep the breach block and ammunition separate. If you got caught with live ammo outside of a weapons range, you were in deep shit.

The reason I tell you all of this, is to make it clear that the military taught me respect for weapons of all kinds and that has stayed with me even after my career ended with them.

Once I left the military, I mildly pondered the idea of getting my own weapon. I wasn't motivated by personal protection. I simply missed the days when I could regularly fire a gun, and thought maybe owning a pistol might scratch that very minor itch. Then I learned the legal facts from someone involved with law enforcement. It turns out that owning a gun is not easy in Canada. Between the rules for legally securing a gun and the ammunition, and the rules of using a weapon in self defense, I realized that the best way to satisfy any urge to do some target practise was to borrow a weapon from someone and use it at a licensed range. This is something I never bothered to follow through with. Like I said - minor itch.

What stuck with me after becoming aware of gun law in Canada, is that unlike in the US, Canada does not allow for protecting personal property with deadly force. In fact, if a thief barges into your house and proceeds to steal your stuff, you do not have the right to shoot them. True fact. The only time you might get away with shooting an intruder, is if you believe your life or the lives of your loved ones are in imminent and immediate danger. Even if the thieves are brandishing weapons themselves, if they don't threaten to shoot you, you can't shoot them first. Legally. Besides, you'd have fun explaining to the police, how you managed to get your weapon and ammunition unlocked and put together, if they were locked up properly. If you did so before the thieves entered your home, you're potentially in deep legal trouble because there was no imminent danger at the time.

So when I saw how a farmer was found not guilty of killing another man who tried to steal a vehicle from his farm, I get why folks would be upset that the farmer was found not guilty in a court of law. He shot a man who was not armed. Never mind that the man who was killed was first nations. But I also understand the point of view of farmers in general, who feel that it should be their right to defend their property, like it is in the US, especially when a growing number of rural residents feel that the police could be unable to answer the call in a timely manner in many cases. If I lived on a rural farm many kilometres away from any law enforcement, I'd freak out if someone came on my property with ill intent. Hell, I'd freak out even in suburbia. But one thing I do know, is that it would not be a good idea to kill anyone, or even try to. It's just not right. And I believe that the farmer could have just gotten everyone inside and locked the door. He'd probably be out one ATV and there would still be a man alive today. I know, I wasn't there, so I don't know the whole story.

See, I told you it was a bad idea to attempt to explain this..........

Things I learned lately 23 Mar

  • At Costco, if the price ends in .97, it's been marked down. If the tag has an asterisk, it's not being restocked.
  • An analysis of the Bitcoin blockchain – the publicly accessible ledger of transactions upon which the system is built – has revealed this vast trove of data is irrevocably tainted with unremovable links to illegal child pornography, which are inevitably distributed among and by all users of the currency. This discovery, in addition to other questionable and possibly outlawed content stored within the blockchain hypothetically makes Bitcoin ownership illegal, in any country that has laws against the possession and distribution of images of child abuse.
  • The first fatal accident between an autonomous car and a pedestrian has happened in Arizona. For reference, autonomous vehicles have driven over 100 million miles accident-free until now.
  • Traditional macaroni is straight. Elbow macaroni is curved.
  • Burt Reynolds was the first male nude centrefold
    . In Cosmopolitan. In 1972.
  • You can dip the entire Oreo cookie in milk and not get milk on your fingers by sticking a fork into the filling to hold the cookie.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Medical alphabet (used by doctors)

How to green Canada

Whenever it is mentioned that Canada produces a lot of greenhouse gas per capita as compared to many other countries, the excuses start pouring in. We're colder. Our population is more spread out. Etcetera. It's interesting to note that Russia does better than we do and they're just as cold and spread out as we are. But I think we're missing the point.

We could do better. We could substantially reduce our greenhouse gas footprint if we just tried a little harder. But we don't, because we don't have to. It does require spending some money. But the payback is among other things, more energy independence, cleaner air, a seat at the green technology table, lower lifetime energy costs and plenty of new business opportunities.

So how do we get there? Incrementally. Let's start with homes. Although the technology to build zero-energy homes has been around for a long time now, housing developments in Canada that feature them are still boutique offerings. There are definitely more zero-energy developments today than even 5 years ago, but it's not enough. We need, like California, to phase mandatory zero-energy residential to 100% of new builds by 2022 at the latest. Not only will this allow for zero energy materials and resources to scale up in capability and down in cost, but homeowners will reap the immediate benefits of almost or even absolutely no cost heat and cooling at a premium of 10% at most on the initial outlay of their home. It has been suggested that solar panels on every south facing roof in Canada could eliminate the need for fossil fuel power plants, except as standby generators when wind and solar are lower than optimum. Never mind that grid energy storage is now a thing. More on that later.

Geothermal can play a big part in zero-energy conversion too. This could play an even bigger role in corporate construction, as high density buildings don't typically have a lot of space to mount solar panels. But between better construction techniques and materials, and geothermal, it could be much cheaper over time to heat and cool the places we work and learn.

Transportation. Electric or at the very least hybrid powered planes are just around the corner. The very companies designing those planes right now say that they will be the perfect vehicle for short hop flights of 200-300km, which would remove a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. Electric cars are currently a luxury option, but intense competition will make them affordable even for budget conscious vehicle owners in the very near future. In fact, autonomous electric vehicles could dramatically change the vehicle landscape more than we can imagine, as it might not be necessary to own a vehicle anymore if you can summon a ride at will. Governments have seen the value of subsidizing first adopter electric vehicle owners in the past. I think the next smart thing to do would be to offer large tax rebates to people who adopt the new reality of shunning outright vehicle ownership. Autonomous, on demand vehicles will reduce if not outright eliminate the need for endless parking garages, and most of on street parking. It would eliminate the need for low density public transit, which has always been a hard pill for municipalitites to swallow. Uber is already making inroads in solving last mile transit problems for smaller towns and cities in the last few years. Whole residential neighbourhoods could be reimagined as well. You can build a whole new kind of neighbourhood when people don't own their own vehicles anymore. Goodbye attached or unattached garages and parking pads on your property. This gives you more of your yard back, or makes it possible for higher density, neither of which is a bad thing. It wouldn't even be necessary to build massive roadways passing by every single house. You could walk a few extra metres to catch your ride at a pullover station just in time for it to arrive. You could build little parks for 10-20 homes right in their back yards, eliminating the safety issues of kids having to cross streets to get to a safe play area.

The power grid. The excuse the utilities have always used to argue against serving more of the power grid with renewable energy has been our apparent inability to store power. The wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine they say. This may be true, but there are a lot of times when the wind does blow when we don't even need the energy (overnight), and it could be stored for when it is needed. It sounds impossible, but other jurisdictions have been doing it on a small scale for over a decade. Excess power can be used to pump water to a high elevation reservoir (easily done in our Rocky Mountain areas), which would power hydroelectric generators when the wind takes a rest. Excess power generated from solar can now be stored in massive lithium battery banks thanks to new storage solutions from Tesla and others. This kind of solution is already online in the southern US desert states and parts of Australia and it's a matter of time before we see this kind of grid storage everywhere. This removes all remaining excuses for bringing more and more wind and solar generation online. Fun fact: one of the top 3 solar panel builders is in Canada. How come most people don't know this? Fun fact #2: Calgary has 333 sunny days per year on average, as does most of southern Alberta. Sounds like the perfect place to leverage solar in a massive way. Southern Saskatchewan could do the same.

Agri-solar. As I blogged about in April 2016, solar could transform how we farm as well. Considering how precious water is, and how hard it is to farm a larger variety of crops in areas with long, hard winters, solar could make it possible to heat and light greenhouses while conserving water in a closed agro-system. With energy left over to top up the grid. Germany is even testing solar farms where the panels are raised high enough and spaced apart far enough to allow for crops underneath.

I look forward to a Canada that leads the world in the transformation, so that we can go from fossil fuel dependancy, to purely fossil fuel export, to keeping it in the ground and exporting the green technology that will replace it. We can lead this movement, or sit back and watch it happen everywhere else first.

Things I learned lately 17 Mar

  • To be considered part of the top 1% in Calgary, you'd need to earn at least $451,609 annually. In Sherbrooke, it would only be $172,069.
  • Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, makes $230,000 every minute.
  • A Bitcoin conference in Miami stopped taking Bitcoin as currency to buy tickets.
  • Blockchain something something secure something something distributed. I think.
  • There are now over 1500 cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is no longer the only game in town.
  • Google Chrome users can now right-click on a tab and select "Mute Site" to make sure that the site never plays sound.
  • Scientists think we will finally discover the radio transmissions of alien civilizations sometime in this century.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Small things 9 Mar

  • Nobody is 'from' Antarctica.
  • I never heard the word ablutions until military boot camp.
  • Weather carrot - n. A stated professional weather forecast for several days in the future, usually positive, which will probably change for the worst with each passing day, and most especially once that day arrives. 
  • Moving weather carrot - n. When the forecast for nicer weather several days in the future keeps moving another day further into the future.
  • If the US is going to arm teachers, will librarians be issued silencers?
  • When you turn 100, you can't play with Lego anymore. Check the box!

This is western Canada

Do yourself a favour and watch this spectacular footage full screen.

This is western Canada.

Do you want your basic freedoms or not?

Heat wave in the arctic - in winter

Under normal circumstances, CFS Alert, which is just now seeing the sun peek above the horizon for the first time since late October, has winter temperatures averaging between -25C (-13F) and -35C (-31F).

On the weekend of 24-25 Feb 2018, the temperature got up to 6C (43F). This isn't rare, it's damned near impossible. But due to climate change, Alert's weather is seeing drastic anomalous temperature swings.

For reference, 6C is a typical July day high temperature.

CBC Open House

On 3 Mar 2018, I got a chance to attend an open house at the new CBC location in Parkdale, just a 14 minute walk from our house. I'm glad that I went early, as it got pretty crowded after 12:30.

The station occupies two floors, but they only opened the main floor to the public. I saw their main TV studio and the radio booths including the big FM studio at the south end where the Eye Opener morning show is broadcast.

It looks like a wonderful facility. I learned that when the TV news is broadcast, the cameras are controlled remotely from the main office in Toronto. I checked in at the web content desk and heard how they organize and prioritize the stories on the web site. I also got a look at their real time status board, which shows how many visitors, where they're from, what kind of device they're viewing on and how long they stay.

I've always secretly dreamed of having a career in broadcasting. While I was stationed in CFS Alert at the top of Ellesmere Island, I volunteered to be the CHAR-FM radio station program manager. I had my own radio shows and trained volunteers who wanted their own shows as well. Unfortunately, there's little chance I'd ever get to work at CBC Calgary as you need to not only be trained in school, but you also have to progress through the ranks, whihch means taking a job either at small market stations for a while, or getting hired casual in a big market.

But is was fun to visit and talk at length to people who work in the business.

Things I learned lately 9 Mar

  • 36.7% of passenger car sales in Norway are for all-electric cars. That's not a typo.
  • All US Disney theme parks are now in Google Street View. That just saved y'all big bucks. You're welcome.
  • It is a myth that it's OK to eat raw hot dogs because they're pre-cooked. According to the FDA, it's very important to cook them until they're steaming hot. That's because they can become contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. It's a miracle that we survived childhood.....
  • The record high at the south pole is -12.3C or 9.9F.
  • During Antarctic winter (North American summer), normal flights can't land there due to the darkness and extreme cold (-55C). So, residents are isolated from February until November every year, except for medical emergencies.
  • Google Lens will be coming soon to iOS. It's designed to be a visual search engine, which means, point your camera at something and Google will use that iamge to search what you're seeing. It will also be able to read.
  • In the US, 25% of households earn 6 figures. 22% of households earn less than $25,000 annually.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Scam 'em back

The next time you get what you're pretty sure is a scam email, don't delete it. Instead, forward it to

They're using an evolving artificial intelligence bot (AI) to engage the scammer in an endless and pointless, time wasting conversation, practically indistinguishable from a real human. If enough people do this, they'll hopefully give up.

This is how police should do social media.....

Just my thoughts on unions

As long as a union fails to secure even a modest cost of living increase for the people they represent, they should not be allowed to raise union dues during the period of that contract.

Nor should the union employees give themselves a raise.


That is all.

It's about showing your humanity

If there ever was a video I wish everyone would watch, this is it. Here's the TED talk description:

"What's it like to grow up within a group of people who exult in demonizing ... everyone else? Megan Phelps-Roper shares details of life inside America's most controversial church and describes how conversations on Twitter were key to her decision to leave it. In this extraordinary talk, she shares her personal experience of extreme polarization, along with some sharp ways we can learn to successfully engage across ideological lines."

Things I learned lately 2 Mar

  • A supermarket in Amsterdam, Ekoplaza, now has a 'plastic free' aisle selling 700+ grocery staples with no plastic packaging at all, a world first. It plans to roll this out nation-wide.
  • City councillors don't pay into the federal employment insurance program, and are therefore not eligible to collect EI.
  • The flu can stick around in your system for longer than a cold, with symptoms like fatigue persisting up to three weeks. Individuals infected with the flu can pass it to anyone within 6 feet, and only stop being contagious once they've been fever-free for a full 24 hours (without the help of medication).
  • Knockoff restaurants around the world: Mash Donalds in Iran; McDoner in Kazakhstan; Pizza Hat in Iran; Bucksstars Coffee in China; Stars & Bucks in Palestine; Burger Friends in Iraq; KFD and KLG in China; ZFC in Iran; Sunny Day (Subway) in Yemen; Duffin Dagels (Dunkin Donuts) in Spain; 7 Twelve in China.
  • There's a new peanut allergy treatment being tried which re-trains the body's immune system not to overreact to peanut protein. This involves re-introducing it to the body, increasing the amount of protein over time. The hope is to lessen the responses to an allergen, so instead of really intense reactions, you can take some accidental peanut protein and continue your day.
  • Roundabout intersections reduce deaths and serious injuries by 90%. That's because there's pretty much no opportunity for the deadliest kind of collision - the head on, high speed crash.