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.

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).