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.

Monday, February 26, 2018

4 self-driving cars arrive at an intersection...

(Kinda sounds like the opening line of a joke......)

But seriously, 4 self-driving cars arrive at a 4 way intersection at the same time.

Based on how they're programmed to proceed, which one goes first? It's my understanding that so far, self-driving cars have been programmed with a lot of patience and a tendency to yield the right of way to the other vehicle(s).

But if they're all programmed that way, will any of them make the first move? Might they have to play a virtual game of rock, paper, scissors? Maybe they announce each others VIN numbers, and the one with the lowest number goes first, etc.

Also, I'm really having fun with this online accident recreation software.....

Drivers need patience (maybe eyes too)

If there one thing I think drivers in general need to learn, it's patience.

While Darlene and I were sitting at a light at a very big intersection (16 Ave & 29 St NW), the advanced left turn light had turned green, but I didn't move.

That's because an ambulance, lights flashing, sirens wailing, was entering the intersection perpendicular to us. Unfortunately, someone in the SUV behind us was impatient. They beeped their horn, obviously unaware of the ambulance about to enter the intersection. I'm pointing to the ambulance, but of course, they're unaware of that too.

Since I'm not moving, they took it upon themselves to pass us on the left and race toward the intersection, which the ambulance is now 1/3 through. The SUV continues entering, only becoming aware of the ambulance once it's directly in front of them, barely missing them as they come to a rapid stop. Luckily, the ambulance was going straight through, which created a fairly large buffer space between the two vehicles. Had the ambulance been turning left and coming toward us, there would very likely have been a collision.

The SUV driver looked pretty silly sitting in the middle of the intersection as the ambulance passed by. I'm not sure if they realized how lucky they were to be alive.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Canadian Excalibur

Your ears are missing out

I fear for the ear of the youth of today. What I mean by that is that I'm afraid that many people may never get to hear what music really sounds like. Why?

There are a number of technology innovations that have slowly but steadily transformed the way we listen to music. Most people now listen to their music through a much larger variety of delivery mechanisms. They listen on their phones or tablets, on their computers or laptops and on their vehicle's sound system. Or, they listen live, in concert.

Now, if they're lucky, the live listening experience is rather good. If they can listen to music in an acoustically tuned concert hall, where the audio is not cranked to 11 (Spinal Tap reference anyone?), they might hear the music very close to the way it was intended. But the majority of live music venues focus more on volume than on quality, especially large stadiums.

Getting back to the other delivery methods, if you're listening on a portable device or a computer of some kind, I'm sad to inform you that you're being subjected to music processed by mediocre audio electronics. To add insult to injury, you're probably listening to mp3 files, which distills the original uncompressed music down to a waveform that buries a lot of detail, especially if it was encoded at a lower bit rate (less than 320kbps). If you're listening on the tiny speakers built into the device, you may as well be trying to hear ants perform. If you're using little desk speakers, even the kind with little subwoofers, you're being robbed of both the highest and lowest frequencies in the music. If you're listening on headphones, you might be getting better sound, depending on the quality of the headphones. In-ear buds are robbing you of natural bass. Trendy, but otherwise pathetic headphones like Beats and their kin (sorry, the truth is brutal) may deliver a lot of brain slamming bass, but that bass is likely hiding the headphones' weaknesses in other parts of the music spectrum. If you're listening to music played back through consumer grade electronics over quality headphones, you're beginning to hear the sad truth. The music is polluted with noise by the hardware. When I listen to music on good headphones from a computer with a standard sound card, there is no silence in between the notes. Whether the music's playing or not, there's a floor of noise so obtrusive, I can almost hear my computer move my mouse pointer around on the screen.

Listening on a car stereo isn't much better, because even if you sank some serious coin into a decent car stereo with good speakers, the noise alone from the wind, the engine, the tires, the road, and the traffic is going to mask much of what you should be hearing.

No my friends, if you really want to hear what music was meant to sound like, you're going to have to spend some money on some quality audio equipment. Either that, or visit someone who already has spent that kind of money. I'm not talking about a Sonos system, or a bookshelf stereo. I'm not talking about the Bose Wave either.

I'm talking about a system where the the speakers are worth at least $300. Each! Made by brands you may not be familiar with. Paradigm, Polk Audio, Klipsch, Energy, Wharfedale, PSB, KEF, B&W. Without getting into a full on speaker consult, you can probably keep the price reasonable by getting a pair of really solid bookshelf speakers with a nice, musical subwoofer to round out the lowest frequencies.

Next, you want a good amplifier. Go ahead, get a receiver, where it's an all-in-one tuner, pre-amp and amplifier in one box. If we're throwing brands out there, I'm talking about Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo, Harman Kardon, Pioneer, Marantz, Sony. Just don't skimp on power. If you insist on a box that only puts out 50 watts per stereo channel, you're playing on a stereo that's akin to a 3 cylinder Smart car. Sure, it'll get you around, but the minute you floor it, you risk burning everything out. Also, amplifiers that can get loud enough without getting near their top end have much less distortion. You will hear the difference. Remember my rant on noise earlier? Good amplifiers don't have any.

The debate I will not get into in this article is which music source you should be using. CD or vinyl record. Insofar as we're trying to show you what music is supposed to sound like versus your iPhone with your Skull Candy in-ear buds, I guarantee you it won't make any difference whether you choose CD or vinyl. They are both infinitely better. So long as you play them on a CD player or turntable that didn't come from Walmart. That's right, even the damned player has to be decent quality. It's the part that converts the recorded music into an electric waveform that the amp can use to push those speakers with. Would you paint a masterpiece with a basting brush? No. And neither should you be playing your exquisite music on a toy.

I am truly speaking from experience here. I remember the time I visited a home that was equipped with an incredible sound system. It was playing some Steely Dan and I nearly wept. It motivated me to never ignore the quality of my home audio gear again, and although I couldn't afford the system I was priviledged to audition (certainly worth $6000+), I made sure to at least get gear that could do the music justice.

Now I realize that people today don't typically buy albums in physical form anymore. It's sad, but true. So for most of us, we're stuck with mp3 files, or some other digital equivalent. Hopefully you're at least getting them encoded at a high bit rate. Then at least you're not missing as much critical musical detail.

But you probably can't afford a pricey stereo system either. And besides, the modern music aficionado prefers to take their music with them everywhere. So what's a rambler to do? First, get some good, neutral sounding headphones. My current fave is the incredibly priced Status Audio CB-1 ($110 on Amazon, although they do go on sale for under $90). They're not too bassy and they reveal a lot of detail. But what you really have to deal with is the substandard DAC in your playback device. Whether in your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, the electronics that convert the digital sound (DAC) to something analog to feed the headphones has to be bypassed for an upgrade. Get yourself an outboard DAC / headphone amplifier. Fiio (pictured) make some great ones. I've seen people strap one of these to their phone with elastics. Try one out at your local audio store. You will have embarked on a journey where you finally get to hear what the music really sounds like.

It will be like hearing your music collection for the first time.

What Neil said....

How Star Wars - The Last Jedi should have ended

Cute video of how the last Star Wars movie should have / could have ended.

Things I learned lately 25 Feb

  • Silicon Valley is so expensive, people who make $400,000 think they're the middle class. In reality, American middle class ranges from about $40,000 to $150,000 depending on where you live.
  • Russian bots practised for influencing the 2016 US election with a Thanksgiving food poisoning hoax on Twitter.
  • Kareem Abeed, Syrian producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary "Last Men in Aleppo," will not be able to attend the Academy Awards because his visa application was rejected. The documentary looks at a volunteer group called The White Helmets that rescues victims buried in rubble following bombings in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war.
  • As many as 450 branches of KFC across the UK were shut for at least four days after a change of distributors led to a nationwide chicken shortage for KFC. Some are open with severely limited menus. A restaurant in Bristol could only offer BBQ beans, lettuce and popcorn chicken. Some would-be customers took to calling the police to complain.
  • New research has shown a strong link between heavy drinking and developing early-onset dementia. Chronic heavy drinking is more than four drinks a day for a man, and more than three for a woman.

Friday, February 16, 2018

From the movie 'Play it again Sam'

Allan: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollack, isn't it?
Museum Girl: Yes, it is.
Allan: What does it say to you?
Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?
Museum Girl: Committing suicide.
Allan: What about Friday night?

Small things 16 Feb

  • Athletes taking a knee isn't a new thing. Remember Tonya Harding?
  • Millennial culture is having two wildly different conversations with the same person, on two different apps at the same time.
  • We'll, we'll, we'll................ if it isn't autocorrect....

Hybrid thinking

Ray Kurzweil knows a lot about how brains work. And he has some mindblowing predictions about how technology will enable hybrid thinking in the near future.

Here's an excerpt:

"Five to 10 years from now, search engines will actually be based on not just looking for combinations of words and links but actually understanding, reading for understanding the billions of pages on the web and in books. So you'll be walking along, and Google will pop up and say, "You know, Mary, you expressed concern to me a month ago that your glutathione supplement wasn't getting past the blood-brain barrier. Well, new research just came out 13 seconds ago that shows a whole new approach to that and a new way to take glutathione. Let me summarize it for you.""

That's nothing.....

Things I learned lately 16 Feb

  • There are 4 phases of matter, gas, liquid, solid, and plasma.
  • There's was (is?) a vacancy at NASA, and it may have one of the greatest job titles ever conceived: planetary protection officer. It pays well, between US$124,000 and US$187,000 annually.
  • Although the Empire State Building opened 1 May 1931, it didn't become profitable until 1950. The tower took only 410 days to build.
  • Fiat Chrysler is joining the self-driving alliance led by BMW Group, Intel and its Mobileye subsidiary, to partner in developing an autonomous driving platform.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Tesla is making their new roadster

"The new Tesla roadster will be the fastest production car ever made. 


It'll do the quarter mile in 8.9 seconds. I won't say what the actual top speed is, but it's above 250 mph. This is for the base model. These numbers sound nutty, but they're real. 620 mile range. That's 1000 km range. 

This will be the first time an electric vehicle breaks 1000 km..... a production electric vehicle will travel more than 1000 km on a single charge at highway speed. This thing will have 3 motors, so it's all wheel drive. 10,000 Newton-metres of torque. Do you know what that means? It's stupid. It's got a removable roof and it has tons of storage.
~Elon Musk

0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds. 0-100 mph in 4.2 seconds. For reference, the Corvette ZR1 has 970 nm torque and does 0-60 in 3.1 seconds.

The new Tesla roadster will cost $200,000 and is scheduled to be available in 2020.

We are plants!

Small things 9 Feb

  • The difference between North America and Europe is that North Americans think 100 years is a long time and Europeans think that 500 kilometres is a long way.
  • You know those hotel door signs that say "do not disturb"? Do they make those to be worn around your neck?
  • I don't know why it's called a fire exit. It's where the people exit. Just sayin'.....

Happy Danes

Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times bestselling author, was talking to Business Insider about why Danes are so happy. Excerpt:

"Every Dane, from the moment they're born, expects free healthcare, free education. When they get into college they expect to be paid to go to school. If they have a child, they expect to have 10 months of paid maternity or paternity leave. And they expect to be able to retire absolutely securely for the rest of their life.

Because their government takes care of all the necessities of life — nothing can ever go too wrong in their lives — they're free to pursue a job that really speaks to their passions.

Ambition is not greatly celebrated. They’re not always buying new clothes and new cars and trying to keep up with the Joneses, and that gives them more time to pursue their interests.

So, people are good at architecture and they create the best restaurants in the world and furniture design, jobs suggestive of flow — of optimal using your talents, so that time can absolutely disappear.

The bigger part of happiness is getting rid of the stresses of our daily lives. So, this notion of having your health insurance covered, your education covered, and your retirement covered is actually very huge."

Dan Buettner is the author of "The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World's Happiest People.

Denmark is consistently rated as having the best work-life balance in the world.