Friday, August 26, 2016

Cinematography lesson #1 - Reflections

I've been trying my hand at creating some videos for various purposes. At my last filming session, I learned a very valuable lesson - watch your reflections. If there are any reflective surfaces behind the action, make sure they aren't revealing anything behind the camera that you don't want the viewer to see.

It might be hard to see this in the small screen of a camera or video camera, so get your head down by the camera to see what the camera will see. Sometimes all it takes is a slight re-positioning of the camera and the unwanted reflections are gone.

The sequel to Frozen?


Using a Keurig with less waste

I've been a Keurig user for a few years and as someone who doesn't like creating a lot of garbage, you can imagine that I've felt guilty about the waste I create with this machine.

Luckily, I feel better now that I discovered the Melitta Javajig. It uses a tiny paper filter so you can make your own coffee from your favourite grinds. This also helps regulate the strength of the coffee. I can still make coffee one cup at a time without creating so much waste and worrying about stale product.

I highly recommend this product.

Abu Dhabi do!


Things I learned lately - 26 August


  • Two self-driving minibuses began service in Helsinki this week, in real traffic. The small, electric buses can transport up to 9 passengers. They can travel at speeds up to 25 mph, but are restricted to 7 mph during the trial. This is part of Helsinki's plan to make car ownership in the city obsolete within a decade. The city has a very efficient public transport system, but it is also developing an on-demand mobility program, which would allow people to use mobile apps to book and pay for any trip by bus, train, taxi, bicycle and car sharing.
  • UCLA researchers successfully used focused ultrasound on the thalamus, to jump-start a patient's brain, to help wake up from a coma.
  • There is now a city in the US where the median price for a house has surpassed $1,000,000. That city is San Jose.
  • On 7 August 2016, Scotland generated more electricity through wind power than the country needed. That is a first for Scotland.
  • In the year 4 BC., if you were talking about the 'son of God', you were talking about Roman Emperor Augustus.
  • Julius Caesar's first name was Gaius.
  • China is named after the Qin dynasty, which is pronounced 'chin' (by English speakers anyway).
  • Xia; Shang; Zhou; Qin; Han; Jin; Sui; Tang; Song; Yuan; Ming; Qing were all Chinese dynasties.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trying to take drunk people home


When friends hit the big time

At one time, I could only imagine how someone would feel if a person they knew, or grew up with, became a famous athlete or actor. That sense of pride.

Well, now I know what it feels like and I'm pumped. A friend I met many years ago, at Loose Moose (Andrew Phung) is starring in a new TV show coming this fall on CBC called Kim's Convenience.

I am so excited. Break a leg Andrew!

Today's wifi


Things I learned lately - 19 August


  • The biggest movie of the year I was born was 101 Dalmatians.
  • Copenhagen's latest goal is to build a superhighway for bikes that will stretch to surrounding suburbs. The first of 28 planned routes opened in 2014, and 11 more will be completed by the end of 2018. The city has also pledged to become completely carbon-neutral by 2025.
  • Madrid plans to ban cars from 500 acres of its city centre by 2020, with urban planners redesigning 24 of the city's busiest streets for walking rather than driving.
  • Rumour has it one of the next upgrades to Tesla's Model S is a battery capable of 611 km (380 mi) range.
  • These conventions exist: Bronycon (My Litle Pony); Merfest (merfolk); Anthrocon (furries); the Santa Celebration (International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas); World Clown Association; Fetishcon; World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships; Vent Haven Convention (ventriloquists).
  • There are 6 billion base pairs (A-T or G-C) in every cell of your body.
  • If all the DNA strands were extracted from your body, untangled and stretched out, then laid end on end, they would reach to the sun, and back, 300 times.
  • The term bloodlines came from the belief that semen was just very purified menstrual blood.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Appropriate price, no?


How old should a child be before they get their own iPad?

On Facebook, a thread started among family and friends about getting an iPad for their soon to be 5 year old son. They asked for people to weigh in on the discussion. Since I could relate, I did weigh in, but realized it was a great post for this blog too.

[Edited from original FB post]
My grand-daughter inherited my old iPad about two years ago, when I bought a newer one. I thought it would be great for her to have her own iPad for a number of reasons. Familiarity and the eventual mastery of technology is one. There are so many things a child can do on an iPad or similar device, that the sky is the limit. The educational apps, games, and methods of communicating with family members and friends is just the beginning. Through the iPad, she learned about musical instruments in an orchestra, played doctor, made robots, cooked meals, ran a hospital, supermarket and restaurant, explored space, solved puzzles, read electronic versions of her favourite story books, the list goes on.

Once she discovered Google and YouTube, she was no longer satisfied with the phrase "I don't know". Don't get me wrong, an inquisitive young mind having access to all of the information that's available on the Internet, is a double edged sword. On one hand, they can find answers to pretty much any questions they have. On the other hand, they can find answers to pretty much any question they have. Some parents may not be cool with that possibility. Which brings me to probably the most important factor in all of this. Parents have to parent. They get to decide what their kids should or should not be exposed to. They get to decide how much time their kids should spend staring at a screen, no matter how valuable that screen time may be. I think most parents understand that a child needs to be exposed to other things, like real life. Because not all, but much of what they experience on the screen is virtual.

They need to play outside, they need to make and break things with their hands, they need to interact with other people. They need to learn the consequences of things, because in virtual environments, destruction, injury and death don't really have a price.

So in my humble opinion, I think it comes down to balance. As long as a kid is not spending most of their free time staring at a screen, it's all good. But as parents have noticed, sometimes it's difficult to agree on how much is too much. Also, once a child is aware of the joys and possibilities of the internet and apps, it's hard to tell them that they can't have it right now. But I think parents in general need to be more aware of what their kids are doing with technology, because they'll probably be surprised at how much their kids have figured out on their own, and how far down the rabbit hole they've ventured on their own.

Lastly, for what it's worth, my grand-daughter, who is now 8, is a huge Minecraft freak. She has mastered this virtual environment and has built (and visited) some amazing hand-crafted worlds, thanks to her being able to interact with other players of the game. A lot of folks may not see the value in a game like Minecraft, but it definitely teaches them how to design and build things even if they're virtual things. It teaches them that you need certain resources to build certain things. Who knows what that skill could lead to when they get older. I don't think this is something that should be kept away from kids, just monitored and metered out.

I can barely see it


Things I learned lately - 12 August


  • In September, Google Chrome (53) will start blocking Adobe Flash.
  • On 4 Aug 2016, a sun-grazing comet slammed into the sun at a speed of 600 km per second, or 2.16 million km/h.
  • If you're watching a recorded show on your PVR (at least here in Calgary), and a weather emergency notification is broadcast, you'll see it, even though you're not watching live TV. (They were warning of a possible tornado)
  • Technically, Jupiter doesn't exactly orbit the sun. In other words, it doesn't orbit the centre of the sun's mass, it orbits the combined centre of gravity, which is above the sun's surface. So the orbit is more like a dance, where the sun wobbles around that centre of gravity and Jupiter orbits it too, but from much farther out.
  • The Solar Impulse aircraft successfully travelled around the world, 40,000 km, without using any fossil fuels.
  • Rhubarb has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
  • Only 5% of all the African slaves brought to the Americas went to the US.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Apply anyway


Nothing personal

As I get older and more receptive to new ideas and concepts, I've learned some things that help me through life. One of those things is putting a muzzle on my ego.

I've adopted a philosophy that suggests that our psyches are composed of two parts, our ego, or conscious self, and our intuitive or sub-conscious self. The ego, when in control, does some crazy-ass stuff. One of those things is taking everything personally.

For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic, this is not a personal affront. Your ego behaves like it is, but in reality, not only is the offender not aware of who you are, they probably don't even realize that they've done something to offend you. Until you engage. You flip the bird, or honk, or drive up beside them and launch a verbal assault. Now you're the one making it personal, and they likely don't react well.

Now that I'm more aware of what's going on around me, I see examples of the ego's power everywhere. For example, when we send an email, and the recipient doesn't answer. How rude! Well, not necessarily. They may be busy. Our email may have quickly been pushed down the list by the weight of a lot of other messages coming into their inbox. They may not be in the habit of answering every email they get right away. Email may not even be a priority communications channel for them. There are countless reasons why we didn't get an immediate reply, yet we will often take it personally. We may even lash out, or return the favour. Just the other day, a friend told me that they've been observing a coffee shop regular showing up, but not engaging in conversation with them lately, like they usually do. They took it as an personal insult. But they really had no idea why the other party chose to be less social. Maybe they're tired, or sick. They could have a major situation going on in their life that's distracting. Maybe it's nothing at all. I asked, "Did you go up and say hello?" They did not. So, I reminded them that it's very possible that the other person feels the exact same thing about them. "You didn't go up and say hello, so now they think you're being a snob." It turns out, the other person had cancer, and was acting a little withdrawn.

I've at least had one person ask me if there was a problem, because they were getting the impression that I was being standoffish. That perception resolved itself very quickly. I was told a true story that one time, an employee in an important position, at a company that shall remain unnamed, saw a colleague say hello to another colleague as they passed their office, but this same person never bothered to say hello to them. They took it so personally, that they erupted into an emotional rant in front of a senior executive about how they're constantly being harassed and bullied by coworkers. That person was put on stress leave and slowly released from the staff roster.

But all of these things have one thing in common. The ego. We need to remind ourselves that everything that happens around us is just that. Stuff that happens. In most cases, it has nothing to do with us.

Chill out America


Things I learned lately - 6 August


  • The Netflix hit Stranger Things was passed on 15-20 times by the major networks.
  • Elon Musk is aiming for full automation in the coming production of the new Model 3. That's right, no humans on the production line.
  • Politicians in Germany are actively recruiting British start-up companies to relocate to Berlin in the wake of Brexit.
  • Donlad Trump has a fragrance. It's named Empire.
  • Israel recaptures 86% of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation. This is vastly more than the second most efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19%.
  • During the Cold War, there was a subculture in Russia that used discarded (exposed) x-ray film for making their own home-pressed bootleg records. In many cases it was the only way to listen to certain types of music.
  • In July 2016, Calgary received the most precipitation of any July since 1927. In 132 years of recorded weather, 2016 was the second wettest July in the city's history. Rain fell in the city on 22 of 31 days, with a total precipitation of 191 mm, more than half of Calgary’s annual average. The average July rainfall is roughly 65 mm. Thunderstorms and hail were prevalent in July. Calgary received 20 thunderstorms within the 31 day period. On average, Calgary has 28 thunderstorms per year.
  • Of the 25 healthiest cities in the US, based on physical inactivity rate; obesity rate; access to doctors; access to facilities; and percentage of smokers, only 2 were east of Colorado.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

You don't have to put on the red light...


150,000km mark probably coming up in 4 months!

Time for an update on our Mercedes Benz B250. But in case you're just joining us, or forgot how we got here, check out the original purchase story, the first review, and the 50,000 km review.

It's July 2016 and my car has 137,400 km on it. That's only 3.5 year
s of ownership. So how are my feelings this far along?

I am still loving this car. For all of the same reasons I listed in those other posts. But of course, there are some things I wish were better, if I'm going to be picky. And I am picky.

I wish this car had the same intelligent cruise control that comes on newer, upper end Mercedes models. I am really looking forward to the days of self-driving and even the incremental steps we're using to get there. It will definitely eliminate a lot of fatigue on long drives.

I wish this car had a softer suspension. It's jarring for this 55 year old body. I think that going forward Mercedes would do alright to offer the stiff suspension as part of the sports package and otherwise put a softer suspension on the car. Now that the run-flats are gone, things are better though. I opted for Michelin Premier for my regular (non-winter) tires.

Mercedes really charge way more for routine maintenance than they need to. $400 and $600 for the A and B service respectively. Having said that, there is a 20,000 km gap between visits (normally), but my maintenance costs have gone up on average. This would turn a lot of people off who might consider buying this brand. I don't regret the purchase, I've just budgeted more per month. That's right, I actually budget for my car maintenance.

Although newer versions of my car have 4Matic (all-wheel drive) as an option, I don't regret not having all-wheel drive. The car is so small and light, it doesn't really need it, especially if you throw on good winter tires when it's needed.

I finally found a phone mount that works. I went with the Aukey magnetic mount. I put a metal disc in between my iPhone and its case and now mounting it for navigating is so easy.

The only unexpected maintenance I've had to do is fix a wire harness pin (under warranty).

As you may have read in another post, I drove the B250 to San Diego in May. Over 5000 km round trip. That was a fun drive. Especially with the 80 mph speed limits in some parts of Montana, Idaho and Utah.

So, in summary, so far, so good.

Chinese taxonomy


I've lost count of the number of times Darlene and I have joked about this.

Things I learned lately - 30 July


  • 21% of people living in Canada were born somewhere else.
  • Apple sold its billionth iPhone.
  • Sorbet is non-dairy.
  • Bananas will last longer if you wrap their stems in cellophane. That prevents the ethylene gas, which ripens the fruit faster, from escaping.
  • The Dasht-e Lut Desert, in Iran can get as hot as 70 C (159 F).
  • A Zappos employee broke the record for the longest customer service call ever at 10 hours and 43 minutes.
  • Originally, an acre was used to describe the area a yoke of oxen could plow in a day.
  • The word fortnight is derived from the Old English fÄ“owertyne niht, meaning fourteen nights.
  • A baker's dozen was created as a means of avoiding any chance of shortchanging customers, which in medieval England, was punishable by beatings or jail time.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Almost consonant-free

This would make an awesome party game.

I love the guy on the far left in the video.

Where to get the dental mouth openers.........

That's no moon..... pillow....


Change the world

On the 20th of July, Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors, revealed his master plan, part two, and reminded us of the original master plan.

"The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good."

Read the whole thing. This man is a true visionary.

Disclaimer: That is not the de facto Tesla pickup design, just one suggested by a fan.

Moving an image one millimeter in an MS Word document


Things I learned lately - 21 July


  • Believe it or not, there was still one manufacturer of VCRs making the machines. But Funai will stop the assembly line at the end of July. 
  • Infidelity (for women) in past centuries was considered really bad mostly because of property rights. Because illegitimate children could inherit their father's property.
  • For the Peter Gabriel song "Don't Give Up", on the album "So", the duet was first offered to Dolly Parton, who passed. Peter had envisioned the depression themed song best suited to a duet with a country artist.
  • Nearly 1,000 women are murdered in Pakistan every year for violating conservative norms on love and marriage. These "honour killings" are often carried out by family members.
  • The Montreal Olympics are the reason we have lotteries in Canada. The lottery raised $15 million selling $10 tickets across Canada. The jackpot was $1 million, tax-free.
  • By the 19th century, slaves made up 90% of the population of Haiti.
  • We associate tea with the British, yet they didn't even have access to tea until the late 17th century.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Songs that are 40 years old this year (2016)

Peter Frampton - Do you feel like we do (live) / Baby I love your way
Abba - Dancing queen
Boston - More than a feeling
David Bowie - Golden years
Kiss - Beth / Shout it out loud
Stevie Wonder - Sir duke
The Eagles - Hotel California / New kid in town
ELO - Livin' thing / Telephone line
Tom Petty - Breakdown
Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak / The boys are back in town
AC/DC - Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
April Wine - You won't dance with me / Like a lover like a song
Paul Simon - 50 ways to leave your lover
Wings - Silly love songs / Let 'em in
Manhattans - Kiss and say goodbye
Bee Gees - You should be dancing / Love so right
Wild Cherry - Play that funky music
Steve Miller - Rock'n me / Fly like an eagle
Rod Stewart - Tonight's the night
Chicago - If you leave me now
Manfred Mann - Blinded by the light
Kansas - Carry on wayward son
Runaways - Cherry bomb
Heart - Crazy on you / Magic man
Cliff Richard - Devil woman
Blue Oyster Cult - Don't fear the reaper
Gary Wright - Dream weaver / Love is alive
Rolling Stones - Fool to cry
Boston - Foreplay/Long time
Alice Cooper - I never cry
Boz Scaggs - Lowdown
Starbuck - Moonlight feels right
Hall & Oates - Sara smile / She's gone
Henry Gross - Shannon
Elton John - Sorry seems to be the hardest word
10CC - The things we do for love
Gordon Lightfoot - Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Al Stewart - Year of the cat
Hot Chocolate - You sexy thing

Like a princess


Milky Way Night

We should set aside one night per year when we turn off all of the outdoor lights for a few hours. The night wouldn't be on a fixed date, because we would need it to be cloudless and probably moonless.

On this night, with all of the outdoor lighting turned off, the light pollution would be reduced enough that we would be able to see the Milky Way in the night sky. And many more stars.

That would be cool. Who knows, I think the mere sight of this would be so overwhelming, we'd schedule it more often.

L'il Kylo Ren