Friday, September 15, 2017

Small things - 15 Sep

  • Cruel: Letting a cat play in a box of Styrofoam pellets. The static electricity makes the pellets stick to their fur. They don't like that.
  • "You don't think you come by being dull by accident, do you? It's years and years of training. Little kids aren't dull. You turn away for a moment and they're licking the light socket. We gradually learn and we become adults and we become experts at having nothing untoward happen. And then we pay money to go see it happen to other people. That's what movies and theatre are about." ~Keith Johnstone
  • I'd rather my government got tough on unemployMENT, rather than getting tough on the unemployed.
  • Becoming a vegetarian is a huge missed steak.......
  • Your bad luck may have in fact saved you from worse luck. Things to consider.
  • Never trust a mechanic that opens and closes the hood as if the car is talking when he's describing what's wrong with the car.
  • Parent to child: "When you grow up I want you to be assertive, independent and strong-willed, but while you're my child I want you to be passive, pliable and obedient."
  • The phrase 'pulled it off' makes no sense to me. Pulled it off of what exactly?
  • I'm making some synonym rolls. Just like grammar used to make.

Beer can chorus

Things I learned lately - 15 Sep

  • Every server at the Piano Cafe in Port Ontario, Ontario wears a t-shirt reading Employee of the Month.
  • There is no such thing as medical grade pot.
  • By 2019, Mazda will introduce its new Skyactiv-X engine, which they say will be the world's first commercial gas engine to use compression ignition, where the fuel-air mixture ignites spontaneously when compressed by the piston. The engine operates like a diesel but runs on regular gas. No spark plug required. Torque is increased. The engine also requires less fuel in the fuel-air mixture, enabling it to run lean. Engine efficiency could improve 35-45%.
  • In 1667, the phlogiston theory attempted to explain burning processes. Phlogisticated substances contain phlogiston and dephlogisticate when burned. Dephlogisticating is when the substance simply releases the phlogiston inside of it and that phlogiston is absorbed by the air. Growing plants then absorb this phlogiston, which is why air does not spontaneously combust, and also why plant matter burns. Thus phlogiston theory described combustion as a process that was opposite to oxygen theory. Substances that burned in air were said to be rich in phlogiston. That combustion soon ceased in an enclosed space, was taken as clear-cut evidence that air could only absorb a finite amount of phlogiston. When air had become completely phlogisticated it would no longer serve to support combustion of any material, nor could phlogisticated air support life. Breathing was thought to take phlogiston out of the body. Joseph Black's student Daniel Rutherford discovered nitrogen in 1772 and the pair used the theory to explain his results. The residue of air left after burning, in fact a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, was sometimes referred to as phlogisticated air, having taken up all of the phlogiston. Conversely, when oxygen was first discovered, it was thought to be dephlogisticated air, capable of combining with more phlogiston and thus supporting combustion for longer than ordinary air. The theory lost followers by the 1780's.

Pooh pants

Arena funding

I'm trying hard to get my head around public funding of sports arenas. You may witness some oversimplification below, but I digress.

Arenas are built for sports teams, concerts and other big entertainment events. Sometimes exhibitions and conventions are included. My point is that arenas are facilities for rent. In our case and I'm guessing in most cases, those facilities are owned by the teams who play in them.

I'm trying really hard and I can't seem to come up with any other examples of facilities owned by a private organization, that doesn't pay for the construction fully and completely on their own. I was thinking about arts centres, but I don't think these centres are owned by the artists or artist groups that perform or exhibit in them. In fact, one could say that typically, artists rarely have the financial capital to be able to outright own a performanc facility.

Getting back to sports arenas, they are owned and operated by the teams. When the facilities are rented out, the revenue goes to the owners. When concessions are sold, the profit goes to the owners. When the teams play their games, the ticket sales and box sales goes to the owners, some of which is used to run the team and pay everyone's salaries.

So I fail to see why public money is required or even justified. That's not to say that I don't support sports teams. I love my hockey. My chosen team doesn't play in the city I live in, so I must watch their games on TV. Which brings up an interesting point. Rogers paid for the right to control broadcasting of all NHL games in Canada, which means that teams get revenue from those broadcasting rights as well. So teams earn money from tickets to games, things sold in the arena during games, and team merchandise. And yet they can't seem to afford to build themselves new arenas. Why?

After reading a few articles, I discovered that most NHL teams lose money. Combined, the Canadiens, Leafs, Canucks and Rangers had an operating profit of $212 million. But the rest of the teams combined were $86 million in the hole. There is revenue sharing, but not enough to get everyone out of the hole. By the way, this problem isn't exclusive to hockey. But the lopsidedness goes deeper. The 6 Canadian teams earn 33% of the entire league's ticket revenue. That would suggest to me that Canadian teams are doing alright in terms of incoming revenue.

Yet they still can't afford new arenas on their own. I think one overarching fact might point to the real culprit. The salary cap for 2017 was US$75 million per team. That means that a typical NHL team can be spending upwards of CDN$100 million dollars to pay their players, assuming they have the money. One would have to assume it's feasible if the team is in the top 5 of ticket sales. I have always thought that top athletes got paid way too much money. Considering how much top athletes can earn in endorsements, I don't think there's a real need to pay them upwards of over US$12 million.

So, imagine, if given the same revenue stream, teams were only allowed to pay their players a sum total of $25 million per year. That would free up $50 million per year that could be invested. After 10 years, a team could have $500 million stashed away toward paying for a new arena. After 20 years, they'd have a billion dollars.

I'm starting to think that the problem isn't that arenas are too expensive. I think it's just that teams are being allowed to live beyond their means in terms of salaries and hoping their host cities will bail them out every time. Incidentally, giving Las Vegas a team didn't help. They will likely never make money and depend on Canadian teams' profits to keep them alive, just like Arizona.

The NHL business model is broken and I don't think it's up to Joe Public to suffer the consequences.

After hearing the City's offer and then why the team didn't like it, I've made some observations. Ken King dismissed the infrastructure work as something that needed to be done anyway. Point taken. But then he said that the team ends up paying for everything in the end. They're basically saying that a user fee would eat into their revenue because fans wouldn't pay extra. Also that a tax eats into their revenue. So it seems that they want any money from the City (and they seem to want a lot of it) with no strings attached. Again, I don't know of any other business that can expect this.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Small things - 8 Sep

  • 2017. The year people got mad at statues.
  • People only say "It's a free country" when they're doing something shitty.
  • What if rocks were actually soft, but they tense up when we touch them? No, I'm not stoned right now....
  • I don't eat cows because I hate them. I eat cows because they're full of delicious hamburgers and steak.
  • Maybe it's not that life is unfair, maybe you just don't know or understand the rules.
  • If you bring someone you've been dating to Paris, don't ever, ever stop, and kneel down beside your partner, then just tie your shoelaces. Major disappointment for the other person.
  • Starbucks baristas purposely spell peoples' names wrong on their cups because they know those people will put pictures of those cups with their logo on social media. For free.
  • When an astronaut says "I need my space", he's not just abusing a tired line.

Trickle down economics proven wrong again

In June 2017, the Republican-controlled Kansas legislature repealed Governor Brownback's signature tax cuts. In effect since 2013, the cuts reduced personal income tax rates and imposed no tax at all on many kinds of business income. This was touted as the best way to boost growth, bring back jobs, and make Kansas richer.

There were promises that the tax cuts would yield 22,000 more jobs over normal growth, 35,000 more people moving into the state over five years, disposable income to expand by $2 billion over five years.

All told, not only did the tax cuts fail to deliver faster job growth, faster population growth, or faster disposable income growth, but the growth rates of all three metrics declined noticeably after the tax cuts went into effect. Furthermore, the surrounding states, which did not impose massive tax cuts aimed at the rich, outpaced Kansas on all three measures over the same time period.

67 Republicans in the Kansas House and Senate rebuked a governor of their own party and rolled back his main legislative accomplishment.

Chalk magnified

Things I learned lately - 8 Sep

  • The Dalton Highway in Alaska has a 240 mile (386 km) stretch with no gas stations, restaurants, hotels or any other basic services.
  • The Heiltsuk Nation, an indigenous group in British Columbia, claim that its ancestors fled for survival to a coastal area in Canada that never froze during the Ice Age. A new excavation on Triquet Island on the BC coast seems to back up that claim. Artifacts from an ancient village, including carved wooden tools and bits of charcoal, have been discovered. The charcoal dates around 12,000 BC. For reference, the pyramids in Egypt were built in 2630 BC. This is not the only signs of habitation in western North America. A spear tip and mastodon rib bone with similar dating was found near Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
  • There's no scientific evidence that Epsom salts do anything.
  • China has laid more than 12,400 miles of high-speed rail to date, with the intention of adding another 6,000 miles by 2020. The Beijing-Shanghai line will begin operating on 21 September and will shorten the nearly 820-mile journey by an hour, to four hours thirty minutes. Nearly 600 million people use this route each year. The trains will once again run at 350 km/h, with a maximum speed of 400 km/h (248 mph).

Dear Amazon

I've heard you're planning to open another big centre (HQ2) in North America.

Here are some reasons why you should choose Calgary:

  • Lots of skilled labour.
  • Plenty of office space.
  • A decent and expanding transit system.
  • World class bike pathway system.
  • +15 walkway system.
  • Large airport for passenger airline and cargo traffic.
  • The rockies! Only an hour away.
  • Resilient economy.
  • Robust retail growth.
  • A vibrant arts scene.
  • Food trucks.
  • Hockey.
  • Skiing.
  • A clean, modern downtown core.
  • Diverse, well educated population.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Disruption. Get used to it.

There are few things that irk me more than when industries or businesses complain about disruptive new technology. One thing that does irk me more, is when those same industries or businesses want special treatment or compensation to deal with the disruption. And there is no one industry that is more guilty of this kind of behaviour, than the entertainment industry.

Musicians claimed that the phonograph would put them out of business. The MPAA claimed that the VCR would put the movie industry out of business. The mp3 player was supposed to kill the music industry.

Now the disruptive technology the television industry is up in arms about, is internet streaming. They're losing advertising revenue. I wonder why. At the risk of sounding biased, the reason streaming has caught on and is cutting into traditional television is because streaming gives the consumer better value for the money. You pay your money and then you get your content. Right now. All of it. Who wouldn't want that? But because traditional television and cable doesn't know how to transform their offerings to make them more competitive, they falter.

It seems that every decision they make goes against what a typical consumer would want. They can own content and either restrict who can show it, or worse - and this happens a lot - don't even make it available at all. So if I want access to all content, I have to subscribe to cable, every channel, but I can only see content that has been scheduled and I may be blocked from seeing content that has different licensing arrangements in my country, even though I subscribe to the original owner of the content.

What these owners and providers are going to need to learn very quickly is that the newest generations of consumers don't feel the need to play that game. They will ignore your content altogether if you force them to jump through hoops to get it. And just subscribe to Netflix, etc. It's already happening and it's only going to get worse. Because with each passing year, consumers who are willing to shell out big bucks for access to everything on someone else's terms are disappearing.

The Canadian government seems to think that the cable and content creation industries need more financial help to overcome the existence of streaming and are considering a new tax. I say screw that. You want your ccustomers back? Improve the content and / or give us what we want. All access, all the time.

Small things - 1 Sep

  • "If wishes and buts were clusters of nuts we'd all have a bowl of granola." ~Steven Colbert
  • "Nazis are a lot like cats. If they like you, it's probably because you're feeding them." ~John Oliver
  • Especially if they've never had it before, give your kids some strong dark chocolate and watch their faces. Make sure you tell them it's chocolate first.
  • "I think the thing that makes working fun is really being on the same page. When everybody can contribute and that contribution is recognized and it moves the company forward in a way that everybody understands. That's what's really great. You're doing something bigger than yourself, you're doing it for each other and doing it as a team." ~Ben Horowitz
  • When people say 'You're so full of yourself', are they being ironic?
  • Does a Roomba taunt the broom every time it goes by?

Nothing really changes.....

Things I learned lately - 1 Sep

  • Scientists say the devastating intensity of hurricanes such as Harvey is consistent with global warming trends — rising seas, warming oceans, hotter air — and warn of bigger and stronger storms to come. They also say that hurricanes will hit areas further north than in the past.
  • Number of US soldiers stationed in various countries: Italy - 11,806; South Korea - 23,297; Germany - 34,399; Japan - 39,623.
  • The weekend of 26-27 August 2017 was the worst box-office revenue weekend since September 2001.
  • As part of a two-year pilot project, a Dutch wastewater treatment plant is using an industrial sieve to sift through sewage and collect soiled toilet paper, extracting nearly 900 lbs of cellulose each day. That cellulose is then sterilized and turned into either fluffy material to make insulation, or pellets used to make bottles, or bike lanes. In the past, the dirty toilet paper was incinerated.
  • The University of Oxford was founded in 1096.
  • Big Ben is going silent for 4 years for renovations.
  • Saunas don't detoxify you. Your liver does.

Friday, August 11, 2017

This is how we treat nerds in Canada

The new Tesla Model 3 - good or meh?

Tesla revealed the new Model 3 all-electric car to the world at the end of July. This car was touted to be the electric car for the masses, priced at US$35,000. This would make it more attractive to non-luxury car buyers.

But there are, as always, two sides to a story, and the same goes for this new wonder car.


First off, US$35,000 only gets you the basic black model. It also only gets the smallest battery (and consequently a lower range), slower top speed and acceleration, and no auto pilot. There are no power seats, and no powered or heated mirrors. If you want a fully loaded Model 3, you're looking at closer to US$57,000. Not so much in the range of the average consumer.

Adding more range, from 220 miles to 310 (or 354 km to 500 km) costs $9000. Adding enhanced autopilot adds $5000, full self-driving adds another $3000. The Premium package adds $5000.

The US federal tax credits won't be available once Tesla delivers 200,000 Model 3 cars.

It's not a hatchback.


The long range Model 3 has the cheapest price per mile of range of any production electric car.

You get access to the ever growing Supercharger network, which is doubling in during 2017.

The long range Model 3 can recharge at 170 miles (273 km) per 30 minutes of supercharger time.

The long range model is pretty quick - zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Top speed of 140 mph.

15" touchscreen display for all functions.

An incredibly large panoramic glass roof.

This car, with the self-driving option, will eventually have the software upgrade to drive itself with no human intervention. With this option, your car could be in downtown Vancouver, and you could summon it to White Rock to come and get you.

So, could you buy a cheaper all-electric car? Yes. Will it go as far as a Tesla? Maybe. Will it have as many recharging options? No. Will it drive itself someday. No. Will it be as cool or as ground-breaking? Nope. So your options are clear, pay for the future or settle for the present.

Small things - 11 Aug

"Anybody here named "Jeff?"
Jeff: "Yes."
Geoff: "Yeos."

  • I would like the press to provide news representative of the bad AND good in the world. If you read every article in a paper, or online news site, count how many stories are reports of bad things or negativity or criticisms of things or people. Is this all that the world is made of? Are there no positive, uplifting stories to tell? I know we have sites like Upworthy, but good news should be part of all major media output.
  • Thank goodness there was no Facebook when I was younger and decided to try dying my hair with henna.
  • When everyone has a 3D printer, we'll all lament how at one time, we had printers that, when you supplied them with paper, just produced sheets of paper with ink on them....
  • I wonder how driving statistics would change if horns were removed from all vehicles. Are we still using them for what they were designed for? Or are they now just an electronic yelling or bird flipping device?
  • Just remember you younguns, who poke fun at older folks who can't use technology.... one day you'll be old and there'll be a new thing you can't master either.
  • Your birthday. The only day in your life when your mother smiled when you cried.

Yes you are!!

Things I learned lately - 11 Aug

  • David Letterman is currently working on a new interview series for Netflix. "I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely."
  • Bill Burr, the author of the industry standard password guidelines, first published in 2003 — suggested that to optimize security, passwords must be reset every 90 days, and contain a mix of an uppercase letter, number, and special character. Now the National Institute of Standards and Technology has set new guidelines. Passwords should be long and easy-to-remember, and only need to be changed when there is sign of a breach. Long pass phrases work better because they can be super long and still easy to memorize. So goodbye 'Qx3!hNM8%boe', hello 'mothermakeschililikelava'.
  • They play Jai Alai professionally in Florida. The speed record for a jai alai ball is 328 km/h.
  • There are still Blockbuster video rental outlets in Alaska. Their days are numbered, but.... they still exist.
  • Surnames weren't introduced until the year 1066.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The rock 'n' roll weather map

Small things - 5 Aug

  • You know that 0.1% of bacteria your soap didn't kill? They are so pissed at you right now. You killed all their friends.
  • Imagine what kind of transportation system we would have, if all the money spent on personal vehicles, maintenance, insurance and gas instead was invested into modern, efficient mass transit.
  • If you tell everyone at work that you have an identical twin, you probably won't have to talk to co-workers if you run into them outside of work.
  • The next time someone says "We should hang out sometime", just say, "I'm ready to hang out right now"...
  • The biggest way drone quadcopters (with cameras) will change the world is that they will stealthily reveal secrets that some people don't want you to see.

Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel

A few months back, the Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel in Alberta asked people to speak to their concerns, vision and priorities for Alberta energy initiatives going forward.

This was my submission:

The best way for me to address this issue is to highlight for me, what seem to be the areas we seem to be falling short, or falling behind, in the various areas of energy efficiency.

I start with awareness. Although I’ve been following green anything for at least a decade with excitement, I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to who aren’t aware of the technology advances and strides made in the last few years. Or how many people have bought into the myths about sustainability that have been debunked, but the masses still buy into them. If I had access to the financial resources, I would travel the globe and produce evidence to Albertans (and really, why stop there?) of the myriad ways other jurisdictions have moved far beyond us in becoming more efficient and sustainable.

Next up are the utilities, the energy providers. I remember when they said to Albertans, “We can’t rely on more than 15% of renewable connected to the grid.” This was the most short-sighted and now completely false statement a utility can make, and does nothing to promote the idea of efficiency and sustainability. On 8 May 2016, on a particularly sunny and windy day, 95% of the 57.8 gigawatts of electricity that Germany was using was being produced by renewable energy. Solar power produced 45.2%, wind 36%, biomass 8.9% and hydro 4.8% of the total. Power prices actually went negative for several hours.

There are several islands around the world that have begun phasing out their reliance on fossil fuels by leveraging wind power on the island ridges to not only feed the grid, but the surplus is used to pump sea water to higher altitude reservoirs, which, once the wind stops, become instant hydro-electric plants as the water is allowed to fall back into the ocean.
Europe has found a way to store energy as cold. Cold storage warehouses are allowed to continue dropping in temperature, powered by wind, which blows all night, but has no typical demand use on the grid. This can allow the cooling system to be turned off first thing in the morning, allowing power they would have used to be used by the rest of the grid while the warehouse slowly rises back to the nominal temperature.

Many solar installations have been designed with the ability to store energy as heat, which depending on the solution used and the storage method, can keep the energy trapped for later use from hours to months.

In an example of how we already have the means of storing energy for when it is needed, Vermont’ electrical utilities will make it cheaper to install solar panels and storage batteries on the condition that when the grid can’t quite match momentary demand, the grid can draw some power from the collective capacity of everyone’s home battery.
I am not witnessing any motivation by local utilities to move people toward installing renewable energy and it is my understanding that consumers need permission to do these installations. In worse case scenarios like in some US states, consumers are actually charged a fee if they decide to produce any of their own energy. I recall our own utilities complain that we’re putting too much pressure on our grid, but they seem less than apathetic toward the decentralization of power generation via community generation and storage.

Then we get to the efficiency of the energy users themselves. We consume a lot of energy to heat our homes, yet other jurisdictions have proven on a mass scale that zero energy homes are not only attainable, but not much of a premium over status quo construction methods and materials. When a home can either produce more energy than it uses, or at the very least be able to maintain comfort using one small heater, I’m baffled why new developments aren’t all building these kinds of homes. That’s not to suggest that there are no green developments being built here. But shouldn’t they be the norm, rather than the exception?

Finally, I think it’s going to take some brave new ideas to leverage what we have a lot of to help deal with what we are lacking. For example, we should be converting farms in southern Alberta (and elsewhere). Right now, they're big, there's not enough water to go around (which will likely get worse over time), and crops are always at risk of hail damage. Our growing season is short. But one thing we have in abundance, is sunshine. Even in winter.

Farms in southern Alberta should build giant solar arrays. These arrays could generate electricity, some of which could be sold to the grid. I think an even better option is to build some of the array of the type that generates heat. The heat would be stored underground. I would go for solar arrays covering 50-66% of the original arable land. But first, remove the remaining topsoil and put it aside.

On the remaining property, build greenhouses, with material that can withstand hail. Fill those greenhouses with the topsoil. Then heat and light the greenhouses whenever heat and light are lacking, powered by the electrical array and all that heat energy you stored all summer long. Greenhouses would help conserve water too, because there's less surface area to cover, and the evaporating water used to irrigate the indoor crops doesn't escape much to the outside. It becomes part of the internal ecosystem.

This idea is smart not only because of the growing impracticality of farming in our ever dryer Alberta environment, but it allows us to grow stuff we would normally depend on places like California and BC to provide. This saves on transportation costs and protects us from currency fluctuations. It also leverages the one thing we have in even more abundance than oil and gas. Sunshine.
There is so much more to discuss, but I think this is a good start.

Peanut puree and fruit confiture topped with pain blanc

That would be the fancy restaurant name for PB&J.

Things I learned lately - 5 Aug

  • Google Drive now hosts more than 2,000,000,000,000 files (trillion).
  • Statistically, people who swear are more honest.
  • You can buy jeans at Nordstom's that look like you've been working a real dirty job. They're called Barracudas and they'll set you back $425. There's a matching jacket too. A costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic.
  • Robot security guards are a thing now.
  • Most of the top executives of oil companies around the world expect the demand for oil to peak anywhere from 2020 to sometime in the late 2020s, thanks to the expected proclivity of electric car sales. After that, oil demand should decline and that spells trouble for the industry. 
  • India plans to shift to all electric cars by 2030.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Trump presidency lessons

I was going to say 'lessons' learned', but I don't think he or his supporters get it yet.

  • When people question your methods or ideas, attacking them doesn't solve the problem.
  • Lying eventually catches up with you.
  • Blaming everyone else for your problems makes you look weak.
  • You don't need to gloat or belittle your predecessors once you're elected. You won. Now prove it wasn't a wasted vote.
  • You're never going to get other parties to participate in your plans if you keep insulting them.
  • If people accuse you of something, like collusion with a foreign power, assuming it isn't true, the smart thing to do is prove it.
  • Next time you pick a political party to join, don't consider how stupid the voters are (your words), consider how stubborn the politicians are.
  • If you're going to get behind a job creating industry, don't pick one whose days were already numbered (coal).
  • When Elon Musk walks out of your panel, you've done something wrong.
  • Listen to your intelligence community. They know their shit.
  • The people you appoint to positions of authority don't have to agree with you. That's not their job.

Not on Google

Small things - 28 Jul

  • I honestly don't understand how (in North America) a picture of a woman, topless, covering her nipples is not obscene, but get one glimpse of the nipple region and we've crossed into lewd territory.
  • Remember the first time you washed a spoon under running water and got sprayed? How about the 50th time? Why do we never learn?
  • I was going to get a new iPad, but then I thought - no, I need health care more. But then I realized I live in Canada. Here I come, Apple store!
  • Do regular dogs see police dogs and think, "Damn! It's the cops!"?
  • My cell phone sleeps in a different room. In a cupboard. Behind a door.
  • I wonder what Shakespeare had to study?

Because it's 2017

Things I learned lately - 28 Jul

  • In Helsinki Finland, on 22 Jun, the sun rises at 3:54am and sets at 10:50pm. But civil twilight doesn't end until 12:42am and starts again at 2:02am.
  • Stonehenge is not technically a henge.
  • The wastelands around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant are about to be transformed into a large solar power farm, capable of generating half the energy that Chernobyl did. Solar power is the only way the radiation zone around the site can be used productively, as the land will not be fit for farming or anything else over the next few hundred years.
  • A Big Mac only costs $1.57 in Ukraine.
  • Only 3 McDonald's locations in the US serve pizza.
  • Emmanuel Macron's campaign released an ad showing how American pundits predicted an easy win for Hillary, likely scaring a lot of French voters into voting. Macron won.