Friday, September 21, 2012

White Noise goes on vacation. Plesz-apalooza 2012

This blog takes a break for 10 days while yours truly goes to Quebec to visit family and friends.  I'll be half the time in Gatineau and half the time in Deux Montagnes (image right). Four oh three, seven oh eight, five nine six three is how you can reach me.

Au revoir. See you October 1st.

The dots don't matter

If your Gmail address is, you would assume that the dot between your first and last name and the way in which your name is capitalized uniquely identifies you.

Guess again.

The dots in your Gmail address are meaningless and are completely ignored - by Gmail. The same goes for capitalization. Every one of the following addresses will end up in the same Gmail account’s inbox:

The dots and capitalization help make the address easier to read for humans, but the Google Gmail servers ignore them.

Microsoft moves toward software 'rental' scheme

Starting with Office 2013, it will no longer be cheaper to buy a traditional license-per-box version of the software than getting an online subscription - if you will be using it on more than 2 devices in your home. The multi-user Home & Student pack ($150 for Office 2010) is gone. If you want to use the license-per-box Home & Student on 3 devices, that'll be $420. If you instead opt for the per-year household license, you get Office 2013 on all your devices, the ability to reassign licenses, extras like online storage and Skype minutes. You can upgrade to new versions as soon as they are released. The subscription license also gets you Outlook and Publisher and Access thrown in.

Keep in mind though, that $100 is 'per year'.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Loose Moose's 35th anniversary!

It's been a while since I promoted the shows at the Loose Moose Theatre Company. I have some exciting news for any fan of improvisation. Starting on the 24th of September and continuing for 2 weeks, Loose Moose will be celebrating its 35th anniversary with a slew of special shows featuring company members past and present. You'll want to attend as many of these shows as possible, but get your tickets fast because these shows sell out.
  • Sep 24 Tongue in Cheek
  • Sep 26 Pumped up Kicks
  • Sep 27 The Secret Impro Show
  • Sep 28 Theatresports / Hot Nuts and Popcorn
  • Sep 29 A very FUBAR Gorilla Theatre
  • Oct 4 The Big Time Variety Show
  • Oct 5 Maestro Impro / Hot Nuts and Popcorn
  • Oct 6 Theatresports
Go to this page for more details.

For alternate Waze to drive

After feedback from a Facebook friend, I decided to give the Waze app a try. It's a crowd-sourced navigation tool that allows you to report on hazards, police, enforcement cameras, construction, traffic and accidents as you pass them, so that other Waze users can be aware of what to expect on their journey and make choices accordingly.

As you drive with Waze active, it displays your movement on a self-orienting map (nice) and shows anything you need to know about as a symbol. You can swipe your hand across the front of your phone's camera to activate voice mode for hands-free commands. As you drive, you get traffic reports from across the city for all major issues. You can adjust how far away those reports will come from. You can spot other Waze users on the map (if they allow) and ping them too. You can also fix map inconsistencies, which is a nice touch. Although these days, with the exception of brand new neighbourhoods, there aren't many map errors anymore.

At the moment you can only navigate to and from work and home, but I'm thinking that once this app is out of beta, full navigation might be their goal. If it continues to include crowd-sourced traffic updates and hazards, I'm all for it.

The income stats for the US

There were 491,000 Americans making over $100,000 per year that did not pay income tax. 7,000 of them made over $1,000,000. 45% of the US makes less than $30,000 per year; 30% make less than $20,000; 15% make less than $10,000. Only 4% of Americans made more than $200,000 per year (6.7 million of them). Less than 1% made more than $500,000 (1.3 million of them). Less than 0.2% made more than $1,000,000 (433,000 of them).

Monday, September 17, 2012

XLR8 for cats

No more boring cat.....

Are the days of tinkering over?

We don't tinker and customize like we used to. In the 70s and 80s and long before that, we were tinkering and customizing vehicles. Better manifolds, better carburetors, bigger engines, high performance transmissions, better shocks and springs. Guys learned how to strip their engines, blueprint them and put them back together. Not so much anymore. Most of the customization that is done to cars nowadays is purely aesthetic. Ridiculous spoilers, loud mufflers, and fancy wheels and lights. The only performance enhancements are typically limited to custom computer chips.

The same situation exists for computers. There was a time, although it was mostly due to necessity, that we spent hours excruciatingly customizing our computer systems memory allocation, and other tweaks to squeeze out every last ounce of performance. Not anymore. The only people who tend to obsess about their computer performance these days are the serious gamers. Otherwise, conversations about tweaking memory allocation, overclocking, or the efficiency and performance of the pipelining in the graphics card are lost on most computer users.

When I was a kid, most guys knew what the inside of a radio or amplifier or computer looks like. I don't think that's true anymore.

If phones were people

Start me up - episode 4

The 'E' episode. Every artist begins with the letter 'E'.

As always, put your guesses in the comments.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Things I learned this week 16 Sep

  • For the price you can pay for a parking spot in Hong Kong, you could buy a few houses in the US. Not foreclosed houses either.
  • The first deodorant was trademarked in 1888, while the first antiperspirant, was launched in 1903. But many people, if they had even heard of them, thought they were unnecessary, unhealthy or both. It wasn't until 1919, when ads claimed that women may be stinky and offensive and they might not even know it. After that deodorants and antiperspirants sold like crazy.
  • For serious stargazing, there is a place about an hour and a half southeast of Calgary called the Big Sky Observatory. There's a donated telescope there, near the Twin Valley dam. It's one of the darkest (but close) spots in the province.
  • In the last two and a half years, America lost almost 3,000,000 cable TV subscribers. Over 300,000 Americans cut their land line connections to everything (including cable TV, broadband internet, satellite and hard-wired phones) - just in Q2 of 2012.
  • Billy Joel can't read music. He used to, but can't anymore, being very out of practise. He plays everything by ear.
  • The next generation of TV resolution is 4K TV. Take four 42" full HD televisions and arrange them in a square - with the same pixel density (the pixels are just as tiny). That's what we're talking about. 
  • Bug-a-salt is a gun that shoots flies and other bugs dead using nothing more than a pinch of table salt.
  • It will cost you $29 to buy an adapter to use old iPhone accessories with the new iPhone 5 (new connector). But the adapter doesn't support video or audio out. Old apps won't work full screen on the new iPhone either (for now).
  • Opus is an open-source audio codec (read - no licensing required) that works better than every other audio codec combined. It could become the new audio standard for digital multimedia.
  • According to Mitt Romney, 'middle income' refers to $200,000-$250,000. But that income is actually top 2-3% territory. 'Middle' income in reality is between $30,000 and $100,000.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Embrace the Remix - the TED talk

You've seen the Everything is a Remix videos by Kirby Ferguson, now see his talk at TED about how remixes are normal, historical factors in creativity.

If you haven't seen the original videos here they are.


Start me up - episode 3

The 'W' episode! Every artist begins with a 'W'. You know the drill. Listen to the intros and guess the songs.

[Solution now in the comments]

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Mummy

Dear Edmonton / Calgary planners

Talk to Elon Musk about his idea for the Hyperloop, a sealed tube transport idea capable of taking someone from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes. He calls it a "5th mode of transportation'. "What you want is something that never crashes, at least twice as fast as a plane, solar powered and leaves when you arrive, so there is no waiting for a specific departure time". Musk's friends claim he's had a Hyperloop technological breakthrough over the summer. "I'd like to talk to the governor and president about it because the $60 billion bullet train they're proposing in California would be the slowest bullet train in the world at the highest cost per mile. They're going for records in all the wrong ways.” The cost of the SF-LA Hyperloop would be in the $6 billion range, he says.

Considering that Edmonton to Calgary is only 298km compared to SF to LA at 613km, one could imagine that a Hyperloop between the biggest cities in Alberta would take less than 20 minutes, perhaps even 15 minutes. That's half the time of my commute to work within the Calgary metropolitan area.

[The picture is not the Hyperloop. Elon is very secretive about how it would work or what it would look like]

Make transit fun (mission accomplished)

Best advertisement about a bus ever.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Microsoft squared

Microsoft has a new logo.

I hope they didn't pay too much for it.

Don't even try to convince me that we're alone

This animation shows the 2299 high-quality (multiple transits), non-circumbinary transiting planet candidates found by NASA's Kepler mission so far. These candidates were detected around 1770 unique stars, but are animated in orbit around a single star. They are drawn to scale with accurate radii (in r / r* ), orbital periods, and orbital distances (in d / r*). They range in size from 1/3 to 84 times the radius of Earth. Colours represent an estimate of equilibrium temperature, ranging from 4,586 C at the hottest to -110 C at the coldest - red indicates warmest, and blue / indigo indicates coldest candidates.

Watching in full screen + HD is highly recommended, so you can see even the smallest planets! Just think - this is what the Kepler mission has found in just 3.5 years. The Kepler team estimated that 5.4% of all stars host Earth-size planet candidates, and that 17% of all stars have multiple planets. Although only 2299 planets are represented in the animation, as of December 2011, they had found 2326 planet candidates.

Blog post titles I liked this month

Anatomically correct, full-sized chocolate skulls.
Steampunk's guide to sex.
Candy-corn flavoured Oreos are a thing.
How to make ice cubes.
Who Put The '-Stan' In Afghanistan?
Carrots Used To Be Purple Before The 17th Century.
Why Was 34,969 Count Von Count's Magic Number?
How To Dispense Tic Tacs Like A Boss

Monday, September 10, 2012

Another practical use for the Camera+ app

If you have the Camera+ app loaded on your iPhone, then you have another not quite so obvious use for it. A magnifying glass. My eyesight isn't what it used to be and I don't carry readers with me everywhere I go. But the Camera+ app has the ability to zoom in on whatever the iPhone camera is seeing. I find it does a better job than apps designed just for being a magnifier.

The zoom slider is that thingy on the top, currently set to 2.4x

Walk the plank


Removies are what you get when you remove one letter from a movie title and make it into something completely different.

Ape Fear
Jurassic Ark
Pup Fiction
Tax Driver
Das Bot
Dawn of the Dad
Ill Bill
Harry Otter
The Sith Sense
Life of Bran
Finding Emo
The Princess Ride
Tar Trek

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Typeface for doctors

If I ever go postal - it will be against a record exec

Yet another example of copyright abuse by the industry who simultaneously insists on strict copyright while giving it (and you) the finger by ignoring its rules.

I am fed up with YouTube. Several times I have provided evidence that my video "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is a Public Domain song and each time I get an email saying the song is owned by either Warner Chappell or UMPG or Sony. Now they have disabled my being able to earn any money for the number of times the video is viewed. We are only talking about pennies but no one "owns" a Public Domain song.

They now have threatened to totally disable my account from monetizing any of my videos because of multiple "false" claims of ownership. Since there is no way to speak to a human being directly, there will never be a way to convince them of the error of their ways....Fed up!

And I'm kidding about the post title. Mostly. Of course, I'm still sane. I can't predict what will happen were that to change.

Things I learned this week 9 Sep

  • Kansas City is about to get internet 100 times faster than what you have (assuming you live in North America). From Google Fiber. With TV service available.
  • Germany is the largest producer of solar power, its installed capacity representing more than 1/3 of the world's total.
  • Apple has sold over 410,000,000 iOS devices to date.
  • The record labels that successfully sued The Pirate Bay for millions for infringing upon artists' copyrights have announced that they will not share any of the money it received with those artists. Quelle surprise...
  • This November, voters in 3 US states: Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, will be able to vote to legalize marijuana. Not just for medicinal purposes, but recreational too.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road is currently filming. With Mel.
  • Keith Moon played brush drums on the Beatles' All You Need is Love.
  • Russian mogul Dmitri Itskov plans to create cybernetic immortality by 2045.
  • Part of why chemo is brutal is that it targets all fast-growing cells — the ones that want to kill you and ones that keep you alive. Cancer researchers have not been able to track errant cells forming tumours. Now three groups studying tumours in mice have done exactly that.
  • The wealthiest zip code in America is southern Manhattan (10274), where the average income is $5.71 million. Per year. Per person.
  • As much as 4% of the sand on the beaches of Normandy consists of shrapnel left over from D-Day.
  • California becomes the 2nd state to legally allow autonomous vehicles (like Google's self-driving car) by 2014. Hawaii, Florida, Arizona and Oklahoma are all also considering similar legislation.
  • Volcanologists think the pressure within Mount Fuji has now surpassed levels right before its 1707 eruption. The reading is 16 times the pressure needed for an eruption to occur and experts believe a massive eruption is likely to occur within 3 years.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

One foot out

10 word movie review for Carnage

Best ensemble cast story told in one uncut scene ever.

A tale of two (sets of) tires

When I bought my Civic Hybrid in 2010, it came with Dunlop tires. I've never had Dunlops on any of my cars before (all 5 of them over the years), so I had no reference point to judge them by. They didn't seem horrible. At first.

Almost as soon as I bought the car, I bought a set of winter tires on steel rims and swapped them out. That was November 2010. The Dunlops didn't go back on my Civic until the spring of 2011, then came off again in the fall of 2011, around early November. Then the Dunlops were back on again this spring in late March.

Now my car has 61,000km on it, so considering that they've only been on the car 12 months total out of 22 months. With equal mileage across each month (safe to say considering there have been no long trips anywhere), that means the Dunlops have seen 33,200km. Total.

I just swapped them out today. The tires had been showing their wear. Badly. The wear indicators were almost even with the contact patch, I'd say there was 4/32" and I'm being generous. After 33,200km! Like holy crap! My original plan was to hold off changing them until October when I would be ready to switch back to winter tires. The universe decided otherwise on my way in to work this morning. One of the tires went flat part way through my 40km commute. Well that's that.

I went back to my trusty Michelins yesterday. I opted for Primacy MXV4 all season. What a difference. Quieter. Smoother. Likely to go a bit further than 33,200km. It will be interesting to see if my mileage (currently averaging 5.2 l/100km) changes on the new tires.

Do I even need to declare that I will never buy Dunlop tires? Ever? I wonder if the fact that the car sat in the dealer lot for 11 months before it sold has anything to do with the premature wear......

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A new vehicle co-op that uses vehicles from owners

The idea - rent cars from real people who aren't using theirs at the moment. Got a pickup truck? No doubt someone would be willing to pay $6 per hour to use it. Insurance is covered by a blanket policy as part of membership in Getaround. You even get to rate the vehicle owner and their vehicle for service. Bookings and making your vehicle available for rentals can be done via the web or on an iPhone.

Their mantra:

Car owners invest huge amounts of time and money into an asset they barely use. Cars are driven only 8% of the time, while potential drivers walk past block after block of underutilized cars. We are here to connect the dots... to help people get around.

Now that's smart.

"Bicycle rights!"

This clip sending up aggressive bikers is from a TV show called Portlandia. What really made me laugh about this video is that the scene in the tram is exactly the kind of thing Darlene and I witnessed in Portland on one of our visits.

DMCA takedown tee

I'd like to get a t-shirt with this on it.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Start me up! - episode 2

I know that nobody has solved the songs in the first episode, but I still would like to post the second. I tried to pick songs that were easier to recognize, but not too easy.

In the sound clip you will hear the first 3 seconds of 5 various songs. You just have to correctly guess the 5 songs. Artists too, if you know them. Put your answers in the comments. I will announce the winners of each episode of the contest.

As a hint, the picture is from the video of one of the songs.

[Update] Solution now in the comments.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Things I learned this week 2 Sep

  • Dubai has more buildings over 700 feet tall than New York City.
  • The Swiss may be a neutral country, but their military is ready for an invasion. They have engineered their nation to collapse. To prevent the invader from using bridges, tunnels, highways and railroads, there are at least 3000 points of demolition, with hidden artillery to prevent repair to the destroyed infrastructure. Some mountains are so porous that whole army divisions can fit inside them.
  • U.S. corn crop acreage, put together, would cover all of Germany. In the U.S., it takes 91 gallons of water to produce one pound of corn. Annually, the industry uses 3.5 Long Island Sounds to grow crops.
  • Nocebos: When we tell people about the possible negative side-effects of a real drug, that often makes them more likely to experience those side-effects.
  • The Beatles' "Yesterday" has been covered 2200 times by different artists.
  • Banks don't want people taking pictures inside.
  • Countries where prostitution is legal, (R) if it's also regulated: Belgium; Germany (R); Israel; Italy; Netherlands (R); Turkey (R).
  • People who own little dogs often think any ban against dogs doesn't apply to them.
  • Saturn has 62 moons, 53 of which have been named. One of them is named Prometheus.
  • In the first half of 2011, high temperature records were set in cities across the US 13582 times. In the same period this year, there were 23283 records set.


It's the anti-placebo. I love the description from the seller:

"A nocebo reaction or response refers to harmful, unpleasant, or undesirable effects a subject manifests after receiving an inert dummy drug or placebo. Nocebo responses are not chemically generated and are due only to the subject's pessimistic belief and expectation that the inert drug will produce negative consequences." - Wikipedia

Now for the first time, Nocebo is available for sale direct to the general public! Despite containing no active ingredients whatsoever, Nocebo can cause a wide range of undesirable effects, from nausea to diarrhea, that is because it's potency lies entirely inside the human brain! Nocebo merely suggests that it is bad for you, your brain and body does the rest!

Try Nocebo today! You'll almost certainly regret it."

It always sounds so elegant in German

The sky is pink

I use Google Maps a lot, not just for getting directions and such, but for geographic reconnaissance. For example, I once found Penn Jillette's house outside of Vegas with just a general area and a picture of his house. I used to be in the military and based on my love of geography and maps, if I had to do it all over again, I might have chosen to become a military aerial photography analyst.

I spy some very interesting man-made geographic formations all over the place and now thanks to this little movie by Josh Fox (the creator of the documentary Gasland), my suspicions are confirmed. I know what fracking wells look like from space. There's lots of them.

Go watch the movie.