Saturday, November 29, 2014

Karl's Review of Another Earth

We watched a bit of a sleeper movie and I feel the need to tell you about it.

Another Earth.

Here's the premise. Suddenly and without warning, another earth just like ours appears in the night sky. At first we don't know what to make of it until we finally make radio contact with it. Unfortunately for one person, the appearance of this twin of ours in the sky affects her life in a way I can't spoil for you. This is a science fiction story that puts away the science and focuses on the people. Just when you think you have it figured out, one final curve ball to your brain and it's over. It's one of those movies that will have you discussing the ending for hours. I loved it.

Dear kitten

I love that Purina have gone with Ze Frank in their latest round of commercials.

They're so funny.

Pulled over

Things I learned lately - 29 Nov

  • Baby wipes don't break down in the sewage lines like toilet paper does, so they have to be physically removed at the treatment plants.
  • OneDrive by Microsoft may allow you unlimited storage in the cloud with an Office 365 subscription, but so far, you're still limited to a total of 20,000 files. Just sayin'.
  • Vape is the 2014 word of the year.
  • It is possible for a malicious iPhone/iPad app to get installed on your device simply by clicking a malicious (but innocuous looking) link in an email or text message. The most common malicious apps purport to be a game (especially a game that you cannot get legitimately through the app store), but is in fact a malicious version of a program you already have, like GMail. The goal of the malicious software is to upload all of your email to a server online in hopes to extract sensitive information. It is a very bad idea to install any iOS app that you didn't initiate from the official app store.
  • There is now an app, SkinVision, that will tell you if your mole is melanoma with an accuracy of 73%. $4.99
  • The spare tire cover in a Honda CRV is a table with folded legs.
  • Interstellar screenwriter Jonathan Nolan will pen and produce a series for HBO based on Asimov's legendary Foundation trilogy.
  • You can now see where your next bus is in real time and how long before it arrives at your stop on Calgary Transit's web site.
  • There are 1,200,000,000 active cell phones in China. That's 1.2 billion.
  • Britain buys more items per capita on eBay than any other nation.
  • Over 70% of eBay transactions today are via 'buy it now', as opposed to timed auction.
  • In the early 20th century, blue was more associated with girls and pink more with boys.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

De-clutter questions

1. Have you used this in the last year? If your answer is no, it's time to toss.

2. If you were shopping right now, would you buy this? If you wouldn't buy this item now, why would you keep it?

3. Is the only thing that's keeping you from disposing this item that you don't want to waste money? Think of it this way: You wasted money when you bought an item you don't use.

4. Are you holding on to this for sentimental value? Be strict and keep only a few of the items in a small memorabilia box. Then take a photo of items you are throwing away so you can keep them forever.

5. Do you have a similar item that serves the same purpose? If yes, then get rid of one of them.

6. Do you have a realistic plan to use this? Remember, don't lie to yourself about how perfect an item would be for Halloween. Make sure you have a concrete plan to use the item, and if you don't use it within the time frame you set for yourself to use it, then toss it.

7. Does it fit you or your living space? You may love it, but do you have space for the item or does it even suit you now? Think hard on what to keep — your space is sacred.

8. Are you holding on to the broken item to fix in the future? Fix it now, or if you don't get around to fixing in the next two weeks, then toss it.

It's silly to be anti-bike

I'm still seeing and hearing a lot of flak coming from people who oppose protected bike lanes at the expense of motor vehicles, especially in Calgary.

I had one person tell me that they didn't actually believe 'the line the city of Calgary is using' that every bike commuting to work removes a car off of the streets. Once I admitted that not every bike commuter owns a car, he insisted that none of them own cars. I felt that I needed to share some stories with him, because while I do agree that our city could do more for our human-powered two-wheeled brethren and sisterhood, what the city seems to have failed with is optics.

By the early 1960s, much of the cycling infrastructure that had existed in the pre-war era was gone, and the percentage of the population using bicycles for transportation fell to an all-time low of 10 percent. Then history intervened. “The energy crisis in 1973 hit Denmark hard. Very hard,” writes Colville-Andersen. “Car-free Sundays were introduced in order to save fuel. Every second streetlight was turned off in order to save energy. A groundswell of public discontent started to form. People wanted to be able to ride their bicycles again -- safely. Protests took place…. The energy crisis faded, but then returned in 1979. More protests. One form of protest/awareness was painting white crosses on the asphalt where cyclists had been killed. This time, things happened. We started to rebuild our cycle track network in the early 1980s. Fatalities and injuries started falling. The network was expanded. “What happened was that urban planners started thinking bicycles first and cars second. Building infrastructure to keep cyclists safe and save lives. We haven't looked back since.”

In another example, I spoke to him about what has happened recently in New York City, perhaps a penultimate example of gridlock on city streets in North America. Cycling commuters asked the city to provide them with at least a small network of protected bike lanes to get around Manhattan, and that's what they got. Cyclists now using these protected lanes feel much safer, which has led to an increase in bike traffic. This in turn has led to as much as a 50% increase in local retail sales on affected streets, compared to an average increase of 3%. Injuries also decreased as much as 58%. In an amazing example of timing, New York's new bike share businesses just happened to get their start as the latest batch of protected lanes were being completed. Needless to say, the bike share culture is booming.

I think what Calgary needs to do is tell the story of the average bike commuter. Make it common knowledge that this type of person not only exists, but is demonstrating an increase in numbers and is deserving of a safer route into, around and out of the core. OK, you want stats? Here.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.....

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Trolling from Mars

So as you may have heard, there's a company planning to fund and launch a one-way mission to Mars called Mars One.

The idea is that they would accept applications from around the world for the mission and select a crew, then train them and send them to Mars. Once there, the crew would attempt to establish a permanent colony with the knowledge that they are not coming back home. Ever.

A mission like this costs a lot of money, but the company involved plans to raise a lot of it through advertising. What kind? The kind you see on TV. Specifically the reality TV show following their journey. That's right, the entire mission is meant to be televised as a reality TV show. So I was joking around with friends and spinning a yarn of one scenario that could unfold.

Once the crew arrive on Mars and start setting up their facilities, after a while they notice that a crew member has mysteriously disappeared. They never find the person. Weeks go by and another member disappears. This evolves and it becomes clear that something is responsible for their disappearance, etc. Then, just as we think the remaining crew are in crapola up to their necks, they come on TV and collectively yell "Psyche!", showing that nothing actually happened.

Or, even better, we find out by the end that the crew never actually went to Mars. They're filming from the Mojave desert.

Lyrics I love: Wings - Uncle Albert

We're so sorry, uncle albert,
But we haven't done a bloody thing all day.
We're so sorry, uncle albert,
But the kettle's on the boil
And we're so eas'ly called away.

Party animals

Things I learned lately - 22 Nov

  • In 2000, there were 6 skyscrapers in Dubai. That number rose to 90+ in 2012.
  • The Jewish-Japanese Sex and Cookbook and How to Raise Wolves. This is an actual book.
  • There are enough restaurants in Montreal for a person to eat out every night for 13 years and never eat at the same place twice.
  • Sad used to mean 'sated or satisfied'.
  • Radical used to mean 'having roots'.
  • Peeps lip balm is a thing.
  • Milk used to get delivered to homes every day 40+ years ago, but not for convenience. It was because milk would spoil after a day.
  • Pretty used to mean 'tricky, sly or cunning'.
  • Nice used to mean 'simple, foolish, ignorant'.
  • Nervous used to mean 'sinewy, energetic, vigorous'.
  • Mother in law is an anagram for woman hitler.
  • Texas can fit inside Greenland 3 times.
  • Greenland can fit inside China 4 times.
  • Italy can fit inside Alaska almost 6 times.
  • Europe can fit inside South America 3 times.
  • Australia can fit inside Brazil.
  • The US can fit inside Russia 2 times.
  • Russia can fit inside Africa 2 times.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dancing with the stars

Maybe imitation is the best form of flattery

I want to weigh in on the whole Franck Gervais story. For those of you living offline, Franck wore a military uniform and medals and other accoutrement he acquired on kijiji. He then wore this put-together uniform on Remembrance Day in Ottawa and was approached by the television media and questioned on air.

Military members serving and retired were quick to out Franck as an imposter, both because they didn't know him (the Airborne community is tight) and because he wore many elements of his uniform improperly and they didn't go together, and items were missing.

He turned himself in to police and was charged.

But it doesn't stop there. He's been suspended from his job. He may face more charges. He has been vilified by many people, especially members of the military, but not just. The hatred and anger and fury and judgement that has been levelled at this guy is monumental. Gervais was called human garbage, a waste of life, a fool, a jackass, scum, an attention whore and the lowest of the low.

I have many questions. Why did he do it? What were his motivations? When questioned by the media, he seemed proud of the military. Is he an egomaniac, or is he attempting to imitate those he has high regard for? Were his actions based on reverence? Is he in need of psychiatric help? Is he deluded or schizophrenic? According to his workmates, he recalled his made-up time in the military. He wore another military uniform on his wedding day. Did he know that what he was doing was illegal? Did the average person know it was illegal prior to 11 Nov 2014?

Don't get me wrong. What he did was stupid. It was misguided, uninformed and technically illegal. It was offensive to our soldiers and veterans. But did he do anything malicious? Not that I can tell. Besides doing something ridiculously moronic, he didn't try to harm anyone physically. He has no criminal record. He wasn't trying to benefit financially. He wasn't trying to infiltrate a place where he didn't belong. He never asked for an interview, although he may have placed himself in a location that made it more likely. He did verbally state his admiration for our military members. He fabricated a back story for his life as the kind of person he aspired to.

We've collectively shown no mercy, no sympathy, no compassion for this guy. It’s easier to kick someone when they are down than to understand why they fell.

Lyrics I love: Howard Jones - Hide and Seek

There was a being and he lived on his own
He had no one to talk to and nothing to do.
He drew up the plans
Learnt to work with his hands.

A million years passed by and his work was done.
And his words where these
Hope you find it in everything
Hope you find it
Hope you find me in you.

So she had built her elaborate home
With its ups and its downs
Its rain and its sun.
She decided that her work
It was done
Time to have fun
And found a game to play.
Then as part of the game
She completely forgot
Where she'd hidden herself
And she spent the rest of her time
Trying to find the parts.

Hope you find it in everything
Everything that you see.

Broiler chicken sizes over the decades

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Resume don'ts

Get rid of the objective.
Cut out all the irrelevant work experiences.
Don't list your hobbies.
Don't give away your age.
Don't include references. They'll ask if they need them.
Don't include a less than professional email account. is no good.
Don't say 'phone number'. They know what it is. The same rule applies to email.
Don't include your current business contact info.
Don't include salary information.
Don't use outdated serif fonts.
Don't use annoying buzzwords.
Don't include your GPA. Unless you're a top student.
Don't include a photo of yourself.


Some day, I'll have this conversation with a kid:

Me: So a long time ago, we used to play our music by putting this thing the size of a small phone into a big machine.

Me: Then, we'd press play, and if the song we wanted to hear wasn't playing, we'd have to press fast forward or rewind to try and find the beginning of the song we wanted to hear.

Me: You had no way of knowing how far back or forward you had to go, so sometimes you'd end up going too far ahead and have to rewind again.

Me: Finally, you'd find the beginning of the song, back up a bit and press play. That whole process might take several minutes. Per song.

Child: [blink]


"Mom, I thought you were taking me to see Harry Potter"

Free four

A rollicking Floyd tune from Obscured by Clouds (1972). Yeah, rollicking. Floyd.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I love this guy

"There's a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering."

~Elon Musk

A real divide

Two ocean pass, at the parting of the waters, where if one stands in the stream of water, there is a 50/50 chance the water could head west to the Pacific Ocean, or east to the Gulf of Mexico.

"When you're done with Obama, could you send him our way?"

Sunday, November 09, 2014

"You're encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine"

"I don't believe in process. In fact, when I interview a potential employee and he or she says that 'it's all about the process,' I see that as a bad sign.

"The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You're encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren't that smart, who aren't that creative."

~Elon Musk

"Are there plans for that bacon?"

If you're a cat lover, you're going to love Breaking Cat News, a cartoon strip that treats everyday cat situations as if they are being reported on by a cat news network.

Canadian back yards

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The poppy debate

I've come to notice that there is a growing number of people who won't wear the red poppy anymore for Remembrance Day. Their reasons are varied. Some won't wear it because they are against violence or against war. There are some who don't believe it's necessary to honour dead soldiers. Some avoid the poppy in protest of their government's misuse of support for soldiers by sending more soldiers in harm's way to places or for missions we don't agree with.

Whatever the reason, I understand. I'm not pro-war either, even though I served for 20 years in the Canadian military. I'm not pro-violence. I've never picked a fight with anyone, ever. I only hit someone once. I was full of rage and I will regret that for the rest of my life even though some would say they deserved it. I understand that our government uses the public’s support of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their own means. But I don't agree with those who think that not wearing a poppy is the answer. Because it sends the wrong message to the wrong people.

Poppies are worn simply to commemorate the soldiers that died in war. The red poppy was immortalized in the famous poem, "In Flanders Fields," written by a Canadian officer, Colonel John McCrae, a physician. He was intrigued with the poppy, which can lay dormant in the soil for years, and its ability to reappear in great numbers. He immediately associated the poppy to his deep respect for his veteran patients and deceased comrades and he wrote the poem for them. Eventually, the red poppy was used as a symbol of remembrance by the British and Canadian troops, and as a fundraiser to help their disabled veterans. Other countries soon followed in the tradition.

It is important to note that the poppy doesn't symbolize war, nor does it glamorize it. It has always been, and will always be about the veterans and those who died in service of their country. It is not a statement of support for the government and its military aims or missions. It is not a display of support for war or violence or aggression. The people who most appreciate the display are the veterans of past wars and missions and current serving military members and their families. When you wear a poppy, you are sending them a strong, silent message that you value their contribution and the sacrifices of those who came before them.

Now there are some people who would ask, “If you’re not pro-war, why did you join the military?” The answer is simple. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. While on the one hand I will tell you that 20 years in the service of my country was the best thing to happen to me, I did not join to fight or go to war, even though every soldier who joins knows there is always a chance they could find themselves in the shit. I joined partly because my dad was in the Navy and convinced me that it was a smart career move. I joined partly due to peer pressure. I joined partly to earn a free education. But in the late 1970s, Canada was not at war with anyone and our missions were that of peacekeepers. Once the 1990s arrived, our government decided it was time for us to evolve into a combat role and soldiers once again started getting killed. I never deployed to a combat mission before I retired, and for that I am grateful. But I have so much pride for the work we did during the ice storms, the floods, the forest fires, the FLQ crisis, the Oka standoff and security for the Olympics in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

There are also those who proclaim, “What’s so special about a soldier?” or “They volunteered, they should be ready to do what they signed up to do.” When a soldier gives the oath, they give up any right to change their mind, or even speak their mind. Even when a soldier doesn’t agree with the mission they are sent to do, they have no choice. There is no union rep. Occupational Health & Safety? Please. Soldiers are not allowed to speak their mind to the press. Their job is to obey. I would suggest that every soldier who wears a uniform is depending on you. That’s right. You are their voice. You elect the men and women to Parliament who give the soldiers their missions. They are hoping that if you don’t support the mission, you would say something to your government. But we don’t. We shrug our shoulders and let them go.

But let’s get back to the message. If you don’t agree with our government's military missions, tell your MP. But I believe that the memory of those we have lost, the veterans who still relive the battles in their mind and those who continue to serve deserve a message of support. Because it sends them the message that their sacrifice, their injuries, their hardship, their service, is not without merit. In light of the most recent loss of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the message is more important than ever, because their loss was the result of cowardice and ideology.

And those are my thoughts on the poppy debate.

Things I learned lately - 8 Nov

  • Microsoft OneDrive's storage limit for Office 365 subscription customers is no longer 1TB. They now have essentially 'unlimited' storage for their documents, pictures, etc..
  • Nearly 1 in 20 Canadian households ditched cable TV subscriptions in the past year.
  • According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, a diet that reduces carbohydrates in favour of fat — including the saturated fat in meat and butter — improves nearly every health measurement, from reducing our waistlines to keeping our arteries clear, more than the low-fat diets that have been recommended for generations. The contradictory historical data stemmed from the fact that you can't reliably measure a type of food's effect on the body without considering all the other factors, such as the fact that a diet low in fat causes a typical person to eat more carbs.
  • In France, gypsies are called 'gitanes', they're called 'gitanos' in Spain, and 'zigeuner' in Germany.
  • British Colombia was named after the Colombia River which runs through it. The Columbia River was named after the Colombia Rediviva, the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe, a ship captained by Robert Gray. “British” was added to the name when the area was just a district, so that it could be distinguished from what would be known as the Oregon territory in the US.
  • You could fit all the planets in the space between our earth and the moon.
  • The population of earth has increased by over 4.1 billion people since I was born.
  • On October 24, 2014, Alan Eustice, 57, VP of Google Search, made a skydive from 135,890 feet, breaking the sound barrier and the world altitude record set just two years ago by Felix Baumgartner. So, you know, suck it Felix. Also, go nerds.
  • A software training company's gross profit target is 50%. So if 6 students register for a 5-day course which would provide $11,475 in revenue but earn less than $5737 profit, the course will likely be cancelled.
  • The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington has a rock from the moon — that you can touch.
  • In the mid-2000s, about 30,000 construction cranes were in use in Dubai.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

I for one welcome our shiny new robotic postal workers

The postal outlet should be a robotic machine.

You put your envelope, package in a slot and it measures, determines custom and delivery options and tells you the amount in less than 60 seconds.

You don't even need to fill out forms.

Let's make this happen Canada Post......

They're called refuge islands

I am always interested in new ways to get people to where they're going and a hot topic right now is how we deal with bikes.

The utopia cities are searching for is an infrastructure design that makes efficient use of road space while making a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

Cyclists don't belong on sidewalks, but they don't belong on roads mixed with cars and trucks either. This proposal for the George Mason University 2014 Cameron Rian Hays Outside the Box Competition presents a vision for a safe, clear intersection design that improves conditions for all users. Proper design of refuge islands, crossing position and signal timing can create a safe intersection that people of all ages and abilities would feel safe in.

Learn more online at

How babies are born in Canada

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Things I learned lately - 2 Nov

  • Almost 28% of Australia's population was born in another country.
  • UGG Australia is an American company.
  • 750,000 camels roam Australia’s Outback and are notorious for raiding farms.
  • Australia has more than 10,000 beaches.
  • The Sydney Opera House design may seem modern, but it was designed in 1957.
  • The entire country of Norway has 3571 inmates in prison. That's not a typo.
  • Two iPad Air 2 tablets stacked on top of each other are thinner than the original iPad from 4 years ago.
  • It's just a matter of time before an HBO standalone streaming service will be available in Canada as was just announced for the US. The CBS television network immediately announced the same type of streaming service shortly after HBO did. Shaw? Telus? Rogers? Now would be a good time to demonstrate why having cable TV at all is a good value. Because pretty soon, you're going to be made irrelevant.
  • Japan will build a 300mph (482km/h) mag-lev bullet train, the JR Tokai, between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027, with a future expansion to Osaka by 2045. This new train will get you from Tokyo to Nagoya in 40 minutes, a distance of 180 miles (290km).
  • 2 former McDonald's execs have started a new restaurant called Lyfe Kitchen that specializes in healthier food with every meal under 600 calories. Menu items use no butter, white sugar, HFCS and other additives and have specialized menus for vegans & vegetarians, and gluten-free.
  • The series Twin Peaks is being resurrected.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Still loving my car

So while my B250 was in the shop and because a part they needed took longer than expected to get, I got to drive a loaner C300 sedan for 5 days.

Surprisingly, I was very glad to get my B250 back. Let me state right off the top that the C300 is a great sedan. It's got a lot of power and hugs the road very nicely, which it should, with the 4Matic all-wheel drive. The throaty exhaust is a nice touch as well. What I didn't like was how low the seats are compared to my much higher stanced B250. These old bones just don't like getting in and out of a low car anymore. I found the C300 a little more claustrophic on the inside. Darlene felt the same way on the passenger side. My car seems to coast much farther and faster than the C300. That probably has a lot to do with the weight difference and the transmission. I missed my rear view camera. I missed my auto-dimming mirrors. I missed my memory seats. I missed my no-nonsense gear selector wand on the steering wheel.

It's like a reverse Amazon

MakeSpace is a service in New York that offers people cloud storage - for their physical stuff.

You schedule a pickup online or by phone, and someone will drop off at least four bins at your door. Each bin is 27 x 17 x 12.5 inches, and can hold up to 100 pounds. Pack your bins, write a quick description, like "shoes," and notify MakeSpace to pick them up. They then take pictures of all of your boxed stuff and scan each bin's bar code to create an online visual catalogue of your items.  You can order any of your items back for return within 48 hours for $29.

An upcoming iPhone app will give customers the ability to catalogue their belongings in even more detail.

The pickup service is currently live in New York, Hoboken, and Jersey City. But MakeSpace Air lets anyone mail belongings to MakeSpace, and then MakeSpace will send them back to you upon request.

The only thing Darlene thought was wrong about this is that they should ask for the money to receive the goods instead. Because otherwise, people might use it as a way to dispose of stuff. Permanently.

It's a ball.... camera

The Panono spherical camera is basically a small ball containing 36 cameras around its surface, with the ability to create a 108 megapixel spherical image.

It works by throwing the ball up in the air. When it senses it's reached the apex of the throw, it snaps the picture. This gives you a real 360 degree panorama.

It can only be one song