Monday, February 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drivers need patience (maybe eyes too)

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Canadian Excalibur

Your ears are missing out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Neil said....

How Star Wars - The Last Jedi should have ended

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

Things I learned lately 25 Feb

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

Friday, February 16, 2018

From the movie 'Play it again Sam'

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

Small things 16 Feb

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

Hybrid thinking

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

Here's an excerpt:

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

That's nothing.....

Things I learned lately 16 Feb

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

Friday, February 09, 2018

Tesla is making their new roadster

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


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

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

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

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

We are plants!

Small things 9 Feb

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

Happy Danes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I learned lately 9 Feb

  • The Berlin wall has been gone for as long (and longer by the day) as it stood.
  • Disney employees never point with one finger, as it's rude in some cultures. As a side note, while I was in the military, we were taught to indicate (point) with all 4 fingers, basically like the 'salute hand'.
  • New York state will be installing 2.4 gigawatts of wind power by 2030. A $6 billion off shore wind farm is being built south of Long Island.
  • Spam is an enduring staple of Hawaiian cuisine. Filipino-Americans and Korean-Americans are into it as well.
  • Twinkies used to be filled with banana cream pre-WWII.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Small things 3 Feb

  • Ever notice that in not one of the Fast & Furious movies do they ever stop for gas?
  • When a Facebook friend says they're 'off to sleep', is that a challenge to immediately engage them in conversation and see how long you can keep them up? 
  • When my abs hurt so much from laughing really hard..... that counts as a workout, right?
  • Whatever you do, don't drag the My Computer icon into the Recycle Bin. Don't say I didn't warn you......

Classical powder

I know it's just a video of a powder surfer (this is NOT snowboarding - no bindings) going down a hill through trees, but man, did it ever touch me right here.

The visuals combined with the music are inspiring.

Things I learned lately 3 Feb

  • Americans flock to Los Algodones, a Mexican border town, to get dental work done on the cheap. A crown goes for USD$300. There are 350 dentists working in this town. There 5500 people living there. Los Algodones also has numerous plastic surgeons, optometrists and pharmacies.
  • Chocolate is under threat from climate change. Cacao plants can only grow within a narrow strip of rainforested land roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator, where temperature, rain, and humidity all stay relatively constant. Over half of the world's chocolate comes from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. But these areas won't be suitable for chocolate in the next few decades due to rising temperatures.
  • Statistics Canada's figures indicate more than 21% of Montrealers can speak at least three languages, compared with 11% of Torontonians and 10% of Vancouverites.
  • If you intend to upgrade to a 4K HDR TV, your existing 1080p video switching receiver may not be compatible. It needs HDMI 2.0 for standard 4K, HDMI 2.0a for HDR content, and HDCP 2.2 to play along with the new copy protection scheme.

Whoaaaaa Whoaaaa oooohhh (the new Rickroll)

Half empty

"Is the glass half full or the glass half empty? I would probably say that the glass is 90-95% full all of the time.

We are so ungrateful for the quality of life that we have. There is always something you can look down on and say: "It is so much worse for that guy."

If it's raining outside in London, it's raining bombs in Syria. If you're unable to go out because of the traffic jam, there are people who are unable to go out for safety reasons. Whatever it is that we have in our life today, compare that to 100 years ago. Where life expectancy was much worse, where health was much worse, look at all of the gadgets we have in our life, look at all of the luxuries we have in our life. And yet, we continue to look at what's missing.

And because we are looking for what's missing, we're by definition breaking the Happiness Equation. If you're looking for what's missing, you're going to find it, and accordingly, the events of life are not going to meet your expectations.

Think of it this way, if you look at your life today and I asked you: "what would you change about it?" And I changed it for you, would you be happier?

I always get people who will tell me: "I'm so unhappy about my job." And I go: "okay you're fired!" And they go: "No no no, hold on, I didn't mean that, I don't want to be fired."

If you really start to appreciate what you have in your life, happiness becomes a much easier task to achieve."

~Mo Gawdat Chief Business Officer, Google X