Wednesday, November 7, 2012


The right answer for the wrong reason is not anything to be proud of.

 Half of the voting population of the U.S. still voted for a guy whose numbers didn't even remotely add up. I'm glad that the least-bad guy won the presidency, but it's going to be an ugly 4 years with a House of Representatives full of old white men from a party that thinks you can create jobs by firing people and that rape is an act of God.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Busy Bee

I haven't written anything for a while because I've been stupid busy. I would like to take this opportunity to plug one of the things I've been busy with: opening an Etsy store called The EmBoss. I have always enjoyed making personalized hand-embossed greeting cards for special occasions and holidays. It's a nice creative release and people really seem to appreciate them.

It turns out to be quite difficult to convey a complex idea with a few simple shapes. Over the years I've managed to get it down to a fine art and I think I can consistently produce attractive, elegant, minimalist cards. So I thought I'd see if other people liked them to.

Right now I've got 8 designs, covering weddings, baby showers, birthdays and blanks greetings cards for no reason at all, but I will be increasing this as I get more ideas and more time to implement them. Take a look at my store. For the next little while I'm having a grand opening free shipping sale; just use the coupon code GRANDOPENING

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Friendly Reminder

I see a lot of people complaining on the Facebox about how underappreciated they feel; "I always doing nice things for other people, but no one ever does nice things for me." It's possible that there is a small group of people who are on the receiving end of all of everyone else's good deeds and so these complaints are warranted. However, I suspect the real explanation is a lot simpler than that: it's a lot easier to notice the nice thing you did for someone else than to notice the nice thing someone else did for you. Next time you're feeling underappreciated, try to remember this. The point is,

  1. keep doing nice things for people but don't expect them to notice and,
  2. try harder to notice nice things people have done for you (and when you do, express your gratitude overtly).

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Proof that we live in a post-scarcity world: Someone built this. And I, and half-a-million other people, spent 7 minutes watching it. Remind me again why you like working so hard?

Monday, September 24, 2012

The more you know…

Did you know that the yarmulke is the closest living relative of the headphone?

Fossil evidence has been found for 5 intermediate lifeforms (b-f) between the most recent common ancestor (a) and the modern headphone (g).*

* This figure is actually from Pruppacher & Klett, 2004. Microphysics of Clouds and Precipitation, Kluwer Academic Publishers. It shows how large raindrops can break up as they are subjected to drag forces while falling. Apparently in low-turbulence falls, drops can get up to about 4.5mm before this breakup mechanism kicks in.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Remember that old video-clip-mix music video I posted a while ago?  Turns out that guy did a music video for Norwegian band Katzenjammer a few years ago. Somehow I hadn't heard this song til yesterday, but I really like the song and the video. I especially like the percussive thunder clouds. So, enjoy!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I'll Try Anything Once

Well, maybe not anything. But someday I think I will have to try the larvae-colonized cheese, casu marzu.

Derived from Pecorino, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei.

Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming while others do not.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Apples to Apples, Dust to Dust

There's been a lot of noise on my twitter feed about dairy price fixing in Canada lately, mainly by economists. I have always found the dairy boards' practices to be heavy handed and protectionist. And anyone who lives in a border town can tell you that milk is clearly more expensive in Canada than the U.S., no matter what the DFO F.A.Q. says. But two things sharing the same name does not necessarily mean they are the same thing. So is there any difference in milk between Canada and the U.S.? I wrote the dairy board to ask and this is what they replied:

Growth hormones are illegal for dairy cows in Canada. No antibiotics in feed either. Antibiotics are used when a cow is sick and her milk is discarded at the farm– not sold – until there is no more residue from the antibiotic in her body.All milk is tested for antibiotic residues. A sample is taken at the farm, so if ever milk is “contaminated” with antibiotics, it is discarded, the milk is traced back to the farm that is culprit and severe penalties apply. 
Growth hormones are illegal and all milk is tested for antibiotics.

The same is not true in the U.S. where testing milk was only even suggested a little over a year ago and where growth hormone injections are legal. In Canada (and the E.U.), those hormones are illegal not because they make the milk unsafe for human consumption but because they endanger the animal's health and result in antibiotic usage. Read: rBGH promotes antibiotic resistent super bugs (not to mention the animal cruelty implications).

The point I am trying to make is this: in dismantling Canada's dairy cartels, it's important that we recognize the regulatory functions they currently serve and make sure that those functions are not dismantled along with the boards. Let's not throw the baby out with the "contaminated" milk.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I have a proposal: Set the salary of an MP, MPP or municipal councillor equal to the median earnings of the population which she represents. The Prime Minister would get the median of Canada, a Premier the median of his province, a mayor the median of her municipality. The median should be calculated using ALL voting age constituents, including students, the unemployed, prison inmates, everyone.  I'm not really sure what would happen, but I think it would help politicians understand how their policies affect their constituents in a pretty clear way, instead of simply selectively choosing which rich pals they want to listen to.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Is anyone buying this?

Peter Kent says Canada is being maligned by ecologists who like to point out that Canada clearly couldn't give a rat's ass about contributing to the protection of the natural environment. I think evidence suggests that, since Stephen Harper became our tin-pot dictator, Canada's position is that we're all for helping out with the environment, as long as it means we don't have to do anything. We'll sign any agreement that binds any country but us. That's how being committed works, right? But apparently pointing out the obvious is now considered "misinformation."

Kent goes on to say that the environment is important, only in so far as it can be used to create jobs. So I was curious. How many jobs do the tar sands create? Turns out that less than 2% of Canada's workers were employed in "Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas" in 2011.  Admittedly, if every single one of those jobs was lost, that would be a disaster for the Canadian economy. But the idea that slipping laws which eliminated any kind of environmental oversight on tar sands projects into the Federal Budget is going to magically put Canada into full-employment scenario, well, I think that's what I might call "misinformation."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Move over the Onion

Apparently the Star is trying to take the Onion's place as the world's source of hilarious headlines:

Training, Colleges and Universities

I have spent a lot of time in school. Like, a lot. Something that has always seemed bizarre to me is the idea that university is supposed to be some kind of job training program. Anyway, some guy has written a book about it. He gave an interview to IEEE Spectrum and gave this brilliant analogy:
They keep hoping that the engineering schools will turn out what they want, but it’s kind of bizarre if you think about it: if you were, say, a computer company, and you had a product that was all based on this particular chip. You didn’t build the chip yourself. You were expecting to buy it on the outside, and your expectation was just that you’ll be able, as soon as you’re ready, to buy this chip on the outside in the quantity you want at the price you want to pay. 
The point is: go to university because you want to learn and you want to surround yourself with other people who want to learn, not because you want a job.  You will, hopefully, come out of it a better person, probably with some debt,  but with a good head on your shoulders. Find a job that has nothing to do with your 4th year thesis. Because there probably isn't one. Good companies will still hire people who are going to be good workers, even if they're not the exact right fit.

And frankly, do you even want to work for the kind of company who thinks it's reasonable to build and entire product around the assumption that someone else will build the key component exactly to spec and for free?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You're either wish us, or you're expendable

According to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, asking for budget details when you're the Parliamentary Budget Officer is somehow overstepping your mandate.  Well, at least Baird hasn't called him a pedophile. Yet.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Canada: The Best of Both Words

Title refers to the 2nd point.
If the lesser mind could measure the greater as a foot-rule can measure a pyramid, there would be finality in universal suffrage. As it is, the political problem remains unsolved. 
Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few. 
Democratic republics can no more dispense with national idols than monarchies with public functionaries. 
Government presents only one problem: the discovery of a trustworthy anthropometric method.
From George Bernard Shaw's Maxims for Revolutionists

Monday, June 11, 2012

What could possibly go wrong?

The Globe and Mail has apparently decided that I should no longer be able to find the one column I read with any regularity, I must now search for David Eddie's latest column on the Relationships page and then guess which headline is his (got it in one today!).

While I was there, another headline about rating your ex online got my attention:
“You wouldn’t go to a restaurant that hasn’t been reviewed. Especially in the era of Internet dating, why would you go on a date with a person who hasn’t been reviewed?”

Not to say that I wasn't momentarily tempted, but this just screams Bad Idea. I think this kind of feedback info integrated into an online dating service you have already voluntarily signed up for might work, but without that kind of context it seems almost inevitable that it will just turn into Air Your Dirty Laundry Online. As if Facebox wasn't already there for that purpose. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Two Favourite Scienticians

Maggie Koerth-Baker is probably the best science writer I've ever encountered.  I have not yet read her new book, but it's pretty high on my reading list.

Quirks and Quarks is CBC's weekly science program.  It is one of my regular podcasts. Every week, host Bob McDonald does a fantastic job of finding neat new science and getting scientists to talk about their work in a way that is both accessible and interesting.  When you talk to as many scientists as I do, you realize what a feat that is. He gave great a seminar at U of T while I was there and showed us how much of that is simple editing by playing a solid minute of "um"s he'd edited out of the most recent show. But a lot of it is his ability to quickly grasp the key concepts and ask the right questions in the right order.

I'm a bit behind on my podcasts so I didn't know that Maggie KB was going to be on Quirks until Bob tweeted about it afterwards. Just the interview is available (below), or you can listen to the full episode – it's got whales!
As long as good choices are tough to remember to do, and as long as
good choices are tough in that they are actually detrimental to you,
we're not going to get the kind of wide-scale changes we actually need
to have happening.
Maggie Koerth-Baker on Quirks and Quarks

Monday, June 4, 2012

Say what?

Here's a tip: when a little voice in your head says, "you're probably too tired to ride your motorcycle," just listen to it. Fortunately, I wasn't going all that fast, I was wearing all my gear, and no other vehicles were involved. Broke my arm and leg. In a bit of pain but mostly wounded my pride.  Also, being very well cared for.

Guess I'm going to be reading and watching the immernets a lot for the next little while. Found this on TED.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Most Important Choice

Good news, Canada! The United Nations has ranked us 12th best at making sure our children get what's coming to them. After all, if those bloodsucking little leaches didn't want to be impoverished, they should have been chosen to be born in richer families.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Things That I Still Find Entertaining After Many Years

The More Things Change

From Reuters:

 What do you call the rate of change of power, anyway?

 For the record, I think it's great that Germany is generating so much solar energy. I just wish journalists (and everyone for that matter) knew enough basic physics to not write things like this.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

academician, n.

Pronunciation: /əˌkadəˈmɪʃn/

  1. A made-up word with extra syllables to make academics sound more learnèd.
See also: ponce.
  • For the record, I know it's a real word that's been in use since the 1600s. I still think it is silly to us a word like this when "academic" is perfectly serviceable.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I call bullsh*t

How would you feel if your cell phone and home internet bills doubled next year without any improvement to your service? If you said you wouldn't like that very much, then Vic Toews has a name for you: child pornographer. That's right, anyone who opposes the new mandatory spying bill for any reason is a child pornographer. He actually said this, in parliament, no less.

We are proposing to bring measures to bring our laws into the 21st century and to provide police with the lawful tools that they need.
He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.
So if these lawful tools are needed to fight child pornography, then it must be impossible to arrest child pornographers without them, right? No, eh? And I'm definitely not the first to point this out. You can read more about it from Michael Geist.

So anyway, while I'm not thrilled by the idea of paying twice as much for internet access, the thing that scares me is this: if the government is willing to call another MP a child pornographer to his face in open parliament, what are they going to do to me when they can get my address and phone number from my ISP after reading this blog post? What are they going to you when you post something anti-Conservative on Facebook?

I suppose it could have been worse, Toews could have called Scarpaleggia a pot grower.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cute but deadly

I learned a surprising fact today: there are now more tigers alive in captivity than in the wild. And a huge number of them live in the United States. And nobody knows exactly how many; a US government worker puts the number somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000. This is all stuff I learned on CBC's the Nature of Things.

The show was mainly about the debate amongst experts as to whether captive tigers are "junk" tigers, that is, too inbred to repopulate wild habitats.  It also did a pretty reasonable job of mitigating any "ZOMG WANT WANT WANT"-factor by highlighting the 2003 injury of stage magician and seasoned tiger trainer Roy Horn, and my personal favourite line about a tiger who had been seized from his owner and put in a sanctuary: "Had he been seized prior to that, his owner would still be alive today."

The thing that struck me as most interesting was the comment that we "need new ideas." This flies completely in the face of what is being discussed at that exact moment in the show: natural habitat destruction and illegal tiger goods. We don't need new ideas; we need political will. All the captive-bred tigers in the world aren't going to repopulate the wild if there's no wilderness to repopulate. And governments need to crack down on poaching by making sure the penalties for buying, trafficking, or selling tiger parts are harsh and consistently enforced.

Anyway, if you like cute animals or nature shows, totally worth watching.

The full episode is available online. 

You're thinking of MPs

 … Nicholson told Fraser that drug traffickers are "people who are in the business of destroying other people’s lives…"
 - Federal Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, on the subject of whether raping children is worse than growing pot in your basement.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What more could anyone ask for?

If someone told me that they were really coming over with Doritos and whiskey right now, I'd be pretty much over the moon.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Unenforceable Regulations

You've probably heard about Canada's Air Transport Security Authority's new regulations banning transgender people from flying. Leftygirl responds with an interesting take (emphasis in original),
The thing is, we don’t know much about how this law is being enforced at present. Maybe it’s not being enforced at all, I have no idea. And before we respond to it, maybe we should figure out what it actually is first and who it actually impacts.
Just a thought.
You have probably also heard of SOPA and PIPA in the US and Canada's bill C-11. If not, here's Michael Geist on the Hour to fill you in:

The thing that strikes me about these is not the direct oppressiveness of the regulations but rather of the unenforceability of them.  In the case of the CATSA regulation about people needing to appear the same gender as indicated on their passport, the wording is so vague as to be completely subjective. In the case of the C-11/SOPA-type laws, the problem is as complicated as shutting down every internet connection in the world, one-by-one.

Let me give you another example of an unenforceable law: public drunkeneness. If the police were to arrest or fine every person who was ever drunk in public, they'd never stop arresting or ticketing drunks, at least at some times of day. Instead, the law is used to stop people who are causing trouble but not breaking any other laws, per se. It's a stick given to the police to be used at their discretion.

So it goes with the CATSA rule and bill-C11, except the stick has been given to the same kind of people who confiscated a cupcake in the name of safety and Hollywood, respectively.

So the question is: do you want some WB executive deciding what you can and can't see on the internet, or even whether you're allowed to connect to the internet? No. Do you want some airport security guard to stop you from flying because she's having a bad day and your passport says 'W' but you haven't waxed your upper lip in a while? No. It's time to stop the Conservative government from giving out these kinds of discretionary sticks. Write your MP.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Godot's Law

Waiting for porn about anything you can imagine Hitler doing will take twice as long as the simplest explanation, even after you've accounted for gravity.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

ein Traum

Als das Kind Kind war,war es die Zeit der folgenden Fragen:Warum bin ich ich und warum nicht du?Warum bin ich hier und warum nicht dort?Wann begann die Zeit und wo endet der Raum?Ist das Leben unter der Sonne nicht bloß ein Traum?
Wings of Desire (der Himmel über Berlin) 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Law of Conservation of Market Congestion

The fewer the people at the market, the more awkward their choices of standing place and the more unpredictable their movements.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


This morning on my Twitter, the top 3 hashtag trends included a grammatical error (highlighted), a redundant phrase and (I suspect) racism (intentionally left out). Good work, Canada.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I know this TED talk is aimed at "youth," but I can think of some adults who might benefit from this message. And I'm sure the rest of us could use a reminder every now and then. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


In light of all the news about the apparent selfish douchebagery of the captain of the Costa Concordia, I would like to highlight this piece I read in the Star a few weeks back about a very different kind of reaction to a not-disimilar problem: The Case for Virtue.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Best Interest

The [Ford] brothers are encouraging Toronto residents to join in, and have challenged Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi to do the same. Because comparing our mayor to their mayor seems to be in Ford’s best interest.
-- Jess Davidson, TORONTOIST

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Every conversation I've ever had with a dry cleaner

Me: Hi, I'd like to get my [garment] dry cleaned.
Dry Cleaner: Okay, when do you want it back?
Me: Uh, when will it be done?
DC: What's today? [Monday]? [Wednesday].
Me: Okay, then I want it back on [Wednesday].

Why do they even ask?