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by Felix — Who am I?

Safely storing questionable lithium-ion batteries
posted 2022-01-08

This should be taken with a grain of salt, as it's just my off-the-cuff "research" and I have not actually tested this with an exploding battery. It seems safer than storing it indoors on a shelf, etc., but I am not qualified to offer advice on this.

I want to make, as cheaply as possible, a container capable of fully containing the energy* of a lithium ion battery fire. (Given that lithium batteries are now in so many things, I think this would be a good thing for everyone to have or be able throw together quickly out of household materials.)

(* But not the gases! because containing that would be much more difficult - so don't breathe near flaming/exploding batteries, get them outdoors immediately, and store any questionable ones outside if possible.)

First, how hot is such a fire? The hottest I've found quoted is 2000 degrees C.

Right away, this rules out most metal containers: aluminum for example melts at 660, so if you put a burning lithium battery in an aluminum container, it would probably melt and, in the immortal words of Jason Mendoza, then you have a different problem (depending on what else is around, it's possible you could have a lithium fire plus thermite).

For a metal container to work, it would have to be something like molybdenum or tungsten, and that A. sounds expensive and B. isn't something you're likely to have lying around.

This is why almost all commonly available fire safes are only rated to around 1000 C at most. So, fire safes are probably out.

Ceramics might work - apparently some kinds of porcelain are fired at 2000 C when they're made - but most firing and glazing temperatures are lower than that. So chucking the battery or device in a ceramic dish would probably work long enough to at least get it outside, but might not contain it for the full duration of the fire.

Problem number two: exactly how much heat energy will the fire release in total? Is it just the battery capacity, or a bit more?

According to this page (the most precise statement about this that I could find) -


"A fully charged fresh [type 18650] battery can release 61.72 kJ energy when it gets into [thermal runaway]"

An 18650 battery is a little larger than a standard AA, with a nominal voltage of 3.7 V and typical capacities of 2300 mAh to 3600 mAh.

I'll use the smaller value, to be most pessimistic about the ratio of battery capacity to energy released in a fire, we get:

3.7 V * 2300 mAh = 8510 mWh = about 8.5 watt-hours.

Converting that to joules, we get 30636, or about 30.6 kJ.

That means that a battery can release 61.72/30.6 = just over twice its design energy capacity, when it self-destructs.

Now that we have that, we can estimate how much energy we have to contain in the likely worst case - a large laptop battery. Large business or gaming laptops have batteries around 100 watt-hours, so let's double that to 200 as a factor of safety. That's 720 kJ, so on thermal runaway, that's 1.4 MJ we need to contain.

One possibility is sand: it takes about 1.5 MJ to melt 1 kg of sand into glass ( https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/54681/how-much-heat-energy-would-be-needed-to-turn-a-large-section-of-desert-sand-into ), so a box containing several kg of sand should keep most of the heat near its middle and, at most, result in a small pool of glass around the battery.

Clarifications about ICBC rules in BC
posted 2020-08-26

Some official, straight-from-ICBC* answers to questions that aren't on their website about road tests and graduated licence restrictions:

(* call was to ICBC toll free number 1-800-663-3051 Aug 26, selected the "book a road test" option, then "speak to an agent"; call connected at 12:21 PDT and lasted 4 minutes 43 seconds)

Allowable vehicle modifications

Are stick-on fisheye mirrors on the side mirrors an acceptable vehicle modification for a vehicle used in a road test? Yes.

Even unusually big stick-on mirrors? Yes.

We have a dashcam; it has to be turned off during the road test because you have a rule that no recording devices are to be used, correct? Yes, that's correct.

Is it ok if the dashcam remains mounted during the test as long as it's turned off? It doesn't easily come off its mount. Yes, that's fine as long as it's powered off during the test. (Note: the agent confirmed this with his supervisor because he wasn't sure.)

Rules for electronic device use for N (novice) drivers in BC

Questions about the N driver electronic devices rules:

Are N drivers allowed to listen to the radio while driving? Yes.

Are they allowed to turn the radio on or off while driving? Yes, and changing stations is also ok.

What if the audio source is a phone playing music that's not reachable or visible from the driver's seat? That is ok, as long as the driver cannot and does not touch the device while the car is running. (The car must be completely turned off if the N driver wants to change something on the phone.)

What if the audio source is Google maps navigation running on a phone, pre-set and feeding audio to the car stereo from out of reach and sight of the driver (the driver would be able to stop the audio by simply turning off the stereo)? That is also ok, again as long as the setup was done with the car turned off.

SARS-CoV-2 Papers
posted 2020-04-28

Review of Asus L406M
posted 2019-02-26

I've had this as my primary laptop since about 2018 October, and I've been happy with it. In no particular order, here are answers to a number of things I want to know when choosing a new laptop:

Short version:

If you know for a fact that 4 GB of RAM is enough for you, and you want a machine that's quiet and light like a netbook but has a full 1080p screen, I highly recommend this laptop.

If you're like me and run a lightweight tiling window manager and no desktop environment, this computer is great and feels more than powerful enough.

If on the other hand you're one of those people who has 20+ browser tabs open all the time, this is not the computer for you (not enough RAM). It will comfortably run full GUI Linux distrubtions (e.g. Mint), but you'll have to be a little bit careful of memory usage in that case.

I can't speak to its ability to run Windows, as I haven't tried.

Long list of points:

Thetis Lake Perimeter Swim
posted 2017-05-21

So I swam around the entire perimeter of Thetis Lake - annotated map.

Maintenance advisory for 2002 Dodge Caravans
posted 2017-03-29

If you have a Dodge Caravan with these symptoms:

Check the Idle Air Control (IAC) valve to make sure it's clean and functioning. Cleaning it will probably alleviate the problem for at least a short while. If the problem recurs, check the plastic valance between the back of the hood and the windshield for cracks or unsealed sections -- the IAC valve is located directly below this, and if water can drip down from there, it can carry things like dirt and pollen into the IAC. (IACs are allergic to pollen.)

Air mattress invention
posted 2017-02-11

I think I invented something new today: on a survival exercise with search & rescue, I made an air mattress out of ziplock bags, lashed together with Gorilla tape and sandwiched between two tarps. This has the advantage of putting the user farther off the ground than most compact ground sheets, being a hell of a lot cheaper, and taking up less backpack room. (My original idea was to use a garbage bag of inflated balloons, but ziplock bags take a lot less lung effort to inflate.)

posted 2016-05-02

In case this information is useful to anyone: "1046808 BC LTD VICTORIA" is The Bent Mast pub at 512 Simcoe St., Victoria, BC. (For some reason they show up as a numbered company on credit card statements, even though their receipts say their business name.)

Controversy over "A lesson in the OR that prepared this doctor to be a surgeon"
posted 2015-07-12

"Hope Amantine" recently posted a story called "A lesson in the OR that prepared this doctor to be a surgeon", and there's been some resulting controversy.

The original source material was then suppressed, and I have some things to say about that (in addition to mirroring the original story).

posted 2015-01-27

Software thought *not* vulnerable to CVE-2015-0235:

From http://seclists.org/oss-sec/2015/q1/283:

apache, cups, dovecot, gnupg, isc-dhcp, lighttpd, mariadb/mysql,
nfs-utils, nginx, nodejs, openldap, openssh, postfix, proftpd,
pure-ftpd, rsyslog, samba, sendmail, sysklogd, syslog-ng, tcp_wrappers,
vsftpd, xinetd.

In addition to the above, I believe these are safe too (from my own inspections, so you might want to confirm this yourself / from another source):

Wal-Mart Canada receipt tax codes (as of 2014-12-31)
posted 2015-01-11

I've seen the following letters on Wal-Mart receipts in (BC, Canada) as tax codes:

From this Facebook post, I tried out values for A, D, E, H, J, then worked out that C is also "both taxes" (it applies to BC Environmental Fees on electronics, etc., which are apparently taxable).

So, the table of values is:

Code           Taxes          Value (i.e. total price = [1 + Value] * [pre-tax price])
A              GST            0.05
J              GST            0.05
C              GST + PST      0.12
E              GST + PST      0.12
D              No tax         0
H              No tax         0

(In case this is useful to anyone: To use this in a spreadsheet, put the letter code and value columns in next to each other -- suppose you put them in columns G, H, and I. Then if you have some price entries you can use them in a formula like this:

    1      2      3
A   1.00   J      =VLOOKUP(A1,$G$1:$I$6,3,0)
B   0.03   A      =VLOOKUP(B1,$G$1:$I$6,3,0)
(This works in LibreOffice; I'm not sure about Excel.))

Ingredients (specifically colouring) for Strawberry Nesquik Syrup, UPC 0 55000 20024 0
posted 2015-01-08

Mostly for vegetarian-checking purposes (quoted from a reply from Nestlé customer service on 2014-12-19):

"The colouring used in our Nesquik is


(This was a rabbit-shaped red bottle, purchased in western Canada.)

On "Feminism" being used with more general meanings of "equality" (edited)
posted 2015-01-04

I originally wrote this before I'd learned some things. I'll leave it up because I don't believe in revising history or pretending things didn't happen, but I've prefaced it with more recent opinions.

PSA: Western Digital My Passport (2.5") USB drives not useable as laptop drives; don't buy them
posted 2014-12-23

My supervisor at work recently bought one of these and discovered that the USB 3 interface is soldered to the drive itself and can't easily be removed to expose the SATA connector.

So, don't buy these drives: you won't be able to use them as laptop drives and more importantly, if something goes wonky, data recovery will be much more difficult.

Idea for a phone hold queuing system
posted 2014-11-13

A system for call priority when calling a large call centre (like Canada Revenue Agency, or any customer service line), where you normally have to wait on hold for a long time:

When you first call in, an automated system assigns you a unique code. You can then hang up.

Later you call back, and you give your code. Your call is then placed in the queue sequence, prioritized on how old your code is. That is, if you called and got your code 5 days ago, and everyone currently waiting on hold has only been waiting a day or two, you jump to the front of the queue.

This means that if you have a call about something that can wait a few days, you can avoid the large time investment of waiting on hold for 45 minutes — but if you do need to get something dealt with same-day, and a 45-minute wait is worth it, you still have that option.

This also opens up some interesting possibilities for secondary markets: People could call in, get a code, wait a month, then sell the code on eBay or something. "Need to talk to the tax people right freakin' now? Pay me $50 and you can!"

(But the part that I like about is that unlike those "leave us a callback number and we'll call you when it's your turn" systems, it bypasses the need for the remote party to call you back — automated callback systems don't seem to be all that reliable.)

Ingredients of Oh Henry bars, UPC 0 68000 79285 1
posted 2014-03-01

For allergen- and vegetarian-checking purposes, because these don't seem to be posted anywhere else online:

Ingredients: sugar, peanuts, corn syrup, modified palm oil and modified vegetable oil (shea, sunflower and/or safflower), modified milk ingredients, unsweetened chocolate, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, modified palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, salt, invertase, artificial flavour, disodium phosphate. then, two symbols: capital letter U inside a circle, capital D

(Date recorded: current as of 2014-02-24, in Victoria, BC, Canada)

Reading old-people writing
posted 2014-03-01

My wife and I just discovered a trick for deciphering my grandmother's nearly-illegible handwriting: Tilt your head and look at it from one side. Somehow the perspective change makes the words much more recognizable.

My mother has since confirmed that this is how my grandmother writes: looking at it slightly from the side.

City of Victoria, BC Parking Free after 18:00 (6 p.m.)
posted 2014-02-19

Public service announcement:

The city of Victoria website is a bit vague about this, but if you go to Parking > On-Street Parking, it does say "A pay station is to be used for short-term, on-street parking downtown, Monday - Saturday from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m." — I have called Parking Enforcement and confirmed that the correct interpretation of this is, in fact, that parking is free downtown after 18:00.

(This is one of those things that people who drive all the time just know, because they've learned it through experience... but for the rest of us, having it documented is nice, when deciding whether to bother taking a car into downtown on those rare evenings.)

Crypto teaching resources
posted 2013-08-25

I was recently assigned to prepare some cryptography materials for a class being taught at UVic. Some of these might be more widely useful:

Cryptography teaching materials

Tour de Disaster
posted 2013-07-27

I rode in Tour de Disaster — a disaster preparedness exercise in Victoria, demonstrating the use of cyclists after an earthquake.

IL# ingredients on Christie/Kraft food products
posted 2013-07-28

Sometimes on ingredients lists you'll encounter something like "IL# B5082" at the very end. This is common on Kraft/Christie cookie packages, such as Oreos or Dad's brand. I've seen the following:

IL# B5082 - Oreos
IL# B5086 - Oreos
IL# J5023 - Dad's assorted cookies
IL# J5027 - Dad's oatmeal cookies
IL# J5022 - Dad's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
IL# J5021 - Dad's coconut cookies

At first glance these look just like the E-numbered ingredients found on Asian foods — but they're not ingredients at all. After I called the company, they told me that these are actually recipe numbers — they identify the specific process used to turn the aforementioned list of ingredients into the particular food in the box you've got. Kind of like express service tags on Dell computers; if you call in with a complaint or something it helps them narrow down where to look.

Short answer is, if you ended up here while trying to find out if some product is vegetarian-friendly, or you have an obscure allergy, and the only thing you're unsure about is the IL number, then you're OK: the IL number is not an ingredient.

Just Married
posted 2013-07-22

A transcript of our ceremony and vows

The commissioner described it as the most dynamic, most interesting ceremony that [he's] ever prepared in [his] marriage career, and that's several hundred marriages.


Do NOT paraphrase when calling tech support
posted 2013-07-06

It's very important that you always repeat exactly what you see on the screen when talking to tech support. Never simplify, paraphrase, or interpret it in any way.

Paraphrasing can turn a 5-second, free-of-charge support call into a 2-hour ordeal that ends up costing you $100 or more. It will make both you and the technician unhappy.

Here is an e-mail I sent to a user recently, giving an example of why paraphrasing makes problems take longer to solve.

Test your "secret questions" or "security questions" regularly!
posted 2012-11-23

So, I took a trip to England recently, and of course half of my various online accounts went into lockdown mode when I tried to sign on from a different continent. Unfortunately, account recovery mechanisms have a short shelf life:

If you set up your Facebook security questions a while ago, Facebook has randomly renamed them, so good luck working out which answer they want when you told them your mother's maiden name and they ask you who your first grade teacher was.

Yahoo questions were character-set restricted at some point, and any answers that contained non-alphanumeric characters or were longer than 32 chars now no longer work.

So, it's probably a good idea to artifically trigger an account lock *before* you go on a trip, just to see if your security questions actually work. It might also be a good idea to assume that all security question implementations were written by complete idiots (well, they'd pretty much have to be... anyone who thinks adding a way to bypass the password on an account using publically available information has to be an idiot), and use fairly few alphanumeric characters in your answers.

Oh, and some services just plain don't let you log in from afar, e.g. Equifax requires you to use a North American proxy server. Not sure what good credit monitoring is if you can't access it...

CASH ADVANCE FEE / you can't gamble with a credit card
posted 2012-11-15

I learned that there's a rule somewhere that "you can't gamble with a credit card" -- but this does not manifest as you being unable to pay for lottery tickets with a credit card. No. I bought my first ever lottery ticket on a random whim on my birthday, and the terminal looked exactly the same as the ones at the checkout lanes at this grocery store. Nothing was different about how the transaction went through, no warning messages anywhere, etc.

It even looked normal on my credit card statement -- except that below it was a "CASH ADVANCE FEE". I've never made a cash advance in my life, so I called them up, and apparently that's what that perfectly normal-looking transaction was treated as.

So yeah. Don't pay for anything remotely gambling-construable with your credit card.

Formula for the length of a Hamming code from message (i.e. data bits) length
posted 2012-10-22

Apparently this is not published anywhere. For a message of length d bits, a Hamming code will be this many bits:

length of hamming code = d + 1 + floor(log2(d+1+floor(log2(d))))

I derived this myself with not much mathematical rigour, so you might want to check it if you're gonna use it for something important. (I actually don't know how to derive it symbolically, or I'd post the derivation. I worked out this formula by sort of... throwing logarithms at the problem until it got better.)

Why cats save humans from house fires
posted 2012-10-20

I realized today what their thought process probably is, in those cases we sometimes hear about of cats saving their humans by waking them up when there's a fire.

My ex-mother-in-common-law was in the kitchen cooking, and set the smoke alarm off. Moritz (that's the cat) immediately came running from wherever he was out in the yard, to investigate. He associates the smoke alarm with food, because whenever it goes off, food is being prepared.

So, when there's a real fire and the alarm goes off, the cats wake up their humans because something isn't right: the food annunciator is sounding, but no one has prepared any food for them! The humans must be awoken at once to rectify this situation.

Michael Geist - In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law.pdf
posted 2012-09-08

Here is a book related to the copyright kerfuffle from a few years ago. It's still relevant — and I've finally finished assembling a nice PDF of it (I meant to do it during the original kerfuffle, but it's been on the back burner ever since). The whole thing is available for free here, but in separate files per chapter. I combined them into one file, redid the cover graphic, added a table of contents, copied in all the "about the author" bits from the download website, and added document bookmarks. I think that's OK under the licence the original content was under :)

New Project: Food moulds that are harmless
posted 2012-07-17

Lamenting the death of the netbook
posted 2012-03-02

Turn off Google search auto-correct/auto-suggest
posted 2011-12-16

Lately, it seems that Google's "I think you meant this instead of what you actually searched for, so I'm not going to show you what you actually searched for" algorithm has gotten a lot more aggressive. This is bad, because it often leads to me concluding that there's no useful information on the topic I searched for.

For example, I use a PDF annotation program called Xournal. Recently I've seen talk of a new version called Xournal++. It's still in the early alpha stages, so when I got no useful results, I assumed that the developer hadn't released any info about it yet. Except...

Showing results for "xournal"
Search instead for "xournal++"

Dammit Google! If I hadn't wanted those two + signs there, I wouldn't have typed them!

Anyway, you can disable this nonsense by putting "&nfpr=1" in the search URL. This is easy to change in Opera; Firefox users will need to do a bit of hacking. (What does nfpr stand for? My guess is "no fucking proof-reading" :P)

Product Plug!
posted 2011-08-01

This may well be the first time I've ever done this, but... This thing is cool!:
(Ultra USB 2.0 to IDE/SATA Cable for 2.5-Inch/ 3.5-Inch / 5.25-Inch Drive with Power Adapter)

It's a USB to any-kind-of-hard-drive adapter. That is, it's got a USB plug on one end, and all the kinds of hard drive connector mashed together on the other end. I just ordered one, because this is going to save me so much time disassembling USB enclosures (see below).

List of Cities in British Columbia by Regional District
posted 2011-07-21

I needed to code a list of 114 cities in BC with what regional district they belong to. This is not an exhaustive list of BC's cities, but if you ever need to do the same thing, this may save you some time.

Source/method: I snarfed the wikipedia page for each city, using a shell script like this:

cat cities.txt | while read l; do wget "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/$l"; sleep 4; done
Then, I parsed the regional district out of the files that had it (manually for a few of them). Finally, I looked up the remaining few using this Google map plotter and ran their locations against the official maps.

The Data

cities with regional district.txt
official ID numbers.txt

The cities file has each regional district spelled out in English, but each text string is exactly equal to the official name, so you can do a simple search/replace against the "official ID numbers" file to get the official codings.

(I didn't use the official ID numbers because they are duplicated for the Island/Mainland regions for the two that have this distinction, and we needed those separated in our database.)

Shaw hijacking NXDOMAIN responses
posted 2011-06-09

I have a Shaw cable connection, and today I was surprised to find myself here:


Shaw is hijacking NXDOMAIN responses. There's a whole bunch of literature out there about why this is bad and how it breaks the Internet. To disable it for your connection, go here:


Stimulating Minds to Fantasy: A Critical Etymology for Sahul (Chris Ballard)
posted 2011-03-17

On the extremely remote chance that anyone else needs this academic paper on the origins of the name 'Sahul' for the Australian tectonic plate, here it is. It was practically impossible to find, so I think that trumps copyright. (I think it's pretty old, too, so it should be in the public domain anyway. Of course it legally isn't, but that's because of Disney and Sonny Bono lobbied/bribed US legislators, not because of any actual good that comes to society from having indefinite copyright terms.)

The Author Actual Moneys Project posted 2011-03-16

Looking for an alternative to book piracy that still pays the authors for their work? Try this.

A short story posted 2010-03-11

Here's a short story of the same kind as Shirley Jackson's The Lottery. It's my hope that high school students will one day be forced to read and analyse it :)

The Remainder

(Fun fact: 'remainder' is a legal term in property/inheritance law. Look it up after reading the story.)

Disassembly instructions for Seagate "Expansion" ST310005EXA101-RK 9SF2A4-500 external hard drive posted 2010-01-04

Eventually I'm going to set up a sort of knowledge base where I can dump articles on all the random things I discover while I'm working. Til then, I'm going to post this here because I couldn't find instructions for this anywhere on Google and it was a bitch to figure out without damaging the thing.

How to disassemble / open up the casing of a Seagate "Expansion" ST310005EXA101-RK 9SF2A4-500 external hard drive (PDF)

Downloaded flickr photo sorter posted 2009-11-07

So I had a substantial collection of unclassified, um, pictures, that I downloaded from Flickr, and I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be nice if instead of having to sort through all these pictures, I could just have them automatically sorted by username?"

So I wrote this perl script to do just that:

ls *.jpg | flickr_classify.pl [a flickr session ID cookie] > outputfile

It'll work without the session ID cookie, but on pictures that you need to be logged in to see it'll return "Dont_know" or "No_permission_to_view" (you'll see those on other photos too; usually it means they've been deleted). Then view the output file in your favourite text editor to make sure it worked out alright, flip the mkdir lines up to the top, and run it as a shell script.

I highly recommend you run this script on a COPY of your, um, photo collection and then double-check that nothing got overwritten/deleted before keeping the results.

Disassembly instructions for Lacie 301304U external hard drive ("Design by Neil Poulton") posted 2009-08-10

Eventually I'm going to set up a sort of knowledge base where I can dump articles on all the random things I discover while I'm working. Til then, I'm going to post this here because I couldn't find instructions for this anywhere on Google and it was a bitch to figure out without damaging the thing.

How to disassemble / open up the casing of a Lacie 301304U external hard drive (PDF)

Critical Mass Bike Ride, Victoria, BC posted 2009-08-01

I attended this event for the first time yesterday. First, Google, here are a number of things everyone needs to know about the Victoria Critical Mass ride:

Hopefully Google will index the above and it'll help other people who might (like I did) show up at 17:00 and wonder where everybody is.

Now, some commentary (things that didn't impress me about the ride):
The turnout was very small for a city this size. I mostly blame this on our nonstandard starting time and conflicting information posted on those few websites that have it. See above for the correct information.

I know that running red lights is kind of a standard practice for Critical Mass, and it makes sense for a parade-like event, but the execution on the Victoria ride this month was very poor. We ran red lights that were red when we got there, i.e. deliberately biking out into cross traffic and stopping it. I had originally intended to set an example by waiting at reds, but the turnout was so small that I wouldn't have been able to keep up with the group if I did that (especially since they wouldn't wait at the next red, either).

At least one person repeatedly went into oncoming traffic. I didn't think that was a good idea. Ironically, though, he had more chance of being run over from behind than in front — by the pissy car drivers who didn't want to take a few minutes out of their day and roared into oncoming traffic themselves to get around us.

We were very rude to the horses. Victoria, BC has horse drawn tour carriages, and while the horses are probably drugged (or very well trained or so psychologically broken that they don't care about traffic), being mobbed by tens of small, shiny bicycles probably sucked for them. Critical Mass riders also kept their horns and bells going when we passed horses, further startling them. Several trainers/minders had to reassure their horses after we went past the main parking spot for the carriages.

In conclusion, since this is a decentralized event there's no one to complain to about things. Instead, I'll be talking about them to the crowd before we leave on next month's ride (since I'm as much an organizer as anyone else).

Lamenting BC-STV
posted 2009-05-17

So we just had a big election in BC. From my point of view, we lost. It was the saddest I've ever been after an election — I'm used to the person I voted for not getting in, but this time we had a referendum on electoral reform and the thing I voted for didn't get elected there either. I'll moan more about it some other time, for now, here's a document I'm working on:

Why BC-STV failed (PDF)

Business Idea
posted 2009-05-01

As some who know me know, my strategy when I have a great idea for a business or a product is to immediately tell everyone I know. The hope is that someone with more free time, capital, or entrepreneurial drive will implement it so that I don't have to bother. I'm more concerned with bringing things into existence than owning and controlling them (which is why I hate patents and intellectual property in general).

Anyway, my idea is this: When you move, wouldn't it be great if you could just liquidate all your stuff instantly, and buy new stuff at the other end? No shipping, no worrying about stuff getting lost or broken on the way, and hey, a couch is a couch and a desk is a desk, right? (Obviously there are a few sentimental things that you'd want to really move, but the majority of our stuff really is just stuff.)

My idea is a kind of teleportation by logistics -- there could be a stuff escrow company (a national self-storage chain would be the ideal candidate, since they already have lots of space to keep stuff), that would record the transaction and then grant you all the replacement stuff when you get to your new city. Think of all the millions of litres of fuel and trucker time it would save.

Anyway, I'm going to go and tell a bunch of self-storage companies about this now; I just thought I should post it here first in case any of them got any ideas about patenting the process or something. Prior art!

posted 2008-11-27

So I thought of this all by myself last night, and was surprised to learn that no one's ever thought of it before! (Says Google.) So the riddle is — what animal is this?:

(Look at the image filename for the answer.)

Condoms in wallets
posted 2008-08-06

Why do people still do this? You'd think that several years of Google-assisted sex-ed would've put this (and a few other not-so-good traditions) to rest forever, but apparently not.

My boyfriend and I were on a bus back from the ferries the other night, when a fellow passenger sat on a wallet left by someone. In typically human fashion, he foisted it off on us as soon as we expressed any interest in being the ones to take responsibility, and naturally we started rifling through it.

(I'm the kind of person who likes to do his own detective work rather than turn stuff in to the lost & found — I believe [correctly or not] that I would put more effort into getting the one item returned than would the staff who deal in lost items by the bucketload.)

No useful ID, since the owner was a kid of 14 or 15, but we did find the clichèd condom. We did end up just passing it on to the lost & found, but not before I stole the kid's condom and left a note in its place:

Dude! Condoms in wallets = BAD IDEA
(Google it.)

On the one hand, we might've just ruined some poor kid's First Time (I imagine him, all genuinely and justifiably horny and nervous for the first time, fumbling awkwardly into his wallet for... a note from a creepy random stanger with an odd sense of humour), but on the other (says my boyfriend) he's probably better off without that extra baby. Besides, maybe he'll find it amusing too.

My own take on the condom-in-wallet tradition? I keep a fragment of the wrapper from my first time :)

I love the fucking Russians
posted 2008-07-26

So today I finally decided to make an attempt at converting my small selection of Liquid Audio files to something that I could actually play. Most of you are probably thinking, "Liquid Audio? What's that?" and you're right -- Liquid Audio was an obscure format in its peak, and has been a totally dead format since before my boyfriend graduated from high school.

However, for a brief few weeks, a younger version of me (who didn't fully grasp the problem of DRM and closed media formats) thought that Liquid Audio offered the best audio quality per bitrate of anything out there. At that time, it was easy to find a Winamp plugin (there were Winamp plugins for everything back then, and this was before Microsoft forced them to lock down the Disk Writer so it couldn't be used on WMA files). I also found the "Liquifier" encoder, which, being the content creator side of things, conveniently ignored all playback restriction flags.

Back then, I was also naive enough to assume that CD's would last forever and that (and this is a worse assumption) people I lent things to would always return them.

I put all of my Liquid Audio software on one CD. Somebody lost that CD.

I hadn't listened to those Liquid Audio tracks in so long that I'd set up a new computer and not bothered to reinstall the player, Liquifier, etc.

Liquid Audio failed, went out of business, and their downloads section disappeared from the web. Because they were a closed, proprietary, sue-happy company as much as the next one, no one else was providing copies of those programs.

Enter 2008, me running Linux as my main OS, and the fucking Russians (btw, I don't mean that to sound offensive at all; it's more along the lines of "Russians are fucking AWESOME"). After some Googling, I found one download link to Liquifier version 5, in Google's cache of an old Russian warez site. Those Russians -- they don't care about North American copyright law at all, and it's thanks to them that bits of our culture can sometimes be saved where they would otherwise have been lost to the intellectual property mongers.

I'm going to take this opportunity to return the favour, and help anyone else who might have Liquid Audio files still locked up in DRM obscurity. Here, as my first foray into posting content that might get me sued, is Liquifier Pro and some assorted utilities:

WARNING! For all their usefulness, Russian warez sites do sometimes slip nasty things into programs. There's no guarantee that these files are completely safe, so I strongly recommend that you only use them in a virtual machine.

Since Liquid Audio has been stone dead for years (at least as far as their player/encoder software goes), I don't think they'll care much. Also, for all its shortcomings, Canada's proposed copyright bill C-61 does enshrine violation of intellectual property for the purposes of interoperability, and I'd say rescuing people's dead music files counts.

Total Recorder seems to still be around so I might get a takedown notice from them, but we'll see. Hopefully they won't care about 7-year-old software that's 3 versions behind current and probably doesn't even run under Vista...

Stop bill C-61 please.
posted 2008-06-24 07:45 UTC

The Internet vs. the Library

Gary: "There was a famous quote at the time [1990's] that the Internet was like the Library of Congress, but with all the books thrown on the floor.

Felix: "Well, the Internet is still like the Library of Congress with all the books thrown on the floor, only now we have an autistic person who knows where he threw them — that being Google."

Update on the mudslide story
posted 2007-06-06 20:17 UTC

Turns out 2 people did die; buried under it in their truck. They were from Williams Lake and related to someone my mom knows. Archived here.

If I had spacial distortion technology...
posted 2007-06-05 21:30 UTC

...I would use it to put more stuff into my sandwich.

In other news, I wrote another short story (an episode in the Feline series); it should be up on AnthroArchives.org soon. It's called "Werecat!".

100 000 words!
posted 2007-06-03 03:09 UTC

Well, perhaps I will finish my novels within a year — I crossed the 100 000 word mark today in book 1. (For anyone not up to speed on that, I'm writing a trilogy of novels about werecats.)

I also tried to find something similar to what I'm writing in the library the other day, just to see what it was like. Apparently I was right when I said no one ever thinks of werecats — I can't find any examples of novel-length fiction that feature werecats that aren't just including them because they have werewolves and a miscellany of other werecreatures. Maybe I really am doing something new here?

Here's a picture of random girls in a field (at UVic):

(click for big)

Mud/Rock Slide Near Terrace
posted 2007-05-29 21:02 UTC
event in question 2007-05-28 15:30 UTC

The details, as I've heard them so far:

Pictures (click for bigger):

Archived news stories:
Opinion 250
Opinion 250 #2
Terrace Standard

Wouldn't it be easier to just find a real crab?
2007-05-29 06:18 UTC

Bay Street Bridge Fire
2007-05-29 02:18 UTC

So the Bay Street bridge caught fire Sunday evening; pictures:

More of the aftermath over at Google Photos...
Canada.com news article archived here.

Dream: (possibly related to watching The Fountain with my roommate last night): I dreamt I was in the plotline of Titan, but most of the cast were characters from Lexx., including me (I was Kai). I remember doing something like the tai chi dance scene among the background of stars from that scene in The Fountain (I'll get a still of it later) while singing the Brunnen G chant.

The Fountain: Good movie; I'd recommend it... my roommate and at least one of his friends call it the "best movie made so far;" I'd be a bit reluctant to call it that, but then again, they're Lit majors ;)   I will say that it has some of the things the best movie ever made will need, though (namely snow, a woman with short hair, love, death, and the aforementioned starry sky).

Favourite word this very minute: mondegreen

The Anuspout
2007-05-27 21:08 UTC

I bought this honey this morning that I just had to blog about: the non-drip spout looks like something out of Lexx.

Here it is passing gas:

...and here it is in action:

Here is the whole container, next to a tub of margerine with a questionable slogan on it:

No, Parkay, I don't know™... pray tell. They probably can't without upsetting the Butter Lobby:

In the United States, the color bans, drafted by the butter lobby, began in the dairy states of New York and New Jersey. In several states, the legislature enacted laws to force margarine manufacturers to add pink colorings to make the product look unpalatable, but the Supreme Court struck down New Hampshire's law and overruled these measures. By the start of the 20th century eight out of ten Americans could not buy yellow margarine, and those that could had to pay a hefty tax on it. Bootleg colored margarine became common, and manufacturers began to supply food-coloring capsules so that the consumer could knead the yellow color into margarine before serving it.
[from Wikipedia:Margerine. It's missing a citation, but we have a similar silliness in Quebec, so I believe it. If it were up to me, all food dyes that serve no purpose beyond changing a food's colour would be illegal — if our food is grey, then let our food be grey, I say! The truly ironic thing is that most butter is also artificially coloured.]

Favourite word this very minute: malapropism

Turn Signals a la xkcd

Watch the leading car in the left turn lane and the van behind it — sorry the quality's so bad, I took this freehand with auto-focus on, shooting through a dirty bus window, and with almost no space left on the camera.

Egg in the Microwave

This is from a while ago; mostly using it to test video embedding.