A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[PHOTO] On the endless runner game of Google Chrome for Android

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What an interesting easter egg #google #chrome #android #dinosaurs #endlessrunner

I discovered the above easter egg just recently. I’ve found that it has since been described by others, including by Lifehacker’s Patrick Allan.

You’ve probably seen the cute little dinosaur that appears when Chrome can’t establish a network connection. Well he’s actually the star of his own endless runner game that you can play on PC and Android.

Amit Agarwal wrote about the game at Digital Inspiration when a tipster mentioned the discovery, and it’s actually pretty fun! When you reach the “Unable to connect to Internet” screen in your Chrome browser, just hit the space bar to start the game and use the space bar to jump over incoming cacti. The game works on the Android version of Chrome as well. Just turn on airplane mode and tap the screen to start jumping. Instead of getting mad when you can’t get a connection, you can blow off some steam playing an addictive game. My high score is 1,081—bring it on.

My score is not that high, yet.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 6, 2015 at 4:02 pm

[ISL] Peter Rukavina on the Rise of the Cyberneticists on Prince Edward Island

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Peter Rukavina has a thoughtful essay about interesting new trends in Prince Edward Island politics, drawing from Norbert Weiner and the Island’s own history..

It was impossible not to think of cybernetics while watching Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s address to senior provincial public servants yesterday, The Premier as Public Servant Leader.

In his address, MacLauchlan clearly demonstrates that he is, at heart, a cyberneticist – a “steersman,” if you will – and that he views his role as Premier to manage a complex system of people, resources, and motivations to, as he references several times, “move the trend lines” of prosperity, demographics, revenue, and expenses.

The Premier’s construction of “ten lenses” through which policy will be regarded – collegial, people, prosperity, engagement, ethical, strategic, rural, frugality, entrepreneurial, small is big – surely equips his office, and his government, with a set of tuned “organs” that Weiner describes:

Much of this book concerns the limits of communication within and among individuals. Man is immersed in a world which he perceives through his sense organs. Information that he receives is co-ordinated through his brain and nervous system until, after the proper process of storage, collation, and selection, it emerges through effector organs, generally his muscles. These in turn act on the external world, and also react on the central nervous system through receptor organs such as the end organs of kinaesthesia; and the information received by the kinaesthetic organs is combined with his already accumulated store of information to influence future action.

This approach to Prince Edward Island as a cybernetically-governable system is echoed when MacLauchlan discusses his “strategic lens”[.]

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2015 at 11:32 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Vintage Toronto Ads: A Taste of Hungary”

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Torontoist’s Jamie Bradburn takes a look at the now almost entirely disappeared cluster of Hungarian restaurants on Bloor Street West towards the Annex. Vintage ads are shared there.

Walking into the Country Style Hungarian Restaurant along Bloor Street in the Annex is more than dining on central European cuisine served on checkered tablecloths. The venerable eatery stands as one of the last links to the strip’s past, before Hungarian businesses, butchers, and restaurants gave way to cheap sushi joints and falafel spots. The influx of refugees following the uprising against Hungary’s communist government in 1956 built up a community that stretched into Kensington Market and Yorkville.

In November 1956, shortly after the Hungarian revolution, Canada’s federal government announced that it would accept all refugee claimants, a move possibly motivated by Cold War–era one-upmanship. Around 37,000 Hungarians came to Canada, with 12,000 of them settling in Toronto. They were temporarily housed by organizations like the Salvation Army and YMCA, and in locations stretching from the CNE Coliseum to Chorley Park. Highly educated, the Hungarians made their mark by adding a touch of cosmopolitanism to a city starting to shed its staid, conservative skin.

[. . .]

The heart of Bloor Street’s Hungarian strip, between Brunswick and Bathurst, earned several nicknames. “Wiener Schnitzel Row” was favoured by some, while others, with apologies to writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, dubbed it the “Goulash Archipelago.” Beyond the émigrés, the cheap, hearty food appealed to university students on tight budgets.

Toronto’s first Hungarian eateries opened in the mid-1950s prior to the revolution, offering a taste of middle Europe to awakening post-war tastebuds. Clientele varied by restaurant: the Coffee Mill in Yorkville attracted artisans with its sidewalk café, while spots along Bay Street like Csarda and Hungarian Village advertised in tourist publications.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2015 at 11:28 pm

[LINK] “China’s Huawei Unveils Luxury Watch in Bid to Rival Apple’s”

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Go Huawei!. From Bloomberg:

China’s Huawei Technologies Co. unveiled its first smart watch that is aimed at the higher end of the wearables market, a week before Apple Inc. is expected to host an event to present a rival device.

The 42-millimeter (1.6-inch) diameter luxury watch will be the world’s first wearable with sapphire crystal glass, Richard Yu, chief executive officer of Huawei’s consumer business group, said at an event in Barcelona Sunday, ahead of the Monday opening of the Mobile World Congress. Yu also unveiled an upgrade to Huawei’s smart band, introduced at last year’s conference.

Huawei, ranked fifth in global smartphone shipments during the third quarter, is focusing on higher-end smartphones that can rival Apple’s or models by Samsung Electronics Co. All have expanded into wearables.

[. . .]

For Huawei, this year’s upgrade in accessories comes after sales of higher-end smartphones helped revenue rise about 20 percent in 2014 and operating profit improve. The maker of phone-network gear that also competes against the likes of Ericsson AB, has also been widening its product portfolio as it works toward a goal of achieving $70 billion in revenue by 2018, from $46 billion last year.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2015 at 11:26 pm

[LINK] “Decades of human waste have made Mount Everest a ‘fecal time bomb’”

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Peter Holley’s profoundly disgusting article in the Washington Post notes the extent to which completely unregulated climbs to the top of the world’s tallest mountain has left vast amounts of waste scattered about. Connections could probably be made to the extent to which mountainclimbing generally can be problematic.

When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the top of Mount Everest in 1953, it was arguably the loneliest place on Earth — an oxygen-deprived desert perched atop an icy, 29,000-foot ladder of death.

Over the last 62 years, more than 4,000 climbers have replicated the pair’s feat, with hundreds more attempting to do so during the two-month climbing season each spring, according to the Associated Press.

Along the way, people have left oxygen canisters, broken climbing equipment, trash, human waste and even dead bodies in their wake, transforming the once pristine peak into a literal pile of … well, you get the idea.

“The two standard routes, the Northeast Ridge and the Southeast Ridge, are not only dangerously crowded but also disgustingly polluted, with garbage leaking out of the glaciers and pyramids of human excrement befouling the high camps,” mountaineer Mark Jenkins wrote in a 2013 National Geographic article on Everest.

This week, Ang Tshering, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, warned that pollution — particularly human waste — has reached critical levels and threatens to spread disease on the world’s highest peak.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2015 at 11:24 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto tunnel’s builder comes forward, says it wasn’t really a tunnel at all”

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As I expected, the builder of the mysterious tunnel by York has come out. The Globe and Mail reports, drawing heavily on a Toronto Sun interview.

The self-described “main digger” of the Toronto tunnel has come forward, saying it was meant as a private hideaway and a “fun project” to challenge his construction know-how.

In an interview with the Toronto Sun published Thursday morning, Elton McDonald, a 22-year-old construction worker, said the project was never meant to be a tunnel at all. “I was going to expand it to have a couple of rooms,” Mr. McDonald said. “I was hoping to put in a TV. I did some barbecuing there. It was more a place to hang out.”

[. . .]

Mr. McDonald has lived in the nearby Driftwood neighbourhood for years, and told the Sun the tunnel site had been there for more than two years prior to its discovery.

Inside the tunnel, police found a sophisticated bunker reinforced with a wood frame built out of plywood planks. “The individuals responsible for building it clearly had some level of expertise in ensuring its structural integrity,” Deputy Chief Mark Saunders told reporters on Feb. 24.

Mr. McDonald told the Sun he had help from some close friends and used equipment borrowed from his boss, including a gas generator. This was how the police found him, Mr. McDonald said: They traced the equipment back to his boss, who then identified him. (“My boss was not mad,” he added.)

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2015 at 11:20 pm

[LINK] On the possible extensive water oceans of early Mars

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The New York Times‘ Marc Kaufman reported on the controversial new suggestion, described in the new Science paper “Strong water isotopic anomalies in the martian atmosphere: Probing current and ancient reservoirs”.

After six years of planetary observations, scientists at NASA say they have found convincing new evidence that ancient Mars had an ocean.

It was probably the size of the Arctic Ocean, larger than previously estimated, the researchers reported on Thursday. The body of water spread across the low-lying plain of the planet’s northern hemisphere for millions of years, they said.

If confirmed, the findings would add significantly to scientists’ understanding of the planet’s history and lend new weight to the view that ancient Mars had everything needed for life to emerge.

“The existence of a northern ocean has been debated for decades, but this is the first time we have such a strong collection of data from around the globe,” said Michael Mumma, principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Center for Astrobiology and an author of the report, published in the journal Science. “Our results tell us there had to be a northern ocean.”

But other experts said the question was hardly resolved. The ocean remains “a hypothesis,” said Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist of the Curiosity rover mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The Guardian‘s Ian Sample explained the scientists’ methodology.

The scientists used the Keck II telescope and Nasa’s Infrared Telescope Facility, both in Hawaii, and the ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, to make maps of the Martian atmosphere over six years. They looked specifically at how different forms of water molecules in the Martian air varied from place to place over the changing seasons.

Martian water, like that on Earth, contains standard water molecules, made from two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, and another form of water made with a heavy isotope of hydrogen called deuterium. On Mars, water containing normal hydrogen is lost to space over time, but the heavier form is left behind.

When normal water is lost on Mars, the concentration of deuterium in water left behind goes up. The process can be used to infer how much water there used to be on the planet. The higher the concentration of deuterium, the more water has been lost.

The infrared maps show that water near the Martian ice caps is enriched with deuterium. The high concentration means that Mars must have lost a vast amount of water in the past, equivalent to more than six times that now locked up in the planet’s frozen ice caps.

The scientists calculate that the amount of water was enough to create a global ocean that covered the entire surface of Mars to a depth of 137m. But Mars was probably never completely submerged. Based on the Martian terrain today, the scientists believe the water pooled into a much deeper ocean in the low-lying northern plains, creating an ocean that covered nearly a fifth of the planet’s surface. The Atlantic, by comparison, covers about 17% of Earth’s surface.

“Ultimately we can conclude this idea of an ocean covering 20% of the planet which opens the idea of habitability and the evolution of life on the planet,” said Geronimo Villanueva, the first author on the study.

The Vastitas Borealis, the deep and level northern-hemispheric plain, has long been thought of as a possible ancient ocean bed.

The science can be challenged on multiple grounds. For example, are scientists correct in their judgement of Mars’ ancient hydrogen/deuterium ratios? It could go either way if they are wrong. Regardless, this has implications for ancient–and even current?–life on the Red Planet.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2015 at 11:17 pm

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