Mozilla Summit 2010 Group Photo

I am proud, grateful, and generally delighted to be one of the many smiling faces in this photo:

Mozilla Summit 2010 in Whistler BC

Photo by Gen Kanai.


Map of Nuclear Explosions

This animated map of nuclear explosions from 1945 to 1998 is remarkable to watch. Note how France and England both have extensive tests, but none on their own mainland. Watch through to the end to see an overlay of all explosions. Since this animation was compiled, North Korea has conducted two nuclear explosions.

According to an article from Scientific American about the idea of using a nuclear explosion to seal the Gulf of Mexico leak, the Soviet Union regularly used nuclear explosions for domestic projects:

The Soviet program, known as Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy, was launched in 1958. The project saw 124 nuclear explosions for such tasks as digging canals and reservoirs, creating underground storage caverns for natural gas and toxic waste, exploiting oil and gas deposits and sealing gas leaks. It was finally mothballed by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989.


That Oil Was For Us

While lamenting the state of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, my wife pointed out that, as consumers of oil, we’re all a party to it. I seemed so obvious that I was embarrassed that it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. Most things in my life – the heat in my home and office, the gas in my car, and the plastics in so many of the good we consume – are all derived from petroleum products.

I don’t know if any of the oil I use (either directly or indirectly) comes from BP, or from the Gulf of Mexico. If anything, though, this lack of knowledge makes my role even worse.

Of course, if rules were broken (or the rules were inadequate), we should do our best to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again. Still, we can’t eschew our own role in creating the type of economic and regulatory environment where this type of of disaster can happen. They were drilling that oil for us.


You Don’t Explode in Space

According to NASA, a human (or animal) exposed to the vacuum of space without any protection would not explode, or implode, or boil, or turn into a super-hero. Rather, you’d eventually die from the lack of oxygen. If you get back inside quick enough, you could survive unharmed.

Good to know.


The Debaters

Fellow Zap Your PRAM’er, Patrick Ledwell, was featured on the May 8th episode of The Debaters on CBC Radio One.

When someone you know is on national radio with the intent of being funny, you can’t help but be a bit nervous for them. As my office mates can attest, being funny is hard.

After his opening line, there was no more need for nerves. In the recent parlance of our office, multiple-lolz.


GM’s $1,600/car Health Tax

A recent episode of This American Life uses the story of NUMMI, a joint-venture auto plant between GM and Toyota in 1984, to help tell the larger story of why the American auto industry produced such poor quality cars for so many years.

Though it was peripheral to the main point of the story (how GM failed to learn from Toyota, despite amble opportunity), this quote stood out to me:

“Over the years General Motors negotiated contracts with the UAW with such generous health care coverage that by 2007 it amounted to more than $1,600 for each vehicle GM produced in North America.”

Emphasis mine.


Things I Didn’t Know: Liberal Arts

Why is a “Liberal Arts degree” is called “Liberal”. I had wondered if and how it might be related to political liberalism. It turns out, it’s not.

According to the Wikipedia, the Liberal Arts are so called because:

In classical antiquity, the liberal arts denoted the education proper to a free man (Latin: liberus, “free”), unlike the education proper to a slave.

I did not know that.


Have You Heard?

In order to hear a phone message, I get the following four prompts; Every time.

  • You have one unheard message.
  • Check unheard messages, press 1-1.
  • The following message has not been heard.
  • First unheard message.

Save the Day on This American Life

In addition to enjoying a new album each month (March has been Postdata), I’ve also been listening to This American Life.

The first act of the most recent episode, entitled Save the Day, is a remarkable story, well told:

James Spring had hit his late 30s, and found his life utterly unremarkable. He needed to do something big. So James decided to try to rescue two kids who had been kidnapped by suspected murderers, and taken to Mexico.


Chile quake measured in Virginia well

A well in Virginia (yeah, the one in the United States) measured a 2-foot drop during the Chilean earthquake in February. Apparently, the “regular sine-wave variations are due to the effect of lunar tides on the Earth’s crust”. I find that almost as intriguing as the quake effect.

Water level chart

See other peculiar side-effects of the massive earthquake.