Where’s the Beef?

January 28th, 2011, 11:22 pm PST by Greg

Step 1: Taco Bell sued because their “Edible Beef-like Taco Substance” contains only 35% meat, instead of the 40% required by law to call your product “beef” in the United States.

Step 2: Taco Bell president publishes a letter saying “no, our product is 88% beef, and the other 12% is unicorn jerky”.

Aside on terminology: there are three similar terms floating around here. I’m going to use them as such:

  • beef: muscle tissue of a cow.
  • “beef”: things that can be sold with the word “beef” on them, and apparently have to be 40% beef.
  • “Edible Beef-like Taco Substance”: what Taco Bell serves.

Step 3: I think to myself, 88% is a suspicious number. I mean, I have seen what comes in a Taco Bell taco, and it ain’t 88% cow, and claiming it is is a bit of a stretch.

Step 4: Waitaminute… “beef” has to be 40% beef. Is Taco Bell saying that their “Beef-like Taco Substance” is 88% “beef”, not actually 88% beef? But “beef” only has to be 40% beef.

88% × 40% = 35%

So, the President of Taco Bell just announced to the world “claims that our taco filling is only thirty-five percent beef are completely inaccurate. It’s actually thirty-FIVE percent beef, and I’d stake my career on it! No lawsuit that claims otherwise will ever succeed!”

Um… clever?

Loudness… I mean LOUDNESS!

January 27th, 2011, 11:15 pm PST by Greg

Okay, seriously… am I the only one with ears? I’m hardly an audiophile, but I’m increasingly finding new music unlistenable purely as a result of the loudness war. If you don’t know what that is, this YouTube video has an excellent description of loudness wars.

I have songs that I don’t like listening to because I know there’s a better song in there somewhere: I just can’t hear it because all the interesting stuff has been clipped.

Most recently, I found myself thinking that the Alicia Keys vocal Empire State of Mind is totally muddied. It would probably sound awesome if the vocal wasn’t squished in with everything else, but everything is too loud to let that happen. [You can certainly find it on your favourite file sharing service—don’t pay for it, it’s not worth it.] Most annoyingly, the video on youtube actually has better audio (to my ear at least) than the album version.

Screw it. I’m just going to listen to Gordon over and over forever. I ripped it myself from a CD I bought sometime in the middle 90s and it sounds awesome.

Wikipedia Anti-Hate

August 26th, 2009, 10:31 pm PDT by Greg

There has been a bunch of bad noise about Wikipedia on the tubes recently and it’s annoying me.

First, there was a study about Wikipedia growth slowing. Basically, the rate of new article creation has slowed and one-off editors are more likely to have their edits reverted.

Secondly, Wikipedia is adding a new level of editorial oversight for biographies of living people. This amounts to turning on flagged revisions for those articles: basically, non-logged-in users only see “flagged” edits that have been approved by “trusted editor” (i.e. not worth reverting).

Both of these caused a lot of consternation: Wikipedia is over the hill, Wikipedia is becoming elitist, etc. I made the mistake of reading slashdot comments on the second issue and regreted it.

Seriously? Can you look closely at the English Wikipedia and come to the conclusion that it’s dying?

Try clicking “random article” in Wikipedia a few times. Can you really say that the number of new articles shouldn’t be slowing down? Many of the articles are pretty dicey on the notability criteria. There is simply a finite number of “notable” topics that need to be written about: I’d say that English Wikipedia is closing in on that number. There will always be gaps, but they’re getting hard to find.

I have done a moderate amount of Wikipedia editing: about 200 edits across Wikimedia sites. In looking at the history of pages, I’ve never seen an edit that has been unjustly reverted. (Although I do tend to stay away from controversial pages.) Most of the reversions I have seen are of the quality “my high school principal is teh gay”. Again, I’m sure there are problems and edit wars, but they are definitely not the majority.

As for “flagged revisions”, I think it’s a great solution to the vandalism problem. Logged in users and editors will always see the most recent revisions, only anonymous viewers will see the “flagged” versions. The criteria for flagging seems to be “not worth reverting”, so that’s pretty minimal. I’d feel better if there was a better definition of “trusted editor” who can flag a revision, but assuming there is a sufficient set of people doing the flagging, it should work well.

So why the hate? My theory is that all of these people have written long articles about their totally awesome band, but had the page deleted for not being notable. Or maybe their high school principal really is teh gay, and they feel they are being censored.

Awesomesauce Videos

October 23rd, 2008, 10:03 pm PDT by Greg

I have two video links to share, both of which are serious must-sees.

First is Ron Howard’s Call To Action. I’m sure many of you saw this in your favourite aggregator today, but if not, it’s awesome.

Second, I have been wasting my life opening wine bottles! I was shocked when I saw this video about removing wine bottle foil, and even more shocked when I tried it and it worked.

Wacky Predictions

October 10th, 2008, 3:46 pm PDT by Greg

Since my last prediction worked out so well, I have decided I should make more. [Keep in mind that I’m totally making this stuff up: I wouldn’t bet the farm on any of it. I’m also not saying that I want this stuff to happen, just that I think it will.]

First, the most important thing in the whole universe, ever: the US presidential race. It’s no longer terribly controversial to predict that Obama is going to win, so I’ll have to go wackier.

Prediction 1: In the lead-up to the election, McCain will continue personal attacks on Obama. This will annoy voters and open up Obama’s lead. Obama will continue to do what he has been doing the whole time: “I don’t want to make personal attacks; I want to talk about the issues and have this good economic plan.”

Prediction 2: Obama wins with 55–60% of the vote. I’ll say 57% (a 14 point spread). I have no good sense of how that plays out in the electoral college. (At the moment, electoral-vote.com has 343-184 with 11 too close to call.)

Prediction 3: The Dow Jones will continue to slide down until late October, and will begin to rise slowly after that. Pundits will blame this on Obama’s pending victory, even though it’s just bargain hunters in the market. Either way, I will effectively be betting real money that this guy is right (about the market, not the lame money-saving tips). [Edit 10/12: and this guy.]

Prediction 4: As to the Canadian election, electionprediction.org is currently predicting another Conservative minority, which is probably where the smart money would go. I’m going to go crazy and predict a Liberal minority. No real reason other than 4 parties beating up on Harper might take its toll.

Let’s see how I do. Anybody got anything to add?

F1 driver drives wife crazy

September 17th, 2008, 2:43 pm PDT by Greg

I don’t generally like posting digg/reddit-style hilarious links (that’s what they’re for). But, this video of an ex-Formula 1 driver terrorizing his wife is just too funny to let it go.

The video doesn’t really get going until 1:30, so you might want to bump it ahead. You can see the G forces by the way her hair hangs. Here’s a summary, in case you can’t see it for yourself:

One side of the car: TalktalktalktalktalkTALKtalk. Talktalktalk. TalktalktalkTALKtalkTALK! SCREAM! SCREECH! WAIL!

Other side of the car: Calm… driving… calm… driving… slight smirk… calm… driving.

Of course he’s calm: he’s a Formula 1 driver. The scenery is coming at him at like 1/2 the pace he’s used to. And, concentrating on driving no matter what happens is his job.

Edit: I just watched it again. I noticed how totally-immovable he is while cornering, while she struggles against the Gs. Probably also part of the “professional driver” thing.

I Love the World!

September 12th, 2008, 10:47 am PDT by Greg

It’s Friday, and many of you have probably had a hard week. I personally haven’t: it has been my first actual week of being left alone to my study leave. Anyway…

The Discovery Channel has recently started airing a new promo commercial. Apparently, Discovery USA has been airing its version for six months or so, but Discovery Canada has just put together their version. I love the spot and think of it as video prozac.

Being unable to find it online, I had to take matters into my own hands and hope I don’t incur the wrath of Discovery’s laywers (for promoting their promotion… I think they might let it go). So, you can watch the 60 second Canadian version or the 30 second Canadian version.

If you watch that a couple of times and don’t feel like the weekend’s going to be all right, you just have a heart of stone.

Because I’m nothing if not obsessive, I will also include some links to other versions: the 1 minute US version, the 30 second US version, and a 3 minute live performance at some Discovery party or something.

All of this means I finally understand the xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel comic. The original ad has also earned a World of Games parody and a Wikipedia entry.

The song is based on the campfire song (that I had never heard before) “I Love the Mountains”. If you’d like a sample, CD Baby comes through with a sample of it from Let’s Go! by Susie Tallman.


September 8th, 2008, 1:09 am PDT by Greg

On Saturday, me, Kat, Oli, Tina, and Oli’s brother Jon went canoeing. We rented canoes somewhere up the Pitt River where I’ve never been before and paddled up a little tributary.

Canoeing is something I grew up doing, and it’s something very personal for me. For someone who isn’t sentimental or nostalgic about anything, I’m deeply sentimental about canoes. They remind me of where I grew up, my father, and a lot of great times messing around on lakes. To give you an idea, here is a summary of days in my life:

The hulking fibreglass barges that you can rent really bear little resemblance to canoes as I remember them. As far as I’m concerned, canoes are made from cedar and canvas (even though kevlar or other exotic materials are tougher and lighter), have no keel, a very rounded bottom (left-to-right), some rocker (curve front-to-back), and tumblehome (sides curve in at the top).

All of those shape choices make for a canoe that will happily throw you into the water if not shown the respect it deserves, and needs a little skill to get it to go in a straight line. But, they are truly beautiful, and maneuver like a dream.

I have only really found one video that properly shows how beautiful and effortless solo paddling can be in a nice canoe. To give you an idea of the skill here, the bow jam (the stroke that guy does around 0:45) has two possible outcomes: (1) the canoe turns sharply away from the paddle side; or (2) you find yourself suddenly in the water, with the canoe drifting slowly away. These outcomes are equally likely on your first few attempts.

I hadn’t really realized the extent to which this style of paddling is descended from one guy: Omer Stringer. He taught my father (and hundreds of others) how to paddle, and my father taught me (and hundreds of other school kids and boy scouts). This style is apparently now known as “classic Canadian soloing” or “Omering“. It’s what the guy in the video above is doing, and it’s what I’m doing if you’ve ever seen me in a canoe.

At my parents’ place, there is a framed picture that my dad took of Omer doing a headstand in a canoe. He would have been into his 70s when the picture was taken. He was probably past doing the running-jump off the dock into a canoe by then.

Anyway, there wasn’t really any point to that. It’s just the only nostalgia I’ve got.


April 15th, 2008, 11:36 pm PDT by Greg

I have been watching a lot of Top Gear recently. Top Gear is a British car show: I have been describing it as three middle-aged idiots playing with cars. Their motto is “ambitious, but rubbish”, which pretty fairly describes the challenges they are given.

My favourite challenge, by a wide margin, is when the three of them try to prove that British Leyland made decent cars. That video is about a half hour long, but well worth watching. If don’t howl with laughter during the rough-road test, you just aren’t trying. I love it when one of them almost falls down laughing at another. It happens a lot.

They also spend a lot of time driving outrageously expensive supercars that I could go a lifetime without seeing, let alone driving. Basically, car porn. All of this has made me remember that I actually like driving: I just haven’t ever owned a fun car to drive. Clearly, I need a sports car. Stay with me here…

Now, a nice Ferrari or Lamborghini runs somewhere upwards of $200k, but a Porsche 911 or Lotus Elise is more in the $100k range. A Porsche Cayman is a damn nice car too and lists new for only about $60k.

That’s certainly downright affordable, but I’m not proposing that I buy a brand new Porsche. As with all cars, these things depreciate a lot in the first few years of ownership (which is approximately the time interval between becoming a doctor/lawyer and having a child, forcing you to sell your sports car and get an atrocious SUV). A used 911 that’s in solidly good condition can be had about $50k.

After the first few years, depreciation on such a car should be relative to how much it is driven, not its age: if it’s driven occasionally, well-maintained, and kept in a garage, it should resell for a good price. Fuel economy in one of these cars isn’t actually bad either: they’re so light that the big engine doesn’t have to work terribly hard.

That brings me to the real plan: get a gently-used cheap car (a Yaris, Civic, etc.) and use that for everyday driving. Get a used 911 for occasional fun-driving. Come on… how can you not want that?

Imagine the joy of it: pack an overnight bag, throw it in the 911, and go to the Okanagan (the hard way, through Manning Park) for the weekend. Marvel at the tool beside you that paid only $10k less than you for his ugly, boring SUV.

Of course, we’d have to have a garage to put it in. So, buy a house first. Also, our current car has been making a different noise for the last few weeks. That probably has to be replaced first too. Kat should probably have a job to make it all affordable. Kids are out too, but that was the plan anyway. So, some time in the next decade, this plan may be implementable.

What was most surprising was that Oli and Tina had been watching Top Gear as well, and Oli had the exact same thoughts at the exact same time. He wants the Elise.

Strangely, when I mentioned this plan to Kat, she didn’t really seem to think it was a bad idea. I think it’s a trap.

April Fools Links

April 2nd, 2008, 11:45 am PDT by Greg

Yesterday was April Fools. Most site were pleasantly restrained: I find most Internet April Fools things annoying and commend Joel at Boing Boing Gadgets for his restraint. Still, I had two favourites.

I was Rick Rolled in a most pleasantly non-standard way at Digg. That video is well worth watching: it’s a Muppet Rick Roll (and I’m not Rick Rolling you when I say that).

Then, over at my dearest Boing Boing, I was Numa Rolled. Yay Xeni!

It’s not April Fools related, but my cover song fetish led to me love Leningrad Cowboys and Red Army Choir covering Sweet Home Alabama.

Finally, at Channel 4, they apparently ask celebrities “What’s Your Favorite Curse Word?”

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