- Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?
Interesting discussion of some factors that may have delayed the invention of a bicycle
Horses were a common and accepted mode of transportation at the time. They could deal with all kinds of roads. They could carry heavy loads. Who then needs a bicycle? In this connection, it has been claimed that the bicycle was invented in response to food shortages due to the “Year without a Summer”, an 1816 weather event caused by the volcanic explosion of Mt. Tambora the year earlier, which darkened skies and lowered temperatures in many parts of the world. The agricultural crisis caused horses as well as people to starve, which led to some horses being slaughtered for food, and made the remaining ones more expensive to feed. This could have motivated the search for alternatives.
- How a Single Pair of Sneakers Explains the Booming Billion-Dollar Sneaker Resale Industry
I used to go to sports card stores and look at their displays of valuable cards to see what I couldn’t afford and what my collection could potentially be worth. I guess the new generation looks at sneakers instead.
The inspection merely starts with the smell test. Zac rotates the shoebox and inspects it for the smallest details. If the shoes are tightly crammed in the box, they’re likely fake; if Nike’s trademark orange is lighter than usual, they’re likely fake; if the zeroes listing out the shoe’s code look wonky, they’re likely fake; if the wrong text in the shoe’s description is bolded, they’re likely fake; if the wrapping paper inside the box rips too easily, they’re likely fake. From there, Zac goes further down the rabbit hole, to the shoes themselves, which take inspiration from the classic Air Jordan 3: the craggy “Elephant”-printed pattern should actually cut into the grey leather, the perforations on the white toebox should all line up to form a series of increasingly smaller “U” shapes, the eyelets should be spaced evenly. Zac has touched so many shoes he knows what the leather should feel like, and while the tongue on this Dunk is yellowing, it’s a natural yellow, not “like a piss-yellow,” he says, which would suggest fraud.
- Why Are There Palm Trees in Los Angeles?
I’m sure you identify LA with palm trees just like I do, but they are not native to the state! It was a conscious move to line the LA streets with them, and there’s a lot more interesting stuff about palm tree in general.
One way is that they’re outrageously easy to move around: they don’t have elaborate root systems like oak trees, but instead a dense yet small root ball. This can be pretty easily dug up and transported, then planted, and palms are not particular about where they are, as long as they have sun and water. To make things easier for developers, palms, being more like grasses than trees, don’t demonstrate all that much difference between individuals; one Mexican fan palm is pretty much like the next. And if you’re a developer, consistency and ease of transportation is a fantastic combination: you can line the streets with them, or plant one on each side of an entrance!
- Ninja-Proof Seats
Psychology Today has a lot of interesting articles that explain new concepts or classifications. The only problem is that each really only require a paragraph so the remainder of the article or issue is fluff or ads. This article introduces the concept of prospect and refuge when it comes to picking a seat.
- 9 questions about the Hong Kong protests you were too embarrassed to ask
A couple of insights about the background of the current HK protests
It’s also important to note that a key date is coming up: October 1, 2019, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It’s a bad look to crush a popular movement if you’re trying to celebrate the greatness of your country.
On the other hand, it doesn’t look good to have an entire city spending weeks leading up to your anniversary challenging your authority and risking their safety for democracy. Some analysts and protesters think China might want to go ahead and intervene before the October 1 date; others think China may show restraint as the world watches.
While back to school sales started in July, we didn’t really do much until August. The kids have most of what they need already, they don’t need new clothes and we have a ton of stationary supplies. We ended up just buying them some new backpacks and lunchboxes.
The weather in August let up a bit, there was a week and a bit where it wasn’t too hot and we could actually spend time outdoors. Lots of summer thunderstorms though. By the end of the month, it was TOO cold. We could no longer wear shorts everyday and could have needed a jacket in the morning. Boy that switched quickly.
I played a bit more Hearthstone this month as there was a new expansion, and I started winding back some of my Disney Heroes playing – I’ve been playing a year and it’s starting to lose the novelty (just endless levelling again). Instead of looking for new mobile games, I am trying out DS emulation. Tired of micropayments and the game design that funds it.
As a child, I was not interested in Shazam and I’m still not. The Shazam! movie didn’t actually interest me that much either but I ran out of things to watch. I guess it may pay off to keep up to date on DC universe movies.
Like many DC movies, it wasn’t very good. The script just wasn’t refined enough. It tried a little too hard to be funny, had cardboard cutout villains, and tried to make it novel to discover super powers. But I think everyone has seen enough comic book-based stories to know what that is like now. I also didn’t like that it was a story targeted to kids, where the lead characters act like how you would expect kids to be of they learned that they had powers. That went on for like 20 minutes, who actually finds that funny??
Only two redeeming factors in this movie: 1) It is shot in Toronto and 2) Shazam can now participate in the DC universe. Maybe they will take on infinite crisis as a crossover? But by itself, this is a two out of five stars movie.
The Second Winter is a short Korean film (only an hour long, and could be even shorter as there was a lot of silence used for dramatic effect) about the millennial struggle between doing something you’re passionate about versus a job to survive. The story focuses on two newlyweds that are 30 (Millennials, or is it asians? Marry late) who can’t hold down a steady job. The man wants to be an actor (historically a job that is notoriously difficult to get started in) and is auditioning for Don Quixote. The woman can’t get a full time job because she has no children and companies don’t want to hire her in case she goes on maternity. The struggle is characterized through a search for a new place to live. They identify a larger apartment that is nicely decorated but seems out of their league (there’s a running joke that you have to live like “North Europeans” there) and think about what it would be like to be someone that can live there.
I’m not sure what the title refers to, nor the recurring theme of a broken heater in their current apartment. Maybe it is a plot device that justifies their apartment search. Beyond that, it is pretty clear what the movie is about. Not a great movie but not a big time investment either. Three out of five stars.
I saw this on inflight entertainment, and thought they just added the original Hellboy to their catalogue (as they do from time to time with older movies). But turns out there was a 3rd movie/reboot of the franchise.
I’m not sure if Hellboy #3 is a serious film. It felt like I was watching a satire of the horror film genre – but maybe that was the point. And there was so much blood. I kind of kept watching to try and understand why I thought the first Hellboy movie was worth watching.
Beyond the grotesque monsters and the overuse of blood, the movie gets a little better. It weaves in a lot of historical mythology which I am not clear whether it was made up for this movie or part of his back story. The movie also serves to build up a supporting cast of “heroes” for Hellboy in case it becomes a series. I’m not sure I want to watch anymore though as the blood is just too much. Two out of five stars.
This was a movie I never expected to see. I had heard about how The Wandering Earth broke Chinese box office records, and was supposed to usher a new age for China sci-fi. I read about how the Chinese author toured the US and explained how a movie like this would never work in the US/be understood by a western audience. But still, I was surprised that this movie made it to the World selection in the inflight entertainment.
The Wandering Earth tells the tale of a near future where the sun will supernova in 30 years. Earth decides that the best way to save itself is to move itself (the physical planet, not the civilization) out of the solar system. That’s a ludicrous proposition if you think about it. Gravity won’t work properly for one, the Earth would freeze being so far away and well you can find a lot of thing that don’t make sense if you start thinking too hard.
The story focuses on one family, the father who works on board a space station, and the son/daughter who lives on Earth. The story is driven by the family on Earth as the planet undergoes tectonic disturbances as it approaches Jupiter’s gravimetric field. Jupiter is the main protagonist in this story as it threatens to swallow up our planet.
Through a lot of struggles, we see how the strong Chinese spirit and ingenuity prevails while all sorts of other nations turn their tails and run. There are a lot of cliched scenes that stresses family and sacrifice for the greater good. In a way, this movie is a heavy China propaganda piece, but it is also interesting to see how a China-first blockbuster would work. Great for the insight, four out of five stars.
Finally! After how many movies? the finale of this epoch in the Marvel Universe is finally complete. I think I also accomplished the monumental task of seeing all the relevant movies before this one came out – thanks to a lot of flights. No surprise, I saw Avengers: Engame on a flight as well.
There was a lot to like about this movie and it was a deserved ending to this epoch. While time travel is an overused mechanic, I liked how they visited their previous movies and expanded on the stories around them. I also liked how they brought basically everyone who has been involved in the universe back, even if the cameos are pretty short. The humor was light although some bits got long in the tooth (e.g., Thor’s beer belly). I liked how it paved the way for the next generation, and I did not fail to notice the one scene where all the women characters showed up at once.
This movie felt worthy, and was four out of five stars in my book. Now to see what is next for MCU.
I received Gravity as a promo from Movies Anywhere at some point and so saw it at home on my TV. I also recall there was a VR version of this movie, and it make sense because there are amazing visuals that you want to see as large as possible (e.g., IMAX).
The movie is set in space, and about astronauts who get stranded after an international incident. Unlike the Apollo movies, the astronauts are truly alone, and do not have a team to support them. The cast is essentially George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and the view of the earth. It is an interesting take that really shows the loneliness of space.
I’d imagine that space exploration in our day and age would be similar to sailing in the olden days. Your boat (and crew) was your lifeline and if you went overboard and ended up adrift, you were in for a lonely death.
While space is the unknown and thus exciting, Gravity is a story about perseverance through adversity and human survival. That story + the amazing visuals make this a four out of five stars movie.
- Inside the “largest launch of a produce item in American history”
There’s a big Apple launch coming up, and it’s not tech. Well, not handheld tech. I mean, not something that you can use, but actually eat. It’s the Cosmic Crisp!
Over years of testing, the new cross reliably produced round fruit with dark red skin, the color of wine. The Cosmic Crisp has flesh that’s creamy white, is so dense that the apple feels heavy in your hand, and has a flavor that is pleasant, a bit more sweet than zing. Most important, it cleaves cleanly in your mouth — a crunch that lasts a long time in controlled-atmosphere storage, all the way around the calendar and into the next harvest season. From people in the industry, I heard the phrase “excellent eating experience” so often I began to imagine it in capital letters, with its own ™. When I enlisted some regular-world people to taste the apple, one crunched into an approximately seven-month-old specimen and said, with appreciation, “I can feel the structure of its insides.”
- Half-empty boxes of Milk Duds, underfilled Halo Top: people keep suing over “slack fill” in food
TMI around the legal industry that exists to sue food companies because there is too much empty space within their packaging.
Usually the plaintiff, the client, is not really somebody who came into the office one day and was upset. It happens. But usually these lawyers hire people to go out and find things for them, and they say, “Go over to the grocery store, see if you see anything that’s slack filled, or anything that has language that’s misleading.” So they actually roam the aisles of these grocery stores and other types of stores, like lions looking for zebras. There’s a bunch of lawyers I deal with and that’s all they do.
- Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’?
A great linguistic breakdown as to how ‘Eh’ is used. Seems true in my experience.
Other dialects of English and other languages have some similar tags. “Right,” “okay,” “yes,” and “you know” are all used in some of the same ways as “eh.” In French, “hein” (pronounced “anh,” the same vowel sound in “splat”) is quite similar, as is the Japanese “ne,” the Dutch “hè,” the Yiddish “nu,” and the Spanish “¿no?” These differ in some ways from “eh,” as “eh” can be used in some ways that the other tags cannot be and vice versa, but what really makes “eh” different is less about the way it’s used and more about its place in Canadian society.
- Why the French love to say no
Another language/linguistics article. This one is about French people and apparently their knee-jerk reaction to saying ‘Non’ to any question.
the French have crafted a variety of ways to say no. ‘Ça risque d’être compliqué’ (‘that may be complicated’) is likely the least confrontational way of saying that a request is unlikely to be granted. ‘Ç’est hors de question’ (‘it’s out of the question’) is perhaps the most definitive version, cutting off any hopes of arguing one’s case.
- The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo
Ramen is not a traditional Japanese food. It became popular due to post-WWII circumstances, which you can learn more about in the article.
Foods rich in fat and strong flavors became known as “stamina food,” according to Professor George Solt, author of The Untold History of Ramen. Ramen was very different than the milder, seaweed-based noodle soups of traditional Japanese cuisine. Okumura Ayao, a Japanese food writer and professor of traditional Japanese food culture at Kobe Yamate University, once expressed his shock at trying ramen for the first time in 1953, imagining “himself growing bigger and stronger from eating this concoction.”
Usually at the beginning of July, we try and go on a road trip to take advantage of the Canada Day/Independence Day long weekend. We didn’t do that this year but I ended up having some travel in the second week of July. It started with a work trip to Korea, then I spend ~6 hours in Japan for a layover. My plan was to visit a festival in Sawara which is near the airport (although getting there via local trains took 1.5h) but like a lot of the Japanese festivals that I’ve been too; it just wasn’t that great. Probably not a great use of time but it is one of those things that if I didn’t try to go, I would never go again (had to be near Narita on a certain weekend of the year).
After that, I flew to Vancouver and spent a day there. I had a lot of relatives who were congregating there so I dropped in for a quick visit and meal. Then it was finally home. I spent a very long Saturday on an extended trip (slept two “nights” on airplanes).
Back home, the weather was hot and humid. We tried to do outdoor activities in the mornings on the weekends, because the afternoons were unbearable and had to be spent indoors. It makes it difficult to take advantage of our Wonderland season’s pass or go to farms and parks. Unfortunately, with summer half over, I don’t think it’s going to get any better in August.