Monthly Archives: September 2011

Thinking Green: 200 ways to reduce energy!

Head over to Wikibooks for the list. Part of the key is that even if something doesn’t save you a lot of energy, if enough people adopt the change, it will make a big difference.


Recycling: doing it wrong

I realized that I still wasn’t up to date on what can and can’t be recycled in Toronto.

I thought it couldn’t, but it can be recycled:

  • styrofoam meat trays
  • disposable/one-use aluminum pie plates
  • shaving cream cans, but not their lids
  • the “window” parts of envelopes, and I had been separating them all this time!
I thought it could be recycled, but it can’t:
  • clear plastic containers for berries
  • clear plastic egg cartons
  • plastic cutlery
  • lids for mason jars
  • pizza boxes can, but you have to remove the parts that are stained with grease

Washroom Attendants

Having worked as a server, I recognize the hard work and stress that comes with work in the service industry.  So I tip servers/barbers/cab drivers/etc rather generously.

But I get a sinking feeling when I enter a washroom and there’s a washroom attendant.  Many of those guys are cool and friendly, but I don’t want to have the soap squirted into my hands, and I don’t need to have a paper towel handed to me.  I don’t use their colognes or other stuff, so I hate feeling the obligation to tip for a service I didn’t want or need or ask for.

Even worse was a recent time when I didn’t tip the guy (he pretty much asked for a tip, wtf) and the next time I used the restroom he was a jerk about it, like, no you may not use my soap or take one of my paper towels.

So I looked up their job description, and it was a bit of a discovery, since these guys’ presence helps keep restrooms clean, prevents fights from starting, and prevents drug use.  All of those make sense, especially at night clubs, which is the only place I’ve seen them.  But is that a tippable service?  Is it akin to tipping a police officer?  It’s definitely a passive service rather than an active one, if it’s considered a service at all.

They may have more purpose than I thought at first, but I would rather they just did the important security part and let me take my own soap (and I use the air dryers, thanks).


I would love it if washrooms that used paper towel had a separate bin for it, to be recycled.

Super Mario Indeed!

Here is a list of many of the super powers that Mario has shown in games:

  • Can jump to multiple times his own height
  • Can change direction in mid air
  • Can fly using a cape, hat with wings, or (even more amazingly) a raccoon tail.  At least the propeller mushroom makes some sense.
  • Can ingest a magic mushroom and grow to twice his size
  • Can ingest a “fire” flower and be able to generate and throw fireballs
  • Can ingest an “ice” flower and be able to generate and throw ice pellets
  • Can walk up walls beyond the normal limits of physics
  • Does not get hurt falling from a great height
  • Can jump and accelerate quickly downwards
  • Can fly through empty space without suffocating.
  • Can spin with enough force to break through otherwise solid ground or kill otherwise lethal enemies
Omitted from the list are things that are more properties of the surroundings or items:
  • The enemies that die by being stepped on from above
  • The vines that are strong enough to support his weight when he holds on or climbs
  • The frog suit that improves jumping makes some sense (similar to wearing something on ones feet)
  • The penguin suit that allows him to slide around on some surfaces
  • The hat that allows him to walk through some walls
  • The hat that turns his body into a metallic substance.
The ones that break the laws of physics are most incredible.  But those kinds of things happen in many video games.

Also why I don’t pick up dimes off the ground

xkcd comic 951

This reminded me of this earlier post, being another way how people think they’re saving money when they’re not. (from


Ever wondered what your time is worth?  If you’re shopping for a product online, and you spend 3 hours online and save $20, was that really worth all that effort?  I’m not even 100% sure it’s worth it (from an economics standpoint) if the item is relatively cheap (it seems less useful if you’re buying a car*, but is it?)

Anyhow, it makes more sense to think of your time as valued at your salary.  If you make $20/hr, and you have work to do, any time spent saving money had better save you money at a higher rate.  Taking three hours for $20 just wouldn’t be worth it.

If you’re just a busy person (with activities & tasks other than work), and free time is hard to come by, then it makes sense to value your time similarly.  Think of it from this perspective: If you have work, taking your kids to soccer practice, your own social life, and necessary time to eat and relax, then if you can save yourself 3 hours of free time for only $20, wouldn’t you take that deal?

This doesn’t mean I’m advocating buying from the first place you find something, but if it doesn’t look promising after half an hour, the possible savings had better be worth it.

* we’re assuming identical products, so this isn’t the best example.  Just saying I’m aware.


The Tooth Fairy

From what I can tell, the Tooth Fairy has at least some purpose.  I don’t remember what I felt when losing my teeth at age 7, but it’s certainly possible that some kids have a negative experience.  The Tooth Fairy seems like a way to improve this experience, because hey, free money!  Who needs a stupid tooth when I can buy candy with this dollar!  (Irony?)

What about Santa?  The fat guy who somehow gets into houses without chimneys – how on earth are parents explaining this part nowadays?  Not that a fat guy could have fit down a chimney in the first place, but maybe kids wouldn’t know that.  In fact, I’ll bet at least one kid has tried to climb up or down a chimney just to see if it’s possible.  But I digress.  Santa appears to have been popularized in our society in order to promote Coca-Cola, I mean, in order to make kids behave.  Be good, or Santa won’t bring you any presents!

My argument here is why can’t it just be “Be good, or Mommy and Daddy won’t buy you any presents*“?  I wonder if there’s a psychological reason why it’s better for behavioural development for there to be some outside party evaluating all this.  And that’s assuming that the use of Santa Claus does in fact help matters (has there been a study done?)

From my education in psychology and pedagogy, external rewards such as presents may be an effective way to improve behaviour in the short term, but decrease the likelihood of good behaviour in the absence of such rewards.  So maybe Santa Claus is worthless after all, and parents should say “We’re getting you presents because we love you, but be nice, because other people matter.”

Back to the Tooth Fairy.  What makes this a good idea?  I wonder if children would accept the idea that their parents would give them money every time they lost a tooth.  I can’t think of anything better at the moment.

I’m done what I wanted to say, but I might as well add that the Easter Bunny is even more useless and unbelievable.  So a rabbit hides eggs all over the place?  Not a chicken?  Okay.  My dad never pulled that wool over our eyes.  He made the egg-hunt like a treasure hunt: each time you found eggs, they came with clues to where the next ones would be.  Love you, Dad.

* Parents referring to themselves in the third person is a topic for another day