Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Please contribute $1000 to the stadium.

How much would you be willing to contribute if your city decides to replace the roof on the stadium? What if an official went door to door, to collect contributions for the stadium upgrade? Would you give them a few dollars? It turns out, the government is going to spend 458 million dollars for a new roof, which is almost a 1000 dollars per resident (from baby to elderly) in Vancouver.

Boy oh boy.... that is a lot of money. Can we afford it amidst a recession? Nope. Do we need the new roof? No, not really: it will be built after the Olympics. Is it value for money? Well, no, Amsterdam built a stadium with retractible roof (same capacity) for $150M. Yes, you read that right: for the price of 1 Canadian roof, you could have 3 full stadia, including a retractible roof on each of them.

What is going on here? Is this the Canadian version of Keynesian economics? Surely, an amount this big is not going to the actual construction work force. I'm afraid the vast majority will end up in the pockets of mafia, and corrupt politicians. It is a sad, sad, story, not unlike the Dutch Betuwe lijn.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Commuting 101

Today is Blog Action Day 2009, putting the spotlight on climate change. Even if you don't believe in a changing climate, it does make sense to use less energy. Scientific American has a few solutions lined up. The first of which is "move closer to work". I agree with this. My work place is 1000m away, as the bird flies, from my residence. But how easy is it to move closer to work? In Canada, it is simple. In the Netherlands it's strongly discouraged by the tax system. Sell your house, and 6% of the price goes directly to the tax man, simple as that. That is 12000 euro on a 200K home. Poof.... money gone, just like that. If you do not own, but rent, it is the same. The rental market is extremely regulated. First step: get rid of this silly tax.

The next step is pretty easy as well: our method of transport does not make sense. When we commute, we use 1400Kg cars to transport a 70Kg cargo (1 human body). The vehicle weighs 20 times more than the cargo, how silly is that? Especially in Netherlands the alternatives are numerous, as there are no hills or mountains there. Why not use a vehicle that weighs less than you? And you can't get a better ratio than that of an electric skateboard. If that's too hip for you: an electric bicycle, or even a gasoline moped weighs less than the occupant. Go for it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Engine malfunction at 800ft

I had quite an educational session this morning, during my flight lesson. I had my first engine malfunction. I solo'd last week, but my instructor wanted to do another dual instruction before the next solo. In hindsight that was a good thing... otherwise I would have had the malfunction without an instructor onboard. So what happened? At 800ft, just after take off, the engine would not throttle down. The engine was stuck at 4000rpm. You can fly an airplane with 4000rpm but not land it. We informed the tower, and killed the engine mid-air, to glide back onto runway 12.

The lesson may have been more educational if it happened during a solo. I knew that killing the engine was the thing to do, but I would probably have declared a PAN PAN PAN over the radio, or if I panic'ed more, maybe even a MAYDAY. However, in aviation terminology, an event like this is not a 'forced landing' but a 'precautionary landing'. Another thing I learned: a broken throttle cable will open up the carburetor, not close it, as it would in a car or motorcycle. That makes sense of course, when you think about it.

The rotax engine in my plane is a 4 cylinder, with dual carburetors. With one broken cable, a closed throttle will result in one bank of cylinders fully fueled, and one bank of cylinders on idle fuel. This results in a rough running engine, that cannot go below 4000rpm.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Version 4 of 'the little tank that could'.

Version 4 of the little tank that could is now available on iTunes. This version adds two more levels to the game, and has an improved visual look as well. For the new levels, I added support for concave dynamic objects, to make gameplay a little more interesting. For instance, you can now drive your tank inside other objects. Also, there is a skiing level where your little tank will hit the slopes on a snow board. The addition of the new levels brings the total number of levels to eight. The new content will hopefully spark a little renewed interest in the game. It should not be long now before reaching the 1000th customer mark, as the total sales is 928 as of yesterday (Going by the daily sales reports from Apple. Strangely the weekly and monthly don't match up with the daily. I wish Apple would fix this).

Change log for version 4

  • New level: "inner circle" (medium difficulty)
  • New level: "downhill skiing" (medium difficulty)
  • Support for concave dynamic objects
  • Low friction ice surface
  • Glowing vector graphics
  • Level "tube launch 101" improved (higher fps, less exploits)
  • Level "race to the bottom" improved (shortcut closed)
  • Improved parsing of SVG

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Yes.... this morning I did my first solo flight. After doing all the paper work, and performing the pre-flight checks, I had a short flight lesson, after which my instructor deboarded, and set me off to my first solo flight. I was pilot in command of C-ISLA. The picture on this page shows the aircraft with miss Chinese Vancouver 2007. Flying the aircraft by yourself is a great feeling. The difference in weight without my instructor made my first touch and go pretty messy, but the landing after that was flawless. A big thanks to the people at sea land air, and to the air traffic controllers of boundary bay airport. Hopefully, my license will not be far away now. And after that, I need to get a license for flying with passengers. Who wants to fly with me over the vast wilderness of British Columbia?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Een behouden vaart

Amy's mother Edith started here epic voyage across the world today, together with Michael. Their starting point was False Creek, so I took the opportunity to document the very first mile in their journey by shooting a picture from Granville bridge. The weather was of the Vancouver kind, with rain, so the picture is a bit hazy. Edith, make Abel Tasman proud! If you want to follow their voyage, you can read their ship's log.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From game programmer to aerospace pioneer

So, what does a programmer do when he creates some of the most successful and influential computer games of his age? Well, the average reaction of young guys striking it rich, is buying exotic sport cars, and play with them. But what if you get bored with those? Where do you get your kicks now? Well, when John Carmack got bored with Ferrari's, he moved on to rockets, and started his own aerospace company.

Pioneers like Charles Lindbergh were spurred on by prize money ($25000 in his case). John Carmack's company just claimed a $1000000 prize known as the x-prize. It is a lot of fun following John Carmack's blogs about his progress: how he bids on antique russian space suits on ebay, in the hope he can reuse them for his manned spaceflights. (Unfortunately, he could not). He's an inspiration for my generation, and lives the dream of every technophile. Watch the video to see what his creation is capable of.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Suzy on Vancouver Island

Suzy made her first trip to Vancouver Island. To meet my parents in Tofino, I rode out this labourday weekend. The forecast was light rain, but as soon as I deboarded in Nanaimo, a heavy downpour started. It's a good thing I packed a rain-overall. The highway 4 that goes to Tofino is a beautiful road, but treacherous when wet. So I did not get to enjoy it to the fullest. Shortly before the town of Port Alberni, I came upon jammed traffic. I spent an hour or so waiting for rescue services to clean up an horrific accident. A trauma heli was flown in, together with 4 ambulances. When the road was opened again, I could see the car tracks going straight into the lake. It served as a stern reminder to be cautious (which I always am on the motorbike, especially when the road is wet).

I was able to get lodging and ferrying easily enough, probably because of all the rain. Most accommodations were full, but the Maquinna Hotel had vacancies, which was a decent place. It is sober, but it serves its purpose. During the first night I had a big scare. I was awoken in the middle of the night. At first I thought it was the telephone, but it turned out to be the control of my bike alarm. After I bought Suzy, I fitted her with the most expensive alarm that the dealer sold. After all, I learned my lesson in Lelystad, where my sv1000sz (a rare edition from Suzuki) got stolen. The alarm on Suzi will actually transmit a signal back to my keys, so that not only the alarm goes off, I also get a signal if I am within a few hundred meters. After overcoming the drowsiness, I got dressed quickly. No baseball bat at hand, but damn, I was mad. When I got outside Suzy was still there. A loud group of drunks were a little further down the road. I think one of them sat on Suzy, or kicked a tyre maybe. Anyway, I observed the scene for a while, and then went back to sleep.

The ride back was pretty damp as well. Which is a shame, because the opportunities of using all 185 horses are so rare. And Suzy's engine feels so much smoother when it gets a little throttle. It can be a drag to drive hundreds of kilometers with the throttle basically closed all the time. However, I did appreciate her reliability as she did not miss a single beat, even in the heavy downpour. One of these days, it will be a proper road trip, in the dry, with wide open roads. According to specs, she should hit 300 per hour, but so far, that has been academic: it is an unrealized fabled potential.

Suzi at the toll booth.

Suzy ready to board.

Suzy secured.

Suzy sailing.

Tofino vista.

Suzy parked.

Friday, August 21, 2009

iApproach CANADA

Landing an airplane at an uncontrolled aerodrome in Canada is not trivial. All sorts of different approaches are required, depending on many factors. For instance, an airport with a mandatory frequency has different protocol than one without. Also, the runway heading and the airplane heading determine your approach path. Lastly, there are 'left hand circuits' and 'right hand circuits' in effect. So, what's the fastest way of determining the correct procedure? Well... I present to you: my latest iPhone application iApproach CA.
It compliments my other aeronautical iPhone applications iVOR and iPSTAR. The latter is a highly effective trainer for your pre-solo written examination. And yes, like they say in North America: "You have to eat your own dogfood". I trained myself using my own software, and scored a solid 100% on the test.
Those applications are for an extremely small niche: how many Canadian Pilots are there? And how many with an iPhone? On the up-side: competition is pretty much non existent. If you want to train yourself Canadian Aeronautics using an iPhone, you have only one option for a vendor, and that's me. Sure, a 100,000 applications in the appstore. But I've got the market cornered on this one :-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

1 2 3 4 5 6

One of my favorite quotes: "Lottery (noun) an extra tax for people who are bad at math." The record high Italian lotto prize is all over the news now. All you need to do, is pick the correct 6 numbers (out of 90). To educate the math-challenged I try to put the odds in perspective by telling them they can just as well pick the numbers 1,2,3,4,5 and 6. What are the odds that you randomly pick 1 through 6 out of 90 numbers? A quick calculation gives the odds of 1 in 623M. (6/90)*(5/89)*(4/88)*(3/87)*(2/86)*(1/85).

So... you can just as well pick the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6. Or... can you?

I thought a little more about this. Let's assume I chose to mark 1,2,3,4,5,6 on my lottery form. And then, by sheer luck, the draw is 1,2,3,4,5,6. Now, I'm pretty sure that if this ever happens, the director of the lottery will nullify the results, and redo the draw. The director will assume the procedure was flawed, a computer failed, or something like that. So even when choosing 1,2,3,4,5,6 should give you even odds with any other combination, it may not be wise to pick those numbers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Free copy of 'the little tank that could'.

The people at iPhone World are giving away ten free copies of 'the little tank that could'. To enter the draw, just leave a message at this thread. Sales spiked to 100+ two days ago, and the feedback is encouraging. Version 2 so far has not been cracked, and version 3 is currently awaiting review by Apple. Version 3 will boast 6 levels of fun, and a proper game menu that lets you play the levels in any order. Kudos to Sweden, by the way, as most sales have been from Swedish customers so far. Thank you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

iPhone piracy - the cold hard figures

After the first release of my iPhone game 'the little tank that could', I was very excited. I thought the game was fun to play, and could possibly do very well on the appstore. That turned out not to be the case. For the first 5 days on the store, it sold 20, 10, 5, 2 and 8 copies. A total of 45 copies sold. That was disheartening.

Now, my game has an online leader board. The players with the best times show up on a ranking. The leader board is consulted when you play the game, so that it can be displayed on the phone. When I took a look at my server logs, I was absolutely astonished. There were 1114 different people in the logs!

So how can a game that sold 45 copies, have 1114 players? That does not make any sense? I have no reason to believe that Apple's sales reports are faulty, so the answer is piracy. Very quickly after the release of 'the little tank that could' the game got cracked, and distributed via torrents. Those crackers are a weird bunch, even taking pride in their work. Proudly tagging my game with 'cracked by Hexhammer'. Well screw you Hexhammer. If you had any talents yourself, you would make your own game. Cracking one is petty.

So here they are, people, the cold hard facts: for every game you sell on the appstore, there are 24 pirates playing a bootleg copy. Out of 25 people, only one will choose to pay. So how much money are they saving anyway by pirating? Well... that would be a whole 1 dollar 99. A sad bunch really.

The whole experience of iPhone publishing is frustrating. But there is one part that I really liked. There is a great place for developers to meet up with players. I got some excellent help from the people over at the TouchArcade fora. They will tell you what needs improvement, and they came up with ideas for new levels for the next update. I did put in an update, but looking at the sales, it may be the last. Let me conclude with a video of the game.


The pay-rate grew to over 10% rather quickly. The 4% measurement was done shortly after the crack got released. The updated (version 2) of the game has so far not been cracked, and there is a 100% payment rate for the players on the leaderboard of version 2.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Constructing a vector basis

This is a blog posting targeted at my self. Every time I need to construct a vector basis in 3D space,I can't remember the argument order to the cross products, and each time I have a hard time finding a reference, making me write test code to find out. So here it is, recorded for my future references. If you mess up order, you are likely to end up with a left handed coordinate system. As a mnemonic, you can use the rule that the arguments are in alphabetical order, except for the Y axis. This will give you the following argument orders for the cross products:

X = Cross( Y, Z )
Y = Cross( Z, X ) // NOT Cross( X, Z )
Z = Cross( X, Y )

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Brüno gets 10 out of 10

Bram gives Brüno 10 out of 10 stars. Sacha Baron Cohen went far beyond Borat with this one. It's pretty offensive, which makes it all the more fun. Even TV's bad ass number one, Eric Cartman, does not come close to the political incorrectness of Brüno.
So when reading about a Brüno iPhone application on a Dutch website, I thought I would download that application. Well, what do you know.... I guess this application is too offensive for PC Canada. Dutchies with an iPhone can consider themselves lucky, as they can download the app for free with iTunes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kayaks in Deep Cove

I recently went on a kayak trip with Amy and my colleagues Sandro and Goran. We rented some kayaks at Deep Cove. The kayak always reminds me of the classic Monty Python joke: what is the similarity between American beer and making love in a canoe? You can find the answer on youtube's recording of Monty Python at the Hollywood bowl (1982).

Anyway, back to the kayaks. It was a strenuous undertaking for which I did not have the upperbody strength. It was still fun though. T
he kayaks were fitted with a rudder, quite similarly operated as aircraft controls, which made things a little easier. I think rowing would suit me better, as it leverages your leg muscles, not just arm and torso.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Flying a home-built aeroplane

Yesterday, I had a flight scheduled on my regular C-ISLA sportstar aeroplane. It turned out that it had a brake-defect and it was grounded. My instructor, Sebastien, was so kind to take me to a grass strip at King George. He gave me a flying lesson in a Rans S-6S COYOTE II home-built ultra light aeroplane. I raced his Dodge Hemi on my Suzuki from Boundary Bay airport to the grass strip. I finally had a use for the 6th gear on my bike.

The Rans S-6S is quite a difference from the sportstar. Sebastien calls the latter a Cadillac. It has leather seats, glass cockpit, gps, and all the comfort in the world. Now the Rans.... is different. I had a good laugh about the duct tape on it. I kid you not: there is duct tape on the end of the wing. Heh heh ...

Landing this plane on a little grass strip is a lot more difficult than landing a sportstar on a long and wide stretch of tarmac. But it was fun none the less. I did not perform very well, but it was nice to buzz the bald eagles. It's very easy to hit a bald eagle when flying in the Vancouver area. There were lots of them around, hanging around right above the airstrip.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Royal decoration for my mother

Today, my mother was inducted into the order of Oranje-Nassau. This royal order is headed by our Queen Beatrix. My mother was distinguished for a life of volunteer work. The regalia were pinned on her chest by the mayor of Heemskerk. Each year, a day before the official Queen's day holiday, a lot of people are distinguished this way. I am very proud of my mother. It's nice to see that volunteer work does not go unnoticed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sayonara Nihon

Our Japan trip has ended. It was so full of impressions, it is hard to comprehend. Amy was doing pretty well with the Japanese. I was at least able to thank the locals in their native tongue. I was a big hit with the girls from the Onsen staff when I used my Japanese.

We managed to pack in a lot of Japanese culture in our three weeks there. We rode the bullet train, we ate the octopus, we visited Buddha's, we stayed in the ryokan, we soaked in the Onsen, we did the rotemburo, we watched the fashion victims, we bathed in neon, we drank Sapporo beer, we fed the deer, we used the vending machines, we stayed in a love-hotel in the red light district, we admired the blossoms, we experienced Tokyo, Niirita, Oga, Sapporo, Hokodate and Osaka. And my favorite: we went to "Canadian World": the relict of a bankrupt theme park that actually hired Canadians to portrait Canadian life. The theme park was doomed to fail, but it is still there, now a ghost town. I felt like a social archeologist. It was truly fascinating stuff.

Today we left Narita airport, taking off from runwy 16R and we landed 8.5 hrs later on Vancouver's runway 8L. The trip west was faster then the trip east, due to winds.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bram and amy are in tokio

We made it to tokio. We landed on runway 17 of narita. The pilot took a big detour. We are staying in asakusa district. It is pretty awesome. Today we saw the imperial castle and the electronics district. Nobody in japan leaves his wifi open btw. Tomorrow we take the train up north.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vancouver Auto Show

I visited the Vancouver Auto Show today with Goran and Auday. After nearly two years, I finally sat down behind the wheel of a Chevy Camaro again. It felt nice to be in a muscle car again. It's pretty affordable too, as the V8 model, with a big ass 6.2L engine starts at 40K Canadian dollar. I guess some people think there is plenty of oil left in the ground. Also the Dutch pride was present (Spyker). I still think it has the best looking interiour of all the cars. The exposed gear linkages are a brilliant touch. The website of the show lead me to believe that the new Ferrari California would be there. However, there was only one Ferrari present, a dark 599. Also there is a big community of electric car owners in BC. A lot of people convert there petrol car to an electric car. They were showing off their conversions on the exhibition floor.

Despite all the nice cars on the floor, I am not considering getting one here. I used to think that the Netherlands had the most anti-car government. It's just my luck that Canada is worse. I picked up just one speeding ticket in a year, but ICBC is already threatening me, and want me to enroll in a driver improvement program. Are they kidding me? And then there are the insane insurance premiums. No, car owners do not have it easy here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

So that's what it's like!

Yesterday I had 0 fillings in my mouth. When I was in the army at age 23, I still had perfect teeth. From then on I stopped going to the dentist. 15 years later I saw one again, in Vancouver. He helped me heal my gums, and then started work on the decay. As of this morning, I have 8 fillings in my mouth, and a whole lot less dollars on in the bank :-) I hope the insurance will repay most of it. I was quite nervous, but did not feel much because of the anesthetic. So now I know what it is like to have a drill to your teeth.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flying for minimalists

As Douglas Adams said: "Humans always wanted to fly like the birds, but it is easy... it is just a nack! You simply throw yourself to the ground as hard as possible, and you make sure you miss."

I really like the minimalist approach to flying. No radio, no air traffic control, no certifications, no expensive maintenance after every 50h of use....

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

These clogs were made for walking

Wow... I used to be so blond. This is during a visit, in the early 70s to a clog maker. You can see the raw wood that my little clogs were made of. It was somewhere in my native Holland, but I do not know which town or city. Maybe my parents remember.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Police Radar

Ouch! And that was the first one. In Lelystad I was quite familiar with police radars and speeding fines. I payed up the fun-tax, and once even took a case to court. Because I was in Canada at the time, I could not be present myself. It was a 40 euro fine or something, but the speed camera showed two vehicles, one of which was my motorcycle.
The judge must have been sleeping, because in his verdict he was referring to my car. It was was my car that was going too fast. Hello.... I was on a motorcycle! However, Dutch bureaucracy sucks all the energy out of you, and I left it at that. What a joke. The judge did not even read my defense letter.
Back to Canada... this morning a police officer stopped me. He did not get a good reading on his radar, but estimated my speed. I was fortunate that his estimate was low. He gave me the lowest possible speeding fine (138 dollar).
The real venom is in the insurance though: one more offense, and I will be paying more insurance premium. ICBC is the only institution who can legally insure you in BC, and they can tack on up to 24000 dollars to your insurance bill. I think my speeding days are now finally over. I give in. I cannot beat the system. I guess I no longer have any use for a 170hp motorcycle, other than stripping out the engine, and putting it in a small aircraft.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Just for Gags.

I am a big fan of Just for Gags, from Montreal, Quebec. I always wanted to be pranked by those people. My friends did one on me at my birthday party. And for two seconds, they had me convinced that my application for permanent residency was denied, and I was to be deported if I did not respond in 30 days.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Slapend geld verdienen

De afgelopen tijd is er een ware revolutie aan de gang op het gebied van software publicatie. Men spreekt er van dat de software markt gedemocratiseerd is. Wat is namelijk het geval? Apple heeft de markt compleet op zijn kop gezet. De gewone man kan nu software verkopen op Apple's appstore. Apple regelt alles voor je omtrent de wereldwijde verkoop, tegen een redelijke provisie. De auteur behoeft slechts de applicatie aan te leveren, en kan vervolgens achterover leunen. Ook ik heb een tweetal applicaties in de verkoop op Apple's appstore.
En daarmee heb ik er een nieuwe verslaving bij. Elke ochtend als ik wakker wordt is het eerste wat ik doe surfen naar Apple's website. Dit doe ik om mijn verkoop rapporten te lezen. Rijk wordt ik er nog niet van, maar het feit dat ik nu slapend geld kan verdienen middels royalties is toch wel heel bijzonder.
Mijn eerste applicatie was een vingeroefening in het programmeren van iPhone en gemaakt op verzoek van Amy. Dit is de iNutrient applicatie. De tweede applicatie, iVOR heb ik gemaakt voor de training van piloten (zoals mijzelf) in het gebruik van Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range instrumenten.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Google keeps impressing me

Year after year, Google keeps impressing me with their products. Currently I am heating my home with electricity. This is pretty inefficient and expensive. Look what Google comes up with: a perfect tool. I'm pretty sure I need to buy some hardware to go with it, but I like what I see in the video. When we finally get the flying cars that we have been promised since the 50s, I am pretty sure they will be coming from Google.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Today I had a booking for another flight lesson. The weather was pretty grim, but I took off from home to the flight school on my motorbike. When I got there, I was completely soaked. The conditions were what they call Marginal VFR. And VFR means visual flight rules. So I did not go up today. Damn that Vancouver weather. While I was at the school, I did some google mapping. There is a neat aerial shot of our aerodrome. A small aircraft has just taken off from runway 12.

View Larger Map

Monday, January 26, 2009


Yesterday I had my first flight in C-ISLA, or as we call it "India Sierra Lima". It is a high powered ultra light with state of the art avionics. It was more difficult than I expected. There is so much you need to control simultaneously. If you concentrate on keeping one of altitude, course, airspeed steady, the other two are likely to veer off. I did three approaches on a grass strip and then the instructor landed it back at the base, or CZBB as we call it. Twice I heard the stall warning go off. But this puppy has excess power, as it is the GSX-R of the ultra lights. Most important thing I learned yesterday: the throttle is used to control altitude, not so much your speed. Also, if you "floor" it, the plane yaws to the left and the nose pitches up. The rudder is more dominant than stick (elevator + aileron) control.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blik op de weg

Toch wel jammer dat ze in Canada geen Koefnoen hebben. Maar ja, grappen over files zullen ze niet snappen hier, want die zijn er niet zo veel. Mijn les vliegtuig is eindelijk gerepareerd: morgen heb ik een vliegles.