Thursday, December 17, 2015

Energy Efficient Building Funding Available

As you all know, a large part of my work has been focused on energy efficiency including renewable and alternative energy development. I was fortunate enough to have worked directly with many great minds at the US Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

I keep myself involved in many conversations around these subjects and wanted to share some great news.  The Building Technologies Office (BTO) Emerging Technologies Program (ETP) has announced the availability of $8 million USD for Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001383, “Building Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovations Technologies (BENEFIT) – 2016.” BTO seeks to fund three Innovations topics and two Frontiers topics to support our efforts to reduce the energy use of commercial and residential buildings. In addition, a supplemental section will provide a maximum of $100K/year to encourage partnerships between universities and for-profit companies.

This is great news for those who have ideas that have not yet been implemented. Especially in cases where the prime reason for not implementing the ideas is funding related.

The Innovations section will support:
  • Open Topic for Energy Efficiency Solutions for Residential and Commercial Buildings 
  • Human-in-the-Loop Sensor & Control Systems 
  • Infiltration Diagnostic Technologies 
The Frontiers section will support:

  • Plug and Play Sensor Systems 
  • Advanced Air-Sealing Technologies for Existing Buildings 

Details are as follows:

Submission Deadline for Concept Papers: January 29, 2016
Submission Deadline for Full Applications: April 18, 2016
Informational Webinar: December 21, 2015, 2:00 PM ET

Apply Now


Monday, September 21, 2015

Google Places "Type" Dropdown list (Free HTML Code)

I've been working on a new venture named GoPage (  As part of our lookup through the Google Places API, we need to pass over the "type" parameter. The Google Places API is a REST based API that uses the URI to control facets of the returned data.  The type is added in based on the taxonomy containing over one hundred different types of locations expressed here.

The request is made by issuing the following post:,2.347589&radius=5000&types=food|cafe&keyword=vegetarian&key=API_KEY
The types=value parameter is shown in blue.  If you find yourself wanting to implement this in an HTML drop down list, you will not find that code on the internet (as I did not) and face the tedious task of having to write it yourself.  Well, today is your lucky day. Here is the code done for you. Now you have time to do something else (like play video games) and tell your boss you worked hard to copy and paste all 100 types into the HTML source.

Have fun!

(Remember to paste this as Plain Text and change the form action to your own code)

</form action="form_processor.php">
<select name="type">
<!-- Based on Google Types as of 2015-09-21
     First value is selected by default. If selected, no type should be written into the API -->
<option value="" selected="selected">Any</option>
<option value="accounting">Accounting</option>
<option value="airport">Airport</option>
<option value="amusement_park">Amusement_park</option>
<option value="aquarium">Aquarium</option>
<option value="art_gallery">Art_gallery</option>
<option value="atm">Atm</option>
<option value="bakery">Bakery</option>
<option value="bank">Bank</option>
<option value="bar">Bar</option>
<option value="beauty_salon">Beauty_salon</option>
<option value="bicycle_store">Bicycle_store</option>
<option value="book_store">Book_store</option>
<option value="bowling_alley">Bowling_alley</option>
<option value="bus_station">Bus_station</option>
<option value="cafe">Cafe</option>
<option value="campground">Campground</option>
<option value="car_dealer">Car_dealer</option>
<option value="car_rental">Car_rental</option>
<option value="car_repair">Car_repair</option>
<option value="car_wash">Car_wash</option>
<option value="casino">Casino</option>
<option value="cemetery">Cemetery</option>
<option value="church">Church</option>
<option value="city_hall">City_hall</option>
<option value="clothing_store">Clothing_store</option>
<option value="convenience_store">Convenience_store</option>
<option value="courthouse">Courthouse</option>
<option value="dentist">Dentist</option>
<option value="department_store">Department_store</option>
<option value="doctor">Doctor</option>
<option value="electrician">Electrician/option>
<option value="electronics_store">Electronics_store</option>
<option value="embassy">Embassy</option>
<option value="establishment">Establishment</option>
<option value="finance">Finance</option>
<option value="fire_station">Fire_station</option>
<option value="florist">Florist</option>
<option value="food">Food</option>
<option value="funeral_home">Funeral_home"</option>
<option value="furniture_store">Furniture_store</option>
<option value="gas_station">Gas_station</option>
<option value="general_contractor">General_contractor</option>
<option value="grocery_or_supermarket">Grocery_or_supermarket</option>
<option value="gym">Gym</option>
<option value="hair_care">Hair_care</option>
<option value="hardware_store">Hardware_store</option>
<option value="health">Health</option>
<option value="hindu_temple">Hindu_temple</option>
<option value="home_goods_store">Home_goods_store</option>
<option value="hospital">Hospital</option>
<option value="insurance_agency">Insurance_agency</option>
<option value="jewelry_store">Jewelry_store</option>
<option value="laundry">Laundry</option>
<option value="lawyer">Lawyer</option>
<option value="library">Library</option>
<option value="liquor_store">Liquor_store</option>
<option value="local_government_office">Local_government_office</option>
<option value="locksmith">Locksmith</option>
<option value="lodging">Lodging</option>
<option value="meal_delivery">Meal_delivery</option>
<option value="meal_takeaway">Meal_takeaway</option>
<option value="mosque">Mosque</option>
<option value="movie_rental">Movie_rental</option>
<option value="movie_theater">Movie_theater</option>
<option value="moving_company">Moving_company</option>
<option value="museum">Museum</option>
<option value="night_club">Night_club</option>
<option value="painter">Painter</option>
<option value="park">Park</option>
<option value="parking">Parking</option>
<option value="pet_store">Pet_store</option>
<option value="pharmacy">Pharmacy</option>
<option value="physiotherapist">Physiotherapist</option>
<option value="place_of_worship">Place_of_worship</option>
<option value="plumber">Plumber</option>
<option value="police">Police</option>
<option value="post_office">Post_office</option>
<option value="real_estate_agency">Real_estate_agency</option>
<option value="restaurant">Restaurant</option>
<option value="roofing_contractor">Roofing_contractor</option>
<option value="rv_park">Rv_park</option>
<option value="school">School</option>
<option value="shoe_store">Shoe_store</option>
<option value="shopping_mall">Shopping_mall</option>
<option value="spa">Spa</option>
<option value="stadium">Stadium</option>
<option value="storage">Storage</option>
<option value="store">Store</option>
<option value="subway_station">Subway_station</option>
<option value="synagogue">Synagogue</option>
<option value="taxi_stand">Taxi_stand</option>
<option value="train_station">Train_station</option>
<option value="travel_agency">Travel_agency</option>
<option value="university">University</option>
<option value="veterinary_care">Veterinary_care</option>
<option value="zoo">Zoo</option>
<input type="submit" value="Submit">

Friday, July 24, 2015

Looking for Neo4J Help in Vancouver?

If you are in Vancouver, BC or the surrounding areas, including Nanaimo, Victoria or anywhere else in the Province, there are some great resources for Neo4J.  Personally, I've been working with Neo4J for several years and co-manage the Vancouver Graph Database User Group.  I love the technology and think it is great.

For companies interested in hearing more about Neo4J, there are many online resources.  I've published quite a few blog articles for developers on how to get started and supplied code examples and technical help in many contexts.  If you or your company is interested in having someone come in to help discuss Neo4J, please contact me at Hot Tomali. In business since 1998, Hot Tomali has survived the best and the worst times for High Tech.  Hot Tomali is working with Neo4J on a number of fronts including a Sitefinty CMS <-> Neo4J connector that allows developers to bring Neo4J data right into the Sitefinity environment and bind the data to objects.

DISCLAIMER: I am working as the CTO for Hot Tomali.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

More on Geothermal Energy in British Columbia

The article below recently surfaced via the Vancouver Sun.  As a person who has been a large proponent of Geothermal energy and a former consultant with the United States Department of Energy (US DOE), I have been advocating that BC MUST start developing geothermal power for years. Every other country in the ring of fire uses this abundant, clean and reliable/renewable source of energy, except Canada.

Our current BC Geothermal Resources Act, a BC statute, reads like a manual for keeping geothermal development to a minimal. Our provincial policies and processes are not conducive for geothermal companies to work in BC, nor have our politicians taken the necessary steps to start this clean and renewable energy industry in BC.

When I ran as an MLA candidate, my platform was strongly advocating the use of geothermal power instead of options like Site C or Fossils Fuels. If BC begins to use electric cars en masse, we will need a huge increase in power. even without, we can develop and sell power to other jurisdictions to replace their reliance on fossil fuels.

My dream is one day that we will start to use this form of power.

B.C. geothermal projects promising, but ‘high very risk’
Developer eager to work on proposal with BC Hydro
Bruce Constantineau
Vancouver Sun
July 22, 2015 5:55 PM

VANCOUVER — Two potential geothermal energy projects near Pemberton could
generate electricity for about seven cents a kilowatt hour — only slightly
higher than the 5.8 cents to 6.1 cents a kilowatt hour cost estimate of
the Site C dam project.

That's the conclusion of a recent Kerr Wood Leidal Associates study on the
economic viability of geothermal resources in B.C., which considered nine
of the most favourable geothermal sites in the province.

There are no geothermal energy projects operating in B.C. but the study
estimated the cost per kilowatt hour for the nine sites would range from
6.9 to 7.1 cents for Pebble Creek and Meager Creek near Pemberton to 17.6
cents for Clarke Lake near Fort Nelson.

BC Hydro senior strategic technology specialist Alex Tu said some of the
projects appear promising but stressed the cost estimates are still "very
uncertain" and carry a lot of risk.

"Even though it says seven cents a kilowatt hour, it's still a risky
proposition," he said. "All the geothermal in the province is still looked
at as very uncertain and very high risk but if you can make the project
happen, seven cents is a good price."

Tu noted BC Hydro invested tens of millions of dollars drilling at the two
Pemberton area sites in the 1970s and 1980s but could only produce enough
steam for a 20-kilowatt demonstration facility that operated for 18

Geothermal power facilities work by drilling into the earth and
redirecting steam or hot water into turbines that convert the energy from
the fluid into electricity.

Tu said Hydro has always been open to geothermal power as an alternative
energy source but no geothermal projects have ever been submitted to Hydro
in any of its calls for power from independent power producers.

Hydro's standing offer program offers to pay producers $100 a megawatt
hour for smaller energy projects of up to 15 megawatts. The two Pemberton
area geothermal sites each have estimated capacities of 50 to 100

Borealis GeoPower chief geologist Craig Dunn, whose Calgary-based firm
hopes to build two geothermal power plants in B.C. by 2018, said he was
excited by the Kerr Wood study, which was commissioned by BC Hydro and
Geoscience BC.

"I think it's a giant step forward in recognizing that geothermal is a
viable energy opportunity for the province of British Columbia," he said.

Dunn said the drilling and turbine technology associated with geothermal
power continues to improve, making that form of energy more economically
viable than ever.

"As a private developer, I know that my costs are significantly less than
the estimates," he said.

Tu estimated the cost of the two proposed Borealis geothermal sites near
Valemount and Terrace at about $120 to $140 a megawatt hour but Dunn said
current drilling economics — with many drilling rigs now inactive due to
the oil industry slowdown — could cut that estimate by 25 to 50 per cent.

"We look forward to working with BC Hydro within the standing offer
program pricing (of $100 a megawatt hour)," he said. "We believe that we
can be economic."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

More Neo4J Training - Vancouver, BC

Back for the fourth time in two years, Hot Tomali is presenting two solid days of developer training for Neo4J.  Whether you are a skilled developer or just beginning, this course features an easy learning curve and tough challenges to cater to all levels.  At the very basic level, attendees will learn the basics of graph data basics, the Cypher language and how to embed Neo4J within applications.  On day two, we will dive into modelling databases and learn how to represent several domains into various data structures.

The classes are designed to maximize the learning over the 8 hour day and teach students what graph databases are, how they differ from RDBMS systems, the data model, Cypher (the query language), and how to build and use graph databases.

So, what is Neo4J and what are graph databases?

A graph database stores data as nodes and relationships.  Both particles have properties, expressed in key:value pairs.  Unlike RDBMS systems, graph database's schemas are determined by the instance data itself and not a separate structure.

Neo4J is the world’s leading graph database, meaning it is used by more customers than any other graph database. It offers several advantages over fixed schema databases, especially for startups given the immaturity of their data models. Neo4J does not require a schema like Relational DataBase Management Systems (RDBMS). Instead, Graph databases save data as “Nodes” that are connected with “Relationships”. Nodes and relationships both have “properties” which is how humans think about concepts in the real word. Nodes may be arbitrarily added or removed without re-writing an entire database schema, a true savings of costs and effort.

The Neo4J implementation of a graph database has become the industry standard. Cypher itself, a language similar to the Structured Query Language (SQL) has become a sort of Pseudo standard within the space. The course will cover the basics of Cypher and some advanced topics like sorting and filtering return values.

If there are still seats available by the time you’ve finished reading this article, sign up here! The cost is less than $100, an absolute rarity in technical courses in today's world.

All you have to bring is yourself and a laptop.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My Referendum Thoughts

I have been asked by many people what my thoughts are on the Transit Referendum.  For the record, I will repeat what I had earlier stated.  A referendum is not something I feel is needed in most cases as the process has flaws.  We elected the current government and with that election, have given them permission to move ahead with their stated election promises.  Nevertheless, we find ourselves in a referendum situation.

I have a good mind to vote no for the single reason I view a "yes" or "no" vote on the entire proposal as flawed.  If we are going through the time and effort of a referendum, it is a good time to maybe break out some of the programs into individual yes or no votes.

In general, I support far more infrastructure in public transit because it is both healthy for the economy and for the environment, but only if done properly.  Allowing hundred of kilometers of new bike lanes to be built without proper scientific research and oversight is a problem in my eyes.  As a cyclist, I do not support making cycling more dangerous as has been the result of some changes.  As an environmentalist, I do not support putting more CO2 into the atmosphere.  Unfortunately, the closure of Point Grey road does absolutely nothing to improve cycling safety (how can you improve over “zero” bike accidents in five years) and does a lot of cause further congestion which causes far more CO2 to be placed into the road.

Unfortunately, I have been born with a scientific and quantitative mind.  I actually read bills, study the fine print and do the math calculations.  There is not such thing as a free lunch and many of the current left wing propaganda is littered with the notion of “let’s throw up a few solar panels and ride a bike and we’re green!”.  Sadly, this is green washing and very far from the truth.  The average person amongst us, myself included, uses about nine times too much energy in general as we should be allowed to use.

So back to the current referendum. It would have been far better if each line item was listed separately and the ballot had a place to vote on improvements to the plan.  Where do I sit?

I would implement the following changes:

1. Require an external audit of the bike lanes with a stated goal, a scientific assessment of our track record towards the goal and an openness to hear ways the process can be improved. NO new bike lanes without some proper oversight please!

2. Instead of building more cars space on highways, I would like to see enhanced electric rail services around our region. I would vote for little improvements to be made to roads, instead having our region served uop with improved electric rail service.  If I lived in Langley, I would much rather ride a 180 KPH commuter rail and be downtown in 18 minutes and be able to read or work on the train than simply one more lane for cars.  Since the costs are about equal, it is worth thought.  Same for the new Massey Tunnel.  Why not electric rail that one could take from downtown Victoria to Vancouver (connected with the ferry system)?

3. The old Skytrain is an obsolete technology.  I would rather see more street level trains.

4. For Broadway corridor, use existing rail rights of way and augment it with branch lines.  If the data suggests that a tunnel will accomplish the goals while using existing rail corridors wont, then I will be ok with a tunnel. I would much rather see a New York style train than our hated Skytrain system.  It is bloated, old and costly.

As for walking, all for it. 

The tax itself is a bit of an issue.  We are taking on a very large debt here and it might be better to ask ourselves “do we really want 1,000,000 more people here?”.  Why not help other cities develop instead of Vancouver becoming this major metropolis?

All of this needs more discussion.  This is a band aid on a cast sitting on top of stitches to hold things together.  We, as a society, cannot keep growing like this.

I just stuffed my ballot. I voted “yes” despite the flaws.  After all, what is the real alternative?  Another flawed process with more wasted money?   GAH!  To think how much good I could have done if elected to the provincial legislature..

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Trans Mountain Project Will Pump Profits to Its Texas Owners

True journalism requires tireless hours of investigation, a disciplined mind that can separate fact from story, a dedication to one's profession that cannot be bought or traded and people who devote their lives to the profession.  Sadly, I have noted that with the massive cuts in funding to the mainstream press, more and more of our stories on news events are read from untrained writers.  Blogs, pseudo-news outlets and pure infotainment outlets masquerading as press (such as Fox News) have turned professional journalism into a rare commodity.  Any true democracy requires an impartial, well trained and fully funded independent press to keep those in power honest.  These journalists must force truths, question statements and seek the answers that lie beneath the rhetoric dumped on to society by an assuming leadership.

I recently encountered one such example of a journalist who seeks the truth behind the masquerade.  Robyn Allen of the Tyee has worked hard to trace the trail of money behind Kinder Morgan.  She has turned over many stones in her quest to find the facts and read behind the accounting statements.  I would encourage anyone who is interested in seeking the truths in this matter to give the story below a read and share it with others.

"U.S.-based Kinder Morgan says its Trans Mountain expansion project represents financial and economic benefit to the Canadian economy, and our federal and provincial public treasuries. Who would spend a year investigating such claims, rooted as they are in complex tax law, regulations and corporate structure? I did. What I found made me conclude the opposite -- Kinder Morgan drains financial wealth from our economy and does not pay its fair share of taxes. I have written about the project's complicated design to yield meagre tax revenues for Canadians in a previous Tyee article. Now let me examine just how Canadian Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. is. The answer: hardly at all."
Read the full story here.

IT is an interesting read of Richard Kinder and William Morgan, two former Enron executives who run what appears on the face to be a Canadian company.  When we hear of Kinder Morgan as a company caring for it's fellow Canadian's financial well being, we must balance this out with the fact that the two former Enron executives are both natives of the US, not Canada.  Who's best interests?  I can only guess it might not be mine.

You will recall Enron as the single largest house of cards in US history.  It was a fraud on a massive scale.  Tax avoidance, fictitious profits, creative accounting and storytelling on a scale never before seen were just some of the ingredients of Enron.  Now, we Canadians have to ask ourselves if we trust the same individuals to keep our best interests in mind.  Guess where I set on the matter.

Please support Robyn and others like her who keep real journalism alive.