Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Technology Solutions to all problems

Well an exaggeration, but we as a species are really clever, and we rapidly accumulate knowledge.

Smoking Deaths - E-cigarettes

All the addictive nicotine and none of the nasty side-effects.  Nicotine seems to be no more dangerous than caffeine.  The technology is new, but seems very effective, and should be promoted by governments.  E-cigarettes will only get better, and blur the line between real and artificial.  Good for the smoker and the rest of society.

Gun Deaths - Tasers

In Texas a person can legally own a Taser.  If more people owned a Taser, and not a real gun there would be less suicides, accidents and homicides.  60% of people that die by gunshot, are suicides.  Guns are very efficient, Tasers, ropes, and knives, less so.

Cars Deaths - Autonomous Cars

Cars that drive themselves never have too much to drink, obey the speed limits and stop signs.  They maybe 10 years away, but new cars are already available with automatic parking, breaking, keeping between the lines.  Autonomous cars will change many things including the taxi and public transport industries, chauffeurs, parking places, road construction. It will give rise to renting for an hour, as needed, rather than owning for years.

Global Warming

A really tricky problem, but we handled the change to safer hydrofluorocarbons to protect the Ozone layer, and now we need to mitigate the excess carbon dioxide.  It needs technology fixes, as global cooperation is far to difficult, expensive and unlikely.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Theft is the sincerest form of flattery

English is an open, uncontrolled language, unlike other, more rigorous, languages such as French which is monitored by the quasi-official Académie Française. Like all languages English has stolen many words from other languages.  Some of the best stolen words are from Yiddish, from Eastern Europe German.

To my English language ears they have a great feel to them, and they allude to a past time and culture:

Schmuck  - a jerk, a nasty person
Schmaltz - sentimental
Schmooze - to hang with, to chat
Chutzpah - to have the nerve, the effrontery
Kvetsch - to whine
Shtick - a gimmick, and act

Descending into the abyss

If you go to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, there signs at the top warning you cannot get to the river and back in a day.   The warnings are dire.

It was May, and at 3,000 m it was cold.  I left at daybreak, it was snowing a little. I reached the river at 10:00, and it was a muggy 25C.  After a short time at the river, there is nothing much to see, I returned up the same route, and was back on top by 15:30.  Not exactly a walk in the park, but plenty of time.  Like climbing a mountain in reverse.

To see the route virtually see Google maps Street View.



How long does it take to get to the bottom?

The shortest route the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, is 6.5 miles (10.4 km).  This also involves a vertical drop of about 4,400 feet (1,443 meters). The average person would make the trip down in 3-4 hours and the trip back up in 6-8 hours. This should not be attempted as a day hike. There is no water available enroute and the trail is very exposed causing summertime high temperatures in excess of 100 F (40 C). During winter, the top portion of the trail is frequently covered with ice and the lower portion with a very slick mud.

Can I go to the river and back in one day?

Day hikes to the river and back are not recommended. This is not to say that it has not been or cannot be done, it is simply not a safe thing for your average person to do. If you are adapted to the high altitude, can walk 13-15 miles pretty much continuously for 9-15 hours, and handle the vertical drop and rise of almost a mile, and can carry at least 2 quarts of water and some food, and are in extremely good shape, then you can probably survive the attempt. Someone usually dies and many are seriously injured in the attempt ever year. Heatstroke, hypothermia, dehydration and exhaustion are the common undoings of people who make the attempt.

Assembly required

The clue was, it did not say "Some" Assembly Required, it said Assembly Required.   When I opened the large cardboard box, it was filled with a single block of polystyrene, and the glass elements were embedded in it.  A box of parts.

The instructions are hopeless, and optimistic:

Step One - Frame assembly - approx 8 minutes

It takes 30 minutes to extract the glass from the polystyrene without breaking it.   

Step Two - Electrical work - approx 10 minutes

The instructions say twist together 13 pairs of wires!  I don't think so.

I will get this together and hung, but it will take more than 18 minutes.  If you are a succor for punishment the "instructions" are attached:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Disturbed minds and how they are perceived today

On the History Channel they are broadcasting "The Bible" and I happened across the part where Abraham is instructed by God, that is, voices in his head, to kill his own son.  And he attempts to carry it out.

In the modern world such a person would be deemed to have a disturbed mind, and the child would be removed from his "care" by society.  But this is preached as a wonderful story.  There is a disconnect between the reality of life today, and stories.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shutdown of thermohaline circulation?

Late season snow in Sussex, causing chaos on the roads.  Perhaps the cold water melting off the Greenland landmass has disrupted the North Atlantic Drift while no one was looking?

See movie at

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Man of La Mancha

By intermission I was not sure, but by the end of the play I was turned around.  This was excellent.

Don Quixote written by Miguel de Cervantes was published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615 in Spain.  A satire about a crazy man who believes in chivalry; a person with his own personal reality.  But then don't we all have our own personal reality?

William Shakespeare was a contemporary of Cervantes.

The stage play is a clever two realities in one.  The setting is a prison cell at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. A huge stairway is lowered on to the stage and Cervantes, a poet, and actor, descends with his man servant and trunk.  Cervantes has to prove his innocence to the prisoners who detest poets, by acting out the play of Don Quixote.   The reality of Don Quixote is in yellow light, and the reality of the prison is is white light.

At the end of the reenactment, the prisoners are convinced he is not a bad poet and return his manuscripts.  Immediately the guard of the Spanish Inquisition calls Cervantes, and he ascends the steep stairs to his fate, again.

Heavy stuff.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Early morning trip to Bison

They open at 7:00 am and I was there with 5 minutes to spare.  Delivery trucks loaded with doors and lumber were already leaving the site.

A guy, in his electric utility vehicle, turned up, loaded with two flasks of coffee.  He offered me some, and, as I was interested, showed me the vehicle.   It was customized to carry 16 ft lengths of lumber, and looked to be made of heavy steel plate, but actually aluminium, and behind a side door were 4 large lead-acid batteries, "Enough power to go Walmart 100 times," he said.

Walmart is one km due south of Bison, so this may not be too much of an exaggeration.  Not exactly street-legal, but with good air-conditioning.