The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Lemon

In November 2007 there was the dawning of a new age:The age of the ex-Howard, the beginning of a time when the lies and deceit were finished and a new enlightenment was cast upon the land. And the people of the land looked about and were happy to see the ex-Abbott, the unsmug-Costello, and the croaking-toad-of-Downer. In spite of some of them still being in Canberra, and still getting their ugly mugs on the daily television, we all knew they were a spent force, marking time, and that now things would be different.

We felt the attraction, power and sheer nerdiness of Kevin07, the little blond man who could do no wrong, speak no ill. Who brought with him a new broom of honesty, integrity and accountability.

Like buying a new car, we were in love with the image. We had an emotional attachment. Like the new car when something expensive goes wrong, it was still a new car, and still good. Little by little though, as more and more goes wrong with the fantastic new car, the attraction begins to fade. Those expensive repairs change the feeling of the shiny car from good to passable, and then to lemon.

And so it is with Kevin07. The man who made national pride, for better or worse, by an apology to the aborigines, something the Howard would never do.

Starting on a high… perhaps the only way from then is down.

Since that high we’ve had the Kevin making pronouncements on the lower lakes of the Murray River: “evidence of climate change”. Bullshit Kevin. Evidence of a lack of rain and a systematic over-allocation to irrigation upstream, in states controlled by your party.

Along the way, the emissions trading scheme which will increase the cost of everything we buy and everything we do in this country, a sure recipe to send the last remaining vestiges of manufacturing offshore.

And then, off to inspect the Great Barrier Reef to look at coral bleaching, again, “evidence of climate change”. Bullshit again, Kevin. The scare-mongers have been harping on about coral bleaching for the last 30 years. Evidence of run-off from too much agricultural fertisler in your home state, more likely.

Like the shiny new car, as things go wrong, the realistation slowly dawns that it’s no longer good, it’s a lemon. And so it is with Kevin and the new Labor Government.

Folks, we might have removed one set of lies and deceit, but we elected another set.

We elected a lemon.

Wierd

A couple of months ago, the SWMBO and I spent a happycrappy Saturday morning trying to find me a new pair of shoes.

This all came about because Rivers dropped one of their catalogues through the junk-mail-inbox, and I finally decided to give them a go. So orf to Rivers.

Now I don’t know if every Rivers store is like the one close to us – a “clearance” store. But in this store there are no staff, apart from the one on the checkout taking yer money. Everything is rack-em-and-stack-em to the ceiling. The shoes were all over the place, just finding a PAIR was difficult. The weird thing was, I was eventually able to find a pair where the right fitted fine, but do you think I could get the left shoe on? Not a hope. The lack of a PERSON to help out, the self-promoting advertising on endless loop, and not finding anything to fit… not a good start. Slightly pissed orf, chaps.

From there, we found another place flogging shoes, another “discount” operation. This place had commercial radio – SA-FM or something like that blasting loud enough to shake my ribcage. Talk about inane chatter. No wonder I don’t listen to commercial radio. 20 minutes of that and if I still had the will to live, I’d be taking pleasure in poking my eyes out with a fork.

Eventually, born of desperation and a desire not to come home empty-handed, I found a pair of plain black business shoes. Dammit though, the right fits fine, but the left….

I’ve never had this trouble before, and the old shoes fit just fine.

There must be something about modern shoe makers, left shoes are all a size smaller. Some strange conspiracy to mess with the minds of us shoe-wearing public.

Yoof

Can somebody please, please explain how it is that World Yoof Day managed to last a whole week?

We had the endless hoopla, but nobody explained the obvious?

Or is it one of those unmentionables, like how we have a magazine called “Womens Weekly” which comes out monthly? But nobody in their right mind would call a magazine “Womens Monthly”, would they?

Dr Horrible

This is a scream:

Dr Horribles Sing-along Blog.

I can’t say any more. :)

The Fund Damagers Cometh – again

I’ve previously had a spray at Fund Damagers. Today whilst confined indoors after being blessed by a visit from the Snot Fairy, I did the latest numbers.

My own investment, which carries no management fees, has given a total increase in portfolio value of a mere 10%. This is a difficult figure to do anything meaningful with because there are things there that have been bought anytime between 10 days and 10 years. In fact, I’ve lost a fortune in what I’ve been buying in the last 12 months. The downturn in stockmarkets has been pretty severe.

Nevertheless, let’s compare that with the returns from the 3 managed funds that I have invested in as well:

Fund 1: Increase in Funds Under Management: -24.8%

Fund 2: Increase in Funds Under Management: -33.75%

Fund 3: Increase in Funds Under Management: -2.36%

Yes, that’s right, the returns are ALL NEGATIVE.

All of the managed funds are now worth less than I paid. In all cases, I bought into those funds during 2002. You’d think that with the good times that have been, the funds would be streets ahead, even with the stock markets being down.

Now, will the Fund Managers Damagers give back any of those fees they have been using to buy their BMW’s? I don’t think so!

Fund Managers win irrespective of the market because they just charge a percentage of funds under their management. These fees will have fallen, but the point is: If I lose, they win. If I win, they win. Something is not right here.

Reason for buying a few managed funds: To set aside a few quid to pay the HECS fees should the chaps decide to go on to University. I’d have done better to have put the money in a term deposit.

I shudder to think what the superannuation statement will look like :(

Why can’t I use a CF lamp in a refrigorator?

I’ve had a question from a Jeremy, who asks after reading THIS POST:

“I have a question about CF globes and why we cant use them in our refrigerators? Is there a danger of the Mercury leeching-out?”

Answer: There are 3 reasons:

Firstly, CF lamps have a warm up time, this is usually about 2 to 5 minutes. Until warmed up, the light output of a CF lamp is dramatically lower than after it has warmed up. Because typically a refrigerator will be opened for a few minutes at most, the CF lamp will always be running during the warm-up time. So you just won’t get much light.

Second, CF lamps work better when run for long periods of time. Lighting a hallway – fine. Switching on and off frequently like for example in a toilet, bathroom, etc. Not so good. Lots of switching reduces the operating life of the lamp. A fridge is a good example of a lamp that is going to be switched on and off a lot.

Third, really a re-iteration of the warm-up time thing but with a bit more of a technical twist:

CF lamps work like all fluorescent lamps, which is that the electrical energy creates a plasma inside the tube, and the plasma gives off ultra-violet light. Normally this won’t do you a lot of good, but it turns out that by coating the inside of the tube with the right kind of phosphor, the UV light is absorbed by the phosphor, and it in turn emits visible light. The exact wavelength (colour) of the visible light depends on the phosphor used.

Now the emitted light from the plasma is very poor and pretty useless unless you add a tiny bit of mercury, and it’s actually the mercury as a vapour, in the plasma, that causes the UV light to be produced which tickles the phosphor which gets excited and makes the visible light.

BUT…. there are two OTHER characteristics of a fluroescent lamp: Firstly, the mercury HAS to be a vapour and at room temperature it is usually solid. So the warm-up time is actually a strong function of the time for the mercury to vaporise. And then, the optimal emission of light from a CF lamp occurs when the WALL temperature of the lamp (ie the tube) is about 50 degrees C. Lower or higher and the light output is reduced.

Now, when you stick your CF lamp in a fridge you have those two effects working against you: The lamp is off and cold, so turning it on will have a longer warm up time. The warm-up time I mention in (1) above is typical from room temperature. A fridge will be at about 0 to maybe 4 degrees C. So you have to raise the temperature of the lamp by an extra 15 to 20 degrees, and this takes time. So the warm up time is longer because it will take longer for the mercury to vaporise. And secondly, your chances of getting optimal light output (where you get most bang for your buck) are a whole lot lower because the inside of a fridge is jolly cold, so its harder to get the tube up to 50 degrees of thereabouts.

Of course, the longer you leave the fridge door open, the more light will come from the CF tube, but this rather defeats the purpose of having a fridge.

[If you ever have the good fortune to work on the design of some systems for extreme cold, you find that the fluorescent lamps have a small heater wire wrapped around the tube to warm it up by passing an electic current though that wire. They also have sophisiticated control and measuring systems to activate that heater.]

Geez you sometimes have days like this

It’s been a lousy, crappy 24 hours.

Things started with a call from a bunch where I do a bit of volunteer work: “The server has crashed. What do we do?”

Over the phone… from what they read out… I had no idea. A trip in was needed after work. Two hours of farting around trying to get disks checked and repaired… fiddling around with a RAID mirror set (geek speak)… finally it seemed to be on the mend.

About 8pm, just as this was nearing being sorted out, the phone call: “I’m at the vets with Spike, he’s been hit. Can you pick up the chaps from Kung Fu.” Oh shit. Errr… maybe. Shortly after, the next call, “fractured skull, bleeding, head injuries. He’s breathing but has no chance of surviving, he has to be put down.” Double shit.

So while SWMBO was rushing back and forward to the vet, picking the guys up, getting home, telling the chaps… I rushed and got home as fast as I could to the stunned family.

Eventually we managed to get fed, watered, to bed. The fellas, distraught. The mum and dad not much better. While that’s all fraught, I still had to finish the repair job. Doing it by the magic of remote control helped but it was still midnight before that was complete.

Today I took the chaps and we collected Spike from the vet, then dug a hole under his favourite tree out the back and buried him. It’s probably best that the chaps helped do this, it’s easier to see it’s final.

Spike has been a gentle and fun part of our family for only 18 months, but he’s one of the nicest, friendliest cats we could have wished for, and we will all miss him terribly.

Then… the craziness…

Looking across the fence into our frontI had to go outside and round the side of the house, next to the neighbour and round where we have rear access. That’s when I found some of the shrubs in the garden smashed up at crazy angles, and great lumps of the side fence missing, or smashed into mud and puddles of slush. And a garden centre delivery truck, stuck in the neighbours place leaning on the fence.

What the heck?!?!

Time to call the garden centre. Spoke to the operations manager who knew all about it.

Seems like yesterday, the neighbours gave access for THEIR neighbours who wanted to get a truck load of gravel in. The truck turned up in the rain and got part way down the hill to where he had to go before the driver decided it was all too slippery, so he baled out. In trying to drive up the hill and out, he got stuck. So they called in a 4WD digger to pull him out. The digger got stuck and slithered around, smashed down the fence and stopped less than a metre from sliding through our house. The only way the digger stopped was to put the bucket down and dig into the ground. So then they called in a fully loaded articulated truck to pull out the digger that was trying to pull out the truck.

Eventually they got the digger out and gave up and left the truck.

With our other crises last night we were not around for them to come and see us to tell us what had been going on – then I came across it after lunch.

Truck extractionThis afternoon they turned up with another huge digger, this time, the guys doing the work were the supervisor and a relative. They seemed to know what they were doing.

Mind you, I was so concerned by all this that I got the boys out of the house and we went and stood some distance away. If it had gone wrong we would have been demolished and though it seems a bit paranoid now, it was a heck of a worry.

Now thats a diggerSo the truck is pulled out, there is mud and crap all over the road, the fence is down and we have mud and grot all over the place. They have said, over and over, that they will be back to fix all the damage (both for us and next door – who were only doing a favour.)

This is the second time somebody has tried to take out our house. Wondering if it might be time to get some Armco Railing.

May tomorrows troubles be small ones.

Actually DOING something about Climate Change

Over on Jeremy, he’s posted about the Garnaut report. I’ve no idea if he is serious or taking the piss.

I posted a comment, along the lines of my recent post about how everything Australia does is meaningless, and I’ve been torn apart (as usual) along two lines:

1) My definition of a closed system is wrong.

2) I’m immoral and we should DO SOMETHING because to do nothing is (morally) WRONG.

I’ve posted a long comment there, and then thought Obuggerit, I’ll post here as well.

Point 1: Closed System.

The planet is a closed system. Doing stuff in Australia makes sod-all difference if things are not done everywhere. To mix metaphors, you CANNOT be half pregnant, but Australia taking some kind of moral high ground is trying to do just that.

For the person who picked on my statement about “closed system” and went off into thermodynamics: Sorry – you are nit-picking.

As far as climate and CO2 are concerned you can ignore all the second order effects of thermodynamics, its irrelevant for all practical purposes.

If all you do is consider CO2 emissions globally, the point is that there seems to be an attitude that Australia changing its emissions will suddenly fix all problems, stop the drought, and so on. This is plainly bollocks.

As far as world CO2 emissions are concerned, it does not matter whether the CO2 is emitted in Australia, Antarctica or Callathumpia. When it’s in the air, it’s in the air.

So Australia doing STUFF without others doing STUFF is meaningless tokenism.

Point 2: Doing meaningful STUFF.

Australia can make a contribution which is NOT meaningless tokenism, but doing so is difficult.

Here is a prescription in 4 parts. All or nothing. All parts work together, all needed.

1/ Fund research into 10 or 20 new methods of generating electricity from solar.

Why solar?

The solar power falling on the surface of the earth is about 1000 Watts / m^2. If all that energy could be used, the roof of a typical house will produce something like 70 kW, more than enough for that house and many others. Even allowing for poor efficiency and cloud cover, getting 10 to 20 kW should be achievable.

Power grids help shift power from places with light to places without. Storage is a problem but is improving. Fund research there as well.

Right now solar is not affordable to all but the very rich, and the solar that’s available is photovoltaic, and based on some pretty old technology.

There is also dye solar in research which promises to be dramatically cheaper. FUND IT!

What about the Heliostat solar furnace? FUND IT!

How about the Power Tower, using pure convection? FUND IT!

There will be a bunch more. Fund them.

Be prepared to accept that of 10 to 20 funded developments, only 2 will be winners. The rest will be dead ducks. Get over it.

But then do steps 2, 3 and 4 (doing step 1 without the others is madness):

2/ A condition of funding research is that the scientists must be kept on a tight reign and the engineers let in.

Publishing papers (the reason for existence of the scientist) spreads the joy, and loses the rewards. Be sure, anybody else following the prescription will be doing these steps as well. Australia must learn!

Funding research will bring out every crackpot, looney, and rent-seeker imaginable. Accepting only proposals which include engineering, design, pilot plants and evaluation will help keep this in check.

Research without pilot plants is useless, so an outcome of research (a condition for getting the money) HAS to be that a pilot plant is to be constructed. The engineers are needed for that. Let em in early.

3/ Don’t permit publication of anything. No papers, nuffink, until the pilot plants have been built and THE PATENTS HAVE BEEN APPLIED FOR.

Historically Australia has been great at doing research and creating intellectual property, and poor at making a quid from those activities. This must cease. Patents are the only method. Use them.

4/ License the patents worldwide at reasonable costs, so the fruits of the research, pilot plants, and so on can be made available to all. AT A PRICE.

If we pay for the research it is only right and fair that we share the rewards. The license fees should be set by the Australian Govt (which funds the activities). And they should be reasonable.

And finally and most important, defend in courts of law the patents to ensure that the fruits of the Australian taxpayer are not stolen.

——-

This is a concrete approach, with a 10 to 20 year horizon it could lead to a transformation. It can benefit all instead of doing a tokenistic, paternalistic, “poor little me” bullshit line, which is what Oz is doing right now. It can benefit all. It can reward Australians for their taxes being used for the benefit of all.

——–

Those who attack me for having the the “we should not bother” line because others do worse are simply pious. Taking that approach without doing something tangible is simply to take the moral high ground. Doing that, we will have the most moral-high-ground-pious unemployed population living in a drought on earth. Whoopy-do.

Bless you my son for thou art rude

Black box

Thank you Jeremy. There are some things in your blog which I think are just a bit beyond the pale. But it is yours after all.

But this one is a gem: Beyond the myths about the Black Box Flight Data Recorder. Well worth spending the 1/2 hour or so to read.

Pertinant for me in some ways because I worked for a time for one of the government defence labs, the cousin to A.R.L. Got to know the beuracracy well :)

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