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19/12/2008

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Writing

There are all sorts of people who can't write. Most of them are simply unreadable, but there is one sort that is much, much worse.

That is the person who can write, who writes well, who is engaging to read, but never actually conveys any information. These authors are a real threat, because you can get sucked in to reading for ages before you realize that no information is being imparted.

The most recent case I found of this is at No Nonsense Self Defence. There are literally hundreds of essays here, and you read them, and they seem to be very important and about useful, or at least interesting subjects (to people who find martial arts interesting). But eventually you realize that he isn't saying anything. He has spent 5000 words, of referenced, footnoted, hyperlinked and crosslinked writing to say.... well that many other people don't know what they are talking about... and that he...well his school of thinking... he ..... Nothing. There is NO INFORMATION in the whole site that I have been able to find.

It is SO INFURIATING. Because he writes well, because he brings up subjects well, explains that alternative approaches are flawed, and then writes very much as though he is in the process of explaining his approach to the problems. But he doesn't. There is nothing there.

It is almost as though it is some sort of evolutionary mimic, like those insects that look exactly like a very toxic species, but are actually harmless. This species of author has somehow arisen to look exactly like someone providing long winded but ultimately rewarding essays, but with no actually information.

Part of the reason this is so dangerous, is because of two other distinct types of writing, both of which look like the content free but beguiling essay (CFBGE). This is the Super Longwinded But Eventually Insightful Essay (SLBEIE) and the Buzzword Instead of Ideas essay (BIIE).

Super Longwinded But Eventually Insightful Essay The classic example of this is Moldbug. He is happy to write a 5000 word essay, that eventually gets around to making some really brilliant point. (I think a lot of his points are WRONG, but this does not make them stupid, uninteresting, or even unuseful). Honestly, if he only had an editor, who could wittle the 5000 words down to... 1000 words say, then I would gladly read everything he writes. But as it is, it is just too much work unless I am really bored. BUT.... the existence of the SLBEIE makes the content free but beguiling essay all the more beguiling. You keep thinking he will eventually make a point. You have been through essays like this before, and you were rewarded at the end. It's like those stories of intermittent reinforcement, because you sometimes went through 5000 words before getting to an idea that left you thinking about it for days... you keep ploughing on, only to eventually come to the sad conclusion that this time there would be no treasure at the end of the deathmarch.

Buzzword Instead of Ideas essay (BIIE) This is the other jaw of the trap. This is commonly found in things like pop-business-strategy books, and in the self improvement section of the bookshop. Once again there is long, meandering essays, but it does indeed stop to make real, definite points. Hurray!!! Only, if you actually think about what is said, it is very shallow, trite, truisms and random feel-good statements that rely more on wishful thinking than fact. Read anything by Robert Kiyosaki for an example. The BIIE serves to desensitize your early warning systems, because while at first glance they are similar, they are actually very easy to identify. It doesn't take long to reach something clearly intended to be a point. And it only takes a bit of thinking to realize that this sort of point is stupid. So you can quickly identify the essays as stupid. The danger here is that the CFBGE doesn't have stupid points, and so slips past this defense.

This problem of content free writing was possibly explored in the now finished Blog of a law student. Dizzy Does It (A title that makes much more sense if you say it with an American accent.) Dizzy has a blog of her time at law school, and while a very interesting look at a slice of life totally outside of my experience, it does suffer from the problem of not always actually getting around to saying what she is talking about on any particular day.

I had put this down to the disorganized nature of blogging, combined with the facts that she was mostly writing for people who knew more about her life than I did, and that she was sometimes discussing personal subjects that one may well be reluctant to be explicit about. But then, at the end of her blog, she did one final essay about writing styles.

She was complaining that law school had taught her to be TOO EXPLICIT when writing. And that she much prefered to be vague and confusing, both in her writing and in what she reads. Naturally, she was not clear about this, but she did link to another guy, who was explicit about the issue, and so I could work backwards. Apparently this was seen as some sort of class issue, that the "lower classes" are people who never learned to communicate clearly, and that learning this was a critical step in working your way up the social ladder to positions and careers where conveying information correctly is important. (NOTE: This is a very pro-clarity interpretation of the issue, her view was anti-clarity (even my word anti-clarity is biased, she would probably refer to it was intuitive, non-verbal communication.))

This was ironic, because her other major complaint was that the law school was too vague about students' expected work requirements, and expected you to guess what they were on about. This enables me to go back and reinterpret the entire story of her fights with the academic requirements of the law school as being all about people who couldn't communicate clearly not understanding eachother.

Getting back to the original site I was complaining about: No Nonsense Self Defence. This seems to be written by a person or persons who are definitely from the wrong side of the tracks, so it makes sense that they are unable to articulate what they are actually trying to say. Assuming Dizzy was actually correct, and not just making all this up, or misinterpreting it.

10/12/2008

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Watching

Thursday nights I go and work in my wifes fishtank shop. Business is variable, so sometimes there is nothing to do except watch the customers in other shops. Such as the health and beauty electrical goods shop across the way. Thursday night is when all the highschool girls go in there, in groups, and after much daring eachother and giggling eventually start playing with the vibrators.

Well it's more interesting than watching people in the next shop choose plants.

Saturday morning is when all the housewives go in and play with the vibrators. They tend to go by themselves, rather than in groups. And they tend to go for much, much longer lengths of time.

02/12/2008

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OOWWW!..... Still

It's been a week. My foot is slowly getting better, but a day of walking still leaves me with a foot that no longer fits in my shoe. And by walking, I mean anything, even sitting without having my foot up in the air.

On the other hand, searching through the freezer to find things to ice it with, I've found some packets of corn and vegetables that are passed their use-by date. So we now have more room in the freezer, or at least we will once I've stopped using the packets as icepacks and throw them out.

Childhood

The idea of childhood, that a child aged 17 years and 364 days is an innocent flower that needs protection from the world, and can't be held responsible for ta's actions; while the next day ta is a complete adult with all rights and responsibilities, is a very artificial construct.

It is possible to maintain this fiction, for decades even, providing society is prepared to tolerate a high level of hypocrisy and behind the scenes double dealing to handle all the cases that don't fit.

However, our modern society is not prepared to tolerate such things. We are instead obsessed with having everything consistent and fair. We can no longer live with having the 13 year old crack whore living under different rules than the middle class catholic schoolgirl.

We have gained many advantages with this approach, but have also lost much.

(Before someone objects that the catholic schoolgirl will still get a much cushier ride, the interpretation of the rules is different, but the rules are now the same, and over time, the treatments are more and more similar. The fact that anyone COULD object to my example is something that would not happen in the 1950s.)

25/11/2008

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OOWWW!

Sunday morning, I was casually bounding up the stairs (while carrying no more than 10 or 20 kg of stuff) when I missed. I'm not sure exactly how I landed, but I do know that I ended up on my back, underneath the luggage, and knowing that my ankle was not in the best of shape.

At first it didn't seem too bad, and I figures that it would get better in 5 or 10 minutes. An hour later I came to the conclusion that this wasn't going to happen and I would need to give it some medical attention.

As we all know, the treatment for something like this is R.I.C.E

Did I do this? Have you read any of my other entries? Of course I had a shop to set up that day. This included:

Only once did I lose balance completely, and end up with my leg collapsing underneath me, and ending up landing on my back, with a loaded fishtank on top of me.

When I finally took my shoe off at the end of the day, I was impressed to see that my right ankle was at least 50% bigger than the left. At this point I was forced to argue for 10 minutes or so to prevent Ping from driving me to the hospital. Instead I was finally able to get to bed, elevate the ankle, put an ice pack on it, and go to sleep.

Those Icepacks designed to cool a bottle of wine are useless for ankles. They are too narrow to put your foot inside it (especially a foot 50% bigger than normal) and on the outside they have insulation, which stops it from losing cold to the air when the wine is cooling down, or losing cold to your foot when that's what you want. I was NOT going to go all the way downstairs just to get more normal ice.

Monday Night

I was finally able to do the full compression bandage, elevation, Wild Turkey, Topgear thing I should have been doing Sunday morning.

19/11/2008

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Things I Now Think are Stupid, But Didn't Used To: Part Two

Eating a near vegetarian diet with heaps of carbs. Pure vegetarianism I always thought was stupid.

Breakfast cereal (see above point). I still maintain that Nutrigrain is worse for you than Cocopops, but these days I would reject them both for a tuna melt. The cereal is CHEAP though.

Cheap alcohol. Your limiting factor is your bodily ability to tolerate C2H5OH, not your wallet. Even when you are a student. So why did I drink the cheap stuff? Single Malts for me now. Well, and that new Barefoot Radler stuff.

Killing snails in the garden. If you are a farmer, then your aim is to grow the maximum tonnes/hectare of a certain type or selection of very specific crop plant species. Anything that reduces that yield, such as snails, is to be eliminated. But a garden is different. The purpose of a garden is to have a slab of nature right where you can enjoy it, where you can wander around naked* at 7 am without anyone seeing, where you can relax. Why would you regard one sort of natural creature, say a rose bush, as wonderful, while another, such as some snails, as undesirable. I know which one is covered with spines and will draw blood if you aren't careful. (Especially important at 7 am)

*Not REALLY naked, I'm wearing a pair of skin tight bike pants. I like to go into the garden and do snatches** early in the morning.

**Not THAT sort of snatch, it's an exercise, look it up.

18/11/2008

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Black Market Restaurants

Went to a restaurant last night. It wasn't strictly... legal.

There were various subtle signs... smoking, cats wandering in and out, people feeding the cats from the table, cheap alcohol, open fires...

It was great.

No, I'm not going to say where it is. I would feel so guilty if the safety-nazis shut it down. They probably will anyway, eventually, but at least I'll know I wasn't responsible for tipping off our hated overlords.

I know, even if it was closed down, the chances that it was my fault are remote. But I'd never know. Kind of like why you never discuss cool ideas for crimes or terrorist acts on the net. What if somebody did them? What if somebody died? It could haunt you for years.

Things I Now Think are Stupid, But Didn't Used To

Wearing camoflage colours around town. In an urban environment, camoflage stands out. If you want to blend into the background, wear jeans and t-shirt, or a suit.

Picking fights with your school teachers over politics. I was never going to change them. If I really wanted to "oppose" them, I should have exploited their easily predictable biases to get better marks. (Actually, that would have been useless, I got good enough marks to get into any university I wanted, and after that, school marks were forgotten.)

Unreliable European cars. Yes, that's a tautology.

03/11/2008

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Surface Tension, in Haiku

Watching droplets of blood run down a polystyrene foam sheet (it was Sunday)

I would have guessed that the sheet was already wet, but the clear difference between the approaching contact angle and receeding contact angle proved me wrong.

Blood runs down the slope

Contact angles unconstant

All not as it seems

28/10/2008

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One Year Further Away from Primary School (Yay!)

My Birthday Resolutions

The normal method is to pick the significant date, and then have resolutions that you stick to from then on. I chose the more effective (according to modern management theory) method of having resolutions that need to be resolved BY the significant date.

In this case My Birthday.

These were for exercise...

Strength

Snatch bucketbell full of water and rocks 10x3

One Arm Chinup, both sides

Deadlift a full bin of sand

.

.

Size

.

.

.

18 inch upper arm

95kg @ < 12%

Result

Pass

Pass

Fail

Fail

Pass

Comment

I'm currently doing 10x10! But it is a slightly smaller bucket, my old bucket broke.

YES!!!, PLUS I was now 15 kg heavier than when I first succeeded in doing the OAC.

Deadlift a full bin of sand Not even close. Well actually it's a lot closer than last time. Not there yet.

My left arm was 17.25 ", my right was 17.5". This looks like zero growth in the left arm, and 0.75" growth in the right. This is ... unexpected. The "lack of symmetry" is something I still don't care about in the slightest.

I was 95 at 12.2%. However that 12.2 was based on measurements that were only performed to 2 significant figures, I'll give that a pass.

When will I meet all these goals? Lets try for Christmas.

And a Present

Sick of me riding about on $18 ebay specials, my wife decided to get me a birthday present. She decided this when she woke up early (10 am) to find that I hadn't gone to work on my birthday. My explanation "Not in the mood." was accepted, and so she declared that she would buy me a bike equal to today's revenue in her shop. At this point, the phone rang.

She rolled over to the phone while I lay back on the bed and predicted that this would be someone wanting to buy three FP1 fishtanks, (a $700 tank). It wasn't. He only wanted one FP1, and two FW4Bs, a total order of only $1100. But still easily enough to finance a trip to the bike shop.

I'd already been looking at what sort of good bike to get. Everyone was in fair agreement, the best value for money is Cell Bikes.

Looking at the individual models is a different matter. A hoary old cliche is that "you get what you pay for", but simple observation shows that this is rarely true. A more accurate statement is "what you get is, at best, proportional to what you pay for, providing you watch the bastards like a hawk" but this still fails experimental verification. The closest I can come up with is more like "what you get is, at best, proportional to the square or even cubed root of what you pay for, providing you watch the bastards like a hawk."

What this means, is that if the cheapest version of an item is $1. Then paying $2 might get you something 40% better. And to get something twice as good will take $4, if not $8. (Providing you aren't ripped off.) It might even turn out to be a log scale.

ANYWAY, this means that when you are looking at a range of different models, you will soon find that there is a case of diminishing returns. Beyond a certain price point, you can spend more and more money, and not really get any benifits that anyone other than an expert could even identify.

Looking at the cell bike range, this point seemed to be the Cell Blade. At $649 it was well, well within my price budget for the day. So I got one.

Needless to say, in between me deciding on the blade, and actually getting to the shop, the Australian dollar collapsed. So they upped the price to $800 and changed the aluminium alloy front forks to carbon fibre to try to conceal the increase. Nonetheless, it was still the bike at the point of diminishing returns, so I still got one.

Since then, they've gone up ANOTHER $50, that exchange rate is fierce.

23/10/2008

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I Used to Play that Game

The recent spike in the price of oil and resulting (?) financial crisis has led to a resurgence of groups like these guys. If you don't want to click through, suffice to say that they are convinced we are a year or two (at most) from the collapse of civilization due to the end of oil.

I recognized them as soon as I started reading. Not the oil thing, but most of what they were doing was exactly what me and my mates used to get up to at high school.

The End Of The World Is Nigh is a fairly amusing game. You get to sit around and plan all sorts of escapes and look at, buy or make all sorts of cool toys that would be useful once the world is like in the Mad Max movies. And because you know what's going to happen, and everyone else doesn't, that makes you smarter than they are, and a hero in the upcomming adventure.

We didn't spend as much time on WHY the world was going to end as these guys do.

Like any sort of game, It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. And becoming one-eyed is a real risk with this one. It probably contributed to me arriving at university and finding that I had zero topics of conversation that any girls were interested in. But the approach of some extremists is far, far worse.

These guys seem to have serious argued that a young guy should (for example) reject an opportunity to become a computer programmer in favour of learning stonemasonry or something that will be in high demand once electricity disapears and all the computer programers become menial slaves haulling rocks for the masons. That sort of thing can affect you badly for life if you take it seriously.

Things I Used to Think Were Stupid, But Don't Anymore

Having the laces on my shoes done up so loosely that you can slip them on and off.

Watching what you eat.

Rolling up the sleeves on a long sleeve shirt

Not getting a tan

Having a personal budget (I still don't think I need one, but I can see some people clearly do.)

Fuel economy (I still think you need to do a discounted cashflow analysis. It is stupid to pay an extra $10 000 for a car that will save you $500 per year for 5 years.)

17/10/2008

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One year of ABCD Muscle Building

So I just noticed that this is the 52nd week since I started the ABCD diet. This was combined with a new execise system, and it is interesting to see how I've gone.

It looks like over the last year I've put on nearly 11 kg of lean body mass (muscle) while slightly lowering my % body fat. Is that a good result? Well all the references I've found indicate that the maximum rate of muscle addition that you can get without drugs is about 20 to 25pounds/year.

These are the reputable references. There is always someone who claims twice that or more, but they are trying to sell you something. Usually something that is not even legal in Australia.

11 kg is 24 pounds, so I am operating at the absolute top of the range.

Can't complain too much about that can I?

Well there are results that are better than that, but these are for beginners, guys who haven't trained before and are basically just getting up to what they naturally should be. (Natural being in this case if they weren't living an artifical life of zero effort on a diet of sugar, alcohol and caffeine, that is only possible in a modern technological society.) I STARTED at 72 kg when I was 18. I had already packed on 14 kg through years of training before I started this. So I can't claim to be a beginner.

08/10/2008

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Sounds Good at the first pass

So this guy I know wants to make an electric car, so I'm looking up sites about people who've already done it. They are both sobering (it costs a LOT of money, something my friend has yet to accept.) and amusing. One that is particularly out of step with my thinking is this page about converting an echo which begins...

How can I convert a car?

1. Find a vehicle that is;

To which my immediate response was

28/09/2008

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Proof #3 that we are actually in the 21st Century

Crossing the Channel by Jetpack and not a government agency in sight.

18/09/2008

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Almost, But Not Quite

A SAAB Viggen went past me this morning. Licence plate VI99EN. So clearly the driver knows what it is, and is proud of it.

The Viggen?

SAAB is a company that likes to think it is just a swedish version of the prestige german marques. You know, just like BMW but with nicer self assembled furniture in the office. Their problem is that they have to convince all the customers of this.

They sort of managed this in the 1980s.The early primitive 1980s Yuppies were convinced that a BMW and a SAAB were valid substitutes for eachother. But this hasn't lasted.

The basic problem is money. BMW (and Mercedes, and Audi) have more money than SAAB, and so can update their cars far more often. By the mid 1990s the Germans had been through a couple of complete redesigns, while the SAAB was still much the same car. Hence it was falling further and further behind. This is despite the fundamental design of the SAAB being, for most purposes, a better layout in the first place.

Likewise, the Germans had managed to seriously lift their images via the use of High performance versions. BMW produced the M series, where the M3 and M5 were high performance versions of the small 3 series and medium 5 series sedans. Mercedes found a private company (AMG) that was doing the same thing with their products, and enlisted them as a partner. And Audi started off making a special version of Audi 100 for rally racing, and ended up copying BMW with its S series (the S3, S4, S6 and S8 being the high performance versions of the A3, A4, A6 and A8 cars, which range from a little hatchback (S3) to a Large Luxury Sedan (S8). All of this led to an aura of high perfomance and desirability around the brands that leads lots of people to fork out good money for the Cheap, Slow, Ordinary versions of the same vehicles.

So, by the mid 1990s, the BMW M3, Mercedes C36AMG and Audi S4 were all considered super desirable, image generating, high performance vehicles. With the M3 in particular (along with the limited edition Audi RS models) being considered almost equal to a Porsche 911.

Anyway, SAAB wanted a car that had the image of the BMW M3, so that the rest of its models would sell for BMW prices, in BMW volumes, and make BMW profits.

So they got a bunch of their top Engineers together, and told them to make a car that would kick some german butt. This was their first mistake.

If they'd asked for a car that would match a M3 in all respects, it might have worked. Or if they had (much as it pains me to say it) added some marketing guys who really knew the car market into the team, it might have worked too. Or even, if they had got some German, or Anglosphere engineers, who understood the automotive culture out in the world, they might have done something marvelous. But unfortunately, they had a bunch of Swedish Engineers, out in the wilds of Sweden (which is about the size of a single Electorate in Australia, but is fairly big by Euro standards) with an M3 and orders to beat the stuffing out of it with something based on the SAAB 9-3 turbo.

The problem is, as you might have guessed, the words "faster than a M3" and what this actually means.

There are many, many different aspects to a cars performance. Just to list the first ones that come to mind, there is

And remember, that is a very incomplete list.

Now you may well get a car that is faster than another car in every single one of these measures. Such as a new Porsche 911 Turbo versus my old HQ Holden. But when you are looking at cars made with similar technology, at a similar price point, and both aiming at performance, it will generally hold that Car A will win in some categories, and Car B in some others.

This is especially so as some tests, eg. Cornering speeds on smooth roads, will require setups that are the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you need for a good result in some other tests, such as Cornering speeds on rough roads.

So, going back to our Swedish Engineers... here they are, in the secret test track north of the Arctic circle, and they know they can't beat the M3 on EVERYTHING, so they chose some aspects to concentrate on, and let the others go.

They chose poorly.

My guess is that, being Swedish, they just didn't understand the car cultures in the major markets. They just didn't get that the average car enthusiast (who, despite being a small minority, are the people, who influence the people who influence the overall image that a car has in the market) just looks at a few measures. And in the english speaking world, these are:

The Germanic countries add in

And which ones did the SAAB engineers come up with, which are the elements that the Viggen (Swedish for Thunderbolt) excels in?

Not much overlap is there?

The secondary problem is related to the old SAAB issue of money. When the SAAB guys came out of the Snow locked icey wastes, they were done. The car was put into production. The Germans would have then followed it up with testing in the deserts of Australia and/or the USA, they would have done big cities, and small towns, and third world conditions. The Swedes couldn't afford all that, and so didn't.

So in the Viggen, we have a car that, in the backroads of Scandinavia, will give point to point times that make the German supercars look backward. That can overtake anything on the freeway that isn't worth at least half a million dollars (or has two wheels, but you get that) and handles rough roads that make the hard sprung oppositions cry. And in snow and mud can match and beat them in almost anything.

But the standard road test that every newspaper and magazine performs? The SAAB looses. Badly.

The result being a sort of secret super car. It's actually a total beast, and in the right conditions is near unbeatable, but noone knows about it, and it didn't sell well, and is now available for a tiny fraction of the price.

Not that I want one. I think the Swedes concentrated on things that are almost completely irrelevant to living in Suburban Sydney. Not that the standard magazine tests are actually much better. My personal list of performance tests is

  1. Low speed acceleration, eg 0-60 km/h. And done as a WORST out of 10 type test.
  2. Medium low speed acceleration, eg 0-100 km/h
  3. Cornering speeds on rough roads
  4. Lap times around a rough, tight, technical race track (eg. Top Gear test track, but resurfaced by the New South Wales road crews)
  5. Point to point times on open roads
  6. Overtaking Acceleration such as 80-140 km/h
  7. The entire list redone again, but this time in the wet, no snow, and no mud.

OK, the SAAB might do OK on the rough roads sections (standard Sydney roads are very rough by racetrack standards, or even German urban road standards, or Chinese urban road standards for that matter.) But the SAABs front wheel drive makes it almost impossible for it to do well at low speed acceleration, which I consider paramount.

04/09/2008

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Happy Happy Joy Joy

Fuel is going down, interest rates are going down. And it's the start of my bulking cycle again. And my new clothes turned up within a day, they were sitting on my desk this morning.

03/09/2008

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New Clothes: II

Naturally, three days after I finally give in and buy some real biking clothes, the price is reduced by 20%. So I gave in and bought spares.

But this time I shared the order with someone else to split the shipping.

29/08/2008

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New Clothes

I went and got myself some new biking clothes from Cell Bikes, for the remarkably low price of $60 including shipping for pants and a shirt.

Even my superfussy, clothing expert wife was prepared to conceed that they were fairly good quality for twice the price.

The shirt, of course, is bright, bright yellow. As are most things these days. At least in an industrial setting. It has reached the point where if anything is really important, you have to paint in a matt grey so that it will stand out against the bright yellow background.

This is of course a classic case of the Prisoner's Dillema. In any given single case, it is safer to make something bright yellow. But if everything is bright yellow, then the overall effect is distracting, difficult to see, and dangerous.

The only solution is to shoot OH&S personel as soon as you see them. Of course you can't see them, because they wear bright yellow, and so are camoflaged against the background.

Back to the bike clothes: Why is it that I take pants in a medium, but shirt in an extra extra large? Probably that my thighs are tiny by the standards of real bike riders.

25/08/2008

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SH46GN

Behind a panel van today that had the licence plate XXX-69, because you wouldn't want anyone to think you were using the panel van for transporting plumbing supplies or something.

I've actually been thinking about getting a shagg'n wagon, not for romantic purposes (I've never seen the point of cars for fooling around in, probably because I left home and had my own place years before I ever got a chance to fool around) but for the transport of fishtanks and bikes. A V8 sin bin can be an absolute bargain these days, because people can't see past the short term petrol price spike to do a full net present value calculation and see that a $3000 V8 schtoink mobile that burns $100/week is still cheaper than a $12000 hatchback that burns $50/week.

19/08/2008

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I Hate That

You go to wash your hands, turn the cold water tap on, stick your hands under the tap... and boiling hot water squirts out.

Why? Because someone has washed their hands just previously, turned the HOT tap on, washed their hands with the cold water that was sitting in the pipes, stopped just as the hot water reached the spout, and then left it there, as a trap for the next person.

Bastards

18/08/2008

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Looking Good

I've had free movie tickets lately, so I've seen three movies in the last three weeks.

Dark Knight as I said below, this is the best Joker movie ever.

Hancock This is the best superman movie ever, and he wasn't even in it.

Wanted Compared to the other two movies... this is the one that I want to watch again.

So in general, movies are continuing to be in a Platinum age as far as I can see. Well action movies at least. Go to the cinema on any day you like and there seems to be something absolutely fantastic on, if not several.

Different World

Today a guy who used to work with me (before shifting to another part of the company) and I met after 6 months or so.

"Hey, you've lost weight!" He said, in that naive fashion that many people have of assuming that any weight loss is good and desired.

"Actually I've put on 6 kg" I replied. In fact I'd weighed myself this morning, and I was just at the end of a bulking cycle. Looking at my records I've actually put on 5kg since 6 months ago, but it was a good guess.

"No. But you look slimmer.... you must have put on muscle." Guys eventually get it, some women never seem to understand how it is possible.

08/08/2008

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A challenge... sort of

So I walked into the lab, and some people were having a discussion about pushups.

"I can't do a single pushup"

"I can do 10, but only girl's pushups"

"I can do 12 real pushups, but some people can do them with their feet on a chair!"

"Hey! Here's Patrick, I reckon he can do them.... Can you do a pushup with your feet on a chair?"

So I had no choice but to go into a completely vertical handstand and push out 10 reps. Which shut everyone up. For about a day.

The problem is that I end up with a bloodshot face, which lasted until the next day. I'm not sure that increasing the blood pressure in my head that much is a good idea. Which is why I stopped doing handstand pushups for regular exercise in the first place.

Technology Fails

Unlike sticking closed a flap of hanging skin, which works very well, cyanoacrylate glue (superglue) is not a good idea for spots where the skin has been scraped off completely. Sure it forms an instant scab, and stops the bleeding, but it will crack and pull off in a day or two, and leave you with much the same injury you had in the first place.

Technology won't get a chance to fail

I can see the advantages of a small, self contained, portable nuclear reactor. 27 MW of solar power for example destroys about 10 hectares of land, so clearly this is far more environmentally friendly.

It doesn't solve the real problem of nuclear power though, which is that many people are irrationally scared of it.

31/07/2008

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I'll be back....Doh!

I went to see the new Joker movie, and I'm willing to say that this actor (Heath or something) is BETTER than Jack Nicholson. And that is a REALLY high bar to clear.

Not as cool or smooth as Nicholson's Joker, and he doesn't have the great lines ("This town needs an enema!") But rawer, more realistic, ultimately more believable, and hence scarier. You could indeed have a Nicholson like Joker being this character after a few years, when he's had time to polish his act and work on his toys.

There were some other characters in the movie, including one dressed as a bat, but they didn't affect the main story much. Two of them spent the whole movie chasing the ugliest woman in the whole movie, so we can write them off.

Then Ping tells me that the Joker actor died, so the fact that the Joker didn't die in the end of the movie, and in fact came out and said that he would always be back, does not mean he actually will be.

Winter Arrives at Last

In other news, we had the first frost this morning. I went out and the grass was white and crunchy. It goes without saying that.... well I won't bother saying it.... but I made sure I was wearing shoes the NEXT time (well almost the next time).

22/07/2008

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Triumph of Form over Meaning

Pink Floyd always cheers me up. Basically because it is so over the top depressing that I can't take it seriously. I can't even see how anyone could, even in highschool.

Now Billy Joel... that stuff is soul crushingly nhilistic and evil, but because he has boppy tunes everyone uses it as party music.

21/07/2008

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If there's one thing I hate...

It's carrying boxes of expensive (up to several hundred dollars each) glass structures, and getting caught in the rain so that whenever you tighten your grip the water gets squeezed out of the saturated cardboard between your fingers. Of course you can't grip too tightly, or your fingers will rip through the waterlogged cardboard leaving you with two hands full of soggy cardboard pulp as the rest of the box crashes to the ground.

I was thinking at the time that it was a good thing that the clouds kept the temperature rather warm (about 10°) because if it was cold and windy like when it was dry (say 4° with a wind chill on top of that) then my fingers would go numb. And then I would definitely drop something, because numb fingers mean you don't feel the cardboard starting to rip until your arms are suddenly released of their load.

Naturally I was carrying them up and down a steep driveway, that is slippery when wet, and subject to both slimey mold growth and snails.

17/07/2008

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Technology Triumphs

The gouge in my hand from the broken handle* has been really annoying, with the flap of skin getting caught on things and reopening all the time. So I gave up and put a dab of superglue to keep it closed. Perfect :)

14/07/2008

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Are you getting bigger?

Today at lunch the cute girl in the paper supply department asked if I'd been building up my muscles. Two people in a month. This is a good sign.

It helped make up for the horrible work out I had this morning. My dips were OK (my first round of one arm dips, (which I had to adopt now my weight belt has lost its major weight, see below) which means that I have nothing to compare them to) but my deadlifts (technically rack-pulls) were dreadful. I only managed 7 reps, on the weight I did 2 sets of 20 with on Thursday. Of course, I DID do two sets of 20 on Thursday, so perhaps I have reached the limits of my recovery ability, at least on a cutting cycle. My squats on Saturday were similarly dire.

11/07/2008

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A lack of progress, and then... D'oh!

With my previously described ABCD diet (actually, the D is diet, so I am ATM machining there) I seem to have plateued out, even though I REALLY pushed things last bulk cycle. See graph.

So... reading the literature in this area... many people argue that the 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off cycle is too long, and a one week on, one off cycle is better. There is even an argument for 5 days cut, 2 days bulk.

This sounds easier for one thing. After 2 weeks of strict diet, you really want to stuff yourself. After two weeks of stuffing yourself, you really, really, really want to be hungry for a while. (Curious. I thought the asymmetry would be the other way, but that's how I find it.)

In other news... this morning I broke my bucket-bell. :(

A bucket bell is a kettle bell like device based on.... a bucket. You just get a bucket, with say some water in it, and then proceed to do some basic kettle bell exercises, especially the swings and snatches. If you start with a decent bucket, say an old 20L paint tin, it will have a nice, waterproof lid on it, and so you can work out quite well, and add a small amount of water each week to increase the weight.

My 20L bucket bell had worked its way up to 35kg of rocks and water, and I was doing 50 swings each "off" morning, that is, a morning where I wasn't actually doing any gym work. I'd wake up, go downstairs, put on a pair of bike pants and (maybe) a t-shirt, then do 50 swings (25 with each hand, in sets of 5, swapping hands without a break) in the brisk 5° morning air, and now be nice and warm so I could eat breakfast (in bike shorts and slightly damp t-shirt) in the 5° kitchen without shivering. Then I'd ride to work.

So I was REALLY annoyed when the handle broke on my second set this morning. Naturally the broken handle managed to gouge a small furrow in my hand, but what was most annoying is that I was in the habit of hanging this bucketbell around my waist when doing chinups and dips. Now I will have to come up with something else.

(Actually the bucket bell was only on the front of my dip belt (a length of strap tied around the waist, like a Karate belt, but not quite) I also had about 9 kg of water hanging off the back.)

(At this point in writing, I went to change my shoes and found a second injury on my little finger, also no doubt due to the breakage.)

08/07/2008

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Movies I just don't get, and some I do

I've lately been pushing forward on my quest to see the "cannon" movies, those that everyone expects you to know, and that are refered to by all manner of things in our modern culture. Some of them turn out to be fantastic, and some are not.

Breakfast at Tiffanys

I mentioned this one before, but basically a romantic comedy has no special effects, no stunts, and no action. There are no advantages that modern movie makers have over those of 40 years ago. All a romantic comedy has is writing and acting, both arts being thousands of years old and hence they've plateaued out development wise. What this means is that a good romantic comedy from the 1960s, or even the 1940s, should be as good as anything modern. And this example proves it.

Actually, the early 1930s and before don't seem to be able to do this. They certainly had access to great writing then, but acting seemed still adapted for the stage. In a big theatre: everything (from facial expresions to movement to speech) had to be super exaggerated to be visible from the back rows. This makes early film look childish and stupid, only basic slapstick comedy still comes across as working. Throw in their jerky, poorly edited film and movies only really started to work in the mid 1930s.

This is Spinal Tap

Another classic that suffers from Shakespeare Syndrome. That is, it has influenced so many things that came after it, that by the time you see the original you've already seen all the good bits a dozen times in later productions that copied the original. Having said that, it was a fairly decent mockumentry, but it would have been heaps better if you came to it fresh.

Buckaroo Banzai and his adventures across the 8th dimension

A children's movie. Everyone who told me it was great must have seen it when they were 12, at which age it probably seemed great. Also, from the perspective of 25 years later, the overwhelmingly stupid early 1980s fashion was a bit distracting. Note that "Back to the Future" was made at much the same time, in much the same genre, but hasn't aged at all.

Dr Strangelove

Huh?

I didn't get this movie at all. Was it meant to be a comedy? Many of the scenes were too stupid to be anything other than a comedy. But they weren't funny. And this was Peter Sellers. If he wanted to be funny he could be REALLY funny. It's not like Adam Sandler or someone where you can just put it down to humour that doesn't work.

Of course partway through I realized that I had read the book that it was based on. (Red Alert) This kind of ruined the plot for me, but there was enough changes to the end of the story to kind of revive it... not that it helped much.

And why was it even called Dr Strangelove? The good doctor (well half good, half evil) was a very minor character who didn't appear till the majority of the way through the film, and didn't really affect the plot that much.

It might be that, like a bunch of Nuclear War films, it relies on having an audience that is terrified out its minds about the high probability of getting vapourized any second without warning. I suppose a big chunk of the world grew up like that during the 1950s through to the 1980s, and it must have affected them a lot.

This explains the existence of things like the Doomsday clock, which apparently has been set at something like 2 minutes to midnight for 50 years. Nobody was able to have a disinterested enough viewpoint to realize that if you go 50 years at the 2 minutes to midnight position without any nuclear strikes at all, you clearly have the thing calibrated wrong.

I personally grew up 2000 km North of the nearest likely target, and 400 km North of the nearest possible target. I never really faced anything other than a increased chance of thyroid cancer, and I guess this made me much more relaxed about the whole thing. When President Reagan made a joke about "We have passed a law outlawing the Soviet Union, we begin bombing in five minutes..." the guys at my school thought it was hilarious. I've spoken to people (from big cities, and hence targets) that said it made them sick with fear.

Hence, the production of weird things like this movie.

Dog Soldiers

Probably the best werewolf movie since that one with Jack Nicholson in it. Not much more analysis needed or possible.

Napolean Dynamite

I don't get it. It is sort of funny sometimes, its humour relying on a realistic thing happening instead of a movie thing. But... I just don't get it.

The Lost Boys

Dull, fairly plotless, dull acting, stupid fashion. Possibly this might have been decent by the standards of mid eighties vampire movies, but the world has moved on, vampire movies have moved on.

30 Days of Night

Now THIS is how a vampire movie is meant to be done. Bravo!

Strange however that neither bears nor bear-guns made an appearance. I suppose the bears were too smart to go out in mid winter.

I am Legend

The whole movie makes perfect sense providing you assume the narrator (Will Smith) is both mistaken about a couple of things, and slightly nutty (as you would be under his circumstances).

It is disappointing that his fortress making skills were so poor though.

My Name is Earl

More of a TV show than a movie... it is strange to relate that this is a GOOD thing.

TV shows have, shockingly, developed to the point where the best of them are BETTER than movies, and closing in on the best of books as far as plot, character, subtlety, development and multi-layered-story are concerned. This is contrary to all we know about TV and so deserves a bit of explanation.

Starting in the late 1980s (possibly with Twin Peaks) the more advanced, and adventurous TV series creators realized that the audience for a good show had changed.

Traditionally a TV show had to be fairly simplistic. The story had to fit into half an hour, or a full hour (minus ads). You couldn't really continue stuff from one show to another, because audience members would miss the occaisional episode. And once they fell behind they were likely to give up for good. Furthermore, they often got distracted during an episode (preparing food, talking to family and other such useless activity) and so you needed to be able to follow the story without paying TOO much attention.

The exception to this was the soap opera, which did have continuing story, but kept everyone up to date by moving the story forward very, very slowly (a major change might be spread out over several episodes) and with frequent, almost constant, recaps. So you could miss the occasional show, and watch the others while doing housework, while still keeping up.

But by the late 1980s, this had all changed. For a good show, one with actual fans, they weren't going to miss episodes any more. They had video recorders, they had friends with VCRs, and they could get the episodes out from a video shop. For the real fans, they would collect the tapes and watch them in a big block, 12 hours at a time. And they would watch and rewatch them, using slow motion and pause if necessary to catch vital points.

As time went on this only got more extreme. Episodes can be downloaded from the net, so even if some episodes are censored out by the local Ministry of Truth (eg. the school fight episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) you know the fans will have seen it anyway. And big internet communities grew up to point out the critical plot points, dialogue and discuss this all ad infinitum.

So... the writers now had free rein. If they wanted, they could stack multiple plots together, with intersecting story arcs and hidden little details that don't make sense until you see an episode 1 year later. You can put in puzzles, fan service, in-jokes and references knowing that the real fans are going to catch them. And if they don't, if everyone misses something important, the writers can monitor the internet sites, note that it was missed, and repeat it (or make a reference so everyone will go back to the old episode and watch it again more carefully.)

Of course, this doesn't apply to all TV. And it really doesn't make TV in general better. I would guess that the average TV is probably much the same as before, just the variance has shot way, way up. As any statistician can tell you, this means the worst TV is probably worse than ever before. The most moronic game shows (Big Brother just to name the only one I can name) would be as stupid as the most lead-eating game show from the 1950s, with added crudity and unsuitability for children.

It also means that the best TV is better than ever before. So providing you only watch the good stuff, life is good. If you watch the garbage, then you deserve to suffer.

Starting with Twin Peaks, and then on through the (closely related) X-Files, Buffy, and now moving in to Prison Break and Lost, we can see this approach being taken and it works, it really works. This sort of show usually makes a fair amount of money, and so can be backed up with the sort of production values (picture quality, special effects, acting and direction) that were previously limited to movies.

And these shows know they are related. The whole season two of prison break revolved around the hidden treasure of the old time robber D. B. Cooper. The hero of twin peaks? FBI agent Darrel B. Cooper. The other FBI agent in Twin Peaks was played by David Duchovny who played the main FBI agent in X-Files... the connections go on and on.

But what about the cheaper shows, the ones with a limited cast, lower budget filming and ones that are basically a sitcom? Well that leads to My Name is Earl. And it is good. But make sure you can watch all the episodes, in order.

23/06/2008

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A Bandaid Solution

It's a sign that you really did need a bandaid when the next day, while lifting something, the stress on your finger makes drops of blood leak out of the ventilation holes in the bandaid.

Note, this is not a deadlift related injury.

20/06/2008

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Lifting Straps

As I mentioned below, what is stopping me from doing heavier pulling type exercises such as deadlifts is my grip. It just gives out on the second set so I can't do more than 2 or 3 reps of a weight that I can pull 6 reps in the first set.

However, reading some articles on the subject indicates that things may be even worse than I thought. The claim is that although you might THINK you are stopping because of shoulder or leg exhaustion, in many cases it is the grip that is really stopping you.

So... I lashed out and bought a pair of figure eight wrist straps. These loop around the wrist, then the bar, and then the wrist again. So you can't really drop the weight until your hands rip off the end of your arms. (Don't do that.) These cost $9.99 plus $1.95 postage from ebay.

I got them last night, put them on, and tried the deadlift that I can manage 6 reps on. I got 25 reps.

So now I have to increase the weight somewhat. My back is in for a nasty surprise.

13/06/2008

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Crowding Out

A commenter at Marginal Revolution asks

What about the technologies that would otherwise have been developed, that didn't get their chance because the ones the military funded got developed faster and so they couldn't compete?

For an technology that many people consider to be an example of this, look at space planes. As is discussed at places like http://www.transterrestrial.com/ the original technology was based on things like the X15. Then, the military, missile based technology was accelerated as part of the moon project, overtaking the spaceplane and rendering it obsolete.

Now, however, efforts like Spaceship 1 are discovering that we would have been better in the long run to stay with the original idea, as the single use missile tech has proved to be a dead end, incapable of ever getting really cheap or reliable.

I'm sure there are other examples, it is an interesting subject. So interesting in fact, that I'm going to have a stab at it:

11/06/2008

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Simplification of Reading the News/Opinions

One major threat these days is that it is easy to find yourself spending literally hours per day reading news and opinions about all the politics, current events, technology and science issues that are so easy to get data feeds on in our well connected world.

To aid myself in avoiding this trap, I've drawn up a list of rules as to what articles to skip, which helps in cutting the time down to a semi-manageable level.

Politics

Science

Society

General Rules

05/06/2008

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Big Houses

The radio this morning had an article on those enormous old English manor houses, and how they are much bigger than the mansions of even billionaires like Bill Gates these days. This is of course a classic error in classification.

The error lies in using the word "house" to describe both a manor house, and a modern billionaire's residence. In fact, they are totally different sorts of buildings.

A billionaire's mansion is basically just a residence. That's it.

Whereas a classic English manor house is

  1. A residence
  2. corporate headquarters. With the fastest transport being a horse, you could not (in the 18th century) commute to a company office in a nearby town every day. Instead, you worked from home. A rich squire, or even more so a wealthy Baron or Earl, would be running a business with up to 10s of thousands of employees. 17th century manors would be almost totally agricultural, but into the 18th and 19th century this would include mining, transportation, international shipping and even manufacturing.
  3. Seat of local government. The local squire, and especially the local baron, WAS the local government.
  4. A luxury hotel. Members of the ruling class, up to and including royalty, would travel around the country for personal, business and political reasons.* They did not have hotels they could stay in (remember, anywhere more than 10 miles away is effectively not there yet, because it takes a day of travel to cover that distance). So you couldn't have a network of hotels that were actually close enough to everywhere to be able to use them. So they stayed at the manor houses themselves. Which were effectively the high class hotels of the time.

Hence, to compare the old manor houses to today, you'd have to take Bill Gate's house, plus Microsoft corporate headquarters, plus Redmond local government hall and offices, plus the local 5 star Hilton. Add them all together** and Eaton Hall doesn't look so big anymore.

*In those days, the personal, business and politics did not have the hard dividing lines that they do today. Going back to the 17th and 16th century, there was no difference. A marriage was a political alliance AND a corporate merger. Visiting a cousin was contract negotiation and peace treaty diplomacy. Which goes a long way towards explaining why sex was SO DAMN IMPORTANT. Adultery wasn't just a personal betrayal like today, it was also a combination of high level, CEO level, fraud combined with faking an election. A princess rooting the gardener and having a bastard who grew up to be king was the functional equivalent of a government official faking the election results so that her son (some unqualified scumbag off the streets) ends up as primeminister PLUS faking the corporate accounts so that he ended up the major shareholder of a multinational corporation for free. Naturally this was viewed dimly.

**For the really early manor houses, add the local army base.

04/06/2008

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Out of the Blue

This guy, a fairly fit, healthy guy, just asked me "You have a gym at home? You must spend a lot of time in the gym right?"

Well it's good to see I'm not completely wasting my time.

Meanwhile I can't do any squats, it's raining. THis is probably OK for fancy types, who have high falutin' INDOOR squat racks, but I'm not at all keen to be lifting really heavy weights when everything is wet and slippery.

I was however able to move my deadlift wheely-bin (still only half full of sand) under the house. My problem with deadlifts is my grip. I just can't hold on to the thing after two or three sets of 5.

13/05/2008

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Magazine comments

re: Where to from here

I have a couple of points to make about this overall well argued piece.

1. I wish a trailer could substitute for a ute. It can if you are going from one spot in the suburbs or exurbs to another, but if you are going to be dealing with angle parking, multi-level car parks or just about any shopping centre that I have dealt with, then a trailer is just not going to work. The result is that I rent a ute about once a month. Which ALMOST works out money wise.

2. Current police attitude to wheel spin makes traction control and/or 4wd even more of a performance advantage than the practical results would suggest. Driving a RWD or (worse) FWD requires such a significant margin of safety when it comes to the right foot that even a "slower" 4wd is a much faster car if you are in a strictly policed area.

3. Modifying a hybrid may be fairly daunting for a Prius, but surely the Insight is much more straightforward? Autospeed's own articles on modification of the lean burn system suggest this.

4. Tangentially, could an aftermarket lean burn system be possible? The aftermarket now has far more computing power than manufacturers had in the mid 1980s when this started to be introduced, before the greenies stopped it.

5 I've seen the advantages of smaller (but higher boost) turbos and higher profile tyres touched upon at some of the more technical webforums, but no mainstream publication that I've seen has yet to look at any of this.

As you can tell, this is the sort of article that gets me thinking.

12/05/2008

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Two Cultures

Last Blood: After zombies take over the Earth, vampires must protect the last surviving humans so they can live off their blood.

There are people who look at a story like that and respond "Sounds logical, tell me more."

And then there are people who respond "What on Earth are you wasting your time with that rubbish for? Why don't you read something adult? Look, Britney Spears is pregnant with Michael Jackson's love child."

Truth to tell, I find celebrity news about as difficult to believe as Zombie stories. Sure they are both based on some sort of fact. There are mindless slaves in Haitian culture and there is a woman who sings and who goes by the name of Britney Spears. But the stuff you see on TV is exagerated beyond all recognition. I mean, eating brains? Marriages that last for two weeks? Who believes this stuff?

05/05/2008

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Nightmares of the Collective Subconcious

It has been mentioned (translation: I forget who said it) that "Horror movies are the nightmares of our collective subconcious."

Which means that for a horror genre to become popular, it must resonate with something that is within a big slab of the population. If one type of horror story becomes very successful, it must be reminiscent, or a metaphor for something that lurks in the worries, concerns and outright fears of many, many people.

The two most common characters at the moment (as far as I can see) are pirates and vampires.

Pirates are obvious. Every newspaper you pick up has articles about pirates. The archetypal industry of the older generations (the music recording industry) claims to be in the process of being destroyed by pirates. And "pirate" is defined as including just about everyone below the age of 40, at least with an internet connection. Or who listens to music. Or who buys a handbag or jacket that costs less than $500. So a "pirate" is basically just any young person who rebels even slightly against their parents' generation.

In modern fiction, Vampires are

The interpretation is clear: Vampires are AIDS.

Take away the sexuality, and we are left with the Victorian vampire (another peak in their popularity). During which time the threat to the young middle class was TB. Which leaves its fashionable victimns pale, thin, and spitting blood.

This is a fun game. Now the ever growing number of stories about a huge, evil, goverment conspiracies probably represent fears about... huge, evil, government conspiracies. Which place far more faith in government competence and efficiency than I've ever had. Or perhaps another way to look at it is the frustration and anger at the sheer pointless immobility of dealing with something like getting planning permission or changing a travel visa. You are left with a sense of relative powerlessness and a nagging worry that if this leviathan ever turned nasty....

It should be pointed out that the alternative to a rule bound bureaucracy is generally either corruption, where you get what you want quickly, after payment of a bribe or calling in a favour, or a flighty, inconsistant system that ignores established systems and the majority of the population in return for pleasing the loudmouth who is complaining right now. Or, you know, you could have many rival, independent systems and just go with the one that matches your preferences. This is how we deal with toasters, cars, hotels, food etc. but doesn't work so well with natural monopolies like police.

But I'm stuck for anthing that represents the true, mass killer of young people today. Car crashes.

02/05/2008

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Stupid Product Design

As someone who designs consumer products, and as someone who lives on Earth, I am constantly seeing a range of designs that are just plain STUPID from a users point of view.

HOWEVER, I conceed that the designs may well have been quite successful from a "making a profit and ensuring the designer gets paid" standpoint. However I often have my doubts.

Electronic Paper Towel Dispensor

With your typical paper towel dispenser, say for drying your hands in a public toilet, you grab the next towel, pull down with miniscule force, and the towel comes out, leaving the next towel ready for the next person. Simple, cheap, and if not foolproof, then at least easy to fix if something goes wrong (eg. the towel rips in half, some idiot puts in towels that are too thin, so they rip if you try to grab them with wet hands which is the whole point, etc.).

But no. Someone went and developed the electronic towel dispenser. It has a motion detector, so you put your hands in front of the machine, and it mechanically feeds out a paper towel. Thus saving you the 0.03 newtons of force that you would otherwise have to use to pull it out yourself.

This is obviously a fair bit more expensive than the basic box that the old system was. But then this sensitive bit of electronics is put in a hot, moist environment (a public bathroom) and after 3 weeks it stops working, and now you can't get any towels at all.

Complicated Can Openers

The best can openers I've ever had are a single piece of cunningly shaped metal with a nice chunky handle on it. You hook one section of it under the rim and rotate the whole thing back and forth as it opens the can. These can be lost or stolen, but they never, ever break. There is nothing to go wrong.

Instead, so many people have complex folding things that open up like scissors to grab hold of the can, and then have a little handle that you turn to do the cut. This is more expensive, usually breaks after a year or two, and is MORE DIFFICULT TO USE, because the tiny little handle you have to turn is much smaller, harder to grip, and has less leverage than grabbing an entire hand grip and moving it.

Now I don't have any trouble using such things, because I have healthy hands. But a lot of people do have trouble, which they usually try to fix by going for a more complex machine, which is just compounding the problem. Eventually you end up with something the size of a small dog that has to be bolted to the side of the kitchen wall, and has a handle like that used to start a Model T Ford, finally giving you enough leverage to open a can even if you have arthritis or a broken hand. There was one like that bolted to our kitchen when we bought our house. The previous owner had been opening cans of food with it. But he hadn't unbolted it and put it in the dishwasher (it woudn't fit anyway), so it was a tad... yucky. I threw it away immediately.

Complex Wine Bottle Openers

These actually make sense in a limited application. At least many of them do. If you are working behind a bar and are opening 10 bottles of wine per hour for an 8 hour day.... then the traditional type corkscrew could get pretty tiresome. In such cases a big wine opening machine, with a long lever handle, that is bolted to the wall, could make sense. For home use? Forget it.

The same goes for electric can openers. It makes sense for a commercial kitchen.

12 volt desk lamps

In order to save 50c on the cost of the bulb, they've added a $5 transformer to drop the voltage from 240v AC to 12 V DC. And it's a cheap, nasty transformer that only lasts about 6 months on average, whereas a basic lamp with a small 240 V bulb can last for decades with occaisional replacement of the 99 cent bulbs.

Escalators

Actually, escalators work fairly well. And then if they stop working, well they are now what we call "stairs" and so you can still walk up and down. EXCEPT the shopping centres will immediately send out someone to put up barriers and stop you walking up them. Why????? Because you might trip and fall? Because people have forgotten how to use stairs? How about people who get overweight sue the shopping centres for forcing them to use escalators? Turn the nanny state against itself.

Things I've Learned from Reading Web-Comics

See my web comic links at the top of the page? Well I've spent a few hours, well make that a few dozen hours, reading different web comics lately for various time related reasons. And I've found that, in addition to the expected "fictional" aspects (robots, vampires, etc.) that they generally display a view of humanity that is somewhat different to what I encounter in what I laughingly refer to as "reality".

In truth, this is really a study of the sort of person who devotes hours per week to writing a web comic. And as such, it is a valid subject to be gathering facts about.

28/04/2008

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More Test-Drives: Continued

My report actually needs updating. When I left, Richard had gotten the RX350 from $92k down to $82k. But after that, he rang up another dealer and managed to get them to offer him $78k, on the road, including optional front parking sensors (rear ones are standard).

So that is a $14k discount, plus on road costs and an optional sensor array, and is $8k cheaper than 4 years ago for the same model with less power and a few fewer features.

I'm thinking that Toyota was not planning on the price going that way. Something went wrong somewhere.

24/04/2008

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Bloody Wheel Bearings

I've come to the conclusion that regularly taking the wheels off my bikes kills the wheel bearings. This one went as I was riding through a road tunnel , resulting in my having to walk the bike back, the wrong way, in a tunnel, with lanes of high speed traffic next to me.

Ping was relatively un-grumpy about being rung up and asked to get out of bed and pick me up from the side of the road.

Having another woman stopping and asking if she could give me a lift seemed to make Ping a lot less grumpy that I chose to ring my wife rather than rely on the nearest kind female. (Whoever you were, I really appreciate the effort to stop and offer help to a sweaty, dirty man in the rain.)

23/04/2008

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More Test-Drives

Once again, I got to help a mate (Richard) as he searched for the perfect car with a much larger budget than I have.

The goal this time was a replacement for a 2004 Lexus RX330 (the 4wd). The rules were, it should be better than the RX330 (obviously) and cost no more than $100 000.

So the first place we went to was the BMW dealer. The X5 was clearly too big, his wife would never be able to park it. However the X3 was distinctly smaller (smaller than the RX330 too) and yet had what seemed to be similar room on the inside. The dealer was happy to provide a test drive once it was established that

So we were given the X3 3.0 litre turbo diesel to take for a spin.

Conclusion: The 3 litre turbo diesel is about as good an engine as the 3 litre petrol in Pings 530. The X3 is heavier, but not that much more so, and hence has a fairly sporty turn of speed for a 4wd wagon. The interior is... same as the 2001 530i. The exterior is a bit bangled. The diesel is clearly noisier than a petrol engine, especially at low speeds.

Compared to the RX330, it is about as fast, with more low down torque so it is more responsive. It is however noisier, which is a serious consideration to the person buying a $77 000 luxury car. And has no features. None.

Cost with all the options? $97k.

And that was just to spec it up to the absolute minimum that would not make it a major step DOWN from the Lexus it was replacing.

So... not looking good.

On to the Audi dealer: The Audi Q7 was the only high set 4wd wagon (the driver in question needs a high wagon, this is the only chance she has to ever look down on anyone over the age of 7. These problems arise if you marry a ballerina.)

The Audi Q7 was also big, and ugly. And the story is that you should NEVER buy a new Audi in Australia, because Audi Australia's customer service is worse than Kia's or Hyundai's, and with big money cars, a big part of what you are paying for is the care and service that something like this just can't get from the local garage. At least that's the story I get from a technical adviser to the Australian Mercedes Owners Club. (Who bought a BMW himself.)

Mercedes had three 4wd wagons. The G class, the ML class, and the R class.

G class was way, way too big.

ML class was nice, and the interior looked like a big money car, but it was still a bit on the large side.

The R class... was interesting. More a van than a wagon, it is lower than the usual 4wd, but still high enough to look over normal cars when driving. That's a good combination, more agile, still has good visibility. It has HEAPS of interior room. Much more so than the outwardly much larger wagons. And came with 7 seats as standard. And it is 4wd, as long as you aren't sucked into buying the base model 2.8 litre diesel which is RWD only. (Not that the saleswoman said this. SHE said they were all 4wd. Only a careful read of the specs revealed the truth.)

We drove the 3.2 litre turbo diesel, and once again, the turbo torque meant that it was a fairly quick car, about equal to the X3. Once again it was also too noisy for a luxury car of that price range. If we were serious about it we would have tried the petrol which was hopefully quieter... but it shared one other characteristic with the BMW....

Base cost: $87 000.

Cost optioned up to match the minimum requirements of the old Lexus that was being traded in: $112 000. And that still left the Lexus with more features than the new Mercedes, that price just includes those features that would be sorely missed.

In addition to those extra features mentioned above, the Lexus also boasted

So it was off to the Lexus dealer. They had the RX350, and the RX400h.

The RX350 was exactly the same car as the old RX330, except the 160 kW 3.3 litre V6 was replaced with a 202kW 3.5 litre. In exactly the same car, this meant it was seriously faster, now being able to kick serious german butt.

The RX400h is the same car once again, but with the 160 kW 3.3 litre V6 AND 40kW electric engine to give a total of 200kW, same as the 3.5, but using 8.6 litres/100km instead of 11.6 l/100km.

There were some aspects of hybrid technology that I had to clarify for Richard:

On the other hand he was quite right about the extra $10 000 in price (over the equivalent RX350) taking over 200 000 km to pay back if the claimed savings of 3l/100 km is correct. Assuming no interest on the $10 000.

He was also right about how the hybrid was silent at low speeds compared to the petrol, and much, much better than the turbo diesel BMW and Mercedes rivals. Silence is a big factor in the Lexus/BMW/Mercedes buying customer’s decision.

Then he started talking real dollars with the salesdroid. Mmmm... it seems they've largely sold out of 400h models. Not many people have been doing the 200 000km calculation. The 400h price was a little flexible. From $102k down to about $100k. The 350 started at $92k, dropped to $86k, and ended up at $82k.

Exactly the same car, with 40 kW less power, was bought by Richard back in 2004 (his RX330) for ... $86 000. So in four years it has gotten considerably faster, not deteriorated in any way, and is $4000 cheaper.

Well not EXACTLY the same. The newer car has a more advanced reversing camera, more advanced GPS, slight trim and radio changes (not sure if they are better) and now comes with Xenon high intensity headlights. The sort of thing you'd pay $4000 MORE for , not LESS.

(And yes, the now $20k price difference will be paid off in hybrid fuel savings once you pass the half million km mark. Assuming you got an interest free loan.)

Richard is getting the Lexus. And not the hybrid.

17/04/2008

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Today's River

Mambari (It's in New Guinea, I went rafting there once.)

16/04/2008

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One Missisppi, Two Missisippi

This is the standard that Americans use when counting off seconds, such as when doing a 30 second sprint up a hill. However for Australians the simple repitition of the same river name will not occupy the brain sufficiently, so you can start to think about things... such as how much your legs are hurting.

My solution, that I use each day on my way to work, is to change the river names. Trying to think of thirty different river names without repitition, while pedalling as hard as possible up a hill, is sufficiently distracting that I don't notice the urgent pain signals my legs are sending me until I relax at the "...29 Tigris, 30 Euphrates." point.

I have found that I usually come up with one river that I haven't used on any previous day. This has been lurking in the depths of my brain for years until called apon in an oxygen debt.

Today's new river was Rio Grande.

09/04/2008

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Gee.. Easter Turned up pretty quickly this year

After Christmas I mentioned my physical goals for Easter. These are listed below, along with the results.

Strength

Snatch bucketbell full of water and rocks 10x3

One Arm Chinup, both sides

Deadlift a full bin of sand

.

.

Size

.

.

.

18 inch upper arm

95kg @ < 11%

Comment

Actually, haven't tried this one yet

FAIL

FAIL. About 2/3 full only

FAIL. Still at 17.

FAIL. 95 at 14%

Excuses... Well... I dunno. I guess I was too ambitious. I'll try the same goals for the next birthday.

07/04/2008

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Hot and Wet: And not in a good way

The weather at the moment is alternating between sun and rain. And doing so every 15 minutes or so. This is probably great for plant growth (read: more garden work for me) but means that riding to work leaves me both rained on AND hot.

Not to mention my bike brakes don't work as well in the rain. Nor do car brakes, at least if you define "brake" to mean the whole "brake pedal-brake-tyre-road system". I pulled up at a traffic light to find a b-double truck sliding to a stop in the next lane. (That's a truck with two full sized containers, one being linked behind the other. Any more stages and it would be a road train.)

25/03/2008

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Fun: Voluntary activity that leaves you needing a shower and/or unable to walk properly.

Easter Sunday I went shooting people (after Mass of course). This was done using a paintball gun, which meant that they could, and did, shoot back.

Rightclick to view image in better detail
Happy, in a slightly painful way.
Most of that's paint. Some of it is blood.
A bruise on my arm
A bruise on my leg
And while I'm at it, the knife scratch that I mentioned on the domesticity post
And a nail infested telephone pole that I have to ride past each day

19/03/2008

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Wallet to Wheel

Autospeed has an article claimed to be the most important of the year, showing the tank to wheel and well to wheel efficiencies of all the various automotive technologies currently thought to be feasible. These are combined to give the well to wheel efficiency (how much energy at the original source does it take to drive a car.)

It seems to me that this is missing one major factor. Wallet to wheel. How much does each approach COST.

It's all very well to say that coal-hydrogen-fuelcell cars use more energy overall than oil-fuelcell cars. But who cares if coal costs $60/tonne and oil costs $100/barrel which is about $600/tonne? (Not counting the extra costs required to militarily secure access to the middle east, which is somewhat more troublesome than the central queensland coal fields.)

You can then point to the greenhouse gas output, which is a valid point, but you have calculated that separately anyway. So the question is why does energy efficiency matter, when different sources of energy are completely different prices? (Price being a rough gauge of how much resources are needed to get that energy in the first place.)

This Wallet to Wheel measure is why LPG and CNG are so popular.

To sum up, my preference would be for a graph showing wallet to wheel cost, and CO2 released, with the energy efficiency rejected as a red herring.

17/03/2008

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On the need for some dicipline

Megan has a post about how pleased and proud she is of her bike, but I'm afraid I just don't get being proud of something you just bought, even if it is the so cool single speed fixed gear thing that Americans love for some reason. (I asked, the answer is basically because it is harder to ride???)

As I was reading this post I stopped to ask a workmate if I could borrow his cotterless crank puller so I could strip down some bikes.

See, I have a 15 speed high end, but old, mountain bike that I got from someone who drove over my original, and then gave me her husband's out of (needless) guilt. However the pedals keep coming loose and I need a new crank.

And then I bought a road bike ($18), a real original 10 speed from the 1750s or so. Which is good on the motorways but needs more gears for the hills, and probably would be better with functional brakes.

Then I found a frame that someone left out as rubbish, it is actually rather new, with the latest indexing gears and some really nifty high end cogs, but a big buckle in the tubes and no wheels.

And someone took a road bike onto the local skateboard ramp, leaving it lying in the bushes with buckled wheels and frame.

So I'll strip them all down and rebuild into two bikes that will have mountain bike frames but are otherwise just heavy duty road bikes.

Now THAT will be something I can be proud of. (Assuming it works.)

06/03/2008

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On the need for some dicipline

Moldbug has been referred to a number of times by different places and so I had a go at reading him.

My conclusion is that he might be great if he had an editor. Or even just a word limit. As it is, he can easily take 10 pages to make an argument that would be comfortable in 2, and could be condensed into 1 without losing any relelvant information.

I regard myself as a somewhat of a reading enthusiast, and enjoy many authors that others consider too wordy (Tolstoy for example, or USS Clueless) but this guy is too much for me.

What makes it even worse, is that he is a very good writer, at least on the sentence or paragraph level. You want to keep reading, and he seems to be making a good point, but it is 5000 words since he made the last point and you can't quite remember what it was.

What is good about him, is that he is writing from a COMPLETELY different perspective: that of someone who dislikes democracy. While this is a freakish position that requires stretching various definitions and facts beyond all previous versions of the English language (define the USSR as a democracy and you have a good argument against them) it does mean that he approaches all his subjects with a wildly divergent view, which can lead to interesting conclusions that often stand up to scruitiny. (Not his conclusions about democracy of course, but his ones about Why white supremacy is so hated and feared, even when there are far more dangerous groups about, is very thought provoking. Once you get through all the waffle.)

04/03/2008

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Domesticity

Sunday night: I spent it creeping through the "no public access" parts of one of Australia's biggest shopping malls. (These areas actually take up as much space than the bits the customers get to see. Much more if you don't count the car park.) And then the lights were turned off. And the automatic doors shut. And we had to take loaded shopping trolleys and hand trucks down through dark tunnels and caverns to get out. And I got to install illegal (well semi-legal) electical cabling to light up a shop while this was going on. And we had to dodge security guards. And worked out a reverse method of opening the automatic doors after shutdown, that hacks their safety release mechanism. And then we had to deliberately commit a fairly blatent traffic offence AND tresspassing AND safety violation right in front of a police station....

It was as I was examining the knife wound in my stomach (only a scratch really) that I realized that if I wasn't married I would have been home, in bed (by myself, I'm realistic about that) maybe reading a book about people doing just what I was up to.

I would also like to say that anyone who locks, or even puts a lockable door on, the entrance to public toilet deserves to have to lick the door clean after people are forced to piss on it from the outside. What are they thinking? That someone might USE it?

29/02/2008

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Pr0n

I was looking at a bunch of garden statues. Not gnomes, but the more classic white, naked, greek lady type of thing. There were a couple of twists on the original theme.

Firstly, not all the statues were dressed in the traditional robes and togas. (Or partly dressed in robes and togas to be precise.) Some were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. The fascinating thing about this is that it made NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL. A statue of a woman with her toga falling off as she lay against a rock looks exactly the same as a statue of a woman with her jeans undone and her T-shirt half pulled off. It looked exactly as classical and non-sexual as the original style.

Some of them DID look sexual. And it made no difference whether it was classical or modern dress. There could be several statues, all in similar poses, some in jeans and some in togas, and half would be suited to a church yard and half for the playboy mansion.

I spent some time examining them to work out what was going on.

The solution was obvious once I noticed it: it was breast shape, and to a lesser extent bottom shape.

Your typical greek statue breast is a sort of small, conical shape that seems to be operating in zero gravity. Like the typical greek statue bottom, it seems to be based on nothing less than a rather plump 12 year old girl, in zero gravity, scaled up to adult size, rather than the sort of woman that I've seen in real life.

Real women, and the sexy statues, have breasts with an orientation. Gravity makes the base of the breast fuller and moves the nipple below half way. Likewise, their bottoms have a sort of curvature that the Greeks seemed to miss (possibly because they were too busy looking at the boys :).

The result being that those statues with a realistic breast looked like real naked women, and hence porn, while the greek statue type breast would make an otherwise identical statue into the familiar, non-sexual, garden ornament.

Further Reflection on Fountains

After reading my above entry, I'm reminded of a recent newspaper article about how the age of puberty has fallen from 18 to 12 over recent centuries, as civilization finally managed to provide a decent diet and healthy living. This would mean that people living in Ancient greece (a poor, bread based diet by our standards) would probably have puberty hit in the late teens. Hence an 18 year old girl in 300 BC Athens may well have the breasts and bottom of a 12 year old in our time. Hence the statues...

27/02/2008

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Sign number 2 that we may actually be living in the 21st century

Automated killer robots 'threat to humanity' is the headline in a so-called serious newspaper.

About frikken time!

18/02/2008

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The Problem With...

Waking up, carrying a load of boxes out to the rubbish, doing 100 squats with a personal best weight, having breakfast and then riding 20 km to work, stopping on the way to strip some good components off a wrecked, abandoned bike by the side of the path....

Is that by the time you get to work you feel that you've already accomplished a lot for the day, and so just want to slack off for the rest of the day.

Wishful Thinking

Wishful thinking is a very common problem. It explains all manner of weird, counterproductive theories that gain considerable following, simply because it feels good to think that way.

From extreme conspiracy theories, that will result in John Howard/George Bush/Hillary Clinton eventually being convicted of war crimes through to the one that brought this idea to mind: High Intensity Training.

High Intensity Training, and it's related offshoots such as static contraction training, is a muscle and strength building theory that goes as follows:

Doing exercise (lifting weights, sprinting, other muscle building work) breaks muscles down, and stimulates them to grow. After exercise you should rest until the muscle is completely recovered, and then work again. Furthermore, to simulate muscle to grow, you need to push the muscle to failure, to the point where it can't contract any more (ie. to the point where you cannot lift the weight or do the exercise one more time).

You should do this using as little work as possible, because the more work you do, the more fatigued the muscle is, and the more time it will take to recover, giving you less time to grow bigger and stronger.

So what is the practical upshot of this theory? The best way to do exercise is to do a very brief session, 15 to 30 minutes, no more than once a week.

Doesn't this strike you as any athelete's dream? Isn't this the equivalent of a theory that the best way to loose fat is to pig out on icecream and chocolate every day and then stick to rice cakes for one meal on Sunday? Isn't this really, really SUSPICIOUS?

And yet many people argue that this theory is not accepted because "it is not what people want"! If that isn't back to front I don't know what is.

12/02/2008

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Cups

People have been designing, making and using cups for what? 5 000 years? 10 000 years?

So why the hell can they still be making cups that don't work properly?

I'm talking about tea cups where the handle is too small to hold without burning yourself on the hot cup. Where there is not enough gripping space to support the cup steadily. Any 10 year old could do better, at least as far as function is concerned.

If you can't make a working CUP, just give up and try a new job.

And that goes for whoever "designed" half the "chairs" in the world today as well.

06/02/2008

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Lubrication 3

I rebuilt the front and rear brakes on the bike before going home on Monday... it didn't help. They just did not work in the wet.

My more experienced biker workmate suggested the pads were glazed over, which if it is anything like a car pad just means it needs a brief rub with some sand paper to get things gripping again.

I got the sand paper out this morning, but I really need to take the wheels off to get at the pads, so I just assumed it wouldn't rain today and rode anyway. (Anyone following the timeline would ask what I did on Tuesday, the answer is that I rode one of my mountain bikes, that are not as quick, and spray more water, but at least they can stop in the wet.)

04/02/2008

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Lubrication

The European Media is arife with stories about adulterated olive oil. Soy Oil is added because it is much, much cheaper, and colourless and tasteless.

The Australian media hasn't mentioned this. They are too concerned with stories about celebrities taking drugs and dying. (I mean, it's what celebrities do. It's nature's way, otherwise they would outbreed their food supply.)

Anyway, I reasoned that the best way to avoid the problem is to buy Australian. The Australian olive oil producers operate under much stricter regulation than the euros. So I got a 3 litre tin of Cobram Estate Extra Virgin First Cold Pressing....

It was fantastic. It tasted like Olives! I wouldn't be surprised if every brand of Italian or Spanish oil that I've ever bought was severely diluted with the cheap stuff, if this comparison is anything to go by. And in the 3 litre tin it isn't significantly more expensive.

Lubrication 2

Today was the first day I rode my newest bike in the rain. So when I got to the top of a steep hill, I applied the brakes harder than usual, because otherwise the wet brake pads were just slipping on the rims....

This was the first time I'd applied the brakes this hard. The front brake suddenly shifted, slipped off the rim and dropped to the full depression position with no effect, while the rear brake cable simultaneously popped off the hand lever all together.

Leaving me accelerating down a steep hill with zero brakes.

I put one foot on the ground to rub against the concrete, with no effect at all. Leaving me with the decision of which tree I should aim for before I built up too much speed.

As I pulled off the concrete onto the muddy verge, in preparation for a tree impact, my foot suddenly gained some traction. The mud was soft enough so that I could actually dig the entire toe into the ground (good thing I was wearing shoes) and this dug a deep furrow in the mud while actually slowing down.

So I was actually able to stay in control until I reached a slightly flatter bit and was able to slide to a stop.

I was able to get the front brake working again, using a stick, which was enough to keep going to work. I hope I remember to fix them both properly before I ride home.

01/02/2008

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The Worst Thing About Going Bald

Is that it is harder and harder to conceal head wounds from your wife.

I think everyone can relate to this in some way.

25/01/2008

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What makes a car fast?

There is "something" that makes a car feel fast, and it isn't quite power to weight OR torque to weight.

Sure if you have 500 kW and 1000 Nm the car will feel fast, but at normal power levels there is something (let's call it STONK) that makes one car just feel so much quicker than another.

It isn't straight acceleration times, 0-100 or whatever is done at max revs, so something like a screaming honda 4 that has a torque peak at 6k still gets good times. But drive it around town and it doesn't have stonk.

I think it works out to be something like the peak power/weight you get within 2 seconds of flooring the accelerator from normal cruising revs.

Or maybe it is the total power/weight integrated with respect to time over this period? Whatever.

And the 2 seconds is just a guess, it might be 1 second or less.

Hence bad turbo lag -> no stonk

Very high torque peak revs -> no stonk

Really good responsive autobox that changes down instantly to the peak power -> lots of stonk, even with the same engine

Lower dif ratio that puts your engine into its power band -> more stonk.

Lower torque peak revs -> more stonk

I've had really nice experiences with the Toyota Soarer twinturbo auto, the Mitsu FTO auto and the Mini auto.

In each case, the box changed down to give peak grunt as soon as you put your foot down. It made the car feel much faster than a few more kW but a slower auto would have.

Unfortunately the Mini didn't have any real power, even at the peak revs, but it made very good use of the what it had.

An earlier model Toyota Soarer turbo, with the 7MGTE engine, was the exact opposite. A fairly grunty engine for its day, it was an exercise in frustration as the auto would get you to where there was no boost, you keep the foot down, the turbo slowly spins up, you finally get some power, and then the auto changes up again, leaving you with nothing.

I've also driven another 7MGTE auto soarer, but this one was slightly modified. With the free flowing exhaust to bring the turbo up on boost earlier,and an auto that changed a bit later, it was able to stay on boost all the time, and made a world of difference compared to the stock one, despite the actual changes being very minimal.

Another Approach

Alternatively, we ignore how the car FEELS, and look at what actually makes it FAST.

Here the Yanks are actually a step ahead of the Euros, because they are well aware that in real life, the ability to do 400 km/h on a mirror smooth racetrack is totally useless. What actually matters is how fast the car will accelerate, brake and turn at urban speeds.

The Yanks are still misguided here, though, as they still work to the mirror smooth racetrack, and test under race conditions. Neither of which are relevant to normal driving on Australian roads. They also like to test acceleration on the standing 1/4 mile, or 400 m drag strip, which involves speeds of 180 km/h and up for any decent car. Once again, not even close to what you do in real life.

So I'd like a measure of acceleration that is a realistic speeds (0-100 kph at the most, 0-60 kph is probably more realistic in the city, maybe 0-80 is the best), but this only solves part of the problem.

An even larger problem is that to get the best time out of many cars, you take the engine up to full revs, and then dump the clutch and give it full throttle. About one time in 3 this will give a rocketship launch and give you a fantastic time.

The rest of the time you get useless wheelspin, or bog down the engine, or burn out the clutch, or break the gearbox.

And you better only try it a couple of times, or the chances of your clutch or gearbox going will increase to near certainty.

Once we return to the "real life" test, you won't do this to your own car, because you have to pay for that to be fixed. And you don't do that to catch a gap in the traffic on the freeway, because a 1/3 chance of getting the fantastic launch, means a 2/3 chance of NOT getting that launch, and so getting hit by a truck. In real life, you wait until a larger gap appears in the traffic, and then you take off sensibly, in such a way that you don't break your car.

I’ve often wondered how this could be captured in a repeatable test.

Something like “0-60 in the wet”, or “0-60, WORST out of 10 trys on a normal road” something like that should give a real view of how a car actually feels driving around without using 7000 rpm or drag racing style launches, which gives a warped view of the real world quickness of a car.

(My thinking behind the “worst out of 10 trys” is that in your own car, you will drive conservatively so that you aren’t going into wheelspin 10% of the time. So any launch that only works 80-90% if the time is clearly “too hard” for that particular car on a public road.)

All of which explains why my next car is going to be 4wd with tiny little turbos. If I can ever afford a next car.

22/01/2008

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Shopping Last Night

From Ebay

Apollo Roadmaster Racer Bicycle.

Slight rust, still in reasonable condition and rides well.

Pick-Up in Auburn NSW Only.

Total Cost: $18, plus I had to pick it up.

I adjusted the seat height and rode it to work this morning. With petrol currently running at about $6 every time I drive to work, that means I'll pay it off in 3 trips.

Actually that's not true. That assumes that if I didn't have the new bike I would be driving. In reality I would just ride one of the other bikes, (I currently have 3). But in THEORY...

21/01/2008

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Maybe under different circumstances?

Megan has a post on about how important it is to tell your woman that she is beautiful.

How about "pretty"? I tell my wife she's pretty several times a day.

Though the last time I saw her she was drunk on Mango milkshakes mixed with $200 Chinese rice wine and had chased 3 of her employees while swinging a heavy leather belt over her head. They locked themselves into a toilet, I decided it was time I went to work, so I took someone's van (after several of those milkshakes, they shouldn't be able to drive until tomorrow by my guess) and logged onto the internet to check blogs.

16/01/2008

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Finally Broke My Pedal Straps

I earlier mentioned my dodgey solution to clipping my feet to the pedals on my pushbike: I just used some cable ties.

Well when I got a new bike, I saw no reason to mess with success and replicated my cable ties on the new bike.

Then, on Friday, I was riding along at a reasonable clip, and my front wheel had a disagreement with an angled bit of concrete. The result was that I landed face first on a lawn (luckily not a road, rock, gutter, thornbush, moving car, or just about anything else that it could have been) while my bike did a summersault and landed behind me.

Results?: A sore left hand, a grazed left elbow, a bent right handlebar, and a very, very strong sense that things would have been far worse if my cable ties had not broken. The cable ties acted as a weak link, under the stress of a crash they broke first, and not my pedals or ankles. I got new cable ties and made sure they were no stronger than the first pair.

Then this morning, the first other cyclist noticed what I had actually done. "Cable ties! What a good idea. I'll have to try that."

I'll have to tell him about the subtlety required to not kill yourself when stopping.

02/01/2008

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Christmas Feast

For Christmas my lovely wife presented me with some biscuits. They were in a glossy packet, proclaiming them to be healthy and nutritious.

My Christmas Resolutions

The normal method is to pick the significant date, and then have resolutions that you stick to from then on. I chose the more effective (according to modern management theory) method of having resolutions that need to be resolved BY the significant date.

In this case Christmas, but I actually didn't check my progress until New Years Day.

These were for exercise...

Strength

Snatch bucketbell full of water and rocks 5x3

One Arm Chinup, both sides

Deadlift a full bin of sand

.

.

Size

.

.

.

17 inch upper arm

90kg @ < 13%

Result

Fail

Fail

Fail

Pass

Pass

Excuses and Weaseling

17 Inch Arm My left arm was 17.25 ", my right was 16.75". This averages as a pass to me. Why my dominant arm was smaller I don't know. But compared to the 15.5" I had at the beginning of last year it looks like progress to me. The "lack of symmetry" is something I don't care about in the slightest.

90kg @ < 13% I was 92 at 15%. Which is slightly more lean body mass than my goal, but also more fat. Given I was bulking up, and it was CHRISTMAS, I'll give that a pass.

Snatch bucketbell full of water and rocks 5x3 At this point I was at the end of a brutal, mass packing phase (always try to get heavier during Christmas, it'll happen anyway so it may as well be muscle) and had been working out every second day for months. I had tendonitis in my left elbow, my right shoulder, my left knee, my hips and all my fingers. I was clearly on the verge of overtraining and due for a serious break (which I'm now enjoying. I had to wait until I was back at work to have a break.) But it was still a fail.

One Arm Chinup, both sides See above pitiful excuse, PLUS I was now 10 kg heavier than when I actually succeeded in doing the OAC.

Deadlift a full bin of sand Not even close. I was lucky to do half a bin. I clearly completely underestimated just how heavy a 230 litre wheelie bin full of sand and rocks actually is. I can squat it though...

Next set of goals? Lets try for Easter.

Strength

Snatch bucketbell full of water and rocks 10x3

One Arm Chinup, both sides

Deadlift a full bin of sand

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Size

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18 inch upper arm

95kg @ < 11%

Comment

Should be easy, I am fairly damn close now. Just up the number of sets.

Should be quite possible, even at that weight. I don't feel as though I at that far off it now. I can do a set of 10 just using a 3 finger pinch on the other hand.

Big stretch. In more senses than one.

Hey I went from 16.25 to 17 since my brithday. Sounds OK. And that size should be starting to look good.

I'm tempted to leave that body fat % at 13%, but that would be too easy really.

17/12/2007

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The Infinite Loop Begins

In my mail this morning, I had my first self-referential spam:

This is to bring to your notice that I am delegated from the United Natio= ns to Ecobank Abuja to pay 100 Nigerian 419 scam victims $750,000USD. eac= h, you are listed and approved for this payments...

It can only get more convoluted from here on in.

07/12/2007

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Miss Saigon

I went to see Miss Saigon. Basically because my wife was going, she had the only car, so my alternative was to ride 20 km uphill in the rain to get home. Eventually I gave in and went.

However I didn't see the same play she did. I didn't see the same one as her friend Rose either.

After the play, we had a bit of a discussion, and I asked what each person would say the play was about.

My conclusion was that it was somewhat Greek Tragedy like. You could tell how it would end from just about half way through, and the character and situations meant it was unavoidable. Or at least I could tell. There were gasps of surprise from the audience at the final climactic moment, so presumably they hadn't been paying attention.

26/11/2007

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Part 3 of a Continuing Series that I am too polite to give a name to

While walking down the stairs from a restaurant....

16/11/2007

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Sharks with Frik'n Lasers...

A friend of my boss just got a job where he competes in mixed-martial arts tournaments as the "entertainment" for a corporate Christmas party.

With motorcycles jumping over the cage during the fights.

I bet that company accidentally gave the Occupational Health and Safety department the wrong address for the party.

06/11/2007

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Had a Power Failure Last Night

So I went to bed at 8.30. Fell fast asleed and woke up with the alarm at 7 am. Actually a bit past 7, about 7.15. So even after 10 1/2 hours sleep I was still a bit dozey. Mmmmm, maybe I've been working too hard.

05/11/2007

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One Good Day, One Dull Day

Saturday was dull, I spent it shopping, going to expensive restaurants where the owner gave us a free meal because she knew my friend, and ended up drinking cocktails at a skyscraper-top bar that overlooked Sydney harbour during a lightning storm.

Sunday was good, I spent it starting with church, then moving on to shovelling rocks, hauling heavy things up and down muddy slopes, dodging redbacks and funnelweb spiders, and watching TV by myself at home.

Strangely, my wife disagrees with my assessment of the two days.

01/11/2007

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Maybe it's a good thing that he doesn't know about most features

Just below I mention a guy with a 94 Mazda 626, who didn't know about any of the controls in his car.

Yesterday he crashed it. He drove into the back of another car while he was looking at his GPS.

He turned up at my place not having a clue what to do. So I removed the smashed plastic brackets from behind his headlights and grill, drilled holes through the fragments of grill and used some self-tapping screws to hold the two halves back together, wedged some packing foam behind the headlight so that it no longer looked pushed in (and didn't move about), and just removed his foglight on the grounds that the brackets and bosses that held it in where just smashed (the light itself was fine though) and that repairing it would cost more than buying a replacement. As fog lights are not a legal requirement, I just took it out.

In the dim light of my front driveway at night, the car didn't even look damaged any more, until you looked really closely.

But naturally, he displayed some ignorance about things when it came to testing the damage:

I don't think he'll notice having one fog light removed.

On the other hand, either all his parking lights have broken, or his car just doesn't have that feature. Which makes sense, who the hell uses parking lights? They only serve to make people think they have their lights on at night, when they really don't, and to slowly drain the battery because they are too dim for you to notice when you park and walk away. Stupid idea.

30/10/2007

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Too Bad if he needs the windscreen wipers

Two nights ago I got a lift from a guy who works for my wife. He had a 94 Mazda 626.

We were going somewhere new to him, so he got me to drive. I hop in, "so how do you adjust the steering wheel position? Ah! Here it is..." I adjust the wheel... he sits there like a stunned mullet and "I didn't know you could move that."

Then we put my bike in the back. "How do you fold the seats down?" Once again, he does the mullet impression. "Here it is!" I fold the seats down and slide in my bike. "How do you do that??!!"

He just didn't know about half the things his car has.

29/10/2007

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Birthday Present

I got a set of tyres (which I bought myself) Ping got me some sunglasses which I am too scared to ask the price of, and Dad got me a pirate DVD about Gallipoli (which appears to be from Turkey, so may actually be interesting.)

I worked until 8 pm that day (which was rough, seeing as it was SUNDAY) carting fish-tanks around the place. We were closing one shop and moving to another. Of course the ute rental shop closes at 4 pm, so I had to pay for the overnight rental. But the local Kennards have got to the point where they don't bother ringing up when I am overdue any more.

Then I had a bath, the first time anyone has used our new spa. With bubble bath in it (the bubble bath comes in convenient fish shaped containers (I chose an octopus) that Ping sells for $5 each). With the waterjets on massage, the bubbles up around my neck, a cordless phone in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other, I finally had time to think "what this bathroom needs is a TV..."

(If you stand up in a non-full spa, the water level drops below the level of the highest jets, so they can now spray water across the room.)

Then, the next day, after I thought all my presents were over, after I thought that I wasn't getting anything special this year... I managed to complete a full range chinup.

5 seconds later I did another, this one with my left arm. :)


That is the result of:

  1. Pavel Tstastsoulinests style grease-the-groove training (one rep, 2 or 3 times a day, every day)
  2. Doggcrapp style training
  3. Evolutionary diet
  4. Morphed into the first weeks of trying the ABCDE diet.I arranged to have the b'day in the middle of a "Bulking" stage.
  5. Kettle bell swings and snatches (well try a bucket filled with water, worked my way up to filled with rocks, currently weighing 29 kg) (Have you tried kettlebell swings? Brutally easy. By which I mean you get absolutely wiped out, but without having to put any effort in, it just sort of happens
  6. Regular yang muan and kuta drills (but I haven't actually been going to classes lately as I've been moving and delivering and installing fishtanks. Ping has just noticed that eveyone who asks me to go to their house and install a tank is a single woman. She deems this suspicious.)
  7. Carrying lots of fishtanks about.

The problem of course is that I have no actual idea what is responsible for the improvements.

The shoulder is good now, but the last time I hurt it, was by hanging from one arm, so I have to keep my shoulders tight.

And I got some bruisiing as I was doing sets of pullups and inverted rows with the abovementioned 29 kg bucket hanging from my shoulders on a length of webbing. When my boss saw it, he said it looked like a shark had tried to bite my arms off. And HE was covered with bruises himself from getting a bronze in the Australian mixed martial arts something-or-other.

23/10/2007

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Living the Dream

You know that nightmare where you find yourself at work and you've forgotten your pants?

I did that yesterday.

It wasn't as bad as you'd think. But this is mostly because I work at a very weird place, where people do that sort of thing.

For example, the girl who sits next to me, sometimes comes to work still in her dressing gown. I ask why, and she replies "Well if they'd turn the airconditioning down...."

How to make someone look like an illiterate moron: Part 2

I earlier mentioned this car:

There is a car that parks next to my wife's shop. The bumper sticker says "IF IT'S TOO LOUD, YOUR TOO OLD".

I'll bet the driver doesn't ever realize what a horrible joke has been played on him.

Well now I have the photo.



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