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http://myfirstdictionary.blogspot.com/

31/12/2009

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Disappointed

I just found History Explained which promises an up to date explanation of the world... but sadly H.G. Wells did a much better job back in 1919.

These guys are much too teleological in their explanations, and seem to believe modern urban legends without question. For example, they set out to explain why the modern world is so violent and filled with war and revolution, without ever asking if this is in fact true. Most scholarship I've read on the subject concludes that the world is the most peaceful it has ever been.

On the other hand, there is no shying away from saying that the largest case of ethnic cleansing ever was... Ghandi's India. Which many western writers try to present as a peaceful, spiritual place far more in tune with true peace than our materialistic west.

30/12/2009

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The Full Experience

So I was stuck in a Kareoke bar, and Ping, remembering that I "liked that band ... what was it? Rosie Gun?"

"Guns and Roses"

... she called up a song and I got to do November Rain.

Now I had recently bought (that's right, BOUGHT, actually paid good money) the new Chinese Democracy album. I got it for a couple of reasons outlined in a long review that I had read. The review made two points that stuck out:

1. This may be the last album ever made. By anyone. An album was traditionally made to be listened to from end to end. CDs just increased how much you could stick on an album. But nowdays, everyone has shuffle. Everyone just programs in their favourite songs. Very few listen to the whole thing in order. But Chinese Democracy has been in production for about 17 years. It was planned out when albums could still be planned out, when you could rely on having the songs played in the right order. It may be the last one.

2. Many songs suffer from the same flaws as November Rain. My response is "November Rain has FLAWS?"

So now I've been through the album, in order, a number of times, and I found no song I could compare to November Rain. There's a few that I'd compare to Sweet Child of Mine. And they are growing on me. But nothing awesome yet.

Ahh! But now I get to hear November Rain again, but without the video (One of the most expensive Rock Videos of all time, $1.5 million.) Instead, the Kareoke video features some chick wandering around London looking moody. And I realize just how much of the awsomeness of the song comes from the video, from watching Axe whale on his guitar in the rain as the storm transforms a wedding into a funeral.

So I re-evaluated the new album, and concluded that many of the songs ARE the equal of November rain, when judged sans video.

20/12/2009

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My reaction to This Comment

I vastly prefer the self serve system. AND I wondered why, because many of the points that Jacques raises are perfectly true.

My conclusions:

1. Spending time doing something is vastly preferable to spending time waiting for someone else.

2. For someone who has never used a scanner before, it is a new skill. And acquiring a new skill is vastly more interesting than standing around waiting for somebody else.

3. Because the machines are cheaper than the checkout chicks, all the stores I frequent eventually ended up replacing 4 checkout chicks with 8 or 10 self serve counters. And that speeds things up.

4. After a month or two, customers learn how to use them, and they speed up. Not to the level of the full time staff, but fast enough so that the queue moves faster than before.

5. Those customers who hate the machines self select out of using them, leaving the faster, shorter queue for me.

I do have one objection to the machines that Jacques missed. There is only a small area to put your scanned goods in. And if you don't balance everything in the designated place, the machine sulks and won't process further scans.

18/12/2009

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Blogging May Be Light

I'm on holiday, which means I'm working more hours per day than normal, and so less time to record what seems interesting. But I have noticed some things:

Christmas Carols

I think the standard, shopping center PA system selection of Christmas Songs has markedly improved this year.

There are far less fatuous jingles about snow, and a lot more serious songs, songs that are sung by people who have learned to sing somewhere with the word "Conservatorium" in the name, and not the words "Talent" or "Idol". Another way to look at it is songs that sound better if sung by many people at once, or, to put it bluntly, songs originally written for church.

It's a pleasant change.

03/12/2009

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Thrusters for Tabata?

The original articles I ready about doing Tabata style training listed Thrusters as a suitable exercise.

Hold weights in each hand, resting on your shoulders. Squat down, stand up and press the weights to overhead. Repeat.

At first I found them to work very well, with a 10 kg KB in each hand. But as time has gone on, I've improved in doing them and they have become less and less suitable. Within 2 or 3 workouts the 10 kg was too light, so I moved to 12 kg. Now 12 kg is too light so I moved to 15 kg. The progression has been very quick, so it isn't that I am 50% stronger than 6 weeks ago. It is a skill, I've been learning how to do them more efficiently.

The problem is that my legs have improved faster than my arms. In my workout this morning, my legs were doing the squatting movement long after my arms gave out on the pressing.

So it changed from an all-body exercise to an arm/shoulder exercise, with a leg component. This misses the point of what a Tabata workout is about.

So I went and read more about Tabata with weights, and lo and behold, the original author now says that he was wrong about thrusters, and you should only do front squats. He doesn't say why, but I can: Thrusters start out good but as you get used to them your legs overpower your arms and they are no longer a full body exercise.

So I would try front squats, but as mentioned below: I've broken my squat bar. So I'll stick with snatches. The snatch uses the legs to throw up the weight much more than a thruster does, and so it is still working for me.

Strange But True

Meanwhile, I am surprised to be actually fairly pleased with my new bank. I recently changed the Home loan over to ANZ (so clearly, I was already convinced they would give me a better deal, otherwise, why change?). And I've found that although they still have the expected number of stuffups (removing stamp duty from our account, when we didn't need to pay any, for example), they have been overwhelmingly pleasant and helpful when it comes to fixing the problem.

Typically I just send of an email to the original loan organizer (Maria Kovacic ) (who has probably put 5 to 10 hours work in on my account AFTER I got the original loan) and I get a reply within an hour, and the problem dealt with in a day. (I contacted her after asking other people who had searched for loans and refinance in the area, and they had found she was the best in the business.)

I just got a phone call from the branch manager, telling me that because of some changes I had done, one of my other accounts no longer quite does what it used to, and that I should be aware of it. There was no reason not to let me go on, paying more interest than I expected. But instead he rang me up and let me know what had changed.

I may change more things over to that branch.

02/12/2009

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Lessons Learned

A Snatch is meant to be performed as though you are jumping. So, this morning, I decided to try it with light weights (20 kg) and actually do a jump. Just to see if I was doing it properly.

The result is that you reach the top of the jump, and now you have a choice.

1. You either hold on to the weight as you go down, and accelerate the weight towards your head.

2. Or, you let go of the weight, and have it fall uncontrolably onto your head.

So it shouldn't REALLY be done as a jump.

25/11/2009

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Oops I did it again

This morning, my squat bar broke. It snapped in half on my 3rd rep. Yes I was tryng for a personal best today.

I am surprisingly unhurt by the incident.

Hmmm, I wonder if any of the sections of tree I recently cut down would be a suitable replacement...?

18/11/2009

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Tabata is Hard

Yesterday I did another Tabata style workout (not strictly Tabata, but in the same style) with 15 kg kettlebell like objects in thrusters. I think this is a little too heavy, my results were 8,8,8,6,6,5,4,3 and the low reps at the end didn't seem to wear me out.

I mean I was dripping sweat, and breathing too heavily to talk, but I could stand up and walk around, and even pick up the KBLOs and put them back inside.

So I was thinking I might be doing it wrong. Then, while I waited for the sweating to stop, I continued wrapping tape around my wrist straps.

My wrist straps are invaluable in rack pulls and hand-and-thigh lifts when I am moving weights way above my grip strength. But the thin foam padding they came with wore out, and they started damaging the skin on my wrists. So I took a pair of old jeans. cut off the bottom of the legs, and would put these sleeves on my forearms before putting on the straps. As the weight keeps getting heavier (yay!) even this didn't help any more, and a hard set of rack pulls would leave my wrists bleeding. Which is bound to be noticed by dear wife sooner or later. Also, the extra sleeves are both hot and clumsy to put on. So I decided to wrap the material around the straps and then add a layer of tape to hold it all in place. The smooth duct tape would no longer abrade my skin, leaving me able to work as a hand model again. If it wasn't for all the scars...

So I taped up the wrist straps, and when I finished I found I had one wrist strap left to do... I though I had done all four. And where is the material to wrap this one with? I had two sleeves, I cut them in half, that gives me 4 strips, one for each strap.... I looked around, couldn't find it. Hmmm. Did I remember to cut the second sleeve? This last strap looks a lot bulkier than the first 2. If I had forgotten to cut it then that explains where the extra material is. So I started to unwrap it to check.

I had done one wrapping over the top of the other. I guess the tabata knocked me around more than I thought.

And did the wrapping work?

This morning I tried rack pulls with the modified straps.

The smooth tape did NOT abrade my skin. There is barely a red mark, let alone blood.

Smooth tape on sweaty wrists do NOT grip well, I had to stop every 2 to 3 reps or so and readjust the straps. So I did a personal best weight for what was nominally 5 sets of 8, 4 (add 32 kg to base weight), 8, 4 (heavy again), 8. But in reality were 16 sets of 2 because I had to keep stopping the straps from falling off.

Needs work.

17/11/2009

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The King is Dead: Long Live the King

If you thought the idea of selling tap water in a bottle for the same price as coke was a brilliant piece of marketing, then this will really impress: People are selling SEA water. Total cost of production: pumping it out of the sea. Retail price: 12c/L.

The application is for people who have a marine fishtank in their homes. You are supposed to change the water over all the time, and the most convinient way is for someone to drive up to your house in a truck with a big tank on the back, and use a hose.

Brilliant.

10/11/2009

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Driver of the Year

I was standing at the petrol pump filling up my car, when another Falcon drove into the petrol station driveway. He drove in with his wheels spinning. This wasn't such a good move because

  1. There are many cars moving around, reversing and so on.
  2. There were a number of pedestrians walking about
  3. There were two cops standing there writing out a ticket for some other poor driver.

One cop immediately walked up to this new guy and asked him a question or two. I couldn't hear what it was (too far away, but I could hear the reply...

Cop: .........

Driver: What? I never did anything wrong? You guys are harrassing me!

Cop: .........

This was apparently an order to park his car next to the cop car. Which he did. SPINNING HIS WHEELS ON THE WAY!

For the record, it wasn't raining, there wasn't oil on the ground, it was dry, clean, bitumen.

As you'd expect, the cops did not react positively to this. Both of them now confronted the guy (they didn't let the other driver go, they just made him wait. They aren't going to give up on a juicey fine just because there was the prospect of an even bigger one.

Cop: .........

Driver: Huh? What? What did I do wrong?

Cop: .........

Driver: I just came here for an orange juice. This is harrassment.

Cop: .........

Driver: You can't give me a fine! I haven't broken any laws. This is sh1t. F@cking Bullsh1t.

Cop: .........

Driver: Yeah it's not my fault... the tyres are a bit smooth...

Cop: .........

Driver: No! No, perfectly legal. 1.5 mm all round. You should know this sh1t.

They were still going when I left (taking great care not to spin my wheels).

Happy Birthday

It was recently my birthday, and I received a $50 voucher from a shop called Tarocash. This is because my wife bought me something like $50 worth of undies about 10 months ago, and they entered me into the shop customer database.

I carried this voucher around in my car for a week or so, then I was near the shop on Thursday night so I wandered in. I figured I'd buy some more undies. It turns out they don't stock undies anymore, so I was forced to look at their shirts.

The prices were laughable, I ended up getting a $49.95 t-shirt. That's right, a t-shirt like I could get in Lowes or something for $6. So not the cheap $3 t-shirts (they were only $44.95) but still, it was just a shirt. If I'd actually been paying for it I would have just walked right out.

Still it was a good shirt for $0. And it was probably worth a few dollars just to have all the cute young shop assistants fawn over me for 20 minutes. And they really did fawn: "Ooh that really shows off your muscles!" "This one sets off your broad shoulders." "Oh, this layering effect looks great on you." and finally "I must apologise, but the we can't give you the five cents change from your voucher. Please don't be upset." I was impressed with just how flirty they all were. I've never been in a shop like it.

It wasn't until I got home that I realized I'd probably never, ever, been in a high end clothing shop without a woman (wife, girlfriend, mother) dragging me in. I wonder if that had something to do with it?

Conclusion: Tarocash is not as expensive as it seems. $50 for 5 pairs of undies is outrageous. But if they proceed to give me what is probably a top class t-shirt, and a bunch of flirting, and probably keep sending me vouchers every year... it works out not bad.

Foods I Now Like

Over time, I have grown to like many foods that I previously detested.

Pizza Yes. Really. When I first encountered pizza it was traditional old italian stuff in 1970s Far North Queensland, all covered with stinky cheese and salty olives and anchovies. It wasn't until Uni that I tried it again, and found that the modern, spicy flavours now suited me.

Olives following on from the Pizza, the strong, oily, salty flavour of olives never appealed until one morning, in about 2001 (really, I was 30 years old) while hungover, I sat at a table after a party and picked at the remaing food. I found the salty olives were actually good now.

Salty Plums This was an early one. When I was a young child, salty plums were a popular sweet in the chinese shops of my home town. As is usual with small children, we whined and pushed until mum bought us some, ignoring her warnings that we would hate them. We did. But by the time I reached high school I had overcome the initial shock and now liked them.

Mashed potato This was a gradual process. First I ate very elaborate foods that had mashed potato as an ingredient. Then over time the % of potato crept up.

Tuna I know who to blame for this one. I first encountered tuna in airline meals, which are of course disgusting. When I finally tried it again far away from any air hostesses... it was much, much better. And extrememly cheap and convenient. As a result I now live on the stuff.

Brocolli I also know who to blame on this one. Mum. She would cook vegetables by boiling them until they were a horrible soft floppy green mess. My wife will stir fry them in garlic oil. I like brocolli NOW.

Stinky cheese I don't know, I just changed.

Whisky (and Whiskey) The Johnny Walker journey of taste whisky tasting course showed me the error of my ways.

Brussel Sprouts Just kidding! These are still horrible. :-p

Eggplant This one's not my fault. The fact is that eggplant has CHANGED. Over the last couple of decades, breeders have developed eggplant varieties that are not bitter. This means that not only are they not bitter now, they no longer need to be heavily salted as they previously were to remove the bitterness. The result is that a once salty, bitter food is now far milder and nicer to eat.

Coffee Still working on this one. I can now tolerate a chocolate/coffee mix at about 1/4 coffee. I am deliberately training myself to like coffee because I live in a world where coffee has an important social function, and is more widely available than most drinks. Even tea.

04/11/2009

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Let's Make Everything MORE Complicated

In a comment at Club Troppo (my favourite Australia political discussion blog), a local politican suggests:

one of the arguments for charging immigrants of all stripes is to reflect that they enjoy the benefits of existing infrastructure without having contributed towards through past taxes.

A few tangential points:

1. If all immigrants should pay a fee because they now get access to our infrastructure, does this mean that all emigrants should get a refund?

2. Does the size of the payment (or refund) depend on the age and hence expected future lifetime of the person? Somebody who has another 5 years to live is obviously going to use a lot less of our value than a newborn baby with an estimated 112 years to go (based on current rate of life expentancy increases)

3. Will this mean a series of payments to or from the person as they move between different countries with different infrastructure/capita levels? Could you move to a third world country and get enough money to retire providing you were prepared to put up with the lower infrastructure levels?

4. What is infrastructure? Sure it is roads and bridges and stuff. But what about something like a democratic liberal politico-social structure? This is valuable (immigrants desire it). It was costly to set up and maintain (world war 2 for one example of some major maintenance expense). What about some really valuable stuff like... the torres strait? Or to give a more applied example the English Channel. Clearly the English Channel is a very, very valuable thing for England to have (WWII again, WWI, Napoleonic wars, etc, etc,). In 1938, a Jewish refugee from Germany would well want to pay a lot more to settle in England than France, largely because of the English Channel.

I'm not using a reducio ad absurdum argument here (or even spelling it correctly). I think that this is an area that is actually worth thinking about to flesh out the implications and see if it should be pursued.

27/10/2009

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Talking Back to Contemporary Music

I think you stuffed that one up when you compared her to a neighbourhood whore.

(And what kind of screwed up neighbourhood do you live in anyway? (Pun intended.))

Highlight below to see the song.

# David Guetta - Sexy Bitch

Ropes

Working with Chinese Truck Drivers (and Filipinos who load and unload trucks) I expect them to be more skilled than me at the truckie job.

1. Trolley? Yes. Using a hand trolley to move stuff with these guys was a revelation. I have learned to improve my productivity by 1000% (literally)

2. Ropes? Not a chance. These professional truckies would tie a load to a truck, and I would grab the ropes and give them a shake. The ropes would fall off the load and end up in a pile. So then I would retie the entire load. Nothing complicated, I'd just throw it over a few times and finish with a multiple nested truckies hitch. I mean it is called a truckies hitch, I assumed that professional truckies would know how to use it, but no, they are standing around watching me and saying "Is very skill." "He is like sailor" "Look how tight" and the rest as the mechanical advantage in the knot pulled the rope until it was immovable.

The reason is that these guys work with box trucks. You load everything into the truck and close the doors. Tieing down the load is only done to stop things sliding around, not in any kind of serious manner.

Overtraining is Rubbish

I've decided that one big problem with my exercise and fitness is that I've internalized some nonsense about Overtraining. This is the theory that if you train too hard you end up going backwards. It's a stupid idea. Practically nobody will be less fit if they work harder. So why does this theory exist?

The problem is that there is a whole range of different sort of trainee. It's really a continuim, but can be sort of broken up into 4 levels.

  1. The Homer Simpson types who do no training at all.
  2. The fitness first type who will do very mild training occaisionally.
  3. Semi serious amateurs
  4. Professional athletes and the top ranks of those trying to become professionals.

Out of the 4, only those in the final category are ever going to do enough work, continuously, to overtrain. BUT these are the people that everyone looks to for advice.

I've mentioned this before. People who are really good at something are often terrible places to go to for advice. This is another example, someone who plays a premier league game of football every weekend, and does 3 hours of training 4 days a week, and also hits the gym and does training runs on his days off... he is going to find that he is at risk of overtraining, and that reducing the work load can improve the results. Does this sound like the work load of any normal person? So why do people blindly apply this advice to someone who does 30 minutes of low impact aerobics twice a week, or someone who lifts weights three times a week, for 20 minutes of actual work each time?

The other problem is the coaches. Your top level coach or trainer is someone who works with the professional athletes. So when he says (and it's mostly he) that pushing to failure when you work out is too much stress, he is thinking of "failure" as defined by a hyper-competitive near insane extremist with the pain tolerance of a fictional war hero. In other words, a professional athlete. Any normal person's definition of "working to failure" or "going as hard as I can" is going to be what these guys define as "warm up".

Sadly I bought into all this stuff for years, and now I am trying to train myself out of it. From where I am, working harder just gets more results. And I bet this applies to just about any normal person.

High Resolution Test for Fail 2

Any news article about nanotechnology that has a comparison to the size of a human hair. You know it was written for, and possibly by, someone who still isn't comfortable with the whole idea of nanometres.

21/10/2009

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I'm CURED!!!

Just came back from the blood doctor, and my latest tests show that I'm all better.

Well 95% better. 90% at least. I still have an underlying predisposition to blood clots, but only about 50% higher than normal, which isn't very high. However the two other problems they had spotted in my blood have cleared up, and so were probably the RESULT of the attack rather than the CAUSE.

In practical terms, this means I can stop eating rat poison every day. Though it is still a good idea to pop some for a week before going on a long plane flight.

And with no rat poison, I can go back to bike riding, rock climbing and martial arts. Though admittedly I have no time for the latter two hobbies at the moment.

Still, I'm very happy at the moment.

If results had gone the other way... I would be forced to sell my bikes I think. And forget about doing a lot of fun things. (Not all fun things. There's that to be thankful for.)

20/10/2009

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Emotion Vesus Logic: Part 1 in what may be a continuing series

In the traffic.

Emotion: What is this guy doing? 55 in an 80 zone! Must be gay!

Logic: Why would being gay make you drive slow?

Emotion: Because he enjoys having all the other drivers up his arse!

Logic: That actually makes sense...

Logic: I guess you're right, he is gay.

My Lying Eyes

I mention just below that the new falcon ute can't take a full length 187 cm fishtank, but my 98 model can. However the internet claims that the new model has a LONGER tray (as well as wider, to the point where it will take a full pallet between the wheel arches.)

So what gives? My initial guess is that the ute I tried had a plastic tray liner that could easily loose some distance at the front. So a new (XR6 turbo) ute MIGHT be the way to go... I'll have to measure the tray myself though.

Also, every model can swap over to the one-tonner tray, so you can definitely get it with the turbo. Having the big wide tray makes it less like a car and more like a truck when it comes to parking though.

16/10/2009

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Starting to Get Angry?

I just got a Spam email titled Our Watches Look Great, Even on Any Loser

Any Loser? Sounds like our spammy friend is getting frustrated that nobody is buying his rubbish.

Good.

12/10/2009

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A Truckie for the Weekend

I basically spent the whole weekend as a truckie. Loading my ute, unloading my ute, driving between the two locations. And in one case unloading a whole 30 foot shipping container.

This last job I didn't do by myself. Ping hired a guy to help, and asked him to bring an assistant. He turned up with 4 assistants. His wife, 4 year old son, and his mum and dad.

This did NOT make my job easier. Indeed I had to work twice as fast because otherwise I'd be letting a 70 year old man (wearing a hearing aid and a suit) carry heavy boxes.

I guess this guy is getting stuck for money if he is asking his mum and dad for help rather than pay a labourer.

So that was the weirdest job, the most annoying was a delivery to a customer who apparently only lived 15 minutes drive away. It turned out to be in Goulburn, which is a 142 km drive each way. At least it is a 110 kph zone the entire way, which means you can fairly safely sit on 120.

Pigs?

Driving down the Hume highway, I spotted some roadkill. It was squat and hairy, and in my home area of North Queensland I would have labelled them as wild pigs. But they were too common for pigs (which are smart enough to generally avoid roads) and I didn't think wild pigs were that common down this way.

Eventually I saw one that was recent enough to identify. Wombat. I haven't actually seen them before. Obviously not as smart as a pig. I still wouldn't like to hit one though. Especially not at 110 kmh+.

What Could Be Better?

Having spent the weekend trucking in my '98 Falcon Ute, my thoughts naturally lean towards what vehicle I would rather be using. And it isn't an easy question at all.

I need something that will carry at least as much stuff, and be better at driving long distances while loaded, and still make a good personal vehicle the rest of the time. The solution for this is the UTE. Which I have.

A van is what they use in places like Europe and Japan. And that means there are some fairly good vans. But I've never heard of one that would be any sort of driver's car. And vans tend to have a hard and fast limit on their load space. (The roof). So you need a really big van to be able to have the same load capacity as a ute, but then a great big van is too big the rest of the time.

All the Euro vans have underpowered diesels. The Japs have some decent engines, the Nissan Elgrand has the 3.5 litre V6 from the 350Z, the older Honda Odddeyseys had a Vtec V6 with near 200 kW. But they are all really heavy with poor handling.

So a better ute then? In Australia that would be a newer Falcon Ute or a Commodore ute. Probably with the V8 or Turbo 6. But I've loaded fishtanks into new Falcon utes, and they DON'T FIT! The new utes have a smaller tray. And are heaps heavier. The turbos are undoubtedly a lot faster though. I don't know how big the V8 commodore tray is. And maybe I could get the turbo falcon with the one-tonner tray back?

Anyone else have utes? The Americans. They are generally huge and high off the ground, which makes loading difficult. I would like a GMC Syclone though. Pitty they went out of production 15 years ago. Maybe a Ford F150 Lightning? Too big though, what if I have to go into a multilevel car park? Which I often do. (This stops many of the larger Vans too. They just won't fit into a low carpark.)

So it looks like I may have the best car in the world, given my usage. The only way to get a better one would be to modify it. Or look at the V8 Commodore tray size....

A Crazy, Bordering on Stupid Place

It is becoming apparent that some places are just stupid. The people who live there have terrible crazy hairstyles, multiple tattoos, multiple piercings, and clearly just do whatever seems like a good idea at the time without thinking about it. These are FANTASTIC places to have a shop. You just set up and make your products look appealing. All these people walk in "That looks MAD! I must have one! $1000? I was going to spend that on my kidney dialysis but this is irresistable! Done!"

Meanwhile, in the sensible suburbs, they are calculating the Minimum Acceptable Rate of Return on their $1000 investment and end up getting the $150 product, if anything.

I Hate Hummers

STOP! Stop right there. You were assuming I hate Hummers because they are too big. This just goes to show that you are brainwashed by the Main Stream Media powers that be and don't check facts out for yourself.

The fact is, I hate Hummers because they are too small. That's right: small. Sure Hummers look big, and the MSM is always going on about how big they are. But the fact is they are little, little cars.

The problem with this is that the owners have generally been convinced by the hype and think they drive a big, big car. When they buy a fishtank they say "No problem! I have a huge car that can take this no worries." So I trek out to the car park expecting something like a Mazda 3 or a Hyundai Getz (both of which will take our large fish tanks without too much trouble. Instead there is a Hummer. I shake my head sadly as the proud owner opens the rear doors of his enormous truck... only to find that there is no way to fit in the tank. There just isn't room.

"But, but .....?" the suddenly shocked owner stammers as he watches the same tank easily sliding into a Honda Civic.

Holden commodore and Ford Falcon Sedans have the same problem.

Grunt Rope

With the very large piles of fishtanks I was hauling around, I was no longer able to get by with just my trusty 5 metre rope. Fortunately I had wisely put a spare 20 metre rope behind the seats in case of just such an event. This was one I grabbed when I was getting a drill bit from a bunnings and saw these on sale for $4.98.

So I ripped open the package and took out what claimed to be a Grunt Rope. To my pleasant surprise I found it to be an excellent rope, much like a dynamic climbing rope in feel, construction, and hopefully quality. But only about half the cross-section, so I won't be using it as a super-bargain climbing rope. Being stretchy was a bit of a change for me, but I soon worked out how to tie down a load with it, and it held really well in addition to being really easy to untie.

Useless Auto Checkin

Then I finished up the weekend needing to stop at a cheap motel. A Formula One. And it had an automatic computerised checkin service like an ATM where you request your room and pay by credit card before it dispenses your key.

This sounds like something I'd like... but it didn't work. It took an HOUR to check in, including ringing the emergency number, following instructions through the phone, and eventually getting the manager out of bed and paying with cash. Finishing at 12.30, when we were very tired and had given serious thought to just sleeping in the car. We did stop partway through, drove to the nearest other motel, found it was full, and came back.

09/10/2009

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Evolution in Action

Both dogs and tasmanian devils can suffer from a form of infectious cancer. This weird beastie is cancer that can be spread from one animal to another by the well known route of "exchanging bodily fluids" (pun intended). So what we have is dog (or tasmanian devil) cells that have evolved into a monocellular infectious microbe. In one step. Or a couple of steps, but within the lifetime of the original individual. Say 5 years. (The cells must have gone from normal to contagious microbe in the lifetime of one individual, because otherwise they wouldn't have survived the death of the first infected individual.)

Let's run that one past again. A mammal has evolved into a microbe in 5 years.

There are people (so called religious right) who argue that evolution cannot possibly lead to large changes over 10 million years. There are other people (so called looney left) who argue that evolution can occur over 10 million years, but can't possibly affect humans since about 100 000 years ago. Both these groups now have a major existence proof to overcome.

Mammal to microbe in 5 years. NOBODY ever predicted this that I know of. Outside of Doctor Who scriptwriters.

07/10/2009

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Working in my wife's shop again

A couple of young girls (about 16 years old) came into the shop and were looking at some gold fish.

Girl #1: Oooh the Goldfish! What are their names?

Me: They don't have names. Some of the fighting fish have names...

Girl #1: The goldfish must have names! You must give them names. Can I name them?

Me: I suppose...

Girl #1: I'll name them Archibald and Gladstone. That one's Archibald, that one's Gladstone.

Me: OK

Girl #1: You must remember, if anyone asks their names, they are Archibald and Gladstone. Are you sure you'll remember?

Me: OK. Archibald and Gladstone.

Girl #1: That's the same names I gave to my boobs.

Me: ...

Girl #2: Don't tell him that!

Girl #1: Sorry. That was weird.

Me: ...

Tabata Snatches

I was in a warehouse, I was bored, and I hadn't done any exercise that day, so I grabbed two 10 kg water bottles and did a tabata workout. Only I decided to do Snatches this time, as a change.

Conclusions:

  1. Snatches are at least as good as thrusters for this workout
  2. Snatches may work more muscles, especially the biceps and posterior chain in the legs
  3. Thrusters work the quadraceps and delts more
  4. Never, never do snatches without first removing the sharp flash that runs along the seams of even the most innocent looking water bottle. It's fine for holding but when you are flipping them around ballistically it scrapes the knuckles.
  5. Blood stains water bottles.

Recycling

If you want to put a lot of cardboard boxes in your recycling bin, just leave them outside in the hail. This pounds them into sodden pulp that can be mushed into the bin until you've got a full load (230 kg of wood pulp in a 230 litre bin). It then results in a bin that's a bit difficult to drag up hill to the kerb, but the motorized garbage truck should have no trouble picking it up. It managed a bin with an old engine block in it a few years ago.

We still had piles of hail lying around on the ground this morning, which explains why it was so cold. If the ground is covered with ice, I guess the air temp must be dragged down towards 0°.

The hail had blocked up the drains, which is why the garage had flooded.

02/10/2009

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Tabata Again

As mentioned below, I swapped from 10 kg to 12 kg kettlebell like objects (KBLOs) for my Tabata training. As expected, this reduced the reps I can do. It also cranked my pulse up to the recommended training rate of at least 3 times resting pulse (155 bpm). And so far it has been 6 hours and I'm still a bit worn out from it.

It was also annoying because the different shape of the 12 kg KBLOs makes it really awkward to hold in with your arms vertically up. The weight falls over and levers out on your forearm. OK, so does the 10 kg weight, but the 12 kg is fatter and shorter and the approach angle is far shallower so the leverage is much greater.

I suppose at this point I should explain that I'm not doing the exact technical Tabata workout. The original Tabata protocol (as developed for the Japanese speed skating team) called for 20 seconds of as many repetitions as possible, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeat 7 times. This was done using a cycling machine that included hand and leg work.

The arm and leg cycling machines are expensive, big and rare. Hence people looked about for other full body exercises they could substitute. Recommedations I've seen are snatches, thrusters and front squats. In this case you choose a weight that allows you to do about 8 reps. Then, you do the 20 seconds as fast as you can, 10 seconds rest .

But even this requires some sort of timing mechanism. So the simplest form of all is just 8 reps as fast as you can, count to 10, and repeat. This is based on the theory that such exercises take about 20 seconds to do 8 reps at full speed. That's what I do. It works but probably leads to longer rest periods when I am tired and can't count as fast. To counter this I try to count breaths in the hope that I'll be breathing faster when I'm near the end. I also don't always get 8 reps, at least for the last couple of sets. In fact I use this as my progression judge. When I CAN get 8 by 8, I increase the weight.

So today I moved up to 12 kg, and got 8,8,8,8,8,8,6,5. Which is fair enough.

01/10/2009

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FAIL Detection

One of the perils of the intertubes is that any moron (even me) can get on there, make a good looking web page (OK Not me), photo shop up some impressive credentials and make themselves out to be an expert in something. So it is really useful to have a sort of high-affinity fluorescence probe for Epic Fail.

Paul Chek, an alleged expert on health and exercise, came out with this pearler: When one considers that all plants and animals exhibit a will to live and don’t want to be eaten, it becomes evident that milk is the only substance purposefully designed and prepared by nature as food.

Now Chek may be the person who introduced the idea of using reinforced beach balls as exercise equipment, but this statement clearly drops his credibility down to the government spokesman level. Where he lives there may not be such things as Fruit or Nectar, but meanwhile, back in reality, these things are very common.

Fruit of course are sweet, tasty, nutritious structures developed by plants as FOOD for herbivores so that the animals would eat the fruit and then spread the seeds far and wide. Usually depositing the seeds in a pile of manure which will no doubt help the new seedling grow. Likewise, nectar is developed by plants as FOOD for insects so that the insects will visit the flowers (to get the nectar) and so spread pollen from flower to flower.

Indeed some pollen has been made deliberately foodlike so pollen eaters will perform the same function. 95% of the pollen is eaten so 5% is spread to other flowers. This seems like a fair deal to the plant.

On the subject of pollen spreading insects, honey is another substance deliberately made as food, in this case for bee larve.

I could go on, but the point is made. This is a relief because otherwise I would have one more source of information to confuse me.

28/09/2009

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More on Tabata

As mentioned below, I recently tried some Tabata training (thrusters* with 10 kg kettle bells**), and was disappointed to find that it didn't leave me more exhausted than kettle bell swings (with a 32 kg KB). However I speculated that maybe my standards had changed.

Well I've done a back to back comparison and the Tabata definitely wins. I'm just fitter than I used to be, which is why it didn't wear me out as much as I remember KB swings doing.

This is for a simple reason that should be obvious to anyone with an engineering or scientific background. The KB swings are a SWING. They are governed by the rules applying to any pendulum, and hence there is a certain speed at which you do them***. To speed it up you either need to do them on a planet with higher gravity (a great approach if you can manage it) or have shorter arms (which will result in the 32 kg weight slamming into your groin: definitely leave you on the ground gasping for breath but may not improve your fitness.)

Hence to make the KB swings harder you can't speed them up, you can only increase the number of repetitions or the weight. And the last time I increased the weight I ripped the handle off the KB I was using. So I need a stronger design of KB than one based on an old 15 litre paint bucket.

Meanwhile I was right about still being on a steep learning curve when it comes to thrusters. I'm now at the point where I need to go to 12 kg weights. Fortunately I already have a set****.

*Deep squat while holding a weight in each hand resting on your shoulders. Stand up and press the weights to over head. Then return to starting position. Repeat as fast as possible.

**Available for $90 each on ebay. OR $8 each at woolworths if you realize that a 10 liter bottled water container with a handle on top is the same thing. Only with adjustable weight. AND containing 10 litres of water that some people will prefer to the free stuff from a tap. Of course using water containers as weights is not exactly a new idea: why do you think they are called KETTLE bells?

***The fixed rate of kettle bell swings is a major advantage usually. Just as you can't increase the rate above the natural frequency, you also cannot decrease the rate either. So KB swings will keep you working at the same rate and prevent any tendency to slow down as you get fatigued. I think this is the secret to why KB swings feel like you aren't working hard, until all of a sudden you're on the verge of collapse.

****I have a different brand of water bottle that comes in 12 liters. There are also 15 liter bottles for the future.

21/09/2009

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The Dust Storm Has Reached Us

Yesterday and Sunday we had hail

Then this morning, all was orange

Looking towards the City

And there was dust everywhere (these are footprints on our nice polished floor)

Meanwhile, Back at XKCD

This cartoon is an even better illustration of the basic problem with SETI than my analogy, which was:

Imagine an American Indian tribe that has (by landslide) become trapped on top of a now-unclimbable mountain. They search for evidence of intelligent life on other mountains by looking for smoke signals, the obvious method for long distance communication. They spot what appear to be giant silver birds high in the sky, which fly in straight paths from horizon to horizon, leaving a smoke trail. But there is clearly no readable pattern in these smoke trails so they are obviously not a sign of intelligence.

But the ant thing is even better.

21/09/2009

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Tabata Training

Tabata training is supposed to be the most effective fitness protocol ever developed. This is in comparison to Kettle Bell Training*, Crossfit** and Jogging***. So on Sunday I gave it a go.

Did it leave me on the ground gasping for air? Yes. Yes it did.

Was this noticeable better than say Kettle Bell Training*? No. No it didn't seem to be.

Maybe this is because my standards for on the ground gasping for air have changed recently. Or maybe the weights I am using (10 kg for thrusters) are too light for me.

So two days later I've just tried it again. Despite still being sore from the first time (and maybe the personal best at high rep deadlifts yesterday, but I don't see why that should have any effect) I managed to get a better result. This implies that I am still learning the skill of doing thrusters, and once I learn how to do them properly I'll be able to do much more weight, and will then be able to make myself puke from doing the workout. I hope.

*Also the most effective fitness protocol ever developed.

**Also, also the most effective fitness protocol ever developed.

***The most boring and pointless fitness protocol ever developed****.

****With the exception of doing exactly the same thing, but inside, on a treadmill so you don't even get any variation in ground, scenery or stale air.

18/09/2009

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Muttered while driving to work today

If you are going to drive like an idiot, at least drive like a fast idiot, not a slow idiot who sits in front of me.

14/09/2009

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This Word You Keep Using ...

A collegue at work was happily telling us about this lovely, healthy recipie he had discovered.

He would get potatoes, grate them, press them into patties and fry them to make hash browns.

At this point I had to stop him to make sure I heard it correctly. "So fried potato is healthy?"

"Sure, all the ingredients are natural and fresh."

I guess that showed me.

On My Knees

Every time I stand up, my legs and knees hurt; lifting my arms hurts my shoulders and neck; walking hurts my ankles; lifting things hurts my elbows; I don't know why.

.... Hmmm. Thinking about it... it's the PAIN. Yeah, that's it.

07/09/2009

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New Exhaust

I've just swapped out the old exhaust manifold from the Falcon and put in an allegedly high performance set of Redback extractors. It's far too noisy to test now, so I'll have to get a muffler shop to put on the rest of the system before I see if it actually works. If nothing else, it's lighter (8kg vs. 14kg)











Of course there was a problem, I started it up, and within a minute there was smoke coming from under the bonnet. I popped the bonnet, and found... the smoke coming directly off the pipes themselves. You see that lovely shiny paint job in the pictures? Do you think that someone would go and buy expensive heat resistant paint for something they were just about to sell? Of course not, that is cheap spraypaint that smokes and blackens as soon as it gets hot.

04/09/2009

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Parking Brakes

I've been thinking about parking brakes, and about how they are reviewed, and about reveiws in general.

Parking brakes come in many different guises. The ones I've used are:

Now if you were to read a typical magazine review of a car, any handbrake that differs from the standard will be a cause of complaint and ridicule. I disagree completely. In my opinion, all of these alternative designs have much to recommend them.

The foot operated designs allow a small, weak person to apply a brake with more force than a large man could apply to a hand brake, at least under normal circumstances. With the current trend towards ever larger and heavier vehicles, including those driven by young girls and old women, this is only a good thing.

All the alternative designs, including the foot operated ones, have one major advantage over the standard hand brake: They free up more space between the front seats. This space is at a premium, being very desirable for things such as storage bins, cup holders, gear sticks, stereo controls, i-drives and a possible third seat. Also, moving the parking prake away from this location makes it harder for mischievious passengers to reef it on when you are driving in front of a girl you wish to impress (as happened to a friend of mine at a Macca's drive through.)

The reason I bring all this up is that I have the "pull directly out from the dashboard" brake in my new Falcon ute, and I am finding it the most effective parking brake I have ever had, with the exception of the foot operated Lexus one. There is no way you can accidentally drive away with this parking brake on, the car won't move.

The Falcon brake is also probably the most concealed, unobtrusive brake ever, with the possible exception of the fold down one between the drivers seat and the door from my old Statesman. That one on the other hand was not very effective (though sometimes more effective than the foot brake in the same vehicle... but that's another story.)

So why, given all these advantages, do non-standard parking brakes cop such criticism from reviewers? My theory is that reviewers only have cars for a very short time. Usually no more than a week. Within a week you don't have time to get used to any unusual features. You will hop in the car and reach for the handbrake, and find it isn't there. You will get annoyed. If something is different then it better be 5 or 10 times as good, or the trouble it causes in the first week will get it marked down.

How does this compare to actually owning a car? There is no comparison at all. You own a car for years at least. Any trouble you had in the first week is completely forgotten, and you just experience whether it works or not. You don't care that 99% of other cars do it differently, because 100% of the cars YOU drive (or at least 50%) do it this way.

Naturally this extends out to all sorts of features. When sports cars first came out in front wheel drive it was new, different, and the reviewers were not used to torque steer and the required front wheel drive driving techniques. So cars like the Mazda MX6 turbo were castigated as being "unguided missiles". These days, however, all reviewers are used to driving sporty FWDs and so don't notice a problem. A friend who actually owned a MX6 found that after a month she never noticed any torque steer, and just noticed that it was fast, fairly roomy, well laid out, and not at all boring. (Then some bastard stole it, but this will be a problem as long as the government refuses to shoot car thieves. (For their own safety, our hated overlords have largely eliminated serious punishment for criminals.))

02/09/2009

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I'm Sick of Note Having Any Sound System in My Ute

I rang up my wife and asked her to sing to me as I drove along. But it isn't a long term solution.

Stupid Saying that has become popular recently

“if your grandparents would’ve recognized it as ‘food,’ it’s probably good for you.”

My grandparents and great grandparents had adult onset diabetes caused largely by a diet of white flour, sugar and alcohol. And from what I know of their time most contemporaries shared a similar diet. And their time extends up to 3 years ago, so food hasn't changed too much since then.

My great great grandparents on my father's side were starving to death on rotten potatoes in Ireland. My mothers family back in the 1850s and before probably had decent diets, given they were wealthy landowners in England, with lots of roast beef, venison, pheasant under glass, French cooks etc....

I suppose this might be true if the person saying it is an elderly member of a hunter-gather tribe in a rich area like the pacific islands. Even then, their ancestors probably included "white men" under the list of "food".

01/09/2009

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That Time of the Year

Spring has sprung! Like a spring loaded, springy... springbok on springs with a spring in its step.

In other news, it's gotten cold again. Which I don't mind so much because it means my wife wants more snuggles... but she is going overseas in a couple of days :(

Business Analysis

Coffee shops are a problem business. Many people (for some reason I don't get) DREAM of owning a coffee shop, and spending their days relaxing in some hip, cool, corner, sipping expressos while their staff rake in the money. I could speculate that they spent too many hours having a wonderful time in coffee shops as a student and want to go back.

This is exacerbated by the fact that if your shop does become popular you can make a lot of money. So it's a lottery ticket.

The result is they will start the coffee shop when they really shouldn't, and will keep it going when they should walk away. So the competition can be fierce.

Fashion shops are worse. It seems every second woman in the country dreams of being in the fashion industry. A lot of shops are basically a hobby. Husband has a real job so the wife can sit in her fashion shop all day, being "in the fashion industry" and making no profit after expenses. Every other shop has to compete with this.

On that line of thinking, I'm guessing that bars might be a tough business too. And nightclubs. And formula 1 teams. And Warren Buffet has said the same thing about airlines. With airlines it is governments that run them as a hobby/ego thing, but the same logic applies: if some of your competition will happily run at a loss for ego reasons, how can you make a profit?

On that logic, invest in sewerage cleaning businesses.

Another Sensible Stoinking Moment

Back earlier in the year, I noted that the Dexter TV show had, in a first for TV ever, managed to have characters fall into bed with eachother in a way that made sense to me.

Well now we have a second TV show achieve the same thing: Burn Notice. The main character finally slept with his ex-girlfriend. She's been making a pass at him, she's an ex (which is a positive factor as you are already physically comfortable with them) and they have been having adventures together. Once again, this is a situation that would actually make sense to me in real life, unlike any normal TV boink where it just seems to come out of nowhere and ignores all common sense.

Is it just coincidence that both shows are set in Florida?

Maybe I WAS on Drugs?

Looking back to find the Dexter reference, I found all the entries I wrote when I was in hospital on morphine. They seem sensible enough, possibly a tad dark in the title choice. But the spelling is atrocious. I'm glad I wasn't operating heavy machinery.

31/08/2009

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Movie Review: Fast and Furious, Snatch

I saw the new Fast and Furious movie on Saturday night, along with that old classic Snatch.

Fast and Furious is a continuation of the three previous F&F movies, and it brings back the two stars of the original movie, along with the supercharged V8 Chrysler thing that was wrecked in the end of movie one. (I don't know my classic American muscle as well as I could, because it is largely unavailable where I live, and hence irrelevant. I was however able to approximately ID everything in this move, and they were all awesome bits of gear. Even the trucks were actually things like Lamborghini LM002 and what looked like a Dodge Li'l Red Express The least interesting being a hot Subrau WRX). If you loved the other movies, you'll love this one. The only possible criticism is the reduced number of scantily clad hot girls. Rating: Two smoking tyres

Snatch, on the other hand, was a new sort of movie when it was made. It was a real hard core gangster movie that helped (along with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) move the British film industry into 1st place as the world champion gangster film producer.

Previous generations (the male half anyway) regarded The Godfather as the bible on how to be tough. This was largely eclipse by Al Capone starring both Sean Connery and Robert DeNiro. But these days the poms are putting out stuff that would make Michael Corlone hang his head in shame. This movie is complex, with several plot lines that come together at the end, and the action and degree of criminality is pure gold. Rating: Two smoking barrels

Life on Mars, Burn Notice

On the subject of Fast and Furious: It should be noticed that all the cool new American TV shows feature people driving awesomely hot Classic American muscle cars. Even if this has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot, and is never mentioned.

Life on Mars, Being Human

Even the best new English shows don't follow this brilliant approach, although the English have always had a fair selection of awesome performance vehicles. Some of these are very expensive, but there has always been cheap stuff too, like the Mini Coopers and the RS Fords.

Paper Towels versus Air Blowers: More evidence that blowers are stupid

As we see here there is yet more evidence that using air blowers to dry your hands in public toilets is an evil plot backed by the bacteria themselves.

Paper towels are far superior... unless some idiot has installed an electric paper towel dispenser. There, in order to save the 0.00000003 calories that would be required to dispense a towel by pulling on it, they have instead got a complex bit of electronics that will last about 3 weeks in a wet, humid, public toilet. It then breaks and you now have no access to the towels at all.

Also, why aren't all toilet doors opening outwards, so you can push them open with your feet and not touch the handles? Indeed, many seem to have two doors, one opening in and one out. Thus any possible advantage is negated.

28/08/2009

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Sign 4 we may actually be in the 21st century

Genetic Engineering to recreate Velociraptors What could possibly go wrong?

21/08/2009

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5 out of 5

Today is Friday. Every single day this week, some entirely different, independent person has made a comment about my build.

Monday: A wokmate was talking about his gym. "There are lots of big, well built guys there. Not as big as you, but..."

Tuesday: A nurse taking a blood test was putting a needle in my arm and said "You do a lot of weightlifting don't you?"

Wednesday: A customer made a comment that it was OK for someone like me to lift heavy boxes (only 30kg), but it wasn't easy for nomal guys like him.

Thursday: One of my wife's employees said it was strange that I had to go to hospital, as I look so big and indestructable.

Friday: Another workmate asked if my arms were getting bigger every day.

And yet I still don't think I look that big. Maybe I'm delusional.

And my wife is constantly claiming that I'm weak. When unloading a truck on Tuesday she insisted that I should have let the truck driver do the work, despite him being half my size and 60 years old. Then she seemed amazed that I was able to unpack the pallets and put them away by myself, but when I point out that they were packed by one guy, a guy who is smaller and older than me, she said "Yes, but he is used to that." So my appearance of size doesn't fool everyone.

17/08/2009

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Magical Thinking

A classic example of magic at work this weekend. There was a loading dock with a very wide (10 metres or so) roller door, and positioned at the 1/3 and 2/3 marks along the length of the door were these large, steel, triangular frames that were mounted on the drainage grill and just kind of poking into the air.

Every time someone wanted to drive in or out of the dock, they either had to drive between the frames (difficult when backing a truck) or go and lift the frames out of the mounting points and carry them out of the way. Then the employees would replace them afterwards.

"What," I asked, "Are these for?"

"These are to hold the door steady in high winds." I was told. Which sort of makes sense. I've seen roller doors pop out of their runners in strong winds, and these doors would have much more area, and much longer lengths along which to flex, so the problem would be worse.

But how do the frames hold the doors steady if they aren't even touching them?

I went and examined the mountings. The frames have a foot that locks into a drainage grill that runs along the base of the door. Now the grill has several rows in it (as is common with grills). If you hook the foot of the frame into the row closest to the door, then the frame is held about a centimetre from the middle of the door, and would provide a strong support should the door start be be pushed inwards.

But it was rather difficult to mount the frame in the closest row to the door. You had to fiddle around and position it carefully. And positioning the frame carefully when it is made of about 30 kg of steel is a bit tricky for many people. SO, everyone inserts the frame into the far row of the grill, which is much easier. Of course this means the doors aren't supported at all until they bend in about 30 cm, at which point they have probably popped out of the guide rails.

Classic magical thinking is my guess. The magic steel frames will save the door. They don't have to actually touch the door, they just need to be near it. As long as the door can see the frames it'll be alright.

Needless to say, this entry also belongs in my

Dodgey Engineering Solutions

category.

05/08/2009

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Ad Campaigns that only work on the unthinking

Eric Flint's 1632

This sounds like an interesting plot: A modern American mining town is translated to Germany in the middle of the 30 years war. Hilarity ensues. However it doesn't work out very well.

I may be spoilt by the far superior World War 2.1 series by John Birmingham. Somehow Birmingham can translate a military fleet 80 years back to 1942 and create far more cultural conflict and idealogical shock than Flint gets with a nearly 400 year jump. Birmingham also manages much better writing, far more 3 dimensional and less stereotypical characters, and generally does a far better job all around.

In summary, I would have enjoyed this book in high school, (but not enormously, it just doesn't have that much in it) these days I look for more. Rating: Barely pass

After reviewing my earlier rules for what to read...

Dropping Protein Wisdom from my links. It is just more and more childish and not funny any more.

31/07/2009

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Further Reflections on the Book A Conversation with God

I've realized that one big issue I have with these books is the writing style.

It isn't the details, the sentence structure, grammar or vocabulary. But it is the way arguments are made and presented. They are a particular style, and one that is only encountered in two other places:

  1. Nutcase extreme political websites
  2. Spam email

Naturally this makes all sorts of alarm bells go off in my head.

So what is this writing style? It is one that constantly sets up strawmen and knocks them down. For example it is claimed that:

By pointing out how stupid the above things are, and then claiming that modern society does all these things, the book argues that modern society is stupid and self defeating. The alternative explanation is that nobody really does any of this (except for a few loons), but the book misses that point. It then goes on to claim that those not agreeing with the overall scheme of the book must buy into all the above.

And this whole approach reminds me of nothing more than the email spammer who writes that eating only low fat muffins, drinking high sugar "energy drinks" and doing 1000 situps/day won't make me lose weight, so I have no option except buying this rare tibetan yak droppings which will make me thin and sexy!

Actually, the related spam argument that getting a larger penis will get me lots of girlfriends is also reminisent of the CWG argument that if I like money I will miraculously earn more of it. In neither case is there any form of mechanism explained. Just, if you build it, they will come. (No pun intended... oh who am I kidding, of course the pun is intended.)

Lastly, there is the argument type where, in God addressing humans, he says "You are responsible for this". Where "you" means mankind as a whole. The next sentence is "So you must that" where "you" is being used on a personal, individual basis. It's a sneaky rhetorial trick, using a double meaning to sound as though a logical argument is being made.

All in all, I'm starting to suspect that the Chinese translation (which my wife loves) is better than the English original.

27/07/2009

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Thoughts While Standing in my Wife's Shop

Little Kids Almost all little kids are cute, so it is even more obvious when you see one that is ugly. A quick look at the parents usually shows the root cause of the problem (no pun intended). But sometimes it is just a mystery.

A Conversation with God This is a book, that is selling really well, and that my wife loves. So I started reading. It actually started off well, but lost a lot of appeal at page 48 when "God" apparently started claiming that medical researchers work against finding cures for disease and the military works to destroy any really peace loving governments.

These positions not only sound remarkably narrow and provincial for a diety, they also directly contradict my personal experience (in medical technology development) and the observable facts of history (exactly how has the modern military-industrial complex overthrown Switzerland?).

These positions, while possibly making sense from a systems-wide perspective, directly contradict the personal interest of the people involved. Yes, it makes sense that a cheap cure for cancer would destroy a multibillion dollar treatment industry, but the individual who came up with it would make themselves rich beyond compare (either financially, or in terms of fame, respect, Nobel prizes etc.) See what happened to the previous large industries treating polio victims or ulcers. Someone else came up with a cure, and the big industry cash cow got barbequed.

For an even more recent example of what happens when individual benefits are opposed by the long term health of an industry, see what happened when the individual desire for bonuses and commissions threatened to destabilize the financial industry. And this was an industry that was bigger than pharmecuticals or military contracting. Result: Industry didn't have a chance.

Some hundreds of pages later, the issue was revisited, and this time around it is made to seem far more sensible and less conspiratorial. But by then I'd been distracted by the non-sequiterial leap to not just assuming reincarnation exists (which I'm prepared to accept in a religious but non-christian book) but the jarring statements that nobody could believe otherwise.

On the other hand, there is a lot of good stuff in here, and I'm still going.

23/07/2009

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American Comparison Table

I just came back from a week in San Diego. I spent almost the entire time stuck in labs and offices, doing work, but I did learn some stuff about the country.

I noticed that in many areas the USA did not match the commonly held beliefs about it, and so I will list new, equally true beliefs that I now hold:
Good Bad Weird
American women think the Australian accent is "delightful". California girls no more attractive than Australian. Except for the normal "Good thing about summer". Drive on the wrong side of the road
All service staff are enthusiastically helpful Service staff are annoying in their extreme pushiness to help Milk in restaurants is either fat free, or half cream/half milk, or caramel or Bailey's Irish cream flavoured. No normal milk.
Steak was US$1.99/lb = $5/kg Vegetables were only slightly cheaper than Oz, and then you realize it is US$. And THEN you realize it is in pounds. Actually about twice the price. Scones and Gravy
In mid July, Southern California is still warm, not hot. Do seem to be more homeless street lunatics than in Oz Postcards from San Diego have pictures of Koalas on them.
Pointless Airport security is nowhere near as bad as described in media. Airport security is pointless No lockers in Airports, have to carry luggage around all day. (For 9-11 reasons).
Cars are cheaper, second hand ones are much, much cheaper at least until they reach sub $5k region, then they catch up again. TV is worse than Australia. That is a very, very low bar to limbo under. A Fish Taco is not a dysphemism, but an actual take away food. (Yes I mean dysphemism not euphemism, which would you prefer?)
Hi speed freeways ~ 75 mph (120 km/h) There is discrimination against the military, at least based on those businesses that advertise "We do NOT discriminate again the military". Which implies it is normal practice. Everyone expected me to hire a car for a 5 day visit
No hugely obese people that I saw. Mexican food made by actual Mexicans is bland and not as good as in Oz Coyotes attack cats and dogs in suburbia, nightly.
Walking/bike paths are everywhere, and well made Taxis get annoyed at using credit cards, there is a 10% fee apparently Banks with signs saying they do not accept promissory notes from the California government
Huge alcohol section in the normal supermarket. I met a guy whose wife was divorcing him for insufficient income, that was the actual legal complaint
Beer is $11 for a carton Tips. Taxi driver: "that is $71.80. How much are you paying? Me: ???? Taxi: With tip….
Housing is cheaper than Sydney in the less expensive areas Housing is more expensive than Sydney in the expensive areas
The tour of the USS Midway, and the Russian submarine, and HMS Surprise
More tea available than I expected

Review of American Sports Movie

This film is innovative in it's fresh plot and unusual story line.

The hero is from a poor background, but with lots of native talent. The hero starts off in the chosen sport, and has great initial success, and picks up a cute love interest.

But eventually the hero comes up against a rich, blonde, and also talented but with more resources rival. The competition with the rival results in the hero losing, probably with an injury, and the love interest being seduced away by the rival.

The hero goes away, and trains very hard. Probably assisted by an old, strange, and strongly ethnic coach or instructor. There is a montage of unusual training techniques, that contrast with the boring, conventional training of the blonde rival. Eventually, the hero comes back to win the major competition, defeat the rival, and win back the (shallow, easily swayed) love interest.

For the sequel, the rival is now a friend.

06/07/2009

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TISM was Right

From Their 1992 Album we have:

29/06/2009

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At Least I'm Useful for Something

My wife just phoned me at work to ask how to pronounce Astigmatism.

Last week she phoned me from Melbourne to ask how to spell enthusiastic.

25/06/2009

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Those Frenchmen

I'm reading a biography of Napoleon. And threaded throughout the book is a theme that the author appears unaware of: Napoleon was a sex god.

This is contrary to the modern image of him as a try-hard little man constantly trying to overcompensate for his small size, but look at the recorded incidents as revealed in this book:

It is a little appreciated fact that Pepe Le Pew is in fact a documentary.

24/06/2009

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Allegedly Wonderful Things That I Just Don't Get

23/06/2009

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A Conversation When I Got Home

Her: I bought you some food.

Me: Ooh! I love you.

Her: I love you too

Me: Is it good food?

I love you.

Is it nice food?

Love you.

What sort of food?

Love!

Tell me!

Love

I got you a desert too, for after.

Why does my desert have a bite taken out of it?

I love you.

Man has earned his right to hold this planet against all comers...

The mouseover here goes a long way towards explaining the collapse of the American auto industry.

Simply, the last time GM did anything to meet the survival requirements is back in 1991, which clearly isn't up to scratch. Before then there was a steady stream of suitable life saving products here, here and here.

I'll admit that the current Corvette will manage to outperform even the best of these... but the Corvette is a high performance sports car. It is SUPPOSED to be fast. And it has the handling and fundamental design to support it. It's faster, but it's hardly batshit insane like the Syclone.

Note that SAAB has recently done it's best to remain worthy of life with the Viggen. Which was a good idea, but became too sensible on it's way to actual production. But at least they tried. Which explains why they have just been bought by Koenigsegg.

Now Koenigsegg meets the requirements every single day, even before they get out of bed and put their underpants on their heads.

22/06/2009

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Optimum Number of Speeding Tickets

I consider the optimum number of current speeding tickets to be (the number required to lose your licence) minus 2. (You want a margin for safety.)

With traffic lights, stop signs and other cars, any complete model shows that the effect of travelling (say) 10% faster can be anywhere up to 25% less travel time.

Think about it: if the traffic light catches a speeder, and she is kept waiting until the speed limit driver catches up, then the net gain at that intersection is zero. But if the speeder gets through before the light turns red, but the limit driver gets caught, then the speeder gains up to 5 minutes. Sum a series of intersections, some of which are net zero, and some of which are net 5 minutes, but none are negative, and the speeder ends up much faster.

15/06/2009

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Nice Views, when you don't want them

I spent sunday with a relaxing round of golf. Wel... relaxing except for the small risk of falling off a cliff when trying to retrieve Ping's ball. Those that mere ended up perched on the crumbling edge, (with clearly visible clumps of rock and grass splattered over the rocks at the cliff base where they had evidently fallen recently (at least recently enough for the grass to still be fresh)).

I don't think there is any question as to where the ball ended up after this shot.






But she didn't let it get her down.

I ended up winning, with a score of 56 which was only twice par.

12/06/2009

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Most Awsome Line of the Week

From my current bible on how to set up a ute. Which I've quoted before.

[Electronic control of the turbocharger via a custom programed computer] What has happened is that I just had a simple contact on the shifter to ground the trigger wire from the Eboost in 1st gear, it was dodgy (made from a paperclip, some wire & a bolt)...

09/06/2009

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On cabbages and epidemiologists

Humans are clearly designed to eat meat. But data shows that vegetarians have better health. How to explain this conundrum?

Simple. The world is not divided into vegetarians and non-vegetarians. A slightly more complete list is:

Now when people collect statistics to compare vegetarians versus non-vegetarians, they tend to collate both the last three categories together.

So what are the relative proportions of the population? Wikipedia claims 5% of the USA are vegetarian, which is about my guess too, so I'll go with that. I'll guess a similar proportion for healthy, meat included diets, and 45% each for trying but failing to be healthy, and plain old don't care.

Now the maths is obvious, if we speculate that not eating complete rubbish (bacon and pasta bakes, Big Mac Value Meals) gives you 2 years of extra life, and then you divide the population up into 5% vegetarians who at least pay some attention to their food, and 95% everyone else, of whom most eat deep fried bacon flavoured sugar rolls at any opportunity (or at least the baked, 66% fat free version) then sure, the vegetarians come out looking good.

If you divided the population into 5% lean meat diets, and 95% everyone else (including vegetarians) then the vegetarian group would come out worse. Just because whoever is lumped in with everyone else will get dragged down by the bad statistics.

In conclusion, nutrigrain has the same % sugar as cocopops and much more fat. Only people who read the labels will be aware of that. Vegetarians are sort of forced to read the lables. Most people will looks at the TV ads and conclude that nutrigrain is healthy because it has a lifesaver in the ad.

Of course if you really think about the ad, a monkey is usually much stronger and more acrobatic than a lifesaver (kg for kg), so you should go for the cocopops anyway.

Science is Not Dead

Once occasionally hears claims that either scientific discovery has run into brick walls, or it now requires such vast levels of equipment and resources that it is subject to ever decreasing returns.

Then something like this turns up and shows that major areas of accepted wisdom can be turned upside down by one or two people using no eqipment at all, and their brains.

So there is real hope for some backyard tinkerer discovering hyperspace, or universal nanotech assemblers, or fusion.

Which could explain the Fermi paradox I suppose....

32 kg Kettlebell Swings

I know I said below that I would try to up my volume (to about 200 reps) on 22 kg before I went to 32 kg. But I got bored. I managed 50 swings and that was my limit. It's not a bad limit, but I'll keep working on it.

05/06/2009

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22 kg Swings

100 reps of the 22 kg bucket-bell swings. No breathing problems so I am stoked. I'll try to build up to maybe 200 reps before I go to the 33 kg bucket, because right now fitness is more of a limiting factor than strength.

Sold my bike

Not my lovely new road bike, but the old road bike that I bought for $20 from ebay. Given that I'm not even allowed to ride for 6 months (because of my blood not clotting, I can't risk injury. And nobody (medical) will trust my injury avoidance.) it seems silly to have more than one bike. More than one of each type at least.

So I put the following ad on ebay:

So Much Better than a Mountain Bike for Normal Use

Like most people these days, I started off on a mountain bike. It's the fashionable thing these days, and when you start off looking for a bike, it is what is available.

But did I use it for hopping from rock to rock along dry creekbeds? Well sometimes, about once or twice a year. The rest of the time, I was riding on the road, just going to work and back.

This is EXACTLY like using a huge four wheel drive wagon to drive to work in the city.

  • You've got loads of extra weight, because it is designed to be tough enough to bounce over rocks.
  • You have terrible aerodynamics, because the upright design is more useful at slow speeds in the rough
  • You have tyres that are designed for grip in mud and gravel, not low rolling resistance on a smooth road
  • You have suspension and steering designed for slow, rough crawling, not high speed handling or low energy use

So, just like the person driving through Sydney in a Hummer, you would be much, much better off if you had something optimised for road use. Which brings us to the road bike, like this one.

After riding mountain bikes for a couple of years, I had a test drive of a road bike that another guy at work was riding. It opened my eyes. Compared to my (fairly decent) Mountain Bike, this was so easy to ride. The pedals sent it scooting forward, and then it would coast for ages before slowing. The steering was so controllable, and it generally would just take far less effort to go anywhere. There must be a reason that people who actually race on the roads use this design.

So I went and bought this bike that is now for sale. And it was good. To give an example, it generally takes me about 50 minutes to ride to work on my mountain bike. When I hopped on this road bike, my time dropped to 45 minutes. That's a fairly significant improvement, especially if you include all the traffic lights that take the same time, no matter what the bike. (Driving a car takes me 50 minutes in the morning traffic.)

This bike is nice and solid, not much lighter than my lightweight, no suspension mountain bike, but with far less rolling and wind resistance, which is what really matters even on Sydney roads.

But now, 1 year later, I find I haven't ridden the bike for 6 months. Why? Because now I have a lovely, lightweight, aluminium and carbon fibre road bike, that is far more suitable for long kilometres on the motorways. And I have another mountain bike for when I do want to do some rock hopping. So I am selling off this one.

Details

This is a Roadmaster . This is a steel framed bike, so not as lightweight as a carbon fibre newie, but able to cop a real hammering for years without developing cracks. The wheels, cranks etc. are all made to a similar, unbreakable standard. This is not one of those cheap, toy bikes that will crack parts if you ever pedal or brake really hard (I speak from experience).

You can see the RoadMaster website here but this website is about the current brand, which is based in China. This bike dates from when they were made in the USA, before increased expenses drove them to shut their American factories in 1999 and move overseas.

The frame size is 58 cm from crank to top of the seat tube.

Or 55 cm along the top tube, which some people consider a more important measurement.

It has 10 gears, with Friction Selectors, and is currently equipped with toe clip pedals.


The tyres work, but probably need replacing soon. I can give you some new tyres for $25.

The seat was originally white, but (as a child could have predicted) it soon became grey. It's still in good condition though. I have a larger, more cushioned seat available for people who would prefer such a seat.

I've rebuilt both wheel bearings since I bought it, and have replaced the front wheel all together.

There are no more features on it, except the standard reflectors.

Delivery

You can either pickup from my Cherrybrook, NSW address, or I can deliver over a lot of the Sydney area.

Locations between Castle Hill and North Ryde, I can deliver to any day.

Locations within 15 minutes drive from this axis I can probably deliver to within a week, depending on other commitments.

Locations outside of this, but within Sydney, I can deliver to sometime, depending on my other deliveries. I can't make promises though, it might take a month or two.

Cheap New Bikes

My first bike was one of those that you have probably seen advertised new on Ebay for an amazing cheap price. That's where I bought it, and it was cheap. And the first time I rode it up a hill, the chain broke. The second time, the chain broke again. I sourced a new, better chain from a bike shop and now it stayed together, but a few weeks of riding and a brake handle broke. Also, the brakes would never stay centred, the pedals cracked, and it wouldn't stay in gear under load.

Now I am not a small guy, but I'm not a big guy either. And I don't pedal hard compared to a good rider, and I was even weaker when I first started riding back when I had this first bike. Now that I know more about bikes, I've learned that there are two completely different bike markets. These cheap bikes are intended for those people who will ride the bike 3 or 4 times, gently, and then keep it in the garage until it rusts. The actual brand name bikes are completely different, they are designed and built for someone to put thousands of kilometres on them, and with care will last for decades or more. Roadmaster were quite a respected brand in their day.

It sold within 2 hours for what was clearly too low an asking price.

03/06/2009

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16 13 kg Swings

As I mentioned below I tried 50 swings of my bucket-bell. However it's been a few months and the water inside has dried up a bit, so my scales say it is only 13 kg. Anyway, 50 swings got me up to 160 heartbeats/minute (which is about the recommended training rate of 3 times my resting heart rate) and my breathing kept up fine. So I'll try the 20 kg bucket next.

02/06/2009

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The Mystery Has Been Solved!

The greatest conundrum of our generation has been worked out.

01/06/2009

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First Set of Kettlebell Swings

I tried my first (since my collapse) set of Kettlebell swings this morning. 50 reps. I didn't even end up breathing hard, but it was only a 10 kg weight. The result was better than I thought I'd do, so that is a good sign.

I'll try the 16 kg bucketbell tomorrow.

Sounds Worrying

I just got this message from my boss:

Dear human subjects,

[Company] personnel DNA database indicates you to be a suitable genotype for in vivo biological assay of an experimental microbiological agent. Experimental design will consist of successive oral innoculations of live Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis biovar diacetylactis, and Penicillum Candidum on dehydrated carbohydrate matrix.

Please present at 10.30 to the biohazard isolation and decontamination facility (Unit C), with signed informed consent forms, contact details for next of kin, and instructions for disposal of corporeal remains in the event of the unthinkable,

Which means he has brought in his home-made cheese for us to sample.

This from a man who has a review up on his wall of someone else's concoction, where the reviewer finished up by saying "Caution, this is an extreme cheese!"

27/05/2009

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Back to See the Doc

I went to see both my eye doc and my lung doc this week.

Eye

Things are going well, and I should be out of treatment within a month. So good news.

Lungs and Blood

The lungs are almost as good as new, so I just need to put the work into rebuilding my physical fitness. My blood on the other hand is not so good.

It seems there are three of the the different (dozens of ) components in my blood that control clotting are not as good as they could be. Now two of them may be bad BECAUSE of the attack, rather than the cause of it. So Doc is going to wait until I'm off the medication and everything is settled down before he tests them again.

If they get better, then it was just one of those things and I go back to normal. If they don't get better, then I may have to stay on rat poison for the rest of my life. So no more martial arts or rough sports for me.

Ever*.

Damn.

* Or at least until a major medical technology improvement occurs. Which is why I dislike the idea of the USA moving to reduce their major subsidizing of the worlds medical research and development (i.e. drug price controls). I see that it might make short term sense for them, but it is a complete loss for me.

Is milk a diuretic?

Is milk a diuretic? I find that if I drink as little as a litre or two of milk, I end up pissing like a banshee* for the rest of the day.

Water or even tea doesn't have this effect.

I suppose I could look it up. **

* Though banshees are more famous for their screaming, any preternaturalist worth their salt*** will tell you that banshees go completely overboard when it comes to anything physical****.

**Wiki Answers says YES Milk IS a diuretic. The effect is well known.

*** Preternaturalists use a lot of salt. See here.

****So a banshee chick would be great in bed. At least if your room was soundproofed or the neighbours were far away.

26/05/2009

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A Bad Thing

Over the weekend, one of the guys at work was murdered. He was stabbed to death by his (insane) son. This is a total shock to us all and I have nothing I can add to it.

25/05/2009

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Though Provoking Paragraph of the Day

Government by competing corrupt interests - the present system in many countries today, including Russia and China - is not at all without its virtues. While the corrupt interests, by definition, conflict with the interests of the whole, at least they are all basically in the business of making money. This keeps their heads on a certain plane of reality, and precludes any incentive for wanton, rampant destruction.

More Here but be warned it is not all suitable for human consumption.

And it is assumed that the the corrupt interests are large enough that they can't just siphon off wealth and then skip the country.

New Site

As mentioned below, this blog is now located on a new website. http://www.doctorpat.0catch.com/blog/blog/blog.html

As of now I redirect to here, but who knows how long that will last?

20/05/2009

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Just as corners are the natural enemy of the 'tonner...

I came around a corner last night with just a little too much accelerator. It was raining last night, the first rain for about a month, and we all know that means that all the oil and rubber particles that have built up on the road are now forming a slick, frictionless layer.

So the rear end lost traction and the car oversteered to the right. So I wound on some opposite lock and it came back. Neat and controlled. So I tried the next corner too.

This time it oversteered to the left as expected. So I gathered it back... and it oversteered to the right. So I turned back... and it oversteered to the left, and then the right, and the left, and the right, and the left, and then eventually straightened out again.

Hmmm, that corner was a bit too hairy. And this steering wheel takes too many turns to go from side to side.

Not that there was any danger. This was a huge wide road, with no other vehicles, and heaps of space. Even if the car had completely spun out of control it still couldn't have hit anything. This isn't good luck either, I don't take corners a bit too fast unless I am on such a road. I'm not a complete idiot.

It could be argued that if I wasn't an idiot at all, then I wouldn't drive like that at all. But then I'd have to do drugs, or gamble, or get into fights or something. I think risking a spinout on an empty bit of bitumen is the least dangerous option.

My biggest concern was that my wife, who was driving about 200 metres ahead of me might have been looking in her mirror, but apparently not.

... so too, Skidz are its natural friend

It rained last night. So my driveway was wet, and quickly developed a thin layer of mouldy slime.

So this morning, I came to reverse the ute up the driveway to drive to work.

In reverse, the natural movement of the vehicle unloads the rear wheels. When facing down hill, the natural weight of the car loads the front wheels, and unloads the rear wheels. And an empty ute has not much weight on the rear wheels anyway. The result is very little grip, and when on slime: no grip at all.

After about 10 attempts that just ended in wheelspin and the car sliding towards the garage door: I decided to put some thought into it.

So I got the rubber floor mats out, and stuck them under the rear wheels. A recommended method when bogged in mud or sand. Result? A high velocity floor mat with a skid mark on it. The floor mats don't stick to slime any better than the tyres.

So I decided to attack the root of the problem. The lack of weight over the rear wheels. I got 100 kg of water bottles and put them on the back of the ute. Not just in the tray, but I opened the tailgate and sat the water on that, as rearmost as possible.

At this point, the engine died. After a few moments of panic I worked it out, the fuel was low, and with the ute tilted downhill at a severe angle, the fuel was probably not getting into the pump. So I grabbed the mower can, poured about 4 litres into the fuel tank, and solved that problem.

NOW to try the water on the tailgate solution.... IT WORKED. With 100 kg on the tailgate, on a slimey wet driveway, the ute has about as much grip as with an empty back and a dry driveway. In other words, it skids a bit, but makes it to the top.

Now I need to work out a more permanent solution.

List of Ute Shortcomings