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doctorpat at bigfoot dot com

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Megan and Friends

In The Pipeline

Club Troppo

Bronte Capital


Marginal Revolution

The Next Big Future

Wall Aquariums and Fishtanks

Fitness in Reality


Sluggy Freelance

Schlock Mercenary



Wall Decoration for the 21st Century


Back at Work

Workmate: These marks on my leather jacket are... stripes of...

Me: Manliness?

Workmate: Yes!

Scratch marks from where he crashed his motorcycle. Which so he is arguably correct.

Best comment on modern food I've read in a while

“they find “convenience” and restaurant foods more accessible than foods they cook themselves”

And why?

Can I toss out a more plausible theory than the ridiculous “food deserts” pablum?

Simply the standards have gone up. You cant get away with trotting out the sloppy Joes and boil potatoes your mother did.

Now there is a ovo-lacto vegan in the household. And someone demanding Fresh[tm] Local [tm] produce. And cruelty-free ground beef in that sloppy Joe please.

And we all now are familiar with restaurant plating and quality- dont think you can just plop a ladle of food stuff onto a plate and think a family accustomed to eating with their eyes isnt going to wonder why the asparagus isnt all going the same way or why you arent using panko bread crumbs. Those fish sticks aren’t attractive little packages like a sushi plate.

And on the subject, today’s dinner isnt going to be happy with the “real food” boiled potatoes of yesteryear. Where are the jerk spices?, the garam marsala? the pad thai? Arent you going to snip in some fresh cilantro? Today’s palates are all over the map.

The fact of the matter is that producing food the quality of what is done in restaurants, with the presentation, the variety of spices and range of dishes and “side orders”, can be done but it is a major undertaking that Bitterman doesnt try to address. These are multi-hour meals to create and that is a major time commitment. That’s why people look favorably on Thai take out and Sweet Tomatoes buffets.

Try slopping out your lentils 5 nights a week and see how far you get.

Until foodies acknowledge that they are part of the problem [tm] we will be wasting time talking about food deserts that dont exist and wondering which government department is best charged with promoting Real Food.

From here

You had to be there

Doing a video conference, we naturally had trouble hearing exactly what letters each group on the other side of the Pacific were actually saying. So, as has been done many times before, we reinvented the idea of replacing letters with common words.

Group B became group Boy, group C became group Cat. Then we had to refer to group D, which became group Dog. Finally, I had to discuss group... Aardvark.

Just like dumping scrap iron into a steel furnace

I'm using a can of baked beans as coolant in my microwaved bowl of chilli. It's working fine.

Nazi Superweapons: Three Book Reviews all sort of smooshed together

Someone (I forget who) recommended this:

Stevens, Henry, Hitler's Supressed and Still-Secret Weapons, Science and Technology. Adventures Unlimited Press: Kempton, Illinois. 2007

But, I'm totally unimpressed.

For starters, the auther clearly doesn't know much about technology. He would quote a source document that would discuss something perfectly normal, but a bit technical, such as a guided missile. Then the author would explain what this technical document meant, and get it laughably wrong. Someone would have a circuit diagram for a radio, (the sort of basic radio diagram that any high school student would recognize, not an FM transiever or anything complex) and he would interpret it as a machine for pulling energy out of the air (which it sort of is, very tiny amounts barely sufficient to move a small speaker) and hence the germans had free energy machines.

It's not just technology either. There were letters from the US military in response to a freedom of information request that clearly, in plain english, say that there is no document by the name he requested and they aren't equipped to do research and find other documents (in German) that might mention the same subject. And he misinterprets this into being an illegal refusal to give him the document he asked for because they didn't have the staff. No, it said in the first line that they didn't have the document he asked for, they didn't have staff to go through all the World War 2 files to see if they had something similar.

But mostly, it's the continuing mindset that the Nazis had nuclear (or better!) powered flying saucers with death rays, lazers, computers and even more advanced technology. That the USA only had the technology depicted in a Beetle Bailey comic. And that the USA must have stolen anything more advanced from the Germans and lied to cover it up. Anything really vague can be interpreted to support this. If you are completely ignorant of what you are reading about, well that can be interpreted to support the theory too. And anything that clearly does not support this theory must be an American lie.

How on earth the Germans lost when they were clearly so advanced and only opposed by enemies barely past the muzzle loading musket stage is left as an exercise for the reader.

BUT, the book is worth having, because it acts as a beautiful counterpoint to a pair of other books I just read, including one I found while looking for the recommended book.

This other book, is on exactly the same subject, but written with a clue. Once again a whole series of secret Nazi military projects were covered, but this time:

Many of the Same secret projects are covered in both books. But in one book it would be a mysterious, glowing, UFO that may have had technology modern science can't explain. In the other book it was a guided missile that used cutting edge technology for the time, but nothing that wasn't in mass production by the late 1950s, and that failed to make a military impact precisely because it a jury rigged, highly unreliable, laboratory prototype that wouldn't have left the test lab under normal conditions for another 10 years, but when the lab itself is being bombed, you take a chance.

Incidentally we now have a source for the "Foo Fighters", the original UFOs reported by allied pilots during World War II. They were jet and rocket powered guided missles and fighters. Sometimes guided by radio, sometimes by long wires. Yes they glowed, they have a rocket at the back. Yes they were much faster and more manouverable than normal (propellor) aircraft, that's the whole point of jet and rocket powered missiles and fighters. Nothing mysterious there at all when you think about it.

Which brings us to The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan. Mostly about human credulity, this has a neat section on UFOs, and contains a theory about the early rash of post war UFO sightings, particularly in the Southern USA. Carl, (Who was a senior US government scientist working on Space things) has a theory that this was due to two things. Well, three things.

  1. The USA was testing a variety of secret aircraft, both home grown and from the Nazis. These included jets and high altitude balloons that functioned as low flying spy satellites.
  2. The USSR was testing a variety of secret aircraft, both home grown and from the Nazis. These included jets and high altitude balloons that functioned as low flying spy satellites. Yes, this included testing them over the USA (perhaps). This, Carl reasons, would explain why they were concentrated over the Southern states. The Russians couldn't fly in from the North without tripping the NORAD radar and risking war. But the South was wide open at the time, and the Russians had bases such as the one in Cuba. A base that the Americans eventually risked war to make them close down. Carl's theory is that flights by Russian aircraft over the Southern USA would have logically resulted in mysterious sightings that mysterious US government agents proceed to cover up, exactly like is reported.
  3. Once the idea is planted in peoples head, Alien spacecraft suddenly becomes the standard explanation that everyone applies to all the usual sightings and mental experiences that earlier generations put down to being elves, witches and saints. Indeed he compares the descriptions of Alien encounters with those of medieval Spanish visions of Mary, or early British Elf and Faerie visitations and finds that they are absolutely identical in all objective ways.

Getting back to the allegedly mysterious Nazi tech in the first book, we find a variety of projects, described as wonderous technology, that with a little bit of knowledge turn out to be well known devices, if not actually boring. For example a mysterious circuit that was somehow able to extract free energy from the universe... well I've seen that circuit before, and yes, it IS able to provide free energy. Providing that mysterious shape in the middle is a radioactive isotope emitting beta particles. Leave that one word out of the description and we have a perpetual motion machine.

Other chapters are about less recognizable things. But if I put my mythbuster hat on and ask "How COULD this quoted german information be correct, even if the later interpretation put on it is stupidly insane?" I often get a rather prosaic answer. For example a chapter on a "time machine" features photos of a concrete structure that supported large concave mirrors that allowed you to look at events that occurred in the past. Well that structure looks like the ruins of an astronomical telescope. And telescopes feature large concave mirrors. And astronomy looks at events that occurred in the past, because of the time it takes light to get here (often millions of years). So yes, a young german boy hears his father discussing the time lag in looking at stars, and 50 years later the conversation is translated into English and becomes a time machine.

Both books present a very interesting picture though. That is one of Germany, fighting a two front war against much larger opponents, nonetheless spending vast resources developing weapons and technology that was much more cool and awesome than militarily effective, at least in the short term. Some of the projects could arguably have swung the fighting Germany's way if they hade been focussed on and made it to production in the early war years, yet they were kept in limbo while effort was poured into electric giant tanks and coal powered spaceships. Why is this? I have a theory:

Let us say you are a brilliant German engineer, and you have stuffed up and not taken your family to Chile in 1935. So now you are stuck in Nazi Germany. What are your choices?

  1. You can work on inventing the television or something until you are drafted and then you repair tanks on the eastern front in -45° weather until you get killed
  2. You can work designing improved panzer gun sights. This means you are helping the Nazi regime, you are working in a tank factory that the entire British and American airforce is trying to vapourize, and when the war is over there is a good chance of you being shot by the Russians, or jailed by the Americans, or at absolute best being out of work in a starving war torn country where nobody needs a panzer sight or even wants to admit that such things exist.
  3. You can dream up some bluesky project that might just make some fantastic, science fiction like superweapon ten years AFTER the war is over. This way you work in some nice, safe, secret underground lab in the mountains of UberHeidelberg. Your wife and family live in some nice little mountain village and you can go home to them every night. And when the war is over you and the family are whisked off to an almost identical facility in Colorado to continue work on the project.

So I'm guessing that every engineer and scientist in Europe spent every spare second dreaming up some super awesome ultracool megaweapon, that would appeal to the Nazi leadership. Given that Hitler and friends had the military instincts of 12 year old boys this resulted in naval engineers who spent the entire war designing 1 million tonne mega-battle ships that couldn't even fit into an existing port, but did mean they never had to get shot at, which was their prime goal at this point.

And then, if your ridiculour idea turned out to be too practical, actually you COULD build nuclear electric submarines that might well win the battle of the Atlantic, then it would be a really good idea to divert the project to sub orbital hyperbombers that might be able to reach New York. Because the last thing you want is for your weapon to actually succeed! That takes you out of the nice safe lab and puts you in a factory which will get bombed. That takes you from a valued scientist who can claim asylum to an evil war criminal who will be shot by the starving British, or worse that takes you to a future when Hitler has won and is in charge of Europe for ever. That is not what you want at all.

Last of all, after the war is over the German researchers are going to exaggerate the awesomeness of the secret projects they were involved with. They knew that the Americans are thinking "Panzer gun sights? Kick him to the bread lines. Nuclear Rockets? Ship him and his family to a high paying job for G.E." So anything at all gets exaggerated, extrapolated, and for the desperate just plain made up. Which results is all sorts of fanciful stories like the Henry Stevens book is full of. And we know this is true because the same thing happened to a lesser extent at the end of the USSR.

Getting back to the two books. You are, in general, much better off with the second book. Sure 1700 tonne tanks with 350 mm guns firing one tonne shells isn't as mysterious as Nazi flying saucers with death rays. But they are probably even cooler. And both weapons go head to head in "Watch on the Rhine by John Ringo and Tom Kratman". With Nazis.

And to finish up with the Demon Haunted World. It is good in parts. It was in fact written in parts, consisting of various expanded magazine articles and the like strung together. At it's best, the section on Child Abuse, we have a fascinating comparison, side by side, of the 16th century witch hunts with modern repressed false memory child abuse cases. Cases are compared side by side and shown to be identical. Even the exact actions of the accused were identical (human sacrifice, sexual abuse as a sacrifice to satan, multigenerational sexual experimentation to produce a race of victimns, repressed memories...). The only words that have changed is the substitution of "Satanist" for "witch", a substitution that the original witchhunters wouldn't have turned a hair at. Whatever is happening, it is clearly the same thing.(Unlike the comparison with anticommunism where it is merely similar in style. Nobody was accusing holywood communists of literally putting children on alters and killing them during a dark mass.)

However other parts of the book were less impressive. Some consisted of merely presenting the stupidest comedy and fiction as though this was representative of average thinking. Then there was his recounting of, and long winded explanation of and cure for, the well known urban legend about falling educational standards without acknowleging that anyone who tried to measure this found the opposite.

One more thing that put me off was his glossing over of word meanings changing over time when presenting historical politics and comparing it to modern politics. "liberal" for example is a word that has been applied to 19th century anti-slavery groups, 1930s eugenic movements, and current puritan environmentalism. To treat it as a word with a consistant political meaning is misleading at best.


Monday Night

Went to a wedding last night. It was short notice: the wedding was on Monday evening and the invitations went out Saturday night. Well not to EVERYONE. The parents for example, haven't been told yet.

It ended up fairly rank. The bridesmaid and the only member of the bride's family ended up passing out on eachother as they were throwing up. Or perhaps they threw up on eachother as they were passing out. Either way I had to move to a different chair because

  1. I didn't want any vomit on me
  2. I didn't want any bridesmaid on me
  3. It was difficult to eat the (really very good) food while people were leaning over me to photo and video the malodourous pair for later webpage and facebook updates

This was a nice restaurant. Definitely too nice to be legal. I mean, in Australia, a restaurant that serves alcohol to people who've already thrown up is considered to be criminal by the puritan nanny state. What our evil overlords would think if they saw the waiters distributing packets of cigarettes on trays to be smoked at the table...

This is where I work

I got back at work the next day and ...

Workmate: Yes. I know. [I'm wearing] Fancy leather dress shoes and no socks.

Me: You are also wearing fancy leather dress shoes and no pants.

Workmate: They are wet, they are drying on the fan. With my socks.

(He rides a motorcycle. It was raining.)

Book Review: Canterbury Tales

A surprisingly good read. It shouldn't have been surprising, when anything has remained popular for several hundred years it has to be good.

What did surprise me was how easy it was to read. The language, plots and humour were far more modern sounding than shakespeare, despite being hundreds of years older. I guess this is because Canterbury Tales was designed to be read, as I was doing. While Shakespeare was designed to be a play, so reading it is not how it was designed to be experienced. Certainly a well performed Shakespearian play is much easier to watch than read.

I'm also forced to agree with the minority opinion that the jokes and humour in this book shows Shakespeare to be fairly hopeless when it comes to an actual joke, rather than situation comedy. It isn't that his jokes are outdated and concealled by language differences, because these far older jokes are not. No, he just wasn't writing what we consider to be good jokes.

I'm also somewhat mystified as to how the racier scenes got past the censorship of schools in the 1950s (or 1880s) when this book was apparently widely set as a school text.


By Which of course I mean...

Question from a friend

Him: And you use wordpress don't you?

Me: No

A couple of days pass

Me: By which of course I mean "yes". Or rather I use a modified version of someone else's hack that is based on wordpress. I didn't even think of it as wordpress, until I was setting up a credit card facility on it over the weekend and I realized that the Sydney fishtank e-commerce site was based on a clothing store template that was based on the wordpress engine, which is what [he] was asking about...

I've only just started using it, (haven't even gone live yet) so I doubt I can answer any questions on it.


Paradigm of the Day

I love this analysis of why Astrology lasted so long as an accepted science. Because it worked. (Scroll down, or search for astrology.)

Because, Astrology kept making precise, timed, falsifiable predictions that were proven correct. The astrologers could predict a lunar eclipse decades in advance, and be accurate to within minutes. They could say when and where a particular star would appear over the horizon, and have it do exactly that, to within seconds. The astrologers could make observations, do some calculations, and forcast, exactly and with great precision, when major events were going to happen.

It wasn't just lights in the sky either. They could look at stars and measure the position of a ship to within a few dozen miles, after a journey of years over stormy seas. This was real, practical, applied engineering of the sort that serious political, military and business men needed and it totally worked every day.

Sure, the actual predictions were a lot more vague and dubious when it came to individual people. But that just shows that we need more resources pumped into research and development so that this particular application is brought up to the same level of accuracy and precision that the same approach achieves in other areas...

"WAIT!" You scream at the stupid blogger. "That isn't Astrology, that is Astronomy."

Sure, NOW it's Astronomy. But 3 hundred years ago it was the same thing. Ancient, Medieval, or even 17th Century Europe didn't have two separate words, one meaning Astronomy: the Study of the movement of heavenly bodies, and the other meaning Astrology: The study of predicting peoples behaviour and fates based on the movement of heavenly bodies. No, it was all one field. And that field kept on scoring major successes.

I think this is a brilliant insight. And so I wonder what current fields of thought are actually two fields, one of which is rubbish, and the other of which is actual science, with the scientific half lending a sheen of reality over the mis-joined pair.

Macro and micro economics springs to mind. So does psychiatry and the rest of medicine.


Doth protest too much

I've found that people who use the phrase "cutting a long story short" are invariably in the middle of doing the opposite.



About two weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to embark on a one month program of twice daily forearm and grip workouts.

Well, it's been two weeks now, and my arms, hands and fingers are pretty much sore and tender the entire time now.

BUT, my lifts are still increasing, so I'm not overtraining yet. To be precise, the night-time wrist curls to failure started at 20 reps, and is now up to 35. I hope to beat 50 before the month is out, and then increase the weight.

Maybe not the best decision

Last night I ended up at a restaurant around about 10 pm. We ordered, and by we I mean my wife, so that meant we got enough food for 5 or 6 people, even though there were just 3 of us.

Then when we were starting to eat, a guy rushed into the restaurant and asked if he could get something. He was informed that the kitchen was now closed, and he started to leave looking quite sad, because this was the last open place in the area, so he was going hungry tonight.

My wife stopped him, pointed out that we had far too much, and invited him to sit down. He made an offer to pay, we refused, and eventually he pulled up a chair and joined us. We soon regretted this.

He started off well enough: complementing the food, and telling us he was a real estate agent who was just setting up a new business in the area.


By the end of the meal it was all about how the Jews stole the steel out of the world trade center so that it would fall down when they bombed it, pretending that the planes had knocked it down. This was a plot to steal the gold that was hidden in the basements as part of the World Bank secret funding scheme, and then the Jew run USA invaded and killed Sadam Hussein as was predicted by Nostradamous and in Revelations in the Bible, but Revelations also predicted that a Dark Lord would rise over the most powerful nation, which should be translated as Black Leader, which meant Barak Hussein Obama, which meant that soon the Devil would be cast out of heaven and would land in the Mediterranean Sea, starting 48 days of darkness leading to world war and ...

I suppose it was a more interesting meal than it otherwise would have been, but it was worrying that at any time he might start expecting us to agree with him or something.


Follow Up

In follow up to the free shirt post, I went in a picked it up, I got a nice dress shirt that was originally $87.95, reduced to $49.95, reduced to $free. Sadly the super flirty girls of last year were replaced by a more normal (but still nice looking) girl this year.

And on my way out of the shop, I was abused by the staff of the shop next door for going to the wrong shop. I explained that I got the shirt for free, and he retracted his abuse and told me to carry on.

The Darker side of Love Line

Listening to further podcasts of the Love Line Radio show about sęx issues that I mentioned below, I've realized something that wasn't clear before.

Doctor Drew, who is presented as an expert in such matters, has a strong sęxual double standard. A full on, old fashioned, boys-are-allowed-to-misbehave-but-girls-aren't style double standard of the sort that feminists always are on about but that these days is rarely seen outside of history books.

Of course, he is operating in an environment (modern American youth media) where such an attitude is taboo. So he doesn't seem to be prepared to straight out admit it. Instead he dances around the subject, and you don't really notice it until you listen to a bunch of podcasts all at once, such as on a 4 hour driving trip.

Then it becomes clear. A guy mentions that he is up to some sort of sęxual hijinks, and the doctor is all "Well be careful, be safe, and good times, OK?"

A young woman says she is doing exactly the same thing and he is all "Look, there is something very wrong with her. She has been molested or abused in some way. She can't possibly enjoy this behaviour, she must be under some sort of warped compulsion."

Or a guy mentions that he does all sorts of sick things, and the doc says "Well, that's weird and you have to be careful." But if the guy mentions his girlfriend does it with him and the docs says "This is a sicko who enjoys degrading women, that's why he does this with his girlfriend."

But at any one point in time, he seems REALLY reluctant to actually say "It's OK for guys to be sęx crazed but not girls." And once you've spotted the pattern it is a bit of a laugh to see how he gets himself into knots trying to push this attitude without ever actually admitting it straight out.


Speaking of Functional Strength

I needed to do a one-rep-max bench press last night. Followed by a leg press. The bench was particularly necessary, to move a huge pile of fish tanks and racks away from a wall.

So any strict rules about what is functional or not are doomed to failure.


Birthday Measurements

Being my 40th birthday, it's time to evaluate my body.

For the last month I've been doing some calf training. I normally don't do anything particularly for the calves, but I found this article that claimed it would add one inch to the calf size in one month. It was about one month before my birthday, so I tried it out.

The measuring tape DID go up by one! But sadly I don't live in the USA, and so my measurements are in centimeters, not inches. Just think, if only I'd had an American tape, my calves would be 1.54 centimeters bigger by now.

On the other hand, one centimeter in a month is actually a damn good result. I'll try it on forearms next. Because

  1. Forearms are the closest corresponding part to calves, and so most likely to react similarly
  2. If we look at functional strength, forearms, ie. grip, is probably the one part of the body that most determines real world strength. In real applications of normal people, it is grip strength that normally runs out first. THink about the last time you didn't have the strength to lift or move something. It was almost certainly grip that went first.
  3. But this doesn't address functional in the real, real world. People like to talk about function and how it is superior to mere looks. But in the 21st century, we don't actually have to suddenly fight off a bunch of vikings, or climb a vine, or whatever. But every day we are judged on our looks, which affects us in real life every day. The truth, embarassing as it is, is that looks are functional, strength is not. And forearms are the muscles that people see almost more than anything else.
  4. If you do get into a fight, you are going to want forearms that are too big for handcuffs

So how does this compare to objective standards? Well A survey of world champion bodybuilders from the pre-steroid level gives an expected calf size for my height and bone structure. The result?
Measurement Result from World Champions My result Summary
Calf 40.9 cm 44 cm I am awesome
Forearm 34.9 34/34.5 (L/R) Looks easy to beat

So in conclusion. I am awesome and becoming awesomer.


Not as expensive as it seems

About one year ago, I wrote about Tarocash, that sent me a $50 birthday voucher just because my wife once purchased about $50 worth of underpants from there. I mentioned that:

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 [$50] t-shirt, and a bunch of flirting, and probably keep sending me vouchers every year... it works out not bad.

Well it's now approaching my birthday again, and sure enough, another $50 voucher from Tarocash turns up in the mail, even though I haven't bought a single thing from them since I got a shirt using the last $50 voucher.

So my conclusion is right. It SEEMS hideously overpriced, but each purchase actually comes with a free shirt every year for now on.

Meanwhile, at midnight last night

I had a phone interview that seemed to result in me being offered a position as a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering (Materials) at the University of Michigan, Shanghai.

I have some remaining questions about the salary. Is it 240k in Yuan or Dollars? If it's dollars... I'm there.

Next Day

It wasn't dollars :(


Not the answer I think ta was looking for

In a review of the Cell Bikes' di2 Carbon Ace, which features electric gear shifting, the reviewer asks:

Think of it this way: in this day and age, how many of you would agree to revert back to non-power assisted steering or brakes in your car?

To which my answer is: No problem, providing it came with lighter weight. My steering is too light anyway. And if it saved 5% of the entire vehicle mass (which is the issue with the bike) and was heaps more reliable and cheaper? No question.

Or alternatively, take a look at the specs for your car’s throttle system to see whether it’s controlled by a few strands of cable or a copper wire carrying a bunch of electrons back and forth. You might be surprised.

It sounds like mister reviewer would be the one who was surprised. My falcon ute uses a simple steel cable. So does my high tech BMW. I get annoyed at people who assume they know more about me than I do myself. And it's worse if they are wrong.


VW Jetta TDI

This friend of mine has a brand new 2010 VW Jetta TDI, but he needed a real car for a couple of days, so we swapped and I got to drive this piece of junk.

I thought it would be sort of OK. After all, it's closely related to the Audi TT, which I quite liked, and my recent experience with Mitsubishi and Nissan turbo diesels was quite favourable. This was not to be.

Engine first: The nissan and mitsubishis were turbo diesels, and had about the same power as the VW. But they were squeezing 110 kW from a 4 liter turbo engine, which leads to a lazy, effortless low RPM torque that is quite relaxing. A mere 2 liters with the same power output has lots of lag and needs much more revs, which a diesel isn't good at. (And remember, I'm comparing the revability to a Falcon 4 liter 6. I wouldn't even think of comparing it to the 3 liter BMW 6.)

The engine might still have been semi-decent, if it was linked to a proper gearbox. And I don't mean manuals are the only proper gearbox. I don't even mean that autos are the only proper gearbox (though this has some support now we are discussing turbos with lag). Either of them would be better than what VW gave the Jetta, which is an Automated Dual Clutch gearbox.

Wait! Isn't the Audi-VW DSG transmission supposed to be the greatest gearbox ever made? Isn't it the one fitted to the Bugatti Veyron? Isn't that the one that Ferrari were forced to buy and install in their latest models so that they wouldn't be left behind?

Well yes.

Or rather: well sort of.

For one thing, this isn't the Veyron, or the Ferrari, gearbox. Those were huge, or at least respectable, horsepower gearboxes fitted to 4 wheel drive and rear wheel drive supercars. This is a front wheel drive econo-box. So it is a much smaller, lighter, weaker little thing, that does admittedly share some design features.

Secondly, being a small, low power, low rev, econo-toy, the software controlling it has been completely redone. And with an automated gearbox, the software is what determines everything. So any resemblence to the sports cars would be purely coincidental, and in this case, non-existent.

Let us look at the features of the DSG, and see how VW went about adapting them for an econo-barge.
Lighting fast gear changes Too rough from a semi-luxury brand. So slowed right down.
Can cope with gear changes at high revs Diesels don't have high revs
Can cope with huge power without risking damage during fast changes No huge power, no fast changes
It's a highly demanding supercar, the need to rev the engine and get some tyre squeal on a hill start is expected Tell the customer that it's a highly demanding supercar gearbox, act surprised when they want a hillstart at least as smooth as a Nissan 8 tonne truck
Replacing the clutches every year is an acceptable tradeoff for continuous power during gear changes Separate the twin clutch changes to improve life, get major holes in power delivery during takeoff and gear changes

As you can see, it seems that perhaps this gearbox isn't suited for this application.

Other complaints

So were there good points?


Hand and Thigh Lift Measurement

I've been doing the hand and thigh lift (also called a high rack pull, or a really, really high deadlift) for a while. And the weight I've been using has been increasing, because that's the whole point.

Now because I haven't got a bar bell, I've been using a wheelie bin filled with gravel and bricks. But I can't increase the weight any more.

1. The bin is full. I can't close the lid any more.

2. The bin is going to break any day now. I've already had to replace the wheels twice, because they just crumple when I'm moving the bin around. And the handles are starting to seriously warp.

This meets my stated goal of lifting a full wheelie bin by my birthday! Pity that goal was first set for Christmas 2007.

So now it is time to actually weigh the bin. So see what a little girl I've been.

So this morning I constructed a weighing machine. The basis of which was a simple set of bathroom scales. But this has a maximum of about 120 or so, which would not be enough.

And the answer was leverage. I set up a class three lever, with a beam of wood balanced between a fulcrum and the scales. I then balanced the bin partway between the two, and read the weight off the scales: 51 kg.

Now I measure the lever arms. The bin was sitting at 18 cm from the fulcrum. The scales were 103 cm from the fulcrum.

Therefore, the weight of the bin is 51 x 103/18 = 292.

Which is just PITIFUL for a hand and thigh lift.

More work is needed.

I can either start on increasing my range of motion, (292 is almost 3x my current bodyweight, which is just about respectable for a full range of motion deadlift) which means finding something to stand on that cannot slip under any circumstances. Or doing them one handed. Mmmmm.

Wait! New Calculations!

While thinking about how to increase the range of motion, I realized that because I'm pulling the bin up a vertical ledge, while I'm on top of the ledge, I don't pull VERTICALLY. I have to pull back at an angle to stop toppling over forward.

This angle is estimated to be between 20-30° off vertical. So only the vertical component is equal to 292. That makes the hypotenuse, or total pull equal to 292/cos20° = 310. Which is STILL little girl standard. DOH!

Wait! Stop! Wait Again. Newer Calculations!!!

I just remembered that I add a backpack of bricks for my heavy sets of singles, doubles and triples. Which I totally forgot to include in my total.

The backpack weighs 30 kg. So if I add that to the calculation in the first New Calculations section gives me a total of 343. Which is STILL, Still, little girl standard. Maybe a medium sized girl now...

Meanwhile, on the ipod

Mr Darcy has just turned up as Eliza Bennet was defending herself from 25 Zombies using a tree branch in the "Windblown peasant" pole fighting style. He resolved the situtation with some shots from his muskett, and now they look into eachothers eyes and ....

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: A true work of genius.

Later that night

While rewatching Jane Austen's Fight Club (Just do a search on youtube), I noticed that the next video in line was... a preview for Pride and Predjudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. So that means I have more to go. Yay!


Love Line Radio Podcasts

For some reason the cool stuff I've put on my ipod is not syncing properly, so I've been listening to the one thing that did come through, which is the podcasts of some American talk radio show called Love Line.

As you can guess with a name like that, it's about sex. And sure enough, they always have a guest on who's a přrn star, and people ring in with questions ranging from dopey romance to blatant sexual problems.

And so you think that the whole thing is glorifying promiscuous sex and přrn.

And you'd be so very, very wrong.

Every single přrn star is greeted with praise, and enthusiasm, and compliments. And questions about their life. And every time the presenters probe deeper and deeper until the guest reveals that they suffered from drug addiction, alcoholism, and/or abusive parents before going into the industry. They talk about the marriages and relationships that fell apart because of their work. They are given what sounds superficially like a pleasant, fluffy interview but if you actually listen they are presented as the damaged, warped, and sick representatives of a disasterous approach to living.

Likewise the call in listeners. Some of them are just kids who have normal questions along the lines of "I like this chick but she's not interested." or "I met this guy on the internet and I'm in love and want to fly to Iran to meet him and get married." These questions are fairly easy and the answers can be summarized as "Grow up." (But not as nicely put.)

But the other questions are from people who are the sort who ring up radio stations to discuss their perverted sex lives. And they can be summarized up by the example of a girl who rings up to say:

Female Caller: I was having Änal sex with my girlfriend last night and she's still bleeding.

Presenter: Lčsbian Änal sex?

Caller: Yes. Do you think that's a problem?

Presenter: With a stráp on? And she's still bleeding? A lot?

Caller: Yes. Should we do anything?

Presenter: Go to a hospital. Don't muck around. You could have some real trouble. Go now.

Caller: Umm. OK.

Presenter: Were you abused as a child? Caller: Yes.

Presenter: Was she? Caller: Yes. We both were. But now we've found eachother.

Presenter: Knew it.The show is brilliant in my mind. Presented as supporting and favourable, it is actually the harshest criticism I've seen of modern sexual behaviour. Even the explicitly religious arguments seem to be far less judgemental.

Though when they start discussing firearms and the legal issues surrounding the slippery slope argument I can now spot big gaps in their knowledge. And so (curiously) could the přrn star they were interviewing.

Which Superpower Would You Prefer?

It's a tricky question, because in real life I wouldn't be fighting giant robots and zombie armies (I hope). So I have to think about which superpower would benefit me most in my everyday life.

Flying would of course be cool. But not that useful except in saving on air-fares and commuting costs. Superman like flying involves supersonic speeds, so you could travel the world for free. I suppose you could make a lot of money as a smuggler, but the fact is that even if I got supersonic flying powers tomorrow, I'd have no idea how to go about becoming a smuggler, especially of something that I'd be morally OK with smuggling. What do you do, fly into central Burma and walk around asking where you can buy a few kg of heroin? You'd get shot. And you only have one superpower, so you aren't bullet proof.

Chosing invulnerability as your one power makes you safe, but it isn't very useful in a normal life. I suppose I could become a professional boxer, being able to shrug off all the blows my opponents land on me until I knock them out. Big money once I become world heavyweight champ, but not a satisfying life.

Most superpowers are replicable using modern technology. X-ray vision? You can't achieve much that a normal person with an x-ray machine can't do. The ability to stretch and elongate? In a normal environment you just get a ladder, or a remote control gripping arm. Ladders also replicate the spiderman wall climbing ability. Or you could get Super strength? So you can compete with a normal woman with a forklift or bulldozer. Superman level strength lets you squeeze coal into diamonds, which will be financially useful, but once that's been achieved?

Outside of cheating in sport and other competitions (x-ray vision in the casino for example), the only way I can see of making a real difference in the world (and profiting thereby) is if you put on a space suit, fly into space, and act as a cheap earth to orbit one man space launch system. I don't think you could carry much though.


Nutcase Theory of Employment

A post from the news group aus.cars

Years ago there was a young fellow who dropped out of school at 16 and just went on the dole like all his mates did, for a year or so all they did was go surfing and did bugger all else. Eventually a few started to get jobs and young fellow was left with not much to do most days, he ended up with his Mother's old VB 4cyl Commondog for a car so he was then mobile again but still had no one to go surfing with etc as most of his mates were working all week and even weekends, they would drop around in their nice(some brand new) cars and 4WDs and pick him up on their days off.

So after another two years he gets offered a job as a brickies labourer. Not a reliable job but he made a few bucks, enough to buy himself a better car(nice looking XF Falcon ute). Within a year he was working full time, completely rebuilt his ute with nice paint, mags etc. and then moved out of his mother's house and was renting his own place with his girlfriend

This was almost ten years ago and I see him every now and then, in his F250 ute all sign written with HIS Company logo, he did his apprenticeship and is a qualified Brickie and making good money and he reckons his time on the Dole was the biggest waste of his life and regrets it still

So my theory is: is unemployment reduced by the existence of nice, attractive to young people, cars? Any idiot can manage unemployment benefits so as to be able to afford drugs, alcohol, clothing and modern electronic entertainments, but cars pretty much need a job.

Is there a correlation between high youth unemployment and periods when there were no decent vehicles for sale (at a price where a young person could buy one with their first job)? Well there is. But until now it's been assumed that the causation ran the other way: poor economy results in poor sales of "fun" cars, so manufacturers concentrate on boring shopping trolleys. But what if the relationship runs the other way?



I've just found, and removed, a splinter from my finger. I have no idea how it got there.

Over the weekend I've

  1. Installed 3 fluoro lights
  2. Tried to install a fishtank, and finally given up in the face of a wall that seems to consist entirely of solid, soft plaster.
  3. Installed a mirror, a painting, and a wall hanging
  4. Sold a $300 fishtank
  5. Driven everyone to, and from, and attended, a birthday dinner for my nephew
  6. Gone to sleep
  7. Gone to early morning Sunday mass
  8. Picked up a migrant working couple
  9. Installed a tap in the kitchen
  10. Driven out to a warehouse, stopping on the way to buy paint (and search 3 hardware shops in vain for a flexible 1/4" socket drive)
  11. Repaired an electrically faulty vacuum cleaner
  12. Swept and vacuumed the warehouse
  13. Build a set of shelves. Decent shelves. With about 20 square metres of shelf space able to hold loads of several tonnes. So not the chipboard and glue rubbish you get from Ikea.
  14. Painted the shelves black
  15. Stopped in the middle of painting to sell another fishtank
  16. Went home
  17. Mowed the lawn. Well half the lawn. It got too dark to see where I had already mowed so I stopped.
  18. Drew up an initial proposal drawing for a solar powered bio-reactor
  19. Repaired a clogged toilet.

But nothing in there involved even touching any unfinished wood. So how did I get the splinter?

... But just writing out the words "unfinished wood" reminds me of my gym workout Saturday morning. My chinups and pullups are from a rafter... made of unfinished wood! And the wide grip chins would put my finger against a crossbeam at the very location of the splinter. Mystery solved.

Meanwhile, back on the internets

I've seen a few references to this guy who seems as though he is writing witting, insightful stuff. But I just can't understand it.

He keeps making what appear to be clear points but... what do they mean?

Either I'm just really dumb when it comes to the subjects he's writing about. (Not out of the question.) Or he isn't really making that much sense in the first place.

Exhibit A for the defense (of my intellectual ego) is that all the commenters seem to be as lost as I am about what he is on about. Oh many of them are confidently discussing the meaning of each article; but their meaning is completely different from all the other commenters meanings. And many other commenters are willing to admit they are as lost as I am.

Exhibit B is that when he does make sense, he seems to be on about just how brilliant he is, and how much more knowlegable he is than everyone else. That seems to be the sign of a complete egotist, who may just be as confusing as possible to make it SEEM like he is smarter than his readers.

Exhibit A for the prosecution is that when he does say something that makes sense "High school students manage to create a viciously unequal society that drives some kids to suicide and others to Columbine and others to group sex and it has nothing to do with income at all." I find I still don't understand it. Or at least he is writing about something called "highschool" that has nothing whatsoever in common with a place I once attended that was also called "highshool", but clearly shares no other similarities.



More Quotes from Work

Boss: Some things are true, some things are false, and some things are meaningless. Some things are true and meaningless. Some things are false and meaningless. Some things are true and false. Some things are true and false and meaningless.

But the things we want are true. Or true and false. Those are the really interesting things.

Boss: I don't want us to be performing a brownian motion around our current, non-ideal, solution.

More Quotes from my OTHER Work

Wife: We had a customer today who wouldn't pay. He chose a product, it was $299, so I got out $1 change... and he ignored it. So we packed the product and I held out the change... he ignored it. So we packed it into his car, and I wrote out the receipt. Then I got out the change again... and he ignored it. Eventually I said "So that is $299." " Which you owe us" "Now".

I guess he's managed to get out of paying previously just by "forgetting" until he has driven off.

Me: I'm getting better at this. I delivered a $20 light to that Indian customer and while I was there I sold her another 5 lights and a $550 tank installation.

Wife: Does she have a nice big house?

Me: No, she has a luxury apartment. Well actually she has three. Three luxury apartments next to eachother in the same building.

Did she knock the walls out in between? Or just have three separate doors.

Three doors.

You always get the rich older women to buy lots of stuff. They all love you. You aren't allowed to talk to her again.

And that other one [NAME] says she wants to see me on Friday.

She's REALLY rich, you should go see her.



Word Association

So I'm in a meeting and my boss is listing some things that have occurred:

Boss: Thing One is that ...

Boss: Thing Two is that ...

Me: Why did I just think of The Cat in the Hat? Oh! I see...

Mislearned Reactions

I haven't ridden the bike lately, but I've been driving a lot, in a variety of different vehicles.

So when I hop back on the bike, I find myself putting on the indicator when I go around corners.

Except the bike doesn't have an indicator, that lever next to my hand is to change gears. Grrrr.

(There is also a weird feeling I should be wearing a seatbelt when I first get on the bike. This only lasts a few seconds.)

Speaking of Which

Bikes, by which I mean push-bikes, that you have to pedal, will eventually get indicators, and brake lights. Progress in batteries, LEDs and tiny, local wireless data transmission means that eventually it will cost $5 and 5 grams to add such features to a bike. After a while people will expect them, and then some politician will make it the law.

The risk is that the law bit may come too early.

Another Prediction

Current light intensification systems (night vision) project the scene in either black and white (as seen in the new, very cool, night time nature documentaries) or black and green (as seen in military videos). But there is no physical reason they have to be monochrome. The light levels are very low, but it is still light, it still comes in the same colour range as normal. It is just cheaper and easier to do monochrome systems. Just like early cameras and movies were.

Just as with cameras and movies, eventually the systems will be developed enough to make them colour. This will make them more useful, as colour provides more information. It will however, make it less easy for movie makers to indicate that this scene is viewed through night vision goggles.

It also means that movies made now, but set in the future, should think about this.

Engineering Math

Later in the same meeting:

Boss: 30% is equal to 40%, which is equal to 100%.

Me: Any practicing engineer or scientist would completely understand that math. Nobody else could.



Quote of the Day

There is one thing that can trump subpar technique in any sport or action in life. That is, being stupid strong above and beyond the demands of the sport. From here.

Husband Friendly

That was the sign out the front of a women's fashion store in the Wollongong Mall that I saw on Saturday. (I realized that the phrase women's fashion store was redundant, no real man is interested in any form of clothing fashion.)

Now as a husband, I'm in favour of shops being Husband Friendly but I didn't find it THAT interesting, not interesting enough to go inside by myself to see what it meant. I guess my own vision (featuring a series of luxury recliner sofas with a selection of magazines (automotive, guns, boats and sports), TVs, videogames, and masseuses) is better that what was probably on offer.

A Great Drive

On the weekend I drove about 250 km from Ulladulla to Sydney. Ulladulla is a coastal town south of Sydney, about level with Canberra. And the drive up is pretty much on the coast, along the coast, and at a couple of points OFF the coast as the road runs along a bridge that runs over the sea along the cliff face. (This cliff-sea-bridge section looks so cool that it often appears in movies and videogames, with the distant sight of Wollongong modified in CGI to look like some large American city.)

There was also a lot of places that looked just like the Atherton tablelands where my parents live, but with added surf beaches. The Atherton region is far closer to the equator, but is up several hundred meters in the mountains, so the climate ends up much the same. Hence the vegetation was closely matched.

The weather was absolutely ideal, cool and sunny without a cloud in the sky. The Falcon ute with its lightly modified 4 liter straight six was in fine song and once I got into the Royal National park with less traffic and tighter bends I started finding myself going as fast as I was happy to go. Which in a ute with leaf springs and cheap commercial tyres isn't that fast.

Or at least I didn't think it was that fast. But:

  1. I kept catching up to other vehicles, and having to pull over, wait for 5 minutes, and then set off again, only to catch up again.
  2. Some of these vehicles were motorbikes
  3. OK, one or two motorbikes might be people more suited to a Prius, and hence who weren't giving it a go under such ideal conditions... but I'm talking about 20 different bikes at various points.
  4. A nice BMW 530i was trying to keep up with me, but lost sight of me after about 5 minutes and gave up, and I hadn't even reached to good bits by that point.
  5. The BMW went on to the straight, boring, high speed freeway, and still only reached Sydney a few minutes before me.

Conclusion: I've got to get some better tyres for the ute. And install the high flow manifold I've got ready to go.

Energy is Energy

With my current lifestyle it has become apparent to me that food is a partial substitute for sleep. Only got 6 hours last night? Add 6 eggs and a liter of milk to the normal diet and you fill feel almost normal.

And that is about $2.50 in Woolworths, less than a cup of coffee at most cafes. Just drink half the milk, crack the eggs into the remaining milk, give the bottle a good shake to mix them up, and keep drinking. Problem solved.



Now THIS is How you study exercise: Data

have done a study comparing heavy lifting and light weight lifting. They've got a less than ideal number of subjects ( 15, which isn't great, but more subjects cost more money, at least on this planet) but other than that the work is exactly what I want to see. It isn't complete by any stretch, but it's a chunk of the programe I outlined below.

Anyway their results seem clear. Higher reps ( 4 sets of 24) at low weight (30% of 1rm) gave better results than lower reps (4 sets of 5) at higher weight (90% of 1rm), and better than medium reps at lower weight (4 sets of 14 at 30% of 1rm).

Questions that spring to mind:

  1. How about high reps at high weight? The numbers for high reps (96) were which is probably doable at the weights they were using if you use multiple short sets. Say 32 sets of 3. This is fairly extreme though and would probably lead to long term fatigue. You'd have to break that number up over more exercise sessions.
  2. They've measured "volume" as reps x weight. Why? It strikes me as being the sort of thing that is still sort of cargo cult science like. The weight x reps is a valid measure of work output, and easy to measure, but I've seen no explanation of why it's significant on the cellular level.
  3. Why no mention of increase in strength? The strength was measured and recorded when the testing began, but there is no mention of it being measured afterwards. This is peculiar.
  4. Lifting speed was was based on a 50 beats/minute metronome that corresponds to 1 second... shouldn't that be 60 beats/minute? Probably a typo.
  5. It looks like they only performed each exercise approach once. Surely the long term effect of multiple sessions is what really counts?
  6. How much time was between each session?
  7. And lastly, what happens if you mix it up? One or two sets with the really heavy weights (which gave better results for a couple of parameters), and then a few sets of light weights to get the total volume which seems to be important? Note that this is how many people actually work out.




When parking in an underground car park, a deep, deep, underground car park, it's a little disconcerting to notice that the walls are painted with flood water level height markings.

That go up to 1.85 meters. Which is way over the roof of my car.

And it's bucketing down rain outside.

AND you can't get your car out, because there seems to be some dispute or miscommunication between building management and building security. Management arranges access to the building and lets you in, but security claims that the area is closed and you can't come out. And then goes on about it costing $10 000 to open a door and won't open them until it has an internal argument, which takes 8 minutes or so...



Attempted Dictatorship

There are some people who dream their whole lives of getting a government uniform, so they can bully and push people around, secure in the knowledge that the entire government will back them up.

I met such a person last night.

It doesn't work so well when the uniform is of a BUS DRIVER.

You can scowl, frown, bluster and claim authority all you want, you aren't a cop, you're a bus driver. I will ignore you and there isn't a thing you can do about it.




As I mentioned earlier, sometimes your body just gets tired and you need a break to improve your performance. Well I was really busy for the last 3 weeks, and so didn't have time to hit the gym for my normal 30 minute sessions 4 mornings a week.

Instead I just did 10 second isometric contractions. One armed chinups, shoulder presses, one legged overhead squats. So a total of 50 seconds of exercise, about 1 minute in total per day. No matter what I'm doing, I can spend 1 minute per day.

Of course the problem with this is that you can do it every day, so you do it every day, and after 3 weeks... I was tired. I didn't really feel tired, but when I tried to continue with the heavy singles I was doing previously, I couldn't do a single rep.

So I took a week off. Didn't do a thing. Well I loaded and unloaded a truck, but that's just normal.

This morning I went back to the heavy singles, and got 8 sets, a personal record. :)

Oil Problems Solved

Coal fired steam cars maybe? I just watched the Top Gear race between a steam train, a jaguar and a motorbike. The 97 tonne steam train was getting wheelspin at 70 mph. And it solves both the "middle east is too important to ignore" and the "oil is running out" problems in one go.




Last night I disassembled a shop, loaded it all into a truck (with help, not by myself) drove the truck from Newcastle to Sydney, under a bit of stress because I realized the fuel guage was just about empty and I had maybe 100 km of hilly freeway to go before the next fuel station. Then I unloaded the truck (with one boy helping), drove home, and prepared the spare room for the boy to sleep in before getting to sleep around 12.30.

This morning I got up, cleaned out the truck, drove it to refuel, then returned it to the rental place, walked to a train station, found the railway staff were on strike and not selling tickets. Fortunately they weren't checking tickets either so I was able to get on the train anyway and travel to work.

It is now 12.55 in the afternoon, I've just finished my first cup of coffee (a quadruple long white) and my brain has fired up to the point where I realize that my shirt is on inside out.

UPDATE: The same thing happened the next day.




First of all, I've removed College Roommates from Hell from my links. It's still good, but it's just too slow in developing any new stories. And the site is difficult to navigate. I find myself thinking "will I look at it? Nah. Too much work to skip back from the main page, you have to move back and forth one page at a time, and you find that in the last month there were only 5 new strips. Not worth it"

Likewise Dresden Codak, for much the same reason.

But I've added Wondermark. Because it is brilliant.

And I haven't added Texts from Last Night because it is sick, sick, sick. The name is fairly self explanatory, they are (allegedly) text messages sent during interesting events, mostly by university students. Reading a page or two would stop you from ever allowing any children of your's from ever attending an American university. Reading several pages and you would be unwilling to go yourself. Read the full archives and you will probably join El Qeda.

In Describing a New Data Logging Rig that has just been made up

Electron Wrangler: That LED tells you that everything is functioning normally.

Me: So we have a big red flashing light to tell us that nothing is going wrong?Yes. If a fault develops then the red light stops flashing and the green one turns on.

... well... that's not cliche'd then I guess.

Truely Awesome S-F like Imaging

This is beautiful and no doubt enormously useful as soon as it becomes a little bit better. Photographs of individual molecules that allow you to see the atoms positions.

Conversation with the girls at Work

G: No! I want us to be objective for Fµck's Sake.

S: This isn't the sort of Sh!t we need for this reaction. Cµnt!

M: This fµcking reaction should be simple. Why the fµck can't you do it.

G: Fµck you. Fµck all of this. Fµck ....

G: ... Oh! Patrick! We didn't see you there. Sorry you had to hear that sort of language.

Me: That's OK. I don't understand what those words you were using mean anyway.

G: ... They are technical chemistry terms. Don't worry your pretty head about them...

I won't.




No, not our hated overlord, but the cute ones, that live in Borneo and Sumatra.

I've just finished the book "Orangutangs: Wizards of the Rainforest" that follows the studies of an American psychologist as she studies Orangutan intelligence and problem solving skills. She spent her time working in a couple of Orangutan rehabilitation centres, where ex-captive apes are reintroduced into the wild.

It was a fairly good book with a couple of good points.



Another Analysis of Someone Elses Hard Work

The article I'm looking at today is The Dose-Response Relationship of Exercise by M. Doug McGuff, M.D. This is an article supporting Super-Slow training, a protocol that says the best exercise is weight training done very, very slowly, taking 10 seconds or more to raise the weight, and then another 10 seconds to lower it.

Doug starts with a fairly intriging statement: ....."Modern medical care should have the same precision and reproducibility in exercise programs that is expected in a dosage of prescribed medicine." . Given that exercise is something we do to the body to produce an improvement, I think this is a very good way to approach the concept.

I'll give Doug some credit here: his articles are clear and well set out, which means I have no trouble in following his arguments very well. He approaches the problem of determining the most effective exercise program just as one would approach the problem of determining an effective drug treatment.

I just have trouble with some of the logic he uses.

First of all, he skips the entire point where the first problem with drugs is finding what chemical to use in the first place. He just assumes that the weight lifting exercises he has are the ideal ones and works from there.

He breezes over one critical point with ... the only accurate recording of intensity we can record is 0% or 100%, anything else would be guesswork. There are a couple of major things wrong with this approach.

Firstly, this is very much like the story of the drunk looking under the streetlight for his keys. "Did you lose them here?" "No, I lost them over there, but the light is much better here." Doug figures that 100% intensity is the easiest thing to measure. THEN he somehow goes from this is the easiest to measure and leaps to therefore this is the most effective.

The second problem is a little bit more subtle. His definition of intensity. Which he defines as lifting until you cannot complete another repetition (note that this is a different definition from a lot of sports science). Is there any evidence that this measure of intensity is what is important anyway? A more common measure of intensity is defined as Percentage of the maximum load you can lift for a single repetition in this exercise. At the level of the muscle fibres, perhaps this is what matters when it comes to stimulating growth? Who knows? There is certainly no evidence put forward in Doug McGuff's articles.

The relationship between these measures of intensity will vary from day to day depending on fatigue and arousal. (By arousal I mean that you will lift more if you are excited, have a high level of adrenalin, etc.) And the relationship will also vary over time depending on fitness (which will hopefully be increasing). Eventually your fitness should improve to the point where you have to measure your single repetition maximum again to get a new yardstick.

Note that when using the Percentage of the maximum load you can lift for a single repetition in this exercise measure of intensity, there is no problem at all in measuring values other than 0% and 100%. You can have 90%, 78.5%, whatever you want. Of course we then have to investigate whether THIS is important physiologically either. There is a fair amount of research to indicate that it is, but that's something you have to measure, you can't just work it out with logic.

He also gives ease of measurement as the reason for using the super-slow protocol. With such slow, careful movements everything can be kept exactly the same. Once again, this is streetlight theory.

Elsewhere in his writings he gives another reason for working very slowly. It makes things really hard, even with relatively light weights, so you don't use heavy weights, and hence the exercise is safer. Now this is a logical argument, but I'm left wondering what the risk factors are. If the risk of serious injury is reduced from 1/10 to 1/5000 then it's worthing looking at. But if it's reduced from 1/1000 to 1/5000 OR reduced from 1/10 to 1/11 then who cares?

Then he gets on to the more general principal of his training, that you have to wait a long time between training sessions to get the maximum rate of progress. He comes up with lots of analogies to show how this could be true. What he doesn't come up with is any sort of actual DATA.

Instead he spends his time psycho-analyzing the people who disagree with him. In my opinion, if his best argument is that anyone who disagrees with him is suffering from some psychological problem that he can diagnose over the internet... then he really doesn't have a lot to back up his theory.

You need some actual experiment, you know, you have 10 people train every 2 days, 10 train every 4 days, 10 train every 7 days, 10 every 10 days, 10 every 15 days, train them all for 12 months, make sure they all eat the same, and test who improves the most. And 10 is the minimum number. Ideally you'd have 20 or 50, and you'd repeat the experiment with different physical groups (skinny types, naturally muscular, old, young etc.) And then repeat the tests with different sorts of training.

Of course doing such a test is REALLY expensive. The only people who have both the motivation and the resources to do such a test might be the military. There was such a test carried out in the 1950s: (Hettinger and Muller) the results were interesting.

Well there is another group: the national sports institutes of the more authoritarian countries, especially the old Eastern Block. But two main factors warp their results:

1. Drugs. 'nuff said.

2. They weren't looking for the best way to train people. They were looking for the best way to train the best people. In other words, they used training techniques that work best on the top 0.01% of the population. They didn't care that it was too much work for everyone else, they wanted everyone else to drop out anyway, they only wanted the best.

I'll credit McGuff with being right on the money when he discusses these problems with the typical Eastern Block training systems.

Finished my new Honor Harrington Book

Was not up to the standard I've come to expect. This is because it wasn't written entirely by the same author. There is also the author of 1632, which I reviewed before.

While this story was better than 1632, maybe, it suffered from many of the same problems:

This book may well have been as bad as 1632, but because it was in audio form, I was doing other things while listening to it. That is, I was driving, drilling holes, doing up screws, painting, and loading trucks. So I don't need as much in good writing to keep me listening because I'm only using part of my brain anyway. It still isn't as good as good writing though, so I'll be skipping the rest of the books by this author combo.

Conversation at Work, when my boss was cleaning something with a potent solvent

Me: Is that chemical something I shouldn't be in the same room as?

Boss: ..... Umm ...You took too long to answer that question.

... well... Define "shouldn't be in the same room"



Diary, by Chuck Palahniuk

It's been a long time, a really long time, possibly the 1980s, maybe even the 1970s, since a horror story left me unable to sleep.

Chuck is a fantastic author.

He knows the secret to truely scary monsters. The reason Hannibal Lecter is a thousand times more scary than anything with tentacles and multiple rows of teeth: He's believable.

Another Honor Harrington Book:

Though this, technically, is not about her, but set in the same "honorverse" with some intersecting characters and storylines.

One thing I've picked up, which I regard as neat, is that when a character is discussing another character, and they don't know the sex of the person they are talking about (eg. a Starship captain talking about the captain of that other starship over there) they use the personal pronoun of their own gender.

That is, a woman speculating about the actions of an unknown person would say "she is behaving strangely" or "Her velocity is too high for a zero-zero intercept." A man would use "he" and "his".

Once the persons sex was known, the correct pronoun would be used.

It's just a neat, logical, interesting little detail of the sort that makes me like the books.

Monsters Do Exist

When children are young, they believe in monsters. But their parents tell them that monsters don't exist. So who is correct? Now we have the internet we can find out for sure:

Sea monsters that match the old stories? Defnitely exist.

Kraken, too are proven fact.

The giant roc of Sinbad legend? A proven fact.

Here be Dragons


So what, exactly, is the source of the "monster's don't exist" legend? What could it be based on? Is it a reflection of some deep underlying psychology?

And why, based on this track record, should I not hang up a stocking at Christmas?




I will say I'm feeling rather positive about diesels right now. I spent the weekend driving a 4.5 tonne Isuzu flatbed, with a full load, and it ended up using 56 litres in 362 km, (15.5 L/100km) or only 1.5 L/100km more than the BMW sedan. And the view it gives you in traffic is better than any Luxury 4wd. And cars just scramble to get out of your way. It's nearly the perfect city car.

It was even good at parking, once you've allowed for the fact that it's about 7 metres long and too high to fit in most garages and multilevel car parks.

I didn't like the driving position, and the way the mirrors were moved out of position by the wind when you drove at 110 km/h. I'm prepared to give the driving position the benefit of the doubt: it was developed by people who know a lot more about trucks than I do, there is probably something I'm missing. But that horizontal steering wheel? Yuck. I also thought the steering was too light.

It was able to keep up with a worked datto ute through the wet streets of Newcastle at 1 am, but that's probably because the datto driver was spending too much time in wheelspin. I wasn't game to try to spin the wheels in the truck unless I found an open area. A big open area. A REALLY big open area. I didn't find one.


So my wife wants to join two tables, one on top of the other, to produce a double decker set of shelves.

I decided the way to do it was to get 4 short sections of 90 degree angle with holes in them. The angle would go over the outside of the top table's legs, and extend down to the outside of the legs on the bottom table. Screws go through the holes in the angle iron and attach them to the tables. Sweet.

I mention this and a workmate says he has just such angle iron sitting around at home, unused, and he would bring it in. This gives me Saturday to install the angle, and everything works out.

He forgets to bring them in.

Saturday, I have to do a bunch of other stuff and don't get around to buying anything myself.

Likewise Sunday, I just forgot.

Monday, I remembered about 5 minutes before I set off to Newcastle (about 150 km north) to install many things, including the table assembly. I wasn't going to get any angle iron, so, literally on my feet, I redesigned it to use 4 sections of dowel extending from holes drilled into the top of the bottom table into holes drilled in the base of the legs of the top table. An even neater, if not as strong, approach. AND one I could ask one of the workers to pick up the raw materials (4 pieces of dowel about 10 cm long, total of $2 cut to length.)

At Newcastle, then I realize... I didn't bring my drill. So what did I have?

Redesigning again, I decided to use the screwdrivers as hand drills... which sort of worked, but not well enough to fit the wooden dowels. I needed something much slimmer, but not weaker... like a screw.

So if I cut the head off a screw with my pliers, then I... wait, where are my pliers? D'oh! Remove pliers from the list above.

At this point I'm reminded of a poster I recently saw:

Rules of the Workshop

1. Always use the right tool for the job

2. A hammer is the right tool for any job

3. Anything can be used as a hammer


  1. I used the screwdrivers as hand drills to make 5 mm holes in the base of the top table legs.
  2. Then I screwed, by force, a slim 5 mm brass screw into the top of the bottom table. There was no drill hole, I just pushed really hard.
  3. Then I removed that screw and forced in a slightly larger one to make the hole bigger.
  4. Now I wanted to cut the head off the screw, but my pliers were missing, so I unscrewed the screw, took the original (thinner) screw, jammed it through a hole in a piece of steel and hit it with a hammer to break the head off.
  5. Now I used the hammer to nail the headless screw back into the hole, leaving about 20 mm protruding up from the table surface.
  6. I do this to 4 screws, so they now stick up from each corner of the table, lined up with the legs of the table that goes on top.
  7. I smothered the protruding headless screws with building adhesive, and force the top table down over the screws, so they stick into the previously "drilled" holes in the bottom of the legs(from step 1).
  8. Leave to dry for 8 hours

The next morning the tables were rigid and steady, and much neater than the job I was planning on doing. I did end up taking an hour to do what should have been 5 minutes, part of the reason I got to sleep at 2 am prior to driving the truck back to sydney.

Obvious Oversimplification

All day we are bombarded with facts and factoids. We need to cut our way through this thick fog to focus in on the ones that are important. But we are faced with multiple layers of stuff we should ignore. Some are useless, some are false, some ridiculous and other fall under different headings. But we definitely need a way to burn the haystack of noise so we can concentrate on the needles of usefulness that we can use to sew the trousers of achievement which were ripped on the barbed wire of...(I'll think of something....) ...the barbed wire of infotainment! (On that subject, my forearm is healing nicely, thankyou. Though I don't know where the new cut on my left palm comes from.)

As with most info-hay, these don't start life as a direct lie. The usual sources of stupid info-hay are:

There is a useful subbranch of info-hay that features a handy self-refutation warning. These are simply alleged facts that, with the simplest logic, are obviously false. You don't need to know anything about the subject, the fact could be about something I know nothing about. Mere basic knowledge of how the universe works shows you that these claims are in fact false.

You can work this stuff out by asking a few questions:

  1. Does this contradict anything I know is true?
  2. What does this "fact" mean when I examine the extreme cases?
  3. If I apply actual numbers to this statement, are the resulting numbers ridiculous?
  4. Can I use this "fact" to prove something that is false?
  5. Does it provide a very simple answer to something that is a very complex question, especially one that NOBODY can answer?
  6. How would anyone know this fact? Is it something that could not be known?
  7. If anyone knew this, would they tell people?

An example of this process, that prompted this entry in the first place, is "you can only absorb 30 grams of protein per meal". We can examine this statement using analysis number 2. Applying it to extreme values it is saying that a 45 kg vegetarian can only absorb 30 grams per meal, and so does a 150 kg meat eating professional body builder. This is OBVIOUSLY wrong. It is probably an oversimplification.

My guess is that somewhere along the lines someone calculated an AVERAGE value of protein absorbtion. I don't know if it was correct, that isn't relevant. Even if it was correct that the AVERAGE person absorbs 30 grams, that doesn't matter once the oversimplification monkeys got to work. This average value became a maximum for everyone, which is now a WRONG figue. Not just simple but wrong, because who is average? A vanishing small % of the population. If there is any difference between sexes when it comes to protein absorbtion, then NOBODY is average, because nobody is half male, half female, exactly halfway between normal hormone distribution for both sexes, and of exactly average body weight and constitution. And who cares about protein absorbtion? Either the very sick who are currently desperate to gain weight (and currently weigh 45 kg) or the very large who want to get even larger (the bodybuilder). Neither of whom are even close to average.

Even if we assume that the protein content of your normal diet doesn't affect your absorbtion ability (which is highly dubious), we ignore age (yeah, right) and sex has no effect (not too much of a stretch), then we still have body mass which affects every other form of absorbtion, digestion limit. If the "average" person is what? 70 kg? 75? Then the actual protein capacity will range from 20 g for a 50 kg person (who is not unusually small for an adult woman) to 60 g for the huge 150 kg guy. So the error you get ranges from -33% to 200%.

But this is a number that is bandied about as a known fact.



How Heavy?

I've gotten up to 8 reps on my heavy deadlifts, so it's time to add more weight to the wheelie bin I've been using. So I added two bricks to the bin. Then, because I was feeling ambitious I added another half brick. So the bin is now reaching very close to full.

Once full I'll have two very important jobs to do.

1. Work out a way to measure it. I'm thinking using bathroom scales, but with some serious levers set up so the scale is only supporting some simple fraction of the weight. Say 1/5. Then I read the scale and multiply by 5. That should give me the range needed.

2. Work out another way to keep increasing the load. I'm thinking I'll go for longer sets (maybe sets of 3 reps each!) and longer range of motion.



How Cold?

It's so cold that I've been wearing a shirt when training in the morning.

It's a fairly nice shirt. A long sleeve T from my old Tae Kwon Do club. It has a picture of a Koala killing a little boy on it.

I also wore shoes for my first set of chinups, until the blood started flowing through my body and I warmed up a bit.



Climate Engineering

Next Big Future has an interesting post on building artificial undersea ridges to prevent accelerated melting of the antarctive ice cap. The artificial ridges aren't to stop the ice, they aren't strong enough for that. The artificial ridges are to stop the warm sea water that would otherwise flow under the icecap and melt the ice.

On that very point, I was just reading a book (Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth) which, while not very well written at all, does have a LOT of references to various climate affecting natural processes. Anyway there was a reference to an apparently well accepted theory (in the geological history field) that one major warming event occurred about 2 million years ago.

This was when the ridge joining South America to Antarctica finally broke up to the point where a circum Antarctic current could develop. This was a MAJOR warming event, about 5°C or more IIRC.

So this may be the optimum place for any subsea ridge building to control climate.

Either that or I've remembered it wrongly and the development of the current was a major COOLING event. In which case we should knock the remaining ridge down to lower the global temp. This would be easier, because it's much easier to knock something down than to build it up. (Nukes!) On the other hand, that makes it harder to reverse the process.

I'll also point out that what would effectively be the world's largest dam, would also be an opportunity for the worlds largest hydro-electric power station. The sort of thing that could supply half of South America's power, (and help in the industrialization of Antarctica).


I went out to my car this morning to find it covered in ice. Actual frozen water.

This explains why my fingers and toes were burning while I was doing my chinup and pushup training earlier that morning. Before sunup. Outside. And using the rest periods to splash about preparing containers of aged water for fish tanks.



Damn global cooling.



I Got Stoned Today

At work. I have NO IDEA HOW! All I had all day was green tea and a selection off a cheese plate.

They were fairly exotic cheeses...



Real Life

I love "nobody needs in real life" claims. They almost never match my real life.

In the past fortnight I've have needed (for my work):

  1. Algebra
  2. The ability to partial deadlift over 300 kg for multiple reps
  3. First aid
  4. Snatching 50 kg, again for multiple reps
  5. Knotting with multiple nested truckie's hitches
  6. Numerical modeling of stress in a curved plate
  7. Ozone toxicology
  8. Plumbing diagnosis and repair
  9. Programing an embedded system microcontroller
  10. Salesmanship
  11. Diagnosis of static buildup in an electromechanical system
  12. Modification and repair of concrete and gyprock walls

AND I think I'm starting to be too narrow in my skill set.

Meanwhile, when I get home for Dinner

Wife: Look at this lovely dinner I've prepared for you.

Me: It is lovely... You prepared this?

Wife: Yes. For you. <3

Me: You prepared this, and then stored it in plastic containers just like the take-away shop uses?

I prepared!

You prepared it by taking it out of the take-away container, putting it on a plate, and putting it in the microwave?

Actually it was you who put it in the microwave.



A good selection

In the last 2 days I've been to two restaurants I've never been to before, had 4 dishes that I've never had before (chosen on that very basis "Mmmm, I don't even know how to pronounce that word. I'll have it!").

And they ranged from very good to great.

Why Men Want Sex and Women Want Love, by some guy and some chick

Compared to the Cocoa Puffs book I just read, this book was terrible.

I guessed I wasn't in for a treat with the preface, which was a 5 minute condemnation of Queen Victoria that blamed her for all the high rate of modern divorce. Now it seems to me that if divorce was very rare in Viccy's time, and it has been getting more and more common the more society changes AWAY from victorian culture, then it is really not that easy to blame her for the current high rate. I mean: correlation is not causation, but inverse correlation sure as hell isn't causation either. This was followed by further condemnation of religion and other political leaders who suppressed natural sexuality, diverted strangely into claiming that modern feminism was a plot by the christian churches, and then ended (in a breath-taking display of unironic self-refutation) with a claim that this was a book that was going to avoid any form of ideology or political correctness but merely present the facts.

Undeterred, or at least not sufficiently deterred to stop driving and change to a different book, I kept listening.

Now we launch into some actual factual description of the chemical changes that occur in the brain when someone falls in love. Not a bad approach, though I would have started with a definition of the major terms being used (lust, initial love, long term companionship etc). This is just a layout issue however and not a big problem. More annoying was the wrtiting style, which was about equal to a high school text book, that same, earnest, breathless, eagerness combined with repeating each fact about 3 times in different words because you think the audience was too dense to pick it up the first time. This is excusable I suppose, because most people aren't that familiar with biochemisty, even to the supershallow level of my own experience.

However, stuck in the middle of these step-by-step biochemical explanations are casual references to the behaviour of people who are behaving like total nutcases. And this is presented as normal. This stuff is totally outside of my experience, and you know, I've fallen in love and gotten married and stuff. It's this stuff that need careful explanation and context and details, and it is thrown in like it's common knowledge, while the common knowledge things (eg. men have more testosterone) is explained as though to a 10 year old.

Now that I think about it, this reminds me of another book. A Conversation with God had exactly the same technique of spending so much time explaining the obvious stuff that you sort of skimmed over the outrageous claims. And like that book, it doesn't really work.

I gave up after about 3 chapters and moved on to Fight Club

I do not talk about Fight Club.



Sex, Lies and Cocoapuffs, by Chuck Closterman

I don't remember where I got this book from, I think I just picked it up because of the title. Anyway, it's an audio book (like most things I read these days, because I have more time driving than I do sitting around to read).

Anyway, to start with, I didn't get this book. This was for a couple of reasons:

  1. The author, who is the reader in the audio production, has exactly the same voice as Eric Cartman from South Park. This makes it difficult to take seriously until you get used to it.
  2. He is writing about modern social attitudes and beliefs, but his social attitudes and the beliefs of his society do not match my own in many ways.
  3. He bases his writing around shared cultural experiences such as TV shows and movies, but I don't know many of the experiences he writes about, such as some TV shows called "The Real World" or "Saved by the Bell"
  4. He would talk about one subject for 5 minutes, and then the very next sentence would be about some completely different subject.

However, within a few chapters, many of these issues resolved themselves:

  1. I got used to the sound of serious thought being narrated by Eric Cartman.
  2. Although he has many different beliefs and attitudes; he is AWARE that many people don't share his bias. This is a welcome change from things like (for example) Seinfield, where there is this overwhelming assumption that any rational adult will think and act just like them. Chuck is totally aware that there are vast other societies, and interpenetrating social networks in his own society, where people think and act in totally different ways.
  3. Although I haven't seen the TV shows (and some of the movies) that he goes on about, as he describes the shows (which he does, because he once again doesn't assume that everyone is just like him) it quickly becomes apparent that the shows in question are identical to shows I HAVE seen. This makes a brilliant meta-example that proves his point even more than otherwise: his point being that these particular shows illustrate deep truths about modern life, and hence it is to be expected that there would be many shows in many different markets that meet the same needs. Hence "The Real World" turns out to be an exact replica of "Big Brother" and "Saved by the Bell" appears to be an exact replica of any number of mindless Children's sitcoms such as "Happy Days" or the non-vampire parts of "Buffy".
  4. Although he does talk about one subject for 5 minutes, and then the very next sentence would be about some completely different subject, after cycling through 5 or so subjects he would return to the earlier subject, restarting at the exact sentence where he left off. He would then continue as though there was no intervening gap, but some of the things he would bring up in the next 5 minutes would be slightly more meaningful because of the subjects he has covered in the meanwhile. I think that he is planning on eventually consolidating everything until the 8 or so independent thought streams finally intersect at the climax of the book.

As a note on the structure of the book. The ipod file structure stuffed up and started with Chapter 2 at the end of Chapter 19. I listened for about 5 minutes before I realized it was wrong. It's not that I didn't realize I'd heard this material before, it's just that, in this book, suddenly repeating an earlier chapter with no warning is by no means out of keeping with the rest of the experience.



Fatigue masks Fitness

Modern two factor fitness theory is fairly simple: The more work you do, the fitter you get, which increases your performance. But work also causes fatigue, which reduces your performance. There are obvious (to a sane person) limits to this, such as genetics (which I address below), but they don't generally apply to normal people in today's society.

Fitness is a tricky word, it varies its meaning depending on what you do. If you are a long distance swimmer, fitness means "ability to do long distance swimming", while if you are an olympic weight lifter, fitness means "ability to lift heavy weights, once". But this doesn't matter: more work means more fitness, and fatigue masks fitness. There is also a skill aspect to just about every action, and that is also out of scope here. I am just talking about the actual physical capability here.

ANYWAY, this is all fairly uncontroversial in most fields. And the results are that training to improve fitness can REDUCE performance. You are getting fitter, but also accumulating fatigue, and so it's possible for performance to drop. Most serious training regimes are frequent enough for the fatigue to get ahead of fitness. The only reasons not to train this way are:

1. You are actually going to be using your ability, so you need to be at peak performance right now, even if this slows your long term improvement.

2. Some other source of stress has cropped up that you need to deal with first (illness, injury, final episode of LOST)

3. You don't have the time/motivation/brains to train often enough.

My current training consists of following the basic program set out by Doug Hepburn, the most interesting of the 3 famous Hepburns from the middle of the 20th Century (Doug, Katherine, Audrey). Doug was world champion weight lifter for a while, and his lifts were only exceeded by Paul Anderson, who was some 50 kg heavier than Doug. (Doug was about 135 kg. Paul was a BIG guy). Some of Paul's lifts have since been exceeded, but never by anyone living in the pre-steroid era. Which leads me back to Doug. These guys did not use steroids, we know this because they weren't available at the time. While I'm not saying that all the current strength athletes use 'roids, we can't say they didn't either, but the early 1950s guys didn't for sure. My point being that their training methods are things we KNOW work without "enhanced recovery methods".

Anyway, Doug had a few different programs, which he followed his entire life, and was still lifting serious, competition level weights up until just before he died at the age of 74. I've been following his B program (he wasn't great with names) which consists of:

  1. Perform each lift for 5 singles (if you are only doing a single repetition, the weight is really, really heavy). Finish with a "pump" set or two of higher reps with a lower weight.
  2. Next session, use the same weight for 6 singles, plus the pump set
  3. Next session, use the same weight for 7 singles, plus the pump set
  4. Next session, use the same weight for 8 singles, plus the pump set
  5. Next session, increase the weight slightly, and go back to 5 singles, plus the pump set

This progression is followed for about 3 or 4 exercises. I've been using deadlifts, chinups and overhead presses.

Note that if you include the warm up, you end up with 35 to 50 total reps for the exercise per session. It's not complicated, but it increases your weight lifted by about 2 kg (upper body, so chins and presses) to 5 kg (deadlifts) every 4 sessions. If you do each exercise 2 times per week, that's increasing your chins 1 kg/week. Which after a year or two makes you strong. Really, really strong.

All this assumes you can increase the weight, and keep going twice a week. Last week, it didn't look like I was going to make it for my Chinups. I was going to have to wimp out and drop into doing the A workout (Doug's other, imaginatively named program). That consists of doing 8 sets of 2 reps.

But instead, I just took a week off. I went in this morning to do my 8 singles... and it was EASY. First rep I nearly smacked my chin on the bar. It turns out I was just tired. So Sunday, I increase the Chinups to 65 kg. Maybe 66...

Genetic Limits

In looking at genetic limits of human strength, I think it is useful, or at least amusing, to compare humans to other large apes.

It is claimed that Gorillas are between 5 to 20 times stronger than a human, so I thought I'd do a little math. (I sometimes do a little math for fun. And I when single I found it nearly impossible to pick up girls. Who knows if these two facts are connected?)

Anyway, I can think of 5 factors that will give a gorilla higher strength than a human.

  1. Gorillas are bigger: Male mountain gorillas or the Western Lowland gorillas grow to about 220 kg. When someone talks about an average Male human I guess they mean someone about 100kg. So that is a factor of 2.2.
  2. Humans are fatter. Even fairly lean humans are about 10 to 12% fat. A gorilla is more like 2%. So to compare the lean muscle mass we can say the human is really about 10% smaller than they seem. That's a factor of 1.1.
  3. These strength measurements have been done using upper body movements such as pulling on a rope. Human's have big legs and little arms. Gorillas have big arms and (relatively) little legs. In human weight lifting, a typical ratio between an upper body strength and lower body strength might be comparing a bench press to a dead lift. The standard ratio of strength for power lifters is 3:4:5 for bench press: squat: deadlift. So if we assume that gorillas are the reverse of humans in strength ratios, that gives us a factor of 5:3, or 1.66
  4. Human's are endurance athletes. With the exception of dogs, humans can run down just about any animal you want to name. I'm not sure about the other apes but their lifestyle seems to suggest they are more more of a power athlete. The gorilla does one, or maybe 5 power moves and then relaxes. He turns over a log and then sits eating worms, or pulls down a tree and then sits eating leaves. The tests people have done have been single repetition pulls on a lever or rope because you can't convince a gorilla to keep pulling something. So the gorilla is still going to be stronger, because he is built for power not high reps.
  5. Even in a zoo, a gorilla is going to be fairly highly trained by human standards. He will be swinging from branches, climbing trees and throwing rocks around. This is strength type training. The average human is typing on keyboards and watching TV. The gorilla is in better shape.

Multiplying the first 3 factors together we get 2.2 x 1.1 x 1.66 = 4. Add in the difference between a trained power athelete and a non-trained endurance athlete and you definitely get the range of 5 to 20. It makes sense.

Don't get into a fight with a gorilla.

And THEN, I found another lovely site that tells me that while Gorillas are much stronger and tougher than a human, even of the same size, a big cat (lion, tiger etc) is a LOT stronger than a gorilla of the same size. And a bear is a LOT stronger than a big cat of the same size.

Bears then, are awesome.

Panda bears are close to developing an opposable thumb. Then we are in trouble.



Comments on Aretae

I am finding that Aretae is filled with all sorts of interesting ideas. I've been commenting on them:

On the desirability of smaller states

A small state with a small, weak government is at a major advantage 90% of the time.

10% of the time, there is a war on. And then the starving, barefoot, conscript soldiers of the vast, inefficient dictatorship rolls over the top of the small, free, rich utopia. (See Finland vs. Soviet Union, Rome vs Syracuse, Louis XIV versus just about everyone, Napoleon versus the survivors of Louis XIV, the creation of almost every empire ever) Greece vs. Persia is the exception, and eventually Greece became just like Persia (under Alexander).

Why didn't the USA stay as 13 independent countries, which would probably have more freedom and (hence) be richer than the current system? Because they would have fallen one-by-one to the British, the Spanish, the French, the Canadians... and they knew it.

There is a neat analogy in the Theory X/Theory Y management approaches. (If I remember my management theory lectures correctly.)

Theory X: Rigid hierarchy, pyramid structure, boss tells you what to do and you do it or else. Theory Y: Flat structure, lots of consultation and internal democracy.

Everyone likes Theory Y these days. But when the data was examined, it seems to work better... sometimes. If you have a complex challenge that you are working through, and there is a lot going on, theory Y works best.

But if there is a very simple problem, Theory X works best. It's more efficient, you aren't wasting time with all the internal debate. Just do it.

AND.... When all hell is breaking lose. When death is literally raining out of the sky, you have actually lost 3 fingers, the guy next to you just died. Theory X wins again.

So militaries are Theory X. Y would work better during peacetime, but that's not what militaries are designed for. And nations born in war are X too. If they were Y they wouldn't survive to reach the times when Y would have the advantage.

The secret is to be able to switch between modes when needed.

On The Importance of Status in Humans, Driven by Mate Scarcity

Mate-scarcity is not universal. We can find many natural experiments throughout history where men had access to a surplus of available women. During and after major wars mostly.

So: Do we find that status is greatly reduced as a determinant of male behaviour at such times? Does this explain the unusual pattern of national cohesiveness and low-crime/high-work-ethic of the 1950s, (which were especially obvious in Germany and Japan, which had the biggest sex imbalance!)?


It was just an off-hand comment.

My suspicion is that the real reason behind the conformist, less-individualistic culture of that time is that just about all young males (and a lot of females) had spent their formative years in the military where they were taught (under pain of severe punishment or death) to behave exactly that way.

This correlates with those places that still have universal conscription (South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, China for the older generations (40 years old or more)) still being the places known for social co-operation.

Of course this is just an idea I picked up visiting Korea. Even in corporate headquarters, things like meals were organized like an army barracks more than anything else. When talking to co-workers, they would mention that they all spent years in the army and I thought "Ah HA!"

And Russia is a major counter-example. Though I believe that for decades you could get out of "universal" conscription through corruption, which would make things worse, not better.



Cheque in the mail

So this company I was suing went into liquidation a couple of years ago, and about 6 weeks ago the liquidator finally send out cheques to all the claimants for the money owed (or at least, what money we were going to get). Naturally my cheque was sent to the wrong address.

I didn't know anything about this, until a fellow claimant happened to mention to my wife that she was glad we finally got the money. So I contacted the liquidator, and after I established that they'd made a typo in the address, I asked for them to cancel the old cheque and send me a new one.

The next message from them..."The cheque has today been returned to us so we will now resend this to you at...".

So after 6 weeks, it is the day I follow it up that the cheque is returned. Am I just being cynical if I think that if I hadn't followed it up, it would not have been "returned"?

Maybe I am being cynical. The guy I contacted has been nothing but polite and helpful, and these are the liquidators, not the evil bastards who we were suing in the first place. But still...



A simple spelling mistake?

The words plaza and piazza mean basically the same thing. And a lower case l looks very much like an i. I'm just saying, you know....



Mental Issues

As a workmate just said "My brain has developed a problem: I've forgotten where the E is on the keyboard, I keep hitting T instead."

Another replied "So you've developed Ephasia?"



Sometimes what you don't know still hurts

Last night, while loading a truck, someone remarked "I don't even know how I cut myself."

I replied "Well I know how I cut myself, and it doesn't help."

Him: So it still fucking hurts?


Strictly speaking, I was scratched and had a few puncture wounds. Close enough.



You lived your life Like an Ashtray on a Motorbike

Sometimes, you have to listen to a different version of a song to understand the original.

There was a song on the radio last night that used the line "Loving you is like lighting a candle in the wind." Which if you think about it, means it is annoying, frustrating, useless and stupid.... OOOHH! THAT's what Elton John was going on about! In BOTH cases!




My boss, John, managed to get bitten by a spider on his ankle, and now (a week later) his leg is twice the size it used to be and he is off work getting intravenous antibiotics in hospital.

Natually he hopes this will end up with him getting superpowers. Indeed his last message says "On the upside my new powers are beginning to appear. Based on all the colours on my leg I believe I have acquired chameleon ability." So he is happy.

But the main advantage for us is the lever this gives us to tease the non-Australians in the workplace. For some reason the Europeans in particular seem somewhat freaked out at the idea that there are spiders living in suburban Sydney houses that can kill you, or at least make you lose a limb. (The Indians come from a country which features Tigers, Bears, Wolves, Cobras and plague bearing rats. They are somewhat more relaxed.)

As I was writing the above paragraph an engineer from England came up and mentioned he was never going to go camping in Australia again. I reasured him that John was bitten in his bedroom at home, and so camping is nothing to worry about. This doesn't seem to have calmed him down. I asked him if they don't have spiders in England. He started going on about "But, but... they don't take your leg off!"

The indian guys mentioned it was safer than going to a soccer match in England. That was conceeded as true. Our pom is somewhat distracted by trying to follow the election results from England which are starting to come in showing... not much change as far as he can tell. Between that and carefully checking for venomous creatures whenever he moves, he won't get much work done today.



Real Engineering

Sometimes it takes a real engineer, who works with actual, physical things. Our top class electronics guy just spent a couple of days working out a really advanced, technically brilliant (to my understanding anyway) method of enabling the temperature and humidity measurments to be done every 300 milliseconds to within 12 bits of precision (one part in 4096). He presented his work and I asked if he had thought about how the temperature and humidity in an office machine would:

  1. Not change over 300 milliseconds. Once every 300 seconds would be much more than enough.
  2. Temperature and humidity might be measured over (at most) a 100 point scale for a normal room. If you break that into 4096 parts then you are measuring 0.025 of a degree or % humidity. The distance between one part of the machine and another will give up to 100 times that much difference. The operater leaning a bit closer to the sensor position will change things by 50 times that much.

Basically, he could measure 1000 times less often, to 32 times less precision, and still capture all the actual information that he could possibly get. And much, much more cheaply.

If you just work with numbers and data this is not always clear. Sometimes you have to remember the characteristics of the physical objects that lie at the base of all the numbers.



Honor Harrington

I finally finished the Honor Harrington stories, at least up as far as I can find (the final novel being At All Costs).

They have been great, and the heavy emphasis on getting the maths, science and technology correct and/or self-consistent has been refreshing. And makes up for the continuing weirdness of stories set 2000 years in the future where the technology appears to be mostly 50 to 100 years in the future at best. Except for the gravity/hyperspace manipulation, which, being handwaving physical-law-breakthrough type stuff is inherently impossible to put a time-line on.

And there have been little hints and allusions to a hugely destructive war and resulting bans of various sorts of technology development occuring in the distant past. Nothing sufficient yet, but probably the basis that could be later developed into at least a quasi-acceptable reason for technological regression/stagnation.

I'd say that one of the major strengths of the series is the way the author will write sympathetic bad guys. Most of the enemy combatants are shown to be patriotic and noble, merely on the other side. And even those responsible for really evil decisions are often shown to be working with noble motives, under all sorts of constraints and pressures, or being caught up in a process that started sensibly enough and just spiralled out of control. But then someone else would be basically a bad guy, evil people doing bad things for wicked reasons. And from the outside, from the perspective of other characters, it is impossible to tell the difference.

I was a little disconcerted at the sudden appearance of a baffling bizzare love triangle sex crisis in the middle of, what up to then had been, a space opera suitable for high school children. (If only those school children who had the reading and maths ability to follow the books. i.e. the deserving.) This was also the only place where the resolution of the crisis was clearly predicatable by the reader, all the military/political/violence stuff was exciting and unforseen, the love triangle problem was simple to work out about half a book before the characters noticed the obvious escape path.

This reminded me of the Anita Blake stories about a licenced vampire hunter. It was really an extremely long (14 volume) and totally believable story about a good catholic girl being gradually seduced into being a total sex maniac. It is the only seduction story I've ever seen that actually struck me as believable. (Once you accept vampires and werewolves and zombies as a given, but that is EASY compared to the wild leaps of faith that most fictional romances expect me to take.)

At least part of this is that I think such a process really would take about 14 volumes worth of seduction, and that is way beyond most story lines where the characters meet and have to be bonking within 15 minutes of story telling so the rest of the plot will fit in. The other part is that the idea of having a character who NEEDS to be seduced to start sleeping around (rather than just needing an opportunity) is way outside of the mindset of most modern writers, let alone TV and movie directors.



Cheap Ripoff Copies

If you look around, you'll see there are actually a number of examples where a cheap copy of something else actually makes it better than the original.




Last night dear wife took me to see Wicked, a musical play about the backstory behind the Witches of Oz, set mostly before Dorothy turns up.

It wasn't bad as a play, with a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead like approach, but instead of showing how their lives had no meaning at all outside of their interactions with the main story, this reverses the situation and shows that the original story was a shallow and trivial misinterpretation of a much more serious tragedy.

As a musical, however, it was sadly lacking. Compared to say Chicago which was the previous one I saw. (Aside: Until I found the wikipedia link I didn't know Chicago was based on a true story.) Chicago had good music, music you remember, music you might want to sing to yourself later, or buy on a CD. Wicked had nothing like that.



History of the Universe, Consise and Complete

Earlier, I linked to a site that promised to give a lovely history of the world, and failed.

Here is a history of the universe that is both much shorter, and far more... well I won't say accurate, I'll say going to give you a much better model to use to make predictions of the world.



My iPod

For my last Birthday, dear wife gave me an iPod nano 8 Gb.

Now a gift has been defined as being (ideally) something that a person would enjoy, but that they would never buy for themselves. And that is exactly what this was. Eventually I'd have bought myself a MP3 player, but it would have been one of the chinese brand $17.95 from the bargain bin specials. And it would have worked sort of OK, but nowhere near the awesomeness of the iPod.

As I write this out I realize that I should get dear wife the GPS system that she says she doesn't want, because now that I THINK about it, her protestations that it isn't worth the money are exactly what I say about things that I would actually like if someone else bought me. Of course this assumes that the golden rule is correct (do unto others as you would have others do unto you). And of course the golden rule isn't always correct: the entire field of sexual harrassment is based on doing unto others what you want them to do unto you, only they don't want it.

Anyway... I now have an iPod. And I would probably spend between 10 and 20 hours/week listening to it (depending on what I am doing). Long drives in the car, or working by myself on something mindless like loading a truck, are particular favourites. I have some music on it, but mostly I'm listening to e-books and podcasts. It makes up for not having time to read.

So what do I think of it? So far I have 3 complaints:

  1. The battery life is too short. Sadly this applies to every non-nuclear battery on the planet.
  2. When you plug it into a computer to recharge it, and the computer has itunes on it, it loses your place halfway through a recording. Not much of an issue when you are listening to a 5 minute song, but when you have a 13 hour ebook it is really annoying to have to find your place again.
  3. Bumping it often kicks it on to the next album or something, once again requiring you to find your place again.

Item 2 is only a problem because of item 1.



Absence of Evidence IS evidence of absence. It just isn't PROOF of absence.

In which case... where are my shirts?



THAT'S what I've been doing wrong!

From the Ultimate Exercise website:

Your [gym] instructor will be professionally attired in dress slacks, shirt and tie.

Because that's... well words fail me... Wow!



Stuff I wish I knew when I got to university



The Lost Symbol: Another Review

By the same author as The DaVinci Code, it wasn't a real improvement.

Good bits: Lots of nice references to art and architecture. Which means it will be better as a movie than as a book without many pictures.

Bad as the plot may be, it is far more believable than The Davinci Code. Except that the terrible threat to the nation that the CIA is fighting and ignoring laws to prevent is... the release of a video that would be embarrassing to some american politicians. Like anyone outiside of U.S. politics could care about that!

Bad Bits: We have a Dana Scully syndrome developing. The main character has been through a few different episodes now where ancient conspiracies result in people trying to capture and kill him, but he still doesn't believe that it could possibly be true.

And the plot is as expected completely lame, with unexpected twists that you can see coming several chapters before. Any of the comic strips listed in my link list above has an order of magnitude better writing.



Environmental Activists

There is nothing like a conversation with an environmental activist to make me less worried about the environment. These guys are crazy. If these are the guys who are warning me about global warming and species collapse then I should be more worried about zombie attacks.

Why Did England Have the Industrial Revolution? Not Elsewhere?

A subject of much debate.

I don't think any single point of difference stands up:

England had coal: but China did too, earlier

Europe was divided into separate nations: So was India, and South East Asia, and the Muslim world a lot of the time.

England has the English channel (which I think helped a LOT), but so did Japan, and Sri Lanka, and all the South East Asian island countries

Enlightenment: This is just asking the same question again, why there, why then, why not ancient greece


I think you have to conclude it was the luck to get everything all coinciding at the same place.

AND I'll stick in some extra factors that I don't think anyone has mentioned.

1. Plague hit Northern Europe in the 1600s. Leading to labour shortages (as usual, but this time some people found a substitute).

2. The Norman invasion (1066) and the sinking of the white ship (1120) resulted in England having extremely few hereditary nobles. I seem to remember that at the time of the French revolution, France had 200 000 nobles, England had 200. In almost all countries the nobles had special privileges, you basically couldn't have a business or make a lot of money if you were common. England was forced to allow commoners to legally get rich, they just couldn't function otherwise.

3.No slaves. As usual, Adam Smith pointed this out. Slavery is obviously terrible for slaves, but much less obvious is how terrible it is for slave owners. If you have slaves, you never work hard yourself. Work is for slaves. If you need more work, you need more slaves. For a free man to work and spend capital to make a task easier for a slave is demeaning, for a slave to do so is laziness, and he won't benefit anyway. So no progress. Compare slave owning Southern USA with free Northern USA.

4. The introduction of potatoes and maize and pumpkins etc from the Americas gave a huge agricultural surplus for the time it took for the population to catch up. (Adam Smith again. He was THERE, he saw what was going on.)

5. Trade with the Americas/Indies/China gave rise to a new type of wealth. One that was based on "business" not land ownership and birth. Furthermore this was a high technology industry. You had major powerbrokers and sources of investment capital who owed their position to the latest technology and could see how this directly benefited them.They would probably have eventually been absorbed into the noble classes, but for a while they were different.

6. England and Holland had vast areas of swamp. This could be drained and made into fabulous farmland, but this took technology. So even some of the land holding aristocracy were enormously benefiting from the new technical developments.

7. Property rights. If there is one thing that can destroy our modern society (zombies aside) it would be when ambitious people can more easily get rich through frivolous law suites or government grants than actual business.



China Versus Australia

As I did with the USA, I've decided to list the pros and cons of China and Australia.
China better than OzOz better than China
Anyone off the street can buy what in Oz would be classified as military grade artillery and just set them off on the footpath. Passers by just watch the explosive fireballs shoot into the sky and explode, then keep walking. In Oz some control freak would report terrorists to the cops.Many brand-name items such as clothing are cheaper in Oz than China.
A huge range of different vehicles. Some of which such as 3 wheel micro-cars and 3-wheel 5-tonne trucks, home made motorcycles electric bikes and electric motorbikes would be illegal in Oz. If a new transport tech in developed it will be here.The driving. I thought it had gotten better when I 1st got to Beijing, but that was because everone was on holiday. It soon returned to its insane norm.
300km/h intercity trainsEveryone in china is confused when I put on a seatbelt
The staggeringly low cost of personal services such as tayloring, food preparation or massageBuilding maintenance just isn't done. A 5 year old building looks 30 years old by Oz standards.
The traffic is insane, but if you decide to drive your car the wrong way down a one way bike path in front of a traffic cop, he will check you are doing it safely, and go back to reading the paperThe air pollution. I got there during the holidays and the contrast to when industry started up again was striking
The Singapore government bought an area of land the size of Singapore in Northern China and is building a new city. In Oz it would take decades to get all the racists and anti-immigrant groups to agree (Greenpeace, One Nation, etc.) Then they would wait until a few $billion had been spent and change their minds again.Thousands of "western cake shops" which sell sickly sweet textureless sponge cakes.
Everyohe might live in a cramped little flat, but at least the walls are made of proper concrete and not cardboard like in Sydney.Cold. The rivers and lakes were frozen, piles of (black) snow were everywhere
The floors have steam heating from neighbourhood heating plants often using co-generationChinese TV is worse that OZ TV. They seem to love something similar to old time music hall including the musical accompaniment to tell you when some says the punchline (boom boom)
All the female service staff, from restaurants to toll booths to cops, are in sexy little uniforms. Thinking about it, there may have been men in uniforms too, but I didn't pay any attention.The 5-star hotels has a sign in the bathroom that the water is safe to drink after boiling. So no heavy metals then...
I get to eat Tibetan Yak and some protected fish from the rivers of siberia. And everyone just laughs when they mention it is against the law.Driving along a 4 lane road, driver suddenly jams on the brakes. the road was just missing for 10 metres. If he'd kept going he could have gone off a 30 cm ledge onta a pole of jagged rocks, almost centrainly destroying the tyres at least. No warning signs at all. 300 metres later was an open manhole.
The milk tastes better than in Australia. I suspect it isn't pasturized or homogenized.Gutless little engines in horribly expensive cars. (4 cylinder camry for about $90 000)
Even the smallest cafe has beer available.For a country with 1 billion bicycles, there aren't any good ones. They get stolen. Even the cheap basic bikes are poorly designed. 95% of them are the "girl-bike" design with no top bar. This increases weight, decreases strength and is more expensive to make. But the riders don't wear skirts.
Restaurants/cafes/massage parlours are all open at any time. 2am and hungry? No problem.Chinese kids are spoiled rotten. And that is by Australian standards.
The sheer amount of ostentatious to decadent decoration in every public facility.I only saw 1 private house that I would like to live in.
The ability and ease of spending evey night feasting and partying in luxurious private rooms at restaurants and clubs This swiftly becomes the social obligation to do so. It helps compensate and explain all the private dwellings being pokey and downmarket. This makes sense: instead of 1-2 persons paying for each dining room (in a private home) you have about 8-10 people for each restaurant room. Therefore it can be 4 to 5 times as expensive, and it shows.
Chinese traffic is the worst I've ever seen, now add snow, ice and fog.



Changing Tastes

As time goes by, our tastes change. (I no longer prefer beer to spirits for example.) It is important to remember this and not become set in our ways.

A foolish approach to life is to have a list of likes and dislikes, developed as a teenager, and then stick to them. Sure you can get by with such an approach, but you will be constraining yourself and be operating way below optimum.

The solution is to go back and occaisionally revisit stuff you have previously rejected. You may find you still don't like it, or you may find that you have changed, and now you have something else to enjoy in life.

While in China I ran up against a long term problem I had which is that I don't like coffee. Coffee has significant social functions in our society, and although the introduction of Chai Lattes now allows you to attend a coffee shop with friends and cow-orkers without looking out of place, it is still restrictive in many cases. Besides, coffee is a convenient source of caffiene.

I have been actually working on this. By slowly adding small amounts of coffee to my hot-chocolate, I have been slowly growing used to the bitter taste. Anyway, in the town of Qin Huang Do, Chai Lattes are far to complicated to order with my limited grasp of Chinese, and so I ended up with a straight expresso. So I took a chance and drank it.

Success! I can now drink coffee and enjoy it. Which is useful. I'll try some actual good coffees now and see if I can develop preferences.

Then, this morning, I tried the first grapefruit for a decade or so. Another success! I don't even need to add sugar, which many people do, which seems to me to be admission that they don't actually like it. (Of course it could be that I have lucked apon an unusually sweet grapefruit for my first attempt. I'll have to try more.

My other dietary innovation for the weekend was copied from my boss. If you get a nice, non-pasturized, live culture, drinking yoghurt: you actually have to buy it only once. After that you drink it, then fill the empty bottle up with milk. Wait a day or two and the milk turns into yoghurt again. Repeat ad infinitum. It's sort of like a magic pudding.



Just came back from a trip to China, so here's a lot of stuff all at once

In the air

I'd always assumed that those shopping catalogues they give you on aeroplanes must be so overpriced (captive audience confused by exchange rates, alcohol and low levels of oxygen) that I'd never, ever, looked at them. I was wrong. For the same brand and produce they can be very good. Pity that the products are mostly useless.

Except chocolate.

In Beijing

I am currently in Beijing. It's rather cold (-8°). Dear Wife is using this as an excuse to buy a lot of new clothing. Unfortunately china is more expensive than Australia* so she softened me up by taking me to a Burbury Store. A jacket there was 50% off leaving it at 1500. I converted this to $AUD and calculated about $250. No, it turns out she had already converted it, so it was $1500, full price $3000. For a jacket, not a car. Following that I was more prepared to stop complaining about $100 shoes.

More prepared, but not completely prepared. Women's shoes only last about 10 hours of actual wearing time, so it's not like a mans shoe that is not only cheaper but will last for years of daily wear.

*China is more expensive that Australia in practice, but it doesn't work that way in theory. So don't worry about why.

Recycled Breakthroughs

the large and famous muscle building website T-muscle has released a combined exercise and nutrition program that they claim is the greatest muscle building system ever.

But to the trained eye you can look past all the waffle and bullshit explanations and theory, and just look at the actual workout:

It's a simple rehash of power factor training that Sisco was selling a decade ago.* And that in turn was a rehash of the partials that Paul Anderson was recommending in the 1960s, which can be traced back to the hand and thigh or health lift of 1870 ***

Nowhere does T-M actually mention the word "partial" that I can see: that would make it too obvious. Instead they go on and on about neural exitation and stretch reflex and energy systems.

*Incidentally, my previous analysis of Sisco had the line "distance". Well I just read his latest book** and now he does come out and admit that his apporach shortcuts measuring distance because it's difficult and it is constant with the same exercise. This makes it even more obvious that he then ignores the "same exercise" requirement by changing exercise.

** Reading a Sisco book takes about 20 minutes. There isn't a lot of stuff in it. Not like Maximum Muscle which has approximately an entire exercise physiology course.

***And arguably Milo of Crete as described by Homer (approx. 1100 BC). He lifted a calf every day until it grew into a bull. Now obviously it was getting heavier, but it was also getting longer legs, so the range of motion was shrinking at the same time.

A Conversation with God... continued

I have gotten back into reading "A conversation with God, Part 3". The first page I read had the "Author" character comment that people in Preoria would be reading it, to the the "God" character replied "Preoria, try Beijing!" I stopped reading and lookout out the window. Yes I was in Beijing. (I don't know where Preoria is, it could be South Africa.)

Besides that, the book is continuing to be frustrating. A statement would be made that seems self evident to any civilized person from the last century "You can't own another person." and there would be pages and pages of explanation to prove this. Then a fairly controversial statement that flies in the face of lots of evidence and common belief such as "There are many alien species on other planets" or "Eating meat is bad for you" or "Our moral standards of compassion have deteriorated over the last 70 years". This would be followed up with "This is obvious" or "The evidence is clear and overwhelming." No more explanation or proof is given.

The entire book seems to consist of this sort of dichotomy. Either obvious statements that the "God" character has to explain to the author as though the author was an obtuse and unreflective refugee from the 18th century. Or wild and extreme leaps of logic/fact that are airily dismissed as "clear to anyone who pays attention".

Then, some sort of word-game would be pulled where (for example) If you use your time "for getting" material wealth then you are "forgetting" the truth! And the characters step back with a grin as though this proves their point.

It's kind of like the If it rhymes, then it is true school of political though that has brought us so many bumper stickers.

I'm reminded of Mescius Moldbug more than anything. But he is less conventional in the theories he puts forward. His strawmen are just as bewildering though. (His entire theory of why we went into world war 2 is based on proving that it wasn't "to save the Jews" which is baffling, because I've never heard anyone claim it ever was.)

Missed it by That Much

I almost got to visit a Class 10 000 clean room (less than 10 000 particles per cubic foot of air, which is actually very clean), while in Tianjin. I was originally told it was Class 1000! That may sound like it's only 10 times as clean, but in practice this is about 100 times as technically difficult to achieve. However this was the standard Chinese thing of counting in 10 000s rather than counting in 1000s as Anglosphere residents do. Sadly the room was locked.

Hotel Gyms

The Hotel Gyms that I've tried here have been a mixed bag.

Gym #1. Beijing Had a row of treadmills, a good selection of Cybex machines. I'm not a machine enthusiast but a change is as good as a holiday (and in this case WAS a holiday). The machines involve twisting your arms as you extend or contract them. This was a bit weird, but the pulldown machine was facing the mirror and I saw the light: your arms look huge and awesome if you twist them while doing a pulldown. I bet the other upper body machines (shoulder press, chest press) have the same effect. But the naive chinese gym owner didn't realize they were all intended to be installed facing the mirror the way an american gym would automatically do. I took the opportunity to try the tricep complex which felt as though it works. But I'd need to do it for a month or two and then check the results to know.

Gym #2. Tianjin Had a row of treadmills, one bench with a barbell and two cable pull stations. I tried to use the barbell to do some shoulder presses (and was planning on cleans and snatches) but the supervisor rushed over and explained in halting English that I was to lie on the bench and do it that way. So I gave up and tried bench presses. The bench was loose and rolling side to side, which put me off. So I did cables and dumbells only. Including the tricep complex mentioned above.

Gym #3. QinHuangDo A row of treadmills as usual, and one exercise station (including dip and chin station for once). I didn't get to use this one as I'd run out of gym clothes. Obviously you can still use gym clothes when they are dirty (Duh!) but I had sent them to be cleaned and for various reasons didn't pick them up until just before leaving.



Currently making my way through the Honor Harrington SF Novels

These are classic space opera, with a space Navy and heaps of interstellar wars with spaceships blasting away at eachother with missiles and lasers.

There are however, a number of points that lift it way beyond the average.

However, there are some imperfections:

It's the tech mix that most irks me. Unless there is some great long dark age to explain why technology hasn't advanced beyond what we would expect for 2060 then it just doesn't work at all. Every time we have someone allegedly set 2000 years in the future, and then they:

Of course, picking holes in the tech is part of the fun, right? And he could be saving up to later reveal some good reason why it's all so primitive compared to where it should be, like a dark age, or extensive periods of close to the speed of light travel that results in time passing very slowly subjectively, while 1800 years zips past back on Earth. There has already been an off-hand remark that genetic engineering was outlawed long ago.

Ummmm... That's not how it's meant to go

Looking at this Learn to speak Chinese website. I'm finding it difficult to read the english bits. In fact I'm getting the pronounciation of the words from reading the Chinese rather than the western script... which implies that this is really back to front.



Finally got to see Inglourious Basterds

And this means I am finally able to read all the reviews of the movie that I've been avoiding to minimise the chances of spoilers. (Which it turns out is really important for this movie, which is full of plot twists that I, for one, did not see coming. There is no such risk with, for example, Avatar where it quickly becomes obvious that the movie is a blatent ripoff of every movie you've ever seen about big mining companies trying to force innocent civilians off their land. (Avatar is, howerever, a much better movie. It just has to make up for the lame cliche plot with true awesomeness in other areas.).)

As with the reviews of The Passion of the Christ it appears that most reviewers saw a completely different movie than I did, which just happened to have the same name and a similar plot. So much so that I'm just going to give up on reading reviews and analysis from now on.

I found one review that was apparently based on the same movie I saw, but the rest were filled with incoherent rage at some completely different production with the same actors in it.

The basic analysis of most reviewers seems to be: There are jews, and white people, and a negro in the movie. People mention that they are different races, so it must be a racist movie. It's impossible to be racist against white people, so it must be racist against Jews and Negros.

The real movie, the one I saw, had Nazis as the bad guys. (Is that such a hard concept?) And it was a war movie, of the old fashioned type where no attention is paid to realism or actual tactics*. And (surprisingly for Quentin Tarantino) the actual amount of blood is LESS than you would realistically get if (for example) someone was cutting a deep gash in someone's forehead.

In conclusion, it was a typical Tarrantino movie, OK if you like that sort of thing. The plot was tricky, which is good. And apparently it drives a lot of people off their heads for some reason.

* Old Fashioned movies ignored tactics and realism. REALLY old fashioned movies got them close to spot on. The difference is that war movies made in the REAL olden days were made by people who had actually fought in the war. And they knew that most of the (male half) audience had too. Likewise, the coyboy movies made in the 1920s and 1930s had guys like Wyatt Earp himself (hero of the OK corral, Sherrif of Dodge City, and all round famous Western gunfighter) as technical advisors to the movie. He knew exactly how many shots a six-shooter had, to a level that no modern critic can match. (NB: Less than 6.)



First Ride to Work Since the EPISODE

It's been a while since mypulmonary embolism.

And yes, I am out of condition. Not that much though, I guess stuff like kettlebell swings keeps me sort of in the game.

I sure chose a hot day to ride on though.

Meanwhile, not doing any work

At work I'm just sort of waiting for a machine to turn up. After a few days of web surfing I realized that I should take advantage of the fact I'm stuck in a room with world experts on a bunch of different advanced technologies. So I've talked one guy into giving me a course on Becoming an embedded systems expert in a week, maybe two at most..

So far I've created a system that can turn a LED on, and off.



New Baby

Saturday I went to a hospital to see a friend who just had a baby. To our surprise, the baby looked like a cute little baby, unlike the wrinkled, red, ugly little thing that the media always shows you. Actually the mother looked more flushed and out of it than the kid did.

And we have a new baby of our own, in the form of a 127 Plasma TV that I've just mounted on the bedroom wall. Sadly, I expect that this will result in me missing out of many hours of sleep, as is usual for a new baby.



Cargo Cult Science

This is a common source of error, as first identified by the late, great, Richard Feynman. What we have is an area of research that is vague and poorly understood, such as some aspects of biology, sociology, psychology, economics, climate etc. The goal of many researchers in this area is to achieve some sort of clear cause-and-effect type relationship. This has been called "physics envy", because people looking at such complex and murky areas often wish you had some simple equation like E=MC^2 like problems in physics often do. Or even better, F=M.A like Issac Newton came up with.

The risk is that you start to just assume that such an equation does exist. You can find that just because you can measure something, and do some math with it, that this math is actually what is important, whereas it may turn out to be as useless as measuring the colour of an apple when investigating gravity.

Static Contraction Training is a perfect example. Peter Sisco has been investigating muscle building for years, and has written a number of best selling books on strength training. And these books to some extent contradict eachother, but all suffer from severe cargo cult science.

Sisco's cargo cult logic is proceeding as follows:

  1. We know that exercise can produce muscle growth, but we want to optimise this process.
  2. To control the process we have to be able to measure the effectiveness of exercise, and then optimise it.
  3. How can we measure the effect that exercise has on the muscle tissue? And on the rest of the body systems?
  4. We can't do blood tests, tissue samples and hormone measurements, we have to just measure the external parameters.
  5. We can measure the weights, how heavy they are, how many repetitions, what time it takes, how far they move.
  6. We can then do maths with these measurements.
  7. Once we have a calculation, we can work to optimise it.
  8. Optimise = maximise

Attempt One

The first application of this approach was called Power Factor Training. The logic was:

  1. We can measure the weights, how heavy they are, how many repetitions, what time it takes, how far they move.
  2. The distance moved is difficult to measure, so we'll ignore that (this was almost certainly an unconcious decision, he would't have decided this explicitly because it is clearly silly if you say it out loud)
  3. A stronger person can lift more weight, more often, and in less time.
  4. Mathematically, this is weight x repititions / time
  5. In engineering or science this value would be the Power (Not true, the actual power would also need to be multiplied by distance, but step 2 has dropped this out. And it is constant for any fixed exercise, so you can sort of ignore it providing you don't change exercises.)
  6. POWER is a cool word.
  7. If you increase the power of your exercise, you will increase the exercise's effectiveness at building strength and muscle (this is the critical error. Everthing up till now was sort of justifiable, but there is NO BASIS for this leap of faith. Or maybe there is, but WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE?)
  8. By choosing different exercises, you can choose workouts that have much higher calculated Power Factors. This gives better results. (Note that this step ignores the rule from step 5, that you can compare power without measuring distance only providing you don't change the exercise.)

See what went wrong here? He looked at the data, was able to calculate something from it. And then just assumed the result was important and worked to maximise it. He then compounded this error by getting the calculation wrong and forgetting about distance.

The result was an exercise program where very heavy weights were lifted very short distances, so that you could lift the weight many times in a short period.

Other so-called training experts have taken this idea and corrected his mathematical mistake. They've kept the original logic error though. So they still work on maximising the amount lifted per unit time, they just make sure that the distance is kept constant so as to ensure it really is increased power.

Note that there isn't evidence that power ISN'T what drives muscle growth. Just that they leap from "we can measure power" to "power is what we must maximise" without ever going through the evidence stage.

So. Does it work?

It depends. Any exercise program will produce improvements over none. And usually, a change in exercises will produce better results than sticking with the same old program you have already adapted to. So, changing from a slow, relaxed exercise program to one that concentrates the exercises within a small time will probably also result in improvements, at least until you get used to that approach.

And forcing yourself to exercise faster will result in improved cardiovascular fitness. But this only applies to systems that calculate the total power over the entire workout like the Escalating Density approach, and not those who do each set fast, but have a break between each one.

Attempt Two

But Sisco was not content with this, so he went back to the basics and started again with a new logic train.

  1. We can measure the weights, how heavy they are, how many repetitions, what time it takes, how far they move.
  2. If we are just after brute strength, we need only look at how heavy the weights are
  3. To maximise the weight lifted, reduce the number of repititions, and reduce the distance moved as much as possible.
  4. To further maximise the weight lifted, concentrate the movement at the part where the biomechanics mean you get the most leverage (Not that you get the most stress on the muscle at this point, the maximum leverage means you get the most weight lifted for the least stress on the muscle. You can then exert the maximum muscular strength to get the most weight, but there is no more stress on your muscles than with one tenth the weight at a different position.)
  5. So you end up with one repitition, with the weight moved not at all.
  6. By choosing different exercises, you can choose ones that give the largest weights, (Once again ignoring the actual stress in the muscle)

You will note that choosing one repetition with zero movement you actually achieve a Power Factor of zero. So this theory has completely contradicted the previous one. This is conveniently ignored.

So does this one work? Well we have a list of anonymous testimonials saying it does. Some salesmen love testimonials, but in my experience the more a product is advertised with testimonials, the worse and crappier the product is. I regard testimonials as big "keep away, garbage for sale" signs and don't understand how anyone would react any differently. But I am famous for my complete lack of ability to understand the human mind and how to relate to it, so I will give this the benefit of the grudging doubt.

Then we have Scam indications in the actual advertising material. For one thing we have the line But first I want you to know what I mean by "stronger than you've ever been." I mean, male or female - any age - I can show you how to get stronger than you were in High School, stronger than you were in college, stronger than you were that summer you spent working in construction, or on the farm or whatever! So we have a program aimed at people who are so hopeless fat and useless that they are weaker than when they were a schoolkid. That doesn't bode well.

When he is arguing his point saying things like and this isn’t my opinion, it’s a law of physics! then we know that he has completely mixed up the very different fields of complex, non-linear, reactive, biology and straight forward classical physics and mathematics. He takes the simple, mathematical equations that he has developed to describe the weight lifted and is transforming these into laws of biology without any proof at all that he has presented. Because the maths works out, he doesn't NEED evidence. You don't need evidence to prove a mathematical relationship, if the maths works out: it's right. Pity a muscle cell can't do maths.

And he replies to some critics. The critics say So if this is the worlds most effective muscle building strategy, where are the huge bodybuilders who use it? And his reply speaks volumes. That would prove nothing, anyone can hire a steroid user to be a spokesman. He doesn't understand the difference between a necessary and a sufficient condition: Having huge guys say that your system was what worked for them is not SUFFICIENT to prove it is the most effective muscle growth system in the world. But it IS neccessary.

Note that none of this proves it incorrect. All I'm really showing is that Peter Sisco has not given us any evidence for his systems. But that either means:

  1. He has nothing and is just making stuff up because he is operating a cargo cult science.
  2. He has something that really works, but can't explain it and has fallen back on the fake physics technobabble to try to get a handle on it. or
  3. He has real, brilliant advances but is using this cargo-cult gobbeldygook because that leads to better sales, which I don't understand because I know nothing about salesmanship

Avatar: Some Spoilerage

The plot was lame, predictable and has been seen a dozen times before.

The writing was really, really good and almost enough to make up for the childish plot. Calling the mineral they are after Unobtanium and NOT giving a technobabble explanation of what it was was brilliant. Letting us see that it was a room temperature superconductor but never actually telling us... well in real life you never walk into a goldmine and start with a lecture on what gold is for, do you? In real life everyone present already knows that, something many SF authors ignore. One tiny line that the gravity was much lower than Earth allows you to realistically have flying dragons, skyscraping trees and huge (but cute) Alien girls without any need for a totally unrealistic lecture. Anyone who cares can work it out from what evidence is provided.

The cinematography was... awesome. Literally awe inspiring. As big an improvement over Lord of the Rings, as Lord of the Rings was compared to... Star Wars.

Yes, the level of advance that took 30 years (Star Wars to Lord of the Rings) has been repeated, this time in 3 years. At this rate of advance we'll have holodecks by 2012. (Which may cause the end of the world. Are you going to go outside and grow food, or have one more hot oil massage from Angelina Jolie and her simulated twin sister? (Substitue Angelina's husband if that suits you better. Or both of them if you really want.))

I saw it in 3D in a sensotronic widescreen. I wasn't planning on that, I asked for cheap theatre tickets for 8.30, but they were booked out so I had to wait unti the much more expensive theatre at 9.30. It was totally worth it in retrospect.



Back at the keyboard

Yes I've got a bit to write about after the Christmas holidays.

A very evil site

My first dictionary

A review of a master plan to take over the world

First, you have to read the master plan

Oooh! I could write a LOT about that.

But I should be going to the bank and catching up on last months emails (today is the first day back at work).

So I be brief. Or rather I'll try to be brief. I think this will get away from me.

Without structuring my reply in logical order....

1. He is fairly... arrogant. Unless his day job is Premier of China, he isn't REALLY directing the resources of the country is he? Even the Premier is in far less control of Chinese resources than a player in Red Alert. Mind you, having a video game where you are only able to vaguely guide the entity you control, and have to deal with many different sources of power and influence that will direct resources in different ways while nominally in your name would make a much more hard core game. See here. http://www.cracked.com/article_15660_the-ultimate-war-simulation-game.html

2. So he rejects patriotism, but has as the objective of his "game" the victory of China. Why? If not patriotism? It seems he has only measured and controlled half the variables in the environment he is operating in, and is being acted on by forces he has ignored. A truly classic engineering error. Like trying to control the precise relative movement of two structures while ignoring the fact that both structures are floating downsteam in a river. Some waterfall is going to appear when he least expects it. He has defined himself an objective and a method of measuring the objective without examining what controls the choice of objective or what defines the measurement systems he is using. However he is operating in an environment where these very things are in flux, and are being affected by the very actions being taken. To take just one example, the very definition of "China" is not static, and depends on the actions of Chinese and non-chinese actors (where-ever the boundary between these groups lie, which in turn is changing with the definition of China.) Does "China" include Hongkong? Macau? Taiwan? Singapore?

3."Therefore, I don't like words like "human rights", "democracy", "ethics"," What he is doing here is rejecting as useful concepts that cannot be quantified or precisely measured. But this is tantamount to saying "if it can't be measured, it isn't important". And that turns out to mean "if it can't be measured using the techniques available today then it isn't important" With this restatement even the the most one-eyed gamer can probably see where he is going wrong. Clearly there are many things that could not be measured precisely 300 years ago that were absolutely critical to national well being (nutrition, soil degradation, water pollution, kilojoule/hectare/person-year of agricultural productivity). At the time such concepts could only be described by handwaving and vague adjectives. But they were vital. At this point we can proceed to the logical next step that things that can't be measured today may be measured in 100 years time. And be very important. And the next step is that things that may NEVER be measurable may still be vital, and you have to live with the fact that you can only work with adjectives, and try to use vague subjective quasi-measurements because it's better than ignoring something really important.

4. The ideas he has rejected as being fluffy nonsense ("humanity" or "emotion" or "patriotism" or "philosophy") are in many ways heuristics and rules of thumb that have been developed over the centuries to try to deal with the really complex unmeasurable aspects of reality. It is reasonable to abandon such approaches if you have a better, more accurate solution to the problems. But you can't just decide not to use them because you don't like them. Those aspects of reality will still be there. And clearly the rules of thumb and traditional approaches have some merit, because the people that used them have survived up until now. (Those traditional rules of thumb used by societies that DIDN'T survive up until now (Gas all the Jews, Sacrifice maidens to the Sun God, Invade Russia in late autumn without winter clothing) can be safely abandoned)

5. What he has done is something that IS a classic engineering approach. He has taken an extremely complex system in a real, and hence highly complex environment, and created a very simplified model of it so that you can actually work with it and get some answers. However, in engineering we must always remember:

a)Never forget that it is a model, not the real thing

b)You must always keep checking that your model is acting the same as reality, and that you haven't simplified away something important.

c)Ensure that the output you are maximising is actually the output you want to maximise, and not just some more easily measurable quantity that has correlated with what you actually want UP UNTIL NOW (or worse, up until the most recent set of measurements (or much worse, correlated in some particularly memorable cases but you never bothered to do the statistics to see if this is anything more than a couple of isolated coindences (see :Having lots of Gold means your country is rich, Spanish Empire, collapse of))))

My Lying Eyes, Part 3

Earlier I mentioned that I had found that a box that would fit in the back of my 1998 Falcon Ute would not fit in the back of a new ute. But then I found articles that claimed the new ute has a BIGGER tray that before. So what's true?

The answer is: both.

The tray on my ute slopes inwards at both the front and rear. Hence the bottom of the tray is longer than the top. If I have a long fishtank, I put it at the bottom of the tray, and it fits. I can put another tank on top of the first and it still fits, barely. However, a third layer will not fit.

The new design has vertical front and rear. So, the base of the tray is shorter than my car, while the top of the tray is longer. So they can clain the tray is longer, a tall box will fit in the new ute but not in the old. But with a low box (like mine) there are sizes (like the ones I carry all the time) where mine will fit but the new ute will not.

In conclusion, I need to increase the engine power.

A Sneak Attack

I have a simple aim when shopping with my wife: cut her planned expenditure by as much as possible and change her choice of over-featured, useless stuff to simple cheap alternatives that work. So when she tricked me into a shopping center under the guise of going to the post office and then suddenly dragged me into a Bing Lee electrical store I was prepared.

Her: What we need is ...

Me: I drew a breath ready to argue why we didn't need anything...

Her: A 127 cm plasma TV for the bedroom so we can watch porn together.

Me: ...

She completely bypassed all my defenses.




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.



The Full Experience

So I was stuck in a Kareoke bar, and Dear Wife, 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 awesomeness 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.

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