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doctorpat at bigfoot dot com

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The Drivel Warehouse

Uncle Al

Jane Galt

More than Zero

Whacking Day

TransTerrestial Musings

U.S.S. Clueless

Scott Wickstein

Gareth Parker

Tim Blair

Links Explained

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They Just Get Sillier and Sillier

Which Firearm are you?
brought to you byStan Ryker



Charity Tactics

I got a letter from the St. Vincent de Paul's Society last night, and on it there was a form to fill out, with yout credit card details, and a series of boxes to tick which amount you wished to donate. This is perfectly normal and we all get stuff like this all the time. The interesting thing was the amounts on the boxes. In order they were:

Can anyone explain that? Are these random numbers in random order or has someone sat down and worked out the psychology of ticking boxes to find that arranging things in this way will get the largest amount of money?



Dinner Thoughts

While eating dinner on Friday I found myself wondering: What is the exact physical machanism whereby eating really hot chili can render your voicebox inoperative? I would understand if the hot chili came in contact with the larynx, but it does not. So what's the deal?

Later, when speech returned to her, a friend asked an English grammer question. When she was learning English she had trouble with the word "you". She would say to her teacher "you is my teacher". She could not understand "you are" because "are" means plural.

Well that had me stumped, then I remembered that "you" USED to mean plural, "Thou" was the singular form, that has since been forgotten. Once I explained this to her she was relieved to see there was a logical explanation. "You are" is correct because "you" is plural, it's just that we use it for singular as well because noone wants to sound like a shakespearian actor everytime they say "thou is my english teacher".

So why couldn't her English teacher explain this to her, either because he is ignorant, or he didn't want to add more confusion. I shan't speculate.

Three Little Words

I just recieved this message in the email...

I suppose some degree of commerce would grind to a halt if telephone survey solicitors weren't able to call people at home during dinner hour. But that doesn't make it any more pleasant. Now Steve Rubenstein, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, has proposed "Three Little Words" based on his brief experience in a telemarketing operation that would stop the nuisance for all time. The three little words are "Hold On, Please." Saying this while putting down your phone and walking off instead of hanging up immediately would make each telemarketing call so time-consuming that boiler rooms would grind to a halt...

He also continues with...

When you get ads in your phone or utility bill, include them with the payment - let the companies throw them away. When you get those pre approved letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and junk like that, most of them come with postage paid return envelopes, right? Well, why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little envelopes! The good part is they pay the postage, the more you enclose the more they pay!

I already send back prepaid junk mail envelopes, at least to the companies that piss me off. If Anglicare send me stuff asking for money to care for the poor, I throw it out, or maybe even cough up some dosh. But if the World Wildlife Fund send me a request to help them in their mission to stop Australian oil production so as to increase petrol prices AND send more money to the Middle East to finance terrorism... well they get their prepaid envelope back along with a little note about Tree-hugging-hippie-shit.

I think they can trace the envelopes, because they've stopped sending me stuff. Which is good because I get less junk mail, but bad because this leaves them more money to increase my petrol prices and indirectly support terrorism.



Yet Another Quiz

It's silly and American yet surprising accurate:

Which Founding Father Are You?



Flag Burning

Australia is currently debating the merits of a law against flag burning, a debate that the Yanks went through a while back. My thoughts are as follows:

Burning the Australian flag is annoying and offensive. This is not a good reason to make something against the law.

Burning things in an Australian city, or on someone elses private property, or government land (and no-one has protests in their own back yard do they?) is already illegal without permission. So what is the problem? It's ANYWAY against the law.

I have real problems with people passing laws against things that are already illegal. We have too many laws as it is, adding more for no reason is just making things worse. (See also, hate crime legislation where it is illegal to kill someone because they are of a certain race/national/sexual/religious group. It is illegal ANYWAY you morons.)

So why not charge these loons with violating a fire ban, or starting a fire without permission, or creating a source of air pollution (all of which are against the law) and solve the problem? Why spend government money (taxpayers) and have some big debate about free speech when the solution is so obvious?

The answer is, so people claim, to "send a message". Have you ever noticed how whenever anyone says "send a message" they are defending something that otherwise would be a stupid thing to do? Legalizing marijuana would slash crime and crime enforcement costs, and have very little effect on the number of users, but won't be done because of the need to "send a message". Heroin injecting rooms and free, clean needles would greatly reduce deaths (Heroin overdose deaths are 500/year in Australia, nearly half the total for car accidents) but the idea should be rejected to "send a message". Free condoms in prisons would reduce AIDS transmission but should be stopped to "send a message". The Kyoto protocol on Greenhouse emmissions would have no real effect on the climate (this is according to the SUPPORTERS of the treaty) but it will "send a message".

Someone smack these people in the head and tell them to send an email.



Slow, Lame, Stupid Horses

Or as the Chinese say "Ko lee an da hir ben da ma." (Spelling may not resemble actual spelling.) Which is how I explained to my girlfriend (see photo) that No. 6, Hatha Anna, on which I had bet all my money, had been way ahead but then totally died in the last 200 m and decided to walk the rest of the way, possible stopping for a bit of a snooze.

My only consolations were that "all my money" at the time was Au$2.00, and that required counting out the 5 cent coins. And I won a T-shirt as a door prize at the cup party. And knocked back more than $2 worth of beer and nibbles at the party, so I suppose I am actually ahead for the day.

Though I did have to supply the TV for the party. And my TV was too small so we filmed the screen of the TV with a digital camera and ran the signal into a projector to get that 200 cm TV with really bad reception look that is so popular these days. Naturally the projector stopped working as the race was starting, and no amount of button pushing would help, until some genius suggested some reactive manual power cycling which as all the engineers know means turning off the power and then turning it on again. Fixed it right away.


Radio National this morning had Wilson Tuckey going on about hydrogen, and how it should be developed in Australia. The fact that he is a Federal Minister means that this may actually happen, whether or not it makes any economic sense. Bill wants to use Tidal Power to electrolise water, but I think he should look at these guys who can get pools of Algae to make H2 directly.

So all you need is big areas of flat stagant water and some system for actually collecting the hydrogen. This is done by pumping the Algae into reactors where they are starved until they cough up the goods (really). It sounds to me like a way to convert useless land to solar power (the algae naturally gets its energy from the Sun) in a way that can be transported to the cities, which is where most of the power is needed. Most importantly, it requires less capital costs than a tidal power station, and the capital costs are what kills this sort of idea.

The amounts they are getting with natural algae are about 2 mililitres/litre/hour averaged over time. 1 litre of hydrogen gas at room pressure and temperature is roughly equivalent to 1/30 litres of petrol when it comes to how much energy you can extract. So 8 000 litres of water/algae mix gives the equivalent of 1 litre of petrol/hour. This is enough to run one car in normal use. From a pond 4 by 4 metres in size and 50 cm deep. Almost small enough to fit in the back yard.



Movie Reviews

I've finally got around to joining the local video store, and so am now able to see all those movies that I was too cheap to pay $24 each for a few months ago when they were in the cinemas (It's $12 each, but I have to take my Girlfriend right?)

Movie 1: The Fast and the Furious

Promoted as a mindless movie filled with fast cars, fast driving, and violence, it was in reality a mindless movie filled with fast cars, fast driving, and violence. EXCELLENT!

Technical errors? No-one ever warmed their turbos down after running the engines at full power, this is not good for the life of the engine, but this is more an error on the part of the characters rather than the movie itself. And they are meant to be reckless idiots so this is actually in keeping with the character development.

More serious is the scene where the car experts, who know everything about fast cars, pop the bonnet of a Mark IV Toyota Supra and exclaim with joy when they find a "2jz" engine. All Mark IV Supras have "2jz" engines, they never came with anything else. This is like being overjoyed to find a Porsche engine in a Porsche, or a Ferrari engine in a Ferrari. What did you expect?

But as movies go, very little to complain about indeed. Far more serious is the riding on top of cars. If you are clinging to the top of a car, and the car goes off the road at about 100 km/h and ploughs to a stop in the desert in a couple of metres, then you will go flying off into the nearest cactus. This is not a technical subtlety, this is blatent cartoon physics. It is just stupid.

Movie 2: Ronin

More fast cars, more car chases, even better car chases, less technical errors, more violence, less beautiful girls. Otherwise equally as good.

The only problem I really found was the Audi S8 locking up its wheels. Such cars have ABS. They have very good ABS. They don't lock their wheels. This is wrong, but really a very technical complaint.



Water Conservation

From the News Ltd site.

Shower with a friend: minister

By Kelly Ryan, November 01, 2002

SHOWER with a friend to save precious water. That's the advice from Environment Minister Sherryl Garbutt, who said people who showered together would conserve thousands of litres of water over summer.

And they need not be a couple. "I would urge Victorians to share their shower," the minister said yesterday.

"It is a very popular idea around my office for people to be showering with a friend.

"It is a great way to add to the overall water savings."

Ms Garbutt said shared showers did not have to be restricted to couples in a relationship. "Find a sympathetic friend," she suggested.

I don't know about the minister, but when I share a shower, we tend to spend a lot longer under the water than if I was by myself. Maybe she is trying to preempt any upcoming scandals between her and her staff members, she can just claim "We were conserving water!".



Technological Advances

Futurepundit links to a Fortune magazine report:

...Perlegen Sciences, a closely held company in Mountain View, Calif., recently announced that it can parse a person's genome in about ten days using so-called DNA chips--an astounding advance, given that it took an international army of scientists all of the 1990s to create the first draft of the human genome.

Kind of like Edmund Hillary going back to Mount Everest 5 years later to find there is a escalator going up to the top....Doh!



Voting Scheme

Scott Wickstein agrees with my own views on the thinking Australian's voting pattern.

Liberals for Federal Parliment where they can run the economy, not increase taxes as much as Labor (no I don't believe they'll actually cut them) and spend a bit more on national defence and a bit less on land-rights-for-gay-whales. And at the state level, Labor. Not because I actually think their policies are better, but because I think that at the state level their policies are identical and the state level Liberals are incompetent fools. On a different matter, also discussed by Scott, we are clearly ahead of the Yanks in more than 4 areas. There is also the matter of their schools. Any country where Boston Public can be sold as being "drama" rather than "alternative universe fantasy" has got real problems. Of course the fact that up to 50% of our students go to private schools (in NSW, by the end of year 12) might be helping to lift our game.

The Smoke, The Flames

Here in Sydney it looks like being a rerun of last year as far as bushfires are concerned. Well except that they are earlier this year. The entire city is covered with smoke, and although I can't see actual flames from my workplace as I could last year, that was at Christmas so there is still a lot of time yet.

The really worrying thing about this years fires, or rather the worrying things, are:

So why are fires getting worse, there are 3 current theories:

The fact that some arsonists were actually caught lends credence to the third theory, though there is no reason that all three factors couldn't be at work. The catch being that the first problem is caused by not enough greenies and the second problem by too many. (Actually, global warming is most easily solved by replacing coal power stations with nuclear ones. This is one reason that France, with 80% nuclear power, is able to claim lower greenhouse emmisions than other developed countries. So global warming could be viewed as a problem caused by too many greenies as well. (Assuming that global warming has anything to do with CO2 at all and isn't caused by the sun.))

But further thinking about arson reveals a dangerous possibility. Current arson appears to be bored kids motivated by nothing more than bordom, a liking for pretty flames, and the knowledge that the spineless bleeding hearts who control our courts would not hear of them actually being punished for deliberately causing millions of dollars in damage, not to mention the odd death.

But what if some Islamofascist terrorists worked out that they can cause as much damage with a box of matches as they can with a bomb. Then we could be in real trouble.



Order in the Court

Excellent even if it isn't true.



Car Solutions?

I went to the car show myself last night.

Once again I noticed a very funny thing. You would have a Toyota Echo or something up on a rotating stand, and everyone would be clustered around it, 3 deep, trying to get a look at the "special". Meanwhile there was a full on Audi RS6 just sitting there, unnoticed because it wasn't on a rotating stand. So I could hop in it, play with the controls, check out the leather and seats, whatever I liked (well except for a short test drive....I would have brought it back, honest!) and no-one else would notice 'cause they were straining their necks to get a look at the Echo on the stand.

I got to sit in 2 of my 3 favourite cars in the world. The Audi RS6 and the Mercedes E55 AMG Kompressor. Both with 350 kW and 0-300 (!) times the equal of the 12 cylinder Lamborghinis and Ferraris. The 3rd car, the 911 turbo 4wd was on a stand and so not available. :(

Actually some of the detail work on the E55k was a little disappointing. My girlfriend pointed out some poorly laid out areas of the door seals.

Also on stands were the two 350Zs, but I suppose I'll get a closer look when Dad gets his. It does look good.

And there was a Taipan: a Cobra Replica. Twin turbo V8 with a dyno measured 1100 Nm of torque. In a 1200 kg car. That would be SWEET.

My earlier comment about the lie detectors is backed up by Tech Central Station.



Car Problems

My parents came down from Cairns for the weekend and I mentioned there was a car show on next to their hotel.

So they went for a visit, and were walking around looking at Ferraris and Porsches and Maserattis and Dad says something like "Of course I can only afford something like $60-70 000. Otherwise I would buy something amazing like that exotic sports car." Mum, to show that he shouldn't even be looking at something that expensive and indulgent asks the booth guy how much that particular supercar cost.

Result? Dad now has a 350Z on order.

I am seriously going to have to upgrade my car.



Speech Problems

Lie Detectors

John Quiggin mentions that the old polygraph lie detectors have been shown to not work.

On the other hand, research into NMR and PET scans of brain activity may result in real, working, lie detectors eventually becoming available.

Would this be a good thing? I don't think so. How much of our freedom and civil liberties is due to the fact that it is just too damn hard to catch people.

What if you had to swear into a real lie detector that you never broke the speed limit when you renew your driver's licence application? Or never smoked dope? Or never made any comments that would discriminate against another social group? It would actually become possible to have a big brother watching all the time.

Coming back from that level of silliness, what if the Mafia had such a machine, it would be much harder to infiltrate informants. It could prove a powerful weapon in the hands of corrupt dictators wanting to hold power.

It's a good thing the old ones never worked.



Limping Today

I had a sambo (Russian Jujitsu) spar last night with the instructor. On the plus side he is only 65 kg. On the minus side he made the Russian judo team 5 years running. Something like that anyway.

On the plus side I lasted longer than anyone else in the class. On the minus side my left foot feels like it was partially dislocated. Actually I think it was.

Another Tunguska?

Copied Shamelessly from Alan Boyle

Meteor alert in Russia: The Russian newspaper Pravda reports that witnesses in Bodaibo, a city in the Siberian region of Irkutsk, saw a very large luminous object fall to Earth accompanied by a flash and a thunderous sound.

The site of the fall is situated very far from any settlements, but locals felt a strong shock, which could be comparable to an earthquake, Pravda reported Thursday.

Although the facts so far (including the time element) are sketchy, Russian scientists are suggesting that the object was a meteorite and that meshes with the first impressions from Benny Peiser, an anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University who specializes in the effects of deep impact.

Peiser, who passed along the reports via his Cambridge Conference Network, told the British-based Ananova online news service that descriptions of the blast would point to a rather significant impact event. South Africa’s Independent Online, meanwhile, quotes scientists in Irkutsk as saying no injuries were reported.

The news flashes were eerie on two counts: First, it arose just as experts were telling Congress that even relatively small-scale meteor strikes could set off nuclear alarms and that more attention needs to be paid to the potential threat. Second, the most recently recorded significant impact also took place in Siberia, in the forests of Tunguska 94 years ago, and scientists have been warning for some time that we might be due for another Tunguska-level blast.

Update for 8 p.m. Oct. 4: A very bright object was sighted and videotaped passing right to left rapidly across the eastern sky of Anchorage, Alaska, approximately 8:15 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time (1615 UTC) October 2, writes Elliott Barske, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service’s Anchorage office. The [object] was quite bright and had a noticeable tail. It was likely either a large meteor or space junk. KTUU Channel 2 aired the video. This possible meteor may have been the one reported in Russia.

Well I found it interesting.

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