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Meanwhile... back in reality

doctorpat at bigfoot dot com

Sorry I can't make my address any clearer than that, but these spambots are getting smarter.


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20/12/2002

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Radio National

For years I've been listening and reading of complaints about the wacko, loony left nature of Radio National, and I haven't really understood. I've listened to RN all this time and heard nothing that wasn't a fair sight better than any other radio station.

But I only listened during two short periods of the day. When I was driving to work (8-8.30) and driving home (6.30-7.30). It seems these are the best periods of the day.

Yesterday I left work early and caught a 5.30 interview with some deep green animal rights supporter. She was complaining about the prospect of using GM pigs as organ donars. Her argument: it is better for a human to die than for animals.

She even suggested that fetal stem cell research should be encouraged to reduce the reliance on animals. Baby humans are less valuable than baby pigs you see.

What a loon these greenies are. What are the odds she has a pair of leather Doc Martin's?

16/12/2002

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Christmas Parties

You know how it is ( or at least Bailz probably does) you are watching a strip show and you realize you know a performer. Or as it may be you know all of them. And one is your boss. And another is HIS boss.

The company Christmas party... is there anything like it?

Still, any night is a good night if you wake up the next afternoon in your own bed... with a cute Chinese girl... and an inflatable Rooster.

Bond, James Bond

On Saturday I went to see the latest Bond film, and can sum it up in one word: Spectacular.

The music industry may be in trouble, but the movie industry is at the absolute top of its form at the moment. And the technology just keeps getting better and better.

Product placement and the whole "movie experience" mean that black market VCDs of films are as much a threat to movies as Cassette copies were to CDs back in 1980. Such works of art as the car chase on ice just cannot be reproduced in (current) pirate technology, let alone the big screen effect, or "going to the movies" as a night out, or the amount of publicity that Jaguar and Aston Martin get out of it all.

And can I just say that I missed the Silly walk at the time, but realized it was there a few minutes later.

11/12/2002

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Fools, Damned Fools and those who believe in Statistics

In the shower last night I happened to look at the tube of shaving lotion I was using, and it had the following Shaving Trivia!:

You will spend 1 year and 55 days of your life shaving.

This is precisely the sort of meaningless, hopelessly inaccurate statistic that is appearing everywhere. Let us think about this for a while...

1 year and 55 days is 420 days. How many years does a man spend shaving? Say he starts at the age of 13 and continues until the average age of death of 73. That is 60 years.

So for every year of his shaving life he spends 420/60 = 7 days shaving.

So for every day of his shaving life he spends (7/365) = 0.01918 days shaving, or 28 minutes.

I do not spend 28 minutes a day shaving. I timed myself after reading this tripe and took a bit under 3 minutes, from starting to lather up to rinsing off.

So the person who wrote this Shaving Trivia! either missed a decimal point (the most likely case) or I am expected to live to be 565 years old. And given that I don't usually bother shaving on weekends or holidays this gives me about 800 years. EXCELLENT!.

Santa Analysis

As Bailz points out, every year we all get the analysis that shows that Santa can't really exist. Well it so happens that a couple of years ago I got together with a friend of mine to discuss the matter.... The email text file is here and should explain everything.

06/12/2002

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Fire Fighting

In my continuing mission to save the world, I rode my bike to work today. This is almost guaranteed to result in pouring rain this afternoon.

For those who don't know, Sydney is currently ringed by fire, with highways and rail lines cut off, and the nearest fire being within the same suburb as my workplace. So the resulting, bike attracted, downpour will be greatly appreciated.

Those who want to show their appreciation can... well I don't have a tip jar. You could link to Amazon.com via my link and buy something I suppose. That way I get 5%.

Or you could look at the books I've reviewed here.

Or I suppose you could email me with praise.

Secret Summer Drink

Now that Bailz has let us all into the Midori Magic I feel it is time to further save the world (seeing as the Rain doesn't seem to be working, despite looking like it would for a while) by telling the secret of a REAL mango daquiri.

  1. Buy a box of mangos. This should cost about $7-8 for a box of 10 or 12 if you buy at the height of the mango season.
  2. Put them all in the freezer and freeze them solid.
  3. Months later, when mangos cost $5 each, take one out of the freezer.
  4. Stick it under the hot water tap for about 30 seconds. This will thaw the skin, but not the rest of the mango.
  5. Run a knife down the skin to cut it into segments, then peel it like a banana.
  6. Put the frozen mango on a board, and use a sharp carving knife or meat cleaver to slice into frozen chunks. Discard the seed.
  7. Put all the chunks into a blender, top up with rum (or vodka, or soju, or milk if you are driving, or whatever. Maybe some vanilla icecream with the milk.) and blend.
  8. Drink to your hearts content.

05/12/2002

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Christmas Songs

Last Night was spent conducting experimental comparisons of musical disasters, both while drunk and sober.

Conclusion: Christmas carols as sung by untrained, out of tune, children are distinctly more horrible than even Chinese Opera or Kareoked 60s ballads. And Elvis music isn't too bad if you keep drinking.

03/12/2002

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Nanotech

This guy here has designed a real nanobot. Not just in theory but in fine detail. A proper, blood borne nanobot with the ability to save lives or give a human "super powers".

To be precise, it is an artifical red blood cell that vastly exceeds the efficiency of natural ones, enabling an improvement of oxygen transport of several thousand percent.

This is not a plan that is ready to go. He can't begin production tomorrow. But I would hazard a guess that this is about as detailed as a moon landing plan was in 1960. Does this mean that a major implementation project could get this up and running within a decade?

And what did I mean by superpowers? Well the only aspect he talks about is the ability to hold ones breath for hours. But a little bit of thinking shows that the same technology, if applied to ATP, could give the ability to sprint full speed for several minutes at a time, or a range of other combinations of superhuman endurance for power outputs that a normal human can only maintain for seconds at a time.

02/12/2002

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The Rice

Isn't this just about the best news? In summary, Cornel University have genetically engineered rice so that it grows with heaps less water, survives dry spells, uses less fertilizer, likes salt and survives 10 ° colder temperatures. In other words, all the pie-in-the-sky promises of genetic engineering have already come true.

They are releasing the product free into the public domain. This enables rice to be grown in huge areas of the world that were previously too cold, dry, or salty. Think North West China, Northern India, Africa and Australia. Actually, don't think Australia, we already have more rice than we can poke a stick at. Though the need for less water could help.

But subsistance farmers could have their lives changed by this more than we could imagine. This ALONE could lift tens, if not hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty and into being merely poor. Along with them will be millions who become rich. This could start entire countries onto the path of development. The addition of similar technology for wheat, corn, potatoes etc. could make more difference to the world than the invention of say the helicopter.

Naturally anything that feeds the poor and saves natural resources is viewed as evil by the greenies.

29/11/2002

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Electric Vehicle

Having rebuilt the control system for my electric motorbike (Here, but you have to scroll down), I have been riding it to work for the last couple of Fridays.

Why Friday? Because with the pointless "casual Friday" idea I don't have to wear a shirt and tie, so that is the day to ride a bike.

Sydney people may have noticed that it now rains, but only on Fridays.

So what is the bike like? The heart of the matter is a little electric motor that you fit to a pushbike. It has 400 W at the rear wheel (200 for legal purposes) and can pull up to 29.5 km/h on the flat with me on board. It has a 15 km range and is costing about 4 cents a day to commute to work and back. Less if you count that I can recharge at work for free.

Later

The heaviest rain that Sydney has seen all year greeted me on the ride home. If I hadn't been riding through a field of bouncing rabbits I would have been quite depressed. The rabbits seemed to like the rain. Now there's something you don't see when you are in a car.

And one of the power cables started to burn out on my way up the last steep hill. So I got home and rebuilt the circuits so there are now two parallel cables, that should do it.

The burnt out cable is not a problem, it is part of my design process. Build a lightweight system and reinforce the bits that fail. It should lead to an elegant and efficient design. Kind of like the open source technique of software design. All the best mechanical designs are done this way, start with a very light and sparse structure and test rigourously, often in service, gradually increasing the power and loads until bits break, then reinforce those bits. This will lead to each bit only being as heavy as it should be.

It could be argued that if the design was done properly in the first place, then you could accomplish that on paper before building anything, but this ignores the fact that most complex structures are too complicated to analyse in detail. Even the most advanced computer modeling systems can't do a full analysis of a car or aeroplane taking into account vibration, manufacturing tolerances, viscoelastic behaviour, aerodynamic turbulence and all possible modes of use.

As a result, all the really efficient designs, eg. the Porsche 911, started years ago as a much weaker and lower powered system, and have been gradually modified to grow into a strong, lightweight design.

Of course, if you are going to release something as a new product, you can't afford to institute running changes like that, both for tooling reasons and to protect your reputation. That's why we engineers have to do all the analysis and design.

27/11/2002

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Voting Blocks Again

One point I may have glossed over below is the status of "millionaires". In todays terms a "millionaire" is not "rich". This is because today's standards of wealth are so much higher than they used to be, and because a million dollars doesn't buy as much as it used to.

The current definition of "Rich" is about a personal wealth of $20 million, or a family net worth of $100 million. This is the sort of money where someone is RICH to the point of having a luxurious lifestyle without ever having to work again. A mere millionaire is just "wealthy". But it is still better than being poor.

25/11/2002

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Voting Blocks

I received some junk mail last night that quoted a Sydney newspaper as saying that there are 400 Australians per week becoming millionaires. That got me thinking. After a bit of looking I found there were 250 000 Millionaires in Australia at the beginning of 2001. So at 20 000 new ones per year that means we will soon be looking at 300 000 millionaires.

That's a big voting block. And I guess almost all millionaires are old enough to vote.

So we see why our system of government might listen more to the concerns of millionaires rather than the poor. Because the millionaires OUTNUMBER the poor. In a democracy they SHOULD have more say.

Of course in our Judeo-Christian tradition we believe it is wrong to be mean to the poor, even if they are a tiny minority, but the prevailing paradigm of lots of poor battlers being ground down by a few millionaires is entirely back to front.

21/11/2002

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Another Good Blog

I've just added Future Pundit to my links above, because of such things as this story about someone actually starting to build a space elevator, for less cost than the space station. Not to mentions this one about 50% efficient solar cells.

19/11/2002

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Real Life?

I had a conversation last night that was straight out of a joke book. To start with, there was a Russian, a Chinese and an Australian sitting in a restaurant.

The Russian asks "So who is the new leader of China?"

The Chinese says "Yes."

The Russian "Who?"

The Chinese "Yes. Hu is the new leader."

"Who?"

"Yes, Hu."

Unfortunately there was no real punchline.

18/11/2002

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Comparing Unemployment

Ken Parish adds some comments about a Sydney Morning Herald commentary comparing today's unemployment levels with those of the 1950s and 1960s which are often held up as being a workers paradise of full employment and prosperity.

I was impressed that Horin's article mentioned the elephant in the living room (although fleetingly) that most people ignore in discussing unemployment trends (though you can't blame them, you could be trampled for saying such things). Horin was very fleeting and indirect in this mention though.

I am refering to the fact that in the "fabulous fifties" women didn't work. Married women weren't allowed to work and unmarried ones were paid a fraction of males for the same work (not for work of "equivalent value as judged by a feminist researcher", I mean the same actual job).

If all married women quit their jobs. And if women married at 21 years of age. Then the (male) unemployment rate would plummet to levels impressive even by 1950s standards.

Would this be a good thing? No. It would be a disaster for all concerned. But to pretend that this enourmous increase in the % of the population that is actually looking for work is not a major cause of modern unemployment is to distort the debate to the point of uselessness.



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