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How long before someone finds/makes up a Nostradamus verse predicting the Columbia tragedy and fools someone into taking it seriously?



On the Nature of Technological Change

With the release of the new 4 wheel drive Mitsubishi sports sedan, I am asked if I would now like the buy a Magna.

No. For the price of a New magna I could get a worked R33 GTR.

But it's something to keep in mind in 3-4 years time should a family car be required. They should be down to the mid teens by then. Really though, it sounds as though the 2nd 4wd model will be the one to get. The noise and vibration should be fixed by then, and the powerhouse engine available.

And remember this is all going to make Holden and Ford look very hard at their new 4wd systems and their Monaro/XR6turbos and go "Hmmm....."

Cars are getting like computers. You just KNOW that there will be something heaps better for the same money if you wait another year or two. (Of course the % of each car that actually IS computers is ever increasing so this is no surprise.)Did you know that current fuel technology (Optimax type stuff) allows peak effective burning in a cylinder 10 mm wider than only 5 years ago. (95 mm rather than 85) So for the same stroke (vibration and metal strength limited) you can have a 25% larger engine capacity. The 1990 Nissan performance 4 was a 2.0 litre, the new release is a 2.5. Likewise Subaru. For the same level of smoothness in a 2.5 you would previously need a 6 cylinder engine because you would have to make the stroke longer rather than just upping the bore size which would result in too much vibration at high RPM. Likewise Nissan and Honda are making high RPM V6s of 3.5 litres, whereas in 1990 they made 3.0 engines and changed to V8s for anything larger. Expect other manufacturers to follow suit.

Excellent. Now if only that applied to houses.

And here is an interesting article on DVD players: Not by me, but arguing about a similar aspect of life:

Basically Michael argues that the rise of Chinese consumer electronics is going to smash the pricing and feature structure of the current brands, with the no-name Chinese products being BETTER than the high end Sonys or Panasonics. This is mainly due to the Chinese refusing to sabotage their own products.

To add some Australian data, Dick Smith's has a DVD player for $130, Chinese of course.

To creat a list of unjustified, but justifiable, conclusions:



A Week of Parties

The best thing about a chinese girlfriend is having two new years a year. This weekend we had a New Year's eve on Friday night, and parties for the rest of the weekend. Well I flaked at about 7 pm Sunday night, but she kept going to some other party and made it back, pissed as a newt, around midnight. I suspect she'll be late to work today.

Sunday morning, we went to the Chinese New Year parade. Not being either Chinese or a member of the Lions Club, I naturally ended up in the Sydney Chinese Lions Club parade float, dressed as a western Chinese desert nomad (or kebab seller if you want to be cynical) and holding the banner.

Now I've been in parades before of course, as part of various sporting clubs, but this was the first one I wore outrageous clothing in. I now see the attraction: ie. Lots of young women running out of the crowd wanting to hug me and have their picture taken with their arms around me.

Clearly I will need an even more outrageous outfit next time.

Following the News During Australia's Silly Season

Well I haven't had much time to look at the news since the last week, but I'm sure I would have noticed if the war had started, so I guess it didn't. I did hear about the Space Shuttle, and I think it is a sad thing and offer my condolences to anyone affected. My only comment is that they must be getting pretty old by now, they were built in the late 1970s after all.



Gulf War III?

Is the war against Iraq going to start on Tuesday as many people suggest? The arguments for it are coherent:

Mind you the arguments against it are also coherent:

In conclusion: it doesn't matter. This is the Australia day long weekend and so our country will be relaxing by the barbeque and drinking beer, not monitoring the news to see whether the Americans, French or Iraqis blink first. I guess we'll find out next week sometime.



Memo to Youth

I think I've just gotten old enough to start lecturing youngsters, and so:

  1. Turn your hats round the right way, it's supposed to shade your face
  2. Pull your pants up
  3. Don't expose your tummy if you have a beer gut
  4. Piercings are ugly
  5. Tattoos, even ones positioned just above a girls bumcrack designed to attract attention that way, still won't change with fashion
  6. And if you can't mathematically prove Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage then no-one who can will take any notice of anything you have to say about international trade.

Song Lyrics

"Boys of Summer" contains the following line:

walking out today I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac

A little voice inside my head said "Don't look back, you can never look back."

I must have been hearing that song for 15 or 20 years, but I just realized what that lyric actually means.

For those as slow as me, a deadhead sticker is the sign of someone who is a fan of The Grateful Dead. This is a counter-culture, against the establishment, eat the rich type band. Hence to have the sticker on a cadillac shows that the owner is trying to remain a hippie while having totally sold out to capitalism.

So why did it take me so long? Because I am too young. I'm not a baby boomer, I'm X-generation. I never saw rock-and-roll as being something anti-capitalism or against the system. For as long as I can remember, rock is part of the establishment. Thats what radios and TVs play. It's the music played at schools. Rock concerts are attended by politicians and religious leaders. The music industry is a big nasty business that tries to squeeze money out the consumer. A rock fan in a cadillac is perfectly normal.



Bows versus Guns

Hell in a Handbasket has some comments on the sheer cost of making bows, which brings up an interesting argument that contradicts accepted wisdom.

The question is, why did armies change from bows to guns? Conventional wisdom has it that guns are better, obviously. This is certainly true of modern automatic rifles. And probably true of the weapons in the 1850s. But many commentators consider this to be the exact reverse of the case in the Napoleonic era of muzzle loading muskets. And the primitive arquebuses of 300 years earlier? Forget it.

Compared to an early gun, an English longbow has about the same range, same power, and about 6 times the rate of fire. So why on earth change to what is clearly a less effective weapon?

The answer is the guns are cheaper. Much cheaper.

At first this seems silly. A gun cheaper than a bit of wood? But it is important to realize that that is not the question. The question is, is AN ARMY of bowmen cheaper than an ARMY of musketeers. That's the question the military armourer has to answer the enquiring king, and the answer is the musketeers are cheaper.

Firstly, yes a bow, or at least a Long Bow rather than the Asiatic Recurve Bow, is cheaper to make than a musket. But that is not all you need for an army. You need all the following too:

So we can see that for the price of 10 000 bowmen, you can field 50 000 or 100 000 musketeers. And that was why guns were adopted over bows.

Guns were adopted by private users for different reasons. The lower price was certainly a factor, but so was:



Test Driving Cars

And to think I thought that it was difficult getting a test drive in a $6-8k sports car. A $15-20k sports car is SO much harder. I had several dealers tell me that I would have to sign an agreement to buy the car at a given price before they would let me go for a spin in their car. Only two cars were offered for drives free of this obligation.

1. Twin turbo soarer. TEMS suspension, ABS, traction control. This is the performance one, the high power, low (relatively) weight, good handling one. It was silver (hhmmm) but otherwise perfect. I may have stuffed up when the dealer was telling me about the twin turbo V6 and I pointed out it was in fact a straight six. He changed his mind from "you have take it out now" to "just after these guys".

But they were only supposed to be 5 minutes. After 10 minutes passed, I got bored. After 15 minutes I walked off to another car yard, where I found ...

2. Twin turbo 300zx. Charcoal (a much better colour) 2 seater, hardtop. The performance version. 208 kW, 388Nm (maybe a bit more as it had a aftermarket, twin 3 inch exhaust), ABS, 17 inch Mags, interior not in perfect condition but the sort of stuff the dealer can fix up before sale. This guy was much better (Westmead motors if you ever want a test-drive in Sydney, don't mention my name) and so off I went.

Result: DISAPPOINTED! This was my car. The interior was my car, but newer with a better stereo and AC system. (And better seats. The previous problem I had with this model, the roof being too close to my head, goes away if you adjust the seat height.) It adjusted to a very comfortable position. The handling was my car, but with an extra 100 kg of sound proofing in the body. The sound was my car, but with an extra 100 kg of sound proofing in the body. The acceleration... was my car, but with an extra 100 kg of sound proofing in the body.

More that anything, this car convinced me that my car really is pumping out the calculated 210 kW, 525 Nm. I took my car for a drive on exactly the same road circuit immediately afterwards, and mine pulled SO MUCH HARDER, especially in the mid range where I have 18 psi.

Basically it's a newer (and better looking, there's no escaping the fact that the Z32 model is perhaps the best looking sports car ever made in Japan) version of my car. Before I upped my boost. With higher flow heads that have a reputation for overheating and blowing heat gaskets.

Not worth an extra $10-$15k changeover.

So it was back to the soarer...

1. (Again) When I got back to the first yard, the salesman came up shaking his head. The first test driver... had crashed it. And as they said, you crash it, you buy it. I got to see it, they had ripped open the FRONT RIGHT bumper. The complete opposite to what you expect from someone test-driving a powerful RWD. It must have been a decent hit though, and on something sharp.

So... that was out of the picture. I tried to get a test-drive in a worked 180 sx, but I think they were sus that no-one wants a Soarer AND a 180 sx, or they were pissed off at test drivers after the crash, and so now they started on about drawing up the papers and agreeing to buy blah, blah, blah... Not to mention the guy (a different salesman than that showing me the Lexus) now started on about how the 180sx was better than the Soarer because it was an Australian car, so parts didn't have to be imported... yeah right. (The 180sx was NEVER sold new in Australia, it is just as imported as the Soarer is.)

And that was it, only one car driven. But it certainly gave me a lot to think about.

For more detail see here.




So the Raelians have claimed success in human cloning. This raises many interesting conundrums, but none of the interesting ones are raised in the mainstream media.

The media is far too interested in the prospect of mindless clone armies. No improvement in the area is expected from the influence of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Lord of the Rings. This characterisation of clones as mindless armies is nothing short of stupid, as meeting any set of identical twins will attest.

There are only three aspects in which a clone army would be any other than a more expensive copy of the normal army.

  1. Savings on Uniform costs. They would all take the same size uniforms, boots, helmets, beds, seats etc. Trivial but interesting.
  2. Skill sets. Most armies are filled with people with a range of different skills. Some are great mechanics, others are strategists, others good at following painful orders. If everyone is a clone, then the army should have a much narrower range of skills and abilities. This is something that makes a clone army LESS useful than a normal one.
  3. War Crimes. If you have an army, you often get war crimes. But now, after the war, when everyone is looking to punish the Lunatic of London (who massacered 150 000 civilians for not separating their recyclables) you are going to find it very difficult indeed. Eyewitnesses, photographic records, DNA evidence, even the records of his website when he killed people live on webcam, none of these will help if there are 10 000 other guys who look and sound identical, with identical DNA. Not to mention the fact that they ALL are very unclear about what they were doing during the Clone War, insisting that they were one of the 16 clones that didn't get drafted. This isn't just a problem AFTER the war, it will encourage crime DURING the war, because they KNOW they will be safe from prosecution. Just as being part of a mob lets people do acts they would never contemplate normally, being part of an IDENTICAL mob would lead to even greater irresponsibility.
  4. The last issue is the only real problem I can see with cloning. The ability to be lost in a crowd of identical faces would lead to law enforcement being much, much harder. In fact a clone army may therefore be LESS obedient and LESS controlled than a normal army, for just this reason.



    My Holidays

    I managed to have an entire Christmas holiday period repairing my car.

    The day after work finished for the year, I was driving along when I noticed that the engine was becoming hot. This happened especially if I slowed down or stopped. I assumed that there was some problem with the airflow from the fan, and this proved to be the case. (It was one of those viscous couplings that let the fan free-spin until it gets hot, and then makes the fan rotate at the same speed as the engine. It was no longer doing so, so when the engine got hot, the fan didn't spin any faster.) So I drove home, trying to maintain speed and this kept the temperature down, and all seemed well until I came to a hill. Halfway up there was a loud bang, and steam exploded from all sides of the bonnet.

    This naturally disturbed my girlfriend who is unused to such things occurring.

    I quickly pulled over and opened the bonnet to find that the top radiator hose had split open like an unpricked sausage, and that bits of underbonnet insulation were on the ROOF of my car.

    Being of sound mind, I always carry a roll of gaffa tape in my car, and this enabled me to reconstruct the hose pieces into something that would hold water, though I loosened the radiator cap so no internal pressure would occur. Then I hopped the fence into someone's front yard and used a bottle from their recycling bin and their garden hose to refill my radiator system.

    Then I drove home. Keeping a very close eye on the temperature.

    I now had two tasks, replace the hose, and replace the fan. Three tasks, I now had three tasks, replace the hose, replace the fan and shop for Christmas presents. Four tasks, I now had four tasks, replace the hose, replace the fan, shop for Christmas presents and attend Christmas parties. And answer all my Christmas cards. Five. I now had... nah, I won't get past number 4 and I know it...

    The fan was easy enough. Luckily I had a spare. This was an electric fan, which is meant to be an upgrade for the viscous fan type, it provides no resistance at all to engine rotation when the airflow is not required. It also reduces the rotating mass of the engine, equivalent to a lightened flywheel.

    So with this installed and working, I set off to Autopro to get a new hose. They did not have one, but a lower Ford Falcon hose proved to be the right shape with one end cut off, and so it was installed. A useful thing to know.

    On the way back, the car died. And the battery proved to be flat. Too much electric radiator fan? Yep, the alternator had died. Luckily there was NRMA to give the free tow back to my place.

    It seems 17 year old alternators don't like having a blast of superheated steam and boiling water poured all over them, followed by an increased electrical load. (Hey, I just noticed, this makes the Zed now as old as the Statesman was when I bought that. Though in better condition. And MUCH, MUCH faster.)

    So I took the alternator out, naturally this is mounted BELOW the power steering pump, and took 2 hours to remove. Then a friend drove me around to some nearby wreckers. They had nothing suitable. So it was $180 to have it rebuilt with new transistor pack, diodes, bearings, basically a new alternator in the old shell. The shell being the only tricky part, as it has to fit to the mounting points.

    So now the car didn't leak water any more, and the fan worked, and there was electricity. Except that there was still a water leak. It seems the overheating had damaged another hose. Luckily I already had a spare for that one (it was a suspect hose already) and so was able to fix it.

    Then another hose went. And this was a hose of unmarried parentage. It was located between the intake manifold and the block, so the manifold would have to be removed, a job of hours, before you could even get to the hose. This was probably a 17 year old hose too.

    At this point, the Girlfriend decided she didn't want to be in my car in case it blew up or something. It turns out her new boss was a mechanic for 30 years and was once nearly killed when test-driving a faulty car. (I'm not sure, as he doesn't speak English, but the impression I got was that the drive shaft broke and the front of it dropped onto the ground where it dug into the road as they were driving along. The car then proceeded to pole vault over the drive shaft and land on its roof, to the amusement of bystanders and consternation of passengers and driver.)

    Anyway her boss had a mate in Sydney who had a repair service. After much disgust expressed about Australian "mechanics" who replace parts rather than repair them as in China, it was arranged that I could go to this place and get the job done at special mate's rates. It was rather good, the 2 hour job costing $60, and it would have taken me longer than that to just take the manifold off. While it was off I got a good look at the fuel injection system, which is seriously in need of new hoses, wires and possibly injectors.

    While all this was going on, I managed to spend Christmas and boxing day boating about Lake Macquarie, which is about 4 times Sydney harbour in size. We caught one fish, which was about 5 cm long and nonetheless managed to get off the hook and escape as it was being pulled into the boat. So I suppose it is exaggerating to say it was "caught".

    Well how has the new fan system gone? The weather has been pretty damn warm, and crawling through traffic on Saturday it was still a little COOLER than normal. I will be fiddling around with the thermostat until it runs at the exact temp. But it seems OK to me now. Well except that there is an interesting delay between turning power off and actually having the power stop now, due no doubt to the inductance of the motor. I'm in the process of rewiring the relay to stop this.

    And the lighter flywheel effect DOES appear to happen, the engine seems more eager to rev. But this is the sort of thing that can be psychological so I'll wait for a stopwatch test.

    There is also the question of when my Dad will get his new car?

    The new Nissan 350Zs aren't even due into the country till May or something, and Dad isn't first on the list. Typically, Nissan Australia has stuffed up and stopped bringing in 200sx's, figuring that everyone who would have bought a $40k turbo 4 will now buy a $60-70k six instead.

    AND they stuffed the timing, so that when a friend of a friend tried to buy one last week he was told there was only 3 left in the country. To last until May. This is the sort of thinking that replaced the Skyline with the Bluebird and wondered where all the customers went.

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