Archive | November, 2010

>"Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time."

30 Nov

>H. L. Mencken is gone and more’s the pity; an even greater pity is that puritanism, by his definition, is not.

The latest target in the fun-hater’s crosshairs is alcohol-infused whipped cream. Sold only to those old enough to buy Demon Rum, it is nevertheless — according to the nanny-minded — a Dire Scourge, presumably because it might be fun. I guess it’s okay with them if you wanna slump at the bar and grimly choke down gin with Winston and Julia, or gulp cheap whiskey in your dingy office while waiting on clients, lulled by the clatter of Raymond Chandler hammering out another chapter on the other side of the too-thin walls, but if you enjoy an occasional drink, why, That Is Just Too Much and by the time we get to high-test foamy topping for an Irish Coffee on a cold day, it makes their heads explode.

Having driven the alcohol-and-caffeine energy drink just about off the (legal) market — “for the children” — their arrogance grows. What’s next? Boxed wine? Premixed drinks?

This needs to be nipped in the bud. We already have laws, tons of ’em, aimed at keeping intoxicating beverages away from citizens under 21 (we’ll let ’em go trade gunfire with baddies, but a beer? Oh, heavens no! That takes three more years of growing up) . Those laws aren’t perfect but making this stuff illegaler only penalizes the people who are old enough to buy it.

You can’t legislate foolhardiness out of existence but if you try hard enough, you can outlaw fun.

Don’t let ’em.


>More Bookshelves

29 Nov

>Can’t have too many!I had shelves on that wall that were about an inch too wide for the space — and which had a shelf exactly at the height of the light switch. Solving the second problem solved another one: the cordless phone had been awkwardly located on a lower shelf. Since this is a nice, central spot, I didn’t want to relocate it.

Snapped this after supper — but before loading the dishwasher. So, no looking at the kitchen!

I’ll post a little more at Retrotechnologist.

>Broken Car Update

29 Nov

>So, Sunday evening when I left for work,* Tam — who has much better car-fu than I, unless the car in question is British and a bit old; and maybe not even then — suggested cycling the driver’s-side lock just for kicks.

Of course this freed up the outside door latch, so now all I have is a broken inside latch. I looked at it, there’s only one screw holding it, and hunk of plastic has cracked right off. Amazon will sell me a new little assembly (unless someone out there happens to have an inside left door latch assembly for an ’02 Hyundai Accent laying around?). I just have to figure out how the strange little retaining clips that hold the bent ends of the latch and lock actuating rods work.
* Electronic voodoo: if I’m already on-site, watching when high-dollar stuff happens, the widgets won’t goof off. Alternatively, if they burst into flames, I can throw myself on the conflagration…. There actually is a middle ground between suttee and sympathetic magic where I’d be of some use.

>Victorian Engineering

28 Nov

>Imagine your bathtub was a merry-go-round. No, a turnstile–

H’mm. That’s not the place to begin. How does a road cross a canal? A bridge, of course. If it is a low bridge and the canal is actually used for boats, it might be a lift bridge or a swing bridge.

Okay, how does a canal cross a road? An aqueduct, right? Yep.

Fine, almost there. How does a canal cross a canal? Especially if the lower canal is for huge ships and the difference in height won’t clear them?

As far as I know, this problem has only come up once, over a hundred years ago. The answer was a swing aqueduct — the Barton Swing Aqueduct (and companion road bridge) and it’s still in use. Follow the link and see it in action!

Simple and easy; you seal off a great long section of canal and gently pivot tonnes and tonnes of water out of the way, with no fuss or muss and very little noise. Why, anyone could do it…if they were clever enough. (Some details).

Living within a short bicycle ride of Indy’s very own canal, I’m a bit jealous. Ours is only navigable by tiny boats, thanks to low bridges, and they chase you right off ahead of the system’s only (non-moving) aqueduct.

>It’s 24° Out There!

28 Nov

>We have officially reached “Bobbi doesn’t wanna go outside” weather. Arrgh.

>"Useless Without Pictures" Department

27 Nov

>From the Land Of No Chewing Gum:
“The skimpy trunks sported by Singapore’s men’s water polo team at the Asian Games are causing red faces back home…. The trunks display the Singaporean flag’s white crescent moon on the front of the red briefs in what has been described as an inappropriate fashion.”

Yahoo News quoted only the text from the illustrated Reuters original and didn’t link to it, either. Thousand words, anyone?

Meanwhile, no word on how well the team did in actual competition. Tsk.

>"Useless" Learning

27 Nov

>Some fine day, the next time you make a long-distance call, you might be indebted to a 19th-Century Scottish engineer, John Scott Russell, and to the United Kingdom’s extensive canal network — and to the delight some people take in figuring things out for the sheer joy of it.

Your long-distance call (and it didn’t have to go all that far to qualify) and indeed, the great Internet itself, is being pulsed along fiber-optical cable. Right now, that light fades over distance and has to be boosted by repeaters, complicated points-of-failure. The distance between them could be greatly increased by propagating the signal in the form of low-loss blips of light called solitons. This effect — with a wave of water instead of light — was first observed when Russell observed a canal boat being drawn rapidly along a canal by a team of horses. When the boat stopped, the bow wave kept going!

That single, solitary wave kept right on moving at the same speed the boat had. He followed it for a mile before it outran his horse.

You or I might’ve thought, “Kewl” and gone home for dinner. John Scott Russell went home, built a thirty-foot wave tank and started investigating.

He collected a lot of data, put together some interesting notions, and though he described the day he first saw the soliton as “the happiest day of my life,” it was never of any practical use.

…Never, that is, until modern theorists took up the idea, fiddled the math and left it lieing out where the applications types could find it.

They’re still working on it — but someday, one more benefit from 19th-Century Britain’s Inland Navigation System and the mind of a man who enjoyed investigating new phenomena may show up at a phone or online computer near you.

And you thought those canal boats and Scots engineers were only “twee?”