Saturday, June 08, 2002

Eclipse coming

Some of us will be able to see a partial eclipse of the sun on Monday.

If you go to see it, make sure you protect your eyes. Don't try sunglasses unless you want to join the company of other sunglass wearers like Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles. Sunglasses do not filter out the rays that do the harm.

Here's some more info, with pictures of past eclipses.

TechTV offers some tips if you decide to try to photograph an eclipse. And remember, it won't do your eyes much good to put filters over your lens and then point it using the viewfinder...

Be aware that direct sunlight can damage CCD devices like those in your digital optics. So don't try to shoot it unfiltered with anything that uses CCDs, such as your digital camera, EyeModule, and possibly your camcorder.

Or you can view it with your own handmade neato pinhole camera.


I really do have a life, but occasionally I catch myself channel surfing. Or worse, actually stopping to watch a show.

At the moment it's F/X, with "When Good Pets Go Bad". I won't doubt that the animals in question were provoked, but I could do without the accompanying purple prose which would imply that animals are more civilized than humans are.

Then we get an assortment of bizarre events. Running with bulls. A woman mauled by a house cat (really - it took 38 stitches to patch her up). Stallions fighting. Disease bearing monkeys loose from a testing lab. A bison throwing a tourist several feet in the air into a tree.

Some of it was perversely entertaining. In one, a bull actually made it into the stands attacking the spectators. One TV personality was attacked by a muzzled bear, and another was attacked by an unmuzzled lion. And guy in a Santa suit was attacked by a reindeer (I'm not kidding) - he survived, but the reindeer had a heart attack and the Santa guy ate him.

But the climax was a videotape from Spain or thereabouts. Somebody pulled off the road in a rural area to answer nature's call and crosses a fence into a field. A friend(?!) of his back at the car decided to videotape him from outside the fence. Our star still has his pants down as he is approached by a curious donkey. With one hand on his trousers he tries to run away and fend off the donkey with the other. Next thing you know he is lying on the ground, the narrator mentions something about the donkey seeking a mate, and...well, they didn't show the rest.

Friday, June 07, 2002

So you thought you were cheap?

Try again.


I don't have much new content to offer about now, but maybe you've been missing these folks.

Hawspipe has the only clean Marine joke I've ever heard.

Gene Expression is a combo of "A geneticist, a writer, a capitalist, a biochemist, an economist...and a blender." AKA Godless Capitalist, Joel Grus, Elizabeth Spiers, Razib, and Mary C. If you want controversy, this is the place.

Tom Daubert and Swen Swenson keep us up to date on Big Sky country.

The above are mere bloggers, but with Sasha Castel we have "La Blogatrice". Opera, politics, and some of everything else through the eyes of a New York woman. (What ever happened to BJ Thomas, anyway?)

And don't forget the Heritage Daily Briefing.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Taking evolution too far

I'm usually not the first one to an article, and usually unwilling to blog about what everybody else has. But I have to point this one out anyway, from a champion of animal rights:
Steven Wise leans to the lectern. "I don't see a difference between a chimpanzee," he states unequivocally, "and my 4 1/2-year-old son."
I'll bet that a chimpanzee could though.

Maybe it's time for some family services agency to take the boy away from him and replace him with a monkey. @#$% idiot!

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Household power problems

Unless you can borrow an ex-spouse's car, here's another thing not to do at home. Wind up the engine in the car while in Neutral, then shift it into Drive (or dump the clutch into high gear) suddenly. Did you notice anything?

Well, people are everlastingly doing the equivalent to our electrical supply system. And your house's wiring feels those sudden changes or "transients", passing them on to your appliances.

Just as some things are more fragile than others, some electrical equipment is more sensitive to transients than others. Big strong dumb things like heaters can take about anything. But devices containing chips are especially sensitive - transients can destroy the physical devices or just the data these devices contain. Even light bulbs are sensitive to transients - have you noticed that they usually fail the instant you turn them on?

Once I was driving in rural Illinois when I saw a very bright flashing in the distance. I was already going that way and I had nose troubles, so I drove toward it. About 15 miles later I found the problem - a power line had broken loose from the welding shop it supplied and was flopping about on the ground. Those flashes were momentary short circuits, and every one of them would have felt like a big impact on the devices downstream. Anyway, a bunch of people were standing there watching it jump and flash and make noises. Fortunately no one was stupid enough to fool with it.

You can protect yourself from the power company and your neighbors in various ways. After frying her PC's motherboard, a relative is going to have the utility install some power conditioning apparatus for a fee of about $6/month. Or there's other equipment available from companies like Smarthome.

The above protect the whole house. But that doesn't mean that you don't generate transients yourself. Bump the garbage disposal. Turn on a light. Turn on a power saw, refrigerator, or air conditioner. Anything with a motor might take as much as 6 or 8 times as much current when it starts as it does when it has come up to speed - maybe you even see the lights dim when some of them kick on. For this reason it is smart to use surge protectors and uninterruptible power supplies.

Surge protectors are easy to find, but realize that they don't last forever - each spike damages them a little until they can no longer help. As for UPSs, I wouldn't be without one. They have the added virtue of alarming if the voltage coming to them from the wall gets low, so you have some warning about impending brownouts.

Transients aren't the only thing that can be wrong with your household electricity. If the voltage is consistently low or high there can be problems. In the US your appliances generally expect the voltage to be 110V, and lesser voltages can cause performance problems.

If the voltage is low something is probably overconsuming. I saw an excellent example of that at a friend's house once, where the lights to their barn were getting progressively dimmer. The power line from the house had been a DIY installation, definitely not in accordance with codes and standards. I told my friend that he probably had a short that was big enough to bleed juice like a fiend but not big enough to trip the breaker. Ah, he remembered a particularly ugly splice in the buried wire and he went to dig it up. A couple of scoops later steam was coming from the ground. He shut it off, respliced it with a better connection and better insulation, turned it back on, and suddenly he had brighter lights and lower power bills.

If the voltage is high, that's probably because the other side of neutral is low. This is bad because it tends to overheat sensitive devices like computer chips. Since computer chips are found in almost anything nowadays, voltage control is more important today than ever before.

Minor variations can make a difference too, because the heat increases approximately with the square of the voltage - a 10% increase in voltage can give you a 21% increase in heat to reject, which forces the operating temperatures up. Even light bulbs won't last as long - if they seem to last longer in some parts of the house rather than others, you might have this problem.

What's "the other side of neutral"? That's too much to explain here, but the cure might be as simple as rearranging the way your breakers are arranged in your distribution panel.

Gosh, I'll bet you wish I had a tip jar now, eh?...

Wake me up!

I know Dave Tepper has that trademarked, but surely he can cut me some slack for contributing so generously to his list of songs a few weeks ago. Now I need a list of my own, of Songs You Can't Possibly Sleep Through.

If I have any circadian rhythms at all, they must not be on a 24 hour cycle. Or maybe I was meant to live on the equator with constant length days. Anyway, it seems like I'm about as likely to be wide awake as dead sleepy at any given time of the day, and it shows in the times of some of my posts. It's not sleep apnea - I already checked (and from what I can tell there's an unseemly haste to prescribe expensive treatments for this - hey, it's just the insurance company's money...).

It wouldn't be so bad if I had been born rich instead of so...otherwise. But having a day job and other remnants of a life beyond blogging besides, well, at least I've learned that once in a while a catnap works wonders. Maybe I need this gadget.

Wanna make a million bucks? Figure out a way to transfer sleep and other bodily functions. There would be no more unemployment - they could all be eating, sleeping, exercising, fornicating, excreting, whatever, for someone else. Why not? - we already have surrogate mothers and "Exercise in a Bottle". And it'd take care of that teen sex thing too - "Can't come tonight - I have to have sex for my folks."

But this morning, despite crashing at a fairly reasonable time last night, I didn't wake up until about 11 AM. I must have slept through an hour of "Bob and Tom" and a metal CD. So now I'm looking to burn the ultimate Can't Sleep Through It CD.

Any suggestions?

World's best public bathrooms

We amateur journalists need a head for news. I knew I was on to something when channel surfing took me to the Travel Channel where I found "The World's Best Public Bathrooms". Here's the poop.

Sloan's ice cream shop somewhere in South Florida was 10th best. They had big windows into the bathroom that became opaque when the door was properly closed. Not all of the patrons close them properly, although we were spared the proof.

If a woman suggests Pasha's in Chicago you might want to reconsider. The women's room has a bar and live entertainment. As if they didn't spend enough time in there already.

The Maximum Salon Day Spa in NYC offers use of a thoroughly modern massaging throne with the latest in cleanliness irrigation technology, although men might do well to avoid some of the settings.

The best bathrooms for flirting were in Club Sugar in Santa Monica, CA. Gosh, why didn't I think of that?

But the best of all was with a jeweler in Hong Kong. A $200 jewelry purchase entitles you to visit a bathroom heavily decorated with gold, including a $3M toilet.


Where do they find the leather-lunged announcers who shout "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL" for the World Cup matches? Does Guinness keep a record? The longest I've timed so far has been about 10 seconds.

Civic pride

St. Louis' own Anne Wilson is a nominee for the Sexiest Female Blogger. Through some grievous oversight somehow Alison was omitted. Paul?

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Voyeur dorm et al

A few years ago I heard a morning DJ hyping something called "Voyeur Dorm". It was a house in Tampa, FL, populated with college aged girls and innumerable webcams. The DJ gave out a temporary password and invited people to go online and check it out. So, in the interests of science...

Yeah, there were a lot of cameras. Some were infrared so they would produce an image after the lights were out, and some were labeled "pee cam". With my dialup line there wasn't much practical perv appeal, especially given the spike in traffic. But if nothing else it was enough to convince me that it wasn't a put on.

I'll say. Now TechTV's CyberCrime show is covering this, complete with blurred images and bleeps. Allegedly this operation has thousands of subscribers and has made $3M since 1998, and the girls make $400 to $700 a week.

The city fathers in Tampa are out to put Voyeur Dorm out of business, on the grounds that a business is being run in a residential neighborhood. This case could be fun to watch.

Ah, next story, on Yep, you guessed right. There are websites devoted to various tricks for shooting cameras up women's skirts and showing the relevant pictures. One trick was a low-slung gym bag with a camcorder pointed upward within.

More power stuff

If you don't look at anything else, check out Home Energy.

James Dulley has a regular newspaper column on household energy savings, and this site too.

Do you want to get really serious? Check out Home Power, which shows you how you can generate your own power and get off the grid. Unfortunately they let political nonsense detract from their message somewhat.

Kansas Windpower has been around for a while and I've heard good things about them. And there's Sunelco in Montana.

For a more yuppified approach there's Real Goods Trading from Ukiah, CA. They have a demonstration project described here.

Here are directories for solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power related businesses.

Then there's straw bale construction, earth sheltered construction, passive solar...I'd dig up more if I had the energy.

Cooler roofing

Alright, I've amused myself at the expense of Californians and their ongoing energy problems. Now I'll point out something that you all and many others can do to save lots of power. In return, all I ask is that you throw Gray Davis out of office, preferably in totally humiliating fashion. Deal?

Last year sometime I read a quote from a scientist who claimed that the energy shortages in CA could have been prevented if all of the roofs there were of white reflecting material. I haven't found a link to that, but here are some others.

The examples here are for commercial or govt facilities such as schools. Zoning or other restrictions might make such roofing impractical for residential use, not to mention that the pitched roofs might reflect the heat off to your neighbors, and the light can be dazzling. But for flat roofed buildings and mobile homes this might be just the ticket.

Kyoto vs. the US

Steven Den Beste is back and has a lot to say about the Kyoto Protocols (which sound like they were written by an Ayn Rand character).

Is Eric Raymond homophobic?

Eric Raymond has the following to say about girls learning how to perform oral sex:
Therefore, a teenage girl teaching herself how to give a good blowjob is not merely learning how to give a blowjob. She is declaring her intention to acquire the (now mainstream) virtue of sexual competence. She is matter-of-factly reaching not just for a particular skill that she knows will be expected of her as an adult, but to learn the attitude and sensitivity that will take her further on the path of sexual ability. She is growing herself up.

Looked at this way, it's hard to see why anyone living in 2002 should find Ms. Krinsky's report of her self-training exceptionable. One might just as well object to her teaching herself how to cook, or drive, or dance.
Now wait a minute. What does Mr. Raymond have against lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and transsexuals? Surely members of these groups would be offended if she refused to cook or drive for them. If BJs are just another social skill, doesn't our thoroughly modern teenage girl have more to learn yet so as to be more inclusive?