Thursday, October 10, 2002

30% of Americans are obese...

...according to this. That's in round figures of course.

No, that's not my line.

Say bye-bye!

From Drudge, here is a story of a woman who got to see her aborted fetus.

She didn't like it.

Small memory devices - which will survive?

I'm only now starting to consider buying some devices that use small memory gizmos like Sony's Memory Sticks. Near as I can tell, there are 3 incompatible types out there. Are there any bets about which ones will survive a shakeout?

For home experimenters

Get your fuel cells here.

Garbage power

From Yahoo and Reuters comes this:
Researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol have developed a microbial fuel cell about the size of a mobile phone that could be powered by organic household waste....The bacteria-driven cell, which would cost about 10 pounds ($15), directly converts biochemical energy into electricity. It uses E.coli bacteria to break down carbohydrates and release hydrogen atoms.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Personal lie detectors

It's cheap, it's 84% accurate, it's the Handy Truster!

Fire safety

Fresh from Google News... rooming house with no fire alarms burned down.

Maybe my years in engineering at nuclear power plants made me paranoid, but I seem to be the only one in the family who is concerned about personal or fire safety. One relative in particular has been known to shingle steep roofs 3 floors up in the rain, with no safety belt, while thunder was in earshot. Others, raised in the country, couldn't conceive of locking doors. Nobody seems very concerned about safety, especially when it comes to fires.

That's amazing. As I type this a bulletin is on TV about a local hall burning down.

Let's see if I can find a link for this luck. Anyway, in the early 1990's the Quad City Times reported about a man who played a clown to entertain kids at a local restaurant.

He had boys of his own. Of course he and his wife took good care of them. They even had something fairly newfangled then - there was an audio monitor in the boys' room.

Then one day the boys were lost to a fire that started in their room. The cause? The transformer on the audio monitor.

In 2000, 85% of fire deaths were from home fires in the US. There were 3420 deaths, which was an increase of 18.1% from the previous year.

How long would it take for you to get everybody out of your place right now?

Medical miscellany

Medpundit doesn't have much use for health insurers. I don't know that I agree - I have a relative who handles health claims for a major insurer and her experience is nothing like this. On the flipside, the Bloviator is worried about financial viability of health insurance providers.

But the best thing I got from the latest visit to Medpundit was this lead to medical professionals who do not deal with health insurance. In so doing, they work at significantly reduced rates. For some people, using such doctors, in conjunction with catastrophic coverage with a high deductible, might be the best way to handle health care.

I suppose it's just a matter of time before you can buy medical care at Sam's Club or Costco.

Cellular piracy?

I just saw an ad for Sprint's new service. It can support using phones that can take and transmit pictures.

So now what - are entertainment and other venues going to frisk people for cellphones before they'll permit entry?

Good riddance

I'm no innocent when it comes to tastelessness, but then there's this.

Some of you might be aware that Darryl Kile, a star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, died suddenly this past season.

The Cardinals recovered, won their division and went on to play the Arizona Diamondbacks.

And a DJ in Arizona called the late Mr. Kile's widow and asked her if she had a date for the games.

Now the DJ is out of a job, and the Cardinals won in a sweep.

Monday, October 07, 2002

From those wonderful people who brought you the OJ verdict

A Los Angeles jury Friday ordered tobacco giant Philip Morris Cos. (MO) to pay $28 billion in punitive damages to a 64-year-old woman with lung cancer who sued the company for fraud and negligence.

Does it occur to these juries that if one plaintiff sucks the tobacco companies dry, then many others will go uncompensated for their problems? Would a judge allow a defendant to point this out?

I can't find a link for it, but I thought I saw something once that claimed various health benefits from smoking. Specifically, I thought it somehow suppressed some other lung conditions such as tuberculosis. I'm enough of a contrarian to believe that anything as universally reviled as smoking must have some redeeming features.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Bring back slavery...

It's the obvious solution to our economic problems. Why? Because a Chicago alderman, Dorothy Tillman, says America is rich "because of the free labor of blacks". She wouldn't lie about something like that, would she?

Yeah I know, it's shooting fish in a bucket (which I guess belongs here). But I figured it made a great headline in conjunction with the Civil War stuff below..

Happy 1st anniversary, Mindles Dreck

Congratulations to More than Zero. Find out why it's one of the best blogs around.

If Forrest Gump were a genius...

You remember Forrest Gump, don't you? If not, you have to see it. The younger you are the less of it you'll catch, but there's something for everybody.

In essence for my purposes, Forrest Gump was a dummy who always seemed to be around wherever history was being made. Somehow in the process he became a millionaire (by investments in "fruit companies" like Apple). Yes, he's a fictional character.

But in real life we had a man who was a very successful lawyer, investment banker, scientist, inventor, bureaucrat, and venture capitalist. He made his millions financing our electric utility infrastructure, then turned to his lifelong interest in science, opening up a prominent lab, hiring brilliant scientists to staff it, and performing original research himself. As he saw World War II looming, he used much of his money and influence in support of critical tasks like radar and the Manhattan Project. And I'm betting you've never heard his name.

From his behavior, he would have liked it that way. Alfred L. Loomis didn't seek the spotlight, he just wanted to get things done. And you can read all about it in a recent book called Tuxedo Park.

Yes, Tuxedo Park. Loomis lived in this onetime land of the snobs' snobs and set up his personal laboratory there. There he did some of the first research into brain waves and microwave radiation, and put up with cranky neighbors who didn't want riffraff like Niels Bohr and Ernest Lawrence hanging around.

And his sons were accomplished too. The youngest was still alive this past summer and had this to say.

Take that, Kennedys.

Electric dogsleds

There's a dogsled theory of management that says "if you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes". But for the dogsleds that's completely irrelevant to what follows, but this is my site and you ought to be used to this by now.

Anyway, dogsleds aren't a bad analogy for what you're dealing with when you hook up multiple generators to provide power to the same electric grid. You'll have a lead dog. You want to make sure that all of the dogs are pulling their share of the load rather than just keeping up with the traces, and you sure don't want a dog that is soaking up power from the other dogs.

You can overextend the analogy though. There's never been a band called Three Generator Night, and whipping a turbine or a diesel isn't likely to affect its behavior. Instead, you adjust the governor.

What's a governor? A device to control the speed of a prime mover like a diesel generator or turbine. With the proper feedback, it can also impose a maximum load the prime mover will carry. It does this by monitoring the speed of the device, and if properly equipped, it also monitors the current power level. When it detects a discrepancy between the machine's behavior and its current settings, it manipulates the machine's controls to minimize the discrepancy.

With sophisticated modern controls this can be done in a number of ways. But for backup purposes a lot of them still depend on traditional flyball governors, which are neat little mechanical gizmos.

These mechanical governors are driven by a shaft that rotates at a speed proportional to that of the prime mover itself. This causes some weights to rotate at this speed, and centrifugal forces cause them to want to fly out. As they do, they displace a shaft which ultimately controls the prime mover. A spring resists this displacement, and the setting the speed the governor maintains actually amounts to tightening or loosening this spring's tension.

That shaft that displaces - what does it do? That depends on the prime mover. For a steam turbine, it would manipulate the main steam control valves, controlling the rate at which steam enters the turbine system. This of course affects the boiler, which will respond to the resulting increase or decrease in back pressure from the turbine (and more, in the case of a nuke) to adjust power as needed.

For a diesel generator, it controls the positions of the fuel racks. These control how much fuel is injected into each cylinder at each stroke. In essence it's like the accelerator pedal in a car, but the linkage is a lot more complicated.

OK, you're controlling the speed. But this only works if all of the generators are set for exactly the same speed. The ones set lower will take it easy while the ones set higher might overload.

So how do you whip the dogs, ie how do you make sure all the generators are carrying their share of the load? That's another post. Til then...

It's official - I have no life

You can be that way too. Look up Carrot Top in IMDB. You'll find that that really isn't his name (say it isn't so!). And for a bonus, they have a picture!

That's all. Where are my meds?