Thursday, 30 June 2011

A telling scandal

Shameful!  Disgusting!
An art exhibition opens in Bristol that sparked so much controversy that the president of the Royal West of England Academy resigned in protest against it.

What was it?  A painting of Jesus Christ in a gay orgy with the disciples?  The Union Jack festooned with pus?  An installation of freshly slaughtered goats?  Anything involving Gordon Brown in a jock strap?

No, (hide the kids) the exhibition highlights an artist who can actually paint and whom the public actually likes!

EADS Altran airport of the future

EADS claims that by 2050 they'll have an airport system that will get you on your plane within ten minutes. 

Unless the authorities have wised up by then and either a) crushed the Jihadists so they no longer pose a threat or b) stopped making the transport system the first line of defence, I see security as the elephant in the middle of the ticketing hall.

Putting that aside, I doubt that being "friendlean" is the answer.  In fact, the idiots who use words like "friendlean" are as much a part of the problem as the "enemyfat" people.  What these over-designing designers fail to understand is that much of the problem is very simple.  Passengers don't want to be interacted with, they want to be listened to.  They don't want to be immersed, they want to get to their plane on time.  They don't want little blue touch screens, they want to get where they're going on time and intersecting with their luggage at the same space/time coordinates.  During this, they want to be treated like human beings, not have to lug their belongings down endless terminals like pack animals, not get molested by dead-eyed security guards, not to have to sit on the floor, not get bumped from flights, not suffer insane layovers that no one told them about, and, please God, be able to get a large pink G & T while waiting for the boarding announcements. 

Part of this will involve technical and logistical improvements that the passengers needn't and don't care to see.  Some of it will mean simply increasing the capacity of airports many times above what they are now to not only allow for more passengers, but also to increase the number of planes that can land and takeoff.  And some of it will mean rethinking air travel in an age of increasingly powerful computers that will allow smaller and smaller airports to take up the slack and change the system from one based only on a few hubs to one that includes many local "taxi" airports.  If we had the latter today, I could catch a plane at a local airfield only ten miles away.  If it included grass air strips, a mile and a half.

But what it really requires is a return to old-fashioned customer service.  We can't recapture the glory days of air travel except for those willing to pay the equivalent of the GDP of a small African nation for a ticket, but what we can do is make air travel not only tolerable, but actually enjoyable once again by treating passengers as what they are; customers who are there to be pleased, not unwelcome baggage to be shoved along.  Get them to where they want to be with a minimum of hassle and allow them to get a drink and a meal without feeling like the passengers of a Victorian railway carriage assaulting the refreshment bar at the station during a ten-minute rest stop.  And if the plane breaks down on the tarmac, for the love of heaven let the passengers off while you fix the bloody thing instead of having them wait in their horrid, cramped seats for five hours without toilets or so much as a glass of water while a dozen infants and toddlers scream in justified outrage.

You'll surprised at the results.

Finally, the following directives should be posted in all airport employee canteens and recited to the staff on a daily basis whilst beating them with rattan rods:




Swedish preschool gets those childhood traumas in early

Western Civ circles the drain.
And now a bit of Scandanavian madness: Egalia; a preschool where any references to gender are banned down to and including personal pronouns.

Stand by for the follow up story fifteen years from now about the most confused and screwed up group of people outside of a furries cosplay group.

The Jarvis Model JR-50 robotic hog head dropper

Jarvis Products Corp presents the world's first pig-decapitating robot.

And you know something; it looks like a pig decapitating robot.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

News you can use: Cardiac edition

Right.  Where's me hammer?
Popular Mechanics looks into how to perform open heart surgery.

It's good to see that PM hasn't abandoned the DIY readership.

Elliptical Machine Office Desk

For $8000 you can get this adjustable desk combined with a torture machine chair/elliptical trainer to keep you in shape while you play Farmville instead of finishing those quarterly reports that were due last Thursday.

Or, if you're a bit strapped, you can do what I do for exercise:  Work at home with an eight-year old who's off for the summer while sharing the house with two herding dogs who noticed that the neighbours bought a couple of baby goats that are just begging to be herded to death.

I think I've lost half a stone in three days.


When the wife and I got married we took one look at the estimate* and opted for a family-only ceremony in front of our fireplace followed by a small reception at a local restaurant and a larger informal one at a picnic ground for our fiends a few weeks later.  I think our decision had something to do with not having to live under a hedge after the honeymoon.

*That and after we sweated blood getting the invite list down to 75 people I noticed that we'd forgotten my sister.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Too little too late?

The Netherlands looks into the abyss and realises that multiculturalism results in more than just exciting new cuisines and exotically-dressed people on the streets of Amsterdam.

It's a welcome development, but I can't help wondering if it's a bit like trying to stop a Panzer invasion by wagging a riding crop.  Thirty years ago, rejecting multiculturalism would have cost little more than listening to cries of "racist" from the usual quarters.  Three decades of encouraging mass immigration of Muslims, many of whom prefer domination over assimilation, has caused so much damage that today we see a native population that isn't just uncomfortable, they are frightened for their survival as a culture and their personal safety.  If these fears aren't addressed and the problems wrought by multicultural insanity met head on, then the final correctives will be very nasty.

As I've said, it isn't a choice between easy solutions and hard ones, it's between hard solutions and appalling ones.  The longer we wait, the harder those solutions become until we face nothing less than Scylla on one hand and Charybdis on the other.  I, for one, don't want to live to see a Europe that has put off the day until the only options left are a suffocating dhimmitude and a grotesque replay of the Reconquista on a continental scale.

Update: The Americans also have some coming to grips to learn, too.

Update: Australia runs in the opposite direction.

Who are the Socialists

Victor Davis Hansen looks at today's Socialists and sees that the one defining factor hasn't changed since the days of the Politburo:
Who are socialists?

There are none. Only technocratic overseers who wish to give someone else’s money to others as a means of winning capitalist-style lifestyles and power for themselves — in a penultimate cycle of unsustainable spending. When this latest attempt at statism is over, Barack Obama will enjoy a sort of Clintonism, a globe-trotting post officium lifestyle of multimillion dollar honoraria to fund a lifestyle analogous to “two Americas” John Edwards, “earth in the balance” Al Gore, a tax-exempt yachting John Kerry, a revolving-door Citibank grandee like Peter Orszag, or a socialist Strauss-Kahn in $20,000 suits doling out billions to the “poor.”

Don Draper's greatest challenge

You are aware that monkeys don't have any money, right?
You know you've reached market saturation when the advertising guys start targeting capuchin monkeys.

Why waste time?

Caution: Confusing to headhunters.
Michael Deacon at the Telegraph looks at the advantages of ignorance and snobbery.  I know it works for me.

He also has this to say about poets:
Having never earned a royalty cheque for their own work greater than 37p, most poets don’t know what to do with money, and greet it with the mixture of terror, consternation and hysteria you might expect from a primitive Papuan tribe confronted for the first time by a television set.
Too true.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Swings and roundabouts: Nuclear edition

The good news is that the American nuclear industry is booming. 

The bad news is that all the boom is happening abroad because of the regulations of the anti-progress, anti-prosperity Barack Hussein Obama administration that hold nuclear power to safety standards that a broiled steak wouldn't pass and "oversight" that is indistinguishable from obstruction.

The better news is that small modular reactors may manage a work around.

Ecco camper

Tiny wheels, low carriage, and a wet, uneven beach.  That'll work.
Another one of those "green" automotive designs that are about as practical as trying to mend a roof with a slice of turkey bologna.  I notice that the whole "green" thing is getting a bit weaselly, too.  Now that we know how mind-bogglingly polluting electric vehicles are with their batteries stuffed with rare-earth metals and convoluted international production lines, the "zero emissions" thing has become "zero-local-emissions".  Or "NIMBY emissions" if we want to be honest.

Apparently, emissions (not defined, but I suspect they mean carbon dioxide, which is perfectly harmless) are fine so long as they occur in some faraway land where Ecco camper owner needn't bother himself because feeling good is much more important than doing good.

Suburbs: 1957


Life in the American suburbs as seen through the eyes of the marketing department of Redbook magazine.

Lileks did an excellent column on this recently and the lock-step conformity of those who rail against '50s "conformity".  That post-modernist posturing is getting so old that even the self-appointed elite are getting nostalgic.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The show must go on

A performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was cancelled after a stagehand died of a heart attack backstage.

I can appreciate the sentiment, but if I'd died on stage*, I'd have preferred to go out the way Tommy Cooper did: With the show going on while my feet were sticking out under the curtain.

*Come to think of it, I did–more times than I care to think about!

Artist's Statement


This is what happens after you've ridden the Bubblelator one too many times.

Cosmos Part 11: The Persistence of Memory

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Witch Doctors of England

What I've always suspected about the attitude of Environmentalist:
An organisation of British witch doctors– the IPSO (International Programme on the Supernatural of the Occult)–has placed a curse upon the oceans of the world as punishment for man's lack of faith in the authority of global witch doctors.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series

The current Green Lantern feature opened to some mixed reviews, but, as is often the case with superheroes, the animated spinoff looks better.

The Mermaid

The Japanese develop the world's first self-propelled endoscope.

True, it may be a tremendous breakthrough that will save many lives and alleviate the sufferings of many more, but if anyone comes near me with that thing, I'm out the door.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


A seaweed-based fuel economy?  I don't think so.
EADS unveils its Zero Emission Hypersonic Transportation hypersonic airliner of 2040.

Interesting, but when did hydrogen become a "biofuel"?


If EADS "biofuel"  hydrogen  hypersonic airliner doesn't impress, then how about hopping across the Channel for HyperMach's SonicStar .  What it lacks in "green" cred it makes up for with engines featuring superconducting ring generators.  Oddly enough, but quite logical when you think about it, generating bucket-loads of electricity actually makes it more efficient.  Or so the boffins claims.

Also, it has a bit of a Fireflash air about it, so I'm giving it extra points.

Undersea bubble craft

Only in Popular Science: From research craft to family runabout in one cover illustration.

Stag Nights

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Doing the maths

Squawkfox looks at how to get 22 meals out of a single chicken over a five day period for $49.

I'd be more impressed if it weren't that a) she counted servings as "meals", b) most of the dishes were stews, and c) $21.92 of the budget was blown on a single organic chicken at $3.49 per pound.

For that amount of money, I could have bought four Costco chickens already roasted and have enough left over for proper side dishes in obscene portions and a couple of bottles of plonk.

Now that's economy.

Update: I just noticed that she used the neologism "frugalicious".

I'm calling the police.


Pasta of Evil
Whole-grain pasta may not have any health benefits.  Thank God for that.  I've never cared for the stuff.  I once dined with some friends in Oxford who were whole-grain enthusiasts and I quickly discovered that unless you're slowly weaned onto the stuff it plays hobs with your bowels.  Whenever I had dinner with them I used to fuel up at the local cafe and then strategically pick at my plate to avoid any undignified rushes to the bog.

You'd think I'd have learned from that episode,  but a couple of years ago, not noticing the the brown colour,  I accidentally bought a packet of whole-grain spaghetti and with true Yorkshire stinginess I resolved to eat it.  Until then, I never realised that it was possible to actually boil wood or that marinara sauce doesn't do much to hide the fact that you need a steak knife to cut the spaghetti. 

Come to think of it, the article was wrong.  Whole grain pasta does have health benefits–If you're going on an Atkins diet and want a reason to swear off starches, this is it.

The power of chicken

Mayekawa Manufacturing demonstrates its robot capable of deboning 1,500 chicken breasts per hour.

Fascinating and slightly surreal.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Green last stand

Rio, Kyoto, Copenhagen, Masada; not going exactly as planned.
James Delingpole looks at the latest in a long-line of Environmentalist scandals and asks the question, will the global warming crowd admit they're wrong or will they gather for a final Climate Masada?

A matter of perspective

I told the wife that I found this clip terribly depressing.  Perplexed, she said that she didn't understand why and that it was very inspirational.  I then pointed out that having just spent $400 getting my brakes fixed because it was too difficult for me I was now watching a man lacking arms doing the same job with his feet

Makes you feel bloody useless.

Concept cars

Astra Gnome: "Time and Space Car", 1956
Dark Roasted Blend looks at the motor cars that never were, but should have been.

The Restless Sphere

Friday, 17 June 2011

The only fix-it guide you'll ever need

Breathalyser watch

If need a breahalyser so often that strapping it to your wrist sounds like a good idea, then you need to do some serious lifestyle reassessments.

Your moment of culture

Academy Award-winning actor Mr Richard Dreyfuss reads the iTunes EULA agreement!

More of this wonderful performance here.

Cosmos Part 10: The Edge of Forever

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Time to pull out the woolly jumpers

According to an announcement at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, the Sun is moving into a period of inactivity not seen since the Maunder Minimum–that's what triggered our last little ice age.

Global warming activists responded by pretending that their shoes were untied.

update: James Delingpole weighs in.
New edicts will be issued by world leaders including President Ryan of the US, Prime Minister Farage of Great Britain and Aussie premier Plimer, scrapping High Speed Rail, abandoning all renewable energy schemes (apart from, maybe, hydroelectric) and making the ownership of 4 x 4s or similar gas-guzzling vehicles compulsory by 2015. Stringent punishments to be introduced for those whose carbon footprint falls below a certain agreed minimum level.

The Bloody Obvious Department

From the BBC:
Gaddafi regime 'not attending London Olympics'

Why the hurry?

The British government sells the Harriers to the Americans "for peanuts".

There's a pattern here.  Invincible is being cut into scrap as we speak, Ark Royal is on the block, the Nimrods were shredded within weeks of demobbing, and now the Harriers are off to the USA to be stripped for spares.  Why?  The best answer I've seen so far is that the coalition is angered by all the criticism of the defence cuts and is doing everything they can to make them irreversible as, according to Con Coughlin at the Telegraph, an act of petty revenge.
I am reliably informed that the decision to sell the Harriers, which was only taken yesterday, was an act of vengeance against Admiral Stanhope for daring to suggest that the Government might wish to reconsider its decision to scrap a vital maritime capability. 

This government is not only incompetent, it is childish.

Oh, Sheep!

Welsh firemen rescue a sheep from a rooftop in Pontycymer.

What I want to know is, how the deuce did it get up there in the first place?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The 2011 Szondy Family Summer Reading Cha

A new blog dedicated to 21 weeks of reading fun.

Airbus 2050

Airbus reveals its concept of the passenger plane of the future.

M Champion lost me the moment he said "experience".  I had an airline "experience" last Saturday and one is enough, thank you.  I'll grant that some of this is interesting and if Airbus can pull off a passenger cabin with a panoramic view, I will be impressed.  However, all these "smart tech zones" and "revitalising zones" amount to one big "aggravation zone".

Why is the bracing so weird?
Look, if the crazed weasels who make up the Airbus design team are reading this, please pay attention.  What I, and I suspect the saner fraction of the travelling public, want is a passenger plane that I can get on quickly, get off quickly, moves my luggage about equally fast without destroying it, drinks, a seat large enough and with enough leg room that I can finish my journey without being crippled, a large enough window that I can see out of without straining my neck or blocking my neighbour's view, drinks, corrosion-resistant aircraft materials that allow the cabin to be properly pressurised and humidified so I'm not snuffling for three days after, a decent meal on long flights, two on transatlantic ones, drinks, friendly cabin crews that don't get their knickers in a twist about being called stewards and stewardesses,  an entertainment system with a decent variety of films plus a GPS readout of our course so I know where the hell I am, wifi Internet access if possible, not being treated like a terrorist suspect while the bloke with the "I heart Al Qaeda" tee shirt is treated with kid gloves, and drinks.  Put those together and I'm as happy as dog rolling in something smelly. 

Call it the "I just want to get my destination in one piece with a reasonable degree of comfort and no, you may not use my body heat to power your bloody aeroplane because I'm using it and clearly you don't understand what the auxiliary power unit is for, so naff off! zone".

10 fixes

This is absolutely incredible.  Popular Mechanics provides a list of ten ways to handle the current energy crisis until a proper solution comes along.  First off, the solution they put forward isn't wind mills and unicorn farts, but fusion power.  Second, there's no waffling on about "carbon".  And third, the list actually makes sense!

What happened?  Did their Soma shipment get lost? 


"That's the problem with machines; they're designed by people who love them."

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Swings and roundabouts

HMS Victory
The defence news out of Britain hasn't been this depressing since Dunkirk.   Thanks to the coalition's axe-murderer style cuts, the Royal Navy is in a pitiable conditions.  Stripped of aircraft carriers and fighter aircraft, the Senior Service is reduced to sending men to serve aboard France's Charles de Gaulle to relearn how to handle catapult takeoffs.  It's bad enough that our lads have to learn French, but if this leads to some idiot saying "This worked out so well (even if it hasn't), let's make the arrangement permanent", I shall demand that all three major political parties be disbanded.  What no one seems bothered to ask is, since Britain is going to use F-35 Tornado IIs, why the blazes aren't the RN training aboard an American carrier?

Speaking of the Americans, Mr Barack Hussein Obama has once again shown how he really feels about Britain by backing Argentina over the Falklands (or the Malvinas, as the US State Department now refers to them).  Admiral Sir John "Sandy" Woodward has even gone so far as saying that in the present situation, Britain couldn't hope to hold or retake the islands if 1982 replayed itself.  Not surprising, since Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope states that without Ark Royal or the Harriers, Britain can't hope to even hang on in Libya much longer.

The only good news is that Trident has again been excluded from any planned cuts.  Thank God for that. With the way things are going, the Independent Nuclear Deterrent may not only be Britain's only claim to top table status, but it may need to be promoted from last line of defence to first line of defence.

Update: Lord West: "Stupid" not to reopen review.

The age of the robot car

Fast Company looks at the possible impact of robot cars in the near future:
But a world filled with robot cars may have consequence even their creator can’t predict. Driverless cars would be a perfect match for car-sharing services such as Zipcar or Getaround, gradually replacing the idea of car ownership with “mobility-as-a-service.” That, in turn, may lead to a precipitous fall in car ownership--as high as 50%--while breathing new life into suburbia and creating more congestions as the pain of commuting lessens. And what would halving the number of cars on the road mean for the Detroit Three--and the taxpayers who’d like the rest of their bailout back?
Interesting,  though the author is clearly a city boy.  Robot cars have their advantages and I'd love to see them perfected, but they sound very much like an urban phenomenon for people for whom owning a car in central London is like being given a dead albatross complete with neck rope.   Out where I live, the car isn't just a taxi that I happen to own; it's a hauler (my 4X4 is legally classed as a truck), emergency vehicle, people transport, dog transport, and a key element in the Szondy family disaster planning.   What to do if the balloon goes up?  The three-day packs are in the Blazer. Furthermore, I live on a mountain, so some cyber-Prius isn't going to cut it if the road up gets icy.  And then there's the fact that if I do order a roaming robot car with my smart phone, "around the corner" is at least seven miles away.  Also, I sincerely doubt if these would be built with travelling any distance in mind. 

The most chilling point is found in the last paragraph:
Perhaps in the future, they will socialize on smart phones in driverless cars. 
Oh, Lord, they'll want me to socialise.  Exactly the thing I've spent half a century trying to avoid.  No, thank you.

Frühstück, Mein Herr?

Having taught them how to make pancakes, German engineers teach a pair of robot roommates how to prepare a Bavarian breakfast.

It looks as if the PR2 general purpose robots are paying off.  Now if they can master eggs, bacon, baked beans, and chips with a mug of tea, then they'll be on to something.

The Don Draper

I'll have a Don Draper, please; heavy on the emotional fortress.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Fly the ghastly skies

Gads, what a weekend!  I had to take a red-eye flight to Minneapolis on Saturday and back home the next morning on another flight  that was so early that I never got to bed and ended up at back at SeaTac after 25 hours without sleep.  By the time I staggered out of the arrivals terminal, I was unshaven, still in the clothes I left in, missed lunch and dinner the previous day,  and breakfast at 4 AM Sunday consisted of a ham sandwich that cost as much as an entire pig and a poorly-made latte that I later regretted.

What made matters worse was that I'd been booked on one of those budget airlines that charge you extra for breathing inside the cabin and provide you with seats so small that you can't wear even a light summer jacket without it flowing over the arm rests.  Worse, the only "free" entertainment aboard was the lone music channel that consisted entirely of Minnesotan artists.  Thank God I'd remembered my MP3 player stocked with Beethoven symphonies and a couple of feature films–not that the latter did much good over the roar of the engines.  Beethoven can cope with that, but not much else can.

Regular readers will know that I can't stand air travel.  At least, I can't stand regular commercial air travel.   If I travel by seaplane or some local prop service, I'm happy.  But put me in those flying cattle cars that lurch between major airports, and I am miserable.

It isn't just the indignity of going through security checks that make me feel like I've been arrested.  That's a nightmare in itself, but at least I get my revenge at the full-body scanner when the junior KGB agent has to look at the outline of my middle-aged body.  No, it's mainly the increasing coarseness of it all.  I've been flying for over forty years and I recall when air travel was an adventure.  More than that, when it was something to be looked forward to rather than dreaded.  There was once a time when airlines promised (and delivered) speed, comfort, and service.  They weren't perfect by any means, but they at least did their best.  It wasn't that long ago that airliners boasted lounges, bars, and proper sleeping berths.  True, tickets back then were too expensive for the common man, but even when the age of mass travel started there was enough of a trickle-down from First Class that the coach passengers enjoyed an echo of gracious travelling.

I can understand how things have changed.  Once the airlines competed against railways, ocean liners, and even airships.  Now they compete against themselves in an environment that cuts margins to the bone, yet doesn't force enough of the weak sisters out of the game to make way for the real innovators.  Add in security and government regulations and you end up with a powerful downward pressure combined with a bureaucratic mindset.  All of this could be tolerated if it weren't for how a sense of shabbiness has crept into the whole thing.  Despite the efforts of some of the better airports to improve things, terminals are more and more like coach stations without quite so many puddles of fresh urine.  The depressing thing is that at least with coach travel you get a decent view of the countryside.  As air travel becomes more like waiting for a Greyhound, so the passengers look and act more like the sort of people who do that sort of waiting:  Men who dress like children, persons carrying frightening looking parcels, and those you really don't want to make eye contact or inhale downwind of.

Add in a service philosophy that treats passengers like cattle and you get flights like the one I was on Saturday where a coffee trolley becomes a source of excitement like an actual second of plot development during an episode of Game of Thrones. No wonder I was the only one aboard who felt obligated to put on a jacket to travel instead of  a shell suit and a baseball cap.

Why has this happened?  Why this race to the bottom and why have people responded in kind?  I think it's because air travel, at least at the major airlines end, is a bust.  True, jet liners are fast and they don't require much infrastructure compared to railways and cars, but getting hundreds of tons of metal to fly through the air isn't cheap and it leaves so little profit margin that slicing an inch off the leg room sounds like a good idea.  Can you imagine someone giving the deck chairs aboard the Queen Mary or the smoking lounge seats on the Hindenburg a similar treatment?  So we've gone from stratoliners with sleeping berths to economy seats designed for midgets.  Worse, it produces the attitude that makes the Peter Sellars advert at the top of the article look ludicrous by today's standards.

So, whats to be done?  There are some simple things, such as accepting that you get what you pay for and that anyone who flies Ryan Air or Sun Country gets what they deserve, and there are others such as encouraging stronger competition in freer markets, but I suspect that technology will have the decisive role.  For example, the development of more sophisticated air traffic control systems will allow true air taxi services to form and for even small jets to operate from local airports.  Blended body designs and other improvements may take the pressure off airlines to cram in seats and allow them to work more on improving service to attract people away from older cylinder airlines.  And the revival of the airship may bridge the gap between those who wish to travel in a hurry and those who wish to arrive in comfort.

Maybe, but in the meantime, I plan to travel by car whenever my schedule allows me.

Something for Nothing

Friday, 10 June 2011

Ten of the best British sports cars

Lotus 7.  Definitely the Lotus 7.

Communist cars

Peekaboo Pontiac

A true rarity is up for auction:  A see-through Pontiac saloon car built for the 1939 New york World's Fair.

It's designed as a sales gimmick, but sometimes I wish my car was like this.  Then I wouldn't spend so much time crawling around and peering into tiny crevices with a torch while I try to figure out what the blazes has gone wrong this time.

Pink Bugatti Veyron

My eyes!
Start scouring the law books.  Somehow, somewhere this has got to be prosecutable.

Cosmos Part 9: The Lives of the Stars

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Jet aesthetics

Yanko Design (The DREADCO of the design world) puts forth their proposal for a "recreational" private jet that drips "fighter jet aesthetics".

Will someone please take this lot aside and point out to them that jet aircraft are the shape they are because of  something called aerodynamics and anything cobbled together from aesthetics is going to auger straight into the ground faster than you can say Icarus?

Thank you.

Um, where are the pedals?

What's the point?

From Jeff Carter on energy policy:
The question we should be asking ourselves is not how we can conserve, but how can we best produce energy at the lowest marginal cost? There are three ways to do that: Nuclear, coal, and natural gas. They are cheap, abundant, and for national security bugs they are in our own country. Without new sources of them, we won’t expand our economy as fast as we could. Existing supply chains will become constrained, driving up the cost.
Mr Carter puts his finger on a point that's driven me bonkers ever since the energy crisis of the '70s:  If the Environmentalists (and I include Frau Merkel, Mr Cameron, and Mr Obama here) are serious and not pushing a barely hidden agenda, then what's the point of their drive to "conserve energy"?  Conserve it for what?  For how long? What comes next?  I can understand a conservation programme in wartime or if there's a woefully inadequate energy supply, but surely the goal in both cases is to mitigate any hardships until the war is won or capacity is restored.  Neither is the case here.  The ones bleating on about conserving and sustainability certainly aren't looking forward to the bright day when the emergency passes, the lid comes off, we can scrap the windmills and finally start building nuclear reactors and drill for oil again.  No, it always looks like candles and woolly jumpers until doomsday.

As I said, assuming the Environmentalists to be honest, what do they expect the rest of us to do?  Keep civilisation in stasis?  Create a steady state economy that never grows yet somehow never shrinks?  Declare that so many gigawatts may be generated and no more because... Because what?  It's like those insane resource conservation drives that tell us we must preserve this or that "for our children", but make it quite clear that those proposing the conserving don't want our kids to have a go at it either.

As for "efficiency", if you want to make an engineer angry, suggest that technology should be made more efficient. I had a friend in the field who would do his nut every time he heard about the government setting new energy efficiency targets as if they were the first ones to think of it.  "What the Hell do those tossers think engineers do?"  He'd yell over the din of the snug bar.  "The whole point of engineering is to make things more efficient. That's our job!"  It was a bit like telling a writer that things might go smoother if he put some words together.

Yes, I do know what the answer is–or are.  There are quite a few ranging from the clueless to the totalitarian, but they don't get much of an airing in public debate because people have no desire to become medieval peasants again, thank you.  I'm being rhetorical here.  I'm just curious about what the "green" crowd would say about energy policy if they lived in the real world where we actually need to not only keep the lights on, but to produce as much additional wattage as possible to solve our problems. What do they say to someone like me who pulls out the charge sheet and says, "Look here, we need 100 terrawatts of power by the end of the century or we're going bust.  Where are we going to get it from?"

Probably the same thing they say when it's pointed out that you can't defend a country with good intentions as opposed to warships and tanks.

Hug a Climate Scientist Day

Because so many climate scientists have received death threats... Okay, they didn't, but the poor dears are obviously very upset, so June 10th is Hug a Climate Scientist Day.

Mark your calendar and remember to give your nearest warmenist climate scientist a hug.

Or just invade their personal space.  Both are good.

Surrealism rules

Just when I start to figure out the world things like this happen:
Police say a man was carrying a dead weasel when he burst into a Hoquiam apartment and assaulted a man.
My brain hurts.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


It's bread day at EI; all bread, all day.

The story of bread

A fascinating and slightly frightening tale, given Miss Sunbeam here.

Oddly enough, bread is the key element in the foundation of civlisation and it came about because of beer.  If you think about it, the steps in making bread are pretty complex and getting from wheat to bread seems pretty improbable.  What actually happened was that mixing flour, yeast, and water produced a nice little lump that you could let sit, then break up into a pot of water to ferment if you wanted a quick (and disgusting) pint.  All it took is some drunken Babylonian getting the munchies and baking said lump and voila!  Bread.

Bread music

Baking Bread

How bread is made.

Baking Bread II

How bread is made when you haven't just been demobbed in 1946.

Homemade bread

Baking bread at home.

Homemade bread II

How to bake bread at home if you're a dog.

Selling bread

Specialty breads

Bread questions

Bread wars

Proving that someone has too much time one their hands, the BBC looks at the great British loaf of bread.

The noble loaf
One of the things I'm very particular about is sandwiches.  Sandwiches should be the sort of food I don't need to think about at all.  Ideally, they shouldn't even need to be made, but rather appear piled on a plate on the left-hand side of my desk where I can grab one without looking; secure in the knowledge that they'll be there.  Because of this, sandwiches need to be simple: Some ham, slice of Cheddar, splodge of English mustard, and cut into airplane wedges like gastronomical V-bombers.  If I'm feeling really ambitious I'll fire up the grill and make toasties.  And here's an idea: If I'm still hungry, I'll eat another sandwich.

That's all I want and that's why modern sandwiches annoy me so much when I go out to eat.  Instead of a bit of meat, a pile of bacon, or a dollop of egg salad, I'm confronted with an entire three-course dinner complete with green salad stuffed between two slices of "artisan" bread two inches thick and consisting largely of saw dust and bird seed.  I suspect that "artisan" is a euphemism for "bloody awful" and expect to be on the toilet the rest of the evening.  This monstrosity, which only remains stable due to a pair of toothpicks so large that Count Dracula would give them a wide berth, takes two hands, complete concentration, and several napkins to eat.  It defeats the whole purpose of the sandwich.  How does it help anyone if the sandwich just makes things messier?  If  I have to go through all that, I'd rather have the sandwich contents on a plate where they can be attacked with a knife and fork and the bread replaced with some chips.

The only exception I make to this rule is Reuben sandwiches.  I think it was Blaise Pascal who proved that there is no way to construct a decent Reuben without it collapsing into a handful of hot grease and sauerkraut after the first bite.  But if there are Reubens, there's going to be beer, so I hardly have grounds for complaint there.

And then there are the sandwiches that morph into bizarre shapes as if they'd been exposed to atomic radiation in some 1950s horror film.  What maniac came up with wraps?  Granted, they are lighter than most sandwiches (and in this artisian world that's saying something), but I dislike sandwiches that unravel.  Sandwiches shouldn't unravel.  And I especially dislike the McDonalds versions that are basically a tortilla with a chopped-up Big Mac ladled in.  Taking the paper off one of those is like disarming a bomb. Worse, a bomb filled with "special sauce", which doesn't bear thinking about.

Submarine sandwiches, grinders, and other variations stuck on French bread are more or less stable if you have a degree in civil engineering as well as cookery, but their tastiness is offset by their acting as if they're challenging me.  "Look at me," it says. "I'm a foot long and crammed with cold cuts, lettuce, onions, peppers, and three kinds of cheese and I clock in at two and a half pounds.  I don't think you can eat me and if you do, you'll live to regret it."  And it would be right.

I won't go into kebabs or "gyros" as they're called in the States.  I'll confess that I've eaten a lot of pita bread, but only as a side or because they go into a rucksack without getting easily squashed.  But as to filling them up with salad, yoghurt, and whatever creature died to supply the meat (please do NOT write to tell; I'd rather remain ignorant), I'm not qualified to judge as I've never eaten one unless it's after the pubs have shut and I have eight pints inside of me.  Perhaps that's just as well.

That's why I happen to like the sort of Chorleywood-style bread you get down the supermarket.  It's a bread that shows proper deference in the sandwich making process and never gives me an argument.  It's consistent, slices thin, toasts nicely, and has the decency to just lie there waiting for the Marmite.  True, it won't hold together very well when making a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, but I've found that the easiest solution is to forgo the lettuce and tomato and make up the deficit with more bacon.  It's what the Earl of Sandwich intended when he had the brilliant brainstorm and invented a snack he could eat while playing cards and who are we to judge his wisdom?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll find the cheese and piccalilli.