Friday, August 31, 2012

Where's my Navbar?

Ah, the troubles never end. For no reason that I can discern, the Navbar atop this page has disappeared. It doesn't make a lot of sense though: I would not expect Google to botch it or allow others to hack their basic services. I can't quite believe that anyone would bother to do it deliberately without telling people so I will conclude it is a technical botch.

Off The Rails

As a follow-up to my previous posting about plans for a "fantastic" new rail line here, check out this page: it just got truly fantastic. The article points out how if the figures provided  were to be believed, this new line will basically be the fastest metro line in the world . . . only it can't be. The figures are bogus. 

More importantly, it seems to me that there is some sort of local fiddling going on in certain areas of North Shore.  . . .or am I imagining it?

 From memory, earlier there was supposed to be a fantastic new dedicated pair of bus lanes to Rouse Hill which cost a heap of dough to build - only it doesn't work because somewhere along the way the dedicated bus lanes disappear, the buses are jammed in traffic same as every other mug in his car,   and make the whole thing a very expensive joke. When it was being built, amazing fast commute times were claimed which then turned out to be fairy floss.

Now we have a railway line that will make those bus lanes look cheap - it includes 28 kilometers of tunnels! - and once again the quotes make it seem amazingly good- in fact, too good to be true.


At one time I think there were weird people imagining that maybe I was allergic to petrol or something: they just didn't get the idea that I can't afford a car and don't want the expense.

Several years ago I promised myself that when I made over $800 a week I would look at buying a car: well, that was then, now the costs have risen and I still don't see where I will gain from pouring so much of my hard earned into a gas buggy. Freedom? Are you kidding me? Have you seen the cities of the world lately?

Actually, having a car is pretty much a religion of modern western life - and I am wary of all religions. It never ceases to amaze me how people will get themselves into debt just to have a car they can impress people with. Maybe I'm the alien, but I don't care about impressing fools with things I cannot afford.

According to the NRMA website the cheapest car, a Hyundai, costs $178 per week in total running costs. I just don't have that - or to be exact, if I did buy a car and was paying out around $200 a week for something better than the worst, I would need another job or a payrise, and I am not poor either.
I have plenty of other more worthwhile things to spend that $200 bucks on. 

Sure, public transport is not so great: but it also has an important lesson for people - all those other folks on the bus or train are your neighbours and fellow natives. If you always drive around in  metal and glass box, you won't see as much of your fellow man as I do.
Do I like it? sometimes it is a trial but then it costs me a lot less and it seems to me less stressful than driving.
Eat more crow, folks, and as Joe Friday might say, "Just stick to the facts".

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What Oil Crisis? We Got Plenty ! (Plus more)

Check out this page at WIRED. 
Generally, I like Wired: they have some great stuff- but this article is pure soap and my trust in them dropped when I saw it.
Just check this graph for example:
Note how the predicted area is not even shown with dotted lines: it's all SURE to happen folks. :)

I can only conjecture that they were paid a bundle of money to publish it based in the idea that it would reassure "investors" and help jolly the US consumery  economy along.
A lie is a lie is a lie, guys.

As for "renewables can't compete": nope, they won't be able to if you destroy their chance to reach practical levels before the oil and gas run out.
To make the change you need a lot of lead time, and you need a lot of energy to manufacture the equipment, most of which will come from oil and gas products, along with investment money from wise people who are not behaving like scared sheep or greedy brats.
All that might cover our collective a**es when the price of oil starts to climb as it inescapably will. The only question is when.

 . . . . but I'm still not very hopeful: there are too many huge rigid structures in our society that cannot be easily replaced or substituted for if something went wrong with the global economy/support network.
On that subject, I am currently reading this paper from David Korowicz. You can download it as a PDF from the page: it is meaty stuff on the nature of our social structure and why it really isn't good at coping with big failures. 

"A very important feature of these primary global hubs is that they tend to have little or no redundancy. That is, they have no substitutes at scale. For example, we are all dependent on fiat currency, fractional reserve banking, and credit. We have almost no resilience to a systemic failure of the financial system, as we hold little currency, no alternative delocalised trading systems, have little to barter (as our personal productivity is dependent upon the globalised financial system), and have little capacity to maintain ourselves at even subsistence level (low personal and community resilience).
Likewise, while we might have a choice of electricity providers, they share a common grid. If the grid were to fail there is no fall-back system. Diesel generators are limited. Further if grid failure initiated banking and IT system failure, diesel may be unobtainable. 

A reason for the concentration on hubs and a lack of redundancy arises from what is known as preferential attachment. That is, the greater the number of connections to a node, the greater the likelihood that any new connections will attach to the same node. For example, as the globalising economy grows, increased population, wealth and integration opens up the possibility of greater economies of scale and more diverse productive niches. When new technologies and business models emerge, they co-adapt and co-evolve with what is already present. Their adoption and spread through wider networks depends on the efficiencies they provide in terms of lower costs and new market opportunities. One of the principal ways of gaining overall efficiency is by letting individual parts of the system share the costs of transactions by sharing common infrastructure platforms (information and transport networks, electric grid, water/sewage systems, financial systems), and integrating more. Thus there is a reinforcing trend of benefits for those who build the platform and the users of the platform, which grows as the number of users grows. In time, the scale of the system becomes a barrier to a diversity of alternative systems as the upfront cost and the embedded economies of scale become a greater barrier to new entrants, especially where there is a complex high-cost hub infrastructure. Such economies of scale come to interweave whole socio-economic systems, such as road networks and settlement patterns. Thus, there is vigorous competition between mobile phone service providers but they share common information platforms and depend on electricity networks and the monetary system, both of which have little or no system diversity."
 . . . . . . and I haven't finished reading it yet. 
I became aware of this situation as a teenager, and this sort of systems analysis knowledge is not new. 

What can one person do about it?  Do you want to be like the "preppers" I have seen on cable teevee and stockpile food and fuel in hopes that things will "recover" before your supplies run out?  I don't really see that as a sensible approach, even assuming that I had the resources lying around to try it . . . . 
Any comments?

Fame and Fortune Vs. Scientific Integrity

Neuroscientist Moran Cerf  tells in this video about how his serious work and the paper he and colleagues wrote became an overnight sensation because the reporters and news media blew the whole thing out of proportion - and it didn't end there. 

I tip my hat to Moran: I am glad that you did not drop your standards in the face of the bogus world of news media.
(Note: I tried to embed the video but for some reason Blogger just shows the spinning blobs and a list of crap that I don't want. )

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Birth of the Super-Maser !

Read it here courtesy of The Register.
I am posting this because :

1. It is a nice example of how new inventions can still be made, despite claims that "new inventions are only made by teams  in corporate labs these days".

2. He combined some obscure information from diverse sources and assembled the rig in his basement. Pure boffinry!

3. Something tells me this invention will be VERY useful in future : maybe for space travel?

Hats off to you, Mark Oxborrow!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bye, Harry

On Wednesday 15th August, Science Fiction author Harry Harrison died.
I will miss him: he wrote some of the best sci-fi stories which were both entertaining and thought provoking:
- Bill, the Galactic Hero
- The Stainless Steel Rat series of books
- The story "Make room, make room" which eventually  became the movie "Soylent Green"
and many others I don't remember.
Here's the wikipedia page 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

TIME WARS by Mark Fisher

This is all about what has happened to the dream of a world where automation was supposed to free humans from the drudgery and danger of work and give us all a better life with more leisure time.
Check it out here at Gonzo.
There is so much in it that you really need to read it yourself.
Note that not all of this apply to my own life - somehow I have avoided the worst parts, for instance I simply refuse to live in a permanent state of "precarity" - but I am an exception rather than the rule: still the big picture shown here is not pretty.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Skyscraper Index Plus

According to this theory, the world's tallest buildings have risen on the eve of economic downturns.
Get the info here at Wikipedia.
Pic courtesy of Wikimedia commons.
File:PetronasHead-IMG 0091 2000px.jpg

American politicians are speaking more childishly than ever according to one study.
American readers might be surprised to see that the Republicans rate a slightly lower age language level than the Democrats. Or they might not. :)
Is this the result of "coaching" by spin doctors?

Still catching up on a bundle of old links here folks.

What's really wrong with the Stockmarket ?

Check out this page.
John Coates, the writer of this book has the right idea: what we need for stability in the global markets is a way to disconnect the gambling, risk taking activity of stockbrokers from the survival of people.

Here again is the same issue but related to the current drought in the U.S.A.
This article tells an even more serious story: wars and mass deaths could result from the crazy speculations of wall Street.

After the recent collapse of big traders on Wall Street, one might have though that the US Government would get smart and change the way things were done: but no, it didn't.  Now we have computers doing the trading far faster than any human could - but the game itself is no different.

What we really need is a way to get all this Big Betting Shop away from the essential business of people getting food to eat, clothing and a roof over their heads. . . . .  but I suspect that won't be changing in a hurry.

You can hear similar sentiments expressed in the voiceover on this song: 

Too many people just can't seem to grasp the idea that There's no such thing as a free lunch :
by creating money out of thin air, you devalue all the real money and everyone loses out.

 . . but then that's the nature of humans I guess: the environment problem is the same sort of thing, you can't instantly see the result of driving a big V8 every day so people say "Oh, nothing is hapenning" but it adds up,  and over the years all those big V8s gradually  do the damage . . . . but by then it is much too late. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why Star Wars sucks

Yup,  I'm with David Brin there:
"Brin is just as unsparing when it comes to Star Wars creator George Lucas, whom he accuses of peddling “romantic claptrap about how demigods and mystic warriors are better than democracy”

Link here to the Wired interview. 

I don't actually have any if his books on my bookshelves - but that does not affect my agreement with his ideas as described here. 
Mind you, I have said before that democracy will be great when it happens. But which one? whose idea of "democracy"? the Ancient Greeks? I think you better read up on their society if you want that sort of democracy!

Now with Google Everything !

Welcome! This is The Empty Header II because I did have a blog over at LiveJournal of the same name for several years - but for no apparent reason it has disappeared. Lately it has been quiet but I had a lot of content there so I can only hope that it does reappear long enough for me to transfer any good stuff over to here. Of course, this site lacks some of the features I came to enjoy over at LJ, but that's life. As always, if there's anything you want, just let me know in the comments.

Update:  On my desktop machine, the LJ page is there as usual, yet my laptop cannot access it. Well, sorry LJ, but that's just nuts: if nobody but me can read my blog and only on some computers, what the heck is the point?  I'll put links to it here but from now on this will be my main blog.
Thanks for reading.