Friday, July 25, 2008

Awesome News on the Tech Front

I can't tell you how many times I've lost an alternator on a car, which, of course means that I've lost the battery, too. This is why I am very happy to have read this:

Team Doubles Efficiency of Thermoelectric Material: Good News for Car Electrics
Scientists at Ohio State University have taken a thermoelectric material that's been used for decades to power deep-space probes, and worked out how to double its efficiency. That's good news: thermoelectrics convert heat directly into electrical energy. By catching exhaust heat, the new material may allow car alternators to be replaced... and that'll push up the efficiency of car engines. The team doped lead telluride with tiny amounts of thallium, which adjusts the crystal structure and increases its heat-electricity conversion efficiency from around 6% to over 10%. Even better, since engineers have years of experience of working with lead telluride, it should be easy to commercialize the product. Environmentalists will have to be pleased, and relax about the high toxicity of thallium, though.
I don't know how long it will take, but I'm pleased as punch that it's coming.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In Case You Want to Buy Me a Present

I want this:

Trap Door Toaster

The Trapdoor Toaster.
This is the toaster that automatically releases perfectly browned toast through an under-mounted trapdoor, eliminating the need to pry bread from hot, clenched guide racks.
Awesome, right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Meme I Saw at Girlyshoes

Seen at Girlyshoes, and liked enough to steal:

Here are the rules:
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.
My flickr name came up with nothing,
so I used my last name, instead:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Screw South America!

Lots of people talk about wanting free trade with various countries in South America. I have news for you... I not only don't want free trade with South America, I don't even want free travel to South America. Why? Because if you go there, you'll probably die!

A Canadian woman died last year after stepping barefoot on several caterpillars, doctors reported in a teaching case published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The 22-year old woman from Alberta died 10 days after stepping on five caterpillars while on a trip to northeastern Peru.

The woman felt immediate pain in her right foot, which spread to her thigh, and later developed a headache. The pain in her leg was worse when she walked on it.

Arrangements were made to get a South American antivenin treatment to Canada, but it took 48 hours to do so and by that time it was too late for the young woman who died from multi-organ failure three days after being admitted to the hospital.
There you have it. If you travel to South America, venemous caterpillars will bit you and kill you. Go to another country? Hell's Bells, I rarely leave the two block radius where I walk my bassett hound. Trust me, I've lived, at least briefly, on every continent except Antarctica in my time on this planet, and I've never found a better place than planting my fat arse on my couch right here and pecking away at my laptop. I've got 198 channels of cable TV and a very nice BBQ grill out on my deck! Butcherboy delivers steaks to my house!

South America... pfffffft. You can keep it.

Just patting Myself on the Back

OK, when I bought my home, I wondered if it was smart to stay in Franklin Township. Sure, I already knew the commuting distance, and how far away each of my friends were. I knew about the convenient shopping, and the nice park areas. Apparently, Money magazine knows, too:

America's Best Places to Live 2008 (numbers 4 and 5)
When you hear the phrase “primeval old-growth forest,” chances are New Jersey doesn’t spring immediately to mind. But the state known for jokes about its mammoth turnpike does in fact boast such a pristine wilderness: a 65-acre one. In Franklin Township. This surprising 46-square-mile municipality, home to several different villages, also contains a towpath along a 19th-century canal beloved by bikers and runners, and bucolic back roads dotted with colonial houses and working farms.
Damn, my town sounds positively pastoral!

Monday, July 14, 2008

True is True

I say a lot of things, some of them right, some of them wrong. A lot of the things I say, I say because I believe that they're true. I read a line like that from my good friend and sometimes co-blogger Jazz, over on The Moderate Voice, today.
The Loyal Opposition: Over at Hot Air, my friend Ed Morrissey has a completely different take on it and, as usual, we disagree on virtually every point. He makes a fuss over Obama's 16 month estimate, stating that it will take longer just to get all of the equipment out. (And, apparently, if he can't do it in the exact time span of 16 months then the plan is fruitless and Obama should not be trusted with it.) My response to this argument is the same as to people who claim we shouldn't start drilling for more domestic oil resources because it will take seven years before we see any return. If you don't start, you will never finish. Timetables don't have to be written in stone. If it takes longer than sixteen months - be it 24 or 32 or whatever - just get started. The journey of a thousand steps, etc. etc. The goal is what counts, and the way to get out of Iraq is to get out of Iraq.
OK, if he's talking about drilling in Alaska, I can't say that I agree 100% with that, but not for the late-returns reason. I do agree, though, 100% with the truism that if you don't start, you will never finish. I'm on a project right now that I expect to take 3-5 years. "Such a long time!", people exclaim, but that doesn't bother me. In 5 years or so, I will be 5 years older, and I will have finished this project. My alternative choice was to be 5 years older without having finished it. Get it?


Thursday, July 3, 2008

I'm Doing Science and I'm Still Alive

OK, things are going on all around me with a speed that is dizzying. I haven't had time to pay attention, because work kind of sucks right now. I hear that Obama is considering a stupid insult of blending religion and state. I hear that Israel and Hamas have a truce going on. I hear that the government is getting stupider about air travel.

They should all just behave like El Al - to everyone - and prejudice wouldn't be an issue. Sure, it's a giant pain in the ass, but El Al never made me take of my shoes.

The one thing I can do while working is listen to music. Jonathan Coulton's song "Still Alive" (the credits song for the video game Portal) is amusing the hell out of me while I'm working, and Bruce Springsteen's "Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ" is on constant loop in my car. Some of my favorite lyrics in the world are from that album.