2007-05-31

 

Seeing the light

Having broken a few compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) over the years, I must confess to never having followed the recommended cleanup procedure. Hmmm ... I wonder if my homes are toxic badlands now?

EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:
  1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner.
    • Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands).
    • Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard.
    • Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
    • Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
  3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it.
    • If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available).
    • Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
  4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

The reason you don't want to vacuum is because you don't want to vaporize the mercury and fill the room with mercury vapour (which is more toxic). As well, you open the window to air out the room or any potential mercury vapour (which would be the case if the lamp was on when it broke).

You can get FAQs on CFLs here.

(I'll throw this in for free, fluorescent lamps are a source of UV light - better put on that sunscreen.)

Image nabbed from here.

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2007-05-25

 

On the Shoulders of Giants

I am sure most people have heard or read the quote attributed to Sir Isaac Newton:

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

It sounds like a wonderfully humble and self-effacing comment. We can easily imagine Newton slipping that in as he is being lauded for his contribution to science.

The actual context is a little more interesting. Newton was involved in a number of controversies during his life. The best known is probably between him and Liebniz over the invention of calculus (which historians now say was developed independently by both). Of course, he was also involved in conflict with Robert Hooke. Hooke criticized Newton's work on numerous occasions. Probably the most serious accusation came in 1675, when Hooke accused Newton of stealing work on optics from him (you might remember that Newton showed a prism will split light into a rainbow of colours - Hooke claims it was his discovery).

A number of letters were exchanged between the two over this and on 05-Feb-1676, Newton wrote that famous quote.

After Hooke died, Newton effected the removal of Hooke's portrait from the Royal Society (yeah, he hated him that much), so we have no idea of what Hooke actually looked like. However, some chroniclers describe Hooke as a small deformed man with a hump on his back (certainly not flattering). This description of Hooke makes Newton's quote even more biting - Hooke was no giant and had not square shoulders.

For the extra curious, the first recorded use of the phrase is from the 12th century by John of Salisbury who attributes it to Bernard of Chartres

Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance - Metalogicon

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2007-05-24

 

Five Questions. A Bonus and then Some More.

A while back Barbara played a meme game where she answered 5 questions as did Mother Of Invention.

You are free to answer the 5 questions yourself. You can also ask me to give you 5 customized questions.

These are five questions Barbara asked of me:

(1) What advice do you have for your children and others of their age as they prepare to take our places in the world?

What a delightfully interesting question that irritates me. The irritant is as they prepare to take our places in the world. It is a mindset and mentality that I dislike and have always disliked (even when I was young). My children and others are already a part of this world; they are not being groomed to replace anyone or to fill someone's place.

It is the sort of thing that used to get me into arguments at church when I would fight for children and youth to be more involved rather than waiting on the sidelines observing and learning until they were ready to take their place in the community.

They are their own selves and need to be carefully nurtured to ensure they are true to themselves and to others.

My manifesto of aphorisms would go something like this:

You are not the future.
You are not the hope and promise of a better tomorrow.
You are the here. You are the now.
This is your world. This is my world.
This is our world. Let us journey together, for I have much to show and teach you before I must go.
Always treat people with respect and dignity because each person bears the mark of the Divine.
Be honest and just.
Whatever you do, make sure it enhances your dignity, the dignity of those around you, the dignity of your ancestors and your descendants.
Be the best person you can be, but do not begrudge those who are not as you.
Never esteem of value that which demeans, exploits or harms another.
If it is not true, don't say it; if it is not right, don't do it.
Be your own person and rejoice in who you are.
Leave another's wrongdoing where it lies. (Marcus Aurelius)

(2) What are the benefits and the difficulties of being married to someone from another country and a somewhat different cultural upbringing from yours?

I have absolutely no idea.

It is a question without meaning because I considered Sofia as a whole person and not simply one or two characteristics (besides, I am sure everyone performs due diligence before getting married and there aren't huge surprises looming. Right?).

(3)What would your perfect job be like?

Fun. Interesting. Fulfilling. The problem is that these do not describe a job, they describe the attributes of a job.

Fundamentally, I don't want a job - I want many jobs. Today I want to write, tomorrow I want to study and contrast the biological processes of horseshoe crabs and mammals. The following day I want to design a spacecraft to explore the Jupiter. Next week, I want to make a movie. And so forth. I don't have one interest, one passion, I want a little bit of everything. I want to be a generalist, a dilettante, a jack of all trades. The last thing I want is to be a specialist.

Unfortunately, our world is geared towards specialization. My friends who love their jobs are all specialists and narrowly focussed. I can't be.

I think this has to do with the way people approach life. They apply their specific knowledge and skills to solving problems - whether or not that is the right solution to the problem. It is like having a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. On the other hand, I seek solutions to problems. I look at the problem, study it, understand it and then apply what I believe is the best solution. Once a problem has been solved, then solving it again is merely to reapply the previous solution - and some people are content to do that.

In the 20 years I have been working, I have worked in two distinct fields: electronics and software development. My electronics work has covered: telecommunication systems, engine control panels for frigates, postal sorting machines and consumer electronics (primarily audio). My software work has covered medical monitoring and diagnostic software, shipboard communications systems software and passive IR detection / defense systems software. Some of my hobbies have been: model rocketry, chemistry, woodworking, home renovation, technical drawing, writing, gardening, solar experimenting, bicycling, walking / hiking, cryogenics, photography, stamp collecting (although, in this day of e-mail, collecting stamps is harder) and corresponding with penpals. Volunteer work includes: teaching catechism, ministering to shut-ins, being a lector and being a sacristan. In addition to taking my core course for electronics or computer science (whichever I was studying), I also took courses in linguistics, oceanography, theatre, children's literature, philosophy and biology.

Unlike most people who seem to have a passion for one or two things, I cannot say I have any passion. I like most things. It is easier for me to say what I dislike rather than saying what I am passionate about. Even in social / cultural things I might have a strong attraction to (say Star Trek, to pick something well known), it is the experience of it, not the immersion in it that interests me. I like it, but I don't have live it.

My diverse interests are not capricious. I do not pick it up, indulge in it and then drop it never to return. I never lose my interest in them. I always want to return to it, to examine some new facet or problem.

When I was asked what I want to do with my life, I always replied, "Play." Because that is exactly what I want to do. I am 41 and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up (actually, I do, I want to do everything - but this doesn't go down well in our culture of specialization).

I think the best place for me would be as the head of an idea incubator company. Come up with solutions to problems. Work on problems that interest me. Hand of the finishing, wrapping up of loose ends, marketing and production to someone else.

(4)If you could change one thing that happened in your life, what would it be?

This is a difficult question because I cannot think of some definitive thing in my life that I would want changed. There is no question that with hindsight there are lots of things I might wish were different, but none of these are random out of the blue, totally unexpected tragic life altering events/setbacks. Changing any causal event would not be possible without changing its antecedent, consequently changing any one thing would really require changing the whole fabric of events all the way back to Adam and Eve.

(5)What is your motivation for Blogging?

Despite being very private, I have always wanted a more public presence. I have thought about being on the Internet since 1996. However, did nothing about it until 2005 when I discoveredIngrid had a blog. Sometimes it is just easier to follow what someone else has done. As I continue to blog and to encounter other bloggers, I find it to be a pretty good proxy for intimate chats in a café.

(Bonus) What will the world be like in 100 years?

Read Paris in the 20th Century by Jules Verne.

It is extremely difficult to imagine what will be in 100 years. Off the top of my head, I would say pretty much like it is today. People will continue to cluster along ideological lines and employ the force (whether armed aggression, economic sanctions, verbal diarrhea) to control / change / subdue others.

Technology will improve, but it will simply be refinements of what we already have. There is very little new in modern technology that hasn’t been known for the past 100 years or so - mostly it is a refinement of existing knowledge.

Average life expectancy in the developed world will probably increase another 10 years or so, making the average life expectancy around 90. Real life expectancy will be increased by perhaps as much as 6 months.

I suppose the Internet and other forms of ubiquitous and instant communications technology will eliminate many prejudices and barriers between people, but it will also foster increasingly zealous behaviour among those who feel their power base is threatened or who believe that the traditional ways were better.

I think that cell phones will become embedded. They will be implanted on the mastoid bone.

There will be no golden age of peaceful harmony and cooperation. People will continue to act against one another instead of with each other. Power and wealth will be sought by many but controlled by few.

Technology will continue to advance. People will be told that never has there been as Golden an age as they now live. Each generation will think the previous lived in some unimaginable dark age.

Grandparents will tell their kids how safe the neighbourhoods were. You didn't have to lock the door if you went outside.

I do not see flying cars. I do not see lunar or Martian colonies. There may be a scientific base on the moon, but it will be largely symbolic in the way the space station is.



Mother of Invention also participated in this and listed her own five questions for any takers (of which I have taken 3):

Any regrets in decisions you made in your life? What are they?

Do I have regrets? No. They are experiences and knowledge gained, a path not take, but I do not dwell in the past (except, possibly the TV programs I watch and books I read).

When younger, I was immortal. Time was limitless and my mortality was some distant event, there was no sense or need of urgency. Now, the shores of my mortality are clearly visible and fast approaching. How to chart my course, when all I know is to let the currents carry me?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In probably the similar circumstances as now. Better off than the general populace, but still unfulfilled.

Although, in a optimistic mood, I would say that I am doing work I find fulfilling and enriching. A home on the side of a mountain overlooking a lake, with a workshop that is second to none.

If you could change anything about your childhood, what would it be?

What I would change is high school. I would eliminate it completely. I found it a waste of time. It seems structured to keeping young people out of society's way until they are old enough to be declared full citizens. It does not give the very thing needed, education, knowledge and nurturing as full members of society. We are locked away for 5 years. After our incarceration someone opens the door and says, "Welcome! New citizen."

MOI also asked me the following:

If you had to do things over again, what career would you choose and why?

The problem is that I have the benefit of hindsight and experience, so that colours how I perceive what I alternative I might have chosen. I have no regrets, so there is no turn I wish to undo, no burning anguish over a path not taken, romantic dream of an alternate reality

Experience and knowledge show me that workers are never truly free. They are drones, busily labouring away under the direction of a few. Yet, even those few are not free, they are driven by their own hunger. It doesn't matter if you are the aphid, the ant milking the aphid or the queen laying eggs.

That said (depressing and nihilistic as it may sound), I think I would choose the performing arts: theatre, television, film, and radio. Principally writing, but also performing.

I always had an interest in those areas. I greatly enjoyed the entire process of making a commercial and film in High School, I enjoyed immensely a theatre class I took in college (where we had to write a short play). I had fun with acting classes I took (though I am no actor). I like to read what I have written, often surprising myself when I look back at my words. I am told I am a good public speaker (though I need to smile more - okay, may just starting would be a good step). And I have been complemented on my reading skills.

This is my longest post ever. Beating my previously longest post by being about 50% longer.

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2007-05-15

 

Publishing House?

A few months ago I applied for trademark registration with the governments of Canada and the United States.

The USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) has replied to me enumerating a number of problems with my application and I have six months to amend it. This is not really a surprise, since I deliberately made my application broad, trying to cover information products information delivery as much as possible. I will probably need to get a lawyer who specializes in this sort of thing - although, first off I will start with Sofia. She is a lawyer (granted, her principal work has been in the area of women's issues and human rights and most recently in protection and preservation of traditional knowledge), so we will see how that goes.

Of course, I think it would all be simpler if I was a publishing house, then I could apply for general coverage. I did apply for general publishing coverage and this was their response:

In addition, “non-fiction books on a variety of topics” and “series of fiction and non-fiction books on a variety of topics” is an acceptable identification of goods only if the applied-for mark is for a publishing house. It does not appear from the record that applicant is a publishing house. Therefore, this wording must be deleted from the identification of goods.

Perhaps a publishing house is in my future. Hmmm ... how does one become a publishing house? What is the difference between a publishing house and a printer? More fundamentally, what is a publishing house? Does running off a dozen copies of a newsletter qualify me as a publishing house? If wonder if Conrad Black could offer some advice?

Definitely food for thought.

Note: a definition I got from the Internet for Publishing House is:
Any of the large commercial publishers that purchase manuscripts through agents or from authors, or pay an advance. Publishing Houses make all editorial decisions regarding content and style, pay all production and distribution costs, and own the copyright. When the book sells, the Publishing House may deduct advances paid from royalties due the author at the rate of 5-10% of wholesale or retail prices depending upon the contract.


Image nabbed from here.

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2007-05-13

 

Can I watch TV while I pray?

I think most people would disapprove of watching TV while praying.

Could such a request be made palatable?

I could ask, "Can I pray while I watch TV?"

This is more likely get a favourable response.

However, despite seeming the same - simply expressed differently - the questions are totally different. The difference lies in the principal activity and the proposed secondary activity.

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2007-05-10

 

Hug

I discovered this as I was going cleaning up images on my computer. I don't remember where I originally found it. If anyone knows the source, I will happily credit them (although, the image does lead me to believe is was probably here).

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2007-05-09

 

Where do they go?

Uploading personal images to Blogger or any place on the web always makes me cringe a bit because I don't know where those photos are going to end up. Anyone can grab them and do what they want with them. As well, recalling something once it has been on the Internet is impossible (low traffic, password protected, or encrypted sites may be an exception, since the information may not have been noticed and copied).

My principal concern with Blogger is that I can't edit my image collection. Once I have uploaded an image, it is there permanently, but I have no ability to remove it. I can always hide the link, but the image is still there. Yeah, I know, I can get some picture sharing account, but I am inherently lazy and don't want to manage / integrate / merge disparate sites.

So what are Blogger and Google doing with this hoard of images they are collecting and storing?

Image nabbed from here.

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2007-05-07

 

Golden Opportunity

Being like most people, having extra money wouldn't be terribly objectionable to me.

I decided to see how much some of my little treasures are worth. I have a lot of books, some quite old and possibly collectors' items.

I did my search on eBay since this is the be all and end all of flea markets.

First I looked up The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. There were numerous listings, many with the keyword rare in them. It seems to be worth about $2.79 on the open market (maybe a copy autographed by Mr. Wizard would fetch more).

Next I looked up Practical Electricity, a wonderful volume from 1923. Hmmm ... no luck.

Next I tried a few titles I am sure set off alarm bells at Homeland Security Headquarters: Shrapnel Shell Manufacture, High Explosive Shell Manufacture, and Cartridge Manufacture. Three volumes dating back to World War I (published between 1915 and 1916). There were no listings.

Then I tried a Science Fiction anthology originally published in the 1940s (although my printing is from the 1950s) titled Adventures in Time and Space. This one did better, being listed at $14.99.

I would appear that just because a book is old, doesn't mean it is terribly valuable.

My STARDATE magazines by FASA seem to be fairly valuable - I see issue 1 being listed for $19.99 on eBay. I have all the issues (except for the final one renamed StarDrive - which I did not know about until just a few minutes ago).

Then I checked if any of the antique computer hardware I have might have any resale value. I searched for a 5Mb Tape backup system (this goes back more than 20 years), but had no luck. I guess no one is interested in such museum pieces.

My conclusion is that selling your junk on eBay is not quite as simple or lucrative as the hype might lead us to believe.

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2007-05-05

 

The more things change ...

... the more they stay the same.

While this may be true in a lot of cases, it is not true when it comes to chemistry sets.

I find modern chemistry sets astonishingly dull and safe. There is no glassware to be found. No glass test tubes, no glass tubing, not even an alcohol lamp. When I had my first chemistry set, of some 30+ years ago, it came with glass tubes I was expected to heat up and bend or to draw into fine tipped pipettes.

The chemicals found in chemistry sets today are bland. No more dangerous than baking powder - maybe less so.

Kids love foul smelling gases, bubbling / frothing concoctions, colour changes and, of course, flames and explosions.

The two pages are reproduced from my favourite children's chemistry book titled The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. They are from the second printing in 1962. These experiments would never get into a modern children's chemistry book (I know because I have a bunch). I tried to make chloroform, but I don't think I was successful, all I ever smelled was the bleach. Though, I was able to make ethyl acetate. Never tried to make rayon.

Scans provided by me. Copyright 1960 by Golden Press.

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2007-05-03

 

A Man Without a Country

Okay, now let’s have some fun. Let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about women. Freud said he didn’t know what women wanted. I know what women want: a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything.
What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish people wouldn’t get so mad at them.
Why are so many people getting divorced today? It’s because most of us don’t have extended families anymore. It used to be that when a man and a woman got married, the bride got a lot more people to talk about everything. The groom got a lot more pals to tell dumb jokes to.
A few Americans, but very few, still have extended families. The Navahos. The Kennedys.
But most of us, if we get married these nowadays, are just one more person for the other person. The groom gets one more pal, but it’s a woman. The woman gets one more person to talk to about everything, but it’s a man.
When a couple has an argument nowadays, they may think it’s about money or power or sex or how to raise the kids or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though without realizing it, is this: “You are not enough people!”
A husband, a wife and some kids is not a family. It’s a terribly vulnerable survival unit.


Kurt Vonnegut, "A Man Without a Country"

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2007-05-02

 

Why we?

While I do not own a gaming console, nor have I ever owned one, I am aware of them.

Nintendo's newest one is called Wii.

The question is how to pronounce it? Given that there are two consecutive vowels, and the general rule is to make the first vowel long, along with the fact that the Wii features a novel wireless controller interface, I would assume it to be pronounced "Why".

Lately, I noticed that articles on the Wii give the pronunciation as "wee".

This makes sense, since, in Japanese, the "i" is pronounced as a long "e". We find this in words like sushi (sue shee) and sashimi (sah shee mee). As well as names like Megumi (meh goo mee) and Hitomi (hee toe mee).

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2007-05-01

 

Kitchen Sink Science

Have you ever noticed that boiling water is quieter than cold water?

Over the years, I have noticed that when pouring boiling water into the sink (for example, when draining pasta), the noise is noticeably quieter and softer than when I pour cold water.

I always pour into a stainless steel sink, not a plastic or ceramic one.

To me it makes sense because the density of water at 100oC is 958 kKg/m3 versus 999 or 998 Kg/m3 for water at 10 or 20oC respectively.

That makes boiling water about 4% less dense than cold tap water, or ... maybe I am the one who is dense because no one else ever seems to hear the difference.

As usual, I have no published science to back this up. It is something I have never seen documented anywhere. But it is something I have observed and this is my best explanation.

You can explore the density of water at various temperatures and salinity here.

Image nabbed from here.

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