My letter to The Guardian

Re: An ill wind?, article by John Vidal.

Date: Wed, 02 Jun 2004 22:05:44 -0400
To: weekly.letters@…
Subject: An Ill Wind to Dr Bellamy’s Wallet

Further to John Vidal’s article on wind energy in the UK, I am astounded by David Bellamy’s gall in denouncing wind energy. He must think we have extremely short memories indeed.

Back in the early 1990s, when I was a neophyte windsmith, I remember seeing a CEGB-sponsored film about wind energy. It was narrated by Dr B., and he was effusing about how wind turbines would be a familiar part of the future landscape, about how beneficial they are, and all the good things that mindful wind energy development will bring.

One wonders what caused the good doctor’s volte-face against green electricity. It would be a shame if such a familiar public face would say anything that it were paid to say. One wonders if David Bellamy now has a backer with an agenda different from that of the old CEGB?

Stewart C. Russell “page not responding” with mozilla seems to have great difficulty generating pages for Mozilla. I can have open on both Mozilla and Internet Explorer, and feed them the same URL. Internet Explorer loads it fine; Mozilla comes up with Page Not Responding.

This appears to be entirely repeatable, certainly on my Windows box. Try it for yourself; here’s a sample URL for camera tripods.

busy busy weekend

This weekend was so busy, I’ll need the whole week to recover …

Friday night was baseball. We saw the Bluejays beat the Texas Rangers.

Saturday was speaking about wind energy at the Ontario Association of Physics Teachers annual conference. There were some great talks, including one by Jim Hunt called “Can Physics Experiments be Inexpensive and Accurate?“.

Sunday daytime was attacking the garden. Being away in Missouri last weekend meant that it got a bit overgrown. Sunday evening was going to hear Shahid Ali Khan with Mast Mast Qawwal Party. Who would have thought that Sufi devotional music could be so much fun?

I also finally got the Beta Band‘s newest CD, Heroes To Zeros. Annoyingly, it’s copy controlled (read: deliberately broken for your lack of listening pleasure). Why, then, did I pay the Canadian levy on my MP3 player to exercise my right to make a personal copy for my MP3 player? Thankfully, the “copy control” is extremely poor, resulting in a slightly slower rip. EMI Canada sucks, but you knew that.

If you are wondering why there’s a strange logarithmic scale at the top of the page, it’s because I found my old Make your own slide rule source code. Until I get round to posting instructions on how to multiply, divide and estimate square roots with it, print out the PDF that’s linked from the image, cut along the line, and enjoy having two pieces of paper to play with.

a lyttle sladek, perhaps?

I’m just wondering if Jason Lyttle of Grandaddy has read a lot of John Sladek. His songs of angsty machinery remind me of Sladek’s “Roderick” books.

I’d recommend listening to one or reading the other. Or both. In either order.

don cherry

21/5/04 15:31 – Don Cherry in a taupe linen suit @ YYZ. He’s smaller than I thought he’d be (I blame big-screen sports bars), and he really does wear those high collars in RL.

Putting the rant back into intolerant

What’s with Canada’s eminently sensible newspaper The Globe and Mail carrying ads for far-right Colorado-based Focus on the Family? Are we getting so tolerant that we tolerate intolerance?

The words far-right Colorado-based, aren’t mine, by the way. They’re from an article by the Globe‘s Leah McLaren where Focus on the Family … claim homosexuality is both preventable and treatable.

Some of my best friends are from Colorado, and in a perfect world I’d hope that FOTF would take massive umbrage at Leah‘s article, and withdraw their ads from my paper. As is, I wish I had a subscription to the Globe, so I could cancel it in disgust.

How to make Windows suck 10000 fewer times

In the same spirit of Marvin’s comment about Arthur Dent’s brain (It amazes me how you manage to live in anything that small.), it amazes me that anyone can actually get work done on a Windows box without having virtual workspaces …

But I found DESKWIN, which does all I need; four virtual desktops, with hotkeys between them. Not much else. Perfect. Well, okay, Windows has still got about seven orders of magnitude of improvement to go before it’s even mildly usable, but it’s a start.

too many cables

The iRiver remote unit decided to self destruct last night, so it was a rather hurried trip off to G-WIZ to get it replaced. I’m also having a bit of a problem with cable management — my Sennheiser headphones have a 3.5m cable, and there’s probably another good metre or so of cable on the iRiver remote. So I’m wandering around looking as if I’m lugging a protable recording studio, even though the player itself is quite svelte.

raw, raw!

I’ve just ‘hacked’ my Nikon Coolpix 2500 to run in raw mode, using cpixraw (on a Windows machine, alas). I can read the files with Dave Coffin’s dcraw. So far, it seems I’m getting a bit more extra detail than from the original JPEG files.

The only real disadvantage I can see is that for every picture I take, a regular JPEG and a raw file is created. The raw file is confusingly called *.jpg. I think I can live with this.

iRiver, youRiver, hesheitRivers

I just bought an iRiver H120 portable hard disk/audio player/recorder. It seems to work quite well with Linux, so far. Even at over 9MB/s, it’s taking a while to transfer my music collection.

I bought it from the terribly-named G-Wiz store in Scarborough Town Centre. I think it might’ve been a store return — there was some truly execrable music on it (Eminem and Kylie Minogue … bleah!), and the packaging was slightly open. Hmm.

Windsave, again

Anent my previous rant about Windsave claiming impossible efficiencies, they’ve made some changes to their website. The machines now have larger diameters (1250 and 1750 mm — up from 1000 and 1400mm), and much lower rated power (500W and 1000W at 27mph — down from 750 and 1200).

Plugging in those numbers to Cp = P / ( 0.48106 d2 v3 ), we get more realistic efficiencies of 0.378 and 0.386 (for the small and large machines, respectively).

The Lakota turbine we installed last week has a nominal rated power of 900W at 28.8 mph for a 2.09m diameter rotor. It has a very conservative Cp = 0.20, although David Cooke says that typically they see 1,000 Watts at around 25mph (a Cp of around 0.34).

At the other end of the scale, the Lagerwey LW52 is a 51.5m diameter machine rated at 750kW at 12ms-1. This advanced utility scale, variable pitch machine has a Cp = 0.34.

Windsave’s revised figures are much more credible, but until we have real figures backed by a few years of installations, there’s little more we can say about them. I’m a little concerned that, although there are claims that 1000s of these machines have been sold, there’s not a single real photo of one on the web.

I’m going to enjoy putting up an anemometer and logging system alongside the urbine downtown. We’ll see how it runs.

illicit substance: Caffeinated Scots Tablet

I make Scots Tablet; in fact, I’m almost famous for it. I also roast my own coffee, which I get from Merchants of Green Coffee. What harm could come from combining the two, I thought?

Plenty, is the answer. By adding ¼ cup (measured before grinding) of finely-ground coffee beans to a half batch of tablet has resulted in almost black tarry lumps that combined sugar, butterfat and caffeine into a mallet-to-the-back-of-the-head rush.

Next time, I might use just a smidge less coffee. At the moment, it’s like a cross between full-on Rademaker’s Haagsche Hopjes and Uncle Ump’s Umpty Candy. I suspect that the RCMP will come knocking soon.

The Cyborg’s Windmill

Steve Mann's Wind Turbine
We spent the day helping wearable computing guru Steve Mann put a wind turbine on top of his Existential Technologies Research Lab (a.k.a. 330 Dundas St. West), smack-dab downtown in Toronto.

We installed a True North Power Lakota turbine. We had David Cooke and Doug of TNP guiding us, and the installation went without a hitch.

The picture above links to more pictures of the day’s activities. There are also Steve Mann’s Urbine pictures (and, if you really want bigger versions of my pictures, they are on scruss at eyetap).


We found a baby bunny by the side of the road. He seems a bit stunned, but otherwise okay.

Zoë has veterinarian training, so she’s looking after him.

He fits in the palm of your hand, and is unbearably cute.

Here’s a better picture (thumbnail links to larger image):

Dave’s picture of the bunny

Both pictures by Dave.

Temporary hearing impairment for pleasure

(or, life without midrange)

The Apples in Stereo rocked The Horseshoe last night; Robert, Hilarie, John and Eric always give a great show, and they gave everything they had last night. It was especially cool, as Hilarie had just played a set as guitarist for her other band, High Water Marks.

Is it me, but on HWM’s song “Good I Feel Bad” do they really sing “She always keeps me open source”?