goatee-stroking musing, or something Wind Things

review of CanWEA 2005 swag bag

So I’m at the 2005 CanWEA conference for the next few days. The swag bag is a standard nondescript nylon thing, thankfully big enough to take my iBook and a few other bits and pieces. The contents are a bit disappointing, though:

  • a very plasticky flashlight that I may discard after harvesting its batteries.
  • a small bag of jujubes.
  • a copy of North American Windpower magazine (which in itself is quite a decent magazine, so is actually one of the highlights).
  • a trade show guide, but no conference program (they were held up in customs; can’t we print ’em here?)
  • various company brochures, zzzz.

You’ll note an absence of useful pens, pads, USB keys, model turbines, or other special swag. I was hoping for more …

Wind Things

Debunking the 25% Myth

My dad called yesterday, asking, “Wind turbines do run for more than 25% of the time, don’t they?”. Seems he read an opinion piece in his favourite fair ‘n’ balanced rag (The Telegraph) that said that wind turbines only run 25% of the time.

I see this factoid popping up more and more from the anti-wind crowd. It’s a particularly difficult one to refute in the press, as by the time you’ve tried to explain the difference between capacity factor and operation time, you’ve lost them. Or gone over your allotted time/word count, at least.

I’ve got a year’s production data from WindShare/Toronto Hydro‘s turbine in front of me. It’s on a marginal site, one that probably wouldn’t be developed by a commercial entity. So, does it run for more than 25% of the time?

Yes; the turbine is generating 63% of the time. I’ve defined generating as providing a net export of power to the grid. Our turbine’s a bit more cranky than most, and I have a suspicion that our metering system is dropping some production, but even so, 63% is way more than the claimed 25%. So it gives me great pleasure to say:

MYTH: Wind turbines only run for 25% of the time.
BUSTED! Wind turbines run at the very least 60% of the time, usually more.

(I can’t guarantee that Country Guardian won’t quote me out of context. I could make a cheap shot about not blaming them for their paymasters in the nuclear industry requiring value for money, but I won’t …)

cars suck o canada

crossing sonar

They’ve just installed a new crossing system at Kennedy & Eglinton. The crossing buttons emit a loud ping every second or so. I think this is supposed to help partially-sighted people find the crossing buttons to activate the signal.

This would be a good idea if the things weren’t so loud. I could hear the things a block south of the crossing, over the traffic noise of Kennedy, and the lunchtime playground at the school.

I wonder what Spacing would say? Noise pollution makes a huge dent in the amenity of public space.

computers suck

Tiger’s Dictionary

OS X Tiger's Dictionary
I was pleased to see that Apple had included a comprehensive dictionary with OS X 10.4. The Oxford American is a decent enough reference tome, and the computer implementation isn’t bad at all.

The typography’s fairly clean, if rather heavy on the whitespace. Cross references are active; if one clicks on the small-caps word whitlow, you’ll go to its definition (if you have to; it’s kinda nasty). For some reason, the Dashboard version of the dictionary doesn’t have active xrefs.

Searching isn’t as good as it could be. As with most electronic products, it assumes you already know how to spell the word. The incremental search does allow that, as long as you have the first few letters right, the list of possible choices is quite small. Like all electronic dictionaries that I’ve seen, it’s not possible to browse the text in that spectacularly non-linear way that makes a real paper dictionary fun.

It does seem to have a good few Canadian terms, but a true Canadian dictionary should be shipped with Canadian Tiger. Correct spelling isn’t just optional. It also only labels British and Canadian spellings as ‘British’.

So, in summary, pretty good, but far from perfect.

computers suck

batch renaming iTunes directories

In partial response to the Ask Metafilter question “How can I rename my music folders on my Mac based on ID3 tags?“:

# - fix dir names created by iTunes
# only works for mp3s, and not actually tested on a Mac
# created by scruss on Sun Sep 4 22:05:00 EDT 2005

find "$@" -type d -mindepth 1 | while read directory
  artistdir=$(dirname "$directory")
  firstfile=$( find "$directory" -type f -iname '*.mp3' | head -n1 )
  year=$( id3info "$firstfile" | egrep ' TYE ' | sed 's/=== TYE (Year): //; s/[^0-9]*//;' )
  album=$( id3info "$firstfile" | egrep ' TAL ' | sed 's,=== TAL (Album/Movie/Show title): ,,;' )
  echo mv \'$directory\' \'$artistdir/\[$year\] $album\'

So if you were in the terminal, in your music library (one up from the individual artist directories), and you did: Dan\ Jones Tripping\ Daisy

you’d get:

mv 'Dan Jones/Get Sounds Now' 'Dan Jones/[2005] Get Sounds Now'
mv 'Dan Jones/One Man Submarine' 'Dan Jones/[2003] One Man Submarine'
mv 'Tripping Daisy/Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb' 'Tripping Daisy/[1998] Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb'

If that looks okay, run the output through the shell: Dan\ Jones Tripping\ Daisy | sh

and all should be well.

You’ll need id3lib, which is probably most easily installed from Fink. Also, this only works for mp3 files; I can’t grok the tag info for AAC files. And finally, this might go seriously screwy on weird characters in filenames. You know my feelings on that …

o canada the old country

it’s toast

It seems that the concept of a toast rack is alien to Canadian kitchen retailers. Y’see, the parents are visiting soon, and last time they were here, there was a minor scene over toast sogginess. I tried two large kitchen shops; neither had heard of the concept.

computers suck goatee-stroking musing, or something o canada


For a truly soulless evening, take yourself down to the BestBuy at Scarborough Town Centre.

STC is a mega-mall, with the obligatory huge concrete and asphalt deadzone around it. Its current sales slogan is For what defines you, which must mean that its denizens are in a pretty parlous state, existentially speaking. Its only slightly attractive feature is its derelict KrispyKreme store, which opened as a flagship, then frazzled almost as quickly as a KK’s dextrose rush. Abandoned donut shops are Canada’s ruined abbeys; places of worship gone to seed.

BestBuy itself is an outcast from the mall, in an especially ped-unfriendly way. Perhaps the only defined route there is through a monster split-level Wal-Mart, but I didn’t have enough hitpoints to make it through that particular slough.

I’d checked their website, and it said that the store had iBooks in stock, at $50 below retail. Did the store have any on display? No. The Apple section was set behind the customer service desk, which was a scrum of slightly disgruntled shoppers. So I left without seeing one.

I wandered in a bit of a post big-box haze to McCowan RT, a weird little station at the very end of the rails. At least I was rewarded with a beautiful sunset over the 401 at McCowan; all boiling red and purple. That’s about the best you’ll get near STC, and for free, too.

computers suck Wind Things

CanWEA 2005

I’m going to the CanWEA Conference & Trade Show in October; are you?

It’s a shame their registration process only works under Windows, though.

goatee-stroking musing, or something

The demented mind of Adam Elliot

a scene from Adam Elliot\'s Harvie Krumpet
I like animation more than Catherine does, so last night while she was teaching, I rented Harvie Krumpet. It’s a series of shorts by Australian animator Adam Elliot. All of them are poignantly strange. The main feature follows Harvie from his birth in Poland in the 1920s to his dotage in Australia. Bad things happen to him, but he abides.

If you can imagine Wallace & Gromit on mogadon, and imagine liking it, you’ll know how I feel about Adam Elliot’s work.