Archive for April 2009

Kiwiversary!

As of today, I’ve been in New Zealand for eight years.

I quite like it.

For those not utterly obsessed by the saga of climate change advice in Wellington, in brief:

  • Jim Salinger was a climate scientist at NIWA, the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere and a lead author with the IPCC
  • He was their public face, running contracts to talk to Television NZ and Radio New Zealand
  • NIWA introduced a policy of scientists not talking to the media without prior permission
  • He talked to the media without prior permission
  • NIWA considered this serious misconduct, serious enough to sack Jim on the spot and give him three hours to clean his desk and be gone
  • Jim’s taking them to court for unfair dismissal

That’s the public facts and that’s pretty much all anyone knows.*

So, what’s the response of the blogosphere? It’s worse than you might think. Everyone assumes that he’s been sacked for speaking out about climate change, not for speaking out of turn.

Locally
Libertarian blog Not PC, apparently the number three blog in NZ, accuses Jim of “using his job as a political soapbox” and repeats calls that NIWA should be shut down for promoting the idea that carbon dioxide causes climate change.

Leftish Tumeke accuses the government of “adopting the Bush strategy to gag and censor Climate Change scientists”. Oh, and bitches that NIWA bought half of CRL Energy, who used to be the Coal Research Laboratory.

The mud-pool that is the comments on Kiwiblog includes this delightfull comment:
“Every person supporting truth on the GW issue should rejoice at this news. This scaremongering United Nations IPCC propagandist should have been fired years ago for his alarmist crap, not in the least his false predictions regarding sea level rises. The damage he has done to NZ’s national psyche on this issue is enormous. A great step forward for truth and light and freedom in New Zealand.”

Overseas:
Mother Jones hints at censorship of climate scientists

Pharyngula sees this as “the New Zealand government does not want scientists speaking uncomfortable truths about the weather”

*sigh*
The public facts are known. In leaping to all these conclusions, all these commentators are just showing that no matter what the facts, they’re going to interpret them as they always do. All we’re seeing is confirmation bias.

Anyway, bonus points to NZ Conservative for saying that he shouldn’t have been sacked for speaking out and that it is necessary that government employed scientists should be allowed to speak publicly (though half of those get taken back for assuming that Jim was sacked for speaking out about climate change).

* – Jim Salinger is also a Companion of my employer, the Royal Society of New Zealand. RSNZ isn’t going to be commenting publicly on the matter and nor am I. This is about the response of the blogosphere to that set of public facts.

The cost of drinking tea

71 cents.

Least, that’s what I just got a leccy bill for, and I think the only appliance that’s been plugged in at the section has been the kettle.

Man, building a house is expensive.

Epic delays

M3.4 -> M3.5
Power regulator for the microcontroller is currently on test, hope to put it all back together this weekend, once I’ve dug a trench for the water main and compacted the path.

All the problems I had with the MAX756/710 have yet to reappear, the only differences being I’m not using a surface mount chip, diode, inductor or capacitor. Weird. I will have to swap the caps for surface mount to get it to fit (thanks Rich) so there may be a horrible burning smell in my future, but that’s better than a horrible burning feeling.

M4.0

Current plan is for four times the light power, four times the battery power, twenty-four times the bandwidth and four hundred times the computing power. Am slowly whittling down the design options until I know what to build, and how the initial design choices cascade through the rest of the design to affect what I will have to build.

Case in point is the boards that hold the LEDs and drivers. The LED spacing is a critical parameter, as it sets how many LEDs I can fit in there. This sets the light output, the power consumption and the battery size. I’ve finalised the first version of the board design, so I know that four times the light power is possible.

These boards are going to be fun, mind. They’re 80 mm by 20 mm, with 80 connections in there, so fiddly little buggers. Got the design down to all one sided, no lines running through the board thickness, easy connections to the boards and (hopefully) really easy to have made. I’ll be sending these ones off to be made elsewhere, coz the detail is just too high to be done in the kitchen, there’s far too many fine tracks too close together. Also, I need thirty-two of them, which would get boring.

Assembling the parts onto the boards is going to be a sod, 0.6 mm spacing between pins. 0.8 mm I can solder, but it’s hard and time-consuming. So current plan is to invest in a hot-plate and solder paste and cook them, rather than soldering each connection individually. If that works, then life will be much easier. If.

Anyway, NASA Embarks On Epic Delay – “Never before has man dared to fall behind on such a sweeping scale,” said Brenda Win, head administrator of the newly established delay-management team, which is expected to be named sometime next month or maybe the month after. “A postponement like this only happens once in a lifetime. This will be the series of setbacks you’ll tell your grandchildren about.”

T-Nation order

I’ll be putting an order into T-Nation this week. That’s where a bunch of different things come from, including spike and power drive.

Coz:
1 bottle of 50 spike from the NZ distributor – NZD 100
1 bottle of 50 spike from the US – NZD 44
2 bottles from the US – NZD 71

Their creatine is pretty cheap too.

Let me know by friday if you want anything and we’ll split the postage.

(The white, caffine-free spike is legal in NZ, the yellow caffinated stuff also contains yohimbine, which is prescription only. Last order, Customs noticed and confiscated them, as they should, so sorry but none of that.)

Also, I’m such a caner. One bottle of spike, less what I gave away, lasts me a year. And I gave away about half.

Upgrade weekend

This weekend was planned in for upgrading the Mitochondrion from version 3.4 (frequently crashing, really shagged batteries, broken bits) to 3.5 (made entirely of happy kittens). Umm… So I did some of that and some relaxing, for once in my life.

cut for pics

Obligatory whining LJ post

I’m stripping the Mitochondrion down, fixing the broken parts, and adding in anti-crash stuff.

Why the hell did it take four hours to make what is essentially a washer? Ok, it’s a thich washer with three holes in it, a step at the edge, and one of the holes is counter-bored and reinforced, but ffs! Four hours and it’s still not done.

Oh yeah, it took four hours coz I’m trying to do precise stuff in my kitchen, with a hacksaw and file, and not even a decent vice. That’s why.

Lathe plus four-jaw chuck would have been twenty minutes and would have come out accurate to start with, not requiring extensive fiddling to get it rightish, near or so. I’m thinking one of these, just for the fun of getting 600 kg down the stairs.

I bitched last week about physics, and how it takes all the fun out of life (where life involves stories about travelling between planets.) For the second half of last century, getting out into space involved big, expensive machines that frequently blew up. So let’s try something different this time:

Space-craft as fairy dust, 10 millimetres by 10 millimetres by 0.025 mm

Solar sails are very, very slow, unless you start very close to the sun. So, start very close to the sun then – sundivers

And anyway, physics allows for other kinds of just plain awesome:
Cutting through steel with bacon (and high pressure oxygen)

You know it’s been a good weekend when you have to clean the van out with a shovel.

Thanks to Joel, Wendy, Polly, Tommy, Thomas, Jodi, Will, Mike, Johanna, Walter, and Annabel. And thanks especially to Cliff and Mighty Mouse the tractor.

And as well as wood hauling, there was laying of dance floors, rigging of aerials trusses, breaking of masonry drills, weeding, marking out, crimping, general sheddery, tea, fish and chips, and company. Long weekends are hard work…

[EDIT – Now with pics!

Wood Hauling, Part 2

Okay, this Sunday, 10 am up at the section. We’ll be splitting, hauling and loading up wood. There will be tea. There may be tunes.

We will also be doing drop-offs of wood throughout the day, with trailer and/or van, so if you want a delivery, can you arrange your end so that the van/trailer hasn’t got to spend too long unloading?

If you’re coming, please bring good boots, gloves, drinks and nibbles. Lunch will be a mix of whatever people bring and fnc. Weather looks like it’ll be a lot better than it was before. If you’ve an axe or wool sack, then please bring.

Firefly, slashdong and doom

I don’t want to suspend my disbelief, the universe is interesting enough without waving one’s hands and writing fantasy. So I get very grumpy when Firefly uses spaceships to move cattle. It’s just lazy. Anyway, here’s the two canonical references to the science that you need to think about it you’re going to write science fiction, not fantasy.

The High Frontier, Redux, by Charlie Stross. In short, space is very, very big, getting around in space uses astounding amounts of expensive energy, and humans are heavy and fragile.

Atomic Rockets, an encyclopedic look at how we are physics’ bitch, how all conceivable engine designs suck, how space ships can’t hide in space, space ships are not ocean ships, nor are they jet fighters, how most of the problems involve boringly non-narrative issues like cooling your ship down, or not getting radiation sickness, and how, if you’re going to wave a magic wand and create some ultra-tech that solves one of these problems, then the unintended consequences become so vast that you’re going to have a million and one other problems getting in the way of your story, and you’re probably going to have to tell an entirely different story instead.

Anyway, best quote I’ve read all week:
and the amplifier is all “OMGWTFBBQ” and the chips is all like “O RLY?” and the PWM is like “SRSLY 255” all the f****** time. – yup, been there. Also, “SRSLY 255” is a) a googlewhack and b) an entirely phrase for many discussions involving the Mitochondrion. Also, yes, I was reading Slashdong for info about audio triggering circuits. Srsly.

In other news:
Ice bridge ruptures in Antarctic
Arctic ice shows winter thinning
“Environmentalists are calling it a disaster.”
“But don’t they always.”

Wood hauling day on the 12th

Okay, as everyone seemed to a) get plenty of wood, and b) enjoy themselves, there’ll be another wood hauling day planned in for Sunday, the 12th of this month.

Now that we’ve got a system sorted, I think we can get even more wood out of the gulley. Cliff the builder will be bringing the world’s cutest tractor to save the van’s clutch. With plenty of people, we can be hauling out pretty continuously.

So, who’s keen? And any suggestions for how to improve the experience for all?