Sunday, 25 January 2015

Mmmm. Dead babies for breakfast.

I remember once seeing an interview with Frank Zappa. I don't remember much about it except for a bit where he said something along the lines of

"When ever I see a sensational news item, I don't think, "Why is this happening". I think, "Why is this being reported now"

Anyway, a couple of bits of news caught my eye today.

Firstly, ITV news reported that The Green Party would allow people to join Al Qaeda or Islamic State.

Secondly, The Independent reported that The Green Party would evict Her Maj, and put her in a council house.

Thirdly, a radical left wing party has just done, in the Greek National Elections, the equivalent of Respect taking most of New Labour's core vote.

Finally, a few days ago, the major broadcasters were forced (at least in part by David Cameron - I wonder who he thinks the greens will take votes from) to expand the leadership debates to include Greens and Welsh and Scottish nationalists.

Bren and I joined the Green party a week or so ago, although we haven't done anything apart from set up a direct debit for monthly subs, but it might be interesting to go to their next meeting and say hello. I've sat on my fat cynical disillusioned arse for too many years, and  from the above, it looks like they may make real inroads this year.

We'll see.

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Friday, 16 January 2015

The Great Squirrel Case Challenge of 2015.

John Michael Greer has announced a competition that will finally give my Great Idea the push it needs to make me the great saviour of The Whole Damn World.

________________________________________________________________________ _
"I’m delighted to announce a new contest here on The Archdruid Report, the Great Squirrel Case Challenge of 2015. The goal is to come up with the most absurd new energy technology you can think of, and write either the giddily dishonest corporate press release or the absurdly sycophantic media article announcing it to the world. If you or a friend can Photoshop an image or two of your proposed nonsolution to the world’s energy needs, that’s all the better. Post your press release or media article on your blog if you have one; if you don’t, you can get one for free from Blogspot or Wordpress. Post a link to your piece in the comments section of this blog."

This great idea has been buzzing around my head for a while now, so I'd like to thank the Archdruid for giving me the push I needed to share it with the world.

Like so many brilliant ideas, this is simple, cheap, and effective. It makes use of an inexhaustible resource, and could potentially supply humanity with all the energy it needs, indefinitely.

Here's the idea.

Raindrops fall from hundreds or thousands of feet up in the atmosphere. In doing so, they transform those hundreds or thousands of feet of potential energy (obtained through the simple physical reaction of evaporation and condensation) into kinetic energy.

That's free energy, right there. Thousands of tonnes of water, sucked up into the sky by the laws of physics. No fossil fuel inputs required. You see a depressing layer of nimbostratus. I see trillions of potential milliwatts adding up world wide to an energy source that will transform our world.

  • It's carbon neutral
  • As global warming evaporates more water, it will become more and more effective
  • By taking energy from the ecosphere, it may actually help to offset the effects of anthropogenic climate change.
  • It's non-polluting
  • You can drink the waste byproducts
  • It works whenever solar energy doesn't!
I'd like to do a bit of maths here. I'm not a mathematician, but we can work out the precise details when I get the research grant and hire some people who can do that kind of stuff.

The terminal velocity of a raindrop varies between 4.5 and 25 miles per hour, depending upon size [1]. Rain  hits the ground hard. Hard enough to wash away mountains. And let's not even talk about hailstones.

How much do raindrops weigh? the smallest mass of a raindrop produced during a drizzle is 0.004 mg and the largest produced during a heavy storm is 300 mg. [2]

So how much energy is produced by a raindrop impacting upon the earth?

Not much.


There are lots of them. Hundreds.  Thousands. Hundreds of thousands. And lots of small numbers add up to much bigger numbers.

So how, you ask, do we turn this into useful energy?

The answer is piezo quartz technology.

This is a proven, cheap technology that requires no exotic or rare inputs to produce. They can even be made of wood [3].They work by producing electricity when deformed. If made thin enough, a raindrop, hitting at the speed of an olympic runner, would be enough to create a small charge. The very necessity of making these things thin would mean that less materials were required to produce them.

An array of such crystals would generate a charge that could then be either used locally, or fed into a larger grid.

Think about it! This is something that can be incorporated almost anywhere. They can be formed into a coating for roof slates, or road surfacing (surge of added energy produced by every passing vehicle).

They could be visually unintrusive, so that they would not generate the sort of backlash from the kind of people that object to solar arrays or wind turbines.

Because they can be made from relatively abundant materials, they can be produced locally, cutting down on the energy costs of production and distribution, and their manufacture, installation and maintainance would create jobs anywhere that gets any substantial rainfall.

Convinced yet?

Well as one final point, let me put this idea your way.

Where are the most energy intensive places on Earth? The Sahara? Antarctica? Nope. They're generally in places where you get a lot of rain. Great Britain and Western Europe. The Eastern Seaboard of the United States. China and Japan. None of these places are renowned for their vast dessicated deserts. They're all temperate or subtropical areas that have, close at hand, vast quantities of this criminally underutilised resource.

Harness the power of the falling rain! Turn a wet blanket into an electric blanket!

One last word.




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Monday, 12 January 2015

The Fundamental Interconnectedness of Everything

Back in the early days of my involvement with the internet, I found a site called "Dirk - The fundamental interconnectedness of everything" which had as it's inspiration, a Douglas Adams novel.

The site featured connections created by visitors to it. For example, if you clicked on "cheese" you could create a connection to "cheshire", because "There is a type of cheese called cheshire cheese". Clicking on "Cheese" would then return connections to perhaps "Swizerland", "Milk", "Mouse", and now, thanks to the connection you made, "Cheshire", while a list of connections to "Cheshire" would now be something like "Chester", "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen", and now "Cheese".

In addition, it could calculate paths to different things in the database, so for example, searching for a connection between "Elvis Presley" and "Squid" might provide a six degrees of seperation list of "Elvis Presley" > "Memphis" > "Egypt" > "Mediterranean" > "Sea" > "Squid"

A pointless, fascinatng diversion, I spent many happy hours exploring its byways and adding to it's complexity. But as time went by, it became more and more unwieldy, and contained more and more irrelevent stuff, and took longer and longer to work, in those dial up days, and eventually, it's maker took it down.

But now, it's back, and you can check it out here:

Go on! Try it! It's fun! Read the guy's blog too, while you're at it.

Right now, it's lean and mean, with just a couple of thousand things and connections. I suppose since the experiment is being repeated, the same result will occur eventually, but for now, I'm having some small fun making connections.

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Teaching teachers.

To get the best out of people, you need to be able to do a range of things.

You need to be able to earn their respect if they're going to listen to you; and that means that sometimes, there has to be a degree of assertiveness in there.

In a sense, to be a driving instructor is to be a salesman. Not in the obvious small businessman sense of running your own small trader self employed business, but because you're selling ideas.

Much of what I teach is counter-intuitive, and I've sometimes had to fight my pupils to convince them that what I'm trying to teach them is correct. If you're not a driving instructor or a learner driver (people who've been driving for a while forget), then something as obvious as "you should look where you're going" makes no sense. To a learner, the place to look is to the right, to see what's coming. To me, it doesn't matter what's coming, if you haven't put yourself in the right place, at the right speed, in the right gear, with the wheels turned to the right place, and with your feet in the right place to make the car go, when you do look right, and find that you have a space to move in to.

Occasionally this job is downright dangerous, although probably less than you'd imagine. The one thing that really causes a problem is panic ---> Slam on the brakes. That's the one thing I can't prevent. So far, I've never been rear-ended because of it, although there have been a few close calls. The accidents I have had have almost always been due to other people going into the back of my car because they're looking right, instead of looking where they're going. Didn't their instructors teach them about it?

Instinct is sometimes far inferior to intellect, and to convince my clients of it, I sometimes need to incorporate a bit of steel.

Anyway, the other night, I took someone out for an instructor training session. As I mentioned in a recent post, this person didn't seem ideally suited to the role, but without ever meeting him, I couldn't really form a judgement. I tried unsuccessfully to train someone from scratch to be an instructor, but it didn't happen. If I'd done things differently, it might have been different, and i've gnawed upon that particular bone for a good few hours over the last few months. I made mistakes, and destroyed my client's confidence. Why wouldn't I? I'd never done it before, and if I'm going to branch out from the role of teacher to that of teacher of teacher of teachers, I'm going to find both transferrable skills, and weaknesses in my methods and knowledge base.

The training session went quite well. The feedback I got was positive. My pupil was about what I expected. Essentially bookbound. This is inevitable. To teach, you have to know, and when you first start, you need the props. My wannabe instructor, who'd come across as something of an oddball from what I'd seen on the internet, turned out to be a nice guy, who was trying very hard. There's a lot of work to be done, but I can work with that. Nice guy, trying hard. That's not at all a bad starting point.

My job though, to get him through his teaching test, is to bring out his personality, and to kick away the props, so that he's not totally flummoxed by the first left field question the examiner asks.

To give him some idea, I want to get him to sit in on some lessons, just to see how fluid things are, and how the specifics are both vital and irrelevent. I need to know the specifics, but I don't always need to do more than note the deviations.

There's even a bit of deviousness, of dishonesty going on here. He thinks he's learning from me. In fact, I'm learning from him at the same time. It takes me back a decade. When I first started doing this job, I was doing the same thing with my pupils. Getting paid to learn. I still am to some extent. The day I stop doing so is the day I stop becoming a better instructor.

Respect, by the way, to Simon Cowell. While the other judges were making the ostensibly benign decision to put this guy through to the next round, so that the public could take the piss twice, he was equally ostensibly making the villainous decision to put him out of his misery.

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Thursday, 1 January 2015

It starts here.

Age: 47 years and 2 weeks.

Height: 5 feet 9 inches

Weight: 14 stones and 10 ounces.

Wrist: 7.5 inches

Neck 16 inches

Chest: 44 inches

Waist: 44 inches

Thigh: 25 inches

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