Fusion Power

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As an engineer wot blogs, I usually try to keep away from technical comparisons and similes...like, say...
"When the band came on, the movements of the crowd suddenly changed from fluid to solid, like molten carbon steel cooling past its eutectic point."
or
"As the sun set through the haze over the plains, its shape curved sharply outwards on the horizon like a meniscus."
or even
"She stepped out of her building and tried to light a cigarette, but the wind had other ideas. It whipped in off the sea and channelled along the city avenues, accelerating in the process and elegantly demonstrating the Bernoulli equation. After trying and failing for five minutes, she bought a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup instead."

See? What it gains in technical accuracy it loses in respect from its more artsy-prosaic friends and family.
(Mmmmmmmm...Reese's Peanut Butter Cups...)

But it's been said often, with many intentional contexts, that alloys are stronger. So I don't feel so bad saying so now.
People have said this when pointing at nations, cities, and slides in metallurgy lectures, but the truth is that you can't always be sure what you're going to get when you start mixing things together.
Mostly I want to talk about food. Fusion restaurants take two previously disparate food styles and whack them together, usually with a little effort to make things good. You get curious little productions like Filet Mignon Spring Roll (French/Asian, Nolia), Split Maine Lobster with Dates and Garam Masala (Indian/American, Taj) and Viagra Salad (Korean/American (APPARENTLY) Kori).

These experimental places, borne along on a bed of vigorous enthusiasm at the wealth of opportunities presented to those daring enough to blend and fuse the cuisines of the world, lurk amidst the regular swathe of restaurants in New York, and sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between those who have taken the dive, and those who haven't.

Example; there's a pretty dingy cafe I pass each morning on my way to work that sometimes advertises Fish 'n' Chips as the daily special, alongside an appetising photo of traditional British style fish and chips. The same cafe advertises 'Mom's Old Fashioned Home Cookin''...which would, you'd think, apply to passers-by of an American persuasion. Then, very rarely, the special dish of the day is:

Making Up Acronyms

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You can't beat a truly great cup of coffee, can you? I don't know what it is, but even a pretty brilliant coffee shop like Blue Spoon, using good beans has to contend with myriad factors - water quality, water temperature, how long the beans have been ground, that white musky stuff that builds up in the tureens and kettles, the entirely arbitrary amount of milk or cream the customers add, localized air pressure, wind direction, and the side of the bed the coffee-maker got out of that morning - in an infinitely spinning and wildly erratic universe, it's a miracle that a decent cup of coffee ever occurs at all.
You can take care to make sure that all the coffee you make is as good as you can make it, and then you're closer to that magic BAM! All of the random factors line up and dance the electric boogaloo and the weird synergy of the universe aligned sprinkles a little something extra in there and all of a sudden you notice your coffee as it swings by your taste buds, rather than it just being the brown stuff you drink in the mornings, and it's rich, it's strong, it's beautiful.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I need a little tech help. I have an iMac G3 at home, and recently the display has switched to RVGA - Really Very Green, Actually.
It seems I'm not alone, but apart from giving me a vague feeling of solidarity, that doesn't help.
I have a sneaky feeling that getting this fixed might cost more than I paid for the computer in the first place.

Feeling very chatty today.

So what's up?

The Whistlestop Doppler Effect

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Having guests is hard.
Trying to give them New York City in five days AND hold down a day job?
Tricky.
But fun.
Since last Tuesday I've had an excuse to go to museums, stay out late, eat some of the best food in the city, go see country bands in tiny bars where the lights man sits on top of the door, go to parties, go bowling, eat more of the best food in the city, and generally rollock around the place enjoying myself with a little more abandon than is prudent most of the time.
On top of all that, the excuse is one of my best friends.

Dave leaves today, and says he's going to start blogging again when he gets back, although he insists on redesigning first...

Cheerio Dave.

New York welcomes those with a cavalier attitude to their wallets and sleeping hours.

They should put that on a sign somewhere.

And The Rest Of The Story Goes...

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So after writing the three-letter-and-one punctuation-mark-post below, here's what happened.

You will note the time: 10.40am.

Dave and I had returned home at approximately 3am after drinking steadily -not constantly, but steadily, since 6pm.

At approximately 10.45am Dave and I left the house and proceeded to:

Subway to LES.
Eat Katz's pastrami on rye sandwiches, instantly filling us up.
Walk from Katz's to Washington Square.
Subway to Flatiron Building.
Walk to Chelsea Piers.
Lots of driving-range golf.
Half an hour of pool.
Walk back to Washington Square.
Ogle movie filming in progress.
Wine and extravagant dinner at Otto.
Taxi to Port Authority.
Ghetto Fabulous 90s trance remix-soundtracked bowling until 12.15am.

By which time I wasn't at all hungover any more.

On Drinking

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Muh.

SNACK ATTACK MOTHERFU...um...

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This is going to spread faster than butter straight from the microwave, and we all know what happens when bandwidth goes mental, so go listen straight away:

Two kids cover 'Lazy Sunday'.

Found via Gothamist.

I can't imagine, seeing as you've patently got some sort of internet connection, that you haven't seen the original, but if not, find it here.

Short Post

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I had intended to write a post, but now Krissa is lying on the sofa singing a small song (to the tune of the typical NYC car alarm) about how she's tired and wants to go to bed. This, at the sound of my typing, has transformed into a small stereotypical repetitive moan, which includes the phrase, 'Can't you take the blogging to bed?'.

I'm going now.
Ah well.

The Source Of All Those WTFs

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Intelligence and knowledge are not the same thing, but either can give the impression of the other.

Splinter Cell

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"So what do I do now?"
"Well you might have missed it, but there was a camera in the morgue, and now I think your handler wants you to find the security room to recover the tapes of the agents' bodies."
"Yeah, I did kinda miss that in my attempts to NOT DIE."
"It's okay, you'll just have to be stealthy."
"With ONE BULLET. What do I do with ONE BULLET?"
"Be stealthy."
"Yeah RIGHT."
"You could try."
"I'm like, the MISTER MAGOO of secret agents."
*pause*
"Why are we looking at the ceiling?"
"SHUT UP."
*pause*
"Ohmygodohmygodohmygodthere'ssomeonethere."
"Okay...so you can either..."
"Yes, I KNOW."
"All right."
"What's all this fucking MUSIC ABOUT MAN."
"It's for suspense."
"Whevs."

Column Inches - Focus Where It Matters

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This AP release was reduced to an inch and a half in this morning's metro.

Summary: Allegation of abuse by an Iraqi detainee was taken so seriously that no-one alleged to be involved was questioned, no document records of the time of the alleged abuse could be found due to computer glitches, no action was taken, and the case was finally closed as 'adequately pursued' and remains so because reopening the case, and I quote, "would be of little or no value and leads remaining to be developed would not impact on the investigative findings of this investigation."



Unbelievable.

And to think I read this great post on the decline of journalism yesterday and thought, 'steady on, old chap.'
Sorry Joshua.

Vanishing Point

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Have you seen the rumours about the Mac Expo, Macworld, starting today? They're saying there's going to be an iPod shuffle unveiled with an actual screen, and a 1GB Nano. Oh, and in Tech news Vodafone and Sony have launched a third-generation mobile phone radio service in the UK, and the new ROKR phone has a music and radio player in it that works better than iTunes did in the old one. Intel have just unveiled a suite of CPUs for desktop computers clocked at 3.6GHz. There's a 800 MHz laptop out there measuring just 1.4 by 9.1 by 6.2 inches and weighing in at 2.2lb...or 1kg for the metrically minded.

Which is all very impressive, but where, if I might ask a question, is all this going?

Down would be a good answer. Smaller smaller smaller and faster faster faster.

And the smaller things get, the more portable and powerful, the capabilities of formerly discrete devices are growing so much that their roles start to overlap. Your camera sits inside your telephone. Your telephone moves on from having customisable ringtones to having a music player. Your computer enables telephone-like conversations and video conferencing with other computers over the Internet. Nearly all cellphones have internet capability, even if basic.

The technology improves and shrinks and as its capabilities increase its function blurs, boundaries disappear, and the number of devices cropping up all over that do more than they used to, more of what other things do...is rising fast. Of course that blurring is pointing at a single future device with the flexibility and power to do whatever we want it to.

This device won't be a complete stranger to any of us, because we're all looking at something like it right now. But what will it be like?

So...small.

But what are the limits of small? I saw a 1GB keyring memory card the size of a mobile phone SIM card the other day, and miniaturization is going to continue apace, but as the big lumbering beings that we are, we have certain limitations on what we can touch, see, feel and use.
We need output, and as we've spent all this time and energy on evolving eyes, a visual display would be hard to usurp as the output format of choice. But who needs a screen?
I was surprised when these ear-clip telephones started turning up and spreading. It seems that people aren't THAT opposed to having something that's becoming an essential part of modern life sitting on the side of their heads. So if we assume we can hitch a lift on the ear, could we see an all-in-one device with a Near-Eye Display?
...or direct-to-eye projection from a fibre wand protruding about as far out from the face as current Britney-style headsets do?

Another thing we organically evolved beasts need is a way of inputting information and instructions into our device, meaning that our hypothetical future gadget is strung out between our hands and our eyes...assuming we still want to use our hands.

Voice recognition is getting better and better, but we're organic, personable beings, and we like our communication to be the same way. No one likes those voice-rec phone systems, even if they are good. Until we can say to our devices, "Oh, open that attachment thing Gerry sent me the other day, would you?" (and with a device that can learn to recognise your usual syntax and even your way of thinking and the associations you make, why shouldn't it be able to?) we're going to want to use our hands.
Unless we're on the other side of the room from the device or doing something else...it's quicker to use our hands than to say that sentence.

And then there is this direction. If you haven't the time to read the article, it's about how a computer plugged into a monkey's brain was at first used to map the patterns of brain activity caused by the monkey moving a joystick to control a prosthetic arm to obtain a reward. When the computer had the 'language' of the brain activity down pat, they took away the joystick and let the monkey control the arm with its brain. To begin with, sans joystick, the monkey continued moving its arm as though the joystick was still there...and then learned that it wasn't necessary.
If you really want to freak yourself out, there's a flash animation here.

How far will that technology take us? You can move from the happy application of paraplegic tool control to widespread brain-computer interfaces in one easy Sci-Fi step, but how long will that take? And how far is it from being happy to clip your cellphone to the side of your head to carrying your PC in there?
Is it going to be in-skull implants communicating with external devices via wi-fi? Or will we happily pack the lot into the nasal cavity?
What if you got a cold?
Subcutaneous RFID for identification and access purposes is one thing, especially when the chip is tiny enough to sit in the skin on the back of your hand and RFID doesn't require a power source...but how far are we willing to integrate?

I can't help but start to feel there's a certain 1950s element to this post, in a 'In the year 2000 we will all eat pills and take flying cars to work' sort of way, but seriously...how far off can I be?

If it lost the display, got a hundred times smaller and ran off your body's energy supply, would you implant your iPod in your ear? For security's sake?

More Trivialities

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Something we were somewhat outraged about from Trivial Pursuit:

What would you get if you ordered a pint of Isitrobheli from a Zulu grocer?

I was almost tempted to let you use google, so obscure is the answer, but no, google has the answer. Honest guesses only, please...

New York City

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Writing about the city is easy when putting prose to paper from the cold still of a room. The immediacy and power of it is reduced to something that can be viewed as a whole, considered with detachment and distance, like a painting from the far side of the gallery. The city is at its greatest not in the conceptual nor the ideal, but in the rushing directionless release of energy that can only be understood from within, the poetry of action surrounding you, enveloping you in the flow of cars, people, air, avenues and streets, planes aloft, trains beneath, and on all sides the river; forever stroking the long face of the island and kissing it goodbye.

A Touch Sensitive

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It may be cliche, but if there's something we emigres are a little sensitive about, regardless of where we come from, it's the home country. While we may not fall homesick, there's always the institutional haze of nostalgia to count upon, as well as the irresistible hobby of telling everyone who'll listen What Things Are Like Where I Come From.

I like to think that professional matters aside, I'm a pretty easy going person, (the 'professional matters aside' is an all-new qualifier for 2006) but despite that, some things strike to the heart of what I identify as mine about the UK, and I leap to ill-advised and almost certainly overreacting defence.

Take Alias for example. Once upon a time, Little Miss Bristow was sent to steal something from a museum in London. While she carried out most of her mission with ease, the police began to swarm loudly and invisibly in the background. Our valiant CIA agent heroine was freshly landed in a narrow London alleyway when suddenly a 1963 Hillman Imp, one careful lady owner, painted in white and garish orange with a crude POLICE motif and a 'My First Emergency Siren' duct-taped to the top screeched dramatically to a halt, cornering Sidney and facing her with the unpleasant prospect of having to beat up a few Bobbies to escape. Fortunately, the driver was her Dad. Now I know that when heists go awry we all like to see our parents pull up in a fake emergency vehicle and beckon frantically for us to get in, but I would like to think that I would be able, no matter how close the real police, to find the time to take my old man aside and convince him that when it comes to passing muster amongst a fleet of souped-up Vauxhalls and BMWs, the Hillman just isn't going to cut it.

I was outraged that ABC thought that their secondhand banger could look even slightly like a British Police vehicle. After illustrating my shock to Krissa, I made the mistake of texting avid Alias fan Biscuit to complain, and received a suitably and justifiably snarky response.
This is because I was being ridiculous.
It's a TV programme.
Part of it was that I didn't want the leagues of Alias viewers thinking that we were using Hillman Imps to patrol the streets of London. The programme was a sort of authority, and it was wrong.
Minor abuse of the power of TV I can cope with.
The abuse of the might and power of Trivial Pursuit, well, I cannot bear it.

Trivial Pursuit in the Bridgouras household is an occasionally clenched-teeth affair for me, because the questions are, unsurprisingly, America-centric.

There are a hundred years of baseball and basketball and golf and American Football trivia that I cannot even hope to catch up on, mostly because I am not trying in the slightest. If the answer isn't Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or Babe Ruth, then we can already strike out an entire sixth of the questions. Then we come to questions like, 'Which state was the first to introduce compulsory chemical branding of domesticated marmots?' which then the people at TP-USA have the gall to NOT MAKE A MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTION. The odds are against me, especially as I'm not sure I know all the states.
So I muddle through on guesswork and charm the question-asker, who I am conveniently married to, into giving out clues.

When a rare British-oriented question comes along, I perk up. Here is my arena! Here is the land that I know! Here is our stiff-upper-lipped, white-cliffed, Albionic answer to your Oregonian peroxide-singed rodents!

But no. Let me illustrate with the question in question. This is from the USA Trivial Pursuit 20th Anniversary edition. The category is Innovation and Sciencey Type Things.

What handy devices do Britons call "handies"?







Think about this, Britons. What do we call handies?







No, really?

I thought for a while, perplexed.

Then I thought for a little longer, getting annoyed.

Then I weakly said

"...tissues?" knowing full well that a tissue isn't a device, but 'Handy Andies' being the closest thing I could think of.

And Krissa read the answer on the back of the card:

Cell Phones




For the last three days we have returned home to find our answerphone filled with panicky messages from Seismological Academic Institutions around the world who registered the echoes of my reaction. Bathwater slopped over the edges of tubs as far away as The Bronx. Small children cried. Dogs lost consciousness. Cats pretended not to notice, but only from the security of their fallout shelters.

In short, I was a bit pissed off. This is because, American readers, that question and its answer are what we from the UK refer to as UTTER BOLLOCKS.

Then, when I was calming down, another British question that I didn't know cropped up:

What herb is widely taken in Britain to prevent migraines - fenugreek, feverfew or flaxseed?

Now this one doesn't take a genius to figure out, even if you don't know the answer, but still...what?

Or have I simply been away so long that I've forgotten that Mum used to tuck me up in bed with a Horlicks and a feverfew plant to chew on, while she chatted to her friend on her handy?

Right

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So when I say 'podcast pending' read that as 'podcast coming at some point'. If it's any consolation I feel incredibly guilty for messing you about...worse than not having done my homework. Honest. I've never done all speech before, and my student radio station links were disjointed and ummmm-ridden at best. But I'll give it a go anyway.

So...how's life?

Uh-oh

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Podcast pending.

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