Sunday, 28 September 2008

Elevator Blues

The concept of the space elevator has been around for a long time. Arthur C.Clarke helped awareness of the idea in 'Fountains of Paradise' published way back in the 1970's.

And now the Japanese claim to be doing the development work prior to actually building one. Price tag claimed? $10 billion. I suspect it will cost a bit more than that, but its great to see a real start at last. Here's hoping they stick to their resolve, because it will be a tough job.

I, and I'm sure a lot of people wonder if it can actually be done. The risks are enormous; and even if it proved possible, the appeal to various clot-headed terrorists and end of the world wannabees would be enormous. Imagine a structure tens of thousands of kilometres high slowly collapsing back on a rotating planet...

Doom and gloom aside, the concept is completely cool. Being able to feed stuff into orbit continuously would open up unlimited possibilities for getting humanity off this rather limited rock. And for just $10 billion...

It has so far cost the US around $5 trillion to conduct its war on terror. Benefits gained? One dead dictator and stuff-all else. Other effects: An unlimited supply of hatred for the US from the Muslim bits of the world. Well done, Dubya.

Now, if the US had spent just one fifth of the money they have plowed into endlessly thumping Iraq and Afghanistan on developing space elevator technology instead, they could have built one hundred space elevators, rendered conventional spacecraft unnecessary and delivered payloads into orbit at a fraction of the present cost and opened up the Solar System.

I wonder which would have been better value for money...?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Twelve Minute Kidfood Countdown

This is my almost nightly ritual for two children who will eat little else at this time...

12 mins: Half fill a medium saucepan with hot water and set to boil (covered is quicker) on a gas hotplate. Remove block of frozen pasta sauce cubes (labelled 'BOL') and the bag of frozen cooked Honey beef sausages from the freezer. Every week or so I cook 'BOL' and sausages to freeze.

11 mins: Get two pasta plates. Place a 'BOL' cube on a pasta plate; cover with a sheet of kitchen paper. Separate out a single sausage from the bag. 20 secs in the microwave may be required to loosen one from the scrum.

10 mins: The water should be boiling about now. Add some salt. Take a bunch of 'Instant' spaghetti out of its bag ('Instant' claims 8 mins to cook - I do 9 mins for the kids) . Snap the long spaghetti in half and drop in the boiling water. Stir with a teaspoon to prevent clumping.

9 mins: Place dish with 'BOL' cube into the microwave. Cook on HIGH for 1 min. Get two glasses out of the cupboard. Get a wine glass.

8 mins: Use the pasta stirring teaspoon to mash down the semi-cooked 'BOL' cube. Reset microwave and cook on HIGH for a further minute (or less if it was a smallish cube of 'BOL').

7 mins: Get milk out of the fridge. Pull out completed 'BOL' and carry to bench using the covering paper as mittens if hot. Toss the paper. Put frozen sausage into a freezer bag and cook on HIGH for 1 min.

6 mins: Get tomato sauce out of fridge. Pour a glass of milk. Get raspberry cordial and pour a fifth of a glass. Pour a small glass of red wine.

5 mins: Retrieve heated sausage and tip out of bag onto its plate. Toss the bag. Cut the sausage up into bite size pieces with a knife and fork. Leave the fork with the sausage and deposit the used knife on the sink.

4 mins: Squirt some sauce onto the sausage pieces and squirt some more sauce onto the 'BOL'. Stir the sauce into the 'BOL' thoroughly with the pasta stirring spoon (see above).

3 mins: Clear spaces at the table. Add water to the cordial. Place a paper napkin beside Matthew's place. Put the glass of cordial on the napkin. Place the glass of milk beside Gracie's place.

2 mins: Free time! A sip or two of wine works well here.

1 min: Turn off gas, drain the pasta. Pour half into each dish. Stir the 'BOL' through the pasta. Gracie gets the 'BOL' and pasta and Matthew gets the sausage and pasta.

Blastoff! Call the kids and then stand around cajoling while they make excuses why they can't finish all of it...

This all has a ritual accuracy, as I have been doing this for many months now. We live in hope that vistas of variety will open up real_soon_now, but I'm not holding my breath just yet. How old are my fussy children? Matthew is 9 this month and Gracie is 8 in December.

Friday, 12 September 2008

A list of oxygen thieves of the last 100 years

A short list of people the world would have been better off without:
  1. All the heads of Europe just prior to and during WW1. These pathetically useless mammals helped inspire the phrase: "What if you declared a war and nobody came?" Unfortunately everyone did come. 40,000,000 dead.
  2. Adolf Hitler and his inner circle of humanitarian sidekicks. 70,000,000 dead.
  3. US President Truman. This stupid prick had no valid human reason to drop the A-Bombs on 220,000 Japanese civilians - the Japanese military were already looking for a way to end the war and Truman knew it. He just didn't want the Russians to get to Japan first.
  4. Joseph Stalin. Millions slaughtered by Stalin's resilient paranoia.
  5. Mao Tse Tung. (Where the heck did the rename 'Mao Zedong' come from? The same guys who created 'Beijing' from 'Peking' I guess. Once names have been Westernised they should bloody well leave them alone. The new ones are rarely any more accurate than the old. So, how come we don't call 'Japan', 'Nippon'?)
  6. Idi Amin. Most Amazing Man. Thousands killed or eaten.
  7. Pol Pot. 1 - 3 million (Pol himself reckoned it was only a pardonable 800,000. What a guy.)
  8. Kim Il-Sung (Dad). Human Rights? We ain't got no steenking human rights...
  9. Kim Jong-Il (Son). Human Rights? We ain't got no steenking human rights...
  10. Dim Sum Il Jong (Cousin). Human Rights? We ain't...(oh all right - that one is a little silly. I'll get back to being deadly serious)
  11. Osama Bin Laden and happy friends. A comment is hardly necessary.
  12. All those happy suicide bombers. Kill everyone who doesn't share your faith. Allah be praised. Kill the Shi'a if you're Sunni. Allah be praised. Kill the Sunni if you're Shi'a. Allah be praised. Kill all infidels because Allah is too piss-weak to do his own dirty work. Allah be praised. The guy suicide bombers all score 72 shiny new virgins each - what do the girls get? More Holy Rogering, I guess. Allah be praised.
  13. Presidents Bush. A right pair of village idiots. Brought about the demise of far more Iraqis than poor departed Saddam ever managed AND set us all teetering on the brink of Holy Wars for the foreseeable future. Allah be praised.
I'm sure many names could be added but its MY biased incomplete list, not yours, so bugger off.

Public Idiot Number One

"Lordy sakes! Let's go to war with Russia if they don't do what we tell them!" (paraphrased and probably understated)

Oh super - just what the world needs - another testosterone soaked blathering idiot in a position of power. And won't she have that in spades if McCain keels over.

This person is probably more dangerous than Dubya ever was. One wonders if she is already planning her part in the (rather late, but still coming) Christian Apocalypse - "gotta get those End Times a' rollin' before The Lord up an' Raptures me away!" The sooner Jesus snatches her (and the 90% of U.S. Republicans who believe such nonsense) away for a bang-up fundie-fest in the clouds the better. One can only hope.