30 January, 2006

Old News

A long time friend of mine who defines Marin New Age recently sent me the following
  • link
  • as if it were recent revelation

    Googling some of the relevant names reviles a history of fantastic promises the never seem to be delivered.

    The interesting part is that there is a real ‘Zero Point Energy’ – google ‘Casimir effect’

    anyway, my reply;

    um, hate to be the one to point out that's talking about four years ago and he's still not produced a working model - I agree it would be a really great thing but he's got to prove it and so far he's yet to produce one.

    Just because he managed to secure a patent does not mean it works.

    The Casimir effect is real (Zero point) but does not seem to have any relation to Bearden et al and at any distances we've been able to achieve the effect is barley detectable and measurements are only within 15% to 25% of the calculated value but it is an effect taken into account on the nano scale world of microelectromechanical systems

    "For two perfect, plane, parallel mirrors in a vacuum the Casimir force is therefore attractive and the mirrors are pulled together. The force, F, is proportional to the cross-sectional area, A, of the mirrors and increases 16-fold every time the distance, d, between the mirrors is halved: F ~ A/d4. Apart from these geometrical quantities the force depends only on fundamental values - Planck's constant and the speed of light."

    the 16x increase in force for every halving of distance is interesting -

    now, if/when someone comes up with a method of achieving proximity on the order of 10nm then the force is equivalent of one atmosphere (1.033kgf/cm2) and you can start to do some interesting things but that's on the order of 100 times the diameter of an atom - tricky...

    28 January, 2006


    Those simple initials mark the annual haj that I’ve embarked on for over 30 tears now (I think I’ve missed 4 or 5 over the years) and right now about evenly split between ‘Exhibitor’ and ‘guest’.

    NAB and it’s international cousins IBC and Communications Asia are where the software, hardware and services are sold to the folks who sell you everything you see or hear on your TV or radio.

    The National Association of Broadcasters annual convention has recovered from the post 9/11 slump and last year was once again well above the100,000 attendees mark. While it does not have the pure marketing hype of, say a CES (Consumer Electronics Show) or Comdex the amount of hardware (more often than not these days it’s a black box in a rack) is truly impressive

    As an Exhibitor, I’ve usually been the technical lead on booth and depending on who I was working for a the time can become an all consuming time suck starting after New Years and cumulating at the strike of show in late march or April with the final few days before the show opens reaching 26 hour days, and if all goes well it’s finished the night before it opens.

    There have been times when it did not go well.

    Once the show opens, if I’m an Exhibitor, I’m usually the first one in and the last one out each day and in between answering technical questions and meetings.

    As a guest, the schedule is one of my choosing, however the times when I’m not on the exhibit side I’m walking the show as a Chief Engineer or systems integrator, and it’s a big show to walk and at times the entire show is not long enough to see everything I wanted to see – in either instance I’m on my feet all day and talking all day.

    Various NAB’s over the years have made indelible memories

    - after seeking special dispensation from the over master of the conference I came in at 3:30 the morning before the show opened. I had been working for an innovative silicon valley company that had recently been acquired by one of those military industrial conglomerates that we were warned of so may years ago – needless to say there was a steady hemorrhage of experienced people but I digress - other than to note that said conglomerate at the time could provide everything from the cameras and microphones to towers, transmitters and dishes and everything in between. I had the largest dish in the parking lot, the latest in 1” video tape machines and rolled tape on the launch of maiden flight of the space shuttle. When it landed on the last day of the show the entire convention center came to a standstill as everyone crowded around any booth that had a feed then spontaneous applause and cheering when wheel stop was announced – I still have the original tapes.

    - There was the classic time some bum (literally, he just walked in from the street -although I’ll be the first to admit that in a crowd of broadcast engineers he did not stand out) walked up to the podium where President Regan was accepting a large glass award, snatched it out of his hands and proceeded to smash it before the Secret Service tacked him.

    - the year the two students went on their rampage in Columbine every bit of ENG gear and truck disappeared

    - or years later when our government barbecued 80 some of it’s citizens (admittedly probably not the best neighbors but there was no justifiable reason for what happened) mostly woman and children (stepping down from soapbox)

    - the last year NAB was in Atlanta was interesting as there was a Grateful Dead concert at the same time. Made for some interesting interactions between the suits and Jerry’s kids - but after 4 days of being panhandled going to and from the Omni center and finding a large psychedelic sticker on the windshield of the rent a car finally prompted me to put in a Doors tape and smoke the tires as all the tie dyed scattered. There was also a somewhat amusing interactions with some of the locals the first day, I stopped to ask for directions at a gas station. Dealing with someone who looked like an extra from Deliverance (I could swear I heard Dueling Banjos in the distance) complete with missing teeth and one strap holding up his coveralls and obviously not too happy dealing with a suited Yankee but his directions as strange as they were actually worked, as I commented to the guys in the car “…I don’t think they surrendered”

    - or the deja vu moment when I realize I’m looking at the Texas school book depository and the grassy knoll driving back to the hotel

    NAB started first in Washington DC but even then was so large there were several venues and getting back and forth between them was interesting. The last year in Chicago (late ‘70’s) there was some union problems, when I came in to turn on the booth, things started arcing and sparking, someone had shorted several power cords and poured soda into some of the machines – that was the last year for the windy city. But mostly it’s been in Los Vegas.

    Having spent an average of two weeks a year there over the last 20 plus years it is astounding how this most improbable of places has grown. However, as I don’t gamble, don’t have time for the few shows I’d like to see and having witnessed the ‘ladies of the night’ going home after a hard days night by the cruel harsh light of the desert’s dawn there is surprisingly little to do there. At least the food and drink has made vast improvements, for a long time it was “bud, coors and gallo” and endless buffets – all serving the same bland food catering to middle America.

    Truth and lie part II

    While I've never been a fan of 'the richest woman on TV' I owe her a profound apology. Not only has she recanted her endorsement of his fiction she confronted James Frey and his Publisher called them to account on her show.

    When is ratings week?

    23 January, 2006

    Hammers, not just for nails

    Wabbit Stew

    A friend of mine was the reluctant recipient of not one but two bunnies last Easter. As the bunnies grew and were adopted as family pets by his kids, his worst fears were realized..... he had a male and a female. As they matured he told me that he had no desire to be a wabbit farmer, so I sent him my special recipe for Roadie's Homestyle Wabbit Stew, hoping it could solve his problem before he ends up with a backyard full of the things.

    Hope you are hungry, here's the recipe!


    1 wabbit

    1 large pot w/lid

    1 onion

    1 head garlic

    duck tape


    a hammer

    1 bunch carrots

    First, get a wabbit. You seem to have this covered. Then get a bunch of carrots, well.............. maybe you should get the carrots first, 'cause it might make it easier to catch the wabbit. Then get an onion and a roll of duck tape, a head of garlic and a hammer with a wide head. If you only have a ball-peen, use it sideways. Get a large pot and put it on the stove. Don't turn the fire on, you're not ready for that yet. Take the duck tape and wrap it 359 degrees around the equator of the onion, and leave a courtesy tab to grab it with. Use more tape and do the same thing to the whole head of garlic. If you wrap the tape 360 degrees or more around either the onion or the garlic, you might as well throw 'em out and start over from the beginning*. Take one carrot and give it to the wabbit, and offer to take the wabbit to a movie after dinner. Don't look hungry when you do this, as they are very sensitive to ulterior motives. Under no circumstances should you offer cash to the wabbit. Fill the pot with water and light the fire, then offer dessert to the wabbit. While it chooses between the cheesecake and the chocolate moose, sneak up on it with the tape and wrap the wabbit securely, in a spiral pattern, making sure to stick tape to all the furry parts, without sticking the tape to the tape*. ( *we know what a nightmare THAT can be!) Be sure and save enough tape to cover the mouths of the screaming wife and children protesting, and/or cheering your questionable treatment of their pet.

    Offer the wabbit a soothing hot bath to relax from the trauma of being taped, and line up the ingredients on a cutting board, left to right, in this SPECIFIC order. First, the onion, wrapped in tape, sticky-tab facing down. Then, the garlic, wrapped in tape, sticky-tab facing down. Then the wabbit, tab facing up. Hold it if it wiggles. Not the head. (If you are left-handed, hold it with your right hand.) Now get ready, because the next part happens really quick. It's pretty exciting, so you might want the family to watch, but no closer

    than the kitchen door is the advisable safe distance.

    Take a deep breath............. Relax...................... Visualize fine dining.

    Unless you're really good at taping wabbits, the water should be boiling by now.

    Pick up the hammer, and prepare to hit three blows of increasing strength, a tap, a smack, and a full wallop. Concentrate on the three taped ingredients lined up on the board and take aim.

    Grip the hammer tightly. Ready, set, GO!

    Three hits with the hammer, once on each, left to right, bing, Bam, BOOM!

    Then take the lid off the pot and hit it with the hammer like a gong or cymbal, for effect. Your rapt family gasps, or perhaps cheers. Throw the hammer in the trash. Pick the onion up by the tab and snap it into the pot with a sharp flick of the wrist. This should peel it nicely. Then pick up the garlic by the tab and

    do the same. You will be amazed at the efficiency of the tape in cleaning the garlic, but remember, good aim is essential for proper seasoning. Pick up the wabbit and hold the tab with both hands, thumbs facing up.

    Take a step back and hold it above your head. With a brisk motion like throwing a soccer ball onto the field, snap the wabbit into the pot. This move should remove all fur from the wabbit and cause a pretty good splash. We will save the flambeau method for the advanced class. Pick up the nearly forgotten bunch of carrots, and walk to the kitchen door. Toss them over your shoulder and into the pot. Ask someone to put the lid on the pot. Proceed to the living room, turn on a Sportschannel and relax.

    Simmer for 24 hours and tell the family you threw it out and you're having beef stew tomorrow.

    The kids will love it.


    Chef DeJour


    A fellow walks into his doctor's office, complaining that he thinks he might have a tapeworm.

    The doctor makes a physical examination and listens to the symptoms, and concurs with the self-diagnosis.

    "I want you to come back tomorrow, to start treatment. And bring a banana and a cookie with you" said the doctor.

    Despite the seemingly odd request, our hero complies, and returns the next day with a banana and a cookie. The doctor says "Okay, now drop your pants and bend over. This is going to hurt a bit." Although leery about the turn of events, the patient drops his pants and bends over.

    The doctor peels the banana and with one deft motion rams it up the guy's ass. While the doctor consults his watch, our hero dances around the room shouting at the doctor. "Okay, one minute is up, and we have to complete the second part of the treatment if your truly want to get rid of this tapeworm" advises doc. Despite the pain, the patient does want to be cured, so complies with the order to bend over again. Again, the doctor takes the cookie and rams IT up the patients ass.

    "Okay, tomorrow I want to see you here at the same time, and bring anothe banana and a cookie" says the doctor. The now humbled patient, with tears of pain in his eyes, nods his head.

    Next day, the same routine ensues. First the doctor rams up a banana, waits exactly one minute, then rams up a cookie.

    And the next day, and the next day and the next!! Every day UP goes a banana, wait one minute, then UP goes a cookie.

    After one full week of treatments, the doctor finally says "Well, tomorrow is the LAST day of treatments. I want you to bring in a banana and a hammer." "Not a cookie?" asks the very frightened patient, trying to imagine what a hammer was going to feel like.

    "Nope, a hammer" confirmed the doctor.

    The last day the doctor says "Okay, you know the routine". So the man drops his pants and bends over. UP goes the banana, and the doctor looks at his watch and picks up the hammer. One minute passes. Then two minutes. Three. Four minutes pass. Then a little head pokes out the patient's ass.



    14 January, 2006

    Truth and lie

    The real world is an infinite number of shades of gray. Social interactions and politeness often require us to shade our response (lest you end up a social pariah like this observer). Such is the social lubricant that allows most of us to slide though day to day life with our casual interactions.

    But, there are instances of definite white and absolute black.

    Since the turn of the century there have been a number of frauds perpetrated on the public and the reaction by the 'mainstream' media has been duplicitous at best.

    The recent exposé by The Smoking Gun on James Frey’s outrageous 'Million Little Pieces' and the subsequent reactions of the 'richest woman in TV' who’s placing his book on her must read list boosted this piece of fiction that was rejected by every publisher it was presented to as fiction - has now become a 'autobiographical' best seller and a extremely dangerous obstacle to anyone attempting recovery from substance abuse.

    The 'richest woman in TV' and Lawrence Harvey Zieger (known now as the great unthawed, LKL) instead of confronting this fraud and eviscerating him on live television have shown their true colours and allowed Mr. Frey a pass. While I can not account for their actions, my supposition is that in 'richest woman in TV' case, she can not face the truth that she was scammed big time and in effort to save face has chosen to state that the Smoking Gun and other critics are "much ado about nothing" and urging viewers and readers who have been inspired by the book to "Keep holding on." In Lawrence Ziegler’s case my observation is he has not confronted anyone in any serious manor for the past decade at least - if ever.

    The dangers of allowing such nonsense to pass unchallenged are as serious as death. In the case at hand we have a account of recovery that flies squarely in the face of any acknowledged recovery programme and a sure recipe for failure for anyone who has come to the point in their life’s path that they have faced the bald truth that they were unable to control their addiction. While I can only relate 2nd hand (I guess that means I’ve deluded myself that I still have some control) as to the efficiency of the various programmes (12 step and others) there are some basic obvious truths when it comes to recovery from substance addiction and the examples shown in Mr. Frye’s fictional account are false on their face.

    To paraphrase (forget who exactly) "there comes a time when it is necessary for honorable men (and honorable women) to stand and declare what is right"

    This for me, is one of those times

    If you want to waste your time and money for a poorly written piece of fiction, by all means, enjoy – do not expect me to ‘socially lubricate’ your idiocy.

    09 January, 2006

    Worst job you ever had.

    In my youth I’ve sold fuller brush (2 weeks), sold cigarette and candy at the wrestling matches( for of all things, my local boy scout troop) cleaned out an enclosed pig sty (once) sheer and dip sheep, it all started to go downhill when I worked for the local cable television studio.

    My boot camp experience (USN) was a tad on the bizarre side, after a few days in a regular company I was transferred to service barracks and spent the rest of my boot time filling out and delivering dental appointment cards and standing “the bedwetter’s watch” - seems back then there was a special barracks that the navy would collect those who had enuresis and our job was to wake them every 30 minutes, inquire and mark a chart if they were wet or dry until one night this big dude got up and informed me (in demeanor and tone that left little room to doubt the sincerity of his intent) that he wanted to get some sleep and that if I insisted on having these little discussions I would be in need of immediate medical attention, needless to say his boxes were marked dry for each of my subsequent watches. Spent the next several years doing boring and occasionally dangerous things with helicopters and boats but eventually back slid back into television.

    At first, I convinced myself that I could just stay in the technology sector and had interesting diversions in remote sensing, surveillance, lasers and other cool toys but soon found myself building high end broadcast cameras and then editing systems then slipping down into production and post production finally hitting bottom when I started having delusions of Producing and Directing.

    It was during this time that I was corned by a local newspaper’s “question girl”
    question “what are your bad habits?”
    Answer “My bad habits are either illegal, immoral or worse, I work in the television industry. My brothers, ones a nuclear engineer the other an air traffic controller and I agreed that we should tell mom I was still playing piano in the bordello”
    And they published it!

    Instead of a clean break from the clear vice that television is I gradually moved back to the pure engineering side and somehow ended up on the infamous ‘das boot’ project as it is referred to by those of us who survived. By no means my first (or last) international project this one stands as the most f***ed up project that any of us had ever been involved in.

    The actual contract was for (rhymes with baloney) to completely outfit all the entertainment and ambiance video, projection and sound systems including interactive televisions in 1200 accommodations per ship for three hulls being built in northern Germany for a Greek owned cruse line.

    The boat yard was an interesting place, these were hulls numbered in the mid six hundred range, the company had been building boats for a few centuries but stayed on the cutting edge of technology, had well established procedures and being Teutonic, extremely difficult about changing or amending anything.

    (Rhymes with baloney) also had a deserved reputation for building large unique systems however they operated on a much shorter project cycle with a proportionately higher number of engineering changes, often driven by changes in the technology. Case on point, after the first boat was done, dead buried and the open wounds healed, several of us went back for what was called a Preliminary Design Review (for Das Boot II), and we’re going great, we can get larger AC units, more power, etc. The yard was talking about what pattern of carpet to use where and what color trim around the sconces, as far as they were concerned the boat was built (even though it had just started getting put together) and we were about 2 years too late to be requesting changes like these.

    The town and boat yard were all newer buildings (for Europe anyway) most being about fifty years old or less, clue to the reason for the building boom could be found along one corridor where they had pictures of the hulls they built for uncle Adolph.

    The project had been sold (on both sides) by a concept document that started well then ended abruptly, there were some creative concepts floated but for the most part little to no engineering thought was given.

    I later found out one of the few guys in this biz who I respect, had flown over the week before I was sent, took one look at the site, turned around went back to his hotel and commenced drinking until he could get a flight out.

    I was told when I was offered the job that it was all done and that they needed a sr. engineer to check it all out and sign off the installation, when I got there, nothing was working and there was just 6 weeks to go before the maiden voyage.

    This sort of explains how I found myself 10 meters up in the show lounge on top of a narrow shipboard ladder at 2am on a mid December night in the North Sea, I’ve been up since 6am, the ship is undergoing sea trials and that particular night they were doing list tests and stabilizer tests, sound folks are setting their system which involves 120dB blasts of pink noise on a random basis, meanwhile I’m trying to hold on to the ladder, the lighting grid, the two ‘mis-connectored’ cables that control the pan tilt zoom and focus of one of the cameras and not become impaled on the artsy glass top tables with one leg in the middle.

    My email back to my boss started with “…remind me again who won WWII? Here I am, a NorCal kid working for a jap company on this dammed nazi death boat”

    We even had t shirts made up that said arbeit macht frei.

    04 January, 2006

    Somewhere between agnostic and atheist

    Semantically, there is no content difference between “In the beginning, God said “let there be light” and “from the singularity (the Big Bang) the universe exploded in a burst of energy”. There is a diametrically opposite world view between the two statements.

    For my simple mind the major difference can be stated thusly; The first statement implies explicit knowledge that is handed down from on high, unalterable, unquestionable and non falsifiable. The second implies questioning, wondering and experimentation – and the ability to discard theories that do not adhere to observation and measurement.

    As an engineer, I can not look at what little of the universe I’m able to perceive without awe and wonder at how well it all works – however, as a curiosity driven homo sap I also can’t resist poking and teasing with the miniscule tools at my disposal at some the more accessible bits, in my case the electromagnetic spectrum, - I’m still playing with the two slit problem with Schrödinger's cat.

    I’m not advocating my position or attacking anyone’s beliefs just stating my POV

    I find it interesting that those who promote Intelligent Design (ID) and deny the ‘theory’ of evolution have no problem with the concept of the avian flu virus mutating (evolving) and just what sort of Intelligent Designer puts the playground equipment adjacent to the waste treatment facility?

    Married to a Catholic and our children went to Catholic elementary and middle school (without it seems, any permanent damage) however when asked why I didn’t partake in communion my response of “Sure, I’ll engage in a little ritual cannibalism with a papist – if he will offer the host to an infidel” somehow did not open a reasonable dialogue as I had hoped. But, no one has asked me since.