31 January, 2007

An effective way to save energy

California may ban conventional lightbulbs by 2012

It's interesting to note that at least two of my attempts to save energy (and money) by replacing the regular light bulbs with the cool sprialy ones ended prematurely before I could feel any savings. The stupid helices blew up in just a few months, so so far it's more of a waste for me (and the environment).

There is, however, an easier and, I believe, a more effective way of saving energy, and in that one I excel. It's called, "Turn off the frigging light when you don't need it!".

I think I'm the only one (or close to that) who turns off the light at the apartments laundry room when leaving, and who doesn't turn them in the middle of the darned day!
Sure there is a timer-equipped light switch, but everyone just cranks it up to the maximum (~50 minutes), and as the washer, dryer cycles takes 35-45 minutes, the light ends up shining all day long. All sunny day long!

PG&E charges at least 11 cents per KWh (this appears to be their lowest rate, residential), so from 9am to 9pm it's going to be 0.4*12*11 = 52 cents/day (assuming 400 Watts for lightning). The laundry room serves about 500 people, there are 300*10e6 people in the US, of them 30% are renting (http://www.census.gov/prod/2006pubs/h150-05.pdf), which gives us that 100*10e6 / 500 = 200,000 laundry rooms are needed, consuming $104,000 in excessive lighting per day, about $40 million per year.

Is that a lot of money? Not really, but that is in laundry rooms alone, where an average person, like myself, spends about 1/1000th of the year (whoa!). Factor in unused lighting in restrooms, balconies, patios, server rooms, malls, etc. and those $40 million easily become $4 billion, which is twice the light bulbs market.

And I won't even mention the idea of line-drying your underpants, instead of using the 3 KWh/week dryer!

26 January, 2007

Fighting obesity, global warming and disinfecting sponges.

I am contributing to the fight against global warming and dependence on foreign oil by walking to work. Plus, I also fight obesity and high gas prices (by decreasing demand) -- that's how beneficial a little walk can be!

I use radio as a means of entertainment, so I get about 50 minutes of news every day now and therefore aware of what the world is up to.

One of the things I've learned a couple of days ago was the new way to disinfect sponges, and that is to microwave them. "Yeah", I thought to myself, "that'll work -- as long as sponges are still wet when you start the process". Because we all know microwave ovens only heat water, right? Right?

Well, yesterday I hear that some of the listeners got very frustrated with the whole microwaving suggestion and that the radio station regrets they forgot to suggest to wet the sponges. I am clairvoyant!

P.S. Oh yeah, and I find one or two pennies on the road every other day.

25 January, 2007

Video games for learning

It's being discussed whether computer games are useful for teaching children things, but I think the emphasis is on the wrong type of things intended to be taught. It seems the effort is mostly focused on maths and natural sciences, which is unfortunate because learning those through games substitutes the actual understanding of the world with a collection of random facts. True, memorizing the multiplication table might be a little boring, but good old birching can heal that!

There is, I think, a very valid application of video games: learning a foreign language. And it shouldn't be some silly "help Froggy to cross the road by pressing the right letter key" -- or whatever variation of Hangman there is. No, just take an actual game that is interesting to play, the only restriction is that the game has to be of the Quest/Adventure type (Quake won't work). Just let the children play those games for as long as they want (within reasonable limits).

Something is missing, huh? Yes, one more thing: the game has to be in the language that is to be learned... And a dictionary may come in handy, too ;)

/I know this works from personal experience.
//M-m-m-m, Space Quest!

22 January, 2007

The real secret of the Coca-Cola recipe.

Coca-Cola trade secrets trial to open today.

Apparently, some people wanted to sell the super-secret to Pepsico, and I think it was around the time when it actually happened that I've read about the agreement between Coca-Cola and Pepsico to warn each other if someone attempts to sell secrets from one to another.

I wonder, however, if all that is an elaborate conspiracy (it seems I'll have to rename this blog ;)). Think about it: it really doesn't matter what the actual recipe is, since it's actually different in different countries. The recipe does not make the drink sell, mind-controlling rays from black helicopters aggressive advertising, ubiquitous availability and squashing the competition does. There are tastier and healthier alternatives, like beer, but people still consume colas by ponds, so really, who cares about the exact recipe?

All this publicity about the über-secret locked in a vault and the touching detail of the two fierce competitors warning each other really is serving to induce one simple idea: if the company goes these lengths to guard the recipe, it's gotta be good, right? Right?! :)))

19 January, 2007

Why people love dictators.

(I mean, the subjects of the dictatorship, not the foreign contractors).

Why dictators enjoy sincere love of the nation?

Sure, there's Stockholm syndrome and all that, plus some people are just idiots, but I think the most important reason for love is that the dictator is responsible for everything. Quite literally -- there's absolutely no responsibility left for anyone else, so living under a dictator is the ultimate bliss. ;)

Definitely, some do want to be responsible, and the most active/strong of them becomes the dictator, the rest flee or get shot and regular folks can enjoy irresponsibility and it's mustache-wearing provider.

17 January, 2007

Chicken, eggs and mayonnaise

An old chicken and egg problem reworded in culinary terms: do Americans hate mayonnaise because mayonnaise in the U.S. is, well, crap, or the mayonnaise manufacturers see no need to make good product that nobody would buy?

One might think the key to the problem is the fact that Coca-Cola made in the U.S. is also total crap, compared to same Coca-Cola from, say, Mexico (real sugar in the latter vs corn syrup in the former makes all the difference). This one, however, is quite obvious: corn syrup is used because it's cheaper, and taste degradation can be mended via aggressive advertising. Which neatly conforms the common sense rule that the more advertisement there is, the crappier the product.

There's not much of advertisement for mayonnaise, however, which might be a sign that mayonnaise is considered a lost cause, being still made purely out of inertia. (Oooh, another conspiracy!) Or, speaking of conspiracies, may be the government forces crappy mayonnaise to prevent obesity. Well, in this case, it's obviously not working!

15 January, 2007

Severly unnew Jaguars

I've been at an auto show this weekend and quite liked it, although the purpose of some exhibits seems vague to me. It's nice to be able to check out cars all at once under the same roof -- sit on the back seat, estimating the leg room, sit on the driver seat and shout "Vroom-vrooom", shifting gears. It's a good way to find out what local dealerships have to offer that you may need and, quite possibly, buy.

It's is also interesting to peek at Ferraris and Aston Martins from behind the red rope -- although it would've been way more entertaining to do "vroom-vroom" sitting in a Mazeratti than in a Suzuki Reno or to practice royal indifference look at the back seat of a Rolls-Royce, but since none of the visitors can possible afford a Ferrari, they were out of reach behind the guard-ropes.

What's funny, however, is that Mazerattis were quite accessible -- anyone could peek through the window, try to open the door -- locked :( -- and take a picture leaning leisurely over the roof and holding the door handle, like if going to open it in the next moment, for which, unfortunately, there was no memory left in the camera.

Also, some Jaguars and AMCs were unlocked, so there was a constant flow of vroom-vroomers through them.

Now imagine some rich guy buying one of those exhibited Mazerattis, or a lesser rich buying a Jaguar:

R.G.: This is a new car, right? I don't like used stuff!
Salesman: Sure, just look at the odometer: less than 3 miles!
R.G.: Almost 3 miles! Have you all here checked it out already, before me?!
Salesman: No, sir, absolutely not! These are the result of the rigorous factory testing, plus just one healthy good-looking guy moved it from the truck. That guy takes a shower before every car!
R.G.: Good, 'cos I don't like plebes touching my things!

It's an exercise for the reader to imagine what would the rich guy say if the salesman mentions the car was touched by a few thousands of people -- very simple, unglamorous, blue-collar people. Worse, many of them actually sat in his car, shifting his gears! Some might have even farted excitedly! Ewwww!

10 January, 2007

Thank you, spammers!

For keeping me informed! Now even though I don't follow news, I get news headlines right into my mailbox, so I now know that

- School sent parents 'obese student' warnings ("Have you noticed Jane is so fat lately?")
- Something is going to (not) happen in 100 hours (in Senate)
- Howard Stern earns $83M bonus (And yet he still works)
- Gwynn, Ripken in Hall, McGwire misses (How are they and why should I care?)
- U.S., Iraqi forces battle insurgents (nothing new here)
- Kennedy fights 'new mistake' of troop surge (how many Kennedys are there, anyway?)

And on, and on, and on. Google news has a mighty competitor!

09 January, 2007

Diaper conspiracy

I've been thinking lately, why do babies' diapers always have pictures of some cartoon characters. Not just some generic piglets, mice, cubs, etc., but very specific ones, complete with the ® sign. Even supposedly cost-cutting store brands have them, what's the point licensing the copyrighted images?

Babies don't look at them -- not only diapers are normally covered with clothing, but, more importantly, babies don't care about such stuff. It's the adults who can actually appreciate the pictures, and they would often rather look at some other things, e.g. there could be some hot chicks for dads, or some muscular plumbers for moms. Sure this leads to "dads" and "moms" packs of diapers (an unexpected advantage of gay couples right here) -- but from the manufacturer's point of view it's even better: different packs mean more sales. And there are lots of hot chicks and muscular plumbers who'll for free allow to use their pictures for a chance to be famous.

So, why do manufacturers continue to lose money by licensing copyrighted themes for their products? Using something else would not only save money, but would also be more appealing to customers.

The situation becomes quite clear, though, if one considers that it may be the owners of cartoons who pay the diaper manufacturers to use cartoon characters, in order to associate these cartoons with children in parents' minds. After all, kids are not going to decide which cartoons to watch (i.e. which DVDs to buy, which shows will get the highest audience and thus higher ad revenues). Parents decide that and they get indoctrinated at the very beginning!

08 January, 2007

A question for the adventurer

I've read recently about a 14-year old guy who has sailed across the Atlantic alone. He had started his quest on November 18, and, while I do agree this is a serious achievement, I still wonder why nobody asks him this simple question:

How come you're not at school?

06 January, 2007

Upgrading to cinema 1.5

In recent years there's some talk about alternative endings in movies, which is a nice way to enhance viewers' experience, but requires extra work to shoot the additional ("alternative") scenes. Besides increasing costs, this method does not work in movie theaters. Although it was proposed to equip theaters with some sort of voting devices so that the patrons could choose the ending, it does not seem to catch up.

I have an easier way to upgrade, if not to cinema 2.0, but to cinema 1.5 at least. The upgrade is cheap, does not require any extra scenes and will work in movie theaters. It does not even need any support from the movie makers, you can do it yourself and it's perfectly legal!

What one needs to do is to skip the first 5-15-30 minutes of the film. Skip a little, if you want cinema 1.1, just a little less obvious than a regular movie. Skip some more if you're really into solving puzzles. And if you want a reality-like experience, start watching from the middle: strangers would shoot strangers for unknown reasons, just like in real life.

By going the latter route, you'll also be fighting elitism: after all, why praise someone for making a film that nobody (including, most likely, the director!) can really understand, while any regular crappy movie is a potential chef-d'oeuvre! All it takes is just one trivial edit ;)

03 January, 2007

Debunking cuisine myths

Sometimes I like to use some hot sauce with my rice or spaghetti. I particularly enjoy the one called something like "Vietnamese garlic sauce" -- found at the Asian food isle in a regular supermarket. It is especially great to wash the stuff down with some cold beer: first the sauce smashes my taste buds, and then the beer arrives to gently caress them. Culinary S&M! :)

There's one side-effect, however:

it completely eliminates the taste of food! (1)

Now, consider these statements:

(a) Asian food is rich in weird stuff, like bugs and worms
(b) It is also rich in hot sauce
(c) Bugs and worms are actually tasty, if you get used to them

But if (c) is true, then what's the need for (b)? (b) becomes obvious if one considers it in conjunction with (1), but then (c) is just a myth!