Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Electricity != Electrons

I first heard it about a decade ago on a local TV news broadcast story about an increase in Electric Utility rates:

"Soon you'll be paying even more to get those electrons"

The idea behind this statement being:
Electricity = Electrons, therefore when we pay for Electricity we are paying for the Utility company to reach into it's bag and hand us more electrons.

It's too bad that it's the wrong concept and is just not true.
I chalked up that incident to general ignorance of the TV news staff (nothing uncommon here, I remember the same staff reporting once that they were amazed to discover that "The radar guns that the Police use emit some kind of a wave !").

Time forward to this last weekend.
I was listening to an NPR podcast and heard it again:
"Paying for Electricity means paying to get Electrons"



In direct current (DC) such as what we get out of a battery, there is a one way electron flow that corresponds to the electric energy that we get from the battery.

But in our houses we get alternating current (AC), alternating meaning that the polarity of the 'electricity' in the 2 poles of the plug is constantly switching back and forth from positive to negative (many times a second). So actually, rather then moving in just one direction, the Electrons are constantly moving back and forth in the wires. We're not paying to 'get' electrons, we're actually paying for the energy that's related to the electrons constantly being 'given and taken back'.

While electrodynamics is a complex specialty subject that one could make an entire career out of, I think they taught us these basic ideas about AC current in the 3rd grade. They also taught us about the concept of the Electromagnetic Spectrum in the 3rd grade as well (Radar is a wave !).

What's with education these days ?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

iPod Video screen replacement

Last week I broke the video screen on my iPod.
While I could just barely make out the wording on the Menus, watching any kind of video was out of the question.

Time to install a replacement screen.
I ordered one @ $25 installation tools included. Such a deal (I think).

All went smoothly:
Open the case
Remove the hard drive
Separate the cast metal chassis from the plastic front face
Replace the broken screen with the new one.
Video viewing now available again

20 minutes start to finish !

Psycho Donuts

I went down to Psycho Donuts today to check out the concept. The clerks are outfitted in hospital dress and the walls have illuminated pictures of injury X-rays on them. Fun idea. There are some pretty wacky donuts like their 'Mood Swing' donut. It's one half chocolate with nuts and one half chocolate with Coconut flakes. Bipolar indeed. I opted for a 'Head Trauma' bleeding jelly donut and a more conventional 'Apricot Jam' which is an Apricot Fritter, mmmmm....

The place was packed and noisy, not your usual muted donut shop atmosphere.

I generally dislike stereotyping and stereotypes. Stereotyping bespeaks of simultaneous laziness of perception and laziness of reason, but damn if there wasn't a Police Cruiser parked right outside the donut shop ! sigh....

psycho donuts

Saturday, August 8, 2009

And now, the PDF revolution..

'Personal Dance Floor', a dance surface at home, that is...

I'll try to put this in context by describing its meaning in terms of another Personal Revolution: The Personal Computer Revolution.

Anyone that was interested in computer programming in the mid-70s and before had a problem to overcome: access to a computer. If one was associated with a University computer dept or worked at a business as a programmer you were set. All others were left to their own devices (or lack of their own device). In my case, I managed to get time on a small business mini-computer on (I think it was) Tuesday and Thursday nights after 9pm. So I would arrange my life to make the most of the few hours a week that I had access to the computer. Even then my options were limited. Being a business oriented computer the only high level language that was available was a limited business oriented interpreted language, not the best thing in the world. Happily, the machines were built on 8080 processors, so I could also write programs in the 8080 Assembler language. Needless to say, with only a handful of hours a week available, progress was slow. With the advent of the personal computer and with modern advances to date, that whole problem of access to computing power for personal use is now solved.

There's nothing like the give of a 'sprung' floor for dancing on. The floor feels alive and absorbs harsh impact giving some protection to the lower joints. Not many can afford to have a room built and dedicated for this purpose in their house or apt. So one alternative is to rent time in a dance studio for practice, or to clear out a part of the house and be careful of impact and resistance (this is what I've been doing so far). I've just gotten a 'portable' sprung wooden 6ft x 6ft dance floor and installed it in my study room. Very nice. The floor comes in panels that are machined to be easily fitted together via a set of spring clips. It's quickly assembled and if necessary can be quickly disassembled. Instant 'Personal Dance Floor'. The problem of access to a dance floor for individual practice is now solved.

I'm happy that my study room now houses both the 'Personal Computer' and 'Personal Dance Floor'.