Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Better Breed of Faux Brick

Hot on the heels of the recent post about the cost of aesthetic in which the unattractiveness of a slab of concrete that was surfaced in an attempt to make it resemble the brickwork around it, and in which it was said that maybe painting the concrete to look like brick might have been a better choice.....

I've come across a rather attractive painting of faux brick on asphalt.

Not a bad effect, yes ?

Yes, that is plain asphalt that has had a brick pattern painted on it.
I'll be keeping an eye on how well it weathers over time but for now at least it's a nice looking job.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How long will a Snickers bar power a Cuckoo Clock

I had decided that my life would not be complete without a hand carved German Cuckoo Clock so here we are.   The basic design of the Cuckoo Clock stretches back to before 1800.  The count of the weights hanging from the clock indicate the number of features that a clock has:  2 weights one to drive the clock and the other to drive the cuckoo.  3 weights add a music box to the mix.
The fact that the clock is entirely weight driven makes it rather easy to figure out how much energy is used up driving the clock.   This posed a question that I wanted an answer to:

For how long would a standard Snickers bar power the 2 weight Cuckoo Clock that I have ?

Let's get a rough answer !

From measurement the clock weights move about  19 inches over 2 days.
This means that over two days gravity is 'calling back' the work that was done to lift the weights 19 inches.
The 'standard' value for gravity at the surface of the earth at 45 degrees latitude is 9.80665 meters/second-squared.
Because the earth is spinning the effect of gravity is less at the equator than it is at the poles because of the centrifugal effect wanting to 'throw' the object off the surface thus it matters greatly where on earth the measurement is taken.   45 degrees latitude is close enough so we'll use that.

The weight (mass) of the 2 weights totals 3 kilograms

So the amount of energy in Newton-Meters that it takes to run the clock for a day is:

Force * distance   =  m * g * d

(3 kilograms) * (9.80775 meters/ second-squared) * (19 inches/ 2 days) * (0.0254 meters / inch) = 7.099 Newton-Meters/day

From the information on the wrapper,  a 2 oz Snickers bar contains  273 nutrition calories  (a nutrition calorie is about 1000 energy calories)

Of course the human body cannot turn all of the candy bars energy into muscle power, but estimates put the conversion efficiency at between 20-25%.   We'll take the low end and assume that 20% of the Snickers bar gets turned into the muscle power used to lift the clocks driving weights.

So the energy required per day in nutrition-calories is:

7.099 Newton-Meters/day  *  ( 1 calorie /  4186.8 Newton-Meters) = 0.001696 calories/day

at 20% efficiency the required ingestion is:

0.001696 calories/day  /  0.20   =  0.00848 calories/day

The Snickers bar  contains    273  calories

So this yields

273 calories  /  (0.00848 calories/day)  =  32193 days  =  88 years

So there we have it.

One Snickers bar is enough to run my clock, bird call and all, for about 88 years.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aesthetics are for those that can afford it

I went to a Post Office to buy some stamps the other day and was soundly disappointed with what came out of the machine

This has got to be the *worst* looking USPS issued stamp that I've ever seen.  Despite it's message, there is nothing worth celebrating here, not for an instant and *certainly* not FOREVER !

Contrast the workmanship and care that used to go into US Postal Service stamps printed from engraved plates:

Look up close and marvel at the beautiful detail:

I for one certainly can't fault the new stamp for being cost efficient:  stamps printed on location on demand.   With all of the financial trouble that the USPS is in it would be irresponsible now to spend what it takes to produce stamps the old fashioned way.

Near the Post Office where the stamps came from, at Market and Powell is a sidewalk repair eyesore.   Where there used to be a hand laid brick sidewalk, the repair job consisted of concrete surfaced to resemble brick.  

This eyesore might have been palatable if the concrete could have at least been painted to resemble masonry.

With tight budgets the organizations producing these visual disappointments really have no choice but to do a functional job for the lowest price possible.   I think Ronald Reagan referred to this as 'getting the government off our backs'.

Such as it is, aesthetic costs money and right now we can't afford it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Motorcycles to sell a Dance Company

So in my previous post I showed a motorcycle advertisement that I'd happened upon in which a Ballerina was used to suggest how maneuverable (and graceful) the advertised motorcycle was.

Now here I've stumbled upon an audition invitation from the Paul Taylor Dance Company in which they've decided to use a motorcycle to suggest speed and excitement (the kind of excitement that you'll have if you are accepted into that Company I presume).

It's nicely full-circle now  Dancer to sell the Bike and Bike to sell the Dance Company.

This really would have been unthinkable say, 50 years ago...
When Hunter Thompson (I believe) observed that at that time (in the '60s) Harley-Davidson basically had only 2 identifiable groups of people buying their bikes:  the Police and the Outlaw Gangs

I'm in love with the modern world,...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

2012 Ballet's Time To Shine

Perhaps starting with the release of the movie 'Mao's Last Dancer' in 2009.
Followed by the movie 'Black Swan' in 2010.

Ballet is (once again) hitting the pop culture mainstream.

So far this year, hopping on and riding the popularity wave we have 2 current TV series:

1.  The reality based   'Breaking Pointe' on the CW network following the lives of dancers in the Utah based company 'Ballet West'
2. The not-reality based 'Bunheads' on ABC.

It all seems so improbable at first.

After all, Ballet doesn't ooze attitude like HipHop dancing,  or splash couple dynamics in your face like Tango..   So where is the mass appeal ?

Quite unexpectedly, I think I got an answer,  while reading the latest (June 2012) edition of the UK Motorcycle magazine 'Fast Bikes'.    'Fast Bikes' is about, well, Fast Bikes.  The magazine chock full of articles about machines sporting deliriously crazy power to weight ratios.   On such machines a decent rider could be hurled from a sitting start to 100 mph in less than 5 seconds.   That's awesome power on the human scale.

But on page 77 (shown above) there's a full page ad for the KTM 690 'Duke'...

It says (and I quote)  "I need a Duke because...
   dancing is my life"

Huh ?   Yeah,  that's right *because dancing is my life* (!)   So says:

Name:  Susi S.
Age:     24
Profession:  Ballerina

We're in an age where Ballerinas are selling motorcycles in the pages of 'Fast Bikes' magazine.  It seems that 'The Marlboro Man' has been kicked to the curb.

'Susi' goes on to say "..  blending previously unattainable refinement with sensationally cultivated manners and perfectly controlled power"

Yep, that sounds like Ballet  (or is it a motorcycle ?).   Controlled power with all the focus and grace of a pouncing leopard and there lies a lot of appeal.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

German Gems 2012

2012 has welcomed in another edition of the German Gems film festival at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.
This year I opted to partake of one film:

Uber uns das All (roughly 'Over us the Sky')

This film, Director+Writer Jan Schomburg's first feature (!) is an investigation into the nature of romantic relationships. What we make of them, what we will do for them, what we will allow to happen for the sake of them. Martha, the main character is set to join her successful Medical Research husband in Marseilles where he accepts a foreign research/teaching post. Inexplicably, he commits suicide soon after he arrives. In what ensues, Martha finds out that he never was a Medical Researcher, a lie that had been going on daily for 4 years and that he may have been having a secret affair with her best friend..
In the shock of all of this Martha, consciously or not, seeks to find a replacement for her lost husband. She finds him in the person of a professor of German history who after numerous shocks over the situation, apparently acquiesces and they form a new life together...

It is a puzzling movie. Free from 'big studio' demands for tidy stories, many important issues such as 'well what was her deceased husband ACTUALLY doing anyway ?' are left completely unanswered. The movie is pleasingly vague and we're left with trying our best to live in Martha's head as the tale unfolds.

The after movie Q&A session with the Director/Writer/Producer was most interesting. Questions about 'what happened that we didn't see' were met in the spirit of: 'we both saw the movie, you know as much as I' (ha ha.. very good !).
It turns out that Georg Friedrich who played the character of the history teacher is usually typecast in mainstream German movies as a bad, tough character. The interviewer mentioned that Friedrich is usually 'the bad Austrian' (I'm not sure what that means culturally speaking !). The director said that after Friedrich read the script 'he (Friedrich) was in tears that someone actually wanted him to portray a history professor' :-)

Nice experience German Gems. Thanks for another great festival !

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fishbone Documentary

Around the 80's a completely unique and wacky band appeared on the scene: 'Fishbone'. I became aware of them for the first time when their Music Video send up of the Jimmy Stewart movie 'It's a Wonderful Life' made it to broadcast (photo 2). It was crazy and original and I loved it !

This past weekend a documentary that chronicles the rise and fade of this fantastic band premiered at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. The lead singer Angelo Moore was present along with the filmmaker to answer questions after the movie. Before the screening Angelo did a music + spoken number up on the stage (see photo 1). On the saxophone, I could have believed that he was channeling 'Trane, very accomplished !

It was asserted in the movie that the band had trouble with being 'classified' by Columbia/Sony and that this was part of the reason that they never hit it big. I can thoroughly believe that. They are/were completely unpackage-able for neat tidy consumption (I wonder what the iTunes 'genius' music-style-correlator would make of this truely genius band ?).

I highly recommend the documentary if you're even mildly interested in them or want to hear about a band that could only have come to life in the U.S. (till now, I think there is still not another band like them in the U.S. or anywhere else)...