Tag Archives: Family

Merry wossname….

Ah, it’s that time of year again; the tills of Yuletide are ringing, credit cards are melting under the stress and tempers are shortening, even if it’s not really a certain religious figures birthday. Truly, it’s not.

In our household there’s a nice leg of pork in the freezer waiting to be thawed out and converted into a sizzling roast topped with well-salted crackling and served with apple sauce. Said meat to be served with thick gravy, roast potatoes and buttered sprouts with a liberal sprinkling of fresh ground black pepper followed by New York style Cheesecake and a litre bottle of Sauvignon blanc, or maybe a Carmenere or Cabernet. The aforementioned will be served with much ceremony on the 24th, then repackaged with other cold meats, pickles and cheeses for the 25th when the cook of the household (me) is having the day off with a good book and bottle of single malt after a Champagne breakfast of Smoked Salmon and scrambled eggs. Our household will remain a Turkey-free zone until at least the 29th. Possibly not even after then, either. Drawbridge up, portcullis down, electric fence on, minefield along front path active, Piranha tank trapdoor set.

The Igors have already gone off on their seasonal break to spread their unintelligible lisps elsewhere. The kids will be talking to us via Skype but the TV and radio will remain firmly off. I may check the weather forecast online, but nothing more. The object of said time out being to relax so we’ll be refreshed and ready for whatever crises other people thrust upon us. As they will, for ’tis the season, etcetera, etcetera.

Myself, nowadays I prefer to gently decerebrate with a good book and bottle of single malt while the rest of the world stresses itself out over Mithrastide / Solstice / Whatever. However I’d like to wish both my readers to have a really nice time, because I’m sure some mean sod will try to ruin it. Even at a feast time when all is supposed to be about joy, good fellowship and all that shizzle, there are some people so happy to be miserable that they’ll try to spread their misery around. As far as I’m concerned they can Fuck off and die. As a public service announcement the local Police Department have asked those so inclined not to litter the streets with their discarded bodies as this may incur a fine of up to two thousand dollars per offence and may constitute a public health hazard. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Please note; no halls were decked with holly during the writing of this post. A little tinsel and some baubles are judiciously situated around our apartment, but no Holly and definitely no Ivy, even if full grown. A few carefully chosen gifts have been placed under the mantelpiece and no trees were sacrificed either, because we just couldn’t be arsed.

Oh yeah, for any male with a drop of red blood still circulating, watch this video from boxing day 1969.

Comments disabled, but WTF cares? The cameraman certainly didn’t. The young lady in question looks about 18-19 then so she’d be around 64-65 by now, and probably a Grandmother. Which is a sobering thought and probably noteworthy. A very merry, and possibly thoughtful thingummy to you all…….

Public conversations

Got into a minor spat on a Youtube comments thread about Nuclear Fusion a few days ago. A couple of guys were repeating the “ITER will give us Fusion in four years” mantra so I pitched the alternative view to them. Needless to say, they just regurgitated figures culled from press releases at me, and thought that I was just trollishly trying to wind them up. Which wasn’t true, by the way. Life is too short, and I have one. A life that is.

Now what I am is a fan of cutting edge science. The real thing, not the output of breathlessly over optimistic (or pessimistic) press releases. I want us to have Nuclear powered space ships plying their way out to far flung solar systems at multiples of light speed, taking humanity away from the nursery of the dear blue Earth to a greater destiny amongst the stars. When I was a boy we were promised flying cars, unlimited electricity, better house building, space travel, and colonies on the Moon and Mars and I truly did want to believe in a better life from technology, but I don’t believe in Nuclear Fusion created by ITER for one really good reason; it’s based on an archaic Soviet Tokamak design.

ITER Tokamak cutaway diagramNow Tokamaks can produce nuclear fusion, this much is true, but because of one flaw that even a fool such as I can see, ITER or its spin offs will never deliver as a generator of fusion power. Why? Put simply, shockwaves. Let me enlarge. In the late 1990’s I was watching a BBC documentary / news item, and was enthusiastic, nay excited to hear, that the Joint European Torus lab near Oxford had actually achieved nuclear fusion. With a Tokamak. Wow. The documentary showed the pressurisation and heating of the plasma until some of it fused and went ‘bang!’ in a very controlled and genteel manner (Well, the JET is near Oxford.) Until quite a while later, I too believed (back in the early 2000’s) that we were but four short years away from cheap Fusion power for all and only the Eeevil coal, oil and gas interests were standing in the way. Then I came across the theory of Tokamak fusion and the plasma physics needed to make it work. While I was reading the various texts and diagrams, I recalled how the fusion detonation shown on the broadcast had propagated through the torus containment field and tried to reconcile the theory behind Tokamaks with what I’d seen. My heart immediately sank. From that moment on I knew Tokamaks would never be mankind’s wonder-producer of limitless energy for one simple reason; when the plasma fuses, part of it literally explodes, sending shockwaves through the superheated plasma torus. This disrupts the containment designed to feed fresh deuterium and tritium into the plasma to be pressurised and fused in a controlled manner. When the flows and containment are disrupted by the initial fusion shockwave and Electro-Magnetic Pulse generated by the detonation, further fusion cannot take place until the plasma has stabilised, so all you get is a single bang and that’s that. That’s without controlling all the ELM’s and like phenomena associated with Tokamak fusion devices. I’m not the only person who thinks like this. For a more academically sound source, try here.

If anyone thinks that the aforementioned makes me a believer in ‘Cold’ fusion, think again. ‘Cold’ fusion was a false positive generated by a faulty experimental model. End of. Which was a shame, but there you go. Same for the sonoluminesence ‘star in a jar’ concept. Would that it were not so, but as one of my old lecturers from my first year in Engineering college told me when I was trying to make a special radius cut with the wrong tool and vice setup on a vertical milling machine; “You can wish all you like, but that won’t make it work.” Like reaction drives (rockets) won’t even get us close to the speed of light. Sad but true.

“Okay-mister-know-it-all-brainbox” my critics might be tempted to say, “why don’t you give us your answer?” My answer is; I really don’t know. All I do know is that things that work have underlying processes. Life is a process. Put all the processes, digestion (Fuel), respiration (oxidiser), heatbeat (circulation) and electro-chemical signals (control) etcetera together and you get organic life. A four stroke internal combustion engine works because underlying its operation is a series of repeatable processes. Atomise and detonate a mixture of explosive gas in a closed chamber to drive a piston which in turn pushes a crankshaft translating the pressure of the fuel air mix explosion from a linear impulse into rotary motion. Inject, pressurise, detonate, exhaust, repeat. A process. Turbines work because superheated steam or hot gas is made to drive impeller blades around a central axis. That forms a continuous process. All Tokamak fusion can currently deliver is a single bang-in-a-bottle. Which can be a bit of a let down and not really viable as a sustainable generator of electricity. Like trying to have a gunpowder driven Internal Combustion Engine. Possible, but there are too many issues.

Like so many others I fear we will never see the bright future we were promised and so eagerly anticipated. Tokamaks are like electric cars and wind turbines, a technological dead end, pointless exercises in turd polishing. It’s hard not to feel more than a little cheated of a bright technological future that might have been. If only.

Now Lockheed Martin have an intriguing High Beta concept for hot fusion and based upon my (fairly limited) understanding, I also feel the Polywell concept has elements worthy of further investigation, but all the big ‘hot fusion’ money is going into ITER. Which is what happens when the purse strings are in the hands of politicians who really don’t understand the issues. Heavy sigh.

Of course I could be wrong, and the ITER team might just make their new version of the Tokamak work without all the plasma arcing and scouring issues. One day they might get all the fuel input and field containment equations right and their big dream will crackle into seemingly miraculous life and continuously produce a thousand times the energy it takes to fire up, but I don’t see that day coming any time soon. Which is disappointing, as despite my misgivings I’d dearly love the project to be a success. Such is life.

On a happier note, Youngest just got offered (and has accepted) a proper solicitors contract by the law practice she recently joined. Mrs S and I have been doing the dance of joy all morning. Eldest has also just bagged a primo job in Africa helping project manage a major mobile data comms infrastructure roll out. There is much smugness chez Sticker at present. Which is nice.

Smokeswagen?

Not much time to blog today as by only 8am my coffee machine died, we’ve started celebrating birthdays and that damn Chaos butterfly is making its presence felt. Fortunately the weather is being kind.

I see Volkswagen, already caught with ‘green’ credentials around their ankles and spanked for cheating an emissions test, have decided to admit that the fix has been in on just about every diesel engine they make, even the commercial models. I’ve had VW’s before and they’re a damned good make. Good quality control and a reasonable price. I see no reason for not buying one. If VW made a symmetrical All Wheel Drive as good as Subaru’s, we’d have bought one instead. Not a diesel though. I’ve driven other makes of ‘Eco-diesel’ and wasn’t impressed with the engine cutting out at traffic lights to ‘save’ fuel because an engine cutting out at low revs and speed is bloody unsafe. These things may auto-restart, but there’s a second and a halfs lag at best, which in heavy traffic can be an eternity. I hate them. They’re dangerous because they always stall right at an awkward moment.

Right. We’re eating a late breakfast out today. Must dash……

That was easy

Guests have come and gone. Suitably full of wine, curry and a hearty fruit and cereal breakfast. We must have got it right because they’re angling for a return visit already. My Pratchett Discworld collection just grew by another six, and I’ve compiled a list of the few remaining hardbacks left to fill the gaps. I can buy a copy of The Shepherds Crown (Terry’s final work) locally. Details have been left with all the local secondhand bookstores to let me know the minute a copy of Sourcery with Josh Kirby’s dustcover artwork becomes available. There is a particular, if sentimental reason only that edition will do. It was the first Discworld novel I ever read, and had me in fits from start to finish. Coin, eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son, Conina the Barbarian Hairdresser, The Drunken Seriph of Al Khali, Rincewind, Nigel (Signature battlecry; “Erm….”) and guest appearance by the Ice Giants (“Vot you vant? Go Avay hot person.”) all left a strong impression with me. This is from someone who generally doesn’t like Fantasy. You can keep Tolkein about what you find Hobbit forming, but I just wish the LOTR mob would stick an Orc in it.

Otherwise life trundles on; I seem to have contracted some obscure form of lurgy, but the quacks aren’t sure what it is yet, so I’m off to get do my best impersonation of a pincushion yet again this week. It’s nothing debilitating, just bloody annoying. Results of the first set of tests came in thankfully all clear yestere’en. However, I was sent a web link and code to register for future results, which of course didn’t work because I tried to register ‘too early’. Blood and sand. Hey ho. None of my bits are dropping off (Yet) so I’ll simply try and register again on Friday.

I see a few rather less than genius level intellects have an ill advised “Shout out your abortion” campaign on `social media`. Personally, even having seen the procedure done properly, I have no issue with terminating unwanted pregnancies. But ‘shouting out’ to the world you’ve had one? Seriously? That will come back to bite you, people. Are we going to have ‘shout out’ campaigns for Haemorrhoid removal next?

Never mind the strident misandry of certain campaigners. All I have to say is it takes two to Tango folks. Never mind leaping up and down after sex, screaming “You should have done something!” at your chosen bedmate when the test result is positive. You can’t use politics (or even shouting) on biology. Pregnancy is the female bodies way of telling them “Congratulations! You can conceive.” That said, I have always been a firm believer that the decision to terminate or carry to term is the woman’s choice, no-one else’s. Not the family, nor the biological father, clinic manager, nor priest or politician. That foetus does not belong to them.

This is from someone who has two grown up stepdaughters about whom he cares very deeply. Even if they are a right pair of (well educated) little rascals. Should they become ‘with child’ I would, regardless of what they decide to do, support their decision. No matter what my personal feelings are at the time.

It’s one of the things they don’t tell you when you sign up for this parenthood lark. That little bundle of gurgles and pinkness will gravitate (Whether you like it or not) from the cute as a button / Mummy and Daddy’s little darling stage, through “Well he / she doesn’t get it from me…” and “Don’t slam the….” (Too late) and unsuitable ultrashort clothing to “Your college fees are how much?” and “OMG! I’m too young to be a grandparent!”

It’s life. Enjoy it while you got it.

A predilection for Ginger Beer

I like Ginger Beer, specifically the non-alcoholic kind, which is proving a little difficult to source here on Vancouver Island. Now let me explain that I’m not talking about Ginger Ale, which is a completely different beverage altogether, but real, firebomb your gullet Ginger Beer. This Summer, our local supermarkets bought in a job lot of a very fine example of non-alcoholic Ginger Beer called Old Tyme Jamaica Ginger Beer which I must confess I got quite partial to. Hint for the web site guys; list your stockists. Although at ten bucks for a six pack, I think it’s a bit on the pricey side. Nice though. I’ve tried Phillips and Crabbies, which are freely available, but they aren’t quite as gingery as I’d like. Which is a shame. That Old Tyme is non-alcoholic and has a better bite than a hungry Grizzly.

Now that it’s disappeared off the shelves, I decided to have a go at brewing my own since Ginger was under three bucks a pound a few days ago. I already had some yeast and sugar, so why not? Grate the Ginger, add the sugar, boil up a gallon, add the yeast and sugar mix and stick it in a big container. Dead simple. That was three days ago, and I’ve decanted the sieved mix into a four litre plastic milk carton three parts full of the sieved mixture. This mornings taste test of my murky brew told me I’m on the right track. Not too fizzy with only natural carbonation and a nice gingery bite, quite dry on the palate, but I do have to keep depressurising the fermenting mix at least three times a day to stop the container exploding.

Easing off the pressure can be a delicate job, as if I undo the cap too fast, pow! The cap shoots out from between my fingers and bounces around the laundry room. However, the milk carton was a good choice of container as there’s a fair bit of give in the plastic. Now I could of course spend a small fortune on brewing kit, but as this is by way of one of my culinary experiments, I don’t see the point.

Anyway, have picked up Youngest from airport, and she is visiting with the aunts and uncle up island for a few days until she’s down in the fleshpots of the provincial capital in our little domicile. I have to keep her entertained while Mrs S is in Seattle with sisters, so I’ll be setting up currys and cocktails so she doesn’t get homesick. Not that she ever does.

Update: I’ve just discovered that Wal-mart do something called ‘Grace Island Ginger Beer‘. Investigations have concluded that it has precisely the right heat in the back of the mouth, and it’s half the price of the alternatives. Our crew of Igors have given it three big thumbs up. Each. Heavy sigh. Looks like I’m going to have to buy a few caseloads then. Of such little things are the equations of happiness formed.

Upgrading my book collection

New Books againAustralian sister in law is visiting at the moment, I was let off the leash while she and Mrs S shared some sistahood girly time downtown. So I disappeared into a bookshop and ended up with the following to shore up my P.J.O’Rourke collection:
Bachelor Home Companion
Modern Manners
On the Wealth of Nations

I also found a copy of ‘Evil Plans‘ by Hugh McLeod, which I bought on impulse, because I’m fresh out of Evil and Cunning Plans at the moment and feel in need of a little inspiration. More on this at another juncture.

Considerably bigger bookshelvesLooks like we’re going to need considerably bigger bookshelves…..

Nothing new under the sun

Life trundles on with no big deals apart from several ongoing sagas over legacies and banks. I won’t bore you with the details. That’s for my lawyers (Lye, Cheetham and Runne). Suffice it to say, someone was trying to dip into my cookie jar and I’ve cried ‘havoc’ and set the dogs of law onto them.

Nice display of Sundogs in the late afternoon a couple of days ago. Nothing unusual for August. Although they do presage a change to cooler, rainy weather which will have everyone crying for the return of unremitting sunshine after three days. Mrs S and I are now both getting back into the swing of work before relatives descend upon us in the latter half of September. ‘Les Girls’ (Wife and sisters) are off to Seattle while I play host to Youngest, which will give me a fine excuse to go see all the movies and go a few places Mrs S doesn’t much care for. The Imax beckons.

The only thing of any note is attending various lectures at UVIC, oh and Neil McCollum over at Forgotten Weapons has uncovered this little gem (See video below). A Gyrojet carbine? Well I never.

As he says. No flying cars or jet packs, but a rocket rifle? What fun.

Seriously, I’m quite a fan of Neils videos because unlike so many firearms blogs he brings a thoughtful and considered approach to studying antique and not so antique firearms, often field stripping them on camera so you can see the innovation that made the gun either ground breaking or prematurely obsolescent.

Happiness is…..

….a full bookshelf. The Sticker household is nine books richer this afternoon. Eight hard and one paperback. Awesome Books delivered a series of secondhand and brand new volumes for me, while Amazon deposited two heavyweight historical tomes upon our doorstep. After over eight years, my once almost complete Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams Hardback book collection is gradually being rebuilt.

This promises to be a curl up in a corner and read weekend. With real books made of real paper. With real alcohol in real glasses, and possibly a side trip to see some real furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. And a few real guffaws. Which will be very good for my nervous and cardiovascular systems.

First dickhead to say ‘but eBooks are better’ in the comments will be mocked unmercifully. Religious nutters and political cold callers, between whom there is no neurological difference if you believe what Stefan Molyneux has to say, (see video below) will be left to bake on our doorstep.

I’m almost inclined to put a clear plastic cover over the doorbell with an ‘Emergency use only’ sticker on it. Wonder if Canadian Tire do such an item?

All I know is that we’re going to need considerably bigger bookshelves……
New BooksThe Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Maskerade, Jingo, Interesting Times and the Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.

Un mauvais quart d’heure

Yeah. Today has not been as happy a day as might have been. A creeping sense of FTW has shadowed my every waking thought, casting a pall over what has otherwise been a pleasant day. I know why. It’s been a year to the day when first my Mother, then my dog, died. I really don’t know whether to feel hopeless, sad or just plain angry. This mood will pass, I’m just having a bad quarter of an hour, that’s all. These feelings always fade like a morning fog, but while with you, serve as a reminder that you’re just as full of shit as the next guy. Kind of reassuring really.

Anyway. Tomorrow Mrs S and I set out on a little road trip which will eventually take us down south of the border for a little drive around the US of A. Just dodging the wildfires through Washington and Oregon. Nothing fancy. See the sights, sample the food and wine. Watch the people. Ignore the mass media. Intwerweb stuff will be patchy, but if I see anything vaguely noteworthy I’ll probably post about it, Wi-Fi permitting.