WEEK 35 2008

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First Post, 17 March 2002
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Saturday 30 August 2008
Saturday - I've been seeing a lot of 'plugin-required' messages lately, it looks like Flash has once again updated their player. I'm getting pretty damn tired of having to monthly update these things. Maybe I won't bother.

We had a nice relaxing day. The sister and niece will be up for lunch (hopefully) tomorrow and we'll have a little barbecue. The Giants lost, which means I won a quarter off my dad. Good thing, that pile of quarters on my side of the knick-knack shelf was down to one. Sheesh. We just haven't been betting enough on the Athletics, upon who I make most of my profits....

My sister emailed some pics of her newly landscaped back yard near Reno. Pretty nice: a little lawn - good for water conservation, a small 'water feature' and a stone and brick patio area. Lot's of dirt that I assume will be xeriscaped shortly.

My friend S is now on her sixth set of inverters for her home solar array, in six years. The build quality of equipment and the technical ability of (licensed) electrical contractors is horrifically bad. She had decided to get away from battery backup, it not having been used in the last five years, and go to straight grid intertie. To use a more efficient inverter she put her panels into two series of twenty panels each, outputting 480V at 5.5A.

The most recent set of licensed morons that looked at her output at the combiner (a) told her that she was running at 140A (an impossibility), and (b) ruined her meter. Apparently they didn't know the difference between AC and DC. She had another guy come out, a solar power guy we met at the county fair a few days back, and he says that (a) the amperage mid day is about 10A - which is what it should be, and that (b) the tree shade on a couple of panels in the morning is enough to ruin her throughput for that half of the day.

I'm not sure, I seem to recall that modern panels like these have a shunt to bypass the resistance of shaded panels - but admit I'm not sure about this effect when it's twenty panels in series. This guy, who admitted up front to not being a licensed electrician moron, struck both S and I as a down to earth and competent person. We could trim the tree, or move the panels to a sunnier spot, if required.

What we need, I think,  is a working ammeter in the system, after the string combiner, and an hourly set of readings from it for a few days. In fact we could just wait until midday, then deliberately shade a few panels and note the effect.

Heh. I remember talking to an electrical engineer at NASA, KK, about all this, years ago. After an initial intellectual interest he came to his senses and decided to stay the hell away from the whole business...

Friday 29 August 2008

Friday - driving up the I-5 my brother mentioned that McCain had made his pick for VP, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. Heh. I'd predicted this. McCain already has the right sewn up, he needed, like Obama & his sewn up left did with his pick of Biden, to appeal to the undecided middle. It pretty much had to be a minority, either Black, Hispanic or a woman. Identity politics means that a pick of either of the first two would tick off the second, leaving a woman as a logical candidate.

 So I can pat myself on the back for this piece of simplistic political analysis, and promise never to talk about politics again.

Breaking my promise immediately (so as to save you, dear reader, from suspense) I have to say: break out the popcorn, this is going to be a great show this fall.

We watched the 'niners last preseason game. They actually looked pretty good.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Thursday - someone mentioned that it was Labor Day weekend, coming up. It surprised me, I was thinking the week after next. So my brother and I are driving up to see my Dad and, hopefully, some other family members.

I finished Book #43, Galileo's Daughter*, by Dava Sobel. It was interesting - recommended - but was a bit odd. It's not really a biography of the daughter - and there were two daughters - or of Galileo, but more of a sketch of the life and times of the early 1600's in Italy, only it didn't really go into that either. The trial of Galileo was gone into, in some detail - torture was not used, though it was threatened, and his house arrest in Florence was granted at his own request after his first imprisonment at a Cardinal's residence turned, much to the Pope's annoyance, into an extended scientific soiree and lionization of Galileo. Nonetheless it was a severe punishment, G was truly housebound for years. Sadly the passing of his favored daughter soon after his return to Florence, the nun Maria Celeste, left him with much less companionship than he might otherwise expected.

Interesting sidelights: Papal infallibility was not impugned, because (1) that doctrine wasn't elaborated for another couple of hundred years, and (b) the Pope didn't personally make a pronouncement, the guilty verdict being that of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. The actual crime: writing the book in defiance of a written order in 1616 ordering him not too. Galileo's defense was that the order he was given, in writing, of which he'd kept the original, didn't include the clause that condemned him. He also pointed out that the churches own censors, both in Florence and in Rome, had taken years to review it, and passed it and added their own preface, which was indeed in the printed edition. Less convincingly he argued that his book was a dialog that presented both sides of a hypothetical question.

Left unsaid: why did Pope Urban go after G with such a passion? The reasons given seem weak, and in fact motivations as a whole seem a weakness of the book. Though I admit to being averse to being imposed upon by historians' improperly documented and proved motivation myself. Perhaps it was the best anyone can do.

An echo of our day: various people were using the bible to 'prove' various religious and scientific points. The Catholic Church, tiring of this, with the Council of Trent, asserted (among other things) that only it had the authority to quote the bible to prove a point. They weren't so much worried about minor Italian mathematician's as about Martin Luther, but the law is the law.

As usual I wish I had the print copy, and accompanying pictures and diagrams.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Wednesday - so, the parachute didn't open - was this a failure?

orion failed chute landing

Henry Spencer says 'no', and he's probably right. But it's not a picture NASA that can be happy to publish.  [via NASA Watch]

Spencer was famous on USENET for his encyclopedic knowledge of the space program, indeed an "I Corrected Henry" t-shirt is a huge badge of honor in the space enthusiast community, because of their rarity. Sort of like winning a quarter for a better idea from Lockheed's Kelly Johnson. It looks like he now writes for New Scientist magazine, which I recall from college as an interesting, British and rather lefty, magazine.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Tuesday - I found myself near Scope City in Simi Valley, and stopped in for a look. There was a pretty good sized warehouse for Park Optical, but the showroom there, though stuffed with telescopes, was rather small. Still, it was neat.

I need to buy a nice remote mountain lot to use for stargazing. Lancaster and Ventura are useless for that hobby, too close to LA and too hazy and polluted. Though a boat hundreds of miles out to sea might have good 'seeing' it would also be a bit unstable at large apertures.

 Monday 25 August 2008

Monday - back to work. The weekends seem awful short these days.

Sunday 24 August 2008

Sunday - Book #42 was Hal Clements Still River.  This is a bit of an odd book - it's 'hard' Sci-Fi and the character development and plot almost nil. In fact it's more about chemistry than anything else. I'm a bit unsure about the title, is it a reference to the various liquids/gas phases on the planet or to some literary/historical object I'm unfamiliar with?

Clement, of course, is famous as the author of Mission of Gravity and Needle. I should reread those - it's been years, decades I suppose, since the last time, though now that I think about it I have a feeling that he wrote sequels to both, fairly recently.

Update: Needle was published in 1950, with the sequel Through the Eye of a Needle in 1979, which is about when I read Needle for the second time. The first time I read it was when I lived in Arcata, which would make it the mid to late 1960's, perhaps 5th grade. So I could reread them both and they'd count as nearly 'new' reads - twenty-five years is a long time between reads!

Picture of the Week
Photo Notes: Another channel bird.

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