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Upcoming events

Next week I'm off to the land mass to the west of me, visiting Dublin and Belfast for the World Science Fiction Convention, then the following weekend Belfast for Titancon, the EuroCon (European annual SF convention). This is not without complication: sensing vulnerability, my ancient and venerable washing machine picked this week to finally expire, forcing me to embark on a perilous quest for a replacement—not to mention a launderette with service wash facilities—during the Edinburgh Festival. (Which is why this update is late.)

(Note: this is not a solicitation for advice on whether a hand-powered mangle and hot tub combination is more environmentally sound than a Miele TwinDos automatic washer-drier, or the best way to dry my jeans in the toilet, or suchlike helpfulness. As I approach my 55th birthday I'm pretty sure I'm on top of these issues.)

Anyway, I'm on the program at both conventions, and I'm posting an abbreviated version of my schedule below the fold.

NOTE: Updates to the schedules for both conventions are best found via the Grenadine Event Guide mobile app (which both conventions are using for program updates—it's free to download).

I'll try to amend this page as changes/additions happen.

Worldcon schedule

  • Thursday 15th: Panel: Writing Robot & Non-human intelligence (1200-1250, Wicklow, Hall-1 (CCD)) (with Christopher Husberg, Martha Wells, Mika Koverola)

  • Thursday 15th: Panel: Wild Cards: Wild West Trivia (1400-1530, Liffey-B, (CCD)) (with George R. R. Martin, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Carrie Vaughn, Paul Cornell, Peadar Ó Guilín, Emma Newman)

  • Friday 16th: Signing (1530-1620, Signing space, Point Square Dublin)

  • Saturday 17th: Panel: Technology we can't believe we're still using (1300-1350, ECOCEM Room (CCD)) (with Alison Scott, Tom Merritt (Sword and Laser), Dave O'Neill)

  • Saturday 17th: Reading (content TBA) (1500-1520, ECOCEM Room (CCD))

  • Sunday 18th: Panel: the politics of horror (1200-1300, Wicklow Room-1 (CCD)) (with F. Brett Cox (Norwich University), Rosanne Rabinowitz, Cristina Alves)

  • Monday 19th: Panel: AIs and the female image (1030-1130, Odeon 1 Point Square Dublin)(with Madeline Ashby, Pat Cadigan, Dr V Anne Smith (University of St Andrews), Dr. Sara L. Uckelman (Durham University))

  • Monday 19th: 1300-1400: Kaffeeklatch (CCD Level 3 Foyer, requires sign-up in advance)

Eurocon schedule

  • Thursday 22nd: Panel: Cthulhu/Loki 2020 (1600-1700, Waterfront, Hilton Belfast) (with Misha, Renee Sieber, Petra, A Ming)

  • Thursday 22nd: Titancon literature night (1900-2200, Waterfront, Hilton Belfast)

  • Friday 23rd: Signing (1100-1200, Dealer's room)

445 Comments

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1:

Typo alert: that's Carrie Vaughn with you on Thursday afternoon

I'm always wary about signing up for Kaffeeklatches: either I don't know the person/their work enough, or I know them too well, and it seems unfair on others for me to try to get a place. My solution to this in the past has been to wait until the signing up period is closing and then adding in if there are spaces at that point. There are some good writers who end up with almost empty klatches because nobody seems to know who they are: Gareth Powell suffered from this in the past, though I doubt this happens to him now.

On the third hand, I'm tempted to try signing up on Monday to see the other people who'll be there

2:

Huh! By a strange coincidence my Beko washing machine died on Monday and two chaps from John Lewis were here replacing it with a Bosch (ordered online) this morning. Now washing a load of towels. Hopefully going a little upmarket will get me a machine that lasts a bit longer than the last two (Beko, Hoover).

3:

I've been to exactly two kaffeeklatches:-
1) Jasper Fforde. We were chatting whilst he waited for the room to be free and actively invited me to join in.
2) Jim Burns. Long term fan of his, and there were still a few spaces...

4:

REALLY GOOD LUCK
I had intended, as you know, to come to Dublin, but, in the end, couldn't afford it.

And that one: "Technology we can't believe we're still using" looks really interesting, especially given my background - do let us know about that - please, pretty please?
Of course there is always the "It ain't broke, why do you want to fix it?" problem in this area ....

5:

Jim Burns is a sweet guy, though he does like teasing me about my near ancestor, the one who assassinated Spenser Perceval back in 1812.

We have a number of Burns pictures. Not an original painting, yet, but we do have one or two original pencils, and some impressive giclee canvases.

6:

The one that died on me is a Miele. It's probably repairable (at a price) but as it's about 15 years old (and was an end-of-life model at the time) I'm using this as an excuse to replace it with a shiny new top-of-the-line one with a bunch of bells and whistles and 30% lower detergent consumption (it weighs your load, then meters out the detergent from a cartridge in accordance with the type of fabric you told it you'd put in it—yes, you can use third party detergent, although you need to recalibrate it—it also has internet connectivity and a smartphone app if you really enjoy widening your threat surface and want to monitor energy and water consumption remotely). I guess I should call it the washing robot?

Miele washer-driers have a design life of 15 years, compared to cheap washer-driers which are built for 3-6 years (down from 5-7 a decade or two ago). So I'm applying the Sam Vimes' Boots principle.

(Note that Miele should be avoided for dishwashers and vacuum cleaners—they're only good at clothes washing machines! A category in which they dominate the launderette industry in Europe.)

7:

:-) So, should BoZo the Clown be worried? We might be prepared to offer you political asylum after IndyRef 2!...

I've got some Jim Burns prints too; I was one of the people who bought Spaceport Glasgow for example.

8:

"meters out the detergent"

wizardry!

9:

Washing amchines & are we STILL using this technology?
Like my huge twin-tub, you mean?
And the suspended ( ropes 2 pulleys & a fastening cleat on the wall ) kitchen-cieling airer-dryer rack ....

10:

One end of the house has pictures only by Burns on, and they're spreading elsewhere.

This is part of why Jim recognises us — it's only polite to know your regular customers. I have, somewhere, the TIFF file he made of Tertiary Node. I effectively commissioned him to do a giclee canvas print of that: because he had a guaranteed sale rather than having to do it on spec, he then had it properly scanned. It makes a good companion piece for Homuncularium, which he'd scanned and gicleed before.

11:

The main belt on our tumble dryer broke, and we decided to scrap it after I had taken it apart and found the problem. I don't know when Hotpoint stopped making that type of belt, because the machine was 35 years old; of course, we didn't use it all that much. I might have been able to jury-rig it with a modern one, but the bearings were also not what they once were.

Thanks for the hint about Miele - very timely.

12:

Well, those two aren't particularly my taste, but it would be a dull world if everyone liked the same stuff.

13:
(Note that Miele should be avoided for dishwashers and vacuum cleaners—they're only good at clothes washing machines! A category in which they dominate the launderette industry in Europe.)

That's a bit interesting; in the USA they're considered a top brand for vacuum cleaners and dishwashers. They're not as big for washing machines or dryers due to their smaller size (though famously Steve Jobs spent weeks researching washers and dryers ... and picked Miele).

I'm very curious about the TwinDos thing - I didn't realize you could use someone else's detergent in it.

14:

The old Miele washer-drier took a hammering: 3-5 loads per week, including drying (there's no suitable drying space in this top floor flat other than a tiny airing closet), for about 15 years. One caveat: you've got to read and follow the manual to the letter or Bad Things Happen. (We had one engineer call-out at 18 months because I'd missed an important weekly precautionary step and as a result burned out the heaing element: engineer pointed to the para describing it, replaced the part, and it was covered under warranty, but.)

Other Miele domestic appliances are broadly reputed to be shit, trading on their rep for washing machines, but as washing machines go, they're the Rolls Royce brand. Quiet, incredibly reliable if used correctly, very long lived … also eye-wateringly expensive, but you can't win 'em all, and I'd rather pay three times as much for a machine that runs three times as long than replace my washer-drier every 5 years.

15:

Vacuums I'd choose a Numatic International Henry, and yes they are available in North America.

16:

Many years ago I had the displeasure to be forced to use a Henry (in a business environment). Maybe it had been kicked around or badly maintained, but it sucked, and not in the vacuum-cleaner sense. Dyson, alas, make superior products … but I refuse to give their asshole owner any more money (hint: obnoxious entrepreneur who moved his entire business to Singapore, costing hundreds of UK jobs, because labour is cheaper and he pays less tax there, then bought himself a £50M penthouse while preaching that the UK would be better with a no-deal Brexit—in other words, sanctimonious hypocrite).

… Back to Henry: they're old-fashioned tow-along vacuums that require a disposable paper bag to trap the waste. Yes, if what you want is something that would have been instantly recognizable in the 1930s, this is the vacuum for you … and they're very rugged and repairable. But the modern bagless vacuums with high speed motors and motorized brush heads are vastly more efficient at vacuuming, weigh less, and the better models are just as modular and repairable (or rather, you can swap in spare parts easily and the parts are available for sale).

17:

(Note: this is not a solicitation for advice on whether a hand-powered mangle and hot tub combination is more environmentally sound than a Miele TwinDos automatic washer-drier, or the best way to dry my jeans in the toilet, or suchlike helpfulness. As I approach my 55th birthday I'm pretty sure I'm on top of these issues.)

Charlie, no! At least get a DosThree, but avoid the TwinWindows, you'll bluescreen with a soggy load of laundry every week....

18:

I must admit that I'm sort of mind-boggled at how ofter folks are talking about replacing a washer. My late wife bought a cheap one, and it was going fine (though I had to replace a belt) in '91. The one I have now was *not* new when I bought the house in '11, and I think I've replaced a belt - doesn't matter how old, there are parts places online.

Won't be at Worldcon. For one, I have my new SO, and so it would be a *ton* of money - on the order of $5k or more, esp. since we'd want to go around Ireland and the UK (visit places I didn't have time for in '14).

In addition, an announcement of my own: the Tuesday after next, my income drops by more than half... because that's my last day at work I'm retiring, and going onto social security.... More time to write, more time to try to keep up with my yard.

On the other hand, if any of you run into Morgan Hazlewood (nom de plume) at Worldcon... say 'hi' to my daughter for me.

19:

Canonmills Launderette is near-ish to you I think, if you're still seeking one.

20:

I have a pulley airer in my utility room. It's great - I got rid of my tumble dryer on the strength of it. I also dry in the garden (weather permitting) - got all bar a bath mat dry from 2 loads today... The bath mat should be fully dry by the morning - it's only slightly damp.

I think I miss the tumble dryer about once a year. The rest of the time I dry on the rack or on the towel rail.

21:

We had Dyson vacuum cleaners for many years but each model seemed to drop in quality and increase in price so we switched to Shark last time. I hope my new mid-range Bosch washing machine will last 8 to 10 years instead of the 3 to 5 of its cheaper predecessors. Washing machines are very much built down to a price nowadays with the result that they don't last. I know people with old machines of modest brands like Hotpoint that are more than ten years old. They will get a shock when they need to replace them. When shopping for my new machine I did see this with 9Kg load, 1600RPM spin, a NFC Android app, and other bells and whistles from a budget brand at a low price (I think it was £239 last week). So that doesn't seem likely to last a long time.

22:

Disagree; out departmental Henry would be due a 30 years long service award if it was a person.

23:

Oddly, that's where I went for a service wash this afternoon. (Got soaked to the skin, despite waterproofs! England is having a major grid black-out, Scotland just gets drenched ….)

24:

You have a utility room and a garden: congratulations, I live on the fourth floor in an apartment that predates indoor plumbing.

There were pulley-airers designed for tenement apartments—wooden frame below sash window, you winch the clothes out and crank them back in again if it rains—but not any more (UNESCO world heritage site, no unsightly TV dishes or clothes airers allowed).

That'd leave an indoor solution like a Pulley Maid, which would be great … except my kitchen has a false (lowered) ceiling, I'm not sure how securely it's suspended from the joists above it, and the precise location where I'd put the airer is currently occupied by a fluorescent tube (the main illumination for the kitchen). Cost of airer: £50. Cost of rebuilding and raising the kitchen ceiling, replacing the lighting tube and its wiring, and installing the airer …? I suspect it's cheaper to buy a new washer-drier, even taking into account the electricity bills.

25:

"Shark" vacuum? Maybe typo for Sharp?

And when my washer goes, I know I'm looking at $400-$500, because I want a front-loader. Less water, less insurgent, I mean, detergent (not like I use the "recommended amount" as it is, I always use less unless it'e *really* dirty.)

26:

I'm going to note just now that British (and European) domestic appliances aren't like American ones. They're built to fit a smaller standard kitchen unit (60cm high by 40cm wide), they run on 230vAC via a mains plug, gas-burning driers are unheard of outside industrial installations, and they're all front-loaders rather than top-loaders. So rather than a simple bottom impeller, they tend to be programmable and complicated with lots of soap/conditioner dispensers and stuff to. help them thoroughly wash a similar load of clothing in a much smaller drum volume.

27:

Wow, subject drift set in early for this post. Continuing drift - we had a decent pair of Bosch (separate washer and dryer) laundry machines issued to us in Germany. They were great! The main point of adaptation was going from a normal laundry load of about 10kg (US machines are MUCH larger) to a 7kg load. Although we'd been warned against condenser dryers, ours worked fine. Most US dryers are externally vented, essentially clothes toasters.

Coming up on two years back in the US, I'm still washing 7kg loads. I guess I need a more extensive wardrobe.

28:

#23 - I'm not surprised; I'm at my Mum's right now and looked out the window about 16:30 BST, to see the patio about half an inch deep in rainwater.

#24 - If you have a bath bath rather than just a shower, I got a nylon dipped steel wire frame clothes drier/airer from a real ironmonger.

#25 - No. "Shark" is a real manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, who's main marketing idea is to actually give people machines in exchange for an honest review.

29:

Not a typo: SharkNinja is a maker of vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances. A coworker left to work for them a couple of years ago.

30:

Oh dear, I have 90 minutes from my flight's arrival at Dublin, to get to the start of the Writing Robot & Non-human intelligence panel...

31:

That might be doable, if you pack carry on and the relevant venue is on the DART.

32:

I do understand that, both from reading, and from the trip in '14 to the UK via Iceland. In the US, top-loaders are the std, and you pay extra for front load.

A friend, outside of Chicago, and in the apt I rented when I first moved here, both one-unit dryer above/washer below one unit. Not sure I could have washed the mattress pad for our waterbed in it....

If I was replacing the hot water heater, I'd consider an on-demand, as is common on your side of the Pond, but they're more expensive, too.

33:

Oh, unrelated to this (other than Worldcon), Charlie, after doing some reading, I've finally figured out how to deal with my novella: since it's an ensemble cast, third person limited. That lets me have a number of important scenes without a PoV character.

Now to continue on it this weekend, having gotten about a third of the way through the rewrite, and I may have to make minor changes....

34:

Further to which, is it just me or is the vaccuum cleaner the only really worthwhile thing Dyson have ever made? The other products of theirs that I've encountered seem to be an object lesson in why "innovative" and "unconventional" doesn't automatically mean "better".

35:

Ever used a Dyson Airblade? The fastest hand drier in the West (and the East too!)

36:

Whether bath drying racks are worth bothering with depends critically on the ventilation. There are plenty of bathrooms where clothes would grow black mould long before they dry, even if you never used the bath,

37:

Charlie, will it be possible (and appropriate) to find you at some pub in Dublin during the Worldcon? I had been at your Kaffeeklatch in Helsinki two years ago, and at your reading, still chant sometimes to myself "strong and stable government, ia! ia! Shub-Niggurath!"; it was wonderful experience.

38:

My current effort is at page 65 and so far has two points of view. But I'm happy with it.

On the subject of beginnings, it's not violent, though it hints strongly of someone's head exploding as their idea of reality reassembles itself. I'm very proud of the first line.

39:

Apologies, can’t help myself:
Old Man Shoots At Clouds


Paws@35: Ever used a Dyson Airblade?

Aren’t those the dryers that supposedly spew germs all over?
I’ve a Dyson vacuum, but it’s at least 10 years old, works well though emptying the canister is a bit messy.

40:

Given I live in market town Cambridgeshire in a house built to standard in the 1970s, having space for such things is understandable. Still not as big as my late mother's house, though.

We had the utility room put in after we moved in - there used to be a wooden back porch which you had to avoid various parts of the floor (it was rotting) which we had removed and replaced with brick. It's not very big; but big enough for a 0.7m pulley which takes a full load. I also have a heated towel rail instead of a radiator (similar to this https://www.bestheating.com/milano-eco-flat-chrome-heated-towel-rail-1600mm-x-400mm-55373?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_uHjyKz34wIVyIjVCh03PA4uEAYYASABEgKnzPD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds) which takes small items. Coupled with the extractor fan, I have no problems with damp or mould.

We're turning up in Dublin this Monday and staying until the Friday after the con; it's our main holiday this year so we'll be doing some touring. Yes, we're bringing the car although I don't plan driving in Dublin (we'll be using our LEAP cards for that). 10 days outside Dublin was more-or-less the same as 6 days in Dublin and the bus stops right outside the hotel. I'm still chugging through the the timetable noting the usual London bus effect, so haven't finalised anything yet.

41:

Charlie, I will be at both conventions, which would be better for your signing?

Also are their any other sessions you thought were interesting at Worldcon? I'm looking at some of the other AI ones.

42:

Charlie @ 24
That is IT - A "Pulley Maid" is exactly what I have & use.
I got round the wiring problem by installing two flourescent tubes direct-to-the cieling ( into joists, natch ) ...
Problems solved.
But then, I do all my own wiring.

@ 26 ... one of the reasons for me using a twin-tub ...

43:

Don't bet on Bosch any more - it's a sample of 1 of course but we've have nothing but mechanical trouble with our 3 year old washing machine, and the same aged tumble drier whilst mechanically reliable has major UX problems due to capacitive rather than mechanical buttons which means it only registers a button press 50% of the time. Trivial but frustrating out of all proportion. A look on Ao.com reviews for the model confirms it's a bit of a turkey,

Highly recommend Ao.com BTW they are like the Amazon of white goods, stupidly fast delivery, installation and great customer service imo.

I would concur on the design life comments as well our first Dyson lasted 10 years, the second 3, replaced with a Meile Vacuum on the advice of our cleaning company. First Bosch WM 10 years, the second is the one above. We have a 6 year old bosch dishwasher still going strong so hopefully that's before they (possibly) started messing with the design life, All anecdata of course!

44:

Of course once you've got your washing machine, there's the vexing question of where to put it...

45:

I had a Bosch dishwasher that died after about four years - the control panel went poof and tripped the breaker in our consumer unit. About two years later the recall letter from Bosch arrived offering free repair or refund of repair costs if already repaired. That was two years after we'd replaced it with a Beko dishwasher that simply wore out in about five years. Various little clips and other plastic parts in the drawers got fatigue and crumbled and snapped. I replaced a few of them with online spares at first but then the pump went and it seemed like a losing battle.

My new Bosch washing machine was well-reviewed and a "Which" best buy. One review site dismantled one and estimated a minimum life of 2500 cycles from the build quality which would last me ten years. But it does have those pesky capacitive buttons you refer to.

46:

In the UK most homes have the washing machine in the kitchen with the dryer and the dishwasher. Larger homes (starting around four bedrooms) are more likely to have a separate scullery for the washing machine and dryer (but not the dishwasher). Another issue of space is that although the standard UK appliance width is 60cm there is also a "slimline" standard of 45cm for dishwashers and 50cm for dryers where space is tight. I have to get 45cm dishwashers to fit in my kitchen.

47:

"(hint: obnoxious entrepreneur who moved his entire business to Singapore, costing hundreds of UK jobs, because labour is cheaper and he pays less tax there, then bought himself a £50M penthouse while preaching that the UK would be better with a no-deal Brexit—in other words, sanctimonious hypocrite)."

At the cost of starting a thread war, I think that your comment could be condensed down to 'Brexiter'.

48:

All else aside, being forced into unfamiliar washing arrangements, especially involving a laundrette whilst in the middle of other crazy busy just makes things a bit surreal. Especially when there’s a moment that you find yourself watching your underpants in the tumble drier and you find your self saying “Herr Dreier, we meet again”.

49:

As it happens I do have a bath (with shower) … but the bathroom is tiny: it was hived off the original kitchen, so there's no window and it's ventilated solely by a fan. Drying clothing in there would therefore be tedious and lead to condensation/damp, except during winter. (The towel rail is the dump radiator for the central heating so it runs constantly when the heating is on, so the bathroom gets intolerably hot if the door's shut for any length of time for about six months of the year. I'm talking sauna-level hot.)

If this sounds badly designed to you, join the club. (It's the downside of living in a remarkable building in the heart of a historic city.)

50:

is the vaccuum cleaner the only really worthwhile thing Dyson have ever made?

The ball-barrow looked like a good idea for folks with big gardens and/or soft soil. Otherwise, you're on the nail.

51:

Yes, I'll be doing a pub meet-up at some point. Not sure when or where yet (I have to shake down some stuff in my schedule that's not public—meetings with my literary agent and editors, private parties, etc).

I'm doing a kaffeeklatsch at the worldcon which might help.

52:

If you've got a choice I'd prefer to sign books in Belfast. (This is because my Dublin signing overlaps with another—non-public—event I'd like to rush off to, so a worldcon-length signing queue could be inconvenient.)

53:

I'm going to be charitable and say there are Brexiters who are misguided optimists, and Brexiters who are angry and want to Stick It To The Man (and have a very bad understanding of who The Man is).

But Dyson is one of the small cadre—like Jacob Rees Mogg and A*n Banks—who say one thing for public consumption but something totally different to their mates at the dinner parties where they toast each other for working out how to asset-strip the British economy.

(I'm unclear which category Tim Martin falls into, but I refuse to drink or eat in his pubs any more.)

54:

Charlie @ 52
Tim Martin is a Kiwi ....
I THINK he's in the former cageory - as I know another ex-Kiwi who has almost identical opinions.
( Rants on about the fake free movement of labour in the EU & if that is the case, what's the point ... usually referring to Medical qualifications & transfer of expertise & skills ... )

55:

I've known other people with similar before. I'd suggest a Manrose extractor fan with a relative humidity sensor control. Accept NO substitutes, even if you don't want to try and dry clothes in the bathroom.

56:

I thought the ball barrow was invented for wee kiddies to truck sand about on the beach, long before that arsehole got in on it. And was itself nothing more than a plastic reimplementation of the ancient bog barrow that used a barrel. Much like centrifugal air/crud separators are a standard industrial part only here it's a much more ancient idea that he's decided to rip off and pretend it's his.

It appears that being an arsehole is a characteristic required of his employees also (at least, those that are above the level of being been an arsehole to). A meeting between Dyson representatives and a potential supplier of plastics to them, I am told, began with the Dyson guy saying "Forget everything you know about negotiating, you're dealing with Dyson now" - how the plastics guys managed to hear that without dissolving into helpless laughter on the spot is beyond me - and went on to try and fix up a supply of specially formulated purple glittery plastic on terms that meant Dyson could decide on a moment's notice that they didn't want it any more and leave the supplier holding a pile of useless crap that nobody else would ever want. One wonders how he ever manages to get any plastic at all.

57:

Chances are Hotpoint never made that belt in the first place, just chose a part in a standard industrial size. You could take it down to a belting/bearing factors and a chap in a brown coat could match it by size - that is if it didn't have the numbers encoding the size still on it - if it did, of course, it's easy. Same goes for machines from other manufacturers.

They pull the same trick with bearings too - fffffss can't get them from the washing machine parts shop, 6302? sure, how many do you want? from the bearing factor. Often this happens even with current models because they are trying to make you buy the whole drum and housing assembly instead of just changing its bearings.

The main reason to get belts and bearings from a washing machine parts shop is that if the manufacturers aren't playing silly buggers, it's often cheaper there. Otherwise, it's bearing factors all the way.

58:

"Many years ago I had the displeasure to be forced to use a Henry (in a business environment)."

Many years ago I was in a business environment that hired out, along with anything else that didn't need more than 2 people to put it in a van, Henrys. Also their industrial counterparts which are exactly the same thing with 2 motor/fan units and a dustbin-sized drum, and the carpet cleaner version which is a Henry head on a double size drum plus a detergent tank and squirty thing attachment. I found it quite amusing when something that I was used to thinking of as a thing that gets booted around on building sites started being plugged to the general public. I thought it was a good idea, since they beat the shit out of the usual domestic crap, and wished them well in taking over the market, but I also reckoned that they probably wouldn't, because far too many people buy vacuum cleaners principally for stupid reasons with it works being quite a long way down the list and not the primary item beside which all else pales into insignificance that it would be with a sensible order of priorities.

My involvement was, of course, fixing them when they went wrong. Only they didn't. Occasionally a motor would give up the ghost after too many years of inhaling a dilute mixture of air in brick dust all day every day, but apart from that it was just the usual chewed and run-over cables that afflict every electrical appliance. People would manage to put water through them sometimes and while it would pop the breaker on their generator, the vacuum cleaner would usually be fine once it had dried out.

Pretty much the only parameter that matters for a vacuum cleaner is how much volume of air it can shift. Henrys and their ilk do that well; the only reason for them underperforming is the filter needs cleaning, and the solution is equally obvious: take it outside and whack it a few times.

Unfortunately far too many people judge by other parameters which don't actually indicate anything useful. Like how much static depression it can pull when you put your hand over the end - largely meaningless, and conflicts with volume-shifting in optimisation, but easy to demonstrate; how big a number for motor power consumption is written on the outside - which indicates not how good it is as a vacuum cleaner, but how good it is as a smelly fan heater; and how effective it is at aligning the pile of the carpet - because most people get the vacuum cleaner out not because it needs doing, but because it's a particular, and usually ridiculously short, length of time since they last did it, so the realigned carpet pile is the only way you can tell anything's been done at all.

The Numatic design pattern, since it was created for industrial use, concentrates simply on functioning and ignores the marketing bullshit parameters. So a Henry is not outstandingly impressive on static depression - why bother when the most it needs to do is lift water a metre or so and is using entrainment rather than depression to do it. It doesn't have a 2000W power consumption because what is the fucking point when even the big-arse twin fan industrial versions don't need that much. And it doesn't bother trying to be good at aligning the carpet pile because a vacuum cleaner isn't the right tool for doing that in the first place.

59:

...and after that lot it's also about the only design that puts the bag before the fan; a major advantage in certain use cases like a lady in the house who has waist length hair.

60:

we got rid of the tumbledryer.. it was a machine for burning money... we either dry in the garden , or if its doing that 'sky-water' thing, spare bedroom with a dehumidifier.

61:

Depends on the drier. (A big part of my reason for sticking with Miele is that their drier stages are really efficient, as long as you don't overload them.)

62:

Charlie @ 24,

Have you tried pointing out that pulley-airers are part of the original architecture, and hence should be mandatory?

Also you might like to know that our LG washing machine has a "silent" motor which almost lives up to its name. Much quieter than anything else we have tried. However rather than politely beeping when it finishes it sings a triumphant little ditty in classic 8-bit audio. And then won't unlock the door for a few minutes afterwards.

63:

Doesn't follow; Listed Building status reflects the specification at time of Listing. I've seen Listed Buildings built ~1900CE that must have uPVC windows for example.

64:

paws4thot @ 15: Vacuums I'd choose a Numatic International Henry, and yes they are available in North America.

"Nothing sucks like a Hoover!"

65:

Correct. This building dates to roughly 1820 but was listed in roughly 1972. Electricity and a TV aerial on the roof are grandfathered in (but not a satellite dish).

66:

Re: LG melody. Next time it plays try singing along with
“Your laundry is done now,
Oh yes laundry is done now.
Your laundry is done now,
Isn’t that wonderful news!”
You can never unhear it.

67:

Got to disagree with you there. Their vacuum cleaners aren't bad in my experience.

Personally I don't bother with tumble driers as I currently have a room that needs a dehumidifier running 24/7 anyway so I just stick a couple of clothes horses in it. The Miele washer is great though.

68:

Seeing as this has become a thread on domestic appliances.
I highly recommend a dehumidifier for the bathroom, seeing as it's a flat with (presumably) fairly crap ventilation. You would be surprised at how damp and musty the place is (you won't notice it any more).

Only problem is that the decent manufacturer for them is Ebac, and the Dyson argument applies there too (less offshoring, but even more Brexity).

69:

Ebac are brexity? I take my last comment back!

70:

As it happens I do have a bath (with shower) … but the bathroom is tiny: it was hived off the original kitchen, so there's no window and it's ventilated solely by a fan. Drying clothing in there would therefore be tedious and lead to condensation/damp, except during winter. (The towel rail is the dump radiator for the central heating so it runs constantly when the heating is on, so the bathroom gets intolerably hot if the door's shut for any length of time for about six months of the year. I'm talking sauna-level hot.)

Have I ever mentioned my bathtub here?

My home is young relative to yours but also predates the modern fancy stuff like electricity and indoor plumbing. Early on a remodeling project extended the whole first floor about six feet back to add a pantry, enclosed porch, and what was probably originally a parlor closet. Later another more ambitious project added a spacious kitchen and indoor plumbing (and basement; they moved the house and once you've decided to do that pretty much anything else looks easy). This meant that the former outside wall was now an interior wall, complete with large sash window. A normal half bath is just off the kitchen but for some reason they decided not to put the bathtub in there; instead it went into the former parlor closet. Yes, the one with the window overlooking the kitchen.

By the time I came along the former parlor was the downstairs bedroom but the bathtub room was still there next to the kitchen, with a curtain in the window for reasons of social necessity. If you wanted to take a bath without disturbing whoever was in the bedroom, the process was to climb on top of the dishwasher and crawl through the window - a process suited to athletic twenty-somethings, let me tell you.

Did I mention the bathtub is directly under the window? Arguably that's good as it gives bathers a place to step. Some people do not want to balance on the rim of a claw-foot tub after their baths; they will have to bathe somewhere else.

It took us a few tries to get a shower that worked properly but now personal hygiene tasks are much less dramatic.

If this sounds badly designed to you, join the club.

Well there you go. It wasn't intelligently designed; it evolved naturally over time. *grin*

71:

Argh! Damnit, now I can't unread that...

Could've sworn I found a hidden way to turn off the tune, but now can't find it.

Mind you with the reliability of the machine I can't complain really.

72:

I believe not - it was not a plain belt, which I could get. It was in the shape of 3 Vs, longitudinally, and I failed to find a hit that matched that when I searched. It might have worked with a plain belt, but might not. And, again, whether bearings of the same size that were used 35 years are still available is unclear, so I was disinclined to put the considerable time into investigating.

73:

A ballbarrow might just possibly be useful for those who need one to roll over mud, but otherwise no. An ordinary, large wheelbarrow with a 16"x4" wheel works better.

74:

Oh? Your description sounds like exactly the sort of thing I was expecting - a bog standard polyvee belt (or "Poly V"), which is what nearly everything uses nowadays in place of the "traditional" single trapezoidal section V-belt familiar from its use in cars to drive mechanical cooling fans. They exist with any number of longitudinal ridges from 2 upward, with 3 or 4 being common for domestic-type ratings. Compared to the traditional style, the polyvee gives higher power transmission per belt, with lower frictional losses, greater flexibility, simpler and lighter pulley designs, a much smaller minimum pulley radius, the ability to bend in both directions (concave as well as convex), and the ability to drive loads off a concave bend. They are nigh universal in washing machines and tumble dryers, because the very small minimum pulley radius makes it possible to go straight from a compact, high-speed motor to the drum with only a single stage of gearing - they're something like 15:1 or 20:1, certainly in the range where a couple of mm mis-estimation of the size of the motor pulley makes a major difference to the ratio you come up with by eye - which would require at least two and probably three stages of gearing if you used old-style trapezoidal belts. As well as simplifying the gearing it means you can use a high-speed motor to drive it, ie. a small, light, cheap brushes-and-commutator type which can be easily speed-controlled with a dead simple phase-angle triac setup.

They have also pretty much completely taken over the auxiliary-drive function on car engines; while cooling fans are now electric, the alternator of course remains, plus engines now come with all sorts of other power-sapping crud like air conditioning compressors and power steering pumps even on boggo models. Using a polyvee belt with its ability to bend in both directions means you can drive several loads off a single belt while still maintaining decent wrap angles on the pulleys, so instead of a separate trapezoidal belt for each load you just have one great long polyvee belt snaking in and out of a maze of pulleys and tensioners like demented spaghetti.

I suspect it's the specific search term "polyvee" that you were missing; putting that single word into Bing for experiment brings up on the first page a mixture of industrial drive suppliers and... tumble dryer spares with recognisable industrial size numbers on! Internet search does fail badly when the thing you're looking for turns out to be universally known by a silly word to the extent that an everyday description of the same item and the silly word never occur together in a context comprehensible to a search engine spider.

Regarding the bearings, I'm nigh certain you worry overmuch! Bearing sizes are very standard and time-invariant. I have an idea that the normal range was "defined" pretty much de-facto by SKF in the 20s; it's pre-WW2, at least. Iron Curtain kit uses all the same sizes but omits from the range those bearing types that required better metallurgy than they had readily available - an example would be the MZ TS125 gearbox, which uses bog standard ball bearings in dead common sizes for three of the shaft ends, but on the fourth end, where there isn't enough room for the outer diameter of a ball bearing, it has to make do with a plain brass bushing (which fails), where Western and Japanese catalogues list a nice little needle roller in that size that would handle the speed and load beautifully.

75:

OK. But it still doesn't help. I don't get any hits for the length and kind I need, once I exclude pages that contain no explicit statement of what they are - they MAY be available, but life is too short to spend days searching for something that only just might fit, and quite probably ordering some that don't. Also, while doing both the initial and this search, I found several hits indicating that Hotpoint had made incompatible changes, and I got NO hits of any description for the actual model number even on a generic search (which is always bad news).

On the bearing issue: interesting, because my experience is very different - of course, it is for other types of equipment (mainly, but not entirely) cycles. And I was more reluctant because of the hassle involved in taking it apart and rebuilding it; my experience is that such things often have permanent fixings that need to be broken apart and jury-rigged back together.

In any case, it's now moot, because I junked it.

76:

On the general subject of roller and ball bearings:-

Cycle bearings I'm used to being ball bearing trapped between two cones.

More or less anything else has tended to be a taper roller cage, and if you can give the old one to a "bearing factor" they'll take finding an exact replacement as a challenge!

77:

Completely off topic, but:

Russia’s nuclear energy agency has said an explosion that caused radiation levels to spike in the Arkhangelsk region was caused by an accident during a test of an “isotope power source for a liquid-fuelled rocket engine”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/10/russian-nuclear-agency-confirms-role-in-rocket-test-explosion

Didn't I read that here?

https://www.tor.com/2012/07/20/a-tall-tail/

78:
"Nothing sucks like a Hoover!"

The actual line was "Nothing sucks like a VAX".

79:

'Fraid not. You're out of date :-) A large number nowadays are ball bearings made up into a unit like roller bearings.

80:

From the US, and won't be a Worldcon attendee:

Please vote against any future US Worldcon bids. If a US bid is the only one, vote NO CONVENTION.

I don't think I have to explain why.

Thank you.

81:

And? I once had an old bike with a dynohub that had a smashed cage. I took one of the balls to an old school parts factor who measured it and sold me a dozen new ball bearings. I took those home and rebuilt the race using the original cones and the new bearings packed in Molygrease. I sold the bike 5 years later with true-running wheels.

82:

I have had good dehumidifier performance from Meaco; the current unit has been working for several years and is still doing well.

83:

I find the same, and would add that I find bicycles to be effectively something of a law unto themselves when it comes to standard sizes, threads etc. Strictly speaking the sizes are standard, but they're standards and sections of standards that nobody else uses (it wouldn't surprise me too much if all your parts chap's customers for that size of ball turned out to be people needing them for bicycles, or possibly very old lawnmowers), and the practical result is that you really need two separate junk boxes for bicycle parts and parts for everything else, to save a lot of time wasted swearing over bits that look like they ought to fit but don't quite and never will.

84:

Ah, it looks as if you and I have different habituations to the amount of effort involved in certain specific tasks :) Chasing down parts equivalents and breaking consumer appliance manufacturers' obfuscations - and confounding their disinformation, which exists to a not insignificant degree - seems to be something I do quite a lot of as a matter of course, for all kinds of odd things, so I don't regard it as a major obstacle. Also, as do non-dismantleable fastenings, it tends to trigger my bloodymindedness reflex: the aim behind it is to try and get me to act according to their ideas of "correct" (lucrative) procedure, so my automatic reaction is they can get fucked.

85:

Sigh. I have rebuilt hub gears many times - yes, those cages and balls are easy to replace. But many (probably most) modern designs use sealed bearing units, like sealed roller bearings but using balls. On some fora I visit, I have seen people ask how to replace them and sometimes get told "That model used a unique size; you will have trouble."

And, no, I don't have a different habituation - I had a 35 year old tumbler dryer.

I knew the belt was broken, I was pretty certain the main bearings were, and had no idea how much else was about to expire. For example, at that date, the motor may well have had brushes - which can be a right bugger to replace, and quite often die only just before the commutator itself wears out. There wasn't any real electronics, but there was a black box, and working out its specification to replace is was another likely failure. Plus the second belt for the fan, which was probably about to die (being of a similar material and the same age), and the fan itself, the switches, door catch and so on. The prospect of having to fix one damn failure after another did not appeal, even ignoring the detail that it might well cost more than buying a new one.

86:

Looking at it that way, how would you define an "acceptable" country?

87:

the MZ TS125 gearbox, which uses bog standard ball bearings in dead common sizes for three of the shaft ends, but on the fourth end, where there isn't enough room for the outer diameter of a ball bearing, it has to make do with a plain brass bushing (which fails),

Probably phosphor-bronze rather than brass which is ductile and will deform under load. Bronze bushings are a lot stronger and not ductile under a side-load; I expect this was the output shaft which had the chain cog on it.

Western and Japanese catalogues list a nice little needle roller in that size that would handle the speed and load beautifully.

Needle rollers don't handle side-loads that well compared to full-sized rollers and well-designed ball bearings (double-row, for example). They are better at staying in spec than solid bushings but can disintegrate catastrophically and wreck things whereas a bushing will just get sloppy and leak oil if the seals give way due to the shaft slop. All that means is the bike engine gets a protective coating of gearbox oil to protect it from casing-eating winter salt and general crud and the wise rider will top up the oil levels more frequently than the book says.

The TZ and CZ bikes were made in Czechosolvakia, a country that is famous for competent and practical engineers -- see, for example, the Bren gun. The fact it's not up to Swiss horological engineering standards is a plus. No-one boasts about their Swiss motorbike engine after all.

[clip canned rant about Ducatis which demand Swiss engineering levels and Italian manufacturing processes]

88:

Para 4 - I've never owned an MZ, but find myself wondering whether this is a bush as you say, or a shell bearing as in "big end" or "main".

89:

Not very remarkable for a story, but at least it has you a good perspective on some of the "worst" technogenic marvels of our recent history (I imagine, nowadays it is more contained as we understand these things a little bit better). For the reference, I like to read this page (Real Life tab) as reference to any dangerous chemical activity.

Anyways, the point is, the explosion probably has been completely non-radioactive, as the radioactive background exposure was only brief. Modern detectors are very sensitive and can quite possibly detect just several atoms per liter of highly-radioactive substance, and rest assured, if any really "nuclear" would have exploded, it would have been on all the news since day one. They, OTOH, should be more concerned about millions of tons of radioactive water that is going to contaminate our planet for a lo-o-o-ong time.
https://www.apnews.com/c0f1423e672b4887a9820e2d56224059

90:

I've done the reverse in well inside that time, though I've no idea how Irish immigration compares to Dublin Airport security for delay.
The 747 bus will get you from the airport to the Point Square or CCD in ~35 minutes - it cheats and takes the Port Tunnel - and will let you off literally outside either venue.

(General tip for public transport-bound visitors to Dublin: if you're staying inside the city, hittheroad.ie is a trip-planning wonder.)

91:

OK, UK national, but I've done "doors open" through reclaim and customs, shuttle bus to station and DART to Dun Laoghaire in about an hour. If you've half an our to kill at the right time, it's worth stopping there to see the HSS dock and unload.

92:

Yes. The symptoms described were what you would get if there was a gas leak causing an explosion in a storeroom containing smoke alarms. But I like the explanation in #77 better :-)

93:

I did that once to Holland (through Schiphol, no less), leaving after the end of a working day, dumping my stuff in a hotel and meeting my wife at a pre-dinner reception in another hotel. Once.

Checking at Cambridge airport was 15 minutes (I can't remember if I took the bus or cycled there), you delivered and collected your luggage on the runway, there was no emigration and immigration was invisible (EU citizens only), etc.

That was a long time ago, the flight was excruciatingly cramped, but took only an hour on a two-propellor wave-hopper, and the service stopped not long afterwards.

94:

Sadly the HSS service is an ex-parrot. OTOH, Ulysses sails in just over 2 km from the Point...

95:

The symptoms described were what you would get if there was a gas leak causing an explosion in a storeroom containing smoke alarms. But I like the explanation in #77 better :-)

That was my response when I heard about the rocket explosion. "Has Charlie been chatting up Russians in bars again?" *grin*

96:

Minor correction. The wild cards talk is listed as 80mins finishing at 15:20. Time for huge crowds to swap site and go to my talk at 15:30!

97:

Yes, I would have expected phosphor bronze, but if it is it looks like no other phosphor bronze alloy I've ever seen; it looks exactly like brass and it apparently machines like brass too. I shall continue to figure it's brass unless I can subject one to analysis and find it isn't.

(also Paws @ 88) It's definitely not a shell bearing - there is no white metal (etc) lining, it's just the one material all the way through. It has a spiral groove which is intended to pull oil in to create a lubricating film, but it doesn't have the soft metal to "run in" and self-optimise the oil film formation in service like a shell bearing does.

It's not the output bearing - the output bearing is what gets in the way of using a pukka bearing. It's the bearing on the non-driven end of the input shaft, and it's next to the pinion for first gear. So most of the time the only load it's under is the trivial one of stopping the end of the shaft from wobbling, except when you're in first gear when it takes the second highest load of any of the four bearings. Its catastrophic failure mode is to grab on the end of the shaft, spin in its bore in the aluminium gearbox casing, chew the hole oval and ruin the casting.

The Western/Japanese needle roller in the appropriate size would be a bit closer to its ratings than I would like, but still comfortably within them. The East German bearing catalogues (MZ = Motorradwerk Zschopau, DDR; CZ is the Czech one) simply don't list anything in that size - the ranges look at first sight to be exactly the same as in Western catalogues, but they don't go down that small.

I agree it's not an application which is well matched to the capabilities and limitations of a needle roller, and you wouldn't use one there if you had room for anything bigger, but the capabilities of Western metallurgy are up to producing a needle roller that is able to cope anyway, whereas those of East Germany were not. (Though they were up to producing a needle roller for the small end bearing, which is a considerably better match for a needle roller.)

The TS250 gearbox avoids the problem simply by being bigger, so the shaft centres are widely enough spaced that there is room for ball races in all four positions.

I have something of a soft spot for Iron Curtain machinery, because it tends towards competent, simple, bullshit-free designs that can be fixed easily at the side of the road, for values of "easily" that include taking the entire bike completely to pieces using the provided toolkit that includes all the tools needed to do that and the owner's handbook that lists all the adjustment figures you need when putting it back together and is more of a workshop manual than a handbook. Which is exactly my idea of how stuff should be designed (and I agree entirely about Ducatis - two mates got rid of them because they were shit, in exactly the way you describe).

What lets it down is the metallurgy isn't up to scratch. (See also the BMW flat twin, which in Dnepr clone form burns and splits its exhaust valves.) It's a great shame they couldn't have imported some Japanese materials engineers.

98:

So I am now checked in for my flights to Dublin.

Did I say "flights" plural? Yes, I did. Assuming one does not ever ever ever fly Ryanair, it turns out the cheapest way for me to get there is to fly KLM via Amsterdam.

(I'm a KLM frequent flyer, so I get two checked bags for free, and I'm going for two weeks—Eurocon in Belfast as well, plus formal stuff for the Hugo awards. Flying Aer Lingus looks a lot cheaper until you realize they want EUR 80 per suitcase, and my wife's coming too.)

Yes, I considered driving: old and not terribly reliable car plus car ferry timetables meant it wouldn't be something I could count on unless I scheduled in an overnight stop along the way. Train and ferry would work, but the Belfast/Dublin trains are interrupted at present while they build a Brexit customs checkpoint, so it'd be train/boat/bus/train, which is a bit too much bother with suitcases in tow. Hence the 1000km dog-leg.

99:

Yes, well, as I said, this is an ensemble cast: a research starship, crew about 20 or so, 70 or so researchers. And as I want the reader to feel as though there are actually that many on board, not, like Trek Classic, where it seemed more like 30 people on board.

And the people I focus on are worth knowing (well, except for the one...)

100:

*chuckle*

I just read, a few minutes ago, the US Navy is going to move their bridge controls - helm, nav - back to manual, as opposed to the current, crash-creating touchscreen.

101:

Sorry, I heard "nothing sucks like a Hoover" before VAX was invented.

102:

the Belfast/Dublin trains are interrupted at present while they build a Brexit customs checkpoint

Charlie, I’ve looked for anything beyond the “official” reason for this closure, but am turning up a blank. Do you have a source for this, or is it informed conjecture?

103:

1. Even if the GOP goes down in flames (as it did, a good deal, last year)?
2. NEVER?
3. We invented cons (I *was* a member of PSFS, so take your Leeds and go away).
4. I am, in fact, on the DC in 21 bid committee.

Fuck you.

104:

Elderly Cynic @ 75: OK. But it still doesn't help. I don't get any hits for the length and kind I need, once I exclude pages that contain no explicit statement of what they are - they MAY be available, but life is too short to spend days searching for something that only just might fit, and quite probably ordering some that don't. Also, while doing both the initial and this search, I found several hits indicating that Hotpoint had made incompatible changes, and I got NO hits of any description for the actual model number even on a generic search (which is always bad news).

On the bearing issue: interesting, because my experience is very different - of course, it is for other types of equipment (mainly, but not entirely) cycles. And I was more reluctant because of the hassle involved in taking it apart and rebuilding it; my experience is that such things often have permanent fixings that need to be broken apart and jury-rigged back together.

In any case, it's now moot, because I junked it.

Not sure what machine is being discussed here, but I always keep any user's manuals, owner's guides ... whatever literature comes with it for future reference. Even if it doesn't have a parts diagram/parts list, just having the exact model name/number will take you a long way towards finding parts somewhere down the road.

105:

Inference, but: the bus replacement between Newry and Belfast is running from the 27th of July to the 23rd of August. Normal track maintenance happens overnight or at weekends, something that shuts the main line down completely for a whole month suggests distinctly non-trivial work—platforms being rebuilt or moved, for example.

106:

John Hughes @ 78:

"Nothing sucks like a Hoover!"

The actual line was "Nothing sucks like a VAX".

Was it? I don't insist on it.

I just remember the line being used as an example of "Marketing Department" failure, because whoever came up with the line as an advertising slogan didn't consider the primary alternative use of the word "sucks"

107:

I don't know when Hotpoint stopped making that type of belt, because the machine was 35 years old; of course, we didn't use it all that much. I might have been able to jury-rig it with a modern one, but the bearings were also not what they once were.

I don't know about your side of the smaller pond but in the US most belts and bearings for appliances are also available in auto parts stores. (Which might not exist over there they way they do here.) When any such thing breaks here I take it to a well stocked store and they match it to a standard auto part. Typically at 1/2 to 1/3 the price.

Been through 2 belts and 3 bearing sets on my HVAC blower assembly that way in the last 30 years.

108:

The old Miele washer-drier took a hammering: 3-5 loads per week, including drying

Interesting. When raising my kids (in the burbs) we might do 5 or more loads a DAY 3 or 4 days a week. Especially during sports seasons.

Now that it's 1 1/2 people I typically do 3 or 4 loads a week. And if the colors would not ruin the whites and the jeans not tear up the shirts I could do only 1 or 2 loads.

109:

I also dry in the garden (weather permitting)

Must be nice to live in an area with lower humidity and no "month of green pine tree pollen"[1] and sap from trees year round and ....

I can understand why in some parts of the US "moms" "back in the day" demanded a tumble drying once the pricing got to where the masses could afford them. And would pinch pennies to make the purpose.

Until you've lived through one of these it is hard to describe. Green clouds in the air. Puffs of fine green dust arising from your footsteps outside. And when it is over (and in the middle of it) you really need to get rid of it (and it IS on everything) as the later summer humidity will make it into this glue like stain that is really really hard to get off.

110:

that British (and European) domestic appliances aren't like American ones. They're built to fit a smaller standard kitchen unit ... and they're all front-loaders rather than top-loaders.

We ARE gradually switching to front loaders. But for the previous 10 years the appliance makers used it as a way to push "premium" products. So while the prices for a top loader could run from $250 to $800 the front loaders tended to start at $600 if you could get by with no controls but a start stop switch. They ARE more mainstream now and the top loaders gradually taking over with reasonable prices for decent features.

As to size, what I just bought for my daughter's house 2 years ago look like it could hold an EU model in the drum. When in another country for more than a few days I try and drop into a Media Mart and similar just to see how different the consumer markets are. At first glance they seem identical. If you browse a bit you can see all kinds of assumptions that are designed into models destined for different continents.

111:

About the Nenoksa unfortunate event, it did seem to involve Rosatom activities there. It's really hard to figure out just what those were, but the language used in official and semi-official pronouncements sounds like isotope batteries [note the plural] used in some way to support a jet/rocket engine.

Google Translate does an adequate job with this.

В Росатоме подтвердили взрыв «ядерной батарейки» в Архангельской области

12 августа [2019] 07:01

В Белом море произошёл взрыв во время испытаний испытания «нового специзделия». Как сообщается, инцидент произошел при работах, связанных с инженерно-техническим сопровождением изотопных источников питания на жидкостной двигательной установке.

В «Росатоме», как пишет «Фонтанка», утверждают, что к аварии привёл взрыв радиоизотопного источника питания. «Это ядерная батарейка», – заявил представитель госкорпорации, отметив, что упомянутое слово «реактор» к катастрофе в Белом море отношения не имеет.

Of course, official lies and obfuscation are not unknown, so caveat lector.

112:

Platform and track replacements, sez they. Lurgan'd be a weird place to put customs controls, though?

113:

I did see that on theregister.co.uk but leaving aside the the potential foolishness in installing a touchscreen for something that has to be grabbed on wildly pitching deck, the actual problem seems to be a UX fail - allowing separate throttle controls on separate screens with no indication that the screen is in single or twin throttle mode.

114:

After finding Lurgan, it's not even near the partition line?

115:

Useful to know - my hair isn’t that long, but it’s thick and wiry, so it clogs motorised brushes. My current machine is an older model Dyson; to upgrade will mean replacing all the attachments as the attachment point has changed design. I use what is called a pet hair brush which involves 2 small horizontally counter-rotating brushes which create hair balls which disappear up the tube. My main gripe with the current machine is the small size of the bin so I’m forever emptying it. The other problem with larger Dysons is the weight.

I really want a cat-toy cleaner, but the afore-mentioned long hair issue puts paid to that; most reviews say you need to unclog the brush every couple of days which rather misses the point of a robot. The best brush de-clogger I ever found was a paper knife - a rectangular piece of plastic with a triangular cut-out in one short edge so one long edge was a triangular spike. This had a small blade at the apex of the cut-out.

116:

The Washington Post reports the incident was related to the testing of a nuclear-powered missile that Putin has been touting. Much more sure to come.

117:

The Washington Post reports the incident was related to the testing of a nuclear-powered missile that Putin has been touting.

That's a possibility, but, really, just a guess at this point. The Russian statements so far don't point strongly to it, but there may be a certain amount of obfuscation going on.

Much more sure to come.

Let us hope.

118:

Oh yes; known points of a robot vacuum are not doing more housework than emptying the bag/cylinder and it being a cat toy/transport.

119:

Lurgan’s a weird place, full stop.

(Sorry. Sorry. Had to be done.)

120:

Verified the source - it is "Fontanka", one of the most liberal media in St. Petersburg.
https://www.fontanka.ru/2019/08/12/001/

Quotes include:
>disaster scale
>sensational about the tragedy
>Physicists destroyed the position of the Ministry of Defense
This is not something surprising - liberal hysteria and desperation, of course, is going to progress further over time, especially in the face of recent events.

to EC @92
Wуll, apparently it wasn't just smoke detectors, but at least it is contained enough that the natural background was only 2 times higher than normal. Though to think that modern isotope source can literally explode is quite alarming - perhaps some liquid metal medium is involved?

121:

I know what I'd *like* to guess it was. can you say "Russian NERVA" boys and grlls?

But it was probably just a fancy RTV.

122:

The crucial fact is that they seem to be able to test this gadget on the ground.

That means that it is not *just* a ramjet.

Obviously the idea is to switch to ram-jet mode once aloft, at speed and out of fuel, but the trouble has always been getting to that point, and in particular that speed.

My guess is that they "cool" a small nuclear reactor with a rocket, turning it into a nuclear afterburner.

(That would probably allow them to pick a rocket fuel suitable for long term storage/stability for the final weapon.)

While experimenting a liquid fueled rocket is required: Solid fueled rockets are not variable.

And no, it's not plutonium, it is a horror from both a metallurgical and nuclear standpoint and it has waay too low melting point, 600-700°C depending on alloy.

Uranium melts at 1130°C that's still a bit on the low side for a rocket.

Thorium melts at 1750°C, so that's probably the main component of the ThU mix they use.

The nuclear fuel will almost by definition be clad in Zirconium, melting point 1850°C and doesn't eat neutrons.

A good starting point for a fuel geometry can be seen in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P99C051arMo

There are more suicidal possibilities, but I don't think the russians are _that_ crazy.

The interesting question is if the people they killed were the only ones who thought this was a really cool idea...

123:

@117: Severodvinsk is the site of major repair and construction facilities for the Russian Northern Fleet, and one of two declared sites for the loading of Russian SLBMs; it is also reportedly home of the world's largest shipyard. Given the memorial in the closed "atomic" city of Sarov, linking this incident to some sort of weapons test doesn't seem much of a leap.

124:

Other known points of robot vacuum cleaners are that they're dumb enough not to have a sensor and auto-off trigger to stop them running into feline or canine diarrhoea and spreading it everywhere.

Basically the current models are extremely incompatible with pet ownership.

125:

My immediate thought is that it's something not dissimilar to the USA's Project PLUTO, aka the Vought SLAM, cancelled in the 1960s (although the guidance computer and terrain-following radar they developed for it was used in the Tomahawk cruise missile).

126:

Again, the Soviet designers had form for using air propulsion to augment rockets: the Gnom ICBM project (cancelled in 1965) was for an ICBM with a first stage that scavenged air in the early stages of flight for ramjet augmented thrust—showed great promise but was cancelled after the lead designer (who'd sponsored it) died of unrelated causes (there were other competing designs with the benefit of not being promoted by a dead guy).

The Vought SLAM was ground launched using strap-on solid boosters to get it up to ramjet speed. A ground launch using liquid fuel through the reactor, switching to pure ramjet mode once up to speed, is more elegant but tricky …

Again: IIRC the Tory series of reactors for SLAM were supposed to use HEU in a ceramic matrix. Plutonium would probably be viable, too, just not in metallic form—in an oxide or carbide or some other high melting point compound.

127:

Duh - I mean RTG.

128:

“More elegant by tricky”

For values of “tricky” that include “significantly more likely to fail explosively and shower the launch site with burning, radioactive debris”, I see.

129:

Perhaps we'll get lucky and it will be a nuclear powered Ekranoplan instead?

Or for bonus points a nuclear powered, ground effect cruise missile?

130:

Lurgan
Definitely NOT "border controls"
The main stations either side of the border are Dundalk & Newry - some distance away, to say the least, from Lurgan.

131:

The story I heard was that it was "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux", chosen because (a) it rhymes and (b) they knew very well what the alternative meaning of "sucks" was and thought they'd get more from the memorability factor than they'd lose by people taking it literally. Kind of like how Ridgid Tools play up the fnarr-fnarr factor in their name enough to give Finbarr Saunders a heart attack.

VAX are local, and the obvious joke was always "11/780", or at least it was to me.

132:

The plate giving the model number was intact and, as I said above, a web search for it gave NO hits - none, zero, zilch, nihilum, de nada, nothing, etc.

We might have the manual somewhere, but they have almost never included component specifications - at least not in the past 50 years or so. Any parts I used to fix it would have to have been based on guesswork because, while I could measure the belt, few of the web pages for such belts gave any measurements, and those that did gave different ones.

133:

"Thorium melts at 1750°C, so that's probably the main component of the ThU mix they use."

Who says it's a Th/U mix? Thorium is not fissile. Putting it on a rocket is a waste of weight; it won't do anything. Thorium is useless until it isn't thorium any more but has been converted to uranium 233 in a breeder reactor.

Its melting point is irrelevant, and zirconium would probably catch fire under the conditions; as Charlie says any high core temperature reactor is not going to use metallic fuel, but ceramic, with the fuel most likely as an oxide.

It's not as if Russia hasn't looked at the idea before; they were playing with nuclear rockets in the Cold War about the same time as the Americans were playing with them, and came to pretty much the same conclusions.

134:

Or for bonus points a nuclear powered, ground effect cruise missile?
Related, I'm still giggling about DJT's latest: it is the Russians who are dealing with a nuclear-powered-cruise-missile gap! (well, DJT can be interpreted that way but who knows, maybe he means that the US cruise missiles are invisible, or he is just lying.)

The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia. We have similar, though more advanced, technology. The Russian “Skyfall” explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2019

Any concerns by authorities about radiation are probably more related to clandestine air sampling by e.g. the US. (Civilians are worried but that's another issue entirely.)

Also, Am242 is an exotic fissionable, melting point similar to Uranium, much higher thermal cross section (like 9-10x) and more neutrons per fission[0]. e.g. the Russian device could be using a composite fuel of some sort. Outlier possibility. (If Am242 is involved, Am241 is also involved, strong alpha emitter(/carcinogen) if released.)
[0] hard to make; Am241 separated from spent reactor fuel, irradiated with neutrons, and Am242 separated, if I'm reading correctly[1].
[1] The Smallest Thermal Nuclear Reactor (2005), for the basic physics (I'm trusting it because I don't know this part of physics); assume a spherical reactor of Am242 in water solution. :-)

135:

Interesting report, but it's not entirely clear what they're on about. They dismiss the interesting bit (the possibility of a critical mass of only 6.6g) in one sentence, and concentrate on this reactor which really is not that impressively small considering that the Manhattan project made a similarly-sized research reactor using an aqueous solution of 565g of uranium enriched to 14-15%.

Again, though, it would not be useful to build a rocket propulsion motor using 242mAm as fuel. The limitation on size is how high you can crank up the power density before it melts itself, and it's inconveniently difficult not to hit that limit with plain boring uranium fuel.

136:

There are probably some good ways to drop a few hints about the size of the crew. If you want to send me a copy I'll see if I have any intelligent suggestions.

137:

Re: appliances - from experience US domestic appliances are even worse than US cars. We replaced a 22 y.o. Asko washer with a Miele a couple of years ago - same price fo4 a new Asko but better warranty for the Miele.
For drying try the dehumidifier in the bathroom - turns the room into a giant dryer and helps dry out the walls too.
Please wave Hi to the filkers at WorldCon for me. Haven’t been able to be there since 2014/London ☹️

138:

Am241 separated from spent reactor fuel, irradiated with neutrons, and Am242 separated

The technology to do that doesn't exist -- if the Russians did have a process capable of isolating chemically similar isotopes with only a single integer difference in atomic mass in quantity then they'd be the richest country on the planet.

Cascades of uranium centrifuges only work because U235 is significantly lighter than U238 and even then the "depleted" U238 residue usually has a significant amount of leftover U235 content. Conversely it's pretty much impossible to separate Pu239 from Pu240 and Pu241 derived from spent fuel using centrifuges.

Every now and then someone puts out publicity feelers for laser isotope enrichment which might be able to separate out close-cousin isotopes but either it gets disappeared for security reasons or, more likely, it doesn't work as well as the Powerpoint slides suggest it theoretically should. The energy costs and low throughput of such an enrichment process are likely to be a showstopper anyway.

My guess -- the missile being tested had an radioactive heater element, a similar idea as the BAOR's nuclear land-mine chickens[0], to prevent the rocket's electronics and actuators from freezing up in a really cold winter and when the rocket went kablooie so did the insufficiently-protected heater unit. Lunar landers like the Chinese Rabbit probe had similar isotopic heaters to try and keep the devices alive through a 2-week Lunar night.

Candidates would probably be radioactive elements that can be chemically extracted from spent fuel rather than manufacturing something special like Pu-238. The Russians run fuel reprocessing lines, so maybe Cs-134 (half-life 2 years) and Cs-137 (half-life 30 years or so) both of which are abundantly available in fresh spent fuel. Strontium-90 (half life about 30 years too) is another candidate, the Soviets used it for static RTGs to power remote lighthouses and the like.

[0] OK, the chicken thing might never have been implemented but it was officially given consideration.

139:

Project PLUTO, aka the Vought SLAM, cancelled in the 1960s (although the guidance computer and terrain-following radar they developed for it was used in the Tomahawk cruise missile).

Maybe some of the concepts but computer code and hardware from the early 60s being useful in the mid to late 70s? Not really.

And given that terrain following radar is mostly a computer problem I have similar feelings about that.

140:

because U235 is significantly lighter than U238

Interesting use of the word "significantly".

141:

My guess -- the missile being tested had an radioactive heater element, a similar idea as the BAOR's nuclear land-mine chickens[0], to prevent the rocket's electronics and actuators from freezing up in a really cold winter and when the rocket went kablooie so did the insufficiently-protected heater unit.

I'm kind of leaning in that general direction too, though of course the rocket in question might have been the much-discussed Burevestnik. In that case the reactor would not have gone critical or perhaps even just be there in dummy form.

One thing that's noticeable is that the isotope supply sources are consistently described that way, and the plural is used. I.e., there were more than one of them.

From Sarov.info

https://www.sarov.info/main/2019/08/10/vo-vremya-ispytaniy-pogibli-sotrudniki.html

Во время испытаний погибли сотрудники ВНИИЭФ
10 августа 2019 г.

В ходе испытаний опытного образца изделия на военном полигоне в Архангельской области произошло возгорание экспериментальной двигательной установки.

Для подтверждения технических характеристик проводились стендовые испытания двигателя с применением изотопных источников питания. Испытательный стенд располагался на морской платформе.

В результате нештатной ситуации произошёл взрыв.

One source of ambiguity here is the word "питание" which has a wide variety of meanings, but in technical contexts indeed often means "supply." But supply of what? It often is understood to mean electrical power, but could also mean heat or something else.

But this is all very murky and the possibility of deliberate obfuscation and misdirection is not to be ignored, so who knows?

142:

The difference between U235 and U238 allows an engineering solution (centrifuges, gaseous diffusion etc.) to separate the two long-lived and hence naturally-occurring isotopes of uranium. Pu238 is synthesised via neutron bombardment of Neptunium-237 so it can be extracted from its predecessor chemically. Am-242, if it is produced by neutron capture from Am-241, a common isotope found in aged spent fuel would have to be extracted from its predecessor via an isotope separator, not a "simple" chemical process and with only one extra neutron that's a lot more difficult, not just three times more difficult than the uranium separation process.

It's a bit like trying to build a car that can go at 300km/h compared to building one that can do 900 km/h. It's only three times faster after all...

143:

I presume Western agencies will have sampling aircraft sniffing around the vicinity looking for traces of whatever went boink! Short-lived fission products like I131 would indicate fission i.e. either a reactor leaked or a weapon exploded. Longer-lived radioactive materials, possibly a single isotope like Pu238 or Sr90 would indicate a isotopic thermal source which was badly damaged enough to leak after the explosion.

The US War Department's GPS birds now do the job of the Vela nuclear explosion monitoring satellites of old. I figure they would have reported any substantial in-atmosphere unrequested fission surplus in the area of concern.

144:

Yes I know all of that. My point was calling aprox 1% heavier "significantly". But, yes, in atomic weights 1% can be a lot.

My father retired as a production line manager in a gaseous diffusion plant. So my most of my raising was paid for by the 1% difference. But at only 1% in weight and less than that in size it required enormous efforts to separate via diffusion. Centrifuges are much better in so many ways. Size of the plant being one of them.

145:

to Allen Thomson @141
"Power source" is the term, and it is almost universality referred to electricity generation unit. In case of heat generation it would refer to as "energy source". I've listened to explanation from last Sunday, and the scientists hinted at least two things about the experiment. One, it is most likely a scientific work rather than practical test, quite possibly testing of equipment limit. Secondly, it happened offshore, quite possibly for security reasons associated with experimentation. And also if anyone noticed, nobody at all mentioned what was the nature of "propulsion system" in question - it could be a water turbine for all I know, it is just journalism, as usual, caught the wind of new "missile" trend and rode it to the logical conclusion.

to Nojay @143
Not necessary possible, the area is about 300 km into the territory, mostly upwind and with very light air drift. Best results will be obtained by ground stations.

146:

Gag.

Now, Austin I've always said is the allergy capitol of the US - about a 1/3rd of the population walks around for about three months sounding like they've got a cold: it's cedar fever season (actually, they're junipers).

But from your description, I cannot help but remember the first winter after I moved to Austin. We were living in an immobile home in the exurbs of the city, in a "subdivision (a ranch that had so much trouble feeding the cattle that they subdivided and sold them off, first in two acre lots, then, while I was there, smaller lots, which pissed a lot of folks off, because they'd been promised the owner wouldn't do that). Anyway, we come home one night, as as we turn into the driveway, we see white clouds in front of us. We're freaking, is the immobile home burning?

No. It was *pollen*. Never saw it that bad before or since....

147:

But I really *liked* the 11/780 I was on as a student, around 1983....

148:

About the Russian explosion... I had not considered anything, until someone here noted that you *cannot* test a ramjet engine on the ground (well, there is the one I devised, but never built a model of...).

So, now it's become a tad more serious to me: suppose they only *said* it was missile, but is, instead, a true space engine, like NERVA. They called the dead heros, and people just working on a missile don't rate that, I'd think.

If Russia could get a true spaceship up, no coming to ground, and then could fly it, or fly paying passengers/equipment to the Moon, or to Mars in three months... that would put them so far ahead of the US, or China, or India....

149:

Never saw it that bad before or since....

This year was a bad one around here.

https://abc11.com/weather/photographer-captures-pollenpocalypse-over-durham/5240051/

The 2nd half has some interesting video of what happens in the rain.

150:

"someone here noted that you *cannot* test a ramjet engine on the ground"

Uh? Sure you can, you just need to build a Sodding Big Fan (TM) to blow air at it. It gets kind of elaborate in order to provide the volume and speed of airflow required, but people have still built them, because it's still easier than tapping up Superman to chase after the thing with a screwdriver tweaking stuff.

11/780 - Yeah, I liked it too. And I like the eponymous vacuum cleaner; it's essentially the same design as the Numatic/Henry pattern, with the same advantages, and I don't hold its filter's inability to cope with pigeon feather dust (it catches it, but you can't get it out again) against it too much, since the characteristics of that stuff are very different from normal domestic dust. I just find it amusing that the name of the device is a word I default to interpreting as the name of something completely different.

151:

Going back to washing machines again, and the other perennial beef that is the Internet Of Fucking Stupid Things That Have No Business Even Having A CPU In The First Place... I have been checking out the availability of brushless motors suitable for driving gyroscope rotors, and in the process I have discovered two things:

1) Some washing machines and dryers these days are using brushless motors to drive drain pumps and fans and things.

2) The controller ICs for driving brushless motors, even the basic ones that do nothing more than just make the thing go round, are outrageously elaborate. Oscillator driving a ring-of-three counter arrangement? Not on your life, some of these things have a fucking 32-bit ARM core in them. Indeed it seems next to impossible to get one that doesn't.

Now I have not heard of someone suborning a washing machine drain pump motor driver over the internet, but I am sure that if someone hasn't done it it's only a matter of time until they do...

152:

David L @ 110:

"that British (and European) domestic appliances aren't like American ones. They're built to fit a smaller standard kitchen unit ... and they're all front-loaders rather than top-loaders."

We ARE gradually switching to front loaders. But for the previous 10 years the appliance makers used it as a way to push "premium" products. So while the prices for a top loader could run from $250 to $800 the front loaders tended to start at $600 if you could get by with no controls but a start stop switch. They ARE more mainstream now and the top loaders gradually taking over with reasonable prices for decent features.

As to size, what I just bought for my daughter's house 2 years ago look like it could hold an EU model in the drum. When in another country for more than a few days I try and drop into a Media Mart and similar just to see how different the consumer markets are. At first glance they seem identical. If you browse a bit you can see all kinds of assumptions that are designed into models destined for different continents.

I'll probably get a front loader if I ever buy another washing machine. My current washing machine is only 30 years old and so far the only repairs it has required is replacing one solenoid valve. It's high capacity, so I only have to do a few of loads per week (one cold wash, one warm wash, one hot wash - they all get cold rinse). Trouble is, all the newer appliances seem to want to be connected to the internet, and I just don't see any need for it.

153:

Not on your life, some of these things have a fucking 32-bit ARM core in them. Indeed it seems next to impossible to get one that doesn't.

Those are apparently cheap enough that it's easy to put one in mostly everything. Also from the developer viewpoint, although things could probably be done on a 6502 or Z80 or something comparable, developing for a real computer is just so much nicer, when you can have a proper operating system, tools to debug, and all that.

I got myself a toyish hand game console a couple of months ago. The fun thing with that is that it's open-source both in hardware and software, and I plan to program something with it. I was still amazed when I read the specs - the form factor is like a bulky Nintendo Gameboy, bu it's running a four-core ARM processor with a gigabyte of memory and an OpenGL ES graphical interface. It has a 320x240 display, some sound capabilities, and about ten buttons, so the computing power seems somewhat excessive. Still, a simple Raspberry Pi (which this basically is) doesn't cost that much, and having an even simpler computer in an appliance costs even less.

154:

I suspect that complaining about the "interwebnet of stuff" around here is preaching to the choir.

For example, I don't get why people want their cars to have azure dentition!

155:

Long term what it should be about is power efficiency and predictive repairs.

Whether or not it will work out this way, oh, well.

Check out what sense.com is doing with DSP processing without such controls on motors.

156:

I HATE "interwebs"

That being said, last year I found my favorite acronym of the year that a tech writer had published in her column in '17: the "Internet of Gratuitously Connected Insecure Things", IGCIT, which she pronounced "id-iot".

Yes! I want to let theives know that I'm out for the evening, and folks in South Korea and China watch what we do in the bedroom, and for the 16 yr old to set my thermostat to 90F in the winter, and to 65F in the heatwave this summer....

157:

Yes, indeed, it is most bizarre that such an important point for people buying cars is whether or not the car has a facility which makes about as much sense as an externally-mounted ashtray with soap bubble blowing attachment. I can talk to my car just fine without any extra equipment. I don't need a phone, I'm sat in the thing. And I don't get an answer either way.

158:

Nice.

FWIW, I only use "interwebnet" when I'm pretending to be rather less tech savvy than I actually am, or, ironically, of IGCIT.

159:

"Those are apparently cheap enough that it's easy to put one in mostly everything."

So it appears, and in this application the heavy silicon is always going to be in the output drivers anyway. But what gets on my wick is that a variable frequency oscillator with three outputs 120° out of phase is so bleeding basic a thing that it doesn't need any kind of CPU at all, not an ARM, not a 6502, not a PIC, not nothing. I'm making one out of 4000 series logic just to make the point, but people did it with valves once upon a time.

160:

I sometimes get answers from mine; that's one of the good things about driving a car made before steering feel was engineered out,

161:

.But what gets on my wick is that a variable frequency oscillator with three outputs 120° out of phase is so bleeding basic a thing that it doesn't need any kind of CPU at all, not an ARM, not a 6502, not a PIC, not nothing.

I am going to go out on a wild limb here and suggest that a single overpowered part makes for cheaper manufacturing than multiple simpler parts. I am thinking this mostly because of my considerations of the motivations of the people involved.

162:

Elderly Cynic @ 132: The plate giving the model number was intact and, as I said above, a web search for it gave NO hits - none, zero, zilch, nihilum, de nada, nothing, etc.

We might have the manual somewhere, but they have almost never included component specifications - at least not in the past 50 years or so. Any parts I used to fix it would have to have been based on guesswork because, while I could measure the belt, few of the web pages for such belts gave any measurements, and those that did gave different ones.

I haven't had to do an internet search for appliance parts that I remember.

I have done it to get repair parts for an old lawnmower - 15+ years; I hit a rock and bent the blade. The new blades from Home Depot or Lowe's wouldn't fit. I managed to get another 3 years use out of it.

I rebuilt a 33 year old (1980 model rebuilt in 2013) chipper/shredder where the original manufacturer went out of business in 2001. The rebuild was because one of the sealed shaft bearings had failed. It was a challenge because I didn't get the original manuals when I "inherited" the chipper some 20 years ago. With diligent searching, I found manuals from a 1983 version of the machine on the internet & from there was able to get original part numbers. With the original part numbers I was able to turn up suppliers who had N.O.S. parts (new chipper blade) and/or equivalent ... I couldn't find a N.O.S. RA100RRB bearing, but there is a modern Fafnir bearing with the same specifications that is ALMOST identical. It's just a smidgen wider & the shaft wouldn't fit inside the shell with the original shims in place. Works just fine without the shims.

For appliances (washer, dryer & stoves) instead of searching for parts on the internet I go down to a local parts jobber (where the appliance servicemen get their parts from) and get them to look the parts up in their Manufacturer's Catalogs. The benefit of having the manual in that situation is it's got the model number printed on it, so I don't have to drag the appliance out from the wall to read data plate. When the parts jobber can no longer get the repair parts is when I replace appliances.

163:

paws4thot @ 154: I suspect that complaining about the "interwebnet of stuff" around here is preaching to the choir.

For example, I don't get why people want their cars to have azure dentition!

Since I don't even know what that is, I don't think I want it in my car. Google only turns up results having to do with Orthodontics.

165:

suggest that a single overpowered part makes for cheaper manufacturing than multiple simpler parts.

That's the philosophy of the Raspberry PI. One model with everything (but simple parts) and one model with a bit less. You pick the response time of the unit to events by picking the disk drive yourself. SD card up to SATA. If it doesn't have the port you want it does have decent USB do get an adapter.

Sure for almost any application of it you'll have some things built in you don't need but only having 2 models (maybe 3) of any generation sure does drive down the manufacturing cost.

166:

Turns out we're both wrong -- it was "Nothing sucks like Electrolux" in the 1960's, VAX (the vacuum cleaners) started using the slogan in 1986.

167:

Azure Dentition in cars ...
Even worse is fucking Shat-Nav ... inherently dangerous, IMHO
I'm told the current Driving Test has a compulsory "obey the Shat-Nav" section ... arrrgggh!

168:

Is sort of do and sort of don't agree about Prat-Nav. My sis recently made a trip that involved a 5.25 mile diversion (road closed closed due work on new bypass) the way she went, or I think about twice that distance off the usual road (probably slightly shorter but all 2-lane where my normal route is 60% dual carriageway) by its diversion.

The real danger is "follow the prat nav", because that's how trucks start delivering bridges, or drivers dip their headlights in 3 feet of water...

169:

Look, if there HAD been anywhere accessible I could have gone to look at actual parts or talk to a Jobber With Clue, I would have done it. There isn't. I could order something with a part number for some OTHER model, a guessed-at component off the Web, or splice a length of rope into a loop (and, yes, I can short splice rope, and could once do long splicing).

And, as I said, something else was probably going to fail shortly afterwards.

170:

Yes. I paid extra for a far with fewer electric gizmos (essentially only front windows and central locking) and no air conditioning - and what two components have failed more often than everything else put together, several times over? You got it in one.

171:

Your theory is far too plausible and unexciting to gain acceptance, so let's carry on with the nuclear-powered interstellar spacecraft theory ....

172:

Even worse is fucking Shat-Nav ... inherently dangerous, IMHO

Now you sound like the old guy yelling "get off my lawn".

Stat Nav is great. If used properly. Ditto the radio. Seatbelts. And all other kinds of tech.

Driving in new areas without paper maps is flat out great.

Being an idiot with Stat Nav or any other tech is stupid.
"Here's your sign".

173:

Ahem: the TERCOM guidance for SLAM was under development in the mid-60s, the era from which the Minuteman Guidance Computer hails—the same guidance computer that basically wasn’t obsoleted for decades because it did a simple job and did it effectively: there was no benefit to redesigning it. I suspect the SLAM guidance computer got reworked extensively before deployment in the GLCM, if only because weight savings were more important in a non-nuclear-powered missile, and they’re probably long obsolete today ... but the heritage is there: GLCM test flights began in the early to mid seventies, after all.

174:

Bluetooth for cars is easy and quite a good idea: why have an in-car music player/radio/CD system when you can just pair your phone and play your own music collection on whatever vehicle you’re in? Earlier iterations used USB cables or Apple’s iPod dock connector, but it turns out the design life of a cable interface to personal electronics is much shorter than the design life of a modern car. So bluetooth came in.

(Bluetooth also allows you to use the car’s speakers and a suitable microphone for hands-free telephony, although allowing any speech comms while driving seems like a bad idea based on the safety statistics. But a lot of cars have a steering-wheel-mounted phone dialpad these days, for example.)

175:

Well, for one thing I don't have a "smart"phone... I do read car magazines, and muttering rotters (who do, or should) do this sort of thing for a living make getting a Haiwai or whatever to actually talk to a Thripps Thunderclap 27 seem like much harder work than you do.

176:

You are assuming that everything is going swimmingly. If you walk, ride or drive into an unfamiliar network of streets or roads, following the optimal route as decided by your your prat nav, and a critical section is blocked (for any reason), what do you do? With a map, you can look at it and choose a reasonable route round the blockage. With a prat nav, you are stuffed, because it will do its damnedest to redirect you back to the blockage. Oh, yes, such failures are rare (but not THAT rare), but the time/effort saving of a prat nav is small, and the cost of such a problem can be huge.

Even if you choose to abandon your decision making to a prat nav, you need a map to deal with that case.

The only circumstance when I would find a prat nav useful is when following a tricky route on my own, because modern roads are perpetrated to not allow you anywhere to stop and look at a map, blow your nose safely etc.

177:

"But a lot of cars have a steering-wheel-mounted phone dialpad these days, for example."

Oh, God :-(

178:

Quick delurk.

I own a 2018 vehicle with Bluetooth and making calls works as Charlie says, except there's no need for a keypad - the car has voice recognition activated by one button on the steering wheel. I just say the name of whoever I'm calling. Very easy and safe to make a call, as long as the number is already in my phone. This is a UK Ford Focus, not a high-end car at all, so I imagine this feature is pretty common now, or will be soon.

Back to lurking!

179:

As has been known for a long time, and is now becoming accepted, much (perhaps even most) of the danger comes from the distraction of the conversation, not the actual dialling. That's the problem OGH referred to in #174.

Quite a lot of the other features of modern cars, definitely including drivers' seatbelts and quite probably even entertainment centres and air conditioning, increase the danger to other, vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. Which, in turn, is a major factor in the ill-health of the nation.

180:

David L @ 172
I have a FULL SETA of OS 1:50 000 maps & I use them when I'm going somewhere & I always check for changes ... I have a lot of 1:25 000 as well ...
SEE ALSO EC @ 176..
I've been caught that way several times over the years - paper maps have got me out of it, every time

Charlie @ 174
Bluetooth is a specialised form of Wi-Fi - yes?
Presumably also ridiculously easy to hack, also yes?

181:

I've certainly seen that claimed. My personal experience is that talking on the phone feels no more distracting than talking with passengers. But I appreciate that is not solid statistical evidence, and would appreciate seeing some. I will look it up when I get a chance; I have to go pick someone up now.

182:

Either of my Sat nav's have maps. And fairly regularly they will tell me a route is blocked and route me around the blockage well before a map navigation would. This happens much more often than road blocked and sat nav does not know.

Plus, if you've not used sat nav, via Google maps for public transportation, you are massively missing out.

183:

Yeah, sat nav is not a panacea, but it helps me a lot. For example, Google maps tells the user where the traffic jams are right now, so even if I don't know the places I can route (or let the nav route) around them.

Of course one needs to be careful when using them, and I like paper maps, too, but especially the "always online" ones update better than the old map in my car. Here there was a big map company making the Helsinki area paper map, and I bought that a couple of times, but they stopped making them years ago, and now the one I have is quite out of date.

184:

I have a FULL SETA of OS 1:50 000 maps & I use them when I'm going somewhere & I always check for changes ... I have a lot of 1:25 000 as well ... I've been caught that way several times over the years - paper maps have got me out of it, every time

Ah the advantages of living in a small country.

Over the last 24 - 36 months I've driven in an area that if defined by a box about 3500 miles by 1500 miles. Plus add in our your side of the pond Ireland, Germany, Paris, and Spain. Ireland and Germany as the navigator and the other 2 walking. GPS on a smart device is great.

Mostly after plane flights. I'm like the airlines who have switched from paper flight bags to iPads.

185:

airlines who have switched from paper flight bags to iPads

How does that work? I didn't think an iPad was that good at holding sick! ;-)

186:

You are assuming that everything is going swimmingly. If you walk, ride or drive into an unfamiliar network of streets or roads, following the optimal route as decided by your your prat nav, and a critical section is blocked (for any reason), what do you do? With a map, you can look at it and choose a reasonable route round the blockage. With a prat nav, you are stuffed, because it will do its damnedest to redirect you back to the blockage.

What part of
Being an idiot with Stat Nav or any other tech is stupid.
did you not read?

I use Google Maps all the time on my phone to let me know about driving. And it's great about telling me what is stuff ahead so I can make decisions. And if needed pull over to figure things out.

Stupid is blindly following things. And yes at times I get to ignore the "Please make a U-Turn as soon as possible".

But there will always be "here's your sign" people.

187:

Jokes aside pilots for more and more airlines now get to abandon that 40 pound paper filled suitcase and carry and iPad or Android tablet with all the stuff in it. They love it. And it cuts down on medical issues from lugging around 40 pounds in addition to their clothes.

My not to recently retired pilot friend said one thing they loved was the ability to zoom in on airport maps. With the old paper system when a question came up on a new to them airport the map scale didn't always give enough details. With the electronic versions they could see way more detail if needed.

About a year ago I was sitting next to a pilot and we got to talking an I asked a question about the 787 winglets. He didn't know the answer so he pulled out his iPad and tried to find it. I was very impressed with the detailed level of information about each plane he was certified to fly. All kinds of diagrams about how things were bolted together. Not quite enough to assemble the plane but enough to know what anything you could touch was a part of.

And on a side note I think some Boeing execs should be spending the rest of their life in prison for deciding "we'll just not tell folks about this as it will upset the accountants with the extra training the pilots will want"

188:

Much of the problem is that the difference is not consciously detectable. The coding/decoding, packetisation, and so on introduce delays into the speech transmission which are in just the right range for your brain's allocation of processing power to understanding the conversation to go through the roof without you noticing. (The same principle makes international remote controlled surgery impractical even with perfect equipment that introduces no extra delays itself - over a few thousand miles the speed of light delay gets big enough to do the surgeon's head in and the surgeon isn't adequately aware of it happening.) On top of that there is noise gating which removes a bunch of subconscious cues altogether. The consequence is that people will swear blind that it's no more distracting than talking to passengers* because their brains aren't capable of consciously registering the difference.

Whatever volume of autism space I occupy carries the consequence that my brain does register the difference, and it's something of a pain in the arse. I'm not entirely happy with the processing load incurred even by face-to-face conversation. Boggo analogue landlines are worse. Modern noise-gated landlines are a lot worse, mobile phones are seriously difficult and hard work, and as for mobile phones at the same time as some other high-CPU activity like driving, fuck that to the wide.

However, I'm not just commenting based on personal experience; I've seen references to pukka studies on the subject relating both to remote controlled surgery and to mobile phones in cars, but this was like 25 years ago and there's no chance of me digging them up now. I rather wish such results were more widely publicised, because people almost universally dismiss legal restrictions on mobile phone use in cars as stuffy reactionary technophobic ninnyhammering, and with nothing more than a 25-year-old memory as a counterargument it's kind of hard to get them to realise that there actually is justification for it (as opposed to simulating realisation for the purposes of conversation and then dropping all thought on the matter the instant the conversation is over).

*(Come to that, "talking to passengers" is not necessarily a benign activity. Some people find me a very antisocial passenger, sending RST in response to any of their attempted conversational openings and never making any of my own: the reason is that these people insist on turning their head 90 degrees to the side whenever they open their mouths, instead of watching the road, and you absolutely can not get them to stop doing it without stopping them talking altogether.)

189:

"Ah the advantages of living in a small country."

More like, the advantages of living in a country that has probably the best mapping service of anywhere in the world. I find it weird to hear non-British people going on about Google maps this and Google maps that because Google maps are fucking shite compared to the Ordnance Survey. I find it even weirder when British people do the same thing because they somehow haven't understood that we have the Ordnance Survey and just habitually go along with the embedded maps websites throw at them, which are invariably Google shit.

I would love a complete set of OS 1:50000 paper maps (also 1:25000, also further complete sets from the 1963 and 1947 surveys and whatever the one before that was) if for no other reason than that I could pore over them for hours and hours, but it would be kind of expensive given that most of them would cover territory I'd never actually make it round to doing anything more exciting with than appearing on one edge of the map and driving along a main road until I go off the other side.

Fortunately, though, they are readily available online - indeed, they are more readily available than Google maps. Google write probably the worst websites in the world, with no more actual HTML than the minimum necessary to get the browser to parse the document as HTML, and everything handled by idiotic megabytes of javascript that mixes functionality and evil in a rather less separable manner than uric acid and undigested food residue are mixed in a pigeon turd. The result is that all Google sites and embedded stuff get knocked out by various evil-blocking measures and require considerable individually-targeted effort writing my own javascript to replicate the functionality but not the evil before they will produce anything but a blank screen. And the only one I can actually be arsed to do that for is the search engine, and I only use that when I can't get a useful result off Bing.

OS maps, however, are available from sensible and ordinary websites; I usually use streetmap.co.uk which has both 1:50000 and 1:25000 coverage, kept up-to-date to within a few months at least as far as road alterations are concerned, and on which my generic evil-blocking takes out all the ads while leaving the functionality functioning with no need to write any custom code at all. For the older surveys, the National Library of Scotland is digitising everything they can get their hands on, not only 1:50000 and 1:25000 (or their imperial equivalents) but larger scales as well; I think the smaller scales have been done for the whole of Great Britain by now and they are well advanced in getting the larger ones done. And the Ordnance Survey copyright lets you do all this stuff; since the surveys were publically funded in the first place the results are under terms that are about as near as you can get to "open" for something that got started long before anyone had come up with that term.

190:

I want to say 1936, but that may be the base grid rather than the survey itself. In which context, did you know that even the latest 1:50_000 still use OSGB36 grid rather than OSGB70? I mean, the difference is 1 in 100_000 in Northings but still...

191:

I've bought a few OL-series Ordnance Survey maps in recent years for walking purposes. They come with a code to download a digital version of the map to the device of your choice: I assume all printed OS maps have the same option.

192:

On the subject of SATNAV, hearing a voice tell me when to turn is a thousand times better than driving around with a map book in my lap and trying to read it while getting someplace.

193:

I have a mate who acquired a twatnav, which caused me to raise my eyebrows a bit when he told me (shared views on technological excess, etc). He says it is great for driving in strange cities where it's not obvious (because of poor road layout and/or because of traffic obscuring the markings) what lane you're supposed to be in at junctions. I guess I'll give him that; no map I've ever seen gives that information, and it's not that uncommon for lanes to be allocated to "go left/go right/go straight on" in an unexpected manner, or for the markings to be ambiguous or obscured.

Still wouldn't have one myself, though. I find the time taken to switch focus - both mentally, and in terms of the shape of the lens in my eye - between the road and a thing on the dashboard is a few seconds in either direction, which is completely unacceptable, and I am absolutely shite at following voice directions even when I do have the option of "yer what? which one, that one? - oh, that one, right?" etc. But I usually cope adequately with the situation my mate cites using my own resources, and over larger distances I cope just fine either with memorised OS mapping or with no mapping at all - where "just fine" has been known to include someone leaving their twatnav switched off and having me direct them instead, or finding my way more successfully than someone who is looking at a paper map and does know how to read one. So it's both dangerous and rather pointless...

194:

If, and only if, it actually tells you "in 100 yards turn left" rather than once you're 15 miles down the wrong road telling you "at the next opportunity make a U turn". And if it doesn't say "in 100 yards turn right" as you approach a sign saying "left turn only".

195:

Well, I guess it makes sense, given the size of the discrepancy in relation to the scale and the fact that the 1:50000 series began life as an optical enlargement of one-inch mapping. There's probably still a fair old chunk of historical data embedded in current maps in relation to things that don't move - which includes the trig points themselves, of course :)

196:

Bets? ;-)

I use a trig point as an accuracy test for GPS units, and the record for movement is a sink rate of 20m/s. The trig point is on a 300 feet high outcrop of Lewisian Gneiss. Either the GPS is reporting wrong, or the trig point is moving.

197:

It's a relatively new version, and it does mostly understand lanes, plus it gives both adequate warnings about turns, and it knows how to handle "immediate" turns (that is, it will say, "turn left, then immediately turn right.)

Just like reading a map, you have to apply some intelligence to using it, but at least my head is up and watching the road, not down and trying to figure out what this pink line means.

198:

Yeah, cheap.... I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this here before, but when I moved down to be with my late wife, in the mid/late 80's, she had a washer. She told me she couldn't afford the extra $100 (yes, really) for one that had a load level dial, so everything used x amount of water.

A few years later, we got a repair it yourself book on home stuff. I read the one on washers... and my eyeballs dropped out. So did hers, when I showed her.

(This is US: all top-loaders).

We unscrewed the top control panel... and sure enough, the washer had a water level control. It was cheaper for the manufacturer to make them all the same... and then charge the extra $100 to ->drill a hole and put a knob on the control

199:

Um, no.

Back when I was in Chicago, 10 years ago, I'd occasionally try to look up a route on google maps... and it continually wanted to get me onto an Interstate. As in 10 mi south, get to the interchange take the other interstate back north going west.....

They're a *little* better now, not insisting on the Interstates all the time. But... a lot of times, I know, from driving, that taking this route rather than their preferred is faster/shorter.

My kids got me a Tomtom for the holidays. First time I went to visit Ellen, I'd gotten onto the wrong Baltimore beltway (had no Baltimore paper maps), so, pulled over, pulled it out, fired it up, and aimed it (that took a while). Told me to take an exit, then it was around and around, till if finally told me I'd arrived.

Huh? I checked it, and for some reason unknown to me, it had CHANGED THE TARGET ADDRESS to a freight transfer house near the Port of Baltimore docks. Reset it, and at least it got me to where I could call her, and she could tell me how to get there.

200:

That would be a big, fucking NO, good buddy.

And the reason is that a friend of mine, Clarke Wierde from GT used to work on car engineering, and says that the "entertainment" functions are supposed to be separate, but it's cheaper that THEY'RE CONNECTED TO THE CAN - the car control computer.

The results is... you *have* read about proof-of-concept attacks by researchers, who've gotten control of the brakes on more than one car?

And this, of course, is assuming that your mobile isn't already pwned....

201:

When I got my OEM radio/CD player replaced in '15, I had them *explicitly* NOT connect it to the damn control on the steering wheel - more than once, I'd been making a sharp turn, and suddenly the radio is loud, and on something different, vastly and dangerously distracting me.

202:

Ah, yes, "please make U-turn..."

In Bethesda, I occasionally need to go across to Arlington, VA, when I was first seeing my now-ex, and wanted to take the shorter, non-DC-Beltway route. This is '10 - '12. The directions at one point in the directions, it said, and I kid you not, "make a right, make a u-turn, make a right"... presumably because, as it crossed the cross street, the street changed names.

203:

Damn. Back in the early/mid-nineties, I had a net-friend on usenet who said they were going to number my rants... then they never did. Would have been useful.

Javascript. I don't know how many websites I've been to that YOU COULD DO IN STRAIGHT HTML, but noooo, gotta have javascript to create static pages dynamically, because they actually have NO idea how to write html.

As my personal website reads, "This site will load faster than yours, because it is proudly written in vi", and is *all* html, period.

204:

You think that's bad? At the blackhat conf just gone there was someone who thinks they have cracked the CAN network isolation between the entertainment and telemetry buses on the 787. Only the actual level 1 control CAN to go.

All thanks to Boeing leaving 737 max Dev code around on public facing repo's.

Noticing a pattern with this?

205:

Right, I read about that.

Some needs to hit people over the head with a cluex4, or maybe a cluex12, "Just because you can does NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD", and explain to them in four letter words of one syllable (or maybe two syllables) what KISS means.

206:

You aren't thinking. Yes, OF COURSE, you ignore it - but that's not a solution. If you don't know the area, you have the option of taking roads/streets at random, which can lead you back to where you started after an hour of exasperation - or heading right out to somewhere whose name you can remember, then to somewhere else on the other side whose name you can remember, and starting all over again, which can take even longer.

207:

I have a complete set, plus a complete street map, on a tablet that I use as a map reader when triking and sometimes when driving. I very, very rarely turn the GPS on when I am a maze of twisty little roads, all alike - or, when the relevant authority hasn't actually labeled any of the streets.

208:

More like, the advantages of living in a country that has probably the best mapping service of anywhere in the world. I find it weird to hear non-British people going on about Google maps this and Google maps that because Google maps are fucking shite compared to the Ordnance Survey.

Uh
https://www.usgs.gov/core-science-systems/national-geospatial-program/topographic-maps

I used to have some but they vanished in a move at some point. Or exist around here and I just don't know where they are.

And while Google Maps (and other online ones) have their issues they fit in my pocket and get updated. Plus on roads with a moderate amount of traffic they indicate slow downs if you have cell service.

209:

10 years ago, I'd occasionally try to look up a route on google maps... and it continually wanted to get me onto an Interstate. As in 10 mi south, get to the interchange take the other interstate back north going west..... They're a *little* better now, not insisting on the Interstates all the time.

Amazing that v10 is better than v0.1

Hard to imagine.

Currently the Google Maps on my phone allows me to turn on and off such things as toll roads, limited access, avoid traffic, etc... And yes v0.1 didn't have any of that.

And one thing those paper maps don't do is allow me to look at a sat photo at times to get a feel for just what is ahead. A photo that was typically taken in the last year.

And for when I'm headed for an area with little cell coverage I can define chunks of maps to cache until I don't want them anymore.

Mobile mapping is not perfect. But to compare v0.1 with paper topo maps is crazy.

210:

You keep talking as if these various system are only TELLING YOU WHAT TO DO.

I've not ever seen one of those. All of that I know of have a map on a display that you can zoom, scroll, whatever.

Why do you keep acting as if this doesn't exist.

And to be honest when I'm using GPS mapping systems I very rarely turn on the turn by turn voice. I like how Google puts up the lane to be in, distance to next decision, and what that is in large letters and I can mount that up where I can see it without eyes off the road. And if with someone hand the them "device".

211:

Let me edit that a little for you.

I turn off the only non-visual directions I get from it, and play with a computer screen that I've mounted to create a blind spot whilst I'm also driving.

212:

Because (a) not all do and FAR more importantly, (b) it's a damn sight too small to get yourself out of the hole I describe. GPS walking devices have the same, and I tried using one for that purpose, which is why I have a tablet for that purpose. A tiny little screen with poor resolution doesn't show enough area in enough detail to plot a route that actually gets you anywhere useful.

Yes, there are places with a relatively small number of roads in a relatively simple layout, but most of the UK is not like that.

213:

USGS maps are pretty good. A collection for the US in the same level of detail as your UK collection would take up a bit of space.

214:

The Australian government entity now called Geoscience Australia is pretty good too, but they too have long seen the writing on the wall that paper topo maps are dead and stopped printing them altogether around 10 years ago in favour of web based tools.

215:

I really like the voice directions from google, because I don't have to look at the map. But I have to sit down at an actual computer to pre-program the route because google assumes everyone drives a Smart car. Even a van is sometimes too big for the little tree-lined back streets that google likes to optimise me down. But that might be because I usually only drive when I move house.

216:

scary thing from New Scientist
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2213050-hackers-could-use-wi-fi-to-install-ransomware-on-dslr-cameras/

Cameras that have wifi are likely vulnerable to drive-by attacks when the wifi is on. Canon have a firmware update.

The article talks about ransomware but I suspect the people most willing to pay ransom will be those least willing to wait even an hour for delivery. To a lot of people "go online and fart about doing complex garbage for half an hour" is going to add to the cost enough to make "buy a new camera" the cheaper option, especially when you add the uncertainty of whether the camera will actually be unlocked at the end of it. It'll only take one or two stories about non-unlocking for the vast majority to treat it simply as bricking and bin their camera.

217:

Got an engineering-adjacent question about the "Skyfall"/Pluto type nuclear propulsion engines.

This isn't about wargames, but about spaceflight. To naive little me, it looks like the problems with making one of these engines work are equivalent to the problems with making a fission or even a fusion rocket work:
--The engine gets so hot that the choice of materials that won't melt (or vaporize) under the conditions are starkly limited.
--You've still got to steer the thing, which means that you've got to use hydraulics, or something more exotic, under conditions where all the structures are on the verge of melting, thermal expansion is a huge headache, and keeping thermal gradients from decaying that allow the engine to not melt is a critical design issue, as is dealing with the structure buckling under the stress of supplying that much force.
--Ideally, you want to keep this bastard daughter of Surtr producing at full output for a long time. And you want to be able to throttle it down, even turn it off, and fire it up again fairly easily.

So...can this all be done, or are there hard physical constraints that bounce engineers off, mockingly?* Also, for the more faint of heart who aren't materials scientists, does having something equivalent to a working Skyfall engine actually preface, say, a manned Mars mission, if you can keep the crew from coming anywhere near this kind of engine, while keeping it running for years?

I'm just trying to find a metallic silver heart in this great gloomy cloud of endangered dictators waving bigger and bigger weapons at each other.

*A constraint like, for instance, the system's too hot even for precision-printed 3-D silicon carbide parts to keep things moving.

218:

I’m not sure how you think this works, but when I have used a windscreen mount for devices like that, it obscures a small section of the dashboard and bonnet (I think the correct translation USians might require here is “hood”). Sure it’s possible to create a blind spot, but lots of things provide such an opportunity.

Many new cars today offer Apple CarPlay or the Android equivalent. This feature turns the car’s own touch screen, usually somewhere on the dashboard, into a docked version of the phone and provides access to the subset of features deemed reasonable to use driving, including Google Maps. I’ve enabled this in hire cars a couple of times, first impression is that it’s great in terms of bringing google maps into the dashboard, but less great if you need google maps and the phone at the same time. When we got a new car recently it was specifically without this feature, and I’m currently undecided about bothering with a windscreen mount. When I’m next driving somewhere unfamiliar that will probably change, it’s just too useful.

Hands-free talking while driving: sure it might be a distraction, and sure it may be qualitatively different from other distractions, like someone in the passenger seat who won’t stop trying to draw your attention to incompatible cognitive tasks. But no-one is going to stop eating and driving, or a lot of other things that we can police but also come into the category of “just because we can...”. We need to accept that *everyone* is operating at some sort of deficit while they are driving, and just not do the stupid things that require twitch-reflection response speeds... like speeding, tailgating, undercompensating for conditions, etc.

“I was driving” is still (just barely) a reasonable excuse for missing a call but the way it fits into life has changed and is changing further.

219:

I don't know about nuclear sources but the MBDA Meteor is a throttleable solid fuel ramjet (source MBDA, confirmed as open source using Wikipedia).

The Eurosam Aster family have a facility called "pif-paf" which can literally make them move cross range whilst still heading down-range.

So at least 2 of the technologies you want exist in principle if not with the energetics you're asking about.

220:

I'm going to say that you obviously believe that it works much better than it does.

It's a disciplinary offence for someone driving on business at my company to make or take a call whilst the vehicle is moving.

How much of a windshield is effectively occluded by a display is not just a function of the display, but also of how much extra attention it draws from everywhere else that should be in the driver's field of view, oh and it doesn't take that much to have completely occluded that toddler that just ran into the road, or even to just have you looking at the other side of the car at that moment. Can you live with yourself if you kill a child "because I was reading the sat nav"?

Compensating for the conditions. How about driving at highway speeds on a course that WILL cause you to come into conflict with a driver doing the same thing in the opposite direction.

I could go on and on and on and... but this is part of my day job and I'm supposed to be on holiday!

221:

The part that I use takes no more attention than the rest of the dash in a modern car. And no it does not create a blind spot when mounted where it is just another part of the dash instrumentation.

Everyone.

Staring at a GPS while driving is a great way to get into a wreak. Agreed. I don't do it. I wish no one did but some do.

As to EC's commments. My screen is plenty big for figuring out where I am in general. If I need to stop and read details I do so. But I don't need a tablet. If EC does then it is great that he has one. Personally I work just fine walking or driving with my phone screen. But I don't "read" it while driving except the very large directions. And I examine the route before using it. And at times put in fake mid points just to get the route to go the way I want. Silly me.

Not everyone has the exact same needs.

222:

Can you live with yourself if you kill a child "because I was reading the sat nav"?

Now you're just stretching things.

What about checking your speed when you see a speed limit sign?

Or looking left (right in the UK) when you see a car coming out of a driveway and/or side road while they said child darts from between cars on the other side?

223:

The engine gets so hot that the choice of materials that won't melt (or vaporize) under the conditions are starkly limited.
Yes, but with modern knowledge of chemistry and thermodynamics it is hardly a major problems. Even regular modern thermal power stations have to deal with superheated steam, not to talk about latest generation nuclear power. And Russia has quite a lot of experience with even more energy-dense reactors.

I am not a big professional in nuclear physics, but to my knowledge, most problems come from nuclear transmutation itself. Under these circumstances, everything has to be calculated beforehand because it would be harder to measure and control isotope contents of the reactor. And moreover, these processes aren't 100% understood. So, like in 1986, something must have gone wrong, some theory was insufficient to clearly understand the consequences. Or, if you remember, Bikini atoll, which is most spectacular result of science gone wrong.

Nuclear reactor has to be stable, controllable and safe for operations, but sometimes you just can't predict how it will behave. Then you embark on experimentation, and then you discover the limits of that model, which is especially, ahem, enlightening if it blows up into your face. Some miscalculation probably lead to surplus reactivity, which in turn resulted in a millisecond delay and it went overboard - which is what one of lead scientists was mentioning, btw (quite ambiguously so).

I'm just trying to find a metallic silver heart in this great gloomy cloud of endangered dictators waving bigger and bigger weapons at each other.
You have to find the brighter side of the things here - biggest "dictators" still have enough sense not to go on rampage to kill all the infidels. And, of course, what we know as progress is mostly a derivation of forms of competition, one of which, incidentally, is a war. After all, what Sun Tzu said, war isn't really about killing, it is about deception and hardly deception kills as many people as incompetence.

At the end of 20th century quite a lot of people rally believed that the future is possible without confrontation, or that technology get us rid of war and suffering, but such naive notion only brings more problems around. We all have to get rid of these aimless dreams to prevent worst things from happening.

224:

Pigeon @ 189

Entirely so - but the number of people who don't get this is ... large.

I ALSO Have acomplete set of the old 1" to the mile ( !:63 360 scale ) maps, which should tell you something.

@ 195
NOT ANY MORE - the original 1: 50 000 of London was a disaster - I found something like 23 errors in about 12 minutes (!)

225:

I think we're coming from different frames of reference.

In this case, I'm not concerned about nuclear power per se, because running a nuclear power plant that sits around being hot is, as you note, fairly well understood.

The Skyfall problem is more akin to the engineering problem with the SR-71. For that plane, the problem wasn't precisely going fast, it was that going extremely fast out made the plane extremely hot, simply through friction. As a result, much of the plane's design was about dealing with the heat, so that it didn't fall apart at full speed.

A nuclear ramjet, let alone a nuclear rocket or a fusion rocket (same as a ramjet, but the fuel is carried on board), has the same problem only worse. It's hotter, for one thing. That limits the materials to a handful of ceramics (like silicon carbide) and metals like titanium. Steel will fall apart under those temperatures. Additionally, if the machine isn't using fins to control its direction, then it has to vector the thrust. This means it has to take a meticulously shaped engine that's already on the verge of melting (meaning it's soft and also being pushed on hard by the force of its exhaust), and move parts of it around precisely, without the thing deforming and exploding. Even the actuators (whatever they are) are probably going to be close to melting, which means they're going to be soft and may deform rather than vectoring the thrust.

Overall, getting an engine like this to run is a neat trick. I'm not making a jab at Russian technology, merely pointing out that this looks from the outside like a really hard technological problem. I'm hoping that others who know more about that end of engineering will chime in with their opinions on how doable it is.

The upside is that if such an engine is feasible, especially if it can be run such an engine for days or months on end, then it's a really hot rocket motor. Which is a good thing, especially if the problem is interplanetary exploration and not planetary politics. That latter option makes me a bit happier about this technology being developed, and I do hope it never gets used in war.

226:

You know what? I’m taller than average and most smaller cars position the central rear view mirror in a location that at times entirely occludes car-sized objects at a location in my field of view that frequently contains one, travelling toward me with right of way. I long ago learned that I need to nod or duck my head, or otherwise occasionally peer around it.

Obviously I’m sympathetic to your present concerns, because I already said up above that I’m not currently using windscreen mounts at all, but I think the trajectory of your argument here in general is wrong headed and some of the things you are saying are plain silly. The main one being that a correctly positioned mount occludes zero (zip, nada) field of view that is not already blocked by the dash itself, or the bonnet. Unless we’re talking about a flying toddler that is approaching slightly above bonnet level I guess. To be fair I would probably try to avoid hitting a bird, so in some ways that could be reasonable, it’s just context and the scale of the issue that is out of proportion.

In terms of your company banning hands free calls while driving their fleet vehicles - good for them and for you. It does take away the element of individual decision and leave a “one rule for everyone” situation, and that is a good thing. It isn’t the same in the general case though, where hands free is perfectly legal if done within increasingly well defined parameters.

We are not single-tasking machines. In general the trend with extra technology is to provide is with more information handling ability without reducing our ability to operate in the real world. I totally agree this leads to new and often not-at-all-amusing failure modes. But the path forward isn’t some sort of line in the sand based on our personal experience to date, rather a kind of balance. Which is the same as most things really.

227:

I'm presently (with permission and insurance) driving my Mum's Honda Jazz. My preferred driving position and its styling combine such that the bonnet line drops below the base line of the windshield, so the sat nav screen has to only cover the fascia, without also covering one or more of controls, instruments and ventilation outlets to meet your claim that it does not obscure vision. In this case, you'd have to mount it down by your knees!

More generally, "you're being ridiculous" is not considered a valid answer to the implied question "I think this is a potential hazard you are introducing. How do you intend to mitigate it?" All you're doing is proving that you haven't actually considered the matter properly.

228:

I quite like the Jazz and agree that the angles involved would make it less practical to do what I was saying. In an old Camry, which is my use case, the windscreen mount would be positioned as close as possible to the right hand A pillar as low as possible. I can see the way the Jazz is designed with the little quarter window there any mount would occludes some view. On the other hand, every recent Jazz I have seen sports a large touchscreen in the centre of the dash, and I be stunned if this were not upgradable to CarPlay/Android auto.

As it happens, it was getting a new small car that shifted my own habits. But that’s not a universal, and insisting it is one is silly. You are essentially rejecting my and David’s counter examples to your universal statement (which reflect our different situations) because they don’t apply in your specific situation, and that is what I mean is silly above. I apologise if, as seems to happen often, you are interpreting my statement as universal and see what you are doing as supplying a counter example. This seems like o be an artefact of the medium and happens a lot.

229:

Blind spots are not only a spatial phenomenon described by where one thing gets in front of another. There exist also time domain blind spots.

230:

One of my mates used to have a Camry, and I'd say it's the one (of the various makes, models and marks I've at least sat in and looked properly at) that is the exception, by feeling like you're driving around with a pool table in front of you. (examples - can't see metal work in front of windshield base, or below the base of any other window except the driver's door in a Citroen C5 mk1, engine cover subtends less vertical arc than a 5" satnav in a Skoda Octavia mk1 where again the driver's 2/3 of the fascia is mostly buttons, vents and instruments, Citroen Xantia (facelift) much as the Octy).

Never driven anything new enough to have an infotainment device, and don't know that I'd care to because the buttons on it can effectively move when you change mode.

231:

I’m taller than average and most smaller cars position the central rear view mirror in a location that at times entirely occludes car-sized objects at a location in my field of view that frequently contains one, travelling toward me with right of way.

Yes, this.

I don't normally use a GPS navigation system, but I've got a full size CB radio atop my dash, center mounted, where it would no doubt make a blind spot for a short driver; for me it obscures only a bit of the hood.

The rear view mirror? It hangs into my vision at one o'clock (in an American left-hand drive vehicle) and is indeed often where I want to be looking for other drivers or things beside the road.

If the occasion comes up I'll want it remounted higher but that would only gain me a few centimeters.

232:

General note on visibility - Whether I agree with you or not, if you've posted on the subject you clearly are thinking about it, and that puts ahead of most people already.

233:

I don't know if someone else has responded, but I can't help myself.

"following the optimal route as decided by your your prat nav, and a critical section is blocked (for any reason), what do you do?"

Nothing. Because my sat nav gets real time traffic information and had already rooted me around the blockage. Everyone else who has one is constantly updating the actual speeds along that road, so it even routes me around congestion.

If the blockage literally happens in front of me I can just randomly go down a side street and it recalculates the fastest route. I just ride 90 degrees to the old route until it takes me down a different road.

I don't have to pull out maps, find my location by reading street signs in the dark while trying to keep them dry.

234:

Neither do I; my car has map lights.

235:

Im going to second that, i mean it sounds like hardly anyone else in this thread ever uses google maps!

The big thing i find is not to try and second guess google its being continuously updated by millions of drivers. every time ive though "i know a better route than this" i've discovered temp roadworks, broken down bus blocking rd or other unknown to me delay

236:

Lots have responded, so I shouldn't have, I didn't add anything.

However, while your car may have a map light, my motorcycle doesn't.

On a trip I used to pick a map, fold it to the right part and put it in the clear pocket on top of my tank bag. Paper maps don't zoom, so I could see my road go into a town, 6 roads leave the town, but the streets within the town were just a circle labeled "nowheresville".

At night it was memory or snatched glimpses under streetlights.

I don't miss the past.

237:

And look in general I agree with your concerns. My point is that there aren’t absolute statements here that are universally true for everyone. But I also didn’t really address your totally valid query about mitigation (partly just distracted by the line-of-sight thing).

User interface or user experience (aka “UX”) designers are starting to call this “cognitive load”, though when you look through the academic literature on that term (or “cognitive load theory”) this generally seems to have come from the world of training. This crowd would probably be happier with the studies of aircraft control systems and keeping the pilot engaged despite not actually having much to do (not something I’ve looked at myself and half remember this much detail after reading some pop-sci article maybe 25 years ago). The main emphasis seems to be on presenting information in a form that is aligned enough to the mental model of the situation the user must have (or at least likely has) constructed that its real use is to update the model, something that a brief glance will do nicely (and often better than a verbal direction). This is what we’re usually doing when we check the speed, for instance. The distractions that are really disruptive are the ones that make it harder to maintain the mental model (which is probably why conversations with someone who is not physically present are more distracting - someone who is there will at least partly share that mental model).

Maps are really interesting. I grew up using maps, I got around mostly on foot and by public transport, and even as a kid carried a street directory around as sort of life equipment (yes having that on my phone now is a real boon). My mental model for my location, partly as a result, included a reference to absolute direction. That is I would think “that’s east, that’s west” rather than “that’s left, that’s right” if I happened to be facing south. People who do that are extremely good at dead reckoning to an extent that people who don’t seem to find spooky, but I’m sure that’s not an unusual experience in this group. Anyway this also means that the assumptions involved in the usual sort of satnav model don’t work well with an absolute perspective. That means changing the internal model to suit a more relative sense of position. But having done that, the information you get aligns pretty well. Not perfect and a work in progress, but also not as distracting as you might think, at least not in all circumstances.

238:

I like maps, too. Also, I'm going hiking in a couple of weeks, and I already bought a paper map of the area. I wouldn't trust an electronic device for that, though we will take with us a hand-held GPS device with the route points already set. A compass is of course a necessity, and in a bad situation it (or even using the sun to tell the compass directions) should be enough to get us back to the civilization. Google maps on a mobile phone? Ha. I don't plan to even turn on my phone more than once a day for a short time if we even get any reception.

But when in an unfamiliar place I like the phone maps, too. Maps do get outdated - like last time we went to Stockholm, I found some map over ten years old and it wasn't that accurate anymore. Google maps served well the couple of times we needed that.

When driving, I'm usually not alone, so there often are at least two people in the car, and then the other drives and the other reads the map, either a paper one or the one on some electronic device.

239:

I also like fantasy maps. I remember the time when our game-master got the RuneQuest module 'Griffin Island' (the 'Griffin mountain', but taken outside of Glorantha and made into an island), and made us adventure there - we got the prop map and immediately planned where our characters would go and see what's there.

240:

For a blockage in its database, yes, but I am talking about ones that aren't, which are VERY common once you are off the main arterial networks (and sometimes even then). Recent accidents, breakdowns at pinch points, minor roads or less-busy streets being closed and so on. It includes things like blocking a road without ANY warning due to gas and water leaks, subsidence, slipped loads etc. I have been in cars with people who were relying on prat navs when they hit one of them, and their universal reaction was "Help! What do I do now?"

241:

Car-drivers visual domain ....
I have an "unfair" advantage - most car-driver's heads are about level with my waist, if Im standing on the pavement ... but in the Great Green Beast, my eye-level is evera centimetres higher than my "standing" level. I cam also see all 4 corners of the car, of course.

242:

Do you imagine their reaction would be any different if they had a paper map in the car?

243:

Well, in those terms I can understand and agree. That's also what I meant about not wanting touch-screen "infotainment" that redesigns the interface depending on whether it's being a pratnav, streaming service for pap muzik, controls for the climate control, output for a diagnostic code reader (and a single screen that does all these things to some extend does exist).

Para 3 - I do the absolute direction thing too - If this is SSE, then right must be WSW...

244:

Well, that helps you, but does mean that the GGB blocks the view of anyone driving something smaller...

245:

What I do depends on where I am.

Near home, BigFruit is usually about 20 minutes behind actual traffic. I usually use my phone for directions, because if there's a truly serious blockage, it's already in the system and I get routed around. Getting caught in one less than 20-30 minutes old is a problem, of course.

In Hawai'i, especially on Oahu, it's a different story. BigFruit can't pronounce Hawaiian words (Kamehameha came out "Camelhaha"), and their bad joke of "slight left turn" (meaning its not 90 degrees, but some other number) got us lost more than once. Then there was a bad direction to a small, north shore town that sent us down a dirt road to someone's farm. After a spousal argument (my SO trusts the phone far more than I do) we got turned around via paper backup (I'm not entirely stupid) and drove back, only to notice that two other cars were following us. That farmer must get really annoyed.

Ironically, the BigFruit street navigation around the Monterey Bay area is far worse than in SoCal. The irony is that Monterey is pretty close to BigFruit and Boggle headquarters, so you'd think they'd have all their goof-off destinations mapped precisely. Evidently not, and I'm not sure why.

246:

Never driven anything new enough to have an infotainment device, and don't know that I'd care to because the buttons on it can effectively move when you change mode.

Three years ago I bought a new car. This was after a 5 year stint of driving 5 hours into the DC area and back 10+ times per year. Each time with a rental. So I got to try out a lot of cars. The new car replaced a Ford Explorer that I had been driving for 15+ years.

Anyway, I had grown to hate the dash layout of the Explorer. And driving all those different rentals for long periods of time convinced me that most cars have a lousy dash layout and that would be one of the most important parts of my next car decision.

I wound up with a Honda Civic with the high end trim package. (I was limiting my search to sedans under $35K and tried most every model out there.) The dash you see behind the wheel is fully electronic and can be set to show a set of things that are large, useful, easy to see day or night, and easy to glance at while driving. Center dash information / entertainment is similar. A big reason it works is that the soft buttons show up in the same place and are large enough to hit without concentration. (Toyota NOT). My only real gripe in terms of usability is the steering wheel buttons could be better but were quickly learned and much better than most other cars I tried.

Now one time my rental was a GMC Jimmy (I think) small SUV and the center console controls were all silver buttons maybe 2cm square in this massive grid. That setup had to cause wreaks as drivers tried to turn on the AC or similar and got the theft alarm or something.

247:

The big thing i find is not to try and second guess google its being continuously updated by millions of drivers.

Of course when you get to an area where the cell service is terrible then when you get off the main road to take a side road you find that the route is clear due to no cell service but is bumper to bumper traffic.

US 1 near I-95 a bit south of DC. Oey Vey.

EC. In general here you seem to be wanting to say that the idiots who get on the news for doing really stupid things with a GPS are normal. Well, there are more of them around than I like but normal? Nope. At least not in the US. Maybe the UK is different. :)

248:

I'm guessing a bit here, but I think that EC is arguing, correctly, that some people blindly trust that it will all be OK when their PratNav says "drive forwards down this slipway into the sea." Or "drive your 10' wide truck though that 8' wide gap; it'll be fine.".

I've been lost and/or misdirected more times in 300 miles relying on a TomTom than I normally am in 100_000 miles using road signs, maps and local knowledge!

249:

What I "hear" him saying is that all PratNav usage is crap. I disagree.

But I do feel that stand alone sat navs are way past their time. And never were all that good. Which includes those built into cars. (At least in the US.)

Google/Apple/Bing (unless it has gone away) are all soooooo much better.

My 2016 high end Civic GPS is great for use as a map. For directions, mediocre to porr. The thing it does best is tell my in 2cm tall letters what the next cross street is. Handy that.

250:

Nope, but they have a solution in their hands! What I have been saying from the start is that RELIANCE on prat navs is bad, which is what most of their users do. I gave one example of a failure mode, but there are many others that regularly cause their users to get jammed, to the great inconvenience of everyone in the vicinity. 25% hills and caravans/trailers are another simple example.

And, as I pointed out in #176, even I would make use of one under some (rare) circumstances. But they are rare enough, and the cost of making a mistake using solely a map (which I do) low enough, that it isn't worth the expense, irritation and distraction.

251:

Just a thought, but perhaps this might be helpful to the discussion:

- If you blindly trust a sat nav without understanding it's limitations, you will have a poor experience.

- If you don't understand how to read a paper map, they won't help you.

- If you can't use a sat nav (eyesight, etc), then they're not for you.

- If a map is useless for whatever reason (weather, scale, date, etc), then don't use one.

Perhaps (and I'm going waaaaaay out on a limb here!) these different tools *may* have different use case scenarios that *may* vary wildly person to person, and just possibly neither is superior or inferior in all circumstances?

252:

That's actually why I like the 17 physical buttons on the Chevy Bolt steering wheel. Every single one of them is a different shape in a different position. You can spin the wheel and toggle switches upside down and still do it right, without taking your eyes off the road. It's basically like a video game controller, and it's good design, although I expect if it ever breaks, I'm going to howl at the replacement cost.

I much prefer this to the center console touch screen, where I have to look to use it.

253:

steering wheel. ... It's basically like a video game controller, and it's good design, although I expect if it ever breaks, I'm going to howl at the replacement cost.

Ever read about the price of Indy/F1 cars steering wheels. 10 years ago it was around $10K. I think 4 to 5 times that now.

https://www.mclaren.com/racing/2017/indy-500/steering-wheel-indy-f1-3188887/

254:

100% of the time, I LOOK AT THE MAP(S) before I ever get on the road. That way, when something goes wrong, I have ideas on how to go around them... like the time the Tomtom was insisting I got onto that street... which was in Port of Baltimore, across railroad tracks, and there was NO WAY that tank car was going to be moving that day....

255:

I have three simple answers.

1. You have the nuclear rocket engine at a distance from the habitat - a long way back, or off to the side (gee, who would have designed something like that, Mr. Roddenberry?)

2. Use magnetic control of the exhaust itself, which is ionized, and thus maneuverable.

3. Use some simple hypergols to change what you're aimed at, not move the engine in the ship.

256:

Yer alla buncha wimps. In my day, when we played D&D, the DM spent weeks designing a dungeon, and when they opened it for play, someone was designated as mapper, and had physical graph paper and pencils...

And yeah, I *guarantee* that my dungeons were odder, and occasionally quirkier, than anything you buy. And, some monsters of my very own....

257:

Hey, if you're still driving into the DC area, let me know, and we can have dinner or something.

Any chance of you making Capclave (capclave.org)?

And I will have a lot more free time.

Ok, folks, this is as good a time as any: I will have that extra time, because I gave notice last month, and my last regular full day at work is this coming Tuesday.

When folks ask me where I'm going (as in to another job), my answer is "home". Yep, I'm retiring. More time to write, more time to keep up with the yard (bleah!), and my lady & I will do cons, and even non-con-related travel.

And, with that, since I am no longer in a position to influence or be influenced - yeah, I've been over the top on ethics - I've mentioned that I've been working for 10 years (as of tomorrow) for a federal contractor, but haven't said where. My answer to that is, "...so I'm with the government, and I'm here to help you."

Well, yes, I am: I've been at the NIH*, so I really *did* mean it.

* The National Institutes of Health, the biggest and most advanced biomedical and bioscience research agency in the world (well, except for GOP budget cuts....)

258:

Yep, but that's not what they're doing with Skyfall, so far as I can tell. It appears they're planning on vectoring its thrust. Somehow. Thus, I am intrigued.

259:

And, if you are trying, for the first time, to drive from somewhere you've never been before to somewhere else you've never been before 140 miles away, in the dark?

260:

Slight difference; when using a pratnav, sometimes if you get it wrong, you die in real life!

261:

Yeah, but have you ever looked at the price of an Indy Car?

Here's the Bolt's wheel: https://www.motortrend.com/cars/chevrolet/bolt-ev/2018/#izmo-2018-chevrolet-bolt-ev-lt-hatchback-steering-wheel

Much more boring. But it works. Note that you can't see three of the buttons, because they're behind the wheel where your fingers hit them when you grip the wheel.

262:

Hey, if you're still driving into the DC area, let me know, and we can have dinner or something.

Real inside the park conversation now.

OK. That period is over. It was me dealing with my mother in law's town home in Laurel after we had to move her out. And the sisters not agreeing on how to best deal with it for 4 years. [eyeroll]

I don't get back much now except as a tourist or on my way to somewhere else. But I will be there at the end of Sept for a funeral at Arlington.

Ask Charlie to send me your email.

263:

Well, we had played D&D for a couple of years when we started playing RuneQuest, and I still have many, many sheets of graph paper filled to the brim with dungeon corridors, monster, traps, and treasure. It was fun getting the players to map those, and there were always some errors.

We kind of got bored with that and started playing different games. Occasionally I break out D&D (nowadays 5e, skipped 3.X and 4, and Pathfinder) and run a nostalgic D&D dungeon romp, but mostly I enjoy different roleplaying games nowadays.

(Yeah, I understand that the comment I replied to was a joke.)

264:

That's not generally a big problem but, as always, it's the exceptions that bite.

To Dave_the_Proc (#251): well, sort-of, but the big problem with prat navs is that they are designed for, used by and encourage the dumbest common denominator. A huge proportion of consumer electronics and Web interfaces is like that, and it sends me bananas. The result is that the users do not engage what they are pleased to call their brains, which is why the term 'prat nav' is justified.

A secondary problem in the UK is that the sort of failure mode I described is not rare - and being directly connected to an equatorial satellite isn't really feasible, because of the amount of the road network where signals from those are inaccessible. GPS-style coverage would be feasible but, as far as I know, isn't available.

Yeah, give me design control over a major multinational's prat nav facilities and I could fix all that, to a great extent. But the chances of that are ....

265:

In the case you replied to, there was a software engineer, an electronics and radar engineer, and a project manager... The software engineer used an application like Bing maps (can't remember actual name) and the PM had a TomTom. Neither software told us about one turning we needed until 15 miles after we missed it the TomTom did "at the...around".

On the return trip it literally did "take the next right" as we approached a junction marked "left turn only": Not what you need when makeing off to catch an aeroplane!

As for GPS, somewhere up-thread I report 300 feet of Lewisian Gneiss descending at 20m/s...

266:

Charlie,
Enjoy Worldcon! I see Scalzi is there as well; perhaps he can drag you to the burrito restaurant he found in Dublin (who'da thunk it?).

267:

"burrito restaurant in Dublin" not surprised. OTOH Scalzi is USian. ;-)

268:

Moderators, please do send him my real email.

269:

I had a similar issue with GPS, and found out that the vertical accuracy is only about a tenth of the horizontal. There are ways to get good vertical accuracy out of ordinary GPS, but they are a hell of a faff and not possible on commodity hand-held devices.

270:

Yikes.

I just checked polling and remain/leave has gone from 48/38 to 44/42 between February and May. God knows what it is now. In any event a new referendum is not a slam dunk either way.

YouGov

271:

The further note on that is that Corbyn's waffling looks prescient and the People's Vote types should be careful what they wish for.

272:

Okay, official source actually confirmed that it was just a really big isotope power source that pretty much explosively depressurized.

Визуально источник представляет собой коробку метр на метр, — рассказал «Известиям» главный редактор профильного портала Atomic-Energy.ru Павел Яковлев. — Радиоактивный элемент тщательно упакован в свинцовую защиту. Энергию вырабатывает делящийся элемент — слабый изотоп. Он выделяет тепло, оно преобразуется в электричество. Это надежные устройства, с ними никогда не возникало проблем. При разрушении они создают минимальное заражение в радиусе 30–40 метров, которое не представляет особой угрозы для окружающей среды.

Nevertheless, great to observe news streams these days, filled with controversial, self-defeating and plain fake news messages, topped by spicy Chernobyl memes. I've spend some time studying them, so what do we know today:

- that was a new missile
- that missile is very dangerous
- it threatens nuclear treaty
- except the treaty is already dropped
- it isn't actually a missile, it was engine
- it wasn't actually new
- it is probably a PR stunt
- that missile technology is actually stolen from US
- it is not superior at all
- except it actually is
- the accident threatens further development
- and may actually never be deployed
- there was a nuclear blast
- the blast is smaller than Chernobyl
- the government hides information and denies everything (duh)

Well, this is not a full list, anyway, there's a lot of freelance experts in the world. Watching them argue about different topics is practically like observing a bunch of toddlers playing in a sandbox with a lot of toys. Some more "explosive" (in laughter) news include:

Some agencies managed to confuse the word "blast" with different accident at ammunition storage.
https://www.rt.com/news/466403-nuclear-explosion-russia-fake/

The missile cannot exist!
https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/08/14/i-dont-believe-a-missile-is-to-blame-for-russias-deadly-nuclear-explosion-a66849

Watchdog ecologists - charge!
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-blast-crime/russian-nuclear-agency-committed-crime-by-holding-test-near-city-ecologist-idUSKCN1V5202

273:

The classic problem with trucks and satnavs is that the driver is using a bog-standard system rather than a more expensive version that allows you to enter the height (and sometimes length) of your vehicle before suggesting a route.

Meanwhile, back at the washing machines...
https://www.ukwhitegoods.co.uk/help/buying-advice/washing-machine/4389-washing-machine-wash-performance

274:

The only part of "satnavs and trucks" that is not a solved problem (at least in principle) is getting truck drivers to acquire and correctly configure a "truck satnav".

275:

Looking at the map to have an idea of where you're going is very effective.

Especially for me because my normal mode of transport (bike+train) uses roads very differently to how trucks or even cars do, so the same landscape appear very different. There's much less of it for motorists, for example, as there are a huge number of route options that are unavailable. Flip side is that places that are very available to motorists are often technically available to bicycles but suicidal in practice.

Which means that when I do drive I am almost always driving in places that I haven't been before, even if I'm within 100m of where I live. Moving house was very much that, the bike ride to the rental place shared maybe 300m of an 8km trip with the return by truck.

(happy retirement, BTW, I have been meaning to say)

276:

Oh ha ha. In Australia truck satnavs seem to have all the same problems as general satnavs with a few extra exciting twists. They're mostly designed for long-haul routing and I suspect they do that pretty well, but last-mile routing is still quite error-prone. The difference between "I can get my truck down this narrow street" and "I can't get my truck under this low bridge" is not well understood, and often google street view is from so low down that it doesn't give an accurate idea of vegetation (overhanging trees can be just as effective as bridges).

It has been fun watching the apartment construction process on my way to work because the dump trucks have been slowly pruning the trees along the route. Or not so slowly in the case of one lovely spreading tree in the middle of a roundabout... it doesn't look like that any more. You can drive a 3.5m high truck underneath it now.

277:

GPS-style coverage would be feasible but, as far as I know, isn't available.

OK. Now I'm lost. The US GPS system works almost up to the north and south poles. And maybe there. If you can "see" 4 sats you get coverage.

Are you saying that GPS devices in the UK don't use the US system or something else that I've just totally missed?

278:

E were talking about bidirectional data rather than GPS. Viz, cellphones etc. Just having a GPS signal doesn't tell you anything about traffic density or delays.

279:

paws4thot @ 164: Bluetooth!!

"Aim low boys! He's riding a Shetland Pony!"

Duh. 8^) Thanks. That one went right over my head. Carry on.

280:

John Hughes @ 166: Turns out we're both wrong -- it was "Nothing sucks like Electrolux" in the 1960's, VAX (the vacuum cleaners) started using the slogan in 1986.

Cool. Now I know. I wonder what they were thinking?

281:

paws4thot @ 168: Is sort of do and sort of don't agree about Prat-Nav. My sis recently made a trip that involved a 5.25 mile diversion (road closed closed due work on new bypass) the way she went, or I think about twice that distance off the usual road (probably slightly shorter but all 2-lane where my normal route is 60% dual carriageway) by its diversion.

The real danger is "follow the prat nav", because that's how trucks start delivering bridges, or drivers dip their headlights in 3 feet of water...

I just can't blindly follow the instructions from GPS. I don't care what the driver's test examiner says, if you don't know more than the system and can't anticipate where it's going to be WRONG, you're gonna' be in trouble.

I wonder how many of these guys are following Sat-Nav.

282:

I'm thinking that your driving use case is different from mine.

Postulate for your base case with paper maps...a directionally challenged individual with very limited persistent memory and not terribly great eyesight. And for whom, frankly, the processing required for driving is a bit overwhelming in its own right. And who is, for work, often required to travel to unfamiliar locations at odd hours. (Bearing in mind the number times this individual got lost in his hometown.). Also assume, that to cut down on parking, most locations avoid allowing for anywhere to stop. (Possibly US thing)

Therefore, the workflow for paper maps looks something like this.
1. Write down landmarks.
2. Find directions on map.
3. Every 5-7 minutes, fish paper with landmarks from floor of car and squint at it while driving at speed.
4. Every 10-20 minutes, until first missed direction, fish directions from under seat and read them, all at speed.
5. After first missed direction, (and there will be at least one missed direction) unfold map, also at speed, and try to find location and revised route. Also, at speed.

Bear in mind that the road is mostly obscured during all of these review procedures.

Now, you could rationally argue that this is suicidally dangerous. Yes, yes, it is. You might try to argue that the individual should pull over and work out directions. By experiment, owing to the rather long distances between allowable stops, that procedure doesn't converge to a desired destination. Yes, I tried, a lot. Oddly, this individual's accident rate is lower than typical for an American.

Now, I'd argue that the use of prat navs is significantly safer, at least for this prat. You can argue a bunch of low probability failure modes - but - when compared to driving down a freeway or commercial district at speed while reading a paper map and not looking at the road...the difference isn't small. Particularly since, by the time I stop after a wrong turn, there is often a fair bit of hiking just to find something on the map.

Nowadays I mostly walk places - but the prat nav is still qualitatively better than I am. I rather envy those of you who don't get lost constantly. But...the prat nav actually eliminated a significant source of stress in my life and I'd put it in the top 10 of personally impactful technologies of the last century. (Hugs GPS). And, while I'm a bit of an outlier - I am far from alone.

283:

Thanks, found some articles (e.g. here) with that text, and google translate to English is, well, interesting. Better than it used to be though.
There is another confirming argument being made, by this quy,
Mystery explosion at Nenoksa test site: it’s probably not Burevestnik (August 15, 2019 Michael Kofman),
who argues that because 5 intelligent specialists were killed, they did not expect any significant danger, which argues for well-understood power sources. (isotopic). This is consistent with the text that you linked.
Let’s ask first order questions. Why did five leading researchers die? If it was a missile test why would they be near the missile? I know I’m always standing next to experimental missiles I’m testing, it’s the best way to see the explosion. If it was an experimental nuclear reactor, why were they standing next to it at the time of the mishap? I know I always stand next to experimental nuclear reactors I’m testing. Typically when people stand around things, it is because they don’t expect them to explode or massively irradiate them. If this is a likelihood, the researchers are usually quite far away from the device when it is being tested. VNIIEF stated they had spent a year preparing for this test, so probably they had thought about their own safety for some time.

284:

Also - a mild realization that I'd like to check - in terms of upcoming economic displacement - there has been an assertion that autonomous trucks are far off because city driving is much harder than highway. With highway basically there and city quite a ways off. (In particular, by comparison to that drunken idiot who collided a gasoline tanker into my friends family by driving ~125 mph on the wrong side of the road.)

Anyways, exactly how bright would a capitalist have to be to set up parking lots next to major good nexi and just let drivers take over for the last couple of miles? I'd guess you could appreciably lower the number of hours required for truckers. That would quite measurably raise the unemployment rate and should happen within the next 5ish years.

285:

Para 1 - Such things have happened before; the 507th MC happen to be about the 3rd (counting blue on blue air attacks on ground units) since we tried to apply elvin safety to war. Not suggesting that satnav helped; just that it's not the unique factor you appear to suggest.

Para 2 - Unless they're using a specialist and correctly configured for the vehicle truck sat nav, it won't make any real difference I'd say. It will say, "at the intersection, go straight ahead" and they will do so even though "the chickens are stacked to the 13 foot line, and the bridge is clearance to 11 foot nine" (the extra inch makes the rhyme work).

Until the bus company got rid of the double deckers at one depot, there were similar incidents involving thankfully unloaded vehicles striking a 12'6" bridge rather than taking a short and well known local diversion near my Mum's house.

286:

Well, the reason a real nuclear expert is standing next to an experimental device when something goes horribly wrong is normally that they're trying to keep something from going horribly wrong, and either they succeeded (it could have been much worse) or they did not but died trying anyway. I have enormous respect for any engineer or tech who runs towards the problem to keep it from getting worse.

The alternative explanation is that someone didn't know what they were doing, and it blew up on them.

It could be both. I'm not sure all the reasons why Project Pluto was abandoned, but so far as I know, the prototype engine only ever burned for five minutes. Beyond that, so far as I know, is unexplored territory where all sorts of things might go wrong. One of the fundamental problems is that it's an air-cooled nuclear reactor, so if there's turbulence or something that slows the air down, things could get bad fairly quickly, since air holds less heat per volume than water does, and that heat has to go somewhere.

287:

"...the 17 physical buttons on the Chevy Bolt steering wheel... like a video game controller"

Sounds awful...

"you can't see three of the buttons, because they're behind the wheel where your fingers hit them when you grip the wheel."

Sounds bloody awful... :)

I don't think I've got 17 functions... let's see:

Lights: off, side, head
Wipers: off, fast, slow
Indicator stalk: off, left, right, headlamp flash, headlamp dip/main toggle
Heater fan: off, fast, slow
Hazard lights: toggle
Fog lights: toggle

Yep... still only 16 even if there was a separate button for each function, instead of 6 switches. None of which are on the steering wheel, though the indicator stalk is on the steering column so the functions which are actually used often are ready to hand.

288:

Oops! Horn. And that is on the steering wheel. I just completely forgot about it because I never use it...

289:

Troutwaxer @ 192: On the subject of SATNAV, hearing a voice tell me when to turn is a thousand times better than driving around with a map book in my lap and trying to read it while getting someplace.

Yeah, I never did that.

I always found it easier to pull over somewhere - preferably the parking lot at McDonald's so I could get a cup of coffee while I consulted the maps (multiple) to figure out how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. My service territory was slightly over 40,000 square miles; the "eastern" two thirds of North Carolina. Mostly connected by two-lane highways and frequently there was not a direct route even using those. Having a good map book of all the COUNTY roads in North Carolina helped.

I'm pretty damn good with maps, but I don't like to be trying to read one at the same time I'm driving. The problem with the voice interface on the SatNav is it doesn't give you directions soon enough, and sometimes not clearly enough.

Don't tell me "Turn right now." Does that mean "turn right now" or "turn right NOW...?

Tell me "You should be in the right-hand lane to make a right turn at the upcoming traffic signal." ... and tell me just as soon as we pass through the preceding controlled intersection so I have time to get into the correct lane despite the assholes trying to block me out just for spite.

Helpful Hint: In North America, if you're really having a problem finding an address, stop at a Fire Station and ask whoever is on duty how to find it. They HAVE to know where everything is and they have access to GIS systems not generally available to the public. Park on the side of the building so you don't block the trucks if they have to roll while you're in there.

290:

Sheesh, how unimaginative:

The buttons on the Bolt are (behind the wheel on the left) regenerative brake paddle. Yes, it's a hand brake that's really useful, but it doesn't apply the disk or drum brakes.

On the right: two buttons, up and down volume control for the radio.

On the left below, two paddles that let you move the preset radio station up and down.

The rest on the console, are five buttons for cruise control that I don't use, a button that heats the steering wheel (I rarely use it, but it's *nice* on a cold day, and along with the heated seats it saves energy on warming the cabin up), a button that turns on/off the lane tracker (beeps if you drift out of your lane, as the car has eight cameras on board), a button that answers the phone if it's plugged in, a button that hangs up or silences the phone if it's plugged in, and four arrows and an enter key to fiddle with the information displayed around the speedometer. Oh, and the horn. Then it's got the usual left and right levers, one doing turn signals and the other doing washer wiper, front and back.

If you think about it, most of the buttons on the steering wheel are for fiddling with the setup, unless you're lucky enough to be in conditions where cruise control actually works, which is almost never in SoCal. Otherwise, the radio controls are pretty intuitive and the brake is really fun, to the point where my finger twitches for it on other cars.

I'm actually not sure of the utility of cruise control. I suppose that if I was a serious hypermiler I'd use it, but generally I'm in stop and go traffic, so maintaining a constant speed is useless. That's the other nice thing about eCars. When you're stuck in a traffic jam, you're not burning gas, you're using less electricity, and the slower you go, the longer your range. For commuters, that's a real benefit.


291:

I just know I've got more functionality:-

Lights: off, side, head
Wipers: off, fast, slow, 5 delays on intermediate, flick. Screen wash, which will give a few sweeps of wipers automatically
Indicator stalk: off, left, right, headlamp flash, headlamp dip/main toggle
Heater fan: off, plus 8 different speeds
Temperature: Low, 18 to 28 step 1 C, High
Climate Control mode - Auto, economy, defrost and air recirculate
Hazard lights: toggle
Fog lights: toggle - rear fog toggle but only when front already selected.

OK, so that's 46 functions I think, but the fan speed and air temp are controlled by 4 buttons, and the intermittent delay by one thumb-wheel on the wiper stalk so call it 26. They all stay where they are, and climate modes Auto and Defrost over-ride a manual fan speed setting.

292:

Heteromeles @ 252: That's actually why I like the 17 physical buttons on the Chevy Bolt steering wheel. Every single one of them is a different shape in a different position. You can spin the wheel and toggle switches upside down and still do it right, without taking your eyes off the road. It's basically like a video game controller, and it's good design, although I expect if it ever breaks, I'm going to howl at the replacement cost.

On a slightly different note ... The AC in my Jeep died yesterday. I was 225 miles away from home on a 99°F (37°C) 90% humidity day. I've got a new little traveling companion buddy & he was miserable. But we survived & made it back home. I don't know how people survived here in the south before air conditioning. It's a $1,300 USD repair, but I've got rainy day savings EXACTLY in case of something like this. I should get it back on Saturday or Monday. Fortunately there's nowhere I need to be I can't get to on the bus or walking (or just say EFF IT, I'll stay home).

This is my NEW car that was 14 years old when I bought it and is 16 years old now. Even with the repairs it's still cheaper than if I had to buy an actual new (quick internet search the closest 2019 model I can find is $36,000 - $600+ for 60 months).

293:

By your argument from para 6, since I left my car at home when I came to visit my Mum, I'm getting infinite gas mileage.

294:

whitroth @ 256: Yer alla buncha wimps. In my day, when we played D&D, the DM spent weeks designing a dungeon, and when they opened it for play, someone was designated as mapper, and had physical graph paper and pencils...

And yeah, I *guarantee* that my dungeons were odder, and occasionally quirkier, than anything you buy. And, some monsters of my very own....

I've been reading an on-line fantasy novel called "Worth the Candle" that's kind of Dungeons & Dragons based.

https://archiveofourown.org/works/11478249/navigate

I'm enjoying it, but I do find it helpful to keep a spreadsheet in addition to drawing a map as I go along.

I never really got into Dungeons & Dragons or other role playing games. Never had the time or the social skills to find a group I could join.

295:

Bill Arnold @ 283: Thanks, found some articles (e.g. here) with that text, and google translate to English is, well, interesting. Better than it used to be though.
There is another confirming argument being made, by this quy,
Mystery explosion at Nenoksa test site: it’s probably not Burevestnik (August 15, 2019 Michael Kofman),who argues that because 5 intelligent specialists were killed, they did not expect any significant danger, which argues for well-understood power sources. (isotopic). This is consistent with the text that you linked.
Let’s ask first order questions. Why did five leading researchers die? If it was a missile test why would they be near the missile? I know I’m always standing next to experimental missiles I’m testing, it’s the best way to see the explosion. If it was an experimental nuclear reactor, why were they standing next to it at the time of the mishap? I know I always stand next to experimental nuclear reactors I’m testing. Typically when people stand around things, it is because they don’t expect them to explode or massively irradiate them. If this is a likelihood, the researchers are usually quite far away from the device when it is being tested. VNIIEF stated they had spent a year preparing for this test, so probably they had thought about their own safety for some time.

Piecing together from several different news reports ... I got the impression they test fired a missile of some sort from an off-shore platform and the missile ended up in the drink. The explosion occurred after they recovered the missile and were examining it to see what had gone wrong.

I got the impression there was some kind of chemical explosion - perhaps fuel/oxidizer reacting with sea water - and that explosion damaged the isotope generator causing the radiation release.

It's an accidental "dirty bomb", not a nuclear engine blowing up.

296:

I left my car at home when I came to visit my Mum, I'm getting infinite gas mileage.

If its fossil fuelled it's actually suffering fuel evaporation (non-zero use) for zero distance covered (unless it's been stolen or towed) so you're getting zero miles per non-zero gallon.

Mind you so is the electric... battery self-discharge plus the "standby" consumption of the electronics.

297:

Yeah, without AC, you've got to do the driving gloves and experiment with the ol' 470 AC (four windows down, 70 mph. That would be around 4110 in the saner parts of the world).

298:

I drive a diesel, the tank vent that fumes would escape through is about 0.125" diameter, oh yes and I'm one of these weird Scots people who describe 20C as"too hot", a bit like OGH with a stronger Scots accent!

299:

Pigeon / Heteromeles, etc
Car controls
Horn / Windscreen Wash ... wipe slow ... wipe fast .. one twitch
Indicators / all of them ( i.e. hazard )
Lights / side / full / main-beam + fog + rear fog
Fan / slow / fast / Rear-screen heater
Oh yes ... hidden-in-plain-sight fuel cut-off
Extra gear lever for "Lock the transmission" &/or Low Ratio & eaxtra switch for overdrive ( That's right I have THREE sets of gear ratios )

JBS @ 289
Hadn't thought of the fire-station trick, though I've done that a couple of time at Police stations ... including the classic ocasion (MANY years ago) when I stopped in Basingstoke, because I was hoplessly lost - & the cops said - "Don't ask us, they change the layout every month & we can't keep up!" ...
Directions to a small FC ground in Basingstoke for a visiting team & spectators included the word "roundabout" 27 times ......

@ 297
Oops, forgot the Land-Rover patent Air-Con - the two flaps just under the top of the console on either side, that open to let fresh air straight in.
If you open the rear slider-window(s) a little - to the first notch, you get a lovely cooling airflow.

300:

I've done the "Police station trick" too. Sometimes without the location in question being manned; I used a non-emergency land line that connected directly to a manned station.

301:

Yes, though I don't know how much is bidirectional. I carry a satellite telephone sometimes, and it is really quite tricky to get a connection. Even in the south of the UK mainland, 40 degrees above the horizon towards the south is often obstructed by buildings, trees and even hills - and that's 32 degrees in the north of the UK mainland. And Wifi connection in many places (often the same ones) is equally bad, too.

GPS has similar problems, but less severe ones, and is really only inaccessible when you have too little open sky.

302:

Hadn't thought of the fire-station trick, though I've done that a couple of time at Police stations ...

That reminds me of a situation which can now be avoided by prat-nav systems.

Many years ago on a family trip my mother was having a lot of trouble finding the hotel she was trying to find in Niagara Falls, the city not the actual waterfall, and we spent a while circling around an unfamiliar urban area trying to match the map to observed local reality. Mom was never the best navigator but we kids though this was excessive. Finally, exasperated, she pulled over and unfolded the map to figure out where we were.

I perceived signs suggesting this might not be the best place. One was right beside the car and said NO PARKING. The other was on the building next to us and said POLICE. Mom did not want to hear about this.

In time she discovered the key fact that had eluded her: we were not in Niagara Falls, we were in Buffalo.

Once we drove another twenty miles and arrived in the correct city finding the hotel was pretty straightforward. Mom got reminded of this more than once in later years.

303:

I had to check this, to realise that there actually is a place called "Niagara Falls", as well as one called "Niagara".

304:

I once rocked up to a police station in one of the larger towns up the Newell (Gilgandra or maybe Coonabarrabran), politely asking the way to the nearest petrol station. This was around midnight on an overnighter from Canberra to Brisbane. Had a rental car with a half-built rowboat wrapped in a tarp and tied to the roof, no roof racks but with a couple of pieces of old mattress foam in between the two strangely coupled modes of transport. Some stout sisal wrapped through the back windows, and strong poly line going to the towing rings forward and aft. Had driven through one thunderstorm already (at 110km/h) and went through two more that night. Was running on empty at that point (both me and the car), and probably lucky they didn’t arrest me just on general principles.

305:

I’m a fan of cruise control. It’s the same set of considerations I describe above, with an extra tangent. That foot-eye-speedometer feedback loop takes cycles, imposes cognitive load, is the simplest thing to automate, and once automated the simplest mental model to maintain. But you need the road to be open enough that you don’t have to adjust it that often. I can see the attraction of forward radar adaptive cruise, might even try it in a rental one of these days (it’s available as an option in the sort of thing we’re looking at to replace the old Camry). It seems like it would break the model again, but actually I suspect it just makes the model slightly more sophisticated.

306:

I fairly often encounter places that inform me "Do NOT program our address into the prat nav - go to this other location, and then follow the enclosed directions." In a couple of cases, they told me to not even use the same town or postcode (often used for programming them in the UK)! Obviously, ignorance of that causes the same trouble with a map.

307:

Using the "official town" (or postcode) to reach my actual place of work would cause similar issues, because the official postal address is actually on a different island to the places where the staff are.

308:

Ryanair would love that!

309:

I rock up at 16.15 today and all there is is a queue for Peter Beagle. Gotta be quick off the mark at Worldcon it seems! On the plus side, nice to see so many happy (dare I say rapturous?) nerds in one place.

310:

Paws@267:
On a tangentially related note: In my six decades of travels, five in North America and one in Europe (plus Israel), I have noted some near-universal establishments: Irish pubs, Indian restaurants, and Chinese restaurants. Am I alone in this?

Also, when did English and Irish pubs start serving nachos? And when are they going to be able to properly pronounce "nacho"?

311:

A begging reminder ...
Saturday 17th: Panel: Technology we can't believe we're still using (1300-1350, ECOCEM Room (CCD)) (with Alison Scott, Tom Merritt (Sword and Laser), Dave O'Neill)
Alison is a very near neighbour of mine ... it's a pity I couldn't make it to Dublin & I would LURVE to hear/see what technologies you are thinking of ...
Hydraulic Power?
Blacksmithing?
Rope-making ( A very, very old art/craft/skill/technology ) ??
Brickmaking? ( And hand-pottery of course )
Any of the really old cooking methods & "tricks"?

And, of course, those migh-have-beens, that are still around, but didn't quite "make it"
The Stirling Engine from the first prominently-=known member of a remarkable engineering dynasty ...

Please can we have a "report-back"?

312:

What makes you think that I know anything much about English pubs?

Scottish ones started serving (Tex-)Mex dishes about 30 years ago.

313:

That was mainly a question for the crowd. Have not had the honor of visiting Scotland yet.

314:

"...the 17 physical buttons on the Chevy Bolt steering wheel... like a video game controller"

Sounds awful...

Don't knock it unless you're tried it. More than at a cursory level.

I have a similar steering wheel. All of these buttons are done with my thumbs. A few are circles with a center button and a ring with up/down/left/right options.

And to be honest I do them all with muscle memory and it is easier than touch typing which I've done for decades.

And the turn signal stalk and wiper stalk are reachable with hands still on the wheel by extending my finget tips.

Basically what H and I are saying is that after you spend a not too long amount of time you can control 95% to 99% of your car without taking your hands off the wheel or even looking at the controls. And with adaptive cruse control I get to pay way more attention to what is happening around the car than I used to do.

And do a better job driving than we used to do operating those 3 on the column stick shifts. Going round a corner working the clutch, brake, gas, steering wheel and shift lever was a real trick. I don't miss such nonsense AT ALL.

315:

Para 7 - Big hint; you were trying to do too many things at once, and that's a criticism of your driving, not the controls.

316:

I just found out there is a petition being circulated in New York City, New York, USA to to rename the stretch of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th streets as "President Barack H. Obama Avenue".

Where do I have to go to sign it?

317:

Must admit I've never really got on with three on the tree. But then practically nothing uses it over here; four on the floor (or more, these days) is pretty much universal apart from oddities like old Vauxhall Victors. And what with all those joints in between the lever and the selector rails, on the few occasions I have encountered it, it... let us say, hasn't exactly been in any condition to demonstrate any advantages it might have.

With four on the floor, though, I find it quite natural to do heel-and-toe double-declutch gearchanges when the need arises, having learnt to drive on a car with no synchro on first (and the need often does arise, given the tendency of so many cars to wear out the synchro on second so it's a sod to get it to go in if you don't do the rev-matching yourself). Similarly to drive without using the clutch at all because the linkage snapped part way into the journey, or just because I happen to feel like it (especially on the bike, where the clutch barely makes any difference in the first place).

Having said all that, though, conditions these days are such that I'm either sitting in top gear all the time or sitting in a traffic jam creeping, and the latter situation makes me very glad that I now have an automatic. (The good old classic Borg-Warner 35.)

This is a distraction, though, since what I was intending to respond to was the point about electrical controls. I already can reach, by extending my fingers from the wheel, the one such control that I do need to use frequently - the indicator stalk. The other controls only need touching a couple of times per journey, if at all. (Occasional exception for the wipers when it can't make up its mind how hard to rain, but that switch is hardly any further from the wheel than a stalk would be and is eminently tweakable.)

What really stands out for me in your listing of what the steering wheel buttons do is that in my car - current, previous, and any possible future one if the need for such should arise - those functions do not exist. Nor would it occur to me if I was driving someone else's car to consider whether they might exist. If the previous occupant had left them activated, so that when I first started the car they made a noise or flashed lights at me, then there might be a few minutes of frantic scrabbling trying to figure out how to turn the things off, but that's as far as my intentional interaction with them would go.

Consequently the possibility of inadvertently activating them while driving because the car has the controls for them sprinkled around on something that I am used to being an inert surface, grabbable at any point and only having any effect when rotated in bulk, equates to a strong possibility of unexpectedly being blasted round the head with a wall of sound in the middle of some manoeuvre when I could particularly do without that, and to a near-certainty of being repeatedly pissed off by the same thing happening at less critical moments. And it's even worse if some of the controls are hidden round the back of the wheel where you can't see them - and, on top of that, so positioned that your fingers are likely to meet them without having to search. That arrangement is essentially a less-lethal equivalent of the broken glass I once glued round the inner edge of the wheelarch because I was fed up with coming out every morning to find that it had been bent out of shape the night before by drunkards on their way home from the pub up the road.

If the car is going to include those functions, then I want the controls for them to be separate from the driving controls. I do not want them to be actually stuck on top of the driving controls so those controls end up having secondary, irrelevant, and unwanted functions that are easily inadvertently activated while trying to use the control for its primary purpose. It's not quite as bad as having a reactivity excursion test and a SCRAM shutdown as different functions of a single knob, but it's still an instance of the same class of problem.

318:

Agreed, yes, and I should have made it clearer that "too many things at once" is a function of how your abilities align with the kind of "things" in question. I can handle juggling the controls of a car, but I can't handle juggling balls to save my life - even one ball is "too many things" for me, but that doesn't mean that other people can't do it with several chainsaws with perfect ease and naturalness.

Some of the "advanced driving" schools of thought get very worked up about their prescription of only using one control at a time - though others are equally vehement in condemning it as unnecessary, which leads to vi vs. emacs. I think it is fallacious to assume a blanket position of either polarity; whether it is appropriate or not depends on the situation. I find it is a useful technique when the car is a piece of shit and all the controls fight you, and in that situation it feels natural, but it feels unnatural and constrained when the controls are well designed and maintained, and therefore are responsive instead of pugnacious.

319:

Well, I'm used to being able to accelerate or brake, change gear (block or skip shift down when I'm about finished braking, single shift up) and steer, but note that at no time do I need more than one hand or foot for any given control due to PAS and synchromesh that does.

320:

"foot-eye-speedometer feedback loop"

I don't have such a loop active except for brief periods where absolute speed is being compared externally with an evidentially-calibrated reference. At other times, "speed" is an internal variable derived principally from aggregating dθ/dt and dr/dt of appropriate reference points in the visual field, plus other inputs of lesser significance and/or enumerability. It is also a relative value, not an absolute; the reference value varies according to the conditions, being zero on a narrow country lane, but often around 70mph on a motorway, because the problems are very different - in the one case tracking static boundaries at close range, in the other tracking a large number of individual objects whose relative radial velocities may be positive or negative.

321:

Sounds like you'll enjoy this:-

I was asked "Where is the speed limiter on this car?" and replied "You'll find it conveniently attached to your right ankle."

322:

Exactly. And I've driven stick (including a really cranky old Land Rover Guardian named Thelma).

It's not necessarily the juggling act, it's that the primary driving I do is in heavy traffic, with a mix of everything from the terminally timid to the terminally testosterone poisoned to the terminally distracted to the terminally consciousness-altered to the terminally normal (who are, fortunately, the majority of the drivers). It's an unpredictable mix, and normally I have the radio off, never answer the phone, and pay attention to what's going on around me, because I learned to drive in 80s and 90s-era subcompact "convertibles." Even the speedometer doesn't enter my "control loop" as much as it probably should, since staying in the flow of traffic is more important than the number on the panel. Cruise control, when I use it, requires more monitoring, because I'm constantly prepared to drop out of it. That's not much better than not having it at all.

In this situation, having the buttons I use most (brake, occasionally radio) on the wheel is quite handy. What's less handy is having to turn away to fiddle with the AC on the glass panel, where I have to look at which button my finger is touching. I liked my ancient Camry with its manual AC and fan, because I could operate them by touch as well.

The rest of the wheel buttons I normally play with when the car's stopped.

*"convertible" in the 80s sense, is a small, light weight car without air bags or crumple zones that converts into a coffin in a high speed accident. The only way to avoid activating this feature is to not get in an accident. Why do you call me paranoid?

323:


whitroth@257 said "my last regular full day at work is this coming Tuesday."

Back when coworkers asked my plans for all the extra leisure time every day, I said 90 minutes more sleep, plus 90 additional minutes each for reading, video games, web browsing, biking and TV viewing. It adds up to 7 and a half hours, which mostly replaces the working day. The remaining half hour would allow me to work on my drinking problem, since I'd never had one and figured it was high time I did. That was 2005 and with hindsight I gotta say it was a close estimate, haven't regretted my decision yet. I did cut back on red wine though, from 4 oz. a day to 3 oz., still enough to help keep grease off my heart valves. I think.

On that topic, Burger King now sells for five and a half bucks a plant based protein "Impossible Whopper". Coincidentally it was introduced the same week as the U.N. report on sustainable agriculture, advocating more plant protein in the world's diet, so as to replace animal products for the sake of climate mitigation. I tried one and would have testified under oath I ate a plain old whopper if I hadn't seen the wrapper. My wife tried a bite, frowned and spit it into a paper napkin, but I think she's just ideologically committed to meat protein as a concept. "High praise indeed" one might snark, but it's impressively hard to distinguish it from ground beef, certainly for a vat grown yeast product. Supposedly a bioengineered strain now makes protein close enough to hemoglobin for flavor and texture comparison satisfying most consumers. Beats the heck out of what I'd been expecting, which was more along the lines of Bacos brand soy protein bacon-y bits from the 1970s, served hot, damp and chewy.

324:

The thing about the absolute frame of reference, though, is that a radar measuring it independently can lead to an A$160 fine for “exceeding the speed limit by less than 6 km/h” (adjust units and figures to suit your context) and that’s something I generally prefer to avoid. Which means that while paying attention in the same way you describe one is also obliged to consider the risk posed by this absolute measure of average velocity and this creates the feedback loop I described.

In general, other road users are also making all those judgements all the time and one implication is that to drive safely means to be predictable. One way to achieve that is to maintain a consistent speed, all else being equal. Experientially, other drivers who speed up and slow down all the time are just annoying (especially when they speed up to overtake you, pull in front when there’s just one lane and slow down). Being able to set one’s own speed to be constant is really helpful, then, as it takes away a whole class of errors, returning more ability to pay attention to relative angles, positions and passing speeds as appropriate.

There are people who just won’t use cruise because they feel like it involves a loss of control. And I guess that’s fair enough, but it isn’t a universal.

325:

Meanwhile, in the UK you're most unlikely to be stopped and/or ticketed for less than 5mph/10% (whichever is greater) over the ruling speed limit.

I still recall one trip about 24 years ago from Kent to Cosford (say 100 miles) where I was maintaining a near constant speed (+/- 1mph without cruise), and a car readily identified by the Wendyball supporters' scarves steamered out of the rear passenger doors both sides passed me or was passed by me about 6 times.

326:

Here it’s is now really unlikely to be stopped. There might be a telltale flash from the camera that clicks your plates, but otherwise the first you know is the infringement notice in the post. Used to be that under 10% or travelling away from the camera was regarded as contestable due to margins for error and technology. That’s not the case anymore.

327:

Ah, yes, I forgot you were in Australia... reports I've heard, and yours is another, all tend to reinforce the impression that the place consists in large part of roads through the middle of nowhere which are dead straight for miles and miles and completely empty as far as the eye can see, but nevertheless every bush along the whole length of the road is in fact a rabid speed cop in disguise. It kind of makes me think that someone ought to teach them how not to be seen.

328:

“Accelerate or brake”

Me too, and I’ve never got used to the idea that people think of that heel-toe thing as part of normal driving. I see it as a gimmicky trick that is marginally useful to learn in case your handbrake doesn’t work. I can’t imagine a world where there’s some arbitrary prohibition against using the handbrake for hill starts.

The last couple of times we’ve needed a rental car, the handbrake, after considerable searching, turned out to be a button. Noting Pigeon’s remarks about turning unwanted features off, the most annoying on-by-default feature was the one that stops the engine when the vehicle isn’t moving... luckily able to be disabled by pressing another button. I’m sure there would be a way to disable it by default, but that was buried too deep in menus to find in the time I spent with that car - I just had to remember to turn it off every time we got in. I’m sure I’d have got used to it over time, you just need to develop a different perception of the sort of gap you can accelerate out into or learn to take your foot off the brake a little early or something. Great in heavy traffic, in Melbourne in winter, but not clear what would happen with the aircon in Brisbane in summer (stuck in heavy traffic in 40+C is exactly when you want that to be working properly).

329:

Usually it’s either a fixed speed camera, or a dodgy Mercedes van parked on the footpath (or the verge) with a decal on the side that says “Every k over is a killer”. The fixed ones are predictable, the newish tunnel systems are full of them. The others seem to rotate, and they focus on particular places... places where it’s (sort of) safe to park a Mercedes van on the footpath!

330:

@257 Congratulations.

@322 Really don't like cruise control. Only usable on the highway - off the highway you need a second set of reflexes. On the highway, just helps me be less occupied, which tends to result in unplanned napping.

331:

“More time to write, more time to keep up with the yard (bleah!), and my lady & I will do cons, and even non-con-related travel.”

Congratulations! I suspect there is a trick to working out what it is that people end up missing from work and deciding whether it is something you would in fact miss. If it isn’t, you’re like me and there just isn’t enough time to do all the stuff you want to do, even without work being in the way. If it is, it’s working out what other stuff will give you that thing, whether it’s being around people with a shared sense of purpose or something. Plenty of things that provide that, and not needing to be paid to do them really opens up the field, lets you align it to one of the things you’d be doing anyway if you just had the time.

If your travel plans include my part of the world, be sure to look me up!

332:

"heel and toe" (UK speak) is a race track technique.

"Stop Start" only stops the engine in certain circumstances. It disables itself if the AC is running flat chat like Brisbane in Summer.

333:

"I can't imagine a world where there's some arbitrary prohibition against using the handbrake for hill starts."

There are, though, plenty of cars with a genuinely valid MoT yet also with handbrakes that won't hold them on steep hills (which in some parts is every hill). The MoT regulations specify that the handbrake has to achieve a certain effectiveness, but it doesn't say that it has to be able to achieve it when operated by the owner of the car, and it's still a pass if it can only achieve it when hauled on by a huge greasy bloke built like a gorilla. And the specified figure is kind of low anyway to allow for the number of cars that have crap handbrakes even when new. So the car still counts as legally roadworthy even though the handbrake is largely useless.

Then, as mentioned above, there are the many cars where the synchro on second gear has reconfigured itself into a device for preventing second gear from being engaged if you haven't done the rev-matching yourself. If, instead of heel-and-toeing, you brake first and then try and get second, you end up having to start braking much further back and then spending far too long coasting at 15-20mph while you fiddle about and pissing off all the people behind. Being able to combine the operations means you can still get the turn done neatly and smoothly in a reasonable amount of space/time just like normal. These cars still count as legally roadworthy because dodgy synchromesh isn't a test item at all; I think a car could theoretically pass the MoT with the gearbox missing entirely, although in practice they would probably fail it on the grounds of not being able to move it about.

There is also the situation where the car is in perfect order but does not have synchro on first because it was made like that. Going down a hill which is steep enough to need first for engine braking means that it's also steep enough for the car to run away quite badly even in the second or two it takes to double-declutch into first if you don't keep your foot on the brake while doing it. I learnt to drive in such a car and spent a fair bit of time not on the public road practising stuff like this.

Paws calls it a race track technique, which I guess is true, but I think of it more as a shit cars technique (having driven a not insignificant number of them) or an old cars technique (see previous para). I think we are both agreed that it is not necessary on the road in a reasonably modern car in good order.

334:

there just isn’t enough time to do all the stuff you want to do, even without work being in the way

I have mentioned before being "unemployed" and struggling to find time to look for work once the money started running out...

I am reminded of my mother's solution to bored children "you could do a load of washing, and while the machine is running mow the lawn then... hey, come back, I haven't finished".

335:

annoying (especially when they speed up to overtake you, pull in front when there’s just one lane and slow down

Ah, the well-know "cannot tolerate being behind a cyclist" syndrome. Had one today, some middle-aged gimp in an urban assault vehicle couldn't take it any more and overtook me in a roundabout... a single lane roundabout with a tree in the middle. Sadly he decided that rather than hit the concrete he would swerve sideways and literally push me off the road. This being Australia, my reporting that to the police is unlikely to result in a ticket, and if one is issued it's 50/50 whether it would be me or the motorist that gets it.

337:

I had zoomed in to study the single lane exit and thought “well that’s probably okay, obviously the middle lane must turn right”, then zoomed back and found it was indeed marked that way. So it’s a single lane roundabout with an extra lane around the left for people going straight ahead (which you can’t do if you take the roundabout). Shitty thing to do to overtake a cyclist, or anyone, in the middle of it though. That could almost be the vehicle in question coming off in the street view photo (half expect to see your shadow holding the camera and waving a fist).

338:

That's not the gimp roundabout, that's just one that made me wonder what the designers were taking when they laid it out.

I'm pretty sure this is the one. Note that it's not actually as wide as it looks, and I was towing a bike trailer. Gimp really did not have room for assault vehicle plus bicycle trailer without some serious wedging. Not just the decorative concrete flat bit, but the concrete barriers on each side were involved.

https://www.google.com.au/maps/@-33.7268505,150.8634643,3a,60y,125.71h,71.5t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sCPcv8_ao_kl0P9N334nLag!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Still, the good news is that I have a half-decent bike route to the local encrustation of big box shops, and have made it home with mandarin and lemon trees plus a couple of blueberry plants. Sadly I got the location of the plant nursery wrong so bought plants from Bunnings. Also, the trees I have official permission from the landlord to plant (and that has been conveyed by them to the real estate agency!). I have installed plants with chicken-resistant fences much to the disgust of the chickens. Planting also revealed really shitty soil with no detectable worms and not much organic material. But also a layer of plastic about 10cm down, which makes me wonder about the mentality of whoever put it there. "Weed matting" before they laid instant lawn?

Next step is to remove a 2.5m long fence and replace it with a gate so I can get a truckload of tree shavings from a local arbourist and start working on that "really shitty soil" problem. Might have to go back to Lakemba and steel the contents of the compost bin in order to get works and more organic material, as well as firm up my vege shop dumpster diving.

339:

Oh boy, that's worse than usual even for me.

"Might have to go back to Lakemba and steal the contents of the compost bin to get worms and organic material".

Sory.

340:

#336 and #338 - Those have me wondering about charging the roads "engineers" responsible with multiple acts of "causing or permitting driving without due consideration for other road users".

341:

Moz @ 335
Happens to me a LOT.
There's a noitable minority of testosterone-loaded fuckwits who MUST pass any Land-Rover they see - or alternatively try to stop me overtaking, if I'm cruising up faster, behiond them ...
Because all L-R's are "SLOW" aren't they? Well, not since about 1980 (ish) when they started fitting V8's to some & none after 1990. Bloody dangerous too - one wanker in a BMW nearly tipped himself right over the Armco on a M-way approch road with a TIGHT curve ( I was doing about the max one could with 4wd, approx 55-58 mph ) & he tried to overtake, got bad back-axle tramp ( I could see this ) and braked hard ...
I bumbled on, was doing a staedy approx 68 on the M-way when he passed me about a mile-&-a-half down the road, doing, I would guess about 95.
Other instances come to mind.
Like this idiocy


342:

I’ve probably said this here before, I certainly have in other places. There are people who want to go faster and there are people who just want to go first. The former generally are no problem, because you let them overtake and then they are gone. The latter, however, just make things more dangerous all around.

343:

That's not the gimp roundabout, that's just one that made me wonder what the designers were taking when they laid it out.

What do you think of this one? Spacious and with decent lanes, but with lots of trees and bushes in the large middle island so drivers can't see where they're going. It also has eight streets in and out, so drivers unfamiliar with the neighborhood are regularly launched in random directions. As a roundabout it doesn't get much comment; instead locals talk about the neighborhood as a whole, which is plotted at a 45 degree angle to the rest of the street grid.

Though I've also gone through this one with only three feeders and only a few trees in the middle - but getting in the wrong lane sends you across a bridge where the next turnaround is [checks] 3.3km away.

A roundabout with only one feeder is just a cul de sac. Recently I encountered a roundabout with two which is presumably a traffic calming feature.

344:

Those all look perfectly reasonable to me. Sure, at 100kph they would be challenging but {eyeroll}. I quite like roundabouts with trees, what I dislike are dickheads, both generally and specifically on the road. It's the being run off the road part of that gimp roundabout that made me unhappy, not the roundabout per se. Or having a GPS assume me that the route is suitable for trucks (low trucks, presumably)

Although I would point out that not being able to get a full size moving truck in there is going to make things expensive for some people. Think moving long distance - you're going to pay people to come and get your stuff in small trucks, reload it into a big truck, then drive it the long distance. Or vice versa. Mind you those are all McMansions on small blocks, so they probably have SFA storage space and people will struggle to accumulate much stuff as a result. It's not an insurmountable obstacle, I know, but it does mean they either rent a storage unit or live like the hoarders they are.

345:

Well, the one I'd thinking SE Ladd Ave reminds me of is one locally known as "Sprowart's Folly" after the roads "engineer" who commanded it. The central island for it was about 8 feet high, before it was planted. That's right; trucks and buses couldn't see over it. Also the original feeders were tight; first gear tight if you were in a heavy, and yet cars could orbit the central island at 25 to 30 mph (1970s).

346:

Surely when you can't see over the roundabout you just go even more slowly? And at some point as the diameter expands it stops being a roundabout and becomes more of a perimeter road? I mean, we don't call the Australian Circumferential Highway a roundabout...

347:

The handbrake requirement used to be only 25%, too - I don't know if it still is - and there are plenty of slopes steeper than that.

348:

This is Scotland! :-| Plus you could see far enough to go quicker than a driver joining could accelerate.

Now fire up Bing Maps (or similar), search out Alexandria, Scotland, and zoom in on the railway station. That road around it is a roundabout, about 600x400 feet.

349:

Those all look fine to me. I quite like what I assume is a US convention of marking roundabouts as one-way ring-roads rather than something special. I think the idea that roundabouts are somehow special is the source of a lot of the confusion about using them here.

350:

I see that! Looks pretty nifty. It also contains a pub, apparently.

If you do the same with Indooroopilly, Queensland, Australia there’s a roundabout with a car dealership in the middle. For most of my life it was Ford, but apparently these days it’s Audi (I don’t go by there these days. It used to be that the shopping centre at Indooroopilly was a significant destination in its own right. But these days it is just too incredibly huge to contemplate. The car park is a twisty maze that takes an hour to escape, and the scale is simply out of proportion to anything most sane people could want).

But if big roundabouts interest you, I suggest looking at Canberra, ACT. Australian Parliament House is, essentially, a roundabout but it’s not the only one on that scale.

351:

You're right about the pub, and the car park, and there are or were several businesses on the ground floor and back courts of the flats.

And, at least if I'm looking at the right place in Brisbane (junction of 20 and 33?) yeah, that's a big roundabout and marked as such.

APH, surrounded by Capital Circle and State Circle I see. With Parliament Drive, I make that 3 roads run round it!

352:

"But also a layer of plastic about 10cm down, which makes me wonder about the mentality of whoever put it there."

Lucky you having to worry about the mentality of someone who buries mere plastic.

At a similar depth in my garden I found a layer of lingerie in an advanced state of disintegration. It makes me somewhat unwilling to dig any deeper in case I unearth the layer of dead prostitutes.

353:

"The car park is a twisty maze that takes an hour to escape"

I am increasingly convinced that these places are laid out by a little kid using one of those fuzzy felt sets of road shapes that you can use to make really complicated road networks for your toy cars. It's the only explanation I can think of that makes sense for layout practices like this:

You're heading out of town along a main road. On your right, you pass a supermarket site, but there is no entrance.
Having gone past the site, you turn right into a side road.
50m or so down that, you turn right again to get to the supermarket.
The road you are on now goes right the way around the perimeter of the supermarket site, until you are nearly back at the main road. There are no turnings off it.
When you get to the end, you turn right into the supermarket site proper. This "right" is closer to 180 degrees than 90.
You then drive all the bloody way back around the supermarket site on a road parallel to the one you were just on but heading in the opposite direction, also with no turnings off it, until you are nearly back at the turning off the main road again.
This finally brings you to the entrance to the actual car park. And the supermarket is right at the opposite end from the entrance, next to but not accessible from the 180-degree right turn bit, so now you have to traverse the entire width of the site a third time before you eventually get where you wanted to go.

That description is of a specific example (Goldington Road Tesco in Bedford if anyone cares), but they bloody all try and follow the same principle: stupid layouts that send you bouncing round and round like a photon in a hohlraum and force you to travel several circumferences' worth of distance instead of one radius, which is exactly the sort of thing which is great fun to set up and play with if you're a little kid with toy cars and fuzzy felts, but a pure pain in the arse to deal with in reality.

It's not only supermarkets that do this; it's any kind of facility open to the public that comprises a big building with a big car park. Pretty much the only sites that do not do this stupid thing are the ones where they could only just manage to acquire enough land for the actual facility plus car park and didn't have any spare room for idiocy, but in every case where that does not apply they seem to be under an absolute compulsion to devote at least 20% of the area of the site to useless roads that make you drive pointlessly back and forth for no reason.

354:

really shitty soil with no detectable worms and not much organic material. But also a layer of plastic about 10cm down

Do you know the long term history of the site? In the UK it's fairly common on brown field sites because it's cheaper to put down a barrier and dump 'fresh' soil on top than it is to properly decontaminate a site. Plays havoc with drainage when done badly.

The newish estate next along the road from me here in Cambridge is built on the old University athletics track, the athletics track was there because there's an anthrax burial pit under part of it. Most of the pit is (hoped to be?) under the telephone exchange but there are quite a few "Don't use a JCB here, no, really, don't" signs, and covenants against planting anything the needs more than a trivial root depth.

355:

Pigeon @ 317: Must admit I've never really got on with three on the tree. But then practically nothing uses it over here; four on the floor (or more, these days) is pretty much universal apart from oddities like old Vauxhall Victors. And what with all those joints in between the lever and the selector rails, on the few occasions I have encountered it, it... let us say, hasn't exactly been in any condition to demonstrate any advantages it might have.

With four on the floor, though, I find it quite natural to do heel-and-toe double-declutch gearchanges when the need arises, having learnt to drive on a car with no synchro on first (and the need often does arise, given the tendency of so many cars to wear out the synchro on second so it's a sod to get it to go in if you don't do the rev-matching yourself). Similarly to drive without using the clutch at all because the linkage snapped part way into the journey, or just because I happen to feel like it (especially on the bike, where the clutch barely makes any difference in the first place).

Having said all that, though, conditions these days are such that I'm either sitting in top gear all the time or sitting in a traffic jam creeping, and the latter situation makes me very glad that I now have an automatic. (The good old classic Borg-Warner 35.)

I don't think you'll ever again see "three on the tree" manual transmissions offered again. The only place you'll ever encounter them is if you get a chance to drive a "classic" 50s American car. I don't know about UK/European cars. Every manual transmission car I've ever seen from over there had the gear-shift down on the floor; even those with bench type front seats.

I have once encountered a vehicle with a "Four on the Tree", but only one time and that was a long, long time ago.

I had my Jeep in the shop Thursday & Friday to have the Air Conditioning repaired and I had their "loaner" car for a couple of hours on Friday to take my little doggy to the vet. It's an automatic and I'm quite proud of myself that I didn't once left-foot the brake trying to engage the clutch. But it did take a fair bit of conscious thought to accomplish that.

356:

paws4thot @ 325: Meanwhile, in the UK you're most unlikely to be stopped and/or ticketed for less than 5mph/10% (whichever is greater) over the ruling speed limit.

I still recall one trip about 24 years ago from Kent to Cosford (say 100 miles) where I was maintaining a near constant speed (+/- 1mph without cruise), and a car readily identified by the Wendyball supporters' scarves steamered out of the rear passenger doors both sides passed me or was passed by me about 6 times.

I once had a North Carolina Highway Patrol officer tell me he never bothered to write speeding tickets for anyone who wasn't driving at least 10mph above the speed limit ... partly because judges wouldn't convict & didn't like the officers wasting their time and partly because "there are enough idiots out there going more than 10mph over that I can write all the tickets I want."

Many times I'd be out on the Interstate with cruise set on +9 mph, and a trooper would just sail right past me. Probably the most satisfying feeling I ever get on the road is cruising at +9 mph and have some idiot come blasting past me and a little further down the road I see them stopped by that same trooper.

Back when "Drive 55" was the national speed limit, I had an officer tell me they liked to get out on the Interstate and drive 5mph UNDER the speed limit just to see if anyone has the cajones to pass them (that's where cruise control REALLY comes in handy). I set it RIGHT ON the speed limit & let it do its thing.

357:

paws4thot @ 332: "heel and toe" (UK speak) is a race track technique.

The defensive** driving instructor told me "Brake pads cost less than transmissions. Control your speed with the throttle & use the brakes when you must. Change gears to put the engine in its best RPM range for maximum performance."

**"defensive" as in avoiding bad guys following you with evil intent ... it was free training offered by the U.S. Army. Never had to actually use any of it, but some parts influenced how I ran convoys in Iraq whenever it was my turn to do so. I've also noticed it has some overlap with techniques I've learned for driving to improve your gas mileage (control your speed with the throttle).

358:

_Moz_ @ 336: "italics"_Moz_ @ 336:

https://www.google.com.au/maps/@-33.7238053,150.8453134,3a,60y,72.79h,79.67t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1syYdlex7qLa8B_Yv8MlM0Eg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

That is a pretty EFFED-up roundabout. If you follow what the signs tell you to do, you're going to end going around it backwards.

359:

Similar stories with different literal values for the UK. And you'd better believe I am one of the people who will pass the police in this situation.

360:

Do you know the long term history of the site?

It was farmed for about 20-40ky, then about 200 years ago started reverting back to scrubby grassland, then the scrub was burned off and houses built. For that entire time it's been floodplain/alluvial land, but it's also worth noting that the "rock" being eroded to make the alluvial soil is at best third hand (viz, it's sandstone that's been through at least one previous cycle of erosion, deposition and compaction).

As far as I can tell there's never been any industrial development and the neighbours don't have the layer of plastic. I have sent soil samples off to be tested but that's via a soil mapping project at a university so it's not necessarily a quick process.

361:

Brake pads cost less than transmissions

That's one of those "technically true but irrelevant" things. If you're the one paying, brake pads cost more than driving properly, and driving properly is a skill that can be learned. Worth noting that even automatic gearboxes in trucks use engine braking (albeit badly, as they do everything else except catering to dummies). In the commercial world engine braking costs less than brake pads, so owner-drivers do that. Employee drivers often do it because brakes fade but engine braking is forever. When you're going down a long hill there's just no reasonable way to fit brakes that will cope with the power that has to be dissipated (think metre-wide "jet engine intakes" complete with compressor blades blowing air across the drums, as used in the test labs where they make sure that the drums can do what they claim).

For a military where every single bit of equipment has to be manufactured to be used and maintained by malicious idiots, then yes, brake pads cost less than transmissions. Burning out the brakes and crashing the truck is just something you do to maintain the acceptable casualty rate.

362:

stupid layouts that send you bouncing round and round like a photon in a hohlraum

This is another reason to love my bicycle. Yesterday I navigated the maze of big box stores in a very direct way. Starting with "cross 6 lane road" by noting a large gap in traffic so I just rode to the centre island, then realised I wanted to be on the other side of the cross road so I rode to the island there, then crossed as a pedestrian when the light changed. Then rode down through a very gentle drainage ditch and up into the car park. I have no idea how cars get there, I just went straight from footpath to the entry I wanted. Which I parked kind of in, because there's no bicycle parking so I did the Sydney "stopped is parked" thing.

https://www.google.com/maps/@-33.7177402,150.8435023,3a,75y,321.22h,87.16t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sFzKrxaGSmCRi9FjRJInsdg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Then down to the pet shop, which was one outbreak down the road, so for a motorist would be out to the main road, down a block, back in to a new maze. For me, ride down footpath/shared path next to road, see shop, push bike up embankment and into carpark, ride to automatic door, push bike into "mall" and park it outside pet shop.

I mean, the sign says "welcome" and there's an arrow...

https://www.google.com/maps/@-33.7205857,150.8441423,3a,75y,232.03h,94.63t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1srvYFltwduXCTFA4InBzRZQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

363:

Same here, though it’ll be around 10km/h under the limit. There may well form a line of cars behind and even tailgating the cops, making it all the more imperative to pass them safely.

364:

It's a planning issue.

Commercial park zones cannot have a single access point to a highway [i]that only give access to a single business[/i] (they can, but then you need to own all the commercial zone and it costs more, due to zoning). It's very expensive if you want to do it - even IKEA etc don't.

There's also laws about traffic flow and speeds. i.e. You need to have X meters of road to transition from 50/60 mph highway > 30/20 mph commercial zone. This requires X meters of "run off". If land is a premium, you run a zig-zag silly U-turn.

In highly priced zones this means you'll get mini-roundabouts (designed to curtail speed) and pointless wiggles (designed so that if the area actually becomes commercially viable you've space (that you own) to negotiate into the next fubar planning application) as "border".

It's a WW1 - Vietnam tactic.

They're not roads, they're wire to prevent any other competitor crunching you out if your Zone Class Commercial A/B/! gets interesting.

IKEA are masters at it. Look up their designs from the 80's. Guy was a Neo-Nazi, but brilliant.


Related, but different: Milton Keynes has more roundabouts than 81% of the entire USA continent. There's a very good theory that states that MK was designed (at that point in time) to basically force UK residents to learn to "round-a-bout".

UK Citizens: can do roundabouts.

USA Citizens: literally cannot.

RU Citizens: can do them but only while drifting.

FR Citizens: can do them, but FUCK NO THERE ARE NO LANES, ESPECIALLY IF THE ARCH DE TRI IS THERE.

etc


It was deliberate. "City of the Future" was an A grade soft nudge to get anyone from the Midlands - London to go there, learn how to round-a-bout and then spread.

True Story. (Ballard).

~


Anyhow.

What's been interesting?


Lots. The entire Epstein stuff is a major Snow-Job though. grep a little, it's real obvious panic.


grep "crash so hard". Negative Bond Yields? weeeee.


365:

Also JBS - In the UK, cops patrol dual carriageway (out motorway is a sub-set of dual carriageway physically) under the speed limit because they want us to overtake them rather than form a block behind them.

366:
FR Citizens: can do them, [...]
The old problem with roundabouts in France was that until quite recently* the traditional priorité à droite rule applied, so people entering the roundabout had priority over people leaving it. That changed in the 1990's but required a whole set of new road signage, road markings and confusion. All sorted now, but there were a few fun years.


(* Based on my old-farts definition of "recently").


Aside: damn but aren't you people are a bunch of car addicts.

367:

damn but aren't you people are a bunch of car addicts.

There are some very vocal devotees of the temple of the motor gods, yes. But there's also EC and me who have not just bicycles, but weird bicycles. I've never owned a car (briefly owned a truck... a real truck, not a US "truck", otherwise known as a ute).

Although you may also get pushback from certain people on the basis that a Landrover is not a car, or at least proper (very old) Landrovers are not cars. He makes up for it by being extra-dedicated to the cause.

368:

366 & 367
Err, no.
I LURVE my old Land-Rover, but I actually use it very little - but when I need it - I really do need it.
I do a much bigger mileage by rail than any other mode, & walk more frequently than any other mode. I also cycle.

369:

By way of mitigation, I’d add that Paws, Frank and a few others and I are addicted to quite small and/or electric cars. I cycle too, though will admit to contemplating adding an electric motor to my bicycle just in the interest of using it more. For me the cycle route to work is maybe 160% the distance of the car trip. In theory I could follow the same route, but in practice fuck no (and refer to the bloke Moz describes running him off the road). I’ve got decent, even enviable options for public transport too, but at this particular point in life they leave me enough more constrained to prefer to avoid that (though I have in fact used them a lot lately anyway). Privileged as all hell here really, just finding a way through it all that works for some values thereof.

370:

Yes and no. Road design affects all road users.

I do drive a lot, but cycling to work in gale force winds (Beaufort Scale meaning of gale) is a stupid idea.

371:

No discussion of roundabouts can be complete without an obligatory mention of the one I took my driving test around.

Swindon's Magic Roundabout - renamed by the locals by popular demand from whatever local dignatory it was originally named after.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Roundabout_(Swindon)

It's actually very easy to navigate if every user understood it's logic, more's the pity that most don't.

372:

It is a classic incompetence of Planners to assume that the only road users are people who use the farcility daily, followed only by the ones of producing farcilities that can be used safely only by ignoring the rules, and ones that can be used safely only if the road user is able to see all signs at all times. Roundabouts encourage both in them.

'Magic roundabouts' are an obscenity - attempting to navigate an unfamiliar one surrounded by fast moving high-sided vehicles or in pouring rain is murder. Of course, some people keep their eyes glued to the prat nav (hearing is too slow and imprecise, and we can't all rely on it, anyway) with the failure modes THAT entails.

So are many mini-roundabouts, especially the ones used to merge two lanes into one on the roundabout, merely by its existence.

373:

Before the Planners and so-called Cycle Campaign made the only useful routes from my house too dangerous for me to use any longer, I used to do more mileage on my bicycle than my car.

374:

Actually commercial vehicles (trucks and busses) don't engine brake. They have special devices call retarders that use hydraulics to dissipate most of the kinetic energy before brake pads start to work.

On such big vehicles engine breaking would be too noisy, so it is forbidden.

375:

Well, if we're going that way, what about roundabouts with added traffic lights (in some cases when the junction was first built)?

I think they're a tacit admission that a roundabout wasn't or isn't the correct traffic management solution for the junction in the first place.

376:

Meh. Selection effect. The people who, eg, really plan to stay in metros with decent public transit until self-driving cars are reasonably inexpensive are probably less likely to post into that particular discussion. My main interest in cars is still spending less time in them - not out of environmental concerns - just pure hatred. (And I've arranged my life so that I walk to work.)

377:

Damian @ 363: Same here, though it’ll be around 10km/h under the limit. There may well form a line of cars behind and even tailgating the cops, making it all the more imperative to pass them safely.

I've never seen them do it anywhere except on a 4-lane highway like an Interstate, so the length of the line of cars behind the trooper isn't really a factor in whether you can safely pass.

378:

paws4thot @ 365: Also JBS - In the UK, cops patrol dual carriageway (out motorway is a sub-set of dual carriageway physically) under the speed limit because they want us to overtake them rather than form a block behind them.

That doesn't really make a lot of sense, because most drivers instinctively react by slowing down to the same speed the Police Car is traveling, without ever looking at the speedometer. The majority of drivers will not overtake a police car out on the highway no matter how slow it's going.

379:

John Hughes @ 366: Aside: damn but aren't you people are a bunch of car addicts.

Yeah, the same way some people are addicted to food, water & air. It's often a function of where you live or where you work or what you do for a living.

Around here there are a lot of places I can't get to on foot - either too far away or there's no safe sidewalk to travel on. Plus, have you ever tried to take an electric guitar & amp on a bicycle (or a city bus)?

Or for that matter - a camera, bag, tripod and lights? ... the necessary tools & spares for servicing fire alarms? or computers (two of the jobs I've done in my life).

There's not even a single grocery store in this town I can get to without a car (see above: "either too far away or there's no safe sidewalk").

380:

Car addict? Guilty, used to cycle a lot, relationships, children, grandchildren and age cut that to nearly nil. The nail in the coffin is no safe bicycle parking at my employer, I remain unconvinced I would still have a bicycle at the end of my shift.

381:

Yup. I traded in a home that was walkable to most of what I needed to do for one that could hold serious solar panels, but we have to drive everywhere, or walk 1.5 miles to the nearest store (which we do on occasion). Hence the electric car.

This is actually a non-trivial point. One of the many naive things coming out of the current Extinction Rebellion is the idea that it'll be easy to get cars out of cities, since cars have only been around for a century or so. Much as I want the ER to succeed, if they don't get clued in in a hurry, there's not much hope for them. Unfortunately for their optimism, there are millions of people living in sprawling cities that were designed around automobiles, and those cities are going to have to be radically rebuilt or abandoned when we lose cars. Got room for 19 million people from southern California to live somewhere without cars? If so, we'd better get to migrating ASAP.

382:

That problem does indeed arise. Their usual mitigation is to stick with the trucks - the general speed limit is 70mph but it's 56mph for trucks, enforced by a limiter, so you get lane 1 full of trucks doing exactly 56mph, and the outer lanes full of cars doing somewhere around 70. (Let us ignore for the moment those trucks whose limiter kicks in at 56.1mph sitting in lane 2 overtaking the trucks with limiters that act at 55.9mph with a 0.2mph speed differential.) Since "everyone knows" that trucks are always doing a lot slower than 70mph, the police reckon to sit in lane 1 pacing the trucks so that "everyone knows" that they too are doing a lot slower than 70mph and therefore you have buckets of margin to overtake them legally without being nicked merely for doing it. It mostly works, but you still do get people who are too dim to work it out or too nesh to overtake even if they do understand, and you also get more of these if there don't happen to be any trucks about to make the low speed of the police car obvious.

383:

True, and probably not actually helped any by people like me. IF I'm not in any hurry I'll normally sit following a truck because I'm not using much lane width that people who want to go faster could use to do so.

384:

I think they're evidence that the local council is controlled by people who hate cars and think that making driving a less pleasant experience is going to stop people using them. Of course what actually happens is you just get the same number of cars spending more time sitting in traffic jams burning fuel to no effect, because what the hell else are people going to do.

When I was living in Bedford I saw several roundabouts and other junctions, which worked if not brilliantly at least well enough to keep things moving some of the time, converted into traffic-light-controlled junctions. The results were things like junctions that previously only generated significant queues in rush hour now generating them at all times bar the middle of the night, with a similar extension in the proportion of time those queues got big enough to reach all the way back to the preceding junction and lock that up too. At the same time, in the less busy outskirts of the town where fucking with junctions alone wouldn't do much to create jams, they did things like turning bus stops inside out: converting them from a layby where the bus could pull off the road out of the way to a kerb formation of the same dimensions but convex instead of concave, so it stuck right out into the road, and then put an island opposite it, such that when a bus stopped there it blocked the road completely and left no way to get past at all - which was a pretty reliable way of generating instant queues that would block the roundabout 25m before the bus stop every time a bus called. (Yes, I do know the official excuse for this kind of bus stop layout and I think it's transparent balls.)

What all these types miss is that Bedford (or wherever) is not London. The principles behind these policies (note: not the same thing as the policies themselves) do apply in London at least to some extent, because of the unique conditions: the vastly greater size of the area of choked roads, and the (comparatively) extreme density of the public transport network. (Though even in London there are areas where the coverage isn't up to scratch.) In ordinary towns, with a radius of a couple of miles and a public transport provision that consists of a railway to the next town, the stick is too small to have any effect and the carrot nonexistent.

People in general are not going to stop using cars unless alternative options both exist at all and are less shit. And since the alternative options all start off being inherently shit in some aspects by reason of their very nature, and are nearly always made considerably more shit by the way they are implemented ("eyewatering expense of fares compared to petrol" always applies even if nothing else does), driving has to become staggeringly shit before the alternatives become more attractive. Only in London does this happen naturally; anywhere else it is so far from being the case that attempts to replicate the conditions artificially are blatantly obvious for what they are, so political considerations limit the extent to which that can be done, and even without that it would still be pointless as there is absolutely never any attempt to provide alternative transport facilities of any kind, let alone ones good enough to be useful.

This seems to be a particular consequence of a general human failing: enthusiasts for a particular cause tend to assume that everyone else would come to share their enthusiasm if only they tried it, limit their understanding of its negative aspects to those factors that they themselves find particularly irritating, and reflexively deny or belittle the importance or existence of those negative aspects which are significant to non-enthusiasts. An obvious example is health food enthusiasts who assume the only reason everyone else doesn't share their eating habits is because they've never tried it; it seems to be beyond them to understand that nearly everyone actually has tried it, many times, often under compulsion, and are therefore fully informed and able to decide for themselves that they do not want to eat it because they don't bloody like it. So we get dimwits like Jamie Oliver and his "healthy school meals" campaign, where schools that follow the programme have to institute draconian bounds surveillance first to stop kids going out to the chippy or the supermarket in lunch break and buying their own lunch in preference to the Oliverian provision, and then, if that proves effective, to stop the more indulgent parents passing more palatable food over the fence - and even this kind of evidence does not manage to paste it through the Oliverians' skulls that the kids simply do not like the stuff, and aren't going to, and all they're achieving is to make them hate it for other reasons as well as the taste.

In the transport area, and without meaning any disrespect to EC et al, it's the cycling enthusiasts who seem to be one of the worst groups for this. I cite a long and unproductive argument I had with one such, who was afraid of traffic and was convinced that everyone would happily commute daily by bicycle between Blackburn and Preston if only there was a dedicated cycle path between the two. Er, no. I lived there one winter. From Blackburn to Preston is 20 miles (so call it at least 2.5 hours), it's usually at least two out of cold/raining/windy/snowy, and it's far from flat. Only a complete nutter is going to spend 5 hours a day battling over that route on a bicycle, path or no path. (Indeed the handful of nutters who do exist would avoid the path if there was one, complaining about broken glass.) This chap may have been particularly extreme, but it doesn't take very long arguing with any cycling fanatic to uncover a similar degree of detachment from reality lying behind nearly all their main arguments and rendering them worthless.

385:

On such big vehicles engine breaking would be too noisy, so it is forbidden.

Oh, the joy of living in a small, densely populated country. Outside of minor roads in major cities engine braking is how trucks stop in Australia. Yes, it's loud. But not as loud as it used to be.

You might be right in that wikipedia says engine braking the jargon term refers to something diesel can't do, and what diesel's do is actually compression braking, but that's one of those things that most people don't need to know or care about, so it's easier to say braking using the engine and move on.

As for hydraulics, for that to work you'd need a big radiator somewhere to dissipate the heat. Lacking that I can only assume that trucks don't brake the way you describe. The only references I can see to hydraulic braking are to conventional hydraulically actuated brakes, but I'd love to see a link to the system you describe.

386:

I'll agree this and note the latest business of "you must leave 5' between a powered vehicle and a cyclist you are overtaking". Apparently neither of the other associated arguments that cyclists should not "filter" between traffic lanes, between the LH traffic lane and the kerb, or stop in passing places to allow powered traffic to overtake apply! Even though one of the 2 main principles of H&S is that you do not place yourself in danger.

387:

At one time I was a cycling nutter myself - but only on a personal level. I used to cycle absolutely everywhere within 10 miles or so radius, and transport anything I could lift on the luggage rack (25kg sacks of pigeon food, fridges, piles of old PCs higher than my head...). But I didn't think it odd that other people didn't do the same things.

Also, it's circumstance-dependent. At the time I had normal lung function and lived in a place where there were no hills. Where I live now there is a significant hill involved in going anywhere, and I now get out of breath going up the stairs, so the bicycle no longer gets used. Instead I insist on some form of powered transport to go anywhere. These days most of my mileage is covered on my mobility scooter, but it's not something I talk about much because it's essentially the same as walking but with an electric motor, so it's as uninteresting as walking for discussion, and only people with similar mobility scooters are likely to be interested in the minor areas of difference.

"The people who, eg, really plan to stay in metros with decent public transit until self-driving cars are reasonably inexpensive"

That definitely isn't me! Assuming that by "metros" you mean "cities", the only one that qualifies is London, and while I find its urban infrastructure quite fascinating I consider it utter dogshit as a place to live. Nor do I consider self-driving cars to be any of practical, personally desirable, a useful solution to any problem relating to personal transport, or usable at all without a complete line-by-line audit and exorcism of every piece of code in the thing, given that their development is so influenced by those who see evil as a business model.

More than that, I find them positively angering - well, to be more accurate, they will inevitably exist as a subset of electric cars, and I find electric cars positively angering. The reason is that they are never going to be "reasonably inexpensive". Because nobody wants to pay for the infrastructure. So nobody made sure to install a battery module exchange and charging facility at every petrol station before starting to make electric cars. The result is that we are now stuck with the shitty design pattern that builds into the car a single vital component that not only costs several grand, but continues to be worth several grand for static storage applications even when it's too tatered to be any use in a car. Therefore there will never be any such thing as a cheap, usable electric car: either it will be a useless shell with no battery in it, or it will be worth a packet for the battery even if every other part has had it.

I've had this argument with people who have electric cars and have even bought and sold them and think this gives them grounds to deny its truth. This is because their definition of "reasonably inexpensive" includes "multiple recurring costs each of which individually are more than I've ever paid for an entire sodding car", and therefore it is their arguments whose truth I deny.

And I can all too easily imagine it becoming unreasonably difficult to get hold of petrol on the grounds that "everyone uses electric cars now" for values of "everyone" that exclude everyone who can't bloody afford the things. This would mean that everywhere I want to go simply because I enjoy being there, plus many places that I only visit from necessity, become inaccessible. And that prospect really pisses me off.

I freely admit to finding cars a subject which provokes me to verbosity, for various reasons. As regards driving them, I hit enough things (but never any people) in my days of youthful madness that I have since put some effort into finding out how to do it properly, and that covers a lot of stuff that is neither taught for the driving test nor readily learned purely from one's own experience, and which most people never are taught, so I do tend to nerd on about it. I also nerd on about the engineering side of them for the same reason that I do with washing machines and things - having taken lots of them apart and put them back together. And also, as above, I put considerable value on being able to get about the place without having to get other people to ferry me about in some form.

388:

One of the many naive things coming out of the current Extinction Rebellion is the idea that it'll be easy to get cars out of cities

The point ER is trying to make, and the reason so many of us get so frustrated, is that you're looking at things backwards. The question is not "from what we have now, what's are some easy reductions in impact?". That's a question for the 1970's and 1980's. ER start from the explicit premise that the science is correct and we are facing ecosystem collapse. The question is therefore "given ecosystem collapse, what civilisation do we need to build in order that some of us survive?"

In shipwreck terms, we're in the Titanic and we've seen the iceberg a mile away. You're saying "if we turn too hard people will spill their drinks" and ER is saying "head for the life rafts we're going to sink". Whining about spilled drinks, or even the quality of accommodation in the life rafts, is missing the point.

389:

Well, I have a simple test for self-driving vehicles. Are the project managers responsible for the teams developing the code prepared to put themselves, literally and physically, in front of a vehicle doing 50mph, pass criteria being that they are not injured and the vehicle does not crash itself or cause another one to do so by its evasion.

390:

Plus, have you ever tried to take an electric guitar & amp on a bicycle (or a city bus)? Or for that matter - a camera, bag, tripod and lights? ... the necessary tools & spares for servicing fire alarms? or computers (two of the jobs I've done in my life).

You do know that I exist, don't you?

I rode a megametre or so round Aotearoa carrying a pro camera setup (~100l/25kg) including a sizeable diffuser for my flash. I didn't carry a full tripod lighting rig because I didn't need one. I've carried subsets of that significantly bigger distances, and supersets of it round town on a fairly regular basis.

Tools are trickier, but it's worth noting that the great majority of people don't have to commute with their tools and of the ones who currently seem to, many could find alternatives if the other option was not working. The classic example is construction, where 90% of the workers "need" a ute full of tools but the other 10% somehow scrape by with one truck+site office and a whole lot of ride sharing and public transport. It's almost as though taking their tools home every night is a comforting ritual rather than being essential. Not to mention that by definition those people are fit and active, so the usual whining about elderly and disabled people not being able to walk a kilometre can't apply.

391:

their definition of "reasonably inexpensive" includes "multiple recurring costs each of which individually are more than I've ever paid for an entire sodding car"

Of course, because you force the rest of us to pay most of the cost of your sodding car. Just because you don't pay the price doesn't mean it's zero.

392:

Try "hydrodynamic braking" for a search term. It's been used in railway applications, although I've not heard of it being used for trucks.

As for engine braking being "forbidden", I've not heard of anything with a diesel engine or a four-stroke petrol engine that has a freewheel, and it seems pretty impractical to forbid taking your foot off the throttle. What does get banned is the "jake brake", or compression brake, which is noisy, but is also a rather different kettle of fish.

393:

It’s probably a realistic expectation that if you leave your tools at a work site they will get nicked. Could be to do with how construction is contracted. If the construction company is one firm that employs people to work for it and provides the tools to do the work, then leaving everything at the site office. If the firm is a tiny one and all the workers are subcontractors who need to supply their own tools, then if you’re one of the subbies you need a ute full of tools and preferably a big dog to look after them when you’re on site. I imagine there is a full gamut of cultures in the middle, attached to reputations and your prospects of getting work.

394:

Bollocks. I pay little for cars because my definition of a desirable car is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike most other people's. So I get them when they are not all that far short of the point where the owner has to pay someone to take them away, and keep them possibly for years in a state of "roadworthy, and fine by my standards, but nigh valueless to anyone else".

(I do the same with many technological items. For instance I don't buy microwave ovens in shops; I collect them out of other people's rubbish bins and swap parts until I get a functional transformer, diode, capacitor and magnetron in the same chassis. Non-essential functions like rotating tables, internal lights, low power modes, door interlocks etc. can go hang, and will be bypassed or ignored as appropriate.)

What I'm complaining about is the prospect of there being no cars around except ones which have a single vital component of such a nature that they are always worth thousands to someone if they function at all, and only become nigh valueless to anyone else if that component has been removed, thereby making them valueless to me also.

And by "multiple recurring costs" I mean things like the price charged by a garage to do a routine service, versus the cost of some oil and a filter to do it myself, or the insurance premiums charged for a car that could be sold for a lot of money versus those charged for a car that the insurance company will write off for a scratch on the paint. Plenty of people don't seem to see a problem with spending that sort of money. I think they're fucking idiots, but it's their choice: nobody is forcing them to spend it; alternatives are available. I on the other hand do not have a choice, and the alternatives are my only option. That's just fine, since they're the option I'd take if I did have a choice. But I do most strongly resent the prospect of that sole option disappearing because people who don't respond to every difficulty by throwing money at it are not worthy of consideration.

It's not a question of me forcing other people to spend money - which is nonsense anyway - but of people who don't have any sodding money being forced to spend the same amount as people who do have money voluntarily piss up the wall or else accept immobility, because they are assumed not to exist. Which is the same thing that infuriates me about many other aspects of modern living: the assumption that everyone is rich. Like the numerous bill payment systems where it isn't enough simply to be able to get enough money together each month to pay the bill, instead you either have to have a lot more money sitting around at all times so that the payee can just grab a lump when they feel like it and it doesn't fuck you up, or else put up with the bills themselves being larger as a punishment for not having enough money for the trivial convenience of those with shit loads of it. Or the online ordering systems that grab a quid to see if it works on the assumption that they are grabbing from an unlimited pool so it won't make any difference, when in fact what they have just done is make sure that the main payment won't work because there is no longer enough money available.

395:

It's certainly a realistic expectation in England. You take your tools home in a van and at the very least park it with the load area doors up against a wall, or preferably take the tools indoors (and have a sticker "No tools left in this van overnight" or similar). Anything that has an engine or a motor and is light enough to be lifted over the wall by as many blokes as will fit round it or fewer will get nicked. This includes such things as sub-assemblies which become liftable once you have ripped them free of the larger assembly they are part of. It also includes the dog, unless they poison it instead.

396:

Ah, so the problems solved by the electric car are also solved by your zero-emission, zero-pollution car that you only use on private roads. Thus you're not imposing any costs on others except the minor usurption cost of having private land.

Or perhaps you are simply unwilling to accept that pollution, road carnage and the inconvenience of those things are costs faced by others.

397:

if you leave your tools at a work site they will get nicked.

That's definitely an issue, but it's also largely a solved problem. I say this having talked at some length to someone who owned a "mobile site office" made of coolstore panels and security was a significant consideration for him. One thing he did that was perhaps slightly counterintuitive was strongly encourage his subbies to store their tools in it overnight in order to weigh it down. But I also got introduced to him via stopping to take photos and having him come bustling over to me to demand that I not, because his assumption was that I was preparing to steal it.

The "office" weighed about 3500kg in normal trim, well over 4500kg when loaded with site stuff, and was immobilised in several ways. Most obviously a concrete fence post between the dual wheels and running across the thing, chained to it at both ends with the chains running through holes on the wheel hubs. Viz, can't tow it with that thing installed. Plus a removable hitch and presumably electronic alarms and other things he may have declined to specify. There's a bunch of things I could do to make it hard to cut open and I suspect he was no less capable.

So yeah, that and simple BFI stuff like "hire a security guard" work.

I note that in the UK there's a bit of a trend for thieves to take stuff like engines out of common vehicles, generally in fairly destructive ways. So you come in on Monday and there's a nice row of work vans, each of which has the bonnet crowbared open, the hoses and wires cut, and then engine removed.

Similar problem on building sites - people will steal the yet-to-be-installed or partly-installed kitchen, as well as obvious stuff like appliances and windows. I get the impression that people try very hard to install that stuff the day it arrives on site, but I still read occasional reports of a new build losing all the windows and doors plus random loose building materials (pallets of bricks, even)

398:

You take your tools home in a van and at the very least park it with the load area doors up against a wall, or preferably take the tools indoors

An electrician in England who I watch on youtube has recently had a bit of experience with that. Multiple video episodes around securing the vans, dealing with shitty aftermarket locks then finally taking them to the professionals abut rundamentally he's trying to put locks on a thin tin can.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3TDlE_vZkg

399:

I know you're Australian, but you might want to watch a documentary on nickel mining in Canada, and check some of the nastier failure modes of lithium ion batteries before claiming that battery electric cars actually solve problems.

400:

What you're trying to argue has nothing to do with my point. My complaint is fundamentally about capitalism and its assumption that people who don't spend lots of money don't exist, in combination with the insistence of governments on making someone else pay for infrastructure and services the provision of which is a considerable part of what governments are bloody for in the first place and their happy acceptance of the shitty results which are the inevitable consequence of allowing such things to become the domain of profit-making enterprises. Other complaints in the same domain that people have posted on here include the consequences to the power grid of the spread of electric cars when the government won't pay for the required extra grid capacity, and the pollution caused by profit-making enterprises extracting exotic materials for the batteries and motors in ill-regulated third world countries. I and others have further complaints also in the same domain but concerning other subjects, such as medical services, the internet, electricity supply, rail transport, housing, etc, many of which have also been posted on here.

Your position on the other hand appears to be that it's wrong for me to have freedom of movement unless I atone for my sins by handing over large sums of money to support the abovementioned irresponsible profit-makers (or to support other people's support of them); that my current mode of operation, which both by choice and by necessity involves giving them as little as possible, is somehow reprehensible because cars are a member of that enormous class of things which have bad points as well as good. My interpretation may be wide of the mark but even allowing for that it still makes no sense. If you support transitioning to electric cars, then logically you should support my position, as it is one of objection to the artificial exclusion of a large class of people from making that transition.

401:

I used to work in the industry. Our unit ended up like Fort Knox - steel panels over all the doors, steel prison bars in all the windows, and a fancy alarm with a dedicated line to the police station that was continuously monitored for integrity (and at least one lot did call the police on themselves by cutting it). We still lost engines over the fence off things that were too big to bring indoors at night. The construction industry provides a certain class of criminal with a target-rich environment, and it takes rather a lot to put them off - for instance, the copper wire they intend to steal having 25kV running through it and moving trains underneath is not necessarily adequate.

402:

In my opinion electric cars are one of the least awful solutions for people who literally cannot get round any other way. The trouble is that they're mostly used as a crutch by people whose disabilities are social rather than physical or mental, so it's difficult to see them as anything other than deeply problematic.

Fossil fuelled cars, OTOH, are just a disaster. And sure, new technology in electric cars has its problems, but when you compare it to the giant rolling clusterfuck that is fossil cars it's a breath of fresh air. We're in "man bites dog" territory, where no-one bothers reporting silly little fossil problems because they're ubiquitous. They only become newsworthy when the death toll gets into the hundreds or thousands, or when the environmental toll is so blatant it's dramatically affecting hundreds or thousands.

But every single death from an electric car is newsworthy for two unrelated reasons: first is novelty, since there are so few of them. When one of the 30,000 people murdered by motorists every year in the US alone dies to an electric vehicle that's a noticeable boost to the electric death toll. But second, and perhaps more important, the people who control the media are the same people who want to destroy the ecology we're part of, and making electric cars look bad is part of that. Those problems are newsworthy for the same reason as every other nihilist talking point is.

I get that much of the damage is indirect and hard to attribute, but that doesn't mean it's not there. Claiming you're too stupid to avoid causing that damage is on you, not me, and it's you that needs to justify doing it. This isn't you individually murdering someone because they stand between you and some minor convenience, this is you being one of a million people who collectively kill a small crowd of people every year. I'm asking you to justify that.

403:

I'm not sure how you can solve that by taking the tools home every night. I know tradies, and one of them had his whole van stolen from inside a locked garage next to his house. He was *pissed*, because they smashed his front door, ransacked the house to get the keys, opened the garage and stole the van. No damage to the garage though...

There's nothing you can do to stop those kind of high-value, easy-sale items. Asking construction workers not to buy stolen tools is a waste of time, and getting the general public to stop is so pointless I'm not sure anyone even bothers pretending any more.

But saying "the obvious solution is to drive the tools home every night" is wrong as well as false economy.

404:

OK, first show that electric cars will directly kill fewer people per year. Then, and only then, you may have a point.

405:

Pigeon @ 384
London Brough of What the Fuck ( Oops, "Waltham Forest" ) have got that disease very badly, led by an uspeakable piece of local slime, called Loakes ( Cllr ) who hates all cars, no matter what. Their "mini-holland" scheme is SUPPOSED to make life better for cyclists - it doesn't - it's based on the "idea" that if you shit on the "Motorists" - almost all of whom are local residents - then life is automatically better for cyclists. As someone who still cycles, I can tell you that it ain't so ...
But then Loakes has form as a wrecker -- he tried his best to get our two superb local museums closed.

it's the cycling enthusiasts who seem to be one of the worst groups for this.
Yeah, I've deliberately gone to several local meetings about "mini-holland" by cycle - and IMMEDIATELY was shouted down by the "Professional" cylcling brigade, because I'm apparently not a "proper" cyclist ( I don't wear lycra ) & I am evil because I also own a car ...

@ 400
Yes, this, hence my decision, back in 2003 to get ONE car for the rst of my life, if at all possible & keep on running it ... ( And doing all the routine maintenace myself )
About to be fucked-over, of course by the stupid arrogant shit Khan.

paws @ 389
😰

@ 404
ONLY if they really do mandate having them make a noise whilst in motion, otherwise they really will, if not kill, certainly maim a lot of people.

406:

first show that electric cars will directly kill fewer people per year

WTF? My point was that electric cars are likely to kill as many people directly. Almost the whole problem with electric cars is that they are nearly as bad as infernal combustion engine cars in that regard. Sure, direct tailpipe emissions are lower, so people won't be able to kill themselves by running a pipe from the exhaust, but everything else is there: the land and other resources for roads, the road toll (we pay in lives, but they're all toll roads), pollution from wear and tear (dust = fine particulates etc).

If you're willing to count the wars for oil, and the associated petrochemical industry as significantly part of cars, then yup, those deaths are much, much less caused by electric cars. The number of deaths caused by petrol station fires and explosions is nearly zero for electric cars and almost entirely caused by fossil vehicles. Die in a fire... that's pretty direct.

The difference is the the climate damage from electric cars at least has the potential to be near-zero, where fossil cars guarantee catastrophe.

407:

"The difference is the the climate damage from electric cars at least has the potential to be near-zero, where fossil cars guarantee catastrophe."

That is NOT true, not even remotely. They will eliminate the carbon dioxide produced by burning fuel (and its production), but almost certainly require slightly more energy to make, require a factor of AT LEAST TWO upgrading of electic distribution and generation capabilities, definitely use components that are much harder to recycle and more damaging when not recycled perfectly, and increase road construction's and maintenance's impacts and their consequences, being heavier, redoubled in spades for lectric lorries/trucks. Also note that asphalt is petroleum-based, eventually produces carbon dioxide when it decomposes, and cement needs lots of energy.

One of the reasons that I doubt they are going to help much is that the electric car fanatics make such claims - and they are self-evident bollocks, just as the claims for solar power in the UK are. What the truth is, I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were only marginally better.

As I have posted before, the ONLY viable solutions involve a change to our approach to transport - and it's NOT as hard as is made out, not even in (yuck) Las Vegas. Los Angeles is hopeless, as it stands, but is hopeless for other reasons as well, so isn't a counter-argument.

408:

Make up your mind. You started with a figure for road traffic deaths; you posted it so don't even think of denying it!

Now you're trying to conflate that with things like particulates (there is work that shows that, unless they use regenerative braking, an electric vehicle produces half the particulates of a hydrocarbon vehicle running on high sulphur fuel, and most HC for road vehicle use these days is desulphonated), and still theoretical deaths from climate change, and then trying to blame all climate change on HC vehicle emissions, despite EC's rebuttal at #407.

409:

For expense of electric cars, my understanding is that the motors are quite a bit simpler than for ICE cars - to the point that they will likely be cheaper at some point. That said, I generally didn't buy new...and the price difference is pretty big there.

Now, forcing a transition to electric cars... Done rapidly - there is a big cost there as the whole used car market dies and people are forced to buy new. This is a problem of unfunded mandates - as they are popular but often deeply regressive - impacting people who simply can't afford to pay. Gradual introduction of a mandate might be fine.

For self-driving cars, there is a societal test - which is just killing fewer people on average - noting that most people are stunningly inconsistent drivers. It is fine if they fail sometimes - just as long as they fail less than I do. There is also a personal test, perhaps - for that - they would just have to scare me less than my wife's driving. Please note that I am absent-minded and prone to falling asleep over distances greater than 30 miles continuous. (At one point, my father woke up upside down after being caught by a tree, having driven off a cliff - so - no - pay more attention is not the answer.). Even so, I don't let my wife drive with me in the car. She isn't exactly dangerous - unless you are a pedestrian or a parked car. Asking that the cars be perfect is silly. Society is perfectly fine with letting both me and my wife drive. On a personal note, I'd easily pay an extra 20ish k to lower the likely societal and personal costs of hitting pedestrians and parked cars. (I mean, insurance paid for the parked car and she was going slow enough to not hurt the pedestrian - so far...but you don't get lucky forever.) Basically, I'd rather neither of us ended up killing people through sheer incompetence.

Regarding media, dunno - around here it seems more consistent with a mix of fossil fuel planted stories along with some market manipulation by people shorting Tesla. Probably more of the latter.

Well...but...to some extent...cyclists and motorists are in contention. Locally, we finally added a decent bike lane - which cut streetside parking. Some of the motorists were quite discontented - the air turned blue. From losing half the parking on one street...

Now - as electric cars spread - there will be issues - but I would class them as minor - no different from the sort of sewage plant related foul ups we have today. The grid will be updated when lights start going out - tardily the first few times - faster later. (Also, it might not be so bad - in the suburbs - simultaneous solar/battery installs may tend to mitigate. Same with station chargers.

When you change the current capitalist system - particularly rejiggering housing and societal structure to put everything in walking distance and lowering the work week - then - well - cars won't be significant time savers. I don't foresee that transition actually happening and would tend to put it into the hair shirt brand of environmentalism which is unlikely to have sufficient impact to actually benefit the environment. If a plan involves putting direct costs on poor people to mitigate environmental damage - maybe you are basically a Republican. (Cough, California, cough, mandated solar panels, cough no tree cutting ordinances.)

And yes, metro areas are dreadful - my one consolation is not needing to drive. It is a big consolation.


410:

Erwin @ 409
This is a problem of unfunded mandates - as they are popular but often deeply regressive - impacting people who simply can't afford to pay. Gradual introduction of a mandate might be fine.
this is EXACTLY what areshole Kahn is proposing in London.
Instead of allowing people to keep theor old cars & mandating that "new" (including secondhand) ones comply with new emission regulations - SENSIBLE
He is going for past $DATE yuour car must be complaint & we will (efffectively) steal it if it isn't.
Bastard

411:

My idea of using the coders' project managers as crash test dummies was to make sure the PMs' minds were concentrated on "the very best we can do" rather than "writing and testing down to a price". I'm not looking for perfection, just well done.

412:

You haven't been reading my posts carefully enough! Look at #373 for an example :-)

England's Planners (I can't speak for Scotland) are given a policy by mandarins in Whitehall, often in secret, and one aspect is to be hostile to car-drivers. But the result is far, FAR worse for cyclists, because almost everything they perpetrate reduces the chances for the two groups to coexist safely on the roads, which causes agression against the innocent.

And, yes, the so-called pro-cycling groups are deeply culpable; I started arguing against their idiocies over 30 years ago.

In many (most?) locations, they are NOT dominated by the fanatical lycroids, but by the idiots who believe that being hostile to motorists increases safety favour cycling as an alternative to walking (though they rarely realise it). The result is the most ghastly psychle farcilities, which are often MORE dangerous than the road, especially to vulnerable cyclists, and almost invariably useless as a way of getting people to move from cars to bicycles. Inter alia, their capacity is a tiny fraction of the road.

There are two consequences:

There is an increasing number of assaults against cyclists on the road using cars as a weapon, because safe overtaking has been deliberately prevented and "they should be using the cycle path". That's why I was forced to give up commuting by bicycle, and using it for shopping.

Before the gummint privatised and thus hid the data, the mean trip speed was 7.5 MPH and the mean distance trip 3 miles - because the distribution of the latter is highly skewed, the median speed was perhaps 6 MPH and the median trip distance was not much over 2 miles. That's a joke. 10 miles in flattish terrain isn't hard for anyone of working age in normal health, and used to be normal until the 1960s, though I agree that hilly terrain needs assistance.

413:

let us put numbers on this: 6500 km driven per capita per year in the UK, means 410 billion kilometers driven. Tesla lists 147.3 wh per km (and reports from users - regular users, not hyper-milers, back this up). so 60.5 twh. That is a nice chunk of electricity, but the current annual electricity production of the UK is 334, so it is a bit shy of a 20 % increase in power consumption. This leaves out trucking, I guess? So say 30%. Effectively all of which additional load can be incentivized to take place at night. This mostly just makes the day/night demand curve a whole lot flatter, the existing power lines should handle the distribution with no more than a need to beef up the occasional transformer.

Uhm. Of course, now the entire generating system is asking for baseload close to current peak. Given the current composition of UK plant, that is a whole lot of natural gas imports. Might want to step up the reactor construction program. A lot.

414:

You might like to tell me where the ~£39_000 between the value of my present car and the sticker of a Tesla is coming from? How about why you believe that the present favourable tax position of EVs, which pay no vehicle duty or fuel duty on electricity will be maintained?

415:

Yes. The factor of at least two came from an analysis I did of the UK data, but including the conversion of domestic and commercial heating to electricity. And we would also need to do the same to our distribution capacity as our generation capacity.

To paws4thot (#414): no, but other cars will be taxed more heavily. Eventually.

416:

Mostly, from the Volkswagen conglomerate. Tesla are noobs at auto construction, and also are aiming at pretty unconscionable margins per unit, but they have succeeded in getting some of the traditional automakers off their bums.

Thus Tesla is going to get undercut. A lot. I used Teslas milage because that grounded things in reality, I am not actually expecting everyone to drive one!

lets see: assuming you are an average driver, at 6500 km. 957 kwh used per year, at 15 pence kwh, 143 pounds in fuel costs / annum.

If you are minimizing car costs, you are presumably currently driving.. a volkswagen polo, or something equivalent. 30 km/liter petrol. 277 pounds fuel cost/ year.


Volkswagens cheapest planned offering is a polo-equivalent at 16000 pounds... Which is what they charge for the current gasoline version.

So, basically, that is 134 pounds in the pocket of the cost-conscious driver. If you want a cheaper electric than that, you are going to have to wait until they hit the second hand market.

417:

I can't afford a new car at £16_000 either. The most I have ever actually spent on a car purchase is about half that.

418:

Before I start on cmts, Discon III, Worldcon 2021, Washington, DC.

Let's see, get the contracts, organize committees (I'm going for half of con suite), organize people, shove the GOP out the door (damn, can't work on that as a 501(c)3) so Charlie and others can/will come....

419:

Cruise control, ABSOLUTELY.

We go up to Baltimore at least once a month for BSFS. .75 hr on I-95 each way, plus 15 or so more in Baltimore. Go out of town, mostly to cons, yearly. Cost of train (what, the GOP fully fund Amtrak?), buses just eat too many hours.

However, if the traffic's not crazed or too heavy, I always use cruise. Try this: my vehicle's a 2008 Honda Odyssey (large) minivan. It lists as 23mpg/highway *new*. When I drove it to Kansas City for Worldcon in '15, I almost *always* got 27mpg, and no, I'm not exaggerating. Once, on the plains of Indiana, I think, I got 28.

And it's one less thing for me to worry about, so I can pay attention to the idiots, looking ahead of me, looking at my rearview mirror, looking at both side mirrors, and I don't have to watch the speedometer, but do watch the gas level.

And if you're not watching all three mirrors, the speedometer if you're not using cruise, and ahead, then YOU ARE NOT A GOOD DRIVER. If your speed on the freeway varies in not-heavy traffic by more than 5mph, you're NOT A GOOD DRIVER.

420:

Don't talk to me about heat and humidity. Ellen and I were at the Philly Folk Festival this past weekend (not being willing to spend an order of magnitude more to do Dublin), and it was 90+,90+ all three days. For some reason, neither of us dealt with the heat as well as we did when we were, say, back in our 40s.

Wonderful music, ending, Sunday eve, with us, like much of the audience, sitting in the rain... watching David Crosby and band.

421:

Same in the US. They can't effectively check your speed within 10%, so it's not worth it to them. Except around cities, where the speed limit is 55mph, and *everyone* except the should-not-be-driving-theres is doing 65-70, I normally do speed limit + 4. Been doing that since the, um, eighties, never got a speeding ticket, even in speed traps.

As opposed to the ass last night, who passed us on the right, up behind a truck, then cut into the left lane in front of someone with about two car lengths between the left hand car and the back of the truck, and he sped off.

Followed, less than a minute later, by a trooper with no linghts on. Passed them, shortly, with them on the side.

Ah, once in a while, instant karma.

422:

Love to, but Oz is out. I'm not one of those with $1m in retirement.... We'd love to make Ireland and the UK someday, while we're both still mobile.

423:

I get *really* aggravated when some fool who has no business behind a wheel either sits on my shoulder, or has to cross a double yellow line to take the entire oncoming lane.... and this is when, if possible, I'm riding *on* the white line on the right.

The ad campaigns they do occasionally is "give 'em three feet", and I'm happy with that, and that's what I aim for when I'm passing.

424:

I will BURY those, those OBSCENE UNDERGARMENTS!!!

425:

(g)
Read a story back when I lived in Texas, about a Ranger driving 53.5. line of cars behind, somebody passed him at 55... and he stopped the guy, and told him he wondered if anyone would pass, and would the guy like the other half of a quart of ice cream the trooper had....

I've no problems passing, though I'll do it exactly at the limit.

The ones they *really* want, I want them to catch, trying to do 90 when the speed limit's 55 or 65, and the traffic's doing 53.5....

426:

Hydrodynamic? Trains? Nope, it's called "dynamic braking", or regenerative braking, and it feeds a charge back into the loco's batteries (they *are* hybrids, er, diesel-electric....

427:

“there is work that shows that, unless they use regenerative braking, an electric vehicle produces half the particulates of a hydrocarbon...”
Almost all electric vehicles larger than a mobility scooter or assisted bike use regenerative braking, because range is a selling point and batteries are heavy and expensive.

428:

My personal experience is that talking on the phone feels no more distracting than talking with passengers.

I saw a study that contradicted that. Bookmarked at home and I'm travelling, so no immediate cite (bug me next month is you like).

Essentially, most passengers adjust their conversation to the driver's non-verbal cues and the surroundings — accepting pauses while the driver negotiates a tricky turn, for example. Those cues (and the ability to look out the window) are missing in a phone conversation, so the person at the other end tends to keep talking which distracts the driver.

This isn't to say that all passengers are concerned with the driver. I once dated someone who got upset when I didn't look at her when she was talking (and I was driving in a snowstorm). (Good thing we broke up before I Darwinned!) Still, it apparently tends to be the case that talking with a passenger is less distracting than talking on a cell phone. (And talking using hands-free is apparently as risky as talking while holding the phone!)

429:

"first show that electric cars will directly kill fewer people per year" ...
You started with a figure for road traffic deaths

The only one I see is in this context: "the 30,000 people murdered by motorists every year in the US" and I went on to talk about the fraction of those deaths caused by drivers of electric cars. So I'm confused by why you're asking what you're asking.

You wanted to know how electric cars could kill fewer people directly, I tried to answer. I don't understand the relevance of the question, it doesn't have anything to do with what I'm talking about, but hey, I'm trying to help. You wanna go off on some weird tangent, that's what this blog is all about.

H is just plain wrong about electric cars, we have seen that before and we'll no doubt see it again. His whole argument is that electric cars can't be recycled, with a side order of them being heavier.

As usual, he's technically right as things stand today. But he's right because recycling something that isn't available to recycle makes no sense. There's no infrastructure for recycling lithium batteries on the scale needed when second hand electric cars start wearing out en masse because that won't happen for a good few years yet, and when we get there I expect we will recycle, simply because the materials are valuable. Arguing that it can't happen because it hasn't happened is silly.

The weight question is more a social one than a physics one. Yes, like for like a single electric car weighs more than a single fossil one. But the fossil one has an implicit heavy truck following it delivering fuel, where the electric one has a stationary grid. But right now fossil cars are fricken enormous for primarily (anti)social reasons. It seems likely to me that electric cars will be smaller and lighter because that's the trend we see in sane countries, and sanity has to spread or we'd doomed.

H considers the grid requirement a huge problem. If he's right we're doomed, because surviving means a huge increase in use of electricity for everything. Until we can synthesise carbon neutral fossil fuel equivalents in significant quantities the only option we have for heating and mechanical power is electricity. If we start that transition by throwing up our hands and saying it can't be done we are committing to target one billion - fewer than a billion people alive in 2100, and very likely the end of technological civilisation. So... I have decided to think that massive grid expansion is not just possible, it's a good idea.

430:

and this is when, if possible, I'm riding *on* the white line on the right.

I find that's a lot more dangerous than taking the lane. If I'm in the middle of the lane I get many fewer dangerous overtakes, and when they happen I have space to move over.

Australia has a collection of insane laws relating to cycling, but a few handy ones. One of the fun ones in NSW is that the law requiring 1m clearance when overtaking a cyclist also says motorists can cross the double centre lines to do so (with the pointless caveat that it has to be safe, just like everything else motorists do, but obviously that's not practised or enforced). As you would expect barely anyone knows about the 1m rule despite an advertising campaign, and I don't think anyone knows about the "can cross no-overtaking markings" addendum. But since it's another "make legal what motorists already do" law, it has the desired effect... I think.

431:

That's another different thing... "Dynamic braking" comes in several different forms; here are some which I know to have been used on real machinery:

- regenerative braking, what you're talking about (example of use: London Underground trains)
- rheostatic braking, which is the same thing only you feed the energy into a great big electric fire instead of doing anything useful with it (Virgin Voyagers)
- eddy current braking, a variant of the above where the generator rotor and the electric fire are the same lump of metal (car speedometer)
- hydrodynamic braking, which is the good old paddles-in-a-tub-of-water dynamometer principle (APT)
- air brakes on an aircraft, arguably a subset of hydrodynamic (Stuka)
- compression braking (internal combustion variety), the "Jake brake" (trucks)
- compression braking (compressed air variety), for vehicles powered by compressed air (duh), where you reverse the polarity of the neutron flow phase of the valve gear so the cylinders turn into a pump; also used in emergency on steam engines, particularly in the early days when they didn't have any ordinary brakes (compressed air locomotives, early steam)
- compression braking (thermochemical variety), where you store the energy as heat of solution (caustic soda locomotives)
- braking by pumping losses against a throttle and non-adiabatic compression losses, ie. what happens in a car when you take your foot off the gas (nearly all cars)

And no doubt loads more that I haven't thought of... :)

432:

"this is you being one of a million people who collectively kill a small crowd of people every year. I'm asking you to justify that."

s/a million/some billions/ and I personally have never killed or injured anyone; furthermore, as mentioned above, I have at least put more than the usual amount of effort into analysis of the art of driving and learning practices which improve my collision avoidance abilities.

I could cite as "justification" the obvious point that there are large areas of the country inaccessible by public transport, and add that I can't walk any significant distance any more, but I do not in fact feel any need to concoct some personally specific justification, any more than I do for, say, having a grid power connection or buying supermarket food. That cars have bad points as well as good does not make them a unique or even rare item requiring specific justification; it merely puts them in the same class as just about everything. Societies the world over, of all flavours, condone car use because they are so bloody useful - a fact which cannot be denied consistently with any claim to a hold on reality. The few that don't are either on tiny islands or do it deliberately to limit people's freedom, to the dissatisfaction of the people so limited.

To cobble together some personally-specific argument "justifying" my participation in an activity which the great mass of world opinion considers self-justifying by way of its good aspects greatly outweighing the bad ones would be a waste of mental effort that would produce no result other than one inherently spurious and consequently devoid of value, so I'm not going to do it.

433:

"I'm not sure how you can solve that by taking the tools home every night."

It replaces one big glittering high-value target with a whole bunch of little low-value ones dispersed all over the place. So the thieves' effort/reward ratio goes through the floor and their level of exposure to arrest shoots up in proportion to the increase in the number of targets. No, it's not perfect, but it reduces the chances of your tools being stolen and makes the thieves more likely to get nicked, and the extra effort of loading/unloading the van at the home end isn't that great.

434:

Have I got my American road markings right - "double yellow line" is down the centre of the road, and "white line on the right" is right on the edge?

If so, I thoroughly agree - riding down the painted line at the edge is an appropriate position for a low-speed vehicle and it noticeably reduces the rolling resistance; and people who sit on my arse instead of coming past *really* piss me off. A vehicle passing is only a hazard for a second or two, but a tailgater is a hazard the whole time they're there and I just want them to fuck off. Especially when they are so often so obviously barely in control of their car in the first place - typical examples being the tiny car with a pair of eyes peering through the gap between the top of the steering wheel and the dashboard, refusing to pass even though the preceding vehicle was a bus and it got through the same gap no problem, or the Chelsea tractor full of kids purchased on the basis that since it will hit something sooner or later, better get something that won't be the one to come off worse. (The same types that crawl through width restriction bollards at walking pace, even when preceded by a Transit van that went through without slowing at all.)

If anything they're even worse with a mobility scooter than a bicycle. To be sure, unlike a bicycle, the scooter is permitted on the pavement instead... but the surface of the pavements round here is so bloody awful that it's often not really a very useful option.

435:

On one hand, I would be truly amused by imagining getting to leave some project managers in front of a rapid car...even if the code worked normally... Did I ever mention this one study? Electric shocks were applied when the subject got an answer wrong... The manager in charge volunteered to test the setup. 'Mysteriously' - he missed every single question.

On the other hand, seriously, I have lots of nearest and dearest who frankly drive terribly. In my experience of company work, most of the real failures are not directly related to cost cutting - the twin spectres of incompetence and also poorly directed motivation are far more effective. Case in point, managers at one company got wind of layoffs - result - they've assumed the fetal position to maximize invisibility for the last 5 years - oddly - with no real new product introductions - sales fell...

So, that sort of direct accountability just results in engineers being properly motivated to overdesign and never produce anything. I mean, why risk your life for a 10% raise?

436:

"...no more than a need to beef up the occasional transformer."

Bit more than that. The transformers are not continuously rated. They rely on a period of light load at night to get rid of heat accumulated from the heavy load in the day. And too much night-time load is already becoming a problem even without every household sucking multiple kilowatts at night to charge electric cars.

437:

> the electric car fanatics make such claims - and they are self-evident bollocks, just as the claims for solar power in the UK are.

Your analysis is risible. The weight of batteries is a fatal flaw ??? Gee, electric cars are kind of known for not being sluggish.

As for solar power, solar cells (like batteries) are riding a fairly fast technology curve: the Lazard analysis has US utility-scale PV $/kWh continuing to drop at 21%/year. You may live under a cloud, but I don't.

438:

Lots of people on here live under a cloud a lot of the time. Particularly, it seems, this year; we've had a couple of sunny spells this summer but overall so far it has been notable for the number of times I've had to put the lights on in the daytime because the clouds are blocking all the light. Also, there is the latitude, especially for Charlie and the rest of the hyperborean crew. Charlie has on numerous occasions posted the figures to demonstrate how useless solar power becomes that far from the equator.

The problem with battery weight is not related to horizontal accelerations but vertical ones. Road damage goes up very rapidly with axle loading; how much is complicated but it's a fourth power law over at least a significant part of the range. It's a nasty combination with the already-existing tendency for modern cars to become inexorably more elephantine, because the heavier the chassis gets the heavier the battery it needs for the same range/performance.

It hits trucks particularly badly because their range requirements are much greater and payload ratio is a matter of great concern. I wouldn't be surprised to see the haulage industry start lobbying for an increase in the maximum allowed vehicle weight for electric trucks so the extra weight of the batteries doesn't come off the payload - if they aren't at it already in anticipation. But the maximum weight is already past the practically desirable maximum, as the surfaces of the slow lanes of motorways bear witness.

439:

The other factor is organisational as I alluded above. My remarks were not so much about “thieves” gaining unauthorised access to the site to nick stuff, and more fellow contractors with authorised access “accidentally” taking stuff on a practically permanent basis. Then the idea that on most sites it isn’t your employer who has (or who refuses to take) responsibility for security - it’s your customer. Hence the reference to reputations. In practice most tradies are a separate self-contained small business, leaving your tools behind anywhere is probably career limiting.

440:

I can sort of see long haul trucks becoming unviable, because there will a point where rail and other fixed infrastructure (canals? huge pipes full of oil and circulating pumps? tethered dirigibles?) becoming relatively cheaper (again). Can’t see a replacement for “last mile” delivery without getting really Iain Banks, but range is less of an issue in that case.

That’s assuming we have that long of course. Strong suspicion we go down too fast to adapt.

441:

Meh. I just did the numbers on what I drive per year, what that costs me in fuel, what my average daily commute distance is, checked out what second hand Nissan Leafs could do, worked out that their range is 30% more than my maximum daily commute, and bought one. Going to save me something like 4 thousand of my geographic local currency a year, which is around five tonnes of carbon dioxide (Wooo, cheap greenwash on my lifestyle). Running costs for it come in at around 15 to 20% of my overkill ICE vehicle, which gets relegated to the big trips where I need to shift a Longship or Camel train worth of kit, two or three times a year.

442:

Meanwhile ..
Both the Guardian & the Indy are despairing of Cor Bin's wittering about Brexit.
he wants a General Election ( WHich he won't win because he's a wanker ) rather than try & stop Brexit, because he's a leave nutter. ( Or words to that effect - see yesterday's Grauniad & today's Indy )
Varadkar has all-but-named BOZO as a liar (which he is, of course) & said "NO more negotiation - what don't you understand?"
HOW do "we" get the majoprity in the HoC, who are against Brexit & certainly against a hard crash to co-operate ... 2 months & fractionally under 2 weeks to go isn't long....

443:

As you say about vehicle weight and road damage, but there are other problems it makes worse, too. One is that a heavy vehicle hitting a house often brings the house down, another is the extra harm when a victim's limbs are run over, and there are others. But the big one is the bridge problem; we have a LOT of bridges, most of which are a century or more old and many have already got load limits.

444:

Please learn to read more carefully and realise that at least some of us look at issues a bit more deeply than the polemic.

Manufacture and recycling vary in difficulty, and have serious ecological costs of their own (often including carbon dioxide generation). Also, recycling is never 100% efficient (inter alia, some vehicles burn out or are irretrievable). Steel is not a serious ecological pollutant, nor is lithium, but lithium batteries often contain some fairly nasty elements. How serious are those issues?

When I see a claim that all such issues will be solved once we all adopt the technology, without any analysis or costings supplied, my bullshit detector goes off loudly and continually, and I disregard the claims. As I said above, I don't know the answer and the corollary is that I don't believe you do, either.

You are making the same error about weight as DonL - see Pigeon and myself (#438 and #443) for the real concerns. Your optimism about cars becoming lighter (in 'the west', at least) is contradicted by what I can find out about the plans, which seem to be reproducing the current juggernauts, upgraded to take the weight of 300+ mile batteries.

As I have repeatedly said, over a VERY long time, the only solution involves a change of approach to transport. I have also posted how very small, light vehicles could be designed and built that would meet 90% of the UK's (and Europe's) current commuting and shopping requirements. But that is not what is being proposed by the "electric vehicles are the solution" brigade.

445:

Back in the 1980s my university lab partner was an electrician (retraining as an engineer). He'd previously worked at a potash mine. Every electrician there had their own personal tools. Which meant that using your tools to do side work on the weekend is OK, as you own the tools you'd be using (rather than borrowing your employers). Don't know if that's standard practice, but it might well be.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 9, 2019 9:29 AM.

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