Education

The Met Brother gets Bigger and Bigger

I don’t envy my sister in London, having to deal with the social problems this kind of idiocy propogates. The people responsible for commissioning and approving this should be forced to read 1984 a hundred times, Brazil style.

(Click for bigger.)

Via Boing Boing.

Clifford Stoll @ TED

I’m not big on mainstream education. I’m almost entirely self-educated when it comes to the subject I love, however I do wonder sometimes if I would have fared better if I had the patience and energy for mainstream education. I tried it again recently in CIT as an experiment and found that I still don’t have those attributes, but that just proves that I can’t (or won’t), not that it wouldn’t make me a different person if I could.

While my own laziness is much to blame for this, I still feel teachers have a lot to answer for. I’ve had some superb teachers – Peter O’Brien in Douglas Comm probably taking first place – but most have been decidely average, and many utterly useless. My commerce and early science teachers in that same school, for example, were so boring I’m utterly amazed anyone remembers anything they say, ever. And if anything, the standard of education is getting worse in this country, not better.

I think I’d be a very different person and we’d all be a lot better off if we had people like this educating us, and our children.

Although I wonder if we’d ever want to leave school…

Dumb eco-questions you were afraid to ask

Great article on New Scientist with some answers to questions I’m sure many of us modern folk wonder about on a regular basis. Are hybrids really more of a fashion statement right now? Should I be leaving the lights on or switching them off and on? What can and can’t I recycle? Is washing clothes at 30 degrees ok? Et cetera.

Some of the answers are surprising – shipping receycling to China isn’t always bad, for example – others are obvious, but I reckon there’s something here for everyone. Even if you knew most of it already, it’s probably nice to have it validated by New Scientist. :)

One answer I’m not so sure about: Is it really still bad to charge electronics early and often? I used to be very careful to fully deplete my batteries to avoid the dreaded memory problem, but I read somewhere recently that this no longer applies with modern batteries. In fact I got the impression that the opposite is true, that I should be charging whenever I can. Does anyone have a definitive answer on this?

  1. If I switch the light on and off every time I enter and leave a room, does this use more energy than leaving it on all evening?
  2. How clean does the pizza box have to be for it to be recyclable? Likewise cans and bottles
  3. Are laminated juice cartons recyclable?
  4. What’s the most fuel-efficient way to drive?
  5. Is it worth recycling when stuff gets shipped to China and back in the process? Given the carbon footprint of all that, maybe we should just let the stuff rot
  6. Can I save the planet by staying slim?
  7. What’s worse, the CO2 put out by a gas-fuelled car or the environmental effects of hybrid-car batteries?
  8. What is recycled organic waste used for?
  9. If I offset my flights, can I fly as much as I want?
  10. If I’m stuck in a stop-start traffic jam, do I use more petrol turning my car on and off repeatedly or leaving it running?
  11. Can I put window envelopes in the paper recycling?
  12. How long does it take for a micro-windmill to pay for itself?
  13. Is it better to buy an eco-friendly car, with all the energy that is needed to produce it, or just run my old one into the ground?
  14. What’s the best way to charge my laptop – little and often or let the battery run down completely?
  15. Will washing my clothes at 30 °C really get them clean?
  16. Why can’t the machines in my gym be used to generate electricity?
  17. Does switching from bus to bike really have any effect? After all, cycling isn’t completely carbon neutral because I’ve got to eat to fuel my legs
  18. Is a full commercial plane more fuel-efficient over long distances than a car?
  19. If I turn my appliances off but don’t unplug them will they still use up some electricity?
  20. Does it really take more energy to recycle an aluminium can than to make a new one?
  21. What is the single most effective thing I can do for the environment?
  22. How environmentally damaging is barbecuing?
  23. When and how is the most energy-efficient way to defrost my fridge-freezer, and is a self-defrosting fridge more eco-friendly?
  24. What does the circling-arrows logo on European packaging mean?
  25. What’s greener, paper/cardboard or plastic packaging?

BBC’s The Box

BBC News: We have painted and branded a BBC container and bolted on a GPS transmitter so you can follow its progress all year round as it criss-crosses the globe. The Box will hopefully reach the US, Asia, the Middle East , Europe and Africa and when it does BBC correspondents will be there to report on who’s producing goods and who’s consuming them.

Paraprosdokian

Is my word of the day. Basically it’s a phrase in which the last bit makes you reframe the first bit. The examples on the Wikipedia page are brilliant, and of course feature the master of the genre, Groucho Marx:

  • Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
  • The car stopped on a dime, which unfortunately was in a pedestrian’s pocket.
  • “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.” — Henry J. Tillman
  • “Onward he came, and his feet were shod with his—chilblains.” — Aristotle
  • “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.” — Will Rogers
  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx
  • “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  • “I want to die like my father, quietly, in his sleep—not screaming and terrified like his passengers.” — Bob Monkhouse
  • “A modest man, who has much to be modest about.” — Winston Churchill
  • “If you are going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill
  • “I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.” — Mitch Hedberg
  • “I don’t have a girlfriend, I just know a girl who would get really mad if she heard me say that.” Mitch Hedberg
  • “Take my wife—please.” — Henny Youngman
  • “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried.” — Winston Churchill
  • “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” — Winston Churchill
  • “I weigh 135 pounds naked, if that scale at the train station is to be believed.” — Emo Phillips
  • “I’ve never seen him so sad, or ever before.” — Scruffy in Futurama
  • “If I could say a few words, I would be a better public speaker.” — Homer Simpson

TechShop: Geek Heaven

What an absolutely brilliant idea.

Guy Kawasaki: Jim Newton founded TechShop in the summer of 2006 because he needed a world-class workshop so he could work on his projects and inventions. After having access to full machine shops at both the College of San Mateo when he taught a BattleBots class and at the studio set of the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters show when he was the science advisor, he found himself without a place to work on his projects after these positions. He was surprised to find that there were not any places like TechShop already, so he decided that he would open one himself.

TechShop provides its members with a huge variety of tools, machines, and equipment in a 15,000 square-foot workshop environment. The equipment at TechShop is not likely to appear in the hobbyist’s home workshop. The range of tools and equipment covers machining, sheet metal, welding, casting, laser cutters, rapid prototyping, CAD, CNC equipment, electronics, sewing, automotive, plastics, composites, and lots more.

Membership is modeled after a fitness center, and several levels of membership are available. There are currently approximately 350 monthly, yearly, corporate, and lifetime members. The facility can handle around fifty members at a time, so TechShop have set the membership cap at 500 members so the shop and workspace does not get over-crowded. There are only about 150 membership slots available until membership is full. The hours of operation for TechShop are currently 9 AM to midnight, 7 days a week. Jim tells me that they plan to open 24×7 when they reach the membership cap of 500 in the next month or two.

There are shared bins full of bits and bobs from your shed and everyone else’s shed, much akin to the wall of (useful!) crap Jamie Hyneman is famous for. The tool racks grow when people bring in their own, and appear not to shrink as you’d expect. There’s a 3D printer, a powder coater, a laser cutter, punches, lathes, sandblasters, test benches, plasma cutters, everything the uber nerd or plain old home hobbyist could need. And they run open classes, for thirty bucks and hour — a good price from both standpoints imo.

This should be franchised, all over the world. I want one in Cork. All you need to do to make is perfect for me is add a few ramps and a few other bits of automotive equipment, so I can pretend I’m Chip Foose. I’d have to be dragged out of the place kicking and screaming, like a child being extracted from a playground.

Want, WANT, WANT!