2008-06-29

Water softener

The amount of limescale on the heat exchanger in my gas combi boiler should be reducing now, after 5 years of steady accumulation. My hope is that the house will use a bit less gas, and emit a bit less CO2.

The other reasons why I installed a water softener are:
  • I intend to install solar water heating, and I don't want its heat exchanger to be impaired by limescale.
  • Less time cleaning the bathroom, and no money to spend on anti-limescale cleaners.
  • The washing machine and other appliances should last longer. In my previous house the loo stopped working because of limescale building up!
The model I had installed is a Kinetico 2020c. This softener doesn't use any electricity, it uses water pressure to refresh the ion exchange chamber with brine, so the only consumable is salt.

Regular readers (hey don't snigger, there's at least one actually) will remember I talked about getting a magnetic water softener ages ago. I decided against that because although I think they can work in some situations, I wanted something that would definitely work for me.

2008-06-19

Imprimatur 014

A bug-fix release of Imprimatur. Fixed a problem that has been there for ages. If you started Imprimatur with a file name only (no path) for the script file, and then referred to another file in the script file, there would be a problem. I fixed it using:

File file = new File(fileName).getAbsoluteFile();

instead of:

File file = new File(fileName);

Thanks to Jesse Pelton for reporting this bug.

2008-06-18

Imprimatur 013

The new release of Imprimatur has the following changes:
  • The response-code element was missing from the DTD, so that's been added in.
  • Now supports the PUT method.
  • Can set and check HTTP headers.
  • Added a body-file attribute to the request element which allows the request body to be retrieved from a file. There's a new example that shows this.
  • Removed 'enctype' attribute from the request element. If there's no body-file attribute, the content type is inferred. If there is a body-file attribute the content type can be set explicitly using a header element.
Thanks to Jesse Pelton for his suggestions for this release.

2008-06-17

Daphne du Maurier short stories (II)

After reading The Birds I went on to other du Maurier short stories, and found I enjoyed them even more than The Birds.

Monte Verita

This exemplifies many of the qualities of dM's writing:
  • The ability to create an air of the supernatural, but without anything supernatural actually happening. She never weakens her story by descending into supernatural explanations.
  • Insightful portrayals of male characters. I go as far as to say that dM is better at writing about men than women.
  • Great clarity of writing, including when writing about mysterious things. dM uses precise language and acute observation to convey emotions and an atomosphere that are subtle and elusive.
I particularly like the way dM evokes the world of the past. Here the protagonist talks of his stay with a friend:
...I had all the same comforts - cans of hot water, early tea, biscuits by my bed, cigarette box filled, all the touches of a thoughtful hostess.
The Apple Tree

I just didn't know what to make of this. Can someone help me and tell me what to think? Is he or his wife the baddie?

The Little Photographer

So convincingly rendered that I felt like I had committed the murder. It's funny, you hear a lot about computer games encouraging criminality, but you rarely hear Daphne du Maurier cited as a corrupter of the young.

Kiss Me Again, Stranger

Okay, well at least continue reading.

The Old Man

Genuinely surprised and delighted by this. I won't go into it 'cause I'll spoil it for you if you haven't read it. This story really stayed with me. Actually that's another thing about dM. She shows exquisite judgement in controlling the release of information as a story progresses. So much so that I'm sure that if you re-read one of her stories it would seem new.

2008-06-16

Trowbridge Central Elections 10th July 2008

I've just got my polling card for the Trowbridge Central Elections 10th July 2008 but I can't find a list of who's standing, so I don't know how to vote. Can anyone help?

2008-06-12

The price of (market) freedom is eternal vigilance

My friend Dave sent me an article and asked:
Tony - how do you as a fan of the free market address this issue - bankrupting farmer seems to be a structure consequence of your favoured global free markets?...Dave
Dave went on to give his view:
Basically the green revolution has bankrupted all the rice farmers in Thailand, and I guess the same pattern is repeated worldwide.

Much as the banks have bankrupted middle class people in the West, capitalism has done the same for poor farmers throughout the world, whereas they feed most people and are the most productive.

In Thailand, the fact that the middle men, the rice dealers and the millers are all chums with the politicians who allow them to bankrupt the rice farmers even while food prices are at an all time high, is openly discussed in the English newspapers in Thailand.

The same thing happens in the West but it is openly discussed.

Regarding agriculture, this seems to be an inevitable consequence of many indfidually weak farmers, who can be preyed about but a much smaller cartel of rice dealers.

The only way the Thai farmers have got the promise of a fair deal is to threaten to blockade all the major roads.

Dave
Free markets are a way to make a society as a whole richer. It doesn't mean that wealth will be distributed equally. If you want a more equal distribution of wealth, you have to tax rich people more, and give everyone a 'citizen's allowance'.

In Thailand the free market has worked, in that the country is getting richer. Richer doesn't mean happier of course. I could make more money if I had a second job stacking shelves in Tesco's, but I prefer to forgo the money and spend the time arguing with you, oh joy!

You talk about cartels of middle-men, but if these exist there isn't a fully free market. The government needs to improve regulation to break the cartels. You say that the politicians are unduly influenced by the middle-men. This is exactly what Adam Smith warns about in The Wealth of Nations. I'm afraid the only way round this is for individuals to campaign, unite, protest, denounce and vote! To paraphrase Jefferson; the price of (market) freedom is eternal vigilance.

The consistency of fat

I put up my hand at every opportunity, but to no avail. In the question and answer part of the Science Cafe, I didn't get to ask my question on whether instead of engineering our food to avoid obesity, we could tackle it from the other direction and genetically re-engineer ourselves.

We were shown a series of maps of America; one for each year from the early 90s to today, showing the level of obesity. It showed a dramatic increase. Much of the talk focussed on how to engineer food to taste fatty but not cause weight gain. Apparently we sense fat by its consistency rather than its taste.

The speaker did point out a problem with such food, in that anorexics might eat nothing but that type of food, when in fact they need more fat in their diet.

2008-06-10

To The Hermitage

Reading To The Hermitage was like listening to an extremely erudite raconteur who happens to have an obsession with Diderot. I learnt an awful lot about Diderot and the other Enlightenment figures, all imparted in a gossipy, conversational style. My ignorance of Diderot means I've probably missed some of the clever references in the book, but I've been inspired to read Rameau's Nephew, where the Moi and Lui come from.

2008-06-08

Second Life

I've just tried out Second Life and I was pleased to see they've got a Linux version. I was a bit shy and didn't actually talk to anyone. They get you to do a few exercises to make sure you've learnt the basics, and I've just completed those. Btw, if you want to look me up on SL, my name is Quintilian Luik!

2008-06-06

This blog and my wallet

This isn't metonymy, I'm not talking about the cost of blogging. I lost my wallet and a guy called Matt picked it up, found my blog by searching on my name, and emailed me! We arranged to meet at the place I lost it, and he returned it to me and I gave him a bottle of wine as a thank you.

2008-06-01

Heathrow airport expansion

As a member of Greenpeace, they emailed me asking me to support their campaign against the Heathrow airport expansion. I don't support the campaign, and here's why.

Let's assume that levels of CO2 are okay up to 450 ppm. Since there's an upper limit, it means we've got to use the CO2 emissions we're allowed, to their best effect. Perhaps UK air travel is the best way to use some of our permitted emissions? Or perhaps not.

The way to enforce a CO2 limit while making sure the emissions are used most wisely, is to raise the global cost of emissions through a carbon tax until the permitted level of CO2 is reached. The revenue from such a tax should be distributed equally amongst the world's population.

Then the climate change aspect of airport expansions is taken out of the equation, problem solved!