I doubt it'll happen - just about every mega-project that flares up in the news never actually happens - but one thing in this article grabbed my attention.
" Many have been asking whether Central America needs two canals, even in an age of growing world trade. "
No-one who cared about free trade would ask that. Competition is Good. While there are other routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific, they are either very long (around south America) or not reliably open (Northwest Passage). The Panama canal is also not big enough for many modern ships, and still won't be even after the current upgrades are complete (see image to right). Broadly speaking, the larger your ship the cheaper it is to run per ton-mile of cargo, and it's less polluting too. And, of course, shorter routes between the same two ports are also cheaper.
I read this between overs while having a rock 'n roll weekend watching cricket at a country house. It's good fun, but I'm glad it wasn't any longer than it is, as trolling gets boring after a while. Mr. Hein stops at just the right length.
On Saturday I took some Canuckistani friends to Hampton Court. We took a boat from Westminster - which, incidentally, I heartily recommend, travelling by boat is a great way to see London, and there's a bar - and on the way we overtook this.
There's a Zeppelin pootling around in the skies of London! Sadly it's only carrying tourists who want to see the city from the air and it isn't going to bomb the Home Office, but even so - a Zeppelin!
It's a real Zeppelin, made by Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik. Unfortunately it's somewhat smaller than its ancestors, but even so, compared to the advertising blimps that occasionally spoil the view, it's huge. And it's a Zeppelin! How cool is that!?!?
Hippies would have you believe that you can Save the Planet and your wallet by unplugging your devices instead of leaving them on stand-by. They are wrong. If we assume that each of twenty devices in my flat is wasting 2W for the 23 hours a day that they're not in use (all of which are pessimistic estimates), then that's wasting 3.3 mega-Joules a day. That sounds like quite a lot. It is, however, just under 1kWh (the unit in which electricity is metered) so costs about 10p a day, or £3 a month.
Here's a much better way of saving energy, emitting less "carbon" (carbon is in fact Just Fine, it's carbon dioxide that will destroy the planet), and coincidentally saving quite a bit more money.
I recently took a round trip of about 500 miles, most of it on motorways and other fast free-flowing roads. By driving at 60mph instead of 85, I got 45 miles per gallon instead of my normal 33-ish. That means I burned 4 gallons less fuel, or 18 litres, or £24.50. Given that the energy density of diesel is about 38MJ/l, I saved 684MJ or 192 kWh. That is, in one weekend I Saved the Planet as much as I would in nearly eight months of unplugging the hifi, phone charger, etc.
And never mind how much my back thanks me for not having to do all that bending over to plug and unplug things.
Anyway, now let's see what happens if we apply my wisdom to the whole country. Let's conservatively assume that there are 1,000,000 cars, each doing 10,000 miles a year, and that they all normally do a quite good 50mpg. That means they burn 200,000,000 gallons of fuel, or about a billion litres. If everyone slows down by the same amount I did, that billion litres becomes 700 million litres, saving 300 million litres of petrol (which is cheaper than the diesel I use), or 354 million quid. That's also a saving of 12,000,000,000,000,000 joules of energy. Which is about the annual output of the Enfield power station.
What's really interesting about this is that Enfield is a very small power station, about a twelfth of the size of Drax. So while driving slower is a fuck of a lot better than unplugging your phone charger, it's also still not very effective at Saving the Planet. You should still do it though, cos it'll annoy the BMW driver behind you.
[updated to ignore engine efficiency - even if your engine is really inefficient you're still turning each litre into 38MJ of energy, just not very usefully]
As an "intellectual property" lawyer, Mr. Geeklawyer knows all about stealing other peoples' ideas. So it comes as no surprise to me that shortly after I wrote about the lovely Lisain my journal, he would do the same in his. However, as a rather unlikeable sort of chap with no friends (which to be fair isn't his fault, the concept of being nice was beaten out of him in law school) he has to stoop to offering bribes to people so that they will pay attention.
I would urge you not to read this sad little man's scribblings, and especially to not comment on them, for two reasons. First, if you don't feed his delusions of grandeur then those of us who care about him may eventually be able to wean him off his self-destructive personality-destroying addiction to the law and into a decent profession such as pimping small children, or selling hard drugs to kittens.
However, the second, and most important, reason is that I want the whisky he is offering.
Occasionally, satellite navigation systems come up with daft routes. Such as directing large vehicles down narrow windy country lanes. This is a particular problem for some people who live on those lanes.
What really bugs me, however, is the response when those vehicles get stuck. We hear of vehicles getting stuck and being released by cutting down trees, demolishing walls, and digging up gardens. This is the wrong response.
The incompetent drivers are at fault for not paying attention to where they're going. Therefore they should be punished. If the vehicle can't be got out quickly (say within a few hours) then what should be destroyed isn't the nearby walls, but the vehicle. Extract it by cutting the vehicle apart.
Using airport codes like EDI to refer to cities (EDI is the code for Edinburgh) is neither big nor clever. In fact it makes you look like a bit of a dick. Similarly, using airport codes to refer to airports (eg saying "Ell Aitch Are" when you mean "Heathrow") also makes you look like a bit of a dick unless you are both:
Our Glorious Leaders are considering reducing the drink-drive limit. These would be the same glorious leaders who, over the past decade and more, have replaced police traffic patrols with automatic cameras, in the interests of making a pot of cash out of people who break the speed limit. Trouble is, those things are good at spotting fast driving but not at spotting dangerous driving. And they will continue to be just as bad as they are right now at spotting drivers who've had half a pint too much beer.
Thanks to the AWESOME POWER of mobile interweb, I'm writing this on the bus to work. Sitting oposite me was an extremely fat woman. But for the last mile, while the bus went past several stops, she has been standing right in front of that seat leaning on the seat back for support. Why she would do this I don't know, but she has refused to move and let someone else take the seat. It's at times like these that I am grateful for our absurd gun laws, as I doubt that a jury would pay much attention to my "she had no manners and deserved to be shot" defence.
British Airways' "vision" is to "create the best possible airport experience before you fly", according to some bumph they sent me. To do this they have a "new simpler checked and excess baggage policy". I wonder what that new policy is, so reading on a bit ... "the maximum weight per bag will be reduced". The overall effect is that ordinary people will be able to take less luggage.
Obviously, that makes flying so much nicer!
Now I've known for some time that the government basically doesn't want people to fly, and that the method they've chosen to implement this part of their giving in to terrorists errm, I mean security agenda is to make it as inconvenient as possible. I'd already stopped flying because I quite literally can't take all my valuable items in hand luggage like I used to and I don't trust the baggage monkeys to not steal them / use them as footballs / run them over with trucks / send them to Ulaan Bator. I use Eurostar and other trains, which for the vast majority of my journeys is not significantly more time-consuming, as well as being cheaper and a great deal less unpleasant.
What I can't understand is why an airline would want to collaborate with the enemy in this way and drive even more of its customers away. Although I do note that BA own 10% of the shares in the company that runs Eurostar ...
Posted at 20:02
by David Cantrell keywords: transport
In the middle of a discussion about the wondrous device that is London Transport, I mentioned that most people on it should be skinned and used to make fine leather goods. After all, Commuter Skin would be nice and soft and could be used to make leather goods for babies.
I was shocked and appalled to discover that the phrase "Baby's First Biker Jacket" does not (yet) appear anywhere on the interwebnets.
According to The Observer, MPs are surprised that "while a national road-charging scheme to charge motorists by the mile is being piloted, its aim is to cut congestion, not to discriminate between a higher-emissions Land Rover and an environmentally less damaging Toyota Prius".
You see, that's because road usage is not the best way of determining how much environmental damage a vehicle does. The total pollutant output is, over the lifetime of the vehicle, pretty much proportional to the amount of fuel put in to it. Consequently, while road charging may be a great way to ease congestion (as has been proven in London), if you want to reduce environmental damage, you need to encourage the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles instead. The way to do that is to charge more for fuel and perhaps to subsidise the purchase of efficient vehicles such as the Prius. It is an entirely different problem from congestion, and so is best solved in entirely different ways.
Those pretty red lights you sometimes get at junctions are an instruction that you should stop. As in, not pass them. Cease forward motion.
If you don't stop, then you are liable to meet me as I am crossing the road on foot. You really don't want to do that. The lycra-lout who nearly ran into me today as I was out getting my lunch realised that he didn't want to run into me, and fell off his bike at high speed trying to go around me. I speak from personal experience that road-rash hurts, which in this case is a Very Good Thing. Also, the tinkling sounds from his bag sounded pleasingly expensive.
Posted at 13:48
by David Cantrell keywords: transport
Ken Livingstone has promised to increase the congestion charge again, to £10, if re-elected. Good for him! Contrary to the bleatings of his political opponents - including, sadly, some of my fellow Lib Dems - central London businesses are not harmed by the congestion charge. London has since long before the congestion charge had fuck-all parking available and so people have long relied on the clapped-out public transport infrastructure. When buying large items from central London shops, they have for ages arranged for the items to be delivered to them, or have used a cab to get home with them, simply because even if they could have driven to the shop for free, they'd have not been able to park anyway.
When the congestion charge was introduced, there was an immediate decrease in traffic, and an immediate improvement in the quality of service of buses. Cab journeys likewise became quicker and hence cheaper. It seems reasonable to suppose that another increase in the charge will lead to further improvements along these lines without, for the above reasons, doing noticeable harm to businesses.
Where I do not agree with Mr. Livingstone is his desire to increase the area covered by congestion charging. Yes, this will bring in more revenue which, as explained above, is a good thing. However, the area outside the original congestion charge zone did not - and still does not - suffer from as bad congestion, and just happens to have a lot more easy parking. Extending the area covered will indeed harm businesses there and I am not convinced that the benefits gained make up for this.