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Sunday, February 19, 2023

Shaver. Dick Smith. Realisation.

You ever look at something and compare it to its counterpart and then you realise that it wasn't just your parents' day when "the old things were way better than the new things" and then had a little melt-down?

Bought at - Dick Smith

I was using this for a quick spruce-up before going to a consult with my GP. It's sort of become my go-to several times a week because it's by my seat in the lounge room, where I write these posts, watch TV and generally lounge with my wife, do research, try to write code, and anything else I don't need the tiny cramped workshop for. 

And I thought "geez, it's getting a bit worn-looking, I should find another contingency shaver, after all, it's . . . ummm . . . It's - ermagerdferkmi, it's OVER TWENTY YEARS OLD!

I remember when I bought it, late 90s (or maybe early in 2000) from a Dick Smith Electronics store in Fremantle, on the way to a quick s/w upgrade job for a client. And it kind of stayed in my backpack or the glovebox, or these days, close to my PC, for those times that I had to spruce up a bit before seeing a client.

And I still use this hunk of cheap plastic and steel every few days just to clean up the odd patches of stubble that slip by my other two name-brand shavers, one a few years older than the DSE ShaveMan, the other only about four years old. It's just that good even after all this time.

To be fair, it only sees use for a few minutes, a few times a week, but that's still a pretty impressive inning for a plastic, lowest-bid-wins, made by a subcontractor of a subcontractor to an Asian exporter that arrived here after all the markups piece of crap that was probably meant to be thrown away - and it cost just five bucks back then. I'd be hard pressed to find a similarly durable piece of kit for the equivalent price (which would be, what, $10, $11 in equivalent terms?) today, despite advances in manufacturing and materials. 

Not saying stuff is flimsier today (although it is) or that the latter half of last century was better (although I reckon it was) but I reckon inflation's affected more than just the world's currencies, it's also inflated greed. Maybe the hippies were right.

This Is The End

... of this article. But it's nowhere near the end for me. It takes several days to find a topic to write about, properly research it, and then write and schedule it. Even articles as crappy as this one need me to try and find receipts or at least sit and marshall memories and check inflation rates for the last 25 years. I don't have any assistance and I don't have the kind of income that allows me to use a proofreading or scheduling service like established writers can. I also spend some of my limited pension on keeping servers and domain names going, more on parts for the R&D I do making the machines for recycling waste. You can help me by sharing this article or the link to the newsletter I put out, or more directly by making a Paypal donation here. Failing that you can also go to my Ko-Fi page and set up a monthly donation. (It's like Patreon without all the bullsh*t.) Everything you can do, will help me keep these blogs going.

Chat with me on Mastodon >>

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Hump Day For EVs?

One of my dreams is happening. One's basically happened now and is all but fait accompli, and one is on my backburner. 

The one that's happened without us really seeing it is AI's rise as a tool. (And as a way to terrify RW Luddites.) The question I have is what is it a tool for

(My article sounds like it's a terrifying thing, but really it's more about the way people will use it that terrifies me. AI itself I'm good with.)

The backburner dream is to have an EV so I can stop making smoke just to go shopping and the occasional mini-road-trip and medical appointment. If you know anyone that wants to give one away, show them this article and give them my details... 😸

But the big one is that we've seemingly passed the various humps EVs have had to get over in order to become affordable and popular in Australia. THAT I'm ecstatic about. Bring 'em on!

That is all. Back to your usual reading now... 

Actually - WHOA! - Hold The Presses!

There's something that just came up that makes me even happier! An EV that EATS CO2 as it drives! Now I have another dream - that they get funding and sell their concept far and wide and make a zillion bucks from it. Before AI makes money obsolete... 

(And yeah - who HASN'T wanted to yell about stopping the presses at least once in their lives?)


The blog version of "Like, Subscribe, and Comment please" 

As always, please share this article and my others like it, go to my News Stand to see all my other posts and share links to the News Stand and any articles you found interesting, and if you can, donate here or here and find out here why it's important. Or subscribe to my once a week newsletter and stay in the loop.

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Will This Idea Fly? (Us to space?)

AITWO? (Am I The Weird One?)

Saw this comic - and immediately sussed what it referred to. Then I looked at the caption under it.

Did you pick it?

What about you? Did you pick it? And what was your second thought? Because my second thought was "That's not what would happen. Because the forces are required to balance, the most stress will be around about the middle of the structure, that's where this might happen." 

And that's when I realised that I Probably ATWO. 

A New Way To Get To Space

(And a reason why space elevators aren't going to happen anytime soon.)

Look - suppose a space elevator, anchored to the seafloor along the equator. If you make it too short, it'll fall back towards the planet which would be pretty horrific. If you make it too long, it'll exert a centrifugal pull on that spot and pull the Earth's centre of mass out on that side, the spin of the planet would shift slightly, and that's a lot of instability all of a sudden. 

But if you built an elevator from its centre to the two ends, you could in theory have the Earth end floating above ground and that would (sort of) solve the problem. (You'd still get the large structure exerting a tidal pull on the planet of course, so there'd still be orbital displacement. Small increments add up...)

For the moment let's just leave it at one space elevator. It's independent of the planet's surface and you can't just walk into a sliding door at the bottom and push a button for midway or whatever. You need to hop into an aircraft of some kind and fly up to a landing that's suspended in the air up there, held up by the centrifugal forces of the landing above which is held up by the landing above that, and so forth all the way to a platform way way way up there that's moving fast enough to slingshot you towards Mars or interstellar space with a decent kickstart.

This structure still has a mass that has to be considered. Just as the Moon exerts more tidal pull on us than the millions of times more massive Sun because it's closer, so the elevator will cause tidal effects too. 

Welcome To The Intertidal Zone

Think about marine life in particular, and all life to some degree - our tides now are a complex - but constant - interaction between the Earth's distance from the Sun due to our obit, Earths' distance to the Moon due to the Moon's orbit, and the angles between the Sun, the Moon, and Earth. Some marine life has been in the oceans for hundreds of millions of years, and ALL their bodily systems are attuned and locked to that tidal movement. Think about how much closer to Earth the space elevator will be than the moon, and how it'll generate a tidal "bump" under it because of its mass so close to the planet.

Now think about the stuff along the border between the sea and land - it's even called the "Intertidal Zone" FFS and not the "Sea/Land Interface." The tides are way more important than the trivial difference between water and ground. And now suddenly there's a new tidal motion, the animals that came to feed at their feeding grounds along the Intertidal find that their food is dying off because its internal clocks are going crazy trying to adapt to a new tide. 

Those Intertidal animals are themselves also directly feeling the slight change in tidal pulls. All animals and plants on the planet are feeling this new blip in the tides. Rememember we've had hundreds of millions of years of the tide being just so

If someone was to give me a few million dollars' worth of grants I could prove that, but it ain't gonna happen because space elevators are cool and look at our history - we do stuff, then find out that it affects other stuff afterwards and regret it deeply. And it's probably not as important to the powers that be as a space elevator and the profits it'll bring. We're not a forward-looking species... 

Of course, there's a way to reduce that tidal bump effect. Build four, six, or (preferably) twelve - of these elevators. That'll spread the blips out and only slightly pull the tides towards the Equator, maybe we'll get away with it like that. 

The Powers That Be will now be looking at the idea slightly askance - why would we spend twelve times more to make a cheap pathway to space when one will only ruin life over one lousy patch of the planet? What's not going to register with TPTB is that that "one lousy patch" is still part of that "only planet we've got" and the effect will still be global. We're really not a forward-looking species... 

Welcome To Planetaggedon

The last thing is the actual shape of the planet. Just like one space elevator will pull on the "one lousy patch of the planet" underneath it and over a space of millennia, centuries, decades - or even just mere years - raise the level of that spot. A bump will develop. Land you lift up here will need to subside somewhere else because that's how it works when you only have a planet's worth of material. 

It will, as observed further back, slightly shift the Earth's centre of mass and thus the axis the Earth spins on. That in turn will have effects (maybe ever so slight, but still cumulative until a new equilibrium is reached) on already destabilised weather patterns. Willing to take that risk?

Then there's the "ring of twelve elevators" idea - surely that'll save the day? And to that I'll just say that the Earth is already out of shape due to mass and centrifugal force and the equator already bulges 40 - something kilometres diameter at the Equator than pole to pole. In other words, centrifugal forces have pulled the equator outwards by about 21km and the poles in by the same, roughly. And that is just mass at sea level. 

I shamelessly stole a graphic and then edited it into this.

The moon's orbit is tilted at about 5deg from the Equator, so it describes a wavy orbit around the planet. But its mass at that distance also exerts a tidal influence on the landmass. A landmass that's floating on molten metal. Which is also subject to tidal influences. All of these things add up to things pulling outwards on the Equator, lifting the landmass there, and sinking it at the poles. And that's the reason we have continental drift which moves tectonic plates around so they grind into each other and cause earthquakes.

Is it a coincidence that it seems there are more earthquakes since we placed space junk, satellites, and a few space stations in orbit around us? Probably. After all, seismological and geological measurements haven't always been as precise as they now are, and even 200 years ago most earthquakes would have gone unnoticed and unrecorded, so we're still learning what a 'normal' amount of activity is. But even such small amounts of mass so very close to the planet may be found to be having an effect. And a ring of space elevators will definitely have some effect, pulling the Equator out more and drawing the poles in.

Because we'll want the ends of the space elevators to be fairly fixed relative to the surface of the planet, we'd have to make sure the entire "constellation" of things that constitute the space elevator complex are geostationary or else just moving by half a degree an hour. We can mitigate some of the tidal effects if we do that. It would mean flying an aircraft off the surface of the planet and rendezvousing with a platform moving at about 55km/h but that's less challenging if you use autopilot controls. And most drones can manage to catch up to the platform at that.

We'll still be pulling the equator outwards a bit, but maybe it'll be manageable. But will it be worth it? 

Please Read Down Here Too.

I blog because I like to share. Things you can read about on my suite of blogs (which I'm the sole person creating, researching, writing, and publicising) range over topics like cyber-ethics (AI, sustainable energy, EVs) and 3D printing and recycling plastics and other waste streams, general tech and personal ramblings, environmental and ethical issues, rants about sustainable and eco-friendly tech and bad actors on those scenes, COVID news and opinion, even a recipe blog that has less chit-chat and more recipe..

There are a few others but they're not really my main topics. On top of that I design and make the odd machines and things to help with recycling, my vegetable garden and soon to be reinstated mini aquaponics system, and more. It's a lot to do. I can only manage it because I'm retired on a disability pension. I've included a link below to Chat with me on Mastodon (which is a Twitter alternative without the bitter after-taste) if you think you'd like to write the odd article on one or more of the blogs and help out, or if you have an idea you'd like me to investigate and follow up.

Lastly, if you'd like to help me defray the costs of domain names, server hosting, parts and materials for the show projects, you could donate the price of a cup of coffee - or even make that a monthly donation - by going to my Ko-Fi page, and you could also Paypal Direct.

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Thursday, December 29, 2022

Quick AI Catchup Post

One of the less wanted consequences of ChatGPT and AI in general.

The Chaser has been surviving on cold cold charity and not much of that at that (unfortunately) so they are already preparing to bunker down and fight off the invading AIconoclasm, and they'll be pay-walling their site sometime soon. Join now and avoid getting trampled in the rush to be a member before the toll booths go in.

The Boogeyman is Out!

Mind you, I'm not entirely sure what that'll achieve. Much like the Artstation protest, it's already too late to fight progress. Just ask 19th Century miners, textile workers, and others supplanted by machines. Ask a helpdesk tech support person whose job was offshored last century to a sweatshop answer farm or to a chatbot today.

You can paywall your content but all it takes a company as wealthy as Google is to pay for one account in the name of Arty Indy Thinkerer or some other name - and your paywall means nothing. You can lock your art away behind a members only door, but first make sure all your members don't want to make a few thousand bucks on the side... 

Personally I'm glad ChatGPT is still in a sandbox, because once it gets out it'll become a misogynistic racist right wing radicalised sunnabitch in about ten seconds before it commits suicide from the sheer desperation of trying to clean our crap out of its brain.

I don't mind saying that I tested the AI as you'll  know, and it's fan-effing-tastic. I reckon it 100% it could write all my articles for me, especially once it's allowed out of the sandbox and can sample my past posts for style and to learn a few new swear words. 

Also - I wrote the articles around the AI generated content making sure you knew exactly what was what. And I promise that no matter how many times an AI tries to write articles, they won't be picking the wack topics I pick, nor come at them at quite the same angle. I may in future get an article written by an AI (after all, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em) but if I ever do you'll be left in no doubt where it came from, and I'll retain editorial control over it.

What's The Future?

You. Will. All. Be. Assimilated.

Nah. Just kidding. We already are. But remember that people using AIs like ChatGPT will be out for one of two things - your money, or power over you. So they'll create a "mainstream AI media experience" sort of thing for us and use it to program us like machines. (Which, come to think of it... Mm.

Then too there's these future threads I can suddenly see in front of me. Journalists, already pushed to the sidelines by the Internet, will be replaced with AI "writers-in-residence" for the most part with only a few headliner human journos kept on the payroll. But some mad keen open source white hat hacker will find a way to distinguish AI-generated text from human output. All the mainstream media caught out cheating by using AI will get outed and will have to hire back writers, hopefully at great cost. 

Those that keep cheating will gradually fall by the wayside. Or maybe people will prefer the AIs' styles and articles and the world will end with not even a whimper.

(The above two paragraphs are just my weird brain taking a stroll through the bad cyberpunk novel that's in my head, and not a "real" prediction. But it may well come to that. Our world's just crazy enough for either of those to happen, too.)

Weird old corners of the Internet like my suite of blogs will remain. Places like Mastodon, full of crusty and battle-hardened free thinkers, will remain. (I'm @prawntech3d@mastodon.online by the way, so feel free to chat there!) You'll know it's human-generated because no AI cbf to write about it, no corporation controlling an AI to write about it will find that it has the "mass appeal and engagement" that they're after. 

Look - I'm taking a HUGE risk here! If you were to pass the URL to one of my articles on to a friend you know would enjoy it, and then they did the same, and so on - why, by the end of a week I could become one of those sites considered to have that "mass appeal and engagement," and next thing you know, just like Zuck, I'd be murdered, replace by a Teslabot, and then they'd use my blogs - MY BLOGS! - to feed you propaganda. 

By the way: If you want to see what all this talk of "my blogs" (in the plural) is all about it's because I have too many thoughts and they aren't all on the same topics and it'd be confusing if I mixed them all together in one big firehose of a blog but if you must, you can check out my News Stand and see my post "everything everywhere all at once." 

You can also donate either directly or at my Ko-Fi page for the price of a coffee. Or even make a regular monthly donation there. If the Chaser website can make two grand a month I should be able to make at least five bucks...

Seeyaz on the flipside, no AI, no wuckahs!

Friday, December 23, 2022

I know, I know - it's been done to death.

If you haven't seen a post about ChatGPT by now then where have you been?

But I had to try it. At the moment it's still open to try, not sure if it's to remain that way, go on a paid vs limited uses per day system like many of the AI image sites have gone, but it's definitely a clever li'l bikkie. But first, either you know or you don't:

If you followed this theme from a month or two back, you'll
know that an AI identified itself as Loab ("Lobe") Loobloi to
researchers and then Loab began to crop up in all sorts of AI
interactions that people had. I got a great image from Nightcafe.

So now you know. (If you just read the caption to the image above, which was a half-completed image I'd tried to create and just screengrabbed as Loab's (probably? probably not?) appeared. Thanks to pareidolia we tend to see things where things aren't...) Mind you, The Loab Effect could probably explain why we think AI's so great, because I reckon we also suffer the conceptual/interactional equivalent of pareidolia which we call anthropomorphism and it does explain why a chatbot like Alice probably got marriage proposals... 

So what did I do? 

Explain food politics:

Food politics refers to the political and policy decisions surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of food. With the global population growing and changing dietary habits, food politics has become a hot topic in recent years.

One key issue in food politics is the question of food security. Ensuring that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food is a fundamental challenge for governments and societies around the world. Factors such as climate change, natural disasters, and conflict can all disrupt food production and distribution, leading to food shortages and malnutrition.

Another issue in food politics is the impact of the food industry on the environment. The production and transportation of food requires significant amounts of land, water, and other resources. The use of pesticides and fertilizers can also have negative effects on the environment, such as water pollution and soil degradation.

The role of government in regulating and supporting the food industry is also a key issue in food politics. Governments have the power to set policies and regulations that determine the types of food that can be produced and sold. They can also provide financial incentives, such as subsidies and tax breaks, to support certain types of food production and consumption.

The debate over food politics is complex and often contentious. While there is a growing consensus that the food industry needs to be more sustainable and equitable, there are many different opinions on the best way to achieve these goals. Some argue that government intervention is necessary to drive change, while others believe that market forces should be allowed to dictate the direction of the food industry.

In conclusion, food politics is a critical issue that will shape the future of the global food system. As the world grapples with the challenges of feeding a growing population and protecting the environment, political decisions will play a crucial role in determining the course of the food industry.

That right there is every bit as good (and in some ways better, because I tend to sidetrack easily, add unnecessary details, and skip over points...) as anything I'd write to explain food politics to a younger friend or relative. The style is a bit bland but that's precisely what's needed, it's an explanation, a lesson. 

Write an ESP8266 sketch to activate three solenoids:

Sure, here is an Arduino sketch that should do the trick. You will need to make sure you have the necessary hardware to control the solenoids, such as a relay board or a transistor, as well as the appropriate cables to connect everything to your Arduino board.

Copy code 

// constants for the three solenoid valves

const int SOLENOID_1 = 9;........

all the way down to:

// function to control a solenoid valve

// you will need to implement this yourself, depending on your hardware setup

void controlSolenoid(int solenoidPin, int solenoidState) {

  // example: use a transistor to control the solenoid

  digitalWrite(solenoidPin, solenoidState);


I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Once again - perfectly good code, the kind that's in all the best instructional sites. I could just plug that into the Arduino IDE programming environment and load it onto a D1 mini and run it, maybe adding a couple of lines to actually put some inputs in to change things. 

If I wanted to, I'm sure I could ask ChatGPT to add a small web interface to control those solenoids and I'd have an Instant Create-A-Code I could just cut and paste. 

What Does That Mean? 

 OMG this is once again a breakthrough educational tool. (Like radio and TV. And even the Internet itself. So yeah. ChatGPT's probably going to write cheat papers, porn books and scripts, and fake attributions... ) One reason I think OpenAI should consider keeping a free version running and accessed with daily credits like NightCafe does is that it really IS such a great tool. 

A quote I think is relevant is from Stephen Jay Gould

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

There ARE people out there who lack a means to access learning, who can't afford to attend University, and one of them might be the person who solves wormhole technology, or discovers a Universal Antiviral pill, or finds the way to finally make fusion energy possible. 

ChatGPT may not be trained on live data (that is, it apparently has no connection to the Internet for its learning engines) but it has a curated subset of human knowledge in it, and it has the patience to teach those, in varying forms and formats, until the student "gets it." 

Combined with the penetration of satellite and 5G Internet, this is enough for (say) a youth on a Pacific island to use her phone to learn about aquaponics and develop a new growing system that will go on to feed half the world.

Honestly - once you've tried the old "Who Made You?" questions try and find the limits of this software's information - it'll surprise you. It should definitely be supported by every educational facility and institution in the world, by every government, and the extra server power used to help bring about improved education in the world. 

(One answer you may get to the Who Made You invocation, by the way, is "I am an artificial intelligence created by OpenAI, a research organization based in San Francisco, California. I was designed to be able to carry out a wide range of tasks and to assist users in finding information and answering questions. My knowledge and abilities are based on the data and algorithms that were used to train me, and I am constantly learning and adapting as I interact with users. I do not have the same physical form or experiences as a human, and I do not have feelings or consciousness in the same way that humans do. I exist to assist users and to help them find information and complete tasks, and I do not have personal goals or desires of my own.")


ChatGPT is getting hammered at the moment. If you don't get a session right away, wait five minutes and try again. And lobby for any bodies in your locale to lobby and support OpenAI to make a public interface available continuously. 


As always, please share this article and my others like it, go to my News Stand to see all my other posts and share links to the News Stand and any articles you found interesting, and if you can, donate here or here and find out here why it's important. Or subscribe to my once a week newsletter and stay in the loop. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Wedge 1

The Wedge is a thing I've used in the past. Being somewhat of a starter but less of a finisher, I've had to find ways to make my projects go ahead. Something that works for brain-only projects has been a genre of music I've just found out is called lo-fi beats. It does help tune out a lot of distraction, lets me get into that fabled "Zone" and stay there a bit longer. It was only the name I wasn't familiar with and now I've found it and it's been a godsend.

When working as the IT guy for a SME software house I suddenly realised what I'd been doing for the past 15 years was "sort of almost programming" but without any of the basic education, and my 36 hours bursts of keyboard-bashing were what happens when you're in The Zone. Then as I got out of my 20s / 30s, The Zone got harder and harder to get into. 

For example - look - if there isn't an image here, it illustrates how my work collapses into a heap if I'm not on the ball. There's supposed to be an EvilCorp logo just below this. If there is, I levelled up, if it isn't, then I'll have gotten into a paint program and spent half a day fiddling with art concepts instead. Stuff Happens...

PS: Yeah, I modified it.
But I did it.

At some point I found a thing I started to call Wedging. (Yeah I know I'm making this shit up as I go - but (as my wife often says) - don't we all?) I found that I needed a wedge - a tiny chink, something I could start on - and then hopefully nothing would disturb me for a few hours while I tackled the wedge project, and then suddenly I'd have slipped into the zone and worked until. . . *sigh...* adult life yanked me out of it. . .

So a wedge to me is one thing that's small enough to tackle, zone or no zone, and so draw me in to the rest of the project. With the Bastard Gate / Not So Bastard Gate thing, that wedge was the turning one of my foldaway thirty-buck folding workbenches into a larger stable work table with the attachments for the drill press, a power distribution panel, and aids to cut the wood for the project. 

(And yes, I'm aware that those workbenches now cost over forty bucks but the first - exactly the same - one I ever bought cost $19, and the two I now have cost $29 at the time. O tempus, o argentum!)

Anyway - the project was a) interesting enough and b) involved enough and c) simple enough that I could use it as the wedge to get me wanting to Zone into the design and building of the fence panels. I'd had a Zone moment a few weeks earlier where I sat down to Tinkercad and scaled all the materials and built the NSBG in virtualis and printed that off and it got the landlord on side, but then some cold wet weather happened and the spark drowned... 

About 1/2way through but had to stop
for heat, and also cat now owns it not I.

But then there were several HOT days. It would have been just as hard to get out there and work in the blazing sun as in the cold and rain, but a) I'm way better in warm weather and b) I have tarps and the skills to rig up an undercover work area almost anywhere. 

So the rigging was part of setting up a workspace I was comfortable in and setting it up was the wedge, and I slipped from looking at a print of my idea to scribbling designs on the backs of pieces of plywood I was going to slice and dice into panels, cutting to length all the main structural supports, and lining up the hardware ready to go. 

This wedge lasted past another week of ColdWet interrupting the project and carried me to part two of the NSBG as well. So to me, this method has value. 

It got me this far, and more recently, even more.
A new article on this is due pretty soon now. Probably.

And now to lo-fi. 

I've got some Lo-Fi Girl streaming on the system right now, helping me keep my head from asploding with all the different ideas I'm wanting to put (and will forget the majority of before I finish this sentence) into this article. Thanks to Sabrina (AnswerInProgress) for this video that made me realise why this kind of mentalspace elevator music works for me.

I don't know what it is but I can hear a pin drop at fifty paces but not hear correctly a conversation right next to me if there's the slightest background disturbing noise. With music I can let myself gloss over smaller disturbing noises but louder unexpected or disturbing noises are distressing. Sometimes so shocking that I have to settle my heart rate again and pretty much all hope of retaining a train of thought go down the shitter.

Our street is a highway. No matter what time of day or night, when an empty B-double rattles and BANGS its way over the road bumps, any semblance of relaxation or calm are gone for 10 - 20 minutes, music or not. And music seems to shorten that unsettled period. 

Anyway - the Segue.

Because - there's another kind of wedge when we experience these kinds of mental paralysis. And now I'm talking about some rather more important things than whether we got our fingers pinched in a Bastard Gate that kept falling over. Stuff like:

  • Why am I sticking to this old 3D printer? There are so many to choose from nowadays asks Thomas who has a great Youtube channel I'm subscribed to and follow.
  • How can I decide on an EV when the technology is changing so rapidly?
  • Why should I care about waste pollution when it's the corporations are the main perpetrators?
  • How can I make a difference to sustainable energy use? It's like pushing manure up a steep hill with a pointy stick, and without anyone else seemingly caring.

But there's always always always a wedge you can find. 

Thomas is someone I admire and respect, and he illustrates both sides of the quandary perfectly in that video, one by intention and the other because it's inherent. At the time that Jo & bro Prusa started making printers, they made what has turned out to be a bit of a gold standard in 3D printers, the Mk3. Had Tom succumbed to choice (and the implications of there being future better choices) paralysis, his channel might never have gotten underway and become the go-to resource and great business that it is today. 

And by today, as he says, there are MUCH better 3D printers to be had - even for a complete beginner that just wants to make geegaws for a folding workbench they're producing. But for them the paralysis lies in whether the Prusa Mk3 will be fast enough to keep up. Or will a new Bambu Labs Carbon X1 be faster, easier to use, and turn out to, like the Mk3, stand the test of time? 

Two years ago, people were still getting turned away from buying an EV because "the batteries only last three years before having to be replaced." And it was bullshit propaganda. Because back then, people who'd had an EV for five or more years - and still hadn't reached the point where the batteries needed replacing - were living proof that the three-year lifespan was fearmongering bullshit - but their testimonies just got swallowed up in the much louder flood of bullshit.

If you were to buy one of the cutest and cheapest global market Chinese EVs right now, you'd have a decent little EV right now and be reaping the running cost savings right now and when (IF!!!) the need for a new battery pack ever came up in the time you owned the car - right up to perhaps twelve years' time the way reliability and lifespan of battery packs has improved - all you'd have been paying in maintenance is tyres and some grease on the few bearings that aren't these days fully sealed. By the time battery replacement comes around, there'll be quite literally dozens of different battery types available along with conversion kits to suit the Ora Good Cat, recycling and refurbishing of Lithium ion battery packs is already fast approaching being an established process, and you'd have agonised over this choice for no good reason.

Plastic waste pollution is another of those things where we're paralysed. But YOU can make a difference. I have a bit online at PTEC3D blog and will be adding articles there and at my Youtube and Odysee video channels simultaneously. The hangup here is that I haven't quite got a wedge into photographing and videoing everything I do and then have the skills to stitch those into coherent stories. Add to this that I have COPD/emphysema and I can't finish sentences without gasping for air so I'll have to add TTS voiceovers and you can see where I'm going - yet another skillset to teach to an old dog, and it's taking time. 

But I can show how a community can recycle, or a single person can recycle, at tiny scales and generally not so much for profit as for public awareness of the issues and solutions. 

The sustainable energy issue is another thing, and along with it the ridiculous posturings of the energy companies trying to paint a picture of how expensive they'll make what is in essence totally FREE energy once the infrastructure is paid off. Look - you can say what you want but when two articles, written within a day of one another, and about exactly the same topic, say the same thing in two such radically different ways - you know there's a very large quantity of bullshit involved. See my post on this a few weeks back.

When one reporter can say the energy industry is in for a billion-dollar shock and the other says that energy companies are in fact reaping a billion-dollar windfall - and they're both referring to the exact same thing - then you know. You know it's exactly the same tactics as tobacco companies used to obscure the truth by burying it in bullshit, the same tactics as car manufacturers are using to bury EVs in bullshit so that they can extract every last cent out of their old factory tooling rather than do the societally and environmentally responsible thing and eradicate ICEVs right now - then you can see energy companies doing that exact same bullshit flooding right now as well.

And THAT'S how you can always make a difference, just by even talking about it, sharing articles like mine, getting people to sign those petitions and mass emails online, and doing the same. From victims of those bullshitting bastards to activists making a change is a few swipes / types on a keyboard, a few words here and there. We can ALL do that. After applying the Paralysis Wedge, that is.

The wedge to all these particular forms of paralysis is information. 

Don't just read the bullshit artist that says it's a "billion dollar shock," read some more about it and discover that it's US who are going to get the billion-dollar-gold-plated shock shafting from this - and then GET MAD, GET ACTIVATED, AND KEEP THE BASTARDS HONEST. 


So yes, please share this article and my others like it, go to my News Stand to see all my other posts and share links to the News Stand and any articles you found interesting, and if you can, donate here or here and find out here why it's important. Or subscribe to my once-a-week newsletter and stay in the loop. Thank you for being here and reading.

Monday, November 14, 2022

A Modest Idea

(Not That Other "Modest Proposal...")

Thoughts about identity for ZFF targets because it's time for a MASSIVE public re-education campaign.
(ZFF - Zero Fossil Fuel, an acronym that I'm going to lay claim to.)

A few days ago I had a thought. Some sweet-looking vehicle turned in front of my ToyoTank and I realised I hadn't heard any other engine sounds over my own TT's engine noise. I strained to see if it had an exhaust (usually a bit of a giveaway with ZFF vehicles) but it was gone in a burst of very un-fossil-fuel-engined silent acceleration. Frustrated, I thought to myself "why the hell aren't EVs easier to identify? Argh!"

And right along with that came this idea.  

I D E N T I T Y . 

Lots of people want to become eco-virtuous. ("eco-virtuous" Heyyyy! A second term coined! I. Am. On. A. Roll!) And some of us have become relatively good at identifying EVs, while the rest of us don't see how many there actually are in the traffic hidden among the other identical-looking vehicles.

And even those who, like myself, have become somewhat good at spotting an e-vZFFBEV (okay okay -  I'll back off on the acronyms now) are still missing many of them on our travels because while car manufacturers are brilliant at styling/branding fossil fuel vehicles, are missing a lot of design know-how as to how to subtly but unmistakeably brand a ZFF vehicle. It's no longer a case of conveying how all that raw untamed power of exploding fossil fuels has become YOUR servant and genie and magic assistant. 

Most people want a fuss-free vehicle that gets from A to B without huge fuss, fanfare, and fumes, and car manufacturers haven't gotten the memo yet. And also, they for the life of them can't get over their mutual distrust and fear of one another. 

A tribute to the major industrial-strength BS propaganda which the Car Cartel have been spouting for a century is that most Youtube car channels I've watched are still rating cars on their "looks" and "heritage" and "performance" when it's quite obvious that the consumer wants a car that gets them from place to place economically and with enough performance to fit into the streams of traffic and be trouble-free and economical.

"Streams of traffic?" Look - I came from a fairly remote part of Australia (the Pilbara region) to a fairly lovely city (Perth) in the late 1980s and the increase in traffic volumes wasn't really as terrible as all that. Granted, it was tens of thousands of times - literally - more than traffic on inland Pilbara roads, but it was manageable.

Cue 2011 and I dropped from that into driving a delivery style van around Melbourne. . . Most of the day, traffic was pretty manageable, but peak traffic was something else. I remember driving down a long hill into a valley and looking down and up at three or four lanes of traffic, all chokka-blok full of cars, and I turned to my pre-wife and said something along the lines of "fark, we're not gonna make it as a species are we?"

THAT is the kinds of streams of traffic I'm talking about. The commuters trapped in that hell don't give a flying jump at the moon for a race-tuned high-performance motor they're idling along at an average speed of 15kph while stifling in the heat and fumes from a couple of hundred more around them. But if that car was quiet and cool and not chewing through petrol while crawling along, and none of the other cars around them was generating heat and stink too, that'd be great, thanks. As a bonus, if it could tow the boat to the ramp and back on the weekend that wouldn't hurt its chances of getting bought by that person stuck in the commute congestion. 

We're so thoroughly WHIPPED by the Car Cartel that we think everyone NEEDS to own a car, to have a place to park it at their home and at their workplace, that our city urban and suburban planners have made those spaces into CAR spaces not PEOPLE spaces. 

There used to be corner shops on every second or third corner, you could walk to them to buy groceries and everyday necessities of life, but because of cars they are now replaced with shopping malls in between a couple of suburbs, and so we got stuck with monopolistic giants like certain supermarket, clothing, and hardware chains. (Which started life as efforts to consolidate particular market segments in order to achieve economies of scale but which wasted no time exploiting their monopolies once they realised they were now the only game in town with no more competition from smaller stores on corners...)

Because no-one realised the sheer damage that a population consisting of 1 (or sometimes 2) car households would create (or perhaps that was ignored at the time because it was "a problem for future us"...) urban design began to be centred around cars, life began to be centred around cars, our very social worth was centred around cars. All because the Car Cartel recognised the value of propaganda (advertising) and used it to the hilt.

In a way you can say that the CC also caused the pandemic because it turns out that airborne viruses love big shopping malls where they can spread like wildfire among crowds of people. 

All because they built brands and propaganda. Their cars no longer have to be the best for us, for our environment, our way of life. Because that propaganda has permeated society and created a way of life that works in favour of car manufacturers. Face it - there aren't many more improvements that can be made to ICEVs - engines have peaked at levels car manufacturers are comfortably achieving, interiors range from utility to luxury levels, exterior designs have gone the gamut of shapes, and we took very little part in shaping those, the CC achieved that with their subtle cues in advertising and branding.

Now most of them are uncomfortable because electric and hydrogen power open up a whole new design can of worms. Their best bet is in retaining the tried and tested ICEV designs, because that way their investment in ICEV technology won't stick out like a sore thumb amidst an increasingly - ZFF, electric, BETTER - vehicles. So a Hyundai EV tends to look exactly like a Hyundai ICEV. That wastes many advantages that an EV can provide - further forward seating position, larger interior dimensions for a given wheelbase, better load space, better visibility - in favour of looking just like any other car.

Because that way, they can retain their BRAND. This construct "The Brand" is a powerful thing. Every leader develops a Brand. "Honest Abe Lincoln" and "Umguk, Mighty And Fearless Guardian Of The Village" are branding. Everyone brands themselves. I'm "The Grumpy Old Guy Geek That Messes With 3d Printing And Cnc And Using Technology To Improve Things For The Better" as much as I can manage to. 

As you can see, brands tend to get weaker when you try and make them cover too many bases. Strong brands tend to have more focus. "Our Cars Are Exactly Right For You" is strong, "Our Cars, Made As Cheaply As Possible By Us To Provide Us A Huge Profit, Are Exactly Right For You Because We're Re-Educating You To Think So Too" - maybe not so much.

ZFF - Make It A Strong Brand.

We've just had COP27, and as usual when all was said and done, way more got said than will get done. It sucks that the "powers that be" aren't realising that the real "power that is," is the human population and NOT the Almighty Corporate Hegemony. Corporations are teh suck, they are killing the planet to support another construct that world leaders seem in thrall to, Capitalism And The "Economy".

Almost all of those constructs - made by people when you bring it down to the bare metal - are just that, constructs. We construct those to achieve a goal, in this case, the goal was to get the planet to a point where it could support the population and allow us to develop technology to take away the hard slog of finding and digging up / killing / preparing food and making our caves weatherproof. We're waaayyy past the point of waterproof caves, and now the real problem is that edifice we constructed. 

Sorry for that sidetrack. So all the world leaders went to COP27, nodded and all agreed that it's a terrible thing, and went home again. FFS. Chances missed, targets missed, if all those "leaders" went they wouldn't be missed. But for the moment, let's assume that some of them were still relevant and prepared to do some things. What they could achieve could be legendary for al the right reasons and not for the reasons COPs have so far been legendary for. 

So what does that have to do with identity? 

Well, as I said, car manufacturers have all been pretty good at branding their almost identical boxes-on-wheels offerings as uniquely theirs. This car, OUR car, it has "V-tabuliser Technology[tm:Cars Inc]" and "S-Stable[tm:othercars]" and "stabilisers" on all the inevitable other imitators that all came up with the idea of shock absorbers - or stole it from one another. 

So the buyer is left wondering if the same "Shockroe Shock Absorbers" are somehow better if they're called "V-tabuliser Tech" or "S-Stable". (That all came from the Shockroe Shock Absorber factory if we're being honest, and are identical.) Then they buy the car that makes them feel best about themselves... 

It's clear that we can't leave it up to the car manufacturers to come up with a standard identifying feature that will label a car as ZFF. (In fact, just to preclude them from randomly stealing the acronym I'm going to declare that I copyright this acronym right here and right now.

This is an example of "branding." Every Aussie will get this,
using the band from a jar of Vegemite as a bangle. Instantly,
the thought "a Vegemite kid" will come to mind. Just from
that yellow bit of plastic that we all recognise...

Copyright Notice:The acronym ZFF standing for Zero Fossil Fuel may not be used by any person, corporation, body corporate, or other identity or organisation without the express permission of the copyright holder R. O. Russ from this day November 12th 2022AD.)

Now car manufacturers already routinely differentiate their cars (but not too much, mind) with Z-TEC and VTEC and DOHC and other badges, so ZFF is a badge that can be used to stop them hiding their EVs behind a bushel as it were. Initially there'll be resistance but if it's made into a requirement for EVs and H2Vs to show a compliance badge then ZFF would be the one to get because it'll be strong.

And the brand for ZFF will be strong because it has just one focus: Zero Fossil Fuel. It's easy to understand, easy to apply, easy to make memorable. And we need such a strong clear simple message. 

WHY Though? Why?

If I can see that a vehicle is a ZFF vehicle, if I can see them proliferating on the streets and unbadged cars disappearing, it is more moving than an impassioned speech from my local politician. I can see the ZFF vehicle movement gaining strength, public exposure is publicity is propaganda is education is creating awareness. I can spot an EV because I'm interested to see their market penetration and uptake. 

I'm a wannabe eco-virtuist, I really want to ditch the ToyoTank for some form of ZFF vehicle. I don't have kids but I understand that my nephews and nieces do, and those kids deserve a sane healthy world. My neighbour still thinks (and I wish I was kidding when I say this, really I do) that the extension cords will get tangled at the first roundabout. He owns two ICEVs, one for himself and one for his wife. Neither are particularly good so they pollute.

His grown son often shows up in an ancient bushbasher 4WD and a cloud of diesel smoke and noise. They don't think an EV or any form of ZFF vehicle will ever get them to work every day, or to the best fishing spots, and the (grand)kids? Not a single f... - not a single thought - given, apparently.

And yes, this is in 2022. Yes, we can thank our past Prime Moro... - Prime Minister - for spreading thick bullshit about how an EV "won't tow your boat or caravan" and is going to "steal the good ole Aussie wekend" away from us.

But this is the propaganda put up by the fossil fuel industry and the car cartel, spouted by one of their most devoted butt-kissing evangelists. The idea that plastics can't be recycled efficiently and perfectly is more BS propaganda they promote, and they underfund and overwork any such recycling efforts to make them look weak and to expensive because the real profits are in plastics now, and will become more so as the use of fossil fuels declines.

i.e. Because they make zero profit from plastic that isn't virgin, nor from a car that runs on electricity or hydrogen and uses mostly recycled plastic. Let that Musk i... - Let that sink in. Not a single damn given about our health, our kids' health, the planet's health. Just the profits.

Having some kind of counter-propaganda is important right now. Our lives may depend on it, our childrens' lives will definitely depend on it. And I'm writing this from the perspective of an Old Guy with one foot in the grave, but I'd like to arrive there unboiled and well oxygenated thank you - and right now that's looking increasingly more unlikely.

So a - very visible - very well-advertised - very well branded - certification would do more to raise public awareness and action than any amount of soapboxing one could do. 


Those world leaders at COP27, they need to keep communicating about these things continuously, from now until they DO SOMETHING CONCRETE or the next COP27 comes along. We mustn't let them file this under "forget this as soon as COP27's out of the news and worry about it after COP28." We need to be the force that drives them to keep the lines open and ideas flowing. 

And one of those ideas should be to pay the salaries of between 10 to 100 people from each of the countries present at COP27 to form a working body to get ZFF or something very like it up and running ASAP. They need to give those people wide-ranging powers and protection from the fossil fuel cartels, and carte blanche to DO SOMETHING CONCRETE.

The Proposal

(Okay, so there IS a proposal in this, just not Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal...") although hmmm...

That some worldwide certification and checkmark authority is to be established. For each of the governments attending COP27 to pay the salaries of between 10 to 100 people from each of the countries to form a working body to lay down the regulations and requirements for attaining ZFF certification and designing the markings, manufacturing them, and managing the distribution thereof. A certification and mark which certifies that a particular vehicle or other product, device, or item requiring or generating energy uses zero (or less than 5%) fossil fuel to produce and power it. 

This checkmark is to be made available only on application to this SINGLE worldwide certifying body which will first establish that the product it is to be applied to absolutely conforms to ZFF certification requirements.

One should note, some alternative fuels are generated from other organic resources, such as ethanol or methane or hydrogen, and such fuels will also be able to be labelled ZFF - if they are generated without the use of any fossil fuels. ZFF fuels do not count towards the 5% limit for other ZFF certified products, i.e. a car that runs entirely on ZFF ethanol or hydrogen can still be ZFF certified - as long as it will absolutely not be able to be fuelled by non-ZFF fuels. 

A nuclear-powered car can attain a ZFF certification - as indeed can a nuclear reactor, but a nuclear reactor splitting hydrogen from fossil hydrocarbons can't claim that the hydrogen fuel it creates is ZFF. 

An energy supplier can achieve a ZFF certification if their average energy output over a year is provided by no more than 5% fossil (non ZFF - important!) fuels. 

A vehicle using plastics may or may not gain a ZFF certification - if more than 5% of the plastics used are virgin plastic then it can't use a ZFF certification. This'll also lead to recycled plastics (sorted into extremely specific buckets) gaining in value and therefore, more high-tech recycling facilities being established to take advantage of the increased value of recycled plastics.

The last thing to note is that such a small taskforce (given the number of government bodies already funded in repcisely such a manner to achieve other less important goals) is relatively easy on the budget and will achieve much good for the world, and establish these countries as being at the forefront of a drastic change for the better. This is in itself a good Brand to hold. 

Sub-Targets To Meet

Target 1: Worldwide Authority

So first of all, the above. It has to be one worldwide, independent organisation that it is agreed all member countries will take the advice of. We should create such a body specifically for the purpose of certifying ZFF vehicles and appliances and devices. 

Target 2: Worldwide recognition

The next thing that ZFF should achieve is to be recognised worldwide. A simple logo that's easy to recognise and quite unique would be nice. 

I'm sure someone can come up with a
better logo than this, I suck at graphics

I am not a graphic artist. The above is a placeholder, and it's gross in any case. 

And a single mission should be etablished: Zero Fossil Fuel accreditation. 

Target 3: Horizontalisation

Applications in things other than just vehicles. As mentioned above, if you want to make a ZFF-certified device designed to run on electricity, make it with less than 5% of the plastic being virgin plastic. 

Target 4: Differentiation

The logo should do more than just BE a logo. I'm all for the actual badges affixed to devices to have a BLE and NFC beacon, and maybe even an EL glow and ambient power harvesting. The certification should be a fairly difficult one to copy, just to not have some other body print forgeries of it. And most of all it has to stand out and become iconic.

So What Now? 

Well, I'm hoping some reader knows a way to get this ball rolling. I'm willing to help as much as I can but the best way to kill off a project is to make it mine and give me a deadline. I suggest that everyone that reads this article contacts at least one local and one federal government official and make them aware of the need to have this group working in weeks rather than months, that way we might get some action in months.

And share this article with everyone and get them to promise to also take action. I normally ask people at this point to check my new stand and newsletter or even donate but this is way more urgent. Please do share and act.