Engineering

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Photograph of Hummer vehicle

A year-old post HUMMER to WANKER, originally a silly little piece of wordplay, has triggered a fascinating stream of comments today.

Does a suburban family of four — two adults and two children — really need a big vehicle like a Hummer to get around? I recall that as a kid we didn’t. A normal-sized Holden station wagon, which would even be considered small by today’s standards, did just fine for two adults and two kids and the everyday business of running a farm

Even with a farm, we didn’t need 4WD for the car. That’s what we had a tractor for.

If you want to have your two cents’ worth, do feel free to comment over at the original post.

Some things I found on the weekend which you might like. The UNIX-HATERS Handbook, which reminded me that for all the religious hype over Unix/Linux it really is just a kludge. (Hat-tip of the geekiest kind to Alastair Rankine.) A NY Times article How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children? Answer: not particularly. A fine Wired story about Titan Salvage, the smart, brave and somewhat scary guys who salvage ships. And Possums Pollytics’ wonderful response to an attack by The Australian‘s Dennis Shanahan.

03 March 2008 by Stilgherrian | 2 comments

Finland makes our buses look crap, as well as our phones. “Every bus and tram in Helsinki and the surrounding cities of Vaanta and Espoo are being fitted with Linux servers and GPS units. Every bus and tram in the conurbation will not only become a wireless hotspot serving broadband internet throughout the vehicle — for free — but every bus and tram is visible on a Google map (the beta version is at tinyurl.com/2gftso) that uses the same real-time passenger information as the controllers in their command centre.” Hat-tip to Guy Beres.

29 February 2008 by Stilgherrian | 5 comments

Photograph of billboard for Solo soft drink: If it can’t be fixed with duct tape it can’t be fixed

OK, this one is dedicated to my friends in the SCA. They’ll know what I mean. Yes, it’s a billboard advertising a soft drink, but it’s also a deep, deep commentary on The Nature of Engineering.

Collage of covers from How & Why Wonder Books from 1960 through to the 1970sI’m currently writing an essay to explain what I mean by “middle class values”, but I’ve been sidetracked into childhood memories about cows (don’t ask!) and rediscovering one truly wond’rous part of my childhood: the How & Why Wonder Book series.

If you can point to one thing that made me the geek I am today, it’s this series of books.

Each one was just 48 pages long, and the illustrations were usually paintings — pretty corny by today’s standards. But they really did create a sense of wonder for the Science and Technology which was unfolding in The Space Age. The first one was issued in 1960 and they ran well into the 1970s.

Looking through the lists put together by collectors intabits and Joe Roberts, I reckon I had at least 23 of the titles.

My favourites were The How & Why Wonder Book of Planets and Interplanetary Travel (insanely optimistic, in hindsight), Rockets and Missiles, Atomic Energy (no nuclear waste here, just atomic trains!) and The How & Why Wonder Book of Robots and Electronic Brains — man, there’s a whole essay in that last title alone, eh?

I bet my mother still has them stashed away in a cupboard somewhere.

Photograph of the Boeing 767 Gimli Glider after its crash

A milestone in aviation history this week. The Gimli Glider (pictured) made its final flight on Thursday 24 January.

I mentioned this amazing story a few months back. In brief, in 1983 an Air Canada Boeing 767 ran out of fuel at 28,000 feet over Ottawa and the pilots glided it safely to the ground — landing at an old airport which, unbeknownst to the pilot, was not a motor racing circuit. A very, very fine piece of flying indeed.

The aircraft was returned to normal service — there’s nothing a bit of panel-beating can’t fix! — and for the last 24 years has had a normal career.

Hat-tip (and the full story) thanks to Telstar Logistics.

A beautiful piece of advertising from… somewhere in Europe, I assume. I can’t quite make out the language. If the embedded video (below) doesn’t work, try this link.

Thanks to Alex Willemyns for the pointer — and for having the extremely good sense to link to my piece on Blackle. I totally agree with your point about bandwagons, Alex.

OK, I had dinner with Snarky Platypus earlier tonight, and on the beer coaster in my pocket it says: soap glamour pussy. Apparently this was very important. Explanations please.

10 July 2007 by Stilgherrian | 2 comments

Last night I had to re-boot the oven because it had crashed. I only wanted to grill a couple of tomatoes for our dinner. Does it really require that amount of computational complexity?

25 June 2007 by Stilgherrian | 2 comments

Photo of Greenwich foot tunnel, by Dave Gorman

Thanks to UK comedian Dave Gorman and the BBC Magazine’s Alternative tourist map of Britain, I’ve fallen in love with the Greenwich foot tunnel (pictured).

Look further! It has a dome at each end, almost infinite length and endless fascinating perspectives.

Opened in 1902, the tunnel runs 370m under the River Thames and is lined with white tiles — though the section in the photo has a thick steel and concrete inner lining to repair World War II bomb damage. You can see that more clearly in the Dave Gorman’s larger photo.

Perhaps it’s unpatriotic to lust after a very English tunnel on the 75th birthday of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but somehow this tunnel intrigues me. I suspect that once I see it “in the flesh” I’ll love it as much as ’Pong loves the Newtown railway underpass.

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