Saturday, September 07, 2013

Behold the Behemoths: How long will the Maersk fleet stay afloat?

Attribution: Walter Rademacher / Wikipedia

My friend BillB sent me this link to a BusinessWeek article relating to the Maersk organization currently operating the world's largest container ships:

This article provoked some questioning:

If there are going to be self-driving cars in the near future (and self-driving trucks) then surely there will be self-driving ships - with crews hopping aboard just before coming into a tricky port or to go through the Suez Canal for example. When that happens, will the ships then become bigger or smaller? My guess is more, smaller ships. Perhaps slower and solar powered,

And also, my guess is that the Chinese and Russians will finally wake up and build an effective trans-Siberian railway. In the US trains are often 12,500 feet long - carrying perhaps 2,500 containers at 100 kph This would most likely be faster and cheaper than the container ship. Even if the ship carries 18,000 containers, it would not take that heavy a schedule for the trains to sink the ships.

If a trans-Siberian route is successful, then a Bering Straits crossing would surely follow.

And as photovoltaic power costs continue to fall and as the transcontinental railroads pass through mostly desolate countryside, it will become effective to power the trains by electricity generated just adjacent to the tracks. Even if the the trains could only run during the day, this would be more effective than a container ship burning 33,000 gallons of fuel per day.

I feel confident that these ships will return good profits to their owners. The changes I am talking about may take decades. Nevertheless, if you ever get to view one of these awesome behemoths, do have good look because she and her kin may stay in the record books for quite a while as some of the largest movable things ever built.

Monday, July 08, 2013

NY Times: Three Mostly Clueless Articles, One Heavenly Moment

Three recent articles in the New York Times discuss issues with current life in France.

All three articles are for the most part somewhat clueless. Only the final article, in the final sentence, of the final paragraph finally begins to not bad (as in 'my bad', 'your bad').

The first article is 'The Best Hope for France’s Young? Get Out' by Felix Marquardt, published 27 June 2013. Mr Marquardt's point seems to be this:
Young French people need to go abroad, to work, to travel, to see how things can work differently in cultures and countries that don’t play by the same old rules — and then come back to France, and reinject some of the energy and enthusiasm they’ve absorbed to help reconcile the broader population with the global reality that France has shunned for far too long.
Mr Marquardt, where would you like the young people to go and find work? Spain, Greece, Poland, Romania? These countries are all within the EU and so immigration and travel costs are not a big issue. But do you really think that a young French person will walk into a job in any of these places? OK, so how about China or Chile or New Zealand? Travel costs become a huge issue and what is the likelihood of immigration officials in any of these countries looking kindly at the work permit application of a young inexperienced French person?

And it is not as if that the French do not travel. Go to almost anywhere in the world and in the local pharmacy you will find French perfume, at Saturday's wedding you will be served Champagne and at your beach picnic you will eat French Brie served on a locally-baked baguette. How did those products and their French exporters get to whatever remote place you happened to be in? There's a very good chance the French exporters - and you as well - traveled there via an Airbus assembled in Toulouse and the goods arrived via CGA CGM, the third largest container shipping fleet in the world.

There's more. The French government provides financial support to over 600 schools around the world so that French-speaking people around the world can educate their children in French. Various state-sponsored internship programs send thousands of young French interns to companies and government agencies around the world.

The jobs for young people issue is not just a French issue. It's that there are not enough jobs to go around. Mr Marquardt's article is simplistic at best.

The second article also discusses issues of the young in France. 'Rite of Passage for French Students Receives Poor Grade' is by Scott Sayare and published 29 June 2013. This articles disses the French education systems' baccalaureate (or 'bac') college-prep exams. Points raised include:
The bac’s primary function now seems to be to identify and punish the weakest students...
Critics worry that too many students earn the bac these days...
The test does not function terribly effectively as a filter for higher education...
The test does not evaluate the most relevant of students’ capabilities..
No alternatives to the bac are proposed and perhaps more tellingly no comparisons are drawn with other systems such as the SAT in the US or A Levels in the UK. Are the criticisms disingenuous or what? Mr Sayare himself highlights the pointlessness of his article when he remarks:
But change is slow in coming. Lawmakers have in recent years moved to include classroom grades in criteria for diplomas, Mr. Davidenkoff said, but withdrew their proposals after student protests. (italics mine)
The third article was penned by a writer I very much admire. 'Goodbye Old World, Bonjour Tristesse' was written by Maureen Dowd and published on 6 July 2013. Ms Dowd's point is something like this:
The French are so busy wallowing in their existential estrangement — a state of mind Camus described as “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” — that they don’t even have the energy to be rude. 
'The French' is like 'The Americans' or 'the Chinese'. When I read words like this my eyes begin to roll. Yet another pronunciation of a vapid generalization is about to occur.  How can you adequately state the summary of all the emotions and knowledge and well-being of millions of people in a single sentence?

Ms Dowd does get in the occasional bon mot and it's sort of a fun read.  But the culmination of the article is a chat with Claudia Senik, a French professor, and the conclusion is that:
 In others words, unhappiness has been bred into the French bone. 
The are deep, sad and quite depressing thoughts for sure. These are words of a transcendental or very large scale phenomena. Yet here's the closing sentence of the article:
“Our happiness function is a little deficient,” she said over espresso at Le Rostand across from the Jardin du Luxembourg. “It’s really in the French genome.”
When I read these words I laughed and nearly fell out of my chair. Kindly allow me to deconstruct this sentence. Here are the important words of the sentence: 'over espresso at Le Rostand across from the Jardin du Luxembourg'.

I know 'Le Rostand' very well. There are few public places in the world where you will find people as good-looking, well-dressed, engaged and serene as at 'Le Rostand'. After a dozen visits or so, you become part of this ( even if it means buying a new jacket) . If I were not such an atheist I would say that places like 'Le Rostand' become a proof of the existence of god. So, yes, by all means let us discuss the depths of French unhappiness, but let us choose to do so in a French heaven.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Former Fanboy's First Feelings: Favorable & Fail

New MacPro

Favorable: every tech exec will want the large black soup can to be seen sitting on their desk.

First fun-looking desktop in a decade.

Pricing: I'm guessing models will range between $1,999 and $10,000.

"Wow, you have a computer that could have cost $10K!?!"

Lots of up-selling and up-posing (is that a word?) possibilities.

iOS 7

Fail: my first impression agrees with Ryan Katkov's post above. It's a bit messy in there.

Do remember, however, that the OS is still at an early stage. There will be many clean-ups before iOS 7 ships.

On the other hand:

Now we can be post-anti-skeumorphic.

Yay! And thanks to PaulM for the link.


Robo Raven (UMD Robotics) - Weapons and Saviors of the Future?

Devices like these - quadcopters for example - tend to have short battery charge lives. These days perhaps 15 minutes at the most. In the future battery charges will last longer, but probably not long enough to cross an ocean.

I can see future robotic birds being transferred to remote areas of interest to NGOs and the military via  larger Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that stay safe high and away.

The robotic birds fly to the target. Some take videos while others carry out actions - such as dropping medical supplies or sniffing/sensing for signs of life after earthquakes or doing whatever the military of the future has to do...

Then the robotic birds either return to the mother ship to refuel and resupply and or perhaps just dispose of themselves in some environmentally suitable way.

Link courtesy of BillB.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A linguistic dissection of 7 annoying teenage sounds - The Week

The sounds people - especially young people - make in between the words they are saying are fascinating.

The following video provides a studied look at seven of them.

I also find the contemporary singers such as Rihanna and Kesha are doing a superb job of listening for such sounds and incorporating them in the the vocalizations of their lyrics

I don't find such sounds particularly annoying. I wonder if such sounds can be considered as words and therefore part of a vocabulary. Also I wonder if the sounds cross borders. Are they like the 'home' and 'refresh' icons in your browser and work in any language?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Will Robots take all the jobs?

My feeling is that the robots will take the drudge jobs.

We will (somehow) in response create more jobs for artists, teachers, musicians, semi-pro athletes and other creative, artistic and helpful people.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Say Hello to the 100 Trillion Bacteria That Make Up Your Microbiome -

Michael Pollan is one of my favorite writers on food, diet and the creation of food.

Here he talks about you (plural) are what you (plural) eat.

With you (plural) being the mass of bacteria you cohabit your body with.

Making Your Own Website: Your Career Will Thank You Later

I think you all know this. In any case here are some good tips on how and why to have your own web site.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Help with Terence Deacon's Incomplete Nature now on GitHub

My current favorite book is Terence Deacon's Incomplete Nature.

It's about an attempt to resolve René Descarte's mind-body dilemma while obeying the rules of the good contemporary science. Kant, Darwin, Einstein. Final cause, DNA, quantum mechanics. It's got them all and more.

Guess what?

It's a bloody hard book to read.

So I am in the process of coding and creating an online cheat sheet for the work at:

The GitHub web site is where over three million programmers keep their programs in the cloud.

The nice thing is that you can use GitHub for other uses than for merely keeping software.

My work, which comprises content, appearance and behaviors, is still very much a work in progress.

From time-to-time, I will inform you here of worthy developments.

And, well, just remember what they say: "You can't enjoy the show without a program!"