Mileage on my moped

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I refuse to engage in the trend for “hypermiling”. I found a way that beats all of my attempts to squeeze even more mileage out of my BMW: Don’t drive the car. For $1200 I got a used moped, and I expect it to pay for itself within 4 months.

On this moped, I have travelled about 160 km (100 mi) and have used up 3.34L of gasoline (0.8826 gallons). My mileage is thus around 113.3 miles per gallon. In metric, that is 2.09 liters per 100 km. In human terms, that means I can go about 213 kilometers on a tank of gas. The 4.47 L tank costs about $6 to fill with the cheap gas, and about $6.60 to fill with the high-grade fuel. Since the cost is trivial, I always use high-grade fuel. Compare this with my BMW: It costs $95 to fill it with cheap gas, and its mileage hovers around 17 miles per gallon.

My moped. Notice

The specs on a website I visited for this bike says that with the reserve tank, it can hold 1.18 gallons of gas (about 4.47 L).

It is a Tomos LX moped, from 2006. And, while my bike does not say “Targa” on it, I have seen identical bikes from American websites and they say “Targa” over the gas tank, while mine says “Tomos”. I am given the impression that the 49 cc engine is standard on all mopeds. My moped had been fitted with an upgraded muffler, but it does not have any adjustments made to the governor. So, my top speed on this bike with me riding on it (I weigh 220 pounds) on level ground would be about 60 km/h (about 38 mi/h).

Getting rid of the cell phone

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Cell phone contracts are easy to get. Companies these days make cell phones very affordable. They are eager to sell you value-added services that you never needed to use prior to the purchase, and you are hit with a bill that can go upwards of $45 per month.

But what if you are like me? You have the cell phone, and now you realise that it is a ball and chain. I don’t just mean the contract; there is also the fact that you can be anywhere and people can get in touch with you. Well, what happened to concepts like privacy? Are there still places left on this planet where people won’t be texting me or phoning me, or emailing me? I need space; I need quiet time. I need a little freedom. I need to get rid of the damn cell phone.

Getting rid of the cell phone takes real mental discipline and concentration. The first time I tried this, I had to get past Emily, the automated Bell Telephone Fairy. The fairy could grant me three wishes, but cutting my cell phone wasn’t one of them. It didn’t understand me when I gave her a voice command to “BUG OFF!” so she sent me to a human.

From then on, I had to endure an onslaught of sales pitches as to how I can improve my cell phone experience by changing my package selections. But they didn’t see the main point: I have a land line, which in effect means that Bell dings me twice each month. I pay them $100 a month just in phone bills. They could not see that this was entirely unacceptable. They also didn’t see that this was my sense of rational decision-making and rational budgeting at work. That wasn’t allowed to enter the conversation either, no matter how rational I tried to sound. Then, they asked me for my password to get into my private account (all this was over the phone after all). I vaguely remembered making this password 6 months or more previous, but I had no idea what it was, and told them.

So, I was told that the only way I could cancel my account was to show up at a Bell shop, and show them some ID. So, weeks passed until I thought once again to go through with it, and when I did, I had to endure yet another sales pitch similar to the telephone ordeal, and finally we got down to business, and I showed them my ID. I brought my cell phone with me, but they weren’t interested in looking at it. They told me that I had to complete the billing cycle, and in 6 weeks, I would be free.

Of course, this 6 weeks did not go by quietly. I got brochures telling me to come back, we’re sorry, we didn’t mean to piss you off; I got a “courtesy” call asking me to reconsider, and after fighting them off bravely, I reached my summit, the top of the hill: NO MORE CELL PHONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

USENET: Death of the Alt.* Hierarchy

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The Usenet has been, and continues to be, a great source of information, where technologies that push product can easily be pushed aside using filters. There are more than 10,000 newsgroups on nearly every topic that delienates our human existence, all hierarchically arranged. The major hierarchies are known as “The Big 8”: comp.*, humanities.*, misc.*, news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.*, and talk.*.

The one hierarchy which has been the bastard child of the usenet has been the alt.* hierarchy. Like all technologies, they start off with good intentions. According to one follower of the Big 8:

The alt.* hierarchy was begun, in part, as a reaction against the management principles of what came to be known as the Big-8. It is an “alternative” approach to creating newsgroups

This meant that, in reaction to certain sites placing a “veto” on certain newsgroups and due to the political influence certain site maintainers had, why not make it possible for anyone to make any newsgroup they want, without the need for a vote? That was the idea behind “alt.*”

Most people who maintain USENET sites will freely admit that much of the alt.* hierarchy has become a moral and technological toilet. It carries nearly every nutty newsgroup bounded only by imagination, including groups no one has ever seriously posted to, as well as long-dead newsgroups that also have no posts (unless you count spam). Examples are

  • alt.swedish-chef.bork.bork.bork
  • alt.n (where “n” = monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday, sunday)

… you get the idea. This led the folks carrying these newsgroups to decide that: OK, maybe we’ll make the carrying of the alt.* hierarchy optional. Thus, the carrying of the alt.* hierarchy has been considered optional since its inception. I don’t know of any universities that carry it.

There is another problem with the alt.* hierarchy. It has been used as a vehicle for carrying child porn. If we censor ONLY these newsgroups, that would only mean that people can create others within alt.* that do the same thing. This is also the same for newsgroups that carry ISOs of complete software suites, mp3s of complete albums, and DVDs of movies. None of these activities are what I would call “legal”, and is easy justification for axing the whole hierarchy for reasons of freedom from liability for the ISP. That still leaves the “big 8”, which are mostly safe from illegal activity (unless it’s spam).

Verizon will be cutting alt.* from its offerings, and Time-Warner will no longer offer USENET at all later this month. It must be stated that alt.* carries a lot of worthwhile groups that are active, with their own FAQ maintainers. In light of this, many ISPs have taken the middle ground of not carrying the alt.* binary groups, leaving the text groups intact. What Verizon has done would be considered extreme by the standards of most ISPs.

There are hierarchies that are not part of the “Big 8”, having to do with gaining inexpensive (free) tech support, such as microsoft.*, corel.*, borland.*, linux.*, and so on. These are even more worthwhile, and I hope they are keeping them. They typically are relatively free of spam and have more wothwhile posts. There are knowledgeable people there who can answer your queries in a relatively short time.

Freedom of speech has historically been limited by the understanding that “freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” For the Internet, the argument is specious, since it was taxpayer’s money that built it in the first place.

That means that even the attempt to privatize it to various companies (Time, Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, Bell, and so on) constitutes a form of corporate welfare. The questions seem to come down to: who really has the right to decide what newsgroups I can and can’t read? I suppose someone has to manage alt.*, but who gets to do this, and in who’s interest? These are really the questions that need to be explored.

I laughed till I choked

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Great family planning advice.
This was originally discovered at Patti’s Random Noise. A Google search shows that this one is all over the ‘net, with a complete history behind the sign and everything. I laughed so hard, I could barely breathe; I was even in pain. And, yes, I suppose that particular clinic doesn’t see many clients, having already gained useful advice before they even enter the parking lot.

I wonder what the Pope would think of this kind of family planning advice?

The sign was for a family planning office in Northampton, England. The “NHS” logo stands for Britain’s National Health Service.

Deep Purple

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I have a retro cassette of pre-Beatles music from the 1959-1963 era. I have had it for years, and it is full of really boring tunes that I hardly ever play. It was an era of sappy sentimentalism, when torch songs reigned supreme, and everyone tried to outdo each other with the ultimate love tune. If you are the kind of person who expects more than McCarthyist, sappy sentimentalism from music, then it wasn’t a good time to grow up. I wasn’t born then, but came accross this cassette in a delete bin at a record store. I guess no one else wanted it either.

There is one song among the collection whose title stood out because I was a Deep Purple fan (you know, those ’70s musicians with the loud guitars — that Deep purple). The song, sung by Nino Tempo and April Stevens, was actually called Deep Purple. Of all the music I heard on the cassette, it was the most mellow among this collection of already mellow tunes. I had largely forgotten about this tune, until this week when I was listening to an all-Jazz radio station, and they began playing a 1940s version of Deep Purple by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (by WWII — the time of the recording — it became a specially-commissioned orchestra to play for the troops of the Allied Command (British and US)).

In listening to Glenn Miller, I learned something about the Tempo/Stevens version of the song — it was played very fast! Miller’s rendition was at half of the tempo, with no words (I don’t know if Mitchell Parish had written the words yet at that point). I look this song up on Wikipedia, and find it was written in 1929 by Peter de Rose. It was already over 30 years old when Tempo/Stevens sung it, and over 40 years old by the time Donny and Marie Osmond sung it (a version I haven’t heard about).

Sampling versions that they have of this song on EMusic, (there are over 80 different versions listed), most versions I sampled are super-slow Jazz tunes, usually played with piano in the lead, or as the only instrument other than voice. After some sampling, I have to say that I am partial to the Tempo/Stevens version of the tune. I was able to search out the chords to play it on guitar.

Dying my wife's hair

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The fun thing about colouring my wife’s hair isn’t about the hair so much, but more about the fact that we can talk and share our feelings more. My work keeps me so busy that I had to find ways to cut down on travel time, which is a barrier to things like exercise and finding further spare time to do things.

This morning (Saturday) I got up, went to work, did some heavy photocoying, which by the afternoon left only 1 hour in the gym before church. So I did that, came to church a bit late, then had a small supper and did my wife’s hair.

I think it is healthy for us to do things like that, since we can share our feelings, talk about things going on over the past week, and so on. It’s a great way to share things with each other. Of course, we both tell jokes also. It’s great.

She chose truffle brown.

Little known books by JK Rowling

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Welcome Back, Potter

Harry Potter gets teacher training, graduates, and gets sent back to Hogwarts to teach. He is assigned a classroom of the worst students in the school, referred to as “sweathogs”, or to be more precise, “warthogs”. See what happens with our future witches and warlocks who have emotional and learning problems, who are unable to manage themselves in a regular witchcraft learning environment. Vinnie Barbarino is played by the son of Count Dracula. Soon to become adapted for television as a sitcom.

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