05 August 2008
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Qs and Muses

Mythical Barriers

When the 1983/84 Corvette came out, I had been car-free for many years as I lived in New York City and had no vehicular needs that couldn't be met by renting or borrowing.  But I was a Corvette fancier and followed the literature.  I remember avidly reading the info on the new model, which spanned two model years at the time.  One sentence puzzled me:  It claimed that the car could beat the "mythical 1G barrier" in terms of lateral forces on a skid pad.  How much of a challenge could it be to beat a "mythical" barrier?  (In those days, by the way, computer hard drives were in the low megabyte region - 10 to 100MB.)

For a long time, I had considered the terabyte hard drive a "mythical barrier."  When I got my new Apple Mac Pro computer (to run Windows) last year, I actually had the option to install up to four one-terabyte drives!  I selected 750GB drives since they seemed to be at the "sweet spot" of storage/price ratio at the time.  Terabyte drives were still in the $400 range then, but fast-forward less than a year and a Seagate 1TB Barracuda can be had for $180.  You can get an external 1.5TB hard drive unit (which has two drives) for $350, and whose list of features copied from the blurb is:

  This Drive Holds
- 636 two-hour DVD-quality movies or
- 2250 hours of VHS-quality video or
- 1320 days of around-the-clock MP3 audio or
- 558,500 vivid digital photos or
- 3200 action-packed games!

I have never played an "action-packed" game, unless you consider "Asteroids" to be action-packed.  I have probably seen fewer than 200 different movies in my entire life.  I have certainly listened to more than 3-1/2 years of music, but it wasn't all different.  So, when I see the announcement that a 1.5 terabyte hard drive is available for sale, which will probably be within a few months, it will mean that I can hold more than my entire life in media in the palm of my hand.  Sometimes you just have to issue a "Wow" and leave it at that.

Stupid Questions

In yesterday's blog, as I was writing about rhodium the element, a question occurred to me.  Was rhodium named after Rhodesia because it was isolated from an ore discovered there?  This is an entirely reasonable question; several element names are derived in this way.  A quick check showed that it was named after the color of its chloride.  Which meant that the stupid-question follow-up, i.e., "Do we now have to call it 'Zimbabwium'," never had to be asked.

If I haven't already disabused you of the notion that "there are no stupid questions," ponder this:  Do you think it's possible that the conflict between religions that require men to have beards and women to wear veils and religions that eschew such strictures is caused in part by a middle-eastern genetic proclivity towards acne?


Drastically shortened from a Wall Street Journal article of a month or so ago:  It seems that in Afghanistan, where even if there were golf courses they would be considered shooting ranges by the Taliban, American soldiers find other ways to practice their swing. 

At an army base in Naray District, soldiers unwind by climbing onto the roof of the latrine building and driving golf balls across the Kunar River into terraced fields hundreds of yards away.  The boys on the far bank scramble to collect the balls, then sell them back to the troops for 10 cents each.

The market has been disrupted by a middleman who pays the children a dime and raised the retail price to 20 cents, according to the soldiers.  The troops consider the price-increase exorbitant and are holding out for the children to regain control of the golf-ball business.

There's hope for Afghanistan!

Press Relations

Perhaps this belongs in the "stupid questions" section rather than as one of the muses.  How often have you read "The Apple spokesperson declined to comment."  Why does Apple even have spokespeople? 

Susan the Dead Ex-Roommate

I was telling the sad story of Susan the Dead Ex-Roommate to a friend, a story which slightly predates the advent of the pervasive internet.  That prompted me to "Google" her, but since her full name is not exotic, far too many incarnations showed up.  It occurred to me that since I (deliberately) neglected to provide identification beyond "Susan," it will be almost impossible for anyone trying to find information about her on the net to do so.  That's so unfair!  My blogitem is hardly an encomium, but at least it exists, and is more than any of her friends are likely to otherwise unearth.  So, hereafter, let the search engines be able to find the story.  "Susan" is Susan Rickey, sister of Pamela Rickey, and daughter of Alfie Rickey, of whom she always spoke fondly.  She would use "Susan Blue" on stage, in my opinion quite an inappropriate epithet.

I still miss her.

Special Advertising Section
Please buy one or both of these lovely blue cars!  The Corvette ZR1 is on the left, the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 is on the right. 

Thank you.

NP:  "Groundhog Day" - Melanie

Richard Factor

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