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Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Revitalised and sun-tanned

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

This blog has had quite an extended holiday. And like most of us after a good holiday, it’s come back all revitalised and sun-tanned.

At last I’ve finally (what’s that they say about the cobbler’s bairns …?) upgraded it to WordPress software! All posts and comments have been transferred from the original manually-maintained blog. It should be a bit easier to use now, and much easier to find previous posts on various subjects.

I’ve also transferred my website hosting to Solar Host who are one of the very few hosting companies I’ve found whose sites are genuinely powered 100% by renewable energy. Several hosting companies, particularly in the US, are making a big deal of providing hosting powered 100% (or even 300%!) by renewable energy, but when you read the small print, you find that they use grid-powered data centres just like everyone else and the only difference between them and other hosting companies is that they’ve purchased “green energy tags”, “certified renewable energy credits”, “renewable energy certificate system (RECS)” or “carbon offsetting” to cover their calculated power usage. While this is undoubtedly better than nothing, and many of the companies seem genuinely concerned about the environment, this is “green” hosting by accounting convention only and is not really what it claims to be. It’s not hosting powered directly and exclusively by real world onsite renewable energy.

Ecological Hosting and Solar Host are different. They both host all their sites at a 100% solar-powered Californian data centre which is the only commercially available facility of it’s kind in the world at the moment. This data centre, created and run by Phil Nail of AISO, has an energy-efficient design and construction, uses servers controlled by chips that consume 60% less energy and generate 50% less heat than the most popular brands, source their water through rainwater harvesting, run refrigerant-free natural air conditioning to cool the servers and offices, use solar tubes for all their daytime lighting and are currently installing a turf roof. They don’t just use renewable energy, but work on being incredibly efficient in their use of power. Their Power Usage Effectiveness rating is 1.14 (1.00 would indicate 100% efficiency, ie. all their power is effectively used by the IT equipment). Most US data centres operate with a PUE between 2.0 and 3.0.

Ecological Hosting and Solar Host both rent dedicated servers from AISO which allow them to configure and offer their own hosting plans. There are also a number of UK resellers of AISO’s hosting plans, including Lightbeing CreationsEco Web DesignGreen Web Hosting, and Solar Web Host.

To me, this facility and the companies using it as their data centre are well worth supporting and encouraging as the internet continues to expand and demand more and more power to run. What amazes me is why there aren’t more facilities like this in Europe, particularly southern Europe where there’s no shortage of sun.

Changing times

Friday, January 30th, 2009

“I think if we could get Earth in a living and stable state, not a constantly degrading and dying state caused by our actions, then we have won some right to go to the stars. But at present I don’t think we’d be welcome anywhere else in the universe. You wouldn’t welcome anybody who’d laid waste to their house and wanted to live in yours, I’m sure.”
Bill Mollison

I finished my last post on September 7th (jings, was it that long ago?!) with the words “Time to emigrate …” but had absolutely no idea at the time just how prophetic they’d turn out to be. Not that we’re emigrating quite yet – there will be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over the next while – but the seeds are sown.

A lot has happened in the last 4 months. Rather than explain it all in great detail again here, you can get the full story at the new site I’ve created here, which is a much more personal one than smeddum is or will continue to be.

Really it boils down to the opening paragraph of my first blog entry on the new site:

The older I’ve got and the more I’ve observed of nature and how humans play their part in it, the more disgusted I’ve become with so much blind stupidity and greed, and the arrogance, hubris and species chauvanism that supports it. But disgust has little to offer (apart from being an incentive to change), and to stay in that state is to continue to be part of the problem, not the solution.

I’ve had more than enough of being part of the problem. Each time I’ve needed to do some maintenance on this site which has involved reviewing a page or several of this blog, I’ve found myself wryly but inescapably facing the amount of criticising I’ve been doing. Sure, much of it might be a reasonably accurate observation of the general craziness out there, but equally well I had to face the fact that it was as much a reasonably accurate observation of the general craziness in here – an expression of frustration at my own paralysis and inaction in the face of things which clearly called for a more proactive transformational approach. Time for ‘Disgusted of Finchley’ to get out of the armchair and get digging.

It’s got to be more than skin deep. Got to walk it right the way home to earn the right to talk it.

Happy New Year all.

All is not as it seems

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

“All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward internal dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.”
H P Lovecraft

Stumbled across some more neat optical illusions.

Here’s one created by M Bach & J L Hinton.

If your eyes follow the movement of the rotating pink dot, you will only see one color. Pink. If you stare at the black + in the center, the moving dot turns to green. Now, concentrate on the black + in the center of the picture. After a short period of time, all the pink dots will slowly disappear, and you will only see a green dot rotating. The image is a 12-frame gif file of a circle of pink dots with a single one missing in rotation from each frame. There are no green dots. There are no frames with any more than one pink dot missing.

Pink dot illusion

With this one, focus on the black dot in the centre and then move your head in towards the screen and away again. No changing frames in this illusion. It’s a static image.

rotating illusion

It’s all in the spin

Monday, January 21st, 2008

“Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul
Nor beauty born out of its own despair
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil
O Chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance
How can we tell the dancer from the dance?”
William Butler Yeats

Which way is the dancer turning? Clockwise or anticlockwise?

According to the Perth News site which this image originally appeared on, if you see her spinning anticlockwise then you tend to have your left brain functions predominating. A clockwise spin indicates more of a right brain dominance.

Spinning dancer

The left side of the brain is associated with processing that is logical, detailed, factual, practical, reasoned, linear, sequential and expressed in language. It controls the right (L. dexter) side of the body. The right side deals more with processing that is intuitive, non-verbal, imaginary, holistic, random, symbolic, relational, philosophical, and spatial, controlling the left, (L. sinister) side of the body.

Rather than being any indication of brain functioning dominance however, logic would say this is just a simple, though very nicely executed, optical illusion which calls on the same image and spatial interpretation functions in the brain regardless of which way we see the dancer turning. The image has been doing the rounds for a few months now. Most people responding in comment sections seem able to make the dancer change direction at will after a bit of practice, and most seem to see her rotating clockwise initially.

What I find more interesting than any putative brain dominance diagnosis is the number of comments from people utterly convinced the dancer’s change in direction is programmed into the image file and that the whole thing is a fraud. It’s not – it’s just a 34-frame animated gif which cycles through the images (anticlockwise) in a continuous loop – but it shows very nicely the extent to which we’re willing to believe reality is “out there” rather than constructed in our heads.

(Occasional stutters in the image rendering can be sufficient to break the illusion and ’cause’ the dancer to ‘change direction’, but it’s all in the brain.)

“All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward internal dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.”
H P Lovecraft

You know when you’ve been Virgoed …

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Maybe it’s Saturn’s entry into Virgo … I suddenly got hit by an insane urge to re-code this website. It was, after all, the first site I did and the techniques I used at the time have long since been improved upon.

So for those that it means anything to – and who know exactly how much work this entails – this site (since exactly 00.00 hours this morning) now goes table-less and validates to W3C XHTML 1.0 Strict coding standards. What might be a good deal more meaningful and useful though is that the menus have been extended and integrated right down through all the layers of the site so anywhere can be reached in one click from anywhere else.

And we’ve got another 2½-odd years of Saturn in Virgo … Jings.

Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard