Category Archives: hmmm

generating power

I’ve been reading recently abour various “unusual” power-generation methods. One of those that I’ve seen mentioned in several places is the solar updraft tower.

After having read about that, I wonder why more industrial steam stacks don’t utilize something similar: if you’re throwing away the steam, couldn’t you put a VAWT or other energy-capturing device in the tower to collect some chunk of that energy back either to the plant itself, or to the grid?

the one hundred ninety-nine dollar.. what?

I arrived in Singapore during the Great Singapore Sale, or GSS. It’s advertised everywhere. It’s the one time of year when [nearly] every store, restaurant, service provider, etc offers big discounts for shoppers.

In Plaza Singapura, the mall next to where I work, they’ve been having different vendors taking-over the concourse area on the first floor every week.

This week it’s one of their anchors, Carrefour (the French hypermart chain). They have all sorts of stuff – most of which you can also get inside the Carrefour store, but of course it’s more fun to browse out in the open.

In the refrigerated container area I saw something I never thought I’d see in my life. They had fruit for sale.

Specifically, they had fruit from Japan for sale. One of them was S$199. That’s about $125 US.

It’s a watermelon.


That summer stand-by: the watermelon.

Course, these are square and grown in Japan, and stack nicely.

But really? Two hundred dollars for a watermelon?

that was different

I’ve been in Singapore for two weeks.

Today I stopped at a bar near where I’ve been staying for a snack and a couple beverages.

It took me a couple-few minutes to figure out what was going on, but apparently the legalized prostitution industry in Singapore isn’t limited to the red-light district.

Hopefully I did a good job of fending them off, but I’d prefer to have not been in the scenario to start with 🙂

store brands are sometimes better

I shop at various grocery stores, and the cashiers generally look at my purchases a little askance: clementines, milk, ice cream, pot pies, beer, Ensure – they seem to get confused when I checkout with my selections.

I was raised with a thrifty mindset, but am not afraid to spend money for better quality.

For years I’ve preferred store brand cereals – corn flakes, raisin bran, cocoa puffs, cocoa crispies, rice crispies, and chex are all indistinguishable to me when comparing store brand and name brand. Some I can distinguish and just like the store brand more. Cheerios is the only notable difference – fake cheerios are NOT the same as the ones from General Mills.

Trader Joe’s raisin bran, for example, is cheaper than the name brand, has fewer calories, and (I think) tastes better than those from Post or Kellogg.

I don’t go out of my way to buy organic foods to make a statement. Many times I think they taste worse, or the relative percentage change in quality does not match the price percentage shift. Trader Joe’s raisin bran happens to be organic – but the fact that it tastes good and is inexpensive is more important.

I’ve been bitten several times by trying store brand macaroni and cheese. I picked-up a batch from Lowes Foods recently, and am hoping they’re not hideous like the ones from Winn Dixie were. But if they’re decent, then I have a source for less expensive than Kraft mac and cheese. My favorite is Prince brand, but those aren’t purchaseable in NC – and therefore I tend to stock-up periodically when I go home to NY.

Also, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the high quality of the canned strawberries I can get at my local dollar store. Yes. A dollar store. Most of the food they sell is high enough in sodium to make road ice quiver. But the canned strawberries at my local Dollar Tree near NC55 and NC54 are downright tasty – 90 calories per serving, with only three servings per can. That lines-up with my home-made applesauce for caloric value, and makes a nice shift.

They’re also not those supersized strawberries you find in most produce departments of grocery stores; the ones at Dollar Tree are about 1/2″ in diameter rather than 2″. The smaller size makes for what seems to be a more strawberryish strawberry than the giant ones from the supermarket.

Such experimenting has made me want to do more, and so now when I go shopping I try to compare not merely price or calories – but the taste quality. It leads to a lot of sampling, but being able to shave 10-50% off my grocery bill is a nice [eventual] payoff.

black carrot and hibiscus?

Today for lunch I popped out to M&S, which is a supermarket in the UK.

With my combo meal I got an M&S Cola. Right on the front it claims “no artificial colours”. And based on the ingredient list, I’ll go along with agreeing.

However, near the end of the ingredient list is ‘fruit and vegetable concentrate (black carrot and hibiscus)”. I never would have thought of putting either into a Cola, but it doesn’t taste bad. I’ve heard of both being in teas, but never a soda.

Who knew such a variety of sources can be utilized for flavoring?

the psychology of elevators

I travel for work now, so I get to see lots of elevators. I’ve seen elevators that you pick the floor you want to go to outside the elevator, and then the elevator bank directs you to the one it thinks you should ride to get to your destination the quickest. I’ve seen simple elevators with numbers that light up. And I’ve seen ones that have no lights – they just open and you get on.

I noticed that the elevator lights at the customer site I’ve been assigned to the past couple weeks are arrows. But more importantly, when the elevator is going up, a green up arrow displays. However, when it’s going down, and red down arrow lights.

This got me contemplating what subliminal messages this might be conveying. Certainly one that jumps immediately to mind is that going to work is good, and leaving is bad.

It could also imply that before you leave you should STOP and make sure you have everything you need before going home.

But what about when you have meetings on another floor? Does the red light indicate it’s bad to go to the meeting? And, if so, does that mean meetings should always happen on your floor or higher?

How many other common, every-day objects play to preconceived notions of what we should or shouldn’t do?

mysql auto-changes data types

I was making a change to a small table today: adding a field that wanted to be a varchar. The other fields that were of type char all magically changed to varchar when I was done with the alter statement that added one field.

I don’t know if that’s supposed to happen, but it was serendipitous for me, as I wanted to change the char fields to varchar anyway.

And, interestingly enough, if you have a table full of varchar fields and you try to add a char field, it will automatically switch it to match the varchar form, and not switch the varchars back to char.

I didn’t see anything in a quick search on mysql’s website about this behavior, so it’s either undocumented, my google-fu is weak, or it’s a bug.