Tuesday, February 21, 2006

for the curious

From, A Short History of Technology: From the Earliest Times to A.D. 1900, by T.K. Derry and Trevor I. Williams, Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1993.
Although batteries were [...] an extremely convenient source of electricity for a great many purposes, the wide-spread use of electricity for heat, light, and power depended upon the development of mechanical methods of generation. The first mechanical generator was shown in Paris within a year of Faraday reading his classic paper to the Royal Society in 1831, by an instrument-maker, Hippolyte Pixii, in whose hand-turned generator the coils were fixed and the horseshoe magnet rotated. But before another year had passed, a machine was demonstrated at a Cambridge meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in which the opposite principle, namely rotation of the coils relative to a fixed magnet, was utilized; this is now general practice. From 1834, at latest, rotating-coil generators were being made commercially in London.

The earliest generators produced alternating current[...]with a frequency depending upon the speed at which the machine was turned. This was looked upon as a most serious disadvantage--partly, at least, because all workers were accustomed tow orking with the direct current provided by batteries--but towards the end of the century it was realized that for large-scale use alternating current had decisive advantages over direct. For the time being, however, the problem of the conversion of alternating into direct current was solved by the invention of the mechanical commutator: a commutator designed by Ampere was fitted to an early generator made by Pixii.

There's a good deal more, such as the heating problems those early generators had, and the realization of self-exitation--that electromagnets could retain enough magnetism to start output from an electric generator, thus ending the need for an external battery or permanent magnets--being generally accepted by 1866. But none of that is really needed to underscore the point.

It should suffice to state that the ring-armature Gramme dynamo (generator) was introduced in 1870; it mostly ran on steam power, which goes to show that truth is stranger than fiction.

And for those desiring a more comprehensive timeline, here is a more succinct account of early electrical devises, appropriately enough, describing the Preconditions for Edison's Lamp.

Miss Sabine Fairweather kindly requests that the oh-so-educated gentlemen will refrain from impugning her research in the future, without the benefit of persuasive evidence. She dislikes wasting time in explaining herself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


You didn't mean for it to happen. You've always sneered at people who spend all their time on the prowl, obsessing about that one true fit. Besides, you already have another in your life, who's always been faithful and comfortable. You're not even looking.

But sometimes it happens. A new love catches your eye and suddenly you realize what you were missing--what suddenly, heart-wrenchingly, you can no longer live without. A new love that cups your derriere lovingly, just the way you like it, and whispers how hot you are. The fit, the timing, everything is perfect, and you are more tempted than you've ever been before. You tell yourself that it's not right, that you're happy as you are, you can't afford this new commitment--what will you tell your spouse? But it's inevitable, really.

Sooner or later you're going to buy that new pair of jeans.

$24.99, baby. I don't even feel cheap.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

name that tune: special anti-V-day edition

You ever toss and turn, you're lying awake
and thinkin about the one you love?
(I wouldn't think so)
You ever close your eyes, you're makin believe
you're holdin the one you're dreaming of?
(Well if you say so.)
It hurts so bad when you finally know
just how low low low low low she'll go.


Would you catch me if I fell
out of what I fell in?
don't be surprised if I collapse
down at your feet again
I don't want to run away from this
I know that I just don't need this

cause I cannot stand still
I can't be this unsturdy
this cannot be happening


And you know you're gonna lie to you
in your own way

I know, know too well
know the chill
know she breaks
my siren

never was one
for a prissy girl
calling for an ambulance
reach high doesn't mean she's holy
just means she's got a cellular handy
almost brave
almost pregnant
almost in love



You're like an empty cup,
But I can't fill you up.
What planet are you on?
Not the same one I am from.
I don't get what you're trying to say -
What is wrong and what's okay.
So beat yourself up one more time
and trample on this fearless heart of mine.


There'll be days when I stray
I may appear to be
impossibly out of reach
I give in to sin
because I like to practice what I preach

I’m not trying to say
I’ll have it all my way
I’m always willing to learn
When you’ve got something to teach
yes, and I'll make it all worthwhile
I'll make your heart smile.


You know everybody's watching me
And what they see
Is me watching you
In the middle, time is creeping by
And I wonder why
You're so removed

And if you'd carry me tonight
I would be strong enough to fight
And when you're weak and can't go on
I'd be the bed you lay upon
And blue is blue
And so am I
Cause I want to be with you tonight
You're not the only one in need

Come on baby
life is just a net into which you dive
and I'm getting closer to you now.

If I love you will you run away?
and if you stay,
will I disappear?


Enlighten me, reveal my fate
Just cut these strings that hold me safe
You know my head
you know my gaze
you'd know my heart
if you knew your place
I'll walk straight down far as I can go

I follow you
you follow me
I don't know why you lie so clean
I'll break right through the irony

cure this wait
I hate this wait
I hate this wait

Monday, February 13, 2006

pimpin for my homies

My good buddy, and probably the closest thing I've got to a writing mentor, Rob Chilson, sent around a piece of mail today.

To whom it may concern:

My story, "Farmers in the Sky," is scheduled to appear in the May issue
of ANALOG, which will probably hit the stands in March.



And what's even cooler, I can say I got to read and edit it before it went to Stan Schmidt. I'm fairly sure Rob even took some of my advice, although by this point it's hard to say what advice was taken and what he already knew needed doing before he showed it to us.

Anyway, this story has the Holly Seal of Recommendation. If you like classic Heinlein and Alan Dean Foster, that kind of thing, you'll enjoy this. One of the rare examples of genuine speculative future-fiction I've seen in a while.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

surgical antiseptics

Carbolic acid, the stuff first used by Lister as an antiseptic in surgery, is also known as Phenol. According to Wikipedia:
Phenol has antiseptic properties, and was used by Sir Joseph Lister in his pioneering technique of antiseptic surgery, though the skin irritation caused by continual exposure to phenol eventually led to the substitution of aseptic (germ-free) techniques in surgery. It is one of the main components of the commercial antiseptic TCP.

Phenol has anesthetic properties, and is the active ingredient in some oral anesthetics such as Chloraseptic® spray.

Yum. Anyway, it appears hospitals have never really stopped using it, but found other applications for it. Wikipedia again:
Used as a "scrub" for pre-operative hand cleansing. Used in the form of a powder as an antiseptic baby powder, where it is dusted onto the belly button as it heals. Also used in mouthwashes and throat lozenges, where it has a painkilling effect as well as an antiseptic one.

According to a fictitious but well-researched account I read, surgeons stopped soaking their hands in acid about the same time rubber gloves came along, around 1885. Instead they scrub well and may rise with a mild phenol solution. Today most surgical procedures prevent infection by operation in a sterile environment, with metal instruments that can be sterilized. Any after-infections are treated with antibiotics and antiseptics.