Not good news

I have just discovered that David Davis has shuffled off this mortal coil. One of the very, very few internet people I actually met in real life. A great guy, with a lovely house and a wonderful family. I’ve been working on a rather large and complex book he had written and was keen to see in print. I can only apologise for not getting it done in time. I’ll try to contact his family to see if they still want me to go ahead with this, after a suitable interval. Now is not the time.

Delays seem to have come thick and fast since the whole Covid debacle started. My father, my uncle, a cousin’s son all died. My father’s other brother died and so did his son. Several aunts have been hospitalised with not-good prognoses.

I was at my father’s funeral but the stupid people in government would not let me attend the others. Several authors have also died. David was one of the anthology authors, about to make his debut into novels. Taken too soon.

For me, I had car problems which could not be fixed because the dealerships all shut down, a bigger thing than you’d think considering I live where public transport is almost a conspiracy theory. Family issues (my grandson suffered a stroke which went undiagnosed too long because nobody believes a 10 month old can have a stroke, my granddaughter was diagniosed autistic because she doesn’t like people very much and taught herself addition – I don’t see any of that as autistic, I see it as sensible and genius). Then I got a kidney thing that turned out to be a stone that passed with much pain and red wee. Lately, Gloom Dog, approaching 15 years old, went downhill so fast we actually considered the Final Needle. She’s on better meds now but she still has canine dementia and doesn’t always remember who I am. She’s very clingy to CStM who she’s known all her life. Still, the vet says she’s physically okay and not in pain so we’re keeping her. She is, however, starting to get expensive with her drug habit.

It’s also author payment time. Only three authors made anything and none of them were me so those are going out a little late. It doesn’t really matter, nobody is retiring on this kind of income so a few days late on the price of a beer (I don’t actually know what that is now) won’t change anyone’s life.

I do feel terrible about not finishing work on David’s book before he passed away but I really didn’t expect him to leave so abruptly. He was so full of life and ambition, I expected him to outlive me.

I suppose you just never know what’s coming.

I’m not dead yet

Just a quick note to prove I’m still alive. The kidney thing seems to have cleared up on its own. Blood and urine tests showed nothing, although they were nearly the same colour so the doctor knows I’m not making it up. I’ll get an appointment for an ultrasound scan to see what’s up at some point. By the time that happens I’ll probably have recovered completely. I’ll go anyway – hell, I paid into this system throughout my career and they rarely even saw me. Plus, I want to know if there’s anything else lurking that could cause problems.

In other news, my mother is visiting this week so I’m not getting much of anything done. There’s no public transport out here so I’m chaffeur until Tuesday. This has (further!) delayed several books in progress including Anthology 20 – although I have done the author contracts and payments for those who wanted cash, and made some progress assembling it and making a cover. The cover isn’t complete, here’s what it looks like so far…

Yes it’s dark, as are most of the stories in it. I have to admit I like it that way. I hoped to have the final-checks PDF out by now but I’m pretty knackered by the time I get to the computer and if I’m not concentrating while assembling, it all goes to hell very quickly indeed. Especially when inserting internal and external links in the eBook version!

I keep saying we’ll get back to normal service soon but I’m not going to say it this time because every time I do, something else happens.

So, I’m not ready for the Last Ride just yet. Still working, just at a very, very slow pace at the moment.

Visiting the Sawbones

I have been unwell and might still be. It’s not Covid, it’s something else entirely. So I had to visit the local sawbones office I registered with seven years ago and finally saw an actual doctor for the first time in many years. They look just like us! Except with masks so you can only see the top half of their faces. Perhaps they plan to rob banks someday so don’t want to be too easy to identify.

Right. Here’s a thing on why you should always finish a course of antibiotics, followed by the reason I didn’t this time. Any microbiologists or immunologists or endocrinologists are going to have a sharp intake of breath because this scenario ignores immune system input or any other factors. It’s simplified because I expect few readers here are any kind of biologist and many aren’t even scientists. It’s just the basics.

So you have an infection. Let’s say there are a million bacteria in this infection (if it’s a lively one it’ll be way over a million per millilitre, but we’re playing the simplified game). You want to get rid of it, of course, so you whack it with an antibiotic. We’ll say penicillin.

Now, in that million bacteria there are going to be some who are resistant to penicillin, because they can produce an enzyme called penicillinase that will break it down. Only a few, but they’re in there. Well, producing that enzyme makes them penicillin resistant but not penicillin-proof. You can overload their resistance and still kill them – but remember that penicillin is like bullets. It gets used up as it hits targets. At this stage, if you want to wipe out the lot in one go, you’d have to give a dose that risks killing the patient.

Most are easily killed with the first dose. Maybe 90%. So you’re down to 100,000. You’re still sick and none of the resistant ones have been touched. Your first dose was diluted among a million. They barely noticed it.

Second dose, another 90%. Down to 10,000. All the resistant ones are still there. Untouched.

Third dose, down to 1000. Barely any infection left. You feel fine. Should you stop here? Well maybe one more.

Fourth dose. Down to 100. No symptoms, you feel normal, you don’t want to bother any more with the pills.So you stop.

The infection grows back, but this time it’s composed almost entirely of the penicillin-resistant few because you already killed the susceptible ones. If you had finished the course you’d have wiped out the last 100 by overwhelming their defenses. Instead, you whittled out the weak and selected the strong as your next enemy. Now, penicillin won’t work unless the dose used is likely to kill you too.

Antibiotic resistance is not a new thing. Neither are antibiotics. Antibiotics were discovered, not invented, in the 1930s. The mould Penicillium had been producing antibacterials all along, to kill off competition from bacteria. Probably for many thousands of years, or longer. So had many other microbial species. We just couldn’t see it until we grew things on agar plates and could see the clear zones around the mould and wonder why they were there. People used penicillin for centuries before its discovery, in the use of mouldy bread poultices to stop infection in wounds. They knew it worked, they just didn’t know (and probably didn’t much care) why it worked.

When you consider a population of bacteria, remember we are talking in millions per millilitre. In water, that would only just start to look cloudy. They are not all identical clones, there’s going to be some variation. Normally, the few producing penicillinase are at a disadvantage, they’re wasting metabolism defending against a threat that isn’t there – but when it is there, they are the ‘preppers’ who were laughed at before the apocalypse hit. And if the apocalypse doesn’t manage to kill them all, they are the ones who will grow back and replace the old population.

So you need to finish the course even though you feel better because if you stop the apocalypse and let the preppers grow back, this time the infection is all preppers and your antibiotics will just be shrugged off.

So why didn’t I finish the course this time? The antibiotic they gave me was a bastard. I’d sleep about two hours and then be wide awake for a while, then get tired and go back to sleep for two hours… and so on. I also lost the ability to concentrate on anything, it was like thinking through sand. Then I had a phone call from the surgery that told me I had no infection at all, and they now suspect kidney stones. Could be, it certainly hurt like hell. Put it this way, it’s rare indeed for me to phone the doctors without being forced to do it. And when I do, I get an appointment the same day. They know a call from me is not trivial.

An infection can’t grow back if there wasn’t one there in the first place. If there was, my standard protocol for suspected bladder infection worked and cleared it. Drink lots of water, no booze, limited-to-zero caffeine and absolutely no sugar. All microbes love sugar and if they are growing in you, you really don’t want to feed them. There was still the lower back pain though, so maybe kidney stones are developing in me. I’m at the age where things do start to break after all.

A combination of the bad effects of the treatment, and the knowledge that there was nothing for the treatment to treat, led me to stop the antibiotic course halfway. Now I have given blood samples for a kidney stone check – apparently they can do that now – and will probably have to have a scan to see if there are more lurking. At least the pain has subsided and I don’t pee blood any more. In fact I’ve drunk so much water I’m probably peeing distilled water now.

Maybe I fixed it before the doctors got involved. It wouldn’t be the first time. They hate that, they get annoyed at my usual one-line response to their doomladen sayings.

‘It all grows back’.

Back in black

Hi everyone, CstM here. I hope you’re all doing amazing. We’ve had better days to be honest.

How was your valentine’s day? We celebrated for the first time since Leggy got the news about his dad passing. We had a nice homemade meal and played the Bill and Ted board game, that Leggy got for Christmas. It was a really fun night. I’d found a copy of a childhood book for Leggy and he got me a nice decoration for the bookshelves.

On the 15th I was in the middle of making dinner when my phone rang. It was my auntie, dad’s sister, calling to tell me that she had found my dad dead.

No one was expecting it. Hell, I had spoken to him on the phone just days before. He’d complained about having pulled his back, but then he’d done that before. Shortly before the lockdowns he’d had surgery for a slipped disk in his back. So no one was too phased by him having back issues. We sure as hell didn’t think he’d turn up dead. I mean last time we saw him was back in September for his 60th birthday.

I’m not sure if I mentioned here, but the parental unit got divorced some years back. It was quite a messy divorce, and my dad was taking it a bit hard. I came over to help the mothership pack, but ended up mostly spending some quality time with my dad. Now my dad was a bit of a quiet man, bit on the gruff side at first sight. So I was very worried about how he’d do after the divorce. How would he deal with being alone. Would he let the bitterness of the divorce eat him up? I remember sitting in the car with him, and telling him something akin to “just because mum did some shitty things, doesn’t mean you let everything go to shit!” He told me later that those words really made a difference in his life. He called up a friend, got a crash course in all things facebook, joined a bunch of single groups and started going to events. The difference was massive. He ended up having a crap ton of friends, even went on several dates. He was getting increasingly harder to get ahold of because he’d be out at parties, concerts and one time even ballet and a fashion show. It was absolutely amazing to see him blossom up. I’m sure he was having the time of his life. He had made plans to come over in the summer with his motorcycle and some friends, to tour Scotland. This guy really didn’t have time to die.

My aunt’s boyfriend was the one who held the eulogy at the funeral, so he contacted me asking for my memories of dad. All I could remember was the silly times we had pranking each other. Like the year I as a teen really wanted the newest Harry Potter book. It was all I talked about and wanted. My birthday comes and I get a small, not book shaped gift. I open it and it’s a Roger Whittaker cd. Now I’m just sitting there thinking “WTF!?” When my dad grabs the cd, pulls of the plastic and happily tells me that surely I want to listen to my new music. My only thought was “I can’t exchange it now!” The bastard the laughed and went to find my real birthday gift, which of course was the newest Harry Potter book.

But yeah, that was my dad. Always doing funny or stupid things to make us laugh or be embarrassed by him. Like when he’d pull his joggers up to his armpits, do a department of funny walks impression and talk about getting a shirt with my picture on it and “she’s my daughter” underneath. In the supermarkets he’d stand in one corner and shout across the shop at my mum, asking if we needed x item. Me as an embarrassed teen would pretend like I didn’t know him by calling him Mr Man (Hr Mand in Danish). Like I’d go up to him and do a whole thing of “you there Mr. Man, who I’ve never met before, are you in need of this cheese?” By time it got shorter and shorter and he got stuck with the nickname of Herman.

Now the Danish coroner was surprisingly speedy. His autopsy was performed within days, and his funeral was two weeks after his passing. Honestly I was not ready for the funeral at all. Even walking up to the church, I was telling Leggy that we could just go to McD instead and pretend like nothing had happened. But in the end I was happy that I went. It was a beautiful ceremony, and turns out I was the only one of my siblings who showed up. One was late, showed up for the wake, and one didn’t show at all.

I chose the sunflowers

The wake was just in dad’s spirit. It was beers and soda at his favourite pub/concert place. Auntie even managed to get his favourite local blues musician to come out and give a concert. I’m sure dad was somewhere really miffed that he was missing out. Especially after the funeral had the family singing twice. I personally thought the guy had suffered enough, but apparently having to listen to our tone deaf bunch is your punishment for dying too early.

I still can’t believe he’s gone. I keep reaching for the phone to tell him about things, just to remember he isn’t there. Hopefully in time it’ll get better.

Piano Man

It’s been a very gloomy few years so I think it’s time for something in a lighter vein. For my last birthday, almost a year ago, CStM bought me a model kit. I’d already made something in a similar line, but on a much smaller scale…

The base is about an inch and a half wide. Nothing came pre-made. Nothing. Not even the books.

Well, this new one is a lot bigger. A hell of a lot bigger. If you search ‘Simon’s Coffee model kit’ you’ll probably find it. It’s 1:24 scale so will fit with the garden sized railway and again, nothing comes premade.

Last year was a busy year, mother getting ill, CStM’s father’s birthday, daughter’s wedding, and much more. So I hadn’t even opened this new model. I’m also pretty tied up with an increasing book backlog and we’ll be at a funeral soon, but I did need a bit of ‘relax’ time. So I started the model. Relax? Ha! My lexicon of imaginiative swear words has grown exponentially and I’ve only done a tiny bit.

Just to make it more interesting, all the instructions are in Chinese. I can’t even guess what they say. I’m working by pictures and part numbers, and few parts have numbers.

I decided to start with this part because the components were relatively easy to identify.

Well, there was an initial balls-up, mostly because I can’t read Chinese, but I realised before the glue set so I fixed it. It turned out pretty okay in the end, I think. Took me a while to find the tiny dowels for the chair legs among the bags of bits, that’ll be next. For reference, the squares on the cutting mat are one inch.

Once the funeral is past (with the hope there won’t be yet another too soon) I’ll be able to concentrate on books again. For now, the assembly of parts is cathartic, it takes my mind off the current gloom of the world. Have no fear though, that gloom will still come out in stories.

Update – the tiny upholstery job is done. It’ll be a few days before the next part is started.

Fifteen Minutes

That’s how far you’ll be allowed to travel in the planned new cities. It starts with ‘everything you need will be within a 15 minute walk of your pod – I mean home – and it’ll be really convenient’.

In the beginning the restrictions wihtin areas will apply to car journeys. You’ll be told you can take the bus as far as you want or walk anywhere you want, only the use of your car will be limited.

Next, your social credit score will determine whether you can use any form of transport at all. Then you won’t even be allowed to leave your area on foot without permission. If someone in your area tests positive for whatever current scary thing is going around, nobody will be allowed to enter or leave that area. All this has been ably demonstrated by Chinese actors pretending to be real people. Our idiot leaders will follow their instructions.

Growing up in the 1960s/70s and to a lesser extent the 80s (I had a car by 1980, it was a heap but it worked), we already had that concept. A lot of people had cars, very few had expensive ones and most people only used their car when necessary. We’d walk a lot more than 15 minutes to get to the next town where there was a much better range of shops. Still, within a few streets we had a newsagent/corner shop, a butcher, a fishmonger, baker, barber, hardware shop… the next town over had record shops and clothes shops and furniture shops and an indoor and outdoor market – and it wasn’t a big town. Everything was on one high street. It only took about 30 minutes to walk there.

So what changed?

Supermarkets arrived. The first one around our area was Carrefour. I can’t remember exactly when it opened but it was before 1976 because we still lived in Cefn Fforest at the time. I can only describe that first visit with my mother as a serious culture shock. The place looked like an aircraft hangar and I thought it would take all day to walk around it. Everything was on sale there. Everything.

Well, people were delighted to find that the supermarket prices were much lower than the high street prices. Also, everything was in one shop – no queueing in the butcher, then in the grocer, then the baker, then the fishmonger… everything in one basket, one queueing session and you’re done.

It was also more convenient to buy in bulk. Home freezers became popular, not just the little ice box in the fridge, an entire cabinet to store frozen goods. You didn’t have to shop every day, one trip to the supermarket and you’d get enough food in for the week!

Of course, you’d need to take the car to the supermarket. It was a lot more than 15 minutes walk away and the amount you’d buy wasn’t really practical to carry home in a shopping basket. But hey, they had a big car park.

I don’t think anywhere had shopping trolleys in the 1960s, at least not where I lived. Not even the ‘big’ (seemed to us at the time) Woolworth’s in the next town. People would generally turn up on foot with a shopping basket and they’d have to carry their purchases home. Filling a trolley wouldn’t really work in that scenario. Now they are the norm, and some of them are seriously big. So people are used to driving to Tesco or Asda or Aldi or whatever and filling the back of the car with a week or two of shopping. No more strolling down the high street for a couple of pork chops here and a pound of potatoes there. Every day. Oh no, the daily shopping was over.

So was the high street. Those small shops had no chance of competing with supermarkets on price. And as people became more used to using their cars more, they became lazy. They didn’t want to walk to the next town over. Hell, they didn’t want to walk to the corner shop at the end of their own street. If they can’t park there, they’re not going. There was no parking space on the high street, it was a two lane road, and no big car parks anywhere nearby. Actually, there was one later, after the railway that ran behind the shops shut down. They made a long narrow car park eventually – but too late. The supermarkets had already wiped out most of the small competition.

About 15 miles from here is a middling town which used to have a lighting shop. They carried all kinds of light fittings, every kind of bulb and connector. You’d go in there for something obscure, say ‘I don’t suppose you have…’ – and they did. Of course, they made most of their money from selling the most common light fittings and bulbs.

Then the nearby Tesco started selling the most common light fittings and bulbs. Cheaper. The lighting shop is long gone now, and Tesco no longer sell those light bulbs. Finding the unusual stuff now requires an Internet search and even getting common light fittings needs a trip to Homebase or B&Q.

That town had a bookshop. They also had a lot of unusual stuff but made their money from selling the popular books. Then Tesco started selling the newest and most popular books cheaper. You can guess the rest.

There was a fishmonger in that town. Both Tesco and Morrisons opened fish counters. There is no longer a fishmonger in that town.

There is still a butcher, who survives not on price but on quality. It’s worth paying a bit more for the good stuff. They won’t be so easily eradicated. It’s a long way from me but worth the trip and the inconvenience of finding nearby parking.

Tesco met their match at the little sports shop. Fishing gear, riding gear, BB guns, shotguns, hunting rifles. The only thing Tesco could legitimately stock was the riding gear. They didn’t have it for long. People who can afford horses don’t want the cheap shit, and Tesco can’t stock guns or fishing gear effectively. Can you imagine turning up at Tesco’s checkout with one fishing fly? They can’t do it. That sports shop won. It’s still there.

So the supermarkets haven’t killed everything but they’ve certainly killed most of the old local shops. Our local shop survives for two reasons – it’s 15 miles to the nearest supermarket and almost everything is locally sourced. No transport issues for most of their stock. This is a local shop for local people and largely stocked by local people. Milk in glass pint bottles. Meat from local farms. Veg and fruit from local farms and a large portion of their eggs come from the chickens kept by one of the staff there.

Potatoes on sale there are not all clean in clear plastic bags. They are in paper sacks with dirt still on them. Pick out what you want. Mixed salads are in ziplock bags with a tiny label stuck to them. They haven’t travelled far. You can get fresh strawberries in season that have travelled less than ten miles. Sure, it costs more than the supermarkets but 2 miles vs. 15 miles at today’s petrol prices… if you just want milk, bread, eggs, maybe some onions and potatoes, it still works out cheaper than driving to a supermarket.

The 15 minute cities will kill the supermarkets. The likes of Tesco and Aldi don’t seem to have realised this. They can have all the parking spaces they want but if nobody can drive there, what’s the point? They are located at the edges of towns, well away from 15 minutes travel. If you want everything available within 15 minutes of your house then big supermarkets out of town are not available to you. You’d be back to the 1960s model of small local butchers and grocers etc.

The problem with that idea is… those small businesses are largely gone, and nobody is going to try to start one up now. The farmer’s markets have it covered at a local level and the big guns will put you out of business if you try to start up in a city so who’s going to risk it?

Supermarkets won’t pay farmers more even while they charge their customers more. So farmers can’t run heated greenhouses because of energy costs and there’s never been any point producing anything that you’ll never even make your costs back on. Fuel costs have two effects, only one of which is ever mentioned – the cost of transporting foods to cities. The other fuel cost means it’s cheaper for the likes of me to drive to Local Shop than to drive 15 miles to a supermarket. Even with the higher prices in Local Shop, the trip to the supermarket costs more.

The 15 minute cities are going to starve. Maybe that’s the plan, it’s all about depopulation after all. None of the WEF lunatics have ever been ambiguous on this point. We’d be okay out in the countryside but they want us corralled into the starvation zones too. So there’ll be nobody producing any food at all. Well, there’ll be the Billy Gates Gruff and his cancerous fake meat (it really is – they have immortal cell lines producing the meat, cells that never stop reproducing, which is the very definition of cancer). Or there’s the insect rubbish that’s fed on stuff you’d rather not hear about.

All these ideas are the rantings of a lunatic mind. The kind of mind that considers other humans as ‘useless eaters’ or ‘people we don’t need’. Who are the ‘we’? Are they superior beings? Are they gods? They genuinely think so, you know. They really do think they are a superior life form and we are their cattle to do with as they will.

Oh it’s not the first time arseholes like this have appeared. Far from it. I covered their mindset a long time ago. The method has never changed. It still works.

Klaus Bumschwab said ‘the old normal is never coming back’ but he’s surely old enough to know that buying local is indeed the ‘old normal’. I suppose his insulated world of inbred gold plated banjo players never actually experienced it but I did, and so did many of the other oldies he’s trying to kill now while being older than them. He, like his cohorts, will be shocked when their ideology kills their food source. Just like Stalin and Mao. History they are incapable of learning from. This lunacy will fail.

Unfortunately, like the same lunacies of the past, it will kill very many people on the way down.

Water power

There’s another new experimental wave machine. I don’t know if you can get this link, it’s a video on Twitter.

Basically, big floats in the sea move long metal arms that then pump freshwater over turbines. Simple in theory, doesn’t look like it needs much maintenance but… it does not appear to acount for the rise and fall of the tide. The piston stroke is very short – sure, it does the job in the video but when the tide goes out the floats will be left dangling, and when it comes right in the piston will be permanently open and do nothing.

Now, I have to say, I’m a big fan of hydroelectric power. Windmills are all well and good when the wind is at the right strength and solar is all very well when the sun is out and they aren’t covered in dust or snow, but water movement, whether rivers or seas, never stops.

We have long built dams to produce hydroelectric power and sure, they’re expensive and they do wipe out whole ecosystems behind them but once in place, all they need is water flow. They don’t do any more damage than their initial installation.

I have long pondered an idea of fitting a load of tiny turbines all the way down the rain pipes that lead from the guttering on house roofs. Upside – it doesn’t matter how many turbines you install, that water isn’t going to slow down because you’re really getting energy from gravity. Downside – it doesn’t always rain (even though in Scotland it does feel like it). Still, such a system could provide supplementary power and maybe reduce your bills a little. I thought of using it to charge batteries for low power lighting.

Solar is absolutely useless here. In winter, there’s not enough sun to charge a garden light for more than an hour. In summer, sure, those same garden lights are still on when the sun comes back up but we don’t need much power in summer. It’s not frostbitingly cold then. Solar can produce a lot of energy at the wrong time here, and none at all when we need it most.

Wind power… sometimes it’s too windy and the things have to be locked down so they don’t explode. Often, in the coldest part of the winter, there’s no wind at all.

The river, just down the hill, never stops. It floods every year and its level will drop in late summer but it is always there and always flowing. The sea isn’t very far away either.

I recognise there are problems with putting machinery in water, especially seawater. It’ll rust like hell and a good storm could smash it to bits. Well, there are many videos out there of windmills exploding in high winds and solar panels obliterated by heavy hail so they’re no better.

The hydroelectric dams don’t seem to suffer these problems so much and I suspect it might be because they are taking their water flow from well beneath the surface. They don’t care if the wind whips the surface into a frenzy or it’s as calm as a millpond. Makes no difference. The subsurface flow is still the same.

Speaking of millponds, there’s an old watermill just up the road. It’s built on a stream that leads into the big river. It’s no longer in use of course, that cheap old technology has been replaced by much more profitable power sources now. Yet it remains as a reminder that we once used stream and river flows to mill grain into flour. It didn’t cost anything to run once it was built. The water moved the paddle wheel and the paddle wheel drove the millstones. Much the same as a hydroelectric dam works now, except there was, back then, no way to transfer the power generated to anywhere outside the mill.

I think, with both tidal and river generated power, it might work best well below the surface of the water. Rivers rise and fall, seas can get stormy and smash equipment, but below the surface there’s that constant flow in rivers and the ebb and flow of sea tides.

Corrosion? Well of course but you don’t have to make it out of iron. You can have your moving parts made of fibreglass or plastic, driving steel machinery above the surface. Heck, even the right kind of wood would be a better option.

Below the surface you’re clear of storms and the rise and fall of water. Apart from the ocasional tsunami you should get a pretty decent steady output.

I’m not an engineer, all I have is an O level in metalwork so I expect real engineers will rip holes in this very quickly.

But… the windmills and solar panels have failed. Could water power work?

The Water Car

Holidays are over (except in Scotland where they won’t come round for a couple more days yet) so it’s back to work. Meanwhile, I came across this little mention of water powered motorbikes in Pakistan.

It sounds unlikely but it’s not the first time this has come up. There have been water powered cars in the past, more than once. They, and their inventors, have a habit of mysteriously disappearing.

The principle, on the surface, is very simple. You electrolyse water into hydrogen and oxygen and then burn them in an engine as fuel. When you burn them, they turn back into water. It’s almost exactly – if not exactly – the same principle as the modern hydrogen fuelled buses that are in use all over the place now. Even in Aberdeen.

Except… instead of buying hydrogen from a big plant producing it, this idea produces the hydrogen in the vehicle itself. You just need to add water and your personal electrolysis machine turns it into fuel. Sounds great, right?

Well, my knowledge of electrochemistry went as far as A level physics and chemistry in 1978 and I don’t remember much. I do remember we did the ‘splitting water’ experiment with bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen from the electrodes but we really didn’t try to drive anything with it.

Still, it seems to me that if you’re going to generate enough hydrogen/oxygen mix to run an internal combustion engine at any sensible rate, you’re going to have to put a lot of electrical energy into quite a lot of water. The alternator in modern engines is there to take over the running of the electrics and recharge the battery that took one hell of a hit when you started the engine. I don’t think it has enough spare ‘oomph’ to run a fuel cell at a rate that could fuel the engine. I could be wrong, perhaps there’s an electrical engineer who knows?

So it seems to me that this idea could work for a little while, enough to prove the concept but it’ll kill the battery and possibly the alternator in short order. Will they take the extra strain?

Alternatively, maybe the hydrogen generated isn’t enough to fully run the engine but acts as a booster for the petrol so you use less fuel? Would that work? Anyone know?

Hydrogen is not a primary energy source. It’s like batteries, you have to put the energy into it to make it and according to that nice Mr. Newton, you will never get back as much energy as you put in in the first place. It’s even worse – you’ll lose some energy converting anything at all into electricity and you’ll lose more when you use that electricity to make hydrogen. Coal/oil powered cars are the most efficient. Always will be.

Still, these water powered vehicles keep coming back and then going quiet. Is it because Evil Oil suppresses these ideas or is it because, once the initial TV shows are aired, the battery and alternator in those vehicles are fried and all those savings on fuel are then used to replace the parts? I could really use some expert views on this.

Maybe we should go back to steam engines. Just need some logs and a bucket of water.

2022 – nearly over

It’s been a busy year. Mother diagnosed with (and subsequently cured of) cancer, I found a cousin I didn’t know existed and then he died, lost my last uncle on my father’s side, a cousin’s son who I haven’t seen since he was a toddler died in his sleep…

It wasn’t all bleak though. We went to Denmark for CStM’s father’s birthday, I went to Newcastle for son in law’s stag weekend (much beer was consumed and many silly things happened and I recall that I forgot to detail those things). Then the wedding, where I finally managed to give away my daughter. I say ‘finally’ because they’d been together 11 years before getting around to it.

It will no doubt enrage the Northern Scots to hear that I gave her away for free. Although it did give me the long sought after chance to invest in the full kilt regalia, including a genuinely sharp Sgian Dubh. Most, these days, have a dummy knife in their sock. I didn’t – and it turned out, neither did the groom. So she chose a perfect match for the family. He’s into shooting at things and blowing things up and also tiny models. We get along very well indeed.

Oh I’ve worn a kilt before, at my son’s wedding. In that instance we were expected to wear matching outfits (the bride’s mother insisted) so we all rented them from the same place. My daughter’s wedding had no such constraint. I wore ‘Pride of Scotland’ tartan with a Welsh dragon on the sporran and on the kilt pin. I later found out there is a St. David’s tartan. Maybe next time. Basic dress kilts aren’t expensive unless you want one that’s going to stand up to daily use. The jacket and shoes are the pricey parts. And kilt socks are definitely worth buying in this weather.

So anyway. All this stuff has eaten heavily into publishing time. There are still books in the backlog, in fact it’s longer now, and my own writing has taken a seat right at the back of the bus. Even so, I’m taking a few days off to recover from this year.

Christmas is sorted, or will be when the last gifts arrive. Including Grandson’s shiny new drum and Granddaughter’s slime factory. I have wondered if my son has asked the weather to stop them arriving but if they do, I have a bodhran that would be an even better substitute even though it’s actually bigger than my grandson.

Currently it’s -6C outside and the tractors have packed the snow down hard and turned the farm road into a skating rink. Even out here, the post office and most delivery services only equip their drivers with two wheel drive vans, which are going to have a lot of trouble delivering to pretty much every address in the area. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. Fortunately it doesn’t happen every year.

Even so, Christmas is all here or on order and the forecast is milder weather starting Saturday. Rising to a spring-like 9C on Monday, which I find hard to believe and actually hope it doesn’t get that warm. It’ll fool many plants into putting out buds that will be killed off a few days later. It could also bring a lot of animals out of hibernation far too soon. Hedgehogs, bees, hit the snooze button. It’s not time to get up yet.

Wasps, yeah, up and at ’em. I hate wasps. Let the buggers die.

This is not ‘climate change’ and certainly not ‘global warming’. This is ‘climate chaos’, something we in the UK are well used to. Spring can appear and then go back to winter, more than once in a single year. It’s what killed my Japanese Maple. I used to be able to grow tobacco here in Scotland, when it was still legal. Then they made it illegal but it didn’t matter because we started getting snap frosts in August so it was no longer possible anyway.

Those August frosts are not new. The long hot summers before them were not new. We had nasty cold in the eighties and hot dry summers in the seventies. It’s a cycle. The climate here is like that. There were summers in the 2000s where I had to cover my office window with reflective plastic film to stop it turning into an oven. A few years later, we had a winter that started in October and continued to the following May that cost me a couple of cracked ribs from slipping on the frictionless pavements.

Sure, the global climate is changing. It always has and always will, and no amount of taxation or silly teenage protests will stop it. This planet is going to do what it does and it neither knows nor cares that we are living on it. You can scream about oil and coal all you want. The climate, the planet, does not care. If it wants to get hot it will get hot. If it wants to freeze it will freeze. Nothing anyone can do, say or tax will change its trajectory one little bit. But this is a discussion for another time.

For now, let’s bask in the knowledge that the dismal year 2022 will soon end and hope against all the evidence that 2023 won’t be worse.

I don’t know if my stories can possibly get darker, although I suspect the coming inspirations will make that inevitable.

Wanderings of a Tired Mind

I am knackered. Didn’t sleep well last night and had to get up for a delivery so I might fall asleep before finishing this. It’s not likely to make much sense anyway, my mind is wandering like a wandering thing that’s completely forgotten where it intended to wander to. Tinfoil is optional but be warned, this is going to get strange.

And I’m even sober! I have plenty of whisky but if I drink more than a little bit I know I’m going to wake up slumped over this desk with Quasimodo Neck and a bad case of qwertyitis on my face. Also fifteen pages of random characters typed here that will take ages to get rid of. The worst example happened about 20 years ago when I was writing in Word and fell asleep on the spacebar…

First off – book update. Edits are almost complete for the submissions so far to the Christmas anthology (deadline is the 30th) and there are other books in process, plus the end of this month is author payments time. Not looking good, no bugger has any money for books at the moment, it’s all going on heating, food, petrol and inflation. I can sympathise, I just paid for a tank full of heating oil. Ouch! That wood burner is going to get a lot of use this winter.

Right. The wanderings were triggered by this

Okay, Hz/second (not Htz) is a giveaway that we aren’t reading a science nerd here, since Hertz units already have the time function in them, but the idea is interesting nonetheless.

There have been many reports of creatures of vastly different species suddenly running in circles. The mechanism causing it? I have no idea. I also have no idea whether the theories expounded here and in other places are true or not. But it did get me thinking.

If time were to accelerate locally, so that Earth rotated in 16 hours rather than 24, would we notice?

The obvious answer is ‘Of course we would. We’d have eight hours less every day’. And yes, indeed we would. But would we know that?

See, if Earth sped up to a 16 hour rotation while Time remained unchanged, then we couldn’t help but notice. However, if the increased speed of Earth’s rotation was a consequence of an increase in the speed of Time, we wouldn’t. It would still affect us but we wouldn’t know why.

Now it gets freaky. Consider spacetime as a unit, rather than ‘space’ moving through ‘time’. That makes time a fourth dimension in our three dimensional reality. It does not manifest as a spatial dimension but it’s a dimension nonetheless (envisaging four spatial dimensions requires a lot more whisky than I’m willing to consume at the moment!).

So we can move at will within the three spatial dimensions but we can only move in one direction in the time dimension, and we have no choice but to move through the time dimension at the speed it travels. No, I’m not going to talk about time machines, it’s much weirder than that.

There was a rather neat theory that considered gravity as a function of time. If we consider time as a dimension within spacetime, then like the three spatial dimensions, it would be warped near large masses. So, when falling, you accelerate towards the ground not because of ‘gravity’, but because time is accelerated as it approaches the ground and if you don’t keep up, you’d vanish into the past. It does rather neatly explain the atomic clock experiments where the ones sent out into space appear to run slower than the ones on the ground. They are actually running at exactly the same rate within their own frames of reference but the frames of reference are different.

So if Time speeds up and the Earth rotated at 16 hours instead of 24, we won’t see it. Within our frame of reference (the surface of the Earth) everything speeds up together. The clocks we use to measure time, whether analogue or digital or even atomic, are speeded up by the same amount as the rotation of the planet. They still measure one rotation as 24 hours because they are affected by the same time speed as the planet. Except now, an observer outside Earth’s ‘gravity well’ sees the planet spinning faster.

Within our frame of reference, nothing has apparently changed. Except… maybe we feel we aren’t getting enough sleep. Our bodies want 8 hours and they think they’re getting 8 hours but really they’re getting less than 6. We have developed within a particular spacetime set of rules and the rules have changed, but we haven’t.

Oh sure, life would adapt, but if the speed of time changed rapidly we might not be able to adapt fast enough. Things would seem to be happening much faster than we’d like and we wouldn’t understand why. Within our frame of reference, nothing has changed, as far as we can tell. The 24 hour clock is still 24 hours, we won’t see clocks spinning faster, we’d just experience sleeping far longer than usual or feeing much more tired than usual from not sleeping enough.

Things you’d expect to last a month might only last three weeks. Things you’d expect to take three weeks to complete might take a month. Otherwise, you’d still see a 24 hour day because your clock is in your time frame and it’s measuring sunrise to sunrise as it always has. You do not see a difference in time. You just have a feeling there’s less of it.

Has it happened? Personally I don’t think so. I would have expected at least one of the robot population of Mars to have noticed if it had. But… they are tied to earth time…

These speculations are fun but they are no more than speulations Story ideas. Nothing for those who live in the real world to worry about.

Assuming, of course, that there is a real world and it’s not just vibrations

Nikola Tesla would disagree 😉