Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The war in Iraq is ugly. Let's make sure nothing like this happens again by creating a free press. It might just work. It hasn't been tried yet.


Monday, February 27, 2006

1954 Vauxhall Velox

This car was featured in two movies I saw Saturday. "The World's Fastest Indian"(2005) and "Alfie"(1966). Not to mention a song by Billy Bragg, and two vicious murders!

I disliked this car because of its styling, but they sold quite well, and were popular used cars for older single men in NZ.

My dislike of the car seemed justified when, in a famous 1970 NZ murder case, the body of a young women hitchhiker was found near a river. She was last seen climbing into a Velox.

In another shocking murder case the same year a couple were murdered and their bodies weighed down in a river with the back axle of a Velox. The case was so shocking to the nation that the police took the unusual move of accounting for every Vauxhall Velox in the country! The movie "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" (1980) examines the botched investigation and trial. One of the many odd things that was never resolved in this case: The murder went undiscovered for 5 days, yet the couples baby was found in their home, health, happy, and well feed.

Categories:Cars Movies

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Treo Software

Here's some software I've tried recently:

First up is Opera Mini web browser for mobile devices.
Opera warns that the Palm version often forces a soft reset of the Treo. It is very fast, but crashes the Treo too often to be useful. Definitely worth trying on any non-palm phone.

Then Quick News aggregator from Stand Alone.
It's a news and podcast aggregator. Export your OPML file from iTunes, and download podcasts 'on the road'. Only $15.

Agendus which augments calendar/contacts/memos/tasks for the Palm. Lots of great features that would benefit a 'power user'. But I'll let my trial software expire because it would take me days to learn how to use it.

InfoMan from ArsLexis. A simple application for weather/movies/stocks. Expensive at $40 a year subscription. My free trial version expired months ago, but it still works!


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Seidio INNODock for Treo

Sometimes I full asleep listening to a podcast or streaming audio, and wake up with a flat battery. The Seido can charge the Treo while I listen through the cradle's standard 1/8 inch audio out socket. Other times I want to listen through my Tivoli radio. For these purposes it works fine, and it now has a permanent place on my nightstand.

But it has many shortcomings, and I can't recommend it for use as a primary docking cradle: Placing the Treo in the cradle is a bit fiddly, and removing it from the cradle takes both hands. It uses a USB cable for charging, which wouldn't normally be a problem, but I have the cradle in the bedroom. The audio-out socket needs to detect a certain impedance before it will work (I solved the problem with a 'splitter' and a second set of headphones).


Friday, February 24, 2006

Fire Escape

It would be good if architects, engineers and fire departments could get together to design a universal system to be included on all new buildings for rescue workers to travel up the outside of the buildings. The system should be unobtrusive for aesthetic reasons, although here in SF, buildings of a certain age have ugly metal fire escapes bolted over there facades, and we've gotten used to them.

Until then, my personal solution will be ropes for the lower floors, and a reserve parachute and harness with a static line for the higher floors.

Thanks Engadget
Categories:Architecture San Francisco

Thursday, February 23, 2006

DIY iPod Tie

Do you have a Nano? Do you wear a tie? Smug aren't you? Be the first to make one of these!

Apple thoughtfully put the headphone socket on the bottom , so hang your Nano upside down. That way the cord runs up the tie to your lugs, and the screen will be right-way up when you look at it.

Thanks Gizmodo
Categories:Gadgets Work

Patagonia Sale

My favorite outdoors clothing brand is having a sale this week. Their store on North Point near Hyde St. is hard to get to on public transportation (I could take the Cable Car, but it's uncomfortable unless I get a seat). Instead I'll drive the Mini, park on Bay St. near Hyde,and walk a few blocks.
This is also a good place to find street parking for the Cannery/Fishermans Wharf.

Categories:San Francisco, Sports

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Chinese Keyboard

On TV and in the movies, Chinese keyboards look like QWERTY 'boards. At least they seem to have the same style and number of keys. So how do the Chinese generate their language's characters?

Online magazine Slate has the answer.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Golden Gate Park Music Concourse

The barriers around the concourse are starting to come down as the underground work is completed. The new de Young Museum is complete and magnificent. The band shell, fountains, statues and trees on the concourse have been protected from the construction and look as good as ever. Sadly the pedestrian tunnels under the roadway are missing to make way for subterranean parking. Some of the steps have been replaced with new steps in the same style but include wheelchair ramps.

The next big step in the construction will be the new California Academy of Sciences, and Steinhart Aquarium. It is my hope that the concourse will be open during construction.

Categories:San Francisco

Monday, February 20, 2006

6th and Irving

6th and Irving
Originally uploaded by treough.
I've walked past this large house up the street on the corner every day for years and wondered what the house was like inside. Yesterday there was an estate sale, and I wandered around from the basement to the attic. I took this picture of the street from the attic window.

Categories:San Francisco

Sunday, February 19, 2006


In the 1930's scientists hypothesized the existence of 'neutrino' to explain the missing energy from nuclear decay. The neutrino had no electrical charge, and no mass, making it impossible to detect at that time.

There's an exciting new episode of NOVA this Tuesday: "NOVA accompanies scientists into the laboratory, revealing astonishing footage of bizarre experiments."

These experiments detect Neutrino, and take place at the South Pole using a 1 kilometer cube of ice!


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Eight is Enough

Marks Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Sent Us Nothing.

Recently a 10th body larger than Pluto was descovered in the outer Solar Sysem. It's in an orbit that takes it from outside Pluto to inside Neptune. This reminded me of the arguments over whether Pluto is a planet. There's no strict definition of what a planet is, but...
I think a planet should have a regular orbit concentric with the other planets because bodys that cut across the orbit of other planets are begging for a collision. The kind of collision that creates planets.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Palm OS 5 /Garnet Replacement

When the Chinese company Access bought Palm Source no one knew what to expect. But now TreoCentral hints at what we'll get: A new OS called ALP (Access Linux Platform) some time in 2007. Supposedly it will run existing OS 5 applications, and have a multitasking user interface! Read the press release here.

But 2007 is a decade in silicon years! No wonder Palm released the 700w Windows Mobile version of the Treo.

And for a chance to win a Treo 650 or 700w go to Engadget Mobile. They're giving away one Treo a day for 30 days.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Mechanics' Institute Library

Today I rode the 'N-Judah' streetcar downtown to the Montgomery Street stop in the financial district to visit the Mechanics' Institute at 57 Post Street (across from the Galleria) and find out what the Institute is all about by taking a guided tour of their library. For years I've thought this place was either a Socialist organization for the improvement of the working classes, or a gentlemans club with overstuffed wingback chairs.

I was wrong. They function like a public library, except it's strictly 'members only'.

They got their start in 1854 when the gold rush was over and SF had very high unemployment. SF needed an industrial based economy. The Mechanics Institute library was established to enable the training and education of a technically skilled working class. Later, the Civil War made trade with the East difficult, and compounded the need for industry.

The library received endowments from wealthy citizens and invested that money in books and buildings. (They've owned the 57 Post St. Building since 1910, and have income from tenants) The library's historic collection was completely destroyed by fire in 1906, but they quickly recovered and provided the engineering books necessary to those people rebuilding the city. In 1910 the library became financially secure again when it sold land to the City for $700,000. The City used this land for the Civic Auditorium. Ever since then the Institute has been self-sustaining. The annual membership dues only need to cover 20% of the operating costs. So the $95 annual membership is a bargain.

To meet the current needs of its members, the library sold their collection of technical books and now concentrate on books related to business and finance. They have a collection of fiction,magazines, periodicals and DVDs that can be borrowed. There's a lunch room, a large room dedicated to chess, and various meeting rooms. It's all quite civilized!

Categories:San Francisco

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentines Day

The doves represent the departed lovers. Thank you UK Tea Council.


Wishbone Chair

For years I've admired this chair in my doctor's office. It's delicate and light.
I was surprised to see it in the MOMA catalogue for $650. The designer's name is Hans J. Wegner and he designed the chair in 1950 inspired by "classical portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs". The 2005 Fall MOMA catalogue goes on "Wegner created an iconic series of chairs that helped establish Denmark as an international leader of modern design".

Categories:Furniture Design

Monday, February 13, 2006

Mountain Bike Action

Whenever I'm planning to upgrade the components on my Klein I subscribe to MBA. They mainly test expensive full suspension bikes, but they always have gear-guides, comparison tests and riding tips. And the editor is mountain bike designer Richard Cunningham. His Q&A column from the magazine has been archived here.

This "Snowmobike" would be handy on the East Coast right now.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Deadeye Dick

Things have gone terribly wrong, and Dick Cheney has started shooting his friends. Is George Bush next?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bristol F[re]ighter

In 1985 I worked in Wellington, NZ. Like San Francisco, it's a hilly city on a bay. The airport is built across a peninsula inside city boundaries, with one end of the runway on the bay and the other end bounded by the ocean. Even though the airport is just two miles from downtown, there's very little airplane noise since the flight path is over water.

But then there was the Bristol Freighter: This twin radial engined plane has it's origins in WW2. Twice a week a Bristol would fly out of Wellington to the Chatham Islands 500 miles east of NZ. The engines exhaust notes would thrump in and out of synchronization and echo off the hills as the plane circled the bay gaining altitude. That was my favourite city sound.

Bristol still exists, but they make cars now. I mentioned Bristol cars here, and I guess the photo I took in London was of a prototype Fighter chassis.

Jalopnik mentions the Bristol Fighter here, with a link to a road test, and there's more information on the Bristol website.

I think Jalopnik readers miss the point of the car. Like the Jensen Interceptor, the Fighter is not a sports car. It's a gentleman's GT, best at high speed long distance trips on motorways. It's the car you own for the rest of your life.


Update January 24th 2009:
I'm delighted to discover that this aircraft is being prepared to fly again after being parked as a static display for twenty years (top left photo).

Friday, February 10, 2006

Gadget Bargain

Buying old technology because it's cheap is usually money wasted, but...
Gizmodo reports that Fossil has stopped selling the Abacus PDA watch. Amazon and other retailers still have it for as low as $30 including shipping! It's big for a wrist watch, but it has 8MB of memory and uses Palm OS. And at that price you could just glue it to the corner of your computer monitor, or car dashboard. Read the customer comments at Amazon for a list of it's weak points.

Categories:Consumer Gadgets

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Shop carefully at Ikea and buy things that are well made and will last for years.

Here are my tips for shopping:
1) For me, shopping at Ikea is very stressful, so I go in the morning during the week when the crowds are small.
2) I don't buy wood veneer. It's easily damaged by normal wear and tear.
3) Their couches are generally not a good value.
4) Think hard before spending more than $50 for any item.
5) Be creative. Buy bed sheets to use as curtains. Colanders as lamp shades. Cutlery draws turned sideways as shelving for miniature object d'art.

I was looking for curtains and curtain rods for the bedroom and front room. They had exactly what I wanted, and I'll put them up tomorrow. I got lace curtains for privacy in the front room. And thicker curtains for the bedroom that promise to cut out light and sound. The old curtains are looking very sad.

Categories:Consumer Design Furniture

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

New Presidio Trails

With the addition of this new trail it is possible to walk from the Arguello Blvd. Presidio entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge without being on any streets or roads. I cycled on the trail before it was paved. It winds through a nice shaded area of lush vegetation.

The next improvement will be direct bicycle access to the west side of the bridge.

categories:San Francisco

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Jensen Interceptor(1966-1976)

The Jensen Interceptor is not exotic, but they were quite expensive new, and are becoming rare. They are large conventional cars with Chrysler engines and 3-speed automatic transmissions which makes them more suited to long highway trips rather than fast drives on narrow winding roads.

The original hatchback version is a big handsome car. This convertible model came towards the end of the production run.

The Interceptor FF model is historically significant because it had mechanical anti-lock brakes and all-wheel drive.

In 1970, Kjell Qvale of San Francisco's British Motors (on Van Ness Avenue) took over ownership of Jensen.

Bristol is another British company that's used Chrysler engines to power its luxury barges. When Lani and I were in England in '03 I took this photo of a bare Bristol frame with what appears to be a V10 Viper engine. Notice the huge box section frame rails and the brake booster on the right side of the engine. Solid car.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Word Warning

There's a new metaphor to replace "sea change". We now have "tectonic shift". If you're familiar with the power of earthquakes and tsunami, then you'll know that this new metaphor is 10 magnitudes greater than the old one.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Minks

Aileen is Rocky's partner and the singer for the all girl Kinks cover band called the Minks.
Their last gig was sold out, and they were asked to open for The Beat.

I'm just a few years too young to remember the Kinks,but some of my favourite songs are Kinks covers. David Bowie "Where have all the good times gone". The Fall "Victoria". The Jam "David Watts".

Categories:Friends Art

Saturday, February 04, 2006

12 Volt Cable Lighting System Complete

It only took a few minutes to put up the light fixtures, and I think they look great. They only cost $12 each, so I might buy some more for another project at a later date. Next time I won't use the special kevlar-core non-stretch cable because it's expensive at $1.60 per foot. I'll use large diameter copper speaker wire at 24c per foot. It will stretch, but for short distances it will be fine.

Categories:Gadgets Architecture Design

Friday, February 03, 2006

Today's Palm Treo Rumours

Various sites are reporting the impending release of a new Palm Treo running Palm OS some time in March or April. Claimed to have 128MB RAM, WiFi through a SDIO card, and 3.2 MP camera.

It may or may not be called 700P/800P/Hollywood, or there might be two models: 700P(to be sold by Sprint)with the same form as the 700W(Verizon) and a slimmer 800P/Hollywood with integrated antenna and thinner body(for Europe and Cingular).

Follow the rumours here:Treonauts, Treocentral.

Categories:Consumer Gadgets

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Caterham Dealer at Sears Point Raceway

San Francisco region SCCA road racing doesn't start for another month, but SOLO2 AutoX starts this Sunday.

Today I went out to Sears Point Raceway to watch an open track practice for the new season. There were several Formula Mazda cars on the track, one of which went off into the mud in turn 10, bending the rear suspension.

Before I left I came across this shop behind turn 10 that sells Caterham 7s and repairs Lotus cars. Click on the image for a short rough Quicktime movie.

Categories:Cars Movies

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Friends of the High Line

The remains of the High Line elevated rail line in Manhattan are to be made into a park, and work will start this month. So ,if you're lucky enought to live in NY, this will be your last chance to see part of your industrial past before it gets a makeover.

Friends of the High Line have all the history.

Thanks Tropolism