Beep – Beep – Beep

Another bedside alarm clock for some: the protestant church in Freinsheim, Germany It’s a silly little thing, a bedside alarm clock. My trusted old one has fallen off the bedside table so many times now that all electrical tape in the world will soon fail to hold it together. While I applaud it for its remarkable durability and survival instinct over many years, it’s time that I should look for a new one (and knew this was a-coming, too).

It has to be battery powered and small enough to be taken along when travelling. Inexpensive, without frills. It needs a backlit display and a snooze function. Radio is of no use to me. Alarm cancellation or snooze activation by voice or movement is of no use to me. Retro design or some childish design won’t do. DCF-77 or other radio services are not essential when taking the clock on travels.

In other words, just a plain, normal, usable, and reasonably looking alarm clock.

Can it be so hard?

The choice is huge and includes a travel digital alarm clock silver finish with calendar, countdown and stopwatch? Dear lord. Stopwatch? Countdown? The mind boggles. Another one has a built-in torch, the third a thermometer.

None meets my basic and no-frills requirements though. Looks like I’m going to have to make my own.


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Welcome to the Club

Ha! You should see this banana plant now! Welcome to the club, some might say. Which club? Oh, the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner Owners’ Club.

Our trusted Miele broke down after only 4 years or so, in those typical circumstances: I can see what’s wrong with it. I don’t have the special tool necessary to open the device enough to reach the area in question, then I may not be able to actually fix it or, most likely, won’t be able to put it back together again, because some stupid plastic thingy broke in the process. And, of course, we still hold on to an amble supply of vacuum cleaner bags.

In the end, we decided to call it a dead Miele, and opted for a Dyson One Ball DC25 Multi Floor (at a price lower than the one stated on the site linked here). Dyson cleaners have a good reputation, come with a five year guarantee, and a decent one-site repair service. All promising, and all very exciting when I noticed how thought-through this device is. I can only hope it is just thought-through. I remain a little concerned that it might be over-engineered instead, and someone called them temperamental.  

Let’s hope vacuum cleaning stays as much fun as it is this week.


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Energy Savings My A*

Some tell me to gradually replace traditional light bulbs with those Energy Saving ones. Apparently, this will save the planet.

First, the smallest of these is as big as a regular sized traditional bulb, and most models are still the size of a balloon.
Second, even the cheap ones still cost a great deal more than "proper ones."
Third, they are nowhere near as bright as a real bulb even within the acclaimed wattage equivalent.
Forth, they make a green-ish light, even the more recent models with less green spectrum. 
Fifth, they aren’t instant on.
Sixth, they don’t support half of what proper bulbs do (dimming, colouring, electronic switching).
Seventh, they cannot be disposed through the household rubbish (glass shatters and needs depressurizing, fluorescent coating is poisonous).
Eighth, significant more energy is required to make them than traditional bulbs.
Ninth, these bulbs contain electronics with all the usual concerns about recycling, or the lack of recycling methods, for these.

Sounds like a pretty rubbish solution to me – except for the makers of energy savings light bulbs.

I  was tempted and bought a new one recently. Contemplating all the above I am in favour of considerate use of the light switch, combined with a good old 60W or 100W bulb. I imagine the net result on the environment should not be worse.

Anyone ready to convince me otherwise?

Same Old

Sudanese School

The German government has discovered that they suffer from a severe shortage of young professionals with engineering and science degrees, and the government has now started a massive promotion tour to make young people study informatics, electronics, physics, or civil engineering.

This won’t happen too quickly, as studying for a German engineering degree takes four years at a minimum, but five or six years more likely in reality.

More to the point, however, this will happen again, as it has happened countless times before. It is an ever-repeating cycle: a shortage of engineers and scientists leads to promotion of these subjects, leading to too many highly qualified graduates seeking work in these professions, leading to official recommendations not to take up these subjects, leading to…

The same push-pull cycle can be seen with teachers.

Frustrating to see how things never change, and no one ever seems to learn how to find the right balance. Surely those who studied political economy should be able to figure out the number of required engineering and science students each year, and the one of teachers, and other key subjects, should they not?

This might even get the political economists a job. Do I have to do everything myself around here?

3.4 Ounces

I have recently received a replacement for my mobile phone. I like the new device (much better than the previous one), and spent an entire evening admiring it. Less than 3.4 ounces, or less than 100 grams for the metric-minded, and only 10mm thin, but full of electronics that we hardly could imagine 10 years ago.

I know this sounds like a platitude, but those modern phones are engineering miracles.

There is a political miracle in all this, too: the phones work almost everywhere in the world. I could just pull the SIM card from the old phone and plug it into the new one and was up and running, even including (a somewhat crippled version of) my phone book. The speed and efficiency which which all those standards were agreed upon several years ago must have been quite extraordinary, even if behind-the-scenes knowledge would probably unveil tons of nitty-gritty.

I wished pan-European and other cosmopolitan committees were at least half as efficient and determined in all other matters.