Model Railways and President Obama

Again, without comment, my response to a short article on The Atlantic’s web site.

I see this:  The Atlantic’s articles, like this one, are short and superficial. The Guardian (UK) articles are long and rich.

US model railway magazine articles show ENORMOUS model train layouts, filling entire basements with complex, showy train sets made by men with too much money. More track = more show = better.

UK model rail layouts are so simple they often contain no more than a few feet or yards of track. Yet they are so detailed and elegant as to be admirable.

I’m neither: I’m Australian. I think you Yanks took the  wrong track several decades ago. President Obama is a good man. Listen to him.

Curiosity, Idiocity

I post this wthout further comment.

If they can watch this video and remain unmoved, check their pulse!


On Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 4:43 PM, Peter Croft wrote:
Hi Sean,

Just an interested 65 yo retired former electronics tech who reads Cosmic Variance and once used The Feynman Lectures in Physics as text at UWA in 1965! CMB was not yet known, how about that?!

You do realise that the Mars landing will be Schrodinger's Cat in reverse?

Unless we observe it, the wave function will not collapse and the Lander mission will never have existed except in one of the waves. We must all concentrate.

I will be sitting in a cafe on the beach front in Trigg, Western Australia, my suburb, at 1.31pm on Monday 6th chomping on a seafood lunch with my laptop and 4G modem. With any luck, the sun will be shining on the sea and I will jump for joy. I can't bear to think of the other wave function.

Peter Croft
Perth, Western Australia.

PS: I've tried to introduce this landing to other friends. It's impossible to hold their attention! It's all a silly joke to them, about 5 seconds' worth of listening. Waste of time. Not to me!

Sean Carroll
Physics Department, Caltech
1200 E California Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91125
Office: 626/395-6830 Fax: 626/568-8473

Appalling Carpet Call!

Casual attitudes – sleeping lying dogs
The casual attitude of Carpet Call continues to amaze me. They know they’ve got an angry customer, but it took two days for the manager to come here to investigate. Then he arrived 25 mins late!
Yesterday he said a fixer would be here today to rectify the laying faults.
I’ve just had a call from them – the fixer guys will be here next Tuesday!! Another three days’ wait.
This is atrociously bad service. All the platitudes yesterday about how “we pride ourselves on our after sales service”. Bullshit!
Never again. This is Aussie business for you, casual, sloppy, near enough, couldn’t care less.
This reminds me of two more examples.
I wrote a few weeks ago about visiting Dick Smith at Karrinyup, how they were far, far too casual about showing me a Samsung Note, refused in fact, how the store alarm was going off, how there were no prices on things. I got out of there.
I wrote to them on their web site, detailing all this. Result? Nothing, no reply. Ha! Did I expect anything else from an Aussie company?
Then Nuance USA sent me details of a special half priced offer of Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software for $49.95. I wanted it and tried to buy on-line from the US site, but they will only ship a box, and not to Australia. Contact the Australian Nuance site.
I did. Price in Australia, double, $99.95 for the same software!
I emailed Nuance in Sydney – no reply. I emailed Nuance USA and told them about this. They emailed straight back and said, sorry, we can’t do it for you, you must go through the Sydney site.
So I tried Sydney again. Result – nothing!!! No reply. Unbelievably bad service from Australian firms.

The Treacle Sea

Feel a bit twisted at times.
This is what it’s like to be depressed.
You find yourself trying to swim in a sea of black molasses. Light can get through, you can see the daylight, but mainly, all you see is a dark wall or horizon. No detail. You find it hard to swim anywhere and you don’t want to try. It’s easier to just float, or sink.
People can loom alongside you and you can speak to them, but it’s difficult and you really don’t care much if they hear you. You kind of want to speak, but it doesn’t really matter much – it’s all too hard.
You find it easiest to just float, or sink slowly. You know you might drown, but who cares? You’re down in this dark molasses where no-one else lives. No-one will miss you! You’re out of sight. Other people are probably better off if you’re not around, but you don’t care much.
You see the doctor and you’re prescribed a pill.
It takes two weeks, but it seems to work. You slowly come to the surface and the light seems much brighter. You feel a few skin shivers and a bit of stomach upset, but it wears off. You can see a horizon and see people and it seems fine. You feel much better.
But you can’t seem to get anywhere. Swimming is hard. You strike out on some mission, but you forget in a few seconds what the mission was. You can’t quite think what you’re going to do today. It’s easiest to just read the newspapers or use the internet.You notice that you can’t even think about sexual things any more. It’s not worth trying. You can’t be bothered. You can hardly even remember what used to be interesting because you can’t hold it in your mind!
You end up on a wide flat boat floating on the treacle sea. The boat is stable and you don’t need to make any effort. The treacle sea is calm and so you float along, not achieving much progress, but you don’t care. You can see people on the shore, quite close, and communicate no problem. Things seem OK.
But you don’t seem to get anywhere. All is calm, all is bright, but something’s not right.

You know you have plenty of things to do, but you can’t get started because you can’t hold plans in your mind. You may start on a job, but you get so easily distracted that you never get anywhere. Hence projects never get done, jobs never finished or even half way. It’s very frustrating and a bit depressing. Ironic.

Then you slowly taper yourself off the pills, over a period of up to a month sometimes.
Within the first few days of stopping, your libido returns. That means you are able to concentrate again. You start to notice you can think more clearly. You start to make lists of things to be done. You can plan again. You can hold things in your mind.
This clarity of mind continues to slowly improve. You feel brighter, quicker to think. Especially, you’re able to work out what to do and what you want to do tomorrow. You wake up with a plan for the day, looking forward to it.
The boat analogy now is that you’re on a big launch, but the water is also quite rough. You feel the waves, and the wind can sometimes seem pretty strong. You’re higher up and you can see much further. You’re above the surface of that dark water. The shore is right there, brighter, more colourful, more attractive, more inviting. You want to pull into bays and coves and explore ideas, or power up the boat and go to another country again.
The people on the shore are attractive and you want to make contact. You want to renew acquaintance with the friends on the shore, so you pull in and engage.
But just like Captain Cook, you find the natives are not always friendly. They probably don’t mean to, but they are doing things you didn’t want to see, things you didn’t realise.

Other shore dwellers are seen to be thugs, wielding cudgels of sarcasm, blunt weapons of dull stupid jokes, nasty racists, intolerant of anyone they think might be a threat to them, especially any dark skinned foreigners in small boats.

You notice the insults, the abuse, the nasty people. You realise that many people are not friendly, that they are only seeming so for their own ends.

You find it easier to power away, embarking on a new course, staying away from the shore, setting new directions.

This better feeling continues and you realise just how badly you’ve been sucked down into that molasses sea. No more!

Now you can smell the sea air, you remember how it used to smell.  You recapture the sense of adventure and want to revisit the old places.

And you realise time is running out. The thing you fear is hitting a hidden shoal or iceberg and suddenly sinking, struck down before your time. Gotta be careful from now on. Priorities only. No time to waste on false friends or people who drag you down.

Power on. The horizon is very bright and inviting. Lots to do, so little time.