Christopher Merle

Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

Month: June 2006

Birds in Mexico and Ireland

Here’s a sampling of our bird sightings (in PDF format about 3mb) Birds.

Puerto Vallarta

We honeymooned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Melissa didn’t enjoy the place as much as I did. I’d be willing to go back, but not till I’d seen other parts of Mexico. She’s not keen on going back at all. We had a very good time, but the negatives outweighed the positives. I think armed with the proper knowledge on how to deal with the locals and a bit more Spanish would help alot. Anyway, here is our “honeymoon” slideshow (14.2MB in PDF format).

Our return flight was eventful, rather the first flight. We took off in a Super 80. About fifteen minutes after takeoff, we heard a loud bang, the plane shuddered briefly, and 120 butts puckered simultaneously. Since Melissa and I were sitting a few rows in front of the starboard engine, the bang was rather loud. The flight crew went forward quickly to the front of the plane, sop. A minute later the flight attendant came on to announce we were returning to Puerto Vallarta. A few minutes after that the pilot came on to announce we’d have a normal landing. So ten minutes later we landed safely on one engine. The emergency crews were waiting. The plane parked away from the terminal, but PV is such a small airport that’s normal. As we were bussed to the terminal building, we could see the right engine. It had char marks around the last foot.

Three hours later (yes, 3 hours because rebooking us was hampered by jerks tying up the airline agents and their inexperience in dealing with the situation) we were in a very nice hotel Velas Vallarta. The room was called a studio. I found out when we got back it cost $310/night. That’s $310 USD. I’d learned that Mexico used the $ symbol for the peso too which was somewhat annoying. The next day we took off on a very full Super 80 and returned to DFW, no problem.

One of the things we did NOT do was go to the Wal Mart in Puerto Vallarta.Yes, they have a Wal Mart and a Sam’s Club right near the dock where the cruise ships come in. Among the other things we did not do was parasailing or a jungle canopy tour. Though I think if it weren’t the dry season and my fear of heights I would have done the canopy tour.

Ye Olde Pseudo Medievel Renaissance Faire

I’ve been in the SCA and I’ve been to medievel and renaissance faires. These are popular misconceptions of the the Renaissance and Middle Ages were in Europe based on Victorian fantasies. Some are more authentic than others. Church and society were very different. Most people would be peasants and Catholic or Protestant. The SCA is a pseudo medievel theme party with bits of authenticity thrown in. They are not re-enactors like the Civil War buffs.
I’m not crazy about the way at ren-faires the performers accost you. It’s annoying and I don’t want to be immersed in their world. Most of them are carnie types. And it is often said that a ren faire is the last refuge of an out of work actor.

How would I do a medievel or renaissance faire? I’d have a little more authenticity to it. Especially in the costumes and crafts. To be authentic would be to pick a particular location and a particular time. Since there are different eras that appeal to people I’d probably have to create a multi-historical theme park. One area would have Vikings, another a Scottish village, another an old English village. If I were to include pirates I’d have to go up to the 18th century. I’d probably do an Arthurian/Robin Hood middle ages section. Then I’d do an Elizabethan/Tudor era village. The pirates would be contemporary with the Scots era because that’ when they’d get to wear kilts in the Jacobite era. I could mix the Vikings in with the Irish.

It’s all about entertainment. Alas most don’t care. I think authentic history can be portrayed in an entertaining manner. People should know that overall we are better of than those who lived during the Black Death or the Thirty Years War or the Spanish Inquisistion. If the historians and re-enactors are passionate it will come through. It’s nice to have a window on the past and though it is a pleasant fiction at least we can see how differently people lived.

It’s OK if ren-faires are fantasies as long as people are told they are and do not even begin to portray things they way they really were.

Superconductors

Our high tech society cannot continue to waste energy, whether it be fossil fuels, nuclear, geothermal, hydro, wind, solar, or any of the alternate fuels proposed to replace fossil fuels. We need to overhaul everything from energy production to energy consumption. Even if we came up with a 100% efficient solar cell or a superbattery, we still have to deliver the electricity. We lose power through electrical line losses, then energy is wasted by inefficient products, and if your house isn’t well insulated you use even more electricity to cool or heat it.

The most efficient conventional electrical conductor is silver followed by copper. We use aluminum for most electrical transmission and for tremendous distances. So how much of electrical power is lost through line loss? We’d save a tremendous amount of fossil fuel just using superconductors. High temperature superconductors are the holy grail.

Darn. I lost everything I wrote after grail. I suggested we replace what we can with superconductors and I suspected that generators would be easier than transmission lines. And I was write. They are closer to reality, but they are a marginal improvement in efficiency only because modern generators are very efficient already. However, superconducting generators are smaller and would have a longer life.

I’ve let this post rest for a few days and I have this to add. We can leave things alone and let nature take it’s course. The problem will be solved one way or the other. I’d prefer one that doesn’t involve the collapse of civlization or the collapse of nature.

Americans can change their wasteful consumer ways and still enjoy a high standard of living. The world as a whole cannot sustain American style consumerism for everyone. Conservation starts at home. I’ve found a great podcast called The Lazy Environmentalist. His philosophy is that you don’t have to suffer to be eco-friendly and we can incorporate eco-friendly technologies into our lifestyles. Eventually we’ll have to take more drastic measures, but we can begin the transition now to reduce our environmental impact.

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