Saturday, 15 March 2008

Contempt and Idolatry

In the 18th Century, Lord Chesterfield once wrote to his son "Speak of the Moderns without contempt and the Ancients without idolatry"

Our danger is the reverse: to idolise contemporary celebrities and to pass judgement on the wisdom and scholarship of the past on the basis of our vague and tawdry moral code

Friday, 14 March 2008

Green posturing?

How many of our green priorities are just posturing, and how much is tied to real benefit to real people? A few months back, I read an article on green laptops (the key issue being power consumption).

This is just daft. The power used by a laptop is a minute fraction of the power consumed in a typical office day. A typical laptop consumes between 7 and 30 watts depending on load. Even if I used my laptop for 8 hours at the higher figure, that is about 0.25 k.watt-hours in a working day.

My daily commute consumes at least thirty times that. It's about 40 miles/day and takes about an hour. My car probably uses about 10 HP in cruise. That is about 7.5 k.watt-hours a day ( I am making the assumption - generous to the laptop - that my car engine is about as efficient as a fixed power station at turning fuel into usable power)

Many authorities suggest that dropping your cruising speed from (say) 65 m.p.h to 60, increasing your tyre pressure, or lowering the weight of the car saves a significant percentage. If you do the arithmetic, only filling your fuel tank half way (to keep the weight down) would probably do more real good than swapping the worst laptop for the best. If you combined that with dropping your cruising speed 5 mph, and/or timing your commute to avoid peak traffic, you would blow any possible laptop power savings into the weeds.

You could do similar calculations on office heating and probably even the power consumed by the office kettle or in the staff canteen. Laptop power consumption is a drop in a bucket. There are far bigger wins that are easier and cheaper.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Not a little KNOWLEDGE but a little LEARNING

One of the most frequently misquoted sayings in English must be Alexander Pope's "A little learning is a dangerous thing..". It often becomes "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing...".

The two are most emphatically not the same. A little knowledge in the hands of a learned man or woman is perfectly safe and usually helpful. Great knowledge in the hands of someone of little learning is a recipe for arrogance.