Knock Your Socks Off

This page written circa 27 November, 2002.

A lot and nothing happened recently. I bought a QX3 digital kid's microscope, received a lot of parcels, continued to wrestle with the subject of US foreign policy, saw Harry Potter II, and my previous Soapbox proved too enigmatic and surrealist.

At the beginning of September, Lynne posted us an airmail parcel with videotapes, socks, a present for Edwin, and so on. We get a lot of parcels, mostly things purchased over the internet from other states in the US. In July I had ordered a book and tape from the ABC Shop in Oz. It was lost presumed gone forever by about October.
Well, last week the ABC parcel arrived. It was immediately evident as to why the trip took 5+ months---it had gone via Sweden, according to stickers and redirections on the outside of the well-travelled box. One is left to presume that the Australian PO was responsible, for all labels were complete and intact... it had simply been routed to the USA via Sweden. I was glad that my irritation at the ABC had prevented me re-ordering. (The irritation was increased by the fact that they recommended I have it sent by courier, the only method offering insurance, even though that would have more than doubled the price.)
Then a few days later, Lynne's parcel arrived, but like the Nomad satellite in the old ST-TOS episode it seemed to have collided with and been concatenated with another traveller, for within its taped-up box were videos, Edwin's presents, and yet no socks but instead a number of cheap watches and a very nice black-and-gold, Chinese-style jacket that fits the new slim Kay. Wonders never cease.

I was cooking crepes one Sunday, and observed a quarter-inch-square region of the lovely new frypan to which the crepe wanted to adhere. This was my chance to use the new Intel QX3 digital microscope that we had bought for the kids. Now you might ask why we would have bought such a thing when the kids are barely able to understand English let alone the physics and chemistry of surfaces. The answers are that (1) Intel announced earlier this year that they were ceasing production of all toys to concentrate on more lucrative businesses, and (2) we believe in jumping in with the kids at the deep end. This meant the imminent disappearance of this wondrous gadget, and with it the chance to accelerate the kids into scientific endeavour. Originally targeted at a price of US$99, QX3s were available on ebay for $30, so a bunch of us bought them. (They have subsequently crept up to $50 and continue to rise, while being unobtainable from retailers, a speculator's dream.) At right you see the QX3's image of the offending region, x60 and enhanced, courtesy of the accompanying software. The fine concentric lines are the machining of the pan, the spots and squiggly groove, the damage. The black region is the corner of a small piece of paper stuck adjacent to help align the microscope.

This closeup is at 200x and not enhanced at all. Observe that the damage is what might be expected if a rough surface was in contact with the pan, sand-grain potholes and a small gouge a few hundred microns long. In the first photo, you may see a turquoise patch at top right. In the original colours, this was distinctly coppery in colour, and I concluded that the smaller copper-clad pan was placed in the larger, leading to the flaw.
The repolished pan now hangs from hooks on a bar in the kitchen.

Kay and I saw Harry Potter II in rotation, the other minding the beasties. Being one of two films we will likely see this year, I reviewed it. Very impressive. Will it stand the multiple viewings of the first? I shall know next year.

An NPR commentator remarked that if 911 had involved trains instead of planes, railway stations would now be the most tightly guarded places in the USA, as Americans are "reactionary", a euphemism I assume for the fact that they of all races close the barn door hardest after the animals have bolted. Lissa remarked that she would find it embarrassing to be an American, especially so if full-scale war with Iraq breaks out. I admit that many US citizens are apallingly blinkered in their perception of how US foreign policy appears to others; I am also willing to concede that current foreign policy is not the best way to ensure a minimum of risk to citizens on home soil; however, I refuse to believe that the White House does not know what it is doing---that would be embarrassing. There simply has to be a lot the US has to gain---perhaps oil, perhaps something else---from this aggressive and destabilising stance.

I avoided the use of the word "civilised" to describe the anti-war view in the last paragraph. Many think the English the epitome of a civilised race, but they managed a host of atrocities in colonial situations in times when the UK was a world power, with lucrative effect. It's simply our turn now.

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