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Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Death Valley
Tucson
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Tampa
Everglades
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key
Miami

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard
mid-South

APRIL 2014:
near I-40, I-30, and I-20 westbound

MAY 2014:
near US-101 northbound
May 17-18: Maker Faire, San Mateo
May 23-26: BayCon, Santa Clara

California till midJune

JUNE 2014:
Pacific Northwest

JULY 2014:
Western Canada, eastbound

AUGUST 2014:
near the US/Can border, westbound
August 22-on: UC Berkeley

Speaking engagements welcome!
2014 and 2015 itineraries will probably cross several times.

Norman Sperling's blog

2-Name Roads

© Norman Sperling, August 31, 2014

Until the last couple decades, a road named for somebody would simply bear their last name. America is full of these roads and always will be.

America now names streets for so many different people that the surname alone no longer suffices. A whole lot of recent roads carry a first name as well, like “Jerry Jackson Road” so no one will think it honors Andrew or Michael or Jesse. This even applies to rare surnames. Other family members live nearby, so a rare surname may not be unique locally.

So far, almost all the surnames originate in Europe. Almost all given names are masculine. American society has opened up a great deal in recent decades, so I predict that the careers-worth of accomplishments that lead to honorific naming will soon recognize more women and non-European surnames.

Don’t Tell Me What the Speed Limit Isn’t

© Norman Sperling, July 24, 2014

Yesterday again I drove past a sign that said “End 35 mph speed limit”. I don’t care what the speed limit *isn’t*. I care what the speed limit *is*.

I can’t be sure that the limit is now higher; I’ve seen plenty of places that look like high-speed areas but are posted much lower. I just have to guess, and the only actual number I know is what they definitely say is wrong: the former limit. That’s tantamount to the authorities sticking their tongues out at drivers, “nyaah nyaah, bet you can’t guess what we’ll ticket you for.”

Any place posted with an “end speed limit” sign ought to be judged a “free speeding” zone because the driver has no realistic way to know the limit, and the authorities just pointedly refused to tell.

Some realistic, enlightened judge ought to void all speeding tickets issued in any such place and require correct speed limit signs. Hold in contempt any public official who doesn’t comply.

Informative signs should not cost one penny more than the useless signs. The signs are the same size and color and should cost the same to print. Changing them would cost little, and of course we should have avoided the cost of making the useless ones in the first place. Charge that to the people who caused those useless signs. I suspect they were lawyers.

National Back-Order

(c) Norman Sperling, June 2014

My power-steering hose just rubbed through but is on “national back-order”. So are a whole lot of parts from Ford and General Motors, says the service supervisor.

Why? The flow of demand is quite predictable, so occasionally a part may be demanded more than predicted, but not so many. Companies probably make big money on parts, so it should be profitable. They know how to manage manufacturing, warehousing, and distributing. A lot of that is now done in low-rent areas, so it isn’t even that expensive.

Keeping repairable vehicles out of service for days or weeks stunts productivity, raises costs for businesses and drivers, clogs parking lots, forces people into less-desirable alternatives … there are no good factors that I can think of.

Meanwhile, my hose was repaired because it can’t be replaced. That means it’ll have to be replaced as soon as the part becomes available. Another shop visit somewhere down the road. Another mechanic’s labor bill. Wasteful all around.

The only cause I can think of is negligence. Maybe it suits some mid-level functionary’s short-term, short-sighted tally sheet, but it sure hurts everybody else. Somebody ought to sit on these companies to fix or replace the incentives: AAA? The auto-service conglomerates?

Why is Chrysler not on this list? What are they doing right?

Historic Rugby, Tennessee

© Norman Sperling, visited April 13, 2014

This village sprouted about 1880 because British author Thomas Hughes (“Tom Brown’s School Days”) sought a fresh-start opportunity for sons of British aristocracy. Only the first son inherited the big estate, and the others had to find something else to do.

This area of Tennessee is indeed lovely, though the soil is shallow. It’s memorably hot in summer and cold in winter.

Hughes and his colonists built Victorian homes and business and public buildings. There isn’t much gingerbread, but some decoration on top of the Victorian layout. A great deal has been restored, and some really nice original furnishings and structures remain.

The historic district does a lot right. A lot of buildings are publicly owned, the whole area is design-protected, there’s good signage, a good map, a nature trail, a video, a guided tour. They host an event every month. The library has all its thousands of original books from the late 1800s. New homes are permitted, but only on the original street plan, and only with compatible design. A few of those sport more gingerbread.

But they could use a lot bigger budget than they have. Big grants seem not to be actively sought. And many money-earning modes aren’t thought of. They could rent selected rare books and periodicals. They could host steampunk conventions, with photographers in the most likely settings with professional lighting already set up, so costumed fans can have their pictures taken really well in a lot of authentic Victorian settings. They could put together a traveling exhibit … keeping it free would encourage wider circulation as an advertisement for tourism. Not to mention using the whole town as a movie set.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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