Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Sometimes it is very difficult to use the electronics in our house. Curtis has developed a deep fascination with whats on the screen we're looking at, instead of paying attention to him like we should be. Generally we have to see the screen so we can move the mouse and type so as to make sense.

Previous cats have focussed on the mouse. Not because it's a mouse, but because the saw us pushing it around and figured a hand that was doing that should pet them instead, so they lie on top of it, or wrap their paws around it so it can't move. One cat liked to lie across my hands as I typed. That made for difficult slow typing, but it was a good wrist exercise.

Curtis likes to get his face right up to whatever is moving on screen. He is clearly following the action and enjoying himself. I've got a 24 inch screen for the main computer, and it's amazing how much of it a 15 pound cat can take up. His tail alone is good for the whole keyboard, or almost half the screen.

I was a slacker last night. Tonight I was good, going and doing a solid core and stretching workout. Legs are getting happier by the day. I'm glad I wasn't running after work when the hail storm came through.

While I was deep in query hell today, running query after query trying to get some very specific things, I got this really odd thought that popped into my brain. Actually, a pair of them. The first was how horrible this would be if I had to do punch cards and wait days for my answer. I tend to build queries iteratively, banging something up, and then refining. There are good reasons to do it that way in my current environment.

The other is the main thought. I was thinking about all the data traffic I've been generating recently. All the queries. Once I got them mostly right it was only about 5000 rows of data, with several dozen columns, just to figure out the data patterns and make sure I'm getting what I want to get, then drill into the 1822 and 1685 rows by 4 or 5 columns. Many many times. There are some very obscure data constraints. No doubt the server is thoroughly sick of me.

The other has been doing research scrubbing manufacturer names for pressure vessels, tanks, and PSV's. There are thousands of rows of names. Some of them exist once in one database. Others live in several modules of several databases and the design is such that each one could be subtly or grossly different. I had already gone through and cleaned up almost all where the only difference was between "Ltd." and "Ltd". Yeah.

However many ways of representing of representing Black, Sivalls & Bryson you might think there are, rest assured there are more. I think that one had 24 variants. I have to go find what the actual entity is called. Not the doing business as, not the common name, not the contractions, not the brand name, not who bought that company (though I often do need to know it for something else), but the actual name. Which can be surprisingly hard to find, since many of these companies have gone out of business or been bought, acquired, merged, conglomerated, sold, changed their names, and I don't even know what else. No doubt I'll find out soon.

So there I am, consuming data at a voracious rate. Here's the thought. What if there was a meter on it? What if there was a smart meter on everything we consume? Imagine the electricity meter on your house for a simple example. We all know, or should know about load shedding when power consumption reaches its peak. I've worked places where we've had to shut things down and start all the auxiliary generators to get the power demand as low as possible, since it would affect the power bill for a year.

But what if you knew you normally paid 7.72 cents per KWh, and the meter told you that the current rate was say, double that because it was really cold out, or really hot, or there were power supply problems? Would you turn on those appliances? What if each appliance could talk to the meter, and when you turned it, it told you how much money it was going to cost you? Would this be an intolerable intrusion into your sovereign affairs? Would it be a valuable service to help you save money? Or does the very idea of variable pricing come straight from hell?

What if it was everything? Electricity, water, natural gas, data, everything your house consumed. Would it bother you to know that consuming these services at certain times would cost more than at others? More importantly, would it modify your behavior? How much would it take to MAKE it modify your behavior? We know changes in the price of gasoline change driver behavior a bit.

We used about 400 KWh of electricity, so about $30, plus all sorts of other fees, which just pisses me off. I think they dream up those numbers. Water is unbelievably cheap here, $1.6 per M3 and we used 15 M3 in a month. A m3 is a cube 39 inches on a side, or 1000 l. It's a lot of water. If I've shuffled the decimal point around right, that is .16 CENTS per litre. People pay dollars per litre for water out of drink machines and at events. That's some markup for doing squat but packaging and transporting it.

And people complain about the price of gasoline, $1.16 per litre when I filled up this afternoon. Cheaper than water from cold drink vendor. Gasoline starts as a thick black goopy substance that isn't any good to anyone in the raw form of oil. Refining it into gasoline and other valuable desirable products is a complicated process involving a variety of chemical transformations done in expensive equipment, monitored by highly trained people. Yet it's cheaper than water. Either we aren't charging enough for gasoline, or we're charging too much for water at events.

People here squawked when they required that all new houses had to have water meters, and all the existing ones were supposed to be retrofitted by about now. I should check and see how that's going. People complained that it wasn't fair to charge them for the amount they used. Bah!

However, I think it's the way of the future. Computers and meters are getting cheaper. Internet access is getting easier and easier. I suspect they are already making meters that can record when the commodity is taken, in addition to how much, and from there variable pricing is just a step away. Are you ready for it?

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