Sinking about English

I’ve recently got­ten into sail­ing; which has given me the oppor­tu­nity to famil­iarise myself with a plethora of new terms and new environments.

From a lin­guis­tics per­spec­tive, two things really do stand out in this field:

  • The ironic use of the word ves­sel, to describe a large boat. Google defines the word as follows:

noun: ves­sel; plural noun: vessels

a ship or large boat.
syn­onyms:    boat, ship, craft, water­craft; literarybark/barque
“a fish­ing ves­sel“
a hol­low con­tainer, espe­cially one used to hold liq­uid, such as a bowl or cask.
syn­onyms:    con­tainer, recep­ta­cle; More

  • The num­ber of boats with sequen­tial num­ber­ing in their name. Would you feel con­fi­dent board­ing Titanic II?


The story of the Turbo-Encabulator…

The tur­boen­cab­u­la­tor or turbo-encabulator (and its later incar­na­tion, the retroen­cab­u­la­tor or retro-encabulator) is a fic­tional machine whose alleged exis­tence became an in-joke and sub­ject of pro­fes­sional humor among engi­neers. The expla­na­tion of the sup­posed prod­uct makes exten­sive use of technobabble.

The orig­i­nal tech­ni­cal descrip­tion of the “turbo-encabulator” was writ­ten by British grad­u­ate stu­dent John Hellins Quick (1923–1991). It was pub­lished in 1944 by the British Insti­tu­tion of Elec­tri­cal Engi­neers Stu­dents’ Quar­terly Jour­nal in an arti­cle titled “The Turbo-Encabulator in Indus­try” by “J.H. Quick, Stu­dent” as also noted by con­sult­ing firm Arthur D. Lit­tle in a 1995 reprint of Quick’s descrip­tion, and giv­ing Quick’s full name.

The ear­li­est writ­ten U.S. source may have been in 1946, in an Arthur D. Lit­tle Indus­trial Bul­letin. An early pop­u­lar Amer­i­can ref­er­ence to the turbo-encabulator appeared in an arti­cle by New York lawyer Bernard Sal­wen in Time on April 15, 1946. Part of Salwen’s job was to review tech­ni­cal man­u­scripts. He was amused by the jar­gon and passed on the descrip­tion from the Arthur D. Lit­tle pamphlet.

Time got with the gag, fea­tur­ing the device in a May 6, 1946 issue, described as “An adjunct to the turbo-encabulator, employed when­ever a bares­cent skor motion is required.” A month later a response to reader mail on the fea­ture appeared in the June 3, 1946 issue:

If the sack­ful of mail we have received from you is any indi­ca­tion, the story of “The Turbo-Encabulator in Indus­try” struck many a respon­sive chord. Aside from those of you who wanted to be reas­sured that TIME hadn’t been taken in, we received the cus­tom­ary com­plaints about using too much tech­ni­cal jar­gon for the lay­man, obser­va­tions such as “My hus­band says it sounds like a new motor; I say it sounds like a dic­tio­nary that has been struck by light­ning”; sug­ges­tions that it “might have come out of the mouth of Danny Kaye,” and plain­tive queries like: “Is this good?” Wrote one bemused U.S. Navy­man: “It’sh poshi­ble.” To some the turbo-encabulator sounded as though it would be a “won­der­ful machine for chang­ing baby’s dia­pers.” A reader from Hobo­ken assumed that it would be on sale soon in Man­hat­tan depart­ment stores. Many of you wrote in to thank us for illu­mi­nat­ing what you have long wanted to tell your sci­en­tist friends.”

In 1962 a tur­boen­cab­u­la­tor data sheet was cre­ated by engi­neers at Gen­eral Electric’s Instru­ment Depart­ment, in West Lynn, Mass­a­chu­setts. It quoted from the pre­vi­ous sources and was inserted into the Gen­eral Elec­tric Hand­book. The tur­boen­cab­u­la­tor data sheet had the same for­mat as the other pages in the G.E. Hand­book. The engi­neers added “Shure Stat” in “Tech­ni­cal Fea­tures”, which was pecu­liar only to the Instru­ment Depart­ment, and included the first known graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a “man­u­fac­tured” Tur­boen­cab­u­la­tor using parts made at the Instru­ment Department.

In c. 1977 Bud Hag­gart, an actor who appeared in many indus­trial train­ing films in and around Detroit, per­formed in the first film real­iza­tion of the descrip­tion and oper­a­tion of the “Tur­boen­cab­u­la­tor”, using a trun­cated script adapted from Quick’s arti­cle. Bud con­vinced direc­tor Dave Ron­dot and the film crew to stay after the film­ing of an actual GMC Trucks project train­ing film to real­ize the Tur­boen­cab­u­la­tor spot.

In c. 1988 the for­mer Chrysler Cor­po­ra­tion “man­u­fac­tured” the Tur­boen­cab­u­la­tor in a video spoof. Rock­well Automa­tion “man­u­fac­tured” the renamed Retro-Encabulator in another video spoof in c. 1997. On April Fools’ Day 2013, Hank Green released a SciShow episode on YouTube enti­tled “The Retro-Proto-Turbo-Encabulator.”

The tech­ni­cal descrip­tions of all these tur­boen­cab­u­la­tors have remained remark­ably sim­i­lar over the years.


The Common Denominators

If you’ve been fol­low­ing the story of the South African uni­ver­sity stu­dents protest­ing the pro­posed fee increases for the new year, lend your ears and eyes for for a momen­tary trade of insight…

Uni­ver­sity stu­dents in South Africa, in 2015, are, in the major­ity, part of the group hailed as the “Born Frees”; peo­ple born after the first post-Apartheid gen­eral election.

What a moronic term that is. We’ll delve into that mine­field another time though…

What is poignantly con­cern­ing in this instance though, is the cul­ture of anar­chy, dis­il­lu­sion­ment, racism and the pro­pa­gan­dist skew­ing of the past.

It shoud be noted that these are, allegedly, the words of an SRC mem­ber; a per­son trusted and elected by a stu­dent major­ity to rep­re­sent them.

The link below was pre­sented with­out ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Nonethe­less, it hugely vex­ing and wholly disturbing.

Those who can­not remem­ber the past are con­demned to repeat it.”
—George Santayana

Belts & boomerangs

The tex­tile indus­try in South Africa has report­edly been in dire straits for years now. I’m really not sure why though.

Yes­ter­day, the mall was awash with civil employ­ees; from boat jock­eys to cam­ou­flaged pis­toliers and even the odd Pollsmoor cage min­der. None of these hirelings drudged along the cor­ri­dors at a span of less than a yard wide.

We have a plethora of short­ages in this coun­try; food is clearly not one of them.

Did I ever tell you the story about how I founded a belt com­pany with just a roll of elas­tic web­bing and a box of boomerangs?

Some perspective on the VW emissions scandal…

A lot has been said about the Volk­swa­gen emis­sions scan­dal over the past sev­eral days. It has the media abuzz and the online com­mu­nity agog, but have you really given a moment’s thought to what there really is to stress about?

The short ver­sion is that VW, in cahoots with Robert Bosch, the sup­pli­ers of the elec­tron­ics in ques­tion, designed a soft­ware mech­a­nism into the sys­tem that would alter the given nitro­gen oxide out­put, when the vehi­cle under­went emis­sions testing.

The upside of this is that the con­sumer received a vehi­cle with per­for­mance sub­ject to lesser throt­tling than what would have been needed for the prod­uct to pass the arguably cur­rently real­is­tic reg­u­la­tions — finances and tech­nol­ogy avail­abil­ity con­sid­ered — set by the many reg­u­la­tions in place across the globe. The down­side, nat­u­rally, is that all con­cerned, were lied to; and that your diesel-powered VW *may* now lose some value. Con­sid­er­ing the fact that their diesel prod­ucts are proven and loved, this is unlikely, beyond, per­haps, a suc­cint period of community-fronted goodwill.

You may elect to have your car ‘repaired’, in line with the upcom­ing recall, but how many peo­ple do you know who would vol­un­tar­ily offer up their car for a per­for­mance down­grade and an increase in fuel con­sump­tion? Not many, I expect.

You may claim to be a child of Mother Nature, intent on hug­ging every tree that you pass, but unless you pur­chased a Blue­Mo­tion VW, you’re only fool­ing your­self and BSing us. You bought a diesel for one, or more, of the rea­sons that most do; the torque, longevity & far supe­rior fuel consumption.

Con­sid­er­ing that the scan­dal broke in the USA, let’s take a look at some facts, to put things into perspective…

The L. A. Times report that approx­i­mately 482,000 cars are involved in the scan­dal, across the expanse of the United States. In con­trast, state that some­where in the region of 42 mil­lion Amer­i­cans smoke. That’s about a fifth of the Amer­i­can population.

Nitro­gen oxides, the gas at the cen­tre of this deba­cle, are pro­duced in great quan­ti­ties by both petrol & diesel engines. If you hap­pen to live near to a gas pow­er­plant, or an area prone to heavy light­ning strikes, you’re rich in the sup­ply of NOx too. Lucky you.

Nitro­gen diox­ide is an irri­tant gas, which at high con­cen­tra­tions causes inflam­ma­tion of the airways.

Sounds trou­bling, but con­sider this, in contrast…

There are approx­i­mately 600 ingre­di­ents in cig­a­rettes. When burned, they cre­ate more than 7,000 chem­i­cals. At least 69 of these chem­i­cals are known to cause can­cer, and many are poisonous.

Many of these chem­i­cals are also found in con­sumer prod­ucts, but these prod­ucts have warn­ing labels. While the pub­lic is warned about the dan­ger of the poi­sons in these prod­ucts, there is no such warn­ing for the tox­ins in tobacco smoke.

Here are a few of the chem­i­cals in tobacco smoke, and other places they are found:

Ace­tone – found in nail pol­ish remover
Acetic Acid –  an ingre­di­ent in hair dye
Ammo­nia – a com­mon house­hold cleaner
Arsenic – used in rat poi­son
Ben­zene – found in rub­ber cement
Butane – used in lighter fluid
Cad­mium – active com­po­nent in bat­tery acid
Car­bon Monox­ide – released in car exhaust fumes
Formalde­hyde – embalm­ing fluid
Hexa­m­ine – found in bar­be­cue lighter fluid
Lead – used in bat­ter­ies
Naph­tha­lene – an ingre­di­ent in moth balls
Methanol – a main com­po­nent in rocket fuel
Nico­tine – used as insec­ti­cide
Tar – mate­r­ial for paving roads
Toluene — used to man­u­fac­ture paint

Mmmm, that sounds healthy for you.

The odds that you smoke, know some­one who does and spend at least some time within prox­im­ity to some­one who does, are pretty good.

Unless you’re the recip­i­ent of a Prozac pre­scrip­tion, you’re unlikely to suck on an exhaust pipe, but most would spend time in a smoke-filled enter­tain­ment venue, social set­ting or prob­ing the ton­sils of their ashy-mouthed sig­nif­i­cant other.

…makes you think, eh?

The evi­dence against the case for harsh crit­i­cism of vehic­u­lar emis­sions dimin­ishes even fur­ther when we take a look at the big­ger pic­ture, so to speak; the other major com­po­nents of inter­nal com­bus­tion output…

If you’re, as Nature intended, an omni­vore, you’re even more harm­ful to the envi­ron­ment. Your rumi­nant food is fart­ing; and it’s killing us, slowly but surely. The aver­age car will emit 2.7 tons of methane per year. In stark con­trast, the aver­age cow flat­u­lates 4 tons.

The inter­nal com­bus­tion engine is a rather effi­cient pro­ducer of car­bon monox­ide; a byprod­uct of numer­ous ther­mal processes, the major cul­prit of which takes place in the troposphere.

The nat­ural sources of car­bon monox­ide pre­dom­i­nate (90% of total emis­sions); the remain­ing 10% are made up of motor-vehicle emis­sions (55%), indus­try (11%) and other emit­ters (HORN, 1989).


Car­bon monox­ide is rapidly oxi­dised, to form car­bon diox­ide, which is used for photosynthesis.

You could fol­low the blind Gree­nies, blindly; sell­ing your diesel VW, in lieu of replac­ing it with some­thing else, that has passed the tests, whether legally or not, or, you could carry on as-is, obliv­i­ous to the polit­i­cal ram­blings and selec­tively bul­leted news.

With ever more strin­gent reg­u­la­tions fac­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers, it’s highly unlikely that the Volk­swa­gen group, as a whole, are the only cul­prits of such engi­neer­ing. Only time shall tell. Given the past leniency seen with Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ers dodg­ing known issues, the sever­ity of the fine issued to VW will be telling.

What is cer­tainly true, is that main­tain­ing your old clunker, despite its fuel con­sump­tion, is undoubt­edly more environmentally-friendly than any vehi­cle on the deal­ers’ floors at present. The cost of get­ting a new car to mar­ket, in terms of the envi­ron­ment, ver­sus any fuel sav­ing your new vehi­cle, petrol, diesel, elec­tric, hybrid, hydro­gen or oth­er­wise, may offer, will only amor­tise over many more years — likely decades later — than cur­rent vehi­cles are designed to last for.

Hype, opin­ion or fact, per­spec­tive is what brings rea­son­able under­stand­ing to the facts.

He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.

I’m in quandary…

I’ve been rip­ping off the ANC-led degra­da­tion in our edu­ca­tion sys­tem, stem­ming from their rise to load-shed power in 1994, for years now.

How­ever, here we have a retired teacher, pro­claim­ing an abil­ity to enhance one’s edu­ca­tional apti­tude, when, clearly, their own lit­er­acy level is barely past that of preschooler.


In the shadow of ESKOM, we find dim­ness to be a sta­ple trait of the nation, both in the lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive sense.

Have stan­dards really dropped, or is it just the next iter­a­tion of stu­pid is as stu­pid teaches?

Pendulous Testicles

Slide it, like KiyonariTomor­row I shall flaunt my new gait, with pride; brought about by my now pen­du­lous testicles.

I’ve def­i­nitely just earned my wet weather motor­cy­cling badge.

Wel­come to Cape Town, in win­ter; where the roads resem­ble rinks, your bike is sailed, rather than rid­den and it is entirely pos­si­ble to obtain your marine license whilst on wheels.

The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.”

Cooking with VWs

Old VWs have enriched every facet of my life. They’ve con­tributed mean­ing­fully as trans­port, as social con­nec­tors, as edu­ca­tional instru­ments, as travel enablers and as accom­mo­da­tion, both at events & at the drive-in, to say the least.

Now I have dis­cov­ered a new form in which their cul­ture has come to assist me; as a cook­ing utensil.

My pan is rather warped, you see, which means that it both resists sta­tic place­ment and cooks woe­fully. How­ever, with the nifty addi­tion of a Bee­tle, both of these prob­lems are over­come, styl­ishly & affordably.

This handy tip was brought to you by Extreme Bach­e­lor; your online bach­e­lor­ing guide.

Beetle panholder


Vrooom! Vroooooooom! Vroom! Vrrrroooom! Vvroommm! Vrooooom! Vrooom! Vrooooom! Vroom! Vrrrroooooom! Vvroooooommm! Vrooom! Vrooom! Vrooom! Vroom! Vrrrrooooom! Vvroom­mmm! Vroooomm! Vrooom! Vrooooooooom! Vroom! Vrrrroooom! Vvroommm! Vrrooomm! Vrooom! Vroooooooomm! Vroom! Vrrrroooom! Vvroommm! Vrooom! Vrooom! Vroooooom! Vroom! Vrrrroooom! Vvroommm! Vrooom! Vrooom! Vrooooooooom! Vroom! Vrrrroooom! Vvroommm! Vrooom! Vrooom! Vrooooom! Vroom! Vrrrroooom! Vvroommm! Vrooom! …

That is the min­i­mum num­ber of throt­tle blips needed to get in or out of a park­ing bay, by a Cape Town Hond­naai Tjooner with a kief cut-coil sus­pen­sie & groot poephol xzorst.