Underwater Robots

RV Flip. Photo: US Navy

This post is published on the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Marine Biological Association of San Diego on 1903-09-26. In 1912, the assets of this organization were transferred to the Regents of the University of California and renamed the Scripps Institution for Biological Research. In 1925-10, it was renamed the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Its mission statement reads, “To seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of the oceans, atmosphere, Earth, and other planets for the benefit of society and the environment.”

One of the more interesting vessels at Scripps was Research Vessel Flip = Floating Instrument Platform. It was in service from 1962-07-23 to 2023-08-04, but is now being scrapped. It is often described as an open ocean research platform designed to study various phenomena such as wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature and density, and to collect meteorological data. The vessel has no means of propulsion, because that could potentially interfere with acoustic instruments. Surprisingly, it is equipped with diesel generators. Flip has to be towed to open water sites where it will be used. Once it is in position it is sunk, reaching a depth of 91.4 m. Part of the vessel remains above the waterline, up to a height of about 17 m above the surface. It can then either be allowed to drift freely, or is anchored in place.

For the past sixty years, I have followed the adventures of Flip at irregular intervals, inspired by its ability to collect data. A cheaper way of collecting data is to use a smaller vessel equipped with sensors. Since 1962 there has been major developments in sensor technology. Sensors are now inexpensive, and can be attached to microprocessors. Data can be stored on equally inexpensive solid state devices, that can be fitted onto an underwater vessel.

In robotics, as elsewhere, language is used inconsistently. There are two types of underwater robots, that is, underwater vessels/ vehicles without human occupants, that use two different naming conventions. If the robot is tethered to the surface it is called a ROV = Remotely Operated Vehicle. If it isn’t, it is called an AUV = Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.

In a more ideal world, it should be possible to distinguish between surface watercraft and submersible watercraft. Both categories could be autonomous or in some way human controlled. Tethered craft are not crewed, but remotely controlled by humans. An alternative naming system could refer to two classes of robotic submersibles, the first referred to as tethered (RS-T), and the second as autonomous (RS-A) or even untethered (RS-U). A vessel crewed with humans could be given the name CS = crewed submersible.

My experience with RS-Ts started in 2008 teaching technology to students at Leksvik Upper Secondary School, and using both the community swimming pool and a local beach as launch sites. Build Your Own Underwater Robot and Other Wet Projects (1997) by Harry Bohm (1954 – ) and Vickie Jensen (1946- ), published by Westcoast Words, in Vancouver, provided the inspiration. A copy of this book was found at the Simon Fraser University bookstore, and purchased in the summer of 1997.

Experimentation with a diving bell, teaches the laws of physics as they apply to submersibles. Depending on the power of the airpump, a diving bell is able to rise, fall and even balance itself in a column of water. However, if the diving bell descends below a certain critical depth, the water pressure will be too great for the air pump to work, and the vessel will continue downward without any ability to stop. This surprises most students.

Three of their models, a Diving Bell (powered by an aquarium airpump), Seaperch (powered by thrusters = electric motors) and Seafox (powered by bilge pumps) were made, adapted and remade, repeatedly.

There are numerous commercial and organizational sites that use the Seaperch and/ or Seafox as the starting point for products, competitions and DIY construction. Unfortunately, some are disingenuous, most notably the Seaperch organization, that fails to acknowledge their indebtedness to Bohn/ Jensen. However, the Wikipedia article about the organization does acknowledge this debt. The Bohm/ Jensen RS-Ts have their limitations, particularly in terms of operational depth. Their main purpose is education, both in terms of construction and operation in a marine environment.

Monitoring Equipment

An infinite number of inmates at Verdal prison had, over the years, requested an opportunity to make drones. In particular, they were interested in using these to monitor prison guards. Fortunately/ unfortunately for the guards/ inmates, respectively, no drones were ever made at the prison, at least not when I was working there. When I did offer to teach them how to make underwater vehicles, there was no interest.

Description of the OpenROV Trident.

Thus, when OpenROV was proposed in 2012, it immediately attracted my attention. It took several years (2015), before OpenROV announced a Kickstarter project to build an underwater drone for everyone. They referred to it as Trident, with a purchase price of $1 200 each.

With a length of 300 mm, a width of 200 mm and a height of 150 mm, it is considerably smaller than either a Seaperch or Seafox.  It is also lighter, with a mass of about 2.5 kg. However, it has several additional attributes that distinguish it. The first is an ability to reach a depth of 100 m. This makes it almost useful! The depth exceeds that of RV Flip.

A waterproof tube 180 mm long and 100 mm (outside) diameter houses all the electronics and other environmentally sensitive equipment. There are 3 x 800kv brushless motors to power the RS-T.  Two horizontal thrusters allow the RS-T to move forward and aft as well as rotate, and a vertical thruster allows the (neutrally buoyant) vehicle to change depth.

The trident is the weapon of the gods of the Sea: Greek Poseidon, or Roman Neptune as well as Amphitrite, Greek queen of the sea and consort of Poseidon. In Roman mythology she is referred to as Salacia, with a reference to salt. In both sets of myths, Triton, another Greek as well as Roman god of the sea, is the son of Poseidon/ Neptune and Amphitrite/ Salacia. Triton is a merman with a human upper half, and a fish/ lobster/ crayfish lower half. In Hinduism, Shiva also uses a trident, referred to as a trishula.

Ægir (Æge in modern Norwegian) is the Norse god of the sea. He does not appear to have a weapon, but spends his time brewing beer. He is married to Rán (Rån in modern Norwegian), goddess of the sea. Together they have nine daughters, the waves.

One of my intentions when I worked at setting up a mechatronics workshop in Inderøy, was to provide an opportunity for the production of equipment to monitor the environment. At the time I was particularly interested in unmanned underwater vehicles, to discover local sources of pollution. Inderøy library has now taken over this workshop.

Thus, my own little workshop will have to become a local skunk works, producing not only vessels, but slower, lower altitude incarnations of a U-2 Dragon Lady or SR-71 Blackbird, in the form of a drone.

Lockheed took the name Skunk Works from Li’l Abner’s moonshine factory, where it was known as Skonk Works, found in the comics written and drawn by Al Capp (1909–1979), from 1934 to 1977. For those too young to be acquainted with the comic strip, Li’l Abner Yokum, was the son of Pansy Hunks aka Mammy Yokum and Lucifer Ornamental Yokum aka Pappy. They lived in a log cabin in Dogpatch, USA. The location of Dogpatch is disputed, but most place it in Kentucky. One of the wimmenfolk there was the beautiful Daisy Mae Scragg, who married Abner in 1952. Sadie Hawkins was another notorious resident, not quite so beautiful, but intent on marrying. Some of my fascination with names as well as fictitious geography comes from comic strips. In addition to Li’l Abner, Pogo by Walt Kelly (1913-1973) also provided some interesting geographical features in Okefenokee Swamp, located in southern Georgia and northern Florida.

Currently, I have a workshop that supports my construction activities by producing components in wood. While I have not given up the idea of producing wooden products entirely, especially geodesic dome greenhouses, I have also acquired a small computer numeric control (CNC) milling machine, for subtractive processes. One intended use of this machine is to make parts for a RS-T. I also have a 3D-printer for making parts using additive processes.

In the past, I have used the non-descriptive name, Unit One, for this workshop. My own name, Brock, means badger, so it is not inappropriate to rename this workshop the Badger Works, but also incorporating the Norwegian language equivalent, Grevlingverket. From 2024-01-01, I intend to spend time designing and making a RS-T and surface/ support unit, suitable for investigating pollution in Trondheim fjord. The names Ægir and Rán will probably be incorporated into the names of these vessels.


A bullfrog near Saint Joseph, Missouri, USA. Photo: Austin Santaniello, 2017-07-03.

Fifty years ago, back in the 1970s, I practiced a form of transcendental meditation. This weblog post provides some basic information about it, along with lists of mantras. I am referring to this content as open-source meditation. It comes without any guarantees. While there are undoubtedly differences of opinion, I do not think most people need a guru, or any form of instructor in order to meditate. People who disagree about this, or other matters, are encouraged to provide enlightenment, by writing a comment.

Among the books I am currently, but reluctantly, reading is Johann Hari (1979 – ) Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – and How to Think Deeply Again (2022). Hari has had a history of ethical issues, including plagiarism, related to journalism, and like much of his work, this book has also received criticism. The topic of the book is important, and there is no harm in reading this book, as long as one is aware of its limitations.

While reading this book with respect to the challenges of multi-tasking, as well as sleep deprivation, I began wondering if other animals also suffered from these problems. Crows, I recently learned, are capable of using probability. This is why a photo of a bullfrog appears. Is it a secret meditator? I also wondered if some form of meditation could be useful, for aging humans, such as myself.

Claimed benefits of Meditation


  • Improved cardiovascular health: Studies have shown that TM can help reduce blood pressure, improve circulation and increase oxygen flow to the heart.
  • Reduced response to pain
  • Reduced insomnia and improvement in sleep: TM has been linked to an increase in the production of melatonin – a hormone thought to be responsible for promoting good sleep.

Mental Health

  • Reduced stress and anxiety.
  • Reduced symptoms of depression.


  • Increased focus and concentration.
  • Increased productivity and creativity.
  • Improved short-term and long-term memory.


  • Improved emotional regulation and resilience.
  • Improved self-awareness
  • Improved self-confidence
  • Improved emotional well-being and happiness


Choose a mantra. Mantras help the mind enter a state of inner stillness and peace, preventing active thinking. Select one that resonates with you. A number of mantras are listed below. Choose a location for meditation. It should be a place where you won’t be disturbed. Twenty-first century reminder: switch off that hand-held device that accompanies you, or put it on silent mode.

Meditating. First, sit comfortably. The spine should be upright but not rigid. The back can be supported. Second, close eyes. Third, silently repeat a mantra. Some forms of meditation use mantras that are religious words, typically with origins in Sanskrit. Others use sounds without any meaning. The advantage of a meaningless mantra is that it is easier to switch off thoughts. Meditators often claim that they enter a state of deep relaxation. Fourth, continue for twenty minutes.

Conclusion (once the 20 minutes are up). First, slowly open your eyes. Second, bring your attention back to your surroundings. Third, take some deep breaths and slowly stand up. Fourth, the real world awaits you. Return to whatever needs to be done. Fifth, remember to meditate twice a day.

Sleep Meditation

Meditating to help a person to sleep requires modifications to be made to the standard procedures. Instead of sitting, continue to lie down on your bed. Allow your body to sleep if and when this is possible.

Walking Meditation

Some people are not particularly good at sitting still. They may prefer a walking meditation, where they can develop an awareness of their surroundings and, in so doing, calm the mind and relax the body.

  • Find a safe place to walk.
  • Start to walk slowly.
  • Pay close attention to the physical sensations of walking: the way your feet feel when they touch the ground; the way your muscles contract and release as you move; and the rhythm of your breath.
  • Possibilities: Notice the air on your face and hands. Notice how the humidity and heat feel on your body.
  • When your mind wanders, gently bring attention back to your body and to the physical sensations of walking.

1969 Transcendental Meditation mantras


1972 Transcendental Meditation mantras


1976 Transcendental Meditation mantras


1987 – Present Transcendental Meditation mantras


Other mantras are words or sentences in Sanskrit. These include: 1) Om (or Aum) is the prime symbol of Hinduism and one of the most important spiritual sounds. It is the sonic representation of the divine in Indic traditions. It is often chanted during spiritual recitation or used as a mantra during meditation in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. 2) Sat Nam is a combination of two ancient Sikh words, “Sat” meaning “truth” and “Nam” meaning “name” – essentially it means “I am truth”. 3) Om Mani Padme Hum is a Buddhist mantra to invoke the blessings of Avalokiteshvara – the bodhisattva of compassion. It’s commonly translated from Sanskrit as, “The jewel is in the lotus.” 4) Ra Ma Da Sa is a Kundalini yoga that combines four sounds to create a positive vibration that helps release stress and tension as well as to bring balance to the body and the mind: “Ra” represents the sun and the masculine energy; “Ma” represents the moon and the feminine energy; “Da” represents the Earth and the healing energy; “Sa” represents infinity and the enlightenment energy. 5) Aad Guray Nameh is a Sikh meditation mantra meaning, “I bow to the primal wisdom”: Aad Guray Nameh = I bow to the Primal Wisdom, Jugaad Guray Nameh = I bow to the Wisdom of all the ages, Sat Guray Nameh = I bow to the True Wisdom, Siri Guroo Dayvay Nameh = I bow to the Great Invisible Wisdom.

Note: No weblog post will be published on 2023-09-23. The next one will be published on 2023-09-26.

Faroe Islands

My son, Alasdair, and I arrived at the airport on Vágar, on Monday, 2023-07-10, for a short adventure that will last until Friday, 2023-07-14. After picking up our rental car, a Hyundai Kona diesel with manual transmission, we headed off towards the neighbouring island of Streymoy!

Unlike Iceland, which met us with desolation, we were met by fog which helped us suspend our judgement. We soon stopped at a food store, where we encountered three young workers who, true to tradition, complained about their elders. They were helpful, and we were able to purchase necessities for our domestic life.

We took the easy way out buying coffee that was already ground. The food store had a machine to grind coffee beans.

We then continued on to our accommodation at Kvivik, run by Petra Iversen. It was a comfortable basement suite, suitable for two people.

Domestic necessities

Healthy eating? Puffed wheat coated with honey and sugar, along with orange flavoured yoghurt.
Safely stored in a freezer, two varieties of ice cream chocolate and licorice.
We took the easy way out buying coffee that was already ground. The food store had a machine to grind coffee beans. Indeed, we later found that our hostess had a coffee bean grinder in her kitchen. This took me back to the early 1980s, when Trish worked at a coffee and tea store that ground coffee to the specifications of its clients.

Alasdair noted, correctly it turned out, that our accommodation had been outfitted by a woman. Appliances included a filter coffee maker and kettle, microwave oven, conventional oven, induction stove top, freezer and refrigerator, as well as a dishwasher and a battery operated, bagless vacuum cleaner. Dishes, plates, glasses, cups and flatware were found in abundance, in the cupboards. I especially liked her red, rubberized coffee cups. This place felt more like home, than any other place we had stayed in previously on this trip.

On Tuesday evening, we met our hostess, to pay for our accommodation. She had a coffee bean grinder in her kitchen. This took me back to the early 1980s, when Trish worked at a coffee and tea store in Molde that ground coffee to the specifications of its clients.

The coffee cup, turned upside down.
Tvis Køkken = kitchen, from Holstebro, Denmark.

On this trip I have decided that my role is to look at culture rather than nature. Thus, I was delighted to find two works of art from our accommodation that are included here for everyone’s enjoyment.

On our last evening, we were given a sample of Faroe cuisine, complete with whale blubber and mutton.

Faroe cuisine

August Insights

Some notable events have taken place in 2023-08.

Women’s World Cup 2023

I do not follow sports, but sometimes read results so that I can interact with normal people. There are two counrties that are natural for me to support, Canada and Norway, not to mention Ireland, that has provided citizenship to the others in my immediate family. With the Women’s World Cup, I felt I could impress these people by reporting a select few game results. Already near the start, on 2023-07-20, with Norway losing 1-0 to New Zealand, and Ireland losing 1-0 to Australia, I realized that backup could be necessary, in order to be on the winning side. Fortunately, Denmark and Sweden were also playing. By the end of group play, Canada and Ireland were out, but the Scandinavians were still in. On 2023-08-05, Norway lost 3-1 to Japan, and was out. The next day, Sweden beat USA on penalties, and was still in. The day after that, Denmark lost 2-0 to Australia. All hopes were on Sweden. In the end, on 2023-08-19, Sweden ended up in third place. On 2023-08-20 Spain won with England in second place. The scene was set for the main drama…

Dear Luis Rubiales: sportswomen are not dolls to be kissed, touched and patronised. Those are the words of Barbara Ellen in The Guardian.

Yes, I eagerly awaited the resignation of Luis Rubiales (1977 – ) for forceably kissing Jenni Hermoso (1990 – ), a Spanish professional footballer who plays for Liga MX Femenil club CF Pachuca (Mexico) and for the Spain women’s national team. She has previously played for teams in Spain, including Barcelona, and is the all-time top scorer for both Barcelona and Spain, at the end of the Women’s World Cup. She did not consent to be kissed.

Rubiales is president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and one of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) vice presidents. He refused to resign, and was dumb enough to say, “A social assassination is taking place. I don’t deserve this manhunt I have been suffering.” It took Fédération Internationale de football association = FIFA to remove him, if only temporarily. FIFA will look at whether his actions constitute violations of Article 13 in its disciplinary code, concerning offensive behaviour and fair play.

The Spanish government was also taking action to force his removal. It was asking Rubiales to explain himself to a Spanish administrative court as soon as possible. If it deems he violated the professional sports code, he could then be suspended.

Hermoso stated: “I want to make clear that at no time did the conversation to which Mr Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place and, above all, his kiss [was n]ever consensual.”

She added his claims were “categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he has generated”.

“I feel the need to report this incident because I believe no person, in any work, sports or social setting should be a victim of these types of non-consensual behaviours. I felt vulnerable and a victim of impulsive-driven, sexist, out-of-place act, without any consent on my part”.

“Quite simply, I was not respected.”

She was put “under continuous pressure” to help with a “statement that could justify” Rubiales’ actions – and so were her family, friends and team-mates.

“These types of incidents add to a long list of situations that the players have been denouncing. This incident is the final straw and what everyone has been able to witness on live television also comes with attitudes like the one we saw this morning [Friday, 2023-08-25] and have been part of our team’s daily life for years”.

81 players confirm they will not play for Spain’s women’s team until he is removed from his post. In addition, two Spanish men’s national team and Real Betis players, Héctor Bellerín and Borja Iglesias, criticised Rubiales on social media, with the latter refusing to play for Spain until Rubiales resigned.

By Saturday, 2023-08-26, RFEF had threatened to sue Jenni Hermoso, accusing her of lying and defamation, and the women football players who signed a letter in which they refused to play for their country as long as Luis Rubiales remained its leader. Obviously, a lot more people in the RFEF need to be replaced.

Then, Ángeles Béjar (? – ), Rubiales’ mother, entered the Church of the Divine Shepherdess in Motril, Granada, Spain on Monday morning, 2023-08-28, to begin a hunger strike to protest what she describes as her son’s unwarranted, inhumane and bloodthirsty hunt.

2023-09-11 Update:

Ángeles Béjar was taken to hospital on 2023-08-30.

On 2023-09-05, Jorge Vilda (1981 – ) was fired as head coach of the Spanish women’s national team.

According to a Guardian article, Luis Rubiales’ uncle, Juan Rubiales, told El Confidential: “We Rubialeses are absolutely committed to the idea of dignity. And dignity is to defend Jenni, to understand her, and to reproach the shameful behaviour of this president…. I think [Luis Rubiales] needs a social re-education programme and a re-education in his relationship with women.” He described his nephew as a man “obsessed with power, luxury, money and women”. In a separate interview with the newspaper El Mundo, he added that his nephew was a “man with a clear machista [sexist] tinge”.

Irene María Montero Gil, MP is a Spanish politician and psychologist, member of the Podemos party. She has been the Spanish Minister of Equality since 2020-01-13. She described the kiss as a “lower-intensity” form of sexual violence that is often invisible and normalised in society.” On 2023-09-10 she tweeted: “Se acabó [It’s over].”

On 2023-09-10, Gary Lineker, former England footballer turned BBC broadcaster who played in Spain for three years, tweeted about Rubiales resignation: Rubiales: “No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir.” “Voy a dimitir [I resign].”

Rich Men North of Richmond

Oliver Anthony, playing Rich Men North of Richmond

At the start of the first American Elephant Party television debate on 2023-08-22, an excerpt was played of Oliver Anthony’s (1992 or 1993 – ) song, Rich Men North of Richmond, then discussed. Fox News host, Martha MacCallum, said Anthony’s “lyrics speak of alienation, of deep frustration with the state of government and of this country. Washington DC is about 100 miles north of Richmond.”

On stage stood seven current or former governors and congressmen and one venture capitalist, all members of the Elephant Party.

McCallum asked: “Governor DeSantis, why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?”

Ron DeSantis, replied: “Our country is in decline. This decline is not inevitable. It’s a choice. We need to send [Donkey Party member and US president] Joe Biden back to his basement and reverse American decline.”

However, on Friday 2023-08-25, nonpartisan Anthony released a 10-minute video, in which he rejected that answer and denied that he was a conservative figure. “The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up in this. I’m disappointed to see it. Like, it’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me, like I’m one of them. That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden. You know, it’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song’s written about the people on that stage and a lot more, not just them.”

It was hard, Anthony said, to “get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change. But I do hate to see that song being weaponized, like I see. I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own. And I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That’s got to stop.”

He said the response to his song had crossed party lines and that he welcomed a diverse audience.

“If you watch the response videos on YouTube, it’s not conservative people responding to the song. It’s not even necessarily Americans responding to the song. I don’t know that I’ve seen anything get such positive response from such a diverse group of people. And I think that terrifies the people that I sing about in that song. And they’ve done everything they can in the last two weeks to make me look like a fool. To spin my words. To try to stick me in a political bucket.”

Wikipedia tells us, that Anthony is the first songwriter to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with no prior chart history in any form, Anthony is the first male songwriter to chart 13 songs all simultaneously in the top 50 Digital Song Sales while still alive—Prince and Michael Jackson exceeded that count only following their deaths.

Confession 1: I have not actually listened to Oliver Anthony’s track. After about 10 seconds I find the raspy voice and Piedmont dialect , along with a resonator guitar so unpleasant that I turn it off. I was able to listen to Johnny Cash (1932 – 2003), or more likely his artificial intelligence alter-ego, singing it.

Confession 2: I find the names of political parties difficult to accept. I am not sure what makes, say, the Democratic party, more democratic than another party. I frequently avoid that aspect of political debate, by codifying their real names. In this alternative universe, the party that is closest to me is the Marmot party. Why? The marmots I know best, those living on McArthur Island in Kamloops, British Columbia are enthusiastic and engaged, but without direction. I often rename parties after party symbols.


The effects of the Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii wildfire. Photo: 2023-08-17 at 10:02, taken by Glenn Fawcett, for the United States Department of Homeland Security, and released into the public domain.

Wildfires have become an issue. To call them a serious problem is to undermine their destructiveness. I think especially of the village of Lytton in British Columbia, but also Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, not to mention Lahaina, on Maui. On 2023-08-19, West Kelowna, across Okanagan Lake from Kelowna, where I spent most of my childhood summers, was experiencing wildfires. Kelowna, was being threatened by them. They experienced the wildfire of a century twenty years earlier, on 2003-08-16. Yes, I too am amazed at how short centuries have become!

We have to improve the terms used to describe wildfire events, removing the time scale. A once in a century fire, could be more accurately described as a 1% chance wildfire event. This, has now become a more common 5% chance wildfire event. In another ten years that might increase to a 10% chance wildfire event. These percentages indicate that there is no regularity to these events.

Historically, there have also been large wildfires in the past, such the Peshtigo fire in Wisconsin in 1871 and the Sudbury fire in Ontario in 1916. At times in Australia, Indonesia and other places there have seen multiple fires burning simultaneously, causing significant harm and loss of life. Cities have also burned, notably, the Great Fire of London on 1666-09-05 and Chicago, that started the same day as the Peshtigo fire, 1871-10-08. New Westminster, where I grew up has experienced two massive fires that started on 1898-09-10 and 2020-09-13, respectively.

While I avoid expletives, I am thinking of introducing one for dramatic effect, combustion! (with variants). For example, “It was a combustive mess”. Like most other expletives, it adds no truthiness to a basic statement. Here, a mess is a mess. Combustive simply adds emotional flavour. While some forms of combustion are necessary, the world in my lifetime has produced too much of it. My hope is that by making it an expletive, people will reflect on their combustive behaviour and reduce or eliminate it.

Despite being as much of a NIMBY (not in my backyard) as the next person, I am a proponent of decarbonization, including the total elimination of fossil-fuels, such as natural (and unnatural) gas from houses. Induction stovetops are a more effective (but not necessarily cheaper) way to cook. Hydro, geo-thermal, solar and wind are effective ways of producing clean electricity.

Hawaiian Electric irresponsibly claimed that they could not turn off the electricity on Maui because some customers were dependent on electrical power for medical devices. In addition Maui uses electricity to provide water for residents. My reply is that batteries have been invented that can provide power to medical devices, in situations where it is unsafe to have grid power on. Yes, I am aware that someone has to think of that solution, and that batteries cost money. So does an enormous loss of life, with so many people unaccounted for! Where I have lived water relies on reservoirs and tanks at higher levels, and uses gravity feed to provide water to consumers. Admittedly, water may have to be pumped into these storage places.

Somewhat later, I received the following reply from a friend: Appears Hawaii Utility removed downed power poles, equipment, suspected of possibly causing the devastating fire …. therefore jeopardizing offficial investigation. Cover up?

Maui County is suing Hawaiian Electric over the fire that leveled Lahaina, The lawsuit includes a demand for a jury trial. It alleges the destruction could have been avoided if power lines had been shut off. This is part of a growing critical focus on the utility with videos apparently showing downed cables setting fire to vegetation. There were ample warnings of strong winds from a nearby hurricane, but Maui County claims which that Hawaiian Electric and its subsidiaries negligently kept power lines live. Some quotations: “These power lines foreseeably ignited the fast-moving, deadly, and destructive Lahaina Fire, which completely destroyed residences, businesses, churches, schools, and historic cultural sites.”; “Defendants knew that the high winds the [National Weather Service] predicted would topple power poles, knock down power lines, and ignite vegetation.”; “Defendants also knew that if their overhead electrical equipment ignited a fire, it would spread at a critically rapid rate.”

Maui County is not free of blame. Critics say it was not prepared for the event, and provided an inadequate response. In other place, such as California, electric utilities routinely shut down large stretches of above-ground power lines in strong winds. One has to question whether above-ground power distribution is suitable in the 21st century.

This 2023-08-08 fire was the deadliest wildfire in the United States for more than a century. It burned through about 800 hectares destroying the historic town of Lahaina, a former Hawaiian royal seat. It has rendered thousands of people homeless. Maui County released a list of 388 names of people who remain unaccounted for. Recovery is expected to take years. Federal estimates suggest the fire caused $5.5 billion of damage.

Popularity contests

At the end of August, Tim Anderson has written something I could never write, It has to do with the popularity of computer languages. This topic is easiest to explain by looking at fruits. Different fruits have different uses. Personally, I avoid apples and cherries because they don’t like me. I do consume citrus fruits, but they are not substitutes for each other. I would never eat a lemon or a lime with breakfast, like I would eat an orange or half a grapefruit.

Computer languages also have different uses. I regard scripting languages, such as JavaScript or Lua, as a type of glue, typically used to hold the components of websites together. There are database languages used to manipulate and organize data. In my mind, these are special purpose languages to be used restrictively, much like lemons or limes are used in cooking.

Then there are general programming languages, that can actually be used to make a software product. These are a totally different ilk, much like an orange or (for some people) an apple or a handful of cherries. There have been many generations of these, with Python being the most popular today. It was named after the British comedy group whose first name is Monty, rather than a snake. It first appeared in 1991. C, the language I use most, first appeared in 1972. Fortran first appeared in 1957.

I am now changing the advice I am giving to young people about which general purpose language to learn and use. My new favourite is Rust, named after the plant pathogenic fungi (order Pucciniales) with about 7 000 species. This programming language first appeared in 2015, but originated some years earlier at Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser. It is supported by a number of large tech companies including Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Microsoft. Apple uses Swift, a competing language and successor to Objective-C, in most areas, but uses Rust in robotics.