Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fade Away and Radiate

Germans have some weird ideas about health and they quickly latch onto the latest scare. They insist that a motorcyclist simply must wear a wide belt around his waist to protect his kidneys from getting cold. Apparently cold kidneys are the cause of myriad Bad Things. They throw their money away on cell phone "emission shields" because, well, everyone knows that the phones use microwaves and you heat things with microwaves and cooking your brain is definitely a Bad Thing.

Tony sits across from me. Three meters across the no-man's land of the intermediate desks which separate our own desktops, and stacked with cables, cords, books, plants and general rubbish. He really wants me to trade in my CRT which can do 1600x1200 for another LCD which can only do 1280x1024. Why?

"Your monitor is making a lot of electrical waves for me and that's very unhealthy."

I haven't been writing for a week because of a lot of other projects I'm involved in. I thought I'd be able to write because as the lead in our Roll-out Preparation Team, I'm supposed to install the new builds of our Next Big Release. This is usually a Good Thing because installing (and not having to take tickets) means lots of free time to play AoE and scribble.

Unfortunately I haven't actually been playing AoE or writing while sitting on my ass waiting for the installer to do its thing because, well, it hasn't been doing its thing unless "Crash and Burn" is, in fact, its thing. I've had to re-install Windows Server 2003, rebuild images in VMWare, and find more space somewhere to give VMWare room on the disk space to let me have another virtual drive. I've taken hundreds of screenshots and directory listings and saved a dozen Registry corruptions to documented each one.

Work's been a whole different kind of miserable, compounded by the fact that the Panopticon was designed to look and function like a greenhouse yet lacks air conditioning. At 30°C my production drops faster than an Italian soccer player and my temper gets shorter than a very, very short thing.

The only comfort I have is a severe reduction in the number of tickets I need to take and a cheap-ass fan which makes far too much noise for its size. And my IBM P96 with its killer screen resolution.

Back to Germans and the whole point of the rant: Krauts telling you to take zinc or magnesium tables to cure everything short of amputation ("You heff acute renal failure? Have you tried taking two magnesium tablets in ze mornings?") is is only one indication. The national skill at make-shit-up-ology is nothing short of wondrous. They "don't get enough oxygen" and must open the windows when it's -26° out. If warm weather quickly arrives they get something called Fön and miss a few days of work. The cure for Fön seems to be enjoying that which made you "ill" and relaxing in the biergarden.

Germans also buy into the idea of Big Bad EMF -- electrical energy is killing me! It affects everyone and everything! You can measure it so it must be true! It causes me headaches and maybe I'll get cancer! Right, Chicken Little.

Tony's a nice enough guy. Why the hell is he bugging me about my monitor when the guy next to him has two CRTs, both of which are closer to him than is mine? He went on about unhealthy electrical fields and I finally got him to stop by showing him that I needed the screen real estate but that as soon as he can convince Procurement to approve of a big-ass 50" NEC PlasmaSync monitor because not even an NEC 20GWX2 has 1600x1200. My six-year-old CRT can get to 2048x1536 but that's a bit hard to read on only 19".

I'm continually amazed that science ever managed a toehold in this country, because it's not just the people who read the tabloids. Educated people believe this crap too, even when it's crap about their own fields of study.

To try and placate Tony I went digging on the Web and found some explanatory stuff about the actual amount of radiation emitted and how the strength falls off as an inverse proportion of the square of the distance from the source. By the time the 100 or so micro-Tesla (µT) reach him more than three meters away, the current density has fallen from around 10 µA/cm2 to less than 1pA/cm2.

"But I'm still getting ze electromagnetic radiation," he complains, but he's stopped mid-whinge by a phone call. It's his cell phone. Tony spent the next 20 minutes yakking away on it.

x-posted from HuSi.


Blogger Dino pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

Well just imagine how strange american seem to german!!!!!!!!! I had that belt and put it on when I rode my bike when it was cold. It hleps keep you warm. What r u doing in Germany? I went home in may for a few days, it was nice I miss it.

11 July, 2006 18:59  

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