Intel's Ronler Acres Plant


Silicon Forest

Monday, August 21, 2017



Another serial killer murder mystery on Netflix. This one is set in the Basque region of Spain where it apparently rains all the damn time. I mean it's worse than Portland. The story is complicated by a Basajaun, a Basque version of bigfoot, and by the lead detective's bad-crazy family. It's a pretty good story, it moves right along. There are some mystical elements (like the Basajaun) that happen along the way, not enough to interfere with the story, but enough to make you wonder just what the heck is going on. Weird shit happens in these remote mountain villages, you know. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a sequel to examine some of the stuff that was uncovered, but unresolved. In Spanish, mostly, with some English (the heroine's husband speaks English), with subtitles.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Infernal Bureaucrats

Florida Turnpike toll gantry Bird Rd 7402
I got a bill in the mail from California for $7.75. It's the toll for driving over the Golden Gate bridge. They still have toll booths, but you don't have to stop anymore, they just take a picture of your license plate, look you up in their computerized database and send you a bill. Evidently, it even works across state lines because I have Oregon plates on my truck.

When I went to Miami earlier this year, I saw several signs advising that license plate cameras were at work collecting tolls. My car was a rental, and the charges eventually showed up on my rental bill. It was less than $10 for ten days of driving around Miami.

My Citi card was refused at Costco today. Seems I haven't paid my bill. Well, where is it? I've been looking for it but all I've seen have been promotional mailings offering to lend me even more money. So I call them and I get a pleasant sounding robo-cop, but no matter how loud I yell she can't understand me. She won't shut up either, she keeps yammering away about some useless information (supposed to fry my imagination). I give her two chances and she fails on both so get me to a real person you stupid shit. It takes persistant hammering on the keypad and yelling to get a connection to a real person who then wants to play 20 questions. Screw you, Citi bank. You want your money, send me a bill.

The credit card problem sent me over the edge. This is like the first week this summer without some kind of catastrophe and I was finally thinking that maybe I could relax and then this bullshit happens. I mean, what happened to the frickin' bill? I could have misplaced it, or someone along the delivery chain could have lost it, but that has never happened before, so why would it happen now? Especially since I know it's liable to be a big bill and I've been watching for it. So no, it didn't get lost on the way. Stupid Citi failed to get it out the door. I suspect all large corporations are evil (they aren't intentional evil, they are just big, relentless machines that have replaced thinking with blind, rote obedience), and in this case evil Citi bank screwed up. I am almost willing to bet that someone clicked on the little check box that signed me up for paperless billing. God damn commies.

Babbitt Bearings

Road & Track has a good story about how internal engine bearings were made before WW2. When people put their collective minds to work, there is nothing they can't accomplish, like terrorize and subjugate East Asia, or stomp the Axis powers into the ground, send a rocket-ship to the moon, or build a modern automobile. The automobile's success has been due to 1) the inventors ability to hide the myriad technologies behind a facade of shiny paint on a well-shaped tin can, 2) it's ability to stream high-resolution, real-time video past your eyeballs, and 3) save time.

And there are a bunch of technologies involved in the production of a modern automobile. I used to know what they all were, but now I'm not so sure. I wouldn't be surprised if more PhD's were granted for new automotive technology than for any other technology related subject.

Make no mistake, one of the reasons the automobile has been such a success is because people like going for a drive and watching the landscape stream by.

A copy of the story can be found here, in the case the R & T link goes away.

The Fall

Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan as serial killer Paul Spector
We finished watching all three seasons last night on Netflix. It's not a great show, like an over-the-top James Bond or Tom Cruise thriller, but it was pretty good with lots of interesting bits. Gillian X-Files Anderson plays the lead detective, imported to Belfast from London to review a politically charged murder case and ends up running a task force to track down a serial killer.

The case is difficult because the killer, when he isn't killing people, appears to be an upright citizen of the community, a taxpayer, homeowner and a devoted family man. In other words, he's the favorite kind of killer to be found in a fictional story about murder, i.e. a psychopath.

Stella is a stone-faced hard-ass, which is kind of what you would expect of a woman, or even a man, with this kind of job. She does have sexual needs which she satisfies with various coppers. Well, we don't know if she is satisfied, she doesn't let on, but at least she is going through the motions.

There are some bits that were well done, better than I've seen before:

  • the scene in the emergency room when a shooting victim is brought in. Lots of grisly detail.
  • Stella asking for 1.5 million (pounds? Euros?) to fund the task force. First time I've heard someone put a price tag on something like this, in fiction or in real-life. Given that you want a fair number of competent people to spend their time looking for this guy, and it is liable to take a while, that might be a reasonable number.
  • the number of people and cars involved in surreptitiously following someone. Law & Order sometimes makes mention of it in some of their cases, but here we see the entire army of coppers dodging around, working the radio, passing off surveillance from one follower to another.
There were a couple of small side stories that could have made an episode all by themselves, but were here just to flesh out the story and / or provide a little local color.
  • The underage teenager who fixates on Paul as the love of her life. Is she a bad example, or do all teenagers go through a period of insanity? 
  • a group of IRA thugs who show at the most inopportune moments.
  • a children's home where a pedophile ring was uncovered some years ago. (There were a couple of such real-life cases.)
We started out paying attention to what was happening in the show, but by the time we got to the end it was the feeling I got that was important. Things are happening, but the whole tone / feel of the show was more significant. It was a lot like True Detective that way.

Thug Culture

TONY SOPRANO by JaumeCullell
Different people have different abilities. Some people are smart, some people are athletic, some can sing, some can dance. There are a zillion different scales that you can use to measure a person's abilities.

People are competitive, they want to show they are better than other people in some way. It's an instinct that derives from our sexual nature. Reproduction is our primary purpose and in order to do that you need a partner, and one way to get a partner is to impress him or her with your amazing ability to do that amazing thing you do. For some people, beating other people at some endeavor is the only thing that matters, and for some of those hyper-competitive people society's rules don't matter.

Most people are law abiding, productive members of society. A few are not, but it's those few who garner all the attention. Go to work every day for 40 years, work diligently, keep your head down and it's very likely you will never make the evening news, and most people are fine with that. But shoot someone on a downtown street and within a day everyone will know your name.

Near as I can tell, the Democrats are all for trying to help out the underclass by rooting out institutional discrimination, giving them an education and helping them become productive members of society. The Republicans are all about stamping out the thugs. The Democrats, being bleeding heart liberals, are helping everyone and not discriminating. The Republicans, being hard asses, are condemning everyone who even looks like they might have talked to a thug once upon a time. They are not discriminating either.

Thugs are like cockroaches. You can never really get rid of all the roaches in your house, all you can do is wage a continual low-level war against them. Cleaning, sweeping, exterminating.

Black lives might matter, but last year all we heard about regarding that movement were riots, violence and looting. I suspect that the level of media coverage on those incidents pushed a number of people over to the Law & Order camp, which is how Trump got elected.

The problem with thugs is that they, like Islamic Jihadists, mix with the general population, so unless you have specific information, they can be difficult to root out. I think this may be why church used to be such big part of life. Everybody went to church, everybody recited the hymns, everybody prayed to god. If anything bad ever happened in the community, the community first looked at those people (if there were any) who hadn't been going to church. It was sort of a vetting process. It didn't always work, there is always going to be the odd psychopath who can put on a civilized face but is secretly committing the most heinous crimes. But for the most part it worked.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


iPhone 7 — The Rock x Siri - Reminder — Apple

Just caught this ad on TV. I think it covers The Rock's public persona perfectly, which somehow made it very funny,

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Wrong Question

Indianapolis 500
Just because I needed a picture, I like pictures of cars, and Google served up this one in response to my inquiry about 500 digital TV channels.
At all times, at least one of the five zillion digital channels on my TV has a race going on,
or more likely someone talking about racing. Man, do those people talk.
Roberta X has some good things to say today, which prompted me to write down a couple of ideas that I've been kicking around.

Scrolling through the list of channels available on my TV, I realized that they are roughly divided into three groups: Sports, News and Drama. Drama basically covers everything that isn't sports or news. Soap operas, movies, serials, reality shows, etc, are all dramatic. Sports I understand. We live in the physical world and one's ability to cope with that world along with our natural competitive instinct can make sports compelling. I think professional sports have taken this activity to ridiculous extremes, but if that's what people want to do then so be it.

Drama, near as I can make out,  is dealing with more subtle actions, expressions, tone of voice and deceptions. I spend a fair amount of time here, but I am at least somewhat particular about what I watch. Lately it's been crime serials, but I like a good thriller as well. Shoot, I like anything with a good story. Of course whether a story is 'good' or not is entirely subjective.

News is about current events, but lately it seems to be more about what somebody said about something that someone else said, not so much about what happened or what someone did. Oh, there are the horrific crime stories, but generally they don't signify much of anything.

So if these three topics are all there is to our civilization, it would collapse. There is a whole lot of mundane work that goes on every day to enable these 500 channels of digital entertainment to flow into our homes.

But none of this is looking at the big picture, which is what do we want? And how do we propose to get there? Oh, I know that some people are floating ideas, but it seems like that stuff that comes down the wire is mostly nit-picky criticisms, very little of substance gets through. Of course there is the problem what you consider substance. People have very different ideas of what is important.

Everything we do contributes to our civilization. Sometimes in a positive manner, sometimes in a negative one (depending on your point of view). I kind of get the feeling that all we do is kind of like we are all working on a monumental sculpture. We are busy knocking off the rough edges, smoothing out the curves, polishing the surface, making our little corner beautiful (or smashing somebody else's unguarded work), but we don't really have any idea what we have built or what the entire thing looks like now, or what it should look like when we are done.