Intel's Ronler Acres Plant


Silicon Forest

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pic of the Day

Hostile Takeover by OmeN2501

Count Zero

Count Zero by William Gibson
Part 2 of the Sprawl Trilogy, set between Neuromancer and Mona Lisa Overdrive. We've got three main characters, Turner a ruthless 'operator', Bobby, a wannabe hacker, and Marly, some kind of art dealer. Turner is very unpleasant, but then he lives in a very unpleasant world. Bobby is young and foolish, and perhaps lucky, which might be why he is here. Marly is the only character I had any sympathy for. unbreakable body! has a decent review.

Not the best book in the world, but every now and then you get a bit that makes it all worthwhile, like this one:
"The man's life, from Turner's vantage, seemed marked out by a certain inevitability; he was brilliant, a brilliance that had been detected early on, highly motivated, gifted at the kind of blandly ruthless in-company manipulations required by someone who aspired to become a top research scientist."
I wasn't even aware that "ruthless in-company manipulations" existed, much less were necessary for a top level job. That might help explain my abysmal career trajectory.

The book is from 1986 and it's amazingly prophetic. We still don't have computer-aided memory, or direct neural access to computers, but our interface has improved dramatically, witness the VR goggles that are becoming popular.

Bobby's forays into cyberspace are described in the vaguest of terms. How you would interact with anything is likewise glossed over. Reminds me a bit of the movie Tron.

Gustaaf Adolf Frederik Molengraaff

Gustaaf Adolf Frederik Molengraaff 1860-1942
Gustaaf was a Dutch geologist. He discovered the Bushveld Igneous Complex. He also invented the dog tag:
Meanwhile the Boer War still had his attention. One of his ideas was to give each soldier a small tin identity card, which later became practice in armies around the world. - Wikipedia
Just in case you ever wondered where the idea came from.


Biggest company I never heard of: London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company Limited. Amongst other things, they operate mines in the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa where they extract things like gold, silver and platinum. The Bushveld Igneous Complex, or BIC as he's known to his friends, "contains the world's largest reserves of platinum-group metals". Cool. Something that big and rich ought to have lots of great pictures. Except I couldn't find much of anything, except a bunch of micrographs of mineral deposits which didn't really hit me as as interesting. Probably because I don't know that much about mineral deposits, and what would it gain me if I did? There are already plenty of people with gold fever running around loose in the world. I don't think I need to join the party. Here's what I did find:

Bushveld Igneous Complex, South Africa
Satellite image from ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer). Mines, tailings piles, and leach ponds are shown in blue. Deep water is black. Area is 24 by 32 miles centered on 25.6° South, 27.4° East. October 24, 2006.

Same area using Google Maps

South African Gold Mine
I don't think this is one of Lonrho's establishments.
Inspired by a comment on one of Bayou Renaissance Man's posts.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Most Violent Year

Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac)
Abel is successful heating oil dealer in New York City back in 1981. He is feeling his oats and wants to expand, but naturally events conspire against him and so we get a movie.

The thing that got me about this is that he has all the trappings of success, the fancy car, the beautiful wife, the big house, the nice clothes, all things that I was jealous of when I was a kid (a kid being anyone younger than I am). But all he is is a business man. He sells heating oil. I would be bored to tears. Most of American business is like this, simply providing commodities to people who want them. If there is something I am grateful for, it's that so many people are willing to do this ordinary work, the same job every day, day after day. The most interesting part of the job is probably talking to the people you run into. It's a little sad that it has taken me this long to figure that out.


Trey Gowdy on National Security and Refugees

I originally found this on Facebook with the tagline
"What I'm really afraid of is a foreign policy that creates more widows and orphans."
That line struck a chord with me, so I 'shared' the video clip. (The line shows up just after 7:50.)

I just found out that Trey Gowdy was "the chairman of a House Select Committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attack." How did I not know that? Because from the git-go the 'Benghazi investigation' smelled like all politics, all the time, and so I turned my filters up and blocked it out. So Trey is a politician. Big surprise. Doesn't mean he's an idiot, or that he's wrong about everything.

Another line from Trey that resonated with me comes just after the 5:50 mark:
"We have no idea what our foreign policy is in the middle east." 
I have asked that same question myself a couple of times, but I have never gotten a satisfactory answer. The State Department had a statement, but I found it vague to the point of useless. I just looked for it and couldn't find it. Crawled off into some deep dark hole. Afraid of the light, no doubt.

Last weekend I came across an essay by Robert Kagan in The Wall Street Journal. I found it impenetrable. Bayou Renaissance Man put up a post about it. He seems to think he understands it.

These two items (the State Dept. Foreign Policy and Kagan's essay) appear to be useless, much like the pages of text (that no one reads) found in legal documents, i.e. boilerplate, which got me wondering how that term came into existence. Could it be because documents made using boilerplate are impenetrable? Not quite.
"Boiler plate" originally referred to the sheet steel used to make boilers.
The analogy between the curved steel used to make water boilers and curved metal used to print prepared text was based both on the curved shape of the plate and to the fact that it had been prepared elsewhere before being incorporated into a downstream producer’s finished product. . . .
In the field of printing, the term dates back to the early 1900s. From the 1890s onwards, printing plates of text for widespread reproduction such as advertisements or syndicated columns were cast or stamped in steel (instead of the much softer and less durable lead alloys used otherwise) ready for the printing press and distributed to newspapers around the United States. By analogy, they came to be known as 'boilerplates'. Until the 1950s, thousands of newspapers received and used this kind of boilerplate from the nation's largest supplier, the Western Newspaper Union.  - Wikipedia
Cast in steel! Good grief, that's pretty serious. Takes a lot more heat to melt steel (1400°F) than it does lead (650°F).


FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya)
in a tunnel under the US-Mexico border.
Slightly different perspective on the War On Drugs. Not a lot of legalese, more tactics and action. This is what's going on down in the trenches, and it ain't pretty no matter how you slice it. Or shoot it. There is a good scene where there is gunfight in the line of cars waiting to cross the border. Wasn't much of a fight actually. All the bad guys die, none of the good guys got hit.
    There was also some cool night vision shots during an operation infiltrating a drug smuggling tunnel. We've got a mix of night vision (starlight scopes) and infrared. Hollywood Reporter claims the infrared (thermal) viewers are used for research. Some of them might be, but the big users are the police and military. They use them to track down and kill people. Don't give me that hogwash about 'research'.

    If this is really how we are fighting this war, then we are in even bigger trouble than I thought. You think the War On Drugs is supposed to halt the illegal drug trade? You're a fool. The whole point of the war is to keep the flow of cash going to the CEO's of the American drug distribution cartels, and if several thousand people are tortured and murdered every year, well, it's no skin off their nose.
    The War On Drugs is just one more example of the corruption that is running rampant all around the world. Until we clean our house, we shouldn't really be asking anyone else to clean theirs.