Intel's Ronler Acres Plant


Silicon Forest

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Undisclosed Recipients

reading hanan abdul

This is a nothing video, just good ol' s.g. reading a bit of spam. I don't know why, but it's just the funniest thing I've seen today. Okay, it's been pretty quiet here, so anything out of the ordinary is like a little ray of sunshine.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

War On Drugs

Delflazacort Molecular Structure
Marcel posts a link to a story about the big price increase for deflazacort , which is some kind of drug for a semi-rare disease, which means that I don't know if anyone I know actually has it.

Anyway, these issues irritate me because, 1) the big drug companies are obviously evil, impoverishing zillions of honest people simply because they want to live a little longer, 2) these stories are designed to inflame people's passions, which we all know are best way to make a rational decision, and 3) what can I do about it? And aren't there people who are supposed to be watching out for this shit?

Anyway, it all got me stirred up enough to comment, and since it was such a great comment, I thought I would share:
There are three separate issues here. One is whether people who would benefit from this drug can get it. Two is whether the drug company is making so much money from the sale of this drug that they should be publicly flogged. And three is whether people taking this drug are getting any benefit from it. While we might like to think that these issues are all tied together, they are not. They are in fact completely independent. I suspect Marathon, like most everyone in the health care industry, is gaming the system in order to maximize their profits. All this fuss about the price of this drug is entirely a political tempest designed to stir up more s**t so nobody notices that what is actually happening, which is that the big monkeys are stealing all the monkey biscuits.
And yes, I'm on a three-points-make-an-argument kick this morning.

Wikipedia has an article about Deflazacort. You can follow the link, but be warned, this rabbit hole is deep.

The drawing of the molecular structure of delflazacort (top) includes some marks that I just came across this week while assisting my daughter with her chemistry class. First, let's cover the basics. The capital letters indicate atoms of Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen. The single lines indicate single covalent bonds and the double lines indicate double bonds (imagine that!). The vertices where there are no letters are Carbon. The pointy arrow marks are bonds to atoms that are above the page, and the dash marks indicate a pointy arrow that goes to an atom below the page. All the other atoms must therefor lie in a plane. Molecular shape has a great deal to do with how a molecule works in the body.

While looking for a picture to accompany this post (drugs are always tough), I found a bunch of 3D renderings, but they were all water-marked which kind of detracts from their appearance. In diabolical daughter's chemistry class, there are plenty of 3D models to mess with (meaning you can twist and turn them on the screen so you can get a real 'feel' for their shape, but they are all simple, molecules with fewer than a dozen atoms, so no deflazacort.

The 3D feature on Google Earth can do the same with land forms. Pick an area with some hills, click on the 3D button, press the Control key, and now you can use the mouse to pan (turn) and tilt your view. It can really make the hills come alive. You do need a relatively current processor (something from the last five or ten years), plenty of memory and a high speed internet connection, but it's really quite spectacular.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Hay Wain

The Hay Wain, John Constable, 1821
The Top Gear clowns are thrashing some old hatchbacks, and Richard Hammond puts his in the ditch. This prompts James May to comment (11-12 minute marks) that if John Constable had lived today, he would have painted that scene and called it "Hey! Wayne!", so naturally I have to go find out who John Constable is, and why "Hey! Wayne!" is funny.


The Bees That Give You Almonds

Via Benjamin & Shelby - LA Times Newsletter.

Computer Systems

Cardstacking a 6.1m (20 ft) Card Tower

A 'house of cards' used to be my favorite analogy for computer systems. You start with theoretical physics on the ground and then you put down a layer of transistors and the technology needed to print zillions of them on chips. Once you have the hardware then you can start layering software on top of it, layer after layer of libraries, functions, procedures, API's (Application Programming Interfaces), and eventually your application program, which does something useful. It's all great as long as everything works the way it is supposed to, but one little bug can send the whole thing crashing to the ground.

About a week ago I decided I needed a user-friendly front-end for my 3D gear drawing program, so I went looking for a sample program I could use as a basis to build my own. One thing led to another and I ended up at QT, which is a package for developing user interface programs for Linux. They have a fancy website, full of instructions, documentation and files to download. Plus it seems to be what was used to build the KDE desktop program that is running on my Linux box. So I download and install it and all goes well until I try to compile one of the sample programs and boom! I get an error: cannot find qmake. Well, fiddle-me-stickers. I go poking around and end up on a couple of forums where I quickly get some free advice. I follow some of the proferred links, one link leads to another, and pretty soon I am back where I started and still no solution. I check back a day or so later and now we have some real information, i.e. information judiciously applied that changes the situation. A couple iterations and presto, we can now compile and run at least one of the sample programs.

Now I have a new analogy to describe computer systems. The house-of-cards analogy was great back in the days of mainframes and mini-computers, and even in the early days of microprocessors. The machines were expensive and so it was worthwhile to enforce a rigorous design structure on the software that ran on them. (Make no mistake, enforcement was an expensive proposition. Remember the story about how managing programmers is akin to herding cats.) But then computer hardware got to be much cheaper, many more people found uses for them, and people started tacking all kinds of programs onto the existing base structure. And what we ended up with is a horribly complicated mess. Well, at least it looks like that if you look under the hood.

Then I got a new idea: Modern computer application programs are a lot like automobile factory assembly lines. They started with a simple assembly line where cars were assembled piece by piece, but as time went on, cars became more successful and the assembly lines got more complicated. It used to be when you needed to hook into the assembly line, you could ask anybody who worked in the factory and they could tell you what you needed. Now, however, there are a zillion people working there and most of them have no idea about what goes on outside their small corner, but being helpful people they are willing to offer all kinds of advice. "Oh, you need a bolt? I think I saw some bolts over in the windshield department. They are over there, on the other side of the campus." So you go to the windshield department and they laugh and send you to the casting department. Today's computer systems are a lot like that. You may only need one small piece of information, but finding someone who can give you that bit might take days, and that's only because we have the internet.

Trip Through The River Rouge Plant (1938)

Best part of this video is part where they show how V-8 engines are cast. I was looking for something like this earlier and couldn't find anything. Another interesting bit was the grinding and polishing of window glass. Nowadays it comes out of the extruder clear and flat, or it is once it cools down.

Watching this video I was most impressed by the number and size of the machinery used in production. There must be an equally huge industry that builds these machines, but the companies involved are scattered around, not concentrated in one place. It's kind of funny. The assembly line jobs are promoted by politicians and community leaders as being 'good jobs', and while they may provide good pay and benefits, they strike me as boring and tedious in the extreme. Building the machines used to build cars, being as those machines are going to unique, that could be an interesting job. Funny how that works. The more we automate things, the fewer rote, assembly-line jobs there are, but without automation, most people would not be able to afford the products being produced.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Missile Away

Trident Missile shortly after launch
It looks like it was launched from San Francisco Bay, but it was actually launched from a spot a few hundred miles down the coast, like near Los Angeles. The Navy launched this test missile from a submarine, and they never tell where their submarines are. However, I think we can safely assume this one was somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.


USA Megaregions
Map divides the USA into regions based on people's commuting patterns. Some of the names of these regions are entertaining, some are enlightening, some are I-have-no-idea. CityLab has the story. Via Detroit Steve.