Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Friday, February 23, 2007

Visual Tricks

John and his friends took their project to the science fair Wednesday. It was originally going to be held in the Liberty High School gymnasium, but there was some conflict so it was held at the Intel Jones Farm Conference Center. After the public viewing sessions (45 minutes, long enough to see maybe five percent of what was there) they break down their display and take it out to the car. We are walking out in the parking lot towards the new car we just bought on Monday. I know exactly where it is parked, but I cannot see it. I do not recognize it until we are 20 feet from it. It is in plain view. My brain has not yet been programmed to recognize this car.

Last night we watched CSI and Shark, one after the other, on TV. In the early part of Shark they find a black girl dead in a hotel room. A little while later they find a white girl dead in a field. "Somebody moved the body" they say. What!?!?! What are they talking about? Two different bodies, two different murders. I make a fuss, my wife tells me to hush. Come commercial time she straightens me out. The dead girl in the hotel was the same one, a white one, not black. The only thing I can figure is: There was a dead black girl in the CSI episode we watched just before this Shark show, and I got the images cross filed in my brain.

Modern Life

Yesterday I suffered from more than my share of business technology foul ups.

Car Dealer - Premier Auto Group

I bought a new car for my wife Monday. There were a couple of bits of paperwork that needed to be taken care of, and they faxed them to me at work. Bud's name is on the cover sheet along with the message "call if you have any questions" and a phone number. We had a couple of questions, so I called, or tried to call. I called the number. A fax machine answered. I called the fax number, thinking maybe he got them switched. A realtor answers. I look through the papers and find that "Bud" writes his nines like fours. Thanks, "Bud". Call the number. Rings and rings and rings. No answer. Try again. Same result. Wait a bit. Call again. One of those annoying push-a-number recordings comes on. At least it is the correct business. Push one for sales. Rings six or seven times and stops. Stops. Nothing else. Try again. Same result. Wait a bit. Call again. Live operator answers. Ask for "Bud". Connects me to sales. Bud? Yeah, let me see if I can find him. On hold, in limbo, for some indeterminate time. Give up. Wait a bit. Call again. Same sequence, different person at the end. Put me through to Voice Mail? Yes, please, more ringing, same person again. Let me try Voice Mail again. No! Wait! Too late, more ringing, same person again. He takes a message, finally. "Bud" never calls back. Praise the lord! What the blankety blank blank kind of outfit is this?

Car Wash - Chevron, 217 & Canyon

After lunch I stop to fill my gas guzzling pickup truck with fuel. It needs a car wash, so I buy one. I get a number printed on the bottom on my receipt that I dutifully punch into the keypad by the entrance to the car wash. I have been here many times before, and this machine has always done it's job. The illuminated sign at the far end says drive forward, and I do. Getting close to car washing position now, sign flashes STOP!, then immediately changes to BACKUP and starts blaring its' horn at me. Have to back all the way out of the car wash before it stops honking and changes to FORWARD again. So I try again, slower this time. Same result. Try again. I am really creeping now. Same result. Screw this. Take the receipt back to the store. I tell them their car wash is on the fritz. Lady at the counter tells me you have to go really slow. I tell her I did, the machine is on the fritz. She gives me another number, good for a week, and tells one of her minions to check it out. Bah! Call the car wash guys, get them out there and get it fixed. Such BS.

Computer - HP Design Jet Plotter

We have a very nice, large plotter at work. We use it to print schematics and the occasional mechanical drawing. Most of the people I work with use A size (8.5" by 11") schematics, mostly, I suspect, because they can print them on the office laser printer. Most of our drawing are B or C size. Software allows them to be scaled down to print as A size, and the printer is accurate enough to print all the detail, or most of it, but I hate that kind of stuff. Print it large enough that I read it, and make no mistake about it. I do not want to have guess whether it is an 8 or a B, a 0 or an O. So I liked this plotter. Never mind that it has gotten to be a real pain to use. None of the software I have wants to cooperate. I cannot print directly from my old DOS based Orcad, I cannot convert the old Orcad format files to the new without buying something, for which we have no money, etc., etc. But I need to print some schematics yesterday, so I go through the machinations to send them to the plotter. Walk over to check, and the plotter is turned off, and not just turned off, disconnected. What the? So I wheel it over to my desk, plug it in, turn it on, install the drivers and try and print the files. Nada. No errors, no complaints, no printing. Guess I won't be printing those schematics after all.


One of the enduring themes of Science Fiction, one of my favorite genres of entertainment, is alien beings from another world. They are often very like us, humanoid in shape, breathe similar atmosphere, evolved under similar gravity. They may have feathers or fur or scales, they may speak using clicks or snarls, but they are more similar to us than not. Occasionally you run across a story that contains very alien life forms, but whatever their form, communication is often the biggest challenge to overcome.

I have the same problem with the owner of my company. We both are native English speakers, so we can understand the words the other one speaks, but that is the end of it. I do not speak with him anymore because it is a waste of my time. Much of what he says seems to make sense, but after being there for so long, I have realized that that as far as I am concerned, it does not. Likewise, nothing I say seems to have any impact on him. We cannot communicate. It is like we are from different planets. Whoa! Could it be he is an alien?

Actually, no. From my experience, from what others tell me, from the success of the Dilbert comic strip, this is a common situation. I suspect that some companies are successful because they somehow manage to communicate across this gap. Companies that do not find a way to do this are doomed, if not to failure, to muddle along forever.

I have heard a number of theories about how to communicate across the gap, but all of them depend on some understanding of what the other side needs and/or wants. So far I have failed in this regard. I do not understand the owner, and what I do know has not given me any ideas of how to communicate with him that are not anathema to my way of conducting myself.

I was talking to one of my brothers this morning. He has just left his job for this reason. He has been in similar straights before. You have a company that starts out with one or two bright guys who develop some software that enables the company to run. The guys in charge see how they can make money with this and start asking for more. The software guys, say yeah, okay, we can do that, but we need some things, and the principal bone of contention is money. The guys who are running the show, say screw you, we are the ones running the show, we are the ones who are going to make the money, you guys just work here. So the software guys leave. The company hires some other grunts to work on the project, but they are trying to pick up the pieces and they cannot do it. The project is too large and too complex and the documentation is wholly inadequate. And the company sinks slowly grinds into the ground and ultimately fails.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Science Fair

The Hillsboro-Beaverton High School Science Fair was today. John came up with the idea of building an alcohol cooler for a CPU, basically a heat pipe. You put some liquid in a metal tube and seal it. You heat the lower end of the tube, the liquid evaporates, rises to the upper and cooler end of the tube, condenses back to liquid and runs back down to the bottom. The evaporation and condensation transfer a relatively large amount of heat energy. He got a couple of his friends to go in on this project with him. He got the idea from reading on some forums on the Internet about overclocking CPU's. He had a rough idea on what he wanted to do. I did some calculations and realized we were going to need a much bigger tube than we originally planned. We made a couple of trips to Home Depot for some copper pipe and fittings and started putting this thing together. I tried to stay out of the actual construction. I made some suggestions, but John and his friends did all the measuring, marking, cutting, drilling and assembly. Soldering was a joint effort. John ran the torch, one of his friends would hold the pipe using a pair channel-locks, and I applied the flux and solder. Eventually we got the whole thing put together. It stands about four feet tall, but it does not work. We used the BIOS to monitor the temperature and the CPU gets to 60 degrees Celsius in something less than 10 minutes, whereupon we shut it down. The problem is that the boiling point of alcohol is too high. There are a couple of things we could try to make it work, and maybe we will one of these days.

Today was the Science Fair. We had a very short time to view the projects, less than an hour. I only got to look at a handful. Then we had the awards ceremony. It went on for an hour. They must have given out a hundred awards. They had awards for everything under the sun.

They opened the awards ceremony with awards from the Military. I was a little taken aback that the military was there, but as the Navy man said, many of the inventions we now take for granted came from military research. Nothing like a good fight to stir people's creativity. Each branch of the service has their own research department, and they all gave out awards.

John and his friends got the people's choice award. All the other participants voted for their favorite project, and John and his friends won, even though their contraption did not work.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Burned my hand today. Not seriously, mild first degree burn, one large, superficial blister that popped almost immediately. Went to New Seasons on Cedar Hills Boulevard to join my friends for our regular Thursday lunch. Went to the coffee bar for a cup of tea. Asked the young woman working there for a large cup for tea. She fills a cup with hot water and double cups it because it is really hot. When she hands it to me it sloshes over the edge and splashes the back of my hand. Yowzer! Set it down. Did not yell. My hand cools down almost immediately. Get a tea bag, put it in the cup, put a lid on, take my sandwich and tea to the check stand, set them down and ask for the restroom. Go soak my hand in cold water. Hard to get enough water in the sink to cover my hand. Water is really cold though which is good. Spend a couple of minutes doing this, then join my friends at their table.

At this point I do not know what to do. Should I go to the emergency room? Go back to work? Call my doctor and see if he can see me this afternoon? I knew enough to put cold water on it, but after that I am not really sure what to do.

Don runs off and buys a bottle of Aloe Vera concentrate and brings it back. I decide I better talk to a manager, maybe they have some first aid stuff. I go look for a manager. Can't find one so I stop at a different (coffee?) bar at the front of the store and ask for one. Nice lady there makes a call, and gets me some ice in a zip lock bag and a towel. A couple of managers show up, one takes my name and number, the other gets some gel and bandages. We sit down at a table and the woman manager applies the gel and bandages my hand. Tells me about the time she burned her foot with oil while wearing nylons. Gives me confidence that she knows what she is doing. The gel contains lanocaine, so it offers some relief. Ask the other manager type to check on their tea procedure. I spend the rest of the lunch hour listening to my friends and alternately applying the bag of ice to the back of my hand and the underside of my wrist. When I leave I notice people drinking tea out of large glass mugs with handles. Go home, call into work, take some Tylenol, eat lunch and take a short nap.

I take my truck to pick up my

Friday, eight days later.

I don't what I was picking up, looks like Google lost some of my original posting. Oh well.

I had a hard time going back to the coffee bar today where I burned my hand last week.

Turns out it is not a first degree burn, it is a second degree burn and it is really ugly. It does not really hurt, and it has not impeded my ability to do anything. For instance I can still type, well, as well as I ever could. It is a nuisance. I have to be careful not to bang it into anything, and I have to bandage it every day. I left it open one day to air out and it dried out so much it started to hurt. So now I take the bandage off after I shower (it really does not like hot water), let it air out for half an hour or so, and then bandage it again. The bandage stays on for the whole day until I take it off again the next morning. So the bandage serves three purposes: it keeps the wound from drying out too much, it protects it from incidental contact, and it conceals it from view. It is really ugly. The blister turned into dead skin and sloughed off the day after the it happened, which left a raw spot about the size of a quarter. The whole back of my hand, an area about three inches in diameter has turned dark red and is now starting to peel, like a sunburn.

I tried using the Aloe Vera that Don bought for me, but you cannot use it on an open wound, and I have not been worried about the rest of it. And it is a thin liquid. I kind of doubt swabbing the injured area once a day will have much effect. But I may start using it this weekend. Turns out you can drink the stuff. I tried a shot last Sunday and it gave me indigestion. Maybe if I started with a sip and worked up I would tolerate it better. Lot of hassle, and it does not taste like chocolate cake.

Last weekend I was pretty wiped out. I think the burn kind of knocked me down for a couple of days. I have been thinking about compensation, but I am not sure how much to ask for, it any. I do not want to go to a lawyer, or even an arbitration hearing. I would like to think that if I asked for a reasonable amount, New Seasons would gladly pay up. But just what would be a reasonable amount?

On the other hand, I have been getting a lot of mileage out of this. Everyone I talk to wants to know what happened, and about half the time I am repaid with a story about how they were burned once upon a time. So far it has been mostly legs and feet. Some very unpleasant to hear about, but totally invisible. No indication in their appearance or manner that they suffered from such an accident. Other than the ones who are crazy of course, and that may not have anything to do with the burn.

Most mornings I leave the house with my hand unbandaged, letting it air out. When I get wherever I am going, I ask whoever is there to give me a hand wrapping the tape around it. Everyone I have asked has helped, some slightly reluctantly, others without any qualms.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Mike B. parachutes

Mike B. just retired from the Air Force. In his younger days he used to jump out of airplanes. When you are jumping from a military plane, there is a jump platform just outside the door. On a C-47 it is about two feet square. On a C-17, it is about 5 feet square. The plane slows down to about 150 mph, just 10 mph above stall for the C-17, and the jump master steps out onto the jump platform (while hanging on of course) to look for the drop zone on the ground and to see that there are no aircraft following them that might collide with the jumpers. On a C-47, you are subject to the full 150 mph slipstream. On the C-17, there is some kind aerodynamic effect that drops the effective wind speed to more like 70 or 80 mph. Very pleasant, relatively speaking. When you are standing on the jump platform of the C-17, there are huge gray walls up, down, right and left of you. The wing is about 20 feet up. It is like stepping out of a warehouse.