Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Remote Controls

Home Theater Controls

We got four new pieces of home entertainment electronics and they all came with their own remote controls. Along with all the old ones, not to mention cordless phones, we have a veritable pile of similar shaped things with buttons.

On a good day, I can get by with one remote and one cordless phone. The cordless phones are easy, even though we have three different ones. We got them all at different times, so I was able to adjust to them slowly. I didn't have to figure them all out at once. Also, I try to avoid all the fancy features, mostly on principle.

Basement Controls

The remote controls are another story. There has got to be a better way of dealing with this stuff. I am pretty sure I only use half a dozen buttons on any control. Some remotes can be programmed to operate other devices, but I tried that a few times and it hasn't paid off. Several years ago I bought a Universal remote and dutifully programmed. Then the batteries died and it forgot all I taught it. Wonderful. When we got the DVR from Verizon I thought I might try again. So I dutifully tried all of the codes they listed in their book for Panasonic. None of them worked. What a crock. I supposed I will have to call Verizon, or go visit their web site or something to get this straightened out, but you know, I really don't want to have to mess around with this.

Here's an idea: contact programming. You hold the remote up to a spot on the device and press the program button, the remote sends a request to the device for instructions, and the device beams them back to the control. You require contact to eliminate confusion. You are also going to need to label some of the buttons dynamically, which will mean some kind of screen. And for Pete's sake, put some lights in these things. I want a light button that causes all the buttons to be illuminated so I figure out which button I need to push.

Are any of these remotes any better than any other? I like the one's that use AA batteries instead of AAA, but only because I expect the AA's to last like forever. Triple A's are constantly dying and they are expensive for the amount of power they hold and they save you, what, half an ounce of weight? Big whoop. Other than that, they are all about the same. Someday someone is going to come up with a remote control that is run with the fingers, rather than the thumb. I mean you have four fingers and only one thumb. Fingers are longer and can cover more area, why would you want to use your thumb for all this button pushing? Because your fingers are holding the device. There has to be a better way.

My wife's car has radio controls on the back side of the steering wheel. You cannot see them, but they are easy enough to operate. Of course, there are only a few buttons, not the sixteen zillion there are on these remotes. There has got to be a better way. Maybe somebody will come up with one. Maybe I will. Someday.

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Walking the Cat

Originally posted January 16, now with pictures!

Iggy
Took the cat for a walk, or should I say, the cat took me. During the summer I will open a window for them. They like nothing better than sitting on the window sill and watching the birds. During the winter it is too cold to leave a window open, and no one has offered to build my "cat window box", so they are denied this privilege. The little female, Iggy, does not complain, but the big male, Gus, squawks continuously, which leads to him getting booted out to the garage.

Gus
Why aren't they outside cats, you might ask? Well, our previous cat met an untimely death at the paws of a raccoon. My daughter, fearful of the new cats' safety, has prohibited their going out of doors, and me, the big softy, has acceded to her demands.

Still, the outdoors is their native habitat. Being cooped up in a house, especially a house without any mice, is as unnatural an environment as you could ask for. To alleviate this situation I have taken to letting Gus outside for a few minutes during the day, supervised, of course. The only door he is happy going out is the front door. I suspect this is because, unlike the side and back doors, there is cover in the form of shrubbery within a couple of feet of this door. So far he has just been content to crouch in the shadows and observe. I spend the time walking back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the house. I suppose I make an odd sight, if there were anyone around to see me, but being as this is suburbia, there isn't. Everyone is at work.

I am supposed to be getting some exercise, walking a mile each day is my goal. It is the easiest thing to do. I do not have to drive anywhere or change clothes or talk another shower. Walk out the door and once around the neighborhood and back inside. Twenty five minutes and I am good.

So today I tried just walking back and forth in front of the house for 25 minutes while Gus crouched in the bushes. You might think it was a little tedious, but so is walking around the neighborhood. It does give the old gray matter time to percolate. I may have to start carrying a tape recorder to make notes about all the great ideas I come up with while I am walking. I sure don't remember them all.

Occasionally I remember to try and work on my posture, but I quickly revert to form and walk with my head down, watching the ground where I am walking. Now walking around the neighborhood, this posture occasionally results in finding a stray airsoft pellet or a loose nut or screw. Walking back and forth in front of my house is going to reduce my findings considerably. Perhaps if I exhaust the ground quickly, I will work a little more on my posture.

Update March 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Dress Her In Indigo"

Mystery by John D. McDonald. Famous favorite of mine. Just for grins I tried plotting all the locations mentioned in the book on a Google Map. Educational to say the least.

I found most of the places mentioned in the book, though not individual residences. And for some reason the names of the traffic circles in Mexico City did not jibe. What was interesting is how difficult it was to find Yagul. It is a fairly extensive site, but it is off in the middle of nowhere. You have to get really close to be able to even detect any difference from the surrounding terrain.

One thing I noticed about Google Maps is that the power of magnification available is really quite extraordinary: two to the 20th power. As near as I can tell each step in the zoom scale is a power of two, and there are twenty steps. Okay, 20 marks with 19 steps between them. Two to the tenth is 1024, or roughly one thousand, so two to the 20th is roughly a million. Half of that (two to the 19th power) is half a million, or 500,000. A good optical telescope or microscope can magnify something a thousand times. But a power of 500,000 is something only an electron microscope can do, and here we have something just as powerful right on our desktop.

More Oil

Der Spiegel reports on a new oil field discovered in the Gulf of Mexico called "Jack 2".

The drilling rig was built in Singapore at a cost of half a billion dollars. They claim this field contains reserves of 15 billion barrels, which at today's price of $90 a barrel amounts to $1.3 trillion. Sounds like big money, eh?

15 billion barrels amounts to about one half of one cubic mile of oil, which is enough to fuel the United States for about six months.

Here are some photos of the rig. Most of them are very small. Typical new reports, the bigger the project, the smaller the photo.

The oil is five miles below the surface of the Gulf. The water is more than a mile deep. I think they may be reaching the limits of drilling technology. If they are using five inch pipe (which is just a wild guess on my part), the drill string is going to weigh on the order of 300 tons. The tensile strength of the pipe is going to be about 500 tons. God forbid anything should break. Is five inch diameter pipe even big enough to transmit the torque six miles down? How strong would the steel have to be to be able to withstand the pressure of the drilling fluid being pumped down the hole? People like to talk about rocket science like it's something special. These guys are doing things that are really difficult. Of course, there is lot more money in it, and not that much to see. It's all underground, out of sight and out of mind.

Update 1 - Welding Drill Pipe

I remember a guy telling me about working at Hughes Oil Tool in Houston a long time ago. They used to weld the couplings onto the drill pipe using friction. Here's a video of friction welding. I imagine this is similar to the way they were welding the drill pipe. While I was looking for this I also came across something called "Friction Stir Welding" which has only been around for 15 years or so. It is very weird.

Update 2 - More about the "Cajun Express"

Another slide show from onboard (dead link)
Industry newsletter article
National Geographic article

Update December 2016 replaced broken links.

A Cluttered Mind

I signed up with a weight loss program not quite a year ago. They gave us a bunch of ideas and a bunch of information, but I a year later I weigh as much as I did when I started. I suspect that it is all in my mind. Not that I am imagining I am heavy, rather it is my lack of focus: there is nothing I do because I want to, except perhaps this blog. It is all because of obligations and commitments. There are so many things I should do I am often in a quandary about just what I should do now. Well, while we are thinking about it, let's have something to eat. How about a nice donut? Hmm, yes, and a cup of coffee to go with it. Yes, that's very good. And it does not have to be a donut. If you are conflicted and confused as I am, you will spend a good deal of time in a state of quandary, eating because, well, you need to eat, you're hungry. And who wouldn't be hungry in a situation like this?

So my latest theory is people who are thin have somehow restricted their lives to only those things they want, and they have somehow managed to make their obligations align with their desires.

I spent 25 years working with computer software, not because I was particularly infatuated with it, but because I could do it and there seemed to be some demand for it, which meant I could make a living at it. I did enjoy some of it: writing code to make things "work", either a program or a piece of hardware. But I was never motivated enough to go create something on my own. There are other things in life besides computer programs. The other part is that I poured a great deal of effort into my job and after eight hours I was beat. Perhaps I do not have the endurance of some people. Or maybe I am just not as obsessive/compulsive as some people. When I am traveling by car, I find I can drive about 500 miles per day. I can spend six hours driving 85 MPH, or I can spend 12 hours driving 50 and noodling about, but at the end of 500 miles, in either case, I am beat.

Yesterday my college son was complaining about how the houses in our development are all so ugly. It is, in fact, a very "nice" development. There is a home owners association the ensures that everyone mows and waters their lawn, paints their house, and basically keeps up appearances. I can see his point though, it is a boring neighborhood, there is nothing spectacular, and if anyone tried to build something spectacular, I am sure the homeowners association would squash it.

This is because these houses are essentially tools: a place to sleep, to keep your stuff, to shelter your family, to eat. In short, they are tools to enable you to recover every night so you are ready to go to work in the next morning.

Mowing the lawn is a way to bring order into your life. It does so on a couple of levels. For one, it causes you to focus on what you are doing, which kind of like praying, banishes stray thoughts from your mind. On the other hand, you are bringing order from chaos. You are eliminating clutter. Once the lawn has been brought to order, you do not need to worry about it for another week. I must confess: I do not mow my lawn. I do not even own a lawn mower. Mowing the lawn was always one chore that my wife would have to harass me about. I have a lawn man take care of it. Hiring him counts as one of better decisions I have made. I do not like weekly chores. If I have mowed the lawn once, that should be enough for eternity. I should never have to do it again.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yea, clutter. My wife and went shopping at Freddies a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed they had a bunch of plastic storage containers for sale. I mean a real bunch, aisles and rows of the things. I commented on this and she said it is an annual phenomena. I had never noticed. Possibly something to do with New Years' resolutions: "I am going to get organized", or in the parlance of the old hippies: "man, when I get my sh*t together ... yada, yada, yada".

And then there is the correlation between a cluttered house/office and a cluttered mind. No wonder it is so difficult to make any decisions, there is just too much stuff to consider. I am going to have to streamline my life! But what am I going to cut out? How will I ever decide? How about this? Oh, that, oh no, we can't throw that out, it's valuable/ I am going to do something with it/it's a family heirloom/et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hot Glass

Some criminal put a rock through the drivers window of our van Wednesday evening between about 8 and 11pm. I imagine it was some neighborhood kid. Must have a had a pretty good arm, the rock wasn't that big, and automobile window glass is pretty tough stuff. I was surprised at what a mess it made. Big pile of broken glass on the ground outside, big pile on the drivers seat. Glass all over the front insides of the van. Glass in the pocket in the arm rest on the passenger's side. Even some glass on the floor behind the front seats. Most of the glass was in little crumbles, roughly cube shaped, maybe an eighth of inch across. But there were also tiny little flakes and crystals I could barely see. I imagine there are probably even some microscopic flakes that I cannot see. There were also some small pieces that had cracked but had not come apart (see photo). I wonder what is holding them together? Van der Waals force maybe?

Scuff marks on the dash from the rock, which ended up on the top of the dash all the way to the right. Rock has many little whitish scuff marks from where it impacted the glass (you can sort of see them in the picture). It took me an hour to clean up the mess, and I still have to sweep up what was left under the van. $180 to replace the window at the local glass shop.

Spent some time on the internet looking for information on tempered glass. Found a bunch of videos of guys breaking car windows by supposedly throwing bits of spark plug ceramic at them. Unfortunately, they all follow the same pattern. They show the bit of spark plug, which is generally not very big, maybe as big as your thumbnail. Then they show the window shattering, but they never show anyone actually throwing the bit of ceramic, so you have no idea of how hard they are throwing it. I did see a TV news clip a while back when carjackers in Miami first developed this technique. A reporter was attempting to duplicate this feat and he was having trouble with it. He had to really wing it to get the glass to break. I think they must have filmed this from inside the car. I suspect that one of the edges of the ceramic has to impact the glass in order to cause it to shatter. If the rounded side hit it, I suspect it would just bounce off.

I also found a video of a guy breaking a piece of auto glass with one of those emergency escape tools. He did not have to hit it very hard, he just tapped it and it shattered. The tip on this tool might be spring mounted. I do not know why that is. Vibrates against the glass maybe, so you get a thousand tiny taps?

Tempered glass is made by cooling the outside surfaces quickly while the inside is still hot. The outside contracts more quickly than the inside. Then the outside is under tension. When the inside cools, it contracts. This allows the outside to contract as well. The outside was previously longer when it first cooled. Then as the inside cools, the whole mass contracts. The outside surface was longer when it first solidified, so it can be stretched again without breaking. Glass breaks under more easily under tension than under compression. When something impacts the glass, it will first bend. When the glass bends, the surface on the outside of the bend gets stretched. As long as it is not stretched farther than it was when it was first cooled, it should not break. Should you go beyond that, then it will shatter.

Why should a bit of ceramic be able to break tempered glass so easily? I think it must be because the surface of the glass is under tension, and the bit of ceramic is hard enough and sharp enough that it can cut the surface of the glass, which will cause a break in the tension in this one spot. This unbalances the tension in the surface of the glass, and these unbalanced tensions will just pull the glass apart.

And then we have Prince Rupert's Drops. Discovered around 1650, still quite amazing. Sorry about the lame soundtrack. I found several videos showing a Drop exploding, but this is the only one I found with a Drop being hammered.



Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"They" have a file on you.

But just who are "they"? The government has strict rules and regulations about what kind of information they can keep about people, but those rules do not apply to individuals and perhaps not even to private companies. On an episode of "Law & Order", they made reference to obtaining information about someone from a private database company. Seems like such a thing could be a very good business. Credit reporting agencies already have databases that contain almost everyone in the country, at least everyone who has every bought anything on credit. Companies all over are trying to build customer databases to support their marketing efforts. I would not be surprised if law enforcement agencies tapped into this vast storehouse of information to obtain leads on cases they were pursuing.

I would not be surprised if criminal organizations had their own databases, but wait, they do things the old fashioned way, in person and based on trust. Oh, and fear of death.

From http://www.bignjuicy.co.uk/2004_04_01_pip.html:


I don't want to have to carry an identity card.
I don't want to be compelled to have my fingerprints, my iris print, my DNA, pictures of my arse or whatever other intrusive personal information stored on some sinister government database that in years to come will be used to control me and my descendants in ways as yet undreamt of.
I don't want to live in a police state cowed by the unrelenting drip drip of fear peddled by old men about the 'threat' from 'Them'.
I'm bored with the notion that there is always a 'Them' and that huge amounts of money and human effort have to be spent to neutralise 'Them'. I want to spend that money on preventing the 'Us's' from becoming 'Them's'.
I don't want your little card in my pocket - an oppressive and constant reminder that my life is not my own - that I have to belong to a scared little tribe sneaking around in fear, 'free' under the illusion that if you're "not doing anything wrong you've got nothing to be afraid of". Sorry chaps I aint buying that.

Please take your card and shove it.
I definitely, 100% don't want it and what it represents.

Amen, brother.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Violent Crime

I suspect that most of the gun violence in the United States is tied up with the trade in illegal drugs. I have never seen any statistics that support this view, it is more like a deduction from what is NOT being said.

Supposedly there was a big drop in violent crime from the 1970's to the 1990's. A number of reasons have been put forth to explain this. One of my favorites is from the book "Freakonomics". To put it in a nutshell, the author tied this drop in crime to the Row-versus-Wade decision regarding abortion back in 1973. Women were no longer forced to deliver children they did not want, so there were fewer unwanted children growing up to become violent criminals.

Another explanation I heard recently attribute the drop in crime to the Clean Air Act, passed about the same time. This act banned the use of lead in gasoline, so people were not as exposed to as much lead, and did not suffer as much brain damage, so they grew up to become proper citizens instead of muggers. I find this explanation a bit thin, but there might be some truth to it.

Then there is the official party line and that is that Rudy Giuliani and New York City Police Department arrested all the criminals and locked them up. This obviously only applies to New York City, but you can substitute your local law and order spokesman and your local police for any other place in the country. (I only pick on Rudy because people I know tell me that he deserves it.) This explanation rates as a fairy tale.

Now I have my explanation. I am sure other people have said it before, but up till now it has not been able to penetrate my brain. Crime has gotten organized. Back in the 60's there was a big expansion in the use of illegal drugs for recreational (or perhaps self-medicating) purposes. Marijuana become prevalent. Cocaine followed on and became a new import industry. All this new business upset the old established order in the existing crime syndicates, and it took 20 years for it to all to shake out and for new leaders in crime to bring organization to these illegal enterprises. With organization comes rules and enforcment. With rules and enforcement you get stability.

I have no evidence, all I have is the scuttlebutt I pick up from watching too many episodes of "Law & Order", and my own intuition.

What's in a name?

I am attempting to learn something about physics. To this end, I just read "Six Easy Pieces" by Richard Feynman. The biggest thing I got out this book is that all sub-atomic particles, and not just photons as I had previously believed, suffer from particle-wave duality. Sometimes they act like particles, and sometimes they behave like waves. So I feel it is a misnomer to call them particles at all. When I think of a particle, I think of a grain of sand, or a grain of salt, and if we are talking about sub-atomic particles, well, they are just the same, but ever so much smaller. But that is wrong. Sub-atomic particles do not behave anything at all like particles of your everyday experience, and it was a colossal error of judgement to ever append such an appellation to them in the first place. Of course, at the time, who knew?

We should have a better name for them. My first thought was that we should call them "things", after all, "Wheel of Fortune" uses "Things" as a category that includes not just physical objects, but also ideas. Or perhaps sub-atomic objects would be better, but maybe using objects in the abstract sense is assuming too much familiarity with programming, which most people do not have.





So how about "whosits", in honor of Dr. Seuss's "Horton Hears A Who!", wherein there is a civilization of very tiny creatures that dear Horton cannot see, but only infer the existence of. Perhaps that is projecting too much personality onto such simple items. Maybe "whatsits" would be a better term, since they are certainly "whats" and not "whos". Or if we really wanted to show our confusion we could call them "whoser-what-sits". I do not know, that name may be just too long, "whatsits" is my choice, my final choice, "sub-atomic whatsits".

Update October 2016 replace missing pictures.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Books & Bookcases

Anne went with me to Cornelius yesterday evening to look for a bookcase for my paperback books. We have some built in bookshelves in the basement, but they were starting to get full and books were piling up in little stacks here and there. Shelving paperbacks on a regular bookcase is a waste of space. Regular bookcase shelves are twice as deep and twice as tall as a paperback book. What I needed is something like a media storage rack that is made for CD's, DVD's and the like. Many of these racks are very rack-like, spindly legs and brackets, not very much like a bookshelf at all. Others are very much like a bookshelf, but just on a smaller scale, and that is what I was looking for.

We stopped at Murphy's Furniture. They did not much in the way of what I was looking for, though they did have a bunch of slim end tables that we could use in the TV room. Expensive, though.

On to Freddie's (hypermarket). DVD storage racks were on display right inside the front door. They could work, but one is black, and one has flanges partially obscuring the front of the shelves, and they only have one of each. Black might be alright for media storage, all high-tech and all, but bookcases really need to be brown like wood and old libraries and such.

We wander back to the furniture section and I eventually pick out a couple of folding DVD racks, made out of wood, in Thailand. They also had a big storage cabinet with fold out doors, but it was also black, and it was $200. The racks I picked out were on sale: two for $75.

When I start putting the racks together (some assembly required), I find that one is missing the hardware package. I will have to call and see if the distributor can mail me one. Not surprisingly the construction is a little iffy. The wood work is good, but the hardware is a little sloppy, bent, wrong screws, etc. But it is close enough. I only have to make one adjustment to get it put together. Kathryn helps.

There are a couple of design issues I don't like, but for $75, what can you expect. When I start loading books onto the shelves I notice that the open sides do not hold the outer edge of the book. They hold the inner edge fine, but the outer edge falls right in the hole. Then there are the hinges at the back of the sides. Trying to slide a book in at the end of the shelf causes the the edge of the book to run into these surface mounted hinges. If you are not careful, the book can easily be damaged. A spacer at the back of the shelf might correct both of these problems. The last problem is the foot long feet attached to the bottom, necessary to keep such a shallow cabinet from tipping forward, or back, but they also cause a space to be left between adjacent cabinets and between the cabinets and the wall, not to mention giving you something to trip over out in front. I could leave the feet off if I was willing to put a screw in the wall, and if I ever settle on a location, I may do that.

The shelves are not quite a foot wide, but there are six of them, and they can hold as many books as two of the shelves in the big built-in bookcase. Moving just my science Fiction paperbacks from the big bookcase to the small one freed up two whole shelves. As there are only 16 shelves in the big bookcase, this is a big improvement.

But why hang onto the paperbacks at all? I've read them once, I probably won't read them again. And they are paperbacks after all, which means they are printed on cheap paper and they will deteriorate and crumble into dust in a relatively short time span. They are not designed to be kept forever. Not only that, but the bindings are often so creased it can make it very difficult to even read the title off the spine. Well, let me just say this about that.

I used to take all the books I had read down to Powell's and sell them, which brought me a little money and a little shelf space. After a while I discovered that most of the books that I did have, I did not want. They were books that I was planning on reading, or had started reading, but never finished. I decided this was dumb, so I changed my policy. Now, if I start reading a book, and find I do not enjoy it, I put it in the reject pile. When the pile gets big enough, the reject pile goes to the bookstore. Books I read and enjoy go on my bookshelf. Now I can look at my bookshelf and say "I enjoyed those books", which brings me some measure of happiness.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Home Theater, Part 3

So (three weeks ago) the DVR blew up Friday night, I called Verizon Saturday and they sent someone out Sunday afternoon. He brought a new DVR with him, plugged it in and it has been working ever since. I was impressed.

The console had a small hole about an inch in diameter for threading cables through. It worked, but it was a real pain. When I finally pulled the cabinet away from the wall I found that the back panel was cracked in two. I pulled it off, and cut out the section that was behind the shelves with the glass door, which happened to be where the crack was. From the weight of this cabinet, I suspected that it was all made out of particle board, but apparently not. The back panel, which is usually cardboard was 1/8" plywood. Some of the cabinet was particle board, like the interior partitions, but other parts like the shelves and drawers were solid wood. The drawers were even constructed using dovetails. On the other hand, the back panel was put on using a power screwdriver without bothering to drill any pilot holes. A real mish-mash of craftsmanship and shoddy production. But it is a good looking piece of furniture. Made in China, in case I haven't already mentioned it.

Now it is much easier to string the cables. We could get by with three foot long cables except for the fact that the console and the equipment and the TV combine to weigh about 300 pounds, and I do not want to have to move it anymore. I set the DVD player and the DVR on an ottoman in front of the console, plug in the cables into the TV, drop them in back of the console, and then pull them out the front and plug them into the back panels of the electronics. Now I just slide the electronics back onto the shelves, the cables fall out the back, the shelf slides off its' support brackets. Oh fudge. Start over. I may have to screw the shelves to the support brackets. Good, everything is in place.

The home theater amplifier/DVD player has a built-in five disk changer, which means it is really deep. It was a squeeze to get in the cabinet with the back panel in place. Only problem here now is that you can see the wall and all the ugly cables hanging down in the back, no panel in back of the equipment shelves to hide this stuff anymore. I take the piece I cut out and drop it down in back and it does a fair job of camouflaging the mess. Someday I may fix this, but everything is working now, so I will probably just leave it.

I finally got around to ordering the HDMI cables from Newegg.com. Not quite $20 for two, including shipping. Also ordered an S-video cable, but for some reason they couldn't fill the order. Not only that they wanted to ship it separately which basically means I have to pay the $8 shipping charge twice. And just to rag on Philips a little more, the $60 cable at Freddies was made by Philips, and the S-video cable that got canceled was also a Philips item.

So I replaced the component and composite video cables with the HDMI cables and now we can get by with one remote control instead of having to juggle them. Oh, wait, I haven't tried a DVD yet, or have I? But the power button on the Verizon remote turns on all three devices. I think the Verizon remote sends a signal to the DVR, and then one to the TV. The TV in turn sends a message over the HDMI cable to the DVD player to turn on. So it all takes a couple of seconds before the amp says "HELLO".

Only problem now is that my feet are in the way. In the basement, the player and the STB (Set Top Box) are above the TV. With this new system, the electronic boxes are below the TV, about the same level as the seat of the couch. When I put my feet up on the ottoman, they are almost exactly between the remote and the electronics. You might think that that should not be a problem, but I wonder if the glass might be attenuating the signal a bit. Oh, the price we pay for fashion.

We moved the old wardrobe upstairs by my bed. I run into it nightly. We still need one more little piece to go at the other end of the couch to support the speaker. We could just set it on the floor, but when the room gets vacuumed, it is liable to get clobbered. I would rather have it up off the floor than have to worry about it. I could just get a cardboard box or a concrete block, but that would be a little tacky for such a fancy room. Never mind that we are talking about a corner that no one except the housekeeper ever sees. On the other hand, it would be nice to have somewhere to set your drink, so we went looking at end tables today. We found several pieces that would work, from $15 to $250. I am hoping we can get by with the $15 solution. I do not need to keep spending large sums of money. Of course if it was up to me, we would probably be sitting on folding aluminum lounges from K-mart and using a Coleman cooler for a table, and the TV would be hanging from a lag screw in the wall. Okay, maybe two lag screws.

Oh yes, more on the DVR. It can handle two channels simultaneously. This means you can record two channels, or you can watch one and record another, or you can record two and watch one of the ones you are recording. It also supports HD recording. But wait, there's more! You can watch shows that have been recorded on the DVR on the TV in the basement, even though the there is no DVR in the basement. Of course this extra STB costs an extra $10 a month. This was the deciding factor in our neighbors NOT signing for Verizon FiOs TV. They have four TV's, so they would have been paying $50 a month for the DVR and the STB's, and that was just too much. This, of course, is on top of the all the shows that you are paying $45 a month for.

I still don't know how much this is going to cost me. There is the land line, the television service, internet access, long distance, the DVR & the STB, and HBO. And taxes. And fees. And other stuff. I expect the whole bill to be in the neighborhood of $100 a month, maybe $150. We shall see.

Coffee & Coffeemakers

I am finally getting my taste for coffee back. I had a nasty sinus infection two or three years ago about the time my Dad died. Terrible, I can't remember whether it was two or three years ago? Let's see. He was 87 when he died, he was born in 1918, so his last birthday must have been in 2005 (7 plus 8 equals 15, and 2005 is the most recent year that ends in 5). He died in January, so that must have been 2006, so it was only two years ago, not three. Thank you, memory.

Anyway, back in August we took a trip to Chicago and spent a few days at the Chicago Hilton where they had these little two cup Cuisinart coffee makers that made pretty good coffee using these little prepacked bags of coffee. There was a coffee man who came around every day, dropping off your allotment of these coffee packs.


So I am getting my taste for coffee back and I would like to have a cup of coffee without having to put my shoes on and drive the two miles to McDonald's. (I think their coffee is fine, and it is about as cheap as you can get, and they even put the creamer in for you, which may be to your liking or not). A while back we bought a Senseo one cup coffee maker at Costco. It looked like it was everything we wanted. Put the packet of coffee in, pour in a cup of water, put the cup under the spout and press the go button. Wrong. Looks good, but sounds terrible. Noisy like a freight train. Coffee was okay, but the noise was unacceptable. I think it was made by Philips. Another reason for me to hate Philips. Took it back.

This Christmas I took another swing at coffee. My wife got me a Cuisinart two cup coffee maker. This one is much bigger, it is about twice as tall as the one at the Hilton. It is designed to use travel cups (supplied) and has a small filter basket. Well, we have a regular coffee maker with a filter basket, and we use it sometimes, but you never know how much coffee you are going to need. On weekends it will usually all get consumed, but weekdays, that does not happen. And besides, it uses a filter, which means you have to get the filter out, futz with it to get to stay open so you can pour the coffee in, and then hope that one side does not fall over and let grounds into your drink. That is a real bummer. And then you have to figure out how much coffee to put in. I do not want to have to figure this out. The directions are conflicting and vague. For instance: How much coffee does a 10 cup coffee maker hold? About five. They use four ounce cups! Nobody drinks four ounce cups of coffee. Who do they think they are kidding? And then the instructions on the coffee want you to measure one and a half tbsps for each cup of coffee. What the heck is a tbsp? More importantly, where is my one and half tbsp measuring cup? And then when you measure it out it you get coffee that is strong enough to peel paint.

The last place I worked had a Bunn coffee maker. We had a green measuring cup of some arbitrary size we used to scoop coffee into the filter. Some people used one and one half of these scoops. Some people used two. So you never knew what kind of coffee you were going to get. Good, weak, or wacko strong.

I am not interested in measuring coffee. I do not want to make several pots and see which one is best. What I would really like is a coffee vending machine. Fill it with 50 pounds of coffee beans and hook up the water supply. Press the button and it grinds the beans and brews one cup of coffee. No waste, no measuring, no fooling around. But vending machines are very expensive. So I am trying to make do with my two cup Cuisinart.

I bought some Senseo pods at the local grocery store and have been trying them out. It takes two to make one decent cup of coffee, four for a travel mug. I think this may be because the Senseo machine brews coffee under pressure. So more experimentation is in order. I think my next attempt will be with Folger coffee bags, which are similar to tea bags. Since they are made to work without pressure, they may work out all right.

Okay. I finished writing this entry and then I went and looked for pictures, because pictures are worth a thousand words, and that's when I found the picture of Hilton coffee maker. So now I am going to see if I can find one. Cheers.

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Talking Heads

I do not watch the news, and I definitely do not listen to speeches on TV. I cannot stand it. They go so slow, and say so little. Business meetings are tedious and are to be avoided if at all possible. Actually any kind of group meeting is usually very tedious. I have attended classes with a dynamic speaker that I enjoyed, but the speaker has to be really good. Most such events border on torture for me.

I mute the TV during ads, and the DVR is my best friend. It allows me to fast forward over the ads. I often will put my car in park when sitting at a long traffic light. I will even turn off the engine when sitting in the local fast food drive thru queue.

Some people leave their TV on all the time, they will even leave it on when they sleep. What I notice at traffic lights is that many people will continue to creep up even though nothing has changed between them and the light except perhaps some creeping forward by other cars. I have not noticed anyone else putting their car in park (you would notice the back up lights flash momentarily when they shift through park, and the brake lights would go out).

I do not quite understand this. I enjoy meeting with small groups of people where there is some give and take, and I like to think I am a good listener. Perhaps I am just not that interested in what everyone has to say. My interests are limited (though I am sometimes overwhelmed) and if the topic under discussion does not fall within an area of interest, I will be bored.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Chinese Float

I remember hearing speculation some time ago that the Chinese were going to adjust the value of their currency as they were holding it to an artificially low level. Some people thought it would be a good idea if the Chinese let their currency float, like all other major currencies in the world. In any case, it seems like I heard this only a few months ago, and I never heard that anything had changed. Now from Robot Wisdom Auxiliary I find this graph which shows that the Chinese currency has been floating for the last two years, and the dollar has been steadily decreasing in value ever since.

I guess I can't stay on top of everything, but I think someone should have told me. Note that graph has been clipped. The scale on the left hand edge of the graph indicates that the dollar has only dropped about 12% of it's value, not 90% that you might surmise from just looking at the shape of the graph. Stupid publicists, always trying to get the most out of a story, even if it means misrepresenting the facts.

Update December 2016 replaced missing graph.

Why do planes fly?

Are you sure?

(removed hacked link to jef reskin center)
I remember Marc telling me about airplanes wings (back in his airplane phase). From a pilots point of view they are just like big sheets of plywood. The Bernoulli effect just makes wings more efficient.

I saw a picture of a big old flying boat once (not the Spruce Goose, but one that was actually in service) and noticing how blinking thick the wings were at the root (where they attached to the fuselage). They must have been six or eight feet thick! Here is a small flying boat, only two engines:


Notice how thick the wings are here. Spruce Goose wings were 11.5 feet thick. I didn't find this dimension for any other flying boats.

All this got me thinking about just how wings work, which led me to the conclusion that they don't. Start with the leading edge. It is generally rounded. Part of the airstream is going to be directed up and compressed, and a smaller part will be forced down. The part being forced down will give you some lift, but the part being forced up is much larger and is going to try to force you down. After the air reaches the thickest part of the wing, the compressed air, if it is still compressed, will start to expand, and if not, will create a low pressure area, which may provide some lift, but more likely will just create more drag. So the only reason wings work is that they look enough like bird wings to fool the air GOD and so he lets them fly.

Never heard of the Coanda effect before. Tried reading the Raskin Center web page, but the guy is just too argumentative/evasive/something I didn't like. So I went to Wikipedia and tried to read their article about it, but I have spent too many years believing in Bernoulli to be able to accommodate their heretical logic all at once.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture, removed hacked links. Jef Reskin, RIP, used to have a website, but it's been hacked by some kind slime.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wittles is up!

For Patrick O'Brian fans, this is Killick's familiar call that dinner is served. Nowadays one might say "vittles are up", but if you want to be correct, you would spell it "victuals are up". I have used the term "vittles" forever, but seldom saw it in print. I often came across "victuals" when I was reading, but always mentally pronounced it "vik-chew-els", never realizing in my fifty-odd years that they were one and the same.

The Curse of Stuff

From "The Lonely Silver Rain" by John D. McDonald:

Memory of the rumbling voice of the grandpa long ago: "Anything you can't take care of, kid, you don't deserve to own. A dog, a gun, a reel, a bike, or a woman. You learn how to do it and you do it, because if you don't you hate yourself."

What language do you speak?

Sometimes it's good to take a look at some basic facts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language

Handy New Appliance

In every line of work there are people who are scumbags and they give everybody else in the profession a bad name. Likewise, most of the people in any line of work are honest and will give you fair value for your money. Unfortunately, on first meeting it often can be very difficult to tell them apart. The scumbags succeed by successully imitating the behavior of the honest. This is where bullshit meters come in handy. We have several models available. Here is the economy version. It has a sensitivity of 10%, a yellow high impact plastic case and a warranty, all for only $19.95. Then we have our sub-standard model with slightly higher sensitivity, high-luster chromium trim and a blue case for $29.95....

Cars & Trucks

I take my cars in to get the oil changed. I used to go to Jiffy Lube, but I got tired of the upselling. Found a little independent shop downtown. Let them do my repairs now. All four cars are due for an oil change. I will need to start shuffling them down there. Van is for sale again. Listing only on Craig's list. Starting at $2500. Dropping the price $100 a week until it sells. I like it a lot, easier to drive and more comfortable than my truck. Turning circle is slightly larger. It has several minor problems and I am afraid things may start getting ugly. Who knows when, better to sell it now and stop worrying about it. Front seat cup holders are broken. New replacements from Ford cost $80, if you can get the local dealer to order them for you. One-touch-down on drivers window does not work. I think replacing the body-control-module (computer #2) would fix it. Occasionally, a power window will quit working. I suspect corrosion on the contacts of the wiring harness plugs. So far they have all started working again spontaneously. Check engine light is on, and has been for the last few years. Taking off from a stop and making a left hand turn causes the transmission to make funny noises/vibrations. Anti-lock brakes misbehaved and were turned off many years ago.

Truck does have more carrying capacity, and with Kathryn going to college next year, I am probably going to need it twice as much. I actually used it haul stuff at least three times last year.

Capital Gains & Taxes

Don't whine about taxes, it's pointless. If you have a capital gain pay the taxes and be happy you have money to pay them with. Worrying about taxes led to some of my biggest mistakes in investing.

One thing mutual funds, and even some stocks do, is to encourage you to sign up for automatic reinvestment. You get a dividend, or a capital gain, and instead of sending you the actual money, they reinvest it for you. How wonderful. Not.

There are two problems here:
1) You have to pay taxes on the gain, without having the money to pay it with. This is usually more of an annoyance than a real problem, depending on how big the tax bill is.
2) The really stinky problem is that when you eventually sell the security, you have to figure out when each piece was purchased, how much you paid and how much you made/lost. Your original investment is not too difficult, but if you have held this thing for years, you have to track down every stinking reinvestment and compute the basis, the length of time held, and the gain/loss. A real pain in the neck. Of course, you could have someone else do your taxes, but they are still going to have to go through this business and it will take them time, time you are paying for at some astronomical rate.

More advice: don't go to the economy tax people. I made that mistake once in Phoenix and found out a few years later that I should have gone to their "executive" service. The corner store was not equipped to deal with me and my money. Now I pay a real accounting firm real money to do my taxes. The pain I suffer when I write them a check is minuscule compared to the pain I used to suffer trying to do my own taxes.

Some people enjoy this kind of work. I cannot stand it. I have even hired a bookkeeper to deal with my monthly household bills.

I came across this story about buying a house:



Sub-Prime Mortgage "Crisis"

Some time ago, a couple of years I think, someone changed the rules on who could qualify for a mortgage. That's where sub-prime mortgages got their start. One rumor I heard blamed Bear-Stearns. I can understand if one company wants to change the rules for who they lend money to, but what I cannot understand is how these sub-prime loans got resold without anybody apparently being aware that they were not prime loans. It sounds just like Andrew "Fraud" Wiederhorn of "Fog Cutter" who was "repackaging bad loans into securities". How in heavens name can you do something like that? He did a bunch of it and eventually got sent to jail. His board of directors voted him a multi-million dollar bonus shortly after he was convicted. The judge quashed it.

Anyway, back to the housing problem. Okay, so now you have a number of previously unqualified buyers now wanting to buy houses. Not too bright these folks, signing up to buy houses they really can't afford. But they want them, and someone is willing to lend them the money to buy them, which pushes the demand up, which pushes up prices, and builders start building more houses. And then a couple of years later reality hits and all these people who really couldn't afford to buy a house find out that they really can't afford to buy a house and this house of cards collapses.

Meanwhile a bunch of people have pocketed a bunch of money and slipped off to the Riviera to spend their ill gotten gains.

So my question is: who was supposed to be watching the store?

Value vs Price

My kids, when they were little, had a real hard time with the concept that something is only worth what someone will pay for it. The looked at the advertised price, and that was it's value, new, used, or slightly damaged. Anybody who tried to buy it for less was ripping them off.

I think Siddhartha may have been my first step away from this. If you don't want it, you don't need it, you don't have to buy it, so you don't need the money to buy it. Makes things much simpler. The corollary is don't buy anything that is going to cause you any financial stress.
Also, once you have decided to buy something, don't quibble about five or ten percent for slight variations in the item. Get what you want. You want a DVD player in your coffee maker and it bumps the price form $400 to $500, don't worry, go ahead and get it.

I am trying to figure out what to do with our old Toshiba CRT 27 inch television, complete with wood cabinet TV stand, VCR, DVD Player and TiVo. Do I bother trying to sell it? Or do I give it to Goodwill? VCR & DVD player only cost about $50 each, new. TV was several hundred dollars, but that was years ago. You can't even hardly find a CRT that big anymore. The cabinet is nice enough, but it probably was only about one hundred, maybe two hundred dollars. And what is a TiVo unit worth? A Windows media system that does the same job would probably set you back about $500, but unless you are a talented computer hacker and are willing to spend the necessary time, the TiVo unit is worthless without a subscription. So adding it all up I figure the whole stack of equipment is worth about $100. That is hardly worth the hassle of trying to sell it. Goodwill could sell it all easily, so I should probably just give it all to them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Secretarial Services

How about a voice mail transcription service? You need something written down, but you don't want to write it yourself, so you call a transcription service and leave a voice mail. They listen to your recording, type up the message, optionally edit it, address it, and send it on its' way. The could send it via fax, email, or even print it and send it via regular mail. Of course they would need your credit card number, and it would not be cheap, but I think there could be a demand for a service like this. I have been kicking this idea around for a while and I think it has merit. Almost no one has a secretary anymore, and more and more people are becoming comfortable with leaving voice mail, and sometimes you need to have something in writing. Lawyers could use it instead of having their own dedicated typists. Shoot, you could even use it for blogging, if you wanted to spend the money. There may be such services available, but I have never come across one.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Brainiac

A few months ago I heard a story about how the human brain works. There are two parts to the brain. Of course there are more than two parts, but for our purposes we can divide the brain into just two parts. One is the cortex, which is the intelligent part, which forms a shell over the rest of the brain. The inner portion, which comprise most of the volume of the brain could be called the animal brain. One thing scientists noticed when studying the brain is that oftentimes when a person does something, it was the animal brain that makes the decision, and the intelligent part only provides a rationalization for the action after the fact. For instance, you are filling a glass with water and the intelligent part of the brain realizes you are thirsty and you should drink this glass of water that you are already filling.

Sometime later I was watching a show on PBS about the human brain and the guy described the cortex (the outer layer of the brain). He said if you spread it out and stretched out the wrinkles, it would be about the size of a neckerchief, that is about 30 inches square and only two or three millimeters thick. So this is the thinking part of the brain, and it is really just like icing on the cake.

So all this got me to thinking about emotional reactions and logical reasoning. And then I happened to look at the verbal war over gun control. What I see is that the people who are in favor of gun control are reacting emotionally to every tragedy they see. Someone was killed with a gun, guns are bad, we must do away with guns. Pro-gun people counter with logical arguments about the 2nd amendment and freedom and fascists. There is no compromise here, there is not even going to be any rational discussion. People are espousing their views from two completely different bases, and their opponents are basically incapable of understanding their argument. It just does not compute. I expect this argument will go on forever, and I certainly hope it does. If either side ever wins, things will definitely have taken a turn for the worse.

Then I got to thinking about the Global Warming argument. I kind of believe Global Warming is going on, mostly because the Republicans are opposed to the idea (more about that eventually). The data looks a little suspect to me. Is the temperature data collected 100 years ago as correct as today's data? And even if it is, the change is minuscule. Is one or two degrees really significant? On the other hand, the arctic ice seems to be melting, so maybe something is going on. On the other hand, we had an ice age here, what, 10,000 years ago? Or was it 50,000 years? In any case there is some room to doubt that man can have any impact on the global temperature. On the third hand, we are pouring a lot of various stuff into the air, and maybe we should think about that.

But! Then I had an idea. What if the global warming thing is just a ploy to get the US to reduce our oil consumption? Just asking people to reduce their oil consumption is not working. Taxing oil seems to be politically unmentionable. But if we go on the way we are, things are liable to get a little nasty. India and China are stepping up their oil consumption. With more demand, oil prices are bound to go up, which means more money is going to be going into these anti-American dictatorships, which is not good. Of course, we have been shipping money to these dedicated followers of Islam/Fascism for a while now. I don't know if shipping more money faster is really going to change anything, except the Saudis may make Farsi the official language in the US. I will not be surprised if there are big wars this century over oil. India invading the Middle East? China going up against Russia? And the US, as usual, against everybody.

So instead of attacking oil consumption directly, we/they are attacking the by-products of oil consumption, i.e. CO2. I really do not understand what they hope to achieve with these tactics. The only thing I can think of that would produce a real reduction in CO2 production would be a whole bunch of nuclear power plants and several tens of millions electric cars. That is, totally electric cars, not hybrids. And given the parlyzed state of the nuclear power industry in the US, I don't see anything happening in this line.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Home Made Vacuum Tubes

Cool video of a guy making his own vacuum tubes for a radio. It's on some video service I don't recognize, so I am having to give you the link to the web pages that have the video. I haven't figured out how to post it directly.

You can find it at the bottom of this page:

http://paillard.claude.free.fr/

Update December 2016 removed dead link.

New Format

Time for a new layout. "Scribe" was okay, but it had a few quirks I did not like:
  1. You cannot tell a lower case 'o' from a zero (0), and
  2. The numbered bullets did not work. They just showed up as ordinary bullets, and
  3. Ordinary bullets were spaced too far apart and showed as little flower patterns.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Giant Mechanical Man


Giant mechanical men have been staples of science fiction movies for a long time. I almost said "stories" instead of "movies", but then I realized that I cannot remember a single story that ever featured a giant mechanical man, and I have read a large quantity of science fiction.

Contrary to their roles in movies, where the giant mechanical man is often involved in heroic or villainous activities, I see a more prosaic use in things like construction and perhaps search and rescue. Instead of using a crane to lift supplies to the top of a building, you could just bend down, pick things up and set them on top of the building. Imagine being able to step over small hills, or scale mountains with ease. A mechanical man capable of performing such tasks would necessarily be very sophisticated.

Constructing such a mechanical man would be a big engineering task, but I see no insurmountable barriers. I envision a mechanical man that would be controlled by an human operator, not an autonomous machine controlled by a computer. This mechanical man would be roughly sixty feet tall, ten times the height of a human. The operator would be strapped into an exoskeleton mounted in the head. The exoskeleton would follow the movements of the operator's arms and legs, and hydraulic control circuits would cause the mechanical man to mimic his movements.

The operator would be strapped to a seat back leaving his arms, legs and head free to move about. An exoskeleton would follow the motions of his limbs and provide force-feedback, essential if we are going to have any precise control. Alternatively, we could use a three axis device to simply track the motions of the operators hands and feet, and then use a computer to translate the motions of the operators hands and feet into motions of the mechanical man's arms and legs. A three dimensional tracking device would be much simpler to construct than an force feedback exoskeleton, but the developing the computer software to perform the command translation (and force feed back) for the three dimensional tracker could be a difficult.

In any case the operator is going to need a fairly large space to accommodate the unrestricted motions of his arms and legs. A spherical space perhaps eight to ten feet in diameter would do, i.e. the head of our mechanical man. Ideally the head would be able to move as a person's head can. This is going to take a little finesse. Take for example tilting your head forward to look at your feet. It is not enough to just look down, the head must move forward to look over the chest. If the "chair" the operator is strapped to is mounted to the mechanical head, and the head tilts forward when the operator tilts his head, the effect is going to be that the operators head will tilt twice as far as he wants. So the operators chair is going to need to be fixed in orientation relative to the mechanical man's torso, and free to move in the head. Whereas the operator's head is going to be relatively motionless relative to the mechanical man's head.

It would be a great deal of work to design and construct such an apparatus, but I think it could be very worthwhile. I do not think anyone has really considered what such a machine could do for us. Once people see one in action I am confident all sorts of applications will appear.

Of course there is one application that has already captured people's imagination and that is war. Unfortunately, that seems to be where we are willing to spend the most money. I would not be surprised to see the Department of Defense provide the initial funding for a project like this. Disappointed perhaps, but not surprised.

Movie: "Shoot 'Em Up"

Recently released DVD. Looks like a thriller starring Clive Owen, the tall grim faced Brit of numerous other action/thrillers. I enjoy his films. This was not your typical thriller, and if I had read the blurbs on the cover I would have realized it was a comedy. It was hilarious. It is nominally a thriller, but it is just so over-the-top that it is funny. Clive, a.k.a. "Mr. Smith" shoots at least a hundred bad guys without ever getting shot himself. There is a very evil plot afoot, but towards the end of the movie, it is supplanted with an even more devious plot, so devious in fact that I have no idea what it was, but that does not keep them from killing a couple dozen more bad guys. It is like every thriller I have ever seen, but every plot device is carried beyond extreme into the ridiculous. It was great!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Eugene


Freeman Writing Desk
Took Ross back to Eugene today. Total expedition time was ten hours. Pleasant weather on the way down, torrential rains on the way back. Put together a small desk that was purchased at Target. Just fits in the space next to his full-size bed in his pint size room, which is just right. Some of the pegs and pins needed a little convincing to go all the way in. A couple of whacks with a hammer on a block of wood would have been just the ticket. A hammer we have, but a block of wood? None to be found anywhere on the inside. There might be one lying around outside, but it is really wet outside and no one is particular keen on venturing forth. We use a pad of paper instead and it works well enough.

Went to lunch at Charo's (or Charro's, though the one place I found on the web bears no resemblence except its' location, and it's closed to boot) in downtown Eugene about four in the afternoon. Strange place, totally empty. Full bar, front and center. Tables were made of some sort of solid plastic inlaid with abstract designs. Don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it. The booth seats were some kind of pink. The place was pretty bright by today's standards. Waitress was cheerful but she had this very loud annoying laugh, which she demonstrated several times. Made me realize how annoying I can be when I am being loud, or so my family tells me. My friends don't mention it, but then, they wouldn't. Anyway, she brewed us a fresh pot of coffee. There were about six TV's playing, tuned to three different channels. The cook screwed up our order. I ordered a cheeseburger and that came out correct. Ross ordered shrimp and got popcorn shrimp. Anne ordered a patty melt and got some sort of Philly cheese steak thing, which she was not happy about. The waitress tells us the cook is new, and awful. I swap my sandwich for Anne's. It's there, I'm hungry and it has got a couple of good size slabs of beef on it. Looks good to me. Nobody can finish their food, it is way too massive. $40 out the door.

Went to Safeway to lay in some supplies for Ross since he does not have a car. Normally he ferries all his groceries home in a bicycle messenger bag. While they are shopping, I wander around looking for something to amuse myself. In the flower corner I notice a sign that says a dozen roses are fourteen, or is it fourteen roses are a dozen? Obviously a commie plot. Notice one tall bearded dude reading a magazine by the magazine rack. He's there when we come in. He is still there, in the same posture when we leave. It does not look like he has moved a muscle.

1993 Pierce 105' Tiller with rare Twin Screw Tractor (L0549)
When we try to leave there is hook and ladder truck blocking our way. This is one of those fire trucks that have a trailer with a cab on top for the guy who steers the trailer. This is a one way street with three lanes. The right hand lane is for right hand turns. The fire truck wants to turn right, but he is sitting in the middle lane. Even with the guy steering the trailer, they cannot make the right hand turn from the right hand lane. The tractor has two rear axles. I spent quite a while looking for a picture of just such a fire engine. Most hook and ladder trucks like this only have a single rear axle. Hardly any have two. I found a picture on the Niles, Illinois website (gone now) where I also found this statement: "Truck 2 is a 1993 Pierce Lance 105 ft. tractor-trailer tiller with a dual drive axle tractor (one of only two in the country)." Could this one in Eugene be the other one?

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures with new ones.