Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Streets Full of Water

I was just reading a post on Roberta X's blog about the rain storm and the flooded streets they got this weekend and it reminded me of the time I lived in Houston a long time ago. Houston has an elevation of about six inches above sea level, so anytime it rains, the streets flood. It happened at least once a year, maybe more often.

One day I was driving home from work somewhere down near Clear Lake. All the way into Houston it was fine, but once I got off the freeway, traffic was a mess. I kept trying to find a way home, but every road I went down was blocked or a dead end. I went down one street that had about 18 inches of water covering the road. It dead ended, and I ended up backing out to where I had turned off the main road, which was still high and dry. The car I was driving was an old hundred dollar Buick, and driving down this road, the interior of the car had become flooded to a depth of about a foot. I was sitting in my own little pond. When I got back out on the high road, I decided to drain this pond and opened the door to let the water run out. The water poors out in big gush. As it happens I was right in front of an ice house (an open air bar). All those smart people who had decided to wait out the disaster were nice enough to applaud this bit of foolishness.

I don't know how long it took, but I eventually made it to my neighborhood. I think it probably took me a couple of hours. Once again, the main road was high and dry-ish, but the streets through the neighborhood were totally flooded. At this point I figure I can't do any more damage to the car, so I headed on down the street. The water was a little deeper here, more like two or two and a half feet. The motor is still running, so we putt on down the road. The car is setting up a little bow wave as it pushes through the water. The height of this wave is enough that the water is breaking over the hood of the car. You can see the headlights glowing through the water. I am only going about five miles an hour. The water covers people's lawns right up to their houses, and in some cases it has reached the lower levels of the siding. The wake my car is setting up is generating little waves, which are just high enough to lap over the window sills that must only be a foot from the floor of the house. The car makes it all the way to my house, drives up the driveway until it is mostly out of the water.

I don't think I ever did anything about the flood, other than draining the water out of the footwells. It did not faze the car, though it died of a faulty fuel pump not too long after. Okay, the fuel pump could have been fixed, but it was only a hundred dollar car to start with. Do we really want to spend the effort?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Senior Projects

My wife and I went over to the high school this evening to see our senior's project and the senior slide show. Evidently every senior is required to complete a project in order to graduate, and this evening is when they present their work to the public. It's kind of like a science fair. They each get a half of a folding table to put up their display board and whatever else they wanted to show. Some of them were pretty straight forward, some were a little edgy (for me), but most of all, we had a couple of hundred seniors in their graduation gowns standing around being bored waiting for the judges.

I did talk to one young woman about her project which was about personality traits and poverty. She had interviewed a bunch of kids at one of the local elementary schools and the answers she elicited she was able to make some generalizations. She did not have enough information to draw any conclusions about causation. So I'm thinking what we have here is a budding psychologist, but no, she wants to become a flight attendant. She tells me she likes serving other people and likes being told what to do.

This brought to mind my father who didn't really want much and I think even prided himself on being able to get by on very little, but who was happiest when he was able to do something for someone else. It's nice to be needed. I look at myself, and I see some of the same traits. I don't think I would have admitted to anything of the sort when I was younger. Back then it was all about what I wanted, or least I thought it was. Curious business, this.

All these displays filled both gymnasiums and the music room, but unless you knew about the music room, you would be hard pressed to find it. There were some art projects on display down one vacant hall way. I only knew about it because that's where my son's project was two years ago.

Then we had the slide show in the auditorium. Pictures of the seniors when they were babies, little kids, growing up, in high school. For some reason when they started the show, they brought up the lights over the audience, which I found really annoying. I almost shouted "lights", but I would have gotten grief from my wife, and I don't know if it would have done any good. This is a difference I have noticed between my wife and I. When I am watching television, I want the room to be completely dark. It doesn't matter to my wife, she can watch the tube with all the lights in the room turned on and it doesn't bother her. It is something else I do not understand.

Almost all of the pictures were of white kids. The majority of the students are white, but there is a sizeable contingent of Mexicans (Latinos?). There were a few photos of Latino girls, but I did not see a single picture of a Latino boy.

Update November 2015. Replaced missing picture.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I don't like authors who use words I don't know. I especially don't like authors who use words I don't know and are not even in the dictionary.

My daughter is doing some homework and she asks me to read the first paragraph from a book review written by Francine Prose. The next to the last sentence:
One reason "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" remains so affecting and so profoundly threatening is that Huck shows us what it meant to grow up in a slave-holding society and learn to navigate its pathologies.
Okay, affecting I can understand, but profoundly threatening? Where does she get this? What the devil is she talking about? Who is being threatened? By what? I am sorry, I just do not understand.

And the word I didn't know? Well, we find it in the second paragraph, so technically I could have avoided it, but it was a pretty good essay and I was enjoying it. So the word is picaresque, which at first I thought was a misspelling of picturesque, but it's not. It is a word in it's own right and means something like rogue. I've never heard this word before, and I am not sure I approve of it. It is too similar in spelling and pronunciation to picturesque, and too different in meaning.

So there Francine Prose.

I like the Merriam-Webster online dictionary because they give you an audio pronunciation, which really helps with these stupid obscure words that nobody ever uses. Oh, did I say that already?

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Wreck

I took my wife furniture shopping in Beaverton yesterday evening. We got on Highway 26 Eastbound at Jackson School Road. We have gotten about a mile down the road when we spot congestion up ahead. By the time we get there traffic has come to a complete halt. This often happens, but usually not for another five or ten miles. We are going really slow, too, only five or ten miles an hour. Even at it's worst 26 seldom drops below 20 MPH. Must be an accident. Well, there is an exit about a mile up ahead, if the freeway is still jammed up when we get there, we can take the exit and go wander the byways. We are creeping along, but nobody has moved over and started driving on the shoulder yet. Oh wait, I spoke too soon. Here they come. The leader of this pack of renegades gets half a dozen car lengths ahead and comes to a stop. Oh, look, there are police cars. We can see the flashing lights. The wise guys on the shoulder are trying to merge back onto the traffic lanes. The left lane is trying to merge into the right lane. Creep, creep. There are police cars in the left Eastbound lane. There are police cars in the left Westbound lane. There are police standing on the shoulder. There are at least a half a dozen police cars. Oh, look! There's the wreck. It looks like small black VW that has been rolled. Pretty well beat up. One ambulance shows up, but drives on through. It looks like it's all over but the shouting.

I am pretty sure it must be policy for the police to try and hold up traffic as long as possible just to put on a show hoping that it will encourage people to be a little more careful. Or maybe the bureaucrats have added so much paperwork to an accident report that it takes them hours to clear the scene. Whatever, it's really obnoxious, and to my way of thinking, dangerous. Bringing freeway traffic to an unexpected halt increases the risk of someone driving at freeway speeds running into someone who is stopped and causing a REALLY horrendous accident. This happens here occasionally. Or maybe setting up these situations helps keep people aware of the unexpected and helps prevent that kind of thing.

There is a side benefit to these kind of jams and that is that it was clear sailing the rest of the way into town.

Update: Just scrolling through the old stuff and I noticed the picture did not appear, so I checked it out. Picture was still on the net, but this time when I looked at the image, I realized it was for Washington County, Florida. Not the same place at all. So I replaced it with this image, which is from Washington County, Oregon.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.


There was a line in a book (or was it a movie? I forget). The rich 19th century Englishman, says there will always be the poor. You can feel sorry for them, but what else can you do? Or words to that effect.

One thing all young girls dream of (or so the story goes) is going to a fancy dress ball. Another popular story is that all those people who go to those fancy dress balls find them tedious and boring.

One of the big problems in third world countries is that the rich think themselves superior to the peasants. This breeds resentment which can eventually lead to revolution, often with communist affiliation.

I am thinking that the ability to cooperate is what makes civilization work. People by nature are uncooperative. Only through training and conditioning can they be convinced that cooperation with others can benefit themselves. Some people are more easily convinced than others. Some people would rather be independent and do without the benefits than have to "make nice" enough to be considered cooperative.

Leaders are people who can convince, persuade or coerce others into cooperating. The more cooperation you can generate, the more you move toward the center and the more powerful you become. The more independent you are, the farther from the center you move and the less powerful you are.

Update December 2016 replaced  missing picture with something different.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Today's Jumble

Things I learned from Today's Jumble. One of the words could be construed as CYDER, which is the British spelling of CIDER, but this is an American puzzle, so British spellings are not allowed. DECRY was the answer.

ENTRANCE [1] (to enter) has the same spelling as

ENTRANCE [2], which is to charm or captivate. Just different pronunciation. I knew how to spell the two words, it just never occurred to me that they were spelled the same. Or maybe it's just one of those things I used to know but forgot.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Bike to Work?

Shelby Wood (not Green) writes a column (yes Green) for our local paper, the Oregonian. Today's column was about biking to work. She writes:
My Top Three Reasons for Not Riding a Bike to Work:
  1. Fear of being killed or maimed by a car or truck.
  2. Fear of being killed or maimed by something I do that causes me to slam into a car or truck.
  3. Fear of arriving at work, or back home after work, stressed out by spending 30 sweaty minutes trying not to get killed or maimed by a car or truck.
She goes on to discuss her views on the subject.

I used to ride my bike to work a couple of times a week. I did it for at least a year, maybe more. I gave it up for all the reasons she mentions. I don't know whether I was ever afraid, I don't recall anything really scary happening to me, and I wasn't riding downtown. I was riding mostly on side streets or in designated bike lanes.

But I looked at the situation: me, riding a bicycle next to multi-ton blocks of steel traveling at 3 or 4 times my velocity. It just did not seem like a prudent thing to do. It's kind of like guys who stick a gun in the front of their pants. It might be perfectly safe, but geez, if something did go wrong, it would be really bad.

I don't ride my bike hardly at all anymore. I don't think I will be doing any more riding on paved roads. If there is even a chance there is going to be a motor vehicle on the same road, I don't want to be there on a bicycle.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Karl Rove Goes to Washington

Is Karl Rove going to get his comeuppance? I will admit he did his job very well, after all he did get no-brain Bush elected as President, but he is an out and out slimeball in my book. Via Just An Earth-Bound Misfit.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pain In The Neck

My neck has been bothering me for a couple of months and it finally got so bad that I went to the doctor (a naturopath). He worked on me for a bit and it gave me some relief, but it is still really tight. So I am trying to figure out how it got so bad and I all I can come up with is that I have been spending lots of time at my computer. So I pulled my "Executive" chair away from my desk and pushed it in the other room. Right now I am using a folding chair. It might be better for my back/neck, but it feels like it is way too small. I suppose I will have to go to the store and see if I can find something better/bigger/different.

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Clowns, I'm dealing with clowns. I was supposed to have an interview with Leviton tomorrow morning. I get a call from the agency yesterday, they want to know if I can start as a contractor today. Well, sure, I guess so, I don't have anything else pressing going on. Seems the last contractor they had in there had a "family emergency" and had to leave in a hurry. So we go through a bunch of phone tag and I talk to their technical guy for 30 minutes about data structures and syntax and interrupts and message passing and several other arcane embedded programming topics. So now I'm waiting around to find out if I am really supposed to go in today or not. Tech guy goes into a meeting and doesn't come out. Everybody else involved (agent, Leviton HR) go home. Kiss this project goodby.

No call this morning. I finally call the agent to find out what's going on, or rather to complain about being jerked around. While I'm on the phone she get's a call from Ginelle, Leviton HR. Turns out the tech guy that interviewed me is upset that he already interviewed me once before. He didn't realize it until he talked to me, recognized my voice. He had my name, but he didn't recognize that and HR didn't complain.

OK, here's what bugs me. I interviewed once before with this guy FIVE months ago, and he is looking to fill the spot RIGHT NOW and he's irritated that he interviewed me before? What is this? How am I supposed to know this was the same position? I have worked on projects that did not take three months, much less five, and I am supposed to know this is the same job? If he wanted to avoid this, why didn't he use the same agency as last time? Why did he use a different agency? What is the matter with these people?

If they are hiring for the long term, witness their preference to discard me because I interviewed with them once before, then why do they need someone to start TODAY? Stupid.

They are a funny company. They brought in the manager's pet pick for this job to interview with people, and everyone who interviewed him hated him. He was a condenscending, sneering, jerk. Technically he was great, but he put everyone off, so they didn't hire him.

All this makes me wonder if the BS might be extra deep, and the previous contractor left because he was fed up with it. I think there is some kind political war going on between a pointy-haired boss and the geeks.

So I don't know if I am supposed to go in for an interview for a regular full-time position tomorrow or not.

Note: It is now two months later. It has taken me this long to getting around to sanitizing this story.

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Secret

Found this going through my email drafts folder. Originally written in June 2007.

I finally got around to watching "The Secret". My coach has been bugging me to watch it for months. It is basically a variation of Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking", along with some religious and scientific mumbo-jumbo thrown in. But it is still a great movie. I managed to rent a copy from my local video store so I did not have to buy a copy. Maybe it was my frame of mind, but it really resonated with me, so I am recommending it.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.


I have a mechanical pencil that uses 0.9mm diameter lead. It works well enough, but it is not the perfect writing instrument. It has a couple of problems. The first is that the only ones I have found use a button on the side to advance the lead. This means I tend to hold the pencil in the same position, which means the tip does not get rotated, so it does not get worn evenly, which means you don't get a nicely rounded tip and the correspondingly fine control, like I do with a wooden pencil. These 0.9 mm mechanical pencils are also the really cheap ones, they do not feel like "fine writing instruments", they feel like throw aways. I think they only cost a dollar or two. On the other hand they are light weight. I have lost several (or some criminal stole them), but I have never had one break.

I have thought about using a draftsman's mechanical pencil. It has some of the advantages of both wooden and standard mechanical pencils. Like a wooden pencil, the lead is firmly gripped in place, and it is large enough not to easily break. On the downside it also needs to be sharpened, which means you also need a sharpener. Like a mechanical pencil, there is no wood going to waste, and a larger percentage of the lead can be used. Also it would require going to the store and spending ten dollars or so to buy a pencil, leads and a sharpener. And then there is the last disadvantage: there is no eraser on the other end, and that is a serious drawback.

So until someone starts selling mechanical pencils that are radially symmetrical, use a 0.9 mm lead, and have an eraser, I suppose I will be sticking with wooden pencils. And it must be readily available. I am not going to go out of my way to buy one. It will have to be at Office Depot or Fred Meyer, two big retail stores here. I do not want to spend four dollars shipping a one dollar item. I might do it for a book, but not for a pencil.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Digital Recordings

I was poking around the internet the other day and I came across a video that promised to be worth watching, so I thought I would download it. Well, it won't download. I need iTunes (!?!?), so I download and install iTunes, and now I can download and watch the video. It all went smoothly enough, though it was I don't know how many megabytes. I do all this and the video turns out to some lawyer giving a lecture. I watched it for a few minutes before I gave up and turned it off. So it was basically a pointless exercise, but I learned that you can set up high quality videos to be downloaded for free using iTunes. Did not know that.

Of course my computer has slowed down. It seems to get a little slower every time I install a new software package. If I click on "All Programs" on the Start Menu, it opens a window that covers the entire screen. I have been installing programs ever since I got this computer and it has only been this year that I noticed it slowing down. I hardly ever remove programs, mostly because the remove procedure usually doesn't work, or even worse, it screws something up, and I still have plenty of disk space.

Then I was watching a YouTube video of Concrete Blond and I noticed that the audio seemed to be lacking, so I thought I would play the copy of the track I had loaded on my computer. No go. Seems VLC won't play wma files.

I used to use Windows Media Player to play music on my computer, but at some point it started giving me trouble. I tried upgrading, but that didn't work too well either. So I switched to VLC. But now I find that all the CD tracks that I copied to my hard disk using Windows Media Player are stored as wma files, and VLC won't touch them. Something about DRM.

So I try Windows Media Player again. This time it installs and runs. Probably because I finally installed SP2 a month or so ago. First thing it does though is puts up a screen of options and the one option that is already checked is the "automatically get license" from somewhere on the internet. Screw you Microsoft, I don't need you jackholes checking up on me. Uncheck that box (as if that will protect me).

So now I can play all my wma files again. I think I'm moving to Linux.

This whole DRM (Digital Rights Management) thing is screwed up beyond belief. Bands are doing more concert tours because they make more money from concerts than they do from records. Bands are releasing recordings over the internet because they make so little from the record companies it's not worth dealing with them. iTunes has a pretty good idea. The media companies would make more money if they would just make it cheap and easy to download their recordings. Most people are not trying to screw them over. A dollar for a tune is cheap and easy. They don't want to be hassled by all this DRM crap.

Now if there is someone who is making large numbers of copies and selling them, well go ahead and prosecute them, but don't make everyone else party to your miserly ways.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Big Daddy Repair

My son got one of the "Big Daddy" figurines when he bought a copy of the BioShock video game a couple of years ago. The other day "Big Daddy" took a fall and broke his arm and leg and one of his fingers. We suspect he had a run in with one of the cats and lost his balance.

The surface of the breaks were kind of crystalline looking, like they were made of compressed salt or something. I got some super-glue at the local market (they had four kinds) and was able to put humpty dumpty together again. I was a little worried that the super-glue would not hold. That has happened more than once, and this material looks really odd, but so far, so good. The arm and leg breaks are almost invisible. The finger break is detectable.

I looked at bunch of pictures before I finally settled on this one. Most of the photos of the actual figurine had light colored backgrounds, which did not really convey the correct mood. Most of the other shots (computer renderings, artists conceptions, etc.) did not show the same configuration of a big screw on the end of the right arm and a hand on the left arm.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Continuing Job Search

Job search activity was high the last couple of days. I got an email Thursday morning from an agency and the first thing he asks is if I have talked to anyone else from his agency yet. Whaaaat? Why are you asking me, for Pete's sake, it's your agency, don't YOU know? But I don't say any of that, he just wants a copy of my resume, so I send it to him. A little while later he calls on the phone and he asks that same question about whether he is the first one to talk to me. I'm thinking my email has gotten delayed in some internet vortex and he doesn't have it yet. No, I haven't talked to anyone else at your agency. He does this thing where he will talk normally, but periodically he will cough, or laugh or something and he gets really LOUD for a few seconds, so loud that I have to slide the phone away from my ear. In a little bit, he subsides, and we go back to normal. It's really annoying. On top of that he keeps me on the phone for half an hour talking about nothing. I put up with it because, well, I'm being courteous. He is trying to find a job for me. If he is successful he will get a big fat commission, but that's okay. I'll have a job, which is the whole point of all these shenanigans. So I let him ramble.

A little while later I get another email from the same agency and I realize, oh! The first email was from a different guy. So I forward their emails to each other and let them sort it out. The guy I talk to claims to have won out, so I send him a copy of my resume. Should have had him get it from the first guy. What a bunch of clowns.

Dealing with all this makes me late for my Thursday lunch, and since I have to take my son to the doctor later that afternoon, I blow off lunch. One hour a day on the freeway is enough. I don't really need two hours of it.

Meanwhile I have an email from another agency. We end up exchanging a dozen messages over the next day and a half, and it looks like I might have an actual face-to-face interview with a local company next week. I had a phone interview with this outfit a few months ago which I thought went rather well, but I never heard back, so I thought that was the end of it. But now they are back. I wonder why that is. Anyway, we are trying to set up a meeting time and I tell them Tuesday or Wednesday would be good, and what do they do? They want to meet on Thursday morning, which means that if it is any kind of interview at all it is very liable to cut into my lunch hour. I already missed Thursday lunch this week. Twice in a row and I am liable to be in the doghouse. Cretins.

Thursday afternoon I get an email from yet another agency. I try to call him back, but their voice mail system cuts off half way through his greeting. Criminently, you would think a business that depends on phones as much as these do would have a decent voice mail system. I finally get in touch with him on Friday morning. We have a nice chat. This is the fourth person I have talked to from this agency over the last year.

Thursday evening I get a call from a friend of mine. Seems his employer is having serious problems with a new product. Seems none of the new people understand the basic concepts involved. No, that's not fair. They probably do, but things being the way they are, they are having a hard time applying their knowledge. Anyway, my mother always said "if you cannot say anything nice, do not say anything at all". I have probably said too much already. My friend wanted to know if I was available to help them out. That's cool, it's nice to know that at least your friends will still vouch for you.

Friday afternoon I get a call from Microsoft in Redmond which was totally unexpected. I chat with a guy with a rather thick accent for 30 minutes about a possible job. He quizzes me about assembly language for the ARM processor. I have never worked on one, but I have been around the block a couple of times and I am able to deduce what this bit of code is supposed to do. When we are done I find out he is from Korea. The accent sounded Asian, but I would never have guessed Korea. But then I haven't talked to many people from Korea.

Also Friday I get a call from my lawn man (!?) and he has a name for me. I follow up on it. Turns out the guy is involved in a line of work very similar to my own. He does not need my help at the moment, but it never hurts to have another contact.

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Mark & I were talking about Phoenix at lunch today, and I recalled some things I hadn't thought of in a while, like the two main industries in Phoenix are land fraud and bank fraud. When I lived there my father-in-law came to visit. He was handling an estate, and part of the estate included a lot in a "development" in Eloy. It was Southeast of Phoenix, not too far, so we drove down to take a look at it. Middle of nowhere, a couple hundred lots laid out on a flat piece of sand. They had put down a thin layer of blacktop to make it look like there were roads, but that was the only sign of development we saw. Three or four lots had people living on them in trailers or something. I don't think there were any houses. This place was on the East side of freeway.

As for the name Eloy, it is asserted locally that someone connected with the railroad took one look at the barren desert there and named the place "Eloi," supposedly the Spanish pronounciation for the Biblical " Eli, Lama Sabachthani?" meaning "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Just up the road is Casa Grande. Rumor had it that it owed it's existance to a printing plant that printed Penthouse magazine. Meredith/Burda did have a printing plant there. They were acquired by RR Donnelly in 1990, who closed the plant a few years later. Who knows where Penthouse is printed now?

Charles Keating, infamous villain of the Savings & Loan crisis back in the late 1980's operated out of Phoenix. The guy wore cufflinks with sapphires the size of robins eggs on them.

 He was also a driving force behind the Phoenician Resort, the most palatial of the palatial. Rooms went for $1500 a night, and that was back when $1500 meant something. He might be dead by now. I hope so. Worthless scum-sucking sleazeball.

The city of Maricopa (as distinguished from Maricopa County), a suburb South of Phoenix, has been hit very hard by the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

My cousing had a house in Paradise Valley. She is married to a doctor. It was a nice single story house, maybe 3,000 square feet, heated pool. They were not going to stay there forever, they expected to move within a few years. Her husband told me that when they did sell it, the new owner would probably tear it down and build a new house. The lot was worth more than the house. You see, Paradise Valley has no property taxes. Lots of rich people live there in really big houses for that reason.

Shortly before we left, a new shopping center sprung up not too far from our house called "Agua Caliente". What a cool Spanish name, eh? All it means is "hot water". I was shocked when I saw it. I thought how stupid these people must be to think that something is cool just because it has a Spanish name.

Central Arizona Project
The government built a concrete lined river (aquaduct) from the West side of Arizona clear across the state to Tucson at an untold cost. There are giant electric pumps taking water out of the Colorado river and pumping it over a hill and into this river. This is one of the big reasons there is no water running into the Gulf of California anymore. This project was done to supply irrigation water for the cotton fields South of Phoenix, the hundreds of square miles of cotton fields. Why do we need all this cotton? Probably so we can make gun cotton, or maybe just gun powder, so we our military can shoot millions of rounds of ammunition every year.

Phoenix also gets water from the Salt River. There is a government agency called the Salt River Project that manages this. They used to be a big customer of Stevens Water Monitoring, a company I used to work for here in Portland.

Some people say the desert has a beauty all it's own, and that can be true. But to me, Phoenix looks like a gravel pit.

The short lines on the map mark parts of the aquaduct. It can be a little hard to find if you don't know where it is.

Update December 2016 replaced missing images, added new map.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


It is not necessary to be smart in order to be rich. Matter of fact sometimes it is an obstacle. A great deal of money has been made by setting up an orderly process to distribute something and then maintaining that process. The setting up can be interesting, but maintaining an existing , orderly process can be tedious in the extreme. Some people thrive on that, others would rather die.

Wake Up Dense

I am trying to print some PDF's this morning and I look over the results and I notice that the dates along the left hand margin have been clipped so you cannot really tell what they are. So I pull up the document again and go to the print menu and look for scaling. Well, that's the problem, it's set to "None", so let's go to print to fit. Oh, what's this? We have "Print to Fit" and "Reduce to Fit". What? Why do we have two? What's the bloody difference? There is no help on the screen, so I do a quick search on Google, and it turns out there is a difference. It is in the way they treat pages that are smaller than the available area. "Print to Fit" will expand these small pages, whereas "Reduce to Print" will not. They will both shrink large pages to fit within the margins, so in this case either one would have worked.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


From "Ashenden", Page 230

"Good gracious, no," said Ashenden. "All sensible people know that vanity is the most devastating, the most universal and the most ineradicable of the passions that afflict the soul of man, and it is only vanity that makes him deny its power. It is more consuming than love. With advancing years, mercifully, you can snap your fingers at the terror and the servitude of love, but age cannot free you from the thraldom of vanity. Time can assuage the pangs of love, but only death can still the anguish of wounded vanity. Love is simple and seeks no subterfuge, but vanity cozens you with a hundred disguises. It is part and parcel of every virtue: it is the mainspring of courage and the strength of ambition; it gives constancy to the lover and endurance to the stoic; it adds fuel to the fire of the artist's desire for fame and is at once the support and the compensation of the honest man's integrity; it leers even cynically in the humility of the saint. You cannot escape it, and should you take pains to guard against it, it will make use of those very pains to trip you up. You are defenceless against its onslaught because you know not on what unprotected side it will attack you. Sincerity cannot protect you from its snare nor humour from its mockery."

I must not be a sensible person, because I did not know any of this. For more about the book see my earlier post about names. The picture has little to do with the text, other than the word. I picked it simply because I liked it the best of the pictures that Google image search returned.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I've been reading Tam's history lessons and it has prompted me to spout off. Yes, war is a funny business, especially the way it is treated by the media. One American dies and it makes headlines coast to coast. A thousand Iraqi's die and it might make the evening news in New York, if there's time.

Hilter deliberately orchestrated the execution of millions of people, mostly Jewish, during the second world war, and the Jews are never going to let us forget about it. Good for them. The Khmer Rouge killed a similar number of people in Cambodia not too long ago, and I haven't heard word one about it lately. Stalin killed an enormous number of people in Russia when he was in power, I am not sure anyone even knows how many.

I don't know how many Iraqi's have died since we first invaded, but I would not be surprised to here that they have lost a thousand for every American who had died over there.

Another funny thing about the statistics, is they don't tell us how many deaths and injuries are due to enemy action as opposed to just everyday army business. I have talked to a few veterans and there are any number of jobs in the military that are just plain dangerous, even when there is no combat involved. Any kind of flight deck is one place, and any place where you have big, heavy, powerful machinery is another. I would not be surprised if half of the American military deaths in Iraq are just plain everyday military accidents.

Then there is the tag line "the ultimate sacrifice" that gets stuck in a every newpaper article when someone gets killed. There are any number of things worse than death. Like being in continual screaming agony. Our medics are getting better and they are saving peoples lives who might have otherwise died, but I wonder how many of those people are glad to still be alive in their crippled or otherwise damaged condition.

Killing people has always been the number one sport on this planet, well, at least as long as there have been people keeping track of what people were doing, and it looks like it is going to continue that way for the foreseeable future.


I read a short story in the paper this morning. No big news, just a woman writing about a family outing to a vegan potluck and maypole dance. I have never been to either. A maypole dance sounds like it might be fun, to watch anyway, but a vegan potluck? I'm sorry, count me out. I understand that people have reasons for being vegans. They could be moral, health or religious, and that's fine, but by proclaiming this to be vegan potluck, they were effectively shutting me out. Of course, I did not know about it, and since I seldom go anywhere, it is almost certain that I would not have gone. Well, if one of my vegan friends had insisted then I could have gone, assuming I have any vegan friends. (Vegans are what you might call extreme vegetarians, no meat, milk, eggs, etc.)

I wonder, do vegans feel the same way about barbeques? I suppose they might. I don't know, but I suspect the rise of veganism locally is due to the number of Indians who have immigrated to this area, mostly because of Intel. They are the biggest employer of over educated nerds in the area. Of course, I could be completely wrong. It could be entirely a home grown thing, people rebelling against the way food is grown and prepared in this country. I have to agree with that, especially the way cattle are handled, but I'm not going to get into that argument. I expect that those involved will sort it out eventually.

Food is one of the things that binds us together. I remember reading a story about some aboriginal Indians living in the Amazon (probably in The New Yorker). There were deer living in the forest, and to the outsider who was visiting, they seemed like a good source of food. But the tribe he was staying with did not hunt deer. The next tribe over did, and that was one of the ways they distinguished themselves from that tribe. Those guys eat deer, us guys don't.

We have a bit of that going on here with omnivores, vegetarians and vegans. I don't think there are any human carnivores, though there was one guy in a film about Teddy Roosevelt, who said "Vegetables? I haven't eaten any vegetables since I was eight years old". Even including a little bread in your diet would exclude one from being classified as a carnivore.

Divisiveness is what causes much of the trouble in the world, and it doesn't look like it's going away.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Recently I've come across several well written blogs from people in the Emergency Medical Service business: ambulance drivers, medics, nurses & cops. It's nice change of pace from the gun-nut blogs I have been reading. While some of the gun nuts are intelligent and write well, I inevitable come across some ranting and raving about some idiot liberal. Sometimes these rants are well founded, but sometimes it's just plain rabid foaming. The later put me off because they aren't really telling me anything except that the writer has gone 'round the bend.

EMS, and modern medicine in general, makes me wonder about things, especially since there is all this hullabulloo about the cost of medical treatment. Let's just take EMS for starters. I wonder what percentage of their calls are really valid medical emergencies. How many are just to pick up drunks who've passed out in the street? How much treatment is done just to keep the lawyers happy? Does anybody keep track of this stuff?

On the other hand, if real emergencies are few and far between, then the medics may not get to practice their craft very often, which means when they actually do get called on, they may be a bit rusty and not quite as sharp as they could be. The military ran into the same thing with pilots not too long ago. If you want your fighter pilots to be sharp, they need to be putting in some time in the cockpit. You cannot just give someone some specialized training and then put them on the shelf until you need it. They need to be practicing their craft, whatever it is. So maybe all the bogus calls, the ones where they aren't really needed, also serve because it gives the EMS people some practice.

Someone who has become proficient at a craft over a period of years may be able to put it aside for a while and then pick it up again without too much delay, but until that muscle memory kicks in, they are going to be a bit rusty.

One more thing, just because we started on EMS. What is the proper protocol on busy freeways when you see flashing red lights approaching from the rear? I ran into this situation a couple of weeks ago, and it seemed to me that all the people who were attempting to pull all the way off the road onto the shoulder were causing more of a jam than if everyone would have just kept driving like normal. I don't think the ambulance gained anything. The freeway had just two lanes in either direction. I pulled over to the right hand lane and slowed down. In retrospect, I think we would have all been better off if I had just kept going in the same lane and at the same speed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


They're getting ready to fire up the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland this year. Some people like to think that this thing will create microscopic black holes that will swallow the the entire earth, sooner or later. Back during WWII some people thought that setting off a nuclear bomb would start a chain reaction that would consume the entire planet. Setting off the bomb didn't destroy Earth, and if the scientists are to be believed, the LHC isn't going to kill us all either.

There's a couple of problems with this situation. One is the prevalence of groupthink amongst our leading lights. All the people involved talk to other people who are involved and they all develop a common outlook on the situation. Anyone who disagrees is likely to be excommunicated. Just ask Halton Arp. Another is that the odds of something bad happening are on the order of "monkeys flying out of my butt", which is to say, not too likely. Of course, "anything can happen", but "monkeys flying out of my butt"? Not in this matrix.

Lastly there is the question of infinitesimal odds versus infinite disaster. I read a story some time ago about how someone was calculating the odds of a disaster happening when they held an air show in San Francisco. The odds were very low, but if a military jet did crash into downtown, the disaster would be enormous. So the odds were put aside, and the airshow was moved or changed or something.

Maybe this is why we haven't heard from any space aliens. Every other extra-solar society that reached this point of scientific advancement built a machine that inadvertently destroyed their civilization. Or maybe this is what happened to the planet that used to exist between Mars and Jupiter, you know, where the asteroid belt is now. Or for that matter, maybe this is what happened on Mars and Venus. Or maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.

It's just the nature of people to dance along the edge.

The sound on this video is pretty sad, at least compared to my memory. It's the only one I found. Her voice and the 12 string are stunning on the original.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Do you really want to know?

I was reading an article in The New Yorker this evening and I came across this: ". . . the puzzling phenomenon of soldiers in Iraq who survive a bomb blast only to die a few days later of a stroke." This was the first I had heard of this, which is not surprising since there is no bandwidth left after the news media get done reporting on Hillary and Obama and the latest celebrity escapade. I guess I'm just not tuned into the right channels.

I have heard that the number of severely injured (maimed, disfigured, crippled) soldiers is way up, mostly due to improved medical techniques in the field. If it weren't for these techniques the death toll would be much higher.

I did not finish reading The New Yorker article, it was too long winded for me. Maybe later.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I was in downtown Portland last Friday with some time to kill and I noticed a few things. Portland has some free flowing water fountains scattered here and there. No valve, they just run all the time. As much as it rains here water isn't really a problem. I came across one of these water fountains on my walk and I could have used a drink, but the water was only coming up about a half inch out of the nozzle. It would have been hard to get a drink without putting my lips right down on the nozzle itself and sucking up the water. That is not how water fountains are supposed to work. Typical bureaucrats. Put up water fountains so they can brag about them, but don't give them enough water so anyone can get a drink. And let's not even get started on the valve business.

Then there were the beeping buttons. I am standing on a corner waiting for the light to change and I hear this beeping sound. I look around and finally realize it is coming from the WALK button mounted on the light pole standing next to me. We saw something similar up in Seattle when we were visiting the U-dub campus. It's an aid for blind people. It's not really annoying, it's kind of quiet and with all the street noise it vanishes from hearing within a dozen paces.

Lastly was the back-in angle parking. I had never seen this before. I have seen head-in angle parking, it's all over the place, but this was back-in angle parking. While I was looking for pictures I found a longish paper going over the pros and cons of this arrangement. It will be interesting to see how it turns out. I predict we are going to get a bunch of people backing into adjacent cars, but then I am a bit of a pessimist.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Video Buzzwords

First, some acronyms:
API Application Programming Interface
CPU Central Processing Unit
DXVA DirectX Video Acceleration

GPU Graphics Processing Unit

DXVA is a Microsoft API designed to allow the decoding of a video data stream to be offloaded to the GPU instead of having the CPU do all the work.

DirectX is an old Microsoft API designed to allow programs direct access to the video hardware. It was developed in response to the demand for higher performance for video games.

GPU is typically found on the video controller card, or in some cases (known as intergrated graphics) on the motherboard.

Depending on the algorithm (or type of encoding) used to encode the video signal, there may be great deal of processing that needs to be done before the data can be used to generate a frame for display. This is done in a pipeline manner, where one process does the first step and then hands the data off to the next process for the next step, and so on until the data is ready for display.

With higher resolution displays, there is more data that needs to be processed for each frame. Modern GPU's are approaching CPU's processing power, and in certain applications, surpassing them. The aim of DXVA is to harness some of this processing power for the decoding and so free up the CPU for other tasks.

However, not all GPU's are created equal. DXVA aims to smooth over this disparity by substituting software processes (running on the CPU) for any decoding processes that are not available on the current GPU.

MPEG2 is the standard used for movies on DVD's, amongst other things. VC-1 and H.264 are competing standards. VC-1 comes from Microsoft. They are used on HD & BluRay DVD's.

Codecs are encoders/decoders. They can be hardware or software. The encoder takes an incoming stream of data and process it in some manner for transmission to another site. The decoder receives this transmitted stream of data and "decodes" it so that it can be read, or viewed, by the recipient.

The algorithm, or standard, for the encoding can be done for any number of purposes:
  • to ensure more reliable transmission (fewer errors)
  • to compress the data (use less bandwidth)
  • encrypt the data so only the intended recipient can read it.
For video, compression is generally the highest priority. Once upon a time Andy (Grove) wanted a killer app, i.e. an application program that everyone wanted that would require faster and more powerful CPU's. ProShare was the first foray into this. It was a little premature, but now that the internet tubes are bigger, the demand for processor power is outstripping what even Intel can supply.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

What's in a name?

When I was a kid we had a Frigidaire refrigerator. We always called it the "fridge". The name Frigidaire was always one word, and it was just a name. I think it was because of the way it was pronounced. It was pronounced frig-i-dare, not frig-id air. I recognized the Frigid part, but the dare part was just a fancy-schmancy suffix some marketing guy came up with. I mean, adults were always doing screwy stuff like that: tacking goofy sounding suffixes onto perfectly ordinary words to make some new-fangled term. It did not occur to me until many years later that the name Frigidaire was made by combining two separate words: "frigid" and "air".

Today after lunch at O'Connors, Jack & I made our regular stop at Post Hip where I came across a book with the title of "Ashen Den" by W. Somerset Maugham. At least that's what I thought the title was. It is a spy story, so the title seemed appropriate. The title was printed across the spine, not lengthwise as is common. The title was horizontal when the book was sitting on the shelf. What I did not notice was that the book jacket was slightly off center and so the hyphen that appears after Ashen was not visible when the book was on the shelf. Closer inspection revealed that the title was just one word "Ashenden", which is the main characters name. Somehow a den filled with ashes seems more appropriate to the spy game. I wonder if that is what the author intended.

Book is very old, 1940, hard cover, with dust jacket. Served as a bible for the British Espionage Corps for many years. Cost me $3. I'm looking forward to reading it. The cover is similar to the picture above, though not identical.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Marc & Sandy's boat Maravida is out of the water sitting in a boatyard in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. It's for sale, should you be in need of a largish steel hull sailboat. The marker shows where it would be if the map/satellite picture was current. All the big catamarans are there for a big race.

View Larger Map

Looking for a Job

I got an automated email from Tektronix this morning with a list of half a dozen software engineering positions. When I checked on them, they were all in Singapore or Bangalore (India). The last time this happened, I went to their website and set my preferences to let them know I was only interested in jobs in the US. That worked for a bit. The last few emails I received listed jobs in Richardson, Texas. I am not interested in moving to Texas, at least not this week. But now we are back to China and India. Does not speak well for Tek's competence.

I applied for a bunch of jobs on Intel's website over the last month or so. I haven't heard diddly from them, not that I really expected to. A week or so ago I was looking on craigslist for jobs, and I found one from Intel. I thought this was a little odd, so I went ahead and sent them an email. I figured the ad was placed by a manager who was fed up with dealing with their internal HR department. Turns out it was placed by the HR department. I should have known better to than to think Intel would allow someone with an independent streak to exercise any initiative.

I had three phone interviews with outfits in Seattle last week. Two were for contracting jobs with Microsoft in Redmond. That was a little weird: interviewing with my arch-nemesis. I was kind of pumped about it for a while. My daughter starts at the University of Washington in the Fall and they charge an eighteen thousand dollar annual premium for non-residents. For that kind of money, I could move to Washington and establish residence there. Even become a micro-serf.

Looking at the ads, I see the same positions coming up over and over. Sometimes they are just a couple of weeks old, but reposted with new dates to make them look fresh. Sometimes they are several months old. Maybe they hired someone and they didn't work out.

Some of these job requirements are quite absurd. I see ads for people who are expert in that companies exclusive technology. The only people who are going to be expert in it are people who have worked there before. If that's what you want, look them up and give them a call. Don't bother the rest of us. I see ads for people who are expert in everything under the sun. Those people don't exist. These are the same ads that you see floating around for months on end. Methinks they don't really want to hire anyone. So why do they post ads? Politics of some sort, I suppose.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Red vs. Blue

Who are we, and what do we want? Everyone has their opinion on this. What succeeds is whatever can garner the most adherents. Why were the Republicans able to gain ascendancy when Bush was elected? They had two things going for them. They had a plan for action, and they gave people something to believe in.

The Democrats put out a soothing, rational plan. But it is a not simple call to action, like a call to war is. People are generally not interested in a multitude of complex issues. I read about some of them, but I get tired of reading about the same old stuff all the time. Nothing ever seems to get resolved, or fixed, or get better. The environment continues to deteriorate, the corruption continues unabated, murderous tyrants continue to slaughter their own people. But some things are getting better, in a secular sense anyway. China and India are making progress by leaps and bounds, building factories and skyscrapers and computers and cars. I hate to say it, but I suspect the Communists have done more for China in the last 50 years than any other government has done for their people. They are evil tyrants, but what are you going to do? Start a nuclear war with them? I don't think that would be a very good idea right now.

The Republicans were selling a simple belief system along with a simple call to action. America is right, and all these tinpot dictators should be put out of business. Never mind the diplomats at the UN. We tried that in the Balkans. It didn't work too well.

The American plan in Iraq is not doing too well either. A better way, and maybe the only way, to fight a guerrilla war is with guerrillas. Bringing a big army to route a few terrorists from a city is causing us a great deal of grief, and I don't know that it is working all that well. I think a better approach would be to find some Iraqi's who agree with us on things like freedom, peace and cooperation. We train them up as special forces and turn them loose in Iraq to wage a war of extermination against the Jihadist's. At the same time, we would pull our forces out, thus eliminating one of the big targets of religious wackos.

Problem is, could we find any Iraqi's who are not fully imbued with a culture of hatred and revenge? And if we did, could we teach them to kill all those who oppose them?

Materialism is our god. If you practice this religion, you will have enough to eat, you can stay clean and warm, and you are not too likely to get killed by your neighbor. It takes a certain amount of sacrifice, some work, and the ability to plan ahead. It also takes some resources and a community of like minded individuals. Even the mountain men who first explored the Western US were dependent on the community. They carried rifles, rifles that were made by the community. Those rifles were what enabled them to survive out in the wilds.

Not every one believes as we do. Some otherwise rational people can appear to be completely deranged when the subject of a religious enemy comes up. What are you going to do about people like this? One minute you can be buying or selling food, and the next he is running out the door waving a gun screaming he is going to kill the heretics. It is unlikely you are going to change him. He has been brought up to hate this other group. It has probably been passed down from father to son for hundreds of years. The whole culture is steeped in it. Even if you could find a way to start changing their belief system, it will take several generations for this kind of thing to fade to the point where the majority will be willing to take action against such individuals, regardless of their allegiances.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.


Iraq Provinces
One of the favorite points education bashers like to make is that some variation of "58% of people can't locate Iraq on a map". The percentage, the group being analyzed and the location all vary. What they do not mention is that a large percentage of people cannot read a map at all. It took me a long time to realize this. Being as I have no trouble reading maps, I thought everyone else could do it too.

At lunch Thursday our gang was talking about this and Marc had a couple of things to say. He has recently returned from three years in the Caribbean. While he was there he did not meet a single person from that region who could read a map. At the beginning when he wanted to find out how to get somewhere, he would pull out a map and show it to someone and ask them to show him where it was on the map. They would use their finger to look at the map and they would wander all over without regard to any of the visual cues the map presented. Eventually he figured out they were looking for the name of the place. If they happened to find the name, they were golden. If they didn't, the map was no help. He tried using maps for awhile, but as he never found anyone who had any apparent ability to read one, he gave up and resigned himself to settling for the verbal description that they gave him.

As I own a bunch of maps and I enjoy studying maps, I find this very peculiar. I just ran a quick search on Google, and I found a couple of items that are sort of related. One was an article in an educational journal that I could buy for $9. The other was a short blurb about a research report (dead link) that linked map reading ability to gender and sexual orientation.

What I am not seeing here is any kind of wide reaching study of map reading. Is it something that can be taught, like reading (text)? Or is it an innate ability, that people simply pick up, like learning to walk or speak? Or maybe it's a cultural thing. Perhaps some cultures just never used maps.

And here is a comment that I think is just a little peculiar: "Here is a map for those who lack the ability to read:" (dead link). I was always under the impression that a map was a much superior way of explaining something involving land. Perhaps it was just a slip of the keyboard.

Update September 2016 replaced missing picture, labeled dead links.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Hissing of the Silent Lonely Room

Hissing of the Silent Lonely Room by Paul Charles
The title sounds like a murder mystery, doesn't it? It is "A Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy" mystery by Paul Charles. It's English. The bookseller told me English books are generally not available in America. I am not sure how he came by it, but he only charged me $5 for it. It mostly takes place within a few square blocks of Camden Town, which is part of London England. It was pleasant enough. He does go on a bit examining people's states of mind, but that is part of the attraction I think.

View Larger Map

Update September 2016 replaced missing picture.

Crater Protection

Drove to downtown Portland with my daughter Friday afternoon. On our return, as we were pulling into our driveway, the engine oil light came on. Hmmmm. That's not good. I had the oil changed just a month ago, what's going on? I check the oil, it's full, and it looks brand new. I've never seen oil like that in a motor that has been run even a little ways. Oil always starts picking up dirt immediately. I look for information on the web and I find several reports about this particular engine cratering before it has 100,000 miles on it, and they all seem to be related to oil problems. The engine in Marc's Isuzu Trooper, which is also a V-6, did crater a month or two ago. I don't know if the engine is the same or not, or maybe they just used the same oil pump designer. So it's going into the shop Monday. I might be in for a $1000 oil pump replacement. If that's what it takes to keep the engine from cratering, I suppose it will be worth while. The car is a 2001 Chrysler Sebring sedan with a 2.7 liter V6.

Here are a couple of links that talk about oil sludge, which sounds like it could be my problem.

Update: Mechanic tested oil pressure and found it was okay. Sensor was leaking internally, which was causing an electrical malfunction. Replaced sensor. Bill came to $100.

Update 2: Coming home from the gas station, the oil light comes on momentarily as we pull into the driveway. Could it be this little dip where the driveway meets the road be what causes the oil to slosh enough for the oil pickup to loose suction for a second? What else could it be? This is only time we have seen it light up.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Windows is Wonderful, Part 9488

I had two phone interviews with Microsoft yesterday afternoon. Friday my daughter announced her decision to attend the University of Washington, which requires an $18,000 annual premium for out of state students. So I spent the weekend scouring the web for jobs in the Seattle area. Monday I got a call from a recruiter at Volt Technical Services in Redmond and yesterday I had not one, but two phone interviews.

It will be a couple of days before I hear anything about either one, so let's not get our hopes up. But it's still a little weird. I put quite a bit more effort into looking for a job in Seattle than I ever put into looking for a job in Portland, and then I get a request for phone interviews from my arch-nemesis in the computer business. The arch-nemesis thing is strictly a one way perception. This is the first time they have even acknowledged my existence. Kind of like attacking a brick wall on my part.

Seattle has it's attractions. It's my boyhood home. It has Puget Sound with all the shipping. It has Boeing. It's a much bigger city with all that entails. The University is bigger and the campus is much fancier than the University of Oregon. Of course, all this is superficial, and it may turn out to not be any fun at all (if I even get a job up there).

I am pretty tired of Hillsboro though. There still isn't a decent restaurant here. Well there are some passable restaurants over on 185th, which are technically in Hillsboro, but are actually more part of Beaverton. And they are five miles away and they are all corporate franchise chains.

I do have some friends that I will miss (if I end up moving), but I suspect I might meet some smart people at Microsoft (supposing I were to actually get a job there).

And I have been looking for a job in the Portland area. I have sent the same resume out to several places and I have not heard squat. Okay, I had an interview with an agency a couple of weeks ago, and I got an email from another agency yesterday, so something might pop, but it's still slim pickings. I haven't heard boo from any of the two dozen jobs I applied for at Intel, so fooey on them. Let's go to Seattle.