Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Monday, August 31, 2009

Internet Scam

Update: Amazon was not an accomplice. An Amazon receipt got mixed in with all the Dazzling white papers.

A friend of mine got roped into a scam, and Amazon.com was an accomplice. DazzleWhite & CleanWhites offer these low cost "no-risk" free trials of their product. However, the fine print tells says you are going to be charged something like $250 if you do not cancel, and cancelling requires jumping through numerous hoops. Cancelling the order cost an her an hour and $15, with no assurance that she is shut of these guys.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Looking for a Job

Every week I go through the motions of looking of for a job. I look on Craigslist, find a half dozen or so jobs that look like possibilities and I send them a copy of my resume. This time I thought I would try and make my cover letters a little more interesting than the usual blather.

Note #1

Clarity in code and communication is of primary importance. I enjoy working with code. I like to think I can communicate with most people.

Once upon a time I had a friend in Houston who had a Weimaraner (dog). Nice dog, but he could be very tough/dense/stubborn. My friend literally had to hit him with a 2 by 4 to get his attention. (Anyway, that's what he told me. I don't recall ever seeing him hit the dog.) Anything less was just something to be ignored. There are people like that, and generally speaking you aren't allowed to hit them with 2 by 4's. These people can be very difficult to communicate with. Fortunately, they are few and far between.

Ordinary people are a joy to work with by comparison.

Note #2

Designing and writing software requires a couple of special skills. One is to be able to construct a model of the program in your mind. The second is to be able to translate various components of this imaginary model into code that will perform required function. These two skills go hand in hand. One needs to understand how computers work (at least at some level) in order to figure out how to make them do what you want.

That is enough if you are working by yourself, but if you are part of a group effort, you need to be able to communicate with your fellows, and communicate effectively. Simply telling people in some cases is sufficient. Others need to have it repeated several times. Other people do better with written information, and some people do better with pictures.

On Line Applications

Some companies want you to apply on-line. Some of these applications are pretty straight forward, but some of them are getting to be onerous. Some places will parse your resume and figure out everything they need to know from that. Some places use tagged fields, so you can useGoogle's Autofill feature to fill them in.

But some of them ask you to fill in your employment history, your educational background, and your references. All my history is in my resume, that's why I wrote it. You want me to enter all my data in your data base for you? I don't think so. I'm sorry, that's a bit much, especially since I probably won't make the first cut anyway. (Pergiel? What kind of name is that? Next! (Okay, I'm being facetious here.))

And references? I will be happy to give you some references, but only after we have talked and you are considering hiring me. Then I will give you references. Not before.

Then there are passwords. Everybody wants you to pick a password for their site. I have one password I use for all these. I picked it out over a year ago and it has worked very well. Until today. OHSU won't allow passwords with double letters. What is the matter with these people? We really need someone to set some kind of standards for this kind of thing. Something that will log you into the net and automatically identify yourself to all these stupid sites that think they are something special. It's getting to be ridiculous.

People

Black & White

We went through MSP (Minneapolis-St. Paul airport) when we flew to Iowa after Christmas, and I went through there again when I few to Columbus, Ohio, about a month ago. Both times I was struck by the apparent segregation of the races: all of the passengers were white, and all of the service personnel were black. There were a few exceptions, but they were rare.

Coffee Shop Encounter

I went into a coffee shop to buy a something to eat, like a scone or a bagel. It was crowded and I was standing a bit back from the counter. A young woman behind the counter smiled at me, made eye contact and gestured for me to come forward. I was surprised and pleased by this intimate gesture. I told her what I wanted, and she asked if I wanted anything else, like a cup of coffee or something. I said, no, just the roll would be fine. At that point the smile vanished and I became just one more customer. What puzzles me is why she put any effort into the sale at all. It was just a little weird, the way she appeared friendly, and suddenly retreated back into her drone persona. Does it make any difference to this story if she was black or white?

Russians

I rented a car at the Columbus airport. After taking care of business at the counter inside, I walked out to the garage to pick up my car. There was a young woman out there monitoring the situation. I talked to her briefly. I think she was Russian. She had an accent that sounded Russian to me. I wonder if I could tell a Russian accent from one from any of the other Eastern block countries. Or maybe it's because we get more immigrants from Russia than from any of those other places.

When I returned the car a young man met me to check in the car. He had a similar accent to the young woman I had spoken to earlier. Also from Russia? Tough gig, hanging out in a parking garage which is either boiling or freezing 6 months of the year. Nothing to do for long periods of time except wait for the next customer and all of sudden you have to make nice. And probably not making much more than minimum wage.

Quote of the Day

Best explanation of what's wrong with Communism I have seen.
"Of course you might understand," said Sue, "but unless you've actually lived there- It's just that they have something like a mafia there, only it runs the whole country. If you belong to it you're absolutely safe, because it protects its own-"
...
"I meant it's a kind of mafia," said Sue. "That's what everyone calls it, although the official name for it is the Communist Party. Like the mafia, it's a law unto itself."
...
"Are the police on the take, the way they are in the States?"
"No, not exactly. The police are just extremely well paid, better than most people, and have all kinds of bonuses and privileges. They obey orders. Occasionally one faction of the mafia- I mean the Party- uses the police to get rid of another which is losing ground. Once they even hanged twelve of them, all at once-"
From The Return of Lieutenant Boruvka by Josef Skvorecky. "There" is Czechoslovakia, back in the bad old days.

I picked this one up because it looked like a light murder mystery, it's only 159 pages long, but the plot keeps going in circles and I have become completely confused. I will probably have to read it again just so I can get it straight in my head.

Someday I will learn enough html to indent paragraphs. Right now it appears you have to get into the header for the whole page, which I am not willing fool with.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sante Fortunato - dance contortion ENC


Darling daughter turned me on to this. Acrobatics, contortions, dance, circus.

Mortality

There were about 175 people in my high school class (1969). 17 of them have died, roughly 10%. I didn't think too much about this when I first found out. Talking to a spouse of one of my classmates, who went to a different but similar size school, I find out that only one or two of their classmates had died. Some time ago I remember talking to a guy from Arizona who told me that half of the guys from his high school class had been killed in Vietnam. Don't have any idea how much truth there was in that statement, but I suppose it's possible. A lot of young guys did die in Vietnam.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hubble Ultra Deep Field


Kind of cool, but full of "current scientific thinking". I read somewhere that some scientists had postulated that the universe could not be infinite because if it was, then the night sky would be white from the infinite number of stars. I am not sure I buy that argument. Each star only gives off so much light, and the farther you get from that star the fainter that light becomes until you are only getting an occasional photon from that particular star. So we are down to an infinite number of stars divided by a fixed amount of light times an infinite distance. Whose infinity is bigger?

And then there is the business of the speed of light. Popular science flacks like to trot out that old saw about how "nothing can go faster than the speed of light", but that is a crock. There is no absolute velocity. There is no fixed point in the universe against which to measure your speed, so there is no way to tell what your absolute velocity is. It's all relative. All we can measure is our velocity relative to other objects, and our velocity compared to some distant astronomical objects appears to be much higher than the speed of light. The velocity of light relative to any fixed object is always the same: 186,000 miles per second. It does not matter how fast two objects are travelling relative to one another. If one directs a beam of light to the other and both measure the speed of light, it will be the same. This is what Michelson & Morley figured out a hundred years ago. On the other hand, you may have a hard time convincing the two parties that it is indeed the same beam of light because the frequency (or color) of the light will appear to be different to these two guys. That is how radar speed guns (used by the police) work: they mix the reflected radar signal with their outgoing signal and if the reflecting object is moving (like a car speeding down the road), these two signal will interfere with each other and produce a third wave at a much lower frequency that can easily be measured. This is where they get the speed measurement.

I don't like the Big Bang theory, it smells too much like creationism. "And the lord said let there be light, and there was light". Besides it's just a theory about what happened umpteen billion years ago, and like who was around back then who could verify our hypothesis one way or the other? Likewise, dark matter sounds a bit feeble, though there could be a large number of black holes lurking out there, throwing confusion into the calculations.

And then there is the red shift of light from distant stars and galaxies. "Scientists" tell us that is because the universe is expanding and everything is flying apart. What if that is not the case? What if the light is just getting old and slow? I mean it has travelled a long way, for a really long time. And light is basically a disturbance of the all pervasive electromagnetic field. Maybe when you get a few, or a few million, light years away from a star, the field gets weaker/stronger, or otherwise changes, and it changes the light that comes through it.

I find all this speculation about the origin, size and age of the universe just so much blather. It's really big and we haven't discovered the end of it. Whenever we look harder or deeper, we find more. That's nice. Let's send somebody out there to take a look, see if there really is anything out there or not. Maybe the universe is just a giant hollow ball filled with glowing lights, kind of like the Truman Show.

YouTube Sucks

Actually it's not just YouTube, it's a conspiracy between YouTube, Adobe and the enthusiastic knuckleheads who expect this stuff to work. Half the time when I try to play an embedded YouTube video on some other site besides YouTube, it will hiccup, stall, drag it's feet and generally be a real pain to watch. Go to the YouTube site to watch it and it plays FINE. Dadburn commies. You know, it wouldn't be so bad if you could just wait until the entire video finishes downloading. Then you could play it without any of those EXTREMELY IRRITATING interruptions. But NOOOOO, hitting the pause button means that the download grinds to a halt, so the only way to get the whole thing is to let it play out, which generally means leaving the room. I suspect that turning down the sound and minimizing the window, or covering it up with solitaire will only suspend it. It KNOWS if you are watching or not, and if it is not front and center on the screen the download will be suspended.

Fierce



I saw this picture on a brochure that was lying on the kitchen counter today. I saw the woman's expression and I said whoa! What is she so pissed about? I'm not quite sure what's going on. Most women in ads appear to be cheerful and/or relaxed. Not so this gal. Expressions on the faces of models at fashion shows are also pretty off-putting, if not downright hostile. What's going on here?

Update January 2017 replaced missing image.

A Tale of Two Capos

A capo is a device used to shorten the effective length of the strings on a guitar (or other stringed instrument). My son has a couple. One is fairly straight forward: it operates like a spring clamp:



The other is three bars of metal linked together with no springs. When I picked it up the first time I thought it was broken. It was not readily apparent how it works.



Even when I put it in the clamping configuration it didn't make sense. What is holding the pieces in place?



Turns out it is the rubber tip on the end of the screw pushing sideways on the curved piece that goes against the back of the neck. Very clever, Mr. Shubb.

Update January 2017 replaced missing pictures.

Nanochess Program & Rules of Precedence

Looking on reddit.com yesterday and I came across "the world's smallest chess program". It sounded kind of intriguing so I downloaded a copy and took a look at it. The author has gone to a good deal of trouble to compact the source code for this program:
  • all the variables are single letters,
  • all extra spaces and newlines have been removed,
  • all unnecessary parentheses have been removed.
All this makes the code virtually unreadable by a person, but the compiler doesn't care. Microsoft Visual C issued 22 warnings, but no errors.

Using a couple of different text editors I expanded it enough that I could start to see some kind of structure to it, but due to the complex expressions and the lack of parentheses it is still incomprehensible. To do any more with it I would have to look up the rules of precedence and then go in and insert the appropriate parentheses.

They made a big deal about rules of precedence when I was studying Computer Science back at the University, but it is one of those arcane subjects that can really screw you up if you happen to make even a single error in the order of evaluation. Computer programs can be complicated enough even in their clearest and simplest expression. Adding assumptions about rules of precedence just makes things that much more complex. I mean it's easy enough to avoid these kind of problems: just use parentheses.

Anyway, I spent a couple of hours fooling around with this program (you can see the results here (update: no you can't, file has been deleted)), and I can see that putting in parentheses to clarify the ridiculously long expressions is going to take several more hours. And then there is the testing that would need to be done to verify that whatever changes I made to the program did not actually change it's behavior. So it's going on the back burner. Maybe I'll look into it again someday, but probably not.

Update September 2016 removed dead link.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Typing

John was practicing guitar in the next room, so I set my camera to video mode and started recording. I was only interested in capturing the sound, but after a while I realized I could it point at something more interesting than the wall, and said hey! I can video myself typing! Of course by that time John was done with the stuff he knew and was working on some new stuff, experimenting as it were, so the sound track isn't much to listen to, and actually the video isn't much to look at either, but I thought it was kind of interesting.

Rant of the Hour

A note I sent to Live Science, in reaction to one of their stories:

Your registration form is like an obstacle course. It didn't like the period in my user name, but there was no information telling me that, I had to deduce it from experimentation. Every time it rejected me, I had to re-entry almost all of the information, including the bot-detection phrase. I suspect that I am still not registered because I have not yet received my confirmation e-mail. All this hassle just to tell you I really dislike the opening sentence in "Man-Of-Steel Mentality Helps Guys Heal Faster"
(He doesn't ask for directions after repeatedly taking wrong turns, ...).
This is a common complaint of women, but that's what they like to do about problems: they like to talk about them, even if it doesn't get them a solution. I used to stop and ask for directions but I gave it up after running into too many people who had no idea where they were, much less where anything else is. I am tired of hearing people complaining about how men don't like to ask for directions. I don't ask for directions because it doesn't work and it takes time. You want to waste your time asking for directions, go for it, but don't continue to promote this fallacy that asking for directions is the logical thing to do, cause it ain't.

Today's Killer

Cancer gets a lot of press, but it is not as big a problem as some others:

The annual incidence of traumatic brain injuries in the United States is greater than that of all cancers, Good writes in his study, and men account for three-quarters of such injuries. The number will increase if the Iraq war continues, he said.

Manly scale

Good and his colleagues examined a group of middle-aged rural white men who had experienced traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. The scientists state that traumatic brain injury is the most common injury experienced by U.S. troops serving in Iraq.

That's what I get for following a link from Dustbury.

Car Dealer Closings Revisited

Remember a few weeks (months?) ago when the US Government took over GM and GM announced that they were closing a whole bunch of small dealerships? I remember there was a big fuss in the media about it, but I never heard any kind of sound business reason why they were doing it. This was last straw as far as mass media is concerned: I have quit reading the local paper.

Then today the answer just popped into my head: financing. None of those cars sitting on those dealers lots have been paid for, they have all been shipped to the dealers on credit. A thousand cars at ten grand a piece is ten million dollars. Interest on that is roughly a million dollars a year. If you have 500 dealers sitting on a dozen cars each that can mount up to serious money. Admittedly, it's not billions of dollars, but when times are tight, you've got to watch every million.

I heard at lunch today that one of our local GM dealers, Carr Chevrolet, actually uses their own money to pay for the cars they get from GM. They are a fairly large dealership I imagine they sell a fair number of cars, and since they are paying cash they probably get a pretty good deal from GM.

Disclaimer: All the information in this post is based on rumor and innuendo and should be taken with a large grain of salt, along with a large margarita.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Counterbalanced Ventian Blinds

Some of the windows in our house used to have mini-blinds, the cheap, thin, lightweight aluminum blinds that were all the rage ten years ago. Or maybe 30 years, or maybe they are still all the rage. Whatever. We used to have some, but they got old and battered and we ended up replacing them with real venetian blinds. Made of cast iron. In Venice. By dwarves working deep underground. Whatever. They are substantial and heavy. They work well enough, they are easy to tilt to admit light or block the view, but it takes some real oomph to hoist them open, for instance, if you need to open the window. So I just realized that what these things need is a spring to counterbalance their weight, kind of like an overhead garage door. A counterweight would be simpler and more reliable, but would require more mass, and a more complicated installation. A spring would require some stout mounting screws, but that is about it.

Power Windows

We have air conditioning in our house. We don't use it much, maybe four weeks a year. It keeps the main floor cool, but it doesn't do a very good job on the upstairs, probably because the builder hired the low bidder. So if it cools off at night during one of these hot spells, we will open the windows to let the house cool off overnight, and then shut it up again in the morning. There are a dozen windows that participate in this activity, and in one of my idle moments I thought, you know it would be nice if they were power windows and I could just flip a switch and they would open or close automatically.

Of course, I wouldn't actually want something like that for my house. My house is already overflowing with fancy gadgets, so many that even with a mean-time-between-failure of ten years, it seems like something breaks every blamed day.

But for some kind of commercial establishment, where you would have to pay someone to go around and open or close all the windows, it might be a worthwhile kind of thing.

But lets go one step father. Lets include shades and storm shutters with window, all powered, all remote control. Install the window and you are done, no drapes or shades required. No nailing up plywood when the hurricane comes to visit. No closing the storm shutters when you close up the house to leave for vacation.

Of course, shutters and blinds don't give you the same ambiance that drapes and curtains do, but they are a lot less hassle to install and maintain.

Sign of the times


Just goes to show you how out of touch I am. I didn't even realize Saturn made a roadster, much less that Batman's better half drove one.

Update January 2017 replaced missing image and dead link.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

At lunch today I was talking to my friend Jack about my troubles with my air conditioner. His solution was to flip the circuit breaker and just turn the blinking thing off. My response is that I am married, and as such there are standards that I am expected to maintain. Further, it is probably a good thing that I am married because whatever level of civilization I do manage to maintain is probably due to that state. At which point he brings forth this little gem:
"Some people are born to standards, some people achieve standards, and some people have standards thrust upon them.",
paraphrasing a quotation about greatness from Shakespeare's play "Twelfth Night".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Say hello To My Little Friend"
Al Pacino as Tony Montana in "Scarface". This just popped into my head and has been rattling around for the better part of day. Of course you have to say it with a fake accent, so "little" comes out as "leetle". I think I heard someone else say it while I was flipping channels on the TV.



This movie came out in 19-freaking-83. I probably took my wife-to-be to see it before we were married. Geez, time flies when you're having fun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hyperbolic Camel

California Bob writes:
At 47 I am still getting myself into stupid situations.

Tina hatched a plan to take her family to Las Vegas for a weekend. I said, "sure."
She said, with so many people it would be cheaper to drive. I said, "makes sense."

Thus, bit by bit, and being fully cognizant every step of the way, I committed myself to a 12 hour drive across the Mojave desert, in August, to spend the weekend with a bunch of quibblers.

Sort of a "camel's nose under the tent" scenario, similar to the one which resulted in me getting married.

Moreover, my roulette system, heretofore solid gold, proved to have flaws. I attribute this to a six-sigma event, similar to the one that took down Long Term Capital Management.

But I'm happy to report that the Japanese minivan performed flawlessly, charging through the 110 degree desert and over mountains with six passengers, AC on full blast, without complaint, and still managing 23 mpg. Incredible.
Names changed to protect the guilty.

Quote of the Day

"Thinking is entertainment."
Seen on the local PBS station, though maybe it would be phrased better as "thinking can be entertaining".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anger

When I decided to attend my high school reunion in Ohio, I decided I should make the most of the trip and visit two of my brothers who also live in the Midwest: Andy who lives in Iowa, and Mike who lives in Michigan. I allocated two weeks for this expedition so that I would have time to travel, time to visit and time to recover from traveling. I find I need a day to recover from a day's worth of traveling, whether by car or by plane.

The reunion and the visit with Andy went well, and then I drove to Michigan to see Mike. I arrived on a Saturday evening. Sunday afternoon we went for bike ride into downtown. On the way back I stop to rest for a minute and Mike starts giving me a bad time, he runs through his rant, and then he rides off. Not only am I tired, now I am depressed. I resolve to pack and leave as soon as I get back to the house. I am tired when I finally get back and think I will just take a short nap before I go. Mike brings me a sandwich and apologizes, and I think, okay, I can stay on.

The next morning though he is on me again, not for what I am doing, but simply for what I am thinking. That tears it. I refrain from making any response because A) it would have been a rude remark, and B) it would have just fueled the fire. I throw my clothes in my bag and leave.

The interesting part in all this is that it only took a minute or two of Mike's tirade (five minutes if you count both incidents) before I was ready to vacate the premises. Funny how a few little remarks can have such a strong effect. That fact that we have history may have laid the ground work for this incident, but I don't think so.

I have tried arguing with people before, and it generally does not work. Each becomes more entrenched in their position and continues to yell louder until it escalates into a fight or they both run out of steam.

I read something once about how with some families, the members of the family should live in different states and write letters to each other once a year, and with some families, they should live in different states and write letters to each other and then tear them up. I wonder if they were talking about us.

Dinner with the Horribles

Before we were married, I took my wife to meet my parents. A couple of my brothers were there and we had a nice, normal, sit down dinner. I talked to my wife about it later and she tells me it was an absolutely horrible experience. I was shocked. It was just like every dinner we had ever had at home: lively discussion, varied opinions, what's the problem? Seems we were not calm and gentile enough for her sensitive constitution.

I was talking to an old classmate from high school yesterday, and she told me she had a similar experience when she first went to dinner with her husband's family. She thought they were hostile and fighting. After a few years she realized that was not the case, they just said what was on their minds. My classmate tells me that her family buried their feelings and let them stew so that a chance remark might fester for years before being drug out and used to batter the offender.

Then today I read this in Carolyn Hax's advice column (the link will want you to register):
Q: ... Any words of wisdom?

A: No, just words of disgust. If she won't say what she means, then that's her problem. If you won't say what you mean, then that's your problem. If neither one of you has the nerve to say what you mean to the other, then I can see why you're so hot to get away: You're in hell.

It's all very well to tell the occasional little white lie to avoid hurting someones feelings, but to be forever biting your tongue can turn your insides into a stew of angry emotions. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Good advice, but sometimes hard to follow, especially if you weren't brought up that way.

As for my wife and I, we manage to communicate in spite of our intrinsic differences.

Guitarzan Swings Again

My younger son John has been busy buying and selling guitars, amplifiers and associated equipment. He rousts me this morning with a story about an American made Fender Jazzmaster that he wants to buy. He had a Fender Jazzmaster last month. What does he want with another one? Well that one was made in Mexico and this one was made in America. So? Aren't they the same? Oh, no, they are very different he insists. I quiz him about it, and he tells me I need to be more specific, so I ask him about the neck, and he procedes to launch into a detailed explanation of all the differences you can encounter in a neck, beyond the obvious like whether it is straight and how thick it is. There are things he has noticed and things he has read, and he obviously knows something about the subject. I am a little surprised by the depth of his interest, but I never really learned how to play a musical instrument. Machinery was what captivated me. He has only really been playing for about a year and this summer he is on his fourth guitar.

The one concept I haven't been able to argue with is tone. I recognize that different electric guitars sound different, and the difference comes mainly from the pickups. I have not sat down and tried to distinguish between different but similar pickups, so at this point I am taking his word for it. And it is his money after all. Hopefully he is learning something real from all this experimentation, and not just following the latest hype from whatever forums he is reading.


The guy who was selling the guitar let him try it out with his amp. It was one I had never heard of or seen before. I liked the name so much ("Atomic Space Tone")I had to take a picture. I also like the violet pilot light. Click to embiggen.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

"Le Doulos" directed by Jean-Pierre Melville


Le Doulos movie poster
My son brought this home from college and we watched it last night. It's a French black & white crime film made in 1962. The title, we are informed, refers both to a type of hat and to a snitch: a police informer. (Google's language tools fail to translate the title.) From the beginning things are a little confused. The protagonist (Maurice) shoots and kills a man who is supposed to be his friend. Another man (Silien) who is supposed to be his friend, but is suspected of being a police informer, ties up and beats Maurice's girlfriend in order to get some information from her. This makes Silien look very guilty, from the gangster's point of view. But then he goes through a bunch of contortions that make you wonder just whose side he's on. At the end of the movie my son and I disagreed. Possibly he picked up something that implicated the girlfriend that I missed, or maybe Silien's explanation of all his activities towards the end of the movie really did make sense. I was sure he was rotten, so his explanation made no sense to me. Perhaps if he was true to his gang, it would make sense. Anyway, it's a French film so at the end everyone dies.

The gangsters drove a new Chevrolet Impala and a Ford Galaxy convertible. Enormous cars compared to the tiny Citroen 2CV's you see parked along the street. Ross tells me that the director was famous for wearing a cowboy hat and driving a big ol' Cadillac in Paris.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Advertising

On occasion I think about using Google Adsense to put advertisements on my blog. I generally don't like ads, and will avoid pages that have too many or are too obnoxious. Google's ads are kind of low key, so a few small ads might not be out of line.

There are a couple of factors in opposition. One is that Adsense ads only pay if you click on them. Here they are taking up valuable screen space and they aren't paying? They should be paying just for being there! (I have to admit it was not my idea, I picked it up somewhere on the net.) Of course Google provides the website for free, so it's pretty amazing that they don't require ads in the first place.

The second is how much revenue would it generate? I only get about 100 hits a day, and most of them seem to be people trolling for pictures. There are apparently very few actual readers. (Count yourself in the elite if you are reading this.) Allowing ads on my blog is going to need to generate at least $100 a month in order to assuage my guilt for subjecting what few readers I have to *urk* advertising.

On the other hand, all those people who only come for the pictures, maybe they should be subjected to ads, heathens that they are.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

March Fourth Marching Band

Originally posted on August 8th. Now with a better video!

Went down to the local "farmer's market" this morning to pick up some fruit and donuts (Donuts? I didn't know they grew donuts on farms), and I ran into this wild marching band. Never seen anything like it, and they were making some good music, too. The video doesn't really do them justice.



I am not impressed with Blogger's video capabilities. I tried to upload this clip (a whole minute of video), but given all the time in the world, it never finished. It's only 120KB. This time I used YouTube and it worked just fine.

Dessert










My daughter's friend Emily made a cake for her (my daughter) Birthday. Three layers of solid chocolate. It was delicious.

















My son John fixed himself a little snack the other evening. That's three flavors of ice cream, some frozen chunks of cookie dough, a heap of whipped cream topped with chocolate syrup. Must be, what, a gazillion calories?

Update January 2017 replaced missing pictures.

How many Pergiel's does it take to change a light bulb?


Only one, but he has to be motivated. When we had this house built, the builder gave us the option of having the ceiling over the stairs be a flat continuation of the ceiling over the upstairs hall, or it could be at an angle maintaining a constant height over the stairs. I had visions of a slanted ceiling interfering with the moving of large pieces of furniture, so I opted for the flat ceiling. But now every time that the hall light burns out we have an exercise in scaffold building. My friend Glenn actually came up with the solution which starts with a small extension ladder (silver) sitting on the stairs and leaning against the far wall. Then we put a plank (red) from about the fourth step down from the top over to the extension ladder. Lastly is the (wooden) step ladder resting on the plank and wedged between the two walls. It feels a little precarious, but it works well enough.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

Concealed Carry Purse

My friend Jack showed me his cell phone last week. The screen was all scratched up from riding in his pocket with his keys. I got a digital camera last Christmas, and it caused me a bit of a problem trying to decide where to carry it. I wanted to carry it in a pocket so it would always be handy. If it isn't handy there are a lot of shots that are not going to be taken. But all my pockets were already carrying things: keys in my right front, handkerchief in my right hip pocket (my nose is sporadically inclined to attacks of hay fever), wallet in the left rear and pocket knife in the left front. Putting the camera in pocket with anything metal, like my keys or knife, guarantees that it is going to get nicked and scratched. The lens is not a problem, it retracts and has a built in cover, but it also has this screen on the back, and it will suffer.

I settle on having my knife and keys in the same pocket, and the camera gets a pocket all to itself. This makes the access to my knife and keys a little more awkward, but not much, and the camera is reasonably safe and easy to reach.

So I am thinking about this and my mind wanders as it often does, and I start wondering about handguns and how I could carry it. If I was going to carry a handgun, I would want a pocket pistol, but I have already run out of pockets, so I might need a vest or jacket to get some more pockets. Or I would have to give up my camera. Bah.

But what about women? Women seem to prefer purses to pockets, so maybe what we need is a purse with a built in holster, a concealed carry purse, as it were. Then I thought I'll bet somebody has already thought of it, and sure enough Google found a whole bunch. So much for that bright idea.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Quick & The Dead

The Quick & The Dead. This phrase has been around forever, I mean it is in the Bible:
"Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead."
(Peter 4:5)
These days it is commonly used to refer to gunfighting, but they didn't have guns back in the old days, so what's the deal? Wikipedia has an enlightening blurb. Essentially "quick" meant living, and so we get the line in the Apostle's Creed:
"He shall come again to judge the living and the dead."
Quickness has always been important for survival. It is not important just in gunfights, but any kind of combat, or just in good old prey versus predator situations. So in the old terminology, if you were "quick", you were alive. But likewise, if you were alive, it is more than likely because you were quick enough (in the new terminology) to avoid death. So being alive is synonymous with being quick, however you define it.

The application to gunfighting comes from a book by Louis L'Amour (or maybe an even earlier book by Ellery Queen), which was made into a movie in 1987 with Sam Elliot, and later remade with Sharon Stone, purtiest gunfighter this side of the Mississippi. What's the deal with Sharon Stone anyway? A few (several? many?) years ago she was queen of Hollywood, then she kind of fell off the map.

The Bullshit Factor

Another 1-to-1 chart:


The legend on the right hand side of the chart labels the red line as "Rate of Pay", and the blue line as "Actual Work Performed".

I have recently come to the conclusion that your pay grade is directly proportional to the amount of bullshit you have to put up with in your job. (Yes, I know, I am a slow learner.) The lower your pay grade, the less BS you have to put up with. Yes, I know when you are at the bottom of the heap, the amount of BS may seem like a lot, but it only gets worse as your pay goes up. The problem is that dealing with things is relatively simple, and things do not actually pay you. People pay you, and people are complicated and difficult.

I saw a show on PBS that followed some students through medical school. One of the students was a guy who was kind of late coming to the medicine. He had had a number of jobs before he decided to become a doctor. While he was in school he was a member of a group of students that would have a weekly meeting to discuss various things that had come up during the week. From his point of view, the hardest thing for him to learn was how to deal with statements from other students that he flat out knew to be wrong. His first instinct was to call them idiots, but he learned that the appropriate response was to say something along the lines of "that's an interesting idea".

It's all very well to do the actual work, but someone has to decide what work is to be done, and that cannot be done in a vacuum, you have to talk to other people to find out what they want and/or need, and most importantly, what they are actually willing to pay for. And that can be a time consuming and onerous process, and it does not qualify as actual work, because no goods are actually produced.

Update January 2017 replaced missing image.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sit Down & Behave Yourself

I found this video on tagged.com, which is kind of an obnoxious, spam laden web site, but I like the video.

Directional Instability

As I have mentioned before, my brother Andy has a small houseboat. He has it parked in a marina on the Mississippi River. We took it out a couple of times while I was visiting and he let me take the helm, as you can see from the picture in top right corner of this page.

Watching him drive it looks like no big deal, but when I got ahold of the wheel I found it a little difficult. I had a devil of a time just getting the boat pointed in the right direction, and when I did, it was a real trick to keep it pointed there.

After a while I did get the hang of it, but it was all I could do to keep the boat pointed straight on. I had to pick a point to steer for and focus on that point to the exclusion of all else. Looking around for any reason was out of the question. Take my eyes off the target point and the boat falls off the track. By remaining focused on the target point and reacting to any slight sideways motion of the bow with a couple of spokes of the wheel, I was able to maintain our heading.

Tedious and tiring. I finally figured out that it was kind of like balancing a broom stick on end in the palm of your hand. As long as you concentrate and keep making small compensating movements, you can keep the broomstick upright, but look away for a moment and it is almost surely going to fall. That's what steering this boat was like.

Now I am trying to figure out how to remedy this problem. I have several ideas, but they would all take some expense and some effort to implement, and I really don't know if any of them would work, much less which one would work best. If you have ideas, drop me a line. I'd like to hear them.

Hot Button

Another 1-to-1 correlation.


California Bob writes:
An article about how people overestimate their self-control when in a satiated, 'cold state' (opposite of the "gripped by impulse" state).
... raises some interesting questions. We're always critiquing other people, "why don't they just; why can't they just...." Turns out our advice to ourselves isn't even constant from one moment to the next, for example, when we are a buoyant optimist vs. a depressed realist.
If we can't relate to our own selves from situation to situation, how can we hope to relate to others?
' ...In addition, he added, the study results suggest people often can't predict how they will react in a given situation.
"It's not just about eating and addiction, but the 'cold self' has a really hard time understanding what you're capable of, for example, in a moment of despair, in a moment of rage," Nordgren said. '
Update January 2017 replaced missing image and dead link, fixed gif.


Endurance versus Enthusiasm


Newborns are full of enthusiasm, but they have no endurance. They wake up long enough to eat (drink) and then they fall asleep. As people age they start to lose some of that enthusiasm, but they are able to put up with more delay, problems, difficulties, etc. Eventually as you get older you lose all your enthusiasm. At that point all you can do is endure. If you have lost all of your zest for living, if you cannot muster any enthusiasm for anything, you may as well turn out the lights.

I heard (read?) a story one time about some guys on a ship that sank out from under them. I think it was in the North Atlantic, but it could have been farther South. The Northern Atlantic is too cold for anyone to survive very long in the water (see "Titanic"). It may have been during WWII, but then again, maybe not. Does not really matter to the story. Anyway, these guys were on a ship, the ship sinks, they don't have any lifeboats, so they are in the water just trying to stay afloat. They had gotten a message off before they went down, so another ship might be coming to their rescue. Might be. Might take a while. So there they are a dozen or twenty guys floating in the water, waiting. They are there for a while. Hours pass. People start dropping off, they just give up, or get worn out, can't stay afloat any longer, slip beneath the waves and drown. Hours pass. More people disappear. Eventually after some infinitely long period of time a ship appears and pulls the survivors from the sea. The ones who are left are the old guys. All the young guys gave up and drowned.

That's my story about enthusiasm and endurance.

Then there was a comment made by Lucky Jack Aubrey (from Patrick O'Brian's series of sea stories) disparaging enthusiasms in general. He was referring what we now call fads. I looked for the quote, but I could not find it.

Update January 2017 replaced missing image.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bookmarks

In wandering around the internet, I come across many interesting sites, some of which I bookmark. Occasionally I will take it upon myself to try and organize these bookmarks, and sometimes I will actually take the time to visit all the sites, take a look and determine some category where I then file them. But I never go back.

Oh, there are a few sites that I use regularly, like my bank, Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster's dictionary, and there are a few blogs I keep track of, but I just don't have time to go back and re-visit most sites, no matter how compelling they are.

So why keep bookmarks? Seems kind of pointless. One of these days I may just clear them all out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

TSA - Transportation Security Administration

All in all my time with the airlines was not too bad. There were a couple of incidents that might be worth relating. The first was when we were trying to take off from Minneapolis-St. Paul on our way to Columbus. There was a lady sitting in the row behind me who had a small dog in some kind of bag. The flight attendant spent 15 minutes trying to ascertain whether it was okay for her to have the dog with her or not. We are sitting on the runway, all buttoned up, we have taxied away from the terminal and now we are sitting on the tarmac while this flight attendant goes through these shenanigans.

I am thinking there is something wrong with this picture, but I can't quite figure it out. TSA evidently let her dog through security, and I can see that, it's not like he is going to explode, at least not with deadly force. I suppose if it was a trained killer (!?) it could be used like a knife (take this plane to Miami or Fifi will bite your nose off!). And the woman sounded like the grandmotherly type, but the ones who look the least suspicious are the ones you have to watch.

Anyway, it all boiled down to whether the lady had a receipt showing she had paid the $100 to allow her to take the dog on the plane. She's digging around looking for this magically slip of paper and I'm thinking this is nuts. The plane probably burned $100 worth of fuel just sitting on the ramp waiting for this to be resolved. Me thinks the flight attendant had too much coffee.

On another note, I saw this sign on a door in a terminal somewhere:



I don't quite know what to make of this. Somehow I don't think it's a good idea, but hey, the TSA knows what is best for us, right?

They confiscated my pocket knife in Columbus. It was old, and raggedy, but still useful, and it was mine. I could have gone back and mailed it (for $12) or checked it as luggage (!?). Could I check a knife all by itself? And if I could, would I have had to pay the $15 fee for a checked bag? I knew I had a new one sitting at home, so I let them keep it.

I put it in my suit case for the flight to Ohio, but coming back I forgot about it until it was too late. I wonder what they do with all the stuff they confiscate? I left a set of keys at security once when I was seeing my kids off. When I came back through a few minutes later, the guard opened up a drawer with a zillion keys in it. So I imagine they confiscate a lot of stuff.

Then there was the loud flight attendant. She is giving us the standard safety spiel at the beginning of the flight and she is REALLY loud. I have to plug my ears with my fingers until she is done. I see her walking down the aisle later on, handing out peanuts or some such, and the nitwit is wearing bright yellow, foam earplugs! Some people.

Update June 2016 replaced missing picture.

Power Windows & Indirect Measurement


Courtesy Mister Fixit

I was riding in the car-car with my daughter the other day (not the SUV car, or the truck car, the car-car). She was driving and I was sitting in the passenger seat. I had my elbow on the window sill and my hand on the edge of the roof and she inadvertently pushed the up button for my window. It jammed my arm pretty good before I squawked, she let up, and the window stopped.

So then I got to thinking about the one-touch-up power window on the Honda. They must have some kind of sensor in there that will halt the window if it somehow gets blocked, otherwise I think we would have been hearing about lawsuits. The simplest sensor to implement would be one that would measure the current that the motor is drawing. If something is blocking the window, the motor would slow down and presumably draw more current, which could trigger a cut off switch.

Volkswagen used something similar a long time ago on their old bug. They had a diagnostic instrument that would hook up to their car with a cable and they claimed to be able to measure all kinds of things with it, including the compression in all the cylinders. At the time I was flat out astounded, because the only way I knew to check the compression was to take out the spark plug, plug in a compression gauge and then crank the engine. And then you had to repeat it for each cylinder in the engine.

Volkswagen's explanation was that they measured the current draw of the starter while it was cranking the engine over. As each piston came up to the top of it's compression stroke, the resistance to turning would increase and the current draw of the motor would go up.

When I first read that, I thought they were insane. They were presupposing a lot of things, like the starter was in good shape, the gears driving the crank were in good shape, the engine itself was not suffering from worn or damaged components that were creating excess drag. But then I realized they were starting with a new car, where all the components are in good shape, not a worn out, beat-to-death junker like I was in the habit of dealing with. I think that was my first inkling that one doesn't have to spend your life repairing other people's old junk.

Update January 2017 replaced missing image.

Quote of the Day


Saw this in the blood lab this morning.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Missed Connections

My drive from Columbus to Ft. Madison took me through Indianapolis, so I thought I would stop by and say hi to Tam & Roberta. We had exchanged some e-mails alluding to the possibility, but no definite plans had been made. I was vaguely thinking that they might be in the phone book, or I could find a computer on the net somewhere and we could connect. No such luck. It was not difficult to find the "Broad Ripple" neighborhood, but after that is was a complete bust. There are no pay phones anymore. Businesses have phone books, but only the yellow pages, no white pages. And everybody thinks that somebody else has a pay phone. You remember last week when Internet cafes were all the rage? Well they might be somewhere, but not in Broad Ripple. I knocked around for about an hour and then bailed. After I got back on the road to Ft. Madison I got to thinking that maybe a public library would have helped. If I could have found one. Oh, well, better luck next time. My trip was full up on crazy as it was. A little dose of sanity would only have confused me.

Marina Panorama, Autostitch, Panoguide


Clicking on the picture will show you a bigger version.

A couple of weeks ago I'm sitting on the deck of "Meantime Girl" with my nephew waiting for Andy to finish cooking lunch. He's the Captain and Chief bottle washer, so it's his job. I'm on vacation so I take some pictures. I spent considerable time yesterday trying to paste these photos together to make a panoramic view of the marina using good ol' Paint. It didn't turn out too bad, but it was obviously a hack job. The lines between adjacent photos were painfully obvious.

Eventually I decided to look on the net for something that would do the job for me and I right away I came across Autostitch. Download & unzip and it's ready to go. A couple of clicks and presto! A finely made panoramic view! It couldn't have been easier.

Okay, now we have a really big picture, how can we put it on the web? That seems to be a bit of a trick. I dinked around for a while, but did not find anything (anything free anyway) that would do the trick. But maybe I'm just not holding my mouth right.

I did find Panoguide, which will display your panoramic images for you, so I uploaded mine.

Besides a panoramic viewer, I also need a program that will scale the finished image. At full scale it's really too big to display on the screen, and Panoguides viewer does not seem to handle scaling well. I wanted the image to span the whole width of the screen, but I wanted to limit the height, so more of the image would be visible, and it would not appear grainy.

Autostitch did a remarkable job of merging the photos, though I did discover one glitch in the canopy of the pontoon boat on the far right side of the image.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture, removed dead Panoguide links.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fort Madison Pivot Bridge

We drove over to Nauvoo (Illinois) for dinner one night and got caught by the bridge opening up. This happens several times a day. Wikipedia says 2,000 times a year, which works out to about 6 times a day. On the other hand there are upwards of 75 trains a day crossing the bridge and traversing the length of Fort Madison every day. Going to the marina you are almost certain to get held up by a train.

Bridge in action:

Boat Ride

While I was in Fort Madison (Iowa) Andy & I took his boat out for a cruise on the Mississippi. They have a really big pivot bridge there. Fortunately, if we take the antennae down we are low enough to slide under it without them having to open it up.

We went up the river about five or six miles and found a little inlet to hide out it. We turned off the motor and I took a nap. When I woke up we were up against the shore. Andy told me we had drifted up and down the river a couple of hundred yards in each direction. The current wasn't very strong where we were, and the breeze was blowing upstream, so the current would carry us down, and then the breeze would blow us back up.

Sacred Heart Church, Grand Rapids Michigan

Supposedly I was baptized here, and an old friend of the family is very involved, so it made sense to stop by and say hello. Very impressive, very ornate, though the outside is made out of very practical bricks and not grandiose blocks of stone. It has a predominately Polish clientelle. There was a big celebration going on in the basement when I stopped by, with food, drinks, a band and a big crowd. At first I thought it was a Mexican band, they had a couple of trumpets and they were singing in a foreign language, and that would be the norm in Hillsboro, but in Grand Rapids it's Polish. Same kind of upbeat music as I have come to expect from Mexican bands.

Parallel Landing

When we were coming into the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport I noticed another aircraft apparently hanging in the air off to our left. I imagine it was actually flying, but it was going noticeably slower than we are. This airport has two main, parallel runways, and there are always multiple aircraft queued up for landing in both lanes.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Restaurants & Hotels

On my last night in Columbus an old friend took me out for dinner at La Hacienda Real, a Mexican restaurant. The restaurant was nice, the prices were reasonable (less than $30 for two, including drinks), and it was delicious.

It's on Sinclair near Morse Road, in between a "Motel 6" and an "America's Best Value Inn", where I spent my last night. I don't know about it being a "Best Value", though it was cheaper than "The Place" in Newark ($53 versus $80). The thing I really noticed was the carpets. The carpet at "The Place" actually felt clean enough to walk on it barefoot. The carpet at the "Best Value" place turned the soles of my feet black. Didn't feel none too clean either.

Licking County Courthouse

Unlike the old jail, the courthouse is still in use. The older buildings on the square around the courthouse are barely hanging on, but the courthouse looks like it is going to be there forever.

How did they ever build such an elaborate building?

A Tisket, A Tasket ...


Longaberger

Licking County Jail

I am out walking around downtown Newark (Ohio) a couple of weeks ago and I spy this huge black stone edifice.

Boy, did that bring back memories. I knew a guy who got locked up there many years ago. I stopped in to visit once. Went up the stairs to his floor, and at the landing there was a grill-like door. It was locked. Three or four feet farther in there was another door. As I recall, both doors had bars, like you would expect in a jail, but at least one of them was covered with a couple layers of different size mesh. The biggest opening would accommodate a pencil. I heard a story that a visitor had managed to smuggle some smokes into the jail by putting them inside straws and then hooking the straws together, end-to-end, by slipping the end of one straw inside the end of the next. By this method he was able to create a pole about four feet long that he was able to feed through the screen to his partner on the inside. What won't those kids think of next?

Kind of reminds me of something out of Harry Potter, except the sun is shining. I wonder what kind of stone is black, and whether the choice was intentional? Probably. Did not find anything on the net.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Green, Green Grass

I really lucked out on my trip to the Midwest. The weather was "simply marvelous, darling"*. I had been expecting 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 percent humidity and what I got was 75 to 80 degrees. At those temperatures the humidity doesn't matter too much. It was basically just like the summer weather we normally have in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Meanwhile at home they were having a heat wave. Temperatures got up to 105 for a while. Glad I wasn't here.

There were a couple of things I noticed while driving through the Midwest. There were the things you kind of expect, like lots of fields and farms, and the land is basically flat from here to forever. But then there were things that stuck out as being really different, and one of these was the huge lawns of green grass.

Oregon has these land use laws, which basically means they are trying to contain urban sprawl, which means that houses in the city have tiny lots and tiny lawns. Outside of town it is fields. Grass is grown as a crop. You just don't see endless vistas of mown grass.

Another thing you see is elaborate masonry buildings in downtown areas, both commercial and government structures. And churches, big churches with huge spires. Even small towns will have 3 or 4 of these huge edifices.

Outside of the cities, traffic on the freeways is almost sparse. You drive for hours, okay a quarter of an hour, without running into a situation where you need to slow down. Highways fell into four categories:
  1. Good, smooth roads.
  2. Older concrete roads in good condition, but with the bump, bump, bump of expansion joints.
  3. Roads in bad shape.
  4. Roads under construction.
Good, smooth roads were slightly more prevalent than the others. The remainder were about equally divided between the other three types.

* I'm sure this is a quote from some movie, but I only found one reference that claimed it was from "Breakfast at Tiffany's", so I don't know.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wavy Digital Netflix Samsung "Hancock"

My sister-in-law got a big flat screen TV. Her daughter signed her up for Netflix. Netflix has an option to let you watch movies over the internet. OK, let's make it happen. There's the internet connection, there's the big TV, let's hook 'em up. Oh. No internet connection on the TV. Now what? Well, it turns out there are several devices out there that will make that connection. Mother and daughter go shopping and find a Samsung Blueray DVD player with an internet connector at the local ShopKo for $250. They drag it home and darling daughter hooks it up. One mystery: how does the DVD player make the connection with Netflix? Laptop was used to set up the account, but nothing was done to the DVD player. Perhaps because they are both connected through the same router they were able to figure it out? Must be magic!

We press the GO button and here's Hancock (Will Smith) on the big screen. Cool! But what's this? There is some kind of distortion going on. It looks like we are watching the scene through wavy glass. People's heads get wider and narrower. Maybe it's some special effect the movie makers put in to give it that spacey effect. Except it never goes away. Usually when you have some kind of effect like that, it is because someone is taking drugs, or their mind is otherwise clouded. Eventually their mind clears, and the funny effects go away. Did not happen.

Andy starts playing with the remote control. There is a control that affects the overall picture, things like aspect ratio. Some of the settings change the size and/or proportions of the image on the screen, some of them don't. But some of the settings produce the wavy glass effect, and some of them don't. So now the wavy glass effect is gone.

As for the movie, it was entertaining, and some of the special effects were cool. The concept of the homeless, alcoholic superhero was novel, but nothing to write home about.

Mercruiser 160


Andy & Nick & I took his boat out one day and it worked just fine. The next day we want to go out again and this time it's being cranky. It starts fine, but it won't go above 1000 RPM and it just doesn't sound right. We open the hatch and look at it, but there are no obvious problems.

We talk about it and decide like it's not getting enough fuel, so we pop the clip off the pump's built in filter. The filter element sits on top of the pump inside a metal can. When we open it we find that there is almost no fuel inside. I would think that by pumping gasoline through this filter, eventually all the air and/or vapor would be flushed out and the filter housing would be full of fuel. But it is almost completely empty. This leads me to believe that perhaps the pump has gone bad.

The engine has almost 2,000 hours on it, so it's conceivable that the fuel pump is worn out. It's right out there in the open so we take it off and go visit the auto parts stores. Prices range from $90 at Carquest (can have it here tomorrow) to $145 at the Mercury dealer who has one in stock. The Mercury dealer suggests we check the points, so Andy drops $20 for points, rotor and condenser. We stop at the last auto parts store (Autozone) to see what they have to say and they have a fuel pump test kit they will lend us with a $150 deposit. Now is a good time to have to credit.


We install the points and put the pump back in and hook up the fuel pressure gauge. The engine starts and now it gets up to 1500 RPM, but it's still not right. The fuel pressure gauge barely gets off the peg. It is showing 6 PSI on a gauge that goes to 100. What is going on here? We call it a day and go home to eat dinner. I still think it's the fuel pump, but I had a bad experience with a fuel pump once and so my thinking is muddy, and wrong.

A check with the all knowing internet reveals that old style mechanical pumps deliver between 4 and 10 PSI, so our reading of 6 PSI is right on. The gauge is designed to handle modern fuel injection systems, which operate at much higher pressures. Don't let your equipment lead you astray.

Andy goes down to the boat in the morning and takes off the air cleaner to check on the carburetor. The choke is stuck closed. He unsticks it just by moving it manually and the motor starts and runs fine. After all this is over he recalls that there is a big aerosol can of carburetor cleaner that came with the boat. Think maybe this has been a recurring problem?

Update January 2017 replaced one missing picture. The first one is fine.

Honda Accord

Honda Accord parked on River Road in Granville, Ohio

I requested a full size car when I arranged for a rental with Dollar Rent A Car. I had 1500 miles of driving to do and I wanted a little cush. I didn't want to spend three long days riding in a little buzz box. It was only a couple of bucks more per day than a smaller car, and this trip was already costing over a grand, so what's a couple more bucks?

I was expecting a Chrysler or some other American car, so I was a little surprised when it turned out to be a Honda. It did it's job very well, transported me to Iowa, Michigan and back to Ohio on four tanks of gas (counting the one it came with). Cruised at 80 MPH without complaining. There were a few unusual things I noticed.
  • The radio scan feature would turn down the volume just before it left one station, and then would turn it back up as soon as it located the next one.
  • The same lever is used for the gas tank flap release and the trunk release, push down for one, pull up for the other.
  • If you don't put on your safety belt, it doesn't start chiming right away, but after a few seconds it chimes a few times, but then it shuts up for few seconds, and then it repeats. It doesn't just hammer away at you. It gives you time to make it right.
  • The driver's window opens completely with one touch of the button. No surprise there, but it also closes with one touch. A nice feature, one that I haven't seen before. What I would really like would be a switch to open or close all the windows at once.
The one thing I didn't like was the steering wheel position. It takes almost no effort to steer at highway speeds, so I would like to rest my arm on something, but the steering wheel is so high up and so far away that there is no comfortable way to hold the wheel. I ended up with my left leg folded up with my foot at the base of the seat so I could rest my arm on my knee. I looked for tilt/telescope control lever, but I did not find one. This does not mean there was not one, just that my casual perusal of the dashboard failed to locate one.

Steering with your knee and/or leg is problematic. I am cruising down the highway and I need both hands to open a bottle of water. Normally I can fold my leg up and hold the wheel in place with my knee. With this car, the wheel is so high that my knee can barely reach the wheel, which makes steering very precarious. A little motion of my knee results in a big motion of the wheel and causes the car to swerve badly. Not good. It took some getting used to.

I paid for the first tank of gas when I rented the car. I knew I was going to be using more than one tank of gas, and the price was reasonable, $2.50 a gallon or some such. Trying to find a gas station in a strange town so you can fill the tank before you return the car when you are trying to catch a flight can be a miserable experience. I've done it a couple of times and I don't enjoy it at all. And it's all so you can avoid the exorbitant fees they charge for gasoline when you return the car. Actually, I don't know that what they charge for gasoline when you return the car is any different than when you rent it. The price used to be exorbitant, like twice the going rate. So now I have been conditioned and now I buy the tank of gas up front and returning the car is a simple, tensionless experience.

Update June 2016 replaced missing picture.

Midwest Tour

I am back from two weeks in the Midwest. If this trip had a theme it was "failure to communicate". I talked to 50 or 60 different people I have not seen for a long time, not just old classmates, but relatives, inlaws and outlaws. I was able to communicate effectively with a few, but with most people it was like being in parallel universes, or being skew lines (lines that are not parallel and not in the same plane, or is that being redundant?). Perhaps as we get older, our character becomes more settled/established, we become less inclined to accommodate world views that differ from our own. Younger people are still absorbing information and have not established their own rules for what is acceptable and what is not. "What a long strange trip it's been".