Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Die Trying by Lee Child

I generally tend to avoid bestsellers. I figure there are lots of authors out there who haven't made the best seller lists who are just as good a writer as any of the bestselling authors. I also figure they would probably appreciate an additional sale much more than a bestselling author would.

However, sometimes in a moment of weakness, or I am in a hurry I will pick up a bestseller. Sometimes they are really good, like Greg Bear's Quantico. Sometimes they are bad but tolerable, like Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code.

And sometimes you get absolute garbage like this one. Die Trying by Lee Child is a terrible book. It is a violent horror fantasy. It will repulse you with it's deliberate cruelty, unbelievable plot, impossible situations and it's ludicrous actions.

I will admit there are some good parts to it as well. It seems to be well written, it's easy to read, the hero and heroine are well characterized, but the plot is just awful. I only made it through the first few chapters before I had to put it down.

Batteries Plus, Again

Set about constructing a cradle to lift the engine into the Sebring yesterday and found the battery for my cordless drill was dead. No problem, I have a spare in the charger. Pull it out and plug it into the drill and . . . remember that sound from Star Wars when Han pushes the big red button and the Millenium Falcon does NOT go to lightspeed? Yeah, well, that's what we got here. Either the hyperdrive motivator has been damaged or this freshly charged battery is kaputski.

Stop by Batteries Plus (What is this? The third time in three weeks?) and pick up a new one for $35. Gadzooks! These things are expensive. We were at Home Depot earlier getting materials and I was ogling the new Milwaukee cordless drills. Real jazzy with their zig-zaggy stripes. Small and light, they look like a ray-gun straight out of Flash Gordon. But they want a $100 for them. I probably could have gone to Harbor Freight and gotten a whole new drill for $35, but I like my Makita. I've had it for years and other than the battery it shows no signs of wearing out. Of course I am probably going to have to replace the spare battery next week and that will mean another $35 expense.


Jews

Tatyana recently accused me of being anti-Semitic. I did not intend to be, and I don't think I am, but who knows? Maybe I am, but I just don't know it.

The whole Jewish thing is pretty weird. I mean, I don't think I even know any Jews. OK, there is one guy who comes to our Thursday lunches, but then we are a motley crew. But other than that, I don't know. I don't inquire as to people's religion. They could Papists, or Moslems, or, gasp, even Presbyterians, and I wouldn't know. But religion gets talked about a lot, and the topic of Jews seems to come up more often than others.

So the whole "persecution of the Jews" thing is kind of a mystery to me. How could you persecute the Jews if you don't even know who they are? That right there I think is the core of the issue. Seems like Jews set themselves apart. Mormons do the same sort of thing. If you do business with them during the week, you might never notice, but if you engage them socially you run into all kinds of little things, like special food, special times and special days.

By setting themselves apart, whenever things go bad, the pack is going to turn on the minority who are different. So I guess I can see why they would want their own country, someplace where they can be the pack. I suppose it's another form of tribalism, and for some reason their tribal ties are very strong. Indoctrinated since they were little, I suppose. I'm a member of the big, wide, sort-of-a-Christian majority tribe so I am not feeling especially persecuted. If I had been born and raised in a Moslem country, I would probably be a member of the big, wide, sort-of-a-Muslim majority tribe. Conventional religion doesn't really mean much to me.

Maybe I'm a coward, just engaging in protective camouflage. You know, don't draw attention to yourself. These religions that set themselves apart, like the Jews and the Mormons, the are probably a stronger force because of it. They band together against attacks by outside world. Such attacks only serve to reinforce their belief that they are special. Me, I am having a hard time figuring out where to draw the line.

 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Non-Verbal Communication

Not too long ago I read a story about how Michelle Bachmann, a Republican political candidate for something or other  (I think that was her name) was crazy but how hordes of people just loved her anyway. At first I just dismissed her followers as being stupid, ignorant morons, but something about that bothered me. All kinds of people say and do all kinds of crazy things. And then I realized, it isn't just what she says, it's the whole package, it's how she says it, it's her tone of voice, it's her attitude, it's how she carries herself, how she acts, how she presents herself. Politics is basically show business and she's an excellent performer.

Then I got to thinking about all the rabble rousing right wing redneck jackasses on TV and on the radio, and I realize it's the same thing. Somewhere I heard that 90% of all inter-personal communication is non-verbal, and that's what's going on here. What they are saying is only 10% of the message. Even in radio, the tone of voice, the delivery, and implied sub-text carry as much meaning as whatever actual words are voiced.

But the real revelation was when I realized that the calm, collected, rational, persuasive left wing comedians on TV are doing exactly the same thing. Their style is different, but the style is 90% of the message. The words are only a small fraction of what is being communicated.

In any case, left wing, right wing, centrist or wacko, the whole point is to be entertaining, and if they are persuading anyone of anything, it's that their style, the style they already subscribe to, is the right one.

Update: Equal time for opposite slant. I realized that my caricature of the right-wing and left-wing media stars might detract from my message, so I have rewritten those sections to have equal and opposite spin. Let me know what you think.


Then I got to thinking about all the rabble rousing left wing libtard jackasses on TV, and I realize it's the same thing.

But the real revelation was when I realized that the calm, collected, rational, persuasive right wing pundits on TV are doing exactly the same thing.

Hi ho! The merrio!

Tekno-Joy: Blue-Ray, DVR, DVD, Linux, MythTV, PC, TV, Zbox

I canceled our cable TV service, so I now I need to get on the stick and get some kind of computer setup so we can connect our TV to the Internet. We have a Roku, and it works fine for watching shows from Netflix, but it only gives you limited access to the Internet, as in limited to the channels you are willing to pay for. There might be some free channels, but I haven't found anything worth watching there. I can access the photos I have uploaded to Picasa.

I had an old Linux box that used to work fine, until it quit a few months ago. Then there is this program called MythTV that is supposed to turn your PC (Personal Computer) into a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). It's Open-Source and it's free, and I've got this old Linux box, so I thought I would give it a try. Fixing the Linux box was simple a matter of re-seating the video card. Used my Windows based PC to download the MythTV program and burn a CD (Compact Disk). Used that CD to install the MythTV program on the Linux box. The Linux box booted. Once. And then it died, dead.

Error code says the memory "module" was bad. Took the memory stick over and plugged into my old Windows PC and it works fine. We've had other problems, off and on with this motherboard. I think I'm gonna call it scrap.

But now my Windows PC is behaving weirdly. Admittedly it has good reason to act up. It has a virus. It is not a bad virus, it's just kind of annoying, but it is thoroughly entrenched and getting rid of it is going to mean reformatting the hard drive. Again. Which takes time and is annoying. Also, it's got this memory module from the flakey Linux box, and maybe it's flakey as well. And then there's the whole hard disk disappearing and reappearing trick, and who knows what's causing that. It might be time for a new computer.

So I've given up on the old Linux box and I'm looking at some kind of PC to use with the TV and I find this Zotac Zbox, which looks pretty cool, except it comes it 31 different flavors ranging in price from $200 to $600. The most expensive ones come with a Blue-Ray optical disk drive and I am wondering do I even need one?

When DVD's came out, it was pretty obvious that the picture they delivered was a whole lot better than what you got from videotape, even with the old CRT televisions. I was thinking DVD's were just fine, and that Blue-Ray is gilding the lily, but now I hear that standard DVD's only deliver 480p and my big screen TV can handle up to 750p, maybe even 1080p. (The bigger the number, the higher the resolution and the better the picture, I suppose.)  So would Blue-Ray look that much better? I thought VHS was fine when it was all I had.

So now I'm wondering what kind of resolution I am getting over the Internet, and what will it be like in the future? Is Blue-Ray really going to take over? Should I go ahead and get a Blue-Ray player now just to avoid having to look for one in the future? Also, as Blue-Ray gains momentum, manufacturers are going to be looking for more short cuts, and the life expectency of Blue-Ray players may go down. Might not make any difference though. By the time the Blue-Ray players fail, Blue-Ray may be obsolete.

On the other hand, we hardly use any DVD's at all. Most everything we watch comes via the internet. We do get some broadcast channels, but until we get a DVR, I am not even going to consider them.

Update: I wonder if there is any possible use for old optical disks. Sure, there are some music CD's you will want to hang onto forever, but we are generating a zillion useless disks everyday. They are this decade's version of a sheet of paper, use it once and throw it away. I wonder if you could build a stove that would burn them cleanly? Or maybe you could glue stacks of them together to make casters, or chop them up to make chaff for military aircraft. Gee, I'm just full of good ideas this morning.

I Blog, Therefore I Am

Ripped from today's comic page.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Day

Just because I'm a little hacked off right now.

Queen To Play (Joueuse - French with subtitles)

Helene (her name comes with a bunch of funny accent marks, but this is America, dang it, we don't use no stinkin' accent marks), French, middle-aged, working class woman develops interest in chess, takes lessons from one of her employers and takes on the local chess club in a tournament. It's a bit of a Cinderella story. Her daughter is growing up, heading off on a school trip of some sort. She sees people playing chess while she is cleaning rooms, she notices a chess set at a home she cleans, and somehow she takes an interest in it, buying a chess set for her husband who gives it a shot, but backgammon is more his speed. Deft, well-crafted, thoroughly enjoyable.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Math Problem


Found on Dan Carlin.com. Let me know when you've worked it out.

Update: Yea gods! Four hours later and the answer miraculously appears! It's one. I thought each of the symbols was supposed to be a number, and some weird font thing had got them scrambled, but now I see that only the three symbols in the center of middle row are meaningful and the rest are just garbage. So the problem is 4 - 3.


Quote of the Day

Capitalists are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate. - Bertrand Russell
 Found on a forum on Dan Carlin.com

Selling Out

I'm poking around on Blogger the other day, looking for something, and Google pops up and says "you have a popular blog, you should put ads on it", or some such. Popular? Me? Well, according to Google's stat counter I am, sorta. Relative to nothing. Of course, it could be inflated just to make me think I am popular so I will sign up and post their ads. No extra work for them, other than hiring someone to write that little message, and who knows how many backwater hacks will bite and submit to his Lordship The Google? Anyway some money is better than none, so I thought I would go ahead and shake hands with the devil. I am going to try Powell's Books, because I really like them, even though I hardly ever go there, but they do mail order just like his humongousness The Amazon. We shall see.

Memory Dump - Some Kind of Hero

I've had this memory of a movie rattling around in my brain for the last couple of months. I could remember almost everything about it, except the name: Some Kind of Hero. It starred a black man and a white woman, who I thought were Richard Pryor and Debra Winger. I did some poking around on the internet, but until this morning I wasn't able to figure out the answer.

The movie does star Richard Pryor. This is what I remember about it. Pryor is a soldier in Vietnam who gets captured by the Viet Cong. He spends some time as a prisoner of war. His captors want him to sign a confession, and he does, but he signs it "Jack Meoff", which gets him a beating. One of his fellow prisoners is suffering from something that requires medical attention, and "Jack" tries to get him some help. He may have signed something in order to get it. That part is vague.

He eventually comes home to the States where he is greeted by a news crew as he gets off the plane. The newswoman encourages him to kiss the ground, as he had said he would be glad to do, so he does, and he gets his fifteen minutes of fame.

Somehow he hooks up with a white hooker, who I thought was Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment) but was actually Margot Kidder (Lois Lane in the Superman movies. Am I mistaken or do they actually look a lot alike? )He also gets his hands on stack of bonds, which he attempts to sell to some guys from the mob. When the deal actually happens, he thinks he is not going to get out of there alive, and actually says so. But this is Hollywood, so I am pretty sure he escapes with his life, the loot and the girl, and they live happily ever after.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Scherenschnitte

Doesn't this just sum up all the best parts of Science Fiction? Found it on Scherenschnitte via Blogger's "Next Blog" button. I am predisposed to anything Science-Fiction-ish, everybody has been posting their version of the 100 Greatest Science Fiction books, I like things made out of paper, so when I stumbled across this I just had to post it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Powell's

As a reward for fixing my wife's car, I decide to treat myself to a book from Powell's. I saw a couple of interesting things while I was there.

This was on the trinket table next to the cash register.

One of the bloke's on Top Gear mentioned that Haynes has a shop manual for babies now.

Maybe I should buy this for Roberta X

This is a display in an adjacent beauty products store.
I know it's hard to see with all the reflections,
but there are several wooden models in amongst all the sprays and lotions.
I thought it a little incongruous.
Oh, yeah, I picked up Burning Chrome by William Gibson.

Ramp

The place where my wife's car quit is underneath the entrance to the Fremont Bridge. I took a couple of dozen pictures from where the car was parked and used Autostitch to combine them into this composite.


I still missed part of the sky along the right hand side. I filled it in using MSPaint. The picture doesn't really do the scene justice. The section of ramp in the center is directly overhead, maybe 80 feet up.

Diagonally across the block you are in the center of a triangle of three ramps. I started taking a video just to record the noise, and then realized I was surrounded by these things, so I turned in a circle to catch them all. I thought I would try Picasa for this video. Clicking on the picture will take you to the web album where you can watch the video. YouTube next time.

From 2011 08 August

New Tires & Battery

Friday I got an email from TireRack saying my tires had been delivered to H-M Motorsports. Cool. Friday goes by and no phone call. That's okay, I'm busy. Monday morning I give H-M a call, and, wait a minute, let me check, um, we have two tires with your name on them. Not cool. Call TireRack, put on hold, thank modern life I have a speaker phone. I don't know why, but it doesn't seem nearly as obnoxious to listen to endless whatever-you-get-when-you-are-on-hold if it is coming over a speaker phone. If I have to use a handset it drives me batty. Whatever. Two minutes go by and the woman who answers the phone knows my name! No miracle, right? Everybody and their mother has caller ID now, right? Well except for the phone company and the internet company. The two outfits who you would think would be up on technology don't seem to be able to find . . . , never mind, we won't go there, it's not nice to pick on the handicapped.


Anyway, the nice lady at TireRack figured out what the problem was and dispatched a electonic ass boot to get things corrected in less time than it took me to tell you about it. Later that afternoon I got a call from H-M, they have the tires and they would be happy to put them on tomorrow morning. Got the tires mounted no sweat. Noticed a little later that a couple of tires had much bigger wheel weights than the old ones. Two tires got by with little weights, but two got big honking weights. Weird.

This morning my wife calls from downtown Portland and her car, the car with brand new tires mind you, is dead. No lights, no indicators, no motor, no nothin'. What's gone wrong? Car is five years old - Voila! The battery has died. Stuff a double handful of tools in my bag, head over to Batteries Plus in Beaverton (my new favorite store), pick up a new Ray-O-Vac battery, and head downtown. (When did Ray-O-Vac get into the car battery business? I always liked the name, I don't know why they couldn't compete with the likes of Everyready and Duracell.)

Get there, open the hood and something is ticking away. It sounds exactly like a time bomb from a movie. What the heck? I open the fuse comparment and locate the offending relay and pull it out. Now the big red ECM module (why does a car have an Electronic Counter Measures module?) starts making clackety noises. I'm starting to worry now. I pull it out and finally we have silence. So what's going on? Have I got some kind of inscrutable electrical malfunction? All this stress is making me hungry. I decide I need a coffee and some breakfast. I find The Sultan cafe nearby. They have a nice selection of standard breakfast pastries. I have a Danish. In a Turkish cafe.

The Sultan Cafe at Quimby & 18th
The sun kind of spoiled the picture. Bad sun.

Refreshed, I realize all the clicking and clacking may just be a side effect of the dead battery and decide to go ahead and replace it. All it takes one 10 mm wrench. Same size wrench for the battery terminals and the battery hold down bolts. Only odd thing is that the battery is wrapped in some kind of blanket. I cannot imagine what purpose it would serve. No matter, new battery fixes all problems, we are good to go.

Now to deliver the car to my wife. She is taking a class at 23rd & Vaughn. 23-something-er-other. I am expecting to see a school, or a school administration building, along with a parking lot with a hundred cars. Nothing there. The North side of Vaughn is industrial establishments and the freeway. The South side is trendy little stores and peoples homes. Where could she be hiding? I drive around for at least an hour, exploring all the by-ways and back streets in the area. It's not bad, I don't have any place I have to be, and there is lot's of cool stuff around here, so I don't mind, but after awhile it's starting to bug me.

Finally I pull into a Kobos coffee store and ask the people there if they have any ideas. One guy suggests the Holiday Inn next door. Could it be? I walk over, walk through the lobby and open the door to the first conference room I come to and there she is!

Why didn't I think of this? I saw the Holiday Inn, but some reason I just blocked it out of my mind. Teachers wouldn't be having a class in a Holiday Inn, that just smacks of extravagance, something school administrators are loath be connected with.

So it all worked out OK.

Here's some pics of some of interesting stuff I saw while I was wandering around.

Sculpture put up by Esco, one of the big industrial establishments North of Vaughn


Royal Enfield Motorcycles For Sale

St. Patricks Church. It's a little odd. There is a symbol on the tower that looks like a US Bank emblem of some sort.


The Peculiarium, housed in a fine family building. There is a similar sized building in Grand Rapids with our family name on it, built by my grandfather.
Conway Trucking World Headquarters
They have a big presence here.
I also ran across a place called Sniff. It's a dog hotel. Very fancy. I took one pic, but it didn't come out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bureaucracy

Got a video call from daring daughter this evening. Talking to her reminded me that the rest of the world is a very different place. And then I came across this video. It reinforces that idea.



I've seen a bunch of really good videos today. Maybe I'm just in the mood. This one is pretty darn good. Found on Discover Buenos Aires.

Quote of the Day

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” - Niels Bohr
 Stolen from Prepare to be Wrong.


Fleas & Bees

Our standard practice was to shut the cats in the garage at night so they wouldn't be waking people up in the middle of the night. Sleep is next to sacred in our house. A couple of months ago when we started working on the car, we started leaving them in the house at night. Didn't want them getting into trouble amongst all the greasy, sharp, heavy bits of engine lying around. Figured if they had the run of the house, they were less likely to go looking for trouble in the garage.

That worked okay, but Gus strarted showing up with wet spots on his fur. I figured he had inadvertantly run into some petrochemical, and he would eventually learn to avoid that stuff.

But it didn't stop. Every time I saw him he had one, two or more wet spots. What's going on? Do greasy engine parts hold some kind of mystical attraction for this cat? On top of this I never saw any difference in his behavior. He slept, groomed, and prowled just like always.

Then about a week ago I started getting bit. Fleas. Turns out the wet marks on Gus's fur were from him trying to bite the fleas. Hard to do, I imagine, if all your teeth are sharp as needles. Problem was, I never saw him chewing on himself. I only saw him doing his normal, endless licking. Monday wife and son applied a dollop of Frontline between his shoulder blades. That should clear up the problem.

Up until this week I was sure the wet marks in Gus's fur were from oil he picked up in the garage. Odd how I got my signals crossed.

I just did a little checking on anti-flea stuff, and I found this in an article on Fipronil (the active ingredient in Frontline) in Wikipedia:

Colony collapse disorder

Fipronil is one of the main chemical causes blamed for the spread of colony collapse disorder among bees. It has been found by the Minutes-Association for Technical Coordination Fund in France that even at very low nonlethal doses for bees, the pesticide still impairs their ability to locate their hive, resulting in large numbers of forager bees lost with every pollen-finding expedition.[11]
Fipronil is insecticide with applications in agriculture as well as flea killing. I don't think the flea-killing products are contributing to the bee problem. But I could be wrong. There is no mention of how long the stuff lasts in the environment. It might be like teflon and never go away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What's in a name?

Dustbury led me to Nancy's Baby Names, a most unusual blog. I'm reading along, and one post prompts me to comment, and since I was so eloquent, I decided to repost it here for your amusement.

Somewhere around middle school I started calling myself Chuck instead of Charles or Charlie. The school I was attending required us to start every class period by writing our name and date at the top of new sheet of paper. I considered this to be administrative horse shit, so if I have to do it, I can at least use a name with fewer letters, so I started using Chuck, which has two fewer letters than Charles. Figure 180 days times 7 periods times 3 years adds up  to a saving  7560 letters. Letters are not going extinct because of me!

Gold

A couple of items about the price of gold appeared in my inbox this week. The first one:
What the heck? Platinum is $10 more than gold.
How do I go short on gold? - Michigan Mike
The second one contained this gem:
Gold's ascent is a confluence of negative real interest rates; undisciplined central bank behavior; a growing loss of confidence in government policies and financial systems; loss of Swiss bank secrecy; an accumulation of economic wealth by individuals in parts of the world without stable property rights and rule of law. - Rocky Humbert on One Honest Man

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chrysler Sebring 2.7 Liter V6 Assembly Notes

This is only one chapter in the whole miserable saga.  


Installing the Camshafts and Timing Chains

Installing the timing chains was fraught with terror. I had two friends who did valve jobs on expensive overhead cam engines and both of them had to do the job over. Both of them did the job with the engine in the car, and they figured that if you didn't move the crank while you had the engine apart, it would still be in the right place when they put it back together. If both cases they were wrong. Once they had their engines assembled and turned them over, the mis-timed valves impacted the pistons and they all got bent.

This engine has dual over head cams, that is two camshafts per bank of cylinders. Two banks of cylinders means a total of four camshafts. Each pair of camshafts has a chain connecting them. The intake camshafts have a second sprocket that is driven by a chain from the crankshaft. So we have two separate situations that need to be coordinated.

Before we start putting anything together, we turn the crank so the mark on the crank aligns with the mark on the block. Normally I would expect this to put piston number one at top dead center, but not here! Shoot, none of the pistons are at top dead center. Oh! Clever devils! I see what they have done. With the crank in this position, all of the pistons are at least an inch down in their bores. So no matter what we do with heads and valves, there is no way the valves are going to impact the pistons. So we just need to not move the crank until we get the timing chains all installed.


Timing each pair of camshafts in a single head is not two difficult. Two of the links are marked and the sprockets on the camshafts are marked as well. Simply line up the marks and then mount the camshafts in the heads.


Now we can install the main timing chain and the large camshaft sprockets. This is a bit tricky. As I recall, the chain is draped over the rear sprocket and then dropped through the hole in the head. Then the front sprocket is inserted in the chain and fed upwards through the hole in its' corresponding head. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Whatever. Now the sprockets can be slipped on the camshafts where they are free to rotate. Now we can adjust the timing marks on this chain and these sprockets so they all line up.

Now we have a problem. The two camshafts in each head are in their proper relation to each other, and the main timing chain and all its' sprockets are all coordinated, but we still haven't connected the camshaft sprockets to the camshafts. This is done with a pair of bolts in each one. Unfortunately, with all the timing marks where they are supposed to be, the bolt holes do not line up. How effed up is that? The bolt holes are diametrically opposed, so the sprockets can be bolted to the cams in either of two positions. Either position will work mechanically because the crank makes one complete turn for each half turn of the cams. So icrank cannot tell if the cam is 180 degrees off. However, there is also the ignition timing to consider. Or what if we get one cam right and the other 180 degrees off? We might have a very rumbly engine.

In any case, the bolt holes were not that far off, and they were both off the same amount and in the same direction, so I simply went with the closer position. One problem is that one cam did not want to stay lined up. It was at a point where at least one of the cams was on the tip. As soon as you put it in position, the valve springs would cause it to move. The camshafts have square recesses to accomodate a square drive socket wrench extension, with that and a pry bar, you can rotate the cam into position and hold it there while you put the bolts in. A rachet won't work. As soon as you get to the position, the springs grab the cam and twist it away. Happens in both directions, hence my conclusion that it must right on the tip of the cam.

Installing the Crankshaft Pulley and Seal

Installing the crankshaft pulley and seal was a bit tricky. The pulley mounts on the end of the crank. The seal rides on a surface just behind the pulley, and slightly larger in diameter. The surface of the crank between these two area is beveled, so by turning the seal while pushing it will go right on. Unfortunately, the seal has to be mounted in the timing cover first, and the protrusions on the cover preclude any rotation while mounting it. If you just push the cover and seal into position, the edge of the seal will catch on the beveled lip on the crank and flip inside out. Somehow I imagine it will not seal effectively like that. Chrysler has a special tool for installing the crankshaft seal. I really don't want to buy one. I can't imagine ever having any other use for it. Besides, as specialized as it is, I am not even sure where I could get one.

So I improvised. I cut the ends off of a pop can and then cut about a one inch wide strip out of the side. I took the remaining piece, spread a little oil on it, wrapped it up on a circle and slipped it inside the seal. Spread the end of this rolled up piece of aluminum so it would go over the crank and pushed the timing cover and the seal into position. Then I pulled the aluminum piece out. Easy as pie. Don't know if it will actually seal or not. Seals are kind of funny. Old, ugly seals can work fine. New seals with microscopic defects can leak like a sieve. The seal suffered quite a bit of abuse while we were fooling around trying to figure out how to get it in position, and the edge of that aluminum is pretty sharp. I could have nicked the seal while I was pulling the aluminum shim out.

Installing the crankshaft pulley took a little work. It is a press fit on the perfectly round end of the crank, there is no key. There is bolt that holds it on. If the bolt had been just an inch or so longer, we could have used it to push the pulley on, but no, can't make it easy. I was able to knock it on using a block of wood and a small sledge hammer. Once I got it most of the way on, the bolt was able to grip the threads and push it home. There is a tab on the bottom of the timing cover you use with a screwdriver and one of the pulley's spokes to keep the pulley from turning while you tighten the bolt.

Wiring Harness

When connecting the wiring harness to the three ignition coils on the front bank of cylinders, I noticed that there were four identical connectors. This sucks. There is also a connector on a sensor mounted on the intact plenum that uses this same connector. So which one is the odd one? From this photo, I can see that the connector with the brown wire on top goes to the intake plenum. The ones with the green wire on top go to the ignition coils.

2016 June update added link to the whole story.

Signs of Aging

I've been to church two weeks in a row.

I wrote a little while ago about being exhausted from being frustrated.  My frustration stems from clinging to a belief in justice, and as anyone with critical faculties must realize, justice is merely a theoretical concept, rarely realized in human experience.  Ergo, clinging to a belief in justice is a prescription for constant frustration.

I have an excuse for gong to church.  My sister-in-law expressed interest in church, and she has very little going on in her life and never expresses interest in anything.  My friend Jerry is a big catholic so I pumped him for info and have taken Karen to church twice.

Odd, because I used to regard churches with vile disdain.  Now that I have several decades of hypocrisy under my belt, and the lines of compromise have become deeply etched into my face, I am less judgmental.  Today, I see nothing in the least contradictory about running your Mercedes over a couple homeless people on your way to church. 

The convenient thing about religion is that, along with suspending judgement, you can also suspend a sense of justice.  And you can suspend reason, and shame, and all manner of inconvenient convictions.  From this perspective I better understand the attraction of religion. 

It's a big time-saver, and eliminates a lot of headaches.  Using the same philosophy, I plan to start dollar-cost-averaging my investments, buying lottery tickets, and voting Republican.

Peace be with you!
- California Bob

Coordinate Transformation Equations Slide Dial

Michigan Mike found this one of Dad's old books: Introduction to Space Dynamics by W.Tyrrell Thomson.


The logo is for North American Aviation. Dad got out of the aerospace business when I was in high school. Only large organizations had computers, calculators were still largely mechanical, and the PC was still years in the future.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Fighter

A really good movie about brother boxers Micky Ward (Mark Walhberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). It starts off sort of being a movie about making a movie about Dicky's big comeback. Then it turns out the movie-within-the-movie is actually about crack cocaine and what it does to people, and Dicky is their prime example. But it's not really a movie about making a movie, that's just a sub-plot, the real story is about Micky's rise to the championship. The only bad part of the movie were the fight scenes - they were pure Hollywood. I wish just once Hollywood would make a fight movie with a realistic boxing match.

New Tires

I ordered new tires for my wife's car from TireRack.com. I used to buy my tires at Les Schwab. I also used to have a job. If I had a job and was pulling down 100 grand a year, I wouldn't have any problem paying Les the thousand dollars they want. But I don't, so I do. I looked for tires at Costco, but the Endeavor seems to use a somewhat odd size and I couldn't find any, and the two people working there were busy chatting up other, more important customers, so screw that. So I looked on the internet. Found the exact same tire that was on the car, tires that had given us 60,000 miles of perfectly satisfactory service, for $500. Shipping is going to be a bear, right? Well, it's $100. That's doable. What about installation? There's a place in Beaverton, H-M MotorSports that will do the job, for another $100. So we're looking at $700 instead of $1000. Sorry Les, I have to scrimp where I can. Paid a visit to H-M, just to see if they were really in business, and if they really could mount some tires for me, and they seem to be all squared away.

Let's see about those tires again. The first ones I picked would have to come from a warehouse back East, which would mean at extra $30 shipping and a probably a couple more days. Could I get a different tire? Well, yes you can. There are like a gazillion different tires. OK, let's set the price cut off at $500 for four. That narrows it down some, but it still leaves 21 different tires. Being just a little obsessive-compulsive, I download the web page, and then cut and paste the data into a Google Spreadsheet. Now I can get a better look at it. A couple of tires get eliminated for one simple reason or another. Now the only differences left are in customer feedback. I'm a little suspicious of this kind of data. I mean I have never really noticed much difference in tires. It's usually a package deal, you've got a car, it's got tires. It's liable to have those tires as long as I have the car. I have noticed a few obvious things, like new tires general are smoother, mud and snow tires are noisier and bigger tires can give you a little more grip and a softer ride. But as to whether one tire rates a 7 or an 8 in responsiveness, who are you kidding? But hey, it's the only difference we have to go by, so I end up picking a General Altimax. We shall see. The only General tire I ever heard of was some super deluxe thing they were selling a long time ago, and they wanted a hundred dollars for it then, which was like double what every one else was asking.

TireRack.com's West Coast warehouse is in McCarran,. Nevada, a stone's throw East of Reno on I-80 and 390 miles West of Wendover, Utah. There doesn't appear to be any other reason to go there.


View 2011 in a larger map

Mental Clutter

  • Tam asked me a question and I gave her a flip answer. She deserves better, but it's hard.
  • Tatyana says I am anti-Semitic. I had no idea. Now I am confused.
  • Tried to drill out the broken bolts in the exhaust flange and they won't drill. Jack suspects the bolts are hardened. I am afraid he is right.
  • I am tired of listening to all the crap that passes for political discourse in this country. 90% of it is someone giving their opinion of what someone else said. I suppose this is good as it keeps those people occupied. Otherwise they might be out making real trouble. I can take a little bit of the more amusing stories, but I get my fill pretty quickly.
  • I've got a bunch to say about health care in this country, but it's hard work to write something coherent, especially when my mind is full of all this other stuff.
  • Stu put up a post about Phi, and I started doing a little experimenting with it. I put some of the formulas in a spread sheet, and they played out as advertised. But when I tried to apply a little algebra, it all fell apart. I want to figure out what's going on.
  • I want to say something about Unions, minimum wage laws, and Capitalism, but once again, it's hard work.

TV

I finally pulled the plug on cable TV. I've been threatening to do it for months, but now I've finally done it. Should save me about a hundred bucks a month. No more cable, so I unplugged the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) and plugged in the antennae, the same antennae we were using ten years ago before we signed up for this cable nonsense. We get about a dozen channels, but since there is no DVR in the mix anymore, there is no pause, replay, or skip over the ads. I turned the tube on yesterday afternoon and caught a bit of Master and Commander, which was pretty good for a bit, and then we got to the ads. Haven't seen many ads lately, so it was kind of interesting to see what they were selling. Prescription drugs and lawsuits, mostly. The show came back on and there was some idiot redcoat running around on deck trying to shoot an albatross with a musket. What is it with some people? You give them a gun and they are ready to shoot anything that moves. Some vile part of human nature, I suppose.

I was glad I saved up my change requests. I would not want to have to call Frontier twice. I swear it took me an hour to get through all the hold time and question and answer sessions to get everything canceled. Good thing we have a speaker phone button on one of our phones. Playing Spider Solitaire while waiting made it all tolerable. Pushing the zero button repeatedly got me past the robo-cop automated menu system. Once I got to a real person I believe I was able to mind my manners and even be cordial. I wouldn't want their job. I wonder if anyone actually enjoys that kind of work?


I still think an all advertisements, all the time, channel would be a money maker.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Big Crane in Town

Intel is expanding: they are building a new fab (integrated circuit wafer fabrication facility) at Ronler Acres.

I don't understand exactly why they need so many cranes. Note that the second blue crane from the front, the one with the top of the boom towards the left side of the picture, is a super heavy duty model.

There is a vertical strap connecting the support boom to a
big counter balance weight made of concrete blocks.

I am thinking this big thing with all the diagonal bracing might be the frame for the roof, and when they get it assembled, they are going to hoist the whole thing up in the air. But it looks much too robust to be framing for a roof, so maybe there is something else going on.

Quote of the Day

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. - Albert Einstein
Via TJ Helm on Facebook

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nehon, India

Did you ever wonder where the color purple came from? Well, I found out! They dig it out of the ground at the purple mine in Nehon, Punjab, India.

View Larger Map
Actually, I have no clue what's going on here. I think it is probably a mine of some sort. Isn't there some kind of ore that's purple?

Update November 2015. Google has updated their map and the purple coloration has gone bye-bye.

Quote of the Day

Uncle John would tell about the Moro juramentados, how their native Moslem datu would call the single volunteer up before the tribe and anoint him and consecrate him to the heaven he was getting ready to attend and then, practically, bind his balls and pecker with wet rawhide before he ran amok, so that the pain of the contraction of the drying leather would keep him going. That was why, said Uncle John, the Army first adopted the .45. Because six slugs from a .38 special would not knock a juramentado down. And, in his condition, obviously, you had to knock him down to stop him. The .45 was guaranteed to knock any man off his feet, if it only hit the tip of his little finger, or your money back. And the Army, said Uncle John, had been using it effectively ever since.
From Here To Eternity  by James Jones, page 20. Just in case you were wondering why the Army adopted the .45 in the first place.

I had to type this one in myself, no help at all from Google Books. I suppose I could have taken a picture and sent that to the OCR program. I'll have to remember that next time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pictures

Hair embedded in fish oil capsule

Sebring intake valves, visible only due to flash

Post Hip World Headquarters
Broken water pump from Sebring
Fiber optic connection to the house
Why the bathroom towel rack fell off it's mounting plate.
Poor design. When the mounting plate was screwed tight to the wall, there wasn't enough lip for the set screw to get a proper grip. With the set screw tightened up, you can see in the picture that the plate is recessed into the bezel. A small chip of wood made an adequate shim to move the plate far enough out from the wall so the set screw could get a proper grip.
Old time safe at Precision Locksmiths
Sebring engine with new water pump and head gaskets
Speed trap in front of my house

 Album cover from Post Hip

Underside of Marshall Amp
The four round things in the center are the bottoms of the sockets for the power amp tubes.
500 Volts. Don't touch.

Change counting machine at the Credit Union. Quite a chunk of metal.

Quote of the Day

Addictions, he thought, turning right, toward Seven Dials’ name-sake obelisk, started out like magical pets, pocket monsters. They did extraordinary tricks, showed you things you hadn't seen, were fun. But came, through some gradual dire alchemy, to make decisions for you. Eventually, they were making your most crucial life-decisions. And they were, his therapist in Basel had said, less intelligent than goldfish.
Zero History by William Gibson, Chapter 10. Addiction is a very strange thing.

Via Google Books, the Print Screen key, MSPaint & finally Free online OCR, though I did have to skim the actual book to locate the passage.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Complaints About Prices

We went to pick up the Marshall Amplifier from Wire Audio today. The bill was just under a hundred dollars. I thought it was a very fair price considering the amount and kind of work that was done. Basically I thought we were lucky to be able to find someone:
  • who knew about these kind of amplifiers, 
  • was technically competent to perform the required work, and 
  • was able to get it done in a timely fashion.
I didn't used to be like that. When I was a kid, it seemed like grousing about prices, especially repair prices was de rigueur. Everyone did it all the time. Or maybe it was just the people I hung out with. Or maybe because I did it, I tended to associate with other people who did the same. Or maybe it's just the nature of kids, or of being broke.

The other day when I went to the dealer to see about new keys for the Mitsubishi, I was shocked that they wanted to $200 for a key. Last time I checked they only wanted $150. Even at $200, if they had been able to produce one on the spot, I would have bought it, just to not have to hassle with it anymore. But I didn't complain about the prices or accuse the dealer of trying to rip me off. They have the part, if I want to buy it from them, I can pay their price. No one if forcing me to buy it.

Sometimes it feels like the repair shop has you over a barrel: you have no choice but to pay what seems like an exhorbitant price for some apparently minor repair. It might be a fair price, given their costs, or they might be making a bundle off of you. You will never know. But that's the way repairs are these days. You buy a complex machine like a car or a computer, and if it breaks, it is going to take someone who understands it and has the technical skill to repair it. If you aren't willing to pony up the big bucks for the occasional repair, don't buy the machine in the first place.




Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kelly's Heroes & The Tiger Tank

Watching Kelly's Heroes tonight (Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, 1970) and they have a run in with a Tiger Tank. I remember the sequence well:
  • the only way to defeat a Tiger was to shoot it directly in the rear end,
  • our heros find themselves directly behind the Tiger,
  • the Tiger is in a narrow street and cannot turn around,
  • nor can it turn it's turret because it is blocked by a wall on one side and a tree on another.
In my memory, it was from a black and white episode of Combat, and it was a very dire situation. Funny how the memory plays tricks like that.

YouTube clip here.



Debt Crisis

When the stock market took a dive yesterday I had a sudden flash of insight: this whole game is rigged. There are some guys in a room somewhere plotting how to take over the world. Actually, they are just scheming on how to make a whole lot of money. The way to do that is to convert your assets to cash and then get the stock market to take a dive. When prices hit the floor, you buy back in. Everybody who bailed out on the crash loses, and you, being the wily schemer behind the scenes, make out like a bandit. Who are these guys? I have some suspects, like the the Koch brothers and Rupert, or even Slim, but it is more likely people we have never heard of.

I wonder what happened today. Well, no, not really. It was either bad, which I don't want to know about, or it was good, which would make me feel better temporarily, but which would only make me feel worse the next time it falls in a hole.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wal-Mart

This was in an email I got today, and if it's all true it's pretty amazing. I did check a couple of numbers. The profit works out to about 3.5%, which sounds about right, and the gross sales comes to about a thousand dollars per American per year. If you are spending $100 a month per person for food, then their total sales would feed the entire country. If half the people in the country visited a Wal-Mart once a week, the number of visits would be about right. So it is all plausible. I don't shop at Walmart, but then I still have two nickels I can rub together.
  1. Americans spend $36,000,000 at Wal-Mart every hour of every day.
  2. This works out to $20,928 profit every minute!
  3. Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1st to St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) than Target sells all year.
  4. Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target + Sears + Costco + K-Mart combined.
  5. Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people, is the world's largest private employer, and most speak English.
  6. Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the world.
  7. Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger and Safeway combined, and keep in mind they did this in only fifteen years.
  8. During this same period, 31 big supermarket chains sought bankruptcy.
  9. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.
  10. Wal-Mart has approx. 3,900 stores in the USA, of which 2,906 are Super Centers; this is 1,000 more than it had five years ago.
  11. This year 7.2 billion different purchasing experiences will occur at Wal-Mart stores. (Earth's population is approximately 6.5 Billion.)
  12. 90% of all Americans live within fifteen miles of a Wal-Mart.
  13. Wal-Mart has gross sales that total more than the total revenue of all the countries in the world, except 6. 

Via Mark.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Today

Today was one of those coffee days. Whole bunch of running around and not much to show for it.

Leave the house at 8:45 AM, drive Anne downtown to her class at The Bar Method. Drive to Herzog-Meier in Beaverton to find out about a new key for Anne’s Mitsubishi. On the way I notice two (TWO!) battery shops on TV Highway. I might need a battery for the remote control that is built into the key. Turns out the key is not covered under warranty. Warranty expired 800 miles ago. Keys are $130 each, plus $20 for cutting, plus $40 for programming. Plus they need an hour and a half. Too much bad news all at once. I bail.

Drove to Precision Locksmiths on Canyon Road in Beaverton. They want $190 for a key, but they might be able to get me a “shell”, which doesn’t contain the electronics, for considerable less. They will check and let me know.

Go looking for a McDonald's to get something to eat. Remember there is a Burger King on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, just a few blocks from where I am. Get there, it’s not a Burger King anymore, now it’s some kind of Hawaiian joint.

Turn toward Portland, oh look! There’s a McDonald’s at the light near Jesuit High School. Didn’t turn at the light, can’t turn after that, there’s a divider bump in the road. Too much trouble to turn around. Give up on the idea of food and decide to just head downtown. Take Scholl’s Ferry road up to the Sunset Highway. Traffic is light, which gives me time to think, and I think this is a nasty little road. Steep, twisty, narrow, no shoulders, jammed with traffic most of the time. No wonder I seldom take it.

Downtown I find a parking spot right outside the front door of the exercise palace. I pull out the paper and finish reading the comics that I started earlier when I dropped Anne off. I finish and Anne’s still not out, so I start on the Jumble, but I don’t have anything to write with. Well, let’s see how far I can get without one. I get through the four initial words okay, but now we have the final phrase. This is where a pen would come in handy, but today’s phrase is only two three-letter words. I might be able to do this, and I do. The answer is “YOU BET”.

Anne shows up and we head to the Bonnie L. Hayes Small Animal Disposal Facility, er, Animal Shelter in Hillsboro. One of our two cats has been missing for a week. One of our neighbors found some tufts of suspicious looking fur in their back yard, so she might have gotten nabbed by a coyote. On the other hand, Anne is looking at pictures of cats that have turned up at the animal shelter and one that got posted on Sunday looks like it could very well by our missing Iggy. Turns out, no, this one was found in a mobile home clear on the other side of town. I don’t quite understand the situation there. Not sure I want to.

On our way home we stop at Black Rock Coffee for a cuppa Joe. There is a small shopping center across the street from Shute Park. Juan Colorado’s Mexican Restaurant is there. A coffee kiosk appeared in the parking lot there several years ago. It ran for a while and then closed up. Now we have a new coffee operation there. Good coffee. $2 for a good size cup.

Home, check my messages, make a call and it’s time to head out to lunch. John comes along, he wants to pick up the by-now-infamous Marshall amplifier from the shop in downtown Portland. We pick up my friend Jack and head over to O’Connors, where I parallel park my truck on the first try in a spot that is only a few inches longer than the truck. Jack pretends not to be impressed.

We eat out on the deck in back. I have Joe’s Scramble because I didn’t get any breakfast. It is some kind of egg thing with shrimp. Pretty tasty. We are sitting and talking while waiting for our check and a track hoe (a power shovel on tracks, we used to call them steam shovels) clanks by on the road below. Then a street sweeper comes by. Yeah, we aren’t going to be able to hold a conversation out here anymore. I look at my watch, it’s one fifteen. Oh, that explains it. The construction gang took a lunch break, but now they are back at work.

We wander over to Post-Hip to visit with Scott. I pick up a novel by Georges Simenon, the prolific Frenchman. Glancing at the book I notice that Chapter 4 starts near the very back of the book. Wait a minute, this isn’t a book of short stories is it? No, it’s not, but the chapter layout is very weird. Chapter 2 starts on page 163. There are only 188 pages in the book, so the first chapter takes 163 pages, and the last three chapters only take 26. Well, we shall see.

John calls amplifier man. While the amp is ready, the shop isn’t open today, so no trip downtown. On the way home we stop at one of the aforementioned battery shops. It looks a little sketchy when we pull in, parking lot is empty. Who knows what they have inside? Jack does. He was here last week, and recommended them. Inside it’s a different story. Not a big store, but impressive. Any kind of battery you might need. Everything from watch batteries to car batteries. Bought a new battery for remote control / key for Anne’s car. $4. They even have batteries for cordless power tools. My Makita drill is getting old. I may need a new battery before long.

Back home I pause for a minute to regroup and then I am off to pick up a couple of items. Epoxy from the hobby shop (JB Weld for $7), vacuum cleaner bags from the vacuum shop, and printer paper from Office Depot, now $5.50.

Home again I get to work on the old broken key. Replace the battery and then mix up some epoxy. Slather the inside of the case where the stub end of the key goes and pop it all back together. It takes three napkins to wipe up the little bit of excess epoxy that got squeezed out. Who knew epoxy was so messy?

While I did not accomplish much, I did see a few interesting sights:

  • one 1950's vintage Dodge truck in very nice condition
  • two battery stores on Canyon road in Beaverton
  • three cops with their lights on who had pulled people over
  • four armored cars (one each Brinks and Loomis and two from Garda)
I would have liked to gotten photos, but I was driving.

That’s enough for today, time for a nap.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Product Description

Everybody kind of tip-toes around this subject. This is first time I have seen someone out and out state it. From Amazon's web page about Planet Dora: A Memoir Of The Holocaust And The Birth Of The Space Age.
An extraordinary memoir by a survivor of the Nazi camps, Yves Béon, Planet Dora is a recollection of life and death in a concentration camp like no other. Dora was a cavernous underground factory cut out of solid rock, where life was like a nightmarish scene from Dante: thousands of prisoners beaten, starved, killed, and living underground for weeks at a time. The purpose of all this brutality was to build the world’s first operational rockets: the V-1 and V-2 missiles, Hitler’s vengeance weapons.Some of Germany’s most brilliant engineers were involved with production at Dora, including Werner von Braun, who after the war went on to become the father of the American space program. It was his Saturn V rocket, designed with the help of his wartime comrades, that put the first man on the moon; while the Saturn V project was headed by the same man who had been the director of slave labor in Dora. In fact, some of the very rockets built in Dora were packed up after the war and shipped to New Mexico to serve as the seeds of the U.S. space program. In a very real sense, the greatest technological achievement of the twentieth century had its origins in the enslavement and murder of thousands of innocent people, the down payment of a Faustian bargain that still tarnishes the foundation of our reach for the stars.
Via Roberta.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blue Belle by Andrew Vachess

Another murder mystery, this time in New York City. It was better than the last one, but not great. It did a pretty good job of exploring the mind of someone who has had a rough life, and exploring the compulsions he goes through to insure his safety. Some of it is very real. Too many words are spent on smoking cigarettes, sex scenes and wondering what it all means. Our hero has it in for people who hurt other people, whether it is for pleasure or profit, and both kinds of people get some examination, but both are out and out condemned.

Pay Attention

I was in driving in downtown Portland last week when this happened. I was stopped at a traffic light on a two lane street. There was a transit bus sitting next to me. On the far side of the intersection there is a pedestrian crossing the street. He stops in the middle of the street, apparently preoccupied with something he is holding, a cell phone perhaps. The middle of the street is not a good place to stop, but we are stopped at the light and he is not in anybody's way. Eventually he starts to move, but haltingly, as though he can't quite break his attention away from whatever he is holding. Now he is directly in front of me, but we're still okay, he might make it to the curb before the light changes. Well, no, he doesn't. I give him a beep of the horn and start moving. No response, he continues his halting shuffle. I give him another toot. Still no response. I am half way across the intersection now, still moving slowly. I give him a third toot, but still no response, though by now he is almost to curb. The bus pulls up even with me (the pedestrian is well clear of the lane the bus occupies) and bus driver gives a long blast of his horn. The pedestrian gives no indication of having heard any of this. Finally he reaches the curb and mounts the sidewalk and it is clear enough to drive by. I give the truck a little extra gas so the tires will squeak to further announce my displeasure at this person's combined obliviousness / rudeness / stupidity.

I refer to this person as "him", but it was not clear that it was a man. It could have been a woman. It was wearing a jacket and a hat.

A few months ago there was a tragic accident downtown. A bus turned across a crosswalk and ran over a party of four pedestrians. At least one was killed. This may explain why the bus driver was more forceful with his horn than I was.

A couple of days ago at Costco I ran into a similar situation. I was driving toward the main entrance to the building when a woman starts across the driveway with her shopping cart. So far, so good, normal grocery store parking lot behavior. But then she stops halfway across and starts rooting around in her purse. I would have expected her to come to a quick decision and either go back or go on, but no, she stays there continuing to dig through her bag. I drive around her at five MPH. I don't think she even looked up.

A woman was killed crossing the street in downtown Hillsboro this week. A pickup truck was turning the corner and hit her while going about five MPH. She fell and hit her head on the pavement. An accident pure and simple, near as I can tell. I suspect that for whatever reason the driver just didn't see her.

I went to the lab this morning to get some blood drawn for some kind of voodoo. I didn't get there till about ten and I was surprised to see four people ahead of me. Early in the morning this many people would be normal, but by this time I would expect the rush to have dropped off. It's twenty minutes before the first person is done. One woman, fed up with waiting judging by the expression on her face, gets up and leaves. Another twenty minutes goes by and Sandy, the queen of the vampires, shows up and takes over, just in time to take care of me. This is doubly fortunate, because she is the only one at this lab who can reliably find a vein in my arm.

Slowpoke and Sandy have a brief conversation as Sandy takes over, and it was a little odd. The woman holds up a sheet of paper and asks Sandy whether it should be sent on or not. Sandy was a little discomfited by this. I finally realized that slowpoke was inserting something irrelevant into the process. Perhaps she was new to the job and didn't understand just what the procedures were, but I suspect it was more along the lines of she didn't really have a clue as to what needed to be done because it hadn't been drilled into her for the last ten years.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Creeping Digital Revolution

Used to be telephones used wires, wires that were dedicated to telephones. They were completely independent of all other systems. Even if the power went out, the telephone would still work. That was then. Now everyone has a cell phone and nobody has any wires. Except me, till now. It started a few years ago when Verizon brought a fiber optic line to our neighborhood. When we signed over our souls to the devil in return for broadband access to the internet, he also took away our telephone wires. Instead he gave us a little box that hangs on the wall in the garage and converts our nice analog telephone signals into digital bits that get dumped in the fiber optic pipe along with everything else. It has worked fine for several years.

Along with the broadband internet access, we also got some TV, and the TV has been a hundred-dollar-a-month thorn-in-my-side ever since. Now Verizon has sold the fiber business to Frontier, and Frontier has just raised their rates by $30 a month, so now I really want to get shut of them, well, as much as possible. Let's cut it down to the bare minimum: internet access only. But that means doing something about the telephone. I could get a cell phone, but I don't have a pocket to put it in. Besides cell phones are expensive. I could get an internet phone service, but that means some kind of funny hardware to connect my existing phones. You can buy it, but it's not cheap. The boxes are like $200.

Then Verizon comes out with a deal. They will give you a box that will connect your old, land line phones to the cell phone network for $20 a month, and they supply the magic box for free. Being as Vonage, the big name in internet phone service wants $25 a month, and they don't supply any hardware, Verizon's offer sounds like a pretty good deal, so I signed up. The box showed up on my doorstep yesterday and today I plugged it in. It may be a week or so before the connection with Frontier goes away and this thing totally becomes my phone, but so far so good. Notice how it is not plugged into the telephone jack. Too bad we have to use two wall warts to power this assemblage.

Update: One day later, and the land line is dead. Just verified that we can get incoming calls through the new box.

Update 2: Error: the magic box hanging on the wall in the garage was only in use for a short while. It was replaced by a new, combination box on the outside of the garage that split the fiber optic into wires for the telephone and coax for the internet and TV. In order to connect the rest of the telephone extensions to the new magic box in the kitchen, I disconnected the phone line from the old magic box and then plugged the new magic box into the telephone wall jack. Now all the old land line phones are connected to the new magic box, and they all seem to work.

Chocolate

Gangster's moll in Thailand falls for Japanese dude from competing gang. He goes back to Japan, she stays in Thailand and raises their autistic daughter while boarding in a martial arts school. Zen (the daughter) spends her time imitating the kids practicing their punching and kicking. It turns out she has some uncanny physical abilities. Her cousin Moom exploits these abilities by having her give demonstrations in the street and collecting donations from the crowd. This turns out to be a good thing when mom contracts cancer and they need money for treatments. But the pittance he collects from the crowd is nowhere near enough to pay for all the treatments. Then Moom discovers a little black book with a list of people who owe mom money. So Moom and Zen go out to collect. Moom is a nice kid who simply asks for the money, but that doesn't work so well. Zen gets it through her head that this guy owes her mom money, and when he throws an abacus at her head, well, it's all over but the shouting.

It's a great film. JeeJa Yanin (Zen) might be the next Jackie Chan. It's a good story, and the fight scenes are thoroughly entertaining. There's a new trick in dang near every punch and kick. Our heroine (Zen) is so light, and thin and flexible she can do things no man should ever attempt.

The villain seems to have an endless supply of thugs, and towards the end of the movie when Zen is working on her second hundred knockdowns, it gets a little old. We also have a couple of instances of people who have been seriously wounded doing things they shouldn't be able to, but that is kind of standard in movies like this. Besides, they're gangsters, they are probably coked to the gills and don't even realize they should be dead.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Amateurs

I think I have a handle on the whole economics thing, but people continue to be a mystery. Professional athletes who play for one of the big franchises make buckets of money, but guys who play the same sports for colleges make nothing. There was an article in the paper today about how some dude at the university goes around tracking down the origins of college sports memorabilia, trying to determine whether the athlete the item originated with was ever compensated for it. If he was, that would be a violation NCAA rules and he could be disqualified from further participation.

There is a parallel in the sciences, albeit on a much smaller scale. There are various competitions staged for science and technology buffs, and the rewards are generally in the way of a certificate of recognition and maybe a plaque. Occasionally there will a cash award, but it is generally too small to even interest the IRS.

This kind of thing puzzles me. Not too long ago I heard a story about a guy from India who had done something special in college and once he got a job his attitude became one of entitlement. He no longer had to do anything, he had proven himself and now that he had his position he could do as he pleased. Although this attitude bothers me, I can't say that if I were in his position I would not behave the same way. I would like to think that I would not claim entitlement, but I would probably accept the position.

I can understand working on something because you enjoy it. I also understand getting paid for working on something. One reason for granting tenure to someone at a university is that given free rein they might produce something remarkable, something that otherwise who not have been created. Tenure could be a reward for having done something exceptional. It can also be a bet placed that the professor might yet do something exceptional. I wonder if that bet has ever paid off.
 
Schools with big sports programs should form a new organization that would allow paying their players. These guys are taking big risks and the schools are reaping the benefit. Stiffing the players while reaping the rewards strikes me as being downright un-American.

The science thing isn't quite so clear cut. There isn't the visceral attraction, it's more cerebral. As such, any financial success is only going to be achieved through business or internecine politics.