Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Waziristan


The headline reads US drone strike kills seven in North WaziristanIt should probably read "Pakistani intelligence officials say a US drone strike has killed five suspect [-ed terrorist] -s in the tribal region near the Afghan border". (The number changes depending on which link you follow.)

Is there really such a place as Waziristan? I thought I had a pretty good idea of extant of stan-ishness, I mean we've got:
  • Afghanistan,
  • Kazakhstan,
  • Kyrgyzstan,
  • Pakistan,
  • Tajikistan,
  • Turkmenistan and
  • Uzbekistan
So where is this what-zis-stan, Waziristan? Turns out it's part of Pakistan, the same part of Pakistan where French special forces actors ran into trouble. It is not a separate country, at least not yet. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

DHS


Pulled up behind a pickup truck pulling a flat bed trailer the other day. What kind of license plate is that?


Does DHS stand for Department of Homeland Security? Or maybe it just stands for the Department of Hauling Stuff. What do you think? And what kind of stuff were they hauling?

Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd


Came across this in a doctor's office the other day. I especially like the author's name.

Hot Rod Lincoln


This song is an old favorite of mine, but the reason I am putting it up is because all of the cars in video/slide show got me to thinking about all the people who have invested their time and energy into creating these works of art. It's mind boggling what people can accomplish if they put their minds to it.

Science Versus Space Exploration


There was a story in the paper today about how a local company moved a giant freaking magnet from Long Island, New York, to Chicago and all the contortions they had to go through to make the move. My first question was why the heck didn't they build the darn thing in Chicago in the first place and save everyone involved a lot of grief. Well, they probably had good reasons for that, and since a local company got the contract for moving it I suppose I shouldn't complain too loudly. But then I start thinking about how much money we are pouring into all these crazy high energy physics experiments, all designed to try and figure out how the universe works, and we are just sitting here on our little ball of rock. We should be out there exploring the galaxy, especially since I have figured out how to do it for not much more than annual GDP of lower Elbonia. (See list at end of this post.)
    The big trick is that if you could build a space craft that could accelerate continuously at one gravity you could be anywhere in the galaxy in a couple of years. One year of accelerating at one gee would bring you pert near the speed of light, and while your velocity measured relative to Earth might not increase much after that, you and and everyone else aboard the ship would start to experience extreme time dilation, i.e. time would slow down for you, so you would need to keep a sharp eye on your clock in order to determine when to start slowing down so you don't miss your destination. One minute at the speed of light with a time dilation factor of 10 will take you 600 billion feet, or a little more than one AU (astronomical unit, the distance from the Earth to the Sun, about 93 million miles or eight light minutes).*
    So how do you build a spaceship that can accelerate continuously at one gee? The trick is you need a very high exhaust velocity, and for that nothing beats a linear accelerator, the big old monsters physicists are using to explore subatomic particles. Feed it a steady diet of iron particles for magnetic reaction mass and power it with a nuclear power plant from a submarine and off you go.

*Rough calculations:
  • Light travels 186,000 miles per second. Let us round that up to 200,000 miles per second to make things easy on ourselves.
  • Multiple by 60 seconds per minute and we get 12 million miles per minute.
  • Multiple by 10 for our arbitrary time dilation factor and we get 120 million miles, which is a little more than the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
How to get started in space exploration, in five easy lessons:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Doodle du Jour

An old school chum's daughter is putting up a drawing a day. This one is from last week.

Syaffolee Goes to Vietnam

Floating Market in Can Tho

.. and she sends back pictures, including this one, which is probably the least picturesque of the lot, but I like it. She is also posting photos of her very clear, hand written journal. I have no trouble reading it. I wonder if my kids can read it. I'm not sure whether they were exposed to cursive in school or not. I wonder what the NSA would do with messages such as that.

Cover Of The Rolling Stone - Dr.Hook


Not a particularly great song, but an icon of the era. Thanks to Tam and the Brothers Kablamazov.

ADE651


California Bob reports:

Fascinating.  This is a "bomb detection unit" marketed by a British guy.  He sold tens of millions of dollars worth, mostly to Iraq.  It is a plastic handgrip with a car antenna stuck in it.  Notable quotes:
  • "It requires no battery or power source; it is powered solely by the user's static electricity. The operator must walk for a few moments to "charge" it before using it. It uses "programmed substance detection cards" which are designed to "tune into" the "frequency" of a particular explosive or other substance. The cards were supposedly "programmed" by being placed in a jar for a week along with a sample of the target substance to absorb the substance's "vapours"."
  • "The ADE 651 is a descendant of the Quadro Tracker, promoted as a device to find lost golfballs, and later as a means of detecting marijuana, cocaine, etc., using "carbo-crystalised" software cards. Like the ADE 651, The cards were "programmed" by photocopying a Polaroid photograph of the target, cutting up the resulting copy and pasting the pieces between two squares of plastic."
  • Selling prices were from several thousand to $60,000 per unit.
  • "The programming method was to take a Polaroid photograph of the desired target—gunpowder, cocaine, or on one occasion, an elephant—blow up the image on a Xerox machine, cut up the copy into fragments, and use these to provide the card with its “molecular signature.” "
  • "The connecting wires inside stopped short of making contact, and the pistol grip was molded from plastic and could never conduct a current; the antenna, one scientist later testified, was “no more a radio antenna than a nine-inch nail.” The detectives found McCormick had abandoned the programming idea as soon as his order book swelled, and the wands sent to Iraq didn’t even have his colored stickers inside them."
  • "McCormick was said to have answered that the device did "exactly what it's meant to ... it makes money.
Apparently the success of the fraud was due to the buyers (Iraqi military generals) gettting kickbacks for awarding no-bid contracts.  The hard part was proving intent to defraud, because the guy never made false representations about how it worked.  When asked, he said he didn't know exactly -- it just did.  Nonetheless English courts found him guilty and he is now in prison.  The Iraqi military continues to stand by the devices.
There is no better target for fraud than the corrupt. The danger of course is that an actual bomb would not be detected and could then explode and kill people. I kind of doubt whether we will ever know if this happened. I mean, would you trust testimony from someone who believed this thing worked? From a Bloomberg-Business Week story.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

CARMA


Looking for pictures of Pine Gap, which is just down the road from Ayers Rock in Australia, I stumbled across this very cool picture of the CARMA array of radio telescopes in California, just up the road from Death Valley, where the first bogey appeared in The Forge of God. Ayers Rock is where the second bogey appeared in The Forge of God. Coincidence? I think not. More likely CARMA, er Karma. That's a pun for Stu.

Russian-built aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya ready to sail, finally


It is without doubt the largest warship ever to be operated by the Indian Navy. But if there is a record for the longest time spent by an Indian warship in a shipyard, the INS Vikramaditya would hold that too. After a long a painful process of renegotiations, price escalations and delays, India's new aircraft carrier finally seems to be on its way home. 
The refurbished ship — it was originally the Gorshkov, launched in 1982 — is currently undergoing an exhaustive series of trials in the Barents Sea to test its weapon systems, flight operations, propulsion and communications. 
If things go well — they did not last year when its steam boilers malfunctioned during what were then considered to be final tests — the warship will be ready for handing over to the Indian Navy on November 15, after which it begins its long journey to India for the formal commissioning. This, nine years after the order was placed in 2004. 
Its designers and refurbishing engineers are confident that it will exceed expectations during the trials, with the head of the Sevmash shipyard — where it underwent the refit — going as far to say that it will achieve a top speed of 30 knots, against the required 28. - From a a very entertaining story by Manu Pubby in The Indian Express.

The Barents Sea is part of the Arctic Ocean, North of Finland and Norway.

75 photos illustrating the conversion from cruiser to carrier

The Forge of God by Greg Bear, 1987

Something I picked up on Deviant Art, not related to this story except by feel.

Not a great book, but not a bad book either. Easy reading, entertaining, and some interesting ideas. The basic idea is how we would react if aliens (extra-terrestrials) showed up on our doorstep. And what if they weren't friendly?
    The story starts off with strange things happening: big rocks mysteriously appear in Death Valley and Australia, near Ayers Rock, and things come out and talk to people. So here's the first problem. This is common scenario in Science Fiction. The aliens have been listening to our radio and television broadcasts for years and from that they have figured out how to communicate with us using our own language. I wonder how feasible this is. Has anyone here on Earth tried to decipher a radio or television signal using only basic knowledge of physics, that is without knowing any of the internal structure of these signals? Of course it might be hard to find someone like that on Earth, but since everything is going digital, it might be interesting to see if any of our new digital whiz kids can decipher a TV signal from 50 years ago. We should be able to still generate such an animal, well, that is if the old analog equipment hasn't all been replaced by new, cheaper digital stuff.
    Even if you could decipher the signal and extract audio and video from it, would you ever be able to make sense of it?  Seems we had a heck of a problem with some ancient written languages until somebody discovered the Rosetta stone. I imagine any number of graduate students have earned their Phd's thinking about this kind of problem.
    I had a couple of minor problems with plot here too. Nobody investigates these big rocks. What are they made of? How did they get here? Is there any supporting structure? How deep do they go? What is the internal structure? Nobody investigates, nobody even asks the questions. That's okay. Big rocks mysteriously appearing in the desert is the least of our problems.
    Strange things continue to happen, but instead of presenting different facets of the same thing, they seem to be completely unrelated, or working at cross-purposes. It gets very confusing until we figure out there is a war going on and what we are seeing is fallout from that conflict. Now here is a good explanation for why none of this makes any sense. You never want to do anything obvious in a war, you want to confuse your enemy as much as possible, so throwing out deceptions and decoys is just part of the game.
    One faction in this war wants to "destroy all humans" (where have we heard that line before? Oh, wait, maybe this book is the originator of that idea). To that end they drop a couple of multi-megaton pellets made of neutronium on opposite sides of the Earth. One is made of regular neutronium, you know, the kind of stuff neutron stars are made of, and the other is made of anti-neutronium, which you would have to special order from the anti-matter galaxy on the other side of the universe. Contrary to what you might except, the anti-neutronium pellet does not immediately turn into energy when it contacts the atmosphere. It kind of starts boiling on the surface. Only so much matter can contact it at any one time, and that contact results in an immediate explosion which serves to push any nearby matter away, until the explosion subsides and then regular matter again comes into contact and the cycle continues. So it's giving off a heck of lot of energy in the form of radiation, but it doesn't all go boom at once.
    Because these pellets are so dense they fall right through surface of the earth and into the core. Regular matter is about as dense as air compared to these pellets, so dirt, rocks and magma are no obstacle at all. They would fall right through the planet and out the other side, except for gravity. Gravity from the Earth attracts them, and they attract each other, so they fall into a decaying orbit around the center of the Earth. The Earth is like air to them so they glide through it easily, but it does exert some drag, much like an air exerts drag on an airplane, so they are slowing down. Eventually they will both come to a stop at the center of the Earth and at that point the pressure of the Earth and their mutual gravitic attraction will cause them to fuse and, because one is matter and the other is anti-matter, detonate. So it's like a time bomb with a fuse measured in days, which means the plot needs to move along pretty quickly now.
    Anyway, that's how you blow up a planet. Meanwhile somebody puts some hyrdrogen bomb making factories at the bottom of the deepest trenches in the ocean and they proceed to electrolyze the ocean to generate hydrogen to make bombs. They release the oxygen which bubbles to the surface. They release so much oxygen that fires start burning out of control. I heard once that if the percentage of oxygen got up above 30% we would start to see spontaneous combustion of ordinary combustible materials. We never really find out who (or what) is behind all these evil deeds, but this bit really sounds superfluous. I mean if you can lay your hands on a multi-megaton blob of neutronium, do you really even need to mess with something as mundane as a hydrogen bomb?
    There is also the bit about spaceships coming up from under water with no explanation of how they got there. I suppose if you could put a big rock down in the middle of the dessert without being detected, you could put a little old spaceship under the sea, but if you can do that, why do you  even need a spaceship?
    But like I said, it was easy reading and entertaining, and I haven't even mentioned the spiders from Mars.

P.S. The author reminds us that the solid crust of the earth is very thin, like one percent of the distance to the center. That is like a covering of pasteboard on a twelve inch globe.

Snipe Castle

A day in the life of the engineering department aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD3). - U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tamara Vaughn
I don't know as this video really imparts any useful technical information, but it warms the cockles of this old gearhead's heart just to see people actually working with things and not just talking about what someone else has said. Plus it gives me something to post without being completely awake.

P.S. You will notice that women are making inroads here. While it's not exactly the pointy end of the spear, it's not typically women's work either. I am still ambivalent about whether having women on board ships is a good idea or not.

Monday, July 22, 2013

DO NOT CLICK ON THIS LINK EITHER

TOP SECRET//SI//ORCON//NOFORN
From: REDACTED
Sent: TODAY
To: YOU
Cc: xxx REDACTED xxxx
Subject: //// SECURITY ADVISORY////
REVISED VERSION OF SLIDES DISCLOSED IN WASHINGTON POST -- DO NOT CLICK ON THIS LINK
Yesterday you were told not to click on a link that led to classified information in the form of a PowerPoint slide presentation that remains classified though it has been posted on the website of the Washington Post. This is the link that you were told not to click then, or at least it leads to that link, which is equally bad as far as we are concerned.
Today it has come to our attention that there is another link on which you should not click, namely this one, which not only links to the same classified information but also displays it in what the person claims to be a more appealing fashion. For example, he has tampered with the original governmentally created approved slide:
NSA slide
and caused it to appear thusly:
New slide 
This is unacceptable.
As you know from prior briefings, one of the keys to protecting America's classified secrets is to make information as difficult as possible to interpret, use, and remember. This is precisely why the official slides are so cluttered, poorly designed, and use such an odious color scheme. I mean, what is that, salmon? Would the most technically sophisticated intelligence agency of the world's only superpower actually create crappy slides with a salmonish color scheme unless it was part of a carefully planned strategy to make information difficult to view and assimilate without proper training?
We think not.
The revised slides, purportedly created by one "Emiland DeCubber" posing as a freelance presentation designer (who, worst of all, is apparently based in France) therefore pose an even greater threat than the slides you did not look at yesterday, and your duty not to look at these slides is overemphasized accordingly.
You are also reminded that referring to government intellectual property as "hideous" is a violation of the Official Slide Presentation Anti-Disparagement Act of 2009.
That is all.
TOP SECRET//SI//ORCON//NOFORN
Stolen entire from Lowering The Bar. Via E.B. Misfit.

Legalism of the Day


Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution provides that "for any Speech or Debate in either House, [a Senator or Representative] shall not be questioned in any other Place", thus the Senator could not be prosecuted for anything said on the Senate floor, and, by extension, for anything entered to the Congressional Record, allowing the Papers to be publicly read without threat of a treason trial and conviction. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court in the decision Gravel v. United States. - Wikipedia article on the Pentagon Papers

Via E.B. Misfit

Steve Vai


Stumbled across this name on a pistol forum, so I had to go look him up. He's some kind of guitar player extraordinaire and he has enough weird ass guitars to prove it. First time I've ever seen a triple necked guitar, and this isn't his only one. Can't say as his music does anything for me, but then I don't go for sophisticated tunes.

Fields, Oregon


The two placemarks are about 80 miles apart as the crow flies, but they are separated by Steens Mountain.
View July 2013 in a larger map

We continue our expose` of desolate places with a visit to Southeastern Oregon. Not nearly so desolate as the places we visited in Australia yesterday, after all there is some green showing in this map. This post was prompted by a trip to Steens Mountain (the shadow between the placemarks in the above map) by an old friend of my sweetie.
    Fields (the Southern marker) has a population of 86, 17 of which are students in the two room school house. That school takes them through the 8th grade. After that they attend a public boarding high school in Crane (the Northern placemark). This is the only public boarding school in Oregon.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Waltzing Matlida


My dad used to sing this song on occasion. I came across it today when I saw a post about the HMAS Diamantina, a WW2 era cruiser, on Military Photos dot net. Seems the ship was named after the Diamantina River, which was named after Lady Diamantina Bowen, wife of the first governor of Queensland. The Diamantina River was the site of an altercation between a rebellious sheep shearer, one Samuel "Frenchy" Hoffmeister, and the authorities that led to Frenchy's suicide. That altercation is the subject of this song.

HMAS Diamantina after conversion to oceanographic work.


View July 2013 in a larger map
The Diamantina River has no main channel, rather it is a series of wide relatively shallow channels, which makes for some bizarre satellite images. This makes the second post about Australia today. Odd, that.

Pine Gap

Pine Gap is a little bit of America in the heart of Australia. Literally. Parts of it are American sovereign territory. It's basically a communications center for satellites. I would have thought it would have been used for other orbiting spacecraft, like the shuttle as well, but apparently not. Can't be doing top secret work with civilians hanging around. Also, the civilian budget probably couldn't pay people enough to move to the back of beyond. I suspect it is probably also being used for drone control over Asia. The Wikipedia article says it is used to control geo-synchronous spy satellites, but I don't think any spy worth his salt would put a satellite up that high (23,000 miles). Low Earth Orbit (LEO, 100 miles) would be much more useful. You might actually be able to see something.

View Larger Map
Alice Springs and Pine Gap are smack dab in the center of Australia and in the center of this map. Scale is about 1 inch to 20 miles. Place makes Nevada look downright hospitable. Ayers Rock is about 200 miles to the Southwest.

Quote of the Day

    Meanwhile, heroism is often some seriously boring stuff. It’s not about getting sucked into someone’s family soap opera, for example, or eloping to give an abuse victim the only love he’s known, but instead staying gently and firmly out of it while he works things out. It’s not in going 10 rounds with parents who don’t understand you, but instead in listening to them, especially to stuff you don’t want to hear. It’s in weighing their concerns honestly, choosing what makes sense to you, and accepting the consequences of that choice.
    Heroism often is not in rescuing or crusading or executing grand gestures, but in remaining a consistent force of decency and integrity through waves of emotional temptation. - Carolyn Hax, adivce columnist in The Washington Post
I used to get my weekly quota of gossip from inside the front cover of Parade magazine. One page and I was good to go for another week. Now I'll read one of Carolyn's columns and not only do I get my quota of emotional dreck, but I might learn something as well.

Just before this bit she mentions The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I just finished In The Woods which featured a psychopath (sociopath?), so this sounds intriguing. Turns out it's a boring self-help book. It might be full of good advice, and the advice might help some people, but I've been around the block a couple of times so I doubt whether I would enjoy it.
     I wonder too, whether it would have done me any good 45 years ago. There are some things you can learn from books, and there are some things some people just have to learn from experience. Maybe I'm just lucky to have survived my experiences.

Detroit Debt

Not surprisingly, the Detroit Free Press has a story about the bankruptcy. The last paragraph of the story lists the city’s largest creditors:
  • General Retirement System of the City of Detroit            $2.037 billion
  • Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit    $1.437 billion
  • U.S. Bank N.A. as a trustee for pension certificate holders   $801 million
  • U.S. Bank as a trustee for other pension certificates         $516 million
  • U.S. Bank as trustee for other pension liabilities            $153 million
  • U.S. Bank as a bond registrar and transfer agent              $100 million
  • U.S. Bank as bond registrar and transfer agent             $73.5 billion
It wasn't until I reformatted it that I realized that the last item makes all the others pale into insignificance, though I'm not sure just what being the "bond registrar and transfer agent" implies.

Via Michigan Mike.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dirty Commies

FARC guerilla mans a checkpoint. From July 2012.

FARC rebels in Colombia are going to release a U.S. serviceman. That's the hot news story of the moment. More substantial is that the rebels are engaging in peace talks in Havana (?!?!). The Independent (UK) has a good overview of the situation. This Colombian "revolution" has been going on for 50 years.
    Seems to me a lot of the trouble in Latin America stems from the upper classes disdain for the ignorant "peasants". The peasants are ignorant because they are uneducated, but because they are peasants they don't need an education, and so nothing changes. Except every year you have more people, which leads to population pressures. If you don't do something to alleviate the pressure you get problems, and when the pressure gets high enough you get violence, and when you get enough violence you can call it war.
    I don't know, but it seems to me every country in Central and South America is suffering from this problem. Some of them may have killed off enough people that the population pressure has been temporarily reduced, and so the violence has been reduced. I just don't get it. Is it the climate? The Spanish culture? Is it that the Indians (native Americans) are in league with extra-terrestrials? Or maybe it's America's Great and Noble War on Drugs that is twisting the entire Latin American world.

Note: The Columbia River (our local megawaterway) is spelled with a U, while Colombia the country is spelled with an O.

Date Format

I would really like to see an unambiguous format for dates. Is 7/8/9 July 8th, 2009, August 9th 2007, or September 7th, 2008? I prefer the month spelled out, but then ordinary sort procedures don't work.

Detropia


Blurb from YouTube:

Published on Dec 11, 2012
Detroit was the birthplace of the middle class, an industrial utopia where anyone who worked hard enough could experience the 'American dream.' Today, Detroit is on the brink of bankruptcy. In the past 10 years this Midwestern icon has lost 25% of its population and 50% of its manufacturing jobs. City officials are in the midst of the most dramatic 'downsizing' of an American city ever seen - demolishing thousands of homes, reconsolidating massive tracts of excess land, cutting basic services and encouraging Detroiters in marginal neighborhoods to move. Detroiters who have stuck with the city are at the breaking point. Artists and curious outsiders flock to the city in search of inspiration and opportunity. Racial tension, globalization, lack of innovation and greed has led to a moment of truth for Detroit. How the Motor City reboots itself will set the example for countless other post-industrial cities with similar fates. And today the entire country is watching to see if this storied metropolishas the courage, creativity and grit to reinvent itself -- instead of implode.Detropia is a cinematic tapestry that chronicles the lives of several Detroiters trying to survive the D and make sense of what is happening to their city. An owner of a blues bar, a young blogger, an auto union rep, a group of young artists, an opera impresario and a gang of illegal 'scrappers' make up an unlikely chorus that illuminates the tale of both a city and a country in asoul-searching mood, desperate for a new identity.

The previous mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, was convicted of numerous charges in Federal court earlier this year. Three days later the governor appointed an emergency financial manager to take over because the city is broke.

Via California Bob, who thinks there might be a big opportunity there.

Quote of the Day

"... low opportunity cost of fighting ..." - The Economics of War by William Hynes
"Opportunity cost" can be roughly translated as opportunity lost. You only have so much time. You can spend your time working or playing or sleeping. If you are doing one activity (or inactivity), you can't do the others. To make the most of your available time, you should choose wisely. If you are trying to provide for yourself, and none of your available options are likely to provide much of anything, then the cost of not doing them is low. In other words, if someone is willing to pay you $10 a day to carry a gun around, and there are no other jobs available, carrying a gun looks like a pretty good job.

This is from a short (six page) paper on Academia dot edu.

Friday, July 19, 2013

In The Woods by Tana French

Found this on the bargain table at Powell's. This is second time I've found a really good murder mystery on that table. It's a long book, almost 600 pages, but it only took me two days to finish it, which says a lot about how good it is.
    The descriptions and the detailing, both physical and psychological, are amazing. It did get a little long in the middle, but then I have a short attention span. The main character is pretty solid until you get towards the end when he starts flaking out badly, but given what he has been through, perhaps it's understandable. Maybe. If we knew what he had been through.
    He is a bit preoccupied with clothes, but then I guess some people are. I am not, so anyone who is strikes me as a little off, which might explain why I spend so much time off by myself.
    The book is really pretty amazing, I don't think I've ever read anything like it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

National Air Force Museum Virtual Tour


Click the pic to go to their website. Some of the exhibits:

Clickjacking

 

Readers sometimes “like” my posts by clicking a button that WordPress displays at the end of the post, and I appreciate that. In fact I very often like their posts too, but my security software (NoScript) goes off when I try to click “like.” Just to get to that point I must first temporarily allow a couple of urls to run javascript. Then NoScript warns me about a potential “clickjacking” attempt, and I haven’t been able to sort out exactly what that is and how to allow the link without allowing malicious links. Whatever clickjackingis, I bet it’s something I wouldn’t like. - Marcel on Monday Evening

I was just going to leave a comment, but then my mind made a connection, so I decided to make it a post.

One of things about modern computers with their point-and-click interface is that there is more than one way to do just about anything. Some of these techniques have hazards associated with them. One method might occasionally cause your computer to crash, another might inadvertently give you the wrong answer. As time goes by people tend to gravitate to methods that work reliably. They may not be the most efficient methods, but they know them by heart and can do them by just going through the required motions without having to think about it.

Now expand this idea to websites. People are more likely to revisit a website if it gives them what they want, and are less likely to go there if it gives them stuff they don't want, like computer viruses.

I do not like having to spend time "cleaning" my computer. I just want to use it. This means that my virus protection is in some unknown state, and it also means I will get hit with some nasty virus one of these days and I'll have to reload Windows, or buy another computer. But it hasn't happened in a while, so maybe the net is getting safer. (Yeah, right.) Or maybe I just don't go wandering off in the woods so much anymore. Every time I did that and got hit with some nasty crap, my subconscious took note, and now my clicker finger hesitates whenever some new web address shows up. Maybe I haven't been having as much trouble because I am staying closer to home and not out wandering around in strange neighborhoods.

Gack! Looking for a picture to illustrate this post and came across a page on Monopolize Social Media's website that appears to offer clickjacking as a service to their clients. There's a fine line between aggressive marketing and being a cretin. I'm not quite sure on which side of the line they fall.

KRAFTWERK - DAS MODEL - 1980


Dutiful daughter is studying German and this was this week's lesson. Wikipedia thinks they are next best thing to the Beatles. I think I sort of remember hearing about them. They've been in business for 40 years, and evidently still going strong.

Helicopters for Afghanistan


The USA wants to supply the Afghan Military with Helicopters. Sure, why not? We've already sunk a trillion dollars into this rathole, what's another couple of billion? So what kind of choppers are we sending them? Some old Vietnam war surplus Hueys? Brand new Apaches? Something new and exciting? Something American made? No, no, no and no. We're buying helicopters from Russia to send to Afghanistan. Is this poetic justice? Or maybe it's ironic. Didn't we get started on this madcap escapade by sending Stinger missiles to the Taliban so they could shoot down Russian helicopters? I guess it's a new day, a New Age, the Age of Aquarius. Or a New World Order. Or maybe it's just that Russian choppers are cheaper than American ones and the Pentagon is starting to feel the pinch. It's about damn time.

Beast, Part 2

U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to climb into his limousine nicknamed the 'Beast' at Andrews Air Force Base.

It looks like a car, except it's nine feet tall and has doors like a bank vault. Wouldn't be surprised if it weighs 30 tons. Probably gets really good mileage too.

QF-4 Target Drone


When I was a kid a "drone" was an unmanned aircraft used for target practice by the military. Typically they were purpose built things, smaller and cheaper than a regular aircraft. These days "drone" means somebody's spying on you or aiming to shoot you down, and because they are wonders of modern electronics, nothing can ever go wrong. So it was a bit of a surprise to hear that a drone had crashed in Florida. Turns out it was an old style target drone, not one of the new whiz-bang death dealers. More surprising was that it was an old F-4 Phantom jet fighter that had been converted to remote control. I like the Phantom though I am not sure why. Possibly because it was number one back when I was a kid, or maybe it's because it's just such a beast (over 60 feet long and weighs 30 tons fully loaded).

The Inaugural Stuffed Crocodile


A little silly, a little curious, and very entertaining. You can read all about it here. Via Scott.

Ready, Aim, Fire!


I don't know how photographers get images of bullets just after they have left the barrel of a gun, but I have seen enough of them that I believe they can do it. But I have never seen one like this where we have five cannons firing so near to simultaneously that we can seen the shells from all five guns in the air at once. This photo is from an exercise in Taiwan in October of 2012.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cap'n Vlad


Whozat bald headed dude in the submarine? Could it be ...

Yes! It's Russia's President Vladimir Putin on board the C-Explorer 5 submersible after a dive to see the remains of the naval frigate "Oleg", which sank in the 19th century, in the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea July 15, 2013. Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

The Christian Science Monitor has a story about the dive. The Conversation, whoever they are, has a short overview of Putin's leadership. It is mostly positive, which is a nice change of pace from most of what I hear from the Western media. I can't really tell, but things seem to be getting better in Russia lately, so maybe he is doing a good job.

Quote of the Day

Yearly reminder: unless you're over 60, you weren't promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. - Monday Evening

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

North Dallas 40


Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alleged head of the TOTALLY AWESOME Zetas!!!, who goes by the totally awesome alias "40," was apparently captured by Mexican authorites over the weekend, a few miles from the United States. This should lead to some totally awesome head-chopping among the Zetas's lower echelons as underlings fight for succession, and between them and other gangs as their rivals sense an opportunity to kill the wounded beast. If you live in Mexico and are nostalgic for the bloody ol' days of 2010, break out the, um... whatever now-out-of-date stuff people wore in 2010. We don't pay a lot of attention to fashion.

(Not for nuthin', but the Mexican Army really needs to install some no-slip flooring the in detention center men's room.  Poor Treviño looks like he must have fallen face-first into the edge of the sink three or four times before his booking photo was taken.)

Of course, like many sociopathic Mexicans who use American guns and American money to terrorize other Mexicans in order to ensure the safe passage of America's drug supply, 40 honed his criminal chops in that bastion of zero-tolerance law and order, Texas.

Much remains unknown about Treviño Morales’ time in North Texas and about his transformation from teenage delinquent to cartel capo. But law enforcement officials say his time here was formative, presenting opportunities for the young man and shaping his attitudes, which took on a hard edge. It was here, they say, that Treviño Morales came of age as a criminal.

“Dallas became sort of his playground,” said Jeff Stamm, a veteran Drug Enforcement Administration agent, adding that Treviño Morales and other Zetas-to-be advanced their careers in North Texas. “That’s part of the game here — they can transform themselves.”...

...In his time in Texas, Treviño Morales learned about power, money, weapons and the vast consumer market for illegal drugs, law enforcement officials said. Texas offered opportunities, but with an anti-Mexican bias, a factor that grated on him.

“He felt Mexican immigrants were discriminated against, that Americans were too prejudiced against Mexican immigrants,” said Oscar Hagelsieb, assistant special agent in charge of the investigative unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in El Paso.

Film aficionados will recognize this as basically the character-development part of Scarface.

A fifth federal indictment, unsealed in June 2012 in Austin, accuses Treviño Morales and others of banking drug profits in the purchase of more than 400 quarter horses, including top prize winners, in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and California. U.S. prosecutors are asking for forfeiture of $60 million in an amended money laundering indictment. ...

Treviño Morales hasn’t been seen in Dallas since 2005, when he was reportedly seen in a strip club, law enforcement officials say...

Needless to say, this should be a pretty interesting trial. With a lot of English-speaking witnesses, we imagine.
__________________________________________

Stolen entire from Burro Hall. Did we learn nothing from Prohibition? NO WE DID NOT, and further we refuse to learn anything. We are AMERICANS and we can be as stupid as we want to be. If you aren't part of the ruling class we will use whatever excuse we want to take whatever we want away from you. I should stop now, before I get myself all worked up this. It just makes me angry, which makes me grumpy, and then I  annoy my family. On the other hand, it entertains my friends, so maybe being grumpy isn't all bad.

Word of the Day

Kyriarchy ("rule by a lord"; from the Greek κύριος/kyrios "lord or master" and αρχή/arche "authority, leadership") is a social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression, and submission. The word itself is a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza to describe interconnected, interacting, and self-extending systems of domination and submission, in which a single individual might be oppressed in some relationships and privileged in others. It is an intersectional extension of the idea of patriarchy beyond gender. Kyriarchy encompasses sexism, racism, economic injustice, and other forms of dominating hierarchy in which the subordination of one person or group to another is internalized and institutionalized. - from Wikipedia.
    Never heard of this word before, which is not surprising since it was coined by a feminist theologian from Harvard Divinity School. Not one of my habitual haunts.
    Funny thing about this word. The definition (or explanation) given above use all kinds of words that are supposed to have negative connotations. And then describing Ms. Fiorenza as "a feminist theologian from Harvard Divinity School" gives her, in my mind, a status about equivalent to a "whack job".
    But look at the core of the description:
... interconnected, interacting, and self-extending systems of domination and submission, in which a single individual might be oppressed in some relationships and privileged in others.
 Well, that just sounds like the way of the world. Given that almost nobody understands how the world works, I suppose Ms. Fiorenza's coining of a new term might help some people. Maybe. Might not. Might just stir up more s**t. This is all Tam (View From The Porch) 's fault.

Quote of the Day

"The information you share may not have a great impact on you because you already know it. But if someone had that information and you didn't and they didn't share it with you, you wouldn't like that. Share what you have because you were not then and are not now the only one looking for it." - "Someone" quoted in TJ Helm's newsletter.
TJ runs Galileo Professional Services. She spent some trying to help me sort out my head a few years ago. I think it helped.

Monday, July 15, 2013

C17 Globemaster in Italy


Paratroopers practice jump with funny looking parachutes.

Federales Versus States


It looks like about half of the land West of the Great Plains belongs to the Feds in one form or another: military bases, weapons testing areas, National Forests and National Parks. Most of the Rocky Mountains, the West Coast and the Great Southwest Desert is unsuitable for farming: too many rocks, steep hillsides, lack of water. From a comment on View From The Porch.

Note about the map: This map is on the web, but site that spawned it seems to have vanished. This scaled down version of the map is a bit fuzzy and the full size image isn't much better. Whoever created it used some kind of dithering process on it. Maybe that makes for a better printed copy on older printers.

Update: Don't forget the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), 264 million acres.

Jamais Je Ne T'oublierai


"Jamais Je Ne T'oublierai" is French for "I will never forget you". Google Translate get's it wrong by failing to pick up on the T' (T apostrophe), which is a contraction for "you". It is a line from the song A la Claire Fontaine, sung in the video, and the name of Episode 4 from Season 1 of Hell on Wheels. Just in case you were wondering.

Bolder Won


Seems Bolder Won is back in operation down on Isla Mujeres in Mexico, just a stone's throw from Cancun. All you high rollers call now and book your Mexican scuba/cruise adventure. Previous posts about this boat here.

Hell On Wheels


We've started watching Hell On Wheels on Netflix this weekend. It's a series set in a movable camp that is following the construction of the first transcontinental railroad back in 1865 (just after the American Civil War). It's got all your dramatic stuff, heroes, villains, pretty girls, secondary plot lines, as well as murder and mayhem galore.
    One of things I like about it is the realism. OK, it's TV and it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn good. Mud and stupidity play leading roles. Then we have the train. I'm thinking it's pretty cool that they were able to find an old wood burning locomotive to use, so I went looking for pictures and I found this video. They didn't find one. They built a fake, from scratch, in three weeks. I'm impressed, it looks pretty darn good to me.

Electric Gus


Gus on Vimeo.

Sweetie went on the Electric Run Saturday Night with 10,000 of her closest friends. She brought home a basket full of electricalness which she turned over to Gus. You can tell he is really thrilled.
    I've started using Vimeo because YouTube now requires that I convert to the new format for Picasa, and I don't want to do that.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Entrepreneurs in Cuba


This is an hour long show from the BBC about Cuba. Made last year, it's all about the reintroduction of private enterprise. Update: I don't remember seeing the still image that is displayed before you press the play button. Does YouTube ever change a video's preview image? I mean pretty girls are all well and good, but they don't really have much to do with the video.

Update February 2017. It was on YouTube, but now it's gone. BBC acknowledges that they made it, but they won't show it to you.

News

There is a story in The Washington Times on July 9th about Al-Jazeera:
‘We aired lies’: Al-Jazeera staff quit over biased Egypt coverage
The Washington Times? That doesn't ring a bell. I've heard of the Washington Post. Maybe we should check out this Times outfit, see if they are legit. Turns out they are sort of legit, about like USA Today. There are two big newspapers in Washington D.C. Let's compare:

Digital Security

Some interesting stories about keeping the government's nose out of your business:
Thought you might find this interesting - https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/blog/2013/06/encryption-works-how-protect-your-privacy-age-nsa-surveillance.
This is hilarious - but smart http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/russian_government_classified_documents_gHajg51WZGeeK1H8F3w6KO.
and this just plain sad and infuriating http://www.cjr.org/feature/the_spy_who_came_in_from_the_c.php.
 
From a comment on Stu's blog.

Friday, July 12, 2013

DARPA Robotics Challenge Track A Robots

Not all robots use humanoid forms.

Russian Intercept


Kaliningrad is a small Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. The Russians have a very narrow flight path between Finland and Estonia that they can use to fly to Kaliningrad. Sometimes their aircraft "stray" off course, people get excited and fighter jets get scrambled to go take a look. These photos are from an "incident" that happened about a month ago.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oxyana

 
OXYANA Trailer from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.

Our glorious government is force feeding prisoners at Guantanamo. Can't have them starving to death, that would be wrong? Older son is reading bits from Harper's Magazine: more people committed suicide in the USA last year than were killed in car wrecks. One of the arguments for legalizing drugs is that people wouldn't be killed by accidental overdoses because you would be reasonably well assured that you knew the potency of the drug you were taking. This trailer makes me wonder. I mean Oxycontin is commercially produced, the dosage is well know. So what's going on? Do all Oxycontin pills look alike, even though they are wildly different doses? Are people deliberately killing themselves? Or do they just keep shooting up more and more in hope of getting the really glorious feeling, and eventually they take more than their body can cope with?

The Sand Reckoner's Diagram


Got to thinking about this diagram so I did up this sketch. Noticed that the inside looked like a regular octagon: all the sides are the same length. But to be regular all the angles would have to the same also, and while they all look sort of the same, a little study of the external triangles convinced me that, no, the angles are not the same and so while the inner figure is an octagon, you can't really call it regular.



    All of the lines in the figure are connected: you can draw the entire figure by starting at any vertex and drawing one line after another without lifting your pencil from the paper. This surprised me because the star pattern is one of the first things I learned about working on cars. Most cars have (used to have?) five lug nuts holding the wheels on. To avoid warping the wheel you followed a star pattern when tightening the lug nuts. This was easy with a five pointed star, you could start anywhere and then you just followed the lines as if you were drawing a five pointed star.
   This doesn't work with a wheel with four or six lug nuts. You either go in a circle, or you use two separate sequences of skipping one bolt. So I'm surprised you can reach all points of an octagon by using a star pattern. Guess I never dealt with eight bolt wheels often enough for them to make an impression.

China Flood

July 9, 2013. Heavy flood waters sweep through Beichuan in southwest China's Sichuan province.

Atlas Robot


I'm not sure whether to be impressed or frightened. I mean it's very cool that we are able to build such complex devices, but on the other hand this is all being done by the DEFENSE department.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spirit


When I was in elementary school, or maybe middle school, I had a deep philosophical discussion with some of my classmates. Well, as deep as kids our age were wont to go. The topic was belief and our profound conclusion was that it didn't matter what you believed, you could believe in god or not, or most anything at all, and it didn't really make any difference in our lives. What I did not understand at the time was that we didn't have much choice about how we lived our lives, and making choices is where belief comes into play. Your beliefs have a big influence on the choices you make in your life. Some of your choices may seem obvious, or there might appear to be no viable alternative, but many of those may have been decided a long time ago based on some other decision that you did make.
    In the Science Fiction novel Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds, one of the main characters (Quaiche) has contracted a virus, an indoctrinal virus that can cause an overwhelming feeling of religious belief. For a long time the virus does not cause Quaiche any serious problems, it is sort of simmering in the background. Eventually Quaiche finds himself in life-or-death risky situation, his defenses are down and virus is able to establish itself as real force in his personality.
    When I first read this I thought it was an interesting concept. With all the advances in biotechnology who knows what kinds of things we will be able to do a thousand years from now. But then I had another thought: could it be that the religious belief found in people today is caused by a virus? It's kind of an odd concept, and it seems unlikely, but given how much we know about how people work (almost nothing), it could be.
    I am not a religious person. Christianity is all right with me for the most part. A great many people in this country claim to be Christians, and most of them are good citizens and good people. I do not understand other people's belief in god. It makes no sense to me. Sometimes I think people become religious in order to help them cope with some misfortune that has befallen them, or perhaps to alleviate some of life's confusion. I am not sure, but I suspect that is not always the case.
    God is a spiritual thing, meaning it has no physical substance. In a like manner thoughts and personalities may be considered spiritual as they likewise have no physical substance. You could say they exist as electrical currents in the brain, but we have no way to separate any individual ideas from the entire collection of electrical impulses that are going on in anyone's brain all the time. The electrical currents in your brain support your thoughts, but they are not the same thing as thought.
    Computers could be viewed the same way. A computer that has crashed, or is caught in an endless loop is indistinguishable from a computer that is hard at work making some vital calculations. So computer programs are essentially spiritual. I mean, they are not very spiritual, being as most computer programs are not even as smart as a single bacteria, but their essence is not related to the hardware or the electricity that drives them.
     Once upon a time I saw a program on TV about a Hindu temple in Southern India. There was a picture of one building, the roof of which was covered with small figures of Hindu gods. Seems there are a zillion of them, perhaps even more than there are people.
     I put this all together and came up with the idea that each one of Hindu gods is like a computer subroutine (procedure/function). In order to have a properly functioning human brain, you might need something like 7 billion subroutines.
    A mental subroutine would not be a set of instructions like in a computer, but could be composed of multiple disparate elements, like neurological connections, hormones, and even location. One neuron might be involved in multiple subroutines. Babies I think are born with an enormous set of built in functions/Hindu gods. Everything they learn is another always increasing set, well, increasing until you get to be my age and your brain fills up and starts overflowing onto the keyboard.
    Through The Wormhole is on TV tonight, talking about how robots might become just like real people. It's not that far off, and it is not going to take some major breakthrough by some genius. Eventually someone will have a very capable machine and will need to write a executive program to control it, and they will write some simple minded loop to keep tabs on everything that is going on, and, presto, it will come alive.

This post started on the topic of belief, but got side-tracked. Now that I've gotten that out of my system perhaps I will be able to get my mind back on the belief track.