Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Compartment

LOT-EK's proposed shipping container shopping mall for NYC.
The idea of controlling your house with your smart phone got me to thinking. How about we build an apartment using all the latest technology? No light switches or thermostat, they would be replaced by wireless servos controlled by your smart phone. Use LED's instead of incandescent light bulbs. If we eliminated power outlets, we could reduce the wiring to simple bell wire instead of the heavy duty copper cored romex we use now. Add an exercise bike connected to an alternator and you might not need to even be connected to the grid. Cooking and cleaning would still need substantial power, but they could be co-located, we wouldn't need to supply the whole house/apartment with that kind of power.

Professor Dumpster is working on some modular apartments that look kind of interesting.
Kasita's Modular Housing Project in Austin
I'm not keen on new and modern, I look old, worn and comfortable, mostly because they want big money for the new, fancy stuff and you can usually get the old stuff cheaper. That's not really true. Real estate value depends on location, and the old stuff is usually located in better locations, which makes it more expensive. New stuff is on the outskirts, and some of the newer construction techniques are better than the old ones.
    Living in this big house has led me to realize that I don't really need all this space. By myself I could probably get by with 500 square feet. Smaller houses require less cleaning and less energy. The big advantage though is they won't hold as much stuff, so you don't accumulate as much baggage. I could probably use another 500 square feet for a shop that would have room for my tools and space to work, but I don't do much in that line anymore. And keeping a 500 square foot shop to maintain a 500 square foot house seems like a bit of overkill.

Photos

Descent of Christ into Limbo by Bronzino, 1552
Refectory of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy*

I like to use pictures in my blog posts. I used to just hot-link them (that is, use the URL from wherever I found them) but I found that people cannot be trusted. Their website goes away, or they take the picture down or something and all of sudden my glorious blog post is now pictureless and I'm devastated. I went to a lot of trouble to locate that picture, case the joint, break in and steal it, and these people have the nerve to sever my link. Hmph, people just don't have any respect for the black arts anymore.
      I am not completely without scruples. If it's a good image (not some viral internet meme thing), I will try and provide a link back to the source, so if someone wants to know where the picture came from all they have to do is point and click. Some of the photos I have liberated are copyrighted, and sometimes the owners have gone to the trouble to prevent scoundrels like me from downloading them. Not to worry, Print Screen and Crop are the image thief's lock pick and crowbar, Saint Dismas protect me.
    I am not too concerned about infringing copyrights, it's not like I'm trying to pass these images off as my own. If anyone ever complained I would certainly take them down, but no one ever has. On the other side of the coin, the purported owners of these images are getting some free publicity. Since my presence on the net is infinitesimal I doubt whether anyone notices either my theft or the credit.**

    I've downloaded thousands of pictures. I've manage to consolidate them onto one hard drive, but they aren't really doing me any good there. The drive is plugged in but turned off***. I'm trying to find an online storage system so I can dispense with the hard drive, but all the ones I've tried present some obstacles. flickr only allows you to upload your own photos. I uploaded a punch of old public domain military photos a while back and now I find out that I've violated their TOS, so that account may vanish at any time.
    There are a lot of photos on flickr. Each user gets a free terabyte of space. The number of photos on flickr must be approaching a zillion, or infinity, whichever is greater. Digital storage space is growing exponentially. I wonder how long this can go on.
    flickr does allow you to create "galleries" which are lists of other peoples pictures. I made one of the Tempelhof airport in Berlin, just to see how well it works. flickr is kind of funny. Their default setting is to prevent anyone from downloading a picture, but anyone can view it. I mean, what's the diff? What is anyone going to do with a photo besides look at it? Okay, they do offer to print your images onto stuff, and I can see how a popular item with a popular image could be making someone some money, but if thieves want to steal your image they will find a way, and if they're intent on cashing in on the market for that popular item, they aren't going to be to worried about the quality, meaning Print Screen and Crop is going to be good enough.

    Google will store your pictures, but they seem to be focusing on Selfies from the Smart Phone crowd, meaning their stuff is almost useless for me. I'm using it, but it's awkward. And it has it's own set of limitations. I found a gallery of German aircraft on Google+, but you can't see it unless you have a Google account. It's kind of like Pinterest that way. Google image search often turns up images on Pinterest, but you can't get to the page without signing up to Pinterest. Anyone who is trying to coerce my allegiance gets none, so if the image is on Pinterest, then I'm just not going there.

    Many (most?) of the pictures I have downloaded are public domain military photos. I finally realized that Wikimedia Commons might be the place to put them. It might be, but it's liable to take some work. Commons is kind of persnickety. They want some way to verify that the image is actually in the public domain. I gave them the name of the photographer, but that wasn't good enough. They wanted a URL. I think they've got it backwards. I mean, URL's are a dime a dozen, they come and go. What happens when that URL goes away? Huh? What you gonna do then, Bucky?
    But that's okay, their website, their rules, and since they seem to be kind of dedicated, their URL might be around for a bit, maybe even a few years. So, if I want to be free of maintaining my archival copies of these pics, and make them permanently available on the net, Wikimedia Commons might be the way to go. All I have to do is:
  • locate the public domain source of the image (Google image search can find that, it there is one)
  • upload the image to Wikimedia
  • if they already have it, they will tell you, but you have to upload it so they can check
  • then there's the matter of categorizing which can be a bit of a chore
  • captions are good
That leaves all the non-public domain images I have. Guess I shouldn't worry about that, I've got plenty of work ahead of me just dealing with the public-domain stuff.

* This image is good example of what I'm talking about. I found it on Journey to the Sea, who got it from Cate Copenhaver, but you can't download it from her page. And it isn't on Wikimedia, which kind of makes me think Santa Croce doesn't allow cameras in their refectory.
Once upon a time:
** I found a copyrighted image and I tried to ask for permission to use it, but there was no contact info!
*** my daughter had a Dell desktop computer. After several years I noticed that the hard drive was making some noise. Turns out that the setting that turned the drive off when the computer went to sleep had been turned off, so this drive had been spinning at full speed for years. No wonder it was starting to make a little noise. So a drive that could have lasted for a hundred years if properly conserved was ready for the scrap heap in less than ten. Never mind that it was already obsolete.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chain

Jumble got me started and I followed the chain. Other people, like you, might have followed other links, but these are the ones I followed.


The captions in today's Jumble cartoon sound awfully specific. Could it be referring to a real world event? Google turns up a story about Travis Barker, a drummer from Fontana, California, who has written just such a book. John, Sammy and Sir Paul (mentioned in the caption) might be Johnny Cash, Sammy Hagar and Paul Wall. Travis survived a nasty plane crash seven years ago in South Carolina.

Fontana may not be a thriving metropolis, but it does have its points:
Kaiser Steel, Fontana, California, back in the day.
Kaiser Steel built the largest steel plant on the West Coast during World War II. Located in the Los Angeles area’s Inland Empire town of Fontana, the plant operated for many years after the war, and employed more than 2,500 workers at its peak. Kaiser Steel declared bankruptcy in the 1980s, and much of the plant was torn down and redeveloped. Some of its modern components were purchased by the Chinese government, disassembled by a Chinese crew, and reassembled in China. A large part of the plant was paved over and turned into an automotive race track, the Automobile Association’s California Speedway. Another portion is operated as California Steel Industries, making pipe and steel products out of slabs and rolls from other sources. As one of the few remaining heavy industry sites near Los Angeles, the site is a common filming location. It was used as a location for the film Black Rain, and for the Schwarzenegger showdown with the cyborg in Terminator II. The film Pearl Harbor was refused permission to film at the site because the operator of the plant, California Steel, was partially owned by Kawasaki Steel, a Japanese company. - Center for Land Use Interpretation
One steel mill leads to another:
Geneva Steel © Chris Dunker (Dunker Imaging)
The Last Open Hearth In The U.S. was closed down in December 1991 at Geneva Steel in Utah. The end of an era for a nation that, in 1970, still produced nearly 40% of it’s raw steel out of open hearth furnaces. The Geneva OH-shop [Open Hearth shop] contained ten 340 ton furnaces first tapped in 1944 . . . Large portions of the mill (caster, plate and strip rolling mill) were sold to Chinese steel maker Qindago Steel. - Steel-Photo dot org
Huh, another steel mill dismantled and shipped to China. Sounds a lot like what the Russians were doing to their own stuff when the Germans invaded in WW2 (dismantled their industry and shipped it farther east, out of the reach of the Germans). Also a lot like what the Germans were doing when the conquered another country (take their stuff and ship to the fatherland) and what the Russians did after the war (take the German's stuff and ship it to the motherland.)

Anyway, Open Hearth Furnaces were the way to make steel, up until about 1950 when Basic Oxygen Steelmaking came to the for. The Basic Oxygen process was so much quicker and so much more efficient it would have made sense to shift over as rapidly as possible, but that didn't happen. Problem was that the steel companies had a huge investment in the Open Hearth process and they couldn't afford to write it all off.

While I'm following this trail of steel, I came across this very cool picture:
Rolling Mill Operators inside the helmstand of the 44 inch blooming mill at the Republic Steel company in Cleveland, USA, after 1968. Left to right: The stationary steam engineer, the roller, the manipulator.
And this one:
80 years ago Mexican Artist Diego Rivera finished his famous murals of the Ford  River Rouge plant.
The Ford River Rouge complex was the largest integrated factory in the world. Over 100,000 workers were employed there in the 1930s. Hyundai's factory in Ulsan, South Korea is now the largest.

P.S. Another view of the mural here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tel Wong

Major General Ted Wong, retired dental commander.
Got a message from Tel Wong this morning, or maybe it's from Ted Wong. You'd think he'd spell his own name right, but I dunno, maybe being in the stan has sharpened his focus, and little things like spelling don't matter so much any more. Anyway, here's his most generous offer, straight off the wire.
Dear Friend, Greeting I know you would be surprised to read from someone relatively unknown to you, but Before I go further I will like you to understand that, I am writing this latter to you With due respect and trust,I got  your  contact  from your profile.
There is a lot of massages which made thing very difficult for people to believe anything that comes through the internet, but this is a different case, My name is  Major General M. Ted Wong.   ,
I am serving in American Military Hospital in Afghanistan and now have been redeployed in the golf to tackle the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. I really wish to have you as my good friend and also wishes to entrust some funds into your care, but I have already send the fund out of Afghanistan, I feel quite safe dealing with you.I need your sincere and truthful friendship.Now i urge you to take this message seriously and with An open mind.so with good faith and trust join me, and i am assuring you that you will never be disappointed. now my question is: can I give You my Trust?
And I assure you We can achieve It successfully.I have $86,6 Million US dollars in a (box) that I successfully moved out of the country.I need a good partner someone I can trust. It is oil business money we did with Afghanistan citizens worth of $86,6 million US dollars, but the $8,6 million us dollars stated is my share on the business and it's legal. I have successfully moved the funds out of Afghanistan as a family valuable items with the help of UN Diplomatic.The most important thing is Trust between us ,Once the funds get to you, you take your 30% out and keep my own 70%. Your own part of this deal is to find a safe place where my part of the funds will be kept save, until I came to meet with you for discussions on investment plans, but I have more interest on real estate or any other profitable investment.But the whole process is simple and we must keep a low profile at all times. I look forward to your reply and co-operation, and I thank you in advance as I anticipate your co-operation waiting for your urgent response.i wait for your Respond so i Give you all Detail of my UN Diplomat for you to Contact on how you can Receive this Funds for me.
My Best Regards,
Major General M. Ted Wong.
My email commandinggeneraltedwong@gmail.com
". . . redeployed in the golf to tackle the ISIS in Iraq and Syria"? Must be a secret redeployment, since he retired in 2014. And then there's the $86.6 million dollars. Today must be my lucky day.

Podcasts

Limetown - A fictional story about a scientific community in Tennessee that disappeared. They have (3) half-hour episodes up so far.

Omega Tau - Two hour interviews with people who work in science or technology. There are almost 200 episodes in their archives. About half are in German and half in English.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Social Mystery


A guy I know who works in the municipal court was telling us about how the crowd became enraged when he attempted to help a frequent flyer. Never mind the rage part, they were on the other side of the glass wall, but what, pray tell, is a 'frequent flyer', I ask. He tells me that it's someone who has been arrested 50 times.
    50 times! And evidently it's not uncommon, I mean they have a term for these people. What kind of person gets arrested 50 times? I suppose alcoholics and someone who is mentally ill could be committing minor infractions like sleeping or urinating where they aren't allowed. Or maybe they are peddling drugs and there just isn't room to keep them locked up, so they are released and they go back to work and a few days later get picked up again. Whatever the reason, there is something very wrong with our system where we are expending valuable resources (courtrooms, lawyers, judges, and all the other people who work in the court system) on chickenshit. Our systems is neither correcting these people nor dissuading them from committing the same offense again.


    Then I read that banks collected $30 billion in overdraft fees last year. That's like $100 from every person in the country. I can imagine that there are a few flakes who have so much money they can be careless with it, and if they run up a thousand dollars in overdraft fees a month it's no big deal. But there aren't very many of those folks. I've had a couple or three overdraft charges in my life, and I like to think that I am not out of the ordinary. To make up for all the people who keep track of their money and for all the ones who don't even have a bank account, there must be a bunch of people incurring $1000 worth of charges a year, like one person out of ten. I just don't get it. Doesn't $1,000 mean anything anymore?
    But maybe it goes along with all the other stupid stuff people do, like buying ready made cigarettes (a pack a day habit is going to cost you two grand a year), or buying lottery tickets, or carrying a balance on your credit card. Or borrowing money to buy a liberal arts education. Yes, you can easily get yourself into a bind where your only option is to kite a check or charge something you can't pay off. But it's also possible to live really cheaply. It can be a bit of a struggle to adjust to doing without, and your 'friends' might sneer when you aren't wearing the latest fashion. But what do you want? Do you want to be free? Or do you want to spend the rest of your life as a slave in our great capitalist system?

Karma


Welcome to Karma Automotive

This video is an ad for a some kind of luxo-mobile. The intro has an optimistic viewpoint, which is a nice change-of-pace from my normal cynical outlook. Yes, it's aimed at rich people, but you don't have to be rich to be optimistic.

Via Dustbury.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Smart Phone Remote Control

With the supposed proliferation of internet connected appliances (I haven't actually seen one), a smart phone could be your remote control for just about everything in your house, like your TV, thermostat and lights. The big advantages are that you would be able to read the labels on whatever you were trying to control, and you would only need one remote to control everything.

    The downside of smart phones is their high cost and the high monthly service fees. Can't have a smart phone without a multi-giga-byte data pack, for which they want to charge you a bucket of money. If you just want to use it to control stuff in your house, you can just use wifi and dispense with cell phone service. Of course then you have to pay full price for the smart phone which makes it even more expensive.
    Problem with smart phones is they don't have a real keypad, only a virtual one, so you have to look at it to operate it. No being able to locate the mute button by feel. The other problem is they take two hands to operate, one to hold it and one to push the virtual buttons. I could be wrong about this, I don't have a smart phone. Perhaps people who are familiar with them will have memorized the necessary contortions and can operate them without looking.
    I was thinking what we need is a device that you could hold in one hand and would have a set of keys/buttons, at least one for each finger. The trick would be to hold onto it while operating the keys, which means at least a couple of keys are always going to have to be depressed. Alternatively, you could put a strap on the back that would go around your hand. Maybe add an automatic tether so that when you drop it, it automatically gets reeled in and held someplace convenient, like your waist, belly or chest, or your back, if you're a Ninja. If you don't need to see the screen you can operate it from it's stored position.
    If you wanted to be fancy, you could employ a drone to carry it around for you. Simply raise your hand and snap your fingers and the drone would zip over and deposit your remote control right in your hand. Drop it and the drone would reel it in and hold it in readiness for your next command. Drones are a little noisy, so maybe a blimp drone would work better.

Money & Politics

I kind of like Bernie. Several people I know speak well of him. But it doesn't really make any difference what I think, or what you think, or what 99% of the voting public thinks. He might even get elected, but even that won't make any difference because politics is just entertainment to keep the kiddies amused.
    One thing I've heard Bernie say, and I've been trying not to listen to any of the crap that passes for Presidential campaigning, is that one of the big problems we have is that rich people are making a zillion times more money than poor people. That kind of sound bite might be good for getting people stirred up, but it doesn't do anything for me. How big is a zillion? Really big, so big it might as well be infinite. Well, that's nothing new, the poor stay poor, the rich get rich. Everybody knows that. Bitching about the rich is worse than useless.
    What makes a difference to me, and to most everybody else, is how much money I have coming in. Is it enough to cover my bills? Is there any left over to set aside for the coming rainy day / shit storm? How much money I have coming in depends on how much money other people are spending. Likewise how much other people have coming in depends on how much I am spending. In economic windbag speak, it's called the Velocity of Money.

GDPA/AMBNS
Gross Domestic Product (Annual?) / (St. Louis) Adjusted Monetary Base, Not Seasonally adjusted
    When times are good and money is flowing, the velocity of money is high. When things go sour, the velocity drops. When it drops everybody suffers, well, everyone who depends on an income to stay afloat.

Velocity of M2 Money Stock (M2V)
   I found these two graphs. I like them because the line is red and easy to see. They are both supposed to be graphs of the velocity of money. The first one goes back about 30 years farther than the second. They are very different except for the end point. That's pretty low in both cases. Why is it so low? Because robots and computers are cheaper than people.


    Capitalists (businessmen) are in business to make money. They are not going to invest in a business unless it looks like it will make money. And businesses that use robots cost less to operate than businesses that employ people. Since businesses are employing robots instead of people, more people are out of work. More people out of work means more people NOT spending money, which means the projections that forecast whether a particular venture is going to make any money are looking ever grimmer, which means fewer new businesses are being started. We are in a downward spiral. More money is being concentrated in fewer and fewer areas, more people are being cast off of the great carousel of commerce and flung into the outer darkness. Eventually that concentration of wealth and power will become a giant pillar of light rising out the center. It will be great, for about three seconds, and then it will collapse and we will all go back to being dirt poor.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

NARCOS

Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar (left) and Juan Pablo Raba as his cousin and right-hand man, Gustavo Gaviria 
We've been watching Narcos on Netflix. It's a heck of a story. Everyone knows the story about how exporting cocaine from Colombia became a multi-billion dollar industry, or at least they ought to, but the show fleshes it out, makes it more real, even though it's all 'fiction'.
     People do lots of things they shouldn't do, and there are two different views on whether people should be prevented from doing certain things, even though they don't affect anyone else but the doer. You could probably start a big argument about that, but it's funny, I don't ever recall hearing any cogent discussion of the topic. All I've heard are the two sides, and they seem to be equally entrenched in their own self-righteousness. Here I am talking about taking drugs for recreational purposes, i.e. getting 'high'.

Netflix Organization Chart for the Medellin Cartel 
    Then there are actions that do affect other people, like torture and killing. I'm not sure which is worse. Since torture is often a prelude to execution, I am going to say torture is worse. If you want to kill someone, just kill them, that's the Christian way to get rid of your enemies.
    I mention these two items because they are both essential parts of this story. If recreational cocaine wasn't illegal in the USA, we wouldn't even have a story. Okay, you could still have a story, but it would more like Office Space.
    I don't know why Colombia is fighting the drug war. Do the powers-that-be down there have a moral objection to producing cocaine? Or are they fighting this war because the USA is giving them money to fight it? Or is it because they don't like the idea that these upstarts from the wrong side of the tracks suddenly have more money than they do?

Boyd Holbrook as DEA agent Steve Murphy.
His deadpan narration is perfect.
    The show is a little one-sided in that it shows the cartel thugs being brutal, callous and even vicious, but the cops and soldiers are generally pretty well behaved. Problem is that things the cartel thugs are shown doing, South American governments have been pulling the same kind of shit for decades, if not centuries.
    There was one scene that was a little telling. Normally, the cartels thugs are acting on orders, killing policemen, soldiers and government officials. On the episode we watched last night we have three thugs delivering a payoff to some dude. They are driving down a country road with little traffic, though occasionally there are small groups of peasants walking along the side of the road. Two of the guys are talking about who has killed more people and the driver slightly veers toward a group of peasants and hits and kills one. "Shit", one of them complains, "now we'll have to get the car washed". Like I said, callous. I suppose executing dozens of people could have that effect on a person.

P.S. 1. Good story about growing up in Colombia back in the day, by Bernardo Aparicio García.
P.S. 2. Wikipedia article about airliner blown up by Pablo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beach Dream

Congress Hotel, Art Deco District, Miami Beach.
Photo by Silvia Ros.
Not really like the dream building, but I couldn't find any pictures of seedy buildings, though the balconies on the left would pass. Everyone wants shiny and new. Imagine that.
I'm walking along the beach. Eventually I come to a place where a river empties into the sea. The beach makes a corner here. I meet some guy and we go back the way I came, but now we are several yards inland from where I was walking and the ground is covered with short leafy plants, maybe 3 or 4 inches high, kind of a gray-green color. The leaves are covered with some kind of fuzz. We are careless of walking on them, we give it no more thought than walking on a lawn.
    Eventually we get back to the place where we are both staying. It might be a cheap motel or apartment house. There are two buildings about three stories high and a dozen rooms long. There is a balcony that runs the length of the building that also functions as a hallway. The two buildings face each other. They are perpendicular to the beach so if you look down the length of the balcony you can see the sea. The railing on the balcony is constructed like a solid wall, perhaps stuccoed. My room is on the top floor nearest the ocean. Facing the other building the ocean is on my right.
    I got what I came for, now it's time to go to other guy's room and get whatever it is he is after. Turns out his room is exactly opposite mine. The stairs are at the other end of the building, so getting to his room by conventional methods would mean walking to the end of the building, descending three flights of stairs, walking ten feet to the opposite building, climbing three flights of stairs and then walking the length of the building again. That would be annoying and inconvenient.
     The other guy steps over the railing at the end of the balcony. There is a six inch wide ledge there. He takes a couple of steps and leaps across the gap and lands on the corresponding ledge on the other side. He gets what he needs. Now we could walk to the stairs and walk down, but he steps over the railing in front of his room and onto the narrow ledge outside the railing. Now he jumps down to the railing the surrounds a landing that projects from the floor below.

As always, I only post this because I remember it so clearly, and because it is a bit of exercise in writing a narrative.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Berdan Primed


Took a pile of spent shells to my friend Jack, who reloads ammo. He wants to know if they are Berdan primed or not. Looking into the shell I can see nothing, just a black pit of despair. Take a flash picture looking into the shell from 3 feet away, get a 16 megapixel image. On the camera's screen the shell is a black dot, but if you mash the right buttons enough, you can pan and zoom until you can actually see the bottom of the shell, et voila! Two holes confirming that it is Berdan primed.

Barrow, Alaska

My niece Liza is going north to Barrow AK.  Farthest point north in the USA.

"I want to see polar bears".

Four Corners of the USA

Coming into Barrow
Via Iaman.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Big Ideas for HTML

Remember the discussion in Pulp Fiction?
Whenever you come across a number with its associated units in a story on the web, you will also find the number converted to another system and displayed with those units. For instance: "it is 10 miles (16 km) to the next gas station". If you are reading something on Wikipedia, they are liable to include nautical miles as well, and if there are several numbers under discussion the converted values and units can overwhelm the story. While the trained eye can pick out the bits you want, the overall appearance is basically wretched.
     You are reading this on a computer. The computer knows who you are, and where you are, and what you are reading about. Perhaps the computer could simply display the numbers in your chosen system and not display all those alternative values that you do not care about.
    While we are at it, how about abbreviations? Some are common and well known, some are not. How about a switch that lets you choose whether the terms in question are spelled out or abbreviated?
     Let's do something about acronyms. They are proliferating at an alarming rate. No reason the computer couldn't scan the text, identify any undefined acronyms and insert their definition immediately after their first appearance.
    Maybe the HTML committee can include these functions in their next version. HTML, that would be Hyper Test Markup Language. Not sure that expanding that acronym helps at all. Just shows how much of a nerd I am, I suppose.

The porcine princess emerges in the morning with the parka regally draped across her shoulders. 
    While we are on the subject, what is it with POTUS (President Of The United States) and SCOTUS (Supreme Court Of The United States)? Who came up with these, and more importantly, why? I suspect it is part of the imperialization of the Federal government. I'm just waiting for Obama to start wearing a purple cloak trimmed in ermine.

Fun with Amazon

There's a 'Dodge Hover' in Mona Lisa Overdrive. This could be it. All it needs is a row of old, beat up, chrome-plated skulls where the front bumper should be.
I ordered a copy of Mona Lisa Overdrive from Amazon yesterday ($4 for a used hardcover, a penny for the book and $3.99 for shipping) and this button pops up on the screen offering to let me start reading it now. Cool, I've already read the first six pages or so in the preview, I could keep reading it on the screen, so I point and click, and presto! There's the book! Wait a minute, I can't read this, what is this? What is it? It's in Portuguese.
    I figure there's a glitch in the system, so I send 'em an email. I got a reply this morning telling me that I can buy the online version of the book. Nothing about the free version. They do want to know if they solved my problem. Well, no you didn't, so I get redirected to their evaluation form:
I don't know who makes up these forms. They strike me as worse than useless. There is nothing about how they failed to understand the problem in the first place. If you can't get to square one, none of this other s*** matters.
Seems this problem is a little too subtle to communicate by email, so I call. (Calling is their preferred method of contact which was a surprise.) Takes about 30 seconds to get connected to an actual person. (Click the button on the web page, immediately my phone rings, then there's the requisite robo-call announcement telling me that the NSA's minions are listening in, and then poof, a real person comes on the line.) I tell her what happened and she tells me that to read the online version, you need to buy the online version. Okay, looks like there's a glitch in the system. She tells me she's going to make a note of it, which is more than I expected.

P.S. The nice thing about reading the online version is that when you come across an unknown term, you can point and click and get everything the internet knows about it, which is how I got onto the Hattori Clock Tower. On the other hand, I have to sit at my desk and I don't get to sit in my cushy recliner. What I need is a desktop to fit over my recliner. Then I would never have to get up. Oh, wait, I wouldn't be able to get up, I'd be trapped. Help! Let me out!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hattori Clock Tower

The K. Hattori Building in 1932
I started reading William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive this evening. A couple of pages in he mentions "the shadow of the Hattori clock". Must be a pretty big clock, so I look it up. Turns out to be a rather famous landmark in Ginza. Kintarō Hattori started his watch and clock business (otherwise known as Seiko) in Ginza in 1881. Ginza is a district in Tokyo, Japan. In 1932 he built the K. Hattori building.

Tokyo PX in the K. Hattori Building
Much of Tokyo was devastated by American bomber raids during WW2, but the Hattori Clock Tower survived. After the war it became the PX (Post Exchange) for American G.I.'s.  In 1947 the building went back to being a department store.

The Wako Building Today
At some point people started calling this the Wako building, which is the name of the department store that occupies it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

How the Bible Started the Internet

Arrival of a Caravan Outside The City of Morocco - Edwin Lord Weeks (1849 – 1903).
In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take into himself a healthy young wife by the name of Dorothy, who went by the name of Dot. Dot Com was a comely woman, large of breast, broad of shoulder, and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called, slangly, Amazon Dot Com.

And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel so far from town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?"
And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a full camel load, but simply said, "How, dear?"
And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between the towns to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. The sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS).

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums. And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.

To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew. It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures, Hebrew To The People (HTTP).

And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.

And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. Indeed he did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates drumheads and drumsticks.

And Dot did say, "Oh Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others." And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel, or eBay as it came to be known.
He said "We need a name that reflects what we are."
And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators."
"Yahoo," said Abraham.
And because it was Dot's idea, they named it Yahoo Dot Com.

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the Young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK), that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside.  The system soon became known as God's Own Official Guide To Locating Everything (GOOGLE).

That's how it all began, and that's the truth. I would not make up this stuff...

Via the Divine Jodiah Bensoni.

Transpo

Washington Post
Trains are iffy. Cars go down the road at one every 2 seconds, or 30 a minute, and that's if everyone is being polite, which only happens in academic studies and fairytales. 177 cars would take 6 minutes. I think Max (our local light rail commuter train) runs every 5 minutes during rush hour, every 10 minutes during the day, less frequently at night and not at all at late night.

Buses are a little better than trains, but both are unpleasant, uncomfortable, inconvenient public transportation. Uber might be okay in cities without enough parking spaces.

A multi-level city, where mechanical transportation is relegated to the lower levels is the One, True Solution. All hail the Great and Benevolent Pergelator!

Inspired by defiant daughter.

Social Media

Dartmouth Engineering
I am supposed to be looking for a job, but getting myself in the right frame of mind is very difficult. Most of my experience with looking for a job has been negative. Get myself psyched up, comb my hair, show up on time, mind my manners (keep the cursing to a minimum), have a conversation, possibly pleasant, possibly boring, odds are about even, and then a week later I hear . . . no. Fine. Their decision, but after a few of these, especially when the interviews seem to go very well, I begin to think 'why bother'?

Military Photos dot net shut down a year or so ago. They were my best and most stimulating source of blog fodder. I really haven't found a good replacement. I have my correspondents, my A-list of bloggers, and the bits and pieces I generate on my own, but I don't feel like I am really in touch with what's going on. Occasionally something will pop up on the news, but the news is basically just entertainment, and its relation to what's going on in the world is less than what is coming out of Hollywood.

So I've been visiting Facebook and Google+. I can usually count on Facebook for a good laugh. Earlier this week I posted some serious stuff on there and the humor seems to have fallen off. It could be just a coincidence, or it could be my attitude is has slid down the scale from cheerful to grumpy. I mean a couple of posts by me aren't going to chill all my 'friends', are they?

Google+ seems to offer more serious discussions. At least there are channels which have topics. I know there are forums of all sorts all over the net, but it is rare that I find any worth reading, and as for comments, well, forget that. Sometimes you will luck into a semi-literate discussion, but most of them are drivel.

So, Facebook for fun, Google+ for anything serious. Meanwhile, I still need a job. By the time I got out of high school I was thoroughly sick of school. I didn't want to spend any more time sitting and listening to people rattle on about god knows what, I wanted to make some money. All my life (when I was paying attention) I had heard stories about people without-any-education-to-speak-of who had made fortunes. If they can do it, why can't I? So I set out to make my fortune. Eight years later I finally realized that my old man was right and I should go back to college and get a degree.

I don't recall what I was thinking when I chose Computer Science, but that's what I chose. I stuck with it and got a degree. So now I've got a ticket to big money, or so I thought. I spent 25 years, more or less pushing bits around and it paid pretty well. I managed to raise three kids and put them through college, so I've done my bit to keep our civilization rolling on. But I never made the really big money that some people made. I only have one house, and it has a mortgage. I don't drive a Ferrari or even a big Audi, and I certainly don't have my own jet airplane.

I think I finally understand what makes me tick, and it isn't money. Oh, money is nice, and it is infinitely better than no money, but it doesn't really turn my crank. I remember hearing a discussion (lecture? diatribe?) by someone (a promotional speaker maybe?) about getting what you want. The gist of it is that if you want something that is difficult to obtain, you really have to want it. You have to want it to the exclusion of everything else. Now you might be able to hold on to a few other things besides your one goal, but there will be times when you will have to choose, and every time you choose something else over your goal, your goal is going to slip further and further away. Eventually time will run out and you will be stuck with the choices you made. It might be friends or family or being high or having a good time, or money, but it is unlikely to include all of the above. Unless you are very lucky.

What I finally figured out is that what I like to do is to put machines together, machines that will do something. It may do something useful, or it may simply be entertaining, but it has to do something. That maybe why I don't draw pictures much anymore. They can useful for communicating an idea or an emotion, but they don't really do anything by themselves. Now it happens that our civilization loves machinery, and so I have been able to make a living by working on machines (computers are just esoteric machines, but still just machines). But that was my choice. Money is nice, but it isn't interesting. In fact, for me it's rather boring and tedious. Necessary but dull, kind of like houses.

I'm looking for a job again and I realized all the programming jobs I have seen advertised are crap. I don't want to do web pages and forms and games. I want to work on something serious, so I Google for 'scientific programming jobs', something I had never before thought to look for, and, lo and behold, there are actually some jobs out there that fit this description. Guess I better get my resume in order.

Reid Fleming


In 1977 David Boswell created comic book anti-hero Reid Fleming, the World’s Toughest Milkman. 
This video explains, amongst other things, how movies don't get made.

Who's Reid? This is who:
www.reidfleming.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy


Came across an entertaining story on The Atlantic. It's a little long, but there is some good stuff (ideas, phrases, concepts) scattered throughout. Periodically, while I'm reading along, the page jumps, I lose my place and I have to look around until I find it again. This jumping is caused by ads that suddenly appear in the middle of the page. Really obnoxious. So obnoxious that I copied the article (Ctrl-A followed by Ctrl-C) and pasted it into a text editor (Ctrl-V). Now I could finish reading the article in peace. Since I'd gone to the trouble to make plain text copy, I added it to my Pages. You can find it here.

Who Am I?

Queen Esther Revealing her True Identity by Lilian Broca
    I went by Walgreens yesterday to pick up a script. Whenever you do this they always want to play 20 questions: What's your name? How do you spell that? What's your address? What's your phone number? What was the name of first pet? Before the Affordable Care Act and all the "Privacy" crap all you had to know was the name of the patient, and be able to pay for it. Besides the fact that you are broadcasting all this supposedly private information to anyone within earshot (I heard every bit of the transaction that transpired with the car in front of me in the drive thru), it's obnoxious, time consuming and annoying.
    I thought I would bypass the 20 questions by giving them my drivers licence, that should shut them up. So I open my wallet and . . . what? Where's my license? Where's my ATM card? What the heck happened? Did I leave my wallet unattended and someone just swiped those two cards? For the life of me I can't imagine what happened.
    So I docilely submit to the 20 questions, collect the script and head home. On the way I realize that about a week ago I went to the bank and to get some cash, and since I went thru the drive thru there as well, the cash and the paperwork came back in an envelope. Sure enough, when I got home I found my missing cards in the envelope with the (pitiful) remains of the cash. What's really surprising is that in that week I never noticed that those cards were missing, and I had been in my wallet several times. That's just a little scary.

P.S. I had an insight about drive-thru facilities. They seem kind of frivolous. Are you really that lazy that you can't walk from the parking lot to the store? (I think I got this attitude from my parents.) Last night I realized that it isn't the walking, it's the parking. Finding a spot, maneuvering your car into the spot, shutting down the car, gathering up your stuff, climbing out, locking up. Now, admittedly, it doesn't take more that a few seconds to do all this, but it is kind of a complicated hassle, and going through the drive-in eliminates all of this. Plus you don't have to wear shoes. Or even pants, for that matter.

Ant Dream

Plastic Ants, which somehow seems appropriate.
I swear the ones I saw were real.
I am in a room much like a classroom. It is roughly the same size and layout: one wall is spanned by a row of aluminum framed windows. The one door is in the opposite wall. The room is filled with long, wood tables that span the width of the room. There are arranged parallel to the windowed wall. There is space between the tables and at the ends so you can walk around.
    I am examining the surface of the last table, the one closest to the windows. My vantage point is such that I could be kneeling on the table, or perhaps I am hanging from wires or supported by artificial gravity, I have no idea. In any case, I am examining the table's surface and I notice a trail of tiny ants crossing the table. There is a light stripe, maybe half an inch wide, in the varnish where they are walking. It occurs to me the ants have worn through the varnish there.
    I scoot up the table about six feet and I find another, similar, trail of ants. This is weird. I scoot up a little more and I spot another trail in the making. This one only goes about half way across. It starts on my right, at the edge nearest the windows. It appears that the ants are digging their way through the varnish, not that the varnish is that thick. If is so thin as to be imperceptible to my big eyes and would not impede the ants if they chose to walk on it, so there much be some other factor at work.
    Perhaps the varnish is sticky and by removing it there are making a more ant-friendly path. Or maybe they are eating it, or more likely, carrying it away to feed to something else.
    My view zooms out a bit and I notice several more of these paths, both complete and in-progress. This is just too weird, I need to find some other people to witness this phenomena.
    I go out in the hall (still much like a school) and wander down the hallway looking for co-workers who can spend a few minutes to look at my ants. Some people are intent on their work. One guy is staring into space, not sure he is rousable. I turn the corner and go a little further and eventually find a few people who I am able to tease into accompanying me back to see the ants.
    We get back to the room and there are no ants. There are strips of paper lying where I could have sworn I saw these trails of ants. The strips of paper have little brass colored asterisks printed in row down the center, just about the size of the ants I saw. Where I saw a trail-in-progress, there is a strip of paper that ends halfway across the table, right at the same point that this ant trail had reached. I am non-plussed, to say the least.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Animated Business Cards

I'm going to order a batch of business cards and I thought maybe I should include a logo, but what logo? Iaman suggested this one.


How do you print an animated GIF? Ask and you shall receive.

gifpop
They will print large or small quantities. Snap3D is another outfit. Both outfits want real money, from a low of 70 cents each for 200 to $12 for a single.

Quotes of the Day


Enemies are necessary for the wheels of the U.S. military machine to turn. If the world were peaceful, we would never put up with this kind of ruinous expenditure on arms at the cost of our own lives. This is where the thousands of CIA destabilizations begin to make a macabre kind of economic sense. They function to kill people who never were our enemies-that’s not the problem-but to leave behind, for each one of the dead, perhaps five loved ones who are now traumatically conditioned to violence and hostility toward the United States. This insures that the world will continue to be a violent place, populates with contras and Cuban exiles and armies in Southeast Asia, justifying the endless, profitable production of arms to ‘defend’ ourselves in such a violent world. - John Stockwell
Found in Why the Deep State always Wins by William A. Blunden / September 1st, 2014. The article is pretty grim. He's got a bunch of footnotes, and he mentions a bunch of people I'd never heard of, actual people who are (were) important enough to rate their own Wikipedia page.

Via Detroit Steve.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mongols and The Plague

The Mongol Empire existed during the 13th and 14th centuries and was the largest contiguous land empire in history.

Mitch Williamson recently posted an entertaining article about the Mongol Empire. The story sounded a bit fanciful, so I consulted Jack, my history expert. He didn't find anything to dispute in Mitch's story, but he did add this comment:
[The Mongol's] put together a very impressive commercial system. One of the things that got transported was the Bubonic Plague in the 1340s; the end of the Mongol Empire.
Oh. How lovely.
Spread of the Black Death in Europe (1346–53)

Notice that the area around Cracow (Krakow, Poland) doesn't get hit. Being as my paternal grandparents are from Poland, I wonder what the deal is. Wikipedia gives us a clue:
The plague was somewhat less common in parts of Europe that had smaller trade relations with their neighbours, including the Kingdom of Poland, the majority of the Basque Country, isolated parts of Belgium and the Netherlands, and isolated alpine villages throughout the continent.
A little farther on I find this:
One development as a result of the Black Death was the establishment of the idea of quarantine in Dubrovnik in 1377 after continuing outbreaks.
Which leads to: Dubrovnik ( Italian: Ragusa), Croatia, is a seaport on the Adriatic Sea, in the region of Dalmatia. It is a prominent tourist destination and a World Heritage Site.
The Republic of Ragusa received its own Statutes as early as 1272, statutes which, among other things, codified Roman practice and local customs. The Statutes included prescriptions for town planning and the regulation of quarantine (for sanitary reasons).
The Republic was an early adopter of what are now regarded as modern laws and institutions:
- 1301 a medical service was introduced,
- 1317 the first pharmacy was opened. It is still operating.
- 1347 an almshouse was opened,
- 1377 the first quarantine hospital (Lazarete) was established.
- 1418 slave trading was abolished,
- 1432 an orphanage was opened.
- 1438 a 12 mile long water supply system was constructed.
I do wonder how well quarantine would have worked when filth was still the order of the day.
The importance of hygiene was recognised only in the nineteenth century; until then it was common that the streets were filthy, with live animals of all sorts around and human parasites abounding. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Maleficent


Disney's Maleficent - Official Trailer 3

I really wanted to see this movie, but being a cheapskate, I was willing to wait until it showed up on DVD. Then I had to wait for a gap in our busy social schedule so I would have enough time to think and realize, hey, Maleficent is probably out on DVD so I can order it. So I did, it showed up, and we've got an opening so let's watch it.
      We haven't used our DVD player in a coon's age, the batteries in the remote control are dead, and why can we hear the music but we can't hear what the people are saying? Seems some of the speakers in our home theater system aren't speaking. Could it be that the amp is unplugged and turned off? Who would have done such a thing? No one in MY family would have done such a thing, must have been gremlins. Or North Koreans. Plug it in, turn it on, and we still can't hear them. Punch a bunch of buttons on our reinvigorated remote control and we have something that lets us choose between English 1, English 2, Spanish and French. English 1 produces nothing but background sound and music. Spanish does the same. English 2 gives us dialog, but also gives us a narrative of what's going on, which we don't really need, I mean it's a movie, for Pete's sake, we can see what's going on. But try as we might (and we even enlisted older son, who is au currant with electronical gizmos), we can't get dialog without narrative.
    Complicated story, treachery and loyalty abound, not to mention ego and hubris. Special effects are out of this world, and what have they done with Angelina's face? She really does look like someone from the fifth dimension.
    Lana Del Rey's tune doesn't show up till the closing credits.
    I want to watch it again if I can figure out how to turn off the narrative. I'm afraid I might have to buy a new DVD player. Maybe my Zbox can do the job.

Update next afternoon: Found a fix for the audio problem. Did a little Googling. Seems there are two common audio standards. One is known as 2.0 and the other is known as 5.1. If you have an older system like mine, 5.1 doesn't work, you need to use 2.0. The language selection menu on the DVD offers four selections (as noted above). English 2 is the only one that uses 2.0, the others all use 5.1, which sort of explains why English 2 is the only one that would give us any dialog last night. Well, that's nice to know, but it doesn't really help. So I look at the DVD player menu, which is different than the menu that comes from the DVD. I poke around and finally find the HDMI audio switch that controls whether the audio is sent out to the TV or not. The TV is connected to the DVD player with an HDMI cable, which is capable of handling both audio and video. Since the DVD player is also a home theater sound system, there is no reason to send the audio to the TV, EXCEPT THAT TURNING IT ON FIXES THE PROBLEM.

The Girl, The Gun, and The Motorcycle


The Girl, The Gun, and The Motorcycle - Premiere Trick Shot - Kirsten Joy Weiss

This is just a little nuts. At least she isn't trying to drive and shoot at the same time. Still, being able to hit anything from a moving vehicle is a bit of a trick.

Friday, October 9, 2015

What are the odds?


When I lived in Ohio I used to watch cop shows on TV. These shows invariably included a high-speed cross town car chase. They were great fun to watch, but because we didn't hear about such things on the news I kind of figured they didn't happen very often. Okay, maybe there was one a few years ago, and all the TV shows have used that one event as an excuse to include a chase in their show. Then I moved to Phoenix where the cops had a high-speed cross town car chase every week, if not every day.

Joselyn Alejandra Niño holding an M4 assault rifle. She was known as "La Flaca", or "Skinny Girl", and was an assassin working for the Ciclones, a Mexican drug cartel. She was killed in 2015 by a rival gang.
     Many action movies feature a cold blooded assassin. Once again I used to think that all these stories were based on one event. Then I started paying attention to the news, and while there may not be very many assassins killing people with precision using high-powered, take apart rifles, killing for business or political reasons is going on every day.


     Defibrillators have become somewhat common. They are being deployed like fire extinguishers. I wondered about the value of doing this. I mean, these things are kind of expensive, and is anyone's life ever saved by these things? I had never heard of it happening until my cousin told me about it happening at a group campout a couple of weeks ago. They were sitting around the fire after dinner and one guy just keeled over. Another fellow who worked for the U.S. Forest Service got the defibrillator out of his Forest Service truck, applied it, and save Mr. Keeled-over's life.
    So given my previous experience with extreme events, I am now willing to concede that deploying defibrillators like fire extinguishers might be a good idea.

Hip Joint


Iaman had surgery a couple of weeks ago to replace one of his hip joints with an artificial one. The surgery went well and he went home the next day.
    Hip joint surgery is a big deal. It's major surgery. Any time you go in for surgery there is a risk that you are not going to come out of it. Doctors have a pretty good idea of what they are doing, but people are complicated and it's entirely possible that something weird will happen and they won't be able to cope with it. The odds of something bad happening are pretty low, but they are not zero.
    My father had trouble with his artificial hip. He went in the hospital and spent the next six months in there or in rehab before he passed away. He was old.
    My father-in-law went in for surgery to replace one of his hip joints a couple of years ago. He survived the surgery fine, but then he lapsed into a coma for a week or so. They suspect he had a small stroke. He woke up and seems to be mostly there, but he has trouble walking, so he's in rehab. He's about the same age as my father was.
    All this is to show that Iaman's going in for surgery was fraught with terror, kind of like taking your first flight in a plane. Everyone tells you it's safe but there was that news report last week about the plane that fell out of the sky and everyone on board died. What if the same thing happens to your flight? I mean it might.


    Iaman survived and went home and he's flying high until the anesthetic wears off a couple of days later. By now he's started taking morphine so he's feeling no pain. A few days later he steps down to Oxycodone. He lives in a retirement community and he knows several people there who have had the same operation and they tell him things like the recovery was no big deal. They quit the Oxy after a couple of days and were just taking Tylenol. They're big fat liars. That might be the way the remember it, but that's because they were high on Oxy.
    After a few days of Oxy, Iaman tries cutting back. It doesn't work so well. He's supposed to take a pill every six hours. If he skips one, 30 mintues later everyone knows he's skpped his pill. Grimacing, he relents and takes his medicine.
    This surgery has about the same impact on your body as if somebody broke your leg with an ax. It's gonna hurt, and it's gonna hurt bad for a while. That's why the doc gave him a case of narcotics the week before. He's gonna need them.

Alexander Graham Bell

married 

one of his students at his school for the deaf. Mabel was the daughter of 

Gardiner was a bigshot who supported Graham in his experiments with voice transmission. 
Gardiner made an enemy of 

President of Western Union, the telegraph company.  Gardiner and Orton got crosswise when Gardiner filed an anti-trust suit aimed at Western Union. So you can see that Orton would not want to have anything to do with Graham and his telephone. Instead he bought into 

Gray also had a telephone patent. He was one of the founders of Western Electric, the telephone equipment manufacturer.
The two sides fought it out in the courts and Graham eventually prevailed.

All this was inspired by a post on Wondermark. David Malki's focus is more on how ideas are kicked around, but the relationships between the various parties is what got my attention.