Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ekekiel 37

Singing Detective - Dem Bones.mp4

Marcel posted a version of this song by the Delta Rhythm Boys, and since I've run into Ezekiel before, I'm a-wondering, and since a-wondering is the past imperative of a-wandering, I proceeded to do just that, which produced the above video, which is what happens when Hollywood meets the bible. Gimme dancing girls over a bunch of stiffs in suits any day.

The Vision of The Valley of The Dry Bones - Gustave Doré engraving - 1866
Ezekiel is mostly known as being a prophet from around 600 BC, which is kind of a long time ago, but it ain't no 6,000 years, which is my current goal for preserving archival knowledge. Only another 3,400 years to go.

Pertinent bible verse here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


DMOZ is an acronym for Directory Mozilla,
also known as the Open Directory Project

How is it that I had not heard of DMOZ before? I just stumbled over it while looking for info about mainframe emulators, which might tell you something. In any case, I seem to have opened a can of worms. DMOZ is the current name for the Open Directory Project (ODP) which is a directory of the internet. Ambitious, to say the least. It's kind of like Wikipedia in that it is compiled by a global community of volunteer editors. I've added a DMOZ search box to my sidebar. No, Pergelator isn't listed, but I wouldn't expect it to be, being as I might be a little hard to classify.

Why is DMOZ using that wimpy little logo? I mean if you are going to use a dinosaur, use a DINOSAUR.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Meat Mr. Potato Head

The Impossible done on a milling machine

A more apt title might be "The Ridiculous . . .", but that's okay. The banter is what makes it. Might be a little tacky, but hey, can't be funny without offending some bunny.


Archer Daniels Midland Plant
Over at Bayou Renaissance Man, Anonymous has left a new comment on the post "That 'craft' whiskey may not be very craft-y": 
A.D.M. is huge corn processor based in Decatur, IL. Factories all over. One of the products produced at some is grain alcohol.
I worked at the Clinton, IA facility in sugar dept. There was an alcohol dept also. I thought it was all for gasoline blending- but was surprised to hear that yes a portion was sold to numerous liquor manufacturers as the "alcohol" in their product.
VERY interesting!
Also, there was ONE gin company that had their own tank with THEIR blend of juniper berries(etc?)contained in it. I don't know how that all worked process/business wise, but found it neat they wanted to maintain their reputation/product by utilizing that angle. All the others got the same uniform product. I always think of that when I see flavored schnapps/vodka etcetc... syrup meets grain alcohol~ hmmm.
So yes- this has been a practice for a LONG long time!:)
I would also mention- access to that building was strictly controlled, as was ANY activity inside. First, as a fire hazard, vapors being a thing! There was some 'signage' thereabouts too advising immediate firing if even suspected of touching or tasting the product (and really- there was NOwhere to access a tap.) Sealed system)
Of course-The reality is- being produced under pressure, this is true 100% alcohol, and will literally BURN you if contacted. Alcohol at regular atmosphere is ~95% with 5% H2o, pulled from the air. At 100% pure, it will pull that moisture right out of YOU. That burning feeling? Yah-you are screwed-- you'd be headed for the ER! Ouch! 

RealClearPolitics - 2016 Presidential Race

RealClearPolitics - 2016 Presidential Race
California Bob pontificates:
Interesting poll about general election matchups:
Clinton over Trump   +11 points;
Clinton over Cruz    + 3 points;
Kasich  over Clinton + 6.5;
Sanders over Trump   +17 points;
Sanders over Cruz    +10 points;
Sanders over Kasich  + 2 points
So, between the democrats, Bernie beats all repubs more than Clinton.
Among the GOP, Kasich, in last place, is the best performing in the general election, indeed, the only republican to beat Clinton.
This is kind of the exact opposite of how all candidates are performing in the primaries.  Having a hard time getting my head around it.
If GOP primary voters are a tiny fraction of electorate (and they are), it's conceivable the first choice of a tiny group could be poison in the general election.  But then why is Bernie behind in the primaries if he's so far ahead broadly?  Answer is probably  the math of primaries, and super-delegates.
Still have a hard time understanding how Cruz outperforms Trump; Cruz is such a weirdo freak, wake up and smell the coffee people!
Another poll shows that if Bernie drops out, fully 20% of Bernie voters would swing to Kasich over Clinton.  That seems odd, but my own top two picks, counter-intuitively, are Bernie and Kasich.  Why?  I like Bernie's authenticity and think it would be interesting to try a socialist government, just to see if anything actually changed.  And I like Kasich among the GOP just because he has the political courage to not be a completely stupid sub-normal.

World Cup in Columbus

Not quite sure what this is. The US team and the Guatemala team? No, that can't be.
Wait, what? The World Cup is coming to Columbus, Ohio. Well, not really. It's a qualifying match, but we (USA) have a team and they are playing against Guatemala in Columbus tonight. One of the players on the US team (Christian Pulisic) played in a youth league that Detroit Steve runs, so Steve is understandably excited about this.
    I lived in Columbus for about four years when I was a kid, so I am kind of attached to the place. You don't hear much about it, so I am always surprised when something pops up.

Car of the Day

1938 Lancia Aprilia Sport Zagato
Okay, it's not really a 38. The original (there was only one) was destroyed in the war. A few years ago, Zagato, son of Ugo, got a wild hair and decided to recreate this machine. All they had to work with was an old photo, but they set to and built one. Or maybe more. There were plans, but who knows if they materialized.

Via Road & Track

Something is very fucked up

Kuvée Smart Wine Bottle
I understand that some people like to drink wine, and I know that some people can detect minute differences in taste and smell. And some people may not drink an entire bottle at one go, and they may want to save the rest of the bottle for later. And I can see that some people would be silly enough to spend $200 on an electronical gizmo to play with their wine. But who in their right mind would invest $6 million in producing this gizmo? Rich people must be getting really bored, but I suppose that has always been a problem for the rich.
    My perception of the small gadget business must be really skewed. Suppose they make a profit of $60 on each one of these that they sell ($60 markup for the retailer, $60 in production costs, $20 for distribution would leave $60 profit). They are going to have to sell one hundred thousand (100,000) of these things, which means one out of every 3,000 people in the US will need to buy one. Or one out of 16 people in Manhattan, which seems to be the target market. Manhattan seems to have evolved to a higher plane of existence. Nothing there seems to have any relation to the rest of the country.
    Or maybe there is some kind of tax dodge at work, so you don't actually have to make, or sell, or deliver this gizmo. All you need to do is put up some promotional ads that make it look like you are serious, and then you just slip away into the night and into your next scam.

Via Detroit Steve

Monday, March 28, 2016

Syria's war: a 5-minute history

Syria's war: Who is fighting and why

by Max Fisher and Johnny Harris on October 14, 2015
    After four-plus years of fighting, Syria's war has killed at least 250,000 people and displaced 12 million people. And, though it started as a civil war, it's become much more than that. It's a proxy war that has divided much of the Middle East and has drawn in both Russia and the United States. To understand how Syria got to this place, it helps to start at the beginning and watch it unfold.
    Something important you'll notice: As more outside groups get involved in the war, each escalates by backing their side, and then a rival will also get involved to back the other side. So what you have is not just the Syrian factions escalating but regional and global powers escalating as well, thus worsening the war and entrenching Syria's divisions.
    You'll also see that the countries getting involved don't always have the same objectives, and can end up working against even their allies. When Gulf states begin funding Syria's rebels, for example, they are mostly seeking to topple Bashar al-Assad and set back his patron, Iran, so they often fund extremists, believing they're better fighters. And different Gulf states fund different groups — at first Qatar is the most active, then Saudi Arabia — that are sometimes at odds with one another. And so on. These internal contradictions are an important part of understanding how the war has gotten so bad.
    For more, read our brief history of Syria's war, from the rise of the opposition to the refugee crisis to why the US and Russia ended up intervening.
 Via Iaman

IBM Mainframes

No it's not an Intel RAMdisk (on the left), though we'll just have to take their word for it that there is anything inside the box at all. Shoot, the box probably has gone to the scrapyard by now.
Cleaning out my files this morning I came across a notebook about the IBM 370 that I put together back in 1986 (!?!). I was working with a group in Phoenix that made their bones building RAM disks for mainframes using Intel RAM chips that only half worked. Intel couldn't, or didn't want to, sell these chips on the open market, but they had a bunch of them and they were piling up fast.
    Then someone realized that:
  • mainframe computers didn't really have a size or weight restriction, 
  • accessing RAM was much faster than transferring data to a disk, and
  • while parts of Intel's broken RAM chips did not work, other parts did.
So they designed a circuit to use the working halves of the broken chips, designed and built big circuit boards, populated them with these broken chips and loaded the boards into big mainframe size cabinets.
    This business went great guns for a few years but by 1986 it was all but dead. This group of people had become experts in communicating with IBM mainframes, so they were looking around for a way to make use of that knowledge. The finally hit on making an universal adapter that would allow you to connect your Multibus I circuit boards to an IBM mainframe.
    They planned on selling a bunch of these things, so I got assigned to help out. I was there for a year. They sold a few, but the market never materialized. Since I didn't have much to do, I occupied myself reading about the IBM 370. Since IBM documentation was written by a bureaucracy, for a bureaucracy, it was not what you call concise. I pulled out what I thought was useful and drew up some tables to illustrate some of their more arcane features. When I left the group I put the notebook on the shelf.

IBM is still building and selling mainframe computers. They are no longer as large as a locomotive, now they are more the size of a couple of vending machines or commercial refrigerators. If you are nerd curious like me you can download all 1700 odd pages of the z/Architecture Principles of Operations, which seems to include the entire instruction set.

Also, while cleaning out my files, I came across a notebook of tedious details about Intel Multibus I computer systems. This notebook is now totally useless. I threw it out. Since IBM's latest processors are simply an outgrowth of the old System 360, my IBM notebook might still have some value. Now all I have to do is get it up on the net.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

People are complicated, right down to the cellular level

Sex Is a Coping Mechanism

Did sexual reproduction evolve to keep up with mitochondrial mutation?

That link lies in the fact that mitochondria are not just cellular batteries. Billions of years ago they were actually independent organisms. They are an example of how the human body is not entirely “human.” Our guts are full of trillions of foreign bacterial cells; our DNA is riddled with shards of old viruses; and even our cells are dollops of primordial soup. Scientists are increasingly realizing that many diseases are not external assaults, but imbalances of our inner ecosystem. In the case of mitochondria, conflicts can arise because these organelles contain their own unique and separate DNA. “Until recently, science has basically ignored the fact that we are all walking around with two genomes in every cell,” Dowling says, “that of our own nuclear genome, and that of the mitochondria.”
Via Detroit Steve

Text, Simplified

Cleartext Demonstration GIF
Cleartext is a text editor for the Mac that only allows the 1,000 most common words in English. Morton Just is the author. XKCD has an online version. Morton references the Turbo Encabulator, so he's cool.
Use it to tell your family members why their computers act up, or tell people at work why they should pay you more. 


Car leaving squiggly black marks on the road.

Wombwell Auto Parts Company

Landis crankshaft grinder driven by two belts, the left to rotate the crankshaft and the right-hand one to turn the grinding stone at a very high speed.
Back in the 1930's Wombwell Auto Parts was a good-sized operation in Lexington, Kentucky. It included an extensive machine shop operation. The machines are almost modern looking except for being driving by flat belts descending from driveshafts hanging from the ceiling. More pictures here and here.

Interior view of portable machine shop housed in a travel trailer.
They also had a fully equipped machine shop in a trailer that was pulled by a 1935 Chevrolet Coupe.  More pictures here. Pictures of the trailer must have been taken when it was new. It is very clean, not like the main shop. That place looks like they have been making dirt for a thousand years.

Modern Crankshaft Grinder
Modern crankshaft grinder has the same basic layout as the old one shown up top. Storm Vulcan, maker of this crankshaft grinder, seems to have vanished. All Google can find are people who sell parts for the machines. That is not too surprising since engines last longer and rebuilding engines has become the domain of hobbyists and cranks. These machines are still necessary for manufacturing, but I suspect they are all made in China now. Except for the robotic ones, those are made in Japan. Europe probably still makes their own because, well, Europe.

Via Posthip Scott.

Car of the Day

1934 Model A or B Ford-based racing car
I like the way this car looks. Something about the proportions, I suppose, or maybe the no nonsense appearance. Except for the fins on the hood, if that's what they are. Those would have to go.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Let's Dance

Green Onions - Booker T & the MG's

Great tune, fantastic video. Actors and actresses dancing to this very cool song include:
  • Marilyn Monroe, Eli, Wallach, Thelma Ritter, Clark Gable (The Misfits 1961)
  • Sophia Loren (It Started in Naples 1960)
  • Jayne Mansfield (Dog Eat Dog! 1964)
  • Natalie Wood (Gypsy 1962)
  • Kim Novak, William Holden (Picnic 1955)
  • Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita 1960)
  • Ann-Margret (The Swinger 1966)
  • Gina Lollobrigida, Rock Hudson (Come September 1961)
  • Romy Schneider, Jack Lemmon (Good Neighbor Sam 1964)
  • Brigitte Bardot (Come Dance With Me! 1959)
  • Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1966)
  • Jill St. John (The Oscar 1966)
  • Mamie Van Doren (Untamed Youth 1957)
  • Shirley MacLaine, Gene Kelly (What a Way to Go! 1964)
  • Cyd Charisse, Robert Taylor (Party Girl 1958)
  • Raquel Welch (Flareup 1969)


Continental Army Soldier British Solider
Caught an an for the TV show Turn, talking about redcoats and bluecoats and spies during the revolutionary war and I'm thinking 'turncoat' and I wonder if anybody ever turned their coat inside out to change sides, and sure enough it did happen:
The English Civil War during the 17th century. The siege of Corfe Castle was won by Oliver Cromwell's soldiers when they turned their coats inside out to match the colours of the Royal army. - Wikipedia
While I was looking for pictures (since I couldn't find the video clip), I came across a report from a loyalist from Georgia by the name of Johns Hopkins who was tarred and feathered, which made me wonder if this is the namesake of Johns Hopkins University. Turns out no, it's not.

Hooper Heliport

Hooper Heliport Los Angeles. Downtown in the background. Click to embiggenate. The concrete slab on the top of the building just above the helicopter is heliport. It's a big place, large enough for a dozen helicopters easily.
The New York Times has a story by Geoff Manaugh about the Los Angeles Police helicopter squad.  Looking for pictures, I turn up this one which I thought was real until I looked at the page and realized that it was a screen shot from a video game.

Google Earth view of downtown Los Angeles, Hooper Heliport in the foreground.
Here is a similar view from Google Earth. The difference in apparent composition is presumably due to the radically different perspective derived from different viewpoints.

Inside the cockpit of an LAPD helicopter at night.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Wire Cutters

CGI 3D **AWARD WINNING** Animated Shorts: "Wire Cutters" - by Jack Anderson


Cranes at work in downtown Portland

Donald at the grocery checkout

Have beavers been busy here? Is that why this stream looks like a lake?

This is what you get at those fancy steakhouses like Ruth's:
a steak knife in the same pattern as your table knife.

. . . and a drink glass with five sides. Not six or eight, but five.

Next door to Ruth's.

Subaru make lawn mowers?!? News to me. Now if only they were four wheel drive (ha ha). Costco.

California Bob is now plotting the distribution of dried fruit, and presto! Here they are in Costco.

Simple Wikipedia

Exponentiation by Squaring
I monkeying around with the Go programming language and I need to raise number 10 to a low power like 1, 2 or 3. That's easy enough, but is there some library function already written that will do that? I mean part of learning a new programming language is learning what's in all the various libraries. So I go looking around and the general attitude seems to be that this is so simple you may as well write it yourself, unless you want to use the floating point routine, which is fine except you incur the extra overhead of floating point numbers.

But then somebody points out that Wikipedia has an article titled Exponentiation by Squaring which is a dozen or so screens of mathematical gibberish, and the somebody else points out that there is the Simple Wikipedia which also has an article on the same subject and it is only one screenful. I like Simple Wikipedia. I use Wikipedia all the time. Mostly it doesn't give me any trouble, but sometimes it gets really deep, and sometimes that is too deep for me.

The technique is overkill for my problem, so I will just roll my own.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Meet Mr Boaty McBoatface

New UK Polar Vessel, as yet unnamed
The Brits are building a new boat and they are asking the public to suggest a name for it. The front runner is 'Boaty McBoatface'. Best name for a boat I've ever heard.

Boaty is a bit of an icebreaker. It can push it's way through one meter thick ice at three knots, which is good since you are going to be floating in freezing water most of the time. Polar Star, our one heavy icebreaker can handle ice twice that thick. More icebreaker posts.

Via Dustbury

Update May 2016 replaced missing picture. This one has the new name on it, and no, it's not Boaty McBoatface, unfortunately.

Chuck Key

Tightening the chuck on a drill press
An electric drill has a chuck to hold the drill bit. Most drills use a key to tighten the chuck so it grips the drill bit solidly. Problem is that if this chuck key is not chained down it tends to wander off which can be very annoying when the drill bit needs to be changed. Chaining it down solves that problem, but makes the key awkward to operate, and if you are working with a portable drill, the chain can be a nuisance.

How about we make a socket in the drill body to hold the key, and make the switch dependent on the chuck key being in that socket before the drill will operate? Solves both problems. Requires some space in the drill and a fancier switch but it would solve the problem of the missing chuck key that has plagued machinists and carpenters since before there was electricity.

Yes, I know, many hand-held drills use keyless chucks these days, but those are only good for light duty jobs. If you need to drill a real hole, you need a real chuck, one that uses a key.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


"Pipe Dream" -

This crossed my path today. It reminds me of Wintergarten's Musical Marble Machine. I originally came across this video several years ago, but if I posted it before it is lost in time. Note that all the imagery computer generated, there is no actual room full of exotic pipe and marble musical instruments.

The video is made by Animusic, and with this much skill and talent you'd think that Hollywood would have snapped them up and they'd be rolling in the dough. That doesn't seem to be the case. They just seem to make these animated music videos. They've made several and they are all very different. They ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund their latest project.

Pay Your Taxes

1943 American War Propaganda with Donald Duck
Savant Capital Management posted a link to a US Government film that encourages you to pay your taxes. When I followed the link, I found that YouTube had been served with a take-down notice by your friend and mine, Disneyland Incorporated. Well, we can't have Disney suppressing official government propaganda, can we? So I dug around and I came up with this one, which I suspect is the same one.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Winklepickers are pointed toed shoes. Who knew?

Peel & England

Iggy Pop delivers a speech (!), the John Peel Lecture of 2014. In the introduction we have this bit from John Peel:
"Hello, welcome back to Glastonbury where it is, not at the moment, raining, which is quite exciting in itself." (2:05)
Sounds like Portland, but who is this John Peel? The only John Peel I know is the one in the song:

D'ye Ken John Peel - Arr. P. M. Adamson

Any connection between these two John Peels? No, other than Wikipedia seems to know about them:

Interspresed within the corporate blather that makes up the intro to the speech there are some interesting bits. About the music, the music biz and some of the players.

Hammer of Science

Hammer Of God by George Grie
Some people are running a research project to collect a bunch of data on a bunch of people. In an article on CO.EXIST I found this line:
"The hope is with so much continuous data, researchers can for the first time start to disentangle the complex, seemingly unanswerable questions that have plagued our society, from what is causing the obesity epidemic to how to disrupt the poverty to prison cycle."
These questions are unanswerable simply because the majority of people in power have a mental block against recognizing the source of these problems. If you can't recognize what is causing the problem, of course you can't solve it. It's like that old saw about workplace problems: "Any problem that shouldn't be a problem can't be fixed." The meaning is that you have some people who are so wedded to the way things are that effecting enough change to make a difference is going to be virtually impossible.

Now it might be that this research will provide proponents of change with 'scientific' ammunition that they can use to demolish their opponent's arguments, which might open the way to real change in the way people live.

Note that this research is not going to provide any new insights. That knowledge already exists, but only a minority of the population has it. Disseminating it to a larger population is the problem. If this problem looks like a nail, well then, perhaps the hammer of science can be used to pound it down.

Links via Detroit Steve:

Cuban Comedy

Pánfilo habla con Obama

A post on Generation Y that went up yesterday starts like this:
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 March 2016 – He arrives on the Island on Palm Sunday, will attend a baseball game, and has already spoken by phone with the most popular humorist on the Island. Barack Obama’s plane has not yet landed and already he has stolen the hearts of a legion of admirers through a series of symbols. A meal in a paladar (a private restaurant), a phrase from José Martí in his major speech, and a mention of Cachita, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, would complete his upcoming gestures of enchantment.
That paragraph's tone is light. The rest of the post is similar, but Yoani still manages to weave in some serious jabs at the mob bosses who are running Cuba now.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Gnomes at Work

FORGED - shot on RED Weapon 8K

Very cool video. Very calming. All my favorite activities entrained in the production of an antique weapon. Tune is Technically, Missing by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I've heard that video is trying to move to 4K and now it looks like some people are experimenting with 8K, not that you or I or anyone outside of video lab would have a screen that could produce an 8K image. I suppose fiber could deliver it if you had a machine that could swallow it.

Ed Force One

Ed Force One
Rocks stars got their own jetliners, who knew? Actually, it's just a lease, but it carries everyone and everything they need to put on a show, which means they can put on a show in any city that has an airport for airliners.
    I've heard of Iron Maiden, but I didn't know they were still around and I didn't know they were so bleeding popular. Their 1984-5 tour was seen by 3.5 million people. I don't think there were that many people on the planet back then. Since this a musical group I thought I'd post a music video, but I couldn't find a tune of theirs that I liked. Maybe it's just that what get's delivered via YouTube doesn't do them justice. Or maybe their fans are just into this whole fire, gore and death thing, kind of like fans of horror movies, and the music, such as it is, is just an extra they throw in for their own entertainment.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Passenger

Iggy Pop - The Passenger

Iggy is a bit of a character. Wikipedia has a long list of places this song has been used, along with this curious little bit about Iggy:

In a 2007 Rolling Stone interview, Pop explains his relationship with his parents and their contribution to his music:
Once I hit junior high in Ann Arbor, I began going to school with the son of the president of Ford Motor Company, with kids of wealth and distinction. But I had a wealth that beat them all. I had the tremendous investment my parents made in me. I got a lot of care. They helped me explore anything I was interested in. This culminated in their evacuation from the master bedroom in the trailer, because that was the only room big enough for my drum kit. They gave me their bedroom.
Okay, not everyday you find the president of a big company and a mobile home mentioned in the same breath.

Dew Line

1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 88
Saw this while out walking early in the morning. It was all covered with dew, which is why it doesn't look as shiny as it could be. Coincidentally, in 1956 the DEW Line was under construction.

Oldsmobile Rocket 88 Emblem by Clarence Holmes
It was supposed to protect us from Soviet bombers because nobody had any big rockets yet, well, except Oldsmobile.

File Cabinets are the Work of the Devil

Endless X Files
I've been cleaning out old files and it is a colossal pain. I blame it on all the bad advice I got from all the people who gave advice on the matter, which was usually 'save it, you might need it some day', so I saved it. Now I'm looking at this stuff and I realize most of it is crap and didn't need to be saved in the first place, and while some of it contained good information, which might have been useful at the time, that time is gone and that information is now worthless. Why did I save all this crap? Because I didn't want to spend the time or energy trying to decide whether it was important or not. And I had file cabinets. Empty cabinets with lots of room. Just put the papers in there. So I did and there they sat and now I am stuck with three big steelcase drawers and a dozen or so boxes, all full of crap.
     Once upon a time when I had an actual job, I dealt with papers that contained useful information, admittedly arcane, technical mumbo jumbo, but useful to certain people trying to accomplish certain things with certain equipment in certain situations. (Is that certain enough?) And when I found a piece of paper that proved to be useful, I saved it. Now and again a certain topic would show up several times and when I noticed this I would put together a notebook with all the relevant pieces of paper and I would put the notebook on a handy bookshelf.
    After a while (a couple more years maybe?) I noticed that I no longer went to the file drawers to look for things. The first place I went were my notebooks. Eventually I quit using the files in the drawers completely. So I guess my new rule of thumb is only hold onto those things that you recognize as useful and let all the other crap fall into the recycling bin. And if someone gives you something and tells you to hold onto to it, quiz them until they give you a good reason to do so. Or you get bored or realize their so called 'explanation' is just bullshit and they really have no idea why that particular piece of paper might be valuable to you.
    Of course the decision on what to save and what to toss can have more repercussions than just how fast your files fill up. Occasionally a piece of paper will come your way that is actually valuable. Dollar bills, checks and automobile titles come to mind. You might want to keep some things that tug at your heartstrings, but make sure there is a real tug there, otherwise you are liable to end up with a whole pile of crap. In this as in life, good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.

FAST - Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope - Big Chinese Radio Telescope, Part 2

China’s Five-hundred-metre aperture spherical telescope (FAST) in Guizhou province is expected to be ready to search for distant alien life by September. Photo: Getty
I just stumbled over this image this morning and I recalled that I had posted about it before. They are making progress.

The Most Expensive Food in the World

$4 at Fred Meyers
Went grocery shopping this morning. Got some groceries. Also got some non-food items like this package of kale. I got the smallest package I could find because I really don't like kale. I would say I hate it, but hate requires expending some energy, energy that you will never get from kale. This entire package of kale will only deliver 70 calories of energy. With a price of $4, that comes to almost 6 cents per calorie. 6 cents doesn't sound like much, but if you need 2,000 calories a day, that comes to $120. For something that tastes like dirt. If you disagree with any of this, it's probably because you are a girl, which is where the directive to purchase this item came from.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Digital Storage

WD PiDrive 314GB
on sale for 
via Posthip Scott
I have a 250 GB hard drive sitting on my desk. It's plugged into an adapter that connects it to my Chromebook via a USB cable. I've started keeping more stuff there instead of on Google, mostly pictures and code. Either I don't understand Google's scheme for handling pictures, or we are just incompatible, I'm not quite sure what the problem is. It might be that the internet has gotten a little flaky. Nothing worse when you are trying to get something done and the net decides to hiccup (ain't nobody got time for that). The hard drive may crap out some day, but right now it is pretty solid.

Kingston SSD Now V300 120 GB Solid State Drive $43.98
    Except it's not. It's a disk, a spinning, rotating, piece of metal inside a box. Nothing solid about it at all. Not too long ago Tam (or Roberta, I forget) needed to transfer some files and, casting about for a quick and easy way to get the job done, settled on using a thumb drive to transfer these files to her laptop, which had a solid-state disk. At first I poo-poo-d this idea: 'a solid state disk is never going to be as reliable as a real hard disk, you know, one with an actual disk in it'. But then I realized that that time had passed, and as comfortable as I am with hard disks, they are mechanical devices, and like all mechanical devices, they will eventually fail. Solid state disks will also fail eventually, but it won't be because the bearing wear out. In fact, both kinds of devices are more likely to fail due to a solder joint failing or a transistor losing its doping due to a cosmic ray strike. Or being hit with a hammer.

SanDisk Optimus MAX 4 TB Solid State Drive $6,985.44
    In any case solid-state disks are cost about the same as old style rotary disks these days. Unless you want more capacity than the average bear.
   But none of this fixes the real problem, which is how do you maintain reliable long term storage? Barring* the collapse of civilization, digital electronic storage is the way to go, and given that all man made devices eventually fail, the only way to ensure that all your stuff remains accessible is to have multiple copies, like one copy on your desk and one somewhere in the great and benevolent cloud. What I really want is a Wifi enabled box with some quantity of storage space that automatically copies its to the web. Shouldn't have to worry about it until the box fails. There probably is such an animal out there somewhere, but it's lunch time and I'm hungry.

*Barring, with two 'r's, is the doggy version of bar. Baring, with one 'r', is the doggy version of bare. Because I wasn't sure. 'Doggy' is filling in for some arcane grammatical termski.

Programming is so weird

From the Matrix, because that's where we live now, isn't it?
I've been playing with some simple programming puzzles over on, trying to learn the Go programming language, and I've been making some progress. I started working on the Mini-Sudoku puzzle yesterday and in short order I had written a solution. Well, no. Didn't work. So I spent a couple hours yesterday trying to figure out what was wrong. I figured I had made a typo somewhere, interchanged a couple of indices or something, so I added a bunch of debug statements that would inform me of what was going on inside this basically trivial program, but nothing pops. Everything is behaving as it should. Okay, let's let it run for more than one iteration, and boom!, out pops the problem.
    The puzzle involves filling in a little grid with numbers. At each iteration you can fill in some more numbers, but only if you are working from your worksheet. If you keep starting over with the original problem you will never get any farther than the first step. Doh!
    The problem, for me, stems from the difference in the way the C and Go programming languages treat strings. In C a string is just another array of bytes that is filled with characters. You can replace those characters willy-nilly, just like in any other array. In Go, however, strings are inviolate. Once created they cannot be altered. If you want to alter them, you need to copy them into a byte array and then you can muck about with the array as much as you like.
    I wonder if there is someway to convert a byte array to a string? So far the only ways I've seen to create strings is to write them into the source code so they are created at compile time*, or to read them into string variables from a file. There's probably a way to do it, but I haven't gotten to that lesson yet.

*compile time is that moment when you feed your source code, the program you have written, to the compiler, another computer program that turns your source code into machine code. Machine code is what the computer likes to read. Compile time is like a final exam at school, you submit your work to the powers-that-be and wait for it to be accepted or rejected. It's usually rejected, but you get to keep trying over and over and over again until you get it right. Exams are bad, full of trepidation, but at least they have a time limit and when they are over you are done. Trying to get a piece of source code to compile successfully can go on forever.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Everything, Everywhere

The prehistoric monument of STONEHENGE, in Wiltshire, Britain, being logged for Google Street View

The Reluctance to Call Bullshit!

Waitressing Is One of the Worst Jobs for Sexual Harassment
Image from the Daily Beast, a real suck-ass website.
David Malki, producer of the Wondermark brand of fine comics, has a list of articles worth reading. I started reading one about sexual harassment in higher education and I realized the problem is just what I suspected all along: women's reluctance to call Bullshit! when some horny old codger starts putting the moves on them. Given the difference in the way men's and women's minds work we shouldn't be too surprised. For whatever reason, women are generally more timid and subservient and men are more bold and domineering. What do you do about this situation? Well, the female approach seems to be wait until the perp trips up and then fall on him like a pack of verbal hyenas, which seems like a thoroughly ineffective way of dealing with the problem. Plus it involves sucking up everyone's time and energy on a problem that could have been dealt with in 30 seconds if someone had just had the balls to call Bullshit! at the first sign of trouble. Balls, well, that sums up my take on situation. Not very helpful I suppose.

Léa Seydoux as Madeleine in Spectre
If you become fixated on a woman, this is what she looks like to you, regardless of her actual appearance.
I am somewhat familiar with the perp's point of view. You see a women every day and for reasons that are not entirely clear you can become sexually attracted to her, regardless of whether you have any chance of making contact. It can be like a drug. It sticks in your mind, it colors your outlook and it affects your behavior. It may not even be under your conscious control. If you can resist the impulses it may fade in time. Or a direct rejection may wipe it out. I don't know if there is good way to deal with it.

One solution might be for the woman being harassed to hire a hooker to relieve the perp of his frustrations. Not the most savory of solutions, but it avoids the confrontation that many women seem unable to instigate, and it also avoids the political fallout of calling Bullshit! on someone in your chain of command. You still have the problem of payment, but presenting a bill for services rendered might be the least uncomfortable way of dealing with this kind of problem.

Moses Lake, Part 2

Keechelus Lake, Snoqualmie Pass area.  I-90 in the foreground.
I've started reading SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson and we find ourselves driving east on Interstate 90 in Washington State, heading over Snoqualmie Pass. Hey! I was just there. I'll bet Neal was inspired by my blog post. Not. Still, it was pretty cool to be reading about a place I had just been.

Central Washington, Snoqualmie Pass (upper left) to Moses Lake (right center)
Yakima (bottom center)
Doob, the character driving, is headed to Moses Lake. Me, I turned south at Ellensberg heading for Yakima. Doob is headed to Moses Lake because there is an enormous airport there, a relic left over from the cold war. 

Big Hangar at Grant County International Airport
That gray strip cutting across the upper part of the picture is the runway

The airport is being used mostly for testing now, but occasionally it comes in handy for moving things.