Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Indy 500

This year's Indianapolis 500 Race was won by Alexander Rossi driving a Honda - Photo by Parker Hall/The Open Wheel

Chevy engine turbocharger installation. Indy cars are powered by twin-turbocharged V-6 engines made either by Chevy or Honda. The Chevy engines are made in the UK, the Honda engines are made in California.

Steering wheels for race cars have evolved into their own species.

The way that Rossi won is going to have the racers replotting their strategies. Personally, I would like to see the race run with NO pit stops. Give each car 20 gallons of gas and let's see how far they get.
    For the 500, Indy cars consume about one ton of fuel. If they started with that much weight Indy cars would look more like pickup trucks. As an alternative, you could have all the fuel dispensed at the pit stops by one crotchety old geezer who can't be bothered. Only the drivers who can make him laugh would be able to get their fuel in  less than 15 minutes.
    Or, if you want some more excitement, refueling could be done on the fly by speeding tanker cars, much like fighter jets are refueled in flight. That would eliminate all those annoying pit stops for fuel.

Stress Gives You Daughters, Sons Make You Liberal

It seems that the sex of our children is not just determined by blind luck, but that other factors may have some effect. Nautilus has the story. Via Detroit Steve.

And who is Nautilus you might ask? I did. Seems to be all science, all the time, and no advertising. How do they do that? With grants from:

  • John Templeton Foundation - Sir John Marks Templeton was an American-born British stock investor, businessman and philanthropist. Wikipedia
  • Simons Foundation - James Harris "Jim" Simons is an American mathematician, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist. He is a code breaker and studies pattern recognition. Wikipedia
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute - Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. was an American business tycoon, entrepreneur, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, inventor, filmmaker and philanthropist. During his life, he was known as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world. Wikipedia

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Eli Whitney, James Bond & the Blower Bently

1935 Bentley Mark IV
Bond's car in the movie From Russia with Love
Road & Track has a short story about the 1929 Blower Bentley, wherein they mention that it was one of James Bond's first cars, in the books anyway. The Blower Bentley was the brain child of Tim Birkin who wanted to go racing. Automobile racing is expensive.

Dorothy Paget
Tim found a backer in Dorothy Paget, who liked racing horses. Apparently it was her only occupation. Horse racing is an expensive hobby. How was she paying for this? Not to worry, Dorothy was richer than god, having inherited fortunes from both sides of her family.
    Her mother, Pauline, was one of the American WhitneysHer father, Hugh Paget, was an English peer who started life with $5 and a ticket to America where he started a cattle ranch in Iowa, of all places. Later he hooks up with Henry Melville Whitney and they form the Dominion Coal and Steel Companies and make a fortune. And in case you haven't put two and two together: Henry is Pauline's father.

Eli Whitney
Henry is descended from Eli Whitney, famous for the cotton gin and interchangeable parts.

More Studly

James Bond spiral jump stunt

This stunt appeared in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. If you have seen the movie, you may have wondered how they did it. I presumed it was faked somehow with wires and a blue screen, but it wasn't. The stunt was originally part of a thrill show that was co-opted by the James Bond franchise.  Jalopnik has the whole story.

Wireframe model of James Bond spiral jump stunt

For the movie, they got some high powered simulation software to model it before they tried it for real. This was in 1974. The simulation was run on a real computer on account of PC's did not yet exist. Via Road & Track

1974. That was 42 years ago, around the same time as I was framing houses in Houston and California Bob's house was being built in San Francisco (see previous post).


California Header. Held in place by nails.
California Bob is doing some remodeling.  Pulled some drywall off of a downstairs wall and this is what he saw. Houses are overbuilt, but wood is a relatively cheap building material, and earthquakes are a fact of life on the West Coast, so it doesn't make sense to take shortcuts. On the other hand, this wall may not be supporting anything and this house is like 40 years old, so, hey, good enough.

Walls can be classified as either partitions, which means they only serve to separate rooms and therefor only need to support themselves, and supporting, which means they are holding up the stuff above them, like the upper stories, or the roof. Look at a simple square room on the ground floor of a two story house. The floor above will be supported by joists that will run clear across the room. The walls that the ends of the joists sit on are going to be supporting walls. The other two walls are basically partitions. They may have other supporting duties like handling sideways forces, but they are not supporting the floor above.

In a proper wall, nails are just there to hold things in place. They should never be saddled with support duties. Here's a properly framed stud wall.

A typical wall section in platform framing 1. Cripple 2. Window header 3. Top plate / upper wall plate 4. Window sill 5. Stud 6. Sill plate / sole plate / bottom plate - Wikipedia
Notice that the header (#2 in the above picture) is supported by jack studs, which are right up against the studs that are on either end of the header. I've never seen a doubled window sill before. Strikes me as unnecessary.

If this was a supporting wall, then the header would need to substantially thicker. Depending on the span (the width of the door or window) you can sometimes get away with a 2 x 8, but we usually used 2 x 12's. Two by twelves can be good for several feet, but it depends on how much stuff is above them. Walls that are supporting three more floors, like some apartment buildings, might not be allowed to have any openings at all.

A friend of mine was building condos in Houston about 40 years ago. They had framed a three story building that was going to contain half a dozen townhouses all packed together, so there were big solid walls separating the individual condos, but the cross walls had lots of opening for doors and windows. And somebody wasn't paying attention. They got the building up and it started to lean sideways. Either the engineers had failed to specify enough diagonal support, or the carpenters had left it out, figuring they could go back in later and put it in. I suspect it was the later. I worked with a crew of yahoos for a while. They would just throw shit together willy-nilly and then spend days afterward going back and fixing the things they had skipped in their hurry to get the roof on.

The tilted condos? Pickup trucks, winches and come-a-longs weren't enough to straighten it up. They might have had to get professional help.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Truck of the Day

Fageol heavy truck assembly -- Oakland, California, factory, 1918.
Looks like we have a three cylinder gasoline engine driving an electrical generator.
I like the locomotive style cab.
Tesla isn't the first American company to build cars in California. The Fageol brothers started building cars in Oakland in 1916, but their supply of engines was diverted to the war effort. The depression killed the company, but Peterbilt emerged from the ashes. Wikipedia has the story.

Via Posthip Scott.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Asian Sewing Factory
International Business Times has an story about immigrants working in Britain. No, it's not Mexicans working in the USA, but it's a similar situation. I thought this paragraph was illuminating:
1) Most of the lowly work was done by Eastern Europeans
Around 80% of the really wretched jobs were done by Romanians.

From the perspective of the employer, the typical refrain when presented with this sort of data is 'We can't get English people to do the work'/'the locals don't want them'. The implication is that the British working class are coddled and lazy.

In practice it's likely that most British workers have minimum standards relating to the work they are willing to do – standards which many of the precarious and poorly-paid jobs our economy now relies upon do not meet. That was certainly true of the local people I talked to in Rugeley. As Alex, a former miner from the town told me with respect to the work I was doing: "I wouldn't do that work. I'll make no bones about it: I wouldn't do it because I'd fall out with them [the managers] over how they treat people."

The fact that a growing number of British people are unwilling to be treated like animals by unscrupulous employers is commonly viewed as in some sense shameful, when really it is a sign of progress.
Imagine that, 'unwilling to be treated like animals'. Who do they think they are? Somebody special? Move along you cattle, into the chute you go.

Mostly when we think about a job, we think about how much money we'll get paid, and that's is certainly important. But there are a lot of other factors that come into play, especially if the money isn't more than you've ever made in your life. Things like how you are treated, whether your coworkers are assholes (your boss is always an asshole, it's like part of the job description), whether you are permanently on call, whether you get to decide when you can use the restroom. The work itself is kind of beside the point, unless it's dangerous, but that isn't usually the problem. It might be back-breaking or tedious. It might even be engaging, complex enough that it requires at least some of your attention.

Looking for pictures I came across an essay about modern day slavery in the USA. Part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here.

Stop Stealing My Food!

Not ready to start thinking this morning, I clicked on some click bait that took me to a photo essay of inventions over on definition dot org. Some of the inventions were clever, some were weird, but three of them are designed to keep people from stealing your food.

Plastic bag printed with splotches to make it look like the food has spoiled.

Combination lock for your pint of ice cream.
'I'm terribly sorry, but there is no "u" in "my pint".'

Coffee cup with a keyed plug.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Paul Newman
Road & Track has short piece about Paul Newman, the race car driver. Yes, same guy who starred in Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. He was also in Winning, which one critic loved. Almost nobody else did. IMDB gave it one star. There is also a new documentary about his racing career, also called Winning. IMDB gives it one star as well, but mostly because they don't have any data. Amazon's customers give it five stars. I'm a little leery here. Documentaries can be great, but they are often gawd-awful tedious. All in the eye of the beholder I supposed.

Polar Clock

Looking for information on Sun Stones and the Solar Compass, I came across a reference to Charles Wheatstone's Polar Clock. Wikipedia has a fine article about Wheatstone. Wheatstone is best known as the inventor of the Wheatstone Bridge, which is some kind of electrical apparatus.

Wheatstone's Polar Clock, by William H. Darker, Lambeth, c. 1848
The Polar Clock gets a paragraph of its own:
One of Wheatstone's most ingenious devices was the 'Polar clock,' exhibited at the meeting of the British Association in 1848. It is based on the fact discovered by Sir David Brewster, that the light of the sky is polarised in a plane at an angle of ninety degrees from the position of the sun. It follows that by discovering that plane of polarisation, and measuring its azimuth with respect to the north, the position of the sun, although beneath the horizon, could be determined, and the apparent solar time obtained. The clock consisted of a spyglass, having a nicol (double-image) prism for an eyepiece, and a thin plate of selenite for an object-glass. When the tube was directed to the North Pole—that is, parallel to the Earth's axis—and the prism of the eyepiece turned until no colour was seen, the angle of turning, as shown by an index moving with the prism over a graduated limb, gave the hour of day. The device is of little service in a country where watches are reliable; but it formed part of the equipment of the 1875–1876 North Polar expedition commanded by Captain Nares.
Selenite, a Gypsum crystal

Monday, May 23, 2016

Roadkill Special

Roadkill 50th Episode Special! 10-Car Showdown! - Roadkill Ep. 50

American car culture at it's finest. Or worstest. Shot in the parking lot of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Quote of the Day

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?”
― Ernest Hemingway

Via Ross

True North, Part 2

Superconductivity and the London Moment

Still looking into this business of figuring out which way is north, I wander into Wikipedia's article on Gyroscopes, where I found this passage about London Moment. It reads like something out of Science Fiction:

London moment[edit]

London moment gyroscope relies on the quantum-mechanical phenomenon, whereby a spinning superconductor generates a magnetic field whose axis lines up exactly with the spin axis of the gyroscopic rotor. A magnetometer determines the orientation of the generated field, which is interpolated to determine the axis of rotation. Gyroscopes of this type can be extremely accurate and stable. For example, those used in the Gravity Probe B experiment measured changes in gyroscope spin axis orientation to better than 0.5 milliarcseconds (1.4×10−7 degrees) over a one-year period.[41] This is equivalent to an angular separation the width of a human hair viewed from 32 kilometers (20 mi) away.[42]
The GP-B gyro consists of a nearly-perfect spherical rotating mass made of fused quartz, which provides a dielectric support for a thin layer of niobium superconducting material. To eliminate friction found in conventional bearings, the rotor assembly is centered by the electric field from six electrodes. After the initial spin-up by a jet of helium which brings the rotor to 4,000 RPM, the polished gyroscope housing is evacuated to an ultra-high vacuum to further reduce drag on the rotor. Provided the suspension electronics remain powered, the extreme rotational symmetry, lack of friction, and low drag will allow the angular momentum of the rotor to keep it spinning for about 15,000 years.[43]
A sensitive DC SQUID is able to discriminate changes as small as one quantum, or about 2 ×10−15 Wb, is used to monitor the gyroscope. A precession, or tilt, in the orientation of the rotor causes the London moment magnetic field to shift relative to the housing. The moving field passes through a superconducting pickup loop fixed to the housing, inducing a small electric current. The current produces a voltage across a shunt resistance, which is resolved to spherical coordinates by a microprocessor. The system is designed to minimize Lorentz torque on the rotor.[44][45]

Gravity Probe-B Gyroscope
"the polished gyroscope housing is evacuated to an ultra-high vacuum" Heh. It means they opened the airlock door.

True North

Solar Compass
Pursuing the Solar Compass, Wikipedia tells me that:
"Its close relative, a solar compass attachment to a surveyor's transit, was still a recommended method of obtaining direction in the 1973 manual of the US Bureau of Land Management."
1973 wasn't that long ago, are any surveyors still using it? Chaya Hoffer at Tiger Supplies tells me "no". Okay then. Well, how do surveyors determine true north? We all know that magnetic compasses only give a vague approximation of north, and while a GPS can tell you where you are, by itself it can't tell you which way north is. You could take GPS position readings from two locations and then calculate which way true north is. So I go a-wandering and I find this fine story by Jerry McGray, RPLS on Point Of Beginning:
Geodetic Surveying Made Plain: Where's north?
Retired Texas surveyor Billy Priest tells the story of a survey he conducted in a remote area of Texas some years ago. A local lad, about 12 years old, was watching the proceedings. Needing to get his bearings and trying to find his position on a map, Priest asked the young observer, “Say, young fellow, which way is north around here?” The boy looked thoughtful as he confidently thrust an arm in the appropriate direction. Then he asked, “Sir? Which way is north where you come from?”
In an era dominated by GPS orientation, with the accompanying increases in accuracy and precision, we might add to his question, “And which north are you talking about?” There is still some confusion afoot in that regard. Terms like “true north,” “grid north,” and “geodetic north” are sometimes used without a complete understanding of their meaning. Although the confusion couldn’t possibly extend to you, knowledgeable reader, what could it hurt to examine the issue and the definitions of the words? Who knows, perhaps in the next column we can delve into the definition of “south”? Or maybe not. But to press on:

When one undertakes to write upon a particular subject, one of the time-honored cop-outs one may resort to is to quote a dictionary definition. I wouldn’t do that—except maybe this once. And rather than quoting an ordinary dictionary, I’ll turn to the Geodetic Glossary, an official publication of the National Geodetic Survey. Geodetic Glossary’s first definition of “north” (“north” without any modifiers, that is) is: “The positive direction of a line lying in a plane through the Earth’s axis of rotation and tangent to the geoid or to an equipotential (gravity) surface at a point.” I think I can live with that. But check this out: the third definition of “north” is: “The direction indicated by the positive end of a magnetic needle suspended so as to rotate freely.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe those two definitions came up with two different directions some 10 degrees apart! And both defining the same word, “north.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They are both valid definitions in proper context. But we surveyors might be well advised to add some specific modifiers to “north,” depending upon which one we refer to—since 10 degrees would blow the error budget on just about any project!

To cut to the chase, we can make a list of four kinds of north. They are:

  • Astronomic/Geodetic
  • Magnetic 
  • Grid
  • Project

I know, I know... astronomic and geodetic norths are not necessarily the same. It’s just that the distinction between those two is much finer than the distinction I’m trying to make between the others. But let’s go ahead and clear up the astronomic/geodetic difference right now. The difference is basically the deflection of the vertical for a particular point, a value we can readily see on a data sheet for a National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) point. It’s a very small value, like 2 or 3 seconds. What it represents is the difference between the celestial observation (astronomic) determination of north versus the ellipsoidal/geoidal version of that value. More to the point for this discussion, they are close enough that we can consider them the same. After all, the differences in the other versions of north will be measured in degrees and minutes. Let’s leave these puny “seconds” for another discussion, shall we?

Here’s another major issue we can agree upon: Although “true north” is not a term the professional would necessarily use when communicating with other professionals, we could probably get away with using “true north” for either geodetic or astronomic north, since the two are so close to identical.

Magnetic North
The important thing to keep in mind with magnetic north is that there is a difference, usually of several degrees, between magnetic north and geodetic north, depending on location. Well, at least that’s one of the important things to keep in mind. Other items of note we should consider include just what is the cause of the Earth’s magnetic field, and what makes it change, even during the course of a day?
Magnetic north is not a chunk of magnetized material buried up somewhere in Hudson Bay. The magnetism we witness is a phenomenon of the Earth’s gravitational field, rotation and other fancy stuff resulting in the Earth itself being the magnet. It is affected by the sun, which accounts for the daily fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic properties. It just happens to coincide well enough with—shall we say it?—true north that it is useful for compasses. And it just so happens that many original surveys upon which we depend used compass directions as a primary tool. Therefore, we surveyors, who are pledged to walk in the footsteps of the ones who originally surveyed before us, owe special respect to bearings that were derived from magnetic north.

Grid North
Grid north, on the other hand, is a creation of an individual system, typically State Plane Coordinates. For example, in an ordinary SPC zone, a central meridian is adopted as north. All other points in that zone use the same line of direction as north, even though the various points would have different convergences. Only at the central meridian would grid north agree with true north. If a point is east of the central meridian, then grid north is east of true north. This means that a given azimuth at a point east of the central meridian, expressed in grid terms, would be a smaller value than that same azimuth expressed in terms of true north. So the convergence value is negative. By the same token, a point west of the central meridian would have an azimuth value greater than that point’s azimuth expressed in geodetic or astronomic terms; its convergence value would be positive.

In this exaggerated example, the dotted lines represent directions toward true (or geodetic, or astronomic) north. The lines XY and AB are determined to be parallel on the ground. Obviously, the angle to XY is much smaller than the angle to AM. Both values would be the “true” azimuth. But the lines XY and AB are supposed to be parallel. So for local surveying purposes, the “north” of the central meridian is adopted. Thereby we see the logic in accepting a grid system for local surveying purposes.

Plant North
The grid north model can be adapted to a very localized, limited area. The typical example is “plant grid,” where an assumed north is used, with all directions and coordinates rotated to that basis. Here’s a story about a sizable project and the development of a coordinate system to locate its features:
In the late 1990s the Department of Defense decreed that a number of Air Force bases would be closed; among that number was Bergstrom AFB near Austin, Texas. At about that same time, Austin had decided as a city to develop a new airport and had actually begun work on a site northeast of town. When Bergstrom was targeted for closure, the decision was made to develop the Bergstrom base into the new commercial Austin airport. That transition happened and what used to be Bergstrom AFB is now Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Notice that the main runway is not exactly vertical.
Vertical, we presume, corresponds to the Google's interpretation of True North.
One of the most substantial components of the Bergstrom base was its main runway. Designed to accommodate any aircraft in the world, that main runway was over 12,000 feet long, 300 feet wide and was built of reinforced concrete some four feet thick. No wonder the decision was made to reuse it! In developing the mapping control, as well as a control system for the airport development in general, a decision was made to use the alignment of that main runway as a basis. Our firm was part of that effort. We expended some effort to establish the north and south ends of that massive runway. Those points became the orientation basis for the coordinate system for the whole airport project.

Here’s the interesting part of that whole exercise (and most of this is from memory, so grant me some leeway.) After determining the true north azimuth of that runway, we found that its bearing was some 2 degrees, 40 minutes east of north. At that location, the convergence value was some 1 degree, 20 minutes. I have wondered ever since whether there was an intention, at the time of construction of the runway, that it should run due north/south, but somebody subtracted when they should have added, or otherwise managed to do exactly the opposite of the intended operation, which has always struck me as an amazing phenomenon of surveying.

One Last Definition of North
I really like this one; again, it’s from the Geodetic Glossary, and is limited to “Astronomic North”:
“A direction perpendicularly to the left of an observer facing in the direction of the Earth’s rotation.”

So which way is north where you come from?

(I added the picture of Bergstrom AFB)

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Stalin's Route
I'm reading The Shipping News by Anne Proulx and on page 209 she writes:
"Vikings down the cracking winds, steering through fog by the polarized light of sun-stones."
Sun-stones? There are rocks that are called sun-stones, and you might be able to use them for navigation. Reading about them leads to the solar compass, which leads to flying over the poles (where magnetic compasses are not much help), which leads to the first flight across the Arctic ice cap. And since navigation is complicated and airplanes are thrilling, we'll put aside solar navigation for now and focus on the airplane.

ANT-25 at Pearson Field
     That first transpolar flight was made in 1937 by three Russians flying an ANT-25. The ANT-25 was very large, single engine monoplane, built specifically to set long distance records. It had huge fuel tanks and a relatively tiny engine. Top speed was like 120 MPH. Empty it weighed four tons, loaded with fuel it weighed eight. Power to weight ratio was one horsepower to 20 pounds. A modern Cessna 172 has a ratio of one to 15.
    They built a special runway in Moscow for it. Two and half miles long and sloped, though I can't imagine they could put enough slope in a runway that long to make any difference.
    And then they flew it to the United States (see flight path above). They were hoping to make California, but problems with the aircraft led them to say Oregon is far enough. They were going to land at Swan Island but when they flew over they saw a large crowd of people and mindful of what happened to Charles Lindbergh when he landed in Paris*, they opted for the military airfield across the river in Vancouver: Pearson Field.
    In 1974 some Russian fishermen paid a visit to Pearson Field. Their hosts were embarrassed enough by the lack of a monument that they had one erected.
    "In 1989, Tupolev design bureau built an ANT-25 replica for Monino aviation museum."

Fiddler's Green has a few stories about the ANT-25.
Diesel Punks dot org has a pretty good photo essay.

* "A crowd estimated at 150,000 spectators stormed the field, dragged Lindbergh out of the cockpit, and literally carried him around above their heads for "nearly half an hour". While some damage was done to the Spirit (especially to the fine linen, silver-painted fabric covering on the fuselage) by souvenir hunters, both Lindbergh and the Spirit were eventually "rescued" from the mob by a group of French military fliers, soldiers, and police, who took them both to safety in a nearby hangar." - Wikipedia

FLIR at Work

Cloud flying with UK Coastguard SAR helicopter

My friend Jack is working on the FLIR infrared camera system that was used to make this video. Via Bayou Renaissance Man.


Ship coming into Marseille harbor
Gerard (Taro) having a conversation on the bench.
Fred. the driver, waiting patiently by the car.
We started watching the TV series Marseille this evening on Netflix and when I say 'we started' I mean we watched the first four episodes. At 40 minutes a piece that comes to almost three hours. If you add in bathroom breaks and refill your glass breaks, we probably used the whole three hours. We saw another series about Marseille not too long ago, and another series with Gerard, and I thought I would have put something about it in me blog, but Blogger's search function returned zip. Distressing. It's kind of weird how almost every French movie I see has Gerard in it. I suppose it has something to do with name recognition, and being as he has been in a zillion movies he's probably got that.


Catullus 63: recited in Latin & English Galliambic meter

I'm reading The Shipping News by Anne Proulx and on page 217 the word Galliambic shows up as the name of a town. There is no town of that name. Galliambic has apparently only one meaning, as illustrated by the above video. Catullus was an ancient Roman poet, Cybele is a really ancient goddess, and Fridgia is spelled Phyrgia and is an ancient state in central Turkey, not the land of ice and snow inside your Frigidaire.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Yellow Fever

I'm reading Burglar On The Prowl by Lawrence Block and he mentions William Gorgas, Yellow Fever and Panama, citing him as an example of dedicated tenaciousness, so I gotta go look him up. Gorgas was the third of of trio of medical heroes who fought Yellow Fever. Here is a summary of what I found in Wikipedia.

Model of Yellow Fever Virus
Yellow fever is an acute viral disease. In most cases, symptoms include fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains particularly in the back, and headaches. Symptoms typically improve within five days. In some cases within a day of improving, the fever comes back. In these cases it can get much worse, and is sometimes fatal.

The disease is caused by the yellow fever virus and is spread by the bite of an infected female mosquito. It infects only humans, other primates, and several species of mosquitoes. The virus is an RNA virus of the genus Flavivirus. The disease may be difficult to tell apart from other illnesses, especially in the early stages. To confirm a suspected case, blood sample testing with polymerase chain reaction is required.

A safe and effective vaccine against yellow fever exists and some countries require vaccinations for travelers. [My daughter got vaccinated when she went to Africa.]

Yellow fever causes 200,000 infections and 30,000 deaths every year, with nearly 90% of these occurring in Africa. Nearly a billion people live in an area of the world where the disease is common. It is common in tropical areas of South America and Africa, but not in Asia. [30,000 out of a billion is, on average, like one person out of 30,000, which can hardly be considered significant. Problem comes when you get an outbreak in one small area with maybe 1,000 people and a hundred people die.]

The disease originated in Africa, from where it spread to South America through the slave trade in the 17th century. In 1927 yellow fever virus became the first human virus to be isolated. Surviving the infection provides lifelong immunity, and normally there is no permanent organ damage.

Carlos Juan Finlay (1833 – 1915) was a Spanish-Cuban epidemiologist recognized as a pioneer in the research of yellow fever, determining that it was transmitted through mosquitoes.

He attended school in France in 1844, but was forced to return to Cuba after two years because he contracted cholera. After recovering, he returned to Europe in 1848, but became stuck in England for another two years due to political turmoil, and after arriving at France to continue his education he contracted typhoid fever and again returned to Cuba.

Major Walter Reed, M.D., U.S. Army, (1851 – 1902) was a U.S. Army physician who in 1901 led the team that postulated and confirmed the theory that yellow fever is transmitted by a particular mosquito species, rather than by direct contact. This insight gave impetus to the new fields of epidemiology and biomedicine, and most immediately allowed the resumption and completion of work on the Panama Canal (1904–1914) by the United States. Reed followed work started by Carlos Finlay and directed by George Miller Sternberg ("first U.S. bacteriologist").

Although Reed received much of the credit in history books for "beating" yellow fever, Reed himself credited Carlos Finlay with the discovery of the yellow fever vector, and thus how it might be controlled.

William Crawford Gorgas KCMG (1854 – 1920) was a United States Army physician and 22nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. He is best known for his work in Florida, Havana and at the Panama Canal in abating the transmission of yellow fever and malaria by controlling the mosquitoes that carry them at a time when there was considerable skepticism and opposition to such measures.

While at Fort Brown (Texas), he survived yellow fever and met Marie Cook Doughty, whom he married in 1885. In 1898, after the end of the Spanish–American War, he was appointed Chief Sanitary Officer in Havana, working to eradicate yellow fever and malaria. Gorgas built on the work of Major Walter Reed, who had built much of his work on insights of Carlos Finlay.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine and The British Raj

Gul Dukat
Whenever I come across a reference to the British rule of India, I am reminded of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the occupation of Bajor by the Cardassians, but I have never encountered anyone else expressing that opinion. I went a-Googling and this is all that I found:

The Jem'Hadar - Final episode of season 2.

jemadar was originally an armed official of a zamindar (feudal lord) in India who, like a military general, and along with Mridhas, was in charge of fighting and conducting warfare, mostly against the peasants and common people who lived on the lord's land. - Wikipedia

At the introduction to Guy Arnold’s The A to Z of Civil Wars in Africa argues, a lot of the civil wars on the African continent are rooted in the end of the colonial era:
When an empire comes to an end, it invariably leaves a series of vacuums behind it. In the Africa of the 1960s and 1970s, not one but four European empires – those of Belgium, Britain, France and Portugal – came to an end, and so it is hardy surprising that the continent has suffered from a series of political and power implosions. It is the need to fill these vacuums that lies at the centre of much of the violence that has troubled Africa over the 50 years since 1960.


A couple of years ago my boys built themselves a couple of Hackintoshs. Then they ran off and joined the circus and left us with their monster machines. While the guts were identical, cases were not. Naturally I got the spiffy little aluminum cube and my wife got the big black behemoth. A couple of weeks ago mine died. No sound, so smoke, no indications of impending doom, just the sudden disappearance of the video signal. Tried a different display and when that didn't work, I concluded that the motherboard had died so I ordered a replacement from Amazon.
    Then I got to thinking that maybe I could send it back to Gigabyte and they could fix it. When I look into this possibility I found that the board was still under warranty. Well, cool. But if I am going to send the board back to the factory, I should probably make sure it's really dead. You know, maybe it's not the motherboard at all, maybe it's the power supply. Yes, the fan is still running, but there are like 16 voltages coming out of a power supply and just because one wire is working, it doesn't mean any of the others are.
    So I pull the power supply out of my wife's machine (identical guts, remember? And her machine is working fine), plug it into mine, but it doesn't help. Plug my power supply into her system and it works fine. So it's not the power supply.
    Remeber you know how I told you she has the big black behemoth case? Working on it is a major pain. Most of the space inside is taken up with a rack for hard disks. There are like five slots for 3.5" inch drives, but they are all empty. The machine is running off one little laptop drive stuck in the bottom of the case. Who needs a system with five hard drives anyway? I suppose you could do some kind of RAID thing, and it you were a server that might come in handy. I dunno maybe if you were running some kind of fancy game or working with 4K video all that space might come in handy. You would really have to be dedicated to whatever it was to make the expense and effort worthwhile.
    In any case, it looks like the motherboard from my system is truly broken, but it's covered by warranty, so I don't need the board I ordered from Amazon, so I pack them both up in boxes. Now they need shipping labels. When I go to Amazon I am told I can drop my package off with Tyrone, who is hanging out at the local Kwiky Mart (aka Plaid Pantry). Well, that's news to me. I stop off there regularly and I've never seen anything that looked like an Amazon locker. But I drive over there this morning, and sure enough, there he is, bigger 'en Dallas. The nice lady behind the counter tells me he's been there for five months. I've been in there at least a dozen times and I never noticed him.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Nation Building

The Delhi Durbar of 1903 by Roderick MacKenzie
Stolen complete from Rotten Chestnuts, via Dustbury. Except for the picture. I added that.
by severian

I was one of the fools who believed in W’s grand “nation building” project in the Middle East.  I know more history than the average guy, and yet I was fooled, too — such is the power of wishcasting.

In reality, representative government is an Anglo-Saxon thing.  And given the problems we have with it — our current election is between a criminal narcissist and a narcissist criminal — it’s no surprise that cultures with no tradition other than the despotic can’t get the hang of it in just a few years, despite the best efforts of National Review and the Peace and/or Marine Corps.

India is the best case scenario.  Lots of Britons said, and some acted as if they sincerely believed, that the Raj was a “school of democracy” — at some indeterminate future time, Indians would be ready for self-government, at which point Great Britain would leave in peace.  Take that with as much salt as you require, because whether or not any of them would’ve actually accepted a hard date of departure, they still ran the place as if it were a sort of Junior England.  They had to — a subcontinental population in the hundreds of millions was held down by at most 100,000 white folks, commanding a native bureaucracy and army of maybe three times that.  Without significant native buy-in, the Raj was toast, as they found out in spectacular fashion in 1857.

The Indian Civil Service was open to natives almost from 1858, the Ilbert Bill put Englishmen (theoretically) under the jurisdiction of native judges, and the Morley-Minto Reforms provided for direct election of natives to the councils of state.  However it played out in practice — and “Subaltern Studies” people will of course tell you that it was all just a sham — the fact remains that India was about the only place not to go tits up (again, relatively speaking) at independence… and even the Postcolonialists must, however grudgingly, admit that the ICS, Morley-Minto, the Indian Army, etc. were major reasons for that.

Now, none of this should be taken for an argument that only white people can do democracy — as if the ability to mark a ballot is somehow genetic.  Again, see Presidential Election 2016, or any of the literally Caucasian countries surrounding the former USSR.  The point is that representative democracy is the result of a long, long, long history, a unique combination of circumstances stretching back to the Greek polis (and, again, if you want to maintain that white folks have a “government” gene, imagine what would happen if you time warped Demosthenes into modern America and told him that this is representative government.  The poor dude would stroke out).  Other cultures simply don’t have that history, and even the best-intentioned  attempts to impose a facsimile from above give you — at best — India.  Which bills itself as “the world’s largest democracy,” and it is…. sort of, if you add a list of qualifiers about the size of the Chicago phone book.

There’s no substitute for history.  Or, if you want a much prettier phrase, Edmund Burke said that “experience is the school of mankind, and he will learn at no other.”  The best we can do is show ’em how it’s done.  A rational foreign policy starts by acknowledging that…. and best of all, showing ’em how it’s done entails a complete reform of our own system.

It’s either that, or admit that democracy itself is deeply unnatural, and just elect ourselves a despot.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Happy Valley

Sarah Lancashire as Sgt. Catherine Cawood
Happy Valley is a TV series on  Netflix. We just finished the second season and I have to say it's pretty great. We've got a small town in England and with a name like Happy Valley you'd think it would be a happy little place, and it would be if there weren't people living there. People, as you well know, mean trouble, and the Sargent (above) gets to deal with the trouble that people create on a daily basis. Some of them are simple, like bullies and drunks, but then a dead body turns up and suddenly all the pleasant little villagers are suspects. Great acting, great characters, great fun.


Dean Ittuksardjuat, left, and Paul Nangmalik share a freshly-killed seal.
Saw this article in The Oregonian yesterday, thought it was pretty good. By Roberto A. Ferdman at The Washington Post.

This is what life would actually be like without processed food

There’s an alternate reality some like to imagine, a world without processed food in which everyone would be healthier and happier. Only they don’t imagine it well. Or rather, they don’t picture it in its purest form.

The term is thrown at the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King and TV dinners, but it means so much more than that. To understand what life would be like without any processed food, you would have to go back more than 3 million years, not merely a few decades. And you have to understand the effect of the very first form of food processing: cutting.

This might sound ridiculous, but bear with me, because it’s the most primitive form of food processing (cooking, which substantially alters the composition of food, is a significant form of processing, too), and it has changed our lives in ways few people, if any, appreciate.

“If we were to go back to the very beginning of this process that has gone to an extreme today, I think it would really surprise many people,” said Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological sciences at Harvard University. “We used to spend a disproportionate amount of our days chewing.”

“You can go for an entire day without chewing today, and that’s really bizarre from a historical standpoint,” he added.

Lieberman pointed to the eating habits of chimpanzees, who spend about half their day chewing, for perspective. That might sound ridiculous, but it’s not as far off from how we used to eat than one might think. Our teeth, Lieberman said, just aren’t capable of breaking certain foods down efficiently without any form of extra-oral food processing (a fancy term for any and all changes food undergoes before it enters our mouths).

The clearest example is our capacity to break down meat, which Lieberman, along with Katherine Zink, who teaches at the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, tested as part of a new study. The researchers had a group of participants chew samples of both meat (goat, in this case) and vegetables (jewel yams, carrots and beets) in various states of processing — roasted, pounded, sliced and unprocessed (i.e. untouched). And what stood out is how poorly we’re able to break down raw meat, even though people have been carnivores for more than 2.5 million years. That is, until they sliced it into smaller bits.

“If I were to give you a piece of goat that’s raw, it would be like chewing bubble gum,” Lieberman said. “You can’t break it down.”

But something as simple as cutting it into smaller bits, the first of what has become an endless list of ways in which we change edible things before ingesting them, makes an enormous difference. The process didn’t exist until the development of stone tools but marked the beginning of a long and winding road toward where we are today, when chewing our food is more an afterthought than a several hours affair.

The other thing Lieberman measured was the force or energy participants exerted per chew, and it only compounded the results. When Lieberman took this into account, the effect of slicing or cooking meat was even more pronounced. In all, the two reduced the number of chews per calorie by nearly three and two, respectively. And it adds up.

“The results speak for themselves,” he said. “It’s astonishing what something as simple as cutting meat does, how effective it is.”

People might balk at primitive tools, or primitive processes, such as slicing food into smaller parts, but these mundane forms of processing food have actually had sizable effects on our lives.

There are obvious consequences of all the time we don’t have to spend chewing today, such as how it has allowed us to reallocate that time to everything else we do throughout the day. But there are less obvious things, too, and not all of them are positive. In particular, two negative outcomes stand out. And in some ways they give credence to broader worries about what processed food has done to our bodies.

The first, interestingly enough, is that it has resulted in more dental problems. When we chew, we generate forces that act on our jaws, and the bones in our jaws grow in response. Less chewing means less developed jaws.

“There’s pretty good evidence showing that people who chew less and chew less hard grow smaller jaws,” Lieberman said. “The problem is they tend to have the same size teeth, and that creates all sorts of problems, like crowding and impacted wisdom teeth, which used to be incredibly rare.”

The second and considerably more problematic consequence is that even the earliest form of food processing has probably contributed to obesity. When you process food, whether by cooking it or simply cutting it into smaller pieces, you tend to get more energy out of it relative to the energy expended processing and digesting it. So we now get more calories from the same amount of food than we used to, even though it’s no more satiating. Surely, Lieberman said, that helps explain why we’re eating so many more calories than we used to.

“If you eat a mass of corn, and you eat the same amount of corn but ground into flour, you get more calories from the corn flour than the whole kernel,” he said. “We have taken this way too far, processing food to a point where the processing itself is probably confusing our bodies.”

Processed corn, of course, is more prevalent in the modern American diet than anything else. And the modern American diet hasn’t exactly been kind to the modern American gut.

In some ways, all of this gives credence to the raw food movement, which argues for the healthfulness of eating unprocessed and uncooked vegetables. While slicing vegetables didn’t have as much of an impact as slicing meat, cooking vegetables did. Uncooked veggies might take longer to chew, and require more energy to digest, but it’s this very quality that probably makes us more mindful about how much of them we eat.

Of course, there is a tipping point. A world without any extra-oral processing would mean a world in which we spend way too much time with bits of food in our mouths. It would probably also mean a food world without much variety.

“Food is an intensely aesthetic experience today — when we process food, we also perceive it and enjoy it in different ways,” Lieberman said. “The earliest forms of food processing allowed for the beginning of cuisines, which is something we take for granted.”

Swan Island Airport

Swan Island Airport
I came across this picture postcard the other day when I was looking for information about Swan Island Radio. At first I thought it was somebody's Tom Swift fantasy, I mean no one would try and put an airport in downtown Portland, and Swan Island (there is one in Portland) isn't anywhere near big enough, is it?

Swan Island Municipal Airport terminal in Portland, Oregon
    Turns out it was a real thing, a hundred years ago. It was big business for 20 years or so, they even built a fancy terminal building.


Sometimes when I enter a search term, Google will come back and ask if I meant some other term, a term that is spelled similarly to the one I entered. Now sometimes I did misspell my word, and the suggested term is the one I want. But sometimes I didn't, and I don't want the suggested term, but the question just sits there. What we need is a way to say NO, that is not what I meant, and the question then disappears from the screen.

Dino Pet

Dino Pet
As part of my foray into advertising, I signed up with Tomoson. Turns out most of the stuff they are promoting is of no interest to me, but there's a lot of it, so I started thinking that maybe I could turn this stream of promotions into a blog all its own, an all advertising, all the time deal, kind of like Home Shopping Network. I mean it could work, right?
    So I open their latest email and Dino Pet jumps out. Now that is kind of cool. First promotion from Tomoson that interests me. Isn't that just the way it goes?
    What we have here is a clear container full of water with a colony of bio-luminescent algae. Leave them out in the sun during the day, shake em up at night and they glow for a bit. Plus you have to feed them once a week or so. I guess that means they aren't plants. Plants you can seal up in glass bottle and they will survive just fine.
    The Dino part of the name is a bit of a stretch. The microscopic, glowing critters are called dinoflagellates. I suppose that's where they got the 'dino' part of the name. Kind of spendy for a gee-gaw, but it's not electronic, which is a plus in my book.