Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sun Tzu comes to South Dakota

Sun Tzu psuedo-quote outside the Philip, South Dakota Minuteman Missile Visitor Center
Click the pic to embiggenate
Yesterday afternoon I spotted a Minuteman Missile visitor center near Philip, South Dakota. Iaman visited a similar site in Arizona not too long ago so I thought we'd stop and take a look. Cool quote and symbols outside the front door.

Soviet Nuclear Missile Launch Keys
Inside they had a series of walk through exhibits chronically the rise and fall of our, and the Soviet's, nuclear arsenals. We, that is, the collective powers-that-were we, were definitely insane. No missilles or silo though, which was disappointing.
    Picked up a copy of Stasiland by Anna Funder which is a collection of stories from behind the Berlin Wall. I just started it and so far it's pretty great. You know how Western culture wastes all kinds of money of all kinds of foolishness, like movies and parties and celebrities and entertainment, etc, etc, etc? East Germany sucked up all the excess income and spent it on their stupid security apparatus which made life miserable for zillions of people, but they made all their petty fascists happy. Be careful what you wish for, you night get it,

Holiday Inn Sioux City Iowa

Portable HD Video & Audio Recorder
About half way from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Sioux City, Iowa, a distance of about 80 miles, we stopped for gas. As we are leaving the gas station I decide to stop and make sure I got the gas cap back on. We left my wife's favorite pillow at the hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota, this morning, and I don't want to make another stupid mistake.
    The gas cap is in place, but as I walk back to the driver's door, I notice the rear passenger window is open. What's going on? Did I push the button by mistake? No, the mechanism is broken. Pushing the button has no effect. I can slide the window closed and it stays that way until we hit the first bump on the highway. Now it is open again, and at 80 MPH the wind noise is deafening. My wife crawls in the back seat and holds the window closed until we get to Sioux City. We go directly to the Walgreens across the street from the Holiday Inn and buy a roll of duct tape and tape the window closed.
     Later on that evening we go back to Walgreens to get some essential supplies and I notice this video recorder for sale for $40. When I bought my first video cam-corder 25 years ago it cost $1600 and it stored the video on a VHS tape, which has what? A quarter of the lines of resolution that an HD video has? It won't be too long before they are giving them away in Cracker Jack boxes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On the road in Rapid City South Dakota


Gillette Wyoming 150 BNSF engines idle at Donkey Creek
Trains start at the two minute mark.

700 miles today, all on Interstate 90. Just past Gillette I happened to glance over and noticed more locomotives than I had ever seen in one place, but then in a flash it was gone.

Saw the smokestack in Anaconda Montana, a national cemetery in Sheridan or Gillette, I forget. Half a dozen truck stop /coffee dispenseries. Flashing lights in my rear view mirror. Got stopped by a Wyoming state trooper for going 84 MPH in an 80 zone. "We have the highest speed limits in the country, but they are strictly enforced." He let me off with a warning.

Monday, June 27, 2016

On the road in Missoula Montana

Saw two oil trains on our way east through the Columbia gorge this morning. Noticed the sign for Mosier where an oil train derailed last week. The two trains I saw were on the other side of the river, the Washington side. The gorge east of the Cascades is kind of weird. Here we have this huge river and the hills on either side are covered with brown grass.
     Just east of Boardman we turned north. That road takes us through Kennewick and Pasco. Lots of traffic there and the road is very confused. We've been following highway 397, but in Pasco sweety's magic elf box tells us to take highway 182. 182 goes to Walla Walla. 395 takes a right off of 182 and I drove right by it because which road are we supposed to be on? 395 or 182? Never mind, the magic elf box takes us on a five minute  tour of a Mexican neighborhood and then puts us back on the road to Spokane.
    Spokane is booming. Traffic is heavy all the way to Coeur d'Alene. Once we get past town though it lightens up considerably. Here we are getting into the mountains and while the speed limit is 75, the road is twisty enough that I seldom reach the limit. There is also a medium long stretch of construction, it's uphill, one lane and there are trucks, so we are creeping along at 20 MPH for a few minutes. Then it's downhill for the next hundred miles. There are still turns that are tight enough to warrant reducing my speed, but there are straights where I am comfortable doing 80. I get passed by a full size Chevy crew cab pickup truck doing at least 90. He isn't slowing down for the turns at all.
    We're staying at the La Quinta and it's pretty nice. There is a stream running between the back of the building and the Interstate highway. If you open the window you can even hear the stream over the highway noise.


I saw a bunch of swifts swooping over the stream. I presume they were eating bugs, but I didn't see any. No-see-ums, maybe. The first 25 seconds the camera didn't focus.


    Saw a couple of small, home-built looking welder's rigs on the road today, and I got to wondering if anybody ever built a fancy, custom welding rig. My question was answered when we pulled into the parking lot here.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The best advice on Twitter trolls was written by al-Ghazali in the 11th century

Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī c. 1058 – 1111

Stolen from Sarah Kendzior because it's really great and I forgot where I saw it and I just spent the last hour looking for it. 

As I posted on Twitter earlier today, the best advice I’ve seen on dealing with Twitter trolls comes from the 11th century Sufi philosopher al-Ghazali and his text “Ayyuha l’Walad”. Al-Ghazali anticipated our social media problems by 1000 years.
By al-Ghazali’s definition, there are four types of Twitter trolls. Below: a description of the trolls, and his advice on how to deal with them.
Type 1: Jealous haters. Advice: “Depart from him and leave him with his disease.”
Then know that the sickness of ignorance is of four sorts, one curable and the others incurable. Of these which cannot be cured, [the first] is one whose question or objection arises from envy and hate, [and envy cannot be cured for it is a chronic weakness] and every time you answer him with the best or clearest or plainest answer, that only increases his rage and envy. And the way is not to attempt an answer.
One hopes for the removal of every enmity
Except enmity arising from envy.
So you must depart from him and leave him with his disease. Allah the Exalted said, “Withdraw from whoever turns away from our warning and desires nothing except the present life.” And the envious, both in all he says and in all he does, kindles [a fire] in the sowing of his deed: as the Prophet said, Allah bless him and grant him peace, “Envy eats up excellences as fire eats up wood.”
Type 2: “Well, actually” Twitter. These folks come sliding in your mentions pretending to be experts on that which they are not. Ignore them too.
The second, whose weakness arises from stupidity, and he also is incurable. As ‘Isa said, upon him be peace, “Indeed I did not fail in bringing the dead to life, but I failed in curing the stupid.” And he is the man who has busied himself in seeking knowledge a short time and has learned something of the sciences of the intellect and of the sacred law, and so he asks questions and raises objections in his stupidity before the very learned one who has spent his life in the sciences of the intellect and the sacred law, and so this very stupid fellow does not know, And thinks that what is obscure to him is also obscure to the highly learned; and since he does not think this much, his question arises from stupidity, and you must not attempt to answer him.
Type 3:  People who ask you for information they can find on Google, then don’t believe the facts that they find. They’re hopeless. Ignore.
And the third is one who is seeking guidance and whatever he does not understand of the speech of the great ones, he lays to the defects of his own understanding and his question is in order to seek benefit; but he is dull and cannot arrive at the truth of things. You must not attempt to answer him also, as the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “We, the company of the prophets have been commanded that we speak to the people according to their understanding.”
Type 4: This troll is not really a troll at all. They are asking you questions which may be annoying, but are asked in good faith. It is worth engaging with this person.
But the sickness which is curable is that of the intelligent and understanding seeker of guidance, who is not overcome with envy and anger and the love of worldly vanities and wealth and honor, but is seeking the straight road; and his questions and objections do not arise from envy and a desire to cause trouble and to make trial. And he is curable, and it is permitted to attempt to answer him—nay, it is necessary.
That’s it! Follow al-Ghazali’s advice, and spare yourself a lot of online misery. Sometimes the best social media tips come from the 11th century.

Via Dustbury.

Riots in Pretoria

The protests began in anger at the governing African National Congress's choice of a mayoral candidate for Tshwane, the metropolitan area which includes Pretoria. - EYEWITNESS NEWS
Notice that the three buses in the center of the picture are what's left after they were burned. 20 buses in all got torched.
 
Marcel doesn't know what to say and neither do I, but I did find some entertaining quotes. Excerpts from a story on DW, whoever they are.

"It's a societal problem within the ANC itself. It is exacerbated by a ten-year long factionalism that has been taking root. We have this new political culture where violence has become a lingua franca of political communication." -  Samadoda Fikeni, a political analyst based at the University of South Africa in Pretoria
Fikeni however said that most of the protestors were supporters of ANC members who were hoping to secure a nomination for the candidacy of mayor but failed to get the ANC's endorsement. Critics say the candidate that did get the nomination did not know local affairs because she comes from another province.
. . .
The ANC said that the riots are the work of outsiders who have infiltrated the party for their own selfish interests.
"We have names and pictures of people who are ANC leaders who planned this disruption," - Gwede Mantahse, the secretary general of the ANC
. . . 
Political violence in South Africa has been on the increase since 2010, according to a recent study by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) at the University of Pretoria. The ISS blames the lack of accountability by the political leadership for this development.
"The fish rots from the head and what we have in South Africa is a lack of consequences . . .  If the leadership is unaccountable and you can get away with violence and breaking things, then why not do so at local government level?" - Dr Jakkie Cilliers, the director of ISS.

Right to Know

This officer is wearing a body camera on his uniform, attached near a button on his shirt. It records audio and video images. This photo was provided by manufacturer VieVu, one of the makers of body cams that Portland police have field tested. (VieVu)
 The Oregonian has a story about body cameras for the police. Actually, it's a story about the players involved trying to hammer out a policy for their use. 


The story makes it sound like the police union is doing their damnedest to provide cover for their members. They might be, but there is another side to this story that didn't get mentioned. So I weighed in with my two cents:

There is a problem with making anything available to the public. That problem is that some people will choose the most salacious sound bites and scenes in order to create a click-bait item for the web. The more they can make it appear scandalous, the better. This kind of stuff can inflame the passions of all kinds of people, even smart, educated people, if they aren't paying attention. And that can lead to all kinds of trouble. Nothing better than a riot to sell newspapers, or advertising space. So I can understand the police department wanting to keep control over what gets released and when. Maybe if more journalists had real jobs, we wouldn't have so many muck rakers raking muck, and this wouldn't be a problem.

FARC

Black Rifle O' Death
Notice the fingernails
A story about women in FARC, the guerrilla army in Colombia, showed up in my Medium newsletter this morning.


The above photo is of a woman in FARC in the Colombian jungle, not some metrosexual in a Florida nightclub.

If we were really worried about people being killed with guns, we would pay more attention to American foreign policy. American foreign policy is what gets us involved in wars all over the planet. We usually claim provocation. In the good old days it was usually by the Communists, but the ragheads have been moving up. But paying attention to foreign policy that requires thinking and abstract thought and that is hard work. I think I kind of have a handle on it, but I'm not sure. And it's not that interesting, not like hot girls, high tech toys, fast cars and cool guns.

And does thinking about foreign policy do any good? I mean other than to reinforce my beliefs that many of the people in charge are certifiable shitheads? Okay, I write this blog and maybe my opinions exert some small influence on the general population.

In any case, it's not the unbridled greed of the American Capitalists and their running dogs that causes all the trouble. It's the callous disregard for the peasant population that provides an opportunity for the Communists to get a toehold, which is the first step on the road to a Communist revolution, which is what we have going on in Colombia.

Now I understand that trying to get a business going that is based on extracting some kind of wealth (i.e. some kind of produce you can sell to the rest of the world) from the jungles of South America can be an all consuming project. Small matters like stepping on peoples toes could easily be ignored, especially when they don't speak English, their manners are diffident, and besides, they smell bad.

That's just the way of the world. The loud and pushy get things going and it's up to the mild and accommodating to smooth things over. But it takes a while for the mild to catch up with the bold, who are constantly trampling new paths through the jungle.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Negative Income Tax



Sometimes it is called a reverse income tax. The idea is to make sure everyone has enough to live on. It's kind of like welfare that way, but the amount doled out depends on how much you make. If you don't have a job and are not earning any money, you get the basic amount. If you get a job and start making a little money, the amount of your dole goes down, but the sum of the two, the earning from your job, and the amount doled out to you from the government is more than the base amount.
    As your income goes up the amount you get from the government goes down until you get to some point where the dole from the government goes to zero. If your income continues to go up, then you start paying taxes.
    I don't know if a scheme like this would actually work, meaning would civilization collapse? Would the government go broke? Would everyone quit working and we'd all starve to death? I don't know, but I don't think so. I think it might actually work. There are couple of points in this scheme's favor that even Republicans might like:
  • No more minimum wage laws. Everyone gets enough to live on, so any money you earn would just be gravy. A job that paid $1 an hour could still get you $40 a week, which is enough to keep you in beer or cigarettes. If you want beer AND cigarettes you are going to have to step up to the bar and look for a job that pays $2 an hour.
  • No more unemployment compensation taxes.
  • With everyone getting enough to live on, there would be a bigger demand for the everyday products that businesses are so good at producing.
It might also help with problem of people being homeless and with the skyrocketing cost of rent. If you have a guaranteed but limited income, you are going to look for a place you can afford to live. There are thousands of towns in middle America that are shrinking because there are no jobs. You can bet the rents in those places are going to be much lower than they are in the big cities. So this negative income tax might lead to a rebirth of small town America. If people start are leaving the big cities for the small towns we should see a reduction in traffic congestion in the big cities. Good news all around.

For the graph I just picked a couple of values I liked. I used a value of $12,000 a year ($1,000 a month, about what a minimum wage job pays) for a subsistence level and $25,000 a year as the cut-over point between getting assistance and paying taxes. The blue line indicates wages being paid. The area under the red line indicates how much you would be bringing home. The red area is what goes to and from the government. To the left of the 'Minimal' point the red area is the dole that comes from the government and to the right it indicates taxes paid to the government.

Another advantage of this scheme is that we could eliminate all those 'jobs programs'. No need start up some government scheme because of all the jobs it would provide. We could go back to trying to be efficient.

Now some people are lazy and don't like to work. Some people like to keep busy. Some people like to make things. If our automated factories that employ one person out of a thousand can produce everything we need, why do we all need to be working? When I was a kid our future was supposed to be a life of leisure. Production was booming and becoming ever more efficient. Maybe it's time to start reaping some of those rewards.

If the IRS is able to track down and squeeze some of those scofflaws who were revealed by that Panama bank hack, we shouldn't have any trouble making the weekly dole-roll.

Previous posts on Negative Income Tax.
New York Times article about the Panama bank hack.
Wikipedia's article about the Panama bank hack.

Boomy McBoomface

Experimental Oceanic Plastic Filter
Those wacky Netherlanders (not to be confused with Neanderthals, never mind that they were wacky too). They've built an experimental boom to filter plastic from the Pacific Ocean. I can see all kinds of potential problems with this idea, especially how it is going to determine what's plastic and what's not. Well, it's an experiment. I guess we'll find out. I really like the name. Reminds me of the UK's arctic research ship.

Via Posthip Scott

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Magnetic TIres


The Future Tire by Goodyear - It's a Sphere!

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. It's definitely way out there, and I don't think you are going to see them on the road any time soon. I think Goodyear is just trying to get people's attention. They certainly got mine.

Magnetic levitation is possible, though it's going to take some work to make this fly. Could you make the rubber in the tread magnetic? That would reduce the distance the magnetic field would have to reach across to make this idea work. It would also make the tires magnetic, which could make packing them for shipment a bit of a challenge.

By making the tires magnetic you are making the tires the rotors of an electric motor. This could be very cool, if the hyper strong magnetic fields don't cause some unexpected problems. Like pulling the nails out of the siding on your house when you pull up in your driveway.

Yes, very cool, very Science Fictiony.

Go Rhino!

Go Rhino Classic Side Steps
Jack got these installed on his 1999 GMC Suburban when it was new. One had gotten loose so we attempted to re-tighten it this afternoon. If we had stuck to our plan it might have worked out okay, but in order to tighten the loose bolt, we had to remove the bar from the truck. The bar mounts to brackets and the brackets are bolted to the frame of the truck. When the rear bracket is mounted to the frame, the bolt holding the bar in place is inaccessible, so we had to dismount the bar. Once we have the bar off, we are still in disassembly mode and we try to remove the bolts that hold the bar to the bracket and they do NOT want to come out. Well, we're big, fat Americans and ain't something as simple as a bolt gonna tell us no, so out come the hammer and tongs. An hour later we have the brackets off, but the remains of the bolts are still firmly lodged in place inside the bar. Drill and sledge hammer fail to dislodge them. Finally we break out the cutting torch which makes short work of the recalcitrant bits. Of course now we need to weld new nuts onto the tabs inside the tubes.

As well as providing a step to make getting in and out of the vehicle easier, these bars also provide some protection for the body from rocks when out wandering around in the boonies. There were a couple of big dents in the underside of the tubes indicating that they were doing their job. There was also considerable rust on the underside, clear through in some places. Jack admits to going in the water on occasion, which got water inside the tubes where it proceeded to encourage the rust that produced the holes in the bottom and locked up the bolts. The truck is 17 years old, so the bars held up pretty well considering the abuse they suffered. I wonder if a drain hole would have helped.

Washington D.C. is not on this Planet

Encryption
Senator Ron Wyden (of Oregon!) tackled CIA director John Brennan the other day in a Congressional hearing on encryption. Brennan comes off sounding like an idiot, but then again it wasn't his technical skills that got him to the top of the heap-o-spies.

Detroit Steve got me started with a link to Schneier on Security.

Home Sweet Hometown

Wondermark
Hot lard tots. Mmmm.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Quote of the Day

“Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?”
― Albert Camus

Via Ross

Bird Brain

Ramón y Cajal’s drawing of the neurons in a bird’s cerebellum.
Early 20th Century.
The Nobel Prize committee decided that Ramón y Cajal and [Camillo] Golgi should share the 1906 Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology, even though the two scientists held absolutely opposite views about how the nervous system worked. If one of them was right, the other one must certainly be wrong. - Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Small songbirds, which weigh as little as 4.5g, really do have small brains. Their brains can weigh as little as a third of a gram and only contain about 100 million neurons. But the heavier birds can have brains that weigh more than a dozen grams and pack in more than 2 billion neurons. On average, birds have twice as many neurons per unit mass as mammals do. So a bird called the goldcrest, which Wikipedia introduces as "a very small passerine bird," weighs a bit more than 10 percent of your average mouse but has more than double the neurons. - Bird brains are dense—with neurons by John Timmer - June 17, 2016
Via Detroit Steve

dedup

I'm trying to get the Eclipse IDE (Integrated Development Environment) setup and working on my recently repaired Linux system, and simultaneously I want to become familiar with the ins and outs of its operation. Nothing better for this than tackling a small programming project. I have an old program that I've been meaning to port to Linux, so this looks like the right time and place to tackle it. dedup is not a fancy program, but it can be useful, especially for someone like me who copies whole directories willy-nilly just to make sure I have saved a copy of what I need.

I started working on this program about a week ago, but I was so muddle headed I wasn't making any headway. I don't know if my allergies were acting up or I had some kind of bug, but in case I wasn't sleeping well and the result was that my head felt like it was full of wool. This weekend things cleared up a bit and I was able to think clearly about this program. And then, because I have found that writing down what I am trying to accomplish often helps clarify the problem, I wrote up the following explanation. I have since implemented my revised plan. It needs a little some testing and polishing, but I expect to post it before too long.


dedup is a program for deleting duplicate files

Given a starting point on a directory tree, it follows each branch to the end, then backs up to the last node and takes the next branch.

When it encounters a file, as opposed to a directory, which could be anywhere on its travels, it marks the spot and then proceeds to explore the rest of the tree. If it encounters a file with same name, it compares the length of the two files and then, if they are the same, it compares their contents. If the contents are identical, it deletes the most-recently-encountered file.

It then returns to the previously marked spot and resumes it exploration of the directory tree.

The first version of this program returns to the 'previously marked spot' by starting over and counting the number of files it encounters. For the first file this won't take too much time or trouble, but if the directory tree contains a large number of files, by the time you get towards the end, it could be taking a very long time.

As a matter of fact, this version of the program will completely traverse the directory tree once for each unique file found therein. It is not what you would call time efficient, but then it doesn't use very much memory.


A slightly improved version would 'mark the spot' by writing down its current location in the directory tree, and then when it had finished processing one file, it could go immediately back to the 'marked spot' without having to traverse the entire tree all over again. This would speed things by approximately a factor of two, and it wouldn't require any more memory, or at least not enough to notice.

Another way to do this would be to record the name of every file and the pathname of the directory where that file is stored. A simple sort operation on the list of filenames would enable you to quickly identify candidates for comparison and possible deletion. The problem with this is that if you have a very large number of files, this could take a large amount of memory. However, computers these days, have large amounts of memory, so the speed advantage should make this worthwhile.

So the way we are going to do this is we will traverse the entire directory tree once, recording the names and paths of all the files as we go. Sort the list of filenames, then scan the list looking for any duplicates, compare the metadata for the files, and if warranted, compare the files themselves. If identical, then we delete the newer of the two files.

Filenames and paths are stored in a string table. Each entry in our list of filenames will then simple hold the two pointers into this string table, one to the pathname, and one to the filename.

It might be more memory efficient to break up the pathnames into sequences of strings and store the indices for the those individual bits, but that would complicate matters as we would need to constantly be searching for previously used pathname segments, which would mean a binary search routine and an insert routine. I'm not sure the memory saved would be worth the effort
involved in coding or execution.

The last problem is how to decide how much memory to allocate in the first place, and then if you discover it is not enough, how to allocate more is such a manner that all your work is transferred transparently to the new allocation.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

To Live and Bike in LA

Elby Electric Bicycle - Photo by Peter Flax
The Hollywood Reporter has a nice story about a commuting race between a car, a bike and the train. I've noticed that driving in my suburban neighborhood and driving in downtown Portand, or even worse, on the eastside, requires a different mindset. You get accustomed to one situation and then you drive across town and situation is different. Eastside streets are narrower and are, relatively speaking, clogged with pedestrians and bicycles. We get that situation every day around 2:15 PM in front of the elementary school in my neighborhood, but that is such a cluster fuck that I will go ten miles out of my way to avoid it. The east side isn't that bad, but it's ALL congested so there is no way to avoid it.
    Cars and bicycles should really have their own roads, but total segregation is not going to happen anytime soon. Meanwhile we are going to have to learn to get along. Maybe we should be offering classes to high school students on how to behave on the road. Maybe we should be offering classes to anyone who wants one. Or maybe we should be requiring everyone to attend a class and get their mind adjusted to be better suited to our brave new world [tm].

Amazon has electric bicycles.

Rx Rx Rx

Buttersafe

Blue Cross recently ditched Walgreens as their pharmacy of choice, now they've hooked up with some other outfit with a made up name I can't remember. We signed up with them a couple of months ago when it was first announced. I've been back a couple of times to try and order some drugs, but they have forgotten who I am. Well, I'm not going to waste my time fooling around with them. I figure the longer I wait the more time they will have to get the kinks ironed out. Meanwhile I can still get my daily dose from Walgreens, it just won't be covered by insurance. The stuff I need is really cheap generic stuff, like $2 for a months worth, so no big loss there.
Walgreens has a website that works pretty well, and my computer remembers the site, so I can just point and click and presto my drugs are on their . . . oops, wait a minute. What's the problem here? Call their help line and it seems their local store is holding one of the scripts, so she's going to transfer me. Wait! No! Don't do that, because that will require more of their 'are you the person to whom I am speaking' rigmarole, and I don't want to go to the store, just mail my drugs to me, just like the other bottle of pills. Gotta stay on your toes to thwart these oh so helpful people who are helping you step off the platform and into the path of the oncoming freight train.

You know what's weird? She couldn't find me in her computer. She has my name, my birth date and my phone number, and the only thing she can find is my son, who doesn't use this phone number. So I give her my wife's phone number and now she can find me. (Had to think long and hard about that number. She calls home every day and I see the number displayed on the phone, but I seldom, if ever call her, so it's not cached where it can easily be shunted to the output queue.) An hour later I get a robo-call wanting to know how their service was. Phuk you robo-cop, I ain't wasting my time with your stupid survey. If you paid any attention at all you'd know that the one thing I HATE is stupid machines calling me on the phone, especially when it's just an announcement for something that is already being taken care of. Geez. What a bunch of imbeciles. But that's corporate efficiency for you. Statistically, making a zillion robo-calls is probably helping some flunky make their quarterly bonus.

Who Do You Trust?

Megan McArdle is writing about people and how they feel about immigration. Via Marcel, who picks out the salient point.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Agent Gates

Agent Gates

It appears to be take off on Downton Abbey. Not sure whether it qualifies as a parody or not. It's kind of odd. It appears to have started just last month, new episodes show up twice a week. This is the first one. It might be entertaining.

Hillary

Trump the jackass & Hillary the smooth sophisticate

I am trying to ignore the US campaigns for President. Most of what passes for news is useless drivel. I suspect Trump is all smoke and noise and he will go down in flames. But I've been wrong about every Presidential election before this, so maybe not.
     There is one thing I don't understand and that is why Hillary is so often vilified. Yes, I know she's a Democrat and Democrat's are known supporters of Gun Control, and therefor the enemy of every right thinking American, but it seems to go way beyond that.
    This morning I found a story in my inbox from Michael Arnovitz that delves into this phenomena. I found it that it confirmed my suspicions: the people who hate Hillary hate her because she's a woman who is trying to step into a role traditionally held by men. The stupider the jackass, the louder he brays.

P.S. Lots of pictures of the dynamic duo out there, and yes, I picked one that showed Hillary to advantage. Bluster can be useful, but I've had my fill of Trump.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Quote of the Day

“There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.”
― Raymond Chandler

Via Ross

Half Track

Iaman sends us some photos of an old Army Half-Track from Silverton, Colorado.

Looks like rubber treads, not steel like they use on tanks and bulldozers.
Means you can drive it on the street. I wonder if that is original. I suspect not.

Differential and Drive Sprockets


Violence


My Hero
This story popped up in Detroit Steve's discussion group. I didn't think too much of it. It did prompt me to respond:

99.99% of all people (in the Western World anyway. I'm not going to speculate on the rest of the world) never shoot anybody. Because there is a certain random element to how people grow, there are always going to be some who are not well suited to life in our society. Among those is a small percentage who are going to lash out with varying degrees of effectiveness.

I don't think any kind of mass palliative educational program is going to help. A program that identified individuals who might pose a possible threat, and tracked them might help. But such a program could easily be abused, and I'm not sure we have a reliable method of identifying a dangerous person before they start shooting.

It's shitty, but as long as you've got people running around loose, shitty things are going to happen.

We could dope everyone up so they were nice obedient sheep, but even then things might not go so well. Get enough sheep going in one direction and any sheep in their way are liable to get trampled.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ford Flathead V-8 Rebuild Time-lapse


(Re)Built Ford Tough: A Flathead V-8 Rebuild Time-lapse

I saw an old Ford pickup for sale in a used car lot one time. It was an early 50's model and it had a flathead V8 engine. The guy running the lot wanted to show me how smooth the engine ran. Standing right next to he asked if the engine was running. I said no. He opened the hood. The engine was spinning merrily away, quieter than a kitten's purr.
    It looks like a lot of work, but if you know what you are doing, and you have the right tools, it doesn't take that much time. Maybe a week if you are working by yourself in your garage.

The Physician

Statue of Avicenna Ibn Sina
I am pretty sure this is in Adana, Turkey
On the surface The Physician is not a great movie. The characters are a little thin and their motivations transparent, but it deserves credit for even attempting the story at all. It attempts to cram about six full movies-worth of story into one. It runs two and a half hours.

We have some characters out of the history books:

and a real place with fictional sounding name:
  • Isfahan, a city in central Iran that has been there since before the beginning of recorded history.

Towards the end of the movie the Seljuk horde conquers the city. From the Wikipedia article, that seems to be plausible:
The Turkish conqueror and founder of the Seljuq dynasty, Toghril Beg, made Isfahan the capital of his domains in the mid-11th century; but it was under his grandson Malik-Shah I (r. 1073–92) that the city grew in size and splendour.
The story is basically about ignorance, the beginnings of medicine, and stupidity of religious fanatics. All stuff we know, but sometimes it's good to go back and review the basics. Whether our hero (the Christian Englishman masquerading as a Jew) was actually able to preform any of the medical miracles attributed to him is totally a matter of conjecture. Someone had to be first and it could well have been him. The knowledge from the first actual trials may not have survived. It may be that our first recorded instance of a successful medical procedure wasn't the first one. It may not even be the second or the tenth. It is just the first record we have. Prior to the printing press, our history is a little spotty.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

USS Oregon

Shades of the Great White Fleet
The Oregon was built in 1890 in San Francisco. When the Spanish American War came along she steamed South around South America and then North all the way to the naval base on Key West (which is just down the road from Islamorada, site of the TV series Bloodline). It took two months to make this voyage. The amount of time became a selling point for Teddy Roosevelt's Panama Canal. The Oregon was not part of Teddy's Great White Fleet. She was decommissioned in 1906. The Great White Fleet sailed in 1907.

USS Oregon Triple Expansion Steam Engine
The USS Oregon is what is now known as a pre-dreadnaught battleship. They were the last ones to use reciprocating steam engines. The next generation, the dreadnaughts, used steam turbine engines.

Model of the USS Iowa, sister ship to the Oregon
Gives a good view of the deck layout.

USS Oregon in Portland, Oregon 1912, during Rose Festival
Photo taken from the then unfinished Broadway Bridge
The Oregon left military service in 1925 and moved to Portland where she served as a monument and museum.

Aerial of Battleship Oregon in its newly built park. It was located on the southwest waterfront at the foot of SW Jefferson Street just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, May 9, 1940.

Eventually the Oregon was sold for scrap.
This tower, now in Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland is all that is left.

U.S.S. Oregon in Guam Harbor
The scrappers got the superstructure, 
then WW2 came along and the Navy reclaimed the hull to store ammunition. 
Courtesy Oregon Historical Society
Inspired by Posthip Scott.

Bloodline


Bloodline (intro)

We watched season one of Bloodline over the last couple of weeks. It was pretty great, so now we can start watching season two. I watched the first episode and bagged it. My wife liked it, so it looks like I will have to wait until she has finished watching season two before we can look for something else. Oh, the pains of married life.
    Why was season one so great, and what was it about the opening of season two that turned me off? I'm not quite sure, but let me see if I can explain it.
    Season one was totally realistic. Okay, maybe not totally, but mostly. There were a few instances where they tweaked a scene a bit for dramatic effect, which generally backfires for me, but they were the exception and the good feeling engendered by the good scenes carried me along.
    For instance, the show starts off with the bad apple being sly and slinking along, doing stuff he ought not to  be doing and lying about it. Totally believable. But towards the end of the series we find out that he has this nefarious master plan to take down all of his 'enemies'. I'm sorry, I don't buy it.
   Now, with season two, we have all these loose threads left hanging from season one that are coming back to haunt our heroes. It might have been a little more believable if there had been any hint of any of this stuff in season one, but now it just seems like they are pulling it out of thin air.
   The story could have been told in a more realistic manner, we could have had things calmed down and people going on with their lives, but with an undercurrent of dread of running underneath the whole thing. That would have made a good show. But the drama queens got a hold of it and now the show is chock full of idiotic 'dramatic' moments.
    I suppose the thing for me is the story. Season one told a story. Season two doesn't seem to be going anywhere, it's just flailing.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Pic of the Day

26 January 1961: Queen Elizabeth II (with purse) and Prince Philip (left) pose with the Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur (flanking the queen) after a tiger shoot in Jaipur, India. AFP
That's me with me foot on the tiger's head. My hair was a little darker back then. And that's me uncle Jasper with his foot on the tiger's tail. He's the one that started this whole debacle. I mean, jeez, what was he thinking, stepping on a tiger's tail like that?

Football, er, Soccer, Scandal

Chuck Blazer, former general secretary of THE North American soccer organization (left)
Happy soccer fans (right). Mary Lynn Blanks/ Getty Images
I had heard that there were some irregularities with the World Cup being held in Brazil, and I may have heard of FIFA getting busted, but this story lays out the American part of it [Warning: auto-start video ad]. The whole thing reminds me of American Hustle.
Hard to believe there is that much money to be stolen when soccer is such an minor sport. Okay, it's gaining ground, but it wasn't too long ago that no real American would acknowledge its existence. I'm pretty sure the amount of money involved still pales in comparison to the big 3 (Football, Basketball and Baseball), which makes me wonder just how much corruption is going on there.
Amazon has the book: American Huckster: How Chuck Blazer Got Rich From-and Sold Out-the Most Powerful Cabal in World Sports
Local copy of IB Times story.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Law & Lawyers

Anonymous
Couple of interesting stories about lawyers fighting CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) cases.

The stories cover the whole landscape: the people and their personalities, the law, the 'crimes', the players and their motives. Leaves me with the impression that first level Federal judges are hacks. There might be some good ones in there, but their job seems to be strictly limited. No creative interpretation allowed. You have to get to the appeals court for that.

Pic of the Day

Bank vault door at Trinity Bar & Restaurant, New York City
I think I am finally getting a handle on what separates the rich from everyone else, and it's not this bank vault door. This door impresses the heck out of me. It's massive, it's elaborate, it is an amazing piece of mechanical engineering, and now it's just a prop in a trendy eatery. The thing is, a prop is all it ever was. Oh, I'm sure it did provide some security for whatever money the bank actually kept on hand. But how do you pay for a door like this? And the granite and marble palace in which it was held? You pay for it by making loans and charging interest. In order to pay for a door like this you need to be loaning vast sums of money, and they were. The expense of providing this door for their vault was like buying hubcaps for your Cadillac. That vault door might have cost a million dollars when it was new, but you can bet the bank was lending billions of dollars and collecting tens of millions of dollars interest. When you can get a million people all pulling together in the same direction you can pretty much go anywhere you want. No wonder politics is so contentious.

Cuban Revolution

Fidel Castro (left), Fulgencio Batista (right)
A few items I came across in my reading about the Cuban Revolution:

1. 
In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards. On the other hand, Cuba was affected by perhaps the largest labor union privileges in Latin America, including bans on dismissals and mechanization. They were obtained in large measure "at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants", leading to disparities. Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems. Unemployment became a problem as graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs. The middle class, which was comparable to that of the United States, became increasingly dissatisfied with unemployment and political persecution. The labor unions supported Batista until the very end. Batista stayed in power until he was forced into exile in December 1958. - Cuba
"An arms embargo – imposed on the Cuban government by the United States on 14 March 1958 – contributed significantly to the weakness of Batista's forces."  - Cuban Revolution
What's going on here? I thought Cuba was our friend. Seems there was a minor kerfuffle where some students tried to take out Batista and got squashed. Typical schizoid American foreign policy.

3. Then we have this quote:
"I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country's policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear."—U.S. President John F. Kennedy, interview with Jean Daniel, 24 October 1963[27]  - Cuban Revolution
It wasn't until a couple of years after the revolution that the government turned communist:
Fidel Castro made it abundantly clear that he was implementing a socialist order in Cuba. He did not start out as a communist, but was forced to go that route following the fallout with the USA when they refused to trade with Cuba. Fidel Castro then turned to the Soviet Union for help, which they gave, but with several conditions. The main condition was that Cuba should go communist. - Jamaica Observer

4.
Carlos Franqui. Now you see him, now you don't.
Fidel takes a page from Stalin's book. Franqui was in on the revolution up until 1968 when he broke with Castro and moved Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The River of Death


The River of Death 1934

After the Captain and Aloha Wanderwell finished their round the world tour, they set out to find Colonel Percy Fawcett who had gone missing in the Amazon jungle. This film chronicles their journey.

General Rondon (left), Aloha and Captain Wanderwell
Just past the two and a half minute mark, General Rondon makes an appearance. This is the same Rondon who accompanied Teddy Roosevelt on his expedition to explore The River of Doubt.

Junkers W33
I suspect the airplane they used is a Junkers W33.  (From aproximately 5:00 to 7:00 in the video above.)

The Junkers W33, the Russian ANT-25, and Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis were all single engine airplanes, and they all flew long distances over inhospitable terrain where engine failure would almost certainly lead to the death of all aboard. Kind of like today's rockets that carry people into orbit.

Women at Work Way Back When

Rosaries being made in French factory circa 1910
Via Posthip Scott

Bicycle Factory in Coventry, England, circa 1895
Posthip Scott sent me the first image. I came across the second one a day or two ago. I figured even a minor coincidence like that rates a post, especially since it doesn't take much work. But then I noticed that the second one has very thin diagonal lines running between opposite corners. They are probably some kind of watermarking or theft prevention, so I went looking for an unmarked copy. I didn't find one, but I did find a whole boatload of similar scenes.

Toner Cartridge Replacement Brother HL-2170W Laser Printer


How to change a toner - Brother HL-2170W

I like to think I am at least fairly mechanically competent, but this thing had me stymied. I got the door open okay and I found a couple of little levers that moved, but they didn't seem to do anything. When I grabbed the obvious handle it felt like it was pretty well latched in. Petey to the rescue: 'grab this thing here . . . rip it out like that. . .". Oh, that's how you do it. Jeez.

Cursive


Purple Noon | Trailer | 1960 | René Clément | Alain Delon | Plein Soleil

When I was at Lafayette Elementary School in West Seattle, they taught penmanship, otherwise know as cursive writing, in the fourth grade. Our teacher, Dorothy, was constantly admonishing us to hold our hand and forearm up and not rest them on the table. This was virtually impossible for me. I did manage to learn to write the letters in cursive and I can write legibly in cursive, mostly, now, but it's not what you would call fluid or elegant. Passable, I suppose.

I never figured out what Dorothy was on about until I saw the movie Plein Soleil (above, aka The Talented Mr. Ripley) as part of a French film class in college. In the movie Tom Ripley practices forging his target's signature by writing it in really big letters on the wall. He is using his whole arm to do this. His hand and wrist are a rigid extension of his forearm. This is what my teacher was trying to tell us. I have tried practicing writing using this technique but it's a hard habit to develop. If I had been trying to write great big letters on the blackboard back in elementary school, I might have had more success, but trying to develop fine motor control of my whole arm was, at that point, beyond me.

There might be a video out there that demonstrates this technique, but I have been unable to find one.

Inspired by Bayou Renaissance Man

Geek Out


Stand-up comedy routine about Spreadsheets

Published on Jan 4, 2016
Matt Parker’s comedy routine about spreadsheets. From the Festival of the Spoken Nerd DVD: Full Frontal Nerdity

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MATT PARKER: Stand-up Mathematician




Google Docs doesn't have the zoom feature of Excel (or I don't know how to use it), so I didn't get the whole image on the screen at once. But I did capture part of it.

Via Dennis.