Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Monday, October 31, 2016

1932 Ford V-8


How traffic tickets were handled. Excerpt from:
1932 - The Invention of the Ford V8 Engine

This excerpt is only a couple of minutes long and is a bit curious. The whole video is an hour and while it is enjoyable enough, it doesn't give any insight into the business of casting the engine block.
    Ford did spend better than 600 million dollars to build a new factory to build the Model A with its V-8 engine. And here I thought the billion dollars being spent on automobile factories these days was big money. If Ford built his factory today it would cost over 8 billion dollars, which is as much as is being spent to build the biggest computer chip factories now.

Old Ford Assembly Plant in Seattle
Ford also built an assembly plant in Seattle, but the depression was even worse on the West Coast than it was back East. It closed almost immediately. I'm not sure they even built any cars there. The building is still there. It is a public storage facility now.

Previous post about building V-8 engines.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dew Drop Inn

The Dew Drop Inn, 22 Brydges Rd, Stratford, E15
(Opened prior to 1874, closed in 2011 and is now demolished)
The first time I saw a "Dew Drop Inn", I thought it was a clever play on words. Little did I know how old that play was. The one in above photo probably isn't even the first, but it is the oldest one I've ever heard of. Via Indy Tom.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vacuum

Evangelista Torricelli
I started watching Geissler Tubes - Periodic Table of Videos, but the professor is not the most engaging speaker. The subject is intriguing, so I go rooting around and find a all kinds of interesting stuff.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Cummins Diesel in a Cadillac! - Roadkill Ep. 55


Cummins Diesel in a Cadillac! - Roadkill Ep. 55

Very silly. Slightly education. Thoroughly entertaining. Crack open a brewski and thrill to the adventures of David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan as they engage in some all-Marykin shade tree mekanikin. You can't do this kind of thing in Germany. Does that make Germany better? Or worse? Via Posthip Scott.

Previous Roadkill post.

DIY WEAPONS OF SYRIA

An armored dullbozer in Dahiyat al-Assad, west Aleppo city, Syria. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Reuters has a series of 20 photos of homemade weapons being used by the rebels against the government. The captions of 14 of the photos refer to ¨Free Syrian Army¨, not ¨the rebels¨. 6 of the photos refer to ¨forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad¨, not ¨Government Forces¨ as you might expect if Assad was a friend of ours. But since he´s on the our blacklist he gets called out. I would be offended. No wonder he is buddying up to Russia. Our government is living in some fantasy land. I doubt Trump would make a good president, but we really need to come down from our cloud.

Via California Bob.

P.S. Something funky going on with my browser, every time I want to use a quote character I have to type it twice. Some weird function must have got turned on by my ham-handed typing.

Bücker Bü 131 Biplane

CASA 1-131E SERIES 1000 Jungmann built 1957
Kind of a cool old biplane. I didn't recognize it, the body (fuselage) is a little thicker than most, and it's got an inline engine instead of the more common radial. And what's with the Olympic Rings on the nose? Anyway, it piqued my curiosity so I did a little checking.
    The Swastika on the tail, which I didn't even notice, elicited a rash of comments on the Flight Aware page. This airplane first flew in 1935 and was used as a basic training aircraft for the Luftwaffe. Other airplanes from the era have the swastika on the tail as well, so it might be historically accurate. That red is dang near fluorescent though.
    How about the Olympic rings on the nose? Aeronautics was an Olympic sport at the 1936 games in Berlin*. That was the only year for that. Guess I'm not surprised what with WW2 and its vast armadas of death dealing aircraft. Kind of took the sport out of it.

Hirth Engine Poster 1938
    This airplane originally used a Hirth HM 504 engine.  Some people have converted their aircraft to use a Lycoming engine. Some people are still using the Hirth. Some people from somewhere in Eastern Europe rebuilt one and posted a slide show of their efforts on YouTube.

Cutaway drawaing of Hirth 504 Engine Multipiece Crankshaft with Roller Bearings
This engine is a little unusual in that it uses a multi-piece crankshaft with roller bearings. Most engines use crankshafts made from a single piece of metal and plain bearings. The Hirth crank would require more time at overhaul which explains why people exchanged their engines for Lycomings.

*Hanna Reitsch gets mentioned in the page about 1936 Olympic games. She's appeared in these pages a couple of times before.

Car Buying Dream

Closest thing I could find to the fictional Ford A8 Milk Truck
My wife and I are going with another guy (we'll call him M) to go look at a used car. We are at a dead end. There are three newer black cars parked at angles along the side of the road. There are three or four other people there. A couple of guys are leaning on the last car having a discussion in Spanish. We hang around for a bit waiting to see what will transpire. Eventually M (we call him that because either he looks like Matthew McConaughey or Scott South, a former employer, who actually look sort of alike) connects with the guy he wants to see and we walk past the cars to an old truck that is parked a little further off the road. It, too, is black, though kind of a faded, flat black, not like the newer cars parked by the road.
    This is what we are here to see, and it's a little odd. It's a Ford A8 Milk Truck (not that there ever was such a thing). The front end looks like a Ford pickup truck from the fifties. The back is a big box like you would expect of a milk truck, but it's open to the front, like a delivery van, not closed like you expect a refrigerated box would be. Likewise the drivers compartment is open to the sky, like the driver's position in an old time limousine. The drivers seat is on the same level as the floor of the box, and  there is no door, or even an opening for his legs, which is going to make getting in and out a little difficult. I notice all this, but I am not involved in the discussion. I mean, it's unlikely the truck is going to be used for delivering milk, so it's not really an issue.
   Later on the three of us are in a parking lot underneath a big Home Depot store. The parking lot is at ground level and open on all sides. The store is supported by regularly spaced concrete pillars. We are looking at four pale yellow cars. The cars are all different and they all have interesting features of some sort, which is why M has collected them. Not sure why are all here underneath this Home Depot, but I am beginning to suspect that M owns this store, so I ask him, and he admits, that yes, he owns this Home Depot.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Diabetes Service Dogs

Diabetes Service Dog
Diabetes service dogs? Who knew? I certainly didn't. The Wall Street Journal has a story:
The dog's accuracy and speed can beat medical devices, such as glucose meters and continuous glucose monitors, according to doctors, owners and trainers. With their acute sense of smell, the dogs—mostly retrievers—are able to react to a scent that researchers haven't yet identified. - WSJ (2012)

I want a new Internet

Tip-a-tap-a-tappy
I spend a couple of hours a day at my computer (ok, more like 50 or 60), and most of that time I spend on the net. And there are a couple of things I've noticed that could be improved.

  • Passwords and Logon ID's. Everybody wants to know who I am, and most of them I don't care whether they know who I am or not*, but I don't like having to have a separate logon id and password for all of these sites. The ISP (Frontier, I'm looking at you) should validate who you are and then dole out this information as necessary. Someone would need to insure that telling some flake in a Florida boiler room who you are doesn't give them access to your back account, but there are plenty of smart people in the world and I'm sure someone could come up with a scheme.
  • Subscriptions. Everybody wants you to subscribe. I wouldn't mind subscribing, but once you subscribe to one it's much easier to justify subscribing to another, and then another and pretty soon you're shelling out 50 or 100 bucks a month, and I ain't gonna do that, so I don't subscribe to anything. I wouldn't mind paying $10 a month in order to get access to everything. I mean, if I have a subscription to one place, like the WSJ, I would spend all my time there. If I had two subscriptions my time would be split between the two, so I would be accessing each one only half as much. Likewise if I had ten subscriptions. The ISP should collect $10 a month from you and then dole it out to the websites on the basis of how many times you visit that site.
  • Metric versus English measurements. Every article that attempts to contain any information inevitably contains numbers, and any time there are numbers some people seem to think they need to provide values using both English and Metric units. I don't need both. Give me one or give me the other. HTML should be able to handle this. Actually, it probably already can, we just need a publishing program that can handle the conversion automatically.
  • Better History. Your browser keeps track of every page you visit, which is pretty worthless. I don't need you to record all my visits to Gmail, or YouTube, or most Google sites. I would like a list of all the other sites I have visited, especially Wikipedia. There may be a browser extension out there that will take care of this, but I haven't found one. I've tried a couple and they haven't really done the trick. I will probably have to write my own. Soon. Right after I finish this donut.
  •  Better Search Options. When I am looking for images, I don't want any with watermarks, and I don't want anything from Pinterest*. This might be achievable using my current search engine (Google), but I haven't looked in it, mostly because I haven't had much luck with fancy search options.
  • Blacklist. This goes along with the previous item. Everyday I run into a website that I never want to go to again, mostly because they are so bloated with adware that they take forever to load. Some of them never stop. I want to be able to blackflag them (sort of reverse gold star) so if I ever try to access that site again I will get a warning. Actually, I want my browser to warn me any time I try to load such a page, even if I've never been there before.
  • Limited Page Length. Every once in a while I will run into a web page that has no end. Facebook is like that. The end is usually where you can find contact information, so you can complain about things like there being no end to this web page, except you can't get the contact info, because you can't get to the end because there is no end. Blackflag this bitch.
*Except Pinterest. Seems like half of the pictures that turn up on a Google image search are from Pinterest, but Pinterest sucks. They only show you a teaser and if you try to get any more information they put up a sign-up wall. Nothing more until you sign up. I am pretty sure I don't want to have anything to do with Pinterest because there is no information about the pictures. People post stuff because they like it, but they don't tell you who shot the photo, where it was taken or anything. Stupid dumbheads.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New Dehli to Havana

Google Earth view of flight path from New Delhi, India to Havana Cuba
It's a little hard to make out in this image, what with the cloud cover and all, but this flight path takes you somewhat North of Iceland. Nobody actually flies this route. It would be possible with our newest long range airliners, like the Boeing 777-200LR or the Airbus A340-500. Ordinary Google Maps doesn't show this route going so far North, but if you create your own map it does. But then you don't get the global view like you do with Google Earth.

Looking at plain map of Earth, Madrid looks like good waypoint, but going through someplace like Iceland, will save you 500 miles and an hour of time.

Prompted by Britt's story in National Geographic India about Cuba.

Cold Welding in Space


Welding in Space

I've seen several episodes of Veritasium, and Derek Muller, our host, passes muster. When he speaks, he is transmitting information, he is not just bloviating. While bloviating is a more popular speech mode, it has a much lower informational content.

King Carlos, aka Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Modern Music


As the parade of the Guaracheritos de Regla passes with colourful carnival costumes, choreographed dances, and drums, the gathered crowd falls in behind the procession and joins the celebration.
Photo: Britt Basel
Back in colonial Spain, King Carlos made an ironic decision in his war against non-Christians: he banned slaves from Muslim areas of Africa in the new territory of Cuba. So the peoples of northern Africa were sent to other European colonies including the U.S., where their stringed instruments may have helped give rise to the musical tradition of the blues; while many of the first slaves who wound up in Cuba came from the forested regions of southern Africa, where the drum was, and still is, king. - Britt Basel
Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo By Ned Sublette
While former [Spanish] colonies gradually abolished chattel slavery after independence in the 1830's, the Cuban pro-slavery lobby succeeded in delaying abolition in Puerto Rico, and Cuba, the two remaining American possessions, until nearly the end of the 19th century. - Slavery in the Spanish New World colonies

Monday, October 24, 2016

Chinese Man


Miss Chang - Chinese Man feat Taiwan MC & Cyph4

I'm not too sure about the tune, but the video is way out there. I mean, steam engines!

Vladivostok

Vladivostok Postcard via Syaffolee
Vladivostok keeps popping up. I've mentioned it in ten posts here.

Vladivostok to Khasan
I was giving Syaffolee a hard about knowing where Vladivostok was, which prompted me to check. It's about 80 miles from North Korea as the crow flies, but about twice that far by car.

Khasan is right where North Korea, Russia and China all meet. It is on the Tumen river which forms the border between North Korea and the other two countries.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fordite

Fordite
Remember when Detroit used to make cars? They made a bunch of 'em, and every one of those cars got painted using spray paint. You know how there is always some paint that goes somewhere else whenever you paint something with a spray can? Now multiply that by a zillion cars and decades of time and this overspray turns into a substance much like rock. People are digging it out of the old factories and turning it into jewelry. Via Nancy on Facebook.

USA Rivers

USA River Basins
We've got the Columia (orange) in the Northwest, the Colorado (yellow-green) in the Southwest, and the Mississippi (pink) all over the center. The Great Lakes area looks a little confused, but maybe I'm not holding my mouth right. Via Nancy of Facebook.

Toyota i-Road


TOYOTA i-ROAD test driving in Tokyo

This concept is two years old. Development is ongoing, witness an appearance at the Los Angeles Auto Show earlier this month (Warning: video autostart), so it might be a real thing soon.

There are lots of three wheel cars out there and almost all of them have two wheels in front and a single wheel in the back, Harley-Davidson tricycles not withstanding. Top Gear did a bit about an old British three wheel car (a Robin Reliant) that had one wheel in the front, two wheels in the back and an unfortunate tendency to tip over going around a corner.

Putting two wheels in front gives you better stability, but if you are using the front wheels to steer as almost all motor vehicles do, it makes your car a little wider because you have to allow room for the wheels to turn (steering-wise, not rolling-wise). It also makes the steering mechanism complicated, but it's the same kind of complicated we have in all our four wheel cars, so it's not such a big issue.

The i-Road uses the rear wheel to steer. Since the front wheels aren't used for steering it means they can be stuck right on the sides of the car, which in turn means the car can be very narrow. Being narrow makes it prone to tipping over, but Toyota has fought back by teaching the i-Road to lean into the corners. So it behaves a little differently than a regular car or a conventional three wheeler, but where space is at a premium (and it's always at a premium) this might be just the thing.

Don't know why it has two doors. It seats two people, but in tandem, not next to each other. In crowded spaces though you might not be able to get out on the side you want. I'm thinking they need doors that pivot up, like a Lambo, so you can get out even when there isn't room to open a regular door. Or maybe a door in the back, or the front, like an Isetta.

Jump Start

Today's Jump Start
Click on the comic to enlarge to make reading easier.
If you read all the comics everyday, every once in a while you stumble on gem like this one. I don't read all the comics everyday on account of we only get the paper two days a week. When we got the paper every day, I read the comics every day, but now since it only shows up now and again, I only read it when I think about it, and I can't tell you how often that is.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Emergency Space Suit

Groovy spacesuitby Carlo-Arellano

I was thinking what life might be like on space station sometime in the future. Imagine a large station somewhere out by Venus or Mars. It's taken you a long time to get there and you are liable to be there for a long time, probably years.
    Space is a dangerous place being full of radiation and flying rocks. If you are out there long enough you are liable to get hit by one of those rocks, and if it doesn't kill you outright it would do some real damage to your air supply, i.e. it would all be leaking out through the hole the rock made.
    Dividing your ship into air tight compartments that could sealed off, much the various chambers in a modern naval submarine can be sealed off, would be a good first step. But what if you are caught in the chamber that has the hole? Putting on a conventional space suit is slow and cumbersome and you would die before you even got it out of the locker where it was stored.
    I'm thinking a set of coveralls, with booties, made out of a space age polymer might be just the ticket. You would need a helmet, but a hood that came all the way over your head and fastened at the neck line in front might work out just fine. There are a couple of problems with this. The first is that you would get wet wearing a plastic suit, so you would need some kind of ventilation. The second is that once you got it on and the chamber you are in lost all its air, you would swell up like a balloon. Being swollen isn't so bad, but it could make moving your arms and legs a bit difficult.

Michelin Man
    So I'm thinking we put some straps around the extremities every few inches to reduce the balloony-ness. It might take considerable force to tighten those straps against the air pressure, but I'm sure we could come up with a technique or mechanism to get the job done. When you got done you would end up looking like the Michelin Man.


Caveland

Caveland in Winter
A couple of crazy kids in Festus, Missouri, have built themselves a home in a cave dug into a cliff. The place got its start as a limestone quarry. It later became a mushroom farm and then a roller rink. It's quite a story. Via younger son.

Boost

1986 Porsche 962
This car has a turbocharged 2.8-liter flat-6 engine. It is running 75 psi of boost, which means it is pumping in five times the normal amount of air, which means it's like running a pair of normally aspirated 427 cubic inch V-8's. I sort of knew that boost pressures were going up but I had no idea they were ever this high. It used to be that a few PSI of boost, certainly less than 10, was all you could expect, and all the engine could handle. The power producing parts in this engine (the crank, connecting rods and pistons) must be made of unobtainium.

Car Trouble

Edsel Pushbutton Transmission Selector
The kids, well, I call them 'the kids'. They're adults, but they're only half my age, so I call them 'the kids'. Anyway, they went to a concert the other night in downtown Portland. On the way they stopped to pick up a friend at the Sunset Transit Center. Their friend's car had a dead battery, so when they left the concert at 2AM they called the automobile insurance company's roadside assistance program. The operator promised that someone would be there in an hour, but they didn't get there until three hours later. What? Tow truck drivers sleep? Who knew?

She-who-must-be-obeyed is in Iowa this weekend. This morning her car wouldn't start, so she called me for my expert advice. Talking to her about the car I find out that there is no ignition lock. There is only a key fob and a START button, which also functions as a STOP button. Anyway, she notices that she didn't put the car in PARK last night. Now back in the good old days when cars were steely and men were manly and wimmen folk didn't drive, you had to put the car in PARK before you could lock the ignition and remove the key. That was kind of a handy safeguard. A whole bunch of somebodies must have been asleep at the wheel to let this kind of obvious flaw out the door. I'm so glad we've got a safety czar to keep an eye on things like this. Friggin moron.

Fun with JavaScript

Primitive Object
Primitive values, like strings and numbers, cannot have properties or methods (because they are not objects).
But with JavaScript, methods and properties are also available to primitive values, because JavaScript treats primitive values as objects when executing methods and properties. - w3schools.com JavaScript Tutorial
Well, I'm glad we cleared that up. Morons.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wait, what?

I'm working through a JavaScript programming tutorial, and I'm thinking this is all very fine, but I'm starting to hunger for something with a little more substance. Is there a spec out there? Oh, yes, but it's not a JavaScript spec, it's an ECMAScript spec. Wait, what? It's seems they are brothers, or at least cousins. JavaScript came first, and because it was so popular, ECMA decided to make a spec for it. That went over so well that now JavaScript follows ECMA. The story behind the name is a little weird.
Ecma International is an international private (membership-based) non-profit standards organization for information and communication systems.[1] It acquired its current name in 1994, when the European Computer Manufacturers Association(ECMA) changed its name to reflect the organization's global reach and activities. As a consequence, the name is no longer considered an acronym and no longer uses full capitalization.- Wikipedia
Software is constantly evolving. People are always finding new things they can do, and then they think of the same thing, but different. And then a new processor comes out, or memory gets cheaper, and hey, you know that thing you wanted to do before, but you couldn't, because we didn't have enough speed (or memory)? Well, now you can. And in the race to exploit these new ideas, sometimes bugs creep into the code, so we have another reason to send out new code.

We shall see what happens.

Chinook with Skis

US Army Chinook in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada - William Vavrek

WordWord of the Day

CamelCase Camel
Historically, programmers have used three ways of joining multiple words into one variable name:
Hyphens:
first-name, last-name, master-card, inter-city.
Underscore:
first_name, last_name, master_card, inter_city.
Camel Case:
FirstName, LastName, MasterCard, InterCity.
First time I've run into Camel Case. Underscore is popular. It requires using the shift key, but so do capital letters. Two issues  are readability versus compactness. Leaving out the underscore makes a word more compact. I'm not sure how readable Camel Case is. It's certainly better than all lower case. I've run into a several ambiguous URL's the last few days. They were written in all lowercase letters. Wish I had recorded them, but I didn't, and I certainly don't remember them.

Don't think I've ever run into hyphenated names in programming. Every programming language I've dealt with treats hyphens as a minus sign, so master-card means subtract the value of variable card from the variable master

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Donald & Hillary, Sitting in a Tree

Trump Force One and Clinton’s campaign plane at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas
I spotted this picture in this morning's Wall Street Journal. I found it online at The Sun.

I am not voting in this election, mostly because both candidates are part of the established power base, and that base is all wrapped up in their own chickenshit. Real problems in the world are getting short shrift and I don't see anything changing.

The establishment is like a giant ocean liner charging ahead. It couldn't make a drastic course change it it wanted too. It has too much mass and too much momentum, so they spend their time and energy arguing about chickenshit, swilling cocktails and snorting coke. They might go on for a long time, but if they hit an iceberg, it's the people in steerage who are going to drown.

Cubic Trisection Puzzle


Cubic Trisection

You can easily make three identical pieces that can be put together to make a cube. Simply take six flat squares, group into three pairs and join the two squares of each pair at right angle. You can then assemble the three right angles into a cube. But they won't stay together. If you just set it down and don't touch it, it might hold together, but jostle it and it will collapse. This cubic trisection is a little peculiar. Make that very peculiar.

This puzzle was invented by Robert Reid. Doesn't seem to be much information about him, possibly since he spent 50 years running a cinema in Peru.

Via Dennis.

More Steam Locomotives


Building of the Jupiter & 119 Locomotives

I meant to include this video with the post on steam locomotives I did a couple of days ago, but I was short on sleep and it slipped out of my mind. This one got my attention because it happened in my neck of the woods (the Western USA), but I had never heard of it. Completing the first transcontinental railroad was kind of a big deal. The video is a little gooberish, but it does have some good info.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

ALSIB

ALSIB - Alaska Siberia air road
Comrade Misfit tells us about a C-47 that was found in Siberia. During WW2 we flew thousands of airplanes to Russia to support their war effort on the Eastern Front. It's 6,000 miles from Great Falls Montana in the USA to Krasnoyarsk, Russia in Siberia, which is still 2,000 miles from Moscow. A C-47 (military version of the DC-3) cruises at 200 MPH, so flying time to Krasnoyarsk would have been 30 hours. Its range is 3600 miles, so it could have made the trip without too many stops. The Bell Airacobra was twice as fast, but its range is only 500 miles so it would have been having to stop every hour or so.  The USA and Canada put in a big effort to build airfields all along the flight path and a highway to support them. I imagine once you got over the Bering Strait facilities were a little farther apart.

Google Map of ALSIB

Juno & Jupiter

Jupiter's North Pole
Jupiter looks a little different from this angle. Bigger is better. Click to embiggenate. Previous posts about Juno, the probe that took this photo.

Binary Permutations


Eight bits with some bits set to one and some set to zero.

This is one of those little math puzzles that probably have some application somewhere out in the real world, but for our purposes, it's enough that it's a bit of a puzzle.

Supposed you have string of ten digits, like 0 thru 9, arranged in numerical order. Now you can mix them up and rearrange them in any order you want, and you could use the resulting string of digits as a combination or password and no one would ever guess what the correct sequence was.

Now suppose you have a string of ten binary digits. You could mix them up and rearrange them just like you did with the decimal digits, but since all one's look alike and all zero's look alike, there wouldn't be nearly as many possibilites. You could still use it for a password, but if someone was determined and diligent they could eventually figure out what the correct sequence was. Of course, it helps if you use a mix of one's and zero's. A password of all one's isn't much of a password at all.

Now imagine that someone has made up a rule for where the digits go. If they like you well enough, they tell you what the rule is. Then when you want access to their secret hideout, they give you a mixed up string of binary digits (one's and zero's) and you have to rearrange them according to the rule.

But they don't like you, or maybe they like you, but they don't trust you, so they don't tell you what the rule is. So the question is, given a handful of examples of pairs of binary numbers, can you decipher the rule?

I spent some time working on this puzzle a few months ago, but I wasn't able to come up with a program that could correctly decipher all of the test cases. It got most of them, but not all. Yesterday I picked it up again and fiddled with it for a bit, but I wasn't really clear on what the program was doing (it's been months since I last looked at it), but I remember I made a fairly serious effort to get it working, so maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.

Then I got a new idea. Each test case gives you several pairs of numbers: the original and the rearranged one. All of the numbers include a mix of one's and zero's. (If they didn't there wouldn't be any puzzle.) Start with the low order bit and a mask that has the same number of bits as our test cases and has all the bits set to one. Now go through the list of original numbers. If any of those numbers have the low order bit set, then AND the mask with the corresponding, rearranged number. If we are lucky, by the time we get to the end, there will only be one one bit left in the mask and we will know where our low order bit got moved to.

Now we can remove that bit from our mask, move our test bit to the next position, and repeat the process. If we have any unresolved bits at the end of this first iteration, we can continue, and by repeating this process we will eventually decipher the rules for rearrangement.


The Economy

What have I noticed? A few things:

  • The very rich seem to have more money than they know what do with. The interest rate banks are paying on deposits is near zero and in some cases it is even below zero. When an interest rate is below zero, it means you are paying the bank to hold your money. I suppose that could be cheaper than buying a safe, installing an alarm system, and buying enough insurance to cover your losses should someone break in and steal your money.
  • The outfits that are becoming fantastically valuable, things like Facebook, Google, Twitter et all,  are not necessarily making anyone any money. I am sure there are a few people who managed to get in on the ground floor and cashed out when the stock price got high enough, but most of the stock holders are holding on to their stock, hoping that the stock price will go even higher, or that the company might eventually start making money. I suppose some of them are making money, but I suspect most of them are overvalued. Good, solid investments have a P/E (Price to Earnings Ratio) of around 20. Companies with a P/E of 100 are a crap shoot.
  • Many of the internet startups are displacing existing businesses. They are doing things more efficiently and / or better than traditional businesses, which means they employ fewer people. If might take 100 people to get an internet startup rolling, but it could easily put thousands of people out of work.
  • The cost of everything except housing is going down, but fewer people are working so we've got more bums aka the 'homeless'.
  • Production requires more capital investment. Factories are increasingly automated. They produce more goods, better, faster and cheaper than ever, but the cost of building and equipping that factory has skyrocketed. No one is going to invest a billion dollars in a new factory unless they are pretty sure it is going to make money. And you can't compete in today's marketplace unless you can get your production costs down to almost nothing. Kind of an oxymoron, eh? It costs a billion dollars to build widgets that sell on the street for a nickel. The factory makes a fraction of a cent on each one, but they build a zillion of the things every year, so I guess it adds up.
I'm thinking we really need to bring back the sun god and start building pyramids. There's nothing wrong with our economy that good dose of old time religion and hard work won't cure.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Accountant, Part 2

The Accountant
I just checked the results of The Accountant programming contest over at Codingame. I didn't come in first but I didn't come in last either, so, good enough for not too much effort.

Worldwide there were nearly 3,000 players that scored at least some points. There were twice that many players, but there's no telling if they actually made any attempt to solve the problem. I mean they could have signed up and then said phooey, let's go to the beach.

Of those 3,000 players about one-quarter managed to successfully pass all of the tests. The top score was 44,880 points, the lowest score for a player who completed all the tests was 5,601. I would like to know how he managed that. I scored 21,438 points which put me roughly halfway down complete list.

Players from the United States made up about 10% of the total, and I placed in roughly the same relative position in the rankings.

Only 49 players were using the Go programming language and only 9 of them completed all the tests. I came in 7th here, so no T-shirt for me.

World 739 players got 100%
Player   1 scored 44,880 points
Player 433 scored 21,438 points (me)
Player 739 scored  5,601 points
6,215 total players
2,929 scored at least some points.
The rest completed no tests and earned no points.

United States 71 players got 100%
Player   1 scored 40,073 points
Player  40 scored 21,438 points (me)
Player  71 scored 11,925 points
960 total players
388 scored at least some points.
The rest completed no tests and earned no points.

Tradition

Horseshoes, 61 nails, an axe and billhook are part of the rent London owes to the Queen. EPICS/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
Atlas Obscura has a fine story about a simple business transaction that has been going of for hundreds of years. Becuase traditionalists are getting beat up left, right and sideways these days, an' I doan a-like it.

Via Detroit Steve

Non-Airplane of the Day

A380 Mockup
Saw this picture on an airplane related website and wondered 'what the heck?' It sort of looks like an airplane, but it's all rusty. Steel rusts, but airplanes aren't made of steel, they are made of aluminum. And why is the tail fin sitting on four short pylons instead of being one with the fuselage like a normal airplane?

A little poking around reveals that it is a mockup of an Airbus A-380 used for training firefighters at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. You can see it on Google Earth here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Goodreads Reject Pile

I used to read everything. Now I'm getting picky. If a book doesn't grab me, I'll put it down. I just added a bunch of books to Goodreads, and some of those are books that I didn't finish and I am not going to finish. Goodreads only has three categories for books:

  1. Read, 
  2. Currently Reading and 
  3. Want to Read. 
I thought we needed a fourth category: Rejected. I dunno, maybe that term is a too strong, because it doesn't mean it's a bad book. Someone else may be enthralled with it. It just means I didn't like it, I'm not going to read any more of it. It's nice to recall books I've enjoyed, but I want to record the books I didn't like as well. I don't want to go there again. 


So I complained to Goodreads, and it turns out there is a a way to handle this. You can create custom 'shelves' (categories) for your books, but that by itself doesn't get you out of the their default category choices. However:
You can also make the shelf exclusive, which allows you to bypass the default shelves ("read", "currently-reading", and "to read") on your edit shelves page.  Books added to exclusive shelves cannot be added to other exclusive shelves (like "read"), but they can still be added to any of your non-exclusive custom shelves. - Carla at Goodreads

New Roof


Uniberp has a few words to say about his house in Michigan.
Some pics of the steel roof I am installing. A brutal job that ate up much of my vacation time this year. The 10 barrels are filled with old roofing, from the 2 layers of roof [on one half of the front side of the house]. I have taken 30+ barrels off so far, at about 250 lbs each. It will be about 40 total when I'm done, 5 tons.

The back is done, half the garage. The large dormer roof I will cover in white, that is easy, compared to this steep slope. The skylights weighed a lot, just dragged them up the ladder and inched them up the slope, clinging with toetips and lifeline.

It was more or less a karma thing. Whenever I see roofers, I think, "I am lucky that is not me." However, now that I know what is involved and that there is very little actually helpful advice on the internet, I may do an instrucitonal video. 
I'm a little concerned about snow buildup in the valleys, but there is total underlayment, we'll see how this winter goes.

I think I will celebrate completion by buying a cheap camera drone and filming it.
He has more energy, and more determination, than I do.

Who's Writing?

Washington State has some of the most active writing communities in the country, if not the world. Seattle (just the city, not the entire state), for example, has been #1 on the word count leaderboard for the past couple of years with the entire country of Germany placing second or third. California and New York might have a lot of participants, but the average participant isn’t as nearly engaged. - syaffolee talking about NaNoWriMo

Quote of the Day

Flash memory is really cheap. So cheap, in fact, that it’s too good to be true. In reality, all flash memory is riddled with defects — without exception. The illusion of a contiguous, reliable storage media is crafted through sophisticated error correction and bad block management functions. This is the result of a constant arms race between the engineers and mother nature; with every fabrication process shrink, memory becomes cheaper but more unreliable. Likewise, with every generation, the engineers come up with more sophisticated and complicated algorithms to compensate for mother nature’s propensity for entropy and randomness at the atomic scale. - bunnie
Previous posts involving bunnie.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Steam Locomotives


Restoration of Sumpter Valley Steam Engine (Cushman)

I've been having trouble sleeping lately, which has led to watching long videos about steam locomotives. I can't listen to people bloviating for more than a few seconds, but I can watch people working with steel forever. This video is about restoring an old steam engine from eastern Oregon. The work was done in Oregon City, a suburb on the south side of Portland. Sadly, the Daylight Locomotive and Machine Works doesn't seem to be in business anymore.


Building Steam Locomotives - 1930's Trains & Railways Educational Film - S88TV1

This video is about the production of new locomotives in England 80 years ago. A while back I posted a video about building an all new steam locomotive, a replica of one from the 1950's. All of the originals had been scrapped. Looking around on YouTube, there doesn't seem to any limit to the number of  old steam locomotives that are being, or have been restored. Of course, even if there are a hundred, it doesn't hold a candle to the thousands that were built. Isn't it odd that people would be investing so much in these things that are essential toys? I guess that's what you do when you have excess funds.

They refer to the locomotive in the first video as a 'Mikado'. I had heard this term before, and wondering where it came from, so I asked Wikipedia and I got an answer:
The wheel arrangement name "Mikado" originated from a group of Japanese type 9700 2-8-2 locomotives that were built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for the 3 ft 6 in gauge Nippon Railway of Japan in 1897. In the 19th century, the Emperor of Japan was often referred to as "the Mikado" in English. Also, the Gilbert and Sullivanopera The Mikado had premiered in 1885 and achieved great popularity in both Britain and America.
The Wikipedia article also explains that the Mikado wheel arrangement produced a better, faster, stronger high speed locomotive.

Asteroid Mining, Part 2

Screenshot from Asterank
Asterank has spreadsheet listing asteroids that might be profitable to mine, and a cool interactive view of the solar system and the asteroid belt. In amongst all the asteroids (the little white dots) there are some gold dots floating around. Watch them and you might conclude that they are spaceships on their way to the asteroid belt. Very cool.

Watching the full screen animation, I hear the cooling fan in my laptop kicking on and off every few seconds. I think it must be busy.

Part 1 here. Via Dennis.

Quito Approach


Quito Approach - Lufthansa MD-11F [English Subtitles]

There is no air at 10,000 feet, but Ecuador has a whole city up there. Denver, the mile high city, has an elevation of only 5,000 feet, half that of Quito's. What's it like trying to breath at high altitude? Ask the guys from Top Gear. They can tell you.

The aircraft is a McDonnell Douglas MD-11, not to be confused with the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 or the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar. Via Posthip Scott.

Another Soyuz Preps for Launch


Expedition 49-50 Crew Prepares for Launch in Kazakhstan

The first six minutes are shots of the rocket and the spacecraft being prepared and moved to the launch site. That was pretty cool. After that they go to bloviating and they lost me.

At the 3:31 mark in the video there is a closeup of the spacecraft. You can see that the spacecraft has what look like four fold down platforms. They look like a bad idea. No attempt has made to fair them into the main body so they are going to be producing some aerodynamic drag during the trip through the atmosphere, and why would you need platforms to stand on anyway? Unless they are only there to facilitate preparations for launch, and they take them off prior to launch. But just saying that sounds dumb.

The Wikipedia article about the Soyuz, in the section about the Launch Escape System, mentions that "Four folding stabilizers were added to improve aerodynamic stability during descent." I suppose that's what they could be, but they really look tacked on. But maybe if you've got a rocket as powerful as the Soyuz, you can afford to have some tacked on gee-gaws sticking out in the slipstream.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Child Proof Containers


HISIERRA how it works

Oh, brave new world! Oregon forges ahead in the marijuana business. We've got medical marijuana and recreational marijuana and a whole passel of rules and regulations, one of which says that stuff going out of the head shop, er, sorry, cannabis retail operation, has to be in child proof containers. This plastic bag is a new one on me. The video shows that you need to press down on the little tab in the slider in order to open the bag. What they don't show you is that if you don't press on the tab, the slider goes back and forth just fine, but the bag stays closed.

Shanghai to Chicago

A painting of a WW2 scene of B-24 Liberator bombers & PBY Catalinas at Amchitka AAF.
An airliner traveling from Shanghai to Chicago encountered a problem the other day and diverted to Cold Bay, Alaska. Cold Bay is a hamlet out in the Aleutian Islands. Why is there this giant, jet capable runway in this out of the way spot? WW2, of course. Looking for more information I came across Paul Freeman's Abandoned & Little-Know Airfields, which has a page devoted to the Alaska, which is where I found the picture. Several airfields listed on the Alaska page are in the Aleutian Islands, and most of those were built during the early part of WW2.

Reading about the airliner incident brought a couple of questions to mind. The first one was why was a giant airliner carrying only a hundred people? Every plane I've been on recently has been packed to the gills. And then I plot the trajectories on a map, and I wonder why are they diverted to Cold Bay. Cold Bay is way south of the Great Circle route from Shanghai to Chicago. I smell a conspiracy! The CIA is probably up no good, and this engine malfunction story is just part of the coverup.

Then I do a little more checking. Seems airlines sometimes need to stage a plane to be ready to pick up a full load of passengers, but there just aren't enough people where the aircraft is, who want to go where the airplane is going, but the plane has a schedule to keep so it goes anyway, which means that sometimes they are darn near empty. Wish I could find one of those flights when I need one.

Shanghai to Chicago
Looking at the Great Circle route again I notice that it goes over North Korea and we don't want to be flying over North Korea. They might not be able to hit the broadside of a barn with a bowling ball, but let's not tempt fate, eh? The route also goes over the Kamchatka Peninsula, which is part of Russia. These days I am pretty sure airlines are allowed to fly over Russia, but maybe they need permission, and you know, maybe we ought not go there either. Plug those allowances into the route and Cold Bay looks like a more likely solution.

The Accountant


The Accountant Official Trailer #1 (2016) - Ben Affleck Movie HD

I've been working on a programming problem / puzzle over at Codingame the last couple of weeks. The puzzle is called The Accountant, and it looks like they've managed a marketing tie-in with the movie. I mean, I hadn't heard of the movie until I started working on the puzzle.

The puzzle involves developing a search & destroy algorithm for Ben, excuse me, Wolff, to use to eliminate all enemy combatants without getting killed himself. As with many puzzles at Codingame there are several test cases. They start out relatively simple and easy to solve, but they get progressively more complex and correspondingly more difficult to survive.

I'm guesstimating that I only spent about eight hours actually working on my program, that is, actually sitting down at the keyboard and typing, but I spent untold hours thinking about it, and who knows how many CPU cycles my subconscious spent ruminating on it.

My first pass at the problem involved simple locating the closest bad guy and issuing a SHOOT command. That worked for about the first third of the tests, but now we have more bad guys and sometimes you need to run away for a bit to get some breathing room. Fortunately, actor (my name for the variable representing actor Ben Affleck's position on the field) can run twice as fast as the bad guys. Not surprising since he is a strong, physically fit American who is totally focused on his mission. These qualities are missing from the typical bad guy, at least in Hollywood, and likewise in this computer simulation of Hollywood.

But where do you run to? How do you figure out which area is safest? Well, you could use brute force, and simply calculate the distance from every point on the map to every enemy agent. But that could get expensive in terms of time and CPU cycles. There are roughly 150 million locations on our field and there could be a zillion enemy agents. You run a calculation like that and you could get shot while waiting for the computation to finish. Actually, the master computer would simply cancel you and your program because you exceeded your allocated time.

Computers have gotten much faster than when I first ran into that time limit thing. It could be that the master computer could actually make all those calculations in the allotted time, especially since there never any more than 100 bad guys on the field at any one time.

My early training in Computer Science instilled in me a desire to minimize CPU cycles, so I spent some time thinking about ways to reduce this HUGE problem into something manageable, trying to come up with strategies for mapping concentrations of bad guys and open, safe areas, and then trying to come up with a way to represent these ideas. I never came up with one I liked, which means that they all looked like a great deal of work. And there is no way of telling whether they would work or not without actually writing the code and trying them.

In the end I decided on a simplified brute force solution. I used the eight cardinal compass directions to locate eight points 1000 feet away (which is how far Ben can run in one turn, which I figure is about two minutes in real time), and then computed the distance from each of these points to each of the enemy agents. That brings the problem down from 15 billion computations to 800. And that was enough to pass all the tests.

Sark and the Master Control Program from Tron
I'm sure there are whiz kids out there who have developed very elaborate strategies for optimizing their total scores, but I'm lazy. I got the job done with simplest means I could find. Maybe I'll get a T-shirt, though if the master computer over at Codingame gets wind of this post, that will probably get canceled as well.