Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Neutron Stars

First Ever Light & Gravitational Wave Cosmic Event!

Okay, maybe there really are gravity waves and neutron stars. Neutron stars were staple of Larry Niven's science fiction stories, and now we have some (more?) evidence that they really exist. I'm not sure any of this is going to do us any good, not with our propensity for killing each other. Maybe we'll eventually develop a faster-than-light method of travel which will allow us to spread the disease of life to other places in our galaxy. More likely any practical developments will be subverted by the military-industrial complex and lead to something like bobbles (as found in some science fiction novel whose name I forgot) or anti-bobbles (as found in The Gone Away World).

Let's Hear It For Advertising

Official Call of Duty®: WWII Live Action Trailer – “Reassemble!”

Most of the advertising that pops up in my field of view is obnoxious crap, but every once in a while something really great shows up. This little comedy gets four stars.

Monday, October 16, 2017


!false T-shirt
Programmer humor. The exclamation mark means 'not' in some programming languages. Via Reddit

Sunday, October 15, 2017

St. Helena Airport

Bits of the British Empire
A news report about commercial flights from Johannesburg starting this month contained some semi-hysterical statements (which is normal for The Telegraph) that prompted me to do a little checking. First order of business is to plot key locations on a map (above). Gold stars indicate:
  • RAF airbase Brize Norton in the UK is at the top. 
  • Johannesburg is at 4 o'clock. 
  • Windhoek, Namibia is just to the left of Johannesburg.
  • Port Stanley is in the Falkland Islands.
The Falkland Islands are a heck of a long way from the UK. Having a friendly airport at St. Helena would make a military response to Argentine aggression in the Falklands a little easier. If you are going to have an empire, you need to be prepared to defend it, even if parts of it are tiny and half a world away.

St. Helena Airport

St. Helena basics:
It is one of the most remote islands in the world, and was uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese in 1502. It was an important stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa for centuries. Napoleon was imprisoned there in exile by the British, as were Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo (for leading a Zulu army against British rule) and more than 5,000 Boers taken prisoner during the Second Boer War, including Piet Cronjé. - Wikipedia

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Blizzard Entertainment

How Blizzard Conquered the Gaming World

I was just talking to someone yesterday about how wildly successful Blizzard Entertainment is and then this video pops up on Reddit this morning. People spent five million years playing games from Blizzard last year. If the average player plays an hour a day, six days a week (you know they go to church on Sunday), that means there are like 150 million players, or 2% of the world population.

The last minute of the video is an ad for programming lessons, just so you know.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Funny Money

Poking around on YouTube and I come across a video from Russia Insider about a Russian citizen, arrested in Greece, being extradited to the USA. The charge is money laundering using Bitcoin, not that it matters. This quote summarizes the situation nicely.
"Unfortunately, in most cases, such decisions are politically motivated. The fact is that Vinnik is a Russian citizen, and, in the presence of two similar requests, the decision should have been made in favor of his extradition to Russia, but in most jurisdictions, the United States has such an unspoken preemptive right to extradite citizens upon their requests. And, in my opinion, in this case, this is what happened." - Yevgeny Korchago, Chairman of the Lawyers Board
I suspect that the news coverage of the Harvey Weinstein dust-up is likewise politically motivated, though not at such a high level.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Accumulation from Yang Minha on Vimeo.

Commercial art in a public space:
Installed new artwork "Accumulation" at the main gate of Le Meridien Seoul
"Accumulation" symbolizes the history from Ritz Carlton Seoul to Le Meridien Seoul.
Via Indy Tom

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

GENESIS - I Can't Dance (Remix)

GENESIS - I Can't Dance (Remix)

This is one of my go-to tunes. The lyrics are kind of dumb, but the sound is great. Play this and play a hand of Spider Solitaire and I am calmer and might be ready to tackle my next tedious chore. Plus dancing girls.

More Toast

The Trouble & Coffee Coconut Club
Pacific Standard has a fine story about the artisanal toast craze that is sweeping the country. Er, make that was sweeping the country, three years ago. Never saw any sign of it here, but then I'm cheap and I ain't much of a social butterfly. Via Iaman.

Previous post on the subject.

1963 HONDA T360

1963 HONDA T360

This ad for the Honda T360 mini-truck plays just like an ad for one of today's big American pickups: carrying heavy loads uphill, splashing through water, rumbling over rocky roads, but it does it all in miniature.

Back in 1960 Honda only made motorcycles, they had not started making cars yet. MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) issued an edict that there were only going to be so many car manufacturers. If Honda was ever going to build cars, they were going to have to start building them now, whether they wanted to or not, which led to the S500.

1963 Honda S500
Well, it's snazzy, but how many are they going to sell? Not enough, so they decided to build some light trucks, which got the same dual-overhead-cam, 4 cylinder motorcycle engines that turned 9,000 RPM. Crazy old man Honda. Think he might have been a little obsessed with high revving engines?

Via Road & Track and The Truth About Cars


Wondermark Chimney
Sounds a lot like my house.

Type Me a Story

1927 Coin Operated Typewriter
Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a coin operated typewriter in 1950. A coin operated typewriter! One complicated mechanical contrivance piled on another! All these complicated, precision, mechanical devices are being replaced by electronic gee-gaws. In 100 years they'll all be gone. In a thousand years there won't be any evidence that they ever existed, which tends to support my theory that all the paintings on the walls of the tombs of the ancient Egyptians are really flat panel displays that froze when they ran out of juice.

Writing the first draft of the novel cost Ray $10, which according to the government inflation calculator would be roughly the same as $100 today. Since the government has no idea what the real fate of inflation is, or they are lying, I'm going to say it's more like $200. So, not a pittance, but if you're serious, doable.

The linked story suffers from rigid formatting and a tiny typeface. Blow it up (with Ctrl+) so it's big enough to read and the page is too wide to fit on the screen. I copied the text into a blogger page. You can find it here.

Monday, October 9, 2017


Salisbury Cathedral, reflections on the baptismal font
The cathedral in The Pillars of the Earth was modeled on Salisbury cathedral
I've started reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It's not a great book, but it's a good story about building a cathedral in 12th century England. The story is painted in broad brush strokes. The hero is brave, strong and true, the princess is beautiful and the villain is despicable. In this way it is similar to Ertugrul, the Turkish soap opera we've been watching about a tribe of nomads in 13th century Turkey / Syria.

Today I figured out why I like these stories. It's because they include many of the details of everyday life back then. Most scholastic history is all about names and dates. 'So and so went to war against these other people and defeated them at the battle of the slimy swamp', which is all very well if you want to chronicle the power struggles that were going on at the time. But that shit is endless. There is always somebody picking a fight, and someone betraying his allies and somebody getting their ass kicked, but it doesn't really tell you very much about the how or why of something happening.

Now occasionally a small group of motivated, and presumably talented, warriors will score an unexpected victory, but more often it is a matter of training, tactics and superior weaponry. And those come from a society that is rich enough to spend time developing these things. And you get a rich society from free trade, free minds and the rule of law.

The Pillars of the Earth is more nuts and bolts, building a cathedral requires a great many craftsmen making things. The politics, so far, has all been of the local variety. Ertugrul is more like propaganda: the Muslims are good, the Templars are bad, but it does a good job of portraying life in a nomadic encampment, well at least life among the one-percent-ers.

U Robot

Experimental Legged Robot for Inspection and Disaster Response

Honda does things with their money besides restyling their cars every year. Oh, wait, Detroit's the one that is all about style, not Honda. This robot is a little slow but it's considerably faster than the ones being developed for DARPA just a few years ago.

Via Road & Track


Changing The Transmission Oil on a Subaru
In other news, my 20-something neighbor stopped by to ask about a problem with his car.  He'd just changed the oil in his pretty new Subaru, and now it was screeching and bucking.  Long story short he had drained the tranny fluid, and drowned the engine with an additional 4 quarts of oil. 
The tranny fluid was not red, but dark; in appearance it could pass for oil. - California Bob
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who are good with things and those who aren't. You can get by perfectly well with being mechanically incompetent, but you have to be willing to deal with people and pay them for dealing with your mechanical problems. Honda, Apple and Sony's promise of extreme reliability is what has made them so successful. Which is why they can charge a premium for their products and why I won't have anything to do with them.


Ashes on San Francisco Patio - California Bob
California Bob reports:
Big fires in Napa and North Bay started last night.  The smell of smoke woke me up around 3AM.  There are often bonfires a the beach, and we can smell them outside, but these strong odors, inside the house, at 3AM, didn't make sense.  And it smelled different than a bonfire.  Anyway I didn't see anything, figured it was a house fire somewhere, and went back to bed.
This morning saw the news about the wildfires, and the patio was covered with fine ashes. These ashes are from 60 miles away.
I noticed ashes on my truck last month. This is the first year I recall something like this happening. Is it a freak occurrence, is the world going up in smoke, or do I just not remember all the times it has happened in the past? I mean, it didn't really affect my day-to-day life. Why would I remember something like this?

Engine Failure

Damaged engine on Air France Airbus A380 - miguel.amador_ @theamadoor
An Air France plane en route to Los Angeles from Paris made an emergency landing Saturday in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., after one of its engines blew out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Seems to happen on a regular basis, though the damage is not often this extensive. Guess I shouldn't be surprised since there are like a zillion airline flights every day, but why do they always seem to happen in the frozen far north? Perhaps because being in such forbidding territory makes the event newsworthy, whereas an emergency landing of a flight across the eastern USA isn't terrifying enough. I dunno.

North Atlantic Airports. The star at the bottom is Goose Bay N.L.
Airplanes landing in Greenland show up here now and again.

Via FlightAware

Cold Water Swimming

Crazy people in the Himalayas
Iaman gets his exercise by swimming. Some people like swimming in cold water. We had a pool when we lived in Phoenix. In the spring and fall it was great. In winter the water was too cold, some people had gas-fired heaters. In summer it was too hot, it was like bath water, which wasn't much fun when the outside temperature is 110. After the sun went down you could get some relief from the heat by going swimming, but not while you were in the pool. It was only when you got out that you got any relief. The water evaporated into the dry air and cooled you off. This didn't work during the day time because any cooling effect was canceled by the sun was blasting you.

Lone Swimmer offers a cold water temperature scale for swimmers. He starts at 72°F and goes all the way down to freezing. At 50°F, the intervals drop to 1°. At 41°F a tenth of a degree becomes significant.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Trouble and Toast

Iaman goes to church, and reports to California Bob:
The talk/sermon this morning at the Cedar Park Texas Universalist church was on was on Trouble and Toast, referencing the coffee shop a couple blocks from your house.
The gist of the story is the Owner of the chain is a friendly schizophrenic tattooed woman who perfected the art of couch surfing for years between friends houses in SF, not having a place of her own. Wanting a place she set up a coffee maker and a toaster calling her  sidewalk cafe "Toast" "its not about coffee its about place and belonging to each other". It had a appeal, now people wait in long lines for $4 coffee and $4 cinnamon toast.
While I was couch surfing/squatting at your place  I tried to go there but was rebuffed by the long lines. i did not know the story then.
Small world. Some people like to travel. I used to, when I could drive. Now everyone is too busy to drive, so I fly.

Flic of the Day

Round Blue - created by Armand Dijcks in collaboration with Ray Collins

This image is a cinemagraph, though I am not sure how it is different from a GIF image. Iaman sent me a link, but the images on that page seem to suffer from tiny little hesitations that spoil the viewing.

Okay, so I published this post and when I looked at the result, the image was huge and it was suffering from the same sort of hesitation. I edited the html to put limits on it and now I'm not sure if there are hesitations or not.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Pic of the Day

1953 Buick Special waiting on the train
The composition of this photo is just great. It really puts you (me) in the scene. I stumbled over it while looking for something-er-other. I don't remember where I found it, and Google's image search wasn't much help. It might be a scene from the movie Emperor of the North, starring Earnest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. The movie was made in 1973 and is set during the great depression in Oregon.

Update hours later. I just realized that while it could be a scene from the movie, a 1953 car would be an anachronism.

The Internet Music Video Database

The Dandy Warhols - Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth

Some music videos are fabulous mini-movies. Some have only a single still image acting as a place holder. They aren't really videos at all. So I'm wondering who makes the fabulous ones, but there seems to be a dearth of information. But then it occurs to me that there ought to be an Internet Music Video Database out there somewhere. I mean we've got the Internet Movie Database, the Internet Movie Cars Database and the Internet Movie Firearms Database, we should have one for music videos, and, as it turns out, we do: The Internet Music Video Database

I've listed them all in the sidebar under the heading Online Tools.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pic of the Day

Svabard Satellite Station
SvalSat is a satellite communications facility in Norway. Svalbard is an island about 500 miles north of mainland Norway and about 750 miles from the North Pole.

Las Vegas

The man was seen standing in defiance (Picture: Shaun Hoff)
A distant relative died at the recent Las Vegas massacre, someone I did not even know existed until now. Family policy prevents me from naming her.

To my mind, we need to have guns on hand in case a real fascist government comes to power, or civil war, or something similarly unlikely. Keep them clean and oiled and take them out occasionally to make sure they work, but otherwise keep them locked up. If you are going places where you feel the need to carry a gun for protection, well, don't go there. I don't suppose that's a very helpful bit of advice.

I've been down the gun-control rat-hole before, and I'm not really interested in going down there again, but Roberta X has some cogent things to say, and so does Leah Libresco over at The Washington Post (Roberta provided that link).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"They told me that when I quit smoking, I'd get my sense of smell back. What they didn't tell me was how much of the world smelled like hobo piss." - View From The Porch

Sunday, October 1, 2017



I've been listening to several tunes from Ratatat, and this one might be okay, but it's the video here that caught my attention. It looks like they are using some kind of fluorescent tubes to produce low resolution, but very large, graphics, except I've never heard of anyone getting colors out of a fluorescent tube, and especially not a variety of colors all at once. It's like science fiction come to life, which seems to be happening more and more often these days.

Update 2 days later: This was bugging me, so I did some checking. The lights are strings of LED's enclosed in tubes.

Zig Zag

Aircraft leaving zig zag contrails over the Arecibo radio telescope
I came across this while I was mapping Big Antennas, and I wondered what could have caused the contrails to zig zag like that? Are there narrow bands of contrary winds blowing north and south? Is the plane following the conture of the ground while flying over hills? Neither of these explanations seemed likely.

Aircraft leaving straight contrails over the Arecibo radio telescope
Then it struck me that is was likely an artifact of Google's imaging program, and sure enough, change to the 3-D view, spin the orientation 180 degrees and tilt the view a little bit and those contrail lines straighten right out.


James Clapper, President's Trump envoy to North Korea
Iaman sent me the link to this clip. If I understand correctly, he picked out this four minute segment from an hour long press conference. There are some cogent bits in here, nothing we haven't heard before, but having it told by someone who has been there, and has some credibility, reassures me that we do understand the situation. Plus, he uses the word 'sycophants', which I don't think I have ever heard anyone pronounce.


Kohler Elliston Faucet
I don't know whether to be disappointed with how miserable this whole business of plumbing is, or whether to be impressed with how well it all works. Our kitchen faucet has been leaking for a couple of weeks. If you turn the handle just so, it stops, but that's a nuisance, and so is the dripping. It's basically a valve, and when it's off it should be off, not sort of off, or mostly off, except for just this little, tiny insignificant leak. Bah, double bah and humbug.

Delta ball valve
So Friday afternoon I set about fixing it. It shouldn't be a big deal, all I need to do it remove the handle, unscrew the  top ring, lift out the ball and replace the two little seals that actually do the sealing. I've worked on this faucet before, and in fact I have a complete new faucet that Delta sent me the last time I ran into trouble, so I shouldn't even need to run to the store. Hah, fat chance.

The handle is held in place with a set screw. I locate the correct Allen wrench and, grunt, it won't move. I apply an adjustable wrench to the Allen wrench to get more leverage, and the screw breaks loose, which is good, and it starts to turn, which is also good, but after a bit it becomes apparent that it is not unscrewing. It is just going around. Now, technically, one shouldn't need to completely remove the screw from the handle, loosening it a couple of turns should do the job.

Delta ball valve
But as I recall, the pin that the handle mounts to has a flat spot milled into it, and if you don't unscrew the set screw far enough it will impact the end of the pin that has not been milled flat and the handle won't come off. Simple solution is to simple remove the screw completely, that way you know that the screw is not going to interfere with the removal of the handle. Except the blamed thing won't come out. It just goes round and round. I suspect that what happened when I applied the adjustable wrench to the end of the Allen wrench is that the screw just ripped the threads loose from the body of diecast handle.  Well, poop. Maybe the screw is loose enough that we can pull the handle off. No, that is not the case. Applying a hook end of a crow bar with extreme prejudice produces no change in the status quo. The handle stays in place.

Well, like I said, I have another complete, brand new faucet. Replacing the faucet will be a pain, but cost free, and since it is the same make and model, it should be relatively problem free. Hah, double hah, and triple humbug.

Business end of Delta faucet showing evil, gray plastic plug.
I manage to get the faucet replaced without too much difficulty, but when I go to hook up the water lines I discover that there is a little gray, plastic plug in one of the lines. Why I didn't notice this before is one of those questions for the ages. In any case, it shouldn't be a big deal, it should just pop out. Except it won't, and none of my exhortations or conniving or cursing persuades it to move. Nothing for it but to pull the faucet back out and then when I have it lying on the bench I am able to apply my trusty Sears Craftsman Channellock, er, sorry, "arc joint", pliers and pry this evil spawn of the devil from its chosen abode and cast it into the abyss.

Reinstall the faucet and assemble the ball valve at the top, which for some reason was not assembled.  Put it together and turn on the water and the ball valve is leaking, not out of the faucet, but out of the top where no water should ever appear. Bah, bah blacksheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, I do, but it's all water logged.

I fiddled and fussed, but Saturday morning I finally decided I needed some new parts so I head down to Lowe's, but I can't get there. Someone has effed up on the road and traffic is massively snarled. I end up going to Freddie's and buying an off-brand seal replacement kit for $5, but by the time I've gotten home, I've written off trying to fix this faucet and decide to make another attempt to get to Lowe's and this time I buy a new, different faucet.

Well, of course it's different. We've had the Delta faucet for untold years. The last time I had a problem with it was nine ((9!) years ago. While it used to be you had a choice of maybe two or three faucets, there are now dozens, and since they are now fashion items (the plumbing department at Lowe's is called Fashion Bath), there are new models every year. I look over the selection and there are several models of several different makes. I need one that will mount in a single hole, so that eliminates the cheapest faucets. I want one with a chrome finish. I think our original faucet was white, and if you get something with an odd-ball (i.e. not chrome) finish, and something breaks you are going to have a hard time getting a part to match. This eliminates the most expensive models, which have some kind of brushed metallic finish. Besides, chrome goes with anything. So now I'm looking at the middle tier and there are several brands. Whether it's my own experience or the relentless advertising, the only ones I am comfortable with are Kohler and Delta, and I've just spent a bunch of time fighting with my Delta faucet, so let's get something different. It might not be any easier to work with, but it will at least be different, so to keep myself amused, I get the Kohler.

Steampunk Squid
When I open the box it is immediately obvious that the Kohler is different. Instead of short copper pipes protruding from the bottom like the Delta, there are a trio of long, black plastic hoses. Makes me think 'steampunk squid'. Both faucets are secured to the counter and sink by a brass nut that threads onto a big brass screw. Delta has threaded one of the three pipes emanating from the faucet. Kohler has threaded a big brass tube that encloses all three of the water tubes. In both cases the screw is about six inches longer than it needs to be (for my kitchen, maybe there are other counters where you need the longer screw) which means you get to spend a minute or so screwing the nut onto the shaft.

Master Plumber Ed Del Grande installs a Kohler kitchen faucet
The Kohler has a couple of screws that go through the ring (nut, photo above) that are to be tightened after you have the ring all the way up. This would not be a problem except that the screws turn easily in their holes, so easily that while I am spinning the ring up the big brass tube, one of the screws unscrews itself and falls out. Well, poop, that's annoying, but I should be able to screw the screw back into it's hole, except I can't. I am lying on my back under the sink and the ring is an arm's length away and I cannot get the screw lined up. I can get it started, but it is quickly apparent that it is not properly aligned and is now jammed. No help for it but to unscrew the ring so I can get it to a place where I can see what is happening. More fussing and fiddling but I get it done.

All that's left now is to connect the supply lines. The Kohler lines are equipped with fittings that connect directly to the shut off valves, so I need to remove the old supply lines, which is just as well as the hot water line was too short to connect to the new Delta and would have to have been replaced.  One of the shut off valves is leaking and I am thinking that once I make the connection it might still be leaking, but at least it will quit dripping, so I put a little more force on the wrench and it twists the tube, which crumples. Loosen it back a bit, put my channellocks on the ferrel and tighten it again. No help, the valve is still dripping. Now I realize that the valve is leaking around the stem, and not just through the valve seal. So over tightening the hose fitting was probably not a good idea. Let's hope I didn't do any permanent damage.

Keeney Shutoff Valve
The shutoff valves require a dozen or so turns to open or close. New ones are ball valves and only require a quarter turn. Replacing the shutoff valve requires turning off the water to the house. The valve to do that is twelve feet into a crawl space. I've been thinking about making an access hole in the wall so I could just reach in from the basement and turn it and since this is now day two I resolve to do something about it. I pick up an access panel from Lowe's, use an ice pick to mark the location from inside the crawl space, and then cut a hole in the drywall to mount the access door. Worked well, especially since the hole ended up being adjacent to massive storage shelves and not behind them.

Houses really should be designed that the plumbing connections are accessible from behind sinks instead of underneath, that way ordinary people could work on them. This might put a few plumbers out of work, but how many would it save from crippling injuries? The only people who should be doing this kind of work though are kids, who are flexible. Teenagers could probably handle it okay, it would be easy enough for grade school school kids and a piece of cake for babies. That's the ticket, plumbing companies need to make their fixtures so easy to install that babies could install them.

I got annoyed with the problems I was having on day one, so I cracked open a bottle of wine. Normally I will have a couple of glasses during happy hour, but by the time I had given up fighting with the faucet for the night I had finished the entire bottle. Usually when I exert myself on a strenuous mechanical repair project I will be sore and achy the next day. Did not happen this time. Oh, I had a bit of a hangover, but not debilitating, after all I was able to get the faucet installed, connected and working.

Oh yes, Delta has a lifetime warranty, and if I hopped on this problem when it first appeared, Delta would no doubt have sent me the replacement parts, no charge. But the problem is a couple of weeks old and it's time to fix it and $200 for a new faucet is cheap compared to the 500 or $1,000 that a plumber would charge.

Ratatat - Loud Pipes

Ratatat - Loud Pipes

Just something that popped up on YouTube that I really like.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Caravan Palace - Suzy

Caravan Palace - Suzy

I'm sitting outside, chilling, literally, and playing tunes on my laptop and this pops up. The tune and the video are both pretty great.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Radio Waves

Big Antennaes
I am always surprised when I come across a new-to-me giant radio antennae. You'd think I'd learn, but for some reason it is always a bit of a shock. This week's shocker is the Jim Creek Naval Radio Station, which is just north of Seattle, which puts it in my proverbial backyard. Why haven't I heard about this place before? Probably because I'm not hanging with the right crowd, i.e. the extreme radio conspiracy nuts. Well, I'm busy, there are just too many conspiracy theories running around loose out there for me to be able to keep track of them all.

Naval Radio Station Jim Creek

Jim Creek is a VLF station that is used for communicating with our submarines, which reminded me that I came across another one of these on the west coast of Australia a while back. That in turn prompted me to extract all of the radio antennaes I had recorded in my Big Science Map and make up the map you see above.

Talking to Jack at lunch the other day about my new discovery, he tells me that he had an old VLF war surplus receiver, which prompted to wonder if anyone was picking up these VLF signals.

Receiving VLF with PC and software only

Why, yes, there are a whole bunch of people playing with this, which isn't too surprising since all it takes is a PC and a sound card.

So now I'm wondering if anyone has been able to decrypt these signals. Rooting around I find that since the data rate is so low, the Navy sends out short code words, like five letters long, that stand for prearranged commands, like surface so we can talk to you, or serve mashed potatoes for dinner, or something. So even if you could decrypt these signals, you would still need the code book to interpret them, and then all you might learn is what's on tonight's menu.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Extreme Ridiculousness

TOYO TIRES | Ken Block’s Climbkhana: Pikes Peak Featuring the Hoonicorn V2

This has been sitting in my inbox for the last three days and I have been carefully avoiding it, but today I'm feeling a little weak and succumbed to the lure of the twin sirens of speed and power. I can't think of a more foolish waste of time and money, but I still watched the whole thing. You have to give Monsieur Block credit for finding a way to make money off of this nonsense. I mean, I hope he's making money, he certainly has enough commercial tie-ins to his hot rod empire.

People have been entranced by speed from the beginning (like a billion years ago, whenever the microbes first developed motility). If you are faster than the other guy / animal / entity you can escape their clutches -or- bring your clutches to bear, depending on whether you are the pursued or the pursuer. We'll leave out who which ones are good or bad, it all depends on your frame of reference and your allegiances. I know where my allegiances lie, or at least I think I do. How about you? Do you know where your allegiances lie?

Via Road & Track

Rules of Acquisition

Star Trek Ferengi Rules of Acquisition Actual Show Footage

I used to be a fan of Star Trek and some of its derivatives, and since Star Trek seems to be part and parcel of American Culture, I kind of thought that everyone knew about the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. A passing encounter with younger son disabused me of that notion. If he doesn't know about this, then how many other people out there in internet land are also ignorant of this cultural icon? So, this video.

Via Dustbury

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Me & Linux

I just spent an hour cleaning out old files on my Linux box.  Lately I had noticed that sometimes the web browser stalls while the hard disk is getting hammered. Looking in Files (the Linux file management program) I see that I have about 5 GB of space left. I have tried deleting some things, but it hasn't made a noticeable difference, I still had only about 5 GB of free space. I could have opened my Linux reference book and read up on the subject, but hey, we've got the internet, so I posted a question on the Linux Mint Forum and I quickly got several helpful responses, one of which included this bit of Linux weenie cryptography.
sudo du -chd1 / --exclude={proc,dev,sys,media,mnt,run,tmp,lost*,cdrom}
It's a command-line command, copy it (using normal browser controls)  and then paste it into a Terminal window (using special Terminal window controls) and I quickly have an overview of who's sucking up all the space. It's me, of course, and all the crap I have been dragging around with me every time I change computers. Changing directories (using the cd command) and repeated applications of
sudo du -chd1 .
(the dot means operate on the current directory) allows me to track down the biggest offender, which turned out to be about six levels down. Deleting a bunch of ancient crap makes me feel better, but it doesn't do anything for my bottom line, which still shows only 5 GB of disk space. (5 GB!?! Back in the day when I got started in this business we were lucky to have 10 MB.) Empty the trash, silly, and suddenly we have 30 GB of free space. That should be enough room to play with for a couple of months or so.

Now I'm looking at the forum and I realize my avatar is a blind snowman standing in front of a concrete wall. Not exactly putting my brand out there. We ought to do something about that, so I root around and find a copy of the image to upload, but the forum doesn't support uploading. They want a link to a photo that is already on the web. Well, I am the master of my internet browser, I should be able to deliver that, except I can't.

I try using the link to the avatar from this blog, but it goes nowhere. Stealing the link from the page source works, but the image is too big. I try uploading the photo to Google Drive, but it won't provide a link to the photo, but it will export it to Imgur, except it won't. So enough screwing around with these fancy web services that don't work, let's fall back to old reliable (sort of) Blogger, so that's how we come to have this post with the tiny little picture of me at the top.

Update 2 minutes later: using the link to the picture from this blog post worked!

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Dominik Sky - Human Flag on 360 meters (1181 feet) HD

I don't much care for videos of people engaging in foolish, dangerous actions. Plus they make my hands sweat. This guy is hanging off the top of the chimney at the Trbovlje Power Station in Slovenia, the tallest in Europe.

A high chimney was required for the site to ensure that emissions were removed from the deep, narrow valley under all weather conditions.
It's the tallest chimney in Europe, but not in the world. For that we have to go Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan.

Ekibastuz GRES-2 Power Station
Wikipedia link, photo is from Panarimo.
Kazakhstan is also home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, site of all our manned space flight launches.

My only encounter with a tall chimney happened a couple of years ago. And then there's Fred.

Name Height in Feet Year Built
GRES-2 Power Station, Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan 1377 1987
Trbovlje Chimney 1181 1976
Anaconda Smelter Stack 585 1919
India Mill Chimney (Fred) 279 1867

Video via Jack.

Russian Women Sniper Movies

BATTLE FOR SEVASTOPOL Trailer (OmeUT) - Meteor Film

Iaman found this movie to be captivating.
Battle for Sevastopol is a 2015 biographical war film about Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a young Soviet Ukrainian who joined the Red Army to fight the Nazi invasion of the USSR and became one of the deadliest snipers in World War II. - Wikipedia
Sevastopol is a major Russian naval base on the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea. In the actual conflict, the Soviets held off the Russians for six months but were eventually overrun with over 100,000 Soviet soldiers killed.

Famous Soviet woman sniper? Reminds me of this movie:

Enemy At The Gates - Trailer

Enemy at the Gates is a war film about the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942 and 1943. The main characters are Soviet snipers Vasily Zaytsev and Tania Chernova.

Quote of the Day

 Inside the Launch Control Center, personnel watch as the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 astronauts lifts off the launch pad on July 16, 1969. Image credit: NASA
I did well at North American. I was in the right place at the right time. We believed we could achieve anything, on any scale, if we worked hard enough, with our flow charts and schedules and critical paths. Why not? That was how we won the war, and how we managed Project Apollo. Four hundred thousand people, all across the country, all doing their tiny part - but all controlled from the center, all those resources pouring in, like building a mountain out of grains of sand, a huge mountain you could climb all the way to the moon. - Coalescent by Stephen Baxter, page 167.
Found this in a page of notes while I was digging through my hard drive this morning. Great stuff.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Race Truck

2017 F150 Ecoboost vs All
via Road & Track

When I was in high school, the Mustang something-er-other and the Camaro Z-28 were the kings of street drag racing, reaching 100 MPH in a quarter mile and doing it in 13 seconds. The Ford pickup truck in the video has had some work done to it, but not much. The four-wheel drive apparently lets it get off the line quicker than the rear-wheel drive cars, and drivers of some of those other cars may have been asleep at the wheel, but still. It's a flipping pickup truck, not a race car.

Ford V6 Engine with dual turbochargers
And the engine is like something out of Star Wars, or maybe Italy. All good pickup trucks, like mine, use large displacement, cast iron V8 engines. This Ford engine is tiny, aluminum, and turbocharged, and it doesn't have just one turbocharger, it has two! Ten years ago this was something wanna-be racers dreamed about, now it's the stock engine in a work-a-day pickup truck. The world is changing, and it's changing faster.

Ford / GM 10 speed automatic transmission
Having ten different gear ratios in a transmission sounds excessive to me, but I suppose there's a good reason for it. Maybe the gear guys are feeling pressure from the electric motor folks.

The current truck with the new, smaller engine and the aluminum body weighs 600 pounds less than the old iron monsters they were building just a couple years ago. (4,051 pounds vs. 4,685).

Friday, September 22, 2017

Old People, Young People

Age Distribution for the 10 Largest Countries
Normally I don't like GIF's, but this is one case that is suited to the stepwise, repetive format.


St. Mary's Trophy Race

Titanic touring car battle for the lead

Big time racing (like Formula 1, Indy Car's, NASCAR) doesn't do much for me. But these guys, duking it out in 50 year old iron, hey! Thanks the spirit!

Via Road & Track

P.S. YouTube has changed their embedding code so you no longer get a choice of sizes. Now if you want full VGA (640 pixels wide), you have to edit the HTML yourself. I've done that for the last few videos I've embedded, but it's getting old. And maybe 560 pixels, which is the new black, is enough. I mean YouTube ought to know what they're doing, right?

Vietnam War

US Navy Command and Communications Boat
There's a new series about the Vietnam War on PBS that promises to be worth watching. Coincidentally, the U.S. Navy has just released the ninth and last book in their series on their role in the war. Maybe we'll learn something.

Via Indy Tom.

Health Care Debate

Dialysis Machine
Because this blog is about things, and I'm not going to clutter it up with a bunch of yucky sick people.
The Detroit gang dropped a couple of links in my inbox this morning. First, a YouTube video: Jimmy Kimmel Fights Back Against Bill Cassidy, Lindsey Graham & Chris Christie, and second, a Washington Post story. I didn't watch or read either one, because:

This whole medical insurance debate is complete and utter horseshit. (Heh, my new catch phrase.) What we need is real information, but we're not getting it. It might be out there, but digging it out would be a lot of work, and why bother? Nobody in power is listening, they are all listening to each other trying to score political points by telling bullshit stories.

Our healthcare system is built on a fantasy, a fantasy that is carefully nurtured by everyone with a financial interest, like doctors, lawyers, insurance executives and media moguls. This fantasy has doctors curing all diseases, patients recovering fully and leading happy, productive lives. Oh, that happens occasionally, and for common afflictions that are well understood, it might even be the norm. But the more people you have, the more variation you have and the more obscure, inscrutable diseases show up. Life is a terminal disease. People spend their lives trying to be happy. They should spend their time getting ready to die.

Health care is a trillion dollar business in this country. All those people who are engaged in the debate over insurance are just trying to influence the trajectory of that money so that more of the random spray that emanates from such a powerful stream will land on them and make them rich. Because even a single droplet from that trillion dollar stream is worth a million bucks.

Since we don't have any facts (not that they would do us any good), here's a couple of stories.

A guy I know works as a dialysis nurse. He hooks up patients who are in need of dialysis to the machine and monitors the blood cleaning process. One Sunday he gets called in to run the procedure on a patient. The guy is old and in bad shape. He is swollen up like a whale. Joe (our nurse), hooks him up and runs the process for a while, but eventually the guys blood pressure starts falling and eventually it falls so much that he has to stop. The guy is still as big as a whale and still in bad shape, but he's done all he can do. Joe (all male nurses are named Joe, at least in this blog) estimates that the guy only has a few days to live, but his wife is demanding that the doctors do something. Like what, sweety? He's dying. Sad, but life is like that.

A couple of months ago a friend had gone into the hospital for some kind of test. The test involved anesthesia, so after the test we were waiting in a hospital ward for the anesthesia to wear off. While we are waiting a nurse starts talking to another patient (an elderly woman by the sound of it, they were obscured by drapes), getting her medical history, and in particular, a list of the drugs she is taking. So the patient starts telling the nurse all the drugs she is taking. It's not just one or two or even a dozen. I swear there must have been a zillion, she went on and on and on. When she gets near the end, she tells the nurse she is taking Oxycodone. And why are you taking that, asks the nurse? Because I'm addicted is the reply. WTF? I didn't think addiction was a valid medical reason to prescribe narcotics, but then I'm old. Maybe the rules have changed. Or maybe the old lady was just a garden variety addict and the rest of her story was just a cover she was selling in order to get more of that sweet, sweet oxy.

Update six hours later: Here's another story from one of my correspondents.
I don't think anecdotal stories move our knowledge base forward. That being said, my aunt, may she rest in peace, had a lousy rheumatologist. He prescribed so many bad meds to avoid operating on her arthritic knee that she developed serious health issues from the drugs. Ultimately at 80+ years old we had a big conference. The right solution was a morphine patch. She became an addict. We spoke daily and I could tell by her voice when the patch needed to be replaced and she was starting withdrawal. They tried taking her off to no avail. So for the last 15 years of her life she was a morphine addict. She still did volunteer work as a retired licensed clinical social worker. She still worked as a locally renowned stained glass artist, she still traveled, she still...  Looking at her life from the outside, one could wonder at and judge the medical interventions. But she had quality of life and wanted more until the day she called me and said she was ready. 
So the politicos are making a big fuss about the dangers of narcotics, but they aren't telling us the whole story. Meanwhile, here in Oregon simple possession of heroin is now a misdemeanor. Will this put a curb in the fentanyl trade?

On the left, a lethal dose of heroin; on the right, a lethal dose of fentanyl.
“Anyone who is so deep into their addiction that they would use fentanyl is not worried about jail.” - Jordana Goldlist

Csikszentmihalyi flowsters in Utah

Detroit Steve sent me this link this morning. It must have rubbed me the wrong way because I responded with this little diatribe.

I'm sorry, but I think it's complete and utter horseshit. Good for Wheal for extracting money from fools. And one or two people may actually benefit from his advice, but mostly it's just an excuse to go somewhere new and hang out with a bunch of other people with more money than brains. (Doesn't mean they aren't smart, just that they have more money than brains.)

Okay, I'm a curmudgeon and I woke up on the grumpy side of bed this morning. As for flow, it might be a real thing, and there are times when I am really in the groove and working out complicated problems, but it's mostly a matter of getting enough sleep and not getting distracted by bullshit, which can be difficult because there is a great deal of very entertaining bullshit floating around in our world.

I like to think I'm worth $1,000 an hour when I'm in good form. Unfortunately, that only happens a couple of hours a week, and this summer, thanks to a string of minor catastrophic disruptions, it has hardly happened at all.

See my post Neural Net, especially the last paragraph.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

North Korea

North Korea Missile Tests, so far this year
Seems like we've been hearing about North Korean missile tests forever. This website has got records that go back to 1984, which is 33 years ago. So North Korea has been doing this for a while, and they've launched a bunch of missiles. They used to be kind of a joke, their missiles blew up on the launch pad more often than not, and when they did get off the ground, they didn't go very far. In 1998 they launched one that went over Japan, and some people started paying attention.

North Korea, according to most of the rest of world, is seriously screwed up. But then I got to thinking.

We've been watching Ertugrul on Netflix, a soap opera about some 13th Century Turkish nomads (we're up to episode 30). The current story line has them migrating to some land that was granted them by the Emir Al Aziz of Aleppo. The Emir reneged on his promise, based on some rumors started by the evil Templars. So now our tribe is kind of in a jam. The Mongols pushing in from the East have forced them into country so barren that their livestock were starving to death. The Emir granted them a section of good land. It would be great except that it is between Aleppo and the Templars, so there is going be a constant state of conflict, but hey, they've got swords and they know how to use them. But now the Emir has revoked his grant and is threatening to exterminate the whole tribe if they don't pack up and move. Well, we just got here, we're not in the mood for moving, and you granted us this land, you can't be going back on your word, you lousy Indian giver.

In any case, they are prepared to fight the Emir's army, even though they are outnumbered ten to one. It may mean the death of their tribe, but at least they'll go down fighting.

Translate this viewpoint to North Korea and you can see how they could view themselves as the victims in the game of global domination. Okay, you would also need to be ignorant of the actual state of the world, but who are you going to believe? Western Imperialist Running Dog news services, or your faithful leader? And is it any different that what we have here? The news is like 99% garbage, and the 1% that might be of real concern is so fractured with competing spins it is really hard to tell what is true. Fortunately we have our own faithful leader. Which one is more trustworthy? Kim or Donald?

Missile website via Detroit Steve.