Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Friday, June 30, 2017

Same Old Song

Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve
 California Bob sees possible opportunity in the escalating chaos that is Syria.
To all militia members:
The US is involved in active warfare in Syria, supporting a "coalition" who is "fighting ISIS."  The coalition and the Syrian regime forces are engaging in increasingly frequent conflict -- which is odd because Syrian claims to be fighting ISIS as well.
So it seems the anti-ISIS coalition has anti-regime proclivities -- or at least the regime suspects it does.
Anyway, this situation is ripe to explode into a coalition-vs-regime fight, which would essentially be a US vs. Russia-Iran conflict.  This is a tailor-made, turn-key distraction operation, supported by historical enmity toward Russia-Iran, ready to be launched by an embattled executive.
Go long Raytheon?

 

Nicks First Day training at Camp.

Promotional Photo for camp Oopsie
Nick is my nephew, he lives in Iowa. Iaman relays this tale.
Nick hired on as a camp counselor / teenage wrangler at Camp Oopsie [name changed to protect the guilty].
He arrived for training but through a snafu, that wasn't available,  so he went to the kitchen to help out.
The dishes needed washing so he loads the dishwasher with the first load,  and the motor shorts out and burns.
Dealing with small fire,  that he sets to wash the 200 dishes by hands.
Wednesdays are cookout day,  the cooks day off.  except it starts to rain, hard.
Nick having cooked at HyVee, says "I can handle this"  and cooks 200 hamburgers for the starving kids.
They sit, they say their blessing, and......Tornado sirens go off,  drop your burgers and into the shelter, quick.
An hour there and the power goes off.
Then an all clear.
Raining like crazy, another tornado warning, back into the shelter for another hour,
Luckily somebody brought fruit chewy snacks.
Another all clear,  still raining,  the rivers flooding, so Nick goes and pulls the 12 canoes up the hill from the flooded bank.
Kids sheltering in the church building are frantic, there's a bat swooping inside, getting a tennis racket Nick sweeps the critter out into the black blowing night.
Leaving the kids in the care of the staff, Nick drives home at 11 PM through the storm.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Liquids

Water And Oil by Setsiri Silapasuwanchai
My stomach was a little queasy this morning, but I had several things to do. If all goes well I could wait and everything will fall into place, but that is unlikely to happen. So, first thing I drove to the ATM at the community credit union in downtown Hillsboro to deposit a check and get some cash. Then I went to Black Rock Coffee on TV Highway near Shute Park to get coffee (with cream) for Anne and myself. When I got home I sat down at my computer and mucked about while I drank my coffee. My stomach was still not happy and the delicious coffee pushed it over the edge and I vomited the coffee in the bathroom sink. It was unpleasant, but a quick urp and it was all over, not like when you've drunk too much or when you have the flu and you think you are going to die. I think the whole thing with my stomach is related to my toothache, my reduced food intake and the pain killers I have been taking. Rumor has it that the vagus nerve is the culprit.

Took Ross to First Tech FCU so he could get a money order to pay for the application fee to rent an apartment. The credit union doesn't sell money orders, all they offer is cashier's checks. Hopefully that will be good enough. When he was done there, I gave him a ride to the Max commuter train station adjacent to Intel's Hawthorne Farms campus on Cornell Road. On the way home I stopped at Costco to fill the tank on my pickup truck with gasoline. My stomach was still unhappy. I almost pulled over so I could puke in the roadside ditch, but I held it together. When I got home I had some oatmeal and jam and that seemed to help. Or maybe that was before. It's kind of a muddle.

Now Osmany has arrived to pick up the dresser. I take a 20 minute nap while he empties the dresser of the computer cables and parts that I had stored there into some cardboard boxes and loads the dresser into Anne's SUV. When he is done we drive to Accurate Auto get the oil changed in the Mazda. Turns out that a 2016 Mazda requires synthetic oil, which means an oil change costs $70 instead of $35. The recommended interval for oil changes has gone from 3500 miles to 7500 miles, which is good, but that still means an oil change twice a year, which is my standard for our other cars, which all use regular oil.

The deal with regular oil is that if your car is used in 'extreme service' it needs to have the oil changed every 3,000 miles, but for normal driving, the oil only needs to be changed every 6,000 miles. 'Extreme service' is funny in that it can mean either of two extremes: one, vehicle is mostly driven at high speeds with heavy loads, or two, it is hardly driven at all. The first one is kind of obvious, but the second one is kind of confusing. How can too little driving be extreme? The problem here is that if you only drive a mile or so at a time, the engine never warms up. I'm not quite sure exactly what the problem here is, but I suspect it is some kind of chemical thing. For instance, water is a by-product of combustion, so every time you start up a cold engine, a minuscule amount of water is going to get into the oil. If you drive the engine long enough for it to reach normal operating temperature, that water will be vaporized and the PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation system) will suck that water vapor out of the crankcase. If you never drive the car long enough for the engine to reach normal operating temperature, that water will remain in the crankcase and continue to accumulate. Water in the crankcase leads to the formation of acid which can eat away at things like bearings and rings and can lead to the engine wearing out prematurely. So if you don't want your engine to wear out early, you change the oil more often to remove the water.

I suspect that most people are not interested in that long winded explanation, and a smart service adviser is not going to inflict it on their customers, so they play it safe and recommend the 'extreme service' interval to all their customers. Since a car costs about $500 a month to operate, one extra oil change per year is only going to add about 1% to that bill. Not doing the extra oil change on a car that needs it will likely result in the car's engine lasting only half as long as normal. If we figure that replacing an engine costs about $3,000 and under normal conditions an engine should last 20 years, that means the engine costs about $150 per year. If it wears out twice as fast, it will cost $300 per year. So if you are going to keep your car, the extra $70 a year in oil changes is a pretty good investment.

But I don't know if the same recommendations regarding 'extreme service' apply to Mazda engines using synthetic oil. I should check. Actually, Osmany should check, but he has his hands full with managing his international family and making a living. Me, on the other hand, have no pressing demands, other than digging ditches, washing dishes, paying bills and driving to the pharmacy and the airport, I should be able to look into it.

When we get back from Accurate Auto, Rob and G (the lawn and landscape guys) are here. They've repaired the leaks in the irrigation system (that were caused when we were excavating to find the leak in the water main). We need to finish filling in the hole, and since we are here and the fiber optic line is almost fully exposed I'm thinking we need to armor it somehow to keep it from getting cut again. It happened once before and it was dang annoying being without internet for some days. I forget how many it was, not many, but I didn't like it, not one little bit.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pic of the Day

John Fredriksen & his twin daughters, Cecile (left) & Katherine (right).
This spectacular photo was in the WSJ today. John Fredriksen is the billionaire owner of the crude oil shipping company Frontline Ltd.  The continuing low price of crude is putting pressure on the shipping companies. The girls are being to groomed to take over from the old man and are in fact running a portion of his empire.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Toothache

I have a toothache. It started with a pain in my cheek last Thursday. At first I thought it was a tooth, but then I thought this feels a whole lot like sinus pain, which I am more than familiar with. But there was also a twinge coming from my lower jaw, just below the main pain.

I went to the dentist on Friday. They took a digital X-ray and photographed a suspect tooth with a very cool magic wand kind of camera. He looked and then he got out the cold probe, one of the nastiest pieces of equipment in the dentist's armory, and started testing teeth in the upper jaw. All of them reacted instantly to the cold, all except one which seemed to be completely immune. He left it the probe on long enough that I could feel the tooth getting cold, but I never felt any pain and I certainly did not get a sharp reaction like I did with the other teeth.

I left there with the problem unresolved. Maybe it's a tooth, maybe it's a sinus. If it's a tooth, he was confident that it would reveal itself shortly, and sure enough on Monday it did. I sat down to eat something and when I took a bite, Zingo! That smarts! It got so bad that by dinner time I was not able to eat even a single slice of pizza. Even by using only the other (left) side of my mouth, if the bad tooth even came in contact with the opposing tooth I would get an intense pain. And this is while I am taking 2 Naproxen every 12 hours.

I went to the dentist again today and she takes an X-ray and it looks like the sheath that covers the roots of the troublesome tooth has gone missing from the very tip of one root. The only solution is a root canal, which basically involves removing all of the living tissue from the inside of the tooth. I have an appointment with the specialist on Friday. Meanwhile I'm on a mostly liquid diet, though I did manage to eat a couple of slices of pizza this evening.

How did people manage in the bad old days, the days before we got real pain killers? Oh, just like now, because you can't get real pain killers any more because of some jackasses in congress stirring up shit for some kind of political game. My dentist won't even write prescriptions for real pain meds any more because of all the paperwork involved. I am really beginning to hate the government.

Maybe I need to make friends with my local pusher. Medical insurance won't cover the expense, but you can bet there won't be any bureaucratic bullshit.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Chicago Trains

Posthip Scott sent me this link to a story about an ancient railroad switch control system that is still in use. NBC has a pretty good video summary.

Metra’s 'tower' at the A2 interlock, built 1907.
Metra must be the new name for the Chicago Transit Authority

Switch control system, installed in the tower in 1932.
This machine was state of the art way back when. It's fiendishly complex and was no doubt custom built for this application. The company that made it made similar equipment for other railyards, but every configuration is unique. BroadwayLion has an explanation of how these things are operated (last post on the page).  I think the actual switching is done with pneumatics.


Small, gnarly portion of the railroad switches controlled by the Tower.


Beetle Juice

Betelgeuse captured by ALMA
Our first picture of a star. Up till now a star was only a pinprick of light. This image was captured by ALMA, which is more of a radio telescope, so this image was generated from a bunch of bits using mystical software written by gnomes. Still pretty cool. ESO story here.

ALMA is a big, as in billions big, project. I've posted about it before.

Via Detroit Steve.

Who's a smart doggy?

Donnie
I look at how Germany and Italy went fascist in the 1920s and 1930s — how two European democracies willingly committed suicide and became tyrannies. I look at how Augustus in ancient Rome claimed to have restored the Roman Republic when he had done nothing of the kind — he was just a military dictator. And so was every Caesar after him. - Judy Klass on Quora
Ms. Klass has a keen insight into what's going on with Trump. You should read the whole thing. Why? Because you are my minion, and yours is to do or die, not to ask a bunch of tom-fool questions.

Via Iaman

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sergeant Floyd

Sergeant Floyd' grave - George Catlin 1832
We're planning a trip to Sioux City for later this summer, so I'm looking around to see if there might be something worth seeing, and I stumble over this painting of a big hill covered with grass. I like big fields of green grass. The painter, George Catlin, famous for paintings of American Indians, was probably the only white man in the area. Sergeant Floyd was a member of the Lewis & Clark expedition and died en route in 1804. Sioux City wasn't founded until 1854. There is a monument on top of the hill now.


Paint It Black

My Linux Desktop
Linux pulled a fast one on me the other day, locked me out of my apps. It could be a bug, or it might be somebody's feature that I inadvertently activated with some random key combination. I started a discussion on the Linux Mint Forum to see if anyone knows what it could be. So far, nada.


Death

Murders in Chicago vs. American War Dead
Kind of puts things in perspective.
Via Bayou Renaissance Man

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Blast from the Past

1978 Air to air photo taken while training the Iranian Imperial Air Force before the fall of the Shah.
Previous post about the Iranian Tomcats.

Fat

Francis Bacon 1617
Gary Taubes, a science writer, has written an essay dissing a report from the American Heart Association. He opens with this quote:
The human understanding, once it has adopted opinions, either because they were already accepted and believed, or because it likes them, draws everything else to support and agree with them. And though it may meet a greater number and weight of contrary instances, it will, with great and harmful prejudice, ignore or condemn or exclude them by introducing some distinction, in order that the authority of those earlier assumptions may remain intact and unharmed. – Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620
He goes on at some length laying out just what is wrong with the AHA's report, but Frank's quote pretty much sums it up.

The AHA wants you to believe animal fats are bad for you and vegetable fats (oils) are good for you. Gary thinks their evidence has been cherry picked. I think the AHA is operating on a political mandate to get people to eat more vegetables and less beef, because that will cut their grocery bill and it will make it look like inflation is not as bad as it really is. But wait, they have already removed beef from the consumer price index calculations, so maybe that's not it. Maybe they just hate ranchers and pig farmers. I don't why that would be, but I will wager that big money is a factor.

Via Detroit Steve.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sherwood Auto Body

Sherwood Auto Body & Others
So I've been idling away dreaming about my Space Car and I thought I would go visit some shops that were in the business. Sherwood Auto Body was the closest, so this morning I paid them a visit. Restoring old classic cars is more a sideline for them. The manager did show me a photo of a '64 Thunderbird they are working on. New paint, new upholstery. Naturally enough he wants real money for it. Probably cheaper than buying one and doing the repairs piecemeal, but 25K is still a big chunk of change to lay out all at once.

1964 Ford Thunderbird
Not the Sherwood car, just so you can see what a 64 looks like.
Their main operation is collision repair and boy, are they busy. There are at least three other businesses in the building: an Aamco transmission shop, a Meineke muffler shop and one more that either does detailing or stereos. The first two, Aamco and Meineke, were dead. It didn't look like they were even alive. There were a few cars parked at the sound shop, but the body shopped was jammed. It was even worse than what is shown in the photo above.

Makes me wonder how the Meineke and Aamco shops survive. I wonder if the franchisees are happy with their investment.

Google Mars

Mars
Google Earth has expanded to include the Moon and Mars. Via Detroit Steve.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

H2O

LaCroix Flavored Soda Water
We go through a case (24 cans) of soda water a week. Freddies usually has three or fours flavors of their house brand and it suits us very well, but lately they seem to have trouble keeping it in stock. Today when I went to the store they were completely sold out of the house (Kroger) brand. The rest of the soda aisle was full up on soda pop (Coke, Pepsi, et al), but the short section devoted to the house brand of flavored soda water was empty. Just opposite was La Croix, on sale for $2.50 for an 8-pack, which is within spitting distance of the $3 for 12 of Freddie's brand, so I picked some up.

Recently, the State of Oregon raised the bottle and can deposit from a nickel to a dime. Ten cents times 48 cans is almost $5, $5 once every two weeks is like $125 for the year. $125 is not to be sneezed at, unless you have to spend 125 hours jumping through hoops to get your money back. Not to mention that most stores will only pay out something like a buck and a half on each visit, so it's not like you can save them up and do 'em all at once.

Since I throw the cans in the recycling, the price of an ice cold can of soda water has gone from 30 cents to 35. Still much cheaper than beer, which is usually about a buck a bottle.


John Lennon for President


The Beatles - Revolution

I quit listening to the Beatles many years ago. Oh, i thought they were great when they first came out but after ten or twenty years I think I got kind of burned out on them. When John Lennon got killed, that kind of put a nail in that coffin. Or may it was just a coincidence (Lennon dying and my getting burned out on Beatles songs).

Then this one just popped up on YouTube and I am thinking this might be the perfect antidote to the rabid, foaming crazies trying to make a name for themselves on the streets and campuses these days.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Labor Saving Devices

Pansonic Vaccum Cleaners. MC-6210 (left) & MC-6220 (right).
We have a Panasonic vacuum cleaner that we bought shortly after we got married. It has served us well for many years. Recently though, it has started eating belts. The last pair lasted about a month. Since the first pair of belts lasted nigh on ten years, I can only conclude that cheap knockoffs have entered the supply chain. Also, the belts I have been buying recently have not been coming in genuine Panasonic packaging. Criminently.

Genuine Panasonic belts in Genuine Panasonic packaging.
Sears is the only place where I could find them. Their picture is illegible. The site that this picture came from didn't have any.


Speakers, Part 2

Driver's door complete, passenger door was much quicker and easier. Imagine that, once you have figured out what needs to be done, doing it again is a piece of cake. Only thing is I forgot to write down how the speaker wires are connected. If they both end up being connected the same way, then they should be in phase. If not, they will be out of phase. I wonder if I will be able to tell? Another thing: the locking tab on the speaker connector has to be pulled up, not pushed down like all the other connectors.

Now I look at the speakers in the back and, shit, this looks like a huge pain in the ass. There are no screws in evidence, except for the seat belt bolts. Google turns up Club Cab Rear Speaker Install, that gives me a couple of clues, like just pull on the back panel above the rear seat backrest and it will come off. It takes some forceful tugging, but it does indeed come loose. That gives us access to two (2!) Philips head screws that hold the side panel on. The screws come out but the panel is still firmly installed. More forceful tugging separates it from the truck. 

At least one big fat Torx screw that holds the front seat belt needs to be removed. I used a socket that I bought a zillion years ago when I did the brakes on my 1989 Chevy Celebrity. I knew I needed a big one, but I didn't know which size so I bought four. The one I needed now was still in it's shrink wrap packaging. I had never needed it before.

Once the panel is off you are home free, so to speak. The speaker is revealed and it's fairly straight forward to replace it. The hole is just slight smaller than the speaker, so if you center it, the holes for the mounting screws will intersect the speaker hole, so I offset it just a tad, maybe an eighth of an inch, and I only used 3 of the 4 screw holes. The screw hole at the bottom edge of the speaker missed the sheet metal completely, but the edge of the speaker caught the edge of the hole, so it's mounted good and solid, though not mathematically perfect. I sealed the speakers to the body with some old silicon bathroom caulk I had lying around. It shouldn't make any difference, Dodge didn't make much effort to seal off these speakers.

Putting the side panels back was a colossal pain. There are a bunch of places that need to be engaged. Some of them just slide together, but some will only go together if you hold your mouth right, and that takes some doing. But I eventually got all the little hooks and whatnot engaged and got the panels back in. Only problem was the plastic pushpin on upper rear of the drivers side panel. That one did not want to go. Get it all lined up and push and it folds over. I eventually lost it down one of the holes in the body and decided to just leave it. Now that everything is done there doesn't seem to be any difference between the drivers side, which is missing a pin, and the passenger side, which isn't.

Curious thing is I was only able to work on this project for about an hour at a time before I was tired out and needed a break. The work wasn't that hard, not like breaking rocks in the hot sun. I think it was because I was using muscles I normally don't use, and contorting myself into positions I don't get into.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Harz versus Hartz

Harzer Roller
Stu takes his motorsickle on a tour of the Harz mountains. Harz? That sounds a whole lot like Hartz. Did Stu make an error? No, Harz (without a t) is the name of the mountains. Hartz (with a t) is the name of the pet product company, but there is a connection.
Hartz Mountain Corporation was founded by two guys who emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1926 with five thousand (!!!) singing canaries. - paraphrased from Wikipedia
The Harz Roller is a breed of domestic canary bred in the Upper Harz mountains of Germany. The birds were bred in the middle of the 19th century and achieved European-wide fame. 
With patience a breed of canary was produced that had a very pleasant, melodious song, full of variety and delivered with an apparently closed beak. In the second half of the 19th century the breeding and sale of these canaries boomed. 
The birds were used as a warning system to indicate the presence of poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide and low levels of oxygen in the surrounding air. Canaries were especially good for this purpose as, unlike finches, doves and mice, they reacted very quickly to carbon monoxide. While a mouse would not have a noticeable reaction until after up to 70 minutes to a carbon monoxide concentration of 0.77 % in the air, a canary will fall off its perch after as little as 2.5 minutes from a concentration of 0.29 %. For this reason canaries were not only used in normal operations, but especially to protect rescue units in the case of an accident. - paraphrased from Wikipedia
I looked for a YouTube video of a singing canary, but I didn't find one I liked. The ones I listened to didn't sound very melodious or pleasant, but maybe that's just a limitation of YouTube.



Be Proud


Stolen from Bayou Renaissance Man.

Leak

Rob, G, and excavator man having fun with dirt. And roots. Mostly roots.
A neighbor noticed a small stream of water running down the gutter that seemed to be coming from my neighbor's house. A little investigating revealed that an area of about 10 to 20 square yards of ground was thoroughly saturated, but no obvious evidence of the source. There had been a tree on my side of the line, not too far from the meter, and adjacent to a an irrigation control box, which it had crushed to unusable. Since my portion of the area had so many suspects, I decided we would excavate to remove the problems (roots, old, unused pipes and fittings). Once we had done that we should have a better view of the situation and might be able to find the leak, and this indeed proved to be the case.

The Culprit
Note the cracks in the flats just below the threaded portion.
Once the trackhoe had pulled out the bulk of the roots, it didn't take too much more work to uncover the leak, which turned out to be this plastic fitting that connects the plastic water line running to the house to the copper line coming from the meter. It appears that after the line was connected, either someone stepped on the line, or poorly packed earth settled and pushed the line down. In any case, it put a strain on this fitting, and after 20 years it finally cracked.


Changing Buckets on the Yanmar Mini Excavator

Excavator man brought three buckets with him. He changed buckets a couple of times. I was surprised how quick he was, but then I thought he had been pushing and pulling pins. It wasn't until he was packing up to leave that I saw that the machine has a clamp on the end that engages two pins on the bucket, making changing buckets quick and easy.

This whole project is probably going to run between $500 and $1000.

The Japan Tour

 A large-scale model of greater Tokyo region constructed in Los Angeles, California. To gain a sense of the scale, note the two men standing to the right. Source: Library of Congress, Henry Arnold Papers, Box/Reel 57.
I'm reading Joseph Kanon's Stardust. It's set in the period immediately after WW2. Our hero is charged with putting together a movie from a bunch of film shot by the Army in German, mostly pretty horrific stuff. He gets shunted to a movie studio in Hollywood that is cooperating in this endeavor. When he shows up, they give our hero "the Japan Tour". Naturally everyone (that would be me, the reader, and our hero) is wondering just what this is. It turns out the studio had built a large scale terrain model of Japan so the Army Air Corps could use it to train pilots for bombing missions. Mentioning this, and being so specific about it makes me think that there really was such a thing, so I started looking. Took me an hour, and I only found this one picture.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mazda Insurance

2016 Mazda 3 Sedan
My daughter and I went to Miami a couple of weeks ago. She was planning on attending school there, so we were getting her established with a place to live and a car to get around. We found a 2016 Mazda 3 sedan at a small shop on the southern edge of the city for $11,000. I thought this was a heck of deal, as a visit to a dealer had turned up one similar car for $20,000.

Although it looks like an obvious deal, there is a caveat. The car we bought had been in a front end collision, had been written off by the insurance company as a total loss, and then repaired by the small shop, so the title is 'branded', and there is even a sticker on the door frame that says 'rebuilt'. But the car looks good and it drove fine, so we bought it.

When my daughter's plans for school collapsed, we had to decide what to do with the car. We could have tried to sell it, but given that we were trying to get out of town, that didn't seem like a good idea. We could have shipped it back to Oregon at a cost of  $1,600. Since this debacle had already cost us a small fortune, I was loath to rub salt in my wounds. Eventually, we decided that my daughter and her husband would drive the car to Oregon. They took a week and they got to see the country, all 3,000 miles of it. Gas was $200, motels were $1000. If you add it all up (airfare, lost wages from time off of work), I am sure shipping the car would have been cheaper, but the experience of The Great American Road Trip has to count for something. Just glad that my pockets were deep enough to afford them this experience.

The car made the trip without any problems, so I expect it will probably serve us well for many years to come. Now something may come up that will cost a couple of thousand dollars to get fixed, but we did save nine grand on the purchase price, so even should a small disaster strike, we should be ahead of the game. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, just in case.

When we were buying this car we talked to the proprietor. Seems that rebuilding cars is what they do. They buy late model Mazdas (and only Mazdas) that have been in front end collisions and written off as totaled by the insurance company. They repair the damage and then resell the cars. The curious thing is that some of these cars may only have $1,000 worth of damage. Now maybe she was exaggerating, or maybe that was just how much the parts cost, but still you get the idea that there is something funny going on here.

I think I have figured out that is. I don't know, but I suspect, that classifying a car as Totaled frees the manufacturer from the obligations of their warranty. Now a large percentage of new-car buyers will take good care of their cars, drive them conservatively and see that the required maintenance is performed in a timely function. After all, buying a car requires a considerable financial investment. On the other hand, I suspect there is also a large percentage of people who don't do any of these things. They drive with wild abandon, never bother with maintenance and don't even think about the car until it won't start. Then they call the dealer and scream out their frustration.

If all car buyers belonged to the proper, conservative, first group, then the manufacturer would probably not need to set aside more than $100 for each car for warranty work. But the devil-may-care bunch in second group could cause the manufacturer to set aside several thousand dollars to deal with their warranty claims.

I can think of no other reason to explain why the insurance companies would declare a vehicle with so little damage to be totalled.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Software Development

There was a story in the local paper the other day about how the state government's latest foray into medical insurance / records software was going down in flames. This is on top of the previous debacle that consuming umpteen zilllion dollars. Then I have this email conversation:

Iaman reports:
I am working in Medical Health Care Software now and being a VA medical user I appreciate the VA system, which is open source, 65% of USA MDs have learned on Vista.
I am procrastinating researching/writing a QMS Software Development operations manual, got a spare one kicking around?
Pergelator:
Software development is pretty nebulous. First you need an idea of what you want the software to do. Then you write up a plan on how you might accomplish this. Usually this involves breaking the project up into pieces. Then you need to define the interfaces between the various pieces, specify which existing libraries you will need (commercial or open source). Then you need some general idea of how each piece is supposed to work, then it comes down to nuts and bolts, writing, testing and debugging code.
It's a complete fantasy built on hype. Writing a QMS plan for software development is like writing one for a successful novel, and no one has accomplished that.
Iaman:
Well. I'm picking up that gauntlet you have thrown down.  I shall write the great American QMS Software Development Operations Manual (QMSSDOM)...aka Quasimodo BY week's end.
Uniberp:
Remember: there are 2 types of documentation:
1. Out of date.
2. Just plain wrong.
"LAST TRANSMISSION FROM COMMANDER BOWMAN: 'MY GOD, IT'S FULL OF STARS.'"
Andrew Pergiel:
I need a exit strategy to move into a less neurotic company.
Pergelator:
The Chinese use the same word for crisis and opportunity. Maybe the company hasn't reached crisis conditions yet, but if conditions are like what you tell me, and they are supposed to deliver in 3 months, then that time is fast approaching.
From what you tell me it seems like the outfit has no plan, no direction and no leader. There might be somebody in charge, but he is not leading the pack in a useful direction.
Exit strategy? Look for a new job, maybe? Why does this require a strategy?
Seems like there might be opportunity where you are. I mean, someone has sunk a bunch of money into this project and you'd think they would want to salvage their investment, if they could. If, on the other hand, they are burning US Government grant money, then maybe they are achieving their goal of siphoning off the top 50%. In that case total collapse is what they want. That way no one asks for the money back. See The Producers.
On the other hand (the third hand, the gripping hand), you might be fast approaching the end. Somebody may have sunk a bunch of money into this project, but if it fails to deliver they may just pull the plug and write it off as a loss.
If this a real company, meaning not funded by the gov't, I think there is opportunity here for you to step up and lead.
California Bob:
I took a job at Dogbutt Products (not their real name).  Within 2 weeks I determined I was not going to like working for the officious bint who was supervising me.  My exit strategy was to send an email saying I wouldn't be coming in anymore, and to forward my last check.  And then I went to Burger King.


The Great Loop

America's Great Loop
Uniberp starts us off with a quote from Capt John's Cruising America's Great Loop:
"I'm currently cruising in a 36'  sailboat in which I "motor around" the entire Loop averaging 7 knots, burning 900 gallons of fuel which takes me around a 6,300 mile Loop safely and very comfortably."
The Great Loop uses the Intracoastal Waterway along the East and Gulf Coasts, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River and various and sundry canals.


Iaman responds:
My first thought was "all the course corrections, yikes, glued to the helm for months".
2nd was what was there in those river towns that was worth seeing?

I chime in:
People are designed to process a continuous stream of high resolution video data. Well, maybe not designed, but our design is certainly optimized for it. That's why people like running, driving, watching TV and playing video games, it gives their visual cortex something to do, and a busy visual cortex is a happy visual cortex.
Plus Captain John has a goal, which can be a great motivator.
I question his use of a sailboat, but maybe the hull design makes it more fuel efficient?
6,300 miles divided by 900 gallons comes out to 7 miles per gallon. At 7 knots that is like one gallon per hour.

Uniberp responds:
The human eye is effectively a 600 megapixel camera. And that is not even full field.
They've got a long way to go before they satisfy me more than a flat horizon.
Notes on the Resolution and Other Details of the Human Eye
From an email conversation.




Friday, June 16, 2017

Levee


Led Zeppelin When The Levee Breaks by Zepparella

This tune popped up YouTube again. I first came across it a couple of years ago. I still like the tune, and the girls. But the reason I am posting it now is because of the line about "how praying won't do you no good", which strikes me as coming from someone with a very scientifical world-view, not like The Who who put such store in a couple of mystics that they named one of their songs after them.


The Who - Baba O'Riley

This song is more commonly known as Teenage Wasteland. It wasn't until today that I learned the actual name of the song is Baba O'Riley. I like the song, and mysticism is okay as long as you don't push it too far, which is what the radical Islamic jihadists have done. Of course, you can push the scientifical view too far as well, which is how we got an enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons and superfund toxic waste dumps, among other things.


Speakers

Pyle PL63BL 6.5-Inch 360-Watt 3-Way Speakers (Pair)
Before I get started on building my dream car, let's see if we can make a minor repair to my truck. It came with a semi-fancy audio system from the factory, meaning 4 regular speakers and a couple of tweeters. A few years ago I let younger son borrow it and when they came back the speakers were blown. Sure, it could have been age and normal wear and tear, but when there is a teenage boy involved, well, you figure it out.

The blown speakers make the radio pretty much unlistenable, and since I'm still driving across town a couple of times a week, not having any tunes was kind of a bummer. The trip to Miami and my Thunderbird fantasy finally pushed me over the edge and I decided to do something about it.

I could have taken it to an audio shop, but it probably would have cost a minimum of a couple of hundred bucks, and being easily suggestible I probably would have opted for the upgrade which would have been another hunert bucks. But I'm in cheapskate mode and I'm trying to fix things around the house, so let's see if we do this our own self.

The easiest solution would have been to buy the original speakers. That way they would bolt right in and the electrical connectors would plug right it in and the whole installation would be easy-peasy. But OEM speakers are a little hard to find (maybe they have them in stock and maybe this listing was posted 15 years ago and nobody has bothered to update it since) and a little expensive (like $50 each). Okay, we'll buy generic speakers and suffer the hassles that every kid who ever upgraded the speakers in his car suffered.

I finally got started on this project this afternoon and it was fraught with all the pain-in-the-neck hassles that I expected. I started with the drivers door and the first thing is to pull off the inner door panel. There are five screws, three Philips head and two Torx. Pull those out and now you can lift the panel and pull it loose from the door. Except not really because of all the wires and the door handle latch. The door handle (in the inner door panel) connects to the latch (in the door) through a steel rod about an an eighth of an inch in diameter (1/8"). The rod has a right angle bend on the end that goes through a hole in the end of the door handle lever. It is held in place by a clever little plastic clip. All you need to do is unclip this clip from the rod and the rod will come free. Dang, it's a tough little clip, but with some forceful finger action I persuade it to let go and our last mechanical connection comes free.

Now all we have are the wires, and there is more than one. I can't remember how many exactly, but they are all these modern plastic connectors with a latch that you press to release before you can pull them apart. That all went fine until I got to the power window / door lock connector, which has like a dozen wires. Cannot see how this one comes apart. Google provides a clue: remove the switch from the door panel first. At the top of the switch there is a little metal spring clip (this in on the inside of the door panel). Using a screwdriver I was able to push it down which allowed me to pull the switch from the panel. At first I thought it was one of those nasty spring jaws where you push the switch into the panel and the spring clip is like the inward facing teeth on a shark: they grab hold and let you go farther in, but you cannot pull back. But actually it's not. It's part of the switch, not the door panel. Pushing the switch into the panel causes the spring clip to compress, but once the switch is in place it pops up, locking the switch into position.

Now we have the door lock switch hanging loose and we can get a good look at the connector, and there, on the door panel side, where we couldn't see it before, is the locking tab! I use a medium size set of Channel-lock pliers to squeeze the release tab, grip the connector and pull it loose from the switch. We finally have the panel free of the door. Glory Hallelujah!

When I take door panel off, a sound insulating pad falls off on the floor. That is going to have to be glued back in place. Do I have a suitable glue? I root around and finally find a can of contact cement that I used on a kitchen table project 25 years ago. It is still at least semi-liquid, so it might work, if it doesn't eat the door panel. I put a dab on the panel and on the pad. We shall see.

Anyway, we are finally where we can think about replacing the speaker. It looks simple enough, there are three big Philips head screws holding it to the door but taking them out does nothing. The speaker is still firmly mounted to the door. Using my pocket knife and a screwdriver, I pry it loose. More screwdriver work and I pry the speaker loose from the plastic spacer that holds it half an inch from the door. Everything is sealed: the spacer is sealed to the door, the speaker is sealed to the spacer, the grill is sealed to the speaker, and there is some kind of cushion that seals the grill to the door panel. Geez, they sure went to a lot of trouble to seal all this up. Is it worthwhile or necessary? Somebody sure thought so. Maybe we should try to replicate all this sealing.

Meanwhile there is the electrical connector. The factory speakers have a factory connector that mates with a connector on the wiring harness. My economy speakers don't have this. Splices will have to made. Perhaps I can salvage the connectors from the original speakers, that way I can make up a pigtail that will plug into the existing wiring harness, which means I won't have to be soldering stuff while sitting on the floor in the garage. Getting the connector loose from the speaker is not too tough since the speaker is shot and we can pull the cone back so we can access the lock tab that holds the connector in place. Desolder the wires and the connector is free.

Now all I need to do is:

  • make up a pigtail,
  • glue the pad to the door
  • glue the spacer and the grill to the speaker. Probably ought to screw the speaker to the spacer.
  • screw our glorious speaker assemble to the door, and
  • mount the door panel.
Then I get to repeat for the other door. And the back seat speakers. Happy Father's Day.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thunderbird

1961 FORD THUNDERBIRD CUSTOM 2 DOOR COUPE
Our trip to Miami was very distressing, so much so that my whole world view was disrupted, and so I started looking around for something to focus on and when an old Ford Thunderbird slid across my vision I said "that's it!". When I was a kid and these things were new, I thought they were pretty ridiculous, heavy and expensive, with a bunch of useless gimcracks that were going to break the second time someone tried to use them. But that was then, but now I am older and little bit mellower, these cars had some style and now they aren't very expensive. I think you can probably buy a good running example for around five grand. The eye-catcher above, which has had a bunch of work done to it, sold at auction a couple of years ago for  $27,500, which is about what a new econo-box runs.

They are heavy, something over 4,000 pounds, which is about as much as my pickup truck weighs. And being as it is a 'personal luxury car' you know it has a big, powerful motor. The performance numbers might not impress anyone who cares about stuff like that (like every car-crazed teenager), but you can bet it will give you a thrill when you put your foot down.

If I were to actually buy one of these things, it would have to meet certain criteria:
  • It needs to look sharp, no rust, dents or other damage. 
  • Everything needs to work, mechanical and electrical.
But it doesn't have to be original. I've never quite understood the obsession that drives some people in that direction. I suppose it's nice to have an original stored away somewhere, just in case anyone wants to check something, but I can't imagine actually wanting to own something like that. Not being concerned with keeping everything original means I can use radial tires, and if I wanted to replace the carburetor with Electronic Fuel Injection, I could.
Now it wouldn't have to meet all the criteria right away, these things can be fixed, all it takes is time and money, and some specialized repairs require large quantities of money. But I could buy a cheap one and get the broken bits fixed one at a time, so the expense would be spread out and I wouldn't have to come up with all of the money at once.

Barbeque

Americana The Swinger
I'm not much for cooking. I can do it, but I have no particular interest in it. A cheeseburger is my standard go-to fare, and you can get one of those just about anywhere. Occasionally, for the sake of variety, I will get a plate of enchiladas or spaghetti or something even more exotic, like a submarine sandwich, but all in all, my tastes are pretty pedestrian.

Then I got married and now we are trying to save money so we're cooking at home, or rather my wife is cooking. Except we were living in Arizona so we don't want to use the oven any more than we have to, and my wife doesn't like having anything to do with meat (except eat it), so I get to grill the meat on our charcoal grill.

Our first grill was one of the ubiquitous clam-shells, stamped out of sheet steel, that you see at every big box retailer (very similar to the photo above except the lid was a faded, rusty green). It was kind of chintzy with these flimsy aluminum legs, but it worked very well for a very long time. We got it because my wife's roommate was on the verge of throwing it out and I said 'No!, I'll take it'. Being steel, residing out-of-doors and subjected alternately to blazing heat and drenching rain, it eventually gave up the ghost.

Weber Kettle Charcoal Grill
Fortuitously, the neighbors were having a garage sale where I picked up a Weber Kettle grill for $5 (like above, but blue). It worked well enough, except that the grill was too far above the fire grate. That may have worked well for people who wanted to slow cook their meat, but I've got no patience for that. I'm gonna throw on some steaks or hamburgers for ten to twenty minutes and then eat. This means that in order to get enough heat to cook quickly, I either have to heap up a big heap of charcoal, or wait for 30 minutes or so for the charcoal to get good and hot. I made it work for a number of years, but eventually I called bullshit,

Master Forge Propane Gas Grill
and went out and bought a gas grill. I mean, middle America can't be wrong, can they? These things are the standard by which the good life is measured, right? I immediately started regretting my purchase. You see, when you cook meat on a grill, the fat liquefies and drips down onto the hot stuff down below where it bursts into flame. If these flames are left unchecked, they will incinerate your meat and you will be left with nothing but potatoes, salad and charcoal for dinner. So you need to stop these flames. With gas grills there are two methods of doing this. You can stand there with a squirt gun and shoot out the flames whenever they appear, which is fun for about five minutes, after which it becomes a chore and you find yourself wishing for a bigger squirt gun, but why do we need a squirt gun at all? We just paid good money for this machine that is supposed to be the very pinnacle of cooking technology. The other method is to trim the fat off of the meat before you put it on the grill.

Now some people like to cook, like to handle knives, like to chop things up, but I ain't one of 'em. Besides, I paid good money for that fat, fat is an essential part of your diet, and the fat needs to be cooked, just like the meat. I'm going to eat it, and if I can't cook it on the grill, what good is the grill?

Now we come to the essential difference between a charcoal grill and a propane grill. You can restrict the air flow on a charcoal grill. Closing the lid and air vents when you are done cooking is how you 'turn it off' when you are done. While you are cooking, you can close the lid and open the vents and the fire will get enough air to burn, but there won't be enough air to support those burning-fat-conflagrations that are so damaging to your food supply.

Gas grills are wide open and have no air control because the last thing you want with a flammable vapor is an enclosed container, well, unless you are a cast iron, internal combustion engine, but I don't know anybody who uses their car's engine to cook.

So I wanted a better grill, one that:

  • burned charcoal
  • has a lid and 
  • vents for air control and
  • the grill height can be adjusted.
I looked and I looked and the American Swinger (shown at the top) is the only one I found that met all my criteria.

I would have also liked to have a built in ash receptacle that would hold an entire seasons worth of charcoal ash, but I could not find one.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

How do I hate thee, Apple?


iPad Pro — So many things to love — Apple

Let me count the ways. Don't you just love teenagers?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Clowns Playing Music


die ärzte - M&F (Performance)

Or maybe it's musicians clowning around. I like the tune and the video is pretty funny. I think the language is German.

Rio Tinto Arizona Copper Mine


Inside the Resolution Copper Mine, 1.3 Miles Underground

Story in the WSJ prompted me to look into this. The temperature at the bottom of the mine shaft is 180 degrees Fahrenheit, too hot for people to survive, much less work, but they've got people down there, so I want to see what their air conditioners look like, and I want to see their electric bill.

Didn't find much about the A/C used here, but Carrier air conditioned the nearby Magma mine back in 1937:

Dr. Willlis H. Carrier, whose invention of air conditioning dates back to July 17, 1902, is shown (at center) with the machine which made large-scale air conditioning feasible - the centrifugal refrigerating machine.

The Problem with Communism

Beach front bunker in Albania
or any kind of dictatorship is when you get a very stupid and/or crazy man at the top of the heap and the entire country invests huge amounts of time and energy in projects that have no material benefit, like covering the entire country with bunkers, like they did in Albania.

Via Posthip Scott.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Noisli

Noisli
From Iaman:

I'm sitting in my cube listening to the thunder as the waves lap and the stream trickles.
I forget if I sent you this background noise link, it saves my sanity here is cube-ville.

Weird, man.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Out on the fringes.

My trip to Miami was a frigging disaster. It was expensive and we accomplished nothing. As a bonus, I got sick, which was depressing on top of depressing. No wonder I'm depressed.

I bought an airline ticket using my VISA card. I rented a car, a hotel room and a condo for a week with no problem. But when we went to Target, both of my VISA cards were rejected. Chase sent me an email asking me to verify my existence, but it had no effect. It was only after dutiful daughter spent an hour on the phone were we able to get me reinstated as a good corporate citizen.

We went to Walgreens to buy a Tracfone, because nobody has landlines any more and a phone could come in handy. Walgreens didn't have any Tracfones, but they had a Verizon flip phone for $7, which sounds like a deal until you have to buy some airtime and the smallest increment they have is $15, which isn't really enough to actually get your phone turned on. For that you need to spend another $30. So I spent $50 to make maybe two dozen phone calls.

The car rental kiosks are a good mile from the airport terminal. They have carpeted halls, slidewalks and a train. Kind of a pain when you are hauling 200+ pounds of luggage. Yes, we rented a cart for $5. Finally get to the car and they have upgraded us to a full size SUV, a Chevrolet Tahoe. What a beast. It feels like you are encased in six layers of armor, and in between adjacent layers of armor there is a layer of rubber, so every little bump sets up sixteen different harmonic vibrations. It had more jiggles than a go-go dancer.

This week I'm home trying to fix some broken stuff. I order a new Liftmaster wireless keypad for the garage door from Amazon. It's the same brand as the receiver we use, but will the two play together? They will not. What does Liftmaster have to say? Nothing. Sent the keypad back, cost me $7. What happened to free returns? Me thinks Amazon is feeling their oats, don't need to be giving away so much stuff anymore. Went to Lowes, bought a Genie keypad, same brand as the opener, even has the same buzzword: 'Intellicode'. Didn't work. Never mind that the opener is 20 years old, more or less. You use the same buzzword, they two ought to play together. What does Genie have to say? Nothing. They're closed on the weekend. On Monday they promise to call back, but they don't. I send them an email. They may respond someday. I don't care, I'm gonna buy one of them no-name, universal do-ma-flachers, screw these brand name outfits.

Update June 25: I ended up with a Chamberlain KLIK2U Clicker Universal Garage Door Keypad. It works fine.