Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Small Faces - Itchycoo Park (1967) 0815007


Small Faces - Itchycoo Park (1967) 0815007

Another old rock & roll tune. This one is from 1967. I had been looking for 30 Days In The Hole, except I couldn't remember the name of it. All I could think of was that the lead singer had died of a drug overdose, so I did some digging in that vein, but no luck*. It popped up on YouTube after I finally I finally snapped to the name of the tune.

I remember the tune well (I was in high school when it peaked in the U.S.). The name is kind of dumb, but hey, lots of names are. Wikipedia has a couple of stories about this song.
The song was one of the first pop singles to use flanging, an effect that can be heard in the bridge section after each chorus. . . . Although many devices were soon created that could produce the same effect by purely electronic means, the effect as used on "Itchycoo Park" was at that time an electro-mechanical studio process. Two synchronised tape copies of a finished recording were played simultaneously into a third master recorder, and by manually retarding the rotation of one of the two tape reels (flanges) using the fingers, a skilled engineer could subtly manipulate the phase difference between the two sources, creating the lush 'swooshing' phase effect that sweeps up and down the frequency range. 
It's all in the fingers, man. And then there is this bit about the song's name:
A number of sources claim the song's name is derived from the nickname of Little Ilford Park, on Church Road in the London suburb of Manor Park, where Small Faces' singer and song-writer Steve Marriott grew up. The "itchycoo" nickname is, in turn, attributed to the stinging nettles which grew there.
* Wikipedia has a list of dead rock stars, and while Steve Marriott is listed, he isn't listed as having died from a drug overdose, which is what I remembered. So much for having a reliable memory bank.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Mechanics

Some things I noticed during my travels.

Someone skillfully trimmed two light switch wall-plates to make a single-switch cover for a duplex box.

A well organized, complex natural gas distribution manifold

Alaska Airlines outside boarding ramp. Remember when we used stairs?
This thing is elaborate, complicated and probably cost more than a fancy car.
Perfect Hallway in the La Quinta motel in Omaha. It was so perfect it looked like it could have 
been a projection, like when Tom Cruise visits the Kremlin in that Mission Impossible movie.

Wild Thing

Ashley Graham on the cover of New York magazine
Another item that caught my eye at the airport newsstand.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
I remember Al Franken used to be very funny. Then he became a politician, but it looks like he still has his funny bone. I spotted this in an airport newsstand and I think it's great. I mean if you want to promote yourself, go big, and what's bigger than giant? Ginormous? But you don't really want to go up against Ginormica because you would lose, big time.

Flying

Psychedelic sight
When I flew into Omaha a couple of weeks ago I was treated to a spectacular sight. I was seated on the left side of the airplane behind the wing. As we approached Eppley field, the plane made a banked turn to the left. It was nighttime, the weather was clear and the lights of the city were clearly visible. As the plane banked into the turn I could see the lights of the city reflected in the upper surface of the wing. It was a spectacular sight - I could see the lights of the city above and below the wing, barely moving, as the ground usually looks from an airplane, and I could see the reflected lights sliding crazily along the wing.  Neato keeno, but I wasn't prepared and I didn't have my camera out, so no pic.

Saturday night I flew into Omaha again and once again I am seated on the left hand side of the plane behind the wing. As we approach landing, it occurs to me that we might see this same sight again, and sure enough as soon as I finish telling my seatmate about this wondrous sight, the plane banks into its final approach turn and the same view unfolds before us. This time I managed to have my camera ready and was able to snap three or four pics. The one above is the best of the lot, and it's pretty poor.

The winglet at the end of the wing is visible on the left, between the two red lights and single white jaggy. I think the reflected view shows up in the photo as the lighter strip going right and slightly downward from the two red lights. The blur of brownish lights and the cluster of white jaggies must be coming from the ground.

P.S. This post is tagged with Iowa instead of Nebraska because Omaha's airport is in Iowa.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Hurricane

Hurrican Rain in Lago Vista - Iaman
Seems like I saw something about a big hurricane heading for the Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Lago Vista is outside of Austin, which is a couple of hundred miles from the coast. I didn't expect the hurricane to have much effect in Austin, but maybe I should of. I remember one occasion when I lived there. A bunch of small airplanes flew up from the coast to escape the winds. The hurricane spawned a bunch of tornadoes, one of which touched down at the Austin Airport and destroyed a whole bunch of those small planes.

Update:

Found this in an old issue of Flying Magazine.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Life

Grandpa Jack passed away last night while his daughter was en route to visit him one more time before the school year started. Last we heard he had maybe six months to live. Hmmph. That's the thing about estimates, especially on something like this.

So all my list of (chickenshit) chores suddenly got a bunch more stuff added, which pushed my reading on the ol' motivation meter off of the 'that'll keep' up to, 'hmm, there's a bunch of stuff that needs doing', so I got up (figuratively speaking) and started taking care of business.

A few minutes (hours?) later I've done all that can reasonable be expected, and it's time to take a break. I mean, shoot, beer thirty was a couple of hours ago. I'm sitting outside, drinking Palomas, feeling the pleasant breeze and watching it blow out my match. Looking around I notice a bird up in the top of a tree and I got to thinking about life and brains (BRAINS cries the zombie) and artificial intelligence.

So life. Our existence is predicated on the existence of the biosphere. Should I say 'our biosphere'? I mean, we know of no other. All life that we know of exists in this very thin layer of atmosphere and water that lies on the surface of our planet. Yes, mountains are high and rivers are deep (pause while I go find the song), but compared to the volume and mass of the Earth, our layer of existence is nothing.

I like to think of birds as sophisticated automatons. I mean, we could probably build a mechanical bird that could fly and navigate. We have drones and R/C model aircraft that look like birds. We are pretty near there. But how about building a mechanical bird that could forage over the landscape and so fuel itself?Okay, there was the fly eating office robot. But how about self repair, or the really big issue, reproduction?

When we first started making industrial machinery, everything was designed to last forever. Yes, there was maintenance to be performed, oil to be changed, bearings to be replaced, but it you followed instructions your machine would last forever.  Now the economics of manufacturing have changed. Diagnosis and repair are rare skills embodied by only a few people of exceptional abilities (a little self promotion never hurts, I'm told). Put those together, along with the large number of Asians who are willing and able to follow directions for a few kopecks a day means that is cheaper to build new ones than repair old ones.

Which should be our model going into the future? Dutiful maintenance of big, solid machines? Or continual replacement of chickenshit consumer goods? My opinion (and yours) don't matter. There are proponents of both approaches. They will either succeed or fail. They both may survive, or one or the other, or even both may fail. Keep a record, write it down. Maybe that information will prove useful to someone the next time this situation arises.

NASA humanoid robot
The point I am trying to make (I'm taking a shortcut here, the whole explanation exceeds my attention span) is that going into space, we really need to be designing our robotic children. People do really well on the surface of the Earth, but the surface of the Earth is an infinitesimal portion of the universe. If we are going to explore outer space, we really need bodies that survive without air, withstand more than 3 gees, and aren't bothered by temperatures that approach absolute zero or exceed the boiling point of lead.

The answer of course is mechanical men. Robots do not need to look like people, they can look like anything, like a refrigerator or a tractor. But people are the end result of a zillion years of evolution. We have an extensive array of capabilities. We might have abilities that no one has thought to catalog. Shoot, we might have abilities that no one has even noticed. Building a robot that has all of the abilities of a human would be a good exercise. We might not want to send people-like robots into outer space, but knowing how to build a machine that could emulate a person would be worthwhile goal.

Reproduction though, that's going to be a tough nut to crack. To emulate animal reproductive processes we would essentially need to design our own cell that could grow into a creature that could survive in outer space. We might be able to do that in another thousand years.

Another approach would be to give our robot children the knowledge of how to mine the materials, process them and build the machines that could make more robots. Biology is suitable for the biosphere, but not for outer space.

Pics of the Day

Flying Tigers Boeing 747
The Flying Tigers air cargo line was founded by former members of the AVG, aka The Flying Tigers, after WW2. It was absorbed by Fed-Ex in 1988.

WW2 Flying Tigers Curtiss P-40

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Space Girl

Ginormica
I stumbled over Monsters vs. Aliens the other day (on HBO). It's a very silly and very entertaining animated science-fiction movie.

Normally I don't pay much attention to people's clothes. A quick glance will tell me the general kind of outfit and that is usually sufficient. But in the first scene after the ginormous Susan gets hauled aboard the alien spaceship she is wearing this eye-catching outfit, and boy did it catch my eye. I really can't explain it. She is a cute girl, sure she's animated, but she has all the attributes of cuteness, but she didn't change, it was just the outfit. And the outfit is kind of goofy. It looks like a spandex coverall with sequins and sparkles. Perhaps because it is just so different? Is that why I think it's so great? If I ever get down to my target weight I might have to get me one. To go with my Space Car, you know.


Charter Schools

Sioux City Central High School, also known as the Castle on the Hill
Built back when we knew how to build things.
There was an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal today how charter school students are out-performing public school students (paywall). I prowled around on the net to see if I could find anything that might explain this discrepancy. I found a couple of items. One: "A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance." which doesn't really tell us much at all. The other is this video about Eva Moskowitz. I didn't watch the whole thing, it goes on for minutes, I tell you, minutes of people yammering. I ain't got time for that.

Then I thought to check this here blog to see if I had posted anything, and sure enough I posted this. That was back in 2011, six years ago, and apparently nothing has changed. Union busting is tough, and it's even tougher when the union is the biggest one in the most powerful country in the world.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse, Part 3


ECLIPSE 2017 - Veritasium
Venus appears at 3:25

Jack & Dennis both made short trips south to see the Eclipse. Traffic, as expected, was congested, to say the least.

You can run, but you can't hide, Mal.


Total Solar Eclipse 2017 - International Space Station transits the Sun
The International Space Station transits the Sun during the Total Solar Eclipse, on 21 August 2017. The images were taken from Banner, Wyoming, by NASA’s photographer Joel Kowsky.


Space Station Transiting 2017 ECLIPSE, My Brain Stopped Working - Smarter Every Day 175
Transit starts at 3:26

Stu got me started with a photo. YouTube turned up several videos and I'm watching them, looking for one to post here and I realize that the ISS is taking two different paths, and then I realize that at least two groups had made the same observation from two different spots in Wyoming.

The ISS is traveling at about 5 miles-per-second at an altitude of about 250 miles. The moon is 250,000 miles away and has a diameter of about 1,000 miles. So the moon is about 1,000 times farther away than the space station (250,000 divided by 250). We take the diameter of the moon and divide by 1,000 and we get the distance that the ISS will travel while it is front of the sun (since the sun and the moon are the same apparent diameter), which is one mile. At five miles per second, it is only going to take one fifth of a second to complete this transit, so you better be ready.

What's really amazing is that both of these groups were able to capture this event on video.

Mal, of course, wouldn't make the mistake of flying between a local star and his enemies.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse

Solar Eclipse taken by shooting through a couple of layers of old photographic negatives, just for fun. The thin sliver of sun is still enough to overpower the image sensor.
The eclipse was a little odd. I live maybe 50 miles north of where there was a total eclipse. Here the moon blocked out all but a little sliver of the sun. It didn't get dark, at best is was a little dimmer than full sunlight. My neighbor noticed that it was a little cooler. I didn't notice any temperature change, but then I don't pay much attention to temperature until I start to get uncomfortable. It was like 70 degrees here and if the eclipse caused the temperature to drop five degrees that would have been 65, which would still be comfortable, so for me it wasn't worth noticing. That's one of the benefits of carrying around an extra 50 pounds of fat.

Illuminated house number. Barely visible here, but it was bright enough to catch my eye.
A neighbor across the street has an illuminated house number that comes on when it gets dark. Well, presumably it comes on when it gets dark. I never noticed it before. But when the moon obscured most of the sun the light came on and when the eclipse was over the light went off. So I'm guessing that for the light sensor, it was getting dark.

Dustbury's post got me to wondering why the moon's shadow was traveling eastward when the sun is traveling westward (the sun rises in the east. Daylight advances ever westward across the face of the Earth).  A little math confused the issue even more. As simple as this problem ought to be, it took me several trials before I finally figured out what my model of this situation should look like.

Graph of Speed and Distance
Bottom scale is minutes
And yes, it's just a coincidence that the bottom scale is 400 minutes long.
Spreadsheet with Calculations
Consider the Earth and Sun as fixed, unmoving objects. The Moon passes between them and since the Sun, for all practical purposes, is infinitely far away, the shadow as it passes over the Earth is traveling at the same speed as the Moon. Imagine driving your car south near sundown, You and your car are going to cast a shadow to your left. The shadow is traveling right along with you. If you maintain 60 MPH, your shadow is going to maintain 60 miles an hour.

However, since the Earth is a ball and not a disk, this speed is only going to be seen when the Moon is is directly inline between the Earth and the Sun. Before the Moon starts to come between the Earth and the Sun, its shadow is simple traveling across space. When the Moon's shadow first impacts the surface of the Earth, it will be at a tangent, so its speed is infinite. As the shadow passes over the Earths surface, that surface will start turning more toward the sun and more at an angle to the shadow. By the time 40 minutes has passed it's speed has dropped to 2,000 miles per hour.

But the Earth is turning. At the equator that speed is about 1,000 MPH. Now we get to the rotation part. The moon goes around the Earth in the same direction that the Earth turns. Looking down on the Earth from above the North Pole, we see the Earth turning in a counter-clockwise direction. The moon is like-wise turning in the same counter-clockwise direction, but the Earth is turning much faster than the moon is going around. So if we were projecting the moon's position onto the Earth, we would see it move Westward, because the moon is slow moving and the Earth is turning underneath it.

The moon's shadow it traveling at the same speed as the moon (about 1200 MPH), which is just slight faster than the surface speed of the Earth, so as the Moon passes in front of the Earth, it is traveling just slightly faster than the surface of the Earth, so its shadow, the eclipse, moves from West to East.

1973 Concorde Eclipse Chaser
(Warning: autostart video)
So the speed of the eclipse depends on the time of day. If it strikes your area in the early morning or late evening it is going to be cooking along and you are going to need a supersonic jet fighter running on full afterburner to keep up with it. If it is during business hours, you could keep pace with a twin engine prop plane. I looked for some indication that NASA or the Air Force or someone had sent up a supersonic chase plane, but the only reference I found was for 1973 when somebody managed to commandeer a Concorde to record the eclipse.

Some commercial airlines arrange special eclipse flights.

P.S. All my calculations were done presuming the path of the Eclipse was over the equator. To more accurately model this eclipse, you would need to  factor in the latitude, which is constantly changing because apparently the orbital plane of the Moon is at an angle to equatorial plane of the Earth.


Monday, August 21, 2017

EL GUARDIÁN INVISIBLE


EL GUARDIÁN INVISIBLE - Teaser TRÁILER

Another serial killer murder mystery on Netflix. This one is set in the Basque region of Spain where it apparently rains all the damn time. I mean it's worse than Portland. The story is complicated by a Basajaun, a Basque version of bigfoot, and by the lead detective's bad-crazy family. It's a pretty good story, it moves right along. There are some mystical elements (like the Basajaun) that happen along the way, not enough to interfere with the story, but enough to make you wonder just what the heck is going on. Weird shit happens in these remote mountain villages, you know. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a sequel to examine some of the stuff that was uncovered, but unresolved. In Spanish, mostly, with some English (the heroine's husband speaks English), with subtitles.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Infernal Bureaucrats

Florida Turnpike toll gantry Bird Rd 7402
I got a bill in the mail from California for $7.75. It's the toll for driving over the Golden Gate bridge. They still have toll booths, but you don't have to stop anymore, they just take a picture of your license plate, look you up in their computerized database and send you a bill. Evidently, it even works across state lines because I have Oregon plates on my truck.

When I went to Miami earlier this year, I saw several signs advising that license plate cameras were at work collecting tolls. My car was a rental, and the charges eventually showed up on my rental bill. It was less than $10 for ten days of driving around Miami.

My Citi card was refused at Costco today. Seems I haven't paid my bill. Well, where is it? I've been looking for it but all I've seen have been promotional mailings offering to lend me even more money. So I call them and I get a pleasant sounding robo-cop, but no matter how loud I yell she can't understand me. She won't shut up either, she keeps yammering away about some useless information (supposed to fry my imagination). I give her two chances and she fails on both so get me to a real person you stupid shit. It takes persistant hammering on the keypad and yelling to get a connection to a real person who then wants to play 20 questions. Screw you, Citi bank. You want your money, send me a bill.

The credit card problem sent me over the edge. This is like the first week this summer without some kind of catastrophe and I was finally thinking that maybe I could relax and then this bullshit happens. I mean, what happened to the frickin' bill? I could have misplaced it, or someone along the delivery chain could have lost it, but that has never happened before, so why would it happen now? Especially since I know it's liable to be a big bill and I've been watching for it. So no, it didn't get lost on the way. Stupid Citi failed to get it out the door. I suspect all large corporations are evil (they aren't intentional evil, they are just big, relentless machines that have replaced thinking with blind, rote obedience), and in this case evil Citi bank screwed up. I am almost willing to bet that someone clicked on the little check box that signed me up for paperless billing. God damn commies.

Babbitt Bearings

RICHARD PARDON
Road & Track has a good story about how internal engine bearings were made before WW2. When people put their collective minds to work, there is nothing they can't accomplish, like terrorize and subjugate East Asia, or stomp the Axis powers into the ground, send a rocket-ship to the moon, or build a modern automobile. The automobile's success has been due to 1) the inventors ability to hide the myriad technologies behind a facade of shiny paint on a well-shaped tin can, 2) it's ability to stream high-resolution, real-time video past your eyeballs, and 3) save time.

And there are a bunch of technologies involved in the production of a modern automobile. I used to know what they all were, but now I'm not so sure. I wouldn't be surprised if more PhD's were granted for new automotive technology than for any other technology related subject.

Make no mistake, one of the reasons the automobile has been such a success is because people like going for a drive and watching the landscape stream by.

A copy of the story can be found here, in the case the R & T link goes away.

The Fall

Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan as serial killer Paul Spector
We finished watching all three seasons last night on Netflix. It's not a great show, like an over-the-top James Bond or Tom Cruise thriller, but it was pretty good with lots of interesting bits. Gillian X-Files Anderson plays the lead detective, imported to Belfast from London to review a politically charged murder case and ends up running a task force to track down a serial killer.

The case is difficult because the killer, when he isn't killing people, appears to be an upright citizen of the community, a taxpayer, homeowner and a devoted family man. In other words, he's the favorite kind of killer to be found in a fictional story about murder, i.e. a psychopath.

Stella is a stone-faced hard-ass, which is kind of what you would expect of a woman, or even a man, with this kind of job. She does have sexual needs which she satisfies with various coppers. Well, we don't know if she is satisfied, she doesn't let on, but at least she is going through the motions.

There are some bits that were well done, better than I've seen before:

  • the scene in the emergency room when a shooting victim is brought in. Lots of grisly detail.
  • Stella asking for 1.5 million (pounds? Euros?) to fund the task force. First time I've heard someone put a price tag on something like this, in fiction or in real-life. Given that you want a fair number of competent people to spend their time looking for this guy, and it is liable to take a while, that might be a reasonable number.
  • the number of people and cars involved in surreptitiously following someone. Law & Order sometimes makes mention of it in some of their cases, but here we see the entire army of coppers dodging around, working the radio, passing off surveillance from one follower to another.
There were a couple of small side stories that could have made an episode all by themselves, but were here just to flesh out the story and / or provide a little local color.
  • The underage teenager who fixates on Paul as the love of her life. Is she a bad example, or do all teenagers go through a period of insanity? 
  • a group of IRA thugs who show at the most inopportune moments.
  • a children's home where a pedophile ring was uncovered some years ago. (There were a couple of such real-life cases.)
We started out paying attention to what was happening in the show, but by the time we got to the end it was the feeling I got that was important. Things are happening, but the whole tone / feel of the show was more significant. It was a lot like True Detective that way.

Thug Culture

TONY SOPRANO by JaumeCullell
Different people have different abilities. Some people are smart, some people are athletic, some can sing, some can dance. There are a zillion different scales that you can use to measure a person's abilities.

People are competitive, they want to show they are better than other people in some way. It's an instinct that derives from our sexual nature. Reproduction is our primary purpose and in order to do that you need a partner, and one way to get a partner is to impress him or her with your amazing ability to do that amazing thing you do. For some people, beating other people at some endeavor is the only thing that matters, and for some of those hyper-competitive people society's rules don't matter.

Most people are law abiding, productive members of society. A few are not, but it's those few who garner all the attention. Go to work every day for 40 years, work diligently, keep your head down and it's very likely you will never make the evening news, and most people are fine with that. But shoot someone on a downtown street and within a day everyone will know your name.

Near as I can tell, the Democrats are all for trying to help out the underclass by rooting out institutional discrimination, giving them an education and helping them become productive members of society. The Republicans are all about stamping out the thugs. The Democrats, being bleeding heart liberals, are helping everyone and not discriminating. The Republicans, being hard asses, are condemning everyone who even looks like they might have talked to a thug once upon a time. They are not discriminating either.

Thugs are like cockroaches. You can never really get rid of all the roaches in your house, all you can do is wage a continual low-level war against them. Cleaning, sweeping, exterminating.

Black lives might matter, but last year all we heard about regarding that movement were riots, violence and looting. I suspect that the level of media coverage on those incidents pushed a number of people over to the Law & Order camp, which is how Trump got elected.

The problem with thugs is that they, like Islamic Jihadists, mix with the general population, so unless you have specific information, they can be difficult to root out. I think this may be why church used to be such big part of life. Everybody went to church, everybody recited the hymns, everybody prayed to god. If anything bad ever happened in the community, the community first looked at those people (if there were any) who hadn't been going to church. It was sort of a vetting process. It didn't always work, there is always going to be the odd psychopath who can put on a civilized face but is secretly committing the most heinous crimes. But for the most part it worked.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dominating


iPhone 7 — The Rock x Siri - Reminder — Apple

Just caught this ad on TV. I think it covers The Rock's public persona perfectly, which somehow made it very funny,

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Wrong Question

Indianapolis 500
Just because I needed a picture, I like pictures of cars, and Google served up this one in response to my inquiry about 500 digital TV channels.
At all times, at least one of the five zillion digital channels on my TV has a race going on,
or more likely someone talking about racing. Man, do those people talk.
Roberta X has some good things to say today, which prompted me to write down a couple of ideas that I've been kicking around.

Scrolling through the list of channels available on my TV, I realized that they are roughly divided into three groups: Sports, News and Drama. Drama basically covers everything that isn't sports or news. Soap operas, movies, serials, reality shows, etc, are all dramatic. Sports I understand. We live in the physical world and one's ability to cope with that world along with our natural competitive instinct can make sports compelling. I think professional sports have taken this activity to ridiculous extremes, but if that's what people want to do then so be it.

Drama, near as I can make out,  is dealing with more subtle actions, expressions, tone of voice and deceptions. I spend a fair amount of time here, but I am at least somewhat particular about what I watch. Lately it's been crime serials, but I like a good thriller as well. Shoot, I like anything with a good story. Of course whether a story is 'good' or not is entirely subjective.

News is about current events, but lately it seems to be more about what somebody said about something that someone else said, not so much about what happened or what someone did. Oh, there are the horrific crime stories, but generally they don't signify much of anything.

So if these three topics are all there is to our civilization, it would collapse. There is a whole lot of mundane work that goes on every day to enable these 500 channels of digital entertainment to flow into our homes.

But none of this is looking at the big picture, which is what do we want? And how do we propose to get there? Oh, I know that some people are floating ideas, but it seems like that stuff that comes down the wire is mostly nit-picky criticisms, very little of substance gets through. Of course there is the problem what you consider substance. People have very different ideas of what is important.

Everything we do contributes to our civilization. Sometimes in a positive manner, sometimes in a negative one (depending on your point of view). I kind of get the feeling that all we do is kind of like we are all working on a monumental sculpture. We are busy knocking off the rough edges, smoothing out the curves, polishing the surface, making our little corner beautiful (or smashing somebody else's unguarded work), but we don't really have any idea what we have built or what the entire thing looks like now, or what it should look like when we are done.

Assimilate


Dubioza kolektiv "U.S.A." (Official video)

Listening and watching English language stuff on YouTube you can easily forget that it is a WORLD WIDE WEB, and then something like this pops up and you realize that even people from lower Elbonia are connected. Lyrics below, because they are sort of interesting.

 "U.S.A."

The grass is always greener 
in neighbors' courtyard
I wish to leave this nightmare
go to a Promised Land 
Please, take me to your leader
I want my green card
I want to fly over 
Like a rocket from the Balkans

I want to start all over 
and turn a new page
Forget this dreadful story 
Escape the Stone Age
I'm waiting for chance
to get out of the cage
I feel like a slave
on a minimal wage

I am form Bosnia
Take me to America
I really want to see
Statue of Liberty

I can no longer wait
Take me to United States
take me to Golden Gate
I will assimilate

One day, when you reach the end
One day, you will understand
One day, back to roots my friend
No place like a motherland

I hoped I'll find what I need
I'll be free like a bird
Now we're pushed in a ghetto
Like the sheep in a herd
All the promises I heard
Became empty words
Completely disconnected
From the rest of the world

The grass is never greener 
in neighbors' courtyard
I want to start all over 
Return to No Mans Land 
Send greetings to your leader
Don't want your Green Card
I want to fly back 
Like a rocket to the Balkans

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Space Car

2017 Hyundai Sonata
On our recent expedition to Iowa I rented a Hyundai Sonata from Hertz. I needed to carry four adults from Omaha to Sioux City and back. We flew into Omaha because it's a P.I.T.A. to fly into Sioux City from Portland, Oregon.

Hyundai Sonata Dashboard
The dashboard looks like something out of Buck Rogers. Buttons and dials and glowing instruments. As all of the controls for actually operating the vehicle were conventional enough, I was able to get in and drive away. But getting any of the creature comforts to operate was another matter.

Notice the small control panel on the right spoke of the steering wheel. And the red triangle in the 'center stack'.
It's not a long drive from Omaha to Sioux City, maybe an hour and a half or so, but it would nice to have some tunes. so I set my wife to seeing if she can find something on the radio. Does this car even have a radio? There is nothing in the dash that looks like a radio, but it's got to have one, doesn't it? I mean radios are traditional. OK, no radio as such, but there is a tablet-sized touch screen and with poking and prodding she is able to tune in some kind of rock and roll and we're good.

We're good until the song ends and then an endless litany of commercials commences. We can put up with this for a while, but eventually we reach our limit and sweetie starts looking for a new station and then, all of a sudden, the emergency flashers start flashing. Flash (Gordon), being on a mission from God, would have charged on regardless, but mild-mannered Chucky, worried about causing the Highway Patrol undue stress took the next exit and pulled over to try and figure out what happened. Well, where the heck is the emergency flasher control? We look in all the normal locations but eventually we spy the red triangle in the middle of the dashboard. Oh, that's it, obviously. We turn off the flashers and go on our merry way.

Since we are on an Interstate highway, I would like to engage the cruise control. I don't want to have to keep watching the speedometer and adjusting my speed to accommodate every little change in the road's incline. Yes, we are in Iowa, and Iowa is very flat, but even the slightest grade can affect the cars speed. I am pushing the envelope on what the cops will tolerate and I don't want push it too far. It would be easy to do. The road is flat and straight and the speedometer goes to 160 MPH.

There is a little mini-control-panel on the right spoke of the steering wheel and the top right button is labeled CRUISE. I push it and little green CRUISE word appears on the instrument panel. I try pushing several of the other buttons to see if I can set the speed, but nothing happens.

The upper left button appears to be a stack of paper (pages?) and pushing it causes the center display between the speedometer and the tachometer to change. I think there are four pages. Pushing this button allows you to cycle through these pages. Eventually I figure out that you can get the cruise control to engage only if you are on the correct page. I don't know whether this is a feature or a bug.

The instrument panel is black with white numbers and other markings. The white is very bright. It wasn't until we got to Sioux City and I specifically stopped and looked for the instrument panel brightness control that I located it. It has it's own little switch on the lower left portion of the dashboard.

I'm thinking that playing with buttons and switches on our increasing complex electronic gee-gaws is America's new past time. It's not just cars. Watch someone trying to find a photo on their smart phone. The tapping and swiping can go on for hours, and it's no good trying to remember the sequence you used to get there, because the next time you will be starting in a different place (in your smart-phone's interface), looking for a different picture using an app that works a little differently than the last time you used it because your smart-phone vendor has pushed an update down the 'wire'. Cars, at least for the moment, and not getting automatic updates. At least I don't think they are.

Employment

Horizon Air Bombardier DHC-8
Matt-of-the-Lake has landed a job with Horizon Air as a flight attendant, based out of Spokane. Spokane is not the world's most popular location, being in Eastern Washington, but being based there should give him a more consistent flight schedule, and possibly more hours.

PenAir Saab 340B
He was working for PenAir as a general gofer up until a couple of weeks ago when he quit, which happened to be one week before PenAir went bankrupt. Matt wasn't able to work as a flight attendant on PenAir because at 6'2" he was too tall to fit in their airplanes. PenAir's height limit was 5'10".

Monday, August 14, 2017

Paloma

Paloma Cocktail
We've been drinking Tequila cocktails lately. Mostly Margaritas but recently Palomas. Palomas taste better than Margaritas and are dirt simple to make: a shot of Tequila in a glass of ice and fill with Squirt (grapefruit flavored soft drink). Salt on the rim, like a Margarita, and a little lime juice if you want. I don't know that the lime juice adds anything, but the salt definitely helps. Tequila, to me, does not taste very good, in fact it tastes pretty awful. The salt takes away the awful and with Squirt it becomes a pleasant drink, which is kind of contrary to the spirit of Tequila!, but it suits me.

Madman Theory

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito, ca. 1675
The madman theory was a feature of Richard Nixon's foreign policy. He and his administration tried to make the leaders of hostile Communist Bloc nations think Nixon was irrational and volatile. According to the theory, those leaders would then avoid provoking the United States, fearing an unpredictable American response. - Wikipedia
Hoo boy, just what we need, a fake madman in charge. Somehow this doesn't seem like a good idea, but perhaps it worked? I mean Nixon (the evil criminal mastermind) did get us out of our Vietnam quagmire, which I think was all-in-all a good thing. Via The Adventures of Roberta X.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Stardust by Joseph Kanon

Stardust by Joseph Kanon
What with all my 'adventures' this summer it has taken me a long time to finish this book. It's pretty great. We have a murder mystery set in Hollywood just after WW2 when the communist witch hunts were just getting started. The entire book is an exercise in duplicity, or rather in detecting duplicity. There is some kind of underhanded business going on, possibly subversive, but really unknown because the key player is dead. Our hero gets to put the pieces together, but in true Hollywood fashion he doesn't figure it out until we get to the stereotypical Hollywood denouement: a bad guy emerges from the shadows with a gun, our hero looses his gun and the dame rescues him, or does she? These are the kinds of idiotic scenes I hate in the movies, but they seem to be required in any kind of action flick. But here I can forgive the author because we are so wrapped up in the movie making business it would be sacrilege to have it to wind up any other way.

This story has many great parts, mostly involved with the characters and their interactions. One thing that stuck out was whole communist witch hunt thing. I don't know how much trouble the commies ever caused in the USA, but the radical Muslims are demonstrating that secret organizations can make serious trouble. So if you are investigating someone for subversive and / or criminal activity, you want to do it quietly, not in front of a bunch of reporters and cameras. But if you are a politician, that is your meat and potatoes, so that's the way you do it.

Linkage

Stuff that showed up in my inbox while I was out having an adventure.

On the Zambesi out of Vic Falls. Via Jack. I'm not quite sure what we have here,
it might be lizard porn. Shoot, since it's from Jack, I know it's lizard porn.
Can a better night’s sleep in a ‘hipster’ bus replace flying? Via Posthip Scott.
Meatpistol and Defcon. Via Detroit Steve.
James Damore memo. Via Monday Evening. Medium has a version complete with charts, etc.
Parabellum. Via Iaman.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sioux City Adventure

Cold French fries at Wendy's Tuesday evening. Grainy frosty at Wendy's (same time and same place.) Burger was good though. I have to admit that it was late, after 10PM, and this is not the big city. This whole section of town seemed pretty dead this time of night, but there were two fast food joints (Wendy's and McDonald's) that advertised being open 24 hours. On the surface it doesn't seem to make sense that they should stay open all night long, but maybe they get a big influx of customers when the bars close at 2AM. Or maybe the two joints are in a life and death struggle to survive. If one offers something, the other feels compelled to offer something similar. This will either end with both of them retreating to some smaller number of hours that will generate enough revenue to stay in business. Or one of them will collapse and close.

Embraer E175 Regional Jet
Not hot breakfast sandwich at Omaha airport yesterday morning. We're flying on an Embraer 'regional jet'. 1500 miles and it's 'regional'. Pretty damn big region. It's small-ish. Only four seats across, but the aisle is wide enough to walk down, not like those skinny ass aisles they have on those damn 'Dreamliners'. Who gave them that name? And whose dream is it anyhoo? And how could you arrange it any better? With seven seats across and two aisles, what are you going to do? Make it six seats and one really wide aisle? Or six seats and two decent size aisles? I suppose you could do seven seats across and one decent aisle, but it would mean four seats together on one side of the aisle, which means that when the guy in the window seat has to use the john, three other people are going to have to move out of his way. The social pressure of having to make three people move so you can get out could lead to someone staying in their seat much longer than they should, which could lead to 'accidents' or possibly even long term health problems. (Look at that dude, he's so full of s*** that his eyeballs are turning brown. He musta got stuck in a window seat in one of those reconfigured Dreamliners.) The fuselage on those Dreamliners is just the wrong diameter. Or all seats need to be first class size.

The Famous Diving Elks
Good grilled tuna steak at the Diving Elk Wednesday night. I've been on a bit of a seafood kick ever since we went to Seattle. Usually I order beef, mostly because I like it but also because it's my god given right as an American to eat steak whenever I want and I intend to make full use of that right. Besides, I'm eating for all those people who can't get any beef due to politics and/or their uncooperative nature. But lately I've been ordering seafood. I cannot explain why.

Stoney Creek Inn Lobby, Sioux City, Iowa
The Diving Elk has a stuffed elk head hanging on the wall. The lobby in the Stony Creek Inn is kind of like being in a Cabela's diorama. They have a moose head hanging on the wall and a full size bison standing on a platform about the same height. And don't forget the giant fake trees or the piles of logs stacked by the gas fireplace. Kind of like Disneyland, completely fake and tourist-hardened Frontier Inn.

Grandpa was in the hospital when we got there, but they discharged him and sent him back to his retirement home that afternoon. A couple of hours later they send him back to the hospital, and then a couple hours later they send him back to the retirement home. He made a total of six trips that day which seems absurd. Are these folks incompetent? Did the presence of our of town visitors disturb the equilibrium and so their judgement? Or maybe grandpa is just in that gray area where there really isn't much they can do for him.

Socks packed into model of Kinnick Stadium. Iowa Hawkeyes birthday cake.
The whole point of this trip was to celebrate grandpa's 90th birthday. He's made it farther than any of my kids other grandparents. The others have all passed away. I think there might be (might have been?) some other relatives of my wife who lived longer. I seem to remember hearing about someone turning 95. Aunt Gladys, maybe?

Sleep Inn, Eppley Field, Omaha
We drove back to Omaha last night to catch our early morning flight. We stayed at a SleepInn near Eppley field. No place to wirte home about, but our room did have a cool semi-circular extension to the shower. And breakfast starts at 4AM, though I didn't get any. Instead I got the not-hot sandwich at the airport.

We all got approved for TSA pre-check, which means we get to go in the short line, which wasn't really any shorter than the regular line being as this is Omaha and not all that busy at oh dark thirty, and then the (middle-aged? older?) lady at the head of the line bawks at the metal detector. Whether she is afraid of radiation or is one of the new model cyborgs with the metal skeletons wasn't immediately clear.

Everyone was aboard and in their seat 15 minutes ahead of take off time so we got to take off a little early. Right now it is quarter to ten West Coast time and the captain has just announced that we have started our descent into Portland.

Contrary Exit
After the trip to Seattle and the trip to San Francisco (12 hours in a car is too damn long), the drives from Omaha to Sioux City and back were pleasant little pieces of cake. I did miss one exit on the way back to Omaha, or rather I took an exit I shouldn't have. It's not my fault though. Interstate 29 bends around to the right, but if you go straight, which is where the main route should go, you end up at a stoplight somewhere, which means a couple of miles wandering through a residential neighborhood until our smart phone navigation aid gets us back to the expressway.


The Man Of 1000 Insect Stings


The Man Of 1000 Insect Stings

I found this amusing little tale in my inbox this morning. Via Posthip Scott.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Car Troubles

Ford Pickup Truck Being Repaired
Stopped by Heaton Automotive today to talk to Eric about my broken pickup truck transmission and I spied this Ford pickup truck in the shop. What kind of repair requires lifting the entire cab off the chassis, I enquired. Cylinder head replacement was the answer. How bizarre. It used to be that a job like that could be handled by man with a box of wrenches working alone in his garage. Things have changed. I suppose that with the number of complex systems tied into the engine, and the engine compartment being shrunk, it's quicker and easier to pull the cab off. It obviously makes access to the engine easier. You shouldn't have to make a repair like this very often. For most trucks it might never happen.

Last week my truck went all the way to San Francisco and back without any problems, other than the air conditioning compressor blowing up. But then I got in the other day to go pick up some lunch and the automatic transmission quit. Driving down a quiet residential street and the dang thing shifts into neutral. Try second and it engages for a few seconds and then it disengages again. Fiddled a bit and not it seems to be working okay, but then I go around a corner and it just quits completely.

Cutaway Automatic Transmission
Looking on the internet I find one story about how it might be a cracked filter that is letting air into the hydraulic pump, which would pretty much cancel all motation. On the other hand, the truck has 150,000 miles on it. I had the transmission rebuilt once before when it had around 70,000 miles, so there is a good chance that it is just worn out. However, I've never had a transmission fail so completely and so quickly. Usually I get all kinds of signs and portents for weeks before it becomes undriveable, and then I can still drive it to the shop. This time it quit so completely I had to have it towed.

Replacing the transmission with a rebuilt unit and fixing the A/C would cost $3,500. Scrap value of the truck is about $300. If I decide to keep it, it is also going to need a paint job and a couple of dents fixed, not to mention a couple of tires, all of which is going to push the bill past the five grand mark. It might not be worth it. Meanwhile I have the Hyundai. Looks like it might be the end of the road for this truck.