Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Popularity maps of Oscar contenders
From a story in The New York Times. Facebook knows what you have been watching. Via Benjamin & Shelby - LA Times newsletter.

Serendipity versus Coincidence

[S]erendipity is a fortunate or pleasing coincidence. A coincidence need not necessarily always be fortunate.
I was trying to think of 'serendipity' this morning, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. 'Coincidence' I had, but I knew there was another word with similar meaning that started with an S. Five or ten minutes of mucking about with other stuff and the answer popped up, but now I am wondering what the difference is and why serendipity did not show up as a synonym on the Thesaurus.

Constable Part 2

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows - John Constable 1831
I'm flipping through the WSJ this morning, I see this picture and I immediately think "Hey! Wayne!", because the style and composition are so similar, but then I start reading and I realize that while it is the same artist, it is not the same painting. Still it is kind of weird that I would encounter two paintings by some guy I had never heard of in the same week. Did my blog post provoke this? Or maybe my watching the Top Gear video pushed it over some mystical YouTube threshold that caused it to be spread far and wide, which in turn started a ground swell of appreciation for all things Constable. More likely it is just coincidence.

"Hey! Wayne!" links to Part 1.

The Road to Hell

The Most Powerful Dice - Numberphile

This guy has a very subtle style. He leads you down the primrose path, one logical step after another until you get to a conundrum.

I'm reading The Gone Away War by Nick Harkaway (who it turns out is John LeCarre's son) and a lot of what goes on in this book follows the same sort of inescapable logic. This leads to that which leads to this other which leads to war, murder, death and destruction.

Be careful with your logic. It can lead you to places you don't want to go. When that happens, you might want to go back and check your assumptions. It's a pretty safe bet that at least one of them is confusing fact with reality.


Discovery Channel - Great Planes - Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

The splash screen is a lie. The whole thing is grainy WW2 footage and it's mostly done in black and white. I suspect the narrator has a lot to do with whether I can watch a documentary or not. Or maybe it's the music. This isn't a great video, but it's tolerable.

The video points out that the P-47 was the most produced American fighter aircraft ever, but what they don't tell you is that the P-51 was a close second. (See my spreadsheet for the glory details).

Lady Jane
One of the planes in the video is named Lady Jane, and I'm wondering who the reference might be. I know the Rolling Stones recorded a song by that name, but that wasn't around during WW2, so I did a little checking. Finally found this:
71 missions from May 1943 to April 1944. P-47 plane name was 'Lady Jane', for his future wife. DSC/ DFC w/ 3 Oak Leaf Cluster/ AM w/ 3 Oak Leaf Cluster 5
So regular old romance, no hi-faulutin' literary reference.

Loading Ammunition into P-47 wing magazines
I can sort of understand how an all-metal airplane can fly: the aluminum is thin enough that the whole airplane doesn't weigh much compared to the amount of surface area it presents. But it becomes a little more difficult to understand when the wings are full of lead and brass and not just empty space.

Mariana Islands (Blue Markers) in the South Pacific
Orange Markers are Okinawa (upper left), Palau (lower left) and Marshall Islands (lower right)
Tokyo is near top center, Taiwan left center, and Manila is lower left.
My father flew on B-24's in the South Pacific during WW2, so I was more interested in that portion than the stuff about Europe. I'd heard of the Mariana Islands before, but I didn't realize it was THE major turning point of the war in the Pacific. But then I recalled hearing about The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.

Friday Night

Hillsboro Chevron, and what do you know? One island is closed.
Took the car to the Chevron station this evening. Only one island was open, and all four of the pumps there were occupied. When I do get to a pump the attendant tells me the gas door (filler) is on the other side, so I need to move my car. What, your hose isn't long enough to reach the other side of the car? What kind of crummy gas station is this anyway? But now I'm wondering whether A) the hose was really too short or B) he was just pulling my chain because it was easier for him to tell me to move the car than it was to drag the hose to the far side of the car. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that it was indeed a case of A), what kind of gas stations is this? Or more properly what kind of people go here? Are most people programmed to pull up on 'correct' side of the pump (i.e. the side that will put it closest to the opening for the gas tank filler pipe)? Or do people who can't be bothered with that kind of trivia just don't go to stations like this?

In any case, I didn't give the attendant a bad time, I just moved my car. And yes, I am one of those people who knows which side my gas cap is buttered on. This is only time I recall I have ever gotten it wrong, and it was only because I decided to forgo the rules. After all, Freddy doesn't care which side the gas goes in, their hoses are plenty long.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Major Airports in Nigeria
Lagos (lower left), Abuja (center) and Kaduna (upper right)
There was a story in the WSJ this morning about problems with airports in Nigeria that quoted one official who said the security problem was not as bad as some people claimed, after all "there haven't been any kidnappings since November",  which I thought was so reassuring I would post it as my quote for the day.

But now when I get around to looking it up on the net (because the WSJ's new stuff is hidden behind a paywall), I find that a couple of Germans were kidnapped there TODAY.

So they are planning on closing the airport in Abuja in order to make some repairs, which kind of makes me wonder just how old it is and what I find is just short of miraculous. It has been there forever, or at least that is the conclusion I draw since nowhere could I find any claims as to when or who built it.

Update: Wikipedia Reference Desk delivers some answers:
Our Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria article mentions that Kaduna was one of the sites chosen for airfields by the British Air Ministry "in the early 1930s", although this is presumably Old Kaduna AirportAlansplodge (talk) 01:59, 26 February 2017 (UTC)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pur Sang

Pur Sang Reproduction of Bugatti 35
Ettore Bugatti built his first Type 35 in 1924, and by 1931, the company rolled out more than 300 of these racing cars in different specifications. Today, finding an original example is a huge undertaking, but those looking for the driving experience instead of just an investment can always call Argentina's Pur Sang. - Road & Track
 Oh? Somebody is building reproductions of an iconic pre-war race car in Argentina?!? I root around and I find a great story on Petrolicious:
If you think of what Argentina was like back when Bugattis, Alfas, etc, were new back in the ‘20 to ‘30s, the country rivaled almost any country in Europe. It was called the Paris of the South and it is where all the wealthy people in Europe went to get away from war time chaos. You had examples of people going to great lengths to export and re-establish their lifestyle in South America. They were building Europe all over again in Buenos Aires, the architecture attested to that. Even entire palaces were shipped over and rebuilt.
Everything that made Europe special made it to Argentina. Everybody knows about Argentina being a leader in wine making, horse racing, polo and of course motorsport which, during the ‘20’s and ‘30’s no matter where you were in the world, was the ultimate lifestyle statement. To own something like a Bugatti and to be racing it around the world was as good as it got. 
It’s more that you have this incredible Parisian culture in very wealthy Argentina, and then you have Juan PerĂ³n who came in with this sort of idea of calling in to suspect all the nice things that all the rich people had, bringing in a certain level of stagnation in progress for decades. Over time he really brought the country to a stand-still. So in the same way that you see Cuba, you have this preserved time capsule. The same thing happened, all be it to a lesser degree of severity, in Argentina. It wasn’t like things progressed.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rock On

This 8,000 year-old giraffe rock carving in DaBous, Niger is considered one of the finest petroglyphs in the world. The giraffe has a leash on its nose implying some level of taming the animals. It was found relatively recently on the top of a granite hill by local Touaregs and dates to the Kiffian era of 7,000 - 9,000 years ago. (© Mike Hettwer) 

Out wandering around on the net and I stumbled over this picture. The collapse of the Bronze Age was only 3200 years ago, and we know very little about what was going on back then. All we have to go on are the bits and pieces archaeologists have been able to uncover. This thing is from 8,000 years ago, which, if we are to believe the experts, is back when the Sahara was green.

Light Bulbs

2Pack, GU10 120V 35W MR16 Q35MR16 35 watts JDR Halogen Bulb Lamp
One of the light bulbs in my brand new range hood is burned out. This is an outrage! This range hood is not even six months old! If it used regular old incandescent bulbs it would be a little annoying, but no more so than the annoyance caused by any other regular light bulb burning out somewhere in the house. But this one is some fancy-schmancy light bulb, so instead of just unscrewing the old bulb, reaching into my light bulb magazine (which is stocked with a whole bunch of regular old, 60 watt, incandescent, soft-white, light bulbs), pulling out a new bulb and screwing it in, I am faced with a Gordian knot sized problem.

It doesn't look like that big a problem, I should be able to pop the old bulb out, run to the store and buy a replacement, and pop the new one in. Not too bad. The annoyance of having to run to the store is countered by the fact that I would be going to Lowe's (a giant hardware store) which is always a soothing experience. Mmm, tools. Mmm, hardware. Mmm, plumbing. You get the picture, I hope.

But first I have to get the old bulb out, and how to do that is not obvious. The bulb is flush mounted in a panel on the underside of the hood. There is just a little lip protruding from the surface, and being coated with a thin film of grease (that comes from all the cooking being done here), it is un-grasp-able. I try a medium sized pair of channellocks, judiciously applied, to try and grip it, but no go. An observation by my sharp eyed assistant reveals arrows drawn on the panel indicating the direction the bulb should be turned to remove or install. So we are on the right track, but how do you get a hold of the bulb in order to turn it? And then inspiration hits. The bulb has a flat lower surface, flush with the panel. I reach up with my hand, place my palm flat on the lower face of bulb, apply a little pressure, turn (anti-clockwise) maybe a quarter circle, and it falls out in my hand. Easy-peasy, if you know what you are doing.

So what kind of bulb is this? Here's the second part of the problem. I can see there are some black markings on the side, but they are almost unreadable. They are printed on the outside of the glass reflector, which is fluted and plated on the inside. By focusing on one character at a time and slowly turning the bulb I can make out that it is a


I could take it to the store and look for one, but I have other things to do, and if I wait to do this when I am out and about I am liable to forget. Amazon to the rescue. Point and click and a couple of minutes later a pack of two bulbs is on its way for $9. It won't be here for a couple of days, but that is more reliable than relying on me to remember to look for one at the hardware store.

P.S. These bulbs come in two flavors: LED and Halogen. The one I have in my hand appears to be a Halogen bulb. I am still a little suspicious of LED's. Enthusiasm drives up the price. High prices cool my enthusiasm, so Halogen for me. Plus all the others on the first page were for packages of eight or ten, and I do not want a pile of these suckers. I only want one, but two might not be a bad idea. There are two bulbs in the hood, and if one has burned out the other might not be far behind.

Update: Plugging in the new bulb was a bit of a trick. As you can see from the photo (above), there are two prongs on back of the bulb. Plugging in the new bulb should be fairly straight forward, except once the prongs are near enough to the socket, you can no longer see what is going on. So I eyeball the situation, orient the bulb as best I can, raise it straight up and hope the prongs reach the correct holes. I make several attempts but none make the connection. Finally I abandon my careful align-the-bomb-sight method and simply push the bulb up with the palm of my hand and turn it (much in reverse of my removal procedure) and after a little big of jiggling, it pops into position. Now it's a matter of turning the bulb enough to engage the clips. That takes some repeated applications of torque, but eventually it gets done.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Undisclosed Recipients

reading hanan abdul

This is a nothing video, just good ol' s.g. reading a bit of spam. I don't know why, but it's just the funniest thing I've seen today. Okay, it's been pretty quiet here, so anything out of the ordinary is like a little ray of sunshine.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

War On Drugs

Delflazacort Molecular Structure
Marcel posts a link to a story about the big price increase for deflazacort , which is some kind of drug for a semi-rare disease, which means that I don't know if anyone I know actually has it.

Anyway, these issues irritate me because, 1) the big drug companies are obviously evil, impoverishing zillions of honest people simply because they want to live a little longer, 2) these stories are designed to inflame people's passions, which we all know are best way to make a rational decision, and 3) what can I do about it? And aren't there people who are supposed to be watching out for this shit?

Anyway, it all got me stirred up enough to comment, and since it was such a great comment, I thought I would share:
There are three separate issues here. One is whether people who would benefit from this drug can get it. Two is whether the drug company is making so much money from the sale of this drug that they should be publicly flogged. And three is whether people taking this drug are getting any benefit from it. While we might like to think that these issues are all tied together, they are not. They are in fact completely independent. I suspect Marathon, like most everyone in the health care industry, is gaming the system in order to maximize their profits. All this fuss about the price of this drug is entirely a political tempest designed to stir up more s**t so nobody notices that what is actually happening, which is that the big monkeys are stealing all the monkey biscuits.
And yes, I'm on a three-points-make-an-argument kick this morning.

Wikipedia has an article about Deflazacort. You can follow the link, but be warned, this rabbit hole is deep.

The drawing of the molecular structure of delflazacort (top) includes some marks that I just came across this week while assisting my daughter with her chemistry class. First, let's cover the basics. The capital letters indicate atoms of Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen. The single lines indicate single covalent bonds and the double lines indicate double bonds (imagine that!). The vertices where there are no letters are Carbon. The pointy arrow marks are bonds to atoms that are above the page, and the dash marks indicate a pointy arrow that goes to an atom below the page. All the other atoms must therefor lie in a plane. Molecular shape has a great deal to do with how a molecule works in the body.

While looking for a picture to accompany this post (drugs are always tough), I found a bunch of 3D renderings, but they were all water-marked which kind of detracts from their appearance. In diabolical daughter's chemistry class, there are plenty of 3D models to mess with (meaning you can twist and turn them on the screen so you can get a real 'feel' for their shape, but they are all simple, molecules with fewer than a dozen atoms, so no deflazacort.

The 3D feature on Google Earth can do the same with land forms. Pick an area with some hills, click on the 3D button, press the Control key, and now you can use the mouse to pan (turn) and tilt your view. It can really make the hills come alive. You do need a relatively current processor (something from the last five or ten years), plenty of memory and a high speed internet connection, but it's really quite spectacular.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Hay Wain

The Hay Wain, John Constable, 1821
The Top Gear clowns are thrashing some old hatchbacks, and Richard Hammond puts his in the ditch. This prompts James May to comment (11-12 minute marks) that if John Constable had lived today, he would have painted that scene and called it "Hey! Wayne!", so naturally I have to go find out who John Constable is, and why "Hey! Wayne!" is funny.


The Bees That Give You Almonds

Via Benjamin & Shelby - LA Times Newsletter.

Computer Systems

Cardstacking a 6.1m (20 ft) Card Tower

A 'house of cards' used to be my favorite analogy for computer systems. You start with theoretical physics on the ground and then you put down a layer of transistors and the technology needed to print zillions of them on chips. Once you have the hardware then you can start layering software on top of it, layer after layer of libraries, functions, procedures, API's (Application Programming Interfaces), and eventually your application program, which does something useful. It's all great as long as everything works the way it is supposed to, but one little bug can send the whole thing crashing to the ground.

About a week ago I decided I needed a user-friendly front-end for my 3D gear drawing program, so I went looking for a sample program I could use as a basis to build my own. One thing led to another and I ended up at QT, which is a package for developing user interface programs for Linux. They have a fancy website, full of instructions, documentation and files to download. Plus it seems to be what was used to build the KDE desktop program that is running on my Linux box. So I download and install it and all goes well until I try to compile one of the sample programs and boom! I get an error: cannot find qmake. Well, fiddle-me-stickers. I go poking around and end up on a couple of forums where I quickly get some free advice. I follow some of the proferred links, one link leads to another, and pretty soon I am back where I started and still no solution. I check back a day or so later and now we have some real information, i.e. information judiciously applied that changes the situation. A couple iterations and presto, we can now compile and run at least one of the sample programs.

Now I have a new analogy to describe computer systems. The house-of-cards analogy was great back in the days of mainframes and mini-computers, and even in the early days of microprocessors. The machines were expensive and so it was worthwhile to enforce a rigorous design structure on the software that ran on them. (Make no mistake, enforcement was an expensive proposition. Remember the story about how managing programmers is akin to herding cats.) But then computer hardware got to be much cheaper, many more people found uses for them, and people started tacking all kinds of programs onto the existing base structure. And what we ended up with is a horribly complicated mess. Well, at least it looks like that if you look under the hood.

Then I got a new idea: Modern computer application programs are a lot like automobile factory assembly lines. They started with a simple assembly line where cars were assembled piece by piece, but as time went on, cars became more successful and the assembly lines got more complicated. It used to be when you needed to hook into the assembly line, you could ask anybody who worked in the factory and they could tell you what you needed. Now, however, there are a zillion people working there and most of them have no idea about what goes on outside their small corner, but being helpful people they are willing to offer all kinds of advice. "Oh, you need a bolt? I think I saw some bolts over in the windshield department. They are over there, on the other side of the campus." So you go to the windshield department and they laugh and send you to the casting department. Today's computer systems are a lot like that. You may only need one small piece of information, but finding someone who can give you that bit might take days, and that's only because we have the internet.

Trip Through The River Rouge Plant (1938)

Best part of this video is part where they show how V-8 engines are cast. I was looking for something like this earlier and couldn't find anything. Another interesting bit was the grinding and polishing of window glass. Nowadays it comes out of the extruder clear and flat, or it is once it cools down.

Watching this video I was most impressed by the number and size of the machinery used in production. There must be an equally huge industry that builds these machines, but the companies involved are scattered around, not concentrated in one place. It's kind of funny. The assembly line jobs are promoted by politicians and community leaders as being 'good jobs', and while they may provide good pay and benefits, they strike me as boring and tedious in the extreme. Building the machines used to build cars, being as those machines are going to unique, that could be an interesting job. Funny how that works. The more we automate things, the fewer rote, assembly-line jobs there are, but without automation, most people would not be able to afford the products being produced.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Missile Away

Trident Missile shortly after launch
It looks like it was launched from San Francisco Bay, but it was actually launched from a spot a few hundred miles down the coast, like near Los Angeles. The Navy launched this test missile from a submarine, and they never tell where their submarines are. However, I think we can safely assume this one was somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.


USA Megaregions
Map divides the USA into regions based on people's commuting patterns. Some of the names of these regions are entertaining, some are enlightening, some are I-have-no-idea. CityLab has the story. Via Detroit Steve.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Curse of Ka'zar

Lemon Jelly - The Curse of Ka'zar

This tune has some cool horn passages.  There is no 'video', just the single still image. I looked up the band and they have had some success. I listened to some of the songs listed in the Wikipedia article, but none of them caught my ear.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Oroville Dam

California Pumped Power and Harvey's Bomb
Oroville Dam is at the upper left, Helm's Creek Pumped Power Plant is at the lower right.
There is trouble at the Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in North America. A claim like 'the tallest' cannot go unchallenged, so I check, and yes it is the tallest. Not the biggest, or widest or most expensive, but the tallest, and it's made out of dirt. There is also an underground pumped power station there. Hey, wait a minute, didn't an underground power station figure in the story about the bomb at Harvey's Casino at Lake Tahoe? Yes, it did, but it's a different one, the Helms Pumped Power Station, 200 miles to the Southeast.

As you can see from the map the Oroville site is much closer than the Helms Creek site, so why did John Birges go to Helms Creek to steal his dynamite instead of Oroville? Probably because construction had finished at Oroville ten years earlier but was ongoing at Helms Creek. It would have been more likely to find dynamite at an ongoing construction site.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Collapse of Civilization

Bronze Age collapse

Another late night documentary. This one is only 45 minutes long. Before I watched this I couldn't have told you when the Bronze Age was, only that it was a long time ago, and I certainly knew nothing of any 'collapse'. Well, YouTube fixed that.

3200 years ago the eastern Mediterranean was home to several advanced civilizations. Okay, no airplanes, rockets or computers, but writing, art and architecture, but in a span of 50 years the whole thing came crashing down and the area entered a 'dark age'.

Notes on people, places and things mentioned in the video:
  • Krzystof Nowicki (never mind that it sounds like Christoph Navitsky) Polish Archaeologist, the man responsible for upsetting the archeological applecart.
  • Battle of the Delta, Egypt finally puts a stop to the attacks of the 'sea-people'.
  • Karfi, local high point / archaeological site on Crete

The population of the entire world at this time was somewhere between 50 and 100 million.

Wars at this time were fought between armies of war chariots. Each chariot was manned by a driver and an archer. The thing that got me was that the sea-people where able to defeat the armies of the empires because they used their javelins on the horses that pulled the chariots.

There is some kind of disconnect here. I'm thinking that the sea-people succeeded because they were not following the established 'rules of war' that the empire's armies were using, and those rules meant that horses were sacred and not to be touched, only enemy soldiers were fair game. It was a matter of honor, and probably economics. Horses may have been worth more than gold back then. Then the sea-people came, all members of the underclass for whom horses were nothing more than symbols of oppression.

Back during the time of Spanish Armada (circa 1600 AD), the British believed in using their cannon to destroy their enemies, but the Spanish wanted to bring their ships alongside their enemy, grapple, board and defeat them in individual combat. We know how that worked out. (The British won, the Spaniards went home and licked their wounds.)

A couple of years ago there was a film about stone age warriors in New Zealand. There was one man who had a whole area all to himself because everyone was terrified of him. A group of young toughs go after him, but for some reason (honor?) they do not attack him en masse, but one at a time. The old guy defeats them all, one at a time. Oddest story of combat I've ever seen.

Honor and glory are two qualities that have been associated with warriors since forever. Along with honor, there were rules, and as long as things were 'fair', the rules stood. But when outsiders enter the fray, or when the fight is no longer 'fair', those rules are discarded, and if you cannot adapt, you are likely to lose.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Postcard from Cuba

Postcard from Cuba
We received a postcard from Cuba in the mail yesterday. The kids mailed it when they were in Havana for Christmas. That was six weeks ago. Still, that's a big improvement over no mail from Cuba.

Another Forced Landing in a Frozen Hell

Iqualuit, Canada (red marker right in the middle)
Greenland is white area in the upper right, Hudson Bay is in the lower left.
A SwissAir airliner suffered an engine failure on February 1 which forced a landing in Iqualuit. The airstrip got its start, like many others, during WW2 when it was known as Frobisher Bay Air Base.

Antonov An-124 UR-82007 in Zurich
Somebody chartered an Antonov An-124 to fly a replacement engine from Zurich to Iqualuit, where the ground crew had erected an igloo around the broken engine.

Antonov visits Iqaluit

That's the second time in four months that I have heard about an airliner being forced down someplace remote.

More posts about airplanes in Greenland.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Delta Dawn Remix

Skeewiff - Delta Dawn [Remaster 2013]

This song show showed up in a Trip Hop mix I was listening to. The rest of the songs were fine, but none of them rang a bell like this one. Look it up on Yahoo and the first thing that shows up is a Mississippi murder victim from 1982. Weird, but apparently no connection to the song. The song was a big hit for Tanya Tucker and Helen Reddy. Helen's version made it to #1 on the pop charts back in 1973, which is no doubt why I remember it.

Rocket to the Moon

Saturn V, The first Rocket for the Moon - Documentary

Saturday night and I'm sitting home watching documentaries on YouTube. This one is pretty good, mostly for the attitudes and emotions of those involved. The problems they describe may, or may not, have been the biggest problems they faced, but they were representative of the kinds of problems they had to deal with. If something went wrong the whole thing went blooey. They talk about computers controlling things and it makes me wonder just what kind of computers they were. And then there are the movies of the engines taken in flight. What kind of cameras were they using for that? TV cameras, I suppose, but all analog, which meant they were broadcasting their signal back to the ground. I doubt whether we have enough people around who even know how to do that anymore.

Lord Copper

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
Came across the name Lord Copper in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal this morning. Never heard of him, found he was a character in the 1938 novel Scoop:
Lord Copper, the newspaper magnate, has been said to be an amalgam of Lord Northcliffe and Lord Beaverbrook: a character so fearsome that his obsequious foreign editor, Mr Salter, can never openly disagree with him, answering "Definitely, Lord Copper" and 'Up to a point, Lord Copper" in place of "yes" or "no". - Wikipedia
Older son corrects my pronunciation of Evelyn, telling me it is more Evil-in, or prehaps Eve-lyn, as opposed to the woman's name of Ev-el-in.

Whaa . . . ?

Cartier Love Bracelet
Saw this in an ad in the Wall Street Journal and my immediate reaction was WTF? Women are going for slave collars these days? Or are people buying high end collars for their dogs? I dismissed that last one quickly, even I know that Valentine's Day is coming. The bracelet is fine by itself, if you like that kind of thing, but the leather leashes tied all around it, that just strikes me as extremely perverse.

Friday, February 10, 2017

50 and 100 years ago

Toy cosmonauts line a shelf in the Moskva Department Store, one of the largest and most modern in Moscow. The toy dolls were among several suggest gifts displayed in the stores as shoppers prepared for the 50th anniversary of Russia's revolution celebrations.
The Atlantic has a photo essay about what was happening back in 1967. The Russians had spacemen dolls in 1967 while we had to wait another 30 years for ours. Via Detroit Steve.

Star Trek may already be here

Typical Smart Phone Sensors
Phyphox is a program (app) that turns your SmartPhone into a Star Trek -like Tricorder. We may not have flying cars, but we do have flying buses. Plus we can play tiddly-winks on our Tricorders. Via Detroit Steve.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Old Cars for sale at the Grand Palais (warning: autostart music) in Paris, France.
IBTimes has a few pictures of some of the fabulous old clunkers that are going on the auction block. Here's a couple that caught my eye.

1936 Talbot Lago T150C. Artcurial Motorcars
The setting here is at least as important as the car.

1939 Delahaye 135 MS Cabriolet par Figoni & Falaschi. Artcurial Motorcars / Christian Martin
We saw a picture of a different Delahaye once before.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Water, water everywhere.

Derek gives us a two-fer:

Water on the Moon?

I remember hearing about a probe being crashed into the moon. That's not too surprising, a bunch of probes have done that. The one Derek is talking about made contact back in 2009.

Does Hot Water Freeze Faster Than Cold Water?

This is one I've kind of wondered about. The rate at which is heat is transferred between two objects is directly proportional to the difference in their temperature, so a hot object should cool down faster because the difference in temperature is greater. Well, it's greater until it isn't, then it's the same temperature. And since the cooler object has a head start, it's hard to see how the warmer object could ever catch up.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Root of all Evil

Yes, 25.8069 is the square root of 666, or at least close enough for government work. Hmmm, haven't used that phrase in a while. It (close enough for government work) got thrown around a bunch when I was working construction about a zillion years ago, and it wasn't even a government job. Via Sharon.


Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonian Singh in the Star Trek movie The Wrath of Khan
Because I needed a picture of a Khan, and who is the most memorable Khan? Ricardo, of course.
I'm thinking about getting my own domain name and while I know what name I want, I am not sure what suffix I should choose. Com is the common one and it might be okay, but this isn't really going to be a commercial site, it's just me mucking about. The great committee that decides these things has recently added a whole bunch of new suffixes, so I go take a look, and one of the first ones that jumps out at me is akdn, which belongs to the Aga Khan Development Network. Aga is the model moderate Muslim. Seems to be all about good works and tolerance. Doesn't seem to be Jihadist bone in his body.

That name reminds me of the Khan Academy. Determined daughter is studying chemistry and she finds the YouTube videos from Khan Academy (warning: autoplay video) very helpful. Are these two related? Not as near as I can tell.

Then there was the Opium Khan character in the novel Angelmaker that I just finished reading. He was a real nasty villain. Evil personified describes him well.

We recently watched  the first season of Marco Polo on Netflix, where a young Marco spends a year in Kublai Khan's court. It wasn't the greatest show on Earth, but it had some interesting bits, like using trebuchets against the Chinese, who were armed with primitive guns.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Advertisement for Borgata Casino
Another ad in DuJour that caught my eye. This one is for a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Just plain over the top.


Kate Moss
Came across this image, or a similar one, while leafing through DuJour at the doctor's office the other day. Boho? What is this Boho? The Bohemian / Homeless look? Why says the elite don't care?


We just finished watching season 1 of this series and  it is nuts.  We've got all the standard ingredients for a crime show: cops, lawyers, kidnapping, murder, mayhem, sex, and prostitution. On top of that we have a higher level of politics and corruption. And then there is the elephant in the room that no one will talk about. We don't know what it is, but it must be big, because everyone seems to be walking around it. They drag it out for so long, it gets to be irritating, but by the end of the show it has become obvious that the rot runs deep. Corruption can be found everywhere, but from where I sit in my cozy little cell, corruption in Latin America is much worse than it is here in the USA. I don't really know of course. Maybe the criminals here are just better at covering their tracks. Or maybe because I am well fed and warm my perceptions are distorted.

There is a thread of a story running through all this, but it can be a little hard to keep a hold of it with all the random drama popping up, not to mention the red herrings. Nothing is revealed, they are saving that for season 2. Or 3 or however long they can drag this out.

Most of the show is set in Buenos Aires and it looks just like any big city with skyscrapers and modern offices. At first we were guessing that maybe it was set in Mexico or Spain, but it wasn't until I checked that I found it was set in Argentina.

San Carlos de Barlioche
The last few episodes appear to be set in San Carlos de Barlioche, which is nestled up against the Andes mountains.

Estocolmo is Spanish for Stockholm, as in the Stockholm Syndrome. Identidad perdida translates as 'lost identity'.


Mayhem - Watchers (Official Music Video)

The boys went to see this band last night at the Hawthorne Theater. I fail to see the attraction, but then I don't much care for horror movies either and those are extremely popular with some people. Also, I am old. The band's whole shtick seems to be nihilism. I can see how that could be attractive to people who are fed up with the behavior of their fellow citizens.

The band is notorious for some very bad things, though the perpetrator's are no longer in the band. Maybe, it's a little hard to tell when everybody goes by a stage name. They have been around for 30 years. The Quietus has a review:
". . . they were a forward-looking group of musicians who had stronger avant garde/ experimental credentials than anyone else in their field and that I thought it was time to forget all about the murders, suicide, skull jewellery, arson, political extremism and to simply concentrate on the music. In return for my flight I had written a long feature on the history of the band and the solidity of their leftfield musical credentials for a Norwegian paper. It was a very lengthy feature and before I got to the long coda where I commanded people to stop talking about the murders, suicide, skull jewellery, arson, political extremism and concentrate on the music instead; I recapped the band’s history, including all the stuff about the murders, suicide, skull jewellery, arson, political extremism and whatnot." - John Doran
The way he repeats the catch phrase reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld's apology for his 'Axis of Weasels' remark.

Silicon Forest

Silicon Forest by Brian Borrello
At the Interstate/Rose Quarter Max Station
Illuminates the surroundings at night using the solar power that has been collecting during the day.
Kind of cool, I guess. I wasn't aware of this until Sharon, who lives on the other side of the country, sent me the link. It's nice that Tri-Met is trying to do something to alleviate the fascist-modern style that comes with massive concrete installations. Not that it really makes much difference. Public art has to be kind of brutal just to survive being hammered on by the public.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I got your Jihad right here . . .

A search was conducted at this hotel in rue de Ponthieu (8th arrondissement), where the main suspect of the attack of the Louvre would have stayed. LP / OLIVIER ARANDEL
No explosives found on him
On Friday morning at around 9:45 the man burst into the gallery of the Carrousel du Louvre carrying two backpacks. After he approached the soldiers on patrol, he took out two machetes to attack them. According to prefect of Paris Michel Cadot, the man rushed at the soldiers, “uttered threats” and shouted “Allahu Akhbar”.In the report, the aggressor, aged about thirty, was seriously wounded in the flank and buttocks. He was conscious when taken away by the ambulance. No explosives were found in his backpacks.The man fought and risked being killed to try and gain entrance to the Louvre with a satchel full of PAINT BOMBS. - Le Parisien via Vlad Tepes.
Paint bomb? Perhaps balloons filled with paint that he was planning to throw on the most famous paintings in the museum. I suspect these nut cases are coming to the West to make a nuisance of themselves because the secret police back home would have crushed him.
    There are two ways we can go on this. We can turn all of Western Civilization into a police state and track down and kill all these rabid dogs. Or we can embark on a 500 year education plan to eliminate ignorance. Nobody is willing to wait for 500 years, we want it now, whatever it is, so police state here we come.

Via Sharon

Surgical Staples

Our patient made a follow up visit to the doctor yesterday where they removed the 40 odd surgical staples that had been holding the incisions closed. The one on the outside of his ankle was about five inches and the one on the inside was about half that long. I had been so caught up in the mechanics of bone repair (plate and screws) that I completely forgotten that they would have had to cut into his leg in order to get access to the bones.

In any case, he tells me that when the staples are removed they are in the shape of the letter M. Well, that's weird, so I go a Googling. I don't recommend it. Ask Google for images of surgical staples and it serves up an endless supply of pictures of wounds that have been closed with dozens of surgical staples. Too grim for me. A little more digging gets us some information about the nice, clean, bloodless machinery.

Preloaded, Disposable Stapler, on eBay for $9.

Disposable staple remover from iRemedySupply for $1.
I surmise that closing a gash is now a do-it-yourself procedure. Here's a couple of illustrations that show the mechanics of insertion and removal.

Staple Insertion

Staple Removal
Ran across a couple of stories this morning that give you an idea of how weird our bodies are. Kind of weird because one of the illusionists we saw earlier this week stuck a coin in his eye socket and pulled it out of a gash he made in his arm, which is not even possible.

How much energy would it take to blow up a planet?

How Much Power Do You Need To Destroy A Planet?

Remember when Darth Vader used the Death Star to blow up Princess Leia's home planet of Alderaan in the original Star Wars movie? I got to wondering about this the other day. In particular I was wondering if the Death Star would be big enough to generate the required energy. I'm thinking we could use microwave radiation to heat the interior of the planet to the point that it would boil and then vaporize. Who knows why this returned to my attention tonight, but it did. A little surfing turned up a story on Science Alert that features a video by Scott Manley (above) and an article in Popular Mechanics that offers a selection of ideas on how the job might be accomplished. I like Manley's explanation best, mostly because he put together this cool video.

Manley has graced these pages before.

Because We Can

Y2k mtt VS Jet fighter .. unfair for the bike , See what happen

Inspired by rumors of a Ducati with a jet exhaust, via older son. Previous use of  title.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Posthip Scott sent me a story about some guys who were going to fix the WiFi connection problem using 'machine learning', which I suspect is a primitive form of AI (Artificial Intelligence). So I'm reading this story and they are talking about what goes on when your computer (or phone) tries to make a WiFi connection. They run through various scenarios and then instead of tackling the problem with logic, deduction and reasoning, they dump it on a machine learning system. That system runs through various scenarios and 'learns' which sequences are able to establish a connection the quickest.

To my mind this is being lazy. The problem doesn't sound that hard. If these guys just applied themselves they could probably work out a efficient design without having to resort to this 'machine learning' stuff, however involved, complicated or resource intensive it is. ('however' means that while I may have my suspicions, I have no idea.)

Steam Train to Hell
Then I realized a couple of things. One, using the 'machine learning' technique allows them to throw a popular buzzword around and let people know that they are on the band-wagon (full-steam ahead to Armageddon).

Two, the problem is kind of mundane and kind of time consuming to solve. You've got a bunch of things to try. Certain sequences will work better than others, but the only way to find out is to try it, and as you know, establishing a new WiFi connection can take time. If you only have to do that once or twice, it's tolerable, but imagine having to do it a thousand or even ten thousand times. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Fire up your 'machine learning' program and let it try to make a connection a couple of thousand times. That might take a week, but since nobody needs to sit there and watch it, you can work on other things. Presuming, that is, that the 'machine learning' program itself is reliable. Still have to use good old testing by humans to get that part down.

Three, the problem may not actually be amenable to solving by human logic and reason. There are some problems that at first are very simple, but then you add another set of conditions and it gets a little more complicated. Add another set of conditions and the problem becomes complex. Add another one or two and all of sudden the problem requires a super-computer running for a month of Sundays to solve. (Actually I wonder about that. Do we have any working computer programs that are designed to solve real-world problems that would take six months of run-time on the government's weather-forecasting computers?)

I was trying to think of a real-world problem that could be used to illustrate this idea. I mean with all my experience you'd think I'd be able to come up with something, but I quickly latched onto the Traveling Salesman Problem and while it is not exactly what I was trying to convey, it will do.

The Traveling Salesman Problem briefly involves plotting the most efficient route for a person to visit some number of cities. If there are only two cities the problem is trivial: you visit one and then you visit the other. Likewise, it the cities are all on a line like, say, I-70, the solution is easy: start at one end and then drive to the next city on the line.

It's when you have several cities scattered across the state that the problem becomes difficult. If you have four cities you have six possible routes, if you have five cities there are 24 routes, six cities means there 120 routes. By the time you get to ten cities you have more than a quarter of a million routes. A person could solve the six city problem, and any smart phone could solve the ten city problem in less than a second, but bump up the number of cities to a hundred, which might be rural salesman's monthly tour, or a bit city salesman's annual tour, and ain't nobody got time for that.

As I recall, Knuth wrote Algorithms and and Data Structures, one of the textbooks I used in school (actually, Donald E.Knuth wrote The Art of Computer ProgrammingNichlaus Wirth wrote Algorithms and + Data Structures = Programs. Whatever.)  Knuth has been writing algorithms ever since. He has something like a zillion algorithms for doing I don't know what. Everything that could possibly be done by computer, I suppose.  In Computer Science they teach you some basic stuff, like the difference between an address and its contents, how the contents of a memory location can be interpreted as a letter (an alphanumeric character), a number, or as address to another location (a pointer!). Then you move up to linked lists (or down into machine code). The next step up is algorithms. The only one I remember is Quick Sort, and I'm actually a little hazy on how it works. We went over half a dozen inferior sort algorithms before we got to Quick Sort, but once I got out of school I didn't use it until I started programming in C, and once you get there you don't need to know it anymore because it's part of the standard C library.

The point is that there might already be an algorithm to solve this problem, but how would you know? How could you possibly find out? And would you be willing to spend the $200 necessary to buy the book that explains it?

So 'machine learning' may not be all that special or miraculous, it's just another tool that we can use to bend the machines to our will.

Last year or so I've been playing on, working on writing programs to solve various puzzles. A number of their puzzles involve a rectangular grid, roughly the size of a chessboard, and solving these problems often involved using recursion. Recursion, for me, has always been a bit tricky. I can often see what needs to be done, but translating that vision into variables, and then knowing what question to ask of that variable, can be difficult. If the answer does not appear immediately, stewing on it for a couple of days will generally produce a solution.

But all these problems are so similar! I should be able to design a structure that could be used for all of these problems and so enable me solve the problem sooner.

But then I got some other ideas that I wanted to pursue, and building a general purpose recursive structure didn't seem all that important.

The curious part is that I don't have, or am not aware of having, a procedure for designing recursive procedures. I could tell you what is going on in any one problem. It's complicated and would take some effort to record that. But to make any use of that, you would have to make recordings of the process I used to solve other recursive problems, and then compare them to see if there is, in fact, any similarities.

Maybe machine-learning is the way to go.