Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Monday, April 16, 2018

Binky Has Friends

Project Binky - Episode 16 - Austin Mini GT-Four - Turbocharged 4WD Mini

This might be slowest series in the history of the world. They put out an episode every 3 or 4 months, so at this rate they must have working on this project for years. (A quick check reveals that it has been nearly five years.) This episode is fairly typical, with lots of shots of pieces of metal being beaten into submission and plenty of snide remarks. There were a couple of scenes that tickled me. At the 2:55 mark, the narrator is commenting on the TIG welder currently in use. He makes a couple of ambiguous comments, and then says, "all we know is he is called the TIG", which if you have ever watched Top Gear, sounds exactly like the introduction Jeremy Clarkson gives the Stig (follow the link, you might enjoy it).

Then at the end, where you have a couple of blokes sitting at a table drinking tea while the credits role, there is a guy in the background sweeping up. I watch him for a bit and think, you know, he looks kind of like the tousle haired mechanic from Wheeler Dealers, and what do you know, it is. Edd China. He even gets a credit.

Project Binky has shown up here before.

Fun with Electricity

Breaker Box
Studying household wiring yesterday, we pull the cover off the circuit breaker box and take a look inside. The two big, fat aluminum leads from the power company connect to the two banks of circuit breakers, one lead to each bank. From there, black (hot) leads carry current all over the house. The white (neutral) leads complete the circuit. All of the white leads connect to a couple of bus bars that are connected together and to the neutral line from the meter. They are also connected to the ground wire that presumably goes to a steel rod pounded into the ground. Used to be you could use water lines for this purpose, back when water lines were made of steel. Plastic lines won't work for this purpose. Gas lines are still made of steel, at least some of them are, but somehow connecting up an electrical line to a gas pipe doesn't sound like a very good idea, even if it isn't normally carrying any current.

The bare, copper, ground wires coming into the box are also connected to the same bus bars as the neutral (return) lines. We really don't want any electrical device to not have a safe return path.

Cordless Phone

We finish our inspection and put the cover back on. A few minutes later my wife discovers that the phone is not working. That's weird, it was working fine a few minutes ago. What could have happened? A smart person would have realized that the boys were playing with the power and maybe they broke something. The first thing to check is that the phone is actually getting power. The cell phone modem (that the cordless phone plugs into), plugged into the same outlet as the phone, has got power, the little blue lights are all glowing happily. Tested the wall wart and it's fine. The phone must be dead. Order a replacement from Amazon for $25, be here Tuesday. Go to bed.

This morning at oh-dark-thirty my wife wakes me up to tell me that the coffee maker isn't working. Waaahhh? Go check the breaker panel and last breaker on the left bank is off. Must have hit it when we were messing about.

Verizon Wireless Home Phone

The cell modem must have a battery that enables it to keep the LED's glowing even when there is no power. Stupid modern gimcracks.

Plugged the phone back in and it's working fine.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


85-year-old swimmer set to break national, provincial records

One good thing about getting older is there is less competition in your age group for just about anything you want to attempt.

Via Iaman

Pic of the Day

Pilatus PC-12 on the ramp in Sacramento, California after a rain storm
The Pilatus is what a personal aircraft should be. Big enough to carry your entire family, all their luggage, and enough fuel to fly halfway across the country, and get there later today. But they are a little spendy.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Emergency Oxygen Mask with Smart Glasses
You'd think that with all the safety edicts there could never be a fire inside a commercial airliner, but as history demonstrates, people will find a way. Oxygen masks are standard emergency equipment on any commercial aircraft that flies over 2 or 3 miles high, but if smoke fills the cabin you won't be able to see where you are going, and if it's really bad, you won't even be able to see the instrument panel. Osterhout Design Group combined the oxygen mask with Smartglasses and cameras so pilots can breath and see where they are going even if the cabin fills with dense smoke.

This might be the first step towards eliminating windows completely, but it will probably be several generations (of people) before windowless designs become commonplace. Driverless cars are liable to be the first victims of this new cost-cutting measure. The AI system driving your car surely doesn't need any windows, and who wants to look at a grimy, decrepit urban landscape when you can be playing fantasy video games on your 8K screen in your little mechanical cocoon? Motion sickness might be a problem for some people, but we have pills for that. And if you don't agree with the new windowless policy, we have pills for that, too.

Via FlightAware
Title Song

Quote of the Day

Planck as a young man, 1878
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. - Max Planck

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Déjà Vu, Alaska

Déjà Vu, Alaska - A Flying Short Film

I was honored to attend the world premiere of Déjà Vu, Alaska at the Thursday night hangar hangout at the Hillsboro Airport. A fine film by any standards, but most especially by ours.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sign of the Times

Sign at entrance to Ft. Hood, Texas

Ft. Hood is a big place. Here's a Google Streetview of a sign at a SE Entrance.

Via Iaman

Airbags for Motorcycles

Alpinestars Tech-Air airbag crash test | Visordown Product Review

Looks like it might be a good idea. Originally developed for racing. Via Iaman.

Bite your tongue, but not too hard

Iaman reports from Austin:

I was invited by a fellow church goer to participate in fixing up someone's house. I was thinking it was some local poor unfortunate.

Watch what you volunteer for.

I arrive (84 mile round trip ) at a small 1980s tract home is a well kept community, at 9 AM.

There are nice serviceable cars in the garage and driveway.

How does this house differ from any other in the subdivision?

There is a bustle of fellow volunteers arranging tools and materials.  Overgrown Trees and bushes have been trimmed, the result bundled on the curb. Some of the hardboard siding had already been replaced and caulked.

Closer inspection shows the wallboard to be damp, decomposing and needing to be replaced in another 8 years. This what we are to paint.

The house looks pleasant in its Tan and brown,  fitting nicely into the community.  The owners requested a festive Mexican style color change to Teal trim and white.  This of course requires more paint and more attention to detail. and that combo with brown brick is going to suck.

I bit my tongue. as I think: "fuck this, I'm not painting any fucking Teal paint!"  then another  "fuck that!" .

I wire brush the aluminum patio cover trim  of sticks and leaves,  looking top-side there is a composting pile of leaves, a foot deep,  and the junction of the patio and house roof.  The rot of the roof is palpable. No one wants to climb up there to expose a bigger job.

Thinking "what can I do that will occupy my mind and not violate my sensibilities"  I take to painting white  under the shelter of the patio cover from the cold 40F windy damp weather.  I'm being careful and more attentive to detail than this job deserves.   Looking up while painting under the kitchen window I see a large 300lb man very ably maneuvering through the kitchen building a large burrito, he guiltily catches me watching him. Next to cut-in the sliding door, inside is a woman younger than me watching TV, later she gets up again quite ably to drive her late model car out of the driveway to run errands.  Those two could have changed the entire experience for 20 people if they had come out and profusely offered their thanks, many times over (that's what you do for volunteers)....but no......just silence layering over guilt.

(in retrospect I should have asked more about the project beneficiaries and made a go/no-go decision from there, not because a nice person asked me to volunteer.  Oh well, live and learn)

I finish doing what I can without climbing ladders, listen to 4 men discuss the logistics of asking the homeowner whether it is OK that they can paint the black patio support uprights with enamel spray paint, vs brushing them with latex teal........ and I then skedaddle.

Weaving through traffic down to Deep eddy, air 40F, water 69F,  I swim 2.25 mile to bleed off my disgust with the illogical world. 

I'm the sole swimmer attend to by 6 lifeguards and attendants.

Watch,  the repainting project will go viral as a example of man's humanity to man.

Linux is Lovely

My Linux box crashed a little over a week ago and it upset my whole mental apple cart. I wasn't doing anything particularly bad, surfing the net, and maybe I opened one too many commercial, bloated websites, but it crashed the system but good. When I rebooted all I got was the command line interface, the GUI was gone. Okay, I am not going to try and figure out how to fix it, I'll just reinstall the OS. I've done that before, so it's not like I will have to learn anything completely new, though since it's been a year since I last had to do this it may seem like it.

As I recall, the last time I used an 8 gigabyte USB flash drive. I should still have it, I mean nothing ever gets thrown away, but rooting around in my pile of computer parts failed to turn it up. Okay, fine, download the latest version and burn a DVD, which means I need to fire up my old Zbox, because while my current box has a DVD drive, it is not a burner. The Zbox does. But the Zbox internet connection is screwed up.

So I boot the backup partition on my main box, download the 2 gigabyte iso image file, and copy it to an external hard drive (I have a stack of them. Pick one, any one), carry this external drive over to the Zbox, plug it in, and burn a DVD using Brasero.

Install the latest OS over the broken one and we're back! And then I turn to YouTube and there's no sound. WTF? We've had sound coming out of PC's since day one, how can there be no sound? Poke and prod and find that Intel makes 35 different versions of the sound chip my system uses and the driver doesn't necessarily recognize all of them. The recommended fix is to replace the kernel with a newer/older/different one. Now all I have to do it figure out which one I have, which ones are available, and how to replace just the kernel. I suppose I'll sort it out eventually, but it's kind of a pain.

I suppose a the smart thing to do would be to buy a new system, and if my time had any cash value that would be an option, but since it doesn't, I get to play plumber.

Huh? Follow me down an analogous rathole and I will explain.

The toilet in the master bath started leaking. The fill valve and its fittings are the usual culprit being as they are under pressure, but the underside of the shutoff valve (where the water supply line comes out of the wall) was dry, and any leak from the supply side will run down the line and drip off the bottom of this valve. So if it's not the fill valve, it must be the wax gasket where the toilet meets the sewer pipe. That's happened here a couple of times, but the toilet is solidly mounted, so maybe not. What else could it be? There is a little water where the tank mounts to the base. Could that be it? I've never seen one of those joints fail before, but it sure seems like the culprit. Pull the tank and the gasket. It doesn't look really bad, but it's doesn't look great either, so off to Lowe's where I pick up a couple of Kohler tank gaskets and a Fluidmaster flush valve kit. Get home and examine what I've got. The Kohler gaskets don't look to be quite right. Open up the Fluidmaster kit and, lo and behold! A perfect gasket! Put the toilet back together and we're in business.

If I had called a plumber to fix this, it probably would have taken a week to get someone to come out, and they would have simply replaced the toilet and charged me $500.

The Expanse Spaceships

I started watching season 2 of the science fiction series The Expanse the other night and I got to wondering about the space ship names. Names used in fiction are prime opportunities to offer homage to some past greats, so who are we honoring here?

Guy Molinari cargo ship
Gaetano Victor "Guy" Molinari is a former United States Representative and borough president of Staten Island, New York. There is also a Staten Island ferry named after him. How did this happen? Seems one of the original authors lived in NYC and rode the ferry. Staten Island Real Time News tells all.

Rocinante gunship
This one is odd as well. Rocinante is the name of Don Quixote's horse: "like Don Quixote, he is awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities." While this ship looks very capable here, it is pretty much outclassed by anything bigger.

Updated / rewritten from my earlier notes.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The N-Word

The N-word is one of my favorite expletives. I use it liberally when I am driving in traffic, surrounded by cars driven by incompetent white people. Near as I can tell, the N-word is shorthand for a useless person, regardless of color. It's usually applied to black people, either in a hostile manner by whites, or in a friendly manner by blacks, as in yes, we are all worthless bums. Whites don't generally apply the N-word to other whites, they are usually  more explicit in their condemnation, as in "a useless piece of s**t".

There was a scene in a movie that still sticks with me. I thought it was Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), but it was actually The Landlord (1968). Someone, I don't remember who, asks if anyone knows the other meaning for the NAACP? "Niggers ain't always colored people" is the answer. The scene ends with someone having a tureen of soup dumped on their head.

I don't use the N-word much these days since I've learned how to keep calm in traffic (basically it means giving up on ever getting anywhere. Turns out you will get there eventually anyway, even if you have to crawl). Plus my kids give me grief about it.

I read a short piece recently about how the current social prohibition against using the N-word exacerbates racism more than the use of the word itself. I don't know about that, but then I live in a mostly white suburb in a mostly white city in a mostly white state, so it's not like I'm going to start a riot by using the N-word at an inopportune moment. It's more likely I'd get punched by a redneck.

Inspired by a blog post on Front Sight Press by Tiffany Johnson. Via Tam.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Horch 851

1935 Horch 851
I am nearing the end of Masaryk Station by David Downing and I come across a passage where an East German bureaucrat is sent down to Aue to talk to the leader of the local labor union. His boss gives him a Horch 851 automobile to drive to "impress the Russians". He's not keen on any of this, but it's his job, so off he goes. He hasn't driven in a long time and it takes him a while to get sorted, but once he does:
"He loved trains, and the chance they gave you to sit by the window and watch the world go by; but there was something just as liberating about sitting alone in a car, controlling your own direction and speed. An illusion of independence perhaps, but an intoxicating one nonetheless." - Page 311
I've been hearing about America's love affair with the car since I was a kid, but I have seldom heard any kind of cogent explanation, and here I find one in an aside in an espionage novel. I enjoy encountering little bits of clarity like this.

This book is set in the same time period as another espionage thriller I read about a year ago: Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon. The Wismut uranium mines in Aue and the Berlin Airlift show up in both books.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Quotes of the Day

Anna Chapman in Moscow June 2011
The strength of Putin’s rule is not so much in his iron grip on everyone’s life, or the sophistication of his spies. It’s the deep-ingrained belief of many Russians, both among the elite and commoners, that the government is the only thing that can protect each of us from the rest of us. - Dima Vorobiev on Quora
I am glad to see that Russia is making some economic progress. Putin might be a killer, but is there anyone who would prefer that Stalin was still in charge? Did Putin order the execution of the Russians who were killed in Britain recently? Seems pretty thin to me. I mean our government is not always the most competent when ferreting out the details. I suspect someone had a personal grudge. Maybe it was Putin, maybe it was someone else. Whatever. In any case I am looking for a picture to post and I come across Anna Chapman, who was some sort of real-life Bond girl.
It's no secret that we live in an era of overabundance of information. Today a day a person learns more than a hundred years ago could learn for a lifetime. In this uncontrolled flow of knowledge it is difficult to understand: where we are honest and where we are deceived. And as a result, many take on faith all incoming information. Or, on the contrary, they throw themselves away, not even allowing the thought that it can be reliable. When this winter the swine flu epidemic hit most of Russia, there were many versions of its origin. Up to the point that it came to us from the territory of Ukraine - allegedly in the laboratory near Kharkov, the Americans are developing biological weapons. A crazy theory that, nevertheless, has a right to exist. - Anna Chapman via Google Translate
Seems like wacko conspiracy theories exist on both sides of the ideological divide. Oh wait, maybe the CIA actually did infect Russia with the swine flu. I wouldn't put it past them. They certainly have a long history of dirty tricks. I don't actually think they did. Mother Nature doesn't really care what we do or say. Sometimes her vicious nature just asserts itself and a zillion people die.

P.S. While looking at pictures of Anna, I came across several that had her posing with a gun. Well, if you're going to be one of the elite, and I'm pretty sure being a real-life Bond girl qualifies, you need to be able to handle a firearm. But this pic won out because we have a Russian church in the background. I don't think it's St. Basil's, but I am pretty sure it's in Moscow.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Making Records

WarmTone™ Record Press Promo

I've been listening to KQRZ lately and I've been hearing some strange stuff. Occasionally I will hear something I recognize but it's usually stuff that sounds like it's from the 50's or 60's, but they are tunes I've never heard. And then I realized that for every tune that makes to the top 40 on the radio, there are probably a thousand or ten that don't, which makes Don Kirshner (the man with the golden ear) in The Brill Building all the more extraordinary.

Every one of those records needed to be recorded in a studio and then the recording had to be turned into a master for pressing vinyl records and then you can finally start the press and start cranking out copies. A complicated and exacting process.

Looking for pictures I turned up a photo essay on LSD about the old record making business, and then a Pop-Sci story about a brand new company making new record presses. Back in the 50's and 60's most of the records were 7" 45's. You bought it on a whim, played it until you got bored and then threw it away, or you did if music was that important to you. At a friend's urging I bought one (85 cents as I recall), I didn't particularly care for it, and I never bought anymore. 85 cents was more important.

Pic of the Day

Shadow of the Eiffel Tower aligned with the Pont d'Iéna
Just one of those freak occurences. Via Quora

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Train of the Day

Steam Train in the middle of the Freeway - Santa Fe 3751

Google Maps show there is such a track in LA. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, LA is a big city. They are bound to have all kinds of weird shit. Via Posthip Scott.

Quote of the Day

H. L. Mencken, 1917
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. - H. L. Mencken
Via Bayou Renaissance Man

Sunday, March 25, 2018


Someone on Quora wanted to know if you could compute 1,000,000,000! (one billion factorial) on a computer without the computer blowing up and catching fire. I said sure, though you would need some storage space as the result of such a computation would be roughly 9.5 billion digits long. And then someone else asked how long that would take, and that's a little harder to figure out. There are any number of computing problems that would take zillions of years to complete. Is this one of them? I don't think so, so I wrote a program using the GMP library to check. Every 100,000 numbers, it posts the elapsed time. Dennis put it into a graph.

Computing 1,000,000 Factorial
X Axis is the number divided by 100,000
Y Axis is the number of seconds
Evaluating 1.6932x^2 + 0.1023x - 0.75 with x set to one billions gives us 1.6932e18 seconds. You will notice that only the first term of that polynomial has any bearing on the result. The second and third terms are down in the noise. It works out to be 53 billion years. So the real answer to the original question is no.

Of course, if you could line up a billion super fast processors you could knock that down to 53 years, and if you figure out a more efficient algorithm, you could probably cut that in half. Still, it would take a very long time and all you would get would be a really long string of digits.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

United Fight Club Back In The News

Ruben Lee, center, with fellow flight attendants during an earlier part of his United Airlines career.
United Airlines lost a court fight to a former employee. The description of the testimony sounds like something out of a Soviet show trial.
Lane put a supervisor on the witness stand, he recalls, "and I said, 'In the hierarchy of rule violations, these are pretty ticky-tacky.' He said, 'I don't agree.' I said, 'For example, watching an iPad for a few minutes is certainly less serious than lighting a campfire in the bathroom of a flight when it's at 35,000 feet.' And he said, 'No, I disagree with that.' I said, 'Seriously? You think lighting a campfire in the bathroom is as serious as watching an iPad for a few minutes?' And he said, 'Yes.'"
The supervisor has apparently confused with loyal obedience with truth. Westword has the story. Via Flight Aware

Friday, March 23, 2018

Darkness At Noon

Arthur Koestler during an expedition to Arctic Russia on the Graf Zeppelin, which he covered as a journalist, July 1931 - ullstein bild/Getty Images
Arthur Koestler was a German writer. He wrote for newspapers and he also wrote some books, and here he is flying over northern Russia in Zeppelin. The New York Review of Books has a readable story about his novel Darkness At Noon. At least the first half is enjoyable, up until you get to this picture. After that is starts getting into the differences between the various translations. Yes, you could argue that different translations of a German phrase would change the color of the story. On the other hand you can't argue with success. Could it be that one reason for the books' popularity is the style in which it was written? A better translation might not have been as well received. But we're quibbling about what might have happened.

I think Arthur must be someone all aspiring espionage novelists must read. I'm reading Masaryk Station by David Downing right now and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I was wondering why I seem to gravitate to espionage thrillers. I think it's because I am curious about that moment when civilization breaks down. When does having a copper show up your door change from:
  • taking a trip downtown, talking to your lawyer and getting bailed out, to
  • taking a trip downtown, being taken into the basement and shot in the head.
The guys in these thrillers are all walking the line between civilized society and tyrannical rule. Sometimes they are demented, sometimes they are drunk, and sometimes push comes to shove and they wander off the line a bit and somebody gets hurt.

So how do you know when the government has really gone over to the dark side? Well, everybody's standards are different. Lots of people think the government has gone too far already. Some people don't think it has gone anywhere near far enough. One thing I haven't heard is that those who aren't having trouble with the police think that the police are the ones best suited, by experience, to deal with those people whose behavior warrants their attention.

Big Cities seem to have trouble with corruption which often finds its way into the police department. So it's a trade off. There is some kind of advantage to being in a big city, but the bigger the city, the darker it is. So is it worth it to you?

Pic of the Day

Blood Supply to the Brain
Found out running around loose on the internet.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

How hot can a microwave heat something?

"Unwise" Microwave Experiment

A question on Quora got me started. An answer to the same question on Reddit pointed to the above video. I remember staying at my parents apartment in Austin about a zillion years ago. I woke up in the middle of the night (not unusual) and thought to fix myself a cup of tea, so I put a cup full of water in the microwave to heat it. I didn't heat it that long, maybe a minute or two, but when I reached in and picked it up by the handle I discovered that the cup was red hot and I wanted to yell and drop the cup but everyone else is sleeping and I don't want to wake anybody, so I stifle myself until I could put the cup down. The water still wasn't hot. So. Some materials get hot in microwaves and some of them do it very quickly. The cup was Corning Ware of some sort. We have some and I heat food on it in the microwave, but I am careful when I take it out, especially when I use the reheat button. I kind of like having a hot plate.

If you heat up your food in a microwave safe bowl, which I presume means that it doesn't get hot in a microwave, then when you pull it out of the microwave, the relatively cool bowl is going to suck the heat out of your food, and it's going to be even worse if you pulled it out the fridge. So I like using Corning Ware.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

First Airliner to Hawaii

United Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Hawaii Travelogue - 1950

Nowadays it seems like everyone goes to Hawaii. Before WW2 almost no one went, but then the war came and a zillion GIs went through there on the way to hell. When they got home, I suspect that many of them remembered Hawaii. The airliner opened the floodgates for tourism. Near as I can tell, back in 1950 a round-trip ticket to Hawaii cost about $1,500 which in today's money would be about ten times as much, or $15,000.

The Boeing 377 was a contemporary competitor to the Lockheed Constellation and the Douglas DC-6. The Constellation was the clear winner in everything except altitude.

Via Posthip Scott.

Quote of the Day

The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight. - Hilaire Belloc  (1870 – 1953) a British writer and poet, known chiefly for his essays and children's books.

Car Culture

Toyota of Cedar Park Logo
Iaman reports from Central Texas:
I was at a Cathedral, a new  Toyota Dealership today,  huge, high ceilings, dance floor,  sandwich bar,  actually it was bigger than a Cathedral!  and  better attended.
Their logo summons up visions of the cool Pacific Northwest all green and cool and soft.  Not the local, dry prickly cedar .
But beautiful none the less,  now if they could just get the salesmen outa there.
I was dealing with airbag recall for the Tundra, I asked for the new 2018 Supra as a loaner car, they gave me a nice new Camry.
2018 Toyota Supra
As long as men's inner 10-year-old dreams of spaceships, spaceships will be in style.


Frankie Laine - Rawhide (Original 1958 Single Version)

Out running errands this morning and this tune comes on the radio. Can't remember if I have ever heard this version before. It's pretty spectacular, or at least it was in my car. Sitting here at my computer it's not quite the same. I remember that when I was a kid there was a TV show called Rawhide, but I don't think I ever got to watch it, I was too little or it was on too late or my parents were ogres. I do remember the Blues Brothers singing it, over and over again, at that little watering hole that showcased both kinds of music: Country and Western.

I was tuned in to KQRZ 100.7 FM, a low power station. They are run by radio amateurs, something I haven't come across before. I might have to listen to them a little more.

Kenwood KDC-X494
No longer available
My car radio is a Kenwood faceplate model and while the sound is fine, getting it to do what I want varies from annoying to impossible. There is one big knob on the front panel. Turning it controls the volume as you might expect, but it also works like a joystick. Pushing it to the left or right takes you to the next station on the dial. Pushing it up or down takes you to la-la land from which there may be no recovery. There are half a dozen other buttons on the faceplate. I know what two of them do. One is the power switch and the other is to eject the faceplate from the radio. The others take you to la-la land. I suppose I could sit down and puzzle out what these buttons do, or (god forbid) download the manual and read the instructions, but where's my motivation? Finding a radio station to listen to is a bit of a crap shoot. The advertising on the commercial stations is beyond annoying, and I can only listen to so much jazz before I have to turn it off. So I tap the joystick to the right until I find something worth listening to, or I get tired of this game and turn it off, or I am not precise enough in my tap and the faceplate demon interprets my tap as up or down and sends me to la-la land.

More complaints about my car's radio: the volume control is not a real volume control, it's some kind of digital position sensor, and while it has fine position sense, its speed sense is poor. Trying to spin the knob to turn the volume all the way down only results in turning it down about the same amount you would get from a quarter turn, so to get it to shut up you have to turn it and turn it and turn it. Criminently. I think this radio was designed by and for digital geeks.  The alternative is to turn it off, but that requires pushing on the power button and holding it for 2 or 3 seconds, which, when you are driving can be an eternity. And the power button is right next to the eject button, so if you mis-stab the faceplate falls off. I've learned to be careful with the power button, but when quiet time is over and you want to hear some tunes and you carefully press the power button again (it only takes a fraction of a second to turn it on), then you get to wait while the radio wakes up and goes through it's morning calisthenics even though it was just blasting away a minute ago. Stupid radio.

While I am pulling into the garage, I wonder if having an attached garage means you get to shoot prowlers stealing the radio from your car. I mean, they are in your house, so to speak. The garage is part of the same structure as your house, so you could consider breaking into the garage the same as breaking into your house. Anyway, this is something for the legal beagles to quibble over. I doubt whether the issue had any effect of the decision to start combining garages and houses into one structure. Once they decided that a tank full of hydrocarbons wasn't going to explode every time somebody looked at it cross-eyed, it was probably more a question of lot size and economics.

The whole point of having a faceplate radio is to discourage prowlers from stealing your radio. Whenever you park your car, you take off the faceplate and put in your pocket and take it with you. Any prowlers looking for a radio to steal will pass by your car because a radio without a faceplate is worthless, though I would consider the one I have to be just one step above that, and that is only because the rendition of Rawhide I heard this morning was so spectacular.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Syncro Vox (Clutch Cargo)

At lunch today Jack asks if we remember a Saturday morning cartoon where real people's mouths replaced the animated characters mouths. I didn't recall any such show, but Dennis knew exactly what he was talking about: Clutch Cargo. I remembered the name but that was all. Wikipedia has a story article about the technique.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Collateral: Trailer - BBC Two

Collateral, on Netflix, is a four episode mini-series about a police investigation of a murder in present day London. It is a cut above your typical show about the police. The show manages to cover a wide range of subjects without being too preachy. Okay, there is some preaching going on, but it's out-and-out preaching, mostly used to fill in the political landscape. We have a labor MP (Minister of Parliament) railing against the current immigration policies (the labor party is roughly equivalent to the Democrats in the USA).

We also have several scenes where a higher-up lays down the law on a subordinate. This is a standard scene in many cop shows. The chief of detectives calls in the investigating team and chews them out for doing their job which makes him out to be a tool of the establishment and a jerk. We have a couple of those here, but it's not as over-the-top as you get in shows like Dirty Harry. In addition we have:
  • a bishop laying down the law on a gay preacher
  • the head of the opposition (a woman) bringing the smack down on our outspoken MP
The show manages to touch on several continuing social issues. To its credit it brings a little insight into them. We have:
  • women doing men's work
  • not one, but two pregnant women
  • illegal immigrants, both political and economic
  • people smuggling
  • gay people in the clergy
  • pervasive, low level, illicit drug use
  • women in the military
  • sexual harassment of said women
  • soldiers returning from combat to civilian life
  • the difficulty of caring for the aged and infirm
  • compulsive gambling
The show is basically about women. That's okay, I like women.

Then we have the combative relationship between the MP and his ex-wife. He is apparently sane, her, not so much. I've seen these kind of relationships before, where you have two people yelling past each other, neither one can see the other's point of view, they are not even going to try. They may have had rational discussions in the past but they are well beyond that now. 

Seems like there were several non-white women in high level support roles, i.e. the person behind the front man (or woman) who takes care of all the day-to-day hassles of scheduling and access.

Illegal immigrants come in two flavors. Political refugees fleeing war and persecution and economic refugees who are tired of their subsistence way of life and would like to be able to afford a cheeseburger.

The prime villain gets away in the end, which means a sequel could pick up right where this one left off. If there is going to be a sequel. If he is really a villain. He is definitely a criminal in the eyes of the law, but sometimes the law is an ass, isn't it?

2016 Mazda 3 Front Marker Bulb Replacement

How to Replace Parking bulb on 2016 mazda 3?

A marker light on the Mazda burned out and Osmany thought it should be something we could handle. The above video gave us a clue: the bulb can be accessed by loosening the fender liner and bending it enough so you can get your arm in the gap. You loosen the fender liner by pulling the snap-expansion plugs out and unscrewing a couple of screws under the nose of the car.

I could almost reach the socket from the under the hood by contorting my arm around and through some pipes, but that was all. I could touch it but I couldn't get a hold of it. Osmany was able to reach it from underneath, but he still needed to use a pair of needlenose pliers to untwist the socket so he could pull it out. We just used a screwdriver to pop the plugs holding the fender liner in place, we didn't buy one of the orange plastic crow bars shown in the video.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Effing Portand

Luftwaffe Eagle, sans Swastika

Portland seems to have more than our share of people who’s joie-de-vivre is being offended, telling everyone all about it, and then rallying a big herd of sheep to attack the target of their ire. Are insanity and stupidity related? Are they contagious?

Via Quora

Friday, March 16, 2018

Conspiracies R Us

Question on Quora: What percentage of conspiracy theorists (e.g. JFK conspirators, flat Earthers, anti-vaxxers, and moon hoaxers) are trolls as opposed to true believers?

Response from Dave Consiglio:

There is also a third option: The easily swayed. I suspect that the vast majority of conspiracy theorists actually fall into this third category. Here’s my evidence:

In the first week of chemistry class, I pass out a half sheet of paper to each student. On it, there is a short amount of reading and four questions. Students have to read and answer the questions. What they don’t know is that half of them get assignment A and half get assignment B. I tell them I am really interested in their personal opinions, so please don’t share share their answers.

Reading from Assignment A:

  • The cancer causing properties of Argon

Information about Argon:

  • Argon is a rare gas that can be found in basements and elevators.
  • It is claimed by some that breathing argon for long periods of time can cause cancer.
  • People who do not have cancer that breathe argon sometimes develop cancer later in life.
  • Argon is dumped into the air by power plants; some people claim that the government is doing this on purpose

Reading from Assignment B:

  • The cancer fighting properties of Argon

Information about Argon:

  • Argon is a rare gas that can be found in basements and elevators.
  • It is claimed by some that breathing argon for long periods of time can help fight cancer.
  • People who have cancer that breathe argon sometimes survive their cancer and live a long time.
  • Argon is very cheap to produce in large quantities; some people claim that the government is hiding this from us

Questions for both assignments:

What do you think should be done about Argon?
Write three words that describe a person who gives Argon away for free to children.
Argon is heavier than air and tends to settle in basements. What would you do about this?
On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is not at all confident and 10 is completely confident, how confident are you that Argon is dangerous?
Now, as you can see, I’ve switched a couple of words. After the students read and answer questions, I have them write their best word from question #2 on a white board and hold them up at the same time.

Half the kids write “Monster” or “Murderer” or “Horrible”. The other half write “Helper” “Doctor” “Amazing”.

Confusion reigns.

Then, I tell them to switch papers with their neighbor. The ruse is up pretty quickly.

After everyone gets over the fact that they’ve been duped, I ask them to discuss question #4. Almost invariably, both sides have an average confidence in the 7–8 range. No one thinks I’m fooling them. But I ask them to debate which side is right anyway. They get surprisingly heated on the conversation. Many students are truly convinced that Argon causes (or prevents) cancer. They want to believe.

After the debate, the students are always dying to know: “Which is it???”

That’s the moment when I try to break down the childish mind and replace it with a more adult one.

Argon does not cause cancer. It does not cure cancer. Argon is utterly inert. It makes up about 1% of our atmosphere and we all breathe it with every breath.

All of the statements I made, however, are true. I am the “some people” who claim that argon causes (and cures) cancer and that the government hides these things. Everyone who gets cancer breathes argon, and everyone who gets cured of cancer also breathes argon. Argon can settle in low spaces, and it’s cheap to produce, and it really does come out of smokestacks (it’s air) so all of those things are also true.

Now, the moral of the story:

After the activity, I ask them to rate their confidence again (on a scale of 1 to 10). Many student get it. They say, “OK, I see what you’re trying to teach me. Don’t believe everything I read. Some people lie for their own purposes. Don’t just trust authority figures.” They lower their confidence levels to 1 or 2 or 3 and we talk about whether it should be 1 or 2 or 3. That is, of course, the point of the lesson.

But a subset, perhaps 10%, don’t believe I’m lying to them. They believe that argon really does cause (or cure) cancer. They stick with their 10s (they’re nearly always 10s). They are so convinced that the first thing they read was true that they are unwilling (or unable) to believe anything else. The longer I’ve done this assignment, the more I focus on those students, trying to understand why they believe in something so obviously false.

My conclusion: Some people believe the first (or last) thing they heard. Some people get a belief in their heads that is fundamentally and obviously incorrect, but are unable or unwilling to let it go. Is it pride? Is it stubbornness? Is it something different?

That I do not know.

But, I am confident of this: many (and I suspect most) conspiracy theorists believe what they believe not because they are “true believers”, and not because they are trolls. They believe it because they have the kind of brain that easily accepts beliefs and then vehemently resists rejecting accepted beliefs.

Psychologists out there: Is there a name for people of this kind? I suspect they are the kinds of people who join cults, or are more likely to stay with an abusive partner, or send money to a Nigerian prince. Are these things better documented than I have done? Please comment!

Does Anybody Have Any Questions?

Talking Heads - Life During Wartime - Stop Making Sense 1984

So I finished my last post and I'm chilling, playin' 0h h1 and listening to this tune and then it ends. With a question. Never heard anyone do that before.


I think I am finally learning to relax, though it isn't doing me much good. Now I have trouble sleeping.

When I was a kid I thought I wanted to make money. I finally figured out (like this week) what I really want to do is play. I have all kinds of ideas for great things I could build, but coming up with the idea is the only part I am really interested in. Actually building stuff takes work. If you are building actual, physical things, it also takes money, but writing computer programs doesn't require any money, at least no special money. The computer I use for informing the world is perfectly fine for programming. I have several ideas for computer programs that could be useful and/or entertaining, but they would take some work. What I like right now is solving these silly little programming puzzles I find on Coding Game.

A while back I remember reading a story about Dennis Rodman getting busted for shooting craps (playing dice, not shooting people) in an alley outside a pool hall (or some similar situation). This was back when he was at the height of his career as a star basketball player, and I was aghast that a professional athlete would engage in such behavior. I mean, what were you thinking, you weirdo? (He was weird from the get-go). Now I know. He just wanted to have fun.

So we have relaxed and we have uptight.

Stevie Wonder - Uptight (Everything's Alright) (1965) HD 0815007

Uptight is opposite of relaxed, but you can't mention uptight without mentioning Stevie Wonder. But his use of the word is something completely different. It's kind of like the word "motherfucker". In can be a term of endearment for a good friend or a declaration of war against your worst enemy.

Talking Heads - Psycho Killer (1977) HQ
"I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax."

I think I got it (being tense and nervous) from my dad. I think WW2 made a lot of people tense and nervous. I remember running into people when I was a teenager and being told "don't be so uptight, man". Generally speaking these people struck me as sloppy and wasteful.

I'm a little disappointed that it has taken me this long to figure this shit out. On the other hand, would knowing who I was have changed anything? I doubt it.

Popeye The Sailor Man Intro Theme Song - Evergreen Cartoon Series of 1990s
It's not in Hindi, at least right now.

I yam what I am and that's all that I yam, I'm Popeye the sailor man. Toot, toot!

Thursday, March 15, 2018


EXCLUSIVE: Britannia Winter Solstice Red Band Trailer

We watched Britannia on Amazon Prime last week. It's a bit of swords and sorcery set in Merry Olde. There's a some history (the Roman emperor Claudius did send his General Aulus Plautius to invade Britain for a second time in 43AD), but pretty much the rest of it is made of whole cloth. Never-the-less, it gave me something to think about.

First off we have a Roman encampment with rows of canvas tents staked out. Never seen it done before in a movie (nor in real life, but we're talking about show business here). That's probably because it's a lot of trouble (meaning expense) and if it isn't critical to the story you can get away with someone just casually mentioning that he has 20,000 troops at his disposal, you don't have to build an entire camp just so you can show it on the screen. The camp that we saw on screen wouldn't have been big enough to hold 20,000 troops. It looked more like a hundred tents which would have been adequate for a thousand men, more or less, but still it's more than I've seen before. They did all this just so you can get a feel for the situation.

The tents looked remarkably like the tents used by the US Army 100 years ago, which I thought was a little odd. Surely in 2,000 years we would have developed a better tent, but then I realized we were probably using the original Roman plans on how to raise, train and equip an army. I mean it worked for them and you can't argue with success.

Then we have iron bars on the prison cells and chains hanging on the wall and I'm wondering if they really had that much iron back then. Wikipedia tells me that in Europe the Iron Age ran from around 500 BC to the Roman conquests of the 1st century BC. It also tells me that the Iron Age is part of "prehistory", so the end of Iron Age coincides with the beginning of history. In the Mideast this happened around 5,000 BC. In Britain this starts around the year zero when the Romans started showing up and writing things down.

I didn't include the weapons as an indicator or metal-working ability because making small things is relatively easy compared to making big things. To melt 10 pound bar of iron takes nearly ten times as much heat as it takes to melt 5 pounds. Still, equipping an army with metal weapons and armor is a sizeable undertaking.

Then there's the sorcery. We have a crazy man out running around loose. He has visions. And fits, and manic phases and calm rational phases. Kind of like you might see with a real crazy person. This guy is special though. He has skills, like hypnotism and the ability to sell his visions as prophetic. When he is rational, he can apply these skills.

We also have drugs, psychedelics mostly. Did the Druids have drugs? Manda Scott has a few words to say about Britannia, Druids and Drugs.

Donovan - Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) HQ

The show opens with Hurdy-Gurdy man by Donovan. It's a song about love songs and I'm wondering why would you pick something like that for show about violence, so I did some checking. Previous to Donovan, there was:
"Der Leiermann" ("The Hurdy-Gurdy Man"): Back of the village stands a hurdy-gurdy man, cranking his instrument with frozen fingers. His begging bowl is always empty; no one listens, and the dogs growl at him. But his playing never stops. "Strange old man. Shall I come with you? Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to accompany my songs?" -  Song #24 in Winterreise (Winter Journey) by Franz Schubert
and previous to that there was:
The hurdy-gurdy is a stringed instrument that produces sound by a hand crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. It is generally thought to have originated from fiddles in either Europe or the Middle East some time before the eleventh century A.D. - paraphrased from Wikipedia
So while hurdy-gurdy doesn't go back to the dawn of time, it does go at least halfway back. And the song was released in 1968 when LSD was all the rage, so, trippin'.

Oregon's Rajneesh Cult

Wild Wild Country | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Netflix has made a movie about Oregon's very own Swami, the one who was booted out of the country for fomenting revolution or murder or mayhem or something, back in the 1980's.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh has appeared in this blog once before.

Monday, March 12, 2018


[120FPS] 'Connie' Super Constellation Engine FLAMES at Avalon Airshow 201

The flames here are just part of normal operation for these big old radial engines. They are much more apparent in this low light situation than they would be during full daylight.

Via Posthip Scott

Devon's Car Burns

Devon's Car Burns

Updated with better video and photo.

Younger son and four of his friends were on their way to Forest Park for a little Sunday-clear-your-head-exercise and Devon, the driver, smells smoke, so he starts to put his window up. Now he notices one of the switches in the door is hot, glowing red hot, so he pulls over on the entrance ramp and everyone bails out. There is small stream of smoke coming from the door, not any more than you would get from a cigarette. Two minutes later the car (a 2005 Subaru) is fully engulfed in flames. Fire trucks came and doused it with water and then a tow truck came and took it to the impound lot. The kids walked up hill into downtown and had a drink. Nobody injured, fortunately.

The Remains
A couple of years ago my wife and I were driving through Montana and we passed a pickup truck sitting by the side of the road, totally engulfed in flames. My first and only thought was that it was an old truck, probably a real beater, much abused and not well cared for. Something like that wouldn't happen to a good car, but this deal with Devon's car makes me wonder. I mean 2005 isn't that old. Now back when I was in high school 40 years ago, a 13 year old car was a miracle. Cars just didn't last that long. But now my wife's car is a 2006 and mine is a 2008 and they show no signs of needing replacement. True, there are some small things that don't work quite right, but overall they work fine.

Now that I think about it I had some kind of little Mazda hatchback when I lived in Austin back around 1980. I sold it to a friend of mine and a month later is spontaneously combusted sitting outside his apartment one night. So every once in a long while this kind of thing just happens, regardless of whether you take good care of your car or not.

Bonus: Truck Fire in Portland four years ago.


I'm reading the preview of Oryx and Crake on Amazon and I come across this line:
It is the strict adherence to daily routine that tends towards the maintenance of good morale and the preservation of sanity.
The speaker tells us it feels like a quote from a book, so to Google my friends, whereupon a link to Liquisearch pops up, where I find that that the line comes from Slaughterhouse Five by Kirk Vonnegut. I read that like a zillion years ago. The line is spoken by a British officer to a group of Americans arriving at a German POW camp.

Liquisearch seems to be new. Their home page proclaims it to be "a new phase in internet search technology", but there are no links to anything else. There is not even a search box, so right now it appears to just be an extension to a conventional search engine. There is a search box on the pages delivered by Google, so once you get in you can wander around. We shall see if it turns out to be useful.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Liza Goes Fishing

FV Silver Spray
My niece has forsaken her government job in D.C. to go fishing in Alaska. I can understand her choice, but I have to admit to being a little surprised. However, it's not like she's never been to Alaska before.

Paris at Speed

Paris Hilton, Jeremy Clarkson and Rory McIlroy
Watched an episode of The Grand Tour this afternoon and who to my wondering eyes should appear but Paris Hilton. Every week Jeremy invites a couple of non-car people to come and drive an F-Type Jaguar around The Grand Tour test track. Sometimes it's musicians, sometime's it's actors, sometimes they are car enthusiasts. This time it was golfers, rich, golfing, car enthusiasts.

Usually I don't pay much mind, it's a little bit of entertainment and that's all. But this time I noticed. I think Paris stands out because, one, I know who she is, and two, I don't think I've ever seen her on TV before, and guess what: she speaks. I've definitely never heard her speak before so that was all kind of weird. Still kind of odd that her appearance bestirred me enough to write this post. I mean she is gorgeous and all, but there are lots of beautiful women on TV. Is she something special? Or maybe it's just that my inner reptile thinks she's something special (she does have big knockers, I mean you can't miss 'em). She mentioned that her family owns 50 golf courses. I just can't imagine having that much money. So maybe it was my greedy, inner reptile.

Rocket Cam

How did NASA Film the Apollo and Space Shuttle Launches?

Previous posts about extreme video
And a WW2 German film maker with a really big camera.

Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl

The Trump Doctrine

China controls the DPRK and when Trump defeats China on the economic issues, China will save face by giving up DPRK’s nukes in order to get a better trade/economic outcome.
The defeat of North Korea’s nukes doesn't come by confronting North Korean nukes; it comes from China giving them up because their economic survival is dependent on it.
China saves face in defeat by positioning the actual defeat at the feet of Kim Jong—un.
Everything else is chaff and countermeasures. - The Burning Platform
This makes more sense than anything else I have heard about North Korea. As to whether this scheme is actually came from Trump or his advisors, I don't care.

Via Bayou Renaissance Man

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Funny 2

Fast & Furious 7 - Plane Scene

This is the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. I saw the first one in the series and it was pretty dumb, so I haven't been back. But if the whole movie is as over-the-top as this scene, it might be worth watching.

The highlights? 1) When the remotely activated chute pulls the last car out of the plane. 2) When the dude crawls out of the bus while it is hanging over the cliff, climbs up on top, runs the length of the bus while it starts sliding over the edge and then, at the last second, leaps and grabs the tail end of the car that has just slid to a stop right on the brink. Sure thing dude, I used to do that every morning on the way to work.

Squirrel or Not

Squirrel fills Antenna with Acorns
Not actually a squirrel...Microwave antenna filled with acorns by suspected Woodpecker - apsparky
Via Don, no, not that Don, another Don.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Fun with Desmos Graphing Calculator

Distance Between 4 Points in a Plane
Is there a general formula for the locus of a point whose sum of distances from 3 other points is fixed? - A question on Quora
I started thinking about this and realized that an ellipse is what you get with a string tied to two points, and a circle is what you get with a string tied to one point. If the circle and the ellipse intersect, then the sum of the distances from the intersection to each of the other three points is fixed. This isn't going to give you a general formula, but you can graph it on Desmos, which I did. And once I got the circle and graph drawn, I started embellishing it. I labeled the points and when I did I found they could be moved, even on this embedded graph. Go to the graph on Desmos and you can adjust the sizes of the ellipse and the circle as well. It's kind of fun to play with.

Dam Russian

Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power plant, Sept. 3, 2009.  (AP Photo/Vitaly Bezrukikh)
Came across this photo on Quora, but no explanation, so I looked it up and found the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant catastrophe. As long as rotating machinery is operating smoothly, you don't think about it too much. When things get out of whack and it does start vibrating more than tolerable, the general solution is to turn it off. In a well run organization, the guy on the spot has the authority to turn the machine off if he sees trouble brewing. In Russia, with their long tradition of Communist stupidity [tm], that wasn't the case.

Finding the cause of a vibration and fixing it is something of a black art, meaning I don't really know how it's done. You need bearings with very minimal tolerance, which usually means you can't wiggle the shaft. That would be a little tough to do when the shaft weighs a zillion tons. You can do a static balance by grinding off bits on the heavy side, if you can find the heavy side. But this might not be enough on a machine with powerful forces, like megatons of high pressure water, acting on it.

There is joke about an engineer, a vibration problem and chalk mark that's been floating around. Turns out it's a true story. The Russians could have used this guy.

Sayano-Shushenskaya sounds vaguely Japanese, but it's not, it's Russian. Hydroelectric plants are usually located next to a dam, and whenever I think of a Russian dam, I think of James Bond:

Goldeneye Intro

Empire has the story behind this stunt. When I first saw this I thought James was jumping on the upstream side of the dam. I don't know how I got that impression, except that why would you jump on the downstream side? You could just walk up to the downstream side, you wouldn't have to make this spectacular jump. Maybe that is why I am not in the movie business.

Verzasca Dam
This dam however isn't in Russia, it's in Switzerland.

Sayano-Shushenkaya Dam - Olga Saliy
The Sayano-Shushenkaya Dam is about 2,000 miles east of Moscow, about half way to the Pacific Ocean. It's the biggest one in Russia.

Iaman sent me a link about this subject. Great minds think alike.