Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Cook My Meat

Reverend Horton Heat - Let Me Teach You How To Eat

This video is the prefect companion to Cook My Meat by MIT.

Via Detroit Steve

Original money ball?

The Electronic Coach

The YouTube blurb:
Computer History Museum
Published on Sep 2, 2010
[Recorded: circa 1959]
"The Electronic Coach" is a short film made by IBM describing the use of computers in the management of a university basketball team. The film features computer science legend Don Knuth, then a junior at Case Institute of Technology. For all four of his undergraduate years at Case (1956-60), Knuth was manager of the basketball team and sought ways to improve his team's play by analyzing a series of special statistics he captured during games. The scoring method was unusual in the weightings it gave to activities not necessarily associated with traditional coaching but Knuth's insights into basketball, combined with his computerization of the reams of data he collected, helped Case's coaching staff make their basketball team a winner. The computer used is an IBM 650.

Moneyball was a recent movie (2011) about replacing old school gut-instinct player selection with cold, hard statistics in baseball.

Donald Knuth is something of a god in Computer Science. I remember he was the author of at least one of my text books when I was in school.

The IBM 650 was the world's first mass-produced computer.

 Via Detroit Steve.

Friday, December 14, 2018


JUSUF. NURKIĆ. In a vaaaaaaaan!!

Jusuf Nurkic (sounds like you-sef Nurkich) plays for the Portland Trailblazers, a professional basketball team. He's a recent immigrant from Bosnia, he's big (7 foot tall, 280 pounds) and he is one of the starters and one of the stars. And he did this ad. Don't know if this will lead anywhere, but it's fun now.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Pic of the Day

Tumpak Sewu waterfall at sunrise with Mt. Semeru in the background
East Java, Indonesia
Looks like Jurassic Park.

After Dark - Tito & Tarantula

After Dark - Tito & Tarantula
with Salma's snake dance

This tune is one my favorites these days. It's from From Dusk Till Dawn, a goofball vampire adventure with a bunch of big names like George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino and Salma Hayek.

Hyundai Alternator, Again

Cutaway drawing of Alternator
It appears that the alternator has crapped out on the Hyundai again. It failed several years ago. They warned me at the time that there was an oil leak right above the alternator that I should probably get fixed. Not too long ago I took the car in for an oil change and ended up with half of an engine overhaul. One of the things they were going to fix was this oil leak. Didn't. Couple of weeks go by and it's pretty obvious from the smell and from the fresh oil covering the alternator that they hadn't fixed the leak. Turns out the valve cover was cracked. The car was in a front end accident before I got it, so the valve cover might have gotten hit in the accident, and gotten hit hard enough to start a crack that has gradually grown until it has become a real problem.  Or it might have been a flaw in the casting that was there from the beginning.

Whatever. They Fed-Ex'd a new valve cover in and replaced it, so the oil leak is fixed. However, it appears that the spirit of the alternator has gone to alternator heaven and its earthly remains will have to be removed and a new, live, alternator installed in its place.

Which got me thinking about tow trucks. (Cars break down and sometimes when than happens you are left stuck and you have to call a tow truck.) When I was younger, say 40 or 50 years ago, nobody ever called a tow truck. Nobody's car ever broke down, or if it did, you fixed it yourself, you didn't call for a tow truck, those things cost money! Nowadays I don't hear people complaining about the cost of a tow truck. My last run-in a couple of months ago cost about $100, which is chunk out of my weekly allowance, but not all that bad.

So what I am wondering is - have people in general quit complaining about the price of tow trucks, or do people still complain about the price but I just don't hear about it because I don't hang around with those folks (because I'm old)?

Update: next morning. Just started the car to take it to the shop and the red battery indicator was out. Checked the voltage at the battery and it was 13 point something, so the alternator is back on the job. The check engine light is still on, so something is not right. The Hyundai expert at my local repair shop had a heart attack last week, so they aren't going to be able to look at it till Monday. I guess I'll keep driving it and pray it doesn't die and leave me stranded and looking for a tow truck.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Boots the Chemists Ltd

Anne Louise Avery has written a brief history of the Boots' lending library, which got me started on a wiki-wander. Stories about England are always interesting because they point out subtle differences between our two countries. Boots is pharmacy chain in the UK. I imagine it is similar to Walgreens or Rite-Aid in the USA. From Ms Avery's story it appears that public libraries in England got a much later start than they did in the USA. Of course, we had Andrew Carnegie and they didn't.

She starts by mentioning a scene from the movie Brief Encounter from 1945. YouTube has the whole movie. Here is the scene:

Brief Encounter - David Lean (Legendado) - 1945 [HD]
Laura (Celia Johnson) nips into Boots the Chemist

In this scene, Laura picks up the latest novel by Kate O'Brien, who was a real writer:
Sisters Nancy & Kate O'Brien
The [movie] soundtrack prominently features the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no.2 op.18 - Anna Fedorova - Complete Live Concert - HD

I'll have to listen to this sometime.

Update, a couple of hours later. Realized I hadn't looked up the prime instigator - Florence Boot, so I did.

Jesse and Florence Boot
Found this picture on the "theislandwiki, a gateway to two historical websites featuring the Channel Islands, a group of small islands in the English Channel, close to the French coast, which are possessions of the British Crown and part of the British Isles."

Via reddit

Sunday, December 9, 2018


Qwerkywriter S
Michigan Mike muses:
I wrote a lot on manual typewriters. If this jammed and made too much noise it might be okay.

I remember hearing typing on a manual once and it really annoyed me. I certainly did enough myself, in apartments. I wonder if my neighbors hated me.

You could actually feel it in your feet. You had to hit each key solidly or risk  backing up and hitting it again. I wonder if good ribbons were wool?
The sound a mechanical typewriter makes when being heavily used could be very annoying or reassuring, depending on context.

Speed Typing Test (Halda Star Typewriter)

I found the above video right off, but then I found this video, which mentions ASMR, and when I look that up, I found this one:

ASMR 10 Triggers to Help You Sleep

I use a Dell plastic keyboard. I tried being particular about my keyboard once, but then I got pulled out of my cocoon and had to use some other random keyboard and it was so disturbing that I forswore all custom keyboard input schemes.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Link of the Day

Depiction of Ulfilas or “Wulfila” preaching to Gothic Warriors

Is There a Point to Life? Excellent explanation of Marxism and modern politics in general. Via Dustbury. I would have stolen the whole thing, but I'm not up to reformatting a dozen paragraphs this morning, so I just stole a picture from another site.

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Three Blind Mice

California Bob has something to say: 
Anosognosia - A new term to me, but the concept will be familiar to all; you don't know everything that you don't know.
"A neurological condition in which a disabled person is unaware of his or her disability. He stated: "If you're incompetent, you can't know you're incompetent ... The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is."
Here's a short, fun read: The bad news on human nature, in 10 findings from psychology

...and a more boring WIKi entry [Dunning–Kruger effect] but with a lot of pithy content, like:
"...Cognitive bias evident in the case of McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks with his face covered with lemon juice, which he believed would make it invisible to the surveillance cameras. This belief was based on his misunderstanding of the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisible ink..." 

"After learning their scores, the students were asked to estimate their rank in the class. The competent students underestimated their class rank, and the incompetent students overestimated theirs..." 
More [Shall We Serve the Dark Lords? A Meta-Analytic Review of Psychopathy and Leadership] -- we elect jerks who turn out to be destructive jerks:
"Results showed a positive correlation for psychopathic tendencies and leadership emergence, and negative association for psychopathic tendencies and leadership effectiveness..."
For some reason I always confuse the Dunning-Kruger effect with the Voight-Kampff Test from Blade Runner, perhaps because both are compound names made from unfamiliar names, i.e "two weird names coupled together, must be that test from Blade Runner".

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Too Hot

UpTown Spot

Pretty slick robot trick.

Acetylene & Me

Me with a bottle of acetylene between my legs.
I'm wearing gloves because the tank is cold.
Osmany has been fighting with the water heater using a MAP gas torch and he's not getting anywhere. Time to break out the big gun. So I borrow Jack's Prest-O-Lite torch which burns acetylene, which requires a tank, regulator and hose. I borrow those as well. Soldering half inch pipe where the total length of connected pipe is less that 20 feet? Then a MAP gas torch is just fine. Soldering 3/4" pipe that is connected to 200 feet of copper pipe? Then you need the big gun.

A prudent person would have secured the tank to the bed of a truck. We didn't have a truck handy. I might have been able to secure it in the back seat using the seatbelts and some rope, but it was only a short jaunt across town. We couldn't put it in the trunk because if you lay the tank on it's side WeIrD tHiNgS could happen. Criminently, let's just go. If we get in a car wreck that is serious enough to break open the tank, I'll likely be dead before it blows up. If we get in a less serious car wreck the tank could easily injure me, but not any worse than your average automobile accident. Just don't have a wreck, Osmany,

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

You Say 'Tomato', I say 'Tomato'...

This tune popped up on the radio the other day. It's old (1937). I remember hearing it when I was a kid, probably my dad singing a few snatches as he was wont to do. And then I got to thinking (always a bad sign) that I should show it to Osmany, who is trying to perfect his English. Would it help? Or would just aggravate the tar out of him. Tar. Haven't used that expression lately.

The Avenger

Flight 19 Close Encounters

Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush was a pilot for the U.S. Navy during WW2. His exploits were chronicled in the very excellent book Flyboys by James Bradley. He was shot down near Chichi Jima in the western Pacific Ocean while flying a Grumman TBF Avenger topedo bomber. The Post Office is closed today (and most other Federal government offices as well, I suppose) in honor of his passing.

Artist's depiction of the five Grumman TBM Avengers from Flight 19

Reading the paper this morning and I notice their little "Today in History" column mentions that Flight 19 disappeared on this day in 1945. Flight 19 was composed of five of the same type of aircraft, the Grumman TBF Avenger. Is this a coincidence, or are mysterious other-worldly powers making themselves felt? Enquiring minds want to know.

Flight 19 disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle and mysteriously reappeared in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (the video clip at top).

George has been mentioned here before.

Pic of the Day

1912 Umatilla County, Oregon. Science teacher preparing for class at the Milton Freewater
high school. Behind him on the chalkboard is the name of the next lesson:
Part IV, Radient phenomena and Radiation energies.
Milton-Freewater is in the northeast corner of the state, just down the road from Walla Walla Washington and about 20 miles east of where the Columbia River turns north into Washington. Umatilla County is where we stored our nerve gas when Reagan was getting hard nosed about the Russkies.

Via Posthip Scott

Monday, December 3, 2018

In the Afterlife, Part 2

Squirrel Nut Zippers "Hell" - Music Video directed by Norwood Cheek and Grady Cooper

Looking over this here blog I realized that my post about the afterlife didn't have a title, so I gave it one, and then I said to myself I said, there's a tune with that title. Well, not actually, but it uses that line in the song, so I looked it up and found this amusing video. It's kind of goofball, but what would you expect from a band with a name like the Squirrel Nut Zippers?

Report from Europe

Freedom Coffee Shop, Amsterdam,
Iaman reports:
Hello from Amsterdam, Dam to the locals.

Found nice pool blocks away on the edge of a canal. 5eu entry fee gets you an encoded wrist ban for entry/exit and opens a locker. Coed locker room (with individual booths) and showers, people shower with suits on.

Swimming became crowded 8 of us looping in a lane, most everyone oddly breaststroking. Met swimmer Wilma, she said the Dutch are required as children to first master breast stroke, then to master swimming fully clothed including shoes. So much water to fall into.
She was indifferent to Trump. Wilma explains the difference between Mediterranean and northern Europe due to effective accurate tax accounting in the north and the black economy of the South.

My compatriot anxious to sample Dam's "coffee shops" bought a 3eu spliff at the American Freedom coffee shop. Lighting up back at apartment, he chokes on the tobacco smoke, 90% tobacco. That is the preferred blend here, 100% pot needs to be sought out, harder to find.

I don't know what's going on, but the text in all of Iaman's emails run off the right edge of the screen. Word-wrap, which is what fits the text to the available width of the display is an old, old technique, so I don't understand what's going on here. It may be a turf war between Microsoft and Google, or it might be that text coming from a smart-phone is wrapped in some kind of package that regular email cannot decipher. I have a cell phone, but I'll be damned if I am going to sign up for some $100 a month package so I can read text messages on an itty-bitty screen.

Bad User Interface

From the 2008 Hyundai Sonata Owners Manual:

Dome Light

Interior Light - The interior courtesy light has two buttons. The two buttons are:
  • DOOR - In the "DOOR" position, the interior courtesy light comes on when any door is opened or when a door is unlocked by the transmitter. The light goes out gradually 30 seconds after the door is closed. However if the ignition switch is ON or all vehicle doors are locked when the door is closed, interior light will turn off even within 30 seconds.
  • ON - In the "ON" position, the light stays on at all times. 

The dome light didn't come on when I opened the door. What's up with that? The map lights work, and when I push a button the dome light comes on. The dome light I notice has two buttons, but only one bulb. Both buttons have the same effect: they turn the light on. Are there any markings that might indicate what these two buttons are supposed to do? Well, yes, there is. I can feel that there is something embossed in the buttons, but I cannot see it from where I am sitting in the front seat and given my eyes I would probably need a flashlight and my reading glasses along with some contortion in order to make then out. So I downloaded the manual. I still have to sort out which button is which, but now that I know what they are supposed to do, I should be able to handle it.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

In the Afterlife

Panel from The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, completed in 1432 by Jan van Eyck

Question on Reddit: What would happen if a groundbreaking scientific discovery disproved the afterlife?

My Bond-ish answer: Never say never, but disproving the existence of anything is pretty tough, and with something as intangible as the afterlife, I am confident no proof is possible. It's kind of like saying the word 'afterlife' doesn't exist. I mean you could eradicate every printed and digital version of word, but then someone would say it and someone would write it down and now here it is again. And you spent so much effort getting rid of it. Well, the eradication effort was a big boost to the defense industry and so our economy.

Being as I am who I is, I went looking for a picture to accompany this post, and one I found (top) got me to thinking about how the whole church thing got started. I suspect leaders found that saying a few words to their people helped them with whatever was on the board for the week ahead. It evolved into ritual, then acquired trappings both physical and mystical. And if you were brought up with it, it was the natural order of things. It's only when you encounter something that shakes your world view that you would even begin to question your religion.


Pic of the Day

Sigiriy, Sri Lanka
2,500 years ago King Kasyapa built a palace on top of this rock.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Out and About

Packing: The Diamond Hitch

Helped younger son move some furniture to his house today. While I was tying down the furniture in the back of his pick-em-up truck he remarked that this was the fifth time he has seen me do that. I learned how do the diamond hitch at Boy Scout camp when I was in junior high school. (The diamond hitch is a little complicated and requires a certain amount of judgement on how long to make certain sections. It's used for securing loads to the backs of pack animals. We never got to the live animal stage, I think we practiced on barrels.) I learned it well enough to pass the class / earn the merit badge, but I forgot it soon after. Never used it. Use it or lose it.

Steps for tying a tautline hitch
I still know the square knot, the bowline and the taut line hitch. The taut-line is the most useful knot in the world. Simple as sin, easily adjusted and holds tight. Great for securing loads in the back of pick-em-up trucks.

Went to Walmart this evening so me wife could get her second shingle's shot. A complete shingles vaccination requires a series of two shots. She didn't have to pay anything but somebody paid the pharmacy $167 for this shot. Seems there is a waiting list. The pharmacy got a shipment in today and called her. When she asked the pharmacist how many doses they received, thinking it would be the dozens at least, she was informed that they received two doses. How the heck does this make any sense? Somebody put on a big promotional campaign to convince people they needed to get a shingles vaccination, and then they don't prepare enough vaccine to meet the demand they know they have created? Makes me wonder if they didn't create an artificial shortage just so they could pump up the price. On one hand, I can't blame the drug companies. Developing drugs is hellishly expensive and that's just the first half of the battle. Then you have to get them approved by the government, another insurmountable battle. On the other hand, blood sucking vampires, they need to have stake driven through their heart. I mean they are frigging killing the patient with these constant demands for more money.

So I'm sitting there in Walmart, waiting for my wife, and I am looking around and I see all this stuff, stuff that I do not need or desire. And then I got to wondering, just how much stuff is there here? How much did Walmart have to spend stock this store? (Yes, I know they probably didn't spend any of their own money, it's all borrowed or fronted or something. But still, there is a heck of a lot of money tied up in all this inventory.) And how much did they spend to stock all the Walmarts in the country? And what about all the other big retailers like Target and Freddies? Well, shoot, what about all the retailers in the country?

Turns out it is a heck of a lot: $1.967 Trillion. That's trillion, with a capital T. With a population of 325.7 million people, that means there is just over $6,000 in inventory for every person in the US. Not near as much as I thought. I was think it was on the order of $100,000. Scientific notation would have helped. 1.967 trillion = 1.967E11, 325.7 million = 3.257E8, so the rough estimate of the dividend would have been 10^3 or one thousand. (11 - 8 = 3).

China Wok
We stopped at China Wok to pick up some Chinese food for dinner. Little hole in the wall place, half a dozen people hustling to fill an endless stream of orders, most of which were dispatched by a half dozen dedicated delivery drivers. It took a while for our food to be ready, I suspect most people must be ordering over the internet. That's okay, it was great fun watching this crew working at a frantic pace but still having fun. Bonus: the waitress wrote our order in Chinese.


Common Name Abbreviations
This struck my funny bone, hard.

We went to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. Our flight arrived around 11PM. We rent a car and my wife pulls out her smart phone and it starts telling us how to get to the resort. This works great around home because I recognize the street names, but here it's no help at all. "Turn left at hokohokohooky street", "turn right on hokohokohokohoony street". Wait, what? It was like the phone was speaking in a foreign language. It was no help at all. It wasn't a complete disaster, we only made a couple of wrong turns. I mean it's an island, there are only so many places you can go.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Furnace Troubleshooting: Hot Surface Ignitor

Messing about with our furnace I got to wondering about the ignitor (Blogger wants to spell it with an e, not an o, but o is correct). I kind of sort of thought that it was a spark ignition device, but when we pulled ours out, I could see that it was not. It's just a resistance heating element. Okay then. So it must get pretty hot, but we use resistance heating in toasters and small room heaters, and you need to careful with them because they can set stuff like clothes and curtains on fire, so sure, you could use a resistance heater to ignite the gas in the furnace.

Hot Surface Ignitor

So how hot does it need to be in order to ignite the gas-air mixture?
Natural gas has a high ignition temperature, approximately 1163 degrees Fahrenheit. - ERPUD
That's a little warm. Paper, as we all know, thanks to Ray Bradbury, ignites at Fahrenheit 451. So our Hot Surface Ignitor (HSI) must likewise get pretty hot.
The HSI heats up to around 1,800°F to 2,500°F and glows red-hot. - The Spruce
That's almost hot enough to melt steel (2500 degree F). So what are these things made of?
In 1993, the furnace industry moved away from the standing pilot light ignition system in all furnaces. One of the most popular styles of ignition used today is a Hot Surface Igniter (HSI). The first HSI’s looked like a “fork” and were a silicon carbide material. While this type of igniter is very dependable, they are fragile. The newer style HSI is made out of Silicon Nitride, which is a more durable material. This is the type of igniter that our technicians stock on their trucks. While they are more expensive to purchase up front, you can expect a longer life out of them. - Santa Fe Air

Efing Whirlpool

Water heater flamed out again this morning. Fine, time to see if Whirlpool has a solution for this problem that has been going on for years. Call customer service and the first thing Robo-cop wants me to do is tell them my phone number. WTF? Everybody and their dog all over the world has caller ID and these clowns can't figure out what my phone number is? This isn't good. I get to a person in short order, who transfers me to 'water heater technical support' where I get to listen to some horribly distorted muzak. Why do they do that? Is it because they are too cheap to buy a decent radio? Or is it a deliberate attempt to drive people away?

Whatever. After a few minutes Robo-cop comes back on the line and asks if I would like to have them call me back instead of just waiting. Sure, that would put a stop to the noise coming out of my phone. And hey, it appears Robo-cop knows my phone number after all. Bozos.

A few minutes later I get a call back and the operator starts interrogating me: name, rank, serial number, address, blah, blah. I answer her first couple of questions, but then I tell her no more, I want to talk about the water heater. We exchange a bit more and then it becomes apparent that they still don't have a solution for this problem. Call me when you have one.

I suspect there is a 'weak' electrical connection somewhere between the controller and the sensor and any little change in temperature causes the connection to fail which causes the controller to flag the sensor as bad. Then I come out and glare at it, and the connector contracts in fright, contact is restored and the water heater lights up again.

I could be wrong about all this, but I can't imagine what else could be causing these intermittent failures. I suppose it's time to get out the soldering iron and make some new connections.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Norman at Nor-Mon

Failed Furnace Igniter Control Relay
I've had a spate of electrical problems recently. The hot water heater I replaced a few years ago has gone out and I had to relight it three or four times in the last month. Since it seems to work fine most of the time, I suspect a connection in the wires that lead to the temperature sensors is at fault. The weather turned cold about a month ago, the water heater is in the garage, so it's going to feel those temperature changes. The best I can imagine right now is the change in temperature caused the metal in the connectors to contract just enough to lose contact. I unplugged the sensor wires from the the controller today and then plugged them back in. This might have dislodged any insulating oxide that had formed (i.e. corrosion) that could affect this connection. Remember these are very low current, very low voltage circuits so even the slightest barrier to conduction could easily cause failure.

Reliability has always been a bit of a black art to me. To make a machine is a pretty straight forward business. There are numbers and laws for strength and pressure and power, so if you do your math right you can make a machine that will run. How long that machine will run is another matter.

According to one theory of business, reliability is a key feature for gaining sales. If the business leader subscribes to this theory, at least some money is going to be spent on investigating reliability. The longer a product is around, and the more popular it is, the more it will improve. It may take a while, but electro-mechanical devices have been around for 100 years now, and I think they could do better with electrical connections. I am a little aggravated by this, I had to take a cold shower this morning.

A few days ago I fired up the furnace for the first time this fall. It didn't turn on. It's not a big deal, we use the gas fireplace for most of our heating. We only use the furnace when it gets really cold. But if we're going to have a furnace, we should keep it in working order. We might really want it one of these days. The furnace has failed twice before. Both times I called a furnace guy to come take a look at it. Once the only problem was that the filter was clogged. Cost me $100. That was embarrassing. The other time the igniter had burned out. This time Osmany and I opened it, poked around and discovered that the controller was kaput. Specifically the relay the supplies current to the igniter had failed. If I could have found a relay with a 24 VDC coil and 10 Amp, 120 VAC rated contacts, we could have replaced it ourselves. But I looked on Mouser and Digikey and couldn't find one. Maybe I wasn't holding my mouth right.

I looked on the Internet for a 50A50-112 furnace controller, but didn't find anything. Found an outfit in Pennsylvania selling something similar, but when I called them the couldn't find anything that would work. So now I look for furnace parts in Portland and I find two. I think this tells you something about the reliability of furnaces right there. Everyone has a car and there are hundreds of repair shops in Portland. I think furnaces might be a tad more reliable than cars. Of course, furnaces are much simpler than cars.

I called Nor-Mon with my part number and he tells me to bring it in and he'll match it up. So today Osmany and I drive into Portland and visit with Norman at Nor-Mon. The man talked incessantly about everything under the sun, his family, vacations, furnace controllers, devices you strap on your shoes that let you walk on ice (they have little carbide studs, kind of like studded snow tires for your car), the hardware business. I had to drag Osmany away or we might still be there.

There used to be thousands of different furnace controllers. Imagine with a population of 330 million people, we probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of a 100 million furnaces. If a production run of furnaces had 10,000 units, and each production run had their own unique controller, you would need 10,000 different controllers to control all those furnaces. A lot of them were probably minor variations of previous models. Somebody wanted a new feature, or they wanted more or different connection points, or they just wanted it to look different. Anyway,  a few years ago, White-Rodgers saw all this madness and decided to do something about it. They figured out what difference were and made a controller that can be configured as any one of a hundred different models. Now they only need a hundred different controllers to ensure that they will have viable replacement on hand to cover the 10,000 different controllers that have been deployed all over the country. (All these numbers are just supposition on my part.)

Anyway, Norman looked in his file of index cards. He had hundreds, maybe even a thousand, all arranged in cardboard trays and taking up six feet of valuable counter space. He looked in his file and found a replacement that ought to work. It has the model number of my controller, along with about a hundred others, printed right there on the box.I bought it for $200, which included a 5% surcharge to cover whatever tariffs are going to be coming into effect as part of Trump's trade war with China.

Monday, November 26, 2018

All I want for Christmas

Gifts for the Handyman

Shopping for new tools is one of my favorite pastimes. It's kind of pointless though if you aren't actually going to buy anything. Just about every day that I work on my son's house I find I need another tool, which gives me an excuse to go shopping, so I've been having some fun. Even picked up a garden hose at Harbor Freight. It wasn't the combo model with the built in extension cord. Too bad, that would have been exciting.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Pic of the Day

Steam locomotives of the Chicago & North Western Railway in the roundhouse at the Chicago rail yards (December 1942)
I haven't been reading much, mostly, I suspect, because I haven't been sleeping all that well. But when I sit down for lunch today I pick up a book that's been sitting on a pile that's due to be sold to Powell's and it pretty much captivated me.

The books is methland by Nick Reading and it is about the methamphetamine craze (epidemic) that swept the nation, especially the way it has affected small town America. The first town he focuses on is Oelwein, Iowa (I'm still reading the prologue.), which has a roundhouse. Cool! I like roundhouses, so I go looking for pictures, but I don't find much. The photo above is the best of the lot and it has a tenuous connection to Oelwein: The Chicago & North Western Railway extended to Oelwein Iowa.

Looking at Google Maps, it looks like there is still a big rail operation there. There is a big yard with 100's of cars. Looking at the Open Railway Map, you can see that the only active line goes to Des Moines, all the other tracks heading out of Oelwein have been abandoned. I suspect the only reason they are keeping the track to Des Moines open is that Oelwein has a big yard where they can store a large number of railroad cars.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Pic of the Day

UN Building from a 1950 advertisement in Glass Digest
Construction of the United Nations Secretariat Building started in 1948 and was completed in 1952.

Scanning introduced artifacts that are not visible in the original printed image. Scanning at a higher resolution didn't help, made it worse actually.

Via Dennis.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Joel & Ethan Coen are at it again, or perhaps I should say they are still at it. Six stories from the Old West. The scenery is wonderful, the dialog is spectacular, the stories generally end grimly. Released earlier this year and already on Netflix.

Cuban Doctors

Cuba-Brazil: The Battle of the White Coats
Posted on by
Cuban doctors who stay in Brazil will be forbidden entry to the island for eight years. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 19 November 2018 – We saw the conflict coming. From the moment Jair Bolsonero won the elections in Brazil, Cuba’s official discourse increased in rhetoric against him and prepared public opinion for the rupture that was imminent.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for the Plaza of the Revolution was the statements by the president-elect in which he warned that he would change the conditions of the agreement under which more than 8,300 physicians from Cuba work in Brazil’s Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program.
Last Wednesday, tensions escalated to their highest point when the Cuban Minister of Public Health announced that he was cancelling the contract and removing his professionals from the South American country. The official notice, read out on all of the island’s the news programs, repeated that Bolsonaro’s threats would not be tolerated but deftly ignored some of his words. Particularly those where the rightist leader insisted that the Cuban doctors should receive their full salaries and be able to bring their families to stay with them while they were in the program.
The Cuban government has made medical missions a lucrative business. With professionals deployed in more than 60 countries, the money raised by this practice is Cuba’s largest source of foreign currency, estimated to exceed $11 billion annually.
In the case of Brazil, Havana pockets 75% of the 3,300 dollar salary Brazil pays for each doctor, while the health professionals only receive a quarter of the total. On the Island, in a bank account which they do not have access to, their “Cuban” monthly salary of about 60 dollars accumulates, which they can only collect if they return to the island.
Those who leave the Mais Medicos program under their own will are considered deserters and are banned from entering Cuba for eight years. During the time the Workers’ Party (PT) was at the head of the Brazilian government, the doctors who escaped from their contracts were pursued by the Brazilian police and could be returned to the Island if they were arrested. None were allowed to bring their family members to be with them during their missions, and they were often housed in overcrowded hostels shared with other doctors, nurses and hospital technicians.
Despite so many difficulties and the low earnings, the missions were very much desired by the doctors because they were able to buy goods that are not available in Cuban markets, and to make contacts that would later allow them to return to Brazil privately, with a contract to work in some clinic.
Beyond its ability to provide healthcare for many Brazilians in the poorest areas of the country, the Mais Medicos program hid a political operation to build support for the leftist Workers’ Party and guarantee it the votes of the lower classes. It was clear that Cuba’s interest in this outcome was not going to continue with Bolsonaro in charge, thus it was only a matter of time before Castroism removed its healthcare professionals from Brazil. It only remains now to ask how many of them will actually return to the island.
The president-elect of Brazil has announced that he will grant political asylum to all Cuban doctors who request it and it is expected that a considerable number will benefit from this offer. Those who do so will lose the right to return to their homeland for many long years, they will be called traitors and, most likely, their families on the island will be under pressure. The battle of the white coats has barely begun.
Stole this article from Generation Y. My daughter's father-in-law is a doctor working in this program, although he is in Venezuela, not Brazil. He's been there two years and has another year to go before he can return home.

I find it curious that even though Cuba is essentially impoverished, they are still able to produce more doctors than they need. Or maybe they are just providing medical services to those who can pay for it and their own people will just have to do without, which makes them just like us imperialist running dogs,  whom they denigrate and despise.

Pic of the Day

Nothing more American than this (1942)
. . . thrilling days of yesteryear . . .

Monday, November 19, 2018

Catching a Lyft back home

Tonight's driver hails from Basra, Iraq. He got a degree in English (British) Literature from an Arabic teacher. He spent a few years working as an interpreter for the US Navy, which means he got preferential treatment when he applied for a Green Card here in the US, it only took him two days. He had high hopes when he came to the US, but he's been here several years and has become resigned to his lot which is working as a security guard 3 days a week and driving for Lyft the other 4.

When I asked him which were crazier, the Iraqis or the Iranians, he said "that is a good question", but there is no answer because they are equally crazy. 90% of the population of Iraq is Muslim, half are Sunni's, who get their direction from Iran, and the other half are Shiites, who get their direction from Saudi Arabia. Or maybe it's the other way around, I can never keep it straight.

When I read the news reports about all the refugees trying to get out of the middle East and into Europe, I am thinking why don't they stay at home and fix their own problems. And then I run into a guy like this and I realize that a few rational people have no hope of bringing law and order to any of these insane-i-lands. Maybe if we put Chevron in charge things would change. Maybe even for the better.

Saturday, November 17, 2018


Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) - Official Trailer - Paramount Pictures
Tom Cruise is at it again. The stunts are spectacular and true to the Mission Impossible tradition, totally over the top. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets killed making one of these movies.

The fight scene in Paris was amazing. The helicopter chase scene in Kasmir would be more amazing except it's a little hard to follow. It's going so fast and they are going through such contortions that it's a little hard to tell which way is up. The cliff hanger at the end is an amazing progression of bad to worse to no-way. But you know our hero will save the day, and he does.

There are a couple of bits of philosophy that might be about anarchy, but I think they are just some gobble-de-gook that the screenwriters came up with because it sounded cool. Any similarity to Scientology is just coincidence. or is it? Come on conspiracy buffs, get those mental gears going and give us a theory.

$20 pay-per-view on the big screen TV in our room at the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Catching a Lyft to Hawaii

First time taking Lyft on our own today. We took Uber when we were in San Francisco a few years ago, but one of our kids arranged that. SWMBO installed the Lyft App a couple of days ago and arranged for a ride to the airport. $50 more or less. Last time I checked parking at the Economy lot at PDX was $10 a day, so it’s going to cost us a few bucks more, but no schlepping bags onto the shuttle bus, nor driving for miles to the back of beyond to find a parking space, plus I don’t have to remember where the heck I parked the car.

The Lyft driver was entertaining. Born and raised in St. Johns, he’s lived in Seattle and Las Vegas and now lives in Cornelius with his brother and two yappy dogs. He trained as a chef and a front-end software developer, but he makes more money driving for Lyft than he can make in either of those two occupations. He rents his car ( a Mazda 3) from Hertz for $209 a week, but Lyft gives him a rebate of $180 if he gives 105 rides a week. Lyft takes 25% off the top of the fare plus $2.50 per ride. He puts 50,000 miles on his car every year.

When he was a kid, it was a popular sport with street racers to go up on the Fremont bridge in the middle of the night, like 3 or 4 in morning, block off all lanes while one guy would do donuts in the middle of the bridge. Eventually thiis activity made the national news.

Lombard is popular with street racers because it is a long straight section with no traffic lights and, so far, no cameras. Street racing has dropped off recently, possibly because the police take a dim view of it.

I sometimes wonder why it took Uber and Lyft so long to get going, but now that I think about it, I realize thay depend on their customers having smart phones, so they had to wait until a sizable percentage of the population had them.

Taxis are really a criminal racket. Don’t know if all cities follow New York’s model, but New York is (was?) a real mess. To operate a taxi, you needed a medallion, and medallions cost $70K. The vig on that is going to be a couple hundred bucks a week, which really cuts into the amount a driver can earn. So I am glad taxis are going the way of the coffee cartels.

Our flight left PDX around sunset, so there was absolutely nothing to see, not that there would have been anthing but water anyway. There were two babies on the flight. One was pretty quiet, the other screamed and cried about half the time. Some of his rants sounded like ‘I bite you’. There was a child sitting behind us who sneezed a few times and whenever she did, it sounded like a shreik.

Where does all the noise come from? We’re cruising along at 500 knots and the noise level in the cabin is a dull roar. You can’t understand someone speaking quietly unless they are right next to you. Yes, jet engines are very loud, but is all the noise coming from the engines? Or is some of it coming just from the air rushing over the fuselage at 500 MPH?

They distribute tablets to people who want to watch movies. The seats have USB outlets on the back for charging your phones. The pocket on the back of the seat in front of you is now made of coarse netting instead of solid fabric.There is also a second pocket near the top that holds the magazine, menu, air sickness bag and safety card. This pocket has a single support strap to hold the materials, so it isn’t really a pocket either. The seats only recline about two inches. Not hardly worth bothering with. The headphones they distribute with the tablets are disposable. Can’t be bothered with cleaning and sanitizing them I guess. One overhead luggage bin appears to be dedicated to small oxygen cylinders.

How did Captain Cook discover the Hawaiian islands? The big mountain is 3 miles tall, so from the top of the mast of a sailing ship you should be able to see it from 150 miles away, which means there would be a 300 mile wide window where they would have been able to see it. But what are the odds? A few miles north or south and they would have missed it completely. Weird, man.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle Season 1 - Official Comic-Con Trailer | Prime Video

We just finished season one and it just occurred to me why conservatives are such stick-in-the-muds. It's because they realize how fragile our civilization is, how easy it would to be to tip it into darkness and destruction and how bad that would be. So anything new and different needs to be measured against whatever upsetting effects it might have, and since there is no way to tell what those effects might be, the conservative approach is to go slowly.

A comfortable life is a rare thing. We look around at our neighbors and community and everything looks fine. But for a good portion of the world things are not so good. Famine, murder and mayhem are the order of the day for a zillion people every day. Having a comfortable life is the gold standard for civilized people.

This show is very annoying. The lead couple (Frank & Julianna) are not your cool, calculating secret agents, they are a young couple that have gotten drug into maelstrom and are trying to cope as best they can. Stir in conflicting loyalties, double agents and double dealing and I began to see how they might be a bit confused as to just what to do. James Bond never has this problem. Of course, James Bond gets to rid the script, so he knows who the bad guys are from the beginning.


How To Draw Mushrooms On An Oscilloscope With Sound

Yet another obscure subculture of people who draw pictures by feeding audio signals to an oscilloscope. A post on Reddit got me started, a comment pointed to this page, where I found this video. This one gives a pretty good overview of the basics. Creating a signal that is pleasant to listen to and generates some sort of image is a bit of a trick.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Armistice Day

Anthem Veterans Memorial
I've seen a bunch of posts about Armistice Day today. I wasn't going to say anything, but then this picture caught my eye. Wikipedia has the details.

WW1 was a disaster of epic proportions. I suspect that it was at least due in part to the population explosion of the 19th century. I suspect that the violence we see everyday is due to our natural propensity for hate. It would be nice if we could eliminate that, but it is part of our nature and no doubt played a large part in getting us where we are today. So maybe it's just something we are going to have to live with. The best we can do is to channel that rage and aggression into non-destructive endeavors, but even that may backfire on us. Keep building new things without destroying any old things and pretty soon you are going to be walled in on every side. And then what are you going to do, Bucky?

Saturday, November 10, 2018


X-bracing inside garage
If I have been a little light on posting lately it might be because I have been busy helping patch up younger son's garage. It really needs a completely new roof and siding, but we don't want to get into that until the house has been brought up to snuff, so we are just patching up the garage enough to get through the rainy season. Plus we raised the 'ceiling' by replacing the ceiling joists with some X-braces. Biggest problem this week is getting the dumpster load of debris certified as 'asbestos free'. Criminently, it's going in the landfill. Who cares if it is full of asbestos?


Kinescope Recording of Big Shot-2 Satellite Balloon Suborbital Inflation

Back in the early 60's, NASA's Project Echo put a couple of very large balloons into orbit. Echo 1 was 100 feet in diameter and Echo 2 was 135 feet in diameter. I remember looking up at the night sky when I was a little kid and seeing them sail by. Dots of light is all they were. Or maybe that was Sputnik. Whatever.

Before they launched these giant mylar balloons into orbit, the launched a couple of balloons 250 miles into space to test their inflation scheme. Low earth orbit, which is where the International Space Station is, is about 100 miles, so they were well up there. This was back in the 60's, so putting something into orbit was a real stretch. Launching something straight up was much easier. Putting something in orbit requires accelerating to around five miles per second. Sending something 250 miles straight up only required reaching a velocity of around two miles per second. Much, much easier.

The first one (Big Shot 1) failed when "the balloon was torn apart due to rapid inflation". The second one (shown in the video above) was a success. This video comes to us through a Rube Goldberg combination of technology:
A Kinescope is a film recording of a television screen. It really is that simple: a film camera aimed at a TV. But why? Primarily because early videotape was unreliable, expensive, and low quality. Many early television broadcasts were recorded via Kinescope before videotapes became available. NASA used Kinescope to record live feeds from space off of video monitors. - The Unwritten Record
The balloons themselves were pretty amazing.
Unlike Echo 1, Echo 2's skin was rigidizable, and the balloon was capable of maintaining its shape without a constant internal pressure. This removed the requirement for a long term supply of inflation gas, and meant that the balloon could easily survive strikes from micrometeoroids. The balloon was constructed from "a 0.35 mil (9 µm) thick mylar film sandwiched between two layers of 0.18 mil (4.5 µm) thick aluminum foil and bonded together." The balloon was inflated to such a level as required to slightly plastically deform the metal layers of the laminate, while leaving the polymer in the elastic range. This resulted in a rigid and very smooth spherical shell. - Wikipedia
I think what this means is that they used enough pressure to slightly stretch the balloon material. For a big balloon like this, you would need a great deal of pressure to stretch the whole thing. On the other hand, you have an enormous volume of gas doing the pressing, and the material is very thin (.0007 inches, less than a sheet of typing paper), so maybe they only needed a small amount of pressure. In any case they used enough pressure to stretch the aluminum so it stayed stretched (kind of like stretching a slug of aluminum into a beer can), but not so much that it ripped the mylar film.

Morse Code Decoder

I tried decoding the beeps in the video. They sound like they could be Morse Code, but I couldn't make much sense of it. Seems to be something like N-R-F-R-E-0 repeated over and over again.

Via Indy Tom

Friday, November 9, 2018


Paradise California
I thought fire season was over. Guess not. Paradise was wiped out.

Flying over Paradise California
Notice the clear view of the ground on the screen

Picking up water to fight the Woolsey fire
Not Paradise, but still California
Zuma Beach is near Los Angeles. Paradise is in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Polarized tape Art

Polarized tape Art by Dino Tomic

I sort of knew that Scotch tape polarized light, but I've never made use of this property. I am surprised by all the colors. I can see (imagine) that you could get different shades of gray by altering the orientation of the tape. (Tape that runs vertical would be white / clear while tape that runs horizontally would be black / opaque. I don't know where the colors are coming from.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Hot Glue

Glue Gun Stanley
This is for my friend Jack. His go-to solution for fixing anything is hot glue.

Via Reddit.


Ballot Boxes in storage

I didn't vote because, well, nobody is talking about any of things I think are important. It's all just noise. Jeff Deist sums it up pretty well:
By any objective measure, the ideological and policy disagreements between the national Democrat and Republican parties are not significant. Both accept the central tenets of domestic and foreign interventionism, both accept the federal government as the chief organizing principle for American society, and both view politics simply as a fight for control of state apparatus.

Similarly, differences between policies actually enacted by Mr. Trump and the existing Congress and those likely to have been enacted by Mrs. Clinton and the same Congress are fairly small. While Mr. Trump alarms the Left with his tone and tenor, his actual views on taxes, spending, debt, trade, guns, immigration (the "Muslim ban" was neither) and war (unfortunately his good campaign rhetoric is largely abandoned) plainly comport with the general thrust of Clinton's neo-liberalism.

Today's ugly midterm elections are about style rather than substance, party rather than principle, and power rather than ideas. Americans do not much argue about whether we are governed by DC, and only slightly over how we are governed by DC. But we argue viciously about who governs us from DC.
Via Bayou Renaissance Man

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Motorcycle of the Day

1939 Jawa 350 OHV
Take a sparse functional design, realize it using some steel, aluminum and red paint, add a healthy serving of chrome plating and I'm in love.

Jawa was started in 1929 and is still in business in the Czech Republic.

From a 2012 classic motor vehicle show. Via Posthip Scott.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Fifth Head of Cefberus by Gene Wolfe

The Fifth Head of Cefberus by Gene Wolfe
An engaging story. A mix of a Victorian explorer's journal, mystic crystal revelation and Franz Kafka.

We have a pair of habitable worlds orbiting a common sun and perhaps orbiting each other. One world may have had some aborigines who were able to change their appearance to appear like humans.

We have some people, but for the most part they seem to be devoid of human warmth. Gangsters and cannibals, mostly.

There are three separate stories that are thinly linked. It's an engaging story but it doesn't go anywhere and left me feeling disappointed.