Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Friday, May 25, 2018

More Thinkin'

Thinking about how get things done, things like WW2 where results are what count. And things like city council subcommittee meetings where 'process' (whatever that is) is all important. Sometimes you need to do something, right or wrong, but something needs to be done. Sometimes nothing needs to be done, we can postpone it till next week, or next month, or next never. The difference is in the risk and the reward. When you are out on the fringes of civilization, standing on the edge of plaza facing down the barbarians who would love nothing more that to overrun your plaza and smash everything and everyone on it, a forceful and decisive attitude is what you need. When you are in operating within the confines of the plaza, you can dilly dally all you like, that's why we built the plaza, so we could recline on soft couchs and eat delicacies and argue about the most inconsequential of things.

God protect me from subcommittee meetings. I would die of boredom. Listening to people that I don't know talk is my least favorite inactivity. Maybe if I was drunk I could do it, but they generally don't let beer into those sessions. Just as well, waste of good beer.


I sat down and played with the parenthesization problem this afternoon, and I think I have a pretty good handle on it. I wrote a few lines of pseudo-code and I think this scheme will work. Problem I have now is how to translate it into real code. What I am working with (so far) is an array of small structures. Each element (structure) in the array has some fields for things like the:
  • number
  • operator
  • number of open parentheses
  • number of close parentheses
  • pointer to the next element in the array
If you are paying attention, you will realize you don't really need a pointer to the next element, you're working with an array, for-Pete's-sake (that's an old expression in case you're a whipper-snapper and don't recognize it. In case you wondering, if you don't recognize it, it means you're a whipper-snapper). If you have an array, you don't need pointers, you have an index and you can adjust it to access any element in the array. If you've got pointers in here it means you've gone in and mucked with array and now just using a straight index isn't going to work anymore. And in fact, that is just what happened. I had this nice array and it worked well. Each pointer was initialized to the next element in the array. Because this array describes an expression, when you start evaluating the expression, some of these elements get consumed and so that element is no longer needed. To eliminate these from future consideration, I simply adjusted the pointer of the previous element to point the next element, skipping this one and effectively deleting it from the record.

Now if you interrupt this process, like run the concatenation operation before you run the parenthesizing operation, you are dealing with this semi-corrupt array. With an intact array, I could use a start index and take care of business, but with a corrupt array, I need besides the start index and count, I also need a pointer and a way to tell if the pointer is any good. 

There are several ways to handle this. I could use real pointers instead of my hybrid index-pointers. I could belly up to the bar and do the work necessary to keep track of all these pieces. Or I could compress the array and eliminate the dead elements. I kind of like that one. It promises to be the clearest to write and therefor read. And make working. I hope.

Morse Code

Telegraph Key

Talking to the gang at lunch yesterday about radios. Morse Code is great for use in remote locations because you can get more range with less power. But Morse Code is kind of a pain, all those dots and dashes, but mostly because of the amount of time you have to spend to get good enough so that it becomes second nature.

It would not be too difficult to write a computer program that could turn text into Morse Code, and many programs have been written to do just that. But typing for some people is as alien as Morse Code. Well, we have pretty good speech recognition software now, my wife uses it to send text messages on her smart phone. We might have a solution. Or maybe not. Rumor has it that speech recognition is not done right in the phone. The rumor I heard is that your voice message is transmitted to a server, the server translates your message and then sends the text back to you, and then your phone sends the text message out. A cumbersome and horribly inefficient way of getting a message out, but hey, this is America, and if more power will solve the problem, then more power it is. If this is indeed the case, it is not going to work in a remote location, i.e. a location without cell phone service.

The other end (translating Morse Code to text) is another issue. Stephen C. Phillips has written a web based version. I don't know how many other people have attempted it.


I've been spending time on Quora recently. Many of the questions posted there are inane, but every once in a while I find something interesting, and I can usually find a simple math or algebra problem that is challenging enough to keep me entertained for a few minutes but not so difficult that it will strain my brain. Today I ran into this one:
How many ways are there to create a six digit number using digits from 0 to 9 without repetition such that the number has the digit 7 and exactly 3 even numbers?
 Usually these kinds of problems can be solved by simply multiplying some numbers together. For instance, the number of 6 digit numbers is 900,000, which is just 9 times 10 to the fifth power. You start with 9 because anything that starts with zero is not going to be a six digit number, so the first 100,000 numbers get lopped off immediately.

After that it gets a little tricky. I thought about it for a minute and then decided that it would be easier to write a simple computer program to count all the possibilities. There might be a way to calculate the answer, but there might not. A computer program can do it for sure and it shouldn't take that long to write. Besides, the program will use recursion and I have another program that uses recursion that has had my stymied for a couple of weeks, so writing this one will be like a tune up for my brain.

The program was easy enough to write, but it didn't work. Took me a couple of hours of mucking about to sort out what all the problems were. Muddy thinking was the big one.

The answer I got was 38,880, which agrees with the only other answer that was posted, and that person got it the same way I did: by writing a computer program. He wrote his using Python, I used C. You can see mine on github.

I am still not totally sold on github, they still insist on displaying everything with tabs set to 8 spaces. I use 4 spaces. I like 4 spaces. Why does github have to be so contrary? To their credit, they do allow you to set the tab spacing in their editor to 4 spaces, though they call it indent, which technically should only apply to the beginning of the line. Whatever. But when you leave edit mode, it goes back to 8 spaces and all your pretty formatting goes to shit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Quotes of the Day

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
– Thomas Edison

“Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.” Hendrik Willem van Loon

“During my eighty-seven years, I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.” – Bernard M. Baruch

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”Isaac Asimov

The author's names link to books on Amazon.

Stolen from Culture of Ignorance via Anonymous on Quora


Box, closed
Dennis ordered a new screen for his phone. It came in this very cool box. The box is very light and very rigid. It feels like it is made of wood, but since the panels are only about 1/16th of an inch thick, it's not. Model makers use wood that thin, but I have never seen any mass produced item use wood that thin.

Box, open
So what is it? Uniberp tells us it is likely Bagasse MDF. MDF is really cheap, flexible, particle board used for interior trim on houses. It is used wherever you need a nice finish but no strength. The apparent rigidity of this box is probably due to its small size.

Bagasse is what's left over after the sugar has been extracted from sugar cane.

Bagasse board production line with annual output 30,000 cubic meters

The video shows a Chinese factory producing large MDF panels. They are much thicker than the panels used to make this box, but it's the best I could find. The ChinaSanMin company seems to be totally involved in this business.

Monday, May 21, 2018


One Night in Bangkok (CHESS) Murray Head

This song popped up on YouTube recently. I remember the tune from when it was a hit on the radio 30 (!?!) odd years ago. I didn't paid much attention to it at the time, it was a cool tune, it was on the radio and that was enough. Plus it's got some poetry, and don't forget they say "Bangkok" which tittilated my inner reptile (bang, cock, tee hee hee). But now I'm reading up on it and it seems it is from a musical that ran for three years in London. That was enough of recommendation that it was adapted for the American stage but it only ran here for a couple of months, which makes me wonder what the difference was between the two versions and why it was success in London but not in New York. Weird, man. It's back on the stage again. We shall see if makes an impression on America this time.

The lyrics make a couple of interesting references.
"One Night In Bangkok"

The American
Bangkok, Oriental Setting
But the city don't know what the city is getting
The crème de la crème of the chess world
In a show with everything but Yul Brynner

Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr perform "Shall We Dance" from The King and I
Time flies – doesn't seem a minute
Since the Tyrolean spa had the chess boards in it
All changed, don't you know that when you
Play at this level there's no ordinary venue

It's Iceland, or the Philippines, or Hastings
Or this place!

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but their pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you're lucky, then the god's a she
I can feel an angel slidin' up to me

The American
One town's very like another
When your head's down over your pieces, brother

It's a drag, it's a bore, it's really such a pity
To be looking at the board not looking at the city

The American
Whattaya mean?!
You've seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town
Somerset Maugham suite at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
T-girls1, warm and sweet (sweet)
Some are set up
In the Somerset Maugham suite

The American
Get Thai'd, you're talking to a tourist
Whose every move's among the purest:
"I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine"

One night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

The American
Siam's gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than would a muddy old river
Or reclining Buddha

But thank God I'm only watching the game
Controlling it

I don't see you guys rating
The kind of mate I'm contemplating
I'd let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you

So, you better go back to your bars
Your temples, your massage parlors

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but their pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel slidin' up to me

One night in Bangkok makes the hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

Pic of the Day

Airliner graveyard in Victorville California
Google Maps provides almost the same view.

Airliner graveyard in Victorville California
More boneyard posts.
Via Posthip Scott

The Flowers of War

The Flowers of War Trailer Official 2011 [HD] - Christian Bale, Shigeo Kobayashi

We watched The Flowers of War on Amazon Prime last night. I wasn't impressed. There were too many people being stupid, but I suppose that is probably more realistic than the action-adventure movies were the hero always knows exactly what to do and then does it without any hesitation. My wife thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story revolves around a Westerner protecting some Chinese who have taken refuge in a western church compound during the Rape of Nanking. We saw another movie with a very similar storyline a while back. I suppose I can't blame the movie people for fixating on this one story. Outside of this one enclave it was pretty much just murder and mayhem and it wouldn't take long to get your fill of that. Unless you're demented. We'll get back to that.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Nanjing)
There is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Nanking (see above photo), but there is no Winchester Cathedral, which is where the movie is set.

Saving Private Ryan Private Jackson Sniper Scene
There were a couple of bits that stood out for me. One was the view through the Chinese sharpshooter's rifle scope. Usually these views in movies just have the bare visual cues to indicate that you are looking through the shooters scope, that is, the view is restricted in a circle in the center of an otherwise black screen, and there will be reticle overlay (see above photo).  In this movie they showed the image going from a blur and then into focus along with some distortion. This is more what it's like with rifle scopes. You need to have your head in the proper position, not just in line with scope, but also at the proper distance. It takes some getting used to.

This happened during the one action-adventure scene. The Chinese sharpshooter strews some grenades around an area, lures the bad guys in and then proceeds to decimate them by detonating the grenades with well placed rifle bullets. He dies a heroes death because there is only one of him and there is an endless supply of bad guys.

Another part that was (unpleasantly) well done was the portrayal of the Japanese troops as crazed with blood lust, bent on raping the women and killing everyone. Real horror show stuff. Don't see that on the screen very often, at least not in shows involving recent history.

Christian Bale portrays a mortician who has come to Nanking to prepare a recently deceased priest for burial. Makes you wonder what kind of idiot he is. Who would come to a city that has been turned into a war zone? But churches have their own agenda. There may be a war going on, but we have our rituals and we are going to observe them. And our mortician is not the brightest guy. His only interests money, booze and, when the harlots show up, women.

Harlots performing an ancient song

Oh yes, the harlots. A band of whores seeks refuge in the church and in spite of the whole world going to shit all around them spend their time as if everything was normal, i.e. squabbling about clothes and jewelry and who is being bitchy. A couple of them even sneak out to fetch some earrings and guitar strings from their old home which gets them, unsurprisingly, killed. I suspect logical thinking
might be difficult when you under stress, but gee-willickers, that was really stupid.

China still holds a grudge against the Japanese for WW2 while the Japanese would pretty much like to forget it ever happened.

WW2 eliminated most of the culture of mass-murder from Japan and Germany, but it is still going on in other parts of the world, notably Southeast Asia and Africa, though it is not quite as organized or on the same scale. But it still pops up on a semi-regular basis all over the world. Some demented jerk gets hold of a powerful device (gun, car or bomb) and proceeds to lay to waste all those around him. The news media has a field day with every instance of aberrant behavior. Mass murder gives them a chance to spout off about something different than who's-fucking-who. Sex, drugs and / or violence, it's all the same to them.

The more people you have, the more normal people you have, but you also get more people on the fringe and the more people you get on the fringe, the weirder and wider that fringe gets. I don't think we will ever get a handle on it. Even if we get the 'thought police', they will never be able to catch everybody, and that might be a good thing. If everyone is the same and we know how everybody thinks, would we every get any new ideas? Many new ideas are bad, but every once is a while a good one pops up. Stamping out the abnormal could very well lead to stagnation, and then, when the spiders from Mars invade, what are you going to do, Bucky? Well, punk, are you feeling lucky?

Roger Ebert wrote a decent review, though he complains about there being a white guy in the film. Problem is that if there hadn't been a white guy, there wouldn't have been a story. Well, not this story anyway.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Begali Telegraphy Keys

KTXL Fox 40 new Interviews the W6SFM Samuel F Morse Amateur Radio Club

Roberta mentions the Bengali sideswiper telegraph key in her report on her trip to the Dayton Hamvention. I found this video on the Bengali website. It's notable because they compare an old technology (Morse code) with a new one (texting), and also because we have female talking heads delivering a report without all the gush and blather so common in TV news reporting. I'm impressed.

Or maybe it's just that Fox news has designed their reporting for people like me, that is people who are old and white (and therefore wrong). I am beginning to think that people who denigrate Fox news are idiots, but I'm wrong, so that's okay.

I am a little concerned that precision mechanical devices are going the way of the dodo bird. It used to be that we were surrounded by these things (key locks, pushbutton radios for automobiles, typewriters, wrist watches, rotary dials on telephones) but they have all been replaced by electronical gizmos. Maybe it's okay. There are more people that ever before which means there are more subjects that are being explored, so maybe the precision mechanical gizmo niche will always have proponents who will ensure its survival.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Charité - Subtitulado en Ingles l Netflix

This is a pretty great show. It takes it's name from Charité Medical Institute in Berlin. Founded in 1709, it is Europe's largest University clinic.

The show has your usual human drama, people being brave or foolish, falling in love, all that kind of thing, but it also chronicles a brief period in transformation of medicine from quackery to science.

The show is kind of amazing in that every scene touches on an element of human society that is very different from the way things are now. Women's rights is front and center, but there are so many things we take for granted now that were alien concepts back then. It makes for a weird experience. Indians (as in people from India) on display in the zoo as cannibals was a bit of a shock.

Several of the primary male characters in the show are historical figures that can be found in Wikipedia. The female lead, Ida Lenz, didn't make it into the history books.
The bacillus causing tuberculosis, M. tuberculosis, was identified and described on 24 March 1882 by Robert Koch. He received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1905 for this discovery. - Tuberculosis
In 1890, Shibasaburo Kitasato and Emil von Behring immunized guinea pigs with heat-treated diphtheria toxin. The first cure of a person with diphtheria is dated to the 1891 Christmas holiday in Berlin. Von Behring won the first Nobel Prize in medicine in 1901 for his work on diphtheria. - Diphtheria
Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow . . . helped to discredit humourism, bringing more science to medicine.  . . .  he coined a well known aphorism: "Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale".  . . . [The Charité campus is named for him.]
Ernst von Bergmann was a pioneer of aseptic surgery.
Bernhard Spinola was the director of the Charité hospital in Berlin. Emil von Behring married his daughter.

The lovely Hedwig Frieberg autographed this photo to her admirer Dr. Robert Koch in 1889 as a scandal was about to unravel.

Hedwig Freiberg was an actress who became Robert Koch's second wife.

Heinrich von Minckwitz is listed in the German Wikipedia. He might be the same guy as the one in the show. He was a lawyer, not a medical man.

Paul Ehrlich was a German Jewish physician who invented the precursor technique to Gram staining bacteria.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia. "Bombastic and impetuous, he sometimes made tactless pronouncements on sensitive topics without consulting his ministers, culminating in a disastrous [interview] that cost him most of his influence." Sounds a lot like our current fearless leader.

Arthur Conan Doyle even makes a brief appearance. "Doyle was a staunch supporter of compulsory vaccination and wrote several articles advocating for the practice and denouncing the views of anti-vaccinators." He spent some time as a doctor, but it seems he was more successful as a writer of fiction.


A parachute mine after being defused and partially dismantled by the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Team
Posthip Scott sends us an entertaining story about a WW2 bomb squad in southern England. One paragraph talks about how they got inside a bomb:
A hole was then cut in the mine’s casing using a trepanner. This cutting tool was made of non-magnetic materials so that it could be used on magnetic mines and was driven by compressed air. After some time a four-inch circular hole had nearly been cut through the casing.
Okay, that sounds like how they cut the holes in the mine casing in the picture up top, but a treppaner? The only time I have heard that technique being used is when Stephen Maturin (the surgeon in the Patrick O'Brian sea stories) opened up the top of a guy's head to replace the damaged portion of his skull with a silver plate.

Brace and bit cranial trephine, Germany, 1701-1800
Stephen had a new "Lavoisier's trephine" and Google turned up the above image.

The bit at the center serves as a pivot to keep the cutting bit at the end of the arm on track.
This is probably more like the tool that the bomb squad guys used. A tool like this would normally be used in something like a milling machine, that is, a machine that could hold the tool and the target rigidly in place so that the depth of the cut made by the bit at the end of the rotating arm could be accurately controlled. It seems unlikely that they would have used an actual milling machine for this project, what with milling machines being in high demand for war production and the high probability of it being destroyed should the mine explode. I am sure the bomb squad guys cobbled up something.

The part that bugs me is the claim that is "was made of non-magnetic materials". I don't know that there are any non-magentic materials that could be used to cut through the mine's thick steel shell. I supposed you could use a grindstone of some sort, but that doesn't produce a sharp, well defined cut. And would it really need to be made of non-magnetic material? After all, the mine's casing is made of steel, and a magnetic fuse is going to be designed to react to the presence of the massive amount of steel that is a ship. So maybe the small amount of steel found in this tool wouldn't be enough to trigger a magnetic fuse, but any support and / or driving mechanism would, so those parts would need to be made of brass or wood or something similar.

WW2 UK Mine Disposal Locations

WW2Talk has some more pictures of bomb disposal activity at the stone frigate HMS Mirtle.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Reivers

The Reivers, a novel by William Faulkner, 1962. I picked this book up at the Goodwill in Beaverton last week when I arrived a few minutes early for Thursday Lunch with my gang at Thai Bloom. The cashier was an old-ish woman and she was dreadfully slow. I waited as patiently as I could, but when I finally got to the check-out counter there were half a dozen people behind me and instead of paying attention to me, she gets on the phone to call for assistance. If it had just been a quick, efficient, "Jasmine to the front counter" call, I would have waited, but she was still trying to figure out what number to dial, so I left two dollar bills on the counter (price tag stuck on the front cover said $1.99) and walked out.

Anyway, it's a tale about life in rural Mississippi in the first half of the 20th Century. I'm only a couple of dozen pages into it, and it seems like half of the words are people's names. Manfred de Spain has acquired a red E.M.F. racer (a car). Well, now we need a picture, and here we have one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Love Never Dies

Extended Montage - Australia | Love Never Dies

My wife and I attended a performance of Love Never Dies at Keller Auditorium last night. It was a very impressive performance, full of singing, drama and elaborate stage sets. As is typical of these kind of shows there were also some dancing girls and a bit of comic relief.

It was an impressive production, but I am not sure how much it affected me. I didn't fall in love with it and I am not going to go out and buy the soundtrack, but then I am a bit of a barbarian. Beer and Rock & Roll are more my speed. However, I suspect there is a subtle effect of being immersed in an event that is the very pinnacle of what our civilization can produce. I am not quite sure what that effect might be, but it has to be better than what you get from being bombarded by commercial messages all frigging day long.

One of the props was an elaborate, ten-foot-tall horseless carriage. I had never seen anything like it, so when I got home I Googled Hammerstein steam carriage and the real thing popped right up. A similar prop makes a brief appearance in the above video around the 2:20 mark.

Trevithick Steam Carriage Replica
Supposedly the original was running around London back around 1802-1803. That was when Napoleon was still running around loose! That was a long time ago! This thing was probably the Bugatti Veyron of its time.

That got me thinking about the timeline of this whole production.

1802 - Trevithick Steam Carriage
1846–1919 - Oscar Hammerstein I (not II)
1850–1930 - Golden age of steamship travel
1881 - setting of Phantom of the Opera
1907 - setting of Love Never Dies
1909 - Phantom of the Opera novel published
1948 - Andrew Lloyd Weber born
1986 - Phantom of the Opera broadway show premier
2010 - Love Never Dies broadway show premier 

What has Hammerstein got to with any of this? I suspect an homage to a great musician. Supposedly he hires Christine to come to New York to sing, which is how this show gets started.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fan Repair

Power tools at the ready. Didn't use the torch on this project.
We have a floor fan, i.e. a fan mounted on a pedestal that we got as a wedding present umpteen years ago. My wife drug it out the other day, probably something to do with the weather getting a little warmer, turned it on and it wouldn't go. Seems the bearings are gummed up. The fan will turn, but it takes more effort than the motor can deliver. This should be easy enough to fix. It's a simple electro-mechanical device put together with screws. I should be able to disassemble it, clean and oil and bearings and we should be as good as new. Hah. Foolish man. Three days later I finally completed this supposedly trivial task.

Front motor housing with stator

Disassembly goes well until I go to pull the knob that engages the oscillating mechanism. It looks like there is a Phillips head screw holding the knob on but no amount of force will convince it to turn. Fine, I'll drill out the screw head. That'll get the knob off and we'll worry about how to reattach it later. If I have a left-hand twist drill bit that would be better, as at some point the screw may give up and the drill, instead of cutting into the screw head will snag it and it will unscrew. Surprisingly I do have such a bit (where did that come from?), but it doesn't help. The bit cuts almost all the way through the screw head before it goes off center and destroys the knob. Well, we got the knob off, we can now proceed with the disassembly. But look: there was no screw. The screw head was simply a flare on the end of the shaft. We've seen things like this before on things made in China. They have made a copy of an American design, but they found a short cut that enabled them to use fewer pieces, but because they are making a copy, they make the copy look just like the original, including screw heads for screws that are no longer there.

Small parts. Left hand screw in jaws of Vise-Grips

The next hiccup is the screw holding the link to the oscillating crank. The screw head looks just like most of the other screws holding the motor together, but it won't come out. I end up using the left-hand twist drill bit on this one as well, but I still need to get the screw out of the hole. There is enough of the screw sticking out of the other end that I can grip it with Vise-Grips, but even with the head gone, it won't turn. Then I get the idea that maybe if I try tightening it a bit it will break free and then it will unscrew. Tightening it does break it free because it is a left hand thread!

Rear motor housing with oscillator, crank and the wrong screw

The rest of the motor comes apart easily. I clean and oil the bearings and start reassembly. Now I need to reattach the link to the oscillating crank. You might know where to find a left-hand thread screw of the correct size, but I sure don't, so I pick a likely looking sheet metal screw and use it. The arm is diecast so it goes in easily. But now I think that maybe I should do something to ensure that it won't unscrew, after all the people who originally built it went to the trouble to use a left hand screw here for that reason, and if this fan is going to run for another umpteen months, we don't want this screw backing out.

Gluing broken crank arm back together

So I pick up a center punch. I figure I could punch the side of the arm and it would distort the metal enough to solidly grip the screw and prevent it from ever turning. But when I hit the punch with a hammer, it cracks the arm in two right across the screw hole. Bah! Double bah. Triple humbug.

Oh well, time to break out the epoxy. Glue the end of the arm back on, along with the screw. Wrap some picture hanging wire around the arm to hold it together. As long as it doesn't get in any fights it should be fine.

The green wire has broken free

Green wire soldered back in place

One wire popped off of the switch and I soldered it back on. One of the feet has been coming off for years, a little silicon sealer secured that. I filed down the jagged end of the oscillator control. If I ever want to disengage it I can grip it with Vise-Grips.

This whole exercise makes me wonder which way is up. I don't imagine this fan cost more that $20 when it was new. Of course that was long ago enough that $20 was still real money. You can buy a similar item from Amazon or Ebay for about $30 now. I spent a couple hours working on this, triple that if you count all the time I spent looking for bits and pieces, so economically it doesn't make any sense, unless my time is worth nothing, which it apparently is. I mean who would hire someone who would spend hours trying to fix a cheap fan? But I am rather pleased that I got it running again, even though the oscillator control is not quite so easy to operate.

Update: Peter Grant has a related post.


Borderliner - Grenseland - Trailer

Started another European murder-mystery series this weekend. This one is a little different in that every episode adds a new twist to the story. We've watched about half and now we're starting to suspect even the most upright characters of being conniving, murderous scumbags. The lead character is gay but the actor is nominally straight. I cannot imagine playing that roll. For me that would be well nigh impossible.

Set in Norway, on Netflix.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why does a motorcycle turn when leaned over?

THE GREATEST ✔️ Show On Earth ⚡️ ✅ Street Race . ISLE of MAN TT 
Because I couldn't find a good counter-steer video, and we really can't have a post about motorcycles without a video, can we?

This question popped up on Quora this morning and it made me think, so I've copied my response for your amusement. Some of the other answers mentioned counter-steer, so I included my take on that subject as well.

Q: Why does a motorcycle turn when leaned over?

A: Good question. It doesn’t actually. You can lean a bike over and keep going in a straight line, but you need to shift your weight in the opposite direction to keep it balanced. But you are asking about turning, so this doesn’t matter.
I suspect that leaning and turning go together because of the profile of the tire. The outer edges of the tires are smaller in diameter than the center. When you are riding straight up the tires act like a cylinder and so roll straight ahead, like a can rolling across a table. When you lean the bike over, the tire becomes more like a cone and so it starts rolling in a circle, kind of like a funnel rolling across a table top.
I road for several years before I discovered the trick of opposite steer. Not sure how I managed to get around corners before that. In any case, you don’t actually move the bars, all you need to do to turn right is to push on the right hand handlebar. If you are traveling at any speed, like 30 MPH or better, the bar won’t actually move, but the effect of pushing on the handlebar is instantaneous and you will go zooming off to the right.
What is happening is the gyroscopic action of the front wheel is reacting to the pressure of your hand and pushing the bike over, which makes the wheels turn into cones which makes your bike follow the curve of the road.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Jeremy "More Power" Clarkson

Jeremy "More Power" Clarkson
The post isn't about Jeremy Clarkson. It's just that I needed a title, "More Power" seemed appropriate, but I can't say "More Power" without thinking of Jeremy Clarkson, so there we have it.

Piper Twin Commanche

I'm sitting here in the backyard, taking it easy after a hard day of being retired. I'm sitting here and every few minutes a small airplane flies over. Not too surprising, we live about a mile from the Hillsboro Airport, the second busiest airport in Oregon, not that that's saying much since there is only one real-international-fly-anywhere-in-the-world airport in Oregon: PDX.

Anyway, these small planes are flying over and they are making noise, as small planes are want (wont?) to do. And I'm thinking these guys are really struggling. They have the biggest engine they can afford / that the plane can carry, the engine is working as hard as it can, and they can't afford the loss of power and lift that carrying a decent muffler would cost them.

3.0-Liter V6 Twin-Turbo 400-HP Engine | INFINITI Q60 Coupe | INFINITI USA

What we need is a better engine. Maybe we should be using automobile engines. Automobile engines are getting crazy powerful these days. 300 horsepower out of small displacement V-6 is common. But we don't need 300 horsepower, we have that in existing Continental and Lycoming engines. What we need is 1,000 horsepower. No, make that 2,000. You can never have too much power.

Why should you need that much power in an airplane? Cars can go just as fast as small planes, and they generally have more power (200 vs. 100 HP). Because we are taking a big step up. 500 MPH is not just 5 times as fast as 100 MPH, it's 100 times as fierce. It's like the difference between chucking rocks at beer cans in your backyard and hitting a watermelon at a thousand yards with high-powered rifle.

Now I'm wondering why piston engines for airplanes have stagnated. Jet engines certainly haven't. And then I realized that the decision to pursue jet engines was made by the military and the military wanted speed and power, hang the cost. They didn't want to be distracted by two different engine development programs. They went with the one that promised the most power the soonest.

Spitfire Merlin engine replacement*

So what's the difference between a Merlin V-12 that was used in a Spitfire and a modern 1,000 HP conventional reciprocating engine? I suspect there isn't any one thing you could put your finger on, rather it's anything you touch. Everything is different, subtly, you wouldn't notice anything if you weren't intimately involved with the design. Oil, materials, machine techniques, just everything, but the end result is that a new 1,000 HP engine would weigh a fourth of what a Merlin weighs. (Okay, that might be pushing it. If anyone knows different, let me know.)

African Homebuilt Airplane

There are some people in home-built, experimental airplane circles who have been putting automobile engines in airplanes with mostly positive results, but commercially the small airplane industry is stuck in 1950. If it wasn't for the FAA, there would be more progress in aviation. So maybe the answer is to go someplace where the FAA isn't. Africa, I'm looking at you. Here's your chance to build your own FAA, one that isn't bogged down in bureaucratic bullshit. You could be a force in the airplane world. Yeah, right. Fat chance of Africa ever managing to get their shit together.

But maybe that's the way of future, total government incompetence, who you trust based entirely on rumor because nothing you hear from the media can be trusted. So you buy your car / house / airplane based on what the guy at the gas station said, and the only products that succeed are the ones from giant corporations that can afford a massive guerrilla marketing campaign.

Okay, I got a little distracted. The point I was trying to get to is why are propellers so large? A 100 hp engine swings a propeller that is as large in diameter as a good size jet engine. The one thing I hear when I ask this question is 'efficiency'. Well, screw efficiency, what we want is more power. The speeds modern car engines are like the speeds that jet engines turn than the prop speed of a 1000 HP Merlin. Maybe what we need is a small, high speed fan connected directly to a high speed engine. You are going to need some duct work since the blast from the small diameter will be directed directly at the engine. You might be able to generate enough thrust just from the suction, but it would be nice if you got a kick from the blast as well. Directing it at the engine will ensure that it is wasted. It might not be as efficient as a propeller, and it would require some fancy ductwork, but you wouldn't need the speed reducer, a heavy thing that might break.
Pratt & Whitney Speed Reducer
Looks remarkably like the ones used in WW2 radial aircraft engines

On the other hand, Pratt & Whitney is stuffing their old WWII speed reducers in a jet engine in order to lower the speed on the fan. Or maybe we go electric: engine drives generator, generator drives motor. No gears. No mechanical connection except for a couple of fat cables. Works like magic.

Of course if we really knew what we were doing, we would be using electric power to push the air past airplane directly through some kind of magically, subatomic, quantum mumbo-jumbo.

*this picture only exists inside of a search engine. I got it from Google, who claims it comes from Pinterest, but Pinterest claims it came from Google.

Willie's Reserve

Mary J. Wanna

Willie Nelson has gotten into the pot business selling his own line of get-high material. Here's a map of locations that sell their stuff.

Willie's Retailers
Kind of interesting that there is nothing east of Colorado and certainly nothing in Texas, Willie's home. I suspect that the mob is more thoroughly entrenched in the east and they are exerting all of their considerable political power to protect their black market business interests.

Via Iaman.


Factfulness by Hans Rosling

What we have here is a crusader crusading against ignorance. An admirable quest and it might eventually have some effect on the enormous amount of stupidity that currently blankets the world.

He starts (from the excerpt) by talking about the gap instinct:
I’m  talking  about  that  irresistible  temptation  we  have  to  divide all kinds of things into two distinct and often conflicting groups, with an imagined gap —a huge chasm of injustice— in between.
A huge chasm of injustice? That sounds like SJW (Social Justice Warrior) bullshit. A huge gap in knowledge and understanding, or a huge gap in social evolution maybe. Whatever, remove the irritating phrase "—a huge chasm of injustice—" and the statement is fine. We do tend to divide the world into two camps.

However, he just uses this as an example to show that what we decide is often based on incorrect information. One common division we make is between Western Civilization and the rest of the world, the uncivilized heathen. How do you classify a country as being good or bad? One way is by comparing infant mortality. Here's one chart:

Children and Survival

Looks pretty clear cut, all the heathen are living in the big box, all the good Christians are in the small box. But then he shows us another chart.

Children and Survival 2017
Not so clear cut anymore, is it? Problem is that the first graph is from 1965 and since then the world has changed and it has changed for the better. I suspect this may be why we have so many SJW's running around protesting about nonsense. They don't have any real issues to fight against, but they are still people and they still want a cause to believe in. If the leaders of the pack can't provide them with a worthwhile cause, they'll invent one of their own from whatever they find lying around.

Via Uniberp

Pressing On

Pressing On: The Letterpress Film - Official Documentary Movie Trailer

The rate at which old mechanical technology is being discarded is a little distressing.

I like books and newspapers. They don't require any technological connections in order to use them. Okay, I need my reading glasses, but they don't require any electrical power or batteries or a billion dollar semi-conductor factory to make them.

Being as printing presses are made or iron and steel, they do require the steel-making industry which you might argue was as big in its time as the semi-conductor industry is now.

Books and newspapers are essentially disposable. Yes, you can hold onto a book for years and some books have been around for centuries. Our on-line empire is stored in server farms which are very robust as the data is duplicated on several sites, but the reliability of that storage depends on the robustness of the organization storing the data. Infect an organization with a mental disease and all the data they are safeguarding is sudden at risk of disappearing. And it wouldn't have to be an actual medical disease, it could just be a change in attitude or a new belief, kind of like the way corruption infects some organizations.

The above video is a trailer for the film which has only been shown a few dozen times. I wonder whether they used real film to make the movie, or whether it is entirely a digital creation.

Via Indy Tom.

P.S. My Internet connection was down for at least five hours this morning. It was surprising how annoying that was.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Cross Check

2018 May 01 Wizz Air Low pass in capital city Budapest air show above Danube - Maria Bruscha
I've seen similar photos of airliners flying into Taipei, so I wanted to see if I could find this place on Google Maps.

3D view of Budapest
I did. It wasn't too hard. The S-curve shows up very well in the map. When you zoom in on a Google 3D view, Google doesn't just enlarge the image, it moves your viewpoint closer. To get the same perspective as the photo at top, you would have to zoom way out and then the resulting cropped image would be much smaller:
Same view, different viewpoint

Makes me wonder how much storage space Google has in their server farms. Also wonder how long it will be before airliner flight tracking programs start to offer a 3D portrayal of the airplane over a real-time, 3D background. Don't know what possible use that would be, but we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on stuff that has no real purpose, kind of like this post.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Be nice to conspiracists

Be nice to conspiracists

S.G. makes some good observations about belief, religon and psychosis. He also has good advice which I doubt many people will heed. Still, he's trying and he deserves credit for that.

Glencoe High School Robot

Glencoe High School Robotics Team
Glencoe High School Roboitics team went to Houston for a competition with other high school robot builders. They came in fifth, which I think is pretty respectable for a small town high school. Okay, it was a small town when I moved here 25 years ago, but it's grown considerably since then, mostly due to the massive Intel presence. Think that might have had some bearing on their success? Glencoe is where my kids went.

Marmoset Coverage

In which is purchased Marmoset Coverage
Because I had to stifle a guffaw.

Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design


Stolen entire from Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design
  1. Engineering is done with numbers. Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.
  2. To design a spacecraft right takes an infinite amount of effort. This is why it's a good idea to design them to operate when some things are wrong .
  3. Design is an iterative process. The necessary number of iterations is one more than the number you have currently done. This is true at any point in time.
  4. Your best design efforts will inevitably wind up being useless in the final design. Learn to live with the disappointment.
  5. (Miller's Law) Three points determine a curve.
  6. (Mar's Law) Everything is linear if plotted log-log with a fat magic marker.
  7. At the start of any design effort, the person who most wants to be team leader is least likely to be capable of it.
  8. In nature, the optimum is almost always in the middle somewhere. Distrust assertions that the optimum is at an extreme point.
  9. Not having all the information you need is never a satisfactory excuse for not starting the analysis.
  10. When in doubt, estimate. In an emergency, guess. But be sure to go back and clean up the mess when the real numbers come along.
  11. Sometimes, the fastest way to get to the end is to throw everything out and start over.
  12. There is never a single right solution. There are always multiple wrong ones, though.
  13. Design is based on requirements. There's no justification for designing something one bit "better" than the requirements dictate.
  14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".
  15. (Shea's Law) The ability to improve a design occurs primarily at the interfaces. This is also the prime location for screwing it up.
  16. The previous people who did a similar analysis did not have a direct pipeline to the wisdom of the ages. There is therefore no reason to believe their analysis over yours. There is especially no reason to present their analysis as yours.
  17. The fact that an analysis appears in print has no relationship to the likelihood of its being correct.
  18. Past experience is excellent for providing a reality check. Too much reality can doom an otherwise worthwhile design, though.
  19. The odds are greatly against you being immensely smarter than everyone else in the field. If your analysis says your terminal velocity is twice the speed of light, you may have invented warp drive, but the chances are a lot better that you've screwed up.
  20. A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad presentation is doomed immediately.
  21. (Larrabee's Law) Half of everything you hear in a classroom is crap. Education is figuring out which half is which.
  22. When in doubt, document. (Documentation requirements will reach a maximum shortly after the termination of a program.)
  23. The schedule you develop will seem like a complete work of fiction up until the time your customer fires you for not meeting it.
  24. It's called a "Work Breakdown Structure" because the Work remaining will grow until you have a Breakdown, unless you enforce some Structure on it.
  25. (Bowden's Law) Following a testing failure, it's always possible to refine the analysis to show that you really had negative margins all along.
  26. (Montemerlo's Law) Don't do nuthin' dumb.
  27. (Varsi's Law) Schedules only move in one direction.
  28. (Ranger's Law) There ain't no such thing as a free launch.
  29. (von Tiesenhausen's Law of Program Management) To get an accurate estimate of final program requirements, multiply the initial time estimates by pi, and slide the decimal point on the cost estimates one place to the right.
  30. (von Tiesenhausen's Law of Engineering Design) If you want to have a maximum effect on the design of a new engineering system, learn to draw. Engineers always wind up designing the vehicle to look like the initial artist's concept.
  31. (Mo's Law of Evolutionary Development) You can't get to the moon by climbing successively taller trees.
  32. (Atkin's Law of Demonstrations) When the hardware is working perfectly, the really important visitors don't show up.
  33. (Patton's Law of Program Planning) A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.
  34. (Roosevelt's Law of Task Planning) Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
  35. (de Saint-Exupery's Law of Design) A designer knows that he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
  36. Any run-of-the-mill engineer can design something which is elegant. A good engineer designs systems to be efficient. A great engineer designs them to be effective.
  37. (Henshaw's Law) One key to success in a mission is establishing clear lines of blame.
  38. Capabilities drive requirements, regardless of what the systems engineering textbooks say.
  39. Any exploration program which "just happens" to include a new launch vehicle is, de facto, a launch vehicle program.
  40. (alternate formulation) The three keys to keeping a new human space program affordable and on schedule: 
    1. No new launch vehicles. 
    2. No new launch vehicles.
    3. Whatever you do, don't develop any new launch vehicles.
  41. (McBryan's Law) You can't make it better until you make it work.
  42. There's never enough time to do it right, but somehow, there's always enough time to do it over.
  43. Space is a completely unforgiving environment. If you screw up the engineering, somebody dies (and there's no partial credit because most of the analysis was right...)
 #40 is my favorite. #20 might be the most useful.
Via Detroit Steve.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Official Trailer - Teaser (2017) - Movie
I watched it on Amazon Prime. It's available on YouTube for $5.

It's about equal parts silly, amazing, and fantastic. You get dragged through a zillion different worlds (ok, maybe only a couple of dozen, not a zillion), but you only get to spend a few seconds there and then you get drug off to someplace new. And some of these places are fantastic. The giant tank of water that is home to a bunch of dinosaur-size creatures. They're pretty ugly. Reminded me of fleas for some reason. Dinosaur-size fleas, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

It's silly because we've got the whole boy-girl relationship thing front and center. It's silly because they only get a few seconds to work on that relationship before another dinosaur-sized flea interrupts their deliberations. To sum it up, the boy is a typical male expecting to score with any female he sets his sights on. The girl is a monument to civilization, holding out for marriage and commitment.

It's amazing because of the technology that the movie makers imagined. One is the scale of things. Since there is no gravity in orbit, it should be very easy to build enormous structures. There might be a problem with getting the materials you need, but once you have a factory that can turn an asteroid into girders it ought to be a piece of cake.

It's silly because it's got all your standard tropes. It's got your corrupt government autocrat committing genocide against the graceful, peaceful natives of a primitive planet, who never-the-less manage to not only master our technology but better it. It's even got the infamous garbage chute scene.

It's fantastic because they make an attempt to imagine what technology might be able to accomplish in the next few hundred years. They are using some high-tech gadgets that are like something straight out of science fiction. Kind of like of some the gadgets we use now (like cell phones and GPS) that were totally science fiction not all that long ago.

It's amazing because Luc Besson let his imagination run wild. Luc also did The Fifth Element.