Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Camp Power

Once upon a time I read about a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) generating plant that was built in the Soviet Union.

A MHD generator generates electricity directly from a flame. No engine, no boiler, no intermediate steps at all. Basically you have a couple of wire mesh grids in the path of a flame and you connect wires to these grids and you get electricity. Of course the grids are probably made of platinum or some other exotic substance, and the efficiency is not all that great, but you can't make a simpler machine.

I think a small generator like this would be a great power source for all sorts of remote locations, like our monitoring sites. It would also be great for campers and explorers, anyone who wants electricity where there isn't any other supply. Batteries, as demonstrated by our rooftop station this weekend, go bad.

I was thinking that one should be able to build a miniature MHD generator that would run on propane. Use it to generate electricity in remote locations to run radios. No batteries needed. As long as you have fuel, you have juice. Sell it to backpackers. Use it anyplace where you need a small amount of power, and you don't have, or don't want wires, and you don't want a big noisy generator set. I'm sure there would be a market for it if it could be built.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Neutron Propulsion

My big idea this morning is to use radioactive materials for propulsion for interstellar probes. (some?) Radioactive materials produce high velocity neutrons. Put your radioactive material in a heavy pot. Point the opening in the pot opposite the way you want to go. Thrust would be very low, but very long lasting. Don't need to worry about radiation, space is full of it. Just need heavy shielding in the pot to protect the rest of the spacecraft.

Friday, November 15, 2002


Smoke Detectors

I have three smoke detectors in my house, all wired together, and all supplied with house current. The battery in the unit in the upstairs hall just failed for the second time. Neither of the other two units have ever complained. Why is that?

Optical Mouse

I got a Microsoft optical mouse a while back and took an immediate dislike to it. Everyone else in the family thinks it's just fine. But I use it play minesweeper and it was much more difficult to control than my conventional mouse. But then I sat down to play the other day and the mouse was working fine. It seemed to glide much easier. I think someone must have applied some furniture polish or something to the desk, because the mouse slide very smoothly. The problem was that the mouse was sticking to the desk just a little bit, so little that I didn't even notice it, but it resulted in jerky motion, which made it hard to control. For big motions it was never a problem, but for small motions, it was impossible.

Hard Boiled Eggs

I was peeling a hard boiled egg last night and it was being a real pain. You know how sometimes when you peel an egg the shell slides right off, but other times it sticks to the egg, and you have to pick each bit of shell off, and often it takes a bit of egg with it so you end up with an egg that looks like it's been through the war? What causes this? Why is it some eggs stick to the shell, and some don't?

Egg Replies:

I can share some egg knowledge. I heard that older, less fresh eggs peel easier than fresh eggs. Don't know if that's true or why it would be.

To hard-boil eggs, put them in a pan of cold water, heat to just boiling, turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes, then plunge the eggs in cold water. I have pretty good luck with this method producing easy-to-peel eggs.

Some people like to pierce a hole in the fat end of the shell (just the shell) to allow the cooking egg to expand and shove the air out of the little pocket in the fat end of the egg. I don't know if this is worthwhile or not.

Now you have something to do this weekend. Good luck on your egg adventures.


Note on egg piercing: Not worthwhile if you're hungry and have shaky hands.
Trust me.
Thank you.


Okay.....I have absolutely no knowledge of any scientific evidence that this is actually true...but I have found that if the hard-boiled egg is still hot/warm when you peel it, it tends to peel off easier. Could totally be a misconception on my part...or a just plain crazy notion...but it's the "rule of thumb" for this housewife!


Wednesday, October 30, 2002


Problem with this kind of stuff is that it makes great newspaper headlines, but how much of it really comes to pass? You hear all kinds of stories about lawsuits being filed, but you seldom, if ever, hear about anyone actually getting paid.

Just for grins, here is one anecdote that puts a slightly different spin on the situation.

Lawyer I know takes a minor automobile accident case to court. The case is fairly straight forward, the only question is how big the award for damages should be. He figures the case is worth maybe five grand. The JURY returns an award of $26,000.

There are unscrupulous people in all professions. Lawyers get picked on, I think, because their actions in court are a matter of public record.

Stop reading the newspaper, you'll feel better.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002


What isn't mentioned is bullet velocity. It is very high. Geneva convention outlawed mushroom bullets (because to the huge wounds they caused?). Mushroom bullets, otherwise known as hollowpoints, expand on impact, tending to cause the bullet to remain in the body and causing massive damage, instead of just going straight on through. Hollowpoints are called that because the tip of the bullet has been cut off and a small hole is drilled in the tip.

Hunter's use hollow point bullets. Warriors use ball ammo (ball just means it isn't hollow point, the bullets are still bullet shaped, not ball shaped).

I don't know what we they were thinking when the developed the 223. It uses a very small (basically the same caliber as a 22), light bullet fired at extremely high velocity. Typical high powered rifle bullet leaves the muzzle at 2500 fps. I don't know how much faster the 223 is. Anyway, the combination of very high velocity and very light bullet makes it very susecptable to interference. Hitting a leaf will cause it to start tumbling. Hitting a body will cause the same effect. Which gives you the same result as a hollow point bullet. So we got around the Geneva convention.

Maximum effective range for a 30-06 (WW I & II standard infantry caliber): 1000 yards. Not all guns are accurate at this range, but they still pack a leathal punch at that range. But they are heavier than the M-16 and the bullets are heavier.

Monday, October 7, 2002

Biggish weekend

Took Johnny to see "Blast" (a Broadway musical) Friday night in downtown Portland. Quite a show. All trumpets and drums and juggling and clowning around. Whenever I used to see drum and bugle corps in parades, I always thought they were a little weak, not enough drumming, not enough horn playing, not loud enough. This show is what a drum & bugle corp should be!

Saturday I spent fixing broken do-dads around the house. The fan in the basement fireplace had quit. Took it apart and cleaned it. All it needed was a little oil in the bearings. Upstairs smoke detector had been beeping, so I changed the battery, but it still beeped, so I unplugged it. Finally got around to checking the power and it was fine. Plugged it back and now it's working fine. Went to home depot and bought a new motion detector for the front door light. Motion detector by itself was $20. But a light fixture that incorporates a motion detector only costs $10. So I bought the light fixture and removed the lights and installed it and now the front door light doesn't stay on all night long anymore.

Sunday afternoon Ross & I drove down to Canby to visit Pat's Acres, a go-kart track. They were having races, charged us $3 admission each. We stayed and watched three races. Started with little kids, like first graders, and worked up to big kids and adults. Ross wants to build a cart. We saw some new ones for sale: $3500 to $5500. All new and shiny blue and gold anodized aluminum. Nothing mickey mouse about these karts. Some of the participants there are really into it, they have big enclosed trailers they tow behind their motor homes. Most people operate on my scale: out of the back of a pickup truck. We'll have to scrounge around on E-bay, see it we can find an old one we can fix up.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Star Wars: Episode I

Somebody wrote up some complaints about Episode I. Their complaints are in quotes. My responses follow.

"However, even though the primitive beings have the technology for explosives they can't seem to come up with gunpowder. "

Just because they have the weapons doesn't necessarily mean they have the technology to produce them. Not that much different than most of the 3rd world where we have armies wielding AK-47's.

"In the great battle scene, the bad guys drive up in giant tanks and attempt to blast the good guys who are protected by their force field. This force field is transparent to visible light but nevertheless repels blasts of visible laser beams."

Could it be that the field can be penetrated by low intensity energy, but becomes opaque to higher levels? Seems I've run into this kind of physics elsewhere, though probably not involving energy.

"Why use armored vehicles to protect your troops if you're going to openly expose them to danger when you're parked in plain sight of your enemy?"

You use armored vehicles when going into battle. After you have engaged the enemy and found they are not a substantial threat, you may discard your armor. Or maybe they just used the troop carriers for carrying troops.

"A single W.W.II vintage 50 cal machine gun could have turned the entire army of droid tin men into a pile of tin cans."

Bullets are expensive. Some bean counter has decided energy weapons are more cost effective, or maybe they use energy weapons for environmental reasons.

"Once unloaded, the tin men came to life and marched forward, effortlessly passing through the force field's wall! Once again, we were left wondering why the bad guys wasted their money on a droid army when the force field was clearly incapable of stopping a metal object."

The force field evidently only blocks high concentrations of energy. Don't know if the droids are metal or not. Could be ceramic and/or plastic. You use a droid army for the same reason you use a real army: when you want to kill the enemy in detail without destroying everything and everyone else.

"A few marines with a machine gun could have easily done the job for a lot less expense."

You use the tools you have. Droids are built in automated factories. Droids are cheap. A few marines with a machine gun are not cheap.

"First, why would anyone design a droid army which was entirely dependent on receiving signals from a mother ship in outer space."

Common to all evil empires: central control.

"Second, why were none of the good guys smart enough to figure this out and jam the signals."

Even current technology allows us to send virtually undetectable, and therefor, unjammable signals. And we've only been messing with radio for 100 years.

"There was the flying junk yard dealer, Watto, with wings so small they couldn't possibly provide enough lift"

That's what science says about the bumble bee.

"the movements of the Jedi which appeared to have been pulled straight from B-grade kung fu movies"

they use the force.

"the incomprehensible pod race physics"

they've been using repulser fields for floating cars since the original. And the "jet engines" obviously use an advanced Eveready battery to heat air to an extreme temperature to give us the jet engine effect.

" not to mention a six year old poverty stricken, fatherless, slave boy who nevertheless had the time and resources to build a high-tech pod racer and an artificial life form."

depends on what you've got to work with. What can a precocious six year old make now that would have amazed a scientist from 100 years ago?

"Please kill off Jar Jar Binks"

I don't understand why we have Jar Jar Binks, but he certainly is a point of contention.

Monday, August 5, 2002

Wallops Travel

Dozed on and off most the way to Cincinnati. Airplane is terribly loud. Kept hearing this banging noise. I think it had something to do with my changes in perception of sound as I changed states of mind from dozing to deeper sleep perhaps. Kept waking me up in any case. Didn't get any real good sleep. Ride got a little rough coming into Cincinnati. Don't know if I was ever even in Ohio. Airport is called the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati Airport, which leads me to believe that it is across the river from Cincinnati in Kentucky. Had maybe an hour layover there. At first I thought it was two hours. I thought Ohio was in the same time zone as Iowa, but it's not. Ohio is on Eastern time. All the years I lived there I never knew that. So after sitting for four hours in the plane I spent my time in Cincinnati walking up and down concourse B. Fifteen minutes round trip. I got in three rounds before they started queuing people to board the flight to Baltimore. I probably could have gotten in four, as slow as the queue moved and as many people as they had to board. Flight from Portland was packed. It was a wide bodied jet with two aisles. My seat was in the center section (three seats wide) on the left hand aisle. They served up a tolerably good breakfast: OJ, fresh fruit, sausage, scrambled eggs & potatoes, mini-bagel with cream cheese & grape jelly, and coffee. They showed a movie: "Big Fat Liar". They wanted $5 for headphones. I declined. If they had been the really good headphones, the ones with the liquid filled cushions that cut out all outside noise, they might have been worth it.

The flight from Cincinnati to Baltimore was also a little rough. All they served on this flight, which was just over an hour, was a snack: a bag of pretzels and a soda. Landing at both airports were rough: I think the weather had something to do with it. I heard something about thunderstorms while I was wandering around the Cincinnati airport.

Baltimore is miserable, narrow aisles, crowded, but at least you can go outside, which makes you appreciate being inside. It's 96 degrees outside, and humidity is up there, too. Not very nice.

Reserved a "Dodge Neon, or similar" car from Dollar Rent-A-Car over the Internet before I left. Got to BWI (Baltimore Washington International) airport. Go down to check the luggage. A lot of people standing around. No luggage. Go by the car rental counter, which is just down the hall from the luggage carousels. There is a line at the Dollar counter, no lines at the other counters, but there is one at Dollar. I go for a walk. Come back by the luggage carousel. They've changed my flight from carousel 6 to carousel 5. Still no luggage. Go stand in line at the car rental counter. Three agents, all busy, nobody has a simple rental. Stand there forever. One minute, five minutes, can't say. Doesn't matter. It's hell. But it's better than being on the plane, and it's better than being outside, so I stand. Eventually my turn comes up, and the rental goes smoothly. I'm done in a couple of minutes. Now I go look for my luggage. The carousel is empty. No wait a minute, there is my suitcase. Now it's empty, I find a sky cap and ask him about my flight and he tells me it's done. I'm about to ask him about my equipment case, and then I see it. I pull it off the carousel. The top and bottom are all pushed in from air pressure. I open the valve and they are partially restored. Now I haul my luggage out to the garage. Naturally, Dollar is clear at the end. Fortunately I guess the correct end. Stand in line for a minute or so at the kiosk and then I have the keys to number 65. So I'm walking down the line of cars. 65 is, naturally, at the far end. But I don't see any Dodge Neon's. I don't see any little cars at all. I get to #65, and I've got a big Chrysler! Well, shucky darn, if that don't beat all. I had been worried that I might not be able to get my equipment case into a Neon, but this thing has a cavernous trunk. It can hold this case, my bags and probably two more equipment cases without batting an eye. Well, this is nice, nicest thing that has happened today.

Saw a frog in the grass at the motel when I was walking back from dinner. Small, maybe an inch or two long.

Monday, April 29, 2002

This and That

Anne left yesterday AM for the big International Reading Conference (read boondoggle) in SF. She'll be back Thursday. Neighborhood garage sale was Saturday. John and I went. I found some books, he found some toys. Kathryn babysat for the neighbors, Ross worked a church sponsored car wash to raise money for his trip to Lake Shasta this summer.

Ross is a puzzle. When he has been working on math, and he's got his mind right, he can fly through his math homework. If not, it becomes impossible. Problems he had no difficulty with last month are now incomprehensible. Don't know what to do, if anything. Fortunately, summer vacation will be here soon.

Johnny wants to start taking guitar lessons, so I've promised him a guitar for his birthday.

Stopped over at the folks yesterday. Got mom to sew up a rip in a shirt she got for me at Goodwill a couple of years ago. Helped Dad download, save, open and play the animation file he was having trouble with. He tried to give me back the bottle of "Jack Daniels" whiskey I gave him a couple of months ago, but when I explained that it wasn't Jack Daniels, it was cheap whiskey, he decided he'd keep it, so we all had a glass.

They are still impossible to be around when they are together. It is just absurd how much they pick on each other.

Dad's started mowing the lawn. It will keep him busy all summer.

They drove into Beaverton (20 miles) to hear a speech at the hospital about arthritis. They had planned on getting there an hour early, but got lost and ended up being only 20 minutes early, and there wasn't a seat in the house, standing room only.

After three weeks of erratic sleep, I seem be back on a somewhat even keel. Thing is to take a drug holiday occasionally. One day a week is my current target. Problem is I hate to loose even a single night's sleep, ruins the next day completely. So I was taking Trazodone every night, and eventually it quit working. It quit working so I quit taking it. Slept all weekend. So I think, maybe I don't need it. But sleep over the next four nights was much worse. Bad indigestion. No appetite. Lost four pounds. So I started taking trazadone again last Friday night and I'm feeling pretty human again.

Allergy shots are helping, or allergy season is over for me. Hard to tell. Johnny had a terrible cough last week, allergy induced we think. He took prelone for a week (a steroid). Seems okay now.

I am working on a satellite radio modem at work. Great fun, more fun than I've had in a while. I'm taking over a design that was done by the outfit in Virginia. They spent two years on it and couldn't get it working completely right. So we get to finish the design. I've been looking at it for the last three weeks and I think we are going to throw out more than half. The software is crap, the CPU board has twice as many chips as it needs, the RF amplifier section is garbage. Amazing what passes for engineering these days. I don't know much about RF, but all you have to do is look at all the modifications that have been made to prototype, and you realize the original design was nowhere near being a workable solution.

Monday, April 1, 2002

San Francisco

Left Monday morning. Got down the road about five miles and Anne realized I'd left my breathing machine at home. Turn around and go back. Arrived at the airport the suggested two hours before flight time. No lines to speak of. Short hop to SF. Hire a limo to take us into town: $70, same price as the shuttle.

Booked two rooms at the Sheehan, one for the kids, one for Anne & I. Hotel is nothing fancy, it's old but in good repair. Real glass drinking glasses, with simple paper covers, none of those plastic wrapped plastic cups. A definite plus in my book. The swimming pool is closed for renovation, naturally. One of the reasons we picked this hotel was for the Olympic size pool, largest hotel pool in SF. Turns out the hotel used to be the YWCA. No restaurant, though they offer a simple continental breakfast. There is a theater in the hotel where they are rehearsing for a show to be performed in April. Rooms are on the fourth floor facing the street. Across the street is the Academy of Art College and the Marine Hotel and Theater, where "Stomp" is performing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002


I would like a magazine subscription service that sends me a different magazine every month. Last year I got a subscription to "Gray's Sporting Journal". Pricey ($36/year), but good short stories about hunting. I read the first couple of issues, but I haven't read any more. I got a subscription to "National Geographic" for a while. The pictures are pretty, but there isn't enough meat in the articles. Ross gets "Car & Driver" and I usually at least look at it. Cars have a powerful attraction. Irrational, but powerful none-the-less. Other magazines:
  • Embedded Systems Programming. Occasionally something interesting.
  • Dr. Dobb's Journal. Bah. Gibberish.
  • MIT Technology Review. Was pretty good, but now it's less science and more hype about much impact the new technology will have, just like the rest of the mass media.
  • NASA Tech Briefs. Occasionally something good.
  • DesignFax. An advertising rag. But the editor puts out at least one interesting article every issue.
  • Trout Unlimited. Haven't actually seen an issue. Kind of like Duck's unlimited. Send them money for a good cause and they send you a magazine.
  • Allergy & Asthma review (or coping with or something). Good short articles about dealing with allergies. Read one in a doctor's office and ordered a subscription. Haven't looked at it since.