Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Silent Cell Phone

Cell phones are wonderfully convenient, but like many (most?) modern conveniences they have their downside as well. There are the cell phone drivers who are paying more attention to their conversation than their driving. Then there are those who will take a call in a crowded restaurant and drown out everyone else's conversation in the room. More people these days are taking their cell phone conversations outside, away from other people, which is nice.

I, being the grumpy old man that I am, still find listening to them, even if it is just a snippet, annoying. And then there is the other side of the coin: what if you are having a conversation that you do not want everyone else to hear? What can you do, besides run and hide?

I think technology may be able to provide a solution: noise canceling cell phones. Noise canceling is used on some Turbo-prop airplanes. There are noise cancelling headphones available. I am thinking that a speaker on the opposite side of the microphone from the cell phone user's mouth could be used to cancel the sound of their voice for anyone else in the vicinity.

Some other people also have ideas for cell phones.

I and others have noticed that people tend to talk more loudly when then are on the phone, and I have been wondering why that is. I have come up with a couple of ideas. One is that they are compensating for the ambient noise level. The ambient noise where the two parties to a phone call are is almost by definition going to be different. If you standing next to someone, the ambient noise level is the same for both of you, so you can filter out the background noise to pick up the conversation. On the phone, you have two sets of background noise to deal with: yours and the other person's. By speaking up, you are creating a larger difference between your voice and the background noise, which makes your voice more distinguishable.

The other idea is that by speaking louder, your voice acquires more dynamic range, which makes it easier to understand, regardless of the background noise.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


A friend of mine lives near Oregon City, but is not thrilled with it because their library is very poor. She feels this reflects the town's overall character.

Beaverton's old library was converted from a supermarket. It was always busy. I used to stop in occasionally. A few years ago they got a brand new, fancy library with landscaping and fountains, fancy woodwork and computers. I stopped by there at lunch one day a couple of years ago and they were closed. Not only were they closed, they were almost never open. Their hours were something like 10am till 2pm Monday, Wednesday & Friday. I could not believe it. Budget cuts, I suspect. I think they may have longer hours now.

Hillsboro had a decent small library. I go there occasionally. Not as often as I used to. They were closed a couple of times when I went there when I thought they should have been open. A couple of trips like that and I just don't bother stopping by anymore. Their hours had likewise been restricted due to budget cuts.

Hillsboro just got a big, fancy new building for a library. I am not sure whether they bought it or they are leasing it. It is a two story office building in an industrial development park. It was finished and sat empty for at least a year before the library moved in. Like most modern stores, it is a commuter library, meaning you have to drive to get to it. I have been by there once or twice.

I get most of my books from bookstores like Barnes & Noble at Tanasbourne, Post Hip in Multnomah Village and occasionally from Powell's in downtown Portland.

I am not too pleased when a city uses tax money to pay for stadiums for professional sports teams, nor am I keen on city funded opera houses. I find the way the business of professional sports is conducted repellent. High brow culture like opera's and symphonies does not appeal to me in the least.

So I am not sure whether I should support public funding of libraries or not. Literacy seems to be on the wane. Should the proles be taxed to support the literate? Or do the literate have enough of an advantage that they should pay for their own habit?

From: Para Publishing
  • 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book.
  • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57% of new books are not read to completion.
It could be that 57% of new books are not worth reading to completion, but the rest of these statistics are a little scary. 58% of the people never read another book after high school. Sounds like they are assuming they read books before they left. There have been periods in my life when I did not read books. I have always been reading something, sometimes it was just newspapers or technical manuals of one sort or another. I wonder how many people in the US cannot read. I also wonder how many don't read anything. Okay, everybody reads something, even if they don't know English they learn to recognize stop signs. So let's ask instead: how many people in the US read things that contain sentences?

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Windows is Wonderful, Part 9485

I have some old archive files I am trying to open. One is a compressed archive, 160MB file with a filename extension of ARF. I do not recall how I created it, and now that I want to expand it I can't. Searching the net for information of ARF files got me nowhere.

Another one is an old Microsoft Outlook message file. It has a filename extension of PST. No one will touch it. Seems the only way to open it is with Microsoft Outlook, which I don't have. Oh, look, you can download a free trial of Microsoft Office. It's only 800MB. With FIOS (Fibre Optic Internet Service, or something like that) this is actually possible. Now to install. Start it up and it starts grinding away uncompressing files. Gets all that done and tells me I need Service Pack 2. Gee thanks. I've gotten along just fine for years without having to install any updates, and now, just to access this one stupid file, I have to install SP2. Bah.

Fine. Download it and start the installation. It starts grinding away and I go to bed. Get up in the morning, and has it completed? No, it has not. It has gotten hung up with the screensaver. Cycle the power.... disable the screensaver. Restart the installation, go eat breakfast.

To make a long story short, I spent all morning on it, but I finally did get all the messages from the PST file loaded into Outlook Express, which came with the computer, so the new Outlook can go away.

If I want to get the files into any other format I will have to save them individually. After looking through them, it does not appear that any of them contain any really useful information, but at least I can read them now.

Of course, now I am stuck with SP2, and who knows what kind of changes/problems/difficulties this is going to create. I suppose I could try and remove it, but that is another time consuming mission that is also fraught with risk. Someday I will start over on a new computer, or maybe just a clean disk. This computer is still (cross my fingers) working fine.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Ladrón que roba a ladrón"

I suppose this is a caper movie. A couple of old pros and a handful of rank amateurs come together to rip off an infomercial con-man. The movie is full of characters, some deadly serious, some total buffoons, and some who are just out there.

There was one character who stood out in my mind, and that was this dark haired Latino beauty, who is playing this tomboy character. At the beginning she tries to pick a fight with everyone she meets. By the end she has mellowed and discovered her feminine side, much to everyone's relief.

There were a couple of other women characters in the movie, but none of them stood out in my mind. Good looking, clever, devious, admirable, but this feisty Latino is the one who captured my imagination.

There is one scene where she berates a security guard for "checking her out". In a subsequent visit to the security checkpoint, her mere appearance is enough for the guard to wave them on through, he doesn't want to have anything to do with her. I thought it was hilarious. I thought of it again today and I tried to tell my wife about it, but when I mentioned "the girl in the movie", she came back with "the wife?". This flummoxed me. I had completely forgotten about the wives in the movie. At first I could not even think of who she was talking about, and then I wondered why she would think of them. To me, they were almost non-existent characters. Curious what people latch onto in movies.

I think the title translates as "Thief Who Robbed a Thief". We watched the movie in Spanish with English subtitles, though I think dubbed English was available.

There was only one part of the movie I did not like and that was the very end where the thieves send out refunds to all the people who were duped by the sleazy infomercial guy. I am thinking what a pointless effort. If they are that foolish to send money to a charlatan once, and they get their money back, all they will do is find another charlatan to send it to. Maybe I am being too harsh. People are sometimes in stressful situations where their judgement is impaired. Some people's judgement is just not too good. Does it help to give them their money back when they have spent it foolishly? One of out of a hundred may learn their lesson, but I tend to think they would learn their lesson better if they did not get their money back.

This is the reason I am opposed to privitizing Social Security. Some people just cannot handle money. It is not in their nature. Some financial whiz-kids may think it is the simplest thing in the world, and for them it may well be. But it is not for everyone.

Some people say Social Security taxes should be invested and the dividends and/or interest used to pay for benefits. To do that, a great deal more would have to be collected to build up a large enough trust fund. That would be money that would be removed from the free market and put under the control of some investment gurus somewhere. Not a good idea. Keep the extra that would have to be siphoned off to build the giant Social Security trust fund and spend it or invest it as you see fit. If we are going to have Social Security it is better to pay as you go. Last thing we need is more investment gurus.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Just the Facts, Ma’Am

History is a curious subject. Just looking at the word you might conclude that it is a contraction of "his story". There are some famous sayings about it as well:
  • Winston Churchill: "History is written by the victors."
  • George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
(I remembered the quotes well enough to track them down on the web. I know who Winston was, and George sound familiar, but I really can't claim to know anything about him.)

Anyway, I was reading an essay in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore at lunch today about this topic and I came across this:

"Historians and novelists are kin, in other words, but they’re more like brothers who throw food at each other than like sisters who borrow each other’s clothes."

I enjoy stories, be they books or movies, that ring true. For the sake of the story, I am willing to overlook any number of flaws, if they do not interfere with the essential truth. Sometimes it is a little hard to decide just what is an "essential truth". More often it is just a feeling. Remember 1984? There was the department of revisionism where history was being rewritten on a daily basis. There is evidence of this going on in Communist countries like China and North Korea even now. And I don't know how many times our official American history has been rewritten just during my lifetime. Mostly this has been to the detriment of the US image, but often to the detriment of other countries as well.

I never really understood the war with Japan until I read "Flyboys" by James Bradley.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Religion & Science

I was brought up in the religion of science. That is science, mind you, not Scientology. Scientology may be many things, but it is NOT science.

My mother was a chemist and my father had a degree in physics. My father was a lapsed Catholic. I don't know if my mother's family had any religious affiliation. Belief in god was not a part of my upbringing, though they did teach me the Lord's prayer.

I was brought up to believe science could explain anything, and for the most part I still believe it. There is the occasional fuzzy place around the edges where scientific explanations do not seem to quite cover the situation, but that may be more due to the limits of what a human being can understand than due to God mucking about with our reality.

My wife's family are died in the wool Lutheran's. We got married in a Lutheran Church and we attend a church with Lutheran roots, at least occasionally. So I am nominally a Lutheran.

So I have a little conflict here. On one hand I have a complete rejection of all religion and on the other there is this huge Christian religion that permeates Western civilization. How do I resolve this?

I got one clue about ten years ago when we attended a different Lutheran Church on a somewhat more regular basis. After an adult Bible study class one Sunday when we were delving into some deep issue or another, I asked the pastor: if there weren't any people, would there be a God? His answer was no. Well, anyway you look at it, that makes a certain amount of sense. If there weren't any people, there wouldn't be anybody to care if there was a God.

I got another clue when I saw "Angels & Insects", a movie set in Victorian England about an entomologist who married into a wealthy family. There is one scene were the husband is out horseback riding. A boy comes riding out from house with an urgent message that the husband must return to the house. He does so and discovers his wife being indiscreet. There is some question as to who sent the boy with the message, and the only answer that appears is that "sometimes the house knows". A Victorian mansion has quite a population, what with family members, servants and hangers-oners. In a closed system like that nothing is going to remain undiscovered for long. So eventually this little society decided that something needed to be done and arranged to open the husband's eyes.

So I have evolved my own idea of God: he (excuse the masculine pronoun) is the collective subconscious of all the people in the world. That is why things like natural disasters still happen. They are not within the control of people. That is why people lost in the wilderness often die: there are no other people around. God is all powerful only when he has people he can operate through.

Why are there some truly rotten people around? God only knows. Perhaps they have some defect that prevents them from connecting and communicating with other people. People are very complex. I suspect that constructing a scientific model of human behavior would be akin to modeling all the atoms in the ocean. Theoretically it could be done, but it would take more resources than exist on this planet.

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Bombardier snowmobile 1951
I gave some friends a ride to the airport this afternoon. They were flying on Horizon Airlines to LA. I thought this was a little odd because as far as I knew, Horizon only ran turbo-props, and I had never heard of a turbo-prop being used on such a long haul (800 miles) flight, at least not in the lower 48. Turns out Horizon is running a few jets made by, of all people, Bombardier, the same company that makes snowmobiles, or used to anyway. Seems that little old Bombardier has grown into such a huge conglomerate that a couple of years ago the small engine group broke off and became a separate company again.

Bombardier Q400
The jets are kind of an iffy proposition because of their high fuel consumption. For shorter flights, like up to 500 miles, the turbo-props are effectively just as fast. The turbo-props weakness is their high maintenance costs, or at least it used to be. Seems they have overcome that.

Some smaller twins, like the Aero Commander, that are normally fitted with turbo-prop engines are being fitted with converted automotive piston engines for better fuel economy. This was started by another Canadian company (Orenda).

Update August 2017 replaced one picture and corrected some links.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Private Colleges & Community

For a long time I have been wondering who sends their kids to small private colleges? I mean there are literally thousands of these small colleges in the U.S., and tuition runs pert near $20,000 a year. Small colleges generally don't have the same breadth of opportunity, nor are they near as rigorous as the big state schools. Why would anyone go there?

Then there is the migration myth: Americans, on the average, move ever few years. Sometimes it's because they are tired of the same old place, sometimes it because they need new hunting grounds for their scams, but I suspect that it is mostly for economic opportunity. And this makes the news for some reason.

I suspect that most of the real wealth in this country is accumulated by those who stay in one place and build on what they have. They become part of the community, and when their kids are old enough they send them to the local college, where they associate with other members of their society and form friendships that serve them well in their future in their community. I suspect this is the backbone of wealth in America.

Denison got picked for the picture because Dennison is in Granville, Ohio, and I used to live near there. I did not even think about attending there. Why pay $2 when you can get a perfectly serviceable degree at the state school for $1?

Friday, March 21, 2008

"The Brave One"

I like Jody Foster. Perhaps because she plays strong characters as opposed to ditz's like Goldie Hawn. Perhaps because she's good looking, perhaps because she's old like me, well not quite that old. This wasn't the greatest movie, but it was entertaining and it had it's interesting and well played bits.

Her running into a one bad guy right after another is a little too coincidental, but hey, it's a movie, and she was looking for trouble.

The comment by the detective about how women don't engage in this kind of behavior was interesting. You certainly don't see it very often in the movies. I don't know about real life, I haven't heard about any vigilantes lately. Bernard Goetz, the subway shooter in NYC is the last one I remember hearing about, and there was only the one incident. Charles Bronson made the whole "Death Wish" series using this theme.

The psychological bits were interesting, and because they were just bits, tolerable. If it's one thing I can't stand it's endless agonizing over anything.

The audio really gave our newish home theater sound system a workout. Towards the climax of the story the volume got really loud, so loud and such a low frequency that something started resonating. I am not sure what it was. The console? The walls? The TV screen itself? I don't know. I did not know this sound system had that kind of power.

A word regarding the picture at the top of this post. I did not even notice that the title was in a foreign language until I had finished my original post, and then I just assumed it was in Spanish. So I pulled Google's language tools and asked it to translate it from Spanish, and ... nothing. Portuguese? Italian? German? All failed. Is the Google translator really that bad? So I tried searching for the phrase "Curaj Nebanuit" and I got a bunch of hits on "Curaj nebănuit". That's funny: all the URL's end in .ro, as in Romania. Well, gee golly, Miss molly, I'll be a sway backed billy goat. Who'd a thunk it?

And just to pick nits, another word about the picture: notice how the gun sights do not line up with her eye. I wonder if this is a scene from the film, or whether the artist indulged in a little artistic license to arrange the elements on the cover. I suspect the latter, but only because I expect better from Ms. Foster.

Update November 2016 replaced missing picture.


One of the products Stevens picked up when they bought Vitel was the VX1100 DCP (Data Collection Platform). In its' time it was a remarkable sophisticated device. It was also very complicated and the code that ran it was as complex a mess as I have ever encountered. It combined a set of sensor inputs, a data logger, and GOES transmitter and a packet radio network protocol, not to mention a list of options as long as your arm, and it was all done with a single 8051 microcontroller. Gawd, what a nightmare. There were special versions for several other countries including Venezeula and India. People were always reporting problems with it and I would go root around in the source code and try and find the piece that was causing the problem. Occasionally I would find a problem, but more often than not, another fire would flare up somewhere else and the VX1100 problem would get sent to the back burner, i.e. forgotten about until the next time there was an issue.

We could have designed, built and tested a new logger in less time than I spent fooling around with this thing. Pound wise, penny foolish.

The code was probably pretty good when it started, but it had been through many hands, mutiple revisions and numerous additions. When it got to me, it was more than my little brain could comprehend. On top of all this, there were complex setup procedures that needed to be done in order to test many of these situations, and these complex configuration details were stored in RAM, which forgot everything you told it when you turned the power off, which you had to do every time you changed the EPROM. Now that I think about it, we should have had a separate power switch for the EPROM that would enable us to change it without wiping the RAM. Well, it probably would not have been that simple, but if I had had a chance to work on for more than a couple of weeks at a time, I might have come up with something. Some of the code was pretty good, but they were sections that looked they had been run through a meat grinder. They made absolutely no sense.

The worst part was there was no specification on what it was supposed to produce. The only thing we knew is that people were using it and it worked. So we had to duplicate their setups, run the system and see what it produced, then go back into the source code and see if I could figure out how it had arrived at the answer. What a pile of poo.

GOES Direct Readout Ground Station

The GOES "Direct Readout Ground Station", or DGRS, is essentially a multi-channel radio receiver for environmental data being relayed from DCP's (Data Collection Platforms) by GOES weather satellites. GOES central is located just North of NASA's Wallops Station (formerly known as Chincoteague Naval Air Station). They have about ten really big (50 feet in diameter, more or less) satellite dish antennaes. Inside the main building they have two banks of these receivers: one bank for the 100 odd channels on GOES West, and another for the channels coming from GOES East.

Vitel got the contract for development of the new HDR (High Data Rate) receiver, but when they attempted to integrate the new receivers into the existing system, it soon became apparent that there was a problem. All the receivers were connected to an old Data General mini-computer that must have been twenty years old. After much tail chasing and finger pointing, it devolved on me to find a solution. Everyone was convinced that the problem lay in the internal communications of the DGRS. It incorporated several single channel receivers and a single multiplexer. All the data from the receivers was passed to the multiplexer, which transmitted the combined data stream to the host computer. After an exhaustive analysis, a trip to the East coast for some testing, and finally a simulation run, it became apparent that the problem lay with the Data General computer and not with the receiver. Once we informed Wallops of our findings, we did not hear any more about it. Presumably they reanimated their long past DG expert and turned him loose on the problem.

I also made an attempt to modify the firmware for the DSP used in the individual receiver boards. After a couple of months of study of DSP programming techinques, the actual DSP chip in question, and the algorithms that had been programmed into it, it became apparent that any further effort would be a waste of time, as it was unlikely we would be able to build, much less sell enough receivers to recoup our investment, much less the cost of developing a new set of firmware.

Of course we could have figured out the business angle before starting on this project, but that would have made sense, and we can't have any of that.

Law & Order

I have been watching a lot of "Law & Order" lately, and I have noticed a few things. I don't much care for the original with Sam Waterson as the prosecuting attorney. The first parts of these shows are all right, but when they get to the trial portion, I lose interest. Sam is a prosecutor, he is out to convict the guy with the evidence he has, even if the evidence is very thin. He is very smug and self righteous. I don't much care for him. And I don't much care for the trial arguments, they just don't interest me much, too full of legal shenanigans.

I don't much care for the Special Victims Unit series either. Maybe I am too squeamish. I don't enjoy the tales of torture.

Criminal Intent is the series I like best. Straight forward murder and robbery, and it ends with a confession, no trial necessary.

The shows all run at a very fast clip. Sometimes the characters don't get to finish what they are saying before they have to hang up the phone in order to make their next line. And things jump from one scene to another lickety-split, a conversation will close with a telling remark that will lead immediately to the next scene where someone is being arrested. All the intervening filler is stripped from the story. Only the essential highlights are portrayed. The plots are often complex, with multiple scenes and multiple characters. Some stories will jump from one character to another and never land in the same spot twice. Others will go way out and then return to an earlier character.

There are always a few bits you can count on. The interview where someone knocks on the door and interrupts the questioning to hand the detectives a new lead. Detective Goren pulling out some really obscure bit of knowledge, displaying his erudite education. Goren wafting the air by the victim towards his nose and picking up some obscure smell that gives them a clue. I am sure there are many more, but those are the ones I notice.

One of the more interesting bits is when a character displays some falsity. You know they are hiding something. What is really interesting is how well the actor does it. It is usually very subtle, but of course it stands out in the show like a red flag. But trying to pin down just what they did that made them appear to be hiding something, well now, that is the part I cannot describe. Some shows you never see this in the "perp", they portray innocence to the end. Some people lie with a perfectly straight face, and you only find out about because the show explicitly exposes their lie.

Often we will look at the synopsis before we start watching and we won't be able to decide whether we have seen it before or not, so we will start watching it. The show may run for five or ten minutes before we have seen enough to recognize the characters and the story. Most other shows we can recognize much sooner. I suspect this is because the Law & Order jumps around so much. Sometimes I will keep watching the show, even though I know I have seen it before just because there is so much that I don't remember. But eventually it all starts to fall into place and at that point I turn it off.

NBC has a blog with a cool picture of all of the players.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kunming, China

Allied Lines of Communication 1942-1943
Mona's Lab [defunct] has a brief story about a new Chinese observatory, and I thought, cool, I wonder if I can find it on Google Maps. So I started looking around for a clue. Found several entries pointing the world's largest fully robotic astronomical observatory, so I started looking on Google Maps. No much luck. All the references point to locations in cities, although the pictures and descriptions show it to be in the mountains, well outside of a city. More searching reveals that Yunnan province is 2,000 meters above sea level, and a list of mountains in Yunnan province. Plotted the mountains on Google Maps. Found a golf course, but not the observatory. Looking at the overall map, I realize this area is just North of Burma, which means that the Burma Road came through here. The Burma Road terminated at Kunming, one of the cities listed as a location of the Chinese observatory. Seems the Chinese don't really want anyone to know just exactly where their observatories are.

View Larger Map

Update September 2016 replaced missing picture, removed dead links.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Document Formatting

I have probably written about this before, but I want to say it again before I completely forget about it. Why can't we have documents formatted for the computer screen?

Blogger, for instance, does a nice job of formatting a page to fit the width of the screen, but it does nothing about the height. Of course, screen widths come in a variety of sizes, so something that will fit completely on one screen is going to be too tall or long for a narrower screen. Still, I would like to see some attempt made to deal with this. Pictures get cut in the middle. You have to scroll down some variable amount to be able to see the whole picture. You shouldn't have to do this. There is a reason God (or IBM) made the Page-Down key: that is so you can move to the next screen of data as efficiently as possible.

The way text is cut is sloppy at best, but I can usually pick up where I left off when I scroll down by one screen's worth. However, when I get to the end of the document, I am often lost, because the last bit of text is not a whole screen's worth, and I have no idea how much the text scrolled up. Was it one line or 20? So I have to search for the place I left off. If you get a command to scroll up one screen, scroll up one screen. Do not scroll up three lines and say here's your page. If there isn't enough text, fill the rest of space with nothing. Make it easy to find my place.

While I am complaining, let's talk about manual slide shows, the ones where you have to click on the "next" button to see the next picture. That is all fine and well, if you do NOT have to reposition the page each time in order to be able to see the picture. Google's Picasa does a good job of this. You can also embed a Picasa slide show in a web page. I don't like this so much because it starts the show as soon as it is loaded. Don't be doing that. Wait until I say to start.

And then there are the people who make web pages that are a thousand pictures long. They never finish loading, and what's worse for me is that they lock up my computer. They lock it up so bad I have to kill the power to get control back. Break up your web pages folks. They don't need to be more than two or three screens long. If your reader decides from the very first screen that this isn't the page he is looking for, there is no reason to load the next 500 pages. That's the reason I cut my blog posting size from 7 entries to 3 when I realized I was starting to use more pictures.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Google Maps

Tokyo is back. A couple of weeks ago I was looking at Japan with Google Maps and all the English place names had been replaced with Japanese. That made it useless to me. I just went and checked to see if anything had changed, and now they have both English and Japanese names, at least for the bigger cities. It is very cluttered looking now with all the Japanese names appearing. Perhaps if I was able to read Japanese I would not mind so much, but I don't.

View Larger Map

What would be really nice is if they would allow you to select your preferred language, or maybe for our linguists out there, a list of languages that you can deal with. I know a few words of Spanish and French, but I am not really fluent in either one. I would just as soon restrict my viewing to the one language I can understand: English.

On a related note, I noticed that the largest percentage of users of Orkut, Google's personal link-up system, are from Brazil, something over 50%. Great for Brazil. Not exacting encouraging for English speakers.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Freddies Comes Thru

My desk lamp quit yesterday. Didn't realize how much I depended on it until then. Set out to track down the problem and finally decided to try a new bulb. Last time I had a Halogen light fail I assumed the bulb had burned out and only after climbing up and down the ladder a couple of times did I discover that there was nothing wrong with the bulb, so I was a little hesitant to blame the bulb this time. I took the bulb out (used my #1 Phillips that I located the other day) and looked at it but there does not appear to be anything wrong: the filament looks intact. I used a VOM (Volt/Ohm Meter) to measure the resistance of across the filament and it showed it was open, but that doesn't mean much. New bulbs act the same way. Measured the voltage coming out of the wall-wart (step down transformer that plugs into the wall) and it was only a volt or two. But this wall-wart weighs practically nothing. Usually these things weigh in around half a pound. This one is only a few ounces. Must be some kind of special electronic gizmo. Probably does not deliver full voltage unless there is a real load, and a meter does not do the job. Tried another 12 Volt wall-wart on the bulb, see if I could get it to light up. That didn't work either. So we have some evidence that the bulb might be bad.

I drive over to Freddies in Cornelius. It takes a while but I eventually find the light bulb display over by the plumbing, and low and behold, they actually have a selection of halogen bulbs. Okay, now which one do I need? Fortunately I checked the output on the transformer: 12VAC & 6 Amps. Volts times amps gives 72 Watts. 60 watts looks like the right choice. 10 and 20 are too small, and the others are too big. Try to read the numbers off my old bulb, but they are tiny and I forgot my glasses. Walk around until I find the reading glasses display. I put on a pair and I am able to convince myself that I have picked the right bulb. I use the U-Scan to pay $6 for the bulb.

Back at the house I try to get the bulb out of the package and into the lamp without touching the glass. (Don't want to get any oil on it. These bulbs get really hot and rumor has it that any oil on the glass will combust and cause the glass to break/shatter/explode.) I fail on both counts. The tips of the leads on the bulb are squared off and require some finesse to get them into their holes. I wipe off the bulb with a cleanish handkerchief and turn on the power and we have light!

Each arm of this lamp is made of two parallel tubes. The rods carry the current. The lamp assembly has a pair of spikes that plug into the ends of the tubes that make up the upper arm. There are no wires, the tubes conduct the electricity.

Note about the picture: I found this image using Google. It appears to be the same as mine, though I bought mine at Costco several years for quite a bit less money. Looking at the picture I see massive jaggies on the arms on my screen, but the original looks very clean, and it is not that much bigger than this one. Curious.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I got a bug to clean out my office last night and I came across a stack of paper I had gotten from my lawyer last year. They were all preliminary copies of a document that had been finalized. Well, what do I do with this stack of paper? Dump it in the recycling as is, or should I shred it first? I don't think there is anything in there that would be useful to a criminal, but I don't know, I don't want to check, and I wouldn't know what kind of info would be useful. We have a shredder, so shred it.

The shredder is one step up from economy, it claims it can shred five sheets of paper at once, and it can. However, it will choke on six, as I quickly found out. Mucking around trying to get it unjammed and it quits completely. What's going on? I suspect a big clot of shredded paper has jammed the there-is-paper-in-the-slot switch, which doesn't completely explain the problem, but it gives me an excuse to open it up. After all, it is my wife's machine and if I broke it she will be unhappy, so there is a certain amount of panic here.

Root around for a #1 Phillips screwdriver. None in the kitchen, none if the garage, none in the basement workroom. Ah here they are! In my desk, two of them. Figures. Remove six screws and it opens up revealing a second plastic box inside that contains the actual shredder. This inner box is tied to the lid with short wires. To open up the inner box, I will need more wire, so out come some more screws holding the switch, the LED and a cable clamp. Now I have it out where I can look at and I see my suspect switch is right out in the open and there does not appear to be anything wrong with it. Put everything back together and it works. The thermal cutoff has reset.

Start grinding more papers and it quits again. Use this opportunity to empty the basket and clean up the mess. Did you know that when you shred an inch thick stack of paper it will expand to fill your entire living room? Pack it into a paper bag, and pile a bunch of old magazines on top before dumping it in the recycling bin. The idea being that the shredded paper will stay in the bag until it is safely inside the truck. Nothing like a cubic foot of shredded paper being blown all over the yard to make ... what? A mess? I don't want to find out.

Back to the shredding. Thermal cutoff is happy again, so I proceed with what's left, one or two sheets at a time. It's easier to feed one corner of the paper to the shredder than to feed it straight in. It works well enough with one sheet, it just gets dragged in, folded in as it goes. Two sheets together like this and you can hear the motor straining.

Can you feed it as fast as it can shred it? Mostly no, peeling off one or two sheets of paper takes seconds, seconds I tell you, and by then the shredder is done with it's last sheet, is tired of waiting for you to feed it, and has shut off. Which is okay, except it means I am not being as efficient as I could be.

Sometimes I think I screw up just so I can see if I can get out of it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


My wife has been trying to teach some elementary school kids about perimeter and circumference. For circumference you need our old friend π (Pi): 3.14159... To illustrate this concept we came up with a little demonstration:
  • Take a can and make a mark on the rim. Make sure the can has a rim on the top and bottom. Otherwise it won't roll straight.
  • Place the can on its side on a sheet of paper with the mark at the bottom.
  • Make a corresponding mark on the paper.
  • Roll the can along for one revolution until the mark is at the bottom again.
  • Make another mark on the paper.
  • Measure the distance between the two marks.
  • Measure the diameter of the can.
  • Divide.
It worked out okay. They came up answers around 3.2 on their calculators. Considering their age and dexterity and the precision of their instruments, I think they did okay. One web site I enjoy is One video has the host(ess?) reciting the first billion or so digits of Pi:  

All this talk about Pi got me to thinking. What if Pi isn't really an infinitely long number? What if it really stops after, say, ten digits or so? Would anyone be able to tell the difference? I know mathematicians would argue that no, no, no, it must go into infinity, but all they really have is their precious theories. I mean they don't have any real concrete evidence, do they? And what if their theories are wrong? Who would know? Okay, I'm probably all wrong about this. I sure they have a whole set of interlocking explanations that tie back to the real world.

Hearing Things

Verizon called me today, wanted to know what I thought of their phone support. Guy asked me a question and then read off a list of possible responses: great, okay, so so, barely adequate, not worth a poop, or words to that effect. I cannot remember the exact words he used. Matter of fact, the words barely registered. I surmised that it was a list of graduated responses and I replied "fine". Well, that was not acceptable, he needed one of the words from his list, so he repeated it. I think "satisfactory" was in the middle, so that was the one I used. I think.

I'm driving the kids downtown yesterday evening to see the Cirque Du Soleil. They are set up just South of the Markham bridge. You can see it every time you drive over the bridge. Matter of fact, you can't miss it. Compound of big, bright blue and yellow tent like structures. But there is no obvious way to get to it. You need to take some side street and go wandering off down towards the waterfront, down underneath the approaches to the bridge. So Mom has printed off a set of directions on how to get there. Kathryn reads it off, but it mostly goes right by me. I have her read it again, slowly, one item at a time, and pause until I have absorbed the information.

The directions used two kinds of directions: compass directions like North & South, and relative directions like left & right. I would repeat a step back to her, and I would often get the direction wrong, substituting left for North or vice versa. Turns out it was not difficult to get to, basically just drive straight thru downtown and follow your nose to the traffic jam.

I was sitting in the parking lot next door to the show reading a magazine, waiting for the show to let out. I could hear the music and the crowd. At one point there was some tremendous applause. I really felt left out. It was a bummer, and very surprising. Well, nothing to be done about it now. Show will be over soon. Roll the window up and go back to reading.

I cannot watch talking heads (like you see on TV news shows). They say so much and convey so little. Documentaries will often sprinkle their story with interviews with people who have something to say about the subject. They are often painfully boring. Some people seem to thrive on this sort of thing. Curious, that.

Read a story in the paper today (they want your zip code, year of birth & sex) that tinnitus (ringing in the ears) may be more in the brain than in the ear. Interesting because I have a bit of it, probably from shooting guns without my ear muffs on. Doesn't bother me much. Matter of fact, most of the time I am not even aware of it. Even when I notice it, it's not too bad, kind of like a quiet high pitched hum. (Background microwave radiation. Need to put my tinfoil hat back on.) Lots of people have it, some have it really bad.

Update November 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Motorcycles using a car engine

1962 Buick 215 Aluminum V8

So I had this idea when I was a kid of building a motorcycle using a small automobile engine, and even though I am older and should be wiser, I am not. I still want to build one. Originally I wanted to use a 3.5 Liter aluminum V-8 engine, originally developed by Buick and later sold to Triumph and Rover. The same engine was used in the TR-8 and in the first V-8 powered Rovers (Land & Sedans). 3.5 Liters may sound like a big enough engine for a car now, but at the time (mid 1960's) it was minuscule. Muscle cars were using 427 cubic inch behemoths. 427 cubic inches translates to 7 Liters, twice the size of the little V-8 I had fantasies of using.

Nothing ever came of my idea, but several other people have been bitten by the same bug and gone off and actually built them. There is even a company building and selling them. They are monstrous brutes and I imagine they would be a thrill to ride. They have got to be heavy, though, and that means you have to be careful with them, especially at slow speeds.

The main motivation for using a car engine in a motorcycle is cost. Car engines are mass produced in far greater quantities than large motorcycles. You can get a great deal more power for a lot less money. Another advantage is reliability.

Factory produced motorcycles are built like airplanes. Everything is light weight, specially designed for this one purpose, limited quantities, and very expensive. Highly stressed machines like this require fastidious maintenance. One little error and a five thousand dollar engine goes up in smoke. On the plus side you get a high performance machine that will fly through the curves, compete with jet aircraft for acceleration, and stop on a dime.

Jame's Air Trike with a Geo Metro engine.
But what if you just want a cheap bike that will boot, scoot & boogy? I'm thinking you might be able to get away with a motor and tranny from a Geo-Metro. I mean 70hp out to be enough for a bike, eh?

Update December 2015 Replaced first missing picture with YouTube video. Replaced last missing picture with a similar one.

LCD Display Problems

Update: Bought the new cable ($6 from Iguana Micro) and tried it out. No help. Tried another LCD display on this computer, and it looks bad also, so it kind of looks like it is the integrated graphics on the motherboard that is at fault. More tests planned.

My daughter has an old-ish Dell Dimension computer. She recently acquired an LCD display from her brother, which is good because her desk is tiny. Seems like when we first hooked it up it worked fine, but now the screen is really ugly. Text is blurry and the mouse cursor has developed a shadow. Did a little Googling and did not find much except a new video cable might help, or a new video card. Did learn that LCD screens work better with VGA signals if the output resolution matches the screens max resolution. Tried that (1280 x 1024) but it hasn't helped.

I don't really want to spend any money on a video card for this computer. The video controller is built into the motherboard; it does not even have an AGP slot. Any video controller I buy for this machine is going to have to live in a PCI slot (the old kind, not the new express kind). I doubt whether it will have as much horsepower as the built in graphics controller. That is assuming I can even find one with a DVI output connector.

Fortunately, it only has to last until the end of this school year. I plan on buying a new VGA cable tomorrow. We shall see if that helps.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Remote Entry

Our Mitsubishi Endeavor (a mid-sized SUV) has a remote entry system. Actually, all of our cars have this. The Endeavor is different in that: a) the remote control key fob is integrated with the key, and b) it has only one actual key lock on the outside of the vehicle.

The integrated remote control has its' pros and cons. On the plus side you only have the one do-hickey to keep track of. On the minus side it makes the key big and thick. I have a remote for my truck but I don't carry it around because I don't want the extra bulk in my pocket where I keep my keys. (I realize this may seem silly, maybe my pants are just too tight.) So anytime we go anywhere in the Endeavor, I pick up the key on the way out the door.

Sometime ago I noticed that there was no key lock in the backdoor, and no key lock in the passenger's door. The only outside key lock was in the driver's door. I wonder if this a preview of the future when there will be no mechanical locks at all and everything is done by remote control. I mean it is not too far fetched. They are building airliners that fly-by-wire now.

I am sure it is all part of a great conspiracy to eliminate all the old mechanical trades. Radios used to have mechanical presets. To set a radio button to a particular station you simply tuned to that station and then pulled on the button. Of course it wasn't really obvious. I did not figure out how to set the presets for a long time. I took apart a radio with mechanical presets one time. They were a marvel of mass production: full of complicated, tiny parts that worked with unexpected precision.

Now they are trying to get rid of mechanical locks. We got an after-market remote entry for our old Ford Windstar minivan. At the time, it was imperative that we have it. Probably had something to do with having little kids. It worked fine for a number of years and then it started to develop this bad habit of locking the doors all by itself. My wife got locked out a couple of times when she was getting coffee because of this. Recently the mechanical locks on the front doors started to act up: they just would not turn. Eventually I figured out how to hold my mouth, er, the key, so it would work. It was odd because it happened to both front doors at about the same time, and the drivers door is the one that gets all the use.

The Chrysler Sebring has it's own set of problems. It has remote entry, a special theft deterrent key and an alarm system. The remote entry has it's own key fob and works fine, or at least I haven't heard about any problems. The key has a padded handle that is maybe a quarter inch thick. It contains some kind of passive radio device that interacts with an antennae around the ignition lock. This means that if you need a new key you can't just get a copy made of the metal key: it won't work. You need to get a special key blank and then have it cut to match. And the blanks aren't cheap. They cost somewhere North of $35.

So just don't lose the key. But we still have the alarm system to contend with. First of all car alarms are one of my pet peeves. They do an infinitely better job of irritating people than they do deterring theft. Besides, that's why you buy insurance. Let the thieves steal the car quietly, without waking your neighbors up. Call the insurance company in the morning and go buy a new car. I know it's a bit of an inconvenience, but it doesn't ruin my sleep.

Anyway, the alarm system on the Sebring sometimes goes off for no good reason. Press the wrong button and it gets all upset, at loud volume, and only by going through the correct machinations can you get it to shut up. I tried to get it removed, but it is integrated into some other piece of electronics that is basically essential to the operation of the car. I think we have learned through trial and error, what not to do, so it has not gone off recently.

But back to the Mitsubishi. Just for grins I tried unlocking the drivers door with the key. It took a little finesse. First attempt resulted in my simultaneously turning the key and pressing the button in the key fob to lock the doors. Second, more careful, attempt worked fine. The ignition still requires a metal key. Never noticed a problem with locking the doors when turning on the ignition. I mean it wouldn't be a problem, but I have never heard the electric locks engaging at that time. I got used to using the key fob to lock this car because it is not clear to me which way to push the inside control button on the drivers door. If I drove it more than a couple of times a month I might get it sorted out.

Update June 2015: Replace missing picture of Windstar.
Update October 2016: Replace missing picture of Mitsubishi.

Peacocks Fly

Near our church there is a house that keeps peacocks. We often see them wandering around the house, on the road or in the fields during the warmer months. This morning there was a male walking around the church parking lot. I think they are attracted by their reflections in the windows in the front of the church. They go all the way to ground level so they can get a real bird's eye view of themselves. When people started showing up this one bird took off and flew across the parking lot, across the street and landed on the roof of a house. It wasn't terribly far, maybe 100 yards, but it was the first time I had ever seen a peacock fly. Looked kind of like a pheasant in flight, beating his wings a mile a minute. Much bigger, of course.

Photo is from Desert Lupine's slideshow.

Sunday Morning Holler

My wife and I worked the early service at church this morning. On the way there I was telling her about something and, as so often happens, we got our wires crossed. I got frustrated and yelled my story at her.

We are almost polar opposites on the personality scale. My wife is very outgoing, quiet and polite. I imagine it is partly due to her nature and partly due to her upbringing. I am more reserved but noisy and brash, though I do my best to try and mind my manners.

I like to think I know the difference between polite conversation, speaking forcefully, yelling, and losing my temper. But maybe not. My wife often accuses me of yelling when I think I merely expressing my opinion. I know when I lose my temper and start screaming. But in between the extremes my judgement may be a bit off.

This morning on our way to church when I started yelling, I realized I was yelling. That was the first time that has happened, realized I was yelling that is. I cannot vouch for previous episodes of yelling because either: a) I never realized I was yelling, or b) I wasn't yelling.

So today I learned that at least sometimes I do yell. Have to keep a eye on that.

Update October 2016 replaced missing picture.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Orpheum Theater

"From cascading crystal chandeliers to hand-carved detailing, from vast tiered balconies to purple granite flooring, the magnificently restored Orpheum theater in Sioux City, Iowa recreates the extravagant opulence of a vaudeville palace in its roaring twenties heyday." (from: Meyer Sound)

Purple granite flooring?!?!?! I have seen polished granite floors before in places like government buildings, theaters and other public places, but I don't think I have ever seen purple granite. I may have to just go to Sioux City to check this out.

I just found out that my sister-in-law has landed a job at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, Iowa. Now I have heard that name, Orpheum, before, but where? Well it turns out that in the early part of the 20th century there was a whole chain of them across the U.S., all run by the Orpheum Circuit Company. Los Angeles has the oldest, and it is probably the most famous, which is why I recognized the name.

But this one in Sioux City is no slouch. Someone spent a bunch of money restoring it a few years ago and now it is running as a full tilt modern venue for music, Broadway shows, even movies. Here's a slide show of mostly borrowed photos:

In case you are wondering, "Sioux City, where have I heard that name before?", they had a big plane crash there back in 1989. They even made a movie about it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Speed of Sound

Some time ago I was reading about the U2 spy plane and I came across a statement that intrigued me. Seems that the U2 had a very narrow range of flying speed when operating at altitude. It was constrained on the low end by its' stall speed, below which it would fall out of the sky, and by the speed of sound on the upper end. The U2 was not a supersonic aircraft and bad things happen to planes that try to go faster than the speed of sound when they are not specifically designed for it: they fall out of the sky. So it had a range of maybe 10 or 20 knots (or 4 knots, depending on where you heard the story). In any case, there was a very narrow range of speed that the plane could operate in.

So I started looking into this the other day, and I found something very surprising: the speed of sound is not dependent on altitude. The air pressure and the density both affect the speed, but they do it in an opposite manner such that they cancel each other out. This was a big surprise to me. Apparently it is not an uncommon misconception. You learn in school that denser stuff, like steel and water conduct sound faster, so you might assume that less dense air would conduct sound slower. This is not the case.

US Standard Atmosphere Model
Now air temperature does affect the speed of sound, and at high altitudes it gets very cold. The U2 has typically operates upwards of 70,000 feet, which translates to about 21 kilometers, so the temperature has dropped a bit, and so has the speed of sound. The speed of sound at sea level is about 760 MPH, and at the U2's cruising altitude it is a about 100 MPH less, or 660 MPH. The U-2's maximum speed was only 500 MPH, so it was in no danger or breaking the sound barrier.

However, the stall speed at that altitude was 490 MPH, so the pilot was hemmed in by these two numbers. It just wasn't the speed of sound.

Of course all this talk about speed and density and air makes me wonder what is the speed of sound in a vacuum? Well, that may be overstating it a bit, but how low does air pressure have to go before talking about sound becomes pointless?

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Next Blog Button

I thought I would look around on the net to see if I just came across anything interesting. At the top of this blog page there is a header bar provided by Google. One of the items in the bar is "Next Blog". So I thought I would give it a try. I have tried several times over the past few weeks, but I haven't had much luck. Most of the blogs it takes me to are in Spanish, which is fine, except I don't speak Spanish. Crafts and babies are also hot topics, but they aren't my babies and I am not really into crafts. Photographs are also popular, but unless someone has something to say about them, they don't hold much interest for me. Occasionally I will come across something interesting, but more often than not I will end up on a blog page without a "Next Blog" button, and that is the end of that.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Not often I come across something that just blows me away:

Byron's videos.

Article about this project.

Thanks to Fair Maiden of the Mindful Blossom

Anonymous Lockout

Beat This:

The Legacy automatically locks it's doors after about 5 seconds when you start it with the key.

So I lean inside the car, start it with the key this morning, instead of using the remote, and went back inside. Shut the car door and got locked out. Keys in the locked car. Locked house. Standing there like an idiot.

Garage door opener in truck. Truck open. Hit button, garage door opens. Inside garage door to house open. Get in house. Lock garage door behind me. Inside house, spare keys, okay.

Hit button on other remote to unlock car. Walk out of house, shut door, for some reason without other remote. Car still locked, remote failed. Now, truck locked, inside garage door locked, car locked, house locked. Standing there like an idiot, again.

Not so okay.

Go around to rear garden gate. Locked. Big push lifts it off it's hinges and falls into a big puddle. Rear garage door open. Inside house door locked. (Secret confidential entry hint to Ike's house follows) Take pins out of inside garage door and lift out of frame, scraping knuckle bloody in process. Unlock lock, replace door. Get bandaid for finger.

Put spare keys in pocket this time. Leave house and drive to work.

Locked out of the house and car with the car running TWICE in 5 minutes.

Just like a freaking British comedy.

I have a sore knuckle to remind me of it all day.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mr. Dustbury tells a funny.

During those days when I was expected to be able to know how to hurl those little pineapples, I learned: "Once you pull the pin, Mr Grenade is no longer your friend."

Anonymous Flu Report

Not written by me.

Recent bout with influenza demonstrated to me the variety of moods, views and attitudes the human organism can experience. Some surprising findings while I was ill:

-Lots of semi-hallucinatory episodes, with sensations and impressions harking back to childhood years. In other words, thought about things I haven't thought of in years. Lots of inspiration to grab pen and paper in an attempt to record the mindset (none recorded).

-I couldn't bring myself to read a serious magazine -- yet I enjoyed courtroom shows, which I ordinarily loath. That was really weird.

So much energy -- for example every single political commentary show and publication -- is devoted to trying to convince people to think a certain way. Given the several personalities I inhabited over the past couple weeks, I'm amazed people are able to cooperate as well as they do.

Some people feel the massive, immediate and personal communication enabled by the internet will undermine the behavioral standards promoted by the former, more limited, formal and authoritative communication (schools, churches, TV, newspapers) -- all of which, if you think about it in today's terms, are pretty censored and restrictive. What happens if a bunch of charismatic nuts start gaining audiences, and lots of people start to realize they don't have to work or pay taxes or obey the law? Could be trouble.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Truck Dream

I had dream the other morning. I was riding my bicycle. A short distance ahead there was a large truck coming down a ramp that crossed in front of me. The ramp went up to the top of an embankment about four feet tall. This embankment was on my left. The truck looked like one of those big transport trucks that you see in movies about Africa, except this one was bigger and had really big tires, maybe eight or ten feet in diameter. The cab was dark green. The driver started to turn in my direction, but then he spotted me and changed course and went off to his left.

There was a big parking lot at the top of the ramp, mostly empty, and beyond that a warehouse like factory. I was going skiing, but I had to go through the factory area to get to the ski slope. I had to be careful, because I didn't want to irritate anyone who was working with a flagrant display of having fun.

The truck really stuck in my mind, so I went looking for a picture. I was looking for those trucks you see loaded to the gills, hauling supplies to refugees. Found lots of pictures of bizarre, huge and otherwise interesting trucks, but none of the ones I was looking for. I posted links to a couple of the more interesting sites under my link list for this month.

The trucks I am looking for are regular trucks, not semi-tractors. They have a conventional cab, that is, they have a hood over the engine in front of the cab, i.e. they are not cab-over-engine, flat-face, style. The engine/hood sticks out past the front wheels: the front axle is about where the firewall is. The tires are really big, four, maybe five feet high. Truck has only two axles. It has a flat bed with sides, i.e. it is not a dump truck or tank truck or some other special purpose vehicle. I don't think they are made any more. Maybe there were only two and they both got blown up when they were making the movies.

The picture, while not a truck, best captures the essence of what I was looking for.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.


End The Cycle of Addiction
Addiction can, and often does, destroy people's lives. Addiction can over power people's good intentions, their will power, and even destroy whatever character they may have. It is not a good thing. Many addicts have no control over it. Many would like to be free of their addiction. Previously I suggested that locking them up might be the only viable solution, but now I think I have a better idea.

How about a town in a remote area with limited civil rights? Specifically, the authorities would be free to search anywhere within the city limits. Not only would there be no prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, there would be a regular search program.

Drugs (heroin, meth, coke, etc.), alcohol, tobacco and gambling would all be prohibited within the city limits. Vehicles going in or out would be stopped and inspected. However, people would be free to come and go. Using a town that is somewhat remote from Portland would put a obstacle in the way of coming and going.

The town would be run like any other town, though it would be supplanted with a rehabilitation ward and a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) like work program. Anyone who wanted to live here would be allowed, though they would have to sign an annual release form, waiving their right to privacy. In order to avoid any legal wrangling no one could be allowed to own any real estate in this town. It would have to be owned by the state or by a private company.

I can imagine having a recruiting center where people can sign up to be transported, detoxed and employed. On the other hand, judges could sentence people to this town if they thought the person and society at large would benefit. Hopefully, the residents of this town could make enough money to pay for the extra expense of it's operation, but even if it didn't, the cost savings realized by removing these people from temptation might more than make up for it.

We might even save some people's lives.

Update November 2016 replaced missing picture.