Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hoo Boy.

Got back late last night from a weekend trip to San Francisco for my brother Dan's wedding. 1300 miles round trip, eleven hours door-to-door each way. Stayed at the SW (Sam Wong) Hotel on the corner of Broadway and Columbus, or to give you a better idea of the locale, at the collision of Chinatown, Northbeach sleaze and Little Italy. A dozen people from our side of the family showed up at the banquet Sunday evening, including my cousin Linda who flew all the way from Boston. The bride brought about a hundred of her closest relatives, nearly all Chinese.

This was at the end of a week that included my wife coming down with pneumonia, several trips to the doctor, several trips to the pharmacy, numerous phone calls concerning the pending weekend escapade, numerous phone calls from employment agencies, and a couple of phone interviews from a prospective employer. I was fried when I got home last night. I deliberately did very little today and now I am beginning to feel more human and less zombie like.

Cousin Linda claims that I met her once a long time ago, but I have no recollection of said event, so for me this was a first time meeting. Saw my cousin Peter again. Haven't seen him since I don't know when. Cousin John was also there, but shoot, I just saw him last week, or was it two weeks ago? I wonder how many cousins I have? Two aged aunts, two brothers, two girlfriends and three kids rounded out our battalion.

I finally finished reading a book I started a month or two ago. That's what happens when you get cut off from electronica. Had about 50 pages left when I got home. Had to force myself to sit down and finish it, otherwise I would have been sucked into the insatiable internet vortex and I never would have finished it. Heck of a good book, too. Curious the way the mind works, isn't it?

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Missile Versus Missle

This video is almost a year old. I found it on Perfunction (dead site).

Missile Test - High Altitude Area Defense

Update December 2016 replaced missing video with one I found using the phrase 'THAD missile test 2007'.

California Cynic

Email from CA:
I hear the new mortgage bailout scheme is going to be called the "Troubled Asset Relief Program" or TARP.

There's some tremendous irony there -- "You may have lost your house, but the government has a TARP -- maybe you can live under that."

Rock Lobster

It's the middle of the night and I can't sleep, so I'm poking around on the internet and I come across a mention of "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s, which is a fine song. So I start looking for a video that might be worth posting and I come across this one, which has Peter from "Family Guy" singing part of the song, but we aren't watching this video for the music, we are watching it for the lobster. Wait a minute, that's not a lobster, that's a crab, and wait another minute. That field of rocks, those aren't rocks ...

The B52's - Rock Lobster

Update December 2016 replaced missing video. The original video from Metacafe has disappeared and despite searching for minutes I have been unable to locate it, so instead of rock lobsters, or crabs, or whatever they were, we have the B-52's.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cowboy Hats for Cars

I live in Oregon. I used to live in Arizona. Both places have climates that call for some extra protection. In Arizona, it's the sun. In Oregon, it's the rain.

In Arizona you learn to leave the windows of your car cracked open if you have to leave your car parked in the sun. It will still be hotter than blazes inside when you get back, but at least it won't be blue blazes. Window tinting is de rigour, a folding cardboard sunshade that goes inside the windshield is very popular. And never, ever touch any exposed metal when you get in the car. It will burn you.

People say it rains a lot in Oregon, but mostly it's just a constant drizzle. Modern cars have taken to trying to be all sleek and sh**, and the tops of the doors are starting to wrap over into the roof. That's no problem if the sun is shining, but if it's raining it's liable to drop a puddle of water on you when you open the door.

Real cowboys wear cowboy hats not because they are stylish but because the offer protection from both sun and rain. So I got to thinking that maybe we could use something like that on cars: a shield that would mount to the roof and follow the lines of air flow over the car. It's wind resistance would be as low as possible. It would extend outward and down around all four sides of the roof of the car. You would need be careful that it didn't extend down so far that it interfered with people getting in or out of the car. By leaving an air space of at least a couple of inches, it could help protect the occupants from sun and/or rain.

Update October 2016 replaced missing picture.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Men In Suits

I was watching "Mega Carrier: The Construction of the USS George H. W. Bush " on the Military Channel. There were some shots of dignitaries hanging around when then-President Bush was giving a speech and their faces were blurred out. Now why would the editors of this show do this? Well, it could be that they were unable to get permission from those people to show them in this film. That could be because they were unable to contact them, or they were unable to determine just who they were, or they were turned down.

However, this was at least a semi-public event and an official government function, so I don't think such permission would be necessary. My conspiracy theory antennae makes me think they were people who weren't supposed to be there. Or maybe the raw film was provided by the government and all the NSA / CIA / SS operatives are blurred out as a matter of course.

Then I followed a link from Robot Wisdom Auxiliary to an old Bob Dylan video on YouTube. The video took forever to load. It took at least 15 minutes to finish loading a 3 minute video, and I have a FIOS connection to the net. You can watch it if you let it finish loading first. Get it started and then go out and mow the lawn or something. Anyway, back to the video. There are a bunch of guys in suits standing around in the background and some of them wearing sunglasses. I'm wondering if is this the spooks again, keeping an eye on the radicals? Actually, no. The most dangerous looking one comes up and adjusts the microphones while Bob is singing.

So just because they look like Agent Smith, does not mean they are Agent Smith.

More grumbling: Bob only appears in the first 30 seconds of the video, then we switch to a view of the crowd for another 30 seconds, and then the cameraman points the camera at the Washington Monument and zones out. Stoned, I imagine.

Retractable Hardtop

I always thought that a retractable hardtop was a much better idea than a convertable. What I never understood was why someone didn't make one where the hardtop was just stored on top of the rear deck lid. Why go to all the trouble to have a separate compartment to store it in? The lines of the roof are very similar to the lines of the trunk. Just have it lie down right on top of the trunk.

You should also be able to open or close it while moving. It should just slide up just high enough from its' storage position so that it can slide forward to meet the windshield header.

Seems like everyone is offering a retractable hardtop model these days, but they are all of the fold-it-up-and-store-it-in-the-trunk variety. I'm sorry, that just doesn't cut it. I want one that works more like a canopy on a Spitfire fighter aircraft. Slide it back, it's open, slide it forward it's closed. All the fancy mechanical workings are fun to watch the first few times, but after that I've-seen-it, let's get it done.

Ford made the most famous one back in 1959.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Free Market Leads to ... what?

Socialism? Communism? Floyd Norris at the New York Times has something to say about this last week's disaster:
If an activity is important enough to justify a government nationalization to prevent a default, it is important enough to be regulated. The regulators need to know what risks are being taken, and by which institutions, in time to act before a crisis develops.
I have forgotten where I found the link to this article, and when I pulled it up just now I had to register at their website. Wanted to know what I do for a living. Did NOT have a spot for unemployed.

When Worlds Collide

Roberta X has a perceptive view of our world.

Andromeda, by Gustave Doré
I couldn't resist bringing in a little culture. (Colliding Worlds leads to colliding galaxies and Andromeda is a galaxy. That's how we got here.)

On This Day in History

Battleship Tirpitz, Late April 1943 Kaafjord, Norway
65 years ago a British mini-sub attacked the German battleship Tirpitz. Actually tomorrow. So I'm stealing a page from Tam, so sue me. The Telegraph quotes one of the survivors:
One in four of his fellow volunteers were killed. One of his best mates, Paddy Kearon, died with his crew when a tow-rope broke and his sub plunged irretrievably into the depths. He also lost three first cousins. "But cast yourself back to the age of 21. You're in a war where everyone's united. You drink like 'Tomorrow we die', yet you feel immortal. One lost a lot of chums, but otherwise one enjoyed one's war. I find this country so much more depressing today. We're no longer united, and all anyone cares about is money."
Look at the rest of the news this week and you can believe it. There is something wrong with our society, but I'm not sure what we should do, except maybe make pyramids out of the Rocky Mountains.

Note: it is tir-pitz, not trip-itz. Do not discount this little slip. Took me an hour before I discovered I had it wrong. Evidently half the world has it wrong as well.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture, which originally came from the Tirpitz museum in Norway.

The View from Across the Pond

From the Telegraph:
The biggest irony is that just as the US Treasury is now standing behind the US banking system as the lender of last resort, the Chinese government stands behind the US Treasury as its lender of last resort. Were the Chinese to stop recycling their giant trade surplus by buying up US government debt, the resulting panic could make last week's crisis look like a storm in a teacup.
And they didn't even give the writer's name.

Headlines of the Day





From The Big Picture


Dustbury had a link to this blog (ORACULATIONS). The header under the title caught my eye. I really like it. Here is the bulk of it. You will have to go to the site to see the last little bit.
Liberals feel unbearable guilt because they somehow got actual money for their labors and therefore must serve an eternity in purgatory for their sin of success AND make sure that everyone else feels the pain of their penance and the agony of their guilt; Conservatives feel they deserve everything they have including the spoils of stock swindles, market manipulations, tax evasion schemes, and whatever else they have "appropriated."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Guidelines for Market Turbulence

Found on Macedonia Online which has gone offline.

Especially note number 7.

Guidelines of 10 Safety Tips For Times of Extreme Market Turbulence:
  1. Never borrow money to buy a stock. If you have a death wish, it is far easier and faster to take a bath with your toaster. Borrowing money to buy stock is, however, more convenient than the seven day waiting period required for purchasing a handgun.
  2. Never recommend a stock to friends or family members, unless you like the thought of receiving death threats for the next ten years, being ignored at Holiday festivities, or forever being known as "the schmuck" who recommended they buy Fannie Mae at $15.00.
  3. Do not frequent single ticker message boards. Single ticker message boards are unfortunately often stealth distributors of cyanide laced Koolaid, and recruiting stations for brain eating stock cults. Such cults, while mesmerizing and strangely addictive, often end up with bizarre rituals of group financial suicide. In addition, cult members are often missing a chromosome rendering them less than ideal mates. Should you find yourself inadvertantly trapped in a stock cult which is on a well planned collision course with the earth's core, or SEC regulators, please identify all exits ahead of time for an emergency escape, and consider a 50% loss as Mr. Market's way of telling you that 'they trade best who trade alone'.
  4. Be extremely cautious of "no brainer" picks recommended on such boards. These are recommendations for people with no brain. Truth.
  5. Anytime you hear a "boat" or "truck" reference in the same sentence as buying a stock, be alarmed. 'Loading the boat' and 'backing up the truck', should immediately conjure images of martime disasters, refugee flotillas, stolen merchandise, and traffic accidents covered by a news helicopter.
  6. Practice 'safe speculation' (an oxymoron I know), and never put all your eggs in one basket, unless you like the idea of a big, runny omelette with bits of eggshell and wicker in it.
  7. Contrary to a popular 19th century belief, the best time to buy is not when blood is running in the streets, unless you like the idea of owning a mangled corpse. These concepts do not apply where the the stock may have been attacked with the lead PIPE of dilution or due to be demolished as a public health hazard due to billions of dollars of ABS having been found rotting in the basement. In such cases, the blood can run for weeks, leading to the stock's agonizing demise trading in the range of first class U.S. postage. Think of those sharp investors from Kuwait and their "fire-sale" purchase of MER from a few months back.
  8. In the event of a sudden sharp loss of buying pressure, keep the aisles clear, an eye on the escape hatches and remember that at these times market orders are your friend.
  9. Should extreme market volatility cause you to become suddenly ill, do not put your computer at risk. Professional traders keep a copy of the Wall Street Journal near at hand for these occasions. Investors Business Daily is also quite absorbent.
  10. Remember that bears make money, bulls make money. Pigs with dreams of a $1.00 financial stock returning to $80 in our planet's lifetime, get a complimentary ride through the Cuisinart, and generally end up as a side dish to breakfast.
Tip of the baseball cap to Andy.

Update November 2023 removed missing picture minagg.jpg. I probably have a copy stashed someplace, but I'm not going to dig it out now.


When I am writing I will generally just hammer it out and then go back and proofread it and correct whatever errors I find. Sometimes, if it is a longish piece, I will print out a copy and then sit down and read it over and mark any errors I find with a red pen. For some reason changing the media makes it easier to find mistakes. Of course, after I have marked up the page, I have to go back to the electronic copy and make the corrections there.

That last part can be a little tedious, especially if the paper copy is not formatted the same as the electronic copy. If your lines on the screen and on the electronic copy match, you can look at where the error is on your paper copy and know that it will be in the same relative place in the electronic copy. If not, you have to read through your words again to find the place where the correction is to be made.

My daughter is doing some writing (in the form of a blog) for school and she wanted some suggestions /reassurance /proofreading. She is in Seattle, so it's not like I can show her the error on a piece of paper. So I try to come up with a way to do this electronically.

It turned out to be a bit of a pain. First I just tried printing the blog, but it wouldn't print. The computer said it printed, and three sheets came out of the printer, but only one had any text on it. So I copied the whole web page and pasted into a text editor (Notepad++). Did this twice to get the whole blog in there. Edited it a bit to get rid of extraneous text, then printed it. Ten pages, black and white, much better than orange on white. Mom sat down and went through it with a red pen and marked all the errors she found.

All that was fairly straight forward. I was just going to put the marked up document in the mail, but Mom says darling daughter needs it right away. So I thought I would highlight the errors in the electronic file and mail it to her. But Notepad++ does not support highlighting, or at least I could not find a way to do it. It does support different colors for text, but not for text documents, but that's another issue.

Anyway, I copied and pasted the text into an e-mail and then went through and highlighted all the errors. Mom put in some comments, but I did not put them in the e-mail. She'll have to call to find out what our suggestions are.

There has got to be a better way to do this. Some kind of paint program that would allow you to mark up the document like you would a printed page. Probably want some kind of stylus instead of a mouse. Writing with a mouse is a little difficult. And I don't think you would really want to use an image for the text. It would be more efficient it you could just store the text as text and use an overlay for marks made with the stylus.

There are probably programs out there that do this, but I don't know of any. I don't use Microsoft Word or even Open Office Writer because of the bloating problem. They take too flipping long to load for the kind of things I want to do. I know I could start them and just keep them around in a minimized state, but this is Windows, and I am on the net a lot, and bad things happen. I don't want any more programs running than absolutely necessary. That way when something bad happens, I have a better chance of identifying the culprit.

Today's Quicky History Lesson

Nathan Rothschild

a remark of Nathan Rothschild in 1815, at the time of Napoleon’s hundred-day gamble that ended in his defeat at Waterloo. “The time to buy,” said Rothschild, “is when blood is running in the streets.”

H/T to Dan.

Update November 2015. Replaced missing picture with different one.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Joan of Arc, a famous heretic

I think I have figured out why there is so much trouble in the Mid-East. We were talking at lunch today and somebody implied that Arabs were Semites. Now I had only heard the term in reference to Jews, as in Anti-Semitic, but it turns out both Jews and Arabs are Semites. From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a definition of Semite:

1 a: a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs
b: a descendant of these peoples

Which brought to mind the old joke about the two protestants:

heretic scum by Emo Philips

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"
"Like what?"
"Well ... are you religious or atheist?"
"Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?"
"Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
"Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
"Baptist Church of God."
"Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
"Reformed Baptist Church of God."
"Wow! Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"
"Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
To which I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off.

People tend to fight more about the smallest things.

Update December 2018 replaced missing picture.

Zimbabwe & Mugabe

There was an article in the local paper yesterday about some "power sharing" going on down in old Rhodesia. (I couldn't find the article on my local paper's web site. What's the matter with you guys? But I found a similar one here.) One of the sharee's got the Army, and one got the Police. I imagine that's going to work out just fine.

The "official" inflation rate is eleven million percent. What? Why not just say the money is worthless? If a cup of coffee cost one Zimbabwe dollar yesterday, it is going to cost Z$300 today, and Z$90,000 tomorrow. By the end of the week all the money in country won't be enough to buy a cup of coffee. As Elliot said at lunch, if you have a wheelbarrow of money and wheelbarrow of Charmin, you use the money first.

Update: I got to thinking about the daily inflation rate and I realized it wasn't 30,000% (which is what you get when you divide 11 million by 365), but the 365th root of 11 million, which comes out to 1.05, which is like five percent per day. So while your cup of coffee will only cost Z$1.05 today, by the end of the month it is going to be closer to Z$4, and after two months it will be Z$16. Wikipedia has an article about the Zimbabwe dollar, and it is a little mind boggling. I can't imagine why anyone would even consider the currency to be worth anything, much less worth documenting it to such an extent. Here's the "money"(har, har, har) quote:
On 29 May (2006), Reserve Bank officials told IRIN that plans to print about ZW$60 trillion (about US$592.9 million at official rates) were briefly delayed after the government failed to secure foreign currency to buy ink and special paper for printing money.

Update: I just came across the print article from my local paper. It has an Associated Press byline, which is why it's not on the Oregonian's website. AP is charging now for that sort of thing.

Update November 2016 replaced missing pictures.

CNG for Cars: Q & A

Questions from California, and my answers:
We've been seeing the promotion of compressed natural gas for cars for a while, but what REALLY made my ears perk up was the idea of filling up your CNG vehicle from a fitting on your household gas line. That would be awesome! No more gas stations!

So, what do you know about:

1. Cost of CNG engines, or converting to them ( I hear conversion costs $2K - $4K);

A: Big problem with CNG is you need a pressure tank. They are big, round, heavy and expensive. Liquid fuel tanks can be shaped to fit the available space. With CNG tanks, you need to shape the car to accommodate them. Of course you can just put them in the trunk, but it impacts your trunk space.

2. Performance of CNG vehicles vs. gasoline vehicles;

A: Performance should be comparable.

3. Can you really use household gas?

A: Problem with household gas is it would have to compressed, which consumes energy (power for the compressor), and dissipates energy (heat) from compressing the gas. Unless you can tap into the high pressure line on the other side of the pressure regulator, which is also upstream from the meter. Can be dangerous, and probably illegal, unless you get a special high pressure meter and have the gas company install it.

4. Cost of installing a refueling fitting to your household line;

A: If you are taking gas from your stove fitting and doing it yourself, then the biggest expense would be the compressor. Actually, the biggest expense would be the insurance when they found out what you were doing.

5. Running cost per mile of CNG vs. gasoline -- any cheaper?

A: Gasoline is a commodity item and the price follows the market. Natural gas is sold in larger quantities (a years supply for a city as opposed to weeks supply of gasoline for a car), but it also follows the price of oil. Many industrial processes can use either one, and they use such vast quantities that a small difference in price can cause them to change suppliers. Witness natural gas fueled gas turbines used for generating electrical power.

There is also the tax advantage. Natural gas isn't subject to highway taxes. Of course, neither is gasoline or diesel for off-highway use. Used to be highway taxes were a big deal. Something like half the price of a gallon of gasoline. But since the price of gas has shot up so much, they are not quite so significant. Highway taxes are at a fixed rate, so much money per gallon, not a percentage.
One of the big questions in my mind has always been the safety of the pressure tanks. I think this video clears up that question pretty well. As a plus, it's pretty entertaining, in a Mythbusters kind of way. Found on CNG Utah.

Safety Video CNG

Financial Advice

I got a letter from Iowa:

At your convenience, do ya'll think this is worth reading, or is it spam? Thanks, Dianne

My reply:

It looks legit, but are you willing and able to spend the time necessary to digest the information they provide?

I am fortunate to have a good stock broker. I came into contact with him because his daughter and my daughter have been going to school together since kindergarten. Our wives are also friends.

He calls me maybe a couple of times a year with advice on what he think's I should do, shift some money here or there, and I go along with his plans. They seem to be working. I'm not making a fortune, but we have been getting reasonable results for the last few years. This year is not going too well, but I think that is pretty much the same for most people.

Keeping track of the market and your investments can be a full time job all by itself. What's worse is once you start, you have to keep after it. Lose interest, get slack, and the market can eat your lunch.

Mutual funds are best. Pick one, put all your money in it and go back to sleep.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ruminations On Armageddon

Letter from California:

I'm so tired of this market nonsense.

They say nothing focuses the mind like having a gun pointed to your head. Well today I decided to stop my craven hand-wringing and stare the worst case scenario right in the eyeball. I marked my securities down 70%, and even marked the FDIC stuff down 25%, since those don't seem to be safe anymore either.

Thus I calculated a small hard nugget of what I might be left with. And I said, "OK. If that's what it comes to, I'll get a job, I'll earn, I'll buy beans at the Grocery Outlet, and I'll survive."

It was pretty liberating. I felt a lot better. The way I see it, the more desperate and impoverished I become, the harder I am to kill. Just like the weeds: the shorter you cut them the harder they are to uproot.

It might even be worth it, just to watch the whole ecomnomy go down the tubes. That would be a heckuva show. And it could open up a lot of opportunities for those with looting skills.

Let the games begin!

Leo & Moopheus

From the Rockwell City Chamber of Commerce

My daughter has a new post on her blog about "The Golden Buckle on the Corn Belt" which happens to be the motto of my in-laws home town of Rockwell City, Iowa. She also sent me a link to the following video.

I like this video both because of the parody angle and because of the message. I am not much on farming myself, but I know there are people who like farming, and I know there are people promoting "better" ways of farming. There are conflicting views on the issue. On one side we have people who want cheap food, either because they are having a hard time making enough money to support their families (like Wal-Mart employees) or because they have a dozen kids and they need a new car every year to drive to work.

On the other hand we have yuppies who don't mind paying $20 for a fresh egg because the hen's name is Henny Penny and she lives on a cute little organic farm.

I think there is a middle ground where farmers can produce adequate food supplies at reasonable prices using sustainable and possibly even organic methods. I think they are making some progress, but they have a long row to hoe before the factory farms shut down. As a fringe benefit, they might even employ more people, something that is anathema to the factory farms.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Sebring Cooling System

Sebring Engine
The first winter after we got this car I noticed the heater wasn't working, and with leather seats and a temperature South of freezing it was a bit chilly. My first suspect was the thermostat. The dealer wants $80 to replace it. $80! Shoot, I can replace a thermostat, so I go take a look under the hood. Well, there's a likely looking candidate. There is a thermostat size housing sitting on top of the engine, connected to the top radiator hose, right where you would expect the thermostat housing to be. This looks easy enough. Well, not quite. One of the screws is blocked by the plastic (!?!?) intake manifold, which means it has to come off, which means more shenanigans. Eventually I get it off, and pull off the thermostat-size housing, and look here, no thermostat. But what is even stranger is no coolant. I am sure there was a look of consternation on my face at this point.

OK, so we have learned two things. 1) $80 might be a reasonable price to pay for replacing the thermostat being as I cannot even find the durn thing, and 2) low coolant could easily explain the lack of heat, so there may be nothing wrong with the thermostat anyway. I mean the motor isn't overheating, even on longish drives. As a bonus I also learned that there are O-rings between the intake manifold and the engine, which means I did not have to go out and buy a new gasket. Sure, I should have replaced the O-rings, but this is a shade tree operation, we are not going to replace something just on some lab guys say-so.

Put the whole thing back together and now I need to refill the coolant. Problem with this car is that the thermostat-sized housing is higher than the radiator, so you need to bleed the cooling system. Further evidence of this is the bleed screw on the top of the oft-mentioned thermostat-sized housing. I experiment with various bleeding techniques, none of which work very well and at least one has the side effect of spraying me and the surrounding area with a mist of anti-freeze, but at last I am satisfied that I have gotten most of the air out of the system.

So things are working pretty well now, the car still runs and the heater works. But I come across some DIRE WARNINGS on the internet about mixing five year (orange) and three year (green) coolant and I decide the coolant should be changed. Not wanting another ethylene glycol shower, I take it to the dealer. They don't want to put green coolant in it, they want to use the high priced stuff. They have some techno-babble reason, so I relent.

That was over a year ago. But now when the car comes home after a longish drive it is spitting anti-freeze on the floor. A quick squeeze reveals that the top radiator hose is apparently empty. Come on guys, I took it the dealer, you are supposed to know that the cooling system needs bleeding. I suspect they didn't do it. We didn't discover a problem because my daughter was driving the car to school, which is only a mile away. The engine is barely going to get warm in that distance, you will never know whether the heater is working or not.

So now it's back in the shop. We shall see what they find.

Just got a call. Problem was the radiator cap had gone bad. It was only holding 4 pounds of pressure when it should have been more like 16 PSI. Only cost $45 for diagnosis, replacement and testing. So you're thinking $45 for a radiator cap? They only cost a couple of bucks at the discount auto parts store. But remember this car had been to two experts before this shop (me and the dealer) and neither one had detected the problem. I mean, when's the last time you had a radiator cap fail? I think he flushed the system to boot. Must have refilled it with the coolant that came out. I don't think you could buy the coolant for $45.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Harvest Moon or Great Pumpkin?

Harvest Moon
Last night we had full moon. It was very orange when it was just above the horizon, and all the "scientific" explanations seem to agree that is normal. But when it got higher in the sky, it was still orange. Maybe not as orange as the orange sitting on your kitchen counter, but still plenty orange, not the usual pale white. So I scanned the news this morning and found no mention of it. Is the CIA spraying agent orange (yuk, yuk) over my neighborhood? Was nobody else looking at the sky last night? Maybe Linus was right and there really is a great pumpkin.

Update December 2016 replaced missing image.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I read "View From The Porch"

Tam writes:
Gun Zen.

I managed to wax all profound on teh intarw3bz last night:
Where the bullet lands is a lot more important than what the bullet is. Train to make the bullets land where you want.
I are deep.

SEC & The First Amendment

Yesterday there was a story in my local paper about how an old story about the United Airlines Bankruptcy in 2002 was reposted as new last week by a Florida paper. Some people got very excited and the price of United Airlines stock shares crashed. Now the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission, NOT the South East Conference) is looking into it. WTF? (Could not find the story on my local paper's website, but here is the New York Times version).

I remember reading about another incident some time ago where a kid (a high school student I think) was posting "advice" to invest in a stock. When the price was high enough, the kid cashed in his shares and left the suckers holding the bag. The SEC came down on him like a ton of bricks.

If it is illegal to take advantage of people's built in psychological weaknesses, then just about any kind of marketing and advertising should be illegal. If people want to act on unverified rumors from an unknown source, I say we should let them. If they don't have any common sense, then they shouldn't be trusted with money and it should all be taken away from them before they hurt somebody. Having the SEC step in to protect idiots is contrary to the basic tenets of evolution.

Update December 2016 replaced missing image.

Imperial Fleet Week in San Francisco

Stolen from Fire Mission: Hippies in the open
H/T to Tam.


My oldest son was home a couple of weeks ago and bought a suit. A suit! My father wore a suit to work for most of his career as an aerospace engineer, but when he bought the farm (literally) he switched to dungarees. I was in high school at the time. I have usually had some kind of jacket and I had at least one suit, but I don't think I have worn a tie more than a couple of dozen times in my life. And my son goes out and buys a suit! I was shocked, but I guess I can't complain.

My daughter joined a sorority last week. A sorority! I never even thought about it, not for her or (a fraternity) for me. One of the attractions of joining a sorority, at least at UW, is better housing. And after visiting her dorm (when we helped her move in), I can understand that. I always had the perception that fraternities and sororities were elitist and populated by braggarts and fools. I do not know where I got this impression except perhaps from movies, or possibly from always being broke.

Yesterday I took my youngest to Costco to buy a jug of juice and some jellybeans. Seems his science teacher was running a contest to guess the number of jelly beans in the jar. John decided on the direct approach, get an identical jug, fill it with jelly beans and count them. The jug was not a problem. We located several flavors of juice that used the some container. Only problem was selecting the flavor. We ended up with "pomegranate-blueberry" (!?!?!). Now we need jelly beans. He tells me we need eight pounds. Eight POUNDS of jelly beans! Good golly, miss molly. I have visions of hauling a cement bag sized bag of jelly beans over to the counter and I burst out laughing. Turns out it was (2) four pound bottles of Jelly-Belly brand jelly beans. Expensive! $15 each. But it's for science, and we can eat the results when it's all over.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps

Something else I came across this afternoon while I was looking for a job: this article by Naomi Wolf. Here is one paragraph.

"As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone."
This article is a year old. I just checked the news and she seems to still be out and about, so "they" haven't silenced her yet. I have seen some other articles by her and I generally like what she says, especially since it at least partially agrees with my great conspiracy theory.

Father Time Overcome by Love, Hope and Beauty

So I was looking for a picture to go with my last post and I came across this one and I do not know what to make of it. Young women about to slay an old man? Sounds like some women's lib demonstration getting way out of hand. I am sure someone who has studied this stuff would have a lot to say about it, but I am content to just let the concept percolate through my brain.

Painting by Simon Vouet, 1627

Click on the pic to enlarge. Found here.

Note: January 16, 2009. Just got a note from adiaha that their server crashed and took all the files with it, including the picture. So I had to go and track down another copy.

Age Liberation

I was talking to my cousin Saturday night and he pointed out that it is probably my age that is keeping me from getting hired. Once I heard this, I felt much better. It would explain why I haven't been hired. I have had numerous interviews over the last year and most of them I thought went pretty well, but I have yet to land a job. Of course I suspected that my age could be a problem, but somehow I did not think it would be. I mean how do you get 20 years of experience without getting older? If they did not want someone old, they should have read the flipping resume.

If this is indeed the case, it at least helps explain some of the dumb-sh** questions I would get at interviews. Things like "have you ever driven a green '63 Chevy?". Well, yes, I have driven Chevys, and I am pretty sure one of them was a '63. But was it a GREEN '63 Chevy? Well, no, actually, I don't think it was. Oh, well, OBVIOUSLY you are not qualified for this job. We need someone who has experience driving green '63 Chevys.

Of course, the questions were never actually about cars or their color, but they were similar in function. They did not want to hire me, and they needed to put an X in the "does not meet requirement" box.

Anyway, I am 57 years old, so feel free to exclude me from consideration for employment. However, if you want someone who really knows how computers work and can make the most recalcitrant beasts jump through the required hoops, give me a call. I would be glad to talk to you about how I can help you with your problems.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Behind the scenes

Roberta X has an interesting job:
1. At one point I had two stardrive transmitters running on the same channel using different transmission modes and the signal from one that currently produces income, er, I mean interstellar drive was havin' to boil a ginourmously big vat of heat-conducting oil before it could head up the tower. A vat, mind you, nearly sealed and which we had learned a couple of days before was not, in fact, quite large enough for the heat load it needed to bear. Had fans blowin' on it an' lighted joss sticks to Hephaestus an' kept walkin' by an' layin' hands on it, or nearly, anyway, since it was skin-searing hot. But hey, no pressure. Literally, which is a good thing: I look bad covered in boiling oil.

Cool (watch out for the boiling oil)! But what does one of them that stardrive transmitters look like? Somebody send me a photo, I could not find one on the internet. I don't think the likes of you and me are allowed to know what they look like.

Internet Video

Something else I stumbled across. I recognized the tune, so I listened and watched and did a little looking around. Song was originally recorded by Michael Jackson in 1988! That might explain why the tune was familiar, it's been kicking around for twenty years. The title was a complete mystery as were the lyrics. Well, they were a mystery if you were expecting any kind of story. What you hear is what you get, that is all there is. I do like this version better than Mr. Jackson's for two reasons. One, the base line is much stronger, and two, the videos on the internet do not do justice to Michael's dancing. It looks like a series of still images. There is no hint of flow from one frame to the next, may as well not watch it at all.

I noticed a couple of other things about this video. One was the scenes of the kids, another was the band leaning in apparent defiance of gravity (something that was in Mr. Jackson's original), and lastly, and most interesting, was the general full daylight party scene, something I don't think I have ever really experienced. Not sure that I would want to either. Probably end up with a sprain or a strain or some other miscellaneous injury that would take me weeks to recover from.

Alien Ant Farm - Smooth Criminal

Okay, that was last night. Tonight I found a much better version of Michael's video, almost ten minutes long.

Update: the video disappeared, so I had dug up another one. Took me a while because nowhere in this post was the name of the song or the artist, so I had to figure that part out first. For future reference, it's Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm.

Update December 2016 replaced missing video and dead link.


Joe Harmon's Wooden Supercar

Oookay, Joe, you're going to be alright, just sit down and take a deep breath. Everything is going to be alright.

Fortunately no one offered Joe this bit of advice when he started on this project, or if they did he ignored them.
"We aren't really all about mission statements around here; too often, they are phony and superfluous. That said, here is ours. We are building a high-performance, mid-engined super car from wood composites as a graduate project at North Carolina State University. Wood will be used where ever possible, including the chassis, body, and large percentages of the suspension components and wheels. The car has a target weight of 2500lbs and a power goal of over 600 horsepower. We aren't trying to sell anything; we aren't trying to save the world, and we aren't advocating that everyone should drive a wooden car. This project is a scholastic endeavor in which we are simply trying to explore materials, learn, teach, share ideas, and stimulate creativity."
H/T to Marc. Go to Joe's website for some stunning color pictures, or visit his blog for his progress reports. This B&W picture has the Splinter in the foreground and a de Havilland Mosquito, a British WW2 era aircraft made of wood, in the background. I put up a post about another WWII era British aircraft made at least partly of wood on Pergelator Lite.

Update July 2016. Replaced missing picture and revised last paragraph. 

Searching The Web

At lunch Thursday one of the guys was telling this story about a local High School principal who assaulted his wife, and then a month later his wife ends up dead. Sounds like the plot of one of those TV murder mysteries, but supposedly it is a true story.

So I go home and consult Google and I find . . . nothing. I found some mention of the school , but nothing about the principal. So I'm thinking that whoever told my friend this story was just pulling his leg, just to see how gullible he was.

I reported my lack of success to the gang, and today I got this link back:

which seems to validate the original story. This story has most of the key words I was looking for, but Google did not turn it up, at least not in the first couple of pages. But you will note that this story was written in 2006.

I have also been using Google to try and find solutions to the problems I have been having with Linux. This is a particularly thankless task. Seems like every little geek who has learned how to get around in Linux has put up their own forum, and copied ALL the content from all the other forums. So you get dozens of search hits for sumdood looking for an answer to the same problem you are having. All these hits are for the identical question posted on a different forum, and none of them have answers, or if they do have answers, they are four years old, which makes them pert near useless. Linux is changing so much and so fast these days that answers from this year are the only ones that are likely to help, at least for certain classes of problems. So I added "2008" to my queries and that helped, though there was at least one forum with a 2008 copyright date on information from 2005. Big dummies.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tell us how you really feel about this.

I have come to the conclusion that I am unemployable, so I am going to have to find something else to do with my time. So I'm poking around on the internet, and I came across this video and it made me feel oh so much better.

I've also decided to quit having two blogs. Can't quite remember why I started a second blog in the first place, but from now on everything will be posted here. Unless I remember why I have a second blog and decide that reason is still valid.

Terrorism & Cancer

Anatomic woodcut by Laurentius Phryesen, 1518
I had this sort of vision the other day. I was looking at the human population as you might look at a human body. We teach ourselves (adults teach children who grow up to become adults teaching children) what we know about how our bodies work, and how about the systems of government work. But outside of school and our ideals, the real world is not quite so clean and well behaved. There is corruption, greed and evil. Likewise in our bodies there are defects, damage and disease. Most of these deviations from the ideal we can live with, but sometimes you encounter a disease that if left untreated will kill you. Sometimes the ability to cure is beyond our power and the disease will kill you anyway. But we keep looking for a way to beat the disease.

Assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881
Sometimes the disease comes about because of some unrecognized microscopic agent. Many devastating diseases have been conquered by the work of the scientific community. Sometimes it took a scientific beating stick to show that the way people were living was unhealthy, like the connection between cholera and the lack of sanitation. You would think people would realize that living in a cesspool was unhealthy, but it took an act of parliament to get the mess cleaned up.

So I look at cancer and terrorism. Both can be devastating. Both can be treated, but we don't really know what is causing either one. We have found that some cancers are caused by viruses, but we don't know why some people are susceptible and some are not. We know there are Islamic fundamentalist schools in Saudi Arabia that indoctrinate students with a belief that the West and Israel are evil and it is their holy duty to destroy them.

Some dude with a gun
I suspect the schools get their impetus from resentment of the Saudi royal family, but I do not know. Wiping out these schools and executing the teachers could put a damper on terrorism, but that might just be putting a lid on it there, causing it to pop up somewhere else. Kind of like cancer. You might be able to excise the parts you can find, but you never know if you got it all, and you still don't know what caused it in the first place.

The part I like (this is sarcasm) is that we send a billion dollars a week to "our friends" in Saudi Arabia in exchange for multiple boat loads of oil. The Saudis support these schools for terrorists, who we supposedly want to stop. If we were really serious about stopping terrorism, we might want to throw a boycott around Saudi Arabia until they squash these schools for martyrs.

From an article by Ted Galen Carpenter that appeared on on November 16, 2001.
Worst of all, the Saudi monarchy has funded dubious schools and "charities" throughout the Islamic world. Those organizations have been hotbeds of anti-Western, and especially, anti-American, indoctrination. The schools, for example, not only indoctrinate students in a virulent and extreme form of Islam, but also teach them to hate secular Western values.

They are also taught that the United States is the center of infidel power in the world and is the enemy of Islam. Graduates of those schools are frequently recruits for Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network as well as other extremist groups.
Kind of old, but I don't know that anything has changed.

But this is beginning to sound a lot like the thought police. And the PC crowd at our Universities. Just what do you believe? Should we burn the heretics at the stake?

I had been thinking about this for a while, but I was prompted to write about it when I stumbled over this post this morning.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I'm watching CSI (off the DVR so I have no idea what episode it was) tonight and Nick is testing something in the lab and there are a couple of guys in the background. Wait a minute! It's Jamie and Adam from Mythbusters! What are they doing here? I laughed, very hard. Geez, that was funny.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Command Line Redirection

When you are using a text box to enter commands in a computer, be it Linux or a DOS box on Windows, the command may send some output to the screen. If it is generating a lot of output that you want to be able to study at your leisure, it would be nice to collect all this information in a file.

The standard trick for doing this is to redirect the output to a file using the greater than sign, like this:

dir > dir.lst

The dir command will list all the files in your current directory. This command, with the redirect symbol, it will put a list of all those files in a file called "dir.lst".

While I was fooling with Linux yesterday, this trick did not work. I was a little shocked and a little disappointed, but I was able to get by and get my work done anyway. Afterwords, I was doing a little poking around, examining the debris left from my mad thrashing, and I discovered something slightly unsettling. A great number of commands are defined like environment variables. Take a look at what set produces. Less than half of what comes back is standard environment variable definitions. The rest of it is page upon page of procedures written in some arcane script language. No wonder redirection doesn't work.


I am not big on cooking, but I will grill a steak or some hamburgers if the weather is decent. I use a charcoal grill ostensibly because it makes the meat taste better than if you use one of those gas grills. On the other hand it could be because I am too cheap to buy one of those fancy schmancy gas grills.

Weber Charcoal Grill
I have an old Weber that I bought at a garage sale for $5. It replaced one my wife got from one of her roommates when we lived in Texas. It eventually deteriorated to the point where it needed repair or replacement, and $5 for a grill in good condition was too good a deal to pass up.

The Weber isn't perfect. The grill is at a fixed height over the charcoal, so no matter what you are cooking you need a heap of charcoal to make a big enough fire to reach the food. If the grill height was adjustable you could save on charcoal for smaller cookouts. It's getting old, and it does not seal that well so whatever charcoal is in there pretty much burns up every time.

The big problem with this grill (and every other charcoal grill I know of) is that cleaning out the ashes is a big pain. Why can't someone make a grill that will just drop the ashes into a bucket? I guess real practicality doesn't sell. It's the sizzle that sells the grill. Someday I will design one and have it made.

Update December 2016 removed missing picture.

Portable Graphics

The first few days of working with Linux are always the roughest. There are innumerable little twists and tricks that you need to just accomplish the simplest things. But once you gotten through this initial trial, things become much easier.

I am feeling generous right now because I just finished successfully porting my gear program from Windows to Linux and then back. The number of changes I had to make on the return to Windows are few enough (2) that I am confident that this version will compile and run unchanged on the Linux system.

Geez, what a struggle it was to get here though. First there was just getting the screen resolution up to something usable. Okay, I've gotten a little spoiled. I remember when 640 by 480 was perfectly adequate, now I'm running 1280 by 1024 on my Windows machine. It makes the 1024 by 768 on the Linux box look a little feeble, but I've managed to adjust.

So I mail the source files to myself and download the zip file from my gmail account using Firefox on Linux. That part actually works. Start work on a makefile, try compiling. The graphics include files are not here! Search the disk and still no luck. So now we venture into the swamp of Linux forums on the internet, trying to figure out what is going on. Eventually I run into something called Mesa, which seems like it might be what I am looking for. They have a pretty good explanation of what is required, so I download their three files and unzip them.

Type "make" in the terminal window and I get infinity errors. There are so many I cannot find the beginning even if I scroll back to the top of the very large terminal buffer. WTF? Back to the swamp. Finally stumble across some instructions for building "Micropolis", whatever that is, but they seem to be having similar problems. Seems if you want to build Mesa, there are about half a dozen other software packages you need to install. You don't need just one, or two, or three, you need all eight of them. I am not sure about number seven. I installed it out of order and it didn't help, but when I finally installed the last one, Mesa built without complaint.

OK, great. Now I should be good to go. Well, actually, my program compiles, which is really a good thing, but it won't link. Can't find the libraries. Can't even find the math libraries, the ones that contain things like sin and cos, you know, basic trig functions. Now that's pretty chickens**t. More slogging through the swamp and I find some very good instructions for gcc (the Linux compiler and linker and general all around beast of burden for programmers) which tells me how to specify libraries.

It also helps that I am able to puzzle out enough makefile/shell syntax to write a fairly concise makefile, something I used to be able to do in my sleep. All this gets rid of the unresolved references to the math functions, but I am not making any progress on the graphics functions. The error listing is now small enough that it does not overflow the terminal buffer, so I can go back to the beginning and study it at leisure. I always want to start with the first error because often times that is one that triggers the avalanche. So if you can fix the first one, all the other errors might disappear.

That is not the case this time. All I see if hundreds of unresolved references to graphics functions. I try changing libraries. Maybe I am not using the right one. I try changing library paths. I write test scripts to verify that what I am doing with these environment variables is what I intended. No help. I'm looking at the error listing again and I see this one line that is different from the rest, not very different, just a little different. Looking closer, I see it popping up in a couple of other places. It is totally cryptic, it means absolutely nothing to me, but shoot, let's see what Google can do with it.

Surprise, surprise, it leads me right back to the web site about the gcc compiler. Seems if you feed C++ files to gcc, it will compile them, but the object files it creates will be unlinkable. In other words, they are trash. If you want to compile C++ code, you should use g++ instead of gcc. Criminently, what a bunch of gooberness. There is hardly any C++ code in my program, so I chop it out and recompile and the funny errors go away. However, I am still stuck with the unresolved references to the graphics functions. It's late, I'm tired, I give up and go to bed.

This morning I get up and it's got me bugged, so I go back and try some variations on the graphics libraries, and presto! Compile and link success! I am still left with the question as to what the other libraries are for, especially the ones with the same names in different directories.

But hey, it compiled! Will it run? Sure it will! Give it a try, boom, error, fail, die. What's wrong now? More wallowing in the swamp, no luck here. Let's try the debugger. No luck. Maybe we need to compile a debug version. More consulting the gcc manual, change the compiler control, recompile, debug, step through the program, it can't open the configuration file! Bam! Hand to forehead, of course it can't, I was so concerned about getting to the run stage, that I neglected to copy the input data file.

This is one of these cases where a development crutch let me skip good programming practice. Under Visual C, if it can't find the file, the Visual C debugger will tell you. On Linux, it just hands you a big fat zero, and if you mistake that zero for a file handle and try to use it, boom, down you go in a heap. So we add another test to ensure that the system hasn't handed us a big fat zero instead of a file handle. Stupid system.

Put a copy of the input file where our program should be able to find it, compile and run, and zowie! There it is on the screen, bigger than Dallas! Little bitty gears going round and round and round. This is very cool.

Okay, but we've made a bunch of changes, minor, but changes nonetheless, so we need to go back to the Windows system and see if it will recompile and run over there. It doesn't right off, but all I have to do is add a conditional include of windows.h and everything is copacetic. The condition should fail on Linux, so it shouldn't look for windows.h and everything should be copacetic over there too. It better be.

P.S. Don't use angle brackets in your blog text. It makes things disappear.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Home Theater, Part 5

Originally wrote this about three weeks ago thinking I was going to add some more to the story, but that hasn't happened. Lot's more to the story, but I got distracted, so you aren't going to hear about it, at least for a while.

I finally got fed up with Media Center DVR / STB combo (Digital Video Recorder / Set Top Box), called Verizon and ordered two regular DVR's. Not sure why I didn't do this in the first place. It will cost a couple bucks more month (like $34 instead of $30), but the aggravation it will save will be priceless. The idea was that you could have one DVR recording shows and you could play the recorded shows either there or from any other TV with an STB. Seems to me it was also cheaper.

The theory is nice, but in practice there were two many glitches. You could not set up recordings from the STB. You could not delete recordings. All recording management had to be done with the DVR. Fast forward and rewind had poor response times. The jump ahead and jump back buttons did not work and could not be changed. But mostly the STB box was flakey. It would lock up, lose it's place, just generally behave badly. Not often, but once is too much.

Another aspect is that you cannot play HD (High Definition) recordings on a regular TV. With so many channels available in HD now, sharing a DVR between an HD TV and a standard one didn't really make much sense.

The new DVR's seem to be a little more with it. I just programmed one to record a series and it had a bunch of episodes listed (all of them? I don't know, I didn't scroll through the whole list. It was long.)

I did run into one glitch. Hooked it up and waited. I read somewhere in the instructions that you have to wait a while for it to sort itself out the first time you turn it on. Come back later, think it should be ready to go, and ... nothing. Is this thing DOA (Dead On Arrival) ? It wouldn't be the first time I've had problems like this.

Fortunately I have another one I can try. I start unpacking it, and I think maybe I ought to look at the instructions once more. Oh! What's this? You have to CALL VERIZON to activate the box. What a friggin' pain. I hate this stuff. I can see it now: make the call, listen to some stupid recording, push a bunch of buttons, listen to a bunch more stupid recordings, end up on the wrong menu, get disconnected, put on hold, connected to the department of terminal stupidity. This puts in me such a funk that I abandon the task, go get a cup of tea and read for a while.

Fortified with tea, I go back to the instructions, resolved to make the stupid phone call and I see that there is a web address. I draft my son who is in between attacks on the enemy base to pull up the web site and enter the requisite numbers. OK, all done, now all we have to do it wait, again. 5 to 40 minutes. Mom's home, go eat dinner and we shall see.

All's well on DVR#1, now for DVR#2.

Money Press

This is one of those really dumb ideas that will probably make someone a bunch of money someday: a press for ironing your money. I think I got the idea from watching ads for the TV show Monk, combined with my habit of going through the bills in my wallet to see how much money I have.

Go to three or four stores and spend a few bucks at each one and, presto, my previously well organized stack of cash is reduced to a crumpled wad of bills. So every so often, I will sit down and pull all the bills out, straighten out the edges, flatten them out, arrange them in order and count. Sometimes I am more fastidious than others, but badly crumpled bills interfere with orderly counting, and I do like order, so I take the time to smooth them out.

And then there is the story I read somewhere about how ironing dollar bills will restore some of their original flatness. Well, I am not going to get out the iron and ironing board and plug it in and wait for it to heat up just to flatten out some bills that will be gone within a week. But! If I had a little desktop ghee-gaw that ironed the bills for me, I might just use it. Geez, the kind of stuff that goes through my brain.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Idle Fancy Meets Rocky Road

I got a comment (!) on my Granny Gear for Bicycles post from Andrew Hall in Kenya. He has his own blog about his work in a slum there. This post in particular is Illuminating, to say the least.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

was a little busy. Kathryn came home from UW on the train. Saturday my wife and I drove to Eugene to help Ross move into a new apartment. Sunday all the kids are at home so we cooked some steaks. Would have grilled them, but we were out of charcoal. (!?!?!) Monday Kathryn left for Seattle, Tuesday Ross left on an automobile tour of the lower 48 states, and John started back to High School on Wednesday.

Eugene Apartment

Ross moved out of a shared duplex into his own compartment. The place is a bit nicer than the old one, but it is still in an old building. The wood in the door frame around the latch is mostly gone. The screws in the striker plate are only held in place by wishful thinking. There is a bolt on the door, so it is semi-secure.


Ross has already moved most of his small stuff, so we only need to make two trips with the pickup truck. One to move his bed, and the other to move the remains, including a small desk. We move the desk onto the tailgate prior to unloading it. I lean on it while stepping over and around to the rear bumper. The leg under the corner I am leaning on is exactly over the gap between the bed of the truck and the tailgate, and when I put my weight on it, it drops down throwing me off balance and something whaps me in the leg. Didn't feel like much at the time, and I never did figure out what is was that bit me, but a week later and I still have a big knot and yellowish bruise just above my left ankle. Grrr.


The apartment is unfinished and being as we have certain standards to maintain (harrumph), it needs curtains. In order to buy curtains, it might be a good idea to take a few measurements. Off to the local strip mall to get a tape measure. We find one in Hirons Pharmacy. Actually I asked a clerk and she pointed me in the right direction. I don't think I would have found it otherwise. I have never seen a store packed so full of so much stuff, and not useful stuff either. Cheap, gimcrack decorations of every kind. I could not believe it. It was like waking into a fairy tale, or a nightmare. But they did have a small section of tools and we got our tape measure.


So off we go to Tarchez. We don't have a map, but we have a vague idea where it is so off we go. And go, and go. I think we ended up circumnavigating Eugene before we finally find a Tarjai on the West side. Two hours later we emerge with a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff. We filled two shopping carts and we didn't even make a dent in the stores stock. How much inventory do you think they must have in there? It has got to be big. Ten million dollars, maybe? More? You can fill a single shipping container with a million dollars worth of goods easily. Could a single Target have a hundred million dollars worth of inventory? That would be impressive.


The curtains are full length, they go all the way to floor, more like drapes. When we get back to the apartment we discover that there are baseboard heaters under the windows. Not a good idea to have drapes covering those up, so it looks like they are going to have to be trimmed. It's getting late and there is a football game today, so if we want to beat the mass exodus, we should go, and we do.

Google Video Problems

I have been having problems with video clips on the internet lately, some with Google, some with YouTube (is there a difference?). I have a longish video (ten minutes or so) that I have been trying to upload off and of for months, and it just won't go. I've let it run overnight and come down in the morning and it is still just sitting there spinning it's little upload-in-progress spinner.

I tried to upload some shorter clips (ten seconds or so) along with a bunch of photos to Picasa the other day. All the photos went, but none of the videos. Had to send them again. It did work the second time.

And then there are the playback problems. Seems like if it is a popular clip, it generally plays smoothly, but if it is anything out of the ordinary there are hiccups and glitches and it's very annoying. I can understand that there are times when you might not be able to deliver obscure video XYZ in a timely manner, but could you at least equip your video player with a "wait till download is complete before starting playback" button?

Right now the only way to accomplish this is to let the download play to completion and then hit the replay button, which means you have to watch it twice, or get up and go for a walk. Wouldn't want to do anything else on the computer that might jeopardize this download.

There was a clip of a deleted scene from "Pulp Fiction" that I wanted to add to my post on communication, but it just would not play smoothly, it kept getting delayed, and not just little hiccups, delays on the order of a minute or more. So I thought I would capture it, upload my own private, re-pirated copy, and maybe that will play smoother. To make a long story short, that was also a bust.

I quickly found, downloaded and installed a demo version of a video capture program. For some bizarre reason, it needs to be started before the browser. Which means replay won't work, because video clips are not cached in the normal sense. So I launch the program, launch the browser, pull up the video clip and go read for a while. I come back and the capture program has stopped with an error. What's the error? No info, just an error. No video today, you come back later.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Horrible Harry Linux Screen Resolution

Linux is as lovely as Windows is wonderful. I'm running Horrible Harry, or whatever version H is called.

I have dots. Many dots. 1024 x768 dots exactly.

Took a while to get here.

First of all I tried the "System/Appearance/Visual Effects" trick recommended by playinpearls. It did indeed cause a new Nvidia driver to be installed, but it cut my choices of screen resolution down to 2. No real help there, and now I don't know which version of the video driver I'm running.

But now, thanks to this thread, this page and a Princeton data sheet, I have dots.

I added these two lines to the monitor section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf

HorizSync 30-96
VertRefresh 50-160

The instructions in this thread only mentioned the two key words, they did not say anything about having to append anything, much less what form those values needed. The web page helped there.

So I put these values in and now I can get 1024 x 768, which is entirely adequate, but nowhere near the top resolution of this monitor (Princeton VF912) which is 1600 x 1200. Further, on "System/Preferences/Screen Resolution" when you try to select the resolution, a list appears with a large empty white space at the top. Clicking on "Refresh Rate" gives you a list of five values: 50 thru 55 Hz.

I just realized these limitations may be due to the video card. It looks like there is a way to put in your monitor name and model, but where's the list of valid values?

And why can't you do this super user stuff from a GUI? Why does it have to done from the command line? I could also ask why I have to do this at all, since I did not have to do it for Dapper Dan (Version D). Of course, Dapper Dan had a whole set of other problems. So on balance, this was a minor difficulty.

Oh well, at least I have dots.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Exercise Bike + Fan

This is an idea that I have been kicking around for a long time. We went to the local High School football game last night and they had an exercise bike sitting next to the home team benches, possibly so runners can stay limbered up? Seeing that reminded me of this idea and I decided I better write it down. It's not much of an idea. Put a fan in front of the person riding the exercise bike so it blows air on them to keep them cool. Okay, anyone can do that with a floor fan that's plugged into the wall. The trick is to connect the fan to the bicycle so that the rider is driving the fan, and that's probably why nobody has done it yet. It is a bit of a trick. Any kind of mechanical linkage is going to need a pretty solid frame to support and keep the moving bits aligned. An electric drive would be good, you wouldn't need the complexity or rigidity of a mechanical drive, just some wire. But I don't know whether you could make the efficiency high enough.

A long roller chain with a couple of idler pulleys and a half twist might do the trick.