Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
If the type is too small, Ctrl+ is your friend

Friday, October 30, 2009

Spider for the Day

I found this one by the garage door, lying on his back, waving his legs in the air. I think he fell off the garage door when I opened it. I set him right side up. He wasn't moving too fast, probably because it was a little cool out today.

Okay, now here's something I don't understand. This image is 400 × 363 pixels. It is a scaled down version of the original. If you click on it, you get a bigger version. It is so big that it won't fit on the screen. It is like twice as wide and twice as tall as the screen. My screen is 1280 x 1024. But the original picture is only 920 × 834 pixels. So somebody is blowing up the picture beyond it's original resolution. Now it that Firefox, or Blogger? Something ain't right.

Update March 2016 replaced picture with larger version. Problems with resizing continue to pop up, just not right here, right now.

YouTube-isness Part Deux

The Adventures of Lil Cthulhu

One of Roberta's posts sent me out wandering around where I stumbled over this cartoon video. It played fine for a while, but then it stalled.

[This section no longer applies since the image has vanished.] Look at the indicator bar below the image. It has gone beyond what it has received. Is this an indicator of the power of Cthulhu? Or just some kind of weird techno-glitch?

Update January 2017 replaced missing image with video, removed dead link.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gear Teeth & Involute Curve

So I'm messing with some algebra, geometry and trig, trying to sort out Stu's angle trisection technique and I remember looking at the way gear teeth are shaped. It's kind of curious and until recently I didn't really understand it. With Marc and Optimus Prime and my old gear program that I am supposed to be working on and some conversations with Jack, it all kind of came together in a heap.

Gear teeth can take a variety of shapes. If you are making a gear you can make the teeth any shape you want. However, one of the more popular/successful shapes is the involute curve. The face of the tooth is bowed out slightly, and the shape of this bow is this curve. Theoretically speaking, this curve is generated by taking a string and winding it around a cylinder. Then take the end of the string and unwind it while keeping tension on it. The path the end of the string takes is an involute curve.

Common diagrams of gear trains often include the "pitch circle", and if you look at these diagrams you will see that the pitch circle runs mid-way through the face of the teeth, half way between the root of the tooth and the tip. The pitch circles of two meshed gears will be tangent to each other. If you take this diagram as gospel you might think that force is transmitted between the gears along this line, i.e. tangent to the pitch circle. This is wrong.

Here is a fine gif animation by Claudio Rocchini that shows what's going on. Notice the the blue line running at a diagonal from the upper left to the lower right. This line is tangent to the base circle of both gears. Note the short, solid blue, double ended arrow sliding along this line. The center point of the arrow coincides with the contact point between two teeth. This dotted line is like the string being unwound from one gear. As the gear on the left hand side of the picture turns, it is paying out string along this dotted blue line. The gear on the right hand side of the picture, the driven gear, is taking up this imaginary string. If the gears were not moving, and we were unwinding the string from one, the end of the string would coincide with the face of the gear tooth. It would form the "involute curve". Slick.

Anyway, I had been messing around with numbers and drawings, and I wonder if I can get a Google Spreadsheet to plot an involute curve for me. I mean it does charts for all kinds of numbers, it should be able to do this. So mucked about for a day or two and didn't really get any results I liked. I finally decided this was another intractable equation. Someone with a better knowledge of trigonometry might be able to come up with a better equation, I had spent enough time on it, so I decided I would use brute force. I set up a program to use root finder to find the angle that coincides with a specific X coordinate, then used that angle to compute the Y value. Print out the X and Y coordinates (from X = 1 to X = PI/2) and import that file into a Google spreadsheet. Point and click and presto, the graph.

Update September 2016 replaced missing pictures.

A Man Of Constant Sorrow

A Man Of Constant Sorrow

Best song in the whole dang movie. So good, I went out to buy the soundtrack, but I could not find it. All I could find was Down From The Mountain, and it didn't have this tune. I never did figure out what was wrong with the people who put that record together. Why would you leave out the one killer tune? If you can answer that, then you might be able to tell me what caused this tune to pop into my head this morning, on account of I have no ideer.

Update September 2015: Replace the missing video.
Update March 2021: Replace the missing video.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

3 Pillars of Civilization

I read something not too long ago about how the government and business form the basis of civilization. Government levels the playing field, or at least sets some rules, that allows businesses to operate. Government keeps the pirates out of the marketplace, punishes thieves, and collects taxes to pay for these "services". Governments can be democratic, autocratic, socialist, corrupt, or honest. Businesses will adapt to survive. With "bad" governments, some businesses may be crushed while others are given licenses to print money. With "good" governments, all businesses are free to compete on their merits.

On top of this we have civilization: art & science. It takes a certain amount of surplus to fund things like music, painting and microbiology studies. Having an organized society is one way to generate a surplus.

There is a third element that is necessary for a civilization to flourish and that is indoctrination. It comes under a variety of names: education, brainwashing, socialization, cultural conditioning. It gives people the basic behaviors that allow them to interact with other people in their society.
Reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic are a step up from this.

This is why converting the Mid-East to democracy is going to take a long time. Those people are still living in the Middle Ages. Bringing them into the present is not something can be done overnight. We will be lucky if it can be done in a hundred years.

Wages & Politics

For some time I have trying to figure out some justification for the enormous salaries/bonuses/other compensation being given to some of the people on Wall Street. I have come to the conclusion that it is politics. From a technical standpoint, I don't think any of those people who are getting millions of dollars a year or any more qualified than any number of other people. They don't "deserve" their huge bonuses and whatnot, they were simply able to convince someone to agree to give them the money. They are essentially con-artists.

For people who work for a living, the amount they earn is generally in some way related to how difficult their task is, how much time it takes, and their level of responsibility. Grocery store checkers may make $10 to $20 an hour, Doctors and lawyers may make $100 to $200 an hour, and I don't think anyone begrudges them their earnings.

The more responsibility that comes with a job, generally the higher the pay. You don't want the guy who is cutting you open, or landing your plane, to be worried about how he is going to pay the plumber.

People who are making millions of dollars a year are not getting paid for what they do. They are getting paid because they convinced someone to give them the money, and that's politics. Some people are just natural born political animals, they are easily identified in any group of people. They are the ones who care nothing for whether the job gets done, or how well it's done. They only care about who gets credit for it, and they will go to great lengths to see that they get the credit and someone else gets the blame. Lying and flattery are their stock in trade.

We all do it to some extent, but for most people it is a very small piece of their personality. For political animals it is the be-all and end-all of their existence.

Just like every other line of work, there are good and bad people in positions of power in this country. There may even be some good people making tons of money, but I think the only way you can justly "earn" huge amounts is because of the vicious, cut-throat thugs you have to deal with.

Health Insurance Debate, er, Smear Campaign

Health insurers' 'obscene' profits smaller than Hershey's

This was the title on an Associated Press story in the paper this morning. I am not going to bother looking for it since my previous experience with AP tells me I won't find it. They have their copyright rules. This story was on page 2 and not on the front page since The Oregonian puts up a PDF of their front page every day. Can't go putting AP copyright stuff on-line. Anyway it got me steamed, so I wrote a letter to the editor:
Hoo boy! You have really done it this time. What a load of hogwash. Who paid you to print this garbage? And to do it under the banner of "FactCheck | Your Report Card On Accountability" is unconscionable.

Since you seem to think your readers are very stupid, I will explain it to you as though you were very stupid. You are comparing apples to oranges. All of the companies that you are comparing the health insurance companies against all make things. Making things is difficult. You need buildings, equipment, staff and inventory. Your profits have some relation to how much stuff you actually produce.

Insurance companies do not make things. They are essentially glorified bookkeepers. They have no inventory, they have no equipment. Their goal should be to minimize the the amount they charge for administering their health insurance plans. And your article is only talking about their profits. It makes no mention of their expenses. How much are they charging to process claims? And where are the executive bonuses getting counted? Under expenses, or under profits?

How would you feel if your tax accountant was basing his fee on the amount of taxes you paid? You paid $10,000 in taxes last year, my fee is $1,000. $500 for my actual time spent working on this, and $500 for my profit. Or maybe grocery store clerks should be paid this way. You bought $100 worth of groceries, your checkout fee is $10, $5 for my time, and $5 for my profit.

Go back to school, and take the Associated Press with you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday go to meetin'

I spied this micromachine in the parking lot at Church Sunday morning. It's a Fiat 500L from around 1970. 500cc, two cylinder engine, 1100 pounds.

Cute, nimble and economical, but I don't think you could sell them like this anymore. It would fall down in safety, emissions and reliability. Kind of like the "Mini" Cooper. Have you seen an original Mini lately? The new "Mini" dwarfs the old one. It's pretty amazing what used to pass for transportation.

Later we stop at the Freddies for a couple of things. While Anne runs in the store I go get gas at the corner. When I pull up to the pump, the attendant points out that I am parked next a diesel pump. Funny, never saw that here before. But I pull around to a gas pump, and sure as shootin', that other pump is diesel only.

Update January 2017 replaced missing pictures.


I recorded a couple of video clips, uploaded them to YouTube, and then embedded the clips on my blog. When I upload them YouTube asks you to mark them as Public or Private. I elected to mark them private, there are already a gazillion public videos out there, I don't know if these are worth sharing. Then I embed the clips in my blog using embed code YouTube provides. Well, this is cool, if anyone wants to watch my videos, they have to come to my blog.

Not so fast bucky. They only play for me, and only when I am signed in. And no one bothered to tell me until today. Hmmph. Bunch of loyal readers I've got. Oh, I don't mean you, you are a wonderful reader. I'm talkin' about those other guys ...

Quote of the Day

Nobody expects The Spinach Inquisition!
Jack, upon seeing "The Spinach Inquisition" on the special's menu at lunch today at CPR. I howled, I tell you. YouTube variation here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Show & Tell

Elliot brought his five inch shell casing to lunch Thursday.
Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Optimus Prime Lives!

Last we heard the speed controller was fried, and generating 3 phase power was still something of a puzzle. Marc repaired the speed control by installing new transistors, and he tuned up his pseudo-three phase generator with a judicious selection of capacitors. Installing the transistors took some hours of wrench work. Seems they are bolted in place. I dropped by today to see the results. The machine is sitting in the shop building in back of his house. Walking into the shop it looks fairly normal until you notice the monster sitting in the corner, and then you think whoa! Science fiction movie set! Okay, maybe you don't. I did. Marc powered it up and fat fingered a simple program into the front panel and ran it. Powering it up is kind of involved. First you need the air compressor, then the 3-phase converter, then the master power switch, the lubricating oil circulating pump, and lastly the control panel. Never mind the cutting fluid pump, we're not there yet.

Eternity II, Part 3

I couldn't leave it alone until I sorted it out. Here's the formula for calculating the possible number of unique square tiles where each edge can be a different color and N is the number of colors. I have verified it up to 10 colors. Spreadsheet here.

+ (N * (N-1))
+ (N * (N-1) / 2)
+ (N * (N-1) / 2)
+ (N * (N-1) * (N-2))
+ (N * (N-1) * (N-2) / 2)
+ (N * (N-1) * (N-2) * (N-3) / 4)

While I was fooling around with this I ran into a weird problem. When I tried to reduce the formula through factoring, the computer code would not produce the right number for all the different values of N. It would get most of them right, but not all. I am going to try and stop fooling with this now and go on to something else. We shall see how that works. Here is the formula that does not work:

N * (1 + ((N-1) * (2 + ((N-2) * (1.5 + (N-3)/4)))))

Update: problem was caused by intermediate results being fractions. Changing N to a floating point number fixed the problem.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Audio Memory

My son is playing a song in the next room while he plays WOW:

I hear the big chords at the beginning and it reminds me of this song:

Is there any similarity, or am I just imagining things?

The first one is Missing You by A Place To Bury Strangers. The second one is For Your Love by the Yardbirds.

Update September 2015: Old style embedding failed, so replaced with new style with full video.

Eternity II, Part 2

I was thinking about this puzzle the other day ($2 million in prize money is kind of attention getting), and I got to wondering how many different colors/edge patterns you would need in order for all pieces to be different. (The pieces are all square tiles, each edge can be a different color/pattern.) If you have only one color, then there is only one possible pattern: all pieces would be the same. If you used two colors, you could have 16 possible patterns (16 = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2), but rotating pieces will show that some are duplicates of each other. After that it gets complicated, so I wrote a little program to count up the possible patterns and eliminate all the duplicates. The results are in the "picture".

I am thinking there has to be a better way to calculate the number of unique pieces, but I'll be durned if I know what it is. I'll bet Stu knows, or maybe Jack.

Update January 2017 replaced missing image.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Autumn Leaves

I have always heard people say how they like Autumn and fall colors, the red, yellow and orange colors of the leaves. I always thought it was something I should appreciate, but it never made much impact. I just figured out that I don't particularly care about fall colors. I like the green leaves of summer. I have no idea why that should be.

Marc & The Anchor

Sailboat at anchor
Marc & Glenn are talking about putting Maravida in the water again and sailing her someplace where she can either be sold, or put to use. So we are talking about this project at lunch the other day and the condition of the anchor, chain and windlass comes up. Do you really need a windlass (a winch for the anchor)? How much does the anchor and chain weigh, anyway? 3, 4, 500 pounds all told. Not something a single person is going to pull out of the water unassisted. And that's if the anchor is not caught on something. When you are pulling the anchor in you may be pulling the boat into the current or against the wind or both. Sometimes the anchor is so stuck that even the windlass won't pull it out. In that case, you fire up the engine and drive the boat over the anchor. Pulling on the anchor from the opposite direction will usually free it.

There was one time however that the anchor was well and truly stuck. They were in the harbor of a city. Even pulling from the opposite direction with the boat didn't help, so Marc puts on his scuba gear and goes down to take a look. The anchor was snagged on big old pipeline, maybe a foot in diameter. (What's in the pipe? What happens if it breaks? Let's not even think about that, it would be really ugly no matter what it was.) He wrestles the anchor out and over the pipe and then hauls himself up the anchor chain hand over hand, because now the anchor is free and dragging and boat is drifting. He had to get someone on the boat to help him aboard.

Update March 2016. Replaced missing picture.

Eternity II Puzzle

I've been looking at the Eternity II puzzle. It's interesting from a programming point of view. I have a couple of ideas that might make it possible to find a solution (before the sun burns out), but unless I spend some more time investigating, I won't know. More investigating requires buying a copy of the puzzle (for $130!), as it seems no one has had the nerve to post what all the pieces look like. And then I'm afraid that after I investigated I would realize that all my ideas are for nought and it will still take from now until forever before anyone finds a solution. So why bother? Well, it might be a good application for CUDA, or a test of a quantum computer.

At least one enterprising soul is promoting a distributed solution, à la Protein Folding or SETI. Sign your computer up to work on the puzzle and if it happens to find the answer, the program's creator will split the prize with you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Update January 2017 the initials "MM" stand for Michael Moore.

California Bob writes:
We went to see MM's "Capitalism: A Love Story." Like all MM's movies, excellent. I don't think I got as many robust guffaws out of this one, but it may have been that there were only 3 other people in the theatre: a crowd seems to stimulate the laugh factor.

One of the segments is about Citigroup's "Plutonomy" letter, written by Citigroup analysts, describing a bifurcated world run by plutocrats. MM casts this as praise for the plutonomy, suggesting it supports the plutonomy and offers advice on how to perpetutate and strengthen it, and warns of dangers to the rule of the wealthy.

I found and read the letter (see link). It does contain a lot of surprising statements, astonishing facts delivered in blase tones. But basically its real purpose is to advise clients to buy shares in companies that cater to the wealthy, be(cause) the super-rich are here to stay.

Skip over the turgid data and read some of the commentary.

The letter is dated October 2005, before Obama's election, before the crash, etc., and many of their statements have been disproven. Excerpts (paraphrased):

"The world is dividing into two blocs -- the plutonomies, where economic growth is [controlled] by the wealthy few, and the rest."

"There is no such animal as "the US consumer"...there are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in their gigantic slice of income and consumption..."

"The plutonomy is here, and is going to get stronger, its membership swelling from globalized enclaves in the emerging world..."

"The top 1% of US households account for 33% of net worth, greater than the bottom 90% of households combined. It gets better (or worse, depending on your political stripe) -- the top 1% of households account for 40% of financial net worth, more then the bottom 95% of households put together."

(On how plutonomies became so:) "(Author) Phillips argues that certain factors seem to support "wealth waves" -- a fascination with technology, a cooperative government, an international dimension of overseas conquests and immigrants invigorating wealth creation, rule of law, patents...these transformations can be considered as surges of complexity -- waves of economic, political and commercial change -- that break down old relationships, greatly favoring persons with position, capital, skills, and education."

[Consider this when you ask yourself, "why are so many elements of modern life so needlessly COMPLEX?" -cb]

"One hypothesis suggests dopamine differentials can explain differences in risk-taking between societies. Dopamine is linked with curiosity, adventure, entrepreneurship...immigrant nations have high dopamine-intensity populations..."

"Perhaps one reason societies allow plutonomy, is because enough of the electorate believe they have a chance of becoming a pluto-participant. But if voters feel they cannot participate, they are more likely to divide up the wealth pie, rather than aspire to be rich...."

"...A backlash against plutonomy is not long as electorates feel they are getting rich in absolute terms, even if they are less well off in relative terms, there is little threat..."
Gave me a new perspective on how the world really works.

Conchoid of Nicomedes & Rootfinder

Not too long ago Stu posted a little blurb about how to trisect an angle using nothing but a compass and a straight edge. Okay, he cheated a little, but he didn't use any trigonometry and he didn't use a protractor. I looked at it a bit and satisfied myself that it worked. But I could not translate it into a simple formula that you could just plug the numbers in and it would crank out the answer. After stewing on it for a while I realized that this was one of those problems that would be a good application for a computer. In particular, it would be a chance to test out a root finder I knew about.

A few years ago I was reading Embedded Computing on a regular basis and there was a fellow by the name of Jack Crenshaw who wrote a series of articles about writing a piece of code for finding the root of a complicated equation.

Many formulas only function in one direction. You can put a value in and turn the crank and it will produce an answer, but if you know what value you want, there is no good way to compute what value you need to start with. The only way to do this is to try a variety of input values and see what kind of results you get. Then compare these results with the result you want, and then take a guess as to how much to change your input value. Repeat until you are satisfied.

It's kind of like target shooting. You know where the target is and you have a pretty good idea of where to aim in order to hit the target, but due to various factors, it may take several trial shots before you finally get your rifle dialed in and hit the bullseye.

Evidently Jack had run into this problem more than once, because he wrote a piece of code to perform this "guess and check" operation with the goal of minimizing the number of executions the formula code needed.

So I got the bright idea to try out his root finder on this Nicomedes problem, and after I got all my X's and Y's sorted out, it works like a champ. The source code for my demonstration program, including the root finder, is here.

Update May 2015: Replaced the link to the source code file and the link to Stu's article.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Geert Wilders

I've been reading about Geert Wilders the last day or so. I've been hearing all kinds of stories about European authorities caving in to the demands of radical Muslims for a while, but I hadn't heard any specifics, just a lot of blubbering. Yesterday I read a couple of news stories about Geert, and today I stumbled across Archbishop Cranmer's blog, and he has a few things to say. One of the comments on this post was particularly good:
"About this notion of 'radical' or 'moderate' Islam: I have absolutely no doubt at all that Iran, for example, has a vast majority of people who would be described as 'moderate', and are appalled at such things as the stoning of women or the slow-hanging of homosexuals. No, I'm not being sarcastic - I really do believe that. However, they don't say a lot about it do they? They don't rise up and overthrow the regime; they don't render the 'radicals' powerless. It would be the same here. The 'radicals' would make the decisions and carry out the atrocities; the 'moderates' would just keep their heads down and do as they were told.

"How many Nazis did it take to wholly control the whole of Germany? I have no doubt that 'moderates' constituted the majority of Germans, but like all 'moderates' everywhere, they just kept their heads down and did as they were told."
The commenter goes on to lump all Islam together, but that's getting away from the main point. It's the radicals who stir up trouble and it's the moderates who let them get away with it. Who was it who said "all it takes for evil to triumph is for men of good will to do nothing." (It might have been Edmund Burke, or Leo Tolstoy).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Court Time

A guy I know had to go to court because his ex-wife was petitioning for an increase in child care payments. He was there all day long. Not just waiting, but in court with the court spending the whole time dealing with his case. And at the end there was no decision. That will come later.

I could not believe it. I can understand having a hearing, but I cannot understand it taking all day long for such a simple matter. Of course, I wasn't there, maybe it's not a simple matter. Or maybe they don't have much business in that court (it's in a small town), so they drag it out to fill out their day and let the lawyers collect a big enough check to keep them in beer and skittles till the next court case comes along next month. I don't know, it just sounds nuts to me.

Quote of the Day

Then he began to talk about how professional football players shouldn't be asked to pay taxes. "What's the difference to the rest of the country?" he said. "What's as important as a good pro football game? Nothing, right? So why not encourage people to play it. Pay them big enormous salaries and don't take no taxes out."
"I have to agree with you," Johno said.
"A thing important like that, we should make sure the caliber of play stays good," Lou said.
From "World Without End, Amen" by Jimmy Breslin, from 1973, page 46. This just stunned me when I read it. Nothing is as important as a good pro football game? Not in my book. To me it's one of the least important things. On the other hand it is kind of like an indicator species for the health of our society.

Me, I have a hard time watching football, but I am glad I live in a country where athletics is a big part of the culture. Physical activity is a big part of human nature, and athletics gives people a peaceful outlet for that, unlike some parts of the world, where the biggest sport seems to be blowing people up. So, yeah, maybe pro football is important.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Salesmen & Bums

I used to work with a guy at Intel who had worked as an appliance salesman while he was going to college. Said it was the easiest money he ever made. Basically all he had to do was read the feature list off the tag on the appliance and people would buy it. But that's not the kind of salesman I want to talk about.

Slimy salesmen are the ones I don't like. They act all charming and pleasant when all they really want is the money out of your wallet. And this is where they find themselves in the same category as bums.

What do you do with a bum? Usually they appear to be down on their luck: dirty, unshaven, ragged clothes. All they're asking for is a little spare change. Change, for Pete's sake. You can't buy anything with change these days. A dollar is like the smallest worthwhile denomination. So you are tempted to give them something. On the other hand, we have the authorities telling you to not give them anything, they will just spend it on alcohol or drugs, and that will just lead to more of the same. We have shelters (they say), we'll take care of them, just don't give them any money. So now you have a dilemma: to give, or not to give, that is the question. And there is no end to them. If you give money to one, are you going to give money to the next?

But that is all besides the point. What really grates is their insinuating themselves into your personal space. I'm not asking you for something, I'm not offering anything, why are you even talking to me?

It's a similar problem with salesmen. Out and out pushy salesmen I have no trouble with. The ones that come up to you out of the blue trying to sell you anything, just ignore them and they'll go on to the next mark. Their modus operandi is to cover as many people as they can. Some people want what they are selling and those are the only people they want to talk to you. No response means no interest, which means no sale, move along.

The ones that are bad are the ones who try to talk you into something you don't want, and through their schmoozing tactics they get you to agree to it, step by step, and then when you get home you regret what you've done, but the deal is done, and the thing you bought will do the job, so just forget about it and get on with your life. These are the ones I don't like. They have insinuated themselves into your personal space. They have crossed the line, and deserve no sympathy.

P.S. I wasn't sure insinuate was the right word, but I couldn't think of a better one. Looking at definition #2 tells me I had it right. I think.

Ski 'N' Nap

I used to go skiing, and I may go again some day. I was never a Black Diamond kind of guy, but I could get around and I had a good time. I liked to cruise the big intermediate slopes and at my peak I could do it all day long. Steep stuff was too much work. I could do a bit of it, but it would wear me out. Of course, this was all before I found out that my heart was just a little flakey. That pissed me off so much I threw in the towel on a lot of stuff. Here I had been busting my ass trying to get in shape, lose weight and all that, and it was like I was carrying a mill stone around my neck. Bah.

Anyway, I've pretty much gotten over being angry about the heart thing, and I would go skiing again if my finances permitted it, which they don't. But there is one other thing that bothers me and that's the highway of death. There have been several fatal, head-on collisions on the stretch of Highway 26 from Sandy to Timberline. People drifting across the center lane and blamo!

From personal experience I suspect the majority of these are people caused by people who have had a full day of skiing on the mountain, are exhausted, try and drive home to Portland and fall asleep at the wheel. I have never fallen asleep at the wheel, but I have driven that road numerous times while I was utterly worn out. It's no fun.

A nice nap before hitting the road would be just the thing, but a car that has been sitting in the parking lot all day is really cold. You could bring a sleeping bag, but that would require 1) having one to bring, and 2) planning ahead. And then you would still have to work your way into while sitting in your car. Not an easy proposition. Of course, you could turn on the engine and the heater, but there is something about doing that that is just contrary. For one thing you're burning gas, gas you may need to get to the next gas station. The other is you are planning on sleeping. Sleeping in a car sitting outside with the motor running may be perfectly safe, but it looks a whole lot like suicide, not one of favorite activities.

So I'm thinking what we need is some kind of shelter where you can conk out for a while without freezing. Someplace where you can catch some Z's before you head back down the mountain and into Dead Man's Curve.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Tires

I've been stalling on this as long as I could, but today I need to go to Beaverton, it's raining and my truck is the only vehicle available. Normally I go to Les Schwab, because of their attitude I suppose. But we only have one income now and a set of new tires from Les is going to run better than $700. It would be $800, but they're on sale. Carothers Tire has been advertising used tires on TV and I'm thinking if I could get a set of decent used tires for $100, or shoot, even $200, it might be worth the hassle. It takes me two tries to muster up the gumption to go deal with these guys, whoever they are, but today I finally did it. Compared to Les Schwab, the place is a rat hole. Grubby, beat up, no amenities, but I am not here for genteel conversation. One of the guys leads me back to where the tires are stored to take a look at the used tires. They are pretty sad, and not much of a bargain either, something like $240 for four. Well, we're here, what have you got in the way of new tires. Here's some pretty ones for $500, and here's some heavy duty ones for $580.

Pretty tires for $500, street tread, not mud grip, no white lettering. Sounds good. So now I have tires. The last tires I had were the bargain tires from Schwab and they had the mud grip tread and they were noisy. I park on the street along the curb, so white lettering is a no-no. It inevitably gets rubbed against the curb and starts to look pretty wretched. Putting white lettering must cost something, so why buy it if it's going to cause trouble? Black walls should be cheaper, and cheaper is what I'm looking for. And the guys working there were just fine, no BS, very pleasant to deal with.

While I was waiting I walked uptown to get something to eat. I settled for a scone and a cup of coffee at The Stratford House. Big improvement over Saturday's coffee. Okay, I still had to pour it myself, and the price was $1.35, which wasn't much better, but I did get a ceramic cup and a place to sit inside out of the cold. Take that, New Seasons.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

What's going to happen?

I have a phrase I love to trot out whenever somebody asks me about something that hasn't happened yet. I assume the manner of a fortune teller and tell them "The future is cloudy, I cannot see." Maybe there is some witch doctor in my blood. So the economy still sucks, and the outlook doesn't look too good, neither. Are you hopeful? Do you see light at the end of the tunnel? Or we facing a black abyss of gloom and despair? Is it black or hope? Or maybe a black hope? Oooooh! I made a funny.

Anyway California Bob has a few words to say on the subject:
I too feel no good can come from this, but that has been my disappointing and unprofitable posture for 20 years now.

More recently, I "anticipated" the housing and stock bubbles, and sold off a lot of stock -- in 2006, thus missing out on the best 2 years of the run-up. Similar I sold a bunch in August, missing out on the last 2 months.

I think things look toppy now too. Specifically:

-Banks, typically, will drag their feet admitting bad assets and commercial real estate problems; suspect they'll start to grudgingly address reality in the fourth quarter and take huge write-downs at year end.

-Real estate seems fraught with land-mines of oversupply, Alt-A resets, shadow inventories, commercial defaults.

-Will consumer discretionary rebound? Seems like a handful will be shopping at Tiffany, and the rest of us will be at WalMart, counting out our pennies for discount bread. This morning, Johnson & Johnson showed weakness even in staples.

-Stock rally seems based on liquidity, not underlying business/economic prospects. Lots of liquidity, flight from dollar.

Question: What is behind "dollar weakness?" If it is oversupply of dollars, why aren't those dollars flooding into the economy, driving up prices? If it is fear of instability of the government, why are gov't bonds rallying, and why aren't the stock markets plummeting? I think the answer is, all the liquidity has gone directly into stocks and bonds -- in others words, another investment bubble.

The only things I feel comfortable about are:

-YUM Brands, and to a lesser extent, McDonald's -- emerging market growth, and weak dollar should help earnings.

-Emerging market generally, specifically China -- I don't think anything is going to stop the organic growth there.

So what defensive measures are you taking to prepare?
YUM brands owns a bunch of fast food outlets. Previously California Bob compared them to the western world's commissaries. If your time counts for anything, fast food is almost cheaper than cooking at home. I suspect they count on selling you soda pop to make any money, but they do sell a lot of it. I wonder if the SEC is going to give me any grief about posting this.

Anyway, I wrote this in response:
Not quite an oversupply of dollars, more of an overconcentration of dollars in the hands of people who only want to make more money, so they look around for "good investments". Instead of investing in a business, they invest in whatever pyramid scheme promises the greatest returns regardless of the underlying foundation. Of course, that's what got us where we are, but we have a whole generation of investment people who grew up with that mind set and that's all they know.

I think we need a 20 hour work week. That would double the number of jobs. Of course some people would be working 4 jobs instead of 2, but you know, they might be able to get by with 3 jobs instead of 4. Businesses won't like it, especially if they have to pay benefits, but if it is universal, and they all have to play by the same rules it might work. Hourly wages would have to come down to pay for the additional benefits and overhead. But how many people would really like a 20 hour work week? I know I would.
P.S. Is overconcentration a word? A search on Google turns up several instances of it, and several of a hyphenated version: over-concentration. It's not in the dictionary. I think it is a word. It looks like a word, it smells like a word. I think it's a word.

Memphis, Tennessee

I was reading Dustbury yesterday and he mentioned this song, so naturally I got a hankering to listen to it. Google turned up a bunch of videos of Chuck Berry performing this song, but they are mostly live recordings, and none of them have the particular tone I remember from the version that gets played on the radio. Is twang the word I'm looking for? Anyway, I think this one comes closest to having the sound I was looking for. After listening to so many different versions though, I'm not really sure.

Chuck Berry 'Memphis Tennessee' live 1965 hi-res remaster
Gazely Gaze

Update August 2015. I had a hard time finding the right tune because I had the wrong artist. What I wanted was the version by Johnny Rivers.
Update July 2022 replaced missing video.

Getting Technical Help

Andy ran into a problem when he upgraded some SQL thing-a-ma-bob from Microsoft. Spent two days trying to sort it out and got nowhere. I found this in my inbox this morning:
The $16 was the best money I have spent in a while. I bought a months membership at experts-exchange. Noodling a programming problem, I sleep on it, get up at 4AM, send my question, go back to sleep. Viola, an answer appears in a few hours.

I had been annoyed at them for years for showing questions but no solutions.

Googling programming esoteric has gotten more time consuming and less fruitful.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cardiff Bay Barrage

Ross sent me a link to a web site with these pictures some time ago. It's kind of a screw ball deal: all this yellow paint for no apparent purpose. Somebody put a lot of trouble into building this project and then into painting it. Watch the show and it will become apparent what's going on.

What prompted me to put it up today is that I was wondering around the net and I stumbled across a civil engineering student's blog. He has a post on a software program to help you study for the TOEFL iBT. I just hate jargon. so I have to go look it up. It stands for "Test Of English as a Foreign Language", and iBT is "internet Based Test". It's used by universities to gauge a prospective student's English capabilities. While I'm poking around trying to decipher these acronyms I come across a list he has of civil engineering projects, and the Cardiff Bay Barrage is one of them, so I figure it's time to post the pictures.

Sunday Market

Went to the market at Orenco Station this morning. There is a village called Orenco about a mile away. It is a cluster of houses. It used to be all alone but now it has been surrounded by suburbia. The new "Orenco" is supposed to look like depression era townhouses from Chicago or New York. They have one street two blocks long like this. Then it turns into parking lots, tract homes and strip malls, just like the rest of suburbia.

It was a bit chilly this morning and I was just in shirtsleeves so the first thing I bought was a cup of coffee. New Seasons had a booth set up and were selling self serve coffee out of air-pots. $1.50 a cup, and you get to pour it yourself, and if you want creamer, you get to pour that yourself too. I dunno, maybe foodies like New Seasons. I hate the place. They're all friendly and want to talk to you about your food and all kinds of other nonsense. I just want something to eat/drink. The only conversation should be "chicken, here, now" and "yes, sir, right away sir", or possibly "may I lick your boots sir?". And they want a buck and a half for a cup of coffee that I have to pour myself, and into a paper cup to boot. Bah.

And then there are milk/creamer dispensers. I hate these things. They are usually empty, and if they aren't there is no way to tell how much is in them, or whether they are open or not. Do you need to unscrew the lid first? And if so, how much? You pick one up and try pouring from it, tipping it ever so slowly so it doesn't dump a pint of milk all over the counter and nothing comes out. Looks like we have to unscrew the lid a little, or something. Then we get to try again. And what's with the half & half, whole milk, skim milk selection? We are talking tablespoons here. Does it really make any difference? (Yeah, I know, coffee with cream isn't the real thing, but my nose isn't what it used to be, so I don't appreciate coffee like I used to. Putting a creamer in it dulls some of the sour aspects and makes it palatable.)

Picked up some peaches and nectarines at one booth. I was surprised to see them. I expected them to be long gone by now. Shows you how much I know about fruit, and I grew up on an orchard. Guy drove in from the Hood River valley this morning. It must be 100 miles one way. Hard to see how it could be worthwhile. Told me this is the last of the peaches. It was 19 degrees this morning at his orchard. Woman working the till was carrying on a continuous conversation in Spanish using a bluetooth earpiece. She would interrupt her conversation to talk to customers (in English) while dealing with their purchases, but as soon as the transaction was complete, she was back to her conversation.

Found some cucumbers, purple cauliflower, and a variety of berries at some other booths. I also picked up a bunch of flowers. There were several booths selling cut flowers, big bunches of dahlias, I think. Talked to an Asian woman about them. She tells me she grows them outside on four acres of land.

Stopped at the grocery store to pick up a couple other things, including a coffee cake. I hadn't had breakfast yet. Coffee cake comes in a big aluminum tray, checker puts it in the bag practically on end, and it doesn't move. Now that is food engineering, or luck.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Hospital Stuff

I spent yesterday at the Day Surgery center at Emanuel hospital waiting on a friend. Noticed a couple of things.

At first I thought the heated gowns were simply to make the patient more comfortable, but I found a note that said they were to help reduce the risk of infection. That sounds a little iffy to me, especially for an outpatient ward. But hey, big organizations like to have rules and procedures and if that makes them happy, then so be it.

There seemed to be a lot of procedures in place to make sure they had the right chart for the right patient, especially when they were administering narcotics. It soon got to be absurd, but we were only in recovery about 4 hours, and I think there were only about 4 doses of narcotics.

If you are in pain, they will give you 2 to 4 milligrams of morphine. It takes effect quicker but only lasts about 30 minutes. Vicodin tablets take longer to kick in (about 30 minutes) but last longer (about 4 hours). I'm wondering why that would be. Is it because it is absorbed slowly through stomach/intestine, or is it because it lasts longer once it is in the blood? If it's the later, then maybe there is something to all these fancy schmancy pain pill formulations. I had been of the opinion that it was just a scheme so the drug companies could charge an arm and a leg for narcotics which are actually dirt cheap to produce.

There's another thing that bothers me though and that is that they add Tylenol to all these narcotics, and I'm thinking why bother? I've never found Tylenol to be especially impressive. It will take care of minor pains, but they are usually something you can live with. They might not be pleasant but they aren't incapacitating. If something really hurts, Tylenol isn't going to help. Of course, I could be all wet. Tylenol has another problem that you don't hear much about.

The place seemed almost empty. Long halls. Every so often you would see a patient being wheeled down the hall in a bed or a wheel chair, and there was the occasional person walking somewhere, but all in all it was pretty quiet.

One-dimensional Checkers

Stu posted a seemingly simple puzzle on his blog the other day, along with a challenge to write a program to solve it. It looked like a simple puzzle, so it should be a matter of minutes to whip out a C program to solve it. Well, here it is, three days later and I finally have something to report. Here's the original description of the problem:
Make a line of 7 places, fill the left 3 with red pieces, the right 3 with white pieces and leave the centre place empty. The aim is to interchange the red and white pieces. A piece may move into the adjacent empty place or hop over a piece of the opposing colour to land in the empty place. Hopped pieces stay on the board. Winner is whoever takes the LEAST number of moves to do this. How many do YOU need?
Simple enough, so I wrote a program to solve it and it didn't work. What's the deal here? So I sat down with some coins and solved it by hand and realized, oh, you can't solve it without making backwards moves. Hmmph. The instructions don't specifically prohibit backwards moves, but the game is called CHECKERS, and backwards moves aren't allowed until you get a king, and you are not going to get a king here because there are no enemy checkers to crown you with since they never come off the board.

Okay, we'll expand the program to allow backwards moves, and it immediately runs out of stack space. Bah. What's going on? Oh. If you allow pieces to move backwards, you can reverse your last move so you end up where you started. If you don't keep track of where you've been, you can spend your whole life moving one piece back and forth between the same two spots. As my program uses recursion (the main subroutine calls itself for every move), we quickly ran off the end the world.

Fine. We'll keep track of all the moves we've made. Then whenever we consider a new move, we check all our previous moves to see if we've been there before. If we have, we disallow that move and look for another possibility.

This version blows up too. Working the puzzle by hand it seems like it only takes dozen moves to solve it. I've given my program room to store 100 moves. I thought that would be enough. Guess I was wrong. Fine. Bump it up to 1000 and try again. This time it works, though it takes 102 moves, many of which led to dead ends. But it does solve the puzzle.

So far I've been using a simplistic, brute force approach. We try all possible moves, one at a time. For each move, we then try to solve the new arrangement. If that path doesn't pan out, we try the next move, and so on. In this version of the program, I treated red and white markers equally. I gave no preference to one direction or the other.

Now the question is: can I reduce the number of moves required to solve the puzzle? How about if we reorder our possible moves to give preferential treatment to moves that go in the right direction? Bingo! Now we are down to 27 moves. There were 7 additional moves that led nowhere and were discarded. Solving it by hand takes 19 moves, so we aren't doing too bad.

The computer solution requires several backwards moves, but no backwards jumps, so I went in and modified the code to disallow the backwards jumps. The solution came out the same, but one of the dead end moves was eliminated.

I don't know how much more work it would take to enable the program to come up with an optimum solution. One way would be to use brute force: explore all possible solutions and keep the one with the fewest number of moves. A better method would somehow have to look at the board as a whole and determine which of the possible moves would be the best. I don't have an algorithm for that yet.

Source code for the final solution here. The getchar() at the end of the program allows you to run the program from Windows and see the results in the DOS box before the program terminates and the DOS box vanishes.

Update September 2016 replaced missing picture.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chernobyl Revisited

I got an update from Elena today:
New Chernobyl photoalbum is here:
Photos were taking during my trips to Chernobyl area with my project "Pluto's Realm", here is link:
Thank you, for support.

Health Insurance Debate

From where I sit I see a number of problems with our current health care system:
  1. the strain, and associated cost, indigents put on emergency medical care,
  2. the large percentage of health care dollars that go into administrating health insurance (some say it is 20%),
  3. the lack of communication of health care records between various medical facilities, and
  4. the conflict between the sympathetic who say we should help the unfortunate and the hard liners who say we should let them shift for themselves.
If you want to get to the root of the problem, do what they do on police shows: follow the money. In this case it looks like the insurance companies. They have a good deal going, raking a fat cut off the top of a gazillion dollars every year. I think there is a possibility that we might somehow- cut the skimming down to a reasonable level.

The other big problem is the conflict between the "take care of sick and injured who can't care for themselves", and the "let them die in the streets" mentality of the hard liners. Some people can't afford health insurance, or won't buy it, and don't have any money. When they get sick or injured and need help, they go to the emergency room, or call 911. There is a part of our society/civilization that says you can't turn someone away who really needs help. And who gets stuck with the tab? The taxpayers. I suspect it would be cheaper in the long run to provide these people with free health care so they don't get so sick that they end up in the emergency room, where costs are ten times what they are in a doctor's office. So in reality it's a matter of pay me now or pay me later. The insurance companies are working to force as much of the cost of health care onto the taxpayers as they can, while they skim the cream off the top of every working stiff's paycheck.

As for medical records, privacy is all very well, but having multiple versions of my medical records scattered all over town doesn't really impress me as a good solution. A central database would be better. God forbid the government should have access to it (whoops, I let a little sarcasm creep in), but I would hope it could cut down on the number of pages on the forms one fills out every time you go to a different doctor. Yes, it might also cut down on your supply of Oxycontin, but hey, everyone needs to suffer a little.

Rubik's Cube Solution

At the last election Oregon got a new Senator: Jeff Merkley. This video is from his newsletter. However you feel about the health care debate, I found watching Jeff try to solve the Rubik's cube very entertaining.

US Naval Academy Performance from Kings Firecrackers

Gayle sent me this video. The girls are impressive. I'm not sure some of their tricks are topologically possible. Gayle and Kings Firecrackers are from Ohio.

Update August 2015 replaced missing video.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How Lawson's Came to Japan

California Bob writes:
I've been wondering about this since I saw those familiar "blue milk jug" signs in Tokyo. Remember the TV jingle? "Get that juice up to Lawson's... in forrr-tyyy hours"
Well, no, not really, but I missed a lot of the 70's, and I didn't know about the "blue milk jug" signs in Tokyo either. For all you non-Ohioan's, Lawson's was a convenience store chain in Ohio many moons ago.

The Wikipedia article details all the players in the game of corporate buyouts that led to Lawson's being in Japan. Along the way, one of the players was Alimentation Couche-Tard which my feeble French thinks has something to do with digestion and sleeping late, but which supposedly translates as "Night Owl".

And for those of you who are from Ohio, here's a Blast From The Past, at least those of you who still have some memory cells.

Lawsons Big-O Orange Juice Commercial (1970's)

Update June 2016 replace missing pictures.

Sign of the times

Seen at Hank's, our local grocery store this morning.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Conchoid of Nicomedes

Stu put up a post a few days ago about trisecting an angle using standard geometric drawing techniques. I looked at it and wondered if I could validate this technique using algebra. So I dinked around for awhile, but didn't come up with a solution. Well, surely I can validate it using trigonometry, and I did. I put the calculations in a spreadsheet, and to the limits of Google's math capabilities, it does appear to be correct.

But this is really a simple looking problem. We just have three triangles, surely I can solve this problem using algebra. So I fiddled with it for another day, and eventually I did come up with something, but it has an exponent of 4, and there is no nice way to solve an algebraic equation like that.

So I have a solution of sorts, it will still require a computer to work out the actual numbers, but it doesn't require any trig. Let's see what we can find on the net. First stop is Mathematica, where they use two constants, but don't tell you where they fit in this picture. Second stop is Wikipedia, where I find this line:
"They are called conchoids because the shape of their outer branches resembles conch shells."
As for the trisection, I did pick up one insight. As angle BAC approaches 90 degrees:
  • line segment j goes to zero,
  • line segment AD goes to 2, and
  • line segment a goes to 1,
so now triangle CAD is half an equilateral triangle, and angle BAD is 30 degrees, which is indeed 1/3 of 90.

Update May 2015: Replaced the missing diagram. Updated the quote from Wikipedia and added a link to their article. Removed the kibitzing about the original quote. Fixed a typo. Replaced the link to Stu's article.

Two Trillion Dollars

Conspiracy theories are so much fun. You can use them to explain almost anything, they are unprovable, and if you have a cynical turn of mind, they make perfect sense.

Take 9-11 for instance. The day before, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a press conference complaining about the two trillion dollars that had disappeared down some rat hole in the Pentagon. The next day, 9-11 happened, and all of a sudden we are at war, and everyone forgets about the two trillion dollars. Coincidence? I think not.

Donald Rumsfeld 2.3 Trillion Dollars Just Gone Sept 10, 2001

Actually I do think it was a coincidence, but hey, it makes good fodder for conspiracy theorists. Of course, it could also be explained by black projects. The goal of any defense contractor with larcency on his mind is get his project classified as secret. That way there is no accounting for the money that is spent on it. It's just part of the budget for secret stuff. Wouldn't surprise me if that's where the two trillion dollars went.

Jody dropped me a note about foreign countries not using dollars for oil any more and pointed me to The Drudge Report where I found several links on the subject. Here we have a report that all the big consumers and producers, except the US, are conspiring to stop using the dollar for oil trading, which is of course denied by official sources. I found a couple of quotes I really liked in the story by Robert Fisk. Here we go with the two trillion dollars again:
An indication of the huge amounts involved can be gained from the wealth of Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar who together hold an estimated $2.1 trillion in dollar reserves.
And here's the conspiracy theory:
Iran announced late last month that its foreign currency reserves would henceforth be held in euros rather than dollars. Bankers remember, of course, what happened to the last Middle East oil producer to sell its oil in euros rather than dollars. A few months after Saddam Hussein trumpeted his decision, the Americans and British invaded Iraq.
Then there's this story about the UN wanting to move away from the dollar. Ain't this stuff just great?

Update January 2017 replaced missing video. I think I got the right one, I remember seeing all those pallets stacked with money before. Half the links are dead, but I don't have the energy to track down replacements right now.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Water Car

This is not your putt-putt amphi-car, this one is a real go-getter. The music sucks, but what can you do? Via StreetFire.

Fastest Amphibious Cars in the World - - Python Edition (prototype only)

Update January 2017 replaced missing video, removed dead link.

The Ayatollah of Rock´n Rolla

This phrase popped into my head when I heard John playing his guitar this afternoon, and I got to wondering just where it came from. The Road Warrior, aka Mad Max 2, that's where. The phrase comes from the flunky's introduction.

Mad Max 2 - The Lord Humungus

Update January 2017 replaced missing video.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall Falls With a Tink

Yesterday I decided it was cold enough to turn on heat, so I went to the gas fireplace and noticed that the pilot light was out. No surprise there, open the door, turn the knob, push, and then push spark ignitor. Hold for a minute.... release, pilot light goes out. Try again. Still no go. Something is broke, gonna have to look into it. Meanwhile turn on the furnace. Fortunately it seems to be working.

This morning I roll out of bed and something is tinking on the night stand. It sounds like a clock ticking, except it is more of a tink sound, and it's faster than a clock, but just as regular. Weird.

Go in the bathroom and turn on the light and two bulbs burn out simultaneously with a series of tinking noises. Look at the bulbs and I can see longish wires lying in the bottom of the bulb. These aren't just the filaments, these are supports for the filaments. Weird.

Eventually I go back to investigate the clock noise on the bedside table. It's the lamp. It's one of these turned brass things that has a bunch of pieces all held together by a threaded rod running through the center. The whole thing is loose. It must be right on some balance point because any little tremor sets the whole thing to tinking again.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.


Jody sent me a link to a story about the riot at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh last month. I went poking around for some more information about the G-20 and I stumbled over this little pamphlet: Meet The G That Killed Me (16 pages). It gives a pretty clear explanation of just what's going on. It does give a couple of paragraphs to the social injustice of it all, but the opinions are clearly separated from the facts. I give it an A+.

The crux of the matter:
"Needless to say, these policy prescriptions have not helped to stabilize developing economies. Instead these IMF-imposed structural adjustment policies have caused even further destabilization for developing economies. And more significantly, they have opened the doors for multinational corporations to come into developing countries to exploit people and resources.

"IMF loans rarely turn out to be ‘quick fixes’ for developing countries facing severe economic trouble. Instead, as debtor nations are unable to pay up on the impossible terms of their loans they sink deeper and deeper in debt falling into a condition of perpetual debt."
I don't know how true that is, but I do suspect these guys of lending money to charlatans who just take it and spend it on themselves instead of investing it in their economy like they are supposed to. Foolish IMF.

As to whether the G-20 is really evil or not, well, of course they are. They haven't given ME a billion dollars. And the numbers mentioned don't strike me as all that big. The biggest one was $750 billion. Didn't we (the US Government) shell out more than that to shore up our own collapsing economy? Or was that the amount we gave DOD to spend on black projects?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

An Open & Shut Case

The Opening of the American Mind
The Closing of the American Mind
We were at Powell's last night and I happened across these two books about two shelves apart. Make of it what you will.

Intractable Problems

Welcome To Starfleet Academy
Comment from Stu about the problem with commuting to the local community college got me to thinking about similar problems, where you are darned if you do, and darned if you don't. (You can tell I am feeling a little mellow today.) There is the oft retold tale of Captain Kirk (Star Trek) back when he was in Starfleet Academy. The instructors had set up a simulation for which there was no possible solution. The intent was see how the students held up when faced with disaster. Kirk hacked into the simulator and reprogrammed it so it was possible to come out on top.

Then there was a story I heard from a guy who used to work for a Big 8 accounting firm. On one hand they had the president of the company telling them they should not be working more than 40 hours a week. On the other, he had a supervisor telling him to bill as many hours as possible. 70 or 80 hours a week is what he expected. This guy compromised and worked 50 to 60 and that seemed to satisfy both bosses. I thought the accounting firm was really screwed up if they couldn't get their story straight. It would be one thing if they were engaging in some kind of psychological harassment to whip their troops into line, but I doubt it. They were probably just like many overachievers: flaming volcanoes of spew. Oops, not quite so mellow now.

So, if we lived in conspiracy land, we could imagine that the powers that run PCC have deliberately set up this parking problem to see how the students respond to it. You know, I like conspiracy theories as much as the next guy, but I don't buy this one. I think we just have a bunch of bureaucrats trying to force us into a model that might have worked 50 years ago, but which is now obsolete and counter-productive.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

Duke of Ural

Ural Motorcycle with Sidecar
From Ross.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture, added caption.

Long Hall

I spent some time waiting at Emanuel Hospital yesterday afternoon. I had brought a book to read, but I was too tired to focus, so I spent my time walking up and down this hall. Two and a half minutes per round trip makes the hall about 110 yards long. If you click on the image to see the full size version, then you should be able to see a reflection of me in the spherical mirror mounted on the ceiling. I am standing in front of the exit door at the one end of the hall, taking this picture. At the far end of the hall is the entrance to the ICU wing where my mother spent her last days, but that was several years ago. I have been to Emanuel several times since I moved to Oregon, but never as a patient.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

Timber Construction

We had dinner at the Deschutes Brew Pub in Portland last night. 40 minute wait for seats, so we walked over to Powell's and looked around for a few minutes. When we got back we still had some time to kill.

So we're sitting there waiting for our number to be flashed and I'm looking around at the way the place is built. It's an old building that has been gutted so you can see the original wood beam roof trusses. Big chunks of wood along with some big chunks of iron. Sorry about the picture. Too dim up by the ceiling, too many bright lights everywhere else. Those two dark triangular things sitting on top of the double beam are cast iron. Funny that they would use these elaborate cast iron brackets at the base when they only used simple notches to retain the top ends of the beams.

They've also brought in some new chunks. One is being used as the reception desk. Looking at the end of this block, I can see several cracks. However, on the side where there should be a corresponding crack in the surface, there isn't. Weird.

And then there are the large wood frames they erected to enclose the dining areas. These serve no structural purpose, they are only there for decoration. All the new wood seems to have lots of cracks and splits. None of the old appears to have any.

Update January 2017 replaced missing pictures.