Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy May 5th

Most people don't know that back in 1912, Hellmann's mayonnaise was manufactured in England. In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after its stop in New York.

This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever delivered to Mexico. But as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York. The ship hit an iceberg and sank, and the cargo was forever lost.

The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise, and were eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss. Their anguish was so great, that they declared a National Day of Mourning, which they still observe to this day.

The National Day of Mourning occurs each year on May 5th and is known, of course, as Sinko de Mayo.

What? You expected something educational?

From Steve.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

iPhone recording of a propeller

curious stroboscopic effect

You can talk about the technical aspects of how this recording came to be, but I just enjoy watching it. Via Tam & That Video Site.

Update January 2017 replaced missing video with similar one and removed dead link. This video was shot with a Nokia N95 instead of an iPhone, but it is about the same vintage.

Photo of the Day

Darth is coming for you
Update March 2016 replaced missing picture.


Ever wonder what your retina looks like? Friend went to the doctor and came back with this picture. Actually, the original was pert near all black. Picasa's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button produced this.

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

Chinese Drywall

Who'd a thunk it? Drywall from China? I mean the stuff is dirt cheap in the first place. How can it be economical to ship it from China? Unless the Chinese are secretly trying to kill us all. Yeah, I'll bet that's what's behind their evil scheme.

I'm reading Dustbury this morning and he's talking about how boring (or not) drywall is, and he points to a story by Brian Skoloff about how Chinese drywall is making people sick. Seems Chinese drywall is giving off Hydrogen Sulfide gas. Hydrogen Sulfide is nasty stuff. At low concentrations it just smells bad, but at high concentrations one good breath can kill you. Some nitwit builder claims it isn't a problem because none of the houses where Chinese drywall was installed have exploded in flames and killed everyone in the neighborhood. Just a little black soot on the plumbing fixtures. Just wipe it off . . . WHAT!?!?! If you can see the soot, you can bet there's a significant amount of gas in the air. Oh well, the world is full of lying numbskulls. Seems the people who are living in these houses can tell there is something wrong.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I was just reading a story in The New Yorker about the iPad and the book business. They are saying that Amazon is buying e-books (electronic books) from publishers for $14 and selling them for $10 in order to pump up their Kindle business. Publishers are P.O'd that Amazon is charging that little, and I'm thinking WTF?

My mistake was thinking that the actual cost of the work and materials involved in printing a book was substantial, and that's why books cost so much. I mean you need big, high speed presses and fancy bindery machinery in order to produce books at a reasonable price. I didn't realize that the price of actually producing a book was next to nothing. I'm thinking it's probably under a dollar, at least for books with just text in black and white. If you add color pictures it may add a quarter. Who knows? Nobody is telling. It's a big secret.

In any case, this means that book publishing is working on the same basis as the music industry. A nickel for production costs, a nickel for the author and 90 cents for the publishers to spend on promotions, parties, and silver linings for their wallets. So publishers can all go hang as far as I'm concerned.

There was also a quote in the story attributed to Stevie, something along the lines of "the book business is dead. 40% of Americans read one or fewer books last year". Another Whisky Tango Foxtrot. 40%?!?! Is that all? I would have expected it to be more like 99%. Let's be pessimistic and say 40% didn't read any books last year. That means 60% did! At one book each, that's 180 million books. I wonder, do we spend more on books or records, er, musical recordings?

Only movies seem to have adapted to the realities of the digital age. Books, records and newspapers don't seem to have figured it out. I read something that said owning a newspaper was like having a license to print money. If you wanted to run a real business, where you worked hard and produced a product that people wanted, you could probably make a go of most big city newspapers. What they are complaining about is that the fountain of cash is drying up. Sorry, you'll get no sympathy from me.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

When is a text file not a text file?

When it's a UTF-8 file, that's when! Dad-burn whipper-snappers anywho. Wrote a program yesterday, reads in some numbers from a text file. Works fine. Tried the program again today and it blows up and dies. Can't read any data from the file. Look at the file with Notepad++ and it looks fine. What's going on here? Change the input function so it is reading the input character by character, and I see we are getting data that is not ordinary ASCII characters. Oh, yeah? Fine. Pull out my trusty 30 year old text editor and look at the file, and by gum, there they are: three little garbage characters at the beginning of the file. Now who would put those there? What I have done to this file that would cause someone to stick garbage like that at the beginning of the file?

So I do a little Googling and I find the answer in a post by Mika Halttunen on an forum:
Those "garbage characters" are actually the byte-order mark of UTF-8, that specify the text is encoded in UTF-8. See UTF-8 BOM [] for more info.
Looking at the wikipedia entry, the three characters have hex values of EF BB and BF and look like this: 

Just remember that Bill Gates loves you and wants you to be happy.

Windows is Wonderful.

If you are wondering about the picture, you need to go back and read the history of UTF-8, which will lead you, eventually, to Plan 9.

Update September 2016 replaced missing picture.

Sneaky Construction

Driving in downtown Hillsboro and I noticed this new building going up. Weird thing is that it is on the block right next to the grocery store. The construction company is using the old mom & pop video store for an office. I park right in front of it every time I go to the grocery store. They must have been working on this building for what, six months? And this is the first time I actually noticed the building. That's just weird.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.


OK, I admit this is a little weird. Nothing happens in the video, it's just the lamp sitting there. The only interesting part is the sound, and it doesn't sound like much. I had to turn up the volume quite a bit just to hear it. And you know what it sounds like? It sounds like a diesel engine idling. But it's not.

It's the lamp just sitting there and vibrating. I'm walking back and forth across the room and I notice this ticking sound. I stop and listen and wait for it to stop. It takes a long time, a minute anyways. Then I think I have to get a recording of this, so I start walking back and forth again, but no luck. Evidently we are not on the same wavelength. I give up and go back about my business, and then this fool lamp starts up again. This time I caught it in the act.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I get a message to call someone. I pick up the phone and dial, but it doesn't go through. I hang up and then try again, but when I pick up the phone there is no dial tone, just some clicks, and then a voice. It's Lloyd, the guy I was trying to call. He wants me to come over to Stevens (where he works) to look at something.

The Stevens building (in my dream) is a low profile brick structure sitting on top of a hill. There are two roads, one going up each side of the hill. There are two small parking lots at the top in front of the building, one on either side. There is no road connecting the two. They are small, room for no more than eight or ten cars each. Further, each one is divided into two lobes: one closer to the building and one further away. There is a larger parking lot (presumably for employees) half way up the hill. It spans the entire width of the hill and can be accessed from either road. All the roads and parking lots are paved with asphalt.

When I arrive it is apparent that the roads are not in pristine condition. From where I am, the right hand road looks better, but I engage the four wheel drive before heading up. The first half of the road, up to the employee parking lot is fine, but the second half is a little rough. Never-the-less, I find several other cars in the lot when I am getting ready to leave. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I talk to Lloyd about the problem. It's easy for me to fix, and I am glad to do it. Then we go look at the powdered metal casting operation. This is like a scene from a coal mine. There are several men there wearing coveralls of various colors: orange, blue, etc. They are very dirty. All are engaged in working. One guy talks to us and tells us a little about what he is doing. He has a big green box like object. It appears to be an old cast iron pump body. It is sitting on a table in front of him. He is picking up handfuls of black sand and packing it in the top of this green cast-iron box. He is packing it in really tight, jamming it in with the tips of his fingers.

He finishes with that and pushes it aside, then takes a similarly sized red thing (also an old unidentified industrial casting) and whacks it with a hammer. It cracks in two pieces. When he pulls the top piece away, a bunch of black sand falls away revealing a newly formed object in the center. It is also black like the sand. Now I notice an embossed logo, something like Epicenter, which is a company that makes a device for improving the alignment of crankshaft holes in castings like this one. Improves them up to fifty thousands of an inch, which even in my dream I realize is nowhere near enough for any of the crankshafts I have ever dealt with. But I don't know what these guys are making with this black sand, so I let it slide.

I'm getting ready to leave and there is another person also heading for their car in the same parking lot. I drive out of the lot, but someone has gotten stuck in the mud just as they start going down the hill. It appears to be some kind of race car, like a stock car or a drag racer. (Lots of aluminum in any case.) Without consulting anyone I decide to give him a little push. Now I find this car has come off of the back end of flat-bed truck. I push it onto the truck and then the truck starts rolling down hill and I'm wondering if there is anyone driving it. It manages to stay on the road and when it gets to the employee parking lot, it turns in, so there must be someone driving it. I follow him.

As we are driving by the parking lot a beer truck comes by going the other way. I'm thinking this a regular delivery and he sure wouldn't use the section of road we just came down, so he must be heading out, and he must of come down the other side, so we're going the wrong way.

Rumor has it that vivid dreams are a side effect of some drugs called statins, which are an anti-cholesterol medication. I am taking one such drug, but I am pretty sure it is not a statin. Pretty long and detailed dream though.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tune for the Day

Sons of the Pioneers -- Ghost Riders In the Sky

Snigs put up a post that mentioned a couple of old songs, which sent me to rooting around for this one. Haven't heard it in a long time.

I couldn't find the original Black Betty. There was one posted that was by Leadbelly, but it must have been recorded the day before he died. It was weak.

Update March 2017 add caption to video.

Quote of the Day

Judging hypocrisy is easy. Judging the morality of doing business in China, well, that would take some real work. We can’t judge people for that because every company, every government and every individual in the world is dependent on China to some degree.

It’s not enough to avoid Wal-Mart. Trace the supply chain back far enough and you’ll find that every company you do business with, every product you buy, is manufactured by China to some degree. China dominates manufacturing by artificially lowering labor costs and keeping their population in state-regulated poverty.

This is slavery once-removed — postmodern totalitarianism — and every consumer on Earth is contributing to it. China makes our products, props up our governments and backs our debts. Cash from China is financing our wars, our bank bailouts and our shiny new health care bill. China holds a tremendous amount of U.S. debt, and our children will spend their lives trying to pay it off.

From a story by Michael Duff in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal


I recently signed up for a subscription to an Iraq Jobs newsletter. The kids are out of high school, I've been out of work for three years, the whole point of working is to make money, and it seems that the jobs in Iraq are paying the most money. So let's take a look and see what we find.

Most jobs require prior military or government experience, not much call for computer systems programmers. Occasionally (every day) something a little odd will pop up. Today was a job as a reporter in Barstow California. Barstow is out in the middle of desert, half way between LA and Las Vegas. It's claim to fame, and why they are looking for a reporter, is that it is near an Army base. Actually it is near four military bases:

View Larger Map
Fort Irwin is the closest and and the largest. Looking a little closer we find a place called Mars within the confines of Fort Irwin. Mars? What is this? A field of red rocks? Why is it called Mars? Is there anything there? Let's zoom in and find out. What we find is a gigantic satellite dish pointing right at us:

View Larger Map
According to Google's scale, the thing is 235 feet across. It's as big as a football field. Seems it is part of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex. Another placemark for my map of Big Science.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Coast Guard in China

I was talking to a woman I know today. Her son is, or was, a rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard on the Oregon Coast. Seems he doesn't do that anymore. Nowadays he spends more time in China. I'm wondering what the Coast Guard in doing in China, so I do a little Googling. I find a lot of stuff, but this was a kind of interesting.

Chinese workers preparing for a lifeboat davit test in Qingdao, China at Beihai Shipyard’s Davit Branch (USCG picture).
The Chinese are making lifeboats and davits for the U.S. Coast Guard. I knew we were buying consumer goods from China, but I didn't know we were buying military equipment from them as well. OK, they are not armaments, but the equipment is going on a military vessel. You know, I'm not sure I know which way is up anymore.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture and removed dead link.

Mr. Domestic, Part 3

I stopped by the store to pick up some special light bulbs today. They had bulbs that looked similar but had two different watt ratings: 40 & 60. Which one have I got? I looked at the bulb. I looked all over. I couldn't find anything, so I picked 60. Everything else in the house is 60 Watts.

When I get home I get out my reading glasses and I finally notice the little crinkle marks in the metal base just below where it meets the glass bulb. I'll be durned, it does have the rating on it: 60 watts. The picture looks spliced because it is. I couldn't get a clear shot of the entire text in one, so I spliced two shots together.

I pay for the bulbs at the automatic checkout stand. I am almost ready to go and so I drop my sample in the bag, and I'll be durned if the machine doesn't notice. I mean I can barely detect the weight of the bulb in my hand. I'm thinking it only weighs a few grams, so when I get home, I weigh it. A whole ounce and a half. This day is just full of surprises.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Drug Delirium

A man died in police custody in Cornelius, Oregon the other day. There have a number of deaths of people in the custody of the Portland Police in recent years. Some of them look pretty stinking bad*, so something like this makes me perk up my ears.

But this was in Cornelius, a small town 20 miles West of Portland. It's not quite a suburb, there is still farmland between here and there. And then we get these reports in the paper. I found them quite illuminating.

From a story by Kurt Eckert in the Hillsboro Argus:
The Oregon state medical examiner says a well-known but unusual deadly side effect of certain narcotics is often a contributor to the death of people in custody, and probably contributed to the April 10 death of a 24-year-old man in Cornelius.
From an earlier story (?!?) we have:
Preliminary indications from an autopsy show the Cornelius man who died in police custody early Saturday may have been under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Googling "drug delirium" turns up Excited Their main focus seems to be on cocaine, not hallucinogens. This stuff is still on the cutting edge.

On the other hand, there was a glowing report of hallucinogen use in The Oregonian the other day**, and maybe someone in the coroners office took exception to the tone of that article and decided to put his/her own spin on the story. I mean the actual test results won't be released for weeks, and by then most everyone will have forgotten about it.

* Hopefully the Portland Police will get sorted out and things will get better.

** Actually it's from the NY Times. I swear I saw it in the local paper, but once again a search of The Oregonians web site failed to turn up anything. Google found it for me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quote/Website of the Day

Q: I can't decipher your politics. Are you left-wing? Right-wing? Conservative? Liberal? Or what? I'm confused.
A: I'm confused too. I've stopped believing in the existence of the "left/right dichotomy." And every existing political label has been rendered meaningless by endless framing, reframing, and counter-reframing by competing political factions. There is no name or category that summarizes my wide-ranging opinions -- opinions which, furthermore, are continuously evolving. The zombietime images speak for themselves, and my personal outlook should be irrelevant in any case.
From the zombietime FAQ. I couldn't have said it better myself. I got there by following a link I found on View From The Porch. Some (most? all?) of the photos at the Hall of Shame are a little disturbing. Man, there are some real wackos out there.

March Violets

It's one of the stories in Berlin Noir, a three-in-one book by Philip Kerr, a murder mystery set in the mid-1930's Germany, just when Hitler is coming to power. At first I thought it was contemporary with the setting, but it is actually a recent book. It's a little disconcerting. Goring, Goebbels and Himmler all show up in these stories. Bernard Gunther, our protagonist, is a private eye specializing in missing persons, and his business has been thriving since the Nazis came to power. Seems the Nazis keep very good records of who they disappear, but they don't communicate that information to anyone. So when someone disappears, they come to Bernard to find out what happened to them. It's usually a Jew, and it's usually not good.

But occasionally things get a little more involved, and those are the stories in the book.

I read the first one right through and it was great. I started the second one, but then work dried up and I lost interest. Odd how that worked out. At first I thought it was the stories were too grim, but looking back, I don't think that's the case.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bonus 155

Roberta grumbles about an ad, which prompts me to do a little digging, and I fall down the rabbit hole into Terminator-smart weapons land. The ad uses a clip of an attack on a military vehicle using some new kind of bomb. Evidently this new bomb is replacing the IED's (Improvised Explosive Device - the road side bombs being employed by the insurgents/jackasses/criminals in Iraq against US troops). I saw the ad before, but I didn't think much about it, but then I have my own hot buttons. But hearing from Roberta prompted me to find out just what this guy is talking about: all I heard was mumble. So. EFP: Explosively Formed Projectile, a nasty anti-armor munition. Poking around I found this video about a really fancy, really complicated anti-tank howitzer shell.

Your tax dollars at work. Each shell costs $40,000. I suppose if you are facing a tank, that might be considered a good deal. If you are a hardened bean counter, it's also pretty good economics. A new US Abrams tanks goes for about $4 million, a good used Russian tank can be had for a mere $100 grand.

But would it really be effective? I can see several possible problems:
  • Can you hit a moving target? The Bonus 155 can scan a circular area 200 yards in diameter, (i.e. a target area of 32,000 square meters). The cannon that fires this shell has a range of 20 miles. Gunners have artillery down to a science, so I imagine they could probably put a shell within a hundred yards of their target if it wasn't moving. 20 miles is a long way, and even a bullet is going to take a couple of seconds (36 according to the video) to get there. If the tank is moving, you are going to have to predict it's new location or the shell is not going to be able to "see" it.
  • Target identification. The Bonus will only fire it it identifies a target. What if it doesn't identify a target? Does it just fall to the ground and wait for the enemy to come pick it up and shoot it back at us?
  • The Zulu war quartermaster problem: will they be able to deploy these shells in time to use them? I mean, they cost $40,000 a piece. I can just imagine the guy in charge of the armory being real persnickety about letting just any gunner pull a hundred shells from stock.
  • The junkie stockroom clerk. Normally you need a BIG gun to shoot one of these shells, but each shell contains two mines that could be removed from the shell and triggered manually. I just see a stockroom clerk slipping these out the back door one at a time in order to get another fix.
As a bonus, I saw the camera they used to take a picture of the MOAB drop (right at the 3:33).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The first part was very clear when I woke up, but is much hazier now:

I was talking to several other guys about repairing an automatic transmission. We needed some kind of fancy valve, we didn't have one, couldn't get one and we were trying to figure out how we could possibly adapt some other piece of equipment to use instead.

The last part is still pretty clear:

I am walking across the yard from the back of the house to the garage. It's an old farm type arrangement. The yard is dirt and gravel. I am talking to someone about the repair we are trying to effect. An old black car drives up to the back of the house. It's like from the 30's or 40's. It's a sedan with no trunk. We are back at the garage when the driver comes up. He's about four feet tall, a bit wide and a little on the ugly side. He asks us if we know where a fella can get somethin' ta eat. I ask him if he knows how to cook. He answers in the affirmative and I direct him back to the house and its kitchen.

The picture is not exactly right. In my dream the car was all black, and dusty. It was at least a decade newer than this one, but the angle of roof and the back of the cabin are about right.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mr. Domestic, Part II

We have two parts because I still haven't been able to figure out how to get html to do what I want.

Looking for 60 watt lightbulbs at Home Depot today. Flashy packages saying buy me! Look closer and they are all for extra long life bulbs. Don't want any of those. Got burned once before on that deal. Bought some light bulbs that were supposed to last five times as long as a regular bulb. Well, they might, but they also produce one-fifth the amount of light. It was like turning on the dark. So, no thank you, I don't want the extended life bulbs, I want the original, short life, extra bright bulbs. But where are they? I finally find them. They are the ones in the non-descript packaging that are almost all sold out. Made by Philips. Bah. But they are cheap: 25 cents each.

60 Watt LightbulbsHome Depot4/13/2010
WattsLumensLifeBrandTypeNumber of Bulbs in packagePackage PricePrice Per BulbPrice Per 1000 Hours
1490010000ECOSoft White Compact Fluorescent45.851.460.15
608601000PhilipsSoft White40.970.240.24
608301500PhilipsSoft White Dura Max41.440.360.24
1480010000ECODaylight Compact Fluorescent13.543.540.35
607802000GESoft White Double Life63.170.530.26

You might wonder why I don't go for the compact fluorescents. I don't like them because they take too long to come to full brightness. When I turn on a light it's because I want to see now, not in five minutes, or fifteen minutes or however long it takes those things to get their act together. By the time they are ready to go I've moved on to something else.

And if I want bright light, why don't I go for something bigger, like 100 Watt bulbs? I'll tell you why: because all the fixtures in the house are only rated for stupid 60 Watt bulbs, that's why, and I'm too cheap to go replace all the fixtures with something better.

Eventually, LED's will become common, and they will come with a lifetime battery & a wireless remote control. They will have a screw on the back and you just screw them into the wall wherever you want a light. No wiring involved. They will be so cheap they'll give them away in Cracker Jack boxes. All I have to do is wait.

I paid for my purchase with cash and the automatic machine gave me 59 cents in change back. Why would you use three dimes instead of a quarter and a nickel?

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

Mr. Domestic, Part I

My nose gives me a lot of grief so I use a lot of Kleenex. Buy it by the trainload at Costco. Only problem is that when the economy size boxes get about half empty, the automatic feed fails and you get to perform a domestic version of a malfunction drill. You don't have this problem with Puff's, they have a great big hole in the box, so even if the auto-feed fails, you can still grab the next cartridge, er, tissue, without any difficulty. But Puffs are expensive, relatively speaking, and when you are using these things by the caseload, price becomes an issue. So I have taken to modifying my tissue magazines when they get half empty.

Ran out of shampoo the other day and came across this nearly full, economy size bottle. Vonderbar! Saves me having to actually buy one. But I have to wonder about the design. No matter how I pour it, I seem to get as much on the cap as I get in my hand. It runs down the side and makes the bottle slippery. It's a big bottle and one of these days I'm liable to drop it on my toe which will make me unhappy. I have to wonder about using such a big bottle. I mean at the rate I use it there is probably enough there to last for a zillion years. I would pour some into a smaller bottle but I would probably end up making a bigger mess.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.


The boys went to see Deerhunter at Berbati's Pan last night. It was a segregated affair: teetotalers on one side of the barricade and drunkards on the other. Ross drove up from Eugene to see this. John comes home and tells me it was the best concert ever. I listened to several songs on YouTube this morning. They didn't grab me right off, but they aren't hard to listen to either. Of course, the sound quality you get from YouTube isn't what you are going to get at a live concert.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Hardly anybody writes anything by hand anymore, and it's even more rare to find someone who has decent handwriting, so I was surprised when the receptionist at the Sleep Clinic gave me this card. Lovely, isn't it?

Update February 2017 replaced missing image.

Dodge Dakota Serpentine Belt Tensioner, Part 2

Here's the photo that explains everything. You can see the new mounting bolt for the new tensioner because it's nice and shiny, not like the old one which was pert near invisible being all black and ugly looking. So the smart thing to do would have been to take the nut off this one bolt, rather than taking off the whole bracket. Assuming there is room to get a wrench on it, and I think there is. See Part 1 for the whole gruesome story.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Money For Nothin', Part 2

I did some work earlier this year. I sent the company a bill for my time. A month later they hadn't paid me, so I sent them another bill. This time I tacked on one percent interest. I got a note back saying that my invoice had been approved but they didn't pay late charges. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Never mind the "late charges", are you going to pay the bill?

I imagine they will, eventually, but it was really annoying their quibbling about the late charges, because they are not late charges, they are interest. You borrow money from the bank, you pay interest. You lend money out, you collect interest. I did some work, I expect to get paid in a timely manner. Not paying me is the same as borrowing money from me, and if you are borrowing money you should expect to pay interest. Being as inflation is running about 6% annually, I do not feel charging 12% is out of line, especially since they are borrowing without permission. But never mind that. I need something to do, preferably something that pays.

Once again, this post is just an excuse to post a music video. I was originally thinking of Pink Floyd's version of Money, but then I stumbled across this one, which I had like completely forgotten about. I think I actually like this one better. It's clear, concise and to the point.

Money (That's What I Want)

On a related note I was thinking that the minimum wage really hasn't kept pace with inflation. The value of the dollar has gone down by a factor of ten in the last 40 years. Minimum wage back then was $2 an hour, so by rights if should be $20 an hour now. In Oregon minimum wage is $8 an hour, if you can find a job, but health insurance runs about $1000 a month, which comes out to about $6 an hour. Eight & six is fourteen, which is 70% of 20, so we are slipping, but not quite as bad as a straight wage comparison makes it look. Another factor would be whether I had health insurance back then. I can't say for sure, it certainly wasn't something I was worried about. I didn't even really think about it till I had been out of college for a couple of years.

Update February 2017 replaced missing video. This one was the clearest of the three I watched.
Update June 2019 replaced missing video.


I have an American Express credit card I got from Costco. Used to be that most places didn't take AMEX, only VISA and Mastercard, but since they got this deal with Costco, more stores will take it now. Problem is AMEX gives you a cash rebate on your purchases. Over the course of a year it comes to a couple of hundred bucks. It's always nice to get a little extra cash.

But this whole deal stinks. If you pay cash for something, you pay the same price as you would with a credit card, and you get no year-end rebate. I mean it's not much: 2 or 3% maybe, but still. There is this nagging little feeling that you can save some money if you use the credit card, which means you start using the credit card for more stuff, and using cash for less, which means the credit card companies are making ever more money.

This is insidious and someone should put a stop to it or the credit card companies will end up owning us, and that would not be good.

Quote of the Day

Inside Every Fat Woman Is A Skinny Woman Crying To Get Out.
Usually A Little Chocolate Will Shut The Bitch Up.
From a comment posted by B. Davis on Donnaville. I spewed milk out my nose, or I would have if I had been drinking mik.

India Pakistan Border Show

Darling daughter is in India. Her group went to see this. She told me to look it up. Google found 600 videos on the subject.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Quote of the Day

"At full speed the engines make a noise that discourages conversation."
From PT Boats - Giant Killers (Part 3).
Yeah, I'll bet they do.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Accessory Drive

Once upon a time cars had one fan belt, and it was a V-belt. It ran over three pulleys:
  1. the crankshaft
  2. the water pump
  3. the generator
The generator was mounted on a pivot bracket and was equipped with an adjustable strap to set the tension on the belt. Later on we got alternators. Then came power steering, air conditioning and air pumps (also known as smog pumps). They were all driven by V-belts. On some cars you could have as many as six V-belts to run all this equipment.

Like all mechanical devices they would wear, and eventually fail, and if the belt that failed was the one farthest back on the crankshaft pulley, you had to remove all the others from in front before you could replace the broken one.

Of course this was before the invention of the serpentine belt. The serpentine belt is quite a little miracle.

Before we got to the serpentine belt, back when we were at the height of the fan belt madness, I was thinking that there had to be a better way to drive all these accessories than the way we were doing it. My solution was to provide a gear inside a housing at the front of the engine. The housing would have several holes on the front side that would accommodate a hub on an accessory device. The holes would be machined so that simply sliding the accessory into the hole would cause it to be perfectly aligned with the gear inside the housing. A simple clamp would hold it in place.

But then along came the serpentine belt and my idea never really got a chance to take off.

Update February 2017 replaced missing image.

Season of the Witch

Donovan Season of the Witch

Because Dustbury put up a link to Mellow Yellow, which is a fine song, but nothing to compare to this one which is just awesome.

Update February 2017 replaced missing video.
Update March 2018 replaced missing video.
Update March 2021 replaced missing video.

Dodge Dakota Serpentine Belt Tensioner

Notice the very slight difference in angle between the arm that holds the pulley and the pin directly to the left of the mounting stud. Not much, maybe 10 or 15 degrees.
About a week ago I was giving John a ride to school in the truck. It started squealing shortly after we left the house. It sounded like a bearing going bad, but it's had squeaking problems before, so I drove on thinking it would stop in a bit. It didn't. It squealed all the way (12 miles) to school and all the way back. I was saying my prayers that it wasn't going to blow up and leave me stranded.

Got home and took a look and the belt is loose. All the pulleys and bearings seem to be in good shape, just the tensioner has lost its' spring. I might have been able to save myself a little trouble if I had only taken the tensioner itself off, but the bolt that holds it in place is obscured by the supporting bracket, and the three bolts that hold the bracket in place are in plain sight.

However one of the these three bolts is behind the dipstick tube, which means taking the tube loose from the alternator, which wasn't too bad, but putting it back in was a real trick. I mean it's in plain sight, but you cannot get your hand in there to put the bolt it. It took some real finagling to get it in the hole.

Tensioner support bracket mounting holes.
Taking the nut off of the tensioner itself might have been slow (it's a long bolt), but I don't think it would have required the dexterity of Houdini to get it back in.

Hooking wrenches together to
get more leverage.
Putting the belt back on required compressing the spring, and these springs are strong. I put the box end of a combination wrench on the bolt holding the pulley on, and then put the loop at the end of the handle of an adjustable wrench over one of the claws. That gave me a lever that was long enough to make it easy to compress the spring. (This is a picture I found of a similar arrangement.) It works in most cases, though if the bolt is really stuck, and you apply enough torque you can bend the claw of the combination wrench.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

Audio Stutter

or, Windows is Wonderful, Part 9490

My wife's laptop developed arthritis over the last couple of months. I dinked around a couple of times trying to get the kinks out, and it sort of got better some of the time. The last straw was when the audio started stuttering. I spent the better part of the day tracking this one down. Learned a couple of things on the way, like how the prefetch directory accumulates stuff over time and can slow your boot time to abysmal*.

The stuttering audio problem was caused by a value getting changed in the registry. This particular value tells the hard disk driver whether to use PIO (Parallel Input/Output) or DMA (Direct Memory Access) to transfer data to and from the hard disk. DMA has been the way to go since hard disks had hydraulic actuators. The only reason for using PIO would be because you worship Satan and you like to suffer, maybe?

Anyway, after much poking around I finally found these two pages:
I thought about using Regedit to go in poke at the registry myself, but then there was a little confusion over just which entry needed to be changed, so I downloaded the magic program and ran it and it seems to have fixed the problem.

There is one thing still bugging me and that is how this setting got changed in the first place. Was it malicious, or was it someone's programming error? I don't think it's random, I mean it is common enough that someone took the trouble to create a solution, and the solution is very specific.

The other thing that is weird is that none of malware detectors I ran (anti-virus, Ad-Aware, Spybot Search & Destroy) found anything wrong.

*Windows Prefetch directory is controlled by this registry key:
Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters\
Set it to 2 to include system files only and exclude applications.

Unlocking Locked Files

or Windows is Wonderful, Part 9489

This happens occaisionally on my Windows XP system: I am trying to move or delete a file on my computer and Windows pops up with a message like this:

In case the picture doesn't show up, the text of the message is
"Cannot move -filename-: It is being used by another person or program."
Notepad++ is a common culprit on my system. Closing a file is sometimes not sufficient to release it, however, closing the program will do the job.

Sometimes this error pops up and Notepad++ is nowhere to be found. Running checkdsk /f will usually fix it. It takes time though.

It happened again today, and it caught me in the mood to get to the bottom of it. I came across a couple of different suggestions. Here's one that sounded pretty good:
My solution, which works most of the time, is to ctrl-alt-del to bring up task manager. In there, shut down explorer.exe, then while still in task manager, hit file > run and restart explorer. Not really a solution, but the only workaround I've found.
It didn't work for me. Didn't do any harm either. It was a little spooky seeing all my desktop icons disappear, but then I restarted explorer and they all popped up again.

I finally gave up looking for a quick fix and downloaded the Unlocker program. It installed without a hitch (though it did put a shortcut to E-Bay on my desktop. What's up with that?), and when I ran into another locked file, it unlocked it without any fuss.

It seems like a too much fix for such a small problem, but evidently that's what it takes.

Update February 2017 replaced missing image.

Quote of the Day

"Play a Windows CD backwards and hear satanic messages. That's nothing, play it forwards and it installs Windows."
From Colonel Sander on Bit-Tech Forums.

All's Faire

Job Fair, Welfare, Warfare, Animal Fair!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Uploaded by onemoreprod. - Arts and animation videos.
Found on No You Shut Up.

More Flying Monkeys

It's Army men versus the Dinosaurs, and it's awesome. Via Dustbury.


Iowa man sent me a link to a story in The NY Times that contained this clip. The weird thing is that this was a produced by an agency that is funded by the insurance companies, not by the US government. Everybody complains about the government making all these rules, but here we have business pushing for those rules. People just like to complain.

Most people would expect a head-on collision at 40 MPH to be a disaster. It would be a miracle if you walked away from it. But walking away is the probable outcome if you are driving a modern car.

People are generally very materialistic. They look at the material destruction resulting from a crash and immediately think of the loss in terms of their pocket book. They don't see the damage to the people involved. For some reason that's private, or too grisly to be shown. But it's the damage to the people that is significant. Cars can be replaced without qualm: they don't have any feelings*. People are another matter. America is like Disneyland in that respect: anything really bad gets shielded from public view.

*Problem with believing that inanimate objects have no feelings is that it is hard to reconcile with the number of times I have taken apart something that wasn't working, found nothing wrong, put it back together and it started working. My theory is that the device was just feeling neglected.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I don't have a cell phone, I don't use Twitter or Facebook or any other social networking software. I still have a landline, though I have been wondering if a cell phone might be cheaper, but that would mean calling Verizon and that would mean an hour of my day shot to heck dealing with their robo-cop menu system, their plethora of conditions and qualifications, all just to find out how much my landline actually costs. And then there would another call to Verizon Wireless to get hooked on with the cell phone network. Bah. And who knows if it would save me any money. With the way they bundle things, there is no telling how much anything actually costs anymore.

Somewhere along the way I ran into the phrase "Everything you know is wrong" and it happened to hit me just at just the right time and I agreed. Wikipedia attributes the phrase to a Firesign Theater album from 1974, and the time frame is about right. A couple of years later I finally decided my old man was right and I went back to college and got a degree.

I think that phrase is what got me started on trying to figure out how the world works. I think I sort of have it figured out now, and it isn't pretty. So maybe I'm a little more serious/highly stressed than most people. Or maybe I'm just Mr. Cranky.

Syaffolee was writing about Twitter and the title of this song popped into my head and the rest, as they say, is history.

Freefall MOAB

This is a video of a bomb drop. The bomb is MOAB - the Mother Of All Bombs. The interesting thing is how long the bomb is in freefall, which tells us how high up it was when it was dropped. Which makes me wonder what kind of camera they were using to make this video.


Via a link from Grouchy Old Cripple, via Dustbury. This animation is worthy of mention because all of the activities are synchronized. They aren't really are running separately, it's a GIF, and the whole thing is only a few frames, I'm thinking a couple of dozen at most, but because there is so much going on all the actions look independent. Or maybe I'm just impressed because my mind can't grasp the whole thing. Near as I can tell, it was created by Diane Baugh of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, who does not seem to have a presence on the internet, which is a pretty amazing fact all by itself. That's two (2!) amazing things in one post! You should be feeling really amazed now.

Update February 2017 replaced missing image.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I was poking around the web and I came across these pictures of workers in Chinese factories. I had always imagined more of the utter chaos model of production: people working their fingers to the bone putting little do-ma-flatchers together, bosses running around screaming di-di-mao, boxes piled higgeldy-piggeldy up to the ceilings, frayed wires dangling, dim lights, etc. Instead we have these orderly, clean, well lighted, enormous rooms filled with people and modern equipment. Of course, it could still be hell-on-earth for the workers, but it certainly upset my imaginary Chinese factory.

Most of the photos are from Work in China - photographs by Edward Burtynsky

Quote of the Day

The old sheriff was attending an awards dinner when a lady commented on his wearing his sidearm. 'Sheriff, I see you have your pistol. Are you expecting trouble?'
'No Ma'am. If I were expecting trouble, I would have brought my shotgun.'
From Snig's Spot.