Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Report from Kinnaman Elementary School in Aloha, Oregon:
Last night at about 4:20 Amanda came to the office to say her car had been keyed. It had been parked in the north parking lot. We called Washington county and asked if a report should be filed, and the officer said "absolutely, there have been a lot of cars being vandalized in the Aloha area recently." Later in the evening, I noticed that my car had been keyed as well! It was parked on the street yesterday; someone had cut a deep (to the metal), gash in the passenger door. This means the perpetrator was on the sidewalk. I filed a report as well. The officer told me there have been over 60 (!!) crimes like this reported in the area - either keying or tires being slashed. He said the area is from about 175th to 198th and from Shaw street to Madeline. He felt it was "just a matter of time" before this person (people?) were caught, simply because the crimes have been "prolific".
I suspect keys are not the weapon of choice for these kind of things. Most keys have nicely rounded edges, and the paint on modern cars is pretty dang tough. Our criminals are probably using something like a screwdriver or a chisel, or a knife, something which would also be suitable for slashing tires.

A professional body shop would probably have to sand and repaint the entire panel to get rid of a deep scratch like this, which means big bucks. You could paint the scratch with touch up paint, but that would be some tedious work, and it would still be detectable.

What do you do with a case like this, when you catch him (or her)? What a nuisance.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Day 36

Oil is still pouring out of the hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Lots of people are working to try and stop the leak, and lots more are trying to clean up the mess. It may be weeks or even months before they manage to stop the leak. It might be never. This could end up being a worse environmental disaster than Chernobyl. Then again, they might plug the leak this afternoon, or it might stop spewing oil all by itself. Who knows? The future is cloudy, I cannot see.

Meanwhile, if we can't stop the leak, we might be able to do something to mitigate the damage being done by the oil. Here's my big idea.

Offer a bounty for each barrel of oil recovered. With the amount of oil being spilled, it should be easy to scoop up some fraction of it. Each barrel recovered is that much less environmental damage and that much less clean up required. Also, it might be possible to separate out the water from the recovered oil and use the resulting oil as oil.

We would need some place to receive the collected oil. Possibly a tanker on site along with a floating dock, pumps and lines to transfer the collected oil from the collector to the tanker. And then we would need a method to separate the oil from the water.

The only question is how much of a bounty would it take to make a difference? I think a thousand dollars a barrel would probably pull every boat within a hundred miles of the Gulf Coast into this operation. A dollar a barrel? Well, maybe a couple of guys in a Greenpeace skiff. Somewhere in between there I think we could get measurable results for less than the national defense budget.

Ein Parachute Problem Numer Zwei!

Tam posted the video clip of South Park's Blame Canada song, which led to some wandering around on the web, which eventually led to this entertaining story about parachutes, Canada and South Park: Ein Parachute Problem Numer Zwei!

I also figured out why I don't watch South Park: the squeaky high pitched voices are too hard to decipher. I like my entertainment to be easily consumed. I don't want to have to work for it.

Preference Cascades

This is an excerpt from a longer article written in 2005 by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, aka Instapundit. Mostly I don't care too much for what he says, he says too much about too much stuff, but then I suppose that's what a modern day pundit does. But this is pretty good.

Three years ago, I looked at the phenomenon of "preference cascades" -- in which people who have been obliged to conceal their true beliefs by social pressure or sheer force suddenly discover that a lot of other people feel the same way -- and wrote:

"This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don't realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it - but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

"This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers - or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they're also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.

"One interesting question is whether a lot of the hardline Arab states are like this. Places like Iraq, Syria, or Saudi Arabia spend a lot of time telling their citizens that everyone feels a particular way, and punishing those who dare to differ, which has the effect of encouraging people to falsify their preferences. But who knows? Given the right trigger, those brittle authoritarian regimes might collapse overnight, with most of the population swearing - with all apparent sincerity - that it had never supported them, or their anti-Western policies, at all.

"Perhaps we should think about how to make it so."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Coal, the other Oil

St. Louis based Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) is the world's largest private-sector coal company, with 2008 sales of 255 million tons and $6.6 billion in revenues. Its coal products fuel 10 percent of all U.S. electricity generation and 2 percent of worldwide electricity. - From a Peabody fact sheet.
That works out to about $26 a ton. My friend Jack just got back from a week in the American Southwest. While plotting the places he visited on Google Maps, I stumbled across a tear drop shaped road. What's up with that, I wonder? Then I realize it's not a road, it's a railroad, and it looks a whole lot like the rail lines serving the coal mines in Wyoming. Except there is no sign of anything else at this location, just the railroad turn around. Following the rail line, I find another turn around and there is something going on at this one, but on Google Maps, there are no labels to tell you just what it is.

On Wikimapia however, someone has labeled it as the Lee Ranch Coal Mine, and Googling that gets all the information in the world. I suspect the unused turnaround is for a coal mine that is going to be started sometime after the picture was taken, which means it could be in operation now.

Update April 2015. Corrected typo.

Mission Impossible

Update March 2016 resized video.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Russian Typhoon Submarine

Out wandering around on the web and I stumbled on this unusual picture of a Russian Typhoon class submarine. It is so unusual I thought it was worth posting.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

"A coffee house by the university had burned down. TENS OF THOUSANDS CHEER HITLER SPEECH IN REGENSBURG."
Fictional excerpts from the Budapest evening paper in April 1938. From Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst, page 41.

This passage made a surprising impact on me. We spend a great deal of time denouncing Hitler and how evil he was, but either I never realized, or I had forgotten, how he came to be in power. He was wildly popular. The "people" loved him. Any time someone gets that much positive feedback, he is likely to believe whatever he is saying.

Popular does not necessarily mean right. That concludes our lesson for today. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Robin Hood

Went to see the latest Robin Hood movie (with Russell Crowe & Cate Blanchett) yesterday evening. Great entertainment. Heroic good guys, slimy villains, plenty of swashbuckling, realistic settings, plausible story. What more could you want?

There were lot's of little nit-picky problems with it, but it is a fairy tale, so maybe it's against the movie makers code to make fairy tales too realistic: someone might start to believe in them.

First off we've got Robin Longstride comes home from the Crusades pretending to be Sir Robert Loxley. I saw another movie not too many years ago where Gérard Depardieu comes home from a war pretending to be somebody else and ends up paying for his deception with his life. Of course that was several hundred years later and on the other side of English channel, and maybe things had changed.

Then we have Robin drinking from a glass. I was thinking this was a blatant anachronism, or at least a cross-class anomaly. Common soldier drinking from a glass in a common tavern? But this isn't the stone age, they are working with metal, so glass is entirely feasible. Wikipedia confirms it.

Combat operations at night. We have a wagon load of grain going to the Bishop of York guarded by half a dozen men, but why are they traveling at night? Times are tough, but are they that bad that the church has to sneak about? Isn't traveling by night more dangerous? Aren't they more likely to be attacked by bandits at night? Surprise! They are attacked by bandits. Huh. Imagine that.

WWII landing craft employed by the French. We have an invasion by the French, mostly in small boats. Some of the boats look remarkably similar to the landing craft employed by the allies on D-Day: square prow and stern, drop down ramp on the front. This is starting to look like Kevin Costner's Robin Hood. The farther along we go, the farther we get from reality.

There are boys living in the woods, surviving on their own by hunting, poaching and stealing. They are on the sidelines of the story until the big battle scene at the end, and then they come riding into the fray on their little ponies. That was just nuts. Of course, Cate was there at the big battle, too. That's Hollywood for you.

The big battle between the hero and villain at the end is done with broadswords. Come on guys, Robin is known for using a longbow, not a sword. That's how the English beat the French at Agincourt. And you want them to fight with swords. Bah.

Birds of a Feather

Peafowl across the street from church this morning.
Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Video of Oil Gushing from Kink in Well Riser

Jody sent me this.

How deep is this? From Wikipedia:
  • 100 feet: Modern plastic tourist submarine.
  • 300 feet: World War I submarines with carbon steel hulls.
  • 600 feet: World War II submarines with alloy steel hulls.
  • 1,000 feet: Modern military submarines with high-strength alloy steel hulls.
  • 4,000 feet: Rumor of crazy Russian military submarine with titanium hull.
  • 5,000 feet (one mile): This oil leak.
  • 15,000 feet: Alvin Research Submarine
  • 35,000 feet: Deepest part of the ocean (Mariana Trench) reached in 1960 by the Trieste.
Sunlight reaches a depth of about 300 feet. Below that, you need to bring your own lights. To be able to illuminate a scene this large well enough to capture it on video must require some pretty bright lights.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spider for the Day

I thought this one came out exceptionally clear.
Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Trip To Eugene

Left a little after 8 this morning, got back home 12 hours later.

Kathryn accidentally makes an impression of her pendant on her arm:

Saw this sign in Eugene. Fast Emergency Room Service? Just in case you are dying and really need some help?

Phil Knight's (Nike) new basketball arena going up:

Snow storm on the way home:

Actually, I think it was sleet. It rained intermittently all the way home. It would come down in buckets for a minute, and then it would be dry for five minutes, and then it would pour again. One of those downpours left this white stuff on the ground.

Big ol' diesel pickup comes flying by. Has to slow down for traffic. Nothing unusual about that.

But then he steps on the gas and this huge cloud of black smoke appears. (I know it's not a great picture, but where'd the right taillight go?) I've never seen anything like it, except maybe when they set off some fake munitions at the air show a few years ago. Think he might need a tuneup.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Automobile Window Regulators

Rear window lift on the car (2001 Chrysler Sebring) broke a couple of days ago. I thought about trying to fix it myself, but my list of things to fix is getting longer faster than I am knocking them out, so in the interest of expediency, and not getting the rear seat rained on, I took it in to the shop. Dropped it off yesterday morning and picked it up this afternoon. $300, but it's fixed. And I learned something.

Used to be passenger car window regulators, which is what the mechanism that raises and lowers the window is called, were composed of pair of arms joined with a pivot in the center so they formed an X shape.

Car Electric Window Regulator & Motor
The crank, or in this case, the electric motor, to lower the window was connected via a gear to the end of one of the arms. Doors were constructed with two panels of steel (inner and outer) and the window regulator was in between the two and could only be accessed through small holes in the inner panel. Getting the regulator out required ingenious contortions. Further, everything was made of sheet metal and all the edges were made extra sharp to insure that anyone who ventured into this hidden realm would emerge bloody.

Things have changed. Here is Eric with a modern window regulator. This one happens to be from a Volkswagen and costs $300 instead of $200 for the one for our Chrysler, but they use the same basic design. A piece of stamped sheet steel,

some plastic bits, and short length of steel cable.

The bottom edge of the window clips into the white carriage which rides up and down on the black track. The cable connects to the white bracket and runs around the two inch diameter pulley concealed in the triangular white plastic doo-dad. The motor, or crank handle, which ever you prefer, plugs into the center of the pulley.

You have to admire the simplicity of the design. Much easier to replace and install, assuming you know the little tricks needed to disengage the plastic do-hickeys. Very cheap to make. Can't be more than a couple of bucks in raw materials. Of course there is fair amount of work making the dies used to mold the plastic parts and stamp the steel ones. And then they turn around and sell it for $200.

The one we needed was only available from the dealer. If we had needed one for the front door, Mr. Heaton would have been able to get an aftermarket one, presumably for less money. I expect rear windows don't get used as much and so don't break as often, so there's not enough demand to make it worthwhile for someone besides the manufacturer to make them.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Dustbury's tale about the hail storm in OKC yesterday put me in mind of a hail storm in Austin when I lived there. Like the one yesterday in OKC, it was short and intense with golf ball size hail. The biggest impact was to automobiles. I had a Corvette at the time and it came through it unscathed, fiberglass body, you know. Our Ford Fairmont didn't do so well. It got dinged up enough that the insurance company cut us a fat check, but no so bad that we couldn't live with it.

The big show was when we went to the drive-in claim office. Zillions of battered cars there. I remember seeing one Z car that looked like it had been worked over by a crew with sledge hammers. The hood was so battered that the edges had become wavy and no longer mated with the rest of the body. The glass T-tops and windshield were totally cracked. I imagine that getting caught in the open in a storm like that could be fatal.

One Trillion Dollars, Again

Iaman reports:

Snippets from CSPAN interview with George Wilson, Defense Correspondent from the National Journal (yearly subscription rate is $1,160) this morning:
  • Defense spending this year including nuclear and VA benefits is $1 Trillion.
  • That is $1 Million per minute.
  • Defense spending is viewed by Congress as a job program
  • As such most programs are approved, even though .....
  • Pentagons Sec. of Defense, Robert Gates, wants to cut 5 major unwanted programs including the $1 Billion each Nuke Subs.
  • He can't, and probably will resign in disgust later this year.
  • US has 700 bases in 150 countries around the world, China has 0 in other countries.
Interesting Watchdog news source, citing Wilson's articles.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More Electrical

Headlight on the SUV burned out. The arrow points to the broken filament.

At the auto parts store they have four kinds of replacement bulbs: regular, super, duper, and extra crispy, each with their own color and fancy name. All made by Sylvania. I just wanted regular, you know, to match the one that's not burned out, but they don't have a package of just one of the regular bulbs. So do I buy a pair of the regular bulbs for $20 and have a spare on hand for the day sometime in the far distant future when the other bulb burns out and I have forgotten I have a spare and have to go buy another one anyway? Or do I buy I single super bulb for $14 and drive around with unbalanced headlights for the rest of my life? What a dilemma! I bought the standard package of two. I may be out $10, but I showed those marketing flacks that they can't fool me with their fancy talk and slick packages.

Update: September 30, 2010. The other headlight burned out and I replaced it with the bulb I had saved. I least I think it was the other headlight, maybe it was the same one. It was the left one this time, and the vehicle is our 2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Auburn Speedster

Driving home from the auto parts store this afternoon I spy this pair of antiques.

This one I took via my rear view mirror. That's why he's driving on the right. Came out pretty good if I do say so myself.

I am pretty sure it was genuine. He had 1935 Oregon license plate, black with yellow letters, and only five digits.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.


Broken phono plug
One of John's guitar cords flaked out. Nice long cable, but unreliable. I couldn't stand to throw away perfectly good wire, so I cut open a connector to see what went wrong. Looks like the wire to the outer sleeve of the plug was soldered with a butt joint, the sleeve twisted, the solder cracked and the joint failed. Now I have a 20 foot length of wire without any connectors. Click to embiggen.

You can see the broken solder joint just below the black plastic handle. The V cut into the handle reveals one half of the joint, and the blob of solder stuck to the shaft, just below the plastic handle and to the right of the V is the other half. Hold the shaft and you can twist the handle. Not good.
No Volts
Most of a volt
Thermopile on the gas fireplace failed. It only generates milli-volts, but I could have sworn it was enough to make the needle on my cheapo Radio Shack VOM move. It didn't, so I ordered a new one off of E-bay. Looking around on the net, gas fireplaces seem to be the only application for these things, and they apparently all use the same size. They generate 750 milli-volts, which is almost a volt and is certainly enough to make the needle on the volt meter move.
Homemade automatic fan switch
I wanted a thermal cutoff switch for the fan in the fireplace. The switch itself is available from Grainger and it's cheap enough (it's the round thing in the center top). The trick is mounting it. I made this box out of standard electrical wiring box parts and a pair of clamps from a ping pong net. I got a machinist I know to reverse the screw clamps in the brackets. Anyway, it fits in the air space underneath the fireplace and the screws in the clamps hold it up against the underside of the firebox. Works well. The wood screws are a kludge to hold the switch bracket in the box. Not what you would call kosher, but they work.
Casablanca Fan Control
The knob on the speed control for the ceiling fan broke, but they didn't have any the right size at Home Depot, so I got a big one. It works fine, but it makes it a little difficult to operate the lower knob to control the light. Casablance makes slide switches but they want $50.

Update November 2016 replaced missing pictures and added explanation to photo of phono jack.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I've been listening to The Kinks on YouTube lately. Superman and Sunny Afternoon are my two new favorites. Still like the old standards like Tired of Waiting, Set Me Free & Destroyer, which reminds me of the Offspring's Gotta Get Away.

Monkey Bars

The kids & I took a tour of the Oregon Primate Research Center this afternoon. It's always been here, it occasionally makes the news, I know a couple people who work there. I even know where it is, but I had never been.

PETA made a big stink about it a while back, and couple of the monkeys got loose last year and terrorized a terrier.

They had a couple of guards manning the gate when we arrived at the back end of line of cars, all presumably here for the tour as well. I don't know if you need to know someone to get a tour, but they want your names beforehand and they check ID's at the gate.

The tour wasn't what I expecting. I expected more touring and less lecturing. What we got was an hour and a half lecture in the auditorium, a stroll down the cell blocks and then a few minutes watching the inmates in the exercise yard. If I make it sound like a prison that's because it is exactly what it felt like: a Federally funded prison for monkeys. Cages are clean and well ventilated. The animals appear to be generally healthy and well fed. But they are locked up tight and they are not getting out. I saw several of the Japanese snow monkeys in the corral ("exercise yard") sitting on the ground facing the fence with their backs to the yard. I suspect they were looking out through small holes in the corrugated iron sheets that made up the fence.

I think their fight with PETA has made them sensitive to publicity, so they spent a lot of time explaining how well the animals were cared for, the hoops the researchers must jump through in order to get approval to perform any kind of experiment on an actual animal, including whether it is necessary, whether there are any possible alternatives and whether the research merits this action.

The animals are kept wild. I suspect that is for the researchers benefit more than the monkeys. You don't want people getting emotionally attached to someone they are going to subjecting to some kind of medical-research-related-unpleasantness.

They are working more closely with zoos these days on techniques to keep the animals happier, or as they put it, less stressed. Less stress means less problems all around.

In the lobby of the main building there were some posters on the wall. One was a copy of a magazine cover with the word CYTOMEGALOVIRUS printed across the top. Good grief! What a word! These people are dealing with some really complicated stuff here. The monkeys are just one tool they use to try and figure out how diseases work and how we might be able to combat them.

They have over 4,000 monkeys here. Monkeys only, no chimpanzees or higher primates. The cages we saw held maybe a thousand. Corral held one or two hundred. There were twelve cell blocks, each with 6 interconnected cages. Figure a dozen monkeys per cage works out to about 850. Only saw the 2 cages that were facing the visitors path. No telling how many monkeys were in the four cages that we couldn't see. There could have been a hundred in there having a big monkey party, or they could have been empty.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Car Alarm

Our 2001 Chrysler Sebring Sedan has a factory alarm that is nothing but a pain. No one ever bothers the car, but the alarm goes off at least once a year. It used to go off more often until we learned to walk like an Egyptian, which seems to keep the alarm gods pacified, at least most of the time. But boy, don't ever forget or they will make you regret it.

You know, if there were car thieves on the prowl, and cars were getting stolen left right and center, and there were some reason for the car alarm to go off, then maybe having car alarms would be justified. But the way it is, they are just one more reason to hate modern life. They contribute nothing but aggravation and cost a bunch of time and money.

The worst part is you can't disable them. An aftermarket alarm you can remove, but a modern factory alarm is integrated into the computer that runs the car. Pull it and nothing works. I am thinking the only way to deal with this is to:
  1. Disconnect the horn, which hardly ever gets used, or
  2. Run a separate, parallel horn circuit, which would be a big pain.
I think it is still possible to splice into the wiring harness and take control of the horn. Cars are still wired with separate wires for each light and switch. Time is not far off though when every electronic device in the car will have its' own microcontroller and control signals will be transmitted digitally to and from the central computer. Then you are going to be toast as far as doing any electrical work on your car unless you are willing to spend the big bucks to get the specialized test equipment necessary for this kind of work.

This kind of problem is only going to get worse in the future. Car manufacturers need to provide a method for permanent disabling non-essential features that no longer function properly. They want to be careful, because they don't want car thieves to find out how to disable the car alarm. Or so they say. I wonder if insurance companies even care if you have a car alarm or not?

I know some people are very attached to their cars and really want an alarm system protecting their precious baby. Maybe if we attached a $10K aggravation tax to car alarms, it would dissuade them from installing one. And if they installed one anyway, the $10K could be used to pay for an emergency foam truck that would be dispatched to dump a mound of sound deadening foam on the offending vehicle and protect it from theft and/or damage. Boy, what a good idea. Sometimes I even impress myself.

Flower for the Day

I must be getting soft in the head. This is second time I have posted a picture of a flower in less than a month. This one is in my front yard. We had the yard man pull out a couple of evergreen things (small trees? big bushes?) that were starting to crowd the front door and replace them with something else. While he was at it, he planted some other flowers and stuff in the beds in front of the house. This was a month or so ago. I walk by yesterday, like I do every day, and I noticed that he had planted roses! Huh, imagine that, roses in my yard. I think we had some rose bushes in our yard in Beaverton, but they were there when we moved in and I believe they survived our short tenure. This is the first time I have had anything to do with the planting of roses. They are kind of pretty. I guess. If I have to have an opinion. Hmmph. Roses.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr

The first three Bernie Gunther detective stories in one volume. I just finished the last one: A German Requiem. I don't quite know what to make of it. Too much stuff crammed into too small a box. We have Bernie being a smart mouth tough guy insulting people who you wouldn't think he should be insulting. We have post WWII Vienna under the control of the four powers (Britain, France, US & Russia), just like Berlin and Germany. The Berlin airlift starts while Bernie is in Vienna. We have intelligence agencies vying with the war crimes commission trying to get a hold of former Nazi's. In the one case to enlist their aid either for or against Russia or the Western allies, depending on who you are. In the other to arrest, try, convict and execute them. Lot's of people running around with guns with secret agendas and secret loyalties. It gets a little confused. But then we have two denouements where a couple of players explain to Bernie just what's going on. As if they would know, and as if they would explain it if they did. Wraps it all up in a neat-ish package, except that it leaves a lot of loose ends in the form of ex-Nazis disappearing.

And then there's the infamous getting-clobbered-from-behind-by-the-guy-he-didn't-know-was-there scene. I'm used to seeing it on TV, and I'm really tired of it. There are situations where it can happen, but when someone is on guard and has any sense, it doesn't. You might have a fight, or you might be struck down by a powerful blow, but you are not going to be taken unawares unless there are special circumstances. Anyway, that's the way I imagine it. It's never happened to me, so I don't really know. I could be all wet.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

“They are the lawn mower of the prairie. The biggest biomass consumers on the North American prairie are grasshoppers — not cattle, not bison, not antelope.” - Helmuth Rogg, entomologist for the Oregon Department of Agriculture
From a story on the front page of yesterday's Oregonian.

Sounds of Summer

I love the sound of a chorus of weedeaters in the morning. These guys come through once or twice a year. I imagine it's some kind of wetlands improvement project, though I am not sure just what they are trying to accomplish. I originally thought they were just trying to eradicate the blackberry bushes. Maybe this is what it takes to keep them at bay. They will take over the world eventually, but as long as we can hire guys with weedeaters they won't take over our little swamp!

Toilet Repair, Again

How many times have I had to repair this toilet? Let me count the ways:
  1. Flapper valve failed
  2. Wet floor
  3. Broken handle
This time it was a leak. On the supply side, fortunately. Re-tightened all the fittings. No help. The water is coming right from where the fill valve goes through the bottom of the tank. The fill line and it's fittings are dry, but the bottom of the tank is wet. Pull the fill valve and inspect it. No apparent problems. Hook it all up again and turn on the water and, yes, we still have a leak. Must be an invisible crack in the stupid plastic fill valve. This has happened to me once before. I suspect we have higher than normal water pressure here. It was 90 PSI when we moved in, and it is apparently just as strong now.

Video of leak. You can see a drop of water appear on the threads in the first few seconds of the clip. After that it just slowly gets bigger. I was lucky, I was looking right at it the first time I tried to capture this.

Toilet fill valve leak

Crack visible when pipe is stressed.

Picture of fill valve at rest. You can see where the crack is. This wasn't visible before I put pressure on it.
The broken handle (#3 on the list) wasn't a big problem, just annoying, since I had already replaced the handle once. This time it just fell off. I drilled a hole in it, put some glue on it, and screwed it back into place. So far, so good.

The wet floor (#2) was a big friggin' disaster. One day I look down I notice the floor is awash. What's going on?!?! Pull the toilet, pull up the water logged, fancy pressboard tiles, which requires cutting them. No obvious problem with the toilet. There is a water trail from the corner of the room to the toilet. This is in the basement against an outside wall where I have been having drainage problems. So, is the water coming from the toilet, and flowing to the wall? Or is it coming from the wall and flowing to the toilet?

I put the toilet back and leave the torn up floor as is. For a while. Six months or a year. No evidence of water. Call the fix it man to fix the tile floor. When he goes to replace the toilet, he tells me the base is too low. This time he puts in two wax gaskets. So far so good.

Seems the plumber didn't allow for the 3/8" for the fancy pressboard tiles. Didn't know at the time. The guy who installed the tile didn't do anything about it either. I guess this is why you hire a general contractor for these kind of jobs. That way you have someone to yell at when things go haywire. As it is, it's probably been ten years since the floor was put in, so not perfect, but not bad.

Bonus: I'm disassembling the old fill valve the better to stuff it in the trash can and I notice that the float arm is apparently solid brass. Score!

Note: The new fill valve cost all of $7.50, is made of plastic and is assembled in Mexico. Doesn't say where the parts are made, but the big surprise is that it wasn't made in China.

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


My wife sent me this. Ms. Makkai obviously has some strong opinions about the subject. Unfortunately people are basically animals, and umpteen zillion years of evolution has made us what we are. We can bend, shape, mold ourselves with education, but what do we teach? Perhaps we can give people enough self-confidence to trust their own judgement, and teach them enough discipline to be able to figure out what they want.

I like pretty girls. I am attracted to them. They are very pleasant to watch. But I don't think I've ever had a girlfriend just because she was pretty. Matter of fact, I don't think I've ever had a girlfriend who was a complete doll, except my wife of course. Even after she sent me this I wouldn't want her to think I didn't think she is beautiful. Geez, how twisted is that?

Anyway, there is the old line about how for a woman, "your face is your fortune". For some women, fortune is important, and there are also some women whose beauty is their biggest asset. So I can excuse them for focusing attention on their assets in order to secure their position.

Anyway, somewhere along the way people figured out that a picture of a woman was almost as good as the real thing, and then technology gave us mass production of images, so everyone had access to pictures of "pretty women". And then there's the whole social dynamic. If that's what all your friends do, and nobody does anything different, then that's what you do too. I suspect this force might be a little stronger for women than men, but then I'm a suspicious kind of guy.

Note on "Ms.": I don't like Ms., it has no bearing on it's pronunciation, for which I always say "Miz". Of course Mr. has no relation to it's pronunciation either, but it is an abbreviation for mister, which is pronounced just like it's spelled. Too late now, but maybe we should have used "sister" instead of miz for women, then it could have been abbreviated Sr. Oh, that one's already been taken. Never mind.


Snigs reports on administering Phenergan, aka Promethazine. Snigs doesn't seem to be too happy about it, so I go look it up. It seems to be an anti-histamine, which interests me as I have allergies and anti-histamines are often used to combat the symptoms thereof. But it has more applications than just allergies. Matter of fact, treating allergies is a secondary use. It seems to be a very powerful drug. And then there is this bullet point, which just makes me wonder which way is up:
  • Also used to potentiate any opiates. . . . Also frequently used in conjunction with codeine, in a syrup form. The combination leads to more powerful euphoric effects than with codeine alone.
I thought opiates were used to relieve pain, at least in a medical setting. Does euphoria counteract pain? What if it doesn't? Could you be blissfully happy and suffering from intense pain simultaneously? "Yeah, it hurts like the devil, doc, but you know, I don't mind."

It also carries a Black box warning. Funny, there's no link to the article, so I look it up, and find:
In the United States, a black box warning (also sometimes called a black label warning or boxed warning) is a type of warning that appears on the package insert for prescription drugs that may cause serious adverse effects.
Let me see if I've got that straight. A black box warning is a type of warning that may cause serious side effects?

Quote of the Day

Regarding the Sbarro motorcycle with hubless wheels:
It'd be so awesome to troll slowly down main street on that bike with a brace of trained poodles running alongside and hopping through your wheels. Especially if your wheels were on fire. And there was a midget in a clown suit yelling "Verboten!- Queen Tam.
Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quote of the Day

“I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Most often two of these qualities come together. The officers who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Those who are stupid and lazy make up around 90% of every army in the world, and they can be used for routine work. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!”

- General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

Found on War and Game.

Playscape from Outer Space

Spotted this at Dickinson City Park in SW Portland the other day. These things are getting more bizarre every year.

Update March 2016. Replace missing picture.

Spider for the Day

This is one of those cool little jumping spiders. He's maybe a quarter inch across. I spotted him outside the front door. I'm not really happy with the photo. It is not as clear as I would like. There seems to be a limit to how close I can get with my camera, even when it is set to close-up mode, and that limit seems to be around 8 or 9 inches. Any closer and it just can't focus. Maybe Santa will bring me a close up camera for Christmas.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Blue Birds

Saw these two in my backyard. Western scrub jays, according to They don't seem as obnoxious as regular jays, but maybe they just haven't found anyone to pick on yet. I thought these were worth noticing because they were blue, and I don't think I've ever seen a bluebird, except for blue jays, and they are not quite the same thing. I'm thinking "bluebird of happiness", the antithesis of blue jays.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Now that's some manly climate-warming science

Just for fun, though I suppose the acceleration of the second stage could be considered marginally educational.

Mythbusters Rocket Car Pancake

Don sent me this, and supplied the title as well. This clip obviously proves that Adam & Jamie are responsible for climate warming, doesn't it? I mean, isn't that what it's supposed to prove?

Update February 2017 replaced missing video.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kathryn's India Reading List

Fluke by Christopher More. Funny. Also Lamb and The Last Lizard of Melancholy Cove.
A Million Little Pieces
Poisonwood Bible
Pride & Predjudice & Zombies
Water For Elephants, good story.
The Alchemist, alright.
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao
Life of Pi, boring until the very end.
The Hobbit.
City of Joy, dense, took forever to read.
Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins. Also Another Roadside Attraction, clever, weird, funny.


Dick Dale Misirlou

I'm out wandering around on the net and I stumble across Peter from Family Guy dancing to "Surfin' Bird" (Everybody knows that the bird is the word) by the Trashmen. I know the song, but I don't remember the Trashmen. What else did they do? Misirlou which I recognize from the first bar as being from one of Quentin's movies. At first I thought Kill Bill, but no, it's from Pulp Fiction. The song even has words, which were sung by Anna Vissi at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, which is fitting, because it's a Greek song. You need to turn the volume up to eleven for this song.

Update March 2019 added caption to video.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Daring daughter forwarded this to me. It was written by one of the leaders of her African expedition. That was last fall.

Adopted by the Maasai

A bumpy dirt road led us away from the two-lane highway. We were in northern Tanzania in the lands of the Maasai and bomas, clusters of earthen homes, protected by circular fences of vicious thorn bushes, flanked the road.

After a few dusty miles, we arrived at the boma of our host, Mzee, and our home for the next two weeks. The night we arrived, Mzee’s wife had a baby. I had seen her earlier that evening, tending to the herds. She was thin and severe, with a small pregnant belly. I never would have expected that later that night, with the help of local women, she would give birth to a perfect baby girl.

Starting at around 6 years old, young boys become responsible for tending to the herds while they graze

The boma at sunset

During my time in East Africa I had learned a few things about interacting with people. For one, when you’re speaking in the lingua franca of Swahili, people appreciate being called by their title, instead of or in addition to their name. It is a sign of respect and familiarity. As a young woman, I would call other young women Dada (sister), men my own age or younger Kaka (brother), older women Mama and older men that I wanted to establish a friendly repartee with, Baba (father). Mzee, how we referred to our host, literally means “respected elder.” I also learned that when you meet an elder you should say, “Shikamoo” to show them proper respect.

The next morning an elderly woman was standing with Mzee. Beautifully adorned with the beadwork and earrings that all Maasai wear, she had fiery eyes that made me like her immediately. I greeted her as respectfully as I knew how, saying, “Shikamoo, Mama.” She smiled at me broadly, and we attempted a few difficult exchanges, using a mixture of the meager Kiswahili I was learning, gestures, and her rapid fire Kimaasai. Mzee helped with the translation. She was Mzee’s mother. Apparently, she took a liking to me as well and decided that I should come and hold the newborn baby. I began to call her Yeyo, which I was told means “grandmother”. Yeyo brought me to the small house on the other side of the boma, smiled and gestured me inside.

The modest room, walled with earth, was dim, light softly filtering in through a small window. A cooking fire with three hearthstones burned in the middle of the cramped space. I carefully moved between the fire and two beds made of stretched hide to where Yeyo pointed for me to sit down, pantomiming holding a baby. As I sat down I saw Mzee’s wife lounging in the shadows on that same hide bed. She smiled, pulled a perfect baby girl from her breast and handed her over to me, a complete stranger whose name she didn’t even know.

Mzee's daughter two days after she was born

Every day, Yeyo would approach me, signal that it was time for me to hold the baby and wait for me to drop whatever I was doing.
I would wash my hands and follow her to the little wattle and daub house into the darkness.
I still don’t understand why she came to me that way each day, but I do know that it was an honor.

Yeyo (right) and her granddaughter (left) hold gourds that are traditionally used by the Maasai to carry food while tending to the grazing herds

One afternoon I was walking with Yeyo. Through our comedic combination of hand-signals and broken Kiswahili, she said, “That house right there. You can live there. You can come and work as Mwalimu (teacher) at the school. I will find you a good man, dress you in pretty clothes and jewelry, and cut off all you hair.” She had accepted me. I could stay. But I couldn’t.

Britt standing with Maasai women in the boma after Yeyo decided to dress her up as a Maasai mama

I romanticized the traditional life of the Maasai, with the simple rhythms of daily life, the rich sense of community, and the freedom from the chaotic pace and demands of life back home, but I had to realize that I could never really be at home here.

I knew Yeyo didn’t really understand. Often, when we travel and immerse ourselves in the lives of other cultures, the people welcome us warmly, though they usually don’t quite understand why we came, and much less, why we leave.

The women from nearby bomas gather to dance to celebrate the birth of the new baby

I thanked Yeyo profusely and tried my best to explain that I couldn’t stay.
She said, “Okay, when the baby is this high, maybe you come live here then.” She unwound a copper bracelet from her wrist and, tang my hand, wrapped it around mine. I haven’t taken it off since. It stays as a reminder of the choices we have, the different realities we all live in, and Mzee’s little daughter, right now strapped to her mother’s back, as she is calling in the herd.

Enjoy the day!


Connecting the world and empowering people through image, story, and whole-systems thinking.

Britt Basel is a photographer and travel writer focusing on cultural and environmental sustainability. She leads expeditions and teaches photography for National Geographic Student Expeditions and leads university semesters abroad for Carpe Diem International Education. She privately mentors photographers wanting to learn how to better express a story through image and consults with a variety of entrepreneurial and humanitarian projects, both domestically and internationally, on whole-systems strategy.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Indian Feet

Darling daughter returned from three months in Northern India this evening. Looks like she's been consulting with one of my competitors, in other words, another witch doctor.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Job of the Week

So I'm looking through the Iraq job listings and I come across one for a LOX technician for a C-130 aircraft, which doesn't make any sense to me. Why would you be using LOX (Liquid Oxygen) on a propeller driven airplane? The only place I have ever heard of LOX being used is in rocketships and in the lab.

Senior Airman Sherman Roberts loads liquid oxygen into a C-130 Hercules at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25, 2006.
It seems that the Hercules C-130 uses LOX to supply breathing oxygen for the crew during high altitude flights. The aircraft can be pressurized, but for air drops of personnel (paratroops) or equipment, you need to open the door, which means no pressurization. The pressurization load on the rear cargo door must be tremendous.

From Section1.doc:


The liquid oxygen (LOX) system provides a 25-liter oxygen supply for aircrew/personnel usage for a minimum of 96 man-hours. The system converts LOX to gaseous oxygen, and delivers that gas to the regulators at 300 psi. The regulators in turn dilute the oxygen as required according to cabin altitude in NORMAL, or 100% oxygen if selected.


The LOX converter is located inside the nose wheel well on the right side; it is the device that converts LOX to gaseous oxygen. A LOX filler valve located on right side of fuselage nose, providing means to service the system. There is also a LOX vent located to the right and above the nose wheel well that relieves the pressure accumulated in the converter. This vent is not labeled on many aircraft and since the LOX could be vented at any time, never enter the nose wheel well from the right side.

I like that warning in the last sentence: LOX can be vented at any time. Yeah, I don't think you want to be there when that happens. You're liable to get a case of frostbite you'll never forget.

This airplane was developed in the early 50's, and maybe LOX made some kind of sense back then. A replacement system has been developed, but it may be a while before it replaces this cold war relic.

While I'm poking around digging up all this wonderful info, I come across this, and it makes it all worthwhile:

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Automatic Revolver

Webley-Fosbery 1937

I was out wandering around on the internet and I stumbled across a mention of the Webley-Fosbury revolver. I had heard of Webley's before, but I didn't recall exactly what Fosbery had to do with it, so I went a-looking and I came across a post on Analog Periphery [dead], which not only had a picture of the Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver, but also had a picture of a more recent automatic revolver, the Mateba Unica Model 6,

Mateba Unica Model 6
and best of all a picture of the gun Harrison Ford used in Blade Runner.

Blade Runner Blaster
Decker's blaster is the coolest one of them all, but then I'm a sucker for most anything Science Fiction-ish.

An automatic revolver uses the recoil from firing to advance the cylinder and cock the hammer. They are kind of kin to the steam turbine locomotive: a mechanical experiment that was never a real practical success.

Update September 2016 replaced missing pictures, noted dead link.

Steam Turbine Locomotive

I stopped by Jack's house after lunch today and noticed he had an old Lionel steam locomotive sitting in a display case. I didn't think much about it, I mean lots of people had Lionel trains when they were kids, and some of them held onto them. I had a diesel, long gone, and Jack had a steam engine. That's all fine and well until he tells me that it is a model of a steam turbine powered locomotive.

What!?!?! I've heard of steam turbines being used to power ships and electrical power generators. I've heard of gas turbines being used for almost anything, including Jay Leno's motorcycle. But I have never heard of a steam turbine powered railroad locomotive. I was shocked, I tell you.

The modern steam turbine has been with us for over 100 years. It seems there were numerous attempts to build a practical steam turbine powered locomotive during the first half of the 20th century. Only a few could be considered a practical success. The picture is of an American steam turbine powered locomotive. Note that it uses the same large size driving wheels as a conventional steam powered locomotive, and in fact uses the same kind of connecting rods to link the driving wheels together. However, there is no piston and cylinder. The round thing in the middle of the side, right above the drive wheels, is the turbine housing.

Update 2016 replaced missing picture.

Nashville Flood

I thought the colors in this photo were exceptional.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Quote of the Day

Massive flooding in West/Central Tennessee. 26th most-populous U.S. city hammered. Interstate highways, the conduits of commerce, washed out. At least 15 dead. And... Ooh! Look! Barry's going to look at oily seagulls!

The inference we can clearly draw from this is that George Bush hates black people.
The Queen of Snark strikes again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mystery Flower

My wife spotted this flower at CPR (Cornelius Pass Roadhouse) the other day. Funny looking, er, pretty, isn't it? Neither of us recognized it. Maybe you know what it is.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture, added acronym definition.


I came upstairs from the basement the other day and I thought I caught a whiff of smoke. The same thing happened the next day. One of my son's friends left a cigar wrapper in the car the other day, so I asked my son if he had been smoking. I didn't specify what. He denied it. Now the light over the basement stair burns out. It's one of those circular fluorescents. so I stop by Freddies (the local mega-mart) to pick one up. 30 Watts, 3000 Lumens, $5, and it comes in one of those sealed until dooms-day plastic packages, the ones you need a chainsaw to open, or at least at stout pair of scissors.

I open up the fixture, and look what I find:

Notice the bar across the center of the fixture. Notice the nice round hook at the right end of the bar. Notice the melted stub at the left end of the bar. As it's last act in this house, the bulb had gotten hot enough to melt the hook into oblivion. It even put a dent in the cover.

It's kind of hard to see in this picture, but it's a slightly darker spot around the 4 o'clock position.

Of course, this doesn't prove Junior wasn't smoking, but at it does provide an alternate theory for the whiffs of smoke I detected.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

La-Z-Boy Repair

Something broke in the innards of the lazy boy a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't serious, it just wouldn't lock in the reclined position. It would continue to rock, which made it kind of an interesting experience for my inner six year old. I finally turned it over to find out what was wrong and I found a piece of piano wire that had connected the control rod to the anti-rocking latch. The end that connects to the latch appeared to have worn through. This recliner is old enough that it has the lifetime warranty on the mechanicals, which they stopped giving out umpteen years ago. I got it repaired once under warranty when the wooden base broke. I suppose I could have hauled the chair down to the store and had it repaired under warranty, but I figured I could replace the piano wire myself with a lot less effort, and so I did. Cost me 60 cents at the hobby shop for a piece of piano wire, and one Band-aid for the little hole I poked in my finger while I was vacuuming out the underside of the chair.

Underside of La-Z-Boy recliner showing location of control wire
The yellow line parallels the piano wire and the red arrows point to the attachment points. The original piece was bent in an arc. I was able to duplicate that by coiling about a foot of the wire into a circle about three inches in diameter.

Update November 2016 replaced missing picture.