Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2001 Chrysler Sebring Water Inlet

Car-car started getting hot and steaming. I had dealt with the cooling system before. I would have tackled this repair myself except that I have not figured out a simple, easy way to bleed the cooling system. Last time I ended up getting sprayed with coolant and I wasn't eager to repeat the process. Take it to the shop.

Picked it up this afternoon. $200. Seems the water inlet housing on top of the motor had cracked. It's not a very big piece, maybe the size of your fist. It's made of plastic and it cracked, a common occurance according to my mechanic. It's a dealer-only item and it costs a hundred bucks, which is beyond ridiculous, except that it comes with a sensor. Oh, that makes it alright them. <begin sarcasm> Right. <end sarcasm>

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nuke the Oil Spill?

A long time ago there was some concern when the Red Chinese got the bomb, as in nuclear. Not to worry, because even if they have the bomb, they have no way to deliver it: they don't have a missile that could do the job. But they don't need a missile, they could just ship it over as cargo and no one would find out until it was too late. Or they could just take it down to the Gulf of Mexico and drop it over the side, let it sink to the bottom and then detonate it. When it went off it would send a tidal way 200 miles inland on Gulf Coast of the US.

And now we want to use a nuke to try to and stop the BP oil leak in the Gulf. Hmm. Wonder if that is such a good idea. Of course, this is all just rumor and speculation. I guess we will just have to wait and see if any facts emerge.

The New Jim Crow

I just read a column by Leonard Pitts Jr. in our local paper, which prompted me to start writing this. At first I thought it was a column by William Raspberry, but then Wikipedia points out that William retired in 2005. So I got them confused. They are both black, and their columns sometimes show up on the opinion page.

Anyway, today's column (Google found it here) is about how the justice system is effectively persecuting blacks. The civil war was, what? 150 years ago. Since then there have been several landmark bits of legislation that have attempted to make blacks equal with whites. I suppose the last one was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I am beginning to wonder if we are fighting a loosing battle against human nature.

I like to think that I am not a racist, but then I live in an all white suburb in all white city in an all white state. I would have to go pretty far out of my way to discriminate against a black person. Now there are some things that are associated with blacks that I don't like (that whole gangsta / hip-hop thing mostly), but there are also things that are associated with whites that I don't like (opera, symphonies, art museums). Mostly I don't discriminate based on color. I mostly like people I know, and don't like people I don't know, never mind what color they are.

America is founded on certain principles, and they have served us very well. Well, most of us anyway. Some blacks have been able to succeed in our society, but apparently most haven't. Every time you turn around some one has uncovered another concerted effort to screw the black man. So I am beginning to wonder if we aren't trying to push big a rock up a hill, and the rock just doesn't want to go. Maybe it would be better if we were separated.

Then again, part of human nature is to wage war on our neighbors. The biggest sport among the South Seas Islanders was attacking neighboring tribes. Same with American Indians. Western Europeans did the same thing, but they did it on a bigger scale, and we made up some speeches full of fine words to justify it. We weren't simply slaughtering our neighbors, we were showing them the light, or the error of their ways, or more likely, eliminating heretical vermin from the earth.

So maybe we just don't have enough outlets for violence, especially for the police, who are trained in all sorts of violent techniques, but then are told never to use them unless circumstances warrant, and then they are supposed to pull these techniques out and dispense violence at a moments notice. Maybe that's why we still have laws against drugs. It provides an excuse to wage war on your neighbors. But we have a rule that lets people be excused from playing. If you aren't dealing drugs, we aren't going to bother you, but if you are, you are fair game. And if you hang with people who deal drugs, well, hey, we thought he was a dealer, that's why we shot him.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top Gear - Bugatti Veyron

Top Gear must be my kind of show. I can sit and watch the whole thing all by myself, something that I cannot say for most of what is on TV. Today I watched an episode about the Bugatti Veyron, possibly one of the most amazing/wonderful/ridiculous cars ever built. I mean they took the Bugatti name, shoot they didn't just take it, they had to dig it up from a French graveyard and now they've stuck it on a car designed and built by Germans. They even stuck a character of the original Bugatti radiator grill on the front of the car. Why? Is it supposed to make it look like a Bugatti? But never mind all that, it's just me frothing at mouth, and it doesn't have anything to do with the car itself. The car itself, hmm, well, it's something else for sure. Based on it's price and performance you could call it ridiculous. I mean, where are you going to drive something like that? I suppose you could build a private road from your beach house to your mountain chateau or something. Then you might make good use of it.

On the other hand it is quite a feat of engineering. If you can find the right road, it can go 250 MPH, and it does it smoothly and comfortably. At that speed tires will last 15 minutes, and fuel will last 12. 12 minutes at 4 miles a minute will get you 50 miles down the road. That is pretty impressive. I'm thinking with that kind fuel economy, maybe a jet engine would be a better deal. Tires might last a little longer, too. Kind of rough on those following you around town though.

Let's just think about this for a minute. 250 MPH. LA to NY is 2500 miles. At 250 MPH you could be there in 10 hours, and no hassles with the airlines or terminals. Of course you would need an adequate road, and you would need to do something about fuel. But think of it. Just get in your car and drive. I could be in Seattle in 35 minutes. SF would only be about 3 hours. Of course, if you could afford this car, you could afford to hire a private jet to take you where you want to go.

My Aunt Margaret

I came across this while filing some pictures.
This is from a long time ago, probably in the 1940's.
She lived in New Mexico for most of her life.
First in Los Alamos, and then in Albequerque.
She passed away in October of last year.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


As usual, the only significance of this dream was the level of detail and how much I remembered.

I was at my dad's house, a white clapboard bungalow with a detached single car garage in back. He had some kind of work surface, just an old board maybe two feet by three that had a piece of Formica on it. The Formica was held on by a single stove bolt in one corner, and it had come loose. The screw goes in through the Formica and comes out in a slot cut in the end of the board. The board has been around, the opening to the slot is well chewed. Getting the nut onto the end of the screw is no problem and it tightens up okay, except for that last little bit. It just won't snug up. I need a wrench, so I ask my Dad. He gets a screwdriver (I was using the screwdriver blade in my pocketknife) and a wrench. He puts the screw between his teeth in the side of his mouth and applies the wrench to the nut in the slot in the board. I apply the screwdriver to the screw he's holding in his teeth. Everything goes well until we get to that same point I was at before. There must be a burr or something on the screw and it is going to take some torque to get past it. I put my other hand on the screwdriver blade near Dad's mouth so that if it slips off the screw I won't jam the screwdriver all the way through his mouth. (Yes, I know, it doesn't make any sense. It was a dream. What do you expect?)

Now my mom shows up. She's going out and I ask her how long she is going to be gone. As usual I cannot get a straight answer from her. It's going to be few minutes, a couple of hours, five or six hours, what difference does it make? It makes a difference to me, I want to know whether I should wait, or whether I should just go now.

Don't you just love Looney Tunes?

Friday, June 25, 2010

1952 Chevrolet Pickup Truck

1952 Chevrolet Pickup Truck

Mine looked something like this (if you squinted your eyes). Mine had numerous flaws, but this gives you an idea.

I found this disaster when I was living in Houston many years ago, probably around 1975. I needed a cheap car and I found this thing advertised for $400. It was night when I went to look at it. The six cylinder motor was knocking. It had new red paint and good, late model bucket seats. I talked it over with my girlfriend at the time, but she didn't have a clue. I may have known something about mechanics, but I sure didn't know what the heck I was doing. I bought it. It must have been in a flood. The entire floor of the cab was rusted out, and the wood in the bed was half gone. The engine was a GMC 270 straight six that someone had transplanted into this vehicle. I pulled the engine and rebuilt it in the single car garage attached to our rental house. I think it must have cost me close to $600 in parts and machine shop work.

One of the first things to do when reassembling the engine was to put new freeze plugs in. These are little sheet metal cups that are a press fit in holes in the side of the block. The idea is that if someone doesn't put anti-freeze in the coolant, and the engine coolant ever freezes, the expansion of the ice will force these plugs out and save the block from cracking. The auto parts store didn't have the right size freeze plugs. They were some weird size like 1 21/32", only used on this particular engine. I didn't have time for this. I got the next size up, put a punch in the center, and beat on them until they were cone shaped and the diameter had shrunk enough for them to fit. What a pain.

I was trying to be methodical when I put it together. I even went to the trouble to plasti-gauge the main bearings on the crankshaft. This is a somewhat involved procedure:
  • guess-timate the amount of clearance there should be,
  • obtain the correct size of plasti-gauge,
  • cut a length of plasti-gauge slightly shorter than the length of the bearing journal (not the diameter),
  • assemble the bearing and cap,
  • torque down the bolts to their specified values,
  • take the bearing back apart, and
  • compare the width of the now smushed plasti-guage to the chart on the package.
They were all a little on the close side. Now what do I do? I hadn't thought this far ahead. Well, phooey, I'll just bolt it together anyway.

Got the piston, rings, connecting rods and bearings all assembled. Now for the head. Everything goes well until I try to torque down the last head bolt. It's stripped. Great. That's just great. Pull all ninety zillion head bolts back out. Lift the hundred ton cast iron cylinder head off. Go to the auto parts store and spend another $20 for helicoil kit. Drill out the hole. Retap it with the special heli-coil tap. Screw the magic helicoil into the newly rethreaded hole. Put it all back together again. I suspect I used my new head gasket a second time, even though proper protocol says otherwise.


Cutaway of Helicoil installed in an aluminum casting

Helicoil Kit

Get down to the very end, and I have two bolts left over that screw into two holes at the bottom of the timing chain cover. Problem is, they don't hold anything together. The threads are in the cover itself. The holes behind the cover have no threads. I already had the oil pan on or I might have figured out what the problem was. As it was I left it, and it leaked, which was no big deal. All of my vehicles had always leaked. It was just a fact of life. It wasn't until a couple of years later that I figured out that the bolts were supposed to be inserted in their holes from inside the engine. The clear holes were in the front main bearing cap. The bolts went through these holes and screwed into the special tapped holes in the timing chain cover and pulled the bottom of the timing chain cover up against the front main bearing. Once I did that, which required removing the oil pan, the leak stopped. Huh, imagine that.

After I got done putting this monster back together, I painted the whole thing Caterpillar yellow. It was sort of impressive, if you are impressed by that sort of thing. I also hooked it up and ran it while it was sitting there in the garage. Just to make sure that it was going to work, you know. Here's a picture of a real Caterpillar engine, so you can get some idea of what it looked like. Getting the right shade of yellow on a computer monitor is a bit of a trick. I think this one is pretty close, at least on my screen. 

Caterpillar Engine

This page has some good illustrations of old Chevrolet 6 cylinder engines, both external, exploded views. They are very similar to my GMC engine.

Eventually got it back in the truck and got it running, which was great, for about three minutes. I figure that's how long it lasted before something else failed. I ended up replacing or repairing the:
  • wiring
  • transmission
  • rear wheel bearings
  • front wheel bearings
  • steering joints
  • tires
  • front springs
  • support frame for seats
I think I must have had to do something about the brakes because at one point I was having to fill the master cylinder with brake fluid every day. I left work one day in Austin and didn't have to use my brakes until I came to a stop sign at a major street and then I suddenly discovered I didn't have any brakes. That was exciting. I managed to slow down enough to make a right hand turn onto the street. Fortunately there were no cars coming. Eventually I was able to pull off the road and come to a stop. I must have fixed it because I kept driving it. I am pretty sure it wasn't the master cylinder. The master cylinder is mounted on the frame underneath the drivers feet. Crawling underneath wasn't a problem, it's a pickup truck after all, put the whole thing was completely corroded. Getting it apart would have been short work for a cutting torch, but I didn't have one of those. But evidently the master cylinder, in spite of being really ugly, wasn't the problem, because I didn't have to touch it.

The transmission was another learning experience. The first problem was the column shifter, never great to start with, it was completely hosed by the time it came to me. Fine, replace it with a floor shifter. The floor of the cab has plenty of holes, one more isn't going to make any difference. That worked for a bit, but then it started popping out of third gear. So I dropped the transmission and took it down to the junkyard to get a different one. Got one and put it in, and, great. This one pops out of first gear. Well, that sucks, but we can live with it for a bit. At least this stays in gear on the road.

I took both of them apart and reassembled them a couple of times, looking for something wrong, but never could find anything. I got to be pretty good at it. Manual transmissions are relatively easy, except for this one bearing in very center of things. It is an uncaged roller bearing, meaning the rollers are just in there loose. They are just enough to completely fill the space so they hold each other in alignment, so to speak. When you pull it apart these rollers fall out all over the bottom of the transmission. Putting it back together is a bit of a trick. The loose roller bearings that ride in a cup in the aft end of the input shaft and on the forward end of the output shaft. The trick is to pack rollers into the cup in the input shaft using really thick grease. The grease holds them in place while you slide the input shaft into position.
The problem with these transmissions was that the corners of the engaging teeth were just too worn. If I had both of them I could have probably made one good one, but I had to leave mine with them or pay the core charge. I never found out just what that was.

A year of two later I glommed onto a four speed from a friend who had an old Chevy that died. I took it to a shop and asked them to swap it out. I fully expected them to have to cut the driveshaft and weld it and balance it and all sorts of mystical stuff, but they just bolted it in. The U joint didn't even fit the yoke on the axle, they just tightened up the caps until it was secure. I was surprised. It worked fine.

This truck had a rear bumper made out of an old roadgrader blade edge. I needed a trailer hitch at some point, so I got an 18" long piece of 6" angle and welded it to the vertical face of the bumper. Some old geezer told me it wasn't going to work, the grader blade was hardened steel and would snap when I put a load on it. Yeah, sure, old man. Turns out he was right. Fortunately it didn't turn into a disaster, just another minor annoyance in everyday life.

Update: a couple of items I forgot that show just how old this truck was.

Timken Tapered Roller Bearing

Ball bearings in the front wheels. I wasn't long after this that everyone had changed over to Timken tapered roller bearings. The rear axle used rollers, but the front still had ball bearings.

Single Leading Shoe Drum Brake
Single leading shoe brakes. It would be decades before disc brakes became standard, but I thought all drum brakes had always been double leading shoe. With drum brakes, if the actuator pushes the shoe in the direction of rotation, then there is a kind of wedging action that makes the brake more effective. Going in the opposite direction you do not have this advantage. The brake had fixed pivots for the shoes at the bottom, so only one brake shoe got this mechanical advantage. Not long after this, the fixed pivots were replaced with a floating link, so both shoes were pushed in the direction of rotation.
Worm and Sector Steering Box

I suspect the steering gear was a simple worm and sector (above), not the fancy recirculating ball (below) that was the standard for a long time before rack and pinion took over.
Worm and Nut Steering Box

Update July 2015: Replaced original with copy from Google Drive that still had pictures.
Update November 2016 replaced missing pictures.
Update January 2022 replaced missing pictures.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Evils of Efficiency

California Bob reports:

My sister-in-law was shopping for a protective gel case for her new kindle. She got frustrated looking at eBay where there are 1,000 gel cases of varying vague descriptions, of unknown quality, ranging in price from from $3 to $5.

My reaction of course was: it's only $3, just try one.

Then I realized I go through the same thing. I dropped my car off at a garage and learned -- too late -- that their shop fee was $120 an hour -- well above other garages at $85. I spent all afternoon gashing my teeth and rending my clothing over this disastrous setback.

And in shopping generally, I get mired in the cost comparison process, often over negligible amounts.

And I noticed, in my currently evolving situation, couch surfing at the in-laws and trying to move into a strange strange house, I am hyper-sensitive to tiny details. I see trash on the street outside my house, for example, and attach all sorts of preposterous interpretations -- "this potato chip bag portends the deterioration of my property value -- I'm headed for bankruptcy."

Clearly outside of my control, clearly absurd.

Anyway it suggests to me that focusing on efficiency may be fine in a limited context where you can control things. But the world is hugely inefficient and wildly random, and you need a mental toughness, or more accurately, a pragmatic detachment to preserve your peace of mind. Pinning your satisfaction on efficiency, in an imperfect world or in a situation where you lack total control, can lead to disappointment.

So perhaps what we've been taught to dismiss as lazy apathy, is actually a necessary tool for "allocating your involvement."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Ross & I went to see Exit Through The Gift Shop at the Fox Tower in downtown Portland this evening. Expensive as movies go, but darn well worth it. It's just crazy. As a project it started out being a documentary about Banksy, but then Banksy turned it into a documentary about the file maker: Thierry Guetta. The last half of the film is about the one man(iac) show he put on in LA. There's one line near the end of the movie where a guy is trying to sum up the story by saying the joke is on this person, or that group, but ends up saying "I don't know if there is a joke". Update: here's a review I like.

To give you some idea about Banksy: he printed up a million quid worth of monopoly money. It looked just like a British pound note, but it had a picture of Princess Di on it and she's rolling her eyes. He started passing the stuff out at a festival and people took them as real money and spent them as real money and nobody noticed the wrong picture at all. So now he's stuck with it because if it gets out, he'll be arrested for counterfeiting and likely end up in jail.


California has so many prisons and so many guards that the guards have some political clout when it comes to elections. When the Taliban first took over Afghanistan after they kicked the Soviets out, opium production dropped to zero. Then we (the US) went in and opium production resumed at it's previous levels. Supposedly it is being done by Taliban, presumably to pay for the war they are fighting with us.

Mexico's war on drugs is beginning to look like a civil war with 23,000 dead last year. Arizona has apparently usurped Texas as the hot bed of smuggling activity and the related violence, or at least press coverage of it has. Who knows? Florida may still be at the top of the heap in smuggling activity.

Half the states allow marijuana for medical purposes, but the Feds still consider it an illegal substance. Things are really screwed up.

I wonder what is going to happen. It seems to me that the logical course of action would be to eliminate all the prohibitions on drugs, that is, make them legal. But that's what I thought 30 years ago, and it hasn't happened. I wish I knew what it would take to make it happen.

If nothing changes on the legal side, what is in store for us? More wars, more bodies and more violence, I expect. Some Central or South American country could throw in the towel, or be taken over by a drug cartel, and that could lead to one after another falling like dominoes (Oh, no! Not the domino theory again!) Or the US could go bankrupt trying to impose our version of civilization on the world. That's how we beat the Soviets, we outspent them in the arms race. They went bankrupt before we did.

In any case, it doesn't look good.

Glenn Frey - Smuggler's Blues

Update November 2015. Replaced missing video.
Update February 2017 replaced missing video with two. Evidently Glenn, or the Eagles, or NBC, or somebody, is still pursuing absolute control of their intellectual property. I think the above video is right, but the sound has been stripped. This next video has the sound. Play them together and you should get the original effect.
Update March 2021 replaced first missing video, deleted second missing video. I think we are back where we started.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Chris's boat coming into San Francisco
Maravida is making progress on her trip to Portland. Last report had her at Santa Barbara, California, which prompted me to contact on old friend down there. Turns out he just got back from a race from Hawaii to San Francisco. It was something of an adventure. Wind, heavy seas, no engine, no radio, seasick crew! Their website has the whole story plus a bunch of high-tech graphs for sail boats.

Update August 2016 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday's Edge: Go ahead, make my (dull) day

Life feeling uneventful? Craving a little adventure? We at Edge HQ have the answer.

No, don't get out of your chair (you'll make us look bad). Instead, close your eyes and imagine all the mundane details of your life framed in the formula of:

a cop drama

You wake up tasting last night's pizza, remnants of which scatter your coffee table.

You throw them in a blender, along with milk, bourbon and whatever you can scrounge from your fridge. All right, tough guy (or gal), you're ready for the day. You knock over a garbage can slamming into a no-parking zone in front of the station -- oops, the office. Once inside you ...

Get a royal chewing from your boss. About the taxpayers. The reporters. The mayor.
Half of it garbled through the sandwich in your superior's mouth. All because you stapled your payroll form in the wrong place. Sheesh. Not only that, your next project pairs you with a new partner. A rookie. Fresh meat. You curse the newbie a blue streak (they don't call you "Dirty So-and-So" for nothing). Turns out the greenhorn saves your life, but not before you stop a robbery, foil some terrorists and talk down a ledge jumper on the way to your favorite hot dog stand (words to live by: no one puts ketchup on a hot dog).

Your partner is injured after saving you from stapling your thumb to that pesky payroll form. You chase the ambulance's tail like a bat out of (heck), upsetting a homeless person's shopping cart in the street.

At day's end, you head home only to find your spouse watching "Grey's Anatomy."

You hurdle the armchair, grab the remote and, in a sideways leap across the living room lasting several seconds, flip through all the channels provided in your basic expanded cable. When you finally land, your spouse tells you he/she can't take it anymore and walks out on you.

So you order pizza, watch some dubious videos you hope won't be heard through the thin walls of your crummy duplex and thank heaven your life is anything but dull.

The only thing missing is a zippy one-liner, something like, "Go ahead ... "

Stolen entire from The Oregonian.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rocket Launch Schedule

Jack suggested that we might want to go to Florida to see a Space Shuttle launch. Supposedly the last ones are going up this year. So I did a little checking. There are almost as many launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and it's a lot closer. Shoot, we could drive there. They don't launch shuttles, but they do launch some big rockets. I found three sites that listed upcoming launches, and they couldn't agree on much, but they did agree on two things:
  1. Missions to the International Space Station
  2. U.S. Spy satellite launches
Looking at Boeing's Delta page, I thought this line was illuminating:
This process reduces on-pad time to less than 10 days and the amount of time a vehicle is at the launch site to less than 30 days upon arrival from the factory.
Launching a rocket into orbit is a big deal.

I combined the schedule information I found into a spreadsheet, for your amusement. Additional notes such as acronyms and locations can be found here.

Web Site of the Day

Pick a county, any county.

Map: Where Americans Are Moving

Via The TrogloPundit & Dustbury.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toy Story 3 in 3D

Father's Day present from my kids. Very funny. Sequels have a reputation for not measuring up to the original, but this was as funny as the first. The setup for The Claw was a bit much, made me wonder what they were trying to accomplish. Well, I never saw it coming, that much is for sure. I think The Claw has been my favorite part in all of the Toy Story movies.

I was a little suspicious of the 3D business, but it worked very well. They even used the technique when there was just text on the screen. I pulled up the glasses to see what it looked like and it looked just like a normal screen with text. Full color images were something else, they definitely looked fuzzy without the glasses.

How Do You Stop A Conspiracy?

I started reading A Case Of Two Cities a couple of weeks ago. It's a detective story that takes place in modern day Shanghai. An experienced police detective is assigned the job of tracking down the confederates of a corrupt businessman, no matter where the investigation leads. Specifically, several members of the "party" are probably involved. This is going to be ticklish. I mean, how do you track down the corrupt when they are part and parcel of the whole fabric of society? The previous inspector assigned to this case was murdered, and the first person who talks to him gets the same.

This guy is also a poet and he has published a book which, surprisingly, has met with some commercial success. A couple of days into his investigation he finds out that one of the party higher ups bought 10,000 copies of his book before it even left the printer. Looks like a bribe now, even though he didn't know anything about it. So now he has to be very careful. He doesn't want to end up dead, and he doesn't want to be accused of corruption, but he still has the job of ferreting out those who are corrupt. The outlook got to be so dismal that I had to put the book down, and I'm only a third of the way through it.

I imagine I will try to finish it just because I will want to see if he does manage to expose the corrupt, and if he does, if he manages to do it without some plot sleight-of-hand by the author.


Why haven't I posted anything this week? Am I in a funk? Or am I just like totally relaxed? Monday we drove down to Eugene to see my eldest son graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in Philosophy. Last week was finals week for my two boys. This week was the last week of work for my wife before summer vacation (she teaches in an elementary school). Dutiful daughter finished the papers that were due to Portland State. Tuesday the girls leave for a two week tour of the Ukraine with Grandma.

I managed to start reading about quantum mechanics, entanglement and Bell's theorem. Can't say as I am impressed with any of it. So far it sounds like a bunch of wise guys twisting numbers around to make them come out the way they want.

There are more ads showing up on Craigslist these days. I don't think I am going to bother with employment agencies anymore. They stir up the pot and generate a lot of noise, but I haven't seen anything of substance come out of them.

So that's whats going on. What is my son going to do with his degree? That's a good question. The point is he made his mother and his grandparents happy - he did what he was supposed to: he graduated from high school and then went to college for four years and got an undergraduate degree. Now he can take a breather and look around at the world. He'll figure it out eventually.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Shutter Island

Appropriately creepy. What's real? Are you crazy or is it all just a big conspiracy to make you think you are? Reminded me of Angel Heart from 1987, which was set, coincidentally in 1955, the year after Shutter Island. Near as I can tell there is no Shutter Island in Boston Harbor.

Update: talking to Ross this afternoon about the movie, he suggests that the plot could have gone the other way, that is, it was a conspiracy and our hero wasn't crazy. They could have used either ending, but they picked the stupid one. Which makes me wonder whether it is possible for someone to be precisely that crazy. I mean, has there ever been a real case anything like this? There are delusions, and there is denial, but you can usually tell pretty easily when someone is a bit off. This guy though, his delusion is really detailed and totally complete. Makes me think Ross was right, and they used a cheap trick to fashion the ending of this movie.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Web Site of the Day

Scale of Everything. Click on PLAY below the World Of Warcraft ad, then play with the slider. Thanks to Tam.

Another view of big stuff: Height, via a comment from Chalkie on the same post.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Pictures

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Pictures
Stolen from's pitiful web page.

Update June 2019 since Picasa died, I replaced the embedded slideshow with single image and link to album.
Update April 2020 replaced bad Google links with new Google links.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Famous Actors & Obscure Roles

Watching Men In Black this evening and I suddenly realize that Edgar the Bug is played by Vincent D'Onofrio of Law & Order fame.

This was almost as big a shock as realizing that the mentally challenged little brother of Gilbert Grape was played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Base Jumping at Dean's Blue Hole

My daughter sent me the link to this clip. Pretty cool or crazy, your choice.

Guillaume Nery base jumping at Dean's Blue Hole, filmed on breath hold by Julie Gautier

I don't think this guy got all the way to the bottom of this sink hole. The bottom of Dean's Blue Hole is 663 feet down. Light only makes it to 300 feet, and the world free dive record is only slightly more than that. I wonder how deep the ocean floor at the top of the hole is?

Update March 2017 added video caption. A more recent post about this couple.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Web Site of the Day

Free Tibet

During daring daughters trip to India they spent some time in Mcleod Ganj, which is where she got me the T-Shirt. Mcleod Ganj is the home of the Tibetan government in exile. It is a suburb of Dharamshala, about 250 miles North of New Delhi and about 100 miles Northeast of Lahore, Pakistan, which is near the border crossing.

I used to see Free Tibet bumper stickers around fairly often. Haven't seen one lately. I wonder why. Anyway, I just realized that it's been 60 years since China invaded Tibet, which kind of made me think that there is never going to be a free Tibet. But the USSR took over a bunch of countries in Eastern Europe after WWII, and just recently relinquished their control. So maybe Tibet will be free again someday soon.

Thinking about Tibet makes me wonder why the Chinese wanted it anyway. Nobody lives there, it's three miles in the air and the economy is non-existent. Maybe they just wanted more space for their enormous population, but I would think they have plenty of miserable territory of their own, why would you want someone else's? I think I just figured it out. Northwestern China is a vast desert, and deserts are notorious short of water. Tibet is next to the Himalayas, which get a lot of snow. Snow eventually slides down the mountain, and melts, so perhaps China went after Tibet for the water. Or maybe they did it just because they are big bully boys and they didn't like the old Dali Llama preaching all that peace and tolerance nonsense right next door to their perfect world.

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Play Dirty

Watched most of this on the Family Net channel on TV the other night. A fine WWII movie from 1968 with Michael Caine. I recorded it and then watched it later so I could skip over the ads, which were considerable. Unfortunately, Verizon & Family Net were not communicating well, so the recording stopped about a half hour from the end. I'm going to have to go rent it or get it from the library if I want to see the rest of it, and I do. The same movie is playing on TV again in a couple of weeks, so I could just wait till then to watch it, EXCEPT Family Net not only didn't get the time right, they didn't get the name of the movie right either, so who knows what's going to be playing in a couple of weeks. Maybe What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? is just their code for some old war movie.

This movie (Play Dirty) concerns an irregular group in North Africa run by an oddball dude, who avers that "war is a criminal enterprise, so I choose to fight it with criminals". And he's got some good ones. No panty waist pick-pockets and bar room brawlers here. We've got guys who would be perfectly happy to cut your throat for the change in your pocket. But where did they get the name? Perfectly heinous.

Their mission is to sneak 200 miles behind enemy lines and blow up a German fuel depot. There have been a dozen missions before this that all ended with getting most of their people killed, but they have finally managed to get some photos of their objective. So we have people who have been here before and survived, and we have an objective, but we also get a BP (yes, the same British Petroleum that is currently to blame for the mess in the Gulf) engineer in the form of Michael Caine. He has been made an officer. He has no combat experience. So the vets get to babysit the greenhorn.

Four you four wheel drive junkies, there is an interesting scene where they haul their vehicles up a steep hill using steel cables. Then there is the trek across the desert, which includes getting stuck in the sand alternating with bouncing across rocks. The ground is flat, but it is covered with six inch rocks every foot or so. There is no way to avoid them, so it is crawl, bump, crawl, bump, crawl, bump endlessly. That could pretty much ruin your day.

They finally reach their objective only to have a sand storm come up. The two leaders confer and decide that the storm would be perfect cover for their attack. I mean, nobody in their right mind would go out in a storm like this. Walking up to the depot they encounter a mine field, but the wind has blown away the top layer of sand and exposed the mines so they are easy to avoid. They get into the depot and Caine sees a soldier standing up next to a truck. He sneaks up behind him and stabs him with a knife only to find that the guy is full of straw. Now we see the wind blowing panels off of the fuel storage "tanks". The whole thing is a fake. There are no enemy soldiers here, and there is no fuel.

Now what do they do? The criminal leader is all for bailing out, finding a boat and getting out of there. But Mr. Caine insists they should look for the real fuel depot and destroy it. And my recording ended! Bah! And it was such a good movie, too.

Now if my kids ever ask me What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?, I can tell them a story from this movie. I mean it was so real it was like I was there. Sure, Pops.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

So you want do build an electric car, do you?

Top Gear Builds an Electric Car. Updated August 2013 because the video I originally linked from Street Fire had disappeared.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Problem With Mass Transit

The problem with mass transit is that it isn't mass enough.

I had to make a run to downtown Portland this afternoon right during rush hour. It was repeat of my experience last week when I had to make the same run early in the morning. It took me an hour to get there and a half hour to get back home. It's times like this that make me consider taking the MAX, but the MAX always takes an hour to get there, and then it would take another hour to get back, not to mention any extra time that it would take to get to my actual destination once I got downtown.

And then I got to wondering if mass transit is really any more efficient at moving people than our system of cars and freeways. How many people are actually getting moved?

I used to see ads on TV that recommended you leave two seconds of space between you and the car ahead of you, and I find that a comfortable distance. You do this by noting when the car ahead of you passes some marker, like a road sign, and then start counting the seconds, one thousand one, one thousand two, until you reach that same point. If you don't get to two seconds, you should slow down until you are farther back.

Most people don't follow this rule, especially during rush hour. You see cars following each other that are one second, a half second, or even a quarter second apart. There are even some people who will follow you with only a tenth of second gap. These are the people who are right on your bumper. A tenth of a second at 60 MPH is only nine feet, which is less than one car length. At 60 MPH that is pretty dang close.

But say we allow 2 seconds per car. That means we can get 1800 cars down one lane of traffic in one hour. Since most cars only carry one person, that means 1800 people per hour.

How many people can a train carry? The MAX only runs every ten minutes, which is six trains an hour. You would have to get 300 people on a MAX train to transport the same number of people. A MAX train only has 4 cars. I think you could probably get 300 people on one, but it would be crowded.

You could up the capacity of the MAX by scheduling more trains. New York City subways run as often as every four minutes during rush hour. And you might be able to increase the number of cars in a train. You could likewise increase the capacity of the highway by closing up the gaps between cars. If we cut the gap in half we could double the number of people. But we are still looking at roughly the same number of people, and we still have the same original problem with the train: it doesn't come to your house and it doesn't take you to work. In a denser urban area like NYC, it may work fine, but out here in the suburbs, it is not a big improvement over the automobile.

Private Enterprise & The Press

I commented at lunch today that SpaceX's putting a rocket in orbit in last week was not getting the press coverage that I thought it deserved. Dennis remarked that it was because it was a private endeavor, not a government project. I suppose that could be the reason, but it doesn't make any sense to me. One more thing that I don't understand about how the world works, and just when I thought I had a pretty good handle on it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

National Brotherhood Week

There is nothing new under the sun.

Tip of the ball cap to Roberta X.

Picture of the Day

Scrap Yard Visit
Shots from a Midlands Scrap Metal Yard

There is somebody else out there whose mind works like mine! I haven't taken any pictures of old scrap, but that's only because I haven't visited any scrap yards lately. I found this while I was looking for a picture of a winch to go with my previous post. Didn't find anything really suitable. Most all of the winches I found were either crank operated or electrically powered. No jack handle types.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.


I am at some sort of public school function. It's high school or below, that's all I can tell. The show is over, whatever it was, and I am helping clean up. Another guy and I are assigned to hoisting a board. The board is like a 2 by 12, maybe 12 feet long, but finished like white melamine. It's suspended about a foot from the floor by a rope that goes through a pulley up at the ceiling. The rope then goes across the ceiling to another pulley and down to a winch sitting on the floor. The winch has a 4 x 4 post about six feet long for a handle, and the winch is some kind of cast iron thing. It's not very big, maybe about a foot in each direction, and it's painted red. The ratchet is very coarse. You can only get a couple of clicks each time you raise the handle and then the handle comes back down a couple of feet before it has absorbed the slack in the mechanism.

I am taller than the other guy assigned to this project, but he is considerable stronger. So I get the task of lifting the winch handle up and then pulling it down until it is engaged and firmly seated. Then the other guy pulls on the handle and the board goes up another couple of inches. At this point it seems like total overkill, but something is telling me this it just the beginning and it is going to get a lot harder before we are done, so it is well that we pace ourselves.

When we first start, we move the board over by the winch when we raise the handle, and then move it back to where it was (about ten feet away) before we pull down on the handle. Evidently the pulley that the board is hanging from is itself hanging from a track that allows it to slide back and forth. After two or three of our lift cycles, we realize moving the board back and forth is simply wasted motion and we leave the board where it was originally.

Don't ask why sliding the pulley on the track didn't change the height of the board. It was a magic pulley, okay? And for that matter, don't ask why I expected the job to get harder as we went. There was only the one board, and it wasn't that massive. It was a dream.

After each lift cycle we go over to a table where a young man serves us a brownie. It's square like a brownie, but the top looks like one of those butter-crunch coffee cakes. He has a couple of big trays of these things, like three feet square, and the "brownies" he serves us are pretty big as well. If this keeps up (one brownie for each two inches of lift), we are going to gain more weight than we lift. Fortunately, after a few cycles I wake up.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


My daughter found a deal on some 500 thread count sheets at Marshal's. 500 TPI (Threads Per Inch)!?! That's crazy talk! That would mean each thread was less than two thousandths of inch (.002") in diameter. So I looked it up when we got home, and thread count is the sum of the number of threads in both directions, so it's only 250 TPI. Whew, had me worried there for a moment. But thread count is a rat hole that can consume the rest of your life. We don't want to go there. But while I was looking around I find this bit about Denier in Wikipedia:
Denier is a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibers. It is defined as the mass in grams per 9,000 meters. . . . The denier has its standard based in nature, a single strand of silk is one denier. Therefore, a sampled 9,000 meters length of silk will weigh one gram.
Nine kilometers of silk weighs one gram! That's six miles! Un-fricking-believable! So I went looking for a picture of 9 km of silk fiber. Problem is it is really hard to get down to one fiber. Even the silk pulled directly from the cocoons of silk worms is multiple fibers. A single fiber of silk is from 5 to 10 micrometers (millionths of a meter) in diameter.

Silk is made of protein, and proteins are made from amino acids, and amino acids are mostly made of Hydrogen, Carbon, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Picking on Carbon, because everybody is always picking on Carbon, the diameter of a carbon atom is about 300 picometers (trillionths of a meter). So a single thread of silk is about 25,000 atoms wide. Hmmph. I would have thought fewer. I guess atoms are smaller than I thought.

Filature/Reeled Silk Yarn - 20-22 Denier
And then we have this little blurb:
The Tussah silk yarn is a newly designed color with a soft/low twist for 2009 Spring. It was made for a project in New York City fashion show, wonderful bright color and very smooth & soft hand. Our team was inspired by melt-down global economy, everywhere stimulus package, eco-friendly alternative energy and 2009 uncertainty.
Some people just really have a way with words. Snark, snark.

Update March 2016. Replace missing picture. Old picture came from here.


Dustbury posted this Hurst advertisement from 1964. Naturally, I tried to read it. I could make out some of it, and then I got the bright idea of trying OCR (Optical Character Recognition). I found a couple of sites on-line and tried one of them. It didn't do too well. Hmm. Let's see how well I can do.

I used a text to image convertor to format this. I guess I'm just a converting kind of guy today. Not too bad, though there a couple of words I am not too sure of. Starfire, for instance, in the last paragraph. Oldsmobile did make a Starfire, but according to Wikipedia, they didn't start making it until 1975, which contradicts Dustbury's date for this ad. Normally I would expect to see Cutlass, or 442 in that place, but I couldn't get my eyes to agree with either of those. So I don't know what model name is really there.

I may have gotten some of the sexist remarks wrong as well, but it's been a long time, and I'm not sure my grasp of lingo from the 60's is as sharp as it once was.

Update February 2017 replaced missing images.

Quote of the Day

A woman is willing to make herself beautiful for the one who likes her, and a man is ready to lay down his life for the one who appreciates him.
Attributed to Confucius. From A Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xiaolong, page 36.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Comic Book, er, Album of the Day

Stumbled across this very cool image on a Spanish language blog. At first I thought it was a comic book cover, but it turns out to be an album cover. Electronic dance music, I think. Seems you can download the album for free, or buy it?


How about a soda pop that only has one teaspoon of sugar? Regular soda pop has about ten teaspoons. Too much sugar isn't good for you, or so I've been told a million times. One teaspoon of sugar in a cup of tea makes it sweet. Why not one teaspoon in a can of pop? I don't like artificial sweeteners, mostly on a matter of principle. Same reason I don't like decaf coffee, non-alcoholic beer and low fat anything.

Using only one teaspoon of sugar would also save the soda companies a few cents. I'm not going to pretend it would be a big financial reason. Shoot, a bottle of water costs as much to buy as a can of soda. The cost of producing a drink is all about the transportation of mass and the refrigeration thereof. Flavoring and anything else added to the water has got to be less than one-tenth of one percent of cost of delivering that ice cold drink into your sweaty little hands.


Falcon 9 launch, photo
SpaceX's Falcon 9 put a dummy payload into orbit yesterday afternoon. THIS IS A BIG DEAL. It's one thing to launch something that will reach outer space, which is what the commercial tourist rides are promoting. Actually being able to put something into orbit is an order of magnitude more difficult. The Redstone rockets that boosted the first astronauts into space reached a velocity of 5,000 MPH. The Atlas rockets had to boost those same Mercury capsules to over 17,000 MPH, over three times faster, in order to put them into orbit. Okay, three times is not an order of magnitude, but let's look at the launch weights (which are 90% fuel). A Redstone rocket weighs 30,000 pounds. An Atlas weighs 260,000 pounds. That's almost a factor of nine, which is almost ten, which is an order of magnitude.

Update September 2016 replaced missing picture.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cars: Fantasy & Reality

Took the car-car into Les Schwab this morning to get a slow leak in the left front tire fixed. I was leafing through a car magazine while I was waiting and I came across this:

Wow! What a car! It is a 1949 Delahaye Custom Saoutchik roadster. Now there's a car with style. Totally impractical, it's too big and it probably drives like a tank. But man, what a breath of fresh air. It's the total opposite of everything the automotive industry is producing these days.

While I am sitting there drooling over unobtainable supercars, tire man comes to give me the news. The good news is there is nothing wrong with the tire. The bad news is the wheel is leaking. Seems there is tiny pinhole, possibly a stress fracture, that is leaking a tiny amount of air.

About a quarter inch up the spoke from where someone marked a T in the dirt with their finger there is a little blob. The blob is made of tiny bubbles coming out of the metal. There might be a pinhole there, but I couldn't see it. But I could see the little pile of bubbles growing.

I bought a new wheel for $120, same as the ones I bought from them four years ago, except newer and shinier. I suppose I could have taken the wheel and tried to plug the leak from the air pressure side with some kind of goop, but I didn't even think about it till later, and there's no telling how successful that would be.

The standard fix for problem leaks like this with tubeless tires used to be to install an inner tube. Schwab won't do that anymore. They claim if the tire pressure gets too low the tire could slip on the rim and cause the valve to get ripped off the tube, which would in turn cause the tube to instantly deflate, causing you to lose control of your car, crash, die, and your survivors would sue Les for allowing such a thing to happen. Sounds bogus to me, but everybody is afraid of lawsuits these days, and anybody with any money has good reason to be afraid. Anyway, the leak is fixed and I don't have to fool with it anymore. At least not till next time.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

Pink Cadillac

My wife and I watched Pink Cadillac with Clint Eastwood & Bernadette Peters this evening. It's basically a mash-up of the Dukes of Hazard and Every Which Way But Loose. Not a particularly good movie, but entertaining.

Clint was 59 when he made this movie in 1989. He turned 80 last Monday, Memorial Day. Fifty-nine years old and still playing tough guys. That's pretty good. Seems like half the obituaries I read these days are for people who are younger than I am. I remember seeing Clint moving an automobile engine across his yard in the opening of one his movies. That was pretty impressive. Reminds me of the time I picked my Triumph motorcycle off the ground. Ug, me tough guy. Of course that was 35 years ago and I was working construction then.

Someone in the movie says something about a pink Cadillac being a man's car, but in my mind that just doesn't jibe. To me pink Cadillacs mean Mary Kay Cosmetics. There's the song Pink Cadillac by Bruce Springsteen, that I really like, but it's not his car, it belongs to his girl, and he's ridin' in the back.

While I'm looking for a decent video of the song, I came across this one. It doesn't go all the way to the end, but I think it's pretty funny.

Update December 2010: WARNING! DANGER WILL ROBINSON! This video has been blocked by SONY. Bah.

I found another video of a car driving game with the Pink Cadillac song. It isn't funny, but it is entertaining, in car chase kind of way. This version of the song is by someone other than Bruce, I don't know who. The video is by Vf5rules1. I am making a note of this because I have no record of who created the one that was blocked, and I don't expect YouTube to tell me. Not on their list of things to do, you know.

Update August 2015: Last video also vanished, so I rooted around and found this one. The sound is poor and weak, and the video isn't very entertaining, but we do have a virtual pink Cadillac driving around town. They manage not to run into anything for most of the video.

Pink Cadillac

Quote of the Day

And I’ll be watching to see if Bud Selig does the right thing. If not…well, somebody might be getting a preshook can of coke for his birthday.
Dawn Summers talking about the recent bad baseball call.

Beaverton Arts & Communications High School

The Beaverton Arts & Communications High School was housed in an old school building. I drove by there yesterday and I noticed this new, modern extension. I suppose it's cool. It certainly doesn't look like any of the other nine zillion school buildings in the area.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hi-Tech Comes To The Farm

Went to pick up my neighbor from her horseback riding lesson this afternoon. Modest little house off the beaten track, but around the corner and behind some trees were these too large structures. The closer one is a stable and the further one is a riding arena. The arena must be 50 feet wide and about 120 feet long. Galvanized steel trusses and some sort of woven plastic fabric covering. It has got to be less than half the cost of conventional construction.

I spliced two photos by hand to get this picture, which is why there is a disconnect in the fence. Autostitch couldn't figure out what to do with it. Too much white and gray, I suspect.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

Alien Concept for the Day

At lunch today we are talking about traffic jams and Dennis suggests that we just haven't found the right music. With the right music, he says, traffic jams do not bother you at all. I cannot imagine such a thing, possibly because the only music I like is hard driving rock and roll. Soothing ballads and other such "relaxing" music just bores me to tears. If I want to relax, I want quiet. I am either on or off. No such speed as slow.

Sammy Hagar - I Can't Drive 55

Update November 2015. Replaced missing video. UMG complained so YouTube took it down, but here we've got the same video again. The mechanic advising Sammy at the beginning is Claudio Zampolli, a star in his own right.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Keys, Again

Downtown, Again

My wife called at 7:30AM and woke me up to tell me that the key for her car had broken and she couldn't get it started. The girls had driven downtown early for an exercise class at The Bar Method and now my wife needs to go to work. Right. Pull on my trousers, grab the extra key, put on a ball cap to cover my hair and get going. Smooth sailing until the traffic stops. I don't even remember where. It's raining. After that it's a 5 MPH crawl into town. Took me an hour to get there, twice as long as yesterday. I can't believe there are so many people who are willing to put up with this every day. It's just crazy.

It wasn't much better going home. Ended up 15 minutes late for a dentist appointment. I thought about canceling, but they had set aside time to work on me, and they would probably rather spend their time working on me and making money than twiddling their thumbs, even if I haven't had a shower. Surprisingly they didn't ask me to remove my hat. Suited me. No sense offending them with scary hair as well. I was only there for a cleaning, but it didn't seem to interfere with their work.

The Key

The key has a remote control built into the handle, and an anti-theft transponder as well. Looking for locksmiths all I found were these emergency 24 hour guys who will come out and rescue you when you lock yourself out. The lock shops where you went to get keys made all seem to have gone bye-bye. Fine. Called the Mitsubishi dealer. They will gladly order a new key for me. Cost: $120, plus a $50 programming fee, and it will take four days to get here. Yowzer.

Right now I'm hoping I can get a simple metal key made and still use the electronics from the old one. I don't really need the remote, the car still has an outside mechanical lock, but I do need the transponder. I was hoping I wouldn't, but I just tried it, and without the electronics the car won't start. And then you get a little flashing green indicator on the dashboard with a picture of a key. Isn't that cute?! These things work by being in close proximity to an antennae near the ignition switch. You can have the key, and it will turn the ignition switch, but if the transponder doesn't respond, the engine won't start.

Our Chrysler has one of these, but the remote control is separate, and the key looks and feels more substantial, but who knows how strong it really is? In any case, it hasn't broken yet.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Alice In Wonderland

We rented the DVD from the vending machine in our local grocery store for a dollar! One dollar, no fuss, no muss. I was shocked. Verizon wants 3, 4, 5 or even $6 to watch a movie on their super-fantabulous on-demand fiber-optic network. Given a choice, I would pick driving the two miles to the grocery store every time. I don't mind paying to watch a show, but I don't like having to wade through all the crap to get to what I want, which is what I have to do with Verizon.

We record Law & Order and In Plain Sight on the Verizon DVR so we can watch them when we want and fast forward through the ads. I would much rather pay to watch it on a DVD and not have to deal with Verizon at all. This whole system is nuts. Advertisers pay big money to have their ads shown along with the show. I pay big money to get the show delivered to my house via this fiber-optic network, then I pay more money so I can record the show so I can avoid having to watch all the ads. I think the only reason we have Verizon is so we can watch the Blazers basketball games, and since Comcast has some kind of deal with the Blazers, when Comcast is handling the game we only get standard resolution, we don't get the Hi-Def version.

We do use the internet a lot. The kids use it to watch TV shows on their computers. I suppose I should get some kind of device that would let me connect the TV to the internet. I'm still not satisfied that Verizon can deliver hi-def video without hiccuping at least occasionally. And their DVR is just like all consumer electronics these days. It mostly works, most of the time, but it has more glitches and misses and bugs than a first year programming students work.

Okay, enough of that. What about the movie?

Curious. The visuals are great. The story, the characters, the atmosphere, the plot, ummm, not so hot. Almost missing entirely. Of course, I am comparing it to Disney's animated version from umpteen years ago. That was a great flick! That's the Alice In Wonderland story I know. I don't know if I ever read the book, if I did it obviously didn't make much of an impression on me.

The white queen is surely a odd character, and what's with the nearly black lipstick? Sometimes I think she is as nuts as the red queen. And what's with the big head? And the various big body parts of her cortege? It's like they gathered up a whole bunch of weird ideas and just dumped them into this movie. They don't seem to have anything to do with anything.

Alice and the bloodhound seem to be the only decent characters in the whole show. Well, the mad hatter is okay. Trying to stay within the bounds of PG really limited their options. Maybe I just expected too much. Maybe that's why it was only a dollar.

Update February 2017 replaced missing image.

Keep Portland Weird

Do you suppose this is what they mean?

Dutiful daughter got up early and drove to downtown Portland for an exercise class at The Bar Method and locked her keys in the car so I was called upon to interrupt my busy schedule (come on, I was reveling in being quoted by Dustbury) and rescue her. Since I am all the way downtown and it is still morning I should get my self a cup of coffee and since I have done my good deed for the day, I deserve a donut. I find a coffee shop two blocks away, but there is no reading material that appeals, so I continue on to Powell's, which ends up being a ten minute walk. I prowl the Science Fiction and Mystery sections looking for something good. I've recently read a couple of good books:
and put down several that I couldn't (mostly science fiction):
  • A Hymn Before Battle by John Ringo
  • Angelmass by Timothy Zahn
  • Cobblestone by Peter Lengyet, an Eastern European detective story
  • The Run To Chaos Keep by Jack L. Chalker
  • A Signal Shattered by Eric S. Nylund
  • Aces High by Bill Yenne, true story from WWII
Most of the science fiction was marred by over extensive arguing between characters. Aces High was just miserable, I don't know exactly what was wrong with it but I only got a few pages into it before I put it down.

I get Timothy Zahn and Eric Nylund confused. They both wrote stuff for the Star Wars universe. Eric also wrote Halo, which is a novel adaptation of the game, which has got to be a really silly idea, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A Signal Shattered was bad. I got a couple of chapters in before I gave up.

I keep picking up Timothy Zahn books because there are several of them lying around the house and I think maybe one of them will be another Halo. Oh, he didn't write that? Never mind. There is a lot to like about Anglemass, and maybe some of his more recent books are better, but the continuing hostile conversations just wore me out. I got half way through before stopping.

The Run To Chaos Keep is complicated enough that you could use a small encyclopedia to keep track of the characters and all their special paranormal abilities. It would be an interesting story even if the characters were all human without any telepathic abilities. Making them all different aliens makes it too complicated to track.

I had hopes for Cobblestone, but it just did not engage me.

Alan Furst is my current favorite. He has written several books about espionage before and during WWII in Europe and they are just great. A Kingdom of Shadows is about the nephew of Hungary's ambassador to France. They both come from the upper class, meaning they have money. For example, at one point while he is on an errand for his uncle, the nephew calls Cartier in Paris from somewhere in Eastern Europe and orders a brooch, or a bracelet, or something, for his girlfriend, sight unseen. At another point he is arrested by the Roumanian police. He is on horseback and has just ridden down out of the mountains with a briefcase full of cash he has collected from a Hungarian Count for the support of the anti-Fascists. He is in jail for several weeks before his uncle manages to get him sprung. The cash disappears without a trace.

C.S. Friedman is one of my old favorites. She doesn't write a lot of books. Her style is maybe a bit overblown, but it's easy to read, i.e. it goes down smooth. In this one she posits the existence of longships: large spaceships made of rock, or perhaps hollowed out asteroids, that do not slow down when they approach a star and planets. Their velocity is not that high. Skimships (small ships capable of large changes in velocity) act as shuttles, decelerating when they depart the long ship to land on a planet, and then accelerating after leaving the planet to meet up with the longship again. This limits the time you can transit between the longship and the planets. It makes a sort of sense, changing the velocity of a three mile long asteroid would take a great deal of energy. Let the little ships do the hard work. They would be much more fuel efficient for these kind of maneuvers.

However, any velocity that would allow smaller ships to catch up with the long ship would really be unsuitable for travel between stars, at least in the lifetime of human characters, so ... we have "translations" that let the longships make giant jumps across interstellar space, making any velocity they do have insignificant.

It was still a good story. We have vampires, creatures of pure energy, evil armored lizard men, hive mind telepathy, wholesale enslavement of the entire explored universe, emotions running wild and best of all, revenge:

"There is no other pleasure, Ntaya exulted, equal to that of killing one's enemies." - top of p.473
I picked up several books recently:
I have no idea about the two foreign books. We shall see how they pan out.

Update March 2016 replaced the missing picture.