Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two Dude Defense by Walter Walker

Murder mystery set in San Francisco, like so many others before. Complicated blackmail / murder / arson plot. Private eye, religious cult brainwashing kids (where have I seen this before? Chandler, maybe?), The girl with the dragon tattoo makes a brief appearance. I wonder if this is where Stieg got his character? Our detective is not too smart, he gets beat up a lot, I mean every time he turns around, someone is whacking him over the head. There's a little too much smart guy talk. Where Dirty Harry would have just grunted this guy goes on for an entire paragraph. I think the writer was just enamored of writing tough guy talk. Prices are kind of surprisingly low, but then this was written 25 years ago. Not a great book, but if you are a writer I think you might be able to learn some things from it, both good and bad. It's kind of like some movies I've seen: with a little judicious editing, it could have been a really good story.

I got the picture off of Ebay. The cover is kind of like the book, nothing special, but at least the picture on Ebay was big enough to see, unlike Amazon, who only put up a dinky little thumbnail.


I think I finally figured it out.
  • When there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs to be had, wages go down because more people are willing to work for less money.
  • You (as a business person) can make more money by hiring a few bright people to construct a system that makes money than by hiring an army of slaves to do menial labor.
  • Our American way of life, by which I mean the enormous variety of goods and services available for relatively low prices,  is dependent on an enormous infrastructure of businesses, their facilities, equipment and trained personnel.
  • When you increase spending on consumables and decrease spending on investment (capitalization), economic growth slows.
  • If you want your standard of living to go up, your capitalization per person needs to go up. If your population increases faster than your (inflation adjusted) capital investment, your standard of living is going to go down.
We have four main drains on our economy:
  1. Our military adventures in the Mid-East
  2. Security (our standing army and all our various police forces)
  3. Raising and educating our children
  4. Old people and their medical problems
Which one do you want to cut back on?

 One thing I have heard recently is that businesses are sitting on large amounts of cash. One thing I have not seen is how much of our capital investment is tied up in big business, and how much is tied up in small businesses. Any successful small business, say one that keeps half a dozen people employed, probably represents a capital investment of at least a couple of million dollars. Land, buildings, vehicles, equipment all cost money. You might be renting the space, and leasing the equipment, but somebody, somewhere had to put up the money to pay for all that in the first place. We hear about billion dollar deals here and there, and it's touted as like it's something important, but if you have a million small businesses, each with an investment of a million dollars, that's a trillion dollars right there, and that only accounts for maybe ten percent of the workforce.

When a chip (integrated electronic circuit) manufacturer spends a billion dollars on fab (wafer fabrication facility) that will employ maybe a thousand people, you are talking more like a million dollar investment per person, not a measly hundred thousand bucks.

Back to cash hoarding. The business world is in constant flux. A successful business may last for five, ten or even a hundred years, but things change, entire businesses may go up for sale, and buying a business requires money. If you want to be prepared to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity, you need to have cash on hand. However, just holding onto cash also entails risk due to inflation. Every day you hold onto that cash, it loses some value. On the other hand, you don't want to just throw it at the next opportunity that shows up. That can as bad as just throwing it away. So these hoarders are gamblers, waiting for the right moment to place their bets. After all there is a certain amount of luck involved in all human endeavors, and who among us is immune to the lure of the big score?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Unknown with Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger & January Jones

January Jones (left), Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger
Redbox has raised their rates 15%. What used to cost a buck now costs a buck fifteen.

I always enjoy watching Liam, and the girls were pretty. Diane plays the blond Bosnian refugee, and being a tough girl she gets in a few kicks. (Are there any blond Bosnians?)

It's a story about assassins running around loose in Berlin, which always makes a good baseline for a story. The plot was a little weak, like a new strain of corn that is gonna save the world. No, I don't think so. And then there is the whole memory loss / faulty remembering thing. Possible, but thin. And then suddenly switching sides in the middle, that was possibly due to encountering hostiles, but what drove him to confront them? The action was great, the characters were good, the plot was a little thin.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.


What is capital? Capital is a thing (or service) that is produced not for consumption but for further production. The existence of capital industries implies several stages of production, or up to thousands upon thousands of steps in a long structure of production. Capital is the institution that gives rise to business-to-business trading, an extended workforce, firms, factories, ever more specialization, and generally the production of all kinds of things that by themselves cannot be useful in final consumption but rather are useful for the production of other things.
Stolen complete from Ric's Rulez. Ric might be my evil twin, or vice versa, I'm not sure which. Ever wonder why poor places like Haiti stay poor? Follow the links, read it all, it's illuminating.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Midsomer Murders

Midsomer Murders is a pretty good English murder mystery series that we stumbled over last night on Netflix. It's got every cliche in the book, which ought to make it boring, but it's not. There's enough humor in it, and it's well enough done to be thoroughly entertaining.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amplifier Ins & Outs

Gratuitous picture of tangled mass of guitar cables
Replacing the power amp tubes in the Marshall Amp got it working, but then the volume started spontaneously changing. That coupled with the resistor that fell out (!) and copious advice that the tubes should be correctly biased led John to haul the amp downtown to the Portland Custom Shop on East Morrison to have an experienced tech look it over. They had a substantial backlog of work, so it sat down there for a couple of weeks, and then a family matter came up and the guy is going to out of town for a couple of weeks, so this afternoon we drove down and picked up the amp and drug it over to Wire Audio underneath the entrance to the Hawthorne bridge.

Next time we take a trip down there, let's do it in the morning. We managed to avoid the Morrison bridge fiasco, but not having clear directions to where we are going (no, Google directions are NOT clear), and not bothering to look at a map (I know where I am going) led to having to back track several times and sitting at traffic lights for extended periods. Took us two hours round trip. I'm tired.

View Amplifier Ins & Outs in a larger map

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cosi Fan Tutti

Cosi Fan Tutti by Michael Dibdin is a murder mystery with a touch of comedy. It's pretty entertaining. Then I stumble over this little aside about police stations. Kind of interesting, I thought.
Copied and pasted from Google Books. The "Southerners" he is talking about are people who live in Southern Italy.

April 2016 added Amazon link.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Floating Houses

As long as people build near rivers, we are going to have buildings damaged and/or destroyed by floods. Some places get flooded every year, the flood goes away and they clean up the mess and things go back to the way they were. In some places the US Corps of Engineers builds big earthworks (levees) to keep the rising flood waters from inundating the land and the buildings thereon. We seem to be seeing more and more examples of that not working.

Seems to me it might be simpler and cheaper to just build all your buildings on pontoons and skip the whole levee thing. River floods, pontoons float and lift the buildings out of the way. Flood goes away, pontoons settle back down to earth and other than the mud on the streets, everything goes back to normal.

It's not like we don't know how to float houses, people in places like Seattle and San Francisco have been building and living on houseboats for years. And some of these places look just like a house you would build on land.

I know, it's not the way it's been done in the past, and why would you need a houseboat? I mean it only floods once every year or two, or shoot, we've got a levee protecting us, we don't need to worry about no flood.

A History of Surpluses and Deficits in the United States

From Dave Manual via Fran and Steve. This is year by year, not cumulative. However, it is not all doom and gloom. There is a bright spot, sort of (quoted from the same web site):
While the 2009 and 2010 deficits will certainly be the largest ever (even after adjusting previous deficits for inflation), they will not even be close to the largest ever in terms of % of GDP, as you can see below:

Top Five Highest Years of Deficit vs GDP %

1943 - 30.3% of GDP
1944 - 22.8% of GDP
1945 - 21.5% of GDP
1942 - 14.2% of GDP
1983 - 6.0% of GDP

2009 Deficit Estimated to be 12-13% of GDP
2010 Deficit Estimated to be 9-10% of GDP
The biggest deficits in terms of GDP all happened during WWII, so while our current batch of wars (War On Terror, War On Drugs, War On Poverty, War On My Pet Issue of the Day) is not having same overall effect on the US as WWII, it is having a noticeable effect. Kind of a sucky effect, too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chrysler Sebring, Day 33

Mmmm, carmel sauce.
Pulled the oil pan off thinking I would be able to check the bottom end bearings, but no such luck, the windage tray is in the way. I could take it off, but working from underneath is a pain, even when the engine isn't in the car.
I got this shot by holding the camera at floor level and pointing as best I could.

Cleaning up today I noticed a mark on the timing chain cover where the timing chain had been rubbing against one of the stand offs. This could be explained by the bad water pump bearing, or it might mean the chain has stretched and needs to be replaced.

Looking at the oil drained from the engine, I noticed that there was a layer of water in it. That is not surprising, head gasket failure allows coolant into the oil galleries, and vice versa. But down at the bottom of the bucket there is another layer of what looks like oil.What is that all about? Oil is lighter than water, so it normally floats on top. What came out of the engine that is denser than water?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Zip Code

Used to be when I needed to deposit a check in my bank account, I would just drive over to the bank and deliver it in person. Time passed, things changed, and now I mail my deposits.

For a while, I was filing medical insurance claims on fairly regular basis. The address was some post office box somewhere in the Northwest, and the four digit box number was the same as the four digit suffix to the Zip Code. With the Zip Code, you don't really need the city or state, and if the box number is the same as the suffix, I bet you can do without it as well. So I started addressing my mail with just the name of the company and the nine digit number. Worked fine for a long time. Then one day I tried it with a bank deposit, and it got bounced back by some officious numbskull. Bah. And they still don't supply me with preaddressed envelopes or even address stickers.

I used to buy gas at a funky little gas station because there usually wasn't a line of cars waiting to buy gas like there was at the, fancy, new, modern Chevron station. But recently they started asking me for my Zip Code (I use a credit card to buy gas). No big deal, but it irritates me. So I started going to Chevron, where they don't ask me for my Zip Code. No lines there anymore either, so it's okay. I don't know whether they are just selling less gas, or I have learned not to go there when they are busy. Albertson's (a grocery store) doesn't ask for your Zip Code when you buy gas there either. I wonder who is in charge of the Zip Code question decision.


This spring, when I was helping my daughter move out of her apartment in Eugene, I got hit up for some spare change. We had been carrying stuff downstairs and loading it into the truck for a while and I was getting tired. I had just finished carrying a  load when a guy walking across the street asks me if I've got thirty-eight cents. What? No, I don't have thirty-eight cents. Who asks for thirty-eight cents anyway? What is he thinking? That I'm going to go root around looking for exact change so I can give him exactly thirty-eight cents? I'm tired, I'm working, he's asking me right while I am in the middle of loading something into the truck, and he wants exact change. He didn't look like a bum, he looked like a student, but his request made him look like an idiot. As tired as I was, if he had offered to help, I would have hired him to help load. Shoot, if his timing had been a little better and if had asked for a reasonable amount of money, like a buck or two, I would have given it to him. Change? Who bothers with change anymore?

A few weeks ago we picked up a couple of ice cream cones from the drive through at our local McDonalds. I noticed a guy panhandling just outside the front door. His clothes were dirty, but his hair was reasonably short. No harm, no foul. A couple of days later I pull into a spot in the lot and the same guy comes right up to my (open) window and asks for money. I gave him a very firm, possibly even harsh, no. I don't know exactly what bugged me about this guy. Maybe he was being too agressive, maybe I think panhandlers should be more deferential: he wasn't following proper panhandling protocol. Ticked me off.

For a while I was seeing people at entrance and exit ramps on the freeways. Don't see them there anymore. Don't know whether they have given it up or whether the police have cracked down on them.

I really don't know how to deal with panhandlers. I don't run into them that often, so if I gave them a buck, or even a fiver every time I saw one, it wouldn't really amount to a hill of beans. But I do resent them insinuating themselves into my world, having to stop and talk to them about something that does not interest me, interrupt my conversation or train of thought or my mission, should I have anything going on. And then there is the decisions to be made: do I give them any money or not? What the "authorities" would have you believe is that they are all alcoholics or junkies and are just going to use whatever money you give them to get their next bottle or fix, so you shouldn't give them any money. But is that true? Maybe they are just out on the street and need a couple of bucks to get something to eat, or they are trying to raise enough money to pay the rent. There are a lot of people out of work and things don't look like they are going to get any better any time soon. I just wish the deserving bums would wear a badge so I could tell at glance whether it was okay to give them any money.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

4 Person Tandem

We were talking about bicycles and bicyclists this evening, which prompted me to remember this. I was on RAGBRAI several years ago and I found myself heading down a long hill into a river valley. The road was reasonably straight, there wasn't any motor vehicle traffic to speak of, and only a few bicycles, so cranked it up and went sailing down the hill in the left lane, passing all those bicycles who were proceeding at a more cautious pace. I was probably going 30 MPH when I hear this bicycle bell ringing and ringing and ringing. What the heck? Who is ringing their bell? And why? I am going as fast as can be, who is ringing their bell? And then ZOOM, this four person tandem comes sailing by me on my left. They had to be going 60 MPH, they were just flying. Scared the s*** out of me.

This is the best picture I could find, and it isn't even all adults.

Update November 2016 replaced missing picture.

Quote of the Day

The provisioning of a great city, the kadi liked to remark, is the mark of a successful civilization. In Istanbul it was a business that had been honed close to perfection by almost two thousand years' experience, and it could truly be said of the markets of Istanbul that there was not a flower, a fruit, a type of meat or fish that did not make its appearance there in season. - The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin, chapter 99 opening paragraph.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chrysler Sebring, Day 27

This was supposed to take three weeks, maybe four. Doesn't look like we're gonna make it. Might help if we put in more than an hour a day, but hey, I've got a life too, you know. Okay, I'm lying, I don't have a life, but my helper has a life, and this car repair project is not high on his list.

Pulled off the cylinder heads the other day. If the head gaskets were blown, it isn't obvious where they failed. There was one head bolt that was not as tight as all the others, but that was the only evidence we had that anything was wrong. Today I pulled the water pump because of the bad bearing. Oh, looky here, the impeller has disintegrated. So even if the head gaskets were not bad, this project has not been a total waste. Pulling the engine certainly made the water pump easier to replace.

I replaced the water pump on our Windstar van several years ago, and it was no picnic. It was same kind of setup: transverse mounted V-6, front wheel drive. The front of the engine is right up against the right front fender, so you are working in a very restricted space, and that water pump was on the outside of the engine.

The water pump on this engine is inside, behind the timing chains. You build something like this you better be very confident that the water pump is going to last for the life of the engine, or at least as long as the timing chains. I am wondering about those chains and the associated guides now. Should I replace them as well? This is supposed to be an economy repair, my free labor being the biggest part of it.

Today I went to Lucille's to buy some scrub brushes to clean the mating surfaces of the heads and the block. Used to be, when engines were made of cast iron (as god intended), you could clean up these surfaces with a sharp scraper and a rag. Not anymore. With aluminum, you can't use anything harder than your fingernail to clean off the old crud for fear of putting a scratch in the surface that the new gasket won't seal. You can use a wood or plastic scraper, but no steel implements. These work, but they are slow and tedious, and you need a good supply because they wear down and lose their edge. The tool of choice these days is a funny little plastic brush made by 3M. They come in different colors: green, white and yellow at least. The yellow ones are for cast iron and the white ones are for aluminum. Eric says you can use the green ones on aluminum. But you can't just buy the brush, you need a die grinder to spin it. Thanks to the inscrutable Orientals, air tools can be had for a pittance these days, matter of fact, the two little 3M plastic brushes cost more than the 25,000 RPM die grinder.

Cleaning the surfaces still took a fair amount of time. Some places the black residue from the old gaskets flaked right off, other places it was like it had become one with the metal.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Green Century Electronics Recycling

Jack wanted a flat panel display for his seismograph, so we drove downtown to this computer recycling place.

They have a small showroom where they have used/refubished computers for sale. I saw one that looked kind of like mine, but newer, for $50. Jack picked up a display for $30. Complete computer systems run $150.

They also have sizable warehouse full of old computers and CRT's (Cathode Ray Tube). Can you believe it? Nobody wants a CRT any more. Twenty years ago we would have killed for a 17" CRT. Now you have to pay to get rid of them. These guys load them on pallets and ship them to a processor where they take them apart. Plastic cases go in one pile, steel bits in another, electronics in another. The deflection coils, which are made of copper wire are pulled off, and the tube itself is pulverized. The electronics and the tube contain lead and so require special treatment. The copper wire is the only thing of value.

Can you imagine how much work it is going to take to get rid of all the old CRT's? There must be millions of them in the country, and everyone is replacing them as fast as they can.

I have a 36" CRT TV that I bought five or ten years ago, at the very tale end of the CRT age. It's in a cabinet built into the wall. At the time, we really liked it. It was a big improvement over our 20 inch. It hasn't been turned on for at least a year. I think it will probably just stay there. It weighs 300 pounds, no one wants to put in the effort to move it. I think if we ever need a TV in that room again, we will just hang a flat panel on the wall in front of it.

Tail Wind

After the movie, we drove out to the airport to pick up Mom, returning from her week in the wilds of West Virginia. We got there plenty early and thought we would spend some time in the Powell's book store while we waited. We checked the status board when we got there and it showed that Mom's flight was arriving. We blew it off as some kind of error, because who ever heard of a flight being 50 minutes early? Five minutes later we get a text from Mom telling us she's here, and where are we?

The flight was from Atlanta and it normally takes a little more than five hours to get to Portland, but this time they picked up a tail wind and got here almost an hour early. I was surprised, to say the least. I was also surprised that Atlanta is that far away.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 2

The kids and I saw the new Harry Potter movie yesterday afternoon. I can't say as I was impressed. My daughter has been a faithful devotee of all things Potter since the beginning. I've read a couple of the books and I've seen most of the movies, and I have enjoyed them. This one though, I dunno, it just didn't have the same ... je ne sais quoi. I got the impression it was all war all the time, Harry and all the good guys against the bad guy, what's his name, and his army of minions. The magic was too much like hi-tech gooble-de-gook, but I think the biggest failing was there was virtually no interplay between the characters, and no comedy. Nothing funny about war at all.

The trip to the vaults in Gringots (did I phrase/spell that right?) was semi-interesting, in an advertisement-for-the-new-attraction-at-Disney-World kind of way, and the family bit at the end was pleasant. But that was about it.

Gunsmith Jack

The slogan on the scope says "Victory Justifies Everything"
My friend Jack bought a surplus Finish military rifle. It has iron sights and a quick-connect mount for a scope, but no scope and no mating quick-connect piece, so he made one using his newly re-powered milling machine. The receiver is a Mosin Nagant from 1890. It came into Finish hands when Finland became independent from Russia. Around 1970, they made new guns out of the old receivers, new Sako barrels and new target stocks. Theses guns were used by the army for periodic requalifications, that's why they got the fancy stocks. Make it as easy as possible to pass the test. I don't have much experiance with scopes, and what I have had has been frustrating. I find it very difficult to get my head in the right position relative to the gun so that I have a clear view through the scope, and then it won't stay. The least little movement and I lose the sight picture. But not this gun, I pick it up and I can see through the scope just fine. I was surprised. Maybe it's not me, maybe it's the guns I've been using, or maybe it's the scope.

This gun has a tapered dovetail groove about two inches long on top of the receiver. If you had the mating piece, it would slide in and the taper would jam and hold it in place until it was forcibly removed. There is a threaded hole in the top for a screw that locks it in place. Only problem with this setup is that the legs on the scope are very short, which leaves very little space for the knob on the screw, seen edge-on in the pictures.

Jack made the adaptor out of aluminum, much easier to machine than steel. The part has a male (!?), tapered dovetail on the bottom to match the one on top of the receiver, and another straight one on top for the scope mounts to clamp onto.

This thing is supposed to be a quick mount, and that part works well. It should also be a quick dismount, but Jack hasn't worked that part out yet. There is the old drop-the-gun-on-its'-butt trick, which should cause the taper to release and the scope to drop off, but that seems a little harsh. There is a short pin protruding from the right side of the mount, so maybe the original had some mechanism that worked with this pin to unlock the taper.

Jack hasn't shot it yet, so we don't know if the adapter he made is going to work or not. If he got the taper off by even one degree, that might be more that the scope can adjust for. On the other hand, it looks straight.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chrysler Sebring, Day 24

Started tearing into the motor this evening. Removed the timing chain and the camshafts without too much difficulty. The little bolts holding the cam bearing caps were a bit of a bear to loosen. Twelve point socket wouldn't hold and the only six-point, 10 mm socket I have is quarter-inch drive, so we had to rig up an extension for our mini-breaker bar in order to have enough torque to break them loose. Bigger problem was keeping track of all the bearing caps and cam followers. "Good practice" requires that these pieces be reinstalled in their original places. Fortunately the bearing caps are marked 1I (for Intake) thru 5E (for Exhaust) so we just had to put them in separate, marked boxes for the two the cylinder heads. The cam followers are not very big, and are very dark and oily, so even if they are marked, the marks are going to be difficult to read. I sacrificed one of our Lego storage boxes and just put one follower in each slot, and labeled the lid of the box.

Now we can pull the heads, but boy these bolts are tight. We resort to using the torque wrench to break them loose. We get two loose, and then the wrench starts slipping. Uh, oh, looks like we cracked it. Going to need a new one. That's going to have to be tomorrow, all the stores are closed now.

I am cleaning up and I happen to notice that the idler sprocket is sitting at an angle. What the heck? Is this some kind of special spring loaded bearing that allows it to flop around like this? Umm, no. The bearing is shot. While I am fooling with it a ball falls out and rolls across the floor. This explains the loose ball I found in the timing cover when I pulled it off yesterday. This sprocket also happens to drive the water pump. I am beginning to wonder how much more damage I have yet to discover. On the plus side, the cam bearings all look fine.

You might notice the confused labeling on the plastic box I used for the cam followers. Used to be in the good old days, when all cars had their engines in the front and employed rear wheel drive (the way god intended), that the front, rear, left and right sides of the engine corresponded to the same aspects of the car. Now though, with these cross-wise front wheel drive jobs it's a little hard to tell. Do directions on the engine correspond to the directions on the car, or do they correspond to the functions of the engine? The front of the engine used to have the pulley that drove all the accessories, and the rear of the engine attached to the transmission. If you look at it that way, then the left side of the engine is towards the front of the car, and the right side of the engine is towards the rear of the car. I guess the question is whether you are car centric, or engine centric. Well, bucky, which is it?

The Puller & The Pullee, the Back Story

Big, ugly axle nut
A long time ago I was living in Houston and I had Rambler station wagon in my care that needed new rear brakes. I was working as an industrial mechanic at that time, so it was no big deal, or so I thought. On most cars the rear brake drums are secured by the lug nuts that hold the wheel on. The end of the axle has a flange with the wheel studs, the brake drum is sandwiched between the wheel and this flange, and the lug nuts hold the whole thing together. Not this Rambler though. The end of the axle is threaded and there is a big nut holding the brake drum in place. That would be okay, if I could loosen it, but no matter how big a wrench I put on it, I could not get it to budge. I finally ended up using a cold chisel to cut one side of the nut. Only then was I able to unscrew it.

Brake drum puller
Now we should be able to just pull the brake drum off. Um, no. It's going to take a wheel puller. Back then (the mid 1970's), a stout wheel puller was an expensive item, so I elected to rent one. The one they gave me had a weld across one of the legs. This doesn't look good. The thing has been broken once, and somebody has welded it back together. Oh, well, it's got to be better than tugging on it with my hands, so I take it home and give it a try. Bang! It breaks. So it's not any better than my hands. Eventually I got the drums off. The axle and the hole in the drum were a Morse taper (see picture), so I think the technique for separating them is to tighten up the wheel puller to put some strain on the brake drum, and then wack the end of the pulling screw with a big hammer. With luck, this will break the grip of the taper, and the whole thing will come off in your hand.

Rambler rear brake assembly and axle
So I got the brake drums off, replaced the shoes, and I am putting things back together, but I need two new axle nuts, after all, I split the old ones so they aren't going to work anymore. So off to the auto parts store I go where I search hi and low for the right axle nuts. I find two that match the ones I took off, but they are not the same diameter as the axles. I root around some more and eventually find two more that are the correct diameter (and thread pitch) but they do not use the same size wrench. I take them home and they thread onto the axles like they were made for it. What's going on here? The difference in diameter of the two nuts I found was on the order of a sixteenth, or maybe a thirty-second of an inch. I think what happened is that the last time this job was done, somebody gave the mechanic the wrong axle nuts. Not having the right ones, wanting to get the job done and go home, he heated them up till they were red-hot and then ran them on with an impact wrench, where they cooled, contracted, and became one with the axle. I can't imagine how else this situation could have come to pass.

Update February 2017 replaced missing pictures.

America, The Insane, Part 2

Michele Bachmann isn't the only one. When my gang gets together at lunch, accusing each other of being one form of crazy or another is a normal part of our discourse. Then there's that old Quaker proverb: "Everybody's crazy except for me and thee and sometimes I wonder about you."

Scott Robert Ladd posted a link on Facebook to a New York Times book review of three books about crazy America. It is pretty interesting, especially if you are as crazy as I am.

Update: corrected wording of the proverb.

The A/C Bill

Dustbury's post today about the electric bill reminded me of my encounter with the electric company in Phoenix twenty odd years ago.

My wife was due to deliver our first child, so grandma flew down to help out. This is early July and she stayed for about a month. She was a great help, and she liked to cook. We had the A/C cranked down to 72 to keep mom and the baby comfortable, grandma is cooking up a storm in the all electric kitchen, and outside it's over a hundred degrees every day. For a month. My electric bill was $400. Yowzir.

Not that it would have made any difference that July, but I got curious as to why it was an all electric house. Gas was available in other parts of Phoenix, why not in my neighborhood? It seems that electricity and Natural Gas were sold by the same company, and during the oil crisis of whenever, they decided on a moratorium for new gas connections, to help out with the oil crisis you know. Like that would have helped at all. The real reason is they wanted more customers for their brand new atomic power plant. I wouldn't be surprised if they are still building developments without gas connections.

I just realized that this all happened the same year the reactor went on line.

Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant

View 2011 in a larger map

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Puller & The Pulley, or Chrysler Sebring, Day 25

We are finally starting to tear into the motor itself. Soon we will know whether it can be salvaged or not. But right now we need to get the timing chain off, which means the timing chain cover needs to come off, which means the big fat pulley on the end of the crank needs to come off.

Stupid pulley. It's held on with a bolt, but simply pulling the bolt out is not enough. The pulley is pressed onto the shaft (the front/right end of the crankshaft). "Pressed" is putting it mildly. It's pushed on with the force of Jehovah. Pulling it off is going to require some prayer.

So I went to Lucille's, our local temple to the gods of machined-ness. The had a whole selection of pullers available, little tiny cute ones, great big monster ones, two jawed, three jawed, high strength, really cheap, and really expensive. The pulley I'm dealing with is an eight inch monster, but the big thick rim is supported by thin little spokes. Can I pull it off by the rim? Or has it been pushed on with so much force that pulling on the rim will bend the spokes and effectively destroy the pulley?

Maybe I can get the hooks for a small puller in those slots around the hub, plus the price on the small puller is only ten bucks. If this little puller gets destroyed, it's not the end of the world. Mr. Lucille though has another idea. He has a special, high strength, expensive puller, that might be just the ticket. The one he has is a warranty return. Some yahoos bought it and put a six foot wrench on the end and trashed the threads on the center screw, the one that does all the pulling. So he and his (grand-)daughter scramble around and find a tap and a die to clean up the threads with. They run the screw from the puller through the die, and it really does look much better. They run the tap through the center of puller, but it's hard to tell if it makes much improvement.

This puller sells for $70, and he wants half of that for this "reconditioned" version. I am skeptical. I have dealt with recalcitrant pull-ees and weak pullers before and this does not sound like a good deal. But he guarantees it: if it doesn't work, he'll give me my money back. Well, all right then, if it does the trick, it will be worth it.

It doesn't work. There is not enough room between the pulley and the timing chain cover to get the hooks behind the inner hub. I take it back and exchange it for the big, three armed, 8 inch puller shown in the picture. Only problem is now there is nothing to push against. The central screw is too large to go inside the bolt hole in the crank, so I drill a small hole in the center of the bolt, screw it almost all the way in by hand, and use it to push against. It works! And it doesn't destroy the pulley, which is really good. Now that I know the pulley can be moved without an ungodly amount of force, I substitute a couple of deep, quarter inch drive sockets for the bolt. They work perfectly and the pulley comes off.

Now we can take the timing cover off and see what glories are revealed.

Fifth Amendment

Our great and munificent government seems to be hell-bent on trampling the Bill of Rights. The latest assault is an argument over the Fifth Amendment (Via Tam, Queen of Snark, and Say Uncle). Not recalling just what the Fifth Amendment says, I looked it up on Wikipedia. Here is the text:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Whoa! There is a whole lot of stuff in that one little paragraph. Just for grins, I disassembled it so I could more easily see what all it contained. You can see my reformatted version here.

But wait a minute, they are arguing about getting access to an encrypted hard drive. I thought this is why we gave the NSA all that money: so they could buy enormous computers that could decrypt anything. Surely the commercial grade encryption that was used on this laptop would be easy prey for even an amateur computer hacker. On one hand I needed a password for one of my Window's computers, and my son was able to download a program, burn a disk, and run the program on the recalcitrant machine and extract a usable password in less than an hour. On the other hand, the instruction manual for an IBM laptop says that if you encrypt the hard drive, and then forget the password, you may as well throw the hard drive away.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chrysler Sebring, Day 23

Finished the engine stand and got the engine up onto it. It was a little nerve racking, balancing the motor on top of the floor jack, while we pulled out the bricks and sticks that had been supporting it and then wrapped our newly constructed work stand around it and persuaded the supports to stand where we wanted them. They were a bit uncooperative.

It's up, and it's stable, but it's not what you would call rock solid. I suspect the whole mass of metal weighs upward of 500 pounds. The longer supports, the ones on either side of the engine, are taking the weight. The ones at either end are not doing much of anything. The supports can take the weight, and they are braced in one direction, but not in the other, which means the whole thing moves back and forth a bit. I am thinking a couple of horizontal cross bars connecting the vertical supports could make it solid. They would make it tougher to get down when we finish. It might be worthwhile to borrow a hoist for that part.

There are several big bolt holes in the bottom of the engine and transmission that would be great for attaching some kind of jack platform, except they are all at different levels and angles. Working underneath, trying to figure out the dimensions would be a real pain. Even figuring out the placement of the vertical supports for my stand did not work out precisely as I had hoped.

Quote of the Day

But does it ever go all the way to "OFF?" Even when I pull the plug on my TellyaVision and squalid-state Difference Engine, the politicians are still in there, ever so faint, making weird little pinging noises against the screen. - Roberta X

Some people just have a way with words.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Death of an Englishman" by Magdalen Nabb

Death of an Englishman by Magdalen Nabb, a good old fashioned murder mystery.

The story was written 30 years ago. The cleaner is 42, he was 6 when WWII ended, which would make it 36 years later, or 1981, which was 30 years ago, which is when this story was written. I mention this because it had a very old fashioned feel to it. It seemed to be set in much earlier time. I can't quite say why that is. Any elements I care to mention, like the officiousness of the officials, the shabby surroundings, the embarrassment of the characters, can not readily be attributed to any particular time period. So maybe it's just the style of writing that makes it seem old. The style is very different than the Spenser stories.

I think I have finally figured why mysteries are so popular, and perhaps why I enjoy them. The plot of solving a crime is just a thread on which the author can hang his observations about people. As there is an infinite variety of people, and people are infinitely complex, there are no end of insights to be made. You could read a mystery a day for hundred years and just scratch the surface of people's behavior. Nothing more interesting than ourselves. Hmmph. The plot? That's just something to string you along. There were big holes in the plot in Potshot, but it didn't really matter. The plot was just a vehicle for setting up the situations the characters find themselves in. What the characters think, feel & do in that situation is what makes an story interesting, or not. Anyway, that's today's theory.

A couple of English language Science Fiction books are found in the victims apartment. I am always curious when an author mentions another book. Who knows? It might turn out to be a real find, so I Googled the titles, but I didn't find much. It has been 30 years, so the books mentioned could have simply vanished. I could not find a book named Planet on Fire that existed back in 1981, though there is one called Planet of Fire written in 1974 by Sir Patrick Moore. The other is called Out of all Time, but the only one I could find was written in 1988, which would put it out of the running, by one Terry Bougher and seems to be a gay and lesbian history, which should put it doubly out of the running.

Potshot by Robert B. Parker

There was TV show a while back called Spenser: For Hire about a private investigator in Boston. My wife and I used to watch it regularly. He had a sidekick called Hawk, big black ominous fellow who didn't say much, but whose words carried weight. He was like the main reason for watching the show. Spenser was like the main story, but that was all like setup for Hawk who would appear briefly and utter one line that would just make the whole show. I may be overstating it a bit. Eventually someone made a whole show just about Hawk. It fell flat. It died after one season.

Anyway, the TV show was based on a series of books by Mr. Parker. I've read a couple of them and they are enjoyable. I read Potshot in a day. There were a couple of things that stood out. One was a comment about watching a wild animal move and how it was almost physically enjoyable. Another was Hawk's comments about donuts while they are waiting for the bad guys to show up, it was just the best. The last was a brief exchange at an after-action breakfast. One of the bright young toughs asks why they didn't go after the bad guys in their hideout instead of waiting for them to attack. If we had gone in after them, he argues, it would have had the same result, but with a lot less risk to ourselves, and we could have been done days earlier.

Hawk replies that, to Spenser, it is not just that the job gets done, but how it gets done that makes a difference. I was a bit flummoxed by this. Could these guys really not see the difference? I think this may be part of my trouble in dealing with people. I see things and think the situation is obvious, other people see the same situation and see something completely different. So maybe they really couldn't see what was obvious to Spenser, and me. Maybe some people just don't see the implications, or possible consequences of their actions. They might if they thought about it, but that would require linear thinking, something we avoid if we can.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I took my family out to dinner at Wildwood the other day to celebrate everyone's birthday. Everyone's birthdays fall within a six week period during the summer, and this was the only week when we would all be here. Already Ross has left for Colorado and my wife is off to West Virginia to meet up with her mom. $5 plates of barbeque were supposed to be the happy hour deal. Turned out to be $6 plates of grilled chicken or sausage. I had the chicken and I have to admit it was very tasty. The boys ordered hamburgers for some exorbitant price. I don't recall what the girls ordered. I ordered a Budweiser, my preferred flavor these days, and I noticed the label was a bit unusual: it had bits of gold colored stuff on it. I didn't think much of it until I asked for another one and was told that I had just consumed their last Bud! Now I wonder how long that first one had been sitting there.

Anyways, I got some pictures of some of the desserts.

This one is made with a Bay Leaf and raspberries. I ordered it because I couldn't believe someone could make a dessert with a Bay Leaf.

Special small spoon for stirring your coffee.

Chrysler Sebring, Day 19

Did not get any work done on the engine this week, though today we started building a stand to support the engine while we work on it. The bricks it is sitting on right now are not all that stable.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Thank god for the Russians. What we previously thought was a bad vacuum tube turned out to be nothing more than a broken wire in the speaker jack. Soldering that back together put the Marshall JCM 900 back in operation, until it broke again about a week later. This time I noticed a purple glow in the back, and I thought, hey, that's kind of cool. It's not too obvious in this picture, at least compared to the one glowing the bright cherry red.

Taking off the back made it more obvious. A little research tells us that the purple glow is ionized air that has leaked into our vacuum, so it looks like we are going to need a set of power amplifier tubes after all.

Here's our set of new tubes from Old Town Music. Made by Svetlana. In Russia. Who'd a thunk we'd be buying electronics from the commies for an amplifier made in socialist Britain?


FBI Academy, Quantico, Virigina
I picked up a copy of Quantico by New York Times Bestselling Author Greg Bear the other day and I am enjoying it pretty well. I've read some Science Fiction books by Mr. Bear that were pretty good, not great, but pretty good. Anyway I'm crawling along through this near future tale of a bio-terror investigation and the protagonist mentions Donovan's Brain. What the heck? Isn't that one of the books I picked up at Post Hip a week or so ago? It is! Huh. I'll be durned.

Let us not forget good ol' J. Edgar
Some of initial scenes are set in Hogan's Alley.

Update February 2017 replaced missing picture.

3D Printer

Mark sent me this. It might actually be recent news. 3D prototyping techniques have been around for a few years now. I think I have seen the ball bearing trick before. I have not seen anyone make a wrench though.

ZCorp's 3D Printer replicates a wrench

Plastic is getting amazingly strong, but there are still situations require metal. A plastic wrench might work well enough for a demo, but it is not going to work on real iron. Of course, if your whole machine is made out of plastic, a plastic wrench would probably work just fine.

The comment about the accuracy and human hair got me to do a little checking. 40 microns is about one-and-one-half thousandths of an inch (0.0015"). According to The Physics Factbook, the diameter of human hair ranges from 17 to 181 µm. (µm is the abreviation for microns, also known as micrometers.)

Update February 2017 replaced missing video. Zcorporation has been taken over by 3D Systems.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quote of the Day

"How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct." - Benjamin Disraeli
Found on Don't Shake the Flask

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bolder Won, Part 2

Ned sent me some more photos of the boat he is working on. I'm starting to realize how big and unusual it is. The scoops on the side of the hulls look, um, cool? interesting? dangerous?

Part 1

Friday, July 1, 2011

Linear Thinking

It occurs to me that linear thinking is what enables our civilization, such as it is. Linear thinking is what enables us to tell a story, follow a recipe or do a math problem. Linear thinking is what school is all about: one step after another, in sequence, towards an intended goal. Eventually the goal will be reached. People aren't normally like that. They are more everything, all the time. That's what parties are: too much of everything: food, drink, conversation, music, dancing, motion, and all at once. Academia is just the opposite: one thing, all alone, undisturbed, carefully considered.

Our civilization has spent a great deal of time and effort developing linear thinking so we could build the infrastructure that supports our civilization and gives us the time and freedom to enjoy it and not have to use linear thinking, which is difficult and a real pain. This is why kids hate math and some kids don't learn to read. It's also the reason why loud mouthed, self promoting slime-balls enjoy such immense popularity: they don't engage in linear thinking and they don't require you to do so either. Just listen and watch and experience their entire show. It's glorious! It must be! They say it is!

This is why we are all doomed to another world wide conflagration. The more advanced we become technically, the more free time people have, and the less they will need linear thinking and the more they will start responding emotionally, where upon they will start following whatever yahoo is putting on the most entertaining show. We can't help it, it's simply our nature.

Eagles - Life in the fast lane

Update February 2017 replaced missing video.
Update March 2021 replaced missing video.
Update August 2022 replaced missing video.

Yacht Disaster

Steve sent me some pictures of a motor yacht breaking loose from a sling and falling nose first into the harbor. I got to wondering how that came to pass. Was it really an equipment failure? Or was it some overworked rigger making a mistake? Or, my personnel favorite, deliberate sabotage by someone nursing a grudge against some too rich jackass?

Unfortunately, the email didn't identify the boat, owner, harbor or date, much less any assign any blame, so I did a a little digging. I found exactly the same story posted in several places. I finally came across the origins of the story on, which did give all the pertinent details, except the owner.

Narco Christianity

From a story at Business Insider:
The Knights subscribe to La Familia's ruthless brand of narco-Christianity — Gomez and the late Moreno converted to Evangelical Christianity while working as migrants in the U.S. and have referred to their beheadings and assassinations as "divine justice."  The Knights have already gained a reputation for extreme brutality – the gang displayed at least 9 bodies last week with warnings that they would take down any allies of La Familia or Los Zetas, another powerful Mexican cartel.