Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Monday, October 31, 2011

King Coffee Cup

bit the dust revealing surprising double wall construction:

Gunter Glieben Glauchen Globen

This way running in my head this morning, so I played it.

What a minute, I know that intro phrase, it's from this tune.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Unfairness of Style

Wonderful Art Nouveau Poster
So the Occupy Wall Street folks are griping about the current state of affairs. One of the complaints is that the CEO of Giant Multinational Conglomerate is making a zillion dollars a day while Rupert P. Diddlebums is having to scrounge through the dumpsters to find enough to survive on.

One post I saw had a link to a whole bunch of official government graphs that showed, something. I suppose they were supposed to show how bad the situation is, or how unfair it all is. Whatever. They are a bunch of charts. Pixels on the screen. Not even ink on paper. What does it all mean?

It does not matter how much money those guys are making. It could be a million or a billion or a zillion. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that they are making more money than I am. If the world were fair, all the money would be mine and you all would be doing my bidding. Since that is not the case God must hate me, and since I have done nothing wrong in this life, it must have been a past life, therefor reincarnation is real. QED. Ipso facto whateverium. Sorry, sometimes my tangents lead me astray. Back to our story.

The guys with the money aren't worried about the little people because they have bigger fish to fry. Some of them, it's true, are only interested in shuffling money around so that more of it sticks to them, but they are like the ads in the sidebar of a Google search page: they don't matter. What's really going on is the big guys are deciding whether to spend five billion on a new fab in China or India, or ten billion on a new pipeline across South America or a new coal mine in Manchuria. There's a million decisions like this being made every day. That's what's really going on.

But that's the world, and America is only a small part of the world. We used to be a huge part, but the rest of the world has been catching up. While we may still be the biggest fish, we no longer outweigh everybody else combined.

So what's going on here at home? I am beginning to think the biggest business in the US is arranging financing for projects in other countries. We don't need any big investments, we've done all that, we have all the industrial infrastructure we need. The second part is the computer revolution. Automation has eliminated half of all the jobs. The third thing is attitude. All the people who are making money in the new whiz bang, computerized money changer, US economy think they know what's right. They worked hard and made a ton of money, so everyone else must be a moron and it's their own fault they are stupid and broke. The problem, and this is really the crux of the matter, is that they are not smarter than everybody else, and they did not work any harder. They were simply lucky. Of course you can't tell them that, and even if you did, would it make any difference? Well, maybe.

Wretched Art Deco Poster
The problem is that when you blindly pursue profit and economic growth there are whole groups of people who are getting shoved aside, ignored and downtrodden. If it goes on long enough and hard enough you've got the breeding ground for revolution, or even, gasp, communists! On the other hand, if you find some way to include those people who are out on the fringe in your new world order (like it or not, here it comes), your economy will be that much larger, stronger, more powerful, and less likely to be wasting huge amounts of time and energy quibbling about how unfair it all is.

Back around the turn of the century, the last century that is, i.e. 1900, there was a fad in the art department called Art Nouveau. Pictures from this period are instantly recognizable and are very wonderful. Sometime around 1920, Art Nouveau slipped away and the god-awful Art Deco took off. Then in 1929 we had the crash, followed by the GREAT DEPRESSION. Coincidence? I don't think so. The morons that were screwing the economy were the same ones who were buying all that Art Deco crap.

The moral of this story is that if you like Art Deco you should be confined to your cubicle filling your role as a cog in the great corporate machine, but you should never be promoted to a position where you have any control over anyone else.

If you like Art Nouveau, you should spend your time sitting in cafes and sipping coffee until your funds run out whereupon you will be transplanted to the poor house where you will end your days subsisting on the thin gruel that passes for food in those places.

And who is going to run things? People with no appreciation for art. We're doomed.

Update November 2015. Replace missing Art Deco picture.
Update April 2022. Replace missing Art Nouveau picture.


Some of my best friends like watching The New Yankee Workshop with Norm Abram. I have watched bits of it, and some parts of it are interesting, but overall I can't stand it and I think the reason  is Norm. I cannot tell you what it is about him that bugs me, but he just drives me nuts.

I just went looking for a link to the show, the search engine selector was set to Wikipedia, and I thought, shoot, let's see what pops up. Well, there's the Wikipedia page, and here's a list of links and one of them goes to the show's website. But what's this? AU, Stop Poisoning Me With Gold? So I have to go look it up, and it turns out to be a "cultural reference" from House:
"It's a complete moron working with power tools. How much more suspenseful can you get?"
 That might explain it.

 I remember talking to a woman I worked with a long time ago, and she was bemoaning the sad state of the dating pool. When I mentioned a man we both worked with, she responded with "Have you ever talked to him? He's a moron", or words to that effect. I never suspected. Of course I hardly ever talked to any of my co-workers anyway.

So maybe it's because my mother taught me to always give people the benefit of the doubt. (Should the last "the" be in there? Should it be just "the benefit of doubt"?) So given enough evidence / rope I will condemn someone for being stupid, but on a short little interaction I won't, except subconciously, I do.

Classifying a stranger's intelligence seems to be something people do almost instinctively. Yet how is it done? How can you judge how smart someone is on a single sentence? And how accurate is it?


I spend some time on the internet most everyday and my two favorite sites to visit are Dustbury and View From The Porch, but I don't really know why they are my favorites. I could say they are well written, topical, interesting, or demonstrate a dry sense of humor, which are all true, but I'm not sure that's why.

Sometimes I write things and it flows directly from my mind onto the screen, but then I go back and look at it a day or a week or a month later and I trip over the sentence because it doesn't go as I expected. It's like . . . I'm trying to think of an analogy and I'm not getting one. Let's try this: roller chains get used to drive the  rear wheels on bicycles and motorcycles. Bicycles use thin, light chains, Harley's use big heavy thick chains, and all those mopeds and motorcycles in between use in between sizes. So I'm reading along and everything is going smoothly, like a bicycle chain going around the sprocket, and then there is a hiccup and all of sudden everything is different. It's like somebody has just spliced a motorcycle chain onto the bicycle chain and the sprocket doesn't know what to do with it.

So I'm wondering if my two heroes are perhaps just consistently smoother writers than all the other pundits floating around out there in the blogosphere.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today

The whole cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness thing seems to be one of unspoken underpinnings of modern, Western civilization, and sometimes I wonder whether it is really such a good thing. Then this showed up in my inbox last night:

Publisher Comments:
A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to us—and always will. We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of life—parasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predators—to allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.
The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while "clean living" has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia.
In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.
Taken from the daily email promoting this book.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Piezoelectricity & Politics

Replaced the thermopile in the upstairs gas fireplace this afternoon. Went to test it and the push-button igniter isn't working, which is kind of surpising, so I look on the net for anything that might give me a clue as to why it should have failed. I mean, mechanically they are the simplest thing in the world. The bit that makes them work is pure physics, and that part isn't going to fail. It is high voltage though, and that requires insulation, so if the insulation has broken down, the spark could be leaking out the side of the wire before it gets to its' intended location. I don't find much of anything relating to failures, so I moved the wire around a bit and it started working. Perhaps there was a burnt spot and moving it meant that it was no longer close to the sheet metal box. Perhaps it was karma. Whatever.

Left to right we have the pilot light nozzle, the defunct hazardous mercury safety switch, the old thermopile, and the piezoelectric electrode, reaching back over the top towards the pilot light nozzle. The red stuff at the bottom is special high temperature silicon sealer. It really stinks the first time it gets hot.

While I was looking though, I came across Wikipedia's article about piezoelectricity and it is pretty interesting in its' own right. And then there was this bit:
Development of piezoelectric devices and materials in the United States was kept within the companies doing the development, mostly due to the wartime beginnings of the field, and in the interests of securing profitable patents. New materials were the first to be developed — quartz crystals were the first commercially exploited piezoelectric material, but scientists searched for higher-performance materials. Despite the advances in materials and the maturation of manufacturing processes, the United States market had not grown as quickly. Without many new applications, the growth of the United States' piezoelectric industry suffered.
In contrast, Japanese manufacturers shared their information, quickly overcoming technical and manufacturing challenges and creating new markets. Japanese efforts in materials research created piezoceramic materials competitive to the U.S. materials, but free of expensive patent restrictions.
Sounds kind of like somebody is promoting a political agenda. Then again, it might just be what actually happened.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Art Imitating Art

Finished watching The Secret in Their Eyes this evening, a movie about a murder in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lovely young woman is raped and murdered. One of the officials (it's a little hard to tell just what rank or position these guys hold. This isn't the US) has two construction workers arrested and beats a confession out of them. Esposito, our hero, a fellow of similar rank discovers this and files an official complaint, which gets the bad cop responsible for this outrage posted to some remote backwater, or otherwise punished.

They get a lead on a suspect, but he vanishes. Time passes, the case is closed, and then one day our hero runs into the widower of the murdered woman. He has been looking for the suspect in train stations for a year without success. His tenacity inspires Esposito to reopen the case. With the help of his drunken compadre, they figure out where to look for the suspect and eventually apprehend him. He is convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

More time passes, and then one day the widower of the murdered woman sees the murderer out on the street, which causes him some confusion. He takes his questions to Esposito. When Esposito looks into it, he runs into his nemesis, the guy he got booted out. He is now working for some kind of anti-terrorism squad and they are using the culprit as an informer and undercover operator, or so he says. You get the feeling he has actually arranged to get the murderer out of jail solely to get back at Esposito.


Monday evening we watched an episode of The Good Wife where they are suing an aircraft manufacturer on behalf of the surviving relatives of 50 or so people who were killed when a small airliner crashed. Their star witness commits suicide over some unrelated troubles, so they reach out to a financier who dealt with the aircraft company. Unfortunately, he's in jail. He murdered his wife, but they were unable to convict him of it. The best they could do was convict him of involuntary manslaughter. Now they need his testimony, but he wants his freedom. So they arrange for him to give them some help with another criminal case. In return he get's his freedom and they get their testimony.


So we have two cases where a murderer is released from prison in exchange for helping the authorities with some other cases. The case from Argentina filled me outrage at the scumbag who released the killer because he did it only for his own personal interests. The one from Chicago only gave me a slight feeling of disgust. Was there any real difference?

In the Chicago case, the cops are trying to make a case against a guy who is already in prison. He is organizing crimes on the outside. If they convict him of these new charges, what will they have gained? As for the murderer, well, who knows how that is going to play out. He might get hit by a train, or the guy in prison may arrange for him to be hit by a train. You never know about these things.

The case in Argentina had a different outcome, but that would be telling.

The Secret in Their Eyes is actually a love story, and a very good one at that.

Word of the Day

Sewer, which can mean the drain pipes that conduct waste water away from your house or factory, or it can mean a person who sews. In the later case it is pronounced like sower, which would be a person who plants stuff, be it seeds or the beginnings of a plot. So be careful how you use this word, or you may reap misapprehension, which is another really good word, though I am not sure just what it might be good for.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Economic Confusion, Part 3

Just read a fine story on So Far From Heaven about a guy living The American Dream, versus China, which reminded me of some casters I bought this summer. I built a stand to support an engine while I was working on it. I mounted it on casters so I could move it around as I needed. I bought the materials, including the casters, from Home Depot. Later on I needed a straight edge, so I went to Harbor Freight, which only sells stuff from China. I'm looking around, because it is a tool guy's paradise, and I notice they have a furniture dolly for sale and the price of the whole dolly is less than the price of the four casters I bought at Home Depot.

Of course, the casters I bought from Home Depot could have come from China as well, the relatively small difference in price could just as easily be explained by different business models.

Harbor Freight is an amazing place for anyone who wants to buy tools. The prices are amazingly low, it is very hard to resist the temptation to buy something there, especially if it is for a one time use. If you are using a tool in your job, and you use it all day long, Harbor Freight may not be your best choice.

Buying American is hard to justify when you hear stories of corporate malfeasance and union workers making a hundred grand a year and you are unemployed.

But what about the Chinese? Does buying stuff from China help out the Chinese? My image of China is a country that is still very poor, but is trying to turn itself into a first world country. That was what the Soviets were trying to do with Russia, until it all fell apart. China, being inscrutable, may have learned something from the Soviet collapse, which is why they are sucking up all the money they can, i.e. not allowing the yuan to float and dumping exports. So freedom is curtailed in China, you can't call the party leaders stupid pigs, but there is some economic progress, and it is trickling down to the peasants.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Knight & Day

Knight & Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. We watched it Saturday night. It's the best movie I've seen since, oh, Bridesmaids maybe. It's a James Bond-esque spy thriller with all the usual spy-thriller kind of stuff, but it was so over the top it was just hilarious. Kind of reminded me of True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.


I took Momma's car (2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor) into Eric's for an oil change today. It took me maybe an hour all told, from the time I left the house until I got back. It cost me $30. It would have cost me just as much and probably taken me longer to do it myself, not to mention still having to dispose of the oil.

While I was waiting I looked through the maintenance section in the owners manual. The car has 60,000 miles on it and I don't think it has ever had any maintenance done besides oil and filter changes. Is there anything else that should be done? Well, it could use a new air filter and the coolant (anti-freeze) should be changed, but other than that, no, not really.

The timing belt does not need to be replaced till we reach 105,000 miles.

The spark plugs need to changed occasionally, but how often depends on what kind of spark plugs you have. Are they regular, super (platinum tipped), or extra crispy (iridium! Shades of Toolmaker Koan)? How do you tell? I think I'll just wait until someone complains. Who will it be? Momma, or the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality)?

The intake valves on some engines need to be adjusted. Which engines? The 4G6-MIVEC and the 6G7-MIVEC. What kind of engine is in our car?

Okay, that's as clear as mud. AG7B maybe? If I am really bored I might call Mitsubishi tomorrow and ask.

I finish looking through the maintenance schedule and I realize I did not see anything about the automatic transmission. For all the cars I have ever dealt with before, checking the transmission fluid level was a regular deal, and changing it was something that needed doing ever few years. What's going on? I look through the schedule again and there are all kinds of things you are supposed to check like hoses and belts and brakes and boots, but I can find nothing about the transmission. I finally find an entry, but it is in the severe service list, so it is not like I am blind.

Now I am curious, so I look under the hood. Usually the handle to the dipstick for the automatic transmission is some bright colored piece of plastic sticking out in plain sight. I look and look but I do not see it. I do notice this odd little cap on a piece of hose. See the white number 10?

Wait, what's that down in the shadows?

Could that be the transmission dipstick?

I do believe it is! Yes, you can see it quite plainly if the light is right, but it would still take some some doing to get your hand down there and actually get a hold of it. The maintenance schedule goes to 150,000 miles. I guess that by opening the cap on the magic box, even to just check the fluid level, you risk contaminating its' precious bodily fluids.  I suppose that means you just drive it until it grenades, and then buy a new one. Car or transmission, your choice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Look! Up on the hill! It's a bird, it's a plane, . . .

I do not know what it is. Stu might. It is in Britain somewhere. I saw it on an episode of Top Gear. It was just something they saw from the road.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Old Age & Pain

I get aches and pains these days. Some days are worse than others. According to Iowa Andy, waiting for the pain to subside does not work. Take some pain killers and get on with your business. I have noticed that if I do not move, it does not hurt, which subconsciously tends to keep me immobile. Take some pain killers and get on with your business.Watch out though, Tylenol, Ibuprofen and Naproxen are all metabolized in your liver. Taking too much on a continual basis can lead to poisoning your liver and even kill you. Aspirin does not seem to operate the same way, but it does not work as well. Opiates work very well for pain relief, but can you get an effective dose that does not impair your faculties? Assuming of course you could even lay your hands on same. Being motivated and working can mask a lot of these aches and pains. I will pay for it later, but that is alright, as long as I do not have to move.


Used to be, back in the good old days, rags came from old clothes. Nowadays it seems even rags are purpose built. Old clothes in general make terrible rags. They won't tear, they have to be cut, and the material is often useless: it won't absorb anything being as it is often made of some plastic.

Economic Confusion, Part 2

There's a lot of flack in the air about how the rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer. People are quoting all kinds of numbers and blaming all sorts of people for all the troubles we are having.

I think we are looking at the situation all wrong.

Back in the early 20th Century we had the stock market crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression, followed by World War Two. During the great depression there were some make-work programs run by the government to try and put people back to work. The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of these programs and they built some marvelous structures, things that are still with us and still impressive. However, from what I hear it seems that all those make-work programs had no discernible effect on the economy. If continued to be stumble along as if nothing had changed.

It wasn't until World War Two came along that things started to improve, economically speaking. This does not make a great deal of sense. Here we have the government borrowing tons of money, more than they ever borrowed before, and spending it on stuff that was going to get used up and or destroyed. There were tremendous capital investments in the factories for making war machinery, but they were really only good for that one purpose, and only for the duration of the war.

However, after the war, the economy boomed for a good long time. What was the deal then? The government was in debt up their eyeballs. There was quite a bit of new technology available that was developed during the war. There was the thrill of victory. There was pent up demand from years of deprivation. There was a huge number of men entering the workforce. Why did the economy boom?

It kept booming up until about twenty years ago or so, when things started slowing down. We have many of the some things in play now that we had at the end of World War Two: lots of debt, lots of new technology, some men returning from war. We don't have the thrill of victory. The majority has not been suffering deprivation. But our economy is in the dumper.

What happened? What changed? Is it really due to some mystery numbers some pundits are throwing around? Or is there something else going on?

Maybe we are running into the limits of what we can do with our current model of civilized society.

Maybe our system needs a shock.

Could it just be that our attitude is different? We don't have an external enemy to fight, not one that is any kind of real threat anyway, so we start squabbling amongst ourselves. For all our mushy talk about peace, I wonder if we aren't really happier when we are fighting a war. Since World War Two we've had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, two Gulf Wars, and the War in Afghanistan. But none of those was on the scale of World War Two, none involved the entire country down to the sugar and salt on your table.

I wonder if this wasn't what prompted the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt to build the pyramids, a massive project that consume the entire country, something everyone could focus on. Maybe that's what we need.

Maybe that's what we need if that's what we want. If we want a booming economy that tramples over everything that gets in it's way, then we need a single focus for the entire nation, and war may be the only thing we can get the majority to get behind.

Ah, if only there were a state religion, then the head of church and state could declare a holy mission to . . . to do something, pave the streets with gold or something. Then we would be all be busy. There might be some shortages here and there, but we would have a purpose, a glorious purpose, a god-given purpose. Something to do besides hang out down on the corner and complain about the way things are.

Penelope & Parker Fab 1

It's from the movie Thunderbirds that came out a few years ago. I just saw it for the first time on an old episode of Top Gear. What a glorious car! I can't believe the dearth of photos available. I found maybe a couple of dozen and half of those were too small to bother with. These are just barely big enough to be worth posting. I found a few bigger ones, but they were all studio shots, and who want's a picture of a car in a studio? And the stories were even worse. A bunch of carping about how big and hard to park and it uses too much gas and it's pink. Wankers all. This is what a car should be like. Small cars are crushing our souls.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quote of the Day

 From Very Special Intelligence by Patrick Beesly (page 6), talking about an internal document.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Economic Confusion

We're talking about my confusion here. Here's a line from a story in last week's New Yorker:
"The Greek state, having relied for years on borrowed money and largely fraudulent economic data, cannot meet its debts, which are approaching half a trillion dollars—a lot of money for a country with a population of eleven million."
Half a trillion is 500 billion. They haven't got there yet, so let's cut them a little slack and call it 400 billion. Divide that by 11 million people and we've got $36,363 per person. 
That's just amazing.

People and Computers

I installed a new version of Linux on my new toy Saturday and they've changed everything and it's all awful, and how can they be so stupid, and why would they change that, and it's just awful and I hate it. Actually, I can only think of two things that changed, and one may prove to be kind of useful. We shall see. This new thing is a column of icons along the left hand edge of the screen. Some of them are for useful things, some I don't expect to ever use, but maybe it can be changed. Whatever. One of these icons is for something called the Ubuntu Software Center, and it is pretty amazing, as in amazingly stupid. It takes dang near 30 seconds to load. For comparison, Firefox, my browser of choice, takes four seconds. What is this doing that it takes so bleeding long to get it's act together? I am so annoyed I file an actual bug report.

But I am doing some looking around, and I consider things and I realize there are two kinds of people using computers: people who understand how they work, and people who don't, and this second group, the people who don't understand how they work are in the majority, and it's a big majority. They certainly outnumber people who understand how computers work by a factor of a hundred to one. It could easily be as high as a thousand to one. I suspect that people who don't know how computers work are not bothered so much by these long waits.

My kids all got Macs when they went to college. On the whole it's been a good investment. They never come to me with tales of woe about their computers. It's a Mac, I don't know anything about Macs, I don't really want to learn, and there's nothing you can do about a Mac problem anyway. So I haven't spent hundreds of hours running anti-virus software and reformatting hard drives and rebooting over and over again trying to fix their stupid computers. They were expensive, but from my point of view, darn well worth it.

On occasion I have looked over someone's shoulder while they were using a Mac and I was astounded at how slow they are. Sure, you get cute little animations, but they take forever and a day to load an application. I suppose that gives you time to run to Starbucks and get a nice frothy latte, or whatever the coolest drink of the day is, but criminently, I've got things to do, and I don't like Starbucks.

Wait a minute though. There is something familiar about this, and now I realize what it is. It's Google. Google Documents specifically. It takes seconds to bring up a Google Document. Let's try it and see. Leaving this post at 10:25:45, 10:26:15 I'm back. That's 30 seconds. I don't like it, but I put up with it because I trust Google to preserve the document more than I trust my backup procedures. (Can you even quantify the amount of trust you place in something that does not exist?)

So there are at least two reasons for sitting and waiting patiently for the stupid computer to get it's act together. One, you don't know any better, and there's nothing you can do about it anyway, or two, you've made the conscious decision that waiting is worthwhile because of the value provided.

The big money in computers these days is in providing electronics to the masses, most of whom don't understand how computers work. In this market any kind of theoretical efficiency is irrelevant. There are numerous other factors that are important, but I am pretty sure I don't really give a rat's behind what they are. If I have to deal with an electronic gizmo, I want it to do it's job quickly, efficiently and reliably. So no mass market apps for me.

On the other hand, if it wasn't for the mass market, electronic equipment would not be so cheap. The last computer I bought is probably a thousand times faster than my first, has a hundred thousand times more storage capacity and costs a fifth the price of the earlier model. I purchased that one back in 1985 and it was a serious expenditure of cash. With inflation, the price factor doubles, which means my new computer cost, in real terms, one tenth of what the first one cost.

The lesson in all this is you need to pay attention. Machines as well as people will waste your time without regard for the consequences, after all, it's not their time they are wasting. Notice who or what is wasting your time and decide whether the value you get from this interaction is worth the time it takes.

That concludes today's lesson.

Coincidence, or Unrealized Influence?

The paper was missing from my driveway this morning, (Did my wife abscond with it, or did our ever-reliable delivery man stumble?) so I was reduced to reading The New Yorker while I ate breakfast. The Talk of Town (the first story in every issue) is about the occupation of Wall Street. The story refers to that glorious leader of the revolution, he who can do no wrong, as that "murderous Communist Mao Zedong". Has Mao fallen out of favor? Me thinks The New Yorker is asking for trouble, taking that kind of stand.

There is another line in that same story about another Chinaman that kind of puts everything in prespective:
"So far, the best answer is the one that Zhou Enlai, the Great Helmsman’s great henchman, supposedly gave when President Nixon supposedly asked him to assess the impact of the French Revolution: it’s too early to tell."
Then I turn the page, and what do I see? A story about The Phantom Tollbooth. I just did a post about The Phantom Tollbooth, sort of. Did they steal my idea? Or did my post prompt Mr. Gopnik's? Or is it just a coincidence? Mmmm, I smell a conspiracy.

Way O Way O Way O

Spent the weekend converting the garage from the automobile-engine-overhaul business back to normal suburban garage-full-of-junk and cars. Almost all done, everything put away, floor swept, just need to deal with the cat's litter box. Grab the trash can to carry it outside and behind my back there is this explosive crash. Oh, poop, what was that? There were three four foot long fluorescent tubes leaning against the wall behind the trash can. Now there are only two. The third has managed to spread itself over the entire floor.

I put those three bulbs there some time ago. They have been waiting for me to come up with some nice, clean method of getting rid of them. (I wonder what happened to the fourth.)  They are too long to fit in the garbage can, and if I just stick them in there I am sure they will get broken before they make it to the garbage truck and will no doubt spread glass shards hither and yon.

Well, we've got one big mess now, might as well finish off the other two and be done with it. Get a paper grocery sack, stick one end of one of the unbroken bulbs and wack it with a baseball bat. Surprising tough these bulbs, but the bat does the trick. Slide another foot or so of unbroken bulb into the bag and repeat until it is all smashed to smithereens. Repeat for other bulb. Sweep up the mess. Sweep some more. Sweep it all again. Doesn't seem to be any end to these little glass shards.

Eight foot fluorescent bulbs are considered hazardous waste, at least in my jurisdiction: they contain too much mercury. Four foot bulbs are not hazardous waste. They are under the limit. We are talking tiny fractions of a gram here. From Wikipedia: The amount of mercury in a fluorescent lamp varies from 3 to 46 mg, depending on lamp size and age. There was a noticable amount of white powder on the floor from the broken bulb. This is the fluorescent part. The stuff from modern lamps, i.e. any lamps made in the last 60 years, is not poisonous.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Word for the Day

Actually we are talking about an expression, not just a word. I am not sure I have ever heard it used before. It showed up in a Powell's (bookstore) Daily Dose  email:
". . . is about a newspaper reporter assigned to write the agony column,"
 An "agony column"? What the heck is an agony column? Wikipedia gives us a couple of definitions that might apply:
  • A column of a newspaper that contains advertisements of missing relatives and friends
  • Advice column in a newspaper
Two different kinds of emotional agony.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

More fun with Linux. The brainiacs at Launchpad want to know if the spell checker still prefers British spellings over American ones if I use a different browser, so I installed Chromium, and I am typing away here in Chromium and the only thing it is complaining about so far is brainiacs.

There is a language selection thing-a-ma-bob and it is set to English (US). I could try setting it to UK and then setting it back to US. I could reboot once or twice or more. Shoot I could even stand on my head. Or maybe I just won't use any words that are spelled slightly differently in merry olde England. Huh, didn't like olde, imagine that.

OK, let's try favorite and see what happens. It did not complain. I'll be durned. Let's try the UK spelling of favourite and blamo! It complains. I suppose I should go back over to Firefox and see if the problem still exists over there.

Yup, here we are back in Firefox and favourite is still fine and favorite is still bad.

So there you have it from the frontlines of the soft wars, this is not Roland Hedley reporting.

I wonder if there is any substantial difference between browsers these days, or whether it is like the difference between a Honda and a Toyota: inconsequential.

Linux & Video and Megavideo, my favorite source of boot-leg video, are disappointing. As it has been, Sidereel provides a long list of web addresses for most any show I want to watch. However, for some shows, every one of those web addresses is a dead end. Someone has started checking up on the pirates. But not all shows, just some.

Sidereel has also got some sponsors, which is good for them, but they are putting up these huge mouse-over pop-ups, so in order to use the site, you have to watch where you slide your mouse, or you will spend all your time closing these stupid pop-ups and you will get nowhere.

Xfinity is making some shows available over the net, but you still have to wait for the same amount of ad playing time as you would if you were watching it off of cable or over the air. Most of the ads are for other TV shows and they will get played two or three times every commercial break. The video quality is watchable, but not really all that great.

iTunes offers most of the shows I want, but they want $3 an episode to watch, $3.50 if you want to download it. The video is supposed to be 720p, which should be pretty good.

Broadcast at 1080p seems to be the gold standard, so now it looks like I need a tuner, but I am not sure I have a connection point on the Zbox that can handle that big a stream of data.

 YouTube has started putting video quality rating/selector on some of their videos. I think 240p is prettty typical for your average YouTube video.

Standard DVD's operate at 480p. The numbers (240, 480, 720, 1080) refer to the number of horizontal lines in the image. The p means progressive, which means each frame is complete. If there is no p, then there should be an i, which means interleaved, which is what the old analog CRT televsions used, which basically means each frame only gives you have a picture. The first frame gives you all the odd lines and the next frame gives you all the even lines.

Note these "standards" don't say anything about how wide the picture is. And then there's the compression method they use. All this video that is getting transmitted over the air or over the net has been compressed. About the only place where it isn't compressed is the HDMI cable from the set top box to your TV.

I really don't want to download any movies or TV shows. I don't want to keep a copy around. There are probably a couple of hundred DVD's floating around the house that we have accumulated over the last 20 years. Some of them have never been watched. Most of them were bought for the kids, and a few of them have been watched more than once.

I enjoy watching movies and TV dramas, but only if I have someone to watch them with. There are very few things I can watch by myself. Top Gear is the only one these day's, and I often skip over the interview with the star.

Linux Is Lovely, Part 11.10

I started this round with Ubuntu a month or two ago, and already we have a new release. I have been getting update notices for a week or so, but I have been putting them off: I don't know if I am ready for another set of problems with Adobe's stuff. This morning though there is a new notice: new version, not just a few patches. I decide to install it. Who knows? Maybe it will fix some of the problems I've been having. Maybe not, but nothing worse than tracking down the root cause of a problem only to find out it's been fixed by some update you haven't installed. So I installed it, and then I filed this notice with Launchpad (don't know if you will be able to see it without registering):
No major problems on Zotac ZBOX. Installation went smoothly and system rebooted successfully on first attempt.

I did notice a couple of things:
- the window that pops up announcing this thing (is it an upgrade or an installation, or an installation of an upgrade?) cannot be resized.
- complete upgrade took between one and two hours. Took one hour (!) just to do the download. I suspect the server of being the bottleneck. Might have been deliberate as this is the first day this thing is available.
- 40 minutes into the one hour download it stopped and asked a question. Something about if I wanted to replace a preferences file. For grins I say show me the differences, and it shows me an encrypted version of the differences between the two files. Really ugly, but mostly a really bad place to ask a question like this. Ask it before you start, or after you have completed the download. Or maybe this was a deliberate attempt to ease the load on the server?
- at one point a terminal window opened and started reporting errors. Something about how it couldn't create such and such a file. Scrolled on and on and on. Infinite number of files would be my guess.
- the terminal window expanded past the bottom edge of the screen. If there had been anything down there I needed to click, I would have been in trouble.
- wanted my password when I rebooted. Does this mean I am logged on as super? Regular login is not supposed to have a password. If I was super, that would be cool, then I wouldn't have to type sudo before every command I issue in the terminal window.
 Now that it's installed I've noticed a couple of other things. Then Firefox menu bar is gone. Don't know if I need it. We shall see. The other thing is a row of icons along the left hand edge of the screen. Since screens are getting wider, it makes sense to put things there, rather than to slice a band off the top or bottom of the screen just to hold a couple of items. Screen space is still valuable, best not to waste it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fury by G. M. Ford

Fury by G. M. Ford. Pretty good murder mystery set in Seattle. Protagonist is a defrocked newspaperman from the East Coast. It was a great story right up to the climax when our hero needs to call the cops and the cop he chooses to call is the one cop who hates him so much he cannot even carry on a civil conversation with him. At that point I wondered WTF and put it down for a bit. This evening I finally got over my pique and finished the story.

It has kind of an odd structure. There is the big story, the main story, that consumes most of the book, but that all gets wrapped up and there is still a big chunk of book left. So now we have a smaller story that rolls along on much smaller scale, and a much smaller time frame. I'm not quite sure what the purpose was of having this second story in there.

The story was pretty solid, but I still found a few nits to pick.
  • The title character consumes a tiny fraction of the book. He isn't very interesting, but he does play a key part. 
  • There is a big shootout scene where the bad guy sticks his head out of a hole in the roof of his vehicle, takes aim with an fully automatic assault rifle and commences firing at the cops. One cop, the same one who hates our newspaper man, is yelling at the bad guy through a bull-horn. One would think he could see the bad guy emerge from the van with a long gun and would take cover. But no, he continues to stand there and yell as the bad guy takes aim and then shoots him full of holes. I can see getting shot if you  are unaware of someone aiming at you, or you are exposed and don't have time to take cover. But this just smacks of boneheadedness. Of course, it has already been established that he is an unpleasant person, so maybe this is just deserts (desserts?).
  •  Towards the end of the book, in the first paragraph of chapter 38 actually, there are a couple of errors regarding sailboats: ". . .set the autopilot for 3:39. Magnetic. The twin Lehmann diesels purred . . .". 3:39 with a colon is a time. Autopilots want a direction, which would be from zero to 359 degrees, with no colon. And I have never heard of a sailboat with twin engines.
A word about the author and title: Fury by G. M. Ford. He manages to cover all of the big three American automobile manufacturers. Think G.M. Ford is a pen name maybe? The Fury, in case you don't know was a Plymouth model for quite a while, back when there were Plymouths.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The movement emerged in the harsh economic climate of the Middle Eastern wars and stressful working conditions in the new computer chip factories. The principal objection of the Neo-Luddites was to the introduction of new wafer handling robots, resulting in the loss of jobs for many skilled fab workers. The movement began in Silicon Forest in 2011 and spread rapidly throughout America in 2011 and 2012. Fabs and fab equipment were burned by technicians, and for a short time the Neo-Luddites were so strong that they clashed in battles with the National Guard. Many fabs were destroyed until the American government suppressed the movement. - not really from Wikipedia.

Acronym for the Day

DTO - Drug Trafficking Organization

Isn't governmentese wonderful? I came across this on The Voice Of Mexico.

Death To Google

I am really getting fed up with Blogger. They have this fancy new user interface (that's the page I see when I am writing this wonderful stuff), but it can't upload a single picture worth a damn. It stalls, it forgets, it loads it again, it turns it sideways. Last post I had to resort to uploading it to Picasa and then linking it into the post.

Meanwhile, I am using Picasa to upload the photo, which it does fine, but then I click on the button to see the online version, and it launches Internet Explorer. What is this shit? Are they completely brain dead? I never use Internet Explorer for anything.

Now here I am in Blogger, and spell checker doesn't know how to spell Picasa. Oh wait a minute, for a second there it did, and now it doesn't again. Is this the same spell checker that is complaining about American spellings and recommending English ones?

I blame this all on these fancy new programming languages where the programmers don't actually need to know anything to write a program. Just point and click, and presto, you get a pile garbage like this.

Don't mind me, I'm just an old, bitter, has been. You worthless twits.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mechanics Pictures

Jack found this Snap-On MC-51. Best guess so far is that it is for working on a carburetor. Both shafts have been drilled out for part of their length and one of them has been internally threaded as well.

Centerpiece at Thursday's lunch. Glenn is building a furnace for a forge. The plug needs to be drilled so that it is in line with the body. Drilling by hand is not accurate enough. Time for a drill press and vise. The small holes in the side of the plug are for set screws to hold the gas tube in place once it has been slid into the pipe the correct distance.

Marc's glorious new engine for his Tercel. It may not look new, but all the internal parts are. Can't see it too well in this picture, but it has a honking big cast aluminum intake manifold (that's it on the back side of the engine, at the top of the picture). I wonder if this is one of the criteria he uses when selecting a car.

Machu Picchu

Daring daughter is planning a trip to the holiest site of archeology in the Americas. Naturally I had to look it up on Google Maps, and I see this switchbacking road from the river at the base of the hill up towards the top.

No sooner do I find it then I get an email with this video of trucks and buses negotiating some very narrow switchbacks.

Weird coincidence, but I don't think it is actually the same road. There are big trucks in the video, and I don't think there is anything worthwhile to haul up or down this road that would require a semi.

Jack warns us about the little kid who gets on the bus at the top just before it is ready to start back down the hill. He wants to bet that he can beat the bus to the bottom of the hill. It's 2,000 feet difference in elevation. Don't take the bet, because as sure as shootin' the kid will be waiting for you to get off the bus at the bottom of the hill with his hand out, waiting to collect his winnings. Actually, go ahead and make the bet. The kid can probably use the money.

Video from Mark.


Stu slighted America's Latin abilities in a comment on my last post, and I could not let that challenge pass, so I went looking for some answers. I found three pretty good articles:

  • Teaching of Latin in Schools
  • School Latin rise 'an illusion'
  • A Dead Language That’s Very Much Alive

  • I studied French in school, not Latin. French seemed like it might be more useful. I do not use Latin. The only Latin phrase I can think of off the top of my head is E Pluribus Unum, which is printed on USA bills or coins. It means something about "people". People United, maybe? Lots of gun bloggers have a Latin mottoes posted on their blogs, and I know there are lots of Latin phrases in medicine and law. Sometimes when I encounter a Latin phrase I will look it up, but I soon forget. I suspect I forget because, one, I won't see the same phrase again for a long time, and two, because it is usually does not have anything to do with the topic under consideration. It is usually some pithy and/or profound statement that governs the overall subject, but does not really inform the particulars.

    We should continue to support the study and teaching of Latin because it gives us some continuity with the past and because it gives people in law and medicine a level playing field. Left to their own devices, and cut off the from outside contact, people will develop their own dialect, which may allow them to communicate with their neighbors, but can just as easily prevent them from talking to outsiders.

    Most everything that is happening in our world today, has happened before, and some of those who experienced these things spoke Latin, and some of them recorded these events and their thoughts about same in Latin.

    It is one thing to have knowledge recorded on a durable medium. It is quite another to have it be in someone's head where they can actually use it.

    Should everyone study Latin? No. Should it be a requirement for a public office? No. How many Latin scholars and / or teachers do we need? I would say about one for every hundred doctors and lawyers.

    Latin is kind of like classical music and art. People in the past have created some very beautiful things (really nice stuff) and I while I do not worship at the altar of all things classical, I think everyone can use a little history, and to that end we need people who are conversant with the subject.
    But the ultimate goal of Roman education was the enarratio poetarum [narrative of the poets], and to this day most claim that the sole aim of studying Latin is to acquire a proper appreciation of the Latin classics. Roman students were expected to be able to read, aloud and with expression, a given passage from the works of a poet. Then they were grilled, line by line and word by word, on the many intricacies of the grammar, rhetorical figures, and mythological allusions. Advanced students went on to rhetorical studies to prepare them for public life. - Teaching of Latin in Schools


    Ratha Yatra Procession
    Sometimes I hear something about the President that I like. Usually not. Critics are everywhere, complaining about anything and everything. I get tired of hearing about it. I mean is anything going to change? You might think I am talking about the current President, but it could be any of the dozen of so Presidents I have been aware of:
    • Eisenhower
    • Kennedy
    • Johnson
    • Nixon
    • Ford
    • Carter
    • Reagan
    • Bush 1
    • Clinton
    • Bush 2
    • Obama
    I have been trying to come up with a model that will explain why there are so many things in America that are so screwed up, especially since we also manage to do a lot of things very well. Then juggernaut occured to me. The President is like the captain of an enormous ship, but it's not a Navy ship with clear cut chain of command, it's a democractic ship, and every order that the captain gives is debated endlessly on all levels. This ship has no real engines either. Everything is done by hand. There are a zillion people down near the water line, all paddling, most of them are paddling in the same direction. You can paddle in another direction if you like, but the ship already has momentum and has a heading. Paddling in any other direction is going to take extra effort. Even the steering is a big operation. There is no single wheel, but a giant tiller with 500 odd people pushing on it. Of course, they are not all pushing the same way. Only when you get more people on one side can you hope to change our course. With the way things change back and forth, it's not having much effect on our course. And what the captain / President says? Well, I'm not sure it's having any effect on these guys.

    The Democrats get the upper hand for a while, and our course moves a couple of points to the left, then the GOP gets a majority, and our course veers a couple of points to the right. But you look at where our course has taken us over the last 50 years, and it's kind of wavy, but it has not really changed, we are still headed in the same general direction we have been going since WWII. Or maybe longer. I wasn't around then, so I can't say.

    Juggernuat describes America perfectly. At first I thought it was a German word what with the hard J's and G's and all, but it's not. It's from India:
    From British colonial era in India, witnessing the Rath Yatra (chariot parade) at Puri, Orissa. The festival features a huge annual procession, with a wagon of the idol (deity) of Lord Krishna. Pulled with ropes by hundreds of devotees, the wagon develops considerable momentum and becomes unstoppable. -
    Also called Jagannath. an idol of Krishna, at Puri in Orissa, India, annually drawn on an enormous cart under whose wheels devotees are said to have thrown themselves to be crushed. -
    As a bonus, now I know where the concept of throwing someone under under the bus came from.

    Update May 2019 replaced missing image.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Quote of the Day

    But the broader story of labor in agriculture, economists and historians said, is that through good times and bad and across socioeconomic lines, people who find better lives off the farm rarely return.- Kirk Johnson in the NY Times

    Via Scott Robert Ladd on Facebook

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Computers - What are they good for?

    Normally my response would be "absolutely nothin'". But I just got off a phone call with someone who needed some changes made to a Google spreadsheet. We both had the spreadsheet displayed, but only I had editing privledges. I could edit a cell and as soon as I pressed the Enter key, she could see the changes I had made. So sometimes this useless stuff actually works.

    P.S. I wonder about this spell checker. Yesterday it was complaining about words with z's, like organize and sterilize, recommending that they be spelled with s's instead. Today it misses abolsutely, which I had intended to be absolutely, unless it is thinking that abolsutely is actually a word. I've never heard of it.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    The Phantom Toll Booth

    Thought I would take the emptys back to Costco and get some full ones. Get to Costco and they have two machines to collect empties: one for bunches of cans and one for everything else, one at a time. The can machine is wide open, but there is a line for the bottle machine: two women with grocery carts full of empties. I give it about five seconds consideration and walk off, abandoning my half a cart of empties. What? I'm gonna wait some number of minutes to collect my $2.70. I don't think so.

    On rare occasions I have been out and about early on recycling day and I notice that some of my neighbors just put their bottles out with the recycling. Don't they realize they are throwning away good money? Every one of those stupid bottles is worth a nickel. Seems like there is an opportunity here for someone to make a little money. You would only have to collect 2,000 bottles to make $100. Say you average one bottle a house (say one house in six sets their cash money bottles out with the recycling, and they only set out one six pack every two weeks), you would only have to cruise by 2,000 houses. Figure an average lot is 100 feet wide (that's a bit much, but there are going to be sections where there are no houses), that's 50 houses a mile, so you will only have to cover 40 miles. Figure 50 cents a mile for operating a motor vehicle, that comes to $20. How long it takes to process each house will determine how long it takes you to cover those 40 miles. And then you get to haul your empties to some store that will accept them in bulk. You don't want to have to wait on one of those machines. It would take you a month of Sundays to unload 2,000 bottles.

    I think you get the point. You might be able to make a couple of bucks doing this, but it would be a heck of lot of work. Pan handling would probably be more lucrative. Bottle bills are just nuts.

    The Phantom Tollbooth is a book I read when I was a kid. There was one scene early on where our hero was the set the task of moving a pile of sand using a pair of tweezers. He worked at it for a little bit, but quickly realized it was a complete waste of his time, and went on to . . . whatever else happened in the rest of the book.

    One of the arguments for sending jobs overseas is that it frees up people in the US to do other, more productive things. Returning bottles to the local grocery store is not a more productive use of your time. Okay, it is not a productive use of most people's time. I suppose that is all that some people can aspire to.

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Linux Text Editors

    I'm looking for a more capable text editor than the default that comes with Linux, and I come across an article from 2007 (!) by Sharon Machlis on the Computerworld website. (Computerworld?!? Are they still around? I guess so.) I made a comment, and since the article is so old I am afraid it might fall in black hole, I am reproducing it here. Enjoy. Or not.
    Here it is 2011 and your article is the first useful one to pop up on this topic. Good on you for writing it. I'm still working my way through it, but I have a couple of comments already.

    You mention this business of joining and splitting lines at least a couple of times. Methinks you acquired this obsession from too much exposure to some primitive word processor. As long as I have been using a keyboard I have always just used the delete key at the end of a line to join lines, and the enter key to split lines.

    Emacs is just plain evil. People who use it are demented heretics. They should all be rounded up and sent to the Gulag. Oh wait, maybe that's where they are, and that's why they use it. It's all they have there. Poor peasants.

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Video Quality

    Watched a new episode of The Good Wife off of some web site on the internet this evening. The picture was only a quarter the size of the screen (1/2 vertical by 1/2 horizontal), but it was smooth and there were no commercials. Watched it before it was broadcast. The internet show ended and we switched over to regular broadcast-over-the-air TV and there it is again, but this time the video quality is astounding. All kinds of detail that was completely obscured in the internet version was perfectly clear in the broadcast version.

    There seems to be all kinds of video quality out there, and most of it is pretty miserable. We watched the streaming version over the internet and it was just fine, but once we saw the broadcast version it was like, forget you internet.

    I am trying to get the Blue-Ray DVD player to work properly. I wonder if it will spoil me. I still have to get a Blue-Ray disk to play.

    Clothes Make the Man

    There was one guy in my high school class who was always a sharp dresser. When I saw him at our high school reunion a couple of years ago, he was still a sharp dresser. Nothing flashy, just, I dunno, sharp.

    I never cared too much about clothes. Clean T-shirt and socks most everyday, clean jeans every so often. Never understood the suit and tie mentality. When I was working construction, and later as a mechanic, clothes were functional: they protected you from the crap flying in the air at work and from the weather. People who worried about spilling a little soup of their tie were like aliens. I mean, who gives a fuck? I got splashed with concrete yesterday and last week I burned a whole in my shirt, and this numb-nuts is worried about a little soup on his tie? WTF?

    It took me a while to figure it out but I eventually caught on. I was helping install a prototype computer thing at a bank one time and we ran into a couple of big-shots in the hall, and I remember being very impressed by the big guy in the impressive suit. Bothered me a bit that I was impressed, but there was no denying it. I was wearing a suit as well (the one and only occasion to the best of my knowledge) and my suit was no match for his. I don't even know what the criteria were.

    Now I realize that good quality dress clothes can last a long time, so it's okay to spend some money on them. You are investing in your appearance, which can be a considerable asset when you are dealing with people. However, since you have invested so much money in these fancy duds, every little mishap (like a splash of soup) is cause for concern. For a working guy whose clothes get trashed on a regular basis, the dynamic is a little different. He may spend as much money on clothes, but it is a continuous, normal expense. It is not an investment.

    And then there's the whole feeling thing that goes along with nice clothes. You dress up a little bit, you feel better about yourself. But the weird part is that other people feel better when they see you. Well, as long as you are in the same class. Someone from first class, sporting designer duds and real jewelry, coming into a second class part of town, well, they're just trying to make you feel bad.

    As for dress clothes being uncomfortable, you can alleviate some of that with the proper fit. The collar on your shirt should not be strangling you, you should be able to turn your head. Men's jackets though, they suck, they restrict your arm movements an unreasonable amount. I think that may be what they are supposed to be. If someone makes one that doesn't, I would like to hear about it.

    Old People

    I turned 60 this summer, so that makes me old. The biggest nuisance for me is that small cuts and scrapes take longer to heal. What used to take a day when I was 20 now takes two weeks, so I try to be a little more careful when I am working with my hands, especially when I am handling stuff with sharp edges. I wear gloves for moving furniture.

    I realized something else: I am running out of time. When I was younger I had all the time in the world. Now I can see that I have maybe 10 or 20 years left wherein I might be able to accomplish something.

    I see old people driving around and some of them are really slow and annoying. In some cases I suspect this is because they have become feeble in body and / or mind, and just can't cope with going any faster.

    Now I realize that in some cases there may be an alternate explanation. Some old people realize they only have a limited amount of time left and they don't want to waste it recovering from an accident, so they are more cautious, and being cautious often means moving just a little slower. When you are young you've got all the time in world, and if you have an accident, well, shit happens, and you will just have to deal with it. When you are older, an accident, even if no one gets hurt, is a time sucker of the first magnitude, and those suckers are to be avoided at all costs. I mean who wants to keel over while on-hold with the god blessed insurance company?

    Now you see it . . .

    My new Zotac Zbox occasionally gets all spastic and ignores what I am typing for a few seconds. I am pretty sure Linux is the problem, but then I realize I'm using this new wireless keyboard and maybe it's causing the problem. So I go looking for customer reviews. I'm not finding anything that implicates the keyboard but I come across this picture:

     which features a disappearing USB port, at least here and now. When I first saw it on the original page (2nd picture in the second group), I could see the USB port plain as day, but within a second it had disappeared, and all I see is featureless black. When I select the picture inside of Blogger's editor, I get a red view of the pic, and the port is again visible.

    I imagine it's a function of the video hardware and the drivers that are causing this. It's weird though how it's visible for a second before it disappears. Is something dynamically adjusting the contrast? And who is it?

    As for the dropped characters, I complain on Launchpad, but I am not getting much in the way of encouragement. Stupid computers.

    Update: the visibility of the port depends on the viewing angle, at least on my screen. Now that's really weird. What the devil is going on here?

    Update 2: On my plasma screen, changing the viewing angle makes no difference. The port remains invisible.

    Good Luck

    This is an acknowledgement to the god of luck. I had a couple of small things happen that just made my life a little easier. Last week when I was first trying to get this Zbox thing working, I needed some cables to connect stuff up. I needed a DVI cable to connect the Zbox to a computer monitor, so I could see if I could get on the internet before I went to the trouble of wiring the TV room. The TV uses an HDMI cable, which won't work with a computer monitor. The TV is too big, clumsy and heavy to drag across the house for a quick test like this. And I have to make the test, because you know Murphy, if I connect up the wired internet connection first, it won't work. Anyway, I look around and I find one, which is really weird, because I didn't think I had one. It could have come with the Zbox, or with the monitor I bought back in January. In any case I didn't need it at the time, but I saved it, meaning I threw it in the box with the other nine thousand cables I have collected.

    Then I need an adapter to connect the headphone jack on the Zbox to the RCA jacks on the home theater sound system. I have needed one before and had to make it out of pieces from other cables, and I am fully prepared to have to make one this time (make or buy? Make will take a quarter hour or so, but will require no money. Buy will require about the same amount of time and a small amount of money, but would mean talking to people at Radio Shack who always ask you for your address, and if you say no, they ask again. Screw you, Radio Shack.). But I look in my big box of cables, and looky here, I have one, factory made even. Where did that come from? No matter, it works.

    Yesterday I am going to wash some cat bedding in the garage sink, because of the continuing war on fleas you know, and the stuff is NOT coming in the house, but it really needs to be decontaminated, so I am going to wash it by hand, but the stopper, you know, the rubber plug thingy, has disappeared. What do I have that I can use for this? I look around, and my eye lights on a milk jug lid. Could it possibly? Well, yes, it actually might. But if you press this thing in there, how are you going to ever get it out? Well, it is a fairly thin piece of plastic, I can always cut a hole in it with my knife, or use a corkscrew. I put the lid in the drain and put a couple of inches of water in the sink and then I use a claw hammer to try and remove it and it comes right out. That right there is an amazing piece of double luck. A piece from another planet that fits the hole, and it does not become irretrievably jammed.

    Prime Suspect

    Mary McCormack from In Plain Sight
    Maria Bello from Prime Suspect
    Prime Suspect is a new cop show on NBC. We watched the pilot episode last night and the next episode this evening. It's pretty good. Maria Bello, the lead, reminds me of Mary McCormack from In Plain Sight, they could be sisters, or maybe they are both just very close to the "ideal" woman. She has a rough row to hoe, with all kinds of unpleasant characters she has to deal with, and that's not counting the criminals. Both episodes had a set of almost identical situations. If they keep this up, it could get old. She's the new "guy" in the homicide squad room, full of good old boys, and she's a woman, and they're good ol' boys and they give her a bad time from the get go. There is one guy in particular who seems to actually hate her. Doesn't help that he's a lazy, incompetent jerk-wad. Other common elements:
    • botched arrest, complete with an officer attempting to apprehend a suspect alone, losing their weapon and getting their ass kicked,
    • the significant other's ex, the absolutely worst kind of passive agressive. If she doesn't wise up pretty soon I'm going to start throwing things at the screen. It does give our heroine the opportunity to put her in her place, and even grind her under her heel a little. Which kind of makes up for it.
    • big SWAT-like - what's the word I'm looking for? Where you get a whole bunch of guys, armed and armored, all focused on one little, tiny spot? A situation? That seems inadequate, not to mention non-descriptive. Confrontation? That implies there is someone facing back at them. Not accurate, there is a door, and an apartment behind it, but who knows what's behind the door?
    In defense of the good ol' boys, I can't say as I blame them. TV makes it look glamorous, but being a cop can be a really depressing job. Everyday you get to see the worst that humanity has to offer, and 99 times out a hundred the crime is just what it looks like. The husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend did it, there is no reason to look any further. Why bust your ass on some lying piece of shit's say-so? Your fellow cops are the only ones you can rely on, the public either hates you or lionizes you depending on what was in the paper this morning, or more likely, what was on the news last night. And the criminals, well, that's your job, sweeping up the shit. And now some fancy broad comes waltzing in trying to make everyone look bad? Screw her.

    We tried watching the pilot off of the NBC website, but the video quality was abysmal. Choppy, flashing, black bars, basically unwatchable. Switched to Megavideo which was much better.