Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wet House

Minnesota has set up homes for alcoholics. This is the second time I have heard of this. Seattle set up an apartment building for them several years ago. Yes, it's expensive, but it's a lot less expensive than what it would cost otherwise. A dedicated, destitute alcoholic can cost the government and hospitals a $100,000 a year, and that cost is paid by the taxpayers. If you aren't paying any taxes, or you never pay a hospital bill, you may not care.

I am not sure these programs save any money, I mean you still have the same number of people staffing the emergency rooms and police stations, but at least they aren't wasting their time scraping drunks up off the sidewalk. And who knows when pointless errands like that have interfered with something serious?

The big benefit I see is the reduction in vomit on the sidewalk. As far as I am concerned, that is one of the big drawbacks of downtown areas. Maybe I'm just being prissy, but given a choice I'd rather not be exposed to it. I clean the cat's litter box once a day, and that's all the disgust I need in my life right now, thank you very much.

I realize that not everyone is as fussy as I am. Until someone puts a price tag on vomit, the bean counters will overlook these quality-of-life issues. In fact, what they will say is that if your emergency personnel are not working all the time, well then, you have too many people. You can cut back and save some money. On the other hand, isn't that what you want? Emergency personnel sitting around waiting, not having anything to do? If they are working it's because something has gone terribly wrong and someone's life has turned to shit. Better that they sit and enjoy their coffee and doughnuts.

The flip side is when things are too calm, emergency personnel don't get to practice their skills, which leads to things like giving an IV to someone who is getting a ride in an ambulance, not because they will die if they don't get one, but simply because the EMT needs to perform so many "sticks" in order to maintain his or her qualifications.

Friend of a friend is an EMT up in rural Washington and nothing ever happens. Spend a great deal of time and energy training and preparing for emergencies and the only call you get is some guy with a hangnail. Maybe we need to rotate EMT's through a war zone (like gangland in a big urban area), so they can get their fill of action, excitement, and maintain their qualifications.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Driving home on Highway 26 yesterday I saw a lot of snow in the Coast Range. There is usually some snow, but this was quite a bit more than usual. Those hills are about 20 to 25 miles away and are 2500, maybe 3000 feet tall. Couldn't see anything today, it was totally overcast.

Electrons Versus Ink

The one thing that keeps me from getting rid of paper entirely is the ballpoint pen. Computers don't have anything that can match it. The electronic signature screens at the cash register do a pretty good job of capturing your signature now, but they don't provide any tactile feedback. Typing letters and numbers on a keyboard is just not the same as writing them.

Newspaper Bites Subscriber

I subscribe to the local newspaper (The Oregonian). This weekend I got a note that their rates are going up. Sunday the paper was late. Monday it was late again. Today it was late for the third time in a row so I decided to say something. The note I got advertised that they now have a website where you can do things like REPORT PROBLEMS WITH DELIVERY. Cool, bring up the browser, so to the website, try and file a complaint. No go. Seems you have to register. Okay, fine, everybody wants you to register these days. Oops, seems my universal-use-for-all-these-websites-that-want-a-password-password won't work.

It's doesn't have any capital letters. It doesn't have any punctuation. It doesn't have three identical letters in a row. Who are these guys and why do they care? Frigging morons. I finally design a password that should meet their ridiculous requirements, very carefully type it twice, and they still reject it. Fine. Call 'em on the phone. Get a robo-cop answering machine. Press this button, press the other button, enter your secret code, enter your number, sorry, I can't help you, you will have to talk to a person. Oops, there aren't any people here. Call back later. Click.

Couple hours later the paper finally shows up and I call back, go through the same rigamarole again, get put on hold for a short eternity, and finally talk to someone who is very apologetic about the paper being late. I don't tell him about the all the grief I've gone through to get to this point. I save that up for this post.

You know, if they want me to cancel my subscription, why don't they just say so?


Tiny Hippo and the tiny train. A fable for our times.

Snoring hummingbird.

How to turn a log into a pile of wood chips. Oh, and a lampshade.

Grace Hopper and the nanosecond.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Mechanic - Jason Statham

Remake of the 1972 version that starred Charles Bronson. I remember the book, or at least I think I do. I remember the mechanic using chewing gum to make a little cup sitting on top of a gas line. There is a hole in the bottom of the cup where the bare metal of the gas line is exposed. He then filled the cup with acid. Over a period of hours, the acid slowly ate it's way through the metal wall of the gas line, which led to a leak, which filled the apartment with natural gas. The Mechanic then fired a bullet into the apartment that touched off the gas and killed the occupant. Or maybe he just let the pilot light on the stove touch it off, I'm not too sure about that. Anyway, bullets are not good at setting things on fire, at least not the way they show it in the movies. They used the same technique at the end of this movie, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't work, unless you used a tracer round, which is entirely possible, but they neglected to include that little detail. No matter, I've filled in the blank. There don't seem to be many copies of the book around anymore.

There isn't much to the story, just an assassin, his protege and their victims. If they did their job properly we would never hear about it. It would make a good thriller, but that's not how Hollywood makes movies. Things go wrong and we get lots of gunfights and explosions. Maybe it's better that way. If we were only seeing executions that look like accidents it might be just a little too scary.

Update April 2015: replaced the picture because the original web site replaced theirs.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Yes, we have no bananas

Post-Hip obscurity from Scott. A cell phone jammer is something I have often wanted, but this video won't help. Ladyada (also known as Limur Fried) started Adafruit Industries, which sells electronic bits to the hobbyist, but they don't list a cell phone jammer. Could it be they are illegal?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Freak Appliance

California Bob stumbled over this bizarre item while looking for a new dryer:

I am pretty sure everyone needs one. I know I wish I had one. I could use it to keep my beer warm.

The Sicilian Girl

The Sicilian Girl is a movie based on a true story about a girl who speaks out against the Mafia in Italy.

What's the difference between the rule of law and the mafia? Supposedly one is less subject to corruption than the other, but which one? The law holds that only the state has the right to kill people. Killing someone without the permission of the state is a crime. But what happens when the state is corrupt?

From Newsweek (via The Daily Beast):
Although he acknowledges that the mafia once performed a useful function in Sicilian society in the early 20th century, by protecting the interests of local peasants against the corruption of Italian national police, those purer aims were lost when drug trafficking became the chief profit center for Sicilian crime bosses.
People are insane. I wonder if the people who originally promoted the idea of making drugs illegal knew what they were doing. Did they know that by prohibiting them they would create an immensely profitable black market, and enslave a whole sub-section of society to a culture that constantly works to undermine the law? I suspect that the most vocal proponents of banning drugs were willing dupes who actually believed that prohibition would be good for society. But I am also sure they were instigators who knew exactly what they were doing, which was to create a system that would gain them more money and power.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Moroccan bow lathe turner

More Post-Hip obscurity from Scott. Stuart King's website.

Real Fake Brick

Looks like a brick wall, right? Well, it is, but those aren't the real bricks. Iowa Andy reports:
We had a brick wall that was painted blue [we] wanted to strip it or to put fake brick up instead we hired an artist to paint the brick to look like brick , it came out looking fantastic and it's clean too.
Just goes to show there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cuban Style Salsa

Daring daughter is taking salsa lessons. She sent me the link to this video. This is not her class, but an example from Cuba.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Physics question.

In the famous two slit experiment, light shining through two slits forms interference patterns on the backdrop. So we have standard wave interference: constructive interference where the peaks conincide with peaks and valleys coincide with valleys, and destructive interference when the peaks meet up with the valleys, and vice versa.

Imagine a coherent light source, where all the light is one frequency (color) and all the waves are in phase with each other, like from a laser. Split the beam in two (using one of those magic beam splitters that are ubiquitous to optical experiments), route one of the two beams through a miniscularly longer route so that it is exactly out of phase with the other beam. Now combine the two. These two beams are now completely out of phase and should cancel each other out, right?

Where does the energy go? The light coming out of the laser has a certain amount of energy, but now that we have split the beam, phase shifted half of it, and recombined them, they have disappeared. So where did they go?

For that matter, why do we have any light at all? If light from normal sources, like the sun, or a fire, or incandescent light bulbs is a mix of frequencies, then surely it is a mix a phases as well. If the phase distribution is random, then for every photon of a certain phase, there is just as likely to be a photon of the opposite phase, and they should cancel each other out, so we should see no light at all. Ever.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Sanctum seems to polarize viewers. I really liked it, even though everything the critics say is true. It's kind of like a stupid horror flick because you're always yelling "don't" at the screen! I can't stand horror movies. This is different than a horror movie because there is no malevolent brain directing the mayhem, it's just mother nature. It's more like one of those automobile accident movies they used to show in high school: here are all the horrible ways you can die in a cave full of water.

The prejudice against this film shows up in the pictures returned by Google. This was the best one I could find that showed something of the cave, and it's not very good. The vast majority of the pictures are of the actors in the movie. I mean, who cares? You can see a zillion people every day, but seeing the inside of an underwater cave, now that's something special, and all the promoters completely ignore it.

Maybe the majority of folks don't care, maybe that's why stupid social media like Facebook is so popular.

Update June 2016 replaced missing picture.

Anti-Social Media

California Bob opines:
I think the invasive evilness of Google is going to make MicroSoft seem, by comparison, like a benevolent and useful software provider.
I was clicking on some photos in my file manager, and they came up in Picasa photo viewer, which evidently hijacked my regular photo viewer.  Then I see an "uploading" message.  So I went on Picasa web to see if they were there, sure enough they were.  So I looked for a way to delete it, which they tried to hide -- but I found the delete option and I get the message: 
"Are you sure you want to delete?  Doing so will remove this photo from all Google properties.  
Be advised it may take 24 hours to delete."
So their operational model is, they grab your shit without asking, broadcast it all over and make it super hard to delete it.  And it's probably not deleted anyway.
PS: if you go to my web albums, those are just vitamins.
I've pretty much quit using Facebook, I wasn't seeing enough to keep me interested. When Google+ came along, I thought I would give it a shot, I mean it's from Google, our great and benevolent portal to all things wonderful on the web. What a load of crap. I can still get to my web albums, but now it takes extra work to get there. Basically the whole photo album thing has changed. And Google+ basically looks just like Facebook, a whole lot of nothing.

Mephistopheles by Puppetmastaz

I think this is my favorite rap music video of all time. It comes from an outfit in Paris.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


California Bob reports:

I was driving down to 48th Ave this morning when this story came over the radio: "Car in surf at Ocean Beach."  So I threw the Quest in low, screeched a U-turn and gunned it down there.  Yep, car bobbing around in the surf. 
To get to the surf from the parking lot, you have to go down a flight on concrete stairs and 
cross a good hundred yards of loose sandy beach.  This took some determination.
A great start to the day!

Post Hip Obscurity

Whadda story! B-17 Flying Fortress survives mid-air collision during raid on Germany during WWII. From Post Hip Scott.

Update January 2022. The above link died, but Google returned a couple other stories about WW2 mid-air collisions:

B-Line by Lamb

I am not quite sure about the tune, but this video is just about the weirdest thing I have ever seen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld

Great book! It's got everything you want in a story: a pretty girl, a manly hero, violence, love, mayhem, intrigue, conspiracies, science and history. Jed (the author) has taken a historical event (the bombing of Wall Street in 1920) and woven a wonderfully complex tale around it. I wouldn't be surprised if it was on it's way to being made into a movie with Ben Affleck as the stoic Dr. Younger. I don't know if stoic is really the right word here, but Ben is who pops into my mind when I picture some of the scenes. Collette, the slim, young, pretty, brave and intelligent woman, is a key character. Funny how often that seems to be the case. How often do you run into a story that revolves around a fat, old, ugly, cowardly, stupid man? If you do run across such a story, that character is probably used as a bad example, not someone to be emulated.

Music Takes Me Up by Alice Russell

The bouncing vegetables are a feeble accompaniment to the tune.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Caminante by Bang Data

There isn't much to this video. Mostly it's just the same static image, but occasionally some snapshots of the highway or vistas show up. But we don't care, because the tune is really good, even if it is in Spanish. According to my Spanish expert this song is something of an existential lament, i.e. "these are the problems of the world and what are we going to do".

I found a couple other tunes by these guys that I like pretty well. One has a pretty entertaining video to go along with it, but it's too rap-ish.. I'm ambivalent about the other. It's in English, has a useless video and it's a little too grim for my taste.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Can't you hear me knocking by The Rolling Stones

In every bunch, there is always one sluggard who doesn't fit in. No video for this tune. The Stones are not as bad as ZZ Top, who relentlessly kill all of their tunes on YouTube. Here we have a choice of poor quality recordings of live shows, or good audio, but no video.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vindaloo by Fat Les

Fat Les - Vindaloo

This isn't much of a tune, it's more of a rabble rouser, which it does very well. It was written for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, which is like the Super Bowl of soccer.  Vindaloo is some kind of curry dish. Maybe it means something to Brits, I have no idea what it is. The video is a parody of Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve, which is pretty good tune itself.

Update September 2019 replaced missing video.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I am a Man of Constant Sorrow by the Soggy Bottom Boys

O Brother Where Art Thou? is a great movie, and this is a great tune.. I found a couple of good versions on YouTube. This one suffers from being interrupted by a racist loudmouth. However, it more than makes up for it with the scene of said loudmouth being run out of town on a rail. I really liked the part where the men come clomping into the hall on the double carrying the rail. Just what the heck is this frieght train charging down the aisle?

This other one plays the song straight through. It has a couple of bonus bits: George (Clooney) saying Cottonmillia*, and then stumbling over the word accompanist, and the old blind guy humming / squealing to himself while the boys are singing.

IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) page

 *well, that's what it sounded like to me.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Where does Tungsten come from, Daddy?

Mining Tungsten Technical 3D Animation
IR PR Presentation Castilla y Leon Spain Ormonde Mining Plc

This video is a little long (almost ten minutes) and, if you aren't in the tungsten business, rather boring, until you find out that the people who made this video just sold this mine for thirty times what they paid for it three years ago. That's kind of impressive. Of course, there are plenty of old, tapped out mines that aren't worth a plug nickel, and if you paid $1 for it and then sold it for $30, well, $30 is thirty times what you paid for it. Somehow I don't think that is the case here.

Salamanca Tungsten Mine
     Could it be that they were able to model the ore deposits in this mine, and then use their computer models to convince someone of it's worth? Could be that no one knew until they came in and performed a careful, analytical assessment.

Update November 2015. Replaced missing video with different one. Similar subject matter, may even be the same mine. Added picture.
Old YouTube video ID: gKxij8y5A4o, if you want to dig for clues. From Almonty: The Tungsten Outsiders Are Back, a story on the Metal-Pages blog, which has vanished.

Music Videos

Last month I came across a treasure trove of music videos on YouTube, a bunch of songs I had never heard before that I really liked. This along with my resolve to try and make something out of Pergelator, led me to posting one every day. Even if I don't have anything to say, anybody who stops by will at least see that I'm still alive and still posting.

But I don't know if I will be able to keep this up, at least not without falling into the classic rock rathole. I swear, poking around on YouTube looking for something I enjoy is a first order time sink. I must have screened a thousand videos for every one I've posted. I was sure there was an unending supply of great tunes out there, now I'm not so sure. There is definitely an unending supply of dreck*.

Of the 42 videos I have posted so far this year 29 were music. Of those 29 music videos:
  • 12 were of the band playing
  • 8 were full on theatrical productions
  • 5 were montages of video clips
  • 3 were videos that used the tune as the soundtrack
  • 1 just had a single still image
It's great when I find a video that is like a miniature movie and has a song that I like. There are a few of them out there, fewer than there are good movies. I wonder if they ever make any money off of these.

Most of the songs were old. Some were more recent. The original dates of the tunes breaks down like this:
  • 3 are from before 1970
  • 3 are from the 1970's
  • 4 are from the 1980's
  • 1 is from the 1990's
  • 7 are from 2000 through 2009 (the naughts?)
  • 11 are more recent
Well, eleven newish ones, that's better than I expected.

In any case, maybe by posting these tunes I can help spread a little joy. The world can certainly use more joy. If you have a tune you like, send me the link, or leave a comment.

Spreadsheet with all the gory details here.
YouTube playlist for January tunes here.

* Yes, I know, there is no accounting for taste. One man's dreck is another man's ambrosia, and vice-versa. Me, I don't like the new style pop and rap tunes, and I especially don't like those with the EXTREMELY LOUD POUNDING BASS. Maybe it's designed to drive old people away, kind of the inverse of the mosquito buzz used in Britain to drive away kids from stores patronized by proper folks. Whether or not that's true, it certainly has that effect on me.

Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles

The Bangles - Walk Like an Egyptian

I think I have posted this one before. Those hip moves out to be illegal. From 1986.

Update March 2017 replaced missing video.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Electrical Contacts

The fluorescent light in the closet failed last week. I replaced the bulbs with some spares I had, but it didn't help. Ballast is probably shot, so I go to the store and pick up a new one. The ballast is like $23, while a new fixture is only $30. Hardly seems worth it to futz with the ballast, just buy a new fixture and save myself a lot of grief. However. The new fixture requires the new, smaller T-8 bulbs, which will probably add $10 to this project. But if I do that, how am I ever going to use up these extra T-12 bulbs? Then there is the problem of getting rid of the old fixture. Space in the trash can is at a premium. Sure, the sheet steel frame can be recycled, but that big plastic lens will have to go in the trash. So there are certain advantages to fixing the old one.

Back home I open up the fixture and see the wires. I take a look at the new fixture and it has all the wires in the world. I was thinking I was going to have to cut, strip and splice the old wires to the new wires, but now I realize that if I can just unclip the old wires from the sockets, I will be able to just plug the new wires in and save myself a lot of grief. Except. The sockets are designed for one-time use only. There is no slot to release the wires. Bah, humbug. Go to bed.

New day, sunny day, I'll try it again. I take the fixture down and pop the sockets loose from the frame. I find that I can pull out the staple in the back that is holding the insulating panel on. When I do that, the whole thing falls apart and wires fall out. Put the clips back in, put the cover back on and secure it with the staple, which actually holds. That surprised me. Put the whole thing back together along with the new ballast, and presto! We have light!

The thing that got my attention was the contacts in the sockets. They are just little strips of brass, maybe a quarter of an inch wide and about as thick as a sheet of paper. When a wire is inserted in the socket, the end of the strip scrapes along the surface of the wire, and since it is at an angle, it locks it in place. The contact area between the strip and the wire is tiny, certainly no more than a few thousandths of an inch in either direction. Meanwhile the wires are like 60 thousandths of an inch. The wire has to be that thick in order to carry the load without overheating. But here we have a choke point that should provide considerable resistance to the current. It should overheat, melt the plastic, short out, start a fire and burn the house down. But it doesn't. This is standard wiring practice all over the house, all over all houses. Something funny going on here.

The only thing I can think of is that since the resistance of a wire is dependent on the material (and its' inherent resistivity), its' length and width, then these connections don't overheat and fail because they are very short, on the order of infinitesimal. Still, there is a limit to how much current you can push through that tiny little contact patch before it does overheat. It would be interesting to experiment with conductor size and contact point shape to see how much current they could carry. For instance, would two wires with carefully squared off ends and one tiny contact point between them be able to carry more current than a wire whose ends were tapered like a sharpened pencil?

Order & Glory

I read something earlier this week about a speech someone gave to Congress. I don't think it was the state of the union. It may have been the Republican response to the President's speech. No matter. In any case, the speech started out talking about starting a war with Iran, which was greeted with thunderous applause. The speaker talked about something else, which was greeted with enthusiastic applause, and then another topic with was met with polite applause, and lastly he talked about some domestic issue, which was greeted with deafening silence.

I think the problem we have here is people want a purpose, and not some make-everybody-feel-better and we will-all-get-along purpose, some kind of glorious purpose, full of smoke and thunder. War suits that desire to a T.

War is irrational, war with Iran makes no sense, but by gawd, we can get stirred up about it! Smash those rag-heads! They want a fight, we'll give 'em a fight by gum!

Providing medical care for the poor just doesn't generate that kind enthusiasm.

I can think of three projects that might be able to generate some enthusiasm, maybe enough to distract the hot-heads from starting another war.

  1. Putting the space program in gear with the aim of exploring the asteroid belt for rare-on-earth metallic ores. Step one is establish a regular rocket launch schedule. Once a week maybe, loaded or not, off it goes.
  2. Start rebuilding our cities to eliminate traffic congestion. This would be massive and would require a design that wouldn't get clogged, which could be a bit of a trick.
  3. Start building nuclear power plants. This one has a lot of politics to overcome, but if done right could be a real boon.

The French Song by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

French Song

I really like Joan Jett even though she is out on the fringe, orientation wise. She's a doll*, she rocks, her band has a very cool name, and this video is not a bad piece of theater.

 *At least she was a doll when this song came out in 1983. Geez, that's almost 30 years ago. We were all supposed to die before we got old, and old was anyone over 30. 

Update January 2021 replaced missing video.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Planet Claire by The B-52s

I noticed a couple of videos using this song. This one is notable for the sustained notes produced by the redheaded Kate Pierson. They are just a little spooky. I don't think I've heard anyone produce similar sounds, except maybe by using a synthesizer. The lead singer's manner used to be kind of wacko, but I don't think it's aged well. He seems just plain gruff now. The tune is from 1979, this video was recorded in 2009. The other video is only available on YouTube. The video for that one is an amazing montage of old science fiction scenes. But it doesn't have the ethereal notes Kate is producing for this one. Thanks to Dustbury.

The B-52s are one weird band. Their sound is almost discordant, and what's with the name of the band? Why would you choose the plane famous for laying waste to Vietnam for the name of your band? Yes, I know, Wikipedia says the name of the band comes from a hairstyle, but where does the name of the hairstyle come from? Tell me that, Bucky.